Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving and Loss

I was really into the holidays last year. I don’t know why, but my mood was high. Right now I feel as dreary as the grubby grey sky outside my window.

We spent Thanksgiving in Phoenix with Dear Husband’s family. I was really looking forward to seeing Phoenix again. As it turned out, I felt rather ill much of the time. My head ached and my energy dragged. The girls had a great time, as there were kids their age to play with and uncles and grandparents to dote on them. One evening I heard the girls calling “grandpa” and a terrible sense of loss crushed me. “Grandpa” is Dear Husband’s father. Their other grandpa is dead, only vaguely remembered really. He won’t see DramaQueen and Firecracker come of age. My mother died before Firecracker was thought of, and DramaQueen doesn’t remember her at all.

I asked one of my brothers, the one who lived closest to my father, to stay with us at Christmas so that he wouldn’t be alone. My family is so odd. My brothers are tight. They are close in age and far older than me, off on their own by the time I was born. My mom was the one who kept everyone connected. She remembered the birthdays. She told me what was up with my brothers and told them what was up with me. Because, simply, they don’t think about me. At least, not very often. You could argue that I haven’t made much effort to stay in touch (true enough), but you can also say that they haven’t made much effort, either. One of my brothers lives not much more than 30 minutes from me and I never see him. The last time I did (at our dad’s funeral) he told me amusing stories about his friend’s two year old. I thought, “You have nieces, actual nieces. We’ve been living here for 6 years and they’ve been bloody adorable and amusing the whole time.”

And so it was, that I found myself surrounded by my husband’s family, and felt the loss of my own.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Now that's some damn good water

Well bust my buttons, but I ran across an ad campaign today that was very, ah, intriguing. It's for Perrier. I can imagine after a while it becomes difficult to effectively promote bottled water. It's a bit of a luxury item (at least Perrier thinks it is) but, heh, water - how basic can you get? Enter the advertising firm Ogilvy.

I'm not well-versed in burlesque, so I had to Google Dita Von Teese. Never stop learning - that's my motto.

If you are inclined, you can visit the Perrier Mansion and have a look around. Several times.

The very definition of a come-hither look.
Is this sexist? Do I care? Will I be more likely to buy Perrier? Doubtful, but I am tempted to get a veil.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

“Is that a British Army Browning L9A1 in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?”

"I'm not a psychopath, Anderson. I'm a high functioning sociopath. Do your research." - Sherlock
I. Want. That. Coat.
I recently saw the last episode of the BBC Sherlock series, and I am so full of delight that it naturally spills over into boring everyone to death with my enthusiasm.  Sometimes you encounter a work of art (I guess some folks would not call a TV show a work of art, but I will) and it makes you all giddy and happy and astounded at the immense creativity of everyone involved. It reminds me that when I was younger I would sometimes literally tremble while reading a particularly wonderful book or watching a movie that had entranced me. Tremble. I don’t do that so much anymore, and perhaps it’s a shame. But I still get a rush from such encounters, and boy did I get a rush watching Sherlock.

If you haven’t been lucky enough to catch the series, you can still view it on PBS Masterpiece - just go here. Sherlock has been re-imagined into the 21st century. He was already making use of forensics in the Victorian era, and now he has at his disposal more sophisticated forensic analysis and access to the latest technology. John Watson is back from the war in Afghanistan, assigned by his shrink to blog about his traumatic experience, but his real problem is sheer boredom. They meet and immediately begin to weave that wonderful symbiotic bond that is so quintessentially Holmes and Watson.

The actors playing Sherlock and Watson OWNED those roles. Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is brilliant, abrasive, manipulative, socially oblivious one moment and calculating the next, sometimes predatory and a bit scary. (As an aside, the moment he walked on screen, Dear Husband exclaimed, “He’s cute!” That’s the first time he’s ever beaten me to the punch in that regard. He is very cute, with his floppy, curly dark hair. Cumberbatch is not what I would call conventionally handsome, but he looks smashing). Freeman’s Watson is just adorable. And by adorable I mean hot. Really hot. You might not think so at first, but, um, give it time. He has such an expressive face, such wonderful comedic presence. He makes it believable that an average self-respecting man would put up with a sociopath like Sherlock. He’s never overshadowed. Best. Watson. Ever. And Moriarty – well, I think I watched him with my jaw hanging open. Not everyone liked the actor’s take on him, but I thought it was original and definitely frightening. What some found over the top, I found eerie and creepy.  It seemed clear that Moriarty’s performance was deliberately pitched to freak out everyone. Usually he takes pains to blend in, but in revealing himself to Sherlock he unleashes all his mockery and venom. 

Everyone thinks the other guy's the hot one.

Why do you think Sherlock Holmes remains such a favorite character? I know I’m not the first to ask that question. I’ve never read much on the subject, and I’m sure there’s lots of speculation. Perhaps he was just one of the first detectives, and the detective genre has never fallen out of favor, lucky for Doyle. Among the Victorians, detectives must have stood as an example of the scientific method – science seemed to alternately enthrall and horrify them. The worship of reason remains strongly embedded in Western culture, so Holmes remains fresh and contemporary, and therefore so amenable to being transferred to the 21st century, as the writers have done in Sherlock.

And Sherlock, why is he so appealing? He’s not very nice. He’s cold and aloof. He’s often condescending and unappreciative. Cases are puzzles; he’s oblivious to the human element. He uses everyone around him. What exactly keeps him from jumping the wall and becoming a Moriarty isn’t really clear. A good English upbringing? A whim? The Sherlock series highlights the similarities between the two – Moriarty is Sherlock’s doppelganger. Both are brilliant, cold, calculating, and manipulative and both harbor an abhorrence of boredom and a craving for distraction, mental challenges, and a worthy opponent. A police officer warns Watson that she wouldn’t be surprised if Sherlock one day showed up as the criminal rather than the detective. There but for the grace of Watson goes Sherlock. Sherlock is the mind and Watson is the heart and moral center.  Pure, cold science is made fit (or at least tolerable) for civilization, harnessed for good rather than evil.

There has been some speculation around the Sherlock series that Watson and Sherlock are gay, because everyone seems to speculate about such matters these days. Have we ever lived in a time more focused on gayness? Who is, who isn’t, how can you tell, is it good, is it bad, what do they do in bed and can we watch? Maybe it’s the final frontier. The writers and actors have stated that Watson and Holmes aren’t a couple, although in a contemporary setting the characters surrounding them would be bound to speculate or assume, so that is written in. Cumberbatch has called the relationship a bromance, which is as good a description as any, I suppose. As you watch, though, you’ll find the writers are pretty damn playful. When a restaurant owner mistakes Watson for Holmes’s date, Watson tries to correct him and Sherlock … does nothing. Maybe he doesn’t care enough to correct the mistake. Maybe it amuses him. Maybe he rather likes it. Maybe he didn’t even notice. Moriarty, in contrast, is deliberately campy – “Is that a British Army Browning L9A1 in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?” His snaky flirtation is a goad, as if he were saying: Admit it, Sherlock, you find my villainy irresistibly attractive. Resistance is futile; I will seduce you to the dark side. Mwaahaahaa.

For my part, looking back to the original stories, I’ve always thought that Holmes was in love with Watson, within his limited understanding of love. Watson seemed to regard Holmes with something like hero worship and feel a responsibility to take care of him. Whatever. It doesn’t matter, because the Internet is littered with fanfic shipping Sherlock and Watson. The people have spoken and taken matters into their own hands. I can’t read fan fiction; it makes me feel squirmy. Some things really don’t need to be spelled out. Subtext, folks, learn to appreciate it.

And really, friendship is a big enough challenge for Sherlock. It’s lovely to see that develop in the series. At one point, in response to Watson’s criticism, Sherlock says, “You’re disappointed in me…Don’t make people into heroes, John. Heroes don’t exist, and if they did I wouldn’t be one of them.” The ending of the last episode is particularly sweet, when Sherlock struggles to express his admiration for Watson’s heroic actions. I think Sherlock is so used to thinking of himself as a sociopath that he is rather surprised to find himself caring about anyone. And alarmed. After all, it will be used against him, as Moriarty insinuates.

Jim Moriarty: "I will burn the heart out of you."
Sherlock: "I have been reliably informed that I don't have one."
Jim Moriarty: "Oh, but we both know that's not quite true."

Sherlock, your gun is so big!

We’ve been left on a cliff-hanger. Well, of course Sherlock and Watson have to survive, but still. Is this the Reichenbach Falls? So soon? In fact, the final scene was so excellent– the resolution withheld in a moment of supreme tension – you almost want to preserve it forever. Almost. I wish I could link to just that final scene, but I can’t. It might spoil your fun, anyway. If you insist, you can go here to play the Great Game episode and select the last scene in the scrolling menu below the main screen to experience the full awesomeness. 

ooooo, I found out how to embed this portion of the video. Thank you PBS:

Watch the full episode. See more Masterpiece.

A final comment:  that coat Sherlock is wearing – I want one.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Zombies and Faeries and Not Enough Candy (for me)

Our neighborhood sucks at Halloween. We never stay at home handing out candy. Not many people come by, and I always worry that the ones who do could be planning a home invasion. The street by our house is spooky, but not playfully seasonally spooky. I would not be surprised to come home one day to find the entire street closed off by police cars. On the surface our area looks fine. I’ve just never felt like scratching the surface.

So we go to other neighborhoods to trick or treat. A mere few blocks away is a neighborhood where people actually know each other. They even have their own Facebook page. DramaQueen’s best friend ArtistChild lives there, so we weaseled our way into the community trick or treat caravan. ArtistChild’s family have lived in the neighborhood for 11 years and seem to know everyone. We’ve lived in our neighborhood for 3 years and know the neighbors to the right and left. The others seem to live in an alternate reality and have figured out how to teleport in and out of their houses, because we never see them. We got election fliers addressed to at least 5 different people who have lived at our address – we are a neighborhood of transients and hermits.

There's nothing like a home-cooked meal
DramaQueen was a zombie housewife this year. We put her hair in curlers and tied a “bloody” bandage around here hair. She wore an apron splattered with more fake blood and carried a skillet with a bloody brain. That brain was a piece of inspired work, I can tell you. At first I planned to use a cauliflower, but I discovered that cauliflower is friggin heavy. So I found some white playdoh and crafted a very nice brain. I cherish these few moments of ingenuity and accomplishment. We covered her face and arms in sickly grey and black makeup and added more blood. She was fabulous. 

FireCracker, on the other hand, will have nothing to do with scary costumes. She was even nervous around her zombie sister. FireCracker was a faery (not a fairy, which is the boring US version). We made use of DramaQueen’s old drama costumes and added some sparkly wings. The wings ended up being larger than Firecracker and were something of a hazard all night, particularly on stairs, where they tended to wonk other kids who were trying to leave.

Not many faeries wear such sporty shoes
ArtistChild went as a Goth, wearing a costume that looked like something I wore back in college. It’s sad when you can find part of your past for sale at Party City.

In the past we’ve usually gone to these planned neighborhoods with all the houses close together and little handkerchief front lawns. You could cover a lot of candy territory very quickly. This year I hadn’t counted on walking a half acre just to get to the door. It seemed annoyingly inefficient.

As the night wore on the teenagers came out. I know some people are really annoyed by trick or treating teenagers. I don’t see why, as long as they are actually in costume and aren’t being jerks. Some of them girls were a little, ah, robust for their costumes, but they seemed to be having fun.

This year the girls made us swear oaths not to touch their candy without them being present. They think we’re sneaky thieves, which we are. Now we’re grumpy reformed thieves. And this year DramaQueen traded her peanut candies, which I usually can count on getting, with ArtistChild. I had to make do with Almond Joys, which I guess no one wants.