Cabin 77

Checking In Again

I haven't been here in a while.  There are many other blog platforms and I've been trying quite a few of them.  The word in the blog world is that LiveJournal is antiquated and dying.

But I like LJ!  I really do!  I love the format, it's easy to use (maybe because it was the first that I used?) and it's just comfy.

I also like Blogger so that's where I've mostly been.  I tried Wordpress, but it's a bit too complicated and I don't have the time to devote to personalizing it.

So I think I'll come back to LJ.  If I start blogging regularly again.

I read my last LJ post (from February of 2014) and it's eerily similar to one of my latest Blogger posts HERE.

I've been very happily busy.  I'm more at home in my own skin than I have been . . . maybe ever.  I'm branching out into new avenues within my interests - I'm now on two boards of directors for two different non-profit theatre companies!  I'm performing more and really honing my teaching skills.  I'm about to start moderating a series of blog posts for the Austin Jewish Repertory Theatre about the history of Yiddish Theatre in the United States.  Who knew I would become a go-to about Yiddish Theatre information?

And in my spare time, I want to start up my personal blog again.  I have so much that I want to record about what is happening in my life and my family - all good.  I don't want it to disappear like tears in rain (one of the best analogies of fading memories ever - thank you Rutger!).  So hopefully I will be able to squeeze in some time to do that.

If anyone is still out there on LJ, I'd love to know.  If some of my LJ friends are gone, I hope to find you again.
Cabin 77


I usually write a year-end wrap-up coupled with a looking-ahead goal setting start-up.  (That's a lot of dashes.  Oh well.)  I usually write it between January 1 and January 9 (my birthday).  This year I haven't.  I can sum it all up in one word - dam.

Last May I suffered a loss.  A strange loss.  A weird loss.  A huge loss.  A loss with a lot of repercussions.  But it is a loss that is almost invisible.  It is one that is intensely personal.  The wound I suffered was deep, but completely hidden.  I have shared small details here and there with some of my inner circle.  I've also shared with parents of teens.  I want people to know about it all - the wound is now a permanent part of my life and of who I am - but I also want to erase it from my history.  And my memory.  I want nothing to do with it.  I want it hidden and gone.

So, I dammed it.  No "n" there.  (Although I do also damn it!)  I put it all in a huge reservoir and I put a big dam at the mouth of it.  The pain, the confusion, the shame, the embarrassment, the betrayal - it all goes into the reservoir where it blends and swirls and . . . stays.

I know I need to release it.  I know that if I don't deal with it, let the pressure out slowly on MY terms, the dam will erode over time and collapse without warning - probably at the most inopportune time.  But I can't.  I can't go there yet.

Part of the reason that I haven't written too much about it lately (I wrote quite a few pages in longhand when it was fresh) is the fear that if I start, the dam will break and I will have no way of stopping the flood.  And, to be brutally honest, there's just no opportune time for me to set aside and deal with it.  When can I take time off and risk letting down the floodgates?  Especially since I have no idea how long it would take to put the gates back up.  I'm bitter that this incident has interrupted my writing flow.  I'm pissed that the pain from what this person did to me has overshadowed the joy of writing about the Cabin and my kids.  I sit down with pencil in hand and all that comes out is THIS.

I feel the hurt almost every day.  But the sharp, knife-like quality of the pain has dulled to an ache.  There are days when I don't feel it at all.  But then I'll hear a song, read a phrase in a book, find an item of clothing, something completely innocuous and all of a sudden I'm flooded with memories.  Sometimes I remember a long hidden detail upon which now files a huge red flag.  Sometimes I uncover a specific instance where I dodged a bullet that not only had my name on it, but was fired two inches from my heart.  It's those times where I want to alternately crawl under a table and go to sleep and stand on that table and scream until I collapse.

Despite the dark tone of this post, I am doing rather well.  I haven't given in to the depression that threatens regularly.  There is a victory in that I'm not having to actively fight the depression!  I can see it coming and I can take measures to prevent it - take a walk, read the Bible, pray, play with the dog or the kids, etc.*  I am very happy to report that, although I had a very rough time of it at first, I am good.  And I'm not "just" functioning.  I'm happy.  I'm enjoying my family, my job, my life.  I refuse to let this incident control me.  I refuse to give in to it.  I think of the person responsible and how much he has already taken from me and I refuse to give him anything else.  I will always grieve for what I had.  I will always feel that empty space.  Always.  But it's my choice now whether to let this thing define me and dictate my life.  I refuse to do that.  I am slowly, but surely, moving forward and recovering myself.

I will post more about this, if any of you don't know what has happened.  I've written a post about it, but have shared it one person at a time.  I'm not really ready to open it up more than a few at a time now and then.

I have no real ending for this post.  I just wanted to touch base with my blog and my LiveJournal friends.  I'm here.  I'm happy.  I'm putting one foot in front of the other.  Sometimes it's one step forward and two steps back, but I refuse to stay two steps back.  Every step forward is a step away from this.  

*  I am NOT saying that the "cure" for depression, or the preventative, is any of these things.  I've been in the pit before and had people tell me to pray more, read my Bible, get out and do something active.  In the throes of an episode, none of those things is a magic bullet.  Depression has many causes and many weapons against it.  It is a condition that needs to be fought with a lot of help which includes the above activities AND medication AND counseling AND whatever (healthy) additive you need to survive.  I have successfully reduced my medication this year (yay!) and I have identified triggers.  Knowing my triggers and seeing when I'm vulnerable to an attack has done WONDERS for my fight against depression. 
Christmas Joy

Merry Christmas 2013!

Merry Christmas!  Welcome to the 2013 edition of our family newsletter:


As of April, Princess is officially a teen!  We celebrated her birthday in the Baltimore airport on our way to Niagara Falls.  The national conference for Oxford Learning (now Grade Power) was in Niagara Falls so we made a family trip of it.  The kids and I visited the Falls in the Maid of the Mist just as a cold front blew through.  We should have known something was up when there were only seven people on the boat.  ;-)  It was cold, but it was fun.  So was the indoor water park next to our hotel!  (Fun, that is.  Not cold.  The water park was quite warm.)

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(Hover your cursor over the pictures for the captions.)

Buddy's rain poncho billows in the FREEZING wind.Princess is making lemonade out of lemons.  Or, rather, ice cream out of icicles!

Our hotel room overlooked the FallsIn line for a water slide.

Princess is an accomplished swimmer and volleyball player and plans to take up tennis this spring.  Her favorite things to do are hang out with her friends and hang out with her kitties.

Buddy entered the world of double digits in June with a trip to one of his favorite places - an indoor trampoline park.

At Jumpoline

Then it was back home for a big cookie pie and an Airsoft gun war.

Airsoft war!!!

He loves playing basketball and flag football as well as reading the Chronicles of Narnia, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Marvel comic books.  He is especially proud of achieving Arrow of Light this past fall and becoming a Boy Scout.

Buddy's Arrow of Light

This year we were able to spend the July 4th holiday with Hubby's family in Michigan.  We stayed the first part of the week at Hubby's sister's lake cottage where we stayed out in the boat as much as possible . . .

 Michigan trip - lake cottage


Hubby introduced me and the kids to the Upper Peninsula.  We drove on the Mackinac Bridge . . .

Mackinac Bridge

and stayed in Mackinaw City where the kids LOVED swimming in Lake Huron.

Lake HuronPrincess playing in Lake HuronBuddy in Lake Huron

Then we spent a day on Mackinac Island doing what everyone does . . .

Selfies on the IslandClimbing at Devil's KitchenRiding bikes down Main StreetBiking on Highway M-185.  No cars allowed!At Fort MackinacHorse drawn taxi

On the way back, we stopped in Hot Springs to take a look.

Hot SpringsHot Springs fountain is HOT!Princess tests the waters
Buddy was not impressed with the flavor

It was a fun trip, but we were glad to be home.

Hubby is still proud owner/operator of GradePower Learning (formerly Oxford Learning).  He still volunteers with the children's ministry every other month helping with the story and the skits.  This year he branched out (he'd say he was caught in a moment of weakness) and he stepped up to coach Buddy's flag football team.  The boys had a great time and improved immensely from the first game to the last.

The Cowboys

In his spare time (???), he has a landscaping project in the back yard that he's slowly chipping away on, he reads historical novels and he gripes about Michigan football.

This year I went from teaching one class of 5th graders (2012-2013 school year) to teaching six classes with ages ranging from 5th all the way to 12th grade.  It's wonderful!  I'm also writing the curriculum for two of those classes.  I've been attending writing workshops with the fabulous Spike Gillespie and, as a result, I have had short essays published at Great Moments in Parenting, Hahas for Hoohas, have been asked to submit an essay for a book on prayer and parenting, and have been involved in live readings of workshop attendees at Hyde Park Theater.

I know it looks like a school room, but we used the set that was already up at Hyde Park!

In my spare time (???), I watch The Walking Dead with Buddy, take Princess shopping and spend evenings on the back porch reading with Hubby.

We still have our sweet rescue dog, Ruby, and our two silly kitties, Calvin and Marie.

Ruby Soo!Calvin and Marie - being Calvin and Marie

We certainly pray that this newsletter finds you happy and healthy.  We pray for a wonderful end to 2013 for you and for 2014 to be the best yet for all of us!
Cabin 77

Man Of Steel Giveaway!

A blockbuster is defined by as "Something, such as a film or book, that sustains widespread popularity and achieves enormous sales."  Of course, no one can know if a film is going to actually BE a blockbuster until it is released and the public speaks with their wallets.  Quite a few films can at least count on a "blockbuster" first weekend by name alone.  Case in point:  Man of Steel.

Man of Steel is the Superman reboot from Warner Brothers, directed by Zach Snyder of 300 and Watchmen.  It's the second reboot of the Superman franchise in seven years.  I'm not sure if that bodes well for the character, but I'm game to try.  I love Superman, and I'm partial to Christopher Reeve.  But I also have an open mind and I just plain love movies based on comics so I'm up for it.

In anticipation of the release on June 14, I have a giveaway!  I have two Man of Steel keychains to offer.  They are pretty sweet and will be great for a kiddo.

Here's what you need to do:
ON THE COMMENTS OF THIS BLOG, tell me the name of the film considered to be the first modern blockbuster.  The first two correct answers will get the keychains.

Please check back to see if you've won so that I can get an address.  Good luck!

Click HERE for the trailer.  Enjoy!

Cabin 77

We're Learning - Thanks Apple!

Well, add yet another thing to the list of "situations my parents didn't have to deal with".

We got Buddy an iPod Touch for Christmas.  Princess has had one for almost a year (she bought it with her own money) and we haven't really had to put many restrictions on hers.  She has a set "bedtime" for it, she can't use it during home school studies, etc.  She has a few games/apps and some music, but she mainly uses it to take pictures and to text her friends.

Buddy is all about the games.  ALL about the games.  We loaded a few on the iPod when we gave it to him, but he asked last week for a couple more.  I helped him get online with my Apple ID and he purchased one then he downloaded a couple of free ones.  No biggie.  He's been happily playing ever since.

And he's been listening to some music.  And playing a few more games.

Then I got the receipts from the iTunes/App Store.

Seems I forgot to log out.  Buddy's been downloading songs and clicking on game apps for three days.  He honestly thought that 1) he was downloading songs from his other iPod and 2) the games he was clicking on were free.  Luckily he didn't go on a huge shopping spree.  He clicked on a few things and then enjoyed them for a while.  Then went back.  The grand total of all three receipts (shopping sprees) was less than $35, but that would have taken all of his saved allowance and then some.  He looked completely surprised and then horrified when I told him.  But he did not whine or cry.  He first said that he would just delete all of the games, but I told him that it didn't work that way.  Even if he deleted them, we'd still have to pay for them.  So he sucked it up and asked how much.  He took responsibility and was willing to pay.

I told him that I would contact Apple and let them know what happened.  Since I caught it so early (within three days) and we haven't had an instance like this before, I thought it was worth a shot.  If not, we'd work something out.  After all, I was the one who forgot to log out.

Let me tell you that Apple has a fantastic customer service department.  My requests were handled quickly and completely.  AND one of the customer service reps went out of her way to outline how to activate more parental controls and warnings on the iPod.  So when I do go in and buy another app or game for him, there will be several warnings that pop up both on the iPod and on my e-mail.  I love it!  (So does Buddy!)

I love that, in this case, Apple has such a personal and flexible policy.  I'm sure they get this kind of stuff all the time.  It's got to be time consuming for them, but it's SO nice as a parent to be able to have this measure of grace as we learn the ins and outs of technology with our kids.  I guess this is the 21st century version of calling an 800 number and signing up for the Columbia House Record Club while your mom was vacuuming down the hall!  (Not that I ever did that.)
Cabin 77

A Slippery Slope on Facebook

There is a really annoying trend on Facebook right now.  Well, it's been going on for quite a while, actually.  It's this trend of " 'Like' if you support/believe/hate this cause/religion/company/disease/color/car/WHATEVER and then 'Share' ".  It's getting obnoxious.  I think that it's a given that I don't like cancer.  And I doubt that Jesus is really going to greet me in Heaven and say, "You didn't 'share' me on FB enough.  Here's the 'down' escalator."  Most of the time if I see "Like This" in a status update photo card, I'll just scroll right on over and look for a cat video, but the other day one caught my eye that I found particularly frightening.  It said "LIKE if . . . you believe Jesus can heal depression! 1 Peter 5:6-7"  For me, that is a very dangerous post.  Let's look at why, shall we? 

As an aside, I'm assuming that anyone reading this knows that I am a Christian.  I believe that Jesus was God's Son who came to Earth as a man to lead a perfect life so that He could atone for our sins.  I believe that.  I believe the Bible.  I believe in prayer.  However, I do NOT believe that God is a genie waiting to grant all of my requests.  I also suffer from depression.  So I think that I'm a little qualified to write on this subject.

I think that that photo card is the top of what could be a slippery slope.  Yes, I do believe that Jesus can heal depression.  He's capable of doing anything.  WILL He heal MY depression.  Maybe.  But I have to accept the fact that He might not.  Or He might not right away.  Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12: 7b-10 "Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."  God chose NOT to heal Paul.  And He had a reason for it.  We don't know what Paul's "thorn" was, but we know it was significant enough that he wanted it gone.    </span>

God never promised that our road would be easy.  He never promised that we wouldn't get sick or hurt or that we wouldn't go through hard times.  One of my favorite verses is John 16:33.  Jesus spends a lot of time in Chapter 16 encouraging His disciples.  Then in verse 33 He says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  See the first "promise" in there?  "In this world you will have trouble."  The second promise is that He (Jesus) has overcome the world.  He never says that we won't suffer or that we won't feel the effects of the evil in this world.  But He does tell us to take heart because He has triumphed, and we're on His team.

Now, let's look at the passage quoted on the photo card:
1 Peter 5:6-7 (NIV)  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

In this chapter, Peter is talking to Christians who are scattered across quite a few provinces of Asia Minor.  He's trying to encourage them and remind them of their calling as followers of Christ.  Verses 1-4 talks to older men about leading willingly and humbly serving by example.  Verse 5 exhorts younger men to follow their elders with humility.  Then verses 6-7 talks about how it naturally follows that you should humble yourself before God because He wants the best for you.  Humbling yourself means being open to teaching, it means acknowledging that we don't know it all and that we need help.  When Peter goes on to say "Cast all your anxiety on Him", he's continuing that thought - the idea of submitting to His authority and His leading and His teaching - casting your cares and worries about life at the feet of God and asking for His leading and teaching to get you through them.  He is NOT saying, "Cast your anxiety disorder and clinical depression on Him and He will heal you because He loves you."  And it's very dangerous to imply that it is.

God can certainly heal my depression.  I do not doubt that for a minute.  But maybe, just maybe He won't.  Maybe the only thing He will do is help me deal with it.  Maybe He will bring others into my life to help me deal with it.  Maybe He will use modern medicine to keep it at bay.  He will answer my prayers concerning my depression, but He may not answer them the way I want Him to.  He may say, "No." 

I have been very, very depressed.  I have been in a dark pit feeling alone and forgotten.  And I have been told, while in that pit, that I should "spend more time in the Bible".  I've been asked, "Have you prayed about it?  Have you TRULY given it over to God?"  It's hard to articulate how this made me feel.  I had done all of that - prayed, read, prayed some more, lather, rinse, repeat.  But I had felt nothing.  Was God turning His back on me?  Yes, someone's mother's cousin's son's girlfriend's step brother was healed instantly when he prayed 1 Peter 5:7, why wasn't I?  Did I need to DO anything else?  Did I need to turn around three times?  Click my heels together?  Did I need to write down all my anxieties on a piece of paper and burn it as a figurative gesture?  What did I need to do?  I was willing to do all of the steps, JUST MAKE IT GO AWAY!!!!   At some point, when none of the spiritual things were working, I was able to pull my way through the fog to try an "earthly" solution.  I went to my doctor.  It kind of felt like I had abandoned my faith.  But at that point, I felt that God was being silent and not helping me so I should just try to help myself.  In reality and in hindsight, I believe that it really was God leading me to the way He was going to help me.

I am blessed that I have a Christian physician and a Christian counselor.  They have both encouraged me to not only read the Bible and pray, but to GET HELP FROM QUALIFIED PROFESSIONALS.  They both reminded me that God created people who are called to help others.  God created physicians and counselors and researchers and medications.  And that's how He chooses to heal some people. 
Or, I should say, HELP some people. 

I'm not healed.  I just have it under control.  It could be that at some point in the future I can go off of my medication and be fine.  I've tried to go off of it three times and have wound up back on it.  I'm perfectly fine with taking one small pill a day to be able to function.  Were I diabetic, I would have no problem taking insulin.  There's really no difference in my mind.  Would I tell a diabetic to forgo their insulin injections and pray more or read their Bible more instead?  I don't think anyone would. 

So please, well meaning Facebook photo card creators, please think before you create and post another one of those potentially hurtful cards.  If you must post a photo card about depression, post a number for a depression hotline or a depression help website. 

Better yet, if you must post something asking for a re-post, post this (and yes, I did make it my status update for a day):

Put this as your status if you know or are related to someone killed on Alderaan when it was obliterated by the Death Star. My wish is that people will understand that the Empire is a band of murdering scum. The Rebel Alliance wants to bring peace to the galaxy, but the Galactic Empire continues to kill innocent civilians. 93% won't copy/paste this.  Will YOU make this your status for at least one hour?
Cabin 77

How I Got Here

I guess it's natural for me to think about my birth during my birth month.  I just turned 45.  Yes, I'm now halfway through my forties.  I'm
staring down the barrel of 50.  Somehow 45 has been harder than 30 and 40 combined.  (Don't do the math there because it doesn't add up.)  Soyeah, I have been reflective.

Things were so much different 45 years ago.  If we knew then what we know now, my birthday would have either been on January 6 OR my college education would have been paid for through a malpractice settlement.  It is truly a miracle that my mom and I survived our birth ordeal.  I have heard the story over and over.  I even remember the first time I heard it.  We were at our lake cabin and somehow we got on the subject one night during a thunderstorm.  Dad told the whole story.  It was the first time I ever saw him cry

My mom's water broke on a Friday morning while she was at the grocery store.  Woo hoo.  Dream come true!  So Mom, being Mom, finished her shopping, checked out and then went home to spend the rest of the day playing Scrabble with Dad and timing her

Okay Moms - think about that.  Now they tell you if your water breaks, you need to go to the hospital.  You MUST deliver within 24 hours of your water breaking to prevent infection.  Mom, on the other hand, didn't even go to the hospital until about 1:00 a.m. on Saturday.

We were living in South Carolina at the time.  It can get cold and snowy in January in South Carolina.  As a matter of fact, there was a snowstorm underway.  (I found this really cool account of it from the North Carolina perspective.  I love the internet.)  Once Mom and Dad got to the hospital, they (now) surmise that the doctor didn't feel like making the drive in because of the weather, so his instructions were to give Mom something to slow the contractions.  So they did.  I don't know if it was this action or Mom's own body, but after that she didn't dilate any more.  However, she did continue to bleed and leak amniotic fluid.  (If there are any men reading this, I just lost a significant portion of them.)  Sometime Sunday or Monday they decided to try to kick-start the dilation process with more drugs.  They didn't work

It wasn't until Tuesday - you read that right TUESDAY - that they finally decided to take me by c-section.  Now think about that on so many levels.  Mom's water broke on FRIDAY.  They let her go until TUESDAY before taking the baby.  Also, this was during a time when the husband was not allowed in the labor room with the wife.  Mom was alone.  Dad was in the waiting roomwatching father after father be called to see their new offspring.  Chew on that for a while

By the time the powers that be decided on the c-section, mom was so exhausted that she couldn't sign the release papers.  She couldn't hold a pen.  The reality was that they had waited so long that both of our lives were in serious danger.  They told my dad that it was highly likely that only one of us would survive.  They asked him, in the event that a choice needed to be made, which life would he like them to save.  Of course he chose my mom.  And I have never let him forget that.  (My first car was a Camaro.)  Then, when they wheeled Mom out on the gurney to go to the OR, they brought Dad out into the hall to SAY GOOD-BYE TO HER.  (As you can imagine, it was this point in the story that Dad gets choked up.)  Then they took her away and he was left to wait.  Again.  For a long time.

Finally, the afternoon of the 9th, they came and got him and took him to see me.  I'm sure his first glimpse of me was a shock, too.  Think about it - I had been fighting to get out for four days.  Dad said that my head was like an angelfish - skinny when viewed head-on and fat when viewed from the side.  He's told me that he kept saying over and over, "She's so beautiful!  She's so ugly!"  My hospital picture does tell some of the story.  One eye is swollen almost shut and my head is . . . just . . . weird.  (Dad told me that when he sent this photo to his mother she cried for a couple of days because she thought that I had Down's Syndrome.)

I look pretty ticked off.  I probably was.  No one had done a darned thing to get me outta there for WAAAAY too long.  I'm not a patient
person.  Even today.

So they showed my angelfish mug to my dad and he fell in love.  Rightly so.  I mean, even though I look very judgemental, I was still adorable.  But then Dad asked about his wife.  To a person, everyone he asked said, "The doctor will be down in a minute to talk to you."  Given the events of the day, he concluded that Mom had died and they were waiting on the doctor to give him the news.  He spent the next two hours thinking that he was a widower with a newborn.  Needless to say, all the doctor had to tell him was that Mom
was fine and was resting.  But still the two hours of anguish took its toll.  One evening when I was about nine years old we were watching a made for TV movie about some sort of disease of the week.  The lead actor asked a nurse about his wife's test results and she answered, "The doctor will be in to talk to you shortly."  Dad gasped and had to leave the room.

Back\ then (that really makes me sound too old), if a baby was delivered by c-section, the hospital stay was one week.  Dad was not allowed to touch me while we were in the hospital.  I was a week old before he got to hold me.  Insult to injury, I say.

Mom, on the other hand, bounced back well.  She was back to her former weight in no time.  But that's only because her doctor restricted her pregnancy weight gain to TEN POUNDS!  I weighed six pounds.  The placenta weighs about a pound or so (I just lost the remaining male readers), plus there's the added blood volume, amniotic fluid, and don't get me started on maternal breast tissue!  All told, I think my mom lost weight when she was pregnant.  How I made it into this world as a healthy baby is really a miracle.

I've lived with this story for close to 40 years.  It's a tough story to be a part of.  My mom almost died bringing me into the world.  If it had taken place just 100 years earlier, we both would have died.  But wedidn't.  We BOTH lived.  For me, there has to be a really good reason that we both lived.  Not only lived, but thrived.  There were no lasting (physical) effects.  I thrived and Mom healed.  Mom and Dad even went on to have another kid!  That's saying something!  (Of course, with my little brother, she just chose a due date and then made the surgery appointment.  No labor required.)  For most of my life I have lived with a sense of importance - that God spared me for some grand reason.  It's only been within the past 13 years or so that I realized that it might not be a huge, earth-shattering or humanity-saving reason.

My two children are alive because I lived.  That's reason enough for me

Cabin 77

Django Unchained

Last night we had a date night.  A real, honest-to-goodness date night.  One in which we had no curfew (both kids were sleeping over elsewhere).  So we chose to spend it with Quentin Tarantino.  Good choice.


I love Tarantino.  He's a wonderful storyteller.  Yes, he is ultra-violent.  But I think that Hubby hit the nail on the head when he said that Tarantino is perpetually 10 years old when it comes to action and violence - the more the better.  Thank goodness he stops just short of fart and burp jokes!  But in terms of blood shed, bullets shot and explosions, yes, he's a 10 year old boy.  In my opinion, the world needs more 10 year old boys if they write and direct this well.

This is easily Tarantino's most disturbing film.  The story is pretty well sketched out in the trailer:  Dr. Schultz, a bounty hunter, wants
Django to help him find the Brittle brothers and in return Schultz will give Django his freedom and take him to find his wife.  No surprises there.  But, as in all good road movies, the journey has twists and turns that test the characters (and the audience) to their limits and beyond.  There were quite a few times when I consciously thought to myself, "I will never be able to sit through this again."  I can see how people walked out.  It was not because of the liberal use of the "N" word, and it was not the very VERY liberal use of fake blood (which caused giggles in the audiend on several occasions).  It's the fact that what he depicts on screen actually went on somewhere in the South during the slavery years.  In other (most) Tarantino movies, the violence is a direct result of the choices of the characters.  If Mrs. Mia Wallace had not chosen to snort the heroin, she would not have had a needle shoved in her heart.  If Mr. Orange had not chosen to go undercover, he would not have been shot.  In this movie, the recipients of the most horrific violence have no choice - they are slaves, seen as property to be used and abused as the owner sees fit.  That was hard to stomach.  Very hard. 

Let's just pause here for a moment and soak that in.  People actually did things like that to other people.  Calvin Candie is a fictional character, but his actions are based on fact.  Tarantino does not sugar coat that in any way.  He brings it all out in its ugliness and forces us to take a look:  every lash, every punch, every horrifying torture inflicted on these human beings.  Human beings.  Humans. People.  Brutal doesn't even begin to cover it.  I don't know how the actors did it. 

So let's move on.  (breath)

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Cabin 77

Les Miserables - Review

I am one of the very few people on the planet who have not seen "Les Mis" (as the die-hards call it).  It's not that I haven't wanted to.  It's just been a game of swing and miss.  The few times I've been to NYC or London in my life, I missed it for some reason or another.  When the touring company has come to town, I've either been otherwise occupied or broke.  Or both.  I haven't listened to any cast recordings, either.  I hardly ever listen to a Broadway soundtrack without having seen the musical.  I just believe that stage musicals need to be experienced for the first time in a theatre.  (The exception to that was when I bought the Wicked soundtrack.  But that was after seeing Idina Menzel kill it on the Tony Awards show.  I had to have that song.)  All songs must be in context and with the appropriate visuals.  So I went into this screening with my only exposure to the songs being Susan Boyle (I Dreamed a Dream) and George Costanza (Master of the House).  This is where I am coming from in this review - I cannot make comparisons to the stage version because I have not seen it.  Perhaps I'm lucky that way? 

Last night I couldn't put into words what I felt about the film.  Some people (most?) are going to love it.  It has the music, the pathos, the grime (holy cow, those teeth!) and THAT song.  A lot of people, like me, are going to come away thinking, "That's what the fuss was all about?"  The music and lyrics were very good.  The score bordered on epic, but didn't quite make it.  Something was just missing.  By the time I got home, I had it.  It lacked heart.  It was well done.  Very well done.  The costumes were wonderful, the sets and production design were great.  But . . . the emotion was surface.  It didn't go deep, take hold and squeeze.  I wanted to be blown away.  I wasn't. 

I respect Tom Hooper's decision to record the actors singing live during a take.  I like the rawness of it.  If their voice faltered, if they gasped, if their emotion got the best of them and they whispered a line, it was all there.  It was true.  But I think that decision may have hurt his other directing choices.  A lot of the songs were done in one or two long takes - I'm sure that was because you can't do take after take after take if you are really singing.  The long takes worked on a couple of the songs, but they got tedious on others.  And there were WAY too many close-ups while singing.  Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.  This production has survived on a proscenium stage for over 30 years with no close ups.  Pull back already. 

I think that Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe were both miscast.  Hugh Jackman is a song and dance man.  He is not a stand there and sing man.  He has a really good voice.  You want a Jean Valjean with a stellar voice that will keep you in your chair at attention for two and a half hours.  I love Hugh Jackman.  LOVE him.  He does not have that voice. 

Russell Crowe is a talented actor.  Don't cast him in a role where he needs to sing.  Yes, I know he has a band and he sings in the band.  Different kind of singing.  Different kind of performing.  On stage with a guitar slung around your neck and a microphone in your face, you can get away with singing through your nose.  You can NOT in a production such as this.  I swear to you that several times during his songs I winced.  I HATE nasal singing with a passion.  Don't get me started.  Put aside his singing, and he still is miscast.  He had one expression through the whole movie - a stone face.*  Yes, Javert is very cold and focused, but he is a very complex man.  Valjean is slowly driving him insane.  We need to see it.  And we need to see the turmoil and, finally, the resignation as he approaches the wall over the aquaduct.  That should be a powerful moment.  It wasn't. 

The supporting cast is actually quite wonderful.  Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are, dare I say in this bleak story, delightful.  Samantha Barks as Eponine (she's played the role in London) was heartbreaking.  Her voice is sweet and lovely.  And darned if she doesn't have the smallest waist I've ever seen!  Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried were good as Marius and the older Cosette.  They were sweet little star-crossed lovers who have a cute moment in a garden.**  Personally, I thought that Aaron Tveit (Enjolras) had the better voice and the better presence.  I was actually sad when Enjolras died because I wouldn't get to see him on screen any more.***  The casting of Colm Wilkinson (the original stage Jean Valjean) was a nice touch. 

So far, hif you've noticed, I've left out Anne Hathaway.  That is because she is far and away the best thing about this movie.  Her brief time on screen is worth paying the price of admisson.  SHE has heart.  And her song, I Dreamed a Dream, is the only song that worked on one take.  Just put the camera on Anne, twenty pounds underweight from her tuberculosis, hair sawed off by a knife, blood pooling in her mouth where her tooth used to be, and let the woman sing.  Ms. Hathaway, here's your Oscar. 

So, overall my experience watching Les Mis for the first time was just so-so.  But it hasn't turned me off of Les Mis.  On the contrary, now I really want to see it on stage because I think that's where it belongs. 


* That expression actually could have been pure terror at having to sing live on camera.  I took that into account.  Yet another reason he was miscast.

** Too cute, if you ask me.  Butterflies?  Really?  And for goodness sake, PULL BACK!  I don't need to see Marius' nose pores. 

*** Not because his character was a young man who passionately stood up for what he believed and was willing to die for it.  Again, a result of the whole thing just being so surface. 

This is my first review as a member of the press.  I got press access because of my blog.  Woot!  That was a really cool experience that I hope to repeat!  We (my date was stina_leicht - Hubby stayed home to shuttle Buddy to and from basketball) got to sit in a special reserved section.  I felt so . . . cool.  Hee hee!  The security was pretty tight.  They searched our bags coming into the
theatre (I thought they were searching for guns, Stina thought they were searching for recording equipment - Stina was right) and then they said that there were people stationed in the theater with NIGHT VISION GLASSES and that if we brought out our phones or any recording devices, we'd be escorted out and not allowed back in.  Night vision glasses people.  They were pretty serious about us not recording this film.