2011 Best Picture Showcase: The Setup

As ultimately pointless as it may be, I’ve always liked watching the Oscars with a well-formed opinion on who and what is the worthiest of awards. Back in the day, movie-going was one of our main hobbies/social endeavors, so chances are we saw most everything that was being nominated. It may have been a challenge to catch the art films, or anything that was in that window between theatrical release and DVD, but we made do with what we knew. As the years have passed, our desire (and ability) to spend hard earned money at the box office has dwindled. I’ve missed “knowing what I’m talking about,” though, even if I’m watching the awards show on my own. (For all his love of movies, Ryan can’t stomach award shows)

A few years ago, a local movie theatre chain made seeing the bulk of the Oscar Nominated films even easier by offering a marathon viewing the Saturday before the Oscars of all the Best Picture nominees. You wouldn’t catch *everything* that was nominated for the main categories this way, but you’d get a pretty crisp picture. I went in 2009, fortunately during a year of great films and got to see movies I never expected to see or enjoy.

I really enjoyed the experience, but I skipped 2010.

Last year, they upped the nominees to 10(!) and AMC spread the event over two consecutive Saturdays. Not only is that a huge commitment, but for the most part, I’d already seen everything that season I’d wanted to see. There were a few that I was curious about, but there was so much that I actively did not want to see. Had they put the right movie on the right day, I may have gone, but it just didn’t feel worth it.

2011 is different. Although I did manage to catch 2 of the films when they were originally in the theatres, this is a list chock-full of potential. There are a couple I probably wouldn’t get around to seeing and one I’m flat out dreading (more on that later), But it’s a good list and there’s something deliciously decadent about turning off the world for 11 hours at a time and just enjoying oneself. When I asked R if he wanted to try and wrangle up some epic babysitting and attempt the two-Saturday affair, he declined. He also practically insisted I go by myself, because he knows how much I dig this sort of thing.

So I’m going!

I’m taking you with me, dear reader. I’ve never been to the movies by myself and doing it 5 times in a single day sort of freaks me out. To give me the allusion that this is serving some sort of “purpose” (and to keep any would-be chatty strangers at arms length), I’ll be blogging the experience. Not during the movies, mind you. That’s horridly rude. There are breaks, however, and in them you will get some raw impressions of both the movies and my experience in general. I”m not quite sure how that’s going to happen, but it will be either in a updating post on the blog, or in the comment stream of said blog post. WordPress, my iPhone and I still have some kinks to work out on that score.

Watch this space (and twitter), and as long as my phone battery holds up, we should have lots to talk about!

closed for the season

It all started with a someecard my husband jokingly set me. Not only did it serve to remind me that Lent follows Mardi Gras (something I seem to forget year to year), but it got me thinking: what would life be like if I gave up the internet?

Before I could get very far in my musings, the voices in my head started howling. One flat out said we couldn’t do it. One immediately started listing all the things we’d be forced to give up. One started getting all worked while trying to determine what “giving up the internet” meant as the list started growing. One started considering where I’d get my news, would I get my news? One needed to be reminded that “giving up the internet” did not mean giving up the computer completely. One needed to be reminded that internet did not mean electricity. One started panicking because it remembered how much time we’d need to spend on the phone to compensate for the lack of online communication. A few started considering all the time we’d have to read books and work on writing, how much more attention we could give Charlotte, but they could barely be heard over the din.

So I made them all shut up and started working on the first problem: what does “giving up the internet for lent” actually mean? Only once that was defined could we really start figuring out if it’s something we wanted to do. So, we did that. Protests about the impracticality of never checking email were considered. The need to occasionally research something while writing/reading was respected. Concerns came in, but so did several benefits.

Once that was done, the arguments switched from “you can’t do that!” to “why would you want to?” I mean, seriously, I’m not going to pretend this is about getting closer to Jesus, for me. It’s about making a bold change and flexing my willpower. Yes, I could just cut back on using the internet if I feel like I’m using too much. “Cut back a bit” just doesn’t have the same ring as “Give it up”, though. The challenge makes it more fun, though, and using Lent means that I can’t say something like “well, I decided it was going to be 30 days, so now I say it’s going to be 15.”

I can’t help but wonder. What will happen on the other side? Will I even bother reactivating my Warcraft account? Will I feel the need to absorb an absurd amount of entertainment industry feeds? What will my brain do with all the hard drive space it had reserved for reading about the latest scandal? Will I twitter as much as I did before? Will this break me of some of my compulsive contributor tendencies, or will I go mad from the self-imposed silence?

At this point, I’m so curious, I can’t not do it. Starting Wednesday, I’m going relatively internet-free until Easter. What does this mean? Something like this:

  • No more than 20 minutes a day for research, bill paying, address lookup etc. (things that support offline pursuits, will result in credit score issues, or are umpossible without calling directory assistance ;)
  • One 20 minute email checking session a day (cutting it off completely is impractical and inconveniences everyone else — not very christian ;)
  • Absolutely no twitter, facebook, rss, flickr, warcraft, etc (archives mean it will all be there when I get back)
  • Using txt messaging as little as possible (ie: not to chat. just to say “I’m on my way to pick you up” etc)
  • Same deal for maps, etc on the iPhone – playing with maps/GPS is favorite car-ride pastime of mine
  • Still allowing self-to-self transfers (like Evernote, since I don’t have to see the rest of the internet to do so. …at least I think I will. Jesus wouldn’t have minded that, right?)
  • Jury’s still out on whether I’m going to let myself blog offline for posting later. I think I’ll just play that one by ear. No not-live blogging, certainly, but maybe a murmur article or two. Something that will still be relevant after the hiatus. And perhaps one single post recording how I feel week by week.

There are some things that I’m giving up that I’d rather not. No blog posts, no murmur-ing, no chatting with my husband and other friends during the day. I’ll have to start watching more television, because I’ll need to get my news someplace. I’m tempted to start making exceptions for certain things, but the minute I try to let one of these things in, it starts feeling less like a challenge or sacrifice. It’s like giving up meat, but still having lion’s choice, …and italian sausage …and my meatloaf …and…

It’s clear my biggest “cheat” in all of this is communicating with others. I know I could take this to the extreme and start using the phone or sending hand-written letters to folks instead of email, but I’m not interested in taking the experiment that far. I may modify the guidelines as the season progresses, but theoretically only to refine them in keeping with the original goal: removing every non-essential internet activity for the 2009 Lenten Season.

There is one small risk in this. As a stay-at-home mom, the internet is my outlet to the world beyond these walls and grownup humans. If I feel like I’m starting to go crazy (and the weather doesn’t let me get out, or I start accosting too many strangers because I need to talk to someone), or any sort of serious “mental claustrophobia” then I’m pulling the plug.

See you Easter Monday!

the ghost of lobster dinners past

1993: as near as i can figure, lobster dinners started christmas of my junior year of high school. the original guests included my parents and me. the menu has changed little since that first meal: lobster, baked potato, and a salad, although the salad dropped off in the early 2000’s because it just got in the way of the lobster, and wine became a more prominent component once i reached legal-ish age. the dinners were designed as a way to welcome in the christmas season by taking a moment to be thankful and grateful as well as serve as a collective “introverted” moment for the immediate family. our extended family (which had grown crazier over the years) would soon be upon us, bringing with them all the stress and drama that turned the three of us into angry little balls of crankiness that we usually “spared” our family from by taking it out on each other. lobster dinner was just us and something to look forward to while we were preparing for anything else.

1998: 1998 was a big year of change for the dinners. the first guest at lobster dinner happened out of necessity. although there was some brief talk of making my new boyfriend sit in the other room while we feasted, he had travelled to dallas with me to visit my family and that seemed rude, even for us. there was much joking about the “outsider” while we ate, but it was clear to everyone that he was a permanent guest. this was also the first and only year that lobster dinner occurred on christmas eve instead of a week or so earlier, thanks to the timing of our visit.

1998 was also the year that the lobsters started growing in size. wanting to impress his guest (although he claimed this was all they had), my father bought slightly larger lobsters. the next year, when it was our turn to host, we didn’t want to “look bad” so we stepped up as well, likely with even larger lobsters. when it became my father’s opportunity again, he stepped up to show off, and so on and so on, until in recent years, one or more of us has been unable to finish our share. a decade later, the lobsters are a full pound larger than the original dinner, and that’s only because once you get over 2.5 pounds, they become hard to purchase and a logistical nightmare to cook (every year we tell the story of that one 5lb lobster my parents had back in the late 70’s).

2006: lobster dinners continued as an annual tradition for almost a decade without much changing except for the venue and the unfortunate animals startled by a confrontation with an angry lobster on their kitchen floor. In truth, there wasn’t much noteworthy about 2006, except in hindsight. The four of us lingered longer on how fortunate and healthy we all were. Although my dad was suffering from some strange pains in his stomach, this was not a particularly note-worthy event. He’d suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and the complications of the harsh treatments for almost 20 years, and was doing better than ever. i remarked that 10 years previous, when he was having heart attacks and the treatments for his RA weren’t doing much besides make him sick, that i hadn’t expected him to see 60 years old. “there’s still time,” my dad said, full of uncharacteristic mirth and optimism. “i don’t turn 61 for another 5 months.”

and because sometimes life is like a ridiculously contrived plot point in a “feel-good” christmas special, that strange pain in his stomach was pancreatic cancer and he died 5 months later. 10 days before his 61st birthday.

2007: lobster dinner added two more guests. the first was our daughter, who was less than 6 weeks old and might have been asleep before the bright red beasts made their way onto our plates. the second was my father-in-law. tragedy hung out for quite a while that year and my mother-in-law passed away as well. it just made sense to open the group up for him as well. i don’t remember much, thanks to the fog of new-parenthood, but i remember breaking a dish and finding it a few days later and generally being in a bad mood. i suppose it was understandable, given all the circumstances.

2008: tonight will be the first dinner back at my mom’s house since my father died. i didn’t really catch the significance of that until a few moments ago. while packing charlotte’s clothes for her over-night visit with grandma, i started telling her about lobster dinner and explaining some of it’s history to her. for a brief moment i couldn’t remember why her grandpa was coming. and then i did. and then suddenly i hated lobster dinner.

lobster dinner 2006 was the last night with my family before Everything Changed. it is the last moment before a wave of harsh anniversaries starts assaulting my family and although the intensity fades around june, it doesn’t really let up until september.

avoiding lobster dinner doesn’t avoid all of that, but there’s a small part of me that really wishes it would.

cold november reign

here’s what’s happening in the next month (in general planning order and including the last week of october):

  • 3+ birthday parties: two dinners, one casino night. (ever wonder why the end of october and the beginning of november is so chock full of birthdays? valentine’s day is appx 38 weeks earlier.)
  • make hella baby food: finger foods are where it’s at, so i need to figure out how to turn squash and sweet potatoes and such into bits of cooked food without being mush and without having to steam and cut up stuff every day. i think cutting and roasting in the oven is where it’s at, but i’ve got to figure out how and do it. soon.
  • planning for charlotte’s birthday: aack! clean the house. finally put up her door-curtain. plan a menu. order food. etc etc.
  • picture time: planning and plotting to get the 3 of us to the photographers before the month gets too far under way. kill the 1 year pictures (ready for party handing out) and the christmas card pic in a single shoot…if we can make it
  • planning for NY trip: because planning, shopping, assembling will be quite time consuming. man needs a suit. we both need winter layers. i don’t want to go to NY looking like i stepped off a farm tractor.
  • VOTE! thank goodness that sample ballot arrived the other day so i can finally start investigating some of the local stuff.
  • charlotte’s birthday: gets it’s own item because it also includes planning
  • toddler transitions: figuring out and beginning all those transitions from baby stuff to toddler stuff. no more formula, “grown up” meals, etc etc.
  • charlotte packing: she may not be going to NY, but she’s still going to need some serious packing for her vaca with her great aunt/uncle
  • 5 day trip to NY: for a wedding + mini-vaca (leaving 3 days after charlotte’s birthday)
  • thanksgiving: complete with 3ish day trip to chicago planning is less of a deal, and fortunately, there’s a whole week after the NY trip to recover and regroup.


i’m going to try and write a 50,000 word novel. i’ve succeeded before, but that was 2006, which was a very different (childless, NY-vacationless) year. my plan of attack is to task and calendar the entire month. i know that the “1800 words a day” plan is not going to work since there are too many days where i won’t have time to write more than 10. i’m going to have to double up and block out some serious time.

fortunately, i still have a week to plot the month, plot the novel, and plot the writing chunks. also, i can stay up late on 10/31 and get some done before midnight. and the plane rides and the airports and the car rides and….

man. i’m exhausted just thinking about it. maybe i’ll take a nap instead.

DC Trip: random powerful sight

while ryan, charlotte, and i were walking back from the lincoln memorial, we stumbled across a scene that surprisingly moved me to tears. at first, we wondered if it might have been staged, but after considering the likely-hood of the random events (high), and confirming with gina, apparently these sorts of things happen all the time.

it started with a limo, a wheel-chair bound veteran in dress uniform, his family, a couple of handlers, and a 2 person camera crew. I fail at wars and timing and determining people’s ages, but i’d say he were probably from the korean war or WWII. i’m not sure what their purpose was, but if i had to guess, it was some sort of documentary or perhaps anniversary celebration. nobody was making a big deal about it, so he must not have been someone “famous.” the group slowly made their way from the limo to the washington memorial. on the way, they were interrupted by 3 marines who were jogging along the mall. one by one the men stopped, bent over the veteran, shook his hand, and thanked him for his service. as they resumed their jog, one of the handlers stopped them and thanked them, saying how much their gesture touched the vet. the marines were as humble with the handler as they were respectful with the vet.

the cynic in me wondered if it was staged, but the amount of randomly jogging marines and other military personnel makes the random occurrence highly plausible. except for the marines, who logically moved with purpose, everyone else who took part in the scene seemed slightly disoriented by the interruption. i then attempted to make sense of it by convincing myself that the amount of conditioning that comes with belonging to the armed forces was the major reason the marines stopped. there were simply trained to. i couldn’t shake the look on one of the marine’s face or the sound of his voice from my mind however, and i finally gave into the feelings i was trying to avoid. i’m still not sure exactly what they were. i think that patriotism, or just a general feeling of pride in the military specifically, is so alien to me that i really didn’t know how to express them or feel them properly. i experienced something similar to when i see or hear something that is overwhelmingly beautiful. it’s a sort of this primal, almost painful, burst of “something” in my chest/throat that causes me to tear up.

as i suspected, being in DC made me wish i was a better student of american history, civics, and current political issues. there was no moment that i felt that more keenly than watching the marines and the veteran in the shadow of the washington monument.