19 March 2014

Books and Movies, and Movies and Books, and People Too.

Last month, the girl's school had a book fair. Now that she's in middle school, it's a kid only event; parents don't get to come and supervise the picking of the books. We sent her off with $20 in her pocket* and she came home with two books - something forgettable a friend had liked, and The Fault in Our Stars. I'd read TFIOS last year, intrigued by the hype, and found it extraordinarily moving. I filed it away in my head thinking it would be a good book for her to read - in a few years. I asked her why she bought it. "Well, I saw the movie trailer, and then when I saw the book on the shelf, I thought I should read it, before the movie comes out." And read it she did. She plowed right through, and turned around and read it again immediately after, ditching the book jacket at some point, because it got in the way.

Her verdict? "Best book ever."

One day last week, she told me she wanted to see The Hunger Games, the first movie, not the new one. Every time she'd asked before, I'd told her she was too young. This time I told her she could watch the movie, but only if she read the book first. "Please can we go to the library right now?" Really, how could we say no? Your kid wants to go to the library, it's still open, you go. That was a Friday night - she'd finished it by Monday, and watched the movie when she was done with her homework on Monday. "What'd you think?" I asked. She told me that the book was better; "they left so much out"!

Me, I'm kind of indifferent to movies**. I generally don't like movies that get made from books because they leave so much out, and because they screw with my internal visualization of what the people and places look like. A good movie, to me, is one that transcends reality, with a visual sense all its own, but possessing a firm aura of plausibility. In general, I'd rather read a book. But over the weekend, with the girl at a slumber party and with a couple of passes to the local art house burning a hole in my pocket, we went to see The Grand Budapest Hotel. It's just about perfect. Ironic, lovely, odd, off-kilter, clever, and maybe quixotic too. There's no pretense to reality, it's full of throw away moments, and it's just delicious, complete in and of itself, no external reference needed or wanted, a world invented, genuine in its artifice. "A pastiche", said its director, Wes Anderson, full of pastry.

For the most part, books - fiction, that is - make their own worlds, and especially their own people. Recently, though, I went to a talk/interview/live on stage thing, with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talking with Damian Woetzel. She was on a book tour, talking about her book, Americanah, which recently came out in paperback (and last week won the National Book Critics Circle Award). I was only about 20% into the book when I saw her in person - and found that, like seeing a movie before you read the book, I couldn't help but put her - body, hair, speaking voice - right back into the book as Ifemelu, the book's main character. Oh, Damian asked her about that, "how much of you is in Ifemelu" and she dissembled, "it's fiction, it's not me, there's plenty of me in Obinze [the male protagonist]". But still - once I'd seen her, I couldn't put her out of my head. Incidentally, it's a great book. When they make the movie, she'll have to play herself, she said ironically***.

I think what it is is that I want everything in its own walled garden. Books are books, and movies are movies, and operas are operas, and let's just leave it at that.

*Tell me you're not going to be singing Thrift Shop for the rest of the day.

**Gratuitous aside: I thought Gravity was an enormous steaming pile of horse shit. Boring, pointless, implausible, and tedious. And the best book into movie ever? A Room With A View. They didn't leave anything out.

***Actually, Adiche has hinted that Lupita Nyong’o is going to play her in the (inevitable) movie.

18 March 2014

The Kitten PPT

I can't not. I have to.

The day after the rabbit PowerPoint, we got a kitten PowerPoint. Here it is.

Yes, they teach PowerPoint in school. Fifth grade, people, this is fifth grade.

And, really? I never dropped a kitten on its head. When we were interviewing our current cats, at the local SPCA almost three years ago, one of them scrambled onto my shoulder and did a swan dive onto the floor.

Maybe I should just buy another plastic horse and hope for the best.

16 March 2014

Miscreants in Flowered Shoes

Oh hi.

Every day, I write posts in my head. Long involved complicated chatty erudite posts. But then I never find the time to apply fingers to keyboard. Oy. But here are some delightful or whimsical or heart-catching things that have happened recently:

Yesterday morning, the ten year old girl used 'miscreant' in a sentence, properly (regarding the cats), and correctly pronounced.

The same child also has been on a campaign to get another mammal in residence in our house. She started by trying to talk us into adopting a four year old. Not an infant, no, a four year old.

After we beat that one back - we're too old, our house is too small, we like having one child, you don't want to have to share your room - she moved on, telling me she'd accept a rodent. The rodent lago-morphed into a rabbit, the argument moved onto Powerpoint.

This conversation is far from over. It's shifted gears yet again, to either a new kitten (which would be a third cat) or a plastic horse (Breyer, what you covet when you outgrow American Girl dolls). Or both. Part of the problems is that our cats are faulty. They are not lap cats, they do not purr. They do not care if you are home, they barely deign to be in the same room with you. Oh well. It's not like we're going to drop them off the town dock*, which is what my mother threatened to do to the cat that peed on her toaster once upon a time.

We continue to try to teach the girl to cook. Last week, she made Petits Pains Au Chocolat out of Rozanne Gold's Kids Cook 1-2-3, which, by the way, is a great book for your learning-to-cook kids. Okay, they used frozen puff pastry, and Daddy had to help her whack the chocolate up into the right sized pieces, but they were mighty tasty and she was awfully pleased with herself.

She can also scramble an egg, make hot chocolate, and drop the batter into the boiling water for the spaetzle.

Not too shabby for ten, I think.

In an effort to get her to be a better human being, I took her to help out at a soup kitchen. She, naturally, grumbled about being torn away from her plastic horses and electronic devices, but I won, because I am bigger than she is, not to mention the whole thing of being her mother. It was eye-opening, for both of us. For her, because she'd never seen 50 men (and one woman) eating free food in a church basement because they had nowhere else to eat. For me, because I got to watch her rise to the occasion, don some latex gloves, spoon peas and carrots onto plates, and haul full trays of food out into the dining room, cheerfully. When we left, there was a bicycle chained to a sign post, out front. It was pretty beat up, but rather joyfully so - decked out in red and yellow and green tape. "Mommy, do you think one of the men in there rode his bicycle here, in the snow?" Yup. I think so.

Over our own dinner, later that day, we talked about what we'd done. She hunched her shoulders and leaned over her plate. "One of the men was sitting like this. What was he doing?" "Well, what do you think?" "He could be afraid that someone might want to take his food from him, so he's protecting it. Or maybe he's shy and doesn't want to talk to anyone."

Music lessons, and practicing the viola, have been a constant struggle. We'd signed her up for private lessons last summer, at her request. But it's devolved into "I hate the viola" and "I want to be in chorus" and I think the problem was compounded by the fact that the viola teacher was something of a wet blanket. Finally, after lots of tears, I agreed to let her stop the private lessons, on the condition that she continue to be in the school orchestra, and that she do the mid-winter recital. I also told her she could wear whatever she wanted to wear to the recital, and made the mistake of showing her Mark Wood's website. [Mark Wood plays the electric violin; he was kind of the black sheep outlier of a very musical family in my hometown. His aunt was my flute teacher.] A little product to spike up her hair, and she cleans up fierce.

The skirt's rather too short, but the shoes kill me. They're a pair of shoes, from the fifties or sixties, that lived in the dress-up box when I was a kid. My sister thinks they weren't our mother's, but that they'd come from a friend of hers. They're pointy, black fabric with big pink roses, and spiky not too high heels. And right this very minute, they fit my ten year old perfectly. Oh, she can't walk more than fifty feet in them, but she played her viola recital in them and looked swell.

I thought she sounded great too, but she still says she hates the viola.

*We don't even have a town dock.