29 December, 2006

Best And Worst of 2006

I now know why magazines and TV shows do "best of" compilations at the end of the year....sheer laziness and a lack of interest in writing anything new. Seeing as how at least 55% of me is still on vacation, I've decided to do my own "Best and Worst" list. Everything on the list is something I first experienced during 2006, so even though it's on my list for this year it may have come out years ago.

Best Book of 2006

I had a light reading year this year; I've lost count but I think I'm at under 250 books for the year. If I made it over 250 I'd be surprised. I think I'll blame the surgeries, as there were long stretches where I didn't read that much. In any case, the best book I read this year would probably have to be

Ireland by Frank Delany.

It's a fanciful history of Ireland told through the eyes of an aging Seanachie. I really enjoyed it a great deal.

Worst Book of 2006

Turning Angel by Greg Iles.

I already went into great detail about why I hated this book. I don't know if I would have been less hard on it if it were by another author--I suspect so. Regardless, this was a thinly-veiled piece of child porn, wholly populated with unsympathetic characters who acted completely unrealistically. I loathed this book.

Best TV Show of 2006

The Wire.

You knew I was going to say this. You saw it coming. I cannot heap enough praise on this show--it's exactly what television should be.

Worst TV Show of 2006

Picking a "worst" tv show is shooting fish in a barrel. There are sooo many bad offerings out there, from unfunny 'sitcoms' to flat 'dramas' with a few messy entrants into the Sci Fi category thrown in for good measure. I think that to my mind there's a tie for this category.

Prime-Time Game Shows
The Gilmore Girls

Game shows are daytime tv. They are what you watch when you're home sick from school, when you work the night shift and when you have a few minutes to yourself after putting the kids down for their naps. They're what's constantly playing on the TVs in nursing homes and psych wards. They are marginal tv designed to fill the off-hours while you wait for the good stuff. Having game shows air in the prime tv hours is like having cereal for supper. It's a poor use of time and a cheap manoevre.

The only thing worse than peppering your prime network slots with old-lady insane tv is having a formerly-well done show visibly rot before the eyes of its loyal viewers. Hence GG and Lost. Watching these shows is like having an alcoholic grandparent. You eagerly wait for them to show up, only to have them be stinky and confusing once they get there.

Best Movie of 2006

The Prestige

It does what movies are supposed to do--entertain--while being both literate and moving.

Worst Movie of 2006

Talledega Nights

I thought I would like this, and when we initially saw it with friends I didn't think it was too bad. But the more I reflect on it the more I feel like I paid $8.50 to watch a minstrel show. I'm neither a native southerner nor a NASCAR fan, and I've lived in the South long enough to have met more than a few of both. The movie's jabs at NASCAR, Bible-belt Christianity, Southern culture and straight male friendships were too loud and too long and not nearly as funny as the movie's stars seemed to think. It was a nasty piece of work. Even beyond the nastiness was the fact that the few funny moments had already been spoiled by the film's trailers. That's always a cheap trick.

28 December, 2006

How I Spent My Christmas Vacation Stealing From The Church And Hearing About My Brother's New Religion

I think Christmases get better as I get older. I've always liked Christmas in theory, but in practice there have been some years where the present-buying, travelling and interacting with people haven't put me in a particularly Christ-like mood. This season's Christmas seemed to strike just the right note on all accounts, with a little bit of drama thrown in to keep me from going into sugar-shock.

-->The drive up to Indiana was a bit rainy in patches, but free from the white-knuckle stress of some years' weather. We weren't constantly on the lookout for BlackIce and actually got to have 6 hours of uninterrupted Husband And Wife conversation. It does help that I had secured an anti-anxiety prescription for our two dogs, with which they were liberally treated. Dudes, I cannot stress the value of drugging your children before a long car trip.

-->On Friday Night we all went to my favourite Gringo-ized "Mexican" Restaurant. I have no idea why Nashville doesn't have at least one Carlos O'Kelly's. We've got plenty of excellent and nearly-authentic Mexican eateries, but every now and then the part of me that spent the first 21 years of my life in Indiana gets a hankering for GringoMex, where the salsa is closer to ketchup and the food is covered in ORANGE cheese. My parents actually went with us, setting aside their culinary principles for the sake of familial togetherness. As is the way in Indiana, no fewer than three people knew at least some of us at the table and stopped to talk. Indiana is a genuinely friendly place in a way like no other.

By far the wierdest part of the evening was when my brother revealed to us his latest crush. On Target Stores. I imagine the rest of us felt something akin to what Cat Stevens' people went through upon his conversion to Islam. Instead of hearing the praises of Allah, however, we were introduced to the magnificence of Archer Farms--the Target House Brand. That was different.

-->Saturday was leisurely spent eating cookies, candies, and reading books as we waited for our Fancy Evening Out. 19 years ago my parents instituted a new tradition where we all had an evening of Fine Dining at a Posh Restaurant. The first couple of years we did this at the Studebaker Mansion, but one drive home through a building blizzard was enough to convince us to alter our plans and stay closer to home. Since then we've had our Fancy Evening at The Summit Club in Fort Wayne. It's always really nice because it's a chance to dress up, eat a dinner that none of us has to cook and just enjoy conversation and laughter. We talked about movies, politics, tv shows and the Archer Farms' fine selection of frozen and refrigerated foods.

-->The first big drama of the week was just prior to the Summit Club dinner, when one of us discovered that an expensive present had been either stolen or misplaced. The rest of the visit was peppered with periodic searches for said present. I'm beginning to suspect that my parents have a sticky-fingered pest control service.

-->Christmas Eve was nice, with the exception of my husband being sick. Since he was unwell I went to Church without him by my side. I felt like a kid again--going to church with just my parents and sister. Although it's the same place I grew up in, they've extensively remodled both the facility and the style of worship. It was like one of those dreams where you are in your old high school but they've replaced all the classrooms with shops and cubicles from your old offices. Everything is familiar but different at the same time. The thing that made me feel both very old and very angry was when, on our way into the sanctuary some woman rudely brushed past us with both a coffee cup and glass of water. She was completely oblivious to the "no food or beverages" sign above the door and hustled to grab up her sheet music. I'd been on the platform in that church countless times, many long before this prima donna knew what "sheet music" even was. Never was I even remotely of the opinion that I was above the other congregants for merely have a small part of the worship service in my hands. The fact that to this chick it was more of a Show wherein she was A Star and less about worship really grated on me. That's one of the drawbacks to a non-Nashville church. Here soloists and worship leaders are a dime a dozen. Up in Northern Indiana they're more of a rarity and predisposed to being snots about it.

Anyway, back to Christmas eve service....It was good by and large but it did go a long way to reinforcing my opinon about Contemporary Worship Teams and their Team Leaders. And about how much I dislike repeating one refrain for more than 10 times.

The second drama of the trip was when I took home the poinsettia that my sister dedicated to my parents. The "rule" was that you could take the plant--used to decorate the sanctuary--after the Christmas Eve Evening Service. The hiccup was that there were two of these services, one at 4:30 and one at 6:30. We went to the 4:30 option and there was no way on God's green planet that I was going to drive back to the church at 7:30 to pick up the plant. So I grabbed it on the way out, only to incur the wrath of two choir members who watched me grab it. In a typical female fashion, said choir members had a loud conversation between themselves conveniently designed for me to overhear. This is how we often do things (unless you're a loudmouth like me, who most often says exactly what she thinks). The conversation went something like this:

"People are already taking the poinsettias. We have another service!"
"They took them after morning services, too."
"That is so rude, don't they [meaning me, obviously] know that we need these for the service?"

Well, as I said, my sister was a wee bit timid and the church said "take them after the Christmas eve service." Which is what I did, seeing as how the church neglected to say "second Christmas eve service". God may judge me, but I personally think He was in my corner on this one. I also personally think that at least one of the catty choristers wanted the exact poinsettia I had lain claim to.

-->Christmas day was wonderful and fun and a story in and of itself, but the biggest revelation is how accustomed I have become to being alone with my husband. It's strange to go from spending about 363 days with just yourself and another adult in their mid-thirties and then be thrust into a group of adults ranging from 30 to 90, and a smattering of toddlers and kindergartners thrown in for good measure.

There are more stories to tell, and I have a lot of good memories. I think this Christmas, with a focus on family and the comforts of my hometown is one that will stay with me for quite awhile. And I think those good memories will fuel me in the days ahead as we dive headfirst into that miasma known as January.

Oh, and if Blogging is light around these parts you'll know that it's because I received Civilization IV for Christmas.

27 December, 2006

Home At Last

I love Christmas, and part of me sad that it's over...while another part of me feels like "okay...now I can get on with my life."

21 December, 2006

Harry Potter Book 7 Title Announced


I bet my husband that we'd have it this week, but I was assuming it would be by Tuesday.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Yeah, THAT title won't put an end to the Potter Dead Pool any time soon.


So now that I've posted the news, I guess it's time for me to speculate on the meaning before I get sick of everyone speculating on the meaning. I'll never forget the long trudge through 600 permutations of who or what the Half Blood Prince was, only to have it be an ancillary part of the actual story. Same with "Goblet of Fire."

Well, breaking it down, I'll have to go with:

Hallows=saints/sacred place
Deathly=causing death/of or pertaining to death

My best guess is that at some point in book 7 Harry will have some type of communication with those Beyond the Veil in the Department of Mysteries. Many mythic cycles include a Hero's Descent into the Underworld, and while I've never considered the space Behind The Veil to be "the underworld", it is quite obviously the Mystery of Death.

Now, I don't know for certain that JKR wishes to plumb those depths, and I don't know that it means that Harry will die, even if only temporarily. I've never been one to ascribe complete Christ analogy to Harry, so I don't think we'll see his death/resurrection in Book 7. But I do think there will be a level of communication with those now dead, especially Sirius.

I've also not entirely written off Regulus Black as dead and gone entirely, and it may be he who guides Harry on this particular journey.

But I will say that having the title now does fit with the timeline we needed to have the book on 07/07/07--which is still the date I've got my money on.

Christmas Tag Party

Tag party? Nothing like a key party, I promise you that.... Although wouldn't it be fun to have a blogger key party, except instead of going home with someone else's spouse you went home with someone else's blog post idea? Okay, maybe it wouldn't be fun, but it sounds like fun to me. Of course, my idea of fun often seems pretty lame.

I'm getting a little too vacation-y for deep thought, and I had been saving a lovely tag from Queen Sonia for just this moment in time. [Before I start I should admit that every time I've opened this blog I've looked at that MRI Sex picture and wondered where the people put their legs. If you can figure it out, let me know...]

Anyway, enough worries about missing legs...on to the tag:

Favorite Christmas Movie:

Can there be a tie? Because I like so many for so many different reasons. But I think I'll just go with A Christmas Story. It's a great movie, but the bonus reason I'll always love it is because Jean Shepherd, the author and narrator, was from Indiana. And that's an Indiana family if ever I saw one!

Favorite Christmas Song:

O Holy Night. I used to think the best version was by Larnelle Harris, but I am now revising my opinion. That brass ensemble's version from Studio 60 is excellent. Anyone with any computer can download it here, and it's not captive to any DRM, so it'll play on any player. Give it a llisten, if you get the chance.

Favorite Christmas cookie:

Sugar cookies with lots of frosting. The frosting's the thing to capture the conscience of the king. Or queen. Or me.

Favorite Christmas gift ever received:

My not-yet husband telling me that he loved me and wanted to get back together after we'd been "broken up" for 3 weeks.

Least favorite thing about Christmas:

When the tension of the holiday busy-ness makes people snap at each other over silly things.

Where would your perfect Christmas be:

Wherever my entire family can be together and happy.

Favorite part of Christmas:

Being with my family

Favorite Christmas Decoration you own:

The lights. I love Christmas lights so much that I have them strung on my desk all year. It's like a forest of stars. Then again, my vision isn't so great.

When do you put up the tree?:

We don't do a tree.

Do you wear "holiday" sweaters/sweatshirts/t shirts?:

I have a red chenille sweater that I wear quite a bit around the holidays but I have nothing "decorated". I really don't want to call too much attention to that part of my body.

And there it is....I'd tag some people, but I have a feeling I'm so late to this party that everyone will have already done it.

Me And The Pipers

What do we have in common?

We are both Day 11 of the 12 Days of Christmas. CLC flatters me greatly. If only I could learn to spell his name...

20 December, 2006

Sex--When and Why

Someone sent me an email about the premarital sex study, saying that it was blogworthy. Of course it is! Most of the blogs I've seen referencing it so far are using the study's findings to decry abstinance-only sexual education.

First off, I'm a big fan of abstinance. Now that I'm married. ::rimshot::

No, seriously, I do advocate teaching abstinance--primarily because of my religion, but also because I can't count the number of times I've heard tales of woe about women who could have used the free public education system to rise out of poverty but got knocked up by age 13 and became mothers instead. Birth control helps, but I'm not a big fan of having young girls who haven't finished developing physically cook their systems with synthetic hormones. And if you're a woman and you want to be sure to NOT get pregnant, the pill is the best way to go. Otherwise the heat of the moment often overtakes the best intentions to put the diaphragm in or roll the condom on.

Thing is, I haven't forgotten entirely what it was like to be a teenager and have your hormones in overdrive. I know how hard (ha!) abstinance is, and I'm not one bit surprised that a lot of people give up and give in before the wedding day. And I know a lot of people regret that decision down the road. When I was in my private Christian high school we discussed sex a lot. Most of the girls had steady boyfriends and most of the boys were looking to get as much play as they possibly could. From my point of view it seemed that all the girls wanted love and committment while the guys were more interested in which bases they rounded. [ObDisclaimer: My point of view only, folks.] I'll never forget one 17-year-old girl telling us that she believed two people could be 'spiritually married without a ceremony' and thereby sanctify their sexual activity. (Whatever gets you through the night, I guess.) She apparently got a 'spiritual divorce' because 3 years later she married another guy altogether.

I do wish that all sex-ed programs, whether they were abstinance-only, biology-only or comprehensive with an emphasis on birth control options, would spend a moment or two discussing the why of sex. That to me is the big missing ingredient. Because sex (of the kind I'm talking about) involves two people. If those two people have different whys for the sexual activity, that's where the heartbreak comes into play. And I think that's what most Christians are trying to get at when we advocate abstinance-only education. It's just easier to say "wait until you're married", and then you know that both partners are after the same thing.

To me the ideal sex is an extremely fun expression of love, intimacy and committment between two people. That's the only sex I've ever been interested in having. Anything else strikes me as the physical equivalent of eating generic potato chips. Yeah, they're good and you enjoy it while it's going on but afterward you're left feeling slightly greasy. Unfortunately I know a lot of people--not just girls-- who have gotten into having sex because they are looking for the love/intimacy/committment thing, while their partner was looking for the greasy potato chip fun. That's usually when it escalates into let's-make-a-baby territory. The partner who wants love and commitment figures that if the sex won't bind them to the other person then perhaps a baby will. I think the more time we spend talking about the why, the more we can demystify sex and put it in its proper place.

Why Do I Loathe Ezra Pound?

There is a long post here about the imagist poet Amy Lowell. It's a good post about the perception others have of fat women in personal and professional settings.

Amy Lowell was a compatriot of Ezra Pound. You know how they say many fat people eat out of emotion? I think maybe Amy ate because she had to bury the grief of having Pound be one of her friends. Because, really, I am hard-pressed to think of a bigger jerk in the world of literature than Ezra Pound. You know what he called Amy? A "hippopoetess".

Of course, if Amy Lowell wanted to keep company with Ezra Pound
I suppose that's her business. A lot of people who seem like jerks are actually old softies when you get to know them. But honestly, Ezra Pound is just creepy. He is the quintessential jerk of poetry. It doesn't help that he said
"the arts in their rightful place as the acknowledged guide and lamp of civilisation"

Dude, honestly. Come down off your high horse. It's as though Pound was the early-20th century version of those actors who think that their 96 minute film should change the way we all think and live. I appreciate art/literature/poetry/film/music a great deal, but I certainly don't think that all civilisation is guided by them. That quote just sounds like Pound's excuse to his mother for why he didn't become a doctor.

Wait By The River Long Enough

and the movie you've been searching for since childhood will float by. My father took me to see this movie in the theatre when it first came out. I was six years old, and it was my favourite fairy tale ever. I remember being so captivated by the story that I would retell it to myself for hours on end. I have been looking for a copy of this movie off and on for the last twenty years. When I was in Jr. High and High School I would visit the library and thumb through large reference books to see if I could find any details. Since I first saw the thing when I was six, I had no idea that it was a foreign-made cartoon and wouldn't show up in any of the books I was using.

Five years ago I finally found a copy of the movie on eBay. It was a VHS from Europe, and I almost bought it...for $250.00. My guilt got the better of me. I can't really bring myself to spend $250 on a movie when there are starving people in the world, etc. Still, every now and again I'll Google it just to see if there's any news.

On Sunday I found out the movie had finally been printed to DVD and was for sale at Amazon for 19 bucks. Seriously, this is the best Christmas present ever. I am so excited to get a copy after Christmas.

I don't know that there's really a point to this story, other than the fact that delayed gratification sometimes rocks. And if you have a little girl, I strongly recommend that you seek out this movie. I don't think you (or she) will be disappointed.

An Apology

First off, I need to apologise to Kathy T., because I think she thinks I was tarring her with a brush meant for someone else. When I complained about the real estate calendars, it wasn't the calendars themselves that I was bugged by...it was the people who were leaving them stuck in my front door. I actually like the calendars, and as I said there
~I know and like several real estate agents personally. They have either ponied up the money to mail me the calendars or given them to me in person. That shows a respect for my personal space that I admire.

So, yes, cool calendars--and thanks to Kathy for giving me one in person.

18 December, 2006

And I Am Telling You

(I do not care for this song)

Dreamgirls is one of the musicals I've never been able to get really excited about....right up there with Little Shop of Horrors and Starlight Express. In fact, I don't think I've ever heard the soundtrack to Dreamgirls prior to today. My brother, on the other hand, seems to love it. (That's okay...he can have Dg and I'll take Fiddler.)

Anyway, since the movie's out, everyone is talking about the show,and referencing the one show-stopping number, so I figured I should listen to it at least once. I've now played it through a couple of times, and really don't care for it.

For a better modern Broadway showstopper, I've got my money on Good Morning, Baltimore.

The Christmas Block

It's not that I don't want to write anything. It's that I can't. I sit down to express a thought and it's only half-formed. I can't coax anything to the surface long enough to turn it into post-worthy material. I think that's largely due to having Christmas giant on the horizon. This time of year I'm always in a potpourri of moods. I'm excited to see my family, gleeful about indulging in traditions and nervous about all the year-end things that are looming. Each happy thought about opening stockings on Christmas morning is followed with an anxious mental notice to myself about tracking down all my I-9s for tax season. Any time I get thrilled to think about going to my favourite restaurants for Christmas meals I also instantly think of my annual medical deductable starting over again in January. And I know that means I will successfully avoid the emergency room until, say, January 15th or so. I think I'm the only human being alive who actually runs a tab at their local hospital.

I also think the "true meaning of Christmas" is kind of depressing in a way. I know that we're endlessly grateful that Baby Jesus came to earth for us and that all of the carols about how He is such a sweet baby who never cries and sleeps in heavenly peace have created this happy image of a tranquil baby that goes well with a winter night. There are no holiday songs about a scared twelve-year-old girl having her innards ripped out while lying in the stink of a barn. There are no joyful songs about cutting (or biting) the cord and looking for water to wash the gunk from the crying baby, about wrapping him in an old towel and putting him in an overgrown dog dish. And nothing about the pain that came after. The struggles of a Godman who had to contend with human pain and ultimately die a grisly, horrible death. I think Christmas sanitises Jesus too much. Even Silent Night makes Him sound less like God and more like a hunk of meat. Tender and mild? Is this God made incarnate for our sins or well-marinated venison? I absolutely hate that line of that song. I've been enlisting my brother and sister in a campaign to find a different rhyme for "child".

So here I am, happy and anxious and eager for Christmas to get here and sad that it will so soon be over.

17 December, 2006

Dear Central Pike Church of Christ, Studio 201 and Assorted Others...

I know your intentions are good, and on one level I appreciate the efforts you're going through to promote your going concerns. I know postage is expensive.

But please, I implore you.

Do not stick any more crap in my front door. I have many good reasons for this request. Let me share them with you, so you know why your candy canes, Christmas cards, spa services brochures, real estate calendars and other "goodies" are not welcome.

~I know and like several real estate agents personally. They have either ponied up the money to mail me the calendars or given them to me in person. That shows a respect for my personal space that I admire.

~ I live in a no-soliciting neighbourhood. Your gestures of "holiday cheer" [hint: I'm not eating the candy canes, the Hershey's kisses and the cookies you gave me] are actually an affront to my privacy.

~ When your "gift" contains chocolate, it often draws cats and dogs. I'm sure you don't mean to poison the errant neighbourhood pets, but that's what happens.

~ During the holidays people often travel for days at a time. Nothing says "rob me!" like a pile of detritus stuck in the front door.

~ I'm often home alone, and nothing freaks me out more than a stranger walking up to my front door, peering in my front window to see if I'm home and then sticking an invite to their church in my door. This may be the new "fire-and-brimstone" approach--scaring me into finding the Lord--but I don't need it and it's not welcome.

Thank you.

15 December, 2006

Hi. In This Post I Make Observations and Share A Beloved Recipe

I have a bundle of half-formed thoughts again...nothing worth an entire post. But I want to throw them out there because I only take Christmas week off from blogging. Or so I tell myself.

--Wow on the Miss USA thing. I mean, I get there are standards of conduct and that you sign a contract saying you'll be a role model and whatnot. But honestly, having your personal life evaluated for wholesomeness by Donald Trump has got to sting just a little bit.

--I think the Senator who has fallen ill should be replaced by someone else elected by the people. Failing that, he should be replaced by a member of his own party. But if he isn't, and they replace him with a Republican I have only two words. Jim Jeffords.

--Last night's The Office was a Christmas treat and a half. Jim's speech about rebounding (while staring in the direction of the receptionist's desk) was all the present I needed. From NBC that is. Family members feel free to give me gifts. ;=p

--Asking for money on your blog is a personal choice. Some people do, some people don't. I don't really mind seeing tipjars and wishlist links on blog sites, but I mind being ASKED in a post to "hit the tipjar". Then again, I'm the curmudgeonly type who also minds when the Salvation Army people ring their bells in my face. Dude, I know you're there. I hear the bell and I see the bucket. No need to shake it harder at me when I walk by. Keep that up and I'll complain to both the Salvation Army and the Kroger at Providence. In either case--blogging or the Salvation Army--you are begging. Plain and simple. At least have the decency to beg a bit more discreetly. Oh, and one more thing, if you are a blogger who has a tipjar or a wishlist, don't ask me to hit it when you don't blog at least three times a week. Or when your blog consists mostly of AP feeds re-posted.

--A few years ago I had this co-worker introduce me to a Christmas candy that's like crack to me. It's simple as all get-out but I can't make it very often because I eat through the whole batch in a matter of minutes. It's just Rolos, mini pretzels and pecans. Unwrap the Rolos, set them on the mini pretzels and bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 250º. When you take them out of the oven the Rolos should just be soft. Press one pecan in the top of each Rolo. And that's it. Sweet, salty and caramelly. Homemade Turtles at a fraction of the price. I'm drooling just thinking about it.

14 December, 2006

What Was He Thinking?

Bob Seger performing The Little Drummer Boy.

Nineteen kinds of wrong.

Another No-Delete Bit Of Brain Lint

:: Why do the various magazines I've subscribed to think that I want spam from them? I get about 3 emails A DAY from Entertainment Weekly, Better Homes & Gardens and Taste of Home. It's irritating to realise that not only is it spam but it's spam that I've actually paid for. And it just now occurs to me that I have nerdy taste in magazines. I also just started getting Real Simple. That's a long story, but basically we had a few air miles that had to be used up and the only thing we could redeem them on was magazines. And most of the magazines were for things I have absolutely no interest in, like Fly Fisher Monthly and Gay Fashion. No, the magazine wasn't actually CALLED "Gay Fashion" but it wasn't Out or The Advocate. (I like the Advocate) And it did have "Gay" in the title. Maybe it was Gay Vogue. I can't remember....I just know that it so did not apply to me as I'm neither gay nor do I have the slightest ability to comprehend Fashion. Speaking of which, Jen has promised both herself and Pink Kitty to me for Fashion First Aid. I need it, because if there was any area where I was more handicapped than my inability to see without coke-bottle lenses it's "fashion". Who decided that Garanamils were only for children? Because I need that kind of help with putting together an outfit. Seriously.

:: Speaking of putting together an outfit, this has nothing to do with that really but it made me think of "The Lost Room" for some reason I can't fathom. I watched the first 30 minutes or so of that mini series last night, because it was well-reviewed. But I think I'm giving up on it. I worry that I'm not the Sci Fi fan that I used to be because I have no patience with the new little conceits that Modern Sci Fi is doing. The thing about good sci fi is that there is weirdness followed by an explanation for the weirdness. Now the explanation may be as OUT THERE as the rest of the weirdness, but it's still an explanation. You can say to yourself "a ha! The aliens invaded the outer planets only because those were the ones that grew the algae containing an essential amino acid that the aliens needed to stay alive!" That's why I dig on Sci Fi. I like the scientific explaination behind the outlandish fiction. Well, that, and I love Alternative Cosmologies. This is why I hale both Phillip K. Dick--who does the "explaination" part very well--and Frank Herbert, master of the AltCosm. But this "Lost Room" show looks like it's gonna not actually give any kind of explaination for the weirdness. Sports Night Casey corners a loon with a magic bus ticket and asks said loon why the heck everything is so weird. Loon's response is that "no body knows for sure but some people think that God died and these items are little pieces of his body and then other people think God is still alive and these objects are a test." What.The.Heck?! Please, dude. Get serious. Can't you even throw us the standard L'Engle "wrinkle in the fabric of time" nonfriggingsense? Pieces of God's Dead Corpse sounds absolutely like some 8th grade emo poetry by a girl who aspires to end this life with her head in the oven.

But the worst part so far is that Sports Night Casey takes his daughter to a doctor's office where everyone has odd plastic smiles on their faces. He's told that it will be "a couple of hours" so he leaves to head over to a diner across the street. On his way to the diner he meets Bus Ticket Loon and they have a series of Special F/X Misadventures. And of course his daughter is kidnapped. Of course. I'm sorry...I don't even HAVE human children but if one of my kids were dropped off for a 2-hr. Doctor's Appt. you'd better believe that I'd whip out my handy Purse Paperback (Currently Reading: Vodka by Boris Starling) and wait for said fruit of my loins to emerge safe and sound. I would definitely not be chasing a lunatic around the corridors of The World's Creepiest Hospital.

There are about 5 and a half more hours of this show and I don't know if I'll make it all the way through or not. That remains to be seen.

:: I feel like I should have a third thing to write about but my brain is totally unfocused. I will say that the iTunes free download of the week is some woman singing "Silent Night" and it's actually very good. I've listened to it bunches. Also big props to Big Orange Michael for hooking me up with the "O Holy Night" mp3, which is now available for free download at nbc dot com slash studio 60. And that's about it for this brain dump because right now I'm sitting staring at the two pigs on my desk and wondering why--if they're supposedly identical--that the felt muzzles of either pig are attached differently. One is sewn inside and the other is sewn outside. This makes me realise that they were probably handsewn by some poor woman in China. Can you imagine a life of handsewing stuffed pigs for happy meal toys? No? Me either.

13 December, 2006

Why Is iTunes Tanking?

Big news:
Since January 2006, the number of monthly iTunes transactions has declined 58 percent, while the average size per purchase declined by 17 percent, leading to a 65-percent overall drop in monthly iTunes revenue, U.S. market research group Forrester said in a survey among North American consumers.

Wow. I can't speak for everyone, but I can say that those numbers pretty accurately reflect my own iTunes usage. In the first two years that I used the Music Store I purchased regularly. What's a dollar here and there--especially for one-off singles you haven't heard for years? In 2006, though, I've actually spent more on iTunes this month than I did the rest of the year combined. Here are my reasons--and I'm betting I'm not the only one with these reasons:

1. I don't like most of the new stuff out there right now, and I've already bought most of the old stuff that I wanted to hear again.

2. I don't like the fact that the albums don't come with liner notes. I had written to Apple several times about this, because it was becoming a big disincentive for me when purchasing online. I'm not even in the music business, but I love liner notes. I have noticed that Apple Music Store has begun packaging .pdf "booklets" with select titles. That may be too little, too late.

3. Podcasts are free and they're more entertaining, by and large. The bulk of my Music Store time lately has been spent downloading podcasts. To me, the growing popularity of free podcasts has put a huge dent in my Music Store shopping. Before I'd browse the offerings and maybe drop a buck or two on some tunes. Now I can browse AND download the same venue without spending any money.

I don't have all the answers. I do think, though, that these falling numbers are a definite warning shot for Apple AND the Music Industry.

12 December, 2006

Dear Lindsay

The second 'A' is for Anonymous.

STOP!! It's Not Cute Anymore

Please. I beg you. Whoever you are. Wherever you lay your head. Whatever god you pray to.

Do not write any more spoofs on 'Twas The Night Before Christmas.

I've heard political versions, religious versions and at least 6 versions customised for different dog breeds. I've heard versions for dieters, alcoholics and the newly divorced. I've heard versions for people with new babies.

I think I'm going to pull my hair out if I have to hear another one ever again.

11 December, 2006

Things That Need Banning

Last week there was much talk of the Trans-fat ban in New York City. Today there was lively conversation about a possible Nashville City Ordinance banning cigarette smoke in public places.

Proponents of the ordinance think that the ban is a good thing because of all the stricken barworkers, irritated restaurant patrons and wheezing asthmatics who would benefit from the government telling a private business how to regulate their clientele.

I think this is a good idea. In fact, I think it is such a good idea that I'm going to quit being a libertarian and start being a communitarian. All Laws That Benefit Our Community! That will be our slogan. And I have a few laws in mind that I'd like to start with.

1. Fat people should be barred from restaurants. Eating large restaurant portions is bad for one's health, and being forced to look at fat people eating makes many people nauseous. Not to mention all the waitstaff who develop tendonitis from carrying trays loaded down with all the food to be consumed by fat people.

2. Breastfeeding should be banned in public. There are a lot of germs in public, and a lot of germs on breasts and a lot of germs in babies' mouths. Breastfeeding is the quickest way to make a baby sick. It's also makes some people nauseous to see a woman breastfeeding in public. Clearly we'd all be better off if this activity were confined to cars, front porches and the insides of private homes.

3. Smoking should be banned in private homes. You never know who the home will be sold to. It's possible that the next owner may be allergic to cigarette smoke. It's also bad if there are defenseless children in the private home exposed to cigarette smoke. Clearly the only good place to smoke is a 4x4 lucite cell with no external ventilation.

4. Public toilets should be banned. What a cornucopia of germs! Do we really need constant exposure to the fecal germs of strangers?

5. Public displays of affection should be banned. With the constant threat of teen pregnancy, AIDS and other STDs , the titillation of watching people hold hands, hug and kiss in public places can prove too much for others to see. These seemingly innocent acts of affection lead inevitably forward to grave public health crises.

I realise these bans all seem harsh, but what is the government for if not to decide what is best for all of us and then curtail our lifestyles to promote the health and longevity of all citizens. Of course too much longevity also creates a public health crisis--those old people are expensive. I think we ought to ban anyone over the age of 70.

SoThat's Where Pit Bulls Get A Bad Rap

I just got back from the 9000th trip to the vet's office. The one thing you can be sure of when you take a pet to the doctor is that there will be other animals in the waiting room. Unlike psychiatrist's offices, where patients are kept apart.

Today my dog was the only non-pitbull there.

Three pits. Two owners.

One owner--who was dog sitting while her daughter was in Kuwait on business--had her two pits on leashes with harnesses. They were well-behaved, and she cautioned me about approaching them. When she saw my husband start to bring my dog in, she asked me if I would mind keeping him outside because one of the pits was aggressive. I felt kind of bad for the lady because she even felt she had to tell me a bit of a fib. ("They're part boxer") I think she gets a lot of pit bull prejudice.

If so, she can partly blame the other lady. Owner #2 kicked my prejudices into high gear in the first place. She walked out of the treatment area with her 12 week old pitbull puppy under her arm like a sack of flour. She didn't have a leash for him at all, and was there to have his ears clipped "cause that makes 'em look tough." She then flicked one of the just-operated-on(!) ears several times because she didn't like the way he was standing up. After a few minutes she was tired of holding the just-operated-upon(!) puppy and put him down on the floor. To run free. He ran up to me, she yelled at him and he did nothing. He ran over to the shelf of food. She yelled at him and he did nothing. She paid and then scooped up the dog, climbed into her monster pick-up with the big tractor wheels and drove off.

There was no concern for the puppy's safety or the puppy's pain. There was no effort to restrain him, and it was clear that he was not yet trained to obey her commands. It kind of seemed that he never would be.

People like this woman get Pits because they want a mean-looking dog that will act tough. They don't bother to show the animal any love or care or consideration and voila! A mean-looking, tough dog.

I feel sorry for a lot of the pit bulls out there. It's not the dogs' fault. It's the idiots who refuse to care for them.

**P.S. My dog does not have cancer, but still costs a butt-load of money for drugs.

I Think Bill O'Reilly Killed Christmas

Last year you couldn't turn around without hearing someone complain about not being told "Merry Christmas" when checking out at a store. I personally didn't care, because I worked retail for a long time and it's just more efficient to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Happy Hanukah, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year." (Back when I was in retail, Kwanzaa was on nobody's radar and it was Northern Indiana so "feliz Navidad" wasn't germaine.)

This year several places appear to have ducked the controversy by pretending that The Holidays don't exist at all. I'm sick about it.

Friday night we went to dinner at a popular chain restaurant. In past years this restaurant has been festively decorated with lights, poinsettias and little trees. There's been Christmas music piped over the speakers and you feel part of the festivities while you eat. On Friday it was a different story. Nothing about the restaurant said "Christmas" at all. I felt cheated, because one of the reasons I eat in restaurants in December is to soak up that feeling of the whole world celebrating together. I don't particularly care if we are celebrating different things. I just like the idea of celebrating, casting off the "business as usual" feel for 4 or 5 weeks of happy.

When we went Christmas shopping on Saturday, only one of the stores was playing Christmas music. None of the stores were decorated at all. Why do I blame Bill O'Reilly? Because he was at the forefront of that whole "Merry Christmas" nonissue last year. And I think that a lot of the stores have opted out of any acknowledgement of the Holidays in order to avoid being dragged into another non-story controversy for the sake of highly-rated agitprop.

In past years I've bristled about buying gifts online because I've always felt that you miss out on some of that ambience by sitting at your desk. From now on, though, I think I'll just buy exclusively online. I can play my own Christmas music over iTunes while I shop and I won't feel so perfunctory.

09 December, 2006

Me, Fisking The Vanderbilt Tipsheet Article About Apocalypto

One of my commenters in the film review post about Apocalypto was kind enough to point me in the direction of some academic criticism of the film. Since I like this film so much and am often annoyed by the glibness of academic criticisms of fictional art, it behooves me to respond to the professor.

SPOILER WARNING: I will have film spoilers in here, because the Professor had them in her piece, and I can't not address them if addressing her piece. Sorry.

Apocalypto continues tradition of inaccurately disparaging native cultures.

I don't know that I would say it was disparaging in the least. But we'll get to that in a minute. I do, however, like this take-no-prisoners talking point.

The rich culture and complex intellectual achievements of Maya culture are ignored in Mel Gibson’s new film Apocalypto in favor of stereotypical portrayals of Native Americans as “noble savages” or “evil Indians,” says Annabeth Headrick, a Vanderbilt University professor and expert on the Maya.

Since I'm approaching this as a fictional movie--as opposed to a dissertation on the Maya--I think her point here overreaches a bit. Does every movie set in Great Britain go into enormous detail about The Nobel Seafaring British Tradition? Does every film set in California talk about the magnificent engineering behind the Golden Gate Bridge? Sure, there are like maybe three and a half actual movies about The Mayan Culture, so maybe she was expecting a lot of detail about their calendars, their astronomy, etc. Unfortunately, this was a movie that used a bit of a twist on Mayan culture to explore innate human ideals like self-preservation, religion, sacrifice, family and need. It's not a movie about the Maya. It's a movie about people who happen to be Mayan.

“These two stereotypes have been used for 500 years to depict Native Americans,” Headrick says. The “evil Indians” in the film are shown as senseless killing machines that attack without any rationale or provocation, while the “noble savages” live without any indication of civilization.

Approaching the story as a literary tale instead of a sociological treatise means that I tend to see the various characters as embodiments of a literary archetype. Sure, stereotypes are a subset of archetypes, but that word carries a negative connotation that unfortunately is stretched to apply to this film. It also makes me think that perhaps the professor didn't watch the same movie I did. Those she quickly dismisses as "noble savages" had a completely developed society in their village. They lived in houses, they hunted with rudimentary but sophisticated devices and had domesticated animals. Sure, they didn't have science and engineering. Undoubtedly, however, there were folks like this in the days of the Maya. I mean, for crying out loud, we've got pockets of Idaho like this right now. ::I am eagerly awaiting angry commentors from Idaho::

I'm especially puzzled at her inability to discover the motivations for the "evil Indians". For crying out loud, they were there as a function of the Mayan society. There are two scenes in the movie where the lead "evil Indian" very clearly discusses his motivations with a third party. Spoiler warning The bad guys are raiding the surrounding villages in search of slaves and sacrifices. They are paid mercenaries of the City Government hired to bring these people back. End Spoiler

In reality, the Maya had a complex writing system, sophisticated astronomical knowledge and 365-day calendar, and an organized religion. Maya cities are portrayed as ugly and disgusting, while in reality there were many beautiful plazas filled with art.

We are seeing this city in a time of drought, and through the eyes of the protagonists. Like the villagers, we see rough glimpses of the parts of town on the way to the temple. While it would be nice to see the Adventureland Mayan Science Center, I doubt it was on the Captive Village People tour. And frankly, were I dragged from my home, tethered to a pole and marched through the first loud city I'd ever seen, I doubt I'd be very admiring of the archetecture. It's a mistake to confuse literature with science and history. Were this a History Channel look at the Maya, Grandpa Gilmore would tell us all about the wonders of the Maya while showing computer-generated Mayan cultural centers in the background. I have no doubt that the release of this film will actually spur production on such a special. However, this is a story about one man and his experience. So you are going to see things through that one man's eyes.

The film inaccurately shows homes made of clusters of sticks that cannot keep out the rain and suggests that some villagers did not even know of the existence of large Maya cities.

Maybe they didn't. It's not like there was Mayan News at 6:00. And those "cluster of stick" homes seemed to have grasscloth roofs that could be rolled down like curtains. It looked pretty practical to me...keep the grasscloth up when it's hot out, but drop it during the rain and wind.

Human sacrifice did exist in Maya culture, Headrick says, but was not the constant and unthinking occurrence that Gibson presents.

Constant and unthinking? Did we see the same film? The Captive Village People are marched through drought-stricken fields. The subtitles tell us that the priest is sacrificing people to appease the gods in order to bring the crops back. And again, we're only in the Mayan City for the equivalent of a couple of hours. The slave-takers march the captives in, some hummy city people slather the captives in blue paint and then march them up to the sacrficial plinth. The sacrifices only appear constant because the viewer's only exposure to the city is through the eyes of the sacrificial victims, who are clearly NOT on a week's sightseeing holiday.

“Essentially, Gibson shows the Maya as poor people living like animals in need of the Spanish to protect them and bring them civilization and religion,” Headrick says. “He does not mention the mayhem and massive killing and torture conducted by those Spaniards once they marched ashore.”

The ending was the one thing I thought was a little bit hokey, but it's Gibson's picture. If there's one thing we know about the man it is that he is unrepentantly Catholic. He believes that Catholicism is the world's salvation. So he made a movie where the salvation of the protagonist is the arrival of Catholocism. Note that the biggest focus was not on the conquistador, but on the priest. The hero's run for his life ends when those chasing him abandon their pursuit to approach the priest. That's Gibson's artistic statement about Catholicism being Mankind's salvation.

Again, you can think what you want, but this is Gibson's fictional film. If he wants to make a heavy-handed statement about Priests Saving Mankind, it's his money and his movie to do with as he likes. This story wasn't about the Spanish Conquest of the Maya. It was about Jaguar Paw trying to escape tyranny and save his family. Gibson told that story very well, despite an ending that rings a bit of a false note of Vatican Pride.

Annabeth Headrick is assistant professor of art history and anthropology at Vanderbilt University. She specializes in the cultures of Mesoamerica, including the Olmec, Maya and Aztec. Her forthcoming book is The Teotihuacan Trinity: The Socio-political Structure of an Ancient Mesoamerican City.

No wonder Annabeth Headrick was disappointed with the film. She has devoted a large amount of her professional life to the study of the minutae of this part of the world. I do feel sorry for her because going to this movie had to be extremely frustrating. She's probably experienced the same frustration that every book-reader has felt upon seeing a beloved novel translated to screen. Unfortunately we've all had to learn the lesson that things don't happen in movies the same way they happen in the book.

That goes double when the book is non-fiction and the movie isn't.

To set up an interview with Headrick, call 615-322-2706 or e-mail her at annabeth.headrick@vanderbilt.edu.

She may be upset at the movie, but she has to admit the film's existence is going to get her more publicity for her book. It might even net her a speaking engagement or two.


Apocalypto is one of the best movies I've seen in the last 3 years. It's difficult to describe, because in some ways it's like many other films out there. The heart of the movie is essentially a primal chase seen on foot--think Last of the Mohicans without Daniel Day-Lewis. For the most part, however, the movie is nothing you've ever seen before. It's genuine storytelling in the purest possible way. Mel Gibson and his coauthor Farhad Safinia took characters who initially appear wildly different from the twenty-first century audience, living in a world as foreign to us as another planet. Through the power of story we come to care deeply for them. I cared more about Jaguar Paw and his little (but growing) family and his hunting buddies than I have for any human film character in the last five years.

Ironically, the spare subtitles and Mayan dialect may have played a huge part in that. I realised that by keeping the language simple, elemental and straight-to-the-point, Gibson and Safinia kept the characters relatable. I couldn't help but contrast this film with The Return Of The King. By the end of ROTK--as much as I loved the film as a whole--I couldn't have cared less if Sam and Frodo just sizzled in the heart of Mount Doom like a couple of slabs of Hobbit bacon. The two stories share that Hero's Journey element, but where Sam monologues Frodo in a Give Me An Oscar® style speech every twenty-five feet, Jaguar Paw just shuts up and runs for his life. Me, that's what I would do. Of course then once I got home I'd probably write a wordy blog about it--but that's a different movie altogether. Stranger Than Fiction perhaps.

There are several scenes that went a long way to explaining Mel Gibson's newsworthy actions over the summer. Any man who has those images living inside his head has obviously spent no small amount of time in a dark place. I don't doubt for a minute that Gibson is at least one-third pure distilled nutsobutt jerk. But like so many other nutsobutt jerks before him--Hemingway, Poe, King--he can tell one heck of a story.

08 December, 2006

I Do Not Understand

Thomas Kinkade.

I see the initial appeal in a lot of his work. I've long been a believer that if you were only to see one Kinkade work in your lifetime, you'd think it was beautiful. It might even become your favourite painting.

But this complete and utter saturation of the Kinkade® "brand" into the mainstream has taken all of the calming charm out of his art and turned it into shoddy visual noise.

I really don't understand the impulse that would drive an artist to bastardise his "children" that way.

Now It Can Be Told

Ugh. My husband has been out of town on a business trip all week, but I haven't whined about it. [There are two things I dislike telling the Internet--when I'm home alone and when we are all out of town, leaving the home to fend for itself.]

He got back last night, late, and I feel like I can breathe again. As 50s throwback as that may sound, I've spent nearly half my life with this man. This was one of the loneliest weeks I think I've ever had. It's not that I cannot be alone. It's that I can't really be without him.

It occurs to me that women aren't supposed to say these types of things, because it does make it appear that we need our men to be whole. Except, that I do. Don't worry--it's only that way because I married him. We did that "two shall be one" thing, and when he's gone I feel like half my body is floating around somewhere without me.

I don't know if I can fully express how happy I am to have him back home.

07 December, 2006

Wasted Lives

We're having a pretty good discussion over at Amy's about what constitutes a wasted life. (Yes, this is a conversation that revolves around our shared interest and belief in Bronze Age 'mythologies'.)

As you'd expect with any conversation invoking the names of God and Dr. John Piper, it's taken a lot of twists and turns. And I think now is the time--and my blog is a better place--for this particular rant.

Apologies in advance to my many Catholic friends and readers.

Here goes.

Mother Teresa was not who you think she was. I have deep-seated anger toward the way Mother Teresa perverted the gospel of Jesus and tortured thousands of Indians.

Whenever people want to invoke the image of a saint walking among us, they invariably default to Mother Teresa. And you cannot blame them. She's had wonderful press. To those who are just going by the glossy shots, she is someone who cared for the sick and dying in the slums of Calcutta, all in the name of Jesus. When I say "Mother Teresa", I'm betting your first thought is of a woman holding a sick baby. And then your second thought is of a woman clasping hands with Princess Diana.

Here's what you may not know. And this is the important part.

Mother Teresa was a devotee of the doctrine of redemptive suffering, and created a mission to embrace that. Her fundamental belief was that watching the suffering of other people can bring a person closer to God.

From the Saint Of The Gutters website:
In 1952, she established a home for the dying poor - the Nirmal Hriday (or "Pure Heart") Home for Dying Destitutes. There, homeless people - uncared for and unacceptable at other institutions - were washed, fed and allowed to die with dignity.

Reading that closely, you may notice something missing. The sick were washed, fed and allowed to die with dignity. They were not in any way treated for their illness. Pain medication was withheld. So that "the Saint of the Gutters" could experience a spiritual contact-high as she watched the homeless die in excruciating pain. But hey, at least they were clean and on a cot, instead of lying in the gutter. Shouldn't that count for something?

I truly don't believe we can acheive salvation through works. I think Mother Teresa is the perfect example of that. I'm fairly sure that she's in heaven now--but only through the grace of God. The works she did were certainly far from holy.

If you're interested there are others who have written much longer, more thorough pieces on this topic. Unfortunately, I don't see many Christians on the Mother Teresa Debunking train. I wish I did.

Christopher Hitchens in Slate
A roundup
Vijay Prashad on the the Ethics of Mother Teresa

It's Officially Christmas!

Big Santa! Big Santa! Big Santa!

I can't wait to get back to the Fort to see Big Santa!

If Only I Had Known This Ahead Of Time

I was tagged for this meme by Jeffraham. If I had been aware of that 30 minutes ago, I wouldn't have had to ramble on and on about Erik Estrada and Muncie. This whole must-write-at-least-once-a-day thing is so much easier when you're tagged for a meme.

[For the record, I like to steer clear of the obvious when hunting blogideas. That being said, you'll read no Pearl Harbor Day ramblings from me. ]

So here goes my Three Things

Scare me: Clowns; black ice; student nurses trying to put in an IV when I'm dehydrated

People who make me laugh: James Thurber; my husband; Rex L. Camino

I love: My dogs; the alphabet; libraries

I hate: People who see that the lane they're presently in is closed for construction in X feet, yet speed all the way past everyone doing the right thing and merge at the last minute; blow-in subscription cards in magazines; cheap yarn

I don't understand: String theory; time-travel paradoces; storehouse tithing

Things on my desk:Stuffed monkeys (6); stuffed pigs (2); lava lamp that needs a new bulb

I'm doing right now: Filling out this survey; bouncing my right leg out of habit; coughing up a lung

I want to do before I die: Finish my novel; be a parent; fully understand string theory

I can do: Knit; type; teach people to read

I can't do:Sing; drive long distances; see without STRONG glasses

I think you should listen to: Learning To Flinch by Warren Zevon; The New World Symphony by Dvorak; Bat Out Of Hell by Jim Steinman & Meat Loaf

You should NEVER listen to: Celebrity relationship advice; Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed; Starlight Express by Andrew Lloyd Weber

I'd like to learn: A better grasp on theoretical physics; Mandarin; how to rebuild an engine

Favorite foods: Cheese; asparagus; Cadbury Eggs

Beverages I drink regularly: Water; Boylan's Black Cherry Soda; Minute Maid Light Lemonade

Shows I watched as a kid: Happy Days; Laverne & Shirley; the network news

I guess that's it for me. And I think this time I'll actually tag some people. My three tags are:
Mari; saraclark and William Shatner's boy

CHIPS On McGalliard

If only I were 18 again. Man, growing up when I did I missed all the good stuff. Like this.

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - Erik Estrada and other lesser celebrities have been sworn in as reserve officers of the city police department here, allowing them to carry badges and guns as part of a reality television series.

Let us ponder this. First, how sad is it that there is someone considered a 'lesser celebrity' than Erik Estrada? Those poor people. In my personal mental ranking of celebrities I give even the Watson's Girl a spot above Estrada. Clearly these other 'stars' must be somewhere along the lines of people who have appeared in commercials for juice. Then again, as I reread that sentence there are no commas seperating 'lesser'. Maybe Estrada is sort of the ringleader for the Lesser Celebrities Club. Still sad, but maybe not AS much.

Moving along even further. Dudes. Muncie. Muncie, Indiana. What is there to police? The biggest action comes from lost out-of-towners looking to buy shirts that say Ball State.

I went to college a few miles away. Muncie was the Big City. Sigh, if only I were there now--perhaps Erik Estrada and some guy from an adult diaper ad could arrest me for speeding on the way to the allnight pancake joint.

06 December, 2006

Franklin Cinema: How Not To Run A Business

Disclaimer-slash-Warning To Sarcastro: This post was written by a woman who is not entirely over the flu, and whose ears are so congested that it's making her dizzy. So forgive the whining, and the potential abrasiveness. Thanks.

Everybody's talking about the end of Franklin Cinema.

The short--and possibly mangled--version of the story is that the new Thoroughbred multiplex at Cool Springs has cannabilised FC's trade. That loss of revenue coupled with the steep rent increase has led the owner to throw in the towel.

Quotes like the following make me, as a consumer, quite angry:
“I really think that there’s not enough traffic to justify it operating as a cinema. It is very nostalgic, very heart-warming, everyone has stories from the Franklin Cinema, but what has happened is that the Cool Springs multiplexes have drawn most of the business from downtown Franklin. It just can’t compete with the digital, Dolby multi-screens playing 12 of the 15 latest movies,” [property owner Mark] Bloom said.

Why does that make me angry? Because I live in Hermitage. It takes me between 45 minutes and an hour to get to Franklin, yet over the years I have made the trip several times to patronise that specific theatre. I've never gone the same distance to go to Thoroughbred, and I never will. There are shiny movie crackerboxes all over this city, including Opry Mills. Which is only a 15 minute drive for me.

I went out of my way to do business at Franklin Cinema. I liked the idea of an old fashioned movie house. I liked the idea of reliving the movie experiences I had as a kid, and having some hot wings or pizza while I took in a flick. I've dragged out of town visitors there for the experience. I've been as much of a Franklin Cinema booster as one could be without actually owning the place. But over the years I've noticed something.

They decided to save money on things like soap. Trash collection. Mopping between showings. Patching torn seats. Fixing broken seats. Cleaning off the food/foot benches. (Yeah, those "benches" that are supposed to be for food, and say "do not place feet on bench". The ones where people constantly put their feet. ) In the past 18 months, Franklin Cinema has become kind of gross. That, to my mind, is a failure on the part of the business management.

No, people are not going to drive out of their way to see a movie at your theatre if the experience is roughly akin to driving 30 miles to use a Port-a-John. Don't blame the multiplexes. Blame your lack of maintainence.

Right now a friend of mine is on her way to a filmcafe. She's driving a bit out of her way for the experience. All the way to Texas for the Alamo Drafthouse. If Franklin Cinema could pull off an Alamo
Drafthouse Franchise
you can bet your bottom dollar I'd drive down there to see almost all my in-theatre movies.

Some Answers To Those Fiction-writing Questions

Lindsey has some questions about fiction writing. Brittney echoes them over at NiT.

I'm going to give my personal answers here, but I realise that every fiction writer/reader's tastes are different. And since I've not had any fiction published it's not like I'm some huge authority or anything. I'm just saying what works for me.

• How do you decide what POV to use? First-person is so hip and visceral, but third person gives you all sorts of possibilities with that nifty omniscience thing...

I try to write with the same POV that I enjoy reading. Over the years I've realised that of my four favourite books, three use limited third person narrative. It seems that's the easiest way for readers to relate. Framing the story from the protagonist's point of view puts the reader directly in Harry Potter or Laura Ingalls' shoes, but keeping the third person voice gives the narrative a sense of rooted power. It also allows for vivid descriptions that make the protagonists' world come alive. Too much description in First Person voice sounds stilted and false, in my opinion.

• How do you pick a tense and then stick with it? Why is it that I am constantly morphing into present continuous?

Writing exercises. For your main work, stick to the tense you've picked. But when you have a"stuck" writing day, write in that other tense as an exercise apart from the body of the story. It puts you inside your characters' head, allows you to work out motiviation and movement and keeps you involved in the crafting of the story. You can then rework that portion into the main body in the chosen tense. It'll make your work feel richer and your characters more alive.

In short, if you're writing well, go with it. You can work out the details later.

• How can I make dialogue seem less manufactured and more fluid?

This is a biggie. I was fortunate enough to take a writing class with a playwright. What she taught me about dialogue has vastly improved any that I write. I'll try to summarise here:

When people talk in real life there are always things going on in the background. In real life you have five senses that are always picking up things. Fold that into dialogue and voila'! Realism.

Two examples:

"I'm so hungry, I could eat a horse!" Susan exclaimed
"I know what you mean," answered Ted. "I haven't eaten since breakfast."
"What do you want to order?"
"Probably the whole menu."
"Sounds good. Let's just cut loose and do it." Susan giggled with anticipation.

Kind of dull, I think.

Now this:

"I'm so hungry, I could eat a horse!" Susan exclaimed. She emphasised her claim by throwing her purse into the diner's cracked vinyl booth and shrugging out of her coat.

"I know what you mean," answered Ted. "I haven't eaten since breakfast."

Susan's carelessly-wiped menu was sticky with something that may have been soda, and greasy with something she couldn't identify. That didn't matter. Her hunger, combined with the joy of finally seeing Ted after a long day overrode any sense of disgust at the diner's less-than-spotless atmosphere. She peeled open the menu in anticipation of a good meal full of bad-for-you foods. "What do you want to order?"

"Probably the whole menu." Ted's passion for Susan was equalled only by his passion for greasy food. He figured if he was going to indulge in one, he may as well have the other.

"Sounds good. Let's just cut loose and do it." Susan giggled with anticipation.

In the second example you are there in the diner with Ted and Susan. You have not only a sense of the diner, but a sense of what's going on in the heads of the characters. Much more interesting.

How can I convey accents without seeming like a total moron?

Don't. Allow your reader to infer accents, rather than writing them out in Pidgin. You can start off by saying
Joe's musical speech gave him away. It was obvious from his languid cadence that he hailed from New Orleans.
Tammy's Bronx-tinged speech had a hard edge that matched the glint in her eye.
The sisters' conversation made it clear that they hailed from that part of New York City locals refer to as Lawn Guyland.

The reader can then overlay the accent in his or her head and you can keep the dialogue clean.


There you have it. My personal answer to these questions. Of course, it's all a matter of taste. So ultimately you just go with what works for YOU. Fiction is a creative exercise. Be creative.

FEMA Must Go

This report on the FEMA audit has me so mad I could scream. It's also going to be my latest stock answer in the Why I Am A Libertarian sweepstakes. The Federal Emergency Management Agency appears to be good for little other than taking billions of dollars from citizens by force and then throwing that ill-gotten money up in the air like a toddler on crank.

_Fraud detection is inadequate. Even though GAO found at least $1 billion in disaster aid waste, FEMA has identified about $290 million in improper payments and recouped just $7 million.

_Control procedures remain weak. FEMA was unable to locate dozens of laptops, printers and other items that federal employees purchased with government-issued credit cards for Katrina disaster work. In one case, FEMA purchased 20 flat-bottom boats, but could not find two of them and lacked titles to any of them.

Fans of socialised medicine take note: Can you imagine these same people in charge of your health care?

I'm Starting To Sympathise With Mainstream News Organisations

I was all set to write a post going into detail about Susan Estrich's column on the lack of conservative Presidential candidates. But then I realised something. I don't want to spend the next year talking about whether or not "the Evangelical Right" will vote for a Mormon.***

I complain alot about the "news" being large amounts of fluff, while omitting serious stories about the multi-front war we're fighting and other grown-up topics. Right now, though, I get it. I'm in Serious News Overload. Maybe it's the post-election malaise, lingering longer than it should. Or maybe I really do care if Eddie Murphy is the father of some Spice Girl's baby.

Right now things in my life are kinda good. I'm happy with my husband, I've got two magnificent dog-children. I like what I do. My home is comfortable. My health is pretty good overall. Yes, there's a fair amount of kreptaculousness from time to time but I've just come out of a terribly difficult five years. I'm wanting to enjoy this ebbtide without digging up concerns about which I can do nothing. Does that seem horribly irresponsible? Perhaps, and if so I'm sorry. But I just don't think I can rage against the wind forever.

***My take on the Mitt Romney thing is this:

The "Evangelical Right" has now officially split. You have those who are overridingly Authoritarian/Conservative. Their authoritarian nature will lead them to support Romney despite his religious differences. I can't think of many faiths more authoritarian than Mormonism.

Those of us who are more libertarian in nature will not vote for Romney. That would include me. In short, the ER is no longer the singular voting bloc it once was.

05 December, 2006

Random Musical Thought

:: I could listen to Tea For The Tillerman 600 times in a row. Good thing it's only a minute long.

Studio 60 And The Christmas Myth

Last night's Studio 60 was, once again, showing signs of improvement. The "culture war" was played down a bit, the inshow sketch was kind of funny and the music was awesome. I would love to get an MP3 of the New Orleans brass quintet's O Holy Night. That was beautiful.

The "discovery" of the facts about Christmas was the one part that rang false with me. I've spent enough time in various universities and then hanging out on the Web to know that one of the favourite intellectual pastimes is the debunking of Christian holidays. I also know that writers are curious people who have a special perversity. We love good stories, but we also have to know the facts at the root of any tale. I find it hard to believe that a room full of writers had no idea that our red-n-white Santa was created for Coca-Cola in the 30s. Haven't they gotten the cans of Coke at Christmas? Two or three years ago each pack included "Santa Facts", as the Coke company tried to reassert their ownership of Sinterklaas. I also find it equally hard to believe that the same room full of writers hadn't heard the following:

::The translation of Isaiah that some say was "virgin" could also mean "young girl of marriagable age"
:: Jesus was not born on December 25. We don't know his actual day of birth, but it was most probably in either October or March.
:: Jesus was most likely born in 5BC, not 0 AD.
:: The Bible doesn't say how many wise men followed the star.
:: The Star of Bethlehem was most likely a comet
:: Jesus was not white.
:: The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary, not Jesus.

Now, for me these are all things I've known since long ago. There are a few other Christmas factoids that Studio 60 omitted, which I think are interesting.

~The wise men did not visit Jesus at the stable for his birth. By the time they got there, He and his family had already moved into a house. Jesus was also a young child at the time. He may have been as much as two or three years old by the time they got there. And no camels were mentioned.
~The wise men were what would now be called astrologers or wizards.
~The gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were prophetic in nature.
~The angels who appeared to the sheperds did not sing. Rather, they spoke.

I know we're getting into the time of year where everybody likes to fight over who owns Christmas and bicker over the true meaning of Christmas. The fact of the matter is that for thousands of years, people in the Northern Hemisphere--Vikings, Celts, Goths, Gauls--celebrated a festival of the returning light. Immediately following the winter solstice, as the days once again grew longer, they partied. They honoured what they understood as bringing the light--whether it be the moon, the sun, the stars or the rotating earth.

December 25 was not always when we celebrated Jesus' birthday. But this time of year has always been when we celebrated the Returning Light. As a Christian I believe that Jesus is the promised Light. So combining the pagan festivals with Christian meaning makes perfect sense to me.

Ironically, were you to look at the Jewish calender and time it close to Christ's actual birth--March or October--there are two festivals in Judaism that could have been remade to celebrate Christmas. Purim, in the spring, is where Jews celebrate their deliverance from destruction. Sukkot, in the fall, is where Jews celebrate the bountiful provisions of G-d. Any way you slice it, Christ's birthday is covered. He is the Light, returning to the sin-dark world. He is the deliverence from destruction. And He is God's most bountiful provision.

So party on, everybody.


My cough scares my dog. Badly enough to make him want to pee.

So I get up at 11:45 to let him out. Everyone's lights are off and the midnight sky is the same sharp blue as the Arctic wash of an iceberg. The moonglow illuminates everything with a cold whiteness and cuts random shapes out of the night. Improbably, shadows of houses and trees that would be ordinary in day have a lonely liveliness in the lunar afterburn.

My kitchen window faces the south. The constellation Orion hangs low enough to be framed by the window's upper arch. Orion is the one constellation I can name on sight, most probably because of the glowing belt. He's also the most romantic of Constellations.

In the fragments of myth surrounding Orion, he is blinded for loving Merope, a priestess and one of the Pleiades. In return for his physical blindness, he is given an inner sight and must continually follow the seven Pleiades across the night sky so that he may regain his physical sight at dawn. I love Orion because he dared to love the smart girl, knowing the cost. I love Orion because he is forever drawn to Merope, hunting her until the end of night.

04 December, 2006

For Fans Of The Wire

I don't recap it here, because there's no reason to. The most excellent blog recaps/discussion are over at Alan Sepinwall's blog.

Comments I Was TRYING To Make At Tiny Cat Pants

These are somewhat abbreviated, but they're generally what I was trying to say. For some reason, squarespace eats all my comments.

1. Am I the only person who thinks the term "white trash" is racist? Cause I kinda do. Maybe not as bad as "N....." but getting close.

2. This whole shaving/waxing of adult women's body parts down to the nub is really kinda gross. I mean, it just sorta screams "Hey, you! Prepubescent is teh SEXXXAYYY!!!." It communicates a whole level of puritanicallism that strikes me as ironic. Sure it's fine to flash your business all over the street but then you must insist that said businesss is completely hairless. Hairless=sexually immature=virgin. In short, shaved body parts are supposed to indicate purity, I think. Like saying "Look! I'm a child bride!". Of course the women who are putting these goods on offer in the marketplace are a few steps removed from virginity, hence the irony. And as another commenter (who can actually comment at TCP) said, it looks less like a woman and more like a mannequin. Exactly.

3. Jamey, I think that thinking about the archaeology of Biblical artifacts is an interesting hobby. But it just seems like too many people are looking for these earthly things to either prove or disprove an argument that should be made in an entirely different context. Christianity is, in the main, a faith. And I think those who are skeptical about this latest discovery are probably the same people who think that the Shroud of Turin has no bearing on whether or not Jesus was crucified and resurrected as an atonement for sin.

How Do You Know When A Blog Entry Is The Truth?

I've been thinking about this a lot over the weekend. Okay, maybe not a lot but some at least. There are a kajillion blogs out there, and I think most people read them as "true".

I personally started blogging to keep myself honest and accountable in my writing. But I swear the more I read blogs, the more I come across the occasional entry that strikes me as what you could politely call "embellished." I know a lot of writers do this because the lives in our heads are more interesting than the lives we live on the ground. And I KNOW that everyone out there has thought of a wittier comeback to the rude sister-in-law/waiter/coworker than the one they actually said outloud. Blogs are nice place to type out the witty comebacks you missed giving the first time around.

There are times I'm tempted to embellish to make a better story on my blog. I'm sure those of you who've been bored to tears by the "gosh I'm sick" entries of the last couple days would love it if I would craft something wonderful to read. But I just can't. I have to tell it like it is. Or at least how I perceive it is anyway.

I guess if you want to invent stories to make your blog a more interesting place, that's fine. But what gets me when people do that is they know that blog readers come to a blog initially because it was titillating, but stay because they come to like the author and the author's take on things.

So when you have someone who makes up stories on their blog and puts the stories out there as truth I guess I kinda feel like that violates the spirit of community in the blog world. What's even worse is when the lying blogauthor then turns around and says "hah! It was all a trick. I fooled you dumb people." Worse yet than that is when the lying blog author goes further. "I fooled you dumb people in order to prove a point to the smarter people I know. We're all watching you and laughing at how naive/dumb/trusting you are."

Of course, I have no idea what got me started thinking about this. Not at all.

Happy Duodecember

It always freaks me out that the Latin numerations of these fall months are off. This should be the tenth month, by all reckoning. It further freaks me out that the only months where the nomenclature truly bothers me are September and December. I don't care in October and November.

I also realise that perhaps writing blog entries while fully medicated is not always the best of ideas because you spend full paragraphs nattering about Latin.

My throat now hurts so badly that I feel like using one of those write'n wipe slates for all my communication needs. That's what's so great about blogging. I'm a huge talker and only in the Blog World can I babble as freely when I've lost my voice. Actually, that's not true. I haven't lost my voice. It's there, but every word I speak feels like sandpaper rubbing against that little hangy-down thing at the back of my throat. Uvula?

Speaking of Vulvae (which we weren't, but Uvula is a word I get confused with Vulva) Aunt B. has written the post similar to the one I was going to write about all these "celebrity crotch sightings". I tend to be more modest than most celebrities, so I don't get the whole desire to let millions of random strangers have a peek at my genitals. Heck, I hate going to the gynecologist, and he's only one guy.

Speaking of going to the doctor, I have 4 days to get healthy before Christmas actually starts. So it is now a race between my immune system and the clock. Let the games begin!

03 December, 2006

Or Perhaps Tottering Gripsey...

What kind of cold makes you want to throw up?

What kind of cold makes your all your teeth hurt, the roof of your mouth ache and itch all at the same time?

Why is ONLY my left eye watering--and watering copiously?

What kind of cold is not any better after 4 days?

I think maybe I have one of those old-fashioned sounding diseases with names like The Flarting Mimsey or Drupling or The Flagration.

02 December, 2006

Grey's Anatomy Serial Killer Special

I can't believe I keep forgetting to write about this.

But how cool is it that the new Dr. Hahn on Grey's is the chick who was Buffalo Bill's prisoner in Silence of the Lambs?

I will be in 9 kinds of heaven if she has an affair with McSteamy and he rubs lotion all over her body. That would be a truly grand event in pop culture.

And yes, I finally remembered to write this after mentioning Ed Gein in the previous entry. You know you're not well when you think about Ed Gein twice in one day...before noon.

What A Bunch Of Junk

This story properly starts with me working in the nursery with 6 one-year-olds last Sunday. Three of whom had a cold when they came in. If they don't all have the same cold now--the one I'm suffering through--it will be a Christmas Miracle.

So anyway, I'm here drowning in mucous and fever and NyQuil®. "What shall I do?" I ask myself. "Why, let's try to get some Christmas shopping done on the Internet" my self answers back. (NyQuil® is very good at aiding one in conversations with one's self.)

I've been cruising a site named after possibly-one-breasted-archeresses-although-I-think-that's-an-urban-legend for the last 45 minutes or so.

Does anyone really and truly need even ten percent of the stuff they push at Christmastime? Now, this isn't an anti-presents rant, because I love both the giving and receiving of nice presents. But please. No one buy me a Norelco ANYTHING. Or a Ronco anything. I am excited about the thought of saving $10--instantly, no less--on a blood pressure cuff. Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like the gift of watching your life squeezed out of your heart one drop at a time.

There is the handy DIY Ed Gein kit. My Gold Box of Values has backpacks, tents, Leatherman knife kits and cookware on sale. Hmmm. Good times.

Maybe I better go back to bed.

01 December, 2006

iPod Phone Breaking News

Okay, so it broke late yesterday. I'm still skippy about it.

Bloomberg reports that Apple has filed a patent for “a device that may combine a mobile phone with its iPod music player”. Details of the actual patent aren’t given but it appears to be around “a new casing for a wireless device that can operate as an iPod and a mobile phone”.

Hee. This should be a fun MacWorld, no?

St. Elsewhere

::Yes, this is a review that I'm doing because someone promised me something in exchange for the review. ::

That being said, I would have done the review anyway, because the product is my all-time favourite hospital show. As far as I'm concerned, St. Elsewhere set the as-yet-unreached standard for medical dramas. The current crop of doctor shows all owe a hefty allegiance to Eligius.

Let's take a look, shall we?


Irascible grouchy doctor who actually knows best most of the time? Dr. House, meet Dr. Mark Craig.


Yes, I guess this show is still on. When it first broke many years ago the most popular thing about it seemed to be that insane rush of people on the brink, and the seemingly superhuman ability of Doctors to pull the rest of us back from the brink. This was often an element inherint in St. Elsewhere at many levels--both in their trainwreck of an E.R. and in the O.R.

You say you preferred E.R. for the hot doctors like George Clooney? Well, then. I humbly submit St. Elsewhere's Mark Harmon for your consideration. Oh yeah. There's that other guy too. What's his name? yeah. That's right. Denzel something or other....


Whacky, zany stunts pulled by a hospital staff to let off steam? Yep. St. Elsewhere has that in abundence. I still think Howie Mandel's best work was in the halls of St. Eligius Hospital.

Grey's Anatomy

Shonda Rhimes has done a great job of humanising doctors, of showing the romance behind the blood. These stories were a large part of St. Elsewhere's stock in trade for many years. The heartbreaking story arcs for Dr. Jack Morrison--so well played by David Morse--were some of the most humanising stories ever to hit prime time.

So, clearly and without reservation I recommend that any of you who love any of these shows give the new St. Elsewhere Season One DVD a try.

The Final Prelude To Ragnarok

The wind pulled me out of bed at midnight. There's nothing like the sound of a freight train rushing fullspeed into the side of your bedroom to make you suddenly a lot less sleepy than you once were.

I'm up in the basement and feeling slightly ludicrous. I'm watching the windspeeds go from "1.0 mph" to "15.0 mph" on my wunderground site. Somehow it feels safer to watch the numbers roll on the computer. The alternative--looking out the window--means watching all the trees sway and chimes dance frenetically. Whenever the number gets closer to the "15" figure, it kinda feels like my house is going to end up next door. The bright side? Any fence problems will seem downright mild compared to waking up with my bed in the neighbours' living room.

I have a feeling I'm not going to sleep much, and I wonder at what point I should hustle the rest of my family down the relative safety of the basement. Is it better to sleep in the shadow of the wolf during Fimbulwinter?