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