Physical Education

Eighties movies were all about stereotypes. The gym teacher was always a brain dead meathead, or a butch lesbian. My own gym teacher didn’t fit the stereotype (morbidly obese, she sat in the shade while we played volleyball or kickball and only interfered by blowing a whistle when things got violent) but was equally useless.

I also grew up steeped in the Christian mind-body split that pitted brains against brawn. My loyalties were strongly with the former.

So maybe I can be forgiven for arriving so late at the conclusion that gym teachers are educators, and like most educators, could be interesting, intelligent, artistic people. The man above is a gym teacher, presenting here in the persona of DJ Tofri, host to Iceland’s largest and most storied heavy metal festival. He is also a musician, and has played in a series of underground bands.

Earlier this year I discovered that “Mr. D,” the P.E. teacher at my daughters’ elementary school, is also a playwright. I found out because I chaperoned a field trip to see a play at Seattle Children’s Theatre (which I have often touted as one of the best theater companies in our theater-strong city) and his name was on the cover of the brochure.

I don’t know if this realization would have made much of a difference in my life – I am and always have been a klutz, so my preference for books over sports was probably a given regardless of world view. But I wonder how many people I might have been friends with had I not made assumptions based on their jerseys?


In This Corner of the World

My kids discovered anime this year, and finally being able to share my love for the art form has been a tremendous joy to me. When I saw that a new feature-length anime was to be released in Seattle on August 18, I hesitated to make it a family movie night choice because of the subject matter.

Unlike the childish quest and adolescent romance series with magical and/or martial arts elements that make up our usual fare, In This Corner of the World is a realistic story of one young woman’s experience of World War II. Ultimately, despite the heavy subject, we decided to watch it and I’m so glad we did. Continue reading

Article 1 §3.2: Staggering the Senate

Lately democracy has been taking a global beating, and the U.S. has not been immune, what with a Russian-influenced presidential election and a new president who appears not to understand or be familiar with the Constitution. But people in glass houses should not throw stones, so I’m studying the Constitution, and blogging what I learn. I’d love to make it a study group. After all, in a functioning democracy we should all be Constitutional scholars.

Continue reading

Past Factories

There was a movie in the 80s, sort of Romancing the Stone crossed with Indiana Jones, but less memorable than that mix should have been, in which the bad guy was always taking photographs of his crimes. In a deep, heavily accented voice, he would say, “A moment, captured in time,” and then leave the heroes to die.

Earlier this summer I read a book called “Time Travel,” by James Gleick. It’s an interesting mix of history, physics, and philosophy that draws from H.G. Wells and Einstein equally to examine the concept of time travel. He talks about “old light,” and the fact that when we look at the sky and see stars, we are seeing light that has traveled millennia. The stars themselves may no longer exist by the time we see them.

I’ve been thinking about that idea lately. The building in this picture was once a fish factory. For years it stood empty, except for a few days each summer when underground musicians tracked extension cords across the puddles on the floor and set up their equipment for a series of off-venue concerts in the middle of the Eistnaflug festival. The rest of the year, the building sat unused, gradually decaying in the wet and cold of Eastern Icelandic weather.

In the year after I stood inside this building watching hooded violinists play black metal, this building was torn down. Some of the bands that played in that building the year I took this picture are world famous now. The building itself is gone, though. I can look at it right now in my picture, but it is long gone, like the music scene it once housed.

Madama Butterfly at Seattle Opera

Sharpless (Weston Hurt) shocked by Pinkerton’s appalling behavior. Philip Newton photo c/o Seattle Opera

At Seattle Opera’s panel on race and representation in Madame Butterfly, one of the younger speakers asked why anyone would even bother trying to redeem such an opera. The obvious answer was, “The music!” but a part of me felt a little guilty for perpetuating one of those “classics” that should be allowed to die as its cultural relevance fades and its artistic merit is proven less significant than its novelty. I felt even more guilty that by taking my 13-year-old Asian daughter to see it, I could be inflicting harmful stereotypes on the very person they could most affect. I think those were legitimate fears, and could have been valid if Seattle Opera had presented Madame Butterfly without comment. But in the context of the local discussion they have started – wow! What an opera! Continue reading

Article 1 §3.1 About that Senate

The Constitution is kind of a big deal. But most of us have never read it, at least not lately. Lately, I’m reading it very closely, and I’m sharing here. I’d love to talk with others about it. After all, in a functioning democracy we should all be Constitutional scholars.

Our story so far: There are seven articles in the Constitution. I’m currently reading the First Article, which deals with the legislative branch of government. The First Article has 10 sections. Section One establishes a bicameral Congress and Section Two deals with the House of Representatives.

Today I’m starting Section Three.  Continue reading

Young Blood

I don’t normally put pictures of other people’s kids on the internet, but these pictures are three years old and these boys are probably big enough to beat you up by now. At Eistnaflug in 2014, this group of kids was always hanging around the venue – sometimes sneaking inside it, too, since the festival was still 18+ back then.

In the documentary Eistnaflug DVD, they talk about how the festival has introduced a generation of small-town kids to heavy music, and I remember people talking about some local boys who had formed a band called Blodstafir in tribute to Iceland’s famous export band Solstafir. At the time, I wondered if it was the same group I’d seen recklessly skating in front of the venue, looking like they’d ride straight into the water of the fjord at the bottom of the hill.

I imagine that if I go back to the festival in Neskaupstadur in a couple of years, I’ll look up at the stage and find out.