Saturday, December 7, 2013

Cold.

It was three degrees last night. Three. 3. THREE DEGREES. I don’t have anything to share, any perspective or scientifically based wit, I’ll just repeat it till you grasp the fear and loathing I have for Three. Degrees. It’s just wrong. WRONG I tell you.
So It’s Christmas time. I guess I should start playing Christmas music, no? Eh, it can wait another week.
I went through quite a little weird stage (this one was no more or less weird than my other weird stages, nonetheless weird in it’s own special way) where I had, what was in hindsight perhaps an obvious reaction to living in Florida and never having seasons other than Hurricane and Thank Goodness We’re Past That Time Of The Year, otherwise known as Hot and Hotter, where I played Christmas music year round. I don’t know if my brainpan melted, I don’t know if I was searching for seasonal distinction, all I know is that for about three years I listened to Christmas music all the months of the year. This is not to say that I listened ONLY to Christmas music, in some nightmarish Walgreens type hellscape loop. I mixed it up with a lot of other stuff. This is not to excuse my behavior, or pretend it was the act of a reasonable person, I’m just clarifying the details. It’s not like I insisted on Ugly Christmas Sweaters at the beach, or kept the Christmas tree up all year. I just had a period of time where I was as likely to put on Burl Ives as Raffi or Bach. I have to tell the truth and say it lasted more than a year.
This Christmas Music glitch happened before the First Time My Body Tried To Leave Before The Show Was Over. Once that little turning point happened, my little house turned, musically speaking, from a home that All The Nine Trillion Parenting Books would approve of, to A House They Most Certainly Would Not Consider Optimal For the Growth Of Those Precious Perfect Magical Baby Brains. It went from Sesame Street to Pearl Jam (apropos of absolutely nothing, but doesn’t Sesame Street sound like the name of a rapper and Pearl Jam sound like the name of a brilliant children’s singer?).
I remember lying in the ER, hooked up to another in an endless series of IV’s, listening to a man next to me screaming about kidney stone pain, and thinking “I’ll be damned if I die without listening to rock again. Enough children’s pap.”  I wasn’t on pain meds when I had this epiphany, oddly enough. Everyone deals with imminent death differently. I’d like to be able to look back and say, yes, that was when I first realized I had a book to write first, a mountain to climb, a dance lesson in which to enroll, a last perfect day with my children….but shamefully, no. I reacted to extreme illness by Taking A Stance Against Wholesome music. This means that there was no normal build up to rock music for my little ones, no Shrek soundtrack type of fun but clean tunes, the kind of musical stepping stone that is the equivalent of middle school.  As if the kids weren’t traumatized enough by those horrible years, they also lost the comfort of familiar music and skipped critical self directed musical exploration, the kind teenagers naturally maneuver through. They skipped middle school and went straight to the second semester of their junior year, musically speaking. Picture this:  two sweet, angel faced children humming along to “I used to know a girl. She had two pierced nipples and a black tattoo, we lived on Mexican beer and Mexican food, I’m happy in hell with my heroin girl,”  while eating their morning oatmeal. Can’t you just FEEL the disapproval from the parenting books section of Amazon right now?
Did it occur to me that the children needed old comfortable things, including music, during what was truly A BadGoddamnedBad Time? I’m ashamed to say it never occurred to me. Understanding a simple fact like that is the first step in a game plan. I didn’t have a game to speak of. I coped the way drowning people cope. You kick your legs and reach out for a hand that isn’t there. Rational thought happened after, not during, at least for me. It’s even more shameful than it seems to an outsider, because the simple fact was I wasn’t listening to Everclear and Pearl Jam as a heroic soundtrack to an inspiring struggle back toward life and the living.  My only thought was for myself. I was worried about dying before ending my self imposed fast of rock music in order to foster A Gentle Loving Home for my little ones. So not only was it selfish in a weirdly stoopid way, it was pointless as well. I’m not saying that listening to a song about raindrops turning into lemondrops would have helped things,  but it’s safe to assume that a catchy little tune about a rich girl doing a guy just to get back at her father might still give the kids the whim-whams for reasons they don’t entirely understand.
It is still so hard to think of those dark days. I can hardly breathe if I let myself think about it. I still cannot bear, literally cannot bear the fact that the kids went through that kind of grinding, terrifying, inexplicable hell. One day we’re reading at the beach in the morning and playing at the park in the afternoon, the next day their mom can’t get out of bed, the day after that she’s in and out of rotation at the ER and they are left to fend for themselves. And it went on for YEARS, not months. I know there are kids out there who have been through much, much worse. Indescribably worse. I know that. But I hurt my kids, scarred them but good. And I did it. The one person in the world who is supposed to keep them safe, to make the house a fortress against the world. It was my fault. Not war mongering politicians, not corrupt police or the brutal poverty of a third world country. Me. It doesn’t matter if you mean to, with kids. What matters is what happens. And what happened is that I didn’t mean to, but I was the one responsible for their sweet sunshiny lives devolving into ones of abandonment and fear. Therapists and doctors don’t get this guilt. Outsiders certainly don’t. The only people who understand the special hell of a chronically ill parent are the ones shackled to that same parent. The only similar setup I can think of is the alcoholic parent and their child. The child fears and resents that parent, but needs to rescue them. It’s the same with the chronically ill parent. My kids are afraid for me, feel compelled to save me. You can almost see their scars, in a certain light. They panic if I fall asleep while we’re watching tv. They congratulate me on a completed errand list they way a parent gushes praise for an aced test with a struggling student. It’s entirely sincere and totally heartbreaking. The sick parent and child are chained to each other like prisoners of war. They can’t escape so they sing songs in the evening when the guards are at supper. Outsiders hear the music and think “How inspiring.” The prisoner thinks “If I can’t leave, at least take the children.”
Like I said, dark days.
Let’s shake this off, shall we?
 TeeVee I watched this week:
 Bob’s Burgers ( http://www.fox.com/bobsburgers/)
I love this show. The family dynamic is charming and unconditionally loving, the writing is smart and the humor is so weird, so wonderful, so funny. My only complaint is that there are only a couple of seasons. I’d like ninety more shows, like yesterday.
 South Park (http://www.southparkstudios.com/I’ve climbed down from the cross today, so I’m not going to ruminate about the type of mother who watches South Park with her kids (teen kids, but still). We’re all three of us stressed, tired, worried, and if watching nothing but South Park re-runs all week is a faulty coping mechanism, at least there’s coping of a sort going on. 
The South Park ‘Winter is Coming’ Game of Thrones parody is a trilogy and it is brilliant. Hey, HBO? When Trey and Matt think there’s entirely too much gratuitous sex and nudity in your show, you might have gone too far. THE GUYS WHO WRITE SOUTH PARK THINK GAME OF THRONES IS A BONEFEST. I’m agog. This is historical, folks. The guys who said they’ve never met a line they wouldn’t cross expressed concerns or at least pointed comedy about the endless, ENDLESS  sex. I have to be honest. I don’t watch Game of Thrones.  I’d LOVE to. It’s got dragons and monsters and barbarians and cool people of both genders doing heroic things and terrible people doing almost hilariously bad things and I can’t watch it because I am sick unto death, yea verily, of gratuitous sex scenes.  I read the first book looong ago, and I liked it very much, but I got  distracted and never followed up. I think I’d rather wait till Martin finishes the series (ha, as if) before endeavoring  to read the rest of the books.  Back to SP: the trilogy is about Black Friday madness, told GoT style, with little Butters making very pointed and irritated comments about Martin’s preoccupation with certain genitals and his inability to deliver on deadline. When South Park and The Daily Show are the voices of reason, we’re officially in uncharted territory.
 Books I read this week: 
King Richard the II, Shakespeare (or WAS it Shakespeare, hmmm?) “Thus play I in one person many people. And none contented: sometimes I am king; Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar, And so I am; then crushing penury. Persuades me I was better when a king.” “I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.”
I want to roll around in the words like a puppy in a field. Ooooh those wordy words… Shakespeare wielded his pen like a surgeon with a scalpel, like a Scot with a broadsword. There’s a reason the plays will never die. I just wish we knew more about the person who wrote them. No, I’m not a conspiracy theorist. Although it’s entirely possible, based on the evidence (what we know about Shakespeare is precious little; the little we do know keeps the conspiracies alive, because I can easily see William Shakespeare as an agent/businessman of the real writer, and not the actual writer himself. William S. was a mean spirited, flinty, famously tight fisted miserly businessman. A world where he manages the person writing the poems and plays seems more reasonable to me, than writing them himself. I’m not saying we’ve got proof he didn’t write them, but I’m not saying we’ve got proof that he did, and the scant life facts of WS seem to point to someone who is rather the opposite of a soulful poet. It’s fun to speculate about, at any rate. One of the funnest, coolest mysteries ever, to my way of thinking).
Websites I liked this week: 
Trash to Couture (  http://www.trashtocouture.com/)  This is a sort of sewing, sort of fashion-y blog. She upcycles stuff by recutting old clothes into new designs; all totally do-able. She’s got a nice touch.
TreeHugger.com (http://www.treehugger.com/lawn-garden/5-ways-get-free-seeds-your-garden.html) I am trying to keep a considerable flower garden going on my pitiful budget, so I’ve been looking for cheaper gardening methods. Don’t tell anyone, but I went to some of the city park gardens after the plants started dying in November, and grabbed some seed heads from some frozen flowers. If you’re ever in the business of pilfering deadheads from Black Eyed Susans, wear gloves. I didn’t, and I had to pick little pokey itchy thingies out of my hands for the next two days. I’m not saying this is a totally honorable way of cheap gardening, but my guilt was somewhat assuaged when I saw a gardening crew laying waste to any remaining plants a week later. I thought they’d collect the seeds and grow small plants over the winter to be replanted again in the same area but that didn’t seem to be the situation. I’m going to start winter sowing this week. I meant to do it all last winter, but it didn’t get cold enough for long enough stretches (not. a. problem. right now). I’ve done a lot of reading with winter sowing, but nothing in actual practice, so I’m interested to see if this really works. The advocates are passionate; they claim that winter sowing makes for stronger, healthier plants that have the advantage in development over plants that are sown from seeds in the spring. I fully expect The Lawn Nazi next door to throw a fit when I fill up the back patio with old juice and soda bottles that are filled with dirt. He’s the granddaddy of Lawn Nazis, the Hitler of Old White Men With Nothing To Do But Rule Their Lawn And Yell At Their Neighbors. He is nuts with a capital N. He doesn’t truly believe that my yard is really my yard; he thinks of it as his yard as well. He thinks he gardens, but he doesn’t. He makes nature his bitch. All of his sad little boring plants are fenced in and regimented. I’m certain he practices decimation just to keep the troops in line. My cottage style garden drives him wild. He’s complained repeatedly about my thousand plus zinnias, daisies, echinacea , roses and sunflowers. They’re all ugly weeds, according to him. He’s currently petitioning the city to force me to keep my plastic garbage cans in the garage; he doesn’t like the look of them on the back patio. They stink up the garage, even with recycling and composting, but if he wins, I’m going to have to put them back in the garage. I never knew it was possible to hate someone I didn’t know this much. It’s neverending with him.  I’m not allowed to build a privacy fence or believe me, I’d have Guantanamo Bay style fencing up overnight.
Seanan McGuire: Fifty Thoughts On Writing(http://seananmcguire.com/50thoughts.php)
This next one’s got brilliant dialog, clever plot resolution, it’s got everything:
Lifehacker: How to get a job with no experience, ask for a raise, start freelancing, etc:http://lifehacker.com/5850318/how-to-ask-for-a-raise-start-freelancing-and-get-a-job-when-you-dont-have-prior-experience )
Pictures I liked this week:
il_570xN.529254088_a0oh tumblr_mvjm0yXDDW1qg1ykso1_500 tumblr_muzatpn53O1s1uog8o1_1280 tornado exs tumblr_mtz9lmGofa1qzytuco1_500 tearablepun tumblr_mghvwaWM8Z1qb3v7ho1_500 rubynyc tumblr_mixz6w5WhS1rr6gt0o1_500 tumblr_mp8flkqJEM1raiye3o6_500 tumblr_mu0o5uBlGN1qb30dwo1_500 enhanced-buzz-5892-1369246845-12
end; have a good week

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Another happy week with happy news. What a happy thing. Happy happy happy.

     So the kids are depressed, and right on cue, the weather's turned dark and cold. There's been no slow, gorgeous slide into Fall. It was really hot one day, and the next day it rained, and the next day it was forty degrees (which it's been ever since). Good job, Kansas. Right on track to being untrackable.
     I've gotten some bad news regarding my ex's (on whom I am financially dependent) job; he doesn't think it is secure (he never, ever thinks his job is secure, but history has shown that he's been somewhat right), and he thinks he'll be laid off before the end of the year.  Because in the sparkling clean wasteland that is the executive brain, Christmas = layoff time.  He might be right about this. All signs point to nope, nossir, not looking good at all.
     I have been really stressed lately (stupid, stupid sentence, we're all stressed, it's the nature of being alive to be challenged, and it's overused so much that the word is meaningless, like 'awesome' or 'cool' or 'nightmare.' Nevertheless, I'm stressed like DAMMIT). I've been gobbling Valerian root herbal pills and going on loooooong walks (so long that even my dog loses his world famous how-many-times-can-i-trip-the-walker ability about halfway through, i,e. long enough to break a dog's will) and reading Terry Pratchett and watching stupid stuff online and on tv and knitting and knitting and making bread and scrubbing sinks (possibly my oldest coping method; I had beeyootiful sinks the year I realized my marriage was RIP) and gardening (even though there's not a lot to do at this time of year) and all these usually tried and true methods aren't helping. I've never had panic attacks, but lately I feel like I could split in half like a bad pastry from sheer anxiety.
     There have never been good enough periods of health and enough money to go back to college, which means even if I can find a job I'll only pull in minimum wage.  And there's always that ugly seed in my mind of: remember how sick you get when you get overly tired (lupus makes me feel like a pitiful version of The Princess and the Pea, who, let's fact it, was pretty pitiful to start with).  Remember how sick, how fast? Remember how bad the dark days were, how hard on the kids? How they're still kind of insecure and fragile? Marvelous thoughts, all of them. I keep thinking there's got to be a non-exhausting job that pays enough that isn't back breaking labor that lets you get home early enough to see your kids. I suspect every human alive is looking for that job description.
     I cannot stand the thought of moving again.  Moving is difficult for me. There is something about uprooting and sorting everything and scrubbing every inch and researching and looking for new homes that makes me want to pull up a cardboard box on a street corner and take to begging. I've heard (and seen firsthand) that some people can just kind of move, boom, done, but I most emphatically do not move that way. I'm tired for about a year, no exaggeration for effect or otherwise, after a move.  
     Plus, I really like Lawrence. We moved here in the winter, and it was bleak, golly was it bleak, and there weren't the usual spoiled for choice of entertainments and family activities and we hated it. The house was marvelous, but the flatness was so creepy and the wide barren expanse between towns was beyond creepy and there were old farms with old barns everywhere and everything looked like a horror movie about to happen. I learned almost-the-hard-and-dangerous-way that there are NO GAS STATIONS between the towns. NOTHING between towns means NOTHING. I went out with a quarter tank of gas, confident in my eastern-ness that there'd be gas stations every little where. It was winter (no dammit I will NOT make a GoT reference here, it's been done to death, let it be done) and dark and the gas tank light went on as we passed a dark farm that had an outbuilding that could have passed for the one in Jeepers Creepers and my goodness it was an exciting twenty minutes until we found our way to an open gas station. The key word here is OPEN. Even if you find a station, you better hope it's open, because some of the smaller towns roll up the sidewalks at seven pm, which means not being able to pump gas even with a credit card.  I've tried to bribe a gas station attendant to re-open a pump after he'd locked the door for the night, and even for twenty bucks in his pocket, I couldn't get gas. The small, Kansas towns are so dark at night. Everything looks menacing. The fact is, most of the people would probably give you food and gas and shelter, even, they are so nice here, but there are, I'm sorry to say, armed and paranoid and occasionally inbred nutterbutters as well, and they SHOULD advertise, with a nice, decorative, Pinterest-y sign next to their doors ('Welcome, we're going to make chili out of you, wipe your feet and ring the bell') but they don't, so it's a crapshoot, really, if one runs out of gas in a small, dark, mostly friendly town.
     So the transition was rough, a bad age for the kids to be uprooted, especially eastern kids with eastern ideas about anything west of Pennsylvania,  but when Spring came and Kansas bloomed it, it really BLOOMED, green heaven everywhere, and people came out of their houses and most of them turned out to be fifty million trillion zillion times nicer than anyone we'd ever met, and we found a few family activities hither and yon, and learned that we'd landed in the one liberal oasis in all of Kansas. We fell in love. Even my firstborn, who misses the city something fierce (we all do, but they really, really do; the city has a bigger LGTB community, for one) loves the people here. The schools are not strictly speaking, GOOD, but they are nice, super nice; they are on top of bullying stuff and surprisingly mostly liberal and accepting to lgtb kids and students of color and have tons of girls sport teams and funny, specialized after school clubs like The Ugly Sweater Club and The Bad Anime Movies Club, etc...they're the opposite of what I expected, high school wise, in the Midwest. I like this place. I don't want to leave it, not yet, maybe not ever.  When we circled in for a landing at KCMO airport after a trip, I remember feeling like I was home, and I hadn't felt that for a long, long time.
     The house has an amazing floorplan and seems twice as big as the Jersey house, even though it's twice as small. I love the family/kitchen combined great room were the kids hang out and study and watch tv while I do kitchen stuff. It's the total opposite of the rabbit warren we lived in before,  all blocked off from each other through galley kitchens and halls and the generally weird layout. The house definitely needs help, the insulation is almost lawsuit worthy crap, the paint job was obviously slapped on without primer because it comes off the cupboard doors every time I wipe them down, on top of which, the cupboard doors themselves keep falling off. The carpet is cheap and laid badly and coming up everywhere....there's lots of endless stuff like this that needs work, the house is an amazing design but not, as they say on Project Runway, executed well....but even so, we love it. Like the state, it feels like home for the first time in a while and the thought of losing it, and losing the equity we've built up in it is a shattering thought. We lost almost all of our savings on the Jersey house when the market crashed. We'd made money on the Florida house, and I can't tell you what an amazing feeling it was to have money squirreled away for the kid's college, but all of that is gone. I had made my peace with that, had accepted that I'd be shopping again at WalMart and TJ Max and Aldies (I like Aldies, it's not a hardship to get good, affordable food but oh my GOD do I hate WalMart) for the rest of my life, and I was actually fine with that, the living paycheck to paycheck and barely making it to Friday with a dollar in my pocket and having to go hugely in debt for the kid's college tuition....and it turns out I was grateful too soon.
     I've been through the "I've lost my job" phone call three times now already, and can I just say? It's one hell of a call. The thing you've been fearing is finally in front of you and it turns out all the pre-game fear in the world isn't enough preparation for the actual show when the curtain goes up. I think it might be worse each time, because, like childbirth or other painful events,  you know exactly what you're in for and this bad thing is very bad indeed. I feel like my stomach has been twisted in knots for twenty plus years now. I've been nauseatingly, chokingly, endlessly worried about my ex and his expensive and sometimes dangerous extracurricular hobbies and money and the lack thereof for so long.  I have a lot of ex-Mormon anger, but I especially have a lot of fuel to burn re: the "loving wife drops out of college and puts any ambitions on hold in order to put the Priesthood holder through his studies that will in turn led to a righteous path heading the family" that was still the prevailing philosophy at the time of my new marriage. Things seemed to change quite soon after that, with couples walking through graduation ceremonies together, or guys supporting their wives education even though the guy had graduated....all good changes....all moot for me. Dropping out was almost as dumb as majoring in English....dum dum dum (agonizingly bad English major joke).
     I feel like a character in an Austen novel, the old maid who is dependent on children or other relatives for her room and board, the one who contributes nothing to society, who just sort of exists as a possible service project and cautionary tale for others until she dies. I'm working on a book, a YA novel, but getting published will take a miracle, and living on any monies from same would be a miracle twice over. I'm not marketable. I'm a drain; I use up grocery money and gas money and insurance money but I don't put anything back in, it all goes one way.

WARNING, RANT AHEAD, SKIP DOWN TO MEDIA STUFF BELOW IF YOU'RE AN EASILY OFFENDED REPUBLICAN/TEA PARTY TYPE PERSON:

     And now that I've confessed my utter lack of self worth, can I just take a moment to address a certain group of people who shouldn't have healthy egos (bad, bad segue way, I'm a grumpy Austen spinster and I don't care, find your own good segues):
     T those of you who are hysterical, ignorant, willfully uninformed idiots about Obamacare...I hope you rot in hell. (Yeah, another bad transition, I should lead gently into this, or I should be understanding or peaceable....sorry, can't do it, not with this subject).  I don't hope you see a ray of light and have a spiritual and intellectual about face (unless of course you really do have one, then congratulations on your intellectual dexterity). No. The rest of you should rot in hell. I hope you get a terrible disease and can't pay for it. I hope you lose your jobs, your homes, and your families trying to tread the black, treacherous waters of the American healthcare system. Don't talk to me about economics; any peanut with half a shell can figure out that we spend millions and millions on the sinking Titanic that is the American emergency room. All the uninsured people who wait and wait because they can't afford a normal doctor, many of whom are in fact in the ER right now,  with amplified symptoms and expensive treatment procedures because they weren't helped in time; that bill gets paid by taxpayers. Doesn't it make sense to help them with the flu, before it becomes hospitalized pneumonia?  Because here's the thing: we have to help them somehow. This issue won't go away with draconian measures. I know some politicians and citizens wish we could just export or squash those pesky poor people like an irritating bug, but they aren't going away. They can't. It takes money to leave. And don't start with the whole 'modifying bloated and corrupt insurance companies is unconstitutional and interfering and the opposite of open market freedom. Do. Not. Go. There. Because if you do go there, I have to assume you haven't been poor and hardworking AND sick, or you haven't taken ten minutes to read non-partisan expert, fact based opinion about lobbying and money based legislation and top heavy companies, let alone taken your own personal fall into the rabbit hole that is American insurance policy coverage.      Don't get me wrong; I'm not an Obama worshiper. He's done some wonderful things but he's also done some outrageously troubling things as well (Monsanto bills of protection, NSA enforcement, drone strikes, signing anti protest laws, etc), but he's smart enough to make health care his legacy and he's totally correct in doing so. The health care system isn't just broken, it's a monstrous deviant that feeds on the sickest and the poorest and has the gall to hand them a bill for the very blood it lives on. Maybe I'd be less emotional about this subject if I hadn't been poor and sick for the last fifteen years, but I have and I am. I've stood outside an ER at three in the morning and watched as parents with full time jobs called relatives to beg money for the sick, crying baby in their arms because they were turned away for lack of insurance. That's what we do, in the name of whatever God politicians believe in: we turn away those who need it most and say, well, that's the system. It's not the system. It's us. We made the system, we set the system loose, we watched as the system pulled down buildings and smashed cars, and instead of calling out the National Guard we shrugged and said well, whadleyado? It is what it is, more shrugging. God forbid someone tries to take on the monster. God forbid we make corrupt companies accountable. God forbid we aim higher, we try to pedal forward into civilization instead of backwards.  I'd say we deserve this, but those most deserving of their comeuppance will never get it and those of us who get it don't deserve it.  Those that do are too busy depositing profits in offshore banks and lighting cigars with hundred dollar bills. They're as healthy as a well fed tick. They'll be fine. Which is part of the problem. We're asking people with no context or concept of helplessness and no empathy to outline a workable program dealing with both qualities.

     So. That's my little opinion. You're welcome.

Movies I watched this week:

Grave of the Fireflies: ( http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/hotaru_no_haka/ )   This was maybe, in hindsight, not the best movie to watch this particular week of my life. My kiddo rented it and said they really wanted to watch it with me, and I thought, well, I've always wanted to see it, and mother/kid time is always good, and that was a mistake. I'd seen the cover before, and read brief comments about it, but somehow I had the mistaken idea that it was a dystopian child run society scifi movie.  It is not. That type of movie is a FUNGOODTIME compared to this film.  It's about two orphans, a brother and his baby sister, trying to survive on their own in Japan during World War Two. The brother is a terrific character. He is original and brilliant and brave and the most loyal, loving brother in the world, and he WILL break your heart about seventeen times before the end. The baby sister is equally marvelous, equally devoted to her brother, funny, sweet, and a tough little soldier. Her story line will have you weeping on the floor, not gentle, life is beautiful yet bittersweet type weeping, no no. This will be ugly, hand over mouth so your desperate wounded animal noises can't escape type crying. How depressing was it? I'd rather watch that bleak as hell documentary about Chinese factory immigrant workers every day for a year rather than sit through the Fireflies again. The day after we watched it, my child said "You know, I'm so glad you watched it with me, I was afraid to watch it alone because I'd heard such sad things about it." So. Mother/child bonding - one. Mindless entertainment that makes you giggle fondly for weeks- zero.

Youtube stuff I watched this week:

HELL NO: The sensible horror film: 


Trailer for every Oscar winning movie ever:


QI:

David Mitchell's Soapbox:



Would I lie to you:
(Do you think there's a really stressed, middle aged woman in England who gets great good joy from watching American shows on youtube? Yeah, probably.)




Castle Ghosts of Scotland:

     
     This one is good solid fun, no downside, no warnings. Usually these ghost hunting shows are so bad they're almost good, in a brainless at least I don't have to think any thoughts at all for the next hour - type way. Or at least up to the point where you start yelling at the tv and shouting to the ghost hunting heroes what dumb schmucks they are and to shuddup, not every settling, creaking house is haunted you morons...I mean, some people watch these shows and some people, not me, you understand, might get frustrated with the sheer magnitude of stupidity and angled shots and editing that is supposed to equate a superscary haunted house. Some people might even WANT to believe, are WILLING to believe, but somehow just haven't been convinced yet, in spite of fearless hunters that treat "ghosts" like naughty three year olds {"I'm going to count to three, if you don't blow the candle out by that time, we're leaving the toy store, I mean haunted house"....I can't tell you how gratifying it is to see frustrated hunters go into angry mommy mode with stubborn ghosts. It might be the entire reason I theoretically sometimes, at least someone who looks a lot like me,  watch ghost hunting shows. That, and the fact that I really want to be convinced. I want to believe, I accept that some [some!] of the people who believe aren't totally stupid, but I just don't believe myself. FYI, if you think you're living in a haunted house? Get your electrical stuff (your house system, not your brain) checked out: wonky wiring (again, house, not brain, or least not your brain, I'm sure your brain is juuuuust fiiiine) can cause you to feel exactly like you're being watched by a menacing presence, that there's someone unseen in the room with you, and can even make shadows flicker and move around and possibly even shift actual objects. True story. You're not haunted, you've just got electrical work needs doing. Unless. You really do live an an even mildly haunted house, in which case, that knocking you hear? it's not the ghost, it's the ghost hunting team at your front door. They'd like a word}.
     The Castle Ghosts of Scotland is narrated by Robert Hardy, that posh, esteemed British actor guy who's been in stuff you're sure you've seen and you're positive he's been just great in that one thing...ya, that guy, he's the narrator. He's got the right voice, and a perfect sense of storytelling with cadence and timing, and, AND, he's a believer. Perfect. Most of these "The scariest ever number one in the world documentary proving ghostie type stuff is totally, totally true and we're just not kidding, we mean it, for reals" videos are just, well, underwhelming is the kindest thing I can say about them.  The series with Robert Hardy are the happy exception. The production values are pretty good, and the stories are really fun. The Scottish one is my favorite one: there's a famous story about a bagpiper that is worth the viewing alone. And there's actual proof (!) (for reals) (!) at the end of the piper tale. It's the first story at the beginning of the vid, if you don't want to fuss with the whole thing. All the stories and locations are top notch, and Hardy himself talks about his own resident ghost, a monk who stirs the fire when it gets low. Good Halloween stuff. I haven't seen a scary movie in a long time, but I have to assume this is better, story wise, than most of what has been released in the theaters lately, and bonus, there's no 'your house isn't haunted actually it's, boo! YOU! who's haunted,' eek eeek type stuff, and bonus bonus, no slashing, over the top violence or gore. How sick are we that we had to invent the term 'torture porn'? I'll tell you. I've got opinions, I'm willing to share them: it's pretty damn sick. 


Stuff I've read this week:

Debt Ceiling Delusions : http://www.europac.net/commentaries/debt_ceiling_delusions  (interesting read, posted on a financial group site but still worth reading, not sure how I wandered onto this one)

Interview with Robert Reich (ok, I didn't actually READ this in the sense of specifically READING it, more like watched it,  but it's about the same subject and very good. I like RR, he makes me feel like things are do-able, he's so smart and positive...not quite as cheery lately, though, I've noticed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_T2phdNU4I. Also good: talking about why Republicans and Democrats are so angry with each other: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1nw1jFpz5w. I didn't watch the news this week, not even Rachel Maddow or Chris Hines, and have stayed off of news sites online, but I'll listen to RR when I'm not willing to hear. another. word. about. this. nonsense.


     I don't know how to review this without spoilers. I'd really like to discuss this with someone who, like me, read it because of the glowing recommendations of a ton of other people and, then, like me, haaaated it. Oh my word I hated this book. And apparently, people love this book, like really, really loooove this book. I can't say why I hated it without spoiling, you know, everything, but I haven't been this irritated about a book in a long time. There are thousands of reviews on Amazon with people going on and on and ooooonnn about how This Is The Book and wella, good for them, I guess.
     I didn't have a problem with the writing style, or the drawn out descriptions, or the strange episode in the killer's house that is better suited to a different genre, or the way Odd Thomas, a young, dumb, fry cook (who just so happens to be psychic) talked; apparently those things bugged the few people that were bothered by the book. I just have such issues with the plot, and with an author who goes out of his way to do weird critic-baiting every few pages, literal critic-baiting, who then goes on to do a pull-the-rug flat out manipulative ending and oh yeah, bad guys? The ones Thomas was so worried about throughout the entire book? Fuggeditaboutit. Don't worry about them meanies. I mean, what? He (Koontz) went out of his way to describe for pages and pages and pages how awful the bad guys were by showing what was in their fridge (you don't want to know, I wish I didn't) and by their hobbies (ditto), and then....yeah, sorry, that wasn't really the point, or in fact any point at all.
     I understand it if I walk into a book thinking I'm going to get a hug and instead I walk away with a black eye, I do. I maybe don't love those books, but I get them, if they're written well. This? I liked the writing but the plot was a mess, and worse, it was a manipulative mess, with the added and unnecessary burden of an avuncular writer type character who sort of advises Thomas while telling him (frequently) what big dumb jerks critics are (really jerky jerks, I mean, how dare they critique things, they just don't get meeee). Don't read this if you're like me and require either A: a happily ever after, or B: plotting and characterizations that matter. For example, this review? About this book? That I've chatted about for quite a little word count now? And I've said things, wordy type words about thingy type things, all of them relating to the aforementioned book?  So you'll assume I'll wrap up with more of the same? Nope. Instead...drum roll : I'd like to talk about my laptop now. It's silver colored and pretty heavy and it gets amazing sound and I like listening to gloomy folk music when I write. And there's a dent on the cover which means the kids dropped it or dropped something heavy on it and boy, that scared me when I saw that little dent because I need this laptop and cannot afford even the crappiest used one, plus mom and dad bought it so it's sentimental, but that sure was a frightening ten seconds when I saw the dent that one time a few weeks ago.  The. End.
That's how this book is. I've got feelings. I understand Koontz has some genuinely good reads out there. I'm going to need some time before I think about reading them. )


Pictures I liked this week:
4d509516733e08fedd4bd0ad154ab100 97494e3b4a2008fa0b6c14b7d5aa5bcf 407fd91011052a11cd75d09367dda539 adQRab1oypr0h7cenwGeWvHJo1_r1_500 august 11 2010 043 bbbbb bbbcat bbbbbb bbbcattwo bbbcowballon bbbmammoth bbbpuppy bbcateyebbbbbbbb bbmeth candy calvin seibert calvin seibert s bbrollercoaster bbgingerbreadman bbbmiley good private moon project by leonid tishkov leonid tishkov sandcastles by calvin seibert p
end; have a good week, everyone

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hardcore food, book links, tv links, and Only 118 Days Before Christmas Knitting Is Due, Start Panicking Now

     I made excellent Mexican rice AND excellent homemade refried beans yesterday. I've been looking for a good recipe for both for about twenty years (not. kidding.) and I think I've lucked into a couple of Holy Grail's, recipewise. Both are cheap (important!) and easy (also! important!) and neither require any esoteric chef type techniques or ingredients.


     It's submitted by a Food 52 user named 'lastnight'sdinner.' Food 52 is a marvelous site. They even have a 'Dirt Cheap Recipes' section, and a 'Community Winners' section (which has the best, easiest curry recipe I've ever found: http://food52.com/recipes/11867-cheap-creamy-chicken-curry). So the rice: you have to toast the uncooked rice, sans liquid, and then toast the tomato concentrate as well.  The toasting is the thing here, you can't skip it. I've made recipes very similar to this one, without toasting, and the end result is night and day. Who knew that toasting those little rices made all the difference? Apparently Lydia from 'Lydia's Italy" says that she always toasts tomato concentrate, no matter what the recipe is, it's a good technique that only takes a minute or two and really deepens the flavor. The nice thing about this recipe, besides the fact that it tastes great and is cheap and easy, is that you can modify the spices (less pepper, more chilies, etc). I splashed some lime juice on the top of my rice bowl (sans cheese) and I must say, it was marvelous. It didn't really even taste like lime in the rice, but it gave it a savory tang that is almost addictive. Also noteworthy, the onions should be cooked in bacon grease. I know. I KNOW, ok?  Just do it already and don't think about it.   If you haven't been keeping the drippings from your bacon in a jar in the fridge, all I can say is, that's your choice, but you're wrong. Don't even start with the health risks, I don't want to hear about it. It's a leeetle teeeny dollop of bacon drippings, not a dime bag.  You'll live, and what's more, you'll live with a great bowl of rice in your belly, and if that's not living, I don't know what is (no, I don't get out much lately, doesn't matter, I still know how to party with rice. It's a hardcore life but some of us can handle it).


     I always thought that homemade beans were tricky. As it happens, nope,  not tricky at all.  They are, like the rice, cheap and easy and, here's the important part, so so much nicer and yummier than the canned kind. I really guess I thought that the only good beans and rice I'd ever get would be at a restaurant; I'm delighted to be proven wrong.   The recipe calls for a one pound bag of beans, and I don't think it made enough servings.  It fed three teens and one Me but there were no leftovers, and we pretty much live and die on leftovers around here. I gave the kids sandwiches, apples, oranges, rinse and repeat,  forrrrreeeeeevvvvvveeeeerrrrr (Sandlot!) (I seem! to be! using these! a lot! tonight! At least I spelled A LOT as Two Freaking Words, Get A Clue, Good People Of The Internet!) and finally in the last couple of years (after much unfair and ridiculous whining about ennui and diversification and wah poor me my lunch is boring type nonsense) I just said to hell (heck, I mean, {family blog}) with this and bought a bunch of tupperware and started giving the kids leftovers from supper.  Of course friends and classmates here gave them a hard time at first (the NJ kids would NOT have given anyone a difficult time about good food; they would have bogarted every drop they could get, but these KS kids are afraid of anything that's not bread {they do know their way around a good meatloaf, though, I'll give them that}). The kids have microwaves at school (which doesn't make sense to me; they run gun drills all the time but they leave a bunch of microwaves in the common room? I mean, I'm glad they do, but still, illogical safety wise. But then again running gun drills makes no sense to me if they don't lock the outside doors, and they don't, so whatever. I guess they have to make SOME sort of distinction between a school and a prison), (I seem to be using these ( ) a great deal tonight as well. Here's some more ((({{{[[[]]]}}}))) .............so the kids just reheat supper food, and it's been working out great. They're not longer coming home ready to pour ketchup on the cat because they're so hungry, and there are no more complaints about boring lunches.
Moving on. The recipe calls for a one pound bag of pinto beans, and I'm going to double or triple that next time. Also, I used red beans, not pinto, and it worked out fine. I'd like to mix up pinto/kidney/red beans and see what happens (like I said, I can party). And the beans aren't strictly, in the legal sense, refried, but I like them like this, so I'm not complaining.  I did soak the beans the day before in water with a splash of apple cider vinegar, just to cut down on cooking time. It does take a while even with pre-soaking. Make sure to save the water they cook in, it's nice to be able to make the beans as thick or not as you want. Oh yeah, I forgot, I added a sprinkle of cumin (it's not in the recipe) because I think Mexican food needs cumin, period.  Just not the same without it. I shredded some medium sharp cheddar on top of the hot beans and served it in a bowl next to the rice and people, It Was Good. There's so much on my Life List Of Things I Said I Was Gonna Do that just isn't getting done, it brings me no end of joy to cross Find A Good Beans And Rice Recipe off the list.


Books I've read/am reading this week:
Eric by Terry Pratchett (it's his version of Faust, and like everything in the world, his version is better): http://www.amazon.com/Eric-Terry-Pratchett/dp/0380821214
I didn't finish this one, and have no intention of doing so in the future. I really did not like the five or so chapters I did start; it was not, to my way of thinking, beguiling (the cover quote totally lied):  The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman: http://www.amazon.com/Imperfectionists-Novel-Random-Readers-Circle/dp/0385343671/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1377665170&sr=1-1&keywords=the+imperfectionists+by+tom+rachman
TV shows I've watched this week: 
Silk on PBS: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/programs/silk/  .  It was quite good, and I wish it hadn't been, as I am sick unto death of lawyers, lawyer shows, etc etc. Nevertheless, worth watching.
Farscape re-runs: http://www.henson.com/fantasy_scifi.php?content=farscape   . I'd watched this a long time ago, and forgotten how much I like it just for sheer weirdness content. Remember when Doctor Who wasn't about a cute guy and the show was off the charts weird? I thought Warehouse 13 was going to be good and weird, what a letdown that was; it was just normal story of the week stuff.  I like a good weird. Farscape is a good knitting show; I'm already panicking about Christmas knitting (I mean, I still owe a first grade nephew a baby blanket from his birth, I just finished my sister in law's Christmas present....if anything, I'm not panicking enough). I put on Farscape and knit and knit (see: more evidence of the hardcore life).
stitch count

Drunk History (I know I listed this before, I'm re-listing because I love it and Because I Can (adulthood, yay):  http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/drunk-history  . There are old ones on youtube if you aren't dumb enough to subscribe to cable, like me. It's still funny, and it's still a brilliant, brilliant idea. And, it must be said, this is far and away the least offensive show the kids watch, which adds to my overall fondness for it. I'm speaking as a person, a scarred, quiet suffering (well, ok, not suffering so quietly; I Shared Opinions From Time To Time if you must know) heroic soldier type person, who has watched more than one season of "The Hills," one entire season of "Pretty Little Liars," and a show I can't remember the name of where twin sisters do a parent trap but Sister A goes rogue and refuses to leave at the end of her tour of duty because this new family is Rich with a capital R, and her new mother isn't a stripper, she's just an alcoholic, she's awesome,  and then, THEN, she (Sister A, not the alcoholic mom) makes out with Sister B's boyfriend, she's a total skank, except it's okay, because Sister B Learns A Lesson in her new, unimproved situation about Poor People, They are Almost Just Like Real People Except With Ugly Clothes And Bad Food and Bad Cars, and then for some reason there's a party where someone drives a car into the lake and someone dies, except then that maybe that someone DOESN'T die, maybe, can you believe it? I. could. not. believe. it.

The Last Train Home on POV via PBS:  http://www.pbs.org/pov/lasttrainhome/  . This is a documentary about the million plus migration of Chinese workers to and from their homes in the countryside and their factory jobs in the city. I'm trying to remember the last time I saw something this depressing. It is Really Really Depressing. It's just almost unbearable. I mean, China, WTFl? What are you thinking? And America! What the hell? What are we doing? The image of the starving workers sewing ten foot high piles of Levis is going to stay with me a while. It's bleak. Oh my word it is bleak. Am I glad I saw it? Weeeeeelll. I mean, I guess. Knowledge is good, understanding the world around you is important, sure thing, but wow, this one is hard to get through. It's grim enough to make you want go digging on youtube to find out what happened next in that one show with the honorable Sisters A & B with that one story where they did that thing. Almost.



Pictures I liked this week:
franken phillipe faurlt everything is awful earphones shuandead ghost helmetviathemarysue