Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How The Hunger Games Movie Saved Our Lives

If you are alive at this moment and over the age of 5 you've heard of The Hunger Games, the bestselling trilogy by author Suzanne Collins. YaYa read the books, loved them, and like most pre-teen girls in 2012, became their Biggest Fan. I even took her to a Hunger Games day at a local bookstore.

I'm not knocking her interest in the series. On her recommendation I read them, and I liked them a lot (especially the first in the series), so of course we promised her she'd see the movie when it hit theaters. What we *didn't* tell her is that we'd surprise her by taking her to see the movie at midnight on the day it came out (March 22nd)!

She was ecstatic, but, oh, of course - come every argument between then and now it's "you never do anything for me!" :)

Alas, while she and Lisa had a blast, their return was fraught with danger. Read on, Dear Reader.

Last night Lisa woke up YaYa @ 11:15 and surprised her with the news that we'd bought tickets for the midnight premiere of the Hunger Games! They went together and had a blast, and even sat next to another kid [from their school] they saw there. When they got home and woke me up it was a preview of 'Catching Fire' - YaYa saw smoke coming from Lulu and Ginger's room. Sure enough, Ginger had fallen asleep with her head sandwiching the desk lamp between the pillow and mattress. Smoke was coming out, the pillow (Big Fat Kitty) was scorched and melted in bits, and Lauren - she was oblivious. How my smoke detectors scream at a slightly overdone pizza but missed this is beyond me, but I'm very glad the ladies changed their minds and skipped a 3am ice cream run on the way home from the show.

I was asleep downstairs on the couch, waiting for them to return. If they'd stayed out longer, or if we'd gone to bed as normal, we'd have slept through the incident until it someone got hurt or worse.

This is the damage it caused to the lamp

While it's harder to make out, here's the scorched and melted wounds to Big Fat Kitty

So thank you Katniss, Suzanne Collins, and the grand publicity department at the studio, for saving my little girl from harm. 

A few days later I saw the movie too. 

Here's my verdict, as written on Facebook:

I just got back from seeing "The Hunger Games". Wow. Seriously - wow. They could have raked in a fortune just by slapping something together on screen that loosely resembled the books. They could have, but they didn't. In every shot, in every scene, in every subtle adaptation from print to script, there is a respect for the source material. The best compliment? Absent the existence of the books, I still think this would rank as a damn fine movie. Well done. Grade: a solid, easy A.

You haven't read the books? You haven't seen the movie? Shame on you. Correct that error as soon as you can. 

A lone pic of Gus-Gus


Sunday, July 22, 2012

The 2012 Dance Recital

My kids take dance classes every year and participate in a massive recital each May. This year the owner of the studio asked me to write a brief series of skits for the show, to string together the dances into a coherent narrative. My salary? At my insistence YaYa was given one of the two main parts, and she did great!

For those of you close friends and family who failed to properly support my children by attending the performances - shame on you. But here's a small taste of what you missed.

ps - sorry about the picture quality but I forgot my camera and made do with my phone

Good evening/afternoon, and welcome to ***  Dance Studios production of 'Up in Grannies Attic'. Our students have worked hard all year to bring you the very best show possible, and they're excited to see all their family and friends in the audience. Please, remember to shut off your cell phones, and for the safety of our dancers no photography will be allowed. And now, enjoy the show!
Girl 1: Grammie Miss Barbara, we're bored!
Girl2: Yeah, there's nothing to do while it's raining outside. Can we pleassse use your phone to text our friends?
GMB: I've told you girls before, Grammie Miss Barbara doesn't do text messages. If you're in such a hurry to write your friends, mail them a letter. [sizzle]. Besides, there's plenty to do in this old attic.
Girl2: Like what? There's nothing up here but cobwebs.
Girl 1: Yeah, and these old trunks.
GMB: But that's exactly what I mean! These trunks aren't just boxes, they hold a lifetime of fun and memories. Go ahead and open one. You'll see.
[the kids do so. Girl 1 lifts out a wedding dress.]
Girl 1: Wow!
Girl 2 [now wearing an eye patch and waving a rubber sword] Look at me, I'm a pirate! Arrrrr!
[both girls laugh].
GMB: I bet if you girls take your time, you'll find plenty to keep you busy up here until dinner.
Girls: OK.
GMB [begins to walk offstage, then stops and turns back, as the girls begin playing with some dolls they've found]. Oh girls?
Girls2: Yes?
GMB: While you're up here, it wouldn't hurt to clean up some of these cobwebs either.
[music begins]


[the girls are digging through a trunk]
Girl1: Hey, will you look at this! [holds up a string of LP's]
Girl2 [shaking her head] : Who would ruin a perfectly good CD by punching a hole in the middle?
Girl1: [puts the 45's back] Did you find anything interesting?
Girl2: Sure. [Shows off a poodle skirt she found]. How do I look?
Girl1: Neat. But check this out. [takes a hippie outfit out of the trunk and holds it up to her chest, makes peace sign]. Peace, man!
[both girls laugh].
Girl2: Do you think Grammie Miss Barbara actually wore this stuff?
Girl 1: I don't know. But if she did, I'm glad she stopped. This stuff is embarrassing. It's not half as cool as our skinny jeans and hair feathers.
[music starts]
(Ginger danced to Itsy Bitsy Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, Smiley did a Mambo, LuLu did See Ya Later Alligator and YaYa danced to Cotton Eyed Joe and Tutti Fruitti)

Girl 2: What are you looking at?
Girl1[holding a photo album]: It's an old photo album of Grammie Miss Barbara's. It has photos going back generations.
Girl2: Family is important to Grammie Miss Barbara.
Girl1: You bet it is. Did you know that every year her dance studio has a very special dance? It's called the Family Dance, and everyone you see on the stage has a relative that goes to the studio. There's Mom's and Daughters, sisters and brothers, even Grandma's and grandsons. It's a tradition that's important to Arabesque, and it happens every year.
Girl2: Wow. I wish I could see the Family Dance. I wonder what it would look like . . .
[music starts]

Girl2 [by an open trunk]: Oh! I found the Christmas decorations! Come see!
[Girl 2 holds up a string of lights, Girl 1 grabs something else from the trunk].
Girl 2: Do you think this Christmas Grammie Miss Barbara will let us put out a stocking here? Just in case Santa stops here too?
Girl1: I don't see why not.
Girl2: Good. [reveals what she took out of the trunk, a super large Christmas stocking as large as she is]
[music starts]

(We bought all the kids roses and personalized them with a note, but somehow YaYa's was packaged MINUS the rose! She took the oopsie with uncharacteristic grace).


[Girl 1 is sweeping the floor with a broom]
Girl 2: What do you think you're doing?
Girl 1: Grammie Miss Barbara asked us to clean up some of the cobwebs, remember?
Girl 2: Since when do you do chores without someone nagging you? [suspicious] Did she pay you when I wasn't looking?
Girl 1: No. I just think it's a shame that these trunks have been up here so long. There's too many great things in them to just let them gather dust.
Girl 2: [skeptical] Hmm. If you say so. Go ahead, keep sweeping. But Grammie Miss Barbara said we could play up here until dinner. As far as I'm concerned, it's the weekend, and anything goes.
[music starts]
(after the recital I treated the family to dinner and dessert at Kopp's, and YaYa and Lisa shared a touching hug)


Girl 1: It's almost dinner. We should start putting this stuff back.
[the girls are putting items away]
Girl 2: Grammie Miss Barbara was right, her attic is a great place. There's so many memories, and so many things to explore.
Girl1: I know. I'd almost wish it would rain every time we visit, just so we could play up here.
Girl 2: Every time??
Girl 1: Ok. Every other time. Come on, let's ask Grammie Miss Barbara if we can watch a movie after dinner. [they close the trunk and begin to walk off stage]
Girl 2: Sure. Anything in particular?
Girl 1: Oh, I don't know. Have you ever seen Free Willy?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

FB - the 2nd week of March *2011*

March 9th:

Yo, if news reports on the chaos in Madison interrupt or pre-empt American Idol, I'm gonna be pissed.

Breaking news: from what I understand the collective bargaining measure has been removed from the budget bill and pushed forward on its own; since it ISN'T a fiscal bill the GOP can vote and pass it w/out the Senators that fled to IL. I guess it'll happen tonight.

Last night I finished "Instant Replay", Jerry Kramer's classic diary of the 1967 NFL season. It's a fun read, with a clear and intelligent voice. (not to spoil the ending, but the Packers win the SuperBowl)

Now this Madison mess has interrupted The Wendy Williams Show. Have they no decency?

March 10th:

Five years ago I couldn't have imagined a day when I'd respect France as much as I do as of late. Sarkozy is a courageous, straight-ahead leader, and France is lucky to have him.

594K people living in Milwaukee as of 2010, the lowest total since WWII - all while the state's population as a whole grew.

Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact - William James

(Gov. Scott) Walker just finished his press conference. He was well spoken, calm, reliant on acts not emotion, and I'm pretty confident he has balls the size of watermelons. A striking contrast (no pun intended) to the cliche ridden tantrums outside the Capitol.

March 11th

I have no problem with having to watch commericals on a news site. I just think the site should be more conscious of the context in which they're placed. I'm sure Company X doesn't want their happy-happy jingle to be followed by a story of abuse and torture, as was just the case on It's poor taste, and the fault is CNN's, not the advertiser.

I've got this all backasswards - the busier I am in the day, the more I post. Instead of stopping for a cigarette break, I spend a few minutes clogging up your news feed. Yay for you. Just finished Morning Glory, and was shocked it was so good. I LOL'd 11 times - I counted - and Harrison Ford was superbly funny as the crochety old anchor. Loved it.

RIP Iowa Blackie. RIP.

Kate Winslet. #1 on my List of Five for 13 consecutive years.

"DO NOT bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it." 
--Thomas Jefferson

[Japan was hit with a massive earthquake and tsunami, resulting in horrendous loss of life]

I took the family out for a fish fry to celebrate the 1st Friday of Lent. The kids were good - good enough to get a compliment from an elderly couple nearby. Now Lis and I are about to sit down and watch 20/20's report on the horrific earthquake in Japan . . .
 [several links to earthquake relief agencies and news articles on the tsunami followed]

March 12th

In the wee hours of the AM we watched "Life as we Know It", a rom-com with Katherine Heigl & Josh Duhamel. It was pleasant enough, and Heigl is always good, but all in all it's a collection of cliches stapled to a formulaic script. Some good moments though. [I was a little shocked to see Josh Lucas; he seems to have aged quite a bit since Wonderland]

March 13th

Just got home. Worked til 530, then went immediately to dinner/auction/dance at my kids school. Lots of fun, lots of food, lots and lots of drinking. Good time. And best of all, it's the first time since July 11th 2010 that we've gone out w/out the kids (other than an hour here or there w/ a deadline arouind our necks). Thanks Anne for the invite!

@ wrk I had to deal with a Truther & his loudly stated beliefs - see T-shirt reading "Investigate 9/11!". Like all Americans he is entitled to his opinion, based on the absurdly tiny amount of information he bothered to learn before he formed it. But I did enjoy the fact that someone so obesessed w/ conspiracy was apparently 'taken' - a Visa gift card he accepted as pay was empty.

March 14th

While I was at work Lisa took the girls on a Scout trip to the Symphony, where Olivia won a copy of Lemony Snicket's "The Composer is Dead".  Grace said she enjoyed the music, while Olivia said it was boring (but she was tired when I asked her). Then, a miserable night of subpar Sun TV, w/ no movie on hand. It was down to The Nanny (good) & '3 Ninjas' (suicide inducing).

Any guy dumb enough to label Jean Harlow and Carole Lombard as 'average' while worshiping Julia 'Secretariat' Roberts should have his man parts removed forthwith.

"in this country, it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others" - Voltaire, satirizing the execution of British Admiral John Byng by his own country (this day in 1757). RIP.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Minor Milestone in the Slapinions Home

On June 26th I posted the following tidbit on Facebook:

A milestone reached today with the kids, the 2nd event in less than a week to reduce me to a depressive mess. It is not fair. When the youngest gets too old for something, it is time to make a new kid . . . but no new models for 5 years :(

What was this milestone? This:





Moments before Lisa had announced the removal of our footstool from the bathroom. I balked - clearly Ginger wasn't old enough to reach the faucet without it. Lisa promptly rounded up the lil' one and proved me wrong. 


It's bad enough that my youngest is growing up waaaay too fast, but her milestone meant the end of an era. The footstool was one I remember fondly from our old house on Windlake Ave (circa mid to late '70's) and it has served all four of my children well. Until that day. 

Here's a picture of the stool. You'll have to excuse the stuck on Pokemon cards Smiley left on our table that day. I assure you, they aren't a normal part of our decor. 


Yes, I know it looks like dung in its current state. But when new, oh so many decades ago, it was lime green and featured a white line drawing of a lamb leaping through a field of flowers. Sadly the lamb lost his top half many moons ago, long before my kids inherited it. 


What I always felt was neat about it was that in addition to being a footstool it instantly converted to a toddler sized chair, one that's supported the behinds of two generations of Slapinons. 



So, my little one isn't so little anymore, and a battered but beloved icon of our time as parents is going into storage. Someday, Lisa claims, we'll take it out , restore Lamby to his proper dimensions, paint the whole thing, and let our Grandkids use it. 

I hope that comes to pass :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Shadow of a Distant Life

This is the story that won me a public reading at a local library back in 2009.

It was three in the morning when the ghost  returned to visit Steven.

At first, shortly after moving into the house, there had had been  only the sound of heavy, careful footsteps in the night. Alarmed, Steven would leave the imagined safety of his bed and venture down the hall, terrified of finding an intruder. But it was always the same; the kids asleep and unaware, the doors bolted, the windows locked.

In the morning he and his wife found it amusing, a curiosity to liven up the anecdotes they told about their new home. Neither, of course, believed in ghosts.

That was how it started.

What followed was a lull, two weeks of undisturbed and blissful sleep. Then, an escalation: the footsteps again, this time breaching Steven's room and stopping just beside his bed.  After that the mornings brought no peace. The restless nights made tempers flare, and he grew angry each time his wife blamed it all on the shifting frame of a century old house.

Steven, for his part, was no longer sure what he believed.

Soon his wife let the news 'slip' to his mother. "I don't understand why you're worried," his Mom said, scolding him. "Our family has owned that house since it was built. The only people to pass away there are your great-grandparents, and even if they could come back, you know they would never hurt you."

They were words meant to comfort, but did the opposite. He felt no kinship with a couple dead and gone twenty years before his birth. Nor could he fathom caring about his own descendants, at least those he wouldn't live to see. If there were angry spirits in the house, why would they be obliged to tolerate him? For the sake of a relationship four generations removed?

That was the night the figure appeared. There were footsteps of course, loud enough to wake him but no one else (although, to be fair, he never really slept well at night anymore, surviving on catnaps scattered throughout the day). They came forward slowly but confidently, as if the spirit no longer cared to mask its presence, and again, they paused by the bed. Ignoring his fear Steven opened his eyes.

Before him stood a shadow, a man-but-not-a-man. While there was no physical form, the shifting darkness  worked to craft an illusion of strength and bulk. Remarkably, through the pressing, physical weight of his fear Steven felt himself begin to climb out of bed.

Not yet, a voice said, and he had no doubt it echoed only in his mind. Not yet.

That was the beginning of the end.

In the weeks to come Steven would stop trying to sleep at night altogether. His work began to suffer; his children, sensing something wrong, grew distant, and his wife, concerned, begged him to seek help. When he refused her pleas he found himself banished to the living room couch. For Steven it was a hidden blessing. His few nights on the couch gave him his first true rest in months.

                                                              A Shadow of a Distant Life  pg 2

On the night the shadow returned it there was no sound, only an icy shiver that wrenched Steven awake with a stunning abruptness. The figure stood at the head of the couch, leaning over and staring - if it had eyes at all - directly into Steven's face.

Now, it said.

The figure walked away, heading for the kitchen. Steven's mind and body screamed caution, and he resolved to stay where he lay. To his surprise  he found himself following the shadow.  They entered the room together, and in time it took Steven to blink his eyes the figure disappeared.

Once again Steven's head screamed retreat, but instead he searched frantically around the room, as if instead of vanishing he'd simply lost sight of the figure in a crowd. After a moment he heard the familiar footsteps coming from the basement stairs that lay off the pantry.  He followed the sound without thinking, and without bothering with the stairway light.  His eyes had grown accustomed to picking out human forms in the dark of night, and they came quickly to rest on a figure below.

At that same moment he noticed the broken basement window, the strangely unfamiliar shape of the shadow, and the glint of a knife in its hand as it rushed up the stairs. Before these thoughts could raise an alarm the intruder slammed into Steven, slashing at him in a frenzy. The first blow missed and struck the wall, but the intruder never hesitated.  A second later the man was on him again, pushing him down against the stairs before raising the knife for a final blow.

Steven's eyes went from the knife, to the eyes of his assailant - and then to the familiar figure emerging from the dark behind him.

Pitch dark arms ignored the blade and encircled his neck, leveraging him up and off of Steven. It was then, only for a moment, that Steven saw the face of the shadow. It was no face as we know it, simply the impression of one, but in its imagined features was not one face but many; his great-grandfather and his father before him, his sons and his future grandchildren.

Even in the surreal chaos of that moment he knew that  in the end the fight would be his own. Now the shadow said, and Steven struck, knocking the intruder unconscious and sending him tumbling down the stairs.

He would see the shadow only once more in his lifetime. Many years later, babysitting his grandchild, Steven stirred and wandered into the baby's room, sitting in the  rocker alongside the crib. From the corner of the eye he noticed a shadow distinct from the darkness, but did not turn to meet it.

Together, the pair was content to admire the future in silence as it slept peacefully in the crib.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Three Books for You to Pick up - Or Not

I'm a fan of the USA Network's Psych, and yes, for the record, shame on CBS for ripping it off for The Mentalist. The great thing about "A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Read" is that author William Rabkin accomplishes the near impossible for a TV tie-in novel. He not only make it readable, he captures the characters to a 'T'. The dialouge is spot on and literally LOL. 

I grade this a personal A, and an objective B/B+. 

Book #48 of the year

I am also a fan of A.Lee Martinez, and I did enjoy  his latest novel, "Emperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain". But . . . it ain't his best work. Not his funniest. Not his most original. Not the best plot. Not, in short, my favorite.

Grade: C+

Book # 49 of the year.

For the Pysch tie-in novel  The Call of the Mild you can second most of my praise of author William Rabkin. But I ID'd the killer long before Shawn and Gus did, and I wasn't pleased with the way the subplot of Henry's protege worked out. This was the weaker effort of the two.

Grade: C

Book # 50 of the year.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

My bit of the office

I thought you might like a glimpse into my cubicle at Job Current. No? Too bad, so sad. 

The pic above showcases not only a stunningly handsome man, but a wee bit of my two monitors. God Bless 'em both. Some folks at work have only one on their desk, something that seems guaranteed to reduce efficiency if you ask me. 

Anyhow, I've decorated my cubicle for a number of reasons. To bring a bit of home to work. To express who I am. And because I have an illogical hope that the decorations will sway any lay-off decision in my favor. 

Here's the wall behind me. There's the Nirvana and Doctor Who posters, a self portrait of LuLu, a turtle she made in art class, and a wonderfully colored 'dog on skateboard' she crafted at a local restaurant. 

Here's the wall just to the left of my monitors. Our 2012 Christmas card, a drawing by Ginger, a note from a co-worker that's covering up an ink stain from a pen that exploded ("best mapping response of the season goes to Dan: I'm not sure I can properly map a hop, skip and jump") and an "I love you" card Smiley gave me after a day he and I argued start to finish. :)

To my left is an abstract drawing by Ginger and an age-old art and creative writing project from YaYa, back when she was in K3 or K4 "The bright caterpillar, worm, and butterfly jumped quietly to their home". I love it. 

Last but not least, my computer tower itself, decorated in the holiest of holies, the trinity itself: The Yankees, a Tardis, and the Match Game logo.