Seven Deadly-Serious Reasons Why I Cannot Give Up TV for Lent

I took one of those BUZZFEED quizzes the other day that’s supposed to tell you what to give up for Lent, thinking it would be kind of funny, but it turned out to touch a bit of a nerve for me. Not that I watch that much TV, but what I do watch, I’m quite passionate about, and it’s a very exciting season in the world of television. I’m not talking about any of that so-called reality crap. Instead, I want to focus on well-scripted, thought-provoking hour-long dramas. The things that are filling the void left by Breaking Bad for me. So here, in no particular order are the series that I am currently watching and simply cannot give up for God or anyone.

1. True Detective – HBO


Sunday night the finale to this 8-episode season will air. All this time wondering who the Yellow King is, if in fact the Yellow King is the murderer. I can’t just stop watching now. Plus Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are just riveting in these roles. It’s dark and it’s vicious, and totally worth watching.

2. The Americans – FX


Last season was really good, but when it was over, I wondered how they were going to keep the idea of Russian spies in 1980’s suburbia in play. Well, this season, the whole family is in danger, not just the spy parents. Add in that the daughter is starting to suspect something is up with her mom and dad and you have one taught thriller.

3. Game of Thrones – HBO


Season 4 starts April 6th, a full two weeks before the end of Lent, and I’ve got to tell you, I freaking LOVE this show. There are so many characters, so many layers. It’s so well-written that I can forget that there are dragons and white walkers, which aren’t usually my thing. But still, those things are intimidating. So many great performances, so many plot twists. I know I could read the books to find out what happens, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise of the show. It’s simply the best thing on television right now. (Well, right now starting April 6th.)

4. Justified


The best season was the second one, but still, I could watch Timothy Olyphant just walk across the screen all night long. Damn. Oh, oh, oh, and there’s some witty dialogue in there too.

5. Fargo


I realize this series has yet to air. In fact, it starts on FX on April 15th. But I loved the Coen Brothers movie upon which it is based, and if the series has any kind of the same dark humor as the film, I will be hooked. Also, what a cast!! Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Bob Odenkirk,  Colin Hanks, Oliver Platt, and many more. I can’t wait.

6. Mr. Selfridge


PBS has been churning out some great TV via the BBC for many years, and for anyone going through withdrawal from Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge provides a fine fix. Jeremy Piven, formerly of HBO’s Entourage plays the title character, who’s part P.T, Barnum, part Don Draper. He’s interesting and all, but the other characters (and there are quite a few) are just as compelling. Miss Agnes Towler (Aisling Loftus) is like an Edwardian Peggy Olsen, smart, ambitious and hoping to find a true career. If you haven’t seen Season 1, I highly recommend you catch up before Season 2 premiers March 30th.

7. Mad Men


Well, I’ve been with Don Draper from the beginning, so it’s too late to give up now, right? Seriously though, the end of Season 6 saw Don setting off in a new direction, and it will be very interesting to see where he ends up. My only complaint is that AMC is breaking up the final season into two mini-seasons, with the first part beginning April 13th. Not sure I like this new trend. It’s as if TV executives saw the marketing potential in splitting Breaking Bad into to two seasons, so now every long-running series will have its final one milked into two. Kind of like how Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was cut into two movies, so then so was Twilight: Breaking Dawn, and now Mocking Jay will follow suit. (Don’t get me wrong, Deathly Hallows needed two movies to be done right. Not so sure about the other two.) But I digress. However many episodes they stretch Mad Men into, I will watch every one.

Mad Men teaser trailer on AMC.

And mind you, these are just the dramas. There are a few sit-coms that are worth watching out there too, but I will save them for another post. In any case, the DVR will be working overtime this Spring, and reading books will just have to wait for Summer.

Brave Themed Birthday Party

The Princess recently turned seven, and this year, she wanted her party to be Brave-themed.

So I came up with some ideas that went with the theme. First we got some molded plastic crown goblets, along with gold paper plates, napkins and forks.

Then, I made Will O’ the Wisps, like the one Merida follows into the forest, using battery-operated tea lights, double-sided tape, some blue cellophane wrap and streamers.

First I put the double-sided tape around the edges of the tea lights,

and then I sort of randomly attached the cellophane.

Using more double-sided tape, I attached thin strips of white streamers under the cellophane. This was also good for folding parts of the cellophane to get a sort of rounded, billowy shape.

And then I used some white lanyard (because I couldn’t find the fishing line that I KNOW IS AROUND HERE SOMEWHERE!!) and hung them in a trail to the door of the party. They looked really great blowing in the breeze, and after the sun went down they looked really cool, as the little tea lights flickered in the night air.

I also made crowns (using paper crowns from the craft store and glue-on jewels) for all the girls. For the boys, I got some ear-headbands, though at this time of the year, I had trouble finding inexpensive bears and had to settle for mouse ears. The kids didn’t seem to mind. For goodie bags, I used gold paper bags, and inside of each was a little teddy bear, bullseye cookies from snack bakeshop and a little bow and arrow set that I made using popsicle sticks and Q-Tips. (Directions for those on Practice What You Pinterest) tomorrow.

For cake, I made little cupcakes that looked a bit like the one Queen Elinor eats that turns her into a bear, and these were butterscotch flavored cake with vanilla butter cream icing. To make the cake, I started with a basic white cake recipe, and then I added a box of Jello Butterscotch Pudding mix.

The cupcakes were baked for 20 minutes,

and once they had cooled, I put a ring around the top with vanilla butter cream icing.

Once all the rings had been placed, I took what was left of the frosting and added red food coloring. (I think that the center-circle of the cake in the movie might be red, but I couldn’t justify using the amount of food coloring it would take to make the icing red, thus mine were pink.) The pink icing was used then to fill the center circle on top of the cupcakes.

For games, we had a tug-of war, and I bought a little toy archery set. The kids had a nice competition to see who could hit the target, though it turned out to be more fun than it was competitive.

It was a really fun party, and The Princess had a great day. Though one other thing I forgot to mention: During the party, I set my iPod to play some Bagpipe music via Pandora Radio to go with the theme. One of the guests (or perhaps more than one…) kept turning it off though. Go figure.

Age is Relative

The Princess, watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone asks me, “Mommy, how old is Dumbledore in this one? Thirty-something?”

Watching The Dark Knight Rises in the Wake of Aurora, Colorado

Before you read any further and get your Batman Underoos in any kind of bunch, I want to tell you two things. First, this post will probably contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, and you want to see the movie, come back another day. Secondly, remember that everyone has an opinion of their own; it’s what makes us individuals. We are entitled to have our own opinions, and

Han Solo frozen in carbonite. Now THAT was an action figure.

I will respect yours only if you respect mine; but bear in mind that I am not the target audience for The Dark Knight Rises. I am an American woman, in her mid-forties with young children. I have never played an action video game, and the last comic book I bought was probably a Richie Rich or an Archie. I have never owned or thought about purchasing an action figure for myself…well at least not since the first Star Wars movie was released…the first time.

That being said, last night, after weeks of excited anticipation, my husband, Manfrengensen and I went to see The Dark Knight Rises. We greatly enjoyed the first two installments of this franchise, have been fans of Christopher Nolan, its director, since Memento, and even watched Batman Begins on Thursday night to heighten our sense of anticipation. I procured a babysitter for Friday night, opening night, and we made plans to have dinner and see the film.

On Friday morning, I woke up, made my coffee, and checked the computer. One of my friends on the Facebook mentioned something about prayers going out to Colorado, so I went straight over to the New York Times to see what she was talking about. And my heart just sank, right from the headline. I felt sick as I read the story. How do these things happen? We always ask that when these things happen, but the fact is, they happen all too often.  (See a great article written about that by Roger Ebert here.) I don’t want to debate gun control in this country, I have been doing that since I was in high school. It goes nowhere. Ever. And that’s sad. Manfrengensen said the best thing I can think of about the Second Amendment. He said, okay, we have the right to bear arms, so you can have a musket, because that’s what the Framers had in mind. They never thought of assault rifles and the kinds of combat weapons we have turned into the monsters of today. Good point, I think.

But I digress;  back to Batman. Of course, Colorado was on our minds as we entered the multiplex last night. We got there a half-hour early, and the theater was already 3/4 full. There were no open spaces left in the stadium seating, so we had to sit in the fourth row of the ones down on the floor. Manfrengensen pointed to the exit door, which is something he has never done at the movies before, and we talked about how that guy must have bought a ticket, gone in and propped the door open before going out and getting his weapons from the car.

The lights went down and the movie started, after about a dozen previews for others. And right out of the gate, I was cringing at the violence. Mind you, I don’t think that violence in movies is the cause of shootings like these. Lots of rational people see movies like this one and don’t go out and shoot people, so there’s definitely something wrong with the people who do, not the culture itself. But the film still made me feel…I don’t know…uncomfortable.

There’s a lot of shooting and automatic weaponry in the film. There’s also a lot of hand-to-hand combat, complete with extra-loud sound effects of bones crushing on every hit. I wonder…which bones are they implying are being crushed? Are they the bones in the hands of the puncher, or in the bodies of those being punched? Either way, the fight scenes are too long. How many times can one punch with a broken hand? I doubt it would be too many. Even for Bane.

The movie is dark. Darker than any of the others in the series. There’s corruption, cowardice, degradation, nuclear weaponry. The entire infrastructure of the city is destroyed. The one percent get pulled from their homes and thrown out into the streets. There are times when Bane is still unintelligible. And for a Batman movie, there’s nowhere near enough Batman in it. Not enough Batman, and too much Matthew Modine. Why did we need Matthew Modine exactly?

And don’t even get me started on Anne Hathaway’s skin-tight Cat Woman costume and the way they had her ride the Bat Cycle with her rounded can in the air.

Plus, can I tell you something else? Edna Mode has ruined Batman for me. The whole time he’s fighting Bane, punch after bone-crushing punch, I’m thinking, are you kidding me, Bane? Just grab that cape and pull! That would be the end of that.

But seriously, I’m not saying that The Dark Knight Rises  is not worth seeing. Technologically. it’s brilliant. As far as the script goes though, it’s not as good as the other two. And I didn’t find Bane to be that great of a super-villain. He’s all mitts, mask, and diabolical philosophy, but he lacks the style and theatricality of The Joker, Spiderman’s Green Goblin, or even Lex Luthor. Bane’s less super villain, more semi-super villain.

I didn’t think any of the acting was anyone’s best, except for Michael Caine. But you know what? I don’t want to see an old man cry at the movies. There are only about three things I can think of that are sadder than an old man crying. Don’t you think? I don’t want to see an old man crying. Who wants to see an old man cry? But he was great. So great, that I was sorry there wasn’t more Alfred in the movie. I would seriously  like to see Caine nominated for an Oscar.

Overall, it had the feel of a third and final installment for me. Way too much going on. Bruce Wayne gets laid, there’s more than one villain, just too many ideas that needed tying up before it was over. I haven’t hated a film this much in years, and to tell you the truth. I wanted to walk out and tell Manfrengensen to meet me later in the lobby. But again, I admit, I am not a member of the target demographic.

Now, would I have had any of these feelings if not for what happened in Colorado? I went to a dark movie, already feeling pretty dark. The thing is;  yes, it’s just a movie. It’s entertainment and we are meant to enjoy it. But that’s really hard in a world that can sometimes be so angry and dark. When reality feels futile — I mean, what can you do about the crazy murderers of the world? There is no Batman who will come to our rescue. It is up to us to learn from events such as these, not just say, oh well, isolated incident, so don’t change anything. To not think about it until the next time it happens, when we all say, why didn’t we do something about this last time this happened? Maybe we could  have prevented it happening this time? Is that even a possibility in today’s political climate? Wouldn’t it be great if it was? If we could make this the last time something like this happens? Then we can all go back to enjoying our entertainment.

15 Great Movies and One Mini-Series to Watch During Memorial Day Weekend

1. Saving Private Ryan

2. Platoon

Believe it or not, Charlie Sheen was once a serious actor.

3. Stalag 17

4. Full Metal Jacket

5. The Deer Hunter

6. Apocolypse Now

7. Glory

8. Empire of the Sun

9. Casablanca

10. M*A*S*H

11. The Hurt Locker

12. Black Hawk Down

13. A Midnight Clear

14. A Very Long Engagement

15. The Red Badge of Courage


AND The Mini-Series:

Band of Brothers (Big surprise, but it is an awesome series. I mean, I’m a girl, and I think it’s awesome.)

A Review of The Black Keys Concert, Ovation Hall, Atlantic City, May 19, 2012

From my other blog, Practice What You Pinterest:

Living the Dream with The Black Keys.


Caine’s Arcade

Here’s a great story that I heard about this week:

How cool is that??

I have no doubt that the diolog in Japecake’s version is better than the real thing


Tyler’s Mom

TYLER and BRODY sit cross-legged on a worn shag rug


Miss! F-4.

Miss! B-7.

Miss! J-10.

Miss! C-7.

Miss! A-4.

Miss! D-7.

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I deploraxed The Lorax

Was The Lorax originally meant to represent Teddy Roosevelt? He certainly has a convincing moustache.

I took the kids to see The Lorax yesterday. I really wish I had read the reviews before I had promised to do that. I was going to write a lengthy review, but A.O. Scott of the NYTimes said most of what I wanted to say, and I feel, said it more eloquently than I ever could have, so I’m sharing that with you.

I don’t mean to seem like I hate things, or that I am no fun, but I must tell you that as I sat in that darkened theater, I felt sad. Mostly sad for Dr. Seuss. I kept thinking that if he were alive, he’d go out in his yard, dig a grave and practice rolling over in it.

As Scott mentioned in his article, Theodore Geisel exercised tight control over his work, which his heirs have abandoned. That’s why we get these overblown adaptations that have little to do with the original story. These tales are perfect for the ten-minute-long animated shorts we got in the 1970’s. They don’t need all these added-on backstories that muck them up and make them run for 90 minutes.

Another thought that kept occurring to me was an article I’d just read about how folks today, for the most part, really aren’t that green. That everyone likes to use the buzzword “green” but in practice, we still keep consuming and discarding and leaving the saving of the planet to others who are too few to stem the tide. We need the latest smartphone, the latest TV, what all the other kids are wearing, and we feel better about ourselves when we throw our plastic bottles into a conveniently placed recycling bin, but overall, we can’t be bothered to carry our own reusable bags into the mall.

While the message of “save the trees” is still there, pretty much everything else Dr. Seuss stood for is not. Sure the little kids will walk away with that idea about saving the trees, but they will also come away feeling like they laughed a lot — at things that were kind of mean-spirited. Language is used to cut other characters down, and slapstick is what really gets the laugh. For some reason there’s also a fat bear that’s played for laughs as well.

Dr. Seuss was a genius, I’m not going to deny that. But his genius was his simplicity. The way he used his children’s books as allegories about racism, environmental issues and war is a great thing. But it’s not like he was the only one. I see a lot of Dr. Seuss’ words everywhere these days. They are plastered all over Pintrest, quoted on Facebook, painted on library walls. But you know, Theodore Geisel is no more the world’s greatest philosopher than Shel Silverstein is its poet. We are wise to use Dr. Seuss as a starting point to talk to our kids, but we need to back that up with more complex ideas — and follow through on those ideas ourselves.

Zombies, Shmombies

There seems to be a lot of zombies out there this season. For some reason, zombies are in. There’s The Walking Dead, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, video games with zombies, and about a million movies about zombies. All the kids I’m talking to on the bus stop, they’re planning to be zombies for Halloween.

I hate zombies. I pretty much feel the same way about zombies as I do about roller coasters. Call me crazy, but when it comes to roller coasters…well, they’re not my thing. I don’t know if I will live to be 110 years old, but even if I do, that puts death close enough for comfort. I don’t need to artificially enhance the feeling of imminent death. As far away as death might be at any moment, that’s close enough for me.

And that’s how I feel about zombies. I encounter enough people on a regular basis, working, driving, talking about Celebrity Apprentice, that I don’t need any fictional zombies.