Time Vampire of the Week: Parental Visits

My parents are coming to visit tomorrow.  Very exciting.  Sort of.  I mean, I haven’t seen them since July, and I’ll be very happy to see them.  Plus, lest we forget, I’m a college student and parental visits mean free dinners.  At restaurants.  And possibly a bottle of wine from one of the local wineries.

The downside is that this is the first time my parents are visiting me and staying in my home.  Okay, they did help me move and they stayed with me then.  But then I was in the process of moving and they knew that I hadn’t had time to set up house. Right now, I have no excuse.  Other than working part time, running an academic publisher and being a PhD student.  Trust me when I tell you none of that counts for anything with my mother.  And my place is a wreck.  It’s something less of a wreck now than it was earlier today, but it’s a wreck nonetheless.  Worst of all, there’s a box I never got unpacked when I moved.  If you don’t understand why this is a disaster, you don’t have a military wife for a mother.  To make matters worse, I’ve had essays and exams to grade and a presentation in all of my classes this week.  So I didn’t get to start on any of the cleaning until this afternoon.

Somehow I need to get my bathroom cleaned tomorrow by 6:00pm, scour my kitchen and barricade my bedroom so they don’t see all the crap I stashed in there.  Yeah… it’s not going to get done.

Also, I have to have ice cream made.  I realize some of you probably don’t think that’s important, but it is.  Not for them, for me.  I’ll never clean well enough or organize well enough or have decorating tastes which suit my mother.  But I can make damn good ice cream and I want them to know it.

So yeah… a lot of my time is getting sucked away.  And they aren’t even here yet.

*Sigh*  I love them, but they’re a heck of a time vampire.

Musikalischer Mittwoch

After a lot of procrastination, your friendly webgals at My TV, My Peanut Butter have finally decided to follow through with a column we’ve discussed since very early on, but never actually managed to move forward.  We wax stupid on TV, Kristy has the movies well in hand, and goodness knows we’ve got random famous people covered, but what about music?  Here we go.  And since Cammy’s going first (and because Monday was taken up with our coffee dates), we’re going with Mittwoch.  She might have considered Miércoles, but A) Spanish is Kristy’s forte and B) that requires an accent mark and Cammy is lazy (she’s also drinking Frankfurt-style Applewein and communing with her inner Teutonic-ness).

Musikalisher Mittwoch:  “Changes in Latitude” – Jimmy Buffet

Okay, so Cammy has had a crappy past two weeks, culminating in a crappy-beyond-crappy day today (with no sign of good weather on the horizon for tomorrow).  I am firm believer that the the right song can cure what ails you (all the more so if aided by a good beer).

It took me half the night to choose the right one from the library.  I should have known to start with the man whose music is usually like a big, happy pile o’ zen for me:  Jimmy Buffett.

With summer just abandoning us and the Gulf Coast having featured (sadly) so heavily in the news lately, Gulf Coast Native and paragon of the southern-beach lovin’ set, Jimmy Buffett has actually been fairly prominent in the public conscience lately.  For me, he’s a staple (I’ve considered just giving in and declaring myself a parrot-head, but I need too much sunblock to really qualify), and this evening, that staple came through with “Changes in Latitude”

“All of our running and all of our cunning / If we couldn’t laugh, we just would go insane….”

As I clicked through my library, numerous song-hooks seemed to apply to my current state of mind only to dissolve into the never-ending cliche of love lost or gone wrong.  While I’m sure my lack of a love life probably doesn’t result in a positive spin to my current work-life inspired depression, it’s not the bigger issue.  After a day of pure stress and being totally unable to let go of an issue that I ought to dismiss, nothing whacked it into me that I was truly going insane quite like “Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude”.  And laughter had been conspicuously absent throughout this ordeal….

I can’t necessarily have the change in latitude, but I could sure use the change in attitude and this piece certainly helped.  You start with the easy rhythm you find in so many Buffett tunes.  It inspires movement, but smooth movement. One doesn’t rock-out to something like “Changes in Attitude, Changes in Attitude” –one sways. It’s familiar even when it’s new, and has that blend of south/west/island that conjures the Gulf of Mexico in a way that’s inexplicable.   Since I literally can’t remember a time before I knew Jimmy Buffett’s voice and distinctive musical style, there’s a  nostalgic comfort to this sound beyond the inherently calming, moderately-paced and utterly two-step-able rhythm.  Personally?  I could stop there.  I determined years ago that the sound of a song is often where I draw most of my comfort–words are secondary.

But, this song delivers on the lyrics.  Just as the laid-back rhythm inspires a state of zen, so does the message of letting go, looking forward and moving beyond the crap.

“If it suddenly ended tomorrow /I would somehow adjust to the fall / Good times and riches and sonofabiches /  I’ve seen more than I can recall…”

Ain’t that the truth?

However, the best fit is in the fact that while the song explains that if we couldn’t laugh, we’d go insane–it’s not a song that really inspires laughter.  Nothing in this really sounds, well, jolly.   It’s a perfect fit for the moment when you know, logically, you have to let it go.  You’re still working toward that moment when you  can laugh about that enormous fuck up you made at work, and how little it means in the grand scheme of life the  universe and everything….but you’re not actually laughing yet.  The song keeps that even-keel the entire time.  And the repetition “If I couldn’t laugh, I just would go insane / If we couldn’t laugh we just would go insane / If we weren’t all crazy, we would go insane….”  is like a mantra repeated to drive that message home and convince you that you really can ditch the b.s. and have a laugh.  This is not the song you play when you know it’s all crap, it’s the song that type A’s like me play as we get to that place where we can really accept that it’s crap.

“Yesterday’s over my shoulder / So I can’t look backward too long / There’s just too much to see / Waiting in front of me…”

And on that note, I leave you all to your beverages of choice and if your day has been shit and you’re not physically able to change your latitude, commune for 3 minutes and 16 seconds with Jimmy Buffett and at least work on changing the attitude.

Notes on Notes on a Scandal

Notes on a Scandal (2006)

Written by: Patrick Marber (screenplay); Zoe Heller (novel)

Directed by: Richard Eyre

Synopsis: Older, battle-axe teacher, Barbara (Judi Dench), befriends new teacher Sheba (Cate Blanchett), but things take a dark turn when she discovers Sheba is having sex with one of her fifteen year old students.  And then they just get darker…

Things I liked: Narration tells us about the character, also tells us about the setting, and something broader about the world of education today.  As a failed high school teacher I can really sympathize with Sheba’s despair over her failures at classroom management.  There’s actually so much that resonates as a teacher; the drudgery of room after room of students who don’t give a damn and then the one who is really excited that you don’t feel you can do enough to help.  However, I didn’t deal with that the same way Sheba did.  The idea that secrets can be seductive is clearly reiterated with Barbara—nice plot device.  I found Barbara very likeable at the beginning, which makes it all the more shocking when the truth comes out.  Nice.  I’d be interested to see how I’d react to the movie if I were British; Sheba’s family are somewhat typical in their behavior (minus the sex with teenagers) but you can tell that Barbara’s shocked by it.  I’m not sure if we’re to see Barbara as overly stuffy or if it’s cultural.  The class issues are much the same.  The sequence of Barbara in the bath is strange, but affective.  I would have expected it to make her look vulnerable, but it instead emphasizes how bitter and shriveled she is.  The shape of the staircase in Sheba’s house gives you a sense of vertigo in the scene where Steven’s mother arrives and starts beating her.  Barbara vomiting after she’s been told she will have to leave the school parallels her cat in a strange way, but it worked.

Things I liked less: This is one of those situations in which previews ruin an aspect of the movie, because I should be shocked at the moment where Barbara finds Sheba with a student, but, of course, I’ve seen the previews so I knew it was coming.  It’s really hard to sympathize with Sheba over the affair.  You get why she wants to help Steven, but… The speed at which it happens is also a bit shocking—they go from her telling him to go away to getting it on in one hand written note.  I felt like the score was almost overly dramatic at a lot of points.  The pain of losing a cat resonated for me personally and I was honestly appalled by the insensitivity of Richard’s reaction to Barbara’s loss.  I feel like they should have shown us something leading up to this to indicate Sheba’s family had noticed something amiss in their relationship.  Steven’s arrival at Barbara’s house is strange and startling—I felt like there should have been more to that scene.  Frankly, I was confused by the last several scenes, and not in a good way.  The ending is a bit like a horror film—you can see it all starting again.  It’s effective, but a bit cliché.

Rating: It was well done, but I don’t think I’d ever want to watch it again.  Three out of five jars of peanut butter.

Coffee With Albert Einstein….

In honor of the 105th Anniversary of Annalen der Physik’s  publication of Albert Einstein’s  paper “Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?”–aka the paper that gave us the equation e=mc²….

Would we have coffee with Albert Einstein?

Cammy:  First I have to overcome the hurdle of the pure cliche of including Albert Einstein in the Coffee With segment.  Yes, he was bloody brilliant, but would so many people really equate him with intelligence if he weren’t such a visually memorable figure to begin with?  Because, seriously, how many people do you know that have referenced Einstein as metaphor for genius who actually know what he did to be identified as a mental giant?

That aside, sure.  For one thing, I want to pick his physics-brain to see what kind of a teacher he was.  Yes, he published out the whazoo, but if you had him for a lecture would you gain anything from it other than the entertainment of watching that funky hair-do and listening to his accent?  I always give a few more props to those who can bring it down to my level (to some degree).  On a less physics-focused, but no less nerdy note, I want to know what he has to say about his years as a patent examiner.  Honestly, he HAD to have seen some funky, hair-brained patents and if he didn’t have a few amusing anecdotes out of that one, there really is no hope for the man, genius or not.  And finally, I want to be nosy-beyond-belief and ask him about Liserel.  Is it any of my beeswax?  No.  Might it be a painful topic.  One would assume.  Do I still want to ask?  Yes.

Kristy:  Hmm… Okay, here’s what they didn’t tell me about Einstein in school.  The man was kind of a sick bastard.  The kind who cheated on his wife repeatedly and told her she just had to deal with it.  This aspect of his personality kind of makes me want to not drink coffee with him.  Or to throw coffee at him.  On the other hand, I could be having coffee with Albert Einstein!  Which would be reasonably awesome.  And let’s be honest, he’ll be far too busy staring at Cammy’s boobs to even notice me.  I would also like to know the truth about Lieserl, even though it’s no more my business than Cammy’s.  And I suppose I could be the real litmus test for his teaching ability.  Explaining physics to Cammy really isn’t that much of an accomplishment.  Explaining physics to me well enough that I get it?  That’s a fucking accomplishment.  So I’m going to settle on a cautious yes.

Cammy:  I know he was a philanderer, but I assure you that if he looks at my boobs, I’ll take advantage of some very Newtonian physics principles to launch hot coffee directly into his eyes.  Unless he looks at my boobs while successfully teaching Kristy physics.  That might be impressive.

Lawns are Over-rated

While it’s finally started cool down here, I’m still struggling with the lawn.

I’ve never thought lawns were all that great.  I like flowerbeds and vegetable gardens.  Grass in large quantities is useless to me.  In Texas, it was all mostly St. Augustine or Bermuda in the yards.  St. Augustine is all-right–cool and fairly comfy to lay on, but it tends to get baked to a crisp in the heat.  Bermuda was always too itchy to be comfortable to me.  And at any rate the prevalence of fire-ants made rolling on the lawn ill-advised.

And even here outside Texas where grass is actually really soft and fire ants have yet to invade, it still brings trouble.  Mowing lawns?  Sucks.  It’s work.  Boring, long work that is detrimental both to one’s hearing and to the environment through the ick of small engine exhaust, herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers.  Not to mention the tremendous waste of water to keep the shit green through the heat of a dry summer.

I spent 3 hours today rating thatch (un-decomposed dead grass clippings that form a layer on and around growing grass), hoping to revive some of the dead patches in the yard from the dry summer.  I didn’t water much over the summer because it just seems so wasteful.  The result is the less-than-attractive beige swaths through the yard.  so I as I raked at the dead stuff and developed two blisters (which I didn’t notice until they burst–OUCH), I kicked myself for not spending more time and money earlier to keep this stuff alive and green.  I slammed the rake in a little too deep and  drug up a chunk of the clay filled dirt below.

And in that moment, I realized those brown patches weren’t my fault after all.

In that one chunk I spotted no less than 5 grub worms.  Fat, wriggling white little bastards.  Disgusting and slow from having gorged themselves on the roots of the grass.  I felt murderous and decided to use the tip of the rake to end their mega feast.  I would describe the way they burst, but I think that’s graphic enough.  Several stabs of the rake in other areas of the lawn revealed a similar problem.  I can’t possibly dig up and burst every grub-worm in the whole yard.  A pesticide is the only answer and I prefer to avoid those.

So now, as I contemplate which pesticide to use and the manner of application, I’m once again reminded that lawns are just stupidly over-rated.

BSG goes DC

Okay, this list requires a slight bit of explanation.  Back when Mary and I were creating these lists we both lived in the greater Washington DC Metro area.  One night over a couple of Daddy’s Little Girls (coffee infused Patron, run through a shaker with ice) we started pondering what the characters would be doing if they were in our area.  Kind of like a reverse Mary Sue.  This is what we came up with:

What would the inhabitants of the Battlestar Galactica do/where would they live if they lived int he DC Metro area?

Adama: Retired military working for a defense contractor, Lives in South Arlington on the Columbia Pike Corridor (Thai and Salvadoran food to satisfy his spicy food cravings)

Roslin: A Prof at NOVA where she teaches English and Speech, lives in Del Ray, Frequents Eastern Market

Billy: Lives at Balston but hangs out in bars at Clarendon and Courthouse.  He’s that guy in the suit you know he couldn’t really afford handing out his business card (a present from his mom) in bars

Gaius: Lives in a townhouse in DuPont; is a Prof at Georgetown, donates generously to a charter school

Six: lives in a modern condo in Pen Quarter; seems to be independently wealthy of live on family money, no one is quite sure what she does, but she’s very smart

Doc Cottle: Lives in Prince George’s County, MD in a formerly nice apartment building; works in public health, a county clinic or something, probably makes house calls; he’s a crochety old man, but he finds ways to help people, but all of his ways may not be legal

Dee: Lives in a small place in Columbia Heights (a less trendy place on the fringes), works for a  non-profit, not super social, but she goes out with her coworkers from time to time

Apollo: He’s the guy Billy wants to be.  They frequent the same bars, but Lee’s much better at the whole networking, smooth talking things.  JAG.  He’s a graduate of the Air Force Academy who lives on Capital Hill, but hangs out in Courthouse and Clarendon.  Involved in a few social causes he feels strongly about, very green, has a ZipCar membership, but kinda wants a SmartCar (though he knows Kara will mock it).  Sees a therapist weekly to discuss his daddy issues.

Starbuck: Lives in Southeast but isn’t worried because she carries a weapon and is confident she can take anyone who bothers her.  Papa Adama and Lee are always trying to get her to move.  Works as a security consultant.

Tyrol: Works at a contractor out at Reston and lives in Reston as well  Loves the whole suburban lifestyle.  Lives in a cookie cutter McMansion and feeds the houseplants on a very regulated schedule

Cally: Lives in a house with a bunch of other girls near Ballston; she has a basement room.  Works as an auditor and spends her days shuffling between sites.

Helo: Secret Service.  Lives in Virginia Square but is looking to buy a house (needs a yard for the dog)

Sharon: Lives in BFE Fairfax (probably near Bunnyman Bridge).  Likes to be alone.  Military, only there short term.

Gaeta: Lives in Tacoma Park (over the sketch sushi place) and works for some kind of Government contractor doing computer stuff.  He can’t really talk about it.

Tigh: Works with Papadama who helped him get the contractor job.  Lives in a run down house in Annandale.  Doesn’t like yard work except this one tree he really digs.  Has something of a rivalry with his neighbors the Gonzaleses

Ellen: Lives with Tigh, but is unhappy with the house.  She’s that lady in the SUV getting a $300 hair cut out at Tyson’s somewhere who wears nothing but designer clothes her husband can’t afford.

Tori: Just moved into the district from Silver Spring.  Possibly lives in the Chinatown area in a small apartment.  Works for the senator of a small state.

Anders: Lives in Pentagon Row and plays for DC United.

Leoben: Lives in a condo in Capital Hill.  Works as a therapist and stalks Starbuck on his spare time.

Zarek: On the DC Board and wants to run for mayor.  Thought about being the Rep to Congress, but he’s scared of Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Simulating a Time Vampire

Hello, my name is Cammy, and I have a Sims problem.

Yeah, this is sad enough that it was close to being billed as a Secret Heresie, but then I decided to let my shame go and just dwell on the hours I’ve lost to Maxis games.

It started with Sim City 2000.  My brother bought it.  I had played the original Sim City and it was okay, but I rocked Sim City 2000.  I had a massive Metropolis named Ivanoville (in honor of Ivanova from B5.  Because I’m so shamelessly nerdy).  I played iterations there after (although not to the level of success of Ivanoville, I’m sad to say).

And then came the Sims.

Sure, Sim City was fun, but who wants to be a city planner?  A minor god in the lives of mini people however?  Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.  From laying every detail of their computer generated homes, to literally controlling when they went to the bathroom, this was simply brilliant.  And the control has gotten better as time has gone on.  I’m now up to Sims 3 and my demi-god-micro-managerial tendencies show no signs of ceasing.

The upside of any Sim game has been that I go through cycles.  I’m unfortunately hitting an upswing right now.  This means that I will find hour upon hour of a weekend simply vanished into a lot of nothing as I try to get sleep deprived simulated parents through the infancies of a set of twins, and try to get two completely dissimilar Sims to fall in love.  Minutes tick away as I click.

It’s probably a sad commentary on some kind of control issues in my own life, or something to that effect.  I prefer to be more positive and call it some kind of innate need to formulate stories of lives and orchestrate them in an entertaining format.  Alternative story-telling if you will.

The upside is that I do get tired of it and walk away, but only after somewhere between 20-30 hours of my life have whizzed by as I huddle before the computer.

And on that not, excuse me.  There’s a computer generated baby that just messed her diaper, a father who is “fishing indefinitely” and a set of three boys who all seemed to think that ice-cream for dinner was a good idea…..

Kristy Whispers a Review Seductively from Behind her Fan

Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

Director: Stephen Frears

Writers: Christopher Hampton (play and screenplay), Choderlos de Laclos (novel)

Synopsis: Bored courtiers Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) and Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) toy with the lives and loves around them and deal with the consequences.

Things I liked: The play is kind of another guilty pleasure.  Of course it is—it’s a sordid soap opera.  I don’t love the play, but I enjoy it and was looking forward to seeing it for the first time.  Double entendres are fun “gardening/green fingers”!  The aria the countertenor sings is from Handel’s Xerxes.  Not sure that’s relevant, I’m just showing off my very limited knowledge of opera.  Keaunu Reeves isn’t going to win any acting awards, but he more or less works here since Dancey is a bit of a ditz anyway.

Thinks I didn’t like so much: Sadly my DVD was not widescreen—not the film makers’ fault, but this is one of those eye candy films that probably really needed the wide screen.  The opening sequence shows exactly how much they must go through to get ready in the morning.  That part was interesting and did a good job of orienting the viewer into the time period.  The problem with it is it almost makes Merteuil and Valmont seem like victims of their lifestyle, and I’m not sure it’s the best set up.  I really didn’t find John Malkovich’s Valmont that attractive, which is a major problem for the plot of the film.  There was a very weird sexual vibe between Merteuil and Cecile (Uma Thurman); I’m all about lesbian subtext, but I’m not sure it worked here.  The extreme close ups in the scene where Merteuil explains how she invented herself are strange.  They interfere with the construction of a connection between Valmont and Merteuil.  There are actually several scenes with only two characters where the camera work consists of quick close ups of their faces.  In doing this you lose the sense of connection between the characters.  Several shots of Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer) use a soft focus, as if they rubbed Vaseline on the camera lens—it’s just a little over the top.  The first scene with Cecile and Valmont is downright disturbing.  In the play it reads as a scene of seduction—yes, it’s not between equals, yes, he’s taking advantage of her, but the desire goes both ways.  But in the film it reads a lot closer to rape.  There’s a very confusing sequence of Valmont hissing at Volanges (Swoosie Kurtz).  I get they don’t get along, but this was… strange.  Over all I was bothered by the violence towards women in this film.  The whole bit at the end with Tourvel being ill and Dancey and Valmont dueling feels a bit rushed.  The image of Valmont dying in the snow, the overhead shot, all red and black and white is stunning, but doesn’t necessarily fit with the rest of the film.  Merteuil’s ending is a bit hard to follow.  I think I’m supposed to feel something for her as she takes of her make up after being booed out of the opera house (incidentally a sequence that felt rather forced and unrealistic), but I don’t.  I get how it mirrors the beginning of the film; I just don’t really know that it works.

Rating: Two and a half jars of peanut butter

Wave to the Neighbors

If the weather is clear in your location, take a walk outside in the evening and take a gander up at Jupiter.  It’s incredibly bright right now–the brightest its been in decades and the brightest it will be until 2022.  We’re as close to our incredibly large neighbor as we’ve been since 1960-something.  If you’re going to waive to the little grey men on our gas-giant neighbor down the intergalactic street, now’s your chance (technically the closest was Monday, but it will be bright all this week)

I’m usually pretty bad about getting out and actually seeing things like this.  I have the best of intentions, but weather and my desire for sleep tends to interfere with my viewing of cosmic light shows.  But this one was relatively easy to walk out and catch on the horizon.  I’d like to see it when it’s directly overhead, but that will be midnight.

And yes, I waved.  But I was waving the moons.  Jupiter may be all big and bad, but it’s moons?  Way more fun.   And if there are little grey man?  They’re on Europa.  I swear.

Another Divine Coffee Date

Would I drink coffee with crazy French actress Sarah Bernhardt?

This coffee with suggested by loyal reader Bridget

Kristy: Yeah.  Though I have a feeling I would be quiet and intimidated the whole time.  You just get the sense that she was one of those people with an enormously powerful presence.  She was “the divine Sarah” after all.  I can imagine her being a little scary.  But, also really cool.  My experience is that actresses tend to be really good storytellers, and this is a woman you know had a couple of great stories to tell.  More than a couple, actually.  This is a woman who may have had affairs with nobles from multiple countries.  Add to that her close associations with authors and painters I’ve studied.  I can imagine myself hanging on every word.

There’s something else to my willingness to have coffee with her.  Performers from her day (and earlier, of course) are such a mystery.  It seems to be universally agreed upon that she was a brilliant actress with a golden (or silvery voice) but all we can watch today are the clips from primitive silent films.  Between the limitations of cameras in those days and degredation over the years it’s hard to get a sense.  I’d like to have coffee with her so I have a visual and auditory image to go with the stories you hear about her brilliance.

Cammy: Sure.  I’m game to hear what a silent film actress sounded like–honestly, how often to do you get a shot at that (although, for a lot of these, the opportunity to hear any dead person is kind of novel).  I’d also like to get a little inside information on how a film set ran back in the day and what real expectations she had as far as what that motion picture meant (and what she thinks of how we’ve allowed old films to be treated–or mistreated).  Her personal life sounds like a bloody soap opera, so if Kristy can get her telling stories, I’m sure those will be absolute gold.