So, I guess this month, as our nation is thinking about its blessings and getting ready to mix up batches of Foods the Wampanoags Never Showed Us How To Make, we should consider whether we really ought to be commemorating a food party that didn't originate with me. I kind of think we owe me a moment of silence for having overlooked the contributions I would have made to our national peace and freedom if I had been born four hundred years ago. And then had seasicked myself across the ocean aboard the Octoberflower, and introduced Squanto and Pocahontas to glow-in-the-dark apple chutney.
Ah youth. Don't you just want to slap it sometimes? I was with some much younger people the other day and they were going on about this weird thing they've seen in people's homes and doctor's offices, and wondering what the heck a person could possibly want with it. I'm sure you've seen one before too. You know, those round mirrors that sit at the end of extender arms and are mounted on walls. Often bathroom walls. The mirrors with magnification so massive you could squeegee each individual pore on your face and cornrow your nose hairs if you wanted to?
Yeah. My sweet young friends wanted to know what in the world anyone would ever use a magni-mirror for. I mean, unless they were a doctor. (Which, honestly, what the heck do doctors use them for?)
Well, honeys. I've got news for you. We of the Over-45 set need Super Magnifying Mirrors in our lives. It's the only way we can find our eyeballs to put our contact lenses into. And most important, they allow us to use our mascara wands to get mascara onto our actual eyelashes instead of just repeatedly skewering our corneas with them. Because we simply cannot see our blinking faces in a regular mirror anymore.
Without magnification, my makeup is a total crapshoot. And given that I'm not willing to acknowledge my bifocally-impaired vision yet, I have walked out of my bathroom several mornings sans eyebrows. Yep. On more than one occasion I've Whoopie-Goldberged myself all over this town without realizing it until I managed to catch my reflection in a car window. (Which brings up the point that I obviously have no friends.) It would be fine if my brow hairs weren't naturally pale golden-auburn and there was less than a single inch between each hair. But they are and there isn't. So I need my makeup to actually reach my brows. Without it, I look like a cracked-out and slightly squinty Teletubbie.
Twenty years ago I was never going to grow up to be this person. You won't plan on it either. So I am putting out a public service announcement for your benefit: DO NOT MAKE FUN OF THE MAGNI-MIRROR, LEST KARMA SLAP YOU UPSIDE THE HEAD AND YOU WAKE UP ONE MORNING IN THE NOT SO DISTANT FUTURE TO FIND THAT YOUR EYEBROWS, ALONG WITH YOUR CLOSE-RANGE VISION, HAVE GONE TO VISIT FRIDA KAHLO AND NEVER PLAN TO RETURN. Then it will be you listening to nubile-naifs going on about orthopedic contact lenses, walk-in bathtubs, clapper key rings, and a sinister little item called "The Gripper."
My friends, respect the Mirror. And when your day comes, the Mirror shall respect you.
I have no idea what that means. Wanna go shopping?
Do you know who just impresses the living shortcake out of me? The United States Government. I mean look at them! They decided to work together to solve a problem, and by golly they did it! Most mastodonic organizations that become divided like ours take years, years I tell you, to come together and work out their differences. Or at least months. Someone has to take the initiative. Reach out. Make the tough choices. And both sides must be willing to lay everything on the table and sacrifice to make things work. It's called compromise and cooperation, and our amazing government did both of those things in spades this very week. How? They announced that they will shut themselves right down. So fast that the heads of every park and associated business employee in this country are still spinning.
That, my friends, is how it's done. That is slick like oil on a teenager's forehead when they're hiding in their room eating pizza and playing Slender and their mom is banging on the door asking if they've done their homework yet. Not that there are any similarities.
Our government's heroic action this month should be a model for future differences. Bloated budget? Shut Down unnecessary spending. Small groups getting attention to the detriment of the whole? Shut Down focus on special interests. The American peoples' will being ignored? Shut Down personal agendas and power plays and get back to By the People, Of the People, for the People.
I tell you, I'm going to follow the example of our illustrious industrious officials. When I reach an impasse with another person, instead of wasting time reaching a compromise, I'm'a slap that baby with a heels-dug-into-the-dirt head-spinning lockout that will make them think twice about disagreeing with me! And they can't come back in until they see it my way. In the meantime, we'll golf together. Or watch another showing of Austenland. Or compose weepy speeches to read to our confused families so they'll be happy about our agreeing to disagree to agree to shutdown and throw a tantrum. er. Work it out. ish.
Yeah. This is what our founding fathers and mothers had in mind when they fought and died for independence. This was their purpose when they spent months sequestered in the sweltering heat of Philadelphia's Independence Hall, figuring out how to fix the problems in our country's governance to that point. Listening. Working together. Not giving up until compromises were reached and problems were solved. Maybe as a reward for honoring that legacy in such a stellar fashion, we should give our leaders copies of Catherine Drinker Bowen's excellent Miracle at Philadelphia. They deserve it.
And so do we.
I was abducted by aliens last week. 50,000 of them. Hordes of beings dressed like Ironman and Link. Aquaman and Leonidas. Medusa, Mary Poppins, Wonderwoman, and Zelda. Plus a whole lot of Animé and Manga. Mangoes. Mangas. Whatever. And once I got onto the mother ship I was followed around, forced to stand next to aliens and endure flashing lights, stuffed into small rooms where information on writing and filmmaking was washed into my brain, and dragged through massive food lines, where organic vegetative sustenance was slammed onto my plate. It was shocking, gobsmacking, wondrous, and pretty cool.
All in all, Salt Lake City's first ComiCon was a ripping success. And frankly, I can't believe I went. It's so not my thing.
Except . . . it kind of is. I dangled around the outer edges of theater geek-dom all through junior high and high school. Many of my friends were into fantasy and science fiction, as well as a new phenom called Dungeons and Dragons. (Remember that, you oldsters out there? Erm, I mean, People of Broad and Lengthy Life's Experience? Remember those who created worlds and peopled them with miniscule die-cast wizards, magical creatures and warriors? And spent all their downtime detailing them with model paint and itty bitty brushes? Not that I know anything about it . . . ) I didn't do the D&D thing. But I was fascinated by it and was totally into reading and writing fantasy. I hid it, though, so my A Cappella and Sterling Scholar friends wouldn't find out. I mean, how embarrassing. I was what you might call "In that world, but not Of it."
Now here I am a bazillion years later, having attended my first ComiCon and having had the time of my life. Yes, it was a strange and wondrous planet to visit. But I noticed a few things:
1) People were fearless. Most of the attendees dressed to the Nine-est of Nines, having either spent massive amounts of time or money on their character vestments. And they dressed as everything from mythological gods to movie heroes to gaming characters. The fearless factor? Ain't everybody in the real world built for spandex. No, trust me on this. But no one cared.
2) ComiCon has a home here. People want it. This was evidenced by what I would guess were around 10,000 attendees roaming the halls on the first day, maybe 15,000 the second, and about 25,000 the third. The very wide line on Saturday wrapped clear around the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City. A distance of many city blocks. Something that prompted the fire marshal to shut the line down several times throughout the day. And despite the wait, exuberance bubbled right out the roof of that place.
3) Cosplayers are part of a real, respect-worthy community. "Cosplay" stands for Costume Play, and is a dedicated movement. It involves more than just dressing up. It's about pouring yourself into something you love, and gathering with others who love it just as much. Kind of like, oh, I don't know, Superbowl parties. Or history reenacting. Or anything women do together. The Cosplayers at ComiCon were their characters right down to the cellular level, sometimes never dropping out for the entire event. It's less a weird "geek" thing, and more like performance art. Seriously. Best people-watching experience ever.
4) And finally, people were kind. There was no way to avoid bumping into someone at SLC ComiCon. The halls were a straight-up traffic jam and there were lines to get into every class (which, by the way, were just as good as offerings from the best writing conferences I've been to. And much less expensive). Within the space of 20 minutes I was acupunctured on every side by tails, horns, spikes, tubing, swords, spears, and prehensile limbs. And when I bumped someone else? It was always, "Oh, you're fine! It's crowded in here. No problem." Nary a glare there. Just amazing politeness, most likely born of people who grew up knowing what it's like to be bullied. Even the film and televisions stars (*cough* William Shatner *cough*) who came to speak seemed to recognize and respect this.
So, okay. If I gotta be abducted, I'm cool with it being by a conference that brings in the likes of Q, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and Darth Maul. Not to mention television's Superman and the two hotties from the original Battlestar Galactica. Yeah. I can totally be kidnapped by that. And if I have to be surrounded by polite, creative, non-linear people in the process? That's fine too. I mean, really. Leonard and Sheldon, anyone?
Dear Men Who Review Movies and Totally Dissed Austenland:
Psh. Psh, I say.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a girl in possession of two X chromosomes must love the movie Austenland. And if you didn't love it you are either not a girl, or need to have your chromes checked. Seriously. My screening of the film was filled from beginning to end with giggles and guffaws like I've heard in no other movie this summer. And furthermore, everyone I've talked to about it has had the same experience. Austenland, which is based on the book written by Shannon Hale, is an absolute gem. Whose gem-ness will likely best be understood by women who know and love the works of Jane Austen. In particular Pride and Prejudice. In more particular, Colin Firth — who is not a work of Jane Austen, but baby, who cares?
The movie (whose screenplay was co-written by Shannon Hale and director Jerusha Hess. Both of whom possess two X's) (Chromosomes, I mean, not former significant others) tells the frothy tale of Jane Hayes (Keri Russell), a thirty-something woman obsessed with Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice fame. In the movie, Jane decides to do something about her passion. So she saves up her pennies and books a trip to Austenland, a Regency era CosPlay-esque theme park run by Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour). At Austenland guests dress, speak, dine, dance, and romance as they might were they living in an Austen novel. The estate is replete with beautiful grounds, period accoutrements, and dashing P&P males with whom the guests are free to fall in love. And why wouldn't they? They are played by JJ Feild (bless him), Bret McKenzie (nicely scruffy and much taller than in Flight of the Conchords), James Callis (bwa!), and the shirtless Ricky Whittle (shirtless. And also shirtless.)
Things happen exactly as you might hope and expect in this film. Ms. Hayes finds out she paid for a low-end package and gets relegated to the role of heritageless-young-thing-who-must-sleep-in-the-servant's-wing. But in true heroine fashion Jane stiffens her upper lip, dives in, and proceeds to embroider, play croquet, and fall in love with the stable boy. Or maybe the Darcy-like Mr. Nobly. Or maybe the shirtless Captain East. Well, at least his chest. Jane Austen is riffed. The riffs are riffed. Romance, mini-heartbreak, and life-lessons occur. The cast is incredibly silly and great fun. Jennifer Coolidge plays her standby: a wealthy, ditzy, predatory kitten, with James Callis as the wrong-side-of-the-orientation prey. And Georgia King is a surprise as a hilariously zealous, oft-returning Austenland patron. It is quintessential Red-Vines-and-Popcorn fun.
So look, dear male reviewers (and anyone else who has stuck with me this far), is this film Les Misérables — the Big Screen Musical? No. Is it Schindler's List? Um, that would be no. Is it even a dewy, beautifully lensed remake of a Jane Austen remake? Absolutely not. And it doesn't try to be. It knows it isn't perfect. It is grateful to have snagged Jennifer Coolidge and Jane Seymour. It knows Keri Russell is so likeable the movie could float just fine on scenes of her plucking her eyebrows. And it is so happy to have JJ Field et al, that it pretty much just lets them show up, do their thing, and let our little Regency hearts flutter.
Austenland has got flaws. But we don't care. It's fun. It's fluffy. It's pretty. And it winks at the colonies' British Period Romance addiction. Chill out, dudes, and let it flow over you. You'll score a few points, and your brain cells will get a break from the flattening of metropolises by special effects machines. As Shannon Hale said in Austenland the book: "If you were a woman, all I'd have to say is 'Colin Firth in a wet shirt' and you'd say, 'Ah.'"
The other day a friend of mine posted on Facebook that she knows Fall is coming when she dons a sweatshirt and pulls out the hot chocolate. Wha? It's 900 degrees here still. Where is she living?
Oh yeah. Alaska.
But it got me thinking. Or feeling, rather. I heart Fall. It's my favorite time of year. The air starts crisping up, leaves change, apples beg to cinnamon themselves into applesauce, and the mountains around here turn scarlet. Football starts and family rooms fill up with cheers and groans and hotdogs. But the best part of all? Sweaters come out of boxes, along with decorations for the most cozy, memory-inducing holidays on our calendar.
If I were in charge of my own planet, the seasons would line up like this: Fall – 6 months. Winter – 1 month (December). Spring – 4 months (but only early spring when mornings are still cool, breezes blow, and everything is just starting to peep up from the ground. Not that narsty late spring that's really summer and everything lies around moaning from the encroaching heat). And finally, Summer – 1 month. Maybe.
(And since we're discussing it, if I were in charge of my own planet chocolate would be dietetic, gestation would last two weeks then your kid would walk out of your belly button with a Master's degree, pink-lemon-sour shave ice would cure all diseases, and Hollywood would have to run their screenplays by me first. I really should have my own planet.)
But the most jarring thing when I read my friend's little status? My kids will be going back to school next week. How. did that. happen.? Seriously. Time is on hyperspeed. Because it was just last week that we were sitting down figuring out who was going on which choir tour and to which camp, and what jobs were going to be applied for, and realizing that the kid abroad had already been gone for four months. And now it's been six. And omigosh, I still have to buy school supplies and pay all the fees and everyone needs shoes because they've all grown a foot. In height, not appendages. Plus, it's time once again for my annual Sign-up-for-enough-little-helpful-things-at-the-school-that-I-won't-get-nabbed-for-room-mother-because-I-stink-like-cabbage-at-that-job.
In short, Fall makes me realize that I have a lot to be grateful for. And its rapidity of arrival tells me I'd better not waste any time enjoying it all. Enjoying them all. Or they'll be gone, and I'll just be standing on a ladder with orange and black crepe paper hanging from me wondering where the party went.
Yay for Fall! I'm going to start living it now.
Well, Her Royal Svelteness and Prince Will'eeHaveHisDad'sHairline gave birth to a bouncing baby prince last week. Which means the statute of limitations on snipey comments about England's heir-apparent-twice-removed's name has passed. So I just want to know:
Prince George Alexander Louis? Really? Oh come on, Cousins from o'er the Pond. Y'all can do better than that. Don't get me wrong. Them's three good names lassoed onto that thar kid. Sturdy. Strong. Old. Really old. "George," after the dude who slew the dragon. "Alexander," after Alexander The Great. And "Louis" after the Louies 1 through 16. No, no, no.
England has a most excellent tradition of creativity, uniqueness, and style. We look to them for witty commentary, fabulous costume dramedies, charming accents, and Quidditch. Child-naming-wise, there's a whole lot more to draw from in our Motherland than a couple of dusty old monarchs no one cares about anymore unless they're fighting the Three Musketeers and their movie has been directed by someone other than Gore Verbinski. Really, the good Prince and Princess should have asked me.
Because this is what I would have suggested (and they're welcome to use it for the next royal Heir-Apparently-Not): Prince George Michael Gandalf Elton Hagrid Downton Posh Doctor-Who Cumberbatch.
Rokket for short.
They are most welcome.
On an only marginally unrelated note, I would like to comment upon the good mum Kate's appearance outside the hospital with her new babe-in-arms: What. Ever. That was not the face nor comportment of a woman who had recently pushed another human being from her body. Kate was far too well put together — with her perfectly blown-out hair wafting on the flower-scented breeze and her makeup not on sideways — to have actually gone through labor. Childbirth is a sanity-rip. I think they had the royal corgis do it for her. Or else the Labor Party. Isn't that what they're for? I refuse to accept that anyone who came from the common folk could still manage to look so uncommon after her motherhood ordeal.
Okay, fine. Mrs. Middleton-Windsor and her huz can name their kid whatever they want. She can even come out of the hospital all pretty and pale blue polka-dotted and sweet. But I absolutely draw the line at them not inviting any of us to the baby shower. Who's going to give that child his first "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Season One" dvd set?
You know they miss us over there. *sniff*
You know that awesome saying from the great philosopher, Pinterest? The one that goes: "Comparison is the Thief of Joy"? Yeah. Well it totally is.
The other day my kid showed me a picture of my dream car: a new F-type Jaguar. I would also be happy with a G, H, or I-type, but the F-type is the bomb dot org. We sat there drooling over its sleek lines and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Its limited slip differential and Phosphor Blue halo illumination with mood lighting. And I really like the spokey tire thingies that turn all silvery when you drive real fast.
It was a fun bonding moment with my boy. He knows I care about him and his interests, and I know he cares about me and mine. The only problem is . . . now I hate my van.
I used to drive a fairly boss car. It was my work car: a blue Ford Taurus, complete with automatic everything and built-in car phone. Dudes. This was before the advent of cell phones. I was Coolness on Toast.
But then we started having kids, and frankly the daily schlepping-of-the-kids-in-and-out-of-their-car-seats-whilst-hunched-over was breaking my back and wearing on my mom-patience. So we caved in and bought me a M.A.V. – also known as a Mommy Assault Vehicle. Ever driven one? They're formidable in their convenience. You can load up an entire neighborhood of little people and still fill it to the brim with luggage, bicycles, soccer paraphernalia, lost pets, bake sale foods, thrift store stuff, three separate retainers that your kid keeps losing and you keep replacing, and the scent of chocolate chip-dipped gym socks. It's a wonder.
So why would I want the Jaguar instead?
Did you read that paragraph above?
My minivan is a precision remover of chickiebabe-ness. Stop looking at me like that. My age has nothing to do with it. It's the van. I've been driving one for so long my thighs have a permanent faux-velvet seat-cover texture to them. It's even affecting my sense of style. I actually wore a pair of 99-cent plaid pajama bottoms to the gym the other day for my weekly stationary bicycle spin. Do you know what happens to the seat of 99-cent cotton PJ bottoms after you've been sweating in them for an hour? Can you then imagine what you look like trying to scamper back to your dork-M.A.V. without giving anyone a view of said seat? And wanting to scream, "It's just sweat! I swear!"
Yeah. It's all about the minivan. If I had a new F-type Jaguar, all of my problems would be over.
Well, in the meantime maybe I can pay my kids to stick their heads out the windows while we're driving and scream Jaguar's tagline for it's F-type, "IT'S YOUR TURN TO DISCOVER!!" Who knows? Maybe I'll get a free car out of it. Or a free ticket from the local police.
I came to a grand realization this morning after spending 45 minutes flopping around on a treadmill at the Gym: I am now old enough that I have to exercise twice as hard to get half the fitness I used to get simply by glancing at the gym as I drove past. I lay there this morning – gasping and heaving and drenching the treadmill controls with my Woman-of-a-Certain-Age sweat – wondering if maybe I shouldn't just accept my posterior's trajectory to my knees instead of fighting it tooth and tennis shoe.
It's exhausting you know? Emotionally, I mean. All that worry about running as fast as the spandex-skirted-chickie-wickie next to me, looking like I live for smashing the runner's wall, not face-planting and getting belt-burn. I remember back in the olden days (a.k.a. Pleistocene Epoch) after I ran the St. George marathon (that one time), and I thought that when I set the treadmill speed to 7.8 (which translates to a 7.42-minute mile) I was slumming it. I could run my daily 3 in less than 24 minutes, which for a regular person was pretty good.
Now? I spend the entire running period telling myself "Another 60 seconds. You can run for another 60 seconds. 55. 56. 57. I'm going to die. 59. 60! Huzzah! I made it 60 seconds! Woot! So that's one minute down." And after a few sets of 60 it now feels like I've run to St. George and back again. And I have to take an hour breather at the gym's little health smoothie shop trying to convince myself that the Chocolate Protein Freezie doesn't taste like vitamin powder.
These days I pretty much top out at a breakneck 11 minutes per mile. Geriatric snails and small children in strollers can pace the heck out of me. But you know, I feel pretty good about it. I mean, at least I'm out there, right? You've got to celebrate the little things. I'm running. I'm lifting the occasional weight — usually all the way past my elbow. And as long as the backsideal area of my anatomy continues to hold up my jeans, I'll call it good.
So ooRah for baby steps, my friends! And aging lady steps. And steps into orthopedic running-capri's. They're my orthodpedic running-capri's, and I'm proud of them. Go Everyone Who Exercises! Except Anyone Who Can Still Wear A Little Running Skirt. You Should Go Somewhere Else To Run. Yay!