Poets through the ages

all poets contemporaries” ‘A great poem,” it has been truly said ” is a fountain forever overflowing with the waters of wisdom and delight, and after one person and one age has exhausted its divine effluence, which their peculiar relations enable them to share, another and yet another succeeds, and new relations are ever developed, the source of an unforeseen and an unconceived delight.’ (Defense of Poetry, Shelley)

It must be remembered, however, that poetry, like science, will yield up her treasures only to her faithful votary. Robertson has truly said that

”the higher kinds of poetry demand study as severe as mathematics; the dew-drop that glitters on the end of every leaf after a shower is beautiful even to a child, but I suppose that to a Herschel, who knows that the lightning itself sleeps within it, and understands and feels all its mysterious connections with earth and sky and planets, it is suggestive of a feeling of far deeper beauty.”  (Frederick W. Robertson)

The propriety of this illustration will be at once apparent when we contemplate poetry under its higher aspects, as the bright consummate flower of the age and country which gave it birth, drawing its nourishment from the deepest roots of the national life, and at the same time concealing beneath its delicate petals the germs of the future. Hence every great poem requires, for its full elucidation, to be studied, not only in connection with contemporaneous history, but also to be brought into comparison with the kindred productions of other ages and nations.

All hail, then, to the world’s inspired singers, of every age and every clime, who, how remote so ever they may be from us and from each other, are nevertheless in a certain sense contemporaries of each succeeding age.”


From Poets: Interpreters of Their Age, by Anna Swanwick

I agree with her in general- there are treasures in poetry that can only be mined through deep digging and serious study.  I demur if she means it’s only worth reading .  I just would say that poetry still provides beauty worth having and  plentiful blessings and inspiration to those who have not the time or inclination to devote to a study as severe as mathematics.

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Frugal Dress

I needed a lightweight skirt for spring. I hunted around at the thrift shop, but all I could find was this dress:

red dress

Some people would call me pseudo-Amish. Some would call me frumpy. Some would call me old school home-school mom. I call me a modestly and comfortably dressed conservative Christian.

Whatever the labels used, they all mean the same thing in regard to the above photograph- that dress is not my style, not even for a nightgown. I don’t wear any kind of top that doesn’t have sleeves, full sleeves. In fact, my personal style preference is to hide my flabby upper arms with classic three quarter sleeves.
So the top of the dress is completely outside my comfort zone. I could wear the dress with another top over it (or under it, I suppose), except the dress as designed is intended to be above the knees, swishy, comfortable, cool, cute- and I only like swishy, comfortable, cool, and loooooong skirts- well below the knee.

So meet my new skirt (shown with one of my favorite three quarter sleeves shirts):

Long, flowy, swishy (I will never bee too old for swishy), comfortable, and it meets my personal standards for modesty. Because of the elastic in the dress already, I didn’t even have to add elastic or do any sewing. I just snipped.

My favorite slips were born pretty much the same way. I dislike nylon slips intensely. They are too hot and sticky, and also usually not comfortable for me.  They tend to ride, they are never as long as I like them to be, and they are overpriced.   Years ago I found a white dress in a similar style to this red one- a halter top (only with spangles and sparkles, so even less my style), attached to a gauzy, loose, flowing white skirt. The bottom half of the dress had an attached lining of a very thin white cotton. I cut off the halter top and tossed it. I cut apart the bottom part of the dress and its lining at the waist to make two new white slips. The dress already had built in elastic around the waistline that I salvaged for the waist of one slip. I added elastic to the waist of the lining for a second slip.

Maybe you don’t share my standards. Maybe you adore the halter top summer dress and think it’s insane to cut such a sweet dress into a frumpy skirt.  Maybe you don’t wear skirts at all, but only blue jeans.

The principle here is the same regardless – look beyond what is there and think about what could be.  That pair of jeans that would be perfect if they weren’t three inches too short for your growing kid might make a perfect pair of cut-offs, or you could do as a friend of mine did and extend the length for a hippie wanna be girl by adding layers of ribbons attached to the hem for length.  Or maybe turn those jeans into a purse, a pillow, or part of a patchwork quilt.  Or use an old pair of jeans to cut into patches for a new pair of jeans (if you can add patches to the inside of a boy’s pants at the knees, they will wear out far less quickly).

When our girls were pretty young we discovered that for girls approximately 4-10, the only real size difference is height, so mini skirts for older girls made perfect skirts for my young, non-mini-skirt wearing lasses.

I was making my own nursing shirts years before I saw any on the market- I just bought old tank tops at thrift shops and yard sales, cut slits where I wanted them, and wore other shirts over them.

Have you figured out other adaptations?  How do you repurpose clothing?

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Children Need Play

Great read:

“One of the most distressing characteristics of education reformers is that they are hyper-focused on how students perform, but they ignore how students learn. Nowhere is this misplaced emphasis more apparent, and more damaging, than in kindergarten.

A new University of Virginia study found that kindergarten changed in disturbing ways from 1999-2006. There was a marked decline in exposure to social studies, science, music, art and physical education and an increased emphasis on reading instruction. Teachers reported spending as much time on reading as all other subjects combined.”

And there’s this:

If we teach reading, writing, subtraction and addition before children are ready, they might memorize these skills, but will they will not learn or understand them. And it will not help their achievement later on.

And this:

Two major studies confirmed the value of play vs. teaching reading skills to young children. Both compared children who learned to read at 5 with those who learned at 7 and spent their early years in play-based activities. Those who read at 5 had no advantage. Those who learned to read later had better comprehension by age 11, because their early play experiences improved their language development.


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Uncovering Assumptions

use it upIn the past I’ve blogged about the concept of ‘what do you have in your hand,’ the idea being it’s better to make do with what you have than to run to the store for something.  It’s usually better to repurpose what you have, or at least what you can get for free or very, very cheap, than to spend three times as much for something new.   Why don’t we do this more?  Convenience, sometimes.  But often our assumptions prevent us from really discovering those ‘what’s in your hand’ moments.

It’s hard to test your assumptions though, because they are assumptions. They aren’t decisions you consciously, deliberately, and thoughtfully made. They are default positions you haven’t  even noticed you accepted.

One way to check them is to listen carefully to others and yourself- what you’re listening for is anything at all said in a somewhat incredulous tone with words like this:

Well, you can’t…..

Obviously, you have to…..

Everybody needs….

You can’t get by without….

Times have changed…..

Nobody does that anymore….

Whenever you hear (or think) something like one of the above statements, perk up your ears and start thinking.  Think:

Why can’t I?

Why do I have to?

Needs?  Have people always needed whatever that is, or did they get by without it in the past? If so, how?

Why couldn’t I?

Why shouldn’t I?

If times have changed, they can change again?  Am I a follower or an independent thinker?

Nobody? Really?  And if this is true, why couldn’t I start?

So what?

There’s no implied criticism here, not suggestion that there’s a right or a wrong answer to those questions for you.  It may be you ask the questions and still have the same answers- you’re going to keep doing whatever it is the same old way, maybe for no better reason than ‘I like it.’

That’s okay.  But asking (and answering) those questions will, other times, lead you to a surprising idea, and a new approach to something you took for granted.

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Reading Shakespeare in Character

In the past when we ‘did’ Shakespeare and we were reading a play ‘in character,’ that is, assigning parts, here’s the gist of how we went about it:

After we read the story of the play in Lamb’s, I found a copy of the play online.  This is a pretty good source- you can get the whole play together, easy to copy and paste to a word document.  If you use that source, you’ll need to find another for the list of characters.  Try this- click on your play, then click on dramatis personae.

Copy and paste the character list/dramatis personae list from your play to a word document.

Then copy and paste the play to your word document, below the character list.

Then, with your computer at hand, gather your readers and go through the list of characters and both choose and assign parts. I let people choose first, most of the time, and then assigned any parts leftover. This requires some flexibility, and sometimes we temporarily changed parts mid reading if one of us had accidentally chosen to be three characters who all had speaking parts in the same scene, and they were the only speaking parts in that scene.

You type in the name of your actor for each character, and maybe even highlight them in a particular colour for each person, perhaps:

Anyway- go through the list together, assigning parts.  Here’s the character list for All’s Well, just as an example:

King of France  Munchkin 
Duke of Florence- Offspring the First
Bertram, Count of Rousillon- Baby Dear
Lafeu, an old Lord – Mummy
Parolles, a follower of Bertram- Daddy
Several young French Lords, serving with Bertram in the Florentine wars- all of us, as needed.
Rinaldo, a Steward -Daddy
Lavache, a Clown- Mummy
Countess of Rousillon, Mother to Bertram- Munchkin
Helena, daughter to Gerard de Narbon, a famous physician, some time since dead- offspring the first
An old Widow of Florence-Munchkin
Diana, daughter to the Widow-Baby Dear
Violenta, Mariana, Neighbors and friends to the Widow= all of us, as needed
Lords attending on the King, Officers, Soldiers, etc.

Personally, I even change the font style there, so each of us has our font style.

Characters selected, the little group of players is disbanded.    I would work on marking out the parts better later that evening, so we could start reading the next day or so.

Shakespeare find and replaceNext I use my word document’s search and replace function to go through the list of characters and change every mention of “Widow of Florence:” to the assigned font and colour for Munchkin.  Yes, that means sometimes we have a weird placement in the middle of a dialogue when somebody was only speaking about a character.  The link for the plays which I shared formats them so the speaker’s name is in all caps.  That means all you have to do with word is match the font case, and then type it in all caps.

Shakespeare Example

It will look something like you see above.  Now, with that particular play source, the next step I would take is to find and replace all ‘manual line breaks’ with a space.  You will find manual line breaks under ‘special’, at least on my word processor. Yours may differ.

shakespeare manual linebreak

Finally, I insert page numbers.

This sounds tedious, but it is actually more time consuming to type this all out than to actually do this with a play, especially once you’ve done it a couple of times.

Now it’s time to print out copies of the play (if you prefer, you can just copy 3-5 pages at a time), hand them out to your players, and all of you staple your copies or 3-hole punch them and put them in folders.

Then you start reading aloud, in character, all the parts nicely assigned and denoted so each reader has an easy cue as to when it’s their turn to read.

We almost never did more than a scene at a time, and sometimes we ended up just doing a part of a scene.

It’s interesting to me how we gained new insights into the play just from reading it aloud together- without any other props, aids, or helps.  Very occasionally I’d look up a word or a scene later if we had a question about it.

I’ve seen books you can buy that are annotated, or even have two versions side by side- the original on the left, a modern rendition on the facing page.  But I don’t like those.  Sometimes I’d prefer the full meaning of a particular scene or phrase went right over my little Ducklings’ heads, you know?  If they asked, that was one thing, but if they were not asking, then it was fine by me if the missed a vulgar reference.

It’s really amazing to me, the internet era.  Think of it- we can have a completely free copy of any Shakespeare play in our hands in the time it takes to print it- which is seconds (o.k. yes, there is the cost of ink and paper).  Formerly, people waited weeks, at best, for a copy of their own, and only the well to do could afford it.

We can assign and designate parts with a few strokes of a button- something that in the old days was done by each reader marking their own copy up by hand.

And best of all, Shakespeare was writing in the late 1500s, early 1600s, and he’s still inspiring us, still making children and grown-ups laugh, cry,and ponder today.

Updated to add: Here’s another good source for the plays (free)

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Wild Edibles

Back in MOTHER NO. 61 (see “Great Greens!”, page 110), I described a number of scrumptious domesticated pot-herbs that you can raise-easily! —in your vegetable garden. But whether or not you’re already growing rows of kale, tendergreen, New Zealand spinach, and the like . . . you sure shouldn’t miss out on some of the best leafy munchables of all: wild greens!

Some folks, it seems, call every plant that didn’t get its pedigree from a seed company a weed, but the fact is that a lot of very delectable leaf crops spring up, spontaneously, just about everywhere . . . through cracks in cement, in agribiz cornfields, upon well-manicured lawns, and—quite probably—in your own vegetable garden! Wild greens have at least as much flavor and nutrition as do the cultivated varieties and—best of all—don’t need to be sown, watered . . . or even weeded. (Remember? They are the “weeds”.)

LAMB’S-OUARTERS One of the finest—and most common—of the “untamed leafers” is lamb’s-quarters ( Chenopodiumalbum ). This spinach relative (which, incidentally, holds its texture when canned or frozen much better than does “real” spinach) grows so widely that it’s earned a large collection of local names . . . such as goosefoot and pigweed. You ought to be able to recognize lamb’s-quarters by the jagged diamond-shaped leaves with powdery-feeling, white-dusted undersides. Remember, though, that you should never eat goosefoot—or any wild plant—until you have positively identified it as edible.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Three guidebooks to wild plants are listed at the end of this article.]

The young tender leaves of lamb’s—quarters are tastiest, so either harvest your “wild spinach” from plants no more than a foot high, or pick the youngest (uppermost) blades from more mature specimens. The delicately flavored leaves can be served up in salads, steamed, added to egg and cheese casseroles, or prepared in most any recipe calling for spinach.


Another wild green that’s earned a lot of names (including careless weed, redroot, and—once again—pigweed) is amaranth ( Amaranthus retroflexus and hy-bridus ). This extremely common plant has rough, oval-but-pointed leaves that are borne on long stalks … a stout, hairy main stem . . . and a crimsoncolored root. The fast-growing potherb doesn’t have as distinctive a flavor as lamb’s-quarters … and its relative blandness makes amaranth a good choice to mix in with any especially tangy greens that you want to “tone down”. Amaranthus —like so many other leaf crops—can be harvested either by collecting the entire young plant, or by continually pruning new growth from the stems to keep a local redroot population productive for months.

An excellent hunting ground for amaranth is the space between rows of cultivated crops. Of course, you should always ask a farmer’s permission before you go tromping through his cornfields, but believe me, most folks will gladly let you gather their amaranth plants . . . all summer long!

In times past, amaranth was a popular domesticated plant, but it was primarily raised for its shiny black seeds rather than for its leaves. In fact, back in 1519—when Cortez set out for Mexico—the Aztecs grew almost as much amaranth as they did corn . . . and Montezuma received 200,000 bushels of the plant’s seed as an annual tribute!

Nowadays, though, most North American foragers value the amaranth for its young leaves. Some people savor them as salad makings, but the fronds taste even better when fried, steamed, creamed, or boiled and served with a homemade cheese sauce.


One of my favorite wild foods is purslane ( Portulaca oleracea ), better known as “pussley”. Actually, many gardeners in our country might not give the delightful little green such an affectionate nickname. But the antagonism of such weed pullers is sadly misplaced. In many countries—including France, China, India, England, Mexico, Holland, and the Middle East—purslane is a highly respected and sought-after untamed edible . . . and is often deliberately cultivated as well.

Veteran pussley foragers find that one of the petite potherb’s most endearing assets is its “sense of timing”. In midsummer, right after most greens and salad crops have gone to seed, purslane pops up from patio cracks and garden gaps. The paddle-shaped leaves (which resemble smaller versions of jade plant fronds) shoot out from a plant that rarely grows over two inches tall but spreads horizontally—on fleshy, reddish-purple stems—with a vengeance.

The ground-hugging purslane leaves have a distinctive and slightly acid flavor (owing, no doubt, to the fact that the potherb contains more vitamin C than does an equivalent amount of orange juice!). The greens taste quite good served raw in salads or sandwiches, cooked in meat loaf, fried in an egg batter, pickled, and—because the cooked stems and leaves have a somewhat gooey, okra-like texture—added as a thickener to soups and gumbos.


The most remarkable feature of this green is its availability during the cold weather “nothing growing” season. In fact, winter cress ( Barbarea vulgaris ) is officially named after St. Barbara’s day (which occurs on December 4) precisely because folks in many areas can gather the healthful potherb even during that twilight time of the year. Barbarea vulgaris is also called scurvy grass (for its high concentration of disease-preventing vitamin C), upland cress (since—unlike stream-loving watercress—it grows in such dry land locations as fields and ditches), and spring tonic (because the hardy plant is one of the first edibles to shoot up after winter). Each winter cress leaf has a dark green basal lobe that’s accompanied by two to eight pairs of “earlike” side lobes . . . and the fastgrowing plant can reach a height of over two feet.

The youngest leaves make a crisp and tangy raw salad green, while the more mature blades serve well as a boiled or steamed vegetable. In addition, in late spring—when the grown leaves become somewhat bitter—you can pick some of the plant’s unopened flower buds, boil those soon-to-bloom stalks for five minutes, and serve up some delicious “wild broccoli”


Just about everybody is aware that you’re supposed to be able to eat the leaves of dandelions ( Taraxacumoffici nale ), but a good number of the folks who decide to give the sharply serrated blades a try find that they taste overwhelmingly bitter. Well, such unfortunate foragers have made the simple mistake of harvesting their wild crop too late. Pick the young leaves before the flower stalk appears, and I guarantee that you’ll have cooking greens that can be matched with the best around (be sure to include the tasty blanched underground leaf crowns with your pickin’s).

Furthermore, dandelions have other virtues that I can’t resist mentioning . . . even if this article is specifically about greens. The developing yellow flower buds can be dug up (you’ll find them nestled in the white crowns) before they sprout . . . and will make excellent boiled vegetables. In addition, the energy-filled root can be served as a delightful “miniparsnip” in early spring and—after dryroasting-it can also be ground up and used as a coffee substitute. So dig and use the whole plant whenever you go out dandelion “greening”. (After all, anyone who’s ever tried that spading tactic when attempting to weed a lion’s tooth out of a lawn will tell you that there’ll soon be lots more of the same species to replace any you remove!)


Of course, there are a zillion and one other flavorful wild greens: curled dock, milkweed, plantain, fireweed, watercress, wild grapes, shepherd’s purse, wood sorrel, chickweed, stork’s-bill, burdock, chicory . . . and on and on. So if you want to gather a unique—and bumper—leaf crop that you don’t have to caretake, forage for greens (” culinary delightus “) . . . and enjoy some wild but wonderful eatings.

EDITOR’S NOTE: An excellent aid in identifying native foods is Lee Peterson’s A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants (Houghton Mifflin, $8.95). Two other handy guidebooks on foraging for the undomesticated delicacies—both of which contain loads of mouthwatering recipes-are Buell Gibbons’ classic. Stalking the Wild Asparagus (David McKay, $3.95) and Billy Joe Tatum’s Wild Foods Cookbook & Field Guide (Workman, $4.95).

These three books can be obtained from many good bookstores or—for their listed prices plus 95¢ ($2.00 for three or more items) for shipping and handling—from Mother’s Bookshelf, P.O. Box 70, Hendersonville, North Carolina 28791.

MOTHER NO. 61—which contains Melinda Allan’s “Great Greens!” article—is available for $3.00 plus $1.00 shipping and handling from THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS ® , P.O. Box 70, Hendersonville, North Carolina 28791.







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Posted in Uncategorized, Words: Writing, blogging, Wordspotting, etc. | 1 Comment

Dear Older Woman. Help.

adviceDear older woman:

HELP!  My children have clogged the toilet by giving their barbies baths (Barbie’s head came off), dumped out the cereal boxes on the dining room floor because they stood on the table and made it rain while I was cleaning up the flood in the bathroom, killed the fish by pouring the fish food into the tank while I was changing the baby’s diaper, and I just found the four year old under the table with the peanut butter jar.  My 9 year old is following me around with her science book asking for help with an experiment, and my 6 year old needs phonics practice.  When am I supposed to get any school done?  When does it end?  I had tried a schedule that seemed to work for us, but   another older woman told me I did not need a schedule, I just needed to pray to let the Holy Spirit lead me each day.  I was praying about that when the toilet overflowed.

Dear young woman,

I have a disabled child.  Last night she dumped the dog food bowl into a carton of moldy sour cream I had left on the counter while the trashbag was being changed.  I forgot about it.  She then tried to eat it.  With her hands. She didn’t like it so she wiped her hands off on the counters.  Where was I?  Reading.  I *thought* the kitchen gates were closed, but she managed to get through somehow.  She’s 28. But she’s just one child. I read about all your disasters and I envy you your youth and energy.

I have six other children.When the youngest was a baby or toddler I know I had many days such asyou describe.

Honestly, while it’s probably not much help now, I found the most effective thing was to let the babies and toddlers get older.=)
At the time on any bad day, it seemed like we would be doing this forever, but now it seems like it was only a blink of an eye.  I’m not saying it’s easy, or just enjoy the messes because they grow up too fast, I’m just saying hang in there.  The best solution for this problem is to grit your teeth, hang in there, and wait for them to outgrow it.  Most of them do.

About that following the Holy Spirit’s lead: The Bible says that God is a God of decency and order, not a God of confusion. His creation is laid  out in order, the planets and stars have a rhythm, a schedule, if you  will, as do seasons, and life itself. So a schedule can be following  the Holy Spirit’s lead. A schedule can be precise, noting starting and stopping times. It could simply be a laying out of the rhythm of the day- first we do breakfast, than we do Bible, then math, then poetry… It doesn’t matter with this second schedule what interruptions there are, you just know that sometime after doing Bible you will do math.  It might mean there are four hours between those two subjects, but you have a plan.

You do kind of need to make that plan while the kids are in bed.

Or, you could pray with your eyes open, and one hand on your biggest trouble-maker.

Some people do better with a more precise schedule, but the schedule should not be the law of the medes and persians- it is simply there, on paper,  when you need it, and when you need to drop it, you drop it and pick it  back up  (If we were interrupted at 9:30 and returned to school at 10:30, we just skipped the school listed for  that hour we’d missed, and began with the 10:30 slot on the schedule).

Keeping the baby happy is probably the best way to make your day  smooth- and these are some things that have worked from time to time, in varying circumstances:
Schedule one of the older children to play with and entertain the baby while you work with the others.

Set the baby up in her high chair and put some water in the tray. Let her splash away.

Likewise, give her a dishpan of water and things to throw in it. YOu
need ot keep an eye on her of course, and it makes a grand mess, but
it’s great fun.
Cut a hole in the plastic top of a coffee can and give baby things to
drop in it (Or a shoebox)
Give baby real things to play with- the remote control, your  telephone, rocks, feathers, sea shells, pine cones, etc. If you are sure she will not eat them, save styrofoam packing peanuts and put her in a box of them, or give her a small box or bag full.
This is another messy project, but it is immensely fun.
Do some school in the bathroom while baby is in the bath.

For the 4 y.o. you can set up centers, or bags of activities, and ask her to do these during school. The centers can be books on tape and a tape recorder with head phones; playdough at the table; blocks with pictures of things to build; the dress up clothes- give her a time frame she must spend at the center before she comes to you (ten to fifteen minutes).
The bags can include things like lacing cards; scissors, tape, paste, and magazines to cut; puzzles; coloring pages; cards A through 10 of a deck of cards and some beans (she puts one bean on each spot on the card); or about ten pairs of cards from a deck for her to match; or she can toss bean bags into a laundry basket; or let her make a ‘tent’ with a sheet over a card table….
Use your imagination adn think of a few simple, messy, and off the beaten path things for them do- but then write down that list somewhere you can use it when you don’t have the luxury of thinking.=)

Also- hide a stash of chocolate in your room- way up high.

The time will pass by.  Before you know it, they’ll be teenagers and….

Well.  Let’s leave it there.  Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof and all that.=)

Well.  The easy laugh is, well, easy.  It may be that nothing here is working for you at all.  You are not alone.  Other mothers go through what you are going through and find themselves dropping salty tears on their babies while they are changing diapers. You will muddle through it somehow, because you are their mother and you love them.  It won’t be perfect.  Many days will be hard and exhausting.  Give yourselve a break.  None of us are perfect.  Do whatever it is you need to do to get through the day, and do it just for today.

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K-Drama Review: The Attorney

The_Attorney_posterLoosely based on real life events in Korea in the eighties.
From Wikipedia:

“With only a high school diploma, legal attorney Song Woo-suk (Song Kang-ho) is somewhat of an outcast in Busan society ruled by university connections. Determined to become economically affluent, he accepts cases that colleagues shun, and with his business acumen and appetite for money, he soon builds a successful practice dealing with real estate and tax law.”

In South Korea at the time, civil liberties were largely a legal fiction. Woo-Suk has zero interest in politics, however. He just wants to succeed, and success for him is determined by standard of living.

This all changes when the teen-aged son of a widow who was kind to Woo-suk when he was down is arrested on trumped up charges of sedition for being part of a book-club. The boy and his fellow students are tortured for two months until they all sign confessions to working for North Korea. Few are willing to defend them because it’s politically dangerous, of those who might, the authorities have blocked their access. The widow goes to Woo- suk for help. All they want is to let the widowed mother see her boy, and because Woo-suk is known to be totally apolitical, the authorities let him in. Seeing the evidence that the boy was tortured awakens Woo-Suk’s political conscience, and he goes to trial with a passion for justice that surprises everybody.

The acting was all outstanding, compelling, believable.  The writing is excellent, the directing inspired.  The story line is moving and there’s is a lot of food for thought. That said, the timeline confused me a couple of times. This happens to me often when watching an Asian movie. Unless I dozed off and missed something, there’s one short scene in the middle I still don’t really understand.  The significance of the ending is, I suspect, much more meaningful to an Asian audience than it was to me.

The first part of the movie is establishing the atmosphere of a good humored, but scrappling Woo-Suk. He’s come from a poor background in a place and time where background really matters.  He loves his family, but he doesn’t really concern himself with the ethical aspects of law and the political world of Korea.  He just wants to make money so his familiy can live well. This part is charming, funny, mostly light.

The second half is how he wakes up to the reality of the injustices he’s been ignoring. It’s darker, grimmer, and sometimes horrifying.

Verdict:  Watch it.

This is not the usual sort of K-Drama I review.  You know I prefer cutesy comedies and comic books turned to dramas.  But this is very, very good stuff.  It will make you think.   It’s also not for the weak of heart.  The torture scenes are hard to watch.  Probably I wouldn’t have anybody below 13 or so watching it, and I’d prefer older.  It depends on the viewer, of course.   There is one scene, as I recall, where one of the victims is in his underwear.  Anybody watching this scene who comes away from it complaining about immodesty totally missed the point.   I think the only other possible caveat is that there may have been some language.  If there wasn’t, there should have been.

There’s plenty to discuss here-

-what makes the chief torturer tick, how is it he believes in the righteousness of his cause even while he knows his practices are not socially acceptable (if you are a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, you could point out the way of the will vs the way of reason and trace the way he has reached this point quite logically)

-what is justice?  What is the point of the rule of law?  What do lawyers do and why do we need them?  Freedom of the press? What does that mean, why does it matter? What are a reporter’s responsiblities?

– How does the widow restaurant owner bless Woo-suk, and why?  What are the consequences of that one small act? Does this remind you of anything else (I was reminded of Jean Valjean and the Bishop)

-What is it that motivates the whistleblower?  How does the director convey this without actually *telling* us in words?

-How is public opinion used as a force for good in this movie?  As a force for bad?

-Why does Woo-suk want the apartment he’s chosen so badly? What does this tell us about him?


There are probably others.

I watched in on DramaFever.

Posted in Movies | Leave a comment

This Coffee

coffeeI have a new wonder drug- blend a tablespoon each butter and coconut oil into a cup of hot coffee.  Add the sweetener of your choice.  Believe me.  It’s good.

It’s okay if you have to reheat the coffee your husband made this morning while you were at the doctor’s office getting your 3 hour fasting blood draws.

When I say blend, I mean, blend.  In the blender, or in a tall cup using your immersion blender.

Did I mention 3 hour fasting, blood sugar test (the one where you drink the nasty orange drink).  Maybe that is why when I put the coffee in the mason jar and put the lid on and thought I tested it and the seal was tight…. it turned out I was wrong.  After cleaning up that mess and turning my blender upside down on a towel and hoping it will be okay, I put the rest of the hot coffee in a cup with the butter and coconut oil, put the immersion blender in – and then I asked my son’s advice.

“Um, son?” I said, my finger on the green ‘go’ button.  “Would this be very stupid?”  He does not often have the chance to- with full immunity, mind you- tell his mother she is stupid.  He may have enjoyed this opportunity just a little too much, but we can’t say I didn’t ask for it.

I did not push the green go button.

I added some sugar free Kahlua coffee syrup to mine.  I told my son this was how I was going to make my morning coffee every single day from now on.

“Probably not,” he said.  Dont’ you hate it when they know you well?  “there will be many mornings when you don’t do that.  Trust me.”

The boy has been desperately trying to bulk up of late.  He’s putting on a few inches here and there, and we’re long past the days when he wore a 28 inch waist and still needed a belt and I had to buy his pants from Asia because 28 inch waists and 34 inch inseams aren’t easy to find here.  Now he’s a whole 31 inches in the waist- although I could still drop an ice cube down his drawers and it would go all the way down.  He had consulted with his Parkour mentors and they suggested a protein drink he could try.  He’d picked up a big tub of it while I was at the doctor’s office- nasty stuff.  I am not thrilled about it.

My eyes fell on that tub of whey powder and gobbledy gook.

“You know what?” I said enthusiastically.  “YOU should make your coffee this way from now on.”

“Ha.” He scoffed, “You mean I should make enough for two every morning from now on, don’t you?”

Readers, I promise you that was actually not what I was thinking.

But it is a pretty good idea, isn’t it?

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Death and Taxes

Okay, not taxes.  This is just about death.

This is what my parents chose to do a few years ago.  They contacted a state university and made arrangements to donate their bodies to the medical department of the university once they were through with them.  When my father died, my mother notified the proper department (they’d given her a card and there was also one with Dad’s medical records).

There is information on the process here:

The how-to is pretty straightforward. Googling “willed body program” plus your state or poking around the Web site of your favorite med school will turn up detailed information and often a donor form. The institution may send you a wallet card to notify authorities of its claim at the time of death. Be sure to discuss the matter with your family and doctor so they’ll know what to do (and won’t freak) when the time comes.

They retrieved his body, and there was nothing else for my mother to do.  In my dad’s case, there was no burial, no graveside service, no expensive casket, no fees for embalming, no fees for cremation, no plot in a cemetery, no headstone to buy.  Most people would prefer to have at least a special service and perhaps a stone near other family in the cemetary.

They also handle the paperwork, including making sure a death certificate is on file, social security is notified, and they have kept in touch with my mother to let her know how the paperwork is being handled.

A memorial service is up to the family.  In our strictly unique situation for reasons which are excellent but I do not wish to go into in any detail, there was no memorial service. It won’t be that way for my mother when her time comes.  The cost of a memorial service is less than the cost of a full funeral, and whether it costs anything at all is strictly up to the family.  For my part, I’d be just fine if my family got together at our house and told stories on me, laughed, cried, forgave me all my many failings, remembered my successes and even embellished them a bit, ate good Asian food,  and hugged on each other.  I don’t have strong feelings about it, though, as I consider a memorial service is all about the survivors and their feelings and need for closure (or not), so it will be up to them.

Again, this is certainly not for everybody.  On the other hand, thousands of dollars in burial and funeral fees are also not for everybody.

My husband’s preference is a plain pine box somewhere on our property, but we understand that pine boxes are pretty expensive these days, and it’s illegal to use our property.  He started thinking about the pine box thing when he was in his twenties and he took a writing class for work. One of the essays in his writing textbook was about burial practices, and he learned then that embalming is almost never required by law- it’s a cultural practice.  Neither are caskets costing thousands of dollars a requirement, and it isn’t true that burials on your own property are illegal in every state. People are squeamish about it, but it’s a good idea to think about what you will want, and what your family can handle when your time comes. Write down your wishes, but don’t make them binding in stone. It’s not fair for the dead to guilt trip the living.  You should make some sort of plan and begin funding it now, as it’s not fair to leave your loved ones to figure everything out in the midst of their grief.

If what you want is going to cost money, start setting aside that money now in a special account and leave it there.  Or look into your state laws and regulations on burial customs now and make that plan. Or google that ‘willed body program.’

Or learn some carpentry skills and build your own pine box.

More information on one institution’s anatomical gift program here as well.

Posted in culture, Culture and Counterculture, frugalities | 6 Comments