Monday, February 26, 2007

Oscar Redux & AWP Preview

Well, I did pretty well this year. 14 of my picks were correct!
I am most proud of choosing Alan Arkin for Supporting Actor, and "Babel" for original score.
I also like that "Little Miss Sunshine" won for best original screenplay. His was probably my favorite acceptance speech. I liked that when he was kid he had actually taken a 600 mile road trip with his family in a VW van with a broken clutch. 600 miles?!? No big surprises other than Arkin. I guess Melissa Ethridge was a surprise, but I can't say I had strong feelings about that category.

In other news, Hightouchmegastore and I depart on Wednesday for parts Southern (and warm, I'm hoping for warm!). In Atlanta we will hob-nob, no doubt, with great writers and those who possess great wit and charm. I'm speaking, of course, of none other than Otterbutt and Terrible Mother. We may see some other people too, who knows, but those are the important ones. Because of my stupid diet (do I seem testy?), I won't get to drink, but I look forward to enjoying their company while eating copious amounts of allowed food (which are those?) and pointing out famous writers.
No one is reading this year that I would want to stalk, but maybe I'll stand in line to give John Barth some kind of testimonial about how "Lost in the Funhouse" changed my life. It did! I swear!

I hope we get to see a movie on the plane. Yeah! Movie!
See you on the flip side. And by flip side I mean later.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


It wouldn't be right if I didn't post my picks for tomorrow's Oscars. I have to say that this year I think I have been the least involved of any year, except for maybe the year Son was born! But, I did manage to see one of the Best Picture nominees, so I feel entitled to pick at will. And so......

Best Picture: Little Miss Sunshine (I love a underdog!)
Director: Martin Scorsese (A make-up Oscar. He deserves one, maybe not for this film....)
Actor: Forest Whitaker!!!! (I heart him!)
Actress: Helen Mirren (the Queen of our hearts!)
Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin (maybe a long shot, but he was so funny!)
Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson (I'm a sucker for a good story)
Adapted Screenplay: Little Children (I wasn't crazy about the novel, but it was a novel!)
Original Screenplay: Little Miss Sunshine (great dialogue!)
Animated Feature: Happy Feet (penguins win!)
Art Direction: Pan's Labyrinth (I haven't seen it, but I've heard)
Documentary Feature: Iraq in Fragments (a political win)
Foreign-Language: The Lives of Others (I've read reviews)
Art Direction: Pan's Labyrinth
Cinematography: The Prestige (because it's the only other one I've seen)
Costume Design: Dreamgirls
Editing: Babel (because it needed some? the cuts from scene to scene?)
Makeup: Pan's Labyrinth
Score: Babel (why not?)
Song: Um, something from Dreamgirls? The odds are good (3 out of 5?) I'll choose "Listen"
Animated Short: The Danish Poet (because it has Poet in the title)
Live action Short: Binta and the Great Idea (I liked the picture)
Documentary Short: Recycled Life (I don't know, I like the title)
Sound Editing: Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest (like I have any idea)
Sound Mixing: Dreamgirls (because it has music?)
Visual Effects: Superman Returns (because I've seen it)

Well, check back Monday for my numbers. One year I won a free pass for a movie, and Middlebrow and I saw "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" for free. Yeah! But I haven't entered anything this year.
Did I mention I love award shows?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

On "American Idol"

Like most people, I am addicted to “American Idol.” And, like most people, I like to think I’m smarter than the rest of those idiots who watch “American Idol.” Unlike them, I have not watched every season of "American Idol," I do not vote on "American Idol," and, I am not obsessed with being on "American Idol." It’s because I can’t sing. I don’t even sing in the shower. Sometimes, when I’m alone in my 2001 Saturn SL, I crank up the factory installed FM radio and sing along with Rick Springfield doing “Jesse’s Girl.” I also like to sing along to the Talking Heads and Death Cab for Cutie, but in no way do I think this qualifies me to even stand in line to try out for "American Idol." I am not one of those non-singers who thinks that just because I agree with Simon, somehow I can sing. Nor am I one of those non-singers who tries out just so I can be on the humiliating worst-of outtakes and then claim, to anyone who will listen, “I was on ‘American Idol.’”
I would like to say that my ability to recognize my lack of talent in the singing department somehow makes me above it all, that unlike other Americans I don’t think I will somehow have my 15 seconds of fame, but it’s not true. My 15 seconds will come, eventually, when I receive a long-deserved literary prize for the novel I’m currently not-writing. Then all those people who didn’t get my artistic vision, who didn’t like the rhyming poems about penguins that I wrote in grade school, or the people who didn't get me in graduate school, who said things like "I don't like the main character. Why is she so angry?", all those people will be sorry, and will claim to have known me when, and when I’m walking around town in a long black evening gown and tiara, carrying my prize in my arms as if it were a newborn baby, I will snub them by turning away when they wave. Or perhaps I will condescend to give them a little smile that conveys, “Not now, little people, I’m busy.”
I know. I can’t claim to be smarter, or that I’m not prey to the little movie we all have in our heads, you know the one, the one where you look so amazing even you are a little in love with you, and the confetti falls from the rafters and everyone is clapping, and you see yourself with that “Who? Me?” look on your face, like you just can’t believe it, it’s finally happened, finally, everyone sees what a genius, what an amazing person you were all along, and finally you’re going to get an oversized check for a million dollars. The truth is, we all have that little movie in our heads. Maybe it’s part of human evolution. Where cave men would draw paintings of themselves killing a giant mammoth, we make movies in our heads where we finally get what we think we deserve. It keeps us alive. Maybe these narracisstic little movies help us get up in the morning, even if we never change out of our pajamas.
Maybe that’s why 52 million of us love American Idol. Because while we’re watching 24 singers compete for one title, we believe that our little success fantasies could come true. It’s the American Dream, small town nobody becomes big time superstar and starts dating Justin Timberlake and/or Brittney Spears. It could happen. Or at least we need to believe it can. And isn’t that why TV is so popular? We need to believe that someone’s life is better than ours. Or we need to believe that we are better, more talented, smarter than someone else. I know I am. I'm better than all those other idiots out there who are thinking the exact same thing.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Benefit of Low Expectations

My favorite thing about seeing movies at the Dollar Theater (which actually costs $1.50, but nevermind about that, that doesn't have the same ring as Dollar Theater, who would call it the Dollar-Fifty Theater?) is that my expectations are so low, I am often pleasantly surprised when the movie is better than average, good even.
Take tonight's selection, "Stranger Than Fiction." Going in, I knew it starred Will Ferrell (whom I love, and will always love if for no other reason than the Cheerleader Skit on SNL), Emma Thompson (who doesn't love Emma Thompson? If you don't, I don't want to know. She said something once in an interview about having a "big-shouldered" admiration for something or someone, I forget, but I still think she was talking about me), Maggie Gyllenhal (besides having the world's most attractive brother AND husband (is that fair?), she's an amazing actress), Dustin Hoffman (as a college professor! who is also a lifeguard! and reads Sue Grafton while he's lifeguarding!), and wait, I haven't even gotten to the best part, Queen Latifah!!! (as the writer's assistant. Is that fair? I'm sure I could write a great novel if I had Queen Latifah to bring me coffee and arrange notecards in my sparsley furnished apartment).
My expectations for this film were low. How low? Well, I had heard almost nothing about it (buzz=0), and it seemed like it had hit the dollar theater pretty quickly, so I was prepared for it to be funny in parts, charming in parts, and to have some flaw, major or minor, that would make me like it a little less.
Well, of course I was pleasantly surprised. The only flaw, that I could see, were the several scenes where the mic was lowered too far. But being the great post-modernist that I am, I wondered, briefly, if I was supposed to see the mic. Like the director reminding me, "hello! you're watching a movie!" Unfortunately, I think it was just a mistake. But, as I said, that was the only flaw.
The great strengths of this film, aside from the amazing cast, were the intelligent script, the clever but not too clever camera work, and soundtrack.
Plus, Dustin Hoffman, as charming, caffeine-swilling, self-involved college professor, gets to say, quoting from a line that is the Will Ferrell character's life, "Little did he know? Little did he know? I wrote a paper on 'Little did he know.' I taught a whole seminar on 'Little did he know.'" Perhaps the reason this film did not do better is because only graduate students and college teachers will think that is funny.
But count me pleasantly surprised. I highly recommend this film. And, actually, the dollar theater is still the dollar theater before five.
So that's the benefit of low expectations.
(Unfortunately, my expectations were not so low for the Ginger dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free cookie I took as my "snack." Let's just say I was not pleasantly surprised. But I did eat the whole thing.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy VD!

Inspired by Dean Dad's Valentine's Day post (well, maybe more by some of the comments, though the post itself was very sweet), I've decided to tell you a heartwaming story about how Middlebrow and I got together (exactly 10 years ago!).
First let me say that we went on three dates before we even kissed. On date three, we talked about couples we admired, people who seemed to have genuine partnerships and equality. We talked about how we didn't want to be like our parents (his still married, mine divorced and married to new partners), mostly because we didn't like the imbalance we observed. Among the people we admired were professors in the department where we were both graduate students. One couple we liked for their choices: one car, they took turns cooking and caring for their children, and they both were (are) successful in their respective fields. That, we said, was how we wanted to be. Let me remind you, we hadn't even kissed yet!
Maybe a week or so after we actually kissed, it was Valentine's Day. We agreed that we were against it, Middlebrow mostly because of his employment at a grocery store where, on February 14th, he saw man after man come through his line with a card and a bunch of flowers. Original. So though we don't celebrate this holiday (that is, after all, just another way for companies to get you to buy their products), I'm always reminded that we "got together," as the euphemism goes, right around this time.
It's mind boggling to think that we started dating 10 years ago. (Just for the record, we got engaged after we dated for four months, though I lied and told my parents it had been six months and we got married after we had been engaged for a year). We got engaged after we had the "what are we doing next year?" talk in the kitchen of my apartment. I said something like "I'm not living with someone ever again unless I'm married." We had already decided we wanted to go to graduate school. The next day we were grading papers in a cafe and Middlebrow looked at me and said, "What happened last night? Did we decide to get married?"
But looking back, we have done most of what we talked about on that third date. We finished graduate school, sharing the childcare the whole time. We both have jobs, and we still split the childcare (though I have to say that, lately, Middlebrow has done more than I have). We both cook and do laundry (though, of course, I think I do more of both); Middlebrow does all the man things like killing spiders and plunging toilets and fixing bathrooms.
But, all in all, we have a very equal arrangement. We both like to sit around and read. We like to drink wine and watch movies. Is this not, I ask you, the basis of all good relationships?
And just a note in response to some of those comments over at Dean Dad: some women want to stay home with their kids. I know many women who do and are perfectly content. I'm just not one of those people. But I'm glad I could make the choice I did, and I'm glad I found a person who wanted to make those same choices. This, to me, is one of the great rewards of feminism: we get to invent what we want home, marriage, and family to mean to us. Not that we judge women who make choices we would not make. But that support exists for women to make a variety of choices, and that we support and facilitate each other's choices. (I recognize not all women are free to choose. And we work to change that. But some women are free to choose. And we support that.)
On that note: Happy Valentine's Day!!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Happiness? Location? Money?

Middlebrow and I have been having our annual go-round about whether we can just choose to be happy, if where we live is more important than our salaries, and if we need more money. Oh yeah, and how our house is too small. We always agree on that.
Right now at our CC we are having the annual discussion about how we are woefully underpaid. It's stunning, however, to see exactly how underpaid we are, compared to CCs in other parts of the country. I could be making about $30,000 more a year if I lived in, say, California. Aye, as they say, there's the rub. We don't want to live in California. We do, however, want to make $30,000 more a year. I know, housing would cost more. But that much more per year?
In my mind, it's all about long-term benefits, meaning retirement, and earnings over the course of my career.
Of course, I have to remind myself that we love Son's school, and that, having lived here for almost nine years, we have an actual community, something we both value highly. But, are we allowing ourselves to be exploited?
Obviously I didn't go into teaching for the money. But it's apalling how little we are being paid for the same work (in some cases more work!) than teachers in other parts of the country!
So how do we decide what's more important? Lately I've been leaning towards being happy. But with the new information I've been receiving, I feel like maybe I'm selling myself short. I know the legislature in our fair state is not going to wake up and raise our salaries (at least not in my lifetime). I do love where we live, though I don't always love the politics or the liquor laws. I love our proximity to outdoor recreation. Did I mention that our house is too small?
Today I looked at job listings in other states. It looks like I could start for at least $10,000 more almost anywhere else.
Tell me, what's a girl to do?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Travels in Gastro-Intestinal Health

I realize the title to this post does not bode well. Those of you who know me know that I like to complain that my stomach hurts. Well, I finally went to see a Naturopath. I found out many things, including that our state has one of the most rigorous processes for certifying NDs. Also, my insurance covers it. Yeah!
So. I went in armed with my paper work and my suspicions about what I am allergic to, maybe. My guesses: dairy, wheat, soy. So, my plan is to do an elimination diet and then reintroduce foods, one every two days.
What, you might ask, does one possibly eat when one is not eating anything? It turns out mostly fruits and vegetable (but not corn, and no citrus). Also, I need to eliminate rice because I eat so much of it. But, surprisingly, lamb and pears are two of the most hypoallergenic foods. So I can eat lamb and pears! I can also eat chicken and fish. And potatoes. Yeah potatoes!! I'm also eliminating nuts and seeds. Then after you start to feel better (how long is that?), you reintroduce the food. You have to eat a lot of the food for one day. The part that describes drinking a big glass of milk makes me want to throw up. So I think I'll skip that one, but I may test cottage cheese, etc.
Meanwhile, I'm taking lots of supplements, many of which are supposed to help my stomach and some of which are just for general health. And one to help me sleep. I'll let you know how that goes.
All this to say that if I seem irritable and fatigued, you'll know why. Come Monday, I'll be subsisting on vegetables and fowl. But I might be sleeping more, so it could even out.
And yes, this means no wine. No wine? Somehow I'll muddle through.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Tyranny of the Child's Birthday Party

As Middlebrow and I sat last night contemplating where (o where?) we might be able to have Son's 6th Birthday party, we remembered: we never had no stinking parties!!
When we were kids, we maybe had a few friends over and played pin the tail on the donkey. Since my birthday is in December, we couldn't have an outdoor party. I don't remember any parties from when I was a kid. Except when I was in 8th grade and my best friend and I had a joint birthday party at the Holiday Inn. Complete with sleep over at the hotel, swimming and miniature golf. Those were the days, baby!
But as I edged nearer to a nervous breakdown last night, wrestling with the guilt I would feel if we didn't invite everyone, imagining the school ostracisim of us, the exclusive partiers, trying to figure out how we were going to either a) pay for every child in his Kindergarten class to go bowling or b) fit everyone in his Kindergarten class into our 500 sq. ft. home, Middlebrow came up with an elegant solution so simple it boggled the mind: no party.
What? you will say. No party! But listen here: I hardly ever had parties, and I turned out fine. When Son was 4 we took his whole pre-school class bowling. Were we nuts? yes! It was insane!
Last year we invited just the boys to our house for a Spiderman birthday.
But this year: Middlebrow will take Son and a friend or two for an afternoon extravaganza. The benefits: no presents! no paper plates! no pizza and cake to throw away! no goodie bags!
Son and I will make a cake to his specifications. Frosting! Decorations! Hooray!
And we don't have to spend $200 to do it! Ah, the liberation of simplicity!