Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bliss in Facial Tissue Form

I'm feeling much better today. My sore throat is gone and my coughing is nil and I'm actually being quite productive when I blow my nose, so that's nice. A few friends and I had a joke awhile back about the best part about being an being able to eat cookies and pizza WHENEVER YOU WANTED. Something you can use when the small annoying children in your life are too much: "Oh yeah? Well, you might be able to have a temper tantrum in the middle of the store, but I am going to walk out of here with a bag of Oreos! Jealous?!" But the best part about being an adult is being able to buy the Puffs with the lotion. Oh, I know--they're totally an unnecessary indulgence, and I was going to make do with the TP for the next day or two that my nose would be running, but, hey, Puffs were on sale. And that conjured up a vision of my mother insisting that she would tolerate no Puffs-with-lotion in her house, even though they are secretly my favourite type of facial tissue. And I felt a slight twinge of guilt that while I will buy Coke, Quilted Northern, or anything else that requires brand loyalty, here I draw the line. Ahhhh...blissful Puffs with lotion. How good you make my nose feel--to say nothing of my hands, which also suffer from dry paper products. Le sigh. It's good to be an adult.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Long Dark Train Ride of the Soul

Nicki is back in Williamsburg. Along with a swanky new pair o' New Balance sneakers and some socks for Niece #1 (my first act as a spoiling aunt), she managed to pick up a nasty headcold somewhere between Albany and here. Nicki blames Penn Station. For there is no way that a city as lovely as Albany could harbour such a vicious, vicious virus.

The train ride up was uneventful, except where the first train was late, making me miss my connecting train and take a later one. "Is there anything to do in New York?" I deadpanned to the ticket guy as he changed my ticket. Blank stare. "Uh. I'd stay in the staion." Forget that! Broadway was only six, okay eight blocks away! I trotted down to 42nd St and said hai and was back in time to get a delicious sandwich for the train.

Alison met me in Albany...can I say how weird it is to see someone I've only ever known on public transport driving a car? It's weird. We spent that Sunday at the New York State Museum, which is beautiful. Half the museum is given over to the Beauty of Natural New York, including it's one dinosaur and mastodon skeleton, and the other half is given over to New York City. I found the exhibit on 9/11 to be slightly disturbing--seeing parts or airplanes and seatbelts was particularly wrenching--and I was shocked when a mother calmly led her two youngish children through the exhibit. There is also a carousel at the museum, and although Alison and I were not the oldest ones who went for a ride, we were the oldest who actually got up on the horse and yippee ki-yi-yayed around, instead of holding a small child on.

Sunday night we had sushi. I haven't sushi in months. Oh, God, I love sushi. Sushi, sushi, sushi. We also had ice-cream for desert...completely forgetting that we had stopped for ice-cream earlier. Oh well. That's the best part about being an adult, kids--you can have as MUCH ICE CREAM AS YOU WANT!

Monday we went to see "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." This was the first movie I've seen in a theatre that didn't require reading, and for a while I was confused why the Russian wasn't subtitled. Apparently, the Russian government is mad at Spielberg & Co for portraying the KGB as heartless criminals, though, I must say I don't know where they get it from, I thought the KGB agents were very effective. Especially the bit where Cate Blanchette is swordfighting in the jungle. Yeah. Incredibly effective.

We ended up on the sofa watching "3:10 to Yuma" surrounded by food that night. BBQ pulled pork, veggies and dip, hoummus, chips, crackers, cheese and watermelon, plus Mike's Hard Lemonade, enough food that my stomach finally had to send up a delegation and say "stop, please." But really, what else is Memorial Day about? It was so wonderful to spend time with a friend, face to face instead of via email or over the phone. It was hard to leave yesterday, but the train ride home was also uneventful, except I kept passing out because of this cold. I felt sorry for the lady next to me who wanted to show me pictures of her grandchildren: "Oh, they're so cute....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz..."

And that was my trip. I didn't take any pictures, alas, but I did buy an "I (heart) Albany" penlight keychain. New York, not so much. But Albany is delightful.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

On Holiday

NLD is on a mini-break in Schenectady, which is hard to spell, fun to say. I ended up having a two-hour layover in NYC so, if anyone wants a postcard (I got 15 for a buck!) send me an email with your current address.

Back on Wednesday.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


This is why Bush is a bad president:

He gets his money for the war.

Then he wants to veto this bill because it has a bunch of congressional add-ons. True, there's probably some pork in there as well, but it also includes stuff like rebuilding levees in Mississippi and foreign aid programs.

THEN his official White House speaker has the gall to say:

"Our troops deserve better than having essential war time resources held hostage to billions in unrelated spending," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. "Congress should pass a clean war funding bill when they return from Memorial Day recess."

ESSENTIAL bloody WAR TIME RESOURCES?! Unrelated spending?! Maybe if we spent more money on food aid and support for non-violent programs overseas we'd spend less money on WAR.

chuff, chuff, chuff.

rant over.

Okay, more rant. I hit "publish" on the above piece before I visited and read a bit more about this bill, which also includes a sizeable upswing in benefits given to veterans. Senator John McCain did not vote for this bill, but proposed a counter bill and then went on to bash veteran-haters like Senator Obama in a truly vitrolic rant you can read here. I don't mind that the man is running for president* but I'm really offended that he would suggest that simply because people aren't veterans we aren't concerned about their welfare. I think John McCain needs to think about the fact that a sizeable portion of our soldiers come from families and backgrounds where going to college is Not An Option, and that we shouldn't ask them to fight for America and then turn around and say "sorry, you can't participate in the American Dream."

Okay. Done for today.

*Actually, I do mind, but only when his supporters, driving a huge black Denali, McCain '08 sticker prominently displayed on the bumper, park halfway into my spot forcing me to walk through a muddy patch to get to my bike which is chained to the sign that says "PARKING RESERVED FOR L-------T LAUNDRY." Jerk.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

rack & rail

I've been learning counter duties this week...of the 2,000+ employees who work at CW, some 800 are costumed to a certain extent. Full-time interpreters might have six shirts, five breeches/petticoats, stockings, jackets, coats, jumps, stays, weskits, shoes and other accessories like hats, pins, buckles. People with more than one interpretive role or with a dirty job might have more clothes, part-timers or special-event interpreters might have less. Some people, like the guy who plays Thomas Jefferson, have several dozen complete outfits, spanning several decades.

And when those clothes get dirty, they come to me. I separate them into bags for hot and cold water, dry-cleaning, extra dirty or sooty (this is where clothes worn while firing cannons go), any special requests or clothes with hazardous materials on them. They get scanned into the computer and sent off to the cleaners. When they come back, they get scanned back into the building (each item has a barcode on it), and then the laundry team checks it all over and fixes anything major Normally I am fixing, but today I was checking. After each garment is lovingly mended--or not, as some carry tags marked "Distressed--Do Not Repair" which is hysterical to me for some reason--they are put alphabetically onto a rolling rack, and eventually transferred onto a drycleaner's rail, where they await the return of their interpreter. I'm not sqeamish about handling dirty laundry--hello, wardrobe--but the action of hanging hundreds of pieces of period clothing onto a rail is killing me. My right shoulder especially is sore. And I'm completely worn out from remembering all the steps needed to get everything organised for two different cleaning companies all the while being constantly interrupted by interpreters stopping by to pick up their clothes.

But I have had the opportunity, finally, to meet some of the people I've been repairing clothes for, and it's been interesting to see if my image of them meets up with what they actually look like. Usually, not. Period shirts, for example, are huge, so I always picture these guys as bigger than they really are. And I cornered the militia captain when he came in to retrieve his regimentals: he said he would put me on the list to join the evening military programs, so if he remembers, I'll be doing that. All my deep thoughts and ponderings finally boiled down to "screw it! I wanna march." Although, after the workout I've had today, I don't know if I'll be capable of it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Marching Right Along

After posting yesterday, I continued to think about the Fife & Drum Corps, and also about wanting to get more involved in CW and re-enacting in particular. It started getting late, and the Sunday night cannons started going off, which got me thinking about the "militia" that goes on manoevres in the afternoons. And the more I thought about it, the more I thought about joining. Today I was working at the counter--actually checking out clothes to some of the interpreters--and I got in a coversation with one of the militiamen, who told me they were in fact "recruiting." I'd be marching, carrying a flag, shooting a gun and (eventually) learning how to fire the cannons. It sounded quite exciting.

But I don't particularly believe in war--modern standing armies make me nervous--and now I'm thinking about joining a pretend militia. What is it that is so attractive about marching in formation and shooting a gun? I've never shot a gun in my life, except for my brother's BB gun, and even that was only at targets. (in case you're wondering--I was better at it) Guns make me nervous. I was in the toystore on Saturday, and it surprised me at how the kids would swarm over the display of the toy muskets and pistols, pointing them at each other without a second thought. If I saw a kid of mine doing that, I would have to drag them outside for a very loud lecture about what guns can do to people. The militia, of course, does not drill with real bullets, nor do they point their guns at people. It's a re-enactment equivalent of theatre pyro-effects. But you're aiming (no pun intended) for realism, and the smoke and noise is just enough to conjure up a whiff of a battlefield.

So I don't know how I feel about the fighting part of it. Let's not forget that training also includes how to fix bayonets and stab people to death with them. What's appealing is being involved in a interpretative role that is not necessarily proscriptive for women. The "uniforms" are baggy enough that sometimes you can't tell. All the militiapersons are treated equally. So that would solve the problem of how to be an independent female in the eighteenth century. Hello, my name is Nick.

But there's the other part about being a part of a military-group, albeit one that does not fight, and one that does not even interpret battles or killing other people. The focus is primarily on manoevres and shooting in formation. But can I say I'm anti-war and still willingly participate in a pseudo-military group? Even if all of America agrees that the Revolution was a great idea and that the soldiers who fought in it are heroes? In my mind, I've divided the War for Independence into the "justified and good" pile of conflicts, but does that encompass interpreting? In a nutshell, would I have fought in the Revolutionary War? Do I believe strongly enough in this republican experiement to take up arms for it?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Cognitive Dissonance

The Fife & Drum Corps, which I've mentioned before, are a crack group of high schoolers who march in the style of eighteenth century groups, whilst playing the fifes and drums. They are elite. They are band snobs to the nth power.

I love them.

There's something appealing about them marching down the street, perfectly in step, as sharp and rehearsed on a hot Sunday afternoon as they were three weeks before. Little kids go crazy for them, adults pause with cameras halfway to their eyes.

This weekend they hosted a "Fife and Drum Call" which meant that in addition to the CW group, there were several other groups here to march and play. Last night they had a parade down DOG St. Each group was accompanied by an interpreter with a flaming torch, the orange fires providing most of the light. What was weird about the parade was that each group had its own uniform--I'm so used to seeing eighteenth century clothes by now that to see a uniform from ca. 1810 go by was a little odd. Then I started looking around and I realised that the people marching weren't the only ones in period clothes--many of the groups had their families and fans with them, so there were clusters of people in dress from the 1760s all the way up to the 1860s--including a group of Civil War reenactors. As odd as it is to see a person in modern dress discorsing with someone in a weskit and breeches, it is even odder to see someone in a Civil War uniform talking to someone in a Napoleonic uniform. Earlier in the day, as I made my way through the modern Merchant's Square, I had seen a group of redcoats on manuvers--only later did I realise they were a group of reenactors from elsewhere, and not attached to CW.

I have only scratched the surfance of "re-enacting," but I'd like to run into it a lot more. That's not something you can just show up and do, however, there is a lot of research and preparation that goes into being from another time period. And being without car makes it hard to attend events, of course. But the CW employees have told me that in June the British are going to "take over" Williamsburg, just as they did in 1781 and THAT will be a huge deal--a British encampment, skirmishes, a fair, people coming from all over the world, so I hope to get a chance to pick some brains about the best way to get involved in reenacting. The problem is, of course, is that there is not exactly a place for an independent woman of the new millenium in the eighteenth century, so if I want to wear the petticoats, I'm going to have to accept a certain level of "helplessness."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What would you say?

A few days ago I put an ad up on craigslist, hoping to find some people in the area who would like to hang out with me. I tried to be succint, but I did mention that I would not vote for the Iraq War, in case politics mattered to any of the people who responded. Here's what I got in my mailbox today:

could you tell me why you wouldnt vote for the iraqi war? its operation iraqi freedom, not the 'lets take out all the iraqi's.

just wondering. a lot of people have misconceptions about this war. my husband and i are both iraqi war veterans. he has been 2 times, about to go on his 3rd tour, and i am about to go on my 2nd. i am a full supporter.

just wondering...

oh and btw, a lot of people who want us to pull out of the country now and come home do not realize that the equipment that is over there cannot be moved in such a short period of time, and we, as a country, would lose over 23million dollars worth of equipment which would greatly affect us as a nation. im a full supporter of our President.

I felt an enormous sense of responsibility. After all--it's easy for me to rant and rave against the Iraq War, but I have never actually defended my views against someone who could also logically, rationally take each opinion and crush it into the dust. At first I thought I should just not respond--this could turn into a flame war very quickly. But I wanted to explain to someone that my offhand comment was more than just a flippant remark. So in the end, this is what I wrote:

Thanks for emailing me and letting me explain myself. I put that on there because I wanted to indicate to people that I'm a liberal, in case political opinions mattered to someone who might respond. I appreciate your taking the time to email instead of just flaming me! :)

I have never supported the Iraq war, because I feel that the reasons given for going there were not good. I do not feel that this war is making America "safer"--if anything, I feel as though it is stirring up support for terrorist organisations. I also do not believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for September 11th, although he probably celebrated along with the rest of the radical Islamic world. From my limited grasp of history in that region, the US helped put Saddam in charge, and I feel--very strongly--that we have no right to charge in and take over a soverign nation. America had a revolution and we set up the type of government that we wanted, we must let other countries do the same. It's not easy watching military dictators and madmen be in charge, but there is a lot of religious and secular history in that area that we simply don't understand. You and I live in a country where we are allowed to have different opinions and religion, but not every country in the world works like that. Naturally, I know that America has to protect her interests and her people. I'm not saying I know how to do that without getting involved overseas militarily--I do not--but I also feel that the direction our president has taken is the wrong direction. He has a difficult job, and I respect that, but we have very different responses when people and organizations threaten our country.

On the other hand, I am also very aware of the difficult job that US soldiers have in Iraq. My father is a Vietnam-era veteran, and so I have a tremendous respect for soldiers, especially people who are my own age and who have made the decision to serve their country. I respect you by taking the time to learn about the war: I read the news, note the casualty lists, learn about the history and influences of the region, so that when I speak up and say "I do not support this war" I am well-informed in doing so. I hear about the good things going on in Iraq, the schools and hospitals re-opening, and I know that there will be people there for generations who speak fondly of Americans. I know that this war is Operation Iraqi Freedom--but the freedom that we enjoy is still a long way away for the people of that region. It is coming sooner, thanks to the service of people like yourself, but in my own personal opinion, the trade-off is too high.

Obviously, we disagree about that, however, and I hope no matter what our different opinions might be, we can at least stand back and agree that we live in a beautiful country that is worth fighting for. So many people I know joked about moving to Canada if President Bush was re-elected, but I always said that was ridiculous. This is my country too, and I am going to work hard to make it the best it can be.

Again, thanks for taking the time to email me. I hope that I haven't irritated you too much. :) I hope that your deployment, and your husband's deployment is uneventful, and no matter what you have my gratitude for representing our country in Iraq.

And I stand by every word. Great country, shite war. But we Americans are nothing of not optimistic.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mothering on Mother's Day

Trust me, the irony was not lost on me that yesterday, Mother's Day, I was needed all day while the girls' mom went to work. Instead of being stuck at the house all day, however, we spent the morning wandering around the historic area. For a few hours, I became one of those super-moms with the SUV-sized stroller, chasing after a pair of toddlers, getting cooed at when the girls were waving and babbling prettily, getting dirty stares when they were screaming because heaven forfend I actually make them sit in the giant SUV-sized stroller. It was weird. Normally I lope through the historic area, occasionally being recognised by one of the interpreters, but for the most part, invisible, free to people watch and Washington-gawk to my heart's content. Now, suddenly, I had perfect strangers coming up to me gushing "I just wanted to say HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY. You're doing such a super job!" No joke. I actually felt slightly bad when I had to explain the two blonde-haired blue eyed babies were not my (red-haired, green-eyed, bare left-hand) offspring.

The girls were good for most of the day. I'm learning things that every parent knows, things like: Kids have no empathy. They have no idea how their tearing up at the slightest thing drives adults wild. And they have no vocabulary, no ability to say things, so they cry. Frequently, but not for long periods of time. And the more time I spend with them, the better I get at heading off the thunderstorms. And my God are they smart. The older girl was humming a song and a few minutes later I realised she was singing the alphabet song, with approximately 40% of the letters right...the rest might have been Russian or something. And she's TWO. Bravo.

Nicki, on the other hand, was not feeling very good yesterday. So after picking up half their lunch off the floor (S1 wanted an apple, bawled when I cut up some pieces for her, insisting on "eating the big apple!", threw the pieces on the floor, nibbled on the remaining half and then threw it on the floor, indicating the meal was OVER), changing not one, not two, but three poopy diapers, I decided it was naptime. Tears all around. But I got them into their cribs. S2 was out immediately, having run around the Governor's palace several times, but S1 cried and cried. And cried and cried. I took her shoes off, said "night night!" and went downstairs, swearing to the heavens above if she was still wailing like that in fifteen minutes I'd go get her but only if God promised to remove my uterus in the meantime. Ten minutes later she was babbling quietly, before the fifteen minutes had passed she was asleep and didn't get up for another two hours.

See? I wanted to say when I shook her awake. I told you you needed a nap.

And so I learned another valuable parenting lesson, although I'm not sure what that is. Probably somewhere along the lines of "when you've have enough, it is okay to put the child in a safe place and take some time for yourself." Possibly it might be something like "Nyquil! Proof that God loves parents and wants them to be happy!" I also learned the cure for fingernail chewing is...poopy diapers.

While the girls were asleep I cleaned up the kitchen--swept up the rest of lunch, emptied/filled the dishwater, washed up some pots, ran a sponge around the counter... I couldn't let Mom come home on Mother's Day to two fully-recharched toddlers and a sinkful of dishes. And besides, if I was going to co-opt Mother's Day, the least I could do was share in some of the drudge as well. When the girls got up there were decidedly less tears and more sharing. They were waiting by the window when Mom pulled up, cheering when she got out of the car. I think I begin to understand now why people have babies. They are loud, annoying, demanding and incredibly time consuming, but they're also trusting, beautiful and, let's face it, kinda fun.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Postcard from Wmsbrg.

I leave my bike at home, afraid of the puddles that the previous night’s storms have left, and of biking home in a torrent later. A thunderstorm bounces between the James and York rivers all afternoon, rumbling off the roof of the building, rain falling like hail and, alternately, flower petals. They give us pizza for lunch as a reward for having such a productive April. I learn what robings are and take my time replacing the lace ruffle on a shirt.

The rain has left the pathway soggy, so I cross the road going home and pick at one of the horses. They are tormented by the humidity and the flies and appreciate my ability to scratch their withers. A pile of loose hair grows under my fingers, now I smell like horses. The nearest one gives a sharp stomp to dislodge a particularly disobliging fly and a spot of mud lands on my shirt. I move away, picking at it without focusing on anything, and when I look up I see George Washington riding down the street, solo. He does not say anything to me, and I wonder if he is starting to notice this strange woman who appears every Friday at five, in her blue coat. I sling my messenger bag over my shoulder and think about Portsmouth.

The Fife and Drum Corp are standing easy, drums on the ground, fifes in fife-holsters, they are chatting in the twenty-first century. Only the drum major is attentive, an eye on her watch, and as I pass them I hear her give the word for order. They fall in with a precious which will elict jealousy when they go abroad next month, I am sure. Now they are walking down the street behind me, the drums pounding, the fifes high and shrill. People are walking towards them, walking past me, their eyes on them, and I people watch like I’m wearing sunglasses. Little children, not sure what’s going on stop and put their fingers in their mouths. Small black girls march in time, and I think, “Yes, this is America, this is your history too. It’s not pretty, and it’s not neat, but it’s ours together.”

We arrive at the green. I have graciously given way and allowed the drum major to lead her corps on to the field. They acquit themselves admirably. The riflemen seem so young to me, but then again—perhaps their age is more accurate than anything else I’ve seen today. A tourist asks me if I have a son in the fife and drums. Good God, I think, do I look as old as that? George Washington appears again. I spot his horse’s legs behind a tree, waiting just offstage before he trots onto the green to address the assembly. His microphone switches on and off at random. I am the only one wearing jeans who cheers when he mentions crushing the British at Yorktown and marvel all over again at the miracle of America.

Then cannons. One fires with a window shaking boom, the other two less heartily. Children cry and jump around.

I go back to my house to read. Reading, reading, reading, constantly, the words are swimming in front of my eyes and I surface with a shock to realize that nearly three hours have passed and now I’m hungry again. Dinner then. I pass high schoolers in prom finery as I walk to the coffee shop and oh look, a band has shown up to give us a bit of a treat. The cutest member sits down next to the woman with the four-month old baby. Somehow I find myself next to a ninety year old woman who asks me if I go to William and Mary. I say no and ask her the same thing. She laughs. I eat a roast pepper portobello mushroom wrap, drink cranberry juice.

Oh, how I wish you were here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Silk: Not as Much Fun As You Think

You know those pretty yellow watered silk sackback gowns with a poloniase finish and yards of pinked ruffles? Yeah. Those kind of dresses can stay right away from me, thank you very much, I'll stick to cotton and wool. And that's all I have to say about that. Oy.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Props, not of the stage variety

Remember that production of 1776 that I worked on last winter? I just found out that it's been nominated for a bunch of Jeff Awards, which are like the Oliviers, but you don't get a small statue of Laurence Olivier if you win, you get a...uh, I don't know what you get, but it's a pretty awesome mark of recognition for the Chicagoland area. Woot. I'm very proud to have been a part of this show. Thank you, thank you. Full list of nominees here.

In other exciting news, I'm going to keep this short so I can go do laundry.

Monday, May 05, 2008

I hate being a responsible adult!

One of the women at work has found a Cat and she's trying to give it away. So this morning, after we'd been stitching for a bit, she casually says to me "Nicki, I think you need a cat."

I don't disagree with her right away, but give this suggestion due consideration. Many reasons why I can't adopt a Cat flow through my brain: I am a Dog Person. I can barely afford to feed myself. My house is titchy and I don't think I'm allowed pets. If something were to happen to the Cat, God forbid, I don't think I could afford the vet bills. Things like this. But I don't want to hurt my coworker's feelings--and I do want the Cat, because I need a small furry. So I say, weakly, "Well, if I ever got a cat, I'd have to name it Benedict Arnold, because I'm a dog person. So it'd kinda be" She blinked at me once or twice and then said "Well, I call him Waller, because that was the street he was on, but you can rename him if you want. He's already neutered."

Names are very important. Also, spaying your pets.

I don't think I'm going to adopt this cat, mostly because I'm still hoping to move in July and my future roommate has told me No Cats because her BF 4-EVR is incredibly allergic, and I understand the importance of respecting friends' needs. But I would really like a small furry to take care of, I just need to be patient I guess, until I move and then I can get A Dog.

But now I'm wondering if this Cat has come to me--Cats, after all, aren't adopted, they find you, and I'm wondering if this Cat is waiting for me to recognise that he is My Cat. If I'm being told that, after years of pining for a Dog, I should take this Cat. I must meditate on it some more, but I would feel really bad if I said I would not adopt the Cat and it was actually My cat.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Marl: noun

Marl is what they use to pave the pathways at CW. It is made out of crushed seashells and is environmentally friendly--the shells come from fisheries, and back in the day they were probably tossed out the back door of the tavern--and also practical. Since marl is white, it reflects the moonlight and you can see your way late at night when it's dark and there are no lamps. Also, when it rains, the entire historical area smells like the sea. I was walking to the library today, grumbling about the marl getting into my sandals, when I realised that this probably wasn't a problem back then, since people didn't wear sandals, they wore shoes. One more reason to get into period costume, I guess.

I don't have any major news today...I'm writing about crushed seashells, for peete's sake, so you know it's been a quiet week. I'm secretly hoping the lovely, seventy-five degree weather will turn cold and rainy so I'll have an excuse to stay inside and watch more of "Carnivale" but I suspect that's not going to happen. I am working on a little headache. It's nowhere near migraine magnitude, but it's located in the same part of the brain, and I'm worried that it's going to take off in a bit. I probably didn't help things much by stopping at the Blue Talon Bistro for French french toast, which was so rich I went blind temporarily as my body diverted all of its attention to digesting. Worth it? Oh yes.

Oh! I also dyed my hair red. Yay! It's not quite "Bell Watling" but it's a marked improvement.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Everyone Needs to Read This Book

People I know have professed amazement when they learn that I can sit down and read for three, four hours at a time--occasionally switching books like I'm channel surfing. This doesn't happen too often, but when the stars are aligned just right (or I have no TV) I get through books at a pretty regular clip.

And right now I'm reading the most fascinating book I've picked up in a long time. I first heard about it on The Daily Show over a year ago, and it's been in my mind ever since then. "Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to Present" by Michael B. Oren is just the kind of history book I like. It starts out in the past and works its way into present day, explaining events in easy to understand language that doesn't talk down too much. It assumes a basic knowledge of American history, but it also assumes that the reader is up to having their assumptions about our relations with the Middle East changed.

One thing I was really surprised to learn is how friendly the US has been with the Middle East, right up until we weren't. That shift happened as our need for oil started to outweigh our propensity for not imperialising in the Middle East. But before that, countries in that part of the world constantly looked to us for help as the European powers attempted to further their agendas and carve up the Ottoman Empire. I dimly recalling learning something about "the sick man of Europe" back in History 107, but learning how America's involvement in that area mostly extended to missionary schools and hospitals was astonishing. How did our attitudes change, that instead of sending doctors we sent soldiers? I'm only up to about 1945, so the question of Israel/Palestine is looming large, and I'm starting to recognise more names and places. And I'm starting to understand the traditional social attitudes towards that part of the world.

Mr. Oren also posited an interesting theory, saying that the Constituion was written because America needed a strong central government so it could build a navy to ward of Barbary pirates. I don't know how much of that I believe, but still: pirates. Everyone has this image of Thomas Jefferson wandering around, being all interested in republican ideals, but I never realised he was determined to eliminate the scourge of pirates from the Mediterranean as well. Cool.