Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006: The Year in Review

I was reading one of those Myspace surveys, and the question was asked: What was the most memorable thing that happened to you in 2006?

I realized that nothing actually happened to me that was all that memorable. Stuff happened to the people around me, and I got involved. Some of it was sad and/or drama-filled. But if I had to pick something that was about me and not a friend or relative, I'd say it was the day Bizarro Dad and I finally got our own room, after sharing a bedroom with the kids for sixteen solid months. Yeah! Sex whenever we want, without having to sneak into the living room and hoping no one else walks in!

Secondary memorable event: all the new kitchen appliances. No, I'm quite serious. This year my house opened it's doors to the following:
Breadmaker
6 Qt Crock Pot
Gas oven
Deep freezer

We celebrated the arrival of the oven by having Thanksgiving in May. And it was freakin' awesome.

*******
Sleepless Mama's Literary Awards for 2006

Most Ironic Book to be Banned
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, a book about book banning, which some New Caney hick tried to have banned from his teenage daughter's school curriculum. During Banned Book Week.

Best Page-Turner
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling. Possibly ousting Prisoner of Azkaban as my favorite HP volume. I've read it two or three times this year, and I'll probably re-read the whole series before the next movie premieres in July. Seriously, what is it about HBP that drives me through the pages? Superior writing? Sharp wit? Mysteries to unravel? Quidditch? Maybe Rowling cast a spell on her books...

The next one gets two awards:
Best Compendium of Pop-Culture Knowledge
and
Most Uses of the Word "Shadenfreude" in a Book Not Written In or About the German Language
Television Without Pity: 752 Things We Love to Hate (and Hate to Love) about TV, by Tara Ariano and Sarah D. Bunting. I use the word "compendium" loosely, since this book is not exactly brief. But damn, is it hilarious. It's arranged like an encyclopedia of wackiness, really. There are entries on everything. Some samples, just to give you an idea: Cosby Sweater (with illustration); Friends, Failed Clones of; Chia Pet; Smurfs, The; Wardrobe, Endlessness of; Moriarty, Michael, Bonkers-osity of; "As Seen on TV" Products; Shatner, William, Legendarily Awesome Saturday Night Live Appearance of; and "In the Butt, Bob." How can you be a TV-watcher and not want to read this book?

Most Awesome Graphic Novel (a.k.a. "Comic")
V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, DC Comics. For shocking imagery, for horrifying social commentary, for sheer kick-assery. Read it. Love it.

********
2006 Sleepless Mama Movie Awards

Best Animated Feature
Cars. Hands down. I want a bigger TV so I can try to recreate the experience of seeing this in a theater. A 25" television just doesn't do it justice.

Most Gratuitous Footage of Nerds in Action
Wordplay. It makes me feel better about my lifelong nerdiness, and even drives me to be a little nerdier than I've been in recent years.

Biggest Load of Crap
Pretty much anything with Tim Allen in it. Shaggy Dog, Santa Clause 3, you name it, it sucks.

Most Overrated, Overhyped Piece of Drivel That Made Ridiculous Amounts of Money at the Box Office but Was Actually a Suck-Fest
It's a tie between DaVinci Code and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. What? I'd have been better off waiting for them to come to DVD. Special Features tend to distract you from holes and contrivances in the plot.

The children are laughing and asking Mommy to play, so I'll conclude my rant for the year. Please have a safe holiday celebration and a prosperous New Year. Thanks for reading.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Memory Lane

Strange, is it not, how a simple drive to the grocery store can recall the oddest memories.

Some would say I have a long memory for the trivial, and to those people I would say "Remember that time you scratched my wrist with a stick AND hit my pelvic bone with your head while on the trampoline on the SAME DAY? Why yes, that was 10 years ago, but what's your point?"

Today while driving a stretch of road to one of the cheaper grocery stores, I happened to pass by a Dairy Queen tucked between the Fas Mart convenience store and Chala's Resale Shop. Neither of the other two stores mean anything to me, but for whatever reason the Dairy Queen caused a synapse to fire in my brain and remind me that when Bizarro Dad and I were first married, I used to drive his mother around, and she'd tell me stories about her family's life.

Once, when we passed the DQ in question, she was in the process of telling me the tale of how her other other son's girlfriend came to live with them. Apparently Girlfriend's parents were from Mexico, and as such had different beliefs about disciplining children than we do here in the US. They believed that it was the responsibility of the oldest son to provide the guidance and punishment for the younger children. This did not result in leniency, or even in gentle but firm guidelines, I'm sad to say. Instead, Girlfriend was beaten black and blue by her brother (probably for getting pregnant), and the parents condoned it completely. My mother-in-law did not feel this was a safe environment, and allowed Girlfriend to move in with her and the rest of the family. Sadly, her stay was not permanent, as Girlfriend proved to be every bit as violent as her brother and tried to attack a member of the family.

Yeah, I got all this from a Dairy Queen.

Oddly enough, driving down the same stretch of road on the return trip brought back different memories of the same person. On the opposite side of the street there's a Shipley's Donuts (the most awesome doughnut chain in the world, screw you Krispy Kreme). This reminded me of the story in which my then-pregnant mother-in-law had a fitful craving for doughnuts, and sent her husband and 11-year-old son (Bizarro Dad back when he was Bizarro Boy) out to retrieve the desired pastry in the dark at some ungodly hour. To Shipley's they went, because they knew that no other place in town would have decent doughnuts that would satisfy the demands of a pregnant woman. Poor Bizarro Boy, having to tap on the glass and hope the shop was open. But then, he was the only child in the house who was excited about the new baby, so it seems fitting that he'd be the one to go out for comfort food.

My mother-in-law tells the best stories.

I really shouldn't drive down that street to often. You should hear the stuff that flits through my brain the further west I go. We're talking junior high boyfriend, summer job, and that time my grandma got held at gunpoint by a mugger, only to grab him by the throat and flag down a passing cop. (She won't eat at that restaurant anymore, since none of the staff bothered to come outside and see why a strange man was pressing up against the little old lady who regularly came alone or with her husband.)

Monday, December 11, 2006

The most awesome, GUILT-FREE chocolate cake EVER!

Chocolate Torte
(recipe provided by a cooking show I can't remember the name of on PBS and BYUBroadcasting)

In a pan, melt 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips with 1/4 cup canola oil, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat.

In small bowl, whisk 5 Omega-3 eggs. (No, seriously, get the Omega-3's. They have less cholesterol and sodium and more healthy stuff in them.)

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (cheaper than you think), 1/2 cup cocoa, and 1/4 cup shredded coconut. Whisk the eggs into flour mixture, then pour in melted chocolate and stir.

In a 9-inch springform pan (butter and sugar the inside instead of using grease and flour), pour in batter and smooth the top. Bake 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool and place on platter (cake will be very thin, like a brownie). Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Top with raspberries and fresh mint leaves.

One serving will contain 240 calories and 4 grams of saturated fat. This dessert is very rich (all that sugar), so serve thin slices.

Please note, I have not tried this recipe with a sugar substitute. Anyone who does, please come back and tell me how it came out. I want to know if this can be adjusted for diabetics.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Discriminating Santa


My daughter's love watching that old stop-motion movie Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I have to admit, it is pretty cute, and I'm glad they are still able to be impressed by something that didn't cost $80,000,000 to animate. That being said, the more I watch this movie, the more something about strikes me as wrong.

Will someone please tell me what the hell is Santa's problem with "different?" The first time he sees Rudolph's red nose, he issues a warning. The second time he sees it (when Rudolph is a yearling with a better flight take-off than any of the other young bucks), Santa immediately turns to Rudolph's father, Donner, and says "You should be ashamed of yourself." He doesn't stop the other bucks from making fun of Rudolph, and he allows the Flight coach to ban Rudolph from any further training (Reindeer Games).

Furthermore, you are not going to make me believe that Santa doesn't know about the Misfit Toys. Surely some of them came from his own workshop. But does Santa care? Does it matter to him that there are toys in need of a home but can't find one because they're odd?

And really, why is he so completely unconcerned with Kirby, the elf who wants to be a dentist? His foreman is concerned only with making toys, which makes sense in a toy factory, but he goes from trying to force conformity to simply writing Kirby off as a freak. And Santa? Does not give a flying rat's tail.

I think we need to analyze just what type of guy this Santa was before Rudolph and Kirby ran away and forced him into a guilt-driven epiphany. Was he the type of Santa who didn't give toys to kids with disabilities or unattractive birthmarks? Did he not like the nerdy children? Did he give them fewer toys? I understand the whole Naughty and Nice division; that makes sense. But clearly he treated his reindeer, toys, and elves better or worse in accordance with their appearance and/or conformity. Why are we expected to believe that he treated children any better before Rudolph taught him the lesson of tolerance?

Face it, people, the Santa in this film is a prejudiced bunghole! DOWN WITH ANIMATED JERKY CLAUS! LONG LIVE THE REAL SANTA, WHO HAS COMPASSION FOR ALL!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Rogue Santa

So there's this mall we love, my relative has got on good speaking terms with Santa and Mrs. Claus. (No, seriously, the wife was standing in the parking lot and introduced herself as MRS. CLAUS.) They're a popular Claus couple, and have been visiting this mall for years. They sometimes walk around the mall between picture sessions, talking to people and holding hands. *sigh* Love...

Anyhoo, one day Santa has a doppelganger usurping his Santa-ness, and I don't mean there are two Santa photo stands. Second Santa is sitting on a little chair RIGHT IN FRONT OF Real Santa. With a video camera. Making a little movie for his own personal use, NOT making videos to give/sell to parents. Real Santa calls Management. Management calls Mall Security.

Mgmt: Security, we have an unauthorized Santa sitting around taking video of kids. Go get him.
Security: Oh, we're ON that shit. Idiot Newbie, you hold down the fort, we've got a freak to catch.
Idiot Newbie: Whateeeeeever...

Security (two guys in uniform) walk toward the Santas. Fake Santa sees them coming and heads for the book store, as does another person who was with him. Security follows them into book store. Santa and Sidekick start running to the exit.

Security Dude #1: (rolls eyes) Oh shit. Now we've gotta run. (begins running)
Security Dude #2: (sighs in frustration) Damn it. (begins running too)

Security chases the Santafied Wierdos through the store, out the door, and halfway across the parking lot. Security Dude #2 shouts at them to stop. Santa Freaks come to a stop, but sidekick hides behind a car. Security is having none of that, and gets them both into view.

Security Dude #1: Why'd you get up and leave?
Santa: 'Cause I saw you coming.
Security Dude #2: Why'd you run?
Santa's Little Helper: 'Cause we knew you were gonna kick us out.
Security Dude #1: So you ran instead of explaining yourselves?
Santa: What's the big deal?

Santa Nutjobs think it's all fun and games until local cops show up.

Santa: This is public property! I can film people! We were just getting footage for a Christmas montage! Constitutional amendments! It's harmless! I swear!
Cop: This is PRIVATE property, dumbass. No one can take pictures unless they're doing it as part of their mall job. That means the portrait studios and the REAL Santa Claus, not fake Santas with no permits and no proof of what they're filming for.
Santa: (Starting to realize what he did) Look, watch the video. See for yourself.

Cops watch video. Nothing disturbing is found. Cops determine that Fake Santa is telling the truth, but he still can't just film people at the mall whenever he feels like it. Cops decide not to arrest Faux Santa or his plainclothes elf. Mall Security, on the other hand, bans the Santa Perps for one year each.

Security Dude #1: Fools made me RUN. You better believe Santa got banned.
Security Dude #2: Hell, they made us both run. They should have got two years.
Idiot Newbie: I don't see what's wrong with a guy dressing as Santa and taking pictures of children without their parents permission or a permit from the mall. Surely such a case would be innocent. Or, you know, whateeeeever.
Security Dude #2: Dude, how many times do I have to tell you to SHUT UP?
Security Dude #1: Bastards made me RUN, man...

Let us hope that Santas everywhere will soon recover from the shame of it all, and that the REAL Santa at this mall will not be the subject of foul gossip. He remained at his post, cheering up children and accepting wish lists like a good Santa should.

Long Live the Real Santa Claus!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Shhhh...

Can you keep a secret?

I am sick of Cub Scouts. I have my own problems right now, many of them, and I don't want to deal with a bunch of ungrateful little snots this month. I just can't make myself care.

But I guess I will have to do it anyway.

I seriously am ready to throw in the towel, though. It's not like these kids can't transfer to the dens at their schools.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday night

Approximately 10:45 PM
Living room
Sounds of idle tapping on keyboard, mouseclicks, and kids DVD.
Gina and Sleepless Mama are in living room. Sia is asleep in her bedroom.

Sound: quietish "pop" originating from up the block. Suddenly three louder consecutive "POPs" from directly in front of our house

Me: Get down! (Grab Gina and pull her to the floor)
Gina: Mommy? What is it?
Me: It's a gun, baby. Stay down! (Carry her into hallway and run to back of house, into kids' bedroom)
Gina: Mommy! They shooting?
Me: (Laying Gina on floor) Yes, baby. They're shooting. (Grab sleeping Sia and sit on floor cradling her) Stay down, do you hear me? Stay on the floor.
Gina: Mommy, I scared! They shooting at us!
Me: Me too, baby. Stay on the floor.
(Minute passes. Place Sia back on bed.)
Me: Stay back here in your room, kids.
Gina: Mommy!
Sia: I scared!
Me: It will be okay. (Step into my room, next to the kids' room. Grab shotgun and release safety. Walk back into hallway) Stay in your room. (Close children's door.)
Kids: Mommy!
Me: (Slowly advance to front of house. Listen. Peek out window. No cars, no people. Return to hallway. Engage safety and carefully place shotgun in hallway, within reach of children's door. Open door and hug kids.)
Gina: Mommy, you shoot them?
Me: No, baby, I didn't shoot them. They ran away.
Gina: You gonna shoot those bad guys?
Me: No. The police will chase them.
Gina: You gonna help them? You help bad guys?
Me: No, sweetie. We have to take care of our family.
Gina: Those police guys chase those bad guys?
Me: (pause) Yes. Those bad guys ran away because they are scared of the police.
Gina: You gonna shoot you gun?
Me: No. We only shoot when the bad guys come into the house. And we have to be nice to the police.
Gina: (pause) We have to be careful.
Me: Yes, baby. We have to be careful.
Gina: Mommy, I scared.
Me: I know. But the bad guys are gone.
Gina: They shooting our house?
Me: No. Sometimes stupid bad guys shoot in the street. But they're gone now.
Gina: I want to go eat. (She means in the living room.)
Me: Not yet. Now Gina, when we hear a gun, we have to get down on the floor. Understand? When you hear a gun, you get down, just like this. (Demonstrate. Repeat instructions and physically lay child on her floor.)
Gina: Mommy?
Me: Yes baby?
Gina: You be careful with you gun.
Me: Yes, Gina, I promise.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Can we get a cat?

"Honeeeeeeeey, I want a kittyyyyyyyy."
"We said no more cats after the last two turned aggressive towards our children."
*sigh* "I know."

"Honey, I think I'd like a pet."
"Uh-huh."
"What would you think about a hamster or something?"
"Sure, that would be okay."

"Look Honey, I got this at Half Price Books. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Choosing a Pet. Let's see what it says."
"What does it say about Chinchillas?"
"Let me see...60 hairs can grow from a single folicle...annual veterinary care...three-story housing...average price per animal $369.33."
"Okay, no chinchillas. What about smaller rodents?"
"Hamsters...solitary creatures...I remember I had one when I was a kid, and he used to bite me HARD."
"What else?"
"Rats...these are actually quite social to humans. I had one in high school named Big Mama. She would crawl up my arm and sit on my shoulder."
"Rats...no."
"Well, there are also dwarf hamsters, mice, and gerbils. If you want a gerbil, you have to get a pair, because they thrive on family life."
"Why don't we go to the pet shop and see what they have?"
"Honey, you should know, the cages aren't cheap, and you have to get them toys and stuff."
"Yeah, I know, but I'd like to have a little pet."
"But I thought you thought it was a dumb idea?"
"Nah. Let's go."
"I'll get the kids dressed, you jump in the shower."

"Look Gina, you see the hamsters?"
"Rats, Mommy! Rats!"
"Sia, come get out of the basket so you can see, too."
"Rat! Mouse!"
"These are ger-bils."
"Nerbils."
"Look, these dwarf hamsters are fine in a group. There's a whole bunch of them cleaning each other."
"Look at these two gerbils."
"Oh, they have such long tails."
"What did your dad say when you told him we were going to the pet shop?"
"He said, 'Don't come back with anything too big.'"

"I like this tall cage."
"This one has an exercise ball."
"That one has a detachable carrier."
"Kids, please don't break the parrot toys."
"What about the tubes? Do they all connect with this brand of tube?"
"I want to get them a little toy car to hide in."
"Gina, which cage do you want for the mouse?"
"I want...this one."
"Are you sure?"
"This one!"
"Okay, we'd better get a ceramic food dish, because they'll chew the plastic one."
"Look, here's a little gerbil TV they can hide in."
"Mommy, fishies!"
"Don't you put your hands in that fishy water, young lady."
"Yeah, Daddy already has fishies at home."
"Here, this food is the pellet kind, at it says 'gerbil' right on the front."
"You said no cedar bedding, right?"

"So, which rodents were we going to get after all?"
"The book says gerbils are curious and will jump into your hand."
"The dwarf hamsters are $14 a piece."
"The cage Gina picked is probably not suited for dwarf rodents. The wheel is too heavy."
"Oh crap, that lady wants the gerbils! I want the gerbils!"
"She wants a silver one."
"But they don't have a silver one."
"Dude, she just said she wants a silver to go with her champagne-colored one."
"Is she serious?"
"Ma'am, we'll take those two gerbils, please. They're both female, right?"
"Sia, you like the birds?"
"Fourteen-day guarantee? Sounds great."
"Gina, look, Mommy is signing a contract that says you'll take very good care of the gerbils."

"Look, girls, kitties!"
"Yeah, kids, the kitties are very pretty. But now we can't get one, because we have gerbils!"
"My two nerbils?"

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Only in Texas

So, are you watching your caloric intake? Making every attempt to ban fatty foods and nourish yourself only with healthy meals?

Me neither.

I give you the latest innovation in state fair food: Fried Coke! Remember, it's a Texas Food! Yet another claim to fame for my prideful state. (Really, we DO all ride horses to school, and there really ARE Longhorn cattle grazing within fifteen minutes of Downtown Houston.)

Personally, I can't wait to try this recipe. I wonder how hard it is to fry Coke?

Buen provecho!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It's never too late to apologize

Dear Mom,

I'm so sorry that, when I was a kid, I made rude comments about the yellow squash slices you were cooking for dinner. Squash wasn't my thing, but I still should not have been so mean about it. In retrospect, they actually looked like little suns bursting.

I did like the zucchini boats you made when I got older. Those were awesome. Sadly, I have never been able to duplicate this recipe. Come with me to the grocery store so we can pick out some zucchini, please.

Love,
Me

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Yet another secret

I printed one of the postcards I saw on Post Secret and wish to keep it for one reason: it looks like my ex's handwriting. Okay, two reasons: it looks like the person who wrote it is unhappy, and if it IS my ex, this cheers me up. It means he's not leading such a perfect life without me after all.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Un-freaking-believable

So, did you hear the one about the parent who tried to ban the book about book-banning, DURING Banned Book Week?

No, I'm not telling a stupid joke. It really happened, and not fifty miles away from my own school district. The book in question is Fahrenheit 451, written over fifty years ago, and still a part of public school reading lists. (No, I never read it, because it wasn't part of my school's criteria, and I'd never heard of it until this past year. Rest assured, it will be next on my list from the local public library.)

See, this kind of crap just pisses me off. Because one or two people got their feathers ruffled by the first FOUR PAGES of a book (I kid you not), a parent saw fit to try to ban the whole thing from all the kids in school.
I cannot begin to imagine how many things are wrong with this whole scenario, but I'll certainly try:
  1. We live in a country that guarantees free speech (including what is written in books). It seems incredibly stupid to ban a book about what happens when society puts a ban on free speech. Unless you think free speech shouldn't be part of a free society, in which case you should just leave the country.
  2. The parent in this case sited "taking of the Lord's name in vain" and swearing as part of the reason nobody should have to read this book. Excuse me, if you don't want your child exposed to swearing and shouts of "Oh my God," then you should take him/her out of public school, forego private school altogether, and just home school the kid. That's the only way you're going to escape that kind of language. Even the teachers and principals say "Oh God," especially when listening to senseless bull.
  3. The young lady who so objected to this book (after those four pages) was upset about the depicted burning of the Bible. Yeah, honey, no kidding. It's a book about WHY BURNING BOOKS IS A BAD THING, and how warped society becomes without those books. Using the Bible as part of the imagery should serve to prove the author's point, and make you think about why censorship should not be allowed to go too far.
  4. "Downgrading Christians???" I'm not even sure what you mean by that, Mr. Irate Parent. But if you want to ban a book that makes Christians look bad, why not petition to ban The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne. You could argue it makes Christians look overly judgemental, unforgiving, and hypocritical. I don't know that any of that is true, but I'm sure there are plenty of students who'd LOVE to have that book banned.
  5. While we're on the subject, why is it that required books can bag on any other group EXCEPT non-denominational Christians? My school was always assigning books that basically talked trash about the French, or Catholics, or French Catholics, but you didn't hear anyone complaining (and we had a lot of Catholics). And when we read Chaucer and other English fiction from that era, did the Muslim students complain about the depiction of Moors and try to get it banned? No, they did not. Why weren't the crazy kids rioting about Catcher In The Rye depicting them as unstable? Did any of the black students bitch and moan about Tennessee Williams using the term "darkies" in his play The Glass Menagerie, or Faulkner's use of the N word in his novels? If they did, it certainly didn't do any good, because we had to read them anyway. But paint some white Christians in anything other than a positive light, or even write in such a way that someone might misconstrue the book in such a way, and it's uproar!
  6. The book was "talking about our firemen," was it? Did you READ the book, or even a review of the book? A quick synopsis from amazon.com or Wikipedia explains what the term "fireman" means in the context of this book: a book burner, not a fire fighter. So you need to just put it in reverse, dude. Clearly you don't even know what you're talking about.
  7. One of the societal problems pointed out in this book is how television consumes people and discourages things like literature and (gasp!) ideas. Surely a man so concerned about his daughter's education would want her to understand the dangers of too much TV.
  8. Dollars to doughnuts, the daughter was just trying to get out of an assignment, and hoping she'd get some easy busywork to do instead of having to think about what she was asked to read, and (heaven help her) write a paper. I hope the instructor did assign Hawthorne. Maybe she'll learn something. I'm not saying this girl doesn't have the right to request a different assignment if the book she's reading truly bothers her, and leaves dark feelings on her soul. I'm saying her discomfort should not translate to the complete banning of a book for all her classmates who obviously don't have the problem with it that she has.
  9. What I notice about books that do tend to expose Christians in negative ways is that these books usually don't condem Christianity itself. It's the people who don't seem to know how to follow the teachings of Christ that get mocked. Like I said, I haven't read this book yet, so I don't know what it says that "downgrades" Christians, but I have a feeling it's not what Irate Parent thinks.
  10. If you know what's best for everyone's kids, why aren't you on the school board or an editor for a parenting magazine? What makes YOU, Mr. Irate Parent, the foremost authority on which books are Not Good For Teenagers? Are all of them books you haven't read yet, or just this one? Do you have a degree in American Literature, or Secondary Education, or any type of certification that makes you qualified to tell other people what kind of books they should make their nearly-grown kids read? And please, while we're at it, tell me why "God's name in vain being in there" is "the number one reason" why the book should be banned, and not the suicides, murders, or destruction of property? Destruction of property? Killin'? Well heck, that's not ban-worthy, that's just good entertainment...
  11. The child, Diana Verm, said: "The book had a bunch of very bad language in it. It shouldn't be in there because it's offending people. ... If they can't find a book that uses clean words, they shouldn't have a book at all." I just...don't even know where to start with this girl. Let's take away all the books because I don't like the curse words in this book about what happens when they take away all the books. Do she and her father say the same thing to the local movie theater whenever they play PG-13- and R-rated movies? Or radio stations that play songs with the word "damn" in them? I know. How about if we have all the history books banned because they're offensive to whoever lost the wars described? It won't be hard to learn anything without books, I'm sure. Ban all the Spanish texts, because those are certainly offensive to anti-immigration policy makers. And while we're at it, let's ban the algebra books, because the word problems are offensive to railway superintendants who insist that their trains most certainly travel in opposite directions at much greater speeds than 45 mph, resulting in fewer delays and cheaper fares. Let me tell you something, sweet cheeks: if my algebra books had contained a few dirty words, you can just be sure I'd have been paying WAY more attention in math class. Shouldn't have a book at all, indeed...you really should have read this one, hon. Maybe you'd be able to appreciate the irony of your own statement.

I'm sending a link to the original article to my old sociology professor. The good doctor will be absolutely beside himself with simultaneous disgust (at the audacity of the parent) and glee (at the assignments he can now generate from this event).

Monday, October 09, 2006

Gack! update

My weekend

House full of in-laws, including brother-in-law's delightful wife from California in town for a visit: check.
Eight people for one bathroom: check.
Rapidly vanishing towels: check.
Sheryl Crow concert, complete with chuckleheads sitting behind me who won't shut up and let me enjoy the show (for which everyone there paid $30 a pop) because they HAVE to make their opinions known as loudly as possible: check. (But they did end up leaving, so I could enjoy Sheryl in peace.)
Stomach issues as a result of too much birthday cheesecake: check.
Wait around the house until 2:00 Saturday for sis-in-law to call and let us know if she needs us to babysit or not, only to have her call after we've gone and leave a slightly annoyed message for us indicating that she didn't need a sitter after all: check.
Trip to the zoo: check.
Landlady decides brother-in-law must move out by the end of the month, and informs us on Saturday: check.
Husband has to be talked down from his anger at being forced to ask his brother to leave when the guy has "nowhere to go" and "not enough money to get a place" even though he "doesn't know how much money J makes" at his full-time job, while husband is simultaneously informed that his reply to landlady's representative came off as rude AND that our landlady (one of my relatives) is legally in the right: check.
Inform brother-in-law and his wife of impending move-out, to which BIL replies "Whatever, I'll go stay at Mom's,": check.
Husband and the partial horde of in-laws go to a haunted house, while I stay home with the kids and do laundry: check.
Sis-in-law calls at night, sounding annoyed that we never returned her call this morning (wait, WHAT?!), and is inf0rmed of the impending move-out, to which she replies "Don't you pay rent?": check.
Travel all the way to church early for a committee meeting, only to find out said meeting not being held this month: check.
Go back home to pick up husband and kids for regular church meeting, only to find husband cannot get into shower in time due to prolonged shower interlude between brother-in-law and his wife: check.
Visit to estranged father-in-law, his much younger wife, and their two small children (same ages as my own kids): check.
Husband continues to feel guilty about kicking his brother out, even though it is our landlady doing the kicking, and maintains that HIS family will blame him for this: check.
Husband continues to be upset that his unintentionally rude reply was met with a firm, snippy rebuttal, and has to be told AGAIN what went wrong with the original conversation, which was only about four or five sentences long: check.
Tiring of all the in-laws, I leave the kids with husband and go visit my paternal grandmother. While there, my cousin brings her son over to the house. Nephew (second cousin?) has a head injury, and his mother has brought him over in an attempt to keep him awake. Cousin keeps repeating the story of how the head injury occurred, and I try to keep her in a different room while our aunt entertains the boy, so that cousin will stop making him so nervous. Boy is fine (it seems to have been a glancing blow), but grandmother continues to be agitated, and cousin continues to be nervous, though less so: check.
Buy raffle tickets from grandma, in the hopes that I might win the $2000 gift certificate to Gallery Furniture: check.
Travel home at night through iffy neighborhoods: check.
It's late, and the children are still awake: check.
Husband continues feeling guilty, despite repeated assertions that he is not at fault: check.
Weekend comes to a slow end: check.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Family Game Night

This evening my little girls learned a new game. It's called Bonzai.

The rules are simple, really. I lie down on my bed, stomach down. The children take turns standing on my back. As they jump off me like the five-foot spring board I am and onto our super-bouncy bed, they yell, "BONZAIIIIIIIIIII!"

That's it. That's the game. Over and over again. I am quite sure my back will be several shades of blue by morning.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Happy Birthday to me...

This Friday I'm turning...24...again...and my dad scored some concert tickets for me. So while all three of you will be doing your regular Friday Night thing (America's Funniest Videos? Getting drunk and hitting on the barstool next to you? Wild monkey love?), I'll be out watching her:

(That's Sheryl Crow, if the object is not working.)

Thank you, Daddy!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Inside Look

An intimate look into the family routine.

So yesterday morning the girls and I are all snuggled up in my bed, mostly asleep, but at that point where you can sort of hear what's going on around you. (Yeah, we're like cats that way.) I hear the 2-year-old sit up next to me, so I open my eyes. There's a naked husband standing over me, wearing his towel like a kilt.

I close my eyes. It is just way too early for this.

Sia looks up at her dad and says, "Where's you hair?"

I open my eyes again. She's right. He's bald. Funny, he wasn't bald last night. In fact, he was downright shaggy by Marine Corps standards.

"You're bald," I say.

"Yeah." I'd better close those eyes for another minute.

I reach my hand up. Bizarro Dad obligingly lowers his head so I can feel the baldness. Alas! Nubs!

"You're all nubby."

"Yeah. I only used the clippers this time. I'm all out of razors."

"Aw man."

"Where's you hair?"

Thursday, September 28, 2006

What happens when you play Pass the Buck

You know what sucks? When the neighborhood kids can't walk to school (or even to their bus stop) on the sidewalk, because the sidewalk is completely covered in overgrowth from the vacant lot it sits in front of. Instead, they have to walk IN THE STREET (even the ditch and roadside are overgrown with vegetation) on what can be a very busy street, with plenty of 18-wheelers and wanna-be-streetracers driving by.

You know what else sucks? That this vacant lot is owned by a church (that's right, an organization which is supposed to be in service of the needs of the people), which won't send anyone down to clean up the land, nor will they sell the land at a reasonable price (which is stupid, since they owe more than $ 19,000 in county backtaxes on property that is valued at $27,000), nor will they provide a telephone number for anyone to reach them about either land purchase or 9-foot-tall grass.
You know what sucks worse? The city helpline says that the owners are technically responsible for the yard, and the ditch in front of the sidewalk, but not necessarily the sidewalk. I read the city codes, which say the city is responsible for the sidewalk (or rather, "structures as required for the infrastructure of the city"). But the city won't mow around the sidewalk. And they won't make the owners of a vacant lot responsible for the sidewalk, because there's no one living on the land. And while in theory, they are "contacting the property owners," the reality is that after two years of complaints from nearby residents, the property owners are still either not being reached at all or intentionally not responding. So, basically, nobody is responsible for the sidewalk.

Know what sucks even more than that? That said vacant lot is so large (it's actually 3 lots together, dominating an entire corner of the block) and the trees and brush are so dense that theives, rapists, drug-users, and murderers can feel very safe hanging out in there without getting caught, since 1) they know they won't be seen, and 2) there are not enough cops patroling the already crime-happy neighborhood. (I won't even get into the rise in the poisonous Copperhead Snake population.)

Know what sucks most of all? When that vacant area is around the corner from your child's school, AND only two lots down from your own home, AND directly across the street from your elderly grandparents.

We've got our pistol and shotgun ready for whatever crackhead wanders out of the little forest and onto our property. But that's not enough to protect the first-graders trying to walk to school in the morning.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More awesome gifts...

I realized today that I have in fact been ignoring the gift-shopping needs of good folks in various other countries, and so I submit for your consideration the following unique gift ideas from (and for) around the globe. Or at least Canada and the UK.

Ye Olde Roadster Bicycles
Available in the UK from the India Rubber Company, these old-fashioned bikes are newly made, complete with chrome handlebars, heavy duty leather saddles (Dude! A saddle seat!), and fully enclosed chain guards. Priced at 135 pounds plus P&P. Models for both ladies and gents. Spare parts also available. Wicker basket not included.

Bagpipes
Are you rich and/or bored? Feeling in the mood to take up a new instrument? Want a way to annoy some people while delighting others at the EXACT SAME TIME? Why not purchase your very own set of bagpipes from The Bagpipe Store? Also available: the Practice Chanter (which, according to the website, is the best thing to happen to bagpipes, ever!), carrying case, reeds, and yes, even the whole outfit. Best of all, there is a handy price converter; you can view your purchasing options in British Pounds, Euros, US dollars, Canadian dollars, Australian dollars, Icelandic kronur, Indian rupees, and much much more! (It should be noted that all purchases will be CHARGED in UK pounds; your credit card will convert your currency at the prevailing rate of exchange at the time of purchase.)

Western Outlaw Hard Hats
Want to comply with your local construction safety regulations but still show off your own particular style? Look no further than the good people at customhardhats.com! Western style available for $28.95 in black, tan, or grey, and there are more styles available, including Patriotic Canadian and Patriotic Mexican ($21.95 each). The company is American but they ship worldwide! Please pay attention to the description of each hat to make sure it meets your particular safety code needs.

Say Cheeeeeeese!
Know what Americans think of when we think of Europe? Battles and castles. Unless we're hungry, in which case we think of wine, chocolate and cheese! Grana D'Oro in Reggio Emilia, Italy, offers what I hope is very fine "Red Cow" Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and butter. They certainly do seem particular about the "process" of cheesemaking (if you'll pardon the lame joke there). Personally, I think the best macaroni and cheese is made with some parmesan mixed in, but that's just me and my American palate. This website is in English and Italian (naturally), and prices are given in Euros. You cannot order directly from the website, but there is contact information given to place your order. Enjoy the best dairy Italy has to offer!

Happy shopping, folks! I'll keep you posted with more interesting gifts as the Holiday Season (and, in our family's case, Absurd Number of Birthdays season) approaches.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Holiday Shopping

In search of the perfect gift for Christmas/Chanukkah/Festivus? Here are some interesting toys for girls and boys (and adults whose toys just got bigger over time). Have fun, and remember to spend your money wisely!

Pedal Cars
This company offers wagons, bikes, sleds, and oh yeah, GIANT PEDAL CARS! You must see it to believe it. Shipping is FREE if you opt for standard ground service.

Play Wonder Kitchen Play Set
Available at Target.com for $79.99 (local store prices may vary). My kids saw this at the store, and after 20 minutes they had to be dragged away. The construction is sturdy wood, and looks to be long-lasting. The best thing about the Play Wonder series is that the accessories are realistic miniatures of the real thing. The mixing bowls and pans are metal. The whisk is real. The toy food is pre-cut, so that your child can use his little toy knife (child safe!) to slice the food. Also available from Play Wonder: blender, toaster, and coffee maker. Most accessories sold separately.

Junie B. Jones paperback books
My six-year-old niece has been asking for these for Christmas. I've not read them myself, but I'm told there aren't actually any pictures, just incredibly funny stories told from the perspective of an almost-six-year-old. There are at least four box sets of these books, and they're pretty inexpensive on amazon.com. Enjoy them with your child this holiday!

Home Depot Gift Center
For the craftsperson in your family, HomeDepot.com offers a Gift Center page to help you find just the right present. Products are sorted by hobby, price, and recipient. There are even some cooking gadgets and gifts for kids. Of course, you can always go to the Home Depot main index to search for more specific products, like skill saws and riding lawn mowers. Drop in and have a look!

Conair Foot Spa
Bed Bath and Beyond has a similar Gift Search, and they certainly have a wide range of gift items. Number 2 on my BBB list is this Conair Body Benefits Pedicure Massaging Foot Spa, $39.99. Because seriously, after less than two hours with my Cub Scouts, I am ready for a foot soak and a can of ginger ale. (Incidentally, number one on my BBB list is this potato ricer. In case any of you were wondering. *wink*)

Cars DVD (Widescreen)
If you or the kids or all of you loved this movie, or are willing to love it, buy this NOW! Preorder for $15.87 at amazon.com. Official release date is November 7, 2006. Fullscreen also available for the same price. Seriously, this is awesome. Pixar keeps on amazing me. Get it now while it's still cheap!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Can you keep a secret?

I do love PostSecret, but as I've explained before, I don't necessarily feel I should mail all my burdens to that poor man in Germantown. So here's my secret:

I told you I ate the last of those McDonald's Breakfast Burritos that were in the fridge because I knew you were pissed off that nobody was eating them.

I lied.

I fed them to the dog because they were so nasty.

She didn't want them, either.

I'm sorry I lied to you.

Caution: Coffee is hot!

Remember that story about the lady who sued McDonald's because of the hot coffee spilled on her lap? Admit it, you made cracks about it too. I think it would be good if you read this. Bet you won't make fun anymore.

Funny how quickly our perspectives can change.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Those Bible stories...

Today, Cowboy has an excellent post about Rehoboam, a king of Israel whose story appears in the old Testament.

Not to be outdone, I submit to you one of MY favorite Old Testament stories. It's found in Judges, chapter 4, and then again (in song form) in chapter 5. It is the story of Sisera, a Canaanite captain who oppressed the Israelites for 20 years; Deborah, a prophetess; Barak, an Israelite captain; and Jael, a tent-dwelling woman whose husband chose to live way out in the boonies (or at least that's what it seems like to me).

In this period of time, the Israelites were under the rule of a Canaanite king and his captain, who, as I said, was a pretty bad dude, with his 900 chariots of iron and all. After two decades of this, the Israelites were very "From the depths we cry to you, o Lord." Finally they went to their prophetess Deborah, who sat under a palm tree, and asked her for judgement. (Seriously, how cool is THAT job? Sit under a tree and wait for people to come ask for judgement/advice from God. And she was married, too! Talk about an excuse not to get the dishes done...)

Anyhoo, Deborah sends for Barak. It's odd, but she seems to be reminding him that God has already told him what to do, which is to take 10,000 men from two specific tribes and go to Mt. Tabor. There the Lord would help him defeat Sisera's army at the river Kishon.

Barak's response is not at all manly, I'm sorry to say. He tells Deborah that he will only go if Deborah goes with him. On the one hand, yeah, he wants the blessing of the prophetess, or a lucky rabbit's foot, or however it is he saw her, but on the other hand, CHICKEN!

Deborah informs him that she will surely go (aww, she's being nice) but that their journey/war campaign will not be for Barak's honor, "for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman." Heh.

Barak and Deborah and 10,000 men make the trip up Mt. Tabor. Sisera's response after learning of this is the same one you might have if you were outnumbered by more than 10 to 1, which is to hightail it out of there. He and his men run all the way to, you guessed it, Kishon River. Deborah sends Barak down after them, so away the Israelite army goes. In her poem (chapter 5), Deborah says the stars in heaven fought against Sisera (a severe thunderstorm?), the River Kishon swept them away, and the horsehoofs were broken. Sisera is then so "discomfited" (by which we mean panicked), as is all his army, that he jumps right off his stupid chariot and runs away on foot, deserting his men, who all die at the hands of the Israelite army. Yeah, that's right, ALL of them.

Sisera keeps running, probably a good 30 miles toward Kedesh, until he reaches the tent of Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite, and seeks sanctuary there, knowing that there is a peace between his king and Heber. I can't tell you the actual tone of their conversation, but we can guess that Sisera is looking extremely pathetic here. Jael is all, "Come to my tent, baby, I've got butter." Sisera is very "Gimme some water, tuts, and if anyone comes by, there's nobody here, got it?" Jael gives him milk (and butter?) and a blanket and waits for him to go to sleep.

Then Jael does to most awesome thing ever recorded in the Old Testament (or the most gruesome, depending on your disposition), which is to grab a tent stake and hammer, then creep up on Sisera and pound that stake through his temples all the way to the ground.

Barak, when he finally catches up to Sisera's location (however long that took), finds Jael waiting for him. "Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest." That's all she says. Barak walks in to find Sisera's head nailed to the floor. And by the way, how long did it take Barak to find Sisera? Did he catch up to him the same day Sisera stopped for a glass of milk? Was it the next day? That's a pretty mountainous part of the world; even if Jael's tent was located on a plain near Kedesh, there are certainly plenty of hills and other elevations between Mt. Tabor and that place. It would surely have been simple for a trained man to avoid detection for a while at least. With this in mind, I suspect that Jael might very well have had Sisera nailed to her bedroom floor for several days before Barak even showed up. Excuse me, but ew.

I should point out that Heber and his wife chose to cut themselves off from Heber's family and live far away, presumably on their own or with their own children and grandchildren. I wonder why Heber would do that? Maybe he didn't get along with his family, because he sided with the Canaanite king. Or maybe he knew his wife was crazy, and he wanted to keep her away from too many people. Who knows how many times he caught her with a tent stake? In any case, after this horrific event, Deborah and Barak sang songs of praise, calling Jael blessed above women in the tent.

Sadly, the Catholic church has not canonized Jael as the Patron Saint of Women in Tents, nor of tentmakers (that's Paul the Apostle), nail makers (St. Cloud), housewives (Saints Anne, Martha, Monica, and Zita) or mental illness (there are 17 saints for that one). Deborah is a saint, but apparently not of patronage in particular, not even of judges (that honor goes to three men, including Nicholas of Myra, who is also the patron saint of boot blacks).

What should we learn from all of this? Don't oppress people, because it will come back to bite you in the butt. Do not undervalue women. Beware of ladies who live in seclusion, be it in a tent or under a tree. And above all, when someone invites you in for butter, for the love of crap, say no!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Monday, September 11, 2006

Friday, September 08, 2006

In-laws and out-laws are not opposites

Dear In-laws,

I do not care about your family drama. Stop involving us.

Little sis-in-law, I love you, but that does not mean you are allowed to be rude to me and give me attitude in my own house. Next time, your brother won't just hold your legs to keep you from running away, he'll SIT ON YOU.

Brother-in-law, move out. You were supposed to be here a week or two, then a month or two. That was back in May. You have a job now. Why you are giving your entire paycheck to child support is beyond me; my dad had to pay child support AND get his own place to live. You can do the same. Go get your own place, move your wife down here, and get custody of your son. Go be your own family and stop mooching off mine. And while you're still here mow the damn lawn, like we agreed, instead of leaving it to my nearly-50-year-old father who works 60 hours a week on the night shift.

Older sis-in-law, I have no complaints about you. Bring the nieces over more often; I want to hear your oldest play her clarinet. She can seriously practice on my back porch, and it won't bother anybody but Brother-in-law, who I want to leave anyway.

Mother-in-law, thank you for FINALLY trying to get a job. Please stop asking everyone for money and/or expensive gifts. We all have kids, too. And for heaven's sake, next time your daughter starts mouthing off, the least you can do is GET UP OUT OF YOUR CHAIR.

Father-in-law, I know you're on your third wife and your...seventh baby, is it?...but you do have grandchildren, and it wouldn't kill you to call and ask about them now and then. That's all. We're not asking you for money or a place to stay or a car or anything like that. Just care about our kids. If you can't do that, you're not really a grandpa, are you? Then again, you weren't much of a father, so I'm not surprised. You just...you hurt my husband, and I don't know how to forgive you for that.

Bizarro Dad, get off your lazy butt and HELP ME. I keep asking you for help, and you keep ignoring me. Eventually I will reach my breaking point. You don't want that to happen.

Sincerely,
Sleepless Mama

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tatoes

Gina: What happened to your cake you cooking? Where's you cake?

Me: I didn't make a cake, baby. I made mashed potatoes.

Gina: Oh.

Me: Do you like mashed potatoes?

Gina: No.

Me: That's okay. Maybe I'll make you some potato patties later.

Gina: No! I don't like tato pa-patties!

Me: Potato patties?

Gina: I don't like tato pa-pattie-toes...tato... I don't like them!

Grandma's Potato Pattie Recipe:

mashed potatoes, rolled up into balls (cold potatoes work best)
1 egg
1/2 cup (or so) of milk
1-2 tbsp butter or oil for frying
salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter or oil in pan. Combine milk and egg in small bowl; beat well. Dip potato ball into egg batter, then drop into pan. Mash down ball with spatula while frying. Cook both sides until desired color (golden, light brown, etc) or stiffness. Season as desired and serve.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Maybe some Scientologists should embrace karma

Seriously, people. Have you heard about this? Paramount has just up and decided not to renew their contract with Tom Cruise, or rather his production company Cruise/Wagner (C/W), on the grounds that Tom's personal conduct is...unbecoming? Unacceptable. Something like that. Actually, the man who makes such decisions (Sumner Redstone of Viacom) said Tom "effectuates creative suicide and costs the company revenue," and thus should not be "on the lot."

Currently the celebrity gossip columns are making much of Cruise's unfavorable ratings with the public (what, he's the president now, that he gets his own approval rating?), and everyone seems to be blaming his couch-jumping, anti-depressant-hating, Scientology-spewing conduct for the relative failure of Mission Impossible 3 ($398 million worldwide, when they were all expecting half a billion dollars), which in turn is viewed, by the columnists, as the reason for Paramount's latest decision. But a simple search pulls up an article in Variety, dated July 10 of this year, which reveals this interesting factoid:

Although the company has provided Par[amount] with some heavy hitters at the box office -- "War of the Worlds" and May's "Mission: Impossible III" -- it has also delivered a string of recent disappointments like "Suspect Zero," "Elizabethtown" and "Ask the Dust."

The article goes on to say that "Cruise's deals are notoriously rich and hard to make," and points out that chairman Brad Grey's first priority, when he took over Paramount in 2005, was to reduce the budget for MI3.

So you see, folks, it's not just that Tom Cruise is a stark raving wacko. It's that he's a wacko who produces crappy movies that don't sell at all and expensive movies that don't quite sell enough to make up the difference.

Although, really, I have to admit the wacko factor is what kept me from going out to watch MI3.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Chicken or Egg?

Which is better to do first: read the book, or watch the movie?

This is the downright dumbest excuse for a fundamental question I've ever had, but here it is. I want to know what you think is better.

Everyone knows by now that if you read the book first, you'll spend the majority of the movie thinking to yourself (or shouting out loud, if you're the type), "Dude, that's not what's supposed to happen!" or "She's supposed to go in the building FIRST!" or "What happened to all the other characters?" or "This doesn't even resemble the central plot of the book. It's like they took all the same characters and wrote a new story for them."

You find yourself unable to enjoy the film for itself, because in your mind it should be the visual companion to the book you know and love, when in fact almost no movie can accomplish such a feat without being 11 hours long. Producers, screenwriters, editors, etc. simply have to change a story, to chop it up and strip it down to bare essentials simply for time constraints. "But, but, no, don't you think maybe..." No. Maybe with the DVD they can recut it and add in all that extra footage (a la Lord of the Rings and Stargate) and make it more like the book, but the theatrical release has to be shortened. It's not like we have intermission these days. People gotta pee. Shorten the story so I can go pee!

This does not mean, however, that I approve of some screenwriters' habit of taking the main characters and just giving them completely new plots. Most of the time I get all pissy and feel like demanding a refund. If I wanted to see Princess Mia Fights the Custom of Marriage while Receiving Gentle Advice from Julie Andrews, I'd write a piece of crappy Princess Diaries fanfiction. I like my Princess Mia the Smartalecky Teenage New Yorker with the Grandmother from Hell, just the way Meg Cabot wrote it.

Do you see what I mean? These movies are good in and of themselves, but I can't just sit and watch these movies and enjoy them for what they are now that I've read the books. In my mind, Mia's Grandmother should be a princess, not a queen, and she should have eyeliner tattooed to her lids, a balding toy poodle, and a prediliction for Sidecars (1/3 lemon juice, 1/3 Cointreau, 1/3 brandy shaken well with ice, strained before serving). Fitzwilliam Darcy should not have that stupid look on his face as though someone were trying to teach him Einstein's theory of relativity 140 years too early. Harry Freaking Potter should have...oh, I won't go there.

On the other hand...

Yesterday I finished reading Practical Magic. Do you recall that film, with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock? Can you picture Gillian (Kidman) with her long red hair? Can you see the children casting spells? Remember the aunts casting an attraction spell on Sally (Bullock)? Can you picture that hot cop (played by Aidan Quinn) with the multi-colored eyes? That's nice, but don't expect to find them in the book in that way.

Gillian has short blond hair and falls in love with a biology teacher. The children are surly teenagers who don't even know their aunts are witches, and they certainly don't cast their own spells. The hot cop has brown eyes, and he did not come as the result of that cute little spell Sally cast when she was a kid (the spell never happened).

This is not a big deal, really. It's clear the screenwriter took the story and did some major changes, but that's not what bothers me most. No, the problem is that when I read, I can only picture Bullock, Kidman, and Quinn in those roles. And the aunts? Yeah, I can only see Stockard Channing and Dianne Weist. My imagination has been limited, because I saw the movie first. I should be sitting there picturing a blonde in her mid thirties, but all I can come up with is Nicole in her twenties. I should be making up my own ideas about the clothes, scenery, houses, minor characters, etc. But I'm stuck in the movie. I'm stuck with those actors, those set directors, costumers, etc. And if there's one thing I can't stand, it's having someone else limit my imagination for me.

So, back to my question. What's better? Book first, or movie first?

Monday, August 14, 2006

I love you

You know you're still in love when, after years together, you can still make each other laugh and smile with just a look, or an old joke, or when one of you does an imitation of the other and doesn't give the least bit of offense in doing so.

My dear husband, I treasure you. Thanks for making me laugh while helping me with the dishes. Those are the moments that get me through the week. And by the way, do I really scream at the book when I'm reading the latest Harry Potter novel? Oh, and yes, we can get two copies of Book 7. Shall we stamp them "His" and "Hers" then?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

My Karl

Dearest Karlito,

It's been three years today. Life is no kinder than when you left us, but at least there's been love and happy moments.

Three years, and I still think about you all the time, and wonder what you'd make of some silly scenario, or a thing I heard about on the news, or Lisa's boyfriend, or me. Would you still laugh at our old jokes, or are we too old for that now? Would you be worried about this war, would you smile at some nonsense, would you tell me more about some book you read that explains the true nature of why something backfired and society had let yet another criminal go free? Would you tell Lisa to leave that foolish man already, because clearly he will never appreciate her the way you did when the two of you were together?

Three years, and I wonder if you'd be married by now, and to whom. Would you have a teaching job, or be working on your Master's degree? Would you still live with your parents, or would you be on your own in a bachelor pad like your brother? Would I be going to your house once or twice a month so we could cook something fun that we'd been craving? Would you be making plans to go back to Fresno to visit the families you taught during your mission? Would you still make cornbread out of sour milk? Would you still make up Quotes pages filled with all the dumb things I'd told you? Would you let me highlight your hair again? I promise, this time I won't trick you by using the big size H crochet needle instead of the little itty bitty one that comes with the highlighting cap. But really, you did look great with all that blond hair.

Would you and I still be as close as we once were? Would I come to you when my husband does some strange man thing that requires an explanation? Would my kids call you Uncle Karl? Would my husband laugh at us, and how goofy we are when we get together? (Actually, I can answer that one: yes, he would. He still does.)

Three years, and I still laugh at all our old jokes, at the pictures of us acting goofy.

Three years, and I still want to talk to you for the sheer pleasure of good conversation.

Three years, and I still love you, and there's an empty spot in my soul where you're supposed to be.

Three years, and I still don't know what to do, except go on.

Love always,
Me

P.S. HOOTERS! (Heh, you thought I forgot, didn't you!)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Meez-sles!



So many things to do, so many other things I'd rather be doing instead. Like creating this Meez!

Yes, that's the skinny version of me, Cubmaster style!

What about you?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Insomniac Movie Review: Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

An amazing film, beautiful and thought provoking. Although it is certainly adapted by the novel (of same name) by Diana Wynne Johnson, the film departs from the source material to examine the harsh effects of war on the central characters and the world they live in.

The central plot revolves around a girl, Sophie, who falls under a witch's curse to become a 90-year-old woman. I could go on and on about how she comes to interact with the Wizard Howl and have a positive effect on the people around her as she struggles to overcome her own curse, but I won't. It's much more fun to watch it unfold than to be told about it. One thing about Miyazaki, he loves to tell a good story. It is not by accident that John Lasseter and Brad Bird (Pixar geniuses of storycrafting) have raved about Miyazaki in general and this film in particular. Well, okay, it's more than coincidence; the English dubbing was directed by Pete Docter (also of the Pixar genius clan). But directing the English voices is not nearly the same as directing the movie itself, and Miyazaki does a superior job.

The warfare in this story is not glorified, like some kind of Richard Donner movie or G.I. Joe cartoon. It is made very clear that war and violence disrupt the peace and beauty of everyday life, and it may scare younger children. The war storyline can easily be construed as a judgement of the current wars in the Middle East, but it holds true for any war that is fought close to someone's home. Remember the lesson of Tolkein, and look for applicability to many aspects of our lives, not allegory to one particular situation.

The animation is, quite simply, superb. Perhaps the people's faces are typical of anime, but the scenery is outstanding and the transformations astounded me. I wish I had a Hi-Def TV just for this movie.

Be aware, parents, that there is very slight, brief nudity. The central character is even trying to look away, so it's not like some gratuitous derriere footage. Honestly, if you think a quick side view of a cartoon butt is an issue, then you really need to see a therapist. Your kids look at their own butts in the full length mirror, people, whether you know it or not. Get over it.

If I must address a perceived flaw, it is that the ending seems too neat. However, it should be noted that the book itself has an absurdly neat ending, in which myriad storylines are all wrapped up in so concise a manner that I found myself checking to make sure I hadn't accidentally skipped some pages. So get over it, critics.

Rent this movie. You'll love it.

Friday, July 21, 2006

I wish less really was more

Dear Bizarro Dad,

You are bringing us to the brink of bankruptcy.

Stop buying lunch every day. I make more than enough dinner for you to have leftovers the next day. You accuse me of "not making enough," for you to take to work, when really you just leave it in the fridge all week, and my dad ends up throwing it out when he cleans the fridge out on Sunday.

Stop buying shit you think we "need." We don't need it. You just want it.

Stop buying excessive gifts for the kids. A game or toy once in a while is fine. But they'd be better served if we saved some of that money to use for food, or clothes, or school supplies.

We agreed upon a $40 per month allowance for each of us. That's per month, not per week. Stay within that sum, please.

You are not a rich man. Stop pretending you are.

Start asking your brother for his half of the damn Bally's membership fee. I hate paying $68 dollars a month for HIM to go to the gym. I also hate it that you signed up for Bally's AT ALL. I told you I had a bad feeling about that "free trial." Now we'll be paying for it for years, and you don't even GO to the gym.

Last month, you brought us down to a zero balance in checking with less than $50 in savings. You were sorry, you were humbled, you promised you wouldn't do it anymore. You haven't learned anything. Not a damn thing.

You keep buying tools to have for work. I'm trying to pay off your credit card, and you just keep buying shit with it. You told me when you first took this job that you wouldn't need to buy a lot of tools. Apparently that was a lie, because this is the second $400 tool shopping spree you've been on since you went to work there a few months ago.

You purposely leave me in charge of the family budget, claiming that none of the bills will get paid otherwise, then you ignore me when I say "we cannot buy ANYTHING except groceries and gas this week or the bills won't get paid," then you get all pissy when I tell you later in the month that we can't afford to go out to the movies because of said bills, and you make ME into the bad guy. You especially hate it when I point out that the reason we can't go to the movies is that you've been spending all this money.

You don't like to be treated like a child, but you keep acting like one! And I can't just let you run off doing whatever the hell you want, because we have two small kids to support! But I suppose I'm ineffective, since you clearly run off doing whatever the hell you want with our money anyway.

You put me in this position, and then you wonder why I have headaches, why I always seem sad, why money issues always result in an argument.

I hate this.

I hate you, sometimes.

Maybe if you got off your damn XBox and paid any attention to what's going on with the people around you, you might understand why I'm so upset.

(By the way, your stupid XBox 360 keeps costing us money. It wasn't enough that it cost $500 from the get-go, now you have to subscribe to XBox Live ($54) and keep buying "points" so that you can do something as trivial as change your handle ($20).)

--Me

Thursday, July 20, 2006

It's called Rooster Beak, not Rooster Sweet Tooth

On PBS, there is a very strange dude telling me that HIS version of pico de gallo (a type of salsa that is not cooked, and consists of certain chopped vegetables mixed with lemon juice) calls for mint instead of cilantro. Now I'm all for doing your own thing, but COME ON! Let's see, thats:
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh jalapeno
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper, and
  • 1/2 cup chopped mint??????

What the hell kind of wierdo show is this Barbeque University?

Although, come to think of it, that might be perfect for my old pal Sue, who claimed she was allergic to cilantro....nah, who am I kidding? The perfect substitute for cilantro is Italian parsley. You can take that mint and shove it up your firebox, BBQ Steve!

There was an article in yesterday's paper about Clerks II, but a sizable portion seemed to be about Kevin Smith's feelings about Jersey Girl. Tremendous flop at the box office and all that. According to the interviewer, Smith brought it up frequently, but still maintained that it's not a sore spot but does hurt. Uh, Kevin, sorry man, but that's the definition of a sore spot.

The thing is, I liked Jersey Girl. It's in my Netflix Queue. My mother loved it. It was thoughtful and tender, funny, and had attractive people in it. All the things you want from a PG-13 non-action movie. But because of the Bennifer aspect, and the whole Gigli thing, people just didn't want to go watch this movie. It's a shame, really, because Jennifer Lopez is barely even IN the movie. She dies in, like, the first five or ten minutes. Honestly, if that's not enough of a reason to watch, I don't know what is.

(Don't flame me. We watch people die in movies all the time. Might as well work out our feelings about an actor while we're doing so. Besides, I am well aware that it was a sad scene and that Lopez played it well.)

Kevin, let it go. I know it hurts because you spent two years on that movie and nobody seemed to appreciate it. But really, it was good. And you didn't have to worry about Joel Siegel trying to attract attention to himself during the screening. ;)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"They say a bullet always tells the truth..."

First person to correctly identify the movie from which today's title comes from gets a gold star.

*****

My oldest, when she gets a runny nose, tells me she has "burgers" in her nose. I wonder if this is what she's been telling my youngest. It would explain why the little one likes to eat her nose pickings.

*****

My husband has discovered a new game for his XBox 360. He and his brother (who still lives with us) joined a clan on XBox Live so that they can play Chrome Hounds with this group of people all the time. They enjoy the game because it's challenging and requires tactical planning, as opposed to pointing and shooting at whoever comes their way.

I hate it. Not only have I not been able to watch my own TV for days without having to fuss about them hijacking it, but Bizarro Dad has been ignoring the children, and J wasted his time with his son this weekend by making the boy watch movies and play computer games while he, J, took turns playing the XBox. Gina has been misbehaving with the express purpose of getting her father to interact with her. ("Do I have to call your Daddy in here?" *smile* "Yes!") I go to do my Cub Scout thing one evening, and when I come back the baby is streaking and there are stickers, food, and trash strewn across the living room floor, and all the while my husband has been sitting in his rolly chair in front of the TV with the wireless headset on (to talk to his clan) and the wireless remote glued to his fingers.

XBox 360: A marvel of 21st century technology and the downfall of my family.

*****

Now that he got a new daytime job, my brother-in-law has sent his dog to live with my mother-in-law. Thank goodness. I found my family heirloom quilt lying on the floor in the dog's enclosure, with poop on it. Not amusing to me in the least.

*****

There have been a lot of highly publicized teenage killings/attempted murders around here lately. Seriously, do these kids have nothing better to do with their summers? What I thought was strange was when I heard someone say, over the weekend, that the way to stop this is to spend time talking to our kids. I would agree, except that these events occurred either at night while parents slept (during the party hours), or in the middle of the day, when parents were at work. You can't prevent violence with a 24 hour filibuster. These are teenagers, not 7-year-olds. You can tell them "this is wrong" all you want, but they will decide for themselves what they want to do with their free time. The key, I think, is giving them something else to do in addition to the sit-down talks. The Boys and Girls Club, or a summer job, or summer school, or camp, or a big project around the house, or SOMETHING. Idle hands are the devil's workshop.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Gomer Piles

My brother-in-law's puppy dog keeps leaving piles around the inside of our house.

My father is trying to be patient about this, but he refuses to clean up the mess. I can't say I blame him.

I don't want to be the one getting bitched at over the toilet habits of a dog that isn't even mine.

Dude, get off my husband's XBox and pay attention to your dog.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Old Boyfriend letters

Dear Notorious D.I.C.,

I don't hate you anymore.

I just wish you would apologize, so that I can finally finish forgiving you. It's been many years, we're both married now, and I'd like to think we can talk about this just enough for you to tell me you're sorry. I think I deserve that much, after everything that happened.

Maybe someday you'll say it. I'd rather it be sooner than later, but I guess if you haven't said anything in the last seven or eight years, I can hardly expect it any time in the near future.

Perhaps you think you can't acknowledge what went on between us, because we're both married now. And maybe you'd be right to think that. But honestly, saying, "I'm sorry I was such a dick," hardly constitutes an affair.

Well, whatever. You never were good at that sort of thing.

****************

Dear Monster,

You saw the bruises on that pregnant girl's arms, yet you maintained that staying married to her husband was a good thing. I'm glad she divorced his sniveling ass, though I wish she'd done it much sooner.

My own bruises healed, but my contempt for you has never died.

Idiot.

****************

Dear Ninth Grade Boyfriend,

I was an emotional wreck at the time. There was some serious family drama going down. Whatever animosity I had at the time was not about you.

I'm sorry. You were a good guy. I just wasn't ready for something as real as a serious relationship with you.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Insomniac Movie Rundown

Last weekend the husband and I did a double feature: DaVinci Code, followed by Lake House. I'll keep it short, since I want to talk about other movies, too.

DaVinci Code: If it's still at the theater in your area, and you still haven't seen it but are thinking about it, allow me to save you some money by telling you to wait until it's available on DVD. Don't get me wrong, it's not horribly bad. It's just...you don't gain anything by seeing it on a large screen versus a smaller screen. The acting is not superior, even though it IS Tom Hanks. And the car chase scene? Ugh. The camera work in that scene is simply terrible! Whoever directed that (and I'm guessing it was second unit, as most action scenes are) seemed to believe that shots of a tiny car driving backwards and crazy in the narrow streets of Paris is not enough to keep us on the edge of our seats. No, you need to shake up the camera to shake up the audience, or at least that's what these people think. Personally, I was glad I didn't have epilepsy like my best friend, because I surely would have had a seizure from the strobe-like effect of this scene.

Lake House: You know, I've defended this movie (clearly, critics hate it) and encouraged people to give it a chance. But the fact is, I was happy with it because I only wanted two things from it: to see a romance that might make me cry, and to ogle Keanu Reeves. If you want some sort of cultural experience from your films, then you need to skip this and head to the Anjelika. If you want to see nude/shirtless people, go see X-Men 3. If you're a girl, and you want to cry, or look at Keanu in all his hot-40-year-old-in-a-turtleneck glory, come right here. Truthfully, you should not expect more than that. There are some gaping plotholes, and while you might be able to overlook them for the hour and half while you watch, you won't be able to get over them once you get to the car and start thinking about it. I won't go into it, lest I spoil the movie for you. I will say, ladies, leave the men at home, because they will not enjoy it as much as you, and will feel as though they've paid $17 for idiocy. Go with some girlfriends so that you can weep freely.

Doogal: Available on DVD. It's premise, that a band of animals must travel the world in search of magic diamonds in order to imprison an evil ice wizard, is more or less a cartoon version of Lord of the Rings. In fact, there are numerous references to Lord of the Rings, as well as The Matrix, Bend it Like Beckham, and heaven knows what else. You know how Shrek and Shrek 2 do a few little bits to parody whatever new movies have come out recently? Doogal does the same thing, only it never ends, and the material doesn't have to be "recent" or even "from this decade." There's a Bone Thugs N Harmony joke in there that I found especially amusing, because I recall a time when that was all my brother listened to for a solid year. The memory of his stereo blasting all hours of the day and night still sends annoying signals to the rest of my body. This movie did scare my kids at first, but when they sat in my lap to watch it, there was no problem. We rented it, but most likely will not buy it. Note to the casting director: casting Jon Stewart of The Daily Show as the villain was genius. Casting Whoopi Goldberg as the cow was not. Y'all really need to pick a voice that fits the character, not the voice that everyone will recognize whether it serves the character or not. You're basically paying bookoos of money for someone to mess up your movie for you.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Insomniac Movie Review: Cars

Title: Cars
Starring: Luke Wilson, Paul Freakin' Newman!, Bonnie Hunt (her third Pixar movie), Richard Petty (as a car painted Petty Blue, no less), Cheech Marin, and Larry the Cable Guy (this is the first time I've ever heard his voice and not wanted to rip my own ears off)
MPAA Rating: G

Plot Summary: Your standard jerk-who-looks-down-on-everyone-finds-himself-a-fish-out-of-water-and-learns-the-true-meaning-of-friendship story, with a hint of finding-a-hidden-treasure-and-learning-its-value and a dash of helping-old-things-become-new-again. Oh, and a little pinch of romance, but not enough to make the kids groan.

Okay, so it's a kids movie, but one the parents can enjoy without getting bored (coughCuriousGeorgecough). A Pixar film, no less. Do you really need more of a reason to schlep the kiddies out to the box office? You do? Okay, I'll lay it out for you.
  1. The story is good. It's not The Incredibles, I'll grant you, but Pixar has always been in service of the story. Yes, it's predictable, but it's still good, it still entertains, and it still rings true. And really, it's only predictable to adults because we're old fogeys who've seen too many movies. To a child, it's all new.
  2. The jokes work for everyone. My husband has been going on and on about them. Non-stop. Since Tuesday. No kidding.
  3. Paul Newman! Seriously! You can't love movies and not see something with Paul Newman in it. It's against the law in 49 states and the District of Columbia.
  4. The animation is simply amazing. I'm not kidding. From the very beginning of the film, Pixar animators do things that trick the eyes. These people have gotten so good, I almost forgot I was looking at CG animation in some places. If for no other reason than to marvel at man's accomplishment in technology and artistry, you should see this movie. And I can tell you right now, watching the DVD on my 25" TV screen will not do justice the the sights in this movie. To be fully appreciated, this movie simply MUST be seen on a cinema screen. Or, possibly, on my sis-in-law's digital projector screen that takes up her whole living room wall.
  5. Larry the Cable Guy, for once in his life, makes things better and funnier with his presence. I know, I couldn't believe it either! But it's true! He really works in this movie. Granted it's not such a stretch for Larry to play a character who is, basically, a total goober. But he's not raunchy or disgusting here, which instantly makes him 20 times more likeable.
  6. Tractor tipping. Weirdest thing ever, but so funny.
  7. You know how when you get caught up in watching a NASCAR race, and you start getting bored and secretly hope for a car crash to break the monotony, but then you feel all bad about wishing that an innocent person would have a crash? You can totally wish for an accident in this movie and not feel guilty, because it's a cartoon.
  8. This movie will fill you with nostalgia. I sat there wishing I could go back to these old places, these small towns. I was ready to plan out a road trip to San Antonio by way of US90, just to see what kind of places I would spot along the way.
  9. Cars already have personality; you see a minivan, you assign an impression of the person who drives it, like "Soccer mom." This movie is just the natural progression of an accepted idea.
  10. The cartoon short "One Man Band" is hilarious. Make sure you get to the theater early!
  11. The ending credits cracked us all up. Watch them! Don't miss out!
  12. Did I mention Paul Newman?
Take your kids to see this movie. You'll get no peace in the house until you do, and you know it. Also, Pixar deserves the money. They put on a good show.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Big Brother at the Photo Lab

You'd have to be stupid to take pictures of your naked body, send the film to a 2-day or mail-away photo lab, and not expect someone other than yourself to see your glory (or shame, as the case may be).

But you'd be an absolute idiot to send that same film to a 1-hour photo lab.

The tech who takes your film? She's probably the one who will actually stick her hands into the black box and pull your film out of its nifty little plastic canister to dip it in developer fluid. She will probably be the one who sticks the film into the machine, where it uses those film negatives to produce pictures in just a few short minutes. She will look through every single photo, checking that each one has developed properly into whatever it's supposed to look like. Anything that is all grey, or excessively blurry, etc., will be thrown away. She will see these nude photos. She will see the face (if there is one) that goes with the body. So when you come back to pick up those pictures, she will instantly know the most intimate details of your anatomy.

Furthermore, she knows who you are, has your name and phone number written on that little envelope you handed her, and have the rest of your info if you pay with plastic. She can track you down and stalk you if she really wants to. And heaven help you if your tech is a big burly dude who doesn't understand "boundaries."

And finally, in case you think that tech will be the only one to see the pictures and probably won't make a big deal out of it, I can assure you that the opposite is true. That tech will either keep the original photos and not give them to you at all, or print extra copies unbeknownst to you. The pictures will be kept in a special little box that is filled with the nude photos from other customers who've been so foolish in the past. These pictures will occasionally be passed around the store for all to see. If you're lucky, most of the store clerks will be like me and not want to see that raunchy crap, and will not look in the box. Unfortunately, for every clerk like me, there are five clerks who are not like me, and will at least give a cursory glance if not a full inspection of all the nude pics. Furthermore, store management will most likely occasionally take the box and empty it of its contents, to either be shredded or kept in the manager's private collection.

Trust me on this. You really don't want to get stares every time you walk into your favorite photo lab.

Author's note: My experience in this matter is limited to my previous employment at a Wal-Mart in the 1990s, when I was told it was store policy to confiscate and keep on file all nude photos processed in the one-hour lab. This was not told to me directly by a member of management, nor was I told if this policy held for all stores or only our own. I do not know what current policy is in effect. So don't sue me. I don't have money anyway.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Insomniac Movie Review: X-Men 3: Last Stand

Title: X3: The Last Stand
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Plot Summary: A pharmaceutical company generates a "cure" for mutation. Some mutants embrace it, others protest it, and Magneto exploits the situation by forming an army, intent on destroying the source of the cure. Jean Grey, who "died" in the previous movie, is found alive, but unable to contain her power. The X-Men find themselves defending humans (not to mention the source of the very cure they despise) against Magneto's mutant militia. Ethical questions arise, but they are too numerous to detail.

Should your kids watch it? I do not recommend letting the little ones see this movie. Then you'd have to explain why that woman has her legs around that guy, and you don't want to go there with your six-year-old. I'd say 12 and up.

My opinion about this movie: Three words. IT. KICKS. ASS!

What, you want more yakking? Okay. This movie has the character relationships you like (although I think there could have been more exploration to this than was on the film). This movie has the fighting you action buffs want. This movie has some awesome special effects, and they don't even look fake (are you taking notes, George Lucas?) This movie has new, awesome mutations that freaked me right out. It has more famous mutants from Marvel Comics. Yeah, that's right, Juggernaut is there, along with ArchAngel, Colossus, Shadowcat (called Kitty here), and heaven knows who else. Forgive me, comic lovers, but it has been a good 12-15 years since I last read an X-Men comic, so I don't know the name of that dude who multiplies himself, and I can't remember it from watching the movie only once.

One more thing. When you see this movie, be sure to STAY to the END OF THE CREDITS. You will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Game Review: DaVinci Code for PS2

Since Justin over at Part Time Gamer is so busy with his new house, and he's in the middle of a Tourist Trophy Tournament anyway, I thought I'd do my bit for gamer kind and give you my take on The DaVinci Code for PS2.

First of all, I should tell you that I've neither read the book nor seen the movie, so I don't have many preconceived ideals with which to compare the experience of playing the game. I will say that, in theory, the book is naturally better suited to become a game than a film, if you're the type who'd rather be involved in the mystery than watch someone else solve it.

Yes, in the tradition of Soul Reaver and Escape from Monkey Island, this is your basic puzzle game. Just the kind of thing I enjoy. There's a great deal of exposition, though, and it takes F-O-R-E-V-E-R. Fortunately, you can just press a button to skip conversations you feel are not important or have already heard. The Blockbuster box cover recommends reading the book to be more successful with the game. I say you can get by with just seeing the movie previews and reading a few film reviews online. You should know there's a lot of seek-and-find going on, collecting clues and bonus items. You cannot get past a level until you've found all the necessary clues. There's also some actual cryptography for you, but it's mostly just letter substitution. You can even press the circle button for hints. The most annoying part is the torch-lighting puzzle (underground grotto in the garden), in which you have to figure out the correct sequence for lighting all five fire pans without having them shut each other off. I was not able to solve this without consulting a walk-through. In fact, even the guy who wrote the walk-through couldn't solve it without spening 45 minutes running around lighting the fire pans. Fortunately, someone else solved it, and sent it in to him. I'll print it at the end of this post.

Apparently game designers feel a game is just not worth playing if you don't get to fight with somebody, and in accordance with that theory you will have to fight several cops, goons, and monks. I was afraid I'd be facing something reminscent of Street Fighter 2, and would be ill-equipped to get past the first stage. However, it turns out that combat is determined not by memorizing complicated combinations to obscure moves that would never happen in the real world. At the bottom of the screen you are given a series of buttons to push. You must push these in the order in which they appear in a timely manner. Simple hand-eye coordination. And if even the timely manner part is too much for you, you can easily pause the game (mid-fight, even), go to the options menu, and switch the combat setting to Easy.

Okay, problems. Since there's so much exposition, so many clues and historical information, you are provided with a sort of notebook (R2 button) that keeps track of all the info you've been given so far. The problem comes when this notebook begins to give you info that you've not yet come across: clues you haven't found yet, poems you aren't supposed to have read, whatever. This "jumping the gun" thing seems to be present in some of the dialogue as well. But, if you've already read the book or seen the movie, I suppose none of that matters anyway. One other notebook complaint: some mysterious glitch resulted in my notebook not storing info about the second cryptex, but skipping right to the third. And another thing: where were all these crypteces coming from, anyway? There weren't scenes explaining anything but the first one. Were they all inside each other, like some bizarre form of nesting dolls? A little explanation would have been nice.

The mystery wasn't such a big mystery after all. Even though, as I said, I'd never read the book or seen the film, I still figured out the twist before the ending actually got there. I tell you, it's all M. Night Shyamalan's fault, making you expect a twist at the end of everything. Now all the surprises are spoiled.

Overall impression: nice game and all, but not one that I could play over and over again. Honestly, if the point of a game is to solve a mystery, what's the point of solving it again? It took me two days to solve it, but I had lots of free time, being sick in bed. Someone working full time, I'd say you could reasonably expect to finish the whole thing by the time the game is due back at Blockbuster.

The Hint:
Imagine that as you walk into the grotto, with the door behind you, the fire pans/star points in front of you are clock points:
-----12-----
-10-------2-
---7----5---
Find the torch, light it with fire from one of the smaller statues, and then light the fire pans in the following order:
12-10-5-10-2-10-7
This will ensure all five points are lit at the same time, providing you with your next clue and your exit.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Not a joke

I was originally going to post this as a response to someone's blog, but I thought it would be better as my own blog entry. It has been slightly edited.

You're just mean, aren't you? Or perhaps you think poking fun at scrawny women will make them eat? Yeah, that's a real self-esteem booster. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. *eye roll*

Don't get me wrong, I think the skin-and-bones look is unhealthy and unattractive, but anorexics need to treatment that is based on positive reinforcement and good nutrition, not snarky comments from movie critics and gossip mavens who would better serve the world by discussing films and television shows or shutting up entirely.

You think anorexia is an important issue? Treat it that way, not as a passing joke meant to get cheap laughs. People are dying, have already died, from anorexia. Do you have anything funny to say about that?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I don't want to see it

Attention: all ladies, young and old, tall and short, thin and chubby, born-a-girl and used-to-be-a-dude.

I'm not about to tell you never, ever to wear short skirts in public. We live in a free country, so I can't do that. Everyone has different ideas about modesty. Fine. But please listen this heartfelt plea:

When you wear a skirt that comes to the knee or above, please do not cross your legs at the knee when seated. Whoever is sitting across from you can see all the way up.

I do not want to see the color of your underwear while resting on a bench at the mall. I do not want to explain to my children why they can see your ladyparts, or (so help me) what they are for. I do not want to have to go over to you and whisper in your ear that I can see your stuff, but I will if you don't uncross those legs already, because there's nowhere else for me to sit but across from you, and there's no way I'm spending my only ten minutes of rest with your womanly glory in my line of vision. And I imagine YOU don't want some pervert guy taking my seat after I get up, pulling out his camera phone, and e-mailing pictures of your womanhood to his skeezy friends.

This goes double for church. In my opinion you have no business wearing a skirt that short to church anyway, but if you do insist on entering the Lord's House dressed like it's time to go clubbin', please have the courtesy to either cross your legs at the ankle or not cross them at all. I certainly do not want to see your panties while I'm sitting in the foyer waiting for my appointment with the bishop, nor do I think that 10-year-old boy's mother would appreciate your inadvertently educating her son on the mysteries of How Lingerie Fits. And I can assure you, the bishop doesn't need to see it, nor do any of the other husbands. That's why they have wives.

So from now on, keep your Victoria's Secrets to yourselves.