Sunday, December 3, 2017

Favorite Films of Mine take the Bechdel Test*

Amadeus—fails (I’m sure Constanza spoke with her mother—just not on screen.)
The Princess Bride—fails
Bram Stoker’s Dracula—passes (Lucy talks to Mina about changing (“I can hear mice in the attic stomping like elephants.”))
Velvet Underground—fails
Dead Man Walking—passes (Sister Helen speaks with fellow sisters.)
Steel Magnolias—passes
The Little Mermaid—nope, but then again Arial can’t speak for most of the movie
The Downfall—passes
Le Comte De Monte Cristo—fails
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie—passes
The Great Escape—fails. But it takes place in a POW camp, so maybe it doesn’t count?
Spirited Away—passes
Howl’s Moving Castle—passes (Sophie complains to the Witch of the Waste discuss the curse the Witch has put on Sophie)
Das Boot—Are you high?
Les Adieux à la Reine—passes
The Shadow of the Vampire—fails
All of the Lord of the Rings movies—fail, but that’s Tolkein’s fault
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Tim Burton version)—passes so long as we count girls as women.
Corpse Bride—passes
The Nightmare Before Christmas—on the fence—do two witches singing together count as “speaking with each other?”
Batman (Tim Burton)--dear me, no
Night Watch—fails
The Seventh Seal—Fails
Topsy Tury—passes. (The Three Little Maids speak with the costume designer.)
Antonia’s Line—passes
9 to 5--passes
Never-ending Story—fails
Lars and the Real Girl—passes
The Imitation Game—passes
The Wizard of Oz—passes
Dead Poet’s Society—why do you even ask?
Scrooge--passes (discussion of bed curtains)

Alien, as we all know,  passes


Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Green and White Dress

My Granny* made me a green and white dress when I was a toddler. I remember the dress well, but not because I remember wearing it. I remember it because there were pictures of me wearing it, and because my younger sister wore  it (sadly I don't have a picture of her in the dress--although I'm sure there's one somewhere in my parents' house.)

 Until a few years ago I didn't know that Granny had made that dress. I was surprised to hear this--I knew that Granny had been a knitter (there were afghans and ski sweaters as evidence). However sewing a dress is another matter--one that was a surprise to me.

Most children's clothes take a beating, but "dressy" clothes for kids who are old enough not yak/pee on them don't get much wear. Perhaps this is why this dress is still in circulation. In any case, here is me wearing the dress at about age 2 (with my mom and my great aunt Lilian)..

Here is my niece wearing the dress at age 5(?) in any case, older than I was, wearing the same dress.

Finally, here is my cousin's daughter wearing the green and white dress in 2016 that my Granny made in 1977.

*My dad's mother

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Pictures I have taken

Top of Lynch Park

Yesterday my boyfriend and I took our two dogs to Lynch Park. It was a beautiful fall day and because there were two of us* I could take pictures of the fall day** and my dogs and him. “Please don’t take pictures of me,” he asked.  I replied that I was taking pictures of the dogs and he was just there to hold the leashes, but of course that was not entirely true. After all, it’s not just the dogs I love, and so it’s not just the dogs I want to take pictures of.

In my opinion, it is almost impossible to take a bad picture on a beach on the North Shore. This is even more true in the fall. Just point your phone and click and you will have something worth looking at. It may not observe the rule of thirds, but so what—it will still be a picture of something beautiful. This—combined with the advent of phones that are cameras connected to the Internet—is why I started to take pictures of everything as soon as I moved to the North Shore.

St. Peter's Festival in Glosta

I have countless pictures of friends walking on the beach in the fall of 2009, of other people’s dogs, of Bass Rocks, my niece and nephews and swans swimming in the river in Waltham***.  Sometimes I took these pictures because there was something I wanted to capture or something that made me happy and sometimes just to remind myself of where I had been and what I had done.

These days I mostly take pictures of my dogs and those pictures are mostly in the house, with them at rest. This is because it is pretty much impossible to take pictures of anything while I’m walking them and I can’t imagine taking a walk for pleasure around Beverly without them. So my photos are much less interesting, but I still have the urge to take a picture when I see something I love—even if that thing is Daisy, curled up on her dog bed and I already have 500 similar pictures.

Mon vrai nom est "Elizabeth Taylor.

I have often wished there was someone else around me with my photo-journalistic impulse so that in addition to 1,000 pictures of my dogs with my boyfriend, there would also be 1,000 pictures of my dogs with me. This is not because I’m vain—it’s because I love them and I want to record that they love me.

At the same time, even though it makes me sad, I can understand my boyfriend not wanting me to take his picture or not wanting me to share his picture on social media because he doesn’t like the way he looks right now. I look at the few pictures that are taken of me and think, “I look old” or “I look fat” or “is this what other people see when they look at me?” This doesn’t make me wish for fewer pictures of me however—it makes me wish there were more. If I saw myself more often as others see me, it would be less of a shock.

I had a dream early this morning. In it I was standing outside of a house that had just been intentionally collapsed. Even though I knew it was going to be collapsed, I had somehow failed to retrieve my belongings from it before the collapse. Fortunately, they were all in the attic. I dug through the top of the roof to find broken panes of glass and broken frames with layers of ripped pictures****.  There were pictures from college and pictures of my sister and me as kids. Somehow I knew (because this was a dream) that there were also all the albums of photos of us as kids in there somewhere. But I couldn’t find them, no matter how I dug.

As I woke up I thought about how those pictures would one day be found by some future archeologist who would get to watch my transition from object in the earlier pictures to watcher in the later ones—starting with the imperfect attempts to capture my adolescent point of view.

The only picture I took as a kid that I could find on my computer

*As opposed to just me, trying to keep control of 130 pounds of dogs of dog-mass pulling in two separate directions

** I was not the only person taking pictures that afternoon. There were about four other photo shoots going on (one bridal, one student taking fashion shots, one family taking pictures for their Midwestern brag letter and one engagement shoot.) I had never been somewhere and seen so many more people intent on having their picture taken having fun than of actually having it.

***Picture taken when I had to go there to interview employees in a restaurant for my first big grad school paper.

****In my family picture frames are reused and the previous pictures left in them, so if you take out the back, you can see more pictures behind the one currently behind the glass

Monday, July 21, 2014

Facebook Activism—or Why I Liked Your Post But Didn’t Share It

Anymore, I see Facebook as a microcosm of the Internet—which ever stories are big on or Reddit inevitably show up on Facebook. Some of this is because I follow several pages. Some of it is because friends and relatives will share stories about what happened in Gaza in the past week or a thoughtful editorial about the Hobby Lobby decision.

And sometimes what people share is smart-asses political commentary or “turn your status this color because” links. Most of my friends share my political sensibilities, so I often like what they post—for real and with mouse-clicks. But in general I try not to re-share most of it even if I agree with it. Why is that? For one, I don’t like having arguments on the Internet. I don’t like having arguments, period. I’ve said in the past that I’m only willing to argue if someone is paying me to do it. For another thing, I think that discourse online gets, for lack of a better phrase, flattened. There are no nuances; no tone and no verbal or facial cues that would let you see how the author of a comment felt (angry, sarcastic, unsure.) As a result, everyone sounds more strident online than they would in real life.

This is not new—in 2000 I got a flaming e-mail from my boss because I asked the staff what kind of sodas I should order without consulting her first. If she’d delivered the same rebuke in person it wouldn’t have stung nearly as much. Because e-mail has no tone, some things come out sharper than you intend. The same thing is true of Facebook or Reddit posts. 

The other main reason I don’t often repost the political stuff is that I believe that with a few exceptions*, posting something on Facebook doesn’t actually entail doing something to further the cause you want to support. It makes you feel good—especially when your friends  like it. But it doesn’t make Net Neutrality any more likely and it doesn’t convince your Republican relatives of the error of their ways. I am skeptical to what extent people can change each other’s minds about these things, but I’ve seen it happen, so I know it’s possible. But I’m pretty sure it took more than a snarky Facebook post to change my conservative, Catholic, Ex-Army Uncle’s mind about gay marriage (for example.)

So, this may be a little extreme, but I don’t generally repost political memes, because that would make me feel I was actually doing something about the problem/issue in question and I’m not. Yes, I suppose you could argue that I was raising awareness of an issue, but if said issue is all over the Internet and 3 people from my group of friends have shared it, what am I adding to the conversation? Do I really think my conservative cousins from GA are suddenly going to start caring about Net Neutrality because I posted it?

So while I agree that Hobby Lobby is hypocritical for investing in birth control while denying it to their staff, and that the number of shootings we’ve had since the school shooting in Connecticut is disgusting, and that Israel should stop killing people in Gaza,  and states should stop making it so hard to get an abortion if you need one, I’m not going to repost. We all know the same people—so I’m not adding to the discussion.

*share this to show you stand with rape victim x/Trayvon Martin are exceptions in my mind.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Reading certain books in public invites commentary from strangers. Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon is one such book. Stephen King’s It is another.

I have been wanting to revisit It since my mom sent me a copy of 11/22/63—Stephen King’s novel about a man who goes back in time to try to stop the Kennedy assassination--for my birthday last year. Thiswas the first Stephen King book I’d read in at least a decade and I enjoyed it immensely. I had been looking for It in bookstores for a few months. I found it last weekend in a book pile (the kind you leave in front of your house hoping people will take them) in front of a house on Lothrop Street while I was walking my dog. It wasn’t a first edition, but it was a hardcover with the original cover—a picture of a drain with a claw coming out of it.

In 1989 or 1992 this was not a book that made people feel they had to talk to you on the subway. Apparently it is in 2014. The lady on the commuter rail train said it gave her nightmares. The guy in the convenience store said the clown scared him to death. The guy eating breakfast next to me at the Ugly Mug in Salem said they’re making another movie about it. All of them loved it. But no one had anything interesting to say (with the possible exception of the convenience store guy. He read it in the 3rd grade--what parent lets their kid read It in the 3rd grade?)

When I was in high school I ate everything Steven King had written. It I remember the transition from reading Lois Duncan and other YA supernatural authors to Stephen King. I remember being in 7th grade or so and asking a bookish boy if he read Stephen King’s books. He said that he loved them and he recommended IT—specifically because of Pennywise the clown. Someone had finally written a book about how creepy clowns are and he recommended I read it.

I tried to read Firestarter in 8th grade but couldn’t get through it. Not because of the length—for a Stephen King book it’s pretty short—less than an inch thick. I was bothered by the, for lack of a better phrase “adult content.” I don’t even remember if there’s any sex in the book, but it made me uncomfortable. While I was a bright kid with a big vocabulary, I was a late-bloomer and I was not very well socialized—so I found the book uncomfortable.

A year or so later, I found the Eyes of The Dragon in the Stuyvesant High School Library. Even though I hadn’t cared for the first Stephen King book I read, I decided to try this one. I loved it. I proceeded to read every other Stephen King book in the school library. The copy of the Shining I borrowed was missing 50 pages in the middle of it. I didn’t discover this until I got home for the night—I was incredibly frustrated. I ran to the library the first thing the next morning and got another copy—verifying that all it’s pages were there before checking it out.

Eventually I’d read all of the Stephen King in the library and I had to start buying my own books—by saving my allowance or using baby-sitting money. Salem’s Lot was my favorite for a long time because it was about vampires. I remember when I brought to Tommyknockers home my Dad joked that I only read “cubic books” these days. My parents were paying my younger sister for every book she read. I asked why they wouldn’t pay me for every book I read. My mom, eyeing the green and black cover of the Tommyknockers said they were considering charging me for every book I read.

It’s not like I didn’t read other books—my dad went through an Ivan Doig phase, so I went through an Ivan Doig phase. When we read Beowulf in school, my parents suggested I read Grendel—so I went through a John Gardner phase.* My love of Stephen King’s prose continued into my 20s. My parents and friends, while not understanding my interest, acknowledged it by getting me Stephen King books as presents. When the Wizard and Glass came out I was working at the Strand. I begged the new fiction guy, who went to the main store once a week, to pull me a copy of it—maybe an ARC copy. He succeeded. I read it, sent it to my boyfriend at the time and demanded he send it back when done so that my sister could read it too.

I tried other adult writers of the horror genre—none were as good. All their monsters always came down to the government or space aliens. That’s boring. I didn’t allow myself to discover SciFi and Fantasy until I was in college, but the horror genre appealed to me not just because it was scary, but because it suggested that there “are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy”

But there is more appeal to Stephen King than his ability to scare you shitless, or his prolific imagination. He has a very good voice, in my opinion. He also does a good job of portraying kids. In my opinion, he may be the Charles Dickens of the 20th century—a popular writer, dismissed for being popular who actually writes well enough that people want to read him after he’s no longer around. I’ll never know—I don’t expect to live to 120 but I’ve read a lot of books and I still think he’s a good story teller

I gave Stephen King up in my 20s. I don’t remember if this is before or after I actually met the man. I gave him up because of Dreamcatcher. I bought the book dutifully, but the story seemed recycled—bits of It mixed up with the Tommyknockers. I thought he’d finally run out of ideas, so I stopped buying his books.

Now, I’m revisiting them. I picked up Dr. Sleep (sequel to the Shining) and found it interesting. I re-read the Shining and found it as compelling as ever. But not so much It. The book I re-read about 12 times as a teenager seems flat to me now. There are still good parts to it, but it no longer seems like The Best Book Ever.

*This, incidentally was how I discovered I don’t like short stories. My dad gave me a book of John Gardner short stories and I read the whole book in a day. At the end of it, I discovered I could only remember the first one and the last one—which seemed unfair as I’d liked them all. It was like I’d gotten a Whitman’s sampler and eaten the whole box in one sitting.