26 March 2008

Pâques: Deux

So after much trial and error, several flights on as many airlines, and one rental car ride from NYC, my father finally made it here the night before Easter at 11 p.m. Apparently other people like to travel for Easter, too. Or it could have been that whole Spring Break thing. Anyway, he barely made it. And all in time for my requested/demanded Easter Egg Hunt! He was more than a good sport about it, and even seemed pretty pleased to get to do it again.

Dad hid Peawhistle's 10 eggs first. We had warned him beforehand about her inability to find anything not in plain sight, and he planted the items accordingly with minimal deception. Walking into the single room to be used, one could spot at least seven of them immediately. I filmed PW's madness as she raced around the room apparently astounded that she was so good at this endeavour. We laughed at her enthusiasm muchly. You've never seen a happier egg hunter.

After the chillins were in bed, it was my turn. Dad had hid them as I was putting Peanut to sleep; the Husband, my mom, and PW observed the process in the mean time. PW was put to bed and I started out, basket in hand, timer running. It didn't help that my dad had no clue as to how many total eggs he hid; however, he was most helpful in telling me when I had failed to find a minimum number of eggs in a room (my hunt took place on the entire main floor, minus the bathroom--ew--china cabinet and coat closet). When he would forget if I had any remaining in a room, the Husband and Mom were instrumental in reminding him. It was also in the midst of this that I was told that PW--the kid who couldn't find several of her eggs until multiple people pointed at them--found some of MY eggs and deviously resituated them, their current whereabounts unknown at that time. Man, she picked that trick up quick. Fortunately I think I found all of those, too. I found eggs in the fridge, cookie jar, fish bowl, curio cabinet, pantry, rotisserie oven, sink drain, and a pair of gloves, among other places of course. I found 19 eggs in a dizzying 45 minutes: a personal record. Congratulations on a job well done were spread all around.

The next morning (Monday), Dad informed me that I had missed one egg in the living room that he had forgotten about. He confirmed that it was indeed still there. Crap. Fortunately, I had an inkling. I walked in and noted that the cat toy under the sofa had indeed been moved ever-so slightly since Easter evening. I had picked it up the previous night searching for two objects inside the track (one being an egg, the other the ball); finding only one, I put it back. Never underestimate the craftiness of my dad. He had replaced the yellow track ball with a yellow plastic egg, keeping the ball hidden in his pocket as he knew two objects encased within the toy would naturally make it suspect. Kudos to him. This brought my total to 20 eggs in 14+ hours. Horrible time--a personal worst.

But I still had a blast. It had been at least 10 years since I'd been home for Easter to have an egg hunt. While my hunting skills have improved with time, I still thought my dad did an excellent job, especially taking into account that, as an infrequent visitor, he doesn't know my house nearly as well as I do. I doubt I would have gotten another opportunity to do this with him again and I'm glad I asked, and I'm also glad to those who encouraged me to do so, including my mother.

Next year maybe I can get Peawhistle to hide my Easter eggs, 'cause dang, she's pretty good.

Where Have I Been, Anyway?

No, seriously, where have I been? I've seen the famous Star Wars Kid video, but I never saw the remixes and parodies. Guess I haven't been looking. Here's my official favorite:

I laughed so hard I cried.

Oh, and Peanut loves the Bee Gees now.

22 March 2008

"Name a Yellow Fruit." "Orange."

And my mother wonders why I love watching game shows so much.

19 March 2008

Operation: Peter Cottontail

My dad was a career USAF intelligence officer. He did many different jobs within that specialty, but he was mainly a HUMINT officer. He would tell us fantastic stories of his days of training when he was taught valuable things like how to cross a river without being detected and how best to quickly burn paper documents: you know, stuff we can all use. While in Vietnam he interrogated POWs; his friends got more fun assignments like training the South Vietnamese how to do dead drops and other similarly hilarious trades:

USAF Officer: OK, now where are you going to hide your note for your handler?
S.Vietnamese: I'm going to put it under that coconut.
Officer: Fine. And what if a policeman comes and asks you what you're doing? What's going to be your story?
S.V.: Oh, he wouldn't do that.
Officer: Well, pretend that he did. What will you say?
S.V.: No policeman's ever done that to me. He won't ask me.
Officer: Just because it hasn't happened before doesn't mean it won't ever, so you need an excuse. What's it gonna be?
S.V.: It wouldn't happen.

Ad nauseam.

Dad also told us about some training he went through where several groups of guys had to pretend they were operatives in a foreign country trying to evade groups like the KGB, and an altogether different group of counterintelligence guys were going to practice hunting spies by tracking them down and catching them red-handed. My dad is still immensely proud that he was the only operative in his group that was never caught. He not only covered his tracks well, establishing a solid alibi, but he also listened to his instructors who warned them to never hide any documents in their rooms. The CI guys tore their rooms apart inch by inch and every one of them were revealed--except dad, as I said. He could hide anything from anybody.

This is the man who hid our Easter eggs every year.

Easter egg hunts in our house were an event that every kid in our family, regardless of how old, not only participated in, but also looked forward to all year. As the years progressed, the hunt for these dastardly plastic candy-filled shapes only became even more challenging as dad would up the ante on where he hid the little suckers depending on your age and relative ability to match wits with him. The hunt was confined to the living room, dining room, and the hallway. If you found an egg that wasn't your assigned color, you put it back and kept going. It took us hours. As it approached bedtime, he would begin to give out the old "colder/warmer/red-hot" clues until the last egg was finally uncovered. You would be honestly shocked, as we frequently were, by learning where a plastic egg will fit. I'm still amazed he stuffed one into the tiny drawer of an antique coffee grinder. I doubted even ground coffee would fit in there, let alone an entire egg. The last few years we did the hunt (before most of us moved away) the event became especially challenging as dad progressed in his years. The old joke about being so old you could hide your own Easter eggs actually applied in my dad's case. We'd go to him for hints and instead of providing a knowing answer, he'd usually reply with, "Uh...your guess is as good as mine at this point. Did you try in that? No luck? Huh. How about over there? No? Hm. Then I guess you're SOL. Keep looking."

My dad is flying in for Easter. He will be the designated egg-hider for Peawhistle's first egg hunt at home. Considering PW is barely four and is seemingly incapable of locating anything that is not within her direct line of sight, this should be an interesting showdown. I kinda wish he'd hide eggs for the Husband and me, too, as I think it would be even more fun to do that, but I feel like an idiot asking. I don't even want candy-filled ones. I just want to find them. Do you suppose there comes an age when you can't ask the Old Spook to hide stuff like eggs so you can spend hours of your life looking for them? I hope not, because them's the good times.

18 March 2008

"Let Them Frost Cake!"

Why doesn't anybody ever believe me? When I say I don't want to do something because a) I don't care, b) it'll turn out wrong, or c) both, I actually mean it. People like my mother and my friend, Stephanie, both of whom are conspiring to leave me with a bleeding ulcer, are two of these sort of people. When it became obvious that Peawhistle's birthday party would consist of Dora the Explorer and nothing else (despite my fondest desire for an Army camouflage theme), Stephanie generously offered her Dora cake pan so that I might create one of my own making. I then silently, and later openly, mocked her assertions that I could easily decorate the cake myself, despite a complete lack of training in cake decorating. I've never understood why those with formal training in such things then insist that their newfound skills could be easily replicated by the most simple of single-celled lifeforms, let alone someone like me. She continued to insist, mostly because she claimed I would prefer to have the satisfaction of making my firstborn's birthday cake myself, fondly reminiscing about my contribution years on down the road. I countered that I would rather fondly recall that my firstborn's cake didn't resemble crap, which is exactly what it would look like if I tried my hand at it. We finally compromised on my baking the cake (which I can handle with a fair degree of confidence), my mother making the background frosting, and Stephanie coming over to "coach" me through the process of decorating Dora herself.

After much complaining to my mother the previous night about frosting the background with much difficulty, Steph and I proceeded with the actual frosting the morning of the party. She started outlining the head while I outlined the feet. Two minutes later, Steph willingly scraped my best effort off the cake and did it the correct way. She assigned me the task of filling in Dora's hair with black frosting. Not surprisingly, I excelled at destroying that while Steph zipped along doing practically everything else. She left the yellow socks for me to do, which I actually did fairly well. And then she pointed out that Dora now had a nice yellow leg instead of a sock. Again with the scraping and the correctly doing. She finally entrusted Dora's red shorts to me, which I did a fine job of, until I noticed later that I frosted over most of the crotch, leaving Dora with a skort. But it still looked nice.

Stephanie told me she had forgotten to mix up Dora's skin-colored frosting, so she improvised with the brown mixed in with what white frosting was left over. Turns out there wasn't enough white left to really do the trick, but we decided it was close enough and she frosted Dora's skin; that is, when she could see the cake through her tears of laughter.

Apparently Stephanie, like my mother, loves to tell everyone just how much her beautiful creations suck. As Steph put it, mostly so people know that she knows it isn't perfect. Personally, I never have to worry about that as people stopped expecting perfection--or anything like unto it--from me long ago. Steph promised this time that she would refrain from making broad announcements at the party about the cake's flaws. Instead, we simply took turns throughout the party of accusing the other of decorating it. This method worked very well for us.

For the record, Stephanie is a very good cake artist. Here is a previous Dora cake she was able to decorate, obviously minus my "help":

After the party was over and the little hurricanes had departed, Stephanie called me, laughing, and told me she had just emailed me a photo of the cake we had made together. I took a look:

We laughed for two days. You'll note that my exertions with the hair didn't help the effect one bit. She called it the lazy-eyed African-American Dora ("Is she looking at you, or the guy next to you??"). And her funny husband appropriately renamed her Moesha the Explorer.

Considering I was involved, which is never a plus, I thought it turned out as well as could be expected. If Stephanie had not been there at all, the cake would have looked like an unfrosted yellow cake with a lot of frosting scraped off. I appreciate her assistance immensely. I'll appreciate it even more next year when I refuse to have anything to do with the darned thing.

12 March 2008

"Today I Feel Like the Luckiest Baby In the World...."

Mom's in town. She's been the Peanut-sitter whilst I race around getting things done. She went with me for a follow-up with Nurse Excruciating for my wrist thing and showed off Peanut to unsuspecting patients in the waiting room while I went in to the appointment. After several questions and pokes, Nurse E concluded that the injections hadn't worked. Another case solved, Mr. Holmes! I took the opportunity to satisfy my curiosity and probe the motivation behind the way she and Dr. Pain administer such injections. She declared that that particular injection is the most painful injection that they give, by far. Of this I had no doubt. I said, "Indeed it was. But considering the injection I received before this was a virtually pain-free experience, wouldn't it be better to do it a different way rather than inflicting unnecessary trauma to the area?" She slyly responded, "Everyone does things differently." And she attempted to change the subject. However, I didn't want to. I asked again, "Why cause such pain when it's obviously unnecessary? If there's a better and less painful way to approach it, then surely that would be preferrable?" She refused to look at me, instead flipping through my medical chart to look busy, and quickly changed the subject by saying, "Yes, well it didn't work this time and it probably won't work the next, so I would recommend surgery." Of course you would.

Now, I'm not one for conspiracy theories, despite my many attempts to convince The Husband that I believe every major conspiracy theory in existence, plus a few of my own making. But I honestly believe, given that a surgeon makes most of his money in surgeries and not cortisteroid injections, that Dr. Pain and his accomplice, Nurse Excruciating, didn't care so much about the effectiveness of their injections as they hoped to see me again under more painful circumstances anyway. My suspicions were solidified when I finally agreed with her and she ran (yes, ran) out of the room and called scheduling as quickly as possible to get me the very next available spot that Dr. Pain had. My medical insurance doesn't like his "surgical center" and prefers he "operate" on me at an actual "hospital," so that pushed my surgery appt. to the 20th. As a different nurse was debriefing me on the various requirements for this 10-minute procedure (wash entirely with anti-bacterial soap, do not use perfumes, hairspray, or deodorant, do not wear metal or other jewelry, do not think unpleasant thoughts for 48 hours beforehand, do not listen to classical music that morning, register as a Libertarian, etc.) it came out that I would be in the hospital for four hours. For a 10-minute procedure. Peanut will not take a bottle. So screw that.

My mother, ever the helpful advisor, wondered if I could possibly hunt down Dr. Combat to have him fix my wrists again. First off, if I'm going to stalk anyone here, it'll be Flopsy's mother, per our standing agreement. Personally, I consider stalking anybody in the U.S. Army, let alone someone with ready access to drugs and surgical tools, a foolhardy decision at best. I prefer to think of myself as higher up on the Darwinian intelligence scale of evolution than that. Tracking down Dr. Combat for this purpose could only end in tears, numerous restraining orders, and a possible murder-suicide. On top of that, I doubt the Army itself would appreciate my efforts, rewarding them, I'm certain, with a boot to the face (specifically mine), or time in a Federal prison--neither of which appeal to me. My wrists will simply have to go on in pain as long as Dr. Combat proves ineffective at being in two places at once. Damn you, Dr. Combat!!!

Did I mention my mother's in town? The only thing Peanut wants in this world is to be held 24 hours a day. His wildest dreams are coming true.

08 March 2008

Giving Superman a Run For His Money

Here I leave you with the fourth and final installment of the Adventures of Dr. Combat, an enigma wrapped in camouflage. To give you some quick background for this episode, at the time of this particular appointment with the good doctor I had given the Husband the "Band of Brothers" TV series as an Easter gift. He got it as an Easter gift because I couldn't wait until the next applicable gift-giving holiday to see it. Since then we had been watching the series like crazy as they are quite addictive. I came to be obsessed with "Band of Brothers." What an excellent production in every sense of the word. End background.

I was convinced that Dr. Combat was in an uncharacteristically bad mood (despite what I've let on previously, he was usually in a good humor around me--usually) the moment he walked in. I thought myself very "hip" on the current language that the young whippersnappers are using these days, and I amused myself with the greeting, "What up, doc?" He did not find that clever or funny as he looked up only long enough to glare at me before proceeding to his chair with my medical chart. He made with the doctoring, and as he moved to his desk to write out his notes at the end of it all, I began talking. Now, recall that Dr. Combat was not one for talking, or at least not to me. Everyone else, absolutely and please. Me, no. As I rambled on, he would occasionally look up at me with a most unpleasant look that mostly said to me, "SHUT. UP." He even let out an irritated "Hphf," that sounded not unlike a dog when it's been annoyed one too many times. As a kindness I quieted down long enough to let him jot some more notes before asking, since he was not officially my doctor, if I was allowed to switch to him since I was essentially now his patient anyway. Without looking up from his notes he said that while I was certainly welcome to see him anytime, switching to him officially would be pointless as he was transferring soon to the 101st Airborne. I marvelled excitedly, "Like Band of Brothers??"

What happened next requires its own paragraph. Now, as a child I became infamous for my glare. People dubbed it The Abby Look. I reserved it for those advertising the very stupidest of behavior or comments. I know how to glare. But it was in that instant in his office that I came to realize I was but an amateur sitting at the feet of The Master. His head didn't even move; only his eyes flashed upwards and targeted their unholy wrath upon me. I'm convinced that they alone could have stopped the Earth from spinning on its axis, extinguishing all life as we know it. Instead, he focused their incensed and hateful power squarely upon me. I was too terrified to cry out and therefore opted instead to quietly evacuate my bowels into my pants. Satisfied that I had been effectively silenced, he went back to writing. Fearing dismemberment, I stayed completely silent until he finished scribbling notes and finally stood to usher me out the door.

As we both stood, he suddenly brightened and declared, "It's so great to see you again, Mrs. [Abby]! I've been looking forward to this all day. I saw your name on my list of patients this morning and I got so excited! It really was good to see you!"

I said, "Oh. Thank you. You're very kind. It was nice to see you also."

I thought: "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot??"

I will go to my grave wondering how many different kinds of crazy made Dr. Combat tick. But It can also be supposed that if he were completely sane, would I have been as entertained by him? I contend not.

And so it is with a fond fairwell that we say our goodbyes to Dr. Combat, who may or may not still be alive today. I naturally hope he is; how else will scientists be able to unlock his powers and direct them for good? Innocent bystanders may be glared to death in the process, but I think we're just going to have to take that risk. For Science's sake.

[Author's notes: my sincerest thanks go to Mr. Howie Long for managing to appear straight long enough for the NFL to take the photograph seen above. It helped immensely in recreating Dr. Combat's physical features.
In addition, through my adventures with healthgrades.com I have confirmed (if indeed the information in his available profile is current) that Dr. Combat is still alive, still an Army doctor, and I assume, just the same as he always was.]

06 March 2008

Southern Food Sucks

Janie's post about questioning authority has made me think. My mother never questioned authority in front of me in the presence of the authority figure in question. When I was older she'd complain about certain people, but never, ever to their face. What she was trying to teach me it would seem, is that you do what an authority figure tells you to do no matter what.

I recall her telling me the following story. One time at church the women had gotten together and decided to have a cultural potluck. If I remember correctly, the subject of Southern cuisine came up and my mother commented that she didn't care for Southern food as she found it a little too greasy for her. Among this group of women was a newer woman to the ward who happened to have come from the South. This woman was incredibly offended by what my mother had said. Did she say so at the time? No. Did she say so to my mother in private afterwards? No. Instead, she went to the Relief Society president and told her that my mother had offended her with her remark. The R.S. pres. then went to my mother and told her how much her comment had offended this woman and that she needs to keep her opinions about such things to herself. My mother shut her mouth and has never expressed an opinion that could ever be controversial to anyone in the church ever again. And it's not even like she's bitter; she actually warned me not to express an opinion at church because she got in trouble for it and she was afraid I'd get into trouble, too.

I will now commence with The Rant. Let us get one thing straight right off the bat. What my mother said was perfectly acceptable. It was never meant to be offensive or to hurt anyone in any way. She was first relating an opinion ("I don't care for Southern food") and then a fact based upon personal experience ("because I find it too greasy for me"). She was well within her right to express such, especially since everyone else was obviously discussing various foods and what to bring or not to bring to this potluck. It would be much the same as saying, "I don't like to vacation in Siberia; I find it too cold for me." The first fault here lies with the Drama Queen sister who took offense at the remark. Firstly, she took offense where none was intended. Secondly, even if she had been uncontrollably offended, she ideally should have kept it to herself and worked it out on her own. Thirdly, if she felt compelled to complain about the offense, she went about it in the exact wrong manner. She should have pulled my mother aside and discussed it with her (between me and thee alone, am I right?). Instead, she decided to go up the chain of command, right to the top, and sick the R.S. pres. on her as punishment and out of revenge. That was stupid. Then comes the next problem with this story in that the R.S. president actually did what she wanted. Since when is that in her job description? She should have told her to either pray about it and see if she could look past it, or told her to discuss it with my mother in private. Instead, she pulled my mother aside and berated her for expressing her opinion in front of this whiny woman. And the final fault in this situation is my mother's: she actually stood there and took it. She took it because the R.S. president is in a position of authority and she didn't even question whether she was right about it or not. Now, when it comes to management and welfare of the R.S., I am all for listening to the counsel of the president. She is there, with her counselors, to care for us and see to our spiritual and temporal needs. When an issue does not fall within those bounds, she has no authority. And in this case, this situation fell outside of those bounds and she handled it very poorly when it was brought to her attention. My mother did not recognize that because she doesn't stand up to authority. Period.

I grew up differently. If you have a problem with what an authority figure is doing or saying, it is always best to approach the issue with politeness and tact. But you are within your full rights to approach the issue. Flat-out. Especially if the problem that you have with your authority figure is that he or she is doing/saying something wrong or immoral. Beyond that, you have a right to express your opinion, regardless of the situation. It's always kind to keep others' sensitivities in mind when expressing opinions. For example, it would be kindest to refrain from stating that all female basketball players are ugly morons, particularly if you are expressing it to the WNBA. You are free to have that opinion, but it would be nice if you kept it to yourself if you knew it would very likely hurt someone. In the case of an authority figure telling his or her charges to do something wrong, hurt feelings take a back burner to doing what's right. As I said, tact never hurts the first time around, but the point must be made regardless. And that is what we teach our children. Right comes first, authority second. No one--not the R.S. president, not the president of the United States--is above doing what's right and moral. No one, ever.

05 March 2008

Good News All Around

Peawhistle has been sick for three weeks with a mid-to-high fever for the past week of that. Her fever finally broke today, which means she just barely escaped having to go in for a chest X-ray to look for pneumonia. Poor little PW.

She's bouncing off the walls today, which is a nice break for me from having to run to see what she's crying about every 10 seconds. As I told sweet, Flopsy's mother (by the way, that would make a fabulous exclamatory expression: "Sweet Flopsy's Mother, what in the world is going on in here?!"), who has also been very concerned about Peawhistle's condition and not just due to the threat of contaminating her own offspring, either, I was planning on ending PW's life if she intended on continuing to bawl about EVERY LITTLE THING SHE COULD THINK OF. No, PW, I cannot make you a PB&J sandwich, blow your nose, put on the latest Dora cartoon, and stare at you all at the exact same moment. I'm incredible, yes, but not that incredible. Fortunately, yesterday ended, despite continuing evidence to the contrary.

And then the power went out at 1am during a storm that resembled a quick hurricane, or so I'm thinking since we sat out Hurricane Isabel in VA Beach back in 2003 when we watched our chimney blow down the street. Good times. Anyway, it sounded like that. The second the power went out, PW started freaking out because she couldn't turn on her light when she was scared by the storm. So I let her sleep with a flashlight while I put Peanut back to sleep. I left our info with the power company and prayed they turned on the power before our food went bad and PW raged with fury at being denied Dora come morning. To my surprise, PW did not rage, but instead just tore the house apart with glee while I tried to sleep off another migraine. At 9:19am I woke up, noted that my clock-radio was still out, sighed, and got up to survey PW's house damage. I saw her bathroom light on. Confused, I looked back at my clock and it was now blinking the time. What are the odds? To top it off, PW has been very agreeable today without nary a tear.

So overall, despite the continuing migraine (which is actually improving, hence the foray into computerdom), it's turning out to be a good day. Many thanks to those who prayed for PW's fever and her life. She appreciates them more than she'll ever know.

01 March 2008

Are You Sitting Down?

It's funny. When I posted my list of favorite movies I thought I would be accused of being simplistic and taking the easy way out. Most of the films on my list are Academy Award-winning films, many of them winning for Best Picture. I assumed my readers would say, "Yes, but those are everybody's favorites. How about some that aren't, you tool?" Well, that will learn me. After pondering these things, I'm going to go into an unnecessarily long bit about a few of my film choices. If you have some place to be, I recommend you going and doing that first, 'cause we're going to be here a while.

It occurred to me last night that perhaps not everyone is familiar with the term "black comedy." Believe me, it has nothing to do with Tyler Perry, if for no other reason than what he does cannot be construed as comedy in any form. Black comedy is what it's called when something normally of a very serious, grave nature is turned into something funny. "Dr. Strangelove" is possibly the most famous example of a black comedy. It mocks the most horrific of scenarios: worldwide nuclear holocaust. The lesser known "Kind Hearts and Coronets" is also a black comedy. It makes light of the murder an entire family. If you removed the humorous dialogue, it would be considered a horror film. But the fact that the main character, played by Dennis Price, narrates his story with such a dry, subtle, and clever wit it becomes hilarious. It also doesn't hurt that he dispatches each of his extended family (all eight played by Alec Guinness, including an aging suffragette) in unique and humorous ways. The end result is a brilliant comedy that doesn't mind how many horrific deaths it takes to make you laugh.

I love musicals. I particularly love funny musicals, and it simply doesn't get any funnier than "My Fair Lady" ("Singin' In the Rain" runs a close second). Based upon the classic story Pygmalion, a wealthy language researcher bets that he can take a "gutter-snipe" flower girl and "pass her off as a duchess at the Embassy Ball." Hilarity ensues. But what is more entertaining in this production is the collection of brilliant songs. Listening to Rex Harrison sing (well, he was more famous for just speaking his singing lines--the father of rap, some called him) about his male chauvinistic views on women will put you into laughable tears. His contention that women's heads are full of nothing but "cotton, hay, and rags" is wonderful. Not only are these smart lyrics key in showing just what makes the professor tick, but helps show his progression through the relationship with the flower girl, Eliza. While he never totally turns over a new leaf with regard to the feminine sex, it turns out he's willing to make a small exception in the case of an equally strong-willed woman like Eliza, whom he finally admits he can't live without.

There are two versions out there of "The In-Laws." There is the newer version with Michael Douglas, and then there is the funny version. I'm still unclear about why someone felt the need to remake the original comedy, let alone put Douglas--a decidedly non-funny actor--in its lead role. If you're tempted to watch that version, let me save you a lot of heartache and tell you to go straight to the original source for your comedy needs. The original was a entertaining, humorous bit of great comedy. The remake was a terrible bastardization in every way. If something was funny in the original, the writers of the remake concluded that exaggerating that humor until it was unrecognizable and shoving it down the audience's throat would be the best way to go. I say again, don't bother. From here on out I will pretend that the remake never happened; you would do well to do the same. The In-Laws is a story about a crazy CIA operative (Peter Falk) who is so secretive, not even his family knows what he does; they believe every ridiculous outlandish lie about his whereabouts overseas that he tells. His son is due to marry a very ordinary dentist's daughter soon and it is that dentist (Alan Arkin) who finally learns what Falk does for a living, after unknowingly being sucked into one of the biggest heists in US history. The fact that Falk can play crazy very seriously and genuinely only makes the humor fatter. He is not a parody of himself. He simply is. Arkin makes the perfect straight man to Falk's insanity. It is genius.

I've been in love with "Stalag 17" since I was a child. I have this thing about studying POWs: probably something I should be discussing with a qualified therapist. At any rate, "Stalag 17" was and still is the best of them. It is a fictional drama/comedy about life in the nonfictional Stalag (Luftwaffe POW camp) 17-B during WWII. It centers around William Holden who plays Sefton, a dispicable character who takes every opportunity to take advantage of the rest of the prisoners to make his own situation a little more comfortable. He is later accused of being a "stoolie" (stool pigeon) and ratting out his fellow prisoners--some of them being murdered by the Germans as a result--to the German guards in exchange for favors. He takes it upon himself to find the real stoolie before more prisoners get killed in the process. A great war-time whodunnit. I haven't seen its equal since.

"Mister Roberts" is a favorite of mine and my father's. We watch it together every chance we get. Based on the Broadway play, which was based upon experiences had by the writer in the US Navy during WWII, it stars Henry Fonda as Mr. Roberts, who played the same role in the stage production--he even wore his own Navy uniform from his wartime service for the role. Mister Roberts is the XO and but one of few officers onboard a US Navy cargo vessel during the war. His best friend onboard is Ensign Pulver (played by Jack Lemmon, who won his first Oscar for his performance), a shiftless, lazy officer who, after more than a year onboard has never even met the cruel, tyrannical captain of the ship (James Cagney) because he's scared of him and because he spends most of the day lying in his rack, sleeping or plotting various ways to exact revenge upon the captain--if he can ever get up the nerve. Roberts's confidante, the ship's surgeon (played by William Powell), keeps Roberts sane and ontrack with a good sense of humor and fatherly compassion for Roberts's desire to see real action in the war instead of seeing toothpaste and toilet paper safely delivered to fighting ships. The film is a comedy, but its overall tone speaks more to the silent killer of war: the boredom and stress that eventually take their toll on the otherwise strong fighting men and women and their ability to continue, despite frayed minds and wills. In the end, Mister Roberts pays special tribute to those who are constantly forced "to sail from tedium to apathy and back again." While funny, it is more a moving tribute to those who sacrifice just as much during a war, but who never see the recognition for those sacrifices.

"The Power of One" I've come to realize is an all-but-unheard of film, let alone book that it was based upon. The film centers around "Peekay" (P.K.) from the time he is a small boy to approaching manhood. Starting in the 1930s, it follows Peekay througout his young life in South Africa during the height of racial tensions between the native South Africans and the German South Africans and the English South Africans. Peekay is called the Rainmaker for his ability to unite the factioning tribes of South Africa in an effort to combat the cruelty of the German South Africans who have since taken control since the outbreak of WWII. Known for his ability to lose everyone he loves or who has ever loved him, he nonetheless presses on toward the bigger goal of bringing peace, largely through education, to the South African tribes. Stephen Dorff, who plays Peekay as an older teenager, is suberb. I was especially impressed that he can actually resemble something other than a heroine addict. Not surprisingly, that seems to coincide with his ability to choose good films to star in, as every other film he's chosen has sucked since that time. This one is actually worth his, and our, while. Simply, it was a life-altering experience for me.

You know a film is good when you can't stop talking about it, even days after you've seen it. "Thirteen Days," based upon RFK's memoirs, holds the distinction of being the only film that left me speechless after seeing it. In school we learned about the Cuban Missile Crisis and our teachers told us that we will never know just how closely our country came to nuclear holocaust during that time. I always figured they were exaggerating the circumstances and that sure, things were tense, but no one was honestly foolish enough back then to intentionally start a nuclear war. Not so. As paranoid as the public was back then--and rightfully so it would seem--they had no comprehension of how close to death they actually came. It was only due to the cool-headed diplomacy of Jack and Robert Kennedy, and apparently Kevin Costner with a "Boston" accent that will make you cry, that saved the situation from complete disaster; and all that despite Kennedy's staff and the Joint Chiefs telling them that war was the last and only remaining option available to them. I don't believe JFK was the greatest president we ever had--far from it--but he was the best for that situation. I believe God puts people in our path at specific times to change history for the better, and I honestly believe now that we needed someone like JFK at exactly that moment, who was one of the few at the top who was willing to ignore and defy his advisors in order to save the situation from catastrophe and avoid a conflict at all costs. We are living today because despite being mocked for lacking a spine and a few other manly things, Kennedy refused to accept that war was the next logical step. That is nothing to be sniffed at. And the film's portrayal of those events spanning 13 long days is phenomenal. Bruce Greenwood (JFK) and Steven Culp (RFK) are amazingly convincing as the Kennedy brothers, particularly Culp. Costner did his best as JFK's friend and advisor, Kenny O'Donnell. At least he kept up the terrible accent through the whole film, as opposed to abandoning it halfway through like he did in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves." But good on him for at least starring in something worthwhile.

As I told Ms. Holly, I am obsessed with dystopian, or more accurately, anti-utopian portrayals of society. George Orwell's novel 1984 ("Big Brother is watching") is probably the most famous example of the anti-utopia, a society that is horrifically twisted, corrupt, and evil, but which tries to give the outer appearance and assurace that it is a utopia, bright with hope and promise for its citizenry. Animal Farm satirized the anti-utopia, which at the time was characterized by the real-life communist countries of the Soviet Union and China. While I find it fascinating to make parallels between the fictionalized anti-utopians and communism in reality, I've discovered that I'm actually looking more for signs that our own country has moved in the same direction, despite touting its anti-communism ideals. I've seen similarities for years, but it wasn't until recently that I realized we are not approaching the anti-dystopia; we are already in it. I'm still processing this crushing revelation so I don't have much more to add to it. But of the few anti-utopian/dystopian films I've seen, I honestly enjoyed Christian Bale's "Equlibrium" the most. A surprisingly clean film considering what one would expect from the working material and what filmmakers could have gotten away with, it is not a true anit-utopian tale in that it ends with a glimmer of hope. And Christian Bale shoots lots and lots of people.

I saw "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" entirely by chance one night. I was about to turn off the TV and head for bed when Robert Osborne, the host of TCM, began to introduce a French musical they were about to show. The concept sounded interesting--a film in which every word that would be spoken was instead sung to music. Kind of like an opera, but not as irritating. I decided to check it out for 15 minutes before heading to bed; plus Robert insisted that I personally (I'm assuming I was the only one watching TCM at 2am) would not be disappointed with the film. After 15 minutes I couldn't bear to turn it off, so I decided to watch for just 15 minutes longer. This went on until the film ended at 4am without my ever having been able to look away. Despite the simplistic "lyrics," or because of them to some degree, I was spellbound by the hauntingly beautiful music that accompanied this heartbreaking love story. I also discovered one particular song, "I Will Wait For You," ("Dans le Magasin" on the soundtrack) within the score was very familiar; as it turns out, it is quite well-known, originating with this film. I've seen the film several times since then, particularly since renting it, and then owning it, despite not understanding a word sung therein. I dare say you don't have to with this one.

"Safety Last!" is likely Harold Lloyd's most famous film. Harold Lloyd was the Will Ferrell/Bill Murray of the 1920s. "Safety Last!" while not as funny as his "The Freshman," is still an incredible piece of filmmaking. The iconic photo of Lloyd hanging from the hands on a large clock on the side of a building are from this film. A film in which he scales and generally trips about on the outside of a tall building. It's interesting to note he was willing to do the film, with minimal assistance from a stuntman, despite being terrified of heights. It will make you squeal with empathetic terror. The things people do for the sake of comedy....

"White Christmas" isn't just great because of its holiday message and great music from Bing Crosby and fabulous choreography from Danny Kaye. It also speaks to the story of a retired Army wartime general who has been pushed aside by the military and all but forgotten by everyone else. Crosby's rendition of "What Can You Do With a General (When He Stops Being a General)?" always gets me. And I'm embarrassed to admit that I cry every time the general walks in at the end and discovers a host of people waiting for him: people who he assumed had long forgotten him after he was no longer the war hero from ages ago. I admit, it doesn't feel like Christmas to me without seeing this film.

"Airplane!" "UHF" and "Napoleon Dynamite" are just stupid, stupid humor. And I love it.