Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Underwater film of oil spill

From ABC News, a video shot underwater by Philippe Cousteau and another diver, swimming through the water near the oil spill. Unbelievable.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Uncle Tom's Cabin

I finished reading Uncle Tom's Cabin last night, after finding once tax season was past that I once again had energy for reading (yay!). Yesterday I had overdone physical exercise and needed to lie down much of the day, and the book was an excellent companion.

There are some critical comments and notes in the back of the book still to read.

I think I was expecting the book to be not very well written, and to be cloying in its sentimentality, and it is neither. I was surprised also to find it so much easier to understand than Charles Dickens (I recently read Our Mutual Friend, one of his latest works, and found it almost incomprehensible.)

One other surprise was finding that Simon Legree didn't chase Eliza across the river, an impression formed from watching The King and I years ago.

I came away a little mystified by the negative connotation of the expression "an Uncle Tom," but it seems from an entry on Wikipedia that the negative connotation comes not so much from the book itself as from later stage adaptations that changed Tom's character to be ingratiating. Tom's willingness to be sold down river in order to save the plantation seems entirely plausible to me, in a strong man willing to protect the more vulnerable around him, and it's hard for me to see much difference between Tom's refusal to obey orders and what we now call nonviolent resistance. I found the description of his martyrdom touching and believable without being saccharine or tear-jerking.

Also on the Wikipedia page, I see that James Baldwin objected to the characters of Eliza and George being white enough to pass, and I tend to agree that the story would have had more power if they hadn't been that white, but it might also have strained credibility that they were able to make it to Canada. As a writer, I can certainly understand Stowe wanting to have some of her characters make it to freedom rather than leave them all in slavery.

At the beginning of the book, one or two of the characters reminded me of characters in Roots (Sam on the Shelby plantation reminded me a little of Chicken George, and there may have been one other) and I wondered if there were going to be further signs of Haley's lack of originality, but that didn't come to be. It is certainly true that many of Stowe's characters are "types," and I haven't read enough novels from the same period to know if that was common for authors at the time. I was glad to see that some of her characters had more subtlety than stereotypes. She also had the regrettable tendency to draw inferences from one individual to the entire group to which the individual belonged, though I'm sometimes guilty of the same thing when I talk about Enneagram types!

In all, I very much enjoyed the book.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Capital One

I am paying down balances on two Capital One credit cards (one business, one personal).

For the past year, on one of those cards, I've been paying a fixed amount each month representing more than the minimum required, and I've been paying early each month, sometimes as much as two weeks in advance.

Regardless, Capital One just raised the interest rate on that card by 5%, from 12.9% to 17.9%.

I suspect this is an outcome of the new credit card law, which went into effect at exactly the same time as my notification of the change from Capital One. They saw they would be making less money overall, so they upped interest rates even on accounts like mine that are getting paid down responsibly.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dance at Columbia College Chicago

I went down to the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago twice recently, because a Quaker friend, Madelyn George, is a student there.

On April 29th I saw her choreography project "Rediscovering Ceremony" performed by a troupe of11 dancers, and it was marvelous. In fact, it brought tears to my eyes at one point, when some of the dancers were lying down in columns, each dancer holding the feet of the dancer above her, and then rolling, like a rolling DNA strand, while the remaining standers stepped over them. There were other moments when the dancers walked to the edge of the stage and looked intently at the audience, and the image of one dancer in particular doing this has remained a vivid image for me.

The following Thursday I saw her dance in another student's choreography project, and I unfortunately lost the name of the piece (I gave back my program), which contained the word Pearl, but it was marvelous as well. It was dedicated to the young people of an African country (Rwanda?) who had been abused as children, and some of the movements were very evocative.

There were other pieces each night that were just marvelous. The first night I liked "Lux" by Kaitlin Fox very much, and "Participatory Apparatus; Cooperative Bodies" by Carly Czach. The second night I liked best a piece about violence in Chicago and another that I'm having more trouble remembering.

I very much enjoy watching dance and can't often afford it. These evenings asked only for a donation of $5, which I could manage. The skill of the dancers was very impressive and the choreography very evocative. I find that what I like best about a dance is the passion shown by the dancers; some pieces required the dancers to show their passion and others seemed not to, though perhaps it was a choice on the part of the dancers at times not to really put themselves into the work.