We Saw Wild Dolphins


While we were on vacation, we had a really wonderful thing happen.  We were out at the beach on Okaloosa Island, when a pod of dolphins came fishing.  B and I saw them from the shore, while Thor was building sandcastles, and they disappeared before he got a good look.  About ten minutes later, when he and I were in the water, the dolphins came back.  We were close enough to them that we could see their eyes.

They were swimming in their fishing circles, and I don’t know how long we stayed out there just bobbing and watching.  It took me back to Madeleine L’Engle and A Ring of Endless Light.  That, and The Jungle were two books that radically changed my thinking in high school.  I would never again enjoy sausage, and I would never again enjoy a dolphin show without guilt.

I read about the Blackfish documentary a couple of years back, but never watched the movie until tonight.  You know that scene in Dumbo, where Dumbo’s mom is jailed for trying to protect Dumbo, and she sings Baby Mine to him?   So, I break down every time I see that.  A good half of Blackfish is dedicated to painting a picture of what life in the wild is like for an Orca, how close the family unit is, and how strong the bond is between mother and calf (the calves never leave their pods, and always stay close to their mothers.  I can identify with that.)

I had a complete meltdown when they showed where the wild babies, now in captivity, come from.  And I cried up my glasses when they showed how the captive mothers cried and keened after their babies (born in captivity) were taken from them.

These aren’t goldfish.  These are extremely intelligent, emotional animals–like us.  And here’s what we do to them:

  • We separate them from their families when they are the equivalent of pre-schoolers (females live up to 100 years in the wild, and males up to 50.  we are separating calves from their mothers at age 4.  Imagine being separated from your mother at age 4, and being forced to perform in shows for the rest of your life.  Basically, you turn into Lindsay Lohan, or Dana Plato, or Anissa Jones–either way, it doesn’t end well for you.)
  • We pen them up in what would be the equivalent of a toddler pool to us.  So imagine that you can never walk more than 10 feet in a straight line before you have to turn a hairpin curve to head in the other direction.  Imagine that is your life.  Imagine that your physiology requires that you keep moving, so you have to just walk in these long ovals all day.  All day long, you walk in ovals.  All your life.  Over, and over, and over, and that’s all you can do.  You walk in ovals, and people stare at you, scream at you, beat on your walls, take pictures of you, and force you to perform.
  • We place them in solitary confinement–these social creatures who are wired to exist in complex societies, who thrive on contact, who need each other, we place in solitary confinement.
  • We make them perform.  We make them dance.  Now imagine that you only got fed if you did tricks.  Imagine what that would do to your brain.  You only get attention, love, food, or comfort if you do tricks.  You are four years old.  You are separated from your mom.  And you only get love, comfort, and food when you do tricks.  If you misbehave, you are locked in a tiny room by yourself, in the dark.

By we, I mean Seaworld.

In calling Seaworld us, I mean that they wouldn’t exist if we weren’t making it profitable for them to abuse animals.

And here, I wonder just how much of a hypocrite I am because we’ve been taking Thor to zoos and aquariums since he was old enough to start screaming at the sight of unfamiliar animals*.  I’ve elbowed my way through crowds to get Thor a good seat for the dolphin show at the Corpus Christi Aquarium.  When we accidentally came up on a tiger show at the Houston aquarium (why are there tigers at an aquarium?) we sat and watched.  We checked out the shark tank at the Golden Nugget hotel the same as all the other Vegas goers.  So where is the line?

I don’t know.  All I am sure of is this:  We are not a Seaworld family.

We will not pay to watch kidnapped babies as they are forced to perform.

Thor can see all the whales he wants on the internet, and maybe one day we’ll be fortunate enough to see some in the wild.

You can watch the Blackfish documentary here, for $2.99.  I highly recommend it.  I especially recommend it if you have children who are asking to go to Seaworld.  Mine asks.  I’ve been saying no for nearly a decade now.  After having seen Blackfish, I will be saying it with more feeling.

 

*Actually, the only time he ever did that was when I took him into a pet store at 9 months, to let him look at puppies.  He was fine, fine, fine, then he saw a bulldog puppy and went insane.  Something clicked and he started screaming like I’d rolled his stroller up to a murder scene.  Otherwise, his general reaction was usually somber interest, save for that one time in Colorado, when he kept declaring, “I do NOT LIKE-a those BEARS!  I do NOT LIKE-a those GIRAFFES/MONKEYS/BIRDS/SNAKES/TIGERS!”  He hated that zoo to bits.

Potty Training for Parents


Back before I had children, way back before I had a husband at all, one of my friends and I had a good, smug, derisive laugh at her sister, who wouldn’t let her take her elementary aged nephew anywhere because she was afraid of public restrooms.  That is, she was afraid of sending her son into a public restroom by himself, and she didn’t want anyone else taking him into the ladies room, so he couldn’t go anywhere without her.  I mean, come on.  What was going to happen in a restroom?  Was she afraid the kid was going to get lost in there?

I have an elementary aged child, and I can answer that question now.  The answer is, “Sometimes!”

Not anymore.  When he was a Kindergartener, yes.  But by the time he four, I felt confident he would be a) savvy enough to figure his way around a mensroom, and b) strong enough to open the door to get out of one.  That last one is a big deal.  You send your little guy into one bathroom somewhere, and find out ten minutes later (when you go in looking for him) that he just wasn’t strong enough to get the door open, and you think twice about the logistics of personal needs.

When he was seven, I started letting him go to the restroom alone in restaurants.  I sat where I could see the restroom door, keep an eye on who was coming and going, and watch to see if anyone was struggling to get out.  The first few times, I worried.  What if Pedobear was waiting inside for him?  What if someone was waiting inside to Pedobear him?  What if someone grabbed him and ran off with him?  What if Pedobear?  Did I mention my fear of Pedobear?

It was no big deal if we were with B.  B could go into the mensroom with him.  But if it was just the two of us, I couldn’t, so I just had to start sawing on that apron string and let it begin to fray away.

The bigger problem became what to do with him if I needed to use the restroom while we were out in public.  I couldn’t just leave the kid standing out in the hall at the outlet mall, or leave him hanging around the water fountains at the theater, could I?  So, I always dragged him into the ladies room with me.

To his great credit, though he would always protest quietly, he never made a scene.  He would just sigh and try to lean his forehead against the stall door while I howled, “Don’t put your face on that!  Noooo!”

At some point, you have to quit doing things that make you comfortable to avoid doing things that humiliate them.  He’s gotten to an age that it would be an extreme embarrassment to be seen heading into a ladiesroom with his mother.  He is also old enough to alert the world if Pedobear is waiting in the restroom (and has been drilled on exactly what to do.)  So, I have sawed on that apron string a little more.

The past few times we’ve been anywhere, I have practiced sending him into the appropriate restroom, while I go into my own.  Then, I move like lightning to get out quickly.  And, I have practiced letting him stay at the restaurant table, or (and my heart was in my throat the whole time) in the movie theater seat, while I go to the restroom myself.  (I also let him run off to the playground behind the school with two other boys, today.  Not a parent in sight for at least twenty minutes, until I’d finished inside the building.)

You know what has happened?  Nothing.  I say, “You go use your restroom, and if you come out first, wait right in this spot.”  He says, “Okay.”  And that’s that.

When I was his age, I did a lot more alone than he’s ever done.  I have to give him credit for being at least as wily as I was at 9, which was pretty slick.  I realize that I will never be comfortable taking off parental training wheels.  My first concern is always going to be for the potential broken limbs, not the delight of popping wheelies on your bike.  I know the agony and joy of both firsthand–I just have to remember not to deny my son the experience of the one, for fear of the other.

I feel like we are doing a pretty good job teaching him how to make it through life without falling into the gutters, but if we never take the bumpers off, he’ll never know he can really do it.  And by the time I have to send him off to college, I want him to have already learned to trust his own instincts, and be secure in the knowledge that we trust him because I believe that can be the difference between life and death in certain situations.  I know it was for me.

So, yeah, Sister of My Friend, I’m sorry I laughed at you.  Public Restrooms are a big deal, and since Adam Walsh, public in general has been terrifying for parents.

And Mothers-of-Boys-at-Whom-I-Used-to-Scowl-When-You-Brought-Your-Elementary-Aged-Children-Into-Dressing-Rooms, I apologize to you, too.  Because wtf were you supposed to do with them?  of COURSE you bring them in with you.

That’s the other thing!  Gendered areas make parenting hard!  You know why I love Old Navy?  Fitting Rooms is Fitting Rooms.  You go in the same door everyone else does, you shut yourself up in your little closet area, and you try on your clothes.  I take my kid in with me, and no one crunches up like she’s afraid changing clothes within 20 feet of a penis is going to cause her bodily harm.

It’s usually moms taking the kids shopping anyway, and while you may be able to trust that your child is all right in a men’s dressing room by himself, you cannot trust that he is actually trying on the clothes, and not just trying out super cool spy poses in the dressing room mirror.  And what about dads?  If it’s hard for a mom to take a boy into a gendered area, how horrifying an ordeal is it for a father whose tiny girl needs to use the restroom?  Does he go into the ladies with her?  Or does he introduce her to the joys of the urinal?

I love Family Restrooms.  I love Old Navy.  I think we should just open up toilets and changing areas to unisex, and be done with it.  Perverts are going to perv whether the restrooms are gendered, or not.  But little kids have to pee, and really little ones need help.  If not for the sake of the parents, lets make life easier on the kiddos.

 

Stuff


I meet a lot of different people on a daily basis, and I have a lot of opportunity to reflect on choices, and consequences, and I think a lot about how our beginnings inform our middles and ends.  I was extremely fortunate to have parents who thought my well being was important.  I was extremely fortunate to have grandparents who thought the same.  I had the good fortune to be surrounded by adults, who all did their best by me, and it’s made it possible for me to do even better for my child.

I’ve come to a point in my life where I don’t even want  to qualify any of those statements.  I just want to say them.  All my grown people did the very best they could for me, with what they had.  They all loved me.  They all cared for me.  They all tried their best to make sure I would have a life that was easier than theirs.  And they accomplished that.

***

I miss Walter Cronkite.

#Ferguson, #ISIS, #Gaza…those would all be better served by a journalist who took his job more seriously than clicks, and who delivered a news that allowed you to form your own opinion, rather than issuing you one.

Although, I might miss Walter Cronkite because I used to think he and Captain Kangaroo were the same person, and I loved Captain Kangaroo.  He was friends with Mr. Greenjeans, who was the coolest.

***

B and I started watching Wilfred, the Elijah Wood tv dramedy, and it’s pretty great.  If you like existential humor, and off-kilter psycho-comedies, you’ll enjoy it.

***

Now I’m going to bed.

 

How About a Car Review?


The B family drove off to Florida in early August, and since our cars are closing in on 70 in dog years we decided to rent one for the trip.  B arrived at the rental facility, where he was asked if he minded a few stains in the backseat.  Since that’s where Thor was going to sit, he went to check it out.  He said “a few stains” translated to “it looked like a murder had been committed in the backseat.”  So, he said no to the Camry we had expected, and accepted the upgrade to a black-on-black-leather Volkswagen CC.

We were extremely fortunate to have great weather all the way and some nice air conditioning, so being in the belly of a barbeque-mobile wasn’t ever a worry, but by the end of the trip, neither of us ever wanted to go near a VW again.

It’s a beautiful car.

Here’s what we liked:

  • It’s a good looking car.
  • The a/c and heaters have dual regulators, so Driver and Passenger can have what suits them best.  And it really blows well!
  • It comes equipped with a backup camera, and we got spoiled to that pretty quickly.
  • I loved that you could just tap the cruise control to increase your speed.
  • And…that’s it.

What we hated:

  • Normally, either B, or I can get in and out of a car easily, and the other person has issues.  I’m 5’2″, and he’s nearly a foot taller.  Because the CC is so low to the ground, you’d think I would have an easy time getting in, and out, and B would be miserable.  Not so.  Both of us were miserable.  It was so bad that I let out this howl of frustration on one of the last stops on our trip home, calling the car a f-ckbucket.  I did.  Fortunately, Thor misheard me, and he’s been calling it a fartbucket.  It was not a fartbucket.  It was a f-ckbucket.  It was misery crawling in and out of it.  And crawling is what you had to do.  You had to kind of roll up, roll in, and then unfurl yourself again.  I felt like a pill bug.
  • The seats are a big part of why it was so hard to get in, and out.  They are built to cradle you, and if you’re a size 6, I’ll bet it feels very cozy and wonderful.  I wear a 16.  I felt very squeezed and pinched, and was never comfortable.  Don’t get me started on the headrests.
  • The gas and brake pedals are in weird places.
  • The electronic key mechanism was, in B’s words, “A piece of sh-t.”
  • The power points were poorly located.
  • B didn’t like the cruise control (I did.)
  • There was no leg room.  In the front seat, it felt like you were sliding your legs into a chute.  In the backseat, you were bending your knees down into a shallow box.  We felt bad for Thor, but he managed to find a way to sit sideways and make himself a nest.
  • It rode really badly.  You felt every bump.
  • The steering wheel was tiny, and it drove loose–you barely touched it, and you were off in the emergency lane.

It was just a terrible car.  Terrible.  Terrible.  Terrible.  Don’t buy one.

Movie Reviews: Guardians of the Galaxy and Blue is the Warmest Color


Guardians of the Galaxy

Yes.  Yes, yes, yes.  So much win.

Marvel has done it again, putting out a fun, family-friendly, action movie that everyone can enjoy.  And 80s pop culture fans will be blessed again and again by the Reference Fairy.

We went to our second viewing today, this time watching it in 3-D at the IMAX theater.  I think I actually enjoyed it more the second time around because I could just watch and be delighted by the things I knew were coming.  On the first watch, I laughed out loud so much, I missed a lot.  And there’s that scene, just before the credits, that I could watch over and over again.  (SPOILER LINK–I will be buying this as soon as it is available.  One for Thor, and one for my desk.)

Fast, funny, with a big heart, and a great story about friendship, and why you should never tease a raccoon.

Absolutely, 100% 5 stars out of 5.

 

Blue Is the Warmest Color

This is a list of awards won for Blue Is the Warmest Color (from Wikipedia)

 

This is my reaction to all those awards after having watched the film.

Adèle Exarchopoulos expresses my disbelief for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plot summary avec SPOILERS:  Adèle (played by Adèle Exarchopoulos), is in her last year of high school.  She lives at home with Mom and Dad, and has a lot of really terrible, pushy friends.  Her terrible, pushy friends insist that she go out with a cute boy, with whom she has graphically depicted sex.  I am a prudish American, and True Blood only goes so far, so I am unused to seeing full erections on the big screen.  I might have screamed a little when it appeared.

Adèle likes the boy, thinks the sex is okay (I’m assuming, since it is insinuated she’s kept having it, and since she later tells Emma that the sex was really good), but is unhappy.  When one of her terrible friends gives her a big, wet kiss (it’s a French film, so it can’t be a French kiss, it’s just tongue-y), she is excited and goes for it.  Her terrible friend is all, “Whoa!  I did not even know you were a lesbian!  I was so just kidding!”  And Adèle is flattened.

Her gay bestie takes her to a gay bar, where she feels even more out of place.  She takes off without even telling her friend, which is why she only has terrible friends–she, herself is terrible.  She goes to a lesbian bar.  I couldn’t suss if she meant to go to a lesbian bar, or if she really wandered in unwittingly, but it is quickly clear that these lesbians are all construction workers with the hooting, whistling, and cat calling of her.

At the lesbian bar, she is finally able to meet and talk to the Mysterious Blue Haired Lesbian she had seen on the street days earlier, and fantasized about on a date with herself.  A date with herself which left her so odorous that the next day her most terrible friend calls her out on smelling like an unwashed street walker.  I cannot tell you how grossed out I was by this.  If you are so stank that an evening alone leaves you smelling like you had several guests THE NEXT DAY, I cannot even make jokes about it.  You need to see a physician stat.

Mysterious Blue Haired Lesbian turns out to be Emma (played by Lea Seydoux), a young woman about to graduate from college.  She is an artist, and absolutely lights up when talking about her studies and work.

Adorable Emma.

Of course Adele (I can’t be bothered with that accent mark any longer) falls madly in love.  Emma is charmed by Adele’s mouth-breathing innocence (more about that later), and the two embark on a love affair.

The beginning of this love affair is marked by the infamous five minutes of full on intercourse between Adele and Emma. I had read about the film, and read about how horrified the actresses were by the way the director treated them on this (and other) scene(s), so I thought I knew what I was getting into.  I did not realize that I would have such a face full of Adele’s bits, that I could have told you right where to put a piercing needle.  It was uncomfortable.

Anyway.  Adele’s terrible friends call her a lesbian, and she angrily refutes them because she is also terrible.  She spends the next several months of her affair with Emma, into her cohabitation with Emma, pretending that she is straight (and having many, many fully naked moments captured on screen.)

Because she is terrible, Adele has an affair with another (male) teacher at the school where she has started working (unseen).  Emma is heartbroken and kicks her out.

The rest of the movie is Adele moping around and being terrible, then trying to seduce Emma after about 3 years have passed, by licking and sucking on Emma’s fist.  I wish I were kidding.

Emma has moved on.  Adele has not.

Emma has become successful in her art career.  Adele has become a first grade teacher, who tells 5 year olds that they are terrible little people.  Because she is terrible.

Emma appears to live happily ever after.  Adele appears to go off to mouth-breath some more.

Fin.

Okay–so here’s the short list of what I liked:

1.  Lea Seydoux was fantastic.  She was believable, and lovely, and really lit the screen with her time there.

2.  If you have to look at naked people, they should be attractive, and all of these people are.  They have beautiful butts.  I have a severe case of butt envy now.

3.  None of the actresses were pneumatic.  Everyone appeared to have all her original parts, and that’s nice to see represented in film.

4.  Emma’s parents.

5.  Nope, that’s it.

 

Here’s why I hated everything else about this film:

1.  First, Adèle Exarchopoulos is gorgeous.  For the first five minutes, I was captivated by her.  Then, she started eating.

Adele, eating with her parents. She ends up with sauce all over her chin.

Adele, eating on a date with a boy.

Adele, eating on a date with Emma.

Adele, eating on another date with Emma, and Emma’s parents.

And eating, and crying.

When she started eating and crying, I thought maybe they were trying to establish her as a binge eater?  A bulimic?  I didn’t know.  There was just so much food, and so much tongue, and so much mastication, and so much…I can’t.  Doesn’t she know you can choke if you eat while lying down?

I thought that maybe they were trying to establish her as a sensualist, who really gets into the pleasure of food, intimating how she would get into the pleasure of other things–but then they just showed me exactly how much she got into the pleasure of other things, so why bother?

2.  Adele’s hair.  Just look above.  It never looks better than that.  That’s how she wore her hair to teach school.  That slattern was teaching your children.  I don’t care about her sexual preferences, but at least run a comb through your hair before you go show yourself to children as an example of a professional person.

3.  The mouth breathing and Adèle Exarchopoulos’ inability to offer up an expression other than “Uhhhh”

Adele, toward the end, looking sad.

Adele’s post-coital bliss.

Adele getting ready to lean in and kiss Emma for the first time, after eating. Emma, girlfriend, no!

Adele, having an epiphany about her life, while floating in the ocean.

Adele, upon seeing Emma for the first time.

I would post you a picture proving that this is also Adele’s O-Face, but I can’t find any that aren’t NSFW.  This is the same face she makes while shagging the boy.  The same face she makes throughout her shaggery of Emma.  The same face she makes when fighting with Emma.  The same face she makes while trying to seduce Emma.  The only difference is that sometimes she parts her lips a little more, and sometimes she manages to get the corners of her mouth up a little higher.

3.  Hygiene inaccuracy.  Look at her hair.  Her lack of makeup.  Trust me that her costuming displays the same lack of interest in outward appearance.  But she is completely waxed.  Slick as a baby’s butt.  THAT does not happen.  I know you can’t do a closeup of her panic button if she’s in a merkin, but let’s be real:  No 18-year-old, who gives as little attention to her appearance (or basic cleanliness) as this one does, finds time to go to the salon for a full Brazilian, armpit, and leg waxing.  Not only does she not give a toss, she wouldn’t think of it.  It should be 1973 in her pants.  or 1873.

4.  The dialog.

I took French in college.  I had a textbook called Allons-Y!

Le textbook.

In this book, there were several practice conversations.  Things like, what is your name?  My name is Adele.  What do you do?  I am a student.  What do you study?  I study French.  And you, what is your name?  My name is Emma.  And you, what do you do?  I am a student.  I study art.

I started laughing at three points in this film because I fully believe that screenwriter/director Abdellatif Kechiche just tore some pages out of my old textbook and threw them at the actors before yelling, “Action!”

I mean, I was giggling myself silly.  It was exactly as if he realized he needed some sort of dialog between sex scenes and eating scenes to keep it from being a food fetish, porno film, so he grabbed his old French textbook and said, “Here.  Read this.”

My conversation partner, James, and I did a more believable version of the conversation above.  Our accents weren’t as good, no, but at least he could make a facial expression other than

Adele, having an after-shag smoke.

 

5.  I watched all the seasons of the L Word (who did the girl-on-girl SO MUCH BETTER–their sex was actually sexy most of the time) without batting a lash.  I watch True Blood, and Game of Thrones, and all those other cable series showcasing every and all manner of booty.  It doesn’t bother me because I don’t really care about flesh on the screen.  That said, I don’t watch porn because I don’t really care about flesh on the screen.  I’m neither scandalized, nor titillated by it.  I generally just feel a little bad for imposing upon these imaginary people, who certainly wouldn’t be performing for anyone’s viewing pleasure if they were aware of being watched.  All the sex in this film felt entirely gratuitous, and was (for me) very unsexy.  That probably had a lot to do with Adele’s constant expression of dull boredom.  I just felt like she was always in bed because it’s what she thought she should be doing.  She only seemed happy when she was eating burritos and spaghetti.  Sad.

6.  Everything else.

Let’s let Adele sum up my feelings about the movie with one more picture:

Yeah. Me too, Adele.

2 out of 5 stars–it made me laugh (unintentionally) and I got to look at pretty people.