Friday, September 28, 2007

The Sociopath Becomes Mainstream

This Mommy is really dismayed by the popularity of a cable-TV drama called Dexter.

I'm not surprised by the success of the show. Dexter has all of the elements that one would expect from a cable-TV drama. It's non-formulaic, the characters are well developed, the dialog is highly crafted and subtext oozes from every nook and cranny. Throw in some irony and a wee bit of biting humor. Top it off with some superb acting from the likes of Michael C. Hall (Six Feet Under) and you've got the makings of a winner.

Here's the snag. The subject matter is patently offensive. The glib portrayal of a serial killer is just not entertaining. Or at least it shouldn't be. Have we become so numb to violence and mayhem that we find the life and times of a serial killer to be the fodder for entertainment?

I don't blame the creators of the show. This is their artistic endeavor and they have every right to peddle it to the highest bidder. So be it. My concern is with what appears to be our never ending thirst for subject matter which glorifies horror, despair, and abject misery. In the case of Dexter, we are treated to an almost whimsical, snickering look-see into the life of a mass murderer. He's a bad, bad boy who's been hurting people. Bad Dexter. Bad serial killer. He's crafty--that one! Tune in next week for more of his mass murdering hi-jinx!

And yeah, I know. He only kills bad guys. So we shouldn't feel shock when he impales or dismembers his latest victim. They deserved it. They had it coming. Some might say that we need more like him.

My God...I hope not. Many years ago, I was indelibly struck by Hannah Arendt's seminal work Eichmann in Jerusalem. Her core assertion is that evil is cloaked in the routine, lurking in the familiar, emanating from that which is accustomed. Building in small, insidious ways until it culminates into a menacing destroyer...after countless, seemingly benign influences erode our natural sensitivity. Hitler's wrath began as a viable political strategy and good common sense to millions of beleaguered Germans. Not bad people by and large. And yet they share in the culpability.

We Americans are war torn in other, less visible ways. We encounter a never ending barrage of violence, indiscriminate sexuality, immorality in every form--all streaming from a host of media outlets. Yet we're somehow used to it. We're desensitized to suffering in a million small ways.

Our empathy is unwittingly chipped away as we grab our popcorn bowl and settle down for a quiet evening of Dexter. The banality of evil indeed.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Jena 6...Heartbreaking

Without addressing the particulars of the case (of which I only have a sketchy understanding), I am saddened by a some key, ancillary issues.

(1) It seems we have not made much progress in narrowing the divide between the way Blacks and Whites perceive the world. We are all Americans and that should count for something--especially in a time of war. But race is a powerful filter no matter how hard we try to ignore or marginalize it.

(2) While I am impressed at the great numbers of people who have made their way South in order to protest perceived injustice in Jena, Louisiana, I am tremendously unimpressed by the most recognized mouth pieces leading the charge. Both Sharpton and Jackson are completely disingenuous and self-serving. They often quote Dr. King and ostensibly try to emulate him. Clearly, they don't even come close. Their motivations often appear tainted and their judgment is questionable. Sharpton has not once, but twice defended liars and shakedown artists. He has impugned the reputations of innocent people and has engaged in extortion, brandishing the much feared title of "racist" as a weapon against anyone who dares to disagree with him. And Jackson...well... anyone who lives in the Chicago area is familiar with the dubious nature of his leadership status. Some twenty years ago (ouch) at Berkeley, I recall Dr. Harry Edwards commenting that he knew Rev. Jackson personally and even considered him a friend but was nonetheless suspect of Rev. Jackson's true motivations. I can't quote Dr. Edwards exactly but it was something to the effect of Rev. Jackson having to always be "up in every one's business"--whether he was requested to do so or not. I don't think Sharpton or Jackson could ever support a Rosa Parks to lead a movement. In doing so, too much attention would be deflected from themselves. If in fact a great injustice was carried out in Jena, the cause to remediate any wrongdoing is only hampered by the involvement of these two posers.

(3) The racial tensions in Jena lead me back to a question I have asked for years: Why do so many Whites insist that racism never exists and many African-Americans believe that it always exists, in nearly every situation?

I guess it just comes down to living in the other guy's shoes--if only for a day. I think both "sides" would see that there really, truly is middle ground.

And I think we all could use a little more middle ground these days. Because let's face it...Al Quaida is not at all interested in our racial differences. Their desire to kill us is equal opportunity.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Happy Birthday Daddy!

We can't wait to see you !!!!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Raising A Renaissance Baby (?)

One of my online mommy magazines opened with this little jewel:

Expose your sweetie to music of all varieties, art of diverse genres, literature and languages, natural landscapes and locales in abundance. Add a heaping portion of pop culture and you'll be nurturing a socially savvy child.

Oh brother.

When I was pregnant with Ethan and knew noting about actually raising children, I was full of lofty plans and expectations. Classical music would be piped throughout our home at all times to stimulate musical ability. Commercial television would be an absolute no-no. I viewed a future filled with trips to museums, leisurely strolls through botanical gardens, lunches with equally savvy mommies at top-notch restaurants. Not a single chicken nugget was going to pass my child's lips. And it went without saying that he would be multi-lingual by the age of two.


The fact of the matter is that all of the above mentioned accoutrement is...well...simply that. This mommy surely isn't mocking classical music. It's lovely. We like it. But was I thinking about that when Ethan was screaming with colic 12 hours a day?And I'll tell you this--when I was hanging by a thread after 3-4 hours sleep a night, I was doing well to get a shower squeezed into my day. My big trip out was to the Jewel for more formula. Elevated cuisine consisted of Portillo's and when we really got all gussied-up, we may have made it out to Outback Steakhouse.

Ahhhh, but Leigh, surely the baby becomes a child and then you can cultivate 5-star palates and artistic sensibilities?? Yes, the child grows. In the words of Love You Forever, he grows and he grows, and he grows. And yes, you can greatly influence your child's tastes and preferences. I would be remiss if I didn't expose him to the beauty of nature, the splendor of art, the wonder of books, the bountiful variety of healthful, wholesome foods. But it's also important to remember that an entire industry is booming--based on the flawed notion that you can engineer a super-child. Buy our vocabulary builder and your little guy will be a gifted orator at age 4. Subscribe to our magazine and your child will have a great appreciation for nature. Renew your membership to the local Gymboree and he'll be setting the stage for a future at the 2018 Olympiad!.

Sorry friends. It just ain't so.

You can influence, persuade , extol, recite, expose, and impart your mommy patootie off. Some of it will sink in. A lot of it will not. Case in point. I'm a reader. I loved books and everything about them my entire life. The texture, the print, the smell. I own hundreds. I lived for the library as a child. At any given time, I usually have at least one novel and a couple of works of non-fiction sitting on my nightstand. My days start and end with the written word. I have read to Ethan nearly every day of his life. You would think that he just loves the library, right?

Negative. He heads straight for the videos and then for the computers to play games. And yes, I impose the obligatory edict: Ethan, you must choose three books before you do anything else in this library. He capitulates, saunters to the stacks, chooses three books with little or no interest, and then scrambles back to the video section with visible relief. The good news is that Ethan is already past grade level in his reading ability and comprehension. But does he relish the experience? Does he love reading for reading's sake? Not on your life.

Surely my love of books has had some impact on him. But I can't discount the observation that much of him is hard wired. You know--organic. I doubt his reading skills will ever fail him. But he's not a budding Hemingway either. And that is just fine. As Oracle says, "I'm not going crazy over it". You do your best, provide a wide variety of opportunities and give your child the time to discover his own interests and talents. But you can't build a super-kid with a set of blueprints. Our little people are far more complicated than that.

And much more interesting.

(As far as my children's exposure to pop culture...that topic deserves a post all of its own. More later.)

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Ivy League Is Not The Goal

If they make it there--super. But what are the most worthy aspirations? I know this mommy needs some perspective on occasion.

Lord, be with us and all our children.

Give them the courage to be different,
to be themselves,
to be faithful to all whom they know,
to all that they believe.

Give them patience and wisdom to
know all that You ask of them.

Let their hands be used in service to others,
their feet to hasten to the needs of the poor,
their eyes to see the beauty of our world,
their ears to hear with compassion
the call of the poor,
their hearts to love and to bless
all whom are and will become
part of their lives.

And, finally, give us the courage to let them grow,
grow away from us,
as they grow in wisdom, grace, and age
before God and man, under your care.

(Sent home by Ethan's Kindergarten teacher. Not sure if she composed this.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Northern Exposure

I was just thinking tonight about how much I miss it. I have most of the series on my DVR and every once in a while, I'll sit back and watch. I've seen every episode so I know what misadventures befall poor, put upon Dr. Joel. But every time I watch I glean something new, something I hadn't noticed a bazillion times before.

There is just nothing like it. A few series over the years have rivaled its creativity but have failed to capture its quirkiness. The chemistry between the actors/characters is palpable and the writing is just pure brilliance.For the most part, there is no single scene that can be described as defining or seminal. It's the sum of the parts that makes Northern Exposure such a masterpiece. And its that performance synergy that allows it to stand the test of time.

And I still feel sad that Joel and Maggie were simply not meant to be. Countless episodes of build-up and their union was just not written in the stars. Or in their case--the Aurora Borealis.

Chris Stevens the town DJ/clergyman/philosopher (John Corbett) had his own thoughts on the matter:

Rain usually makes me feel mellow: curl up in a corner time, slow down, smell the furniture. Today... it just makes me feel wet. What is it about owning things? Why do we feel the need to own what we love, and why do we become such jerks when we do? We've all been there, you know: we want something; we own it; and by owning it we change it. When you finally win that girl of your dreams, the first thing you do is try to change her. That little thing she does with her hair, the way she wears her clothes, the way she chews her gum. Until eventually, what you like, what you don't like and what you change all merges into one. Like a watercolor in the rain.

So true Chris. So true indeed.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Grandpa Pick-Me-Up

Truth In Advertising...

(Click on image for large view)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Courageous Prayer...via Oracle

From this point on, Oracle has made the request to stay behind the curtain, so to speak. We must honor all requests from the wise one! I, for one, thinks she fully deserves a blog of her own but that's gonna take some arm twisting.

When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:

"Heavenly Father, We come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good" but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self esteem.
We have abused power and called it politics.
We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of speech and expression.
We have ridiculed the time honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today;
Cleanse us from every sin and set us free.

Friday, September 07, 2007

12 Years Young

Our marriage. The best, hardest, most lovely, trying, and fulfilling endeavor. You're a loyal friend, a caring partner, loving father, and steadfast provider. Thank you for your tireless effort to ensure your family's comfort and security.

When you stepped off that plane at SFO way back in '93, I knew that you were my husband-to-be. Since that time, we have realized amazing dreams. Something tells me that there are more to come.

I love you Jim. Still do. Always will.

Happy Anniversary.

Harmless, Mindless 80s Fun

Anyone who knows anything about this mommy knows that I just loves me some English Beat. Still do. Of course I was completely taken by the lead singer back in the day (Sting, Ed Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Matthew McConaughey, Jim Eckroth...all fall into the category of "mommy's type"). And I just found their "I Confess" video. Note the absence of any reference to a bitch, ho, trick, bootie, or gangsta. Imagine that.

Fred 08?

It's not completely out of the realm of possibility. I've been luke warm on the presidential election so far but Fred Thompson stokes my political embers. I love the fact that he speaks in the vernacular despite his command of the king's English. To date, I haven't heard double talk or verbiage two-step. He is extremely clear about his position on key issues. I don't agree with him on every last talking point. But I'm right in his corner when it comes to protecting the rights of the weak and vulnerable. I admire his vision of federalism as set forth by the framers. He will not support burdensome taxation. And he takes a no nonsense stance on the issue of border control and protection. Here’s what the New York Daily News editorial page is saying about Fred

“Thompson is absolutely pro-life, period, no waffling about it.”

“He is solidly pro-Second Amendment, period, no dithering.”

“He’s a gung-ho war on terror man, a no-nonsense border security man.”

And let's face it. In the face of terrorism and continued aggression we need a president with gravitas. Giuliani has it but he loses me when it comes to abortion. So, I'm not ready to put Fred's sign on the lawn but so far I'm leaning in his general direction. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Music Mom Loves

Can I just say that I just love Amy Winehouse? A twentysomething English girl with a voice of a 50-year old Black woman. Some say her style is an affectation, much like Alanis Morissette's yodel voice that curiously disappeared after her first album. I don't know. I'm not a music critic. Even if it's a put on, it's a really good one.

She's wrapped up in the tragic-blues-singer-hooked-on-drugs-and-the-wrong-men thing right now. And the beehive and the eyeliner are silly gimmicks that she does not need. I guess it's all about standing out and having a distinctive image. Whatever. I just hope she gets it together 'cause she is really, really good. Where did a little girl like her get all that soul?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Kindergarten: Ethan's First Day

The day came with a mixture of anticipation and dread. It really is time for him to be in school every day. He's five-and-a-half and has been in some type of pre-school program since he was two. Still, this is different somehow. My baby boy isn't a baby anymore. A mom feels that pang when she knows that her child is in the beginning stages of pulling away. Doing his own thing. Not simply being an extension of Mommy and Daddy. This is the goal apparently. Sigh. When he blissfully waved to me from the window of the school bus, I felt the lump in my throat, swallowed hard and held the tears at bay. Off he goes. Off he goes.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Feel Better Grandpa Dave!

Click on the above to see the full page version.

My Dad's getting through it. He's going to be just fine but the treatment is arduous and has a few very unpleasant side effects. The good news is that this won't be forever...he's just got to tough it out for awhile...We're praying for his improved comfort and some badly needed pain relief! In the meantime, Ethan and McKenna are trying to find ways to make him smile.

We love you Dad, Grandpa, and Father-In-Law!