Snow Falling on Cedars

I went down to the Nevada Theater to see the "California premiere" of the stage adaptation of the marvelous book Snow Falling on Cedars (David Guterson). The book and the play are the story of a murder trial set in the years just after World War II, exposing the prejudices and fears of a small town in northwest Washington State, full of fishermen and strawberry pickers. It was an island with a certain level of isolation until the war comes and exposes the undercurrents that have been hidden in the community of descendants of Europeans and of Japanese.

There is also a love story in there. In the book, the moral decision that must be made by a broken man with important evidence is used to mirror the conflict and hope (or lack thereof) for the future state of American race relations. The play focuses much more on the surface prejudice that is brought out by the trial. It might just be a trick of the lights, where seeing the characters embodied (as opposed to created from whole-cloth in my mind, where I tended to give everyone (except the old lady who is outright malicious) a bit more slack) changes my feeling for some of the motivations. For example, the play made Carl's state of mind and interaction with the defendant much more suspect than in my reading of the book. Also, the physical relationship between Hatsue and Ishmael is toned down for the play, but the action seemed to make it seem a bit less consensual.

My biggest worry about seeing the play was how the playwright could possibly handle the lush descriptive language of the book. And this turns into the most interesting aspect of this adaptation: from the beginning, the actors spend a lot of time reciting descriptive passages from the book, moving seamlessly from narrative recitation to character dialogue. Although I would have liked to have actually seen some snow, I think this was an effective approach for bringing the book's language into the play. The overall effect was of a courtroom drama in Our Town style, because not only were there easy transitions between descriptive narrative and dialogue, there was also in place transition between the courtroom and the scenes ostensibly being described by the testimony. And that was very much what the book felt like, so kudos to the production for that.

Unfortunately, in the end I think the play just sort of peters out. Ishmael's final decision-making is dramatic, but after this there isn't a good enough speech or scene to provide a final burst of energy or a nice wrapping to the overall play, and so we just kind of fade away. I don't completely blame this on the play; in trying to remain faithful to the book, the play isn't given something effective to work with for a dramatic period on the beautiful paragraphs provided up to the end.

Vann Dart provides a standout performance as the aging defense attorney. I like his energy and his delivery.

Scott Young also provided a strong imaging of Carl. It must be hard to be a dead guy! His scenes were strong and I think he did an excellent job showing the conflict of emotions when dealing with his mother's prejudice and the fight between his memories of childhood and his memories of the war.

In this performance, Hatsue's two suitors are really overwhelmed by Lyra Dominguez's strong woman with difficult decisions to make. While the book seemed to be Ishmael's story, this play was all about Hatsue. Lyra did an excellent job moving through her ages and in working through her conflicts about family responsibility and attraction vs. love.

Diane Fetterly moved well between portrayal's of Carl's and Ishmael's mothers, two very different characters. I'd have liked to have her accent (as Etta) feel more obviously Germanic (while whoever was playing Leonard could have toned down the brogue a few notches).

Las night's presentation was in benefit of the library and was sold out. (Yay, library!) However, there are still performances. I recommend this play. If you're going, though, try to get closer to the front (I as in the next to the last row in the corner), because the actors as a whole were a little weak with projection.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson)

I am not terribly surprised to look up and find Annabel Lee sitting across from me at the table at Toki's Fountain. OK, I might be a little surprised. The imaginary people have started to find me over here on this coast, but I generally don't expect to see this one in a restaurant. I have come to North San Juan as part of my continuing quest to find a great grilled cheese sandwich.

"Why aren't you in the house?" I ask quietly. I scan the restaurant furtively, but I don't think I'm the only one in the place talking to myself.

"Oh, I haven't really found it, yet." She looks around the place and wrinkles her nose. "I hope I find it soon."

"Don't get down on this place. It has character. "

"It has characters."

"What are you worried about today?" My imaginary sister only appears when she's worried.

"Only about you."

"I'm perfectly safe here. It's the middle of the day. Besides, I've decided to go back to answering every question with a story. That'll keep people from bothering me."

"Why would you answer every question with a story?"

"I think it's a very Irish thing to do. I have Celtic roots, you know."

The waitress appears. I wonder if she noticed me talking to Annabel Lee. "What can I do you for?" she asks.

"As a hungry person, I would like a grilled cheese sandwich, so that my stomach stops growling."

The waitress stares at me. I smile. Annabel Lee can't keep her mouth shut.

"Not everybody gets your kind of humor, you know." Annabel Lee does not approve of my sense of humor. I hush her.

"I'd also like a Diet Coke," I say sheepishly.

The waitress makes a note on her notepad. "I was just wonderin' whether you were going to give me some acceptance criteria or not."

She heads back to the kitchen behind the counter. I stare at Annabel Lee and she stares back. "Well," I say, "I guess that was kinda the point of the book."

"That people steal your jokes?"

"No, that you can't judge someone by their looks. The whole book is about identity. The tattooed girl herself is trying to hide herself out in plain view, don't you think? She's trying to be ignored by looking like someone you don't want to talk to. And aren't we supposed to be surprised that she's so good with computers? Then there's the woman in Australia, the reporters who don't act like reporters..."

"The married people who don't act married."

"Is there really that much sex going on in the world, especially between friends?"

"How would I know? I'm imaginary, you know. Why don't you ask if there's really that much violence going on in the world?"

"Because I know there is." I'm glum about this. If anything, the book underplays the amount of violence women must bear, though it's a very violent book. "Why don't we talk about something else?"

"You mean like how the book seems to accurately portray a media that is beholden to its advertisers and so refuses to provide real reporting about corporate malfeasance?"

"The problem is that although I think the advertising mechanism for paying for news is an inherently corrupting influence, I can't see another model working either. People won't pay the real cost on their own, will they?"

"Maybe you should be imagining Bertie instead of me."

"Now don't pout, Annabel Lee. It isn't attractive."

"We could talk about how the book tries to subvert the standard concept of what's attractive."

"Oh, I think the book is doing everything it can to avoid the concept of beauty. It's more about power and what people do when they get it. But it's great to see such a strong female character, don't you think?"

"We could talk about how the book demonstrates all the ways in which privacy is violated or the desire for privacy is taken advantage of. Of course, that gets us back to the identity question. Do you think it's right to hide who you are?"

"I think it's pointless to hide, to be honest. Look at the tattoo girl; she thinks nobody understands her, but I think the reporter guy understands her all too well. And maybe that's what freaks her out the most."

Annabel Lee nods and plays with the salt shaker.

"But you hide behind a pseudonym."

The waitress appears with the sandwich and fries.

"Would you care for anything else?"

I consider what sort of story I could tell to answer that question, but nothing comes to mind. "No," I say. "Thank you." I've never been known for my consistency.

Boy, couldn't wrap that one up at all. Too much exposition. I thought about going down the road of Annabel Lee being really worried that I was getting a tattoo, but this book deserves more.

At any rate, I'm looking forward to next month, because the Nevada Film Series is bringing the Swedish film based on this book to the Nevada Theater.


I would so go see this movie. Wouldn't you?

(brought to my attention by Chris Roberson)


Well, I've found out where we keep the rich people.

(This is part 4 of 4 of my incredible Saturday journey.)

Every county has some little place where they lock away the more well-to-do. A safe place to keep them out of our hair and to protect us from their dangerous ways. At least, that's the best I can figure for making a big lake and enclosing its community with fences and manned gates. Thank goodness they're not wandering around my neighborhood.

This is Lake Wildwood.

I have no real idea what the community looks like because they keep riff-raff like me out. There was one pull-off next to the spillway, where I could take pictures. I love these sort of inset spillways, they give the impression of a hole in the water.

I had an excellent dinner at a restaurant on Pleasant Valley Road. It was chicken & mushroom ravioli with a blackberry/gorgonzola sauce. I can honestly say that they gave me the best breadsticks I have ever eaten. I sat at the one table in front of the restaurant (in the parking lot, basically) and dined while reading. It was a gorgeous day with a great ending.

I hope you enjoyed my pictures from the Saturday wanderings.


Drove off to get my hair cut today, but the barber requires an appointment. I thought the big difference between barbers and hair dressers was that you didn't need an appointment for barbers? It's almost as hard to get me to go to a barber as it is to get me to visit the dentist. An appointment is not going to make it any easier.

I have to say I'm disappointed to find there's no barber in walking distance of downtown Nevada City.

Update: Well, I won't do that again. I prefer a barber that doesn't talk too much. And I really don't want to be trapped in a chair by someone with scissors while being subjected to Glen Beck. ("That man has really taught a lot of Americans with that blackboard.")

Bridge Battle

Continuing with Saturday's photographic journey (this is part 2 of 4), we finally find ourselves back in Nevada County. This is a beautiful covered bridge at Bridgeport.

It was originally a private venture as part of a toll road and it dates from 1862, which makes it older than our local newspaper. There seems to be some dispute between this bridge and one in New York for the title of longest single span covered bridge in the US. The total length doesn't seem to be in question, rather it is the clear span.

I like the shingle siding and the visible arch. I also like the windows. They give a nice view out onto the South Yuba River, which flows beneath the bridge. The covered bridge is a part of the South Yuba River State Park.

I can't remember any state parks back in Maryland that had restrictions on searching for gold.

Or any that celebrated Fiddler on the Roof, for that matter!


Let me take a break from putting up pictures from yesterday to show you pictures from today. I am in a celebratory mood because although I recently claimed I was giving up trying, today I hopped onto my bike and rode all the way to the infamous Five Mile House.

Bok Kai

(Part 2 of the picture extravaganza from yesterday's big tour.)

Not so long ago, we visited Washington, California, for the simple reason that we had just moved to California from the Washington, DC, area, and it seemed like as good a reason as any to visit. Yesterday, I after wandering over to Sacramento, I picked Marysville as my next destination, setting myself up for a big loop of a drive.

I lived in Maryville, Tennessee, for a time. It's not exactly the same name, but close enough for a touring excuse.

US 50 and Politics

The Brunettes are out of the country, so I'm left to my own devices. I still had to pick up my watch, so I wandered down to Auburn today. Then I went to the Apple store in Roseville, and since I was already off the mountain, I decided to take an even bigger wander. I think I might have driven 200 miles today, exploring parts of the region I hadn't visited before.

This will take a few different posts, because I have a lot of pictures.

I found US 50 today and followed it to its end, just west of Sacramento. My father has a condo in Ocean City on the other end of the highway and at least one of my readers lives within shouting distance of the road in Maryland (where, according to Wikipedia, it is the longest unmarked interstate), so I thought they'd appreciate this picture.

As I stood on the shoulder, I imagined I could smell the Atlantic. Did you see me waving? If the road were a rope, we could play tug of war. I briefly considered starting a road trip. It'd be neat to stop and take pictures exactly every ten miles, don't you think? Sadly, someone has to feed the cats.

Before getting to 50, I wandered from Roseville through Sacramento along regular old-fashioned roads. There sure are a lot of shopping centers down there. The malls seemed to be a magnet for protesters today.

This guy was protesting furniture. I can only assume that the Congress is considering some amazingly invasive bill I wasn't aware of that will attempt to provide furniture to every American completely against their will. Next thing you know, them politicians'll be putting chickens in my pots while my back is turned!

Most of the other protesters I saw were wearing red t-shirts and objecting to a "tyrannical" government that wants to make everybody healthy. It's not immediately clear to me how the health care thing is an infringement of "freedom" as the signs claim. I think I'd feel a bit more sympathy with these folks if they had also been out protesting the use of our taxes (in a "separate" budget) to attack random countries, protesting the tyrannical use of wire-tapping and other surveillance against American citizens, protesting the removal of the freedom of speech and the limitation of the concept of personal ownership through the DMCA, and protesting the State forcing us to purchase vehicle insurance. I can't see how the health care thing is more tyrannical than any of that.

To be honest, I don't think it's a complete coincidence that the protesters that I saw were all outside of malls and not in the many parks and other open areas along my route.

At the Bookstore

I trundled down the hill to Roseville to meet Cucumber for some Indian food. (I also stopped by the jeweler in Auburn to pick up my watch. Sadly, though I had called and was told they closed at 5:30, it turns out that they close at 5:25. I pulled up as they turned the sign to "Closed." When I approached the door, the woman stood there and pointed at the sign. One normally trusts watch shops to be able to tell time. I can pretty much guarantee I'm never buying anything there. It's a long enough hike down the hill as it is, especially to find them turning away customers.)

Sorry, didn't mean to rant about the jeweler. So after dinner, I popped over to the Barnes & Noble to use my Christmas gift card. (For my readers who are outside the area, I should note that the closest B&N is 45 or 50 minutes away. This is not meant to be a complaint, by any means. Nevada City (and Grass Valley) have some wonderful local new and used bookstores, something I'm afraid Greenbelt couldn't say.)

That's an awful lot of preamble for this little overheard. In the teen section (I was picking up the sequel to Hunger Games, thank you very much), I overheard a woman talking to a clerk, trying to find something for her daughter, no doubt (thank goodness I had the iPhone to take notes!):

She finished the Twilight books and I'd like her to read something a little less focused on the paranormal. I want her to keep reading, but I think she just wants to spend her time texting. I was looking at these books and wondering if they're any good? I was hoping you'd know, because I don't want to have to read a book myself.

I think the parentheticals might be an indication that I'm easily distracted today. (And Firefox doesn't seem to think that "parentheticals" is a word. It might be right, but I don't care.)

Something's Burning

Oh, man, talk about getting distracted. This is a time killer. I can imagine spending hours on this. You can satisfy your inner pyromaniac without adding toxins to the air.

Here's one I made. (Sorry, can't embed Jing videos.)

Giving Up On Dreams

Well, it looks like I'm going to have to give up on my dream of riding my bike up to the 5 Mile House. If it were only about the hills, I wouldn't be giving up. I think I could make it after enough work. Today, I think I came within a mile and a half of the place. But the farther up Willow Valley Road you go, the narrower it gets. And with all the twists and turns, it's just too scary for me.

I had a couple of nerve-wracking, but ultimately unharming, passings.

I came back down to Scotts Valley and that was even scarier.

The alternatives remaining seem to be Route 20, which is a high-speed road with no shoulders and North Bloomfield Road, which is scary (at least along Coyote) right from the start. (It's also longer.)

So, no cake from Harmony Ridge for me.

I'll need to pick a new goal to force me onto the bike. No matter how pretty it is outside, it's hard to get onto that thing without a goal. And it helps if the goal involves food. Tentatively, I'm thinking Valentina's.

I took a detour around Lewis Road on the way back. This is Lewis Road:

There was a very interesting cemetery there, with these metal crosses.

Sadly, the camera's battery died. So I got on the bike and came on home.

Ask The Abbot: What Do You Do?

So, a while back, a commenter asked:

"I'm curious what you do for a living that requires so much travel?"

At the time I said I'd respond in a blog post, but then I never got around to it. So now it is time to get around to it. If you've got a question, please feel free to ask it in the comments. Maybe I'll write a post about it later.

Another iPhone Bike Ride Comparison

It's a beautiful day out there, folks. Google weather is telling me it's 71°F. (Giovanni puts it at 73.6°F. I don't actually know Giovanni, I just like name-dropping.) The sun is shining and there's minimal wind.

This is why we moved here. On Sunday, we went to see dog sledding and today I'm on my bike. How cool is that?

Somewhere to Sell Your Kids

Looks like a new store is going in where the cheese shop used to be.

(Hard to believe that I've been here long enough to use the phrase "used to be.")

On the Plane from Pittsburgh

Two younger folks, guy & girl, sitting in the row behind me. They don't know each other. Turns out she's thinking of being a teacher when she gets out of university. The guy says:

"Teachers don't make much. it's ridiculous. I mean, it's fine if you're married, but it's no good for a man."


So I was in Western Pennsylvania for two days - Thursday to Saturday. I wasn't able to make any wee toaty explorers because the rain never really let up.

I swear, since December it has been consistently raining wherever I have been. (Well, except for the times when it was snowing.) I feel a bit like I'm wandering around Venus looking for the Sun Domes. (Name that reference!).

Luckily, yesterday and today have been beautiful here in Nevada County. If I can get out from under all this backlog of work emails, I'm going to get some bike rides in.

Quick: The Parthenon

I took a quick stop by Nashville's Parthenon on the way to the airport. The rain was a bit dreary, to be honest, but there were a few interesting paintings inside. (Which, of course, could not be photographed.)

I have to say, I saw neither a pearl or a water fountain in the whole place.

'Course, we know the pearl was already removed, I guess.

Apple CSI: Chapel Hill (Tennessee)

So, I'm on an apple kick. Part of this is because I really liked how the Austin set turned out, and part is due to my personal hero: Robert C. Jackson. You really ought to click through and take a look at his paintings.

He's been on an apple kick for a while, though the balloon animals are cool, too.

(If you're wondering what these wee toaty explorers are all about, the best explanation is found by clicking here. If you want to see only wee toaty explorers and none of the other junk, you can click "wee toaty explorers" above (or right there).)

Looks like they've put a beat cop on the police tape line. (Warning, this is going to be a little graphic.)

What's the crime scene? Oh, poor guy.

Looks like we've already got the lab tech in:

Oh, gosh, it's going to get even more graphic.

There are a couple more players, looks like.

If only the perp had burned the evidence to cover his (or her) tracks.

This was fun, but I ran out of sunlight so fast today. I don't know what is really up with this scorched earth in the middle of the field. This is Henry Horton State Park in Middle Tennessee. There was a similar patch over at the golf course. I think they did it on purpose. This new camera takes the close up shots better than the old one, but long shots without a flash in lower light are a bit shakier. Will just take practice, I suppose.

I Got a New Camera!

I haven't actually figured out how to use it yet, especially indoors.

Yesterday's Bike Ride

Before the wine festival, I took a quick bike ride. I still am only around 5 or 6 miles, but I felt better than last week. Too bad I'm having to travel this week.

I downloaded an app for my iPhone that's supposed to use GPS to track my ride and give me back statistics. I'm afraid that the hills are hard on the GPS, too. Here's a comparison:

The image on the left is from the software. The image on the right is what I think was the actual route. The software cheated me out of almost a mile! :) It creates a Google map, which is nice, but I can't seem to find a way to copy the route from that map onto one of my own Google maps. That would be cool.

At the Foothills Wine Tasting Festival

Overheard, one woman to another:

"You know how when you drink other people become better looking? "


"You need to drink more."

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Am I bad homeowner? We moved into this house with its hill and its valley only back in November. I say hill and valley, but the whole thing is less than an acre; it's just the house is on a hill and the rest is all down a gully full of blackberry brambles. And it took us until now to discover that there is a stream running through the valley.


Don't know what it was, but the ride today killed me before I could get more than a mile. A short ride up to the end of Nevada Street and then an attempt to go up Coyote past the Forest Service station hurt my lungs and my back. Felt like my kidneys were kicking me. I had to stumble back with only three miles under my belt.

A shame, too, because it was gorgeous when the snow stopped and the sun came out.

Sometimes It's Obvious Why A Video Makes Me Laugh

Other times, it's as clear as mud. Still, I laughed. Maybe you will, too:

From two guys called Travis and Jonathan

Jerry Brown's You-Tube Video Made Me Dizzy

I mean, really, what's up with the panning so it looks like the wall is moving behind him? I don't want to get motion sick from campaign announcements.

A Chicken Chasni Experiment

Cooking time at the ole house tonight.

Back in Glasgow, there was a wonderful restaurant called Mother India. It served the most delicious food I've had anywhere. My favorite dish was Chicken Chasni, a tomato/cream sweet/spicy mixture that was out of this world. Until recently, attempts to find a recipe were fruitless. This isn't a dish we've been able to find at Indian restaurants in the US. Even in the UK, it used to be pretty much localized to Glasgow.

But in the last year or so, it seems that the dish has been spreading to other parts of the UK, and with it there have come a few attempts at recipe detailing. I took one of the ones I found and made some slight modifications. Tonight was the test night.

Here's the recipe: