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Archive for June, 2010

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I’ll admit it, I felt great watching the first half of Inglourious Basterds.  We saw it a few weeks ago, and it was exactly the palate cleanser I thought I needed after that appalling gorgon Helen Thomas gave tongue to her revolting little swan song.  It wasn’t Thomas herself who gave me concentration camp nightmares.  What really made my flesh crawl were the throngs of little cockroach voices cheering her on in comboxes everywhere. (They feel safe to come out when it’s dark, you know).  I know that people are at their worst when anonymously reacting to a news story, but I was horrified by the sheer numbers of those who felt comfortable shrieking out in fury against the Jews.  Things have changed.  You don’t have to be paranoid to realize that antisemitism is creeping back into style.

So I enjoyed this movie, at first. Who wouldn’t want to see pure evil get some payback for a change?  The story was fascinating, and each scene was, of course, gorgeously shot.  I laughed and laughed at the funny scenes, and in the tense scenes, I nearly chewed through the arm of the couch.  Even though I covered my eyes while the avenging basterds carved up helpless Nazis by the dozen, I enjoyed it.  On the whole, it was an entertaining, wildly original movie.  But I felt sick and guilty by the end.

Not because of its incredibly brutal and graphic violence, which was, according to the Tarantino tradition, lovingly caressed by the camera so that not a single splat of brain tissue was left behind or forgotten.  I think his ultraviolent genre is tiresome, but I can work around it and enjoy a movie, as long as my husband tells me when it’s safe to look.

The movie annoyed me because I don’t know what it was for.  I guess it was, in part, supposed to be an indulgent revenge fantasy which makes reparations for the Holocaust,  using the only means a movie maker has:  by redoing it all on screen.  This is the way things should have happened, right?  It scratched that anti-evil itch.  And as I said, I enjoyed it at first.

I don’t mind a movie that isn’t for or about anything, as long as it’s entertaining . . . unless it’s this one.  Why?  Because every time the Jews won, I was reminded of how, in real life, they didn’t.  The revenge was so complete, so over-the-top, it stopped working for me.  Hitler wasn’t merely  gunned down at close range — his killer went back and sprayed more bullets, and more and more and more bullets, back and forth across his dead face.  The sheer boundless triumph of the victory was answered, in my mind, by a persistent echo which said, louder and louder as the movie went on, “The opposite happened.”  I’m sorry, I know this is terribly melodramatic, but the piles of dead children in my recent  nightmares didn’t get much satisfaction from this film.

I had other problems with it, too.  Why were there no Jews in it?  I know there were supposed to be — but why did those characters not appear Jewish in any way?  Okay, some of the actors had big brown eyes, but aside from that, there was not a speck of Jewish culture or sensibility to be found.  That would have made the revenge more satisfying, if some of the avengers had been identifiable as Jews in anything but their thirst for vengeance.

There’s another big problem:  vengeance isn’t actually an especially Jewish trait.  Oh, in personal matters, maybe (just ask my husband).  But in large matters, Jews think too much to be able to carry out a plot so simple as utterly blotting out the enemy.  Jews are never single-minded, but in this movie, all they had to say was “YAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!” as they gouged out larynxes with their bare hands, or whatever.  No argument, no analysis, no guilt, and no jokes?  Come on.

There was no sadness in the movie, either, only rage.  That struck me as unforgivably lacking in a movie about Jews.  Jews are always sad, even when they’re enjoying themselves.

I know you can argue that this wasn’t really a movie about the Holocaust, or about Jews, or about the war.  I get that:  it was about revenge in general.  My husband thinks that, if the movie was saying anything at all, it was saying that revenge is hollow.  It certainly felt that way by the end, with the distorted image of the giant face laughing maniacally as everything went up in flames — an image so tawdry and overblown that it had to be deliberately clichéd, right?  So it wasn’t just a regular cliché, but an ironic cliché?  Meant to show you that . . . what?

It was also clearly supposed to be a movie about movies.  Everything happens within a theater, either literally (at the end, when all the biggest Nazis die) or figuratively (when the “German Sergeant York” is rewarded for killing Allies by starring as himself in a movie about killing Allies).  References and homages to other films abound.  Okay, so it’s about movies.  But . . . what about movies?

Tarantino is so childish, but he frames scenes like a god, so it’s hard to stay away.  He keeps hinting at gargantuan talent, but he’s so darn lazy:  his movies are set up to be meaningful, but rarely deliver. Once again in this film, Tarantino is under the impression that he is actually saying something, when he merely sets the stage, and then rolls the credits.

I wouldn’t say “don’t watch this movie.”  I would just caution you that you will feel agitated and unhappy inside after you do (and not only because of the nearly illegible yellow subtitles) .  Quentin Tarantino is not going to grow up, so I just wish he would would hire a partner who could take his original ideas, his brilliant comic inspirations, his wild pairings of image and sound, and turn them into a movie that knows what it’s about.

What do you think?  Am I missing something here?  I was fully prepared to enjoy this movie, but it didn’t happen.

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I’m 35.  Maybe it’s the humidity, or the grandmultiparidity, but boy, do I feel old.

When I was younger, I used to be able to lose weight by cutting out condiments.  No kidding:  skip butter or mayo for a week, and that was enough to dramatically improve my bathing suit shopping experience.  Now it takes the organization, effort, and emotional upheaval usually associated with a military operation in Bosnia just to achieve stasis on the scale.  How to actually lose weight (besides giving birth), I do not know.

When I was younger, two Tylenol and a quick stop in the confessional could easily neutralize whatever stupidity I’d indulged in the day before.*  But today, I’m finding that I pay more and more dearly even for morally neutral activities.  I get murderous sciatic pain if I commit the indiscretion of (irony alert!) crossing my legs.  Two cookies or a handful of M&M’s will give me a blinding sugar hangover in the morning.  And if I stay up too late, I will get caught up on sleep the next day, whether I’m behind the wheel or not.

On the other hand, most of getting older is a relief.  This is probably a function of how unnecessarily miserable I made myself as a child and young adult, but the fact is that life is just so much easier now.

The other night, for example,  my husband was out, so I figured I’d watch something that he would never choose on Netflix.  I went for the opposite of Bruce Willis:  some arty-looking animated short for adults.   It opened with some droning, atonal music, and then the lighting started to flicker and twitch.  A hunched woman in mismatched clothing slouched over to a toilet, where she proceeded to–well, it involved a snake, and although you couldn’t see her face, she seemed really, really sad.  So I says to myself, I says, “I don’t have time for this bullshit,” and I turned it off.

Seems obvious, right?  But fifteen years ago, I would have struggled against the good sense God gave me, and given this piece of junk the benefit of the doubt.  I would have striven to grasp what the artist was trying to convey, to rise above the conventions of my bourgeois upbringing** and pierce through to the tortured heart of this achingly arcane artistic experience.  And then I’d feel smug about it, too.  Sheesh.

More improvements that came with age:  In the last ten years or so, I’ve picked up a few social skills.  And I do mean “a few” — but even these are better than the none I used to possess.   I smile at people, for instance, rather than glowering.  They seem to like that!   When they ask how I am, I tell them (i.e., “Oh, I’m fine.”), and then–listen to this!–I ask them how they are (e.g., “How about you?”)!  Good, eh?  I also say things like, “That necklace is so pretty,” and “How is your mother?”  I have also found that that sophisticated maneuver that some people do of bringing food or wine to a party can be replicated in my own life; so, now, like, I bring food or wine to parties.

I have also gained the skill of asking stupid questions.  When I was younger, if I was uncertain about whether a steamroller were headed my way, I would sit there and be crushed to a pulp, rather than risk looking silly by asking someone.  Today, however, I am more or less impervious to feeling stupid.  I think I’ve just felt so stupid for so long that it doesn’t mean anything anymore.   If I’m not sure, I will ask the person at Home Depot, “Is this wire cutter for cutting wire?”  If I’m at the bank and have temporarily lost the ability to add two numbers together, I will just dump my papers and my little wadded up dollar bills on the counter and say, “Can you do this for me?”  And they will, because it’s their job.  I will call 911 because there is a big fat Canada goose in the road outside my house, and you know what?  I’ll tell the dispatcher my real name, because that thing was going to cause an accident.  Or maybe it wasn’t.  Who cares?

Other benefits of making it this far:

If something (say, Christmas) goes wrong one year, I have noticed that there’s always next year.

I can now stop biting my nails whenever I want.

I mostly know what to do in bed.  (This one is somewhat related to the one about not being afraid to ask stupid questions.)

On the other hand, I have learned not to ask questions if I really don’t want to know the answer.

I have learned –well, I’m still learning– that it’s okay to be misunderstood sometimes.  (Thank  you, mother internet, for teaching me this difficult lesson.)  There are times when people are going to think what they want to think, and you can kill yourself trying to show them your point of view . . . or you can just skip it.  The latter is much easier on you and on your family.  And on your nails.

These are the kinds of things that more than make up for realizing that I’m well on my way down that road to The End, and that the days when I feel droopy, achy, and encumbered are probably not going to go away.  I know, I know, I’m only 35.  You’re probably laughing at me for acting like I’m ancient.  But seriously.  I can’t even cross my legs anymore? That is old.

Still waiting for that precipitous drop-off in fertility, though.  In my family, 48 is the new 35–so maybe I still have more to learn.

But how about you?  Whatever age you’re at, what’s your favorite part about getting older?

*Dear protestants:  this is a joke.  I don’t know any Catholics who actually believe that it’s fine to sin, because you can just go to confession and X it out.  Also, if you have any questions about why we confess to a priest instead of straight to God, I can answer them, I guess; but I warn you, we Catholics read the Bible, too, and can play  Gospel Quote Gotcha® with the best of you.

**which I didn’t actually experience.

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My favorite joke

In a world where Jay Leno asks people where Illinois is, and people don’t know, and then that’s considered funny, I think it’s our duty to bring back The Joke.

So I’ll tell you my favorite joke, and then you send me yours.  If it makes me laugh, I’ll post it next time, so you can grab a piece of my rapidly-dwindling traffic before it disappears completely due to people realizing that, although I talk more when I’m tired, I say much, much less,  ha ha ha!

Don’t put your joke in the comments — email me at simchafisher@gmail.com.  Oh, and if I choose your joke, I will do my best to waste a good chunk of family time hunting for an appropriate illustration, too.

Okay, here it is:

A professor is wrapping up his scholarly lecture on the structure of the universe.  He asks for questions, and an old man in the back row raises his hand and says, “I hate to tell you this, but you’re all wrong.  You’ve got all these fancy theories about gravitational pull and retrograde motion and orbital influences and I don’t know what all, but you know what’s really holding the world up?”

“Please enlighten us, ” sneers the lecturer.

“A turtle!  Yep, a big ol’ turtle, with the world on his back.”

When the laughter dies down, the lecturer says, “And sir, perhaps you could explain to the audience what this impressive turtle is standing on?”

“Sure!  Another turtle.”

“Another turtle.  And perhaps you could tell us–“

“Mister,” says the old man, “You’re wasting your time.  It’s turtles allllll the way down.”

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The fabulous Jen at Conversion Diary invented this neat reciprocal deal:  you post your seven quick takes on any topic at your blog, and leave a link to your list at her blog.  Links all around!  Just don’t forget to link to Jen, and take a look at her blog, if you haven’t already — she always has something new and surprising to say about her life as a Catholic convert.

After a long winter and a damp and chilly spring, we are groggily recalling that the outside doors can be used for other purposes than getting into the car.   So here are my seven quick takes:  “It turns out we have an outdoors!” edition.

–1–

We’ve been making great use of our firepit this year.  Easiest project in the world:  you just dig a round hole about six inches deep and 2 feet in diameter, and surround it with the biggest rocks you can find.  If you can stand it, you can roast marshmallows with the kids

and if you can peel yourself off the couch once the kids have gone to bed (where they will surely stay, being stuck to the sheets with grassy, ashy goo), a backyard campfire is a lovely cheap date with your husband.  Add a couple of cheap beers, and let the dew collect on the two of you as the fireflies come out.

–2–

Spreaking of fireflies, aren’t you glad they don’t make noise?  Imagine if, instead of that mystical, silent, sailing glow, they went, “BLAAAAT . . . Blat . . blat. . .blat BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAT . . . “

–3–

While it is pleasant and beneficial to water one’s garden in the cool and dim light of dusk, be prepared for a horrible shock when you go back in the bright light of noon to weed.  That’s not a metaphor, it’s just the truth.  Eek!  Sorry, peas, help is on the way.

–4–

Another luna moth has plastered itself to my kitchen window screen.  I know you’re supposed to feel honored when a rare and luminous specimen graces you with a visit, but I do.  Not.  Like.  Moths.  They are the only insect which make me break into a sweat on sight.  I keep imagining, what if they got into my mouth?

–5–

Miss Baby tolerates a bath, but refuses to sit down, and she panics at the touch of a damp washcloth, on the rare occasion that I get fed up with the perpetual ring o’ grime she sports around her “neck.”  Not a fan of getting wet.  But water at the beach?  That, my friends, is another matter.  When she spots that sparkling blue, she wrenches herself out of my arms, takes off at a bobbling trot, falls down, picks herself up, and doesn’t stop until she hits the water.  She then spends the next three hours just wallowing.  You’ve never seen such a happy person.  Boy, I love the beach.

–6–

One of these days, I am going on a rampage to liberate all those wretched upside-down hanging tomato plants.  WHO’S WITH ME?  Okay, no one, fine.

–7–

This doesn’t exactly have anything to do with being outdoors, but I just love this picture of the biggest guy and the littlest girl in the house.

In the words of Scrooge, “I don’t deserve to be so happy.  But I can’t help it!”

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I do not like okra.  It’s pretty much the worst vegetable you can imagine,  kind of like the Newt Gingrich of the produce world:  hairy and fibrous on the outside, seedy and slimy on the inside.   It just makes you wonder, why is it even here?  What is the point of this food, other than to make you glad when it finally goes out of season?

And yet there it is in the supermarket.  Every week I pass it by with a shudder; but I know someone must buy it, because they keep putting more out.

Life is so short, I would hate to miss out on some valuable experience.  On the other hand, I’m a lazy, lazy woman.  So when I want to meet life head on, when I feel the urge to stretch out a wondering hand and pluck the fruit of some new experience that our amazing world has to offer, it usually takes the form of — say, eating fruit.  Or listening to a new kind of music.  You know, something I can do sitting down.

A recent (not terribly fruitful) conversation in the comment box of Inside Catholic has brought up a few interesting points.  I put up a video of a song by The Black Keys, who are a pretty good rock band.  Okay, so they’re not Mozart.  They’re not even the Rolling Stones.  They just sound pretty good to me.  So once the huffing and puffing subsided (did you realize that, despite claiming to be Catholic, I listen to things which are not Gregorian Chant?), someone who didn’t like the music asked why I do like it.  A fair question.  She didn’t hear what I heard, and was curious.

I simply don’t have the mental energy at the moment to explain why rock music sounds good to me.  But since I do have a policy of at least trying to listen carefully to something new,  I thought I’d ask you all:  how do you listen to music?  Specifically, if someone tells you, “Hey, this stuff is great!” and you don’t hear it right away?

Here is what I listen for:

Does the singer or musician sound like he means it?  He doesn’t have to be wrenching his guts out and laying them at your feet like Otis Redding does, but is he really present in the performance, or is he  just letting the music trot him around?

Was there some self-control in the crafting of song?  Writing is easy; it’s editing that kills you.  That’s what (among other things) was so great about the Beatles:  they always knew when to stop.  Say what you have to say, make it good, and then go away.  I’m looking at you, Led Zeppelin.

Does anything come to mind when I hear this song?  If it sounds like something to me, then it looks like something, too, mentally.  It’s not usually a literal illustration of what the song is about (and obviously that couldn’t be the case if there are no lyrics) — it’s just some colorful or textural image, which worthless music is not capable of producing.

I also like to think about what instrumental works would be saying if they had words, and I’ve noticed that musicians are generally saying the same thing over and over, no matter what different kinds of work they produce throughout their career.   For instance, I think that most of Brahms’ instrumental work is saying, “Death is sweet, but life is sweeter” (or sometimes I think it’s the other way around).

I guess the funny thing about listening attentively is that you have to tune out most of what you normally hear.  You have to forget that, “okay, this is an electric guitar, that guy sounds nasal, I bet this is from the early 90’s, or from the late Baroque period; this is the song that goes with that Sprite commercial, this is the song that that jerk in 8th grade study hall used to sing all the time,” etc.  You have to, as it were, listen on the slant, and try and hear through to where the song lives – -what kind of house it’s built for itself.  In this way, you will not only discover why some famous musicians are famous, but you will wonder why some other famous people are even allowed on the stage.

And sometimes it just sounds good to you, and you can’t say why.  You know what?  I like Roxette.  I know there’s nothing there; I just like them.

But The Black Eyed Peas? I know they’re famous, but man, they’re just okra.

Okay, so what are your standards?  How do you decide if what you’re hearing is worth your time?

(okra photo source)

(Gingrich photo source)

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Wordy Wednesday

Well, what’s the good of having your own blog if you can’t show off your pretty kids?  I was going to join in on Wordless Wednesday, a sort of community blogging project which encourages you to speak volumes without using words, and everyone who joins in gets links to each other’s photos.  But I got kind of hung up on the “no words” part.  I tried, I really did.  But then I just kept talking.

Well, some of my readers from the old blog may remember our little one who was born early, wasn’t gaining weight, gave us all a scare by being so sleepy and weak?  So, here she is today:

Blossoming, as you can see.

We had another little girl about 14 months ago.  We . . . how shall I say?  We worry less about her ability to seek out nourishment:

Okay, that’s it for today!  My one brother has been in Arizona for a year, and the other has been in Rome, but they’re both coming to see us this afternoon, so I gotta go buy some meat and beer post-haste.  Have a lovely day, everyone!

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So Tell Me

"Ha ha ha, lookit those poor suckers trying to count to three!"

(photo source)

Yesterday was the summer solstice:  the longest day of the year.  If you attended St. Peter Homeschool, you’d know that this is because the earth and the sun are aligned in such a way that the shadow of the moon falls directly on both poles simultaneously, which cools the oceans to the degree that the earth becomes slightly heavier, slowing its rotation and  prolonging the nighttime, which, in turn, prolongs the day, too, because of 24  hours in a day.  Plus solar flares. Have I mentioned we’re sending the kids to private school next year?

Actually it’s not technically a private school.  The headmaster kept stressing that their curriculum was based  on the manufacture of license plates.  I guess for  geography?  You know what?  That’s a valuable skill, and plus they say that uniforms have a calming effect on the student body.

Speaking of long days, I think I’m ready to talk about NFP again.  I hold the dubious distinction of having written one of the only Inside Catholic articles which turned so nasty so fast, they had to shut the comments down.  But hey hey, long days, know what I’m talkin’ about?  Ennnnd of the day?  As in, it turns out that 10:00 a.m. is not actually the end of the day.  (It was a girl; 8 lbs., 3 oz.)

So tell me. . .

(that’s the name of a new feature I’m starting for days when I told the kids we would go to the beach and I don’t have  time to actually write something) .  .  .

I know that many of my readers have pet names for things related to NFP.   For instance, we use Creighton,  which tracks fertility by tracking (stop reading now, men) cervical mucus.  So when my husband needs to know the forecast for tonight, he doesn’t want to cast a pall on the festivities by getting all technical.  Instead, he’ll simply and romantically ask, “How’s your goop?”  (What can I say?  He’s cute.  It sounds cute when he says it.)

He also, in a stroke of foolhardy brilliance, once called my progesterone cream  “nutter butter.”

One of my sisters used to write a column about NFP, and cleverly called it “Signs and Wonders.”  This quickly morphed into something even more  clever and more appropriate:  “Slimes and Blunders.”

So tell me  . . . what’s the NFP joke at your house?  I hope you have one.  Because, if I ever  (God forbid) taught NFP, the first thing I would teach is how to joke about it.

You don’t have to keep it squeaky clean, folks, but let me make a request:  if you think the use of NFP is sinful, then write about that on your own blog, okey doke?  NFP is not inherently sinful, and people’s reasons for postponing conception are complicated, individual, and above all private.   If I come home all cranky and covered with sand, and find that the comment box is  filled with self-righteous lectures about the sinfulness of NFP, I will have a little deleting party, possibly following by a banning-for-life party.   Same goes for comments mocking Catholics for using  NFP when everyone knows that the only sane thing to do is insert a scarring metal spring into your fallopian tube, or whatever disgusting procedure your OB/GYN is being paid to push this week.

Okay?  Okay, go!

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