Thursday, December 29, 2005

Fours Filler

A friend sent this to me, and I thought, "hey, something to put on my blog!" 'Cept I changed the answers to be mine, not hers. :)

So here goes:

FOUR JOBS YOU'VE HAD IN YOUR LIFE:
1. Geography Intern at National Geographic Society
2. Shoe store clerk
3. Pizza demonstrator at Kroger
4. Server/cashier at a concession stand on the beach

Those are just the fun ones. I've also been a sales clerk in a general/gift store, a dry cleaner, and Waldenbooks; a telemarketer for Olan Mills; a CSR for a long distance phone company; a proofreader, production manager, and traffic manager for a graphics design firm/ad agency; and operations manager for an occupational health services company, my current day job.

FOUR MOVIES YOU COULD WATCH OVER AND OVER:
1. Lord of the Rings
2. Pirates of the Caribbean
3. Serenity
4. Galaxy Quest

This isn't fair. Picking four is just too hard. What about Speed and The Mummy and The Mummy Returns and every movie with Orlando Bloom????

FOUR BOOKS YOU LOVE:
1. Hot Target by Suzanne Brockmann (really, all her books)
2. It Had to Be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (really, the whole Chicago Stars series)
3. Watchers by Dean Koontz
4. Another Fine Myth by Robert Aspirin

This was even harder than the movies. These are by no means all my favorites. They're just books that stick out in my mind as hitting me hard at the time that I read them.

FOUR CITIES YOU'VE LIVED IN:
1. South Ruislip, England
2. Agawam, MA
3. Delaware, OH
4. Silver Spring, MD

If, of course, by cities you mean "anywhere." I've never lived IN an actual city.

FOUR TV SHOWS YOU LOVE TO WATCH:
1. Firefly!!!!!!!
2. LOST
3. Alias
4. That 70s Show

Four too many, but it's been a long time since there have been four worth watching. If you insist on current shows rather than shows that have been off the air since, like, 2002, then substitute Prison Break for Firefly. Assuming Fox doesn't kill that, too.

FOUR PLACES YOU'VE BEEN ON VACATION:
1. The Caribbean (including Tulum, Mexico; Xunantunich, Belize; Nassau, the Bahamas)
2. Williamsburg, VA
3. Killington, VT
4. Misquamicut, RI

The last one was just about every summer of my life, growing up, and as many summers as I could manage since. It's where we scattered my mother's ashes in May 2003

There are at least half a dozen more, but those are top of my list.

FOUR OF YOUR ALL-TIME FAVORITE RESTAURANTS:
1. Skewers on P Street in Washington, DC
2. Red Lobster
3. Neato Burrito
4. Passage to India

I don't know if Skewers is even there anymore, but man, 13 years later and I can still taste those beef kabobs and rice.

FOUR OF YOUR FAVORITE FOODS:
1. Popcorn
2. Ice cream
3. Filet mignon
4. Neato Burrito's custom taco salad with their jalapeno feta salsa

Nothing too crazy there.
4. Agawam Junior High

And the nostalgia floodgates open...

FOUR THINGS YOU FIND YOURSELF SAYING A LOT:
1. Grrr. Argh. Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!
2. Hair turban
3. Good morning, Alternatives, Natalie speaking
4. HARRY POTTER IS NOT A HORCRUX

Firefly reference, daughter number two's nightly demand, self-explanatory, and see previous post

FOUR PLACES YOU'D RATHER BE RIGHT NOW:
1. Sleeping in my bed
2. Sleeping on the couch
3. Sleeping on my office futon
4. Sleeping on my husband's chest

The only reason Jim's at the end is 'cause I can't sleep there long. He snores and my neck hurts.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Thoughts on Christmas, Chanukah, and More

I don't remember when I first became uncomfortable with saying Merry Christmas to strangers. It seems it was long before I knew anyone who was Jewish...probably in high school, when I was working very hard at figuring out my personal spiritual identity. I get angry now at people who scream how wrong it is to say Happy Holidays instead, because it's a Christian holiday. I say it's common courtesy to acknowledge that you may not celebrate a Christian holiday, but I want you to be happy regardless.


I said something about Kwaanza and Africa lately, and a friend educated me a bit about Kwaanza and it being an American holiday that began in the 60s. She called it a made-up holiday. I laughed and said all holidays are made-up holidays. I think I offended her, because she distinguished between made-up and religious. I don't think religion makes a holiday any less made-up. It's just human beings deciding something is worth celebrating. Religion may make a holiday more important to someone who practices that religion, of course.


My favorite part of The Holidays, that time between Thanksgiving and January 2 and everything that's celebrated in between, is the focus everyone has on tradition. No matter what we celebrate and why, there are certain aspects of that celebration that resonate in each of us. Some decry the commercialism and crassness that accompanies it, but I don't have a problem with it. The fact is, the majority of us "buy into" such things out of love. Trampling people at 4:00 a.m. at Target may contradict the impulse, of course, but the reason we do it is because we know how excited our 80-year-old grandmother will be to get that cheap, multi-region DVD player for Christmas. And we want to give that excitement to her because we love her.


And it's not all trampling at Target, either. I couldn't believe the shoppers in Toys R Us on December 16. I swear they were pumping happy gas through the ventilation system. I usually hate crowds becuase you step back to let a couple of people by, and a hundred stream through, ignoring the fact that you're waiting patiently to take your turn, and in the meantime someone behind you decides they're more important than any of you and shoves past. There was NONE of that in Toys R Us. There were smiling, apologizing, considerate people down every aisle. Everyone was relaxed and calm and sweet and helpful. I don't think I've ever seen such a thing.


I bought seven copies of Serenity this year for gifts (including one for my own birthday present). A, because I want to share with all my closest friends this best of 2005 film, which was SO much better plotted, acted, and displayed than War of the Worlds. B, because even though our hopes are fading, there is still a slim chance of getting a sequel, and it all hinges on DVD sales. I also converted a customer and the cashier in line when I was buying them. They both planned to get it, and hopefully will follow up and get Firefly, too.


My kids write a letter to Santa every Christmas Eve, and he always supplies an answer. This year, they had questions for him related to the legends portrayed on Santa Claus is Coming to Town. He revealed, in his answers, that the original Rudolph died long ago, as all things do. My husband was quite sure this was a bad thing to say. My mother-in-law raised her eyebrows when they read the letter to her. My kids? Didn't even blink. Just goes to show. I don't know what, exactly, but it does.


Chanukah is, I guess, just revving up starting today, as Christmas winds down. I wish everyone of all faiths the happiest and most relaxed of whatever holiday they celebrate.

I'll close with something all of us can enjoy:


Saturday, December 17, 2005

I HATE POTTERCAST

I discovered podcasts a couple of months ago, when I was seeking to feed my Firefly/Serenity addiction. I ran out of episodes of The Signal pretty quickly, so I looked for more stuff, and found Pottercast. It's produced by the people who do The Leaky Cauldron, and it's great. They have interviews with fans and cast and crew of the films and fun banter and stuff.

So anyway. The title of this entry is "I Hate Pottercast." So why am I praising it?

Well, the reason I hate it is not a rational one. It's all about sitting in my car, listening to intelligent, interesting people of all ages from all over the world voice theories that I disagree with, and NOT BEING ABLE TO TELL THEM.

Yes. I sit in my car shouting at my iPod. It's always something like this:

HARRY IS NOT A HORCRUX!!!!!

Oddly, no other theory I disagree with bothers me like this one does. Snape, Dumbledore, even Neville theories I find interesting, even when, IMO, way off base. But the Harry-or-his-scar-is-a-horcrux theory works me up.

Here's why:

1. Voldemort went to Godric's Hollow to kill Harry. He wouldn't have planned to make a horcrux out of him. A corpse wouldn't work so well, I'm thinking.

2. Creating a horcrux is very complex, deliberate magic. It can't happen by "accident."

3. Tom Riddle talked to Slughorn 50 years ago about creating horcruxes. He definitely killed more than 7 people before he tried to kill Harry. Knowing Harry (or Neville, but he decided it was Harry) was supposed to be his downfall, he'd have prepared well in advance of attacking him, even if he believed a baby was harmless to him.

4. If Harry is a horcrux, he would have to kill himself, then Voldemort. Can't happen. If his scar is a horcrux, he'd have to do something gruesome to it. I can't see JK Rowling going in that direction. She doesn't shy away from violence (sectum sempra) but she doesn't go into pure gore. (Note: This is someone else's argument, I didn't think of it on my own, but I can't give credit because I don't remember who said it.)

5. If Harry is a horcrux, it would change Voldemort's intent and knowledge on the night he tried to kill Harry, and though Rowling loves to surprise us, she always sets up her surprises well in advance. Hindsight shows us where she did so. So making us believe that Voldemort wanted to kill Harry for six books, then switching that completely in the seventh, is a cheap device I don't believe she would do.

There. Maybe someone at Pottercast will find this by virtue of the subject and read it. Just the possibility that they might will save me a lot of screaming in my car. :)

Motorola Rocks

Last week, on Thursday night, as I pulled my backpack out of the car, it bumped the car door. I keep my cell phone on a clip on the pocket, and I paused and glanced around, because it's always falling off. I didn't look very hard for it because it hadn't hit the ground.

That night, it snowed. About 8 inches. The next morning school was canceled and the day care had a two-hour delay and my street wasn't plowed, all of which equals...SLEEPING IN. I got up, shoveled out, and slllooooowwwllly drove the kids to day care. All morning, I couldn't find my phone.

Now, I'm from Massachusetts but live in South Central Pennsylvania. We are in a variable zone such that predicting the weather is difficult. Conditions can shift and change a forecast every hour. So we're constantly having predictions of six inches of snow and ice that amount to not a single flake when the time comes. Consequently, the municipalities have a very hard time budgeting and planning. The weather is treated with higher drama than ANY other news story. And the entire region panics, buying out entire stores full of bread and milk and canceling everything days in advance. Whereas I scoff and go about my normal business.

Anyway, because the boroughs don't want to run out of money for plowing and salting late in the season, they don't do it early in the season. I had thought my phone was in the car, but it wasn't, and conditions were bad enough that I didn't want to be on the highway without the phone. *I'm* fine driving in snow, but not everyone is. So I went home to look again, remembering on the way that I'd bumped the backpack on the door. Sure enough, the phone still wasn't in the house, not even hiding under the desk in the kitchen or behind the cereal on the counter.

I grabbed the snow shovel, gauged where the car had been, and shoveled about three square feet of grass. Sure enough, there was the phone. In single-digit temperatures for 14 hours, buried under 8-14 inches of snow (we'd cleared the driveway on top of it!).

I took it inside, dried it, charged it and, you guessed it. It works FINE.

I will never own any cell phone but Motorola.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Smart Cat

We have a rather large dog:




And a rather dainty cat:




Their food dishes are rather close together. I don't have a photo, but it's something like this:

______
______ (dog)
xxxxxxxxxxx______
xxxxxxxxxxx______ (cat)

Both animals are fed at the same time. Dolly, the dog, is not dainty like Maya, the cat. She gobbles her food, then heads for the water. She drinks with such gusto and splashes and drips so much of it that my kids run screeching, "tsudoggie, tsudoggie!"

Yesterday, my husband noticed that when the dog started drinking, the cat retreated to the dining room, sat and waiting patiently, and when the dog left, went back to her dish.

Poor thing. I'd noticed that she interrupted her eating, but not why. I figured she had to use the litter box halfway through or something. Oh, well, she figured out how to deal with it on her own!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Popcorn Love Affair

Very little in my life has as much meaning for me as popcorn.

Popcorn was Our Treat when I was growing up. Popped in oil in a saucepan, coated in real butter and salt. It was my mother’s treat first, and I would lie in bed, listening to the kernels hit the pan, and it was a comforting sound. Maybe because it meant she was there, keeping me safe, doing what she could to make me happy and healthy. Maybe—and more likely—it was comforting because it meant she was doing something to make herself happy. That was an extremely rare thing when I was growing up.

When I was older, popcorn, made as described above, was a family thing. We sat around a giant wooden popcorn bowl, passing around the hand towel, while we watched the earliest incarnation of Must See TV, when NBC first began dominating Thursday night with the Cosby Show. Later, when we finally got a VCR, it was movie nights on the weekends. Popcorn represented family togetherness.

Eventually, my mother remarried, and my stepfather made his one significant contribution to our household. Prior to this marriage, we poured the melted butter (melted in the popping pan, because we had no microwave) over the popcorn, salted it, and carried the salt into the living room with the bowl so we could add more when we got down into it.

My stepfather taught us about tossing. He made the BEST popcorn in the universe, and it’s to him I owe my own reputation for popcorn-making. You spoon butter over the popcorn, salt it, and then toss the bowl so it all mixes together. Repeat until the whole bowl is coated. Perfect!

Over the years, we switched to air-popped corn and butter substitutes in an effort to be healthier in our indulgences. Movie popcorn, special on its own because of the experience that went along with it, began to decline (it has never recovered). Microwave popcorn came along, but was rarely worth chomping. In 1991, my mother gave me and my then-fiancé her air popper. We lived in a pretty small apartment, and the popper—the kind that blows the hot air and the popped kernels out of a chute into a bowl—regularly shot hot, UNpopped kernels from the kitchen counter, across the room, through the bathroom door, and into the tub.

In 1995 we bought a better popper, one that kept all the corn in the container. For a long time it was sufficient, but I was really fooling myself. My mother would come visit, and I’d make ’corn, and she’d complain that it was hard in the center. She sent me this super-great popcorn from Connecticut that…turned out to be just as hard. Which meant the problem was my old popper. But I couldn’t find another hot air popper that didn’t shoot the kernels across the room.

So I said the hell with it. I started cooking it on the stove again, and it was wonderful. Light and fluffy and just right to collect the butter. But I now have a flattop stove, and shaking a pan on it isn’t such a good thing. So a couple of years ago I bought a new old-fashioned popper with the turning handle.

Perfect.

Nostalgia aside, what does popcorn mean to me now?

It means I really can make something unique to me that my husband and kids love and will always beg me to make. It means legacy.

It also means stress removal. On the worst non-crisis days of my life, I can snuggle in with popcorn and a book, and relax. Nothing else in the world can do this so easily. And in a world like ours, this is a really good thing to have available.

It means continuity. When I make popcorn, I feel my mother (now deceased), and I sense my brother way off in Texas, and the threads connecting us even when we don't talk for weeks and weeks.

It means I have to go make some right now. :)

Theories Shmeories

I was reading a post on a blog recently about Choice Theory. A man had admonished the poster to just let go of all the things that make her stressed, not pick them up again, and be 100% her. That she has a choice regarding the things that stress her out.

Geez.

Okay, some of it was on the button. People tend to get very stressed about things they can’t control, and I would agree that some of them should be let go of. But the way this guy was talking, he was saying that everything you do is your choice and you need to dig deep and work hard to make the choices that don’t stress you out.

Paraphrasing quite a bit there, but that’s what I got out of it.

One of the commenters said most proponents of Choice Theory seem to be men, and another commenter said maybe that’s because men tend to focus on one thing at a time, while women focus on multiple things.

I don’t tend to like philosophies that divide men and women, because nothing’s that neat. For example, it seems to be accepted knowledge that men want to solve problems, women listen and sympathize. I am SO not good at just listening and sympathizing. I try to fix EVERY PROBLEM someone puts in front of me. And I’m also SO not a man.

But let’s adjust it to be that proponents of Choice Theory tend to focus on one detail at a time, and those who don’t like CT tend to see all the entanglements associated with the choice.

For example.

Having to rush home to pick up my kids on time, then feed them, then make sure all their homework and practice and studying and chores are done, then catching up on their days and getting them showered and ready for bed and sometimes throwing in family reading or game playing time and making sure they don’t watch too much TV and eat a balanced dinner and get enough exercise?

THAT’S what stresses me out. But most choices I could make to change that would cause other problems that would create the same, but different stress.

Like, I could leave my family. Or quit my job so I’m home sooner so that whole paragraph doesn’t have to be done in three hours. I’m sure the consequences of those choices are obvious, though they would eliminate the stress.

I can’t just up and leave those stresses.

Which makes me wonder. Does someone who gives that advice do it in an effort to really help? Or because they have a need to feel superior to the average person?

Bad Service

I order a lot from the Internet. Especially clothes, because I’m very picky and very difficult to fit. So I’ll order a bunch of stuff, try it on, and keep what I like. What I don’t like I pack back up, mark on the packing slip why I’m returning it, seal it, and slap on the label they provide. Some of them even supply prepaid UPS labels. I pay the shipping later, but I don’t have to stand in line. And my refund usually comes through within days.

Maybe I’m spoiled. But a few weeks ago I ordered a backpack from a reputable online retailer. I didn’t like it. But they had no packing slip or proof of purchase or anything in the box. I had to call them (have I mentioned how much I hate the phone? I even order pizza online) to get an RMA number. Then ship it back. Then wait forever for the refund, minus a 15% restocking fee. And though they provide a 30-day deadline to return the merchandise, there’s no indication of how long they’ll keep my money.

So not too much later I found a better item at another retailer. Two potential items, actually. I ordered both, because they were excellent prices and I couldn’t tell which one would work better.

The first problem was that even though the image was of the brown leather, the default color was black, and I didn’t notice until I’d finalized the sale. I called immediately and waited on hold forever. When someone finally answered, I explained my problem and asked if there was any way to change the color of one of the items. She said, “uuuuhhhhh….not until you get it” in this whiny, dumb-blonde voice (I’m not saying she was a dumb blonde, just that she sounded like one). I should have asked for the supervisor, but decided to see if the item was workable before I worried about it. If I liked it, I’d exchange it. If I didn’t, I’d just send it back.

Man, I should have talked to the supervisor.

It took nearly two weeks to get them, something else I’m not used to, but I didn’t gripe. One item just didn’t work for me. The other was perfect, but black when I wanted brown. So I went online for the return process. Because this company ALSO provided no purchase info in the box and requires authorization for return.

At least they have an online process. But when I went online, it only allowed me to select one item at a time. I wanted to return both. I had trouble getting labels. I couldn’t tell if I had authorization to return both or not, but I was to get an e-mail. I decided to wait.

And wait and wait and wait. Every two days I’d get a response to my communication. First they wanted to know why I wanted to return one item, because the system didn’t send the reason through. I explained why I wanted to return both. I got two separate return labels that incorporated the restocking fee and the postage I would pay if I sent both items separately.

Duh!

I finally got authorization to return them and paid for the postage myself, which was half of what they were trying to charge me.

But that’s not all. I subscribed to LOST magazine way back in mid-September. The first issue was supposed to go on sale October 4. The web site said it could take up to 8 weeks for the next available issue to arrive, but I kind of discounted that because it’s a bimonthly magazine and the next available issue was only a couple of weeks away.

They took my money immediately. I did not get my magazine. It became November. I e-mailed them for the status. No response. I called them for a status and had to leave a message because they have “regular business hours” instead of the usual full customer service hours. I got no response.

Finally I got an e-mail back that my subscription had been processed and would start with the second issue. I immediately fired back that they had plenty of notice to send me the first issue and I wanted the first issue. I got an immediate response that I’d get a full subscription, five issues plus a yearbook. But starting with issue #2.

I almost let it go. But then I thought about it. The second issue isn’t until December, which meant I had to wait another four weeks, and they would have had my money for 12 weeks without supplying me with the product. That’s just unacceptable to me. I told her to cancel my subscription.

No response.

When did the customer become the enemy? I understand that companies need to protect themselves from idiots and scammers and general overexpense. And I've worked in customer service, so I'm not unsympathetic to the travails of the individual CSR.

But if the cable company can turn things around (the last two times I had to get the cable guy out, they admitted their own culpability in my problems, spent plenty of time and quality product fixing it, and didn’t charge me a dime), then these simple retailers should be able to get it together.

Needless to say, I don’t expect to buy from any of those companies again.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Rock with Passion


This is going to be a random assortment of thoughts about the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert I just got home from.

Oh. My. God.

Please note that I have gone to this concert every year since they started touring. This was my seventh one. And that's still my reaction.

Oh. My. God.

If you have a chance to see this concert, you really should try. It's rocked-out Christmas music. It's a rock opera with a very touching story. It's a Gregorian Chant combined with an 18th century orchestral piece played with driving drums and rockin' guitar. It's Beethoven's Fifth with flameballs.

It's a freakin' electric violin.

I'm sure all good musicians play with passion. But these people are different. This is three months of intense touring. They're playing three shows in two days just in Hershey, and they were in Connecticut three days ago. I don't know how anyone can keep up that level of intensity, but they all manage to make each show look just as fun as the last one.

Each year the show gets bigger and better. I find the history of the band as inspiring as the music and the performers, and I never get tired of it. I admit to a special...um...fondness for Dave Z, the bass player, who is also a member of ZO2.

Anyway, I guess the bottom line is that every year, this show and these people inspire me to attack my own craft with the same passion with which they attack theirs. My dream is to someday make someone feel about my books as I do about their music.

And in the meantime, I'll just engage in annual swooning.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Thankful Boat

Last year, my kindergartener brought a new tradition to our holiday.

Our friend Cheryl used to care for her after school. They made a milk-carton models of the Nina and at Thanksgiving, we all wrote on slips of paper what we were thankful for. Then we went around the table, drawing the slips from the boat and reading them aloud.

This was our second year of the tradition, and we really like it. It doesn't put anyone on the spot, especially when you've got a crowd of family at various levels of relationship, and everyone has time to think of what they want to say. It also gives the kids a bigger role in the day's activities, besides drowning out the football games and spilling their milk at the kids' table.

So, here's what we're thankful for this year:

I am thankful...

...for my friends and teachers. I wish them a long and happy life.

...for our house still standing straight.

...that right now I have no major worries.

...because my family loves me.

...for all the things I have and all the things I love. I wish all the things [people] I love to live a long and happy life.

...that I have a dream worth pursuing and people who help me pursue it.

...for having such wonderful kids who respect themselves as well as Mommy and Daddy.

...for my marriage to a man who balances my strengths and weaknesses and loves me in spite of them.

...for my room and my bed being in there.

...to have the children I have and that I wouldn't change a thing about them.

...for being me.

...for having a roof over our heads, food on the table, and love in our hearts.

...for vacation and breaks.

...for our kids getting older so I can sleep in with Mommy. [smiley face with zzzzz]

...for my mom and dad and my sister.

...for games. Silly, I know, but games to play with children, games to watch my children play, games of football to watch, and computer games for me to play.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Cinema Is Not Dead

Last night, a friend talked me into attending the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Regular Indulge Yourself blog readers and those familiar with my Passions page will not be surprised to hear I eagerly jumped on this idea, despite the two hours of sleep it would mean. On a work night.

For me, movies are not just a form of entertainment. They are an experience. There is something unique about the big screen, the Dolby surround, the smell of the theater, the feel of the seats, the energy of being in a crowd. I love the previews and the music over the credits and watching at home can't even come close to duplicating it. So this year I've been very dismayed by the whole Box Office Situation. Mediocre films (Fantastic Four) and outright bad ones (War of the Worlds) did okay but not always what their hype foresaw. Good films (Elizabethtown and Kingdom of Heaven) and great ones (Serenity) were failures, either real or perceived. It all generated a fear in me that the movies I like, the ones I eagerly go to the theater to see, won't be made anymore.

Well, I'm happy to say my fear is premature. Maybe it's a no-brainer that HP will do well, but more importantly, it has saved the whole movie experience for me.

We had a new movie theater open in June. Every time I've been there, the theater has been only half full, even for films I expected to be a big draw. It worried me, because this theater is part of a family-owned chain and more vulnerable, I believe, to the whims of the marketplace.

Well, color me stunned. This midnight show on a school/work night was packed. And I mean sold out, every seat filled half an hour before show time, when normal show times have an empty theater that far before the start of the movie. There was cheering when the film started, and that set up that energy I mentioned earlier. We're talking college-age and young adult attendees here, not teeny-boppers or kids. It was very heartening.

How about the movie itself? I mean, War of the Worlds made over $200 million and it was the worst movie I've seen since Catwoman.

Goblet of Fire is definitely the best Harry Potter movie yet. It was condensed and stripped and modified, and I wasn't thrilled with ALL of the changes from the book, but it was meaty and well-acted and really, really funny.

Sorcerer's Stone was an experiment. Even with Chamber of Secrets, the jury was out on whether these kids could act, whether they could fulfill the expectations generated by JK Rowling's wonderful characterization and storytelling. Prisoner of Azkaban convinced me they could, but in Goblet of Fire, they have really come into their own. Especially Daniel Radcliffe, who was oh-so-earnest in the first film and is now good enough to mine his and others' experiences and convince us he's really feeling what he's supposed to be feeling.

Most of the rest of the casting is as superb as ever. Many students and teachers from past editions are marginalized, but there is still enough Snape to make Megan sigh, and Neville gets a much greater role, something in which nerds everywhere (and I'm one) can rejoice.

Probably the best surprise of this film is the humor. The book has plenty of it, a lot generated by things that aren't in the movie, like the old man in his housecoat at the Quidditch World Cup, Stan Shunpike trying to impress a Veela, and Dobby the House Elf. The movie manages to make everyday comments and images funny. Fred and George are a hoot (would always love to see more of them!) and though Brendan Gleeson's interpretation of Mad-Eye Moody is much different from Jim Dale's, he does a great job.

Ralph Fiennes is a superb Voldemort, and I'm looking forward to more of him in Order of the Phoenix. I'd like Michael Gambon to settle his Dumbledore down a little, however.

My only REAL complaint is that after a year that saw a new book and a new film, the delay before the next one of each will be, once again, far too long (book 7 is not to be worked on until next year, probably not finished until 2007, and not published until 2008, and OP the movie starts filming in a few months, to be released in June 2007).

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Thoughts on LOST

I had a really coherent and well-planned post on this in the shower this morning, but alas, things always get lost between shower and computer. So this may not be as smoothly flowing as I'd planned.

At first watch, last night's episode of LOST might not seem to have revealed much, or given us many hints, or generated many questions. The more the scenes percolate in my head, however, the more clear--or more UNclear--things become.

Some facts for certain:

--Despite many debates on the subject, last week showed us the truth, and Ana Lucia DID shoot Shannon. Lest anyone still think it's unclear, just watch the preview for next week, in which Ana says, "I shot his girlfriend."

--Goodwin was one of the gang that dragged people off and Ana killed him to protect her survivors. He infiltrated the group in a manner similar to Ethan's.

Now, some not-so-factual things.

I used to think there were two groups of Others. The ones with gasoline and bullets, and the ones who operate more primitively. Then Goodwin confirmed that he was part of the group grabbing people off the beach. That seemed to blur the lines between them, since he was obviously good enough to fool the others into thinking he'd been on the plane. Ana Lucia and the others seem to think Nathan was the wrong man, since she knew for sure, in the end, that Goodwin was an Other.

But Goodwin being an Other doesn't mean Nathan wasn't. It's just too coincidental that his name was Nathan and he was from Canada (remember Ethan from Ontario?) and they hadn't seen him on the plane and he was "going to the bathroom" for two hours. Now, two-hour bathroom visits aren't a stretch in real life. But when you've had nothing to eat for a week? Less likely.

Goodwin said Nathan was not a good man, and "that's why his name wasn't on the list." Does that imply that Ana Lucia and the others are not good, either? I don't think so. Eko is certainly an enigma, and maybe Libby and Cindy have secrets that belie what we've seen of them, but I have a really hard time believing Bernard, married to a woman like Rose, is "not a good man." So could Goodwin possibly have been referring to an opposing group of Others when he talked about Nathan?

It's not cut-and-dried, of course. Nathan doesn't seem to recognize Goodwin or know the island as well as the Others, because he asked which way the beach was. But that doesn't disprove my theory, it just means maybe he hasn't been on the island that long.

Another observation: The Whispers. Last week, Shannon and Sayid heard them before they saw Walt. Ana and her group heard them, too. But last night I realized that it was the FIRST time the Tailies had heard the whispers. I think that's highly significant.

I'm looking forward to seeing Ana Lucia and Sayid go head to head. She's got guilt, for sure, but she's not going to let him take his revenge. In the preview, she fires a gun, which is confusing. She said last week "one gun and one bullet won't stop them." When she shot Shannon, the slide was back on the gun, which all the gun experts say shows the gun is now empty. I'm guessing she gets Sayid's gun away from him, and considering his background in the military, that says something about Ana's skill. I doubt she shoots anyone, though.

I'm also thinking I'm not going to like Sayid for a while. Loss has shown every character at their worst, and he's going to be no different. But Michael came around, and Sawyer came around, and Shannon was even coming around, so Sayid and Ana will end up comrades against the enemy in the long run.

I can't wait to see Bernard and Rose, and Sun and Jin reunited. Jack will have his hands full for a bit, and will once AGAIN have to save Sawyer's life. Won't Sawyer HATE that?

That's all I can think of now. I'll edit later if more comes to mind.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Pride and Joy

My husband and I are both avid readers. He read to both of our kids before they were born (Dr. Seuss Classic Collection) and my oldest "read" 30 books a day on our long morning/evening commute, so she's been naturally obsessed with books all her life. But my youngest has suffered from second child syndrome in this most shamed of ways. We haven't read to her as much as the first kid, a fact I've always hated. So she hasn't shown the same interest (passion!) in books as the rest of us.

So I was thrilled at the end of this summer when she just flipped the switch. I never pushed either of them to read to their potential before kindergarten. They did daycare/preschool and were going to be bored enough as it was. So though M was at the advanced end of the range last year, she wasn't off the charts.

Except she was. The school did a reading assessment in August, before classes started, and her teacher told me she was well above the placement her kindergarten teacher had noted, and it was likely she'd be the only student in her reading group. I don't know if that kicked on her competitiveness, or if her skill reached critical mass so she understands enough to take pleasure in what she's reading, or if she just read one particular thing that grabbed her interest. For whatever reason, she became a reading machine. She blows through a whole Junie B. Jones book at breakfast, and her teacher has to pull books from higher classes for her reading assignments in school.

It's thrilling to me, a writer and a compulsive reader, to see the joy she takes in finishing a chapter. To hear her read a complex word with confidence, then go back and count the letters to see if she beat her record (she was stuck at 11 for a long time, but finally hit 13 the other day). To see her pack half a dozen books so she can read at the bus stop, on the bus, before school starts...

Generally, evenings are family times. Even if we have practices or homework or dance class, Jim and I spend our time at least near the kids, if not directly interacting with them. We don't indulge in our own interests until they're in bed. But tonight he didn't want to wait. He proposed that they (ages 10 and 6) put themselves to bed while we went downstairs to watch the episode of Prison Break we TiVo'd last night.

I didn't think they'd go for it. In fact, I vetoed it repeatedly before they even got him to explain what he wanted. They both pounced on the idea and sent us on our way. They showered and got ready for bed all on their own, while we watched TV.

It felt so wrong, yet so good. :)

Anyway, what do these two things have to do with each other? M came down at 8:00, her bedtime, and said she was 4 pages from the end of her book and could she ppplllleeeeasssseee finish? I'm no stranger to the Finish the Book syndrome, so I said yes immediately. When she hugged me, she lingered. I was stretched out on the couch under a very soft fleece blanket (that ironically says, "It's All About Me" across the bottom) and apparently made a pretty comfy pillow. I said, "You can stay, but then you can't read." And she said...

Here it comes...

"I love you more than reading."

Can any kid make a more heartwarming statement to a mother?

Then she displayed her wit by immediately saying an emphatic "No!" when Daddy asked if she loved him more than soccer. (She hastened to assure him she was kidding. It was quite funny.)

So. My kids are smart. They love to read. They don't mind putting themselves to bed on a rare occasion. And Wentworth Miller gazed at me with those electric eyes off and on for 42 minutes.

Can life get any better than this?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

What Was I Thinking?

I finished the Firefly TV series DVDs last Friday night, and on Saturday I loaned them to a friend I see once a month, if that.

Sunday I wanted them back.

I can’t help myself. The writing and acting and characterization and humor and cleverness are all so good. I watched an ep we had taped (the last one ever filmed, so I’d just watched it two days before that) but it’s only on once a week so I can’t even feed my addiction via TiVo.

Luckily, Firefly isn’t the only well-done show I have access to. Prison Break turns the screw tighter and tighter each week. Every time they solve one problem, a new one arrives. And next week Michael’s wife comes to see him.

Wait. Michael’s wife?

Damn. How’s he gonna hook up with the doctor if he’s married? (I don’t believe she’s really his wife, for the record.)

And how about that LOST episode last night? Even though I guessed Shannon (though I thought Libby was a good possibility because of the way they laid out the promo) would bite it, I didn’t know how it would happen until I heard the gunshot.

I love the interaction between Michael and Sawyer, as they come to understand and, yes, care about each other more.

I love Jin’s loyalty to them, and the threesome’s ability to communicate despite the language barrier. Did you notice that Sawyer understands what Jin's saying, now?

I love that Ana Lucia’s giant chip on her shoulder is going to become so much heavier. I’m more intrigued by her than just about anyone else. She obviously has training, and I’ve heard rumors that she’s a cop or something, and I believe it because of the way she handles herself. But even more, because of the way she feels responsible for her people and so damaged by her failure to protect them. Jack took on the responsibility of the Fusies because he’s a doctor, and doctors heal and help. Ana took on the responsibility of the Tailies because she’s a cop (or whatever), and cops serve and protect. They’re natural leaders, in leadership positions on the Outside.

Except neither one is managing very well on the Island, are they?

So, who was Walt warning about? For those who didn’t hear it, click here. Was he talking about the Others or the Tailies? To whom will he show himself now that Shannon is gone?

Next week looks really good, but I’m looking even more forward to the following episode, where they all meet up together. I can’t wait for Rose and Bernard and Sun and Jin to be reunited.

Though I really, really hate to admit it, Alias isn’t compelling my interest as much as it used to. I still enjoy watching it more than most TV and it isn’t something I can take or leave, but it’s getting closer to Numb3rs level: Something I enjoy but won’t race to the TV for. I don’t like Rachel or the actress who plays her, so that’s part of the problem. But it may be just that I had enough. It’s a very rare show that I watch through its entire run. Short attention span? Well, maybe, if you consider several years short. :) But it’s more that I have so many other demands on my time, that I have no room for shows that aren’t top-notch.

Which makes Lost and Firefly all the more remarkable.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Of All the Nerve

I just did something I've never done before. I wrote in to a morning radio show.

They do this "dear Sue" feature where people write with a problem and Sue tries to give advice while the host and the news guy make fun of the person writing in.

This morning, an anonymous single man complained that this fall, at least four people at his place of work asked him to buy something from their kids' fundraisers, and he feels like a bad guy if he says no, but he thinks parents should only ask other parents to buy.

Geez. Talk about center of your own universe.

I do understand how he feels. I work in an office with mixed parents and non-parents. In the fall, with school and sports, we're flooded with fundraising efforts. But here's the thing: If it's something you don't want, say NO. The coward should just tell the parents, "no thank you," and he can even say "please don't ask me again," but that might burn him in the butt if he ever decides, "hey, a giant Kit-Kat would taste really good right now."

Why should HIS preferences dictate what everyone else's choices are? I have a non-parent in my office who asks when the fall fundraiser is starting because she gets all her holiday wrapping paper from my kids. I know a woman who does all her "little" holiday shopping--stuff for teachers, the cleaning people, the mail carrier, the newspaper person, stuff like that. Some LIKE buying frozen pizzas and subs and knowing they're helping some worthy group out and saving themselves from having to cook dinner at the same time. Those same people all ignore the candle sale for the dance studio and the coupon books for the fifth grade trip. And that's fine. It's their choice.

And isn't that what our lives are all about in this day and age? Choice. For everyone.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Brruuuuuusssskkkiiii!


It would be an inspirational story even if I didn't love football.

In February, Pro-Bowl linebacker and three-time SuperBowl champion Tedy Bruschi suffered a stroke shortly after returning to Boston from Hawaii. He couldn't see. His left side was numb and he had trouble walking. He was 32.

Fast forward 8 months. Fully recovered, Tedy Bruschi returned to pro football in front of a sellout crowd, all sporting signs of support. He could have played a down or two, then rested his body and mind. No one would have blamed him. The one overriding aspect of his period on the "Physically Unable to Perform" list was complete and total support by everyone. His bosses, his teammates, his family, his fans. No one wanted a guy like Tedy to suffer, no matter what it did to Our Team.

See, Tedy is one of the good guys. Not just a good football player, but a great one. Not just a good leader, but the kind of guy who demonstrates by example, builds you up when you need it, and lets you know when you screwed up in a way that doesn't tear you down. He has supreme confidence in his ability and his teammates, and that infuses them with confidence in themselves. He's the kind of guy who celebrates a great play not with some show-offy little skit or chest-thumping look-at-me move, but with a shit-eating grin and a hug for whoever's closest to him. You can't be a football fan and not love Tedy Bruschi.

So, despite all the articles leading up to last night's game cautioning that he can't fix everything that ails the New England Patriots, ESPN went to every break with "A Hero Can Save Us" over a vignette of his tackles. And despite the fact that he just started practicing with the team two weeks ago, he played the entire game, not just on defense (which was on the field 40 of 60 minutes of playing time) but on special teams. He logged 7 tackles--some guys don't do that even when they've been playing solid football for eight weeks.

He didn't fix the team. He's an inside linebacker. He can't give the secondary more experience and strength, help the rookie offensive linemen make their blocks, or shore up the running game. But he is the heart and soul of the defense, as is oft-repeated, and he provided just enough spark, just enough passion, to make the rest of the team stop figuratively wandering in confusion and do their jobs. Despite Buffalo's dominance of the clock, the yardage, and the field, the Patriots still came away winners the way they used to--by doing what had to be done, just in time.

We love you, Tedy.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Mind and Prejudice


I don't care for the tighty-whities-above-the-pants look, but mm-mm-mm-mm-MM.

I've always had a soft spot for LL Cool J. Maybe because when rap was first becoming big, he was soft-spoken, articulate, and intelligent.

Now, he's just hot.

No, just kidding. He is, but he's also still soft-spoken, articulate, and intelligent. And a damned fine actor.

So a long time ago, like three years or something, I saw this trailer in the theater for a movie called Mindhunters. It starred LL, of course (or does he go by J?), but also Val Kilmer and Christian Slater, and I love them. And that actress from Minority Report and Cold Case whose name I can never remember, and I like her. And another actress I see very rarely but like a lot. And Johnny Lee Miller, whose name I've never known and who's British but I've only seen play an American. (Why are they so good at American accents and we're so bad at British ones?)

The movie was a psychological thriller about FBI agents on a training mission and one of them is a killer. Not an unusual plot, but it looked good. But then it got shelved for years, and either released and yanked very quickly, or sent straight to DVD. I watched it last night, and I really don't get why.

It's not as gory as something like, say, Saw, but it had its share of gruesomeness. It wasn't as scary as the old George C. Scott film The Changeling or even The Sixth Sense, but it was scary enough to make me wish I'd watched it first. I lay in my basement, alone, in the dark, wondering what the hell I'd been thinking. Then I turned on the light.

I was disappointed by who got killed when, but it didn't diminish my enjoyment of the film. The suspense was tight, and the whodoneit so good I never figured it out who it was. Even when the killer was "revealed," it still wasn't obvious which of the two, then three, then two survivors was the culprit. And the methods of killing were really clever.

Oh, and though LL Cool J never takes off his shirt, he does wear one that's really tight and sleeveless, and he jumps on a table during a fight scene. Very hot.

Bridehunters

In an effort to get Firefly faster, we had a Netflix marathon last night and sent the disks back today. (Firefly is on a short wait and I keep getting all these other flicks instead.)

So I watched two very different movies last night once my kids were done with Stuart Little. I took out the two DVDs, flipped them around a little, and put one blind into my DVD player. It turned out to be Bride and Prejudice, the Ghurinder Chadha movie co-starring Naveen Andrews, Sayid from LOST. Which wasn't why I rented it. I liked Ghurinder's first movie, Bend it Like Beckham, and my friend had recommended this one.

I liked it. Some of the musical numbers were too cheesy or too boring, but not enough to ruin the film. The first major Bollywood-style number was excellent. Beautiful, exciting, blood-pumping, amusing, fun.

All the actors were great, and even the ones I thought were a bit cliché ended up being more complex than I expected. And Martin Henderson made my "temporarily obsessed" so Perfect Opposites was added to my Netflix queue and I'm looking forward to Flyboys next year, though I know nothing about the movie. :)

Different actors make my obsession list for different reasons, but more often than not it has to do with the eyes. As William Darcy, Henderson infuses his gaze with that look of longing that makes a heart melt--and makes you want him to look at you.

The only thing I hated about B&P was no kissing! They teased it and teased it and I'd think, "HERE we go!" and then he'd kiss her forehead or they'd hug. So frustrating

I'll post about the next movie separately because it deserves a photo.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Signs of the Times

I know this is cheating, but I'm overdue for a blog entry (what else is new?) and have no time to create an exclusive. So here's something my father-in-law sent me that should be pasted to my front door or something:

YOU KNOW YOU ARE LIVING IN 2005 when...

1. You accidentally enter your password on the microwave.
Never did that, but I am running out of memory for all the passwords I have to remember.

2. You haven't played solitaire with real cards in years.
My preferred version is FreeCell

3. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of 3.
Um, more than that, probably.

4. You e-mail the person who works at the desk next to you.
All the time!!!

5. Your reason for not staying in touch with friends and family is that they don't have e-mail addresses.
E-mail has made me keep in touch with family and friends I haven't seen for 10 years or more.

6. You pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is home to help you carry in the groceries.
Hell, yeah!

7. Every commercial on television has a web site at the bottom of the screen.
And not just the commercials!

8. Leaving the house without your cell phone, which you didn't have the first 20 or 30 (or 60) years of your life, is now a cause for panic and you turn around to go to get it.
I live in fear of being unreachable. Don't know how my mother did it.

10. You get up in the morning and go on line before getting your coffee.
Well, I WOULD, if I drank coffee. It is definitely the first thing I do when I get to work.

11. You start tilting your head sideways to smile. : )
Okay, I'm not doing that yet, but I do try to use emoticons in person.

12. You're reading this and nodding and laughing.
Definitely.

13. Even worse, you know exactly to whom you are going to forward this message.
Or who will read it on my blog.

14. You are too busy to notice there was no #9 on this list.
Wait, there wasn't?

15. You actually scrolled back up to check that there wasn't a #9 on this list.
Duh.

AND NOW U R LAUGHING at yourself.
Yes, except as a writer, I never abbreviate you and are or anything else. That's one "innovation" I don't care for.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

It's Happening Again

I have many obsessions. I prefer to call them Passions, and they are all healthy. They do no damage to me or anyone else.

But every so often, I get this other obsession going. An obsession to watch movies. I love movies, as you may have guessed by all the posts on here about them. And I do watch a lot, both on DVD and in the theater. But this transcends my usual interest. I watched The Wedding Date from Netflix last night, and then PPV'd Fever Pitch. Tonight, I'm going to see Serenity again, which is (sadly) already in the crappy $2 theater.

I never go to the $2 theater.

I have this feeling of desperation about it, and then melancholy when the movie is over. It reminded me that I've felt this way before. And then I realized why, and I marveled once again at what an odd, creative, messed up thing the human spirit is.

Three years ago at this time, my mother was cheerfully going through what she called a "health crisis." She'd been battling a cough for a couple of months (which was actually over a year). She could feel a swelling in her liver. Certain herbal-type things she tried seemed to be helping, but then it would get worse again.

I was sure she had lung cancer. She'd been a smoker almost my whole life. She'd battled breast cancer 15 years before, and then gone through western-medicine-induced hell that turned her off the medical profession forever. Her reconstructive surgery led to problem after problem after problem, and she was never completely healthy again. She had a period of mental health problems so severe you wouldn't even believe she'd been functioning, and had come through it all. But she was not an easy mother to deal with, so I decided she couldn't have lung cancer, she was going to be around to make me miserable until she was 92.

She had no insurance and a very minimal income, and medical bills she was still paying for a broken pelvis (slipped in the snow) and osteomyelitis (bone infection) in her jaw from an abscessed tooth the year before. That's why she had avoided seeking medical treatment for this "nagging cough." At Thanksgiving my brother and I convinced her to go to the hospital while they were visiting me. It was a horrible, horrible day, filled with shouting and recrimination, all the negative feelings we'd all had for years pouring out of us. She walked out of the ER when they took too long to se her, so I made her promise she'd go to a doctor when she got home.

Two months later, she died in her sleep on my brother's birthday, alone in her bed, of metastatic breast cancer that had invaded her liver, bone, and colon.

During those two months between diagnosis and death, she deteriorated very quickly. She wanted desperately to live, to see her granddaughters, who she loved so, so much, grow up and be the women she recognized the potential in them to be. She wanted to develop a relationship with my sister-in-law and watch her and my brother raise a family. But all she could do was struggle through each day, getting her lungs drained with a pump and try to forget the pain.

She did the last by watching movies. One videotape after another from the library, old movies, new movies, happy movies, sad movies, hopeful movies, exciting movies, nostalgic movies... anything and everything, as long as it didn't deal with death.

It's always difficult to deal with a parent's death, and all that's associated with it. I consider myself a very introspective person, though, and I'm well aware of all the threads, good and bad, that built our relationship. I recognize where I was a bad daughter, and what fault lay on her. I also recognize that we did the best we could, and though I could have done more, the most important thing was that we loved each other, and knew it.

Because I don't think I have any buried emotions relating to my mother or her death, it surprises me every year to have this desperate obsession sneak up on me. Last year it got pretty intense as Thanksgiving neared, driving me to watch movies constantly, not understanding why I was so driven until the holiday was nearly upon us, and I realized what it had come to represent for me. Last year, when I gained that understanding, the obsession died.

I hope that happens this year, too.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

EasyScan, I Think I Love You

I live in central Pennsylvania, which means...not very big. Or innovative. Or full of choice, especially in our grocery stores. For example, I cannot find the mint version of Dove ice cream ANYWHERE.

When I went to Dallas two years ago, we shopped in their Whole Foods market with my brother. Essentially, a giant grocery store with amazing choices. Tremendous produce. Eighteen different kinds of sausages. Pluots, jicama, fruit you've never heard of. Bulk nuts. Homemade tortillas you could eat warm as you walked around the store.

In central PA, we get apples. Four kinds. Maybe eight, at harvest time. And Blue Diamond almonds. Plain only.

So we got a new store this week. There's this mall that decided they had no foot traffic because it was an INDOOR mall, rather than because they have uninteresting, expensive stores and are one mile from a bigger mall that has Old Navy and Annie's Pretzels. So they renovated, moved all their stores to outside storefronts, added some better stores, and razed their old Montgomery Ward and Food Court to create this new Super Giant Food Store (yes, the grocery stores around here are named Giant).

We went today. And yes, they have a great variety of produce. Lots of bulk items. A little café I might enjoy later, and a day care for kids 3-9. No Dove ice cream, but you can't have everything.

The very best part of this new store is the EasyScan. All the local stores now have self-scanning stations. You fill up your cart, go to the register, scan and bag your items, and pay. It's quick and efficient and I get things done MY way. Well, this new store has an even BETTER way. You get to carry around a hand-held scanner in a special holster on the handle of the cart. There's a bag hanger on the cart, and they gave us a free denim bag that hangs between the sides of the cart, which is environmental as well as convenient. You select your spaghetti sauce, scan the bar code, and put it in the bag. Weigh your yellow tomatoes, print a label, scan it, and bag 'em. At the end, you download your data into the cashier stand, pay, and go, without having to remove your items from the cart again. It's freakin' awesome!

I never thought I'd be excited about going to the grocery store again. LOL

Elizabethtown

There are some things I just don't get about Hollywood.

Kingdom of Heaven opened at number one with $20 million and was considered a massive failure. It was, of course, a very expensive film to make and took a couple of years to do it.

Last weekend, Wallace and Gromit opened at number one with $16 million and was considered a massive success. Despite having taken 5 years and extremely intensive, backbreaking work to make.

Scarlett Johannsen is clearly from the don't-move-your-your-face-so-you-don't-get-wrinkles school of acting. She is the same person in every film I've ever seen her in, but she gets nominated for an Oscar and lauded in every mention of her work.

But Orlando Bloom, who has as subtly expressive a face as a chocolate lab puppy, is called passive and weak.

There are some great actors who melt into every role they play. Brendan Gleeson is a master, and one of the few true talents out there. Many other great actors convey emotion and present their lines sincerely, yet no matter how ugly or odd you make them look, they are never not themselves. Mel Gibson is a perfect example of this.

It's not really Hollywood I'm annoyed with. It's the critical media. I never used to read reviews of movies. I saw a trailer, and if it looked good, I went. But the deeper I got into being a writer, the more fascinated I also became with how movies are made. The more I identified with the creative and collaborative process by the screenwriter, director, actors, and editor. I subscribe to People and Entertainment Weekly now, mainly because of this interest. I also subscribe to Time, which often does movie reviews. And the Internet gives us access to reviewers all over the country, most of whom used to have a miniscule fraction of their current potential audience.

So, I used to watch a movie, like or dislike it, and be happy. Now, I have added this anger-filled relationship with the critics. If it watch a movie they loved, 99% of the time I don't even kind of like it. If I liked a movie they hated, I am annoyed at all the reasons they're wrong.

Which, of course, they're not. It's all opinion. Amanda loving my book doesn't invalidate Rachel being bored by it. So my loving Elizabethtown doesn't invalidate Leah Rozen hating it. But it's not going to stop me from being annoyed.

The reviews of this movie have been mixed. A good number of people have liked Orlando Bloom's performance, and mostly liked the movie, too. But things even they didn't like are the same things the haters didn't like, too. And they're the same things I loved.

Many comments have said the film lacked focus. That it dealt with the career loss and the father loss and the falling in love and the reconnecting with family and the discovery of the country all in the same film, and it shouldn't have.

I thought all of that just made the movie REAL. How many of us have to deal with one thing at a time? For example, this week I had a major bad situation at work combined with a difficult task at work, but also had some other things successfully resolve. During all this, on Monday I spent some time feeling like a bad mom because a particular decision feels wrong no matter which way I go, and a proud mom because of the progress my kids are making and their successes on the soccer field. I got a rejection of a book I love, but also had a really exciting moment about the book I'm currently working on. Love doesn't find us when nothing else is happening. And when the big stuff is taking priority (Drew Baylor mediating the disposal of his father's remains), the small stuff doesn't stop (his cousin having trouble with his son).

I admit I may have identified with the character and what he faced more than many people do. A little over two years ago, my mother died. I was just a little older than Drew Baylor (in the film). The oldest child. Conflicted about our relationship and all the ways it couldn't change now. When he approached his father in the coffin, I inevitably recalled how my mother's mouth had been sewn crooked, how she looked fretful even in a complete absence of expression, how hard her skull was when I kissed her forehead. I sobbed heavily at that part of the movie, and when Drew had his catharsis on the way home.

Some reviewers found Susan Sarandon's tribute and the trip across the country dull. I found them both incredibly emotional, and it makes me wonder how well those reviewers connect with anything but their own words.

The part I thought would be the worst, Kirsten Dunst, was. But even "worst" is relative. Her accent was totally inconsistent (while Orlando's never sounded British). I liked her better without the fake accent--Paula Deen's rich, loving tones made Dunst's sound strident and harsh. But she conveyed a painful need without crossing into desperation, and her best moments were quiet ones. She definitely had chemistry with Orlando, which is also obvious in their promo opps.

The movie is definitely worth seeing, for anyone who has faced failure or dealt with loss or who knows they will, someday, and doesn't do their damndest to avoid those feelings. There's a lot of humor, but mostly a big feeling of comfort and satisfaction that accompany most Cameron Crowe films. All who worked on the movie should feel proud of their end result.

No matter what the critics think.

The Joy of Creation

I love how my writing mind works.

I’m what’s known as a seat-of-the-pants writer. I don’t plan very far ahead. I like playing reader as I write, discovering the story as it’s revealed. And sometimes, it comes together so well, I just know my subconscious knows where I’m going, even if my working brain doesn’t. When I discover that I’ve already planted the seeds for a revelation that I just came up with, I get the feeling of joy and pride that makes writing my dream job.

It just happened. I didn’t know what this character’s thing was, and it’s too early to reveal it. I just figured it out, and when I did, I realized the heroine had gotten that wrong—which will seriously shake her very necessary belief in herself. Her getting that wrong, so very wrong, is why he didn’t believe in her abilities, until later. When she uses them really well, and discovers this truth, which fits so well with the thing that I can’t even believe it.

I know that makes no sense at all. But it gives the same feeling of satisfaction as finding that stupid last piece of sky for a 1000-piece puzzle, or finding the last 42 cents in a major reconciliation, or nailing the client’s needs even better than they could have themselves.

It’s what makes me happy for anyone with a career, and sad for whoever just has a job.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Why NOT Me?

There's been a lot in the media lately about people in situations that make them ask the inevitable question, "why me?" A little closer to home, too. I have a very ill relative who's the sweetest boy in the world, and he suffers nearly every day. Then there are the hurricane victims, people losing spouses and children and siblings in the war, the earthquake victims...it never ends. There is a constant stream of tragedy that fully justifies the question, "why me?" to those who suffer it.

I made a vow a long time ago not to ask that question. I admit to asking it a lot when I was young, growing up in a single parent household with little money and a mother who worked so incredibly hard, through increasingly more challenging health problems. But I'm not unique. There's no reason to expect, or even to hope, my life will be rosy until I die. Life isn't a smooth glide. It's Frogger. If you're lucky, you'll handle the highway with aplomb and strength. If you're not, a semi will zoom out of the left screen and flatten you. All you can do is start over and try again.

I think the "why me"s take energy away from coping. It's hard enough to face the reality of a dying parent or a healthy parent who makes your life miserable, or an injured child, or the loss of a job or home. There's no checklist of sins that make us targets, no micromanaging of our lives. There's just life, and how we handle it. My plan is to handle it without worrying about the whys.

I hope I haven't just jinxed myself. :)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Jack didn't cry!

I thought Lost was really good last night. I like the slower, meatier shows that delve more into the characters than just give us big action or big revelation or big question. I like them all.

Ana Lucia kicks ass! Love that chick already, but mostly love that little smile she gave when Sawyer said he'd kill her. It kept her from being unsympathetic. She's a perfect counterpoint to Kate's softness. She's tough, too, but in a totally different way. She's driven by fear. Ana Lucia is driven by courage.

Poor Sawyer. All that bluster, with nothing to back it up. He really needs something for that shoulder, though. It was uuuu-gly.

I dreamt about Lost all night, too. In my dream, I realized Jack DID cry at one point in the show. I'm pretty sure that was just the dream, though.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Catching Up on My Indulgences

I went a while without posting my thoughts on any of the movies, books, and TV shows in which I've indulged lately, so I thought I'd remedy that.

I'll start with books, because I generally don't like to voice my opinions of them. I'm too sensitive, for obvious reasons, of the author's feelings. I glance around at my fiction detritus, and of 21 books lying on my floor, 8 of them I didn't finish. Some I didn't get past the first couple of chapters. Three are authors I've read before and either loved or really enjoyed. I feel bad when I don't like the newest ones. But at least I bought the books! They got their royalties.

Of the ones I did enjoy, Cherry Adair's latest was a great one. I don't remember the title. I sent it to my sister-in-law, hoping to pick up a new dedicated reader for Ms. Adair. I also really liked Dirty Little Secrets. I'm not sure I'll read the sequel, because it's set in a world that I want to avoid. But I probably will, because the characters are so well-drawn and the story was so well-told.

I found Devil's Bargain by Rachel Caine to hold my attention, as well. Though I sometimes felt the author liked her secondary character (and probably future heroine) more than she liked DB's heroine, the action was gripping, and the paranormal premise really cool.

She's on the Money was way better than Stef Feagen's first Pink book, Show Her the Money, which was delightful already. By far the best Bombshell I've read recently was The Contestant, by Stephanie Doyle.

On to TV. The new season is a bit over a month old, and things are shaking out. Shaking hard at Fox, who ditched Head Cases after only two episodes. Poor Chris O'Donnell. Anyway, I don't watch Fox, unless I am forced to by virtue of my New England Patriots playing an NFC team. Here's my lineup this season:

Kitchen Confidential - Chosen because it stars Bradley Cooper, who played Will on Alias (have I ever mentioned he was my favorite character?). It makes me laugh, but I wouldn't miss the show if they canceled it. Bradley, yes, very much so. The show, eh. I think it's much better than all of the fat-dumb-guy-with-hot-wife sitcoms, which means its days are numbered.

Prison Break - The promos caught my eye because they featured Dominic Purcell, who starred in the low-rated but very smart and intriguing John Doe a few years ago. He chooses well, because this is another very smart and intriguing show. It's not episodic, which I love, and has a new twist every week. The only bad part is the ex-girlfriend/attorney who has one facial expression and annoys me more each Monday.

Okay, I lied. I just realized those are both Fox shows. Doh. They got me. Dammit.

LOST - They're doing some new things this season. Like showing the same scenes from different perspectives. Bringing in a LOT of new people. Mixing up the relationships by bringing together people who weren't usually in such proximity before. I'm still loving every minute of it. I just wish they'd tell us how Locke got in the damned wheelchair.

Alias - Don't EVEN try to talk to me about Vaughn's death. He's not dead. Jack extracted him because as long as he was alive, he was in danger, and Sydney was in danger, and even bigger, their baby was in danger. If they'd left him full of holes next to the train, my denial would be harder to maintain. But he survived that. And the doctor who was doing chest compressions was bending his elbows and bouncing his body, not stiff-arming Vaughn's chest. It was all for show. No, it was NOT bad acting. It was for show.

Numb3rs - I usually don't go in for procedurals. But this one has some neat stuff. Two hot guys (four, if you count Don's FBI team). More smartness. It's very intriguing how they manage to get math into the story every week. It does make me laugh, though, that the same FBI team investigates stalkers, murderers, and jewel thieves. Doesn't seem likely. But maybe the LA bureau is understaffed.

Movies are starting to get better. We're past the mediocre teen-bait and into some meatier stuff. There are several I'll see on DVD (or have seen on DVD) and a few on the big screen.

Crash - I tend to be really disappointed by critically acclaimed indies, but this one was every bit as good as the reviews said. The writer and director did not play it at all safe. No political correctness here. They addressed racism from all perspectives, exploring why people are the way they are, and why it's so hard not to be. And looked at race not just in a black/white world, but as it affects Hispanics and Persians, too.

Just Like Heaven - This is not your average ghost movie, nor your average romantic comedy. Ruffalo shows once again why he's such a great romantic lead, when he's so far from classically handsome. He's an amazing actor who had great chemistry with Reese Witherspoon, one of my favorite actresses. There was one moment that was predictable and I hated it, but it ended up okay after that.

A History of Violence - This movie was SO not what it appeared to be. At first, I found it awkward and forced and then anticlimactic and dull. And THEN. Wow. Viggo Mortensen is amazing. Maria Bello I like, and she made me not like her so much. That was a good thing. The second half of the movie made you look at the first half in a totally new way. And William Hurt was hilarious.

And, finally (if you cared enough to read this far), Serenity. I was not a Firefly fan. I wanted to be, but it just didn't grab me, for some reason. I think they yanked it too soon. But I'm going to give it another try on DVD. Serenity's plot was tightly written, the characters very emotional and made so you cared about each and every one of them. It was a true action ensemble, a throwback to the golden days of action films, before they became all about solitary heroes and one-line zingers. There's constant humor in this movie, as well as fear, suspense, mystery, sorrow, horror, and, yes, heroism. But heroism spread across the entire crew, not just one man. It was very satisfying, and I look forward to seeing it again.

Next up, a movie I've been waiting for forever (they pushed back the release date at least twice). Elizabethtown.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Oh Brother

I tried to post this twice last night, but whenever I went to upload a photo, it locked up my system and I lost the post. Therefore, no photo. Maybe later.
~~~~~~~~~~~
I recorded Oprah today. It's been years since I watched the show, but Sarah Jessica Parker was on to talk about bargain shopping and I wanted...

What? Orlando Bloom was on the show, too? I had no idea!

Okay, okay, I taped it for Orlando, even though she asked the same damned questions every interviewer asks and he gave the same damned answers he always has to give, and his longish pirate hair stuck out over his right ear.

But this is not about Orlando. Not directly. He was talking about being raised by two strong women, his mother and his sister, and he sounded very much like my brother. Then, Matthew Fox came on and said "It's all good," and my brother says that all the time. So I got sentimental and sappy and decided to post here about my brother. I have no doubt he knows how I feel about him, but he's overdue for some public recognition.

Andy talks a lot about my influence on him growing up, but the truth is, he was a touchstone for me. When he worshipped me and asked for an extra lollipop to give me later, I knew I was doing well. If he shot hyphenated profanity at me in six-word strings, it was a sure bet I'd overdone it with the bossiness. And when he was proud, I knew I'd done something right.

My relationship with him affects how I view my own kids' sibling rivalry. I think knowing how they feel helps me know when to ignore it, when to moderate, and when to punish.

My oldest is only 10, so there are about, oh...20 years before she starts dating (according to Daddy, anyway). But thanks to my brother, I know what I want in a boyfriend for her. Someone who is self-aware without being self-centered. Who will worship her without being blind to her flaws. Who will respect her and her boundaries, even while challenging her to new heights. I know this, because I see it in my brother, and it's all good.

Love you, Andy.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Random Thought of the Day

I’m getting over a chest cold and I’m at that point where my throat occasionally spasms and throws me into a coughing fit. Caused problems in the PTO meeting last night.

Anyway, I just had one of those “fits,” and used a mentho-lyptus cough drop to soothe it. And thought about how they figured out that eucalyptus had such properties.

That made me think about how all remedies were “natural” and that the best healers knew exactly which herb to brew into a tea to cure certain ailments, and which to make into a poultice, and so on.

That made me wonder about the earliest herbalists and how they knew these things.

Can you imagine the trial and error?

“Don’t take that more than twice a day. It killed my little brother. Cured his open sores, though.”

“Here, come sit over here by this bucket. Let’s see how much of this I have to give you before it makes you vomit.”

Sign posted in town square:

“Wanted: Individuals with no family, no obligations, willing to risk life, limb, and sanity to test healing potions. Good benefits.”

Oy.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Slow Joe

My boss “wallpapered” our bathroom at work with old sheet music. As I’m a compulsive reader, I can’t help reading the same things over and over again. Some of them drive me nuts.

One is this song called “Slow Joe” by Charlie Harrison and Fred Rose. It says at the top,

This is Slow Joe

Slowest man a livin’

Never had a girl in his life

Of course you’ll want his whole history—

And then the lyrics go:

“Slow Joe the slow-est man a liv-in’

Slow Joe could nev-er be for-giv-en, The girls all tried

To love him in vain — He”

At which point it disappears behind the dresser that serves as our supply cabinet. Leaving me to wonder in what manner Joe is slow, and why that precludes him from having a girl, though apparently they all want him desperately.

Another one is called “Eve Wasn’t Modest Till She Ate that Apple” with a subtitle of “We’ll have to pass the apples again.” This is “Courtesy of Puck,” self-proclaimed “America’s Cleverest Weekly.” I want to rename it America’s Most Sexist Weekly. Or maybe, America’s Most Hypocritical Weekly.

Boy, am I glad we live in a time when song lyrics make sense and don’t bash anyone. ;)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Lost Friends

You just HAVE to love the Internet.

So I came over here tonight for a little blatant self-promotion (it's a blog, so I guess that's redundant) and checked the comments. And seem to have been found by a wonderful old friend who asked what I thought of LOST last night.

(Beth, e-mail me!)

My first thought when LOST started (after "squeeeeeeeeee, it's on!") was "Well, that hatch is certainly a bit bigger than it was four months ago."

And that's my only complaint.

Another friend is getting really tired of Jack crying in every episode. I love the way he cries. :)

But that's irrelevant. Really, the show was great. I have to admit to being a BIT dismayed that no questions were answered, because Damon Lindelhof said they would be, but the promo for next week said they will THEN, so I'll accept that.

As usual, the show generated tons of questions:

Who is Desmond and how long has he been in that bunker and why is he there? The exercise bike and CRT and dishware and everything make it look like he's been there 30 years, yet he was with Jack in the stadium oh, maybe five years ago. No more than 10, certainly. What was the medication he injected himself with? And what did he do with Kate?

Where is Walt? Was he wet because he escaped? Because he drowned? Because they couldn't get the boat all the way to shore and made him swim in? Why did he say "shhh" to Shannon? What are they doing with him? Why does that dog act so freaky all the time?

Has my obsession diminished? Hell, no! It's back and better than ever before. I subscribed to the magazine, for Pete's sake!

I did, however, manage to avoid heading for The Fuselage. Pat me on the back, I'm maintaining some semblance of a regular life beyond LOST. :)

So, what did YOU think? Feel free to disagree with me. I'll just ignore you.