Happy 100th birthday, Beverly Cleary!

Today (April 12) is the 100th birthday of a living literary legend. Beverly Cleary has inspired generations of children through her books, most notably those featuring Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby.

I count myself as one of Mrs Cleary’s fans. I grew up reading her books; they were among the first I’ve read multiple times. Even now, some of the stories are still vivid in my mind, such as the scene where Ramona, enamored by a girl’s curly hair, reached out and pulled a lock of her hair, getting Ramona into trouble. The name “NOSMO KING” should also be familiar to religious readers of Ramona.

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Ramona Quimby statue at Grant Park, Portland

When I visited Portland, Oregon, for the first time in 2007, I made a point to visit the area where the Ramona and Henry books were set (which includes Klickitat Street). In nearby Grant Park, there is a statue garden featuring Ramona, Henry, and his dog Ribsy, immortalizing characters much loved not just in Portland, but around the world.

To mark Mrs Cleary’s milestone birthday, Oregon Public Broadcasting commissioned a short documentary, Discovering Beverly Cleary, that includes insights from the author herself.

Happy birthday, Beverly Cleary!


Rapid review: The Science of Single

Rachel Machacek, The Science of Single (Riverhead, 2011)

When I saw this book in my local library, I thought it would provide some interesting insight into, well, the science of being single. I should have read the back cover, and just as important, looked at the call number (921 for biography instead of the 5xx that a science text would be classified) before checking it out.

Rachel Machacek, a 30-something magazine editor in Washington, embarks on a year-long “grand experiment in modern dating, creating chemistry, and finding love” (according to the book’s subtitle). There isn’t a hint of scientific research in this book, but at least she went back to high-school science class to provide a purpose, hypothesis, and approach to this experiment.

I’ll admit that, despite the deception of the title, I managed to read through the whole thing. Machacek divided the book into smaller “experiments” in which she goes through a variety of approaches to score dates, including online, blind dates, and even going to other cities to check out the singles’ scenes there. As I read, I wasn’t interested so much in the details of Machacek’s numerous dates but rather in the process of how she acquired those dates. She summed up her experiment on the last page, and provided some tips that I could actually use (not necessarily the one involving lip gloss).

But to actually put some science into this, it’s great to have the theory, but the application (and practice) is something else altogether. Or maybe I should drop the cold logic and follow my instincts.


A neat way to combat dull, rainy days

Photo of an umbrella adorned with flowers

Flowery umbrella

I took a picture of this umbrella earlier today, while I was waiting for a bus. As we were boarding, I complemented the umbrella’s owner, telling her that it brings some brightness on a dreary day such as today. More impressively, it looks like a bouquet when closed; I wish I took a picture of that. She told me that she has sewn the flowers on the umbrella, and that she’s made one with roses, and another with daisies.

She also told me that she got the idea from a crafts market in Seattle. Why hasn’t this caught on? As long as the umbrellas are of good quality, they would make great gift ideas, and can really stand out on a rainy day.

The floral umbrella’s owner was even considering adoring umbrellas with disco balls, bingo balls, or even miniature lights. I’d definitely buy one of those!


Adventures in wiki-chaining

BBC News: Lost in Wikipedia

The above article was written at the time of Wikipedia‘s 10th anniversary. The author started by selecting an article in the online encyclopedia (Aristotle). By clicking on a link found within that article to another article, and so on and so forth, the author managed to return to the Aristotle article one hour later.

I am guilty of the practice myself (which the BBC piece refers to as “wiki-chaining”). This time, I will document it, just like the BBC journalist did, and give myself 45 minutes. I will start with a random article (the link is on the left side of all Wikipedia entries).

The randomizer lands at Leo Valledor, a Filipino-American painter whose work has been exhibited widely throughout his lifetime and after his death in 1989. He was a leader of the minimalist movement of the 1970s. Oddly, the article about minimalism doesn’t mention Valledor. But visual artists engaged in minimalism have been influenced by the works of John Cage, William Carlos Williams, and Frederick Law Olmsted.

I’ve been reading a bit about Olmsted, so I clicked to his entry. As a landscape architect, and partnering with Calvert Vaux, Olmsted designed New York’s Central Park. His nephew/stepson John designed the Uplands neighbourhood in a suburb of Victoria, BC. The 2007 film In the Land of Women was mainly shot in the Uplands.

One of the actors who appeared in that film is Ginnifer Goodwin. She was born with the name Jennifer, but changed it to distinguish herself and to emphasize the dialectical pronunciation of her name. The dialect (Oklahoma) is redirected to the article Southern American English. Oklahoma dialect is a combination of Midland American English and South Midland Southern American English. And I thought English was just English!

A separate dialect that is unique to Louisiana, and to New Orleans in particular, is Yat, as in “Where y’at?”, which is equivalent to “How are you?” The article mentions the novel A Confederacy of Dunces, which is set in 1960s New Orleans. In the novel, the main character, Ignatius Reilly, tried to travel to Baton Rouge on a Scenicruiser bus. The PD-4501 Scenicruiser was built exclusively for Greyhound. 1001 were made, and the coaches became a ubiquitous sight on American highways.

There! That’s 45 minutes. That’s a very interesting trip. If I were to try it again (and I will do this again and blog about it), I will almost certainly come up with something much different.


Books on film: the backlog

Last weekend, I watched a film adaptation of a book, and it did not involve a boy wizard. I was at home and in the PVR was Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rainmaker, based on the novel of the same name by John Grisham.

When I was growing up, I read a lot of books. Some of them were novels whose adaptations were recently released in theatres. I wasn’t that much of a film buff, and I was at an age when going to a movie theatre by yourself literally singled you out. Since I didn’t have anyone to go with me, I went for the next best thing, which was the novel on which the film is based. That’s how I got started with the work of John Grisham. And at the time I read it, I thought his Rainmaker was a change of pace simply because it was narrated in the first person.

As time went on, there became an inverse relationship between the speed of my internet access and the amount of books I read: as the former increased, the latter decreased. It’s kind of sad, really, as I feel I’m really missing out on new books to read. I still have magazines and web articles to go through, but finding the time to escape into a good novel is really hard to come by these days.

And it’s not just The Rainmaker; there are so many films adapted from novels that I have yet to watch. A couple are already in the PVR: The Chamber (another from Grisham) and Timeline (Michael Crichton). There are others that are relatively recent, and so might not be making the rounds on TV just yet. These are books going back to my childhood, including the three released so far in The Chronicles of Narnia, and even Ramona and Beezus. One (or three, depending on who you talk to) notable exception to the trend was The Lord of the Rings; I watched all three films within a week of their theatrical release.

I don’t know why I wait so long to watch these films, or watch movies generally, and yet I’m always keen whenever the Vancouver International Film Festival happens every year. It’s an interesting dichotomy, to be sure. And hopefully I can get around to watching those films in my PVR, but first, it’s time to catch up on some reading.


All aflutter about alliteration

I don’t really care much about the Charlie Sheen saga, but during my regular perusal of the BBC News site, this article about Sheen suing the makers of Two and a Half Men, is found on the front page with the link “Sacked Sheen sues show’s makers”; I’ve taken the screen-grab here.

If there’s one thing that’s stuck with me from high-school English classes is the use of alliteration, and how a string of words that start with the same letter look and sound interesting.

The BBC News site makes use of alliteration quite well; here’s an example that I’ve noted from 2008. At the time, the headline for the link read “Bronze bull’s bottom blamed for Bombay brokers’ blues.” Even the headline for the article itself, though shortened, is still alliterative. And they can make great tongue twisters too!


Merry Christmas, YouTube style!

Enjoy the season with two themed videos. The first is more recent, and you might have already seen it. What if the nativity story took place today? (I first saw this on Price Tags.)

And an excellent CGI rendition involving two Doctors, a runaway sleigh, and K9! “Incidentally, a happy Christmas to all of you at home!”