Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Larry "wide stance" Craig

Well, well, well. Larry Craig, U.S. Senator from Idaho, joins the growing list of Republican "traditional values" crusaders to hit the news for trying to blow/be blown by/otherwise get off in the company of another man in a public restroom. Ordinarily -- because why should tapping one's foot in a public restroom be a crime? -- I'd wish him happy cruising, or whatever, (providing consenting partners of legal age, &c.) and turn my attention elsewhere, maybe after noting that, um, some soul-searching appears to be in order for the Craig family. Or something.

However. This illustrious Senator:

Voted YES on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage. (Jun 2006)
Voted NO on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes. (Jun 2002)
Voted NO on expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation. (Jun 2000)
Voted YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage. (Sep 1996)
Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination by sexual orientation. (Sep 1996)

The hypocrisy! -- man. It's just not funny.

But he almost makes up for it with the "wide stance" claim. That's how his foot touched the man's in the next stall, doncha know. The Senator has a wide stance on the shitter.


Enough with the spiders, m'kay?

We are having a heck of a year for spiders. Sure, over the season you see some spiders in the house. What's normal, a few a week? Something like that. Some weeks more, some weeks fewer.
This year, though, man. Yesterday I killed a half-dozen spiders, representing at least four species.

I watched the biggest one, the kind more associated with woodpiles than upstairs bathrooms, for quite some time before launching my attack. To do battle, I'd sent the girls out of the bathroom, and armed myself appropriately. This was no mere square-of-toilet-tissue spider. This was a two-paper-towel carnivorous arthropod, scuttling sideways up and down the wall along the corner with the mirror over the sink. It was in a state of high agitation, and get this: sparring with its image in the mirror. I was not imagining this. I observed for several minutes, hoping it'd get somewhere more accessible than just behind the outlet with the toothbrush and hair dryer plugs obstructing attack. (I prefer to handle these unpleasantries in one mighty blow.) And I swear, this one was fighting, rearing up on some back legs and waving some front ones around.

Maybe that's old news to people who know more about spiders than I, which is to say, nearly everyone. I had never seen a spider do that before -- kittens, yeah, but not spiders -- and found it distinctly unsettling.

Glossing over the embarassing events that followed (I admit the hair dryer came into play), I will just say this megaspider's last stand wasn't nearly as swift or clean as I'd have liked. I had to go back and clean up a leg. No, not my leg. Grrr.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Sound of Freedom

We just had an airshow here on Cape Cod. That phrase, "the sound of freedom," has been bandied about even more than usual.

To be honest, the airshow itself... huge crowds, earsplitting noise, bad food, impenetrable traffic, searing heat from sun and pavement... sounds like hell on earth to me. Planes just aren't my thing, though I do appreciate in a detached sort of way how cool they are, how amazing the technology, how deeply impressive their thundering overhead, especially in those tight formations (wow). Given a chance to check them out up close without the crowds, noise, traffic, and heat, I definitely would, and it would rock.

But here's a question. Please know I'm not trying to be coy. Though disinclined to air shows, I'm not anti-military. I'm proud of those who defend our country, and truly admire their strength and skills. I just wonder, because every time I hear the phrase, something about it rings kind of naive to me...

How are military aircraft screaming overhead the sound of freedom?

I know... "freedom isn't free," and this is how we ensure it. But that's why it strikes me more as a sound of grim necessity. Wouldn't true freedom be not needing it to be heard?

When the aircraft pass overhead, I am certainly impressed. It can be exhilerating. But I don't associate it with freedom, because there's something terrible (in the old sense of the word) about it as well, that makes me feel distinctly less free.

Just thinking out loud.

Different kinds of freedom, I suppose... freedom to, and freedom of, and freedom from.

Monday, August 27, 2007

You (yes, *you*) are the Peanut Gallery.

In talking with people about blogs, blogging, and this blog, I've been made aware that it wouldn't necessarily be talking down to people to explain the bit about commenting.

If you browse blogs, you'll often see a link that says "[some number] comments" beneath each post. Bloggers sometimes call 'em something else -- mine currently says "0 shouts from the peanut gallery." Click on it. You'll see that some readers have left comments about the post, and sometimes it can lead to whole conversations being had between commenters, and friendships between people who've never met. The Internets are cool like that. Famous bloggers get hundreds of comments on each of their posts. Unknown hacks such as I get a couple here and there, and savor each one :).

The famous blogger I linked to has an amusing, sometimes even laugh-out-loud funny blog (the downside: it runs to the self-congratulatory). Oddly, he has banned me from leaving comments. (You'll have to take my word for it that I'm not one to make obscene, threatening or otherwise ban-worthy comments. My story, and I'm sticking to it, is that There Must Be Some Mistake.) Which brings me to another point about commenting: bloggers can disallow comments entirely on certain or all of their posts. Some blogs allow anonymous comments, others don't. Some bloggers preview, or moderate, comments on their blogs before allowing them to appear to all readers. Others don't bother.

I allow everything. So far, so good.

So comment away, beloved Peanut Gallery. It's cool to hear from you.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Harry Potter Immersion

At a chapter a night, Mr. Sandy and I are about a third of the way through Deathly Hallows. Hopefully we'll keep up the pace as bedtime gets earlier with school starting next week (!).

I saw Order of the Phoenix on Friday -- at an IMAX theater. WOW. It was awesome.

I am having Harry Potter style dreams lately.

And I took a silly Harry Potter quiz:

Which Harry Potter Character Are You?

Hermione Granger. You are very smart, very clever, bookish, a loyal friend, loving, you fight for what you believe in, and can be pretty when you dress up. However, you are obsessed with school and rules, can sometimes take your projects overboard, you're a know-it-all, and you can be easily offended and overly cautious. But your friends stand by you and you totally got to date a professional quidditch player.

Monday, August 20, 2007


We had one of the Bean's friends over to play this morning. A nice little girl, tiny thing, very quiet, probably because she'd never been at our house before.

Out of the blue, she announced to me, "sometimes at home I sit on my brother's soccer ball and pretend it's an egg."

"What kind of bird do you pretend to be?" I asked.

"Not a bird. A cat." she said.


Then we baked flaxseed muffins. Ha!

No we didn't. I made chocolate cupcakes from a box and used frosting from a tub, and the girls dumped their own rainbow sprinkles on the top and thought it was the greatest thing ever.

I did make 'em eat carrots with their lunch first.

Overheard in My Kitchen

Bean, to Peanut: Why are you not afraid of Great White sharks, but you are afraid of leopard sharks?

Peanut: Hm. That is strange.

"Goodnight Nobody"

After Nineteen Minutes I went for shameless fluff reading, hold the difficult issues. Jennifer Weiner's Goodnight Nobody fit the bill.

Our heroine is Kate Klein, who has just moved with her husband and three toddlers from New York City, which she loved, to a stultifyingly dull Connecticut suburb. With her sense of humor and (horrors!) interests beyond her home and family, not to mention unruly hair, some extra weight, and clothes that aren't silk, suede, or spotless, she feels totally out of place and is losing hope of making any friends among the sleek, high-heeled, pedicured, flaxseed muffin-baking, Pilates-sculpted Perfect Mommy set.

Things get interesting when one of these perfect mommies invites Kate over for lunch, and upon arrival Kate discovers her body facedown in the kitchen, knifed in the back. Kate latches on to the mystery and with the help of her old friend Janie, she starts finding things out. Needless to say the mommies aren't all that they seem.

It's all highly improbable, but who cares. This novel, like Weiner's others (she also wrote Good in Bed, Little Earthquakes, and In Her Shoes, of which was made the movie w/Cameron Diaz), is totally fun. Earthquakes (about a group of pregnant friends and how their lives change as the babies come) and Nobody are more specific to mothers in their funniness, but they're all a riot. Perfect beach or hammock reading.

Friday, August 17, 2007

We're done, right? Right.

Mr. Sandy is cleaning out the garage, and things are going in three general categories: to the dump, to be donated, to be kept.

He came across the baby stroller. "We really are done, right?"

We really are done. A third child would tip us into precarious territory financially, emotionally, and physically (a pregnancy at 40 isn't a no-brainer). I also have strong feelings about there being plenty of people in the world already. I know that large families living simply can leave less "footprint" than smaller ones living carelessly, as so many do, but still. There are enough people in the world already.

So, we're done. Really.

Still, we both think about it sometimes. That door is hard to close. I don't think I want to hear it latch behind me.

Pet Peeve

I like dogs as much as the next guy. No more, if I'm totally honest, but no less. Doggies can be fun. They can be cute. They can be good friends. They can be good for our health, they can protect and defend us, they can even save lives.

They can also shit all over the damn place. And many of them appear to be owned by people who don't give a shit about the shit, so to speak. I hate that.

Please do not let your dog shit at the beach*, and then neglect to pick up after it. Hello? People lie on the beach. Children dig in the sand. They can get very seriously sick from touching dog poop.

Same goes for the playground, for the sidewalk, for my yard, for Chrissake. Did you think I wouldn't notice? That I wouldn't care?

I often see people walking their dogs, toting a plastic bag for the inevitable chore. I stop and thank those people for making the effort, and they say "you're welcome." I think most dog owners are probably considerate about it. So what's the matter with the rest of them?

*By the way, what part of "No Dogs Allowed May 15 - Sept. 15" is unclear? Don't like the law, then take it up with the town. But it IS the law, until it isn't.

"Nineteen Minutes"

My not-so-serious book group met at sunset yesterday, with beach chairs, blankets and wine and a cake decorated like the Texas flag as a sendoff for one of us who is moving there. I felt like blowing Taps for her. The prospect of moving to Texas for anything but an absurdly lucrative short-term gig would fill this heat-dreading, socially liberal-thinking New Englander with despair. But she seems in good spirits, and will be back for summers.

We relaxed and gabbed for three hours or so, relighting candles often in the humid breeze and passing drizzle. Somewhere in there we spent considerably less than 19 minutes discussing Nineteen Minutes, by Jodi Picoult.

The novel (Picoult's 14th, but the first I've read of hers) is about a small town high school shooting. The story is told from several characters' perspectives, in present and in flashbacks. Peter Houghton is an odd boy, cruelly and mercilessly bullied since earliest childhood. His parents are gifted in their work, clueless in their parenting. One day, Peter packs his backpack full of loaded guns. He goes to school and kills ten people, injures more. Some of his targets make sense revenge-wise, some don't. When apprehended, he says, "they started it."

Josie Cormier is Peter's only childhood friend, who eventually drifts away from him in favor of the popular kids, and struggles with losing herself in that group and particularly in a relationship with a scarily controlling boyfriend. Alex Cormier is Josie's mother, a newly appointed judge, thriving in her career but missing some things at home. Patrick Ducharme is the detective whose case this horror becomes, and Jordan McAfee, the attorney for Peter's defense.

It's a messy story, and it needs at least as many perspectives as Picoult provides, to provoke the right questions. Who to blame? Who to forgive? Where is our empathy -- can it be in many places at once?

I found my own to be spread like frosting, thicker in some places than others.

We did touch on some of the writing issues: Picoult's characters are very well-drawn, but is her Sterling High too full of cliches? (maybe, but it mostly works.) Is the ending too contrived (not necessarily, but I would've liked more from Josie's perspective), its promise of new life too hokey (yes, and as a reader, I resent having my chain so obviously yanked)?

But as a group of mothers, we focused mostly on the fears this book brought out. How do we raise* our children not to become the kinds of people that do these things? More importantly (by the numbers, at least -- there are far more bullies than murderers in the world), how do we raise children that won't be horribly mean people, if not killers?

How do we keep from raising children we one day don't know or recognize?

Scary stuff, as I ready my eldest for kindergarten in a few short weeks. I know that school can sometimes be a cruel place, and that she'll have to navigate some of its cruelty on her own.

I'm curious what high school students who read this book think of it. And of course I'd like to hear from you, if you did.

*I was always taught that one raises livestock and rears children, but when I put "rear" into the above paragraphs, it reads strangely. So I capitulated. Grrr. When did we start "raising" children instead of "rearing" them?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

stupid computer games

From time to time I go through phases of being completely absorbed in stupid computer games. I'm in one now. Self-loathing is starting to set in. And yet... I can't quite stop. Must... get... best... score.


Sunday, August 12, 2007


It's true, I did go to church this morning. I brought the Bean, who had a great time playing with the child care person (a lovely older woman who drives a Jeep with fake flowers twisted around the antenna, and turns out to be the senior church warden) during the service. Peanut stayed home with Daddy to do a "project," designed to keep her from being too upset that her sister got to wear a pretty dress and Go Somewhere.

I have mixed feelings about church, which could probably fill many more paragraphs than any (either?) of my readers here would want to give time to. I grew up going to an Episcopal church: went to Sunday school, sang in the choir, attended confirmation classes, and served as an acolyte. Though it was just luck of time and place, I am proud to have been confirmed by Bishop John Shelby Spong, of whom Wikipedia says "his views are so radical that some more conservative Christians consider him not Christian at all." That is to say, he believes that women and gay people and people of color are as fully human as straight white men. He believes a lot else about Christian theology that I'm unqualified to discuss, and in fairness it is probably more that kind of thing, rather than feminism, that makes him a radical. In essence, he seems to be saying that much Christian doctrine is rooted in a world that no longer exists (pre-Newton, pre-Copernicus), and that we could use another Reformation. Sounds good to me -- sign me up. Or to put it bluntly, "well, duh."

But I digress, about Spong. Point is: my religious foundation is Episcopalian, so we had our girls baptized in the local Episcopal church, and that's where we go on the three or four Sundays a year that I get the urge. Now that Bean is Sunday school age, we'll probably go more often. Maybe. Or not.

Because I went so often as a child and teenager, the rhythms and cadence of the service, the music, the language, and the social church experience all have made an imprint that is at once irksome, comforting, and amusing.

The stuff that ranges from irksome (church busybodies) to infuriating (institutionalized condescension) is a whole other essay. Today -- possibly because our regular priest is on vacation! -- I noticed positives.

There is comfort in confession, in asking for forgiveness for unspecified (Episcopalians don't have to visit a priest and come clean individually) things done and left undone, for not having loved our neighbor with our whole heart. There is comfort in the exchange of "peace be with you" with those seated nearby. There is comfort in watching the priest blessing the Bean at communion, and in the blessing delivered to all at the end of the service.

In the amusing category, I've found there is always one person in the congregation... you could plop me in any church in the world and this would happen... invariably seated one or two rows behind me, who insists on singing harmony to all the hymns. She can't quite manage it, but she'll never stop trying. Loudly.

"Off the Map"

Off the Map (2003) is an odd little drama about an odd little family. It's a coming of age story for precocious, homeschooled 11 year-old Bo ("my real name is Cecilia Rose"), and a "finding oneself" story for several of the other characters.

Bo and her parents live in the New Mexico desert without phone or electricity. They grow and kill their own food, and whatever else they need they barter for or find at the dump. Her father Charley (Sam Neill -- one of those seen-him-before, can't-remember-where actors, very good, wonderful voice) is suffering from debilitating depression. He barely speaks or moves. Her mother Arlene (Joan Allen) is holding up as best she can doing everything that needs to be done, which in a self-sufficient household is a ton. There is both depth and simplicity in Arlene's character, which Allen plays masterfully. Bo's godfather, George, is around a lot but doesn't say much himself.

One day a hapless IRS agent arrives at their door filthy, sweaty and on foot -- his car long since abandoned as he got lost and disoriented trying to find the place. His mission was to track down unpaid taxes, but he is stung by an insect and collapses, feverish, on the couch. He recovers in a few days; he stays for eight years.

New Mexico itself -- Land of Enchantment -- plays a strong role in the film.

I squirmed a bit at the slow pace of this movie, but strongly recommend it overall. I enjoyed all the literal and figurative meanings of its title and how they played out in the characters' lives. In retrospect there are some loose ends, some bits that didn't quite fit, but no fatal flaws.

See it, tell me what you think.

Musical Abuse

I have been suffering, my friends.

Two days ago I had the refrain from that Depeche Mode song "Blasphemous Rumors" stuck in my head like chewing gum underfoot.

Yesterday, it was "Edelweiss." I tried to spread the misery to Mr. Sandy, who, (although German!) professed never to have heard it before.

This morning I went to church to confess my sins, just in case it'll help.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

...for God's sake, grease your shingles.

Apologies to everyone who has cable and already watches the Daily Show, but when I come across stuff like this, I gotta share:

Now excuse me, I'm going to go hide the Advil.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Grail movies.

This weekend ended up being Holy Grail themed (movie-wise, that is, unless sand art is the Holy Grail of birthday party crafts). It had been far too long since we asked the eternal question, "how do you know so much about swallows?" so Friday night brought a viewing of Monty Python and the Holy Grail while frosting the Bean's birthday cake. Genius, as ever. Of course it's a good idea!

Saturday we revisited Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which I'd forgotten is also a grail movie, and not bad at that (and quite a relief when it came out, because Temple of Doom sucked eggs). Best line: "I said no camels, Sallah. That's five camels. Can't you count?"

Too bad we didn't have The DaVinci Code for the trifecta, though that movie always makes me want to give Tom Hanks a haircut.


There is a new-ish radio station on Cape Cod called "Frank FM." They have a good playlist, for commercial pop radio, and relatively few ads. I'd found myself listening pretty often, in the car. Until I realized: they have no DJs. It's just this prerecorded growl of a voice that makes generic transitions between tunes, touting the station in a few canned phrases that they rotate through, or randomly generate, or something. However they do it, it's kind of creepy, and now that I've noticed it I don't like the station anymore.

It reminds me of box restaurants. Chili's, Uno, Friday's, Tuesday's, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Applebee's... not that any one of them is particularly bad (though I'd rather have a day-old vending machine sandwich than set foot in a Hooters), but must every flat, numbered state highway business district in America look exactly the same? Cape Cod is truly lovely in so many ways. But if you were driving down Route 132 in Hyannis and suddenly went into a fugue or something, you'd have no immediately obvious way to tell if you were in Cape Cod, Massachusetts or, say, greater Kansas City. Which is sad for both places.

Another Dunkin' Donuts just opened in my little town. That makes FIVE.

How many is enough?

Sad Girl, II

I saw Sad Girl again this evening, at a sub shop with her brother and father. She was... sad. I smiled and said hi, but didn't stop to chat, as the father looked straight at the floor, and Sad Girl doesn't seem to remember who I am (no reason she should; she and my Bean went to the same preschool, but Bean wouldn't recognize her mother, either). Sitting down with my dinner (ALONE! with a BOOK!), another family passed my table on their way out, and the mother was saying to her husband, "I decided to get it to go because that man with the two kids is INTOXICATED..." Hm. Maybe Sad Girl really has something to be sad about.

When I had a cat and no kids, I used to read the cat shelter column in the local paper, every kitty story in the news would catch my attention, and every cat in a parking lot made me wonder if she had a place to go home to. I used to have a recurring dream about abandoned kittens following me home. Now, of course, it's little girls that pull my heartstrings.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Happy Birthday Bean!

Our Bean is 5 years old! We had her party on Saturday though, because, you know, the hottest, most humid, least pleasant day of the summer seemed like a good time to grill a ton and a half of marinated chicken for a thousand sweaty kids and their wilting parents. (Sunday, of course, was stunningly beautiful -- a lovely, comfortable temperature with a perfect breeze, yet not a cloud in the sky. Sigh. You get what you get, weather-wise.)

Luckily, since most of the responses I had to chase down were regrets, we were able to move the party indoors to air conditioned comfort. Mr. Sandy was a good sport about manning the grill. He noted later that although the only part of the food prep I did NOT do was the actual grilling, and that all the rest of it took hours and hours, he got all the atta boys for the 20 minutes he spent cooking the chicken. I'm OK with that. I'd have passed out.

Shameless self-congratulation for the most excellent birthday party activity ever... not that it was an original idea, but it was a big hit: SAND ART. You need baby food jars, spray paint, art sand in a bunch of colors (2.5 lb bags for $2.50 at craft store), cups and spoons, table, drop cloth if it'll be indoors. In advance (at least a day ahead, to let things air out and dry) clean the jars and get the labels off 'em (mineral spirits work great). Spray paint the lids (I used white, but something sparkly would've been cooler). On party day, put colored sand into different (clear is best so they can see the colors) cups, spoons into each cup, cups on table. Use enough cups so that everyone can get to all the colors. Kiddos then spoon layers of different colored sand into their jars to make pretty patterns. As long as they don't shake the jars, they can't go wrong. Have them fill the jars all the way to the top so there isn't room for the sand to tip and mix after you put the lid on. Make sure they put an initial or something on the jars, they're easy to mix up when they're all done. Ribbons around the jar would make a cute final touch but of course I didn't think of it till afterward, so whatever.

I had boys and girls aged 2 to 7, and either they all loved this or their parents were discreetly jabbing them with sticks and telling them to fake it or else. Everyone made birthday presents for unsuspecting grandparents who will end up with jars of sand they have to keep forever. But that's not my problem :).

So yeah, the Bean is 5. And she starts kindergarten in a month... and when I think about that I cry, so this post was about sand art instead.

I'm so proud of her.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The 40 Year-Old Virgin

Briefly: A comedy not as bad as I'd feared, not as good as I'd hoped.

The title character works in the stock room at [insert generic name for Best Buy], the secret to his dorkishness gets out, and his coworkers spend the rest of the movie working on getting him laid -- until he starts working on it in his own way, on his own terms, with a predictable happy ending (and a not-so-predictable, bizarre musical sequence that should've been cut, cut, cut).

It starts out just bad (awkward loner keeps action figures, plays video games... we get it. Clumsy attempts at hooking him up with drunk women... not funny). But it does become kind of cute, and there are some amusing exchanges. Jane Lynch (of Best in Show and A Mighty Wind, both MUST SEE movies... really, get those right now if you haven't seen them, don't bother with crap like Virgin) is pretty funny as the store manager. The cute guy who played Phoebe's boyfriend on Friends plays a cute guy here too. Catherine Keener is charming as the Love Interest.

That said... it's easily 45 minutes too long, and while I am willing to subject myself to that kind of fluff once in a while, I can't accept responsibility for letting anyone else do it. So here, sign this waiver. Now turn off your brain and watch this on cable if you feel like it, but don't come whining to me about all those minutes of your life you'll never get back. I tried to tell you.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

RSVP. Please, please, PLEASE!!!!

Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to politely encourage people to respond to an invitation? I ask because a simple "R.S.V.P., [phone number]" appears to be completely ineffectual.

Pick up the damn phone, people, and give your hapless, well-intentioned, would-be hostess a frickin' clue. How hard can it be.

That is all.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Basic Instinct 2

In case anyone was left wondering... yes, Basic Instinct 2 is every bit as bad as everyone said it was.

Sharon Stone as novelist Catherine Tramell, this time in London, and in trouble with the law again, this time for the death of a football player who she might perhaps have saved from a watery grave were he not paralyzed by an illegal drug, and were his paralyzed fingers not in, ahem, use, while Ms. Tramell was driving through London in a snazzy sportscar at a hundred miles an hour. She's evaluated by a shrink who proceeds to go where Michael Douglas has gone before.

They should've kept more sex in the film and accepted an NC-17 rating. If they'd been honest about the premise, then it wouldn't have mattered that the plot was so campy, and those of us with some remaining allegiance to its purported "thriller" aspects wouldn't have had to strain to accept that everyone in Tramell's evil presence falls under her Sublime Spell o'Sexiness so that things can proceed exactly as she has forseen them, mwah-hahahaaa.

And, because this is what it was all about, really: Sharon Stone looked alternately ghoulish and great.

In short: an embarrassing film, hopefully more excusable for those with careers on the rise (are we ever going to see any of those British actors again?) than for those with careers in decline.

I just couldn't help myself.