Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Happy not-29th Birthday to Me! Waterfront Wednesday Edition

When I was a kid, I never understood why one of my young uncles gave Mama a "Happy 29th Birthday!" card for several years running. I knew she wasn't twenty-nine-- she's born in a nice round year, it's easy to do the math, so I knew he knew she wasn't twenty-nine. So, what was so damn funny about that card??

Then one evening at Nerd Camp this summer, I was sitting on the patio of our hotel in Virginia City, NV having a couple of beers with the Nerds.  I began a sentence with "when I was in my early thirties..." and by the time I'd finished the sentence, I realized no one was paying attention. When I asked what was up, one of the Nerds said, "Your early thirties? You're how old?" A guessing game ensued, and the three Nerds, one in her 50's and the other two in their mid-20's, said they'd previously assumed I was in my late twenties. Twenty-eight, to be exact.

Now granted, this was after a couple of beers, but I'd been with these folks a week, and apparently I'd been passing as a late-twentysomething.

And yeah, that felt a little... great. They're crazy, of course. I may not necessarily look quite as old as I actually am, but there's no way you'd mistake me for a twentysomething.  But yeah, it felt a little great. And it made me remember Ma's birthday cards.

Thirty was a dirty word. Twenty-nine, however... well, that was still "young."

Today (August 31) is my birthday. I'm not turning 29. And honestly, I wouldn't go back to my twenties if you paid me (well, maybe if you paid me A LOT) (or maybe if you gave me a total do-over). I'm pretty okay with being thirty-mumblemumble.

I'm even more okay with starting my new year off right with Waterfront Wednesday.  It was very nice of the WFPK folks to plan August's Waterfront Wednesday on my birthday, knowing that it's my favorite day of every summer month.  I'm not familiar with this month's artists: Sarah Jaffe, Ha Ha Tonka, and Katie Herzig... but you know me, give me live music outside and I am happy.

Don't forget that WW is still on the Big Four Lawn-- when will we be moving back to the waterfront outside of Slugger Field?? I miss the old location!  If you're there, look for me.  I'm always in the back, close to the walkway.

Happy Waterfront Wednesday to you! And happy not-29th birthday to me!

(And a happy not-29th birthday to my late father. It's always lovely to remember that at the very least, I started my life as someone's really fantastic birthday present.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Hurricane Story by Jennifer Shaw

On today, the 6th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I bring you a story that's all about hope and beauty.

Back when I lived in NOLA, I saw Jen & Cesar fairly regularly.  They are dear friends of one of my dear friends, and I was often invited to group gatherings. Cesar is from Rhode Island and is of Portuguese descent (as am I on my dad's side), so we had a bit of the "we're not from around here" bond.  (In New Orleans, like in Louisville, when people ask you where you went to school, they mean high school.  Most introductions start with that question or a question about what neighborhood you're from.)

Jennifer, an amazing photographer, was 9 months pregnant when the evacuation orders for Katrina came in. She and Cesar evacuated to a strange motel in a strange town, and in the middle of the night, as Katrina roared toward New Orleans, her water broke. Baby Claudio was born far from New Orleans just as Katrina came ashore.

A few years ago, Jennifer created a photo narrative of her family's evacuation story.  I saw a very early version of it and choked back tears as I read. Now it's available for purchase.  Today the book was featured on NPR's website.


"Like a mournful fairytale, Jennifer Shaw’s beautifully staged tableaux are alternately sweet and menacing, filled with emotion but never spilling over into sentimentality. The poetic marriage of words and photos makes Hurricane Story a children’s book for grown-ups.” —Josh Neufeld, creator of A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge

"Even if you think you've seen it all where Katrina's concerned, trust me, you're going to love Shaw's marvelous memoir."—The Times-Picayune

"This is the kind of book that reminds you that books can be beautiful objects." —The Los Angeles Times

"Hurricane Story is a tabletop, toy box Odyssey. With simple objects, trenchant statements, and exquisite camera vision, Shaw relates an epic tale of displacement, creation and discovery." — George Slade, curator, Photographic Resource Center, Boston

"An engaging variation on a near mythic theme."—Gambit Weekly

You can also see the photographs and text here at Jen's website.  It's a beautiful, honest story.  I hope you take a few minutes to read it.

Happy 6th birthday, Claudio!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

An Open Letter to Baby D's Bagel Deli

Dear Baby D's Bagel Deli:

You should have seen the "happy dance" I did when I walked by your storefront just around the corner from Wick's on Highland.  A bagel place, a few blocks from my house? I'm overjoyed. I can't wait til your soft opening on September 8.

I've been longing for a NYC quality bagel for... sigh... years.  Let's face it, most of the bagels in Louisville are sad, dense little hockey pucks (oddly enough, that's one of Roommate's nicknames for me, "Dense Little Hockey Puck."  I kid. I kid.).  I've yet to find a place that has a bagel with cream cheese that really gets it right-- either the bagel is okay (never great) and the cream cheese is a disaster, or vice versa.

And I love that your signage says: "Breakfast, Lunch, Late Night." (You do know that on Bardstown "late night" means 2am minmum 4-5am ideally, right?)   A bagel with cream cheese is one of the great "after a few drinks" meals.  Using Kentucky Proud ingredients? Homemade soups? Heine Bros coffee?  Bagel sandwiches?  Everything about this sounds fabulous.

I hate to be bossy, but it is almost my birthday, so my bossypants have been pressed and are waiting on the hanger, ready to be worn.  But I am a bit opinionated about bagels, so I thought I would put in some requests now, while you're still setting up.

Please feature veggie, garlic and herb, and lox cream cheese spreads. And please don't put onions in the lox spread-- that's gross.  And please make sure your veggie cream cheese actually tastes like something more than cream cheese with chunks. I know a lot of people like the sweet cream cheese spreads, like strawberry walnut ugh and blueberry pecan bleh, but don't skimp on the savory options, please.

If you're making your own soups, please try to make a broccoli cheddar soup that rocks. It's one of my favorites-- Oh! And a tortilla soup too!!-- , and I can't find a good version  of either of those of here in Louisville.  In case you were wondering, based on my non-scientific survey of soups, the best soups in Louisville are:  #1 Cream of Mushroom at Joe Davola's, #2 Tomato Dill at The Cafe, and #3 Lobster Bisque at The Bodega. If you haven't tried all of those, you should. And then strive to makes soups as good as those.

I lived in NYC for 5 years, and for one of those years, five days a week, I had the same workday lunch.  Five days a week, I had Muenster cheese, cucumbers, sprouts, and lettuce on a sesame bagel with a bit of mayo.  I still daydream about this bagel sandwich.  I would love you forever if you could recreate this dream sandwich for me.  Heck, it's so good, you should put it on your menu and call it The Loueyville.  I promise I won't ask for royalties.

Good luck in your endeavor.  I hope you find huge success in my neighborhood.  I have high hopes for you. Can't wait to stop by some Saturday afternoon.


Irene and Katrina and Ike

It's 3am, and I'm still awake.  Normally that means I've been having a great night out on the town, but I haven't been out socializing.

I had a lovely night.  We had dinner at Papalino's, then cupcakes at Jamie's 14k Cupcakes on Baxter.  Then Roommate and I went down to Waterfront Park and watched the post-Bats game fireworks (so much fun... and free!).  Came home and watched the brand-new Doctor Who and then watched a couple of episodes of Dexter on a Netflix DVD.

A great night by all measures.

But it's 3am, and I'm glued to Irene coverage on the interwebs.  All hail modern technology, I can watch the NBC news feed from Connecticut and see what Mama Lou would be seeing.

Six years ago, almost to the hour, Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans held a press conference and said that if people didn't evacuate New Orleans, they should be prepared to suffer and maybe even die.  It was an unprecedented expression of hyperbole, but it was enough to get us to leave.

Six years ago minus 24 hrs, Roommate and I were just arriving in Panama City Beach, FL after dodging tornadoes and road closures for hours.  The usual 5-6 hr drive from NOLA had taken us 13 hours.

Tonight, six years ago, minus 24hrs, I stayed up all night and watched on TV as Katrina rolled into my city and prepared to drown it.

Tonight... last I heard, at least, Mama Lou is asleep.  But still I am sitting vigil.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I survived Katrina superficially unscathed.  But when Ike hit Louisville, the winds toppled a 40' tree onto my house, and I lived in a hotel for 8+ months while it was being rebuilt.

Irony? And probably why this hurricane has me so stressed out.

Friday, August 26, 2011

NTDWL: Irene

Last year, on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, I decided to re-blog some posts from Displaced, the blog I began in September 2005.  But two posts in, I just couldn't do it anymore. Plowing through those 85 posts from September 2005-September 2007 just hurt too much.  I still haven't been able to make it through all of them without quitting.

And even though I have "come out" as a blogger, I don't feel comfortable linking to that blog-- it's very raw, and I share a lot of personal stuff and identify a lot of people by name.  Maybe one day, I will clean it up... make it appropriate to share and then share it with my Loueyville readers. Actually, I'd like to do that.

As the sixth anniversary of Katrina approaches, so does Hurricane Irene.  Today I bristled when I saw Irene jokes on Twitter.  I know I am tenderhearted when it comes to hurricanes, but there's just nothing to laugh about with this storm.  Or any serious hurricane.  I hope I am wrong; I hope I am Chicken Little and everyone laughs at me after the fact for being so concerned.  But I am concerned, and my heart goes out to all who are in Irene's path.

Right now that includes my entire family.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Beckett X 2

My undergraduate degree program didn't allow you to concentrate on any particular facet of your major.  I mean, you could, but those concentrations wouldn't end up on any official documentation.  So I graduated with a vanilla English major, but my coursework was almost entirely in two concentrations: Creative Writing and Modern Irish Literature.

I remember reading WAITING FOR GODOT in high school and having no flipping idea what was going on.  My sophomore year in college, I took an entire class on Beckett and fell in love.

So I'm psyched that Savage Rose Theatre is putting up a production of two of Beckett's short plays: KRAPP'S LAST TAPE and HAPPY DAYS starting August 25 (here is the calendar, warning: it's a PDF).  I'm especially excited to see that one of my favorite local directors is directing my favorite of the two.  Alex Volz, who's directed some wonderful things for Walden Theatre, is directing KRAPP'S.

I don't believe I have seen any of Savage Rose's productions; I may have to rectify that by going to see this production.  It's at Walden's Nancy Niles Sexton stage.  Check out their website for more details.

Monday Night Randomness: Summer is over, long live Summer

First real work day at the Meatspace Workplace.  It's a bit like childbirth, methinks.  While we're on vacation, we're programmed to forget how much effort and energy real work takes.  But then we adjust.  At least, I usually adjust.

Lots of good stuff going on in Louisville these days.

Of course, there's the fair.  I've yet to make it this year, but I'm sure I'll squeeze it in. While I'm not a big fan of fair food, which seems to be the main reason many of you go, I just like the whole "fair culture."  The booths, the livestock, the this year's clever take on "I'm With Stupid" t-shirts.  Didn't see much on the music line-up that spoke to me this year.

But that's okay because there are two shows this week I plan on attending.  Alex Wright is playing at Zazoo's on Thursday around 6pm.  This promises to be a special show; not only is it his 10th year wedding anniversary, but it sounds like his lovely wife has been coerced to sing a little too.  And on Friday, Awesome Louisvillager, Brigid Kaelin is playing her farewell (for now) show at the Monkey Wrench starting at 630p.  While we will sorely miss her, Edinburgh, Scotland is in for a treat for the next 15 months.  Read more about the show at Consuming Louisville.

And next week is Waterfront Wednesday.  And my birthday.

As the nights get cooler, Bats season is wrapping up.  My friends at Actors Theater tell me that this Friday, Dracula will be throwing out the first pitch. If you're not headed to Ms. Kaelin's show, I hope you get to see that!

Speaking of Actors, as Roommate said recently, it's very kind of Actors to start their season just as the Bats season wraps up.  SENSE & SENSIBILITY starts Tuesday, August 30.  I'll be sure to let you know what I think of the production after I see it on September 1.

So even though it's back to work for me, my social dance-card is still pretty full.  Clinging to the last few bits of summertime here.

Hope you are too.

(Have you seen Another Earth yet?  No?  Go, and then thank me.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Another Earth: Opens in Louisville Tomorrow

A couple of months ago, thanks to the Louisville Flyover Film Festival, I was lucky to get a very early viewing of the best film I've seen all year.  Maybe one of the best films I've seen in a couple of years.

Another Earth stars Loueyvillager (and yes, Lou's celebrity-crush) William Mapother and the astonishingly inspiring Brit Marling, who also co-wrote the film.

I haven't been able to stop talking about this film since June. And tomorrow, the film opens at Baxter Avenue Theater, with Mapother participating in a Q&A after the 7:40pm shows on Friday and Saturday.

If you haven't seen Another Earth, go.  Read my response to my June viewing here.  If anything, my feelings about the film grew bigger and more complex and more adoring in the months following my viewing.

While Mapother was fantastic, Marling was a revelation.  And so help me, if the Oscars folks don't nominate her for best actress, it will verify that this shizz is rigged.

(Note: I guess I don't really believe that the "shizz" is rigged.)

Go see the film.  Go when Mapother is there and get your Q's A'ed.  Give him a big hug from me.

Seriously.  Another Earth IS the best film of the year (and you know I've seen a lot of films this year).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ten-Tucky Festival at Bard's Town

One of the many pieces of writing I may have lost forever when my laptop had a "kernel panic" and had to have the hard-drive wiped was a 10-minute play I'd been working on for a year.  It was Mary Roach's Packing for Mars meets HBO's In Treatment, and I was pretty psyched about it except that I couldn't figure out how one would do the whole zero-gravity thing on stage without it looking like a bad production of Peter Pan.

That's just to say that I love 10-minute plays.  I think plays that short really showcase the writers in a way that full plays can't.

The Bard's Town Theater is putting on The Ten-Tucky Plays next weekend and through the end of the month.  Eight plays from eight Kentucky playwrights directed by eight Kentucky directors.  The plays include:

Show dates (all at 7:30 PM): Aug 17, 18. 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 26, 27.

Plays include:

"Neighborly Do’s and Don’ts"
Written by Brian Walker
Directed by Brian Walker
Featuring Becky LeCron, Tad Chitwood

"The Intruder"
Written by Tom Kerrigan
Directed by Tom Kerrigan
Featuring Andrew Epstein, Brian Kennedy, Kimby Peterson

"The Internet President"
Written by Patrick Wensink
Directed by Jake Beamer
Featuring Ryan Watson, Kimby Peterson, John Tranchitella, Becky LeCron, Tad Chitwood, Brian Kennedy.

"Disappearances, or the Groom’s Shoes"
Written by Nadeem Zaman
Directed by Sara Renauer
Featuring Amy Steiger, Jake Beamer, Blair Boyd, Tad Timberlake

"Wedding for Godot"
Written by Andrew Epstein
Directed by Joey Arena
Featuring Andrew Epstein, Michael Roberts, Craig Nolan Highley, Jennifer Levine, John Tranchitella, Narina Kasabova

Written by Alex Lee Morse
Directed by Nadeem Zaman
Featuring Ryan Watson, Megan Brown

"Encounter at the Ink Spot"
Written by Nancy Gall-Clayton
Directed by Amy Steiger
Featuring Jennifer Levine, Nadeem Zaman

"Love Religiously"
Written by Doug Schutte
Directed by Scot Atkinson
Featuring Doug Schutte, Megan Brown, Tad Timberlake, Jesus

That last one, including Jesus, seems like a must-see. Check out the website for more details.  

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Kentucky Wonderful: Will Russell's Amazing Dream

Man, I hate it when I'm late to the "great stuff is happening" train.  I especially hate it when that great stuff is something so totally up my alley that it's like it was dreamed up just for me.  Seriously.

Stuff like: Kentucky Wonders, the Cave City attraction in "scheming phase" helmed by Why Louisville's (and Lebowski Fest's) Will Russell.

I just spent some time browsing around the website.  My response?  Murmured expressions of amazement. A few little yips of glee.  And a general, "You've got to be kidding me. This place is like my spiritual home."

In brief (there's already been a great lengthy article in the LEO about it), Kentucky Wonders will be a road-side attraction of the old school Rock City/Weeki Wachee ilk.  According to the website it will feature:

- Kentucky Rushmore - A large structure featuring effigies of Kentucky icons looming over I-65 which will be the premiere attraction of Kentucky Wonders.
- Kentucky Wonders Amphitheater - An outdoor amphitheater for hosting festivals, live music, movie parties, plays, puppet shows and the like.
- Kentucky Dream Factory - An artist residency program studio and living space where artists will create installations on site in the tradition of roadside attractions and ultimately fill the land with a sea of amusements.
- Kentucky Haunted Museum of Oddities - Interactive dioramas created by artists themed around local legends such as Hillbilly Sasquatch, Kentucky Giant, Pope Lick Goat Monster and the like.
- Kentucky Wonders Campsite - An area for camping and recreation.
- WHY Kentucky - A gift shop with souvenirs designed by artists around the theme of Kentucky, Cave City and roadside attractions. 

Roadside attractions, and "oddities" in general (and that Discovery Channel show? how much do I love that?!), are a particular passion of mine. I collect snow globes for gosh's sakes. I interviewed Fairdale Bigfoot.  My college essay-- the one that got me into an Ivy League School-- was about how much I loved a book called, I think, "The Encyclopedia of Kitsch." I have a bust of Elvis and a two-foot plastic penguin in my living room (his name is Buckley). 

I want in, Will Russell. I just wish Cave City weren't so far away.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Prairie Home Companion this Weekend

I've already posted a blog about how very much I love Garrison Keillor, so I will spare you the fan-girl rhetoric now.  For a while I was a true groupie: traveled twice to St. Paul to see A Prairie Home Companion live, read all his books, yadda yadda.  Our shared love of PHC was one of the things that Roommate and I bonded about when we first met.

This weekend the summer tour of PHC hits Louisville.  Sunday at the Kentucky Center.  This won't be a PHC that will end up on the radio; it's just their summer touring event.

Keillor has said that he will be retiring within the next two years, so this may be the very last time the show hits Louisville.  I haven't bought my tickets yet, and they're super-pricey, but as a fan-girl I would be wicked sad if I let this show pass me by if he's calling it quits soon.

Keillor says he won't retire til he finds a replacement, and my wee noggin has been churning out possibilities ever since this announcement.  My vote is for Peter Sagal of "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me."  I love that man perhaps even more than I love Keillor.  What a way to breathe fresh, modern air into Prairie Home.  Just a thought...

There are still tickets available, and I'm sure to be grabbing one soon.  You can buy them here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rumor Report: Big Blue Country

Because I'm not from here, I've never had a big ol' dog in the UofL/UK sports rivalry race.  I will say that I was a UofL men's basketball and Rick Pitino fan before I even moved here (and was a big Pitino fan until that happened).  And since I moved here, I've become an even bigger fan of the women's basketball team too.

And, I have to admit, I've still not forgiven UK for firing Tubby.  I love Tubby.  Who doesn't love Tubby?

So yes, I root for U of L. But it ain't in my blood.

But I did think that in a city semi-divided that Big Blue Country, the UK-themed sports bar on Baxter, was taking a huge risk by allying itself with a team that many in town see as "the enemy."

And the few times I've been there, it's been packed for the duration of whatever UK game was on television, but then emptied out as soon as the game was over.  It's a nice set-up they have there: big tvs, cheapish beer, decent food.  But I get the sense that they could be doing better.

My minions tell me that Big Blue Country is considering a name-change.  One that will soften their profile as a UK bar and make it more of a general sports bar.  I'm all for it.  We are super-light on sports bars in the Highlands.  It's such a damned shame that when I want to watch sports, I still default to Buffalo Wild Wings.  I don't like to spend my money at chains if I don't have to.

Wishing Big Blue Country luck and hoping the rumors are true.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wednesday Morning Randomness: Bats, Beer, Music, etc.

I have had such a wonderful summer. I'm so sorry to have it wind down. Mama needs to win the lottery or sell her novel for a bazillion dollars. I'm damned good at the "lady of leisure" thing. Anytime I see someone Tweet or Facebook about "being bored" I want to shout: BORED? Bored? In a world with the internet and ten zillion tv stations and movie theaters and this great city we live in, and let's not forget BOOKS! Books! I don't think I've been bored since the mid-90's. And until I am too old to move or grow blind (it could happen-- my eyesight has gotten worse just about every year since age three), I don't ever anticipate being bored again.  Modernity rocks.

But, despite the fact that I had a marvelous time at Nerd Camp, I am so super happy to be home. And I'm trying to cram in as much "summer fun" into the next week as possible.  Despite the fact that I don't always see all of my friends on a monthly basis, being away from them for a month was kinda hard. And Twitter, of course, makes it possible to see all of the fun they were having without me.  Even though I expressly told them not to have any fun without me.  Damned friends.

Anyway, I have lots of catching up to do, so here's a randomness post for you.  Sorry for some of the "old news" in here. It's all new to me!

  • Finally, the old Potstickers location across from Papalino's is getting a new tenant.  It's going to be a cupcake bakery.  Wish I liked sweets, but good on you, cupcakers. You know what I do like? Red velvet cake. If they have a red velvet cupcake, I'm all over that.
  • The Holy Grale is now open 7 days a week. That instantly improves my quality of life.
  • As does the re-opening of the Barret Bar under new management.  Roommate and I went there a couple of times before I left for Nerd Camp. The food is great-- worlds better than the old "frozen chicken patty" days.  Roommate had a bbq slider that was delish. Beers are a bit pricey, but pool is still cheap.  And they still have that lovely patio.
  • Speaking of Holy Grale, I went there yesterday for their first Monday opening ever with the lovely and talented Erin Keane and her lovely and talented mister.  Ms. Erin, one of our city's finest writers, is now writing for Salon.com (among other places). Her article on Roseanne Barr's potential White House bid not only got at Twitter mention from Roseanne herself, but is probably my favorite article she's ever written.
  • And speaking of my awesome friends (now I feel like I'm name-dropping), I went to Clifton's Pizza tonight to see the always fantastic Alex Wright play with Danny Flannigan, who is also wonderful.  When I found myself singing along to some of Alex's tunes, I realized that I have officially become a "groupie." He said it was okay if I declared myself the president of his fan club, so there you have it.  Alex's CD comes out soon, and he's playing next Thursday with Dewey Kincaid at Zazzo's.  Also, I'm told his CD cover was designed by the marvelous John Wurth who also designed my little acorn logo.
  • In case you missed it via Twitter, while I was in Connecticut visiting Mama Lou, I hijacked her car for the evening and drove an hour to see our Louisville Bats play the Pawtucket Red Sox, by myself.  It was a gorgeous, glorious evening and a stellar game of baseball that turned into an ugly, ugly, uglyuglyugly loss for our Bats.  Here's the thing, I am clearly one of the Bats' biggest fans, so why is it that every request I've made to them to cover them for this blog has been totally ignored?  Even the person who tweets for the Bats ignores me.  Last year I even asked to interview the person who maintains the field at Slugger Field, and they ignored my request.  It's starting to sting a little, I'll be honest.
  • And yeah, I know people get all kinds of snarky about people and businesses asking that you vote for them in the LEO Readers' Poll.  I get it.  But I'm going to ask anyway.  I know I'm not the "best blog" in Louisville.  Hands down that honor belongs to Consuming Louisville.  But some day, I would like to be a runner-up.  So, yes, I'm asking for you to vote for me.  Michelle will be fine. ;)
  • Finally, one thing I've missed this summer is the James Stewart Marathon at the Palace Theater.  This weekend is my favorite Jimmy Stewart movie, "Rear Window."  I used to be a huge Audrey Hepburn fan-- still am, really-- but that was back when I was thin as a rail and totally fey and aspired to be just like her.  Nowadays when I think of classic beauty, I think of Grace Kelley.  Just so ineffably perfect.  
That's the randomness for today.  So happy to be home!  Louisville, I've missed you something awful.

In Which I "Come Out"...

Hello. My name is Melissa. And I'm a blogger.

Hi, Melissa!

I've been writing Loueyville anonymously for more than four years and more than 550 posts. I chose to write as "Lou" because I'm a teacher, and it was really important to me to keep my "lives" separate. I was always afraid that I might say something that I wouldn't want my students, their parents, or my bosses to see. But, frankly, in those four-plus years, I don't think I've published one truly scandalous post. Which is kind of a bummer, if you ask me.

But as I continue to make new friends via this blog and via Twitter, it's become increasingly difficult to separate my online life from my offline life.  Heck, I'm betting half of you reading this post already knew my real name. But most importantly: gosh darn it, I'm pretty proud of this blog; 550+ posts is nothing to sniff at. I work really hard (at times) on many of my posts, and I've never made a pretty penny from Loueyville. It's pure, unadulterated passion. And that's something I should be proud of. So I might as well commit my name to it, right? (Can you tell I'm still a little apprehensive about this?)

And God willing and the creek don't rise, I'll soon be writing an article for The Paper, the new Louisville indy, and I'd like to, you know, sign my name to that too.

It just makes sense for me now.  I won't be broadcasting my identity on a regular basis.  And I'm not about to post my blog to my school's website or anything.  I'd rather keep my blog on the DL for the most part.  But, well, this is what it it is...

So, hi Louisvillagers! I'm Melissa Chipman.  But I'll always be Lou, too. This is my blog.  Nice to meet you!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer Adventures 2011: Nerd Camp is a Wrap

A very rare blue first edition of Huckleberry Finn.
If you're a taxpayer in the United States-- yes, you-- then, thank you.  Thanks for a lot of things, of course, but a very special thank you from me to you.  You funded my trip to Nerd Camp.  Or, specifically, you funded the National Endowment for the Humanities, which in turn granted me this three-week, uber-nerdy, life-broadening, brain-fortifying adventure.

Every year the NEH sends dozens of American K-12 teachers to these various nerd-programs, and every year these dozens of teachers return to their classrooms renewed, refreshed, and with new skills and knowledge to impart to the youth-that-are-our-future.

That's a beautiful thing.  The very kind of beautiful thing that is probably in jeopardy in our current economic crisis.  

But I digress.

I spent three weeks in intensive study of Mark Twain, specifically of the Mark Twain where Sam Clemens became Mark Twain-- Virginia City, NV-- and the Mark Twain of Hartford, CT, where he wrote most of his most famous books.  And I came away understanding that Twain is both more and less  than I had always imagined him to be. More creative. More clever. More warm and charming.  Less kind. Less successful. Less modern.  

Twain wrote because he was compelled to write.  To this day, we discover an average of three new letters written by Twain each week.   But he was not compelled to be an author.  Twain was an author for the paycheck; he hoped each book he published would be the one to set him up for life, so he'd never have to write another book again.  All of his many (many, many) failed financial ventures were get-rich-quick ploys.  

Twain didn't want to work.  He wanted to play.  His dreams of "big money" weren't for himself, a humble boy from Hannibal; they were for his family.  He wanted make sure his wife, Livy, could live the way she was accustomed to living, wanted to live up to the New England moneyed class he'd married into, but he wanted to do so with as little work as possible.

And writing and public speaking were his only successful ventures.

My feelings of kinship with Twain went beyond the connection forged by spending three weeks of all-Twain-all-the-time.  Went beyond the connection forged by walking where he walked, getting to bypass the velvet ropes and stepping deep into his rooms, looking at personal items normally only viewed by museum archivists.  

If you've been reading this blog while I've been away, you'll know I suffered financial and technological distress, stresses that he wrestled with all of his life**.  Most importantly, though, Twain's conflicts between work and play spoke to my soul.

I learned a lot about Twain these past few weeks, but after spending just about every waking moment with 23 other teachers I learned lot about teachers and teaching too. The most disturbing thing I learned: teachers everywhere are struggling.

Keep in mind that this group of teachers were some of the best of the best.  They're the (ill-paid) teachers who spend their own money to buy t-shirts for the Math Club because there's no money in the budget.  They're the (ridiculously overworked) teachers who are the first to get to school and last to leave so that their students can have all the extra help they need.  These aren't the teachers who phone it in, who teach their classes and get out, who chose to be teachers for the summers off.  They're the kind of teachers who choose to take three weeks out of their hard-earned summers to, essentially, work.  Hard. (No lie, but a lot of it was fun too.) They came from all over the country, from all different kinds of schools.

And out of 24 teachers, only two or maybe three were happy.

And the problem was never "the kids." You know me: I'm a passionate defender and advocate of teenagers. And these were my people. To a person, what these teachers loved most about their jobs were the kids.  The problem was all the other hooey. State mandates. Standardized tests that dictate curriculum. Overbearing parents. Poor pay. Administrators that behave like CEO's. Overcrowded classrooms. Job insecurity. Meaningless budgets.

It's been a bad year for teachers. We've been told by politicians and the mainstream media that we are "part-time employees."  That we're "overpaid." That whole school systems of us can be pink-slipped at whim. I remember rocking the boat at my old job, once upon a time, and being told by the headmistress of the school that "English teachers were a dime a dozen." That cut me to the core; it felt so personal and so demeaning. And now all teachers are essentially being told that.

And if you think it's not sending shock waves through our society, that it's just the rhetoric of some blow-hard tea partiers, you're wrong. You better believe that parents are hearing this and buying into it. And you'd better believe that they're passing these sentiments onto their kids.

Despite only having a 5th grade education, Twain was a fierce advocate of public schools.  He said, "Out of the public schools grows the greatness of the nation." I'm not a public school teacher, but most of my Twainiac (apparently that's the accepted term for a Twain nerd) friends are. We need more Twains; heck, we need more Matt Damons. Michelle Malkin, on the Fox News Website, wrote an article called "Matt Damon's Silly Teacher Rant" and epitomizes all the anti-teacher sentiment that I'm talking about. It literally hurts me to read these kinds of things.

For the first time in eleven-plus years of being a teacher, I'm not really looking forward to going back to school. My Twainiac teacher friends fired me up and inspired me to do better, to be more creative, to give even more of myself. But their stories amplified my own gnawing feeling that it's not a good time to be a teacher. That we're under fire. That teaching is no longer a "noble profession."

I learned a heck of a lot at Nerd Summer Camp. If you're ever curious about the social and technological developments during the Comstock Era of silver and gold mining in Nevada, buy me a beer, and I'll chat your ear off.  If you want to know how the Colt gun manufacturer not only made Hartford the richest city in the East for a time but also helped make manifest Manifest Destiny in the West, I'm your girl. But what I'll probably remember most about my Nerd Summer Camp experience is that teachers are an amazing lot, and I'm honored to be counted among them.

[calls for a minion to bring a step ladder and then steps off her high horse]

**When all was said and done, Chase Bank did a reasonably decent job dealing with my account hacking. The upshot was that I dealt almost exclusively in cash this past month and was exceptionally more frugal than I normally than I usually am.  And that's not a bad thing.  But the stress was paralyzing at times.  And the computer thing was almost an unmitigated disaster, but I ended up being very lucky.  On the downside, I lost the use of my computer for three weeks, lost precious writing time, and lost upwards of a year's worth of pictures, writing, and music uploads.  On the upside, my computer was rebuilt almost from scratch and Apple waived all fees even though I was 55 days out of warranty.   Big gold stars to the Genius Bar at the West Farms Mall Apple Store in Connecticut.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

48 Hour Film Festival Starts This Friday

I keep saying that some day I'd like to try to get back into theater. Not as a reviewer and blogger, but as an actress, a stage hand, or maybe even as a playwright.  But every year that the 48 Hour Film Festival rolls around, my ambitions shift to wanting to see my mug up on the big screen.

Unfortunately, I won't get home in time to make the 6pm call at the Bard's Town this Friday. That's where filmmakers will hear the three critical elements that each film must include to qualify for the screenings and ultimately the big prizes.  The filmmakers will then have 48 hours (obviously) to complete their films and drop them off by 7:30pm on Sunday.

Louisville registration remains open through Friday August 5th at 6:00 p.m. A few spots still remain. Teams can register online at http://www.48hourfilm.com/louisville until the Kick Off begins at 6:00 p.m.  The website also features the schedule for the weekend and for the screenings-- August 10, 11, & 13 at the Village 8 Theaters.

Maybe next for me? Auteurs, keep me in mind. I personally think I could be silver screen gold. And I can already tell you my best angle. *points to the back of her head*

Here's a link to 28 Feet to Denver, from the Louisville 24 Hour Film Festival 2009.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Advanced Notice: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue Returns

I gave people no small amount of grief for missing Trombone Shorty's sexy funky show at Headliners early on this summer.  But I guess enough people turned out that Headliners is having him back in October.  Don't miss out this time.  It's on October 16-- a Sunday night, but you can make it work.  I will certainly make it work.

.... longer better posts coming soon as my Summer Adventure 2011 wraps up.