Sunday, May 27, 2007

Movie Review: Volver, Part II

Well, I take back everything I said in my last post about Volver. I finally watched it through to the end. Maybe it was the wine, but I got kind of choked up at the end. I can't say that this film moves at the pace of oh, "Desperate Housewives," but it packs much more emotional resonance.

So don't listen to what I said before. I get cranky sometimes. Rent Volver and see for yourself.

Even if it's not your cup of tea, you still get to look at Penelope Cruz.

(Photo courtesy of Cinencuentro.)

Movie Review: Le Petit Lieutenant

I really wanted to like this movie, especially since I figured its premise--guns! cops! murder!--would get hubby to admit that for once, I had added a good film to our NetFlix queue. Even if it did have subtitles.

Alas, my movie-picking abilities failed me. While well-acted, Le Petit Lieutenant suffers from glacial pacing and a plot twist halfway through that had both of us tilting our heads and saying "Wuuuhhh-at?" And not in a good way.

One reason to see this movie is for Nathalie Baye's performance, which stayed with me for days. Baye can say more with one glance than most American actresses can say in a two-hour movie. She was great in An Affair of Love, (or, in the original French, the way more interesting Une liaison pornographique).

So rent Le Petit Lieutenant to watch Baye, one of the great French actresses. Just don't expect "CSI" (despite one very grisly morgue scene) or "Law & Order." And if you can explain the end to me, I'd really appreciate it.

(Photo courtesy of ladconcord)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Erotica: a definition.

The scene: a dinner party with lots of free alcohol. The situation: someone has just found out that I'm a sex writer. The question, usually asked with a smirk: "So, what's the difference between 'erotica' and 'pornography'?" My response: (Insert stammering and blathering about 'literature' and 'aesthetics.')

My friend Tim, of Planet Timbotron and Letters from Estonia fame, has come to my rescue with this definition:

Erotica: hinting about a lady and a donkey.
Porn: showing a lady and a donkey doing it.

Tim didn't get a Ph.D. from Stanford for nothing. Thanks, buddy. I owe you one.

Now THAT's a mom.

No self-respecting blog on motherhood would be complete without this testament to a mother's love for her child: a Star Wars birthday cake.

Get the full story, including "making of" pictures, at Great White Snark.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Feeling lucky today.

Between my cough and my son's, I only got about 4 hours of sleep last night (part of which was spent with my head resting on a stuffed Shamu - don't ask). So I left work early, a little before 1pm. I get on the freeway and this is what I see:

Seems that a big rig lost control on southbound Highway 101 and slammed into the center divide, bursting into flames and sending concrete chunks flying. I saw the flames.

I managed take take the next off-ramp, where I almost had an accident of my own because some moron had stopped his car and was hanging out the door to take a picture. I'm glad I didn't do the same--though I was tempted. Turns out that the flying concrete hit some woman's SUV in the northbound lanes, and she later died. I would have had a picture of a fatal accident on my cell phone. (I would have made a bad photojournalist.)

Here's the aftermath of the crash, from the San Jose Mercury News:

I just keep thinking: What if I'd left work a little earlier? What if I hadn't stopped on my way out to say goodbye to a co-worker, who, as I was leaving, told me to be careful? With my husband out of town, who would have noticed I was late picking my son up from school?

I go through my day in a fog of petty concerns. Until a close encounter with a disaster slaps me upside the head.

So I'm feeling lucky. But I still can't fall asleep.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Movie Review: Little Children

Blog theme trifecta: a movie about both sex and motherhood.

Not to mention the suburban horrors of your local playground at 10:30am (hint: it's Mean Girls, fast forwarded 20 years).

I can't say that I enjoyed Little Children while I was watching it (except for the sex scenes, which were way too short, IHMO). But in the days since I saw it, I can't stop thinking about it. I could have done without that voiceover, but that's a quibble.

This is an insightful, disturbing portrayal of infidelity, maturity (or the lack thereof), and the horrors of suburban life.


The new guy at Cami's Music Together class is not someone I dated.

How did I find this out? I made my husband go introduce himself. (I'm so clever. I should work for the CIA.)

This revealed that his name was not...oh, Ewan, shall we say. And he did not have a British accent. So. Not the guy.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Volver, Part I

Thoughts while watching Volver, while drinking a glass of wine.

I wish I lived in Spain.

No woman should wear a plaid skirt. Even Penelope Cruz.

However, I do wonder: Why can't I have breasts like Penelope Cruz?

OK, Penelope Cruz is supposed to look like Sophia Loren. I get it. Now can someone fix her hair? My father loved Sophia Loren.

While I like the characters in it, this movie is really slow. I don't think I'm supposed to think that. I'm supposed to think it's Incredible and Meaningful. And Touching.

What do the windmills mean?

My husband just walked in. "Is this where she's pregnant?"
"Penelope Cruz is pregnant?"
"Oh, maybe not. I guess it's Salma Hayek."
"Salma Hayek is pregnant? By whom?"
"I don't know. Google it."
Men are so useless. I did Google it. Salma Hayek is pregnant, and engaged to some French bazillionnaire. In fact, she's as big as a house. Seriously. More power to her. But where have I been? How could I have missed this?

Oh my God. Penelope Cruz is peeing. I mean, her character is peeing.

Back to Volver. Oh, shit. Penelope Cruz can sing, too. Life is so unfair.

Her dead mother has come back from the dead, halfway through the movie.

God, I'm tired. I'm going to bed. I'll watch the rest later. (Note: If I can stand to stop a movie halfway through, it is Not A Good Sign.)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Notes from the Underbelly

Please don't let "Notes from the Underbelly" get cancelled. It's smart, well-written and funny. In other words, a tiny oasis of intelligence in the wasteland that is the TV sitcom.

Never mind that the two main characters are somehow able to afford a stunning house on the salaries of a high school guidance counselor and a landscape architect. (I live in the San Francisco Bay area, so when it comes to real estate, I am Bitter, table for one.)

Stacy Traub, the creator (whatever that means in Hollywood) , also did "Kitchen Confidential." Another show I liked very much, but that got cancelled much too soon.

If you've had a kid, or know someone who has, you'll like this show. Plus, Jennifer Westfeldt has great highlights. And that's what I notice.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Another test aced. Yippee?

Got the results of my Lupron challenge test today. I passed, with flying colors.

In fact, my FSH was lower than last time. We're talking low single digits. It's like I'm getting biologically younger or something. What is this, The Picture of Dorian Gray? Only kind of in reverse, and with my ovaries?

Maybe the acupuncture and herbs are working.

Still, I'm not getting my hopes up.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Funniest book ever.

Well, maybe not ever. I still have a soft spot for David Sedaris. But I have to say, Augusten Burroughs' Possible Side Effects is the first book to make me laugh out loud in a long time. I mean, serious belly laughs, loud enough to make Nima tear his attention away from his laptop to yell, "What's so funny?" from his spot on the couch downstairs.You can read the first chapter on his Web site. He has a blog, too.

But what, may you ask, does this have to do with motherhood, sex, infertility or movies? Well, I'll tell you.

I work for a company that provides employees with chair massages. (They're not free or anything, but still, I can't figure out why more people don't take advantage of them.) The massage therapist, Jean-Claude, is this very lovely man from Benin. (Yeah, I had to look for it on the map, too. That's what a public education will do for you.) Jean-Claude's voice alone, with its lilting French-African accent, could lull one into a trance. But I digress.

One Thursday, we were talking about my stress level, which is nearing Code Orange levels. And Jean-Claude told me in no uncertain terms--yet in that very soothing massage-therapist sort of way--that I was not to read any more books about infertility or to see sad movies (I made an exception for The Last King of Scotland). Instead, Jean-Claude ordered me to watch comedies and read as much humor as I could get my hands on.

I emailed some writer friends for suggestions. One of the recommendations was Possible Side Effects. And since I recently watched Running With Scissors, I knew about Burroughs.

So there it is. My efforts to avoid thinking about infertility led me to hilarity. By an author whose work has been made into a movie that touched on themes of (bad) mothering, and sex.

Wasn't it graceful how I did that?

Tennessee teachers terrorize teens.

Yes, the title of this post sucks. But my mind is reeling faster than Britney Spears through the doors of Promises Malibu Treatment Center.

It seems that some teachers from Scales Elementary School in Brentwood, Tennessee, decided it would be a simply fabulous idea to stage a fake gun attack on sixth-grade students who were on a field trip to a state park. (Watch the video from ABC News here.)

You know, 11-year-olds don't have enough to worry about. Let's traumatize them. That'll win us a teaching award.

They told the kids that there was a gunman on the loose, and made them lie on the floor or hide under tables. Soon-to-be-unemployed Assistant Principal Don Bartch, who led the trip, said, "We got together and discussed what we would have done in a real situation." And then they held hands and sang "Kumbaya." No, just kidding.

Principal Catherine Stephens said later that the incident "involved poor judgement." Ya think?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Last King of Scotland.

We watched The Last King of Scotland last night. It's the story of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker), as seen through the eyes of his (fictional) personal doctor, Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy). Forest Whitaker completely deserved his Oscar for the role. Completely. No question. It's no wonder that he won a whole slew of awards.

Rent the DVD and watch the special features, especially the one where the producers talk about how they almost didn't cast Whitaker, whom they considered a great actor but a "gentle giant." But he told them he had "a little bit of Idi Amin" in him, and proceeded to give an audition in which he completely scared the shit out of the poor director, Kevin Macdonald.

Then watch footage of the real Amin, and try not to get the chills.

Whitaker nails Amin, who was charming one minute and then utterly insane the next, not unlike some Silicon Valley executives I know. Makes you glad that some of these people don't have access to a militia.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Let the bloodletting begin.

I had the first part of the Lupron challenge test this morning. I'm afraid I didn't study very hard.

Part 2 is tomorrow morning. I won't get the results until Tuesday.

This is all about waiting.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I'm feeling a little better about Grey's.

After last week's disastrous episode, Grey's redeemed itself a little tonight when it depicted Addison having an experience that is sadly familiar to every infertility patient: Everywhere Addison turned, someone was getting pregnant.

It's almost eerie. When you're not trying to get pregnant, you hardly notice pregnant women. The moment you start fertility treatments, however, is the signal for the Universe to start a baby boom. Pregnant bellies pop up up (or out) everywhere; you can't walk down the street without tripping over a stroller. Best of all, you get to enjoy other womens' stories about how their husbands got them pregnant the first time out, or in between business trips to China, or most cruelly, "just by accident."

Of course, Addison--having the advantage of being a fictional character--handles it with grace and aplomb. My reaction was/is usually to have a second glass of wine. And then feel guilty about it, because all the advice out there tells you not to drink when you're trying to conceive. In yet another cruel twist of Fate, the time when you most need to drink is precisely the time when you're not supposed to.

Monday, May 07, 2007

WTF is wrong with Grey's Anatomy?

Hubby and I sat down last night to watch the highly previewed two-hour episode of Grey's Anatomy. Yes, through the miracle that is TiVo, we watched Thursday's episode on Sunday. Without commercials. It was bliss. (I'm not trying to advertise for TiVo; I don't even own their stock anymore. It really is the best invention ever, other than maybe penicillin.)

Anyway, Grey's USED to be my favorite guilty pleasure. It had great writing, good characters and interesting plots, although unlike the first few seasons of ER, it did not have George Clooney, my spiritual soulmate.

Unfortunately, Grey's Anatomy is turning into a soap opera. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just that it's turning into a really BAD soap opera. Even worse, it's veering dangerously close to the territory once occupied by Ally McBeal, a show I loathed with all my heart. (Alessandra Stanley wrote a great article recently in the New York Times about how Ally McBeal "marked a turning point in the devolution of women's roles in television comedy--the moment when competent-but-flaky hardened into basket case.")

Let's take Sunday's episode--oops, I mean, Thursday's episode--as Exhibit A. When Addison (Kate Walsh) first slinked onto Grey's, she was fabulous. She was calm, sexy, evil. She had whiny Meredith and the other interns quaking in their tennies. She was tough, and in control, and thoroughly confident in her sexuality. I hated her, but in a good way. She was friggin' my role model, because she was everything I'm not.

Thursday's "2-Hour Event" trashed that image for good, even as it tried to set up the premise for a proposed Kate Walsh spin-off that looks like a refugee camp for every former ABC star. (Look! It's Sark from Alias! And Francie! But is it the evil Francie, or the good Francie?)

This episode completed Addison's transformation from cool, fur-clad villainess to whiny, shallow nincompoop. She can't even drive down PCH without getting hair in her eyes. She can't cross a Santa Monica street without getting tangled up in her wildly inappropriate black satin jacket. She babbles at a cute guy in an elevator, and after he leaves, she starts hearing voices.

Were the writers taking mushrooms?

But that's not the worst part. The WORST part is when she announces to her former best friend Naomi (Merrin Dungey, a.k.a. Francie!) that she doesn't have a man, she's going to have a baby. 'Cuz you know, having a baby is just that easy and is a super way to make yourself feel better about having been dumped by by Alex (Justin Chambers, who looks like he can't believe that the writers are making him give the brush-off to the smokin-hot Kate Walsh).

After giving her a lame warning about how much work babies are (Ha! Ha! Ha!), Naomi says she'll take Addison's FSH, estradiol and antral follicle count. While this statement is no doubt Greek to 90% of the viewing audience, it surely made every fertility patient in the U.S. hurl rotten fruit at her TV set. Because everyone knows that you can only do these tests on Cycle Days 1-3. And you're telling me that Addison's timing is that good? Right. Then we get treated to a scene where Addison's poring over a binder of sperm donors like she was picking out curtains for her loft. Which made me hate her again, but not in a good way.

we get a scene (in between scenes back in Seattle, which is confusing as all hell) where Naomi tells Addison that her FSH is high (the fertility kiss of death) and that she has a follicle count of 2. "There is no fertility potential," Naomi says. Wait. This is one of the "best" fertility specialists? Hasn't she heard of books like Inconceivable by Julia Indichova, who managed to get pregnant after five reproductive endocrinologists told her she couldn't? No matter. It's a Plot Twist. (I know, I know, it's just a TV show. But when you're talking about people's health, shouldn't you at least give some nod to the facts?)

But just as bad is that Addison just sits there and accepts this stunning bit of bad news. Game over. For most of us, this is just the beginning. The beginning of spending hours on the Internet, taking your temperature, timing sex, having pins stuck in you, drinking foul-smelling herbs, taking drugs that make you moody and bloated, poking yourself with needles and hormones, and doing ANYTHING you can to get pregnant.

This could have been a great plot line about Addison's journey through infertility. (Although God, do I hate that term "journey." What I've experienced more closely resembles a doomed expedition across the Sahara. And that's despite the fact that I apparently have the FSH level of a woman 10 years younger, and my ovaries respond to stims as though they were Miracle Grow.) Instead, it becomes an excuse for her to whine about how barren and dried up she is, which compels Tim Daly to kiss her.

I went to bed feeling pissed off, and depressed. So depressed that I'll let LTG, one of the writers on, sum up my feeling about the muddle that Grey's has become (even though she's writing about the ridiculous George-Izzy pairing):

...the constant inappropriate sexual and romantic connections and misconnections and the triangles (and every other polygon you can imagine) are ruining this show. I used to love this show because I'd watch these screwed up people muddle through their lives as best they could and at some point in every episode I'd look at a character and think, "That's me. That's my damage, and that's how I can deal with it or choose not to deal with it." But this constant bed-hopping is not me or anyone I know or anyone I want to know.
This portrayal of infertility is not anything or anyone I know, either. C'mon, Shonda. You can do better than this. In a time when every dumb celebrity is popping out babies like a Pez dispenser, we need you to do better.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Why you should be nice to people you date.

In an effort to find something fun to do Saturday mornings other than watching Teletubbies, we signed up for a Music Together class. The first "semester," our teacher was a nice blonde German lady named Regine. Cami was absolutely entranced by Regine. In fact, he often spent the entire 45 minutes staring at her slack-jawed. (He takes after my husband in that respect.)

This semester, our Music Together teacher is Sean. Cami is a little stunned that Sean is not Regine, but he seems to enjoy class. That is, he giggles and laughs and stares at the pretty girls and bangs on drums. Then he helps put the instruments away, which makes my heart swell with pride.

This is all backstory to what happened this morning.

We arrived during the singing of the first song, So Glad to See You. (We were late because Mommy was super cranky and we had to make an emergency caffeine stop at Peet's.) The first thing I noticed was that some new parents and kids had joined our little group. Then, about halfway through Little Brass Wagon, I realized that one of the new dads looked familiar. Hmmm, I thought. Where do I know this guy from?

Then it hit me: I think he was someone I dated about 7 years ago, post-divorce and pre-Nima. I'd met him on (there! I said it! I did Internet dating!), and we only went out on about 5 dates, including a misbegotten ski trip. But still, there he was (if it was really him), sitting across from me with a very cute little blonde boy of about 3.

I'm not sure which was more mortifying:

  1. The fact that my life has changed to the extent that I'm running into old beaus not at work conferences or restaurants or even at the grocery store, but at an "enrichment activity" designed for the 0-4-year-old set; or
  2. That I couldn't remember whether this was someone I actually slept with.

After class, as The Guy I Might Have Slept With chatted with Teacher Sean, I tried to eavesdrop. If he had a British accent, it was probably him. But the bastard foiled me by speaking too softly. Later, as we all sat in the foyer struggling with kids' shoes and jackets, I came this close to introducing (re-introducing?) myself. But then I lost my nerve.

Probably because seven years ago, I'd dumped him for a guy who then turned out to be bipolar, and probably an alcoholic. I was making choices that were just that good at that point in my life. (In fairness to me, The Guy I Might Have Slept With wasn't acting that interested in me. He'd even told me I could date other people, which I did, just to spite him. But his biggest crime was that he had made me watch Starship Troopers.)

My husband thought it was all very funny. He loves lurid tales about my past.

But here's the scary thing. This isn't the first time this has happened. Last year, Nima and I were touring a potential daycare when a guy walked in to drop off his two kids. After a few seconds, I realized that he was an Irish guy who wined and dined me at Spago, and then stood me up for our third date. After borrowing my copy of Asylum, which he never returned. (My husband calls these little embarrassments with foreigners my "European setbacks.")

That's the thing about the past. It won't come back to haunt you in church. Or on your deathbed. It'll come back to you at a potential daycare. Or in music class, as you're singing Hello, Everybody, So Glad to See You. So behave yourselves.

Friday, May 04, 2007

I'd like my subversiveness in a Size 6, please.

Oh well.

POAS this morning. Result: BFN.

I realized that I've probably POAS at least 34 times over the last 4 years. (More like 300 if you count the OPKs.)

Women who spend time on infertility boards will know what the acronyms mean. And how I'm feeling right now.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

What worries me today.

My son's favorite teacher is in the hospital. We don't know what's wrong, other than that she has very high blood pressure.

Yesterday morning, Cami hit me for the first time. Apparently I wasn't getting him his breakfast fast enough. He didn't hit me very hard--a light tap, really. But still. All sorts of things went through my mind, most of them culminating in his eventual incarceration at the age of oh, 5.

I got down on my knees, took his hands in mind and tried to make him look at me.

"No, Cami," I said. "We don't hit. Mommy doesn't like that." All the things you're supposed to say when confronted with a discipline issue.

Last night, after his bath, as Nima was trying to give him a hug, Cami kind of slapped him on the head. And then looked at his father to check his reaction. Again, "No, Cami. We don't do that." Very serious tone. Very serious face.

Is he testing us because that's what a 19-month-old does? Or because he misses his teacher, and when you're 19 months old, you don't understand why someone you love suddenly disappears?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

What worries me.

Stuff like this.

Some guy lost control of his SUV and hit 13 students at Ralston Intermediate School in Belmont. Pinned 4 of them under a car. No one was killed, amazingly enough. The police still don't know what happened. The driver was on his way to pick up his granddaughter. His wife thinks the brakes failed.

Random, freak car accidents at school. Just another thing to worry about.

Slow down, people. (Especially those of you who speed past my son's daycare center, where the speed limit is 25mph. And you know who you are.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


I suddenly think of Cami and am shocked by how much I miss him. I try to picture what he's doing right now. It's about 1, so he's napping (hopefully). It kills me that I'm not there to watch him sleep on his little blue daycare cot. I love to watch him sleep. More than anything.

I'm like a prepubescent girl with her first crush. Daydreaming about a little boy. Story of my life.