Saturday, April 30, 2005

Thoughts on the late shift

I remember when I was growing up that my mom used to iron at two in the morning. It was funny how I discovered this: when we still lived in New York, there was (of all things) a mild tremor in the middle of the night. I was shaken awake, ran to my parents' room, screaming, "Hurricane!" (Apparently, earthquakes were a little out of my realm of possibility.) My dad was, maturally, very much asleep and very confused as I woke him up. And my mom... was nowhere in sight. This also freaked me out. Then my mom yelled from downstairs that it was a quake (which I remember did not calm me down any). I went down and saw that she was doing all the ironing and it was 2am. I remember asking why she was ironing in the middle of the night and she said, "Well, I'm just used to it."

I'm beginning to see how this happened. I've always been more of a night owl anyway -- ask anyone who has lived with me, or Dave Kaiser, just how hard it is to get me up in the morning -- but now, I'm finding I'm getting some work done late at night because of Xan. These days, I've been on Xan duty until about 3-4am (by choice) and, when I'm giving him to Ange instead of giving him a bottle, I look for something useful but quick to do. Like dishes. Or laundry, which is tonight.

In fact, it seems I'm doing quite a bit in these wee hours. In addition to blogging, I'm getting better at responding to my email typing one-handed and doing some of the reading I need to do for the fall. No real writing getting done, alas, but this isn't a total waste.

Which leads me to wonder: although I'm looking forward to it, what will happen when he gets through the night?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Anya would be very happy

I know that as a new parent, I have new inexplicable attitudes toward life in general and I'm not supposed to be morbid or anything. Then again, the other day I discovered I needed some Stephen King to calm down, and I've been included Depeche Mode's "Never Let Me Down Again" in my lullaby repertoire. And besides, Ange made him the most amazing quilt involving monsters in the hopes that he therefore won't be afraid of him.

So, perhaps I shouldn't be as concerned about the fact that I find this to be outrageously funny, in a horrible way. (The title of this post serves as a warning, though perhaps only the Buffy freaks will get it...)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

TV makes me contradict myself

She shoots -- she scores!!!Posted by Hello

I wrote this to my friend Cindy after Monday night's episode of 24, which (along with Lost) is one of the only TV shows that hasn't fallen to the wayside since Xan's arrival. Mind you, I had never watched the show before this season, only watching because I was obsessed with Iranian actress and House of Sand and Fog Oscar nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo. (Her death on the show, by the way, made me very upset.) I had no previous connection with these characters, although I liked the fact that mousy, pouty computer tech goddess was played by Mary-Lynn Rajskub, who I found was wonderful as Adam Sandler's petulant sister in Punch-Drunk Love.

Anyway, what I wrote to Cindy:

I think I'm a reasonable feminist of sorts. And I'm pretty convinced that (a) there is no reason automatic weapons should be owned by regular Americans and (b) such weapons should not be glorified in anyway.

With that said, Chloe firing off that gun at the end of the episode? Oh my God. I love her so much. Ange and I were cheering. Totally hot.

(Cindy wrote back: "As Chloe would say, 'I know.'")

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The sum of all fears

(Triple-chocolate cake with white frosting + Friendly's Forbidden Chocolate Explosion ice cream) x 2 helpings = the realization that, even though I'm now old enough to eat as much cake and ice cream on my birthday, perhaps acting out on such impulses is not the best idea......

Monday, April 25, 2005

...and a third

No, the title doesn't refer to number of children -- right now, we have our hands full with the one, thank you very much. In fact, this particular idea would be more appropriate for August. Given that the new semester will be beginning around then, however, I'm likely to forget about it. And it's very random anyway, so what the hey, I'll do it now.

So I turn 33 today, the 25th. (Yay, me!) And 33 isn't really that spectacular or significant a number. In fact, the only thing I really associate with the number is that it's the number of rpms on the vinyl LP records that most of us who are not DJs stopped using so long ago. I, in fact, remember that we took our record player with us to Peru when we moved in 1986 -- but in fact, I don't remember if we took any records with us. Odd.

Anyway, I thought it might be amusing to post the LPs I do remember we had in the house when I was growing up. In no particular order:
  • Sergio Mendes and the New Brazil '77 -- I don't remember much about the music on this album, but I remember the cover album features the band on the cover dressed in the Brazilian soccer team's uniform... and on the back cover they're covered in mud with some bandages, I think.
  • Christmas Jollies, The Salsoul Orchestra -- You know that I grew up in the disco era if you heard this music, which is painfully happy. I loved this album when I was a kid, which is funny given that I would become addicted to Depeche Mode as a teenager. There is a medley of Christmas tunes on side A that I still sometimes hum a bit of when Christmas rolls around.
  • The Carpenters -- I've recently gotten back into the Carpenters, thanks to a large part to Sonic Youth's cover of "Superstar" on the tribute album If I Were a Carpenter. The old tunes turn out to be surprisingly wistful, even though they seem very upbeat. I've found that most of the songs work well as lullabies as well.
  • Grease -- Didn't everyone have this? A double album, and at the time I remember wondering why anyone would listen to the second album, which were all the 50s tunes heard in the background in the film. Isn't Olivia enough??!!
  • Off the Wall, Michael Jackson -- Nicole Nelson and I bonded at Dartmouth when we both confessed that this was the first album we purchased with our own allowance money. Poor Michael -- if only he hadn;t turned so creepy...
  • Live and More and On the Radio, Donna Summer -- I was a huge Donna Summer fan as a kid, learning all the lyrics and either lip-syncing or singing along with them. How I didn't become a drag queen is beyond me.
  • Dialogando, Chabuca Granda -- This amazing singer of Peruvian folk-inspired tunes is the only thing I have replaced on CD. I don't remember listening to this as a kid, but when I rediscovered her in grad school, I remembered this album cover when I went to the music store in Lima. Turns out to be an incredible album, just her and a guitar.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

"Mindless" movies for all occasions

A few months ago, a friend of ours from our birthing group asked if anyone could offer some suggestions for some good, funny movies to watch to distract her from the actual birth when she went through it. As it turned out, a friend of mine asked me for a similar list a few months ago to suggest for a friend going through chemotherapy. The topic has since now come up on a new dad’s listserv I joined so, rather than take up their bandwidth, I’m posting my list here.

The criteria was not only decent quality, but hopefully hilariously funny as well (with, as you can see, the latter often trumping the former criterion, haha). If you can think of others that will work, let me know and I’ll add them to the list. (Someone has suggested This is Spinal Tap! which, I am ashamed to say, I have not seen yet – but I know this to be an excellent film nonetheless.) They are arranged below in alphabetical order, with some additional information provided to find other similar films.

  • Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein – USA, 1948, D: Charles Barton, 83m. With Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Lon Cheney, Jr. and Bela Lugosi. How Universal Studios intertwined their monster movie stable with everyone’s favorite comedy team. Much funnier and better done than you might expect. Lots of great one-liners. See also the rest of the large series of Abbott and Costello Meet…
  • Airplane! – USA, 1980, D: Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker, 88m. With Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty and Leslie Nielsen. For recent American comedies, the one-liners don’t stop in this brief but hilarious film that defined the modern stupid comedy. Definitely not for the politically correct. See also the preceding The Kentucky Fried Movie and the slew of lesser but similar comedies that followed: Airplane 2, Blazing Saddles, The Naked Gun, Hot Shots, Top Secret, Scary Movie and a personal obscure favorite Amazon Women on the Moon. See also the hilarious social comedy but deeply offensive and objectionable South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.
  • Annie Hall – USA, 1977, D: Woody Allen, 93m. With Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane and Shelley Duvall. Even if you’re not into most of Woody’s work, this is him at his neurotic best by a long shot. The comedy that defined the 80s and really put him on the map. See also a number of his lesser early works: Bananas, Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex…, Sleeper and What’s Up, Tiger Lily? as well as the superior film The Purple Rose of Cairo.
  • Beverly Hills Cop – USA, 1984, D: Martin Brest, 105m. With Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, and John Ashton. Eddie Murphy’s defining role, but also set the standard for the 80s comedy style in general. See also the remainder of the series, as well as Ruthless People, the first two Lethal Weapons, etc.
  • The Brady Bunch Movie – USA, 1995, D: Betty Thomas, 90m. With Shelly Long, Gary Cole and Christine Taylor. One of the many films based on a fond 70s TV show from our youth – but done rather well and with full awareness of what it is doing. (It’s worth it to see Alice in bondage gear for two seconds.) See also A Very Brady Sequel and well as Charlie’s Angels and apparently the new Fat Albert. (OK, maybe not that one...)
  • The General – USA, 1927, D: Buster Keaton, 75m. With Buster Keaton and Marion Mack. A very funny early silent comedy about a boy, his love and his train, and how they all manage to “defeat” the Union forces during the civil war. Impressive for the special effects – or rather, how Keaton had to really do everything we see instead of use modern special effects. My jaded students loved this to pieces. See also Keaton’s Sherlock Jr., Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last or The Freshman (if you can find it), and Chaplin’s The Kid, Gold Rush or Modern Times.
  • Flirting with Disaster – USA, 1996, D: David O. Russell, 92m. With Ben Stiller, Tea Leoni, Patricia Arquette, Alan Alda, Mary Tyler Moore, Lily Tomlin and George Segal. Forget the recent fiasco I Heat Huckabees – this is probably the most appropriate one on the list, with Stiller as a soon-to-be father trying to find his birth parents, with appropriately bizarre yet hilarious results. (Plus, MTM in a black bra!)
  • Grosse Pointe Blank – USA, 1997, D: George Armitage, 107m. With John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Alan Arkin, Dan Ackroyd and Joan Cusack. What happens when the 80s comedy goes back to its tenth year reunion – and discovers it’s just as funny to ridicule it for all its worth. Despite the gunplay, very funny commentary on the 90s, not to mention some great shots of Detroit! See the rest of the early Cusack oeuvre to compare with, such as Sixteen Candles, Better Off Dead and The Sure Thing; don’t overlook sister Joan in In and Out and School of Rock as well.
  • Hairspray – USA, 1988, D: John Waters, 92m. With Ricki Lake, Divine, Sonny Bono, Debbie Harry, and Jerry Stiller. Before Ricki became a TV star (and after Waters and Divine played wit dog poop), this funny yet topical musical comedy evokes the fun yet problematic 50s in Baltimore. Great for Debbie Harry’s and Sonny Bono’s scenes as a racist married couple alone (along with great cameos by Ric Ocasek and Pia Zadora as beatniks), but also a really good movie to boot that turns into something serious without you being aware of it. See also Waters’ later clean romps in Cry-Baby and Serial Mom. (The utterly filthy Pink Flamingos is also worth it, but the final scatological scene literally almost made me throw up. I'm not kidding.)
  • A Hard Day’s Night – Great Britain, 1964, D: Richard Lester, 87m. With (who else?) John, Paul, George and especially Ringo. This is hysterical film with the thinnest of plots (Ringo feels like the least important member of the band – so the boys show him they need him desperately!), basically an excuse to have the boys run around London being chased by girls. That said, it’s a surprisingly brisk film and the chaotic nature ends up running on the good side of slapstick. Wilfred Brambell's portrayal of John's "grandfather" is hilarious. Lester’s later Beatles film, Help!, is even zanier, though the plot (involving the possession of a large jewel which evil cultists are trying to capture) is less fun; the boys’ collective household, however, is worth a look. (Thanks to Brian for reminding me of this one.)
  • M. Hulot’s Holiday – France, 1953, D: Jacques Tati, 114m. With Jacques Tati and Nathalie Pascaud. How can you not love the innocent M. Hulot, who bumbles his way into hilarious situations? This French pratfaller (perhaps only equaled by the Mexican Cantinflas, whose films are alas mostly unsubtitled in English as of yet) that eventually gave way to the British Mr. Bean. See also Tati’s Mon Oncle as well as Cantinflas’ sole subtitled film There’s the Detail!
  • Metropolitan – USA, 1990, D: Whit Stillman, 98m. With Carolyn Farina, Edward Clements, Chris Eigeman, and Taylor Nichols. Stillman’s comedy is wry, poking fun at the ridiculousness of the prissy, stuck-up modern bourgeoisie. This, his first film, lays it out as dryly as possible as the characters go to debutante balls over the Christmas holidays. See also Stillman’s films that complete a trilogy of sorts, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail – Great Britain, 1975, D: Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, 91m. With John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. Unparalleled nonsense involving King Arthur and the quest for the Holy Grail… sort of. See also And Now for Something Completely Different, The Life of Brian, The Meaning of Life and some later work by the Python folk: Cleese’s A Fish Called Wanda and Gilliam’s very dark Brazil.
  • The Princess Bride – USA, 1987, D: Rob Reiner, 98m. With Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant and Robin Wright Penn. Sure, it’s really a disguised love story as an adventure flick. The funny parts, however, almost all involve the great supporting characters, who are hilarious on their own. Provide some wonderful lines for use at parties as well.
  • Some Like It Hot – USA, 1959, D: Billy Wilder, 120m. With Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe. Easily Monroe’s best film, and hysterically funny with Lemmon and Curtis running from the mob disguised as members of a girls’ traveling orchestra. Curtis’ obvious digs at Cary Grant are worth the price of rental alone, but the kicker is the film’s last line, which is entirely unexpected and yet the only possible ending. AFI’s #1 Comedy film. See also the immortal Casablanca, which I think fits all categories of all films, and Wilder’s risqué The Apartment.
  • Xanadu – USA, 1980, D: Robert Greenwald, 93m. With Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly and Michael Beck (who?!). This is only if you like your laughter to my ridicule-oriented since this is a truly awful film that is deliciously good. The idea of Olivia Newton-John discoing the night away with Gene Kelly (in, to our collective horror, his last role) on roller skates is both tragic and hilarious. Music by ELO. This was, notably, one of my favorite movies as a child, due largely to a major crush on Olivia Newton-John – boy, have my tastes in virtually everything changed. (I've blogged earlier about Roller Boogie, which is in the same veinSee also the abysmal Can’t Stop the Music, where the laughs also can’t be stopped when you consider this movie stars Steve Guttenberg and decathlete-Wheaties guy Bruce Jenner in the “true” story of the Village People who, by the way, happen to be straight here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Keep your hands (and other appendages) in the car, please

Xan has been having a couple of rough days, where he'll be awake forever (today for almost eleven hours with only a couple very quick naps) and not want to sleep. I guess he just wants to be sure to be around for everything. And while we seemed to have dodged a colic bullet (maybe), today he would just work himself into a crying fit and nothing worked. No songs (not even the Carpenters), or walking, or different positions. Nothing. And although we have been trying not to use a pacifier, we've tried to use them a few times as a last resort. To no avail, he seems to not like them anyway. At one point today, however, Angela tried putting her pinky in his mouth as a pacifier. And lo and behold, he was happily pacifying himself. So since it was my turn to watch him, I did the same thing.

Which marked my first real exposure as to how powerful that little mouth really is. Oh my goodness, I thought I was going to lose my finger. I said, "This is what you feel on your breasts?!" She smiled and shrugged. Once again, women never fail to impress me.

Eventually, I was allowed to have my finger back and he's asleep right now. But I admit I'm making sure all appendages in the rollercoaster car. Because that kid will devour me once he figures out I don't have any milk. *shudder*

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Stealing from children

Look at what happens to things people send to my son, like this t-shirt... Posted by Hello

And this towel... Posted by Hello

Twenty years too late, I will now confess that these activities -- where I, the mature one, appropriate stuff meant for a small child -- hearkens back to when I was a kid myself. I have a nephew named Joel (and boy, is he going to love to find out about this -- hi, Joel...) who my parents would buy gifts for. (His birthday, as it turns out, is the day before mine and he's about eight years younger than me.) This happened on any number of occasions, but in particular, I remember a Playskool farm set, with little figures and barnyard animals and what-not. I'm not sure if I helped my folks pick it out for him or not.

When we got home, I suggested that we couldn't send the gift unless we were sure it was, you know, in good condition. I offered to try it out.

I'm so sorry, Joel. Years later, I remember seeing it in my closet. I think I played with it again for old times' sake. I don't know how many gifts I appropriated for myself. Mea culpa.

In my defense, I've learned my lesson somewhat and Xan currently uses the towel. (Thanks, Shell!) The shirt, on the other hand....

Dad returns!

Well, it's been a little while since I've posted anything. Not for lack of info -- on the contrary. There was the conference in London where I experienced nightlife accidentally by getting lost while looking for a Kinko's. There has been the most amazing cards I got the last couple days, not only from a former student but then from his parents, which touched me deeply. And of course today's fun experience on campus where the three of us emerged for the first time in ages and got swamped just as we were about to go. I have so much to write about. And I still haven't finished the damn birth story?

And why not? Becuase of this little guy, currently lying on my chest. Fast asleep, with a little cute snoring sound. I just love him so.

Just don't seem to have the time, unless I painstakingly type with one hand while I have a moment online. Well, let's see if I can just keep going. I'll try to get all those stories up when and if I can. But I'll also try to get to the here and now and keep you up to date with the little guy.