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Archive for December, 2006

I now know why magazines and TV shows do “best of” compilations at the end of the year….sheer laziness and a lack of interest in writing anything new. Seeing as how at least 55% of me is still on vacation, I’ve decided to do my own “Best and Worst” list. Everything on the list is something I first experienced during 2006, so even though it’s on my list for this year it may have come out years ago.

Best Book of 2006

I had a light reading year this year; I’ve lost count but I think I’m at under 250 books for the year. If I made it over 250 I’d be surprised. I think I’ll blame the surgeries, as there were long stretches where I didn’t read that much. In any case, the best book I read this year would probably have to be

Ireland by Frank Delany.

It’s a fanciful history of Ireland told through the eyes of an aging Seanachie. I really enjoyed it a great deal.

Worst Book of 2006

Turning Angel by Greg Iles.

I already went into great detail about why I hated this book. I don’t know if I would have been less hard on it if it were by another author–I suspect so. Regardless, this was a thinly-veiled piece of child porn, wholly populated with unsympathetic characters who acted completely unrealistically. I loathed this book.

Best TV Show of 2006

The Wire.

You knew I was going to say this. You saw it coming. I cannot heap enough praise on this show–it’s exactly what television should be.

Worst TV Show of 2006

Picking a “worst” tv show is shooting fish in a barrel. There are sooo many bad offerings out there, from unfunny ‘sitcoms’ to flat ‘dramas’ with a few messy entrants into the Sci Fi category thrown in for good measure. I think that to my mind there’s a tie for this category.

Prime-Time Game Shows
and
The Gilmore Girls
and
Lost

Game shows are daytime tv. They are what you watch when you’re home sick from school, when you work the night shift and when you have a few minutes to yourself after putting the kids down for their naps. They’re what’s constantly playing on the TVs in nursing homes and psych wards. They are marginal tv designed to fill the off-hours while you wait for the good stuff. Having game shows air in the prime tv hours is like having cereal for supper. It’s a poor use of time and a cheap manoevre.

The only thing worse than peppering your prime network slots with old-lady insane tv is having a formerly-well done show visibly rot before the eyes of its loyal viewers. Hence GG and Lost. Watching these shows is like having an alcoholic grandparent. You eagerly wait for them to show up, only to have them be stinky and confusing once they get there.

Best Movie of 2006

The Prestige

It does what movies are supposed to do–entertain–while being both literate and moving.

Worst Movie of 2006

Talledega Nights

I thought I would like this, and when we initially saw it with friends I didn’t think it was too bad. But the more I reflect on it the more I feel like I paid $8.50 to watch a minstrel show. I’m neither a native southerner nor a NASCAR fan, and I’ve lived in the South long enough to have met more than a few of both. The movie’s jabs at NASCAR, Bible-belt Christianity, Southern culture and straight male friendships were too loud and too long and not nearly as funny as the movie’s stars seemed to think. It was a nasty piece of work. Even beyond the nastiness was the fact that the few funny moments had already been spoiled by the film’s trailers. That’s always a cheap trick.

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I think Christmases get better as I get older. I’ve always liked Christmas in theory, but in practice there have been some years where the present-buying, travelling and interacting with people haven’t put me in a particularly Christ-like mood. This season’s Christmas seemed to strike just the right note on all accounts, with a little bit of drama thrown in to keep me from going into sugar-shock.

–>The drive up to Indiana was a bit rainy in patches, but free from the white-knuckle stress of some years’ weather. We weren’t constantly on the lookout for BlackIce and actually got to have 6 hours of uninterrupted Husband And Wife conversation. It does help that I had secured an anti-anxiety prescription for our two dogs, with which they were liberally treated. Dudes, I cannot stress the value of drugging your children before a long car trip.

–>On Friday Night we all went to my favourite Gringo-ized “Mexican” Restaurant. I have no idea why Nashville doesn’t have at least one Carlos O’Kelly’s. We’ve got plenty of excellent and nearly-authentic Mexican eateries, but every now and then the part of me that spent the first 21 years of my life in Indiana gets a hankering for GringoMex, where the salsa is closer to ketchup and the food is covered in ORANGE cheese. My parents actually went with us, setting aside their culinary principles for the sake of familial togetherness. As is the way in Indiana, no fewer than three people knew at least some of us at the table and stopped to talk. Indiana is a genuinely friendly place in a way like no other.

By far the wierdest part of the evening was when my brother revealed to us his latest crush. On Target Stores. I imagine the rest of us felt something akin to what Cat Stevens’ people went through upon his conversion to Islam. Instead of hearing the praises of Allah, however, we were introduced to the magnificence of Archer Farms–the Target House Brand. That was different.

–>Saturday was leisurely spent eating cookies, candies, and reading books as we waited for our Fancy Evening Out. 19 years ago my parents instituted a new tradition where we all had an evening of Fine Dining at a Posh Restaurant. The first couple of years we did this at the Studebaker Mansion, but one drive home through a building blizzard was enough to convince us to alter our plans and stay closer to home. Since then we’ve had our Fancy Evening at The Summit Club in Fort Wayne. It’s always really nice because it’s a chance to dress up, eat a dinner that none of us has to cook and just enjoy conversation and laughter. We talked about movies, politics, tv shows and the Archer Farms’ fine selection of frozen and refrigerated foods.

–>The first big drama of the week was just prior to the Summit Club dinner, when one of us discovered that an expensive present had been either stolen or misplaced. The rest of the visit was peppered with periodic searches for said present. I’m beginning to suspect that my parents have a sticky-fingered pest control service.

–>Christmas Eve was nice, with the exception of my husband being sick. Since he was unwell I went to Church without him by my side. I felt like a kid again–going to church with just my parents and sister. Although it’s the same place I grew up in, they’ve extensively remodled both the facility and the style of worship. It was like one of those dreams where you are in your old high school but they’ve replaced all the classrooms with shops and cubicles from your old offices. Everything is familiar but different at the same time. The thing that made me feel both very old and very angry was when, on our way into the sanctuary some woman rudely brushed past us with both a coffee cup and glass of water. She was completely oblivious to the “no food or beverages” sign above the door and hustled to grab up her sheet music. I’d been on the platform in that church countless times, many long before this prima donna knew what “sheet music” even was. Never was I even remotely of the opinion that I was above the other congregants for merely have a small part of the worship service in my hands. The fact that to this chick it was more of a Show wherein she was A Star and less about worship really grated on me. That’s one of the drawbacks to a non-Nashville church. Here soloists and worship leaders are a dime a dozen. Up in Northern Indiana they’re more of a rarity and predisposed to being snots about it.

Anyway, back to Christmas eve service….It was good by and large but it did go a long way to reinforcing my opinon about Contemporary Worship Teams and their Team Leaders. And about how much I dislike repeating one refrain for more than 10 times.

The second drama of the trip was when I took home the poinsettia that my sister dedicated to my parents. The “rule” was that you could take the plant–used to decorate the sanctuary–after the Christmas Eve Evening Service. The hiccup was that there were two of these services, one at 4:30 and one at 6:30. We went to the 4:30 option and there was no way on God’s green planet that I was going to drive back to the church at 7:30 to pick up the plant. So I grabbed it on the way out, only to incur the wrath of two choir members who watched me grab it. In a typical female fashion, said choir members had a loud conversation between themselves conveniently designed for me to overhear. This is how we often do things (unless you’re a loudmouth like me, who most often says exactly what she thinks). The conversation went something like this:

“People are already taking the poinsettias. We have another service!”
“They took them after morning services, too.”
“That is so rude, don’t they [meaning me, obviously] know that we need these for the service?”

Well, as I said, my sister was a wee bit timid and the church said “take them after the Christmas eve service.” Which is what I did, seeing as how the church neglected to say “second Christmas eve service”. God may judge me, but I personally think He was in my corner on this one. I also personally think that at least one of the catty choristers wanted the exact poinsettia I had lain claim to.

–>Christmas day was wonderful and fun and a story in and of itself, but the biggest revelation is how accustomed I have become to being alone with my husband. It’s strange to go from spending about 363 days with just yourself and another adult in their mid-thirties and then be thrust into a group of adults ranging from 30 to 90, and a smattering of toddlers and kindergartners thrown in for good measure.

There are more stories to tell, and I have a lot of good memories. I think this Christmas, with a focus on family and the comforts of my hometown is one that will stay with me for quite awhile. And I think those good memories will fuel me in the days ahead as we dive headfirst into that miasma known as January.

Oh, and if Blogging is light around these parts you’ll know that it’s because I received Civilization IV for Christmas.

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Home At Last

I love Christmas, and part of me sad that it’s over…while another part of me feels like “okay…now I can get on with my life.”

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Funny…

I bet my husband that we’d have it this week, but I was assuming it would be by Tuesday.

Anyway,

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Yeah, THAT title won’t put an end to the Potter Dead Pool any time soon.

Update

So now that I’ve posted the news, I guess it’s time for me to speculate on the meaning before I get sick of everyone speculating on the meaning. I’ll never forget the long trudge through 600 permutations of who or what the Half Blood Prince was, only to have it be an ancillary part of the actual story. Same with “Goblet of Fire.”

Well, breaking it down, I’ll have to go with:

Hallows=saints/sacred place
Deathly=causing death/of or pertaining to death

My best guess is that at some point in book 7 Harry will have some type of communication with those Beyond the Veil in the Department of Mysteries. Many mythic cycles include a Hero’s Descent into the Underworld, and while I’ve never considered the space Behind The Veil to be “the underworld”, it is quite obviously the Mystery of Death.

Now, I don’t know for certain that JKR wishes to plumb those depths, and I don’t know that it means that Harry will die, even if only temporarily. I’ve never been one to ascribe complete Christ analogy to Harry, so I don’t think we’ll see his death/resurrection in Book 7. But I do think there will be a level of communication with those now dead, especially Sirius.

I’ve also not entirely written off Regulus Black as dead and gone entirely, and it may be he who guides Harry on this particular journey.

But I will say that having the title now does fit with the timeline we needed to have the book on 07/07/07–which is still the date I’ve got my money on.

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Tag party? Nothing like a key party, I promise you that…. Although wouldn’t it be fun to have a blogger key party, except instead of going home with someone else’s spouse you went home with someone else’s blog post idea? Okay, maybe it wouldn’t be fun, but it sounds like fun to me. Of course, my idea of fun often seems pretty lame.

I’m getting a little too vacation-y for deep thought, and I had been saving a lovely tag from Queen Sonia for just this moment in time. [Before I start I should admit that every time I’ve opened this blog I’ve looked at that MRI Sex picture and wondered where the people put their legs. If you can figure it out, let me know…]

Anyway, enough worries about missing legs…on to the tag:

Favorite Christmas Movie:

Can there be a tie? Because I like so many for so many different reasons. But I think I’ll just go with A Christmas Story. It’s a great movie, but the bonus reason I’ll always love it is because Jean Shepherd, the author and narrator, was from Indiana. And that’s an Indiana family if ever I saw one!

Favorite Christmas Song:

O Holy Night. I used to think the best version was by Larnelle Harris, but I am now revising my opinion. That brass ensemble’s version from Studio 60 is excellent. Anyone with any computer can download it here, and it’s not captive to any DRM, so it’ll play on any player. Give it a llisten, if you get the chance.

Favorite Christmas cookie:

Sugar cookies with lots of frosting. The frosting’s the thing to capture the conscience of the king. Or queen. Or me.

Favorite Christmas gift ever received:

My not-yet husband telling me that he loved me and wanted to get back together after we’d been “broken up” for 3 weeks.

Least favorite thing about Christmas:

When the tension of the holiday busy-ness makes people snap at each other over silly things.

Where would your perfect Christmas be:

Wherever my entire family can be together and happy.

Favorite part of Christmas:

Being with my family

Favorite Christmas Decoration you own:

The lights. I love Christmas lights so much that I have them strung on my desk all year. It’s like a forest of stars. Then again, my vision isn’t so great.

When do you put up the tree?:

We don’t do a tree.

Do you wear “holiday” sweaters/sweatshirts/t shirts?:

I have a red chenille sweater that I wear quite a bit around the holidays but I have nothing “decorated”. I really don’t want to call too much attention to that part of my body.

And there it is….I’d tag some people, but I have a feeling I’m so late to this party that everyone will have already done it.

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What do we have in common?

We are both Day 11 of the 12 Days of Christmas. CLC flatters me greatly. If only I could learn to spell his name…

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Someone sent me an email about the premarital sex study, saying that it was blogworthy. Of course it is! Most of the blogs I’ve seen referencing it so far are using the study’s findings to decry abstinance-only sexual education.

First off, I’m a big fan of abstinance. Now that I’m married. ::rimshot::

No, seriously, I do advocate teaching abstinance–primarily because of my religion, but also because I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard tales of woe about women who could have used the free public education system to rise out of poverty but got knocked up by age 13 and became mothers instead. Birth control helps, but I’m not a big fan of having young girls who haven’t finished developing physically cook their systems with synthetic hormones. And if you’re a woman and you want to be sure to NOT get pregnant, the pill is the best way to go. Otherwise the heat of the moment often overtakes the best intentions to put the diaphragm in or roll the condom on.

Thing is, I haven’t forgotten entirely what it was like to be a teenager and have your hormones in overdrive. I know how hard (ha!) abstinance is, and I’m not one bit surprised that a lot of people give up and give in before the wedding day. And I know a lot of people regret that decision down the road. When I was in my private Christian high school we discussed sex a lot. Most of the girls had steady boyfriends and most of the boys were looking to get as much play as they possibly could. From my point of view it seemed that all the girls wanted love and committment while the guys were more interested in which bases they rounded. [ObDisclaimer: My point of view only, folks.] I’ll never forget one 17-year-old girl telling us that she believed two people could be ‘spiritually married without a ceremony’ and thereby sanctify their sexual activity. (Whatever gets you through the night, I guess.) She apparently got a ‘spiritual divorce’ because 3 years later she married another guy altogether.

I do wish that all sex-ed programs, whether they were abstinance-only, biology-only or comprehensive with an emphasis on birth control options, would spend a moment or two discussing the why of sex. That to me is the big missing ingredient. Because sex (of the kind I’m talking about) involves two people. If those two people have different whys for the sexual activity, that’s where the heartbreak comes into play. And I think that’s what most Christians are trying to get at when we advocate abstinance-only education. It’s just easier to say “wait until you’re married”, and then you know that both partners are after the same thing.

To me the ideal sex is an extremely fun expression of love, intimacy and committment between two people. That’s the only sex I’ve ever been interested in having. Anything else strikes me as the physical equivalent of eating generic potato chips. Yeah, they’re good and you enjoy it while it’s going on but afterward you’re left feeling slightly greasy. Unfortunately I know a lot of people–not just girls– who have gotten into having sex because they are looking for the love/intimacy/committment thing, while their partner was looking for the greasy potato chip fun. That’s usually when it escalates into let’s-make-a-baby territory. The partner who wants love and commitment figures that if the sex won’t bind them to the other person then perhaps a baby will. I think the more time we spend talking about the why, the more we can demystify sex and put it in its proper place.

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