Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"No time to 'splain, let me sum up"

Hello, remember me?

Are you tired of reading the archives just yet? (there will be a pop quiz, later, btw)

Are you maybe wondering what the hell happened to the Tapdancer, that she hasn't been posting for almost a week?

Life, my friend - life has a way of being messy and needing a bit of a cleanup, from time to time.

Let's see, where did I leave off? Ah yes,...the field trip. The professor came home safe and sound, albeit an hour late, so I have no fingernails left - that last hour was the worst! He had a great time and I'm much , much better now. Thank you to everyone for being so lovely and supportive of my crazy uber mom tendencies.

There's been a lot going on this past weekend and into this week, besides my not-so-quiet jangling mother nerves. Ms. Q had to take some time off from work because she has killed her right hand with tendonitis. Seriously, the poor girl is basically one-handed right now, and taking meds to keep the pain at bay. The fun part of this is that she is a WILD woman when she's doped up on pain killers. Besides the oddities she bought from a late-night (nudge, nudge) home shopping channel (and I'm forbidden to tell you just what kind of oddities - I was forced to swear on it, dammit!), she also started a blog while under the influence of said painkillers. There's just the one, drug-induced post right now, but maybe, if we all go over and leave encouragement, she'll spill her guts about her recent shopping spree (oh Puhleeze, Ms. Q - it was such a good story!!!). You can find her here. This is Ms. Q regaling us with her late night shopping exploits:
Bea and I had to head down to the coast on Tuesday, to get our newest feline, Simon, neutered and all his shots. I took a couple of others for rabies, etc. boosters and Bea took her little Siamese daughter, Bella for her yearly checkup.

Why would we drive almost 3 hours to the coast to see a veterinarian, instead of going to a local vet? Two very big reasons: money and competence.

The cost of a vet visit in the greater Raleigh area is akin to going to see a human doctor, and I'm going to say it for the world to hear - every vet we have seen locally is incompetent when it comes to diagnostics. They never seem able to figure out what's wrong with an animal unless they perform every test in the book, and even then, they pussyfoot around. I'm not talking about one cat, one time, one doctor; I'm talking every time we see a local vet the bill is sky-high and the care is low quality. I had to insist that the vet not do an x-ray or wire Rikki's mouth shut, when he fractured his jaw, and you know what? He mended perfectly. When Jezebel got a bacterial infection of the intestinal tract, the vet insisted we do 3 x-rays and a barium enema (450.00) before she would finally put the poor thing on antibiotics. When Jasper had an obvious tumor in her throat; a tumor so big she couldn't eat, the local vet said, "Wow, that's a real honker!" and did nothing else for her, for an entire month, while my cat slowly wasted away before my eyes.

Down near Atlantic Beach, there is a veterinarian we know, who has been in practice for over 30 years. He works with one technician, on a shoestring, and he is the best damn doctor I have ever met. He's saved so many animals from death's door for us that I'm often tempted to see if he'll do my checkup as well, opening the door, of course, for many lewd and coarse jokes, which is just icing on the cake of how much I love Doc!So we took a portion of the furry herd down on Tuesday to see our favorite man in green scrubs, and then we headed over to the diner for a bit of lunch. I love this old place - its been down at "The Circle" at Atlantic Beach since the 1930s, so its not shiny, but it does have character. And the gyro was pretty damn good, as were the hush puppies - mmm, hush puppies!
We yutzed around the coast for a few hours, thought about going to the Aquarium, but as it was rife with schoolkids on a field trip (shudder), we just drove around for awhile and then headed back to Doc's to get the "kids".
Everyone got a clean bill of health, except poor Bella, who had a bit of a nasty surprise hiding in her mouth. Bea is going to be writing about this soon, so I'm not going to elaborate, but suffice to say, we were both a bit weepy on the ride home.

I have cookie making duties for my classes this week, so I won't be around a whole lot, but JOY of JOYs! The guys are going to Richmond this weekend, so Mommy is going to get that weekend of sweet silence after all. Yay Daddy!!!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Just My Brand of Crazy

Normally, I'm a jubilant individual on Fridays, that most glorific, beatified day of days. Sitting on the cusp of the weekend, anything is possible from the vantage point of a Friday morning.


This morning I sent my 10 year old son out into the world alone.

He went on a field trip to a big city 3 hours away. The bus will have to maneuver a horrid piece of highway known for excessive speeders and bloody accidents.

We went over safety guidelines exhaustively yesterday, but I know it means nothing to a sheltered 10 year old; what point of reference could he have that would give him an understanding of his mother's worries? I wasn't even going to let him go, what with my neurotic fear of charter bus drivers, not to mention the petrifying idea of him being alone in a strange place, but his newly emerged social butterfly insisted it was vital that he attend. So I let him go.

I told my youngest son, the Bohemian, that we would spend the day together, having some one-on-one time. I'm sure we will have a lovely day together, but its going to be hard to really focus on much of anything until the Professor comes home.

And then, the weekend can start.

Did I tell you I was batsa? Yeah I did. You're looking at a tapdancing monkey on the edge right now.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I have an inner restlessness lately, I just can't shake. All my projects are in stasis, for one reason or another. I made a batch of cookie dough, but I don't feel like baking it. The women in my painting stare sightlessly out at me, waiting for definition; for life, but I stare right back at them, equally blind.

Is it the weather? Maybe - its been kind of gray for several days now. We need the rain, and I love it when it rains in the spring, but the pervasive damp and the perpetual gray push me ever closer to the mental edge. You know, the edge where I burst out in tears over a damn lame joke, like last week (and again, Ray - mea culpa, man). Yeah, that's not good.

I think a part of it is school. The field trips and projects due have ramped up recently, and both require more of my personal time. The Bohemian, who was doing so well with the reading, has slumped again, so every night we're taking extra time to have him read to us. It doesn't leave much time for grown-up interaction, which makes both myself and the hub-man cranky. We still have a month and a half left before summer vacation; we're at the end of the tunnel, but damn, this last 7 weeks feels like pure torture. I love my kids, and they're really pretty good guys, but Oh My God, they have turned into Essence of Pure Boy, and some days, it just pushes me to the Dark Side, making manicures, teased hair, and fluffy pink shit look almost inviting (Noooooooo!)

I've sat down to write but nothing is really flowing, except discontent. I could get lost in painting, finding faces for those women, but my schedule is all chopped up with school related shtuff, so my mind is equally chummed and unable to focus in on minutiae.

You know what? I think its time for the guys to take a weekend trip to visit the grandparents and give Mom a couple of days of absolute silence, so I can reboot my brain.

Of course, that won't work this weekend, because there's a damn field trip to Winston-Salem on Friday that won't be back until after 5 PM. Did I mention that I loathe school?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Its Always Something

Scrawny Joe is feeling much, much better. His abscess is almost completely healed and he was well enough to go out for a few hours this weekend (thank the powers that be - he was climbing the walls on house arrest!).
The spring flowers are really in full force right now. I took this picture of cherry blossoms during the monotony that is carpoop. I like to get out of the car and pretend I'm a professional lunatic/photographer, just to liven things up (for me, anyway!).
You can imagine the looks I must get as I'm laying in the grass on the school's front lawn, taking pictures of dandelions. Hey, I don't care if they're weeds - I like dandelions. They at least have the grace to bloom and prosper even during a drought. If you want a green lawn in a dry place, you might want to consider leaving some of the weeds - it'll look greener with less water and chemicals, and you know - its a far more green thing to have a lawn of weeds than a lawn of chemically treated fescue. The number one source of water pollution in this country is lawn fertilizer and the other chemical crap folks put on their yards to achieve that ridiculous swath of green made popular by the Ancienne Regime. Does it strike anyone else as bizarre that we, a country of immigrants and outcasts, should want to ape the Baroque royalty of Europe with the cultivation of useless green lawns?
One of my favorite spring flowers is on the Eastern Redbud tree. They look like tiny little lady slippers, or wild orchids. We had a whole grove of them come up along the side of the creek, years back, and they always look so incredibly beautiful when they bloom.
The azaleas are out now too, along with the myriad of new leaves, each in a different shade of green. The Bohemian found some maple seeds and had endless fun throwing them up and watching them propeller-spin back down to the ground. Ever the budding scientist, he now has an array of different maple seed pods lined up on his nightstand. I know they're going to end up all over the place, but I also know I have to let him do his thing, in spite of my desire to sneak in there and commit a neatness with a vacuum and a trash bag. Ah, the many ways we say "I love you" !
We had a little visitor on Saturday. A small black cat showed up looking pitiful, and of course we took him in, because we're crazy people (this IS the Temple of Bast, too). He's very sweet and gentle, and we named him Simon. He was so happy to be somewhere safe and to be well fed, that he slept most of the day. Here Simon takes another much needed rest under Bea's chair. The colors outside are just incredible right now! Look at the red of this ornamental plum up against the green tree behind - it's so vibrant it looks fake.
The other cats weren't really sure about the new cat, so they took turns keeping an eye on him and reporting back to the others. Squeak has the vulture position down here, but he's just not very menacing, the big silly.
The weather blew and threatened all day, until finally, around sunset, we got a good dose of steady rain that washed some of the pollen down and cooled off the air nicely. We're supposedly out of the drought conditions and the lakes are back to normal, but it does seem a bit precipitous and short-sighted (to me) to lift ALL the water restrictions right now, when we still have to get through June, July and August. Summertime here isn't known for being really wet, unless a hurricane or tropical storm hits, so not trying to conserve water while we have it is pretty stupid. If ever one needed an adjective to sum up our town and city leaders, Stupid would be it. I took this shot of wisteria leaves with the sun setting behind it because I loved the golden glow of the leaves and the dark twisty vines supporting it all. For me, the many shades of green in spring trump even the colors of all the beautiful flowers. Something about that yellowy green just charges my spirits up!
See? How can an old white iris compete with that vivid green up there? Granted, I took this without any sunshine on it, but have you ever tried to shoot white flowers with the sun shining? I get so much blow-out trying to do that, I gave up and shoot them in lower light instead. You get so much more detail - look at the raindrops on the petals~
Weekends are always way too short to truly feel relaxed and get everything done, but thank goodness we at least have those two short days to look forward to every week!

So, how was your weekend?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I finally located Scrawny Joe across the street, in a bush that rustled and yowled. The old dish of cat food to rattle worked like a charm; that and acting like I could care less if he was there. If it hadn't worked, it would have been time to pull out the big guns and open a can of tuna - this is best saved for desperate measures, because it attracts EVERY cat in a two block radius. I got him in the house (FINALLY!), cleaned his gnarly little wound and doped him up so he would sleep and stop pacing and fretting.

The car was in the shop for brake issues yesterday, so I was off the carpooze hook - "Honey" picked the kids up and I was given the lovely gift of an afternoon without scheduling, so I painted.

Its been so long since I was really a daily painter, I think I've forgotten how to get in the groove, but I'm trying to get back there.

Yesterday, it felt good to just focus on a canvas. Forgetting all the world, I lost myself in the patterning of a damask tablecloth and the delicate striations of flower petals. The feel of the paint as it slipped from the brush and slid down the canvas, curving and swerving, was almost a hypnotic experience. The faces of the women remain vague; they haven't revealed themselves just yet, so the patterns of the room around them continue to build up around them, as definition for now.

Bea and I were looking at the painting in progress last night and comparing it to another, earlier painting on the wall. Something about juxtaposing patterns as well as color is very pleasing to me. Not just for the contrasts in color and texture, but because patterns are soothing to paint and exciting to look at in a finished piece.

I was having an internal conversation yesterday, while painting, about the Whys of what I paint. You know, sort of like the crap they ask you to come up with for a slide in an Art History test - 16th c. Italian, Mannerist, contraposto forms, kineticism, depicts moment of ecstasy - that kind of junk, only like a reviewer would say it. "Gauguin (Oops - Van Gogh, thanks Cin!) wasn't out of his gourd when he painted Starry Night, rather he was showing his awareness of the minuteness of his place in the bigger world, blah blah blah..." I truly doubt ANY artist sits down and consciously investigates what they're doing while they're doing it. "Hmmm, I enjoy drawing little spirals because they're the symbol of the route to the underworld, and as a pagan, I must be sure to cram my belief system down everyone's throat, every time I paint."

Where was I? Having a conversation with myself, I think. Yeah. I was thinking about the fact that I do tend towards patterns anymore, and sometimes I don't really care if there is such a thing as perspective when I'm doing that. But how would you explain that to a professor who's critiquing your work, and make it sound good enough to get away with it (because that's how its done, my chickens)? I don't think I would have been able to defend my reasons for what I was painting when I was in college, but the ensuing years have given me a better sense of self than I had at 22, as well as a better idea of why I like to paint certain things. I'd like to think I could bullshit with the best of them now, but I can't help but wonder why anybody needs to explain a picture? Either it works or it doesn't; you get it or you don't. Hemingway may have been a gifted writer, but he was still a misogynistic, alcoholic prick who wrote stuff I could give a rat's butt about. Poe may have written the perfect short story, but Jesus Christ, are they morbidly dull! Andy Warhol may be considered the father of Pop Art, but I still think he was a fucking creativity vampire, who sucked the essence out of others and took the credit. Van Gogh may have been a gifted artist who actually knew what he was doing, but he was still misunderstood and miserable most of his life.

The point is: you can't spend your life and your precious time worrying about whether or not other people "get" you. You have to go where your muse leads, and other people follow, great. If not, maybe you're ahead of your time - look at Leonardo da Vinci - everyone thought he was a loser who could never finish a job, because he was always drawing in his notebooks instead.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wow, Over-react Much?

Hello reader. As you might have surmised, yesterday went straight into the shitter, on many different levels. Thank you to everyone was so kind and supportive; it meant a lot to me. Also, I need to send out a humble, shame-faced apology to Ray who just happened to leave a bad joke at the wrong time. I think its called Spousal Timing, but I've never experienced it with anyone but my husband before. I am sorry Ray, can we still be friends, even if I'm a nutcase broad sometimes?

I did manage to find the missing cat. Scrawny Joe McAllister turned up yesterday evening, after several frantic searches. He was thin, hungry and had a nasty open absess on the base of his tail. Luckily I am skilled in absesses, but unluckily, the husband let him out this morning, so now Scrawny Joe is AWOL again. Have I mentioned I'm not real happy with the husband-person? Yeah, not so much.

There is other flotsam in my life right now as well, jamming up my normally intact sense of humor, so its probably best if I just slink away for awhile and focus on canvases.

"I am a dribbling asshole." Kenneth Brannagh, "Peter's Friends"

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hmmm....what to write about when your brain is dried up pasta bowties (man I hate bowties!).
....nope. I got nothing.
I'm going to go embrace my other muse and paint today.
But I will leave you a pretty picture!

Catch ya tamari pickles!

Addendum: According to my comments today, neither my writing nor my painting are worth a damn, and scrapbooking is the real creative hobby. If I was in a better mood, this might pass as lame humour, but I spent a big chunk of my day searching for a cat who's been missing for two days, and being slapped upside my head in my blog comments really wasn't helpful. So unhelpful that now I feel even more like shit and to top it off, now I can't stop crying.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sunday Denial

I admit, Sundays in the backyard are kind of sacrosanct to Bea and myself, so we were a little dismayed at the notion of leaving it. But it was a family birthday party, which means Mom was making her famous Million Layer Chocolate and Coffee Cream Cake, and we are nothing if not flexible partiers, so we put together a few nibblies, mixed up a couple bottles of "hooch" and headed out. (Did I mention this meant no cooking dinner? Always a perk!)
The weather was most accomodating and the view from the back deck was pretty nice:

The kids got out some Legos to play with, and a few made it out to us. I couldn't resist trying one on for the Grand Inquisitor look:

Our gracious host, the birthday girl, and our lovely hostess:

I worry every day that my parents will discover my blog and all the fun of posting pictures of them will end. See, he has no idea this is going to be published!

Bea and her buddy realize yet again they have matching shades and share a contemplative moment digging the funky warp power of this most awesome eyewear.
The kids managed to have fun too,
though the Professor did splay himself most convincingly out from the slide,
and the Bohemian sustained a rotator cuff injury, but what is the price of fun, people?
There were a few sweet moments in between the mini-dramas.
We gathered and sang Happy Birthday as only this crowd can do - well, us and Ethel Merman, if that tells you anything. (If it doesn't, you are woefully ignorant of American Stage Icons and its not my problem - go look her up in Wikipedia, for crying out loud!) I do think the birthday girl enjoyed her serenade, though its doubtful her hearing will ever be the same! (Mmm, cake...!)
No pinatas or Blind Man's Bluff for this crowd, but a rousing game of Bocce was enjoyed. I'm just sorry Ms. Q. wasn't there to quote from "Splash" - she would have relished the opportunity, I know. I think the birthday girl has just thrown out her arm in this picture, but look at the serious concentration on these guys faces!
The Bohemian wonders what all the fuss is about.
The moment of truth in measuring the distance of the thrown balls looks a lot like someone has just lost their keys or a contact.
We had a great time and managed to get our drink on, both figuratively and physically. The physical wearing of the rum drinks was done by yours truly, and you better believe I spread it around - I was awfully glad I was wearing Crocs, so I could just rinse them off afterwards! Hope you had a great weekend too!

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Bea's bed broke badly, But... was the necessary impetus to get her room rearranged.
We had a lot of fun doing it,
...and it looks really cool (needs painting)!

Sunday Denial/What Are We Drinking?
will go on as scheduled, although in a different yard.
It could be ugly...

Film at 11...*

(* There's not really any film, I just like saying that. There will be pictures though.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Twin Posts From Different Bloggers

In the fall of 1987 I took a poetry writing class in college. This was the same semester I took Northern European Mythology, and met my future husband, but that's another story, told here. My roommate of the past 2 and a half years had graduated the spring before, and my new roommate was in that flailing 4th year place, where he was spending more time emceeing down at the Comedy Zone and working at the college radio station (where we met) than actually going to class. His late nights in the bar culture were leading him astray with the nose candy too, which wasn't exactly helping him get much done, and wow, aren't coke heads fun to live with? Is it any wonder that I was kind of looking to reinvent myself during this semester; to branch out and away from the radio station folk and find some other people to hang out with?

Poetry class was in the morning, a time of day I do my best sleeping. I shuffled in, bearing a mason jar of cloudy juice (?) (it was apricot), and slid into a seat, doing the same surreptitious glance around everyone else was doing. Our professor came into the room after we were seated, and introduced herself. Then she told us that there were too many people in the class for it to be a good class, and that anyone who thought it was going to be an easy class should just go ahead and leave, preferably now. We all looked around at each other in silence. I have to admit: I kind of liked her, liked that she was cranky and touchy that first day, actively discouraging the pocket of bubble-headed jocks and cheerleaders from staying in the class. I knew she wasn't talking to me, or anyone else who was there in earnest, to write and learn, to pull their entrails out on the table in iambic pentameter for critique. She was trying to whittle down the class size, but that bunch of pains in the asses didn't drop the course. They stayed in the class, with such an attitude, that the atmosphere in the class never became relaxed enough to really be optimal. Instead the class divided into three parts; the Pains in the Ass, the English Majors, and the rest of us, sitting between the divided camps.

So why wasn't I sitting with the English Majors? I was inclined to, but a) I wasn't one of them, I was an Art Major, and 2) they were butt heads themselves, the snooty kind, and d) it was safer in the middle. The English Majors clustered together protectively, with the seeming assumption that if you weren't one of them, you must be one of the jocks, and therefore, unclean neophytes. You know, once you've had your head up your ass, that's all you can smell! (Sorry, but that made me feel better, for some reason!)

It was a bizarre mix of people in that class, I'll grant you. Along with me in the uncomfortable middle was a guy who was a warden for a women's prison, a middle-aged housewife (who quickly sided with the English Majors), a writer for the school newspaper who used a pseudonym, so no one knew who he was, a girl who couldn't read, much less write, and a few other, more average Janes and Joes.

That first day, the teacher had us sit in a circle and introduce ourselves, with our first name and something about us. The poor schmuck who ended up sitting next to her, had to go first. I don't think she was real happy about starting us off - she kind of looked like she'd just been stomach punched.

"Um, okay,... Hi,... my name is Chanda, and that's from the Sanskrit for "star of the sea."

Dammit! I wished futilely that I had some cool thing to say about my name, rather than some stupid, blurted out crap-fact, that maybe I'd rather not divulge, but I'm under pressure, so out it comes anyway. Suddenly I realized there is nothing even remotely interesting about me, and I began a frantic Rolodex search of my memory for something, anything, before its my turn. I don't remember exactly what I said - something about not liking to get up early, I think.

Because it was a morning class, I often took something with me to eat, since I usually just rolled out of bed and left for class. One morning, as I was getting ready to grab a few of my homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies to take with me, I imagined the voice of the Poetry teacher, saying in her most severe, schoolmarm tone, "What? Didn't you bring enough for everyone?" So for shits and giggles, I brought the whole box of cookies to class, placed them on the teacher's desk, and offered them to everyone. Very few of either of the polarized factions helped themselves, but several of my fellow middlings did. The teacher came in, her brow furrowed in its customary lines. When she saw the open box of cookies, something miraculous occurred. She actually smiled, and then, in a dulcet tone we had never heard before, she exclaimed, "Oh! How did you know I didn't eat breakfast this morning?" My god, that woman was positively sunny that whole class, all because someone had made a friendly gesture! While both camps of ass wipes sat stiffly disapproving, the rest of us had the first good class of the entire semester.

After class, I was walking home, looking at my feet. Its just the way I walk, when I'm up in my head, thinking. Suddenly I realized someone was walking next to me, and talking to me. I looked up and met the friendly gaze of a girl with masses of incredibly curly hair. She looked at me like she knew who I was. I realized as she spoke again, that she was in my Poetry class. It was the girl who had the starfish name; Chandra or something, yeah that's it.

"Hey, do you want to be partners on this presentation project we have to do?" She asked me. "I want to do Nancy Willard - do you like her?"

I was so bemused that anyone would want to talk to me, that I was afraid to tell her I had signed up for William Carlos Williams already. We stood on the sidewalk and talked about everything under the sun that the span of 15 minutes can possibly allow, before she made the move to leave. Feeling suddenly panicked at the thought of going home to my cranky, coked-out roommate, I asked if I could tag along. She said yes and we headed to her apartment, where we hung out for the next 6 hours, talking and laughing, as if we'd known each other forever. Have you ever met someone that you felt like you already knew them? It was like that.

We became very good friends. In fact, twenty years later, that girl with the super-sized curly hair, whom many of you will know as my fellow blogger, Chanda, aka Bea, is one of my best friends. And the conversation continues on.

To hear the other side of this Twin Tale, go here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Ah, hump day, how I love thee! I can see the weekend from here!

I'm off to school today to foster rebellion, and maybe help a few kids read while I'm there. you know, like camouflage for teaching them the Diarrhea rhyme.

People think its funny
but its really brown and runny,
diarrhea,(insert noise here) diarrhea.

There's the one from the film Parenthood too, but that one requires singing and that could spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

I'll have a real post for you tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Anne Boleyn was never The Other Boleyn Girl

Warning* The links I have put in here don't lead you back to this page. Why, I don't know. I'm not an HTML expert, but I'm working on it. Just wanted to let you know...
I was going to write a long and involved review, where I, the leading scholar of all things Anne Boleyn, gave you the lowdown on how it really happened. But then I did a little Googling to see what I might link to, in terms of extended reading on the subject, and I was more than a little dismayed to find there are other Anne Boleyn experts out there!! Egads, the sanctuary has been breached! Begone foul impersonators! "After a time (or two or three)", I calmed down, but it did kind of raise a road block for me, in terms of how I wanted to write this post. I wanted to give you both the real story and the film version side by side, but then I had a conversation with Ms. Q, who had just gotten back from Las Vegas and was catching up on the blog. She did spit her coffee when she read this, but she also wanted to know how The Other Boleyn Girl was. So I told her:

Me: "Well, I knew they were going to get it wrong before I went, and they did. But at least they didn't get it as wrong as the damn book did, and some of the scenes I had issue with I found precedent for in either history, or previous films to support it. For example: a rape scene with Henry VIII and Anne as their first sexual encounter; while it is completely untrue and the only time it might have occurred in their relationship would have been near the end of it, the precedent for it on film was established in the film Henry VIII, which cast Helena Bonham Carter as Anne Boleyn. So the story was far enough from the truth to be annoying to me, but if you weren't schooled in the history it might not bother you."

Ms. Q: "So how were the actors? How was Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn? And Scarlett Johannson as Mary?

Me: "Natalie Portman was the bright spot in this film. I went to see this movie because she was cast as Anne and she not only delivered a performance that surpassed everyone else's, but her skill as an actress gave the character depth where the script didn't necessarily contain it. The book portrayed Anne as the ringleader of the whole Howard/Boleyn faction (do you need me to tell you this is effing FALSE?) but I never got that sense from Natalie's Anne. I did get the sense of her being smart, rebellious, and vengeance driven, even though the source of her vengeance was Henry in the film, and NOT Cardinal Wolsey, as it truly was. In my opinion, Natalie Portman held that film together.

Scarlett Johannson - well let me just say that girl's lips are distractingly huge! She was the exact same character that she played in The Girl With The Pearl Earring, more or less. In all fairness, I don't think she was expected to play Mary Boleyn any other way. If you consider the fact that Mary wasn't exactly the sharpest stick in the bunch, it was a fairly true depiction of her."

Ms. Q: "Are you saying that the elevator doesn't go to the top floor? That the lights are on, but nobody's home? That she's a few french fries short of a Happy Meal?" But seriously, aside from the pea-brained part of Mary, what about the other characters? Did you like any of them?"

Me: "That's what I'm saying girl! That and - that girl has some huge MF lips! They had to shoot this film in 70mm just to fit other people into the frame with her lips! Sorry - where was I? Oh, the casting. I didn't like the casting of both Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon (wifey #1). Henry is iconically known from his Holbein portrait as being a massive man, in both height and breadth, as well as being red headed and blue eyed to boot. He was played by Eric Bana, who is a small, dark haired man with brown eyes. You tell me what happened there. Catherine of Aragon was also miscast as slender, with dark hair and eyes. With a wife this good looking, why is Henry cheating? Catherine was blond, blue-eyed and thick though the middle, from constant pregnancies. These might seem little points, but when the names of well-known historical figures are attached to a storyline, I think most of us expect them to at least look like they should, whatever else is done."

Ms. Q: "Wow, you're a tough crowd to please. So you didn't like anyone?"

Me: "I did like the casting of Mark Rylance as Thomas Boleyn (Anne's father), and David Morissey as Thomas Howard (Anne's uncle). They both resembled their characters reasonably, and their performances gave us insight into their motivations. The part of the mother was played by Kristen Scott Thomas and she brought dimensions to the character that I enjoyed, but I don't think her character was ever really that conscientious about the state of her children. She was a Howard, for crying out loud - they were bred for intrigue!"

Ms. Q: "So how did the film look? What were the costumes like?"

Me: "The sets created for the film blended well with the location shots, so the overall look of the film was fine. It didn't have the incredible cinematography that the Elizabeth films had, but it didn't jar the eye or interrupt the story. The costumes were another matter. There were a few dresses that looked okay, like the green one Natalie wears on the poster, but a lot of the dresses were NOT done right, in both line, construction, and fabric choices. Not one of the dresses had a proper deep vee that the farthingale type of corset would have produced, and the tight sleeves with little puffs were more Baroque than Tudor or Renaissance. There were few dresses that showed the dark heavy overdress and long, wide sleeve that is the Tudor style, and many of the bright and damasked fabrics felt out of period as well. There was also a lot of hair showing on these girls; Tudor women kept their hair covered under either a French or Gable style hood (Examples of both are shown on the two portraits of Anne Boleyn).

All in all, it was an okay film, if you knew nothing of the period or the story. For anyone who loves that period its going to be a struggle to keep your mouth shut during the film. It might be best to either Netflix it or go in with a massive bucket of popcorn, so there's something to stuff in your mouth when the protests arise."

Monday, April 7, 2008

Its a Monday, all day, dammit.

Its also the last day of our Spring Break, that tantalizing week of almost Summer Vacation. Tantalizing because it lulls you into that lazy summer routine, but after a seductive week of being on our own schedule, now its time to be owned by the public school system again. Have I mentioned how much I hate school? Really? I've never said how much I loathe the system? Curious...But I did tell you about how we like to blare Another Brick in the Wall when we pull up in carpool, right? No? Wow, I just don't tell you guys shit, do I?

Yeah, tomorrow we return to the prison schedule for another two months. Its very depressing; the packing of lunches, the papers that have to be signed, the incessant nagging required to get two not-so little boys ready and out of the house on time, and the ever repressive carpool/carpooze/carpoop, where not only do I have to queue up with retards but the kids have to undergo prison training (sit still, with your head down on the table and no talking) before they're released for the day. I hate how mindless the regimentation is; the need to control and stifle these poor kids who have had to be stifled all day, and the little boys who have high energy and kinetic needs that aren't recognized as such. No, little healthy, energetic boys aren't needing more physical activity, they're trouble makers - what? You didn't know that? Oh yeah, chile, public school is ALL about supressing your inner free spirit.

Thats why I go and volunteer - to stir up the underground resistance. I run in the halls, and crack jokes in class. I taught the 1st graders how to stick out your tongue without anyone seeing it (Bea taught me!), and occasionally, I like to do a Pete Townshend guitar jump, just to keep things lively. I'm lucky that the teachers I work with are much nicer than many of them, and understand that their kids need to be kids, even if its just once in awhile. I personally never learned doodly when I was sitting up straight, bored out of my mind. I think learning, especially in elementary school, ought to be fun. These are the pivotal years when a kid learns their study habits and is either turned on or turned off to learning - wouldn't it seem a no-brainer that it should be as fun as possible, in an effort to keep as many kids as possible engaged?

You would think, but "it ain't necessarily so."

Friday, April 4, 2008

Sometimes You Just Have To Say...WTF?

I had such good intentions this week~

  • I was going to paint every day.
  • I was going to write a review about The Other Boleyn Girl.
  • I was going to be well-rested.

Go ahead - ask me if I did any of these things - come on, ask!

The answer, as you can well see, is a resounding, "Oh, Hell No!"

I didn't get Jack Doodly Squat done, and whats more; I'm completely okay with that. The boys and I walked all over our little downtown the other day, which was really fun. We went to the old Pharmacy and had milkshakes at the groovy old lunch counter. We went several times to the new bakery for bread and scones, and cinnamon rolls for breakfast. I even took them into the (rip-off) antique store and (miracles of miracles) they not only didn't break anything, we had a blast looking at all the crazy stuff they had for sale in there. I promised them that today, which is payday, we would go and check out the other, newer consignment/antique store and they are champing at the bit to get going. I can't pass that up - I might have the makings of two treasure hunters on my hands, and next to hanging out in a library full of old, crumbling books, my second love is hanging out in a store of old, crumbling stuff, looking for the incredible deals.

I know - I'm never going to be really cool (kewl) at this rate. But you know? As long as I have my two great guys by my side, I don't really need the coolness affirmations.

And the review I promised to you this week? Its just going to have to take a back seat to hanging out with my very kewl kids.

Until next week!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Trip to Wales~Part III

The rest of this story can be found here:
Part I
Part II

Because we had missed our original flight to the UK, we lost an entire day of our trip, cooling our heels in that misery known as Newark. For our last full day in Wales we had to make a choice between going north to Aberystwyth and doing research in the Welsh National Library there, or taking our last day and heading to the coast to see St. David's Cathedral and some cairns along the way. Technically, this was a research trip, and we should have gone to Aberystwyth, but we unanimously decided that we would get more out of seeing the coast. We tucked away our last prodigious traditional Welsh breakfast, which we felt compelled to photograph for posterity, before we hit the road. Here you see my dad and the hub-man oohing and aahing over our breakfast, while our lovely hostess looks on a bit nervously. I don't know if anyone had ever photographed her cooking before!

Our hosts were delightful people, and their B&B was immaculate and quite comfortable, but I think we were maybe just a bit too much for them, being Ugly Americans, and all. However they felt about us, the breakfasts were incredible! Fried bacon, which was closer to what we would call ham, fried tomatoes, eggs over easy, and fried toast. Add to this fresh grapefruit, orange juice, toast with the most incredibly tart and delicious marmalade, and fabulous french-press coffee. We did eat breakfast at a couple of inns during our trip, but none of them could touch the home cooking at Cwmgwyn Farm.
We left Llandovery early Thursday morning, headed for St. David's and the coast. We drove through Carmarthen and some other smaller towns on our way east. We were starting to wonder just how far this drive would be, when I sniffed the air and exclaimed, "I smell the ocean!" We rounded a bend in the road and there was the coastal town of Newgale and my beloved North Atlantic. Its kind of an odd sensation, to be looking at your same old ocean from the other side of it. It was breathtakingly beautiful, but I confess; as I looked to the west my heart was thinking of home. Not long after our pit-stop at Newgale, we drove into the very picturesque town of St. David. The sun actually deigned to show itself at this westernmost point of the country and the sky was a brilliant blue. The salty delight of the air paired with a cool crispness was possibly the most perfect air I've ever breathed into my generally allergic lungs and chronically outraged sinuses.

We parked and walked through the town to St. David's Cathedral. St. David, or Devi/Dewi, is the patron saint of Wales, and his Cathedral is considered to be the most sacred site in Wales. It was one of the earliest Christian centres in Britain, dating from the 6th century, and many early missionaries travelled from here to Ireland and Brittany. But considering the Prescelli Hills were just up the coast, I'm not sure I would agree with St. David's being the most sacred site. The Prescellis are the place of origin for the bluestones in the center circle at Stonehenge and are also the site of many Iron-age and neolithic burial mounds. These are the ruins of the Bishop's Palace at St. David's Cathedral. There was scaffolding around parts of this, as a restoration project was underway. I loved the checkerboard mosaic aspect of the upper stonework. The stone used to build St. David's Cathedral is of a local origin and it's purple. It was hard to really see the purple color in the bright sunlight, but it did show up in the photos. Something else I noticed in the pictures that wasn't apparent when standing next to the immenseness of the church is how irregularly it's shaped. The tower is off-center and the back of the church is built into a hill as well, giving it an uneven aspect as well. This is the interior of the main nave of the church. The ceiling was completely panelled in intricately carved wood and the lower arches all had different patterns carved in them. The flat ceiling was put in later, because of structural issues in supporting a stone roof. In the High Gothic style, you would see barrel vaulting or rib vaulting giving the height, instead of these massive rows of arches supporting even more arches above. Don't you just love the Jesus-on-a-trapeze thingy hanging from the ceiling? Who knew he was so talented? Obviously, this church has been added to over the years. I don't know what happened to the original 6th century structure, but what we see here is called Transitional Norman, with an arches supporting arches structure. It was embellished at some point in the Gothic period with the beautiful ribbed vaulting and the intricate coat of arms painted between each rib. I meant to take pictures of the many tombs inside the church, but my camera was not liking the dark gloom of the church's interior. We bought a map of the Welsh coast in the gift shop at St. David's that showed several neolithic burial mounds quite close by. Following the map, we found ourselves on a narrow, one lane, dirt road that turned out to be someone's driveway, more or less. At one point we had to come to a complete halt in this narrow lane, for fear of running over one of the chickens and roosters who had excitedly come out to greet us and now unconcernedly blocked the way. Finally getting past the chickens, we surreptitiously parked our car on the grassy hill behind the house and began the climb up to a peninsula of land known as St. David's Head. As we crested the hill we looked off to our left and saw this:
The sunny and blue skies had disappeared, covered over by a rapidly moving front of wind and rain and lowering clouds. It was so very Bronte sisters-like, to be walking the moors, and watching the storm come in, but I was with three men, so I kept this thought to myself. We struck out across the moors towards the north, with the mist rising and swirling around us. Halfway across, we encountered a quintessentially British couple, and stopped to say hello. The wife had the horsey look commonly associated with the Royal family, and the husband, with his tidy little mustache and tweeds responded to all our remarks with a "Yes, yes, yes!" that we still love to use. They were very nice, really, and I feel a little guilty writing seeming disparities about them, but remember - I am an Ugly American, so I kind of can't help it. We walked out to the water, which was roiling and thrashing up against the rocks that made up the shoreline. There wasn't really any beach at this spot, but we didn't care; walking the moors was a novel pastime, and a plain old beach would have just been a letdown.

Those prodigious Welsh breakfasts always lasted just long enough to find us somewhere without lunch prospects, but this time I was prepared. We propped ourselves against a boulder that blocked some of the wind and ate sharp cheese and crackers we had bought back in Cheddar, washed down with garlic stuffed green olives and water. We gazed out at the rapidly disappearing Atlantic, as the fog came in quickly and completely obscured our vision. as we headed back up the hill to the cairn, I could well imagine people getting lost in an influx of this stuff.

The fog and mist were, in the words of Yukon Cornelius, "thick as peanut butter". At some points we couldn't even see each other as we walked along together, but the obscurity came and went, with helpful gusts from the wind. It did make for an eerie scene as we approached Coetan Arthur, a 5,000-year-old burial chamber, that is reputed to be King Arthur's resting place. Of course, there are a number of cairns throughout Wales that are reputed to be Arthur's tomb!

While my brother and I posed for this shot, the old man headed up and over the hill. We joked that he was looking for the old elephant/ancestral graveyard. What he actually found up at the top of the summit was a concrete pad that had been used as a lookout during WWII. If there had been more time and better weather, I would have liked to explore this area further, because we missed a number of ancient sites here, due to time restraints and fog. Back in the car, we headed north towards the coastal towns of Fishguard and Newport, where there are ferries to take you across the channel to Ireland. In a future trip to this area it might be fun to fly into Ireland and take the ferry from there to Wales - it can't be any further than driving all the way across Wales from Bristol, England, and it would be fun to see a bit of Ireland.

In Newport we made our first pub stop of the day, at the Golden Lion, a cozy little hotel and pub right on the main road. I had tried to book rooms for us here, but a band of bike riders beat us to it, booking the entire place. A shame, really, because it looked like a nice place. We had a few pints, played some tunes on the jukebox and chatted with the guys playing pool, before setting off to find our next cairn.

Carreg Coetan, also a reputed burial site of You-Know-Who, (No, not Voldemort, silly! King Arthur!) was right in Newport, down a side road. It was like a little park, nestled in a small neighborhood. My brother took this picture and he was all excited that he had caught the tiny gap between the capstone and the stone holding it up (look at this picture up close and you'll see it). My dad surprised himself by really loving these ancient tombs. He had kind of scoffed at the idea of seeing ancient sites (its what he does, we just ignore him), but after St. David's Head, he not only understood our fascination, but he was getting into it as well. See the little leprechauns hiding in the cairn? Our last cairn of the day, Pentre Ifan, was the biggest and most impressive. Looking through the cairn you can see the Prescellis and Carni Ingli; Mountain of the Angels. I don't know how we did it, but we encountered very few people at any of these sites, which greatly enhanced our ability to get a feel for the energy at these places. We took a group shot as well, which is a little dark, but I wanted to show the massive proportions of Pentre Ifan, as compared to the smaller cairns we had seen earlier. Because of its size and extreme age (built around 3500 BC) this is considered one of the most important sites to see in western Wales. Pentre Ifan was the last planned stop of the day. We got back into the car and headed a little further north to hook up with the highway that led back to Carmarthen, where we had booked rooms at the 16th century coaching inn, The Boar's Head. Along the way, we noticed signs for a historic castle, and decided to stop and check it out.

Cilgerran Castle, first built in the early 12th century and improved upon in the early 13th century, was the site of quite a bit of Welsh history, both legendary and factual. It sits on the tidal river, Teifi (Tiffy), right outside of Cardigan. Again, we missed the crowds and had the entire castle to ourselves to explore. Unlike the ruins at Carreg Cennen, Cilgerran was more intact and we were able to climb the ancient stairs inside and feel truly immersed in the history of the place. Never a believer in the theory of Ancestral Memory, my father had an immediate connection to this place, and said that he felt like he had been there before. We could hardly drag him away from the place; this from the man who said he didn't want "to see a bunch of churches and castles".
Cilgerran is built of local slate and the construction was fascinating. I loved the stack of slate discs that form the support for this staircase.
It was kind of maze-like to follow your nose around this place, and I got lost from the others more than once! As we were headed back out of Cilgerran, we met the curator, who had just realized there were visitors over at the castle. It had been a slow day, so she had nipped out for a cup of tea. We felt bad for crashing and offered to pay the admission, but she waved us along. So we headed back to Carmarthen and the inn for our last night in Wales.

I hate to even say it, but I'm afraid this is going to have to extend into a Part IV. Even I feel like this is way too many parts but I don't know any other way to do the trip justice. For my rambling and allusions to self-importance, I ask patience and forgiveness of you, dear reader. In the future, I will attempt to only tell short stories!

Part IV: Our night at the Inn and the trip back to England, and then it will be done, done, DONE, I swear!