Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Falling Backward

Please stop me. I have grandiose ideas of decking out the house for autumn – gourds, pumpkins, wheat, corn, maybe a festive wreath of colorful foliage. This is what happens when I consume too much Martha Stewart, Real Simple and Better Homes & Gardens. I imagine cute little tin buckets wrapped with burlap ribbon and filled with gold and burgundy flowers. The reality is a faded, rumpled plaid tablecloth decorated with a few drips of candle wax. Little pumpkins and other such decorative items end up sprawled over the surface and buried under mail and the paper detritus the girls shed daily.

I love autumn, though. I have fond memories of childhood autumns, which is kind of odd because in South Georgia autumn isn’t a very colorful season. Leaves go brown and fall off – none of the lovely reds, yellows and oranges you see further north. But autumn was when school began (and end to the incredibly hot, oppressive, boring summer), and the state fair brought its diesel-soaked excitement to town, and Halloween – well what kid doesn’t like Halloween? Autumn here is so much prettier.

In previous years we made a few attempts at some regional activities. Apple picking was something of a bust. Turns out that you can’t just pick apples; you have to pay an entry fee to the orchard, which is a-bustlin with cloggers, food vendors, petting zoos, “museums” (some rusty farm implements in a ramshackle old building), kiddie events, and very long lines to the one restroom. My kids declared the curly fried potatoes a success but weren’t much interested in the actual apple picking process. Another year we went to a corn maze. That was my bright idea. Since when did hayrides mean perching uncomfortably on some bales behind a noisy tractor, breathing in diesel fumes? Although we had a map, we had some problems navigating the maze. Firecracker gave out and had to be carried, and Dear Husband started wheezing. Nature does that to him.

Fall is also the time when every school and church has some sort of festival. I inevitably forget when they are. There are also school fundraisers, which is why I’m getting those issues of Martha Stewart. You know, I found a recipe in one of them for blueberry ice pops that – I kid you not – called for you to steep white pine needles in hot water. PINE NEEDLES, folks. That lady is sick.

Anyway, I now know the true joy of the season – the fall television premiers.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Caching Out

This weekend we decided to try something new. I blame the wine from the night before. Dear Husband and I had heard about this cool international venture called "geocaching," and it sounded so much like a big Easter egg hunt that we had to try it. I should mention right here that no jelly beans are involved, which sort of makes it not as good as an Easter egg hunt to me.

Anyway, if you have never heard of geocaching, here's what happens. Someone puts a log bog and some doohickies in a cannister or lockbox or box disguised as a log and hides it. They record the coordinates and post the location on this big bulletin board at, with a few hints. Then people go looking for it, navigating with a GP, and if they find it they put their name in the log book, trade something in the box for something they have, and put the cache back the way they found it for future geocachers. See, it's a sort of international scavenger hunt.

So we thought, "Wow, this is neat! What a great family activity!"

The first cache was at a pharmacy right around the corner from us. All the comments mentioned what an easy find it was - a park and grab - perfect for a first time. Well, we wandered around the parking lot for an hour poking at the grass verges, peeking through the fence, trying to avoid looking like miscreants. Firecracker and I bought candy. It went like this for several more caches. We spent a long time staring in disbelief at a lamp post in front of a church. By the fourth stop DramaQueen had written up a sign and stuck it to the window - "I hate geocaching." We persevered and finally found a tupperware box near a bookstore. Rather DramaQueen fell upon it with a crow of triumph. By that time we didn't really care who saw us. If people wondered why we were dragging a plastic box out from under the shrubbery, they refrained from asking.

I gather that geocaching is particularly popular along hiking paths and such, part of getting out in nature and so forth. Given that the girls think nature should be thoroughly washed and everything "icky" removed from it, I'm not sure they will go for that. They might do it if they could wear gloves and a hazmat suit. I myself felt a bit woozy when I turned over a piece of wood and ants pured out across the grass.

I wonder if anyone has ever found a corpse doing this? I'm waiting for geocaching to turn up on CSI. If it hasn't already.

See that little red line peeking out? Yeah, well we didn't see anything like that.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I went couponing and all I got was this lousy bottle of Old Spice

Have you ever read an article or seen a news broadcast on women who do extreme couponing - you know, the ones who take $300 worth of groceries through the checkout and it ends up costing only $3? I realize that for some people coupons are the only way they make ends meet, but I have a fantasy about the uber couponer. She files her coupons by category and expiration date, buys multiple copies of the newspaper for the coupon inserts, always matches manufacturer coupons with store coupons and sales, and often buys additional coupons off eBay or similar sites. She spends any number of hours a week working on her coupons; meanwhile she is homeschooling her kids, growing an organic garden with ladybugs to control pests, upcyling castoffs into ingenious crafts, refinishing that $2 chest of drawers she found at a garage sale, sewing curtains, scrapbooking, running a profitable blog, and cleaning and decluttering her house by zone while still maintaining a stock of gallon milk jugs and empty shoe boxes for craft projects.

My first thought when seeing these jubilant women waltzing out of the grocery store paying no more than I would for a cup of coffee is that they cannot possibly be buying produce. How often do you see coupons and deep discounts for produce? They must have a cart full of tater tots, Velveeta and canned green beans. But then I think, of course they aren’t buying produce; they have an organic garden. They’re digging up potatoes from their garden, canning tomatoes and crock potting their way to financial victory.

Thing is, I’ve tried. I’ve really tried. But I’m lucky to get out of a grocery store paying less than $165 a week, WITH coupons. Gluten free products cost a fortune rarely mitigated by coupon offers ($6 for 4 bagels or a small loaf of bread; up to $9 for a packaged mix). I recently put together the items for a flour blend, a not particularly complex one, and I believe the ingredients totaled around $25. I imagine in weight it was nowhere near equal to a 5lb bag of regular flour. And that was economical, because I was making the blend myself instead of buying a mix. No wonder some GF folks grind their own grains. I’m surprised they don’t have a rice paddy in their backyard.

Anyway, we keep our consumption of prepared gluten free stuff to a minimum, but there is still the expensive assortment of in-season fruit and veg, the free-range chicken and grass fed beef (I mean, have you seen what happens on Food Inc? the regular meats are incubators for salmonella and e-coli). And then we get to the sticking point - I so rarely see coupons for any product that I use. Most of the coupons are for foods I can’t or wouldn't eat (Sunny-D? Seriously? I might as well give them soda). And my word, the number of coupons for toothpaste, air freshener and makeup just astounds me. I go to various couponing sites, and they just make me tired. I’m particularly flummoxed by Walgreens;, which requires an elaborate system of purchases in order to get register coupons (I've seen sites that go through this in detail). It’s so complex that I've never even bothered to try it. And there’s nothing more dangerous than the Kroger “But 10 and get $5 off.” You will go insane tracking the stupid items, trying to make sure that your group of 10 has more lower-priced items than higher priced items, but not getting more than the 10, because then you’re just a pawn in their game, but you won’t be taken in, oh no, you will beat this! You will emerge waving your $5 gift card in victory! Cue maniacal laughter.

And I will still end up paying at least $165 worth of groceries.

Friday, August 19, 2011

I'm Back and Better than Ever

Oh, hello there! It’s been a while. Hope all is well. Things are great here – I just haven’t shored up enough time in one place to actually pin something to the wall here. I started a long, rambling account of our excellent trip to Los Angeles, but the post was getting overstuffed, like a bit unwieldy sofa, so I stopped, and then I got sidetracked.

Here’s the summary: Great weather. The girls went to the circus and Firecracker got a stuffed elephant she named Julia.
DramaQueen and Firecracker at the circus with  Popop
And they got to see two of their uncles.

The ride up to this point was harrowing.
 That's the girls with Uncle J as close as you can get to the Hollywood sign. J drove us up in his Bronco. The passenger door didn't open from the outside, and I almost dislocated my back getting in and out. I felt about 80. Which is how old the road was, judging from its condition. You'd think with millionaires living in the Hollywood Hills that the roads wouldn't look like rural Alabama circa 1932.

Uncle D, who's pretty much still a kid himself.

I saw my BFF from college, who is going backward in age instead of forward, like Benjamin Button. He has lots of fun stories about the celebrities he meets, none of which I dare repeat. He's a writer, and we eagerly awaiting seeing one of his works hit the screen someday, at which point we'll hit him up for drinks. DramaQueen was a tad disappointed that he hasn't met Selena Gomez. Steve likes to use his friends' names for characters in his screenplays. I was rather touched to find my name attached to a transvestite.

My awesome friend Steve and Dear Husband. In a parking garage. We're classy like that.

Went toUniversal Studios, where I managed to feel ill on the damn trolley tour. I hate projected movement. And giant 3-D apes. I was happy to spend time with Firecracker in the Curious George Water Playground and nurse my incipient nausea while DramaQueen and Dear Husband dealt with the Simpsons Ride.

Visited the La Brea tarpits.
Here is where the pictures of the La Brea tarpits are supposed to go, but I can't find them. Imagine glistening pits of sticky black liquid. Then imagine the paleontologists having to dig around in it. The area smells like a newly paved road.

Saw the Tim Burton exhibit at LACMA (DramaQueen insisted), which did not smell at all.
This was the photo op spot. No pictures inside.
The exhibit was awesome. Uncle D and Uncle J were also there, and Uncle D and Firecracker went to the kids' area and painted. Since I had somehow once again managed to get glutined (Baja Fresh - I blame you), I spent a lot of time monitoring my position in relation to the bathrooms and trying not to look as if someone had just stabbed me in the stomach.

Went sailing, which I thought would terrify me but which I enjoyed oh so much. We saw sea lions sunning on a buoy and dolphins doing their dolphin thing. We had a captain from Munich who let Dear Husband help steer. I took Dramamine ahead of time, because of the glutined within and inch of my life thing (I somehow got glutined three times during a week-long vacation, and the effects linger for a very long time) and stayed out of the hold, which seems to move a lot more than it needs to.
Dear Husband and Firecracker set course.

DramaQueen takes her turn.

This was our captain. He's German and although he told us his name several times I never was clear about it.

And now, well school has started, and it has been very exciting. This is DramaQueen’s first year in middle school, with the novelty of a locker and changing classes. Firecracker is in fourth grade, and she is not at all happy about the amount of homework she has, since it seriously cuts into her time at Webkinz World. The start of a new school year always smells like hope and endless possibility to me. There’s always the chance that I’ll finally put 12 years’ worth of photos in albums this year, keep the laundry off the sofa, and remember to put air in my tires.

And what have y'all been doing?

Thursday, June 30, 2011


I am experiencing waves of anxiety, the kind that make me dither over every decision, however small. Everything seems to take such monumental effort, and my will is weak and whiney. I can't even stand to hear myself think.

I want to sink my claws into everyone I love and make sure we all stay safe. There’s too much illness and uncertainty. Someone very dear at my workplace has advanced cancer. Dear Husband has some mysterious digestive ailment and the testing for that is before us. Blood work apparently revealed significant inflammation, and startling words such as “Crohn’s Disease” have been mentioned. More blood work and an endoscopy next week. Meanwhile everything he eats seems to hurt him. And what can I do about it? Damn all.

I myself wish I could just give up eating altogether. I’m taking acid blockers, but I still often feel queasy. And for some reason, despite the fact that I’ve found gluten free bread that pretty much tastes like bread, it disturbs me. I can never finish it. It makes me think of trying to eat mushrooms. I can, sort of, if they are in a stew or over steak, but I can’t shake the knowledge that they are fungus. That’s so gross. Why would I want to eat fungus? And somehow this gluten free bread evokes the same hesitation. It’s ersatz bread. I KNOW what it truly is. I feel like I took the red pill and I can never unknow its true properties.

Firecracker is, well, Firecracker. Everything goes well and then something strange comes out of left field, like her extreme reaction to ant and mosquito bites. I feel like I need to wrap her up just to get to the car. And by extreme, well you should have seen the enormous blisters the ants created. She looked like she had bubonic plague. Tomorrow it’s a trip to the orthodontist. That’s sounds so minor, just the usual stuff kids go through. Except everything the orthodontist says makes my stomach knot. Her palate is too small, so she will have to have an expander, which basically forces the soft bone apart (ye gads, it sounds so awful), but it needs to be done quite soon to avoid an overbite. Her teeth are all over the place. She almost looks like she has two rows, that's how crowded they are. She also has gum hyperplasia (too much gum tissue), probably from years of seizure meds, so the orthodontist tells us she will need periodontal surgery to remove some of the excess tissue. Yep, there's that knot tightening. Firecracker does not deal well with pain and discomfort. She used to, but I think she depleted all her reserves. Now needles provoke temper tantrums and crying jags, and she focuses on every scrape and cut, examining it every few minutes, asking the same questions over and over about why and when and how it will get better.

DramaQueen is, as always, healthy, thank you God, but she has my eyes, poor girl. She has to have a physical soon and the thought of having blood drawn panics her. Seems when I was a kid I was getting shots all the time, and I don't even remember the first time I had blood drawn. It just was what it was, a moment of ouch and over. Somehow DramaQueen is all, well, dramatic about it. 

I have more doctor appointments I need to schedule, the endless rounds of keeping on top of my health issues. I feel like a ticking time bomb. Somewhere a rogue cell is waiting. I feel old. I don’t get enough sleep. I don’t get enough any exercise. Mortality is giving me the beady eye. And all I want to do is lie down.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Monday Report - Angels and Insects Edition

If I don't come up with some sort of weekly feature, I'll never write on this blog with any regularity. I'm all over the place in my subject matter. I'm all over the place generally. So I've decided to bounce in on Monday with a report of all the interesting and important stuff I do over the weekend.

Here's the weekend recap.
  • Buckets of rain with lots of thunder and lightening - very thrilling. I am always slightly uneasy that a gigantic ball of hail will crash through our bathroom skylight and our house will be invaded by wasps before we get it fixed.
  • I thought about calling some people I should call, and then I didn't. I plan to do the same thing next weekend.
  • Finished reading the awesome A Madness of Angels, which I plan to write about at some point. I'm in love with the protagonist, who is resurrected two years after his death to find that he is sharing his brain with blue electric angels.
  • Had to take Firecracker to the doctor on Saturday for some nasty-looking mosquito bites. Abby is very sensitive to mosquito bites, which usually swell up to the size of her fist and turn red.
  • No sooner did we step out of the car with a bottle of antibiotic than a bunch of ants swarmed over Firecracker's foot, inflicting multiple bites. Abby is even more sensitive to ant bites, so we had to go to the doctor again on Sunday, this time for steroids to bring down the swelling. She now looks like a medieval plague victim.
  • Firecracker is not very happy.
  • When Firecracker is injured or sick, we are all treated to a minute-by-minute account of every ache and pain. And I do mean minute by minute.
  • Why do insects target Abby? DramaQueen can go an entire summer without any sort of bite.
  • I hate summer in Georgia.
  • Sunday night was the True Blood season premier, hurrah. This season I'm rooting for vampire Eric, who gave the best ever public service announcement (wish I could post the whole thing, but there's a bit of it at the beginning).

  • I'm doing fine going gluten free, except that bread is very expensive, with a loaf having maybe 10 slices at about $5 a loaf, making it more expensive oz by oz than some illicit drugs. I'm not sure that's entirely true, but I'm not going to research it.
  • There are parts of our backyard I know nothing about. We spend absolutely no time there. See comment above about summer and ants. I would be perfectly happy with no yard at all. If I want grass I can go to the park.
  • We are in the process of killing two plants. I had the genius idea of the girls going on a field trip to a nursery and getting plants. One is impatiens - Abby remembers the name because, as she says, "I'm impatient." Liz got something she said is called a "David something". I imagine they're annuals and slated to die anyway. 
  • Dear Husband is, I hope, bringing home a treat.
  • Oh, and here's another treat.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Game On, Swords Out, Heads Off

Beautiful sets are part of the appeal of the series.
Every summer we get HBO so we can watch True Blood. This year we happened to get it a bit early, so I thought I would check out Game of Thrones. I'd never heard of the books, since fantasy epics have not generally been part of my literary diet. I am not apt to pick up a book set in another world where the characters have weird names like Cl'ad or M'rn. But there was so much buzz about this show that I had to check it out.

Tyrion should have his own series.
Daenerys deserves a dragon.
First I will say that HBO has created a remarkable series. Even the opening credits are gorgeous. The set design and costuming work well in creating mood and place. The cast is good to excellent. At first I found the story intriguing, but after a while I'm like, meh. I've read reviews praising the moral complexity of the characters. Um, yeah, right. Oh, she is fiercely loyal to her family; too bad she kills people. That's what is meant by "complex" I guess. The bad 'uns are pretty much bad to the bone and the good 'uns are, from what I can tell, en route to being corrupted or killed. I like Eddard's feisty daughter Arya and Tyrian, the dwarf, who has been given the best lines (and Richard Dinklage, a marvelous actor, obviously relishes his role). I'm also fascinated by the character Daenerys, daughter of the assassinated former king, now in exile, who starts out as a fragile, ethereal victim but becomes increasingly kick-ass. But most of the characters are annoying, willfully blind or downright vicious. The only really stand-up guy, Eddard Stark, screws everything up because he can't outmaneuver all the other power players. Here's a piece of advice, you shouldn't tell the queen that you know her deep, dark secret after the king, your only ally in the court, is dead, particularly not after your wife has kidnapped her brother. Also, when your crazy-ass wife kidnaps a member of the queen's family based on questionable evidence from a third-party and puts him on trial at the crazy-ass family headquarters, you should not be supportive. This is a good time to play the "I'm so sorry but my wife is unhinged with grief" card. Just sayin'.

Working girls in training.
Since HBO can, they dump as much blood and brutality as possible into every episode. Within the first few minutes of episode 1 I was treated to a scene of hacked up corpses arranged is some sort of mysterious symbol (at this point I don't really care what it means or who did it) and in every episode since I've had to close my eyes at various points to avoid having some new horror seared into my psyche. Most recently a scene took place while an animal is being butchered and skinned, which I'm sure conveyed the utter coldness of the Lannister patriarch, but I could have got that with less squishiness, thank you very much. And it being HBO there's lots of gratuitous sex. Seriously, is there ever a really sound narrative reason for an explicit sex scene? Oh, puhlease. No, there isn't. I don't get, for instance, why a scene of two women practicing "the business" is dramatically necessary. While the whore training was in session, the brothel owner was busy telling his life story to one of the "trainees," who turned out to be very good at multi-tasking. I suspect he may have alluded to something important in that little talk. Or not. In any case, I gather the character of the prostitute Ros was written specifically for the TV show, because, you know, an epic without whores is kind of like popcorn without butter and salt.

When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.
You must have to find Machiavellian politics and strategy much more interesting than I do to really enjoy this series. Or you have to really enjoy stories in which family loyalty trumps morality and humanity nine-tenths of the time. Not filial affection, mind you, just cold-hearted, unthinking, brutal loyalty.

So, next season, I might give Game of Thrones a miss. Except now they have dragons.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The new gluten-free me

I guess it’s time for me to finally post about this monumental change in my life. It started a month or so ago when my doctor discovered that I was anemic. He sent me to a gastroenterologist to make sure I didn’t have Something Nasty. The Gastro Doc, with the rather charming but disorienting name Dimple, ordered a colonoscopy and an endoscopy. She looked at my iron levels and said, “You must feel like you want to hit someone.” I’m telling you that so you can give me credit for not, in fact, hitting anyone.

I’ll spare the details of these procedures, except to say that magnesium citrate is a baffling concoction that is fizzy, salty and sour all at the same time. I felt like I was drinking a weird Asian beverage. I also never want to see Gatorade or Jell-o again. On the positive side, I love the little cocktail they gave me to put me under. It has the beauty of a narcotic without the hurling afterwards.

My colonoscopy was fine, but the endoscopy revealed some things I wasn’t aware of. Like having acute gastritis, for one. I hadn’t really noticed until they told me. I also had blunted villi, and since Dear Husband has had his own problems, I knew what that likely meant, and indeed the blood tests confirmed that I do in fact have celiac.

I’ll break here for a public service announcement: Celiac is an autoimmune disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients. It is estimated that 1 out of 133 people have it, and less than 3% of those are actually diagnosed. If you have any digestive issues that have been written off as IBS (like Dear Husband’s were), or if you have any autoimmune disease (my GI said she automatically tests anyone with a thyroid condition), I encourage you to beat some sense into your doctor and get the Celiac Blood Panel.

Strangely, I didn’t have any serious digestive complaints. At least nothing I didn’t brush off as simple indigestion, or a bug, or my period. Dear Husband says that I was always having problems, but they were not the bent-over-in-misery-never-leaving-the-house-again variety. I feel supremely lucky, because I’ve read stories of people who were miserable for 10 even 20 years before they were diagnosed. On the other hand, having no powerful symptoms imbues the experience with a haze of unreality.

The treatment is simple - never eat wheat, rye or barley again, or any product derived from them (such as malt). I’m used to looking for this stuff because of Dear Husband. And I’m lucky that I don’t have multiple food allergies. There are people who can’t eat corn, or milk, or potatoes on top of having to avoid gluten.

But, you know what, most gluten free baked goods totally blow, and they are very, very expensive. I’m going to have to figure out baking my own stuff (which involves strange flour mixes and something called xanthum gum that costs $11 for a bag the size of an oatmeal packet). In practice I approach all gluten free goodies with distrust and suspicion. For God’s sake, people are baking with bean flour! Bean flour! In cookies! In bread! That’s just what a I want, a lovely garbanzo bean cookie. Make that a vegan, nut free, rice free, corn free, soy free, agave syrup sweetened garbanzo bean cookie. And then there’s the gritty, mouthful of beach sand experience of eating anything baked with rice flour. I just tried using the new gluten free Bisquick to make biscuits, which I’ve actually heard some poor demented folk praise, and I wondered if this was, in truth, food or Evil masquerading as a comestible.

At the moment I’m tired of thinking about food, what to stock, what’s safe, whether I should risk purchasing this $7 loaf of gluten free bread, what the hell I’m going to pack in my lunch, and I’m wondering if I could just live off Corn Chex for a while. Thankfully, ice cream (many kinds, anyway) and jellybeans are gluten free.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Random Facts about Firecracker

Now Firecracker gets her turn. Here are random facts about the cutest little 9 year old evah.

1. Is very affectionate and cuddly.
2. Loves our cats, Cheeto and Dorito, thoroughly and vigorously.
3. If she ever accidentally hurts them, she writes them notes of apology. She also draws pictures for them.
4. She never cared for baby dolls or Barbie dolls, but she's very attached to her huge family of stuffed animals.
5. Has a sweet-tooth. Heck, she has a mouth full of  'em.
6. Likes playing with toy cars and plans to buy a toy car wash.
7. Has beautiful caramel-colored hair with natural highlights. In the summer it looks as if she's been to the salon.
8. Has an incredible belly laugh. She sounds like she's vibrating.
9. For some reason really, really likes The Mentalist better than all other shows.
10. Likes to draw.
11. Does math for fun. You should have seen how excited she was that her teacher gave her a workbook for the summer.
12. Has problems with language processing and reading comprehension, but she likes going to the library and checking out lots of books. She particularly likes books about animals and encyclopedias. When she was little she use to make me check out all the Bing Bunny books at one time. Bing Bunny is awesome, by the way.
13. Once she starts playing, she becomes obsessed with the Wii, particularly the Sword Play game in Wii Resort.
14. Has a volatile temper, hence her nickname.
15. Calls meringues "merangutangs" and J.C. Penny "jennypenny."

16. Hates ants and bees. She was once stung by dozens of fire-ants, which resulted in an infection. Now she is highly suspicious of the lawn.
17. Has a hard time giving things up, even stuff she no longer plays with or uses. She therefore has a lot of Pokemon cards and Sillybandz.
18. Unlike DramaQueen, she prefers to spend her money rather than save it.
19. Has been bugging me for weeks to open this bloody Soda Pop making kit that Dear Husband got the kids for the summer.
20. Likes rocks. I used to come home and find all the rocks from the yard, and the neighbors' yards, in our living room or drying on the floor in the kitchen. I still find rocks in the washing machine from when she squirrels them away in her pockets.
21. Has Tuberous Sclerosis, which means she has benign growths in her brain that affect her memory and cognition and cause seizures (well controlled, happily).
22. She used to be so used to medical procedures that she barely flinched getting her blood drawn. Last time we all got flu shots, two of us had to hold her down. She ran out the building into the parking lot screaming and we had to keep our distance while her fury abated.
23. Still mourns the loss of Wormy, a worm some idiot at a summer camp put in a cup of dirt for her to take home. What were they thinking? After we convinced her to let Wormy go so he could get on with his wormy life, she cried for weeks. Sometimes she still randomly moans, "I miss Wormy!"
24.  Is terrified of thunderstorms.
25. Says she talks to God when she's angry, and he tells her when she needs to apologize.
26. We told her she was a chatterbox. She later asked what made her a "cheesebox."
27. Loves the songs Rolling in the Deep by Adele and Defying Gravity sung by the cast of Glee.
28. Thinks Goldilocks was extremely rude and can barely contain her outrage when she reads the story. She feels very sorry for the poor baby bear.
29. Does not like any fruits or vegetables. Now and then we can persuade her to gnaw on a baby carrot.
30. Prefers playing with boys.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Some Facts about DramaQueen

Since I did a blog post about Dear Husband, I thought I would get a kick out of doing them for the girls as well. So here are some random facts about my 11 yr old daughter DramaQueen.

1. When she got to the part in The Deathly Hallows where Harry Potter is walking to his death, she lay prostrate in the hallway weeping and made me tell her if it was going to turn out okay.

DramaQueen as the Queen of Hearts, with her BFF
2. Enjoys acting, obviously.

3. Is a serious bookworm.

4. Has a dry sense of humor.

5. Still thinks boys are beneath notice when they aren't outright annoying.

6. Loves Glee.

Nikola Tesla, sans fangs.
7. Also loves the TV Series Sanctuary. Her favorite character is the vampire Nikola Tesla. Boys are beneath notice but the fully grown specimen displays wit, charm and sound personal hygiene. Thus it begins.

8. Thinks my favorite musician (Owen Pallett) sounds like "a cat strumming on a banjo."

9. Does not like math or science.

10. Is a saver. She pays for all her own presents for friends and family. She also hoards her Halloween candy, which usually lasts until Christmas, at least, if she can keep it hidden from me.

11. Is okay with peanut butter sandwiches but hates jelly.

12. Wishes nature was indoors and not so dirty.

13. Likes roller skating.

14. Favorite outfit is skinny jeans (they must be skinny and they cannot have any fussy embroidery or such)  and a cami with a t-shirt over it (the cami must have lacy trim that peeks out from under the hem of the t-shirt), and black converse (colorful ones are just a bit too much for her).

15. Received a Presidential Award for Academic Excellence this year (She pointed out immediately that there was no way Obama could have actually signed all those certificates). She did not get the award in PE. Shocker.

16. Loves Los Angeles, and visiting her grandparents there is one of the highlights of the year for her.

17. Thinks of herself as "the healthy one in the family."

18. Likes the websites Wonderopolis and Cute Overload, but can't figure out what I find to do on a computer for hours on end.

19. At her birthday party, she and her friends sat in a circle playing a game -- and texting each other. Yes, they texted each other while they were in the same room.

20. Prefers the cake to the frosting.

21. Likes rainy days because they make her feel cozy.

22. Was so horrified when she saw Dear Husband smoking a cigar (which he does maybe maybe once every 5 years) that he promised to never do it again.

23. Has a pretty messy room. Clean clothes tend to sit in a pile on her desk chair until she needs them, and she usually has a collection of water glasses near her bed. Dirty clothes pile up beside the hamper in the bathroom. She isn't quite able to commit to putting them in the dirty clothes or to wearing them again.

24. Has to sleep with the fan on, even in the winter, with just a sheet over her, which she pulls up over her head with a small opening for breathing. There must be two pillow stacked on her left side and a two or three stuffed animals on her right side.

25. Is not a morning person. Duh. Genes on both sides are against that.

26. Her favorite character in Little Women is Beth, which surprised me. I always thought Beth was a bit too good to be true and preferred Jo, but DramaQueen likes Beth's selfless nature.

27. Just "graduated" from elementary school and is *gulp* going to middle school in the fall.

28. Is very protective of Firecracker. Most of the time. When Firecracker hasn't gotten on her last nerve

29. Is easily frustrated, at which point she throws herself on the floor and proclaims the destruction of all her hope and happiness by a firestorm of failure.

30. Won't go to sleep unless her closet door is closed.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Because Dear Husband says I never post about him.

Dear Husband complains that I never post anything about him but instead spend to much time writing about cute actors. He feels slighted. But I don't know how to write something that doesn't simply sing his praises or get all mushy, so without more ado, here are 25 random facts about Dear Husband:

  1. He can't eat gluten, something he found out in the last few years.
  2. He went from being an Orthodox Christian and Sean Hannity-listening political conservative to a liberal NPR-listening Emergent Christian in the space of a year. I'm still freaked out. Pleased but freaked out.
  3. He loves Swedish Fish and he misses being able to eat Twizzlers (which have wheat in them).
  4. His favorite painter is Chagall.
  5. He's Jewish but converted to Christianity when he was 13, causing much tension in his family.
  6. Is far more creative and romantic than I am. Once he had a taxi pick me up to take me to a secret location, a friends house as it turned out, where he had javascript:void(0)prepared a gourmet meal and a slideshow about our life together. Another time he took us to the mall and told me that we each had 20 minutes and 20 dollars to find the perfect anniversary gift.
  7. His grandfather was the Head of Production at Paramount Studios in the early 60s and then set up his own production company. Dear Husband is the only person I know whose birth was announced in Variety.
  8. Loves watching basketball and his favorite team is the Lakers.
  9. Grew up playing tennis, but he never watches it on TV nor seems interested in playing it again.
  10. Would switch teams for Matthew Goode.
  11. Well, who wouldn't?
  12. He loves the TV show Sanctuary, primarily because of Amanda Tapping.
  13. Prefers listening to books to reading them.
  14. Likes nonfiction more than fiction and thinks my love of sci fi and fantasy is a little silly.
  15. He's the fun parent.
  16. He gets nervous when I drive.
  17. Used to be an Assembly of God pastor. This was before I met him. Yeah, he spoke in tongues and all that.
  18. My mother adored him and peppered him with questions about Judaism.
  19. Was transformed from a spendthrift to a fiscally responsible person via Dave Ramsey. This single change resulted in a much more mature and thoughtful person.
  20. Likes reading poetry with me.
  21. Is so not handy. He doesn't mow the grass or fix things around the house. We are both completely clueless about gardening and lawn care and usually kill plants.
  22. Does most of the housecleaning out of desperation.
  23. Is getting a degree in instructional design. My understanding of this area is vague, but it sounds cool.
  24. A whisker basket
  25. Always says "whisker" when he means "wicker." This is one of the first things that endeared him to me.
  26. Loves electronic gadgets. His smart phone is an extension of himself.
  27. There is no one I would rather spend time with. Well, I had to get a bit mushy, didn't I?

    Friday, May 20, 2011

    Hanging Out in the Subtext, Where It's Cool and Shady

    When not demon hunting, Sam and Dean moonlight at 
    Abercrombie & Fitch

    I love Supernatural. You see it's almost time for the season finale and I’m a little giddy with anticipation. And anxiety, because every now and then instead of a pocketful of wonderful you get a scrap of used hankie. But I love love love paranormal stuff that is kinda scary but not enough to make me sleep with the light on. Supernatural has great characters. The hunky monster hunting brothers Dean and Sam Winchester. Bobby, the ornery mentor/father figure/buddy fellow hunter (he says things like “idgit” - how can you not like that?) Castiel, the angel who rebelled and threw in his lot with humankind. Wraiths, demons, vampires, angels, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, Lucifer - what a guest list!. At its best the writing is snappy, with dialogue that makes you laugh with delight. Spiritual matters, needless to say, are frequently touched upon: Where is God and is he on our side? How do you combat evil? How do you handle the evil in yourself? Themes such as the value of family and friendship, trust and betrayal, courage and sacrifice figure prominently. Usually the show doesn't take itself too seriously.  It’s just a big kettle of wonderful.

    But really, the best part? It’s so gay. It’s a big gay party every week. Unlike Glee or Modern Family there are no actual gay characters, but it's still really gay in a sly wink and nudge kind of way.

    Fanfiction is a heartening proletariat genre - people take possession of the stories they love and rework them, elaborating on what interests them. Slash fiction, which pairs popular same-sex characters, is a big ol' online playground. There are forums and places to post rather embarrassing stories, and places to park even more embarrassing art. There are a lot of people out there making up gay story lines for the characters of Supernatural, ready to pounce on any look, gesture or dialogue that seems suspect.

    You might think that a major mainstream TV show would be a bit freaked out and pretty much ignore all these fans teasing out the strands of gay in their creation. But naw, they're down with it. I mean, the writers aren’t going to let the characters hook up in the story, this being the subtext and not the actual plot, but the writers and cast seem to get a kick out of their fan’s obsessive enthusiasm and deliberately invoke it. In Supernatural, for instance, Dean and Sam are also characters in a comic book series (written by a prophet, no less; yeah this show frequently goes meta). In one episode Sam and Dean end up at a fan convention devoted to their fictional characters where they are surprised and a bit flustered to hear a panel announced on “The Homoerotic Subtext of Supernatural.” And all the fangirls go “Squeee!”

    Castiel and Dean share a moment
    Besides the fans who pair the brothers themselves in a subgenre called "Wincest" (um, yeah, not reeeally in tune with that), there are those who favor Dean and the angel Castiel (damn right, too). I don’t know what the writers originally intended, but they’ve obviously decided to go with the flow of sentiment, helpfully including double-entendres and pointed banter between the two of them, and somehow Dean and Castiel exchange the longest gazes in history, and Dean always, always looks at Castiel’s lips. It’s a little weird, actually, and I always wonder if the actor playing Dean is completely aware of it. In any case, there's enough chemistry between the actors to be super swoony.

    Here's a fine example of a slash video by a Dean/Castiel (Destiel) fan.This person has combed the cannon for those suggestive moments, massaged the story with some rather clever editing, and given an appropriate soundtrack ("Halo" was another song favored by Destiel enthusiasts). Note the little part at the end where the actor playing Dean (Jensen Ackles) explicitly (or maybe I should say "suggestively") gives a nod to the mad Destiel fantasists. I just had to show this even though it gives you a glimpse of how much time I waste on nonsense.

    The demon Crowley claims a soul.
    Oh, and there’s a demon named Crowley who removes souls via lip-lock. So if you want to make a deal with the devil, you get to exchange spit. I’m a wee bit surprised that Supernatural showed this in action, but I guess it was ok’d because no hot men were involved. In fact, there’s a bit of an eww factor. 

    Of course Dean and Castiel are never, ever going to get together on screen. Dean did romance a female angel at one point, so we know angels can get their freak on. But Dean is a real guy's guy, who would never in a million years consider the possibility of being gay. He's all about the ladies. And that's the point, of course, that's the fun. The writers of Supernatural didn't start out writing about an angel and human in love, but somehow with the dialogue and the chemistry between the actors, that story bleeds through the existing one, and then the fans hijacked the story, and because of the Internet, they have a rather surprising amount of influence.

    Angels are completely baffled by ties.
    I read somewhere (yeah, I'm not going to win any awards for source references) that women write the majority of slash fanfiction. Probably somewhere there’s a treatise on why this is the case. I think women get a kick out of breaking the heteronormative narrative through the story lines of the men, the ones put in charge of the plot. In Supernatural the women tend to be demon superbitches. It's a hunter's world. Well, you think you’re in control? Hah! you don’t even know you have the hots for each other.

    Found here, somewhere:

    So you go, girls (and everyone else writing this stuff). Subvert the dominant paradigm.

    Thursday, April 28, 2011

    Future Residents of Darkest Hell

    Dear Future Resident of Darkest Hell,

    We noticed you recently decided to ignore every obvious truth of the Bible and turn your back on God. We're disappointed in you, of course, but we'd be lying if we said we didn't see it coming. It was, after all, established before the foundation of the world. God is receiving glory for your failure even as we type, so we're getting over it pretty quickly. We realize this might be hard for you to hear, but we'd like to remind it you it's your own fault for not having faith. As a consolation, we'd like to offer you this 10% off coupon for Christian McJerk's new book 24 Ways I Already Know You're Wrong and 13 More I Plan to Infer as We Go.

    You're welcome.

    Deep blessings,
    The Real Christians.
    - David from The Screaming Kettle, guest post at Alise...Write

    Until now I haven't gathered the energy to comment on the controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s book Love Wins. What do I know about these knotty theological arguments, anyway? I haven’t read the book, either, which hasn't stopped anyone else. I imagine I’ll read it at some point, when it gets to my library. I won’t run out and buy it because I never run out and buy anything and because I read Velvet Elvis, which reminded me of Chinese food - enormously tasty going down but my stomach was empty an hour later. But I just like the fact that Rob Bell exists and makes lovely videos and is so earnest and passionate and wears such interesting spectacles. Also, I have an unexamined and immediate preference for the people evangelicals call heretics. When I think of protestant evangelicals I tend to imagine Roundheads charging into cathedrals to break the stained glass. Cromwell and Calvin make my skin crawl.

    Back to Bell, who is accused of believing that everyone goes to heaven, leaving hell a vast and empty place, with nary a soul to roast. I don’t know if that is actually the case. Maybe he doesn’t say that at all. But it’s beyond me why evangelicals have such an affection for hell. They seem to think that Christendom falls apart if people aren’t properly terrified. Why it bothers Calvinists I do not know, given that whether or not you want to be saved is all up to God - you don’t really have any say in the matter and in fact can’t resist if God entices you into his lair. But you still have to have hell, which to my mind introduces a profound level of existential despair, as those who have not been ineluctably seduced get to contemplate their future in Satan’s hot tub.  Some people argue that people can’t choose heaven or hell because free will is an illusion. Others say that you can’t have heaven without hell because there IS free will. And some people seem to think that you can choose but one of the options isn’t the traditional hell but something more like an eternal waiting room with bad coffee, no donuts and the TV permanently tuned to FOX news.

    (Now, if you may be wondering what “free will” is and isn’t. Do we really have any freedom or are we enmeshed in so much culturally and biologically determined stuff that freedom is an illusion?  There is a theory called “post-structuralism” that examines the fine points in excruciating detail. It made my head hurt but I'm sure some might enjoy it.)

    Now, here's a few words from someone who has actually read the book. You can read Adam Ellis's whole post over at Jesus Needs New PR. It's full of awesome and this part made me laugh:

    To begin, let’s look at two things that shouldn’t be surprises, but (based on the more angry reviews I’ve read) apparently are:
    • Rob Bell is not a Calvinist (“New”, “Neo”, or otherwise). He doesn’t write like one. He doesn’t adhere to exclusively Calvinist doctrine. He doesn’t see the terms “non-Calvinist” and “Christian” as mutually exclusive.
    • Rob Bell writes almost exactly like he talks. And that means there will be…
    and half-sentences…
    ….laid-out unconventionally….

    (Note: I suspect that the popular phrase "full of awesome" is already limp and tired, but I like it so much.)

    Where was I going with this? I think I got sidetracked by free will and my deep-seated antipathy to Calvinism. Speaking of which: John Piper. He’s notorious for his brush-off tweet "Farewell Rob Bell." Whatever that means. Perhaps he didn't mean it to sound like the ultimate in condescension and smug self-righteousness that it appears on first, second, third and I imagine 20th glance.  I can’t claim to know a lot about Piper. I read one book, assigned at my workplace, about The Passion of Christ, which was meant to tie in to the movie. Boring book. Really really boring. Boooooring. Same old same old. You can count on a Calvinist to say that they’re digging deep into the scripture and discovering treasure when they’re really just dusting off the same old dented relic. I swear they’ve been chewing the same piece of food for years and they still haven’t digested it.

    I’m glad Rob Bell got up the noses of the righteous. It doesn’t matter to me if it was a calculated marketing move, or if he’s presenting a not very original idea. I gather Origen got there first, but who the hell (ha ha) has heard of Origen? Here are the evangelicals pretty much claiming that you have to believe in hell or you aren’t Christian. Calvinists particularly like to hedge salvation with caveats, until you end up with a long list of stuff you have to believe if you are a "true" Christian.

    I'm really on a tear about Calvinists, aren't I? It's just that I am familiar with the truth of that very funny letter at the top of the page; it could have been mailed to me. I feel bristly. Must be heresy taking root.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    Road Trip

    The following was created using Storify. If you have problems reading it here, you should be able to go to and see it there.

    Thursday, March 31, 2011

    Dr. Who Does Shakespeare

    Note: the following is really just an excuse to show lots of photos of David Tennant.

    ooo, shiney.
    Perhaps it’s kind of geeky, but I’ve always liked Shakespeare. Well, pretty much always. I think I was unmoved by Romeo and Juliet when I first read it in junior high. I thought kids who killed themselves for love were super annoying. But sometime in high school we got this amazing new thing called cable TV, and it had this great arts channel (soon replaced by MTV) that broadcast a film version of a stage production of Hamlet, with Hamlet played by Ian McKellen. Oh. My. God. I watched it every time I could catch it (these being the years before home recording). Because of that single production, I never really experienced difficulty with the language. It wasn’t that I understood all the idioms and odd expressions of that time and place, but I got it, I was inside it.

    Recently DramaQueen was studying A Midsummer Night’s Dream in school, and I began to feel that strange motherly compulsion to inject as much culture as possible into my offspring with the lest outlay of cash. Yea TV. So I went searching for free, streaming Shakespeare.

    Dr. Who and Captain Picard share a moment.

    It takes a bigger man than you to play on my pipe.
    Imagine my delight when I ran across an RSC production of Hamlet on PBS. Hot. Dog. You can’t get anymore Shakespearey than the RSC. Then, much to my amazement, I found that Hamlet was played by the 12th incarnation of Dr. Who, and Claudius by Captain Picard. It was a pop-culture/high-culture bonanza! And no one was wearing a doublet. All the sets and costumes were contemporary, the surfaces sleek and reflective, surveillance cameras everywhere (it is a play with a lot of spying and snooping). And, my word, David Tennant owned Hamlet. I can’t say enough about his performance, and the other actors were exceptionally good as well. Every time a famous soliloquy approached, I wondered how he could possibly breathe new life into such familiar words, and each time I was mightily impressed.

     For example, here is the first soliloquey:

    And the Am I a Coward bit:

    And here is one of my favorite humorous moments with silly old Polonius:

    Thing is, I now have this urge to watch Dr. Who.

    Sunday, March 20, 2011

    Brideshead Regurgitated

    Hell to the No.
    When the Brideshead Revisited movie came out, I told myself that I would never watch it. From what I could tell of how the writers had reshaped the script, it seemed like a horror. The BBC miniseries was one of the glorious discoveries of my youth, and I’ve read the book countless times, so I was going to be tough to win over.

    Sometimes snap judgements are right on target. Man, did they ever botch it. It was impossible for me to see the movie with fresh eyes, because in every shot I glimpsed the ghost of the original BBC miniseries, and the ghost had a lot more flesh on it. To succeed the film should have made me forget the first series with a fresh vision.

    Much Better

    For those who don’t know the story, it goes like this: Charles Ryder, a disillusioned WWII Army captain, finds himself stationed at Brideshead estate, forcing him to think back on his youth at Oxford, where he met and befriended the beautiful and doomed Lord Sebastian Flyte and became embroiled in a family drama spanning decades. An aspiring artist, Charles finds inspiration in Sebastian’s family home, the very place were Sebastian feels most unhappy. What begins as a jubilant friendship quickly disintegrates as Sebastian spirals into alcoholic depression. Charles sets out on his own, much later meeting up with Sebastian’s sister, Julia. Both married, they begin a passionate love affair. Running throughout the story is the theme of religious faith, primarily Catholicism, which Charles at first rejects but later (it is implied) embraces.

    What someone unfamiliar with the book could take from the new movie, I have no idea. The two halves were folded back in on themselves and stitched together to save time. In the novel and miniseries, Charles and Julia do not at first cross paths very often and they don’t pay much attention to each other. This movie turns the relationship into a love triangle, which transforms the friendship between Charles and Sebastian into a sordid little cliche. Other elements that are important in the novel and series are given a perfunctory mention and then the plot chugs along. Urgh. Consider:

    Why does Sebastian drink?
    Brideshead BBC: Sebastian drinks because he’s an alcoholic with suffocating, manipulative mother who keeps him on a short leash and stokes him regularly with religious guilt.
    Brideshead movie: Sebastian drinks because his boyfriend wants to sleep with his sister.

    Who is Aloysius?
    Brideshead BBC: Aloysius is Sebastian’s teddy bear, both an affectation that endears him to his Oxford classmates and a symbol of his dangerous desire to cling to childhood. Aloysius is the name of a Catholic saint who watches over youth.
    Brideshead the movie: Huh? Oh, he’s that teddy bear you see mabye twice. His name is Aloysius?

    Who is Anthony Blanche?
    Brideshead BBC: Anthony is the flamboyant Tiresias figure in the novel, appearing periodically to deliver enigmatic warnings to Charles about the Flyte family. Turns out he is right about most things.
    Brideshead movie: Where is the old bugger? He’s around here somewhere. Ooops, missed him.

    Jeremy Irons, the original Charles Ryder
    I could go on. The movie is a long exercise in missing the point. The movie doesn’t shy away from faith, but it doesn’t do the theme any favors, either. There are rosaries and religious pictures, and sometimes the gang chat vaguely about being heathens or atheists. It has all the heft of a bag of feathers. The role of art as a secular religion is nowhere to be found. Charles just starts sketching a bit, but that’s sort of lost in the headlong rush to tie up the loose ends that barely had time to flap about in the breeze in the first place. You arrive at the big deathbed conversion scene wondering what all the kerfuffle is about.

    Has Charles been changed by any of this? Who knows - but he doesn’t snuff out the eternal flame in the chapel. Whoa.

    Matthew Goode as Charles Ryder
    When it comes to casting, you can’t could beat the original, though there are some notable actors in the new version, including Emma Thompson and Albus Dumbledore - I mean, Michael Gambon.

    Matthew Goode makes a decent Charles Ryder. He even has some of Jeremy Irons’ mellifluous tones, but since this version has almost no voice-over narration, you don’t get to enjoy that.

    Ben Whishaw as Sebastian Flyte. 
    Anthony Andrews as Sebastian Flyte
    Ben Whishaw vs. Anthony Andrews. Oh, there’s no question here that Andrews wins. Whitshaw looks like he has consumption, and though that might be realistic for advanced alcoholism, Sebastian is supposed to be beautiful.

    The start of it all.
    So, how did I come to watch this mess that I knew from the start would be a disaster and that I never ever intended to watch? Well, it’s because SOMEONE has a crush on Matthew Goode. And it isn’t me.

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Dopey Dopamine

    I’ve been patiently waiting for my mood to shift a bit, and a horrid sort of aimlessness has settled over me. Options appear to my eyes with the same dull hues, nothing bright and obvious and appealing. I read to keep my mind occupied rather than circling like a vulture.

    I was really hoping that the thyroid pills I’ve been prescribed would kick ennui’s butt. I'm always hoping there will be an a-ha moment that puts everything right

    My therapist says I should cut myself some slack. Motivation is a gnawing problem for people with ADD. I’m low energy and that’s just a fact of my nature. I should rejoice that I’m functional. I have my kids and husband and they’re important to me. I think of my mom: her kids and family were important to her, too, but she still went around saying, “I just don’t know what to do with my life.” She was saying that in her 70s. Drove me mad. I used to think, Hell, by this time you’ve done what you were going to do with your life – suck it up. But it’s an awful feeling, that sense of directionless motion. You don’t feel like you’re the master of your own ship, or whatever that stupid expression is. I end up reacting to events, dithering over decisions. I feel foggy and uncertain. I’ve known from a young age that structure is essential if I’m to get anything done at all, and that I am incapable of creating that structure myself. I’ve needed schools and jobs to divide up my day, deadlines to force me to focus. The moment I try to set up any sort of routine for myself, I’m doomed. Set goals? Who’s going to hold me to it, after all? Myself? Hah. And routines are not foolproof. There are days when, for example, after years and years of putting out medicine for Firecracker to take, every morning at the same time, I forget it entirely. And you know what? The next day I’ll be more likely to forget it again. It’s as if the habit were unraveling. I finally set up automatic reminders to pop up on my phone. That’s not foolproof, either, because those sorts of things tend to become just so much white noise. The only thing I can be certain I won’t forget is to brush my teeth. I have immediate sensory feedback if that isn’t done.

    Did you know that there’s a connection between dopamine and motivation? Low dopamine, low motivation. I take medications in an attempt to counter what I can only think is a full-out dopamine drought. Sometimes it works sort of okay, at least for a while. But then I just have to leave the boring behind and do something I like. Tedium is my enemy. And unfortunately this often happens in the middle of a work day. It’s almost guaranteed to happen when it’s time to deal with household chores. This is not just the afternoon slump. A few wisps of mist float through, and then the full-on fog of dreamy inattention. There are no rewards great enough to tempt me, so I rely on fear. I need a job, and I need to keep Dear Husband’s ire at bay. Some people think that the contentment and peacefulness of a clean house or a job well done would be reward enough, but no way. I have no work ethic. Never cared about working my way to the top of the dung heap. Left to myself I’d never do anything. I guess it’s a good thing I wasn’t born into wealth.

    It sure makes me feel out of sync with cultural expectations. All these books on Get It Done, how to be an entrepreneur, how to get ahead, little tricks and bits and bobs on productivity. Seth Godin. Just visiting his website makes me tired. Do I care if I’m the linchpin? Hell no. (By the way, why are there all these blogs and books about leadership? What about books on being an astute and useful follower, assistant, or whatever?) Ambition, goals, productivity – I can understand these intellectually, but my physical self has no understanding at all. They are a foreign substance I keep trying to ingest and integrate and my system keeps pushing them out as foreign bodies.

    You know, I was just on Seth Godin’s blog, and he mentioned the characteristics of losers. And I thought, No one wants to be a loser, but someone always is.

    Which brings me to the last episode of Glee, with the fabulous song Loser Like Me, which expresses a sense of optimism I don’t feel.

    Wednesday, March 09, 2011

    How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

    Life is, to some extent, an extended dialogue with your future self about how exactly you are going to let yourself down over the coming years.

    “The base model TM-31 runs on state-of-the-art chronodiegetical technology: a six-cylinder grammar drive built n a quad-core physics engine, which features an applied temporalinguistics architecture allowing for free-form navigation within a rendered environment, such as, for instance, a story space and, in particular, a science fictional universe.

    Or, as Mom used to say: it’s a box.”

    I picked out this book because of the title. How could I resist? I happened across reviews of it here and there, nice buzzy happy reviews. It seemed to be much in demand. I was on a waiting list at the library so long that I almost forgot about it. In fact, when I finally got notice that it was available, I was really into reading a clockwork man.

    From the start Charles Yu’s writing filled me with delight. Charles (who is also the narrator), is a time machine repairman. The book is written as a manual, interlaced with the narrator’s personal story. Yu creates elaborate technological and pseudotechnological constructs, real physics mixed with fantasy. And lest that sound drearily dull, the story is well padded with humor, from the holographic dog rescued from a space western to Phil, the dispatcher, a Windows program who thinks he is a real person with a wife and children. I think of Douglass Adams meets Italo Calvino, with a bit of Ecco thrown in.

    You probably can guess from the title as well as that excerpt from the opening pages, that this is metafiction. Metaphysical metafiction. It’s so self-referential I’m surprised it’s still book-shaped. If you reduced the story to plot, it is about the narrator’s search for his missing father, a brilliant but defeated scientist. Together they had worked on a prototype time machine, one that never quite came together. Every memory is laced with regret and loss. In the course of his search, the narrator ends up stuck in a time loop after shooting his future self, who hands him a book, telling him that the answer is in it, in the book we are reading and which the present/future narrator is writing.

    The theme of the story is memory, our very own personal time travel machine. We travel forward and backward at the same time. Also, the book is itself a time travel device, a little box transporting both reader and author from present to past to future. But more importantly, the story focuses on the potential danger of memory, how it can become a trap, an endless, obsessive loop.

    Wednesday, March 02, 2011


    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Fallen but not far enough

    Angels are the new vampires, you know, or maybe it’s zombies that are the new vampires. I’m waiting for the first angel/zombie amalgam to appear on bookstore shelves any day. If it hasn’t already. I can’t keep up.

    I love reading YA novels. There’s something so fresh and hopeful about them.

    Course sometimes they completely screw it up.

    I recently got hold of the novel Fallen, by Lauren Kate. Thought I would check out this new angel obsession. Ye Gods. I know matters are falling apart when I start skidding down the slope, hopping over huge chunks of text, annoyed as all get out but unable to stop because, dammit, surely there’s a payoff here somewhere.

    I liked the set up. Luce is a suspected arsonist (or something - her first kiss apparently incinerated her boyfriend) who lands in a reform boarding school in Savannah. I like that touch - Savannah. Luce mentions the humidity now and then to remind you where you are. In case you forget, there being no other indication of locale. So Luce, who also sees menacing dark shadows everywhere, is lonely and lost for all of two minutes at the new school when she spies the incredibly gorgeous and strangely familiar Daniel. Immediately she is captivated, drawn to him. He flips her off. It’s so adorable. Then there’s Cam, the sweetly attentive, equally gorgeous boy she’s drawn to but not quite so much. You know something’s wrong with him because he takes Luce on a picnic and a snake shows up. Later he gives her a pendant with a snake on it and takes her to a bar called Styx. Luce is completely dense when it comes to symbolism.

    Besides being dumb as a sack of rocks, Luce is beyond annoying. She’s just so mysteriously drawn to Daniel. So so so so drawn. She can’t stop thinking about it, staring at him, having strange dreams about him. Her brain is always churning with Daniel. And what’s Daniel got to show for himself? Well, we know he’s an angel. Luce is too dumb to figure that out for ¾ of the book. Still, let’s see, when he’s not pushing her away with strange, cryptic warnings and comments, he’s kinda polite and friendly. This goes on for freakin ever. And not much else. Shadows come and go. You never really find out why the hell Luce can see them, or why she incinerated her boyfriend, but oh well, it’s probably in the sequel. Various stuff happens la la la, her parents visit, la la, a friend helps her research Daniel, la la la, the library catches on fire (I was hopeful there for a moment, but nah) and there are lots more scary swirly inky shadows everywhere! Daniel kisses her and is really taken aback that she doesn't explode, because he was totally expecting her to, quite literally, blow up. That's what an awesome kisser he is. And, oh, Daniel’s a fallen angel and Cam is too, and well, so are a number of students (what the hell is this school’s admission policy, anyway?), and there’s a big battle with locusts and fireflies or something but we don’t know why exactly, except they seem to be fighting over Luce but they can’t tell her why because it might explode her wittle brain. But as long as Luce can rest in Daniel’s arms, lost in his violet eyes, with his beautiful wings wrapped around her, what’s a little chaos, death and destruction?

    And no, there’s no payoff.