Category Archives: culture

101 Dalmatians / on Children’s Activities

I took the girls and two of their friends to see 101 Dalmatians: The Musical this afternoon. It was a good introduction to musical theatre, the story was familiar enough to follow along and the production was whimsical and child-friendly. If we had paid for a babysitter to go see it as a date, I probably would have been disappointed. But, that wasn’t the case, and the kids all had a great time, so I enjoyed it as well.

Parenting is one big adventure of shaping your children’s views of the world, life and everything, and doing things like this makes me consider how much we are exposing them to the arts. It makes me understand how people can get sucked in to over-scheduling with activity after activity because if you neglect one, you might miss a great gift or not develop a passion. I think we can all see how an excess of pursuits can tax a family in many ways, and distort a child’s view of his own importance, but drawing the line between good and too much can’t be easy.

How do you find balance in your family? Is it dictated by time, cost, number of pursuits per child?

“i don’t have a choice but i still choose you”

I caught the absolutely enchanting duo the Civil Wars live tonight. If you haven’t downloaded their FREE live cd, you ought to go do that, posthaste. You’re welcome.

Goodreads Quandry or On Criticism

The way goodreads labels their five star system is

* i didn’t like it
** it was okay
*** liked it
**** really liked it
***** it was amazing

It’s simple and intuitive, but it leaves much to be desired. There are great books that I don’t necessarily like, but I still find worth reading for some reason or another. For example, I don’t know that I “really liked” Lolita. But it is marked four stars on my goodreads account. I think Nabov set out to show us a warped mind, a thoroughly unlikeable narrator, a child we want to care for and can’t always bring ourselves to. He portrayed coercion and tyranny in dark, messy, and very human ways. It was a novel the world didn’t know we needed, and for that, I think the book has a rightful place among the classics.

Sometimes books are written or movies are made with a purpose in mind other than leaving the audience with a warm and fuzzy feeling. And then they need to be evaluated by whether that purpose is worth pursuing, and how well they fulfilled their purpose. Criticism larger than just plain gut reaction. In that way, a movie with an ending you aren’t happy with can still be something that you believe is an amazing film.

I am not sure how we fix the stars of goodreads, just know that likability is not my only concern as I rate.

(500) Days of Summer

Just watched this with a free rental credit from Amazon (AVODGIFT – good until 1/3!) – what a great film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel were perfect choices for the main characters. The non-linear storytelling works really well, as our memories aren’t fixed chronologically and remembering a relationship is like the movie, in fits and spurts, with one memory spurring another. It’s a film where beauty is up front, with an excellent soundtrack, beautiful cinematography, even hip and interesting wardrobe choices. I loved listening to Tom talk about buildings. Architecture is such a key element of the movie, and it’s integrated excellently.

There are some romantic comedy cliches (I am not entirely sure why the long-haired friend is even in the film) but the little sister character was pretty awesome, as cliches go. I loved her saying over wii tennis early in the movie “just because some girl likes the same bizarro crap you do, doesn’t make her your soul mate.” Even though, as the narrator says, it is not a love story, it’s true and real, and not without hope. See it!

Sharing a Name

An excess of twitter followers, random emails, international phone calls in the middle of the night…

sharing a name with a star can be really trying.

We Went to the Movies

This is pretty momentous. Going to the movies as a couple is typically more or less a non-option between the cost of tickets and the cost of babysitting. Dates are scarce enough, movies are just over the top. (Especially with our HBO included rental, the library, and redbox.)

Not only did we see a movie in the actual theatre… we saw TWO in two days. I am not a movie critic, and don’t feel as comfortable reviewing a film as I do a book, but I’ll do it anyway.

Michael’s choice was Sherlock Holmes. We both loved it. He’d see it again tonight if I would let him. It’s really well done, the acting is great, the colors and conception are both excellent, it’s one I envision we will end up owning.

My choice was Up in the Air. I loved Thank You for Smoking and Juno and think Jason Reitman may just be the go-to guy making real movies about life in our generation and I wanted to support it. It was a fantastic film. You ought to see it. It’s a thoughtful film that explores community, why we need it, how we figure out that we do… in a smart and beautiful way with characters that are real and deeply flawed. Even the editing stood out to me for how well it captured different aspects of the film. I am looking forward to digesting it more over days and viewings to come.

little tree

This reminds me so much of our little tree. I’ve read it to the children many times this year.

* * *

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don’t be afraid

look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i’ll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you’re quite dressed
you’ll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they’ll stare!
oh but you’ll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we’ll dance and sing
“Noel Noel”
|ee cummings|

Today Felt Like Christmas

Michael and I watched Love Actually, which is my favorite Christmas movie. It’s a motley crew mash-up of every classic romantic comedy storyline, but I love it and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Watching it has become an annual tradition for us. What’s your favorite Christmas movie? Honorable mentions are hereby awarded to A Christmas Story and Elf.

Mad Men Update

This interview with Matt Weiner was a balm to my heart which has been pining for new Mad Men ever since the season finale. I know, I take television way too seriously. Can you believe I gave it up for six or seven years?

Websites I Recommend

Here are some websites I use, love, and recommend.

Goodreads is where most of my book reviews have found themselves these days. I love being able to instantly see the rating several friends have given a book when I look at it, many of my choices for new books to read come straight out of Goodreads. Keeping track of the girls’ books on their account is helpful and a category for books I own and haven’t read on my own means I don’t even have to go scan the shelves for that information. Literary laziness is a lovely combination. downloads are much cheaper than itunes or amazon, about $.50 a track. Sign up for a subscription and you can add extra credits via booster pack when you want more and freeze your account without deleting it when you are well stocked up or don’t want to spend money that month.

PaperBackSwap is a great website for those building home libraries. If you need a book next week, it may not come through for you, but by being patient and using the wish list feature well, we have accumulated almost 200 books in the last three years, each for the price of outgoing postage on one of our old books (or $3.50.) Almost all of the ones we have received have been in excellent condition, many like new. If you sign up and post 10 books you are willing to part with, they will give you 2 credits to start out with (worth one book each.)

Fox, How Could You Leave Me This Way?

Glee is on hiatus until spring… and I will miss it. I watch a lot of intense TV shows and it’s nice to have one that has a little bit of levity and not just gritty brokenness.

Tonight, as soon as Mr. Schue said “You can’t always get what you want, Finn.” I knew they were going to sing it. As a child brought up on that song, I was positively giddy at the idea. I have tried playing the Stones version for Kate and Lexi, but they don’t appreciate it nearly enough. Guess what’s going on their iTunes playlist this week? Thankfully, I have an amazon mp3 credit burning a hole in my inbox…

Albums That Shaped My Life [1]

A song came up on my iTunes shuffle last week that propelled me to nostalgia, remembering how much it shaped a particular time in my life. The album is Chase the Buffalo, by Pierce Pettis. I randomly met a guy on a road trip in college, and somehow Pierce came up in our brief conversation. I discovered him when I was writing CD reviews and connected with his alternate tunings and general style of play, which reminded me a lot of my dad. This random guy asserted that I needed Chase the Buffalo, and it was out of print, so he took my address and promptly sent me a burned copy. I wore it out playing it so much. A few years ago I replaced it with a gently used copy from amazon marketplace.

I like contemporary folk music (Pettis, Wilcox, Dar Williams, etc.) in moderation, it’s not actually something I can generally listen to on a daily basis, but something about the songwriting on this album blew me away. The song I heard last week, “Trying to Stand in a Fallen World” – the imagery of the title alone is so moving to me. “You’re Not There” with it’s haunting first line, “The presence of your absence follows me…” There’s “Family” which has been covered a number of times, including by Dar Williams, and “I Will Be Here” which is a great tribute to friendship. In college when I needed to feel something other than my own self-important rantings in my head, I’d put on this CD and be transported. I can remember listening to it in my dorm room, in my car, in the brand-new Borders, everywhere. I can even remember some of what I was trying to escape from. Music has that power, mixed with memory, to take me back in time.

This wasn’t the first, or last CD that grabbed hold of me, I am sure I will write about others. I’d love to hear some of yours as well.