An Epic Battle Over a Cardboard Box

August 2nd, 2010

My latest post for Guideposts’ “Love Dem Cats” blog…starring Pearl and Catillac. A cardboard box on its way to the recycling bin has caused a war to erupt in my living room. Check it out….

Pearl the kitty, looking angry

Proof I Am No Longer “Cool”: I Didn’t Know About Silly Bandz Till This Week

July 22nd, 2010

When you don’t have kids, you kind of get stuck in a coolness time warp. You’re cool to you, and to your spouse, but you are SO falling behind in the eyes of the rest of the world. Seriously, I’d be happy watching repeats of Seinfeld for the rest of my life, and as long as Bob has his copy of Pink Floyd’s Pulse concert on DVD – DVD, mind you, not Blu-ray – I think we’d be set, entertainment-wise. Because there’s such an appalling lack of new input in our world, I generally rely on our five nieces to keep me in the coolness loop. And apparently, right now Silly Bandz are actual coolness loops.

Silly Bandz

I’d gone over to my sister-in-law Becky’s house to perform whatever geek magic I could on her computer, which had been behaving strangely all summer. My nieces, Alyssa and Addison, proudly lined up their Silly Bandz collections on the computer desk.

“WHAT are those?” I asked, picking up what appeared to be a blue neon dolphin outline.

“Silly Bandz!” they announced.

Becky patiently explained to me that Silly Bandz are not just rubber bandz, uh, bands, and they are far superior to the jelly bracelets that we remembered from our own youth in the 1980s. Remember jelly bracelets? All different colors! Then neon! Then glow-in-the-dark! And…scented. And glittery. And maybe all those things together, when they were trying really hard to stay trendy.

Looking at the Silly Bandz in front of me, I could easily see what the coolness-impairing limitation of jelly bracelets had been. They were round. That’s it. Silly Bandz are an actual interesting shape when they’re sitting in front of you on the table. Dinosaurs. Sea creatures. Dollar signs. Letters. Musical instruments. You stretch them open and put them on your wrist, and they kind of get squiggly and weird, and you can’t tell what they are anymore. Then – voila – as soon as you remove them from your wrist, they snap back into their original shape. Holy. Crap.

“That is SO cool….” I remarked, stretching a green “recycle” symbol and watching it snap back. I was truly impressed. “And the only way you can tell which ones other people have is if they take them off,” I mused. Yet another way in which jelly bracelets had been deficient – no secrets to reveal.

“Yeah, and only 12 for a dollar,” Becky added. Affordable coolness, yet.

And last but not least, I learned that many schools are trying to ban Silly Bandz, which is the ultimate incontrovertible proof that they have reached the pinnacle of cool. Alas, jelly bracelets never were exciting enough to disrupt the learning experience. This was, though – does anybody remember these? When I was Alyssa’s age, these were, like, an instant detention….

Rubik's Snake

Turtlehead Rides Again

July 15th, 2010

My husband Bob is a Harley owner. He bought the bike last April, after several long minutes of thinking about it at the Harley-Davidson Shop of Michigan City. With this purchase he resumed his direct involvement in the Biker Lifestyle, which means long hours of cleaning the bike, polishing the bike, upgrading various parts of the bike with “chrome,” and “customizing” the bike, which means removing things that really should be left on, such as the seat.

Since Bob is a Biker, that makes me an Old Lady, the term of endearment bikers use for their wives, whether or not they are actually old. (I’m not. Really.) My first official act as Old Lady was to insist that Bob, before he left the Harley dealership, purchase a helmet. This has been a problem ever since.

Bob on his Harley

Apparently, at least in states like Indiana that do not have a law requiring helmet use, it is “uncool” to wear a helmet while riding. Most of the bikers we see riding around prefer to protect their heads with doo-rags. While stylish, doo-rags don’t seem to provide much in the way of actual head protection, although they do prevent the wind from styling your hair into interesting shapes.

“It’s better to be dead and cool than alive and uncool,” Bob said when I pointed this out. (He was quoting Mickey Rourke in the classic 1991 flick Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man.)

“You’d really rather be dead than wear this?” I said, waving the helmet.

Bob fetched a deep sigh. “Ohhhh…kay,” he agreed, strapping it on, and proving that the only thing more powerful than state law is an Old Lady. Old Ladies can’t throw you in jail, but they can put you on one heck of an aggravation installment plan if you don’t keep ‘em happy.

But my Old Lady power fizzled one afternoon when one of Bob’s biker buddies, a neighbor of ours who prefers the doo-rag method of head protection, happened to mention that he could immediately recognize Bob zooming by because he’d just look for “Turtlehead.”

Turtlehead. Peer pressure was alive and well, and the Great Helmet Debate was back on.

“These little helmets are no protection, anyway,” Bob argued. “They’re mostly to make YOU feel better. If you’re in a bad crash, it won’t matter if you’re wearing this thing or not. If it really mattered, they’d make it the law.”

“It’s the law in Michigan,” I pointed out. “Are you telling me the only reason you bought this was to keep in your saddlebag in case you roll across the state line?”

“Yes,” Bob said.

So Bob took off that morning for work, vintage Harley-Davidson doo-rag securely in place. Twenty minutes later, Bob called me on his cellphone.

“My doo-rag flew off down by the airport,” he said. “I’ve had that thing for 30 years. Can you go look for it?” (Yes, I found it. I’m a very dedicated Old Lady.)

These days, Bob’s wearing the helmet again, partially because Bob’s sister, on her way to work, spotted Bob riding without his helmet, and called their mother to bust him. And partially because another friend of his, not wearing a helmet, got in a motorcycle crash recently and the whole thing made Bob just a little more safety-conscious. It’s easy to claim a helmet won’t save you if you’re in a wreck, but my guess is the split-second before you’re in a wreck, you’ll be saying to yourself, “dang, I should have put that helmet on just in case.”

Me, I remain 100 percent convinced that regardless of state law, a biker should wear a helmet. After all, I bought a really cool one at the Harley Shop, and I will wear it…as soon as Bob re-installs my sissy bar. (It ended up on the garage floor during the last round of bike customizations.)


LOST, “Across the Sea”: A Big, Stupendous Chunk of Cheese

May 17th, 2010

No spoilers for future episodes here, but I will mention stuff that happened in “Across the Sea”, so if you haven’t seen that one…please see it before you read any further!

Fabulous episode. Just stupendous. Not without faults, but stupendous nonetheless.

We’ll start with the stupendous. Which on LOST always means, “the craziest person on the Island.”

Stupendousness: The “Woman,” the unnamed female who took in a pregnant shipwreck survivor, helped birth her twin boys, and then smashed her head in with a rock. As disturbing as that was, it was pretty stupendous, because this is a woman 100 percent driven by survival, and obviously having a successor (a candidate?) is important enough, at least in her mind, to kill for. Bet she never imagined in a million years she’d get to choose between two successors – in fact, it’s the presence of these two original “candidates” that sets all this terrible stuff in motion. More on that in the next paragraph.

Stupendousness: The depth of these twins’ characters. It’s not just a simple case of good twin vs. bad twin. Because we find out that the Man in Black (at that time only the Kid in Black) was the favored son. But the MIB is driven by a burning desire to discover, to leave the Island and see the outside world. Mother’s favorite child is loaded with the hubris that causes all the grief on the Island, all the fighting and corruption and destruction. Kind of like a certain doctor we’ve come to know and love and sometimes be really annoyed by. Jacob, the kid she doesn’t like so much, is content with staying in the only home he’s ever known. Kind of like Locke. It’s fascinating that the bodiless MIB would choose for his vessel someone who in life was so much like his brother Jacob.

That second baby really screwed things up, didn’t he? Because he gave Mother a choice, a chance for free will to run amok. Had it just been Jacob, Jacob would have been the one to take her place as Guardian o’ the Cave. Clearly, she wanted it to be the other son, and clearly Jacob knew this his whole life, which was why he was in such a snit when Mother asked him to take over. Crazy Mama prefers the son who’s most likely to leave her, and the kid who was always loyal gets stuck with all the responsibilities. Recipe for strife, and just reminiscent enough of the Prodigal Son tale to be quite stupendous.

Stupendousness: The MIB getting sucked down that hole in the cave that it didn’t seem like he should have fit through. Creeeeeeeeeepy. It reminded me of that scene in IT where Pennywise the Clown comes up through the shower drain to attack little Eddie Kaspbrak! (I didn’t shower without fear for a month after seeing that.)

Stupendousness: To backtrack to the beginning of the episode, when I saw open water and debris and a person started surfacing…I jumped up and yelled, “Lapidus is alive! Lapidus is alive….oh, it’s some chick.” They fooled me for a second, there. But Lapidus is alive. He may still be adrift somewhere, but he’s still in the game.

And now for the cheese. For the record, it’s forgivable cheese, and I’m over it. But still cheese.

Cheese: Mother’s “in the light is life/death/rebirth” speech. C’mon. Really? The source of all light is in this cave, and every human being gets a little bit, so it’s like the source of human souls, or something? And what can destroy it is human greed for more of what they already have? A valid idea, but in a literary sense, haven’t we all been to this picnic before? This ain’t new. Well, maybe the cave part.

Crossing the line from mystery to cheese SO wasn’t necessary, either. Would have been easy to avoid by just cutting back on specifics. Mother didn’t have to know exactly what the Cave was or what was in it or what would happen if the light somehow went out, or if God forbid someone went in there. How would she know? Who told her? Not to mention that just a minute ago, she was convinced the boys weren’t ready to know anything about the Cave yet, and now she’s telling them everything? It’s much more effective, from a dramatic standpoint, to leave a little more to the imagination.

Case in point: Mother grabbing the kid by the shoulders and saying, “I’ve made it so you can never hurt each other.” Much cooler, because you don’t know how she did it. Gets your imagination going.

If you saw Mother chanting up an invisible chain and locking it around his ankle, you’d think that was cheesy. (Yes, the thought has crossed my mind, because of that chain-y sound we hear when Smokey appears.) If she just looked him in the eyes and said in a grave, yet pleading tone of voice, “You can never leave”? Much more suspenseful because you get to wonder why. Very “Hotel California.”

Another example? My favorite creepy/cool moment of the episode, when Mother and Jacob share a drink, and he looks all, “wow, what just happened there,” and she says, “Now you and I are the same.” WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? That they don’t age? I’m dying of curiosity. Ironically, if she had answered my question and said, “Now you’re like me; you won’t age,” I would have filed that scene under “c” for “crapload of cheese.”

Even though we need (and deserve!) answers, we don’t always need such a detailed answer. Mother was able to torch that village of Others without showing us how she did it; I really wish she’d been a little cagier with her Cave info.

Speaking of that cave, isn’t the quickest way to get a kid to do something telling them it’s not allowed? Because I’m sure from the moment Mother showed them that cave, they both secretly wondered what would happen if they went into it, or launched their little brothers into it. Not Mother’s best decision. But then, she’s crazy.

Cheese: Flashing to scenes of Kate and Jack finding “Adam and Eve,” and geez, Locke even saying, “our very own Adam and Eve.” Overkill. Um, haven’t we had this “Adam and Eve” mystery tucked into the back of our brains since season 1, assembling candidates in our minds, while wondering what the black and white stones meant? Sure, you could argue that it was for the benefit of those who haven’t been hooked on this show since the beginning, but c’mon. We already met up with Adam and Eve’s corpses again this season, when Hurley speculated they might be “us”, left over from time traveling to dinosaur times. That was enough of a reminder. And it gave us a chuckle.

All right, to sum up…lest you think I hated this episode, I did not. I loved it. Despite its cheese, which was far outweighed by cool revelations. I do have one lingering question, though: The Man in Black has stated that he knows what it’s like to lose someone you love. While he did lose his mother, I don’t know if that counts, since he was the one who killed her. Think he had a girlfriend (or even a wife) somewhere in that village of Others? He may think of himself as a man of science, but he’s a man first!

LOST, “The Candidate”: Don’t Worry, Frank Lapidus Will Save the Day

May 7th, 2010

No spoilers for future episodes here, just talking about what went on in “The Candidate,” this week’s episode of LOST. Since a lot of major stuff went down in this episode, I’d recommend NOT reading this post until you have seen it!

I love Frank Lapidus. This man has a purpose, just as lofty and important as Dr. Jack’s or Desmond’s. And it’s not, “pilot the sub down, then make it go back up just in time to get killed so Jack and Sawyer and Kate and Hurley can escape, but not you or Jin or Sun.” That is NOT Frank’s purpose. Sorry. Just can’t be.

I am fully expecting Frank to wash up on the beach, clinging to a piece of submarine hull or possibly the liferaft that he found at the very last second. Or maybe be the dude who sneaks up behind the bad guy and whacks him over the head, just when you think your heroes are done for.

This man has survived a helicopter crash, two emergency landings, cows, the Smoke Monster, and disagreeing with Martin Keamy. Plus, he’s a pilot. A great pilot. And they have a functioning plane. Whoever makes it through this alive is going to need him. What are they going to do, defeat the Man in Black and then think, oh crap, too bad that shaggy pilot guy got killed a little while ago, we’re screwed after all? Just because surging water and a metal door knocked Lapidus down a split-second after he uttered a cheesy one-liner, doesn’t mean he’s dead.

This week’s episode was just chock-full of death, most of it seemingly purposeless. What was the point of Sun coming back to find Jin, and Jin searching tirelessly for Sun, if it just meant they were both going to die? What about little Ji Yeon? Sayid trying to reduce the bomb impact with his own body was pretty cool – now that’s a purpose. Plus, a confirmation that not only was there still some good left in Sayid after all, but that he realized that he had made a deal with…yes, the devil, I believe. And that the only way to get out of it was to sacrifice his own life in the service of whoever was trying to fight the Man in Black.

Sayid’s last words to Jack are pretty chilling – it’s going to be you – and that makes me terrified for the rest of our group, especially after the Man in Black’s “all right, enough screwing around, I’m going to go kill me some candidates” attitude at the very end of the episode. This guy’s pissed. This may still be one big game, but he’s done playing. That look he had on his face as the sub pulled away, like he was about to start cackling with diabolical glee, terrified me. (Note to whoever invents awards for sci-fi: There should be a Terry O’Quinn Award, presented to actors who brilliantly play a character who’s dead and now has some evil supernatural entity inhabiting his or her body. Nobody does it better!)

Speaking of evil supernatural entities, it was pretty interesting to see that even the illustrious Man in Black is not infallible. The sonar fences, of course. But ol’ Sawyer picked up on another one: Water. Which is the reason the MIB has to use boats to get from Island to Island and can’t just turn into the Black Smoke and fly. I had kind of forgotten that. Getting shoved off the dock into the water didn’t kill him, of course, but it did seem to take him an awfully long time to pull himself back up, and boy was he mad. Something about him and water. An Island’s a good prison for a being that can’t tolerate water. But I think water would make an even better one…maybe the bottom of the ocean! What if there was a way we could sink the Island? Oh, wait….

I’m sure there’s a lot more dying coming up, and much pulse-pounding action, but I stand by my claim: We will see Lapidus again. Since the writers continually set him up to toss off the witty one-liners and move the plot forward – hey, guys, let’s go find some food so Jack and Sawyer can have a meaningful exchange of dialogue without so many people around – I sense he’s going to get to be the deus ex machina somewhere in the finale. One of those moments where there’s no way out, gotta do what the Man in Black says or Kate gets a bullet, dramatic tension, tears, Kate begging Jack (or Sawyer) not to give in even though it means her life…and here comes Lapidus creeping up behind the MIB with a big bucket of water! Or something. I’m sure of it. The Island isn’t done with Frank Lapidus.