Thursday, February 21, 2013

Downton Abbey, Donna Leon Mysteries, and Issue Writing

Downton Abbey has another facet that makes it interesting to those who watch the series; within its stories, real issues of the time period are woven into the stories -- World War I and its affect on British society, the limited role for women and lack of opportunities for women for meaningful work, the Irish question, prison conditions, and the difficulties in maintaining those beautiful estates during hard economic times.

I was sorry to see the end of Season 3, although the ending could have been presented without that last picture.  Don't want to spoil it for those who have not seen it, so I won't go into detail.

The Donna Leon mysteries, more than 20 books now, are set in Venice.  She also weaves Venetian issues into her stories.  This is my favorite mystery series.  You feel as if you are in Venice with Commissario Brunetti as he tries to solve murders in Venice.  These are procedural mysteries, that is the murder is presented in the first few pages and then the rest of the book is the unraveling of the murder.  Donna Leon's talent is making you feel as if you are in Venice, walking the calles, to the campos, over the bridges, catching the police launch, drinking an espresso and drinking in the atmosphere of that magical, but aging city, with its beauty and political problems and corruption.  You will meet the Brunetti family: his teen-age children; his wife Paola, who teaches American Literature at the local college, and is passionate about Henry James, and share the family's lunches and dinners. Brunetti also has a literary passion, he likes to read ancient Greek and Roman literature.  To quote from the book, Drawing Conclusions, "Brunetti turned his attention to a book he had not read for at least 20 years, Tacitus' Annals of Imperial Rome. And which he was now reading with the attention of a man a generation older.  The savagery of much of what Tacitus described seemed fitted to the times in which Brunetti found himself living.  Government sunk in corruption, power concentrated in the hands of one man, public taste and morals debased almost beyond recognition:  how familiar it all sounded."

Now, if you have the MHZ channel, you can see the Brunetti mysteries on Saturday night 7-9 PM Mountain time here, which are filmed in Venice by a German company.  So, brush up your German or just view the subtitles.  This channel also has other mysteries set in France and Sweden and more.

Do you enjoy novels, stories and movies set in other countries?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine's Day, Jane Austin and Poetry

"My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you."  

These words spoken by Fitzwiliam Darcy to Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice are my favorite romantic lines.  Of course, their romance did not go smoothly from that scene, as Elizabeth refused him, but in the end, and despite all the twists and turns in the novel, the misunderstandings were unraveled, and they ended the story as man and wife.

The words, "admire" and "love" are important.   In any lasting relationship, you have to admire the one you love, or it will not last.  In those formal days of the 19th century, Jane Austen wrote a universal truth.

Poetry is not appreciated in the United States as it is in other countries.  Is it because we are a practical country?  But in other countries it is valued as in Central and South America.  Pablo Neruda from Chile wrote passionate and romantic poetry besides his tragic political poems.  "Puedo escribir los versos mas tristes esta noche .  Yo la quise, y a veces ella tambien me quiso."  (Tonight I can write the saddest lines, I loved her and sometimes she loved me too.")

In the movie, "Dead Poets' Society,"  Robin Williams, in his role as an English teacher in a New England prep school, answers his students question, "Why do we have to learn poetry?"  "To woo women, he answers."

To woo women. . . .

When I first met my husband at our 20 -- year high school reunion, we discovered that although we felt a strong attraction, we lived several states apart, not easy to pursue romance when there are physical miles between you.
Mr. Hobbes with Jane Austen, poem and rose

After we said good-by with many doubts hanging in the air, he sent me two things.  A picture of his little girl and this poem by T.S. Eliot:

"Footfall echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose garden."

And we did open the door into the rose garden and married five years later.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Peeps Contest

This is a frivolous column.  I have always loved to enter contests, but have never won any.  Every year, The Denver Post and other newspapers around the country have a Peeps contest.  Peeps are those marshmallow bunnies and other shapes that are in the super markets and drug stores around the holidays.  The contest is to create a diorama using the Peeps as characters in your mini stage set.  The Denver Post publishes all the entries online -- the creativity is amazing.

This entry from 2011 showed the Chilean miners who were rescued being transported via the specially constructed elevator up to the surface.  The special touch is the mistress of one of the miners waiting on the surface with a little sign.   Usually the ideas for the Peeps contest are news events or special events that are special to Denver.  But this one has been my favorite.  I have a plan and will see if my idea is good enough to enter.  Deadline is the first week of March.  If you go online to Denver Post Peeps contest, using the 2011 entries, enter Chilean miners, but there are others that are just as creative.  Going on their web-site will give you a larger image of the miners and other entries. To view a close-up of this entry, click on the arrow "next photo," this takes you to the Denver Post web-site and the 2011 entries, then click on box #1 and you will see the details of this entry.

 Do you remember making dioramas for school projects? 

Check out all of the 2011 entries for the 4th Annual Denver Post Peeps Contest.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Cursive Wriiting -- Obsolete?

These days, in the US, cursive writing is not being taught in many schools. The idea is that learning keyboarding is a practical skill, cursive writing is not. Many schools mandate that students have keyboarding proficiency by the 4th grade.

Most students hate cursive writing.  Asked in a Junior Scholastic magazine, most students agreed with this student: "NO! OMG, 4get cursive, It's dead."  But then, there is the example of a teacher in a North Carolina class whose students could not read her comments on a smart board and complained "Why are you doing this to us?"

California and Georgia are adding cursive classes to their core standards as are many  charter schools.  So, important or not?

Brain development is helped more by cursive writing, connecting shapes rather than repetitive movements on the keyboard.  It's harder for boys, generally, because of less small muscle control in their hands.  They are glad to see the end of cursive writing.

How many countries still teach cursive writing?  And what about picture languages?  Does this mean the end of love letters, real letters, real letters from grandparents, friends.  Cyberspace does not count.  And our personal signatures?  Apparently, those are on the demise list as signatures on contracts can be added electronically now. Your name is your identity and your signature is part of that.  I think we will lose something if writing our names is done only by letters not created by you.

Does this mean the end of hand-written love letters, letters to friends, letters of sympathy, congratulations, thank-you notes, letters to savor and save?

And very sadly our children will not be able to read the words of our country's founding documents, our Declaration of Independence -- "When in the course of human events . . . ."  and other important papers.

And all you writers, old and new?  How do you write your rough drafts in the first stages?  All on the computer or?  I like to write my rough drafts out in long hand, then transfer to the computer.  It helps me think to write in long hand first.