Friday, September 30, 2011

Lark Rise to Candleford a Lovely English Little House on the Prairie

Brendan Coyle and Claudie Blakely. Fabulous actors who play Robert and Emma Timmins so invitingly -- the kind of married couple that makes marriage look attractive :)

Lark Rise to Candleford, is a tv series based on the book trilogy penned about her growing up years by Flora Thompson. (A word about the title: 'Lark Rise' is the name of the small hamlet our narrator is from and 'Candleford' the larger and more refined market town up the road to which she moves to take on work at the post office).

Always one to see parallels -- I can't help it -- I am reminded of the American tv show based loosely on Laura Ingalls Wilder's coming of age. The differences in setting are of course profound; comparing the American prairie frontier with the Oxfordshire countryside is not something I mean to do, though the time period, as the world shifts into a new age and our characters are a bit subject to it and a bit insulated from it, are quite similar.

The fresh optimistic approach and the strong compelling solid central families (the Ingalls and Timmins) are another parallel. As is the past remembered through the eyes of a smart, good and driven daughter. Lark Rise to Candleford is more subtle and nuanced than LHOTP and written to a more grown up audience, but both have similar pattern of story development each episode. There are challenges and sometimes sensitive topics, but things are almost always gently resolved by the end of the show. Often with strong moral themes prevailing and good carrying the day.

I was taken with Coyle and Blakely in episode 5 of season 1 when I saw it recently. Robert is a good pillar of the community hard working man with deep skill and passionate ability to work on better things. In this episode Timmins, while doing a routine masonry job for pay, gets distracted by the blank keystone above the door and begins to spend all his spare time carving it.

His wife is in turmoil over lack of money, not knowing what he's been spending his time on but knowing it is not bringing in wages. She is stressed about feeding their large family and she spreads her torment to him.

"Why did you marry me? Why does a woman choose a man for what he is!? His passions and strengths?  - and then one by one take these things away from him." Coyle's performance here is beautiful.

By he's not an ordinary man and she's not an ordinary woman ... because he can verbalize this frustration and manage to do it with love as well as distress and she can hear him, understand and relent. Claudie and Brendan give so much sympathy to their characters you feel their pain and love and see both their positions. Wonderful. And because this is Lark Rise, good things happen for them :) The hard work and attention to artistic quality pay off financially as well as intrinsically when the lord of the manor house sees his talent and gives Timmins work repairing sculptures. Our couple endures and rejoices together and the moral of "following your bliss" is a strong happy message.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Spooks Series 10. Even Though its Shameful and Wrong, I Found a Way and Am Watching It (spoilers)

Watching Episode 2, Season 10 of Spooks is making me think several things - first, man I am going to miss this show when its gone. Just 4 more times will I be able to really experience the stress and tension of not knowing what's coming. I'd forgotten how amazing the show is when you're seeing it fresh and clueless.

If you're curious about how I'm doing this (watching Spooks) I will tell you. But then I'll have to shoot you. No, just kidding. I just don't want to say too much and jinx it. (After all, I still have 4 more episodes to go.) If you're outside of the UK and in this same boat of desperation, write to me, I'll try to help . . . .

So, anyway, PLEASE, if you haven't seen Series 10, episodes 1&2, don't read any further. I wouldn't want to ruin the experience for you. The following discussion contains SPOILERS.

Episode 2 was much better than number 1 for me. It was tense, exciting and nerve wracking...whereas number 1 just felt odd and awkward, like when you return to visit a place you used to work and no one quite knows what to say to you; there was little collective spark as the team limped into action on the grid. The sequence in the ballroom was very well done, but other than that, Episode 1 felt like a patchwork -- concerned with quickly developing some new characters, tying up a few loose ends on the Albany fallout, introducing a new plot theme, and dragging the viewer into the season.

But episode 2 felt more like old times. The mood was right and the characters beginning to gel. Overall it was great until they killed off one of my favorite characters. OK, I'm not kidding, STOP reading now, because I just have to out with it (therapeutic, you know, to write about this) and I know you don't want to know if you don't already know. . . .

(Shh, ... it was Tariq). Beautiful techie Tariq. He was such an awesome character who represented so much, who was a connection to past teams and a tie to when the show sparkled with chemistry. Youthful and incredibly talented. This is making me very unhappy :(  And with his loss, we now have just Harry and Ruth with a history that outlasts one season. Tack on Dimitri who was with Harry and Ruth last time around and that's it for our continuing characters! You can feel the groundlessness. The season desperately needs connection and chemistry, which I hope we get soon.

The new characters are Erin Watts and Colum (no idea on how I should spell that nor what his last name is supposed to be) and don't feel like looking him up.  Erin is a much better character than I expected. I will even say that I like her. And I trust her. She seems ready to do things the Harry Pearce way and that has to be a good sign. She is halfway between Fiona and Ros in her style of spookiness. But, I don't care for Colum at all because he was rude about Harry and condescending to Tariq in the first two episodes and then got himself mugged. Really. I doubt he'll have time in the few shows left, to work his way into my good graces. Tho he's welcome to try...

Even though our main character team seems scanty, the plot is interesting and I'm enjoying the exploration into Harry's cold-war-era past. Harry's former Russian asset/lover, Elena, is interesting enough but has no real spark with Harry. They just look wrong together. I appreciate that Elena, played by Alice Krige, must have been an extremely attractive spy for whom Harry would have fallen back in the day. But she now looks pulled-tight and wrong. I hope I am not off-base, but she looks as if she's had too much surgery. One of the things I love about Spooks is that mature actresses who play deep and complex roles don't typically have a Hollywood plasticy to them. (Take Gemma Jones who played Connie James and who, according to IMDB, was born in 1942 making her more than 10 years older than Krige. A real-looking woman and very appealing). Krige is in her late 50s and is an age-appropriate partner for Firth's Harry Pearce, but she is too preserved.

Its not the fact that she's aged that makes her seem wrong for Harry now. Its that she's aged but she thinks it doesn't show, that makes her wrong for him; not to mention that she's stilted and scary. If Harry falls for her now, I will be disappointed. I am sure he has some residual feelings, but there's no doubt in my mind where Harry's heart lies. It shows plainly on his face when Ruth declares that she "knows her role," when she's hurt by him keeping her at bay. Harry bares his torment and love when she says this. He can't stand hurting Ruth.

The Elena situation reminds me of how in series 4 we were presented with Juliet Shaw as a character meant to spark lust or love or to enliven Harry. But it didn't work. Because something so much better was already going on...with Ruth. Bring it on Elena and if you can create some sparks I'll give kudos ;) but I'll be more than a little surprised if you're the route Harry follows.
I will be watching (I hope!) and am so thankful that, despite its flaws, Spooks is around for a few more turns as the best possible hour of TV viewing that exists. ...Still interested and want to read on ... I didn't write about episode 3, but here are my thoughts on episode 4.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Overlaps, Eyelines: Thoughts on the Behind the Scenes Production Teams

Watching the episode commentary from a Spooks dvd makes me feel guilty. Maybe I should first explain that having gone to Catholic school as a youth, it doesn't take much to push me into that realm. But, truly, I am just so impressed with what goes on in the background when you hear the commentators -- in this case, the directors, producers, writers -- speaking about their part in making an amazing television series.

What they do is incredibly technical, detailed and valuable and yet here's what I, as a typical viewer, notice first and most about any of the programs that I watch:

1. The actors and acting
2. The writing -- in terms of basic plot and storyline
3. The locations, costumes and cinematography
4. Everything else.

When you listen to people who are at the top of their game and clearly know all the ins and outs of their trade talking about the production of the show, it is staggering how much work goes into basically allowing random people like me to give all credit to the actors and stoylines. Thankless job.

The various production people who I can't take the time to know by either position or name, are talking of the camera set up, tracks, and dolly, of the extras in the foreground or background, where the focus is, the nature of the sound (meaning the sound quality of the actors and the background sounds), not to even to mention the actual musical score that I often fail to notice at all. Its the kind of work (sort of like parenting) that when you do it right, no one is likely to notice it all. Only when things seem catastrophically off, do you get attention.

So there are people fundamentally focused on whether, for instance, in a scene where the team is interrogating someone and a train is going by outside, you should hear the sounds of the train. Or whether, when two actors are speaking, there should be two cameras shooting them separately or whether their voices should be "overlapping". Or whether extras should be visible as distinct shapes or as blurs in the background. Or whether, when the spies sit around the meeting table they have or should have something called "eyelines". (or was it "sightlines"?) And all of these, and thousands of other, very real decisions designed to merely blur into the background unnoticed while the actors get praised.

So here I am gushing about the spy teams and the actors and plots, and throughout, I have no real idea what goes on behind the scenes. But the good part is that I don't really need to know.

If my child grows up a good strong caring man who helps his family and works in his community, no one needs to know whether I properly curtailed too much screen time, encouraged him to take chances on his bike, or made him healthy snacks when he was 4.  I guess the reward is intrinsic on that one too.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Richard Armitage Looks Like Hugh Jackman

This is something I should have said a long time ago, but let not another moment pass before saying it now: Richard Armitage and Hugh Jackman look alike.

That's it. Yes, a pathetically short blog post, but sometimes that's what you get. I will add this: that they are just a few years apart in age and that they look more alike from certain angles. The top two photos here are Hugh, the bottom two are Richard.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Why Should Knitting Remind Me of Robin Hood?

Knitting reminds me of Robin Hood.

I bet you didn't see that one coming.

As strange as it sounds, there's a real association for me. Knitting feels like a "winter sport" and last December I learned how. . . . OK, I'd known the basic stitch since I was a girl in scouts, but when all you can do is knit an unending rectangle, the options are fairly limited. So, when I took on purling, binding off, casting on, socks, hats, even sweaters, worlds opened up. (No, I wasn't knitting kelly green tights -- we're not to the Robin Hood association quite yet. Hang in there). So, I knit until about April when it was too hot and I set those needles down for a long hiatus, and hadn't thought about it much until I met up with my knitting-friend recently who wondered what project I was on.

Shame and guilt can be a great motivator. I realized it had been too long and got back to work. (I'm making a beautiful purple hemp light sweater. It is still 90 out after all). Immediately thoughts of Robin Hood came into my mind. (Why??? The long skinny needles reminiscent of arrows or something?)

Nah, last winter when I was a bit knit-obsessed, I was also a bit Robin-obsessed. I spent a great many evenings with Robin Hood in the dvd player and a project on my lap. Each seemed to bolster the other. And for some odd reason they went together well. Maybe because this Robin Hood series, which aired for 3 seasons and can sometimes be found on BBC America, is light enough on plot details that looking away from the screen fairly often didn't impact my ability to follow the story. Or maybe because knitting gave me a place to put my eyes whenever gory images needed to be avoided. I think creating clothing also seemed particularly apropos for a show in which the costumes were a rich, funny, creative and inspired part.

Beyond the costumes and the knitting pragmatics this series is enjoyable as a great quasi-modernized Robin Hood idea. It's not your typical take on the legend and is a bit uneven, but overall, funny, beautifully filmed, exciting, well-acted, and definitely worth watching if you enjoy period drama of the middle ages but aren't too concerned about the details.

There is the hilariously despicable Sheriff of Nottingham, played deliciously by Keith Allen. And speaking of delicious, Richard Armitage's voice alone is worth the price of admission; he is a wonderfully surly Guy of Gisborne usually dressed in a fair amount of leather.
The one problem I had with the show, is that I was always rooting for Marian and Guy -- who made a much better couple than that sappy Robin/Marian combo, but, alas, though willing to depart in great measure from traditional plot lines, the writers just wouldn't give me that.

Jonas Armstrong is a young, sweet sort of Robin and his band of merry men, which includes some merry women (yes, this is a modern take on the middle ages) is funny, especially delightful "Much", played by Sam Troughton.  I also enjoy spunky Marian who -- and I'm so thankful that British film and television cast such interesting women -- is beautiful, but not flawless and emaciated. She is so much more interesting for her curves and her style and her beautiful round eyes.

If you want to start with an excellent episode, "For England" (Season 2, Episode 6) is my favorite. It has an all around good plot with humor, surprises, powerful moments and some of the best Guy/Marian scenes.

I doubt anyone will ever displace Errol Flynn in my mind as the quintessential Robin in the perfect adaptation of the stories. But, to its credit, this production doesn't really try. It is striking its own ground as a quirky, funny, not at all faithful television series.

Happy Knitting.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Why Can't Americans Watch British TV While it is Happening?

I've never been in this position before. There are two television shows that I love that are both premiering new seasons in a couple of days, but that I will simply be unable to watch. Period.... or at least for some unknown and protracted amount of time. I can't dvr them, tape them, see them on youtube, view them online, or think of any other possible way to "get to" them.

They're just out of reach and it's killing me.

I haven't been in this position before, because in the past, I've always discovered my shows after they had run their course and were available on dvd. But with Downton Abbey and Spooks (MI-5), new episodes are coming out now on British TV. But not here in the states. Why!?

Trying to figure out the intricacies of trans-Atlantic cooperation with respect to TV copyrights would be challenging to much smarter people than I, and it is taking nearly all my brain cells to simply summarize it thus:

Downton Abbey airs on the British network  iTV1, which graciously makes programs available online to those in the UK. Same with BBC One, the network that broadcasts Spooks and which has a lovely website full of wonderful content if you are in the UK. You can't view video from these sites if you're in America because, as I understand it, international agreements aren't in place. I get that. Someone wants  money in order to secure distribution rights. That would be fine with me, if they'd just get on with it and distribute them.

I've looked into other ways of getting these shows. A nice little iPhone app called "FilmOn TV" offers live streaming of TV from a hodgepodge of stations in various world markets. I got excited when someone told me that iTV and BBC are on it, so I got the app which is free, easy to use, and works well for the roughly 60 channels I get (ranging from Dubai to Pentagon TV), but does not come loaded with BBC or  iTV. People in Europe say it works so I'm guessing that the channels must vary based on where you are and what distribution rights have been secured in that place.

Another alternative seems to be to trick the internet into thinking you are in the UK when you are in fact not. There are a few websites that promise services that mask your true location and make it appear that you are accessing the British network from a UK IP address. I have several problems with these ranging from (1) some charge too much (2) some don't work with Macs (3) most are too hard for techno-morons like me to understand and feel comfortable with and (4) I kind of doubt they are actually legal.

Another thought: sometimes people post bits of television shows on YouTube. But I've noticed that when people do this for whole episodes they seem to get removed. (The, ah, episodes, not the people), or they create "fake" posts that just link you over to other sites that fill your computer with viruses and such. So while I'm hopeful that some real person in the UK will take pity on the rest of us and post some episodes of Downton and Spooks -- and that I'll be lucky enough to find them. I'm not counting on it.

So its a waiting and wondering game.

Yes, I know, I'll get there someday. Downton Abbey is on Netflix. But I have no idea when the new episodes will show up. The rights to air the program in America are with Masterpiece Theater which doesn't have plans to do so until January. Seriously.

It's even worse with MI-5 which is also on Netflix -- with the same unknown lag time -- but for which I have truly no idea who has broadcast rights to show the new season in America, if anyone. (BBC America and A&E both show it sometimes, but not the more recent seasons.) Until MI-5 comes out on dvd, I may be out of luck. Season 9 didn't come out till this past June. Yikes! I better not have to wait until June 2012 to find out what happens with Harry and Ruth. (And the corollary to this problem: how on earth am I going to avoid hearing about what happens with Harry and Ruth if I have to wait a year?)

OK, I think I've done my venting.

I wish all you lucky UK viewers joy as you plunge into an amazing fall TV season! (Don't mind me, I'll just be sobbing quietly in the corner watching the Duchess of Duke Street.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mark Knopfler on British Television : )

I was telling my kids today how in the olden days, most pop and rock songs were about 3-4 minutes long. The expectation was that artists would record songs of that length if they wanted radio play.

. . . Oh, by the way, this post has nothing to do with British TV. The beauty of having your own blog is that you get to write about whatever the heck you want. So today that's Mark Knopfler. At least he's British. . .

Anyway, starting in the 1970s artists were really pushing those "limits" and creating much longer songs - 5, 6, 7 minutes, whatever. The conventional wisdom was that this was just too long for radio play, so either those longer songs didn't get released as singles, or separate radio-friendly singles were cut, or, as happened to Dire Straits' Sultans of Swing, the stations (in America anyway) just truncated the tail end of the song.

Doing that to Sultans of Swing is a crime against nature.  Because the best guitar solo ever recorded plays in the last 45 seconds of that piece. Sultans, at 5:43 in length, usually got butchered by stations right at the 5 minute mark. They would just fade it out as Knopfler was launching into guitar heaven.

The thing is, the good quality radio stations were smart enough to realize there was a true gem at the end of Sultans and played the whole dang song. But I still remember hearing the song on the radio and wondering what kind of a station I was on -- the kind that would cut? or the kind that would play? (Kinda like Clint Eastwood, "do you feel lucky today?")

Of course nowadays I can listen to the full track anytime I want -- especially the ending (and loudly) --  but the funny part is, I realized when I played it for the kids today, that I am so conditioned to worry about what will happen at the end of Sultans of Swing, I still get nervous listening to it. Its an amazing tune and if you haven't done it lately, pop the song into your iPod and listen -- to the whole thing. You'll be glad you did.

I can't find a video that really shows what I want, but I like this one the best for a couple of reasons. First, it came from a BBC program! Ha, that converts this post into one about British Television after all! And second, its one of the few videos I could find that shows him playing a riff pretty much like the one on the record. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Life Advice from Adam Carter: Sometimes You Have to Just Let Things Crinkle Out

In life and in Spooks, sometimes the best little nuggets show up with the least amount of work. I found a gem that the writers have snuck into the character of Adam. It has to do with things "crinkling out" and is something I wouldn't have found had I sought, but simply appeared in front of me effortlessly.

I guess it's meant to be a hidden prize for the biggest Rupert Penry-Jones fans or the geekiest of Spooks fans. . . .  I'd like to believe that I am neither  :)  but I did get lucky in that I happened to watch episodes 3.1 and 7.1 back to back.

3.1 I re-watched because I remembered a scene from it that I thought Netflix had cut out. So I checked out the dvd and found I was right. The scene where Ruth pretends to be Harry's lover in order to get in to see him at the hospital is in that episode. But even aside from that scene, 3.1 is fabulous for a lot of reasons -- notably Matthew MacFadyen's acting performance as Tom Quinn wrestling with demons and the introduction of Adam Carter (played by Penry-Jones).

When Adam's character is first introduced, there's a nice little part where he tells Danny "don't plan too much, Danny.  Let things just . . . crinkle out." I didn't give the exchange any mind, I just enjoyed the rest of this episode which ends with this lovely shot of our two leading men: the outgoing star Tom and the incoming one, Adam.

Cinematographically (yes, I'm coining a word for this purpose), this is a beautifully shot scene which does an excellent job of showing the viewer a transition in progress -- a "changing of the guard" moment.

Naturally my mind went to Adam's exit, years later, when he overlaps so briefly with the new lead guy, Lucas North.  I thought I might be able to find a similar screen-shot for a post about the leading men, which would serve as a changing of the guard, phase II . . .  (wait. . . . . I'm not really making a great case for myself not being the most obsessed of fans am I? hahah). This one is the best I could do.

. . . But the point is, that while scanning though Lucas and Adam's scenes together in 7.1, I came across a moment where, on the way to save a hostage and being warned of the extreme danger to them both of approaching this situation without a plan, Adam says with the briefest of twinkles in his eye: "yeah, well, lets give it a go, eh? . . . see how it crinkles out."

It was the meaningful delivery that caught my attention. "Crinkles out"? I'm sure I just heard that. Sure enough, I went back and found that bit of dialog with Danny in 3.1. It was certainly intentional.

What a fun little hidden gem and a nice reprise for Adam as he left the show.

Thanks guys!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What Do Star Trek the Next Generation and Spooks (MI-5) Have in Common?

Don't laugh. I'm good at this. : )

So, I just realized that a very old love (Star Trek the Next Generation) has a lot in common with my new love (Spooks/MI-5). Here they are (the similarities), in no particular order:
  1. Very cool high tech gadgetry;
  2. Small coherent core team of characters working together in a larger context of faceless others that can be seen in the background but never really met;
  3. An isolated work place (spaceship, the grid) where the team is separated by actual distance (space) or security-necessitated "distance" from the rest of the population;
  4. An environment where the work never really ends -- where characters may loosely go "off duty" but where the work predominates everything;
  5. Thus, the insular work group is everything - friend, family, and social order;
  6. A strong order/rank relationship exists among and between the characters;
  7. And a strong sense of duty to a higher goal or purpose drives all the characters, both individually and collectively;
  8. Similar hinted at and occasionally expressed deeper feelings and relationships exist among a few of the team members -- for instance Harry/Ruth a bit like Picard/Crusher and Adam/Ros a bit like Riker/Troi maybe?;
  9. Each show has a wonderful and kick-ass British actor at the helm.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Firth and Burton in Equus: Surprisingly Fresh and Powerful

I sat down and watched Equus the other day. I've been hearing about it as I've been learning more about Peter Firth, and thought it was time to just plow in. (Intentional but weak horse-related pun). This is an odd, brilliant film which still felt fresh and powerful more than 30 years after its release.

Peter Firth is wonderful as the lead character Alan. Firth plays him with thick childlike wonder in a performance so open and entrancing that I found him deeply sympathetic despite his horrific deed. Richard Burton is likewise profound, with his gorgeous voice and intellectual intensity. And Firth and Burton together are simply mesmerizing like poetry.

The supporting actors are wonderful as well especially Colin Blakely and Joan Plowright who play Alan's parents. And I hadn't realized, though I suppose I should have, that Jenny Agutter, Tessa from Spooks, is in the movie as Jill. All of the performances and the style of filming are perfect for setting an introspective mood that is dark and stirring.

Of the many levels on which to enjoy the film, I'll start with the most superficial -- I love watching people age. It is so interesting to me to see an actor I know mostly as a 50-something man, from when he was quite young.  Actors are lucky, as their aging process gets to be cataloged through the years in a way mine never was. How I'd love to see myself moving, walking and speaking as a fresh 23 year-old with the world in front of me (even if it was as I was pretending to be someone else). So it is fascinating to see Firth in this open, pliable, youthful performance, knowing he will one day become Harry Pearce.

Firth is a beautiful young man. I love the part of the film when he tells Jill she is beautiful and she says "so are you." He is. Shockingly guileless, with a stunning ability to be naked on screen. And I probably don't mean that in the way you think I do. Yes, he is starkers for a good amount of screen time. He is lovely, but in such a childlike and pure way, those scenes never feel erotic but just incredibly vulnerable. I don't know how actors do this. I feel exposed having just written about it ; )  Firth simply exudes emotion and tenderness from every pore -- his face, stance, and movements are uncovered, as well as his body, and he accepts that in a beautiful way.

The movie felt surprisingly relevant given that it was released in1977. It is actually shocking how dated it didn't feel. (Ha! is that a proper sentence?) The camera angles and movement, the sets and dialog all felt current. The pacing perhaps a bit slow by modern standards but overall, still very fresh.

. . .  As a side note and by way of comparison, before settling on Equus, I had cued up Restoration. Although the latter was made in 1995 it felt immediately dated to me. The sets looked like matte paintings of the type I expect from 1940s movies. The gratuitous sex felt, well gratuitous and the acting either dull or contrived. Even Benjamin Withrow and David Thewlis (who I liked so much as Mr. Bennett and Professor Lupin, respectively), felt flat here. I felt no great creative spark behind the film that propelled it beyond its own time and made it seem larger. I didn't want to go back to 1995 and that is what the film felt like it was doing to me. I couldn't watch it.

I'm glad I couldn't because Equus was a much better choice.

Friday, September 2, 2011

I'm Feeling Very American This Week

I realize that the notion of American-identity may be as varied as Americans are, but my idea of what it means to be "American" is:

Being just a bit childlike. Blundering out in the world with confidence and certainty, though beneath it all just wanting to weakly hand over the gun when the guy in charge walks in.

It means feeling still a bit like an outsider who doesn't quite know how larger world traditions really feel deep inside a culture's soul.

It means feeling incredibly talented and powerful -- able to do great and amazing things if people would please just stop questioning my motives.

It means crying when I hear the national anthem.
   . . .  and being embarrassed that my education glossed over the War of 1812 to the point that I had no idea what this song was about until I was a grown woman.

It means owning what I do. Even if everyone is staring at me.

I means knowing with gratitude that, though I may not like everything about my country (including its television, pop culture and fast food), my powerful sense of self and my endless personal freedoms are a gift.

It means I listen to Lyle Lovett and Michelle Shocked and through their music realize that I really can abide Texas quite well.

It means I can reach out my hands and spin and spin as far as my arms will reach and I will touch nothing under the great blazing sky. And if the great blazing sky above me ever starts to feel like it's not quite enough, I can move to Montana.

Or Alaska.

It means I recall how 20 years ago I moved to the desert and heard Nirvana for the first time. And though others revolutionized music before them and others will do so again, at that time and in that moment we were all American youth.

And it means I now recall a date ten years ago when I was woken up in a terror that has truly not since vanished.

Country is like your family. You may seek out lovers or friends who will like you for who you are, but your family is yours regardless of who you are. And they don't have to like you. (Though mine do thank God). I may go knocking at other doors and ask for admittance or indulgence or even acceptance, but I never have to ask America for that.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Conflict Conflict Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

"Always Remember to be Dexterous and Deft and Never Mix Up Your Right Foot With Your Left."
As the brilliant one reminds us (and, yes, I do mean Dr. Seuss) life is a great balancing act. And it is also a great learning curve -- no prize for getting to the end of that curve the soonest.

A week of conflict -- most of which I can trace to interacting with other humans [insert a dry pause] -- has left me exhausted.  I've been thinking that, as difficult as interaction with other humans can sometimes be, it is made so much more so by living in the year 2011 -- using a computer, your fingers, and sometimes your voice to communicate, but rarely all at once, it is easy to have misunderstandings.

This week, my fingers alone got me into conflict with several unrelated groups of people. And my fingers, face and voice (in different proportions) got me into stress with a job"audition."

And while the stressors keep coming, the relief does not. My favorite "get out of your head" solution (watching my reruns of Spooks) is failing me tonight because I recently passed that pivotal moment - Season 5, Episode 5. For some, "nuff said." For others, mild Spooks (MI-5) spoilers follow. The most sadly- and longingly-anticipated of episodes -- the one where Ruth tells me goodbye for a while but gives me the present of kissing Harry first, is past and now I don't have Ruth to take my mind off things.  So many episodes yawning before me before I can get to the consolation prize of Lucas North in Season 7. Kidding. He's a pretty great prize. But dealing with conflict is stressful when you don't have good tv to look forward to at night.

Add 110 degree heat, and its a formula for a headache.

It was literally hot enough to melt a candle on my front porch table this week. This sight of liquefied wax splayed over that surface was more than a little shocking to my sense of propriety. Did the sun not get the memo that it is in fact September now(?!) -- the month of school supply shopping, leaves turning color, and crisp fall weather that requires the wearing of sweaters?

No. The heat is insane and if I could I would even get in the little pop-up pool for a swim, but it, too, is having problems and has purged itself of water for unknown reasons. It is suffering from holes I can't see.

Those same kinds of holes, the ones you can't see, are at the root of many issues. I'm learning that plunging ahead as if the pool is intact, you can waste a lot of water.

But things may be looking up.  The interview that I screwed up has given me a call back and others are trying to make nice. Meanwhile its cooler tonight. Just 92 right now. Maybe "cool" is the wrong word, but at least candles wont melt in it.  And I'm mending the holes in the pool. I find I have to get down on my hands and knees and feel around for them. But most are getting patched.

. . . . hmmm. . .  Maybe a nice little metaphoric reminder that it is OK to be humbled in order to come back stronger and reach higher highs?

Or maybe its just because I am left-handed that I'm having a hard time following Dr. Seuss' advice to be dexterous. ;)