Joy’s Joys

Back on Dorothy’s birthday, I spent the day sharing quotations of hers on Facebook. They came from her fiction, her non-fiction, and, in at least one instance, from her letters. Among these choice bits was the beginning of “The Abominable History of the Man with Copper Fingers” – better known here as her description of the Egotists’ Club:

The Egotists’ Club is one of the most genial places in London. It is a place to which you may go when you want to tell that odd dream you had last night, or to announce what a good dentist you have discovered. You can write letters there if you like, and have the temperament of a Jane Austen, for there is no silence room, and it would be a breach of club manners to appear busy or absorbed when another member addresses you.

Somehow, the idea of announcing one’s dentist, of all things, captured my imagination the most.

In the spirit of sharing one’s humblest joys, one’s most quotidian triumphs, one’s practical delights…here are my joys of late:

– Yesterday I bought a MacBook Pro. Not without trepidation, mind, as I have always been a PC user. But after my beloved Samsung fried, and my far-less-beloved Asus came to have an inoperable wireless card and tracked poorly…well, I basically went without a home computer for a year, using my smartphone instead, and growing steadily more frustrated by my lack of keyboard.  The new model glows with promise: the promise that updates will not overwhelm me, that I need not pay a subscription to store my own documents, that I might go forth to join others in sub-creation.

– Not unrelatedly, having obtained the equipment to do it, I have started learning about the nuts and bolts of coding in HTML.  My programming brother recommended this course of action to me, and it is perhaps the closest a Muggle gets to reading a book of spells: when you assemble the necessary elements (be they ever so boilerplate) and press “Run,” behold!  These curious ciphers and characters LIVE!  If you did it properly, anyway.

– I have been getting so much delight from the Ann Arbor District Library Summer Game.  But that’s a whole other blog post, it turns out!
AADL summer game top graphic

– The people around me have reminded me of delightful things.  My flatmate reminded me of how delightful Brideshead Revisited is, by preparing a picnic for us to eat on the solstice while reading excerpts of “Et in Arcadia Ego.”  Emily reminded me about that most adorable composition tool, Written? Kitten!   Katherine and Ike, friends from Hillsdale that I hadn’t seen since 2012, drove through the UP before meeting me in Lansing for lunch and a good few hours of catching-up.

There have been other delights this summer – volunteer dill, stars-and-stripes pie for Independence Day, reading Gaudy Night aloud, brunch at Aventura, the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter coming out, revisiting The Great British Bakeoff, and watching The Tempest in the Arboretum.

Truly, these be joyful days!

In Natales et Pascha concurrentes

It is, for a little while yet, the 25th of March: the day the Church celebrates the Annunciation, whereby the Word was made Flesh.

It is also Friday, and we call this Friday good: for it is the day our Lord Jesus Christ climbed the shameful gallows-tree, transforming its shame to glory, trampling down death by death, bearing all sin in His sinless body to save us from our sin.

That these two great days occur together is apt, and rare; it will not occur again for 141 years.  On that account, John Donne wrote a poem (both here, and in the 2 prior links).  George Herbert also wrote a poem on the subject (item 67), this one in Latin, and that is the one I wanted to share:

Cum tu, Christe, cadis, nascor; mentémque ligavit
Una meam membris horula, téque cruci.
O me disparibus natum cum numine fatis!
Cur mihi das vitam, quam tibi, Christe, negas?
Quin moriar tecum: vitam, quam negligis ipse,
Accipe; ni talem des, tibi qualis erat.
Hoc mihi legatum tristi si funere præstes,
Christe, duplex fiet mors tua vita mihi:
Atque ibi per te sanctificer natalibus ipsis,
In vitam, et nervos Pascha coæva fluet.

Translated the best I can (after years without Latin practice, but with the benefit of some dictionaries):

When you, O Christ, fall, I rise;* it bound both my mind
And one of my members a little while, with you on the cross.
O how unlike, to me, that birth from the divine will now spoken!
Why do you give me life, when for yourself, Christ, you reject it?
I would even die with you: life, which itself you disregard,
Receive: unless you give such, as was given to you.
This would be a sad legacy for me if you would bestow death,
Christ, your death will doubly be made my life:
And yet, when I would be sanctified through your birth itself,
In life, and strength, your Passion coeval will flow.

*Alternately: When you, O Christ, die, I am born…

A friend has offered this (far superior) rendering:

As you die, o Christ, I am born: and my mind is bound
a little while with your limbs, to the Cross.
O what different destinies – of the man born, and the god.
Why do you give me life, which you, O Christ, renounce?
That I might die with you; take from me the life that you misprize [disregard],
unless you give to me a suffering similar to yours [??]
And if you grant to me – miserable creature – such a death,
o Christ, then your death would doubly be made my life.
And thus might my birth be sanctified to you
in life, and strength will flow from your sacrifice.

Drinks in Remembrance: Alan Rickman

You’ve heard, I’m sure, of the sad fact that Alan Rickman died of cancer last week. 69 years on earth, and suddenly he is gone.

Colonel BrandonWhether you loved him best as Hans Gruber, Severus Snape, the Sheriff of Nottingham, Professor Lazarus, Metatron, Marvin the paranoid android, Judge Turpin, Colonel Brandon, or someone else entirely – solely himself, perhaps – I’m sure you, like me, will miss him.

So here’s a tribute.  Raise a glass (or several!) with me.

Severus Snape (modified from Backyard Bartender)Snape cocktail
1.5 oz Cruzan Blackstrap Rum (having only Myer’s, I used that)
.5 oz Fernet Branca
.5 oz falernum
dash Peychaud’s bitters (alas, I have no lavender bitters)
dash creme de violette
dash rose syrup

Nancy has a delightful explanation for her Snape concoction (which was the original reason I sought out Fernet Branca and falernum, to be honest).  Having no lavender bitters, I attempted to make up the difference with some other floral additions.  As she says: strong, dark, complex.

Half-Blood Prince cocktailHalf-Blood Prince
2 oz dill-infused gin
1.5 oz green ChartreusePotions Master cocktail
spritz of absinthe
.5 oz lime juice
dash chamomile bitters
Stir with ice and strain into an appropriate goblet.  This is my nod to the Potions Master and the head of Slytherin House: herbal, complicated, very green, full of venerable spirits.  It’s a lot like a Last Word (equal parts gin, Chartreuse, lime, and Maraschino), but sourer.

Severus Snape (alternate)
1.5 oz CynarCynar (Chee-NAR)
I wondered if perhaps there were a simpler approach to Snape.  This is one such attempt, applicable to Sorcerer’s Stone Snape: a straight shot of Cynar, which is a drinkable bitter made from artichokes (ie, instead of an intensity which requires but a few drops in a cocktail, it’s dilute enough to consume on its own).  It’s complex, vegetal, dark, and (of course) bitter.  An acquired taste, but when you love it, you really love it.  Harry Potter, of course, finds Cynar innately suspicious.  He would; he’s only 11, after all.

Random potion bonus:

7 bottles

Danger lies before you, while safety lies behind,
Two of us will help you, whichever you would find,
One among us seven will let you move ahead,
Another will transport the drinker back instead,
Two among our number hold only nettle wine,
Three of us are killers, waiting hidden in line.
Choose, unless you wish to stay here forevermore,
To help you in your choice, we give you these clues four:
First, however slyly the poison tries to hide
You will always find some on nettle wine’s left side;
Second, different are those who stand at either end,
But if you would move onward, neither is your friend;
Third, as you see clearly, all are different size,
Neither dwarf nor giant holds death in their insides;
Fourth, the second left and the second on the right
Are twins once you taste them, though different at first sight.

Alexander Dane cocktail
Alexander Dane (as Dr. Lazarus)

1.5 oz cognac
.5 oz Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
.5 oz blue curacao
.25 oz lemon juice

The thinking here was that Dane is Very Serious Business – “I played Richard III!” – not-quite-obscured by something brightly colored and mildly ridiculous.  Overall: shiny and enjoyable.

 


Colonel Brandon
Colonel Brandon cocktail
2 oz gin (I used Hendrick’s, but a London Dry would probably be better)
.75 oz lemon juice
.75 oz creme de cassis (blackberry liqueur)
.5 oz St-Germain
dash of plum bitters
I had the idea to make something rather British and proper, but also sweet enough to appeal to those moved chiefly by their sensibility.  It turned out to be a bit cloying, so throw in some sturdy Calvados or genever to bolster it: something befitting a man of action, one who needs an occupation lest he run mad.

Alan Rickman himself:
When my roommate and I made Tom Hiddleston cocktails, we found the most difficult one was Tom himself; not having met him, we could only work from a particular face he sometimes presented to the public.  The same difficulty attends Alan: by several Alan Rickmanaccounts I’ve read, he was everything kind, generous, funny, and generally delightful (but de mortuis, nil nisi bonum and all that).  So Thalia’s suggestion was to capture the unique quality of his striking voice by the use of something dark and deep.  The thing that came to mind was scotch.  If you’re a purist, sip it straight; if not, try a sort of modified toddy:

1 oz Laphroaig scotch
1/2 oz Drambuie
Fill teacup with hot water

It’s sweet enough not to be totally off-putting, but it is very very strong.  The smoky smell spread throughout my dining area and kitchen.

That seemed a bit overwhelming, so taking a cue from my friend Amanda, I tried to go the coffee route:

Alan Rickman (alternate)Alan Rickman tipple

1/2 oz Kahlua
1/2 oz Frangelico
1/2 barspoon (ie, 1/4 tsp or so) pimento dram (allspice liqueur)

Ideally this would have been mixed with coffee or espresso, to represent Alan’s liveliness and how engaging he was.  But it was quite late by that point, and prudence won out.  I hope to have a bit of a film festival before long, and see how a caffeinated version of this fits into it.

Alan, here’s to you.  We mourn your passing, but are glad you were there to depict Very Interesting People for a time.  You delighted us, and we will miss you.  Always.

Things My Father Taught Me

Earlier today, the pastor of my parents’ church asked Facebook, “What’s the best thing your father taught you?”

I found that I was hard-pressed to give one solitary item, since my dad has taught me so much: in words, by his example, and by virtue of what he emphasized in day-to-day life.  He catechized me well, taught me the principles of being a good student, and gave lots of other pieces of practical advice:

  • Ask interesting questions!
  • Call the city when you see a water main break.
  • Use a tape measure beforehand to be sure the furniture/ item will fit.
  • Learn how to type (this one not by example, but by making each of us kids practice 5 minutes with FastType for every 20 minutes of computer games).
  • There’s no such thing as a garment with too many pockets (this by the example of having our mother add a second breast pocket to several of his shirts). There’s also no such thing as too many flashlights.
  • Try to buy American when you can.
  • Wear shoes in places like the garage or the basement, where there might be nails or live wires afoot.
  • “Don’t watch the ads, children.” Also: look away from violent TV shows. Don’t put the television in the middle of family life; if you must have one, keep it in the basement.
  • Honor the cook by being seated when he/she brings the food. Clearly address someone by name when you want him/her to pass you food. “When you have eaten and are satisfied, return thanks to the Lord for the good land he has given you.”
  • “Is there a way to graduate early?”
  • “If you borrow a woodsman’s axe, you are borrowing his livelihood. If you borrow my pen, you’re borrowing my livelihood. So make sure to return the pen to my hand, where you got it.” The same goes for his Swiss army knife.
  • “What have you learned from this?” Usually asked at the very moment we realized that a bad situation was at least partly our own fault.
  • “When you leave a house, wish God’s peace upon it.”

I’ve recently come to appreciate that it isn’t always the case that a man with three sons and one daughter treat them alike in dignity. From the time I was young, Dad told me that I could be at the top of the class or be the “head of the company.” Thus Dad taught me that, though I am different from my brothers, neither my thoughts nor my person are worth less than they are.

He taught me that memorization of Scripture is important; invoices are also important; writing the date on things is useful; the items you own require maintenance; the items you buy represent a certain amount of time invested to earn the money so be sure it’s worth it; and that strawberries demonstrate that our God loves making beautiful things.

Last (and probably best), Dad always told me “I love you, but Jesus loves you even more!

What did your dad teach you?

Alphabooks: G is for Gladness

G: Glad You Gave This Book a Chance

Last November, I went to visit my friend the Mead.  That week was full of tea-drinking, book-reading, meal-sharing, and general delight.  Among the books I read was Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop.Death Comes for the Archbishop

For years (and despite Melpomene writing about it, apparently), my impression of the book was that the title said everything about it: that somewhere, an archbishop (who knows where) lies sick and eventually dies.  I had no idea how that could constitute an entire book, and figured it was puffed full of useless detail, ecclesiastical history that meant nothing to me, and maybe the fallout from the archbishop’s death.

Then there came a point where a friend related a section of it: a corrupt priest uses his position to enslave the people living on a particular plateau, and they eventually revolted and killed him.  I figured the whole book featured this corrupt priest, and the revolt was the book’s climax.

But in fact, the corrupt Friar Baltazar Montoya is only a story within the story, as related to Father Jean Marie Latour by his guide Jacinto as he journeys around New Mexico.  Latour is the actual focus of the book, and as far from Montoya as can be: he is gentle but determined, content to read at home but observant of all his duties.  True, death comes for him – but from a long way off, so that he spends decades in service to build up the Archdiocese before death arrives.  His friendships, both with a fellow priest of France and with those in his diocese, only deepen in that time:

“Where there is great love there are always miracles,’ he said at length. ‘One might almost say that an apparition is human vision corrected by divine love. I do not see you as you really are, Joseph; I see you through my affection for you. The Miracles of the Church seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always.”

Of course, not all things are so permanent.  This book starts in the 1850s, and so Cather is describing a land which has since been swallowed up by people and change and industry.  I am not quite sure I can see the landscapes, but at times I very nearly feel the whisper of the air on my face:

Beautiful surroundings, the society of learned men, the charm of noble women, the graces of art, could not make up for the loss of those light-hearted mornings of the desert, for that wind that made one a boy again. He had noticed that this peculiar quality in the air of new countries vanished after they were tamed by man and made to bear harvests. Parts of Texas and Kansas that he had first known as open range had since been made into rich farming districts, and the air had quite lost that lightness, that dry, aromatic odour. The moisture of plowed land, the heaviness of labour and growth and grain-bearing, utterly destroyed it; one could breathe that only on the bright edges of the world, on the great grass plains or the sage-brush desert.

The plot, per se, is somewhat loose; there is not one central event but in fact the tracing out of a man’s whole life: his journeys, his labours, his difficulties, his conversations.  It is a life to make one glad.

Happy Birthday, YouTube

YouTube has been in existence for 10 years now.

This makes me wonder if there’s a way to convert solar years to internet years, because ten years on the internet is pretty much forever, right?  There are times when I have to stop and ponder the fact that, in fact, this particular service has not existed as long as I have, that the entirety of my childhood and most of my adolescence were spent without it.  Not to mention that which has followed in its train: widespread GIFs.  Vines.  Videos on Facebook.  Videos EVERYWHERE.

Then there’s the plenitude of it.  That one site can be the place to listen to music and share performances, to give DIY instructions, to find TV shows or movie clips, to document one’s family, to vlog, to share cat videos…

How did we exist without a convenient spot for cat videos for so long?!  The mind, it boggles.

Other folks, in celebration of ten years of cat videos, have made lists of YouTube’s most-viewed offerings.  While I’ve nothing against the surprised kitty, Sweet Brown, David after the Dentist, or NyanCat, I figured I’d share a different selection.  These aren’t quite “videos you must watch to be my friend,” but they’re close.

And like unto it (kind of):

British ads are better:

Here’s a viral throwback:

And then there’s this delight:

Honorable mentions go to Axis of Awesome’s 4 Chords; Eddie Izzard’s Death Star Canteen sketch (with Legos!); OK Go’s song So Here It Goes; and In Demand.

What YouTubes have you made all your friends watch?

Cool Jep Stories

I think I answered most questions the average viewer might have about Jeopardy and how it operates last week.  But there are still a few odds and ends that seemed worth noting, so this is just to cover anything I missed before.

First off: John and his pink-shirt-Friday friend Adam, as well as Adam’s brother Aaron, did a podcast concerning John’s run on the show.  After watching the January 15 show, we listened to part of it and tracked down the 4 youTube video segments (from 1984) of the first Jeopardy! show hosted by Alex Trebek.  It’s much the same in essentials, but Alex gives so much more detail about how the show works; there’s much more applause from the audience; and unless I’m much mistaken, it was possible for contestants to ring in before the question was over – a “hack” buzz that isn’t possible today.

1984 Alex Trebek

I’ll take “mustaches” for $1000, Alex.

Reading through Ken Jenning‘s second AMA reminds me that oh yeah, Jeopardy doesn’t normally cover travel costs – so if you register and make it to auditions/the show, be reading to pony up for the flight, car rental, and/or hotel stay.  The second- and third-place contestants get $2000 and $1000, respectively, but that doesn’t necessarily cover everything.

Ken also noted that he’d been blackballed from game shows, “like the card-counters who get kicked out of casinos.”  This isn’t the case for everyone, as Jeopardy is probably the biggest stickler where its contestants are concerned.  The registration page reads “You are not eligible to be a contestant on JEOPARDY! if you have appeared on a nationally broadcast game show/dating show/relationship show/reality show in the last year or three game shows/dating shows/relationship shows/reality shows in the last 10 years.”

Another perennial point of interest is the stories that the contestants share right after the show’s first commercial break.  Sometimes they manage to be fascinating, often they come across a little dull or strange, and sometimes they’re just random.

Cool Jep StoriesWell, not without reason.  It’s a bit difficult, we (family and friends) decided, to tell a story of any significance to a nation of strangers when you’ve less than a minute to do so, context and all – and any time taken on storytelling is time taken away from answering questions on the board.  So it’s best to be brief, especially because Alex spends some 5 to 15 seconds introducing the story.  Moreover, you can’t be not-boring without attempting to be unique, or at the very least uncommon; you can’t do that without some people finding you very strange, or a jerk, or a very strange jerk.

We learned from John that contestants give the show 5 topics or fun facts or tidbits (free of any sort of promotion or advertisement), highlighting the one they find most interesting to discuss.  But Alex gets the list, and he’s the one who picks which story goes on the show.  During John’s week of play, a lot of different people ended up discussing how they met their spouses; someone joked during a post-game discussion that Alex should write a book concerning all the meet-cutes he’d heard about.

Since I have no meet-cute of my own, this leaves me wondering: what stories would I tell?  What 30-40 second-story could I share with the country without feeling weird about it?

Anything posted here, I guess, edited accordingly.  Perhaps I’d relate details about my ongoing project of fashioning a liturgical calendar of cocktails, or volunteering as Boswell for every trip I go on, or confess touching the manuscript containing the LeFay Fragment.  Maybe I’d discuss my affinity for parodies.

But maybe I’d just say “Well, my brother got on the show, and it was so much fun I wanted to do it too.”

What story would you share on Jeopardy?

On Being the Sister of a Jeopardy! Champion

This is a bit of a weird niche to blog about, and doubtless some of my Facebook friends are tired of hearing about it.  That said, it is pretty cool to have a Jeopardy! champion in the family, and anyway, David asked for a blog post about it.

j and alex

Alex Trebek and my brother John

When you accost people with “Do you watch Jeopardy!?  Well…you should, because my brother’s playing on there,” they inevitably ask questions about how the show works.  How did he get on the show? Is it taped in advance? Oh, okay, do you know how long he’ll be on, then?  What does Alex talk about with them as the credits roll? How much did he win? Is there a five-day limit, or can he go on indefinitely? Is it true that they give the contestants a list of the categories the night before? Can I watch it online?

Well. I can answer some of that for you.

A few days a year, Jeopardy has an online test for prospective contestants to take.  John registered and took it (every year since he graduated college, actually), and did well enough (35+/50 questions, I believe) to qualify for the regional auditions.*  The regional interviews involve further questions, this time with a buzzer involved, to narrow down the field of contestants further.  Finally, he was invited to come out for taping, and went through a final selection process (I forget how this part works) to determine which game he’d be in.  And then he just plays until he can’t play anymore!

*John has qualified for regionals twice now.  One round took him down to Kentucky; the second time he went from Columbus, OH up to Detroit.  Unsurprisingly, he says it’s easier the second time around.

Daily double beryl

John has NO idea what a beryl is.

They tape 5 shows in a day, each corresponding to the days of a work week.  John’s games were taped back in November, I believe, but he is sworn to secrecy.  He and his wife know how he did – she was in the audience, after all – but have preserved the mystery so the viewers can be surprised (especially when he gets Daily Double clues he doesn’t know, or Final Jeopardy clues he really doesn’t know)!

After the credits roll, Alex talks about whatever subject captured his imagination during the game.  After John’s first game, where he beat the reigning champion J. Elliott, Alex discussed Elliott’s plots for a Truman Capote opera (?!).

Thus far, John has won 5 games and a total of $104,500.  He continues playing until someone else beats him, though I believe that winning 5 times with that high a sum qualifies him to return for the Tournament of Champions (which will happen later this year, I believe; not sure when).

day 1 otherDay 2day 3day 4aday 5

study time

Studying up the night before taping

They don’t give the contestants question lists, but John did use his computer programming skills to great effect: he created an app which utilizes data from j-archive.com to see how well he’d do with questions from former seasons.  This has helped him in at least two questions, including a “Real Mystery” Daily Double that netted him $4,200!

Annnd while I don’t believe it’s possible to stream the show, it’s possible to watch recent games on youTube the day after – with all the ads removed for quick and easy viewing.

So with all that answered…what has it been like, having a Jeopardy! winning-brother?

Toast

Toasting after the first win!

Answer: it’s been a pretty good time!  Our whole family has gotten into it: my mum, our cousins, our aunts and uncles, and I have been exhorting the mailmen, the FedEx guys, bank workers, random folks at the shop to tune in.

J and E

John and his wife Elizabeth, Tuesday night watch party at our parents’ house.

day 1 win

Day 1: J. Elliott dethroned

John has spent the week going to viewing party after viewing party.  Some of his friends have driven across Michigan and Ohio to watch and celebrate with him.  There’s a flurry of texts and tweets and phone calls every night, as we photograph the shot of his total winnings, and discussions of sartorial considerations.  A whole bunch of J. Elliot fans lamented as their fearless leader was beaten out last Thursday, and some of them still aren’t over it.

JelliotJohn gets a certain amount of ribbing if he misses things – Billings, Montana and The Music Man come to mind – but there’s also a lot of impressed faces when he runs through a category like “Out –Let” or “Anagrams,” and I relish the facts which I know on account of sharing with him and which, I fancy, he knows because of sharing with me: Brideshead Revisited, Beedle the Bard, Baba O’Riley, and others that start with something other than B.

Pink shirt FriPink shirt verified

Boys and flueyes wide shutJ watches Self

We’ve gotten a little bit of background detail about the other contestants, John’s thought processes during the questions, and the stories he’s shared during the Getting-to-Know-You segments: how he proposed to his wife, the commencement of the Pink Shirt Friday, the puppy cam he and Elizabeth use to keep an eye on their dog Hektor, etc.

All these stories and details have prompted a lot of rumination on facts, trivial and otherwise; game strategy in a fast-paced environment; and stories which are worth the telling even when condensed to <30 seconds.  Some of which I might share in a later post.  But for now…we’re going to watch John on Jeopardy! tonight.  Join us!