Monday, May 15, 2017

In which Charlottesville tells racists to piss off

You may have seen Charlottesville in the news over the weekend. That nazi weenie, Richard Spencer, (a UVA alum) came to town to push his white supremacist agenda and protest the proposed removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in a local park. During the day, Spencer spoke to people who'd been bused here from as far as Ohio. His message is offensive, but we have freedom of assembly and the right to free speech in this country. Things got weird after dark, when they had a torchlight rally in the park.

Picture from Charlottesville's daily newspaper, the Daily Progress. Seriously, they're just missing their white hoods and a burning cross.

On Sunday, Jon got a text from our neighbor, about a second rally - a candlelight vigil to protest the white supremacists. We were told that news of this rally was to be spread by word of mouth, text, or email only. No social media sharing. Of course I had to attend, and I wondered just how many people would appear for an event that hadn't been officially advertised. Sunday nights in downtown Charlottesville are usually pretty quiet, but last night, lots of people were out on the street just before 9:00 pm, purposefully walking toward Lee Park. Of course it's hard to judge the size of a crowd when you're in it and it's dark, but I'd say we numbered in the hundreds. Many people brought their own candles and others were handing out candles to those of us who didn't think to bring one.

As with other protests I've been to in Charlottesville, I knew or recognized many in the crowd - people I know from work, our kids' schools, and our neighborhood. This was the real Charlottesville community unlike the bused-in alt-right crowd from Saturday.

Here are a few pictures that I took - obviously not great taken in the dark with a phone. I'm so glad that the Charlottesville community was able to get together and respond in this way to the white supremacists. And I'm grateful to our neighbor for letting us know about it.

The controversial statue in the background.

We definitely outnumbered the nazis.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Fifty Classics Project

Five years ago, I joined a blogger project which involved pledging to read fifty classic works of literature over the course of five years. My own five year deadline was in March, and I failed to meet the goal. What? But you read so much! I do read a lot, but my Fifty Classics list was separate from my main list, which I am super-obsessive about. I know it sounds crazy, but it was difficult for me to deviate from my master book list. Anyway, I did read almost all of the books, but eight are left unread. (Although of those, five were rereads, so I'm really just three books short.) Look at me, cheating on this no-consequence vanity project! "Classic" by the way was loosely defined for this project so you might not agree with some of my choices.

Here are the books I did manage to read:

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. I've seen this named as the greatest work of all literature. I struggled with it, I admit, although I bought what everyone says is the best translation. It was the war scenes that confused me.

The Virginians by William Makepeace Thackeray. It's been a long time, but I vaguely remember that this is about a young American man, during colonial times, trying to make his fortune in England and being roundly cheated by everyone. Or maybe I am confusing it with Henry Esmond?

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. A reread from my college days. Not sure I'm much more enlightened the second time around.

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. Grim, but I really liked it for some reason. Seamus is on a Faulkner kick lately and he liked it too.

Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner. Another reread. I just really am too stupid for Faulkner.

The Hamlet by William Faulkner. Better in the sense that I could at least follow the plot.

The Mansion by William Faulkner. Ditto.

Dead Souls by Gogol. A work colleague told me that this book is hilarious, but I didn't really see it. Too stupid for Gogol too, apparently.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  I got a bad translation and it read like a very dark British boys' boarding school book, in which characters say things like, "Jolly good!"

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. A better translation this time. I rather enjoyed this story, but it's a major time commitment.

The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell. Boswell and Johnson were good friends and this book is as much a chronicle of a friendship as it is the life of Samuel Johnson. A must read if you want to have any pretense of being educated.

Yeats - The Autobiography. I was familiar with the poetry of William Butler Yeats, but not as familiar with his work in the theater or his major role in the revival of Irish literature. Having read it made a lot of what I saw in the Dublin Writers' Museum make sense.

The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams. Great-grandson of John Adams, this is the autobiography of an American aristocrat. Very dry but affecting at times. We see eyewitness account of John Quincy Adams, described by a young child. Adams watched his sister die of tetanus. There is not a single mention of his wife, Clover Hooper Adams, who committed suicide in 1885. The famous Adams Monument in Rock Creek Cemetery was commissioned in her memory.

A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf. What does a woman need to be a writer? To this day, it's hard for women to get away from their responsibilities to write.

The Red and the Black by Stendhal. I picked this one because in college, one of my professors made a joke about Stendhal that he apparently thought was uproariously funny and not a single person in the class got it. So the joke sank like a stone, but it inspired me to make a point of reading something by Stendhal. Still don't get the joke though.

Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov. I vaguely remember this as a story about a college faculty member who has a lot of bad luck. I really can't stand Nabokov.

Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. I picked this because it was my Grandfather's professed all-time favorite book. This is a rollicking tale of four men and their adventures traveling around England. I loved it.

Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain. I like travel literature - and I've read quite a bit from the Victorian era, but I thought this was unnecessarily nasty.

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens. Absorbing tale about Nicholas and Kate Nickleby and their struggles with their evil uncle. This was a reread from college and I appreciated it much more this time around. There are two really good film adaptations of this book.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens. Didn't care for it. Read it only as a prerequisite to the horror novel Drood by Dan Simmons.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. Another reread from college. I think this is my favorite of all Dickens' novels.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Creepy Victorian tale of a beautiful young woman whose life is nearly destroyed by her evil husband.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.  Another mildly creepy mystery. At times tedious, at others amusing.

Old Man Goriot by Honore de Balzac. Balzac was the other author mentioned in the joke about Stendhal that I didn't get. Not sure what's so funny. This book was super depressing.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Can you believe I'd never read these until now? A very readable collection of short stories.

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. Actually three novellas in one volume. A classic cozy book and the BBC adaptation with Eileen Atkins and Judi Dench is excellent.

Ulysses by James Joyce. I basically crammed this book into my head. But now I can hold my head up at the "Bloomsday" celebration in our pub. I dragged Jon all over Dublin, retracing Leopold Bloom's steps. He did not enjoy it.

The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford. I don't remember much, but something about an affair and a suicide.

A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh. Deeply cynical story of a marriage.

Point Counterpoint by Aldous Huxley. Somewhat difficult novel about arty intellectuals in England.

Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth. Funny and obscene story of a Jewish man and his sexual angst.

The Diary of John Evelyn. John Evelyn was born in 1620 to a wealthy family. He lived through much of the upheaval in England in the 17th century.

A Sentimental Journey by Laurence Sterne.

Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne. This is a reread, although why I read it even once, let alone twice is beyond me. It is funny, and Ian really likes it.

Framely Parsonage by Anthony Trollope. Picking up the Barsetshire series where I left off years ago. This is about a young clergyman who gets into serious and embarrassing financial trouble.

The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope. A charming Victorian love story.

The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope. A very morally upright clergyman is accused of theft. Possibly my favorite book in the series, although I really love them all.

Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope. The first in the Palliser series.

Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope. Second book in the Palliser series.

The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope. A reread and the third book in the Palliser series.

Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope. Fourth book in the Palliser series.

These are the books I didn't get to:

The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope. Fifth book in the Palliser series. I just checked this one out of the library, so I'll be reading it soon.

The Duke's Children by Anthony Trollope. Last book in the Palliser series.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. A reread. I didn't like it all that much the first time, so I'm not sure why I added this one to the list. I don't think I'll bother with it.

The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence. One of the Canadian boys I used to hang around with in the summer when I was in college really wanted me to read this, so I did and I loved it. I still have the paperback copy he gave me, but several of the pages fell out so I've never been able to reread it.

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. Another reread, and I loved the movie too.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. Of course I've read this one before. A lot of people dislike this book, but I see Fanny as funny and shy, not priggish.

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev. We read this in high school and I remember I really liked it, so wanted to reread.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Climate March and other things.

Another's weekend, another march. Actually, I'm disappointed that I opted to attend the local climate march in Charlottesville, rather than going to the one in Washington. I thought it would be too much to go up to D.C. two weekends in a row. Now I think it would have been worth it to have been a part of that crowd. I know the focus of this blog has gotten really political lately and I hope I'm not boring you. I won't rest until that motherfucker in the White House is behind bars.

Charlottesville Climate March

The Charlottesville march was well-attended, from what I could tell, although of a much smaller scale than the big city marches. This being Charlottesville, we were led by a group playing ukeleles, and we were taught three protest songs, which, once we were on the march, were abandoned for yelling "No More Oil, No More Coal, Keep Your Carbon in the Soil!" All the outdoor tables on the downtown mall were crowded with people eating lunch and who watched us march past, some approvingly, but some with bemusement or disdain. Whatever. It's not like there's a secret, clean planet for all the rich people to move to when the rest of us are screwed. We're all stuck with this mess and we ought to work together to fix it.

I took the opportunity to hang another yarn bomb downtown

This is the time of year when everything seems to be in fast forward mode. Seamus graduates from high school in a few weeks. He's not sure if he wants to attend the ceremony - my other kids skipped it - and he was absent the day that the kids were supposed to order their caps and gowns, although apparently there are extras we can buy. I don't care either way, I'm just really happy to permanently sever my association with the Charlottesville Public School System.

I know from past experience that the summer before you send a child off to college is a real ordeal. You must put aside prime summer real estate time to attend freshman orientation; you hemorrhage money, amassing the many, many things your child will need at school; and the child himself (or herself) tends to be surly, reckless, and moody. I've heard this is because they are afraid to leave home, so act out to the point that you are heartily glad not to have to see each other until parents' weekend (or Thanksgiving, even). At which point you have a joyful reunion and your child is a darling again.

Seamus applied to two colleges, George Mason University, in Fairfax, Virginia, and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. He was accepted at both and plans to study political science and journalism. It was tough to decide between the two, but Seamus didn't like the vibe in Fairfax, and then VCU offered him a scholarship, so that settled it and he's off to Richmond in August. And here I want to give a shout out to my friend Not Beehive, whose witty comments you've probably read here. Her daughter is in Seamus' class at Charlottesville High and she was accepted into the engineering schools at the University of Virginia and - wait for it - Cornell! You go girl!

In addition to this, we're preparing for another massive go-live, "Epic, Phase 2" which means no time off for anyone in the health system for an interminable period, right in the middle of summer. My team, in addition to no vacation, will be working round-the-clock twelve hour shifts. I'm actually having what I think is a PTSD-type flashback to the horrors of working day/night rotating shifts as an acute care nurse. I predict two weeks of constant weeping and erratic behavior. So anyway, no vacation for us, but I did manage to schedule Seamus' orientation after the PTO block out. There are going to be a hell of a lot of cranky people in Charlottesville in June and July, so watch out.