Monday, May 31, 2010

Free Weekends

So....After a year and a half of rehabbing my deceased father's house, I think I am finally rid of driving 3 hours, one way, every other weekend, for the foreseeable future.

I've handed off the keys to a property manager, signed on the dotted line, paid my up-front signing fee and have been assured that there should be no reason for me to "have to" go out there to solve problems or fix things. That's what they are there for.

It's not as great as being completely disentangled from the house....but it's a close second.

WooHoo!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

For Your Listening Pleasure

I'm a sucker for folk music and I love, love, love The Wailin' Jennys.





Thursday, May 27, 2010

Early Transcendence

The Rationalist,"I'm in a good mood today!"

Me: "Yeah? Well that's good."

The Rationalist: "Yep. I feel really cheerful!"

Me, laughing,"Well...it's always nice to be around cheerful children instead of grumpy children. Why are you so cheerful?"

The Rationlist shrugs,"I just am."

Me: "Ok."

The Rationalist:"Actually, you know why I am in such a great mood?"

Me: "No. Why?"

The Rationalist: "Reading Buddies."

Me: "Huh?"

The Rationalist: "Today was Reading Buddies Day and I got to go to the kindergarten and read stories for them."

Me: "Oh....so you liked that?"

The Rationalist: "Yes....it made my heart jump and made me feel really good inside. Have you ever had that happen to you?"

Me, smiling and giving him a hug: "I sure have. You're a good kid...you know that, right?!"

Oil $pill

I had to turn off my TV in disgust after watching Obama's press conference about the oil spill.

Nobody seems to get what a catastrophic event this is for the Gulf states. This leak started on April 20th. That was 37 days ago. 37 days of continuous oil filling the Gulf. 37 days of chemical dispersant being added to the mix. 37 days of inept handling of the situation.

During the press conference, when asked about the Federal Government dragging its heels about giving Jindal permission to create barrier islands to protect the Louisiana marshlands, Obama sad that the government and its experts were evaluating what was the most cost-effective way to handle the situation.

Cost effective.

Hello People!! This is not a time for cost-effectiveness. This is a time for urgent action. It doesn't matter how "cost effective" the solution is if it comes so freaking late that it isn't any help. What is the cost effectiveness of a dead Gulf of Mexico? What is the cost effectiveness of oil moving beyond the outer marshlands and further into the state of Louisiana? What is the cost effectiveness of the oil being picked up by the loop current and sliming the Keys and the eastern coast of the Untied States with crude?

BP has waited over a month to try a solution that will simply clog up this pipe or cover it over. Its first two attempts at dealing with this problem coincidentally happened to include a way to siphon some of this oil into a waiting tanker. How nice of them to be sure to get at least some oil for themselves from this disaster.

What is happening is completely insane. In an effort to keep the possibility open of eventually profiting from this rich deposit of oil, BP did not take the most direct approach to stopping this leak. The goal from the very beginning should have been to completely bury this pipe rather than trying to temporarily stop the flow, or redirect it to oil tankers on the surface of the water.

There doesn't seem to be any sense of urgency or panic running through BP or the government. It's almost as if they don't realize how bad things really are and what's going to happen very soon. The summer is coming and the Gulf of Mexico in the summer is plagued not only with the occasional hurricane, but with almost daily severe thunderstorms. A Gulf thunderstorm is not like a regular rainstorm. They generally are loaded with lightning, are very turbulent and have high winds. Once those start, cleanup will come to a standstill on the surface and that oil is going to be carried far and wide.

We haven't even begun to see what is going to happen to the wildlife in the Gulf.

This problem has got to be solved....and soon.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

LOST Along THE ROAD

Blogs have been buzzing endlessly about Lost's season finale. Having watched every episode of Lost and making sure to always schedule the time to watch it, I have flitted here and there reading what other people have had to say and what they thought about the ending.

It wasn't until last night, after watching The Road with DH, that I could pinpoint exactly what it was that was bothering me about how Lost ended and the questions it left unanswered. Many bloggers and commenters have been downright snide about people who didn't "get" the ending, or people who may have thought that the writers were trying to tell us that everyone died in the plane crash. Lost experts can be found constantly saying things like,"Geez...everyone must have stepped out of the room because Christian Shepherd explained everything.".....as if that should have resolved everything.

What came to me after last night's movie(which BTW....never watch a disturbing movie with post-apocalyptic cannibalism in it right before bedtime!)was the recognition that the writers of Lost undermined their trustworthiness as storytellers and the ending they worked so hard to bring to their fans. You see, at the end of The Road, one of the main characters, a young boy whose father has died, meets up with a man on the beach who asks the boy to join him and his family. Up until this point in the movie, almost every person the boy and his father had encountered had been a cannibal wanting to hunt them down and eat them, or a thief trying to steal their food, or just a person shooting arrows at them for who-knows-what reason. We hadn't been introduced to any groups of normal, good people.

The boy talks with the man on the beach about whether or not he's a "good guy". The man assures him that he is and that he doesn't eat people and that the boy should come with him. That's the end of the movie. We're supposed to think that the boy has found a safe group of people to be with.

However, even though the movie clearly implicates this, it's almost impossible to overcome the dramatic anxiety that has been ratcheted up over and over throughout the whole movie. Even as the boy is being welcomed into this new family, it's almost inconceivable to completely discount the idea that he's going to wind up on the dinner table in a few short hours.

When a writer spends so much time constantly reinforcing an idea, in this case that other people are dangerous and evil and want to eat the boy, then it becomes too difficult to suspend our disbelief a second time and discount all the information that the writer has given us up until that point in the story.

I had the same experience after reading The Giver. That book ends with the young preteen protagonist and the child he has rescued from his community finding a sled at the top of a hill that leads down to a lighted home in the distance. This happens after an arduous journey away from their repressive community with little food or resources for the two of them. Right towards the end the author portrays the protagonist as becoming fatigued and weak. He is barely able to keep going on when he finds the sled, one that is just like a sled in a memory that he has been given, and as he makes his way down the hill towards a house which is just like a house he has seen in a different memory he has been given.

That's how the end of the book is written.

In the discussion with the author in the back of the book, Lois Lowry says that it makes her sad when people think that the boy and his charge die at the end. This made me scratch my head when I read it, because it didn't make any sense to me that she couldn't understand why people would think that. She presented the protagonist as fatigued, starving and desperate and then has him going down a sled towards a house that seems to be a depiction of a communal memory that he had been given.

Thinking he died is the most straightforward way to interpret that passage. Why would readers think a sled, just like the one in his memory, would be sitting at the top of a hill leading to a house just like the one in his memory. It's too neat to be a rescue from the real world and seems more like he is losing consciousness and slipping into the memory, or a dream.

This is what has happened with Lost. The writers spent so much time whipping characters from good to bad and back again, or changing key plot points, that we never knew whether the next episode was going to have our characters reverse themselves, or whether the plot was going to take a severe turn in a completely opposite direction. The writers did this so many times over the course of the series that they made viewers skeptical of their answers. By the time "The End" came, we didn't know what to believe. First it was about the smoke monster, then the Dharma Initiative, then time travel, then Candidates, then Light...etc., etc.

The final scene of the plane crash, which came after Jack's death, could easily be construed as an indication that everybody died.....because throughout the entire series we were taught to second-guess what the writers were doing and not to trust the "straightforward" answers that they had previously provided.

The more I think about the series, the more I believe the writers failed at bringing a cohesive ending. A series which can create a mythology out of whole cloth in just a few episodes could have easily provided more answers and continuity in its narration.

When everyone complains about Walt disappearing from the show without explanation, they are told that it was simply because the young actor playing Walt just grew too fast to be incorporated back into the show. Um.....how does a show that can posit time travel, and dead people speaking from beyond the grave, and smoke monsters, not be able to find a way to have an older Walt come back in order tie up a few loose ends? He could be from the future, or he could have been referred to even if he didn't appear in the show. A line could have been drawn from Walt's existence to some other facet of the show's mythology.

I mean, any show that solves a longstanding mystery--the whispers--by having a character suddenly just know what they are with no storytelling involved in this knowing, could have done something similar, but hopefully not as lame, with Walt.

My point after all of this:

The writers of Lost created this dilemma. They trained us not to trust them or believe them. They showed us that they didn't feel it was necessary to clean up some of the mess they created.

They shouldn't be surprised if people are still not quite satisfied with what they did.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ten Years Old

I'm not sure how I managed to get old enough to have a child in the double digits...but it's happened. We spent the past weekend camping out in Ocala National Forest, splashing in the natural springs and canoeing through its waters. We managed to see two alligators, one which swam out about 6 feet in front of our canoe. Numerous turtles made our acquaintance and at least one river otter decided to amuse us by diving down to get tiny fish and coming back up to audibly crunch them. We had a lot of fun and the boys enjoyed being given the chance to actually steer and paddle the canoe.

"Woohoo! I'm ten!"














Our sturdy ship.













Peaceful waters.

Association

I received the following e-mail today from someone we used to attend church with for many years.
"Hi guys!

I recently sent out an email, but I think I may have done it in such a way that your spam filter may have blocked it... I thought that I should resend it, just in case.


As some of you now know, I am now a NRA certified instructor. On Saturday, May 29th, I will be hold a pistol class for anyone interested in handgun safety or in getting their Florida Concealed Weapon Permit.
If you are interested in taking the class, send me an email or give me a call. If you know anyone who may be interested in taking the class, please pass my contact information along and encourage them to contact me.

P---"
Ok...I get that some people like guns, want guns, feel strongly about having them, and are pro-gun.

What gets me is that at the end of this e-mail was the following quote, with links to all the pertinent parts of the constitution, which is not a bad thing....
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Amendment 2 - Right to Bear Arms. Ratified 12/15/1791.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
The icing on this cake of strangeness is not the guns, the constitution, or the self-promotion of this person's new interest, for which he will earn a fee for giving lessons....it's this quote which comes right after all the gun-talk:
"Glory be to HIM whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; glory be to HIM from generation to generation."(bold and emphasis are original to the e-mail)
It was unclear to me if this was part of his e-mail signature or a purposeful correlation between owning guns and invoking God to help him use them effectively!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Odds and Ends

1. Took the kids to Chik-fil-A after their dentist appointments. While waiting in line I pondered the fact that almost all of the restaurant's crew was ethnically white. Then I realized that the Taco Bell next door to the Chik-fil-A has an almost completely black crew. This is strange because the area we live in is very diverse; almost equally white, hispanic, and black.

I doubt either restaurant owner intentionally set out to have such a one-sided group of employees, or I at least hope they didn't set out with that motivation. Still, it made me wonder how exactly it happened that way and if the employees ever noticed it.

2. The Rationalist was talking about having to pick an inventor or scientist for a research project. He's picked Thomas Edison. After talking about some of the things he invented, I tried to explain to them that before Edison if a person wanted to hear music, they had to either go and listen to a concert or band somewhere, or learn how to play music themselves. There was no such thing as being able to listen to music by oneself, at any moment of one's own choosing. Even I was given pause as I thought about that. The Intuitve said in a creepy voice,"So now we can hear dead people's voices!" When I asked him what he meant, he explained that we can hear musicians who lived and recorded music a long time ago, even though they are no longer alive. It's true....we have a level of communication with the "dead". These are the kinds of comments that have earned my youngest child the label of The Intuitive.

3. While the kids played inside tubular gymnasium, The Rationalist semi-flirted--at least as much as an almost-ten-year-old can flirt--with a girl of about thirteen. At one point in their "game" he simply shook his head and said knowingly, "Gosh....teenage girls these days."

He cracks me up.

Birds of a Feather

Geez....thank goodness Roman Polanski has the likes of Woody Allen to stick up for him!

ahhh.....the stupid...it burns!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Best Ever Motto for the Blogosphere

"It is not necessary to understand things in order to argue about them."
--Pierre Beaumarchais

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

That was the most awesome episode of Lost in forever!

I can't help but like the mostly malevolent Man-in-Black...even more so than before.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Gun Shy

I hadn't realized, until recently, how much the last couple of years have affected my expectations in life. Maybe it's the doom and gloom of the economy, the giant oil slick out in the Gulf, or just me becoming more pessimistic as I age, but I find myself always waiting for the other shoe to drop in life.

I'm really quite happy right now. My former boss called me up and offered me my old job back, the one I had before I went through cancer treatment and then wound up dealing with my father's death and the resulting chaos of the crazy, termite-ridden house he left behind.

Dealing with that house has especially formed my reaction to things.

Now, I just naturally expect for things to go horribly wrong.

I stopped blogging about the house because every post could have been written according to a specific formula: I thought everything was great, and we were done with the house, and then x happened and everything went to hell. I got mad for a few days, got over it and moved on to crisis z.

I've been telling my family for the last three months,"This is the last time I have to go out to the house! I just have to wrap up a few things and then we're DONE!"

I don't think anyone believes me anymore. The last time I spoke those words, I woke up on a Sunday morning at the house to discover that there was leak behind the wall in the bathroom, the one we had just refinished, and the water had seeped through the wall and soaked the carpet....the brand-new carpet we had just had installed a month ago.

We had to yank out the brand-new vanity, fix the pipe, and have the drywall repaired.

It is seriously like a bad joke.

If were a little more paranoid I would think that I was being punk'd. It's too tragi-comical to be real.

So now it seems my fortune has changed. Wondering how I was going to find employment now that I am hopefully done(knock on wood) with health issues, estate issues, and crazy house issues, I had been filled with anxiety. Who was going to hire me? How was I going to find a job in Florida's particularly bad job market?

And then.....my boss called me up and offered me a job.

Angels sang. I was grateful. Rainbows spontaneously appeared.

Yet in the back of my head there is this voice saying,"Don't get your hopes up. The funding for this position might dry up. Your boss might decide to skip town, run off to Mexico to join the drug trade, and forget to mention to everyone else at the office that she gave you a job. A sinkhole might open up under the house, swallow it whole and force you to move into the newly-renovated crazy house on the other side of the state. An asteroid might destroy the office of the non-profit you work for erasing any scrap of its existence. You might get the swine flu and die a tragic death, in which case you won't need a job anyway."

I don't like it.

I don't like this curled up fear hiding in the recesses of my mind waiting to strike at any sign of optimism.

Yet...I'm not sure if I can really exterminate it.

Hopefully, my tactic of simply ignoring it will cause it to shrivel up into a dried husk, like the tiny lizards that find their way inside the house and die a quiet death under furniture and in the window sills. I'll be sweeping out my dusty mind and come across the lifeless, perfectly petrified skeleton of my fear and be surprised that I never even heard it pass into non-existence.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Oil Slick

I've been keeping track of the continued disaster in the Gulf, as most people have, and all I can feel lately is a sense of impending doom. One of the government leaders from a coastal area made the point that even after the leak is sealed off and BP makes compensation to any affected areas, there is no guarantee that there wouldn't be a continued threat to the coastal environments over the course of several years.

It took a minute for that to sink in.

I realized that he was right. The amount of oil in the Gulf is enormous. While most of it seems to be on the surface, and not in danger of hitting the coastline yet, it won't stay that way. Hurricane season is only 3 weeks away. It's not going to be a question of whether a hurricane whips the polluted water all over the place, it's of a question of how many times it will happen in the next few months. We haven't even begun to see the worst of this disaster.

All it will take is one hurricane passing directly over that area, creating storm surges that will drive all that oily water, not only onto the beaches, but onto the land directly adjacent to it. It will be polluted for decades.

The mind boggles at the worst case scenario....and the best case probably isn't that great either.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Shopping

It's always fun to wonder about people in the checkout line at the grocery store and their selections.

Today, I watched someone buy the strange combination of light beer, Diet Coke, and a bag of celery.

I suppose one might need a case of light beer to drown out the taste of Diet Coke and celery.