Thursday, November 30, 2006

Puns--The Lowest Form Of Humor

I have found someone who enjoys painful puns even more than I do. Plus, he's made them up and illustrated them with Lego people. I have a new daily reading requirment: Irregular Webcomic.

Check out this little beauty----number 141:
Here's one about if Shakespeare had lived today--number 286:

Don'tcha love it? Erudite, modern, computer-centric, funny AND well illustrated.

I say--better go check him out!

From The Stacks Challenge--Part Deux

Well, I finished my second book in the From the Stacks Challenge--Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos. I have yet to post a review over at the Book Blog of Evil. My laxness in this matter reflects my laxness in this entire endeavor.

I've started the Kate Chopin. I've read about 7000 pages of Kate Chopin. So, how come I'm not finished? Huh? HUH? If you just look at the page numbers, you'd conclude that this is a novella of less than 120 pages. BUT YOU WOULD BE WRONG. This is a book that exists in an alternate dimensionality, one in which 7000 pages of boredom APPEAR to occupy less than 120 pages. Significantly less. Because I'm on about page 56, and I am bored bored bored.

Which is appropriate, since the characters are all spending a hot summer month on the seaside in Louisiana. The men go into New Orleans during the week, and come out on the weekends. The women and children fill their days looking at the water and then changing for meals. And talking in that horrible 1890s way of being polite and not actually saying anything.

Edith Wharton would have made this a page turner. Edith Wharton is a Good Read. Edith Wharton is a classic because people still love to read her. As far as I am so far, Kate Chopin is a classic because...she did something first. Not necessarily best, though.

So, when in a funk, I turn to children's books. Or "young adult fiction." In this case, I've gien up for the time being and turned to the Bunny's favorite "Enchanted Forest Chronicles." These are like potato chips. They are wry and funny and fresh and speedy and end with the bad guys defeated by the good guys. Plus there are princesses and witches and dragons and bad wizards and a lively twist on some fairy tale classics. I've finished the first two and am a third of the way through the third. If I count this series as one book, I still have to finish the Chopin. If I count each book seperately...

A moral dilemma. I wonder how it will turn out.

More Quiz Results!

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

HA! Just wait until I'm on TV and radio, all you cool kids at the Cool Kids Lunch Table! Then I'll be and A-List Blogger!

Credit Where Credit Is Due

I've posted a NaBloPoMo winner button over there to the right. See it? Nifty, huh?

Of course I didn't do it myself, you silly. I'm not that good.

Did you participate? Did you finish? Do you want one too?

Go see Write Wizely and she'll give you one too!

Some Inconvenient Truths

So, having sampled widely through the NoBloPoMo participant blogs, I was coming to some uncomfortable coclusions. One is that despite having had this blog for 1.75 years, I am still an absolute tyro in this field. Also my kids are significantl older than most featured on their parents' blogs. This leads to the next uncomfortable realization: I myself am older than most of the bloggers that I read. Older enough to be their...older sister.
D-List Blogger
But this, this was the painful reality. The official determiner of your internet influence: Are You An A-List Blogger? I didn't expect to be A-List, of course, but finding out I am D-List just hurts. Sure, I've long suspected that the most views my blog gets are me, checking to see if my posts have published correctly. But there's something dispiriting about being told that I don't get to sit with the cool kids at the lunch table.

So, I'm going to stomp my little last season Prada shoes and pour myself some wine. Wine and whine--a winning blog combination.

Day 30--Across The Finish Line

So this is it--my 30th daily post and the official end of NaBloPoMo. I'm pleased that I managed to complete it, and I even learned some things in the process. Like what? you ask? How about a convenient list?

  1. Writing every day isn't as hard as I thought it would be. Making the commitment to showing up at the keyboard is easier than...oh..daily exercise...keeping the kitchen clean...laundry
  2. It's harder to be funny than I thought it would be. Shut up! I am so funny! Sometimes...
  3. Coming up with something to say everyday forces me to pay better attention to my life. I have learned to notice and remember specific things and then I have them as blog-fodder. I said "Blog-fodder," not "Godfather." Sheesh!
  4. There is so much more for me to learn about blogging: technical things to make this site look like I want it to; ways to make this a better site to read; making buttons and links: all the posiblities of links and HTML; taking advantage of the multi-media aspects of the internet. I have always been about words, but there is so much more out there that would be wonderful to be able to use.
  5. There are a LOT more people out there doing stuff than I would have imagined. Over 2000 NaBloPoMo participants, for example. People doing themed blogs, people with multiple sites, people doing daily comics, posting movies, designing and posting incredibly creative stuff. It's truly amazing and awe-inspiring.
  6. That maybe...just maybe...I could complete a NaNoWriMo.

So, thank you, THANK YOU Fussy! I deeply enjoyed this and would totally do it again. Even without prizes.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Less Than The Best Day

So, Mr. Sweetie of off on a business trip to the end of the week. His flight Tuesday morning before noon. And not an entire hour later, I managed to do the most clod-like thing I've done in ages. Hours anyway. Yup. I twisted my ankle.

I was doing some Christmas shopping. And I walked out of a store, and there was a step there. But I didn't see it. And so my foot went down...and down...and down (it was a big step). And this was no delicate little thing, oh no. I twisted the hell out of that ankle. A big, nasty turn that hurt so much that I nearly landed on the ground, curled up in a little ball of pain. Because of course, not only did I turn my ankle, but as a result I also lost my balance, and couldn't get it back, because of the not being able to stand on the foot with the twisted ankle! Go me!

I managed to stumble crazily to the curb, where I grabbed hold of a lightpost. Yes! I know! I thought that was just a cliche too! But it was really quite sturdy, and I stood there, hand on the post, standing on one foot, waiting for that first pain rush to pass.

So, what was the best part? Was it that I did it on the busiest street corner in town? Was it that I did it a lunch hour in sight of four restaurants with full story-high windows? Was it that my car was two blocks away? Was it trying to drive with a swollen and painful ankle?

Sure, that was all bad, but the part that marked me as a total dunce? Was when I got home, got my shoes off and my feet up, and discovered that my socks didn't even match.

Arrrgh! What a clod! See--they are both basically oatmeal colored, with little pictures of dogs running up the sides. While wearing shoes and jeans, they would pass as a pair. But they are clearly NOT an actual pair of socks. Even though I have another pair just like them in my dresser. Gah!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Not The Call Of The Wild

This was in the Minneapolis Star Tribune this morning:

Country singer Troy Lee Gentry pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court to a misdemeanor charge of falsely registering a trophy bear as wild when, in fact, it was a captive bear named Cubby, which he shot in 2004 on a game farm near Sandstone, Minn.

You'd think the squashed pork-pie hat and the pic-a-nic basket would have been a clue. Did he just not see the collar and tie?

Monday, November 27, 2006

The V.F.D. Is Everywhere

I have read the entire Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, and enjoyed very much. One of the principal frustrations of the book is the fact that the Baudelaire orphans have money, but it is in the hands of Mulctuary Money Management and is never used for their well-being. There is a vague promise of the money coming to them when "Violet comes of age," which is at least four years after the start of the books.

The entire cycle of books takes only a few months, months that (as Snicket might say) seem much longer than usual, due to the unbearable miseries that occur. The orphans are represented at the bank by a Mr. Poe, who remains ridiculously oblivious to the terrible situations he creates as he moves the orphans from one foster home to the next.

Clearly, a play on poet Edgar Allen Poe, I thought, but I couldn't understand the connection to the bank. Oh well, there probably wasn't one.

So, imagine my surprise and delight when I came upon this in The New Yorker:

[M]uch of [Alice B.] Toklas’s trouble stemmed from [Gertrude] Stein’s decision, “on sound tax counsel,” to place her estate under the jurisdiction of the probate court in Baltimore, and to the court’s appointment of a man named Edgar Allan Poe (the poet’s great-nephew) to administer it. . . .Gertrude had been precise about how her funds were to be spent, but, unaccountably, Poe proved to be an obstructionist and parsimonious in fulfilling her wishes, of which he seemed to disapprove, although it was none of his business[.]

The article details poor Alice's descent into dependency upon the kindness of strangers due to Mr. Poe's refusal to release funds. (!)

I thought I had missed some of the subtleties of these books, and now I am really certain of it.

A Picture's Worth A Thousand Words.

I stumbled across this photo after I wrote this. It's the George Bush and Pacific Rim world leaders pajama party! And you thought I was just making this all up, didn't you?

Photo courtesy of AP via this site.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

This I Did Not Know

Apparently, every last one of Emily Dickinson's poems can be sung to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas." I wouldn't have thought of her being a particularly metrical writer--she who seemed to think that all vowels rhyme with each other.

Let's try it out, shall we?

An awful tempest mashed the air,
The clouds were gaunt and few.
A black, as of a spectre's cloak,
Hid heaven and earth from view.

Okay, that one works. Sure, it's got more verses, but let's not get carried away. How about this one?

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held just but ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

Oh yeah. That one too. Let's look at an index of first lines, shall we? Hmm. Well, not every every one fits, but an impressive number do. Do you have a favorite Emily Dickinson poem? Does it work with yours?

Next week, we test to see how many of Robert Frost's poems can really be sung to "Hernando's Hideaway." Ole!

Shameless Pandering

Yup, that's me. Shameless, I am. Pandering, I am. In a pathetic bid to win Emily's gourmet dog biscuit NaBloPoMo prize, I'm submitting this dog post.

We brought our first puppy home in the summer of 1988, the year of the drought. Temperatures here in Minnesota were hitting 105, and the grass had all turned brown. We found our dog in a litter of 8 week old puppies, living on a farm west of the Twin Cities.

"Oh, you got the Smart One," the farmer said. "He'll make breakfast for you."

The breeder gave us a terry shirt to put in the box, to take the smell home with us. The whole way home, he sat in the box in the footwell of the passenger side, and we said "Oh my god, how do we raise a dog. Oh thank god it's not a baby."

That summer was hot, even with central air. At night we would put the puppy into a box with a can of beer. He'd lie over the can with the bare skin of his belly on the metal for maximum cooling. Mmmmm...Leinenkugel's.

We had him with us for three days trying to think of a name for him. In the interim, he was "Buddy" and "Buster" and "Boy" and by the end of the three days it was clear that his name would start with a "B." One day, while talking on the phone with my husband, we were running through different B names, and he said "Bentley."

That was it, of course. Bentley, a name that conjures the elegant limosine of the type owned by rich English heiresses with country homes and London pieds-a-terre. Silk stockings and cloche hats and a body in the library. An elegant and enormous car, for a puppy small enough to fit in my hand.

But what about all those other names? Those other B names that weren't Bentley? Beowulf and Baxter and Buster and Buddy and Bernard and Bumper Car? Well, I am nothing if not about pretentiousness. So we named him, officially, "B. Baxter Bentley."

B. Baxter Bentley was always my dog. When he was still a tiny puppy and I was studying for the bar exam, he napped on my study guides. In the summer, he would plaster his furry body against my hips as he spent the night on my side of the bed. And even in his old old age, when I went to stretch out on the couch and read, I'd hear the "boom ba da boom ba da boom" of his feet as he ran across the house to jump up onto my chest as I read.

Bentley was a one woman dog. He was a handful with the vet, and the groomer had to sedate him to trim him up. But he'd let me put drops in his eyes, clip his nails, whatever needed to be done. Even the vet was amazed at how docile Bentley was for me.

He was a good little man in a fuzzy suit who lived to be fifteen years old. Even in his last hours, as he had seizure after seizure, he would calm when I was near. It broke my heart to say goodbye to him, and I cried all the way on the last trip to the vet with him.

This happened two and a half years ago, and I'm still tearing up with missing him. He was a little dog with a really big heart, and I only wish that there is a doggie heaven, where he can run without a leash, and there are no rules against feeding him pizza from the table.

[N.B. These are not actual pictures of Bentley, but they are astonishingly close. He left us before the advent of digital pictures, and these are some that I found on the web.]

Family Dinners Are So Enlightening

Mr. Sweetie: Our pastor just came back from Ecuador. You know what the number one news story there is? The war in Iraq. And the number two and three headlines are about American celebrities and break-ups.

Bunny: I don't want to be a movie star when I grow up and marry another movie star.

Mr. Sweetie: Why?

Bunny: Because people in Ecuador will find out about it!

Of course! That's the reason not to be a movie star! I knew I had one.

(Because I am a Pollyanna and desperately seek the silver lining in every gray cloud--I'm deciding that it's good news that Ecuador is all about celebrity break-ups. It means there's nothing so bad there that would push that kind of crap off the front page.)

So, I'm Not A News Junkie.

Actually, that's understating it. I abhor the news, especially as I get older and grumpier, and begin to wonder just why I'm being told most of the stuff that passes for news. It's a long way from the Jeffersonian ideal of producing an informed electorate to "actual footage of a car in flames after hitting a lamppost."

Much of my news comes through unreliable filters. Doonesbury is not a bad source, especially for something that takes about six weeks of production and so is invariably behind. Sure, I listen to NPR in the car--SINCE I DON'T HAVE AN IPOD--but there's a great deal of opinion and essay involved in hour long discussions about anything.

So, today, my dose of news came via Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me. I love this show. Even not keeping up with news, I manage to answer some of the quiz questions so it makes me feel smart. And, like Jon Stewart, Peter Segal makes fun of the people who most deserve it. So, why don't I listen every week? Why isn't it on my list of bookmarks so I can check in frequently? Excuse me, I have some computer organizing to do....

....hmmm, hmmm hmm...

...Okay I'm back. Anyway, how can you not love this little factoid--a tasty little amuse bouche that I just want to tuck into my cheek pockets and pull out to ruminate at leisure.

They should have known he was up to something when Bush told Camp David guests "I'm going to read." [Pause for disbelieving laughter from the audience] Now thatwas a Hutline political newletter that suggests the Bush's cabinet should have figured out that he was really going to go...where?

The answer, of course, was "to Iraq." The top secret whirlwind trip to Iraq was apparently "disguised" as a trip to the library. And we all know how fond Bush is of reading. After all, when you've got a book you are absolutely dying to get back to, don't you say "Farewell, guests. I'm going to read." It's just a clunker. Nobody who really reads says "I'm going to read."

Imagine the scene. Interior, Camp David cabin. A fire is roaring in the fireplace. Dick Cheney is cleaning his shotgun, and the rest of the Cabinet is as far away as they can get. Condi Rice and Alberto Gonzales are playing liars' poker with Donald Rumsfeld and Michael Chertoff, using Treasury notes provided by Henry Paulson. They are decorated with unflattering pictures of Ben Bernanke. The other Cabinet members are playing "guess who I am" with their real names. Bush is standing by the fire, his hands in his pockets, rocking up and down on his toes.

"Jesus, Dubya, will you quit fidgeting? You're making me nervous," orders Dick Cheney, as Bush sneaks another look at his wristwatch.

"Is that really the right time, Turd Blossom? Do you think my watch has stopped?" Karl Rove looks up from some cryptic notes he's making to glare at the President. He narrows his eyes and says "I'm sure it's fine."

Laughter erupts from the poker table as Condi Rice announces her hand "I've got a pair of twos, a pair of fives, and a stockpile of WMD!" Gonzales asks "Where's this salsa from? New York City?"

Everyone is wearing their "Camp David Tartan" flannel shirts, which they received on arrival. Everyone but the President. He's got a tailored blue suit, freshly pressed white shirt and red tie. His oxfords are polished to a mirror like sheen. Time is passing slowly for the President. He looks at his watch again, then announces to the room,"It sure is good to get away like this, isn't it. To just get away and relax." Up on his toes, and down. Up on his toes, and down.

Chertoff is out of the poker hand. He tried to bluff using bottled water and duct tape, and now he's looking over Condi's shoulder.

Cheney's got a good one. "So, I guy with no arms walks into a bar, and he come up to the bartender, and he says 'Can you help me out? I gotta go...'"

"Speaking of gotta go," Bush interrupts, looking at his watch, "I gotta go. Gotta I'm going to go read. I'll see you all later, when I get back. Back from reading. Um, yes, it's reading time."

Yeah, I'm guessing they figured out that something was up. But since they've gotten so good at pretending to believe everything else he says, that I'm sure he thought he'd fooled them.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

One Word Meme

I'm loving the NaBloPoMo randomizer! Found this meme, and appropriated it. C'mon! It builds character!

Yourself: Blogreading
Your Partner: Breakfasting
Your hair: Unwashed
Your mother: Betterer
Your father: Spry
Your favourite item: iPod
Your dream last night: Complicated
Your favourite drink: Diet
Your dream car: Hybrid
Your dream home: Tower
The room you are in: Kitchen
Your ex: N/A
Your fear: Pain
Where you want to be in ten years: Here
Who you hung out with last night: Family
What you’re not: OCD
Muffins: Banana
One of your wish list items: iPod
Time: 10:29 a.m.
The last thing you did: Blogged
What you are wearing: Jammies
Your favourite weather: Fall
Your favourite book: Possession
Last thing you ate: Meds
Your life: Blessed
Your mood: Quiet
Your best friend(s): Husband
What are you thinking about right now: Fireplace
Your car: Odyssey
What are you doing at the moment: Blogging
Your summer: School-less
Relationship status: Excellent
What is on your tv: Karaoke
What is the weather like: Warm
When is the last time you laughed: Thismorning

Okay, some of those weren't exactly one word. Some of them weren't real words at all. But hell! Shakespeare invented words all the time, and everyone thinks he's a great writer!

Building Character

So sue me. I like to take personality quizzes. I don't know if they are even close, but they do make me think about some unlikely things--like, what is my favorite heavenly body?

Check out this one:

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You are The Moon

Hope, expectation, Bright promises.

The Moon is a card of magic and mystery - when prominent you know that nothing is as it seems, particularly when it concerns relationships. All logic is thrown out the window.

The Moon is all about visions and illusions, madness, genius and poetry. This is a card that has to do with sleep, and so with both dreams and nightmares. It is a scary card in that it warns that there might be hidden enemies, tricks and falsehoods. But it should also be remembered that this is a card of great creativity, of powerful magic, primal feelings and intuition. You may be going through a time of emotional and mental trial; if you have any past mental problems, you must be vigilant in taking your medication but avoid drugs or alcohol, as abuse of either will cause them irreparable damage. This time however, can also result in great creativity, psychic powers, visions and insight. You can and should trust your intuition.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

I bet if I picked a different favorite heavenly body, I'd get a different result. Try it yourself. It'll build character.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Because We Can All Use Words Of Wisdom

Found this on another NaBloPoMo site:

If a hen and a half can lay an egg and a half in a day and a half, how long will it take a monkey with a wooden leg to kick the seeds out of a dill pickle?

~Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

Thanks Jitterbug's Beat!

So, Where's The Rings?

Justin Morneau was named AL MVP. Johann Santana won his second Cy Young Award. Joe Mauer (the catcher!) is the Batting Champ. Last time three different players from teh same team won all three awards? About 1962--or when the T. Rexes battled the Stegasauri for World Domination, I guess.

So...where's the rings?

Pie! on Day Twenty-four

We made the pies again this year. I do pecan--lots of brown sugar, lots of corn syrup, and a half cup of chocolate chips to make it all the more decadent. It's a crowd pleaser. In past years, I left the chocolate out of one of the two pies, I preferred it that way. That was the one the squirrel got, because no one else liked it as well. So I bowed to my audience and made two chocolate.

Mr. Sweetie does a fabulous pumpkin pie. It 's based on a recipe from his grandmother, but he doubles (or more!) all the spices, which makes it less like a vegetable, and more like a curry. He made two as well.

Every year we have a good natured battle over how much sugar to put into the whipping cream. He prefers none. I prefer too much. The front line waivers year after year on that battleground. This year we both forgot to buy the cream, so we went with what was at my brother's house: Cool Whip and vanilla ice cream.

New this year--someones else brought dessert too. In addition to our four pies, there was a cherry, an apple, and a flourless chocolate torte. For 17 people. We figured everyone got at least a quarter of a pie. None of us ate that much.

When we left, six hours later, no one had eaten any of the apple or cherry. About half of the chocolate torte was gone. There were two small slices of chocolate pecan left of the first pie, the second was untouched. The winner was Mr. Sweetie's pumpkin pie: one entirely gone, one piece missing from the second. We left the two pieces of pecan, and pulled out a slice of pumpkin for the nephew who had been asking for pumpkin pie since before we arrived.

In the refrigerator for later--80% of a pumpkin pie, and an entire chocolate pecan. Today the grocery stores are open again, and I'll buy some whipping cream.

(Photo courtesy of Creative Gifts To Go)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Day 23

Twenty-three days of daily posts, and I'm just getting more prolix. Here's an attempt to mark the day and be a bit pithier.

I'm Thankful for:

My sister in law who likes to entertain, so I only have to make pie this year.

My daughters, who don't like turkey leftovers.

The backspace key, so I didn't actually post "turdy leftovers."

That there is room in the refrigerator, so I don't have to put leftover pie on the porch, where the squirrels got it one year. (They ate the pecans first, but ate two entire pies, including pumpkin, all the way down to the pie tin. Crust and all.)

That my immediate family is so wonderful--I got lucky in my husband, my daughters and even my dog: they are all smart and funny and kind and generous (except for the dog) and they make my life better than it would be without them.

I'm thankful for all the normal stuff: health, friends, family, yadda yadda. But also iTunes, which lets me listen to all kinds of good stuff and to buy only the songs I like without having to drop $15 on an unproven CD.

For indoor plumbing--which, aren't we all?

For having the entire universe of the internet and my blogging peeps, who help me gain perspective on my own pathetic little irritations, and keep me engaged in the world at large, which is sometimes tricky for an introvert.

Happy Tryptophan Day everybody!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Day 22--and God Bless Fussy!

You know, this NaBloPoMo & Internet Happy Hour thing is positively addicting. So many new blogs to read! With so many new posts! Shiny fresh new posts Every. Single. Day.

Like this one:

Rumor Has It That Snape Bought Five Copies


Desperate to support their growing Butterbeer habits, the boys of Slytherin resort to posing for the infamous Nerds in Kneesocks Calendar.

Thanks so much, Threadbared! Now I've got wine up my nose! That'll teach me to drink and randomize.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Save An Elf--Or Don't!

This website is just too much. How far must a majority population group go to feel persecuted and victimized? "Happy Holidays" is de facto "anti-Christmas"? Maybe it's because Fox News has lost Congress, and it has to beat people over the head with something.

Michelle says it very well:

If it is such a spiritual holiday to you, have at it, celebrate, enjoy the meaning of the holidays and stop forcing your beliefs on everyone else. Happy Holidays isn't war on anyone, it's inclusive and comes from "holy days" so really, don't you win anyway? Do people really stop shopping at stores that wish you Happy Holidays? Are the stores actually enforcing particular greetings? Aren't we missing the point that it's the commercial, gift giving, secular part of the season that is being attacked for not wishing people Merry Christmas?

The "Save An Elf" website is giving us this useful information:

The Tally Board of who is promoting Christmas and who is not.....

Merry Christmas
Happy Holidays
  • Best Buy
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Staples
Does this mean that if we go into Best Buy, Neiman Marcus and Staples any time between now and New Year's, we won't hear Christmas music? They aren't sending out flyers in newspapers the day after Thanksgiving? Because the Elf people say these stores aren't promoting Christmas...

I appreciate the spiritual side of the season--really, I do! But take a second and think--what would Jesus do if he heard someone say "Happy Holidays"? This is a guy who ate with tax collectors, touched lepers, and comforted sinners. I kind of think the whole "turn the other cheek" idea has been lost here, guys.

Or--what would Legolas say? Now there's an elf I can get behind saving!

P.S. Don'tcha know it--the Elf guys even have a store! Because nothing says "I'm a Christian" like a cheesy drawing of an elf on a sleeveless t-shirt! Wear it to church on Sundays!

Marie Antoinette: A Movie Review

I thought this was going to be a total chick flick, and I was planning on sneaking off and seeing it by myself. Then Mr. Sweetie mentioned he was interested in seeing it, so we caught it in the last remaining theater before it left town.

What a gorgeous film! Everything was pretty--there was nothing that wasn't styled within an inch of its life, which was kind of the point. Beautiful people wearing beautiful clothes, eating beautiful food in beautiful rooms, buying beautiful shoes...

There were several things going on in the movie, none of which was an attempt to bring historical perspective to the screen. Instead, we have what one reviewer called "Lost in Versailles"--a child in a marriage she didn't fit, thrust into a foreign land with odd customs she couldn't understand. I also saw many similarities with Princess Diana--sneaking out from protocol to go to a party in disguise, the tempermental mismatch with her husband, the fascination/obligation of fashion, the ridiculous formality of life as a royal. Marie Antoinette was never a commoner, but as protrayed in this film, the difference between the Viennese court and Versailles was big enough that she might as well have been.

More than this, though, are the themes of helplessness. Marie Antoinette was a human being, thrust into a role where she had no control over her life and no way to succeed. She was trapped in a lose-lose situation throughout her life, and the movie shows us how a human being in that position might try to make the most of what she could.

To start with, her marriage to the Dauphin was seen as a strategic alliance between the Autro-Hungarian Empire and France. This marriage was politically and militarily important, and Marie Antoinette's position in France was only valuable to France if she produced an heir. Years went by with no pregnancy--possibly even with out consummation. As portrayed in the movie, this was not her fault. She did what she could to make herself attractive to a man who was paralyzed with fear about sex. She had the responsibility to bear a child, but no way to make that happen: she was caught between the demands of her mother, fear that her marriage could be annulled at any time, the hatred of the court...and with no power to make anything any better.

Writ large, this was her political problem with all of France. She was out of touch with the realities of French life, but there was no way she could ever have left the rigorous protocol and confines of life at Versailles. She--as the Austrian princess who lived esconced in a palace--became a flashpoint for political hatred. Yet it had almost nothing to do with the woman Marie Antoinette actually was. It was her role, her place in the world, about which she had no control and could do nothing to alter.

Early in the movie, the young princess is awakened from her sleep in Vienna: the curtains are abruptly pulled back and the light pours on her face, waking her. From then on, we see that her life is a series of rude awakenings--resonant both as a sign of her powerlessness (she isn't even allowed to be in charge of when she wakes up) and as a metaphor for her life.

It makes one wonder--why is it that we know of Marie Antoinette? How many other French queens can you name? How many other European queens of any country can you name? Especially those who were not themselves the ruler, but were the king's wife? So--why is she so reviled?

Day Twenty-one--and the Million Dollar Baseball Card

"Baseball as America" is the new exhibit at the Minnesota Historical Society Museum, and Mr. Sweetie and I went to the preview opening last night. We gave Dadster two tickets for his birthday present, and so he, JoMama, SueFunky and her FIL were there too.

I like baseball. I have learned to understand many of its charms through the graceful tutelage of Mr. Sweetie. I enjoy going to see the games, and I always wait until my team is batting to go to the bathroom, because it's more fun to watch them play defense. This, according to Mr. Sweetie, marks me as a "real" fan.

However, I have to admit that my love of baseball is of very recent vintage, and so I have almost no way of viscerally connecting to the older players and the mementos of the past. I don't have the "I remember when" thing going for most of this stuff, because all these people were already famous before I came to the sport.

Which is really a pity for me, but then it meant that I got to see the joy in Dadster and Mr. Sweetie's eyes when they told me they "shook hands with Tony Oliva!" Or as Dadster saw an original ticket window from Comiskey Park. The Honus Wagner card, pictured above, was in its own eight foot tall display case. The card itself is smaller than you'd expect--not like a regular baseball card, but more of a business card size. I think it really is worth a million dollars.

There was a display of great local sports photography. The site that is now the Mall of America, Ikea, and a whole lot of pavement was nothing but farm fields in 1955 when they broke ground for the old Metropolitan Stadium. By 1966--there was still nothing, as evidenced by a great photo of a farmer on his tractor, with the stadium in the far background.

There was a terrific photo of Kirby Puckett leaping above the glass in left field, robbing the Braves of a home run in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series. Mr. Sweetie and I were there. We were just outside the frame of the picture, even--our seats actually were perfectly placed to see the two most dramatic moments of that game: Puckett's catch, and then his home run which crossed the fence almost where he'd made that spectacular catch.

(This is not the exact photo--But it is Kirby stealing another home run.)

Mr. Sweetie was talking about that moment, and another man, slightly younger, turned and said breathlessly "You were there?" Yes. Yes we were. And then the Twins actually won the series on Mr. Sweetie's birthday.

There was a buffet for the event. Yup, you guessed it. Hot dogs. With all the ballpark condiments: catsup, mustard, diced onions and pickle relish. Even ice cream in little tubs. But no wooden spoons.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Happy Feet--Take Two

So, I was beginning to feel guilty about being so harsh about a kids' movie. Maybe I had been unfair, due to the bitter, shrivelled, blackened lump of ash that is my heart.

But then! I spoke with my sister-in-law this weekend, and she had also seen Happy Feet with her 10 year old. And she totally hated it! She was appalled, actually, and insulted that there should be such a polemic forced onto a kids' movie. I think she even hated it more than I did.

So, I went over to Rotten Tomatoes to see what the summary judge\ment was--and it looks like it was well loved. Until I started actually reading even just the snippets of the reviews. Sure, they recommended it--I probably would too, as the dancing is fun and the animation is gorgeous. I would add a caveat about the bad storytelling and the hamfisted political message--and so do the critics at RT.

My favorite summary has to be this one by Brian Juergens of Freeze Dried Movies: "More like Environmentally Responsible, Emotionally Resonant, and Sorta Bleak Feet." Or this one from the Village Voice: "Even the wee ones may start to notice something's amiss when the movie's theme goes from 'be yourself" to 'we must regulate the overfishing of the Antarctic oceans.' No, for real."

Other critics have noted that it "lost its way in the approach to the finish line" (James Berardineli, REELREVIEWS) and "colorful, energetic, fast-moving, visually eyepopping and slightly soulless" (Eleanor Ringel Gillespie, Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

So, it wasn't just me! And my shrivelled heart!

Day Twenty--and Happy Birthday Dadster!

The Dadster is 75 today. These days, 75 is, like, the new 50. When I was in high school drama class, we were challenged to improv a 77 year old. I was the only one who wasn't bent over an imaginary cane, hobbling along like a tortoise on hind legs.

Hell--75 still bowls. And plays golf. And volunteers to fill out tax forms for those OTHER Old People. Not Us!

The World's Best sister and possibly Best Daughter too flew in from Cali with her husband for the occasion. Brother managed to arrange both kids' hockey schedules to come with his wife as well (One of the World's Best Sisters-In-Law--definitely.)

We went to dinner Saturday Night at Nye's Polonaise--a restaurant/bar that inexplicably attracts a hipster crowd, as well as the people who have been coming since it opened in 1844 or something. The place hasn't changed in decades: the bar lounge is upholstered in gold glitter plastic, the house band is The World's Most Dangerous Polka Band, and the menu runs heavily toward sauerkraut. We had a lovely time.

Sunday, we wanted to include the four grandkids, so we went bowling. After the first three frames, we had the bumpers raised so we could minimize the gutters. For all of us, of course. Dadster threw five balls, got 4 gutters and a strike. So instead we played Billiards Bowling, where if you play the carom right, you can get a strike. We also ate Festive Bar Food--Nachos, onion rings and fried mushrooms. Mmmmm...fried mushrooms...

Did you know that a ball rolled at 3.96 mph will actually make it to the end of the lane? And may even have enough leftover force to topple a pin? Did you know that the number 5 pin is the least likely to fall? Did you know that bowling gets easier and scores get better with beer?

JoMama invited everyone back to the Homestead for dinner and birthday cake. We brought the Karaoke Dance Party, and Bunny and her 10 year old cousin had an epic dance-off. But the highlight of the evening was my nephew, who is almost 7, crooning his way through "Play That Funky Music." Yes, he is a very white boy. And a trooper who lasted the entire song, despite having a complete lack of funk. Whatta guy!

Tonight, the actual birthday date, we go to a sneak preview of a baseball exhibit with items from Cooperstown. Dadster's a lifelong White Sox fan. Smack may be spoken here.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Day Eighteen--and Happy Feet--The Movie

Bunny had no school yesterday--conferences, as I think I have already mentioned. So, we had a couple of girlfriends over: sort of a playdate/daycare kind of deal, and we went to see the new movie Happy Feet.

Now, as a seasoned viewer of kid flicks, I feel I don't ask for much. Not every movie can be The Incredibles, or even Lilo and Stitch. I look for charm, humor, nothing too scary, a decent story arc. The kidlets hate to see anything in jeopardy or even characters who are sad. Lovely animation is a bonus. I had some concerns about Happy Feet, because the reviews emphasized that this was a movie that went "deep and dark," that dared to be a movie with a message.


FernGully is a movie with a message. That whole damn movie is about cute little animals and fairies trying to save the rainforest from humans and heavy equipment. THAT is a message movie. Happy Feet is a family movie with some human bashing thrown in at the end but tied up tidily in about 15 minutes, a schizophrenic mash-up that sacrifices a real story arc for a 98 minute running time.

The first half of the movie is classic kid flick fare; it's Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer at the Other Pole. Mumbles the penguin is born with happy feet--he can't sing like the rest of the penguins, but he can tap like Savion Glover. EXACTLY like Savion Glover, in fact, due to the magic of motion capture. This is considered an abomination among the penguin elders, and Mumbles ends up banished, but not before the prettiest penguin in EmperorLand falls for him.

He meets up with some quirky sidekicks, goes on a quest, yadda yadda, comes home and gets the girl happy and finds his place the end. That would be a 90 minute family movie, about the power of embracing one's differences, the fear of not conforming and the joy of learning how not to.

But, that's somehow not enough. So a second 90 minute plot is forced onto this one. Somehow, despite living hundreds of miles inland, word gets around that the fish supply is being depleted, and the penguins are starving. Not so's you notice it, mind you. There's no animation support for that proposition--they all still look fat and happy, there's no decrease in their numbers or change in their motion habits. Just take the dialogue's word for it--there's no food. One of the elder penguins--voiced by Hugo Weaving and looking for all the world like a vulture--declares that it's a sign from the great Guin that they have tolerated the abomination of Happy Feet and Mumbles ust be driven out to restore the balance.

Okay, that too might be a plot--it might even be cool to explore what a penguin religion might be, and how they might conceive of something other than ice and snow. But religion is just the tool of the Big Bad Old Guy, and Mumbles (who has managed to not molt either--it's not cute, just kind of mangy) heads off to figure out what is happening to the fish.

Well, of course, it's those Nasty Humans, netting huge numbers of fish with their commercial boats. Not only that, but those nasty humans have built some sort of industrial station, and then abandoned it, leaving behind a backwash of crap. One penguin, voiced by the unavoidable Robin Williams, wears a soda can six-pack ring around his neck, which doesn't manage to strangle him, but does render him voiceless for a large part of the movie.

Well, of course, Mumbles gets angry at these "aliens" who don't seem to care they are taking the fish, and he swims after them. So, here's a second quest, which could also have been its own movie--but since it's just jammed onto the first movie, we cut to Mumbles passed out on the Jersey shore. He wakes up in a zoo, where he tries to communicate with the humans and goes mad. The other penguins call him "Dave" and they all talk like HAL 2000. So, here we have a bit of zoo bashing, just tossed in for why? I don't know. Because after some unnamed number of months (and he's still not molted yet--what is it about this perpetual immaturity?) he does his happy feet thing. And the next thing we know, he's back at EmperorLand with a radio remote mounted on his back convincing the younger penguins that if they all dance, the fish will come back because the humans want to help.

So, a research helicopter appears and humans come make a videotape of the thousands of STOMPing penguins and it becomes a huge hit on television and people think that if penguins dance then we have to stop commercial fishing and nobody points out that the fish are being taken to feed humans because fishing is just evil and the humans who oppose the ban just don't understand how cute penguins are but then everything is okay and a fishing ban is made and the fish come back and happilyeveraftercakes. This part takes about 90 seconds, excluding the big penguin dance number.

Whaaa? When did we get nice humans? Why did they make the connection between one dancing penguin and returning him to Antarctica? Why does he trust them? How did they mount that radio to his back--superglue? It looks implanted and creepy. What kind of smack does it say about humans that it takes 60 seconds of dancing penguins on videotape to resolve a major ecological issue--and why didn't they just throw in the ozone layer while they were at it? And WHY doesn't that damn Mumbles EVER MOLT?

Sure, the animation is beautiful--you'd never believe they could do so much with a palate of just white. The snow blocks shearing off and crashing into the ocean are fabulous--the desolate beauty of Antarctica is awesome. The movie tackles the problem of how hard it is to do CGI humans by blending the CGI with actual film of human beings. Visually, it's stunning. Sure, the tap dancing is a bit weird when performed by birds with virtually no legs at all and big horny clawed feet, but it's still oddly jubilant. The Moulin Rouge music mashes kind of work, although I got very tired of the Marilyn Monroe voice of Nicole Kidman. We have singing, we have dancing, we have Elijah Wood leading yet another band of misfits to deal with the adverse effects of a ring, we have religious fanatics driving out misfits, we have an Elvis impersonator, we have ecological finger-wagging, we have good humans, bad humans and humans who can't dance.

So, I'm asking--what was the point of this movie? And what the hell happened to the arc of storytelling? I mean, geez, what kind of third rate script is this? I gotta tell you, all three 5th grade girls I was with walked out of the theater saying--"And THAT'S why it's bad to eat fish."

Friday, November 17, 2006

Day Seventeen--and the Laura Bennett Challenge

So, Amy has issued the Laura Bennett challenge. I admire that kind of ambition in a mom--that desire to get up and get going and get glam.

Without issuing an manifesto and without adding yet ANOTHER challenge to my November, it turns out that I did, indeed, dress up today. Why? Or, perhaps more importantly, HOW?

Here's how it worked. I started several days ago, by doing my laundry. Perhaps, like me, it takes several days for laundry to work its way through the washer, the dryer, the composting laundry basket--until it's actually sorted and hung and put away. I got to the putting away part last night. More importantly, I got to MY laundry (not the kids', not Mr. Sweetie's, not the linens, but) my actual clothing that for some stupid reason I don't do until everyone else's is done.

So, this morning, I actually has something nice to wear.

Mr. Sweetie and I were scheduled for a conference with the Bunny's teachers this morning at 9, so I actually got showered and dressed before then. What with some more choices available in my closet, I got a nice black tunic which I wore over some dark blue jeans.

But that was so spare--this long expanse of unrelieved black. So I threw on a silver necklace that I have that is long enough to show up against the black. Plus then I put on earrings, because they are easy. I happened to pick up a set that comes with a complementary set, so I actually put on TWO pair of earrings (yes, I'm double pierced) because they looked silly alone.

I usually just throw some eyeliner on, and maybe darken my brows and call that made-up. But I had some extra time before I had to leave, and I caught sight of myself in the mirror. And the skin tone could use a little even-ing out. So, the foundation was right there...but then you have to add blush, because otherwise you look just too pale. Then the eyes weren't quite right in comparison, so I added the eyeshadow too.

Then, I had to wear black shoes, right? Given the rest of the outfit. The only black shoes I can put my hands on right now have about a 2" heel. So that gives the further impression that I'm "all dolled up." And at least two people mentioned that I looked especially nice today.

So apparently, one thing leads to another, and unless you stop early enough, you end up actually looking attractive! Who knew?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

From the Stacks--One Down

I've posted my review of "The Outsiders" over here. This is the first book I've finished in my From the Stacks Challenge--and even with these books clearly marked for reading, I'm having trouble keeping from buying even more books that I want to read.

Addicted to literary crack--it's a sad story. Don't let it happen to you.

What Are The Odds?

Bermondsey and I were at the off-leash park today, and we met the most unusual dog. I thought she might be Basenji, but how likely was that? I mean, how many Basenjis are there around? Ginger, her name was, and she was just a little bit bigger and heavier than Bermondsey--the two of them got into a bit of a kerfuffle. Bermondsey was feeling a bit threatened by her, as well as by the fact that all the dogs today were bigger than he is. Somehow, the started to run, which is Bermondsey's favorite thing to do, and as they raced around, cutting and weaving, I got to speak to Ginger's owner.

Turns out I was right! Go me! She is part Basenji, and part something called a "Freist terrier" which I've never even heard of before. She was a rescue dog, found on from Texas. This woman had even gone all the way to Texas to get her.

So what are the odds--that a Basenji and a "Freist terrier" were even able to run into each other, much less mate, much less that the offspring would go from Texas to Minnesota?

As Spock might say, "They would be astronomical, captain."

Day Sixteen--and Heading Into Winter

It's not that it's terribly cold here yet, because it isn't. Winter is definitely on the way. I took Bermondsey for a walk and got home at 4:53. It was dusky by then, but in a gray and cloudy way. Fifteen minutes later, it was fully dark as if someone flipped a switch.

This morning I saw seven flocks of Canadian geese at one time, all heading south and calling to one another. It's such a mournful sound, as if they are calling goodbye to their favorite places, or calling other geese to set out before it's too cold.

Seven flocks of geese are an amazing site. Living here on the prairie, the sky is like a dome over the world, with trees and a few buildings bravely poking up at the edges. Seven flocks of geese can spread over a large expanse of the sky, as if everything overhead is fleeing the coming season. Periodically one or two or three geese will join up with a larger flock, all following the pointman, who flies into the headwinds and clears the way for the rest of the birds.

Now is the time to draw all the curtains by five o'clock, to keep the heat and light inside where it makes the rooms seem comforting. People wear darker colors, now, looking like sepia toned photographs of themselves. The trees have shed their leaves, and the grass has gone dormant. All is gray and brown and quiet.

The night comes earlier every day, and for the next five weeks we will eat our dinners in deeper and deeper dark. It's easy to lose track of the time: is it five-thirty or ten-thirty? It all looks the same.

Just around Christmas, we will pass the solstice, and by January the retreat of nighttime is visible. Slowly--so slowly--darkness will ebb, arriving later and lasting less long. The cold continues to grow, and the snow usually accumulates, but the beginning of spring can be discerned in the growing light.

This is the season for good books, a fireplace, a sleepy dog, a glass of wine...this is what we wish for now.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Unfortunately, the Bunny lost her retainer last week.

Fortunately, we found it.

Unfortunately we found it after the dog did.

Fortunately, it didn't fit him very well.

Unfortunately, he still managed to ruin it.

Fortunately, we could get a new one quickly.

Unfortunately, we had to pay for it.

Fortunately, it cost less than what I got for turning in the coin jar!

That's right--almost $180 in coins. That's a lot of coins.

Oh, And Another Thing...

Hey! It's Day Fifteen! We're halfway through NaBloPoMo! And, speaking for myself at least, there has been very little NaDruWriNi! Or any kind of DruBloPo.*

As my girl Christine Lavin says, "I'm never...I'm hardly ever...right now I'm not drunk!"

*That would be Drunk Blog Posting.

Christmas Is Coming!

So, as you know, I lost my iPods--both my jaunty little green Mini, and my earlier generation behemoth, which felt like a brick, but did hold all my music. And geez, do I miss them, especially in the car, where I am now forced to listen to the radio.

So, since we are approaching a major gift giving opportunity, I thought I'd look into replacing them. Being a savvy shopper, I looked at some non-Apple devices, and suddenly, this isn't as easy as I thought it would be.

Microsoft has come out with this: the Zune. Look at that nice big screen! It looks so much bigger than the iPod's! It holds music and photos and videos, and can connect wirelessly so you can share your music with another Zune!

Ahem. It also has some bogus system of downloading music with "points" that you have to buy before going to the music site. Its screen resolution is lower than the iPod, it's apparently dimmer than the iPod, and Microsoft is promoting it based on features that they don't have ready yet.

Um...Vista anybody?

So, I'm not overwhelmed by the Zune. Plus, what a stupid name. So, a certified gadget geek tried to sell me on this: the Zen.

It's pretty small, with a bigger screen than even the Zune. But the controls are kind of clunky, and I'm not sure it's got the memory of the big iPod.

So, now what? Do I wait for Apple to upgrade the screen size of the iPod? Do I get something for now to save me from the horror that is radio? Do I just quit whining about it all? Okay, you know me too well--the whining stays.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I Forgot.

Okay, so I already showed you my shoes today. But really, as keen as I am to jump on any internet bandwagon, I forgot that it would have been more appropriate here. Besides, they weren't really my shoes.

Who ARE The People In Your Neighborhood?

Can you sing it with me now?

"Oh, oh oh/Who are the people in your neighborhood?/In your neighborhood/In your Neigh-bor-hood/Say, who are the people in your neighborhood?/The people that you meet when you're walking down the street/They're the people that you meet each day!"

Thank you so much! Good night and tip your waiter!

Apparently the people in my neigborhood are fond of puns. Bermondsey and I found this at the entrance to an alley while out on one of our walks.

The picture is a little blurry, because Bermondsey kept tugging at the leash while I was trying to take the picture. And then we went the other way, because if there is something my dog is, it's a piddler.

Who? Me?

Let's Get Some Shoes!

So, I look down, and I see these bright red things on the ends of my legs. Are these my feet? Surely not!

Yes, those are red suede Comfort Mocs (TM) from L.L.Bean, which Pony and I ordered for her. Alas, they are too tight for Pony to get onto her feet. Alack, L.L. Bean is out of the red ones, and will not be getting any more in the foreseeable future.

So, as a service to the world and to spare the Pony any more shopping (which she hates), I am wearing these shoes to stretch them out so she can wear them. I guess this is what happens when your child is taller than you are.

I just never wear bright colored shoes like this, and it seems so weird to look down and see them attached to my legs. I don't even have anything that goes with red shoes. Clearly, that means it's time to go rethink my wardrobe.

More Seventh Grade Humor

Knock, knock.

Who's there?

You know.

You know who?

That right! Avada Kedavra!

Picture courtesy of Potter Puppet Pals--buy a t-shirt!

Monday, November 13, 2006

You Are Lost in the 80s If...

  1. You remember when Jordache jeans were cool.
  2. In your school pictures you were wearing an Izod shirt with the collar up.
  3. You ever rang someone’s doorbell and said “Landshark!”
  4. Three words: Atari, IntelliVision and Coleco, sound familiar
  5. You remember the days when “safe sex” meant that your parents were gone for the weekend.
  6. You remember Friday Night Videos before the days of MTV.
  7. While in high school, you and your friends discussed elaborate plans to get together again at the end of the century and play Prince’s “1999” until you passed out partying.
  8. You remember when music that was labeled alternative, really was alternative.
  9. You took family trips BEFORE the invention of the minivan.
  10. You rode in the back of the station wagon and you faced the cars behind you.
  11. “What you talkin’ bout?” rings a bell.
  12. You can't read the Preamble to the Constitution without hearing the Schoolhouse Rock song in your head. ("We the peeeeo-ple/in order to form a more perfect union...")
  13. You’re starting to view getting carded to buy alcohol as a GOOD thing.
  14. You ever dressed to emulate a person you saw in either a Duran Duran, Madonna or Cyndi Lauper video.
  15. The first time you ever kissed someone at a dance came during “Crazy for You,” by Madonna.
  16. The phrase “Where’s the beef,” still doubles you over with laughter.
  17. You honestly remember when film critics raved that no movie could ever possibly get better special effects than those in the movie TRON.
  18. Ted the photographer on The Love Boat.
  19. You’ve ever shopped at a Banana Republic or Benetton, but not in the last five years.
  20. You’re starting to believe now that maybe having the kids go to school year round wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all.
  21. You’re doing absolutely nothing pertaining to your major.
  22. You care about whether U2 or REM were the better band.
  23. You had a frontrow seat for Luke and Laura’s wedding on General Hospital.
  24. You know who shot JR.
  25. This rings a bell: “...and my name is Charlie. They work for me.”
  26. You were unsure if Diet Coke would ever catch on after all.
  27. You know all the words to the double album set of Grease.
  28. You ever had a Dorothy Hamil haircut.
  29. You sat with your friends on a Friday night and dialed 867-5309 to see if Jenny would answer.
  30. “All skate, change directions”, means something to you.
  31. You owned a pair of Rainbow suspenders just like Mork used to wear.
  32. You bought a pair of Vanns and wanted to order a pizza in history class so you could be just like Jeff Spicoli.
  33. You owned a preppy handbook.
  34. You remember when there was only PG and R.
  35. Your jaw would ache by the time you finished those brick sized packages of Bazooka gum.
  36. Bo and Luke Duke.
  37. VCRs cost $2,000.
  38. There was nothing strange about Bert and Ernie living together.
  39. Rotary dial telephones.
  40. You actually believed that Mikey, famed for his Life cereal commercials, died after eating a packet of pop rocks and drinking a Coke.
  41. You remember the theme song to Greatest American Hero and it can still come back to haunt you. (BELIEVE IT OR NOT, I’M WALKING ON AIR...)
  42. You’ve recently horrified yourself by using any one of the following phrases: When I was younger... When I was your age... You know, back when...
Found these archived at Jim's Joke Repository, where it was titled Signs You're Lost Between the Baby Boomers and Gen X. Sadly true--I've edited a bit.

Wow. Friday Night Videos. That takes me back.

Wodehouse or Baseball?

So, I gave you a quiz--which names are fictional characters from the works of P.G. Wodehouse, and which are actual baseball players.

How'd ya do?

1. Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy, also known as "Connie Mack" BASEBALL
2. Augustus Fink-Nottle, “Gussie” WODEHOUSE
3. Roderick Spode, WODEHOUSE
4. Dan Quisenberry, BASEBALL
5. Bertram Wilberforce Wooster, WODEHOUSE
6. Dorrel Norman Elvert Herzog, “Whitey” BASEBALL
7. Watkyn Bassett, WODEHOUSE
8. Mordecai Brown, “Three Finger” BASEBALL
9. Stiffy Byng, WODEHOUSE
10. Floyd Bannister, BASEBALL
11. Algy Wyndmondham-Wyndmondham, WODEHOUSE
12. Lastings Milledge, BASEBALL
13. Percy Craye, WODEHOUSE
14. Snuffy Stirnwiess, BASEBALL
15. Heathcliff Slocumb, BASEBALL
16. Augustine Mulliner, WODEHOUSE
17. Clay Dalrymple, BASEBALL
18. Tuppy Glossop, WODEHOUSE
19. John Wesley Powell, "Boog" BASEBALL
20. Oliver Randolph Sipperley, “Sippy” WODEHOUSE
21. Mike Jackson, both WODEHOUSE and BASEBALL

I actually did pretty well, since I was pretty good at picking out the Wodehouse characters. You?

Photo from Hall of Famers Honus Wagner and Eddie Collins choose to see who bats first at Doubleday Field for the All-Star exhibition on June 12, 1939.

Day Thirteen--and Heaven

Well, since I seem to have hurled my verbal vomit yesterday, I find myself oddly quiet today. Life just continues: the kidlets go to school, the dog needs to be walked, the laundry continues to amass.
Maybe this is all there is. Although I still seek the transcendent, still seek to fill my spiritual hunger, I am left with the probability that this life is all we have. That there is no anthropomorphic God who watches over us and that dead is dead. That is the void, and I'm okay with it. Because that means that this life is even more precious, and that the people we love we have to connect to today, because there is no Great Hereafter where we can make up for what we missed here.

Which is really too bad, because I like the idea of an afterlife where I can have dinner with all those people in history that I'd like to meet. Like Amelia Earhart, just to find out what really happened. And Thomas Jefferson, who was really fascinating. And also books--all the books that I never got to read, or that weren't written yet, or that I did read and want to read again. Those should also be in heaven. Plus totally comfortable places to sit so you never get sore. Don't even get me started on the food.

Actually, my ideal heaven would be a lot like those murals on the walls at Barnes and Noble, where all the great authors of all time are sitting at a cafe and talking. Plus me.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Oh, And It's Day Twelve

Day twelve!

I'm just sayin' .


Well, I tried again. I tried to go to church again, and it was a spectacular failure.

You have to understand that from 1988 to about 2000, I was incredibly active in the church. This church--the one I went to today. I was on the governing board, I taught Sunday School every week--every age, whatever they needed. I'd drop my nursing baby at the nursery and go teach the youth group. Or the fourth grade. Or the adults. Or stay in the nursery as extra hands. Plus I was on the Christian Education committee for years and years.

We experimented with an arts based non-profit using the church as a historically significant auditorium space, and I ran that non-profit as its incorporating executive director, and then was on the board of it for years. I was at every single event for at least two years.

We tried an alternative worship service for about a year, running from 9:15 to 10:00. Mr. Sweetie and I decorated the space, printed weekly bulletins, chose the music, performed the music, took turns (with others) leading prayers and doing meditations on the lectionary verses. THEN we went to the regular service too.

The congregation went through a convulsion in 1993, which churches often do, and the pastor left. It was hard, because feelings ran high and deep, but a new pastor came in, with the portfolio to close the church down gracefully. The church didn't close, but started to grow. We changed a lot of the staff and started over. Things remained shaky, especially financially, but that wasn't new--we ALWAYS had enough to keep going for "five more years, and that's it." It was never "four more years," or "two more years." Always "five more years."

But things were getting hard for me--1999 may have been the worst year of my life, depression-wise. I am convinced that the pastor at that time was also clinically depressed. I know that I couldn't listen to his sermons, because they were just like listening to myself, only worse because they were coming from the pulpit. I didn't need him to tell me I had failed God and that I was fallen and sinful--I could get that at home by myself, and not have to wear pantyhose to get it. I started to get physically itchy and uncomfortable in services and could not bear to sit through them.

So, I put my energy into the things that gave me joy, which filled my "God shaped hole." That was working with our Christian Education director and the kids. The alternative worship was my effort to fill the adult part of me as well.

Then, one budget season, the pastor panicked, and told the entire staff "There's no money for next year. We'll all have to get new jobs." Of course, we found the money, but not before our CE director, the foundation of my life at that church, had found another job and left.

I don't blame her. She was a single mom who could not afford to go without regular income: that's kind of a deal with church personnel. It's not a high paying, financially rewarding profession. So she was gone, and I had nothing left. So I burned out and stayed away.

Eventually the depressed pastor left, and a new interim pastor came for three years. I met him briefly, but still didn't go. About two years ago now, a new, young, vital and deeply intellectual pastor has come to the church, and cool things are happening. There is a new music director, and she's fabulous. The music is accessible, crisply performed, and varied. There is a new CE director who has a background in stand-up comedy and theater. New and cool people are coming and joining--people who are doctors, international workers, young professionals, immigrants from far away. And they are responding to the vibrancy coming from the pulpit. When the children come forward for the Children's message, only a couple are Caucasian--the wide diversity is amazing.

And I can't go. I can't benefit from this, becuase in the intervening years, something inside me died and I can't really say I'm even a Christian any more.

In trying to survive those horrible years of depression, I tried all kinds of things, and I swear I still have a God shaped hole, but God can't fill it anymore. I just cannot believe in the Christian God as represented in my church. I cannot stand and recite a "Prayer of Confession" because I can't beat myself up for failing any more. I cannot bring myself to say--in a rote, unison fashion--that I have failed God, because my failures are my pain, they are my hurt and suffering, and they belong to me, not to some group read. Some of the things that the church has us "confess" are not my failures, and I cannot stand there and say they are. Nor does the "Assurance of Pardon" help any either. Sure, I can be pardoned for things I haven't done, but that doesn't soothe my soul or bring me any closer to a God I am having trouble believing in anyway.

In the blackness of depression, I looked for God, and didn't find it. What I did find was something larger than my "church God," and much less personal. I came to be highly suspicious of the paternal God, because it was clear that I wanted one so much, I'd even invent one. And really, who is to say that we didn't? Once I started to suspect that I had invented a God that was to me what I needed, I became unable to look at religion as a believer.

Once the foundation of my belief was damaged, it became farcical for me to pretend to believe. The liturgy irritated me; the music was no longer uplifting; the stories of the Bible spoke to me as anthropological and cultural tales of humans seeking for meaning--not stories of revealed meaning. I looked into heaven and saw a void.

And I have made peace with that void. If there is a God, I cannot begin to comprehend its nature, and so I have come to believe that I shouldn't try. I can embrace the not knowing.

So, with this newfound peace so freshly won, I am confronted with a family that misses me at church. And really, how can they not--I was so very present for so long. So, this morning, my family each asked if I would come, and so I did. Because I love my family, and I didn't want to disappoint them over something so doable.

And I found I really didn't want to go. Something in my soul was ruffling up and asserting itself as unwilling to go docilely. Still, I went. And I sat in the pews, and I looked over the bulletin, and it felt wrong to be there. Not just wrong for me, not just some sort of theological purity test, like "I shouldn't be here if I don't believe." More like--this hurts to be here. I managed to stay until the kidlets left for Sunday school, and I went as well.

Heading out to the car, there were tears running down my cheeks. And I realized, with a stab of pain, that I hurt because it was clear to me how much I have lost. I have lost my faith. I have lost that connection with people I love and care for. I have lost that source for comfort and community. I have lost that place as an outlet for my passion and creativity. I have lost the larger community of believers--they can speak to each other in the stories of the bible, and communicate. I am left out. And the loss hurts more than I can bear.

So, I am here, alone, at home, trying to explain myself to myself, and I am crying again. Because I see what it gives my family, the wonderful people who are drawn together through it, and I can't do it--I no longer speak the language. And that makes that God shaped hole hurt.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A New Challenge

November is not just NaBloPoMo--Oh no! That would be too easy! No, I have to add another challenge to the month: the From the Stacks Reading Challenge. Michelle has challenged us to find five books already on our own shelves and to read them between now and January. I've got stacks of books--what am I going to try to read?

There are a ton of books my kids are reading that they feel strongly I should read. Pony has just finished The Outsiders, which I have never read. Bunny has been completely captivated by the Enchanted Forest Chronicles: she's read them through twice since we got them this summer. Technically, that's already five books, but I'm inclined to think of the Enchanted Forest books as just one book, which leaves three more for me to choose.

I bought a whole load of classics last summer to fill the darling round bookshelf in the parlor, and one of those would be good: Mansfield Park or Kate Chopin's Awakening.

I have Love, by Toni Morrison on my shelf and I've never read it.

I bought some books at the school book festival that I've not gotten to. Broken For You would be a decent adult book, so as not to totally load the list with children's lit.

And that's five!

Smell The Fresh Paint

I thought it was time to freshen things up around the old Evil castle: obviously I am experimenting with new looks for the blog. I'm looking for something that is simple, yet evil. Something that goes with my skin tone, you know?

Anyway, I welcome your comments and feedback on the various looks that have auditioned this month. Be assured that I will read your comments, and then sneer smugly at them before sending my goons out to beat you up. Being evil and all, it's what I do.

Day Eleven --and A Quiz!

Here is an opportunity to take a home made self assessment quiz! Kind of like a Cosmo quiz, but without all the sex!

Got your number two pencils ready? You may begin.

Fill in the blank:

“Healthy fighting” is_________

a) essential to a healthy marriage.

b) a useful skill.

c) an oxymoron.


a) resolution

b) management

c) avoidance

Disagreement is a _________;

a) sign of strong individuals with healthy self esteem.

b) an opportunity to learn more about each other.

c) disaster.

Okay! Pencils down!

Give your self 2 points for each "a" answer, 1 point for each "b" and 0 points for each "c."

How'd you do?

5-6 points: you are a healthy and well adjusted adult who has no need to take such silly quizzes. Well done!

3-4 points: you are able to bring others to resolution and are either a psychiatric professional or a middle school teacher. Congratulations!

1-2 points: you are in the middle of an encouraging growth point--you are learning to see with the wisdom of maturity that conflict is an "opportunity" rather than a sign of failure. Keep up the good work!

0 points: Hey! You are me!

Really, I am far too old to keep behaving this way. "Duck and cover" was never an effective response to nuclear explosions, and it isn't an effective way to deal with conflict. Just because it's my natural instinct doesn't mean it's evolutionarily effective either.

I am working on it, and have surprised myself by actually confronting some conflict in a productive and mature way. I know! I don't believe it either! Sure, it took me a week to screw my courage to the sticking point, but still! See, there are some advantages to getting older--and you can teach an old dog new tricks!