Sunday, November 29, 2009

In Praise of an Unjustly Ignored Thanksgiving Movie...

With both the annual day of feasting AND the annual day of consumer insanity behind us, I want to address what I believe to be an egregious example of cable television's dropping the holiday ball: Why was Home for the Holidays not in heavy rotation throughout the last week or so?

This film was released fourteen years ago (say... the very year Jeff and I tied the knot!), and it captures in a mere hour and forty or so the essence of all we love and hate about Thanksgiving spent with the family. The aging parents who are loathe to accept that their children are adults. The tension between siblings who have moved far away and those who have stayed in the old hometown. The dotty relative who can be counted on to reveal family skeletons in full view of the poor outsider who has been dragged in as a guest. The painful realization that you can't really ever go home again, and the warmth you'll find there nevertheless. And of course, it is all wrapped very loosely around what might turn out to be a love story.

I was looking for this movie on cable all week before the big day, but when it did not materialize I dug out our relatively ancient VHS copy so I could get my yearly fix (yes--our DVD player plays videos as well... we are SO out of media step).

I guess it's a mixed blessing, this failure by the powers that be to recognize a potential holiday classic. At least it won't be played to death like It's a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story. But if you are seeking a film to put you in the proper frame of mind for a fraught family gathering, this is your film.

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Life with Kittehs

Ah, yes. You heard correctly. We now have two kittehs in our family!

A little more than a month ago, we went to Tree House Humane Society shelter and fell in love with a little gray kitten whom the shelter folks had named "Arcadian." We brought all of his three-month-old, three-pound-nine ounce self home with us and renamed him "Mingus." I think it suits him better, don't you?

He is a little scamp, that's for certain! While we had him sequestered in the back bathroom, parcelling out introduction time to his new big sis Mifune, I tried to take some photos of him. He was just such a blur of activity, though! A feline dervish! Just take a gander:

I finally had to use the flash and risk demon-eye...

It took us about five days or so to do a full introduction, and at first Mifune was rather distant to the little tyke. I don't think she quite knew what to make of him. After all, he was just as pesky as little brothers tend to be.

He stalked her tail. He ate her food. He grabbed every toy right out from under her--and since she didn't have such a safe, secure kittenhood (feral as she was), she seemed kind of flabbergasted at such kittenish behavior. She engaged in a lot of observation.

And then THIS began.

And this.

And this.

It took us a while to realize that it was mostly just play, although it got a bit fraught when we brought the cat tree home.

Do not be fooled by the peaceful nature of this photo. They both want the top perch.

In fact, we've had the tree for a couple of weeks now, and only yesterday did they share the top perch without resorting to fangs and claws. Ah, sweet domestic bliss!

So, what're YOU lookin' at?

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Adieu to BHG

Ten years ago now, when Jeff and I first bought our "luxury lakeside condo" (heh), we were faced with a lot of unforeseen and undisclosed problems... and a few we knew about and took the plunge anyway. In my quest to figure out what we might be able to fix on our own and what we needed to hire professionals to tackle, I found my way to the message boards at Better Homes and Gardens online. There I posted my queries on the renovation board and the kitchen and bath board--I received some good advice, too. And from those boards I wandered over to the Family Issue board, where I became hooked.

It was a glimpse into a world I don't actually inhabit: a world of moms and housekeepers, mostly. But in that mix were a few kindred spirits. I started posting there and on the Mind, Body, and Spirit (MBS) board, where the topic was mostly religion. In those early days, there was a nice mix of folks posting at MBS. Sadly, it was eventually overrun with fundamentalist Christians of a single sect who pretty much told everyone they were going to hell--even their fellow fundamentalists on the board who had the audacity to be *gasp* Baptists instead of their particular cult. Given that, you can just imagine how this small band addressed those of us who were NOT Christians. Sigh. The board devolved to "them or us" type of arguments and a single troll who c&p'd some evangelist's daily online essay but never bothered to discuss her posts. Eventually, the troll was the last poster standing on that board.

Meanwhile, over at Family Issues (FI), some cyberfriendships were getting strained by the 2000 election. Bush supporters were aghast that anyone would call him on his blatant lack of intelligence... and so, to maintain good feelings, the powers that be began a new board called "General Debate" to attract the type of folks who like a good dust up away from the more sedate FI board.

It was a place for fairly hot and heavy discussions, especially in the run-ups to the disastrous Iraq war and the Bush-Kerry election. Come the primaries in 2008, though, things got really, really nasty. That's when the wingnuts started showing their true colors. And once Obama won the election, those same wingnuts now started singing the teabaggers' chorus... and throughout all this, the wingnuts (several of whom were the same religious cult members who killed the MBS board, interestingly enough) began reporting posts of liberal posters that they deemed to be violations to the board's Terms of Service. In other words--posts where they got their hats handed to them again and again... posts that showed their utter lack of logic and their absolute love of straw men arguments... basically, any post that disagreed with them. In turn, the board's liberal posters began reporting some of the more trollish and truly nasty posts of the wingnuts, several of whom were banned from the site for good... but who came back again and again under new names anyway. Sigh. General Debate was getting, well, tiresome. But who wants to just pack up and leave the board to the yahoos?

Which brings us to the past few days, since the horrific event at Fort Hood. As you might imagine, the wingnuts were and are all up in arms about Islam. Of course, the investigation is ongoing. The perpetrator has yet to offer a motive. But to the wingnuts, there's one and only one thing behind Hasan's actions: It was an Islamic Terrorist attack and proof that no Muslim can be trusted. You should see the posts. Or maybe they are best left unseen. I'm sure you can all imagine. What it boils down to for these benighted, terrified souls is that in their minds--because their own versions of mullahs have assured them it is true--all Muslims are terrorists. All Muslims are to be feared... and that's because Allah (no realization that Allah is Yahweh is God, of course) insists that all Muslims must kill those who are not Muslim. Sigh.

Anyway, religious bigotry is something that really chaps my hide. And so, I call the wingnuts on it. Particularly one wingnut who, after posting about how Allah insists all Muslims should kill all infidels, claims on another thread that she would never, EVER tar all Muslims with the terrorist brush. So I posted one of her screeds from another thread, which sets her off. And what do I get for my gentle rebuke?

I get a "time-out" from the BHG boards for violating the Terms of Service (although how showing a liar to be a liar violates any rules escapes me). But does SHE get a "time-out" for spewing her hatred and bigotry? No, of course not.

And so, after a decade of posting, I have decided to willingly extend my "time-out" into infinity. I figure it will give me back some precious free time I've been devoting to trying to debate idiots, in hopes that some lurker may see the light of day. And I'll bet it will bring my blood pressure down a few points too. I may even be more inclined to spend time here, updating more frequently.

And so, to my BHG friends who may find their way here, I say thanks for the decade. It was mostly fun. It was certainly a learning experience. I now leave the battle to those who still care to fight it.


Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Road Trip!

Ah. Lovely Waynesboro, Virginia. And what better time to drive there from Chicago than late September?

Jeff and I have made this trip many times, and only once in the past have we stopped overnight either to or from. That was many years ago when Jeff came down with pneumonia and the drive back to Chicago was just too tiring for the both of us to attempt in one day. This time, though, we decided to take a couple days to drive down to Virginia and a couple days to drive back. Take our time. Slow down a bit and enjoy the scenery. So we did.

On the way down, we stopped for the night at Carter Caves State Resort Park in eastern Kentucky. There are two caves open to the public there (and many more on park land--most of them used to be open to cavers with permits, but the white-nose syndrome has become such a threat to local bats that such excursions have been halted for now): Cascade Cave and X Cave. We arrived in time to tour the latter. It was a small but interesting cave, formed when the bore holes of two streams met, forming an X, literally. One of the passages is highly decorated, and the other is very sparse and spartan. I wish I had photos to show, but alas! I discovered all too late that I had left my data card at home, and the gift shop did not carry them. Sigh.

At any rate, here's a set of photos I found on flickr:

Many thanks to DanDee!

It was a rainy, rainy night, but the lodge was comfortable and boasted a decent restaurant.

The next morning dawned foggily, and I worried that the mist would interfere with my morning driving plans, but by the time we reached Charleston and left the interstate for U.S. 60, most of the fog had burned off. At first I didn't think much of the scenery of this "scenic drive." The road hugged a river, the opposite bank of which sported mills and shacks and, well, lots of the accouterments one associates with Appalachia... and not in a good way. But as the road veered away from the river and climbed higher into the hills, the scenery improved. And the frequency of hairpin turns increased. Finally, we got to Hawks Nest, a lofty perch overlooking the New River Gorge. Of course, no photos--still hadn't found a data card--but well worth the detour.

We had hoped to be able to check out the Mystery Hole, which is located along highway 60 near Hawks Nest, but alas! It was closed! But here's the beauty part: When I got to Waynesboro, my BFF Barb presented me with a lovely sweatshirt from there! Yea! At least I have the appropriate apparel should I ever be lucky enough to pass that way again and find the attraction up and running.

We rolled into Waynesboro in plenty of time to take Mom to dinner.

The highlight of the weekend was a gathering of Fools to eat pizza and attend the production of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street featuring the incomparable Barbara Spilman Lawson as Mrs. Lovett. It was an accomplished production, with the leads (Brian Holsopple played Sweeney Todd) bringing performances that would have been welcome on any major stage in the world. It was great to spend a bit of time with old friends and see a wonderful, creepy play in the bargain.

We were a bit early for the full fall color display, but we did manage to catch a few glimpses of what was in store for the valley a few weeks on:

Jeff and I strolled around the old neighborhood and down to the park, where we discovered that the old boat ramp was returning to its natural state and hosting a few ducks to boot.

And of course we enjoyed Sunday brunch in Staunton with Mom and brother John. We went to the Clocktower, where they prepared our omelets to order. Tasty. We rolled out of there more than satisfied.

We headed back to Chicago on Tuesday, breaking for the night at Batesville, Indiana, where we ate at the historic Sherman House. Good German food to be had here!

We got home in the early afternoon on Wednesday, weary and ready to rest from the road. For a while. Only for a while.

Labels: , , , , , , ,