Thursday, December 19, 2013

Helsinki beyond the Harbor

Most visitors to Helsinki, Finland arrive by cruise ship and have only a few precious hours to spend in the city.  This means they can seldom do more than visit the waterfront market and make their way up to the Cathedral Square.  These are exciting and lovely but represent only a small part of Helsinki's charm. 

With a little more time you can manage a walk along the Esplanade, a ride on one of the many tram lines, and visits to some of the major sites. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Figgy Pudding to Stir for Christmas

Volume XXXX                                                                                                                                             Dec. 25, 2013

Christmas 2013

“True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.” Kurt Vonnegut

True terror may also be that you realize you have been writing this letter for forty years.  In December, 1973, I wrote, “We’ve returned from our year in London and have been spending the last few months going through the typical cultural re-entry shock that goes with any foreign experience.”   This summer, returning from Finland, we went through that re-entry for the umpteenth time. It still carries conflicting emotions. We are happy to return to our own comfy cocoon in Monmouth, yet also chagrined that so many here in this country still seem to believe that people in foreign lands could not possibly have better health care,  education, or a better standard of living than an American.  Don’t get me wrong.  Needy is still needy wherever you are and by any standard Americans, including us, have been blessed with an unmatched fullness of life and liberty. On the other hand a recognition that the world has caught up and in some cases passed us is a truth that can no longer be denied.   

Now before the soap box collapses, let it also be known that 1973 was the year I started my beard. I didn’t like it at first, but then it grew on me.  All together now, LARGE GROAN! 

On the family news front son David and his wife Lotta continue to reside in Finland and dote on our only granddaughter Frida. She is now walking and climbing in the best of De Young tradition. To be honest, two sets of grandparents and a bunch of aunties on both sides are doing some doting as well.  Taking a look at her can tell you why.

We spent two weeks in Helsinki this past summer and bonded sufficiently to enable Frida to recognize us now during our Skype calls. Lotta plans to go back to work in February. David has not been able to get a job yet, but the government is paying him to study Finnish and he hopes to be able to compete better this coming year.  It has not been easy but they are surviving, prospering, and loving parenthood. 


We were also able to spend time with our new in-laws, Jukka and Anna-Maija. While touring the studio of a well known Finnish artist, Soile Yli Mayry, we sat for a picture of all of us in front of one of her paintings. Just in case you can’t tell, the artist is the lady in the red glasses and black tights.  STOP!  Medical advice break:  If you hear a ringing in your ears, don’t answer it.  Additional break to fill up the page: Do you need something to liven up the conversation while checking out at the grocery store?  When the clerk asks you, “Paper or plastic?”, just say, “It doesn’t matter, I’m bi-sacksual.”
Now on to the Brown household. Daughter Amy is continuing her teaching career while husband Todd is still working long hours as well.
But this year the parents will have to take second place to our oldest grandchild, TJ, who will be graduating from high school in May. His grade average has remained over a “B+” and he has been accepted into the Fire Safety program at Western Technical College in La Crosse, WI.  While keeping up with his coursework, helping at the fire station, and a part time job at a day care center, he has also managed to study for and pass his national EMT certification exam. We are so proud of him!    

Younger brother Mikel, 11, continues to do well in school and took after his brother by playing catcher on a summer baseball team.
 He is an avid iPad operator and loves to do crafts. He also shows some signs of becoming a philosopher. His mom reported last week that while he was looking at the ads for new computer games, he noticed that most of them were marked “M” for mature.  He then observed, “How does that make any sense? If someone was mature they wouldn’t be playing computer games, would they?” Hmmm--- a definite case of early onset wisdom.

Here’s your final break: Have you ever found it a little scary to see Braille numbers on the keypad for a drive-thru bank machine?   Jim and Jan are also chugging along.  Jan, as promised last year, gave up the AAUW Art Presenter Program after 40 years.  She does remain on the Warren County Library Board and is still active in AAUW.  For his part Jim has given up chairmanship of the Old Friends Talk Arts program at the Buchanan Center for the Arts.  To make up for this sudden influx of leisure both of them are now spending more time at the local history museum where Jim is a board member and Collection Management Chair.    
Even though our travels this year have been focused on Finland, we did manage a trip to Cancun in January to join our old friends the Spaetzels from Beloit College days.  
Then there was a swing through Arizona in February, and Carolina, Georgia,  and Florida early in the summer. Finally we took a side trip to Barcelona, Spain, on the way back from Finland. Full photo coverage for the very curious is available on Flickr:

And that’s the way it is forty years on.   We send you holiday greetings wherever you may be and wish for you and your loved ones a happy and healthy New Year.  Cheers!

p.s.  WHY IS THERE AN EXPIRATION DATE ON SOUR CREAM?  Do you need more nostalgia? Try  








Saturday, December 07, 2013

A Play Identification Quiz

Last week Sue Van Kirk, a good friend, budding author,  and former literature teacher challenged us  us to identify a list of  major novels based only on their first sentences. 
Here's Sue chowing down at her favorite Phoenix eatery.
She implied that the well read among us would have no trouble doing this and pronounced that it would take 13 out of the 15 to earn an “A” grade from her.   Surely, I thought, Ms. Van Kirk and her friends would also score well on identifying the following major works of dramatic literature based on their first lines. 
I have directed nine of them and have taught them all at some point in time.  Many are iconic works in the canon and should not push you too hard; others may stretch you a bit.  One final hint.  None are musicals, which is no surprise to anyone who knows me.   

1.       “Nothing to be done.”

2.      “If music be the food of love, play on.”

3.      “Yes, I have tricks in my pocket; I have things up my sleeve.”

4.      “Children, youngest brood of Cadmus the Old, why do you sit here with branches in your hand while the air is heavy with lament?”

5.       “The train’s in, thank God. What time is it?”

6.      “Willy?”

7.       “Who’s there?”

8.      “Is that you Petey?” 

9.      “Oh my word, I don’t think they are even up yet.”

10.   “I pray you all give your audience and hear this matter with reverence, by figure a moral play.”

11.    “Oh God for an end to this weary work; a year long I have watched here--head on arm.”

12.    “Jesus H. Christ!”

13.   “Now fair Hippolyta our nuptial hour draws on apace.”

14.   “With one particular horse, called Nugget, he embraces . . .”

15.   “Septimus, what is carnal embrace?”


No Peeking now until you have finished.

I’m an easier grader than Sue so My grading scale:  13-15 Right–  ”A” You are a dramaturgical scholar of the first order. Take a solo call in front of the curtain. 10-12 Right– “B” Almost at the top.  When I went to school this was still considered an excellent grade. Take a solo bow during the cast call.   9-11 Right  “C” You probably didn’t take my theatre history sequence but still a respectable showing. You're at least in the cast call.   7-8 Right– “D”  Not everyone sees or reads classic world drama. As Sue suggested you might try another field. We may still let you pull the curtain and put your name in the program.   Below 7 Right–”F” Your theatre chops are below par. Get thee back to a viewing and/or reading regimen before you try out for Jeopardy. .

Answers: 1 Samuel Beckett Waiting for Godot  2 Wiliam Shakespeare Twelfth Night 3 Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie 4 Sophocles Oedipus Rex 5 Anton Chekov The Cherry Orchard 6 Arthur Miller Death of a Salesman (If you missed this one your are truly in need of further instruction) 7 William Shakespeare Hamlet  8 Harold Pinter The Birthday Party 9 Henrik Ibsen Hedda Gabler  10  Everyman  11 Aeschylus Agamemnon  12 Edward Albee Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf  13  William Shakespeare A Midsummer Night’s Dream  14  Peter Shaffer Equus  15  Tom Stoppard Arcadia
To the winner goes the balloon.