Saturday, August 22, 2009

For the motherless

Recently, I pulled my copy of Emily Post’s Etiquette off the shelf and thumbed through it. Having grown up in the South, mama taught me quite a few rules and customs covered under the broad topic of etiquette. When I was just entering my teens, Mama helped me with invitations, thank you notes, and even guided me through giving a shower for a cousin. As a young woman, I just picked up the telephone whenever I need a little guidance on good manners, and Irene would tell me what to do and why. Alas, Mama is now just pleasant memories, so there I was, consulting the most recognized authority on manners, via the book. Although I just needed to confirm minor detail about appropriate wedding shower etiquette, afterward, I sat for quite a while, enjoying my perusal of this rather lengthy tome on good behavior.

Now, why would anyone have a whole book on etiquette? How else do you know when to use "esquire"? Or how to address correspondence to a federal judge? Or how much to tip a washroom attendant who does not hand you a towel?

Although each edition of Etiquette covers traditional topics such as correspondence, mealtime manners, table settings, and weddings, this later edition, authored by Peggy Post, includes business matters. No, I will never use all of it, but the modern, casual manner of society sometimes makes me realize that there is some need for protocol and decorum. Really, the book deals with basic courtesy and respect, and those go a long way toward improving human relationships. Mama seemed to know just how to handle the most awkward situations, no doubt through training as well as instinct, but there are times when the rest of us need a little help.

I bought this 16th edition some time ago, but I think the new 17th edition would be a great gift for graduates and/or newly weds, because sometimes mama isn't available to help with wording the invitation, choosing the gift, or other mannerly matters.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Amusing— College students can rent Trinity on Tylos

Yes, the newest thing in college textbooks is, and it is modeled on the wildly popular video rental service, Netflix. Basically, for a quarter or a semester, you can rent a textbook. If you like it, you can pay a bit more and keep it, but if you don't want it, just return it. This is easier than fighting for a used book in the local bookstore, and with college texts being ridiculously expensive, many students should be glad to rent rather than buy books. As a post secondary instructor, I have seen students who thought the HOPE scholarship would pay for books be sorely disappointed. And as the mom of a college student, I've plunked $500 in her account to cover a semester's worth of textbooks.

Now I see that my science fiction thriller is available at for $12.84, and that's a good deal. Unfortunately, I can't see any college instructor listing it as required reading. Or even as a book report option. So, why is it there? I have no idea, and I don't really know why it makes me smile, but it does. I guess I am just amused by the very thought of my book being discussed by a professor of literature.


Sunday, August 02, 2009


Recently, hubby and I saw the fourth film in the Terminator series, and I was reminded that the original film was more horror than science fiction. We both agree that the second film, a/k/a Judgment Day is the best of the series, and that the third movie was forgettable. So much so, that we did not plan to see Terminator, Salvation, until daughter recommended it. When this action packed, tense, dark dystopia came to a close, I laughed and asked, "Why do all of these futuristic films feature folks in ragged motorcycle clothes?" Really, I do believe the costumers for such films just rob the trash from behind biker bars and make darned sure everything fits skin tight.

That said, the entire Terminator series exemplifies the concept of man vs. machine as it evolves from an attempt to make the world better, resulting in a monumental screw-up. That theme, one of the core themes in science fiction, is known as Utopia/Dystopia. The Mad Max films are dystopias, as are classic science fiction yarns such as Brave New World and 1984. Despite warnings from these more literary authors, as well as lesser known script writers, we still have folks believing that the way to make the world better is to change everything. Of course, that observation is belongs in the realm of social commentary, so I'll leave it to political pundits and get back to Terminator, Salvation.

In the latter, the special effects are top notch, and Christian Bale brings a brooding strength and determination to John Conner that has been lacking in previous films and television iterations of the character. Daughter said that she missed Linda Hamilton, but Hamilton's voice is used to help frame the character, as Bale's John Connor hovers over an old fashioned cassette player, listening to words of maternal wisdom.

Although Star Trek and Terminator fall into the same general genre, that of science fiction, they present opposite views of the future. In Trek, man's future is not without problems, but a certain amount of optimism is in order. In any of the Terminator films, the march toward the future is mostly a downward spiral. However, in each series, conflict abounds, and watching characters solve conflicts is the reason we keep coming back to the theatre, or renting those DVD's.

By Christmas, these futuristic tales will be available in stores or via Netflix, if you missed these summer sci fi films.

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