Sunday, December 31, 2006

Films We Saw + Liked in 2006

It's amazing I even have a list, considering I haven't seen more than a handful of films in the theater this year. The list would have been very slim if Netflix wasn't in my life. I do have standards, I won't put everything on the list. I saw The Queen recently and although I enjoyed it and Helen Mirren inhabited the role admirably, the story didn't transcend TV movie status. I liked Little Miss Sunshine and Thank You for Smoking, but I couldn't put them on my list either, they were problematic and didn't stay with me.

I'm looking forward to seeing: Duck Season, Inland Empire, Half Nelson, Heart of Gold, The Painted Veil, Marie Antoinette, Iraq in Fragments, A Prairie Home Companion, An Inconvenient Truth, Jonestown... Everyone seems to be crazy about Pan's Labyrinth which looks like a high brow horror movie.

My Top 4 Films of 2006

1. The Science of Sleep
I love underdogs, the genius and beauty of this film was unappreciated by the critics and misunderstood by all, but Danny and I found it to be the most original, emotionally complex stories this year.

2. Borat
Brutal satire that hits it right on the nose and made me howl with laughter.

3. Little Children
I expected LC to be a smug / campy parable about hypocrisy and self indulgence, but it really surprised me with its sharp look at adults who are in various stages of arrested development. Each character was stuck in some corner of childhood, morally complex, no judgment, well unified.

4. Scanner Darkly
Still vivid since I saw it last summer, I was pulled in to this universe and saturated for hours after the film ended.

Other Top 10 Lists
Salon.com Best Movies of 2006 List
Metacritic.com 2006 Film Critic Top Ten Lists

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Disneyland

We were lucky enough to get free tickets to Disneyland this year (Thanks Chris!) so we thought it was about time for Asher to experience the Magic Kingdom. Michael, Britta and Grandma joined the crew and we had a surprisingly smooth trip, sans major breakdowns and tears.

Asher loved It's a Small World and all musical aspects of the park. Elliot was tall enough to go on all rides (how did that happen?) but we kept it mellow. He wasn't sure about Pirates of the Caribbean so we skipped it. We met another 5 year old boy at Tom Sawyer's Island (which is going to close soon) and they became fast friends running around the island caves and toured the rest of the park with us.

I made everyone eat in the French Quarter right next to some singing pirates so Elliot got a taste of the pirates experience. We saw Captain Jack Sparrow, Elliot's latest obsession. The menu at the cafe was disturbing, deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and deep fried grueyere cheese sandwhiches are just as bad as they sound. It took us forever to be served but the kids were entertained.

I think we left a minimal impact on the park, Grandma bought the boys pirates shirts and Elliot had to have a huge set of iron jailer's keys.

Here are my tips for visiting Disneyland:

1. Bring extra snacks and water
2. Eating at the theme restaurants is tolerable only if there is live entertainment
3. Don't go on ToonTown with a 3 year old (it's too scary)
4. Keep sugar consumption low (we had churros and salt water taffy - that was more than enough)

Los Angeles in December

As we exited the plane at Burbank, Elliot felt the mild air and shouted, "It's not cold at all! I'm free! I'm free!" It was actually fairly cold, but he was ready for a break from the Seattle chill.
Palm trees, birds of paradise, brown hills, traffic jams, deep afternoon shadows and thunder storms, our Los Angeles.









Saturday, December 16, 2006

It's a Hanukkah Miracle!

Thursday night at 10pm we lost power. From my bed we could see pink sparks flying from the blown transformers down the street. The wind rattled our windows, whipped anything loose into the air and snapped pine trees in half. It was hard to sleep with such drama going on around us, it sounded like pieces of metal were falling on our house.

Friday morning we found out school was closed and we had no power. Our house was 55 degrees. We showered in candlelight and got breakfast at a cafe that had power. As luck would have it my work had power, business as usual. Danny and the kids went to see Charlotte's Web and stayed out of the house.

The power was restored by 2. We were very lucky. Many of my coworkers still didn't have power by nightfall and it was projected that it might take anywhere from 2 to 10 days until power was fully restored. We celebrated the first night of Hanukkah on schedule. We used birthday candles in the menorah, but it did the trick. Happy Hanukkah!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Vegetarians Get the Last Laugh

I've been a vegetarian for 20 years (for health / environmental / ethical reasons) and I don't miss meat at all (my diet isn't all that veg and fruit rich however). I really don't like the taste of meat or poultry. I'm not a true vegetarian, I started eating fish while pregnant with Elliot because I was worried about getting enough iron and protein. Now I eat fish a few times a year in high end restaurants.

I made the decision to not raise the boys vegetarian because it's hard enough to feed kids. I say nothing about the fact that I don't eat meat because I don't want them to turn off from the whole food group. However it does seem strange that my 5 year old doesn't know anything about it. Danny gave up vegetarianism a few years ago and says he feels healthier, he's tried to get me to change my veg diet several times. Fish was my compromise, but I can take it or leave it. It seems like I'm always running into ex-vegetarians and ex-vegans (I can't see how anyone could stay vegan for long). I know only a handful of vegetarians. Well this British study gives us vegetarians vindication for any ridicule we may have endured over the years. Ha!

Study Finds Vegetarians Smarter
A study of thousands of men and women revealed that those who stick to a vegetarian diet have IQs that are around five points higher than those who regularly eat meat. Writing in the British Medical Journal, the researchers say it isn't clear why veggies are brainier - but admit the fruit and veg-rich vegetarian diet could somehow boost brain power.

The researchers, from the University of Southampton, tracked the fortunes of more than 8,000 volunteers for 20 years. At the age of ten, the boys and girls sat a series of tests designed to determine their IQ. When they reached the age of 30, they were asked whether they were vegetarian and their answers compared to their childhood IQ score.
Around four and a half per cent of the adults were vegetarian - a figure that is broadly in line with that found in the general population.

However, further analysis of the results showed those who were brainiest as children were more likely to have become vegetarian as adults, shunning both meat and fish. The typical adult veggie had a childhood IQ of around 105 - around five points higher than those who continued to eat meat as they grew up. The vegetarians were also more likely to have gained degrees and hold down high-powered jobs.

There was no difference in IQ between strict vegetarians and those who classed themselves as veggie but still ate fish or chicken. However, vegans - vegetarians who also avoid dairy products - scored significantly lower, averaging an IQ score of 95 at the age of 10.

Researcher Dr Catharine Gale said there could be several explanations for the findings, including intelligent people being more likely to consider both animal welfare issues and the possible health benefits of a vegetarian diet.

Previous work has shown that vegetarians tend to have lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol, cutting their risk of heart attacks. They are also less likely to be obese. Alternatively, a diet which is rich in fruit, vegetables and wholegrains may somehow boost brain power.

Dr Gale said: 'Although our results suggest that children who are more intelligent may be more likely to become vegetarian as adolescents or young adults, it does not rule out the possibility that such a diet might have some beneficial effect on subsequent cognitive performance.

'Might the nature of the vegetarians' diet have enhanced their apparently superior brain power? Was this the mechanism that helped them achieve the disproportionate nature of degrees?

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23378331-details/Vegetarians+are+more+intelligent%2C+says+study/article.do

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The mountain


Yesterday "the mountain" was out. The clouds left and revealed Mt Rainier completely covered in snow, white and brilliant in the light, it looked as if it were in our backyard. Everyone stopped to gawk. It's strange to realize that we have this huge volcano sitting a few feet away from us (ok several hundred miles away).

Asher's teacher told us at school he pointed out the window and said, "Dad is in the mountain. He's coming after afternoon snack. Hi Dad! I can see mom and dad and elliot, they're all on the mountain." Then he waved to us. Ashee, so sweet. It's amazing how much his verbal skills have improved in just this last month.

family stranded in snow

I've been following the story of the kim family stranded in the oregon mountains since Thanksgiving. They seemed so similar to my young family: tech industry, west coast connections -- sf, portland, seattle -- two kids under age 5, we're both 35 years old. It could have happened to us. When we were in sf this summer we evn visited the apothecary store they owned. I can't imagine what I would do or feel after being stranded for 9 or 10 days. Having 2 kids relying on you for support and sanity makes it easier to ground yourself, but it must take a resilient spirit to survive that ordeal. Kati nursed both kids throughout, providing comfort and nutrition. Snow water and baby food. I immediately thought he shouldn't have left them when he was found dead. But he had spent a whole week, waiting. Burned tires. No way out. A family is now grieving for their young father and husband.

Monday, December 04, 2006

So Long 2006 - The Time is Now


Ok, so I'm a little early (4 weeks until the new year). I just bought my annual 2007 Nikki McClure Calendar which is lovely and inspring as always. (I should note that the title is "The Time is Now." Be Present.) Each mesmerizing scene has a call to action that I can get behind: build, repair, congregate, breathe, attempt, transmit, respond, return, wake up... The www.buyolympia.com site has tons of other cool stuff by indie artists and crafty people.

I'm anxious to say goodbye to our year of earaches, housing limbo, construction upheaval. 2006 was a slow year. Good stuff happened too: Asher started talking fluently, Elliot learned to swim and is beginning to read. We have a fantastic bathroom. Arrivederci, we're moving into our easy year, thank you very much. I'll do my top 10 films of the year list as soon as I see 10 films (maybe I can squeeze a few in later this month).

I saw a meme recently about the top 100 songs (mention the songs you loved, tolerated and hated) of the year you graduated high school (I was class of 1989). I was shocked that not even a single song from 1989 was tolerable. I forgot how bad top 40 music was pre-nirvana (today's top 40 is still bad, just not as bad, or maybe I'm just blissfully ignorant). 1989 was a particularly bad year for music. 1989 was the year of milli vanilli (girl you know it's true), new kids on the block, warrant, poison, bette midler, paula abdul, bobby brown, debbie gibson, madonna (like a prayer)... could it get any worse? seems more like 1985.

On another note, I'm a big palace / will oldham / bonnie "prince" billy fan so I subjected myself to viewing half of his hour long anti-social comic interview / "poolside chat with neil hamburger" on tomgreen.com featuring a guest appearence by andy dick. Neil said, If you have a question about the past or the future, don't bother to call.

Right, it's all about the now.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Snow Day! (s)

Monday night we had a little snow shower that covered everything with a 1/2 inch of white. We were giddy watching the fat flakes settle into the ground and stick. Whoopee. Even though the snow stopped just when it was really starting to accumulate, the Seattle School District cancelled school due to icy roads and temperatures below freezing (I think the high today was 28). The kids frolicked and spazzed out in the snow with our neighbors. Asher fell in the snow and said, "I need some ice" (his auto-response to to any boo-boo).

Today it was extremely cold (it was fun seeing people blow drying their car doors open) and there was ice (which is good for sledding) but it didn't snow. We're in for our second day of school closure tomorrow without real fluffy fun snow, but they're predicting signficant accumulation tomorrow night. Perhaps a whole week of snow days is in store???

Monday, November 27, 2006

Pippi Longstocking Film Festival

Over the long Thanksgiving weekend we introduced the boys to the world's strongest person (not just the world's strongest girl - she's stronger than any man): Pippi Longstocking. We spent four days watching and rewatching the original 1974 films "Pippi Longstocking" and "Pippi in the South Seas." Elliot was sold immediately because Pippi is strong and smart and has a pet monkey. Asher we can assume was into Pippi because he said to us, "Quiet, it's European."

I'm happy to report that Pippi is just as strange and refreshing as I remembered. I was viewing her as a responsible adult and parent, yet she was still charming. She picks her nose, belches louder than any pirate and is probably the worst tea party guest ever. Pippi is rude and a little chaotic, but generous and full of integrity. She's a punk rock girl full of good cheer. Anything is possible, it's all about freedom, who cares if it's messy or not perfect.

I loved the flying bed and balloon scenes as a kid. What's better than waking up over the sparkling ocean in a warm, comfy bed and kicking back with a yummy sandwich for breakfast? I noticed that food plays an important part in the films, supporting my theory that food is a crucial ingredient to success in children's literature and film.

Interesting fact: according to Wikipedia Pippi's full name is Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Efraim's Daughter Longstocking.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I am Thankful for My Pet Turkey


Elliot created a Thanksgiving placemat at school featuring a fantastic yellow turkey with brown handprint feathers. His subtitle read, "I am thankful for my pet turkey." Oh really?

What am I thankful for? A good night of sleep. Peets Coffee. Having so many family members who are generous, full of good humor and silliness, loyal, honest and insightful. Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Roald Dahl - Wicked Bedtime Reading

Reading bedtime stories with my kids is one of the best things about being a parent. I love nestling with the boys and a book; they're calm and completely absorbed in the present moment. It's a bonus when the books we're reading make us giggle senselessly. It's a special treat when the books are darkly humorous absurd tales featuring horrid, gruesome characters, what a bonus!

I always had my nose in a book as a kid in the 70s and 80s, but I never read anything by Roald Dahl. I asked my mom why I never read any Dahl books and she claimed not to have heard of him even though she's a bibliophile and a retired elementary school teacher. Sure I watched the odd and menacing Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory anytime it was on tv. Does that count? Did I judge books by their covers? Of course. Anyway, I was a fan of mysteries, paranormal stories and girly books. I was too immersed in Nancy Drew, Agatha Christy, Madeleine L'Engle and Judy Blume to notice these quirky books with the squiggly line drawing covers.

I read an article about Dahl's complicated life and prickly character in the New Yorker earlier this year (I identified with his dark humor and sense of social justice - I'll ignore the other parts). Now that I've discovered the pleasures of his dry wicked wit, I'm anxious to tackle the whole Dahl library with Elliot.

We started with the Enormous Crocodile about an ill tempered croc who has designs to eat "a nice, juicy child" and spends the whole tale tricking and deceiving everyone in order to get a child. Elliot thought it was hilarious. Next we read The Twits about Mr. and Mrs. Twit who are indeed grotesque, they never bathe or brush their hair, play mean and horrible tricks on each other endlesslly (worm spaghetti, frogs in the bed). Our most recent read was George's Marvelous Medicine, in which George makes a disgusting magical potion that ends up killing his beast of a grandmother. This story was particularly misanthropic, no one cared that grandma died, she was nuisance. But as with all Dahl stories, if you're a mean, nasty person who's cruel to kids then you'll get your due.

Roald Dahl died in 1990. According to his granddaughter, the family gave him a "sort of Viking funeral. He was buried with his snooker cues, some very good burgundy, chocolates, HB pencils and a power saw."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Crocs Mania

I bought Elliot a pair of pale blue crocs, the soft squishy foam clog, last June and we've definitely gotten our money's worth. They're his favorite shoe, easy to put on, comfortable and apparently the allow him to "run really fast," even faster than his new balance track shoes. I've been asking him to retire his crocs for the winter, maybe he could pick out some boots, great for rainy days. You can walk outside and not get cold wet feet (you would think that would be a plus). But I must be delusional.

When school started I told him he couldn't wear his crocs to school. Just like we don't wear track pants to school, it's not appropriate attire. We don't wear squishy clogs to school. But then it became difficult to fend off his pleas when I saw that nearly half the kids (boys and girls) in his class wore crocs to school daily. I relented. He could wear them to school. I gave in to the track pants as well. I have so many battles, this one didn't seem worth it. (At least I held my ground on not wearing shorts until next spring). A friend gave him some trinkety frogs to attach to the holes in the shoe. It's a full blown kid trend.

So the rule is that he can't wear crocs to school now that it's raining and cold everyday, but he can wear them on weekends if it's not raining. Today he knew it was his opportunity to wear his crocs, so he carefully crafted an ensemble that consisted of navy track pants with a reflective white stripe down the side and a green and navy baseball shirt. My natty young man.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Autumn Picnic

Picnics hold a dear place in the hearts of most children. They're romanticized and exoticized in a way that no other eating activity can muster. Was it "Best Friends for Frances" or "George Shinks" or "McDuff Comes Home" that clinched it for him? Elliot barely eats more than 800 calories a day, (apple, pb+j,yogurt, one bite of chicken, rice, maybe some dry cereal), he can barely sit still during dinner, but eating outside is the bees knees.

He had the idea last Saturday that we should have a picnic in the park with sandwiches, grapes, cookies, juice and chips. The wind was blowing, it was close 40 degrees, but I couldn't say no to his enthusiasm. As a compromise, we had Elliot and his neighbors lunch in our front yard on a blanket. The picnic basket was a must have. That's what it's all about, the packaging (and location). Of course they were jumping up and down trying to stay warm (or maybe it was just boy spazziness, kids don't get cold, what am I thinking).

Monday, November 13, 2006

"Emu. It's delicious."

Asher's teacher today told me that he and his Spanish speaking friend Eloy from Argentina speak in their own hybrid language. Asher points to the cat out the window and will say something like, "Gato. Gwack spool gato." Then Eloy runs over and checks out the cat and responds in turn, "El gato gwack su piel." It isn't true Spanish or English and it isn't spanglish either. It's a crazy toddler gibberish spanish hybrid language.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Scrutiny

I was really struck by this photo of Rick Santorum's concession speech. Danny called me over to see it and I thought it was a manipulated photo, something done by a snarky Santorum hater. It's photo journalism, but it's more art. So much is on the surface.

The heart of the photo is the almost anachronistic (plaid pinafore), emotionally overwhelmed little girl clutching her doll in a matching outfit. Why don't you like my dad? Why have you been so cruel to my family? Do you know what I've been through? The older brother has a stunned, severe look on his face, used to keeping it together, but clearly on the verge of breaking down. The older sister also has a twisted grimace, a teenage sulk, a little angry, life will be hell tomorrow. She looks more embarassed. It's extreme exposure, were they coached? Did the photographer do something to elicit that reaction? I don't think so. They're just kids, their lives are changing, it was late at night, they were humiliated. I read a ton of really hostile comments about the family and this photo - 8 year old girls don't carry dolls, the boy looks like hitler youth, reason magazine ran the photo with a tongue in cheek headline that said "Your tears are so yummy and sweet." I despise Santorum's politics, I'm glad he's gone. But it could have been any political family. The photo says a lot about American family dynamics, american culture, the brutality of politics.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Behind the Seed + Be Bop My Bunny Down

I'm fascinated by the alternate realities that my boys inhabit. Elliot is practicing being a socially graceful adult telling his grandpa, "Grandpa, I really like your coat. It looks good on you. I almost bought the same one when I was at Costco." He tells some really elaborate fictions about his daily life such as a 15 minute exposition about his adventures while walking to school all by himself (which is 2 miles away).

Asher sings two original songs besides standard repetoire of "dayenu", "habby birdday to me" and "I've been working on the railroad." One is called, "Behind the Seed" which goes "Be-hind the seeed, Be-hind the seeed, Be-hind the seeed" and the other one is "be bop, my bunny down, be bop, my bunny down, be bop, my bunny down." Both are repetitive, no melody except for the ennunciation of the drawn out vowels. I suppose it's insight into his alien universe. Where did it come from, what does it mean, what does it say about him? I asked Elliot to translate the songs for me. I always thought it was behind the sea and be bop my bunny drown. Aparently not. Is it nonsense? He's been singing them for a year now. I'll have to record them. I hope he remembers these songs in 5 years. He'll get a kick out of it.

I can see Elliot entering into the adult world. The other day he was reading The Week magazine in the bathroom, and he came out to show me a picture. "Who's this girl mom? Where is she from? I mean what country is she from? Or what continent, what city?" I said, "That's Scarlett Johansson, she's an actress. I think she's from the US. Why do you like her?" He balked, "What do you mean like her? I don't even know her. What movies was she in?" Then he wanted me to read the article about her, it was totally inappropriate all about her love life, so I read him an extremely abridged version about her nyc upbringing, tolerance and love of all types of people. Elliot said, "She sounds really nice mom."

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Science of Sleep

Danny and I went to see the Science of Sleep this weekend in an actual theater (our first movie in 4 months). We thought about seeing crispin hellion glover's "what is it?" (surely bizarre with an all down's syndrome cast) at central cinema the movie theater with a full bar and dinner service. I suspected "what is it?" would be sold out on a saturday night but I also feared it might be too depressing.

The Science of Sleep lends itself well to a Jungian individuation / coming of age interpretation (it's easy to read the film as if all the characters are aspects of a single person). In college I took a Jungian Film class where we analyzed a film a week including Repo Man, Thelma and Louise and Blue Velvet through a Jungian lens - archetypes, collective unconscious, shadow, anima, animus, process of individuation - great fun. Anyway, the Science of Sleep was very funny, poetic, full of emotion, risk taking. Stephane, a boy / man who just lost his father to cancer, meets his female counterpart (anima) Stephanie. At the center of the film is the romantic push pull, all of the emotions in the film are grounded, easy to relate to and reflect our modern romance neurotic dance.

Stephane / Stephanie is insecure, afraid of rejection, creative, very cerebral, still very immature. On the surface of the story, it looks like Stephane alienated his love interest with his strange (schizophrenic? psychotic break?), unpredictable behavior. But because nearly everything in the movie is set in an alternate reality dream world, we can't distinguish real events from imagination. 99% of the film is from Stephane's perspective. Danny felt that Stephane's dream world really wasn't pathological, it was all symbolism. The film works both ways. He's grieving, he's disoriented, jet lagged, speaking a language in which he lacks fluency, he's trying to define who he is. The emotional core is that he's trying to establish himself as an adult: wearing his father's old suit from the 70s, taking a job, breaking away from his mother, creating art and making inventions. The one second time machine was totally hilarious. He says he really wants to be an inventor - he's inventing his adult self.

In the end he reveals himself to Stephanie, curling up in her bunk bed, "I like you because you're different. Because you understand. Because you make things with your hands."

Saturday, November 04, 2006

La Cienega

I've wanted to see the Argentinian film La Cienega for 4 or 5 years, so I was excited when it finally out on DVD. It was worth the wait.

Side note: How fitting that La Cienega (which I didn't realize means the swamp in english) is a major arterial in LA. I never gave much thought to the non-english names of the streets or cities where I grew up. The lagoon. The swamp. The tar. Succinct and declarative like a horror movie title, perfect for a romantic decaying city.

La Cienega so oozes a southern gothic type of steamy sensual rot. The storytelling is elliptical but not surreal, it cuts into the dailiness of their lives evenly. It's a meditation on loss of control, entropy, nostalgia for a long gone social order, squandered youth/wealth/opportunity, what happens when you give up.

A sense of entitlement permeates the walls of a dilapidated country home of fair skinned european decendend Argentinians. The class struggle between the indians and europeans is a primary focus. One of the teen age daughters (who refuses to bathe or change out of her bathing suit) is obsessed with her young dark skinned maid, she thanks god for her, follows her around but the maid is annoyed and indifferent and runs off pregnant with her boyfriend in the end.

There are young kids running around laughing and shrieking while pickled adults are bumping into walls, falling, bleeding. Red wine on ice; ice clinking against glass; blood on the edges. The central image is a green swampy pool lurking in every scene waiting to consume a child. Everyone is in danger, their vulnerability is highlighted constantly. The kids have scratched faces, broken noses, wounds on their legs and arms, one child lost an eye. Their mother falls and cuts her thin, boney chest on broken glass. Any sense of nurturing completely lost.

A cow is stuck in the mud as little boys wander the hills with guns. The mother lies in bed all day as the kids wander around the town. A brother and sister act more like lovers. A six year old falls off a ladder and may or may not be dead. All very dark, but it seemed to say get ready for the new order.

Somehow the whole portrait felt refreshing, the young were ascendent. They weren't calcified, their environment was wild, but they didn't fight it. They didn't try to control anything, they were wounded but resilient. Connecting with each other in their odd fragmented ways.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Balloon Juice

I too like to browse political blogs, especially near elections. One site, Balloonjuice.com , that I stumbled upon last year has become one of my favorites. I found it when Congress decided to intervene in Terri Shiavo's husband's (and federal courts) decision to turn off her feeding aparatus. I am not sure what I was doing at the time, but Marika was at book club when I decided to IM with the blogger and let him know that even though he was a republican I appreciated his calling foul on the whole affair. We "chatted" for a couple of hours or so, and he seemed pretty reasonable, more like a libertarian. He is an assistant professor, blogs about beer, and plays internet poker. I kept coming back thereafter as he seemed to be switching between the liberal and conservative perspectives. Well, gradually he has become more and more outspoken about how far the GOP has strayed from its values. I find the whole thing very compelling to read daily. I know that after reading the site, I can never think of Patricia Heaton in the same way....

Dan

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Trick or Treating - It's Halloween




Hurray, it's Halloween! It was dark and 30 degrees outside, but we had a blast walking around with Grandpa and Grandma and asking our neighbors for candy. Elliot spent his 5th day in a row in his skeleton costume (no mask and no coat of course) and Asher went as a dog (although some people called him a bear).

Asher still wasn't clear on the concept of Halloween. He was thrilled by the prospect of owning so many lollipops but couldn't bear to part with the candy, "No, it's mine," he said when I asked him if he wanted to put his candy in his pumpkin bag. So he walked around gripping mounds of loose candy in his hands. He also felt compelled to dart inside any house that opened their doors to us; I had to fish him out of a few houses before he got the hang of it.

We visited the elaborate "house of horrors" but didn't go inside (too spooky). Everyone went to bed on time. We were all tired. We'll deal with the candy tomorrow.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Kitchen Dearest

We chose not to remodel our 1920s kitchen with the permanently scraped and smudged black and white check vinyl floor that lacks counterspace AND storage space when we remodeled the rest of our house. Why? Because it's a 30k job minimum probably have taken up half of our budget. We'll get around to it one of these days. Probably.

Kitchens are the most expensive room in the house. They also go out of style the fastest. Burnt orange formica. White laminate cupboards. Tuscan yellow and red brick floors. Marble countertops that are now cut and stained black and yellow rotten.

A small 2 bedroom recently remodeled house up the street from us is on the market so we peeked in to check out the design. Two small bedrooms and a very small living room, but it had a huge best in show kitchen with poured concrete countertops, sub zero, bosch dishwasher, viking range. The works. It also had amazing cupboards with unique metal grating on the cabinet face. I fell in love with it. Can we do that in our space? Think of how productive and happy we would be with a kitchen like that. Do it right.

How would it take to do this kitchen job cost? 50K? 60k? According to the realtor, at least 80k. Kitchens go out of style so fast, this martha-stewart-celadon-green-retro-20s-stainless- steel-poured-concrete-thing will be so passe in a few years.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Personalized Rock Posters for Kids

I found this portland company Rattle -N- Roll that does rock poster baby announcements and birthday invitations. $175 for two posters, great idea. I'm thinking about getting the kids their own posters. Darn cute.

Riding the Dragon

Dr. McCurry talks about being in a "riding the dragon" mindset when parenting kids. Instead of head butting and crashing into rocks, dive into the madness, paddle into the current fast, hang on to the tail of the dragon and go with the energy. Elliot lately has been begging me in the most desperate whiny voice to buy him this grotesque baby skeleton in a cage that we saw in Target. Tonight he started in again, "whyyyy wouldn't you buy me the skeleton in the cage that I wanted. I waaaaanted it." I said, "It was disturbing and gross. I didn't want to buy it." He said, "It wasn't a baby, it was a person." More whining.

With my new dragon mind, I said, "You really like skeletons, you really like bones don't you." "I do because they're the inside of a person." he said. It worked like a charm, perfect verbal redirection. We then talked about how next semester he'll take the after school science class. Totally into it. Maybe I don't need to slay any dragons elsewhere in my life.

We'll see if it works with Asher. Ok, wear your spiderman pajamas to school. Ok, cry into your ice cream that's too sweet. too cold. too rich. too much. Too many choices and no limits isn't good either. We'll see.

He's still in the dreamscape of babyhood. When I read him "Brown Bear" he pretends to eat a little piece of each animal's tongue. "Yum" he says. He asks for cod liver oil. He asks his parents to "look at the poop" on the sidewalk. In the Halloween costume book he points to the picture of the boy dressed as an alien and says, "Asher."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Our Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

We decided to go to the all organic South 47 Farm in Redmond this year to pick a pumpkin (got a little bit lost, but what's a trip to the pumpkin patch without a little argument about how to get there?). The trip was worth it. The pumpkin selection was slim, but it wasn't as crowded as Craven Farm either. South 47 has a huge corn maze, apple cider, bales of hay for the kids to jump on, kettle corn and a farmer's market. Just perfect for us. The sun was out, Buzzy Bee came with us and we had a great time.

The assistant manager of the farm gave us a hay ride tour and educated us about their organic crops: 1) they keep honey bees to pollinate the flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs 2) their blueberries aren't doing well for the second year in a row and 3)they have a small flock of goats. Asher was thrilled by the bumpy hay ride. Whoopee!



Thursday, October 19, 2006

Weeds

Danny and I watched the whole first season of Weeds in one weekend a few weeks ago. Each night in bed we gobbled up the episodes on our laptop three or four at a time (1/2 hour episodes are particularly addictive - this happened to us when we watched each season of Sex in the City on dvd as well).

The writing is sharp, the characters are complex and compelling, the satire is fresh. Poking fun at suburban family values hypocrisy is nothing new, but Weeds works as straight drama as well as a brutal black comedy (not campy or broad at all). Mary Louise Parker as Nancy Botwin sips her iced lattes like a chain smoker. Her intense drive to become a weed kingpin feels believable. Her hubris and greed are transparent. Andy the slacker brother in-law and Celia the bitchy PTA / city council president get the most laughs. Shane, Nancy's youngest son is also fun to watch. Silas the oldest son is the show's weakest character. Not sure where they're going with him.

We ended up watching most of season two last weekend. There are two episodes left in the season. I'm already going through withdrawal. I like how the producers are spicing up the show with indie bands singing the little boxes theme song, but I still love the Melvina Reynolds version the best. The kids and I sing it all the time.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Autumn Top 10 List


1. Green Tea Mochi Ball Ice Cream
2. Weeds on Showtime
3. Melted gruyere cheese
4. Crazy shaped pumpkins
5. Flourescent orange leaves
6. Radiant heat floors
7. The Twits by Roald Dahl (dreadful, dreary, another very dark but humorous story, bird pie!)
8. Sufjan Stevens
9. Stories for Children by Isaac Bashev Singer (death, treachery, brutal but beautiful)
10. Cashmere sweaters

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Captain Jack Sparrow vs. Sepultura

Just to give you an idea about what's going on in our house. Elliot no longer watches tv, he watches YouTube. Two of his current favorites (he has very eclectic taste):

Sepultura Resist cover from child prodigy heavy metal band from Argentina - the guitarist looks like he's 8.



Captain Jack Sparrow Disco Song, "pirates are cool because they find treasure and get to dress up."

Friday, October 13, 2006

Autumn in Seattle


Each morning the car is wrapped in dew. A cold fog sticks around until 11, but the sky is blue and it's mildly warm by noon (or 1 or 2). I packed away Elliot's shorts to avoid having another argument with him about why we don't wear shorts in cold weather (it did the trick, but he still manages to throw a fit every few weeks about something absurd like why he really needs a pet monkey or why can't he have chocolate cupcakes for breakfast). Leaves are turning orange and yellow. Our Halloween decorations are out: day of the dead skeleton, plastic spiders and ceramic pumpkins, a string of purple bat lights. Some of our more ambitious neighbors have spider webs and ghosts in their trees, gravestones in their front lawns.

Rats + Scabies
A few weeks ago I developed a twitch in my eye and a rash on the palms of my hands. I thought I had scabies and obsessed over the CDC site and any dermatological photo sites cataloging the most grotesque cases of parasitic skin diseases and other skin conditions. It turns out I'm a stress case (not a surprise) and have atopic eczema. I'm always under stress. Not sure why it happened now. Nothing new except that while insulating under the house we discovered RATS. We installed a fan in the bathroom and discovered we had no vent. Our skylight is leaking. Asher is teething and acting like a maniac. But Elliot started kindergarten last month and it's been one of the smoothest transitions I've ever seen him make.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Baby Einstein vs Barbie


Po Bronson (What Should I Do with My Life?), who pokes holes in conventional wisdom and examines social trends with refreshing clarity in his down to earth blog Social Studies, had an article in Time Magazine this week on the media hype that surrounds the spate of books and articles written about family issues that only affect 10% of the wealthiest U.S. population. The side effect of this anxiety is that it causes widespread panic where it need not and contributes to (for example) lower rates of college enrollment for Latinos (media tells them college is too expensive and competitive). Claude Fisher, a Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley said, "A social trend is whatever is happening to a newspaper editor and the editor's friends." Bronson's point is well taken, but isn't the media targeting this affluent audience? Isn't it all about advertising dollars and marketing to the most desirable demographic?

Still, Bronson could have chosen a better example than baby einstein (I understand the name says it all) I have a few Baby Einstein books and videos and they're extremely boring. Perhaps Baby Einstein isn't selling as many products because they don't understand kids. Elliot loves science and history and we have tons of books that really spark his intellectual curiosity (such as the Eyewitness series board books for babies to encyclopedias for older kids). Eyewitness gets kids.

As for Barbie, I haven't had to face that issue with my boys (although I did make the decision to let the boys play with small action figures who have weapons - a pirate without a sword??). I cut her legs off, tattooed her face and melted her hair, but I loved Barbie... Action figures (including barbies) are very important to imaginative play. It's developmentally appropriate and intellectually stimulating to play with dolls throughout childhood. Baby Einstein or Leap Frog or any other educational toy is not in direct opposition to action figures or dolls.

How media elitism misrepresents the American family - Po Bronson in Time MagazineWho would win in a fight, Baby Einstein or Barbie? Baby Einstein isn't a character. He's just a brand. So that imaginary fight wouldn't be a fistfight. It'd be a fight for mind share and market share. It'd be a fight for dollars. Every day, in Targets and Wal-Marts across the country, those two brands go at it. Which one do you give your kid? It depends on how old your child is, obviously, but as any good supermom will tell you, Baby Einstein is the choice of parents who want their daughter to speak Swahili by seventh grade and go to Harvard. They leave Barbies for people who, they imagine, just want their daughter to have a smile on her face and go to a great state college.

So who's winning? It's not close. Barbie crushes Baby Einstein. Last year the Baby Einstein brand sold $200 million worth of products. The Barbie brand's sales were 15 times as high. A giant $3 billion.

I bring that up because I sense the media are ignoring the true American family and instead are putting the dramas of affluent families on Page One. It would be O.K. if they delivered those portraits with a sardonic wink, so that we might laugh at the foibles of the well-off. But there is no wink. In the eyes of the media, we all buy Baby Einstein.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Bagley Buzzzz

Elliot and I (his father) were messing around with Garage Band. Elliot had difficulty starting the song on a count(1-1-1-2-3-4.) He wanted to get the song down in his mind before--he started singing. I'm not a musician--but it seems like his mind was going over the song--before he sang it. Anyway here it is...

http://www.gigasize.com/get.php/102817/BAGLEY_Bzzzzz.m4a

Monday, October 02, 2006

Godzilla the Good Dad

Elliot is into Godzilla these days. I was searching for less scary videos of Godzilla and found this public service announcement about how you don't need to be bigger than life to be a good dad. All it takes is spending time with your kid. It takes a man to be a good dad. Is the announcement saying that you don't have to be a big show off to have fun with your kids? Playing monster is a classic dad and kid game. Not sure it's effective. Cute though.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Kork-Ease


When I was in second grade my mom bought me a pair of Kork-Ease shoes that were to die for. I loved them so much I refused to take them off for bed the first night I brought them home; there was no way you could pry those things off my feet. I remember sleeping with my Kork-Ease on, inhaling their musky leathery goodness, my heart fluttering with Kork-Ease dreams.

They squeaked when I walked and gave me hundreds of blisters, but they looked beautiful on my feet. Eventually they turned dark brown and loose, the straps probably uprooted. I think I owned a few more pair after that.

Yesterday I was shoe shopping and I was surprised to see Nordstrom was selling them for $200 bucks. Apparently, they're back and spendy. Not so sure about the metallic and velvet options, but the black Kork-Ease looked cute. Too late for sandals this year. Maybe I'll pick up a pair next summer.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Smash your head on the punk rock

Now that we're driving the old Toyota Camry that lacks a CD player, we've dragged out our ancient box of cassette tapes. We almost threw them out a few months ago. We're glad we have the tapes because our family tends to get cranky and whiny sans a soundtrack. Asher is a complete dictator when it comes to choosing music, "change the song", "again, play it again" or "I don't like it" (I want to encourage his personal taste so I indulge him for the most part). The tape technology sucks of course, I'm always rewinding the wrong way or something.

Olden days, my sentimental musical review
I played the boys a tribe called quest (some racey lyrics not sure how often we'll listen to it, but got a good reception from the guys), jon spencer blues explosion (asher liked it. elliot said, "I like fake punk rock better" what does that mean?), black flag (no fans. "turn it off" said asher), bob dylan (no fans), my bloody valentine (boring. I could barely listen. why did I like them?), minutemen (a winner. elliot liked the sound effects and variety), sebadoh (elliot said "this music is sad").

Creature from the black lagoon
A few weeks ago while searching for old monster movies on youtube for elliot we found this cheap skater punk creature from the black lagoon video. It is now Elliot's favorite song ever and he sings it into his hairbrush every morning.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Teen Angst: Brick, Blue Car, Somersault, Fat Girl


While reviewing my current netflix queue (61 movies) and rental history (250 movies in 2 years including a 3 month hiatus) I noticed that nearly all of my recent netflix rentals have been portraits of troubled teenagers, mostly girls. I must be missing Veronica Mars. I can't wait for the V Mars season premiere on Tuesday. Here are some mini reviews of a few lost girl coming of age films.

Brick
High school film noir (based on the Maltesse Falcon) with great snappy dialogue. The two female leads are broken and manipulative; both girls hide their power. The lost girl's ex-boyfriend tries to save her but she doesn't want to be saved. The femme fatale just wants to be loved, but ends up causing a blood bath. The angst and awkwardness of teenagedom is polished and stylized but it somehow manages to freshly communicate raw longing and loss.

Blue Car
It's hard to compare the sophisticated artifice of Brick to Blue Car which is incredibly earnest and ham fisted. As a child of divorce, I thought I might relate to the lost girl who is bitter about the break up of her family, but the adults in the film are too cartoonish to make the film believable. The girl in this film has daddy and mommy issues. When she latches on to her lecherous English teacher after some over the top plot developments, I wasn't surprised. We're meant to think the main character is a good girl (she doesn't use sexuality to get what she wants) but lacking inner resources for success. Blue Car champions standing up for yourself and individuation, but is consumed with an after school special, see-this-is-what-happens-to-latch-key-kids-from-broken-homes moralism.

Somersault
An arty Australian film featuring a 16 year old lost girl who runs away from home after she kisses her mother's boyfriend. She's resilient, but relies on her sexuality to get what she wants which of course means trouble. Trolling for guys or anyone who might feed her. Reminded me a little of Agnes Varda's Vagabond. The message is clear that a girl alone in the world automatically means that she's slutty trash. The focus on sex is more prominent in this film than the others, but it also moves in unexpected directions. She has a great emotional vocabulary and clearly explains how she feels. Coming of age in Somersault means understanding why people do the things they do, forgiveness.

Fat Girl
Fat Girl is the most sensationalistic of this genre. French movie about a chubby 12 or 13 year old and her older beautiful teenage sister. The "fat girl" sees clearly how shallow her family is and how corrupt their values are. The older sister subjects the fat girl to witnessing her nightly trysts with her older scummy boyfriend. Similar in tone to Larry Clark's Kids; a cold clinical look at a train wreck. Ignorant parents, mean selfish people all around. Punishing sexuality in the way that Friday the 13th does with an abrupt murder in the final scene of the movie. I felt really bad for the young actresses who are put through some horrible situations. In the director's commentary, she proudly explains that it was hard for the girls, but it's good for them, they'll become better actors because of it. Fat Girl is cynical, none of the characters grow, there is no coming of age, only death.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Cousin Ila

We had a nice visit with cousin Ila, uncle joel and aunt bessie this past weekend. The boys were very excited about meeting Ila. Elliot loves family. He was just beside himself with glee. He revealed how embarrased he was that he didn't hold their wedding rings the right way when he was the ring bearer in their wedding ceremony.

Asher was surprisingly gentle with Ila, patting her head (typical 2 year old expression of love - everyone loves a pat on the head right?) and giving her a peck on the cheek. One highlight: Elliot warmly told Bessie how much Ila looked like her and then noted how Ila had "tarantula hair."

Elliot's message to Ila: "I love you. You're one of my favorite cousins ever. Maybe someday she can stay with us in our house without uncle joel and aunt bessie and we can have fun all day long. Maybe she can go to the super bowl with us."