Friday, October 31, 2008

Harpy Harloween

In true Colleen tradition, we're not 100% ready! Paul's costume is... close. He is going to be a werewolf, and Eli still can't decide between ghost, skeleton, blue monster, or cat (we have the costumes already, so no sweat). We haven't carved our pumpkins yet - Paul's been sick this week and so we'll have to do it today. I'm not sure what i'll slap together for me; I was thinking 1980's Sunset Strip metalhead (Axl Rose, y'know). Paul wants me to be a vampire, maybe I'll throw in some fangs. Dan lost all his childlike joy a long time ago (I can say that because he never reads my blog) and will not dress up.

My child-free friends, what are you doing for All Hallow's Eve? There are a lot of fun things going on that I long to be able to attend, but that is simply impossible for us for many, many years.

UPDATE: I ended up a Communist, because I have a drab dress that looks like a communist lunch-lady uniform and i also own a Fidel-style cap. Trick-or-Treating kinda stunk - Paul was ready to go home after about 40 minutes, and we got way less visitors this year, so we mostly just watched Nightmare Before Christmas. Did anybody have any fun for Halloween? Anybody?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Prop 8

EDITED. I was very emotional when i wrote this, and that was a mistake. My feelings on this issue have been all over the map. Basically, i am torn between what my God tells me, and my desire to play fair and never cause pain to others. I have a conflicted relationship with God, and things like this tend to reach down into those secret chambers of my heart and pull my quiet internal disputes out in a very bloody and painful mess. We are like a father and a daughter who love each other very much but who have a few strong disagreements. We get along fine, until those disagreements are forced to the front, and then we have a falling-out for a while. This is one of those issues that gets me worked up. It's impossible for me to be rational for very long about it. I have pled with God at length about this, begging Him to change His mind. Some things are hard for me to believe, and I will possibly never agree with Him 100% in this life. I struggle with obedience, i freely admit that.

I do not regret what i said about the Yes campaign. It relies heavily on distortions, misrepresentation, fearmongering and occasional outright lies. I do not regret criticizing that the church has associated itself with the Protect Marriage coalition. We should not be supporting half-truths and deceptions. I don't criticize the church's stand on the issue itself - it is obligated by doctrine. I criticize people who have used this as an opportunity to air their bigotries and ignorance. I do not criticize people who soberly and sadly stand up for what they genuinely believe is right.

I'll almost certainly regret this post. But the brethren have asked us to blog about it, and blog about it I shall.

I hate prop 8. I hate everything about it. I hate the thumbscrew-pressure that's getting put on members to support it. I hate the lies (PLEASE read this rebuttal written by a BYU grad lawyer, active member and contributor to the Joseph Smith papers project) and hysteria being used to promote it. I hate that the church has elected to throw in its lot with Focus on the Family, an organization with a long history of fact-bending and religion-baiting, and other reactionary self-appointed arbiters of what is Christian and what is not. Very few of the groups we are mixing with on Prop 8 were our friends before now, and very few of them will be our friends afterward. They will stab us in the back as soon as it's over, mark my words.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hooray, It's Over!

No, not the election. I wish.

I'm talkin' 'bout the Primary Presentation. Yet another year's over and done! The kids were fine; I would have preferred a bit more enthusiasm but you can't squeeze blood from a stone and so I'm just glad that at least half of them sang. Paul not only didn't sing (he preferred to twiddle his hair and stare slack-jawed at the ceiling), but he also refused to go to the microphone to say his part.

Since I was actually going to be looked at (standing in front of the congregation and leading the singing), I put on some makeup. Eli noticed it during the Sacrament (when we are supposed to be silently meditating) and said loudly, "What's on your eyes?"

I whispered, "Makeup."

"Mango? You have mango on your eyes!?" Eli has no volume control. I'm sure they heard him up on the podium.

"Shh. I said makeup."

A minute passes. "You shouldn't put mango on your eyes!"

"Shh. It's makeup."

Another minute passes. "Can I have mango on my eyes?"

After the program was over, we went to the Primary room and sort of did our normal routine, but with a "party" (term used VERY loosely) at the end. The kids had been promised that i would play the guitar for them, which I did. I played "If the Savior Stood Beside Me," "Tell me the Stories of Jesus," "Popcorn Poppin'," and "Once There Was a Snowman." The older children insisted that even with my guitar I still had to melt down to the floor, so I did, which was un poquito challenging. I ended up in a classic guitar-solo shredder pose. Once I am released as Chorister, I will join an all-mom hair metal band.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

On Hypocrisy

Warning: politics ahead.

First, read this.

Here is a history of our trade relations with Vietnam (a communist country we actually went to war with). And here are some statistics on our trade with China (another bunch of commies).

So why are we still punishing Cuba? I'm no fan of Fidel's reign, but I have never, ever understood how exactly we were supposed to be "bringing democracy to the Cuban people" (that's verbatim from the 1992 codification of the embargo) by punishing them with an embargo. Not to mention that our own government tells us we can't go to Cuba if we want to. We can travel to Iran if we want to (although the State Dept. warns against it), but not Cuba.

The pigheadedness of our government occasionally drives me into fits of madness. We could form mutually beneficial partnerships with Iran, which has massive oil reserves but incredibly primitive infrastructure, but we don't because their president insists on saying stupid things and then our government responds by saying other stupid things. They act like schoolchildren, and all of our posturing and tough talk has gotten us nowhere. Now we find that Cuba potentially has huge oil reserves, but also a massive infrastructure problem. Will we be consistent in our hypocrisy and attempt to get American developers in there, or will be be consistent in our other hypocrisy and attempt to freeze development there?

We have negative history with Iran and Cuba. We've overthrown their governments and manipulated them (Cuba in and around 1899, Iran in 1953), and then we act shocked when they actually remember this and hold a grudge about it.

I hope the time will soon come when a serious attempt is made to normalize relations with Cuba. Fidel is dying, Raul seems... well, I'm sure he's not wonderful, but he has begun to institute some reforms. If ever there was a time to give the Cuban people some sort of hope for a better life, now seems like it. I have occasionally written my senators about this - since it seems they will be elected until they die (possibly even after), what do they have to lose?

Big sigh. I just hate when humans have to suffer because governments act like proud children.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Thrift Store Scores

Every Friday morning, Goodwill changes the 50% off tag color. Being incredibly parsimonious, I am one of the Friday morning regulars. Fifty-cent VHS tapes, cheap books, clothes I can afford to take a gamble on... what's not to love? So, inspired by Ken's regular features, I think I will start a Friday Thrift Store feature.

Today's haul was very small, really. A copy of the Berenstain's Bear Scouts, a soyfoods cookbook, and four videotapes: Bedknobs and Broomsticks (Angela Lansbury never looked young, did she?), a Beatrix Potter adaptation, a Thelonious Monk documentary (I have to screen it to make sure it's OK for the boys), and - purely to astonish Paul - an old monster truck video. I should set up the videocamera and tape his reaction to the carnage.

Eli Dialogue

I know I said no potty talk, but this made me laugh and laugh. Eli answers me as if I've said the most ridiculous thing he's ever heard.

Eli: "I'm a gorilla!"

Me: "Is this gorilla going to use the toilet?"

Eli: "Nooo, gorillas don't fit on toilets."

Me: "Is this gorilla going to pee in his underwear?"

Eli: "Nooo, gorillas don't wear underwear."

Me: "Then where do gorillas pee?"

Eli: "They pee in the dirt!"

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hair, hair, hair again

I found this photostream from a salon in Lisbon, Portugal. I love, love, love their cuts and colors. I must do something to this unruly bush that is sprouting from my head. Go look for your own ideas and tell me what I ought to do with mine. Which of thse cuts does my discerning and tasteful adience prefer?

Also, when I am a woman of a certain age, I hope I will be as wonderful-looking as these ladies. My favorite of all is this elegant dame.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dracula-La: A Review

Several weeks ago, Daniel told me to book a babysitter for last night. He wouldn't tell me what we were doing, just to get a sitter from 6 to midnight. He enjoys having a harmless secret from me, because I always try to tease the secret out of him. He did finally reveal that we were going to a play - someone at his work is mixed up with a theatre group and had put up a poster in the break room, so Dan thought, "Why not" and bought tickets.

So as we were preparing to leave, Dan dropped some more tidbits: "I think it's kind of a musical," and, "It's an original play." I began to silently giggle with glee and the potential for mockery, because I am a born mocker. Ringo Starr, I salute you.

We drove to the Huntington Beach Playhouse. On the way, Dan was very concerned that the play would stink and be a waste of our time. I assured him that it would never be able to be as bad as "October," which was the play that finally made us stop attending the Rude Guerrilla Theatre. And besides, if it was awful we would be supplied with in-jokes that would last us many a year. As we pulled into the parking lot, he dropped one last bomb: "Oh, there's a vampire, too." Egads, I love the theatre.

As you may have surmised, the play is "Dracula-La." Get it? Dracu-La-La-La? Oh yes, it gets better. Now, before I get carried away in dissection, I need to note a few things. It was not bad. I enjoyed it. Community theatre is run by people with an infectious joy for putting on a show, and I love that about it. I have been mixed up in community theatre (although never with musicals - I am extremely picky about musicals). Between that and my college theatre experience, I understand the limited pool of actors that directors have to choose from. Add in the requirements of singing and dancing and the pool shrinks even more. Not to mention the tight budgets. But - and this is so super cool - they had a live band performing the music. I have never seen that in a community/small theatre before, so it was a really great treat.

On to the play. Set in Philadelphia 1928, which they bludgeon you over the head with in the first song, "Philadelphia 1928." We are introduced to a chorus of four flapper girls, who we soon discover are prostitutes - but not drug users, they assure us in song. It's good to know we are only dealing with hookers, not junkies. They speak in a strange mishmash dialect of betty-boopisms and old-fashioned slang and wear obvious Halloween costume flapper dresses. Their madam, Sophie, is soon to be married to Bela, the friendly neighborhood all-night candy store owner, who sleeps all day and runs his candy store all night (but is taking pills to change that schedule, so I suspect will soon spiral into an Elvis-esque barbiturate-and-upper addiction cycle), and has a mortal fear of placing his mouth on his fiancee. Hmmm.

Here is where I must praise and criticize. The gentleman who played Bela is a fine singer - a lovely tenor with a clear voice. He really could use acting and movement lessons, if he's serious about the acting side of things. Movement lessons would actually have benefited several of the cast members. I must also criticize the script a bit. In this first scene with Bela and the hookers, There are several moments when, old-school melodrama style, Bela delivers a semi-sinister line toward the audience, with a little shot of ominous music. This never happens again until the second to last scene, which is a shame because it is such a fun device -it plays to the audience, almost always gets a laugh, and heightens the ridiculousness of an undercover vampire running an all-night candy store.

Another point of praise. Both Bela and Sophie are middle-aged and their bodies will not be gracing any underwear ads. I enjoyed a love story between two people who are not twenty and rail-thin.

Enter the conflict. A trio of vampires (Miklos, Laszlo, and Zsa Zsa) from the old country pay a visit to Bela, and during their stay they have already killed a few people, which the streetwalkers twitter and shudder about ("they found her in an alley, with two puncture marks on her neck!"). Apparently, Bela is the last known descendent of Count Dracula and he must now take over the throne, or all the world's 900 vampires will die in three days. Although the vampires were absolutely delightful (by far the best performances of the show), their advent brings up multiple conflicts with the fact that the play takes place in 1928. First, their costumes! There were no club goths or cybergoths in 1928 - of that I am certain. Had I been the costumer, I would have gone with the romantic 1920's European look. Laszlo almost had this look, but his fake leather trenchcoat was very distracting (and probably made him very sweaty). Zsa Zsa was cybergoth/early industrial (with huge black platform boots, a fake leather trench and great though not at all period hair) and Miklos was dressed as the sort of guy I shunned at Helter Skelter back in the day - mesh shirt, spike collar, chains on his black pants and mid-calf laceup boots. The other problem is their need to get back to the old country in three days - Lindbergh flew over the Atlantic just the year before in 1927, and there were no transatlantic commercial flights going on in 1928.

Back to the play. Bela refuses to join them. Apparently, if a vampire abstains from bloodsucking for seven years he can return to humanity. Bela is two days away from this, and on that day he plans to marry Sophie (and finally kiss her, we suppose). The vampires leave in angry defeat, but of course they cook up a plan to force Bela to go with them. Zsa Zsa hypnotizes Bela, Sophie sees them togather and thinks Bela is fooling around on her. Miklos hypnotizes Mimi, one of the whores (yeah, I said it), and lures her back to the hotel, where Bela is to suck her blood and return to vampirism. the hookers' costumes are much better in the second act. Sophie wears a particularly lovely dress that really does exude 1920's style. One of the hookers, Ginger, has a penchant for the supernatural and begins to piece together what is going on. Mimi and Bela escape, confirm Ginger's suspicions, and then Ginger and Bela head off to put an end to the vampires (stakes, garlic, crosses, all that). They are thwarted, doom seems imminent, then Sophie and her whores (tee hee, I love saying that) bust in and save the day. It is accidentally discovered that the hapless Miklos, who was definitely the weak link in the vampires' chain (the character, not the actor - who was very good), is a distant relative of Bela and thus is eligible for the vampire throne. Laszlo, the competent strongman leader, is horrified (but I guess that's better than dying, eh?). Zsa Zsa immediately turns her seductive powers on Miklos. And then Bela and the whores, who have everything they need to kill these three vampires and thus free the world of all 900 vampires in existence, casually decide to LET THEM GO. Then everybody sings a very funny song, "Hail the New Count Dracula," and Miklos hams it up quite charmingly as the new leader.

Summation: Most songs are very enjoyable, but I didn't walk out humming any of them. The play needs a re-write. The live band was awesome. The vampires were great, fierce and over the top in a good way. The whores never gelled as a group, but Mimi and Ginger were the better of the lot - of course, they were the only two allowed any real character traits (unless you count Boots' dependence on a flask of booze as a character trait). Sophie and Bela have fine voices and good presence when singing, but their movement and acting needs work. The bellboy character is unnecessary (see, I didn't even mention it) and inappropriate for a 15-year-old boy (which is who played it).

After the show we ate at Matsu, a Japanese restaurant. The only way it could have been more kitschy was if the kimono-clad waitresses had geisha makeup and made us sit on the floor. Then I fell asleep in the car as we drove home, because I am an old woman now and I need my sleep.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Santa Ana!

They are here - the Santa Anas. Winds hit 83 mph last night in Fremont Canyon (but only around 50 mph down here), and they woke us up around 4:30 this morning. Our patio umbrella is nowhere to be seen, our easy-up canopy is in the front yard of the empty house next door, and my pea trellises were knocked over. Amazingly, the tarps I have covering part of the front yard (I'm amending the soil and don't want it to dry out) are still there, although they were flapping a bit.

I need to do a big post on the front yard. I have ripped and dug out about 3-4 inches of weeds and crabgrass, dug out the buried stone pavers, and have amended the top few inches with decomposed sawdust and horse manure. Once I get the stones laid back down, I'll start scattering wildflower seeds. California poppies, yellow lupine, mexican primrose... I am a little bit paralyzed aboput the flower layout, but even if i make a mess of it it will still look eons better than it ever did before.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Hair Gloss

I believe I have mentioned that Paul wants to grow his hair down to his waist. He is very enamored of his hair and wants to make sure that it looks nice, so he tolerates me combing out the bedhead every morning and occasionally using a little bit of hairspray to make his bangs behave. I thought my lack of daughters meant I would be spared from hairstyling duty, but Paul has proven me wrong.

For the last two mornings, when I have started to comb Paul's hair, there has been a strange, sticky, slippery substance on the back of his head. We inspected the pillows and chairs and found nothing, so finally I asked Paul if he had put something in his hair. The look on his face told me all I needed to know. We asked him what he had used, and he said, in a thoroughly embarrassed little voice, "Hair stuff." I knew there was no way whatever was in his hair was actually a hair product. So he led us to the bathroom and pointed to... a pot of lip gloss. After we stopped laughing, we had to send him off to school with lip gloss in his hair because there was no time to wash it out.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Worried About You

Now that the joke of a bailout has passed and the Dow is still going down a rabbit hole, I'm getting mildly worried. In truth, my insomnia is back. We are assessing our accounts and trying to determine how much risk we are facing. We rolled Dan's old 401(k) into an indexed fund earlier this year, so provided whoever is holding our funds doesn't go belly-up we won't lose any money. My funds, which I should have indexed this year, have probably dropped by 25% or more. I'm not sure I want to know, but I should haul my rump in to our financial guru to try to stop the bleeding as best we can. Our credit union seems solid and our main bank, Wells Fargo, is angling to acquire Wachovia so we hope that means they are solid. We have always been very conservative with our money and I hope that leaves us on solid ground.

Most of you, my friends, are young enough that we can probably weather this storm without hideous long-term damage. We may take heavy hits, but we may come out at the end OK. I'm worried about my Mom, who is paid by our almost bankrupt state - did you hear we could use a loan of about 7 billion dollars? Plus Dad is on disability. Plus Adam works for the DMV (no hissing, please!). Dan and I seriously talked last night about finding a 4-bedroom house to rent, partly because I am really strongly feeling like we need to add another kid into the mix and partly because I am very concerned that we may need to absorb some family members at some point in the next year.

What about y'all? Getting nervous? Thinking maybe your food storage isn't quite up to snuff? We just placed a big order.