Saturday, December 24, 2005

Brokeback Mountain

I saw Brokeback Mountain today. It is a sad story, beautifully told against the backdrop of vast open spaces and amazing mountain views. I wonder if the impact would have been different if I hadn't already known the whole story before I saw the movie. At any rate, the tragedy of the story will probably be lost on the people who need to see it the most. My hope is that it will strengthen the will of people who are engaged in the struggle for gay rights. We can't go back; we must continue the effort to craft a society where it is not necessary for people to live a lie.

I think Heath Ledger is likely to get an Oscar for his performance. It was a perfectly nuanced reading of an extraordinarily difficult role.

Read Annie Proulx's short story here. And buy her book Close Range for more Wyoming stories. She's a good writer.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Merry Christmas to All

It's been several years since we had a traditional Christmas tree, the kind that looks like everybody else's idea of what a tree should be. About the age when many kids decide to become vegetarians because they can't bear the thought of killing animals, our daughter went a contrary route and became ultra-sensitive to the issue of killing trees. We took a trip to northern California, a sort of pilgrimage to the grandfather trees. That went well, except for the occasions when the sight of a logging truck loaded with timber would bring the Sensitive One to the brink of tears. Oh, the horror, the carnage!

So, we do not kill a tree to decorate our home during the Christmas season. Four years ago, we created a sculpture out of wire that was marginally evocative of a Christmas tree, and we decorated that. Last year, we bought a Norfolk Island Pine in a pot and decorated it. Then we put it out in the yard. During the year it grew and we repotted it. This year it's about twice as big, and last week we brought it in and hung lights and shiny stuff on it. Maybe more than we should have--I was starting to feel sorry for the little tree. We hung a calendar nearby so it would see that it was only 11 days until Christmas is over and it can go back outside.

I'm most proud of the star on top of the tree: it's hanging from the ceiling. Actually quite a nice effect.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Achenblog is Broken

No Achenblog on a Friday? I can only hope it will be repaired soon.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Pearl Harbor Day

Well, it’s Pearl Harbor Day, also the birthday of my sixth grade English teacher, Ms. Ellis. She was never one of my favorite teachers, but my best friend really disliked her because when Ms. Ellis was rebuking her once for some behavior or other (probably talking in class—that’s the only misbehavior we knew how to do back then) she said, “Your parents may let you act like that at home, but it’s not acceptable here,” and my friend took that as an insult to her parents, and never forgave the teacher for it. I also remember Ms. Ellis for misusing a Bible quote. When she punished the whole class for something one student did, she’d say, “It rains on the righteous and the unrighteous alike.” But that quote, which is from the Sermon on the Mount, is an example Jesus used to illustrate God’s grace and mercy, to remind us that we all receive God’s blessings even though we are sinners. On Pearl Harbor Day, I always remember Ms. Ellis, and that reminds me of God’s mercy and forgiveness, and while I’m forgiving the Japanese Imperial Air Force, I’m also trying to forgive my sixth grade English teacher. As one Pearl Harbor survivor said, “forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself.”

In thinking of Ms. Ellis’s transgressions, I also automatically remember my years as a teacher, and all the times I spoke carelessly or inaccurately, the times I inadvertently insulted or hurt one of my students. It happens, even when you care a lot and pay attention. So I need forgiveness, too. I hope my former students have forgotten the mistakes I made.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

They Might Be Giants

I got the new TMBG Venue Songs CD/DVD and it's having the usual impact on my life. I listened to the CD a few dozen times, and then I obsessed on this one song. For the past two days, whenever I'm listening to music, I'm exclusively listening to this song. I still haven't got all the words absolutely, one line in these lyrics is reconstructed from aural fragments, but I won't tell you which one, it would disturb the flow. Ladies and gentlemen, "Renew My Subscription" by They Might Be Giants!

Renew My Subscription

Well, I don’t write too many letters
I figured I’d better write something now
I saw the thing about the heartsick shut-in
Thought that I would cut in and tell you about how
It woke me from a lifelong daydream
While I was aging you wrote it all down
And though I recognized the words when I read them
I know I never said them to people out loud

Renew my subscription
to Desperate Bellowing magazine
It sure does have a familiar ring
You might say I fit the description
Renew my subscription to Miserable Freakshow Quarterly
Every back issue I saw spoke to me
Acknowledging it’s my addiction
Renew my subscription!


I want to be a much better person
Instead, I worsen with every day
But there’s a drug whose name I’m not sure of
Which I need more of to feel okay
They told me exercise and diet
If I would try it, would cure my ills
But though I’m already past my quota
I want another load of those magic pills

Refill my prescription
To whatever that thing is that makes
The carpet stop turning into snakes
In lieu of my coming conniption
Refill my prescription
And free me from where I don’t want to be
Standing outside the unopened pharmacy
Before I confirm your prediction
Refill my prescription!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Bah, Humbug

I want the "irritating office" award for the week because I am within 10 feet of BOTH a singing/dancing Santa AND a performing snowman. And have just been informed that a second snowman will be joining the mix tomorrow.

My best friend in the office said she bought one of those things for her neighbor, who has brain damage from a stroke, and "he loves it." She can handle the truth so I told her my opinion that the performing holiday characters, along with the singing fish and so on, were perfectly suited to that audience: people with severe brain damage. She laughed, and then she hit me, and then she emailed me a PowerPoint presentation called "Things that make you go AWWWW" (cute animal photos...)