Thursday Doors: Landschaftspark

The Landschaftspark in Duisburg was a steel mill and blast furnace in the previous century, but is no longer used and has fallen into disrepair. It is now an unusual public park, a heritage site commemorating the industrial past of the German Ruhrgebeit, where my husband grew up. Surprisingly, it is a source of unusual doors.

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I don’t normally like graffiti, but I found these doors interesting and attractive in a run-down sort of way.

And this windmill was closed and no longer working, a giant silhouetted against the sky. It also had a door, keeping out the tourists.

While we were visiting there was also a concert going on, so we wandered through the old buildings, climbed the hill, found geocaches, all accompanied by a faint techno-beat in the background.

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Cement wall with gate to nowhere in particular

It was an interesting juxtaposition of the modern and the historic, of old and new technologies.

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Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post and then sharing it, between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time), on the linky list at Norm 2.0’s blog

ThroughTheGate

Follow my European trip with this and previous posts:

September 21, 2018: Pattensen

September 6, 2018: Birdhouse Cache

August 30, 2018: Achtung, Baby!

August 16, 2018: Ku’Damm

August 9, 2018: Berliner Dom

July 20, 2018: Berlin Walk

June 13, 2018: Thursday “Tors”: Brandenburg

June 7, 2018: Germany

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Little Women Legacy: (Down) Under the Umbrella with Trix Wilkins, Featured Author

Little Women in Australia! So many interesting contributors. Trix Wilkins gets into the relationship of Jo and Laurie and why it’s so timeless after all these years.

In this blog post series, we’ll feature contributing authors from our new anthology, Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy. Today we’ll catch up with Trix Wilkins, writer, Aussie, and Alcott enthusiast.

Trix

Contributor Trix Wilkins, photographed by her seven-year-old son, reads Little Women across from the iconic Sydney Opera House.


What is your favorite scene from Little Women?

I love the New Year’s Eve ball where Jo and Laurie officially meet. They have an interesting and free-flowing conversation, and of course that wonderful dance in the hallway that happens because Jo says she can’t show the burn in her dress and Laurie says let’s dance anyway. It’s a lot of fun. I think this is the first time in the novel we see Jo unburdened—no thoughts of money or war or work, just joyful moments—and being the person she might always be in the company of such a friend…

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Fire and Fantasy

When I was in high school I had fantasies of being a concertmaster. My senior year I thought it might be a real possibility, and I was disappointed when, after the audition, I ended up “only” first stand inside, turning the pages. I was used to being a shy, quiet nerdy type who didn’t take up a lot of space. But, I had fantasies that the violin could take me out of all that.

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Tuning the Arlington Philharmonic Orchestra for the Family Concert

Many years and another instrument later, a lot water has flowed under that bridge. I have been a concertmaster in a volunteer community orchestra, and it is a service position. Sometimes I felt overwhelmed by administrative demands, thinking, “they pay me as much as they pay everyone else: ZERO.” But overall, I loved it. I came to think of the orchestra as a second family. I thought and worried about them outside of rehearsal. And I cried when I moved away.

Having taken up the viola as my primary instrument here in California, my concertmaster days are behind me, at least for now. But last spring after my Telemann concerto performance, my stand partner for the Nova Vista Symphony asked me if I would be principal viola in that group for this concert because he had a conflict with his other orchestra. I looked at my calendar, saw that the weekend was free, and said, “sure, I’d be honored.” I think principal viola is the best seat in the orchestral house: surrounded by cellos, violins, woodwinds, right in front of the conductor, in medias res. The fantasy was back.

And starting with the Bloch Concerto Grosso No. 1, the job seemed seemed manageable. I’d played the second violin part to the 4th movement Fugue of this piece in high school, and I recognized it. And there were a few nice, short solos for the principal viola. I dove right in to practicing those, took them to my teacher, figured out fingerings.

Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

It took less than one tutti rehearsal before I was in over my head. Enamored of the Bloch, I had given short shrift in practice to the other two much more challenging pieces on the program: Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. I felt like Mickey Mouse in the Fantasia version, helpless as everything got out of control and descended into chaos. At one point as the notes went by, my stand partner and I looked at each other and laughed nervously: “Where are we?” “I have no idea. You?” “Nope.” Goodbye to the fantasies of fun and glory, and hello to section leader as service position.

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via GIPHY

This concert was already going to break the difficulty record previously held by Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel, which this group played a year and a half ago. Then I got two emails about injuries to fellow violists, including my former stand partner. The Mickey Mouse feeling intensified. I listened to the Symphonic Dances and thought, it may be in 3, but who would waltz to that?

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The dreaded practice room

The 100-day practice challenge Facebook group that supported me through preparing for Telemann last spring was subjected to more than their share of my venting. I would watch other people post their practice videos of a nice fiddle tune, or a movement of the Bach Double, or a cello suite, or some cool ukulele riffs, and I’d be jealous. They sounded so nice, and here I was slogging my way through the impossible, alternating between trying to keep up with the metronome and with YouTube recordings set to 0.75 speed. (I’m only including a still picture here, no video, because, like Vegas, what happens in the group, stays in the group!)

My part-time teaching job became less part-time this year too, with two new schools and two new co-instructors. One night I came home from work and felt so brain-dead I doubt I would have taken the viola out of its case, had it not been for the Facebook group. I recorded some brain-dead Dukas, posted it, and went to bed.

Fantasia

Dear Mickey Mouse, I thought to myself. You brought this on by your tendency to bite off more than you can chew. What can you do about it?

Well, one choice would be cutting back. And I did that, sort of. I cut back on online debates and chores that I don’t enjoy. Another choice would be to do what I do for music that I love. I didn’t love the Symphonic Dances (yet), but what if I acted as if I did? What if this were Beethoven?

I started listening to it all the time, especially in the car while I was driving. I looked at the score while I listened (not while driving). I looked up Rachmaninoff’s wikipedia page. He had a fascinating life: escaped the Russian Revolution and ended up in Hollywood. This led me to think about his stories. The woodwind melody in the first movement is sublime. Later there’s some trippy drug music. If I listen closely, I hear the ongoing struggle. Rachmaninoff suffered from depression from time to time, and this was the last piece he ever wrote, a retrospective on his life and career.

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The good luck Telemann dress

I told my teacher that my practicing of this piece reminded me of the movie “50 First Dates.” This movie stars Drew Barrymore as a woman with amnesia who must relearn her life and relationships every morning when she wakes up. I felt the same: every time I picked up “Rocky,” as I had come to affectionately refer to it, it was like I was seeing it for the first time all over again. “Well, how many pieces of his have you played before?” my teacher asked. “You don’t speak Rachmaninoff yet!” That helped me be patient. The most foreign part of it was in the right hand, not the left. The music was not square; it didn’t always land on a down bow for the strong beats. I learned to write in unexpected bowings so I wouldn’t second-guess myself when I landed on an accented up-bow. I kept at the metronome and the play alongs, as well as marking and isolating difficult passages. I counted down in the Facebook group to the last day.

Concert day came and I stayed home from church in order to focus and review some spots in all 3 pieces. It felt like cramming for an exam, something I’ve done successfully many times, but which I now think results in more anxiety than is ideal. My husband made lunch. I put on my good-luck Telemann dress.

Wildfire

The air smelled of soot at the concert hall due to a wildfire in the East Bay. I said hi to my stand partners in crime in the viola section and we watched the pre-concert talk together. After all this, I felt pretty good about how the Bloch and Dukas went. My solos went off without a hitch. I never got lost. Even my performance in Rocky I was willing to give at least a B-minus. I missed notes here and there, but not in the exposed or important parts.

I had a small viola solo near the end of the Dukas. It is not technically difficult, but it is important, and it is just me, the only moving part. I am the Sorcerer returned, to set things back in balance after the apprentice’s chaos. And I had a bow of my own, after the bassoons.

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Concert Program Cover

It occurred to me that I’d been so focused on my own anxieties that I hadn’t given enough attention to all the great work going on around me: the cellos just a foot to my left, providing grounding, rhythm, and drive; the concertmaster, who played many solos beautifully and with whom I played a duet in octaves in the Bloch; the conductor who remained cool, composed, and accurate in spite of the too-bright lights making him and everyone else sweat; the viola section, who rose to the occasion with humor and grace, playing an exposed chorale section beautifully; the bassoons who brought the apprentice’s magic to life; the orchestra’s new President who is devoting considerable time and effort to the group; and the neighbors and friends and family who came, expected and un-, to be in the audience. I tried to take a minute to tell them all that they sounded great, to thank them.

I had the best time at the reception afterwards talking with everyone. It turns out I wasn’t the only one who was anxious about the ambitious program, and the feelings of relief and celebration were palpable. To paraphrase JFK, we did this concert not because it was easy, but because it was hard. And it served to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills. It brought us a little closer to the moon and stars.

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Fantasia (1940). Image via animationartblog.com

Mundane Monday: Wordless Cat

Dr. Katherine’s Mundane Monday photo shows her cat communicating without words. I know this prompt could be interpreted more broadly, but I can never resist a chance to show pictures of my cat.

We adopted Sadie in 2016, as an adult. She is part-Siamese and a little cross-eyed.She was pretty quiet when she first came to live with us, but lately she has gotten more vocal. She has always been quite expressive without words, even when she didn’t meow much.

Sometimes she’s cute, sometimes she’s fierce:

Or, queen of all she surveys:

Little Women Legacy: An Idaho Interlude with Marlowe Daly, Featured Author

The contributors to the Little Women anthology are a group of very interesting women. Read about Marlowe Daly here.

In this blog post series, we’ll feature contributing authors from our new anthology, Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy. Today we’ll catch up with Marlowe Daly, who teaches literature, writing, and humanities at Idaho’s Lewis-Clark State College.

Marlowe

Marlowe Daly reads Little Women at  the Spalding site of Nez Perce National Park near her home in Idaho. Photo by Anahi Galeano.


If the March sisters were employed where you work, what would their jobs be? 

Although Jo and Meg do some teaching, I can’t really picture either of them working at the college where I teach. I’m happy to say that my colleagues are deeply devoted to teaching and make great efforts to continually improve their pedagogy and practice. Meg and Jo, on the other hand, seem to lack a passion for teaching. Even later on, in Little Men and Jo’s Boys, Jo seems more interested in the duties that…

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Mundane Monday: Light and Dark

Even though it was taken in March, this seems like a good picture for October: it’s orange, brown, and black. The sun is setting, evoking the shortening days. The leaves are long-gone in the picture, though, whereas now they are just turning their bright colors. Dr. KO took her Mundane Monday picture on the Bainbridge Island Ferry. It has water, a reflection, and a lot of blue.

I took this sunset picture around the time I was inspired to start this blog: on a long geocaching trip in the Washington DC area with my husband. We drove along a lot of deserted roads, finding caches placed 0.1 mile apart. The goal in this case was numbers, not cleverness of hides, or even sightseeing. This is called a “power trail.” My husband has done a lot of these. I did it this once. That seemed like enough for my bucket list!

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Little Women Legacy: All Smiles from Silicon Valley with KL Allendoerfer, Featured Author

This week I am featured on Pink Umbrella Books’ blog! This appearance is part of a blog tour featuring contributing authors to “Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes,” an anthology for the 150th Anniversary of Little Women.

In this blog post series, we’ll feature contributing authors from our new anthology, Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy. Today we’ll catch up with KL Allendoerfer, California-based writer, science educator, and musician.

Allendoerfer

Contributor KL Allendoerfer reads Little Women with “Pie,” the ubiquitous green droid in front of Silicon Valley’s Googleplex.


What is your favorite scene from Little Women?

It would be easy to say my favorite scene is the one I wrote about in my essay, in which Beth thanks Mr. Lawrence for the use of his piano and they become friends. I do love that scene, but there are so many others as well. I think the one that most got under my skin, and that I remembered many years later, was Jo’s disaster of a dinner party when Marmee decides to let the girls run things themselves. It shows Louisa has a wonderful sense of…

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Friday Doors: Pattensen

Pattensen is a small town in Lower Saxony, near Hannover. (I’m including that detail because it makes it sound less like a “Kaff“). We passed through Pattensen on our way to visit friends and found a multicache that took us around an old church building and associated structures.

PattensenOverview

The sky was such a bright blue, leaving strong shadows. We had to find numbers on the sides of buildings (such as dates) and then do calculations to find the final coordinates for the last stage of the cache.

This process, like Thursday Doors, always forces me to slow down and look at things I would otherwise miss. Two things especially impressed me about this area: the brickwork, and the ivy around some of the doors.

Our teenage children were not particularly into this activity. They looked briefly at the buildings and then mostly stayed in the car, on their phones. Admittedly when I was a teenager I had much the same reaction to car travel and “sightseeing.” I slept a lot to prevent getting carsick, and then was groggy and cranky when I got out and had to look at something.

And even as an adult I sometimes struggle with my role while traveling. What’s interesting and what’s not? When I get home, will I wonder why I even have all these pictures on my phone? Is it the digital equivalent of clutter?

Participating in Thursday Doors for the past couple of years, and geocaching, have given me an organizing principle for some of these photos. They are collections.

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, has an interesting take on collections and photographs (and collections of photographs). “Taking photos,” she says, “is a common way to incorporate a mission into traveling. Not only does this help keep memories vivid, it also makes you more attuned to your environment while traveling.” She also mentions the competing truth that “for some people, taking photos can become a barrier to experience; they get so focused on getting the photos that they don’t enjoy the reality.” Both of these can be true, even of the same person; but I think the anti-photo viewpoint gets more airplay these days. I like acknowledging the other side too.

Thursday (or Friday in a pinch) Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post and then sharing it, between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time), on the linky list. This week our fearless leader, Norm 2.0 is on vacation and Mexi Movie is generously hosting the blog hop. 

ThroughTheGate

Follow my European trip with this and previous posts:

September 6, 2018: Birdhouse Cache

August 30, 2018: Achtung, Baby!

August 16, 2018: Ku’Damm

August 9, 2018: Berliner Dom

July 20, 2018: Berlin Walk

June 13, 2018: Thursday “Tors”: Brandenburg

June 7, 2018: Germany

Little Women Legacy: Sounding Off From Puget Sound with K.R. Karr, Featured Author

Pink Umbrella Publishing is doing a blog series on the authors of “Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes.” Meet K.R. Karr, another West Coast author with German connections!

In this blog post series, we’ll feature contributing authors from our new anthology, Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy. Today we’ll catch up with K.R. Karr, West Coast writer and academic.

Karr

Contributor K.R. Karr on Puget Sound with the Washington State Ferry in the background. Photo credit: Kristina Berger.


What is your favorite scene from Little Women?

My favorite scene from Little Women is when Jo comes home with her hair cut, having sold it to pay for Marmee’s train ticket after Mr. March is wounded in battle. This scene really demonstrates to me Jo’s inner qualities, as well as her love for her family.

Who are some of your other “imaginary heroes” from literature?

I love this phrase “imaginary heroes” and some of mine include Emily of Deep Valley, Jane Eyre, Cassandra Mortmain of I Capture the Castle, Renee in Colette’s The Vagabond, Lucy Honeychurch and George…

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Mundane Monday: Assembling the Bones

This week’s Mundane Monday theme is “bones.” For this theme, Dr. KO has a nice picture of an alligator snapping turtle skeleton, which you should definitely check out (also, raise your hand if you knew before this that there was a such thing as an “alligator snapping turtle.” My hand is not up). At first I was concerned I wouldn’t have anything for this week, and then I remembered. This is a great lead-in to the topic that’s been on my mind recently: Back to School!

I have not had much time for blogging lately because my teaching job has started up again. I teach middle-grade science with a non-profit organization called Science from Scientists. Regular school, including my kids’ high school and college, started already a while ago, but SciSci gives the teachers and students a week or two to get settled in before we start our visits. This year I have two completely new schools and two new co-Instructors to work with. I’m also going back to two schools I worked with last year and liked.

One of our most popular lessons at SciSci includes the dissection of an owl pellet. Most of my prior exposure to owls has been via children’s fiction, and I first learned about the pellets as an adult when I taught this lesson.

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Mr Rogers’ neighborhood had an owl in it!

Owls don’t poop. They eat their prey whole and digest it in the gizzard, a second stomach. They absorb nutrients like we do from the soft parts of the prey, and eventually regurgitate a pellet containing the indigestible bits (mainly fur and/or feathers and bones). This is a YouTube video of the process that we show our students. It was taken in Ontario in 2014:

Will you ever look at Hedwig quite the same way again?

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One of the many cool things about owl pellets is that you can dissect them and find out what the owl has eaten. If you buy the pellets from Carolina Biological Supply like we do, you usually find a mouse skeleton, maybe two, in the pellet. Occasionally you might find a bird. The prey animals can be identified by the skulls, and sometimes a large portion of the skeleton can be reconstructed.

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Students dissecting an owl pellet and reconstructing a skeleton

These bones are quite small, but very interesting!

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The Brain—is wider than the Sky

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