Monday, January 31, 2011



I'm sad I spent so much time writing that review. No, not sad. MAD. Stupid lousy show. And speaking of stupid lousy shows -- I can't believe so many stupid lousy shows get renewed and Terriers gets canceled.

I'm still not over that. It sliced my heart right next to the barely-healed Firefly and Veronica Mars scars.

Oh Terriers. I miss you already.

I owe everyone a blog entry

And I want it to be filled with witty repartee, but the fact is I had a baby 2 months ago and I haven't slept more than 2 hours in a row since then. And I'm not complaining, not really, as I'm delighted and at the same moment I say "LET ME SLEEP", I kiss that sweet girl on her head.
But she's killing my blogging and my fine-tuned razor sharp wit. These days it's sort of dull and slow wit that occasionally hits the broad side of a barn.
AND. What's worse? Some kid in my class today said:
Remember back when flip phones were popular?
I considered trying to explain to him that flip phones are once again rising in the geek population as many find the iPhone (and its various wannabes) to be fabulous tech for gadgetry but not really that great for making phone calls - so the real nerds have both. . . but, well, I couldn't get past Remember back when. . . when I remember back when cell phones came in bags, cost $500, and you paid by the minute.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dear Cutie Pie and Lovie Pie:

When you came to us, you were such wee things, petite enough to fit in the palm of our hands (were we inclined to pick you up, you giant wiggling bags of ooze).

Now you've gone and grown legs and arms. You looked cute for approximately 20 minutes and then I remembered that I had to clean your cage and now I have to feed you small legged creatures like crickets or mealworms.

And look, I kind of loathe you.

Were I in a habitat that supports bullfrogs, I'd gladly have let you go at the small man-made lake up the street where you immediately would likely have become heron food. However, I have come to learn that bullfrogs are an invasive species in Colorado and there is a fine for setting you free here. And then winter came and I'm pretty sure there's a karmic fine for setting you free in the garage just to see if you'll "hibernate" and take a trip to Tahiti.

So you sat in the basement, stinking, for two solid weeks - and then it occurred to me - why not let the children love you?

And they do so love you. They love you every day for 10 minutes. They love you so much they've renamed you "Mr. William Carlos Williams" and "Mr. Robert Frost." They love you so much, my son holds Mr. William Carlos Williams on her back and strokes her belly and my daughter holds Mr. Robert Frost and pets her head, sometimes accidentally touching her eyes.

And look: If you can survive this, I promise, I'll take you to Omaha and set you free to meet the local wildlife where you are *not* an invasive species. You need only bear the child-love for five more months.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

And now for something completely different, a review of: The Cape

NBC's been flailing about since, oh, the season 1 finale of Heroes in the way back days. Let's be honest, most of their shows kind of suck (excepting the Thursday night lineup which enjoys immense popularity that I really don't understand, other than the brilliant and always satisfying Community). Heroes was an attempt to bandwagon the LOST-loving viewers of the world and it failed miserably, thanks to insincere and cowardly writing.

I get it. It's tough to prove yourself these days and get footing as a television show when many shows are cancelled after one or two episodes (Viva Laughlin or Lone Star, anyone?). Writers have to cover a LOT of ground in their pilots - and even more in their first real episode - otherwise they'll hit the cutting room floor before they can even get their moms to host a viewing party.

So understand - I DO have empathy for writers, directors, and producers of television these days. That said, I'm not willing to cut them much slack when they compete for my prime time viewership. It's a tough world and if you can't cut it, go write for the CW or VH1 or MTV where I'm willing to allow you to get away with practically anything.

Now. On. To The Cape.

First off, let me say that Borat's side-kick is no liar when he says "The Cape? Well, you can work on that." Nobody wants a superhero with a dumb name, as evidenced by the Big Bang Theory's characters arguing over who has to be Aquaman. Still, I love comic book heroes enough to allow it. It's not the dude's fault his kid lacks discriminating taste in superheroes. The kid's 6, as many of us were when we loved Thundercats. . .

But here's the thing: NBC is going to get three kinds of viewers for this show: comic geeks, NBC drama folks who are willing to give it a shot, and lazy viewers who can't bring themselves to dig out the remote and are only watching it as filler before the 10 o'clock news. They are already in danger of losing the first two groups (if they're not gone already) and if they aren't careful, even the third will sigh heavily, dig in the cushions, and change the station.

Why? Well, here's what they are doing wrong:
  • The theme music: the opening credits are borderline cool and have a comic-book-movie feeling theme, but there's no major catchy set of notes there for us to hum. Sure, a great theme didn't save Terriers, but nobody watched Angel without humming along during the opening credits. It doesn't make a show but it sure can help to keep viewers around in the beginning and it's great free advertising when a nerd says "I just can't get the theme to THE CAPE out of my head."
  • The writers are rushed: A good story needs to breathe a bit and a great comic book hero needs setup, creation, a backdrop, and a villain. We know that The Cape has all of these things, because someone told us that in about 30 seconds. Or 1 hour. I get it. That was the pilot and they needed to set the story immediately, but they did it at the cost of setting the tone. The best ending for the first episode would have been the fiery explosion. Viewers would know he wasn't dead but would wonder - is he OK? Deformed? What now? How will he redeem himself? What will come next? As it was, they barely got that dialogue through their heads during a commercial break before The Cape was undergoing the radical transformation with the Carnies.
  • Too much telling, not enough showing: we're told there are bad cops and shown one grimacing. We're told the hero loves his family and shown snapshots of him snuggling down with his son to read comics. We're told the Carnies are bank robbers and shown a quick montage of bank robbing. But none of this is allowed the breathing room it takes to be very interesting. Either the writers are, as noted above, rushed, or they just don't care that much.
  • They are wasting their talent: Keith David, James Frain, and Martin Klebba are awesome. Honestly, a friend commented on Facebook that the show practically writes itself and the writers are in the way. He might not be wrong with these three on board. James Frain's talent alone could carry the villain - and yet what we see, either because of the writers or the director, is a ridiculously restrained version of the man we saw on True Blood last season.
  • Honestly, I could go on but I won't. It's not fair.
  • CGI Cape. Really? I mean, REALLY? We all saw the CGI sharks on LOST. TV should probably just do its best to AVOID CGI in general.

Now let's look at what they did right:

  • They're seeking that comic-book feel: They're trying. The show's tonally confused and so to them I say this: go big or go home. If you don't take the full jump into the comic book land, you'll fail. Right now you're straddling the line between drama and comic book drama. Only Joss Whedon does that well. As for you, embrace the camp.
  • They hired Martin Klebba, Keith David, and James Frain. USE the Carnies and USE the villain. Let those actors breathe. Be honest with yourself: The Cape needs a world to function within and that world needs to be as well-drawn as The Cape himself. And everyone knows Superheroes need foils. Ratchet up Frain as a foil and perhaps your main character will shine as well.
  • Give Summer Glau some screen time, a back story, and some build up. You've got the Whedon geeks all lined up for a new joyous romp of geekery and you are going to LOSE them. Confused about the power of the Whedon geeks? Ask the former head of Fox. Or Universal. That's a phalanx of powerful tv-watchers with discriminating taste. Get them on your side and can do the impossible. Lose them and you will fail.

Look, I wish you luck. I really want to like The Cape, I do. I'll give you a couple more episodes only because I have a newborn and nothing better to do on Sunday nights. But shape up. I've got a pink slip right here and I'm ready to mid-mid-season replace you with old reruns of Angel. Or It's Always Sunny. Or Twin Peaks. Might do you some good to watch all of them and get back to your writing and directing. The Cape could only be better for it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Reflecting on Ghandi:

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.

A man is but a product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.

You must be the change that you want to see in the world.

What impossible tasks! In the face of violence, the tragic events of this week - of the shooting at Millard South, the shooting at today's political rally in Arizona, and the shooting at a hospital in New Mexico, I am mad.

Very mad.

I want revenge. My blood lust has been triggered and I want people to be punished.

Unfortunately, many of them already have been punished. The others will be punished under due process of the law, not my immediate blood lust, thank God. And it is my job to what? My job to do what?

It is my job to love.

In 2009, over the fourth of July weekend, Pastor Dave asked our congregation to love radically. He explained to us that the challenge of Christians isn't to LOVE people who are loveable. It's to love people who are unloveable.

What a challenge.

So now: Deep breathe. Reflect. Concentrate. Think the change. Be the change.

I was laying in bed this morning

thinking of the 1001 things I need to do before school starts on the 18th, with sweet Elsa sacked out on my chest, her hair tickling my chin.

This weekend my mom, two sisters, brother-in-law, three nephews, and grandmother have come to witness Elsa's baptism. Over the past 10 days, we've had my father and stepmom, a brief visit with my cousin, her husband, and her two kids, Tim's mother and brother, and now these guests - and it's a lot. It's overwhelming.

But to be so blessed to be overwhelmed with so many people who love us! My list of 1001 things will be here tomorrow. . . and the day after that. . . and the day after that. I'll get to it eventually. For now - I have so many people with whom to share my time!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

So there was a shooting at Millard South.

A 17 year old walked into the front office and shot the vice-principal and principal. You know, since we moved to Littleton and I began teaching students who were graduates of Columbine, school shootings have been an object of discussion among my classes. They come up once or twice a year - moreso when one happens elsewhere in the world.

I've considered them as a student. As a teacher. But today I'm struck with the consideration of them as a parent.

To be fair, we don't know much about this kid yet. We've seen his smiling yearbook pictures and the media has dug up some of his friends who told us how normal he was.

And yet, there's nothing normal about walking into a school and taking the life of a vice-principal - a woman whose life was dedicated to enriching the lives of students just like him.

I'm just gobsmacked, really. And, as a parent, a bit terrified. What do I do to ensure that my kids won't ever consider that the solution to a problem?

Do I commit to living in a home without guns? I know, I know, guns don't kill people. But people with guns are more likely to kill people than, say, people with knives or baseball bats. Knives and bats have a purpose other than the destruction of life - guns symbolize and function for the sole purpose of destroying life. Gun owners often say they aren't willing to draw their weapon if they aren't willing to kill someone with it. But what's that saying if you're willing to own one? That you are willing, at some point, to draw it - to kill someone? I don't know. I'll not be in the forefront of the "BAN THEM" mob, nor will I be in the "God given right" group. I'm confused on guns - but I wonder what sort of message their very presence in our lives sends our kids.

Do I stay up in my kids' mix? It seems like this kid's parents weren't fools - and were trying to do right by him. What happens when you do right by your kids and that ends up being the wrong thing? We all make mistakes like that as parents, don't we? When my Dad was teaching me to dive, an arguably essential skill (though having never really acquired it, I can't tell you how important it really was) for swimming - he tried to do right by me and tell me how to do it. The end result was that I threw my legs out behind me and fell right into the edge of the pool, scraping myself from thigh to kneecap and earning some most excellent bruises. My point? We make those mistakes all the time as parents - doing what we think is best and ultimately doing what's worst.

I don't know. I'm confused. I can't "Tell you something" today, because I don't have anything to tell. A friend of mine posted a status update on Facebook yesterday about this being a senseless - and ultimately nonpunishable crime. The kid delivered his own punishment. I'm just sorry he felt he had to do any of it at all - and I'm unwilling to wipe my hands together and say "Well, that's someone else's mess."

Because it could very well be our mess one day, especially if we don't figure out where it came from.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A letter to my youngest daughter,

on the occasion of her 1-month "birthday" (written nearly 2 weeks late):

Dear Tenacious E:

We've settled upon a nickname. Okay, not really. Your father still calls you "Ellie Belly" or "Ellie Bean". Both are deliciously cute, don't get me wrong, but I'm sticking with Tenacious E and here's why: tenacity is the trait that brought you to me - and the trait that will make you an awesome and excellent adult. It is the characteristic that I will struggle against throughout your infancy and childhood and I need a consistent reminder that it is beautiful, cute, adorable, and above all else, essential. A sweet nickname is the best way to remind myself of that, I think.

Why do I say it's what brought you here? Well, when four others failed, you hung on. I'll never understand why and I don't care - I don't need an answer, because I have you. When tenacity's the trait that brought you to me, I probably shouldn't spend a moment lamenting it. I should embrace it in all of its forms.

You are a month old now - actually a month and then some because your mother lacks commitment to regular blogging. I should be writing this in your diary, I know, but I'm not. One day I'll print this out, how's that?

What do you do now? Everything that good babies should: You eat, sleep, and cry. You've begun to coo a bit and to smile too. We sleep together nearly every night and you sleep on my chest most days - and when it gets to be too much, when I'm exhausted or frustrated because of the mounting list of things I need to do - I try hard to remind myself of our journey to get here -- and of how short these times are. Your birth was the beginning of a process of growing AWAY from me - a slow process, certainly, but one I've watched in your brother and sister and while they are growing away and into awesome independent people, there is still no time in their lives that they will be closer to me than they were during those 3 a.m. feedings as newborns when they snoozed and snacked and snacked and snoozed. So when you do that - and I'm exhausted and a bit annoyed - I try to remember that this moment is among the closest we will ever have.

Right now you are napping on my chest and I am in heaven. The house is quiet but for the sound of your breath. My list of things to do is huge but right now there is no more important thing for me to do than to take this in and love it for all that it is.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Goodbye 2010. Hello 2011.

I don't have the laundry list of complaints about 2010 that I did about 2009. Here's hoping 2011 brings us even more joy.
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