Wednesday, February 27, 2008

good old golden rule days

Every once in a while, as a high school teacher (i.e. a person who, for masochistic reasons unknown even to herself, has elected to spend her entire life in that hormonally insane netherworld we refer to as secondary school), I find myself watching the students in my charge and reflecting on my own experiences when I was their age. Since I have had my own children go through high school, it has become a bit more difficult for me to see myself at the earlier stages; freshman and sophomore years have vanished into the ether of my mind, but that's probably for the best. As I recall, my life back then was not exactly the subject of heroic tomes. I may be far better off not remembering anything than remembering the minefields and tarfields of early high school, and my less than stellar responses to them.

I know, for instance, that I did not have many friends. I wanted friends. I needed friends. After a complete disaster of a middle school experience, the highlight of which was surviving it, I really had hoped to find a more positive environment in the hallowed halls of Trinity High School. I had chosen to be there, actually chosen to attend a Catholic school despite the fact that I had not considered myself Catholic since the age of nine and despite the fact that I had three perfectly good public high schools and a prep school I could choose from. My reasoning was solid and mature: I couldn't go to Salem High or Pinkerton High because neither had a soccer team, I couldn't go to Pelham High because it sucked, and I couldn't go to the prep school because it was all-boys and, though I was not a girl to anyone else, I was to me. No way would I go to an all-boys' school. See? Sound, mature, well-reasoned decision-making.

My mom, St. Marilyn the über-Catholic, was of course delighted with my choice for whatever my reasons might be. She saw me choosing a Catholic school; what else mattered? That I told her I did so because of soccer certainly didn't. That I secretly had done so on the hope of starting over, of putting my middle school reputation as the "weird kid" behind me, wouldn't have mattered either. And I was definitely the weird kid. It probably would have been enough that I was the middle school "brain," rivaled only by Anne Bailey, a girl who hated me because I was the only one in her way of being first in the class, or that I was a bit of a loner, or that when I did hang with anyone it was probably someone geeky like Mark DeYoung, a really wonderful kid whose friendship I valued, but who was put down by others due to his effeminate mannerisms. I suppose I didn't need to compound my social problems by being a closet transsexual who was not always aware of how others were seeing me. I remember once at recess--probably in sixth grade--I was walking alone around the hill behind the school dreaming (as I often did) that I was a girl on the outside as well as on the inside. Well I must have been sashaying or something because suddenly I heard two girls' voices behind me giggling.

"Look how he's walking," one said.

"He's just weird," said the other.

By the end of the day, every girl in sixth grade had heard, and I was a huge joke. Not that it mattered: I was just as alone on the playground the next day as I had been on that one. So I had no girl friends, and I couldn't exist well in the world of boys; of course I was a loner! And Anne Bailey, one of the two girls in the playground that day, became a thorn in my side throughout middle school.

So I thought that, by going to Trinity, a school twenty miles from home, I would be able to escape these demons and start again, maybe actually make friends with some of the girls as well as some of the boys. But when I got there, I discovered that five others from my middle school also had decided to make the journey, and one of these--life is unkind--was Anne Bailey. It took her less than two days to spread the stories about me throughout the girls in our shared classes. I never had a chance. So freshman and sophomore years were a kind of hell I don't really want to think about anyway, and therefore it's probably a good thing that when my students' lives and interactions remind me of my own school days they tend to take me back to junior and senior years.

By then, of course, I knew that transition–the long dreamed-of goal of actually becoming physically the girl on the inside–was an impossibility, and I had gone through any number of depressive episodes about it before deciding that I would simply have to make do, get on with my life, and what the hell. So I had fun for two years, in my way. I became editor of both the newspaper and the yearbook, which got me keys to two student offices where I could veg out whenever I needed to. I ate lunch there for my entire senior year. I started playing chess more and more in open rooms, sometimes playing two or three simultaneous matches, sometimes playing speed chess or "blind" chess (in which you kept the board in your mind), and I won my share. I worked several jobs to earn money so I could drive a car–a robin's egg blue 1960 Mercury Comet (ancient even in 1974) that I had picked up for $200. I played hockey and soccer, I listened to music and went to concerts (that was the year of seeing Led Zeppelin live), I read, I wrote, and I just kept getting good grades.

Most of the time.

I did have this reputation for getting great grades. From middle school, where I had been first in my class, through freshman and sophomore years, when the lowest semester grade I'd gotten was an A-, I pretty much expected the highest grades. But in junior year I had to take this religion class (an unfortunate byproduct of choosing to matriculate in a Catholic school). They gave us some choices, and I thought this one about various views on the afterlife sounded potentially interesting. I should have known better than to take a course called "Death" taught by a man named Mr. Dull. (I'm not joking.) The course was death, and I barely stayed away for it, not even caring that I got a C (since religion courses did not count in my GPA anyway).

Then a crazy thing happened. Richard Nixon signed into law the Freedom of Information Act, and for the first time ever we were actually allowed to see our transcripts. Naturally curious, I went to see mine. The guidance secretary, who knew me well, pulled it out and showed it to me, and I was stunned to find an error on it! There was a grade of B in a course I had aced! She was very nice, telling me just to get a note from the teacher and she'd change it. And of course I did so immediately. Upon returning with the note, I handed it to her and she whipped out the White-Out. I watched as the B turned into an A, and then I watched in silent astonishment as, apparently convinced that the mark below that had to be a mistake also, she changed the C in Death to an A also! I should have said something, I know, but I was just so astounded. And then it was over and it was too late. And I never did. Personally, I think all students who sat through that class should have gotten A's, but that's another matter. I got one just on reputation.

That's not the only time it happened to me. I was talking with K, one of my best seniors, today. She's gotten into Notre Dame, and she's happy, and she's still working hard but without as much academic drive as she had before. It reminded me of me. I remembered that, in the second semester of my senior year, I never took a book home. Not once. I realized I hadn't some time in March and then challenged myself to see it through. Crazy notion. I did my homework in free periods in the Newspaper or Yearbook office, and I went home empty-handed. And I still got all A's. I still got all A's despite the fact that, in at least a coupld of my classes, I hadn't the foggiest clue what was going on!

The worst offender was math. I was taking AP Calculus. I had known from the beginning this would be trouble. We had a decent staff at my high school but, it was well known among the students, possibly the worst math department in the free world. There was one strong teacher, Brother Arthur, and a bunch of idiots. Brother Arthur taught (of course) AP Calc. If you survived long enough to get to him, we heard, it was worth it.

Brother Arthur didn't survive long enough for us to get to him. In the spring of my junior year, one bright day in May, word came that he had died in bed. We dedicated the yearbook to him the next year, a testament to how much we as students appreciated him, but we still signed up for AP Calc, assuming that the school would find someone over the summer who could teach it and do as fine a job as he had. But arriving in class in September we were greeted by a familiar face, Ms. Kendricks, one of the math teachers who had already been in the department. She announced that they had tried to replace Brother Arthur but had been unable to do so, and thus she would be our teacher.

"I don't actually know much about Calculus," she said with a laugh," but I guess we can all learn together."

Though none of us made a sound, I am sure we all heard the collective groan.

I managed to stay with what we were doing in that class through the first semester, until they started spinning flat things around on imaginary axes to discover what volumes they would have if in fact that actually had any volumes. It was at this point that I pretty much gave up. Ms. Kendricks, to her credit, did try, but it was a losing battle. I doubt that any of us really learned much. I know I didn't. Yet I kept getting A's. On quizzes, on tests, on class participation, on everything. And I began to think that maybe I did know this stuff, maybe it just seemed that I didn't because the subject was so utterly nuts, but maybe I grasped it fully. I mean I did get very high SAT math scores; why not?

So I signed up to take the AP Calc test. Paid my $45, drove up to the school, walked in with my cache of #2 pencils, and took my seat. The proctor had us all fill in the forms, read the prescribed crap they make us all read when we proctor things, and then handed out the booklets. When we were told to begin, I broke the seal and started reading the test. Around me, pencils started moving across paper, making that scratching, squeaking sound that pencils make when they are talking to the infinite whiteness. Before me lay a booklet, open to the fourth question. I had read the first three and had no idea how to answer them. No idea how to begin to answer them. I honestly had no idea what they even meant. And as I read the fourth question with similarly blank comprehension, the whole thing suddenly struck me as absurd, and I started to laugh. Out loud, right there in the testing room. The proctor shushed me, and I did my best to quiet myself, closed my book, grabbed my things, and walked out.

Elapsed testing time: about ten minutes.

AP tests are graded 1-5. I like to tell people that I got the first ever 0, but I actually did get a 1; I think they give you a 1 for getting your name right.

Ah, school days. Gotta love 'em.

Is it spring break yet?


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

meanings of love

In the aftermath of my little meltdown yesterday, I've been thinking a lot about what words can mean. And I've been thinking a lot about the way we react to words, as well as the way our words shape us in those reactions. I think I think too much.

The following is something someone told me long ago. I wrote the reaction long ago too, and adapted it to use at my wedding last spring.

A friend of mine once told me this:

“I believe the way we talk, the words we have, partially determines what concepts we have available, what tools we have for dealing with and clarifying reality around us and more importantly within us. There are some areas in English, however, that greatly need expanding. English is one of the most plastic of all languages, adopts and absorbs and modifies anything from anywhere, yet it’s so stilted in some crucial areas.”

One of these areas, I’m convinced more and more, is the concept of “love.” So much confusion and misconception could be cleared up just by adding some words to expand it from its simple singular existence into something that more accurately reflects the myriad ways in which we employ the word. It goes far beyond the romantic connotations. Adding more words would add corresponding concepts into the national consciousness and clarity to the vagueness, and maybe a little revelation and self knowledge. It could save a lot of wasted lifetime nationally.

The ancient Greeks had, what, 4 words for different types of love? The Hopi Indians have a dozen. We have one. A person can say I love my car, my mom, my house, my artwork, drag racing, milkshakes, my lover, my song, freedom, my dog, flying, the smell of burning rubber, my country, my spirit, God, and even sports teams, and that person doesn't mean the same thing at all by each 'love.’ And when we do speak of romantic love, we don't love each person the same way. It's not even about amount--they are just different, different frequencies and flavors, and sometimes not comparable.

I think that making assumptions from the vagueness of language causes a lot of problems and damage. People automatically assume the other person is talking about the same
concept/emotion/experience they mean just because they're using the same word. I think English needs some tuning up clarifying words. Maybe we should add some.

It probably won’t matter though. No matter how many words you have in your vocabulary for a concept, it doesn’t matter if you don’t truly believe in the concept in the first place. We give it lip service, but we don’t pay attention. I think that’s what our problem really is: too many of us “love” our cars and our houses and our flags, but we have never truly learned what it means to love each other.

And to love ourselves.


Monday, February 25, 2008

frustration and inadequacy

Once again the snow is falling outside: a Winter Storm Warning is in effect for the whole area, and today's journal topic in my classes was Snowzilla 4: Return of the Creature That Ate the Highways. (I used Matchbox Twenty's "Mad Season" as the accompanying music, which is a tribute to how well I am handling all of weather.) There is no more salt here in Chicago's burbs; roads were caked with packed and potholed ice compacted from condensed snow after the last storm; I'm sure that they will be again tomorrow, especially since temps are supposed to fall back into Day After Tomorrow territory.

On these days it's easy to feel less than fully vital.

The truth is, though, that I often feel thus. I always have been plagued by nagging feelings of inadequacy in pretty much every aspect of my existence. It's not that I don't have an ego, not that I don't believe in myself or my abilities, not even that I am shy–who could be shy and post her life on the internet, for goddess' sake?–but more that I cannot seem to reconcile fully my desire to do well, my ability to do it, and even the results I manage to attain with the way that all of this is perceived–or, it seems to me, not perceived–by others. I shouldn't care, I suppose, whether I receive any recognition for anything I do, and I keep telling myself and others that it does not really matter.

But here's the truth: it does.

In the days after the Oscars, a night when Hollywood gathers together for a veritable orgy of self-congratulation, I find myself thinking about the value of others' opinions in the maintenance of our own self-esteem. With the Oscars, it isn't even all about actually winning the award; the phrase "Academy Award nominated" follows someone forever just as "Academy Award winning" does." This isn't football, where Super Bowl losers fade into oblivion a week after the game. Just being here really does mean something. And maybe that is because the nominations are voted upon only by those in the Academy who are actually peers of the nominees: editors vote for editors, directors vote for directors, etc. When you are nominated, your peers said you were one of the best. The award itself is gravy.

I think of my own life and I realize that, if I could only have that kind of moment, that kind of external validation, every once in a while, it would help alleviate a lot of my personal turmoil. And then I think how absurd and how sad it is that I need or think I need that validation. Why isn't it enough just to do something for the pure satisfaction of doing it?

Well, the truth is, I guess, that it is. It must be. That's really all I ever get. But still, on crappy days like this, when my mind is clouded by the oppression of the weather and Seasonal Affective Disorder is wreaking havoc with my mental equilibrium, I really wish there were something more.

When my daughters, for whom I sacrifice everything and for whom I would do anything, get into one of their teenage moods and insist that I am constantly ignoring them or always canceling things or forever focusing on the other daughter or on my husband, that matters. It is inconceivable to me that, even for a moment in their hormone-addled post-pubescent brains, they could fail to recall the five billion times I've gone out of my way to drive them here or there, to take them to libraries or shopping, to attend soccer games and performances, to make life as special as I can, to ask with sincere interest about their days (and never ever accept the teenage default answer of "fine"), to spend hours and hours letting Julie drive, even in snowstorms, because she needs to learn, even when I have been sitting next to her frightened to death, to travel with them across the country so often that each of them has been in all fifty states already in their young lives, to take Melanie alone to a four day folk festival in New York and to rock concerts by her favorite bands (even if I don't like them myself), or just to lie on a couch or a bed and hug them.

I may not deserve the Oscar for Best Mother, but I deserve at least to be recognized. Or not put down.

Still, this is teenagers...and family...and things do sometimes get a bit intense in those departments. If that were all, I wouldn't think twice. But of course it is not all. I feel these doubts creep into me in practically every area of my being.

I've never been one who has amassed large numbers of close friends; why is that? I know a lot of people and I think I'm a nice enough person. People do seem to like me more often than not; why are most of my relationships so superficial? I've worked the same job for 25 years; how many close friends do I have there? Well, if you count as "close friends" those who call you up once in awhile to see if you'd like to do something, the answer borders on zero. But then, who do I call? Why am I so reluctant to risk putting myself out there? Is it still the same fear of rejection that ruled so much of the first decades of my life? Over a hundred people came to my wedding last year, and it made me very happy to know that so many cared. It also actually surprised me. There had been times when I wondered if anyone at all would come. I had family that didn't. I had good friends that couldn't. And I had all of these others who made the effort, but still I wonder why they did: for me? For the event? The spectacle? A person more solidly grounded in her own self-worth would not question such matters, but I do. I count my blessings, but I always wonder if I'm the only one who notices.

I possess gifts to give also. I believe I am a talented teacher and a talented writer and a talented director. I have given back to my school a hundredfold from each of these gifts over the nearly quarter century I've taught here. And I know there are some who understand that, and I am so fortunate that three of them have been my immediate supervisors. But how do those above my supervisors perceive me? When I do nothing other than give my heart and soul to this institution? When I spend fifteen years and thousands and thousands of working hours–many of which were extra, on "my own time" sort of hours–building a theatre program from a good one to a great one? When I show my dedication to that task by undertaking to get a Masters Degree in Directing (the only one in the school to possess one)? When I direct extra shows and ask no recompense whatsoever from the school? When, in the course of my daily task of teaching English, I have five, ten, fifteen conferences a day, at busy times as many as a hundred in a single week, working with students through planning periods, through lunch hours, and as late after school as they need me (though my daughters complain)? When my students have been IATE winners now something like thirteen years in a row?

How do they see me?

Well, I don't know, but I suspect that it isn't as I'd like them to. But there are other times when even I wonder if I am I as effective an educator as I like to think I am. Maybe. I have enough students who seem to think they've gotten something from my classes, though there are times when I feel I am woefully inadequate in the way I am covering this or exploring that. And I know that there are some kids who leave the class thinking that it was bad, or that I was bad. You can't please everyone, something in my head tells me, but my heart screams out WHY ON EARTH NOT? and insists that I am not effective enough if I fail to motivate every last one of them. Sometimes it's worse than that: there was one junior boy three years ago who hated me. He thought, I found out at the end of the year, that I was the worst teacher he's had in high school. Apparently I had said some off the cuff comment in October that had offended him, and he had allowed it to fester all year long without my notice. I apologized, of course, when I found out about it, but the sting of that assessment sticks in my craw (wherever a craw is) and I realize that I agree at least in principle with No Child Left Behind. I hate failing anyone at all. I feel as if I have failed myself.

I wonder too if I have failed myself somehow when I think about my book, unpublished and unable to attract the interest of an agent despite the fact that so many students have found it enjoyable. Maybe I write these blogs so I'll at least be able to say something of mine was read by someone...

When I was directing, I did 33 plays and musicals in 15 years. Not all were completely successful, but most were. And some were as good as I could imagine them being–and I can imagine a lot. I'm proud of what those actors and techies accomplished in shows like Children of a Lesser God, Noises Off, Crimes of the Heart, Fiddler on the Roof, Drood, The Grapes of Wrath, Ten November, Into the Woods, and so many others. I believe that I proved myself again and again in these productions, and that in each of them I gave everything I had to the kids. But as with my children, is it so easy to forget the endless list of good works if there is something–even a minor something, even an imagined something–more recent that blocks those memories. Do memories count if no one remembers them?

I ask myself if it is really so important to be recognized for my contributions. After all, isn't the joy in doing them? And I know: of course it is. I would certainly keep doing them...forever... with no recognition at all if I could. Recognition is only an artificial acknowledgment that you are doing something right. I don't need that, not really. I need the paper to become better or the performance to grow stronger. I need a reader to wink in agreement or an audience to laugh in the right places. Why should I need a nod from On High? Besides, knowing that they felt so little about my work in theatre, about which I felt good, I wonder whether they feel exactly the same about my work in English, about which (after all) I feel the same way. And I wonder if I am just fooling myself after all, if this is all some kind of grand delusion and some day they'll all find out that I really don't know what the heck I am doing.

Recognition wouldn't really change any of that. But I have to admit it would be nice to know that they notice that they've got something good here. Assuming they do, of course, and that I'm not just some little girl who has fallen asleep in math class and has dreamed the whole darned thing.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Oscar Night: Live Blog

I am an Oscar junkie.

It's sort of like being a political junkie, but you only need a fix one time a year, so it's a bit more controllable. To an Oscar junkie, Oscar night is huge. We wait for it all year, wondering what will be nominated, thinking about what got ripped off, what should have been nominated, what nominations seem completely weird, etc. And then we watch the awards themselves, not only for the spectacle but actually because we care about who wins, even in years such as this one where I didn't get to see all of the nominated films.

Some of my thoughts from this year's nominations:

Biggest snubs

How the heck could they not nominate Joe Wright, the director of Atonement? This is a film that the director had everything to do with, and he doesn't get nominated? Huh?

No nomination for Keri Russell in Waitress? Amy Adams for Enchanted? Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart? Jame MacEvoy, Keira Knightley, Vanessa Redgrave for Atonement? And not a single nomination for Zodiac? Hairspray?

Favorite Nominations

Three songs from Enchanted. Fun! Juno with tons of noms including Ellen Page. Excellent! Johnny Depp for Sweeney Todd--I didn't see that one coming. Viggo Mortenson for Eastern Promises--I didn't see the movie, but I thought he deserved a nomination for return of the King, so I'm down with it. Hal Holbrook for Into the Wild--how can you not like that nomination? Saorise Ronan in Atonement--she has no chance to win, but I love the fact that she was nominated. (At least someone in the film was!) "Falling Slowly" from Once is nominated: a beautiful song that could make me long to see the film all by itself. The Golden Compass gets an Art Direction nod, at least: I hope it wins. The evocation of that "other" world was remarkable.

So the whole things opens with a montage of famous movie images sort of heading to the Kodak Theatre. Haven't they done this before? Ah well, it's fun and it's short, and maybe that's a comment about the host. Jon Stewart is on his own tonight: no big numbers or high concept stuff this time, no waking up in Clooney's bed. He got off some good jokes, some good lines, especially his take on Atonement (it's about Yom Kippur) and set the right tone. About the writer's strike, he called Oscar night "makeup sex" after the fight...sounds about right to me. It's a good opening. Not great, but I don't think he can lose tonight considering the lack of prep time.

Jennifer Garner cannot look anything but beautiful. But what's the deal with that hair? And since she mentioned scissors in her comments, I'm betting there will be someone in some magazine who talks about cutting her falling locks out of her eyes.

Costume design...I have that in my closet! I swear, the winner's dress is a basic housedress that wears like a tent. I have it in my closet and I pull it on in the summer when I don't give a hoot what I look like. Couldn't she design something more flattering for herself?

George Clooney, looking every bit like James Bond, stands at the podium, introducing a montage of Oscar moments. For a junkie like me, it is so cool to see this sort of thing, and I actually saw many of them least the ones that didn't happen in black and white. Some of the great classic moments and speeches, and some of the most awful moments (Snow White/Rob Lowe comes to mind, which Oscar is finally ready to make self-referential jokes about) never leave my mind, but I had forgotten some, like Cher's incredible (and I use the word literally) outfit and a few others. Fun to revisit them!

Steve Carrell is maybe the funniest man on Earth. (And he let an expletive slip through...) Anne Hathaway is a perfect foil and gorgeous in red. This is the first year I have seen none of the Animated Film nominees; what's up with that? The winner is the movie about a gourmet rat in Paris; guess I'll have to rent it and "support a rat who dreams."

"HIGH-gle." Ah, so that's how you pronounce Katherine Heigl's name. More red: and the winner is wearing red too. Must be Hollywood's it color.

Amy Adams sang a joyous and bouyant version of "Happy Working Song" solo on the stage, and I found myself entranced and so grateful that there were only two weeks to pull this show together, so they were not tempted to have dancing rats and cockroaches bouncing aroundt he stage with her.

I'm not sure The Rock should go for subtle facial humor. I am glad, though, that The Golden Compass won something; I think it was a seriously underappreciated movie.

Cate Blanchett walks up to the podium and just takes over, even with flyaway hair. And she gives an award to Sweeney Todd, another underperforming movie that I thought was really very, very good. Of course the best part is getting to see Johnny Depp in cutaways: that's always a joy (in a visceral, completely platonic, I'm not at all jealous of his wife, no not me sort of way).

Silly but funny bit by JS: Cate Blanchett plays anything, even a bulldog, even himself.

Best Supporting Actor, the first acting award, finally gets here, and a surprisingly stiff Jennifer Hudson presents the completely unsurprising victory to Javier Bardem. I guess there aren't going to be any surprises tonight. I was sort of hoping that the two bloody movies might cancel each other out and leave Juno to win Best Picture, but I guess we're going according to plan... His lovely shoutout in Spanish to his mother was a nice moment.

JS does a bit introducing a couple of silly little montages allegedly prepared for the Writers' Strike Oscars that didn't have to happen: a Tribute to Binoculars and Periscopes and a Tribute to Waking Up From Bad Dreams. Goofy fun.

Second song: "Raise It Up" from August Rush. Keri Russell is another tremendously beautiful actress with such presence; I've adored her since the premiere of Felicity. She got burned for Waitress; there should have been a nomination.

Owen Wilson without a single joke? Not even a smirk? Are the writers still on strike? And Jerry Seinfeld's bee makes no comment about being stiffed for the Best Animated Film award? No way! You'd tink it would have at least been a little bit stung by the rejection...

Alan Arkin comes on to bring out the Best Supporting Actress award and Ruby Dee seems absolutely shocked by her own performance! Saorise Ronan from Atonement seems to have pilfered Keira Knightly's green dress. Oh my! A surprise! Tilda Swinton wins for Michael Clayton. This amazing actress has been on my radar since Orlando; it's about time she won something. It's just surprising that Amy Ryan didn't or that, failing that, Cate didn't slide into the gap. Could Cate be in line for Elizabeth?

Jessica Alba--more red, though it's really more a burgundy strapless dress with some kind of furry creature wrapped around the top---recounts some science awards, and JS comments on her and Cate's pregnancies, noting that there could be more soon because Jack Nicholson is in the audience. Then Josh Brolin comes out to do what he calls "the worst Nicholson impression in history." He's right.

The Coen Brothers win the screenplay award. Did they just equate Homer and Cormac McCarthy?

There is actually a fun montage about how the Oscars are voted for and tabulated. Who knew that was even possible?

Miley Cyrus--I guess with a current concert movie out she counts as a film person--presents another song from Enchanted, and this time there will be a production number. It's recreating the movie's Central Park number and Kristen Chenowith is doing the Amy Adams part. Like Amy's song earlier, it's exuberant and loads of fun...and short. Great combination!

The Bourne Ultimatum wins Sound Editing. And the orchestra cuts them off in about ten seconds. And then it wins again for Sound Mixing, which is cool because there are only about ten viewers who know the difference between the two anyway.

BIG AWARD time: Lead Actress. So of course Forrest Whitaker is given a Serious Statement to read instead of something fun to say. Cate doesn't seem pleased with her own performance in the snippet they showed, as she winces noticeably. Julie Christie is more complacent watching herself Marion Cottillard looks happy to be here, and Laura Linney and Ellen Page too...such smiles. Surprise! Marion Cottillard wins it! "Thank you life, thank you love, and it is true there is some angels in this city!" Nice. :-)

JS playing tennis on a giant Wii. Continues a bit he started earlier about being hooked on modern technology. (It was an iPod then.) Then the lovely "Falling Slowly" from Once is introduced by the lovely Colin Farrell. I need to see Once; it's high on my list. And I'm really rooting for that song.

And heeeeere's Johnny: Nicholson is onstage. Of course--you couldn't keep him off. To introduce a Best Picture montage. And then Renée Zellweger--stunning as always--introduced Film Editing. Whoa! Bourne again! That film is cleaning up on the technical awards. It's now the lead winner of the night, as JS just noted.

Nicole Kidman, "star of the untitled 2010 Nicole Kidman project," dressed in black with a mega-drapey off-center glittery choker/necklace/poncho, introduces a 97-year-old production designer who worked for Hitchcock and many others. Robert Boyle looks like he richly deserves this honorary Oscar. And the dude came out himself to pick it up. :-)

Penelope Cruz comes on, another actress with some kind of furry something wrapped tightly around her bosom. What's up with that anyway? Best foreign film goes to Austria. Yay Austria. Rah.

McDreamy introduces the last Enchanted song, "So Close," the least of the three if you ask me, and so I guess it is appropriate that the ballroom dance sequence around it completely overwhelms both song and singer. So John Travolta comes on to give the award, his hair so short it might as well be painted on. Yes! Once won one! This is a beautiful song and, of the five, the only one likely to be remembered years from now.

And after the lovely and self-effacing speech, JS says, "wow, that guy is arrogant," getting a good laugh. And then, after commercial, he brings Marketa Irglova, half of the songwriter/singers from Once, back out for the speech she didn't get to give. Nice touch!

There Will Be Blood wins for Cinematography. First win for Paul Thomas Anderson's violent Best Picture Nominee.

Hillary Swank follows Cameron Diaz onto the stage. She's introducing the Oscar night montage of death, last year's "in memoriam" to performers and behind the scenes folks. Light applause so far, twenty or so names in. An agent (?) gets things going. (Yes, these folks know where the money comes from.) Suzanne Pleshette and Deborah Kerr, Ingmar Bergman, and Heath Ledger get significant applause as well.

Amy Adams takes the stage again, to present instead of singing. She's giving out the award for Score, and snippets of famous scores usher it in. And the Oscar goes to Atonement, perhaps in atonement for the academy's ill treatment of the film in nominations. (I'm irritated still about Joe Wright.)

Tom Hanks, Mr. Everyman, walks on. And here we get a shoutout to service people in Iraq, presenting Best Short Documentary. Gotta love modern technology with those live hookups from halfway around the world. The winner is Freeheld, a short film about a dying firefighter struggling to get domestic partner benefits for her lesbian lover. And then the feature doc winner is Taxi to the Dark Side, perhaps a mild surprise given the presence of a Michael Moore film (Sicko) in the nominees list.

Lame joke alert: Harrison Ford is "either an internationally acclaimed movie star or an auto dealership." Well, the writers only had two weeks. Anyway, the laconic Ford, with a smile, gives the Best Original Screenplay award to Diablo Cody for Juno, who, explosed bikini-girl tattoo on her shoulder and all, comes up and gives a teary and sincere speech in a dress from the sixties. I love this young woman, whom JS introduced earlier as a "former stripper turned screen writer" and asked how she was handling the pay decrease.

Best Actor montage: Was Marlon Brando ever that young? That light? And DeNiro and Pacino in beards...hmm...

Helen Mirren, elegant in (what else?) red, comes out to give Daniel Day-Lewis his prize. Someone said earlier he wasn't here. Why the heck not? He's the only one, apparently, with any chance at all. She draws a laugh with the word cojones. But then he did actually present something before...he must be here. Wait, there he is in the house; OK then. Because to absolutely no one's surprise, he's the winner. Despite Viggo Mortenson's beard.

We're coming up on the close of this show: all that are left are Best Director and Best Picture. I'd love to see the Big Uglies split it for Juno or Atonement, but No Country For Old Men is everyone's favorite, as are the Coen Bros. Martin Scorsese starts things as expected: they get the Best Director award. Ethan gives his speech from earlier: "Thank you." Joel rambles comically for a bit, but not too long, and then Denzel Washington comes out for Best Picture #80. Here we go: No Surprises For Tonight's Oscars. No Country wins, as forecast. Guess I'll have to see it now. This guy says with a straight face that the win is a "complete surprise"? To whom? Some eight year old in Uganda?

3:20 isn't too bad for the Oscars. It skipped along at a pretty good clip. The writers should go on strike every year. (Kidding!)

Ah well...

Back to reality.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

loony tunes

I did something very much out of character tonight. With no necessity facing me, no requirement to do so, nothing compelling me, I actually chose to put on a coat, wrap a scarf around my neck, don some gloves, and stand outside in nearly zero degree weather for many, many minutes. My breath hung in the night air for only moments before sinking under its own weight toward the ground. No one passed by; not even a car moved on the street. But I stayed there, my eyes focused on a rare gift that I did not want to give up.

We don't get to see total lunar eclipses as often as we'd like to. The next possible one in this hemisphere isn't for two more years, and who knows whether clouds or storms will obscure it when it finally arrives. But tonight was clear as crystal, one of the most perfect nights I can recall in a long time, certainly in this month of awful weather that has seen more snowfall than most recent winters have had in their totality. And as I stood in the frigid night air, looking up at the pure black sky, seeing that red moon--first with my naked eyes and then, even more spectacularly, through binoculars--hanging against the darkness surrounded by planets and stars, I couldn't help thinking about the small miracles that nature provides to transfix us all if we stop and think about them for more than a millisecond.

All of my life I have been infatuated by natural beauty. On first seeing the majesty of the Grand Canyon, its huge and ancient walls rippling with spectacular bands of colors, all carved from solid rock by that tiny trickling rivulet deep down within the valley, I sat on a rock promontory and simply stared in awe. At Bryce Canyon, with its feathery sandstone pillars rising like some otherworldly landscape from a red dwarf-pine dotted floor, I marveled at the sheer audacity of the delicacy of the design of the whole as I wandered joyfully through its sculpted maze. In Yellowstone, where the cars stop along the roadsides at even the hint of animal sightings, there were enough moments that arrested me in my tracks to fill several memoirs. So too with Arches, with Grand Teton, with Yosemite, with Denali, and with so many, many others.

But it isn't only the huge National Parks that make me stop and smell the proverbial roses. I do that literally, too. Walking the Breast Cancer 3-Day several years ago, I recall coming suddenly upon a sidewalk garden bursting with red and white roses freshly in bloom. Many of my fellow walkers slipped on past as if this were any other gate in any other yard. I just couldn't. I caught a whiff of that scent as I neared them and it simply forced me to stop, to admire, to enjoy the first roses I had seen that season. Like the early crocuses peering through late February (or, this year, maybe early April) snow cover, dotting the gray landscape with bright color, these flowers arrested me, forced my notice.

I notice the fall colors too: I have been known to pull over to stare at particularly magnificent trees (usually maple trees, which tend to turn the most spectacular and vibrant shades of orange and red). And (despite myself) I stop and stare at the calm and serene beauty of freshly fallen snow or of the sparkling aftermath of an ice storm. Nature has so many ways to call to me, to let me know I should be looking.

One month years and years ago I was staying late in a building we owned in New Hampshire each night, renovating it, painting rooms, etc. Some nights I slept there; some nights I drove home very late. Because of its physical relation to the highway and a run of excellent weather, I found myself noticing the moon that month in a way I had rarely noticed it before. I saw it go through all of its phases, and saw the details of each one. I watched as the full moon rose, seemingly filling the entire horizon. I saw it ten days later as a small crescent, a "Cheshire Cat" moon, a disembodied smile hanging mysteriously in the night sky. It's not often I notice the moon going through its phases, but it is a remarkable thing to see.

Not that everything that arrests me in nature is beautiful. I remember driving up the long, long road to Mt. St. Helens, stunned by the immensity of the devastation caused by the eruption of the volcano. I remember similarly being overwhelmed at the extent of the destruction caused by Yellowstone's forest fires. Nature's power to awe is not limited to its beautiful aspects. Nor is it limited to vistas, though if I started naming animals, birds, insects...well, this post could go on forever. It's difficult enough to stop thinking of all of the times I have been moved by places I've seen and beauty I've seen. I grew up in New Hampshire, where spectacle is commonplace, where forested mountains meet lakes only fifty miles from the ocean, where the state's symbol is the natural rock formation of a man's head overhanging a crystal clear mountain lake, a formation I visited dozens of times in my youth and adulthood and never tired of seeing, a formation that, alas, finally gave way to erosion a few years ago and slipped into history.

All of this--and so much more--is in the power that bound me to the moon tonight. I stared at its reddened surface, heedless of the cold that would under any other circumstance have sent me scrambling back into the house. I don't know how long I was out there.

Dirk asked, "Haven't you ever seen a lunar eclipse?"

Of course I had. But how can you be so jaded that you don't see the stunning show Nature is putting on for you? As I stared at the moon, a shooting star whipped past its darkened face: one more element added to the perfection. I didn't even notice the cold. Maybe one of these winters I'll make it up north to see the Aurora. I can't think of anything more lovely than a sky full of rippling lights. And if I can handle the cold for an eclipse, I might just be able to handle it for the Northern Lights.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I agree. But the trick to that, of course, is obvious: you have to be willing to look.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

happy (late) valentine's day

Happy Valentine’s Day.

I know. I'm late. I'm a notorious procrastinator; didn't you read my profile? But I'm going to go with the whole "better late than never" thing here, so before it gets to be St. Patrick's Day, Happy Valentine's Day.

I'm actually someone who likes holidays a lot. Christmas has always been one of my favorite days of the year despite its inherent connection with cold and snow and winter. I love the joy of Easter, the warmth of Thanksgiving, the celebratory excitement of the Fourth of July, and all of the pomp and circumstance that holidays bring with them. Even minor holidays (like the aforementioned St. Patty's Day) bring a smile to my face--well, that one does give me an excuse to speak in an Irish accent all day, which is always fun--so I guess one could say I'm pretty much down with the whole holiday thing.

Valentine's Day, though, I have to admit, was not one of my favorites for most of my life. As an adult, it has been a day to celebrate our relationship with my spouse when I have been married but it has also been a day to mourn the fact that I'm not in a relationship otherwise. I think I had truly "Happy Valentine's Days" between ages 20 and 30, when my relationship with my first spouse was growing and strong. In the declining years of our marriage and in my forties...not so much. In fact, in my forties, I went through a bizarre decade in which I always seemed either to break up with someone just before Feb 14 or to begin a relationship in early March. With the exception of cards to my daughters, I don’t think that I had written the phrase “Happy Valentine’s Day” in twenty years before I met Dirk.

Not that the day was meaningless. It's my mother's birthday, for one thing, so it's a day I always remember. But, like Arbor Day and Flag Day, it had become a holiday whose meaning had been lost to me. I got to V-Day and all I could see were little candy hearts. Nothing more. It is one of those elements of life that is probably interesting to some strange person somewhere, but certainly not to me. I’m not going to give the matter a second thought.

Well, maybe a second thought. When I was seven years old, what did I possibly know of Valentine’s Day? It was a holiday--those were awfully important in grammar school, where my infatuation with themed days undoubtedly originated. (Remember decorating classrooms with autumn leaves, Ninas, Pintas, and Santa Marias, pumpkins, turkeys, Christmas trees, snowflakes, Lincoln top hats, Easter eggs, flowers, or whatever else was appropriate? With all of the fuss, how did we ever learn anything?) Anyway, it was a holiday, but to me it was undoubtedly the worst one of the year.

First of all, we didn’t get the day off of school. (How can any day be a holiday if you have to go to school?) Second, it was painful. I suppose it was not painful if you were well-liked, but I was the weird child, the one people picked on. And I was also the child who never got any valentines. Well, not never. I mean, I got some, but only token ones from the kids who sent them to absolutely everyone. (Although I do recall one little fledgling s*** who actually sent them to everyone except me. I mean, really: who teaches second graders that kind of cruelty?) And the kids were not the only cruel ones. The teachers always had everyone pass out the valentines right there in class. We would wander around the room, placing cards on various desks. Of course, I always brought one for everyone. (Both boys and girls. It can’t hurt to cover all bases.) But no one returned the favor. So while Suzy Sweetheart and Peter Popular were enjoying digging their way out from the mountains of valentines that turned their desks into termite mounds (not exactly an appropriate image, I know, but it does reflect just about how I felt about the holiday) I was sitting there trying to crawl inside of my desk with the two lousy cards on it.

Such are the torments of the Valentine’s Days of my joyous youth. May they rest in peace with all of the other hells of my childhood.

Now, as I said, the Valentine’s Days of my adulthood are much more palatable. For one thing, it was on Valentine’s Day that I met my former spouse, so it was an anniversary of sorts. True story: we were working at this greasy spoon in Evanston while we both attended Northwestern (note the clever, unobtrusive reference to my alma mater; it’s nice to have graduated from there, at least if you live in the Midwest--it sure sounds impressive). We met some time in the winter when our schedules changed and we both ended up working mornings. Several years later we went back to our old schedule books on a whim--since we were in school we kept assignment books, and since we were pack rats we never threw anything away--curious to discover exactly what day it had been when we first met. And there it was: February 14. Obviously a match made in heaven. At least for a while.

So all Valentine’s Days were fun for a while. And of course my daughter Julie’s birthday is the next week; she was born on February 19, 1992. (Her birthday is today: Sweet Sixteen. I think it is something psychological that is preventing me from writing about that. I can hardly believe it anyway; it seems less than a week since we woke up at 3 AM and made our way to the hospital where, a sleepless night and morning later, we found ourselves the parents of a second daughter. Goddess, how time flies.) And now that I am married again, my husband sees to it that Valentine's Day is special. This year, after a lovely pre-V-Day dinner (he needed to go to Wisconsin on the 14th) and a romantic evening of watching An Affair to Remember and Sleepless in Seattle, I had a bit of work to do so he went to bed first. When I joined him upstairs, I found two dozen red roses in a vase in the bathroom sink.

All in all, I guess it is a fairly decent little holiday, if you do not happen to be the weird kid in the back of the room.

Perhaps I shouldn't have given into my tendencies toward procrastination; perhaps I should have written this last week. Perhaps I should take a moment or so to discuss procrastination. (I could just end this right now with a line like, “but I don’t have time right now, so I’ll do it next week,” or something, but I won’t.) It's easy to put things off; it's easy to fall behind, to pretend that it really isn't important if little things go undone. I find that this small lie makes up a huge part of my life. Maybe the minor but nagging health issues I've been dealing with give me an excuse for procrastination; I’m not sure. But the fact remains that I do constantly have a bit of trouble fitting it all in. And I could lie to myself and say that it’s school or church or this or that, or it’s the family, or it's (fill in the blank with whatever the excuse du jour happens to be).

But the truth is that it has always been thus: in college, I was the world’s worst procrastinator. I would put off for entire quarters the assignments which had no check quizzes or interim papers. It would be the ninth week of the quarter and I would need to read Great Expectations, The Collected Novels of Ernest Hemingway, and Moby Dick, write a twenty-page Philosophy paper, and do a research project on the migration of the Australian earthworm, all due in five days. I would literally make myself a schedule (including such items as “4:15 AM to 6:45 AM--sleep”) and stick to it for a week from hell. But I would get it done. And, dragging my corpselike body into the bed for about 50 hours of recuperative relaxation, I would swear on a stack of Bibles and on my mother’s grave (which, I suppose, shouldn’t count, since she is not dead, but those are the easiest vows to make, aren’t they?) that I would never do it again. And then, ten weeks later, while I was trying to write a twelve page paper on Sexual Frustration in the Book of Genesis or some such topic, I would wonder how I ever kept getting into this mess.

I used to have this anxiety dream. It was a fairly popular one, as such dreams go. It was the last day of school, and I suddenly remembered that I had not even attended a certain class the entire semester. I needed to turn in two major papers in order to pass, but I didn’t have the foggiest notion of what the course was about. Without them, I’d fail, and if I failed, I would not graduate. The weird thing about this dream is that, after I had it, I would actually believe the damn thing days later when it would pop into my mind. I would break out into a cold sweat until I realized that the course in question was all in a dream. The weirder thing is that I was having this dream well into my thirties, over a decade after I had finished school. That’s what procrastination does to you: you are never quite sure just what you might have put off.

It’s a dangerous way to live. You end up wishing people a Happy Valentine's Day on the 19th.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cookies and Gilmore Girls

Mellie is making cookies.

It's the end of the middle day of a three day weekend and I am sitting in my living room with Dirk while we count the minutes until the end of Julie's soccer practice--the penultimate practice prior to a major tournament next weekend in Cincinnati (an outdoor tournament, for goodness' sake, in February)--when I will have to drive into Buffalo Grove to pick her up. Earlier this afternoon, we finished watching the final season of The Gilmore Girls together, and (as I did last spring when I saw it for the first time) I cried incessantly. It isn't a sad ending, exactly, not in the universe of Stars Hollow, but it is saying goodbye, and saying goodbye is never easy.

That's what Mellie and Julie don't really understand. That's why, when I was crying, Mellie stood behind me telling me over and over that "it's just a TV show, Mom." That's why Julie lay on the couch and, though her eyes teared up a bit also, she was able to maintain a bit more detachment: she could see the goodbyes, but she could also see, as could Mellie, that this small artificial universe would always be there if we chose to return to it. And, of course, I could see that also: wasn't I returning to it for a second time already?

But what they could not see was what I saw all too clearly. I could see the pain in Lorelei's eyes when she stopped planning Rory's departure long enough to recognize that, yes, Rory was leaving. I could see the pain in Emily's eyes when she heard the news and knew that Rory's impending freedom may mean not only the loss of seeing her granddaughter, but also her second loss of her daughter. I could see it all not only from the perspective of someone who had reached the end of what had been a wonderful seven-season ride with some of the most well-written and beautifully-performed characters I've ever known, but as a parent who has already watched one child walk out of the nest and who, in a few too-brief years, will be watching the others follow.

It's only a TV show, Mellie said. And she's right. But it's also way, way too real.

I could feel her hand on my shoulder as I was watching these last episodes. Mellie was sitting in a chair directly behind me, and she could see my reactions most clearly. She knew my fingers hesitated even pushing the button to start playing the final episode, called Bon Voyage. She could see when the tears began. She placed her hand on my shoulder at some point and just left it there. I'm pretty sure she thought I was being ridiculous. I probably was, at least from any rational perspective. But my mind was not only in Gilmore-land. It was glancing across to the other couch and imagining two years hence when Julie will be saying goodbye. It was imagining three years after that when it will be Melanie following her, and only a single additional year before Julie's college graduation. And it was remembering the tears in my own mother's eyes when I flew off to college the first time, the second time, the third time. Time is flying by, and I can do nothing at all to slow it down.

Yesterday, Julie and her boyfriend Max celebrated a one-year anniversary. They gave each other "promise rings," and Julie was very upset with me when I did not respond "appropriately" with complete agreement and enthusiasm over the not-so-implied element of "pre-engagement" that she intended in that gesture. They know that they will be together forever, that they will be married, that they are true soulmates.

I call that being sixteen. Maybe they will be together forever. That's possible. But it will take a lot more than a promise ring to secure that future through all of the trials and turmoils that are to come. Julie's one major issue with the ending of The Gilmore Girls had to do with Rory's relationship with her boyfriend of the past three seasons. In the final three episodes, he proposes to her and she decides not to marry him. She has too many lives to live, she discovers, partially to her own surprise. Julie, so deeply in love, feels that was unsatisfying, an "unhappy" ending. I tried to explain that it was perfectly in keeping with the inherent independence of the character, but she was having none of it. She is celebrating being sixteen and being in love, and Rory's rejection of marriage to a good man who loves her made no sense, especially since she loves him too.

And, no, it doesn't make sense, but when did love and marriage and relationships ever?

Though there are no further episodes of the series, in our hearts we can imagine the future of the characters of Stars Hollow, the directions their lives will lead them. We can imagine Luke and Lorelei finally marrying. We can imagine her relationship with her mother, oddly disjointed yet firmly interconnected, going on and on now that they have finally begun to understand one another. And we can imagine Rory, given the freedom to explore who she is, discovering or rediscovering the passions that made her fascinating in the first place. Love will come with time. Passion, though, is what she has always been about.

As I watched the closing of the series--again--I was glad for the weight of Mellie's hand on my shoulder, the firm touch emblematic of the time we still have remaining. And I was happy to see Julie across from me, my own Rory, or at least one of my two Rories, here and now even though, clearly, not forever. The tears came; I didn't even try to stop them. I couldn't have. My daughters would not understand. But if they watched this series thirty years from now with their own daughters, I know they would.

The cookies are done. They smell good, and Mellie, reading this over my shoulder, her chin resting on my head, wants me to try one. I will, and then I'll go to pick up Julie at soccer. This is life today. It's comfortable and warm and wonderful.

And so darned temporary.

Friday, February 15, 2008

the horrible possibility

This is what we expect when we send our children to college:

They will learn independence.
They will grow away from us (whether we like it or not).
They will take major steps toward their futures.
They will go to parties (probably too many).
They will become excited about subjects they never knew they could get excited about.
They will make new friends.
They will study a lot (and at the oddest hours).
They will make mistakes.
They will in all likelihood do things we would prefer that they not tell us about.
They will mature.
They will become increasingly involved in whatever they believe in.
They will experiment in many ways (mostly good).
They will come away with the tools (and the diploma) that will allow them to get going in life.

This is what we never expect:

They will be sitting in a classroom dutifully taking notes when, out of nowhere, a madman walks in, takes out a gun, and opens fire. There is pandemonium, the sound of a shotgun's report echoing against an increasing foreground of screams, panic as over a hundred students run for doorways or drop to the ground and crawl, hoping to get out of the bullets' way. Someone is yelling "Run, run," and someone in the crush of bodies at the doors is hollering "He's got a gun" and all of them are crying and the gun just keeps spraying bullets somewhere behind them until they can't hear it anymore in the confusion and horror.

Outside, if they are lucky enough to have gotten outside, they are hustled away from the building where the attack had taken place. Many are already on cell phones, calling 911, calling home. Others collapse, crying, onto the grass or sidewalk as soon as they are far enough away to know that they are safe. Many do not stop running until they are in their dorms. Many do not stop running until they have left campus entirely.

There was a time when something like this would shock the systems of anyone who heard about it, when it would make us stop and stare at the news in horror and awe and outrage, when our very senses would rebel against the comprehension of it. That time has passed. Now, when the news comes, our first stunned reaction is more likely to be something along the lines of "Not again" or, if the school is close by, "Not here too."

We know this scene now; it is far too familiar, far too entrenched in our collective memories ever to forget it. It is another indelible frame in the ever-growing panoply of photographs that takes up an entire wall within our minds, joining the limousine with the woman scrambling over the back, the three-prong explosion against a blue Miami sky, the naked girl running, screaming, down a Vietnam street, the bound hostages kneeling before men in black masks bearing machine guns, the towers burning, the towers falling, the great hole where the towers once stood, and most powerful of all the tremendous mushroom cloud of the nuclear bomb: it is the wall that tells the story of our loss of innocence, of our fall from grace.

From unrest and assassinations in the sixties to the school shootings of the 90's and 00's, we have passed through more phases of denial than ought to be possible. We do not ever believe that such things can happen, yet they happen over and over again. I wonder if it is a tribute to American resilience that we can somehow return again and again to a state of harmonious distance from such evil, or if it is something else, perhaps a desperate need to believe that these people are not the world, that they are aberrations, that though we live in an imperfect place and time we still live in as good a place and time as we can possibly have, and we cannot and should not allow ourselves to embrace the idea that these events signal its impending demise, its coming plunge into insanity and disorder.

We send out children off to college for something better than that. We believe in something better than that. We must believe in something better than that, in a future in which we can help these depraved and despondent people before they end up doing these horrifying things, before they strip us of our innocence and our facade of safety. We want to, we have to believe in a world where we do not have to fear what is around every dark corner. We need that world. We need it.

But the wall within our minds, the wall of shattered innocence, continues to grow. And now added to that wall are the images of Northern Illinois University and the second mass killing on an American campus in less than a year. One time we might dismiss as a singular event; twice, though, is something else altogether. We send our children to college to get an education, not to die. There is nothing in the brochures about that. They show ivy and green lawns, not uzis and pistols. But for parents of college students today, that terrible possibility is now a reality. And for those parents, life just became a bit more uneasy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

39 Steps (more or less) to a better life

My son called me today.

I had not heard from him in awhile, and I actually intended to call him this weekend because of that fact, but he beat me to the punch. While Dirk and I were lying in the living room watching a 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film (The 39 Steps), my oldest was sitting in his home in Peoria thinking about talking to me. Ten minutes or so before the end of the film, the phone rang.

My son's name is John. That's his name now. He's changed it recently, and he's changed it before: it was Foster before John, and Nicolas before Foster. Before Nicolas there were several other names as well. I think he is trying to find the one that really fits, as he is trying to find the life that really fits. It's been difficult.

Throughout his life, John has struggled with many minor and major emotional problems. I first became aware that something seemed amiss as early as second grade. We had just had our second child, Julie, and John was so excited about the new baby; he couldn't wait to see his sister. When we all were home, he was constantly doting on her, wanting to touch her or hold her; it was clear that he was happy and loved her. But several months later I found myself standing at the top of the falls at Yellowstone Canyon, showing John how deeply the river had cut into the mountain. He was thrilled by it, and then suddenly turned and looked at little six-month-old Julie in her stroller and said: "Wouldn't it be horrible if the baby fell in?"

It was such a Freudian line I almost laughed. But it did explain, all in a rush, something I had noticed: my six-year-old had gained ten pounds since the baby was born. Since that is a whole lot in such a short time for such a young child, I was concerned, but I didn't really know what I was concerned about. Now I got it: even though John did indeed love Julie, there was a little natural sibling jealousy. I figured it would go away.

I suppose it did. After a period in which he ignored her, they became best friends. But John's sudden weight gain became a pattern: he continued to gain weight steadily until, by middle school, he was clearly obese. Friends became harder to maintain, and he retreated into himself more and more. His only friends at that time were a neighbor several years younger than he and a classmate who was every bit as much an "outcast" as he was.

Somehow John made it to high school, and I thought things would change there. They did: they got worse. By this time I had transitioned and my ex and I were divorced and living separately. His residency was with her, but they fought so much that it was impossible for that to work out. Some time in sophomore year, he moved in with me.

Frankly, despite his problems, having John move in was the most wonderful thing that could have happened for me. I missed all of my children desperately. I was always the "nurturing" parent, always the one who was with them on summer days, who took them on long vacation trips, etc. Now I came home to a house that was empty and quiet save for an orange tabby cat who had wandered into a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream when I was directing it at school and ended up with me. Oberon and I made the most of the solitude, but I much preferred the crazy chaos of days and nights and weeks when the children were here. So when John moved in, it was like an answered prayer.

We talked deep into the night on many occasions, sometimes because I needed to calm him down from one small hell he had trapped himself in emotionally or another, but sometimes just about whatever we felt like talking about. I remember many lazy days lying in the living room on the couches just talking about random topics, some serious, some not. Tonight he said he missed them; I do too. I also miss the healthier version of John I knew so briefly in those days. As he was putting himself back together after a complete meltdown, he actually lost almost all of that excess weight, becoming an absolutely normal looking (and very attractive) young man. But his new exterior did not translate into a new interior.

John struggled to get out of high school. He is bipolar and has severe anxiety attacks and is utterly unnerved in crowds. (The latter fact I recall discovering to my chagrin at the Vernon Hills Days fair one summer.) When his classmates (and same-age cousins) went on to college, he opted for a different route. He married his boyfriend in a civil ceremony and then moved out, determined to start his life. After a few months, they decided to move to California, which they did, but that did not work out and they ended up back here. When I saw him again I was amazed to see that, in the year living in CA, John had gained all of the weight back. The stress must have been horrific out there. Anyway, they moved to Champaign and John began classes to become a veterinary technician, a situation that seemed to be going well until last spring when all possibilities that he thought were reasonable for a summer internship fell through and, without one, he was forced to leave the program.

Back to the drawing board...again...he and his husband/wife (the soulmate he married is gender-queer and presents either way) had nowhere to go. Literally, as they were losing the lease on their apartment, too. So, after they begged me, I forked out money to buy a trailer for them to live in and they moved to Peoria, where John was going to start new classes. Except he didn't. He decided to get a job instead. Except he hasn't. He says he has applied everywhere but has had no luck. So now, months later, they sit in the trailer playing video games, watching TV, and waiting out the winter. And John called me tonight, upset that his life was so empty, so wasted, so unsuccessful.

"I don't even talk to my cousin anymore, and you know why? Because we used to be even. But now she's been to college and she has a career and I'm just sitting here and I'm such a loser."

He said he fears that the same thing is about to happen with Julie, who once was his best friend. He can sense them growing apart and he's freaked out by it. Of course, I told him, she's growing apart. That's what people do. Your life has rather unusually been placed on hold, but everyone's around you is still moving forward. Julie is 16; her life is getting hectic. And it will get more and more hectic. But if you were on a conventional track, you'd be working full time right now and you wouldn't be sitting around feeling miserable.

He told me he's been depressed again about his lack of progress toward anything. "I'm a loser," he repeated. And frankly it pissed me off.

You're not a loser. You're losing. There's a difference. You need to begin looking at the potential you have to succeed instead of the reality of your current failure. To believe you will continue to fail is a self-fulfilling prophecy: why even try when you know it is futile? What you need to do is visualize your realistic goal--what do you want to achieve? Who do you want the future you to be? And then start down the path to make that happen.

"Realistic? How will I ever be able to afford to be a veterinarian? Eight years of school?"

Don't worry about that right now. If you never start down the path because you censor it from the beginning as unreachable, then that too is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you get part-way to the goal and then change your mind, then that's what you do, but you are farther down the road, with richer experience, by the time you do. Your problem is that, whenever you find yourself changing your path, you stop completely instead, back up, return to the starting point, sit down, and stay there. There is no growth in such stasis.

As he said goodbye, I found myself thinking of that small child, riding on the back of my bike, stopping to smell flowers in my garden, running up the aisle of a theatre in which I was performing in a play, calling my name when he saw me onstage... Where has that child gone? And where will Julie and Melanie have gone in a few years? The small children that they once were are already memories too, but even the teenage versions will fade away with time. That's what John needs to remember: he too was busy in high school. There were lots of clubs. There were even friends he hung with, at least before the Great Meltdown. It's all a part of growing up, of being alive.

John was less upset when he hung up the phone. He seemed--at least--placated. And who knows? This time next year he might be firmly ensconced in a college somewhere taking classes that will ultimately lead him to a degree he can be thoroughly proud of.

All he has to do is believe it.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

coffee in bed

Children are the keys of paradise.
Eric Hoffer

I like children - fried.
W. C. Fields

Day, n. A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent.
Ambrose Bierce

It's -2 degrees in Chicago, which is still celebrating Give The One-Finger Salute to Global Warming Month in fine style. Last night, on the heels of wind that whipped, according to meteorologists, up to 50 mph, temperatures fell from about 25 to our current Yukon impression. When I looked at the weather report, I informed my family that I was sleeping in: I'm so sick of this I cannot say, and dragging myself and my 13-year-old out of bed to venture into the stark windy frigid atmosphere to attend services this morning...well, let's just say that, if there is a God, I am certain that she or he will understand.

Melanie, the aforementioned (and extremely grateful) 13-year-old, awakened me this morning at 9:30 with a cup of hot coffee and the news that, A) two of my cats were sleeping on my bed with me and, B) she was going to make blueberry pancakes. I rolled over and petted the purring cats, sipped the coffee (which brought to mind the old Squeeze song "Coffee in Bed" even though that song is about a breakup and not a happy and sweet good morning from your teenage daughter), and decided to get up.

Somewhere in there my older daughter, Julie--sixteen next week--also came up to say good morning, having been awakened ("rudely awakened," she said) by her boyfriend, who is in Florida and had forgotten the time change. Since Dirk was already downstairs–having aborted his own attempt to go to church when the car, after fifteen minutes, had managed to heat up only from -4 to just over zero degrees–the whole house was up, and Sunday was on.

Sunday is not a day that holds any real traditions in my house. Life has been far too choppy and events too discontinuous to develop them, and we are not really used to having entire Sundays at home. There is usually church or soccer or something that drags us hither and yon. So on this day, we find ourselves lying around with no direct plan, each of us focusing on our own homework or our own interests. And it's funny: just relaxing turns out to be a very nice thing for a family to do together. Relaxing, sipping that coffee, enjoying the memory of the nice breakfast Melanie made, listening to the sounds of quiet and's nice.

Maybe we'll play some games later after homework is done. We rarely have time anymore; I'm so busy and they are so busy. But we always have fun when we find an hour or two to sit playing Apples to Apples or Uno or whatever we feel like at the time. Just being with each other...days like this will not happen for all that much longer. Julie will be gone in just a couple of years, and Melanie will follow two years later. She won't be waking me with coffee and pancakes, and Julie won't come up and crawl into my bed and tell me her boyfriend woke her up. I'll have to "see" them online and talk to them on telephones. They'll come home on vacations, and I'll have to share them then with their friends and with my ex. I'll wish desperately then for a return to these lazy quiet days with no agenda, when all we have in the world is each other.

Look around you. See your family, your friends, your closest coworkers. How much of your time with them is really of the nature that you'd like it to be? We spend too many hours and days of our lives in petty disagreements with people we actually enjoy being with. The old maxim, "familiarity breeds contempt," springs to mind, but it's not contempt really; it's more a kind of crazy security in the notion that we can express our own frustrations and intolerances through these people with whom we are the most comfortable. We know that they won't walk away from us permanently, so we feel free emotionally to let it all hang out with them. And because there are so many people in our lives we cannot do that with–either because it would be "inappropriate" or because we lack that same sense of security–we tend to have quite a backlog of nonsense with which to wallop them.

The result is that we waste the precious moments we have whining about things that ultimately are not worth an iota of our attention. And when we could have been spending that time enjoying the company of someone we love, that's just sad. My daughters will be gone in a few short years. I want to enjoy being a central part of their worlds as long as they will allow me to. As teenagers, of course they do things that get on my nerves, the kind of things that prompt the W.C. Fields quote at the top of the blog. It's in the job description of a teenager to do so. But I'm not a teenager, and I try to have the patience to endure those moments when they come rather than extending them; I just do not want to lose these days I can never recapture.

My relationship with each of these girls is very much the Gilmore Girls iconic type, and I have done everything in my power to foster that. Neither of them is really Rory, but then I'm not really Lorelai either, though we both do love coffee, as Melanie knew when she brought me that cup this morning. And right now, she is setting up Scattergories, and that's my signal that, though I am not quite finished, it's time to go. Some things are far more important than finding a beautiful ending. Some things, quite frankly, you just don't want to end.


Friday, February 8, 2008

how to save the economy

According to President Bush, the best way to save us from recession is to give everyone–or anyway most of us–a few hundred dollars to blow as we see fit. And in this election year, the members of Congress from both parties supported this notion with all of their souls, even desiring to increase the gift out of the goodness of their hearts and the desperate desire to be sent back for another term.

Now I am the last person on Earth to pretend to be an economist–one look at my checkbook or my financial statement will tell you all you need to know about how little I truly comprehend about what Douglas Adams characterized as "the movements of small green pieces of paper"–but I do fancy myself at least to a miniscule extent to be a reasonable and logical person, and as such I cannot help wondering this:

Why in the world was a small tax rebate a bad thing five years ago when Bush did it the first time, a move roundly criticized by the Democratic leadership as futile and weak and ultimately bad for the economy, yet now it is something that they can support, get photographed together, hold hands and chant Kumbaya?

Of course I know that I answered that question in the opening paragraph: it's an election year and the Dems are now the majority; they have to do something popular like this even if it makes no earthly sense. And it does not. I know, says little Georgie, why don't we solve our problem of not having enough cookies by making more of them and giving them to people passing by? And little Nancy coos beside him, Oh, Georgie, you know I don't usually agree with you, but folks really do love cookies! Maybe we could even give them more than you wanted to! Then they''d really love us, and they'd get out into the world all full of cookies and milk and so warm and fuzzy that they'd want to spend spend spend and help us start rebuilding our economy overnight.

The national debt has gone from manageable to utterly insane during the Bush years. The national budget deficit has increased from zero when he took office (that's right: zero–remember that Clinton balanced the budget?) to numbers that are so incomprehensible that frankly I don't even understand how to grasp them. Bush has made the top few percent of Americans richer then their wildest dreams. He has made corporations, especially oil companies and those related to health insurance and pharmeceuticals, into Fortune 500 companies. He has closed tax loopholes and tightened bankruptcy laws while encouraging the kind of false and overly generous credit that has landed us in the mess we are in with the foreclosure crisis, and left people with no real way to escape the crushing weight of their debt. He will retire to his ranch in Texas and Cheney will retire to some cush consulting job with one of the companies he has helped to enrich, and neither of these men will ever want for anything...unlike so many millions in the land they have ravaged.

And they think that they can wave $600 at the problem and it will go away?

Sorry, W. And sorry, Nancy. It will take a whole heck of a lot more than $600 to make much difference even in debt payoff alone for many of us. Many of us, economists (actual ones) predict, will simply put the money into savings. And there is no guarantee that, even if we do spend the cash, it will change a single thing. After all, if the national average credit card debt is now nearly $10,000–as several sources have reported–is $600 really going to make such a gigantic difference?

It was politically expedient to support this stupid and probably less than worthless piece of legistation, designed to "stimulate the economy" by raining money down on the public (an act that seems justthisclose to an attempt to buy votes). I don't know whether Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama supported the measure, but I'm guessing that they did: they are pragmatic people and pragmatic people tend to do pragmatic things even when they know that these things are unlikely to yield any positive result.

So what, IMHO, would yield a positive result, however measured? How about we begin by ending this asinine war that is draining our economy at the rate of $100,000 a minute? How about we pour the $170 billion earmarked for the rebates to shoring up the national credit crisis? How about we bite than freaking bullet and go for a universal, single-payer health care plan, the likes of which is, thanks to HMO lobbyists, so controversial in this country (despite working well practically everywhere else) that only a fringe candidate like Dennis Kucinich could embrace it?

And while we're fixing things, let's legalize marriage equality too. It probably won't help the economy, but what the heck: it's overdue.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

super duper fat tsunami tuesday

I watched the election returns come in last night with deepening interest. I'm an election junkie and I have been from earliest childhood; my first memory of truly taking sides in a Presidential election was the 1968 Nixon-Humphrey campaign. I was 11. I think I can definitely say that HHH won the coveted 11-year-old demographic that year, since I doubt there was anyone else my age who was even paying attention, but I wasn't even new to politics: I had been paying attention since I was six, when I was plunged into the grownup world of Presidents and gamesmanship in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, which is my first complete, unimpeachable memory. I didn't know who Kennedy was, I'm sure, until he was dead, but I watched the news that weekend and read the papers--which I still have--and I began a lifelong obsession with...

I was about to say "a lifelong obsession with politics," but I realized that it was not entirely true. I'm not a political junkie, but an election junkie. And I think that my obsession has been truly about finding a politician who can, finally, replace the man who was lost on the day that started me on all of this. I know that over the years I've looked for that candidate. I thought I saw him when I was fifteen, but Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. In the 35 years since, I've glimpsed bits of him in Jimmy Carter, in Bill Clinton, in Gerald Ford, and in other, lesser candidates, but they always proved to be mere fragments, mere illusions. Kennedy did not reside there, and frankly by this election cycle I had utterly forgotten I was even looking, shrugging my shoulders as did so many others every four years wondering why we could never find, in this great country, a candidate who was really worth voting for, why we had to settle for such impoverished choices so often, and why this country deserved to end up with leaders such as the one who is being allowed to retire rather than (as he deserves) be impeached this year.

Surely, I now realize, this is why I am so taken with Barack Obama. Even before Caroline Kennedy's endorsement, it was easy to see that he is the single Presidential candidate since her uncle who could come close to being what her father was. And that's what I've been waiting for pretty much all of my life.

So I watched the returns and listened to the pundits. Pundits are a silly group, as a whole. Chris Matthews on MSNBC started out the night informing us that Clinton was expected to win California and Massachusetts. As the night wore on and she did, in fact, do so, he began interviewing her operatives (an even sillier group: the spin doctors) who claimed that her victories in those states were unexpected upsets. At first, Matthews argued with them, even calling one shill's words "flackery" (which I assume means "the ravings of some flack"). But as he heard it repeated more and more, even Matthews began to say that Clinton had "upset" Obama in Massachusetts, repeating the "flackery" he had denounced earlier.

Pundits. At least they are entertaining. Hey, what's more entertaining than watching Pat Buchanan force himself to say nice things about Hillary Clinton?

But I digress. I found the election returns utterly fascinating, and here's why: after over 14.6 million votes were cast, Clinton and Obama were separated by less than 0.4%, a mere 55,000 votes. After all of those delegates were parceled out, Clinton received 540 and Obama 539, only one delegate fewer. A full day after polls closed, the state of New Mexico still has not been called, and the two candidates (who will each pick up half of the state's delegates) are separated by fifty votes. When was a primary election ever this close? And what's even more remarkable is this: polls reveal that over 70% of Democratic voters would be happy to support the other candidate if he or she became the party's nominee. There are two candidates here who have 70% approval ratings within the party! No wonder there is a sense that something really is happening!

Voters are turning out in record numbers. Young people are being stimulated to become involved like never before. There is an energy among the electorate that defies the American record of voter apathy. This historic election--in which either a black man or a woman will be a major party nominee--seems to have fired our collective imaginations. We are seeing the possibilities, seeing what this country can be, maybe for the first time in a long time. It's not all Obama; some of this is clearly Clinton too. It's a shame that the two of them have arrived simultaneously and that one has to lose. Either is far superior to anything the GOP has to offer, and even the GOP seems to know it, as their in-fighting in a futile attempt to find a candidate acceptable to even a bare majority of the party attests.

John McCain is a good man, but this is a year for making history, and his time is past for that. And as I watched the returns on this fattest of all Fat Tuesdays, with more primaries than had ever been held on one day before, it became more and more obvious to this election junkie: This is a Democratic year, and this is a Presidential campaign for the ages.

Monday, February 4, 2008

yes we can

Over the weekend I came across a remarkable music video (see below) created by of Black Eyed Peas and Jesse Dylan (Bob's son) and a cast of eclectic celebrities. It actually stars Illinois senator and Presidential candidate Barack Obama, delivering part of his New Hampshire post-election speech while and the others sing it and play it along with him.

I find the video remarkable not only because I am a solid Obama supporter, which I am and have been since I first discovered who he was while he was campaigning for the senate primary. I suppose I wouldn't give it a second thought if I did not support him, but since I do, I listened and watched carefully, and I came away moved. Actually touched by something in a political video. To quote Willy Loman: "Isn't that remarkable?"

I think it is the utter sincerity of the entire project, beginning with the words that Obama is speaking after losing the New Hampshire primary. I recall watching him deliver this speech that night and comparing it to Clinton's pretty good victory speech thinking that even in defeat this guy wins the oration event. It was a powerful, poignant, inspirational speech, and it called to mind exactly what Obama wanted it to: the pure idealism of an America unencumbered by the collective memory of the last 45 years of pain and hatred and infighting. The speech invoked the memories of John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, sacred figures who could by the sheer force of their beliefs and their personalities help us to believe in something beyond ourselves, in an America that only existed in a Dream.

And the fact that this speech affected these celebrities in this way, that they pretty much spontaneously decided to make it into a music video featuring whoever wanted to show up, and that the ensuing project was created with such obvious love and honesty, just underscores the main reason that I believe so strongly in Barack Obama. It's not so much that he will be a more effective President from Day One than Hillary Clinton. He might be, but how can we know for sure? Neither has ever been tested at anything remotely like this level. Still, I happen to believe that either one could be quite effective if allowed to be. And that, of course, is the rub. Clinton is so disliked by her enemies that, were she to become President, there would be almost the guarantee of a return to the pattern of undercutting and gridlock that has marked Washington political relations for a couple of decades now. That this reaction may not be deserved is not the issue; it is a fact connected to who she is and whom she is married to.

But Obama has no similar baggage, and much lower negatives from every demographic. There is no reason for people--Democrats, Independents, and even some Republicans--not to rally behind him. He wears the mantle of the New, and that is a very powerful aphrodisiac among many who are sick and tired of politics as they've always been. But it is not only the fact that he is something new that makes him attractive; he is also a man who seems able to see clearly the steps we need to take to move America past the self-righteousness and the animosity that have characterized our politics for a quarter of a century. He is a man who has demonstrated the ability to work with those on both sides of the table to get things done, being the "uniter" that George Bush only talked about being. He is a man who is capable of rebuilding America's tattered and soiled image abroad and restoring our lost international dignity and reputation as the moral leaders of the free world.

That asks a lot of one man. And in reality it may ask too much. But when I left the voting booth this morning it was the first time in my entire life that I did so with the honest hope that, this time, there really was a chance that such positive changes could happen, that my vote might have such an enormous impact on our future. Others complain of his relative lack of experience. I've noted before what a mess the experienced leaders that our current President surrounded himself with have gotten us into; experience is overrated. Vision is not. Barack Obama has vision. And when he speaks and makes us believe in that vision, when we walk into a voting booth and cast our ballots in sudden hope and expectation instead of the apathy and despair we too often feel about politics as usual, when he brings young people into the fold in numbers greater than at any other time in history because for the first time they see a candidate who gives them the confidence that things as they have been do not have to continue, then it is very easy to understand what and the others felt when they heard that speech.

Yes we can.

Here are the lyrics to Yes We Can, taken from Obama's NH speech:

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation.

Yes we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom.

Yes we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness.

Yes we can.

It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballots; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.

Yes we can to justice and equality.

Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity.

Yes we can heal this nation.

Yes we can repair this world.

Yes we can.

We know the battle ahead will be long, but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.

We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics...they will only grow louder and more dissonant ........... We've been asked to pause for a reality check. We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope.

But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.

Now the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA; we will remember that there is something happening in America; that we are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people; we are one nation; and together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story with three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea --

Yes. We. Can.

In the grand scheme of things, maybe one vote in one primary election doesn't mean all that much. But I and millions of others are hoping against hope that this time it really does. Whoever you support, if you are old enough, get out and vote. That's where the hope comes from.



it's your hair that i notice first
streaked with morning
it frames your face
you lying there eyes closed
soft breath not quite there
i follow its path as it bends the sheet
and i can touch you there
touch what i feel is you
in the spark of daylight
you'll rise
pull on the wrinkled shirt from last night
say something you think is beautiful
drink some coffee
from behind my paper
and drive away,
leaving a kiss on my lips
and a hole in my heart
where a fire ought to be

Favorite Films

  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • Amelie
  • The Princess Bride
  • Casablanca
  • Annie Hall
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • All That Jazz
  • Citizen Kane
  • Love Actually
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Big Fish
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Almost Famous
  • Bull Durham
  • Notting Hill
  • Apocalypse Now (Redux)
  • Magnolia

All-Time Favorite TV Shows

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Gilmore Girls
  • M*A*S*H
  • The West Wing
  • The X-Files
  • The Daily Show
  • Ally McBeal
  • Picket Fences
  • All In The Family
  • Seinfeld
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • Star Trek
  • Firefly
  • Wonderfalls
  • Northern Exposure
  • Get Smart
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show
  • Twin Peaks
  • The Larry Sanders Show
  • Monk
  • Felicity
  • St. Elsewhere

Current TV Shows I Enjoy (in no particular order)

  • Perception
  • Major Crimes
  • American Horror Story
  • Louie
  • Suits
  • The Newsroom
  • Falling Skies
  • Franklin and Bash
  • Veep
  • Scandal
  • Fairly Legal
  • Girls
  • Don't Trust the B---
  • Justified
  • Portlandia
  • Psych
  • The Middle
  • Person of Interest
  • Happy Endings
  • Hart of Dixie
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Nikita
  • Raising Hope
  • Castle
  • Drop Dead Diva
  • Covert Affairs
  • Elementary
  • Rizzoli and Isles
  • Revolution
  • The Last Resort
  • Alphas
  • SNL
  • Revenge
  • Community
  • Suburgatory
  • New Girl
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Grimm
  • Nashville
  • Downton Abbey
  • Smash
  • Homeland
  • Fringe
  • Glee
  • Haven
  • Community
  • Warehouse 13
  • Modern Family
  • Vampire Diaries
  • The Daily Show
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Colbert Report
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Leverage
  • Rachel Maddow Show

xkcd - A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and