Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sweetney Is My Soul Sister

Sweetney posted today about her particular "weakness." According to her husband, she has a problem with criticism. As in, she gets all prickly and defensive.

Believe me, I know how this works. I have a terrible time with any kind of criticism. Because, of course, criticism is never constructive in my world. Oh no. That might be reasonable. No, every critical thing that is uttered in my direction is a direct attack on my worth as a human being and a thinly veiled assessment that I am either stupid, or evil, or both. Because, there couldn't possibly be a better way to do anything than the way I am already doing it, could there?

(The story you are about to read is true. The names and facts have been changed to protect everyone else in the world.)

Mr. Sweetie: Hey, honey. Would you like me to take your car in to the carwash today?

Me: (overreacting) Why? Do you think that my car is full of crap? Do you think I can't clean out my own car? Are you implying that the accumulation of kid detritus is becoming a health hazard and needs to be listed as a Superfund site and sterilized before the kids can ride in it again? Is that what you're saying?

Mr. Sweetie: (nursing side of head where I have bitten his ear off) Um. No?

Poor guy. I am like a Porcupine Wife--as soon as I feel the least bit threatened, the quills go up. Sometimes I even can launch them across the room! How dare you...ffffoooom!!!

Sweetney says it really well:

Honestly though, I'm trying to work on these things. To accept criticism gracefully and to not immediately go into defensive-I'm-being-attacked-mode when approached with a less than completely praiseful (that's a word, right?) evaluation of myself or something I do. Its difficult -- particularly when you SO know that you're 100% perfect and flawless, as I do -- but one must listen to others perspectives (or so I'm told). Even when those perspectives are so wrong that, when verbalized, the words sear your eardrums and make you want to gouge your own eyeballs out with rusty nails. Which, you know, is oftentimes the case.

So, she's going to work on it. Which is (one place) where she is a better person than I am. She's going to work on taking criticism better. Whereas I've decided to work on taking compliments better.

You know, looking on the bright side of things.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Watercolor Part Trois

Originally uploaded by Cate Ross.

This is the final picture. I've gently painted in the sides of the buildings with a wash of the brown. I've used a sharper black on trees and their shadows too, as well as painting in the windows and the bushes.

I've also done a watery wash of blue gray for the sky, with a slight touch of red/purple to give it some depth.

I'm pretty happy with it, although the photography could use some work!

Watercolor Part Deux

Originally uploaded by Cate Ross.

Here I've used wet washes for grass--the watercolor set I'm using has only 5 colors--red, blue, green, yellow and black, so the different greens are just different mixes. I've also mixed up a brown for the left hand roofs and windows--they are a bit too sharply painted, I think. The brush was practically dry, but it's easy to get too much water on a small painting like this.

I've also added a black/gray roof to the right, and added shadows and dark green to the base of the buildings.

Crafty McCrafterson

I bought myself a Watercolor Lesson A Day calendar, and thought I'd post a series of pictures. I apologize at how fuzzy these pictures are--but since they're watercolors, I think that only enhances the Artistic nature of them. Right?

I'm also having some trouble downloading the pictures from Flickr, so please bear with me.

Originally uploaded by Cate Ross.

This is how the calendar page looks before I touch it. It's just a line drawing of the picture. It's pretty small--the entire page is only 5"x6" and the paper isn't "watercolor" paper, so it doesn't really absorb the water, making it trickier to figure out how wet I can actually make it.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Devil Wears Prada--The Movie

Mr. Sweetie and I rented this because, gosh darn it, it's Awards Season, and we just HATE being out of the loop. Our Girl Meryl has been nominated a bunch of times for this one, and so it's time we made an effort at seeing SOMETHING that might win an Oscar. Something that isn't an animated family film, that is.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but Meryl Streep is a good actress. You may not already know this, so I'm clueing you in. The last time Mr. Sweetie and I made a concerted effort to see the Oscar nominated films, she was in two of them: The Hours (great book, great movie) and Adaptation. We loved her in Prairie Home Companion, and could tell she couldn't be more different in Prada.

Oh my god, is that woman good! The way she constantly underplayed her Dragon Lady role. No histrionics, no tantrums, just incredibly high expectations and a steel fist in a velvet glove. "Florals. For spring? Groundbreaking." Man, if sarcasm could kill, you'd be dead and never even know it.

I have some friends who have worked in retail, fashion and even in NY fashion publishing, and the world is entirely different from the one I live in. When the boss shows up, everyone actually hides their comfortable shoes and puts on the stilettos. Really! When there is a food article, the "food stylist" will spend upwards of THREE HOURS arranging the pasta just so, and turning the broccoli toward the camera--before the photographer arrives. They will empty boxes and boxes of cereal in order to create a bowl of only unbroken flakes.

The worst story was from a friend of mine from law school--yes, she left the glamorous world of fashion publishing for a paying job. At the time--quite a depressing number of years ago--her monthly pay wouldn't even cover rent. So, she went into the managing editor to ask for a raise, pointing out that, in fact, she wasn't being paid enough to live on.

"Oh," the managing editor said dismissively, "just ask your Daddy for the money."

Which explains a lot about who those magazines are actually for, doesn't it?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Placido Domingo and Carol Burnett sing Cole Porter 1

Come with me to the Casbah

Most Embarassing Moment Of The Day

I've missed the last two weeks of recycling pick up. Today I took FIVE trips to the curb with boxes and bags of recycling. And as I type, it's being picked up, so my shame need not live on.

Sure, I could have posted a picture of my alarming recycling mass...but that would be bragging.

I Stand Corrected

I did do a YouTube search for Cole Porter, and there are actually videos posted. I'm sure the sexually confused adolescent will be relieved to find this--Placido Domingo and Carol Burnett Sing Cole Porter.

Lord knows the youth of today take their social and sexual cues from 30 year old comedy/variety shows.

That Devil Rock and Roll, or What Would Jesus Listen To?

Thanks to Sweetney, I have been exposed to this list of dangerous musicians. Because you can't become gay if you never listen to Elton John, I guess.

But I think someone is having us on. If I "know" of any bands that are gay, I should just send an email, and it will be added to the list. As the site admits:

You guys know of a lot more Gay Bands than I do. I can't keep up.

Now, back in the day, any band you didn't like, you called "gay." And let me tell you, there are some really partisan band-haters out there. I am absolutely certain that at least some of the submissions are because "my sister likes this band called xxxx, and they totally suck and are totally gay and so put them on your list."

I mean, even if you accept the premise that sexual orientation is contagious when passed through digital music...does NIH know about this?... calling a band "gay" is more vigorous and healthy discourse than any sort of actual information about personal behaviors of the band members.

John Mayer, for example. I can't stand him. Absolutely have to turn the station to ANYTHING when his songs come on. He's got a wimpy little voice and a wimpy guitar and a whiny set of lyrics and...oh, he's dating Jessica Simpson? I hate her too. GAY!

Frank Sinatra? FRANK FRICKIN' SINATRA? What did he ever do to make ANYONE think he was gay. Must have been submitted by a Tony Bennett fan with a grudge.

Cole Porter? Oh yeah, gay for sure, no surprise there. But who listens to Cole Porter anymore who isn't already at least 40? Wait while I go check YouTube for Cole Porter videos, cause I wouldn't want any kids listening to that stuff.

Wilson Philips? Three girls singing soft and soapy harmonies? Oh yeah, that's the kind of stuff your sister listens to and therefore it's GAY!

Red Hot Chili Peppers? "What I got you gotta give it to your mama"? The band who went out onstage wearing nothing but a single strategically placed athletic sock each? Is that literally "gay," or just metaphorically "gay?" And how can you tell?

The Rolling Stones? The Doors? Lou Reed?

Feel free to post a comment about your own incredulous response to this list--or, add your own most hated music to the list! Al Stewart, "The Year of the Cat" anyone?

Parental Woes

My heart goes out to Dooce today. For someone who talks about boobs and poop on the internet, who seems so incredibly secure that she can openly discuss her mistakes and fears and failings OUT IN PUBLIC, in front of GOD and the (even more judgmental) INTERNETS, she sure has a tender heart.

I am talking about her post today, about how she got an unsettling email from someone who criticized her for not potty-training her 3 year old. And Dooce, in her amazing and awesome way, explained exactly EXACTLY why they aren't potty-training the 3 year old. And it is heart-breaking.

I had a somewhat willful child--Pony, when she was a toddler, had definite ideas about how the world was supposed to work, and it was her job to make sure it did. I remember days when, on her way to daycare, she objected to the way I opened the car door. I was supposed to turn my palm upwards and open the latch using my four fingers, NOT with my palm down using my thumb. And because I'd done it WRONG, we had to go back inside the house and start over again and do it RIGHT.

And I did. Because when your child is determined about something, and only limitedly verbal, you can't reason with her. You can't explain that "it doesn't matter," because it DOES matter. It matters deeply to her--it matters enough that she needs to go back in time and make it happen the right way.

So, you go back inside the house, and you are grateful that she didn't need to go all the way back to getting out of bed and starting the entire day over again, and you slowly (oh so slowly, day by day taking tiny tiny baby steps) work up to the point where you only have to close the car door and re-open it the RIGHT way for her to be comforted. And once you have (after weeks and weeks) reached that point, maybe--you hope--you can get to the point where you simply apologize and promise to do it the right way next time. And one day you do. And one day, she gets engaged in something else and the hand position for the car door doesn't matter to her anymore.

Dooce is dealing with a child who is lightyears more determined than my Pony ever was. Leta refuses to poop. Ever. At all. And following a horrible urinary tract infection, with a terrible experience of catheterizing her for a sample, now she is afraid to pee as well. Forget potty training--this is a child who is exercising so much iron control over her own body, she is making herself ill. And this is a battle a parent cannot win. Because you know what? You can't MAKE her pee or poop.

(And under the circumstances, don't you wish the doctor had been a bit more practical--and given the antibiotic FIRST, and THEN--if that didn't work--screen for diabetes? Because when the anti-biotic works--which it did--you don't have a doubly traumatized child and two parents who have had to physically hold her down for that horrible experience? Would a couple of hours delay in seeing if the antibiotic worked have been life-threatening if it HAD been diabetes? OF COURSE NOT!)

My Pony grew up, and our consistent educational goal with her teachers throughout her elementary school years was "to help her lighten up and have fun." Because she adored school, and was so intent on learning everything she could that all her teachers thought she hated school because she never laughed, or smiled, or joked. Which she did all the time at home, but not at school because it was So Important To Her. And now, in 7th grade, she is having the time of her life. She's still very responsible, and an excellent student, but she tempers her academic with enjoying herself.

Plus, she's incredibly confident of herself. While some girls (I know! I've heard from their moms) are crying at the clothes stores because they don't want to be mocked for what they wear, Pony simply ignores the girls who do that. "Oh, yeah. She's not very nice this year, which is too bad, so we don't spend any time with her." Or, "Yeah, she was pretty mean last year, but now she's a lot nicer, so I sit with her sometimes."

Potty training? What is so great about having a kid who is potty trained? Sure, it's a life skill, and it's a pretty consuming topic while you're in the middle of it, but really--how many adults do you know who aren't potty trained? Having a girl-child who is potty trained means you get to stand in line with her in public bathrooms, waiting for a stall to open. Having a boy-child potty trained means--I don't know, I don't have a boy--sending him to the bathroom by himself?

We started potty training the Bunny a few months after she turned 2--it seemed like she was ready, the daycare provider was ready, we weren't planning on any changes to our schedule so we were ready, so we started. And then Mr. Sweetie's brother got married in Hawaii with about 4 weeks notice. And one of the rules of successful potty training is that when the kid says she has to go, you take her seriously. And boy, did this kid have to go. Not just because she HAD to, but because bathrooms are fascinating things. Especially in airplanes on a 12 hour flight, because they are so tiny they are EXACTLY the right size for a 2 year old. And flight attendants are not happy to see 2 year olds in the bathrooms when there is a risk of turbulence and they are supposed to be in their seats and buckled in.

What do I remember about Hawaii? A few wonderful things, and EVERY SINGLE BATHROOM ON THE ISLAND. Bunny LOVED the pretty bathrooms in Kona. They even had (much more rare then than now) automatic faucets that turned on when your hands were in front of them. "Come down water, come down water" she would chant. And then she'd go tell the rest of the family about the "magic water." I never sat through an entire meal without having to take her to the bathroom.

And yet. Despite this love for bathrooms, she would never poop. Even after she got quite reliable, she wore a diaper at night because she couldn't stay dry at night and that was the only time she relaxed enough to poop. And this went on for a very long time. And you know what? It also passed. WHEN SHE WAS READY.

I have a friend whose daughter is the same age as Pony. This girl decided at about 18 months that she didn't like diapers and she was not going to wear them. So she didn't. Ever again. The girl was a camel! Never wet the bed, never had an accident, never needed diapers or pull-ups or anything because her will was like iron as well. Luckily for my friend, that iron will was directed at getting rid of diapers--but had the Camel decided instead just to not potty at all, she wouldn't have, and there was nothing you could do to make her.

So, Dooce, parenting is a long hard road, one you travel without a map or sherpa guide who has been there before. Because each kid is their own adventure, and no one has been where you are. We fight our way through the battles, using whatever tools we have--with our weaknesses and strengths always tested. It's scary, and sometimes we are all so afraid we have messed it up that we take perverse comfort in criticizing others. "Because, at least I did better than THAT with my kid."

Maybe you did do better. Maybe you were just lucky. There is no way to know. There is no one right answer. We just need to do our best and get the help of our friends.

What IS The Name Of That Movie?

Bunny has been watching the Marx Brothers lately: specifically, A Night At The Opera--one of the two best Marx Brothers movies, the other being Duck Soup. In Night At The Opera, the boys have to remove an opera singer so they can substitute another one to prove how talented he is so he can marry the girl. This was ringing some bells with me, because there is another Marx Brothers movie where someone removes a painting so they can substitute another one to prove how talented the other painter is so he can marry the girl. But I couldn't remember which one that was. So, at dinner last night we had a little conversation about the Brothers Marx.

And I apologize to those of you who don't know the Marx oeuvre, because this won't make any sense at all.

Me: What is the movie where Groucho plays Captain Spaulding?

Mr. Sweetie: I think that's Coconuts.
Bunny: No, it's not Coconuts, because Coconuts is not funny.

Me: Night at the Opera is the one on the boat with the three aviators, right?

Bunny: Yes. And Monkey Business is the other one on the boat.

Me: With the gangsters?

Mr. Sweetie: Yes. And Thelma Todd is in that one too. She's a cutie.

Me: But which one is the one with the art--where they are trying to switch the art to prove that Zeppo's a good artist.

Mr. Sweetie: Isn't that the one with Captain Spaulding?

Bunny: singing "My name is Captain Spaulding/The African explorer/Did someone call me Schnorer?/Hurray, hurray, hurray!"

Mr. Sweetie: I think that is Coconuts.

Me: No, I'm pretty sure Coconuts is the one about the land deals in Florida.

Mr. Sweetie: Yes. With Captain Spaulding.

Me: No, because Groucho holds a land auction, and Captain Spaulding wouldn't do that. (Yes, it's sad, I'm doing character analysis of Marx Brothers movies! Because everyone knows that consistent character development is one of the hallmarks of these movies--NOT.)
Bunny: No. Because Coconuts isn't funny. And it was so not funny that I refused to watch any other Marx Brothers movies for a long time.

Me: Wait. Which one is Monkey Business? Is that the college one?

Bunny: That's my other favorite one, where Harpo rides out onto the football field in a garbage can.

Me: Where the password at the speakeasy is "swordfish?"

Bunny: And Chico changes the password and he can't remember it.

Reminiscent chuckles around the table.

Me: So, which one is the one with Captain Spaulding?

Mr. Sweetie finally just got up from the dinner table and dug through the DVD shelf to pull out all the Marx Brothers moview we own.

Mr. Sweetie: We're forgetting "Animal Crackers!"

Me and Bunny: That's right! Animal Crackers!

See--this is why family dinners are so important!

Deconstructing Marriage--Mr. & Mrs. Smith

So, I was up too late last night, watching movies on cable with Mr. Sweetie. And Mr. & Mrs. Smith came on. And I made him leave it on.

It's really a cute movie. I know, that makes me sound like somebody's grandmother, but it is. It's funny and sexy and violent and actually best due to the strong and complicated main characters. It's not exactly charming, but it's a delightful way to spend two hours. Ergo: cute.

One of the things it does devestatingly well is the scripting of the toxicity of a fading love. Early on, the Smith marriage is falling apart and the two Smiths are polite but distant and unable to connect. Before long, that distance translates into contempt, or bitterness, or perhaps just a desire to provoke some authentic display of emotion. But the battlefield is so intimate, so small, that the epic battles seem just petty. Here's the exchange that encapsulates it:

Jane: I got new curtains. They're a little green, so we'll have to recover the couch and get a new rug. Persian?

John: Or, we could just keep the old ones and not have to change anything.

Jane: If you don't like them, we can take them back.

John: Okay, I don't like them.

Jane: You'll get used to them.

See, on paper, it's pretty innocuous. It's the pause she takes before delivering the last line, the slight narrowing of the eyes, the acrid tone of voice that makes it so clear. There is no damn way she's returning the curtains, and he can just stuff it.

This is, of course, the movie which lead to the break-up of one of Hollywood's "golden marriages." But just watch the sequence, in the middle of the movie, where the two of them are stalking each other through their house, using every assassins trick they know to destroy the other before they are destroyed. The way the house is completely destroyed, the physicality of their fight, the unrelenting competition between them--neither one can win, because neither of them can be professional--this fight is far too personal for them to be effective.

Then, once the house is destroyed, they find themselves at a stand-off. Standing arm's length apart, pointing deadly weapons at each other, staring each other down--and John blinks. He looks at this woman and still loves her enough that he can't pull the trigger.

This is, of course, infuriating. Jane can't shoot him in cold blood, and he won't fight. If he won't fight, she can't keep up her anger, and the tears start into her eyes. He pushes away her gun and they kiss. And then the house gets further trashed as they lash each other with their sexual passion.

This sequence is so physical, so violent, so absolutely brimming with fire and sweat and passion--it's just not possible to imagine Brad Pitt going home at night to Jennifer Aniston without understanding just how bland that would have to feel. Jen is a very lovely lady, a very nice lady, warm and humorous and pleasant, and it is literally impossible to imagine her ever trashing a suburban chateau with her lovemaking.

Then, of course, the movie plays itself for humor as well. As all the mayhem rolled through the house, Mr. Sweetie couldn't help but ask "Doesn't anybody hear this?" And, of course, they do--the vapid neighbors come knocking at the door to make sure everything is all right. John answers the door with just his head peeking around the edge--he's dramatically undressed, and then Jane appears behind him, wrapped in a sheet. Mrs. Vapid Neighbor blushes, and her husband offers an implausible explanation--"Doing some redecorating, I guess..."

This movie is (as far as I can tell) the beginning of the apotheosis of Angelina Jolie. Before this movie she was pretty much a freak: a blood-vial-wearing, brother-kissing, tattoo-baring, limo-fucking voodoo witch. She was, frankly, scary. But this movie gave her a new image: fierce still, but elegantly and understatedly so. This was where she cemented her new image as the millenial Sophia Lauren--the black liquid eyeliner, the cat's eye line at the outer corners and the extra-long lashes. The pulled back hair, the minimal lipstick, the animal magnetism. This is where the myth of "Saint Angelina," the U.N. Ambassador, the social conscience for Africa, the mother of small children became accepted.

It's an interesting cultural artifact--the clever dissection of a marriage in trouble, the humorous ribbing of suburban life, the truly American message that the answer to divorce is "More Firepower."

Real Men Do Eat Quiche

So, Mr. Sweetie reads this blog. And he read this blog. And after a long workday, he came home and (having missed dinner) came into the room with the rest of the quiche.

"I'm getting a head start on breakfast," he said, wryly.

God, I love that man!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dreamgirls--A Review

So, I saw this movie at a matinee. The theater had maybe ten people in it, which may have affected the group dynamic affect of the movie. But, this is going to be a short review, because I already lost two and a half hours of my life to it: I don't want to waste any more. And you shouldn't either. So, here are the Top Ten things you need to know about Dreamgirls.

1. Boy, that Beyonce is sure pretty.

2. 1960s groups like the Temptations and the Supremes are a good reminder that "bands" that don't play any instruments and only dance aren't just an invention of the 1990s. I'm talking about you, 'NSync and Britney.

3. Boy, 1970s fashions sure were ugly, even when worn by pretty people.

4. That Beyonce sure can wear make-up.

5. That Thing You Do told the same story with better music--even the stuff Tom Hanks wrote.

6. When you gear up the orchestra to 11 every thirty-seven seconds, it's hard to tell which song is supposed to be the show-stopper.

7. Good tailoring is essential to career development. Beyonce's dresses are just a fraction of an inch shorter, a fraction of an inch deeper cut in the neckline, a fraction of an inch tighter than Jennifer Hudsons, which gives her just that much more boobage and that much more glam. If Hudson's dresses actually hit her at her waist--instead of just above it--and took advantage of her ample cleavage--instead of providing full 18 hour coverage--she'd look less frumpy.

8. One good facial expression is enough for an Oscar. Helen Hunt won hers for As Good As It Gets for the chase of expressions across her face in the one scene where she goes from tolerating Jack Nicholson to hating him. Eddie Murphy got his this year for the one expression where Jamie Foxx tells him he can't release his duet with Beyonce, and Murphy realizes he has no more hope. He might even win it too, because (SPOILER!!!) he then goes on to OD. Dead guys win Oscars.

9. If you are going to see a movie where you check your watch every fifteen minutes to see if it's over yet, go see it in a theater that will give you a free refill on you Diet Coke.

10. Did I mention that Beyonce is really really pretty?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Queen--A Review

Mr. Sweetie and I had a date last Friday--even before the Oscar nominations came out, we went to see The Queen. I believe I may have mentioned that Helen Mirren is awesome? Because she is. She just is.

And her transformation into Elizabeth II is amazing. At first look, it's difficult to see Helen Mirren because she has turned into someone else. Even as the movie unspools, I found myself seeing the Queen of England, and wondering whether her glasses shouldn't be a bit smaller to be more fashionable.

If you read the synopses and reviews, they will tell you that the movie focusses on the days following Princess Diana's death and the Palace's response and lack thereof. Which is like saying that Jane Eyre is a story about the social position of governesses in Victorian England. Which is to say, The Queen uses the days following Princess Diana's death to sketch a time of profound change in England. Elizabeth (and even more so, Prince Philip) embody the old guard, the "Greatest Generation" and thier response to the death is bound up in their experience of "Enduring England" during the Blitz of WWII.

The movie highlights the incredible contrast between the quiet and eternal changlessness of the Royals, and the chaos of modern life as lived by the newly elected Prime Minister Tony Blair and his family. His wife is caustically anti-Royalist, and their home is a jumble of mismatched slipcovers and scattered toys. It is less decor than "it was on sale/in my parents' basement/sitting at the curb with a 'Free' sign on it." Tony Blair is bright-eyed and always working in his shirt-sleeves, carrying on conversations on cordless phones. The Queen, in contrast, lives in quiet order, fully and carefully dressed in suit, pumps, hose and handbag. When the two first meet, Blair is unfamiliar with the protocols, and the Queen has to correct him "No, Mr. Blair, it is I who ask the question. Will you form a government in my name? If you agree, traditionally, this is when you say 'yes.'"

The death of Diana is where these two different world views collide. The Royal family is on vacation at Balmoral when the news arrives. The Queen is saddened, Charles is heartbroken and worried about the boys. Philip is angry and dismayed and an absolute prig about royal protocol. Meanwhile, Tony Blair is seeing the public mood in London and trying to keep the Royals from committing PR suicide. Cherie Blair can't understand why her husband is trying to prevent the collapse of the monarchy and she is disgusted at his passion about the institution. The Queen doesn't care for Mr. Blair, and would have preferred a different PM, and so is reluctant to take his advice, but comes to see him as a valuable advisor.

In the end, Blair manages to move the immovable object, and the Queen flies a flag over Buckingham Palace at half mast (this is an invention, as the only flag that traditionally flies over royal residences is the royal standard, signifying the Queen is either there or not). She also agrees to make a television appearance addressing the matter, something that had never been done before. Tellingly, she submits her speech to Blair, and without argument accepts his edits. The final scene takes place several months later, the first meeting they have had face-to-face since the first scene. Here, it is clear they have both changed: Blair is more comfortable and willing to step afoul of royal protocol in order to be himself. The Queen is willing to unbend, and invites him to walk with her in the gardens, stating that she finds "these meetings" to be more successful when PMs are walkers.

Part of the charm of the movie is the "inside look" at how the royals live. Part of the charm is the way the Queen personifies the iron fist in the velvet glove--she steers and pushes people while being perfectly polite and charming. Part is the way Helen Mirren personifies both the institution and the individual. While at Balmoral, the Queen refuses to trouble the groundskeepers and drives herself across the estate in a battered old Jeep, wearing Wellingtons and a scarf over her head.

What remains eternally fascinating about the royals is the way they must be both symbols and human beings. The outrage over the Palace's lack of response to Diana's death is a perfect example of how the two roles are in conflict. Think about it: if I were to die, suddenly, would I really want my ex-husband's mother--my ex-mother-in-law--to be in charge of the funeral? (In theory, of course, as I'm not divorced, and I love my mother-in-law.) So, the fact that the Queen's first reaction is to let the Spensers hold the funeral is really appropriate.

But there was a strong desire from the people to have their Queen address their loss. I found this particularly sweet, because despite the anti-monarchist feeling articulated by Cherie Blair, what England really wanted was some reassurance from their monarch--they wanted someone to tell them that things would be all right.

It is a beautiful film, and Helen Mirren is phenomenal. It's been nominated for Best Picture Oscar, but I'd not put my money on it, as it is such a quiet and carefully observed movie--not the "Great Night At The Movies" that are more typical picks for the award. But even if Helen Mirren doesn't win, she's clearly won hearts with this film and it's worth going out of your way to see it.

Note To Self

1. When Kidlet doesn't eat muffin for breakfast, DO NOT leave the house with muffin on the table.

2. Put Dog on immediate Muffin-free diet.

3. Remove the remains before making the bed. (Bloody cur made himself breakfast in bed!)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Oscars 2007

Well, it's 7:55 a.m. and the Oscar nominees are out.

Best Picture:
The Departed
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

Best Actor:
Leonardo DiCaprio, "Blood Diamond"
Ryan Gosling, "Half Nelson"
Peter O'Toole, "Venus"
Will Smith, "The Pursuit of Happyness"
Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland"

Best Actress:
Penelope Cruz, "Volver"
Judi Dench, "Notes On A Scandal"
Helen Mirren, "The Queen"
Meryl Streep, "The Devil Wears Prada"
Kate Winslet, "Little Children"

Best Supporting Actor:
Alan Arkin, "Little Miss Sunshine"
Jackie Earle Haley, "Little Children"

Dijmon Hinsou, "Blood Diamond"

Eddie Murphy, "Dreamgirls"
Mark Wahlberg, "The Departed"

Best Supporting Actress:
Cate Blanchett, "Notes On A Scandal"
Abigail Breslin, "Little Miss Sunshine"
Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"
Rinko Kikuchi, "Babel"

Best Director:
Clint Eastwood, "Letters from Iwo Jima"
Paul Greengrass, "United 93"
Alejandro González Iñárritu, "Babel"
Stephen Frears, "The Queen"
Martin Scorcese, "The Departed"

All those other categories I can't ever keep in my head here.

So, what have I seen? Just "The Queen," which Mr. Sweetie and I saw last weekend, mostly because I love Helen Mirren. But then, who doesn't? In fact, "The Madness of King George" has been running on cable recently, and I'd watch that again just to see her. Okay, and Nigel Hawthorne is great, and I love watching Rupert Everett...

Several years ago, Mr. Sweetie and I tried to see all the Best Picture nominees, and ended up seeing about 3 of the 5. This year? Well, I can tell I'm not going to go see "Letters from Iwo Jima" for one. I could probably see the other three. I think I'm going to have to see "Little Children," because Kate Winslet? Rocks.

Babel? Looks like a Must See now. Meryl Streep? I can't believe I haven't seen "Prada" yet, just because she is such a hoot, and it's such a departure from the character she played in "Prairie Home Companion" movie. A movie with both Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett? Okay, guess I'll make a special effort to see that one too.

Do you know what I just noticed? I don't really care about the movies all the Best Actor nominees are in. I saw the trailer for "Happyness," and I'm desperately afraid of seeing it. I had a really bad reaction to "Working Girl," plus Will Smith in an Afro and porn star mustache gives me hives. "Blood Diamond" is just to miserable for me. "Dreamgirls" I can imagine going to see. "The Departed?" Ummm, just how violent is Scorsese this time?

So, maybe it's time to join Netflix?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Breakfast of Champions

So, this morning was a VERY early morning. Pony is off with half the seventh grade for a week of winter camping and community building. Kids were expected at school at 6:45. At 5:20, Pony suddenly remembered that she was supposed to bring a lunch.

Maybe making a lunch isn't so hard for you. Maybe you have kids who actually like peanut butter and jelly. Or turkey sandwiches. Not so much here--Pony is a believer in the Hot Lunch Program, and really really hates every kind of non-cooked food that makes bag lunches possible. So, by 5:30 this morning I was scouring the kitchen for enough calories that she would actually eat, so she could even HAVE a lunch.

Due to my incredibly creative methods, I managed to send enough food. I think she'll even eat it. Among the items enclosed was a carmel roll that I thought she might actually eat for breakfast. So, after Pony was successfully delivered for her trip, Mr. Sweetie and Bunny came home looking for some breakfast.

Mr. Sweetie: Do you know what happened to that carmel roll?

Me: I gave it to Pony for her lunch.

Mr. Sweetie: Oh. We were going to have that for breakfast.

Me: There's quiche! [There was too! From dinner last night--cheese quiche, and a spinach-onion-swiss one too--yummy yummy and only a few seconds in the microwave for hot delicious quiche!]

Mr. Sweetie: Quiche? For breakfast?

Now, Mr. Sweetie is a very smart man, as well as a firm believer in having "normal" things for breakfast. Mr. Sweetie does not eat (ever!) cold pizza for breakfast. Mr. Sweetie would never drink Diet Coke before lunch. Mr. Sweetie is a high powered executive with a business degree from an Ivy League school. Mr. Sweetie says that quiche is not a breakfast food.

Am I wrong about this? Is quiche actually not a breakfast food?

I mean, look at it. What is quiche after all? Eggs, milk, cheese--it's practically the very same thing as an omelet, and surely an omelet is a breakfast food. Quiche is certainly a brunch food. And what is "brunch" but eating breakfast at lunchtime? Quiche is scrambled eggs made in the oven and not on the stove--with a crust. What is it about quiche that removes it from the universe of appropriate breakfast foods? But leaves carmel rolls in?

And consider this a real question, because I'll admit I've eaten cold pizza and Diet Coke for breakfast--maybe. Once. A Long Time Ago. Probably.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Tudor History--Updated!

So, I'm still obsessed with Tudor history--the tangled web of international politics, personal whim, and family dysfunction. And, coupled with my celebrity addiction, has opened my eyes to the emotional resonance of one of the more remarkable political acts of Henry VIII. To wit: the divorce of his first wife to marry Anne Boleyn.

Now, as a woman who was raised Protestant, I approach this question with the bias of historical fact: it's a good thing he did marry Anne Boleyn, or we'd never have had Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare and all that. So, personally, I see the necessity of his actions, and so I'm rooting for the divorce to happen.

But, had I lived in England at the time, without the benefit of knowing what happened, how would I have felt about this monumental action? Fortunately, contemporary celebrity culture gives us that answer, which I will now share with you.

Once upon a time there lived a handsome prince--called the most handsome prince in Christendom.

And he took for his wife a kind and good woman, who was loved by the people, and prosperity ruled the land.

But as time passed, the prince became aware that he needed a child, and his wife, as good and kind and beloved as she was, was not going to give him that child. The prince was saddened and perplexed about what to do.

Then, his eye fell on a woman in his court and he became fascinated. She was an accomplished woman, with dark, exotic looks and an exciting reputation. There were stories about her that smacked of witchcraft, but that did not deter him.

As the prince fell into this woman's spell, he set aside his good and kind and beloved wife, divorcing her to marry his new love. And the people were saddened, for they loved the old Queen, and were uncertain about the new one.

But then, it was revealed that the prince and his new wife were to have a child, and the people rejoiced for his happiness--if still a little sad for the old queen, and hoping that she would find herself another man to marry and be happy too. Or maybe just be religious instead.

And the king and queen had their child, and it was a girl, and she was universally declared to be the most beautiful child ever born.

So--how do you feel about the Tudors now?

Golden Globes Are Shiny Too

I am a fan of Awards Season. I love watching Awards Shows. I love to see truckloads of pretty people in the prettiest of pretty clothes wearing pretty (and shiny!) diamonds to a happy event. Everybody is smiling! Even when they don't win! And they have all taken care to put on their best make-up and their best hair and their best (well, maybe they are saving their BESTEST best for the Oscars, but still) and prettiest clothes and they come out and show us how pretty they are!

It's never about who wins, for me. Television shows? I don't watch TV so much. Not because I'm a snob, or think there is something wrong about watching TV--I don't! It's just that, well, there's this thing called the Internet. . . you may have heard of it. . .and, well, TV just takes too long.

Yes, I know, I'm missing great stuff on TV. People tell me so, and I bet it's true. Veronica Mars and Grey's Anatomy and Battlestar Galactica and 30 Rock and Ugly Betty and a buncha other stuff. Even I think I'd like these shows. It's just that, well, I keep not sitting down to watch these shows. Like, I forget to, sometimes, or else I figure I'll get it on DVD. Someday. Maybe.

Oh, and movies? I like movies! I've even seen some movies! In the theaters! That weren't animated! Just not the ones that ended up being nominated for Pretty and Shiny Awards.

But that's okay! Because I can keep up on the Internet with who the stars are and which ones are the Important movies and which ones have been unfairly overlooked. And which ones have George Clooney in them.

Then, I watch the Awards Shows and I feel connected to popular culture and I buy the People Magazine that shows all the Pretty Clothes and the Clothes That Prove Somebody's Stylist Is In The Devil's Pay. Plus, I read Go Fug Yourself, which is the very very best of all the Internet fashion critiques and the only problem with it is that Jessica and Heather seem to have real jobs that prevent them from posting 24/7.

So, when I say what I'm about to say, I realize that I am showing myself to be really old for this kind of thing, but, seriously? Have you looked at what People Magazine calls the "Worst" of the dresses for this year's Golden Globes?

Take Cameron Diaz. Okay, I'm not crazy about this dress. I already don't like her black hair, as I think it overwhelms her coloring and washes out her sparkling (shiny!) blue eyes. And this dress doesn't really do anything for her--it doesn't play up her skin, or show off her lanky athletic good looks, or anything like that, but...worst? Come on!

Same with Nicolette Sheridan. I remember when "The Sure Thing" came out, and also "Paper Dolls" and I remember realizing with a sinking heart that "I'll never look like that." Nowdays, I look at Ms. Sheridan and realizing my New Year's Resolution is, once again "I'll never look like THAT!" Seriously, Girlfriend looks like she caught her face in a kitchen shrink wrapping accident. Like she got the same face lift Katherine Helmond got in Brazil. But her dress? Surely not a "Worst!" You might not like it, but really?

No, let's take a look back to the Golden Age of the Worst Dressed. Let's look back at the days when Kim Basinger "designed" the dress she wore to the Oscars. Let's look at the Folies Bergere bicycle shorts Demi Moore wore. Let's remember Bjork's swan dress. And let us get down on our knees and be grateful that even Rinko Kinkuchi's dress just makes us want to replace our shower poufs.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

How To Get Through Winter

Usually, Mr. Sweetie loves winter, and I'm the one grousing around, and looking at pictures of Hawaii. We were there once. In January. It was ideal, except there were no roses.

This year, with the arrival of his new mistress (the boat, you sillies!), Mr. Sweetie is longing for spring. The mild winter (up to now) is especially irritating, because we could probably have left the boat in the water until Christmas.

Anyway, here is how we are counting down until boating season:

Thirty days from now--Valentine's Day. Plus pitchers and catchers report for spring training!

Thirty days later--the International Festival of MY Birthday. Celebrations run the entire month of March. Plus, Bunny is going to Mexico on a school trip.

Thirty days later--Baseball season starts. Plus, we can take the shrink wrap off Lady Cliff and start spring puttering--er, maintenance.

Thirty days after that--L.C. is in the water!

Really, that's not too bad, isn't it?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

So, Enough About You--Let's Talk About Me!

Wow. What a difference a few days can make. Last Friday I was fearing another slide into depression. Sure, I was probably also sick, and maybe catching up on some "post holiday stress disorder." Okay, I was also suffering from some PMS--the obsessive need for chocolate could have been a hint on that one. And it was grey and dark and ugly weather for a bunch of days in a row. So, actual clinical depression was only one of several explanations for why I felt so crappy.

But today! Today, I'm feeling great! And not just great in a "I'm happy, no body parts hurt, I haven't failed anyone in at least 12 hours!" kind of way. Even better. I'm starting to feel some psychic room in my life.

Part of the horror that is depression is the sense that everything is too hard--people move faster than you can keep up, and doing anything takes more energy than you have. Sure, I could call a friend and go out for coffee, but I'd have to find the phone book, then look up their number, then call and actually have a conversation about meeting. And then to actually meet, I'd have to take a shower and get dressed and drive to the coffee place, and it's all so hard...and anyway, the cordless phone is missing again and I can't find it.

So, in the depths of depression I remember having days of watching the clock and dreading the passage of time. "Oh no, only 5 more hours until I have to go pick up the kid from daycare. And then it will be at least three more hours until I can put her to bed--how am I going to survive those three hours? Which are now only 4 hours away?"

As things got better, and the meds kicked in (it's a shout out to Wellbutrin! Couldn't have done it without you!) stuff still took So. Much. Energy. Frankly, getting kids to school, dinner on the table and just One Other Thing (a load of laundry, for example, or a trip to the grocery) was all I could do--that was success.

Recently, however, I'm noticing some extra room in my head--a sense that the small world I've been living in might not be all there is for me. Like, maintaining the household and preventing disaster might not be all I can do--there might be something. . . more? I might be able to take on something beyond mere survival? Like, maybe even something like. . .ambition might be coming back?

It's an interesting place for me. I have felt my limitations so acutely for so long, that this stirring uneasiness. . .dissatisfaction, maybe?. . .is curious. I used to be a hot-shot contender, until I was knocked out of the ring by depression. Like a hawk that flies above the other birds, and then runs into a glass window and breaks its wings, I've been spending the last too many years walking around on the ground, unable to fly again. Not believing I would fly again.

But now--these feelings of. . .expansiveness. . .are like a breeze ruffling my feathers, and I remember what it felt like to fly, and how I used to enjoy the soaring. I can lift my wings into the wind and feel that familiar rush. I can't fly--not yet, maybe--but now I can imagine it again.

Studying Medieval Sciences

So, the Pony pointed something out to us the other night at dinner.

"Did you notice," she asks, "in the fourth Harry Potter movie, when he is rescuing all those people in the lake, when he cuts Ron free, Ron just kind of stays right there. But when he cuts the girls free, they start floating."

No, we say, how interesting. We wonder why that is?

"Because they are witches."

Ba dum-dum.

AND they weigh less than a duck.

I am going to explain this one now, not because you all need it, but because I'll come back and read this in about two weeks and not remember why it was worth recording or what the hell the title of this post means.

In the HPverse, males are all wizards, and the females are called witches. Unlike in some fantasy series, this does not indicated different categories of magic. It is just a gender differentiation.

In pre-Enlightenment science, it was believed that witches could float because the water would reject the Devil. Non-witches would just drown. Not a helpful test for the person accused, but reassuring to the neighbors. Thus, witches float. No one has ever thrown wizards into water. I don't know why.

In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, some villagers have come to Sir Bedevere with a woman they claim is a witch. Through some comically convoluted logic, they come to the conclusion that a witch will float because she weighs less than a duck (which also floats).

Okay. Now that it's all been explained, interestingly enough, IT'S NOT FUNNY ANYMORE!

Winter Is Back

Well, it snowed again, and the Northland is finally looking North-y again. This snowfall actually covered the tips of the grass, and looks to be staying for a while.

The temperature has dropped, and we are experiencing thos classic Minnesota January days: deep white snow, brilliant crystalline sunshine bouncing blindingly off the snow, temperatures in the "oh holy mother of god can it really be that cold?" range.

With the advent of winter comes a new experience for the dog: although the temperature is deep freezing, the sun on the black roof shingles melts the snow and we get avalanches. Snow tumbling off the steep slopes of our roof sounds like feet running above our heads, followed by a muffled "swoop" and "flump" as it lands in the yard.

Bermondsey has gotten territorial, and has rushed to my protection twice already today. "Hey!" he yaps. "You stay away from my pack, you funny sound signifying whatever it is you signify! Or you'll have me to deal with!"

Audible Madness Continues

I'm finishing a bunch of books all at once now, and there are a couple of mad long reviews up over at The Book Blog of Evil: Great Expectations and The Mayor of Casterbridge. Just in case you want to read some dissertations in your spare time. What else do you have to do?

So, I've finished the five (FIVE! I know! So many!) novels I downloaded from at Christmas. I still have credits for seven more. I think I'll be profligate with them--spend them as if they were sale books at Barnes and Noble*, or paperbacks from Target. If I use them all up--well, that just means there are some ideas for holiday gift giving--to MEEEE!

It's like having a nickel in a penny candy store. So many choices! Shopping is going to be half the fun!

*Is it just me, or does anyone else find themselves spelling it "Barnes and Nobel"?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Party Planning, Part Deux

So, I simply must continue this post. Not, I hope it is apparent, with any sense of envy, or jealousy, or deprecation of the follies of extravagance. No, I am thoroughly awed by the creative power of this party; of the way this family took a joke and pushed it through to its logical and exhuberant end. This was a party as presented by clever and witty people, who had the talent and the organization to assure that it all came off. This is a party put on by people who love to entertain, who love their friends and most of all their family, and who love to celebrate that affection in a generous and inclusive way.

This is a party put on by people I simply must get to know.

When I dropped the Pony off at the entrance, I was behind another vehicle. She could have hopped out outside the covered entrance, but she insisted "You have to drive all the way up so I can get out like a movie star." Well, but of course! Even I thought so. Pony hopped out--and I heard or saw the rest when I came back to pick her up.

Once inside the doors, there was--in actual fact--a red carpet, lined with white lights. Along the red carpet were the evenings' DJs, holding giant fake microphones bearing logos of different broadcasters, asking Oscar-type questions.

DJ: What are you wearing tonight?
Pony: Hand-me-downs!
DJ: What company are they from?
Pony: My mom and my aunt!

The entry was decorated with another illuminated sign to match the one outside; "Windsor Unleashed!" There were posters from other, REAL, movies as well: Talledega Nights, Borat, Dukes of Hazzard, Batman Begins. To one side was a concession stand with a uniformed attendant and an array of movie sized candy inside a glass case.

Inside the party room were scattered tables with mock movie camera, film reels, and other movie accessories. There was a popcorn machine, a dance floor, an area decorated with "Windsor's Hood" on it. (Hip-hop has never been more Caucasian.)

In one corner stood a giant ice sculpture of a movie camera, with an ice tube. I saw one of these at the Governor's Inaugural Ball for the first time. They are designed for martinis--the bartender pours the drink in the top, it slides down the inside of the sculpture to be captured in a glass at the base--perfectly icy cold. Take that, James Bond--neither shaken nor stirred. For this party the drinks were "Windsor-tinis;" Shirley temples served in short champagne glasses.

There was a photo shoot, complete with costumes, with photos encased in a mat designed like a movie clapboard. Pony brought home a picture of herself and three buddies posing as Charlies Angels, using their fingers as guns. People willing to dance were rewarded with Mardi Gras beads. Plastic tambourines with patterned lights were distributed as favors.

I was delighted for the Pony to have this kind of experience with her entire 7th grade class. I was (petty, I know, but still!) briefly grateful for not being Jewish, so I didn't have to compare myself to the clever people who pulled this one off.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Party Planning

I love when people are clever. The Pony is off tonight, to one in the near endless stream of celebrations for classmates turning 13. Yes, it's Bat and Bar Mitzvah season. Already this morning she attended Temple services and lunch, and the fun party starts tonight.

The invitation for this soiree came with a full 11 x 8.5 page announcing "Windsor* Unleashed!: Get ready for the ride" Beneath a picture of the celebrant himself comes the legend "Starring and Directed by Windsor Bermondsey in his movie debut."

*I have changed the names to protect the innocent, and used our dog's name instead, as it has the appropriate gravitas.

The entire invitation continued the movie theme, and then we drove up to the party. On the door was a large lighted marquee with the invitation mocked up as a movie poster. The guest pulled up to an entry surrounded by velvet ropes, and a truck holding an array of spotlights sat in the parking lot rotating lights across the sky. Only the paparazzi were missing--probably an oversight, as the thoroughness of the themeing was impressive.

Perhaps there are hundreds of disposable cameras inside. I am looking forward to hearing if there actually was a movie presented.

Friday, January 12, 2007

What The Kids Are Saying These Days

The family returned to Chez Evil the other day after a couple of hours away. The Dog turned himself nearly inside out with excitement greeting us, each in turn. When he came to the Bunny, she bent down and looked right into his eyes and said, seriously:

"Yo. Word up, Dawg."

Even The Dog was taken aback. So, we have the world's whitest gangsta, right here at Chez Evil.

Update* on iPhone

So, after my post of extreme privileged whininess (yes, I know. I was being obnoxious. I apologize) I got the following RL responses.

JoMama: Start hinting that you want one for Christmas. It's never too early, and that way, Mr. Sweetie won't have to guess about what to get you. (This is the "leverage your influence over your sweet and loving husband, who loves you too much to say no" approach. Elizabeth Taylor is probably the most successful at this maneuver, as evidenced by her extensive and shiny jewelry collection.)

Mr. Sweetie: Well, the obvious answer is to get one, and give the iPod TO YOUR HUSBAND! (This would free up the silver Mini for the Bunny, thus creating a household of tech-bots, as we each plug into our iPods and laptops and forgo actual human interaction.)

However, despite it's sexy good looks, it's In factor, and the general appeal of having the latest of everything, it turns out that it only has about 8 GB of memory, and that, my friends, is just not enough any more. So, it turns out that I'd have to have the iPod anyway.

Which is just as well, as my wireless contract runs for another year anyway. AND as you may recall, my cel phone is awesome and pink, which the iPhone is NOT.

*Should that be "uPdate?"

Something Is Wrong, or TMI

I think I am sick. At least, something is wrong. I cannot stop sleeping. In fact, I am actually typing this post while lying on my belly in my bed with my face pressed into the pillow and my jaw open and drool coming out of my mouth. Literally.

And by "literally," I mean "figuratively." Because that's just how trend-savvy I am.


I went to bed last night and spent the night having wide-screen, technicolor, Sensurround dreams populated by many people that I actually know in real life! That never happens! I had a dream in which I re-married Mr. Sweetie is some half-assed unrehearsed wedding where someone accidentally elbowed me in the nose and I FELT IT! For reals!

Then I went back to high school (still in my dream) to finish my schooling, and had to face down the Popular Girl, who couldn't quite believe that I was married and kept sneaking glances at my rings, while vowing to themselves that their engagement rings would be AT LEAST two full carats biiger than mine was. (Which, FYI, was and is a lovely, tasteful solitare.)

And the sad thing? Was that I was awake enough to realize that, even in my dreams, I was still an unclassified outsider in my own school.

To continue: I got up, got the kidlets to school, and went back to bed. Where I proceeded to sleep and sleep and sleep, even though the dog announced the arrival of the mail (Bow! Wow! bowwowowowowowowowowowowowowowow! BOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOW!)

It was one o'clock before I woke up, and my nose was stuffed with opaque and bloody phlem that had hardened in my nose and turned into slabs of ossified snot that came out of my nose like scabs. (Yes, that was too much information, but I did warn you.) There is something chilling about finding that your head is bleeding inside, isn't there? Something, well, scary?

But, on top of all that, I am feeling the familiar gravitational pull of depression. It seems to be worst in the shower. That is where I start feeling the feelings of failure, coupled with the complete physical inability to prevent whatever may happen next. I get to relive, psychically, all the mistakes I have ever made in my life, with the added bonus of feeling both guilty and inadequate in the past AS WELL AS obviously inadequate for the immediate future.

Dog needs a walk? Can't do it. Kids need to be picked up from school? Thank God for cars, but can I really do all that driving between schools and music lessons? Dinner? Who the hell cares?

It's not so bad that I can't see the foolishness, but I still can't stop it. And I can see the chicken-and-eggness of it too. Am I feeling like this because I am sick, and that's making me feel depressed too, or am I depressed and that's making me sleep and feel sick?

How can I tell?

Christmas Is Going

So, Christmas is over, and I have almost everything put away for another year. There is a compost heap worth of gift bags and gift boxes to sort and put away, and a few stray items that need to be ferried to the basement, but come into my house, and you don't see sybaritic holiday excess any more.

Which is a refreshing change, especially in my darling little house. Remove the tree, and suddenly there is a Whole! Lot! of Extra! Room! in the room. Take away the swags and velvet and crystal and glass and the house suddenly achieves a sort of Zen spareness. In comparison, I mean, as no Zen practitioner would ever come inside my house and mistake it for anything but a Low Maintenance Diva abode.

But still.

But, I know I promised some pictures, and it appears that Blogger will allow me to post some, so here you are:

The "Varsity Reading Club" sweatshirt.

The Jane Austen Action Figure!

Beanbag Maleficent and Dragon.

And Happy New Year to All.

Happy BIrthday--"Ironic" Division

Just heard on NPR on the way home from dropping kidlets at school. Two "radio guys" have birthdays today, both in their fifties.

Rush Limbaugh.

And Howard Stern.

And despite initial appearances, they aren't really as different as they portray themselves. They each have to do something to fill many many hours of radio air time. They work in an environment where saying anything--however stupid--is better than saying nothing. They both talk and act as if they are relevant to the state of the world, although they are more accurately merely "entertainment" (and I'm using the word loosely here). And they share a birthday. Sometimes the universe does like it's little jokes, doesn't it?

Okay, now I have to go delete these pictures from my hard drive and go shower. Eeewwww....

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Okay, I've had my new iPod, what, two weeks? (I know, I know, that horse is just about dead, but bear with me.)

Guess what I read about today?

Yup--Apple has a new iPod phone. Bigger screen. Touch screen controls. All the stuff I had predicted would happen, but gambled would not come out until the 80 GB iPod was realistically replaceable.

Damn innovators! I hope this iPhone sucks. Or else I'm gonna just go beat my head against a wall. Anybody know where I can find a good, solid brick wall?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Because I'm Awed By Any Kind of Celebrity

So, I am going to have to post about what Mr. Sweetie and I did the day after New Year's. Why? Because I am a geek and star-struck by any kind of celebrity, that's why.

As I have alluded to earlier, we had a very close race for Governor of our great state, and the right guy squeaked back in. The inauguration was on January 2, and Mr. Sweetie's boss had a table for ten at the dinner and ball.

So, Mr. Sweetie bought himself a tux, I got a new dress, and we went politicking!

The Boss is a very generous sort of guy, and so several of us started the evening at the swank and "elite" reception held downstairs from the main floor. You knew it was swanky because you couldn't go get a glass of wine from the bar--you had to wait for the tuxedoed waiters to circulate with their trays of glasses. Nice in concept, although the canape trays moved much faster than the drink trays. You knew it was elite because the Governor, Lt. Governor and their spouses came and stood for photographs with everybody in the room.

Plus, when it was our turn, both the Gov and 1st Lady lit up to see me after so many years. It was like a class reunion, what with all the love and the air kisses. Way to impress the boss, huh?

Then it was off to the cocktail hour, where we vainly looked for some of our politico friends--VERY crowded and genial--and saw others we hadn't expected to see. Dinner with the couples from the office was lovely, followed by a stand-up routine by Louie Anderson, who was a bit surprised to find himself at a Republican event, but what the hell.

He did apologize to the Governor every time he got carried away and said "ass." Then more cocktails and dancing and actually finding the friends we had wanted to see and schmoozing and having a grand old party time. (That last? That was supposed to be a joke. Really.)

Mr. Sweetie looked stunning and handsome in his classic tuxedo. He asked my opinion and went with a Real Bow Tie, which he tied himself (he's got hidden talents, I'm telling you) and black shirt studs. Because call me unsophisticated and cancel my subscription to The New Yorker, but to me, a tuxedo with a tie just looks like a dark suit with a stripe on the pants legs. A proper tuxedo needs a bow tie, and there is just no two ways about it. And a cummerbund, not a vest--vests are for matching to bridesmaid dresses and we are past all that now.

Poor Mr. Sweetie: he had to keep apologizing for me and my liberal Democratic views. No one was surprised to see him at the Inaugural, but me? Little ol' blue state me? Which is just too silly, since I don't think of myself as a party member, but a voter, who tries to vote for the right person. Which I did, and then I went to his Inaugural Ball with my very handsome husband, and started 2007 with glamor.

Christmas In Review

In which we post the Best Of Christmas 2006, for the gift-giving edification of the Internet. Categories are organized by the gift recipient.

Best loved gift--13 year old division:

Union Jack iPod case. In actual fact, this was a plain ole "crystal case" from Target* into which I taped a computer printout of the Union Jack. I had been contemplating iPod skins, but wasn't entirely confident that I'd pick accurately. So, I got the case, thinking that it would also allow for skins of her own devising--to which end Pony also received printable skins--which have not even been considered! Go UK!

Biggest thrill gift--10 year old division:

Heelies. Blue and white. Trying very hard to prevent rolling on interior hardwood floors, though.

Longest lasting appreciation gift--Man division:

An array of hot sauces of varying strengths. Mr. Sweetie is all about challenging his taste buds these days, and he's got a good selection of hot sauces now. He started in the middle of the range, and after a couple of bites his eyes got really large and his breath was a bit wheezy. "Not too hot" he gasped, "but you girls wouldn't like it."

No surprise there.

Most charming and surprising gift--Mom division:

This is probably a tie. First runner up is the Jane Austen Action Figure! With quill pen! And Writing Desk! She is darling, and a wonderfully whimsical gift from Mr. Sweetie. In a First Place tie are: a sweatshirt with "Varsity Reading Club--Since 1455" sewn on the front, and my beanbag Maleficent doll and matching Dragon avatar.

(I would post pictures here, but for some reason can't get Blogger to actually post. Tech noodling will follow, and possibly pictures later.)

Most obnoxious behavior by a gift recipient:

Me me me me me me me me ME! Because I got the iPod I wanted, AND an account, AND then I had to figure out how to download the software to download the audio books I wanted, AND I wanted to figure out how to put my DVDs onto my iPod for my viewing pleasure, AND I wanted to properly accessorize said iPod...

Sure, I could have spent the entire vacation hooked up to my computer and/or iPod without ever speaking to anyone in the house...and I think I did kind of disappear while researching software and ripping DVDs...

So, I WIN!

Obviously, a lovely holiday break was had by all, here at Chez Evil, and a Happy New Year to you all too!

More Bumper Stickers To Show And Tell

In a fit of efficiency this year, I did most of my holiday (and post holiday--hello good friend "Clearance"!) shopping on-line. The downside of that is not having to drive through all 97.6 miles of parking lot at the Mall Of Abundance and thus not seeing many bumper stickers.

However, you lucky dogs, I have recently been outside the house and seen the following:

I love my country
But I think we should start seeing other people.

Quit bugging me!
I'm running out of places to HIDE the BODIES!

Editor's note: When written in plain font, with the spacing actually present on a bumper sticker, these sayings start to look like free verse. Which is not to say that they look like poetry, exactly. Check it out.

I love my country
But I think we should
start seeing other people.

Quit bugging me!
I'm running out of places
to hide the bodies!

Thus is born a literary project: to collect these sayings and see if I can, in fact, construct a narrative of some sort that looks like it's intentional and not just random. Because, sure, we can write Dadaist poetry with bumper stickers, but that's just too easy.

And hey! Look at that! Some academic and literary content with your morning blog reading! How often do you get that?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

It's Called A BREAK, People!

It's winter break, and somehow, I have managed to survive without the cradling embrace of the internet. I don't know how I did it either, but perhaps lots of wine helped.

I'm kidding! Really, Mom, I didn't drink that much, and I never had to drive home either!

But the kidlet's last day of school was December 22, which is not coincidentally the last time I posted here. And they don't go back to school until next Monday, but I managed to grab my laptop off of their laps, and now I'm back, sweet sweet internet! How I have missed you!

The bad news around here is that Toshiba laptops suck. Officially. I had one that I bought about 18 months ago, and the DC port broke. That means that the place where you plug in the cord so you can run the computer on electrical power? It broke off so the adapter officially connected to NOTHING! So, once the battery wears down, YOU CAN'T RECHARGE IT!

I sent the puppy off to get repaired under an extended warranty. The day it came back, the Pony's official school Toshiba laptop failed to recharge. Yes, it appears it's done the same thing. So she has no laptop for the entire winter break. And then, today? The newly repaired Toshiba no longer recharges either.

THIS IS BAD NEWS, PEOPLE, because it means there are three of us at home this week, and only 2 working computers. Which means one of us has to not use the computer. And by "one of us" I mean me. Usually. Which is the real reason for my silence over the last two weeks. Plus houseguests and Christmas and activities and New Years and mostly just enjoying my little family.

It's been a wonderful break; I have wonderful girls and a festive house and a cute dog and a marvelous husband. This past year has truly been one of the best years of my life, and I am very very grateful for the life that I have. May we all have an equally good 2007.