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The subject line is the title of a volume of William Stafford's selected poems, and suits the time of the year all too well. I generally love the move into darkness that marks autumn from the equinox to the winter solstice, although this year has been more challenging than most--something to do, I think, with the early onslaught of wintery weather we experienced in November, and a rather staggering run of overcast days. Though I've never noticed any seasonal affective disorder in the past, something is going on this year. I just renewed my Dreamwidth account (which cross-posts to Live Journal), so thought an entry would be appropriate. I'm not too sure why I continue to maintain the accounts, since I so rarely post, but I believe in what they do, so that shall be sufficient for now. Today has been very quiet (and overcast!). The weekend will be quite full with Theatre Pro Rata-related events. And in a world that continues to whirl us too, too quickly through too many horrifying events (and some wonderful ones as well), we must go on, trying our best to do what we can to repair the world. Here's the poem the line comes from:

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider--
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it it important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give--yes or no, or maybe--
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
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We returned on Saturday from our two week sojourn in England: twelve days in Cornwall, and one full day in London. Cornwall was, as always, amazing, beautiful, friendly, "home." We were based in Penzance where we rented a self-catering flat from Romer Robins--a wonderful place. Romer is married to Dave Mynne, one of the founders of Kneehigh Theatre--and even before we knew this, we had purchased tickets to see a one-person version of Great Expectations and the one person turned out to be Dave! How very cool that was. Over the course of our stay, we did lots of walking in the area (throughout Penzance, as well as to Newlyn and Marazion), used a bus pass to visit Falmouth (including the National Maritime Museum of Cornwall), the Geevor Tin Mine, St. Just and Cape Cornwall, St. Ives, Truro, and the Lizard. We did most of our own cooking, but did have several dinners out--at the Dolphin, the Dock Inn (Sunday roast), the Pirate's Rest fish and chips shop. We did talk with a few estate agents and it's possible we could afford to buy something in the area, but most housing is seriously out of our price range. The visa situation would also need investigating: until 2008, it was possible for retirees with sufficient income to get a visa to live in the UK, but no more. Six month visas are possible, but we really wanted to live there for five years or so (without flying back and forth) to facilitate exploring the UK, Europe, and the Mediterranean. Weather was mostly in the mid-40s, flowers were still blooming, some days were cloudy, others were sunny, and quite a few were both. A little rain, but nothing significant. A completely glorious stay. (We also got to see the 50th anniversary Dr. Who special, as well as a number of other Dr. Who events, which was much fun.)

We took the train back to London on Thursday, and Thursday night had our traditional Thanksgiving meal--at The Clay Oven, a wonderful Indian restaurant in Ealing, near the bed and breakfast where we stayed. On Friday we went into central London where we spent the first part of the day at the British Library, which is amazing--I got to see the Beowulf manuscript and many other remarkable treasures. We had planned to have lunch at Speedy's Deli, which is adjacent to the stand-in for 221B Baker Street in the BBC Sherlock series; when we arrived, we found a crown of fans surrounding a flower-filled hearse proclaiming the broadcast date of the third season (01-01-14), sponsored by #SherlockLives. We took pictures of course, and then made our way into the deli, where Bob had the "Sherlock" and I had the "Watson" (both delicious and inexpensive). We took a few pictures outside after lunch (the fans and hearse had left by then)--"Look, I'm standing where Martin Freeman stood!" We then headed to the Embankment and walked around for a bit (including a stop at the National Theatre), before joining the weekly London Walk "In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes," a remarkable two hour trek to places important in the stories and in Arthur Conan Doyle's life. For dinner, we stayed with the theme and ate at the Sherlock Holmes pub (including a lovely sticky toffee pudding). We headed back to the B&B to pack, but the day was finally complete when we watched BBC3's rebroadcast of "A Scandal in Bohemia."

Here's a link to some photos of the hearse:


Nov. 2nd, 2013 03:41 pm
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So, I've been involved in the local theater community for quite a while and enjoy working with directors and actors (I'm usually the dramaturg); I also love going to local theater because real people on stage is magic (though I love movies too). This fall I've gone to three of the UK's
National Theatre Live encore screenings: Othello with Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear (wonderful), Macbeth with Kenneth Branagh (good overall, with a few quibbles), and Frankenstein with Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch (amazing).

The National Theatre, like the Guthrie here in Minneapolis, loves to show off all aspects of stagecraft--which means dramatic set, costumes, lighting, music. Often for me, and charming spouse Bob, it's too much--as he says, we're spoiled by small companies that work with much tighter budgets and focus on actors and text, while giving their due to the other aspects  as money allows. So the Frankenstein had too many bells and whistles, but the performances were absolutely magnificent. Miller and Cumberbatch played Frankenstein and the creature respectively in the screening we saw (we'll see the reverse cast as well this week); the first 15 minutes or so were incredible: the creature's birth from its "womb," and his discovery of his body through movement--no language at all at this point, just physical performance; it was truly astonishing. Another amazing sequence was the creature's interaction with the blind, poverty-striken professor from whom he learns to speak and read: just beautifully done. This sequence too was relatively simple in terms of the staging. I look forward to seeing the show again, and I hope that some day the National Theatre will, in its wisdom, make the recordings of the two performances available on DVD.

Live theater forever!

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Ah, those best laid schemes to post more often have "gang aft agley," as they have a wont to do. So a few notes since last time: July was a lovely month except for the heat wave; it seemed to be a Daniel Abraham month in the books read category, since I read the third in his fantasy novel series, The Tyrant's Law, the fifth and final volume of his urban fantasy series (as M.L.N. Hanover), Graveyard Child, and the third and final volume of his space opera (with Ty Franck as James S.A. Corey), Abaddon's Gate. I enjoyed all three; both the urban fantasy and space opera concluded well, and I continue to enjoy the fantasy series; he's also a fine writer. I especially like the way in which he works religious issues into his work, since I'm apparently one of those "new, new atheists," who wants to continue to value the cultural contributions of religions, though while rejecting their literal truth.

I also read Elizabeth Knox's fine new YA novel, Mortal Fire, two books about WikiLeaks (one by Guardian journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding) and the second by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who was involved in the project from very early on, but left in September 2010; both were very good, and gave interesting insights into the entire phenomenon, as well as into the character of Julian Assange (who is intriguingly complex, but I don't think I'd want to hang out with him). I do support what WikiLeaks did, and what it and other sites continue to do in term of getting the word out about nasty activities being done by governments, corporations, etc. I am unhappy about the verdict in the Bradley Manning case, though not surprised; at least the worst charge was not proven. Still waiting on the judge's sentence. 

We had a wonderful visit with Jane and Steven; saw some Fringe shows, caught up with The Great Gatsby at the Riverview, ate out a few times, had a gathering with friends. All good. They're back in New Mexico now; next Saturday, Steven has his big aikido test that will certify him (I am confident) as the Aikido equivalent of "black belt."  Later today, we're going with Jonah and Molly for a short trip to her family's cabin; will get back some time Monday. Bob's not sure he can survive without wi-fi, but he'll manage. If we're lucky, the sky will be clear on Sunday night and we might get a glimpse (or more) of the Perseid meteor shower.

Still spending a good deal of time volunteering at the library, and have been persuaded to serve out the remaining term of the treasurer in the library's Friends organization (I said I was good at balancing my checkbook, though I am without any other financial expertise; apparently that was enough). Will start prepping dramaturgical/study guide info for Theatre Pro Rata's fall production of Brecht's Good Woman of Setzuan.

Currently reading: C. J. Sansom's Heartstone; currently watching: Masterpiece Contemporary series The Last Enemy (all too relevant after Edward Snowden's whistle-blowing).

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We had a nice weekend: dinner with Havura friends on Friday evening, and Theatre Pro Rata's VolunBEER party on Saturday (celebrating the contributions of folks who volunteer with the theatre, hosted by the company). Yummy eats both evenings. We also had a Theatre Pro Rata board meeting on Saturday, the first with new board members, which was wonderful--and another potential board member attended as well. The production of Emilie was a huge success and helped make both the budget for the year and a profit: what more could we ask! Let's hope we can keep the momentum going for the 2013-14 season.

My minor accomplishments since I retired have included cleaning out lots of areas of the condo, getting rid of things we don't need, and doing some re-organizing. Not thrilling stuff, but satisfying nonetheless.

Sad things: two friends learned recently that their husbands have cancer, so both couples are now going through lots of testing to be followed by whatever treatment plans seem optimal. Illnesses striking folks who have otherwise been healthy and active are very scary. I hope to be of help in any way I can in both cases. 

This week is going to be really hot, which does not make me a happy camper. They are also having a heat wave in Cornwall: their idea of a heat wave is temperatures in the low to mid 70s. I could live with a heat wave like that. Our window air conditioner does a decent job of keeping the condo comfortable. Tonight we'll escape for a bit as well: we're headed to the Riverview for our second viewing of Star Trek: Into Darkness.
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When I retired on May 31, I also gave up my University Rec Center membership; since we couldn't officially activate our new health insurance until July 1, my exercise program became walking almost exclusively (not necessarily a hardship when you have a lovely three mile walk around a lake just a block from home). But yesterday we joined the Uptown YWCA as a Health Partners benefit (all their facilities and classes for $25 annually!), and this morning I walked there and went for my first swim since the end of May: it was absolutely lovely. I didn't know if I'd be up for my full 3/4 mile, but it was not a problem. The facilities are wonderful, and membership also gives us access to their other two sites, one in downtown Minneapolis and one in midtown (east Lake Street, not far from the Midtown Farmers' Market and South High School). So I can now vary my routine somewhat, and Bob has joined as well, so he can do his regular workouts there once his LA Fitness membership expires.

I finished Cassandra Clare's "infernal devices" trilogy and thought she brought it to a satisfactory conclusions, though I'm not sure about the epilogue (interesting, since I loved Dorothy Dunnett's House of Niccolo epilogue--unlike others--but then DD is a genius, and Clare hasn't come close to that level, though I've enjoyed most of her books, this series more than the modern "mortal instruments" one, which feels as if it has gone on a bit too long). I've not begun the fifth Flavia de Luce novel by Alan Bradley, Speaking from Among the Bones, and it promises to be as delightful as the previous four. And then I have the third of Daniel Abraham's Dagger and the Coin series, The Tyrant's Law, to leap into next. Last night we started watching the BBC mini-series, To the Ends of the Earth, based on the trilogy by William Golding, and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Sam Neill; it looks promising, but Bob's bedtime beckoned, so we only saw about 30 minutes of it. More tonight perhaps.


Jul. 7th, 2013 08:19 pm
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Well, opening night went very well and we've already had two positive reviews (on the How Was the Show? site and on the  Twin Cities Daily Planet--both online publications), which is delightful. Both critics, John Olive and Matt Everett recognize the challenges the show offers--and the fact that it may not appeal to everyone--but they both encourage audiences to see it. What more can one ask? I'll be working at the show on Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons throughout the run, and also plan to be there for the strike following the final performance on Saturday, July 27. At some point, I'll definitely plan to watch it again; I find it a fascinating show.

Last night I finished reading Kate Atkinson's latest novel, Life after Life, which was very compelling. I really liked what she was doing with the narrative, and the multiple life/story lines she explored. The second world war sections were, not surprisingly, the most powerful, but all of it was intriguing, fascinating, what have you. She is an amazing writer. I've read quite a few of her novels, though not the earliest ones; I may have to go back and check those out as well.

This afternoon I saw the encore screening of the National Theatre Live's The Audience, with the amazing Helen Mirren. An intricate, politically fascinating exploration of Queen Elizabeth II's relationships with a variety of her prime ministers, explored through the completely off-the-record weekly audiences she has with them. The playwright, Peter Morgan (who was interviewed during the intermission), essentially used what factual knowledge we have about events at the various periods (both public and personal) to imagine the conversations that may have occurred. He talked about exploring "truth" rather than "accuracy," and did, I think, a fine job. I got a real sense of the people behind the positions; performances, not surprisingly, were excellent. They also did a promotion for an upcoming screening: Othello with Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear, which looks terrific. Adrian Lester was my favorite Hamlet (in Peter Brooks's production, which we saw in Chicago) in the year in which I saw, I think, four different productions of the play. They'll also be doing Kenneth Branagh's Macbeth later this year, and the Donmar's production of Coriolanus with Tom Hiddleston and Mark Gatiss in January.

I just went to the National Theatre Live website to see where they screen the plays in the UK, and (oh, joy!) there are screenings in Truro, as well as many other spots. But that's the best spot in Cornwall--and even a place where we've looked at living, though I'd still like to be further west. But we shall see.

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Let's see: yesterday night we saw Iron Man 3; it was okay, but I had my usual complaints--too many chases, fights, explosions. The actual narrative pieces, including Tony Stark's panic attacks, were intriguing, and I loved the kid he hooked up with. I enjoy summer blockbusters (well, at the second run house, where tickets cost $2 or $3 depending on the time of day--actually we can always get in for $2, since we're "seniors," but I love the Riverview, so I always pay $3 when I'm buying), but do we really need all the mayhem? We've now seen previews for Gatsby twice (last night and when we saw 42), and I think we'll plan to see it, for the visuals if nothing else. And Bob never read the book, and doesn't remember seeing any earlier film version; I know I saw the Robert Redford/Mia Farrow one, which I remember enjoying well enough. Also coming soon: Star Trek: Into Darkness, which I definitely want to see again (despite fights, chases, explosions) because Benedict Cumberbatch is such a delicious villain.

Tonight is opening night for Camino Real, and we had preview articles in both the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, so I hope that will bring in the audiences. It is a challenging, but I think very powerful and moving play; we'll see how it goes. Openings are always fun in any case, so I'm looking forward to that. The rest of the weekend should be pretty low key, though I'm planning to see the encore screening of the National Theatre Live production of The Audience with Helen Mirren on Sunday. 
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Went to see Joss Whedon's Much Ado about Nothing yesterday with Jonah and Molly and really enjoyed it. Odd to see it set in the present given the military references, etc., but that was easily ignored given the quality of the performances and the clarity of the language (nice job there! most impressive, as were the performances all round). I liked some of the choices made for various characters. Since this is a play I've seen multiple times (as well as seeing Branagh's film version multiple times as well), I could recite most of the text with the characters, which was fun. I did not do this aloud, of course.

Last night was a Camino Real dress rehearsal, and this morning at 11 am, we had a final dress/preview for a small invited audience; both went well--a good thing, since tomorrow is opening night.

For a final holiday event, we're off the Riverview Theater to see Iron Man 3 shortly. We probably won't do fireworks, since we were both up early this morning, and I have mixed responses to Independence Day; I love the promise of it, but am regularly disappointed in our supposedly representative government, busy spying on other nations as well as its own citizens, and prosecuting whistle blowers who are, in my view, better patriots than those who are attacking them.  
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Two notable events today, in the sense that both made me say "yes" enthusiastically: I've just started reading Guy Gavriel Kay's River of Stars, and the "yes!" came at the end of the third chapter, when I knew I was totally hooked by the story. I have always enjoyed his work and look forward to continuing with this one; he's someone I admire both for his remarkable story telling and for his wonderful writing style. The second "yes" occurred multiple times during our viewing of the film 42, the story of Jackie Robinson's entry into major league baseball as the first African-American player; a great story, and I thought the film was very well done--terrific performances all around. I look forward to seeing more work by Chadwick Boseman and Nicole Beharie, who played Jackie and his wife Rachel. And while I've never been a big Harrison Ford fan, I thought he was excellent in this. Local actor T. R. Knight (formerly at the Guthrie Theater) was another delight.

I also recently read Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, which I recommend. And I gave up on David Shields's memoir, How Literature Saved My Life (I should have remembered that I really don't like most contemporary memoirs, but had read some positive comments about this one and was, admittedly, a sucker for the title since it describes how I feel about things most of the time). But you can't win them all.
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So this ugly thing happened to the amazing and wonderful Elise Matthesen; read and share.
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We are now not quite a week and a half from the opening of Girl Friday's production of Camino Real by Tennessee Williams (see if you're in the Twin Cities and interested); it's a pretty amazing, but very complex show--I think I called it "poetic surrealism" in a conversation, as opposed to Williams's earlier plays, which I called "poetic realism"--and the director, actors, designers are all doing a remarkable job. The play combines historic and literary characters with ones created by the playwright, all enmeshed in a sort of limbo/purgatory that is a semi-military state. So it's about politics and art and life and death and love and dreams. It encompasses multiple stories and a more-or-less linear narrative within a circular one: it works with dream logic rather than traditional rational thought. The further we explore it, the more intrigued I am. While it was written in 1953, during the post-warm boom years in the U.S., which were also the years of anti-communist hysteria, its concerns seems oddly relevant sixty years later. One of the characters, the Baron de Charlus, from Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu, represents some aspect of homosexual experience (I don't think "gay" was a current term at the time of the play--and certainly not at the time of the novel), which was considered very daring at the time. Early reviews were not especially kind, though some did appreciate what Williams was attempting. It has made me want to look at some of his later work, which followed more in the footsteps of this play that of those that were more successful (and which are still more often produced). I really look forward to seeing it all come together.
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This past weekend was the Fourth Street Fantasy Convention/Conversation, held in the nearby suburb of St. Louis Park. It was, as always, amazing and wonderful. We had additional excitement when a major thunderstorm passed through early Friday evening, leaving the hotel (and over a half-million other homes and business in the Twin Cities) without power. We went on, however, for a full day before power was restored around 7:45 pm on Saturday. People were amazingly helpful and resourceful. Power is still out in a number of homes today (I heard about 42,000 on the radio this morning). I took a walk around Lake Calhoun a while ago, and saw at least a dozen trees down, and the dock on the southeast corner of the lake had been pulled from its mooring (although it's tied up now, it can't be used yet). The convention was invigorating; writers present included Elizabeth Bear, Steven Brust, Scott Lynch, Skyler White, Patricia Wrede, Pamela Dean, Lois McMaster Bujold, Pete Hautman, Ellen Klages; editors included Beth Meacham (Tor) and Lynne Thomas (Apex Magazine). Lots of other writers and readers as well. The panels were great and I learned a lot as always. Got to touch base with some old friends and meet some new ones. Everyone made a special effort to welcome newcomers, of whom there were quite a few. Now it's back to rehearsals for Camino Real, library volunteering, and other fun. Bob and I may take a long weekend to visit my siblings and cousin in Milwaukee sometime this month, and it looks like daughter Jane and her special guy Steven will visit for a week in early August (happily in time for the opening of the Minnesota Fringe Festival).
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So, I have completed my first week of retirement, in which I:
volunteered at Washburn Library twice, went to Camino Real rehearsals Monday through Thursday evenings, helped host and attended the opening night of Theatre Pro Rata's Emilie: The Marquise du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight (if you live in the Twin Cities, go! it's splendid), took two walks around Lake Calhoun (one with good pal Beverly), got a haircut, practiced the lute every day, had a lute lesson, did some reading. I also regularly checked email and other social media, and had a little fun exploring Sherlock fan fiction. I think I'll be able to adjust to this life. In other news, very talented daughter Jane is part of an "emerging artists" exhibition in Albuquerque. It opened last night, and she not only received one of four monetary prizes, she was also invited to prepare a solo exhibition to accompany the 2014 emerging artists show. We'll be seeing son Jonah and daughter-in-law Molly later today (after today's Camino Real rehearsal) at an informal gathering for Jonah's good buddy Ethan and his bride-to-be Kay near Lake Nokomis. And this evening, we're off to Nimbus to see Tesla!


Mar. 31st, 2013 05:31 pm
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Walked around Lake Calhoun this afternoon; temperature 39F, but it was very windy, so felt colder. Sunny, though, which was lovely. And coming into the courtyard of our condo development, I saw my first robin: so spring may indeed be arriving. Yesterday was lovely and warmer (55F I believe). We saw _Argo_, which was quite good. I'm now especially interested in seeing the documentary about the same story, _Science Fiction Land_, to which I contributed a bit via Kickstarter. Just watched the pilot for _Sherlock_, and will watch the full first episode shortly; it should be fun to check out the differences. I read a bit about them in the _Sherlock Case Book_. As of today, it's two months until I retire; I may attempt to write a bit more about all this, but we shall see. I am not a very faithful journal keeper.

new year

Jan. 9th, 2013 03:34 pm
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Ah, yes, another year, another post (it does feel that way at times, since I'm not a very active contributor anywhere online). But since I just took the opportunity to vote in the poll about end-of-year donations, I thought I might as well put down a thought or two. This year is especially interesting because I will make a dramatic life change when I retire at the end of May--after 40 years at the University if we include my time as a student. Most of it has been wonderful, with the occasional bump in the road along the way. I hope these last few months will be both enjoyable and productive. Everyone's first question after they learn about my retirement is "what are you going to do?" That is the question. Spend more time reading, volunteering, working on theater projects, traveling, hanging with friends. Bob and I are still considering the possibility of moving abroad for at least a while--mostly in order to make travel easier (if you're already on the other side of the Atlantic, traveling to other parts of Europe, the Middle East, etc. is simpler and cheaper). And I've been dreaming of living in Cornwall since my very first visit there in 1978. We shall see. For the immediate future, in addition to work, I have my on-going commitments as a board member (and occasional dramaturg/research guru) at Theatre Pro Rata, and I'm working at present as the dramaturg for a production of Shakespeare's All's Well that Ends Well that will run from mid-February to early March at Theatre in the Round. We'll also be flying to Albuquerque for Jane's MFA show and presentation, and then to Los Angeles for a few days with Bob's family. So life will continue to be interesting.
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We will be doing an atypical Thanksgiving this year, though it's one we've done in the past. Jonah and Molly, Bob and I will be going to a movie (Life of Pi) and then having our Thanksgiving dinner at the Darbar Grill, an Indian restaurant on Lake Street. I think we started doing this initially when we still had a traditional meal, but we'd go to a movie while the turkey was cooking. Then, when Bob started visiting his family in Los Angeles over the holiday weekend, Jane and Jonah and I started doing it. No worries about cooking; our only real regret is the lack of leftovers, but since we are only two at home now, that's not a major issues. We always have lots of leftovers (though not turkey), since whatever we cook usually serves for two or three meals. I'm thankful for a successful election, a wonderful family, many good friends, employment (though anticipating retirement now in just over six months), and the many wonderful things that makes this a beautiful world. I'm also thankful for all the people who are committed to making it an even more beautiful and equitable one.
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From September 9-24, the charming spouse and I were in Turkey. Our first week was part of the Dunnett Siege of Constantinople (if you don't know the work of amazing historical novelist Dorothy Dunnett, see A group of 114 people from all over the world came together to celebrate Dunnett's work while exploring the wonders of Istanbul. And explore we did: we saw all the major sites and some not quite so major (Yedikule: Fortress of the Seven Towers). A minor disappointment at Topkapi Palace was that the room in which the crucial chess game occurs in the Lymond series was closed for renovation, but we certainly got a feeling for the site overall and could easily imagine that room. Besides, it's a great excuse to return! We were divided into six groups to facilitate our visits; each group had a group captain from among the participants (I served in that role for the "Archie" group--all six were named for characters in the series) and a guide. Our guide, Selim Puler, was absolutely amazing: very experienced, knowledgeable, and full of wonderful stories. Late afternoon talks by Elizabeth Holden (on the Crusades), Kelly DePonte (on John Grant and the fall of Constantinople), Jan Fergus (on quests and comedy in Pawn in Frankincense), and Ray Gannon (a non-reader who can delight us all with his tales of long-suffering Dunnett quests with wife Denise), plus a fabulous video created by the always amazing Simon Hedges (hereafter known as Simon the Magnificent) enhanced the gathering immeasurably. It was a wonderful opportunity to connect with old friends and meet new ones. The accommodations were great, as were all the meals (though often more food than I could eat, even with all the walking about). We fell in love with the city and its people.

After the Siege, we stayed in Turkey for another week or so; we traveled to Gallipoli, Troy, Pergamon, and Ephesus--all amazing places. I was profoundly moved by my visit to Gallipoli; I've always had an interest in the first world war (one of the more stupid wars, in my opinion). I learned that six U.S. men died in the battle, though this is not widely known. But I was there for all those who died: Australians, New Zealanders, UK men, and Turks. The monument with a quote from Ataturk brought me to tears, as did wandering among the graves. Pergamon was a revelation ( beautiful Roman remains, including a theatre space. Troy was fascinating (I remember receiving a holiday book when I was in my early teens about Heinrich Schliemann's discoveries, and I've always loved the Iliad and the Odyssey, so being on the site--of yet another stupid war--was amazing). But Pergamon was just a teaser for Ephesus, which was astonishing ( We were part of a tour group for Gallipoli, Troy, and Pergamon, and then were dropped off in Selcuk, the small town (22,000) near Ephesus, where we spent two nights. The site itself is huge and we spent most of a morning wandering about. It has a library (yes!), and a huge, huge theatre--absolutely glorious and with great acoustics (another visitor took the stage with the "Friends, Romans, countryman speech from Julius Caesar" and it was very clear). A second part of the site is the on-going excavation of a series of "terrace house" (indoor plumbing--the Romans knew what they were about): splendid mosaics, frescoes, etc.).The small museum in Selcuk has a wonderful collection of material from the site that had to be removed for safety/environmental reasons: many of the sculptures that were part of the site are now housed there. We had a lovely hotel in Selcuk on a hill looking over the town: comfortable and beautiful. Since the town is small, tourists don't typically stay there if they are part of a regular tour (not enough accommodations), so we enjoyed connecting with people in the downtown area where they had an array of shops selling carpets (of course) and other wonderful items. We did make some purchases here, even though we had planned to wait until our return to Istanbul: it felt good to support people in this smaller environment.

We returned to Istanbul via overnight bus (and Turkey has an absolutely phenomenal bus system), and spent our final four days in the city. We returned to a few places we had previously visited--Bob wanted to consult with an iman at the Blue Mosque about including Islamic holidays in his perpetual calendar, which he did, only to learn that the holidays are standardized in some countries (Turkey) and not in others (Saudi Arabia); so he'll have to make a decision about what to do. We also visited the Asian side of the city, with the hope of seeing the Florence Nightingale museum, but that didn't work out (it was tricky to find, and we kept running into "keep out" signs at a military base in the vicinity). We went to Dolmabahce Palace (çe_Palace) and then Taksim Square on the other side of the Golden Horn. Taksim Square is near the University of Istanbul, and from there you can walk down to the Galata Tower and beyond to the water via a pedestrian street filled with shops, restaurants, and people: every city needs something like this. Minneapolis should close the Nicollet Mall to traffic from downtown all the way to where it runs into the (ugh) K-Mart on Lake Street and create this sort of pedestrian haven. On our final day, we took a cruise on the Bosporus all the way to the entrance to the Black Sea. The cruise was 1.5 hours, then we had about 3 hours in the small town of Anadolu Kavagi, where many fish restaurants sought our business; we, of course, decided to hike up to the Roman/Genoese castle high above the town (and this was supposed to be our lazy day!), which led to a stunning view both north to the Black Sea and south back to Istanbul proper. We stayed at a wonderful hotel these last four days, run by a delightful Turkish man who lived for 25 years in Los Angeles; he and his staff were great). And then Monday morning arrive and it was time for the long flight home.

I will always remember the wonderful people and places of this glorious country, and I hope to return in the future to see even more of it.

4th Street

Jun. 26th, 2012 02:26 pm
kitgordon: the atlantic near st just (Default)
My fifth Fourth Street has come and gone, and it was amazing as always. Wonderful people, great conversations, music, fun, food: what more could one ask? I'm already looking forward to next year, when I will (fingers crossed) be happily retired--this should happen as of the end of May. Recommended by Amanda at the con (and if you're a fan of Gaiman, Bradbury, or--as in my case--both, have a tissue at hand):


Apr. 16th, 2012 12:37 pm
kitgordon: the atlantic near st just (Default)
Just learned this today, so wanted to record it:
1178 BC, April 16—A solar eclipse occurs. This may have marked the return of Odysseus, legendary King of Ithaca, to his kingdom after the Trojan War. He discovers a number of suitors competing to marry his wife Penelope, whom they believe to be a widow, in order to succeed him on the throne. He organizes their slaying and re-establishes himself on the throne. The date is surmised from a passage in Homer's Odyssey, which reads, "The Sun has been obliterated from the sky, and an unlucky darkness invades the world." This happens in the context of a new moon and at noon, both necessary preconditions for a full solar eclipse.[1] In 2008, to investigate, Dr Marcelo O. Magnasco, an astronomer at Rockefeller University, and Constantino Baikouzis, of the Observatorio Astrónomico de La Plata in Argentina, looked for more clues. Within the text, they interpreted three definitive astronomical events: there was a new moon on the day of the slaughter (as required for a solar eclipse); Venus was visible and high in the sky six days before; and the constellations Pleiades and Boötes were both visible at sunset 29 days before. Since these events recur at different intervals, this particular sequence should be unique: the doctors found only one occurrence of this sequence while searching between 1250 and 1115 BC, the 135-year spread around the putative date for the fall of Troy. It coincided with the eclipse of April 16, 1178 BC.
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