No More Swirlies

menebb

 

So, I’ve got angst.

I can’t go into too many details just yet, but suffice to say that this is real-world, big-time goings-onsesses. This isn’t me being bummed because I watched the scene in the Neverending Story where Artax drowns in the Swamp of Sorrow. Or the scene in Who Framed Roger Rabbit where the cute little cartoon shoe is dipped slowly to its death in the acid bath. Even though both cause me a great deal of anguish.

My deal isn’t life or death, though. My loved ones are all healthy and safe. Brent and I are cool, especially after our big talk where I told him I don’t like it when he pokes his finger in my belly button. For years, I’d just squirm away when it happened, but I finally grabbed his pointed finger just as it was about to enter the button zone and said, “You know what? I don’t like the belly button swirlies. People die from such pokes. And, it’s kind of rude when you smell your finger afterwards.”*

It took a few times of telling him this for the message to sink in, but now my belly button is blissfully free of Brent’s finger. My home life is happy. Brent and I hang out on the loveseat with our 50 billion dogs and life can’t get much better in those moments.

A wise cross stitch pattern once asked God to grant it the serenity to change some stuff and accept other things and so on…and you can see where I am headed with this. There are certain aspects of my life that I have no control over. I will always be the best Dr. Mario player in the world. I can’t help that. I also must accept that my nose is like a leaky faucet when it comes to snot, which I believe is a consequence of a youthful phase I went through where I was constantly making myself sneeze.

I think I’m going to start cross stitching. http://shop.subversivecrossstitch.com/collections/all-kits/products/bitch-please

As for the things that I have the power to change – well, I don’t always follow through. Like my hair, which is is looking like the crazy-hair wigs worn by movie actors who are playing cavemen. I know it looks all smooth in the picture I posted, but that was awhile ago. Of course, I can change my hair. But with easy tasks like that, I just think, “Eh, tomorrow I’ll make an appointment.” And maybe that is what I do with everything. Just put it off until it either goes away or becomes enough of a problem that action must be taken.

I think the source of my angst – my angst hole, if you will – is all about inaction and, I don’t know, not being all that accountable or proactive. This is not the internal ache of depression; instead I feel alert and ready to make stuff happen.

Maybe in the near future I will be able to be more specific, but for now you are welcome to speculate. I’ll give you a hint. Rocky Horror Picture Show. Just kidding, that’s not a real hint.

*Footnote time, or else Brent is going to be like, “Why didn’t you tell them about some of your annoying habits that vex me?” And I would respond, “Because this isn’t about your angst, Brent, it’s about mine.” But I’ll throw Future Brent a bone here. A couple weekends ago he told me that he feels like he is always cleaning up after me. My stellar comeback was, “No way because I’m always cleaning up after you!”  He asked me to give him some examples and I couldn’t think of any but I knew there were at least 7. I set forth cleaning the lower level of the house in an indignant manner. I figured this would jog my memory and provide me with plenty of examples of his systematic slovenliness. Unfortunately for me, the list I came up with was paltry. I had to stretch yogurt cups and yogurt lids into two entries. Same with coffee beans and coffee stains. This was not the comeuppance I had hoped to deliver. The list was so disappointing that I had to add PUBES just to make myself feel better.

pubes

Little House on the Prairie, S1E2: Country Girls

2l5Yikes, Michael Landon Monday has turned into Michael Landon Next-Next Monday. I better get a move on with Episode 2: Country Girls. Lots of stuff going on in this episode. Not only is this Nellie’s first appearance, but we also get a heaping spoonful of Oleson family dynamics. So delicious! Oh, and Laura performs a most impressive…shall we say…improvisation at the school program. More on that later.

There was a surprising lack of Pa in this episode. I guess Michael Landon needed a break after having huge roles in the pilot and 1st episode. And I forget to mention this last time, but he also directed the first episode. In Country Girls, he mostly hung out in the background and gently encouraged the womenfolk to do the right thing.

One such instance was convincing Laura to go to school. It’s Laura’s and Mary’s first day of school ever and Laura is nervous about it. Pa basically tells Laura that yeah, it sucks that she has to go, but Ma has this notion that the girls need to do some school learning. Throwing Ma under the bus like that is half messed up, half awesome. I wish I was that good at influencing people. As far as persuasive techniques go, sometimes I’ll throw out a little of the reverse psychology that I learned from that one Baby Sitters Club book. but that never works. Now I’ve got another tactic in my toolbox: Ma Blaming.

Let’s talk about Ma for a moment. The show mentions that Pa made a promise to Ma that Laura and Mary would get an education. This also happened in the books. I like this aspect of the story because this is one of the rare places where Ma is not acquiescent to Pa’s BFE wanderlust. She doesn’t complain, but then again she’s a taciturn person. A dutiful person. When she insists that the family settle in an area where the girls can attend a school is an unexpected blast of girlpower. Thanks for keeping this in the TV show, LHOTP Czars (i.e., Michael Landon).

But let’s not get too grateful here. This episode was a strange mix of women standing up for themselves (good, good) but also Pa treating Ma’s problems with condescension. At one point, while she is ruminating over a nasty encounter with Mrs. Oleson, Pa starts to play a sad song on his fiddle in jest. Because womenfolk problems are SO silly!

Meanwhile, Laura and Mary’s first day at school is the worst, starting with the schoolyard scene. Good lord, this is harrowing. Laura walks up to the children and makes a joke that pisses everyone off. The children then descend on her and Mary like a pack of jackals. And not the good kind of Jackyls, who play the chainsaw as a musical instrument. They circle Laura and Mary and mock them, chanting in Lord-of-the-Flies, Kill-the-Pig fashion, “Snipes! Snipes! Long Legged Snipes!” These little assholes are making fun of Laura and Mary’s skinny legs, which are prominent because Laura and Mary are outgrowing their dresses and the Ingalls can’t afford new dresses all the damn time.

2l3

Watching this scene  brought back a traumatic schoolyard memory of my own. Granted, I was in my 20s, and my taunting adversary was maybe eight years old, but that just goes to show how mean children can be. Here is the scene: it was summer time and school was not in session, so the playground was a lawless place. A lone little girl sat on top of a jungle gym. On the other side of the fence, walking along the sidewalk that passed the schoolyard, was my friend Cyndi and me.

Little Girl: Hi, Bitch!

Me (stopping in disbelief): What did she just call us?

Cyndi: I think she called us a bitch!

Little Girl: Hey bitch. Ha ha. You’re a bitch! Bitch!

Me (to Cyndi): Can you believe that? When I was that age, I didn’t even know that word.

Cyndi (to Little Girl): You better watch your language, or I’m going to tell your parents!

Little Girl: Fuck you, bitch!

We gasped and then walked away quickly, lest the little girl come after us. She looked tough, like maybe she could take us both.

Bottom line – one kid cussing at you is a little scary, but a mob of cruel children calling you bird names is getting into horror territory. Luckily, the teacher (Miss Beedle? Beatle?) rings the bell before anyone gets violently killed. Although, let’s say that the jackal children had murdered Mary – LHOTP would’ve gone in a completely different direction. In his grief, Pa might have summoned a vengeance demon. But it would still be family-friendly, so all the murders would happen off screen, while onscreen, the Ingalls family would still learn valuable lessons about life and love.

punkinhead

Fun fact: the boy who starts in with the snipe jive is Melissa Gilbert’s real life brother Jonathan. In the fictional world of Walnut Grove, however, he is the brother of…dun dun dun…Nellie Oleson. The first line she utters is gloriously judgmental. Queenlike, she looks Laura and Mary up and down and then in a voice full of disdain says, “Country girls!” I love it all. The ringlets. The snobbery. I hope she is in every episode from now on.

2l4

Ma also has an Oleson run-in. Here’s what I don’t get about this family. Mr. Oleson seems to be fair and reasonable, so how did he get stuck with that wife and those kids? At the end of the episode, he says to Pa, “You’re a lucky man,” as he looks pointedly at his family. Mr. Oleson is a lovable character and all, but his statement strikes me as gross. He is probably the type who would adorn his carriage with bumper stickers like, “Don’t blame me, I didn’t vote!” Mrs Oleson’s bumper sticker would be “Out of my way, I’m PMS-ing!” That woman is a true villain.

Mrs. Oleson tries her best to demean Ma, but instead of backing down, Ma buys a bunch of the finest fabric at the store to make herself a dress. Take that, Oleson Monster! Later, Ma is mad at herself for spending so much money and plans to take the fabric back to the store and beg for a refund, but Pa reassures her that she deserves a new dress. That is kind of him.

Let’s fast-forward through some of the other details.

  • Pa gives the girls enough money for a slate. That is, one slate for the both of them to share. They get to the store and Mr. Oleson reminds them that they will need chalk (he calls it a slate pencil) to go with their slate. The girls don’t have the extra penny for the chalk and Mr. Oleson tries to give it to them, because he is nice and Mrs. Oleson is not around. The girls politely refuse, and then go outside to talk about their situation. Then, Mary suddenly remembers that she and Laura still have their Christmas penny that they can use to buy the slate! Damn, they’re poor.
  • Mary immediately becomes an ace student. Laura, not so much. She struggles with her reading…that was not an exciting scene.
  • Laura and Nellie get into a shoving match. Laura pushes Nellie hard enough to make her fall. Laura was definitely the victor there.
  • There is a big school program coming up, where all the children write compositions and read them aloud in front of their classmates and parents. Laura tells Ma that she’s afraid people will laugh at her. This gets Ma to thinking about that fancy fabric she bought.

This leads us to the night before the big school program. Ma stays up late, sewing the fabric. We think she’s making her dress, and that she will show up to the program all va-va-voomy and make Mrs. Oleson sorry. When morning comes, though, she has a surprise. Instead of a dress for her, she made two smaller dresses for Laura and Mary! Did I cry? Fuck yes I did. This made me think about my own parents and some of the extravagant things they’ve done for me, things that, in retrospect, I have to wonder how they managed to swing it. It must have required sacrifices on their part.

2lhop98

Then comes the school program. As you’ll recall, Laura struggled with reading, but she gets up there and reads a beautiful, eloquent tribute to Ma. It is by far the best essay and reading of the program. But Ma is no idiot and afterward, she asks to see Laura’s essay. When she looks it over, she sees that this what Laura actually wrote:

2l7

 I found this kind of chilling. Laura faked the whole reading! She even pretended to read from the paper. That is a master bullshitter there. With talents like that, she should be an international spy. Or an innkeeper.

2l8

Ma makes Laura go show Miss Beatle the real essay, but Miss Beatle is fine with the situation. Miss Beatle was probably thinking, yeah, it’s kind of concerning how that little girl defrauded a room full of people, but whatever, I’m off the clock and it’s moonshine thirty! Whoo!”

So, in conclusion, I cried, I rolled my eyes, and I was frightened by the schoolchildren. This is the best episode yet.

Hacked and Sacked!

Alas, Michael Landon Monday is going to have to wait for Tuesday. The past two days have gotten away from me and I want to give episode 2: Country Girls the time it deserves.

Besides, I’d like to dedicate this to the lovelies who hacked my site over the weekend. They posted a couple of entries I had in draft mode (thanks a lot) and then posted a few fake blog entries: “How to make bean  soup” and “How to throw a baby shower.” Slander! I don’t know how to do those things. Well, I guess I have co-hosted three baby showers, but I was more like the silent partner who spends 20 minutes artfully arranging the napkins while the initiative-taking hosts argue over balloon placement and when to play “Guess What’s in the Dirty Diaper.”

My baby shower advice is to make sure none of your co-hosts are more of a fuck up than you are, and you will be just fine. Along those lines, nobody should be taking my advice on baby shower planning.

I truly have no experience with bean soup. I also promise to never give anyone bean soup as a gift.

 

beans

No offense to my fraudulent blog post, because canned food items are awesome gifts, but I’m not so sure about canned bean soup. Not everyone is into beans. Salsa would be a safer bet.

This reminds me of a friend who keeps Christmas simple for her family. Instead of store bought presents, they mostly give each other what she calls “gifts of time and service.” For example, coupons for doing each others chores or otherwise helping each other out. Even the three-year-old gives time-and-service gifts. It’s a beautiful idea. I told Brent about it and he agreed, until I suggested we try it. Then he was like, “If we did that, I would hate my life.” To prove him wrong about gifts of time and service, maybe I will give him some canned bean soup for Christmas along with a coupon for a free back scratching. It could be our best Christmas yet, all thanks to the hackers.

 

Guest post today!

Big things going on today! I’ve got a guest post up at jadeoak.com, one of my favorite blogs. If you have come from Jackie’s site, hello and welcome!

People who have been here before may notice a new look going on. This was not intentional. I started out trying to fix one problem that I thought would take maybe a hour. Four hours later, I decided to put up a temporary theme. Sorry that things are a little disorganized around here.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Wait, I can send you off better than that. Here is a picture of a scary, scary doll that we found at an estate sale. We didn’t buy it; we just took pictures. This is not the kind of thing you bring into your home.

dolly

 

Aghhh! You might notice that her eyes are laying on her chest, and yet somehow, it feels as though her empty eye sockets are staring hungrily at your soul. Oh, and she came with a wig too. It had just slipped off. Brent fixed her back up.

dolly2

May your weekend be merry and not be filled with spooky eyeless dolls!

Little House on the Prairie, S1E1: Harvest of Friends

Here it is, my first official LHOTP episode!

I had the pleasure of Brent’s company for the first episode. I don’t expect him to watch all the episodes with me; the stars aligned in this case. We were getting ready to eat pizza, which must be eaten in front of the TV, the internet was down, and LHOTP was already in the DVD player. Harvest of Friends might not have been Brent’s Mr. Right, but it was his Mr. Right Now.

Queue the opening credits. I have strong feelings about the credits, which I discussed here. All I can do is hope that come season 2, Carrie stops falling down.

The start of the episode was confusing for me. Melissa Gilbert, as Laura, says, “If I had a remembrance book, I would surely write about the day we came to Plum Creek and saw the house in the ground.” She is referring to the sod house they lived in on Plum Creek, right? In the book On the Banks of Plum Creek, Pa trades the horses for Mr. Hanson’s sod house and a team of oxen. Then Mr. Hanson is like, “Smell ya later, chumps!” and hightails it for the west. In the TV show, Mr. Hanson owns the lumber mill in Walnut Grove and (I guess?) lets Pa work there in exchange for lumber to build a regular house.

They didn’t go into those details and I wish they would have, in the same way I wish there had been an episode of Who’s the Boss dedicated specifically to the details of Tony’s employment. Is he hourly or salary, and how much does he make after subtracting for room and board? How was he able to afford all of Samantha’s 80s-fabulous clothes? And did he get health insurance? Retirement? Vacation? And if Tony took vacation time, would he be required to go somewhere else, since a staycation might make things awkward?

I have said it before and I’ll say it again. If I ever win the lottery, one of the first things I’m doing is to hire the Who’s the Boss writers to write me a script of that episode. Heck, I’d bankroll the filming of that episode too.

Getting back to the topic at hand: the sod house and the implication that the TV Ingalls never lived in the memorable little house that was basically a hole dug out of a grassy bank. No! Why, Michael Landon, why? I thought I was prepared for anachronisms in the TV show, but this first one made me sad enough that I went back and watched the very beginning scenes again a few times to make sure I hadn’t missed any subtext that suggested they lived in the sod house. I have since come to the conclusion that this part of the show was left intentionally vague. It’s as though the showrunners wanted to acknowledge the house but not actually film in it, which, to be fair, would have to be a logistics nightmare considering that the sod house is basically a studio-apartment hobbit hole inhabited by five regular-sized humans. I appreciate that the LHOTP decision-makers chose to show the sod house at all.

sodhouse

Illustration ©1953 by Garth Williams; text ©1937 by Laura Ingalls Wilder; TV show ©NBC Universal.

 At this point, Brent reminded me that his very own grandma grew up in a sod house and that it might even still be standing or whatever it is that sod houses do. Maybe someday we’ll go visit Brent’s grandma’s old home. Maybe we’ll sneak inside. Maybe we’ll be wearing Laura and Almanzo costumes. Maybe the sod house won’t be as structurally solid as it once was and the whole place will collapse on us. The headlines will say, “Weird Mennonite Couple and their Bonneted Dogs Found Dead in Sod House Rubble!”

Pa gets the titular Little House built pretty quick in the show. And then comes the big reveal of the house. My verdict? I love it! The stone chimney and the loft bedroom for Laura and Mary are especially squeal-worthy. I was excited right along with the Ingalls, not just because the house is perfect, which it is, but because I know I couldn’t have imagined it better when reading the books. This is what good book-to-screen adaptations do for me. They don’t just retell a story, but they make it fleshier, provide visual insight into the world within the story.

pR

 

Most notable during the moving-in scene is the dialogue between Laura and Mary in their bedroom, which shows the girls’ distinct personalities:

Laura: We have our own window! And we can see the stars!

Mary: We’re supposed to be sleeping when the stars are out. And it’ll sure be nicer to hear the rain on the roof, than to have it get us all wet.

From this exchange we can gather that Laura is the special one and Mary is…the queen of backhanded compliments? Bad LHOTP! If the TV show had a wrist, I’d slap it. My preferred depiction of the difference between Laura and Mary comes from the Laura Ingalls Wilder book By the Shores of Silver Lake (1939). By this time, Mary has gone blind and Pa has told Laura that she needs to “see” for Mary. During their journey to Silver Lake, Mary gets frustrated with Laura’s descriptive narrations. From the book:

…I don’t think you ought to say things like that,” Mary told her gently. “We should always be careful to say exactly what we mean.”

“I was saying what I mean,” Laura protested. But she could not explain. There were so many ways of seeing things and so many ways of saying them.

Now, I love Laura, but I also love Mary. I find something zen-like in her ability to sit still. Had Mary Ingalls written her own books about their childhood, it might have gone something like this: “Today while Dum Dum was off nearly drowning in the creek, I sat outside with my needlework. A butterfly landed on my fingers and whispered to me the meaning of life, which I shall now share with you.”

The show got some things right with Mary. She is the industrious, well-behaved sister, and that was effectively captured in the bedroom scene. In my last post I said that Karen Grassle as Ma was the best casting choice, but I also think Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary is spot on. And I cheated a tiny bit and watched “I’ll Be Waving As You Drive Away,” the episode where Mary goes blind and wow, what a visceral performance. If she didn’t get an Emmy for that, she was robbed.

Oh snap, Melissa Sue Anderson was nominated for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series in the 1978 Emmys and she lost. Boo. The actress was from a show called Family, which I have never heard of.

So Harvest of Friends has two what-was-Pa-thinking scenes. The first one is where Pa goes into the Oleson’s store and asks them a plow and wheat seed in exchange for a share of his first crop. Mrs. Oleson, most justifiably, says, “Oh, HELL no,” and then Pa, offended beyond belief, tells the Olesons to flip off and storms out in a huff. Come now, Pa, surely you realize that you are being unreasonable. I feel like the intent of this scene is to show what a prickly old pear that Mrs Oleson is, but really, Pa just comes off like someone who has no idea how the world works.

Because Mrs. Oleson is a bitch, Pa has to resort to making a deal with Liam O’Neil, who is basically the devil. In exchange for plow and enough seed for 100 acres, Pa has to build a new roof for Liam’s shed and stack a bunch of grain bags, and it all must be done within three weeks. It seems that Liam is pretty sure that Pa will not be able to finish the job within three weeks.

lhop6

Ma is, of course, concerned about Pa’s project. He tells her that he’ll work 6 hours for Liam and 6 hours for Hanson and that it will leave plenty of time for…and here I’m thinking that if Pa gets 8 hours of sleep, he’ll still have four hours of down-time. You know, Pa-time. But no, Pa says that after working a 12-hour day, he’ll have plenty of time for plowing and the rest of the chores. Holy bitchsauce.

The following scenes show Pa working hard and meeting new friends along the way, like the doctor. Pa fixes the doctor’s wagon wheel even though Pa has no time to spare and Pa even refuses to accept money from the doctor, even though everyone knows that Pa is poor. Upon watching this scene, Brent prophetically said, “Look, Pa is planting the seeds of friendship. It’s as if there will be a harvest of friends.”

All is going well, and Pa is nearly finished working for Liam, when disaster strikes, AKA the second what-was-Pa-thinking event. Pa takes the fam on a picnic and entertains them by flying a kite. The kite gets stuck in a tree and instantly, ominous music starts playing. So what does Pa do? He climbs some twenty feet to get the kite. Really? Is the kite really that valuable? This is the Ingalls we’re talking about, so you know they didn’t drop a bunch of cash on a “boughten” kite. But no, Pa goes after that kite as if it was a long-lost Ingalls child, and of course he falls out of the tree. Of course he does. And when he falls, it’s kind of funny. Brent and I giggled and Brent noted that Pa didn’t even try to hold on to the tree.

In the next scene, we see Michael Landon’s nipples and learn that Pa is on strict bed rest. Then, the shit really hits the fan when Liam comes to collect the oxen while Ma is plowing. That is cold. Pa had finished Liam’s roof before the ridiculous kite accident and just needed to stack the bags of grain. In other words, the more critical, skilled task was done, and done well. Liam not only refuses to give Pa an extension on the 3-week dealine, he even comes to collect the oxen a couple days early because he was already out that way. Man! Liam is like a modern-day payday loan place, except even less honorable.

The last few scenes: Pa tries to stack the grain and collapses. It’s painful to watch. Then Mary and Laura, who had followed Pa to town, try to stack the grain themselves but can barely lift a bag between the two of them. Watching the two little girls struggle with the bag made me cry. Then when all the townsmen came to help, I cried even more. Great. I’m not going to cry and feel uplifted in every episode, am I?

I enjoyed Liam’s comeuppance. There isn’t a big scene where Ma punches out his lights and Jack the dog bites him in the crotch or something like that. Instead, he is quietly taken down by the men brushing past him to help Pa finish the job. The way the men look at him in sheer disgust – I felt ashamed. Lesson here: don’t be a loan shark.

The worst part of the episode for me came when Carrie fell AGAIN while running around. It was during that blasted kite scene. She’s not going to fall in every episode, is she?

The best part? Probably the ‘harvest of friends’ part. Stupid to say, but I’m getting a little choked up just thinking about it. On a different topic, does  the very term ‘Harvest of Friends’ remind anyone else of the horror movie Hotel Hell, where the man and lady cut out the hotel guests’ voice boxes and burying them up to their necks in the ground?

1 2 3 22