Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween 2014

Grace still loves dressing up for Halloween, and Julia still likes candy, so last night was a fun one for the girls.

Grace was Bellatrix, the crazy evil wizardess from the Harry Potter movies, and Julia was (you guessed it) a big blue M&M.
Crazy and Candy

As usual, they loved the idea of carving pumpkins until the time came to actually do the work. So after a week and a half of cajoling, I carved a couple pumpkins very quickly by myself at 4:00 this afternoon. Grace wanted a Harry Potter lightning bolt, Julia wanted a scary face. As I told them, if you won't help, you get simple pumpkins. Very simple. I do still enjoy carving. Next year I'll just give up on the girls and carve them myself earlier.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Homecoming Week

It was homecoming week at the high school this week. Is it really possible that I have a kid in high school? Anyway, there were dress-up events throughout the week (pajama day, etc), a homecoming parade with class floats on Friday at 5pm and a football game after (beating Haverford to go 7-2 overall, 7-1 in the league, with our only loss coming to my alma mater, Springfield).
Julia and some classmates

Last night, Saturday, was the homecoming dance.
Julia and some classmates (again)

These kids need to stop growing. We always teased them about putting them in a pickle jar to stop them from growing up (not exactly sure why a pickle jar...something about preserving them I guess), but it would seem to be way too late for that now.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Book Review - Two Against One

Having read a fourth Frederick Barthelme novel recently, and with several more of his on the shelf, I kept the momentum going by reading Two Against One (Collier Books, 1988, 264 pages).

I could repeat what I said about the last one with regards to this, as this was like it, only more so. To quote one of the review blurbs on the back cover: "On Edward's fortieth birthday, his estranged wife, Elise, appears unannounced at the door, triggering a series of events that will involve the couple in a bizarre triangle and lay open the workings of a fifteen year marriage."

I guess that's one way of putting it. These people were unsympathetic and often downright bizarre, toiling through a plot that was...I don't even know what it was. I liked this less than the other books of Barthelme's that I have read (obviously). The saving grace was some salvageable commentary on expectations, relationships, love and sexuality. Unfortunately, as I couldn't help but keep thinking as I was working my way through this, the nice bits were buried in way too much not-so-good book. My opinion, anyway.

Only 2.5 stars out of 5. Don't bother with this one, as there are better Barthelme books out there. Like maybe all of them.

This gets me to 14 books and 2 partial story collections on the year, totaling a shade under 4,300 pages. Best book of the year so far is still The Painter.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Of Mermaids and Pirate Ships

Julia is in the high school Fall musical again this year, and they are doing Disney's The Little Mermaid. It should be a fun show, with lots of good songs. Having had a student in one of these, for the second time now, I have developed a ton of respect for the amount of time and effort that goes into a production like this; not just for the students, but also for the teachers and parents.

The students have a lot of singing, music, dancing and staging to learn. The parents have a lot of sewing and set construction to help with. There are over a hundred students involved, and sometimes more than one costume per kid. The basis for some of the costumes come from costume storage, where all the costumes of shows and years past are stored. Even with this head start, there are a lot of changes and alterations that need to be made, every student fitted, and many entirely new costumes that need to be sewn from scratch. Amp helped out for Les Miz, and is even more involved this time around. Spare time for her these days means pattern making, cutting, sewing and planning. I'm sure it will get worse before the end. But it is fun and rewarding work.
Pirate Ship to-be (really!)

As for me, I'm pretty good with tools, so when the call went out for more people to help construct sets, I chipped in for a few hours today, and will probably be spending a bunch of weekend hours lending a hand in the coming weeks. They need a pirate ship big enough to hold a bunch of kids on deck, some beach scenes, King Triton's throne room, Ariel's grotto, Ursula's lair... And more. Lots to be done. A staggering amount, really. As I've said, my level of respect and appreciation of what goes into a show like this is growing every day.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Book Review - There Must be Some Mistake

It's been a while since my last reading binge (fiction reading, that is). However, I was in a bookstore a little while back, and saw a new novel (There Must Be Some Mistake, Little Brown and Co, 2014, 294 pages) by Frederick Barthelme, a writer who I have read before. I picked it up, plowed through it, and finished it a few days ago.

This is the story of Wallace Webster, a semi-retiree living in a condo development in the Gulf Coast area of east Texas. The residents of the condo development begin dying at an alarming rate, to accidents and other circumstances. We follow Webster through this maze of events as he deals with his ex-wife, her boyfriend (who happens to be the ex-husband of a younger female work friend whom he spends a lot of time with and has an...odd...relationship), his daughter and others.

I found the novel similar to the three previous Barthelme books I have read (Waveland, Elroy Nights and Second Marriage); which revolve around a not-overly-sympathetic aging male character thrown into all sorts of odd circumstances. Barthelme's characters can be head-scratching in their thought process and frustrating in the choices they make, but are for the most part interesting to read.

This is a solid if unspectacular read. Maybe 3.5 stars out of 5. The ending was bizarre, even given what had come before...

Next up...I've begun another older Barthelme book I had on hand (Two Against One, 1988).