Monday, April 28, 2008

Against Type

I watched the first disc of Ultraviolet (the BBC television mini series from 1998) recently. While watching it I was struck by the familiarity of the actors playing various roles. Try as I might though I couldn't pinpoint where I'd seen the actors in the past. This always happens to me. If I don't have my middle daughter around, who has some supernatural ability to pull actor identities and their various characters out of thin air, I'm sunk. Often I totally lose the narrative of the film attempting to figure out where on earth I've seen these people before.

One character in particular stood out for me. I absolutely could not place her at first.

After a bit I finally figured out where I'd seen this actor before.

Dear God, it's Miss Jane Bennett! In a vampire mini series, playing a character that I'm not entirely sure is - gulp - good, honest or ethical.

If you're interested, Ultraviolet, even with the shock of seeing Miss Jane Bennet acting the way Angie Marsh does, is definitely worth a look. Dark, atmospheric and complicated, at least during the first disc, I've seen it described as "more mature" than Buffy the Vampire Slayer even though it deals with much the same premise. So far the program hasn't attempted to be black and white in it's approach to the idea of "good" or "evil", opting instead for a more realistic exploration of the concepts and the conceit that comes with being in power. The blurring of any defining characteristics from either side is well done, giving you plenty of "human" characteristics from the "leeches" and monstrous actions from the humans.

Great stuff - even if my memory of Miss Jane Bennet (Susannah Harker) from the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice (my favorite adaptation by far) has been forever impacted and altered.

You know though now that I think of it, while it's true that Jane's "goodness and disinterestedness does her credit", there was always something about that smile that had me wondering . . .

Friday, April 25, 2008

Baby Love


Just the word makes me happy.

When they aren't mine that is.

I've been a parent now for nearly 25 years. During my tenure as a breeder, I've been many things to many different people, worn many different hats and been called many different things. I've been called the "cool" mom at times. I've been called the "good listener" mom. I'd also be willing to bet that I've been called a Not Nice Name mom on occasion as well. What I have not been called - ever - is Laid Back Mom.

Easygoing Mom.

Relaxed Mom.

Not now with daughters aged 23, 18 and 11 and certainly not when there were tiny.

A quick glance into my past will give you a clue as to why.

One evening when Rebecca was just a month or two old I had a sudden, insistent suspicion that she was deaf. Why? Well, because as she lay sleeping at my parent's house, I determined that she hadn't reacted as I thought she should to a noise. What's a concerned mother to do? I took her loudest rattle and shook it hard to see if she could hear it.

I'm serious. I shook the hell out of that thing.

Poor little thing looked like she was having a seizure she was so startled. Needless to say, I settled back, secure in the knowledge that she could indeed hear. Of course the rest of us couldn't hear over her ear piercing shrieks, but that's apparently the price you pay for peace of mind.

My middle? My youngest? I hesitate to tell you how anxious and concerned I've been over inconsequential things. From calling Poison Control because a baby might have, maybe, just possibly put an infinitesimal amount of a Gerbera Daisy petal somewhere near her lips to worrying that my 11 month old with chicken pox was always going to have a face that only a mother could love, it's safe to say that I've not always been comfortable as my daughters have grown up.

When the baby isn't mine however, I'm able to relax and truly enjoy him or her. Laugh indulgently at their antics, even when they include gerbera daisies. React without drama to circumstances that require quick and prompt attention. Calmly remove whatever foreign substance has found it's way despite vigilance into a mouth, nose or ear. Bask in the knowledge that I am Laid Back Mom - or at least Laid Back Woman Who Is Relaxed Around Any Child Other Than Her Own.

My friend brought her grandson over on Monday. 14 months old, just about the age that my middle and her youngest child was when we met, and I fell in love all over again with babies. He was utterly adorable. Chubby arms and legs, a grin that split his face (and reminded me so strongly of his father who was 6 when I met my friend), slobbery kisses and garbled words, all impossible to resist. My youngest thought so too.

Well, when she relaxed that is. She spent most of the visit hoovering and worrying. Gasping aloud in shock twice over what a baby can get into. Gesturing incredulously when neither his grandmother or myself acted with what she considered appropriate concern. Noting repeatedly that the baby was "making her nervous". All the while nearly melting when he turned his face toward her, hugged her or even whacked her with a block. When he and his grandmother left after nearly 2 hours though, she collapsed in exhaustion. A mere rag doll drained after her ordeal.

Guess the apple really doesn't fall far from the tree.

Poor thing.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Adventures in Reading

I'm a voracious reader. One who will, most of the time, enjoy reading a wide variety of books from an equally eclectic mix of genres.

Well, except for horror.

Horror, frankly, scares me. While I appreciate that the aim of horror is in fact to frighten people, I've learned that I don't much care for intentional terror. It's true that some who know me well will express some surprise at that statement and suggest that since they know I'm a total sucker for vampires, particularly ones that look like this, it's a bit disingenuous to say that I don't like horror.

I must scoff at this view because, come on, even if you're not into Billy Idol lookalikes, does this look like something you'd run away from? Totally doesn't count.

Nor do most books that deal with zombies. Again, it's true that some will assert that zombies are pretty scary things. I would have agreed with this view 10 years ago, but being forever attached to Rebecca means that I learned long ago to squelch any creeping feelings of dread, terror and general ickiness when faced with any number of films, graphic novels or books dealing with the walking dead.

So they don't count either.

Anything else in the horror grab bag of tricks? Absolutely out of my comfort zone.

Lately however, I've revisited my self imposed ban on horror novels because of Stephen King. Quite some time ago Mental Multivitamin mentioned Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and I thought I'd take a look at it. Having read Dance Macabre years ago, I was fairly comfortable reading King's nonfiction and not too worried about any emotional repercussions from reading more. Besides I had been reading and enjoying him as the best part of Entertainment Weekly for a while, so what was there to be afraid of?

The book was, as are most of the books recommended by Mental Multivitamin, well worth reading. Having grown up near the area that Mr. King spent a portion of his childhood simply added to the appeal of this book for me. After finishing it, I decided to give his fiction another try. I say "another try", because the first time I read a Stephen King novel was Salem's Lot at age 14.

Let's just say that I struggled a bit with it.

As in I slept with a cross on my windowsill and begged anyone I thought might be Catholic for holy water for over a year. What can I say? This happened way before Spike made his prime time appearance and vampires still scared me.

Why potentially subject myself to this again, even so many years later? It's a good question. Honestly, after reading On Writing, I was really curious to take a look at his novels. So recently I read Christine. I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about this book. On the one hand, it was difficult to put down. It also caused some uneasiness, actually to the point where I didn't want to read it while in bed. I truly thought I was beyond being scared by a novel, but apparently I can still be unsettled by the written word. It was interesting to see themes in Christine that were discussed in On Writing, particularly those dealing with teen alienation and cliques. On the other hand though, the ending was deeply dissatisfying to me, although I'm not sure it should be. While we all want characters in a book to act in a superhuman way, with clear insight into how to solve a problem, real life simply isn't that way. So maybe the ending makes sense given the characters involved. Ultimately it was definitely worth a read.

Will I try another King novel? I'm not sure. I'm truly surprised at the reluctance I feel when thinking of attempting another. It's certainly not because I feel Christine was poorly written or plotted, it really is just that I'm uneasy at the thought of being frightened.

Guess that 14 yr. old is still there.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Wishes and Dreams

Tonight I took the youngest of my three girls (11) off to dinner and Dancing With the Stars at Grandma and Grandpa's place. (Don't even ask my why I'm still watching this. I'm obviously a total glutton for punishment) Distracted a bit by the swirl of barely there costumes and truly traumatic music selections, I nearly missed a statement my youngest made during the numerous and unending commercials.

"Oh man, I would truly like to have one of those."

Wistful, yearning and nearly desperate came this plea, voiced just above a murmur.

What is it that could cause such desire in a young one's heart?

Was it this?Not on your life.

How 'bout this?
Uh-huh. Not even close.

Surely this?

Umm . . . actually that's my Heart's Desire. Right. Now.

Okay then. This has got to be it, right?

On any other day? Absolutely. Tonight? Nope.

This is what my dear one wished for tonight: I kid you not.

If ever I thought I understood and knew my daughters after nearly a quarter of a century of parenting, I was obviously deluded.

A tractor?!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Housewifery Horrors

I realize that Rebecca has had her troubles with keeping a neat and tidy house. Those of us who have the great good fortune to live near Rebecca know this not only because she wrote about it or even because Wonder Woman couldn't wait to gossip about it, but because she, more often than not, threatens us with bodily harm if we dare to suggest an unexpected visit to her place might be a congenial way to spend an afternoon.

To borrow an expression from Rebecca that she uses frequently - pffft!

You ain't got nothin' on me, sister.

One day, nearly 2 weeks ago now, I had gotten up fairly early, but had not yet showered. I was expecting a quick visit from a friend who planned to drop off a few films for me to return to the video store for his family since they were on their way to a family vacation. Let me carefully say that again. I was expecting a child to pop up at the door, hand over the films, accept a hearty "Have a great time!" and leave.

Instead of my usual morning tidy-up, I decide to while away the time spent waiting for my friends playing the absolutely riveting game of Supercow. I hold my head up high and offer no apologies for this use of leisure time. However, given what happened, it would have at least been nice to be deeply involved in something that required more brain cells than stomping on numerous nefarious possessed farm criminals in order to fulfill my mission as savior of the barnyard. Picture if you will this scene:

  • Two large baskets overflowing with clean, unfolded laundry atop the sofa - partly because one does have to admit the sofa is a handy surface to set things upon and partly because the stupid dog will not stop jumping on the sofa for a comfy nap spot when I'm out of the room necessitating the use of barriers.

  • Said sofa with rip in the arm because of the above mentioned stupid dog (which, if I'm honest, I have to say I'm not terribly broken up about because we're buying a new sofa).

  • Books piled haphazardly all through the room - tables, bookcases, various other available surfaces.

  • Kitchen. Well, let's just say that it was looking a bit used.

  • Hall bathroom. Dear God. It doesn't even bear thinking about.

  • And me . . . playing Supercow.

Pulling me away from my vital barnyard mission, I answer the expected knock on the door. Did I see the sweet face of a child waiting to hand me a couple of DVDs? Well, yes. But that's not all I saw. I saw every damn one of the vacation party on my doorstep. All 6 of them. The four that I know extremely well and two that I know little about other than the mother keeps an immaculate house. Immaculate. As in no unfolded laundry. No dirty dishes. And, God help us, no bathroom that looks like it was recently used by a rugby team just off a muddy field.


At first I thought everything was going to be okay. Foolish of me given the fact that within a second or two of my startled greeting, I was told everyone needed to use the bathroom. Yes, that bathroom. Of course there are two other bathrooms in the house. While my bathroom was indeed actually clean, one had to tramp through the bedroom to get to it - something no one other than someone training for an Everest expedition relishes. The remaining one was utilized by the children, but given the fact that it's always utilized by children it's state of cleanliness was as questionable as the hall bath.

I need to stop relating this horror to you all now. The memory of this is obviously far too fresh to allow any more detail. My only solace then, and now, was the planning of a prodigious amount of innovative punishments for my middle daughter whose job it was to attend to both the kitchen and bath before she left for the day.

Comfort and solace comes in odd places sometimes.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Just a housekeeping note.

I'm trying out new blogger templates so if the blog looks more scattered than usual, you know why.

Now if I could just figure out how to fix the bugs in this template . . .

Thursday, April 03, 2008

War, Loss and Sacrifice Hollywood Style

After rereading yesterday's post, I got a bit concerned that my disdain for the film Stop-Loss could potentially be interpreted as a lack of empathy or concern for anyone associated with our involvement with Iraq or Afghanistan. I'm not going to dissemble - I absolutely opposed our preemptive strike from the beginning. Regardless of my feelings about the war and occupation, I do care about the human toll. Deeply.

I've seen two films lately on veterans and the impact combat can have on them. Both of them, In the Valley of Elah and the aforementioned Stop-Loss, left me cold. Elah was written and directed by Paul Haggis of Crash fame, another film that I really disliked. I don't appreciate as a rule having a "good message" slam down on my head with all the finesse of a sledgehammer. Crash could have been a much better film, and forced more of us to truly examine ourselves, if it had shown more clearly the subtle forms of racism that exist in our world. As it was, it gave people a free pass simply because the examples of racism were so hamfisted that most people could breathe a sigh of relief and say "Well, of course I would never do that." It let us off the hook.

I see echoes of that approach to a message in both Elah and Stop-Loss. The examples of trauma experienced after combat are so extreme that they cause us to perhaps question whether someone who isn't digging a fox hole in the front yard, committing suicide, murdering fellow soldiers, or beating the woman in their life truly suffers any ill effect from their experiences in a combat zone. They allow us to avert our gaze from the returning soldier who shows more subtly in his or her reaction to the incredible stress, strain, terror or even extreme boredom they've experienced for 12 to 15 months at a time for sometimes 2 or 3 tours of duty. These films give us another free pass. Ostensibly they show us what the occupation is doing to our soldiers, but in reality they perhaps allow us to miss the true toll that the war demands from its participants. If we don't see the reality of that cost, then we don't have to examine whether or not the occupation is worth it. And, if it is, whether or not we're willing to make an equal sacrifice.

Then again, maybe there remains some merit to Stop-Loss. Apparently, according to a review by Entertainment Weekly, the film is an MTV Films production marketed primarily at teenage girls. I definitely see that. The stars of the film are gorgeous and, even at their worst, still sympathetic. The film infuses the issue with just enough of a romantic sensibility to appeal to girls swooning for a noble, tortured poet hero. All of that said, and all of that noted for its manipulative qualities, it did one thing for this decidedly not teen aged person. It made me truly stop for a second and really think about what is happening to the soldiers over there. What they bring back with them. What their families struggle to work through.

I've been so opposed to this war and occupation, so distressed with the whole "we'll kick your ass 'cause we're cowboys and the rules don't apply to us" mentality that I don't think that I've given enough thought to our soldiers. It's easy these days in America if you're not fighting over in Iraq or Afghanistan, or have someone you love over there, to simply not think too much about it. I can argue a lot about the philosophical and moral issues of preemptive strikes. I can talk knowledgeably about the amount of funding this occupation has cost. I can cite how each of my legislators voted on issues surrounding the terrorist attacks and subsequent actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. As I stated above, I've cared deeply about the human toll of the conflict but if I'm truly honest, it's been more in the abstract. Worse, at times it's been tempered by a frustration with our country and its armed forces fueled by Abu Ghraib, rendition and other allegations of torture. The scenes at the beginning of the film, even given the preponderance of an attitude expressed about Iraq that distresses me, did make me see soldiers a bit differently. Something Elah, a far better acted and shot film, didn't do.

So, I guess even with the hackneyed plot lines, the stereotypes, and the ridiculous acting, the film attempts to force Americans to do something that most Americans resist. It works hard to make us come out of our comfortable, affluent existence and realize that, despite the fact that we make no sacrifices over here in the name of a war, those who are over there certainly do.

Wisdom For Your Wednesday

Coercion rears its ugly head and I cower under its gaze.

Well . . . okay. So there's that flattery thing too. We all know that's really what I'm unable to resist.

What, you might ask, has been going on here since November when I last posted? What extraordinary insight do I have into the affairs of the day? Where is the eloquence and depth that you clamor for?

Brace yourselves.

For starters, Dancing With the Stars is utterly appalling this year. The reasons are legion, but I remain particularly traumatized by the Dancing With the Stars orchestra and singers butchering Roxanne as a couple (which one? It's impossible to tell - they are all interchangeable) danced the Tango. Yes, you heard me. The Tango. It simply doesn't bear thinking about another second.

Btw, who ever knew there were Wikipedia entries for songs??

Moving on.

It's always wise to double check resources being utilized while exploring Ancient Greece with an 11 and 12 year old (girl and boy respectively). Otherwise awkward moments could potentially ensue when reading about the Minoan culture - specifically the Minoan woman's choice of attire. Trying to act utterly nonchalant about bare-breasted Minoan women in the face of just-on-the-cusp-of-adolescence children is . . . oh who am I kidding? It's utterly impossible. Trust me.

Sitting in a theater with Kristin and Rebecca is quite clearly a mistake when a film like Stop-Loss is in the offing. I tell you this so that you may avoid the specter of potential social suicide. It's true that snorting hysterical laughter during a burial scene is indeed a social faux pas, but I maintain that there was no other reaction available to anyone watching that film.

When friends, relatives and total strangers on the street are aware of your oft repeated revulsion for country music, it's best not to be seen belting out the lyrics to Shania Twain's Any Man of Mine:

We all muck out stables in a midriff baring top. Ask anyone.

Oh yeah, there's that other song too - Coal Mine by Sara Evans

Damn you, husband o' mine for leaving that disc in the car.