PRATIE PLACE

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Melina illustration friday - tea


A tea plant.

Labels:

Squirrel-proof is not always enough.

This guy has been good enough to post pictures of his Birdfeeder Problem.


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You can find egregious apostrophes anywhere.

From The Banterist:

Defendant: University of Minnesota Conference and Event Services


Count 1: Usage of an apostrophe in the construction of a plural noun, a misdemeanor.

Count 2: Usage of an apostrophe in the construction of a plural noun, a misdemeanor.

Count 3: Usage of an apostrophe in the construction of a plural noun, a misdemeanor.

Count 4: Committing grammatical mischief within 1000 feet of a school.

Count 5: Committing grammatical mischief on letterhead from an educational institution.

Report: This memorandum came to Grammar Cop HQ by an individual connected with the famed "Minnesota Railroad" - a secret organization of individuals who smuggle grammatically-challenged documents out of Minnesota. Minnesota is a U.S. state which is south of Canada. Because the individual continues to work undercover during the War On Apostrophes, he or she has chosen to remain nameless until his or her identity is leaked to the press by Robert Novak.

Fine: $350 and mandatory attendance of apostrophe sensitivity classes.


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Problems with easy payments via internet...

Extracts from
Automated Payments Pose Growing Problem
as Practice Skyrockets, Consumers Encounter Obstacles To Canceling Charges; Credit vs. Debit

By Carol Hymowitz and Elizabeth Bernstein for the Wall Street Journal
February 22, 2006

As more people make use of automatic payments to pay their bills, some consumers are discovering how difficult it can be to cancel these arrangements.

Debt counselors, lawyers and Better Business Bureaus around the country are hearing an increasing number of complaints from consumers having problems stopping the recurring bills charged to their bank accounts and credit cards.

Many people seeking to halt these automatic payments are confused by the rules they must follow, which differ depending on whether payments are linked to a bank account or credit card.

Some people have filed lawsuits against vendors or their banks to keep the charges from recurring; in December, Internet service provider America Online, a unit of Time Warner Inc., agreed to pay as much as $25 million to settle a consumer class-action lawsuit over the company's billing practices.

While automatic payment arrangements are easy to set up, consumers and advisers say they can be difficult to cancel. Because vendors are reluctant to give up the stream of payments that come with automatic debits, "they will make it as difficult as possible," says Elizabeth Warren, a law professor at Harvard.

Credit-card companies say some consumers mistakenly believe they need to contact only their credit-card issuer to stop recurring charges. In fact, it's up to the consumer who links payments to a credit card to contact the vendor to get them to discontinue regular charges.

One action consumers can take is to dispute a recurring charge in writing within 60 days after it shows up on a statement. Doing this each month, however, requires vigilance and effort on the part of the consumer.

Under federal law, a bank must stop making automatic deductions from your account if you so instruct them, either orally or in writing, at least three days before the payment is made.

However, some banks also require written instructions, which they must tell consumers to provide. Once canceled, the bank is required to stop all future payments. It's advisable for consumers to also notify a merchant but it is not required.

Some consumers have resorted to lawsuits to stop automatic payments.

Some experts advise that consumers are better off paying bills online via their bank's Web site ... The automatic plans also could result in the consumer relinquishing negotiating leverage with vendors or landlords. For example, if you have a leak in your apartment and your landlord won't fix it, you can't hold back rent until the problem is fixed.



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Monday, February 27, 2006

There is a rule in telenovelas: the more dastardly the villain, the more extraordinary the demise. Why isn't life like this?

After watching a telenovela's villains get away with murder and more for months, we start yearning for their inevitably dreadful ends.

I am already happily fantasizing about the terrible things which will surely happen to the villains of Alborada.

To whet our appetites, I asked my readers to send in some examples of fondly-remembered celestial justice as executed in the telenovelas... Would that real life afforded the same reliable satisfaction.

Jean:

Horrible deaths and satisfying comeuppances of villians - great idea. Here are the ones that come to mind:

Gata Salvaje: One evil character (I think her name was Eduarda) was eaten by alligators. The other villian, Patricio, tried to kill himself by jumping off a building but he didn't pick a high enough building. He survived but was completely paralyzed. It's not clear whether he is aware of what has happened to him but it is suggested that he is and they just end the novela with him that way being cared for as a penance by this mother who abandoned him as an infant on a beach.

Velo de Novia: This started out as a great telenovela that got totally messed up when they killed everyone off in the middle and basically started with a new cast. Azael, a doctor who was a homicidal maniac, is finally arrested. He tries to escape from prison by getting his evil daughter, Raquela, to give him a drug that makes him appear to be dead (shades of Romeo and Juliet here). She screws it up, gives him the wrong drug or something. She thinks he is actually dead and then he wakes up in his coffin unable to move or speak and I think he is cremated.

Raquela (who was extemely vain about her beauty and haughty about her social position) gets sent to prison with her aunt (who is currently playing Victoria in Alborada). Raquela is horribly burned and disfigured when trying to kill someone else in prison. She doesn't die but being hideous and in prison with common criminals is pretty bad.

Ricarda, the socially prominent mother of the male lead Jose Manuel, is so upset that her son is going to marry a mere costuera (seamstress) that she shoots and kills him at his wedding. She then goes insane, is put in a sanatorium, tries to kill another inmate by setting her room on fire and is burned to death when her room is set on fire in turn.

Of course, you've already done Entre el Amor y el Odio, which had two great deaths - the leper and and the horribly burned Napoleon impersonator.


Ruth:

Apuesta Por Un Amor: This had several "bad guys" but Álvaro was the worst. Álvaro - the rapist, murderer and drunk - got his come-uppance when, in the end, they all found out that he was behind all the evil that had been done and sent him to jail where he was rapped then had his eyes gouged out by a fellow inmate. Gross and disturbing but deserved, imho!

Amarte Es Mi Pecado: Isaura, who had her step-daughter's baby traded for a dead baby so she'd think it was dead and therefore Isaura could use her to make money (if you saw the scene of her with the dead baby you know what an awesome actriss Yadhira Carillo is, that was a really hard scene to watch). This was my first novella and I didn't understand much Spanish so I missed a lot of the plot. But in the end Isaura ended up stuck in the back of a semi-truck with all the money she stole and extorted, unable to get out and, though we didn't see her die, it is presumed that she died in the back of the truck... probably from the heat and maybe lack of oxygen.


Carole:

AWFUL ENDINGS for villians--but in this case, not death--- brings to mind Rubi's fall from the top of the staircase resulting in her living out her days with a totally deformed, hard-to-look-at face and body. Because of her beguiling beauty, she had been able to bewitch everyone, good and bad, so the ending was pretty satisfying -- except, of course, for the fact that her daughter then carried out her evil doings many years later.

Second example was the fate of Efrain, villanous son of Rebecca in Inocente De Ti, who ends up a quadrapalegic and cannot speak, communicate, or move and must live in this state for the rest of his life -- this after unspeakable complicity in his Mom's crimes. His mom, Rebecca ends up in an insane asylum and her lovely roommates smother her to death with a pillow, which is the way she killed her sister, her servant and one other (?).

Oh- another good example was the death of Leonardo, the vilano horible in Clase 406 (2003?) who died in the middle of the desert--no food, no water, no one anywhere nor would there ever be anyone who could find him. He stumbles around for days, several episodes--and that was glorious to watch. Amazing how I can't remember what I went upstairs to retrieve, but I can remember how LEONARDO died in the desert 4 years ago in a telenovela!


Margarita:

El Maleficio: The main character, Enrique de Martino, practices the black arts and murders many, both through witchcraft and more traditional methods like hired hitmen and electrocution. He finally gets his come-uppance when his house literally burns down while he's trying to offer his new wife's son, a natural born medium, as an ally to the demon he serves. The boy is rescued by his dad and Enrique dies as his house implodes.

La Venganza: The main character, Maria, is poor and ends up marrying the guy from the big house. His sister-in-law disapproves of this and frames Maria by claiming she stole her bracelet, even though she herself dropped it into a mud pile on Maria's doorstep and told her she should "pick it up with her teeth so her hands wouldn't tarnish it." Maria goes to jail and her little hut is burned out with her grandfather in it. Maria eventually meets up with her birth father (who is, as is the case in many soaps with missing parents, a millionaire) and buys the big hacienda next door and buys off her former in-laws' old debts and then asks her old sister-in-law to lift the IOUs with HER teeth from a mud puddle she's had her gardner stirring all day! At the end she chickens out, but the look on the villainess' face is priceless.

Cuna de Lobos: The Larios family is full of evil intrigue as led by the family matriarch who wears a patch on her eye to match all her outfits. We later find out she never really lost her eye, but just pretended - in order to keep her stepson (who had accidentally poked her in the eye with a top allegedly poking her eye out) racked with guilt and totally traumatized. The novela starts with the death of her husband (who she herself poisoned) and the will stating that her son cannot receive his inheritance until he produces a child. We then find out his wife, Vilma, is unable to conceive. He and mom plot to stage a fake wedding to an employee from their company, the one who found dad dead, and impregnating her, then having her killed by the nurse who helped deliver the baby. The woman survives, eventually marries the stepson and gets her baby back. The child was originally named "Edgar" after Vilma's dad (and they all call him "el pequeño Edgar" or Little Edgar), but when his mom got him back she named him "Braulio" after HER dad. At the very end, little Braulio and his younger half-brother are running through the mansion and sneak into grandma's old room. Braulio grabs one of her old patches and when his brother asks "Braulio, what are you doing," he turns to him wearing the eye patch and says "I am not Braulio, I am Little Edgar." It's pretty eerie.

As for Ruth's question about "bad guys winning," I can only think of some endings lefts as enigmas. In "El Maleficio," after the house implodes and burns down, the portrait of the evil ancestor who DeMartino uses to contact the demon survives the fire and its eyes light up in red, as he usually did when something evil was about to happen.


Teka:

I missed most of La Virgen Esposa, but my husband and I caught the last few episodes. One of the villains is in a shoot-out with the hero and heroine. They are dangerously close to a sheer cliff. At one point (as nearly as we can remember) the bad guy either lost his own gun or threw it down melodramatically. He then picked up a ROCK, rather than the gun, staggered forward with murder in his eyes ... and fell over the cliff.

My husband's pet phrase for an act of sheer mindboggling stupidity is now "Bringing a rock to a gun fight."


Jean:

This doesn't involve death of villians but is an example of the incredible silliness of "novelas" in death scenes. In her summary of Entre el Amor y el Odio, Melinama mentioned that even after being shot and falling off a tall building, characters could still speak their last words. Well, in Velo de Novia, the original plot involved a heart transplant. José Manuel, a popular bicycle racer, is engaged to the evil Raquela but falls in love with her saintly sister, Ángeles. Meanwhile, he is loved by afar by Andrea who is poor and has a heart condition. Ángeles is injured in an auto accident and is declared BRAIN DEAD.This enables her heart to be transplanted into Andrea. In the hospital, I don't think Ángeles even had a bandage on her head, only the tasteful nasal oxygen tube. In spite of being brain dead, she is nevertheless able to speak with José Manuel and bid him a tender farewell before sort of staring vacantly into space. It was moving but really silly.


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Satisfying reprisals

My telenovela is far from over but I've already started speculating happily about what kind of terrible end its villains will come to.

The nigh-incontrovertible rule of telenovelas is: The badder you are, the worse you die.

As I've written before, I saw one villainess trampled by a horse into a bloody pool of mush in a stable; one pair of villains got leprosy AND were shot AND fell off a very high statue onto a stone pavement (and still lived to give defiant, unrepentant speeches before dying); one pair of high-falutin cronies got toted off to jail in sackcloth and executed.

An exception to the DEAD rule was Rubi, who destroyed everybody's life with her great beauty. (It wasn't the GUYS' fault, of course, they couldn't help themselves...) Rubi fell through glass or over a high stair railing or something and survived, BUT SHE WASN'T BEAUTIFUL ANY MORE. The reason they let her live was that they planned a sequel...

UPDATE: My dear friends who watch telenovas have left me these wonderful examples.

How very much more satisfactory this is than real life. In the world I observe empirically, evil certainly often seems to triumph. The evil live to play golf another day.

Remember that song, "Farther Along" ?

Tempted and tried, we're oft made to wonder,
Why it should be thus, all the day long;
While there are others, living about us
Never molested, though in the wrong.

Farther along, we'll know all about it.
Farther along, we'll understand why,
Cheer up my brothers, walk in the sunshine
We'll understand it all, by and by.

Heaven had to be invented to right the wrongs we see in this world. If we insist that everything comes out fair "in the end," then "in the end" has to be extended past the time we ourselves can see.

In the telenovela world, you don't have to wait that long. Qué rico!

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Illustration Friday - "Tea"


This time I took a picture instead of scanning and it came out better.

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Toys

I went to visit a friend who lives in a beautiful rustic packhouse on an old tobacco farm in Durham. It used to be part of a little batch of farm outbuildings inhabited by hippies, but the hippies mostly burned down the rest of them by accident. From the rolling fields, one has an excellent view, over hill and dale, all the way to the Shearon Harris Nuclear Facility.

Judy sells educational toys for Montessori schools online at mandalaclassroom.com. She invented an amazing game called "Imaginary Island" after watching kids play with some flash-cards she had drawn and hand-colored with illustrations of land and water forms.

The game has 84 square pieces about 3" square; some squares are all green or green with mountains or lakes, but most squares are half ocean. Some have rocky shoreline and some have sandy beaches; some are straight, some include fjords, glaciers, peninsulae. There is an isthmus and bays and all the crenellations a shoreline may contain. There are hundreds of ways to play with these pieces. There are game pieces (lizards, turtles, squirrels, etc) and dice and compass and game cards and it's an amazing world.

But the thing I liked best about this game was the way it felt to touch and hold the pieces. They are made out of something strong and hard and very flat - they will never warp like jigsaw puzzle pieces. They are not plastic, they are very hard dense heavy stuff. And the fronts (with the land and water forms) and backs (with the names of the forms) are made out of some paper which is smooth and silky. When I had one of these pieces in my hand, I didn't want to put it down. I marvelled at how straight and perfect the edges were, and the substantial clicking sound they made when you put them down or put them in their box.

The box! Strong, and straight, made by hand out of strong silky wood by some guy in Tennessee. The game pieces all fit into it perfectly.

OK, to me the point is this. This set is so beautiful. After I put my island together, well, it was so lovely, with its deep, subtle colors and smooth satiny pieces which fit together so beautifully. My island was an object I could look at and touch. (I couldn't stop handling those pieces.)

Judy says kids go nuts for the islands they make - their imaginations take the game much farther than she had ever anticipated.

Sadly, most things kids get to play with these days are (a) plastic; (b) cheap, warped cardboard; or (c) computer stuff. As the big box stores work harder and harder to reduce their costs more and more, few games, toys or dolls are made well, or made out of anything nice, any more.

I'm reminded of a toy I saw when I accompanied Zed to Wal-Mart to buy a present for his younger brother. It was a "McDonald's Drive-Through" game! It came with a plastic headset, plastic hamburger, plastic french fries! So you could pretend to be the guy who gives people hamburgers at McDonalds! Preparation for a future career.

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Telenovela Alborada, #19

Owing to a mothering disaster, I didn't get to watch till after midnight, hence I've had no time to proof this. Read at your own risk!

This is one in a series of recaps of the Univision telenovela Alborada.
In order to read the whole post, you must now click "read the rest" at the bottom of this summary! If you are new, please visit the recaps in ORDER - see the bottom of this post for information.


GUEST BLOGGERS STILL NEEDED!
Covering for me while I'm out of town: Sylvia has volunteered to do March 6th and 8th. Jean has volunteered to do March 1st, 9th, and 10th. That leaves March 2nd, 3rd, and 7th to be covered. If YOU would like to do a guest recap or two, leave your contact info in the comments section or email me at melinama@mappamundi.com


Wednesday: Well, as you know, my machine did not record Tuesday night's program, so I watched the "previously on Alborada" section with interest. Cristóbal, lying in bed with no shirt on, marries Catalina, who looks very lovely. They exchange the rings of his parents and kiss each others' hands! Annoying martial music plays! Who chose this music?

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST!

Luis is away somewhere impatiently waiting for the kidnappers to show up but, of course, they don't. That's because Juana's henchpeople, Gasca and Modesta, were the kidnappers, and they don't exactly want Luis to know that. So Luis missed Cristóbal's wedding for nothing. Eventually Felipe gets him to return home.

Francisco is drinking alone when his wife Asuncion arrives. He says "our luck has changed." Now that Catalina will be wife - or widow - of a very wealthy man, Francisco will be able to sit with his feet up and get hammered every single day without having to worry about money. Asunción says, well can you at least stop blackmailing Juana now? But he doesn't see any reason to cut off that income stream. He grabs her and pulls her into his lap but she slithers away. He doesn't care, he still has his bottle.

At Cristóbal's, more praying and another upwelling of platitudes from Hipólita. Let's see: "Tomorrow is another day," "Don't lose hope," "Look for the silver lining," "There's light at the end of every road," "I've lost half my life, so God will make sure the second half is beautiful" [Only somebody with no memory could think such a thing. -- Ed.] More anachronistic music. [Music of that time was very beautiful. Too bad the producer didn't have enough faith in us to use it. -- Ed.]

Juana is reduced to sending a very stupid servant with her note for Luis ("Come see me immediately!"), because she already has sent her smart ones off to do dreadful things.

Diego is carried home from the inn slung over his horse like a sack of potatoes. He'd been carousing with Rodrigo and Antonio. He's desperate to pee but the servants won't let him use the bushes. He giggles very strangely as they drag him up the stairs.

Luis gets back to Cristóbal's place, sees him burning up with fever, and has him submerged in an ice bath. This turns the tide, so to speak, and Cristóbal is on the mend. By morning he'll be ready for juice and chicken soup, the doctor says.

Juana is going ahead with plan B as suggested by Gasca. "A second note came while you were gone, Luis, the kidnappers didn't dare face you, they went elsewhere and I sent Gasca with the money. He'll bring the kid back." She continues with another feeble cascade of lies. She tells of her plan to have Hipólita be Rafael's nanny - a plan with an eccentric logic since Hipólita is actually Rafael's mother, even if she doesn't remember it. Luis promises: "I'm going to tell her everything as soon as I get our child back."

Juana: "I want Rafael here forever!" Luis: "He'll only stay if Hipólita agrees."

I recognize this old war-horse of an anachronistic cello piece that gets played outside the church but I can't think of the name right now.

Cristóbal's sister jokes with Luis: "I'm not sure Cristobal would ever have married under any regular circumstances," Cristóbal says he's not sorry he married Catalina. Some feeble but cheerful banter shows he's on the mend.

Luis, suspicious, asks Marcos and friend to find out where Gasca was on the previous day, then vows to Hipólita: "I'm leaving Cuencas and coming back tomorrow, hopefully with my son, and then there are many things I want to tell you." "Are these things sad?" "Well, ... uh, life has pains, also happiness. And me, I've had far more pain than happiness." "Even thoughh there are obstacles, you can succeed." Platitudes R Us.

Antonio accosts Luis on his way out of town. Antonio wants to hash out the problems with the regidor, the documents, the hiding of the truth from Hipólita, etc. and he endears himself to me NOT by saying several times in this episode "She's my wife and I have all the rights over her." Luis: "OK, go ahead and tell her everything - be sure not to forget that your mother and you threw me in her bed to make you a son." Onlookers titter appreciatively at this public airing of dirty linen by aristocrats. It's sort of like hearing people's cellphone conversations.

Marina and Isabel get ready for their meeting with Sara and Victoria, who are getting ready at the same time on the other side of town. Sara is very frightened - not having been out of the house for so long - but Victoria is encouraging, telling her mom that her mom's dead parents are looking down from heaven to protect her.

Hipólita is frightened - she's decided people would have told her more about her past life if what there was to tell was ok. The longer they tell her nothing, the more worried she is.

Antonio wants to talk to Hipolita (and tell her everything), but Isabel heads him off.

The regidor has not got the chops to help Antonio procure new traveling papers. And there are those border problems...

For about the tenth time Hipolita harrasses Ada for information. She finds out she and Luis loved each other. "Did we go to bed?" "Yes." "Oh no, I'm a whore! Me engaged and him married!" "No, you didn't know."

Antonio comes but Hipólita has a terrible headache (I don't blame her). She also feels nausea. Uh-oh! We know what that ALWAYS means! Have you noticed men in telenovelas never get nauseated? And that only pregnant women get nauseated? Antonio says he'll come back tomorrow. "Ada, don't tell me I slept with him too!" "No, I swear." "OK, I guess it's a consolation I was the whore of only one man and not many."

The last scene is between Catalina and Cristóbal, who is now wearing a shirt and has had the opportunity to have his silly facial hair groomed meticulously. He talks to her about how it's going to be, to be the lady of the palace. She says she's afraid she won't be a good wife, he says, well I'm afraid I won't be a good husband, so we're in the same boat. It's very sweet.

Thursday: Show was pre-empted by some awards thing.

Friday:
  • Asuncion is surprised (she shouldn't be) that her awful husband Francisco was sort of hoping Cristóbal would die. "Nothing wrong with my being concerned about our family's welfare. You know how much our daughter Catalina would have inherited as his widow? This palace would have been ours! And he had a lot of other properties too!" "For this you accepted the wedding, because you tought he'd die?" "No, it's just that if he'd died everything would have been easier!" "I never thought you were so awful, such a ruin. I'm tired of your uselessness, you don't have a spark of nobility, and you treat Andrés so badly." Wow! Francisco coils up a heavy rope in his hand and whips around with it threatening his wife and knocking things over and he pulls the tablecloth off the table. You can bet HE doesn't plan to clean up this mess he's making!

  • In the square, there are fire-eating snake-oil-selling acrobats performing in the square when Victoria and Sara (heavily veiled) arrive for their meeting with Isabel. Sara, who has left her house for the first time in 36 years, is horrified to see the fire and has a post-traumatic stress flashback to when her parents and brothers were burned at the stake in the square by the Inquisition (for being Jews).

    Isabel arrives and instantly recognizes Sara. She is saddened by her burns - gotten in the very fire which killed Carlos and Aurora - and shocked to discover it was Juana who denounced Sara's relatives causing the Inquisition to incinerate them. Sara thinks Juana did it out of jealousy of the affection Juana's brother and sister-in-law felt for Sara. They have a sweet, poignant, emotional conversation.

    Flashback to a time when Sara, with young Victoria in tow, visited Juana to ask her for help in retrieving the family Olvieda's ashes. (Isabel was living in Peru during this whole period and only heard about it later from Juana.) Not only did Juana not help, she refused to let Sara see the boys (little Diego and little Luis), and said if Sara didn't disappear permanently, Juana would denounce her to the Inquisition and there'd be one more incinerated Jew removed from Mexico.

    UPDATE:Clarification and correction from Jean:

    I didn't understand the chronology here until I watched it several times. We know that Sara was burned in the fire on the chalana. She tells Isabel that it tooks months for her to heal. THEN she found out that her family had been denounced and "were going to be burned alive" (los iban a quemar vivos - using the verb ir + a to mean to be going to to something, i.e., it hadn't happend yet). In spite of her fear, she goes to Cuencas to try and see them before the execution and asks help from Juana who rejects her, etc. etc. What confused me before I focused on those pesky verb tenses was that we know that Sara witnessed the execution so it could not have happened while she was recovering from the burns she got in the fire.

    A nice costume touch is that in the flashback of the scene with Juana and Sara, we see Juana in the fashion of most of the eighteenth century, a tight-fitting bodice with a flat front and panniers. The Revolution in Fashion as it is called with the change to the shapeless slip-like dresses occurred about 1790 so when Luis and Diego were babies, the old style was still being worn.


    While strolling about the plaza, Victoria tells Marina she should occupy a better social position that she does, that she should marry a gentleman and raise some grandbabies already. Marina says it won't be possible, not because of money but because of "other things" (she doesn't say so but the other things include, for instance, that having been raped by Diego she is no longer a virgin).

    When Marina and Isabel get back to the castle, Marina wants to know what took place in that long meeting, but Isabel needs a big stiff drink first. Then: "Your mother was accused of killing your father, but don't worry, it wasn't true, because you were with him the day he was murdered, and afterwards you were gone. Sara and Victoria went plumb loco looking for you with no success." Marina cries, probably in confusion and dismay to finally know her own mother under such odd circumstances.

  • Also idly watching the acrobats out there in the plaza, Antonio says to Rodrigo: "The Guevaras are a family of despots, running everybody's lives, they think they are kings and queens. Juana raised one drunk and one shameless man." "Do you think it's true what Diego told us last night, that Esperanza's child is his doing?" "Who knows?"

    Rodrigo has received a letter from his father, saying the insurrection is gaining power and properties are being stolen away by the political rebels. This could leave our Panamanian aristocrats destitute. "My father will try to defend what's ours with teeth and claws. He doesn't want me doing business with Diego unless I get cash." Speaking of cash, Antonio is fairly cash-poor since investing in Diego's vanilla plantation and still talks of visiting his ATM.

  • Esperanza, her servant Mirtha in tow, steals into Hipólita's room. Viewing the sleeping woman (calling her "dormidota"), Esperanza hisses disbelief that they share a father - "She doesn't look like us. She isn't pretty. What does Luis see in her?"

    She steals Hipólita's medicine and asks Mirtha to run it over to Carmo, the cigar-smoking negro gypsy healer, to find out what's in it. It turns out to be just pain killer and sleeping potion. "Nothing more?" asks Esperanza in disappointment.

    Still sleeping, Hipólita dreams of the day of Rafael's baptism. On that day, Luis took her to a big house he planned to buy for her, showed her around, prayed with her, had a faux wedding with her in front of a dusty mirror, and then had sex with her on the floor. Hence, no doubt, her current nausea. Speaking of which ...

    If, as I speculate, she is pregnant, just imagine! She's had sex just twice in more than four years and each time she got pregnant! She and Luis must make a very fecund combination. If they end up together and she doesn't watch out she'll end up with a couple dozen kiddlies.

  • Esperanza wants to overdose Hipólita with her own (laudanum?) and kill her. Mirtha rightly points out that since Esperanza is known to have nearly killed Diego with a potion, she'll be suspect #1 should another peculiar poisoning occur.

  • Luis and Felipe tried to head Gasca off at the pass on his way back from ransoming Rafael, but he never showed up - not surprisingly, Juana had lied about the road and Gasca went a different way precisely so Luis wouldn't see him.

    Felipe counsels Luis to have a cool head and not go barging off in four directions at once (this was John Lennon's counsel to us all). His point - that if they don't go back to Cuencas right away Luis may miss his chance to spin the story of Hipólita's life to his own advantage - prevails and they head back.

  • Perla is doing a booming twilight business out on the plaza, no doubt because she has such excellent posture. To my great surprise, she comes on to ANTONIO and he accepts! He must want to find out if his equipment really does work.

    She and Antonio go to her house and next thing we see them side by side naked in bed, languidly post-coital. He asks her about Francisco; she disparagingly calls Francisco a homely old fart who nevertheless may get her a job at a card-house. As Antonio leaves her house, Ramon and the mute are barging in. Antonio gives the lowlife scum a courtly bow and a cordial, perhaps ironic, "good evening gentlemen."

  • Ramón reports all to Sara.

  • I thought I saw a full-sized dead person being lowered from a tree as Luis and Felipe galloped by.

  • The week ends with another peaceful lovely discussion between Cristóbal and his new wife Catalina. He asks what she wants from their future and she says, "To be a good, obedient wife and care for our kids if God sends us some." "Well, what I want is for us to trust each other, tell each other everything. Don't be afraid of me. Most married people live as if they were separate, barely tolerant, regarding each other with indifference, I don't want an obedient wife, I want a companion and friend. And by the way, please," he begs for the second time, "use the familiar "tu" with me!" That's a cute little shtick.


I post the new update every Wednesday and Saturday morning. All Alborada recaps are now listed in the sidebar to the right - below the small picture of Modesta and Doña Juana, just above the elephant. Click on the numbers (ONE TWO THREE ... ETC) to find them!

Amor Real
Entre el Amor y el Odio



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Friday, February 24, 2006

Menticia does Illustration Friday: "Tea"



Menticia painted this for Illustration Friday.

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Cheney and Whittington rendered in Legos

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From the Mini-fig Famous People series, via BoingBoing.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

About Edward Teach, alias "Blackbeard."

Ben Franklin wrote a broadside in 1719 about the sea battle between Lieutenant Maynard and the pirate Captain Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard. I recently set it to music and my band is performing it in Connecticut soon.

In preparation for that program, here are some things I found out about Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard:
  • He was able to read and write, unusual in his set;

  • Some say he forced his captives to eat their own ears;

  • He is said to have had fourteen teenage wives, whom he would lock them in room to starve;

  • He placed lit matches in his hair and beard so it would seem to enemies that his head was spouting fire. People took him for Satan;

  • He was 6'4" tall;


  • Originally Edward Drummond, he was born in Bristol England around 1680;

  • He started out as an "honest seaman.", sailing out of his home port of Bristol, England;

  • He soon left Bristol for Jamaica, where he became a privateer and where pirate Benjamin Hornigold gave him a small vessel to command in 1716;

  • In 1718 he left the Caribbean and sailed north, encountering several ships who with him. By the time they reached Charleston in late May, he had nearly seven hundred men under his command.

  • That same year - proving that crooks sometimes travel in high society - Blackbeard bought a nice house in Bath, North Carolina and was married to Mary Ormond, the 16 year old daughter of a wealthy plantation owner (and apocryphally his fourteenth teenage wife), by the state's Governor, Charles Eden, who was his next-door neighbor.


The end of Teach, chronicled by 13-year-old Benjamin Franklin in his broadside entitled The Downfal of Pyracy", came about this way:

Governor Spotswood of Virginia, perhaps distressed by how chummy Governor Eden was with Blackbeard, decided to run him out of Carolina. (Teach, not Eden.) He sent Lieutenant Maynard by sea to capture Blackbeard. On the morning of November 22, 1718, Maynard and Blackbeard fought near Teach's Hole at Ocracoke Inlet. Blackbeard received twenty sword wounds and five gun shot wounds before he was brought down.

Blackbeard's severed head was hung from Maynard's bowsprit as a trophy and also to prove that the pirate was indeed dead. His body was thrown overboard.



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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Telenovela Alborada, #18

This is one in a series of recaps of the Univision telenovela Alborada.
In order to read the whole post, you must now click "read the rest" at the bottom of this summary! If you are new, please visit the recaps in ORDER - see the bottom of this post for information.


THREE THINGS OF NOTE:

1. My VCR did not record the show tonight (Tuesday night), so I missed it. Could one of you please send along a summary for me to post? (UPDATE:I have added the summary which Sylvia put into the comments into the main body of the post. Thanks!)

2. Soon I will be posting a list of villains who met with terrible ends in telenovelas. If you have one leave it in the comments, or email it to me at melinama@mappamundi.com, and I will include it!

3. I will be traveling and unable to watch Alborada in early March! I'll post the recap for March 1 and then will probably be out of commission until March 13. I will try to watch sometimes while I'm gone, and I will try to leave my VCR programmed to tape the episodes I miss - if it succeeds, I'll post my recaps later. But if the power goes out, I'll have nothing. If YOU would like to do a guest recap or two, leave your contact info in the comments section or email me at melinama@mappamundi.com


Monday: Anytime you see something I have not written about, the people are having one of two conversations:

1. "How's Cristóbal?" "Very bad."
2. "Luis is taking the rescue money later, to get his son Rafael back."

Diego is making friends right and left after his decision to shoot Cristóbal. He prances along on his toes with a happy look on his face. He tells Gasca: "You should have followed my order to kill Luis. Now we've lost a good chance." Gasca says: "There'll be other opportunities. Killing Luis just then would have been a mistake in front of the world. By the way, I'll be gone for a day, picking up Modesta from her little village." "No way you're going. She can get back on a burro." "Well you tell Doña Juana then, I'm between a rock and a hard place." "You work for me!" Diego mentions that zaftig widow again. I wonder what he'd think if he knew she was a Pirate Queen?
CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST!

Juana is droopy and despondent. When Diego busts in to her chambers squealing: "Gasca works for ME NOT YOU!" she slaps him in slow motion (I bet that's hard). She shows every single tooth in her head (nice teeth) as she yells about the shame he is bringing on the family. Diego's response: "It's not my fault Cristóbal is an imbecile!" She throws him out. Gasca gives her rescue note #2 saying Rafael is in a mountain town about a day's ride distant. Juana: "Bring Rafael to me first, have Modesta hang out in an inn for a few hours before she comes back."

As Cristóbal is carried past them on the stretcher, drenched in blood (a guy did manage to dig the bullet out of him with a finger, no anesthetic), Antonio explains to his friend Rodrigo (who has just asked: "How could Diego do such a thing?") that Diego has emotional problems. Very twentieth century!! Hipólita wants to know WHAT emotional problems, Antonio says he'll explain later.

I think Antonio wants to start a "Wretched Sons of Awful Mothers Club" with himself and Diego as the founding members.

Esperanza wants to ask Antonio what his "intentions" are concerning Hipólita.

Francisco and his wife Asuncion are waiting at Cristóbal's palace, wondering about the outcome of the duel. With his customary beady eye on the most important aspect of any situation, Francisco frets: "If Diego dies, Juana won't want to keep paying me blackmail money." His wife just blubbers. In my opinion Francisco is our most infuriating character and I could SO do without that whimpering Asunción.

Perla and Catalina are also waiting. Perla muses that she's never seen a duel, duels are only for the gentry. "In the village, guys just whip out their knives and go at it." She pries and Catalina gets annoyed and says: "I don't talk to whores." "I may be a whore but I'm also a child of God - do only the well-born deserve your attention?" "It's not that - it's that you're a bad person."

Isabel, unimpressed by Hipólita's religious platitudes, says: "In this world, if you're a sheep you're food for the wolves."

Ramon and his sidekick see the duel aftermath. They report to Higinio, who reports to Sara. Again she says: "Diego intrigues me. His dad was a right guy and his mother was an angel, how did he turn out so bad?" Higinio says he doesn't believe Rafael was kidnapped for money.

Antonio and Hipólita continue to have discussions about whether she should stay at the Guevara's or go to a hostel with him. She feels strongly it would be improper to let him pay for her room at the hostel. He lets slip that he was with her when she was mugged.

Then she sees Diego's children; that triggers something in her foggy foggy mind and she starts to cry. Of course then she has to ask: "Why am I crying?" See how tiresome that is?

Luis doesn't want Cristóbal to get Extreme Unction. "You're my only brother, don't abandon me, fight!"

In the midst of all this disaster, Victoria the Pirate Queen is pressing on with her own agenda. She asks Marina: "Wouldn't you like to go with me and see Paris, Vienna, Rome?" Marina really would rather stay with Isabel. Victoria presses and presses and is finally allowed to see Isabel, who is devastated by Cristóbal's condition - she's known him since he was a kid.

Victoria tells Isabel: "There's somebody with stuff to tell you, I can't tell you who it is or what she has to tell, but you know her." She just nags and nags and nags and finally Isabel says ok, noon tomorrow.

Perla wants to talk to Luis but the reverse is not true. He says he never wants to see her again. She throws herself on her knees and begs for pardon. He says he'll never pardon her but she can keep the house.

The Regidor spins some bureaucratic whatever about Antonio's papers. Antonio would have to go to Mexico City to start taking care of this - no notary public will be acceptable. He says he doesn't want to leave Cuencas. Then the regidor squints at him and says; "Luis was in here yesterday, he says that kid you were taking to Panama is his. You said the kid was the servant's! I'd like to see this clarified." Antonio plays with his hair.

Luis tells Esperanza that if she'd grant him a divorce, she could marry the father of her child! She takes this suggestion to Diego, who says: "I'd never marry a woman who'd put the horns on her husband, especially not with his cousin! Anyway, you're going to miscarry that baby just like all the others." She goes back and rants to Mirtha about the humiliation: "He treated me like a whore! I'm going to go rat him out to Fray Alvaro [of the Inquisition]." Her sensible servant Mirtha suggests this is a very bad idea.

Finally, Doña Juana comes up with a solution for Hipólita's quandary about imposing on the Guevara hospitality: "Would you like a job? You can be the nanny for this little boy that will be here soon." Hipólita likes this idea and Isabel thinks it's pretty keen also.

Tuesday: I missed this one but Sylvia wrote the following:

Hippólita accepts Juana's offer to be Rafael's nanny and runs off to tell Adalgisa. Isabel, always the pragmatist, wonders if Hippólita won't regain her memory upon seeing Rafael. Juana is optimistic, saying "she hasn't remembered anyone else, why her son?" Isabel points out "a son is a son and blood will tell." Juana, battling her own internal demons about family, says something like "Nah."

Sor Teresa shows up at Cristóbal's bedside as last rites are being given. (What is that music they are playing?) A lot of time will be spent on last rites. Then Carmela shows ups. Francisco is obnoxious and can't decide whether he is annoyed at the visitors or pleased to be "in charge" while Cristóbal dies. He's smug and it's irritating and he keeps ordering the help to straighten up.

Sara's minion Higinio arrives to update her on current events regarding the duel and Cristóbal's condition. Interestingly Victoria (the PIRATE) goes off on "rules of honor" regarding Diego shooting Cristóbal. Sara wonders, "Gee, and his parents were such good people." Higinio mentions Gasca, a scar, and Victoria starts to figure out he might be Gascon, the man who killed her husband, stole her daughter and ruined her life. If it's the last thing she does she will avenge the destruction of her life! (I would love to see her get in a swordfight with Gasca!)

Mirtha sees Antonio at the Guevara palace and asks him to come inside for a bit to talk to Esperanza. I'm not sure but I think she's trying to get allies on Esperanza's side. Of course Esperanza blows the opportunity and goes all bipolar, first losing it and then sweetly lying to Antonio that Luis is her baby's father and he should tell Hippólita the truth. Mirtha reminds her afterward that she already told everybody that Andres impregnated her. Oops, Esperanza forgot. Sheez.

All the women in black arrive at the DeLara palace to join the others, Juana, Isabel, Hippólita, Ada, Marina. Asuncion talks to Juana (amazing!) and wonders what's going to happen when Rafael calls Hippólita Mama. Juana is on an optimistic roll..."We'll think of something." Prayer time ensues. Luis hates to leave Cristóbal's side but he has to retrieve his kidnapped child (what a pipe dream). Off he goes past the praying women, saying goodbye to Juana and Isabel and making deep eye contact with Hippólita.

Hoorah!!! Perla packs her bags and moves out, of course she can't resist making eyes at the young serving men on her way out. Boy is she ever peeved when she gets home and sees the mess that some intruders made of her house. Just wait...

Flash to scene of Luis waiting for the Rafael hand off.

Love is in the air. First Andres (who is hating Diego with renewed vigor) has second thoughts about rejecting Marina simply because she is used goods. Then, in an interesting turn of events, Cristóbal wakes and announces he wishes to marry Catalina to restore (or secure?) her honor. Wow, everyone jumps into action to make this happen. They go on and on about "matrimonio in extremis." (Anyone ever heard this term?) Catalina loves Cristóbal but is in torment 1) about the "in extremis" part and 2) she is still guilt-ridden about the duel. Nevertheless she is persuaded to marry by Francisco (big surprise) and Ascuncion. The ladies in black agree to witness the ceremony but furrow their brows and shoot meaningful glances around the room. Cataline cries at the impossibility of it all, but Hippólita pulls some white lilies out of a vase, hands them to Catalina and urges her to smile because "there are no impossibles." Optimistic music swells in the background.

Flash to scene of Luis STILL waiting for the Rafael handoff.

Antonio and Rodrigo are back at the pub eating pipian. They both feel guilty about Cristóbal and their involvement with Diego. Antonio is still in kindred spirit mode, "Diego has emotional probelms, I feel sorry for him." That is until Diego shows up drunk, drinks Antonio's glass of wine, starts blabbing about "that idiot Cristóbal" and admits he's the one who slept with Esperanza. OK, Antonio and Rodrigo hate him now.

The bad guys Ramon and the mute Arcadio see that Perla is home and bust in. They argue about the money she owes. She doesn't have it, just go away please. Ramon tells her she'd better start working hard and to hurry up about it. They settle in comfortably, I don't think they intend to leave anytime soon.

The bedside wedding! It's actually kind of sweet except for Francisco's ugly smug mug which ruins the mood (for me). Luckily Catalina and Cristóbal seem truly in love and can't take their eyes off each other. They exchange rings and are pronounced husband and wife! Musical crescendo...

Cheers, Sylvia

I post the new update every Wednesday and Saturday morning. All Alborada recaps are now listed in the sidebar to the right - below the small picture of Modesta and Doña Juana, just above the elephant. Click on the numbers (ONE TWO THREE ... ETC) to find them!

Amor Real
Entre el Amor y el Odio


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Strange old ads

From Baker-Kohn, these ads: "Terry's father, William Baker, was an illustrator during the 1940's and 50's. In his search for visual reference he clipped thousands of pictures from newspapers and magazines. on the backs of those pictures we found the following ads and are posting them for your amusement."

Here are a few of MY favorites. I never knew shinola was a real thing.


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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Duped again.

Extracts from
Which Cut Is Older? (It's a Trick Question)
by Marian Burros for the New York Times, February 21, 2006

If some of the meat in supermarkets is looking rosier than it used to, the reason is that a growing number of markets are selling it in airtight packages treated with a touch of carbon monoxide to help the product stay red for weeks. [The steaks in the picture were both red when bought on Feb. 3. Kept refrigerated, they were then photographed on Feb. 16.]

This form of "modified atmosphere packaging," a technique in which other gases replace oxygen, has become more widely used as supermarkets eliminate their butchers and buy precut, "case-ready" meat from processing plants.

The carbon monoxide is itself harmless at the levels being used in the treated packaging. But opponents say that the process, which is also used to keep tuna rosy, allows stores to sell meat that is no longer fresh, and that consumers would not know until they opened the package at home and smelled it. Labels do not note whether meat has been laced with carbon monoxide. ... the bright red color could mask spoilage and dangerous bacteria in older meat or meat that has not been kept at the proper temperature.

"This is what is going to happen in the meat business," said John A. Catsimatidis, chairman and chief executive of Gristede's. "The meat looks great. It looks as red as the day it was cut."

Processors say treated ground meat can be sold for 28 days after leaving the plant, and solid cuts for 35 days. The agribusiness company Cargill says it has sold 100 million packages in the last year.

Representative John D. Dingell of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has asked the F.D.A. to explain its approval of the process.


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Monday, February 20, 2006

Melina's weekend with Zed

This weekend I went up to see my little brother Zed at college. I baked him a pineapple upside down cake and carried it up with plates and knives, since students don't usually have these things. It was a good recipe.

We had a blast. He has tons of friendly people living on his hall who all know him. They have a lot of space and everyone wanders to and fro all the time. When I first came in, it was somebody's birthday and they were having a party in their enormous common room. I was about to walk by, but Zed said "Oh, don't worry, we're invited" and charged right in. He even pulled me over to be in the picture that the birthday girl's friends were taking of the thirty people on the hall who'd come to participate. They were friendly to Zed's sister and even gave me some birthday cake.

Very early the next morning, we got up so that Zed could do his first show on the college radio station. He's licensed and everything. His show is international in theme and is excellent if you're up at 7 AM on a Sunday.

Our next activity was helping some neo-hippies, including one of Zed's friends, cook for the homeless.
Baby Boomers take notice: hippies no longer make up a full movement on campus, but have evolved into their own ethnicity to join in the fun of modern-day liberal arts schools' pluralism, taking a proud and legitimate place alongside science nerds, Korean Christians, athletes and Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queers (LGBTQ's).

This activity - which was titled "Food not bombs" - began an hour and a half later than it was supposed to, due to the hippies having a hard time getting up early on a Sunday morning. We picked up some vegetables at the Jewish house (a tray of raw sliced eggplant; a tray of cooked sliced eggplant; a bunch of tomatoes; a bunch of parsley; potatoes) and carried them over to the "Wellness House" or something like that, which is where the hippies abide at Zed's college. Judging by the front porch, one of the hippies was very interested in take-apart as a hobby. Judging by the kitchen, none of them were particularly interested in doing dishes.

There were a lot of fun signs up around this house.



And...


And the most entertaining thing I saw all weekend:



In case that's too small for you to read, let me translate:
Dear Quean or Jinn (whichever one you are today), it is highly unadvisable to percolate one's coffee libations with ordinary paper hand towels. Such towels are not engineered to maximize the aroma of the arabica bean. Besides, your creative (albeit misguided) utilization of paper towels jeopardizes the jobs of union coffee filter workers. Enclosed are a quantity of the appropriate devices in question. Please consider this advice carefully. I have only your palate and good taste in mind.

Don't get me wrong. I love hippies. But they were trying to cook a fancy and gigantic and hippie-tastic vegetable casserole for the homeless, who would probably maybe rather be eating sandwiches than all this garlicky whatever, and they had less than an hour to do it before a van showed up to pick up whatever they were making. And their timing was all off. One of the hippies was painstakingly cutting up three entire heads of garlic (about thirty cloves). Zed and a compadre followed orders to slice up pounds upon pounds of potatoes. A small preliminary batch of these potatoes went directly into a rickety old wok that was the wrong shape to cook potatoes, alongside, for some reason, those slices of eggplant which were *already cooked*.

I was trying really hard not to start bossing everyone around, because I understood that would make me look like a jackass.However... I really really wanted to tell them... You cannot cook ten pounds of potatoes at a time in a wok!

Halfway through preparing the casserole ingredients the hippies decided there wasn't enough time. They were suggesting things like "let's just saute up some spinach and kale with this garlic" and "butternut squash will be good cooked in the microwave with maple syrup" and "maybe we can just turn these [almost-raw potatoes, soggy overcooked eggplant slices, and five cups of stewed tomatoes] into a stir fry." All these ideas started to happen simultaneously, and me and Zed decided to make a dash for the door.

Zed and I hung out for the rest of the afternoon, consulted on his political science homework, and had lunch in the gigantic main dining room, and then I had to try to figure out how to get home. I had already missed the one bus per day that went from his town to New York. I had heard rumors that a Chinatown bus now stopped at this town, while eavesdropping on Greyhound employees in Port Authority before I left New York, but when I called Fung-Wah bus lines they disavowed knowledge of any such bus. None of Zed's friends had cars. The commuter bus lines in Zed's towns all but shut down on weekends. I was thinking of taking a taxi to the nearest amtrak station, but that would have cost thirty dollars plus an amtrak ticket.

Finally, thanks to the suggestion of one of the hippies, I looked at the ride-board in the post office, and found out that an enterprising student was offering rides to New Haven for thirty dollars, at which point I could pick up the super-cheap Metro North train to new york. I called the guy (who was very grouchy and hung-over sounding) and he agreed to give me a ride. Zed said goodbye to me and I got in the car, after first quietly text-messaging the car's license plate to Yankel so that if the guy tried to kill me, Yankel could give the cops something to work off of.

But he didn't try to kill me - he very sensibly packed three of his buddies in the car and drove me to New Haven. The driver and his buddies were all hung over and starving, and they spent the whole ride down talking about the foods that they enjoyed, such as:

pizza
Lucky Charms
Rice Krispie treat cereal.

The fare I paid him would do them for gas money and dinner, and so everyone was happy, and I got on the train to New York with minutes to spare, and rode home, where Yankl is now cooking me dinner.

What an excellent adventure!

Three Mile Island lamp for sale

I saw this excellent lamp, for sale at eBay, at BoingBoing. The seller writes:
Here is a lamp in the shape of a nuclear power cooling tower with large 3/4 inch raised letters proclaiming it to be from Three Mile Island! It is a ceramic base about 10-1/2 inches tall and 9 inches across the base.

The lamp shade has a picture of all four cooling towers from the Three Mile Island power generating station and has the caption "THREE MILE ISLAND NUCLEAR GENERATING STATION - MIDDLETOWN, PENNSYLVANIA". The total height of the lamp and shade is 23-1/2 inches.

The lamp base is tan in color with striking brown shading. the shade is white with gold trim and the picture on it is about 12 inches across. The lamp actually works - it's a "three way" set up (low, medium, high) but the plug is not polarized. The lamp base is in excellent shape with the statement "NUCLEAR ACCIDENT - MARCH 28 - 1979 - MIDDLETOWN - PA" on the bottom ( you have to turn it upside down to see it). The shade is in great physical condition with some stains on the inside and outside.

It makes quite a statement and quite possibly goes with any decor!
I'd bid on it if I hadn't been spending so much money on art supplies lately... but what I want to know is, who made this? And are there any more?

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Donna seeks world's most outlandish telenovela. Can anybody help her? Also asks a question which is right down your alley!

She writes:

"I have long been fascinated by telenovas but I have NO idea what the actors are saying.

"I'm going to buy a few on DVD that have subtitles and I was wondering if you have any suggestions.

"I'm looking for the craziest, outlandish, stuff possible.
  • Lots of overacting.
  • A wise maid who knows all.
  • Rich people who know nothing.
"In all the ones I have seen, there is always a maid who knows everything that goes on in the house. Tell me if you think this is a common component of telenovas. Thanks, and I'm enjoying your work!"

Donna


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"To me, Julie Andrews will always be Jewish"

Excerpts from
Schmoozing with the Von Trapps
by Danny Miller

The Sound of Music? Come on! Don’t you think that for a story about Nazis and World War II, Jewish people are curiously absent? There is not a single mention of a Jew in the stage play or the film. If I didn’t know better, I’d think the worst thing the Nazis did during the war was to force families to sing at music festivals dressed in their old bedroom curtains.

... Throughout my initial viewings of the film, I searched in vain for a single mention of Jews. Had Hollywood succeeded where Hitler had failed? Was their version of Europe Judenfrei — completely free of Jews?

If Jewish director Robert Wise didn’t feel the need to include Jews in this story, I felt I had no choice but to find my own.

... In my hunt for Jews in The Sound of Music, I finally decided that Maria herself must be Jewish. Maria/Mary was obviously a front for the name she was born with: Miriam. "How do you solve a problem like Maria?" the nuns sing early in the film, evoking the Nazi rhetoric about "the Jewish problem." Indeed, I came to believe that the problem of Maria was that she was a Jewess masquerading as a nun.

... On her first day [in the von Trapp household] the children drop a frog in their new governess’ pocket and put a pinecone on her chair which makes her jump up and yelp in pain. Instead of punishing the little devils or telling their father, Maria thanks fhe children profusely for the kind, welcoming behavior. By the end of her speech, all seven are reduced to tears. Maria’s skill at producing guilt in others was another sure sign that she was Jewish.

How I envied the seven von Trapp children as they began to blossom under Maria’s loving Yiddishkeit...

Whether or not [Georg] should love her? Was this a reference to the Nuremberg laws, now in effect in Nazi Austria, that prohibited Aryans from marrying Jews? It’s true that as soon as the two get married, nothing but trouble follows. They return from their honeymoon to find a giant Nazi flag hanging in their doorway ... Oy, has Maria brought all this tsuris on her new family?

In films and in life, Julie Andrews seemed to embody all of the qualities of the aishet chayil (women of valor) we studied in Hebrew School. She was kind, strong, confident, and never afraid to speak her mind. Though she may be considered the quintessential shiksa to the rest of the world, to me Julie Andrews will always be Jewish.


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Maple Pecan Bars

After I made my crazy inept spiderweb deerfence repair, I invented the recipe below. It was a winner. Not low-calorie.

Maple Pecan Bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the base:
1 stick of butter
1-1/3 cups flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
salt to taste

Mix in food processor, press into 9x9 baking pan, bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Topping:
2-1/4 cups pecans, broken into pieces
1/2 stick of butter
3/4 cup of maple syrup
salt to taste
1 egg
1 tablespoon flour

Mix it all, pour it onto still-hot base, cook for 15-20 minutes more. It's a little sloppy when it first comes out of the oven but it gells up nicely and is utterly delicious.


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Deerfence breach update.

UPDATE: Immediately after I posted my vent about the deer which, much against my will, spent the night inside my fence, I dressed for battle in scruffy clothes and work boots. Halfway down the stairs I could already see the interloper through the kitchen window, masticating in his antlered glory.

I snuck out the back door hoping to get behind him and urge him towards the open gate, but at once I saw two problems. One, there were TWO deer. Two, they were determined to head in the opposite direction. I watched helplessly as they threw their bodies against my fence over and over, boinging off and trying again.

Finally, with a glorious coordinated effort (probably an accident) they sailed in the same direction at the same time. Throwing themselves simultaneously at a closed gates, they broke it off its hinges - in fact broke it in half - and disappeared, crashing through the woods.

I looked ruefully at the damage they left behind, then went and got stepladder, rope and scissors. Luckily the air was balmy. It was still pretty dark, but silent and lovely. I very much enjoyed tying up the fence and the broken gate. The repair would probably remind you of a crazed and inept spider's web but I beamed at it proudly.

An hour later a cold wind was blowing; soon it was sleeting and worse. I was back in the house, smug and warm.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Deer security line breached...

I don't have much time.

Huge herds of deer roam our suburbs - like the bison that "blackened the plains of the American West" as the cheesy textbooks say, they roam free, chewing up whatever they please. They like expensive landscaping materials best. They also like tulips - I've seen them delicately dig the bulbs out of the ground with their hooves. They demolish our native plants (they have a particular liking for passion plants and strawberry bushes).

Since nobody in the suburbs shoots deer, they are fearless. If you walk up to them they continue chewing, broken corpses of tomato plants hanging out of their mouths.

A few years ago I got so irate after watching a deer delicately lift itself up on its hind legs and eat the entire top off a sweet little dogwood tree, I googled my problem and found wimpy and unsuccessful solutions like these:
  1. Hanging "Irish Spring" soap from branches;

  2. Buying coyote urine and sprinkling it around one's perimeter (must be reapplied after every rainfall);

  3. Planting aromatic herbs around precious items (you think deer can't step over/on aromatic herbs on their way to the tasty treats?);

  4. Planting nothing BUT aromatic herbs. This was the solution of a neighbor who used to have the best garden anywhere. The deer ate all her hundreds of prize daylilies - they pull them completely out of the ground, roots and all - so she now grows only lavender and mint.
I knew that if I tried one of these wimpy solutions, it would be unsuccessful and I'd have to escalate.

So I decided to go immediately for the ultimate solution. I bought 1550 feet of deer fencing from Benner. Some other day I'll tell you about how I put up that fence by myself. For now, it suffices to say that for three years I've gotten out of my car and opened the gate and driven through and closed the gate every time I leave the house. And it's been totally worth it. I LOVE seeing the herds of deer munching along the deer fence line - ON THE OTHER SIDE. My ex-husband lives on the other side. They are eating HIS stuff. They can't get to mine. Ultimate delight.

The problem is, though, if somebody leaves one of my six gates open, the deer come through (five or six times in three years). The deer instantly forget how they got in and ricochet around throwing themselves against the fence until something bad happens. Urging a crazed deer towards an open gate is a ridiculous, time-consuming endeavor.

Last night I got back from taking Menticia home (after our Illustration Friday afternoon), opened the deer fence, drove through, closed the deer fence, drove halfway down the driveway - and saw the sight I dread to see - a deer where it shouldn't be, crossing the veldt on MY side!

I'm so crazed and irritable about deer, I got a flashlight and walked my perimeter - in my clogs! In the woods in the dark! Because I wouldn't take the time to change into work shoes! - to find out where it got in. I feared a huge tree down over the fence (those repairs are tough). But it was just an open gate. Some kid must have intentionally opened that gate, because as Omar G. would say, "deer fences don't just untie themselves."

Well, it was way too dark for me to remedy my problem then. If you think it's bad trying to get an anxious idiot deer to head towards a small opening in a fence in the daytime, try it at night. So now, crazed and irritable, I'm waiting for enough dawn to go out there, find it, and get behind it and walk it towards freedom. Some day I'll draw you a picture to show you how stupid and futile this process is when you're doing it alone.

Anybody want to tell me their own deer story and make me feel better?

(Here is the rest of the story).)


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Telenovela Alborada, #17

This is one in a series of recaps of the Univision telenovela Alborada.
In order to read the whole post, you must now click "read the rest" at the bottom of this summary! If you are new, please visit the recaps in ORDER - see the bottom of this post for information.

The amnesia plotline has swamped our story, which has slowed to a crawl. Actually, I heard the show's producers decided to pick up the out-takes from the cutting-room floor and splice them back in, to pad the series and make it last longer!

I hope Hipólita gets her memory back soon. Her cheerful ignorance and tedious unanswered questions - met with flustered, incompetent lying - are getting on my nerves.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST!

I'm enjoying Diego more and more. He's cutting loose and it's fun to watch.

Wednesday: Luis doesn't like the lies his "mother" is feeding poor amnesiac Hipólita. He says he's learned that lying is bad. He confronts Juana about the kidnapping of Rafael - she vehemently denies having had anything to do with it. Luis later tells Felipe, "I can't accuse my mother of everything! She couldn't be this perverse!"

Luis tells his mother he's been to see La Poderosa, tzarina of the Cuencas delinquents, Sara de Oviedo. Juana recognizes the name, staggers from shock, and flashes back to the same scene of the Oviedos being burned at the stake for being Jews that we saw weeks ago. She asks Gasca to keep tabs on the daughter, Victoria.

Diego tells his "aunt" Juana: "I think it was you who stole Rafael. Don't you think I can have sons? I am going to marry - I'll marry a rich widow who has already born sons. Rafael will be the next Count over my dead body." Actually, isn't that always how the next guy gets to be Count? They are rarely impeached or voted out of office...

Having said this about marrying a widow, Diego eyes the ripe and mature Victoria thoughtfully as she walks past in her lowcut cdress.

Everybody notices that Modesta, who is never more than four feet away from Juana, is absent. Every time you see Juana hugging a stuffed lamb, she is saying: "Without Modesta, I am completely alone."

Felipe tells his wife Carmela, who is again ranting about how Martin's death is Hipólita's fault: "Maybe God will send us another son." Start over again with diapers? No way! Make do with the enchilada-eating Marcos!

Gasca is a double agent, being asked to spy by both Juana and Diego. Ramon, Gasca's henchman, is also a double agent, being asked to spy by Gasca and also by Sara. Gasca, thinking he recognizes Victoria, asks Ramon to find out if she is a Jew, if her mother has a scar and knows Ignacio, etc. Ramon holds out his hand and Gasca gives him an advance, saying "With money, a dog dances."

Another ugly scene with Esperanza, still sobbing gasping and seething with rage about Hipólita. Juana's threats - which now include selling Mirtha to a bordello if Esperanza doesn't come clean - result in Esperanza telling about the gypsy potions and about Diego getting the love filtrate meant for Luis. Juana again threatens her with Fray Alvaro of the Inquisition.

Esperanza whines to Juana, "You never liked me, did you?" "No." "Then why did you marry me to your son?" "I needed a different solution." Hmm? A clue! But a clue to what?

Antonio, in a flaming salmon coat, comes to visit Hipólita, who arranges her bandages prettily prior to his arrival. He tells her he and she were on the verge of getting engaged when she left Panama. He says he wants her to leave this house and go to a hotel, then go back to Panama with him and marry him. "Why don't you want me to be here?" "I'm afraid Luis will get between us. We're humble people who run freely through the fields (?? can you see Antonio running through a field?), while they are dissolute, hypocritical aristocrats."

Cristobal takes Hipólita's bandages off and lets her out of bed. He tells her God must have intended for her to lose her memory. Indeed, this memory-free Hipólita is pretty darn happy. Maybe I should try it.

The duel thing grinds slowly along. Antonio and Rodrigo will be seconds for Diego, Luis and Felipe for Cristóbal. It will be in the garden, pistols, first thing tomorrow. It took an amazing amount of time for them to work that out. They all posture and squint at each other with macho hostility; Dustin Hoffman in "Little Big Man" called this look "snake eyes."

Victoria extemporizes to Isabel and Marina: she made a deathbed promise to Marina's mother to take care of her, and therefore she wants Marina to leave with her. Victoria comes off, understandably, as a little weird and anxious. She blurts, "Marina's mother was very rich, with her money you can afford lots of servants, whatever." Isabel: "If she was rich, why did she abandon Marina?" "She wasn't abandoned, she was stolen away!"

Marina is frightened by Victoria's vehemence and clings to Isabel, who in turn is indignant. She says Victoria will have to prove she's legit.

Catalina and Asuncion visit Hipólita. Hugs all round, and a feeble little turn around the garden. Diego approaches and flirts with Hipólita. Luis tries to break it up. It's Cristóbal, however, who defuses the situation by telling Hipólita it's time for her to go back to bed. Luis then actually begs Diego to tell if he was the one who robbed the child. Diego says: "I didn't, but what if I had?" "I'd kill you right now."

Thursday: Amnesia, yadda yadda yadda. Felipe tells Hipólita she may be better off without her memory ("Why? What happened to me? I can't remember!") - he wishes he could forget his son was murdered.

Isabel is perplexed when Luis says: "Mother does not remember Victoria." Little Victoria was a fixture, constantly running around the palace, when Sara used to visit Luis's "aunt" (mother) Aurora.

Isabel had not known that Sara was burned, but is intrigued that her burning happened around the time of the big fire.

Luis is delighted when Isabel tells him of the 60,000 gold pesos owed to her by Juana - and that the Palace could be payment for that debt - but is dismayed to hear Isabel has bargained the money away merely to keep Diego silent. She says, "Oh, what's a few pesos, I already have a lot anyway. And you are my only blood relative, son of my brother, I want you should be happy and have kids and carry on the family name."

Luis finds out that Gasca was gone from the palace at the time of Rafael's abduction.

Juana is falling apart without Modesta - she even cries. Are the writers trying to rehabilitate Juana? Is she going to turn out to be a softy of a penitent granny? Say it ain't so! I want her to go out hissing and snarling and have something huge fall on her and squish her!!

Victoria, back at Sara's house, sobs in indignation and despair while telling her mother that Marina doesn't want to come with her. She begs for help and after a lot of begging Sara agrees to meet Isabel (in order to corroborate Victoria's story and give her cred) in the town center at some vague time in the future.

You know how slow this story is moving? It's still yesterday! Both yesterday and today the duel is "tomorrow." Diego practices shooting but his hand shakes (he should lay off the booze before a duel). Cristóbal, on the other hand, easily smashes each bottle his guys set up on the hay bales. Cristóbal's sister in the convent cries and says she is worried and that instead of getting shot to death he should marry and have babies - he's all she has in the world (besides her congregation and God).

Catalina also cries and says she is worried. Cristobal looks at her with love and joy, holds her hand, and says "but we never got to talk about uh, uh, uh -- that book you borrowed."

Luis goes to see the Regidor, who tells him, as he tells everybody: sorry but we're doing all we can. He says Diego also came to see him - about the travelers' documents, which were stolen at the same time as little Rafael. And by the way, the borders are closed and there's a revolution. Luis couldn't care less.

Antonio asks Andrés (still extremely fetching in his waiter outfit) if his father, Francisco, would like to run the vanilla plantation. He calls it "fruit" - friends, is vanilla a fruit, or is this an example of Antonio's ignorance about his investment? Andrés says he'll ask, but that he himself would like to give it a go!

Francisco and Perla give each other smoldering, meaningful looks and go off to the park to be private. Antonio and Andrés were watching. At the park Francisco pumps Perla for info about Luis and Esperanza. He offers to get her a job at a casino.

Sara's spy Higinio tells her that none of "ours" performed the abduction. The perps had uniforms, nice horses, and good firearms. Either it was a gang from out of town, or it really was real guards! He says the head of the guards is very corrupt and would sell his own mother for three pennies.

Esperanza is still clutching her womb and still seething about Hipólita. Mirtha futilely suggests that Esperanza rest as the midwife recommended.

Hipólita's flashback dreams are starting to leak into her waking life. She asks Ada if there is another important man in her life besides Antonio, perhaps Luis? Ada runs away to avoid answering.

Francisco is disdainful when he sees Andrés working at his humble but decent tasks. ("If you'd had guts, you'd have a lot of money as I now do.") Francisco has told his wife that when Catalina marries Cristóbal they'll all be able to go on living for free at the Palacio de Lara and with the blackmail money he'll be able to start a business. He loftily tells Andrés he'll let him work at the business even though Andrés did not help with the blackmailing. Asuncion cries for the shame of it all.

The episode ends with Luis asking God to give Rafael back, with really awful singing in the background.

Friday: Marcos tells Andrés he should swallow his pride and go find Marina - "Don't be a fool, look for her! It doesn't matter if a woman is a whore or a virgin, what matters is if she's good. Look at Esperanza, what a disaster SHE is!"

Juana tells scores of servants, all lined up, that they can't tell Hipólita anything, and also can't tell anybody else anything, should they ask. Thus it is and thus it shall be!

Antonio tells Diego one shouldn't drink so much before the duel. Diego is sad, he has no friends. "I'm rich and powerful and completely alone." "Maybe if you were nicer people would like you." "My life is a constant struggle against Luis. HE has people. All I have is a murderer who stays because I pay him a lot. I like you and Rodrigo, but you're leaving. Poor me."

Isabel reviews with Hipólita how spoiled Diego is and that Luis's "mother" has never been nice to Luis, only to Diego. She then lets slip that, among other misfortunes, Luis has a disappeared son! Oops!

Higinio tells Luis: "None of our lowlifes did the kidnapping. It had to have been somebody with a lot of money to bribe so many real live soldiers!" Luis immediately looks up towards his mother's room and then runs up there and busts in. Juana confuses him totally with a combination of loud denials and crying. Then she frantically produces Gasca's ransom note, which she's been holding for days. She has to answer Luis's questions with a lot of last-minute lame lies. She's in quite a state. [Magnificent scene for this actress.]

"You deserve to be happy, somebody in this family should be happy, your cousin is an utter disaster, you don't understand how hard I've tried to control him." Juana cries and acts like a human being which upsets Luis and causes him to give her an awkward hug! Dang, they ARE rehabilitating her!

Luis reassures Aunt Isabel that she's done him a favor by telling Hipólita about the disappeared Rafael. Luis goes to visit Hipólita - she lets him in even though her chaperone is absent. He tells her the mother of his disappeared son is ... "lost." Good answer. Nice scene. Ada runs off to the laundry to avoid telling Hipólita who the mother of the disappeared infant was!

Felipe finds the ransom note fishy. Since when have kidnappers known how to write letters? And why are the letters all deformed? (Remember, Gasca craftily wrote it with his left hand.) And why did they ask for so little money? Luis is determined to go deliver the money alone.

Mirtha tells Esperanza of the upcoming duel - Esperanza can't decide if it would be good or bad if Diego died...

Ramon and the mute scale a wall to break into Perla's deserted house. These guys are oddly fastidious, complaining about the dust! Despite the dust, they decide to hole up there. Ramon says they are in a "lio arcadio" between La Poderosa and Gasca. (Anybody know what that is?) (Update: perhaps as has been suggested in the comments he really meant "we are in a big ## mess, Arcadio." Tripped up by a missing comma!)

They flip a coin - heads, they'll go with Sara, tails, Gasca. The mute catches it and says it goes to Sara. But Ramon decides they should investigate more and see which side their bread will be best buttered on...

It's the dark before dawn. Everybody prays. Felipe and Luis ride ceremoniously to Cristól's house; stiff, manly hugs all round. As they leave, Catalina cries behind a houseplant. Antonio and Rodrigo go get Diego. Everybody looks really, really spiffy in their black outfits.

Juana defensively tells Gasca she had to give the ransom note to Luis and that Luis himself wants to hand over the money to the kidnapper. Gasca: "But Luis will take the guy by the neck and ask where his son is, and there won't be time to bring Rafael back here. Better I should write another note, saying not Luis, but somebody else should deliver the money." "Good, do it right now." "Your paper is too elegant, better I should do it back at the guardhouse." "And have you found out anything about Sara?" "It's not easy, she's protected by an army of low-lifes. And why do you want to know, anyway?" "I don't pay you to ask questions! You're no white dove, Gasca, you have a long tail to get stepped on! You may think we're in the same situation, but the difference is that my nephew is the Count and I, I am Doña Juana, don't you forget it."

Everybody prays and then dresses in black for the duel. The ladies watch from the landing. Cristóbal gets the first shot. He and Diego stand back-to-back in the center of the bridge and take ten steps away from each other. They turn. Cristóbal intentionally shoots straight up into the air. One could hope Diego would do the same, but instead he shoots Cristóbal in the chest. Applause from Diego's team; choruses of "no puede ser" from the peanut gallery.

Luis lunges at Diego, saying he's a pig and that garbage like him doesn't deserve to be count (hmm, that doesn't sound as good in English as it did in Spanish). Felipe pulls Luis off and the guy who was presiding says "Now now, no off-the-cuff killing right after we've just had a nice duel in proper style."

Juana prays to the Virgin: "You bore a nice boy, but I bore a Lucifer. I'm tired of fighting. Forgive my sins and deliver me from so much evil."

This is one in a series of recaps of the Univision telenovela Alborada.
In order to read the whole post, you must now click "read the rest" at the bottom of this summary! If you are new, please visit the recaps in ORDER - see the bottom of this post for information.


I post the new update every Wednesday and Saturday morning. All Alborada recaps are now listed in the sidebar to the right - below the small picture of Modesta and Doña Juana, just above the elephant. Click on the numbers (ONE TWO THREE ... ETC) to find them!

Amor Real
Entre el Amor y el Odio


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