Monday, February 12, 2018

Fosse! Fosse! Fosse!

My daughter has been doing competitive dance for the last few years. The first competition was quite an eye opener. There are point scores, best in each category, division, and even judges’ awards.  Everywhere you look, there are girls in enough makeup to make a drag queen jealous and enough glitter, sparkles, and bling that sunglasses are required indoors. My daughter, who may wear Chapstick on a good day has become an expert at wearing false eyelashes. It’s all very overwhelming. It is not, however, Dance Moms. Put that out of your head. These girls practice one dance, with one costume for months at a time. They don’t have suitcases that turn into fully-lit makeup mirrors. Instead, most of them have the family suitcase outfitted with some contraption made out of PVC pipe to hold all their clothes. They have teachers who love them and emphasizes substance over style.  The parents support one another. At least that is what it’s like at her dance school. I can’t speak for others.

Last year, the costumes at competition were very risqué. Lots and lots of nudes, cut outs, and S&M wear - for tweens. I watched a child perform an exquisite ballet to Amazing Grace while wearing a vibrant red costume with nude patches over her genitals. The under-ten set embraced cut outs to show off their abs, but mostly just showed off their rib cages. This year, the costumes were very different. Gone were all the straps, leather, and nude patches that made the dancers look like the world’s tiniest people performing the world’s oldest profession. This year's overall theme seemed to be stripped instead of stripper. Instead of elaborate costumes in bright colors, we saw a lot of sack clothes in muted earth tones. Buns were out, braids were in. There were still lots of outfits you could consider pajamas, but instead of lingerie, they were closer to night gowns. One entire category of modern dance looked like the girls were acting out scenes from a play set during the 1930s Dust Bowl. Who knew they made so many shades of dirt brown? Flesh tone was also a big hit. I saw girls practicing in what could best be described as a nude bikini with nude mesh over top and was curious to see the rest of their costume. Turns out, there was no “rest” of the costume. That WAS the costume! With prop canes! I’m so bummed I missed that performance because I was dying to know what song required canes but not clothing? Our girls, in comparison looked like Mormons. They wore layers - nude leotards, nude tights, then fishnets, then their costumes. In terms of dance wear, they were dressed for winter in New Hampshire while the rest of the teams were on Spring Break in the Bahamas.  

The music was similarly stripped down. There were so many muzak versions of songs that I wondered if I was trapped in the world’s loudest elevator. Every song has one instrument and one vocal. Or no vocals and all instrumental. I spent half my time desperately trying to name that tune because the venue had no wi-fi so I couldn’t use Spotify to save myself from going crazy. Did you know that there are slow, instrumental versions of Depeche Mode? I wish I didn't. 

The worst part of competition is not watching my kid dance and get judged, which is super difficult, but keeping my eyes averted in the open dressing rooms. I obviously don’t want to see any part of anyone I didn’t help bring into this world, but its not that easy. I reached down to get my phone out of my purse, and when I sat back up, I was eye-to-thong with a dancer from the next company over. I heard the unmistakable sound of tape ripping and looked up in time to try not to see a teenager taping her breasts down. With masking tape! She held them up while two others taped them down and dear God, you know that stung when she had to rip it off later.

I know that judging is subjective and that its all relative to how many kids in each category and a host of other factors. So I’m not even going to touch upon that. What I do find most perplexing are the songs and themes chosen by the dance instructors. Last year, there was a song about drowned brides and another about dead babies. This year, we got a song about murder (complete with the onstage death), dead dolls, a funeral, zombies, and, I kid you not, an anti-Korean war song with a prop Army coat! There was a relatively brilliant song about depression where the major emotions all wore bright colored body suits and the rest of the team all wore black. There was a showstopper about the backstabbing inherent in a royal court that had the kids literally flinging themselves at each other and then there was the dance that won the crowd award. Reader, I was NOT happy with that last one.

The song was Can’t Stop the Feeling. Fucking Justin Timberlake! Again! The theme was “Night at the Museum” wherein a janitor starts playing that dreaded song and all the statues come to life. Each dancer had on a different costume. There was a Wonder Woman, a Blonde Ambition-era Madonna, Elvis, etc. (There was also a waitress, which I found odd, but I digress.) But I didn’t understand why the black girl was dressed as Marilyn Monroe. Why not let the black girl be Tina Turner or Whitney Houston or any number of famous black women performers? In fact, why make any of the girls into men? Couldn’t the song celebrate strong women of all colors? Did it need an Elvis or a Michael Jackson? Does anyone really think Prince is rising from the dead to dance to Justin Timberlake? Now, its possible that after three days of competition, I was just tired and cranky and hungry so that I was more annoyed than usual, but I think my point is fair. (Also, what museum was he IN, anyway?)

Overall, I’m glad the weekend is over. I watched roughly 24 hours of dancing over the course of 48 hours and my brain was turning into mush. My butt hurt from sitting, my ears hurt from the music, and my head was pounding from watching people spin over and over and over again. Thank God I have six weeks to recover before the next one and I can only applaud those parents who do this every single weekend and thank both the olds gods and the new that I am not one of them.

Monday, February 5, 2018

I've Got This Feeling Inside My Bones

I cannot stand Justin Timberlake. My reasons are far ranging and many. Last night, I complained about him on Facebook and Etsy requested a blog post about it. So, in no particular order, the top ten reasons I hate Justin Timberlake:

1 – His voice. He sings at a pitch that only dogs can hear. When his balls drop and he can sing a register below castrato, let me know and I’ll give him a listen. Until that time, please tell him that his version of sexy has been marked return to sender. He can’t bring back what he never had. Also, Can’t Stop the Feeling is an ear worm of a song, but that doesn’t make it good.

2 – Britney. She cheated on him, he cheated on her, whatever, but it all happened 15 years ago so would he please STOP invoking her name in interviews. He has been in the spotlight a long time – he knows that when he mentions her, it becomes the pull quote.  You are now a grown ass man with a family – she is a respected performer with mental health issues. Take her name outta your mouth! Don’t sing about her, don’t make videos about her, don’t make fun of her, and don’t talk about her.

3 – His wedding photos. Yes, I clearly said “his” not “theirs” because based on the photos they chose to release on the cover of the most popular entertainment magazine in the country, the wedding was all about him. Their official photo had her seated on the floor, her dress puddled up around her, her flowers casually held in one hand – looking all the world like a bored bridesmaid taking a breather after a long day. What is Justin doing? Jumping like a tuxedoed monkey on a trampoline. His feet are at her eye level. If you moved his photo more to the left, and hers more to the right, he would be perched on her shoulders, hands outstretched, screaming “me me me.” Sit. DOWN. Stand next to your wife, not above her.

4 – His acting career. He can’t act. No. Please don’t argue. Go back and watch any one of movies. He telegraphs every move he is about to make in advance. You can practically see him practicing the words in his head before he says them. His eyes are always blank. He is overshadowed by every other actor in his scenes. He is always Justin Timberlake. It is why he is so good on SNL and so awful anywhere else – he works so hard at being himself that he can’t possible figure out how to be anyone else.

5 – How he treats his wife. I actually have nothing against Jessica Biel. She has to live with that dumb bastard, so all the power to her, but I’ve never seen a husband step on a wife so much in interviews. The drill is simple: when a celebrity husband and wife walk the red carpet, the attention is supposed to be focused on whichever one has a project to promote. If the carpet is for her, then he is supposed to be quiet and supportive and vice versa. Not JT. He makes every carpet about him. She was nominated for her first ever Golden Globe this year. That’s a big deal to actors. So what did he do? He released news about new album two days before the award show. Guess what happened? Every interview became about him and his music instead of her and her acting. He could have released that information the day AFTER the Globes. It still would have received plenty of media coverage. But no, he had to take her spotlight and shine it on himself. He had to put her in his shadow because his ego can’t stand being in hers. When she has photo calls, he jumps around in the background making bunny ears with his fingers and all sorts of juvenile nonsense. That poor woman.

6 – His thirst. While I obviously cannot stand his music, others do not agree and he has been nominated for and won several major awards. And let me tell you, he works for those nominations. He promoted that damn Trolls movie so far in advance that by the time it came out, the target audience of toddlers had graduated college. When The Social Network was in theaters, it received many Best Ensemble awards. He was one of many and his performance as Sean Parker was basically him just playing an asshole, which is hardly out of his comfort zone. Yet he strutted through those press screenings as if he were the male lead. He actively campaigned for award nominations. The entire movie was about a bunch of dicks arguing over who was the biggest dick of them all and Justin was basically holding a thumb, but that didn’t stop him from thinking he had a chance in that particular pissing contest.  

7 – He (allegedly) cheats. A man who cheats on a woman is dead to me.

8 – Super Bowl 52. The big game was played in Minnesota, home to the dearly departed Prince - a legendary performer who has gone on record stating that he believed artist holograms are demonic. Rumor had it that Justin was going to play “with” Prince via hologram until that information leaked and Prince fans went batshit. Instead, he included a video projection of Prince and sang along. Toe-may-toe. Toe-mah-toe. Prince had more sexy in his elfin toes than JT has in his whole friggin’ body. Prince knew who he was. He didn’t change his aesthetic with his albums like SOMONE who performed during the half-time show. Man of the woods my left butt cheek! Justin Timberlake is the target audience for glamping. He is only capable of eating artisanal meats and cruelty-free marshmallows. The fact that his carefully distressed, quasi-camouflage outfit was head-to-toe couture only makes his lack of irony even more pronounced. While the crowd seemed to enjoy the performance, the Twitterverse proved via video clips that the paid performers on the floor were enthusiastically clapping along while the rest of the stadium remained oddly quiet.

9  - His hair. He is a human Chia pet. No amount of straightener is going to make me forget that he has a glorious head full of pre-Ralphaelite curls.   

10 -  Nipplegate -  Justin Timberlake ripped off Janet Jackson’s bodice exposing her breast and pierced nipple for half a second during the halftime show of the Super Bowl. It was the most DVR’d moment in history as people rewound it over and over again in order to properly see what was so indecent. That moment basically led to the rise of YouTube and almost broke the Internet. But let’s be clear. HE ripped HER clothing. HE exposed HER breast. HE made the mistake in removing both layers of her clothing when he was only supposed to remove one. HE did it. Which performer was forced to apologize for the incident, though? Janet Jackson. Which one was fined for indecency? Janet Jackson. Which performer had their music blacklisted? Janet Jackson. Which performer was banned from the Grammy Awards that year? Janet Jackson. But which performer actually made the mistake? Justin Fucking Timberlake. Which performer walked away completely unscathed? Justin Fucking Timberlake. Only one performer saw their career almost come to an end and it was the victim! What exactly did she do wrong? Hire the wrong seamstress? She didn’t rip it off herself. That was the ONE time he should have jumped up to say “ me me me.” That was the ONE time he was supposed to step in front of a woman and speak. That was the ONE time he needed to act. The ONE time he needed to whet his thirst for attention by telling every media outlet, talk show host, and magazine that the mistake was his and his alone. But he didn’t. He said nothing. He did nothing. Don’t tell me that he supports the Times Up initiative. His actions toward her and the media circus that surrounded that performance showed exactly who he was. And as Maya Angelou famously stated, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Friday, January 26, 2018

It's Still Magic Even If You Know How It's Done

Ursula Le Guin died this week and many people mourned her. She was a writer of science fiction, the old school stuff that changed people’s lives. I have to admit that I never read her books.

But I thought I’d take this opportunity to write the eulogy for the author whose works I have read.

For some people, the beach is their place of refuge. Their happy place. They post countdowns all winter long about the first day of summer and then post endless photos of toes in the sand, kids frolicking in the waves, drinks with little umbrellas in hand. Bubbles is one of those who loves the beach. Others are more specific in their locations. Etsy loves Saranac Lake in upstate New York. Rorey considers Sudbury, Vermont her personal slice of paradise. For my husband, driving a boat around Lake Wallenpapupack in the Pocono mountains is his idea of heaven on earth. One October, before the docks were pulled in, he spent hours racing around the flat glass surface, ears red with cold, going as fast as the motor would allow. Rain or shine, flat calm or full chop, he just loves being out on that lake. Some people love being on a mountain skiing, or walking the streets of Paris, or a million other places that calms their soul.

I love going to Anhk-Morpork. I know where the best pubs are, the best curry, and which shops are the most fashionable. I know that dragons really do make terrible Hogswatch gifts, so I support the efforts of the Sunshine Sanctuary (and, of course, the Lady Sybil Free Hospital).  I know to fear the Summoning Dark as well as The Shades and to pray to the goddess Anoia when my cutlery gets stuck in drawers. It is a city that never sleeps, eats whatever is put in front of it (even CMOT Dibbler’s sausage-inna-bun which only the very brave or the very drunk should attempt) , and has a river that you can walk across, but to me, it’s home. And I can never go there again.

You see, the Discworld, and all the cities and continents within, such as Ankh-Morpork, were created by Sir Terry Pratchett. He died on March 12, 2015.

He left behind the Discworld – a series of 42 books, all about a flat disc-shaped world, carried on the back of four elephants (it used to be five, but one fell and when it landed, it split the continents and its bones turned to gold). The elephants stand on the back of a giant turtle named A’Tuin. Unseen University is the greatest academic institution in the land and the Librarian is an orangutan who always know the exact book you need. Many of the Discworld books fall into categories. Some are stand-alone stories, some follow the paths of the Lancre witches, others follow the lowly watchman Sam Vimes through his eventual rise to becoming the Duke of Ankh (but he really hates wearing the ducal tights and especially the hat with the feather.) Death talks in all caps, rides a horse named Binky, and could murder a curry. There are books about gods, monsters, and those who fall in between. There is a huge cast of characters, one major locations, several minor ones, and all form an interconnected world where politics, race relations, good and evil, all come together to tell a story.

And now its gone. There are no more stories to tell.

I started reading his books about 20 years ago. They fall into the category of fantasy, but they are far closer to Douglas Adams in tone than J.R.R. Tolkien. I don’t know a single other soul who reads them, but in England, he was a best-selling author. He died, much too young, at 66 of early onset Alzheimer’s. His unfinished works were destroyed by steamroller, per his instructions. His daughter, a writer in her own right, made it crystal clear that the Discworld was the work of her father and that she would not be continuing the series.

So, imagine, that Saranac Lake is closed or Vermont has been, um, overrun by ice zombies. Imagine that no boats are allowed on the lake and there are no more visits to the beach. You will always have pictures and memories, but you will never get to go there again. Never get to immerse yourself in everything that you love about it. Every year, I got to go to the Discworld and make new friends, have no adventures, learn new details about the city and its denizens. Whereas I started as a tourist, I became a local. I know what happened when Mr. Hong chose to build the Three Jolly Luck restaurant on the site of a former fish-god temple and what happened when he opened on the night of a full moon and a lunar eclipse at the winter solstice. I know how to play Thud, both the troll and the dwarf side, and I know that Leonard of Quirm is more a prisoner in mind than body. And I know I’ll never, ever get to visit with him again.

J.K. Rowling gets much credit for how she was able to layer the cast and plot of the Harry Potter series. The vanishing cabinet is first mentioned as a blink and you’ll miss it gag in Chamber of Secrets, but becomes an integral part of Half-Blood Prince. In Deathly Hallows, a random collection of characters are overheard meeting in a desolate wood and even though none of the characters are main ones, we can easily feel the pain of Ted Tonks, Dean Thomas, and Griphook because we had met them before. While the chapter mostly is used as an exposition drop for our main characters to learn what is happening in the wizarding world, it is also an example of Rowling’s skill. She didn’t just know how to set off Checkhov’s gun, she knew how to build the firearm from scratch and hand-poured the bullets.

Pratchett was the same. Characters dipped in and out of the books so that the stories never felt isolated from one another. I actively dislike books where characters have no family, no friends, no coworkers and exist in a bubble of only the few people necessary to the plot. Life doesn’t work like that and neither did the Discworld.

The Discworld reflected our world. There was a Scone of Stone instead of a Stone of Scone, though both were stolen. There was a book about Australia, one about rugby, and even one that riffed on Shakespeare. When I am sick, or busy (or during those very weird few months when I was highly medicated and couldn’t follow a recipe, let alone a plot) I could disappear into the Discworld and be at peace. I would open the latest book, read it cover to cover, then flip it back to front and start all over again, once, twice, thrice until I practically had it memorized. I still check Amazon hoping that a magical final book will be revealed, that I’ll get one last visit to my home away from home, so that this time, I can really soak in all the details. Sir Terry Pratchett will be greatly missed by his family, obviously, but also by the millions of fans who raced to the bookstores to purchase his newest novel and lose themselves in the magical world that he created.    

At last, Sir Terry, we must walk together.

Terry took Death's arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.

The End.[77]

Friday, January 12, 2018

Do You Hear the People Sing?

The first show I ever saw on Broadway was Cats. It was an excellent starter show for an 80s tween. When the sirens came on, startling the “cats” onstage, I almost went through the roof. Though, to be honest, it isn’t that good of a show. You either have to be really high or really young to really enjoy a show filled with people in actual, legitimate catsuits. I can’t imagine sitting through it stone cold sober now, but at 12? It had me at “meow.”

I know people hate musicals. That the very idea of someone just randomly bursting into song while everyone around them acts like this is perfectly natural is too bizarre to be believed. I get it. But I love them unreservedly.

From Cats, I graduated to more mature fare. I spent all of high school in thrall of both Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera. I had an airbrushed jean jacket with the face of the Phantom on the back that I wore with pride. Not irony. PRIDE. I still think sitting through three hours of what my husband refers to as “ that show about the French revolution where everyone dies” is my idea of heaven. I am not such a snob that I think a touring production is automatically lesser than one in New York City. I saw a Thenardier in Boston who brought down the house and a Marius in Philadelphia who broke my heart. There is something about hearing those striking chords and seeing that giant red flag fly that just destroys me each and every time.

(But, after multiple viewing, I have come up with a few questions about the plot. First, after Valjean agrees to take care of Cosette, he asks Javert for three days to care of the situation. What on earth is he expecting to do in that little time? Kill her? Adopt her off to yet someone else? It probably took him three days just to find Cosette, let alone set up a new life for the kid. Second, why didn’t Thenardier recognize Valjean in the sewers? And third, if Marius sings about all his friends being dead and Cosette sings about living a lonely existence with no one but her father – then who are all the people at their wedding? And what on earth did Marius tell her to get her to agree to get married without her father in attendance? Anyway, back to the blog.)

I was lucky, living on Long Island, the theater was LIRR ride away. Back in the day, you could go to a booth on Times Square and try to get tickets to any show that day for cheap. Now, it’s a huge storefront and it’s all very professional, but back then, you felt like you were really in on a secret. Or at least I did. One day, I was able to get tickets to Miss Saigon. I called my mom on a pay phone and she actually left work early and hopped on a train to meet me in the city. Even more shocking, when she found me, she was happily eating a black and white cookie she had picked up from a random bakery. I could not have been more shocked if she had stopped for a bump of coke.

Think back to all the movies you have seen in your life. Thousands, right? And some have been great, some good, some terrible, but how many created indelible memories, moments that you will take with you to your grave? I have had those moments at the theater.

The moment the gunshot rings out in Miss Saigon.

The moment the witch takes flight in Wicked.

The moment in Once when she doesn’t tell him that she loves him.  

To me, that’s the power of a musical. It can create a moment so visceral, so real, that you feel like you are completely alone, but can only truly be experienced with two thousand complete strangers. I’ve seen show stopping numbers that made me want to get out of my seat and dance. I haven’t seen many shows, a few dozen, tops, but the ones I have seen resonate. Not all. I’ve seen some crappy shows, ones that had unmemorable music or actors, and I will never see a production of Annie again as long as I shall live, but the good ones that are always touring, or the revivals that keep popping back up again, those shows have legs for a reason. It’s because they can take you out of your life, your body, even, and transport you to another world where you can sing about racist puppets, telekinetic children, suicide, AIDS, murder, religion, or any number of odd things and it all makes perfect sense.

(Though some shows age better than others. Go watch West Side Story and try not to cringe. I listened to Rent recently and realized that Benny, advocate of fair housing prices and new business is not exactly a villain and that maybe the people singing about not paying rent in the most expensive city in the world may be the actual villains instead.)    

You don’t even necessarily have to see it in a theater to love a musical. I know its almost blasphemy to say a movie is better than the original production (much like saying a book is better than a movie), but let’s be clear – Grease is the word for a reason. It is a cultural touchstone – to this day, you can still see Pink Ladies on Halloween. And Sandy’s carnival ensemble, while completely impractical for anything excluding cat burglary, is iconic. “Tell me about it, stud.” Come one, just reading that, you know exactly how long to pause at that comma. And I bet every single person reading this blog has seen The Sound of Music at least once. You all know who tried to put Baby in a corner and why the Reverend doesn’t believe in dancing. And if you say you don’t, then you are my husband, who for some reason, seemed to have been raised in void of 80s and 90s pop culture.

I have so many more shows to see. Hamilton, obviously. I mean, I could sell my car for good seats, but then I’m not sure how I’d pay for my divorce. Both my kids are obsessed with In the Heights, but the only production I can find this year is playing three states away on a weekend when we are already triple booked (yet, I’m still trying to figure out how to make it work.) And while Dear Evan Hansen looks phenomenal, I’m not sure I can deal with two hours of that particular subject matter. For now, I’ll see whatever I can that come to Philly and raise my kids on a steady diet of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Andrew Lloyd Webber and hope for the best.  

Friday, January 5, 2018

The B is Back

I’ve abstained from blogging for a very long time.
A year and a half, to be exact.
Not for a lack of anything to say – ask my husband, I have not stopped talking. It was more like no one wanting to hear it. Not personally. Nationally. It’s hard to knock celebrity award shows when the Hollywood Advent Pervert Calendar is a living, breathing thing. It’s hard to blog when anything longer than two paragraphs is now considered a “long form” article because Twitter has condensed all of our thoughts into a character count. I’m not a mommy blog. I’m not a political activist, armchair sports analysist, or anyone particular with anything in particular to say. And after the last two years of politics, first the endless election cycle then living through year one of the Mad King, snarking about pop culture seemed as useful as dancing about architecture. 
Who cares what I think about a fictional female Doctor when actual health care is being turned on its head? Who cares about what books I read while the constitution is trod upon? How many posts did I think about, even write about, only to toss when something of actual value happened in the world? Reading the room meant realizing that the Internet had gone mean and rabid. The meek we had always hoped would inherit the earth turned into trolls who tried to destroy it. Being a woman with an opinion meant opening myself to being called words that even Carlin didn’t use on television. Was it worth it? Was posting something dumb and goofy that maybe 10 people would read on a good day a valuable use of my ever-diminishing “free time”? Was I just shouting into a hurricane, throat hoarse, unable to be heard?


However, what I do know is that I missed it. A lot. 
I am a much better writer than speaker. When I talk, I tend toward aphasia. I will stop mid-sentence, while the word I was about to say pops like a bubble out of existence. I try to remember the word and I have to get the shape of it, the sound of it, even the length of it correct before it will pop back into the sentence where it belongs. I say “um” and “ah” a lot. My vocabulary is limited. But when I write – well, the words flow much faster and have more meaning. I’m not saying I’m Shakespeare, but I’m not two monkeys banging on a keyboard either.
If you want to read what I have to say, that’s fantastic. If you don’t, I understand that too. It’s all good. I won’t take it personally. But I don’t just want to write it, I want to talk about it. I want comments, questions, I want a discussion. I want to remember what it felt like to talk about anything other than politics, climate change, and gross men doing gross things to women. I don't want to bring sexy back (and I'd really rather send Justin Timberlake away), but I want to remember what it feels like to write something on a regular basis that amuses, entertains, or interests people. Maybe I'll find an audience. Maybe a black hole symbolizing a complete lack of interest. Who knows? 
Let's find out together.   

Friday, September 16, 2016

Death by Dander

So I decided to commit murder this week.

Sure, admitting it outright on the Internet seems like a poor way to set up an alibi, but in my defense, I don’t actually think anyone is really going to die. The victim may be a bit stuffy, and maybe get a bit wheezy, but in general, a handful of over-the-counter meds and a strong door lock will probably be all the protection necessary to survive and live a long and healthy life.  

Whom am I trying to kill? My husband.

Why am I trying to kill him? My children asked me too. My son has spent years asking me in more roundabout ways and then actually spent quite a bit of time online researching the different ways in which my husband could be killed. My daughter doubled down and said that if her brother could kill Daddy, then she wanted to do it too.  

How am I trying to kill him? Slowly. Very slowly. One day at a time, a little bit by little bit so that he barely even notices.

Where will the crime take place? At home. Less fuss and muss and much easier to clean up in the quiet of the night.

What is the murder weapon? Cats.

Yes, my friends, I am killing my husband with cats. Two of them. And yes, getting pets when you have a family member who is allergic may seem like cruel and unusual punishment – but it’s not like I slipped them in through the back door when he wasn’t looking. There were multiple conversations about why we were getting pets, who was going to look after the pets, and what we were going to name the pets. I was firm that there would be two of them because I think it is mean to have a singular pet. Everyone should have someone to cuddle with and pets are no exception. Plus, I have two kids, so one for each.

Honestly, the names took the longest time. My husband wanted Starsky and Hutch. I wanted Statler and Waldorf. My son wanted Luke and Leia and my daughter wanted Xander and Willow. Multiple Hamilton characters were paired together. Peanut Butter and Jelly was rejected outright but Chewie and Han had some legs. For a short period of time, I was convinced Sparks McGee and Fluffer Nutter were the winning combo. Farty McFartFace was considered, but no one could come up with comparable joke for the second cat. Finally, one day on vacation in the Pocono mountains, while riding a boat around Lake Wallenpaupak, my brother-in-law had enough. “What about Kipp and Epply?” he asked. For those unfamiliar that would be two out of the three islands on the very lake on which we rocked. “Humph.” My entire family sat, stunned with the ease at which the answer had been presented. Winner!

So, one hot Saturday, I took Bubbles with me to the local Petco, where they present shelter animals for adoption. We were going to preview the selection so that the kids didn’t fall in love with something that bit or spit or had an extra tail or a gunshot wound. (You laugh, but my mother has brought home animals that fit those descriptions not once but three times.) And there, just waiting for us, were the atrociously named Mother Hen and Love Chicken. Some people really don’t take naming seriously. I dutifully filled out a questionnaire with such suspicious questions as “How do you discipline a cat?” and “Where will your cat sleep?” I wrote my best guesses (You don’t and wherever it wants), paid the nominal fee, and within an hour was the new servant of two cat masters.

My mother was prouder of the cat adoptions than she was the birth of her grandchildren. She has already given me cat beds, cat blankets, cat food, cat litter, cat magazines, cat books, cat calendars, and cat grooming supplies. The kids argued over who got to sleep with the cats until they realized cats are nocturnal and “sleep” was an adjective that does not describe listening to two kamikaze kittens race around the room knocking everything over, jumping up and down all night long and essentially behaving like crack addicts. My husband has already been spotting trying to get the damn things to sleep on his chest and I have amused myself by getting them bags of Halloween toys from the dollar store. There really is nothing like watching a cat roll blood-shot eyeballs around the floor to get into the holiday spirit.

The cats seem to appreciate their new home. There was little to no period of adjustment. From the moment we let them out of the cat carrier, they have followed us around the house happily. While they aren’t quite lap cats, they are lap-adjacent. Kipp, the three-month old kitten enjoys the rocket approach to locomotion and is already being referred to as the Sniper, as he is able to silently smack right into your ankles like a furry bullet when you least expect it. He’s a fast little beast and as he is too young for a collar, enjoys stealth maneuvers. Epply has a bell on her collar, which makes her easy to hear, but she also is the more vocal of the two and likes to meow or purr for attention. They also seem to be able to either pick locks or walk through walls because we keep closing bedroom doors at night and keep finding them inside the closed rooms come morning. Last night, I awoke to find a cat purring happily three inches from my face. The marital bedroom was supposed to be cat-free. No fur. No dander. No middle of the night barfing or coughing up of hairballs. An allergen-free space where my husband could breathe freely. But no, there was Eppily taking a bath right between the two of us while her son kept falling off the windowsills with loud crashes.

So yes, technically, getting cats with an allergic husband is probably not the best way to show my love for him. But it could be worse. I could have gotten a dog.   

Friday, August 5, 2016

Breaking the Curse

I just finished reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

I didn’t like it.

It actually breaks my heart to say that. I think J.K. Rowling is a master storyteller. I just think no one needed to tell this particular story.

Before I monologue about the current book, let me touch upon the series as a whole. Mistakes were made; the biggest mistake being the final chapter of the final book. Albus Severus is a dumb name. Does Ginny not have any dead family member she could have memorialized (cough Fred cough)? Couldn’t they have given them middle names that were family-based and allowed them the freedom to be their own people with original first names? I always felt that Harry should have understood that. I also think killing Fred was an enormous mistake. A far better story arc would have been killing Percy, newly returned to the family. His sacrifice, for the brothers who distrusted him the most, would have absolved him of all his sins. Instead, he comes back in the nick of time to watch Fred die in the most unflattering way possible. It is the most unnecessary death in the series. I’d even sub in Arthur Weasley – at least he would have died protecting his family and Molly had proven that she was more than strong enough to carry on without him, even though his loss would have broken her heart. Her sons, including the newly returned Percy, would have rallied around her admirably.

But, here we are, 17 years later once again and I’m still not happy.

The play reads like fan fiction. There, I said it. 






The big bad is Voldemort’s daughter? Really? REALLY? What is this, a Spanish telenova? Did Voldemort seem like he was the type to take lovers? Even with Bellatrix basically throwing herself on his wand, I’m pretty sure his phoenix feather was not rising to the occasion.

The problem with having children grow up is that all the wonders of childhood have to fade away in the face of cold, hard reality. I like to believe that after the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry hid away in 12 Grimmauld Place with Kreacher to come to grips with all that he had survived. I’ll stipulate that he did eventually become an Auror, but only after trying a few other paths first. I believe that Hermione would have gotten hired into the Ministry of Magic version of the mailroom and feverishly worked her way up to the top. And I agree with the fact that Harry and Ginny would have gotten married. But Ron and Hermione? Not so much. Sure, they would have dated, but her insane drive to succeed would have been at odds with his working at Weasley Wizard Wheezes, helping to fill the Fred-shaped hole in George’s life (which should be a Percy-shaped hole, but I digress.) I think they would have eventually broken up, had an awkward patch, and then returned to being good friends.

Basically, they would have become adults in a world that was peaceful and quiet. No bad guys to fight. While Dark Magic still existed, it would have been the type that Harry could hunt down during work hours and still be home in time for evening tea. In short, they would grew up to be boring. And that’s okay. They lived happily ever after. After seven books, eight movies, and countless pages on Pottermore, I think they earned that much.  

But now, I have to live in a world where the delicate father/son relationship enjoyed by Harry and Dumbledore becomes overbaked, overdone, and overly dramatic. We had hundreds of pages to mourn Cedric Diggory. We did not need another story based around a character that was best memorialized as being “the spare.” He really wasn’t that interesting the first time around and proves to be even less so as a MacGuffin. All these years, all the ideas she could have turned into stories and this is the one Rowling chose? Dumbledore wept. (Oh yes, in this book Dumbledore is so akin to a god that his name is used as one. Kill me now.)

By far the largest disappointment is that this is a play and not a book. What made the entire series so wonderful were all the details. The books were rich bowls of cream that needed to be savored because there were so many small ingredients that added to the story. The play is soy milk. It will substitute in a pinch, but no one ever really craves it. They just drink it because it’s the only thing left in the fridge.  

Details that are missing include, say, the rest of the goddamn Potter children! This is Hogwarts! Any fan can name a handful of minor characters off the top of their heads. Superfans, like my nutter of a daughter, can name dozens and show you how their minor actions, reactions, and behaviors added to the overall story in some way. In the play, we get mention of James and Lily Potter with a few throwaway lines, but little more. And where are all the cousins? Friends of the family, such as Teddy and Victoire? I realize I sound ridiculous here, but a man they refer to as Uncle Neville is a professor at the school and he doesn’t even get a line. NOT ONE LINE!

May I be super nitpicky for a moment? Why is there still even a Slytherin house? Every single bad wizard or witch came out of Slytherin. During the Battle of Hogwarts, the entire house was sent away because they couldn’t be trusted. Voldemort was the heir of Slytherin! Just sort people in three houses and be done with it. Get rid of the common room and turn it into a pool. Or rename it and try to give it a new reputation. But the whole concept of the (stupidly named) Potter child being put into the (stupidly) still existing Slythering is, let’s be crystal clear, stupid.

Also, my daughter wanted to know if Albus and Scorpius were gay. Um, maybe? Or not? There was definitely subtext, but not any plain text, so I said I wasn’t sure, but for now they are just really good friends.  

I hope now that Rowling has gotten the Potter universe out of her system for good and can move on to make good art that focuses on different mediums. While her Robert Galbraith books aren’t perfect, I am looking forward to the next one and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them looks like a lot of fun. Until then, I hope that she leaves well enough alone.