Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Seasons”

National Hammock Day!


It’s iris time in the garden!


Hysterical Drama: Victoria


Settling into a corset series, one of those lavish PBS costume dramas based on a historical figure or event, has been a go to strategy for dreary winter evenings, long before stay home/stay safe became a mainstay.

The truth is in the telling

Watching people come to life in all their period finery, re-enacting events that shaped history is both enlightening and entertaining. Although show runners tend to lean more towards the entertaining, rather than the enlightenment aspect when presenting their slice of history.

Victoria, now in its third season, is quite guilty of drifting towards a soap opera since its attention to accurately portraying events leans more towards hysteria than historical.

Major considerations:

Victoria constantly refers to her miserable childhood at Kensington, especially being an only child. While it’s true life at Kensington was abominable in many ways, Victoria was not an only child, a lament she emphasizes. In actuality she had the company of her much older half-sister Feodora until she was eight years old and they had a close relationship through correspondence, although actual visits to London were rare. The scheming frenemy relationship portrayed is all for show.

Skerretelli: ah, the romance of the head cook and the queen’s dresser is so endearing, so captivating—so untrue. Charles Francatelli never married the Queen’s Head Dresser. Nancy, whose real name was Marianne Skerrett, served the queen for twenty-five years (and was 44 years old when she came to the palace to serve the 18 year old monarch). She spoke several languages, came from a well-connected family, and had considerable responsibilities. Francatelli did not work long at the palace, and there is no record of he and Skerrett being together. Skerrett was married to her job. So much for that romance.

Another false romance is that of Ernest and Harriet. In real life, Ernest was married at that time, and so was Harriett, plus, she was twelve years older than him. Oh, she eventually had eleven children, while Ernest did not have any with his wife. He did have that problem referred to throughout the episodes—thanks to his dear Papa who introduced him to brothels. Albert declined, of course that initiation.

Albert’s parentage remains a historical titillation since Leopold happened to be visiting when Albert’s mother conceived. Even historians tend towards questionable conclusions.

And yes, there were several assassination attempts on Victoria.

As for Lord M…much ado about nothing. Lord Melbourne did indeed have a huge influence as her prime minister, yet he acted as a mentor for the young queen, advising and guiding her first years as a monarch. He was more of a father figure, although it might be conceivable Victoria had a crush on Lord M, although being 40 years older creates doubt.

Other points of detouring from fact include the Duchess of Bucceouth being in her spritely 30s instead of the curmudgeonly older woman Diana Riggs brought to the role.

The duchess and the footman romance is loosely based on Caroline Norton’s sad experience (accused of adultery with Lord M), and being denied access to her children. She was able to change the law so women had more rights—now that would make for an excellent episode. Instead we get trysts and time outs.

Although Queen Victoria is not one of my British monarch faves, costume dramas, BBC style, are so colorful and elaborate, such a visual feast, such an escape, especially in winter when evenings start at 4 pm.

I do wonder why the writers feel the necessity to tinker with the historical truths. Actual events were plentiful and interesting enough in their own without elaboration or bending.

So, an open request to BBC showrunners: Really, we can handle history as it happened. If we want dramatized history we can turn to Shakespeare.

That reminds me—maybe it’s time to revisit The Hollow Crown since I’ve gone through All Creatures Great and Small, Sanditon, Wolf Hall, and even a revisit of Dr Who’s second season.

What series gets you through winter evenings?

Timely Trials


November is a conundrum, being a month that offers a mixture of pleasantries and of trauma.

First off, how can one hour wreak absolute havoc? The bonus of getting extra sleep when setting the clock back one hour quickly becomes a bad trade off since my body clock doesn’t easily adjust.

I’m one of those people who doesn’t need to set an alarm clock. No matter when I go to bed I wake up at 5 am. Sleeping in is an ideal, not a reality. DST now creates the dilemma of the time read on my bedside table blaring “4 am” in red LED numerals. Gah.

It takes until spring, about the time we spring forward, that my body clock reconciles the hour difference.

Another November trial is PTC—Parent Teacher Conferences. Our district provides two nights (after working a full day) where teachers are available to parents. As much as I enjoy meeting parents, it’s a tough schedule, especially since that hour sleep deprivation is amplified by a week. I hope parents don’t think their student’s teacher is a zombie because after a week of disturbed sleep cycle I am definitely feeling zombi-ish.

Fortunately, the long two days trades out nicely as it applies to two days off which coincides with Thanksgiving week. Having a week off after PTC while dealing with DST having graded a stack of SPRPs (Senior Project Research Papers) is definitely appreciated.

And I do enjoy thanksgiving. No holiday shopping hype. No endless rounds of obligatory events to attend. No gifts to stress about. Nope. Food, friends, family. Now, that’s what I call a grand holiday.

One another aspect of November that is irksome is the night factor. Having the sunset earlier and earlier each night means driving home in the dark which initiates the feeling I’m working the swing swift in the coal mines. After working inside all day stepping outside into the light is a necessity. Good thing D3 is inexpensive and I thank whomever for inventing the Happy Light.

perpetuating a perceived reality

November also begins the season which features that four letter word, and its presence stays among us much too long in the area of which I call home. Shiver, shudder, and grumble.

So—November is a bit of a trial, yet knowing there is a pumpkin pie waiting for me at the end of the month makes losing sleep, grading papers, working two twelve hour days, and dealing with that which shall not be named, a bit easier to swallow.

Word Nerds: November


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November is Thanksgiving month. I do relish Thanksgiving: food, friends, family and no huge commercial hype. Thanksgiving involves a banquet of good times, good food, good company. In connection with bounty I offer a cornucopia of words this month, a hodgepodge to feast upon. Enjoy!

hyetal: relating to rainfall

pococurante: indifferent

forgetive: creative; inventive

paraph: the flourish after one’s signature

flubdub: pretentious; putting on airs

congeries: a collection of parts in one mass

vitiate: to impair the quality of something; spoil

causerie: an informal chat or talk

improbity: a lack of morals or honesty; perseverance

arctophile: a collector of Teddy bears.

Image result for a collection of teddy bears

squiz: to peer at quickly and closely.

anodyne: anything that relieves pain or distress

kyoodle: to bark or yelp noisily or foolishly; yap

embosk: to hide amongst greenery

exoteric: commonplace; suitable to be communicated to the general public

Isn’t that a succulent succotash of wordage? Got your appetizers, main course and dessert all in one place. What do you propose dining upon?

Suggested Menu

Appetizer: “squiz” as in glancing over the table for particular favorites

Salad or Soup Course: “exoteric” so as to appeal to even the bland dietary needs of Aunt Polly

Main Course: “congeries” because they are in season and are filling without creating havoc digestion wise leaving room for dessert

Dessert: “paraph” since they are individual and provide a unique aftertaste

After dinner the following can be available:

Anodynes due to the kyoodling of Aunt Polly’s poodles which always vitiate the meal; however, one can endeavor to pococurante the noisome nonsense and savor the causerie.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The -ing of things


Spates of good weather have beckoned me out into the backyard where much needed work is required: weeding, thinning, raking, mulching. All those -ing type of tasks that result in another set of -ings such as lower back spasm-ing.

However–

There was one surprise -ing:

I planted some bulbs last year in my patio container and “whoa!” I exulted upon this sudden blooming. No weeding, mulching, raking required. Just appreciating.

Now, that’s my kind of garden-ing.

Give Me a Break…


December consists of hurry up and wait.

At school we hurry through the last unit, hoping to complete it before

a)an unexpected snow day hits

b)the current bout of flu doesn’t empty out the classes

c)too many of my students leave for early vacation.

At home it’s a flurry of hurry as I shop, package, insert, check lists, pull down boxes, search and find–that is, when I am not grading those last minute assignments.

The wait part is counting down days to Christmas Break. We voted to make 12/21 the exit day in order to have an extra week at the end of break, instead of at the beginning. Fumes of distinctive burn out permeated the hallways on Friday. Everyone was tired. I know waiting so long for the break to begin will mean I enjoy that much more–right?

I did a happy dance in the kitchen on Saturday 12/22. Walked around in the brisk, sunny, pre-snowstorm. Definitely appreciated the Christmas weekend. Love being on break.

It’s Wednesday. Umm, how long before we go back to school?

It’s true: You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher.

So far I’ve read two books, answered a dozen Quora requests, watched three movies, straightened up my Hamlet unit, polished my Merchant of Venice lesson plan, finished a puzzle, made a batch of cookies, tried out my new walking poles (thanks, Hon), slept in (6 am!). Now what?

Sheesh–I better figure out something about down time. I’ve got about four years to retirement.

They say knitting can be fun.

POM: “Approach of Winter”


I am not a fan of winter. I may have mentioned that once or twice. In fact, I confess, I am known to have at least one ridiculous emotional meltdown–a little kid unreasonable tantrum, when the first snow makes landfall. Yes, I am embarrassed. If they had a support group for Winter Lamenters Anonymous I would attend.

Once my tantrum is over I am resigned to winter. To not acknowledge that we are stuck with it for the next 3-5 months is added misery. I buy sweaters and sip cocoa. More books get read. I try to find the bright side to the dark days of winter. Nope, I don’t ski. I might be convinced to sled though.

For the most part I ignore creative acknowledgements of winter. Don’t sing to me about wintertime; I am not interested in chirpy little winter televised specials. Fine. Maybe the Olympics. So, I was surprised when I actually liked the poem that dropped into my mailbox that’s part of my subscription service. You do subscribe to a poem service, right?

This caught my eye since it caught how I feel about the onset of winter. It earned double appreciation points having been penned by William Carlos Williams–the doctor poet. Enjoy.

The half-stripped trees
struck by a wind together,
bending all,
the leaves flutter drily
and refuse to let go
or driven like hail
stream bitterly out to one side
and fall
where the salvias, hard carmine,—
like no leaf that ever was—
edge the bare garden.

 

Debatables: ‘Tis the Season


Yes, ’tis the season. It used to come right after Thanksgiving, as in the Friday after, but now XMas Retail–totally different than Christmas (a post for maybe Mitch Teemley to muse upon?) is upon us. And with it comes all the holiday hoopla: decorations, music, food, commercials, events, and specials.

Mike Allegra and I are taking on Christmas specials based on children’s books in this month’s issue of Debatables. Last month we discussed which children’s lit character deserves to be a Macy’s Day Parade balloon. Mike won that round. See all the glorious discussion and scrabbling here.

If you are not familiar with Debatables–Welcome!
If you are–Welcome back!

Each month, Mike Allegra and I take on debating mostly meritable topics concerning children’s literature. We each state our initial argument in about 250 words and then add on a 150ish counter argument. You then, dear readers, vote accordingly and add in commentary. Mike and I look forward to the votes, and truly relish your comments. Mike says the score is now 3-2. I lead. This could be an important session.

I am offering the perennial classic: Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, based on the song, which is based on the Montgomery Ward coloring book. You probably didn’t know that, did you?

Image result for rudolph the red nosed reindeer

Mike, that gregarious children’s author who is rocking the publishing world with ninja cows and princes of regard, is suggesting a relative newcomer to the seasonal menu: A Wish for Wings That Work based on the title by adult/children’s writer Berkeley Breathed, known for his Bloom County comics.

Image result for a wish for wings that work

Mike’s Opening Argument:

Few creatures, (even in Christmas specials) match the inimitable, innocent, guileless sweetness of Opus the Penguin. His personality stands in stark contrast to his id-inclined Bloom County comic strip cohorts. This big-shnozzled little fella always puts others’ needs before his own. 
So it seems only fair that as Christmas approaches Opus should take a little time to consider his own wants. And Opus wants to fly. He needs to fly. 
A Wish for Wings That Work was published after Berkeley Breathed suddenly (and heartbreakingly) discontinued the Bloom County comic strip. It’s arrival was like a breath of fresh air. Opus was back! And he was in a wonderful story, pursuing a passionate goal—a goal he achieves just by being his old penguin-y self.  
The cartoon (presented here in full) remains true to the book while expanding upon it, drawing in old favorite Bill the Cat as well as introducing new characters from Breathed’s then-recently christened Sunday-only strip, Outland. It’s a cartoon that works on just about every level, even if you aren’t familiar with Bloom County (but especially if you are). Much like Bloom County, the special mixes the sweet and the salty, kid humor with adult humor. And it rewards people who pay attention; some of the best jokes linger unobtrusively in the background. 
And, best of all, there’s that ending! It gives me happy chills every time I see it. Do yourself a favor. Watch the cartoon; you’ll see what I mean.  Click on the link below for Opus in action:
Cricket’s Argument:

We might think of it just being the ubiquitous song that everyone at every age knows, but Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer is pretty special, as in seasonal special. This song came out in 1949 based on the coloring book story created for Montgomery Wards. Although the Rankin special deviated tremendously from the original story it’s become a classic in it’s own right:

  • Burl Ives sings some snappy tunes
  • Memorable characters like Hermey the wannabe dentist
  • The Island of Misfit Toys
  • How about the Abominable Snow Monster?
  • And of course the famous Rankin/Bass stop motion animation
It’s a crowd pleaser about how non-conformists are contributors to society, and are, in fact, heroes in their own right. Click on the link below for cute clip:

From a kid’s coloring book to a traditional song to a classic cartoon—Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer is the one special that is so special it’s the special of all specials. All the others are simply paying tribute to an original. It’s been part of tradition since 1964, and keeps on ticking despite current fine-tooth scrutiny for issues. Rudolph and his friends provide a generational bonding, and the bonus is everyone can sing along.

Mike’s Rebuttal:
As a child, I watched Rudolph every year and enjoyed it. As an adult, however, the Rudolph story bothers me. Poor Rudolph is cruelly shunned by his peers—and is only accepted back into the fray once his glowing nose proves useful. 
That’s a Christmas story that could’ve been written by Ayn Rand.
A Wish For Wings That Work, on the other hand, is a story driven by a strong-willed (and strongly motivated!) character who lives in Bloom County, a wonderful Land of Misfit Everything—including tater tot-brained cats, rhino-pigs, cross-dressing cockroaches, and a toy store owned by General Norman Schwarzkopf. Opus may be teased, but he’s never shunned. After all, Opus and all of his eccentricities are a great fit for this unapologetically odd and accepting place. Rudolph may take place in Santa’s backyard, but Bloom County better exemplifies the generous, supportive spirit of the
season.
Cricket’s Final Say:
Rudolph overcomes adversity with the bonus of acceptance, providing a story arc of beginning, middle, and a rousing resolution. Opus? He is harshly teased by some really odd ducks, who eventually come around to helping him out with his flight fantasy. Yet, there is no real resolution. The last we see of Opus he’s enjoying mock-flying. How long is that going to last? And Bill—Mike, did you forget how cruelly Opus treated the cat he rescued? He never even apologized for his scathing remarks. Rudolph is upbeat while Bloom County is quirky.
 
Rudolph or Opus? Which special is special to you? Cast your vote, and add your comments. Thanks for stopping by and watch out for fruitcake. That’s one tradition we could do without.

Word Nerd Confessions: November


Fall has officially set up its presence. The aspen, birch, and maple trees disrobed within a week’s span with the help of couple of brisk windstorms. Temperatures hover around freezing, and the sun offers minimal light with little warmth and disappears shortly around 4 pm. The preparation for winter is underway. The Hubs threatens to put on the snow tires since black ice is fact of life not to be ignored. I understand his concern, but snow tires seems to invite or acknowledge snow. We already had a flurry of snow that had the grace to be embarrassed enough by its early arrival and leave by the next afternoon.

This month’s words reflect my ambivalence towards fall: do I mourn the passing of summer or prepare for winter with my usual reluctance? Or do I just accept it knowing spring is not that far away?

So–how do you feel about fall?

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