Sunday, May 31

She Told Us So

Last weekend I hosted another Opposites Double Feature. This time we watched Detour (with "the world's BEST hitchhiker!") and Murder By Death. As always, it was a lot of fun. This time Mom joined the festivities. Naturally the topic of favorite lesser-known films came up. We discussed lots of Noir gems. Mom, having been a lifelong movie lover, also had some good recommendations. I've seen most of Mom's faves but I'm always surprised when others haven't. Mom told Shandon and Norm that they just HAD to check out Random Harvest and Separate Tables. I've seen both and agree that they are uncommonly good and should be seen be anyone who considers themselves a classic movie fan.

Imagine my surprise when trolling the TCM website I found one of Mom's picks listed as an upcoming Essentials. That's right folks, Random Harvest is the Essentials pick for the evening of June 20th. Be sure to queue up your Tivo. It's worth the time. ("Oh Smithy!"). Another really good one is coming up even sooner. The Letter, featuring my all time favorite opening scene where I inevitably exclaim "Jesus, Bette!", will air as the June 6th Essentials film. Much, much later in the season is one of my picks. The Long Hot Summer is the Essentials choice for September 12th. I finally bought that one since it was always so chopped up on tv. Also, I got tired of my Tivo mocking me with a "psych!" every time I saw the title in the guide. I'd inevitably squeal in anticipation of a Paul Newman moment only to realize it was that awful Don Johnson version of the film. Disappointed! Of course, I could always just watch my DVD but there is nothing like a Robert Osborne opening discussion to kick off a film. I can't wait!

Saturday, May 30


I haven't had much to say lately that's why I haven't posted much.  I still don't have a lot to report but I would like to recommend Up.  I saw it yesterday with Shandon and adored it.  It will absolutely make you cry but it will also crack you up.  At one point Shandon and I were laughing so hard we couldn't sit up straight.  I had to remove my 3-D glasses to wipe away my tears of laughter.  It was wonderful.  No, you do not have to have a kid with you to enjoy this one.  Treat yourself and go with or without a child.  Either way you'll have a blast.  

I haven't been reading much in the past week but I did start a great new book called The Indifferent Stars Above.  It's a really good new spin on the Donner party ordeal.  My nephew is in the fourth grade and just finished learning about the Donner party.  When I asked him what he thought he sort of sighed and said "well yeah, it was sad."  What?!  He's right but that's certainly not the reaction I had when I learned about it.  I just recall thinking "Cool!" and "Finally some interesting history.  It's about time!"  

You're probably wondering how on earth there could be a new spin on the Donner party story right?  Well, I'm telling you this one goes into details I've never read about before.  The author goes through the physiological aspects of what the party went through.  What starvation feels like, what your brain is doing when you're deprived of warmth, food and water.  He goes into the hygiene of life on the trail and the politics going on between the families and lots of other great details I've never heard about before.  It's fascinating stuff.

I'm also re-watching True Blood.  I pre-ordered the DVDs a while ago and was pleasantly surprised to find them unexpectedly waiting for me one day after work.  I left the set alone until today.  This afternoon I suddenly decided I should watch them with the audio commentaries on.  It's been a lot of fun.

In other news, I've been a having trouble sleeping.  Last night was weird.  I was sleepy very early in the evening and struggled to stay awake past 9:00.  I eventually threw in the towel, put on my pjs, washed my face and went to bed.  I discovered that my Tivo hadn't updated for a while due to my remote device being folded shut.  I spent some time adding things to my Wishlist and picking out new things to record.  Anyone else excited about Nurse Jackie?  I am!  TCM has had some really good stuff showing lately so that's a lot of what's waiting for me in my Tivo's "Now Playing" list.  Anyway, I spent some time flipping through channels but found myself repeatedly falling asleep for about a half hour then waking again for a half hour then zonking out again over and over again.  I watched Jay Leno's last Tonight Show but afterwards wound up on the National Geographic Channel watching things like Solo: Lost at Sea,  Left For Dead: Miracle on Everest and Explorer: Mysteries of Survival.   Eventually it was 3:00 am and I was really tired.  I flipped channels some more and fell to sleep but had to get up early for a hair appointment.  I'm hoping to get a bit more sleep tonight.  I'm thinking I should avoid the stressful survival stuff.  I can't help it though.  True stories of survival fascinate me. Guess that's why I'm still enjoying that Donner party book.   Then again, after dipping into True Blood again I have a feeling I'll be finishing my Sookie Stackhouse books.  Those are sort of stories of survival right?

Saturday, May 16


Today I had to go to my niece's dance recital. I say I "had to" because if it were any other girl in the world I'd have never done it. I have a long memory and I remembered last year's recital. I spoke to one of my best friends as she suffered through the dress rehearsals. I offered to pick up some iced teas and join her. I don't think I've ever heard a more relieved soul in my life. I went on the endure a 4 hour rehearsal THEN saw the actual recital the next day. Never forget!

My Mom, whom I accompanied today, seemed oddly excited about today's event. I asked "Don't you recall the soul crushing boredom and pace?" She thought I was a grumpy McGrump face and didn't appreciate my attitude. She may have also thrown in "You're being a terrible Auntie." I didn't disagree. If being a good Auntie means faking joy at some of these events, well I plead guilty.

It's not just the bad music selections and (I'm sorry!) not very good dancers but mostly I had vivid memories of parents elbowing each other out of the way as they rushed the stage at the end of each performance to get pictures. Apparently the dance school folks didn't appreciate that either. This year they hired a professional videographer and prohibited any other photography. But I REALLY cheered up when I saw the large sign next to the dressing rooms stating "NO Mothers in dressing Room. NO cameras or video taping allowed." I snickered and said to Mom "Ooooh! The moms were naugh-ty." The mothers sitting in folding chairs around the dressing room entrance didn't seem to appreciate my glee. I'm sorry but it serves them right. I later explained my annoyance to my brother that most parents these days are so preoccupied with capturing a moment that they miss it entirely. I then complemented him for not being one of those fools. He then admitted that he'd forgotten his camera.

My niece's two performances were thrown in between a lot of older girl performances. This was a problem. If you're going to a dance recital I suggest you try to see the little performers. Everything they do is adorable and the outfits are so dang sweet. Unfortunately, I was to sit through many of the older girl performances today. I cringed through most of them. I just think they are cruel. They throw all of these poor pubescent girls on a stage, make them dress in identical, illfitting outfits then make them dance in front of hundreds. *shudder* I just feel so terrible for them. There is always a painfully thin girl, a chubby girl, a terribly flat chested girl, a terribly large chested girl, a tall girl with hunched shoulders, various other reluctant girls then one shining star with perfect skin who is inevitably the best in the class... and knows it. I can always spot the poor girls who have been forced into the class. They look even more uncomfortable than the rest. It's all so awful.

To make matters worse, I later spotted a sad pair of family members shuffle in late. One wore a knit cap, a few skirts and a heavy coat. (Did I mention that it was about 90 degrees today and not much cooler in the auditorium?) She was escorting a terribly overweight and sweaty woman in a dirty tee shirt and on a crutch. I immediately felt sorry for whoever they were there to see. Visions of Carrie ran through my mind. After the performance I ended up feeling sorry for the pair. Traditionally the family and friends of the performers crowd the dressing room doors and give them bouquets of flowers. The strange looking pair stood expectantly with the rest of the parents but held a modest bouquet wrapped in plastic wrap that had obviously come from a home garden. The flowers were pretty but the scene somehow made me sad. I felt bad for them. They knew enough to bring flowers and were doing their best but they looked so out of place. It was just heartbreaking. I didn't stay long enough to see their reunion at the back stage door. I hope they were ok.

It all reminded me of how grateful I was to my parents. They were always just right. They clearly loved us (I'm sure that was somehow embarrassing in my junior high years) but they always fit in nicely, they were always smart and funny and looked cute. Isn't that really all you want when you're 13? They were always very supportive. My mom was especially good at picking up my "I don't want to be here" signal and was usually very respectful of that.

My niece emerged and just wanted to know if she could have a sleep-over with her friends. No. there would be no sleep-overs as everyone had to move on to their brother's baseball tournaments. Alex perked up when her friends started waving and saying "I'll see you at the game!"

In the end I learned that while I may have been a bad Auntie today I wasn't alone. I heard the dad behind me grumble "Well, I'm sorry! I have A.D.D.". I then learned he had smuggled in a tv and was watching the Preakness. My brother exchanged text messages with the other dads. When a group of girls in dreadful tiger outfits came out dancing to Eye of the Tiger he received a text that said "Ladies and Gentlemen the Laaaa-kerrrr Girrrrrrrls!" Michael laughed then leaned over and said "Thank God! I thought they were playing Another Brick in the Wall. That would have been a bit much!" I kind of liked the idea. Dodger scores continued to be updated througout the recital. All of the distractions made me feel better about my attitude. At least I was paying attention. Once I was there I took special care to be supportive. I clapped for those poor miserable girls. I wanted to rush the stage and say "It all gets better! I swear. Just hang in there. College is so much more fun and after college it gets even better... just hang on!" Instead, I clapped and hooted and hoped they'd all make it through.

Tuesday, May 12

Change of pace

To answer Shandon's question to my last post, no I'm not going from Columbine to Donner Lake. I thought about it but just couldn't do it.

My only problem with reading is that I have to get the pace just right. I can't read two heavy books back to back unless they are part of a series. I looked at my stack of books mentioned here and thought there was just too much darkness there for right now. Instead I scanned my bookcase and picked up Little, Big. I've only just begun but I really like it so far. I can't even tell you what it's about yet but I can say it's way out there in a Gabriel Garcia Marquez sort of way. I realize that's a hardcore comparison but the storytelling style really doe remind me of Marquez. It seems to be a book with some serious fans. I'm getting the impression you either love it or hate it. I wouldn't call it a quick read. It's actually sort of dense yet it's a good time. I'm enjoying it.

We'll see how it goes. I'll let you know.

Monday, May 11

Good, but I'm glad that's over

So, I finished Columbine this weekend. (Shandon, I'll bring it for you next time we get together). It's a very good, incredibly well-researched book that I recommend.

The author, Dave Cullen, a veteran NY Times reporter, goes minute by minute for much of the terrible event then flashes backwards then forward in alternating chapters. It may sound somewhat confusing but it's not. In fact the author does an excellent job of revealing key facts just as the reader needs to know them.

Columbine goes a long way in setting the record straight. It is an indictment on the media and how completely wrong they had it all. The local police department isn't much better. Questions continue to come up like, are the parents to blame? Cullen carefully lays out the facts and lets the reader decide. Who are the real heroes of Columbine? Again, that's up to you to decide. Most of the victims have moved on and prefer to forget about it. Their families are revealed as sometimes flawed but deeply caring people who, in the end, have a more difficult time moving on than those who survived the bullet wounds.

Primarily Columbine marches through the mythology of that terrible day kicking over each myth one by one. If you think you know what happened that day, you're more than likely wrong.

Cullen makes it clear that Eric Harris was a true psychopath. Dylan Klebold was a depressed suicidal follower. The author takes time to go into the mind of a psychopath and explains what motivates them. It's chilling.

My only complaint about the book is that I couldn't help but want to get through it quickly because the killers are nobody you want to spend any amount of time with. Cullen, however, does a great job of pacing the reader. If he had put some of the killer's most disturbing writings and videotaped dialog in the beginning of the book, I never would have made it through to the end. Instead he slowly reveals just who they were and eventually brings you to the most disturbing things they thought and said and ultimately what motivated them.

Needless to say, I'm moving on to lighter fare now. I'll let you know how that goes when I'm done.

Tuesday, May 5

Fun with embedding!

So, a friend/kindred spirit sent this to me recently:

It made me wonder how folks my age are not all brain damaged. I mean really! Just think of all the psychedelics it took to create theme songs like that and this:

and don't even get me started on the trippy evils of Sid and Marty:

But wait, there's more! What about the overt sexism in this opening sequence? It's a wonder I ever figured out girls could grow up to get degrees. Poor Angie. it's just terrible what a Lady Cop had to do to make a living back in the day (or, more precisely, every Friday night following the Rockford Files):

Shandon was kind enough to send me this one. We apparently couldn't even go to the movies without being terrified by the bloody background in this clip. What exactly is that?!

On the other hand, the television of my youth did help me understand just how much fun my future gay friends would be:

Ohhh, but then there's this one. I still love poor little misunderstood William. I bet he IS a good dad today:

And then there's this funkalicious beauty to bring it on home and make us feel better for how well we've all turned out:

And to remind us EVERY DAY of how great we're feeling, check out this super fun site. It's all there baby. Every last tune. Dusty's Treehouse anyone? How about Nanny & The Professor? The Carol Burnett Show? Phyllis? OMG! AHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Oh man, I could go on and on. Instead, I'll just let you poke around yourself. Just be sure to throw this genius a few bucks. No, I don't know them all I know is that I adore them. I smell a new set of ringtones!

Sunday, May 3

Troubled Times Ahead

My friend Stacey believes I read only the most depressing/morbid books around. Stacey is under this impression because every time the question of "What are you reading?" comes up, inevitably I'm reading something on the plague, the dust bowl, the crazy Tudors or something along those lines. I contend that I like stories of survival and appreciate a good yarn.

It's true, I lean towards history and that can get a little inconsistent in terms of feel-good-factor.

I'm currently reading Columbine (don't tell Stacey). Another friend, Heidi, recommended it and I'd heard about it on NPR. It's being compared to In Cold Blood for God's sake. Next up? The Burn Journals about a 14 year old (self inflicted) burn victim and Live Through This, the story of a mother's search for her young runaway daughters. I picked those up after hearing a fascinating episode of This American Life that featured interviews and excerpts from both books.

Of course, between all of the above I'm also reading the Sookie Stackhouse series and enjoying those as well. But then the swine flu, err... excuse me, the H1N1 virus hit which naturally makes me want to re-read Hot Zone.

But then today The New York Times ran a review of The Indifferent Stars Above. Why am I interested in this book? Well, let's start with the full title: The Indifferent Stars Above - The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride. SOLD! How about that call out? "After reaching safety, Sarah Graves learns that her younger sister survived, in part, by eating their mother." Oh man! Of course I also liked it when the reviewer explains "I kept interrupting my husband, Ed, to relay the latest Donner dinner horror. "They're toasting their moccasins," I'd say. Ed happened to be reading Calvin Trillin's Feeding a Yen. "Calvin's eating fish tacos in Barbados," he'd answer. It went on this way for 100 pages. Boiled ox bones. Macaroni pie. Luis's organs! Pain baguette."

Awesome! Who's with me?