Saturday, April 28, 2007

Updates, Information and Other Fascinating Tidbits

*S is still wearing the sleeveless shirt to our weekly get-together with friends. Still starting buttoned. Still ending up unbuttoned over a, sadly now stained, white sleeveless t-shirt. We're thinking that a CB radio should be her next gift to help prepare her for her future career.

*The desktop computer continues to give us fits. Serious ones. Friends and neighbors will most likely not be surprised to find the computer trying out its new occupation as a lawn ornament. The Company Which Shall Not Be Named that made the computer is not a favorite of mine right now either. We've given said company *hours* of our time. Hours, I tell you. Next time Blue Screen comes to call, they're going to have to pick up this thing and work out their differences with Computer themselves. Blue Screen may be having the time of its life, but we certainly aren't.

*Disappointing movie news:
I watched The Curse of the Golden Flower the other night. If you're looking for something to provide an opportunity for existential musing, this is your ticket. Gorgeous, utterly over-the-top set design and completely ridiculous story line. Stunning actors mouthing silly dialogue. Responsible adults acting on reasonable assertions? People simply drawn up in the web of fate and unable to change their lives? Like it? Hate it? Love it? Who knows?

The Last King of Scotland was an unbelievable disappointment. Lurid storytelling with very little attention paid to character development. We never fully understood any of the characters and what drove them. I adore Forest Whittaker, but I'm sad to say, I just don't quite see this as an extraordinary performance. I'm looking for something other than mimicry when I see a biographical portrayal of someone on the stage or screen. Two dimensional caricature I can find easily. Fully realized portraits of a real human being are a bit tougher to locate. I couldn't help but compare this to The Queen, a far superior film that doesn't stoop to simple imitation but appears to strive for something deeper.

*East Wind Melts the Ice by Liza Dalby is phenomenal. While primarily a naturalist's journal, it's also a personal memoir as well as an introduction to ancient Chinese and Japanese culture. Absolutely lovely. I'm enjoying every page.

I'm still reading The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. It's surprising that I haven't finished it since I am enjoying it, but it's one of those books that languishes on the night stand while others get picked up. It's a bit dense, a little too wordy and somewhat self-consciously "educational". That said however, it's intensely atmospheric and there's a palpable sense of dread to the pages. I will definitely finish it.

I've picked up Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach again. I'm finding it great fun but a bit thin so far. We'll see how I feel once I've finished it.

*I've discovered that handwork actually takes work. Grueling labor. Intensive stitching and equally vigorous ripping out of stitches. This is work I'm not terribly sure I'm cut out for. There's a reason that children started working on embroidery when they were preschool aged once upon a time. This stuff is hard. I'm definitely feeling nostalgic for the amiability of Knitted Dishcloth.

*I've also discovered a perplexing reaction that I have when someone is booted off of Dancing With the Stars. I always think I'll be pleased to have someone off the show that I've found irritating, but instead I always feel desperately sorry for them. This is my first experience watching a show that 'eliminates' contestants. It's pretty darn brutal. Who knew I'd have such a soft spot for those the other viewers have forsaken? You learn something new about yourself every day, I guess.

Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Needing to be Inspired

I just finished watching Bobby, an ensemble film revolving around the Ambassador Hotel and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. It's not the greatest film ever, probably not even all that wonderful, but there was certainly something that kept me riveted. Not so much the whole Camelot nostalgia; I was far too young to even have a clue about the Kennedys when Robert F. Kennedy was shot. What the film did instead was force me to acknowledge that behind my cynical take on politics there still beats the heart of a idealistic person who desperately yearns to find a political or social leader to truly believe in.

Someone who truly believes in social justice. Someone who will speak for those who have been disenfranchised in our society. Who stands up for the common man instead of corporate heads. Someone who speaks the truth. Someone who stands up for peace. Someone who makes us really look at ourselves and resolve to be better. Someone to make us feel proud to be Americans.

I guess what I saw that film capture on the faces of RFK's supporters in archival footage was the certainty that this man, Robert F. Kennedy, embodied all of those characteristics that I want to see now. The certainty that this man could make things better for all Americans. A certainty that I want desperately to feel.

Take a moment to read this speech given by RFK on April 5, 1968, used to great effect by the filmmaker in Bobby. A speech that is perhaps even more pertinent today then when he first gave it. I've pulled a few excerpts from this speech and posted them below.

What an amazing man.

On the Mindless Menace of Violence
City Club of Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio
April 5, 1968

This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity, my only event of today, to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.

. . . Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire.

. . . For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.

. . . I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered.

We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this, there are no final answers.

. . . Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

That "6 Weird Things About Me" Meme

Yep, it's still around. Kristin wrote up a list of the oddities that make Kristin, Kristin and Rebecca followed suit. Reading their posts was supremely enlightening. Who knew for instance that light bulbs could cause such angst? Or that mouths and teeth, or mouths full of teeth, could inspire such revulsion? Or even that people trying to helpful by unloading a dishwasher may be consigning themselves to a week's worth of enmity if they put the silverware in the drawer incorrectly?

Thankfully, I share none of the weirdness that Rebecca and Kristin have related. I am completely, utterly and, without a doubt, normal as can be.

For instance, I know that everyone eats a Three Musketeers candy bar slowly, inching off the chocolate layer bit by bit until there's nothing left but the soft nougat center, which you take tiny nibbles of until you can't stand your sticky fingers any longer and shove the remainder into your mouth in one spongy mess.

And surely everyone else purchases items like brown rice syrup, gallon jugs of honey and other useful foodstuffs in massive quantities because your friend is ordering from the co-op and you're most definitely sure you're about to become a healthy-treat-baking-fiend any day now. If one jar of brown rice syrup is a good thing, then a whole case must be better, right? One must have one's pantry ready for anything, including a post-apocalyptic world without sweeteners.

It's also quite well known that all people sing songs about whatever game is being played during game play. From 'Bye Bye UNO' (sung when someone says "UNO" but then has to draw on their next turn) to "Ha, Ha, Ha! You're Going Down" (sung when someone bids zero and takes a trick during a game of Oh Hell), all folks know these songs and sing them frequently.

All across America and beyond, people are savoring that sublime moment that occurs after you've squirted dish liquid into the water for dishes. You know that moment? The one that makes you silly and happy? After the bottle is upright, you do a quick squeeze and little, tiny adorable bubbles pop out and float around your head. They're just so cute and cheerful and . . . umm, honestly I just do it to make my middle daughter happy.

Sociological studies across the country have concluded that the proliferation of "talk" radio is simply for folks, who are in the midst of driving to complete whatever errands the day has presented, to turn on and get consequently furious at the idiocy presented therein. It's documented. Really. It's not just me.

And finally , in an unfortunate turn of events for the baking industry, people are turning away from cake in droves. Cake batter seems to be greatly enjoyed, but the actual cake leaves many cold. Sad but true.

See? I'm normal as can be. Just another member of the herd.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Another Motherhood Low Point

You know it's not going to be a good day when you resort to making threats against your 10 yr. old daughter's new shirt.

That's right.

I said "her new shirt".

Here's how it all played out:

Me - Are you going to wear that shirt? It's supposed to be, I don't know, something like 65 degrees out there today and that thing's sleeveless.
S- Yes. I'll be fine. I wore it yesterday and it was even colder than today. I'll wear a jacket outside.
Me- Wait. That's right! You did wear that yesterday. Is that even clean???
S- Yes. Daddy put it in the wash for me when you asked that he throw a load of laundry in while he was feeding the cat.
Me- Oh yeah. That's right, I remember. Wait. Weren't you supposed to be feeding the cat?
S- Umm . . .well . . . uhh . . . anyway. Look. The shirt's fine. Clean and everything.
Me- Wait. It's unbuttoned.
S - Yeah? I like it that way. It's okay. See? I have that white, sleeveless undershirt thing on too.
Me - *groan*. A sleeveless button down shirt over a white undershirt?! You look like a truck driver.
S-I like the way it looks. Besides, what's wrong with truck drivers?
Me - (rushing to instill respect for all professions) Nothing at all. Driving a truck is a fine and noble thing to do. *sigh* Just button it up.
S- I LIKE it this way. It's comfortable and it looks like a vest.
Me - Yeah, in some alternate universe maybe.
Me - Look. We're going out today. Just button the thing up while we're out.
S - I LIKE it this way.
Me - Okay, fine. Like it that way. You're entitled to like all sorts of things. However, you're just also expected to BUTTON THAT SHIRT when we're headed out for the day!
S - *stubborn silence*
Me - S?
S - *stubborn silence coupled with arms crossed over chest*
Me - S!?
S - *stubborn silence, arms crossed over chest and eyes raised to the ceiling*
*Tick Tock goes the clock*
Me - Look, (and here's where I hit my low point. Yeah, I know. I hit it way back, but it was here that it was finally clear to me) IF YOU EVER WANT TO SEE YOUR SHIRT AGAIN, YOU'D BETTER BUTTON IT UP.

"If you ever want to see your shirt again, you'd better button it up"?

To make this threat more credible, I suppose I should have snipped various sized letters from the newspaper and assembled them to form the threat on another piece of paper. I could have even added a snip of fabric as added incentive.

Next time I'll be a bit more prepared.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Community Service Bulletin

Heed my warning.

If you have elementary aged children, flee while you can.

No one is safe.

Still around? More the fool you.

Now the terror will most certainly spread.

It is with great sadness that I acknowledge our part in spreading this epidemic, for Webkinz has invaded our home.

No, I must be completely honest with you all. We were not "invaded". In a moment of weakness, swayed by the beseeching eyes of a 10 year old, I actually invited Webkinz in.

Looks innocent enough, doesn't it? Just another insipid stuffed animal? That's what I thought. A harmless diversion.

Well, looks are undeniably deceiving in this instance.

Trust me.

Please. Do your utmost to avoid the glassy eyed stare of these instruments of chaos posing as harmless, if odd looking, stuffed animals.

Just in case it's too late or in the interest of assisting those around you, here are some signs of infection:

  • Increasingly impassioned and desperate cries from the elementary set for access to the computer to care for their "pet".
  • Increased tension in the house from battles over whether or not "I need to finish this game before I feed our real dog/cat/fish to earn money in order to feed/house/clothe my virtual pet" is a valid reason for not doing said chore.
  • Increased tension in the house due to computer withdrawal. This affects all ages in the house.
  • Increased guest traffic in the house as every child in the neighborhood needs to view the virtual pet and offer suggestions for its keeping.
  • Headaches caused by all those damn children in the house.
  • Tears. Again, this symptom has no respect for age. Everyone is susceptible.
Heaven help us all.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Rushing Summer

I defy anyone to remain out of sorts, ill-tempered or cantankerous while listening to the Beach Boys.

I appreciate that there's definitely some nostalgia inherent in my affection for the boys since the Beach Boys were the first band I ever saw in concert. While my husband spent time in Detroit concert venues listening to everyone worth listening to in the early to mid 70s, I was in Maine in 1980 rockin' out to. . . the Beach Boys.

Yeah, I know. I was totally a rebel, just skirting the edge of rabble-rouser.

Really though, it's more than simple nostalgia. Much of the music is just happy. Cheerful. Upbeat. With a nod to Tom Hanks in That Thing You Do, it's "snappy".

Regardless of the reason, you simply have to love them, even with Kokomo being part of their discography.

Honestly? After crying two nights in a row thanks to films (Children of Men night before last and Mrs. Miniver last night), I'll take feeling happy however I can get it.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Things Which Have Made Me Ponder, Think and Otherwise Mull Over

When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.
Winnie the Pooh
The House at Pooh Corner

With that in mind, here are a few things that have made me think over the past month or so:

The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris.
I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about this book. Initially I found the author to be abrasive and significantly off putting. After really considering it though, I'm wondering if it's less an issue of personality than an issue of the author stating very bluntly opposing viewpoints on several issues (religious tolerance, pacifism, and Israel to name a few) that I've felt strongly about for years. Even though I am distinctly non-religious, this book challenged me on several levels.

Trident Cool Colada Chewing Gum: Why, when I was so horrified by my experience of chewing said gum that I felt compelled to offer a public service announcement, did I find myself chewing the gum all week?

NPR (National Public Radio): Yes, I realize this is a bit cliche, but I really appreciate the depth with which topics are covered. Far, far different from the 30 second sound bites I've seen on network television. We gave up 'regular' television over 15 years ago and it absolutely amazes me what passes for "news" on the network channels. Not to mention the scare tactic methods used to "cover" stories that are designed simply to boost ratings. If I've had one call from my mother warning me about killer meningitis, flesh eating bacteria, or dastardly terrorist plots, I've had a million. For this reason alone I give thanks to NPR.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Showtime's The Tudors: How is it possible that short, dark, Irish JRM gets picked to play the very tall, ruddy and red-gold haired Henry VIII? I watched the first two episodes (offered as streaming video on Netflix as a special promo) and he was completely distracting. Then again, it's not like anyone is watching this hoping for an hour of unparalleled historical accuracy. Still . . . couldn't they have at least found a Sean Bean type?

And finally . . . will Billy Ray Cyrus make it through another round of Dancing With the Stars?