Saturday, May 30, 2009

I'll Believe Anything Except Reality

Recently, I saw the latest film adaptation of the Jules Verne classic, Journey to the Center of the Earth, starring Brendan Fraser. While it didn’t blow me away, I also didn’t feel it was an hour and a half wasted. It was a vast improvement over a made-for-TV version I saw many years ago, that reeked of “pilot for a TV series that was never picked up” and stole two hours of my life I’ll never get back.

WARNING: Movie spoilers ahead, in case you haven’t seen it but it’s your lifelong dream to one day do so.

While I know the whole “Hollow Earth” idea is just a lot of hooey, I still like the idea of a world within a world. I thought it rather cool that they went in by way of Iceland, and came out via Italy. I didn’t question the speed and ease of their long descent, whether T-rex skulls are seaworthy, or if there should have been issues with gravity once they arrived at earth’s center. I was willing to suspend disbelief and go along with the giant fossilized mushrooms, the flat rocks floating in mid-air like an asteroid field, and the glow-in-the-dark birds sent to help the humans in Disneyesque fashion. And what movie about a lost world within our own real world is complete without the usual rampaging dinosaurs?

I was content to swallow every bite of this fantastic buffet of make-believe, except for one little scene in which they stretched things too far even for my wild imagination: Brendan and his leading lady get thrown out of a runaway mine cart and land flat on their backs—only to stand up, dust themselves off, and walk away.

It was one of those moments where I had to shout at the TV, “Oh, come on!” They should have been killed, or at the very least spent the rest of the movie in body casts and traction.

I have a similar reaction to the 2005 version of
King Kong. I love that movie. I could believe the idea of a remote island in the farthest reaches of the South Seas, where a tiny civilization of people were forced to build a seaside fortress to protect themselves from the giant predatory beasts roaming the rest of the island. I was sold on the notion of the giant ape, the giant mosquitoes, the giant centipedes, the giant everything. I was willing to overlook the men’s superhuman ability to dodge and outrun the stampeding dinosaurs while toting heavy photographic equipment, though I would’ve just ducked into the nearest nook or cranny and let the beasts pass.

Yes, movie fans, I happily gulped it down, every outrageous morsel, till they returned to New York and Kong got to enjoy a playful, heartwarming few moments sliding around an ice-covered pond with Naomi Watts.

This is Mr. Lucky’s least favorite part of the movie. “Oh, come on!” he yells. “Do you know how thick that ice would have to be—and how deep that pond would have to be for ice that thick—to hold the weight of that ape?”

He does have a point. The ice never so much as cracked beneath the weight of the giant ape. Yet a single volley from an army tank blew it to splinters, and Kong was off and running to the Empire State Building, blonde girl literally in hand.

And that’s where I usually get pulled out of the story. Shouldn’t it be so windy at the top of the Empire State Building, that she can barely stand up? And since it is made quite obvious to the viewer that they’re in New York in the dead of winter, one can only imagine the wind chill factor: Shouldn’t she be freezing to death in that skimpy, sleeveless white gown?

I try to explain that away by assuring myself it must be very warm and cozy clenched inside Kong’s fist. But what about when he puts her down to bat at the planes? Or when he finally falls?

Why am I so willing to accept the more fantastic elements of a story, while yelling, “Oh, come on!” at the more mundane, every day elements—the situations I’m more likely to experience than fleeing dinosaurs or falling almost four thousand miles down a cave in three minutes while carrying on a conversation with my fellow fallers?

One final thought on Journey: As I watched it, I found myself contemplating the idea that Lewis Carroll and Jules Verne were two different writers with two different voices, who each wrote a story with the same basic premise: A human ventures down a hole to find a completely different world.

It must have been those giant mushrooms.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jasmine, Bees, and a Butterfly

After some much needed rain every day for the past week, my jasmine tree has exploded with blossoms and buzzing bees dancing all around it:

And because of all the rain, the grass is growing and can't be mowed till everything dries out somewhat. But oh, our whole back yard is perfumed with jasmine and it smells wonderful!

In addition to the bees, yesterday I saw what looked like a huge monarch butterfly fluttering near the tree, which made me think of Fiona. A huge fan of The Simpsons, one of her favorite episodes was where Bart told Lisa that he believed when you die, you get to come back as whatever you want. And Bart planned to come back as a butterfly.

When Lisa asked why, he replied, "Because no one ever suspects the butterfly."

Fiona always cracked up at that. And now, every time a butterfly crosses my path, I wonder . . .

Friday, May 22, 2009

Some Unhappy Faces in the Cereal Bowl This Morning

But at least no one appears to be screaming bloody murder.

If only you guys would come out of the bag looking like Elvis or Angelina or even the Virgin Mary, I could sell you on eBay, make a few bucks, and maybe get my 15 minutes on the local news.

Until then, you're still just Bear food.

Monday, May 18, 2009

About That New Washer

Our old washing machine, almost ten years old and the cheapest we could afford at time of purchase, was starting to act up. Or rather, it was stopping, which required no acting whatsoever.

I would open the lid, thinking the load I’d started over an hour earlier was done, only to find the clothes still soaking in water. I closed the lid; it did not restart. I kicked and pounded it, loudly uttering the standard chant of four-letter, one-syllable words. Another lift and drop of the lid, another good fist-pounding, another proclamation of eternal condemnation, and the washer would grudgingly resume its cycle.

Changing cycles did not solve the problem, and soon I worried that one day the machine would simply die in the middle of a soak. I told Mr. Lucky we needed to do something before that happened and we’d have to find a Laundromat and start dedicating our lives to hoarding quarters.

I don’t even know where the nearest Laundromat is. I’ve heard they’re not the way they used to be, all hot and noisy and full of screaming kids and suspiciously shady characters; that nowadays some are just like Chuck E. Cheese. But with my luck, the nearest one is still the old-fashioned kind “where a laundress can be a laundress.”

’Twas not I, but Mr. Lucky who decided it would be cheaper to buy a new washer than to have the old one repaired. I coveted the front-loading type, if only because it didn’t have that annoying, aptly-named agitator. At least once a month we have to buy a new waterproof mattress pad for Baby Bear’s bed, because they get chewed up by the agitator. When loading the old washer, I had to put larger pieces in the bottom, saving smaller items for the top, lest they get trapped beneath the agitator, or in the case of bras, twisted around it. In fact, there’s nothing that agitates me more than trying to pull a single bra out of the washing machine, only to find one of the straps is tightly wound around the rest of the load.

Since Mr. Lucky also wanted a front-loader, we got one. I would have liked a matching dryer, too—not just on general principle, but because most of the time I have to run the old one through two cycles just to get the clothes dry. (And I do too clean out the lint trap every time.)

But I love my new washer, though it’s taken some getting used to. For one thing, unlike its predecessor, it makes almost no noise, so I find myself going into the laundry room every few minutes to reassure myself it’s still running. I don’t think it would soothe a colicky baby!

And in an odd twist, since the new washer was set up, the dryer has started working more efficiently again. I haven’t had to run double-cycles to get loads completely dry. Apparently there’d been a kink in the giant silver hose behind it all this time, and it became unkinked when Mr. Lucky shifted everything around to install the new washer.

That could have been a serious fire hazard.

I did have one reservation about a front-loading model: It’s—well—front-loading. Meaning a certain Bear might sneak into the laundry room during the rinse cycle, open the door, and presto! Indoor flash flood!

But a very smart washing machine designer/engineer, who obviously has small children and deserves a Nobel Prize, equipped it with a child safety lock!

Now why can’t they do that with refrigerators?
Or even ovens?

Friday, May 15, 2009

In His Own Words: Mr. Lucky Has to Buy a New Washing Machine

I bought a new (sigh) washing machine the other day at the behest of my loving wife . . . $600.00 for one of those fancy frontloading models! Why can’t she just be happy with a scrub board and an old bucket like my mama used? But NO! She needs a fancy state-of-the-art super deluxe cleaning machine.

I personally think the money could have been better spent on something that, in my opinion, is of greater importance . . . you know ... an LCD widescreen TV perhaps, maybe a set of professional harmonicas . . . I have always wanted to buy a motorcycle, to be an “Easy Rider” driving the American backroads with the wind blowing through my long flowing locks . . . any of these I would make better use of than a washer.

But alas, my wife demands that I wear clean clothes. That is when I actually put them in the hamper instead of the many little piles I have placed strategically around the house, guaranteeing that at least once a day she will shout, “I don’t wash clothes UNLESS they are in the hamper!” Or that other classic: “I am NOT your mother!” Of course I have, in the past, tried to wash them myself, but I was quickly chided for “doing it wrong.” What do I care if the darks and lights get combined, or whether my pockets get emptied . . . as long as they are cleaned. And yes, I know it’s a bit silly to wash just one shirt by itself . . . but I didn’t want any lint or dog hair on it from her clothes.

Well, next on Her list is a new dishwasher. I’m happy with our current method, piling the dirty dishes on the floor and letting the dogs lick them clean . . . aren’t dogs’ mouths the cleanest on the planet? . . . anyway that’s what my mama told me.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Looky What I Got for Mother's Day!

Three peachy-pink roses and three little bears--brown for my two sons and white for my daughter--each bearing three heart-shaped boxes containing three heart-shaped candies that say "#1 Mom."
I love my bear cubs . . . and their Papa Bear. He's just right.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Even When the Moon Isn't Full . . .

Baby Bear has been busy this week. Among his latest and most notable achievements/atrocities:

The Flying Toybox: Lately he’s taken to emptying his toybox, one of those all-purpose heavy-duty plastic storage containers. Then he lies on his bed and flips the box around on his feet, occasionally kicking it across the room. Object: To scare the bejabbers out of the dogs and the parental units every time the box slams into the wall with a thunderous bang. Bonus for knocking something over and breaking it. We believe this is why new dents are suddenly showing up in his bedroom wall so close to the ceiling. Though he’s getting there, he’s still not quite tall or long-legged enough to bang his head or kick his feet that high.

Ceiling Fan Tetherball: He loves to play a form of tetherball with the pull chains on ceiling fans. Object: To get the pull chain tangled every which way around the three light fixtures below the fan and the screws that hold them in place. Bonus for throwing the pull chain over the fan blades, causing it to get wound around the motor housing.

This particular chain is the one that turns the lights on and off. Of course he had to score his Bonus after dark, and of course the lights were off, so I couldn’t turn them on to see what I was doing. And of course he had to do it while Mr. Lucky was at work.

Usually I have to get out a foot high stepping stool to untangle the pull chain from the lights. But for the Bonus round, not only did I have to go out to the garage to get the stepladder, but I had move his bed and shovel all those toys he dumped out of the way to better reach the area above the fan blades, where the chain was tightly wound. Did I mention it was dark, with the only available light coming from the hallway?

I don’t know how long I was perched up there, turning the blades one way and then the other, occasionally having to step down and move the ladder to see what was happening to the chain on the other side (in near darkness), but eventually I managed to break the chain, and now all that remains is a two-inch pull.

Which means anytime I want to turn off his lights but leave his fan running (usually at night), I have to break out the stepping stool to do it.

When we bought this house, we figured the 10 foot ceilings would be nice to have because we’re all so tall. At least I thought we were.

The School Toilet: He broke the toilet seat in his classroom. I don’t know if we’re going to get a bill for this, but I only hope the school doesn’t buy their toilet seats from the same source as the Defense Department.

The Home Toilet: I find puddles and wet footprints all over the house, yet I don’t hear any water running in his bathroom, which is right next door to my office. Then, just last night, I caught him in flagrante delicto, dipping his stocking foot into the toilet bowl.

If he’s dipping anything else in there, I’d rather not know.