Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fun Books by Australian Author Kerry Greenwood / Judy

I wanted to tell you about a series of mystery books I’m reading that I’m thoroughly enjoying. I know I should put this kind of thing onto “Good Reads” but I don’t know how (sigh). Besides, I wanted to post something

So, the author’s name is Kerry Greenwood and her protagonist and main detective is named Phryne (rhymes with “Briny”) Fisher and she lives in Australia in the 1920’s.  Her maid, friend and confident is Dot, an older, very down-to-earth person. I’m afraid there is an occasional sex scene, but as usual, I just skip them and I recommend  you do the same. The stories themselves are fun, but I especially enjoy the writing. Let me give you a few examples:

Murder in Montparnasse
about an extremely skinny French chef

“Plus de crème!” Sauce must have curdled, she thought. The remedy for anything short of a cholera outbreak in a French kitchen was, “Add more cream!”

The chef was a man of goodwill, even though he resembled a shabby vulture who had just missed out on the last beakful of dead wildebeest.

Dot always worried about Phryne. There had been raised male voices in the parlor, and Dot didn’t like it one bit. Raised male voices, in Dot’s experience, meant raised male fists. And then Miss Phryne might have to hurt someone.

Phryne was reading a tabloid that, if it had ever employed a proofreader, he had retired in tears after the first day and could never bring himself to go back.

Raisins and Almonds
a mystery among the Jewish population in Australia

Phryne attends a dance competition at a Jewish culture center. The main judge pronounces: “It’s decided…the best dancers are Simon Abraham and his partner, Miss Fisher, but the heat goes to Rose Weinberg and Chaim Wasserman, because they are both members of the Jewish Young People’s Society.”

…The room then broke into at least three arguments, all of which had ferocious supporters…

One faction was for awarding the prize to Simon and Phryne; after all, they were the best dancers and who were we to start discriminating against non-Jews, for goodness’ sake?

Another was to award it to Chaim and Rose, who danced well and were both members and good persons besides if you overlooked their uncle Marek, and anyway Marek was not anyone’s fault except maybe God’s and He presumably had a purpose in creating even such persons as Marek.

A third was denouncing the chairman, not for making such a decision, but for having the bad manners to say that that was how he made it, the chairman having been a schlemiel since early childhood, it was well known.

True Christianity--It's Risky / Lloyd

saints on the spot
I received the following question from a really good friend:

Do you think the Lord is testing his Saints to see if they will stand up and be counted? Because we are being counted! When the vote comes down and if “Yes” wins and the Marriage Amendment is added to our constitution there will many people that will hate our church more than ever before. If No wins on the vote then we will still be hated for being a major proponent of this proposition.

Children of the covenant have a particular mission to represent the gospel in word and deed to their family, friends, neighbors, associates. And that’s becoming more and more difficult in our society.

a lawless society
We are quickly becoming like the society described in Helaman 5:2-3.

For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.

Yea, and this was not all; they were a stiffnecked people, insomuch that they could not be governed by the law nor justice, save it were to their destruction.

For the most part the people in Nephi’s day could not live within established law except to be judged in violation. We experience this today whenever we see a reasonable law relaxed because there are so many violators it’s argued to be impracticable to enforce.

In this environment we are called upon to teach God’s standard of behavior and point the penitent towards Christ’s atonement for relief.

Christ’s law of love: kindly but firmly
So this was Nephi’s course of action:

And it came to pass that Nephi had become weary because of their iniquity; and he yielded up the judgment-seat, and took it upon him to preach the word of God all the remainder of his days, and his brother Lehi also, all the remainder of his days . . . (Helaman 5:4)

But how is this to be done safely and effectively? Jesus gave his disciples guidance in the Sermon on the Mount that would keep them safe until he called them home as they continued to represent Christian law to a lawless society, one that “could not be governed by the law nor justice, save it were to their destruction.”

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matt 5:43-48)

I understand this to mean perfect in love for our fellow men, concerned enough for their welfare that we are willing to put ourselves at risk by kindly but firmly representing God’s standard of behavior to them.

a contemporary example
The religion writer for the San Francisco Chronicle cited a member of the Church who represents this ideal: “Several Bay Area Mormons said they would support the right of gay and lesbian unions to have all the rights of married couples. But the word marriage was sacred, pivotal to their concept of families, who can be "eternally united" in the afterlife.
A key church document, "The Family: A Proclamation to the World,"  says that "marriage between man and a woman is essential to His eternal plan." They also believe that children are entitled to be raised by a father and a mother.

Those words speak for Michele Sundstrom, 47, of San Jose, who has been married for 18 years and has five children.

She and her husband gave $30,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign and put a sign on their home. But in response, two women parked an SUV in front of their home, with the words "Bigots live here" painted on the windshield.

Sundstrom believes such responses must come from deep places of pain - and that gays and lesbians are entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals, just not the word marriage. Any animosity toward gays or lesbians is wrong, she said. “’There must be such deep, deep, deep hurt; otherwise there couldn't be so much opposition,’ she said. ‘They've lived with this. I guess we're getting a taste of where they live.’ (“Mormons face flak for backing Prop. 8,” Matthai Kuruvila, 27 Oct 08.)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Yay for Utah - The Economist / Judy

Finally, some happy news. Look what I found in The Economist, of all places. Be sure to check out the consensual politics!

The Mormon Work Ethic

Oct 23rd 2008 | SALT LAKE CITY
From The Economist print edition

Why Utah’s economy is soaring above its neighbours NOBODY knows quite how the contagion that broke out in Wall Street will affect the rest of America, nor how deep or how long the likely recession will be. What is certain is that some places will suffer more than others. So far Utah, a state best-known for Mormonism and pretty rocks, is looking unusually healthy. “We’ve got a lot to be proud of,” says Jon Huntsman, the governor. “Certainly more than many of our neighbours.”

Indeed, Utah has more to be proud of than any other state in the West. In September its unemployment rate was just 3.5%—less than half of California’s and the second-lowest rate in the region after oil- and gas-rich Wyoming. Last month the Milken Institute declared Provo, a sprawling settlement south of Salt Lake City, America’s best-performing city for technology output and job and wage growth. Salt Lake City itself came third…

Another, hidden, source of strength is Utah’s strange demography. Mormons tend to start families young: the average Utah woman marries at just 22.

That means the “echo boom”—the peak of childbearing by baby boomers—took place not around 1990, as in the rest of America, but ten years earlier. One reason unemployment is rising across the West is that a wave of teenagers is crashing onto the job market. Utah, by contrast, has few teenagers and lots of productive people in their late twenties and early thirties. “The timing is pretty good for a recession,” says Pam Perlich of the University of Utah.

The “cultural thing”, as businessmen from out of state delicately refer to Mormonism, helps in other ways. Utah’s almost universal conservatism makes for stable, consensual politics. It took the state legislature just two days last month to plug a $272m hole in the budget. By contrast, California’s budget was 85 days late. Nevada’s politicians are preparing for a nasty fiscal fight next year.

Mormons do not come to work nursing hangovers, and they are inclined to stay put in the promised land rather than pursue better-paying jobs elsewhere. Matthew Donthnier, who is hiring for a new Procter & Gamble plant, has only one complaint about the local workforce: it can be a little difficult to persuade people to toil on Sundays. [Emphasis added]

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Screenwriting - Pacing a Movie Script / Judy

scripts -- each page equals one minute

A few weeks ago I went to a writers’ conference and one of the workshops I attended was about screenwriting. Since we are all lovers of movies, I thought you might find this interesting. The presenter, who had sold several screenplays to Hollywood, said that each page equals about one minute of screen time and nowadays the scripts are 105 pages long. They used to be 130 but now that’s considered too long. And he said there is a definite pattern, or skeleton, to them.

catalyst at 10 min  

For example, on page ten (or ten minutes into the movie) there is a catalyst for all that is to come and it often starts with a knock on a door or a phone call. He said you can practically set your watch by this and if it doesn’t happen, you—the audience—will get fidgety and wonder why this is such a long movie with nothing happening.

new twist at 45 min

Then at the 45 page/minute mark, there will be some sort of twist or new information.

reversal at 60 mins

At the 60 page/minute mark there will be a reversal. The example he gave of the reversal was the movie “Thelma and Louse.” Up to the 60 min. place, all the decisions had been made by Susan Surandon (I didn’t see the movie so I don't know about her character). But at that point, Gina Davis had just slept with Brad Pitt and from then till the end of the movie, she called the shots. In the movie “Witness,” the 60 min. mark was when Harrison Ford and the Amish girl danced in the barn, showing their relationship had done a complete change from the beginning.

climax at 90 min

The 90 page/minute point is the climax and the rest, however long it is, is a wind-down.

“miss pettigrew lives for a day”
@ 10, 45, 60 & 90 mins

So the first movie I saw after this class was “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.” I’m about to describe it (spoiler alert!) so if you haven’t seen it, you can skip the next part. Here’s how it matches up to what that presenter said.

At exactly 10 minutes, Miss Pettigrew rings the doorbell of Delysia Lafosse (the catalyst). At 45 minutes the two of them come home from the underwear show and find Michael playing the piano in Delysia’s apartment (the twist). At 60 minutes, the planes have just gone overhead and Miss Pettigrew says to the man (I forget his name), “They don’t remember, do they?” (the reversal—up to this point it’s been a light, frothy movie about Delysia’s love life). At 90 minutes, they are in the nightclub, Delysia is about to give up and go with Nick while Michael just stands there. Then Miss Pettigrew shouts, “Punch him in the nose!” (the climax).

next movie - check it out yourself!

It’s really cool to watch a movie and see how this works. Try it and see if it holds true and I think you’ll find that it does in the good ones. Have fun!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Oklahoma, Colonial Williamsburg & Family - Loved that Vacation / Lloyd

oklahoma -- so much more

Until we visited with Jen & Uchenna in Ponca City, Oklahoma I had no idea that I actually harbored an unexamined, negative attitude about “Okies.”  I can only imagine that prejudice originated the year we lived in Avenal, California San Joaquin Valley, where everyone derisively described  really rough & crude behavior and down-and-out living as “Okie” — as in the “Grapes of Wrath.”

Oklahoma State is open, clean, beautiful, and filled with overall industrious and friendly people—not only metropolitan Oklahoma City but also the much smaller city that Jen & Uche call home.  During my daily 2-hour walks, perfect strangers frequently greeted me or waved hello from their cars.  

And in small Ponca City when I came to the end of the sidewalk I enjoyed stepping onto grass - compared to the stickery stubble in California.   There’s plenty of rainfall so grass is everywhere, not what my dad called the native “grains” of the west.

the oklahoma city
national memorial & museum

Three things to know about the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum for the Bombing of the Murrah Federal Building:  1) There’s a significant admission fee, 2) Plan to spend several hours, 3) Have Kleenex at hand.  It was a terrifying look at destructive institutional forces crushing vulnerable personal lives. We had an amazing experience in just the little time we allotted ourselves.  Next time we’ll give ourselves more time to read and listen to and interact with everything there. Check out the website before going:  

Clearly it was ideal weather without threat of tornadoes when we visited, but I’m thinking I could live in Oklahoma.  And more important, I do believe that our kids are happy there.

tangential note:  I really liked using the new web browser Google Chrome on Jen & Uche’s computer and downloaded it when we returned home.

romantic colonial williamsburg

I love being with Judy and Colonial Williamsburg is a perfect setting for being together. It was wonderful to be in a place that just feels good, that is intellectually and emotionally stimulating, and that is visitor friendly. So nice just to meander through the place with beautiful buildings, open grassy areas, broad leaf trees, flowers and gardens, and people speaking in a pleasant, soft Virginia accent.

revolutionary city

We were in Colonial Williamsburg a couple of days before we discovered the “Revolutionary City” program.  The restored city is a mile by half a mile in size, and at 3pm to 5pm each day the east end of Duke of Gloucester St (about an eighth of a mile) is cordoned off for pass holders and becomes one big wrap-around drama. There are horses with frantic messengers, rousing rhetoric, tender vignettes, and cannon firing. And good sound amplification technology makes the speaking accessible to everyone. Just great!

Two themes alternate from one day to the next: Collapse of Royal Government, 1774-1776, and Citizens at War, 1776-1781.  Revolutionary City and other dramatizations during the day and into the night provide a much more nuanced view of revolutionary times than we experienced on previous visits to Williamsburg.

To get the most from your visit I recommend a thorough review of their website before hand:  Judy is also a great resource for the nuts and bolts arrangements.  One day we hope to visit Williamsburg in December for the holidays.

back home with family

When we returned home Aaron and Marrisse with our grandchildren came to visit.  One day we spent an hour & a half walking and exploring the surrounding hills, then pumpkin choosing along with Anderson’s and Kleinman’s, and finally playing at the beach till late. A full and especially wonderful day.  I’m glad I had the previous two weeks to clear my head of work concerns so I could just live in the moment and enjoy our young family.

There’s a lot to be said for a good vacation.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Colonial Williamsburg - A Great Vacation / Judy

jennifer & uchenna in ponca city, ok

Whoo-hoo! This is my first attempt at writing a blog. So here goes. I want to tell you about our wonderful vacation last week. Jennifer talked about our being at her house and it really was fun. She has a beautiful house, a great yard, a pretty town, and nice friends. And of course it felt really good to just spend time with her and Uchenna. We got there on Tues. night and then left the following Monday.


We arrived in Newport News (the closest airport to Williamsburg) about 6 pm and were met by a shuttle/cab that I’d arranged. The trip there takes about 20 minutes and we stayed at the Woodland Inn, which is right next to the Visitor Center. The hotel was a little pricey, but we didn’t have to rent a car and they had a huge (included) breakfast every morning. Also, since we were staying at one of the official hotels, we had free tickets to Colonial Williamsburg for the length of our stay.

live theatre everywhere

As we’ve mentioned before, that is one of our favorite places. It just feels so good to be there in that environment. The weather was perfect; although rain was predicted, we didn’t see any. During the day we walked around and went into every place we could. We saw how to make chocolate from cacao beans and several dramatizations. We found we were especially interested in the actors’ stories. We learned the very first troupe of actors came from England in 1752 and gave the first play ever seen in America right there in Williamsburg—“The Merchant of Venice.”

Because the colonies wanted to avoid everything British, drama was banned during the Revolutionary war. Except George Washington, knowing he’d be in trouble for doing it, put on the Greek play “Cato” at Valley Forge to inspire his men. The play was about the choice to die or to live free with lines like, “One hour of freedom is worth an eternity in bondage.” And my favorite: “How beautiful is death when earned by virtue.” Sounds like it’s right out of the Book of Mormon

One night we saw two performances—one called “Crime and Punishment” which was about legal punishment during the 18th century, and we walked around the places like the gaol where things like hangings, brandings, etc. took place—pretty gruesome but fascinating. After that we were inside the Capitol and saw a re-enactment of a trial of two people, including a woman, accused of piracy—very fun.

colonial taverns and theatrical farce

The next night we ate at one of the taverns and had storytelling and music for entertainment. The last night we saw a play that was actually presented in 1767 in Philadelphia. It was hilarious which shows that funny is funny, no matter where or when it happens.

hoping to return

The flight back was long, but it was good to be home and especially since Aaron and Marrisse and the kids came the next morning. It sort of extended the vacation so we didn’t feel so bad about leaving Jen & Uchenna & Williamsburg. But I do want to go back again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Great Marriage Counsel from a Stake President / Lloyd

President George E. Watkins of the New York, New York Stake was impressive as a stake president and also professionally.   He was Executive Director of the New York-based Empire State Electric Energy Research Corp. (ESEERCO), an electric-energy R&D consortium established by New York State's electric utilities that serviced NY State and coordinated with power and light utilities nationwide. He also served as a member and chairman of the International Electric Research Exchange.

The most important marriage counsel I heard him give was during a stake priesthood meeting:

“Sometimes I have thought that my wife should think as I do and do what I would do in any given situation. And sometimes I’ve been rather insistent that she did. And that has always been a mistake.  Brethren, for your own happiness and the happiness of your family don’t ever do that.  Let your wives develop their talents and interests and take full responsibility for their stewardship at home and at church. Brethren, counsel equally with your wives and be happy."

President Watkins was a powerful guy, and smart. And when he talked I paid close attention.

President Watkin’s red-haired wife on occasion wore Kelly green scarves and suits and was as dynamic as he. I couldn’t imagine her being pressed to take a direction she wouldn’t otherwise take on her own.
Nevertheless, President Watkin’s counsel early in our marriage has been significant.  And I've ever been grateful to him.  It’s been great that Judy and I have learned to be equally yoked in our marriage while celebrating each other's distinctive contribution.

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Have a Baby / Lloyd

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