Thursday Doors: Brussels Part II

Last week I showed some doors of the Grand Place in Brussels. That area is truly stunning, but it’s touristy, and it’s not everything that the city has to offer. Here are a couple of decidedly different doors, each with a sense of fun. A party store, with a minion inside.

 

And in the spirit of noting, and honoring, the gate/door relationship (as I did with the Brandenberger Tor earlier in this series . . . Notice the resemblance?)

 

I would like to show the Arcade du Cinquantenaire, a magnificent triumphal arch in the center of Cinquantenaire Park, built in 1880 for the 50th anniversary of Belgian independence.

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One of these pathways leads to the Royal Army and Military History Museum. For this, I’ve got a real door:

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They were also filming a movie in the park while we were there. There was fake smoke being generated from these sausage-like balloons, and people milling about in costume.

04Cinq

At one point someone signaled, and the whole crowd ran through the gate, yelling and pushing this cart that looked like a draped coffin. The cameras were close enough not to get the crane in the background. That would have spoiled the effect!

05Cinq

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:

November 22, 2018: Grand Place, Brussels

November 1, 2018: Belgian Beer and Chocolate

October 27, 2018: Dutch Whimsy

October 18, 2018: Nordrhein-Westfalen

October 11, 2018: Landschaftspark

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: Alcott, the Environment, and Real-Life Heroes

I loved reading about the intersection of science and environmental writing with Alcott’s feminist activism, grounded in love.

In this blog post series, we’ve featured contributing authors from our anthology, Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy. In this post, we’ll share some final thoughts from Julie Dunlap, ecologist, teacher and writer.

Dunlap

Contributor Julie Dunlap reads Little Women in Old Ellicott City, Maryland.


Little Women teems with uncomfortable truths. Hardworking families can fall into poverty; loving care cannot forestall death; a country founded on shared ideals can descend into war. Amy March resists the shape of her own nose, but Jo’s determination to front realities is at the core of her appeal, and at the heart of the novel.

Jo March’s rectitude in the face of a society pitched against women has made her a feminist icon for 150 years. Though Alcott preferred imaginary heroes to real ones, since girlhood I’ve admired Louisa’s quest to surmount social barriers to become an author. As a teen aspiring to work…

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Mundane Monday: Cup

The theme of this week’s Mundane Monday Challenge is a cup or mug. I have way too many mugs. Like a lot of people, I have gotten and given them as gifts over the years.

In college I used to have a beautiful blue mug with a seashell on it. It was a gift from a friend; taller and thinner than your average mug, and graceful in shape, with gold leaf outlining the seashell. Later, during my biotech job, I had it at work for a while. I drank coffee out of it at the unenjoyable company meetings. Then one day I dropped it; it shattered beyond usefulness as a mug. The handle broke off and the bright white inside, under the royal blue coating was revealed.

When it fell I was kind of traumatized. This was my favorite mug, it had been a gift, and I was upset that the crash made a noise and attracted everyone’s attention. I used to run my thumb up and down the smooth handle while the lecture was going on, and the feeling was calming. Now the handle had become detached, and the edges were all jagged and rough. I was looking around on the floor to make sure I had all the pieces and pick them up, and a male coworker caught my eye and addressed me.

His eyes looked basically kind at first, and there he was asking me a question. What? He wanted to take the broken, jagged pieces from me. Why? My beautiful mug, ruined. Did he want to know its story? Did he want to tell me he was sorry for what happened? Could he help fix it, did he have glue? It looked like he wanted to help . . . but he wasn’t going to fix it . . . no, he was asking me if I wanted him to throw it away. This felt like an insult, an additional injury. No! I made a face and his eyes no longer looked kind.

The mug lived on for a while as a pen and pencil holder after I glued it back together with super glue. But it was never the same, no matter how many stories I told myself about the crack being how the light gets in. I kept seeing my coworker’s face and hearing his words in my mind: “Do you want me to throw that away?” He probably was trying to be kind. So why does he even now still seem like a nosy jerk to me? I didn’t move it to California with us. I didn’t want to think about him, or my weird, defensive reaction to his request, anymore.

TACOmug
With my alto clef T-shirt and TACO mug in the practice room

The mug I’m drinking out of in the picture above is from “TACO,” the “Terrible Adult Chamber Orchestra.” It too was a gift, from last spring when I played the viola solo from Berlioz’ Harold in Italy with the group. This mini-performance was part of my preparation for the Telemann solo I had in May.

A couple weeks ago I had tea for the first time this fall. I opened up the rather overstuffed cabinet where the mugs live, and as I reached for one, I knocked this one and it tumbled. I knew even as I tried to catch it that it was no use. It shattered beyond its usefulness as a mug. No one saw it happen; I threw it away myself. I missed it–I wish I had managed to break one of the less interesting ones we have instead–but I didn’t feel like trying to glue it again. I have enough pencil holders. Instead I ordered a new one from the TACO website. These days everything is replaceable.

Friday Doors: Grand Place, Brussels

This blog normally participates in Thursday Doors but yesterday was a holiday in the US and I took a break from blogging. (Which followed my >2-week break earlier this month, but who’s counting?)

I’d first like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! This is a picture of me, my husband, and our 15-year-old son, taken by our friend who was a guest at our table this year. This shot shows the persimmons from our backyard, the candles, and has the least amount of teenage eye-roll. It also demonstrates conclusively how I have become the shortest one in the family in recent years! Our college-age daughter is visiting a friend on the Oregon coast.

Thanksgiving

And now on to the doors!

Belgium is not the first country we think of when we think of Europe. I’d venture when asked to name a European country, most US Americans would say France, Germany, Spain, or England (not necessarily in that order). And maybe the Netherlands. Because, you know, windmills. But, our visit to Belgium had some of the most beautiful European architecture around. And Brussels is the de facto capital of the EU.

On our way to look for chocolate and beer, I still didn’t fully realize what I would be seeing in minute. The alleyways are narrow . . .

If you only have a limited time in Brussels, the Peeing Statues are fun (and there’s even a dog now), and the 1958 World’s Fair site is pretty cool too, but I’d still recommend the Grand Place before any of that.

I’m including a panorama from wikipedia because I don’t have the photographic skill or equipment to do it justice. If you think back to the Middle Ages, or even the Renaissance, this square would be the most amazing thing that most people of that time period would ever see in their lifetimes. There were no IMAX movies, no National Parks, no World Heritage Sites, and no planes, trains and automobiles to get you to them.

The Brussels City Hall was built between 1401 and 1455, and made the Grand Place the seat of municipal power.

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Around the square there are many very detailed doors with different features, such as a swan or a trumpeter:

And there was even a geocache puzzle that asked finders to identify different features of buildings around the square. When solving the puzzle, I was happy to have already been checking out the place for Thursday Doors!

It’s not hard to find somewhere to eat Belgian food, either:

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:

November 1, 2018: Belgian Beer and Chocolate

October 27, 2018: Dutch Whimsy

October 18, 2018: Nordrhein-Westfalen

October 11, 2018: Landschaftspark

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

 

The Courtship of Jo March: a variation of Little Women

In my essay, “Finding the Palace Beautiful,” I wonder why Louisa couldn’t have let Beth grow up and become a beloved piano teacher instead of killing her off. I am curious now to read this alternate ending for Little Women, and what becomes of Beth if she had lived.

Much ado about Little Women

If only she had survived, and he had returned…

It’s the classic story of four sisters we’ve come to love, and yet we can’t help but wonder. Why did Jo refuse Laurie? What might Laurie have done on the European Grand Tour? What became of Jo’s writing, Amy’s art, Laurie’s music? Would a school have existed without Aunt March? And could Beth possibly have been saved?

The Courtship of Jo March is a re-imagining of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women for all who have ever wondered how things might have worked out differently for the beloved March sisters – the life Beth might have led, the books Jo might have written, the friends they might have made, and the courtship that might have been…

Delightful…This book is for fans of Jo and Laurie, and it delivers in that department beautifully. – Into the Writer Lea

Heartbreak, love, grief, passion, victory…Massachusetts…

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Mundane Monday: Balance

Life has gotten away from me and I haven’t had much time for blogging this November. And I’m not even doing NaNoWriMo this year . . .  You might say my life has gotten out of balance!

One reason for this is that I’ve been playing a lot of music. I’m in three different orchestras and two chamber groups. I’m also in a couple of Facebook groups that are focused on music practice. I practice short snippets of my orchestra pieces, record the practice, and post the videos to the group for accountability and support. I first started doing this when I was practicing for my Telemann viola concerto performance last May.

I had a performance last weekend with the Silicon Valley Philharmonic, a group consisting mostly of music teachers and members of the San Francisco Korean Symphony that I heard about from a friend a couple of years ago when they needed last-minute violas. I have played several concerts with them since, some on violin rather than viola. The level of playing is higher than the other groups I am in. And this was a special performance at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco, in honor of Korean War Veterans.

The program opened with a quick Mozart Marriage of Figaro Overture, and then we played with the chorale on the Messe Solennelle for Saint Cecelia by Charles Gounod. Unlike Mozart, which I’d played before (but violin 2, not 1), the Gounod was new to me. It did remind me of some of the big oratorios, masses, and requiems that I used to play with the Philharmonic Society of Arlington back in Massachusetts.

The other players in this group, being music teachers with music degrees, didn’t need the rehearsal time that I generally do. I can keep up with players like these if I have played the piece before and/or have a longer rehearsal cycle and can take the music to a lesson, work out fingerings, and woodshed the hard parts. I didn’t have that luxury this time. The “one rehearsal” (as the conductor calls it) scared me a little. I missed accidentals. I realized that having played the 2nd violin part of a nice Mozart Overture doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready to play the 1st violin part at a rapid clip. And I got completely left in the dust by some fast arpeggios in the Gounod Gloria, even though I had worked out fingerings beforehand and my stand partner graciously let me write them into her part that we were using. She played it all perfectly whereas I kind of wanted to hide under my chair.

But instead I went back to the practice room and recorded myself. There I am, reaching for the record button on my phone, violin balanced on my shoulder. I’ve done a lot more recording myself lately than I used to, and I cringe less now when watching myself. I already know the frames on those music glasses are so 2008, and I already know the guest room where I practice won’t win any decorating awards.

This passage lends itself well to practicing with a drone because each measure is a set of arpeggios with a specific base note. I can record the base note of each and play against it and listen. If I am playing out of tune, it will be noticeable because it will clash with the drone. To do this you need more than one electronic device, so I found a use for my old iPod with the broken screen (you can hear it in the background, along with the metronome). I thought this exercise would be like watching paint dry, but it’s surprisingly fun. The drone notes even add some tension, which you can hear building as the music goes on.

During the week before the concert, while I was practicing, I found out from a friend that the Philharmonic Society of Arlington was playing this very piece this year for their holiday concert. I knew it reminded me of them. It must be in the air!

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I had been playing so much that I was starting to worry about repetitive stress injury. I sometimes felt tingling or pain in my wrists, fingers, and joints. My left index finger joint was a little swollen for a while. I had a lesson with an Alexander Technique teacher, who asked me to “look for ease” in my body when I was holding and playing my instrument.

That request often leads to my finding places in my body that lack ease: spots of tension that shouldn’t be there and places where I’m out of balance. I noticed in particular that lifting my instrument with only my left hand was not good for my left wrist. As you can see in the video below, I started lifting my instrument to my chin while also supporting it with the right hand. This has made a surprising amount of difference in how my left wrist feels: less tension, more balance. No pain.

This last practice video, the morning of the concert, was another type of practice I like to do with orchestra music: playing along with a recording. It’s hard to find the right tempo, but this one was close. I had come to see this passage as an etude. Never perfect, but I was getting closer and learning in the attempt.

SVPhilConcert

The concert itself was really fun. I carpooled with a bassoonist friend and we talked about orchestra and our kids and our childhoods growing up in music. At the performance I didn’t play perfectly but I was no longer left in the dust or feeling like crawling under my chair. I looked for “ease” in my body as I held up my violin, and occasionally found it. My stand partner congratulated me after the concert, and I her. She asked where I taught and was surprised when I told her I taught science, not music.

I fantasized that this experience was giving me a window into an alternate life path, if only for an evening: that of professional orchestra musician. We took the stage of a beautiful theater and played beautiful music. And rang in the season of lights and concerts that won’t really stop until January.

St. Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians, after all.

SFCityHall
Across from the Herbst Theater: SF City Hall, lit purple

Thursday Doors: Belgian Beer & Chocolate

This summer I experienced my first time in Belgium. I am not a newcomer, however, to Belgian chocolate. Our first evening there after arriving we took a walk, first to see the “peeing girl” (peeing boy will come later) and then to the Grand Place. Lots of restaurants, bars, and chocolate shops, and their doors, on the way!

Belgian beers are primarily ales with a heavy emphasis on malts and a lot of fruity yeast flavors.

Belgian chocolate is famous for its high cocoa content. It is a favorite of dark-chocolate lovers, such as myself.

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:

October 27, 2018: Dutch Whimsy

October 18, 2018: Nordrhein-Westfalen

October 11, 2018: Landschaftspark

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