June 17th, 2006

Relax!  Grab a Book!

26 of 50

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  1. Grahame, Kenneth — The Wind in the Willows

I wonder where Grahame gets his title. He makes three or four references to the wind through the reeds or the grass, but never through any trees, much less willows!

People's reactions to this book have been amusing. Tania was absolutely delighted that I was reading this. The ladies at church were shocked, wondering why I was reading a children's book, as if it weren't high-brow enough for me.

I did, for the most part, enjoy The Wind in the Willows. Many chapters had me smiling or laughing out loud. Others seemed too heavy-handed with the overly idyllic prose or dated Victorian ideals. Some chapters, such as "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn," where Mole and Rat are visited by the demigod Pan while searching for their friend Otter's lost son, made me glow with warmth.

I was a bit distraught by how easily Toad avoided consequences. Yes, in the end he learns humility, but how many times did he have to be an egoistic ass first? Furthermore, he rarely, if at all, suffered any real consequences. It concerns me that some kid might read this and think it's okay to steal cars or horses as long as you then act dignified and contrite, or that might or money or gender makes right.

One last…criticism, I guess. This is obviously intended as a children's book. Thus, I was surprised by the occasionally advanced vocabulary. I encountered, if I recall correctly, three words I did not know. Two of them I was able to figure out from the Latin root and the context. I have a pretty broad vocabulary, so if I don't know the word, you can be certain your average kid won't. And I doubt most kids are motivated enough to look the words up. Really, "selvaged" isn't a word one is likely ever to use, so why bother? I felt a bit as though Grahame were simply trying to show off his intellect here and there, as if he was letting the Toad in him get the better of him, and think his editor could have been more like Badger in a couple of places.

You can't guard me!

(no subject)

The US played one of the best games I've seen them play today and were robbed by poor officiating!

Team USA outplayed Italy from the get-go. They absolutely dominated the first 25 minutes. Then Italy got a cheap free kick and scored off a perfect header. The US got right back within a few minutes. Italy scored an own-goal off a US corner kick.

Then things really got ugly! An Italian player elbowed McBride in the eye. The Italian was sent off with a red card, and McBride, blood streaming down his face, was sent to the sideline to be patched up. When he came back on, the US had a one-man advantage. A few minutes later, Matroeni got nailed with a red card of his own. It was definitely a foul. It was probably even worth a yellow card. But there was nothing deliberate about it—he was clearly going for the ball and arrived late—and everyone agreed it was not worth a red card.

Now Italy and the US were evened up again, ten men apiece. Not for long, though. Eddie Pope made a clean tackle, sweeping the ball away from the Italian player. The referee didn't think it was so clean and gave Pope a yellow card. It was Pope's second yellow card, and thus he got a red card and was sent off.

Even down a man, the US outplayed Italy. They actually scored a goal, a beautiful shot by DaMarcus Beasley. The referee took the goal off the board, though, deeming someone away from the action was offsides. Landon Donovan created a couple of beautiful opportunities for McBride, but McBride could only come close both times. In the end, all the US could get was the one point for the draw.

So, what does this mean? It means the US has to beat Ghana next week and the Italy-Czech Republic game cannot end in a draw. Italy has 4 points, the Czech Republic and Ghana have 3 each, and the US has 1. If the US wins and Italy wins, Italy will win the group and the US will finish second. If the US wins and Italy loses, the US and Italy will both have 4 points, so the US will have to score more goals against Ghana than the Italians did. If there's a tie in goals, then I don't know what the next tie-breaker is.

It's not easy. This is perhaps the toughest group to play in. But at least, thanks to Ghana pulling off the upset earlier today, the scenarios aren't as bleak as they could be.

(no subject)

I had another lesson with Pollard today. He had several very positive things to say throughout the lesson.

Overall, I am making a much better sound. I'm not always consistent, though. I sang "Non più andrai" today, and while I am singing it so much better than I ever have, I occasionally slip and make a shallow, pressed sound. But I'm also becoming more aware of when I do so.

I had an audience while I sang "Non più andrai"! A little girl with her daddy stood outside the bay windows on the sidewalk enthusiastically pointing at me while I made this big rich sound and performed all these quirky gestures. It felt good to see her smile as I sang!

Pollard gave me some new exercises intended to help with tongue coordination while still keeping everything free. ("Li-le-la" on ascending triplets descending the scale.) They were a bit of a tongue-twister at first, but I'm getting the hang of them. Should be fun!

While singing "Gute Nacht" Pollard stopped me to mention that the last two phrases I'd sung were much better than the rest. I had noticed my breath creeping up on me so that I was holding it right around the bottom of my rib cage, so just before those phrases I adjusted and focused the breath much lower. He said that made all the difference in the world.

At the end of the lesson, Pollard told me this is absolutely the best singing he's heard from me. He is really pleased by the colors that are coming out and by the placement, roundness, and evenness of the voice. Yay!

I'll see him again next Saturday. In the meantime, he's given me a new aria to learn: Figaro's last aria, "Aprite un po quegli occhi." Should be fun!