Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Not a Movie Review: Charlotte's Web

We're simple folk. When we gather for a family movie on Friday night we are looking only to be mutually entertained for a couple of hours. This is usually very easy to accomplish. We have very few expectations.

If it's a story from a book that has talking animals, The Spouse wants the animals to talk. (He once saw a live action version of the Jungle book and hated it. No talking animals).

The Child just likes to watch. The presence of a cute boy is becoming increasingly important to her but it's not a deal breaker.

Me? I just wanna have fun.

Charlotte's Web, the book by the brilliant EB White is one of my favorites. It's a tale of loyalty, friendship and the power of love. It is entertaining. It is powerful. It's funny and sad and truthful. It's one of my favorite books. I should add, however, that I never much cared for the pictures. Or rather, I just never looked at some of them. Because I'm not a fan of the spider. Any spider. Even a noble, creative, self-sacrificing spider. But in the book, that was OK. Because I didn't have to look at the spider.

I was perfectly happy to watch "Charlotte's Web", the 2006 release with the eternally chirpy Dakota Fanning. And then the spider crawled into the frame. And I freaked a little. But I got over it. The dulcet tones of Julia Roberts as Charlotte distracted me. Until they cut to a close up of the spider's talking face. And I freaked out some more. The story went on. My adrenal glands calmed down. Cute things happened. Then that frakking spider again.

Every time they did a close up of the spider I covered my face with my hands (I also employed this strategy during "Apocalypse Now"). The Child patted my leg consolingly, saying, "I'll tell you when you can look again, Mom". Which worked for a while until the whole thing just became too emotional. So I closed my eyes and kept them that way until I fell asleep and the family woke me up when it was all over.

I. Don't. Like. Spiders.

So I didn't really watch the movie and I can't give it a review. But The Spouse liked it. The animals talk.


Monday, July 30, 2007

How Do You Say, "Bummer" in Swedish?

Strictly speaking, there is someone who is in worse shape than I am. Ingmar Bergman has died.

Honestly, I wasn't a huge fan of his work. Oh, sure, I appreciated it intellectually and wanted to embrace his films because all the cool kids were doing it and he influenced film-makers I do care about, like Woody Allen. But mostly I thought his films were sorta boring. I actually fell asleep watching "Wild Strawberries". In the theatre.

You know who else puts me to sleep? Stanley Kubrik. No kidding. With a very few exceptions, Kubrik bores the snot out of me.

But I digress. Ingmar Bergman was a gifted film-maker who knew his way around, uh, a camera and um, austere windswept Swedish landscapes. And he sure knew how to light his actresses. Snaps. (I'm sorry, I keep having this picture in my head of him playing chess with Death before he, you know, died. Is that wrong?)

Rest in peace, Ingmar.

Here's a little film The Spouse made some years ago; his homage to Bergman.

Hannah Und Heir Papa

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It is a beautiful day. These last days of July have a richness about them...fruit hangs on the vine and while it will be weeks more before it ripens, all seems fresh and full of promise. The morning air is mild, clouds mere vestigial wisps across the brilliant blue of the sky.

A single hummingbird, iridescent green flashing from her wings, visits the feeder near my window.

These are the sorts of things which would normally fill me with delight, evoking psalms of thanksgiving and praise..."for the beauty of the earth"...

But today, there are no psalms of joy and the beauties of the world mock my pain. Despair is my only friend. The skies should be dark and glowering, winds rushing, knifelike with their sharp chill. That would fit my mood, not this lavender scented, birdsong filled, shining glory. But I am not so lucky. I must bear my sadness even as the forces of all that is good and beautiful and life-giving surrounds me with a big cosmic "neener neener".

It was supposed to be me, dammit!

Steve Martin Weds in Surprise Ceremony

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sunday Afternoon Tunes

Sometimes I find songs that are amazing to me, even if they weren't recorded in the 80s. And it's at times like that when I'm really glad I have another blog. Aren't the harmonies on this just about the most gorgeous thing EVER?

"After the Goldrush"


Friday, July 27, 2007

Things I Don't Get

1. How a person can just lie and lie and lie to Congress, even as everyone else who testifies in the matter contradict what that person says. How arrogant do you have to be? Seriously. Isn't there a point where you just say, "Whoa, ya caught me. My bad"?

2. How The Dog can spring up from a dead sleep, jump off the bed and run into the living room to bark with amazing ferocity at some beastie or ghoulie or vibration, making me sure that someone is either trying to break in or an earthquake is coming, and how after he's barked like a crazy thing he'll suddenly stop, come back to the bed and curl up to sleep like nothing happened.

3. How The Spouse and Child can both sleep through #2.

4. Calculus.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

5% of Every Purchase Goes to the School of Your Choice

I remembered what I wanted to tell you the other day. The Child and I went shopping for school supplies. (Balloons and confetti fall from the ceiling).

This continues to be one of my very favorite things to do, EVER, even though it has its challenges. Turns out, The Child got my office supplies gene. Consequently, keeping her to the list and not buying anything else is a struggle. And really, can you blame her? Have you seen school supplies lately?

When I was The Child's age my school supplies list consisted of:

(1) notebook (which had a dark blue cloth cover; as did every other kid's notebook)
(1) packet wide rule notebook paper
(1) ruler (pale, blonde wood; like every other kid's)
(1) pair scissors (metal)
(1) Bic ball point pen (blue ink)
(1) packet #2 pencils
(1) box colored pencils (12 to a box)
(1) compass (plain ol' metal, just like the scissors)
(1) bottle Elmer's glue
(1) PeeChee folder (which one would immediately customize by giving air quotes to all the people, drawing mustaches and beards on the guys, maybe some fishnet stockings for the cheerleader, like that)

That was it. On the first day of school, you showed up with your supplies in a shopping bag, tossed them into your desk, arranging the pen and a couple of pencils just so in that little lippy shelf thing at the front of the inside of the desk. When school was out for the day you piled your textbooks on top of your notebook and carried the stack home.

Now days, school supplies come in such a plethora of styles it makes your head spin. There wasn't a single item she needed that didn't come in at least 5 different varieties. You can buy entire suites of color coordinated school supplies, from assignment books to binders and everything in between. You know the only thing that is still simple to get? Note book paper and #2 pencils. The rest of it is all about weighing the coolness quotient (her criteria) against price (mine) while factoring in general aesthetics (a motivation we share).

The Child's supply list was simplified from last year in that there were things (scientific calculator, thesaurus, New American Standard Bible) that were purchased last year. In fact, this was one of the least expensive school supply purchases ever. But it was hardly a simple errand, an "in-and-out, now let's go get some lunch" sort of trip. Sure, it looks straight-forward. "Seven single subject spiral notebooks", reads the list.

But which spiral notebooks? The Child kept finding new styles, each one cuter than the last (must have been 20 kinds. I'm not exaggerating). Then I dealt a blow, telling her to just get the plain (and far less expensive) spirals so that she can stick to her color coding system.

"But those are sooooo boring," she complained.

Then I did it. Yes, I did. I pulled out the old "Well, in my day"..."everyone's school stuff looked the same"... "we never had book bags"... "rulers were made of wood and they didn't come in 13 different color combinations"... "they hadn't even invented glue sticks yet"...

That pretty much shut her up, mostly because she just couldn't imagine a world without glue sticks. "What did you use?" she asked in wide-eyed wonder.

"Elmer's glue; plain old Elmer's glue".

"Like this?" she said, picking up the one marked "School glue".


"Like this?", brandishing some sort of blue looking something that apparently goes on clear.

"Nope. Like this. Plain old white Elmer's glue".

"That's amazing", she said, shaking her head.

(I didn't tell her about that thing we'd do where we'd pour some Elmer's on the palm of our hand, spread it out and let it dry so we could try and peel off the whole thing in one go, creating a creepy skin like replica of our palm. We went through a lot of Elmer's that way).

Down the list we go:
Choosing just the right assignment book ("I like this one because it has a lot of space," she said. I liked it because it had this funky orange and lavender cover). √

Selecting folders to match the plain old boring spiral notebooks (that part was fun. The variety is mind-boggling. She went for a combination of post-modern graphics and ones with kitties and horsies). √

Sticky things (Elmer's, glue sticks AND scotch tape). √

2 inch binder. There weren't any 2 inch binders in the section of all too groovy binders (not to mention that binders are now made almost exclusively of very thin plastic which can't possibly hold up to 10 months of bashing around in a back pack). We had to resort to a plain old white binder. There was going to be drama over that. I told her she could decorate it with stickers or something. √

She wanted a new back pack. Which she so doesn't need. That was a protracted debate on par with UN negotiators discussing nuclear development with Iran. In this case, the UN won. Although every once in a while Iran would think of the messenger bag she had fallen for and would mutter "It's only $12". The UN told her that she can go back and buy it with her own money if she wants it that badly.

There were a few other moms and kids engaged in the same project. One was with a little bit of a thing, probably just going off to kindergarten. I had a stab of wistful "seems like yesterday" which just about teetered off into a maudlin "oh, this is the last time we're going to go school shopping together" moment which was abruptly halted when The Child started begging for "these really cute" pink and brown polka dot file folders even though file folders aren't on the list. Which is when I knew that we still have 4 lunch-and-school-shopping trips ahead of us.

There is no way that kid is going to be left alone to do her school shopping unless she's paying for it herself.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Grish Says "Hi"

I got an email from Grish today, telling me that he and the wife are starting a photography business AND that he got a new job which looks like it's going to be way less stressful than the one he's had the last 6 months. And he's hoping that fact will give him time and energy to start blogging again.

Point is, he asked how y'all were so I filled him in and he asked me to pass on his greetings to you.


Art Project

Yesterday's post about clutter obviously struck a nerve. I like when that happens. True to my word, I did some flinging yesterday, employing the "do I use it, do I love it" mantra. Emptied one drawer in the dining room, one in my bedroom and one shelf in the kitchen. (And if you knew how limited my kitchen storage space is you would be sooooo impressed by that).

I'll do some more today but The Child wants me to read Harry Potter to her for a while (helps her little dyslexic self advance a little more swiftly, don'tcha know) and I want to go out and get a clothesline so I can reduce my carbon footprint.

But when I was thinking about yesterday and giggling about the invitations, spanning 2 continents, to help people get rid of their clutter, I thought about what makes us hold on to stuff. There might be a post in there somewhere. But for now, suffice to say that I used to hold on to a lot more than I do now. Case in point: the 6 boxes of baby clothes in the attic, along with the box of shoes that included every pair of patent leather Mary Janes that had ever been on The Child's little footsies. It was about 3 years ago when I decided that it was time to sort through all that stuff. I thought it wouldn't take that long, what with having made such judicious judgements about what to save in the first place.

Not so much.

Turns out, for example, there was no reason to hang on to half a dozen nondescript onesies. It wasn't like I was saving this stuff because there was going to be a succession of other babies and having such things on hand would be thrifty and prudent. The Child was 10. And by the time grandbabies make their appearance I'll be more than happy to buy them brand-new onesies. So I culled out everything, until there was only one box full of the most precious items, the pieces that had been hand-made by loved ones, the little dresses that were tied to a special memory. The rest of it went off to bless other babies.

And the shoes? That was harder. Which is nuts. Probably just owes to my having a bit of a thing for shoes, coupled with the indisputable fact that ain't nothin' cuter than a little tiny baby shoe. (Aside from, you know, the nibbly little tiny squishy baby foot that might wear it).

I saved the little tiny black Converse high tops that her papa bought her. I saved the little yellow walking boots that she wore with overalls and dresses alike and just looked soooooo cute in. The patent leather? I always told myself I'd do something artistic with them. Guess I had visions of a large Plexiglas box full of baby shoes. Uh, yeah. Like, a) there was any room in the house for something like that and 2) aw, there is no 2. It was crazy talk, I tell you.

So I lined up the shoes and I took a photo of them. I think I kept the wee-est pair and then I gave all the rest of them away. And then, lo and behold, I did do something artistic with those little shoes.
The Gallery of Little Tiny Baby Shoes
About this exhibit
Working in a variety of medium, using the simplest of objects, the artist seeks to explore the fleeting nature of childhood and the internal conflict of a parent between cherishing a child and yearning for simpler days even as she must set that child on a path of independence. The shoe represents first steps, both literal and figurative, and through the simplicity and universality of the form, the artist takes us on an exploration of nurturing, relinquishment and the addictive capacities of Photosuite.

"Where are You Going, My Little One?"

"Shoes, Ships, Sealing Wax"

"You Could Stand Inside My Shoes"

"Made for Walkin'"

"Embossed on the Heart"

"All God's Children Need Travellin' Shoes"

"Kickin' Down"

Now I'm going to clean out some more drawers. Who knows what inspiration may be lurking in their dark and sticky recesses!

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Yesterday was very satisfying.

When I got to Stina's she was describing her condition as "twitchy". Only 2 bedrooms were organized. The rest of the (very cute nearly 100 year old) house was packed with boxes and bags and stuff. They'd be in since Friday. She just didn't know where to start.

I got the tour and then we went for coffee, while I pointed out to her some of the must try restaurants in their new 'hood (The Child used to go to school nearby). And I asked her what one project we could tackle that would make her feel better.

The house has a great room sorta deal in the downstairs, with a 2nd fully-functional kitchen. (It is, in fact, the better designed of the 2 kitchens...the upstairs one is cramped, poorly designed and dark). She really wanted that organized but "there's not enough room for all the stuff that needs to be there".

Did someone just throw down a gauntlet before me?

It probably took us 40 minutes to get the kitchen in shape. Mostly because I made her take things out of their original boxes. Really? Maybe there are those among you who function in a similar fashion and I don't wish to offend. But do you have any idea how much perfectly lovely space is available if those things are out of their boxes? "But you can stack the boxes...can't you?" she asked. Uh, not unless you're keeping them on large and commodius shelves. Like in the store.

Once that was done I was all inspired. I went home to retrieve The Child and then went back to show her how to prune roses (one gardening thing I know how to do), clear out the living room and then with the help of Dave, who returned from yet another run to the old house, move some furniture upstairs and get the dining room restored to functionality.

Then we had a very nice steak dinner.

And I returned home determined to revive my quest to have at least one empty drawer or shelf in every room of the house. So not there. But there's nothing like being reminded of all the s.t.u.f.f. that crowds in on you, despite your best efforts to fling, discard the old, make judicious decisions about what to keep and what to jettison.

I abhore clutter. If you looked around my house you wouldn't see a lot of it. But it finds its way in, doesn't it, lurking in file cabinets and drawers and closets. It's time to re-read A Gift from the Sea by Anna Morrow Lindberg and lighten the load a little.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Exciting Things

I slept in this morning, for the first time all summer. And that includes Chicago because when I was getting up at 8am in Chicago it was really 6am my time. But that's not the exciting thing.

Some of our best friends, Stina and Dave, have moved back to the city.

This is huge.

I believe I've mentioned that a number of our friends have, over the years, succumbed to the 'burbs, by virtue of the fact that housing prices being what they are in Seattle, it usually makes sense. That is, if you have a small house here, that you bought at the end of the last century, when such things were still do-able, and you're family gets bigger, you simply can't sell the little house and buy a bigger one in town. Oh, sure, you can sell the little house for a ton of money. It just won't be enough to buy a bigger house, assuming you can find one you like. And so the flight. We've waved goodbye to at least 3 families due to this circumstance and 2 other couples we know just didn't even bother trying. And really, why should they? If you can buy a huge house with a big yard out north for the same money as you can get a little ol' bungalow in town, you'd do the same thing.

But still, it's been sad. And the reality has been that if someone lives a 30+ minute drive away, depending on traffic, well, it just does a number on spontaneous, "hey, what are you guys doing tonight, wanna come over for pizza" sorts of get-togethers. Suddenly, your social interaction is all about calendars and planning and making the trip. It's silly, but there it is. And of course, if you love people enough, you make the effort. Of course you do. But it's still not the same thing.

But Dave and Stina decided that the 'burb thing wasn't for them. Partly because they kept their kids in their Seattle (private) school, never really found a "backup" church they were happy with and because Dave still worked in Seattle, too. Lots of driving. And with gas prices what they are... They pretty much either had to move all their live to the north end or come back. And they decided to come back. And they are now a mere 10 minutes away.

Stina called this morning with a "Howdy, Neighbor!" and it made me so happy I almost cried. She's currently living in complete chaos, surrounded by boxes and not sure where to start. I'm wicked good at organizing. So I said I'd be happy to come help her create a few little corners of order. Yippee! (I love doing that stuff).

The Child spent the night with her Godmom, so I'm going to go spend the morning welcoming the kids back to the 'hood. It's a good day.

The woman The Child and I liked from the start in The Next Food Network Star competition won last night. Yay Amy!

I have someone I can talk with about Harry Potter VII. I'm so happy.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Now What Am I Going to Do?

As planned, The Child and I set off first thing yesterday morning to get our copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Her plans for the day had changed as The Boyfriend had invited her to the Bite of Seattle (like the Taste of Chicago, only with rain). And real boyfriends apparently trump literary heroes when you are 13. But we had time between getting the books and when she was supposed to meet him so she suggested that we get coffee somewhere and start reading. Which we did.

Only as soon as we sat down she was all "What time is it?" and "Shouldn't we go soon? and generally interrupting my reading so I deposited her with Boyfriend, came home, settled myself in and started to read.

I read and read. I ate some grapes. I read and read and read. I took a 2 hour nap. I read and read and read and read and had hamburgers with The Spouse. And then I read and read and kept reading until I thought, "Golly, it's midnight. I can finish this tomorrow" and just then I read something that made me say, "Golly, I've got to finish this now". So I did.

"And now you have nothing to look forward to ever again," smiled The Spouse this morning.

Of course, he's kinda right. I remember, for example, when I discovered the Lord Peter mysteries by Dorothy L. Sayers. I'm not even that much a fan of murder mysteries. But I liked the character of Lord Peter, a lot, and especially his odd romance with Harriet Vane, so I read them, more for the wit and the intrigue and the descriptions of food than for the mystery stuff. And then, one day I read the last book. And there weren't ever going to be anymore. (Actually, there was. A few years ago someone took the manuscript Sayers was working on when she died and fashioned it into one last Lord Peter story. It was OK).

And sure, you can re-read the books (and I do) and mine new things out of them and revisit the bits you really love and that's all good. But still, that first realization that there's no more to come is a little sad.

So I felt a little sad early this morning, when I closed the cover on HPVII. JK Rowling took us on a wicked good ride. It's been known that she's known all along how the saga would end and the best way to describe the ending of the final book is "fitting". It's not so much that she tidies everything up, although I suppose she does. Blanks are filled in. Questions are answered. And it is, in the style of all good epics, a matter of character determining destiny. But it is not pulled together in a way that is pat or dismissive. And I'm obviously just dying here because I'm desperate to talk to someone about it and no one I know has finished the book yet! So if one of you could get on that, please, I'd really appreciate it.

I was right about some stuff and partially right about some stuff and wrong about a few things. All of which I can live with. And what you've heard is true. Quite a lot of dying in this one. Tons of action, some snogging (not as much as in 5 and 6 but apparently adolescents don't think so much about snogging when their lives are in mortal danger).

And once again, I must give Ms. Rowling her props. This mega-franchise which has spawned from her work could have been the death of that work. But despite the astonishing success, the millions and millions of dollars, the movies, the products that could fill a thousand Hogwarts Castles, somehow she has managed to always keep it about the books. And each story has been better than the last, her style more confident, the characters more complex. She could have been phoning in these last few books and they would no doubt still have been best-sellers. But she didn't then and she hasn't now.

I haven't decided yet if the 7th will stand as my favorite of the series. But it's a bloody good book. I'm just sorry it's done.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Mind Like a Sieve and I Don't Mean a Pensieve

I have to start doing more crossword puzzles or something.

There are those, and I do not care for most of them, who say that forgetfulness is just a part of aging blah blah blah and one must make ones peace with it blah blah blah Ican'thearyou.

I'm not old. I'm older than I was but I am hardly ready for the home. And I firmly believe that once you start living in that "I'm old" place in your head that's when you begin to be old. In fact, I have friends who are younger than me who do that "getting older" thing and they are beginning to bore me. So take it as writ, I'm not getting older, I'm ripening like a fine Bordeaux; and be warned: don't ever call me an old lady. (Unless it's a Grateful Dead theme party and I'm, like, your old lady). In fact, when I'm in my 80s or 90s or 00s (could happen) do not call me an old lady. I'll smack you with my cane.

All that said, I find that things are slipping out of the back of my head lately. I've always been a bit like that anyway but,for example, it took me about 15 minutes last night to recall Phil Hartman's name. I could see his face, hear his voice, list his acting credits and I couldn't think of his name. It was cold comfort that neither could The Spouse. (It did eventually occur to us via a rather amusing tag team effort and IMdb was not involved so that was a triumph).

More to the point, I know there was something I wanted to blog about today and I'll be dipped if I can think what it is. I have got to start writing this stuff down and then all I'll have to do is remember where I left the note.

The Child is baking scones. After I eat one I'm going to go grocery shopping, laying in easily prepared supplies against the next few days when I have no intention of doing anything but reading Harry Potter.

The Child and I had an intensive discussion yesterday about what we think is going to happen. I have some very strong theories, which I'll not posit here but it's to do with jealousy, betrayal, redemption and Harry being protected yet again by the pure sacrifice of someone dear to him. Further, I don't think any of the girls are going to die but that doesn't mean they're going to have a swell time. And I still don't think Dumbledore is really dead nor do I believe that Snape is really a bad guy. (The Child thinks that's totally nuts).

I really can't wait to get my hands on that book. I'm so serious.

The scones are done. Mercy. I don't like cold scones but when they are like this, still hot from the oven, butter melting and grape jelly oozing. Superfantastic.

I'll be back when I'm done with Harry. Should be by Monday, as per usual. Have a great weekend.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Oh. For the Love of God...

THIS snapped me out of my summer doldrums. Know the part I like best?

The legalese:
"The alleged tortious conduct, namely the disclosure of Mrs. Wilson's status as a covert operative, was incidental to the kind of conduct that defendants were employed to perform".

-U.S. District Judge John D. Bates

The translation:

"It was their job".

Did I get that right, Lex?


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ChouChou called the other day, to see how our trip had been. (I love Chou² with all my heart but she is a Luddite. She does not use email or read blogs. She knows how to turn on a computer but she does not use it. This is oddly charming in my hyper-connected experience, but super weird. I digress).

I regaled her with tales and raved about our new friends and then she asked if I was getting back to normal. In a word, "No".

I don't even have a handle on what "normal" is supposed to be at the moment. School had only just got out when we left for Chicago and those few non-school days prior were full of parties and packing and such. It's not like there was time or opportunity to even think about what a "summer schedule" would look like, let alone implement one.

And then we were gone, and that week certainly didn't conform to anything approaching "normal", which was fitting as we were on vacation.

Returning home, things did not "normalize". This owes to Chou²'s theory that it takes 2 days to recover for every 1 day that you are out of town. If her math is correct, that means I should be back in the saddle, so to speak, by tomorrow. But then the weekend is hardly the time to be all disciplined and time-clocky, especially this weekend when The Child and I plan to do nothing but read the 7th Harry Potter book. (2 preordered copies, which we will pick up on Saturday morning but not at midnight because I'm eager but not insane).

Then I read this and this and it appears I'm not alone in my fumbling for, for what? Resolve? Order? Discipline? Energy?

But then I thought of something else. Who cares? Geez, it's summer. This is supposed to be the time of livin' easy, dawdling, being all leisurely and carefree and not bound by time frames. I always manage to forget that in the transition from school time to summer time. Summer time means not doing as much, going as often (haven't put gas in the car in 3 weeks!). It means dining al fresco as often as possible, and yes, even eating later than usual. (Although I'm pushing it with the 8pm dinnertime thing. I'll work on that). Summer is watching the garden, waiting on grapes and tomatoes. It means crossing my fingers every time I go to the market, hoping for figs. It means sleeping in and going to bed late and lounging around with a good book. And if there is any rousing to be done, it is for things like lunch out or taking in a matinee or going to the lake (there's a concept).

Good lord. It's not like we're living in squalor. I'm not ignoring my responsibilities. But golly Moses, this summer I have the luxury of fewer expectations and I need to be enjoying that instead of feeling guilty about some ephemeral and unpinnable "ought".

Not to mention, this is likely the last summer of it's kind. A) By next summer I will surely be working outside of the home (and even if Graydon Carter finally calls and says, "You simply must become a contributing writer on our staff", that will still be working). And 2) The Child will hopefully be spending next summer in France.

Not to mention, all the summers after her Grand Tour will not be like this one. She'll be in high school. She'll have a summer job. She'll be busy running around with friends, which will be infinitely cooler than hanging in the back garden with her old mum and a book. Nope. this is the last summer of a grand and glorious era and as such, deserves to be dished up and savored like a fresh raspberry tart (and isn't that a nice idea for pudding tonight?)

I swear, blogging about stuff like this is the best. I feel so much better now. And inspired by Sling, I am currently making a large pot of Scotch oats and then I'm going to invite The Child to come sit with me on the deck while we eat them. And yeah, it's 10am and we're just now getting around to having breakfast. Geez, it's summer.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Couple Little Sneezes

The man who invented the Matchbox cars, Jack Odell, has died. I was listening to a report on NPR yesterday, where it was explained that Mr. Odell's daughter used to get in trouble for taking bugs and spiders to school in a matchbox so he made a little road roller that she could take instead. I thought that was cute.

My brother, George Clooney, like every other red-blooded American baby boom boy, collected Matchbox cars. He had scads and scads of them. We could spend hours in his room, organizing them and cataloging them and occasionally rolling them across the room to each other. We'd built Lego towns, complete with garages for the little cars.

Matchbox cars were sweet. Even I could appreciate their cunning design, the exact detail, the way some models had a steering wheel that actually turned the wheels. They were adorable.

George is/was also something of an engineer. He would build elaborate roadways among the roots of the apple trees in the back garden. He'd dig up sod, scrape down the dirt, pour water on it and smooth the roads. He built hills and tunnels and clever little bridges. And the two of us could spend hours driving and racing the little cars and trucks along the tiny highways and byways. Good times.

Here's a pic that Jon took of The Child on Michigan Ave. earlier this month. Isn't she the cutest thing?

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I've been having very sophisticated conversations with very young people about movie making. Children who have read the Harry Potter books, at least the children I know, possess an encyclopedic and completely geeky knowledge of every detail and nuance in every book. They are wedded to their vision of the story. So interestingly, while they eagerly await the premiere of each new HP movie and enjoy themselves while watching, they leave pulling it apart, complaining of all that was left out, glossed over or otherwise abandoned.

I have been trying to explain to these little aficionados that it is simply not possible to render a book, especially one that is 800 some pages, as a film and transfer it word for word to the big screen. A screenwriter simply must make decisions, leave out chunks that don't necessarily advance the main plot of the book (e.g. Hermione's campaign to free house elves in the 4th book/movie), and find ways to allude to certain relationships or events so as to make the final cut less than 412 hours long.

They don't get it. Which is fine. Because it's actually pretty wonderful that they have such devotion to the series and pay attention. And of course, it doesn't bother me that everything from the books is not in the films. I've said before that the movies can stand as cinematic works in their own right, even if one hasn't read the books. (And as I've said before, why you wouldn't read the books is beyond me but to each his or her own).

That's all still true. But I left "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" feeling let down.

There are still many things right with the film. As with all the other films, there is a faithfulness to the spirit and general direction of the stories. (I think Ms. Rowling has a large say in that matter).

The casting continues to be spot on. Imelda Staunton is new to this film, as the very awful Dolores Umbrage, who operating with a veneer of sweetness, worms her way into Hogwarts at the bidding of the very paranoid Minister of Magic and slowly creates a near totalitarian state at the school. She was perhaps more comical in the film than she should have been, but when she gets her evil on, it's creepy evil.

Regulars Maggie Smith, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Isaacs (be still my heart), Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane and Alan Rickman (heart, I told you to be still) all make their appearances. And kudos to them all for taking the "no small parts, only small actors" attitude. Because Emma Thompson, for example, has about 6 lines, most of which are of the "uh, uh, sniffle, um" variety. But the fact that the cast has not changed since the beginning (except, of course, Dumbledore) is one of the things that makes the series so strong. Continuity is a good thing.

Speaking of which, props go out to the kids-who-are-no-longer-kids, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe. They are growing up nicely and their acting skills have improved with every film. I also applaud their commitment to see the films through, even though there could be a downside to that career-wise. At this point, no one but those 3 could be Ron, Hermione and Harry.

And Mr. Radcliffe, who we all know is becoming quite a handsome young man, has also developed rather fine acting chops; revisit the first film if you don't believe me. More and more is being required of him in these movies and he delivers.

The creation of the magic world continues to amaze. I know they do all that stuff with computers but golly. Walls that appear and disappear and stairs that move and magical creatures...it's all too fabulous and perfect. Well, except for one thing. The terrifying, soul-sucking dementors, who make their first appearance in the 3rd book, were rendered in perfectly meme-like fashion in the 3rd movie. "That's exactly how I pictured them!" was the consensus. For reasons known only to themselves, the crew for this film changed the look of the dementors. Not only do they not look like dementors, it seems to me that once something has been established in a franchise like this, you don't mess with it. The Great Hall has looked the same through every film, the uniforms haven't changed...it was wrong.

Yes, I enjoyed the film well enough but there were glaring mistakes; or if that's too harsh a phrase, missed opportunities in this film. No. Upon consideration, I'm sticking with "glaring mistakes".

The fifth book is where the story begins to turn. In the first place, Harry is a full-on teen-ager with all the angst and "I hate everybody and everybody hates me" stuff that goes with that. His adolescent angst is palpable in the book, so much so that you eventually, as an adult, are ready to climb through the pages and smack him one. (And I suspect, if you are a teenager you read it going, "Dude. Totally. Grownups suck").

All that is missing from "Order of the Phoenix". There's a mere hint of it when Harry first hooks up again with Ron and Hermione but then he's over it. And a scene wherein he expresses some of his anger, etc. to his god-father Sirius (played by Gary Oldman. My poor little heart), it comes off as being connected to the whole Voldemort thing, making his internal conflicts more lofty and even something outside of himself. The truth is, it is his anger and arrogance and generally smelling of teen spirit that informs a lot of what happens in the 5th book. Which is way more honest, in my view. That whole "I'm just Harry" thing is a part of the story. He's got a destiny and more and more of that unfolds with each book. But this is literature with a classical point of view: his character is going to dictate his destiny. So his weaknesses, and what he does about them, are as important to the story as his strengths.

Second, the return of the darkest of dark wizards, Lord Voldemort, at the end of book/movie #4 doesn't just mean that there are going to be little skirmishes between good and evil. War is on the horizon. There is a profound tension in the book that is simply missing from this film. There is a sense of dark pushing back strong against the light, the realization that it could take more than is available to win against the darkness, particularly because the Ministry of Magic has decided to deny the return of Voldemort, make Harry and Dumbledore seem like nutters and sugar coat information to the people, even as they begin to employ the politics of fear in a bid to consolidate power. That story is present in the film, but somehow lacking all the visceral power that the injustice and frustration evokes in the book.

In fact, come to think of it, there is a general glossing over of the "Order of the Phoenix", what it is, the resistance movement it represents, the political tensions within that organization. And, in what I personally found to be a complete outrage, the character of Tonks is in the movie but not even once called Tonks, let alone allowed to play her very delightful role in the story. And that last bit is just a personal disappointment but still.

Finally, there is something very important relative to "the prophecy" that is left out all together. If things happen in the 7th book as I suspect they will, that could pose some interesting complications for the last two films. It so wouldn't have been a big deal to include that information and in fact, would have made for a more dramatic ending...just as the revelation did in the book. I kinda want to slap whoever decided that the Longbottom stuff was inconsequential. Puleeze.

The Child pointed out that there have been almost as many directors for this film series as there have been Dark Arts teachers at Hogwarts. More to the point, a little IMdb research provides a explanation for the slapping urge noted in the last paragraph. While the directors have changed, the screenplay has been done by the same guy in all of the films...except #5.

Ah ha!

Steve Kloves of 1, 2, 3, 4 and also 6, which is now in production, obviously has a sense not just of the books but of the continuity between them. New Guy, who I'm going to ignore, didn't do a horrible job but it was, in the final analysis, a sloppy job. There. I said it.

Hopefully Mr. Kloves has picked up the loose threads and pulled things back together. Because the fact is, the end is near. The seventh and last book is out on Saturday and by this time next week, all the world is going to know how this epic story ends. That will necessarily inform how fans view the 6th movie.

I did not hate this film. It was not a waste of money. It's better than #3, not as good #4. But that's alright. 2 more movies to go. I remain hopeful.

The Film Czarina gives "Order of the Phoenix" 3 out of 5 Koihead.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Review Coming Tomorrow

But in the meantime:

I was Ginny Weasley at the Harry Potter character quiz @ Crazylicious.com


Near Death by Lumpia

I had a Parent Association Board meeting yesterday afternoon. It was a perfectly pleasant and productive meeting but it nearly killed me.

The couple that hosted the meeting are Filipinos. I don't know how many of you have the joy and privilege of knowing people from the Philippines but I know a lot of them. The Child's school is about 75% Filipino families and there's a sizable population of same at our church. Some of my best friends, as the saying goes, are Filipino (or filipina, depending). One of the marks of this particular culture, oh joy, is food. That is to be expected, of course. But it isn't just the preparation and serving of cultural delicacies like lumpia (skinny, little spring roll guys) and almond jell-o (trust me...yum). For Filipinos, feeding people is loving people. It's what you do. There is a crazy generosity to their feeding. Many is the time I have stood with my friend Stina in her kitchen before a party, looking at a table so crowded with food that you can't see the table cloth and she'll shake her head and say, "Do you think we have enough?"

Right. So I arrive at the party meeting yesterday. Alex is taking BBQ meatballs out of the oven. Monica is working on strawberry shortcake. She's already laid out the almond jell-o, little squares of white almondy bliss stirred up with tiny little bits of kiwi, mango and strawberry. There's fried chicken, a giant platter of lumpia (with 2 dipping sauces), puff pastry rounds stuffed variously with tomato and cheese or artichoke and cheese, chips, 2 kinds of wine.

And that's just what they provided. It was a potluck. Talk about carrying coals to Newcastle. I swear, the next time I'm invited to a Filipino potluck I'm bringing antacids.

We're waiting on some folks so we decide to start eating. I sampled one of the pastry guys and a little smidge of the pasta and pea salad I had foolishly brought. There was some Caesar salad but I opted for the almond jell-o stuff. (Mon says she'll score me some next time she's out...I've never seen it but with the plethora of Asian markets in town it's not a rare commodity). I had a couple of lumpia because, hello, they were there and I have never ever been known to pass up crisp deep-fried nuggets of joy. Especially when my favorite sweet chili dipping sauce is in abundance. I had some of the meatballs...tender, melting, the sweet and tangy BBQ sauce enrobing them with a glistening uh, robe. I had some white wine...it was a hot day.

My plate wasn't stacked. I was being selective, judicious. Prudent. I had a couple more lumpia. Because they were there.

And then we had the meeting. As we sat and discussed and planned and laughed, I began to undergo a change. The comfortable fullness that had been created by my flavorful and oh so carefully chosen lunch began to grow into something else all together. I found myself thankful that I'd worn my kicky top with its tummy hiding abilities. Then I realized that my skirt, which had hung quite nicely when I donned it, was becoming uncomfortably tight.

I left the meeting early.

I told The Spouse that under no circumstances was I cooking dinner.

I drank nothing but water and peppermint tea for 4 hours.

It is my sense that my stomach has returned to its natural, intended size but I don't expect to be hungry again for many hours to come. If it weren't for the fact that I have a date with a wizard today I would check myself into a spa. Pass the celery.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

July 14

And you know what that means. We're getting our French on here today, celebrating Bastille Day in the best way we know how. Um, well, actually, The Spouse is out making a movie, The Child is at a sleepover and is then going to go on a tour of urban chicken coops and I'm fixin' to play videos over at the club. But later we'll eat boullaibaise and aioli and drink red wine and sing "La Marseillaise" until the Germans shut the frak up. Viva la France!


Friday, July 13, 2007

Other Honors and Accolades

I have been in a very photo-smacky, template shuffling sort of mood today. Must be the weather. Anyway, with all the Blogger Awards that have been flying around the 'hood this week, I decided that those who have been presented with one of Blogopia's most prestigious awards should have a little something to put in their sidebars, should they so choose. Something like this: And while there is nothing particularly to keep anyone from kyping it, I expect there's just too much integrity in our little community for that sort of behavior and only those who have truly merited this coveted award would even dream of displaying it oh, so proudly. (It could be better, I grant you but to do some more exciting things to it I have to find some disk and lord knows where it might be).

Speaking of Koihead, I have noticed some glaring omissions as regards the Esteemed Order and intend to rectify that right now.

First, I must induct my darling Buck because he possesses so many of the qualities most valued in a Koihead: creativity, kindness, generosity and humor. Plus he let us live in his apartment for a week. And he's a good and supportive friend.

Second, and when I say "second" it is only because that comes after "first" but in no way implies a lesser order of magnitude, or in this case, Koitude, is The Hat. It's not just because she is a homegirl (and now she really, truly is) or because she's delightful or because she has the sweetest voice you ever heard but because she very patiently answers my html questions and helps me with all manner of behind the scenes template-y things that I can't figure out on my own. Plus she looks very fetching in hats and as I always say, nothing is more fetching than a koihead.

Congratulations, kids. Welcome to the Esteemed Order of the Koihead.


He's My Daddy

You know how in small communities people will do things like leave their keys under the door mat when they go out of town so that the neighbor can come feed the cat? We didn't leave our key under the mat when we went to Chicago, of course. That would just be silly, what with living in a big town and all that. But we did give a key to The Neighbor because she's The Neighb. We trust her implicitly. If we ask her to come feed our cat we know that she's going to do just exactly that and nothing else. Well, she might do other nice things, like pluck roses and leave them on the dining room table or bring over some fresh banana bread to welcome us home. And even though she was totally just doing us a favor because we asked without any sort of payment or anything, she certainly wouldn't take advantage of the fact that she had the keys to our house. She wouldn't use it as an opportunity to mess with our stuff or rearrange the furniture.

I don't know what made me think of that.

Anyway, as you can see, a certain someone who, most days, I ♥ very much made a shiny new banner for my blog. I think it is very pretty. Not as pretty as he is, but still. Making that banner was something he didn't have to do. And I know for a fact that doing it cut a little into his ray-catching time. This was, really and without putting too fine a point on it, a very generous and kind thing for a friend to do for another friend. And he's modest as all get out so he won't like that I'm making such a fuss. "Oh, please, tweren't nothing," he'll say, while he scuffs his shoes on the floor and looks all flushed and embarrassed. "You'd do the same for me", he'll say. "Really, it was nothing. Stop making such a to-do. And golly, you look really terrific today. Is that a new frock?" (See, because he's all about the self-deprecation and turning the attention away from himself).

Well, it is a big deal, to me at least, and I so wanted to do something nice to thank him. He's already an Esteemed Member of the Exalted Order of Koihead and has enough applesauce cake in his freezer to last for at least 6 months. What to do?

It's not much, but I arranged a little tete a tete, just him and the most beautiful woman in the world. I got a few little snacks and some beer and then snuck out quietly, leaving them to gaze fondly into one anothers eyes. Although I did snap a little piccie, just to mark the occasion, because I know he'll just be pinching himself for days after this to see if it was for real.

Thanks for your help, Poodle. It's a lovely banner and I'm very pleased. And you are so never going to be an admin on this blog ever again.

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A very important announcement.

Hi. This is Lorraine. Well, of course it is, since it's her-- I mean my, blog. Just a quick post to show you all the brand new superfantastic banner. Whoever made that is a brilliant genius, and I need to start building a shrine to this person post haste.

Oh, and I also wanted to remind everyone to come check out Here's The 80's this weekend, because I will be playing a lot of videos. Like, totally a whole lot of them. I'll probably play so many that JP won't even have to, which is good because he's on vacation and all and he didn't make me play videos when I was on vacation. He's awesome like that.

I'll leave you with a little taste of my all time favorite eighties band. I love them so much that I will probably play 20 of their videos this weekend, even though they probably don't have 20 videos. But hey, that didn't stop me with U2.

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The Muse Arrived

Oh, please. Like you didn't see that coming all the way from Tacoma.

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Until the Muse Shows Up

"You should post earlier in the day."


"Like, by 8am".


"Because I keep checking and checking and I'm sad when nothing is there".

Poor Spouse. Problem is, what if I'm not inspired by 8am? Because I'm usually not. I gotta drink coffee first and think about things, maybe read the NY Times, maybe clean my fingernails. Like I need the pressure of blogging before 8. As it is, it's almost 9 and I got nothing.

Except there was a thunderstorm last night. It was really loud, really groovy. I love thunderstorms, provided they aren't right on top of me. Plus it brought with it, as it does, a requisite cool and mellow post-storminess. This pleases me in particular because I've been craving deep dish Chicago-style pizza all week and The Spouse said he knows how to make it because he used to work in a pizza place called...wait for it...."Chicago's"...and I got all excited about the possibilities but with it having been so hot I knew he wouldn't make it for dinner tonight but now, hey, nothing to stop him. Yum.

Also, I'm having a real problem with my brain. For over a week now two songs have been looping through it: "My Kind of Town", which is sometimes supplanted by "Popular" from "Wicked". It's starting to drive me nuts, especially since the songs are not running in their entirety. Just bits and fragments..."and each time I leave, Chicago is, tugging my sleeve, Chicago is....Popular! you're gonna be pop-u-lar....just not as popular. as. me!" Over and over.

I'm starting to fear that the only thing I can do is go to "Here's the 80s" and watch the Xanadu video. Which is really more like putting out fire with gasoline.

This song looping tendency of mine kinda frightens me. Like, if I lose it when I'm old and I'm sitting in the home, I'm going to be that weird scary lady who sits and rocks and sings just little bits of songs randomly, over and over, until it's time for my sponge bath. I don't want to be that lady. I want to be one of those elegant, poised, self-sufficient Kate-Hepburn-living-on-her-own-and-swimming-every-morning sorts of ladies. The one that grand and great-grandchildren are delighted to visit regularly because I'm so charming and funny and erudite and oh, so shockingly liberal for one of my advanced years. Also, I'll be wearing really nice Ann Taylor trousers and sweater sets with pearls and not purple track suits with orthopedic shoes. And my gun metal grey hair with just the most elegant streaks of pure white will sit atop my head in a loose French bun. And my nails will be painted red and nicely, too. And I'll still eat dinner at 7.

It's important to have goals, don't you think? So I gotta get a handle on this looping music thing so that I don't bring on some sort of early dementia.

Golly, it's gotten dark all of a sudden. I actually think it might rain. Dang! I have to shut down the computer...it's another thunderstorm! I'd better go make sure Rosie isn't still sleeping in the hammock.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Yes. It Was Hot.

Yesterday was the hottest July 11 on record in Seattle. How hot? 97° was the official temp, but The Spouse said it was 99° here. Of course, we have our thermometer on the south side of the house. So let's stick with 97° just for the sake of discussion.

No. I'm not going to complain.

I'm not a big fan of the heat and I've never been a 'slather on the cocoa butter and let's go sunning near a shiny body of water until our bones are tanned' kinda gal. (Which is why, I'm sure, I possess such a youthful appearance despite the nearing of the half century mark. Well, that and the portrait in the attic that is steadily growing older).

But I am not going to complain. I'm not going to complain because it's all about perspective. The way I see it, there is only the most remote of possibilities that it will get that hot again this summer. For why? Because we have all those mountains and ocean fronty things and such and the weather just changes too much. We don't get hot months, we get random hot days. Chances are it will not get as hot here again as it did yesterday. Which means anything lower than 97 is going to feel downright balmy. (Just like "cold" doesn't mean the same thing now that I know what it's like to sit in a dark house without heat for 4 days in December).

And you know what else? As far as I'm concerned it supposed to get hot in the summer. If it doesn't, well, then it doesn't feel very summery, does it?

Tomatoes don't ripen.

Roses don't bloom and bloom and bloom.

There are things to drink that seem silly and light-weight in November. Gin and tonic, the quintessential summer drink. Mojitos, too. Crisp white wines. These are the things you drink in summer and they taste spectacular!

Bees don't bumble amid the lavender.

If it's not hot you don't have al fresco dinners. And al fresco dinners have a lovely way of stretching into fine apres al fresco dinner conversations.

No. I rather enjoy the random super hot day the same way I enjoy the surprise snowfall that sticks. Because stuff like that just doesn't happen around here that much, even with global warming.

I will say that I have decided that oscillating fans in the bedroom ought not oscillate. And here's why. If you are sleeping with a dog that occasionally yips in his sleep and a Spouse that snores, add in an oscillating fan and you have a recipe for a sleepless night. The fan needs to be arranged just so and set on "blow" so that it wafts it's cooling love over the three hot bodies that are lying on top of the covers. That way, the lightest sleeper of the group is able to make the sound of the fan a part of her rhythm and finally fall asleep rather that experiencing this:

(nodding off, almost there)....yip um....Schoooooooooooooosh....Snort-gark-SNORT....shoooo....(oooo(nodding off)...ooooSchoooooooooooosh...yip um grrrr...

All. Frakkking. Night. Long.

But other than that, I'm not going to complain. I complained back in the summer of '87, when it didn't rain from May until October. Now that was unpleasant. It never got super dooper hot, it just didn't rain. Everything got dirty and brown and dusty. And the moss on my Northwest born and bred back dried up and that made me really cranky. But a couple of hot summer days? That is as it should be.

"But it's too hot to do anything", comes the complaint.

"Exactly," says I, smiling serenely. If it's that hot, don't move. Drink something cold, stick your feet in a bucket of ice if you must, fill the paddle pool and frolic. Read under a tree. Eat some ice cream. Hot days are God's little way of saying, "Enough with the heavy lifting". (And yes, it sux if you actually have a job that requires heavy lifting in the dog days of summer but I don't and so I am selfishly waxing poetic).

The final fabulous thing about hot days? Cold food. Crisp food. Fruity food. Spicy food that makes you forget. Grilled food that didn't warm up the house because it was, well, grilled. So you know what that means, right? I know it's been pretty hot lots of places this week and we could all veer toward grumpiness. So let's have a blogluck instead.

I'm making a big bowl of gazpacho and some Korean short rib kabobs. The wine is chilling and the citronella candles are lit. What are you bringing?

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Little Song

(tap tap tap) Is this thing on? Can you hear me back there? Good. Good. I'd like to leave you with a little song. Hit it, boys.

Now this could only happen to a gal like me

And only happen in a town like this:

So may I say to each of you most gratefully

As I throw each one of you a kiss...
This is my kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of people, too,
People who smile at you And each time I roam, Chicago is Calling me home, Chicago is Why I just brim like a cloud
Its my kind of town. My kind of town, Chicago is My kind of town, Chicago is My kind of razzmatazz And it has, all that jazz And each time I leave, Chicago is Tuggin' my sleeve, Chicago is The constant food, Chicago is The killer views, Chicago is One town that won't let you down Its my kind of town.

Thank you. Thank you very much. Try the veal and don't forget to tip your waitress.


A "Joke"

Secretary of Defense William Gates gave Mr. Bush a briefing and told him that 3 Brazilian soldiers had been killed in Iraq.

To the surprise of everyone in the room, the color drained from Bush's face, he slumped down and then put his head on his desk. He was breathing heavily, sighing, almost crying. Finally he raised his ashen face, gave Gates a striken look and asked, "Exactly how many is a bazillion?"

Too bad that isn't really all that funny.

And You Thought All That Blogging Wouldn't Amount to Anything

Just the other day Red, in a random act of largess, handed me a Thinking Blogger Award.

Me likey shiny things.

Technically, he gave me the award for my food blog, but I'm celebrating here because I need something to write about that doesn't have anything to do with Chicago.

One apparently receives this award by doing nothing other than making a reader think. I'd have thought "Here's the Dish" makes you want to eat, but I learned a long time ago that when someone pays you a compliment you smile sweetly and say "thank you". So thank you, Red. Sincerely. I'm flattered.

Of course, with privilege comes responsibility. I must now give the award to 5 other bloggers who make me think. And I can't give it back to Red, although that would be fitting. And he already gave one to JP so I won't, although I could, because he gets way too distracted if there are too many shiny things.

It's fair to say that everyone over on that there blogroll have made me think from time to time but I guess if I have to pick just 5 they would have to be:

Lex at Gladly Suffering Fools. He was one of my early blog finds and I find him to be thoroughly entertaining as well as frighteningly intelligent. He's got a lawyerly brain and so brings a rigorous analysis to the issues of the day, something I missed dreadfully when he went on a bloggy hiatus. He re-emerged just last week and I hooted and hollered when he did. Then I told The Spouse he was back and we did a little dance. That's how good he is.

Jon at I Laugh, Therefore I Am. Jon is properly described as a gentle giant and his blog reflects that. He is an excellent story teller and fine observer of daily life. And even when he's writing about something as simple as riding the train or being in a fourth grade math class, he always manages to say something that makes me go, "I never thought of that before".

I have a label that reads "John Iwanski is brilliant". Nuff said. Iwanksi is deep, marvelously funny and has the ability to look at things in a way that is wholly unique from any perspective you have encountered before. If you don't read him, what's wrong with you?

My favorite bartender is entirely too self-deprecating to regard himself as someone who makes you think but a visit to Sling's Domain is like hanging out on the porch with a good friend. You sit there and swill a beer and eat some chips and laugh a lot and then he says something profoundly poetic or poetically profound and you just sit there stunned. And then he hands you another beer.

It isn't just the boys who are brilliant. If you don't make your way over to Bad Alice you are missing out. She's a fascinating woman who writes with profound honesty about her past and her present. She's funny, intelligent, wise and very often the only comment I can ever find to leave on her blog is "Wow".

So these deserving recipients now have the opportunity to present the award to 5 bloggers who make them think.

The rules are:
1. If you are tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).

Now I have to dust the mantel and find a spot that will show off my shiny thing to its best advantage.

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One More Chicago Related Story and Then I'll Shut Up About it For at Least 2 or 3 Posts

Thursday last ended with a show and dinner, but it began with a reunion. As we were fixing on taking off, Nicole et famille arrived in the US for a 3 week holiday. And, in a display of rather incredible friendship, they drove the 45 minutes or whatever it is from Jolliet, where they are staying with family, to meet up with us at Navy Pier. It wasn't only the drive from Jolliet, either. It was that they had just arrived the night before, were completely jet-lagged and had been up since 5 a.m. That is some serious dedication.

Navy Pier is the quintessential tourist destination, with it's Disney-esque influence, people in pirate costumes, carnival rides that cost entirely too much for what they are, shops selling all manner of useless memoriablia and all sorts of restaurants and kiosks full of food, food and more food. It is, in short, absolutely the sort of place I hate most and have the least need to ever visit.

Navy Pier does, however, afford some pretty kickin' views of the city.
It was also a comfortable 10(ish) block walk from the apartment. When we arrived, there she was, standing at the gate, waving.

Nicole and I have known each other for about 15 years, meeting shortly after I was married. We became instant friends and have managed to remain close despite her falling in love with a Frenchman, marrying him and staying in France to raise 2 bilingual babies. She claims we last saw each other in 1999, after she was married. That's a long time. So it was positively heartwarming to see her beautiful face. Although, I'd best get this out of the way: she hasn't changed a bit. So I kinda have to hate her now.

We went to some jazz themed place for lunch. Which was, for The Spouse and I, just salad because we really were all et out. The Child succumbed to baby back ribs and it was fun to watch both Nicole and her cheri ordering their lunch. She went for a BBQ sandwich. He wanted something "very American" and opted for a hamburger. And then the questions started, because you can't ever just order a hamburger, can you?

"Cheese on that?"


"Cheddar, Swiss, American, pepper jack or blue?"

He looked at me with his tired puppy dog French eyes. (Oh, those wicked eyes of his. He turned them upon me many years ago and said, with thick French accent, "I know you are afraid to fly, Lorraine, but it would mean so much if you would come to our wedding". I am a sucker for zee accent and zee puppy dog eyes. I digress).

"You want Cheddar", I said.


"Onions and mushrooms?"

The eyes again.

"Go for it".

"OK, sure," he says.

Poor guy. As if he wasn't already tired enough. 'Cause he also had to decide between french fries, soup or salad.

Lunch was fine and then we wandered off. We pursuaded Boy 1 to try Dippin Dots. "Are they good?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied. "Everything in America is good". (He's 5. And lives in France. Moving on).

Boy 2, however, insisted on proper American chocolate ice cream.

We admired the views.

The menfolk decamped to a beer garden (where there was a live karaoke band who included "Twist and Shout" in their repitoire and The Spouse, who didn't have his cell phone with him, kept waiting for us to return so he could have his Ferris Bueller moment. It never happened. He was sad).

The women folk and children wandered off to look at arty things and poke around in tourist shops.
We took the children off to ride on things.

This is a very huge Ferris wheel that looks very frightening, which is why I enlisted Nicole's niece to ride with The Child. What I didn't realize is that it is a very slow Ferris wheel that makes one revolution and then you get off. Kinda lame for $6 if you ask me but The Child thought it was super fantastic to be up so high.

And despite the heat, the crowds and my general lack of affection for such places, you can't beat the sight of truly happy kids.

The environment and the situation were not exactly conducive to the sort of heart-to-heart I was hoping to have with Nicole. They were accompanied by family members, who were very nice but had their own claim to the clan plus she was dealing with very sweet but quite tired enfants. There really was no possible way that we could have any sort of deep, meaningful conversation in the midst of all that. Which made me a little sad, just because I never, ever see her. But even if we couldn't be ensconced, just us two, in some little sidewalk cafe with a bottle of wine and all the afternoon stretching before us, it was still lovely to see her again, to be with her and to feel the comfortable ease that has always been the tenor of our friendship, no matter how much time or distance has spanned between us.

Sometimes just being together is enough. And when it isn't, you talk to your therapist.

"And how do you feel about that?"
"'Twist and Shout'. I just wanted to sing 'Twist and Shout'".

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