Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mad Men

Matt and I have taken to watching the AMC drama "Mad Men." It won the Emmy the other night for best drama series, and we agree wholeheartedly. I never watched "The Sopranos," but one of the writers and producers of "The Sopranos" is the exec producer on "Mad Men," and Matt says the subtle-yet-brilliant way characters are developed on the two shows is quite similar. It really is a brilliantly written show.

If you haven't heard about it, it's about people working in an ad agency on Madison Avenue in the early 1960s. The cultural differences depicted between then and now are positively hilarious. Not just the constant smoking, but the ubiquity of liquor in the office (I once had a dream I had a full bar in my office. It was a good dream. In that same dream, we'd hired Whoopi Goldberg as an African American fiction editor.) No one wears seat belts, and when a child is playing with a dry cleaning bag completely over her head, the mom gets mad because the clothes are all over the floor, not because the child is potentially suffocating herself.

The treatment of the women in the office is so appalling by today's standards that it, too, is hilarious. The men don't even call them "secretaries," but "girls," as in "tell your girl to type up that memo." (I received an e-mail at work the other day addressed "Gentlemen," so maybe things haven't changed as much as we think.) The crowning moment of all this eye-popping chauvenism, however, came in an episode we watched this morning on DVD. (We didn't start watching til Season 2, so we're catching up via Netflix.) A woman who, by season two, is a copywriter and the only female non-secretary in the office, impressed one of the men with her tagline-creation skills (which, we presume, leads to the promotion by the end of the season). The man is telling all his male colleagues about how brilliant her ideas were, and says...

"I tell you, it was amazing. It was like seeing a dog play the piano."

Yes, that's right. Seeing a woman think was like seeing a dog play the piano.

For this and other gems, we highly recommend you check out the show. It's on Sunday nights at 10/9 central on AMC.

Are You Above Average?

My husband put up a post last night with this list he found of the "100 Books All Americans Should Read" or something like that. Supposedly, the average American has only read six of them. That's pretty sad. Matt had read 36. I'm betting I won't beat him. To my knowledge, he never went through a decade-long phase where he read nothing but American Girl and Babysitter's Club books, so he is more widely read than I.

This is kind of a chain-blog deal, so feel free to copy, paste, and fill it out for yourself.
The Rules:
1) Look at the list and put one * by those you have read.
2) Put a % by those you intend to read.
3) Put two ** by the books you LOVE.
4) Put # by the books you HATE.
5) Post.

I'm feeling lazy today, so I don't think I'm going to bother with the love it, hate it deal. I just want my number, so I can see how I rank against my brilliant hubby and the not-so-brilliant "average American." I am, however, going to add a new category- "?", which means "I think I was assigned this in high school and can't remember if I actually read it or just skimmed it well enough to still flunk the quiz."

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen? (I'm starting this off well)
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte*
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee*
6 The Bible*
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 1984 - George Orwell*
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens?
11 Little Women - Louisa May Alcott*
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien*
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger* (Matt says he doesn't want to read this one because so many serial killers have been found reading it. I guess he's still waiting to see how I turn out ;0)
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell*
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald*
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck?
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll*
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy*
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia- CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen*
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne*
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell*
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery* (and several of its sequels, though I got bored after Anne and Gilbert got married)
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding*
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen*
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens*
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley* (read Amusing Ourselves to Death for a fascinating take on how this is the dystopia our society is actually headed for, not 1984)
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas*
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett*
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce * (this one should make up for at least five classics I haven't read)
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker (haven't read this, but I have a distinct memory of when a couple girls and I found this on our 5th grade teacher's desk, opened to some really freaky incident, and were quickly told to put that book down!)
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White*
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad ?
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (no, but I remember when my 11th grade classmates who took French had to read it in the original--"Le Petit Prince")
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas*
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl*
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Hmm... 25 and four "maybes." Not too bad, I suppose, for someone who doesn't really care for fiction. (I'm more of a religion/sociology/memoir sort of girl.) I've got to say, the one obvious gap in this list that I see is Fahrenheit 451. Great book, and appropriate for a list/study about the importance of reading.

So what's your number?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Debate Stream of Consciousness

8:03 Is anyone else watching the "audience reaction" ticker more than the candidates themselves? I wish I had one of those dials. I love taking polls.

8:09 Lehrer! Don't talk to the candidates like they're in marriage counseling! "Don't tell me, say it directly to him."

8:13 McCain's tie is not TV-compatible. They should have checked that. And his Montana bear joke just fell flat.

8:19 Hmm. The audience didn't like Obama interrupting. It's supposed to be a more casual, dialogical debate, though. That's how we did it in my family!

8:22 John, why are you talking about WWII? It just reinforces that you're old, and that you still have a WWII mindset (see this month's issue of The Atlantic).

8:26 I think McCain was about to lose it there. The condescending chuckle as Obama spoke. I know another Republican who does that. I won't name any names, though.

8:32 Google for Government? I'm intrigued... (and always interested in anything that makes info more easily accessible.)

8:33 Audience supports ending the war. Smart people.

8:37 You've always fought excessive spending, John? But you support billions and billions of unbudgeted funds for making war?

8:40 Independents not buying that the surge equals success.

8:46 It's not a win/lose situation!

8:49 Why does the Independent line keep switching between green and yellow?

8:51 Pock-i-ston? Tolly-bon? Obama pronounces things funny. And now I have "Lollipop, Lollipop" in my head.

9:02 I'm tired, and I think we're losing interest. This is just 90 minutes, right?

9:04 Matt's freaking out at McCain's use of the term "existential threat." Wha-huh? Did he mean "substantial threat"? Or a threat to Israel's existence?

9:08 Yes, it's soooo bad to sit down and talk civilly to antagonistic heads of state! (sarcasm, if that wasn't clear.) That really bothers me when McCain says things like that.

9:20 Matt is wondering if McCain's frequent line, "Senator Obama just doesn't understand," will be interpreted as tough, or just a-holish.

9:30 If the audience poll chart is any indication, I think it's clear Obama is "winning" this debate. Several times, we have seen the lines plummet the moment McCain starts to speak, and dip to their lowest points the more disrespectfully he speaks about Obama. All three lines (the red one included!) rise significantly when Obama speaks again.

My friends, I've had about enough for one night. Looking forward to the veeps next week. Goodnight, and God Bless America.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

And the child lept in her womb...

Baby Kate (we are going on the assumption that it's a girl now) has been kicking a lot in the last couple weeks, and it is so thrilling. It's amazing to feel her moving around, to know she's there and that she's okay.

I've been thinking recently about the verse in Luke's birth narrative, when a knocked-up Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist at the time. It says "when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child lept in her womb." When this passage is read aloud every Christmas, it seems so supernatural, as if it's totally unheard of for a child to leap within the womb and it couldn't be anything other than a great omen of messianic coming. Now, it seems so real, like a perfectly normal--if positively glorious and miraculous--occurance.

Nonetheless, it makes me think of how people are prone to ascribe significance to those most energetic kicks. I don't know if the timing of baby's kicks actually have any correlation to what's going on ouside the womb, but it's kind of fun to take stock of what I could know about my daughter's tastes if there is any validity to the theory. She likes...
  • pumpkin spice lattes
  • Daddy's preaching
  • praise and worship music
  • Mommy ignoring the alarm clock
  • Disciple Bible study videos

and apparently...

  • being blogged about :0)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pastors and Country Stars

When our cruise ship got back to Mobile Monday morning, Matt turned his phone back on and found two voice mails and a text asking him about filming a Trace Adkins country music video at the church. How cool! I'm not a huge country music fan (I adopted a mildly positive "can't-beat-em-join-em" stance after moving to Nashville) but I love cool claims-to-fame like this.

So, Matt spent 18 hours yesterday (literally, 5am til after 11 pm) on the set of a music video shoot starring Trace Adkins and Stephen Baldwin. They filmed the plotline part and Trace singing his song inside and outside of the church, and down in the creek where Matt baptized several kids last spring. The song, Muddy Water, is apparently about a guy being baptized. Matt spent the day hanging out with the stars, the director, the extras, and everybody, helping out with production, and even demonstrating proper baptizing technique for the actor playing the pastor!

We're hoping this claim-to-fame will attract some attention for Bethlehem in the Clarksville area (the church is way off the beaten path, so most people don't just stumble upon it!) The Leaf-Chronicle came and did a story. Check it out here, and watch for us on CMT!

Homage to Howard Olds

I meant to write a post like this on the day of Dr. Olds' funeral, six weeks ago. I wanted to say how beloved he was to so many (Matt and I arrived at the funeral 45 minutes early and were still parking at the bank next door and sitting in the overflow room!) and include some excerpts from his last book--the one I was privileged to work on with him and Cal Turner.

Unfortunately, I never did write that post. Fortunately, the folks at Church Central (a great ministry resource website) did it for me. Check out the article, with book excerpts, here.

Another note about Howard's funeral I want to share doesn't have to do with Howard himself, but was a beautiful moment that I know he would appreciate. Matt and I were sitting in the overflow room, as I said, so unlike the thousand or more early birds who fit into Brentwood UMC's sanctuary, the couple hundred of us in the overflow room did not have access to hymnals. The service was shown on a screen, but they didn't show the words to the hymns on screen, so we were left to our own devices when it came time to sing. I honestly can't even remember what the first hymn was ("Be Thou My Vision," maybe, or "Amazing Grace"?) but all these Methodist pastors, congregants, and friends were still able to sing all four or five verses together at the top of their lungs. It really brought tears to my eyes. That was a true "body of Christ" moment, and I know Howard would have been touched as well.

Praise be to God.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

So...it might be a girl

We had our 20-week ultrasound this afternoon. We'd been prepping "Baby Wes" for days, saying "ok, be sure to smile big, and show us your wee-wee." Because of the Intelligender test, we were fairly confident it would be a boy. After all, the site says the test is 90% accurate in lab tests. (Only 80% accurate in actual usage, but that's because of human error and we followed the directions to a T!) You'll recall how distressed I was when the pee turned green, since I had my heart set on a girl. Over the last two months, though, I've talked to Wesley every day, and looked at boy clothes for him, and even let my quest for neutral bedding veer slightly to the boy side. He was "my little guy," and I got kind of attached to (the idea of) him.

As the day of our "big" ultrasound approached, Matt and I talked about how we would feel if it turned out to be a girl. Matt--though ecstatic about a boy--said he would be totally fine either way. I--despite my earlier desire for a girl--knew that I would feel a little wierd about the gender "changing," even just in our minds.

We told our ultrasound technician about the Intelligender test, so she was looking extra-hard for a penis, too. She checked out all the other organs, took lots of measurements and snapshots (all very cool!) and kept going back to the groin area time and again, each time without announcing any conclusion. Matt and I are both totally untrained, obviously, but each time we got a clear shot of the area, it sure looked like a girl to us. No pee-pees here! Just some white lines in the crotch that looked very much like labia. Finally, she said "well, we can't say for sure, but it really looks like a girl to me." See her crotch, with the little white lines? (Picture baby sitting on the glass of a Xerox machine to get a sense of the angle.)

So, Matt and I don't know what to think! We trusted Intelligender, but it really looked like a girl on screen! Ultrasounds are more reliable, of course, if you see a penis than if you don't, because it could just be hiding (and s/he did keep her/his legs together a lot). We're confused now, since we really want to know "for sure"--we are the Internet generation after all, the age of easy-access information! Right now, I feel kind of how I did when Intelligender said it was a boy. I had trouble picturing myself with a boy, so I couldn't think of the baby as one gender or the other, and didn't know how to talk to him. So, we'll let you know if we start thinking of baby as "her" and "Baby Kate" or not, or if we just live in limbo, like they did in "the olden days." Either way, s/he's a cutie, huh?

In closing, I can't help but think of this gem from "Monty Python and the Meaning of Life"...

Woman who's just given birth: "Is it a boy or a girl?"

Doc: "It's a bit early to be assigning roles, don't you think?"

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