maybe I should have let them make me take Home Ec

Your high school guidance counselor is 
a person who has achieved his full potential.

For non-US residents, the high school guidance counselor is the person whose job is to suggest colleges or universities or courses of study, to set up class schedules, and to process transcripts and applications. They also told your parents that you were not living up to your full potential, seemed unmotivated, and risked not becoming a well-rounded and reliable citizen. In four years of high school and one year of junior high school, I never met anyone who was living up to his full potential. 

And so it came to pass that I arrived home one early spring afternoon with a list of the following year's courses, to be presented to a parent for signature. Naturally I had read it before I jumped into the car of the cute guy du jour, and so to everyone's surprise I demanded to be taken straight home. The strategy was obvious - I would wash off the eye makeup, bang out the chores and be found laboring over the trigonometry assignment when Mom got home from work. I thought about putting an opera record on, but refrained.

Mom wasn't fooled for a minute, although years of dealing with woe and wickedness and the puberty of others had blunted her x-Ray vision just a touch. So while she was relieved to know that I wasn't planning to stay out all night, skip school with a rare disease that required days of lab tests, address envelopes for a dubious political campaign, etc. etc., she wasn't thrilled to be reminded that it was schedule time again. Funny how time flies.

This was the nasty surprise on the schedule: instead of Advanced Placement Chemistry I had been assigned to Home Ec. Mom and I supposed this had happened either because of the GC's personal animosity or because he had noticed a vacancy and had filled it the easiest way possible - with an "elective."

Scene: the Guidance Office. I have been instructed not to "pipe up." Thus I listened very carefully, and the conversation is embedded in my brain. I'd actually like to get rid of it and make room for something else, but like cockroaches and corporations, some things have eternal life.

        Mom:            I'd like a few things explained before I sign off on this. This line, for starters.
        GC:               She is entering her Junior year. All Juniors are required to take an elective.
        Mom:            I don't understand, why is it elective if it's required?
        GC:               Because it's not optional. She has no choice, she has to choose an elective.

The spectacle continued until it lost its power to entertain. In the middle of a discussion about the benefits of Home Ec for someone who had learned to use a sewing machine in 6th grade (this shows you how desperate to entertain a Scout leader can be), and how could there be no openings remaining in AP Chemistry anyway, I produced a note from the chemistry teacher in which he requested that the 4th period class with double lab time be added to my schedule, since the class had 2 open slots.

It was customary to take that Chemistry course and Physics the same year, or if that couldn't be accommodated, very close together. This leads me to my current project, which is related to the time, space and matter continuum.

We leave for London, Paris, Lyon in about 2 weeks and I am determined to fit the necessary clothing into a carry-on, but equally determined not to spend more than half an hour or at most 45 minutes per day obsessing over packing, with occasional time extensions as needed to exhume some things that might fit from the last time I failed to get off the weight from the winter travels in time for the spring excursion. And no, well, minimal, shopping.

I wound up getting a new raincoat, because my very very good one is Extra Long. This is great for protecting the knees and legs in city winters, but even without the lining there's too much of it for the carry-on or the overhead.

I grabbed the J.Crew Bonded Zip Trench, a single-breasted number with a really neat collar, as an alternative. Length is adequate, and fit is fine, except the belt loops are located 1 inch too high.


This is where I start wondering whether there might have been some benefit in Home Ec after all. In keeping with my developing minimalist attitude, I sought a "free alteration." J.Crew's alteration/tailoring was not up to the task. A salesperson consulted with the tailor, and reported back that it was a very complicated and timeconsuming job requiring special equipment, and it would cost upwards of $75.

Removing the belt reveals the "complicated structure" of the belt holders - each consists of a little tab with a buttonhole sewn on the coat. The related buttons are on the belt.


Here are detailed schematic drawings showing (a) little tab with button, and (b) corresponding little tab with buttonhole. The "complicated" task is to snip thread holding tab to coat, pin tab back on to coat but one inch below previous location, and sew each little end onto coat.

I wonder if I had "elected" to take Home Ec, would I have stayed in touch with at least one of the girls who had really chosen the course? I would have been able to do a good deed and put some probably very needed work her way. ("needed" work because after 4 years of high school Home Ec back in the day and no prospects of further education, would she be employable in today's economy?)

Instead generations of my female ancestors are dropping their haloes and falling off clouds laughing at my efforts to locate a thimble without leaving the house. Cab fare to and from M & J Trimming (and if you come to New York, this place is a must and call me because I love to go there) is out of the question, because I am determined to prove that I can do the "alteration" for nothing.

Alternatively I can return the Bonded Zip Trench - sounds like equipment for an armed bootlegger - and try the Madewell Travel Trench, which looks like bootlegger wear but without the dangerous-sounding name.
This little number is shorter (good to pack, not so good to wear), less expensive (good) but web-only and final sale. Brilliantly, no measurements are published. If anyone out there has actually tried the thing on, please let me know your reactions.

Meanwhile, this link will bring you to a good collection of views of trench coats a-travelling. Look how cute the longer coats look.

I think something in my closet is whining.

what day is it again?

 I'd like to be a lion tamer
Sequins and tights and silk top hats
I know I could be a lion tamer
I've always gotten along with cats

This poster makes me think about raising a family, about being a mother. 
I'd have a whip but never use it
I'd simply hold it in my hand
I'd like to be a lion tamer
If I could be a lion tamer
I would be someone grand

As a matter of fact, so do most of the circus posters - the jugglers, the ringmaster, the overcrowded car driving the same route over and over while little clowns pour out of it, the impossibly balanced acrobats....

I'm not a proponent of holidays that were invented to sell cards and flowers and put stress on restaurants, but it's always nice to be appreciated, and to express appreciation.
Ev'ryone has a special calling
Something that only she can do
so here's to all of us who spend our days and nights 
juggling and balancing, pulling rabbits out of hats 
and keeping the globe spinning.
Which is not to say I don't love the cards and the flowers, of course I do.
Not because it's any special day
Only because they come from you.

The Lion Tamer lyric is from The Magic Show
by Stephen Schwartz. The only version to 
hear is Kristin  Chenoweth's, which you can 
find on YouTube.

I only watch it for the clothes -- and the braids, gotta have me some braids

Having survived Pledge Week on both of our local public TV stations, it was with a certain sense of entitlement that I wrapped myself in my cashmere blanket (Banana Republic's last good year, clearance, but I didn't come here to brag) - and settled back to enjoy Wolf Hall. It's not finished yet over here, but timing isn't crucial, what with all the spoilers swimming around the web.

We are experts on Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, both of us having read both books, and last fall we celebrated Still Another Big Anniversary by charging off to London in time to catch the closing West End performance of both. The standing ovation at the end of BUTB was of ManU caliber.  Dame Hilary was present at both performances.

So now, having watched 5 of the television installments, I offer our capsule ratings:

Pageantry and sense of trapped formality: West End. Coming soon (and expensively) to Broadway.
Foreboding and conveying what it might have been like to live in HVIII's times: telly
Best all around: unquestionably, the books.
What I'm glad I don't have to do: those elaborate dances.
Worst all around: The Tudors.

Well, whilst we await the publication of the third book in Dame Hilary's examination of the life and times of Thomas Cromwell, how to fill the aesthetic craving for pageantry, plotting and blood?

This post's title refers, of course, to Game of Thrones, in which an overdose of improbability is loosely blended with the above key ingredients. I can't watch it for more than 5 minutes at a time without wishing for a spaceship to land.

And yet, and yet - why is this setting so familiar? From whence comes this sense of déja vu? I know I haven't wasted any time reading the books.

I figured it out! Game of Thronesis the dark side, the anime version, of the adventures that Prince Valiant, Lady Aleta and Little Prince Arn would have had if they had flourished in a time with no censorship and no inhibitions. Like now. And of course most of the roles in Game of Thrones are played by human actors, not cartoon characters. But still...

A long, long time ago, I discovered a stash of Prince Valiant at a garage sale, and I was entranced. The comics were really old, the paper was smelly and crumbling and the ads for peculiar products were, um, dubious. But Val and Aleta's little family seemed just like a real family as seen on TV - wizards, misunderstandings, spells, having to get all dressed up for events, scary neighbors, rival lovers, having to practice archery, kids wanting strange furry pets, more scary neighbors...

I was delighted to learn that the strip was still going, and I still check out the noble prince and the Queen of the Misty Isles if I happen to be in a town that has a real Sunday paper (one with comics).

NOT PRINCE ARN
PRINCE ARN
At the time that Game of Thrones  met HBO, I wasn't familiar with the GOT books, but I did read some of the pre-show analysis and discussion. After about 15 minutes of Episode 1, I decided that the pundits and critics had got it wrong. It's not a badly spelled version of the Wars of the Roses. It's the dark side of Prince Valiant. And those clothes! (except for poor Daenerys, who got naked early on -- was there no sunscreen in this alternate universe?)
well, the costumes are genius.

And the women's hair! I've been inspired to let my own hair grow long enough for some elegant braids, or some uber-glam waves, and it seems to be cooperating,  at a rate of about 7/16 of an inch per month, which is slower than it sounds. Meanwhile I'm a menace to anyone with long hair who stands too close to me. I need the practice.
NOT ALETA


ALETA QUEEN OF THE MISTY ISLES


















And because GOT doesn't have enough -- I was going to say anachronisms but you have to know what time period you're meant to be in before you say something's doesn't belong in it -- oh, well, because you've been patient enough to read this far, here's  a smile.


I absolutely think that whoever makes these things up is a genius, rivalling only the original DrunkJCrew tumblr (Jen's, not those thieves').






it pays to stay awake at the movies

We returned from circling the country to visit family in a mellow but physically exhausted condition. At one point in our travels we had a scheduled plane change, but evil weather in the southwest and Midwest blew the schedule to bits. Departures were moved back, other departures were moved ahead - the problem being that a plane which was supposed to leave Airport X early in the morning had not been able to leave airport Y in time to do so. Thus we arrived at Airport Z kind of lateish to change planes to get to our next stop, and were told that late-arriving passengers had been put on other flights, some of which were being cancelled as we stood gaping at the arrivals/departures board.

Net-net: the travel day that was meant to begin at 7 a.m. and finish at 3 p.m., instead began at 4:30 a.m. (text messages from airline re schedule changes on first flight) and ended at 2:45 a.m. when we staggered into our hotel). It was all the frustration and pain of a business trip put together at the last minute by someone who'd never booked a flight before, except we weren't getting paid. When I have achieved a little distance from these events, I may do a little travel post, because the real part of the trip was lovely.

Returning to New York was uneventful but for the residual tension from the Travel Day of Horror and Self-Pity, and so a day or two of rest perked us up.


Or so I thought. Yesterday Himself suggested a movie, and since we'd been wanting to see The Lady in Gold, we stumbled over to the theatre and arranged ourselves in comfortable seats. The room was warm. It got dark, and then darker. Images spun before me, Klimt's dazzling painting, cute little girls, furniture, elegance, bad guys in armbands, chase scene, bad guys in uniforms, Casablanca(?), courtrooms, library stacks, bad guys in suits, California... 

Even someone who's wide awake will have trouble staying attentive while watching an actor do a research scene - unless of course the research invokes loud noises or puffs of smoke or some substance lighting up or changing color. A film with multiple scenes of "research," even varied by the use of computers here, documents there, oh look a folder... will not keep a sleepy traveler focussed. Or even awake. I'm not making excuses for what happened as we left the theatre. I'm just setting the scene. 

Me: She just gets better and better, doesn't she?
Himself: Sure does.
Me:  Hair and makeup were perfect. Only I thought she didn't quite hit the accent. When she spoke German she had kind of a Russian accent.
Himself: Who did?
Me: Meryl Streep.
Himself: That was Helen Mirren.
Me: eeps. I really need a cup of coffee.
Himself: Yes, you do.
Me: Mit Schlag.


For more information about Maria Altmann , her life,  and the fascinating story of the recovery of the wonderful portrait, see this article.

a return to the classics!

we spent most of Easter Day traveling, well, so much for plans...


Anyway, here's a little old-fashioned rabbit love!

Um, do not try this at home.
(and by the way, the already well-travelled Anthro skirt is on the road again,
but this time it's traveling with me.