Friday, June 29, 2007

RevGals Friday Five: Talents and Gifts

1. Personality tests; love them or hate them?
Love them. Particularly Meyers-Briggs. I’m an INFP, and that is exactly to the T the way I act. It was validating to find out that there was a class of other like me.

2. Would you describe yourself as practical, creative, intellectual or a mixture?
I am a mix of creative and intellectual. But I’m not intellectual enough to want to be an academic and read long intricate books on philosophy and theory. I have a quick mind, but it gets impatient. That’s why I never managed to read Lacan or Derrida, or even Plato and Kant. Give me the basic concepts stripped of all the wordiness and I’ll run with it.

3. It is said that everyone has their 15 minutes of fame; have you had yours yet? If so what was it, if not dream away what would you like it to be?
I have never sought it and, happily, it has never come unbidden. Being the focus of attention makes me anxious, so I can’t imagine wanting even 15 minutes.

4. If you were given a 2 year sabbatical (oh the dream of it) to create something would it be music, literature, art.....something completely different...share your dream with us...
I would go to school and take classes in Victorian and Modern literature, art history, and poetry. Maybe some history from those time periods. And then I would write poetry. And I would take up sewing and knitting, so that ideas could percolate while I’m creating something else.

5. Describe a talent you would like to develop, but that seems completely beyond you.I would like to be organized. I try. And then it slips away from me. Consistency is extremely difficult. So instead I am overwhelmed by the enormity of the task of, say, going through the pile-up of mail and papers. And, yes, I’ve tried breaking it up into small goals (It will be forgotten entirely after a few sessions, because something will come up that has priority. That’s what happened to The Great Photo Sorting Project), setting timers, blah blah blah. I try to throw out junk the minute it comes in, but I’m always astonished at how much stuff that isn’t junk there is to be filed or dealt with. And, if it requires action, I can’t file it; when it’s filed it’s dead because I no longer see it. I even have a planner, which I frequently forget about, even though I lug the thing around with me all the time. Add to this that Dear Husband hates every idea I come up with for rectifying the situation, and I’m stymied.

I have this idea that if I were organized, I would be one of those Moms Who Do Lots of Things and Aren’t Slackers.

I’m not a minister, so I won’t do the bonus question.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

How Clean Is Your Oven, Or Your Books?

This past weekend a friend of mine that I haven’t heard from in years sent me a package. In it was a letter wrapped around a box containing . . . an oven liner. Why, I wonder, did she want to give me an oven liner? I did put it into my oven, since it covered up all the spills. I was probably supposed to clean that up first, but why clean it if no one can see it? I feel the same way about making the bed. When my MIL was looking after the girls during my recovery, she had them make up their beds each morning. Needless to say that habit has been abandoned. I simply don’t care whether or not they make their beds. I’ve tried to care, in the name of Instilling Good Habits. I am probably contributing to their moral deterioration.

Speaking of moral corruption, I’m editing a manuscript about the author Robert Cormier. It’s part of a series for young adults on banned books. I’ve never read Comier, but the titles are familiar—I Am the Cheese, The Chocolate War. The manuscript gives some background on censorship in general and a list of court cases that have tried to remove various books from public and school libraries and school curricula. That sort of information just makes me want to kick something. I will never grasp the desire to dam the free flow of ideas.

What did/do people object to in Cormier? Well, he uses naughty words. Then some people object to The Chocolate War because it suggests that children can’t trust adults, and some object to I Am the Cheese because it suggests you can’t trust the government. Gee, let me hold my sides so I don’t split open. Here there is an ongoing attempt by a concerned mom to get the Harry Potter books off public library shelves. She’s welcome to keep them away from her own children, but I would like mine to be able to check them out of the library. On the other hand, no one is trying to remove Ann Coulter from the shelves. Go figure.

Still, I suppose I can relate to a desire to protect children from some of the baser ideas floating around--such as consumerism, greed, sexism, racism, recreational violence, blind patriotism and the like. I don’t think there’s a conspiracy afoot to induct my children into the dark arts. There is, however, a concerted effort to make them good consumers and compliant citizens.

The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame. - Oscar Wilde

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Day Late and Dollar Short--The Friday 5 on Summer

The RevGals Friday 5 was about Summer. This pesky nuisance called work got in my way yesterday, but here they are:

1. Favorite summer food(s) and beverage(s):
Watermelon, watermelon, watermelon. And the less superior melons: cantaloupe and honeydew. And cherries. For beverages I’m really a water person in hot weather.

2. Song that "says" summer to you. (Need not be about summer explicitly.)
Maybe Bennie and the Jets, because I used to hear that at the swimming pool when I was young.

3. A childhood summer memory
Going to Panama City Beach and feeling the water rush up and over my feet. When I saw the beaches on the Atlantic, I was sorely disappointed—the water looked so muddy and the sand wasn’t the beautiful white drifts of the Gulf. Otherwise, summer in south Georgia is irredeemably miserable, even more hot and humid than where I live now.

4. An adult summer memory
New York City. Heatwave. A group of us trying to get from 110th street to the West Village, where there was this wonderful café called Veniero’s. The airconditioning on the train had broken. It was crowded. That café was a beacon, promising iced coffee and the best cannoli I have ever had.

5. Describe a wonderful summer day you'd like to have in the near future. (weather, location, activities)
I hate summer. Period. Don’t like heat, don’t like a bright sun beating down on me, don’t like swimming. Hate cookouts and being sticky and bothered by insects. I’ve never been anywhere with a pleasant summer besides England. And I was there once during a heatwave and it was miserable, because they don’t always have air-conditioned buildings and when I bought a drink off a street vendor it was warm. Warm soda. The perfect summer day would be cool, and I would be in a city, so that I could visit museums and bookstores.

Optional: Does your place of worship do anything differently in the summer? (Fewer services, casual dress, etc.)
Everything is the same. Our church is pretty big and the number of those attending doesn’t seem to decrease in the summer. Dress is always casual. Sometimes I think you could show up in your pajamas and no one would think anything of it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Despair, I don't like you very well

I don't like you very well.
You don't suit my clothes or my cigarettes.
Why do you locate here
as large as a tank,
aiming at one half of a lifetime?
Couldn't you just go float into a tree
instead of locating here at my roots . . .
--Anne Sexton

This has been the month of mistakes. It began with a huge error in our newsletter. Yeah it happened while I was out of commission, but I had never sent off the changes before I left. Thought I had but I had not. Then there was the surprise of finding our website migrated before I was ready. Oops—no software to update it. I went to see my therapist only to realize I was there on the wrong day. I rescheduled an appointment with my psychiatrist only to miss it. Now I owe $99 for a missed appointment. Ouch.

I don’t know if I was on a downward slide and that’s why I’ve been walking around in confusion, or if a few mistakes threw me so off my stride that my reaction only resulted in more mistakes. I’ve never been an insomniac. In fact, I usually feel like I never get enough sleep. Lately it’s dawned on me that I may not be sleeping as soundly as I think. I often wake up with headaches. Sometimes I wake up feeling overheated. Sometimes I have bad dreams, according to Dear Husband. On top of this, Firecracker often wakes up scared during the night. In fact, lately she has wakened screaming at the exact same time to the minute for several nights: 3:02 am, the hour of deepest sleep and night terrors. I also can’t help but remember that stupid Amityville Horror story in which the husband woke up at 3:15 am to do scary whacky stuff. I think it’s also called the Devil’s Hour, which is kind of silly when you think about time zones. One person’s devil hour is another person’s lunch. But I'm highly suggestible and when I see it's 3 am I'm careful never to look in a mirror or other reflective surface, since I'm sure I'll see something I won't like.

Speaking of sleep, I try never to sleep on my back now. I used to have spells of sleep paralysis. Not very often, and the first few times I didn’t know what it was, but I gather that they are more common if you sleep on your back. If you’ve ever experienced this phenomenon you know it can be terrifying. I always felt pulled to the bed, as if a magnet held me there. I would hear buzzing, humming and scary, garbled whispering in my ears. I would finally snap out of it feeling frightened and uneasy. Once I was certain someone had broken into the house, even after I went through it room by room. The last time I experienced it I was certain there was an evil presence standing just beyond my left shoulder. I’ve read that people think sleep paralysis is behind tales of succubi and hags visiting in the night.

But the upshot of mental fog and not enough sleep is that I am depressed. Or maybe the mental fog and lack of sleep is the result of being depressed. Whatever. By now I should be used to living in an endless loop. I feel aimless and hemmed in. What, I wonder, am I supposed to be doing? Do I feel passionate about anything anymore? In college I was passionate about studying literature, from which I gathered the mistaken idea that I would really like a career in publishing. I used to be passionate about writing poetry. Until one day I woke up and found I couldn’t write anymore. Really. It turned off like a tap, and I finally gave up on all the Artist’s Way type methods for jump-starting it or writing through it. It was like knowing a language and waking up unable to speak, and then finally the language became remote and unfamiliar and awkward.

So I’ve drifted along riding whatever current I fell into, for lack of any better ideas. I know my mother felt much the same. She pondered what she was supposed to be doing until she died, which I guess was the most definitive answer she ever got.

Friday, June 15, 2007

RevGals Friday 5: Books

Dear Husband says I have too many books, but can that be possible?

1. Fiction what kind, detective novels, historical stuff, thrillers, romance????

These days my favorite books are young adult fantasy novels, like Inkspell and the Harry Potter and Artemis Fowle series. I also enjoy detective novels—Elizabeth George, P.D. James, Laurie King, Reginald Hill, and Ruth Rendell are among my favorite mystery writers.

2. When you get a really good book do you read it all in one chunk or savour it slowly?
Alas, I seem unable to savor but have to rush willy nilly through to the end.

3. Is there a book you keep returning to and why?

I have not had that sort of book for many years. When I was in my teens and twenties, I read Brideshead Revisited once a year. I loved the lyrical (some might say purple) prose and the romance of the story.

I do have favorite poets I will return to--Mary Oliver, Sylvia Plath, Charles Simic, Louise Gluck, Seamus Heaney, Anne Sexton, Emily Dickinson—but not necessarily any particular book.

4. Apart from the Bible which non-fiction book has influenced you the most?

I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, and there isn’t any one book that has affected me strongly. I think the books I’ve read most recently that have influenced my thinking have been on homeschooling. In particular, I’ve read a number of books on Charlotte Mason, including When Children Love to Learn: A Practical Application of Charlotte Mason’s Philosophy for Today. I have read a lot of books on homeschooling and I don’t remember all the titles, but they made me want to teach my kids. When that could happen, I don’t know. I also found Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn thought-provoking, although I’d really like to have a chat with him about practical applications.

I love the books by Ann Lammott, Donald Miller, Philip Yancey, and Kathleen Norris. Each of these authors has enriched my understanding of faith.

5. Describe a perfect place to read. ( could be anywhere!!!)

I like reading curled up on my sofa. I don’t usually like to be outside, because here it’s too hot and bright and there are too many insects. I hate being hot and I hate being in the sun. Sometimes I’ll sneak read in the parking lot of the daycare center just before I pick up my kids. Bad mom.

Oo la la

(Disclaimer: I do in fact like a lot of French films--see previous post.)

While I’m talking about movies, last night I saw a French film called Sex is Comedy . It’s about a director who’s having trouble with the love scenes in her film because the actors don’t like each other. I thought the dialog was very French, meaning wordy, complicated, and show-offy, like Derrida. The meaning had vacated the words and lodged on the highest most inaccessible shelf of discourse. This kind of dialog drives me nuts

The film does have some amusing aspects, if you find men running around playfully showing off their privates funny. I did come away with a burning question—is there really someone in charge of creating and taking care of fake penises for male actors?

I don’t know what the film intended. I wouldn’t call it comedy. I’m sure someone could say something intelligent about exploring the boundaries of sexuality and so forth, and then there’s the movie within a movie angle, which IMHO seems a bit tired. The director (I mean the director within the film) speaks of the importance of loss of virginity and women expressing desire. Did I mention that the director talks a lot? The actress (I mean the one in the film within the film) is inexpressive through most of the film, until it culminates in the finale--a sex scene in which it isn’t clear to me if the girl is acting enjoyment, hysteria or what, but she is at last, ah, very expressive. Following this the girl bawls her eyes out while the director comforts her. From the great hush that follows, I suppose Something Monumental has occurred, but I don’t know what, except that the director finally manipulated everyone into doing exactly what she wanted. The soundstage crew look stunned and thoughtful. Now, what could they be thinking about?

I thought I recognized the real-life director’s name, Catherine Breillat. I heard about her from a review of the film Anatomy of Hell that featured Rocco Siffredi, who has a long and illustrious career in adult film. This would be the place to say something intelligent about the boundaries between erotica and pornography and perceptions of obscenity and so forth, but I figure if the director didn't manage it, why should I? The premise is that a gay man walks in on a woman who has slashed her wrists in the bathroom of a gay bar (now, really, who thinks that the bathroom of a gay bar offers the privacy necessary to do yourself in?). He asks her why she did it and she responds, "Because I'm a woman." After that profound statement, she proposes that he come watch her in her "unwatchable" moments. Why a gay man would want to watch a woman in her unwatchable moments is beyond me, and was apparantly beyond most of the reviewers. But I'm judging the film without seeing it, based on other reviews that mention the film's imaginative use of a garden implement and menstrual blood. Maybe it has Important Things to Say about women's sexuality and the men who hate it. Or maybe Breillat thinks it's her intellectual duty to be a provacateur.

And about that irritating dialog I mentioned, I just had a look round and here is how Roger Ebert describes it: “They talk. They speak as only the French can speak, as if it is not enough for a concept to be difficult, it must be impenetrable. No two real people in the history of mankind have ever spoken like this, save perhaps for some of Breillat’s friends that even she gets bored by.” I do love Ebert, so I'll let him have the final word in his comment that Anatomy of Hell “plays like porn dubbed by bitter deconstructionist theoreticians.”

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

At a Theater Near Your

Sometimes I go to On Demand and just watch trailers for forthcoming movies. There's a lot of crap in our future. Two trailers sparked the following questions:

Why have they done a remake of Hairspray? And did they have to give the role of Edna Turnblad to John Travolta? He looks like a fat Cher.

When they turned the wonderful French film Bella Martha into No Reservations, why did they cast Catherine Zeta-Jones as the super uptight, unbalanced control freak chef? Yeah, right. And isn't the title just so cute? The delightful little girl who initiates her journey into normal human life is--can you guess?--Abigail Breslin.

This brings me to some other questions sparked by recently viewed movies. What happened to The Prestige? It was a very enjoyable book, kind of creepy. The movie took bits and pieces of the book and crammed them into another storyline altogether, which was really annoying. Dear Husband, who hasn't read the book and so did not come at it from my perspective, thought it was worse than I did.

Why did I so much prefer The Illusionist, which in retrospect has more holes than Swiss cheese? I would watch it again. The illusions are real illusions, not special effects. That is just so cool. Even the orange tree, which people think can't possibly be an actual magic trick, was perfected by some magician in the 1800s. Some people complain that they guessed the "twist" in the first five minutes. They should keep company with my dad, who used to pepper our movie watching with such observations as, "That's not real blood," "If that had been a real gunfight, someone would be dead by now," "It's all just pretend, you know." I thought The Illusionist was so much more on target than The Prestige about the allure of magic and the willing suspension of disbelief. In The Prestige, Michael Caine's character says that you don't really want to know the secret, you want to be fooled. But that isn't quite true. You want to be fooled AND you want to know the trick. And so in The Illusionist, Paul Giammati's character laughs in delight when he at last pieces together all the parts of the puzzle. No doubt we could go on to discuss cinema as the ultimate illusion blah blah blah.

But onward, if you haven't seen L'Auberge Espagnole, I highly recommend it. A young Frenchman goes to Spain on an exchange program to study economics and ends up sharing an apartment with students from all over. It reminded me of my college days--dilapidated furniture, ashtrays overflowing, everyone staying up to all hours talking or dancing. It's also very very funny. There's a scene near the end, in which all the friends race desperately back to the apartment to prevent one of their crew from being found in a compromising position by her boyfriend. Her brother improvises a solution that is hilarious and unexpected.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Sniper at the Gates of Heaven

Because I think this is an awesome song title, and there is one degree of separation between me and one of the band members.

They were also on NPR.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

God, what are you thinking?

This is one of those times when my patience is tested. I think as a family we've been through quite a lot in the past few years. But, no, there's still more. Dear Husband has recurrent sinus infections, which landed him at the ENT. The ENT found polyps and a deviated septum, but he also referred Dear Husband to an immunologist, because he has stopped responding to oral antibiotics. The immunologist took 6 vials of blood and ran every test imaginable.

The upshot is that Dear Husband has some sort of auto-immune disease, the exact nature of which is still to be determined. He's not making enough IGg or some such. The treatment for this is monthly IVs of gammaglobulin or whatever the stuff is.

He also has celiac disease. We've been kind of wondering about that possibility for a while, and his primary care doctor had a test run that came up negative. The immunologist, however, found several indicators (anemia and other nutritional deficits, IBS, lactose intolerance and other measures)and said the best indicator of all is how Dear Husband feels when he eats wheat.

Could life get any more complicated? Our family looks like this:

ductal carcinoma in situ, mastectomy and reconstruction, possible tamoxifin therapy for 5 years.
bipolar II

learning delays

Dear Husband:
Interstitial Cystitis
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Primary immunodeficiency
Celiac disease

The only healthy person in this family is DramaQueen.

But, hey, I found out that Outback has a gluten-free menu, and we have a gift card. I guess some provision has been made.

So, God, enough already.

Oh, did I mention that having primary immunodeficiency completely destroys Dear Husband's dreams of becoming a nurse, a career he has set his sights on for the past few years?