Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Mid-Life Crisis

OK, there's something fishy going on here... I just went to the doctor yesterday with an irritated and sore left eye, only to find out that I probably have a minor case of conjunctivitis... in other words, Pinkeye. I find it odd that after 2+ decades, I've now come down with 2 of the ailments I had as a child - Pinkeye in 1st grade, Strep in 3rd grade.

I've been so healthy for years, never getting anything nameable beyond various bugs or allergy-related nastiness, that I find this arresting. Almost as though I'm reliving my childhood, but not through any choice of my own.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Doctor, Doctor

I am now prepared to share my absolute fascination with and obsession for the new Doctor Who series on the SciFi Channel. I was an occasional viewer of the series back in high school when our local PBS station was showing the Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, and Peter Davison versions of the Doctor, and I wasn't obsessed with it or anything because the FX were fairly crap, and on occasion the storyline was of no interest to me. But it stuck with me, and one of my favorite trips when I was in London back in my 20s was when I visited the Museum of the Moving Image and saw the Doctor Who exhibit.

Rather, my favorite souvenir. I brought back a t-shirt and a mug with a text version of the theme music that I still find hilarious - "Dum de dum, dum de dum, dum de dum, diddly-dum" repeated 3 times... which is only amusing if you are familiar with the cheesy theme music and can recognize it. But it had the Tardis on it, which is what I loved most. That comforting old blue police box that the Doctor travels in through time and space...

I always wanted to time-travel, but in relative comfort and convenience. I didn't particularly want to travel like the Doctor and his companions did because it always seemed quite Fraught with Peril, and I'm not big on Peril. But sometimes their adventures were lovely and romantic and those stuck with me.

The new series is rather much improved, to my mind. They've really upped the budget significantly - gone are the days where you'd see a space slug slither by, and say to yourself, "That's bubble-wrap they've spray painted green!" Now they have respectable FX and, to my mind, phenomenal casting and writing. Christopher Eccleston is playing the Doctor, with Billie Piper playing his companion du jour, Rose. Their chemistry is delightful and significant; whereas before the Doctors and their companions were asexual and positively detached. This Doctor cares about Rose a great deal, and it shows. I adore Mr. Eccleston, and am only sorry he's only doing the first season, to be replaced by David Tennant for the next.

I was surprised to find out that apparently the show is known for it's scariness; I never was scared by it, else I would have avoided it like the plague - horror and scary stuff is anathema to me. But in England it was well established that certain recurring villains such as the Daleks and Cybermen were enough to send you racing to hide behind the couch, and the show was initially designed for children. But after 40 years, the viewership is all over the demographic map, and there's a new comedic sophistication and nuance to the series, reminiscent of Joss Whedon's shows. Witty banter is all over the place, and a healthy dose of flirting.

I find it irresistable, and am only sorry that there are only 13 episodes in the first new season (it was cancelled for about 15 years, but with recurring audiobooks and other media still being produced). They're in the midst of the second series in England now, and since it's steadily winning awards and having high ratings, it should remain on the air for a good long time. I highly recommend it, although the last 2 episodes of the season are airing in the next month, and it might be better to wait for the reruns so you can start at the beginning. There's a definite story arc, although some of the episodes can stand on their own. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Friday, May 19, 2006


I have quite faithfully watched Survivor ever since it started, and have also watched myself become cynical and jaded by how each season ends up. Each person eventually reveals the flaws in their personality and says something unforgivably stupid/cruel/selfish, or else they doggedly maintain the illusion that they are playing the game with "integrity" (boy, if I don't hear that word in context of the show again it'll be too soon...) and think they've persuaded us of their worthiness, which is a joke. The Mediocre almost always triumph on this show, because anyone with any qualities of strength, understanding, or intelligence are recognized as a threat almost immediately and are eliminated.

Everyone always claims to have loved the experience, to appreciate what it taught them about themselves and what they were capable of, blah blah blah, and how they're changed forever, yadda yadda yadda, and it's given them a renewed sense of purpose, la la la. But big maturing experiences, as grandiose as they may seem at the time, always diminish down to a small kernel in the corner of your character and personality... not without value, but only a tiny part of a bigger whole.

I'd give a great deal for someone on the show to say this: "Being on the island has shown me how unbelivably arrogant yet vulnerable I am, and I don't even begin to know what to do about it," or "Nah, I really hated it and it only made me realize how annoying other people can be." THAT would be worth seeing.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Giving of Gifts

Names have been imaginatively changed to protect the innocent.
Last night was a belated birthday celebration at Amerigo's for Martine, a member of my small women's group (hereafter referred to as Sisters). We have been celebrating birthdays with cards and presents and dinner for years now, and it has, for many of us, become the one guarantee of Proper Birthday Recognition and Appreciation.

Shall I elaborate? You know I'm gonna...!

This particular evening, everyone had really gone all out on Nifty and Thoughtful Gifts, and we were congratulating each other on said thoughtfulness... and inevitably, we began to speak of gift disappointments. As the sole Single in the group, I have no basis of comparison for the Failing of Husbands in this area, but it is always fun to hear of the train-wrecks some of my Sisters have experienced in past years. For example, Saltine told of the time her husband had bought her an appalling blood-red dress 3 sizes too big, and of the Mother's Day where, with ill-concealed delight in his Gift-Giving Genius, he gave her 3 ordinary, unrelated and boring coffee mugs in a paper bag.

Pauline's tale of decades with no birthday cakes, EVER, still trumps everyone, although we made up for that a few years back. We showed up at the agreed-upon restaurant that night with our regular gifts and cards for her... and with a birthday cake each. She about fell out of her chair, and had cakes in the freezer for months to come. I still wonder if her husband and kids ever realized the inherent rebuke from us when she took them home.

It's interesting how people react to appalling gifts. Pauline always conceals her disappointment, because of how crushed her husband becomes when she responds instinctively, while Saltine is fortunate in a husband who can take a "What on earth were you thinking?!" with humor and grace. Nadine has the opposite problem - her husband is never happy with anything she gives him, despite her best efforts and the fact that she really is trying to make thoughtful, clever choices. Celine... well, apparently she and her husband are both blessed with Nifty Giftiness, and have no impressive tales of woe.

It does seem like we rarely get what we might wish for when it comes to gifts. It's an almost impossible balance between Surprise / Effort / Ingenuity / Delight. If you tell someone exactly what to get, you lose the Surprise and Effort. If you don't tell them and they get something wrong, you lose the Ingenuity and Delight. And the burden of how to respond can make it even worse; in the case of a disappointing gift you can be honest and hurt the Giver, or lie and give the Giver a false contentment. Is the pleasure of giving gifts almost as important as receiving them? Does it matter? Are you tired of this yet?

Each December I find myself longing for the perfect gift situation (birthdays near Christmas are a constant disappointment)... one where it's something I really long for, did not expect, and didn't have to suggest to anyone. A perfect gift is more than a tangible Thing; it's also the implication that the Giver truly Knows your heart, and made a real effort to bring you joy. We all have a couple of these rare, precious situations where we were given the perfect gift, but as we get older, decades stretch between, and we falsely say to ourself and others that "Gifts don't matter that much when you get older," or "I can buy it for myself!" or "A gift certificate would be the smartest thing."

But we are disappointed. We don't want to seem childish so we pretend it makes no difference, but at our Heart we long for Real Gifts. And yet there is absolutely nothing we can do to make them happen. So we might pray for a gracious attitude, or persuade ourselves that as adults, we are beyond feeling hurt at such a small thing. But I don't think it's a small thing - selfishness and self-centeredness may be part of it, but I think this is one of those longings from the heart that never really go away in a fallen world. We have been given the best gift of all, depending on your perspective - God's Grace, Life, Good Health - but we are usually unable to prize it as we should. We want something tangible in a box with a ribbon so we know that we are loved.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Daily Ephemera

You know, I'm coming to realize that blogging is an excellent way to point out interesting tidbits without going to all the trouble of actually adding them permanently to my website.

To that end, here follows a series of photos of the most simultaneously cute and terrifying watchdog EVAH. Don't know who this is, but I feel fairly certain that the baby in question will be safe for the rest of his/her life.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

I am so proud...

... of my eldest nephew Elliott. He invented his own emoticon! :-E for a big toothy smile.

Elliott and George have just recently gotten their own email addresses and so I send them all the silly stuff I come across on the web, like funny videos, etc.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Publix is now making a sugar-free Moose Tracks ice cream.

My joy knows no bounds.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Simple But Effective

Hmmm... it does have its merits...


I gave my long-dreaded presentation on "Humor in Jane Austen" at the Jane Austen Society of North America (or JASNA) Tea yesterday afternoon, and it went over far better than I had cause to hope. There's a branch here in Nashville; about 2 dozen ladies who get together quarterly for a presentation on some JA-related subject and a whopping big tea party.

We sit around and stuff our faces with shortbread and cake and drink really GOOD tea, and talk about the latest Jane Austen movie or miniseries, and "has anyone heard of a new version of P&P or S&S," etc., and one brave soul makes a presentation to the group. Very nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Well, in my never-ending Quest for Attention, when they asked me about 6 months ago if I would do a presentation on Humor in Jane Austen, I said yes, and then regretted it for weeks on end. I'm just so lazy, you see. I don't like being required to do homework, although I'm certainly confident in addressing a group, or talking about stuff I know well.

So I folded my open acknowledgement of my vanity and laziness into the presentation, which I think helped a lot since my scholarship was very foggy - I shamelessly plagiarized from Wikipedia and other on-line papers and sites, which I have no real compunction about since I will never allow it to be published or made available to the general public... my words have melted into the Ether. Here's the introductory bits that I am most proud of:

When I was first asked if I would be willing to take on the subject of “Humor in Jane Austen” as a presentation, in my weaker moments I would think things like “why don’t you just ask me to do a presentation on ‘Nouns in Jane Austen,’ or ‘Use of the letter W in Jane Austen’? In other words, it seems an almost impossibly huge task, much like being asked to index the Old Testament. And I am an exceptionally lazy person, which makes it even more difficult to contemplate.

I should mention that it has been a habit for me that if I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, I will think about Jane Austen stories, because I find it very soothing and far-removed from the worries of my life. But since developing this presentation has become one of my worries, that doesn’t exactly work right now!

So I started dabbling in research, and there’s a lot of it about, to say the least. There are books about books about Jane Austen’s humor, and all the permutations thereof – sarcasm, irony, wit, satire, vocabulary, feminism, juvenilia, the joke of substitution, the comic negative, etc. etc. etc. But one of the main difficulties of discussing comedy in a scholarly manner is analyzing just how exactly a phrase, a sentence, or joke actually IS funny – it’s taking a very subjective, individualized style of expression, and attempting to confine it to a comprehensible definition, and I find it unbelievably boring. If you explain how something is comedic, it usually drains the funny out of it.

So I won’t exactly do that myself; I’ve decided to jump around and talk about the things in Austen that make me laugh, in no particular order, with just a few definitions and examples so it’s not a complete waste. In the slightly modified words of Jane Austen, “you deserve a [better presentation] than this, but it is my unhappy fate seldom to treat people so well as they deserve.” Or, in the more slightly mangled words of Lady Catherine, “There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of [humor] than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever [bothered to prepare a proper presentation], I should have been a great proficient.”