Monday, January 28, 2013

Let Me Reintroduce Myself

 This is a fun blog fest hosted by Stephen Tremp and friends  Re-Introduce Myself Blogfest

I am a woman of a certain age who is pre-Barbi, pre-vampire, pre-Iphone, Ipad, pre-electronic age, but using parts of it.

First, the superficialities:  I miss the "second look,"  you women know what I mean.  You are in a group of people, or waiting in a ticket line, or waiting for a bus, train, or plane.  And. . . there is a nice looking man among the group and you make eye contact and his eyes sweep by you never to return.  

I look at my older face in the mirror and think, hmm, eye lift, face lift?  No, no, and no I think, even though a few of my friends have done these little adjustments and they do look good.  Still ... I wonder.

My favorite everyday reading material is "The Wall Street Journal" especially the weekend editions.  So many good articles, ideas, book reviews, great sports writing, etc.  My husband and I share and sometimes read parts of the columns to each other over morning coffee.  I know, I know it sounds rather old fashioned, but it is one of the pleasures of having more time.

I read all the time, especially mysteries set in foreign countries which for a few hours put me in another part of the world.  I write this blog, but am not writing a book, so I cannot talk about the process as many of you do, but ... I am a "lover of words" and appreciate the time, effort and the "drops of blood on the forehead" that it takes to write a book.

I am a clipper -- I clip articles that I think might interest my friends and family and mail them.  My dad did that and I am continuing the tradition.

International politics interest me which probably reflect my love of travel and hearing from people from other countries.  I especially like seeing all those red dots from all over the world on the spinning globe on my blog which make me feel good to have made this small connection with them.

But the true loves of my life are my family.  My wonderful husband whom I met at our 20th high school reunion (and who made it possible for me to return to college and get my degree), my two wonderful sons, a step-daughter and her husband,  daughter-in-law and sister, and four grandsons.  And my friends who put up with my quirks.

My writing goals are to improve my blog and my writing and to  get more "techy." for example, I cannot figure out how to add the widgets/logos.

And, as you can tell if you have read this far.  I am not hip, but I like to read the blogs of those of you who are.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Downton Abbey and British Drama

What is the appeal of  "Downton Abbey"?  Everything -- the time period, the costumes, the excellent script, the acting, the ability of this TV series to put you into the story and care about the characters.

Each character seems fully fleshed out, not cardboard in anyway.  You can take any one and imagine how their day would progress, what they think about, what their hopes are, their strengths and their weaknesses -- and that interesting writing prompt when creating your own characters -- what does your character have in his or her pocket?  Daisy's character would not have the same thing as Lady Mary's, for example.

The series is a lesson in writing and creating characters.

Another series that I would watch again is "Foyle's War," about a detective in a small English town just before the possible German invasion in 1939.  He struggles to solve crimes with the background of the greater threat.  The stories of the black market, espionage, Nazi sympathizers, added to his own personal story make compelling watching.  Michael Kitchen is brilliant in this role, underplayed perfectly.  His driver, 'Sam," played by Honeysuckle Weeks, is another interesting character.  

 Kitchen is such a good actor that the narrowed eyes, the twitch of the cheek -- everything that he put in this role was there for all to see, the indecision, the desire to do what was right, the goodness of the man, made him real to the viewer.  And, there will be more episodes in 2013!

These dramas are like a good book.  You read every word and are disappointed when they end.

Meanwhile, not having seen any "Downton Abbey" "spoilers,"  what will happen to Matthew? Rumors say he will not be back after this season?  Will Downton be sold?  And what happened to the ruthless publisher who was engaged to Mary?  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Russian Christmas, 2013

Russian Christmas, or the Orthodox Christmas, is celebrated on January 7th, because the dates are set by the Julian calendar.
St Isaac's Cathedral , 1979,  

This was the religion I practiced growing up, but later did not continue; so hard when you lose the language and don't really understand the words.  But now, if I am ever in a country or city that has an orthodox church and I am nearby, I light candles for my parents, and those long-ago memories of attending church services with my mother and sister come back.  At the time, the standing for two hours was not a pleasure.  There are no chairs or pews in Orthodox churches.  But now I can remember the beauty of the Icons, the a cappella singing and chants and the incense which added to the atmosphere.

The Russian Orthodox church philosophically differs from Western churches in many ways, but especially during Christmas and Easter.  The birth of Christ which is jubilantly celebrated in Western churches, is a more subdued holiday in the Russian church, because of the knowledge of Christ's suffering to come.    
It is Easter when the church celebrates, knowing his suffering is over and the eternal message, that of redemption, is repeated.  There is feasting, special food, which is brought to the church to be blessed, bells ring after midnight, and the mood is happy and joyous.

In 1979 when I first visited the then Soviet Union, I was amazed at how many churches I saw, especially in Novgorod which has many Medieval and later period churches, still shakily standing after so many years, boarded up and waiting.  And I thought to myself, this was a religious country, and I wondered what people who still believed did who wanted their babies baptized, last rites spoken, and words of comfort.  Now, of course it has changed and the Russian Orthodox Church is active again.  Crosses replaced Red Stars and Russians are free to attend services without stigma.  Churches are being restored, and again, the Russian Orthodox Church has the approval of the government.

In 1979 we visited St. Isaac's Cathedral in what was then Leningrad.  It is a beautiful cathedral with many Icons made of mosaics, columns of malachite and lapis lazuli, a Russian Vatican, but . . . there was a pendulum exhibit in the middle of the Cathedral where little wooden pegs were set up in a huge circle and the pendulum suspended high above the ceiling would knock over each peg as the earth rotated and the position of the pendulum shifted.  This to demonstrate science over religion during the communist era.  Yes, the church is beautiful but Science rules not God, it seemed to say.

Novgorod, USSR, 1979

The first photo is of St.Isaac's Cathedral with the closed altar in the background.  The second is of a small wooden church we saw in Novgorod; I do not know the date of the building.  The early wooden churches were made with axes, no blueprints and constructed "by eye."

It was wonderful to re-visit old travel memories.