This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns by Elizabeth Kelly

I truly enjoyed this book. It started off a little slow and, well, a bit overwrought with its prose; I almost put it down as a DNF (did not finish). But this would have been my second DNFer in a row (I got nearly 60 pages into Voices before I decided it wasn't for me) and, well, despite me considering it to be a bit pretentious, I did enjoy the characters a bit.

And boy, am I glad I stuck with it because it really turned out to be a great read - a good mystery with a nice twist that I didn't see coming and great characters, with one especially unforgettable, one-of-a-kind: Greer Camperdown. I read some of the reviews and many of the positive ones were thinking like me: if this were a movie, who would play Greer? And Greer would be the show stealer.

But the protagonist of this story is 13 year old Riddle, AKA Jimmy, AKA Hoffa, because, well, she's named after Jimmy Hoffa (Riddle James Camperdown). She lives on Cape Cod, with a well-named family, who's father Godfrey, AKA Camp, is running for Congress and her mom, the wonderful Greer, is (forever) an actress who had won an academy award. She is very theatrical and is always smoking a cigarette. She is caustic in the way she speaks, and she speaks her mind all the time.

The rest of my review will contain spoilers and I recommend reading the rest only if you've read the book because this will spoil the book for you. And the book is worth a read.

We spend the summer of 1972 with Riddle, although the book opens with her as an adult. In 1972, we learn about Riddle coming across the very eerie, creepy, make-your-skin-crawl Gula. How Elizabeth Kelly could write a character so evil with so few words, I have no earthly idea, but she managed to do that with Gula, a European immigrant who was the stable hand for their rich neighbor friend, Gin.

One afternoon, as Riddle searches for a missing puppy in Gin's stable, she hears strange moans and sees strange things: clumps of hair tinged red. Gula appears and taunts her about what she may have seen, or not, behind a closed door. She says nothing, takes the now found puppy and leaves. Her instinct knows something is very, very bad but what, she has no idea.

A few days later, and for most of the novel, we learn that Greer's ex-fiancee, and another rich, well-known aristocrat, Michael Devlin...his youngest son is missing. They suspect the 15 year old may have run away, or did something foolish and will be home soon. After Riddle sees the older brother, Harry, and his unique colored hair, she realizes that the same red-tinged clump of hair in the barn is the same color and now suspects that Gula did something to the brother.

The barn has burned down along with any evidence but it becomes clear that Gula has indeed done something malicious, as he continues to allude to things to Riddle. He stares at her, calls her his friend, even mentions that he caught her with a boy at the barn the day the barn caught on fire. He follows her and pops out of nowhere to goad her.

As this goes on, she befriends Harry, who is 19. She falls for him but is torn by the knowledge of Gula, the brother, and the guilt that she's said nothing.

This is the book but there are more things that go on, between Michael Devlin and Camp. Greer is just witty and amazing. So many paragraphs of her talking that just make this novel worth the read.

At a party at their house, Greer goes on about some of the guests in her home...most of them are Camp's political supporters:
"Camp, who are these people? That woman with the big hair, Harold Bristol's mistress. I can't believe he brought her here along with his wife. She looks as if she represents Arkansas in a frog jump-off. The only woman more unattractive than her is his wife. Such a royal pain in the ass. Silly manners and affected demeanor. Meanwhile, I can see the dirt under her fingernails. As for that wretched couple from your campaign office, they have all the appeal of a mime struggling against an imaginary wind. That repulsive Gordon Crenshaw -- the man is a primitive reminder of what life would be like without Vitamin C."
My other favorite Greer quote. The discussion about Harry, and whether he cared that he was rich.

Greer, to Riddle: "Do you have any idea how much money that boy has to play with? Unbelievable."
Riddle: "I don't care. That's gross."
Greer: "Spare me your uninformed teen ideology."

I love that and I am going to use it on my own girls. :)

But after this Greer says:
"...Of course, he can afford to be indifferent. There is no God. Wait. I take that back, there is a God. There must be. The universe is just too perverse -- there must be an idiosyncratic mind at the helm."

Riddle is great too. She throws back punches at her mom. Camp is a great dad. And Harry is to-die for. But, in the end, the twist is the one that caught me by surprise, which made this book fall into that whole "indie" movie-like category...because it doesn't actually end with a bow. It doesn't end happy nor sadly. It just ends.

A great author. I definitely plan to read more from her. Yes. She uses a LOT of "big" words but once you can overcome that, it becomes part of her prose.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

This review will contain spoilers. I suggest, if you have not read this wonderful, amazing, beautiful novel, you stop reading this, get the book (buy it, if you must - YOU MUST), and read it. It's only 313 pages. It's a fast read. I read it in less than two days.

I love this book. Love. Love. Love. Okay.

If you read the book, you would know that "okay" is Augustus's and Hazel Grace's "always". That's what my "Okay" means.

The novel is about a sixteen girl, Hazel, who has terminal cancer: thyroid with 'mets' in the lungs. She has been out of school for about three years because, well, she's terminal. She has to breathe with the help of oxygen.

She's pretty depressed but occasionally attends a cancer support group, especially at her mom's urging to socialize. It is here that she meets Augustus, friend to Isaac, the only kid she seems to 'bond' with, where they both sigh to one another at any support attendee's cheesy cancer story.

Augustus has recovered from osteosarcoma but lost his right leg to it. He is now NEC (no evidence of cancer) and totally enamored with Hazel. Hazel is wary but eventually, falls to his charming ways.

And Augustus is very, very charming. When he sees her for the first time, he stares at her. She is uncomfortable because, well, Augustus is very hot and she's not used to this kind of attention. But, she stares back and 'wins' the staring contest. After the support group meeting ends, she confronts Augustus, who continues to look at her:

"Why are you looking at me like that?"
Augustus half smiled. "Because you're beautiful. I enjoy looking at beautiful people, and I decided a while ago not to deny myself the simpler pleasures of existence."
Also, after Hazel shares her favorite novel with him, An Imperial Affliction, he decides to read it. She promised to call after reading the book he recommended to her:

So I called.
"Hazel Grace," he said upon picking up.
"So have you read it?"
"Well, I haven't finished it. It's six hundred fifty-one pages long and I've had twenty-four hours.:
"How far are you?"
"Four fifty-three."
"Withholding judgement! When can I see you?"
"Certainly not until you finish An Imperial Affliction."
"Then I'd better hang up and start reading.

He affectionately calls her Hazel Grace, while she is "Just Grace" to his dad (after she tried to correct the introduction) and to Isaac, she's "Hazel from Support Group". I just love the wit involved among these kids, and the wit in the mind of Hazel, and of course, in John Green.

As David Nicholl's was for One Day, John Green has written amazingly from the point of view of a female. Just spot on. I so enjoyed reading the mind of Hazel, the myriad of things that went through her head, and her relationship with Isaac, her family, and especially with Augustus.

Even more powerful was the intimacy of cancer and death. How he could write such pain, or such dark comedy, about dying, losing your eyesight, terminal illness, and the roster of dead people, and make it beautiful and haunting is just incredible.

I think about 100 pages in I started crying. Maybe even earlier. I don't know. But I didn't stop crying until I finished. It was just sad and beautiful at the same time.

There are WAY too many profound moments in this book. The entire book is just a great book of quotes. I'm glad I bought it.
“That's the thing about pain," Augustus said, and then glanced back at me. "It demands to be felt.”
“What a slut time is. She screws everybody.”  
“You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful.”  
"Even cancer isn't a bad guy really: Cancer just wants to be alive.”  
“You say you're not special because the world doesn't know about you, but that's an insult to me. I know about you.”  
The other main 'character' of this wondrous book is Hazel's favorite book, An Imperial Affair. The book, by the reclusive author, Peter Van Houton, ends in mid-sentence. And Hazel's 'dying' wish is to find out what happens to Anna (the main character, who also has cancer), her mother, the Tulip Man (who her mother is dating), and Sisyphus the hamster.

The problem is that the reclusive author, who has not published anything, not even a blog post, in 20 years, has sought exile in Amsterdam. Augustus has surprised Hazel by finding a way to communicate with him through his assistant, despite the fact that Hazel has never heard a peep from him from the many fan letters she has sent the author over the years.

Hazel then emails the assistant and asks the important questions: what has happened to Anna, did she die? Did her mother move to Holland with the Tulip Man? Where did Sisyphus go? Van Houten actually replies and tells her he will not answer her questions through writing for fear that she puts it out on the dreaded internet for others to see. If she wants to know, she must come to Amsterdam to hear it from him.

Because finance is low due to her illness, it looks dismal...and she has used up her Genie wish (aka Make A Wish) on a frivolous trip to Disney World. Augustus, on the other hand, has not used his and has made his wish to visit _his_ favorite author, with the person who introduced him to him...yes, Hazel. So he made his wish her wish.

And after a near-death ICU experience for Hazel, she gets the OK to go to Amsterdam, with her mom and Augustus. Only to find out that Van Houten is an alcoholic asshole who doesn't answer any of her questions and insults the both of them. His assistant quits out of disgust but the trip ends up being memorable for the two young lovers anyway.

It is beautiful...until Augustus reveals that his cancer has returned...full body.

And that's where we end's not Hazel that we lose but Augustus. Isaac loses his best friend, and in a wonderful pre-death eulogy that Augustus had asked for, this is what Isaac said...Isaac, who had gone blind after losing his other (good) eye to cancer:
"But I will say this: When the scientists of the future show up at my house with robot eyes and they tell me to try them on, I will tell the scientists to screw off, because I do not want to see a world without him."
The "robot eyes" came from Augustus, who had Hazel take a picture of him and blind Isaac standing next to a car that Isaac had just egged (his ex-girlfriend, who dumped him before his surgery because she didn't want to do it afterward...) so that Isaac could see it when robot eyes were created. :)

It's a beautiful story that I will read again. MiMi actually read this one before me...and asked that I read it before I went on to my next virtual book club selection so that she could talk to me about it.

It makes me want to re-read Looking for Alaska, the first John Green book I read last December that I neglected to write about. But I have a new-found appreciation for this great man.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

This Happened

After Mimi came to me and Tim about the troubles airing between her and CJ, we asked her to tell CJ to come to us. This is what took place. All of this was in a serious tone.

Tim: Did you pour dog food over your sister's head?
CJ: Yes.
Tim: Why?
CJ: Because I was mad.
Tim: You cannot dole out justice in this house. You need to come to me or mommy if you have a problem. We deliver justice in this house.
Tim: OK. That is all.

Unfortunately, the same conversation didn't take place with Mimi, who sought revenge when CJ returned. We heard something that sounded like buffalo galloping the western range. But all it was was our 10 year old daughter, chasing down CJ, apparently to throw rice on her.

This is one of those things that happen that I would never see coming.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

What We Need to Teach Our Children

With all that's happening recently in the headlines, I thought it was important to relay a recent observation that hasn't been discussed that I think is very important. And maybe this is just "us" - literally - and not everyone else. I don't know since it's not a topic that I see very often, or at all. But it hit me last night, as we all played Uno, that this was something we are not teaching our children...the protocol and art of playing cards.

Seriously, do your kids know how to place a proper solitaire layout? Do they know the rules of the game? Because it's automatic online, so technically, they don't need to know the rules.

We discovered - we being my husband and I - as we played Uno with our daughters, that they didn't know the basic 'rules' of dealing cards. They didn't even know how to *shuffle* cards. My oldest is 15 years old and doesn't know how to shuffle? I felt like a failure as a parent.

My youngest was taking cards from the bottom to deal. WHAT???? It was shocking. And the nonchalant attitudes they displayed. I was nonplussed.

They wouldn't even start with the player to the left when they started dealing. I think my youngest started dealing all seven cards to me originally.  She didn't understand that the person to the left of the dealer was the person who starts the next hand. They shrieked "IT DOESN'T MATTER!" OMG. Really? *IT DOESN'T MATTER?!* It does. You must know basic protocols of dealing cards, how a card game works, and by god, how to shuffle a deck of cards!

They didn't even want to keep score with a game of Uno. They claimed it wasn't fun - it was just: whoever wins, wins. Tim and I caved and played to their rules but when I drew four or drew two, I thought "What's the point? I'm not getting counted against these cards now." I can get caught with two wild cards and still win overall (we at least decided first one to win three games is an overall winner).

Is it just us? Are we failing our kids but you other parents have overcome this, what I assumed, was a national tragedy?

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Movie Week

While reading and watching TV shows, I managed to squeeze in some movies...especially during my week of depression. And for some reason, during my hell week, I had the craving for romantic movies. Anything and everything I could find that was of the romance genre, I watched. But I watched a few others too. Here's a recap of some of my recent movie endeavors:

Safety Not Guaranteed: This was on my list of movies to watch from 2012, a compilation of movies from Leonard Maltin's Off Hollywood reviews. This made me a Mark Duplass (also on The Mindy Project) fan. He is also a director for quite a few movies.

Aubrey Plaza (Parks & Rec) and Jake Johnson (New Girl) also star in this oddity. Aubrey an intern,  joins Jake, a magazine writer, and another intern to a town in Washington state to do a story on a guy who writes an ad in a paper seeking someone to go back in time with him. 'Bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed.' 

Mark Duplass plays the man who is going back in time and Aubrey pretends to be interested in going back with him, to investigate the man for the article. The relationship that forms is interesting and we also find Jake had ulterior motives for his trip to this town.

Quirky and funny, this movie is definitely the epitome of an indie flick. And Duplass is wonderful.

Jeff Who Lives At Home: Another movie from my list of movies to watch, this one was directed by Mark Duplass and his brother Jay. It was OK but it had some humorous moments with Ed Helms. A bit on the dark side of humor, as it deals with a 30 year old (Jason Segel) who still lives at home with mom (Susan Sarandon) and his not-so-successful married brother (Ed Helms) who splurges a bit despite protests from his wife. It's funny-but-not-so-funny as we see how life plays our for everyone.

Take this Waltz: Another from the 2012 list, this stars Michelle Williams, who I absolutely adore, and Seth Rogen. Seth and Michelle play a married couple but Michelle meets a hunk of a neighbor who falls madly in love with her. She stays loyal to her husband but gives in and separates and hooks up with the neighbor. The deep part of this movie that I found so fascinating is that the grass isn't always greener on the other side, or you don't get everything you ask for. She was deeply in love with Seth - they had a playful, loving relationship. But being with the hunky neighbor was a deep, passionate, sensual love. But no more playfulness. I don't know what the moral of the story was, or if there was meant to be one, but this one was a sad one too.

This Means War: Not at all on my list but on my on-demand channel, I watched this and was entertained by this predictable Hollywood mess. :)  Reese Witherspoon being fought over by two hunky CIA agents. 

The Vow: Another romantic film on-demand. Channing Tatum played a great romantic lead.

Mansfield Park: An oldie I had never seen. It was good. Jane Austen. It was nice to see Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary) in his younger, British days. Also, good to see James Purefoy (serial killer Joe Carroll in The Following).

Celeste and Jesse Forever: On my list. This was really good. I wanted to see this knowing it was written by Rashida Jones (and Will McCormick). Celeste (Jones) and Jesse (Adam Sandberg) are married but separated. They are like best friends but Jesse is not 'grown-up' and looking at a career. Celeste is pretty successful. Jesse finds himself in a situation where he needs to be a grown-up and falls in love with another woman. Celeste finds their relationship growing apart. It's a comedy that also has a dark side, when you find the man you know so well, suddenly becomes someone else...because, well, he's found someone else to spend the rest of his life with.

Like Crazy: On my list. OK. These indie romances are depressing. Two college kids meet, fall in love. She gets deported to England and they have a long-distance relationship. They work on her visa forever. Years. In those years, there are other relationships. Eventually, they get married. Still, no go on getting back to the US. But eventually, they get what they wanted and are together in the US. But they are no longer the same young college kids that fell in love.

21st Century Digital Girl

I am in the perfect century. I love what this digital age has to offer, and continues to offer. What I love most is what 'television' offers.

I grew up on TV. The TV was almost always on in my house. My parents like to tell the story that I used to wake up and catch me, as a toddler, watching static or the rainbow stripes of the channel sign off.

I do remember watching Speed Racer or the Three Stooges through static when we lived in Myrtle Beach. I often wonder if they confuse that with me watching static. I could see images and make out some of the antics.

When I lived in the Philippines, we had just a handful of channels. One was an American-based channel and the others were local but one would play American movies and shows throughout the day. Sesame Street and Electric Company (with Morgan Freeman) played constantly. I hated those shows but I watched them anyway. B-movies played constantly. For a week, the same movie played every day and the same movie would come back in a few months. Clint Eastwood and John Wayne were favorites to play. But other weird ones came on: Asylum and Where Have All the People Gone.

When we moved to Florida in 1982 and was introduced to cable television, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. HBO? Real movies on TV? And MTV? OMG. That was just crazy. Life was great.

And it has gotten better: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, and all kinds of other places to watch TV stuff.

I watch a lot. And I am not embarrassed or ashamed. I meet people who want to be embarrassed or ashamed for me but I ignore them. I really could care less if anyone thinks differently than I do about the whole thing: I love this form of entertainment and I soak in every form I can get. I love meeting and talking to people who are like me (you know who you are :)) and I love finding out what's coming out next, what others are watching that I'm not, or what we are watching that we all love.

What am I watching? Sometimes I think it's easier to ask: what am I not watching? But there are a lot of things I'm not watching. Here are some of my favorites but I watch a lot more...

Scandal: This is recent. I actually *just* started watching this about two weeks ago. I was disinterested in this show despite seeing its ads on ABC. But I kept reading about it, how folks liked it so I decided to give it a try when I saw that season one was on Netflix. I was immediately hooked. I managed to find a site on-line that had season two's earlier episodes for free. I am one episode away from having the last four episodes on-demand with U-verse.

This is sizzling: a republican president having an affair with his black communications director for his campaign. She quits his cabinet and begins her own crisis management firm, which deals with scandalous events. Her staff includes an ex-CIA black ops guy who is addicted to killing people (dark humor), a lawyer busted for inside-trading, a woman acquitted of murdering seven people, and another woman who fled an abusive relationship. And the black, gorgeous ex-communications director for which the president is in love with? That would be Olivia Pope. Oh. Such a yummy show!!

The Mindy Project: I liked Mindy Kaling's character in The 40-Year Old Virgin and The Office. When I read about her starting her own show, being the writer of it, I had to give it a try to support female projects. And by golly, it was great. It's like a Girls-light. Mindy plays a gynecologist who thinks very highly of herself but is also very insecure. The self-deprecating humor is, quite honestly, hilarious and she has Chris Messina, who is a cutie-pie, who also plays an ego-maniac gynecologist but also, with a bit of social disfunction. The episode where they hire a new nurse, "Hiring and Firing" is a great one...not only because it's hilarious but because that's when Morgan (Ike Barinholtz) joins the cast. Also, there's the war between the gynecologists and the mid-wives, who are genious-ly played by Mark and Jay Duplass.

Justified: I haven't finished the fourth season ender but my god, this is one fun show to watch. Timothy Olyphant plays Kentucky US Marshal Raylan Givens. From the very first episode, in which he shoots a crime boss at a hotel deck in Miami, bad-ass style, the viewer knows you got a cool dude who marches to the beat of his own drum. Olyphant plays Givens to a cool-bad-ass tee. Yes, it's probably too good for real life but for TV, it's delicious to watch.

He is sardonic as hell and he shoots people left and right. It's a western in modern day. He has a good cast with him too, especially in his childhood frenemy, Boyd Crowder. Boyd in on the other side of the law, where we see him in the first season bombing up black churches with his white supremacist tattoos. Amazingly enough, in four seasons, we tend to like Boyd Crowder, who reforms himself despite still being on the wrong side of the law.

Southland: I started watching this amazing show when it debuted on NBC. It was canceled. Wonderfully, TNT grabbed it and has been airing it ever since. This show is fucking wonderful. It just takes forever between seasons to watch this great show.

The show centers around LAPD. If you saw the movie End of Watch, it's very similar to that. The cast is freaking amazing, especially Regina King, who plays detective Lydia Adams. She is chasing perps left and right and is a tough as nails cop who also shows emotion when she's alone. That's what's amazing: we see these cops on duty and the shit they have to put up with, then we see them off-duty and the shit they have to put up with. One of my all-time favorite shows.

New Girl: This is just one funny show. The quips that come out of this show is just hilarious. The entire cast is spot-on. Schmidt comes up with some of the funnier lines but really, after nearly two seasons, we know the characters well enough now that each line from them is funny.

Some others I love Veep, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Dexter, Homeland, House of Lies, The Ultimate Fighter (I know, right?), Elementary, and of course, Girls. I'm waiting to see how Top of the Lake and Hannibal fare (so far, so good...and then there's Hemlock Grove, Arrested Development (oh yeah) and The Bridge coming soon. I have yet to ever watch and episode of House of Cards, Mad Men or Downton Abbey and they are on a list to watch one day.

What's Up?

Ahhh. It's nice to write something. It's been awhile.

I usually get asked: How do you keep up with it? Reading books, writing your blog, work, kids, running, blah, blah, blah. Well, I haven't. The last thing I want to do at the end of my day is get on the computer.

Today, being the last day of my vacation, maybe this is it for awhile, but I hope not. Blogging is one of my many forms of therapy. My 'how I keep up with it' stuff. Those things are what makes me sane in my crazy world.

These past few months have been crazy. MiMi was swimming year-round. YAY. But she would freak out at the mere mention of a swim meet. She did one - last year - and it was super stressful, for her and for us. Why this meet was any different for her than summer meets, I don't know, but it was...and it was full of tears and lots of talk of "you can do this." "you are a warrior." "you rock." That soon ended with "you better get out there and just swim" "stop with the tears, no one else is crying" "you're upsetting the coaches!" There's only so much encouragement you can do when you get "I can't" and "I'm not" as an answer. CONSTANTLY. But she swam it and we stopped signing up for meets.

We stopped year-round to give her a break because she did rock despite not doing the meets and she'll start back in May, in time for summer swim team. But then we pushed on CJ to go for the track team. This, of course, met with fear and begging to NOT try out.

Last year, at the beginning of CJ's freshman year of high school, we strongly encouraged her to try out for cross-country. This was met with resistance and tears. She bargained with us: let me get used to high school and then I'll try out for track in the Spring. OK.

Well, Spring is here and now she doesn't want to try out. We ignored her pleas. Literally. She asked if she could NOT tryout. We ignored it. This seemed to work. She tried out. When she and I went to the Tame Impala concert, I asked "Did you get on the track team?" She replied 'well, tryouts ended yesterday and I went to practice today.' YAY! I was so happy. Then she said "Actually, everyone made the team. There really was no tryouts." Oh. I didn't know that. CJ, in the driest voice ever: Yeah. Me neither.

She hates it. She tells me that all the time. But she goes to practice every day after school, even Fridays. And she has run two meets - both 800s. The first meet, she looked at me evil and breathed heavily for the first 10 minutes of the car ride home. She was so mad at me. The second meet, she didn't breathe won breath of hate at me. I see that as an improvement. I'm proud of her. She's doing it. My grunge girl is doing track.

A few weeks ago, I went in for surgery for something that was personal. I didn't want to tell anyone about it. It was supposed to be an outpatient thing - about two, three hours. Recovery was about six weeks and then I could get back to exercising. Nope. Instead, I end up losing blood during the surgery, blood transfusion, one week recovery and now, a few folks know something that I wanted quiet. That recovery week was one of the WORST WEEKS FOR ME emotionally ever. I was so depressed, I just wanted to sleep one whole week and wake up and let that week be over. Or be put in a medically induced coma. Whatever. It was horrible.

A week after my blood transfusion came the AWOLNation concert. I really should have been resting: I had gone back to work that day - my first day back after my emotional hell week. And now, a concert at Lincoln Theatre. Tim offered to go but he got called back to work. We worked out a way to swap but that got killed because of a mix-up with tickets (long story). It worked out better than expected. CJ brought a friend so they got to stand up near the front, which would have been impossible for me to do. I went up in the balcony and found a stool and sat through most of it. I couldn't sit through AWOL because, well, I'm a fan and it was a great concert. But I'm not sure it was the wisest move to be at a concert a week after a blood transfusion.

The week off for Spring Break was nice: we stayed in Charleston, SC for about four days. Tim wanted to head home, since it started raining Thursday but the girls did *not* want to head home. I suggested any place with an indoor pool - he found a condo in Myrtle Beach, so we stayed there for a night while they enjoyed the heated lazy river and pool.

Back to real life tomorrow. I don't know when you'll hear from me again. Hopefully, I'll make time to write more often.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Riding Rollercoasters

For Christmas, CJ got tickets to the Tame Impala concert that was scheduled for this past Thursday, February 21st. We stuffed it in Tame Impala's first album. Then Tim and I drew straws for who would take her to the concert since we only got two. It was a fight for who would NOT get to go.

After Osheaga, we (the old people) discovered that we are just too old for this shit. We knew we were too old for quite some time. When you go to a concert and you get pissed about everyone standing up, you're too old. When you think about: why can't they assign us seats and why can't everyone stay you watch Trent Reznor screaming and gyrating across the know you're too old.

But our trip to Osheaga and going (and standing for HOURS) to band after band after band, all fucking day and night for *three fucking days* just blew our wad of concert-fun. I missed The Black Keys at Osheaga because I was so god-damn burned out from the entire thing. And I LOVE The Black Keys.

So the idea of going to Carrboro, on a week night, to see a band I was not entirely in to was not appealing to me. At all. But the love for my ungrateful-moody-silent teen is overwhelming, even if it's conditional *from her*.

So begins our journey...

I was lying in bed, working, because, I am an adult and I have a lot of shit to do, when she comes in, all happy and shit. It's 5:15 PM and the concert doesn't start until 9PM.

Me: "What time do you want to leave?" (I am in a sour mood because I don't want to go, I'm tired, I have a lot of work to do, I don't like the music, I will be there all fucking night...but I only give a small indication of it to the very happy teen...who is never happy in any other occasion of my day with her except when she gets what she wants...)

Her: 5:30 (see two paragraphs before this...concert starts at 9)

I search for restaurants. I told Tim I wouldn't be drinking but hey, if I start early, I can get a small buzz during the early hours and deal with this and then the buzz will wear off by midnight.

We end up choosing Milltown and the drive over is uneventful except for Tame Impala playing in the car and me thinking: geezuz...i've got to listen to this for two hours? Oh, and the commuter traffic. That was lovely.

I give my status report to Tim via messaging. I know the bottom is cut off but you get the gist. :)

Milltown was a nice pub. Of course, I get a glass of wine (last page of a manual of beer's a gastropub, for fuck's sake!), an order of Poutine (because CJ said "Let's go there! It'll be like being in Canada (where Osheaga was)), some sausage and CJ ordering fish-n-chips.  She ate a nibble of the Poutine...I ate most of the rest...and a nibble of the fish-n-chips when she asks "Do you think this will be good after the concert? I'm kind of full and excited."

Sigh. $30+ bucks of food. Down the drain.

She tells me doors open at 7PM. I thought I read 8PM (and I brought my book to read while we wait) but when we get to the door, I'm told it is indeed 8PM. It's 6:50.

I read that it's best to start a line for a great position and there's a few people standing around already. I don't know where the entrance is because we are told the side of the building but we can't get to the side because it's blocked off by fencing (we walked all the way to the street-side, as CJ hyperventilates walking beside the tour bus, which is parked directly in front of Cat's Cradle).

"Dely" is my mom. She says "See, I told you" a lot.
So, fuck it, I walk to the side of one guy that appears to be in a not-really-there-line.  Surprisingly, this guy immediately turns to me and says "How's it going?" as if we are not strangers. So we end up engaging in conversation. I never learn his name but I do learn the following: he drops acid, he wants to get a tattoo in his groin area because his mom has one there (??!!), he's in a band, lives right down the road, we should totally get into foxygen, either foxygen or another band's music makes him feel like he's done heroin, even though he hasn't (yet?).

He did leave us momentarily after he discovered that I was not 28 but 44, as old as his 45 year old which the 'guy' (kid) in front said "just like my mom!" He thought CJ was older and my sister. I told him, after he said I looked really young, that it was the lighting: "it's dark out can't really see my face." At some point, I was going to take a self-portrait of me and CJ and the image of myself on my iPhone scared the hell out of me -- "I don't fucking look 28!!" So I took a picture of my feet instead...waiting for the doors to open at 8PM.

We finally make it in, CJ gets a shirt, and we make it to the front of the stage...well, second "row". Now the standing and waiting begins.

The last concert I was at was at The Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh to see American Aquarium. The first band didn't start until 9:20. I say "first" because I thought there would only be one band. But NOOOOO, a second band came out there at 10:30ish (I was wondering why American Aquarium all grew beards and oddly, looked NOTHING like I remembered them). And then about 11-something, American Aquarium finally came out. This is what I imagine while I stand. And wait. At American Aquarium, we were seated (since it was Tim and I).

Amazingly enough, the opening band The Growl started on time. And holy fuck, they were fucking awesome. I could not hold back my head-banging ways and just enveloped myself into their music. I knew these guys were so into their music because the lead singer, Cameron, constantly and consistently snapped his fingers (and what a good snapper he was) to a beat to get the music started, or clapped, or patted his chest. He was like Joe Cocker with his hands "I just can't help but feel the music in me".

There was a guy, Mark, who played a real bass. He played a bass guitar too but the bass was pretty cool. He eventually took off his beanie and looked pretty good. In this pic, I think he looks like some 30-something jazz dude.

There were two drummers and one drumset had a trashcan. The guy on the right side, behind Cameron, is beating on the trashcan.

These two guys would switch, the guy on the left and right. What was entrancing was seeing them drum in sync. Freaking amazing.

The guy on the left reminded me of the drummer for Faith No More (Mike Bordin...just looked him up...OMG he's 50!). He had a lot of curly hair, wrapped in a bun (his is blond where Mike had dark brown hair).

The lead singer, Cameron, moved like Mick Jagger. See in the picture where he has his hand on his hip? He sings like that...when he's not snapping or clapping or patting his chest. He has an uh-MAZE-ing voice, as depicted here .

These guys were *so* nice too. Just welcoming of the attention, their bandmates Tame Impala, just so sincere that you get with these small venues.

I downloaded their EP Cleaver Lever. This was one of the best bands I've seen since Osheaga and ever. Find their videos, they're great. But this one gives the best sense of being there: 

My iMessage to Tim
They change arrangements during their songs (like old Metallica) and have a bluesy sound. I'm re-listening to the video and I'm in love. See the drummers play in sync...

Once they are gone, it's back to waiting for Tame Impala. The guy behind me passes out right next to me. There's a girl holding him, who says a quiet but panicked "Help" and I look around for the bouncer dude (I want to be a bouncer!) and get close to dialing 911 when he gets up, dazed and confused. The girl asks "Are you sure you want to continue?" He nods a not reassuring Yes as I look at his eyes to see how drug-induced he is (he doesn't appear to be). The girl is shaken but doesn't move as he leaves to get water. She stays there for a long time, alone and I think: are you going to hang here while your boyfriend dies getting water? (I know it's her boyfriend because, of course, I have to ask her who he is, what happened, how good she laid him down on the ground, blah blah)

Once they finally came out, they had a trippy background playing on the screen behind them. The lead singer was barefoot and I noticed he sang a lot on his tippy toes. That was cute.

Initially, I was not excited or in tuned to their music. Everyone around me was. They have a pretty big following by alt-lovers.

A side note: I can't even begin to express how happy I am that CJ has discovered this type of music. While she will applaud Beyonce (and who wouldn't because she is fucking amazing. Did you see her  documentary "Life is but a Dream"???? I love her.) she despises (to an unhealthy degree) Bieber, One Direction and Taylor Swift (but respects that she writes her own music). She's offended if any of her music is played on the radio (I was like this except when I lived on Guam because Guam's rock station played Metallica's Ride the Lightning which was never meant for radio airplay and that station just played MUSIC they loved...not what the masses told them to play)...examples being Gods and Monsters (we saw them at Osheaga), Imagine Dragons, Mumford & Sons.

But Tame Impala follows the psychedelic music genre and if you are young and hip, you know who they are...or old like me and have a young and hip daughter who keeps up-to-date with what's cool in the alt-rock, underground music world.

And I'm not really into psychedelic music. I don't smoke pot (it makes me very extremely paranoid. I since learned - from a professional - if you are an anxious person, pot is a big no-no), or shoot heroin, or drop acid. I drink WINE, not beer (only because my anti-seizure/migraine medicine has taken the taste of carbonation out of my tastebuds...but mostly, I like wine over beer at 44 years old) and at this time, I am quite sober.

But...after dazing in and out of consciousness (as I thought about work, how many songs they have played, how many more they will play, how long do these sets last, will they go by #of songs or time because each song is like six minutes long, maybe 10 songs - that seems right, this is song #6, Tim told me to count, I'm counting songs, god damn my feet hurt so bad, I'm thirsty, would love some of that water that guy was going to get, my feet are KILLING me and I'm about to have a panic attack!, I am NOT going to see AWOLNation - a band I love and would WANT to see because this shit sucks, I shouldn't have eaten that much poutine...), I began to enjoy the show. These guys can play. I can't understand and fucking thing the guy is 'singing' (it was on one of those echo-mikes that most trippy music is made of) but they play FUCKING amazing and the guitar riffs and sounds (lots of effects) are pretty cool.

Again, SO NICE and humble and appreciative. These Aussies from Perth are gentlemen. I have since downloaded both albums to my iPhone so I'll judge which ones trip me out the best in the next few days.

As they ended their encore, my daughter turned into someone I didn't know. She turns to me quickly and says "Should we go to their tour bus?!?" Her eyes were crazy. I looked at her with my mom face and was like "UH, NO."  She turned away from me without a reaction and finally, I pulled her towards the exit.

We get out and everyone is heading home. They are walking right by the tour bus with no interest in it and CJ turns to me and says "Can we wait a little bit?" I think I said "For what?" in my most patient-but-curt voice but I resign to waiting a bit and sit on the curb to rest my feet.

But it was now 11:45 and cold and I realized that there were a group of girls who moved UP TO THE FRONT when everyone was leaving...and those guys will not be coming out anytime I told her - that's it, we're going home. She gave me a pleading WHY and I was like BECAUSE IT'S ALMOST MIDNIGHT and just proceeded to the car, with her dragging behind me.

We drove home in silence. I knew she was upset about not having to 'hang out' with the band. But really, she is not a social butterfly. What was she possibly thinking in her head about the scenario '...let's go to their tour bus?' I see it clearly: me standing there, trying to make conversation because CJ would NOT be talking..."hey, this is my daughter. she loves your band." Now what? Invite me on the bus? With me? With my *14 year old* daughter???? Yeah. Not creepy at all.

As I think about what has changed...why concert going for me is no longer the appeal as it was when I was her age...I don't have a real answer other than I'm too old for this shit. It's the same as my love for roller coasters. I was obsessed with them and while I still have ridden them at the fair, at Disney World (the yeti, not those other wimpy ones), I find myself less inclined, more scared, about getting on them. They've just outgrown their thrill for me.

But as long as I live, I will do this for my kids. I haven't forgotten how sad I was that my parents wouldn't let me go to see Bon Jovi or how thrilled I was to see Nikki Sixx on stage at my first Motley Crue concert. And those moments I want to do (when I can) and help create for CJ and MiMi.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

This one is also a book club choice but not until July. However, I've been on the waiting list at my library since August of last year so when I finally received it, I wasn't going to hand it back.

What an original (to me) concept. The earth's rotation slows down. Daylight lasts a few minutes longer, as well as night. The day is no longer 24 hours long. And every 'day' gets longer and longer.

The length of the day isn't consistent and initially, mankind tries to adjust to daylight vs. night-time but it becomes harder to live a normal life with these long days and nights. The government mandates that the 24 hour clock will be followed to bring some sort of normalcy to every day life. So sometimes, 9AM would be dark, the start of school for Julia, the 11 year old protagonist of this dystopian novel.

I enjoyed this book although I wouldn't say I loved it as much as the critics touted it. This book has made nearly every 'best of 2012' list I've kept up with. I didn't know what it was about (my usual MO with my book list) so it's not like I knew the hype to compare.

While other reviewers seemed to diss the scientific facts, or lack thereof, about the earth's rotation slowing, my beef was the endless minutia of details that I find needless. But overall, the science appeased me and I found it believable (but I'm easy to cater to and I'm not a scientist, so what do I know?): gravity sickness striking most humans, birds dying in the thousands and thousands due to navigational/gravitational issues, whales and dolphins beaching themselves in the hundreds and eventually, the magnetic field compromised and no longer blocks radiation from reaching the earth. Sitting out in the sun for any length of time causes horrific sunburns and blisters.

Reading this scared the crap out of me. I would walk around everyday and think: OMG, I can't stay out of the mindset of the book. I felt moments of feeling like I was living in this world  I have yet something else to worry about.

The novel explores this new world through the eyes of an 11 year old: what she sees, hears, how she deals with her own normal transition into puberty, awkwardness, and adapting to life in a world that is dying.

A great, original novel...

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

This was February's book club choice. I had to purchase it (used) in order to actually have it available, since the queue with the library was ridiculously long. I have a bad habit, though, of NOT reading books I actually *own*. It's a ridiculous habit, I know.

The library upped the ante of me not successfully reading this one as scheduled. I had been on the waiting list for two books since August of last year: The Age of Miracles and Let's Pretend this Never Happened. I also had checked out books for my kids, who didn't end up reading which I wanted to read them. Love, Ruby Lavender was one and the other has been hard to get to from the library, Why We Broke Up.

I was very tempted to read the library books before this one because I tend to freak out over books being overdue. I mean, I end up with overdue books but I worry about them constantly. It's like a dark cloud over me until I feel the satisfaction of turning them in. I like to be "on-time", or at the very least, *not* overdue. So the prospect of putting February's book club choice off, just so I could read the checked out books before their due date, was reeling in my mind as I wrapped up Love, Ruby Lavender.

In the end, I settled on my goal of 2013 which was to be more active in book club and I accepted the notion of being overdue (books that have a long wait list, such as The Age of Miracles and Let's Pretend this Never Happened are unlikely to be renewed, so the pressure is on to read these before my anxious mind deals with due dates).


Wow. What a wonderful, wonderful novel. From the first written pages, I realized I was dealing with a writer who wrote beautiful pages. It reminded me of reading Jane Eyre and just falling in love with the words, the prose. When I 'meet' a novel like this, I reflect on how amazing writers can be -- how much artistry is behind writing...and how I could never envision myself writing like this. Ever.

It didn't take me long to finish this one as, much like Jane Eyre, I took this book everywhere with me.

We meet the protagonist, Victoria Jones, as she moves out of a group home. It's her 18th birthday and life as an "orphan" has ended. Legally. She gets the opportunity to live in a halfway house for a few months, to find a job and get on her feet, but she squanders that opportunity by not looking for a job.

She ends up homeless, sleeping in a park, under bushes, where she has planted a garden of her own. Flowers, plants, the reader finds that Victoria knows a lot about the language that flowers have. Giving yellow roses meant "Infidelity" and rhododendron meant "Beware", a stem she gives to the mysterious flower vendor at the farmer's market.

He returns a message in the form of mistletoe, "I surmount all obstacles." And we read that the mysterious man is the nephew of the one woman that Victoria had entrusted, at 9 years old...a woman who almost adopted her and became her mother.

The book goes back and forth: Victoria at 18 and the life she is trying to make for herself, working at a florist, dealing with Grant, the nephew, the man who seems to understand Victoria's distrust. Then there's Victoria at nine, living with Elizabeth, the mother who loved her and also treated her with a delicate, but firm nature.

It's a heartbreaking tale. Victoria reminded me of a stray dog who has been abused. She doesn't trust anyone, sticks to herself, doesn't speak, eats heartily, and is just broken. The difference is that animals seem to forgive and Victoria does not. She does not feel worthy to anyone, nor is anyone worthy for her.

Grant is patient with her and amazing. He is also a broken man. But when Victoria finds herself pregnant, she retreats from everyone again.

Victoria's life as a mother is hard to read but I totally related. I think women should read this part of the book to realize how awful it can be to be a new mother. I doubt many women will admit to finding such frustration to motherhood when it comes to this precious life...but the crying, the total dependence on you, the mother, and not having any sense of independence is overwhelming. I remember this for myself. And I love that Diffenbaugh made this part of the novel, with no 'tie a ribbon on the story' and have motherhood change Victoria's life in a positive way.

And it does end, somewhat, in a positive way...but in a sense, what might be expected in a 'real' life. The journey for Victoria is wonderful to read because you can see her grow more trusting from the moment we meet her in those first few pages.

One of my favorites and definitely my favorite of the year.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles

I am a big fan of Deborah Wiles. This is her third book that I have fallen for.

I was introduced to Wiles via CJ's 4th grade teacher. That teacher encouraged her students to go to Deborah Wiles's guest visit at (my favorite) Quail Ridge Books. CJ loved this teacher and of course, was excited about going. It would be nearly a year later that I would actually read a book by Deborah Wiles, which would be each little bird that sings. We have that copy at home, signed by this amazing author.

Soon after, I would read The Aurora County All-Stars, another phenomenal book...a book considered "Children's" fiction. Ha! This is more than that as I think of her books as so much more than that...

Imagine, nearly five years later and MiMi's 4th grade teacher is the same teacher CJ had. And as CJ did, she absolutely loves and thrives on her teacher's every word and encouragement. And coincidentally, I decided to get this book for her at the library, in my encouragement to have her read. I had forgotten that it was her teacher that got us started on Deborah Wiles, so it feels like we've come full circle.

Only...I _read_ the book. MiMi stopped after chapter one. So maybe she's not as captivated by Wiles as I am...but I am.

Ruby Lavender lives in Halleluia, Mississippi (see her map...hilarious). She is a spunky nine-year-old that steals three chickens from the retiring Peterson's Egg Ranch, who was going to put all his chickens on death row. Oh. And Grandma Eula happened to aid and abet the chicken-stealing crime.

Ruby and Grandma Eula have a strong bond. They write letters to each other and leave it in a hole in the truck of the big silver maple tree off Sandy Lane. One day, Grandma Eula tells Ruby that she is going to visit her son in Hawaii, who is about to have his first baby. Ruby is not at all happy about that situation and begs her not to go. Grandma Eula explains that, after losing her husband, Grandpa Garnet, nearly a year ago, she needs to get away and move on with her life.

Ruby is bitter and doesn't even say goodbye to Grandma Eula, on the day she left Halleluia, MS. Ruby writes her grandmother nearly every day and makes it plain as day how upset she is. Her first letter starts:
Dear Miss Eula,
Well, you are gone. I hope you are happy. I am not.

and adds within the letter:
I am reading up on new babies and I have some free advice: Do NOT hug that grandbaby too much. It isn't good for her.
And signs it with:
Woe is Me,
Your (almost only--darn!) granddaughter,
Ruby L.
More advice in subsequent letters:
More free advice: Always jiggle babies after they eat.
Free advice: Mama says pineapple is NOT good for young babies, so don't give any to that kid. Try hot chili peppers. Or poi.
Her letters, and those from Miss Eula, are delightful and hilarious.

While Miss Eula is away, Ruby takes care of the three stolen chickens: Ivy, Bemmie, and Bess. Ivy has laid three eggs and Ruby watches over the jealous Bemmie and Bess, to make sure Ivy gets to take care of her eggs. She reads the dictionary to the chickens and also 'speaks' for them. It's just so adorable and delightful to read.

She makes friends with the new 4th grade teacher, and now-owner of Peterson's old Egg Ranch, Dove, who is studying to be an anthropologist. She also has a hate-hate relationship with Melba Jane, whose father was also killed in the accident that took Grandpa Garnet's life.

Deborah Wiles does not back away from death, as she has done in her two previous novels. And Grandpa Garnet and Melba Jane's dad's deaths are a touchy subject matter for a children's novel...I guess for some parents...not for me. There is some deep-rooted emotions between Ruby and Melba Jane and it results in tragic consequences for Ruby's chickens.

While my eyes watered for this one, I didn't shed actual tears but my heart grew heavy and uplifted so many times in this novel. Ruby Lavender is one character you don't want to forget, or even stop reading about. Deborah Wiles is an amazing author and, as I've said before, I look forward to reading more and more from her. You should too.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

This was another book club choice but this one with the virtual book club that just started this year. We haven't met yet so not sure how that whole concept will work...

...But the book itself was an enjoyable read.

The novel is set in Marshall, NC, which made this even more delightful for me since I tend to enjoy local fare. I guess I like Southern fiction too (in addition to my realization that I like fantasy) because the writing style and mood reminded me of Michael Parker, a local author who I enjoy reading. His novel, If You Want Me to Stay, was my favorite book of the year for 2007 and I've read two more with the rest on my must read list.

These types of novels are not easy reads. They are depressing and sad, with characters that have a hard life. Wiley Cash divides his chapters into characters (hmmm...George R.R. Martin anyone?) viewpoint. In this case, there are three narrators: Adelaide Lyle, Jess Hall and Clem Barefield. They are all wonderful and we learn a bit of history of the town folks - the other main characters involved in the story - as we read about the shit going on in the now.

The story centers around a crazy church, where there are snakes involved, tongues are spoken, and people attempt to heal a 13 year old boy who has been mute from the day he was born.

The mom to Christopher Hall, AKA "Stump", is caught up in this church and especially in the pastor, Carson Chambliss. Despite being shocked by the first healing, which Jess Hall, the younger 9 year old brother to Stump, witnessed without permission, Jess's mom returns with Stump to continue the "healing", which results in Stump's death.

Adelaide Lyle is no fan of Pastor Chambliss after witnessing a parishioner years earlier get bit by the poisonous snakes from Pastor Chambliss and dying in the church. Instead of fessing up to the tragic death -- but proclaiming the parishioner was brave for finding faith to attempt this 'holding of the snake' -- the pastor and other members of the church placed her dead body in her garden in an attempt to make it appear that she was just gardening and got bit by a snake.

It worked. But Adelaide knew the truth and kept it to herself. She kept it but she bullied the sinister Chambliss to keep the children out of the church and watches over them...also being one that doesn't return to the church.

But she is a religious woman, a righteous woman. And after Stump's death, Chambliss summons her to the church to speak to her. He wants to ensure she doesn't say anything to the authorities, as they investigate Stump's death. He knows she does not approve of what happened to Stump because he knows how she felt about the death, years earlier.

He asks her if she knows her bible...about Matthew 9:33, where it says 'when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke'. He also brings up Matthew 17...'about the man who brought his son to Jesus because he was sick with a disease brought on by a demon and the disciples didn't have the faith enough to heal him.'

Adelaide, again, a very religious woman, replies how she 'knows both of them stories' and has read them many, many times. Chambliss replies that if the parishioners had a little more faith, the boy would have been healed and the demon cast out. Adelaide responds wonderfully (like I know this woman):
"You ain't no Jesus," I said. "And Christopher didn't have no demon in him. He was born that way; I was there when he came into this world, and I can tell you God makes us how he needs tus to be. I'd think about that the next time you go off on some idea about trying to change things you ain't got any business changing. I might be afraid of tempting that kind of power."
Ah yes. Wouldn't I like to tell many people this...snakes or no snakes...

Jess Hall is also a great character who watched for his older brother. He tried to keep him from going back to the church, after seeing the congregation nearly suffocate him in their "healing". He witnesses a terrible end to his family life at the end of this great story and his perception on the folks around him is well beyond what a 9 year old would normally think like.

Lastly is Clem Barefield, who is sort of the stereotypical sheriff a small town: confident, got the town under control kind of guy. But his story is sad too and we read about how his son was killed in an explosion many, many years ago, under the supervision of Jess and Stump's no good grand-dad, who just happened to come back into town. As he recounts the death of his son (Jeff), to which he was called to the scene, not knowing if it was his son or not, he says this:

I couldn't keep from thinking about how unfair it would be if it was Jeff. But since then I've learned to just go ahead and take fairness out of the equation. If you do, things stand the chance of making a whole lot more sense.
I look forward to reading more from Wiley Cash.

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

A friend of mine recommended this book to me many years ago...before the movie was even thought of. But I just got around to reading this for book club. I haven't made a book club read or meeting in at least a year so my new goal for 2013 was to get back into it. I actually tried last December with Looking for Alaska but I missed it by a day.

First of all, I was pretty happy to have made it since I started on >700 page tome January 11th and I finished it the weekend before our meeting. I don't consider myself a fast reader so to manage to get this done in time, well, I am pretty pleased with myself. It helped to have my friend Kerry rooting me on via Goodreads with my status updates on my reading progress.

I enjoyed this novel. As one reviewer described this novel as "Faction", I was intrigued by the 16th century era and couldn't wait to finish it so I could look up the 'facts' behind the historical characters I was reading about.


As the title suggests, the book is about Anne Boleyn...and her sister Mary Boleyn. The "other" sister goes back and forth between Anne and Mary.

Anne is portrayed as a selfish, queen-wannabe, no matter what it takes. Initially, she is not happy that King Henry VIII makes his moves on her sister, Mary, who is quiet and already married. But the Boleyns (and the maternal side, the Howards) were hell bent on having ties to royalty and having Mary as the mistress to King Henry was fine and dandy with them. This also meant she would be an adulteress, since she was already married to Sir William Carey. The marriage was still intact but William was told to back off and allow Mary to have her sexual liaisons with the King.

Oh. And he was still married to Catharine of Aragon. But Catherine would 'look the other way' with this (and apparently others before Mary) affair.

The relationship between Anne and Mary was competitive and not so loving, yet some strange loyalty to each other, and to this family that would pimp out their young, married daughter to the King. Mary, as young as she was (14), was initially enamored with the King and high on the fact that she "won", or was better, than her sister Anne. Anne, while doing what she could to help Mary seduce the King, was envious throughout.

Mary bore two children to the King but had to always be at court, so her children were raised by nursemaids at one of the Boleyn family estates. After bearing children, Mary is seen as someone who would rather abandon the royal fare and stay in the country with her children. But, again, the loyalty to her horrible sister and family was more strong than the desire to be with her children.

Eventually, Anne caught the eye of the King and turmoil begins: seeking the annulment of his marriage to Catherine, even though they had a daughter together (Elizabeth, who, in real life became Elizabeth may have known this but *I did not*), separating the Church of England from the Catholic Church and subsequently being excommunicated. All of this losing favor with the people, who started to see Anne as evil woman and feeling sorry for Catherine, the woman scorned.

The portrayal of Anne Boleyn was hard for me to take. I had a very romantic (ignorant) notion of Anne Boleyn and the way Philippa Gregory decided to portray her in her "faction" novel was awful. Anne was a horrible sister to Mary and eventually, when she became close to queen (and eventually *the* queen), it all went to her head and she treated every one like her minion, including her brother, George, and her family who pushed her (after giving up on Mary) to becoming queen.

The novel is scandalous and wow, all the sex and debauchery that took place in the 1500s is mind-blowing. George Boleyn may have had sex with Anne to produce a son to fake an heir to King Henry's throne. The baby that was miscarried was developed enough to come out deformed that Anne was accused of witchcraft and sorcery to make such a baby.

George is also gay, which is a big no-no in the 16th century, despite women doing everything else in a sexual nature...

Henry is portrayed romantic, then a downright asshole, especially after sending Catherine of Aragon, his wife of 24 years (but annulled the marriage) to a nunnery. He becomes even more of an asshole when he plans Anne Boleyn's demise. He had already fallen for Jane Seymour and Anne's spoiled brat attitude was too much for him...he took all the accusations against her, both true and false, and used it to accuse her of treason, adultery and incest. As in real life, Anne was beheaded in front of the people, with Henry nowhere in sight.

It ends with Mary fleeing the court right after Anne's beheading, with her second husband, William Stafford, to be with her children and live happily ever after. Both lived, supposedly, well into their 40s, which back then, was pretty darn good.

It was a great novel to read. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I may entertain the idea of reading some of the other novels, as this is one of The Tudor Court novels, which covers some of Henry's other wives, and so on to Mary, Queen of Scots.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Women Are Already There Motherfucker

This is what Samantha Bee says during this great bit she did from The Daily Show. It's hard not to BE a feminist when you still have men who say the shit this guy - and others - say about women serving in the military.

"Girls become women by getting older. Boys become men by accomplishing something, by proving something."

Yes. This is what this motherfucker said about why women should not be in combat zones.

I certainly have not had any ambition to be in the military. I think I had one fleeting thought when I was thinking about college, my future. It's, I believe, a natural impulse for military brats to consider following in the parent's footsteps (in my case, my dad) and consider the military life. Many of my friends did, including my gal pals. More power to them and thank goodness for Panetta, and a more contemporary time where we have women heroines like:

  • Vernice Armour - an Army helicopter pilot who flew in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. 
  • Commander Lenora C. Langlais US Navy nurse who received the Purple Heart, during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006
  • Air Force Major General Margaret H. Woodward - in March 2011, she oversaw the US combat air campaign in Libya. The first woman ever to do so.
I got these tidbits from Women in warfare and the military.

Friday, January 18, 2013

That's Why I Hate Teens...

No, I didn't say this...this was a statement made by a 14 year old.

We went to see the movie "Mama" this evening. It was the 7PM showing at North Hills. I'm not a big fan of this theater but it was the earlier showing so, there you go. We got there nice and early - 6:30 - and got our favorite seats -- the very back. We were the first ones there.

But not for long...people came in droves. Literally. Groups came in as if in a parade. And man, they weren't quiet about it. First group came right into our little corner. Then a few more sporadic little groups, then an almost entire row of teens came in front of us, and so on and so on. They came in like ants. I can't believe a theater could hold that many groups at one time.

And god, they were obnoxious. Loud. Not just loud. Insufferably loud. Like "I dare you to tell me to be quiet" loud. Or "I want everyone to hear me" loud. Or "I think I am hilarious" loud.

And they don't sit still. They get up and go to the other side of the row to sit on their friends' lap and talk loud, text, giggle loudly. And just when you block the sound of their annoying voice out, they walk back over to their empty seat to remind you that they can't fucking sit still. And they do this the whole fucking time the previews go on.

And my patient mind justifies this during the previews but they better be quiet when the movie starts...but CJ is not happy and at some point, she says to Tim and I those very words "This is why I hate teenagers."

Before the movie starts, the film stops, the lights come on, and at the front of the theaters is a movie lady and two 'police officers'. She looks pissed off. She explains that this theater is full of teens and they need to shut the fuck up and put their god damn phones away or they are throwing their asses out. They've done it before and they're doing it again. And if they can't figure out who the culprit is, they're throwing out whole rows. I start applauding. I would've wolf whistled but I don't know how to. I would have whooped whooped but I didn't want to get thrown out.

Anyway, it worked for the most part. But about half way through the movie, there were two people on the other side of us (there was a big gap between the inner aisles in the back) who freaking MUMBLE-TALKED the entire time. And no one on their end would shush them! I asked CJ if I could shush them and she PUT HER HAND ON MY ARM TO HOLD ME BACK. So, I did. Meaning, I did NOT shush them.

But later, the freaking dude was TAKING GD PICTURES!!! OMG-freaking god. I was in a freak show, or the fifth dimension of theater watching. Why do these people come to movies to talk and take pictures? But that wasn't the end of it...there was kissing noises...LOUD KISSING NOISES that I could hear across the aisle. Finally, towards the end, I yelled STOP IT after seeing another flash of the flash of the camera. I don't know if they heard me, or if coincidentally, they finally decided to leave, but they finally left.

So, North Hills, thankfully and finally, has reached the banned list of our theaters. I hate that theater. The freaking obnoxious kids go to that is the worst.

As for the movie itself, it was good. The "mama" was a great special effect/actor and very freaky and scary. And Jessica Chastain was HOT HOT HOT with her short, black hair 'do'. It didn't have good ratings but it also didn't end with a hollywood 'happy' ending. Coincidence? I think not.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

This novel takes place before the Y2K event. Lincoln is O'Neill is hired at The Courier as 'security' to read flagged emails - those emails that contain keywords that indicate that the emails may not be related to business. Lincoln, who works nights and in the basement, so that he doesn't get to know the people that work upstairs who work the dayshift, sends warnings to them about the inappropriate use of business use of email.

But he becomes enamored with the email exchanges between Beth and Jennifer and this becomes one of the main subjects of the book: emails between Beth and Jennifer and Lincoln's life.

What we know about Beth and Jennifer we learn only through their emails. Beth is a movie reviewer for The Courier and living with Chris, a lead guitar player for a local band called Sacajawea. They've been together for seven years and Chris apparently is 'to die for'. Beth loves him. Jennifer does not.

Jennifer is happily married and thinks she's pregnant but is not. But discovers that her husband is not as happy as she is when she discovers the latest pregnancy scare is not as silly as she thought...that he does indeed want to have children. Is she ready?

Lincoln loves these two women and does nothing to warn them of their flagrant violations of company policies. In fact, he looks forward to finding their emails in the violation folders every night, to catch up on their lives. He knows it's wrong but he can't help it. His own life is sad, in his mind. He keeps pining for his high school girlfriend, who dumped him after they left their hometown for college. He has no friends, except older people he plays Dungeons & Dragons with. He hooked up with an old high school friend but he found a girlfriend so he's become the third wheel. Oh, and BTW, did he mention, he still lives with his mom?

***Spoiler Alerts***
Lincoln eventually becomes attracted to Beth. He hasn't seen or met her but he loves her humor in her emails, and her sensitivity. He thinks her boyfriend is crap no to realize how amazing she is. He doesn't want to cross the line -- to see what she actually looks like because, well, then it might be over for him. He might actually fall in love with her and well, that would be creepy.

As he reads her emails to Jennifer, he discovers that she has developed a crush for a guy at work..."My Cute Guy". Over time, he finds out that the cute guy is him. He even reads how she actually tries to follow him home one day. But she still loves Chris so he's torn.

But he decides to change his life and starts going to the gym, starts mingling with other people in the office. And well, it's just a really interesting story. I rather enjoyed it. The end seems to come by kind of quick. About 60% of the novel is pretty dark, which I liked a lot. The characters are good, the writing is good. Lincoln is very dark and I rather enjoyed the protagonist of this novel.  Definitely recommend this one for a, ironically, 'light' read.

Grocery Store Tales

I tweeted my very cool encounter with the checkout clerk yesterday, who gave me a "You go girl!" when he carded me for my bottle of wine. I am not so stupid to know that he was following some new rules to check IDs (and I haven't looked under 21 since I turned 28), as this was my second ID check of the week, and the second time I've heard from others that they were also getting carded. But the "You go girl" caught me by surprise and I love _that_ kind of personality trait in someone, who would just *say* that to a complete stranger...and I was a bit distracted so it's not like my face looked friendly until, I hope, he made me smile. So it was a needed compliment that brightened up a very London-fog kind of a day.

But it reminded me of two of my grocery store encounters last year that were pretty amusing. If you missed my first story, one that I reenacted for many of my friends, you miss me doing pretty good (in my mind) acting of my tales in person. Let's just say *I'm pretty dramatic*. :)

Sometimes I wonder if I have an aura about me that attracts odd things to happen to me. I don't write about them all but from the ones I did happen to write about Happy Birthday Dori and then this one about this little guy.

The Big Bear
Last Spring, I was at the Harris Teeter (on Edwards Mill Road) looking for chicken sausages.

The chicken sausages are next to the fresh seafood section. For those who know me well, I am very focused when I am out and about and ignore everything around the peripheral. So if you pass by and say hi, I don't see you. And especially, if I'm trying to decide between roasted garlic, smoked andouille, spinach feta and sundried tomato.

I remember it was very windy outside and I'm in the refrigerated section next to the cold section of the fresh seafood, so I was chilled to the bone. Why does this matter? Well, at some point, I hear someone break me out of my focus on the chicken sausages by the words "You look like you're really cold." There was about a second delay for me to process the words I heard and the words I was reading, "Spinach Feta", to understand that those words might have been intended for me. But I am at the HT alone so I am in a confused state and in that second I think I shouldn't look around but I do. And on the other side of the fresh seafood, is a gargantuan of a 'dude' wearing this hat:
The hat was strange because it was cold but not _that_ cold. There was no blizzard of snow and it was Spring for allah's sake.

But whatever, this big ass dude was coming straight towards me.

The words he spoke to me are no longer clear but they again relate to me being cold. I looked around him to see if there were other 'dudes' and that, perhaps, this was some sort of fraternity hazing joke and they were standing in the background laughing their asses off. But no, it was just him.

Keep in mind, he was loud and in the limelight because this was a big guy - like linebacker big. He came right up to me and said "How about I give you a big bear hug to keep you warm?"

In the microseconds before I replied, "I think I'll pass on that one." I thought: Really? That's a pick up line? And did he think that would really work? And what would he do if I said yes? Hug me right there by the chicken sausages? Right in front of someone trying to pick out their 21 count shrimp?

He smiled and walked away and before he turned the aisle, he boomed across the store and said "Let me know if you change your mind!"

The Stalker
I can't remember what store I was in when, again, I was focused on very particular ingredients for dinner. But the store was not a regular store so I was only semi-familiar with the layout. This will mean something, I promise.

Side note: If you haven't read The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, then you should. It talks about relying on your intuition and both this and the above story shows how, despite being focused and usually not paying attention to my surroundings, I was able to 'sense' someone else paying attention to me (even if I wasn't in danger).

I walked into the store and down one aisle to get to the back. Immediately, I noticed peripherally that there was an elderly gentleman staring at me. Well, this is in hindsight. "Immediately" I thought: there is no way this elderly gentleman is staring at me.

I get to the back and get what I need from there. As I turn, I see the elderly gentleman closer to me, staring at me again. Nope. That is not what he is doing. I'm being narcissistic and this is all just coincidental. I went down HIS aisle and he is just shopping like me.

I go left to get the other things I need and forget about the old man.  A few minutes go by, I go the other way to get my other things and pass by the old man, who I feel is staring at me when I pass him. He sure is a slow shopper, I think.

Now, I am in need of one more thing and because I don't know the layout of the store, I am flummoxed. Where would they put this ingredient? So, I slowly walk back from where I came, thinking to myself, and trying to analyze which aisle this ingredient would appear in...when I hear the old man speak to me: "You looked so sure of yourself when you walked in here."

I look up at him. What does he mean by that?

"I watched you walk in here and you came in like a woman who knew exactly what she wanted. And now, you look lost."

"Ah. Yes. Well, I did when I came in. But now, I can't find my one last thing." So...he WAS watching me.

"It's hard not to miss a beautiful woman walk into a store with such a sense of assurance."

Awww...oh wait, I said that out loud: "Awwww...thank you. That's so nice. I appreciate that." Big grin and a nice squeeze to his shoulder. I _can_ be a touchy-feely person with strangers. I guess you need to be an older 'gentleman', with better vocabulary and better pick up lines. :)

Friday, January 04, 2013

My Best of 2012 List

Here are my best of's for 2012.

Finding my favorite book for 2012 was difficult. I was reading through my book 'reviews' (I need to update the tag...I still don't know what to call them...maybe 'judgement' or something like that) and I really had a great year for finding great books. But I think, despite all of the great ones, I've come to terms with one that comes back to me time and time again. So, drum roll,

My Favorite Book is One Day by David Nicholls. The story of two friends over twenty years, Emma and Dexter, is written captivatingly by Nicholls. Emma's emotions are beautifully written by a *man* and her character still remains with me to this day. Dex too, who came up in my head by a recent novel with a character by the name of Dex.

I watched the movie (afterward) starring the beautiful Anne Hathaway. The movie is great but these movies from books are like being on speed. They just don't capture the moments, the thoughts, the details that 435 pages slowly puts you through, where 108 minutes rushes a viewer through. It's really two different plot lines and "you" miss so so much if you only see the movie.

My Favorite Trip by far would be the trip back to the Philippines. Leaving what was my home for seven straight years - the meaningful years, 2nd grade through 8th - and leaving my family was one of the most life-changing experiences of my life. I dreamed of my "home" throughout my adolescence, missing my family, missing my friends, missing the life I had.

Thirty years later, I was back and it was, as they say...and as I like to say, *literally*, a dream come true. A lot had changed. My childhood home did NOT look the same. The base looked and didn't look the same. My family looked but didn't look the same. But it was a gift to be with them again. It was also, yet again, a life-changing experience to be home, this time with my own family, having them see what was such a foundation of my life. It was wonderful to see my Auntie Cely, the love of my life, who was dying and passed away in August.

My Favorite TV Show I had plans to blog about some of the great new shows I am watching this (now past) 2012 season but my blogging of 2012 was not up to par. I would almost say  say Girls from HBO since I watched it twice. Once, when I was home sick, I went through nearly all ten episodes then I made Tim watch them and we just finished them up. But it's not...after much thinking, my favorite show of 2012...and I have watched a lot of stuff...I *watch* a lot of stuff. It would be better to ask me what I _don't_ watch. My favorite show of 2012 would be Veep.

I bet most of you probably never even heard of this show. If you have, then bravo! to you. You are either an addict like me, who somehow manages to pick up on the TV entertainment notes on the HuffPost on USA Today tidbits that pass by from time-to-time. Or is a big fan of Julia Louis-Dreyfus and/or Tony Hale (of Arrested Development fame). No matter, if you've seen the HBO series, then you have to know that this is one amazing show. If you haven't, then find the series and catch up.

Recently, there was a hashtag for #BestTVLines2012 for twitter. I participated and included some of my favorite shows: New Girl (which had some of the best episodes this season), Girls, and an RT from Homeland. But Veep had the best and I could only get two good ones in. The rest, well, 1) I just couldn't fit them in 140 characters or less and B) CONTEXT. There's just no way to get the context in...the gist of the joke.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Selina Meyer, the Vice President of the U.S. She is pretty much, well, second fiddle to the President and, um, ineffectual but is trying to make a statement of being important in the cabinet. She's always asking her secretary "Did the President call" as she comes into her office.

Her staff is hilarious. And they are very un-PC. Especially Selina. One of the quotes I wanted to add to best TV lines of 2012 is the bit about her staff telling her that her name is one of the hurricane names on the list for next year:

Gary: You're not gonna believe this. Selina is on next years list of hurricanes.
Selina: Ugh, shit! What if it hits and we get a headline saying "Selina causing large scale devastation."
Amy: People won't equate you with a natural disaster, ma'am.
Selina: Really, Amy? Cause I've met some people. Okay, real people. And I gotta tell ya a lot of 'em are fucking idiots.

The few tweets I did get to post, that I felt were in context and funny, are these:

By far, my favorite one

How un-PC is this show? Very. Here is a snippet. This is a great snapshot to Selina Meyer's character, one of the best character's on TV.

This is the trailer for the first season. There's a lot of bleeping, and there's a lot of not-bleeping. This is one show full of cursing. Right up my alley. :)

Season 2 starts in the Spring. TBD.

As far as other favorites, I couldn't settle on a favorite movie or song. Maybe they'll come to me later and then I'll post them. I went through my rolodex of a brain of all the movies I've seen this year, both on DVD and theater but just couldn't come up with one that just made me think Wow! that was the best movie. There were some good ones but nothing that was the Wow! factor. And music, well, I just haven't made the time to think about it either. These were the things that I wanted to write about for now and share.