Monday, November 30, 2009

Stupidest Final Lines Ever

So, this pic is actually from 1408, not 2012.
I haven't seen 1408, but there's
a good review at The Stone of Tear.
It does make me wonder if John is going to just be in movies with titles
consisting of four digits from now on. But I digress.
I picked this pic because it sums up how I feel about the stupidity of the final line in 2012,
as well as how I feel about my daughter's bedroom.

You know I love John Cusack, right? I'm not a huge fan of "it's the end of the world!" disaster movies, but 2012 stars my man John, so it didn't take much for the family to persuade me to go to the cinema.

The special effects were incredible. The storyline had promise. John was as cute as ever. But the script bit the big one. I knew it pretty early on.

SPOILER ALERT! You have been warned, so don't whine if you don't want to know the ending.
He plays Jackson, the father of two children, separated from their mother. An idealistic author, he spent too much time wrapped up in his writing and researching, and she felt neglected and left him. He picks the kids up for a camping trip, and expresses surprise when his estranged wife hands him a bag of Pull-Ups for their 7 year old daughter, Lily. She tells him that it's obvious he isn't very aware of what is going on with his kids....blah, blah, blah.

Okay, you just know that the Pull-Ups are going to make another appearance. You pray that they will not be a continuous presence in the film. Your prayer is answered. Other than a brief mention when Lily is going to sleep in her tent, we don't hear about the Pull-Ups again. But then, at the very end, when they've survived every kind of extreme experience you can think of - earthquakes, car crashes, explosions in the earth's crust, plane crashes, freezing in the remote mountains of China, near drowning - and they're looking out at a kinder, gentler planet that's gotten all that misbehavior out of its system, Cusack/Jackson talks to his daughter. She explains how she feels and how this has changed her.

Lily: I'm not scared. No more Pull-Ups.
Jackson: Nice.

Mother of God. Really? So what is the takeaway message here? Struggling to find a solution to night time bedwetting? Just subject your child to a cataclysmic series of events and all will be well.

The final line I'm fantasizing about these days for my own personal disaster film is:

Daring Daughter: I'm not defiant. No more disgustingly messy room.
Me: Nice.

I am at my wits' end to find a way to get Daring Daughter to clean up her act. This is not a joke, people. I have tried incentives and disincentives. I have promised her a bunch of things she would absolutely love to have if she will just clean up her stuff. I have taken away a bunch of things she loves. Nothing works. I am praying for an earthquake.

If you have any suggestions on this, I am all ears. But I'll be listening from over there, rather than here.


I am beside myself with frustration!!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Time Spent Giggling with my Girl

I've been working my way through some classic films with the kids, expanding my cultural literacy as well as theirs. You'll recall that we recently watched Metropolis and were struck by the image of workers dehumanized by industrialists putting them in mindless, mechanical jobs.

That film was a lot more grim than our most recent one. We watched Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times. If you haven't seen it, you should rent it. My daughter was constantly laughing. Deep belly laughs interspersed with silly giggles. I was struck by how spot on Robert Downey Jr.'s depiction of Chaplin was. Chaplin had a fantastic gracefulness. He moved like a dancer. And he got caught in some pretty funny situations, as the gears scene pictured above illustrates.

The theme of poverty and a system that met efforts to organize labour with violence was an interesting companion to the funny physical comedy. J. Edgar Hoover hated Chaplin with a passion and helped get him deported. I've said before I'd love to do a film course on blacklisting and the movies. I'm beginning to think it should be a much longer course than one of my simple 5 week ones. Maybe something broader, such as the treatment of capitalism in film. We saw Michael Moore's Capitalism, a Love Story recently, and it sure had some interesting food for thought.

I'll confess I saw New Moon with my girl this weekend (Team Edward!) and enjoyed it just as much as I did Modern Times. New Moon was devoid of political content. But it had some pretty hilarious moments, especially when the young men took off their shirts. The whole movie theatre was laughing each time it happened, because it was so gratuitous. I'm glad my girl likes to watch movies with me. It's fun laughing with her.

Daring Daughter and I agree: He's very pretty.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Exposing Children to Fearful Things

It started innocently enough. A friend and I decided to cope with take advantage of the school's early dismissal what are those teachers doing with a half day, anyway? by taking our girls to the local science museum for educational fun.
The current special exhibit at OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) is SCREAM! featuring Goosebumps, the Science of Fear. Most of the exhibit focused on traditional fears - snakes, spiders and creepy stuff. There's a lot of analysis about how your body responds to fear - hair standing on end, flight response, etc.

The most intriguing part for me was a section entitled Fear and Society. Here's how they describe it:
Microwaves, witch-hunts, Elvis Presley, and the year 2000 have all incited moral panics—what sociologists call the collective anxieties about what direction society is going. Fear and Society shows how collective fears are represented and transmitted through media and popular culture.

There was a letter from a concerned parent about the "obscene" lyrics of a rock song on a record his daughter brought home. The letter, pictured at the top of this post, is addressed to Attorney General Robert Kennedy. The song was Louie, Louie. I'd known there was controversy over the largely unintelligible lyrics, but did you know there was an FBI investigation?! After two years (yes, TWO YEARS) they found no evidence of obscenity. That was in the mid 1960s.
In 2005, a school superintendent in Benton Harbor, Michigan refused to let a school marching band play the song in a parade. She later relented. But, still. Fear Stupidity is alive and well in America.

My eye was drawn to the part of the display that addressed McCarthyism and "Red Scares." I've long wanted to teach a class on Red Scares and Blacklisting on the Silver Screen. Catchy, huh? So far, the college hasn't accepted that proposal. But I have hope. Once I'm done teaching the blogging course in the spring, I'm going to pursue that big time. When we got home, after supper, Professor X, Daring Daughter and I watched a classic film that relates to this theme. But that's a post of its own, coming soon.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sharing Your Brilliance With the World

I'm really excited because the local college has accepted my proposal to teach a class on blogging for senior citizens. I've entitled it:

Sharing Your Brilliance With the World:
Blogwriting for Beginners

Many of my bloggy buddies come from far away, even overseas, so it seemed like an apt title.

I was curious about where visitors to my blog were from, so I installed a widget to show that info. Clearly, some of them are stopping by without commenting; it seems a shame, given how far they've traveled. Here's a sample just from the last half day or so:

Czestochowa, Poland
Eden Prairie, MN
Taverne, Switzerland
Antwerp, Belgium
Columbia, SC
Madras Tamil, Nadu, India
San Diego, California
Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia

Wow, huh? I worry these people have come seeking knowledge and I have somehow let them all down. People really should not read without commenting.

Totally superfluous aside:

Thanks to the lijit widget, I also know the top search terms that bring people over here. I'm sure many things cause folks to look at my blog, but the top one is - drumroll, please -

"Mike Rowe naked"

End of totally superfluous aside.

My class will start in April and run for five weeks, once a week for 2 hours. So I need to pack a whole lot of information into a relatively short time. But I think it will get people started down the path of blog enlightenment. I can hardly wait!

If you have any thoughts about what I might include in such a course, I'm all ears. Anything you wish you'd known when you began? Anything you've found particularly fun? Any cautions?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Heading for No. 221B Baker Street

This weekend, Professor X and I will be attending a meeting of The Noble and Most Singular Order of the Blue Carbuncle, the Portland chapter of an international society of Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts.

I've always loved Arthur Conan Doyle's stories of the eccentric, brilliant detective and his companion Dr. Watson. My first introduction to the tales was through the movies from the late 1930's to mid 1940's. Sunday afternoon at our house in the late 1960's/early 1970's found me glued to the black and white television, fascinated by Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. I was back in time, watching a skilled detective solve mysteries. Bliss.

It was only several years later that I realized the films had moved Holmes forward in time. He was battling Nazis instead of living during Victorian times. But it didn't matter. I still loved him.

It took me a long time to warm up to the next Holmes I saw, Jeremy Brett. Finally, I caved. He was really good. I became aware of how many literary references Holmes made, including adapting Shakespeare lines to his own circumstances. A sure way to my heart.

The newest Holmes, due out December 25, warms a different body part. He's physical, he's sexual, he's Robert Downey, Jr. I'm sure I will adore this iteration.

If you've read my blog for any time at all, you know that I'm a big House fan.

No, not like this:

Like this:

I'm always amazed when I find people who haven't made the connections between Hugh Laurie's character and Sherlock Holmes. It's one of the most fun things about the show.

Now we have a chance to join a group of Holmes' fans. We'll have to bone up on the stories and pass a test to be inducted. I wonder what they think about the new movie. Check out this article to see the sorts of wild and fun things these people do.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Vicarious Travels

Patricia and her husband Stephen (not in El Salvador, obviously)

My dear friend Patricia arrived safely in El Salvador today. She's a member of a group of bloggers on a journey to raise awareness for Compassion International. The organization describes itself thusly:
CI exists as a Christian child advocacy ministry that releases children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults.
Patricia is not one of those Christian conservatives who give religion a bad name. She's a funny, loving, openminded woman who is motivated to do this - and many other caring acts - by her faith. God knows the children can use all the help they can get, especially now, as El Salvador's people are struggling with a state of emergency in the aftermath of a hurricane.

I confess that my particular choice these days is more focused on education without a religious component, like the work of Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea. But Compassion seems to be a worthwhile organization whose work truly helps people.

I invite you to check out this link to Jonesbones5, Patricia's blog. She and her family inspire me and crack me up in equal parts. You should definitely watch their youtube video of travel tips if you're planning a trip.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Importance of Being Honest

There are few things more important to me than honesty, so I am delighted to announce that my lovely friend and brilliant blogger Bad Mom has awarded my blog the Honest Scrap Award. Thanks, Stephanie! I've wanted this one for a really long time.

Here are the rules:
*Say thank you and give a link to the presenter of the award
*Share “10 Honest Things” about yourself
*Present the award to 10 other bloggers whose blogs you find brilliant in content and/or design or to those who have encouraged you
*Be sure to tell the 10 bloggers chosen that you are giving them the Honest Scrap award and provide the guidelines for them

My parents always stressed the value of being truthful, and I believe they were honest with my brother and me. I well remember how touched my father was when one of his business associates described him as "an honorable man." My mother impressed upon me how essential honesty was when she explained that she left her first husband because he was dishonest in business dealings. In my adult relationships as a friend, a wife, and a parent, I practice and value honesty. I am sometimes disappointed regarding the honesty of other people.

It's the critical ingredient in building trust. That said, I don't believe in spilling my guts and volunteering certain things, especially if those things involve others who might not want them known. So you won't be reading any titillating revelations here. No offense, internets, but some things are just not yo bidness.

Still, you know I love to make you laugh. So I will share some tasty bits of truthiness about me in hopes it will make you giggle.

Here, for your consideration, are 10 honest things about me.

1. I was not the most popular girl in school. But I wasn't a slut. And I wasn't a mean girl.
The verb tense of those statements should not be interpreted as a confession that my status has changed, although I DO think I'm more popular now. I'm certainly more confident about letting my light shine than I was three decades ago.

2. I love quotations. Reading quotes that people like FDR or PG Wodehouse have said or written gives me the sort of joy that I imagine some people derive from reading the Bible. No disrespect intended, but I do not derive the same pleasure from the Bible, except for a few passages delivered like this or this. And those two are so beautiful they bring tears to my eyes.

3. Several years ago, I'd begun to think of myself as middle aged until I read that Johnny Depp and I were born within a few days of each other. I instantly became young and sexy, at least in my mind.

4. I didn't get my ears pierced until I was over 30. My folks had always regarded it as a slightly suspicious, bohemian thing to do, and I was a good girl. Then my father died, my mother met a very nice man who wanted to give her some pierced earrings, and she got her ears pierced. So I figured it was safe for me to do it too. I still feel slightly wild every time I insert a post through my earlobe.

5. When I was a young girl, I wanted to be an airline pilot or a police officer. Before I got married, I thought I would be a lawyer, though I didn't actually envision working in that profession. I loved The Paper Chase, and thought it would be awesome to be in law school.

6. I really wish I could time travel. I sometimes nag Professor X to get to work on a TARDIS.

7. I adore the language of Jane Austen's characters. Consider Elizabeth Bennet's rejoinder to Lady Catherine when she is confronted about her relationship with Mr. Darcy:
"I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with your ladyship. You may ask questions which I shall not choose to answer."
8. I believe in ghosts. And an afterlife. I don't know exactly what it looks like, and I don't believe that there is only one path to Heaven. I think Jesus was awesome, but people invoke him shamelessly to advance their own agendas. I believe that we are all children of God, whether we know it or not. But I don't think God looks like the Gary Larson cartoon version, or even that God is exclusively one gender or the other. I am attracted to the Disney Hercules animated depictions of the Gods, but I don't believe that God's voice is like Rip Torn's. I think it's like Alan Rickman's. And I believe in Hades. And his voice is precisely like James Woods'.

9. I wish I could sing and dance, but I am very self conscious. I should have taken my Mom up on her repeated offers of lessons when I was young. Stupid me. I tell myself it's never too late. Maybe I'll be like Susan Sarandon in Elizabethtown. Only I would like to dance like this. With that partner.

10. I am a strong person with a very tender heart. And I am easily moved to tears by movies, literature, plays, music, art, architecture, the warmth of friends... I balled like a baby once at a classical vocal concert because the singer's voice was so pure and beautiful.

And now, for the chosen ten. Each of these blogs enrich my life in a different way.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dirty Deeds

Mayor Royce Pollard revitalized downtown Vancouver.
Formerly a hangout for transients and dangerous activity,
Esther Short Park is now a wonderful place for families. Photo by Jes.

I'm saddened today by the results of my city's mayoral race. You can read about it here.

For a thorough recounting of the lies and dirty campaign tactics that have unfolded in my community, you can search the name "Leavitt" at Politics is a Blood Sport. It's a complicated, tangled mess, and I haven't the heart to explain it all.

It's disheartening to see great public servants defeated by those who fling mud and misrepresent their opponents. When Professor X and I moved to the Pacific Northwest 13 years ago, we were impressed with the leadership of our new city's mayor, Royce Pollard. His efforts transformed Vancouver, Washington. He's made a big difference and deserved another term.

One thing that haunts me is that I believe so much of the outcome of elections is decided on looks. I wish I could do a study of voters to see how many of them actually heard the two candidates speak. The men appeared at numerous debates and forums and were on local cable TV. They were quoted extensively in the newspaper. But we all know that attendance at such functions is a tiny fraction of the actual voting population. And many folks no longer even subscribe to the newspaper, let alone read it. Even those who do often don't read local political articles. There are many mailings that hit voters' recycling boxes without more than a cursory glance at the photograph of the candidate. We do not have an informed electorate.

Royce Pollard, Mayor of America's Vancouver, is a smart man. A good man. And, surprisingly, given his age (70), a more lively and engaged man than his opponent (38). Think I'm prejudiced because I am an old person? First of all, I'm much nearer 38 than 70, so up yours. Second, it isn't just me who thinks so. When the candidates debated at the local college, Professor X and I overheard a number of them expressing preference for Pollard because he was so energetic. He's worked really hard to make our community a vibrant, healthy place to live and work. And I don't believe his opponent will contribute a fraction of the value we received from Mayor Pollard.

Unfortunately, many voters' exposure was probably limited to simply looking at the candidates' photographs. I believe that ageism reared its ugly head. For so many voters, which box they tick often boils down to a beauty contest. Few people take the time to research what's on the ballot. They go with an impression based on appearance. It's why I remain afraid of Sarah Palin. A good leader? Nope. Smart? Oh, please! Good looking? Reluctantly, I must confess she has a certain appeal. And if she were running against Hillary Clinton, I would be extremely concerned. Winston Churchill once noted

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

I don't think his opinion would change if he saw voters today.

The thing that makes me angry about this election is that the challenger accused the Pollard camp of running a dirty campaign. Maybe he caught a glimpse of himself and his supporters in the mirror and sought to point the finger elsewhere. Nothing like accusing your opposition of that of which you are guilty. I'm reminded of a quote from a much earlier campaign:
I offer my opponents a bargain: if they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them. ~Adlai Stevenson, campaign speech, 1952
The truth about this race is that a good man was defeated. I only hope that the newcomer will not undo his legacy.

Thank you, Mayor Royce Pollard.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Moment of Truth: Timeline for Making HS Reunion Fantasies a Reality

I am totally turned on by envy Martin in Grosse Pointe Blank.
He's gone to his high school reunion.

One of my dear friends, Mama Milton, went to her high school reunion a few months ago. It sounded like so much fun that I began to wish I'd gone to mine. With all the reconnections I've made thanks to Facebook, I thought it might be not as horrible marginally bearable a real blast to get together with my former classmates.

Then some of the women began posting about meeting to plan a reunion. Our 30th reunion. Lawsy, that seems like ginormous number of years. And I haven't seen these people since I graduated. The momentous event will take place in the fall of 2011, so there's plenty of time to accomplish everything I've been meaning to.

Like dropping a hundred pounds.

Rather than trying to do it all the final week before the reunion, I've decided to spread the loss out over these next two years. Actually, it will be a little less than 2 years - I suspect they'll set the date for some time in September or October. So, it'll be roughly 100 weeks, which means I need to drop a pound a week. Easy as pie!

Pie. That sounds really good, don't you think?

Pumpkin Pie by Toni Dunlap - click on image for her blog

Let's redirect, shall we?

This gradual approach to weight loss will be so simple; truly a piece of cake. Which reminds me of my buddy Shana's post, WTF Wedding Cakes at So Not Zen.

Here's a lovely piece from Tattered Edges at Engaged: A Blog on the Bog.
She's doing NaNoWriMo too!
- click on image for her blog

This is not going to help me in my endeavor, is it? My fellow HASAY Club members won't appreciate me putting all these yummy treats in today's post. So let's move on to the next goal I have for my reunion:

To be a famous author with my novel on the NYT bestseller list.

Or at least to have a book published.

Or at least to have a book written, being considered by an agent for representation.

I am hereby participating in NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month. The NaNoWriMo website describes it as "a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30."

This is a much more short term project. It requires me to write 1612.9 words per day.

So you won't be seeing much of me this month. But hopefully I'll be back on December 1st to share news of my great accomplishment with you.

Meanwhile, I hope you'll share your thoughts on all of this. I'm especially eager to know who else is doing NaNoWriMo. And hear your wild tales of high school reunions. I have such limited experience; I anticipate something like this.

Happy Halloween

The first family welcomed more than 2,600 children and their families
for Halloween trick or treating at the North Portico of the White House.

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

I liked this story about the Halloween celebrations at the White House. Actually, thanks to special lighting effects, it was the Orange House for a while.

We had a fun Halloween too. The four of us went to the Kennedy School and enjoyed a performance by Willamette Radio Workshop entitled "Tales from the St. James Infirmary." You can read more about the show here. Wonderful entertainment. And they had a great group of musicians - Classical Revolution PDX and Megafauna.

Daring Daughter had great fun trick or treating with her friend. Super Son had good times at a party with his friends. Professor X enjoyed a quiet evening at home while I joined some pals seated around a fire pit on one of the pal's front yards, sipping mojitos and handing out candy. We pledged that next year, we will wear witch hats and suspend a cauldron pot over the fire pit. If this actually happens, I promise to post some photos. Or maybe a video. We could do the "double, double, toil and trouble" scene from the Scottish play.

I feel positively giddy at the notion that I could be a Shakespearean actress.

Now to collect the ingredients. Anyone know where I can get adder's fork and blind-worm's sting?