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Archive for December, 2011

Watch tv, like me!

I love netflix and tivo. They allow me to watch whole seasons of tv shows at once. If it is a good show I can watch two or three episodes a night, if it’s a bad show I can tell myself that I will watch them later and then, ultimately, delete the whole thing.

Here are some shows that I watched the entirety of this year and my reviews:

Breaking Bad – This is one of the best shows currently on tv. I wouldn’t rank it as an all time great (like Dexter, Deadwood, Firefly, and the first two seasons of Veronica Mars) but it is completely engrossing, thought-provoking, discussion evoking, funny, sad, stressful, and very well acted.

I call Breaking Bad “The Anti-Lost”, whereas as we ultimately found out that Lost didn’t know what the hell it was doing and it was riddled with loose ends and red herrings, Breaking Bad is all about cause and effect, and follows up on every action with a logical consequence.

Another thing I really love about Breaking Bad is that it is not afraid to change the game. This isn’t one of those shows with a central secret that no one ever finds out about. The show isn’t about Walt keeping his job as a meth cooker secret, it is about Walt’s choices. It is like watching a train wreck to see this good man “break bad.”

Twin Peaks – Why did I never watch this series before? It seems almost tailor made for me. Kyle Maclachlan (hot), Sherilynn Fenn (hotter), Joan Chen (hottest), a dancing dwarf, jazz music, owls, the white lodge, David Lynch, David Duchovny in drag, a giant, arson, murder, dreams, a one-armed man, and a boatload of other weirdness.

I kind of loved Twin Peaks. It is definitely cultish, but also kind of cheesy with a low production budget and some crazy overacting. But that is all part of the charm.

The mystery of who killed Laura Palmer was actually pretty good, though unconventional. And I loved most of the side plots too. I agree with others who said the networks, who pushed Lynch to change his original story and reveal Laura Palmer’s killer early, did damage the integrity of the Lynch’s vision. But even so, oh what a vision it was! Twin Peaks was part murder mystery, part creepy circus, part dream and all scrumptious surreal goodness.

Mad Men – I was late to the Mad Men bandwagon, which meant that I could watch all the episodes back to back to back, and I did. I was obsessed with Mad Men and averaged two episodes a night until I had watched all the seasons.

Other people have described Mad Men’s appeal much better that I can. What I loved the most about it was it’s portrayal of women, gender roles, and how the knife of sexism cut both ways. I loved Betty Draper, Peggy Olson and Joan Holloway.

I didn’t really like where they went with Betty  in season three and onward, I felt it was out of character and wasn’t the best storyline. They could have done better, imo. But the first two seasons of Mad Men are brilliant.

Shameless – The UK version. Shameless is one of my favorite television shows of all time. (Right up there with Dexter, Deadwood, Firefly and Veronica Mars) Be sure you watch the UK version, because I have now seen the first season of the US version and it is only about half as good.

Fair warning, this show is MESSED UP. They really take the concept of “shameless” and work it for all it is worth. The characters have every kind of sex, abuse every kind of drug, steal, kidnap babies, commit adultery, beat people up, engage in prostitution, fraud, and murder and they do it in the most hilarious way. All that, and the first two seasons have James McAvoy. This is truly an excellent show, so surprising, so funny, so shocking and fresh. If you only watch one show that I recommend watch Shameless. You can get the first season on Netflix.

Spartacus – This show was also messed up. There were copious amounts of blood, gore, naked bodies, and sex. The gore was almost too much for me at several points and I had to look away and have Brian tell me what it was safe to look back. Spartacus was pretty much the definition of gratuitous sex and violence. It was shocking and over the top and not necessarily in a good way.

Both Shameless and Spartacus were pushing boundaries but, for some reason, I loved what Shameless was doing and there were times when I seriously considered walking away from Spartacus. Maybe because Shameless was smart in a way that Spartacus wasn’t. Also Shameless was never sickeningly gory. Spartacus wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t especially great either. I guess it was titillating violence porn.

American Horror Story – I think I have a theme of “messed up” shows this year. I just finished the first season of American Horror Story last night. Last week I was complaining about it and telling Brian that I might not want to finish the season. On the fifth to the last episode I paused in the middle of the episode to rant about all it’s problems (mostly it was too choppy and lacked coherence) but then the last four episodes came together and were good enough that I finished watching the series.

Overall I did not like American Horror Story. I like horror movies. I watch a lot of them. I feel like I know what makes something scary. I also feel like the writers of AHS decided to throw every possible ghost story they could think up into the first season of the show. But that wasn’t their first mistake. I think, in an attempt to make the story more dreamlike, or rather, nightmarish, they made the scenes very choppy. They were more like a series of horrible little vignettes than a linear storyline. They also made the typical annoying sitcom blunder of not having any of the characters talk to each other or confide in each other, which, inevitably, led to way more problems than necessary. In sitcoms they play it for laughs, but in AHS the lack of communication between the characters broke my suspension of disbelief in a show that was already having problems keeping me happy.  And, like Spartacus, AHS was gratuitously gory at times. But AHS did have some great acting, especially Jessica Lange and Connie Britton.

I hear American Horror Story was picked up for a second season, but I doubt I will watch it, at least not in real time, as it airs. If it is better than the first season I will hear about it and then I can watch the whole season at once on netflix. 🙂

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New Traditions

Today we went to a friends house for their first Winter Holidays party. They were celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas and the Winter Solstice. We had food, s’mores, hot cocoa by the chiminea fire. We also sang songs to celebrate the holidays, including songs about the sun. When it got dark we lit the Hanukkah candles and watched them burn.

I am grateful that we have already made friends here that invite us to their parties. We had a really nice time.

 

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Hanukkah 5th Night

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We have been getting ready for Hanukkah/Solstice/Winter here. This year I am going with a “candle light” theme. I like the idea of Hanukkah as a Festival of Lights. I am also decorating with green branches of Holly, White Pine, and Juniper. I bought three more menorot/hannukiot so we have six now, which really helps light up the darkness during the long nights of winter.

We have been having a really lovely holiday season in Philadelphia. B’s work holiday party was extravagantly fabulous. They even had a Candy Bar, which I hear is the new rage at parties. It was cool. I mean, who hasn’t wanted, at some point in their lives, to be given a bag and be allowed to take whatever they want from a candy shop? It really makes you feel like a kid again.

Here are some pics of our holiday festivities so far.

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Celebrate good times

I like to celebrate. I celebrate birthdays, holy days, TGIF, quitting time, the start of basketball season, accomplishing a hard won goal, the release of the next great book (or movie) in a beloved series, graduations, milestones, transitions, the longest day of the year, the longest night, and the days when the day and night are the same length. 😉

I like excuses to eat special food, decorate the house, maybe even buy some special gifts to commemorate the event. Celebrations don’t really stress me out. Maybe because I usually keep it low-key. But, sometimes, I really don’t. *cough*Halloween*cough* I guess I like to make life more magical. I’m kind of still a kid in that way (and in many other ways too :P)

Today is another big milestone for me. Today is my one year anniversary of being cancer free. Last year, at this time, I was being taken into surgery to have a bilateral mastectomy. They found 2 tumors, one was stage 2 and one was more like stage 0. After my surgery, I was, for all intents and purposes, cancer free.

I was SO scared in the couple weeks leading up to the surgery. Not about the cutting or the loss or the pain. Nope. I was scared of going under anesthesia. I really hated the idea that I could be put to sleep and never wake up again. I knew it was extremely unlikely, but still, the idea haunted me.

I had, just recently, bought remastered versions of every Beatles’ album on CD. And I decided that, if I did die, I wanted to leave something to my friends. So I wrote the names of my friends on slips of paper and put one in each CD. Then I told Brian “If I don’t wake up make sure my friends get these.”

I pulled out some special books from my library to give to other friends. I wrote Zoe a letter. I told Brian my final wishes, etc.

But then, a couple days before the surgery, I let the fear go. Or maybe it let go of me. I realized that if I did die, well I wouldn’t even know. And that there would be nothing for me to be sad about. I knew my family was strong and that they would be okay without me. And my friends, well hopefully whenever they heard certain Beatles’ songs they would think of me and be happy they knew me.

This morning, when I woke up, I lay in bed and tried to remember the series of events leading up to my surgery last year. I remembered the brown coat I wore to the hospital. I remembered the velcro things they wrapped around my legs to keep me from getting blood clots, I remembered the dark warm room where they drew x’s and lines on my breasts. I remember trying to keep things light, for Zoe’s sake and holding Brian’s hand.

There are parts I can’t remember, because the anesthesia has a amnesic effect. But I do remember struggling to wake up in the recovery room. And I remember part of my drug addled brain being super-freaking-fantasically-happy to have woken up.

Then I found out that the surgery went really well. I got to go home the next day. And, over the next few weeks, I healed quickly and without complications.

I had to do chemo, just in case there were any stray cancer cells still in my body. But there was no reason to think there were. My margins were really good and so was my surgeon. So, as far as we know, December 10th 2010 I had no cancer in my body. And, as far as we know now, I still don’t. :)IMO, that is definitely worth celebrating.

I suppose if my friends lived nearby I might have them over tonight for a happy little party. Hmmm, that would be cool. Maybe for my 5 year anniversary. 🙂 Maybe then I’ll take those slips of paper out of my Beatles’ CDs too.

My plans for today are to go to the mall, by myself, and buy a fancy dress to wear to Brian’s company Christmas party. I am looking forward to it because I don’t really get a lot of time to myself. I might treat myself to a holiday latte and maybe some cute new shoes too. Tonight I will do something with B and Z. Brian is downstairs concocting a family game for us all to play together. I might request some serious snuggling time as well.

I don’t think you have to do all that much to celebrate. It is more of a mindset. You just decide the day, the hour, the moment is special and make it so. But, I definitely and legitimately have something to celebrate today. 🙂

 

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Last night I was feeling kind of insecure about mistakes I’d made earlier in the day, about times when I was not my best. My mind went to the old familiar place of shame and fear that I am not good enough. Then I went to the next habitual place of “what can I do to be better?”

I think I set a lot of challenges for myself, like Nanowrimo, or this month’s, “exercise everyday for 60 min”, for not totally healthy reasons. I think I am often trying to better myself as opposed to loving myself. And maybe, probably, those two things don’t have to be opposed. But for me, loving myself hardly ever enters into my mind, or my life. I am not sure I even know how to love who I am, without the constant striving. I have a really hard time forgiving myself for not being better.

But that is not how I treat people that I love. I love my husband, my daughter, my friends, for every little part of them. They don’t have to be perfect, or better than they are. I love the whole package.

So, how do I turn even a fraction of that love towards myself? Last night, in my quasi-dream state I thought I might make it into a challenge (of course I did), something like “Try loving myself for 30 days.” Heh.

I am really not sure how to do that. I have some vague ideas about being attentive to what I am feeling when I am eating, drinking, walking, reading, etc, to see if I like how I am feeling, as well as notice my self-talk and try to develop a more loving “inner voice.”

I don’t know. I feel like I have come a long way in the last few years. Therapy and avoiding situations that reenforced a negative self-concept have really really helped. But there are so many layers to this onion. I need to keep working at it.

So, how do you love yourself? Do you have any insight? Practical, spiritual, psychological? Cause I would like to feel better about not being better.

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For those of you that aren’t on Facebook, and didn’t see my daily word count, I am happy to announce that I won the Nanowrimo challenge and finished a 50,000 word book in November. 

 

I had some dark days and days when I was really looking forward to the end of November, but, for the most part, it was a really good experience. I challenged myself and met that challenge, and that always feels good. I also learned about my writing style and added some new skills to my writing repertoire.

 

I am proud of myself, because writing every single day for a month isn’t easy. But I am even more proud of my daughter and husband.

Z also participated in Nanowrimo, the junior version. She gave herself a VERY lofty word goal of 20,000 words and she won her challenge too! With a couple days to spare. I am crazy impressed. I am impressed with how much she wrote but also with her determination, which got her sitting in front of her computer, day after day and night after night, to get her story done. Congrats Z!

My husband had his own challenge for November. It was to write and produce 4 songs in 4 weeks. This is a Spin Tunes challenge. The first one was Write a Happy Song about Death. Brian’s answer to that was Hello World!, a “death takes a holiday” song. This is a fun song that makes me want to drink a margarita on the beach.

His second song challenge, News to Me, was about a topical news story. B thinks it is debatable whether he fulfilled the actual requirement of the challenge, but I think he totally delivered.

Clubbin Tonight is B’s first attempt at a rap. And I think it is pretty hilarious. It almost works as one of the typical songs you’ll hear on the radio these day about going to clubs and dancing. But, if you actually listen to, or better yet, read the lyrics, you we see B put his usual funny twist on things.

Last song, and maybe my favorite, is a love song to Stephen King’s Christine, from an old beater. It is entitled, Christine. I love how poetic this song is and how heart-felt, even though it is written from the p.o.v. of a car.

To celebrate our awesomeness (I actually said that to the waiter) we went to dinner last night at Max Brenner. It was a real treat! (pun intended) All the food was good, some dishes, (B and I split 3 appetizers) were great. The presentation was amazing, I kind of felt like I was eating dinner at Willa Wonka’s Cafe, if there was such a thing. But it was also really classy, about a million miles away from something like Chuck E. Cheeses. Max Brenner is known for it’s chocolate and, since we were celebrating, we each ordered a dessert. Z got a chocolate pizza, B got fried banana fondue, and I got a chocolate heart cake with ice cream, berries and a shot of chocolate milk.

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It was a magical night, (we walked there, through Christmas Village, and under the lights) and a magical dinner to cap off our crazy November.

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