Friday, March 26, 2010

It's official!

This morning I mailed in my enrollment and deposit to the university where I'll be working on my Master of Fine Arts in creative writing for the next two years. So, I guess it's official. Yikes!

This is a low-residency program, I'll only go to the college for a week in May and a week in January. The rest of the time I'll communicate by computer.

In preparation for the first residency - which is only two months from now - I have to read 8 books, 18 short stories, two articles, a play, and a screenplay! Plus write two short papers. So, I'm gonna be a little busy.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Get over it!

Since I began this blog I have pretty much avoided writing about controversial issues. I have expressed my views about some things, like sperm donation, clocks, and pomegranates, but I’ve avoided the topics that could really get me going. I try and not even think about certain topics because they tend to get me so worked up (and who needs that?) but...

There are a few things that have come to my attention lately that I just have to say something about. The first concerns a school in Mississippi that canceled its prom rather than let a lesbian student, Constance McMillen, and her girlfriend attend together.

Another is a recently proposed law in Florida that would disqualify movie productions from tax incentives if their movies have gay or lesbian characters. Seriously.

There’s been a lot of debate in recent years about gay rights and gay marriage, but how much progress can be made in a world where homosexuality is still so feared? We who live in more progressive communities tend to forget how backward so much of the planet is.

A lot of work still needs to be done on the basic issue of accepting gays and lesbians as simply a part of the natural order of things. And here’s what I have to say about that:

Dear world:
Some people are gay.
Get over it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Favorite: GR garden

This is a part of a garden that was mine when we lived in Grand Rapids. During the five years we owned this house I spent a lot of time working in the garden and was very proud of it - we were twice on the local garden tour. It was hard to leave it behind when we sold the house and I still occasionally wonder about how it's doing now.

Gardening was a big part of my life when we lived in that house & I got a lot of pleasure from it. But we don't have much of a garden at our new house and not much hope of one either. There are some nice established plants here and there, and those that I've transplanted seem to have survived the winter, but the soil is heavy clay and the main garden space is in shade.

I'm not as passionate as I once was about gardening, and I was thinking about giving it up all together - Who needs the trouble? But I'm sure I'll end up spending a lot of time in the yard here doing what I can with what I've got.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Decisions, decisions...

I recently applied to a masters degree program in creative writing and was happy this morning to learn that I've been accepted, but I'm still not sure this is something I want to do.

I wish it was something I'd already done. Twenty years ago. Or even ten! Not that I think I'm too old for it, it's more like I'm too tired. I'm not sure I have the energy for it.

The thing is, it's not suppose to be like this. By now - by this point in my life - you'd think I might finally be able to relax a little. By now I should be settled into a comfortable routine. Maybe even a little bored.

You'd expect, at my age, that I'd be done becoming whoever it is I was going to be.

It seems like I've spent most of my life working toward some thing. A better day. A truer self. A fulfilling occupation. And this work has been exhausting. I'd so like to finally breathe easy.

And then there's the issue of confidence.

Not to mention the money.

And time.

What to do? What to do?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday Treasure: California beach-towel

This beach towel is a souvenir of a 1962 vacation to California I took with my mom when I was a kid. I was only seven, so I don't remember a lot about the trip, but vaguely recall my mom buying this towel from a souvenir stand on the street somewhere.

California was an exotic place to a kid from Michigan and I thought I was pretty cool for having been there. For the rest of my childhood I enjoyed taking this towel to beaches and pools, and also used it frequently as a bath towel.

It was always stored in a chest of drawers built into my parent's bathroom. As an adult I'd occasionally come across it there and it would fill me with nostalgia.

This is one of only a few things I saved while cleaning out my parent's house in 1999. Since then I've kept it folded up in a plastic tub of mementos. It's very thin, faded, and ragged around the edges, but it's amazing to think this towel is nearly 50 years old! What a funny thing to have kept for so long.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I'm feeling creatively uninspired these days. I have no compelling urge to write or take photos, two things I usually always want to do.

When it's been awhile since I've written something or shot some photos, or at least done some editing, I usually start to feel kind-of cranky and unhappy. But lately I just don't have the desire. And this doesn't necessarily feel like a bad thing. The urge is gone and it feels like relief; like a monkey off my back.

And this has got me thinking about creativity and how it ebbs and flows. I've always gone through creative phases. First I'd be absorbed with one thing, like knitting or gardening, and then I'd switch and it would be watercolor painting or play directing or whatever. But it was always something.

I've been concentrating on writing for the last six years, and it's been three years since I discovered Flickr. I've dabbled in other activities during this time, but writing and photography have been my major creative outlets. These were things I needed to do, and my need to do them was strong.

So I'm wondering if what I'm experiencing now is just a lull, or if my need has been fulfilled? Maybe I've said what I had to say, shown what I had to show?

I don't know.

Spring is in the air and this complicates the issue. I want to open the windows and clean house. I want to paint walls. Do some yard work. Exercise. Organize. Turn on the radio. Wash my car.

I want to go for a drive without a particular destination in mind.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Our house at six months

We've been in our new house for a little over six months now and it's beginning to seem like home. There's still a lot we need to do before it will be the place we'd like it to be, but for the most part we're pretty comfortable and content. Here's a little tour:

We recently moved the dining room carpet into the living room. I really like how it looks with the red couch, but...
... now we don't have a carpet in the dining room. And, so far, it's been a real challenge to find one that suits our space and blends well with the other rug.

Here's our future remodeling project. I think we might keep the original 1950s mirror, but the cobalt blue tile and powder blue fixtures have got to go!
I look forward to the day when I can call this photo "before."

Here's the kitchen:

And our big jet tub!

Monday, March 8, 2010

I'm in a trailer!!!!

I enjoyed watching the Academy Awards last night. I'm SO glad that Kathryn Bigelow won as Best Director and The Hurt Locker is Best Film. And I'm proud to say that 14 of my 19 Oscar predictions were correct. But the really exciting news I have to share today is that I'm in a trailer!!

I worked as a extra last October for the upcoming HBO film, You Don't Know Jack, which was partially filmed here in Michigan. It will be on HBO next month. Here's the trailer. I'm one of the protesters.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

9 = Ten

I have now seen all 10 Best Picture Oscar nominees.

I rented District 9 last night and HATED IT. What a stupid movie. It has a compelling premise: stranded aliens with a stalled spacecraft end up living in Johannesburg, South Africa, but that's just about the only good thing I can say about it.

Made to live in a slum called District 9, the aliens resemble giant shrimp, and are known, derogatorily, as prawns.

Of-course there are analogies to apartheid, but they're not particularly thought-provoking. The story is completely unbelievable and the movie can't quite decide what it is. It occasionally turns into a comedy that doesn't quite work, and then finally becomes a cliche buddy flick. And I haven't even mentioned all the violence and gore. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck.

So why is a movie that could only appeal to the most hard-core Sci-fi fan an Oscar nominee you ask? The way I understand it, the Academy decided to nominate more movies than usual in order to boost the TV ratings: if more people have a movie to root for, then more people will watch the show. So movies like District 9, Up, and A Serious Man got nominated, but there's no way they'll win.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday Treasure: argus 40 camera

This camera belonged to my mom and is the camera she used to take my childhood photos.

It's also the camera with which I snapped my very first pictures when I was a kid, and later used to learn about f-stops and shutter speeds.

Made in Ann Arbor, it's body is made of Bakelite, and it used to have a leather case, a neck strap, and a flash attachment, but those are long gone.

To take a photo you'd open the hood, hold the camera at your waist, and compose the shot by looking down into the large square viewfinder.

My mom stopped using this camera sometime in the 60s when "Instamatic" cameras became popular. For the rest of her life she owned a series of crappy cameras that were never anywhere as near as special as the argus - none that were saved the way this camera was, so that it now sits on a shelf in my living room.

Sometime when I was a teenager I picked it up and started playing around. When it doesn't have film inside, you can open the back and see what happens as you click the shutter at different f-stops and shutter speeds - a great visual learning tool.

Another fun feature of this camera is that you can take two, or more, photos without advancing the film if you want - meaning you can take arty double-exposures.

I love this camera and wish I could still take photos with it, but 620 film is a little hard to come by these days. (Though I was surprised to learn it wasn't discontinued by Kodak until 1995. )

Here's a photo of me taken with the argus when I was three: