Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Happy Birthday Buddy! Villanelles are HARD!

In honor of Buddy's 5th birthday, which is TODAY, I shall now inflict upon you a villanelle, intended to describe the circumstances of his introduction into our family (we were doing summer work in the Alaskan bush, the pregnancy was most unexpected, and Buddy's eyes are deep blue with gold flecks: how could you NOT write a poem?).

If you feel it is a sodden piece of belabored crap, try to remember, villanelles are incredibly HARD, and the fact that it is WRITTEN and that it is actually a villanelle is so freakin' AMAZING that there is no need to expend further effort to judge the actual quality of the actual words.

So, with no further excuses:

I left the flakes of gold on the riverbed
Believing I'd return to find them there.
I find my treasure in your eyes instead.

The prospectors are a hundred years dead,
Deeding the gold to caribou and bear.
I left the flakes of gold on the river bed.

Named for, "Good news, it's a boy!" so they said.
Had the same "good news" so I got out of there.
I find my treasure in your eyes instead.

A vacant vale that Good News River fed
With salmon, gold and quiet like nowhere.
I left the flakes of gold on the river bed,

A new frontier beckoned with thrilling dread,
Infinite risks, prizes beyond compare:
I find my treasure in your eyes instead.

No vista bests your life stretched out ahead,
I'd give up more to have your world t
o share.
I left the flakes of gold on the river bed --
I find my treasure in your eyes instead.

Don't worry, he also got a Wii.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Better than being beaten, stoned and finally beheaded...*

Note to parents considering placing their kids in pre-school:
How's your self-confidence? 'Cause there's nothing like a pre-school event -- Valentine's Day springs to mind here -- to let you know exactly how much you suck as a parent.

I thought I was the fo-shizzle, as it were, having purchased cards well in advance, and having even got cool Nerds candy cards for Buddy, with tiny boxes of candy that popped cunningly into the cards (tape and die punch not included).

Buddy came home with a bag full of cards that included candy, but worse than that, several of the candy cards were hand made, incorporating the candy packets into clever little animal designs. This is because I suck.

Also, I forgot to put together any cards for his teachers. Perhaps they did not suffer for lack of Nerds, but it's the thoughtlessness that counts.

I didn't go so all-out with Bear's cards, simply getting him a pack of Pixar-related cards with neither bells nor whistles. I had theorized that a roomful of pre-two-year-olds would not give much of a crap about Valentines. When I set down to address all the cards, I couldn't find a class list for him anywhere. Again, going with my madcap what-does-an-eighteen-month-old-want- with-a-Valentine? theory, I put Bear's name on a fistful of cards, stuck 'em in a baggy with a self-deprecating note to his teacher, and moved on with my life.

When did I locate the neatly labeled and completed list of his classmates? If you guessed "three blocks away from the school, after I dropped them off" you win the enchilada. Running Appallingly Late has been a major theme of mine lately, so all I had left to do was drive on to work in a steaming puddle of shame and humiliation.

He Who Looks Hot in Jeans got me an iPod as his token of Valentinian affection. I'm sure I'll get exactly zero sympathy from all none of you who read, but I simply cannot break him of the notion that "expensive"="awesome". I like the iPod, it's blue and shiny and tiny, but I'm going to have to commit to actual lifestyle changes before I find a use for the darn thing.

(I just spent the last forty-five minutes trying to upload my songs and calling innocent software some very ugly names.)

I got my man a cherry tree and a comforter and I fed him salmon for dinner. I'm enjoying the comforter as much as he's enjoying my iPod. If that's not love, what is?

*St. Valentine apparently got hisself martyred in this extensive fashion.

Monday, February 12, 2007

On the one hand...

Via Drudge: Cabin girl in hiding 'after liaison with Fiennes on a flight'

I personally would be all, "Hell yeah, I tapped that!" A career at Qantas or a red-hot-slice of Ralph Fiennes is not even a contest, if you ask me.

On the other hand, if the poor girl is telling the truth, then I'd really be annoyed, if I were her. And not simply because I didn't get to bang Ralph Fiennes.

Did I ever tell you the story of Mrs. McCave? She had 23 sons and she named them all Dave...

I'm helping out with the statewide English proficiency testing at one of our high schools. I was doing individual speaking tests this afternoon with a group of kids I'd never worked with before.

I came to an unusual name -- let's say it was "Scarlet O'Hara" because it totally wasn't -- which surprised me because I'd already tested Scarlet O'Hara in another class. So I glanced around the classroom and spotted a girl who, sure as shootin', looked exactly like Scarlet O'Hara.

I noted this to the teacher, who said, "Oh, this isn't that Scarlet O'Hara. This is Scarlet O'Hara's twin sister, Scarlet O'Hara."

That's right, identical twins, with identical unusual names. Their middle names, which I didn't quite catch, but may have been "Thumbelina" and "Beatrice," are different, but what the hell does that matter if they both use Scarlet O'Hara. Furthermore, upon administration of the English proficiency test, I determined that Scarlet Thumbelina O'Hara didn't have enough English to pour widdle out of a boot ("How old are you?" "I am fine, thank you.") much less handle a discussion of whether or not it would be sensible to go by Thumbelina. And my Spanish, while better than even I'm willing to admit to myself, was unequal to the task.

I guess on a practical level for everyone else (their mom possibly included) it makes for less muss and fuss for them to have the same name, but I wonder, knowing how identity is such a weird and touchy subject with my identical twin husband, if Scarlet or Scarlet ever wishes people would decide to call her sister by some other name.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Small Dreams

For this month’s Blogging for Books, write about a dream you’ve had - either waking or sleeping.

I can say a lot of things to my therapist, admitting guilt, unloading rage or confessing bewilderment. We clicked straightaway, and she's done me some good, but she's got one question that still makes me quail:

What do YOU want?

I've got no answer, and that fact shames me. It does not mesh with the warrior queen image I pretend to see in myself. I have no dreams. I have pushy people on all sides of me with voices so loud and agendas so lengthy I couldn't hear myself dream if I had anything to say.

When I was a kid I had a few dreams: become a photojournalist, learn French, live in France, be a rock star. I got over some and attained the others. And good things have come my way -- living in Alaska, my kids, my job -- but, as much as I've appreciated them, they weren't necessarily my idea. Therefore they're not my dreams.

And I lament the fantasy life I seem to have misplaced. I used to go to bed and imagine: what if I went back in time? what if the aliens came and I stowed away? what if World War III happened next Tuesday? and I'd drift away into adventure and peril. One time an evil queen sat high above me and glared down in judgement. One time I died, and the afterlife was a bizarre shade of green (so there's a myth shot down for you).

Nowadays I put myself to sleep with a good book full of someone else's imaginings, and dream of small things: finding money in my purse, being skinny again, showing up at college and not knowing what to do with my kids. Sometimes I dream I'm buying donuts. Then I wake up and am sad.

My dreams have compacted under the weight of my real life. I know I've built the walls that squeeze it all down, and, when I'm not too tired, I scrabble away with my nails, trying to tear them down.

Perhaps my dream is to dream again -- as big and as technicolor as I pretend myself to be. Small dreams don't fit me.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Over the Hedge

Back in the days when I would have been enraptured by any feature length animated movie that came down the pike, the sad truth was that every feature length animated movie that came down the pike, from The Rescuers to The Fox and the Hound, was of dubious quality at best. It wasn't until Disney redeemed themselves with The Little Mermaid, when I was well into high school, that the state of the genre reattained the heights once achieved with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves or, my personal favorite, Cinderella. I may have been nearly an adult, but I was finally a fan.

Then, while I was in college, Pixar raised the bar several notches higher with Toy Story. I've been a slavish devotee of CGI animation ever since, and would have declared not too terribly long ago that there was no such thing as a bad CG film.

Then I had kids, and flat couldn't wait to take them to the movies.

Then came Robots, The Wild, Monster House, Chicken Little and similar dreck, and I have to admit, I've been seriously worried.

Not Buddy. Not only has he been enraptured by all of these films, but he stops strangers in the streets and quotes lines from Monster House to them on a regular basis (I really do wish I was kidding about that). And, being four, he insists on watching anything I rent at least twice a day until Blockbuster starts sending nasty postcards.

So it was with dire trepidation that I rented Dreamworks' Over the Hedge. While Shrek was pretty damn good, I put the blame for the decline of the genre squarely on their shoulders, pointing to Shark Tale and Shrek II as Exhibits A and B (Pixar has yet to fuck up in this vein, God bless 'em, and the less said about the work of upstarts, such as Ice Age and whatever the bandwagon-jumpers at Mattel are churning out the better). So my expectations for Over the Hedge were minimal at best.

I was more than pleasantly surprised. The story is charming, well up to the beating it must take chez Mean Teacher of multiple viewings (the instant death of Chicken Little, which was clearly written by a committee). The voice work is dead-on (a real surprise, since it was the "all-star" casts of Shark Tale and Madagascar that weakened those films -- some actors look a lot prettier than they sound, like the conundrum of the transition to "talkies" back in the '40s, only the other way 'round). Garry Shandling is a particular knockout as Vern, the cautious paterfamilias box turtle, and Nick Nolte turns in his best performance in decades as the bad news bear.

But the real winner here is the animation itself. The texture people at Dreamworks have achieved new miracles with fur and foliage. Like Finding Nemo, there are nonstop roller-coaster action sequences which manage to be both breathtaking and enduringly funny. Best of all is the character control: keeping in mind that CGI is more puppetry and mime than classic animation, the facial expressions of the animals are not just engaging, they're addictive. I keep finding myself stopping in the midst of chores or reading specifically to watch Vern deadpan wearily or R.J., Bruce Willis' trickster raccoon, cock a sly eyebrow. There's real acting going on here, and the Orwellian threat that CGI will eliminate the need for SAG members to show up for work for once seems like an actual possibility.

The DVD has worthwhile extras, including the highly amusing short Hammy's Boomerang Adventure and the first informative behind-the-scenes documentary I've yet seen on a Dreamworks' Animation DVD. Also included, however, are teasers for Bee Movie and Shrek III.

They look like they're going to be awful. Absolutely awful. I'm sure I'll be in a position to let you know soon enough.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

When hedgehogs lose their prickles, so does Mean Teacher...

I think global warming is a massive crock of shit. In A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson asserts that the "normal" world climate is infinitely more balmy than we're experiencing today, but then, like, two books later in A Short History of Nearly Everything he declares that the frigid grip of an ice age is much more typical than our current climate.

Not that Bryson is a world-renowned climatologist, but I don't read world-renowned climatologists, and anyway, Bryson is a smart man who has admitted publicly to availing himself of a library from time-to-time and if he can't state definitively whether or not we're in the midst of a cold spell or a global Indian summer, then I'm just not going to get bothered about the fact that the Earth's climate is changing. Apparently it does that.

But, when you bring the hedgehogs into it, I am given pause. I have a particular weakness for hedgehogs, and I might actually start to feel a little ashamed of having skipped a few emissions inspections after having read this article (via Drudge).