Monthly Archives: January 2009

The Shoe Box Theater and the Northwest Classical Theatre Company

Tonight I visited the Shoe Box Theater in S.E. Portland, and I watched the Northwest Classical Theatre production,, of The Merchant of Venice. It was magical. One peak inside the theater and immediately I knew why it was called the Shoe Box Theater. It has 37 chairs arranged in a u-shape, and the space in the middle becomes the stage. This means that all but four seats have front row views. It is very small, just about big enough for one of Paul Bunyan’s boots. Once you are seated and the show begins, there is no way that you can sneak out for any reason. Right before the performance, curtains are lowered on the entry doors and they became the entrances/exits for the actors and actresses.

The actors and actresses delivered a flawless performance. I have never seen Shakespeare come alive like it did tonight. As Shylock was making his final exit, he walked by where I was sitting and I saw tears in his eyes and running down his face. That is what I call a performance. The drama was so gripping that at times we were all on the edges of our seats. This company performs plays mainly by Shakespeare, but they also on occasion will do plays written by Chekhov, Shaw, or Ibsen. This spring they are doing Richard II, and you can bet I will be there getting a front row seat.

I have studied and taught many of Shakespeare’s plays. In fact, I will never forget my summer class of Shakespeare that started at 7:30 a.m. Yea, 7:30 a.m. I love Shakespeare, but that was way to early for “thees” and “thous.” Anyway, I digress. I have had a lot of exposure to Shakespeare, but I have never read or watched the Merchant of Venice. I was appalled at the extreme anti-semite comments and stereotypes. The character of Shylock is nothing more than the personification of every bad stereotype against the Jews. By the end of the play, I felt a real sorrow for Shylock, but I do not think that this is what Shakespeare wanted me to feel toward him. Shakespeare wanted me to feel triumphant that the good Christians had won over the godless Jews. I just wanted to run out and give Shylock a hug and tell the “so-called” Christians where to go and how to get there. Looking around the theater, I could tell that I was not the only one who felt this way. Some people would defend Shakespeare by saying that he was just a product of the times and that this was common back then. Does that make it right? Does that exempt him of the guilt he should feel about writing a popular play that is filled with discrimination? I don’t think so. No matter where you come from, or how you are brought up, you have a choice on how you treat people. I love Shakespeare, and I think he was a brilliant writer for many reasons, but in his personal life I believe he had some character flaws.

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Mississippi Adventure and Muddy’s Restaurant

Originally uploaded by myredtie

Yesterday, I decided to jump on the bus and head downtown to have some tea at the Chinese Gardens. These gardens are incredible, but I will blog about them at a later date. As I pushed the back door of the bus to get off at the bus stop, I discovered that the door wouldn’t open. No problem I thought, I will just get off at the next stop. I then realized we were heading over the Big Steel Bridge and entering the NE side of the city. I wanted an adventure yesterday, and I believe that things worked together to give me one. I ended up getting off at Mississippi Ave. and exploring all the great shops there. They have second hand stores that remind me of Jenks, OK, and one of them in particular looked like a drag queen’s bedroom. Oh the drama in that store. Overall, I was impressed with the retail on Mississippi Ave., and I plan to go back. I absolutely love antiques and furniture that has a past.

One of the great treats of the day was eating at a restaurant called Muddy’s. It is in an old house that sets up from the road. According to the menu, the owner named the restaurant after her cherished dog who had been on many adventures with her including climbing Mt. Everest and high fiving the pope on his visit to the U.S. She found the dog in a puddle of mud, and she decided that Muddy would be the perfect name for this great companion. The ambiance of the restaurant was great, but the food was even better. I had her special which consisted of ham, brie, and pears on a croissant. It was absolutely incredible, and I can’t wait to go back there some weekend for breakfast. According to the sign on the table, there is only one cook, who at the time I went there was also the waitress and cashier. Busy lady with a talent for cooking.

I have found that when I start to miss Tulsa a little, I need to step outside my door and begin an adventure where the Portland has the opportunity to sell itself to me all over again. I loved the past in Tulsa, but my present and future are here in Portland. I never thought I’d be living on the West Coast.

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Cool Bookstore

While bicycling to Beer and Blog tonight at the Green Dragon, I noticed a little hole in the wall bookstore, Microcosm Publishing ( ). I stopped in and found it to be very, very different. It is a little bigger than a walk in closet, but it has incredible books. One large bookshelf is dedicated to their own zines that they publish. It also has buttons, t-shirts, unique stickers, and books. It is at 9th and Main in the S.E. and definitely worth checking out.

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Another Project

I recently decided to start a professional, educational blog. Many times I study a difficult state objective and puzzle over how I am going to teach it effectively to my class. When these times occur, I run to the Internet and search out what other teachers have found to be effective. I can find some sites, but the personal websites where a teacher goes into detail about what works is very rare on the web. This is why I have decided to start a blog with suggestions on English and social studies activities, classroom management, parent/teacher communication, grading practices, educational theory and research, and how to design a relaxing and functional classroom environment. I will still maintain this blog with my personal experiences, but I will also be adding ideas to the new blog.

The new blog is……..(drumroll)………

Check it out!

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Here Come the Tuckers, by Jo Mendel

Originally uploaded by myredtie

Once upon a time when I was very, very young, I was rummaging through my grandmother’s treasure trove of a basement and found this children’s book. From the moment I saw it I was hooked. It is the story about a family and their move. Coming from a family that moved around a lot, I could really relate to the topic of the book. I remember spending long periods of time studying the pictures in this book and wondering if they were really perfect or did they feel the things that I felt during a move like fear, loss, uncertainty, and sometimes anger. If they felt those things, they definitely didn’t show them. In this book, everyone is perfect and they all look perfect also. The girls all wear dresses and bake, and the boy plays sports and helps the dad with outdoor chores. I know, it is a horrible stereotype. It reminds me of the word problems in old math books. The ones where the girls are always trying to figure out their measurements to bake a cake, and the boys are trying to figure out how fast they can climb the mountain.

I am not sure that this was a healthy book for young children to read. If I had a child, I think I would raise them on books that may not show perfection, but build character. Books that in some way show an imperfect person or family facing an imperfect situation and coming up with a working, but maybe not perfect solution. I would show them books that had chubby girls and boys with glasses. I would read to them books that showed mothers who had the beginnings of crows feet and fathers who were balding.

I was also raised on children’s books that told bible stories and showed incredible pictures. Who needs superman when you have Samson and Goliath? They were good stories that showed human weakness and divine forgiveness.

I still have a fondness for this book because I spent so much time with it growing up. I also like it because shortly after finding it grandmother noticed me looking at it a lot and told me to go ahead and take it home with me. She saw us move around a lot, and she witnessed firsthand the toll it takes on the nerves of everyone in the family. I think she thought this book might be a way that she could help, or maybe she didn’t put that much thought into it. She passed away a few years ago at the age of 91, and I now wish I had taken this book to her and asked her why she gave it to me. Whatever the reason I did enjoy the book growing up, even though it showed a very stereotypic and perfect family. Good heavens, even the dog was perfect in the book.

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Inside Cover of "Here Come the Tuckers"

Originally uploaded by myredtie

This is the inside cover of the book. As a little kid I used to spend a lot of time looking at the pictures of the perfect nuclear family with the pretty mom, the handsome dad, and the well dressed children. As an adult, I just now realized that according to the story there were actually three daughters and one son. Huh! I wonder why they chose to only show the perfect two child (one boy, one girl) family on the inside cover?

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Mt. Tabor Path

Mt. Tabor Path
Originally uploaded by myredtie

This is one of the paths around Mt. Tabor. I learned today that the fear of heights is lessened if you have a good walking stick.

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Cleaning out the drinking water pools, Mt. Tabor

While on my morning walk around Mt. Tabor, I noticed three guys in one of the empty drinking water ponds. They had powerful water pressure hoses, and they were cleaning out the entire pond, and they looked like little ants in this huge pond. I am still amazed that we can almost walk right up to the place where our drinking water is coming from. Can you see the little man in orange at the bottom of the picture?

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I have a song going through my head this morning, and I can’t seem to shake it out of there. It is “Love Your Baby Girl” by Sugarland, . I am reminiscing this morning about all the things my mother did for us when we were growing up.

My mom was a stay at home mom. Even though she didn’t have a job outside of the house, I would say that she often worked as hard if not harder than working moms. There were five of us kids, a dog, dad, and a constant stream of neighborhood kids in the house. If that wasn’t enough, my father liked to move around a lot, so in twenty years of marriage she had made close to twenty moves with five kids and a dog. I am specifically remembering how we used to leave notes for her at night asking her to wake us up at (blank) time. She kept some of those notes, and I have to admit I find them a little appalling. On some of those notes each one of us left a different time we wanted to be wake up. Yea, we used her as a wake up call service. What audacity we had.

Mom cooked almost every meal from scratch. We always had homemade meatloaf, soups, bread, cookies, pancakes, biscuits, etc. Neighborhood kids loved to eat at our house even if it was just soup night because that meant we had homemade vegetable or chili soup with homemade bread sticks. I remember that my aunt used to make bought biscuits instead of homemade biscuits, and I thought they were so good. I often asked mom to stop making those homemade things and buy a tin of “real” biscuits. I was so wrong.

Recently I overheard a guy talking about how his mom just seems kind of crazy and eccentric these days. He said that he doesn’t understand her, and he wishes she was easier to manage. I sometimes understand this sentiment, but then I think back to how she must have felt all those years ago with five kids that she didn’t always understand and wished were easier to manage. I am remembering the time that my brother and his friend cleared the entire stadium at the local fairgrounds talent show by playing hard rock music on electric guitars. The only people left in the stands at the end of the number were my family and his friend’s family. Dad and mom ordered us to stay put and not even think of leaving. I think of the time my other brother took the family car out for an errand and totalled it by locking up the brakes and hitting a parked car. Yea, we still don’t know how he did that one. I am thinking about the time that I accidentally locked her in the pheasant pen with a wild cat, or when I accidentally locked us both in the pheasant pen in zero degree weather with the car running in the driveway. That morning I learned quickly how to work a lock with a piece of straw. There is the time my brother left the screen off of his bedroom window and the entire upstairs became a swarm of wasps. I am thinking of my sister’s endless mold specimens in her room (chocolate milk hardens and separates into white and black in a cup if left for long periods), the fights between us kids, the practical jokes (I came home one day and my siblings had hung all my stuffed animals from the ceiling), and the overall cleaning and maintenance that happens when there are that many children in a house.

Even though she probably wished she could manage us more, she let us have our freedom to grow, explore, and discover. Maybe that is what our parents want now. Maybe after the kids are gone, and they actually have a little spending money, they just want to grow and explore and discover. We can’t understand it, and we can’t manage it, but we can be supportive, and if need be we can sit in an empty stadium when everyone else has left and cheer them on.

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Harvey W. Scott Memorial, Mt. Tabor, Portland

Today I hiked up Mt. Tabor, an extinct volcano in the middle of S.E. Portland, and found this artistic memorial to Harvey W. Scott, 1838 – 1910. He was the editor of the Oregonian newspaper; and the plaque says he was a “pioneer, editor, publisher, and molder of opinion in Oregon and the nation.” This statue was sculpted by the same artist who designed the presidents on Mt. Rushmore. On a different note, Portland is only one of two cities with an extinct volcano in it’s city limits, the other one is Bend, Oregon.

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