Entries in Fun to the power of x (25)


Jane and the Runaway Gerunds

What are your feelings about the new Jane Austen movie, Becoming Jane? I, for one, am torn. Should I see it as soon as possible? Wait for it to come out on DVD? Or snub it entirely? Here are a few of the thoughts I'm having surrounding this crucial dilemma:


I haven't had a good historical romance fix in a while. I'm definitely due.

Rotten Tomatoes gives Becoming Jane a pretty high rating.

I have enjoyed favorite people being fictionalized in film before (Amadeus, A Beautiful Mind, The Pride of the Yankees, My Left Foot, The Elephant Man), fully realizing that many of the events have been dramatized.

I like all the Austen-related movies I've ever seen: BBC, A&E, Clueless, Bride & Prejudice, and all the American-made, reasonably faithful cinematic adaptations. Persuasion is my favorite, and heretic that I am, when it comes to Mr. Darcy, I prefer Matthew Macfadyen very slightly over Colin Firth (please still like me).


I am generally prejudiced against movies with gerunds in their titles (though I love Searching for Bobby Fischer and Raising Arizona). I don't know why this is; it just is. Click here for a funny list of movies with de-gerund-ized titles.

Some trailers so horrify me with promises of undying passion in the face of all odds that I make a holy vow never to see the films they advertise. Ever. To wit: Titanic and The Bridges of Madison County (no, I will not read the book, either). Becoming Jane may fall into this category. Again, I'm not sure why. It's a visceral thing.

I have hated favorite people being fictionalized in film before (Shakespeare in Love, Out of Africa). And these films I hate are about writers.

I'm afraid of anachronisms and bad accents.

What about you? Are you planning to see it? Any advice for me? I welcome your thoughts.


Sweet Reunion

A visit from across-the-ponder Carmen, a.k.a. La Fabulous, would be a highlight of my entire year under any circumstances. Carmen has been an amazing friend to me, Patrick, and the kids for going on ten years (the photo above is of Patrick and her when we first met).

She is the ideal world-traveling companion (we've done Paris and a bit of London and Rome--next stop: Antarctica). She's a knitting dervish. She's a great audience for my cooking. She's another close friend who reads The New Yorker from cover to cover each week so that I don't have to. She relates to the kids as individuals; for years, Christian tried to get me to back off when she came over, since he knew she was really there to see him.

We have a whole lexicon of phrases that are shorthand for various memorable moments in our shared history:

"You said pie!"
"What are you saying? What do you mean?"
"Je voudrais une Crèpe Nutella et un Fanta, s'il vous plaît."
"Santa, you're scaring me."
"Those birds are stuffing themselves!"

...and so many more...

When Tess was in the NICU and I was in delivery recovery, I wished for Carmen with all my heart. She is the most gifted storyteller I've ever known personally; we never get tired of her hilarious anecdotes. I wanted her by my side to distract me from my worries and woes. She was in Cambodia on vacation then, but when she got back, she was a tremendous help.

Carmen moved to London from NYC five years ago. At the time, we thought it would be a three-year adventure, and while I didn't love the idea of her being away from us for so long, I braced myself. I'm glad I didn't know then that her trip would extend indefinitely, or I would have been tempted to throw myself into the Pit of Despair.

Unfortunately, I'm terrible at long-distance relationships. Present cares and obsessions tend to drive absent friends, however dear, from my thoughts for weeks at a time. But I haven't given up on trying to mend my ways. Having people like Carmen in my life make my efforts at improvement worthwhile.

We sat up late last night, riveted as she gave us every detail of her recent trip to Japan. Then the kids went to bed, and she and I talked knitting, politics, books, and life for a good long while--infinitely satisfying.

Carmen's presence is a gift. But to ice the figurative cake, she brought me gorgeous buttons from La Droguerie and five Green & Black's Butterscotch bars. I've been obsessed with the idea of these candy bars ever since I read Jane Brocket's ode to them, then found out they are not available in the States. Oh, the yearning. I waited all of a few minutes before breaking one open last night.

Jane's rhapsodies were in no way hyperbolic. The Butterscotch bar is a perfect realization of the ideal chocolate bar. I won't wax poetic, since most of you don't have regular access to these, either; it would be just plain mean if I did. But next time you find yourself in Merrie Olde, do yourself a favor and bring back a duffel bag full.

I wonder if you can get them in Canada; it's only a seven-hour drive....

This morning, we made the Breakfast Bars from yesterday's post, substituting raspberries for blueberries--a sublime treat for sublime company.

Patrick just left to take Carmen to the airport. I hate goodbyes. Here's hoping the time will fly until our next reunion. Ciao, Cah!


The Good, the Fun, and the Ugly

Yesterday was a notable mail day. It's so odd how interesting mail comes in bunches, with long dry spells in between. I guess the droughts make me appreciate the good mail days all the more.

First, Molly sent me a package of yarn from Paris. The color perfectly matches the pink yarn I bought in Paris over six years ago, which is no small miracle. Now I can finish Arietta worry-free! Thank you, Molly, and thank you, Carmen! I owe you both big time.

Next came my prize for winning Radioactive Jam's Haiku Contest. It's an original cartoon depicting Bucky, the famous Titanium Spork! I love it. I can't wait to get it framed and hang it in my office. Thanks, RaJ!

And now for the ugly:Oh, Mitt. I am so very sorry. Though we share a faith and several ancestors, there's absolutely no way I'll be supporting you in next year's Presidential Election. You see, I do not agree that it is time to pick up where Ronald Reagan left off.

I'm sure you understand. Many of my readers may be fans of yours, so I'll say no more, except for one helpful hint. You might have your people do better research as to mailing list candidates, so as to save both money and trees.

Yes, Mitt. Trees. Ahh, I sense realization dawning. Your suspicions are true: I'm one of those people.

Updated: Some good email this morning! I just found out that I won The Rising Blogger Award for the day. Fun! Thank you, Judd; I'm in some very good company.


The Haunting

At 3:13 on Wednesday morning, I heard Tess coming downstairs and into our bedroom. "Mom," she whispered, "Daniel needs his covers back on."

My kids sleep through the night 98% of the time, but once in a while I have a mission like this handed to me. I followed Tess back upstairs, covered up Daniel, assured him that yes, he could sleep, and went back downstairs.

As I was climbing back into bed, I froze, because I suddenly realized that the dryer was on.

I went from half-asleep, Mom-task-completed status to fight-or-flight/DEFCON 1/Red Alert in a millisecond.

We have a walk-out garage/basement with a door from the driveway to Patrick's office and French doors to the (dungeon) workout/food storage area. When Patrick is out of town, you can bet that I check those locks compulsively, but when he's home, we are less than vigilant about security. We live in a tiny town with a National Crime Index of 8 (out of 100); we've always felt pretty confident of our safety.

The washer and dryer are in the area of the basement directly under our bed, and there's an air conditioning vent right by my side through which I can hear laundry cycles completing themselves. Before we went to bed Tuesday night, I sat for an hour on my bed writing with no TV or music on, so if the dryer had been on then, I definitely would have noticed it. The last time I'd turned the dryer on had been at 5:00 earlier that evening, and the cycle runs about an hour at most.

So why was the dryer on at 3:17 a.m.? Had Christian been sleepwalking (something he hasn't done for years) and gone down and turned it on? Not likely: a) as good a kid as he is, he never does laundry of his own volition; and b) if he'd gone downstairs, it would have awakened me, the way Tess's footsteps on the carpeted stairs woke me up. The basement door is right outside our bedroom.

I couldn't figure out how to explain it away and let myself go back to sleep. I hated to do it, but I had no choice: I woke up Patrick. "Honey, the dryer is on," I whispered. He sprang into action, recognizing that something was very wrong. "Are all the kids still in their beds?"

Is there a DEFCON Negative 23? If so, I attained it in that moment. I knew Tess and Daniel were safe, but what about the others? Patrick went to check; I sat on the bed and tried to come up with a viable hypothesis for the dryer situation. We'd had a spectacular thunderstorm during the night; had a power surge somehow tripped the dryer's electronic brain? But it would have to be a power surge tiny enough not to affect the clocks, which were perfectly normal.

"The kids are fine," Patrick reported, then took his uber-manly self downstairs to scope out the basement. He had our giant flashlight with him, which I'm sure would make a fine bludgeonly weapon, if needed.

I began rueing my many hours spent in the virtual company of Mr. Stephen King, because all the lessons he has ever taught me came flooding back in vivid detail:

1) The scariest stories are always set in peaceful small towns of uncommon natural beauty.

2) Only foolish, peripheral characters who end up dead (or undead) ignore or try to explain away strange phenomena like household appliances starting up of their own accord.

3) The protagonist usually loses a loved one (or six) in the battle against evil.

4) There is no help available: not the folks at the other end of 9-1-1, not neighbors, not faithful household pets. All these potential allies can end up being worse than the perceived threat.

5) Never, ever split up. The one who ventures out/up/down alone, flashlight in hand, is almost always the character who exits the stage first.

"You okay, Honey?" I tried to keep the quaver out of my voice. I heard Patrick open the dryer. "These clothes are still wet," he called up--the clothes I'd put in to dry at 5 o'clock. He started the dryer again, locked all the downstairs doors, and came upstairs.

He checked the front porch, providing us with a Hitchcockian moment of comic relief when he accidentally rang our very loud doorbell in the process. An electronic rendition of the classic Westminster Chimes melody blared through the house. Tragically, we knew we'd now awakened our neighbors across the street; they have the identical wireless doorbell, and any visitor to either house always sets off both devices.

After laughing with shame over the plight of poor, innocent John and Mary, we lay in the dark for at least another half hour trying to figure out what had happened. Then Patrick went downstairs again, only to find out that the laundry hadn't gotten any drier during our obsession session. "I think the heating element is broken," he said. Great, I thought, Not only is it possessed, it's gonna need a $200 repair to boot. Repairman or excorcist: which should I call first?

Now it was after 4:00. Fear had worn me down; adrenaline abandoned me and let me crash on my own. I was too tired to fight. Patrick fell asleep first, and I eventually drifted off myself.

What else could we do?


Crass Commercialism?

Patrick probably thinks so. Poor thing; it's difficult to imagine why he puts up with me and my crazy ideas. My latest is a little experiment with a CaféPress storefront.

I always love wearing a T-shirt or carrying tote bag with a pithy saying or unique image. I don't always find what I want, so I decided to create my own. I thought some of you might enjoy the same thing. After that, I contemplated how expensive college times five is going to be, and the rest is history.

So visit my store, if you're so inclined! The link is right there on the sidebar. I'll add new things as I come up with ideas I think are worthwhile; check back once in a while to see what I'm up to.