Ewing extra effort

I really appreciated the extra effort by the service technician at the dealership who cut down a wiring connector to fit in the tail lamp assembly of my Buick Skylark last week. I've complained about car dealership repair departments in the past, but this time Ewing Buick came through. If you go there, ask for Russ, and tell them a '96 Skylark sent you.


If only Dubya were more like the Cat in the Hat

One of the greatest joys of my job is reading my favorite picture books aloud to students. Lately I've been able to read both Chris van Allsburg's, Jumanji, and The Cat in the Hat to students aged three to ten. It is funny when I realize that I am also reading the books aloud to myself!

Remember how The Cat always picked up all his playthings and so ...? The beauty of both Jumanji and The Cat in the Hat is that their scary, but instructive outrageous experiences are completely tidied before Mother returns. Thing One and Thing Two are back in the big red wood box, all shut with a hook, which is exactly where Darth Cheney and Rummy should be. The python and the monkeys disappear once Judy yells, "Jumanji," and Peter is wiser by far for playing Van Allsburg's board game.

And so,

shouldn't Bush be able to pick up the mess his blue-haired Things have created in Iraq? Shouldn't the steam from the volcano blow out the open window, leaving Staff Sgt. Christian Bagge with two whole legs? The fish in the pot tried to warn us about The Cat. Is there any chance Dubya will clean up his own mess????


It's Thursday on Tuesday

We are way overdue for a new word, and this one is a doozy! A sweet, smart kindergarten student came to me today to share, "My baby brother was babmitized at church on Sunday."

Oh, my gosh! I hope they didn't throw the badminton out with the bathwater! I was so tickled it was hard to keep a straight face.

Here in Plano the Episcopalians are revolting. One of the largest congregations in the nation is all in a dither about the denomination confirming gay bishops, recognizing gay unions, and electing a, gasp, woman as the presiding bishop. I'm not an Episopalian, and I don't play one on t.v. I do think we should all pour ourselves a big glass of iced sun tea, stir in some serious sugar with a fancy-handled iced tea spoon, and sit our bezoozies down in the swing on the porch. Then we'll open the essays of Virginia Cary Hudson and laugh ourselves saner through O Ye Jigs and Juleps!

Martina Navratilova, who is almost my age, is playing in the Ladies and Mixed Doubles at Wimbledon in hopes of breaking Billie Jean King's record of twenty Wimbledon titles.

"Forty is the new 30 and I am a bit beyond that," she said. "I am a pioneer, and I think many great players will play to a great age in the future." I'm a bit past the new 30, but maybe I can stay at the new 40 if I keep smiling about my little students' vocabulary words.


Why Ninety Minutes Is Not Enough

The World Cup games are just too darn short for some of us. It's not the lack of scoring compared to most American sports. It's not that we need to hear yet MORE ranting by the U.S. sportscasters about the proliferation of yellow and red cards. I admit ninety minutes isn't enough time to appreciate the tanned and lined visages of the coaches and refs who have been squinting, analyzing, instructing, calming, and letting go of the outcome of games played by comparative pretty boy youngsters.

I am watching World Cup matches when I can, mainly on the weekends. My tv is not high definition. It is small aggravation. If I sit on the sofa across the living room, the players resemble the VW bugs escaped from Chernobyl down on Chicago streets when viewed from the Sears Tower observation deck. When I sit in the rocking chair and skooch up closer, they look like day-glo orange meerkat finger puppets (made from hunter's fleece) in an bioluminescent green diorama. Yikes. It's the Netherlands again, and time to reach for the remote control.

A new Adam Sandler movie opened this week, and I would rather yank out all my teeth with needlenose pliers than see it. Still, I understand the premise involves having a "universal remote" control of the universe.

Watching the Netherlands in their orange uniforms makes me feel like I'm in need a universal Photoshop program to tame the contrasts and color saturation. The games are in the stoppage seconds before I get the nuclear reactor leakage out of the screen! Too late again. Netherlands, go home!


World Fruit Cocktail Cup

(Cue the Museum Impossible theme song.)

If you know your docent from your dachsund, Get Fuzzy has been particularly entertaining this month. First we had the joy of Bucky Katt's birthplace museum (beginning 5/29/06).

Bucky traded Rob's iPod for a Craig 212 tape recorder to provide the audio tours of his museum. The Craig 212 is the kind we owned in the Jetson/Flintstone Era. More recently, Rob and Bucky have been contestants on Satchel's game show, disputing the existence of England.

Somewhere on this comic timeline I got a major craving for toasted English muffins with warm creamy peanut butter. As college students thirty years ago we used to eat this gourmet delight at any hour of the day or night. Just the toasty kitchen aroma can clear your mind after a keg social, and the protein will get you back on the scholarly track, thanks to George Washington Carver.

A clear head is good for keeping up with the yellow cards in the group round of the World Cup. I'm not sure which of these match-ups are real, but I hope they all have colorful face paint and warning labels on yellow recipe cards:

English Muffins v. Swiss Steak
Hungarian Goulash v. Chop Suey
Freedom Fries v. Power Tools

Don't forget that FIFA stands for Feline International Food Arrogance, or les attempts futile vs. egomaniacal feline irritation. (Don't quote me. No matter how many years of foreign language you suffer through, you will never speak conversational cat.)

Step aside, Brad!

The leading men who lure me to the movie theater for a Saturday matinee are Will Shortz and Al Gore. Much as I enjoyed "An Inconvenient Truth," and was moved to become DARTmama, "Wordplay" is my favorite of the two. Yes, I'm a New York Times crossword puzzle junkie, and, yes, I do them in ink. I'm not lightning fast, though. My day doesn't feel right if I can't started it with the puzzle, although I do force myself to read the paper (Dallas Morning News) before I start the crossword or the Sudoku. One of the advantages of becoming DARTmama is extra puzzle-solving time in the mornings.

"Wordplay" has a delightful mix of information about puzzle construction, famous and surprising puzzlers telling why they do puzzles, features on several championship level puzzlers, and the high stakes American Crossword Puzzle Tournament--with no wardrobe malfunctions or bad "interpretations" of Our National Anthem.

Remember Henry, the retired baker/neighbor of Kinsey Milhone in Sue Grafton's alphabet mysteries? He's a charming character, makes great cinnamon rolls, and he's a crossword puzzle constructor. What a sexy combination! He should be played by Sam Elliott in a movie version! Parnell Hall's series of Puzzle Lady Mysteries didn't have any such delights, but I did learn about competitive puzzle tournaments from those books.

Maybe the mystery is why I've never tried constructing puzzles, especially given my love of graph paper and dictionaries. Is it too late to start?

In the early 90's our family Sunday morning ritual involved clambering into the minivan and going to the Parker Station Cafe for breakfast. Most Sundays the drive coincided with Liane Hansen's chat with The Puzzlemaster, Will Shortz, on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday. We tried to solve many puzzles over our breakfast specials and short stacks. In my mind, Will Shortz' voice is linked with steaming sausage, pancakes, maple syrup, and family togetherness.

Seems to me each "Wordplay" movie ticket should come with a Weekend Edition lapel pin and two eggs over easy.


Lurger Burger

Toddlers bring strange words into a family's vocabulary. Sometimes the toddler word lurks submerged in the subconscious until decades after the meaning has been forgotten.

More decades ago than I want to admit, a toddler, who might have been me, came up with the term "lurger burger". It bubbled to the surface the other day when I was pantomiming scuba divers with my preschool art students. The kids are at that age when putting their face in the water and blowing bubbles is the main focus of swim lessons, so they know that bubbles make gurgle-burgle sounds.

Once "lurger burger" surfaced, I got the mental equivalent of The Bends. My gosh! How many times did Jacques Cousteau warn me about that during the Sixties? Due to our family tv set back then, I am always surprised when Jacques'undersea world is not black and white!

What was "lurger burger?" Person, place, or thing? No clue. I called my dad late at night--after 8:30--to ask about this toddler word. He remembered the term, but didn't recall if it was animal, mineral, or vegetable. Bewitched, bothered, or bewildered? Magician, mathemetician, or musician? We are stumped.

A few days pass. Dad wants to know if I've figured out "lurger burger." Still no. He thinks it might have been a person at his office in the mid-Fifties. Neither of us think it was a food*.

My own kids had some toddler words. The one that pops to mind first is "rackoo". "Rackoo" is a combination of the toddler drop game of "Oh-oh," Chinese water torture, and a Hot Wheels-style John Deere tractor:
  1. Toddler in carseat on family driving vacation holds toy tractor.
  2. Toddler in carseat throws toy tractor to the floor of the 1985 Ford Tempo.
  3. Toddler in carseat screams, "Rackoo! Rackoo! Rackoo!," with increasing agitation and volume until mother retrieves toy tractor from the floor and gives it back. [Dad is driving and bigger preschooler is in the front seat listening to Wee Sing cassettes.]
  4. Repeat Steps 1-3 from Omaha, Nebraska to the Grand Tetons.
  5. Mom tries unsuccessfully to repress the memory of this particular toddler word.
The second toddler word is a splendidly descriptive term for the space created by taking all the cushions and pillows off a soft, but ugly jungle-print hand-me-down sofa, and piling them up to make a cave/fort. When you sit in this space, you are in "the crabbis-crow." "Crabbis-crow" is on my mind as my students make wacky pirate ship hats with crows nests. A sofa-cushion cave is a bit like a house for a hermit crab/toddler, plus it rhymes with Jacques Cousteau's Calypso. After a long, hectic week of teaching, I am ready to sit in my own "crabbis-crow" for a day or two!

But "lurger burger" still eludes recall. It doesn't have a frightening gut connotation like "the Gooies," or "pea burgers." "The Gooies" are worse than The Bends. They are the creepy things down the stairs in a dark basement.

Pea burgers are the scary concoction of a harried mom trying to stretch the ground beef by mixing in a can of peas from the basement pantry. Nowadays the Dallas Morning News prints ideas for "desperation dinners." I'm sure my mom got the idea for "pea burgers" from a similar journalistic hint. Still, the pea burgers were the inedible food for family lore and nightmares, along with the "cardboard box cake."

My elementary students are sitting in a circle around the rug to play a game I call, "What's something you might find in the ocean THAT NOBODY ELSE HAS SAID?" It's a good game for encouraging listening, visualization, problem-solving, and for stocking the group's creative pantry. The kids start our second effort at the game with good ideas:

  1. Tiger shark
  2. Electric eel
  3. Stingray
  4. Water
  5. Sand
  6. Angelfish
  7. Treasure chest
  8. A killer whale and her baby
  9. Seaweed
  10. "A great big, a really GREAT BIG... [The child then periscope-ups his index finger into his left nostril and brings forth a GIANT LURGER BURGER] ... batch of plankton."

*Definitely not a food!


Self Portrait/'96 Skylark/Wanted Poster

That's me. Caught my reflection all crouched down to take a photo of the Skylark. Trying to document the continuing saga of the evil brake light...(story of my life!). Many brave automotive technicians have gone forth to slay the evil dragon inhabiting the left rear wiring of the Buick, but none have survived. A few have briefly, yet mistakenly, believed that the dragon was slain, and claimed the laurels due the hero, but the fiendish beast still lives. For years I've tried to just tame it long enough for the car to pass inspection. I've tickled its special spot, left offerings of Kraft caramels and Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies, slammed the trunk Fonz-style, surrounded it with psychic white light, done shamanic dances with gourd rattles, whispered sweet nothings, and burned sage. I've even "become one with the brake light" through the practice of creative visualization, to no avail. OMMMMMM....

The saga has taken a turn-signal for the worse. I got a warning ticket to repair the brake lamp problem, but THEY DON'T MAKE THAT PART ANYMORE. That's why I am taking photos of the offending Buick part---the dealership is sending out an automotive Amber Alert to all the junkyards in Texas to try to locate a 5-way wiring connector. You may actually see these photos hanging on your post office wall!


Man Ray/Manta Ray

Cue the underwater diver sound effects:

POOOOOFFF murgle-burgle-gurble-blurgmle-glurber-blurgel-lurger-burger....
BUEPHPHPHPH murgle-burgle-gurble-blurgmle-glurber-blurgel-lurger-burger....
MMMEWMBFPH murgle-burgle-gurble-blurgmle-glurber-blurgel-lurger-burger....
WOOOMBLEF murgle-burgle-gurble-blurgmle-glurber-blurgel-lurger-burger....

What's the deal with Man Ray's name? Was he an underwater diver as well as a Dada photogrammer? Can I make it over to Fort Worth to see his cameraless photogs at the Amon Carter this week? Probably not. Instead, my students will be making cameraless nature prints to use as the backgrounds in their underwater dioramas.

Focus on Photographs: Man Ray’s √Člectricit√©
February 18–June 25, 2006
See ten revolutionary images created by the innovative American photographer Man Ray (1890–1976), who made cameraless photographs, or photograms, by placing objects like toasters, light bulbs and irons on a piece of photographic paper or film and then exposing the film or paper to light.

Sun prints are such fun art voodoo that I may have to get a pack of paper for my own personal experimenting. Man Ray was born Emmanuel Radnitzky. His family changed its name to Ray, and, of course, Emmanuel was "Manny". Nothing oceanic there! Still, I see a manta ray gliding across blueprint paper.


Church key

"And you've never seen a more tackily lovable rural garage than the one Randel Wright has designed," wrote Dallas Morning News critic Lawson Taitte. He was reviewing "Stanton's Garage" by Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, which runs through July ninth.

I've been in that "tackily lovable rural garage" on way too many roadtrips and family vacations run aground, amoco, and amok. Wright's set is so perfect I wanted to wash my hands just looking at the duct tape-patched vinyl couch. I knew hundreds of stranded fat guys in shorts have sweated on that vinyl, and more than one kid has barfed his orange soda. I could even taste the burnt coffee in the styrofoam cup. If I'd been sitting closer to the stage, I bet I could have seen the desicated fly wings and daddy longlegs on the window sill, as Wright has captured every other detail.

In a satisfying moment of Act I, the vending machine is the shooting victim of an imbalanced and immobilized Mobil Travel Guide reader. We know deep down that the Baby Ruth and Butterfinger bars are both stale and melty, but this one is for every person who ever lost a quarter while marooned at Zeke's Brake and Muffler.

Back when station attendants "filled-er-up" and gave us free placemats, thermal cups, and steak knives, I used to love the smell of gasoline. Now when I accidently spill a drop at the self-serve island, it's unappealing. Does leaded smell better than unleaded?

When characters in Joan Ackermann's play need to visit the gas station restroom, they carry a huge, grimy key to unlock the outside door. My mom would have been cringing. She taught us very early the skill of covering the seat with layered toilet paper! Thank heaven the play is set in Missouri. If it had been in rural Utah, the restroom would be missing its door entirely. Thank heaven, too, that someone invented Purell!

At 160 minutes the play runs long, even though the slow pace reinforces the everyman connection to the car repair delay frustration. Similar scenes could be merged so that the audience isn't worrying when the next clean restroom will be available on this journey.

CTD performs in a former Baptist church built in 1925. The space is funky, the bar (tended by CTD Managing Director and former Dallas Morning News theatre critic Tom Sime) is fun, but the sightlines are aggravating in the balcony. My neck will be stiff tomorrow from trying to see the pine air fresheners and gumball machine.

Seems like just yesterday a teen driver rear-ended our 1954 pea green Chevy on Highway 6 through Holdrege, Nebraska. The rear bumper punched into the car's trunk, so the Chevy looked just like a giant beer can opener had left its mark. The vampire said, "I vant to drink your Bud!"

Better productivity through television

Sounds backwards, I know. In a not very scientific experiment known as the 2006 FIFA World Cup on ABC and ESPN2, I've learned that when I sit down to watch tv I get a lot accomplished. Once I sit down in the living room, it's obvious that I won't be able to concentrate unless I vacuum the carpet. Then there are the Vonage and Progressive commercials that run continuously, it seems, before, after, and in the middle of games. Those prompt me to grab the laundry basket and start folding. Just sitting is something I do best on a bus or train, not at home, so I've done the ironing with Japan and Croatia this morning. Did the mending with Trinidad and Tobago. Now it's time for paying the bills with Ronaldinho and the Aussies. If they show the Master of Champions ad with the jump roping car again, I'm going to start cleaning toilets!


Pen Pals

Got a letter from Al Gore in the mail today. It didn't include an autographed 8x10 glossy from "An Inconvenient Truth".

Al wanted me to send money to the Democratic National Committee to gird up its loins and rattle its sabres against an "Administration that has abused its power and shown breathtaking disrespect for the law."

I hearby send Al a backatcha notice that the Democratic Party can't do the job. The best it can do is pathetic cariacature of a Ghost Dance from the 1890's Sioux. No amount of warpaint and feathers on Hillary will change that.

Dear Al,

You need someone with a vision. Someone with a plan. Someone who can tell lobbyists to put their bribes where the sun don't shine. You need to read yesterday's op-ed by THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN in the New York Times, "Seeds for a Geo-Green Party":

The recent focus of the Republican-led Congress on divisive diversions, like gay marriage and flag burning, coupled with the unveiling of Unity '08, an Internet-based third party that plans to select its presidential candidate through online voting, has intensified the chatter that a third party, and maybe even a fourth, will emerge in the 2008 election.

Up to now, though, most of that talk has been about how a third party might galvanize voters, using the Web, rather than what it would actually galvanize them to do. I'd like to toss out an idea in the hopes that some enterprising politician or group of citizens — or Unity '08 — will develop it. It's the concept I call "Geo-Green."

What might a Geo-Green third party platform look like? Its centerpiece would be a $1 a gallon gasoline tax, called "The Patriot Tax," which would be phased in over a year. People earning less than $50,000 a year, and those with unusual driving needs, would get a reduction on their payroll taxes as an offset.

The billions of dollars raised by the Patriot Tax would go first to shore up Social Security, second to subsidize clean mass transit in and between every major American city, third to reduce the deficit, and fourth to massively increase energy research by the National Science Foundation and the Energy and Defense Departments' research arms.

Most important, though, the Patriot Tax would increase the price of gasoline to a level that would ensure that many of the most promising alternatives — ethanol, biodiesel, coal gasification, solar energy, nuclear energy and wind — would all be economically competitive with oil and thereby reduce both our dependence on crude and our emissions of greenhouse gases.

In short: the Geo-Green party could claim that it has a plan for shoring up America's energy security, environmental security, economic security and Social Security with one move.
It could also claim that — however the Iraq war ends — the Geo-Green party has a strategy for advancing political and economic reform in the Arab-Muslim world, without another war. By stimulating all these alternatives to oil, we would gradually bring down the price, possibly as low as $25 to $30 a barrel. That, better than anything else, would force regimes like those in Iran, Sudan, Egypt, Angola, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia to open up. Countries don't reform when you tell them they should. They reform when they tell themselves they must — and only when the price of oil goes down will they tell themselves they must.

Moreover, by making America the leader in promoting clean power, the Geo-Greens would be offering a credible plan for recouping a lot of America's lost prestige in the world — prestige it lost when the Bush team trashed Kyoto. This would put America in a much better position to galvanize allies to combat jihadism.

Last, Geo-Greenism could be the foundation of a new American patriotism and educational renaissance. Under the banner "Green is the New Red, White and Blue," the Geo-Green party would seek to inspire young Americans to study math, science and engineering to help make America not only energy independent but also the dominant player in what will be the dominant industry of the 21st century: clean power and green technology.

Frankly, I wish we did not need a third party. I wish the Democrats would adopt a Geo-Green agenda as their own. (Republicans never would.) But if not, I hope it will become the soul of a third party.

Historically, third parties arise in America when they seize a neglected issue and demonstrate that there is a real constituency for it," said Micah Sifry, author of "Spoiling for a Fight: Third-Party Politics in America." "They win by forcing that issue into the mainstream — even if the party itself is later forgotten. Conditions certainly seem ripe for such a third-party bid today."
But rather than artificially splitting the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, Mr. Sifry added, "a successful third party has to get in front of both — with an agenda that inspires hope and with leadership that inspires trust. Fear of a dark future isn't the best motivator; hope for a better one is."

That's Geo-Greenism. To be sure, Geo-Greenism is not a complete philosophy on par with liberalism or conservatism. But it can be paired with either of them to make them more relevant to the biggest challenges of our time. Even if Geo-Greenism couldn't attract enough voters to win an election, it might attract a big enough following to frighten both Democrats and Republicans into finally doing the right things.

Al! You movie star hunk-o-burning, burning, melting-Greenland-ice! Al, baby! Get real, kiss Tipper, and dive decisively off the Democratic raft. It's time to steer a new ship!

Maybe the final Weber weekend

Plano had the itty-bittiest spritz of rain today. It probably won't count as measurable precipitation, so that brings the string of days without to thirty-nine. The City's water use prohibitions go into effect Monday. Voluntary compliance with the restrictions was requested a month ago because water levels are so low at Lake Lavon and other sources for the North Texas Municipal Water District. Outdoor cooking bans are expected next.

On Wednesday our Collin County commissioners banned the discharge of all fireworks except for professional shows. Unfortunately, they didn't ban the sale of fireworks to law-ignoring nitwits. With conditions so dry, it only takes one or two yahoos to set the county on fire. The fireworks industry is threatening to sue the county, naturally, in this litigious, self-centered age.

"All we're trying to do, plain and simple, is prevent fires from breaking out," said Collin County Commissioner Jerry Hoagland. "What's going to happen? People are going to go ahead and buy them, and go ahead and fire them off, but if they get caught they can be fined."

I'm not litigious. Heck, I don't much like beans at all, and I really despise limas. What? Legumes? Oh. I thought those were the elected officials down in Austin trying to figure out the state school finances for Governor Goodhair. My mistake.

Yahoos? That's what you get when Chevy Tahoes and GMC Yukons have unprotected SUV encounters. Jonathan Swift will back me up on that. Webers are a far more civilized race, but I'm still keeping the lid on. I don't want to set the county on fire, but I do want to savor these marinaded chix boobs wrapped in bacon and fresh pineapple, plus the garlic asparagus!


The Weight of Your Conscience

This DARTing about has an unexpected side effect. In less than one week of mass transit commuting, I lost three pounds!

My walks to the bus stop and across the parking lots at the Parker Road light rail station aren't really very long.

Such a bargain, and the poem is free!

For less than the cost of a gallon of gas, I can take the train in the morning and work the crossword puzzle during the trip. This is so cool! [The bus and train are deliciously air conditioned for women of a certain age.] I get off the train and immediately board a bus for a ride nearly to my place of employment. The ride is so short there's barely time to read the "Poetry in Motion" poem posted on the bus. I walk from the bus stop around a lovely duck pond, and look at a heron and all the turtles. Life is good!

After work I stroll back to the bus stop, and sit on the bench for a few minutes. Three different bus routes cross this corner, maybe more. Any of them will take me back to the rail station. I like wondering who lives in the apartments across the street. I imagine characters based on the items on each unit's balcony. I'm decompressing.

My dad would call it "unlaxing". Dad was a long-time bus commuter. Waiting for the bus, and then riding the train, is a mental transfer point from doing to being. On the way home I realize I'm focused on my breathing, just the way my counselor used to recommend. This costs way less than therapy! I become aware of tension points in my body, and consciously relax each one in turn.

Everybody's doin' a brand new dance now,
(Come on baby, do the locomotion)
I know you'll get to like it if you give it a chance now,
(Come on baby, do the locomotion)
My little baby sister can do it with ease,
It's easier than learning your A B Cs,
So come on, come on, do the locomotion with me.

Come on, come on, do the DART mass transit with me. $2.50 for the whole day, and the poem is free.

DART doesn't rhyme with "thwart"

Riding mass transit gives me time to ponder such oddities of the English language. After my car repair DART day, I decided to try it again. Since I wanted to park the Buick at the Parker Road Station (currently the final north stop on the Red Line), I was surprised to find that hundreds of other people are already in that habit. They get to the station early, and fill up all the parking lots. Clearly, I am not on the cutting edge charting a new frontier of DART exploration! I'm slow to convert, but enthusiastic. I didn't have enough time to figure out a Plan B for that morning, so I drove to work. Now, though, I'm challenged. Mass transit is a puzzle I want to solve. If I solve it, I'll have time for Sudoku and the NY Times crossword on the train.


Hot Carnauba! Ay Carumba!

One morning last week I awoke straight out of a vivid dream with the realization that a broken side mirror held onto the Buick with packing tape on a hundred+ degree day might have SCARY BAD CONSEQUENCES. What would happen if the tape melted and baked onto the finish of the poor little Skylark? Would it pull the paint right off the car when the tape was removed later? Remember that childhood fear of having a Band-aid removed, and how we gradually learned that one fast rip is better than tiny slow pulls? Admit it. You sometimes experience irrational adultfear of eyebrow waxing. Maybe your skin will rip right off your bones like a Spielberg special effect in an Indiana Jones movie? No wonder I was having crazy dreams!

Rushed the Buick to the dealership to have the side mirror repaired (Rat$! Had to be replaced!). I would have to get to work by DART-ing while the mirror work was done. This summer is the tenth anniversary of DART Light Rail in Dallas and surrounding suburbs. I'd ridden DART trains occasionally to attend Dallas Symphony concerts downtown, or movies at the Angelika Theatre at Mockingbird Station. Aside from that, I had ridden a DART bus to work one time, and my coworkers gasped. They insisted on driving me back to my Plano dealership. What would it be like to use DART to get to work?

Riding the train and transferring to a bus was surprisingly easy and convenient. Taking a bus back to the Buick dealership went smoothly. I was so relaxed that I didn't even fret about the cost of replacing the mirror. Could riding DART be good for my blood pressure?

To be continued...


Up, up, and away, way out there

Extra! Extra! Read all about it.

Wagnerian divas escape Santa Fe Opera for three-hour tour in Albuquerque hot air balloons. We are having a fabulous time creating stories and art about improbable vacations and expeditions. Today we finished our Viking hot air balloons.

If you've ever had the great good fortune to watch the 1965 movie, "Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines," you are well aware of the dangers inherent in wearing a pointy helmet for hot air ballooning. If you were absent the day that fabulous treat was passed out, why, my heavens, you must do that make-up work immediately!

If you've ever owned a 1963 Pontiac Catalina, you know a bit about vacations going awry! Ours was a white 4-door Catalina with a light-blue interior. Amongst "The Pontiac's" travel-oddities were losing its cool in Colorado (Ft. Morgan), and losing its chrome on I-80 (which makes a very bizarre whistling sound) near Grand Island. It got totally slimed and encrusted on a mud detour through Beaver Crossing, Nebraska, back when we were still building the Eisenhower Interstate System. "The Pontiac's" greatest claim to fame was the failure of its transmission during a drive down Pike's Peak.

"The Pontiac" never transported Brunhilde or the Rhine Maidens to a mass ascension at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Still, you can imagine the fun. I hear them singing! Or maybe that's my Heavy Classix cd playing in the art classroom.

Looks like she could hold her own with Ginger and Mary Ann! Why isn't there an opera version of Gillligan's Island?! We'll always have the Fifth Dimension! Up, up, and away!


Stages of Parenthood

My oldest has reached a stage in life that I'd almost forgotten. He entered the grad student potluck dinner phase. This is a challenging mental exercise as he strives to create edible food items related to themes and school spirit, adaptable for vegans, sugar- and caffeine-free folks, and seasoned with fermented Birkenstocks. All entries must cost under 25 cents/serving, and require a maximum of one saucepan for preparation.

These are my very unscientific categories of parenthood:
  1. You'll never sleep again. You have an infant.
  2. Driving with ducks --Raffi soothes your toddler.
  3. Wheem-O-Whip/The lion sleeps --Your preschooler discovers Classic Rock.
  4. Here comes the bride--The kindergarten wedding of Q and U.
  5. Everything I know about math I learned from baseball cards.
  6. Your control is an illusion: the car radio is not yours.
  7. Did you see that Ferrari, Mom? Automotive ogling in the school speed zone.
  8. Don't stand so, don't stand so close to me--giving your middle school student space.
  9. Nay is dight. Your precious baby becomes nocturnal, and wants the car keys.
  10. Portage--carrying heavy loads upstream for young impractical explorers.
  11. Sublet furnishing=Can I take these dishes? I thought you'd never ask!
  12. Potluck. That perennial grad student entertainment. What to make that is almost edible, but takes no skill and less than seven dollars???

The Jinx of the Truly Dreadful Movie

There are really bad movies, and then there are really bad Kevin Costner movies. My brother-in-law has a graphic visual expression to explain the sensation of being trapped. "I was ready to gnaw off my left arm." A long-winded Sunday sermon can bring on a beartrap moment. So can a high school commencement in the sweltering climate of the Dallas Cowboy's Texas Stadium.

Kevin Costner provoked an epidemic of left arm gnawing a dozen years ago. Any viewer who survived 1994's "Wyatt Earp" without a sympathetic laudanum overdose drowned during 1995's "Waterworld".

The Jinx of the Truly Dreadful Movie began in the winter of 1969. Mom dropped the three of us at the Cooper Lincoln theater on "O" Street on one of those Nebraska winter days when the excrutiating glare off the snow compounded by bickering kids trapped in the house can give anyone a headache ranking 7.8 on the Richter Scale. My brother was anxious to see "Krakatoa, East of Java". I won't expound on that day's bad movie jinx, except to say that it involved Dr. Pepper. The movie was memorable for its bathtub tsunami special effects. The Dr. Pepper became woven into family lore and legend along with the movie's geographically incorrect title.

Krakatoa is still a fascinating subject. Simon Winchester wrote a fascinating book about the 1883 explosion of Krakatoa a few years back. The Twenty-One Balloons is a favorite read-aloud memory from sixth grade. Tomorrow the Discovery Channel will air a Krakatoa docudrama, but I won't be watching. I can't risk it.

I popped a cassette of The 21 Balloons in the tape player for my students yesterday. The tape dis-enwrapped and re-entangled all over the place. The jinx is alive and well, serving up disaster specials on blue plate tectonics.

"Krakatoa, East of Java" may not be the worst movie I've ever seen. That title could belong to the 1990 kid movie, "Shipwrecked". I took my three little boys to see "Shipwrecked" at a downtown Midland theater where we were the entire audience. This hokey movie involved a gorilla on a South Seas island. And that gorilla's zipper was very visable. Within hours my youngest had broken his arm, but I'm not sure if Dr. Pepper was on the scene.

I sent another son to the store for shredded cheddar (not Dr. Pepper) just before we were going to watch a VHS tape of "Krakatoa, East of Java" that I located online for five bucks. I'd been wondering for decades if the movie was as bad as it had become in the family legend. My son ripped the side mirror off the car returning from the store. The jinx continues!


Homeland Insecurity

Somewhere in Europe a cute college student is sitting on the windowsill of his apartment. He's hanging out the window holding his roommate's computer to catch a WiFi connection.

Meanwhile, I'm wearing my headset and trying to Skype him. We are all relieved that I'm not wearing a sequined leotard and riding on an elephant. When our calls don't connect, I feel like I'm performing without a net.

It's a tightrope. When we do connect I feel balanced.


Restroom Inclusion

Just hope they all flush and wash their hands!


Graph paper

Al Gore's charts must have clicked in on my long-submerged fondness for graph paper. It had been many, many months since I checked in on Blog$hares, the fantasy blog stock market. I've never spent enough time with the game to understand it, but it was mildly upsetting to find my blog had been the subject of a hostile takeover. That sounds like a bad thing. Feels a bit like the time someone swiped my bike out of the open garage.

To be honest, everything I know about stocks I learned in Mr. Troester's eighth grade American Studies class in the spring of 1969. Mike Troester was a wonderful, kind, funny, inspiring teacher, who did not need to be the object of cult-worship or a fan club. It wasn't about personality or ego for him. He just liked history and teaching junior high kids. I was pleased to find the Lincoln Public School System honors outstanding educators with a Mike Troester Spirit of Teaching Award these days.

Mr. Troester knew that junior high girls tended to graph their fantasy NYSE stocks* with turquoise ink or magenta felt pens, and accented the graphs with sea-green Hi-Liters. He knew we would doodle during the filmstrips, but he also knew we could learn about the experience of the French in Indochina. Can you say Dien Bien Phu? I wish that Dubya could, too.

* My fantasy stocks were ITT, Pepsi, and Western Union. Good grief! I think I "bought" Western Union stock because of the song by the Five Americans. The lyrics were catchy:

da-da-da-da-da da-da-da-da-da
da-da-da-da-da da-da-da-da-da
da-da-da-da-da da-da-da-da-da
da-da-da-da-da da-da-da-da-da

Sad, but that might be a better justification than for most purchases in my life. (Except for the Petula Clark 45s!).


Not since Ross Perot, Jr.

...ran for president in 1992 and 1996 have I seen so many charts. Ross was a piechart kind of guy. Al Gore, in the new film "An Inconvenient Truth", is more of a line graph and bar graph dude. This is not nearly as sleep-inducing as you might expect. Compared to Gore's book,Earth In the Balance, the movie is a jolt of java. The film is very viewable, and Gore is not the nerdy wooden politician you remember. I did not feel like I was trapped watching a filmstrip in an over-heated junior high science classroom while wearing pantyhose that kept slipping down until the crotch saddle was level with the hem of my polyester plaid miniskirt. True, it also did not make me want to write notes in backhand on ruled paper with a turquoise pen about how dreamy/neato/keen/groovy Al is looking these days.

If you've forgotten the "giant sucking sound," you can listen to the 1992 presidential debates. Paul Krugman's op ed,"Swift Boating the Planet", reminds us that those benefitting from the current energy habits of Americans do not play fair. And speaking of giant sucking sounds, don't miss the Dallas Morning News editorial, "This Deal Tanks", about Ford and GM gas rebates for dinosaur buyers.


Transparent Society

Seems like just yesterday I was writing about glass houses and privacy. Well, maybe just last weekend! Now the President has announced that we live in a "transparent society". Maybe there's no point to either drapes or vertical blinds in the impending condo-pocalypse.

My day began with transparent glass, and will probably end the same way. No, I haven't been out on the street picking up the shards of broken auto windshields for mosaics. Haven't done that since my oldest finished his mosaic of the Alamo for middle school Texas History class ten years ago.

The right way to begin a day is with a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice at the Frontier Restaurant in Albuquerque, but that wasn't the start for this day. I was actually reading about Dale Chihuly suing two former glass-blowers from his studio. He accuses them of imitating his glass designs inspired by the sea. Timothy Egan, writing for the New York Times, reports:

The glass blowers say that Mr. Chihuly is trying to control entire forms, shapes and colors and that his brand does not extend to ancient and evolving techniques derived from the natural world... Andrew Page, editor of Glass: The Urban Glass Art Quarterly, which is published in New York, said that Mr. Chihuly deserved a high place in the pantheon of glass artists, but that the suit could hurt his reputation by igniting countercharges and opening a window into how a celebrity artist works on a mass scale. "I think Dale Chihuly is a pure original," Mr. Page said. "He has a tremendous sense of color and composition. And he has done a tremendous amount for the field. But this lawsuit may have been the worst thing he could have done."

Egan reports that Chihuly, Inc. has ninety-three employees, and that Dale Chihuly has not actually blown glass himself for twenty-seven years. "Still, Mr. Chihuly said, he works with sketches, faxes and through exhortation. Nothing with his name on it ever came from anyone but himself, he said." I don't know how many employees another famous glass artist had. Louis Comfort Tiffany is the subject of the current exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Together with his studios of artists, glassmakers, stonemasons, mosaicists, modelers, metalworkers, wood-carvers, potters, and textileworkers, Tiffany heralded in America the notion of continuity of design, orchestrating pattern, texture, color, and light to produce a single aesthetic expression.

The Tiffany exhibit is much more varied than I expected. The DMA has done a nice job of arranging it with lots of room for visitors to move around the display cases. Changed viewpoints let light reveal new aspects of each piece. It didn't take long for me to overcome my notion of Tiffany as lamps over pool tables in rec rooms of the Seventies. I was particularly impressed with the natural forms in the glass and ceramic pieces--lily pad, milkweed pod, morning glory, pansies, ferns, shells, and seaweed. Tiffany was combining a reverence, or at least an appreciation, of the natural world with numerous chemical processes to create his signature effects. I wouldn't want to sit on the chairs he designed, but his fireplace screens and stair balustrades are very groovy.

Many of my favorites in the Tiffany show were inspired by the sea. The same sea that inspired Chihuly. Nature's influences are beyond counting. We artists must bring our own ideas and skills to a project. I am fond of the Chihuly works at the DMA and at the Joslyn in Omaha even though I know they were created by a studio of craftspersons. A Metropolitan Museum online source is useful for learning about Louis Comfort Tiffany:

Tiffany combined his talents as a colorist, naturalist, and designer with the technology that he had developed for his windows to produce blown glass with surfaces, hues, and forms that were totally new. After manipulating the varicolored glass, the final form was often fumed with metallic oxides to achieve rainbow iridescence.

I get bogged down wondering if Jacqueline du Pre performing Elgar's composition is an artist interpreting an artist, or the musical equivalent of a glass-blower working from sketches, faxes and exhortations. Is the actor an artist, or only the playwright's gaffer?

Thank heaven and His Vader Darthness Dick Cheney that real life is such a dewy iridescent spectrum. Bush's label, "transparent society", doesn't refer to the Saran Wrap over the rainbow marshmallow Jello salad at a church social. "Transparent Society" refers to the choice between privacy and freedom created by new technology. The NSA wants to know if you happen to call Domino's for a sausage/green pepper/black olive. Bushie's lips were moving today, so it's a safe bet varicolored glass, smoke, and mirrors were used to create a utopian over-the-rainbow bubble over our critical thinking skills. I'm sure this administration will see a clear explanation for Haditha:

President Bush reiterated his pledge today that the results of the inquiries would be disclosed. "One of the things that happens in a transparent society like ours is that there will be a full a complete investigation," he said. "The world will see the full and complete investigation."

Ah, yes. That would be opening a window into how a celebrity con artist works on a mass scale.


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