Thursday, January 30, 2014

Throw Back Thursday: Being in Children's Theater

I must apologize because I don't really know how to use the scanner on Dan's computer and so these old photos are really photos of photos; hence the crappy quality.  I guess they were all taken some time close to when I graduated from Florida State; so, like 1992? 1993? Decades ago now. Anyway, after graduation, I moved back to Clearwater and lived with my older boyfriend in an apartment complex off of a major highway. I also worked as a hostess at TGIFriday's and was a member of a children's theater group through Ruth Eckerd Hall, the performing arts center in the area. I didn't have any illusions that this would lead to fame. After just one or two shows in an elementary school cafeteria (smelled like spoiled milk) or gymnasium (smelled like sweaty feet), it was clear that I wasn't on the path to being discovered by like a visiting movie producer who would whisk me away to become Hollywood's darling.  But it was still fun, for the most part, and the kids would get really into it. Here are a few samplings of my costumes and various roles. I was totally versatile. 

Old lady. Note that I am barefoot. That's method acting, people. 


Little Red. This is backstage, probably in a kid-sized locker room. 

Disheveled princess. This is clearly after the show was over. Look how long my hair was. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What We Do Around Here

We try to finish jigsaw puzzles even when they are 1,500 pieces that all look exactly the same. We play cards, like War and Crazy Eights. We feed the frog Bob, on Wednesdays and Sundays and we worry each time we open the aquarium top, that he will be dead. He never is. He has never been dead for the last three years. Shirley the frog did not survive. We lock the doors and leave the light on for each other and get only slightly irritated when one person forgets to shut the door all the way. We make the bed together in the mornings with the bed cover and pillows from West Elm--our whole bedroom is from the catalog because we also don't do comparison shopping or go to Raymour and Flannigan. We whistle while we're playing Minecraft and then when we're asked to stop, we apologize and we do stop for about ten seconds and then we forget and start again. We are ten. We are also in our forties. We don't clean as much as we should, though we love the Dirt Devil bought by one of our moms and find ourselves bending down and going around the floorboards for longer than we should. We point out dogs on the street. We are afraid of dogs sometimes. We like to put our pajamas on right away and we look forward to a snack, especially if it's hot chocolate with whip cream and a cookie dipped in it. We pick up our dishes when we're finished eating. We run the dishwasher too often. We play a game at dinner where we tell one good thing that's happened to us during the day, one bad thing, and one animal we saw. We do yoga at the drop of a hat. We watch movies where things blow up and where Johnny Depp plays a Native American Indian. At the end of the movie, we say, That was a little corny. We watch We Bought a Zoo and get nervous about the number of swear words.  We tolerate each other's TV shows. We announce we are going to take a shower. We like to read before bed. We travel together. We eat chicken nuggets. We talk about bullying. We try to listen. Sometimes, we cry, but not often. We get on each other's nerves. We say funny things. We burp out loud. We laugh at some of the same things. We embarrass each other in public. We check out and ignore each other. We live together now.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dr. Phil Don't Play That

It's become a bit of a habit for us to watch Dr. Phil, especially on the nights when we don't have Luke, and sometimes when we do have Luke and he's absorbed in Minecraft on the computer. When he's playing Minecraft, we could be watching The Exorcist Does Dallas and he wouldn't notice or care.

I have liked Dr. Phil since he had four minutes on Oprah Winfrey's show twenty-five years ago. First, I admire his commitment to his moustache. That thing has stayed with him for more than two decades. Second, I like that he tries to get people to face up to their own culpability rather than being victims. Third, his show pretends to be a little more thoughtful than Jerry Springer, but it's really not. Fourth, he always offers the guests help, even when they clearly have no interest in taking it, and he always says things like, You're not a bad guy, you just have anger management problems.

Dr. Phil as a much younger man, before the moustache addiction.
Last night, he had on two sisters who are both drug users, along with their former alcoholic mom (of course) who has cancer. The younger sister, age 18, was 7 months pregnant, cute as a button, and smoking crack, pot, and whatever else she can get her hands on. Like all reality shows of some kind, the benefit of watching is that you can always feel better about yourself. In this particular episode, the girl's level of denial and deflection (those are Dr. Phil terms) was incredible. He would say, Do you think you're an addict? And she would say, No!  And he would say, So you're choosing to smoke crack for fun even though you know you're harming your unborn child? Then she would say, But I can't help it! And the audience would laugh, and the girl would be like, It's not funny! And Dr. Phil would say, No, it's not funny. They're laughing because what you're saying is absurd.  The episode didn't wrap up with them getting help--they are both such a mess that a whole other hour will be used up today.

Part II is on tonight and I'm sure that the girls will agree to go to treatment and then possibly flee as soon as ever they can.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Bachelor Goes to the Opera

Juan Pablo reminds us that he's a dad. He loves his daughter and she is bilingual.

Chris reminds the girls that they've come a long way (two weeks) and they still have a long way to go (four more weeks). He lets them know they're going to the home of Daniel Boone or somewhere. Oh, Seoul, South Korea. Half of them think that's in West LA. Omigod, they only have one hour to pack! How is that hard? Do they have to do it blindfolded?

JP has again the exact same amount of facial scruff as the week before. He's in Seoul South Korea to find his wife. He starts talking to a woman on the street corner and gives her a rose. If only. Seoul looks a lot like Times Square. The girls never stop screaming and jumping up and down. One of blonds wants to get to know him better since he's so attractive. She said that. She's upset that she's on a group date with five other annoying girls. 

Group date--what sport will they be playing today to show off his muscular cankles? Oh, dear, the hair dresser has over done his hair mousse. The word "literally" has already literally been used five times. Blond says, "I would literally love to go on a date with no other people." Wouldn't you be alone then? 

They are going to be taught how to dance by the most popular Korean band you never heard of, 21. Who will be the most awkward? Juan Pablo, hands down. Kat, the medical sales associate, is also a professional dancer. Chelsie's childhood dream is to be a back up dancer for a major pop group. Isn't that every girl's dream? To be a back up dancer? 21 informs them that they will be performing onstage in front of 70 million people. When is this pediatric nurse going to get her chance to do CPR on a baby and really show what she can do?  

The girls are further humiliated by being forced to dress like four year olds and dance in a strip mall wearing cartoonish trucker hats and day-glo spandex leggings. Kat is pissing everyone off by making up her own choreography. If someone could please explain to me how this set up is helping him get to know them better, I'd appreciate it. I guess if you really think about it, he would want a partner who could teach his daughter how to K-Pop. 

They always think they're deep when they ask questions like, What's your biggest fear? That's the job interview equivalent of asking what your biggest weaknesses are. All the girls are ganging up on the nurse, Nikki, for being negative. The psychiatric nurse thinks she's being catty and diagnoses her as having a DSMIV disorder of cattatoniajealousphobia. She slips three Haldol into her white wine spritzer. Nikki gets some time alone with JP and tells him she would be happy to change his diaper, it's all she ever wanted.
Sharleen, aka Theresa Russell, aka possibly the least interested in JP and most masculine of the women, gets a one on one date, but that girl who looks like that actress I can't place, doesn't think they have chemistry. Didn't she see them making out on the soccer field last time? Nikkie would absolutely accept this rose. 

Luke just asked, "Is this show like the Hunger Games, except the last one standing has to get married?" EXACTLY. 

Sharleen puts some powder on her nose for the first time in her life. They go to a fish market and are flummoxed by all the strange Korean food like tea and fish. Back at the ranch, the girls do their nails and try to out do each other with how high they can wear their top-knots. Sharleen has some junk in the trunk. So does JP. That makes her a better opera singer, because she can inhale from her bottom. Sharleen lies through her straight white teeth and tells JP that he is not bland, when she actually means the exact opposite. He asks her to sing and she responds as though he's requested that she flash him her ta-tas. She says she never sings on the first date or shows her breasts unless beads are involved. But because this show is mostly about forcing women to do stuff they would never do if they weren't on TV, she sings. And he interrupts. True class. When will he catch on that she thinks he's boring and wearing too much gel? When will he catch on that she's way smarter than him? Never. He's sweating again. 

The other girls just don't see Sharleen as the mothering type, as she's too elegant. Sharleen struggles with whether or not to tell him the truth about how much she despises kids. He keeps smiling; hoping she will continue to lie to him. She qualifies everything with saying that she used to think she didn't want kids...She used to think that they were annoying germ magnets covered in grape jelly and snot...A week ago, she actually ran over a kid in her car, but luckily, the pediatric nurse was there. But that was in the past. He is sold. He gives her a rose. This will end in disaster, hopefully on the last night when she rejects him on a mountain top. 

Group date #2: they're going to get krazy with a "k." Guess what that means? Karaoke. Seriously, is he trying to find a partner or put together a band? That was a brief sojourn--they must not have captured any interesting footage. Group photo. Group riding in swan boats. Group sushi bar? Oh, okay, this is the thing where they put their feet in the water and have the fish eat off the dead skin. That is disgusting. For the fish. Claire is going to be forced to eat a live octopus. What would be more interesting is if Claire or any of them had to get into a tank and face off against an octopus. Winner gets the rose. Kelly makes the best joke of the night, "It was a tiny piece of fish and she didn't want to eat it. Come on, I know she's had bigger things in her mouth before." I like Kelly, but she won't last because she's too interesting and not blond and not Sharleen. 

Renee offers to kiss JP and he refuses. BAD sign. JP takes the women one by one to the gazebo and then he makes Andi, the DA, sit on the road with him. What? They are comfortably resting their heads against a cement curb. JP says his sense of humor is hard to get, maybe in part because he's not at all funny. They look at the stars and he tweaks her nose like she's five years old. They're covered by a blanket. Where are her hands? He won't kiss the girls, but he wouldn't refuse a little "ay-yi-yi!" This brown-haired girl does not stand a chance. She begs for a kiss and he says no. For some reason, they're standing next to a grand piano. She's off the show for sure.They don't even bother showing her name.  She's crying by the elevator because he wouldn't kiss her. Just send her home. He crushes her to his chest and tells her to follow her heart. She must be drunk. She's a music composer, why is she here, she's too good for this show. 

Clare is going to kiss him whether he likes it or not. She charmingly tells him that she threw up in her mouth when she tasted the octopus. He says, "That's good." He kisses her while she's still eating a graham cracker. What the hell? He says he couldn't help it and his daughter would want him to kiss her. He is a jerk. He will give the rose to Clare, oh--I'm wrong, he gives it to Andi. Another woman who's smarter than him.  

Everyone's mad at Nikki for interrupting dates when she already has a rose. There is a lot of hair tossing in this show. Kelly likes to stir up trouble and that's why I like her. Clare says that in the end of the day, it's about what Juan Pablo wants. That's the whole problem of this show, in a nut shell. The women don't seem to choose anything. I don't know what kind of drama they're talking about. Nikki reminds Clare that she's not handing out the roses. Good point. 

Ding, ding ding. He has said "ay-yi-yi" three times so far. 

Rose ceremony. Ladies, please line up on the dais and keep smiling through your pain, but do it in such a way that it also looks like you might vomit on your sateen mini dress. 

First rose: Renee, the real estate agent who wears off the shoulder stuff all the time.
Second rose: Chelsie. Blond.
Third rose: Kelly, yes, I like her. She's like Amy Adams.
Fourth rose: Danielle, okay.  
Fifteenth rose: Cassandra. Lovely in yellow, but we haven't seen her hardly at all.
Twelfth rose: Allisson, with a dress that barely stays on. 
13th: Clare. Why are there tribal drums going?
Last rose: Kat? Now there's like Western music.
Going home: The crier and the school teacher.  

Try not to cry Elise, try to hold it together. She is shrugging. She's wearing a green toga. Oh, this is the woman whose mom is dead. She says that her mom wouldn't want her to be surrounded by such ugly people. Yep, she broke down. Do they like prod them to cry? Say things like, Do you think your dead mom feels bad for you? Lauren, the school teacher baby, does a little jump and she's being hard on herself for trying to kiss him, even though all of them do it. They always blame themselves. 

JP recovers immediately. The girls titter. They are all so high at getting to stay for one more show. They are going to Vietnam. I know that some of them are going, What is this? On all the other shows they go to France and Spain.  Next stop, Bangladesh!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Thing to Worry about: the Short List

I noticed the other day that a lot of my repeating internal thoughts have to do with "what-ifs" and they're never happy scenarios. Like, I don't think, What if I get a phone call today from someone wanting to offer me $500,000 to write a book? Or, What if I they discover a new kind of frosting that tastes just like regular frosting but eating it on a graham cracker actually helps you lose weight?! No, all if my what-ifs center around disaster. Yesterday, for example, I was standing outside on the patio in the snow and it occurred to me that an icicle could melt and stab me in the face. To be more specific, I was looking up a the dripping icicles on twenty feet above me on the eaves and I thought, What if one pelts down right now and gets me in the eye? I didn't play that out because I got distracted, but if I'd had more time, I'm certain I would've contemplated what kind of life I might have with an eye patch. Would I still be considered pretty? Could I do my job? Would it in a backwards way give my life more meaning?

Then, the day before that, I was staring at the woods behind our house because I happened to see five deer run by the other morning, and I thought, What if I see a bunch of guys hunched over dragging what looks like a body bag? Would I call the police and report it or do nothing? What if they were hunters and it was just a deer carcass and I caused a ruckus for no reason? Or, what if I called the police and they couldn't find the body bag, but the bad guys knew I had turned them in and then they decided to hunt me down? 

I do have semi-realistic fears too. When Dan was leaving last night to drive in the snow to Valley Forge, I thought, Okay, well, I should be nice to him and give him an extra long hug because there's no way he's not going to get into an accident and die on the side of the road.  I think that most times he leaves for any extended amount of time or even when he goes down the road to get the mail. 

I Could Watch 48 Hours for 48 Hours

Have you ever seen this? It's a real time cop/detective/cultural  show where they try to solve a case in 48 hours, and often, they succeed, though never really in 2 days. It's compelling to watch the detectives try to figure out some random act of violence (usually a murder) and go to the door of a house and question the mom, and then find the kid playing basketball in the park, and throw him on the ground, all while being video-taped.

My favorite part is the interviews with the suspect--but it's also the most disturbing scene because it's where the people who don't know any better should ask for a lawyer and NOT TALK until the lawyer arrives. Instead, they often confess, but in this way that absolves them of doing anything more than defending themselves. It's always a case of self-defense, even when the person they've killed is an 85 year old blind grandma in a wheelchair. "She was going for something in her handbag and I thought I saw a gun and so I shot her." "Those were knitting needles." "They looked sharp."

One show we watching on Friday involved this kid who got into an argument with a guy he barely knew and ended up stabbing him multiple times and killing him. The way he described the stabbing was like, "And he was coming at me and he got hit with the knife." The detective goes, "You made it sound like  you had nothing to do with that." The guy said, "I just sort of poked him like that." Eight times he poked him (aside: this reminds me of that line in the musical Chicago where the female prisoner goes, "And then he ran into my knife. He ran into my knife nine times").

There's never really any social commentary about it---there's voice over narration that explains what's happening and why, whether the suspect has a criminal record or any warrants, but they don't contextualize it in terms of how he may have gotten to be where he is. They don't say, "John's dad left when he was two and at age five, he saw his mom get shot by her drug-dealing boyfriend." Because the show isn't about understanding why people break the law, it's about solving the case and putting people away for twenty years and not rehabilitating them and then releasing them back into society with no skills so they can be re-arrested for the next episode of 48 Hours.

The other episode we watched was this kid--nineteen years old--who shot two people in the same day in separate incidents. One died and one lived. And he confessed to all of it after he learned that the second shooting had been caught on videotape in the parking lot. He also didn't ask for a lawyer. That's another thing that you might want to keep in mind if you're going to commit a crime--if you're in a public place, you might get caught on camera (that's a whole other show). His mom came to see him and she gave him a hug and she said, "Boo, did you do it?" He nodded and started crying. She said, "I know you're upset, but think about what that other family is going through right now." He had his head in his arms on the table and said, "My life is gone. Mama, I can't do any more time."  That's where I wished there was some social program or alternative way to deal with especially younger people who commit crimes--something where they could have another chance and get help and get moved out of their neighborhood and given drug treatment and counseling and the opportunity to be around people who care about how they turn out. I think there is a program like that actually---I saw some PBS show about it, like that's how they deal with juvenile crime in more socially progressive countries like Canada and Australia. Here, we lock them up and say bye-bye and make TV shows about it. And I watch, so I'm complicit too. 

Friday, January 24, 2014


I forgot to write in my blog yesterday and I have totally been meaning to finally jump on the TBT (throwback Thursday meme  on Facebook. However, I don't have any of my photos handy anyway, so I can't show you how amazing I was in the 90s or how very very awkward my prepubescence years were--I had huge plastic glasses and a really bad bob haircut (think Little Lord Fauntleroy). I was also in the throes of making a political statement about hair spray and the ozone layer, so I had this super elaborate feathered cut that I could never keep in a style. Oh, and perms. I had a few terrible home perms. And then I used to do this thing when my hair was longer where I would braid it when it was wet and sleep with it like that so that in the morning, my hair would be wavy, like  a mermaid. Except it never quite worked out that way b/c I also got cuts like two times a year and so the ends were always dead and straw-like. So, I'd have this shimmery long waves ending in like singed hair.

For some reason, I've been thinking a lot about the guys I dated in my twenties and one in particular whose last name I can't recall. I found this great photo of him and me after much searching---remember photo albums, by the way? I miss them. Anyway, I don't know why I started thinking about him--maybe it's because I'm writing this other project about how when I was in my twenties and, let's be honest, thirties, I didn't spend a whole lot of time evaluating guys. I basically had three criteria to develop a crush on them--that they be attractive, that they have some kind of artistic interest (acting, music, writing) and that they have only a fleeting interest in me. The more ambivalent they were, the more interested I was. Abandonment and daddy issues, obviously.

So this guy was in one of my writing classes at DePaul and if I remember correctly, I think most of stories were about misunderstood guys who skulked around scribbling in their notebooks and being unable to connect with others. Or murder mysteries. I can't recall. His name was JT--maybe that's why I'm thinking of him, because of JP, the Bachelor. He smoked like someone who just took up the habit and was copying James Dean. He also might have popped up his the collar of his windbreaker a time or two.  The only other memory I have of him is one I can't share in detail here, because it's mortifying--for him, not me. But when that thing I can't mention happened, I sent him home in the cold without a change of clothes. Read between the lines. I remember laughing about it hysterically with my girlfriends later, but then also wondering why he never called me again. I guess maybe because he thought I was mean.

He also bears a striking resemblance to Fred Savage.

I wish I'd had a better sense then, in my twenties, of my own value or like a better meter for choosing guys who had something to offer instead of always wondering what they thought of me. Where is he now? Probably still living in Chicago. Maybe teaching. That dog in the photo is certainly dead, unfortunately. Maybe that's why I like dogs so much, because they are almost always interested, and friendly and into you, no matter what.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wherein I Intend to Do a Movie Review But Instead Talk about Dick Flicks

Dan forced me to watch Captain Phillips on demand last night. That's one of the 500 movies Tom Hanks has starred in. By forced, I mean that he choose to watch it while I was present. I could've gone to read a book, but I decided to give it fifteen grudging minutes. In case you don't know, the story is about a present day sea captain taking boxes of supplies to Africa. Along the way, they have to go through the horn of Africa in a deserted area, and under the possible threat of Somalian pirates. And they get hijacked. I was resistant at first as I am to any movie that has a cast of 100 men and one female character.  It's not that I'm not interested in the story or don't think you can't tell a good story about a bunch of men doing manly things like sailing and saving lives, but it is ever thus.

The majority of major motion pictures I watched growing up (and now) feature a white male protagonist (the hero) who must prove his masculinity (by doing things like shooting or out-smarting the evil guy or using a rope to get across a chasm) and defeat the villains.  Along the way, there's often maybe one love interest who sometimes does more than get captured (often though, she's just an impediment. Think Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars--two of the biggest blockbusters from my kidhood. I mean, yeah, Marion could throw back a shot of whiskey, but in the end, she gets caught and tied to a post wearing a ripped white gown and needing to be rescued. Same goes for Princess Leia, who was fiesty, but also a princess, don't forget, and she too had to be saved).  Mostly, the singular female character is there to show another side of the masculine picture--that the guy is straight and desired by hot women. I mean, if you're a guy, imagine if the reverse were true in almost all of the films you watched---you being asked to identify and root for women doing things--women going off to war, women saving the planet from aliens, women as world-famous spies searching for their diabolical female counter part and having sex with a bunch of vapid beefcakes along the way who kept needing to be saved. And these are not stories that are about human nature or the human experience, they are about the white male experience almost exclusively.

One of the things I thought was most interesting in the performance class I took last semester is the realization that we have a specific name for the films that have mostly female protagonists in them or where the main plot centers around a love story. Those are "chick flicks"--movies that are really just made for women  about women stuff like best friends, weddings, having babies, dying young, or getting your period (sometimes, all of these in one film, like Steel Magnolias).  But we don't have a specific name for movies that are primarily about men doing stuff--like, that's just normal. From now on, let's vow to call the genre Dick Flicks. Because I don't personally relate to war stories or imperialism or flying a MIG-3upside down or being part of the mafia, or shooting people. That's not the human experience--that's the white dude experience. 

Take a non-chick flick Tom Hanks movie,  for example. Maybe one I saw and didn't totally hate but would never ever watch again, like Castaway. Would you have gone to that film if it was three hours of a woman on a deserted island with a soccer ball? I feel like that film captures this dream some men (some men, not all) have--wanting to get away from it all, the nagging girlfriend, the daily work grind, and prove that they could survive on their wits and strength.

I'm not a Tom Hanks hater. I liked Philadelphia and Big and Forrest Gump. I can see the value in Saving Private Ryan and The Green Mile and The Larry Crowne Affair, even if I don't necessarily see myself or my experience of life reflected in any of the characters or situations. And let's not forget that he was in A League of Their Own, maybe the only blockbuster American film ever made about a all-female sports team. In skirts, but you know, that's what they wore in those days.

So, yeah, I didn't feel like watching another Dick Flick, but after I got over my initial irritation (and after I realized it was based on a true story and after I Googled the ending so I didn't have to worry about if he lives or dies), I thought it was okay. The producers at least tried to show the pirates' motivation--how they were forced to do it, how they were victims, and how globalization contributed to their desperation. I mean, they touched on it, sort of. We were still meant to identify with the white guys, and it was clear that we should also be cheering for the Americans, who swooped in with the Navy Seals and executed the pirates point blank from a distance with wicked precision. And Katherine Keener, his wife, had thirty-five seconds of screen time. And the other woman in the film was a nurse. And they spent a little too much time on close-ups of Hanks' face as he was crying and distraught. How horrible for him that he had to endure being a hostage and feel the blood of the massacred men on his skin.  But it is based on a true story of what a man experienced.

By the way, I just discovered that I didn't coin the term dick flicks. It's part of the urban dictionary lexicon.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fat Sibling

That's the alternative title to Lionel Shriver's book, Big Brother--a book I mentioned reading in a previous post. I stuck it out to the end. The big finish, as it were.

To recap, the book is about a woman who decides to try to help her very overweight brother lose the pounds. First, she let's him stay in her house for a couple of months after he's tossed out by his friend. At the end of the two months, he has told her that he has a gig in New York (he's a jazz musician) and so the visit seems finite. Close to the time he's supposed to leave, she discovers that he lied about the opportunity in Manhattan and actually has nowhere to go and will likely end up sleeping on a friend's house, jobless, homeless, and hopeless. From there, the next 100 plus pages are about the sister deciding to move in with him and go on a crash, all liquid diet. He's resistant at first, but then agrees, and together, after a year of struggle and one relapse, the pounds come off and he's down from almost three hundred pounds to the goal weight she's set, 163. They have a party to celebrate the victory, and she decides her project is over and that she'll reunite with her estranged husband. Her brother becomes furious, and, in the epilogue, we're told that he gains back all of the weight and maybe even more in the a startling quick time. I mean, the whole book is about "will he" or "won't he" with the weight loss, and it can only end one of two ways. Or so you think! But Lionel Shriver (related to the sharp-faced reporter? It's not a stretch) tell us in the epilogue that guess what? She (or rather, the narrator) made up the whole middle section of the story. She goes instead back to the moment when her brother is leaving and explains that she didn't really offer to help him further. She didn't check him into an expensive weight loss clinic or allow him to stay longer. She said good-bye, and he left, and he died a few years later, having continued to grow and grow until he needed an oxygen tank to get around.

I'm of two minds about this ending, because it smacks a bit of the "it was all a dream" trope that is one of the worst tricks you can play on your reader. That's what young writers tend to do--the write themselves into a corner and when things get out of hand and they can't figure out how to bring the narrative thread back to planet Earth, they opt for the dream escape hatch. Or the crazy-narrator-all-along option. Or the suicide. But mostly, it's "And then the alarm clock went off and she woke up" (often though, there's the impulse to add the extra predictable twist of the waking person finding that he's holding in his hands the last wisps of the horse's mane or some such nonsense).

So, is this what Shriver did? Did she waste my time and then say, Whoops, sorry, that's not what happened after all!  It felt that way, a little bit. Maybe she's making fun of the sibling story or fiction in general, where everything wraps up neatly, but if that were the case, why have the added fake ending of him falling off the wagon anyway in her fantasy version? Why not just let him keep the weight off and maybe find a girlfriend and rescue a three-legged dog? The narrator does ask this question too, because it's an obvious one. I don't know she did it. But I wasn't surprised, because she's the same writer who penned We Need to Talk about Kevin. Have you read that book? Or like me, have you just seen the movie with the ever androgynous and lovely Tilda Swinson? Well, that movie deals with this same ambiguity and morality--is it a familial responsibility to save someone? In this case, the main character has a sense that something is very wrong with her son. I mean, she gets this from even his infancy on. But she doesn't really say much to anyone, because she's wondering if something might be wrong with her--if she has a missing part in her psyche that won't let her love this little shit of a son. And then it's also a presentation of the nature vs. nurture debate. Is Kevin a psychopath because he wasn't loved enough, or even if she loved him more, would he still have killed his sister and her husband at the end? That's how it ends, you know. With her returning home to find that the rest of her family is dead and her son is in jail forever.

Can't say I recommend it, though I did race through it. Next up: Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt of The Secret History and The Little Friend fame.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Literarlly the Most Boring Bachelor Episode Ever

Dan told me today that Juan Pablo is in trouble for making a homophobic remark. I hope it was just a joke, or a mistranslation or him thinking he was actually saying that straight people are perverts, which I find more often to be the case.

In case I haven't said this before, two hours is too long for this show. At least half an hour is previews and replays, the other twenty minutes is scenic shots of whatever la-la land they're in. And now, it's looking like they are pretending to have the women bond--for example, the girl who looks like Jennifer Aniston if she had a broader face and this blond girl whose mother's dying wish be that she make it to the fourth episode of The Bachelor before being dismissed are pretending to care about each other. Is everyone on this show a hard core Christian? And by hard core Christian, I mean they wear crucifixes and talk about angels and God leading them and then always accept the fantasy suite card.

Every shirt JP wears is skin tight and shows the divet of his clavicle in the best possible light. Cassandra, the former NBA dancer, has "so many thoughts in her head right now."  Like? Maybe just give us one example. They are salsa dancing and really, her only thought is, I can't believe I wore these heels that are making me taller than him.  

Now all the girls are pretending to be thrilled that they're going on a crappy group date, probably to play soccer, while Elise, the first grade teacher who gets a one-on-one,  bites her lip in joy.

He's a sweat-er people. His forehead is glistening in the firelight as the girl shows him pictures of her son and he pretends to care. He asks if her son is in preschool yet and she goes, "He's two..." Blah, blah, blah, trying to say something profound about being parents. "We're here for a reason. We're here to meet some people and show off our dental work. I don't really have an accent at all, but in central casting, they told me I should mess up my grammar on purpose. no?" He gives her a rose and they kiss and she does some weird turn with her head, still feeling too tall, no doubt. They must tell him to put his hands on her face when they kiss--that's how ever single Bachelor kisses, with the hands enveloping the face, perhaps so that in the million previews they show, you won't be able to see who the woman is. 

Group date. Yawnily, they're going to play soccer.  He says that he gave up soccer when his daughter was born, but neglects to mention that he was too old to actually be on the team anymore. Sharleen, aka Theresa Russell wears her hair in braids. And they "literally" drive out onto the field. What's with people using the word "literally" all the time now? And wrong, often. I think this happened in the last season, "My heart was literally ripped out of my chest" is one I seem to remember. Alli, the nanny with the small chest (comparatively speaking), is so excited because she used to play soccer in fourth grade. He strolls out onto the field with an ad for herbal life emblazoned on his chest.

Back at the house, more boring female bonding. It's incredible how no one literally ever says anything interesting. Never.

Why do they women have to wear black stripes under their eyes like football players. I guess that's meant to make them more adorable. They are being forced to play against one another and jump up and down and pose and kick each other in the shins and faces. Sharleen gets a concussion, twice. She keeps catching the ball in her face. Foreshadowing for the fantasy suite? One of the team wins, but you know what, they're all winners!!!!!!

Group date one-on-one time.

He taps the pediatric nurse on the head and tells her that she has something that he likes, but he can't put his finger on it. He can put his finger on her temple, but not on one distinguishing feature about her. She has her fingers crossed that she didn't just say back to him exactly what he said to her. Which is what she did.

He makes out with the lawyer by what looks like a giant refrigerator.

Chelsie gets the single date with JP and the girl with the dead mother has to sit there with her shirt falling off her shoulder like she's not pissed as hell at her dead mom for orchestrating this better from heaven.

Sharleen the opera singer is now channeling Sharon Stone from Basic Instinct with the shortest dress I've ever seen. She asks him He kisses her with the hands on the face and her lipstick is so good, it doesn't even get on his face. The other girls happen to notice that they're making out, probably because they're sitting in the center of a brightly lit soccer field.

JP tells the girls that he feels so much at home with all of the girls surrounding him, just like in his soccer days. He gives the rose to the pediatric nurse and Sharleen clinks her wine glass at him with aggression.

Girls poolside. About the youngest girl, a girl who is older by about one year says, "She's literally like a baby." I did not make up that quote.

Chelsie is stuffing her face with a hamburger because she hasn't eaten in four days. Right after this, they're going to jump off a bridge. Tell me she is going to throw that burger up backwards onto Juan P's tight t-shirt. One can hope. They never do anything even remotely gross, like pooping their pants. Please, please, let that happen. I mean, what would they do? Replay the scene again and again until she stopped pooping? Would he gave a rose to a pooper? This is yet another example of how the women will do pretty much anything they're asked just because they're on TV. No way in hell she would do this if the weren't being taped. She's crying. Finally, acting like a human. You would have to push me off to get me to do that.  He says, "We can die together."
Twenty minutes later, he just pushes her. Now they are kissing upside down. She barely wet herself. Good job. She ruined it by saying, "You can't do that with just anyone. We just jumped off the bridge together. Literally." This shit writes itself.

One hour left, people. 

Date night and I like Chelsie for saying that she wants a job that makes her happy. What is a science educator anyway? I think she's high on endorphins. The rose sits like a dead pigeon in the center of the table. Of course he gives it to her. They have to do that after a one-on-one date.  She's pretty adorable. She rubs his back as aggressively as he rubs hers. Oh, dear, what washed up band is playing for their enjoyment now? They will have to tell us because we won't recognize them. Is this Billy Plankton? Is that what she just said? She's totally upstaging him. 

He is trying to prove he's a good cook and husband by making an omelet. The girls are nervous about appearing in front of him without make-up. Plus, they weren't planning on eating today or the day after or ever again unless they have to. The girls pretend to think everything he does is funny, even though he has yet to say one clever thing.

Why are there dogs in this show? I mean, I'm glad, I just don't know what the deal is. The girls are dying to show him their tits poolside. Why not just have one slightly overweight but super confident girl? Come on, that would be fun.

Pool party!! They're chicken fighting. Kelly observes that there are definitely girls on the show who like attention. Like, all of them? He gives the girl with the best boobs a rub down and everyone is irritated by it. Is Sharleen the first person in the whole history of the show to say that it's weird to have a camera in your face all the time? She's just not that into him. He's forcing her face into his armpit. Why is she crying? I can't understand what he's saying because his face is pressed into her shoulder. I hope she runs away. 

The girls are irritated by Juan P. hanging out with Sharleen. Dan has fallen in love with her as well and has said that she doesn't fit in with these "silly, Midwest white girls."

Keep the bathroom door open girls, so the cameras can capture you crying. Renee is also another mature one. Again, comparatively speaking.  Clare tries to explain how unnatural it is to be in this situation, but she's saying as if it's weird to have to articulate the obvious.

Chris arrives in a flannel shirt to get JP ready for the rose ceremony. Alli, the lawyer goes, "Who just joined the nervous train?" Sandra, Chelsie, and some other girl don't have anything to worry about. Kelly may have a lazy eye. Sharleen is dressed for an episode of Star Trek.

Rose ceremony:

First rose:  Andi, wearing a toga. They made out by the cooler. "Will you 'cept this rose?"
Second: Renee, mature real estate agent who can become best friends with him later when she's not picked.
Third: Kelly, she brought the dog. Is it a seeing eye dog?
Fourth: Sharleen. When will she say no.
Fifth: Elise, the teacher.
Sixth: Beth, the boob girl.
Twentieth: Allison. 
thirteenth: Clair, can't think who she reminds me of.
Fiftieth: Lauren. Who is she?
Last rose: "Ladies. Juan Pablo. This is the final rose tonight and then you bitches are out of here." ..................................Danielle. We barely saw any of her.

Going home: Free spirit and that blond lady. The blond will cry. Is she wearing spangly shorts? Free spirit is also wearing a too short dress in gold lame and you can see her belly button. Maybe now she might could get a job?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

What Will Become of Anna?

Dan is such a good sport and pretends to be thrilled that Downton Abbey is on tonight. He also will watch an entire episode of Hoarders without complaining. Hardly. I mean, not much. I can't say that the same thing happens when he's watching soccer.

I apologize in advance as I try to blog while this is one that I may not recall people's names. Our story opens with a figure on the green lawn approaching the quite beautiful mansion. Anna has circles under her eyes and is avoiding her husband. She's acting weird at the downstairs table. Omigod, the rapist is at the breakfast.

Why? The married man who's trying to get into Lad Edith's britches has found favor with Lord Grantham.

This show reminds me that I need to use cloth napkins more.

Unfortunately, the rapist has an uncanny likeness to the Irish chauffeur. Lady Mary is flirting with that bland guy (Chisholm?). He cannot possibly be her love interest. I have money on the idea that Lady Mary could fall for the chauffeur instead.

Dead Matthew's mother has been asked by the doctor to come back to work. She always has this look on her face like she's just eaten a lemon and is trying to smile through it.  She also has poor eye contact.

Lady Mary really is being a pain in the ass in asserting her opinion of what to do with the farm.

I hate this stupid subplot where Princess Leia with the cleft chin is attempting to seduce the chauffeur. What the hell is his name? Dan refuses to Google it. Did I miss the part where he kissed the maid? Oh, wait, they had sex? HOW DID I MISS THAT? Oh, dear, this is another soap opera moment. I wonder if the gay footman will sleep with her in order to get her pregnant so that she force the chauffeur to marry her?   I will also stop watching this show if Anna turns out to be with child from the rapist. Please, Julian Fellows, do not take us that far, I beg of you. Oh, okay, the chauffeur's name is Tom.

Hats. Dinner. Anna acting weird. Smarminess by Lady Grantham. A drink and sharing between the complicit maid and Mr. Carson. Anna walks in--get it together, Anna! She can't let Mr. Bates touch her because she's been tainted. Are they married or not? I thought they were? She feels dirty, soiled, and will kill herself if she's pregnant. Me too. "Better a broken heart than a broken neck." She's going to pretend not to want to be with Mr. Bates anymore so that he doesn't get killed for killing the guy who raped her. "That's sad," says Dan.

Daisy is the cutest. How old is she supposed to be? Sixteen? Thirty-two? I can't tell, but if I had a dog, I might name it Daisy.

Mary is surprised to see the boring guy, Chisholm in London or wherever they are. His ears stick out. He is not the right swain for her. His hair is too contemporary.

Subplot with dead Matthew's mother and the dapper doctor with the bow tie and moustache. "It's no bother. After all, what else have I go to do?" She's a martyr. Daisy could be a little more assertive. Okay, the gay guy is named Mr. Barrow, let's try to remember that.

At the dance. Look, a black man! First one in the show in four seasons. Note: must wear elbow length gloves more often. Oh, the guy is engaged and Lady Mary tells him she's not ready for love and that she won't be for some years. "It's been lovely and I feel quite refreshed," she tells him. The next time I have to break up with someone, I'm going to say that too.

I just can't seem to like Lady Grantham. She doesn't open her mouth wide enough when she speaks. She's cloying and unreal.

Evangeline ends up dancing with the black man after her partner almost threw up on her. I am terrible about British history--but was race that fluid where a black man could dance with a white woman and not get in serious trouble? He waves goodbye and continues singing a song called "The Grass is Always Greener," foreshadowing Evangeline's elopement to a black man.

Lady Mary and Tom have a moment. She tells him that if he can't tell her his secret, he should find someone who he can tell. Good advice. Please let them hook up.

Bates begs Anna for a kiss. She says, Don't bully me. He wants to know why she won't make out with him and says he will find out what's wrong.

Tom confesses to the older lady in charge what's going on with the plotting maid. I hope they figure out a way to shut her down.

Lord Chisholm is back to see Lady Mary. He will now confess his love for her and his willingness to wait for her to fall in love with him back. Oh, worse, he asks her to marry him. "Tony, you don't know me." Mary is confused by Tony. I am confused by Tony too, because I thought his name was Chisholm.

The rapist's name is James, and he's good at bringing tea. And raping.

I find Tony to be so uninteresting. And too short. And I don't like the way his hair is parted. Hopefully, they will kill him off.

Confrontation between Edna, Tom, and Mrs. Hughes. Mrs. H has found a book that has told Edna about the pull out method. Oh, dear, she is tough. Edna threatens to speak to her ladyship and the tough maid says she will hold her tongue if she wants a reference. Then Edna runs into Mr. Barrow on the stairs and calls him  "sly, and oily, and smug."  He answers, "Well, if we're playing the truth game, than you're a manipulative little witch and if your schemes have come to none, I'm delighted." Best line in the show.

I went to get a cookie, so I missed some stuff. Edith did kiss the married guy. I like her snake arm bracelet.

Bates confesses to Lord Grantham that Anna wants to move back into the house. I guess they are married. Did this really happen in those days? Did the downstairs folk ask advice from their masters?

Someone's sneaking up the stairs; I can't tell who.

"Again, these two?" Dan says about Tony and Lady Mary on the heather. Who does Lady Mary's eyebrows? They're so perfect. "It's no good, Tony. I can't. I'm not free of him!" She has the perfect face for this time period. He asks for a kiss, because he will never love again as he loves in this moment. If I had a nickel for every time I heard that same thing. They kiss, and she is crying. Off he goes, to be gone for a couple episodes until he appears again when the show gets boring.

Mr. Barrow has a candidate for her ladyship's vacant position. Will it be Shirley McClaine? Tom and Mary are off to look at sheep. They will definitely hook up. Who can resist among sheep? All that potential wool is sexy.

Lady Duchess confronts Edith on being a slut and staying out until 6 a.m. "Are you going to tell ma-mah?" Not "mama" but "ma-mah." They're British. Edna is chastised, that whore.

Tom and Lady Mary in the car. Two more great hats. She worries she will regret not marrying the Tone-ster. I suspect she will not. Off they go.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Did Downton Abbey Jump the Shark?

In TV time, it's probably too late to speculate about the latest episode of Downton Abbey, but I'm sort of running low on ideas as it's 8:23 p.m. on a Friday night and I am tired and ready to just veg out. And yet, I continue to want to try to do a blog post a day, and so here we are.

Do you know the scene I'm talking about? The one where Anna gets raped by the visiting butler/footman--and then tells the other maid not to mention it to anyone because she's worried that her husband will kill the guy?  It reads a bit like a preview for an episode of Dr. Phil. I can see Dr. Phil's mustache quivering in barely concealed rage as he asks the Mrs. Hughes why she didn't go to authorities and then swivels in his chair to ask Mr. Bates if he feels like it's right for Anna to be married to man who she's essentially afraid of? He would offer Bates a free month-long stay at an anger management camp run by his son, who also has a book that he needs to plug. But I digress...

It was distressing to see Anna disheveled and sniveling and asking for another pair of underwear from Mrs. Hughes, and then one wonders how this will unfold in the next episode, if she's able to keep from jumping in fear every time he touches her and if he somehow gets it out of her or Mrs. Hughes and then does go to kill the guy, and then it's back to prison for him. I don't much care, I guess. I'm disappointed that some of the plot points are beginning to resemble a daytime soap. Next, dead Sibyl's long lost twin that the family forgot about will return as that Irish chauffeur is about to make out with the cunning  maid and then Lady Grantham will get into a carriage accident in the woods and wake up with amnesia and then become a scullery maid in her confusion or one of the baby's will suddenly have aged to thirteen years old between episodes so that she become a runaway or we'll find out that even though Matthew seems to have broken his neck and died, he's really still alive and has actually been living in the family tomb and will be discovered by the dog, just as Lady Mary is about to get married to a scoundrel.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

What Would Your Talking Doll Say?

I'm halfway through a book by Lionel Shriver (a woman writer) called Big Brother. The gist of the story is about a woman who tells her brother he can come stay with her family. She hasn't actually seen him in a few years, and when she goes to pick him up at the airport, she's flabbergasted to realize that he has gained hundreds of pounds. He's hugely obese, almost unrecognizable. She brings him home, and conflict ensues as her type-A husband (a disciplined man who bikes for hours a day and only eats very healthy food) is beyond disgusted by the slovenliness of the brother--who does of course eat a lot, all of the bad food that the husband won't touch. While the story is about the huge size of the brother, and how it's hard not to see fatness as the embodiment of all that's bad (laziness, self-indulgence, lack of control), there's an interesting sub plot that circulates. For a living, the sister been very successful in producing these special dolls that people order in the likeness of someone in the family; the dolls look like the person and they also come with six of ten sayings that characterize the person---the things she says all the time, maybe without even realizing it. This makes me wonder what my ten things would--because, when she lists them out for some of the dolls they've made--you get a very clear picture of the psyche of that individual; what she's obsessed about, or worried about, whether she's honest or judgmental or frightened or angry or preoccupied with her body or whatever.

So, here's a list of the things I think my doll would say (I asked Dan to help me with this. I'll mark his suggestions with an asterick vs. my own perceptions of what I say often):

I don't like it (or, I don't feel like it. Or, I don't want to)*
Look at that dog!
I'm sorry (to strangers, especially when they bump into me).
Will you rub my feet?*
I doesn't matter what I think--what do you think? (I say this to my mom mostly)
I just want to read my book.
Could you slow down, please? (said in the car, whenever anyone else is driving)
Ernesto! I'm going to smash your face off! (said affectionately, but through gritted teeth because he's so smooshable).
Let me think about it and get back to you (at work, when someone wants me to write on the fly).
Do you want me to help you cook that? or What can I do?*(said insincerely, in the kitchen, when Dan is cooking dinner for me every single night).

Those are the things I say out loud, but there are also things I think about frequently, recurring thoughts I have, and those are a little different, and always center around anxiety--things like, I am going to stop eating frosting).

Here are the things I would put in the Dan doll:

I think I have diabetes.
I had a slice of pizza today (said as a confession for his dietary transgressions).
That is incredible (said whenever he eats ice cream or a piece of chocolate).
I'm addicted (said after he's had a spoonful of ice cream or a piece of chocolate).
What color is that traffic light? (which might be the reason for my anxiety in the car).
That is insane.
Does my eye look funny?
I don't care (every time he says this, I think he really means the opposite, but is afraid to say so).
Where did I leave my keys/my phone/my hat?
I missed you today.


I asked Luke what I should write about today and he said something about the New England Patriots, but I really stopped listening the second he said the word "sports" and so I'm not sure what his point was.

I could mention that Dan just had an at-home phone interview for a job. I really hope he gets it. Please, please, for the love of God, let him get it. He was good on the phone. I tried not to eavesdrop, but it was difficult, especially since I was perched on his shoulder. I could tell they were having a casual conversation (which is good--he was relaxed; it all sounded natural and friendly), and that she was asking some of the standard questions for graphic designers like about his process, how he works with others and what he does when people want twenty changes to a logo.

In this new-ish job (how long do I get to say that before it becomes an excuse?), I do a lot more interviewing for stories. These Q&A skills are rusty, though it's coming back to me. One thing I need to do more is to remind people at the beginning of the conversation that they need to talk at a slightly slower pace because I'm trying to capture everything word for word as they speak. I know there are probably apps that will do this and I could also tape conversations, but it's just so much more efficient to get it all down at the time of the interview rather than transcribing it later. That is, it will be more efficient when I get better at it. Because sometimes, especially if I'm meeting with the person face to face and typing, I try to make eye contact and, you know, be at least somewhat physically present, as I'm also typing. What happens then is that I keep typing and then I go back to my office and find I've written something that looks like: Captan says would he honor form the fRAnkcsense institute developing flashers that can see will change for the biggest part Kenndy's brother 9n in 1984 brekthro.

The other thing I have to keep in mind is that it's okay to have a pause in the conversation, to let the interview-ee think or rethink  what she's said. I have an impulse to want to fill up any awkward moments, but really, sometimes, it's in the pauses that interesting things happen. I might think of a better question or the person might come forth with a confessional fact he wouldn't have shared otherwise.

Then the other thing that I need to remember is to keep talking and listening, because it's weird--when the interview seems to be winding down, and when everyone's a little more relaxed, that's also the time when you can again get something interesting. The other day, I was talking to someone and the interview was fine, normal. plenty to work with, but then, he suddenly came up with this really cool research project that he did during undergrad with endangered species--and that is what's going to make the interview, but it came toward the end, after I thought we'd covered everything we needed to cover.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


That's the name of the governor's house in New Jersey, currently the home of Chris Christie. Similar to my distrust of people who have two first names instead of a first and last name--see "Juan Pablo"--I'm a little unsure about people whose last name seems to be an extension of their first name. Rob Robertson, Lee Leighly, Sam Sammerton, Kris Kristoferson, and Chris Christie.

I won't weigh in on the whole BridgeWaterGate scandal because (1). I don't know enough about it to offer an informed opinion; (2). I'm a little biased because I still like that Christie hugged Obama after Hurricane Sandy even though I'm certain it was a calculated show of warmth because of his desire to run for president in 2016; and (3). I live in New Jersey now and I don't want him to come after me.

But I do find it interesting that when I go into work in the mornings if I drive down Route 206 (which I have been doing most mornings after deciding that my peace of mind while driving is worth the extra ten minutes it adds to the commute), I pass the mansion every time. Sometimes, I even imagine that I see Governor Christie out on the front lawn, helping to direct the gardeners.

For the eight plus years I lived in Philadelphia, I didn't pay any attention to any of the historical or political buildings. I never once went to the Liberty Bell or the Constitution Center and am not in fact sure that Philadelphia has a Constitution Center. I did enjoy the horse drawn carriages for tourists and the cobble streets, in small doses.

Where I live now, history abounds. There's a graveyard in Princeton that we pass all the time where I think Mother Goose and possibly Joyce Carol Oates is buried. We also frequently pass Morven, America's first White House (Dan just told me that), where Richard Stockton, the third President of the United States (?), used to live. You can also stand outside of Einstein's house and see the very same window where he came up with that one equation. The Princeton Battlefield is marked by four pillars, and you can easily loiter outside of John Nash's home (the man from A Beautiful Mind) wondering if it would be weird to ring the doorbell and ask for a glass of water. I'm making much of this up and I only know the names of these places because of the tourist pillow Dan made that's sitting next to me and Ernesto right now.

It just took me twenty minutes to figure out to download these files from Google Chrome, and so I cannot wrap this blog post up with any kind of sense. My overall point, I guess, is that I'm still adjusting to NJ, the Governor, and how to get where I want to go.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Juan Pablo Goes to Utah

All I want to say right now is that if someone took me on a five-K run for my first date, I would kill him. This girl, the dental hygientist/dancer/teacher/actor is a good sport for wearing the Day-glo and pretending not to be totally disappointed that she has to keep twerking. Hands down, the other date was way better, though I would also hate a guy who forced me to go ice skating, as I tend to skate with my ankles turned in. I get it already, he's an athlete, so every single date is going to focus on some athletic event and there is no way we'll get through the season without seeing him on the soccer field. Also,  he will be making the women to jump over hurdles, sky-dive into a waterfall, climb the South American Great Wall of China, charm snakes.

Note: first time I've seen the Bachelor give a piggy back ride. Dan and I were going to act that out, but I would totally crush him.

Group date on the same set as Storage Wars. Of course the black girl is on this date. Lots of short shorts happening and the girls knock each other over trying to show how they can limbo underneath the garage door. A man with a seaweed colored goatee meets them and tells them they will have to have their pictures taken with dogs. Where's the girl who hates dogs? This sequence makes me want to adopt a crippled dog. Dan says, "Let's do it doggie style, with Juan Pablo!!" The girls all have to wear costumes to match the dogs. How much would it suck to be the girl dressed as the fire hydrant next to the girl dressed as a life guard in a bikini. Elise is being forced to go naked alongside that other girl who has to wear a cardboard sign. Andi goes, "This is out of my comfort zone." I would hazard a guess that it's really not in many people's comfort zone to be naked in a photo shoot next to a Great Dane.  I'm somewhat relieved that these girls are putting up some resistance to being naked on  TV. Oh, wait, I spoke too soon. Free spirit has been dying to get naked and has no problem switching places and giving Elise the fire hydrant.

Dan thinks it would be funny if after Juan Pablo convinces the girl to go naked, he says "Surprise, my whole family is here to meet you!"

The show is not even half over yet. I cannot believe it.

Drunk girl, Victoria, says she enjoyed giving Jan Pablo the hymen maneuver--she goes to the bathroom and starts crying and the camera man goes underneath the toilet door to capture it. She accidentally went through the work out room and is saying that she wants to go home, over and over and over while waving her blue fingernails. This crying scene was the preview from last week, where they made it seem like something interesting or dramatic actually happened, not this nonsense that goes on every Friday night in every Chili's bathroom in South Florida after the two-for-one happy hour special.

 My least favorite part of the show so far is Juan Pablo telling the woman whose a pediatric nurse that he thinks her job is cute. He says this after cupping her head in his hands and basically petting her.

Who is this Chelsea person? Who is this girl whose job is "dog lover?" I wish the black girl would say something like, "I know I'm only here to seem as if the show's producers are sensitive to racial issues, but I know I don't have a shot in hell at getting past the third episode."

Next morning, all of the girls are sitting around in their bikinis talking shit on Victoria. She explains to JP that she's sorry she acted like a freak, but when she's happy, she's really happy, when she's sad, she's really sad--in other words, she's  bipolar. Oh, God, she's emerging as the front runner as the bad girl not here for the right reasons. Wait, what??? Juan is sending her home. That kind of stuff never happens. They almost always are forced to keep the crazy ones for better ratings. He says he couldn't have her around because she was too immature to raise his daughter for him. Good job, JP.

The one girl is disassociating right now and interviewing him like a reporter. So embarrassing. The really beautiful, slightly masculine girl apologizes for not being more gracious about getting the first impression rose. She totally reminds me of that one terrible actress in that equally terrible film with Mike Douglas. This one:

Spooky likeness, huh?

Stop crying, you dummy. Stop saying how hard it is to be there with all these other beautiful girls. You've seen the show at least once before, right? Juan Pablo goes in to talk to her and show that he understands what it's like to be a mother. He fist bumps her to reassure her that he's serious about her.

Chris welcomes the women to the first rose ceremony. Cat, Celly, and Claire are all safe and I don't like that redhead. Juan Pablo comes in with exactly the same amount  of artful scruff he's had on his face all week.

First rose: Cassandra, fist bump girl
Second rose: Nikki, blond with a down-turned mouth.
Third rose: Andy with a "y"
Fourth rose:  Chris, "you have the best tits" (Dan quote)
Fifth rose: (every girl looks like she wants to puke) Charlene aka Theresa Russell says "sure" instead of "absolutely" when she accepts the rose and she winks. I love it.
Sixth rose: Bernie? I can't understand his accent.
Seventh rose: Danielle, possibly mixed race, kind of insect-like
Eighth rose: Lucy, the free spirit who he will never really be serious about. Wears a top knot and some other girl's underwear.
Ninth rose: Edison or Carson.
Tenth rose: Chelsea. How is she able to not wear a bra?
11th rose: Lauren, nondescript.
Last rose: Christie.

Wow, the black girl didn't make it past the second episode. Shock. Reporter chick goes home for being an idiot and too young for him. Oh, well. Please don't cry. She says she's not what he's looking for. Dan goes, "How about, 'He's not what I'm looking for.'" Black girl says, "I understood going into this that I didn't' have much of a chance because of tokenism and because in the entire history of The Bachelor, there's never even been a kiss between a black person and a white person."No, she didn't say that. She too wondered if she would ever find love.

Okay, next week, Shawn and Catherine prepare for their TV wedding and Juan Pablo's adventure continues with them leaping off of things and going into the water in a Jeep and doing a lot of kissing with his entire hands covering their faces.t

Monday, January 13, 2014

We Bought Product Placement, a movie by Cameron Crowe

I think I like Cameron Crowe's movies, generally, though the only one I can remember off the top of my head is Singles. I'll Google it in a second, hold on. But then again, I saw Singles in my twenties when the movie was total de ja vu for the dating scene, only with better clothing and hair (i.e. no one has better hair than Kyra Sedgwick's in any decade). I also get that movie confused with Reality Bites, and so can't really tell you for sure if Ethan Hawke was in that movie or Singles or both. Okay, I just checked IMDB and Crowe also did Almost Famous and Say Anything ("In Your Eyes," big boom box, John Cusack perpetually wearing a long raincoat, I've met guys who can quote all of Cusack's monologues in one breath). Last night, we rented We Bought a Zoo because when we have Luke, we watch kid friendly movies. This one was rated PG but they did use the s-word about three times and hell and damn. I know, because every time there was swearing, Luke gave us a look like, I can't believe you're exposing me to this filth. We reassured him that it's okay to hear the occasional curse word and wouldn't give him brain damage or turn him into a drug user.

 A couple of things about the movie--it has a very hip soundtrack and it's really about this man losing his wife to some unnamed illness--using the purchase of a run down zoo to process his grief, to grow closer to estranged teenage son, and to fall in love again with Scarlett Johansen, like who wouldn't?? It's also based on a true story of Benjamin Mee, a guy in Australia who really did such a thing, though they changed many of the details, such as moving the setting to California to avoid having the actors learn how to use British accents authentically. They also had the mother dead at the beginning of the film, though in real life, she was alive when they bought it and deteriorated as they were trying to sort it out. The other detail they changed is this brother relationship--in the movie, the brother (played by that guy from Wings), is skeptical at first, but eventually comes around, and in real life, the brothers don't speak. Overall, I don't love movies that have child actors as main characters because it's rare to find a kid who can actually act and doesn't always look like a kid acting. The little girl in this film was able to look adorable in moments, and pathetic in others as needed, but I never forgot she was a child.

The other thing that I wondered about was the title--was there no attempt to find something less literal? If not, I wouldn't deleted the four times in the movie where someone exclaimed, We bought a zoo! (including the little girl, who said it with three exclamation points, just like her acting coach told her).

Then finally, they mentioned Target at least four times in the movie, along with Home Depot, and Subway. I get that movies are expensive to make, but maybe sacrifice the money it costs to have three Bengal tigers and just have the one sad tiger and don't mention Target all the time, okay?

Luke gave the movie a thumbs down, but I think that was because it was somewhat sad--they were all upset about the mom dying, and he isn't into that kind of emotional complexity at this age and it was also somewhat slow and plodding--no real surprises. Oh, and there was kissing, and he's anti that. Dan liked the movie okay, and I didn't hate it--I for sure liked it better than that Steve Carrel Noah movie where he has to convince his family that they need to build an arc because the flood is coming. That was a stinker. This was one was okay, though I would feel better if Crowe gave some of the money he made with the film to Mee, whose still struggling to get the zoo on its feet.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

How Many Brushes with Death Have You Had?

I started reading Life After Life by Kate but got sidetracked and didn't finish it before it was due. The premise of the book is about this girl who keeps dying over and over again, trying to get her life correct. At least, that's what I gathered from the fifty pages I read, where she died being born, and then lived barely, and then grew to be like four years old and then drowned in the ocean, and then came back to life again. Truthfully, the premise gave me some anxiety in reading, because I kept waiting for her next death. It made me think about near misses that I've had in my life--not many, maybe just one. But what about all of the brushes with Grim Reaper you don't even realize are happening, such as every time I drive to and from work and some jerk contemplates taking me out with his SUV.

The one I know about is the time I was driving home late after a show I was in (it was actually one of those mystery dinner things where you mingle with the guests but are also performing this improv version of a murder--I can't recall much more about it except I wore a sparkly dress and got to slap the guy who was the director as part of my actions). Anyway, the show ran late, and I was driving home on the one of those dark Florida causeways at like 2 in the morning and this car kept tailgating me and acting crazy. Like, the car would speed past me and then be weaving all over the road, and the slow down again until I had to pass, and then it would cut me off again. This happened like three times, until they got so close that I could see the paint on the other car door, and I had to swerve to the shoulder of the road, nearly running off it and park there for a while, waiting for my heart rate to slow and for the crazy (drunk, obviously) drivers to have gotten far enough away. I fully expected to see the car flipped on the road in front of me.

That's the only driving mishap I recall, but then there was the time when I was a little girl and my parents were in a hotel bar and I lingered outside near the candy machine, and some long-haired guy struck up a conversation with me, telling me he'd never had a little girl and always wanted one. He asked me if I wanted any candy, and I said yes (who wouldn't??). He had to leave to get change and I went into the bar and told my parents. I was about five or six. The woman who was with them came out with me and pretended to be drinking from the water fountain, and when the guy came back to buy me candy, she laid into him, telling him to leave me alone. He said something like, I'm a Vietnam vet! I'm not doing anything. He pressed the candy button and a Snickers bar tumbled out, but the woman made me leave before I could get it, which was my biggest regret. So, I guess I could've been abducted.

No near drowning experiences, no shark attacks, no serious car wrecks (Dan had one as a teen where he flipped his car and his girlfriend at the time almost died and had to have plastic surgery), no fires in the middle of the night, no slipping on the subway tracks, no gunshot wounds to the head, no wild bear attacks while camping (especially given the fact that I've never gone camping). And then that actual moment is out there waiting; and I feel like Woody Allen about it: “I'm not afraid of death; I just don't want to be there when it happens.” 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Feeling the love

Thursday at work, I got an email from Dan and it was a video that he and Luke made, using pictures of Ernesto on Dan's computer. I think Luke is concerned that I miss my cats, and so he wanted to do a little montage video to make me miss them less. Here it is.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Wednesdays in New Jersey

Are much the same as Tuesdays and Mondays. I'm getting used to the drive, at least a little bit. I don't freak out on Route 1 and have become a little bit jerkier in my driving like everyone else on the road which I take as a sign of growing confidence and assimilation. I wish though that there was some kind of paint ball you could shoot at the cars who do that thing where instead of waiting a turn to get on the road, they speed up in the lane that's ending to the very front and cut in. That is what my world has shrunken to--thinking of ways to exact revenge on the people around me.

One thing I like about New Jersey is that you never ever have to get out of your car to pump gas. I always feel like apologizing to the attendants or tipping them, especially on cold days when their fingers must be freezing. But I don't say sorry or tip, I just leave my window down the whole time in a show of solidarity, and to prove I'm not totally spoiled.

Here are the other good things that Luke and Dan would like me to list.

1. The best American musicians come from New Jersey. Their evidence: Bruce Springsteen, the Smithereens, Bon Jovi, Frank Sinatra, Frankie Valley, and Fountains of Wayne (what???).

2. Dan's fifth grade teacher once told him that there's an inactive volcano in Sussex County.

3. There's a pizzeria in every strip mall,  called Brother's Pizza, or Anthony's or Pizza King or the Real Pizza King, or Anthony's II.

4. Most unreal reality TV shows characters are from New Jersey, specifically from Northern New Jersey.

5. Highest incidence of murders gone wrong. Florida would be the second place for this honor. Whenever we start watching episode of 48 Hours and the premise is about an abandoned car with a decomposing, faceless body in the trunk and a Florida license plate, you can bet it was found in New Jersey.

6. Most intense road rage in any state. Yes, that is true. We are back to the beginning of this post.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cold Weather Anxiety

When it gets really cold like this, I have this irrational fear that something terrible will happen to me and I'll be left out in the elements. I'll lock my keys in my car, or go out to check the mail in my socks and the door will shut in the wind, or I'll sleepwalk into the night in my new penguin Christmas pajamas. Or I'll be tempted to do something impulse, like stick my tongue on the door handle and be frozen there (this thought just crossed my mind a moment ago when I stepped outside, in my socks, to check the temperature for myself. Just for a second, the evil demon who lives inside me and whispers that I should just eat one more frosting-covered graham cracker, suggested that it would be fun to see if my tongue would stick to metal. I hurried inside, unharmed, but shaken).

Would you rather be stuck in the cold or in the sweltering heat? If you answered "cold" immediately, you've clearly never visited Florida in the summertime, when the heat is so bad it's like a physical being, like suddenly being enveloped in a glove or submerged in warm water--you can't move, you can't think, and there's no way to cool down immediately except to step into a Winn Dixie and stick your head in the frozen foods freezer.

At least in the cold, you might survive for a bit by running in place or doing jumping jacks. In oppressive heat, even fanning yourself results in sweat trickling down the back of your neck. In the cold, maybe you could turn pioneerish and call on all of the knowledge you gained at age eight from reading all of the Little House in the Prairie books and use your bare hands to carve out an igloo shelter. And then another thing I learned from my pre-pubscent reading is that freezing to death isn't completely unpleasant--you just go to sleep and your heart slows and slows until it stops. Thanks, Jack London, for conveying this in "To Build a Fire" required reading for all middle schoolers. I read that while we lived in Florida, and just couldn't figure out what he was doing in the wilderness in the first place. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Bachelor: Season 345

Have only watched a teeny tiny bit of this tonight, because Luke is here and he is too young still for the amount of cleavage this show allows. But in the little bit I did see, I've discovered that Juan Pablo is indeed a hot soccer player dad with a heart of gold and penchant for moussing his hair up (i.e. possible experiencing early male pattern baldness). He likes to illustrate his foreignness by speaking with an accent and talking to his four year daughter in Spanish. I don't quite trust anyone who has two first names--like Billy Francis, John David,  Mike Barry--all suspicious characters.

The women are your usual fair, seven of them are nurses, five of them have someone important who died in their lives (including one woman whose dead father recorded a wedding wish for his future son in law that he'll never meet), every single one of them has perfect teeth, and one has bad skin. I didn't meet all of the girls, but I'm sure the producers threw in one or two with a smidgen of ethnicity who will remain on the show for exactly two episodes. Why can't they throw in a couple of regular looking women, or like, one super large girl, or a basketball player--oh, I just remembered that they did once have the girl with one arm. But they're all aspiring actresses anyway (I'm certain you have to submit your head shot to be on The Bachelor or Bachelorette). I've found from past episodes that I really only have to watch the last thirty minutes to catch up.

Since Dan and I live together, maybe we'll make some Bachelor videos. I'll keep you posted.

We made this one of Dan as Juan Pablo about to give out the rose to the lady who didn't want it. Dan is unaware that he has only 15 seconds to get all of this in--we will use Flip from now on.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Downton Eye Rolling

I'm not a British historian and if you asked me what time period Downton Abbey takes place, I would have to guess--like, I know it's post-WW I, the beginning of the Charleston, flapper era. I would never say that it's still Victorian times (is it?), so, clearly, I cannot be trusted to notice anachronistic details, but I'm just wondering, when did eye rolling as a response come into vogue? If this was a freshman rhetorical essay, the answer would be, "Since the beginning of time, eye rolling has been one way of expressing sarcasm and dismay." But it seemed that everyone in last night's episode was responding with the eye roll, well, truly, the cook, mostly. Daisy is too naive and stupid to even think to roll her eyes, and Edna (is that her name? The least attractive sister?) lacks the irony to eye-roll, but I just noticed that others were doing this, and using words like, "sure" and "all right" which seemed too modern somehow.

Aside from this, the episode had many uninteresting side stories--I couldn't tell you which one was the least interesting--perhaps the new maid in cahoots with the conniving butler--and there were a few times where what happened was a little too convenient (Lady Crawley happening to overhear Nanny Bumpo speak a racial slur to the young "half-breed" baby; that one lad running into Anna and that pretty visitor slumming it at the dance hall, same pretty visitor being able to change into a maid's uniform in fourteen seconds and change back again). But still, but still. It's better than any episode of NCIS or CNIS or Law and Order or Two and a Half Men, for Christ's sake. For the sets and costumes alone and Maggie Smith's sometimes weak, sometimes pithy one liners, I'll continue to watch.