Monday, January 16, 2017

Victoria is no Downton Abbey

Sat through the full two hour opener of Victoria on PBS  last night and can report that Downton Abbey will not be threatened.  First off, of course, is that this is history not fiction and therefore the outcome is known.  With no real suspense possible the interest, as in Shakespeare, is in how the characters will reach their already stipulated ends. At the moment the Queen is na├»ve and pretty and her opposition seems obsequious, and less than exciting. From the Germans lurking in the halls to the oily Lord Melbourne, they were to a turn pretty dull.  We look forward to a few more sparks when Pitt does manage to succeed.

Visually there are some stunning scenes, but mostly the director seems to lavish a bit too much love and time on overly formal processions and architecture. They are pretty but drag down the pace.  It is also unfortunate that the limited TV budget parameters are emphasized in the cheesy process shots of crowds and early 19th century London. 

Then there is an attempt every ten minutes of so to insert snippets of life below the rodent infested stairs.  None of the servant class gets more than thirty seconds at a crack and none of them jump out at you as appealing. I have not read the book so do not know if this was used in the same manner, but here it seems like someone ordered some programmed  interruptions for shots of the little people at work.  At this point they do little more than set up the next glorious costume or ballroom. The monarchy may be threatened but down below it is two bit chiseling about gloves rats, and candles.

To be fair this may be the necessary setup for fireworks to come.  We shall see if the actors can surmount the less than appealing reputation of this Queen.  

Monday, January 09, 2017

A bit of old Finland in Tucson

Went to a movie today at a huge 20 screen movie emporium at a large mall called Park Place in Tucson.  You buy your tickets on the ground floor and then take a large set of stairs or an escalator up a good two or three stories to the lobby and screens proper.

 
A closer look at the giant escalator reveals its manufacturer.


  
 
 
So what you say! Well Kone is a Finnish company with its main offices in Helsinki and my son works for them and lives in Helsinki. So all the way in Tucson this winter I can get a little reminder of  what he is doing.   Pretty cool. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Our 2016 Christmas Greetings

 Volume XLIII                                                                                                                                December 25, 2016
  Christmas 2016
I  do not begin this year’s letter with the normal joke.  Instead I simply quote a sentence from Edward Abbey’s Desert Journey. "Wherever two human beings are alive, together, and happy, there is the center of the world."   Jan has undergone over a year of breast cancer treatment and is free for the moment (you are never cured) from recurrence. We rejoice in that and count the blessings of our fifty seven year marriage as never before.  She has not regained all of her stamina, but she is here and   continuing her commitment to the American Association of University Women and the drive for women’s rights whether in the home, the workplace, the schools, or healthcare. Another milestone for her this year was giving up her seat on the Warren County Library Board after 25 1/2 years of service. Don’t worry, she still reads a whole bunch. 
To get back on a lighter tone, let’s doff a hat to Bill Bryson.  In his book, ­The Road to Little Dribbling, he reflects that he is now too old for early onset dementia and therefore must accept that his growing forgetfulness is coming right on time.  Boy, welcome to the club! He also asks whether you have observed that as you get older you seem to find that the world is increasingly populated by imbeciles and that it seems to belong to them and not you.  You now have our political statement for the year.

--So on to the family news--    Daughter Amy still teaches in the Cedar Rapids schools. The Brown family  life has recently been upset by the death of Todd’s father, but good things also accrue in grandson TJ’s graduation with his AA in Fire Science and his current pursuit of a Paramedic Degree to add to his EMT certification. Grandson Mikel has made a successful transition to high school freshman.  No specific directions detected yet, but he is doing well.  Both boys, as you can see, now tower above their parents. 

  
Our son David continues to live and thrive at the Kone Elevator Company in Helsinki, Finland with his wife Lotta and their two daughters.  Frida is now four and Selma  just over a year.  The picture below shows them in the plane on their way to making our Thanksgiving about as perfect as perfect can be.  


They were able to visit us in the USA for three full weeks and we had a super reunion with most of our family including  my sister and her husband who came from North Carolina.


Do you hunger for more pictures of their visit? Check out my blog at stirringthepudding.blogspot.com

 Meanwhile, Jim soldiers on, with camera at the ready to catch some nice shots of the granddaughters.  



His golf game has remained pretty solid for an old guy and he continues to devote around ten hours a week to his board duties at the Warren County Historical Museum. The organization received a large endowment grant this past year to hire a full time director and he had the big job of heading up the search committee. It’s not surprising then, that he subscribes to the old Yogi Berra line “I usually take a two hour nap from 1 to 4 every day”       


Jan and I are also excited that we will be able to make the trek to Arizona once again in 2017.  It will be our first big change of scenery in over a year, so give us a holler if you will be in Tucson in January or February.  Our e-mail is dramajim@gmail.com   Given that we will be leaving town right after Christmas, I have simplified our Yuletide giving strategy. Everyone on the list gets batteries and a short note, saying, “Toys not included.”   
Needless to say we hope you will have a blessed and happy holiday season. For some extra insurance put some rum in the egg nog and chill out in front of the tree not the screen.  Consider that one of the great misnomers of all time is the term “Social Media.”  Instead put your faith in the kindnesses you can show on the ground to friends and those in need.  Life is still lived for most of us on the local and personal scale.  It is there we can make the most difference and find the most fulfillment.  

Peace to you now and a Happy New Year.  

Jim and Jan De Young                                         

Visitors from Finland

To say we were thankful this Thanksgiving is a large understatement. My son and his wife, a Finn, live in Helsinki.  We have made three trips there in the last five years and their last visit here just after our first granddaughter was born four years ago.  Fate and a cancer diagnosis for my wife has kept us pretty much homebound the last year and a half.  In the early fall of 2015,  shortly after our last visit, a second granddaughter was added to the family and until last month's visit we had never met her other than on Skype.

They were able to be here for three weeks and what follows is a quick tour of their visit mainly composed of cute shots of the granddaughters.

But here's the whole family on the airplane and ready to depart for America.



Several long hours later they were in Chicago's Union Station waiting to board the  Polar Illinois Zephyr for a trip to Galesburg.


Right on time here comes the train into the Galesburg station.



Thirty minutes later the visitors were taking their ease in Grandma and Grandpa's living room.



This one's Frida                                                                      Selma can't spell yet, but she's still Selma


Grandma grabbed the first opportunity to get re-acquainted with the four year old.  We had been reading stories to her on Skype, but now a real lap and real snuggles add a new dimension to reading.

 

My sister and her husband arrived from North Carolina in time to join us for a lovely Thanksgiving dinner. Sorry Selma is not visible.  She was snoozing in her carry basket on the floor.


We discovered that the first thing Finns want to do when they visit is get out in the cold?   So it's off to the park regardless of the temperature.   Strangely no competition from the locals for seats on the swings.









 Monmouth also has indoor activities and one of the best is to enjoy our local library, where Grandma has been on the board for a guarter of a century.


Our story lady Danielle was in fine form with lots of participatory activities for both parents and children.







                                                                                                Hey don't forget about me!








Back at Grandmas both little muffins get a snuggle from mama.

Reading kept getting better when Jim's sister took over.  She was a children's librarian in another life.



When Aunt Amy arrived with her big boys, there was no more room at our our house.  But staying at the local motel was not a sacrifice because they have a nice swimming pool.   Aunt Amy gave a fresh new waterbug her very first swimming experience in a real pool. She took to it just like her Aunt did some years ago.








With everyone gathered Grandpa tried to get a group picture and he was only one person away from perfection.



After a week at our house, the family piled into the rental car and went to Cedar Rapids for a week with Aunt Amy.

 

From there they traveled to Lisle, just outside of Chicago, where my son was able to work at one of his company's offices. We took the train up to Naperville and met them for a few days to say good bye.  Our big moment was the opportunity to take Frida to the Du Page Children's Museum while Mama and Selma had a chance to do some shopping.



Nothing like a wind tunnel to get a hair do.





Or a giant bubble maker
 

 We also managed to work some clay



And see a puff puff air machine blow scarves and balls into the air.


Back at the hotel in Lisle, we found that Smithfield Foods was having a big party in the ballroom and had a huge carved ice centerpiece of three Pigs.  (Ironically Smithfield is a major pork produced and has one of their main packing plants in our home towm.)




Selma thought the piggies were pretty cool.  Indeed they were icy cold. 


 And oh so quick it was time to head back to Finland.  Packed and ready to head for the airport. We hope Selma isn't destined for the cargo hole in her basket.




Bye bye America!  Glad they let her  travel topside in the cabin.

 


Back to Helsinki in short order (View my son took from his office window on his first day back at work.


And then a Finnish Christmas for them with Yuloupouki (Santa Claus)