Last week was a combination of excellent excursions in the evenings and nasty experiences during the workdays, but overall I think I came out ahead.  Among other festivities, on Thursday Sam and I went to see Singin’ in the Rain on the big screen, and we had a fantastic time.  I had never seen the movie all the way through, so I was glad to have that experience.  We got a lot of compliments on our costumes, and we ran into some other folks who were also dressed up and corralled them into a group picture.  Afterwards we promenaded through Target for no good reason and enjoyed some double-takes.

Friday was Cow Appreciation Day at Chick-fil-A, which means that the restaurant will give you a free meal if you dress up as a cow.  We had a blast participating last year, and this year Sam and I decided our black and white 1920s dresses would work admirably for flapper cow costumes.  We stuck on some spots and some ears and enjoyed our free chicken.  Free food and an excuse to wear a costume?  I’m there.

Speaking of which, the Star Trek: Next Generation screening is next Monday.  I’m of two minds about dressing up.  One the one hand, I don’t have a costume per se, which is obviously problematic, and I’m not sure that even I am ready for the level of geekdom required to go to a Star Trek screening in a Star Trek costume.  On the other hand, it would probably be a lot of fun.  We’ll see. I can always at least do one of Troi’s wacky hairstyles and enrage the movie-goers who have to sit behind me and my pile of hair.




I had only vaguely heard of the Great Eastern before reading The Great Iron Ship by James Dugan.  It was probably a quick blip in a history book that I read.  I’m very glad I had a chance to get to know more about her!  This book was highly entertaining, and I got the feeling that the author had done so much research on the topic that he had to restrain himself from adding too much detail and run the risk of boring his audience.  The book was full of unrelated bits of information: one section mentioned a gentleman named Henry Cole in passing, and a footnote informed us that, “This man invented the Christmas card.”

The Great Eastern, for those who don’t know, was a massive ship launched in 1858.  She was almost 700 feet long and could hold 4,000 passengers, though she never actually did.  She was also a disaster from the get-go.  She was so huge, she couldn’t even be launched properly.  It took months and several tries just to get her in the water.  She was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (What a name, yeah?), who was famous for his big plans and boundless energy.  That’s all very inspiring in theory, but in practice the ship was just too honkin’ huge for her time.  She would pull into port and accidentally crush the wharf, other ships, and anything else that got in her way.  Logistically, fitting her out properly was a nightmare, and the ship turned out to be a black hole sucking up money and human lives.  Finally they gave up on the whole posh passenger liner idea and converted her to help lay transatlantic telegraph cable, so at least she made herself useful.  In her final days, depressingly, she was a giant floating billboard for a department store in England.  Still, in her day thousands of people came to see her (she was a big site-seeing attraction), and Jules Verne sailed on her while he was writing 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.

I stayed up into the wee hours to finish Death Is a Lonely Business by Ray Bradbury, which is first in the first in a set of three semi-autobiographical mysteries.  I didn’t realize this at first and was pleasantly surprised to meet several characters from A Graveyard for Lunatics, the second book in the set.  Both novels are more fragmented and surreal than the usual Bradbury—but then, I suppose memory often is fragmented and surreal, and Bradbury was drawing heavily on memories of his own life for these.  I haven’t found a copy of the third novel in the set, Let’s All Kill Constance, but I’m hoping to read that one soon.  Bradbury’s life was a beautiful one.  I don’t know if the circumstances were that unusual and magical, or if he just made them so, but I suspect the latter.  He has the knack for making the commonplace new, fresh, and enchanting…and somehow he also excels at making the new and enchanting feel familiar and nostalgic.

We’re reading Pilgrim’s Regress by C.S. Lewis this week for our philosophy group.  I’ve read Pilgrim’s Progress, of course, but wasn’t terribly impressed; I know it’s a classic, but something about that book just rubs me the wrong way.  I was baffled by the passage in Little Women where the girls talk about loving to read it because it was such an adventure story.  I wondered if maybe I was reading the wrong book, since Pilgrim’s Progress invariably puts me into a coma, and this coming from the girl who usually enjoys some pretty dry reading.  I’m not a tremendous fan of allegory, which is part of the problem, but I also found it unhelpful in terms of Christian instruction.  Pilgrim’s Regress, on the other hand, is both fascinating and useful so far—unsurprisingly, since it’s Lewis.  The story is allegorical and told in much the same way as Pilgrim’s Progress, but it is a generalized account of Lewis’s own progress in Christianity.  His preface to my edition apologizes for the individualized journey, which he thought was more typical of other Christians’ struggles.  He says that he realized much later that his was an unusual process, but to me it still seems extremely relatable.  More on this later, I suspect.