Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Flapjacks and Beads

Today is Shrove Tuesday and I'm looking forward to pancakes for supper. Mom always made pancakes for us on Shrove Tuesday. Pancakes that were not always perfect (read slightly black on the edges) but delicious none the less. I think what made them so tasty was the molasses. In our house we always had Crosby's molasses on the table and it was great on pancakes. It's funny now that I have my own place I rarely use molasses on my pancakes. I guess molasses, along with many other childhood favorites, doesn't taste as special to the adult palette. Regardless, today is pancake day and I thought I would share with you some of the folk lore and traditions associated with today. Check out Wilson's almanac for plenty of tasty tidbits.

Another name for today is Fat Tuesday or as the Cajun's call it, Mardis Gras. This year New Orleans has decided to scale back on Mardis Gras celebrations due to the devastation of hurricane Katrina. Deciding to go ahead with the annual celebration is a testament of the strength and hope that is very much alive in New Orleans and the surrounding areas that are still struggling to rebuild after six months. Hopefully the people who go to Mardi Gras will take the time to look around and see there is still plenty of rebuilding to be done and they will put pressure on the government to provide much needed assistance. The people of New Orleans are proud of their heritage and they want to rebuild and Mardis Gras is just the beginning.

Bonus Link:
Bunny picture above by Richard Scarry

Friday, February 24, 2006

Conference Preparation

First, let me apologize for neglecting this blog. When I started this blog I had full intentions of making regular posts but as usual things do not always go as planned.

For the past few weeks I have been busy preparing for the 26th Annual Atlantic Undergraduate English Conference which is being held at the University of Prince Edward Island from March 3rd to 5th. I have been asked by my professor to present one of my English papers. The paper is one I wrote for my 18th Century Prose and Poetry class. Here is the abstract for my paper:

Essay Title: The Battle of the Sexes: Challenging Gender Roles in Aphra Behn's "The Disappointment"
Written by: Lucy LeBlanc
Abstract: In her poem "The Disappointment," controversial seventeenth-century writer Aphra Behn employs a creative translation of Cantenac's "L'Occasion perdue recouverte" to manipulate the tradition of the imperfect enjoyment poem. Such poems usually present a desiring male subject, while Behn's poem depicts female sexual desire. By so doing, the poem challenges gender roles as well as the structures of oppression which they support. Through the ability of her female character to speak words of resistance and hence control her situation, Behn challenges masculine power and control within personal relationships.

Presenting the essay does not make me nervous as I have read and reread the essay so many times I feel I could recite it by heart. What does make me a bit nervous is the element of the unknown. This will be my first time attending the "Atlantic Undergraduate English Conference" and I do not know what to expect. My professor assures me that all I have to do is read my essay and field questions if any arise. Okay. Will I be expected to have a broad knowledge of Aphra Behn and her works? Do the organizers expect me to have copies of the original French poem Aphra Behn translated from? It seems to me people attending this conference will be expecting to hear from someone who knows what they are talking about as the conference website points out this event will be "showcasing some of the most promising academic and creative writers on the East Coast." Pretty high standards to live up to.

Regardless, I intend to enjoy myself next weekend. I am one of those people who love to dissect anything they are reading. Hopefully "some of the most promising" will present work that I have read before so I can participate in some great literary discussions. I am sure there will be something there that I will like but I'm still wondering if I should spend just a little more time researching my topic. Scholarly research is never done.

Bonus Links
The Aphra Behn Page
The Aphra Behn Society
"The Disappointment" by Aphra Behn
"The Imperfect Enjoyment" by John Wilmot
John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

Recently a friend sent an email with a list of questions that make you stop and say, hmmm. . .

If money doesn't grow on trees then why do banks have branches?

Since bread is square,
then why is sandwich meat round?

Why do you have to "put your two cents in"..but it's only a "penny for your thoughts?" Where's that extra penny going to?

Why are you IN a movie, but you're ON TV?

How come Americans choose from just two people for President and fifty for Miss America?

Why is "bra" singular and "panties" plural?

Why is there a light in the fridge and not in the freezer?

And my favorite of all . . .
Is Disney World the only people trap operated by a mouse?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Love Is In The Air

Today is a day where emotions take over. Love, passion, and even panic.

For some it is a day to express their love openly while for others it is a time to panic when they realize they left it for the last minute and they can't get a reservation at their sweetie's favorite restaurant. Anyone in a relationship knows Valentine's Day can be a bit of a challenge. What does my significant other have planned and can I match it? It should not come down to this. Valentine's Day should be just another day that you can show the special people in your life how important they are to you. No need to run out to the mall and max out your credit card; just show them how much they mean to you. A phone call, a hug, a hand written letter instead of an email, all of these will make a lasting impression without breaking the bank. Your expressions of love should come from the heart, not the wallet.

Now that you have that under control, take a look at the history of the valentine and the origins of Valentine's Day.

It seems there are many "origins" and the one I fancy is the European belief that on February 14th the birds began to choose their mates. In fact Chaucer, in his "Parlement of Foules," wrote: "For this was Seynt Valentine's Day when every foul cometh ther to choose his mate."

The poet, Michael Drayton (1563-1631), wrote verses entitled "To His Valentine," in which he expressed the idea of the birds' mating on St. Valentine's Day:

Each little bird this tide
Doth choose her beloved peer,
Which constantly abide
In wedlock all the year.

One of my favorites is by John Donne as it illustrates the pure passion of nature:

Hail Bishop Valentine! whose day this is;
All the air is thy diocese,
And all the chirping choristers
And other birds are thy parishioners:
Thou marryest ever year
The lyric lark and the grave whispering dove;
The sparrow that neglects his life for love,
The household bird with the red stomarcher;
Thous mak'st the blackbird speed as soon,
As doth the goldfinch or the halcyon . . .
This day more cheerfully than ever shine,
This day which might inflame thyself, old Valentine!
I think the birds have the right idea. They go with what is natural and lift up their voices in celebration of their love. No fancy cards, no flowers, no diamonds - just pure love.

When I think of Valentine's Day I think of all the special people in my life and how lucky I am to be surrounded by so much love. For other people Saint Valentine's Day marks the anniversary of the infamous massacre that took place on February 14, 1929 at the S-M-C Cartage Company on 2122 North Clark Street in Chicago.

I hope that you and yours have pleasant memories of Valentine's Day and you create some new ones today.

Wear Your Blog Proudly

This is cool - Snap Shirts will create a "Word Cloud" of your blog and create a T-Shirt for you.

This is the Word Cloud for this blog:

To see my other Word Clouds click here, here, and here.

(Thanks for this MJ and Sharon)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Snack Food Pioneer

Rebecca Webb Carranza, 98, and creator of the tortilla chips, has gone on to that great siesta in the sky.

In the late 1940s, while preparing for a family party, Ms. Carranza cut some discarded tortillas into triangles and fried them. They were a hit and, the chips were soon selling for a dime a bag at her Mexican delicatessen in LA. In 1950 she was the president of the El Zarape Tortilla Factory and was among the first to automate the production of tortillas.

Carranza led an interesting life that began in Mexico. As a young girl, Rebecca and her five brothers lived through periodic raids by Mexican bandit and revolutionary Pancho Villa and other thieves in northern Mexico.

Being a tortilla chip lover, I am forever grateful for Ms. Carranza's contribution to the snack food world and send a double dip of sympathy to Ms. Carranza's family.

Remembering Gramps

Alan J. Shalleck, 76, who collaborated with the co-creator of Curious George to bring the mischievous monkey to television and a series of book sequels, was found dead Feb. 7 outside his home in Boynton Beach, Fla.

Shalleck's death comes at a time when that loveable monkey, Curious George, is opening on the big screen and will surely find his way into the hearts of many of today's youngsters.

It is truly sad that Shalleck will not be around to witness the joy George will bring to a new generation of children as Shalleck loved to visit schools, where he was affectionately known as Gramps, so he could read to the students. Shalleck knew the importance of reading and wished to pass on his love of books: "Gramps is a persona that transcends everything else," he told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 2001. "I'm a communicator, not an educator. My main goal is to get them to love to read."

I'm sure the man will be holding George's hand and removing his yellow hat to hold it close to his heart when he thinks of Gramps today. Rest in peace Mr. Shalleck.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Now Playing

Yesterday I read the newspaper and I had to pinch myself - Capote was playing at our local multi-plex.

I had hoped to see this film on the big screen but feared that it would not play in our city. Any film that is considered "artsy" or is not a so-called blockbuster seems to by-pass Saint John or if it does arrive it is like a restless visitor than cannot stay in one place very long.

Capote has been embraced by the critics and has received five nods from the Oscar crowd including best actor and best picture. These are not the reasons I am interested in the movie. I have been patiently waiting to see this film since first reading about it and the reason can be summed up in three words - Philip Seymour Hoffman.

I have been a big fan of Hoffman for quite some time and it is very nice to see him in a starring role. For many years he has been a character actor that people know to see but cannot put a name to the face. In fact, it has only been lately, that I, a big fan, has been able to keep his name straight.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is not your typical movie star. He is average height, his weight fluctuates between slightly husky to overweight, his skin is pale and sometimes looks slightly sunburned, he has a receeding hair line, and he is painfully shy off camera. In other words, he could be your neighbour. Hoffman is an average guy working in a world where most people have to be above average to succeed. This explains why it took so long for Hoffman to be in a starring role. What Hoffman has that the "pretty boys" lack is pure talent. No matter how small the role, Hoffman always shines.

Hoffman has been in over forty films and has been nominated twice for a Tony for his roles in Broadway plays. He is always working and has not been out of work as an actor since his first acting job in the 1992 film, Scent of a Woman. Since that time he has had supporting roles in movies such as The Talented Mr. Ripley, Almost Famous, and Magnolia. Along with these well known films, Hoffman took on roles in smaller films that showcased his immense talent.

It was while watching one of his lesser known films that I came to realize that Hoffman was no regular character actor. The film was Flawless and starred Robert DeNiro as retired hero cop Walt Koontz and Hoffman as Rusty Zimmerman, his cross-dressing neighbor - talk about two opposites. What makes this movie interesting is the viewer soon learns that these men are opposites on the outside but very similar inside as they are both very lonely human beings outside the mainstream of society.

Hoffman's portrayal of Rusty is superb. He is at times rude and crude, at times sassy and brash, and at times full of angst and pain. One of my favorite lines in the film is delivered by Rusty (Hoffman) - "Oh yeah? Well life's a bitch, so I became one, honey!" Wouldn't this be a great line to use one someone?

Hoffman could have very easily played Rusty in sterotypical fashion of flambouyant queen but chooses to wear the mask of a clown hiding tears instead. It is too bad this film had so many things going on at once as it is truly a film that could have remained focused on the relationship between Rusty and Walt and been a superb character driven movie instead of a jumble of different film genres. This being said, anyone who appreciates a could emotional performance should check out Flawless and see Hoffman and DeNiro play these characters to perfection.

Speaking of perfection, Hoffman has pulled it off once again in his portrayal of Truman Capote. Hoffman does not go for flambouyance when he plays the larger-than-life Capote, instead he plays him with seductive restraint. As viewers we only see Capote's character in shades of gray, there is nothing black and white about this fellow. He is crafty, manipulative, uncompromising, sensitive and brutal. A strong love-hate relationship soon develops toward this character. There are times you want to give him a hug and other times you want to give his pompous ass a swift kick. This is the range that Hoffman brings to this role.

If you are looking for an action packed movie that sensationalizes the 1959 murder of the Clutter family of Holcomb, Kansas then do not go to this movie. On the other hand, if you are looking for a movie that takes you through the emotional journey that Capote took while researching and writing his best selling novel, In Cold Blood, then by all means go to this movie. Finally, if you are looking for a movie with great acting then Capote is for you.

I would like to close this post with a quote from Philip Seymour Hoffman on his responsibility as an actor, a responsibility that I feel he has fulfilled:

Actors are responsible to the people we play. I don't label or judge. I just play them as honestly and expressively and creatively as I can, in the hope that people who ordinarily turn their heads in disgust instead think, 'What I thought I'd feel about that guy, I don't totally feel right now'

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?