Friday, May 8, 2009

Debating my inner voice-of-doubt

This afternoon I'm leaving to head up to the Michigan State AAU Qualifier Tournament in taekwondo. I'll be competing, coaching, and most likely judging. I'm trying to convince myself I don't have any reason to be nervous. It's a tough sell, though:

I'm going to have to spar, and I haven't won a match in competition in a while.
But you've been training much harder this year; you almost never feel like throwing up during Tournament Team workouts any more.
Still, I'm older and slower than a lot of the competitors; last year they made me spar a master (4th-degree) and she was probably ten years younger.
You're faster this year; you've dropped 15 pounds, so you go, girl!
Well, two years ago they combined weight classes and I ended up sparring someone forty pounds heavier, so I might have more of a mismatch this year.
No use worrying about your opponent, just do your best. What about forms competition?
I haven't exactly been spectacular at States the past two years.
You're doing a different form this time! Two golds in the last two tournaments!
I suppose I do look kinda cool doing that form.* I just have to control my breathing and focus.
That's the spirit! It'll be over before you know it.
But then I have to coach. What if I screw that up? Then it's not my performance at stake, it's someone else's.
You know what you're doing, you've been practicing for months, you know your teammates. You'll be fine.
I hope so. I still think I'm crazy, though.
You're challenging yourself! Eye of the Tiger and all that! Keep moving or die!
Um. Now I think I'm definitely crazy. But it'll all be over tomorrow night, so I think I'll get over it. Maybe. Kinda. Sorta. Or at least, until Nationals start at the end of June.

*Awesome photo by Steve Lutowsky at Shadowline Photography.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Quilt Files, Episode 10

So what happens after you whip up a scrap log cabin for a surprise wedding? (Besides patting yourself on the back and thinking, "Wow, that came out better than I expected!") Well, as they say on the playground: first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the double-wide baby-carriage! That's right, twins!

Now, I suppose I should have been glad to hear they were coming ahead of time. This being pre-Facebook days, I often had to rely on family scuttlebutt for news coming from other states. This news was not always very timely, like the time I didn't find out my great-uncle had passed until we were discussing a family get-together three months later. (I'm told they weren't deliberately keeping it from me, they had just all assumed that someone else had given me the news.) So anyway, I found out about the twins before they were born: good thing.

And twins are exciting news, right? A girl and a boy, so one quilt in pink and one in blue. I was excited. I found a pattern I really liked and headed to my favorite fabric shop, where I found a group of pastel prints that all had hints of pink and blue and yellow. Then came the fun part: picking out different blues and pinks to make up the rest of the quilts. I also found the perfect backings: blue moons and stars for the boy quilt, raspberry and gold constellations for the girl quilt. Excellent. I got to work, appliqueing and embroidering the stars and moon, and piecing the rest together.

Then I made a visit to my grandmother. We were catching up on family news, and she said, "Oh, did you want to see a picture of your cousin's boys?"

"BOYS, did you say?" I replied, a bit confuzzled. "I thought it was a boy and a girl."

"Oh, they thought so too, but the second boy was being shy. On this ultrasound they saw two boys." I admired the copy of the ultrasound, all the while thinking, "is the fabric shop open when I get home?"

Whoops. Family scuttlebutt had been slow to arrive once again, and I had a pieced-but-not-quilted pink quilt that was beautiful but not suitable for a boy. Luckily, I had enough of the pastels to make another quilt. I rushed out to the fabric store (such a chore, I know) and secured enough different greens to make a suitable boy-twin quilt. And, as you can see, it came out looking very nice. I'm told the boys enjoy them so much they were suspicious when mom set them out to take photos for me. (That explains the leg in this photo.)

As for the pink quilt? Well, you'll have to wait until next month to see how that came out.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Janespotting: Sense and Sensibility (1981 BBC series)

This is the earliest adaptation of Austen's Sense and Sensibility that I could get my hands on.* It was produced by the BBC as a 7-part series in 1981, with each part lasting around half an hour. Of course, I didn't think it would measure up to my gold standard, the 1995 film, but I hoped that with 174 minutes to devote to the story, it would at least be a faithful and detailed rendition.

It took me a while to get into this version; it was taped, not filmed, and the sound quality/mixing was just dreadful—dialogue swallowed and lots of empty, silent spaces where people were just moving around. That was the style back then, and after a while I got accustomed to it. I also got used to the blandness of the scenery and costumes. Sure, Regency England isn't supposed to be particularly colorful, but in S&S Marianne is always enjoying the beauty of the outdoors, and we didn't get to see much besides sunlit grass and trees, maybe a nice walking path. Pretty, but all very similar in look.

I'd like to say that the actors made up for the blandness of the visuals and sound, but alas! It was all very mannered and stage-y. (I wasn't familiar with any of the five romantic leads; looking them up on IMDb, I saw one appeared on an episode of the new Dr. Who, and another on a couple episodes of Babylon 5; other than that, their credits were all British TV—no future stars like P&P's Colin Firth among the cast.) I don't know if it was the actors' or director's choice to remove all hints of wit from Edward and Elinor, or make Marianne seem flighty instead of passionate, but in any case, it sucked a little more life out of the story.

As far as using the luxury of time to be faithful to the novel? Well, I was disappointed there, too. They completely cut out the character of the third Dashwood sister, Margaret, who sets up some of the story by accidentally revealing the initial of Elinor's favorite to Mrs. Jennings and Sir John Middleton, who then tease her mercilessly. This provides some amusement at their indelicacy, but also tension after Elinor discovers Edward is engaged to another. I don't know why they removed the character—they didn't want to deal with a child actor, perhaps—but as a result it sucked just a little more wit and drama out of an already bland production.

I don't mean to say that watching this version was unbearable. It was pleasant enough, and it was interesting seeing some of the scenes that didn't make the feature film, such as Willoughby's confession while Marianne is sick. Still, this version is bland and has little of the sparkle and wit that I think distinguishes Austen's work. I'd rather spend the time and re-watch the 1995 version (twice). Here's hoping that the recent BBC adaptation is more worthwhile.

*There's also a 1971 BBC adaptation, but it's not available in the U.S. I'm very curious, since the actress who plays Elinor is Joanna David, who played Mrs. Gardiner in the 1995 P&P miniseries and is also the mother of the actress who played Georgiana. But I knew I wouldn't be able to access every single adaptation, so my curiosity will have to go unsatisfied.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Photo of the Week--4/27/09

This is not Antarctica ... I couldn't resist a double shot from our trip to Iceland in summer 2002. This is actually Jokulsarlon, a glacier lagoon near the southeast coast of the island. The lagoon is only liquid during the summer; in wintertime it freezes over, impeding the progress of the icebergs to the ocean. If you saw Die Another Day, the last James Bond film starring Pierce Brosnan which came out in 2002, then you saw Jokulsarlon in its frozen state (with the over-the-top addition of a cliff-high glacier; in reality Jokulsarlon is nearly at sea level, within sight of the sea). We toured the lake via amphibious vehicle, former U.S. Army issue, which was a fun sight in itself. Iceland was one of my favorite trips from our time in Europe ... and, unfortunately, the last.