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The Happy New Year I’m Not (Yet) Wishing You

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Department Of A Year (Almost) Of Seeing Movies

As I’ve probably/previously declared   [1] in this space, I love seeing movies in a movie theater. Dramas are more dramatic, romances more heart-tugging, thrillers more suspenseful and comedies funnier in a large venue, surrounded by gasping and/or weeping and laughing strangers.  Even the turkeys –  is there any category of movie worse than an un-funny comedy? – are made worthwhile during the brief bonding moments when strangers turn to one another, make eye contact in a dark theater, point at the screen and exchange incredulous, Really? Someone thought that would work? looks.

 

This is the time of year for thoughtful or professional critics and amateur ass-snipers alike to trot out their, “best of 2018” lists.  When it comes to judging movies I’m somewhere in the middle of those two categories.  Nevertheless, here is my blog before me, with space to fill; thus, here is my list. Only it isn’t a best of, it’s an all of.

I have moiself’s own criteria for what made it on the list: virtually every (theatrical release) movie I saw. The following movies (listed in random order – not quite alphabetical and not quite by date seen) were all theatrical releases; some of them were late 2017 releases that didn’t make it to our neck of the theater woods until early 2018.  The asterisk * denotes movies I’d intended to see in the theater but which were briefly released in our area, i.e., they played in a Portland theatre for a week (or even less) before disappearing and then reappearing on video and/or streaming.  [2]  Titles in bold are recommended, whether for artistic merit or sheer and mere entertainment value. Titles italicized are…well…not exactly recommended, but not also the worst use of two hours, as I essentially saw them for free (via the once cool but lately lame and much-maligned MoviePass   [3] ).

 

 

 

“That’s your problem; you don’t want to be in love – you want to be in love in a movie.”

 

 

-Pitch Perfect 3
-Ladybird
-I, Tonya
-The Disaster Artist
-Phantom Thread
-The Post
-The Greatest Showman
-Call Me By Your Name
-The Florida Project
-Roman J. Israel
-Mudbound
-Annihilation
-Game Night
Love, Simon
-Jumanji
-7 days in Entebbe
-Chappaquiddick

 

 

 

 

 

-The Leisure Seeker
-A Wrinkle in Time
-Molly’s Game *
-I Feel Pretty
-All The Money in the World *
-Black Panther
-Book Club
-Avengers: Infinity War
-Solo
-A Quiet Place
-Life of the Party
-Tully
-First Reformed
-Deadpool 2
-The Rider   [4]
-Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

 

 

 

-Thoroughbreds *
-The Artemis Hotel
-The Seagull
-Hereditary
-Oceans 8
-Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
-Sorry to Bother You
-Three Identical Strangers
-The Spy Who Dumped Me
-Eighth Grade
-The Meg
-The Miseducation of Cameron Post
-Searching
-BlackKlansman
-Crazy Rich Asians

I haven't seen a walk like that since Jurassic Park.

 

 

-Peppermint
– A Simple Favor
– A Star is Born
-Bad Times at the El Royale
-Bohemian Rhapsody
-Can You Ever Forgive Me?
-The Front Runner
-The Wife
-The Favourite
-Free Solo
That Spiderman spiderverse thing   [5]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of There’s Just No Pleasing Some People

Dateline: December 23. MH and I are having the roasted veggie hash at our favorite breakfast place in Manzanita. The background music playing at the café is always eclectic, although on this day they are playing what appears to be a somewhat standard, Christmas-themed mix. I hear a version of “O Christmas Tree“– O Tannenbaum, sung in German, by Nat King Cole (a version hitherto unknown to moiself, but holy fucking phonetically pronounced lyric sheet, I must have heard it 50 times this Yule season!)

Then Oh Holy Night begins wafting over the café’s discretely hidden speakers. I sing along, adding my own lyrical substitutions to the first chorus, not loudly enough to annoy the other patrons   [6]  but so that MH can hear:

(original version)
Fall on your knees!
O hear the angel voices!
O night divine…

 

(my variation)
Fall on your knees!
O skin your knees for Jesus!
‘Cause Christ loves your scabs…

 

MH eyes me across the table.

“Do you like my version?” I ask him.

“I don’t like either version,” he replies.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Partridge [7]  Of The Week

As per an earlier warning post, we will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in our front yard’s festively lit pear tree. Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you (mostly) not regret paying for a movie ticket;
May you realize that life is short and you’ll get over the 45 minutes you wasted seeing that !#(? Spiderman movie;
May you always sing the alternative lyrics;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] I’m turning into my father, in the repeating-my-stories personality aspect.

[2] So if you want to get technical, like one of those ass-snipers, perhaps those movies don’t “count.”

[3] Which, supposedly, is revamping for 2019, so I’ll wait another month and give it a chance before cancelling my subscription.

[4] I want a movie like the based-on-a-true-story The Rider to get its own category. I’d recommend the movie because I think it was well done and shows a compelling if head-banging-against-the-wall-in-frustration-for-me-to-watch story. Translation: it is very difficult for me to just sit there and watch, for “entertainment” purposes, people do stupid things/make short-sighted or self-defeating life choices.

[5]  Another movie meriting its own category – and one of the few I saw with MH this year – because although I want to not recommend it I didn’t see the entire movie. I left midway, telling MH that he was of course was welcome to stay, but I just didn’t care what happened to the “characters,” and also/mostly, I was aesthetically offended by what was on screen:  I was tired of BEING SHOUTED AT WITH LOUD CONSTANTLY FLASHING AND CHANGING IMAGES AND QUICK CUTS as if I had the attention span of a five year old cocaine addict.

[6] Uh, yeah, that’s disputable.

[7] In our pear tree.

The Classic I’m Not (totally) Commending

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One of the few advantages of having your birthday in proximity to Christmas [1] is getting multiple gift checks – which is what we aging children get from our parents – in the same proximity. I used last year’s gift $$ to purchase a new kayak earlier this year. An Oru “origami” kayak. Origami – no lie. It folds up, with all of its parts, into its own carrying bag. So simple, or so the promo shot would have you believe, a headless woman wearing vastly impractical water sport footwear can do it blindfolded. [2]

 

folding

 

It’s been fun [3] learning to unfold and fold it, practicing in the living room. I hadn’t found the time to take it out on the water, until Monday, a day my son K had off from his summer job, and (finally) a day which promised not to be the kind of swelter-crap summer days we’ve been having that make you not want to leave the house for any reason. K & I schlepped Flicka and the Oru kayak into the van and drove to Brown’s Ferry Park, which has a public access boat launch for the Tualatin River.

Flicka [4] is the name of my other/first kayak, a Perception recreational model (the Swifty line, which I don’t think they make anymore). Flicka has served me well for many years. Now she has a stablemate, of sorts.

 

Flicka, in her garage loft bed.

Flicka, in her garage loft bed.

 

I’ve yet to name the Oru kayak. Something will come to me.

Here is what it an Oru kayak looks like, unfolded and put together:

 

oru

 

Here’s what mine looks like, drying out upside down in the garage, after its first river outing:

 

k3

 

I’d been wondering about the viability of accessible local kayaking venues. What with the drought, I was fairly confident that Smith & Bybee Lakes, never deep waters in even the most wet of winters, would effectively be Smith & Bybee Mud Marshes. And Haag Lake…well, no matter what its water level, it attracts too much of the jet ski/Coors Lite crowd for my taste. [5] Most of all, I find it boring, paddling-wise.

The Tualatin River has several access points within decent driving distance, but, due to the lack of rainfall and those pesky high temps I wasn’t sure how enjoyably navigable it might be. Would it be deep enough to have portions that could be said to run, smoothly or otherwise? Fortunately, you can check the river’s flow level and current conditions online. Which I did. And so we went.

It turned out to be quite a pleasant outing. We impressed an older kayaking gent walking his dog near the boat launch with our wacky folding kayak. We surprised several great blue herons, one of which was quite protective of its riverbank hunting grounds, and K was “buzzed” by a red tail hawk crossing the river. I got one picture of K approaching a spot on the riverbank where geese and ducks were hanging out on some rocks, a spot where there was also, K called out to me, a “big ass frog.”  I got one lousy picture, before my phone’s camera fritzed out on me.

There's a big ass frog ahead on a rock the riverbank, trust me.

There’s a big ass frog ahead on a rock the riverbank, trust me.

*   *   *

The Salad I Keep Making

Despite what you may have heard on NPR about the downgrading of the American seafood supply, here in Oregon we’ve great access to locally caught seafood in our local farmer’s markets. Which is why I keep making this crab salad, which is IMHO the perfect use for our West Coast summer bounty (lettuce, fresh white corn, tomatoes, avocadoes, red onion, crab, cilantro-lime-crumbled ancho chili-dressing). This week, I augmented the last of the Dungeness crab we had in the freezer (wrangled by MH earlier this summer during a trip to Manzanita) with Oregon coast halibut.

crabsalad

.

*   *   *

Department of Crab Segues

A bit o’ crabbiness for you now, relating to the blog’s title, in the form of Cinematic Criticism of an Acclaimed Classic ® . Which was prompted by my recent bookstore purchases: The Princess Bride, and As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

The latter book is actor Cary Elwes’ memoir of …well, of just what the title says. I enjoyed As You Wish…., despite the prevalence of a certain, how you say, narrative tone noted by both moiself and my friend SCM, a tone which I charitably chose to think of as the author’s younger, star-struck, fanboy-like awe and respect for the movie’s cast and director. [6]

Like many of the book’s and movie’s aficionadas, I can quote TPB’s memorable lines at appropriate situations (never mind about the inappropriate ones).  I loved the book, and I love the movie, fervently…but also wistfully. I wish I could say I love the movie unreservedly. [7] But I can’t, because I don’t.

I love the fact that the book’s author, William Goldman, claims he wrote the book for his daughters. I hate the fact that the movie of the book is populated by so few daughters.

 

TPB cast

 

I love that the book is filled with fanciful and witty dialogue and action scenes, and I hate that the movie’s fanciful and witty dialogue and action scenes are, with few exceptions, the exclusive province of its male characters. The movie’s main female character – the title role, Princess Buttercup – is essentially, to quote Cary Elwes (who plays Westley, Buttercup’s true love, aka the Dread Pirate Roberts), “the straight man.”

“Buttercup falls in love, loses her love, gets kidnapped, is forced into an arrange marriage, reconnects with her one true love, and then lets him go in order to save his life. It really requires a great deal of emotional range. What it doesn’t require – or at least doesn’t display – is the comedic talent for which The Princess Bride is so well know. Goldman wrote a screenplay that we now know is filled with great, classic funny lines. Unfortunately, few, if any, of those lines are given to Buttercup.”
(Cary Elwes, As You Wish)

The male characters run the gamut from a cowardly manipulative royal, a gentle giant with a pea-sized brain and a heart to match his height, a blustering, ego-maniacal assassin, a vengeance-seeking alcoholic (yet expert) swordsman; a dashing and confidently self-effacing pirate…. The female characters are a beautiful princess, a few crowd scene peasants, and a crone.

 

Ok, so she does get one great line, but she has to share it with Billy Crystal.

Ok, so she does get one great line, but she has to share it with Billy Crystal.

 

‘Tis likely my critique would provoke the movie’s champions to muster the tried but true, TBIABTTM [8] defense. And, as is often the case, I suspect any criticism with the translation of a story from novel to movie would be cast upon the screenwriter. The trouble with that is, the book’s author [9] also wrote the movie’s screenplay. Who better to know the essentials of the story, right? His distillation of book-to-movie is indicative of his mindset, that the vital-to-the-story characters he wrote were in a 11-2 male-to-female ratio.

This male-female protagonist discrepancy is,[10] sadly, par for the course in Hollywood. I won’t be getting’ all Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media on you right now – I’m just feeling a bit wistful, wishing that one of my favorite movies was even favorite-er.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3sLhnDJJn0

*   *   *

Department of More Stupid Things That Bother Me

Have you seen Hollywood Game Night, a summer replacement nighttime game show on network TV? You should. It airs Tuesday eves on NBC, and is hosted by the Witty Tall Person I’d Most Like to Play Charades With © , actor/comedian Jane Lynch.

 

HGN

 

I find the show quite entertaining. It appeals to my affinity for silly parlor games…even though I would probably and massively suck at this particular show’s games, what with the emphasis on knowledge of contemporary celebrity names and trivia.

So. Last week we were watching HGN, and one of the contestants, Ms. Ditsy TV Starlet Who Shall Not Be Named, [11] blew what should have been, IMHO, an easy question that had to do with the mere existence of the Mars Rover.  After the answer was revealed, instead of a red-faced, I-can’t-believe-I-missed that! reaction, Ms. Ditsy unabashedly announced that she’d had no idea there was a thing called “a rover on Mars.”

And I just lost my shit.

 

tvyellpng

 

I was watching a TV game show, populated by (I assume) celebrities chosen not for their SAT scores, IQ tests or knowledge of current events but most likely due to their availability to promo some project they’ve got going on the host network. And yeah, I was already a bit piqued at the sight of a Pretty Young Thing (Ms. Ditsy) who, at her tender age, was already/obviously botoxed…and it’s not like she’s ever going to be in any sort of political and/or scientific policy making position…but she’s a citizen, dadgummit, and she had no idea the Mars Rover project even exists, and worst of all, she displayed no shame at her lack of awareness.  THIS IS YOUR FUCKING COUNTRY WHICH IS  SPENDING BILLIONS OF DOLLARS ON THIS PROJECT, AND EVEN IF IT HAD COST NO MORE THAN YOUR LATEST MANICURE THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT SCIENTIFIC VENTURES OF THE CENTURY.

Don’t you hate it when the caps lock gets stuck?

Yep, I’m pissin’ in the wind, here. But it got me to ruminating on one of my pet peeves: the downside of democracy. Specifically, the fact that, in This Wonderful Country of Ours, ® our votes are not weighted on criteria having to do with civic engagement or grasp of reality.

Thus, PYT Ms. Ditzy Starlet can be totally ignorant of the New Horizons flyby of Pluto; she and others like her can believe that global warming is caused by polar bear farts and/or that the U.S. Civil War was the result of “Northern aggression” against the gallant Southern states and had little or no connection to slavery, and/or that gay marriage makes the baby Jesus cry…and her vote counts the same as mine. Grrrrrr. [12]

 

So like, Horizons airlines flew that Disney Dog? Ya sure, I knew that.

So like, Horizons airlines flew that Disney Dog? Ya sure, I knew that.

plutoplanepng

*   *   *

May your rivers run deep,
may you find movies to love without reservation and game shows to watch without consternation,
may your vote always count,
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] If I haven’t already, I’ll get around to complaining about the disadvantages in a future post.

[2] Without a head, you don’t really need a blindfold, do you?

[3] If you enjoy judicious use of profanity, as regular readers know I do.

[4] Because, she’s my friend.

[5] Yep, I’m a snob.

[6] And which SCM described as, “Can he (Elwes, the book’s author) get his head any further up Rob Reiner’s ass?”

[7] You know where this is going, don’t you?

[8] The Book is Always Better Than The Movie.

[9] Goldman is also an award-winning screenwriter, whose credits include Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men.

[10] Protagonists? Hell, the effect even extends to crowd scenes. If you were an alien anthropologist learning about Earth culture from the movies, you’d have no idea that the world’s human population gender balance is essentially equal.

[11] And whose name I cannot recall now, nor was I familiar with her when she was introduced. See what I mean about pop culture trivia?

[12] Shall we make it an even dozen?

The Pedi I’m Not Curing

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Eat, Hike, Kayak.

manzanita

Make that eat, hike, eat, kayak, eat, hike, eat, go crabbing, kayak, eat, walk along the beach. And did I mention, eat?

This week marked the end of Part I of MH’s and my sabbatical.  We spent four plus weeks at Manzanita, Oregon.  Disneyland, schmisneyland – Manzanita is, for me, (arguably) The Happiest Place on Earth.

Admiring MH's mussels, during a beach hike.

Admiring MH’s mussels, during a beach hike.

My time spent there was invigorating, relaxing, refreshing and reflective.  Unfortunately, despite my opening riff on a certain popular soul-searching/self-discovery title of a few years ago, there will be no book proposal arising from my experiences.

Alas, I am not a self-absorbed thirty-something woman seeking spiritual and emotional clarity after a nasty divorce.

( Y’all know the title to which I refer; it rhymes with Bleat, Bray, Shove. In 2006-2008 TSA employees detained any woman over the age of 21 who intended to board an airplane without carrying a copy of that book ).

Nor I am the local literary darling whose own spiritual-journey-memoir-flavor-of-the-month-book is soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture. Nope, I am not a woman devastated by loss who seeks deliverance from her dubious personal choices (promiscuity; drug abuse; the belief that using a symbolic surname as your non de plume confers hipness) via a solo wilderness trek.

I just don’t have that hook – in literary biz terms, some scandal-worthy and/or titillating personal details – which would give me a “promotable platform.” What I do have is a picture of a beautiful place MH and I stopped for lunch during our beach hike from Cannon Beach to Humbug Point. Okay, the tip of MH’s banana is visible in the picture – this is my nod to titillating.

beachhike

*   *  *

Department of What Being Married to Me Has Done To Him

I was informing MH of my upcoming schedule in the 1.5 days we have before we travel again, this time, to attend a family wedding. When I told him I planned on treating moiself to a pedicure, MH wondered aloud if that meant my feet would be subject to the ministrations of a pedifile?

Wanna see my BIG toe, little girl?

Wanna see my BIG toe, little girl?

*   *   *

Previews of Coming Attractions

While attending the Harvest Festival of Manzanita’s Community Garden, MH and I signed up for a trial paddling session with the Nehalem Bay Tiderunners, a local branch of the Wasabi dragon boat paddling club of Portland.  Newbies interested in learning about dragon boats joined the Tiderunner veterans in paddling a dragon boat up and down the Nehalem River one cool/gray Saturday morning.  I wish I had a picture of the curious seal whose bobbing head followed the boat during several practice runs.

The dragon boat paddling stroke is different from the kind of paddling one does in the recreational kayaking I have been doing for years.  The technique reminded me of when I participated in the Disneyland Employee Canoe Races, all those years ago.

MH and I had so much fun we stayed for a second session. I’d been considering joining a dragon boat team ever since I first saw several teams practicing in the Willamette River, but I’d always had scheduling conflicts with the various teams’ practice schedules (plus, there’s the drive to Portland and back).  This year, with the looming sabbatical travel, I didn’t want to make any kind of commitment I could not keep…. but when my schedule calms down, I’ll try to find a boat crew that will accept me. You have been warned.

dragonboat

*   *   *

Department of Trying To See Who’s Paying Attention

MH alerted me to an upcoming volunteer opportunity at the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve.  We both separately filled out online volunteer application forms for the event. The form’s first blanks requested first name, middle name, and title.  The form’s title options consisted of  Dr., Jr., Mr., Mrs., Ms., None, Sr.

Harumpf.  There was no option for me to choose or write in my preferred title: N.a.D[1]  Mature person that I am, I accepted the slight. There was, however, a fourth name-related blank: “preferred name, (nickname, etc).” All righty.  I typed, Boutros Boutros Ghali.

A couple of days after completing our application forms, MH and I received identically worded emails – except for the salutation –  [2] from the Volunteer Coordinator. Here was mine:

Hi Boutros Boutros Ghali,
Thank you for volunteering at the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve....

*   *   *

Just Because…

Oui, c'est vrai, je suis belle.

Oui, c’est vrai, je suis belle.

 Sometimes we all need to look at a proud & pretty Parisian Pigeon.

*   *   *

May your paddling stroke efficiently propel the dragon boat of your heart (sorry; I’ve been refining my treacle-laden wedding toast), [3] and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Which stands for, Not a Doctor.  You knew that, I know you did.

[2] His began, Hi _____ (his first name). Can you believe that?

[3] Which may lead to more footnote-worthy stories in next week’s blog.

The Problem I’m Not Talking About

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A woman clad in body-hugging, long-sleeve Nike shirt, Adidas leggings and New Balance shoes, [1] is running toward me.  She is pushing one of those baby jogger strollers. You know how a rhythmic, rocking motion can calm and soothe many a fussy infant?  Hers is not that kind of baby.

A lone seagull crouches in the grass, extends its necks and emits staccato, croaking calls, as if doing a series of vocal exercises to warm up for the squawking to come.  A man who looks to be in his mid 30’s places a duffle bag beneath the canopy of a large cedar tree and begins some kind of martial arts exercises. I hear a wheezing noise coming from behind me; I’m on “alert status,” as one must be when walking in unfamiliar territory, and stop at a fork in the path and turn around.  An elderly gentleman is about 20 feet behind me on the path.  He’s rail thin, looks as if a strong breeze could knock him over,.  He has a thick mass of shock white hair atop his deeply furrowed head, and he’s wearing a bright neon safety vest.  He pumps his arms as he strides past me, flashing a beatific smile and greeting me with a cheery, “Good moooooooorning!” I take the fork to the right, and soon I hear the familiar, shuffle shuffle crunch snuffle snuffle that heralds the approach of a biped and its dog, respectively walking and inspecting the twig-strewn gravel path.  Ahead of me to the south, a sleek black lab, let off its leash by its human, intensely and hopefully [2] streaks toward two seagulls resting on the grass by the duck pond.  The birds watch the rapidly approaching canine, waiting until the last moment before nonchalantly spreading their wigs and rising helicopter-like over the dog, which rockets beneath them.  The dog slows down for a nanosecond, glances back at its human, resumes its speed and slightly changes direction – reminding me of how a cat, when it somehow fails, begins to casually groom itself as if to say, Oh yeah, I meant to do that.

The simple sights and sounds of a city awakening to the assurance of a beautiful day.

wright park

MH, Belle and I are staying in an olde apartment building (ca 1912) across the street from the perfect venue for a morning – or afternoon or evening – walk.  Wright Park is a 27 acre arboretum with a series of gravel loop trails, a duck pond, a lawn bowling/bocce ball court, a botanical conservancy, several themed works of bronze statuary and one seemingly random memorial.  As my après-walk internet search later confirms, I’m not the only person to have wondered why, in the middle of a Tacoma park, is there a monument to Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen? [3]

We are in Tacoma[4] for three reasons.
1. to return K to college (UPS).
2. Belle is interested in UPS,[5] and is doing campus tours and other activities UPS offers to prospective students. On our way back to Oregon we will stop at Evergreen College in Olympia, for similar check-out-the-school exploring.
3. there is no third reason.

K came home for his spring break last week.  At the end of the week we made a two day trip to Manzanita and then drove the scenic route [6] to take K back to UPS.  It seems as though all of Tacoma was out when we arrived on Saturday afternoon.  There is something about Tacoma on a sunny day that reminds me of San Francisco.  Perhaps it’s the city’s many hills, and the view you have atop them, to the north, east and west, of the bay (Puget Sound’s Commencement Bay, in Tacoma’s case).  In cities like Tacoma and San Francisco, which are known for their often overcast/inclement weather, a clear, bright sunny day seems to bring out the best in residents and visitors alike.

Just in case you were wondering, after reading that last comparison, I neither smoke nor inhale.  Apologies to San Fransiscoites: the afore-mentioned weather rumination is the only Tacoma characteristic that reminds me of The City.  Your beloved Baghdad by The Bay’s charm remains intact, and unique.

Saturday night, after dropping off K at his dorm, Belle, MH & I had dinner at Pomodoro, in Tacoma’s Procter district.   Not long after we were seated Belle removed her sketch pad and pencils from her purse. She and MH were seated across from me, and Belle looked in my direction as she began to sketch. I turned around to see if perhaps a cute waiter or bus boy was lurking behind me.  Nope.  This put me into a rather mild existential panic.  I tried my best not to sound like a bad Robert DeNiro imitation as I asked, “Are you sketching me?”

“Yes,” Belle replied.  “Hold still.”

I didn’t hold still.  None of us held still.  We were doing restaurant-things: eating, drinking, lifting napkins to our mouths, answering questions from our server, as well as allegedly conversing with one another.  Belle said nothing more, but from her heavy sighs and eyebrow gymnastics it was apparent that she was disappointed with my lack of stillness, and other attributes that render me unfit for sketching.

I do not translate well to photos.  I am not a still life, and loathe having my picture taken in any form and for any cause. The reasons for this are not particularly complicated or interesting; they are known to those supposedly closest to me, and in a kind and just world (calling Mr. Rogers) would be respected, even if not “understood.”  This is rarely the case.

From the POV of a fotografizophobic, [7] when people gaze at you intently and allegedly dispassionately, judging the contours (read: inadequacies) of your bone structure and other facial features, hearing them say, “Hold still so I can sketch you/take your picture” is the emotional equivalent of hearing, Hold still so that I may throw acid in your face.

Unsolicited, adult-to-adult advice: when any sentient being declines to have their picture taken by you, respect their wishes and move on.  Do not whine and wheedle, do not attempt any form of emotional blackmail (“The family reunion shot will be ruined if you’re not in it, and who knows if Uncle Anus will live long enough to attend the next one!”).  Unless I am renewing my driver’s license and you are the DMV camera dude, or you are the hospital’s medical photographer sent to document my Mayo Clinic-worthy bulbous axillary tumor, back off.  It’s that simple.

*   *   *
We interrupt this family travelogue to bring you a political rant.
Your regular programming will return shortly.

Department of I’m glad he didn’t live/I wish he’d lived to see this

My father had an inexplicable, embarrassing (to me) fascination with Richard Milhous Nixon.  He’d been to Nixon’s “Western White House” home in San Clemente on official (IRS) business and had met the then Prevaricator Commander-in-Chief.  To a man of my dad’s generation who began life as a dirt-poor country boy in a southern family of share croppers, meeting The President must have been seen as a pinnacle of the American dream.  Thus, I tell myself my father’s interest was a case of celebrity worship, or that all-too-human fascination with any personal brush with power, and not that he actually admired the lying, venal, foul-mouthed, paranoid, commie-baiting, racist contender for worst president ever.

 I thought no new revelations about Nixon could ever surprise me, even though I knew there were more tapes and documents yet to be declassified.  Still, it was chilling to read the revelations contained in the LBJ tapes about just how low RMN would go to obtain power.  In 1968, fearing that the Paris Peace Talks would end the Vietnam War and thus his election chances, Nixon secretly intervened to sabotage the negotiations.  He sent his envoy to get the South Vietnamese to pull out of the talks, promising them “a better deal” if he were elected.  LBJ, informed of Nixon’s treachery by the FBI, felt Nixon was committing treason, but feared going public with the information for several reasons, including national security concerns and having to reveal that the FBI and the NSA were bugging the South Vietnamese ambassador’s phone and intercepting his communications.  Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey, informed of the situation by LBJ a few days before the election, decided it would be too disruptive to the country to accuse the Republicans of treason, especially if the Dems were going to win anyway (they were ahead in the polls).

What is that old saying, something about how all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing?

The peace talks collapsed, Nixon ended his campaign by promising an alternative to the inept Democratic strategy – look at them, they couldn’t even get the South Vietnamese to the negotiating table! – and won the election with less than 1% of the popular vote.  His “better deal” led to the war dragging on until 1975…which caused the additional deaths of Twenty. Two. Thousand. American soldiers. [8]

Despite – or perhaps because of – being a fiction writer I’m a huge fan of reality.  A part of me wishes my father could have read the transcripts, and that he and I could’ve discuss the revelations, and that he would have been able to understand at least a part of my vitriol for RMN, which is best expressed by Hunter S. Thompson’s He Was A Crook.  Another part [9] wimps out on reality, and tries to embrace the idea that an old man went in peace, holding on to whatever fantasies he had, the Nixon one (oh….ick) included.

nixon

Richard Nixon…He was the real thing — a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family. Not even Gerald Ford, the unhappy ex-president who pardoned Nixon and kept him out of prison, was immune to the evil fallout. Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, has told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that “I know I will go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon.”
(Hunter S. Thompson, writing in The Atlantic, May 1, 1994)

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More freethinker troublemaking:

“Leave No Stone Unturned” An Easter Challenge for Christians

Jesuseasterbunny

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“It’s the problem…that no one likes to talk about. No wonder they call it Silent But Deadly.”

How’s that for a commercial lead-in? But really, ladies and germs,[10] The same type of fabric used by the military to protect against chemical weapons can be yours, with the purchase of the intriguingly named Better Marriage Blanket.  Unfortunately, it’s not what you’re thinking.  Or, maybe it is.  Oh, who cares – any product with the selling point “offending molecules are absorbed before anyone knows they’re there” is worth a moment of your attention, right?  Not only that, it’s given me the idea of how to solve the North Korea situation.  Get our Navy Seals to wrap Kim Jong-un in a Better Marriage Blanket, and it’ll be like he’s not even there.

Speaking of other problems no one likes to talk about, there are those family road trips that do not end in all sweetness and light and witty anecdotes.  Unsolicited adult-to-adult advice, revisited (the photography-free version): do not endure treatment from family members that you would find intolerable coming from anyone else.

angry rubber chickenpng

Smarter people than us said this:

* Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.
Alexander Pope

* There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.
– Martin Luther King Jr

* Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.
– George Carlin

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Joy, Interrupted: An Anthology on Motherhood and Loss.  Hmm, not the feel-good title of the year, you say?  The collection contains some beautiful, intriguing, moving essays, poems and fiction on the subject of loss in the context of motherhood, including, in the last category, a story of mine.  Two years ago I read the editor’s call for submissions and submitted my story “Maddie is Dead.” [11] It was one of those made-me-shiver incidents when the editor contacted me to say that she loved the story and wanted to include it in the collection, and by the way, is the story indeed fiction (it is), and by-the-by-the-way, did I know that her deceased daughter was named Maddie?

joy

The anthology should be in book stores later this year and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

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One last gasp at the road trip story.  It was our first night in Tacoma, in the afore-mentioned apartment with Belle & Mark, and Belle was cranky due to a nasty, lingering cold and (gasp) no TV on site. She turned down any suggestion I had for playing cards, games, etc.  I passed the time doing an online search for…hmmm, parameters, hmmm. What would be a spirit-lifting image to see? How about sloths wearing onsies?

Best. Search. In. A. Long. Time.

sloth

An adorable Bradypodidae, dressed in baby clothes.  Hijinks are bound to ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] The Clash of the Titans?

[2] Warning: anthropomorphizing zone ahead.

[3] A Norwegian-American artist sculpted a bust of Ibsen, his mentor and friend. Three bronze busts cast from the original ended up in places with large populations of Norski immigrants: St. Paul, MN, Wahpeton, N.D., and Tacoma.  Just because.

[4] The Tacoma narrative was written earlier this week, on Sunday and Monday.

[5] to her brother’s genuine if mild apprehension.

[6] Up the Oregon coast, crossing the Clumbia River at Astoria, following the Willapa Bay, cutting over to Olympia at the small town of Raymond. Which led us to wonder if there was a man in the town named Raymond, and if so, do all of the townspeople like him?

[7] Fotografizophobia is the fear of having your picture taken.

[8] .and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians soldiers and civilians.

[9] The part spelled “protective daughter,” no doubt.

[10] A lame popularized by Milton Berle in the 1950’s: “Good evening, ladies and germs.  I mean ladies and gentlemen. I call you ladies and gentlemen, but you know what you really are.”  It was funnier then.  Supposedly.

[11] Previously published in The Externalist, issue 4, October 7.