Friday, December 31, 2010

The Last (Rambling) Post of 2010.

Just in time for the new year we are back safe and sound from our Mexican vacation. I am ushering in 2011 with a little party and I hope you'll join me.

I've got cake:

And some coffee-infused tequila we bought from a Mexican roadside hooch stand micro distillery in the Sierra Madre range.

The dress code is very casual (yoga pants and woolly sweaters) and we'll be hobnobbing with some very refined company:


I'm planning to write up a few -- very opinionated -- reviews about the places we went and things we saw in Mexico. For now I will just say that it was a great vacation.

There were a few minor hiccups.

Like the fact that we missed -- by hours -- the delivery of our custom-made, bike messenger bags that we'd ordered for the trip. Aren't they pretty?



You haven't seen the best part. The lining:


I haven't even gotten the chance to use it yet, because I've been sick. I will attempt to be delicate, and will simply allude to some intestinal issues that have haunted me since I ate a pulled pork sandwich from a farmacia moments before we caught our flight home.

And that flight was a doozy. Even before we hit some serious turbulence, people were falling ill. The flight attendant said she had never seen so many sick people on one flight. They ran out of air sickness bags. One of the passengers was a nurse, and I'm pretty sure that without her interventions (including hooking up one young woman to a drip IV) we'd have set down in Albuquerque. When we finally did make it to Calgary we were met at the gate by EMTs. Then we had to wait to hear if Health Canada was going to quarantine the flight.

After that we had another 15 hours of waiting and flying and waiting and flying and driving until we finally got home.

So here we are. Cold, exhausted, and sick, shaking our heads in disbelief that just a few short days ago we were lounging on the beach, enjoying 28ºC weather. Thankfully we have some fabulous vacation pictures documenting our vacation.

Here's me suntanning:


And here's Mr Wrath about to engage in a round of water polo:


Oh, Mr Wrath. He loves water polo almost as must as he loves his banana hammock and his pornstache.

 Ah, yes. It was a great vacation.

So how was your Christmas?

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •  

And somehow I have managed to delete all the comments people left on my blog in December. I'm quite talented, yes?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Star Trek For Beginners: The Movies

I'm currently on vacation, but just in case anyone wants to be distracted from their kin by a Star Trek movie, here's a quick guide:

 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

So last time I broke down the six Star Trek episodes, and this week I'm going to give you my opinionated recap of the eleven Star Trek movies.

Yes. Eleven. ELEVEN! Eleven Star Trek movies. Astounding, isn't it?


Star Trek: The Motion Picture. 1979.


Plot synopsis: An alien entity/ship/cloud-thingy called V'ger is moving toward Earth, and Captain Kirk and his crew take a recently upgraded Enterprise to intercept it before it enters the Sol system.

The first Star Trek movie was produced ten years after the cancellation of the original series. The script was originally written as the pilot for a new Star Trek television series -- to be called Phase II -- that was scrapped for a variety of logistic and financial reasons. The cancellation only occurred after the sets were built, scripts were written and the actors were under contract, so Paramount decided to recoup some of the costs.

It's not a great movie. It's 132 minutes and a lot of time is spent like this:

Cut to wide screen shot of V'ger.
Cut to closeup shot of Kirk reacting.
Cut to shot of V'ger.
Cut to closeup shot of Spock raising an eyebrow as reaction to Kirk reacting to V'ger.
Cut to shot of V'ger.
Cut to closeup shot of McCoy reacting to Spock raising eyebrow as reaction to Kirk reacting to V'ger.
Cut to shot of Uhura reacting, saying "I'm getting a message now, Captain."
Cut to shot of V'ger.
Lather, rinse, repeat.

The show is mostly watchable because of the novelty of seeing the crew reunited after a 10 year absence. But that's it.



Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. 1982.


While Star Trek: The Motion Picture wasn't a critical success, it was profitable. That was enough motivation for Paramount to green light a sequel.

Space Seed was an episode from 1967 featuring Ricardo Montalbán as Khan Noonien Singh the leader of a group of genetically engineered human/madmen with psychopathic tendencies who attempts to take over the Enterprise. Kirk regains control of the ship and Khan agrees to be marooned on a planet rather than go to jail.

This movie starts when Singh (and his followers) escape from the planet and attempt to take revenge on Kirk by taking control of a super weapon called the Genesis device.

Wrath of Khan is truly excellent. It's lasting legacy is that I'm still PETRIFIED of having a bug crawl in my ear.


Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. 1984.


Here's the first thing you need to know about Star Trek: no one ever dies once. Yea. It's like a soap opera that way.

The reason I mention this is because The Wrath of Khan ends with the death of Spock. Search For Spock movie is all about Kirk and McCoy et al. setting off to find the body of Spock (there's a lot of mumbo jumbo about Spock's essence being placed in McCoy and it can only be extracted if the Vulcan voodoo priests have his body as well, but the body's been shot out into space and it lands on a planet...and well, it doesn't really matter).

Also a very good film. Not as great as Wrath of Khan, but this movie does feature Klingons.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. 1986.

Just now as I was writing this I remembered that my dad took me to see this movie in a theater. My dad was not a Star Trek fan, so it's kinda sweet that he took me to this movie. Eh. Who am I kidding, he probably fell asleep 3 minutes into it.

Anyway.

The crew of the Enterprise (including Spock, because SURPRISE! He isn't dead anymore) travel back to earth in the late 1980s to capture some humpback whales, transport them back to earth, and save humanity.

I know the plot synopsis sounds ridiculous, but this movie is a lot of fun. It's intense. It's funny. It's full of hope. It's rife with timely -- but now dated -- references to life in 1986. It's a little bit sexy. It's got WHALES!

I like whales, okay.


Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: 1989.


This one sucks.

Turns out Spock's got a half-brother no one has ever heard of before. He takes over the Enterprise, flies the ship to the center of the galaxy to meet...God. Yup. GOD. But it turns out not be be god-GOD, but a vengeful, violent alien.

The low points of this movie (or perhaps the whole series) is when Nichelle Nichols -- age 57 -- performs a naked fan dance. Admittedly the fans are big, but still: ew.


Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. 1991.


The Enterprise hosts a peace conference with the Klingons. A murder happens, Kirk and McCoy are accused, Spock must vindicate them.

It's okay. Better than The Final Frontier. Which isn't saying much. The highlight is Christopher Plummer as a Shakespeare-quoting Klingon.


Star Trek VII: Generations. 1994.


Remember earlier when I mentioned that when people die in Star Trek, they seldom stay dead? Keep that in mind when you watch the beginning of the movie. Because Kirk dies. He's on the Enterprise and this big intergalactic energy ribbon, called the Nexus hits the ship and he dies saving the ship and her crew. Or rather: he "dies" saving the ship and her crew.


The narrative then jumps forward to the time of Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Again the Nexus appears, Picard is sucked inside and experiences his version of heaven. While there he encounters Kirk, they escape together, and battle the evil genius who is attempting to control the Nexus. In the climatic battle Kirk is killed.

Or is he?

Generations was meant to be the transition with the movie franchise now focusing on the cast of the Next Generation which had ceased broadcasting new episodes in 1994. This movie had the pacing, the special effects, and the tone of a two-part episode of the Next Generation. It was cool that Kirk came back, but otherwise it was pretty bland.


Star Trek IIX: First Contact. 1996.


First Contact is an all-Next Generation movie. It even featured the Next Generation's biggest enemy the Borg.

The Borg travel back in time to alter Earth's history in order to ensure they would conquer Earth in the present...er...future...oh, you know what I mean. I hope.



Star Trek IX: Insurrection. 1998.


Celluloid crap-fest. Two enemy races never before mentioned are at odds. The Enterprise gets involved. Picard falls in love. The Enterprise crew is victorious.


Star Trek X: Nemesis. 2002.


Guess who co-wrote this movie? GUESS? Brett Spiner. Data's actor. Which explains why his face is on the poster for this movie.

The Romulan Empire (heretofore neglected by the movie franchise) is in political turmoil when a new leader comes to power in a violent coup. The Enterprise travels to Romulus to begin diplomatic talks with the new leader Shinzon. Shinzon is a clone of Picard, created years earlier as part of a now-defunct plan to replace key members of Starfleet with clones who were sympathetic to the Romulan Empire. Shinzon needs an infusion of Picard's DNA (hehehehe) or he will die. Picard is a bit reluctant to oblige. Battling ensues.

In the epic battle that concludes the movie, guess who dies? Guess who dies in an unnecessarily dramatic fashion? Data. Yes. I guess that's one of the benefits of writing a movie script. But fear not. This is Star Trek after all. There just happens to be an exact replica of Data (who is an android) sitting around with absolutely NOTHING to do.

Nemesis was -- mercifully -- the last of the Next Generation movies. I loved that series, but felt that the movies were just an unnecessary, blatant money grab by Paramount. It would have been better for the franchise -- in the long run -- to have shelved the movies in the early 90s.

Alas they didn't and it took 7 years -- and an entirely new cast -- to overcome the damage done by the Trek market saturation of the 90s.


Star Trek XI: Star Trek (reboot). 2009.



I love, love, love this movie.

I may not have mentioned this, but I am a little bit fond of this movie. Just a smidge.

The movie returns the franchise to the core group of Kirk, Spock and McCoy fresh out of Starfleet Academy. There's this whole time travel component that I can not explain, but which -- TRUST ME -- makes sense when you are watching it. It's just all around super. But that might just the young-Kirk inspired-lust talking:


Oh. Yea.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Star Trek For Beginners: The Television Series.

I'm currently on vacation, so posting in this in absentia:

 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

For those of you who are not already familiar with Star Trek, I'm going to break down all six of the Trek television series. I'll list them chronologically by date of production:


Star Trek (now called Star Trek: The Original Series). 1966 - 1969.


This was the show that started it all. Created by Gene Roddenberry it focused upon the crew of a starship called Enterprise in the 23rd century. The show had three main characters: Captain James T. Kirk, Science officer Spock, and Doctor Leonard 'Bones' McCoy.

A product of the late 60s, the stories were often parables about the cultural, and political ills of that era. The series conveyed a hopeful message that humanity would survive the 20th century and go on to create a great civilization based on the principles of equality and freedom, a love of science and complicated hairdos for women.

I started watching Star Trek in 1983 when I was ten. It was being rerun nightly on an American station out of Washington state. My appetite for science fiction had been whetted by Star Wars, Tron, The Black Hole, ET, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I'd watched a few episodes of the original Battlestar Galactica series, but wasn't too impressed. CBC broadcast Dr. Who reruns that completely freaked me (GAH. I still hate that theme song. Its too spooky). So Star Trek was a nice, positive, non-scary anchor for my spacey, sciencey interests. Also, I thought Kirk was kinda cute.



Star Trek: the Animated Series. 1973-74.

The Enterprise's five-year mission continues. But with an even smaller budget.

I saw a few of the 22 episodes of this cartoon in reruns when I was about 8. I'm not a fan of cartoons, so it didn't interest me and I can't really offer up a real opinion about it.

The series is mostly noteworthy because it gave prominence to the original series supporting characters (ie Scotty, Uhura, Chekov, Sulu, Nurse Chapel, Yeoman Rand, etc) who appeared alongside the core triad of Kirk, Spock and Bones.



Star Trek: The Next Generation. 1987-1994.


Set approximately 100 years after the first series, this is about another crew on another ship named Enterprise.

The Next Generation aired while I was in junior high, then high school and during my first three years of university. I can not over state how it influenced every aspect of my life and inspired me in a myriad of ways.


Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. 1993-1999.



This series is set on a space station built near the mouth of a wormhole that leads to a distant quadrant of the galaxy.

Oh, God how I hated this show. Just this week I re-watched the premiere episode on youtube and it was just as horrible as I remember. I was at my friend Huge Eug's house and we sat in stunned silence during that train wreck of an episode. Kira Nerys was a one-dimensional shrew. Quark was suppose to be menacing, but he was just silly. There was a whole bunch of metaphysical nonsense with non-linear worm hole aliens/gods. Commander Sisko was a RUDE asshole who HATED our beloved Jean-Luc Picard. Oh. It was/is a bad episode.

I watched DS9 only sporadically through the series run, but it never intrigued me.

Then in 2002 we moved to a new town. I didn't know anyone. We were in a dumpy rental property. My husband was working long hours. We had a new baby. It was all very depressing. The one small bright part came after we hooked up our new satellite dish and I realized that Deep Space 9 reruns aired 4 times a day. I quickly became hooked.

In the post 9/11 era, when there was constant talk of sleeper-cells, the threat of domestic terrorism and the anthrax hysteria, Deep Space 9's story arcs about the Dominion war became much more compelling. The characters were -- I soon learned -- more nuanced than other incarnations of Trek. It was darker than Gene Roddenberry's original vision, but it was also more timely.

Today, I think Deep Space 9 is the BEST of all the Trek series.


Star Trek: Voyager. 1995-2001.


A federation vessel is thrown halfway across the galaxy and must travel back home (a voyage they estimate will take 70 years).

I loved this series when it first ran. Loved it. Couldn't get enough of it. Bought a tv and vcr when I moved out of my parents house just so I could watch it.

And now? Now...not so much. My boys love it. My six year old is fascinated by The Doctor. Both boys think Neelix is hysterical. I like how the women of Voyager are strong and cunning. But...I just can't get the magic back.

The problem is that we bought a copy of the first season. And when you watch those early episodes, it becomes obvious that it never fulfilled its potential. Robert Beltran's talent was wasted -- Chakotay in the early episodes is a sexy beast, and his chemistry with Janeway is hawt.


(This doctored photo was just too amusing to pass up.)

Janeway is kinda of Kirk-like in the earlier seasons, and I love that. I wish they'd killed off Kes AND Harry Kim -- both were dull. The holodeck was relied on waaaaaaaaaay too much for plot lines. And yes, they did get home to the Alpha quadrant -- was there ever any doubt?


Star Trek: Enterprise. 2001-2005.


Set prior to the original series, this series focuses on the very first warp-capable (READ: can fly super fast!) ship designed by humans. Interesting premise, stymied by the limitation of remaining true to a 'history' created by the five earlier Trek incarnations.

Complete crap fest, for the most part. By attempting to lure new fans to the show (initially it was called simply Enterprise), the producers wound up alienating the core audience of Trekkies. Well, the first two season were bad. The third season was just okay. The fourth season was brilliant, but by then no one was watching and the show was cancelled and concluded with a really insulting finale.

And now if anyone is still reading this marathon long post, I will reward you with a shot of Patrick Stewart:

Oh yeah, baby.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wish List.

The following is my list of Christmas Wishes for the up coming year:

For my town, I wish a snowy, safe Christmas. I'll think of you while I'm melting on a Mexican beach, keen to come back home for the kids skiing lessons.


For my puppy, I wish you a good 12 days at the kennel with a group of friendly non-barky dogs.


For Facebook, I wish you would disappear. And I'd like everyone to stop using friend as a verb, okay?

For Prince William and his betrothed Kate, I wish you a wonderful engagement and a magical wedding. But I'm feeling a bit sad, because there are no longer any Woolworth's stores in Canada. Where am I going to buy my Royal Wedding commemorative teacup and saucer? Or a tea towel with Will and Kate's smiling faces?




[[UPDATED MARCH 22, 2011 -- please refer to this post for information about Will & Kate tea towels]]

For Colin Firth, I wish for you to win an Academy Award for The King's Speech. It looks wonderful.

(I want every single one of Helena Bonham Carter's hats. 
What can I say? I love hat porn.)

For Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, I wish that you would resign from politics and pursue your career as a wedding singer. Alternately, I wish you would simply stop performing Beatles songs at functions and fundraisers. People only clap out of politeness.

For little boys everywhere, I wish a Christmas filled with Playmobil toys, super-complicated Lego sets, and Star Wars action figures. Afterall, why should I be the only mother to suffer?

For Emily Procter, I wish to undo whatever the hell you've done to your face:


(Is this really Emily Procter? Because I remember when 
Emily Procter looked like this:

Is this what comes of working with David Caruso on CSI Miami?)

For Joss Whedon, I wish that you'd produce a movie or television series that justifies the devotion of your fans. It's been 10 years since Buffy, and except for 60 minutes of campy fun (Dr Horrible's Singalong Blog) you haven't produced anything truly spectacular.

For Sweden, I wish you had rape laws that weren't so vaguely written that they fail to protect your citizens and make a mockery of justice and gender equality.

For Julian Assange, I wish you weren't such a man-whore. Your personal proclivities make it all too easy to dismiss your professional objectives.

For everyone flying this holiday season, I wish for good weather and  no delays and no mishaps.

For all those reading my little blog, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year surrounded by your loved ones. Take care. I'll be gone for a few weeks.

-Nan

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Memo To Sandra Bullock.

To: Sandra Bullock, aka Sandra Bullock, Academy Award Winning Actress, Driver of Doomed Bus, Patron Saint of Women Who Marry Philandering Assholes

From: Nan, Creator/Contributor for the Wrath of Mom Blog, Chairwoman of the Society to Prevent People From Doing Really Stupid Things (aka TSTPPFDRST).

Re: Your Christmas Plans.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Ms. Bullock,

Recently the press has speculated you will spend Christmas with your ex-husband, Jesse James and his three children. We at The Society to Prevent People From Doing Really Stupid Things  (aka TSTPPFDRST) take this unsubstantiated story with a grain of salt, but think it's a bad idea and wish to dissuade you from this possible course of action.

Jesse James is a gross, philandering, tattooed, anti-semitic, racist, bigoted, reality television "star." He also wears man-sized overalls. In public.


Jesse shouldn't be permitted in the same room as a young child. For the sake of little Louis Bardo, please don't spend Christmas with this freak.

Perhaps Ms Bullock, you should contemplate finding a new spouse/partner/mate to ensure that Louis doesn't grow up thinking that Jesse James is a respectable father figure? Yes, it is time to move on and find a NICE, non-crazy spouse.  After all, it's been 10 months since James was responsible for foisting the tattooed forehead of Michelle "Bombshell" Mcgee onto the world. It's been three months since James began a dalliance with Kat Von D. It is time for you to date.

To this end, using your previous dating history as a guide, TSTPPFDRST has drafted a short list of possible candidates for your consideration:

1. Brendan Fraser. Actor.

A bit of internet snooping shows that you have a tendency to date co-stars. You worked with Brendan Fraser on Crash. Sure his career is waning, but that is something with which you are familiar. Also he has three sons and his former wife is not a porn star nor has she been to jail. Unlike Jesse's previous spouse.

2. John Edwards. Politician. Asshole.

If there is one attention whore who the members of TSTPPFDRST loathe more than that Bombshell woman, it's Rielle Hunter Lisa Jo Druck. Now I don't care for John Edwards personally, but I will vomit if he carries through with his promise to marry Hunter. So maybe you could take one for the team and marry him and make sure Elizabeth Edwards' children are raised properly.

SIDE NOTE: Rielle Hunter should marry Jesse James and all the smarminess and idiocy could be contained in their union.

3. Ken Burns. Documentary film maker.

Okay, Burns is actually married. But maybe you could get together with Burns for coffee and he'll tell you a little about his mini series Jazz, and help round out your knowledge of Louis Armstrong. I thought you might enjoy this since you have named your son Louis, in homage to Louis Armstrong. Alas you say Louis with the french pronunciation of Loo-EE, which Mr Armstrong considered a demeaning pet name, preferring his name to be said as Lewis.

While you wait for Ken to order you a coffee, watch this clip of Louis Armstrong singing "Hello Dolly" with Barbra Streisand. Please note the way he says his name:



[Note: personally I prefer Louis when pronounced the French way.]
 
4. Keanu Reeves. Actor.

Come on. He's single. He's cute. He's Canadian! You had great chemistry in Speed and The Lake House.

5. Charlize Theron. Actress.

It kind of makes sense. Charlize has great chemistry with Keanu. You have great chemistry with Keanu. Ergo you two should have great chemistry together. Also she is single. AND she doesn't have forehead tattoos.

6. Chris Pine. Actor.

You appeared with Original Kirk (aka Bill Shatner) in Miss Congeniality, so maybe you could get it on with Reboot Kirk. Plus I think he's a cutie and was looking for an excuse to put his photo on my blog.

• • • • •

This concludes the Sandra Bullock Prospective Life Partner short list. We will update the list as we see fit.

Please, blog readers, feel free to nominate more men or women in the comment section of this post.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wear Star Wars. Share Star Wars.

Today, like Star Wars lovin' geeks all over the world (or at least the part of the world with access to computers and the internet) the kids and I are wearing and sharing Star Wars in honour of Katie.

Clone Power!

Revenge of the Cute:

The ugliest Star Wars shirt known to humanity:


It says a lot about my commitment to being a role model for geek girls (and boys) that I'm posting a photo of my "Cow Wars" shirt.  It's so old and unflattering and just plain weird (JEDI COW!?) that I don't often wear it in public. I use it as a night shirt and my husband refers to it as "The Libido Killer."

Our family has also purchased an Asajj Ventress action figure to donate to our local toy drive. This is especially meaningful for us because our Christmases usually features many, many Star Wars toys, Star Wars movies, Star Wars video games, a few Star Wars Christmas ornaments and our Star Wars-themed Christmas Crèche:


Please note, the role of the baby Jesus (in his K'nex manager) is being played by Rotta The Huttlet:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Can't Catch Me.

The boys decorated our gingerbread house last night:



It looks EXACTLY like the picture on the box, don't you think?


Sure it does. Just tilt your head to the right, squint and wrap your eyeballs in Saran Wrap. They're identical.

Note: those are NOT pepperoni sticks on the roof.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Mojo.

It's not very Christmasy of me to admit this, but there are certain Christmas rituals that I look forward to completing because they ruin my holiday mojo:

1. Attending a Christmas school pageant and pretending that it is not excruciatingly boring and painful.

I endured 12 school pageants during my school career, and our oldest child (who went to public school for kindergarten) was in one. One of the benefits of homeschooling (for another example see earlier reference to book fair racket) is not having to pretend that sitting in a dark school auditorium for 2 hours so you can watch your own child perform for all of 2 minutes is FUN.

2. Attending Husband's office Christmas party.

Done and DONE! It was actually pretty painless. We sat with Husband's coworker and his wife and made snarky and geeky comments ALL NIGHT LONG. It was fun!

I did not participate in karaoke. Nor did I dance. Even though the DJ played two of my best dancing-and-looking-like-a-fool songs: Footloose, by Kenny Loggins and Dancing in the Dark, by Bruce Springsteen.  I've been practicing my impersonation of Courtney Cox dancing with Bruce for 20 plus years. It is now perfect!

3. Writing our Christmas family newsletters.

It boggles my mind that these letters are so painful to compose. This year we devised a quiz testing people's knowledge about our lives. This is what happens when your life is (thankfully) quite lovely and (delightfully) fulfilling and you are very happy (though you're afraid to admit this lest you jinx yourself), but there isn't a whole lot of NEW things (ie birth of a baby, move to a new house, son entering the space program, other son becoming a world renowned surgeon) to report. [[*knock on wood*]]

But after many hours of formatting columns, editing photos, proof reading, and rewriting to ensure that we didn't come across like braggarts, I was exhausted. Compounding this was attempting to write with a minimum of sarcasm and scorn BUT still be funny. I think we succeeded at least part of the time. But toward the end, I'd exhausted my personal supply of sincerity.

4. We got our Christmas tree. Here it is before we cut it down:

And once it was nestled into a corner of our living room:


Comparatively this year's tree-hunting expedition was fun and brief: 30 minutes. We are surrounded by Crown Land so it's just a matter of picking a direction and walking until we find a tree that's straight(ish),  sort of symmetrical and isn't too smelly. One year we brought home a white spruce and within 2 hours of setting it up, we sent it back out the door because the stink was too bad.

We think this is a fir tree. This information was supplied by a friend who was passing by as Husband stood on the porch trimming a few of the lower branches. She's a professional forester so we will defer to her knowledge, until next week when my dad comes for a visit and applies his 50 years of forestry knowledge to the question.

So there. My bottom four joy-killers DONE. Bring on the joy. Bring on the snow. Bring on the Mexican vacation we're going on in 2 weeks!

Oh. Crap. We need to start packing.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Clifford The Big Red Dog Can Bite Me: 2,000,000,000 Reasons To Hate Scholastic Books

One of the best thing about homeschooling, I have been known to remark, is that I don't have to contend with the Scholastic book racket.

Once upon a time I did love Scholastic books. When I was in elementary school it was always exciting when the flyers would came out. It was exciting to buy new books. I remember that if you bought a certain number of books you got a free book! That was fun. Less fun: when the richer kids in class would flaunt their new books in the faces of the "poor" kids, or -- as was the case for me -- in  the faces of the kids whose mothers worked for the public library and would just bring home whatever book they wanted since most of the titles were already in the collection.


But I've kind of soured on the Scholastic Corporation (NASDAQ: SCHL) since becoming a parent.

This is not to say that I don't own books printed by Scholastic. A lot of our language arts curriculum is Scholastic material. They do a great job of producing dynamic, educational workbooks that require very little prep work on the part of the teacher or parent.

What I resent is Scholastic marketing books (and toys and stickers and pens and stationary) directly to children via pamphlets and book fairs. In exchange for access to students/customers, their teachers and schools earn free Scholastic books for their classrooms or school library.

If you think that sounds generous, you obviously  haven't read Scholastics' fiscal report for 2010, which includes the gem that "Scholastic expects total revenue from continuing operations in fiscal 2011 of approximately $1.9 to $2.0 billion." They credit a great deal of this profit to their systems of proprietary school-based book clubs and other school-based "distribution channels." 

I'm not anti-capitalist or socialist (well, no more than any Canadian who has availed themselves of our AMAZING publicly funded healthcare system), but I think it is dreadful that this for-profit company is allowed to waltz into publicly funded schools and -- in exchange for a paltry number of books -- make billions of dollars.

We should not (in my opinion) ban book fairs and direct-marketing techniques or fundraising events. Instead I'd prefer to see the system opened up to tender. Let all the publishers of children's books step up and bid. And which ever one offers the sweetest deal gets to shill their wares in the schools we support with our tax dollars.

"Hey, Scholastic, 2 BILLION DOLLARS of revenue means that you can afford to give out more than a few 39 Steps books, or dated Magic School Bus paperbacks."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Caught With My Pants Down.

"Well, it's officially winter," I said to my husband this afternoon.

What, you may be wondering, prompted this comment?

Was it because it's been weeks since the temperature crept above freezing?

Was it because there is 30 centimeters of snow on our lawn?

Was it because we spent the afternoon tobogganing with friends, then defrosting beside a bonfire, while sipping hot tea and freshly popped popcorn?

Was it because the heat vents are constantly covered with wet mitts and toques?

Was it because the sun set set today at 4 pm? 

No. It was none of these obvious signs.

Rather the realization came once our friends had gone home. The boys were curled up on the sofa watching tv. Husband was bustling about the kitchen making pizzas. I looked over at him, and noticed that he was wearing our "winter uniform," aka skinny pants, aka long johns.

When it's winter we go outside dressed in layers against the cold. When we come home, we pull off anything that's gotten snowy or damp. Jackets, mitts, toques, boots, socks & pants will be draped over the heating vents, hung up in the back hall or thrown over the clothes line in the laundry room.  The result is that we -- for now just my husband and I, since the boys prefer snowpants -- walk around in just our skinny pants.

The I looked down and realized I was also pants-free and it hadn't even registered.

I suppose this might sound strange to people who don't live in northern climes. Why don't you put on REAL pants? they are asking right now. But when I get home and pull off my jeans, my skinny pants are already warm and cozy. Pants I take out of the closet will be chilly. And if I leave on my skinny pants and add another layer on top, I will be too hot.

So it is that I walk around my house from November til March dressed like this:

Note: picture was purposely posed to minimize risk of 
camel-toe induced cardiac seizure.

• • • • • • • • • •

Tell me, fellow denizens of the north, do you wander about your house wearing only long johns? Is this a universal habit? Both my husband and I did this growing up, but maybe it's just a Prairie thing? Are we being practical or merely lazy?

And does anyone remember when long johns for girls were called long janes?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turn Around, Bright Eyes.

The following vignette is a work of fiction and bares no resemblance to real life:

[The setting: a kitchen in a house.]
[The time: early evening.]

Nan Ann: Hello, honey. How was work?

Mr Nan Stan: Fine. They announced the date and venue for the office Christmas party.

Ann: Well, that's nice.

Stan: Don't you want to know the details?

Ann: No. Why would I?

Stan: So we can make plans

Ann: I already made plans. I plan on not going.

Stan: We're going.

Ann: You know that I hate going to your office Christmas parties.

Stan: You haven't been to one of my office Christmas parties in four years.

Ann: Really? Four years. Huh. I guess that one of the few benefits of your employers continuously going bankrupt -- and hence being unable to afford Christmas parties -- is my being spared the pain of going to your office Christmas parties.

Stan: They're not that bad. We're going to the party.

Ann: Can you guarantee me that THIS year there will be no fist fights?

Stan: No, I can not.

Ann: Can you guarantee me that THIS year none of your coworkers will get so drunk they will stop me in the ladies' room and ask me to help pull their panties up from around their ankles?

Stan: No, I can not guarantee that either.

Ann: I'm not going.

Stan: You have to go. None of my coworkers know you. They probably think you're just a figment of my imagination. You're like Norm's wife on Cheers.

Ann: I'm not going.

Stan: Yes, you are, Vera.

Ann: No.

Stan: YES.

Ann: NO. There is nothing you can say to entice me to attend this party.

Stan: There's going to be karaoke.

[silence]

Ann: It's like you don't know me at all.

Stan: We're going.

Ann: No.

Stan: Yes. KARAOKE! It's fun.

Ann: Thirteen years. We've been together thirteen years and you think that karaoke is an incentive? You are a stranger to me. I don't know who you are anymore.

Stan: You could sing a Neil Diamond song! I know you like Neil Diamond.

Ann: Don't bring Neil into this. Neil doesn't deserve to be sullied by karaoke.

Stan: We are going to this party.

Ann: I am NOT going this par-- hey, do you think the karaoke thing has Total Eclipse of the Heart?

Stan: Maybe. Why?

Ann: Because if you are going to make me go to this party, I'm gonna Dan Band the fuckin' shit outta this party.

Stan: I don't know what that means.

Ann: Oh. You will. YOU. WILL.

[End scene.]
• • • • •
To whit:



[Do NOT play this song if your kids are in the room. Thanks to Nicole for the clip.]

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Getting $5.75 (plus tax) Worth of Joy Out of This Month's Oprah Magazine.

In anticipation of Beck's annual skewering of O Magazine's "The O List: the Holiday Edition" I purchased the December issue of the magazine.

{{Update: Beck's post is up: The Healing Power of Oprah.}}

I'm a visual person, and it makes Beck's Oprah post all the more delicious for me to have the magazine in hand so that I can revel in Beck's words while looking at the proof that Oprah and her staff have completely lost touch with the economic reality (and good taste) of the middle class.

I even vowed not to peek at the "O List"pages until Beck publishes her post (I just reread the 2009 version and it still makes me laugh out loud).

I did however glance through the rest of the magazine:

The Tyler Perry - Oprah love fest continues (p. 288). Stedman better bring his A-game.

Lisa Kogan's article (p. 194) is wonderful -- as always.

James Franco is the actor featured in this month's "Books That Make A Difference" (p. 184) column. For once I think the books were actually chosen by the actor (he's in a Ph.D. program at Yale), not by their publicist.

I enjoyed the Helen Mirren (p. 58) profile.

Fresh off her press tour detailing how she's recovered from anorexia, Portia De Rossi wrote this months "Aha! Moment" column (p. 68) about why she's a vegetarian.  Then she sat for this picture:



"EAT SOME MEAT, PORTIA! AND WEAR LONG SLEEVE SHIRTS!"

Someone on the editorial staff got drunk and put together a fashion spread (p 236) for party wear, that includes a plus-sized woman wearing a leopard skin muumuu caftan. It's very, very cruel.

There's an article (p. 205) by Howie Kahn about his grandmother who is on some kind of power trip at her seniors' home. This very harsh article about the social and political hierarchy amongst senior citizens (it makes high school social dynamics seem like a cake walk) may convince a few people that assisted suicide for the elderly is NOT a bad thing. I'm pretty sure that Kahn's grandmother is going to strike him from her Christmas card list. And her will.

I'm going to suggest my husband make one or all four of the dips featured in the "Comfort Zone" column (p. 145). Beer + cheese + garlic = my kind of dip.

But, wait. What is this I see on page 82?! Has The Divine Miss Oprah given us all an early Christmas present in the form of a hysterically awful photo of Dr. Phil?

Oh, yes she has:
Lascivious facial expression!
Shiny leather suit jacket!
MOM JEANS!
Weirdly discoloured, awkwardly posed hands!

That photo alone makes me glad that I gave $5.75 (plus taxes) to the Oprah World Dominance Corporation. I'm already feeling more Christmas spirit. "May God Oprah bless us, everyone."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Do You Fancy a Ride on My 'Broom'?

 Oh. My. Word.

This is one of the current contributions on the Post Secret blog:


One of these men is the father
of the most amazing little
girl in the world. He's never
met her, he never will. He
probably can't even remember my name

On the other side of the postcard is the message:

The world thinks you are perfect, but our daughter deserves better. 

How deliciously scandalous! My husband says this is most likely not true, and is just some sad teen girl seeking attention. Pshaw, I say, I won't let critical thinking distract me from my rumour mongering. 

Who do you think it could -- allegedly -- be? Only Daniel and Alan have high enough profiles to warrant  the "The world thinks you are perfect" comment.  I bet it's Alan, but that's just because I have a crush on Snape:


Regardless of who it is, that little girl deserves financial support, if nothing else. I don't see how the father remembering this woman's name matters.

This is EXACTLY why God created lawyers, DNA tests and the fear of bad publicity.

• • • • • • •

Update on November 24, 2010: In response to the rumours Tom Felton (aka Draco Malfoy) posted htis on Twitter:


The actors who play the Weasley Twins have also commented that neither of them are the baby-daddy in question.