Archive for June, 2010

29
Jun
10

Why Soccer Fails to Capture the Interest of Americans

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about why Americans will never embrace the sport of “football.” The most common theory seems to relate to the length-of-play to points scored ratio (as seen on facebook: How is watching soccer like going to the disco? Everybody gets all sweaty, and nobody scores).

I have a different theory, which relates to the American ideal of fairness, especially in sport.

Soccer as it is today is just too subjective.

Firstly: What’s up with the “extra time” tacked on to the end of the game, supposedly reflecting the amount of time lost for fouls, injuries, out-of-bounds, etc.? It seems to me like an opportunity ripe for corruption, as well as completely subjective (who makes that decision anyway? does anybody know?) Now I can understand that this might have been a relevant approach I don’t know, back before we had clocks, but here we are in the 21st century, with laser technology and timers that can place swimmers and skiers within thousandths of seconds, but we can’t stop the time when the ball goes out of bounds? Maybe they could talk to someone, like the NBA or the NFL, and ask them how they do it.

Secondly: what gets called a foul and what doesn’t? You can watch 10 minutes of soccer and there are 30 whistles; for the next 30 minutes, while the players wrestle each other to the ground, kick each other in the jaw, or throw themselves to the grass in a writhing squirming heap because someone came into their airspace, nary a whistle is blown.

Thirdly: the continued insistence on refusing to use video technology to review mildly important calls, you know, like questionable goals in international competition.

Vague, arbitrary, archaic. Not fair.

In a related story, the president of FIFA has apologized for the refereeing errors, and vowed that the discussion regarding the use of video technology will be reopened in July (after the World Cup is over; that should help). He insists, though, that this discussion is only going to be regarding what he refers to as “goal-line technology.” While that’s a start, I don’t think it goes far enough. Could someone at least hand someone a stopwatch?

28
Jun
10

What?

Can someone please explain to me what she’s talking about? And how is it that she can seem to be reading from a prepared speech and still be completely incoherent? I’ve heard better speeches from middle-schoolers running for “office.”

The best part is when she compares the tragic death of a woman protester on the streets of Tehran to students (oh wait, I’m speaking to students, crap, I mean) political operatives, “not students necessarily” (phew! good save! that was close!) “dumpster diving” to “prove that someone requested a bendy straw.”

What?

Oh, wait, she clears it all up in her next statements, when she asks whether these same students might make a better use of their time addressing their president in protest, rather than protesting her appearance at Conservative U. Oh! So political freedoms, rights of free speech, and personal obligation to the above are important ideals, but only if used in support of HER agenda. I get it. Thank you so much for clarifying.

I guess she’s proven one point: if a woman of her caliber can make it this far in the political realm of the good ol’ U S of A, anything is possible.

Sheesh.

27
Jun
10

Grace I

You know those moments, when everything just seems right, and the world gleams golden like the perfect peach?

Today, in the car: the breeze is trying to blow away a little of today’s humidity while the sun finally shines, my daughter and her best friend have their two little ebony-haired heads bent together in the back seat of the car, Christie McVie is singing Songbird from my iPod, husband is waiting at home to grill buffalo burgers to eat with the red-potato salad (with green beans, capers, and hard boiled egg) and cucumbers in yogurt and vinegar, accompanied by a charming little Spanish Pinot Grigio. . .one of those moments you wish you could hold in your hand.

25
Jun
10

Can You Believe It?

It has recently come to my attention that not everyone can decipher handwriting written in the soap on his/her back in the bathtub/shower. I guess having sisters comes in handy in more ways than one realizes.

25
Jun
10

Still Here

Haven’t posted for several days, busy taking-care-of things. Some thought-provoking moments, but having a hard time bringing things into focus; maybe I’m reading too many novels.

Spent a few days visiting my mom. She has “a” glioblastoma, diagnosed 3 1/2 years ago, and is struggling with the effects of long-term chemo, the latest “round” having gone on now for a year. She’s looking forward to the doctor-recommended break and hoping that it will allow her to regain some energy, but is also afraid that it will give the tumors a chance to grow. It is, and has been, a mixed blessing, because she has far exceeded the usual prognosis for this type of cancer, but the chemo is really wearing her out. My daughter and I gardened for her (she’s trying to sell her house, and her yard looks like something from a magazine, which is especially remarkable considering she can only work in 20-minute increments. She quoted my beloved great-grandmother to me: “I work for a while, then rest for two whiles.”) The next day I scoured her rather large deck and harvested lilac sprouts to bring home and plant in my yard. Exhausting, but good, honest work, and allowed me to reconnect with muscles I had forgotten about.

Yesterday I watched world cup soccer with my husband, and ordered flooring for our upcoming house-remodel project (old laminate crap and filthily disgusting mold-and-dust-and-pet-hair ridden carpet being exchanged for travertine and bamboo). Then we planted the lilacs, hoping the rampaging deer will leave them alone, and edged the flower bed. Another day of good, honest work, (GHW), and have become acquainted with even more muscles.

Today we decided that we couldn’t put all those beautiful floors in and not do something about the kids’ computer desk — a desk I tried to refinish once by painting it white to match the cupboards, but hadn’t managed to remove enough finish first so it basically peeled like a kid with a bad sunburn. Or glue — remember when you were a kid and painted glue on your hands so you could peel it off when it dried? My daughter had decided, helpful girl, that the desk looked better without the paint, so systematically peeled little tiny bits of it whenever she was at the computer, creating a wonderfully skin-diseased mottled effect. So my husband and I worked lengthily with hazardous, toxic chemicals, taking turns dashing into the house to wash the caustic substance off every time it dripped on us, and scraped and scoured and scrubbed. Still not sure it’s going to “work” but at least the paint’s off and we’re looking at mostly bare wood.  I’ve now become acquainted with even aNOTHER set of muscles and have minor chemical burns on my arm. Tomorrow we get to start sanding! Yippee!!

At the end of the day’s exertions I made us a pitcher of strawberry margaritas (with half the tequila I used in the last batch; we’re too old to get hammered before dinner) and, sitting on the deck and enjoying a beautiful June evening, finished reading The Other, by David Guterson. A lovely book: two young men, one privileged, one middle-class, become friends in high school. The privileged boy, John William, raised by a mentally-ill mother and an emotionally absent and ineffective father, becomes more and more eccentric through high school and the beginnings of a college education, until he becomes a complete recluse and lives in a limestone cave in the Pacific Northwest “bush.” His friend and blood-brother Neil Countryman (a less-than-subtle but effective name which implies every-man, and the down-home values of the peasant) visits, and supplies, him on occasion while pursuing a middle-class life (“selling out to Hamburgerland”): high school English teacher, wife, two sons. John William dies, and is eventually found, at which point it is revealed that he has left $440 million to his friend. Neil and his wife struggle with what to do with this money, what will it change? What would they like to stay the same? Can it?

Eventually. . .”Jamie and I turned in the ’92 Civic and bought a hybrid, which we recently took to the Canadian Okanagan. . .We walked, swam, biked, sunned, tasted wines, ate well, bought pottery, and watched the sun go down, and though all of this was fun, none of it made us happy. We both wanted something else that was unnamable. It might be forever unnamable. In this regard, money changes nothing, which Jamie and I knew before we had it.”

Neil is an avid reader, and does find that the inheritance encourages his tendency to indulge at used-book stores. Near the end of the book he recounts some of the wisdom imparted to new parents by Dr. Benjamin Spock:

1. You know more than you think you do.

2. Parents are human — they have needs.

3. Some children are a lot more difficult than others.

4. At best, there’s a lot of hard work and deprivation.

5. Needless self-sacrifice sours everybody.

6. Parents should expect something from their children.

7. Parents are bound to get cross.

to which I think

1. Maybe; but maybe I know less and then we’re all screwed.

2. Definitely. Forgot it for about 20 years. . .

3. Ya’ think?

4. Ditto.

5. Yes, it does.

6. And be willing to wait 25 years to get it.

7. Phew!

And so on, to the final line of the book, which is “It’s not the words but the music that counts.”

I like that.

20
Jun
10

W. S. Merwin, On the Subject of Poetry

I do not understand the world, Father.

By the millpond at the end of the garden

There is a man who slouches listening

To the wheel revolving in the stream, only

There is no wheel there to revolve.

Continue reading ‘W. S. Merwin, On the Subject of Poetry’

19
Jun
10

The Stone Angel

by Margaret Laurence, written in 1964.

Hagar is born on the prairies of Canada, raised by her store-keeper father to be “better” than those around her. This endeavour culminates in her being sent to finishing school, where she learns embroidery, French, menu-planning for a 5-course meal, poetry, how to take a firm hand with servants, and the most becoming way of dressing her hair. In other words, nothing of any use at all, except to alienate her from her surroundings.

She becomes enamored of and marries a man exactly wrong for her, the opposite of that which her father would have hoped for.

Her life is filled with unhappiness and disappointment: the son who grows up to tend to her in her old age treated with bitterness and suspicion; the son she pinned all of her hopes on becomes the image of his father, uncouth and coarse, and dies tragically on a dare.

Hagar struggles against her age, her loss of independence, her fear that her surviving son and his wife want only to sell her house and her “things” — things which bear great sentimental value for her despite their commemoration of moments less than satisfying.

There’s a moment of radiance: when visited in the hospital by the minister of her daughter-in-law’s church, he appeases Hagar by singing a favored hymn.

I would have wished it. This knowing comes upon me so forcefully, so shatteringly, and with such a bitterness as I have never felt before. I must always, always, have wanted that–simply to rejoice. How is it that I never could? I know, I know. How long have I known? Or have I always known, in some far crevice of my heart, some cave too deeply buried, too concealed? Every good joy I might have held, in my man or any child of mine or even the plain light of morning, of walking the earth, all were forced to a standstill by some brake of proper appearances–oh, proper to whom? When did I ever speak the heart’s truth?

Her reproaches return within moments, followed immediately by her regret. Oh, I am unchangeable, unregenerate. I go on speaking in the same way, always, and the same touchiness rises within me at the slightest thing.

This dichotomy defines the book — Hagar in turns plaintive, needy, defensive; determined, remorseful, even occasionally kind. [I am reminded of my grandma — candid, opinionated, full of fire until the last.] She becomes caught up in her memories and her regrets, losing contact with the present while recognizing its absence. In one of the closing passages she recounts a passing visit to the graves of her husband and father, the stone angel which marks her father’s grave teetering, weathered and worn. Despite her panic upon a previous visit, when the angel had been deliberately tumbled, and vandalized through the mortifying application of lipstick, this time she doesn’t bother to set it to rights, knowing that really it doesn’t matter; that what remains there, and what was, is over.

As in many places in this book, this realization, this profound insight, is short-lived; perhaps the most powerful, and real, revelation of them all.

17
Jun
10

Vote for me or else!

What is up with politicians using firearms in their political ads? Aren’t there laws against voter coercion? Maybe we’re supposed to be so intimidated we overlook that he’s an idiot.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=best+political+ad+ever&aq=0]

15
Jun
10

This Close!

Okay, thought I’d dodged it because Toby of the previous post has apparently been adopted. But then I saw this:

I am in serious trouble.

Isn’t there a 1-800-what-am-I-thinking number I can call?

15
Jun
10

A New Kind of Hotline

Help! I need a hotline to call to help defuse an emergency situation.

I want this dog

I have time for a dog from May until August. From September through April I don’t have time to pee. I need someone to stop me from doing something rash.

(But look how cute he is!!!)

14
Jun
10

Really Beautiful Writing

Home, by Marilynn Robinson.

Actually, anything by Marilynn Robinson (Housekeeping, Gilead), but this is what I’m reading today.

She went to the porch to watch him walk away down the road. He was too thin and his clothes were weary, weary. There was nothing of youth about him, only the transient vigor of a man acting on a decision he refused to reconsider or regret. No, there might have been some remnant of the old aplomb. Who would bother to be kind to him? A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their face. Ah, Jack.


12
Jun
10

World Cup Soccer

I love watching soccer — it’s like hockey stretched way out and in slow motion, so there’s time to watch the play develop: the positioning, the passing, the intricate footwork. The goalie does seem like a rather small person in front of a really large net, but that’s probably from watching hockey, (I’m married to a Canadian; I think it was in the vows), in which the goalie is a rather large person in front of a really small net.

My husband found this really entertaining article about why Canada can’t make it to the World Cup. I especially enjoyed the line “Even the United States is in the World Cup, although, in terms of excitement generated among U.S. fans, soccer still lags well behind ice fishing, demolition derby, lawn darts and league bowling.”

This lack of interest in real pro soccer always puzzles me — this is the sport that is played by probably 90% of American children, and as the author of the article points out, the reason we drive mini-vans. What happens to all of those soccer players when they grow up? Is there just a generational lag, and we will see an expanding interest in and support of this sport as these children grow up and want an outlet for all of those finely honed skills?

We then investigated the basic rules of soccer, trying to determine when the ball is thrown in vs. kicked in vs. subject to a penalty kick. I’m not sure we understand it any better than we did before. I also need some help understanding offsides. I remember my son explaining this to me after almost every game when he played in middle and high school. I still don’t get it. Any help would be appreciated.

And what is up with this random assigning of “extra minutes” at the end of the game? Seems like an opportunity ripe for corruption. Shouldn’t the game just be over when it’s over? And if they want to account for extra time on whistles, couldn’t they just stop the clock like they do in every other game on the planet?

Anyway, we just watched Argentina beat Nigeria. Pretty good game. I was especially impressed by the fact that both teams seemed to be able to concentrate while apparently being menaced by a giant mosquito.

p.s. Disturbing footnote: I was looking for a suitable image to use, and on the first Google page that came up under the term “World Cup Soccer” 5 of 25 pictures were of scantily clad women in provocative poses. Seriously? This is the Google brilliant search engine at work for us, helping us find the most relevant links? Sheesh.

11
Jun
10

Would you Rather. . .?

Husband is putting on new pair of shorts for the first time.

Husband: Wow, there ARE a lot of pockets!

Me: Yup; you look like you’re ready to go on safari.

Husband: Well it’s important to have all of these. Think I’ll latch up these back ones and use the side ones for my wallet. You know how men end up with all of those misalignment and back problems from sitting on their wallets for years.

Me: Yeah, it’s really tough on you guys. Women only have to deal with pregnancy; men with the havoc wreaked on their bodies by their wallets. Could you give me a moment? I’m all verklemt.

10
Jun
10

The New Gaunt

I’m looking and looking online to post a picture of Jamie Bochert in Marc Jacobs sunglasses in the newest edition of Vogue. No luck.

Needless to say, I just don’t get it.

She looks okay here:

but in almost every other picture I find of her she looks like a man

or like she wants to be in Kiss

or like the Wicked Witch of the West.

Forget about looking for women with normal bodies, shouldn’t models at least be attractive? She frightens me.

Maybe it’s just me.

10
Jun
10

My Sister’s Keeper

I generally avoid reading “Mass-Market Fiction,” but was trolling through the library the other day while my daughter collected 3 days worth of reading material (8 books; she’s a fiend) and decided to give this book, by Jodi Picoult, a try. I should have been warned off by the fact that both the title and her name were written on the cover in all lower-case letters, a device better served by poetry, but it was obviously a weak moment, and here I am.

I finished this book yesterday in the bathtub. If it hadn’t been a library book I would have thrown it across the room in disgust.

There’s a good premise: the daughter of a loving couple is diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia at the age of 3. When the parents hear that finding close enough matches for donations of things like cord blood, lymphocytes, and bone marrow from the general population is nearly impossible, they decide to genetically “create” a child that will be the closest possible match and then become pregnant through in vitro. And so they do. Now this younger sister is loved by the family, and there are many beautiful family moments/memories, although the mother sees everything through the lens of keeping Kate healthy. The younger sister is never asked if she wants to go through yet another painful procedure to help her sister, unless you want to call “But of course you want to help Kate” asking.

The premise of the story is that Kate’s kidney is now failing as a result of her latest treatments, and Anna, the younger sister, has had enough. She retains a lawyer to fight for medical emancipation, and the family struggle begins. It is clear that this is a difficult decision for her, that she wants her sister to live, but at the same time she wants her own life and seems to think it’s time to claim it.

It’s a good story; there are a lot of thought-provoking scenes and arguments made, which kept me reading throughout episodes of misgiving prompted by sentences such as:

“My mother’s words hang like too-ripe fruit, and when they fall on the floor and burst, she shudders into motion.”

“I weave in and out of traffic, sewing up a scar.” (this, supposedly from a drug-using 16-year-old arsonist)

“Of all the animals in the Africa section, [zebras] have always been my favorite. I can give or take elephants; I never can find the cheetah–but the zebras captivate me. They’d be one of the few things that would fit if we were lucky enough to live in a world that’s black or white.”

Ick.

In some ways, though, these are the least of the book’s problems.

First of all, the author alternates between the “voice” of each character — Dad, Mom, Kate, Anna, Jesse (arsonist older brother), Campbell (attorney), Julia (guardian ad litem appointed by the court). But the voice never changes. If you’re going to do this, you need to do it convincingly; if you can’t do it convincingly, find a different way to weave together your narrative.

[Spoiler alert — if you want to read this book, and want to be manipulated as the author intends, do not read further.]

Then there’s the attorney retained by Anna, who has a service dog, and a series of flip answers to anyone who questions it. His need for this dog is kept deliberately hidden from us so that he can have a surprise grand mal seizure at a strategic moment in court. I feel manipulated.

There’s also the fact that Campbell and Julia were mis-matched lovers in high school, until Campbell mysteriously abandoned her and Julia spent the next 15 years going to Harvard Law and healing her broken heart. Of course, Campbell is not the snake we are led to believe he was: he abandoned her because, 2 days after graduation he was in the car accident that initiated his epilepsy and didn’t think it would be fair to Julie to be a burden to her. Again, manipulated.

But the ultimate manipulation. All of the questions of family love and devotion and loyalty and sacrifice are presented, questions I imagine any of us would struggle with — what do you do as a parent to save your child? How much is enough? How much is too much? When do you let it stop? Good questions from both the parents’ standpoints as well as that of the patient herself. For 415 pages the reader is engrossed in these questions, along with: how valuable is your life, your body, your right to choose, in comparison with the life of someone you love. We find out near the end that Anna only fought for medical emancipation because Kate asked her to — Kate had had enough of the fight, enough of a life of illness and hospitals and chemo and pain. This is believable, but already a bit of a cop-out. Why not pursue the whole question, and have Anna just fight for the right to her own body?

On the 415th page, after this emancipation has been granted, Anna is killed in a car accident. It takes 3 more pages to get to the end of the book, at which point: Kate has received Anna’s kidney, and 8 years later is still surviving in the longest-running most miraculous remission ever; the clichéd delinquent older son, Jess has graduated from the police academy.

So, so manipulated.

As I was ranting to my husband about how disgusted I was with this book, I got a nosebleed. It may not have been related, but. . .

09
Jun
10

Here’s to Tomorrow

Have you ever had a day that you just feel like everything’s slightly wrong from the start?

Started the day reading my favorite blogger; her son (23? 25?) died last night. The Gulf of Mexico is now the world’s largest oil slick, and keeps getting larger and slicker. My husband’s car, worth $2500, and which we just spent $1500 repairing after a freak mishap, had his transmission blow on the highway. One of my very best friends, who went off to France to pursue the most romantic, exciting dream of her life is probably coming home 6 weeks early, disappointed and brokenhearted.

It doesn’t help that I’m approaching that time of the month that every peri-menopausal woman looks forward to with apprehension and dread. Although I’m not foolish enough to blame all of the former on the latter, I’m self-aware enough to realize that it could have a definite impact on my ability to cope.

My question for all of you is: would a martini at this juncture be a tonic? or a mistake?

08
Jun
10

How Could (We) They?

We’re killing our planet.

We should stop.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/05/01/us/20100501-oil-spill-tracker.html?ref=us

07
Jun
10

Let’s Hear it for the Teachers. . .Well, Some of Them

I just helped for 2 1/2 hours at my daughter’s school this afternoon for “Fun and Fitness” day. My job was to supervise a sack race and a beach ball game where pairs of students needed to get a beach ball from one end of the pitch to the other and back without using their arms or hands.

I’m exhausted.

As for teachers, those people who do this all day every day for 2/3 of the year and then go home to take care of their own children: We don’t pay these people enough.

But. . .

Some of these classes come up and the teacher says “get in your teams” and the children line up and await further instruction.

Some of the classes arrive and mill around in confusion and take all of the beach balls and throw them at each other and don’t listen to the instructions while the teacher stands in the shade chatting with parents.

Is there a way that the first teachers in the first group could get paid more than the teachers in the 2nd one?

My oldest son (20 now, and a physics major at a prestigious midwestern college) demonstrated a lot of intelligence at a very young age. He had taught himself to read before starting kindergarten, and used to become confused when playing preschool games because he was trying to turn simple counting problems into computational ones. He loved homework so much that he would beg me to buy those little workbooks at the drugstore and he would do them at night (this is during his preschool and kindergarten years) for “fun.”

Then he went to first grade. Mrs. W. was a prim, pinched, unhappy woman who wanted students to sit in their chairs with their hands folded and to get their work done as efficiently as possible. If they were given a picture of a butterfly to color, Son #1 would decide to make a mosaic pattern out of all 48 crayons in his crayon box. If they were learning about bugs, Son #1 would spend the entire evening catching every bug he could find and collecting them in little plastic bowls to bring in to show the class the next day. If he didn’t just want to know what something was, but why, he would ask.

Mrs. W. was not happy.  Son #1 was perfectly willing to bring the picture home to complete; this was not acceptable. Son #1 asked too many questions; it disrupted her “teaching.” By the end of the year his handwriting had deteriorated to unreadable (and stays there still), and his primary concern was to get the work done as quickly as possible. “Good enough” was good enough.

I’m not sure he’s recovered from this mistreatment yet, and I deeply regret that I was too young and unsure of myself to do something about it.

Beyond the literal teaching that these people do, they have immense power to motivate, to inspire; or to deflate, to deter. These are the kinds of things that need to be recognized when evaluating teacher’s success; and probably more so than looking at the latest standardized test scores.

Now I’m going to go lie down and put a cool cloth on my forehead.

06
Jun
10

Brothers

Here’s a movie that repeatedly, through intermittent jarringly bad writing, fails to live up to its potential.

It’s a powerful story: young Marine (Sam) with two young daughters redeploys to Afghanistan shortly after his brother (Tommy) is released from prison. Shortly after (?) deployment, Sam is shot down in a helicopter, and presumed dead (although no body is found, nor dogtags, so this is an early weakness in the plot). Wife (Grace) and daughters mourn, somewhat messed-up brother steps up. He visits/plays with/entertains his nieces, fixes up his sister-in-law’s kitchen with the help of some bumbling contractor friends of his, apologizes to the victim of the crime that put him in jail in the first place.

As can maybe be expected, the brother (well-played by Jake Gyllenhall) and sister-in-law (adequately played by Natalie Portman) grow closer, to the point of a very poignant moment where they (only) kiss once. They decide immediately that they mean too much to each other as family to allow anything else to happen.

Meanwhile, Sam, a Marine commander of an intermediate rank, portrayed unevenly by Toby Maguire, has been taken prisoner along with the only other survivor of the helicopter crash, a less Marine-like private. They are kept captive for months, and routinely tortured, as their captors try to a) extract information and b) coerce them into confessing on video that they (that is, the American military) have no business being in Afghanistan. Victim to the stress of the general situation and a particularly frightening dénouement, Sam commits an unspeakable act, but is eventually found and returns home, where he has to try to deal with society as he no longer knows it and wrestle with the fear that his wife has betrayed him with his brother.

First, Toby Maguire as a Marine seems to be desperately miscast. I understand that physical and emotional rigidity might be desirable in this case, but in the character rather than the acting.  It’s also hard to get past that, until the very end of the movie (where he somewhat effectively plays a desperately troubled man), he looks and sounds like a 15-year old with a bad haircut and adenoids. There is no true exploration of his relationship with his wife, his daughters, his brother, before he leaves for Afghanistan, no emotional context except maybe for the clichéd “Why can’t you (Tommy) be more like your brother (Sam)?” military father. Because of this lack of context, of empathy for the characters, trying to become invested in the story that follows is made that much more difficult.

There are also many (many many) places which seem to have suffered from the equivalent of 9th-grade writing and/or poorly considered editor’s cuts. I got the feeling on numerous occasions that someone had arbitrarily decided the movie absolute MUST come in under 1:50, so many key conversations were reduced to pithy single lines which failed to communicate or to convince.

Example:

Daughter #1, being tucked into bed after dad has suffered from a violent outburst, confessing that she liked it better when Daddy was “dead” and wishes Uncle Tommy could be her Daddy instead: “Will Daddy be okay?” Mom: “Of course.” Daughter: “Thanks, Mommy.”  Well, that was easy.

Sam calling his brother from prison after a violent and frightening altercation: “You’re my brother.” Tommy nods. Ooooooookay. . .

Closing scene, Sam finally confesses to wife the atrocity he committed, in a single sentence: subject-verb-object. Wife nods, embraces husband, the camera pans away. No horror? No explanation? I guess it’s believable that she had an idea (there’s an earlier scene in which this is a possibility), but there’s no drama, no emotion. Realism and believability sacrificed for a stylized minimalism that just doesn’t work.

Another problem is a lack of chronological context. We don’t really know how much time has passed from deployment to capture; from capture to crisis; from crisis to return. We don’t know how long he’s home before it all starts to fall apart. This could, and should, have been done much more clearly.

It’s interesting that The Hurt Locker seemed to communicate all of the angst and drama so much more effectively in such a drily devastating way, including the soldier’s inability to return home and fit back into his family life.

This movie hinted at a valid and powerful exploration of the difficulty of life for a member of the military: go to boot camp, be conditioned to be courageous and strong and capable of dealing out death; return home, without any kind of reverse conditioning, be open and communicative, understanding and kind.

The failure to live up to this potential makes it even more disappointing.

06
Jun
10

Two New Pet Peeves

This is the strangest toothbrush I have ever tried to use.

My mouth just doesn’t understand. And those weird rubber nubby things that are supposed to be for scouring all of those nasty little germies off of your tongue scrape painfully against my lips and cheeks. I’ve never understood those anyway — is there some kind of dental etiquette that prevents one from brushing off one’s tongue with the brush?

And while we all may hate facial tissues that have been saturated with that greasy substance they call “lotion,” I have made a recent discovery. Puffs Ultra.

Thick and soft like a downy cloud, but they leave what I call tissue-poop all over nose.

I know I probably sound like everybody’s grandmother, but does everything have to be so complicated? Simple Puffs (because another thing everybody knows is that Puffs are softer than Kleenex), a basic toothbrush, socks that stay up, pot scrubbers that don’t fall apart on the 5th use.

Is that too much to ask?

05
Jun
10

The Complex Male

Men play sports so they can beat the crap out of each other, and hug.

Behold:

What’s not to like? They get to embrace (pun intended, sorry), the aggressive side of their natures while benefiting from the warm, physical camaraderie of the “pack” in a situation for which they can not be ridiculed.

03
Jun
10

Lycra!

I HATE stretch jeans. I accidentally purchased a pair about a month ago, and didn’t realize it until after I had cut the tags off and worn them for an hour or so.

They fit so perfectly when you put them on, and an hour later they’re sagging like the skin around an elephant’s ankles.

I think we should start a movement where clothing manufacturers are required, if selling clothing one would not automatically assume contained lycra (i.e. yoga wear and bathing suits), to have a tag, at least 8″ long and 3″ wide and prominently displayed, that says WARNING: CONTAINS LYCRA on it.

One can only imagine that these women feel equally betrayed.


Please comment below if you would like to “sign” this petition.


02
Jun
10

Is it just me? or are men in better shape than ever?

There is now apparently a garment, labeled “Shapewear,” available to help men “streamline their appearance.” At first I thought this was some kind of a joke, a theory which wasn’t threatened in any way by the fact that one of the spokesman for the item is named Nickelson Wooster and that much of the article sounded like an advertisement “[Although Mr. Viscusi is 39, he wears Spanx* T-shirts routinely. He recently wore them to see executives from Bravo and VH1. ‘It gave me pecs, gave me definition, it gave me confidence,’ he said. . .”].

And maybe it could only be a good thing for the world if men felt a little bit more of the pressure women feel to look a particular way. A little shared pain in the interests of empathy and all that.

One problem is that the men who really need this particular item are most likely the men who are walking around without any shirt on at all.

The other is that I think most women would just appreciate a little less pressure.

Instead we have created yet another market to appease yet another set of insecurities people feel about their bodies. Instead of learning more about how to eat healthfully, taking actions against the salts, sugars, and chemicals hidden in our foods, getting more exercise, and developing self-esteem which includes acceptance of ourselves and our imperfections, we have managed to devise yet another way to improve our “appearance” without actually changing anything.

To paraphrase the woman who has looked in a mirror after having removed her Spanx “foundation garment” (now THERE’S a eumphemism), “I look like a blob, an amoeba.” Or how about the man realizing that the “shapewear” garment he wears routinely has only served to mislead his date, and can only cause her to wonder how he has managed to gain 45 lbs between the restaurant and the bedroom.

The thing that really cracks me up is the myriad ways men justify wearing these garments. Rather than just admitting that they weigh a little bit more than they should, they emphasize the fact that it improves their posture, eases their back pain, and/or masks their man boobs nipples. One man complains about the tendency of undershirts to bunch up, causing it to look like you are wearing “. . .a tire around your waist.” It’s not the shirt, dear, it’s the tire around your waist. They don’t even call it what it is — a girdle foundation garment — it’s “Shapewear.” But no, actually: it’s spandex and rubber made into a garment that’s one-to-two sizes too small for you and hides the fact that you eat ice cream every night when you really shouldn’t.

Apparently there is also such a thing as “profile-enhancing underwear,”

which seems to act as, and I quote, “the equivalent of a ‘push-up bra’ for men.” Seriously? Do we really want need to see more of That?

Supposedly these garments have not been designed to “take off” pounds. The woman who designed them points out that stars as lean as Gwyneth Paltrow wear Spanx, and that she herself designed them when she was a size 2. Maybe it’s just me, but what exactly is the spanx holding in if you’re a size 2? Your kneecaps? Your spine? And if Gwyneth feels the need to wear it

I’m thinking that maybe the rest of us should just stop going out in public altogether.

Maybe we should all just wear Spanx/Shapewear and never take them off.

*Why “Spanx”? Why?




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