Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with JFK

Shortly after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, with a nation deep in mourning and the world looking on in stunned disbelief, Jacqueline Kennedy found the strength to set aside her own personal grief for the sake of posterity and begin the task of documenting and preserving her husband’s legacy.  She sat down with historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and recorded an astonishingly detailed and unvarnished account of her experiences and impressions as the wife and confidante of John F. Kennedy. The tapes of those sessions were then sealed and later deposited in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum upon its completion, in accordance with Mrs. Kennedy’s wishes. 
In conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s Inauguration, Caroline Kennedy and the Kennedy family are now releasing these beautifully restored recordings on CDs with accompanying transcripts.  These interviews will add an exciting new dimension to our understanding and appreciation of President Kennedy and his time and make the past come alive through the words and voice of an eloquent eyewitness to history.

I've always been fascinated by Jackie Kennedy - her style, her poise, her grace - and curious about that time in history and JFK's role in it.  I was born a few months after Pres. Kennedy was inaugurated.  In fact, the day I was born (5/25/61) JFK gave his now-famous speech before Congress stating that "First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth."  Though I lived through the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban MIssile Crisis and the assassination, of course I have no first-hand memories of them.  So, I was understandably excited to receive this book/cd set for Christmas.

I wanted to hear the stories in Mrs. Kennedy's own voice, so I chose to listen to the audio cd's first, and follow up by reading the transcripts of parts that were difficult to understand or needed more research.  The interviews cover a range of topics, political and personal, from the time the Kennedy's were married until JFK's death in 1963.  There is an abundance of names, well-known at the time but not so much today except by serious history buffs, that require some research; and sometimes Mrs. Kennedy's naturally soft voice combined with background noise made it difficult to make out what she was saying. Still, her comments, spoken in a subdued, slightly Boston-accented tone, were so much more personal than reading words on a page.
The stories of Mrs. Kennedy's efforts to restore the historical furnishings and decorating of the White House, and the resistance she met, were fascinating.  I admire her knowledge and taste, as well as her initiative in a decade when a First Lady with her own agenda was not necessarily appreciated.  She also told some anecdotes about her husband that were equally fascinating.
However, her narration was so often mean-spririted or tinged with superiority, that my opinion of Mrs. Kennedy came away tarnished.  From the blurb and the book's introduction I was expecting stories that would "document and preserve her husband’s legacy...through the words of an eloquent eyewitness". Unfortunately, it was mostly a parade of names followed by snarky comments about each of them.  By her own admission, Mrs. Kennedy had very little inside knowledge of the political machinations of JFK's administration. She saw it as her job to distract her husband from the cares and pressures of his job, so she very rarely asked to discuss political issues.  But she certainly had her own opinions about the people involved.  From world leaders to White House staff, nearly everyone mentioned by Mr. Scheslinger was met with comments such as "What a sad little man" or "I just hated him!"  
Mrs. Kennedy upholds her husband's image as inviolable, which I appreciate, but everyone else falls short.  And to what end?  Those comments don't document historic happenings or expose the President's personal thought process about any events or topics. At the very least, I think the conversations should have been kept under lock and key for another fifty years.  Though few of the people mentioned are still living, their children and grandchildren certainly are.  And who needs to hear a former First Lady say that she hated your father/grandfather?  In speaking about a Supreme Court Justice appointed by JKF, Mrs. Kennedy maintains that her husband thought later that the appointment was a mistake, but she doesn't expound on the reasons why. What purpose is served by revealing that?  It accomplishes nothing but hurt feelings.

Perhaps I had Jacqueline Kennedy on too high of a pedestal, labeling her as the depiction of "Grace: elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action".  And while it still holds true in some areas, her words were certainly not gracious.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The "Super Bowl" of Puzzles

Since our favorite teams -  Broncos, the Cowboys, and the Saints -  all missed out on the Super Bowl, there's not a lot of anticipation for the big game at our house.  Instead, we'll be posting three football-related puzzles. We're starting with a toughie - only the most fanatic sports-movie watchers will get all of them.  You may want to print out the lists to choices to make things easier on yourself. 

Below are fifteen stars and their corresponding roles from football-related movies.  Can you match the actor's picture with his real name, his character name, and the title of the movie?

Click to enlarge
a.  Dodge Connelly
b.  Marvin "Shake" Tiller
c.  George Gipp
d.  Michael Oher
e.  Paul Crews
f.  Paul Blake
g.  Phillip Elliott
h. Jim Thorpe
i.  Rod Tidwell
j.  Daniel E. Reuttiger
k.  Brian Piccolo
l.  George Plimpton
m. Joe Kingman
n.  Jack "Cap" Rooney
o.  Bobby Boucher

A.  Paper Lion
B.  Any Given Sunday
C.  Jerry Maguire
D.  The Game Plan
E.  The Longest Yard
F.  Necessary Roughness
G.  Semi-Tough
H.  Knute Rockne: All American
I.   Brian's Song
J.  North Dallas Forty
K.  The Blind Side
L.  The Waterboy
M.  Rudy
N.  Leatherheads
O.  Jim Thorpe: All American

16.  Nick Nolte
17.  Ronald Reagan
18.  Adam Sandler
19.  Burt Lancaster
20.  James Caan
21.  Cuba Gooding, Jr. 
22.  Dennis Quade
23.  George Clooney
24.  Scott Bakula
25.  Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
26.  Quinton Aaron
27.  Sean Astin
28.  Burt Reynolds
29.  Alan Alda
30.  Kris Kristofferson

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Every NOOK and Cranny . . .

It's Amanda's fault!  If she hadn't needed a new modem I wouldn't have been in the electronics section of Target and I never would have known they even carry Nooks.  But she did, and I was, and they do - so I succumbed to temptation and bought myself a Nook Color.

I've been putting off getting an e-reader of any form because I have quite a bit of money invested in books that are lined up on my dresser waiting to be read, and a membership in the Doubleday Book Club, which offers amazing deals on the latest hardback books.  I was also afraid of the temptation of having an entire Barnes and Noble store available at a click and possibly bankrupting the family purchasing books I could have gotten at the library for free.  I was content with my old-school, tree-killing, paper books.  Then Dave got a smart phone.  Maybe it's his fault.

Amanda has been asking for a smart phone for several years and, to be honest, I just didn't get it.  All I knew was that it costs more money.  I've always thought teenagers' cell phones should dial 9-1-1 and their mother, and that's it. Why would anyone need to Facebook or play games from their phone?  But then Dave got one so that he would have access to grain markets when he was out of his office, and the grandsons came for Thanksgiving.  These two things are connected because they happened at about the same time and because the first thing 7-year-old Grandson did - while still in the car on the way home from the airport - was grab Granddad's phone and download Angry Birds.  If you're not familiar with Angry Birds, it's a game where you shoot various types of birds at pigs in an attempt to get revenge for the pigs' theft of the bird eggs - thus the reason for their anger.  It's silly and corny and juvenile . . . and totally addicting.  The boys showed me how to play and I was hooked.  I have now played every level of Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons 2011, Angry Birds Seasons 2012, and Angry Birds Rio.  I was saved from this torture only by the fact that there were no more levels.  Hmmm . . . it could be the grandsons' fault!   (By the way, when Amanda explained to us that she was the last kid on the planet without a smart phone, we felt guilty and got her one for Christmas, so no calls to Social Services, please.)

Once the Angry Birds frenzy had cooled, I discovered another use for smart phones.  You can play Scrabble with all your friends!  If you weren't aware of this, you need to get Words With Friends immediately (and my user name is mrschupa - ask me to play).  Anyway, all of these things combined to make me see that, while not actually a necessity for most of us, having a smart phone could be fun - and who doesn't need more fun? Unfortunately, we used our only available upgrade getting a certain daughter an iPhone, so I would have to wait about nine months until we were eligible for another.  But did you know that you can do all these things from a Nook? (probably from a Kindle also, but I have Amazon issues)  Basically a Nook is all the fun of a smart phone AND an e-reader.  Ok, it doesn't make phone calls, but I've got a cheap-o cell phone for that.

I've had my lovely Nook for a couple weeks now, and I love it.  I've purchased two books - The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (total waste of money!), and a pre-order for Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (AKA The Bloggess - as in www.thebloggess.com  If you've never read her blog, you really should.  It's crying funny! Start with the story of the cobra and the mongoose - it had all of us rolling.)  I've also paid for a couple apps - The Bible app by Tecarta, which puts several translations at your fingertips, and how handy is that?  And, of course, Words With Friends because the free version is not available for Nook - but worth every penny.  I've also added some free books available from the state library.

So if you've wondered where I've been, or if you've been cheering the lack of pointless drivel lately, I've been hiding in a "nook", reading and Tweeting and playing Scrabble.  And it's not my fault!

Winter Puzzle: The Answers

Top Row (Left to Right): Groundhog Day, Grumpy Old Men, North to Alaska, Dumb and Dumber, In Cold Blood

Row 2: Shining, Home Alone, Eight Below, Cool Runnings, Rocky

Row 3:  The Holiday, Snow White, Planes Trains and Automobiles, It's A Wonderful Life

Row 4:  Snow Dogs, The Bishop's Wife, All that Heaven Will Allow, 101 Dalmatians

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Puzzling Post: Winter

It's a brisk 15 degrees at my house this morning, so my mind turns to snow and cold.  Below are scenes from 16 movies that take place in winter - and a couple that fit the category in name only.  How many do you recognize?

Click to enlarge

Not-So-Rave Reviews

Matchless: A Christmas Story by Gregory Macguire

Every year, NPR asks a writer to compose an original story with a Christmas theme. In 2008, Gregory Maguire reinvented the Hans Christian Andersen classic "The Little Match Girl" for a new time and new audiences.

An easy, fast and mostly forgettable retelling of a fairy tale.  Made for an interesting evening read, but wish I hadn't spent money on it.

The Christmas Blizzard by Garrison Keillor

Snow is falling all across the Midwest as James Sparrow, a country- bumpkin-turned-energy-drink-tycoon, and his wife awaken in their sky- rise apartment overlooking Chicago. Even down with the stomach bug, Mrs. Sparrow yearns to see The Nutcracker,  while James yearns only to escape-the faux-cheer, the bitter cold, the whole Christmas season. An urgent phone call from his hometown of Looseleaf, North Dakota, sends James into the midst of his lunatic relatives and a historic blizzard. As he hunkers down to weather the storm, the electricity goes out and James is visited by a parade of figures who deliver him an epiphany worthy of the season, just in time to receive Mrs. Sparrow's wonderful Christmas gift. 

Supposed to be allegorical or having "clear parallels to Dickens's A Christmas Carol", but I just found it strange and full of characters I wanted to get away from.  Once again, should have saved the money.  The lesson here: Do not get sucked into buying Christmas books in the grocery store check-out isle.

Son of Stone by Stuart Woods

After an eventful trip to Bel-Air and a reunion with his sophisticated (and very wealthy) former love, Arrington Calder, confirmed bachelor Stone Barrington is looking to stay in New York and cash in on his partnership at Woodman & Weld.  But Arrington has other plans for Stone, and his life is about to take a turn he never imagined...

Totally emotionless.  Three hundred pages of detached recitation on the life of the uber-wealthy and privileged.  Murder, abortion and confrontation with an armed killer don't cause any of the characters to bat an eyelash, much less display an emotion or even have interesting dialog.  It reads as though even the author was indifferent to his characters and what they were experiencing - as long a there was plenty of money and luxury to spread around.  Yale admission, millions of dollars, yachts, cars, multiple homes, servants, business success, passing the bar - all are obtained without a shred of effort and received without a shred of enthusiasm.  Even the teenagers in this book are docile, polite and dispassionate.  

I have enjoyed Mr. Woods' previous books, but perhaps he's become too complacent with his own characters. I gets two stars ("it was ok") rather than one ("didn't like it") out of respect for earlier works and because I can't work up enough emotion about it to dislike it.  It's just - there.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Politics, Religion and Football

Politics and religion - two topics best avoided at dinner parties and business meetings - and two topics I've never discussed much on the blog.  Although I don't hide the fact that I am a long-time registered Republican and a Christian, and am not ashamed of either, I don't make a point of pushing my thoughts and beliefs on my readers, it's just out there - take it or leave it.  I assume that if anyone is offended by my occasional scripture reference or Christmas wish, they will find another blog to read - no hard feelings.  And I maintain that attitude when reading other blogs or Tweets.  There are people I have come to know as fellow librarians, crafters or book lovers and have wonderful conversations with, yet we are worlds apart on political and religious matters.  I simply scroll past posts/tweets that express views with which I disagree.  No hard feelings.

However, in three seperate instances this week, I was not afforded the same courtesy and I gotta say, I'm a little miffed.  No, I'm downright angry.  It started at work last Tuesday, with a co-worker who makes no bones about voicing her opinions.  At this point I've forgotten what started the conversation, but it worked around to her making the statement that her mother is a "die-hard Republican.  Always has been.  She will always vote the party-line, even if she knows they're wrong."  So far, so good - she's just stating her view of the situation, but then she tacked on, "Well, she's not one of those religious right-wing types - she's not one of those people!"  I didn't say anything, but wondered exactly what she meant - does my party affiliation and church membership make me one of "those people"?  I marked it down as annoying, but let it go.

Then, on Friday, the following line came across my Twitter feed:  "The Right Wing is threatening the Girl Scouts with a cookie boycott."  Hmmm . . . hadn't heard about this - so I Googled the news story and discovered that one teenage girl in California had taken issue with a transgender girl being allowed to join Girl Scouts and had, therefore, begun organizing a boycott.  No problem there - whether or not I agree with the teenager (and I'm keeping that to myself) - she is exercising her constitutional right to correct a situation with which she disagrees.  What did strike me a little crosswise was the Tweeter stretching "one girl"l into "The Right Wing".   Most people equate "right wing" with Republican so I took offense at being lumped into this conflict.  I replied to the young lady who, by the way, I have always enjoyed conversing with about books and crafts, that I had read the news report and that she should be careful about such generalizations because they can be unintentionally offensive.  No response.

Later the same day, Bette Midler (yes, the famous singer/actress) Tweeted the following:

There is a whole lot you can say about the Marines, but I never thought we'd be talking about the shame they have showered on the USA.
This was in reference to the story of four marines who urinated on the bodies of Talaban members and were, of course, caught on camera.  This act is atrocious, not to mention a possible war crime for disrespect to the remains of the enemy, but it was done by four marines - four independent individuals - not the entire USMC.  By now, these statements were really beginning to grate, so I responded to the Twitter-world at large:

Getting a little tired of generalizations and stereotyping.  All Christians are not "The Right Wing" and all Marines are not shameful.
Again, no response, but I felt better for having gotten it off my chest.

Then came the instantly famous Focus on the Family commercial broadcast during the Denver Bronco/New England Patriot game last night.  The commercial showed a group of children reciting John 3:16 - that's it, just reciting, not accusing or blaming or having an alter call - just reciting a scripture verse.  The reaction on Twitter was beyond stupefying.  People were up in arms over the audacity of a Christian message being presented on public airwaves.  I lost it!  With all the absolute crap that is shown on television in the name of entertainment, how could anyone, Christian or not, be offended by a child reciting a Bible verse?  After reading a string of responses that were not just antagonistic, but crossed the line to plain ol' nasty, I had had enough.  My response was spread over six Tweets because 140 characters could not possibly contain my anger at "those people" who were insisting my rights were lesser than theirs:

I'm confused.  How could anyone be pissed about the Focus on the Family ad?  If I see an ad for something I don't choose to buy, I don't. But I don't feel the need to respond with name-calling or slanderous comments.  I just don't buy the product.  Should I protest if there is a political ad with which I disagree shown during a program I'm watching?  What happened to inclusion?  So far this week, I've been referred to as one of "those people", ridiculed because an over-reacting teen in California got upset at Girl Scouts, and now told that a Christian organization should not be allowed to purchase TV air time.  And I haven't once tried to convert someone, push my religion on someone, or even mention that I'm a Christian.  I'm incredibly disappointed in the lack of tolerance, and those slinging the mud would be the first to scream intolerance if it were reversed.
In the end, I "unfollowed" three Twitter friends that I had enjoyed, and I'm sad for the loss.  These are women with whom I shared interests and who I called "friend", but friendship has to be mutual.  Apparently, my friendship did not outrank their need to spew hatred, and I'm disappointed.

This blog is a place where I share about the books I'm reading, the craft projects I'm attempting, and the joys and sorrows of daily life and family.  All are welcome here, regardless of what church they attend or what box they check on a ballot.  I will continue to vote for the candidate who shares my ideals, to attend church on Sunday morning, to read and study the Bible, and to occasionally share thoughts on any or all of it right here.  I hope you'll join me, even if you don't agree.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Six Word Saturday

Take a lesson from Robert Frost . . .

. . . who didn't need six words:  "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."

I intentionally took a few days off during the holidays with good intentions for getting back to regular blogging after January 1.  Well, we all know where good intentions lead . . .

We've had a couple of family crises, one delayed family Christmas, two college students enrolling in three colleges, and a neurotic dog filling our time but things seem to be back on an even keel - although I'm firm in my cynical belief that life is what happens while you're waiting for the other shoe to drop - so I'm spending my weekend cleaning house, reading, catching up with what's waiting on the DVR and in my reader, and blogging.  But there's always the possibility that life will carry me away again, because:

"Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out". - Anton Chekhov

Want to play along? All that's necessary to participate is to describe your life (or something in it) in exactly six words.
Then visit Cate at Show My Face to link up with other participants.

Monday, January 2, 2012


In the weeks and months leading up to Christmas, I read much about "traditions".  I took part in the Virtual Advent Tour where participants shared their family traditions.   I continued my grandma's tradition of baking and decorating sugar cookies with the grandchildren.  I listened to many, many traditional carols... But this year, our Christmas celebration was anything but traditional.

Our son, Mitch, works for an eye bank, which means that, when an organ donor dies, he removes the corneas for transplant.  It's actually a great job for a college student with an interest in medicine and none of his mother's squeamishness, but it also means he is frequently "on call".  Obviously, there is a limited window of time for removal and transport, so he has to remain in town and ready to travel.  This year was Mitch's turn to be on call over Christmas weekend, so we took the celebration to him and four of his fraternity brothers who also couldn't go home for Christmas.  

We loaded up food, presents, ornaments, lights, a tree stand, stockings, stocking stuffers and games - not to mention suitcases - and headed to the fraternity house on the morning of Christmas Eve.  We were almost there when - of course - he got called out, but by the time we stopped for more groceries and unloaded everything, he had returned and Amanda had arrived.

Mitch's responsibility for the family gathering was to secure a Christmas tree.  Rather than go the "traditional" route and purchase a tree, he and his friend, Kyle, decided to get all Grizzly Adams and chop one down themselves.  Now, I can't prove it, but I suspicion that their choice of tree was intended to get a reaction from Mom.  The top branches were bent over to fit beneath the 10-foot ceiling (AFTER they cut several feet off the bottom).  What it made up for in height, it lacked in volume.  The branches were thin and widely spaced.  In a moment of resourceful brilliance, they balanced some of the previously removed lower branches in the holes.  Rather than wait for us to arrive with the tree stand, they improvised with some 1"x4" lumber nailed directly to the trunk.  To complete their creation, they decorated with beer cans and empty liquor bottles.  They had no wire hangers so the tips of the branches were inserted directly into the opening of the can/bottle, giving the tree an Edward Scissorhands aura. This was the Charlie Brown tree on steroids.

But I'm the original Christmas Junkie.  No measly, ugly tree can deter me from my appointed Christmas revelry.  We replaced the alcohol adornments with "traditional" lights and Wal-Mart's finest plastic red/silver ornaments.  The light strings helped anchor the non-attached branches, and when we were done it wasn't half bad.

Alumni of the fraternity recently donated new black, leather couches, end tables and a flat-screen tv hung above the fireplace, so we had a nice place to congregate.  The kitchen is large with double ovens, microwaves and refrigerators, so cooking was a breeze.  There were a few housekeeping issues created by twenty men celebrating the end of the semester and then leaving, plus the half-dozen who had been fending for themselves in the kitchen for a week (no cook during holiday break) - but "many hands make light work" as they say (whoever "they" are) and we whipped it into shape quickly.  A fire in the fireplace and we were "home for Christmas".

Work schedules cooperated and left us a nice block of Christmas Eve with just the four of us to exchange gifts, play games and laugh.  For the next two days, the other residents shuffled in an out according to their work schedules (several work nights) and we fed them all, included them in our games, passed out some gifts, and generally tried to give them at least a little piece of a traditional Christmas.  Their genuine gratitude was our gift in return.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about what it means to be "Home For Christmas".  Normally, it doesn't mean sleeping in a hotel, semi-strangers wandering through, or celebrating in a building with no ladies' room.  But, we proved what I wrote before:  
 "Home, I guess, is wherever the people you love are.  Sometimes, home is not so much a physical place as a feeling - comfort, belonging, contentment."  

Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays,

For no matter how far away you roam -

When you long for the sunshine of a friendly gaze,

For the holidays - you can’t beat home, sweet home!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

     We here at "Just One More Thing..." wish you a Happy New Year full of Blessings...

Beer (from Dave) . . .

and of course . . . books!