Archives for posts with tag: the arts

I am not saying I think my son is Jesus by putting these two pictures together.  I really am not.  There is no way Jesus peed on his foster-dad as often as Tony has peed on me.

But doesn’t the picture of Tony and his Grandmere look incredibly serene and spiritual?  His Grandmere’s name is Mary . . .

My inspiration for this gift came from Design Sponge.  It’s also been written about on Apartment Therapy herehere, and here.

My original plan was to spell out “Happy Anniversary,” or something using the vintage flashcards, have them matted at Frame of Mine, our local frame store in DC, and buy a frame on Amazon.  I have taken this approach to getting stuff framed and matted before, and before, and a few other times I haven’t written about yet.  We always need more decoration in our house, and personal, vintage, and beautiful decorations are our favorite.

But first, I had to find flash cards.  So I went to my favorite place for obscure and difficult to find stuff that was likely taken from someone’s parents’ basement:  Ebay.  Trawling through my options, I noticed the vintage flashcards in English were pretty expensive, but those in foreign languages were not.   Since Wif and I met while we were foreign language teachers — her French and me Latin — I decided to buy the relatively affordable and more personal French and Latin flashcards instead of the more expensive and less creative English flashcards.

Since the flashcards I bought were relatively small, and since each box contained hundreds of cards, I knew I had to say more than just “Happy Anniversary.”  Eventually, inspiration struck.

I would spell out a nursery rhyme, or rather an elementary school taunt:  “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage,” side by side in French and in Latin.  I would have Frame of Mine cut out a bunch of windows in a mat, and mount the cards behind the windows.  It would be work intensive, but worth it.

In order to figure out what sized frame I needed, I first had to figure out how many words I would use to spell out the nursery rhyme/taunt.  That meant going through hundreds of French and Latin flash cards to find the words “first,” “come,” “love,” “then,” “come,” “marriage,” “then,” “come,” “baby,” “in,” “a,” “baby,” and “carriage.”

I pared down the list because I didn’t have to repeat “come,” and I didn’t have to repeat “baby” before “carriage.”  I would be lucky to find carriage in either language.  And I knew I wouldn’t be able to find “a” among the Latin flashcards, because Latin doesn’t use articles.    So I had to find about 9 words in each language.

I then spent about 4 hours going through each French and Latin flashcard to find the appropriate words, and to make sure my count of 9 words was correct.  I had to stretch for some of them.  I used the Latin word for “heir” instead of “baby” on the Latin side, and the French word for “car” instead of “carriage” on the French side, but the idea would still be pretty clear.  So 9 words were confirmed.

Reenactment Staged for Clarity and Drama

Since each card was 1.5″ tall, I figured I would need an 18″ tall frame to fit all 9 words from top to bottom with some space in between each.  The cards were 3.5″ wide, side by side equals 7″ wide, so a 9″ wide frame was perfect.

Amazon, as usual, did not disappoint.  I found this 9″ x 18″ distressed maple frame for just $9.  I’m not sure why it’s so much more expensive now.

Next, Bubus and I went to Frame of Mine to have them create some mats.  The woman there convinced me that making so many windows in a mat would leave the mat weak, and prone to ripping.  Instead, she found a perfect dark greenish-grayish backing to mount the cards on.   She then cut two long vertical windows into an  antique white mat, which matched the color of the cards.  She carefully mounted each card in a straight lines with double sided tape, and $32 later, the gift was almost ready.

I popped the mats and cards into the distressed maple frame, which arrived nearly in time, and the end results are pretty sweet:

But I didn’t really think that shot did it justice.  I wanted a more “arty” shot.  But since we haven’t determined where the cards will hang yet, I had to find a place where there was already something in the wall so I wouldn’t have to purposelessly nail a hole in a wall just for the blog.  Sorry, dear readers.  My love of you does not outweigh my hatred of spackling.  So I took down some of the maps we have next to a door and I came up with this:

The New Diplomat’s Wife suggested we make this photo Black and White, and what a great idea.

Also a shout out to Picasa for making it so easy to edit pictures.  I’m sure they were waiting for my endorsement with bated breath.  You’re welcome Google!

Lately, I’ve been Rome obsessed. The past two books I finished were Cicero and Augustus, both by Anthony Everitt. Now I’m reading Hadrian.  So far, Cicero was my favorite because it captures Rome during the end of the Republic, a tumultuous time with a lot of political upheaval. One detail that struck me was the lack of police force in Rome; factions of politicians basically hired thugs to impose order at various points. Political assassinations were the norm. And, of course, there was the military, which was beholden to the commander rather than to the state. Although lots of people like to complain about taxes that pay for them, I am thankful in reading these books for the police and the relative calm of law and order we have in our streets. We like to think that we’re so different from the pre-Modern Romans, but really, what are cable news shows and reality TV but gladiator-type spectacles?

Everitt does a great job with biography, too, which has been helpful in thinking about my dissertation work. There are many gaps in the record of the individuals he portrays, but he fills them in with common customs and knowledge about the time, always with the caveat of “this was typical and so-and-so may have also done it this way.”

It’s made me even more eager to visit Rome one day. I know that I won’t see the Forum the way that it was during the Republic, but even just a wall here or there might be interesting.

(Image: Flickr member **Maurice** licensed under Creative Commons.)

Shocking, coming from an English major. I am so desperate to find a good book to read that is fiction that I am actually continuing to read Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections even though I put it down in disgust every 10 pages or so.

I felt the same way about Atonement a few weeks ago – found it at my in-laws and thought, oh, this was a movie! It’s about World War II! Surely I’ll like this. Well, no. Not so much. WE GOT IT, YOU WENT TO WRITERS SCHOOL AND ARE REALLY SMART AND KNOW BIG WORDS.

The problem I have is that books are either “chick lit” – you know, fun gossipy reads about girls getting married, or meeting some hot man, or having a baby or whatever – or they’re “highbrow literature” – written by authors who attended Middlebury’s Breadloaf Writer’s Workshop or some other variation and full of overwrought prose. All the main characters in the former “quick read” books (usually handsome men who women are falling all over to sleep with) are writers. Case in point: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I mean, at least John Grisham writes about lawyers women fall all over to sleep with. All the characters in the latter types of books are like Van Gogh paintings – interesting to look at for awhile, but not like anyone you would actually meet in real life.

It’s as if the highbrow writers are trying to be James Joyce and write the next Ulysses, only with less compelling characters and stories. I recently read an article about how even Joyce intended Ulysses to be read by the common man as opposed to dissected by scores of literary scholars (or me and a class full of boys at Sewanee. That’s a story for another day.) I can’t find the article, but I feel like these new authors are contemptuous of their readers and are trying to overcomplicate their stories to prove to other people who went to Breadloaf that they are good writers. Who cares if you alienate readers? As long as the critics in the New York Times like it. They must really like big words and run on sentences.

I just want to read a good story, one that I care about, with good characters and some sort of depth. I don’t need some sheltered author to prove to me how cool she is, how many words he knows, or how much he was screwed over by women (Jonathan Franzen, I get it, women who want to have sex with their husbands are totally wanton strumpets -wha? Please ignore that last sentence if you’ve never read The Corrections).

I think the last book I read that I liked was by Michael Chabon, whimsical and sweet. He can get a bit complicated with his imaginary worlds, but he weaves a good tale. I don’t know how Amazon could recommend Jonathan Franzen based on me liking Michael Chabon. One likes women, the other hates them. It’s really quite cut and dried.

I’m desperate for something good to read. I have pretty much staked out nonfiction as my territory. Right now I’m reading something on Cicero. It’s quite good. I just can’t stomach misogynistic and/or purple prose any more.

PS I’m thinking seriously of writing an entire post on why I hate The Corrections. I feel as if I would need to finish reading it first. Ugh.

First of all, I didn’t know that author David Foster Wallace was dead. He committed suicide about two years ago, it seems, after battling depression for most of his life.

Second, he made an amazing commencement address at Kenyon College that makes a case for changing your daily reactions to, well, hating grocery shopping, for example. After describing a long day at work, after which you have to go to the grocery store with all of the rest of humanity who also had a long day at work and also have to go to the grocery store, and you are consumed by angry thoughts about people and how they’re in your way, he says:

The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing comes in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I’m going to be pissed and miserable every time I have to food-shop, because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me, about my hungriness and my fatigue and my desire to just get home, and it’s going to seem, for all the world, like everybody else is just in my way, and who are all these people in my way?

He goes on to say that choosing to believe in better things about people will make you a happier person and prevent you from worshiping the wrong things, power, money, wealth, etc. He says:

In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship – be it JC or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles – is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.


“A speech by the Late David Foster Wallace,” UK Guardian, September 20, 2008.

At least this week I can blame my lack of posting on my jury duty. Next week, who knows? I can hear my advisor in my head – why would you keep a blog? You need to be working on your dissertation.

This week started out with jury duty at DC Superior Court. I thought I’d be free and clear to write about the experience this weekend, but I will be reporting back on Monday so I have no news just yet. Keep your fingers crossed for me that we will end quickly!

Last night I went with my DH’s colleagues to see Hamlet at the Folger Shakespeare Library. It was a fun mid-week outing and I really enjoyed the play. I had never seen a live production of Hamlet, for some reason every time I see a Shakespeare play it’s The Tempest. I decided that every generation must have its version of Hamlet. I suppose this is the closest I’ll get to my generation’s interpretation of Hamlet, since I’m stuck in between being a true millennial and a true Gen Xer. I personally though Hamlet was kind of whiny. He was cool and all with his faux hawk and skinny jeans, and even though every generation is liberated so many of the men can still be so misogynistic (as Hamlet is towards Ophelia and his mother). Also he’s a big prude. The way I saw it, at least in this version, his moping and whining brings down an entire kingdom. In the past I’d always felt sorry for him, alienated by his family and friends. Maybe I’m older now but it seemed to me that he did as much alienating of them as they did of him, if not more. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, while brought in by his uncle, don’t really seem to know that Hamlet’s uncle killed his father. And their mere association with his uncle leads Hamlet to send them to their deaths. I feel bad for the guys. Then he gets pissed off at Laertes for being upset with him. Um, you killed his father which led to his sister’s death. The fact that he forgives you right before dying clearly makes him the bigger man here.

Then there’s his treatment of Ophelia – especially considered how governed women were by the men in their lives (fathers, then husbands), I really find how pissed he gets at her for being a pawn unforgivable. He also lacks any understanding of the position his mother is in – if she wants to keep any place at all within her country (and indeed, if she wants to continue to live) she clearly had to assume the new role as his uncle’s wife. Maybe she could have been a little less lovey-dovey with him, but we have to work with the cards we’re dealt. Hamlet’s anger at everyone to live some sort of austere, nearly impossibly moral life also seems hypocritical given his own dalliances. It strikes me as so typical of the black and white behavior many young men and women in college exhibit – everything is all or nothing. You either follow the virtuous path or you’re doomed to sin and error. The shades of gray I understand better as I’ve exited my twenties have been welcome, I think, and made me a more forgiving and loving person on the whole. At least I’d like to think! ;)

Theory about college students and their development teaches us that moving the path from black and white decisions towards shades of gray is exactly what we’re helping them accomplish. Maybe I should have the same amount of sympathy towards Hamlet then as I do to my students who struggle with going to a high-paid consulting firm when they thought they wanted to “change the world” and establish a non-profit, but then realized they can’t afford their rent. For an interesting article about that, check out this post on The Baseline Scenario blog. PS Can you tell I’m a former English major? Just can’t resist the urge to make use of my two semesters of Shakespeare with Dr. Richardson.

A couple of interesting techie items to round out the week. This is a bit dated, but I’m just perusing it now, “Top 10 Ways to Declutter Your Digital Life, 2010 Edition” from Lifehacker blog (really and truly a must-read, I think). Also, I’ve been checking out HootSuite. It’s a site that allows you to update several social networking sites at once, great if you use Twitter or Facebook for work like we do here for our program! It does have a tab for WordPress that I set up, but since it doesn’t have all the features (setting up featured images, catagories, etc) it seems better just to come to WordPress for blogging unless it’s something very short. Check it out, let me know what you think.

Image from Creative Commons: Copyright © 2008 Philip M. Kalina. Reproduction permitted with attribution: “Phil Kalina for Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens”.


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