Sunday, January 30, 2011

Still working...

So we're back working on the kitchen some more. Repairing a wall, getting the shoe molding done finally, and hopefully finally getting those top cabinets installed in the coming weeks. We're also having someone install a tile backsplash. We weren't planning on that just yet, but the opportunity arose to save us about $1,000 so we're investigating getting that done. We've picked out a smoky teal subway tile to go with the paint color in the kitchen. This is just a stock photo, the tiles we picked are darker. I'll post pictures in the coming weeks if that project comes to fruition. The labor is covered, just have to see how expensive the tiles will be.

Of course, what would life be if I weren't working a couple of jobs, working on a couple of campaigns and over extending myself by planning another house project? I guess I'm just the kind of person who has to have projects to keep me occupied. I've actually been slacking on my political responsibilities lately, that will pick back up next week. Anyway, back to the next project. So M and I were in IKEA last week (?) when we took B back to college. I spotted this pillow. Or rather, the bright red of that flower in the top left caught my eye. I kept coming back to it. I immediately envisioned re-doing my daughter's bedroom in reds and whites. If you remember back to the summer of rotating bedrooms, Min's room was the only one that didn't get a total makeover. Part of that was because she gets mad when I touch anything in her room. Yet, when she came home and saw the other bedrooms re-done, she was disappointed I hadn't done her room as well. So I told her about my ideas for her room and she's actually excited and wants to help me do the work on it. I thought that I could do mostly block colors and then use pieces like this pillow to bring in other patterns and colors.

I talked myself out of it, then came back again. Checked it against other bedding, curtains, rugs in the store, then put it back. I didn't have the time or money to start this project so I figured I'd wait to look for pieces until I was ready. Then I kept coming back to the pillow, hemming and hawing over whether to get it. M said I should because it probably wouldn't be there later this year when I was finally ready to start. This is the back side of the pillow next to a lamp shade with a similar pattern that I also spotted in IKEA. So of course I had to buy both. I like the old-fashioned ticking on the back of the pillow. I think I will find sheets in either red and white ticking or various colors like this.

This picture inspires me for the room, although it's too much red and white and looks too much like a Valentine. The bed frame looks a lot like the old iron bed frame in my daughter's room. I painted that white this summer. I have asked my mom to crochet an all bright red afghan to go across the foot of the bed. I'm thinking of having an all white down comforter or embroidered bed spread, with the red striped sheets, or maybe solid red sheets, I don't know yet. This is still in the envisioning phase.

I'm thinking I want to incorporate Swedish folk art pieces in the room, which will be mostly white in the woodworking, cabinets, and bedroom furniture. I like the pop of the occasional bright red.

My daughter already has the Swedish dala horse, so there's a bit of authenticity and color I don't even have to look for. So why am I telling you all this if I'm not likely to start the project until late July? Because I am looking for ideas and pieces to go in the room. So if you come across bedding in reds, whites, or the old ticking stripes, let me know. Either send me a picture, a website, or store location where I can go look at them. I'd also like to find brightly colored Swedish folk art to go in the room, but just in small doses for occasional pops of color. If you see something that might work, let me know.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Using the dead

I don't know if any of you have seen VW's latest commercial which features the deceased Donald O'Connor and the deceased Gene Kelly. I recognized them immediately, but I felt creepy watching the commercial. It didn't feel right to use their images without their approval. I'm sure VW got the permission of their estates or heirs, but still, it seems a little macabre. This isn't the first time VW has used Gene Kelly. Here's their first commercial with him below:

I know this is done all the time, but for some reason, I'm not bothered when Elvis' image is plastered all over the place, and I'm not bothered by other still picture ads, but to physically animate a dead celebrity into pitching a product just seems somehow worse to me.

It's kinda like walking around with a corpse and treating it like a puppet, posing it, making it do ridiculous things. That's okay for a bad movie (Weekend at Bernie's), using a live actor playing dead, but it's just wrong somehow to me, to take a dead actor and reanimate him. Does this bother anyone else?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I just saw this on Yahoo and it made me smile, thought I'd share it:

Watch as dad and musician Jorge Narvaez sings alongside his daughter Alexa for an amazing acoustic performance of the Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros song "Home." On his official Youtube page, Jorge explains that he's a proud single dad working his way through college and this video is him enjoying some "good times" with his daughter.

And what does the band think of Jorge and Alexa's cover of their song? On their Facebook page, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros posted the video, along with the comment, “beautiful in every way.”

Monday, January 24, 2011

Back to school

The Spring semester begins today, my teaching schedule is Tuesday/ Thursday, so I have one more day of vacation, in theory. I've been in both offices throughout break so all my lectures, handouts, assignments, etc. are ready to go. That will be a relief from last semester when I was playing catch up from not being prepared and being over-scheduled.

Here's a funny little school video.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Nazi Hyperbole

Man I love Jon Stewart! I love how he picks through an argument, piece by piece, and yet still makes it funny. I also appreciate that he calls people out regardless of party when they're being idiots. Here's a bit on Democratic Representative Steve Cohen from Tennessee.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011


So it's taken me forever to get this post up and going. We didn't take our camera so we could only get shots with our cell phones. Sometimes the pix turned out okay, sometimes not, so I've had to go on-line to get a bunch of shots for ones of ours that didn't come out. I've been avoiding doing this post because I've been busy and I got a nasty head cold and haven't felt much like doing anything. I've even been playing hookie from my political group. So, Boston, what can I tell you about Boston?

First I can tell you I didn't make it to Fenway Park for a baseball game because I was there off-season.

There also wasn't any Boston Marathon being run, off-season, too cold.

I also didn't take in a Boston Celtics game, don't know if they were playing or not, I'm not into basketball.

We didn't participate in any tea parties, it being January, being very cold down by the harbor, and not wanting to encourage any of those Tea Partyer types.

You have to remember we were there for a history conference, so we attended presentations, M gave one, we visited the vendor booths, met up with colleagues for dinners, etc. We did venture into old downtown Boston. It was prefaced to me innocently enough. M said, "do you want to see old Boston?" Of course, what history nerd wouldn't?

M explained that Boston had a Freedom Trail running through downtown, taking you to various historic sites throughout the city. Much as Dorothy followed the yellow brick road to get to Oz, we followed the red brick road to see historic Boston.

We began our soujourn at Boston Commons. Here's an aerial shot of the park. It kinda reminds me of Central Park in NYC, in that it's a patch of green in the middle of everything, although it's no where near as big. Okay, now look closely at Boston Commons. Now look up toward the harbor. M and I walked all the way around Boston Commons, don't ask, then walked up toward the harbor and other historic sites. Now this would have been a lovely multiple miles walk in Spring, but this was JANUARY! I don't care what anyone tells you, taking a historic stroll in Boston in January is never a good idea! And when you get close to the harbor and come around the corner of a building and the winds are coming off the water, holy mother of all that is decent, you've never felt a wind so cutting and cold! We stopped in at one of the National Park offices on our "stroll" to find out how much further another site was. The Park Ranger was all confident, that one place was less than a mile, another was an easy ride on the ferry. I told him no. He continued to say what a beautiful boat ride it was, and again, I firmly said no. He went to persist one more time when I interrupted him and asked him if he'd been outside lately. There was no way in hell I was getting on a boat in that icy wind to see another old building. Nope, just not happening. We walked to a couple more sites then headed back to the hotel.

On our stroll we did see the Old State House.

We went to Fanueil Hall. The bottom floor that usually has a huge market was being remodeled, but the inside was very pretty, nice older architecture.

Now M and I travel a bit more than a lot of folks and we love going to historic cities. The thing that struck me about Boston was how everything new grew up around everything old. For example, in Colonial Williamsburg, VA, the entire village has been historically preserved so that it looks pretty much like it did hundreds of years ago. In Boston, you can walk up to a place like the Old State House and it's surrounded by skyscrapers. It was interesting to see some of the larger old buildings that were maybe 3-4 stories high juxtaposed against skyscrapers about 30 stories high.

We also visited a couple of cemeteries while in Boston. I know some people find cemeteries creepy, Historians consider them works of art. The first cemetery we visited was in Boston Commons. This cemetery sat at one corner of the Commons and was pretty exposed to the elements and winds. The graves stones were worn down a lot by the weather so it was hard to read inscriptions.

The Granary Cemetery was tucked in between old buildings and skyscrapers, so it was better protected from the elements, thus the names on these markers were clearer. This is the cemetery where Paul Revere was buried and also where they buried some people from the Boston Massacre.

This and the next photo are examples of the tombstones. I love the deathshead sculptures they put on these stones. On the one hand, the more skull like can seem morbid and scarey, on the other hand, the ones with angel wings seem peaceful and nice. I wonder why some graves have the skulls and others have the wings. I wonder if it was a commentary on the person being buried.

Yeah, 'ol Jack was a drunkard, put the skull on his marker, we all know he's going to hell.

At Paul Revere's grave I was surprised how small the marker was. It didn't seem sufficient for a hero of the Revolution. I guess he wasn't such a big hero when he died and over time, History has made him a bigger hero.

Here's another marker right next to the first one. It looks like someone realized they probably ought to do something more.

This was a statue of Revere we came across on our stroll. Now this is more like it! Alright, so this post ended up much longer than I had intended, so I will have to leave the information on the restaurants and Little Italy for the next post. Mmmm, there was some good eatin' in Boston. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Movie Review: The Conspirator

While attending the American Historical Association (AHA) Annual meeting in Boston, we were given the opportunity to see the film, The Conspirator distributed by The American Film Company whose goal is to produce historically accurate movies. That in itself is a godsend for historians, who often have trouble watching period pieces because they get disgusted with all the inaccuracies. That said, here's the story.

This movie covers the period of Abraham Lincoln's assassination and the events and trials that came as a result of all that. In particular the movie focuses on the trial of Mary Surratt, mother of one of the conspirators of Lincoln's assassination. Her son escapes and because the government can't locate her son, they prosecute and persecute her.

Going into this movie, I was aware that Mary was executed for plotting to kill Lincoln. What I didn't know, however, were all the details of the trial, of the witnesses who lied, of evidence that was not allowed to be admitted, of the government's own role in railroading this woman because she either could not or would not give up the location of her son. I also didn't know about her lawyer.

James McAvoy plays Mary's lawyer in this film. Robin Wright plays Mary. The lawyer was a Union Civil War hero. He did not want to defend Mary. He believed she was guilty, yet by the end, he is so incensed at the corruption of the government to see her hang, going against everything the U.S. Constitution stands for and everything he fought for, that he defends her ferociously to the end, with a lot of shocking surprises. I was riveted by the story and all the details and court transcripts that I wasn't previously aware of. I could also relate to the lawyer's disenchantment with the legal system that could do so little to protect this woman.

The cast of this movie reads like a who's who in film. Robert Redford directed the movie and here are the people who were in it: James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Kevin Kline, Evan Rachel Wood, Justin Long, Alexis Bledel, Tom Wilkinson, Danny Huston, James Badge Dale, among many other character actors that you will recognize. What was interesting to me was that despite so many well known faces, most of them blended in and were very believable in character. There were a couple that were hard to believe, Justin Long for one. I don't believe it had anything to do with his acting, only that I was so used to seeing him as "the clown" that when he was put in this serious role, I kept waiting for a punch line. Robin Wright always does an excellent suffering woman, for me, the best acting came from James McAvoy as Mary's lawyer, Danny Huston as the prosecutor, Kevin Kline as the "prick" Secretary of State and Tom Wilkison as a Senator and senior law partner who assigns McAvoy's character to the job. What M believed was missing in the film was a little more background on the Civil War. Everyone knows enough about the facts to know what happened, but what isn't shown in the film was the depths of the hatred between the North and South, and the level of paranoia, to make the government's persecution of Mary Surratt more understandable. This film is scheduled for release this Spring. I don't know if it will get a wide release, but it was definitely a good film. I would go see it again and it's definitely a Netflix pick if you go that route.

Here are some trailer clips from the film:

Team Ra-Ras Kicks Breast Cancer - Susan G. Komen for the Cure Philadelph...

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About 136 former cheerleaders got together to do a dance routine to
benefit "Susan G. Komen for the Cure" (Breast Cancer). Each time
someone views the video, United Healthcare will make a $.10 donation to

The Komen organization. Their goal is to get a million hits, which will
lead to $100K raised. Please can you take a moment to watch the video -
and, just as important, pass this link onto your network of friends, family and
colleagues? It benefits a very important cause!

Back from Boston

We've been in Boston since last Thursday for a history conference, got back late last night. So today I will be making the rounds on all your blogs, trying to catch up, then hopefully in the next few days I will do a post about Boston and throw some pictures in there as well.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Movie Reviews

We've been seeing a lot of movies over the holidays. I thought I might share my opinions with you on three movies that I didn't particularly want to see, but that pleasantly surprised me.

The first movie, that I just saw this morning, is Black Swan. This is a dark, psycho-sexual thriller. I was surprised when the movie was over, it certainly didn't feel like an hour and fifty minutes had gone by. We were sucked in pretty quickly, getting a lay of the land, figuring out the characters and then falling down the rabbit hole into the mind of the lead ballerina, or so we thought. The pace was excellent, neither rushed, nor drawn out. From one scene to the next, everything was believable and in character and not until the very end would we find out what was real and what was in the mind of the dancer. The stand out performance definitely goes to Natalie Portman. She completely disappears into this role. I've never seen her act at this level before. Amazing.

Next up is True Grit. I saw the original with John Wayne and didn't particularly want to see the same story again because I wasn't all that impressed with the original. My favorite John Wayne movies are The Quiet Man and The Shootist. This version of True Grit is not like the Wayne original. This screenplay put together by the Cohen brothers is true to the novel and I enjoyed this version much more. Jeff Bridges does a fine job in the role of Rooster Cogburn really making it his own part so that no one would draw comparisons between him and John Wayne. Josh Brolin does a great job being simple-minded and creapy all at the same time, but the real stand out role in this one belongs to the young lady in the original Kim Darby role.

Hailee Steinfeld plays the young girl enlisting Cogburn's help in tracking down her father's killer. You have to see this girl on the screen and listen to her voice and delivery of the lines, then remind yourself she is not an experienced actress. She was nothing short of phenomenal in this role and if she doesn't get a nod from Oscar for her performance, the judging is rigged. She was so precocious, self-possessed and BELIEVABLE!! Wow, I wonder if she'll stick with acting and how much better she could be if this is her example of being fairly new to the business.

The last movie was The Fighter featuring Mark Walberg and Christian Bale. This is the story of two brothers, the older (Bale) a former boxer (I could have been a contender) who took the wrong path and became a drug addict, and his kid brother (Wahlberg) who actually does become a prize winning boxer. The story was just okay for me. Though the characters of the brothers were believable, the sisters seemed a little too much like caricatures instead of real people. The real person to watch in this movie is Bale's character. He was completely riveting every moment he was on the screen and I thought his performance was so many levels above his co-stars that it was like watching two different movies. At the end of the movie, they show a short clip of the real brothers. When you see the clip of the brother that Christian Bale plays and you see how impeccably he nails that character, then you'll know his performance was even better than you thought. I'd see this again just to watch Bale's performance.

Last full day in Europe

Ahh, all good things must come to an end.  Our European vacation is drawing to a close.  We leave Nice this morning to drive back to Barcelo...