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Archive for May, 2010

Entranced by “Babies”

The moment I first heard about the movie, “Babies,” my curiosity was peaked and I knew it was something I wanted to see.

If you haven’t heard about it, here’s the basic idea.  A French director, Thomas Balmes, wanted to do a documentary about four babies from four different parts of the world, capturing their first year of life.  Actually, he chose four loving expectant couples, because his cameras start rolling at the moment of birth.  From there, he records their everyday moments, their growth, their place in the family, and their dawning self-awareness.  When I say “documentary,” don’t imagine some dry, scientific  voice describing what you’re seeing.  In this movie there are no voice-overs, no narration, no sub-titles, just beautiful background music and babies being babies.  What really interested me about this project was the sociological aspect.  What would be the effect of these differing cultures on each individual child?

In Namibia, we meet little Ponijao, who lives with her mother and other members of her tribe outside her family’s dirt hut.  Bayar lives with his parents, siblings and a herd of cattle in a yurt in remote Mongolia.  Mari lives in an apartment in Tokyo with her parents, surrounded by educational toys.  And Hattie lives in San Francisco with her new age-y parents, attending Baby Yoga and Mother Earth celebrations.

This movie runs one hour and nineteen minutes and I wasn’t bored once.  the comparisons and contrasts were fascinating.  I felt the Japanese and American babies came off as pampered and over-protected, but maybe that was because of seeing how the other babies were so often left on their own and flourished.  Ponijao in Namibia wandered half-naked on rocky, dusty ground, putting anything she found into her mouth.  Little Bayar from Mongolia was often swaddled and left on a bed while his parents did their chores and seemed none the worse for wear.  When he was a little older, they tied rope around one of his ankles and the other end around the bed’s leg and let him roam in this limited perimeter.  This is apparently an accepted form of child care.  Again, he seemed to accept this with equanimity.

It’s hard to pick a favorite from all these sweet babies, but, if forced, I’d pick Bayar.  This little boy was almost walked on by a rooster, shared his bath with a goat and crawled amidst a herd of cattle just as nonchalantly as you please.  His unrelenting good nature got to me.  For me the movie almost argued that the African and Mongolian babies, being allowed to naturally interact with their environments, were less fretful and more sturdy than the other two, who almost suffered information overload in their worlds of media, toys and classes.

Here is the movie trailer which gives you a good feel for what the movie is like.

I would dare anyone to try to sit through this entire movie without cracking a smile or bursting out laughing.  It is so special and so entertaining.  And to think they do the entire thing without any dialogue is amazing.  Needless to say, I was enthralled.

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There’s something wrong with me.  Truly.  See that person sitting on the beach doing absolutely nothing?  Well, that would be almost impossible for me.  I’m not proud to say it, but it’s true.  If that were me, I would probably also be reading a book or at least listening to an audio book.  There’s just something in the way I’m wired that keeps my brain always running on “high.”  My idea of relaxing is doing two things I enjoy at the same time.

I don’t know if it is physical or just behavioral.  The last time I went to the doctor, he noted that I had a rapid heart beat and put me on medication for it.  So maybe my brain just marches to that jaunty internal rhythm all the time.  On the other hand, I’ve always had the philosophy of  – if you have something to do, get it done before you sit down and relax.  Then you can really enjoy your relaxation.  I’m not a good procrastinator.

Let me give you an example.  If I want to sit down and read a good book on my Kindle, I’ll make a cup of tea, then right as I sit down, I’ll remember there was something upstairs that I meant to bring down so that I wouldn’t forget it.  So, I’ll jump up and head upstairs.  But while I’m up there, I notice that the top of my chest of drawers is really dusty.  Now I know that I don’t have to do it right then, but something in me says, “If you do it now, it will be out of the way and then you can really relax.”  So I dust it and then head back downstairs, only to discover that my tea has gone cold.  And one thing leads to another to another and another.  You get the idea.

I seem to always be multi-tasking without even thinking about it.  While I’m eating breakfast in the morning, I’m also reading the newspaper and watching the news on television.  When I do housework or cook, I’m also listening to an audio book.  When I watch TV in the evening, I’m usually also looking at magazines or catalogs or reading my book on commercials.  Maybe it’s a matter of me always having to be fully engaged.  Thus, housework, alone, isn’t enough so I have  a narrator reading a book in my ear. The input to my brain is almost constant.

There are a few exceptions.  When I’m in the desert in New Mexico, I can be like that girl up there – fully engaged in the moment.  Also, when I was recently watching “Six Feet Under” every Sunday afternoon, I did absolutely nothing else but lose myself in that world.  And that came easy for me.  It was like a treat I gave myself.

But those are the exceptions.  Most of the time I feel driven by my “to do” lists.  It’s like there’s some little internal judge telling me that I can’t just stop and do nothing until the work is done.  Intellectually, I know it’s crap.  Who cares if I don’t dust my dresser today or tomorrow or next week?  It’s pretty sad that I have to concentrate on relaxing, but I do.  And I feel like that’s something I need to work on.

I’ve often heard people say things like, “Man, I’m such a lazy bum, it’s terrible!”

Well, from where I’m sitting (or probably standing,) that doesn’t sound like such a bad thing.  Becoming more of a lazy bum is one of my new goals.  Life is just too damned short!

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I don’t know what it is about this year.  Usually by this time I would have purchased a bunch of petunias to plant in decorative pots for my balcony and a hanging basket to put out on the front porch.  But, for some reason I’ve been dragging my feet.  Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve had so very many rainy days.  Or it could just be that it sounds like way too much trouble.   I just haven’t felt motivated.

But I did do one thing right.

Earlier in the spring, I threw a handful of birdseed into an empty flowerpot on my balcony and look what came up today!!!!  I grew me a flamingo!

I couldn’t be more surprised!  And it turns out, he’s quite a dapper guy up close… He just stands there with his head nodding from time to time.  I’ve named him Harvey.  Now this is the way I like to grow things!

Then, when I was bringing the morning paper in, I noticed that a new little family has moved in beneath my shrubs.   Overnight that little stone house sprang up and looks very settled already.

You know what?  I’m going to let the rest of you dig and plant and mulch and fertilize this summer.  Me?  I’m just going to wait around and see what happens next!

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Yes, I’ve been reading the newspaper again!  And there were a couple of things I simply must comment on.  I’ve decided to call these “mini-rants” rather than “mega-rants” because, while they are idiotic, disgusting and/or annoying, they don’t change MY particular life in any significant way.  However I do believe they all deserve a smack down from me.

I read in the paper that they are opening a new American Girl store in my area, which must be news since there are only eight in the country.  Dolls will retail for $95, including a book.  The doll on the left comes with three outfits, two books and her pet bunny and retails for the low, low price of…are you ready?…$174!

Excuse me, but aren’t we as a nation enduring a time when the stock market is down, homes are being foreclosed on and people can’t find jobs?  Aren’t we going through hard times?

Oh, and did I mention that the new store here will also feature a doll salon where customers can get their doll a new hairstyle or have its ears pierced?  For a price, that is.  Another area will feature custom doll t-shirts.  Hell yes, what doll doesn’t need her hair dyed, ears pierced and a custom doll t-shirt?  I used to do those things for free with my dolls with food coloring and scissors!

I looked at their website and felt my stomach turn.  Not only do they sell dolls and clothes, but also pets for the dolls, furniture and accessories.  A canopy bed goes for $118, but you get a fondue set at the bargain price of $68.  Do  little girls even know what fondue is?  What’s wrong with people?  What message are you sending a child by spending this much money for a doll?  I just don’t get it…and I don’t want to!

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According to the Daily Telegraph, Qantas Airways, Australia’s largest international airline, admitted to reusing its plastic forks, spoons and knives on international flights.  The airline defends itself by saying that the tableware is subject to a strict cleaning process.  They transport 19,000 passengers on international flights each week.  So, how many mouths has your fork been in before yours?  I’m sorry, people, but the whole thought of this just grosses me out!  And then you wonder if other places do it, too.  Think about that the next time you eat somewhere with plastic silverware.  Can you say YUK?  I guess it all goes back to the fact that we never know what goes on in the kitchen of a restaurant.  And, quite frankly,  I’m not sure I want to know.

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And finally, I want to know what’s going on with Amazon.com.  It seems to me that, back in the day, you could order something from them and, even if you paid for cheap shipping, it would show up on your doorstep before you knew it.  I mean, they had FAST shipping.  That’s what made it fun to order from them.  These days if you order something over a certain price, you get “Super Saver Shipping,” which is another way of saying “free shipping.”  And it’s great that you don’t have to pay for shipping, as long as you don’t mind not getting your item for a LONG, LONG time!  I can place orders at three different places, all on the same day and have items from two stores within the week, but not from Amazon.  A couple of weeks ago I ordered an iPod Nano, which was in stock, and it didn’t arrive until nine days after I ordered it!  What’s up with that?  But even that isn’t what qualified it for this post.  Oh no.  After I got the Nano, I realized I needed a lanyard in order to wear it around my neck and the only one I could find was at Amazon.  I ordered it May 14th.  On May 17th, I was notified that it had shipped.  And then I got an email from Amazon saying my estimated delivery date is June 8th! That’s like 25 days!  Are they walking it to my house?  Good grief.  After I get this order, I’m done messing with them.

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So, at least I’ve let off a little steam.  Tell me, any little mini-rants you’d like to let loose?  Be my guest!

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After several days of rain, the sun finally emerged and, one by one, the clouds began appearing.  As I looked up into the sky, I noticed that there were more than the usual number of cloud faces.  Here’s one I think of as a George Washington type.

He’s facing the right side of the picture.  He has a long nose and biggish lips and a blue beauty mark right beneath his right eye.  Can you see him?

This next one is a Pac-Man monster cloud with his head thrown back.  He’s laughing, although I have no idea why.  Actually, he’s more like a Pac-Man with a beak!  You should be able to see his eye and his mouth, which is wide open.

This third one is one of my favorites.  I think of it as a beautiful feminine cloud, with blue eyes and a blue lipsticked mouth.  Surely you can see her face?  I think she’s smiling…

And finally, this last picture gives you a peek into the inside life of clouds.  There’s a mother cloud on the right, leaning toward her two little children clouds on the left and explaining something…probably how human beings sometimes like to take pictures of them!  The two children are looking up at her and she’s illustrating her words with a hand.  I particularly like this one.

So, I hope you enjoyed this version of “On Cloud Patrol.”  If you have a favorite, please let me know.  Meanwhile, “Keep your eyes on the skies!”

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I’ve mentioned Iris in this blog numerous times.  She was my neighbor when I moved into my house five years ago.  As we got to know each other, the relationship morphed into a friendship and we had a lot of fun until she moved about a year ago.  We’ve stayed in close touch though, and when I realized that she would be turning 71 on Tuesday, I insisted on taking her out for a birthday lunch.  As I drove to her house, I got the idea that it might be interesting to interview her.  I mean, reaching the age of 71 and still being full of “piss and vinegar,” is no small accomplishment!  Iris is a remarkable woman.  She has been married and divorced and has two wonderful sons.  She can side a house, carpet a bathroom, fix a computer, do your taxes, wire a light and sew a suit of clothes, and that just scratches the surface of her accomplishments.  She doesn’t take herself too seriously and has a contagious laugh, which I love.

So, as we sat down for lunch, she consented to be interviewed.  My questions are in black, her answers in red.

So, Iris, what was your first thought upon waking up today and realizing it was your 71st birthday?

Well, I was glad to have survived another day!

You appear full of vim and vigor.  To what do you attribute your good health?

I was a postal worker for 31 years and I think my job and working outside every day played a large part.  My doctor is keeping an eye on my kidneys, but, personally I feel fine.

Looking back on your life so far, do you have any regrets?

Well, I should have made better choices in men, definitely!  And I would have gone to college before I got married.  The thing was, very few people in my high school went to college.  It was hard times back then and few of us could afford it.

What advice would you give young women today?

Get an education and make yourself independent!

You worked for the post office for thirty-one years.  If you could turn back time to when you were eighteen and could choose ANY career, what would you have liked to do?

Oh, back then I wanted to be an airline hostess because it looked like such a glamorous job.  I looked into it but, back then they had height and weight restrictions and at 5’2″ I was too short.

What do you consider to be the biggest problem in the world today?

Corrupt government.  We put people in office and then they get seduced by the power and money and forget all about the common people.  And I’m not just talking about the United States.  I’m talking about governments around the world.  We need to kick all the bums out and start over fresh.

What one word best describes your whole life up to now?

BUSY!

Whoa!  I didn’t see that coming!

Well, I’ve always been busy, all of my life, but that’s okay.  I’ve also had a lot of fun!

Well, it looks like our lunch is coming.  Any final thoughts you’d like to add?

Just that I’ve had an awful lot of good luck in my life.  When I remember all of the crazy stuff I’ve done in the past, I shake my head and think, “How did I survive that?”

Well, thank you, Iris.  I hope your birthday is a very good one.

It’s already a special day.  I get to have lunch with Star!

Aw shucks!  That seems a good place to end.  What a woman!  If I’m even half as amazing as she is when I turn 71, I’ll consider myself extremely lucky.

Happy Birthday, Iris!









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Weather Moods

Do you ever find yourself being influenced by the weather? I know I am. This past winter when the snow was unrelenting, I wavered between “Oh God, we’re all gonna die!” and “I’m gonna cuddle up here in my warm little cocoon and read my book and be all cozy and content.” I think it affected some other people like “If it snows one more damned day I’m gonna go out and kill something!” Weather is like that.  It works on you…

A few days ago we went through a spate of absolutely lovely weather.  Each day was a Goldilocks kind of day, not too hot or too cold.  The sun was out,  not the cruel scorching sun of high summer, but rather the warm friendly smiley-face type of sun.  Every time I stepped outside, I felt my spirits rise.  Standing there peacefully, listening to the birds sing their little heads off, made me feel like I was in the middle of a fairytale or something.  When I’ve got a beautiful day like that, I feel like there’s unlimited potential for something good to happen.  Even if I have a million errands to run, I don’t feel quite as put upon as I would on a cold, windy day.  I speak to strangers and pet the heads of puppy dogs.  And if there are some big fluffy clouds floating around in a bright blue sky, well, that’s just icing on the cake.

The weather as I’m writing this is neither beautiful or awful.  It’s a little chilly and drab and there’s a misty rain coming and going.  And, for some reason it has made me wistful.  I find myself missing my friend, Babs…a lot!  Even though she really hurt my feelings and disappointed me, I have a feeling that if she were to call and apologize, I would probably welcome her back with open arms.  No, not probably… I would!  Life is simply too short.  But, on a gloomy day like today that promises nothing, I feel that the odds of her doing so are about a million to one.  A day like today makes me dredge up memories of family I have loved who are long gone and makes me wonder if anyone will miss me when I die.  I remember old lovers I have had who have probably gone to fat…or to seed and heave a sigh of sadness.  And then there are the eternal questions, “Why am I here?  Where am I going?” yada, yada, yada.

Yeah,  I’m pretty weather-sensitive, for better or for worse. But I know that these blues shall pass.  Who knows?  If the sun comes out tomorrow I just might go out and conquer the world!   Or, at the very least, go out and do my “happy dance” just like Snoopy!  I just never know. Stay tuned…

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