Category Archives: media

My Favourite Thing

It’s a nuisance. A distraction. A menace on the roads. A depressing sign of the times.

It’s also my window to the rest of the world. A handful of technological wonder in an otherwise menial and isolated day. A life, and sanity, saver.

Yes. I’m that mom. Smartphone never out of reach. The ubiquitous 5th child in my already busy brood. One more to keep track of, keep safe, keep an eye on at all times.

I’m not blind to the downsides of this strange love affair. I’ve debated each point ad nauseam, with the critic in my head. I can get downright philosophical about it.

Since humanity first harnessed the power of fire, split the atom and pioneered the worldwide web, we’ve shown an incredible capacity to use our fancy new tools for both good and evil. It’s in our nature. It’s in my nature.

This is Mommy’s security blanket. The smooth contours nestled perfectly in the palm of my hand. A solid, sure weight in a tumultuous world. A little piece of control safe in my pocket, in the place of honour at the top of my purse… if all else fails, tucked under a bra strap next to my skin, inches from my heart.iphone pocket

In the course of a day it is my trusted advisor, personal assistant, teacher, counsellor, biographer, court jester, emergency response system, flashlight, calculator, alarm clock and immediate connection to friends, family, help, encouragement, entertainment, poetry, news and much-needed-perspective.

Sometimes, it’s a hero. When our son choked on a cookie this weekend, it was my iPhone that I turned to; typing “foreign object aspiration” into the search engine to find out what to do now. I had weather forecasts, road conditions and a friendly GPS voice on hand to help me around heavy snowfall and road closures on the way to the ER. It kept an anxious Daddy and sisters in the loop, worried friends apprised of the situation and a miserable, scared little boy distracted with games and movie clips. I can’t imagine living through that day without it.

But, it can be overwhelming, so much information and connection hovering in the background. Reluctantly I pry my fingers off my friend from time to time. Pull the curtain. Focus on the here and now. Find silence and solitude again.

Until life and family intervene. The punishing momentum of needs and routines and our very own brand of chaos. A world within a world.

So I reach for Mommy’s best helper. 4.9 ounces of synthetic comfort for the modern woman.

This is my favourite thing.

So here’s my entry for the
Word Press Weekly Writing Challenge: Object.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/writing-challenge-object/

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Hellbound?

There of some us out here for whom “Hell” is more than just a plot point in the latest episode of Supernatural. More than a video game catchphrase: “Burn in hell, suckers!” More than a slightly-less-sinful curse word.

Whether you were raised with it or jumped in later in life, the Christian concept of hell is by turns horrific, disconcerting and yet, to some, comforting.

“The Bible is clear.” It’s something I heard all my life. From the pulpit. From Sunday School teachers. From my own parents. It’s a sentence I’ve thrown around myself in years past.

And there are topics which the bible is clear and straightforward on.

Hell is not one of them.

Today I did something different. I paid full price to see a documentary in a movie theater. I bypassed Bruce Willis’ journey back in time to kill his younger self. I forsook serious Ben Affleck. I didn’t even give the quirky teen drama a second thought.

Hellbound? explores the surprisingly vast spectrum of beliefs within Christianity about Hell. Writer and Director Kevin Miller interviews pastors, authors, scholars and even death metal musicians as he navigates us through the issues. From uber-conservative Mark Driscoll to emergent thinker Brian McClaren, from those with absolute certainty to those “living in the mystery”, everyone contributes a verse.

There are three classic positions on hell: those who believe it is a literal place of eternal conscious torment, those who believe it is simply the end of a soul’s existence (annihilationism) and those who believe that is either a temporary or metaphorical condition from which all people will ultimately be redeemed (universalism). What many do not realize is that there is scriptural and historical support for all three sides of the debate. The answers are not simple.

There is something to offend everyone in this film, whether it is a death metal rocker positing that religion is simply a money-making business, or the hateful vitriol of the Westboro Baptist church member who insists that God hates almost everyone. My favourite part is when this 50-year-old woman refers to the interviewer as a pussy. Very godly.

This is not a cheesy church-umentary to be played in church basements and used for neighbourhood outreach. It is a fascinating look at a complex and contentious issue.

The release of Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” rocked the evangelical community last year. There are many who believe we are better off NOT to broach the discussion at all. But these are the questions people are asking. And I have to agree with Gregory Boyd who said “the truth shouldn’t have anything to fear.”

So here’s me, not a bible scholar, or pastor, or theologian; just a regular Jo. And this movie was made for us too. Choose it – Bruce Willis will be killing someone else next month.


Smurfette the Superhero

First of all, I loved the movie! The Avengers is delicious sci-fi candy for a dork like me. As always, Joss Whedon delivers.

I especially liked Scarlett Johansen’s character “Black Widow”. She is tough and smart and she saves the day just as often as her male counterparts. I walked out of the movie excited that they had included a female superhero in the line up – a very rare thing.

By the time I reached my car, I was annoyed at myself, for being so pathetically grateful to be represented at all. The sixth movie in this series and the first one with a female hero, well, one of six heroes anyway.

I had been explaining the “Smurfette Principle” to my daughters just last week. Essentially, it describes the tendency in media to assemble a cast of male characters with one token female, usually the love interest or sexy sidekick.

If outsiders were to look to Hollywood to understand our society, they would be unlikely to believe that women make up MORE than 50% of the population. That’s right men, we outnumber you. But a trip to the theatre does not reflect that.

I recently heard about something called the Bechdel test. In order to pass, a movie must have:

  • 2 female characters
  • with names
  • who speak to each other for at least 30 seconds
  • about something other than a man

Honestly, this is not asking much; half a minute of dialogue in an entire movie. Hardly the framework for a raging feminist flick. But the puny number of movies which actually pass this will BLOW YOUR MIND!

It doesn’t mean much in and of itself; it doesn’t measure whether it is a good movie, or even respectful of women. But it does make you think about the representation of women in media.

In movie world, it seems that women’s lives often revolve entirely around men. We exist only as the prize; the prop for smarter, more interesting and more important characters. You know, the men.

They say media reflects real life, but it also influences it. I fear that all of us, men and women, may come to believe that it is true.

That women play the bit parts in life. That we aren’t crucial to the plot. That we are merely decorative. That the size of our boobs (or our size, period) and not the strength of our intellect is what matters most. That how we look is more important than what we have to say.

I don’t think women need to butch it up and take over the “world of men”. More women playing soldiers and assassins and action heroes is missing the point. We shouldn’t need to act macho to be the protagonists for a change.

We are daughters, and sisters, and wives, and mothers. We are friends, and co-workers, and artists, and thinkers. We are interesting. We are smart. We are funny. We are not scenery. And our stories matter too.

So here’s me, and this is my feminist rant for the day. In case you were wondering, more than 50% of movies fail the Bechdel test.

What is the last movie you saw? Does it pass the test? The answer may surprise you.


Seek and Ye Shall Find: Google Me

WordPress keeps track of all the terms people type into their search engine which lead them to this blog. Apparently some of my readers have found me in very UNconventional ways. Here are a few of the weirdest, silliest and most perplexing:

impact of the thermos in society

What is most amazing to me, is that this term has been used not once, not twice, but three times. Clearly, it is a hot research topic. Who knew? (Insert comment about people who have WAY too much time on their hands)

raccoon writing, raccoon from the back, raccoon story and rascal raccoon

You mention ONE raccoon ONCE and it follows you the rest of your life!

stripper punctuation matters

Of course it does. There’s nothing worse than a grammatically incorrect pole dance. Total turn off.

boy enjoying on bicycle

I’m not sure what he’s enjoying on bicycle or why. And I don’t want to know.

tax free smarties

Let us overthrow the burdensome taxation of these, our most delicious of treats. How long must we struggle under the heavy yoke of governmental greed? Smartie Eaters of the world Unite!

tattooed garbageman yonkers

What the what?

airplane vomit clean up

Sadly, this one makes sense to me.

good morning. there’s a shit in the hallway

Also this one, if you can believe it. My life is incredibly glamorous.

married swingers nudists

Ummm… this is a recurring theme when it comes to search terms. I may have written one short post about swingers and another about nudists, but it’s really not that big of a thing for me. Not my thing anyway. I’m pretty sure they’re all disappointed with what they find here. Monogamy anyone?

AND the most frequent Search Engine Term to find my blog: don’t like me quotes

They don’t like me, they really don’t like me!

So here’s me, seeing what amazing blogs I can find by typing in random words.

cayenne pepper snot dance” brought me to this sinus remedy video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtYTgR-Pmss&feature=player_embedded#!

scratch car tooth” found an interesting article on fixing car scratches with toothpaste which I may actually have to use. Sorry honey. http://lifehacker.com/5694247/use-toothpaste-to-fix-car-body-and-headlight-scratches

nose picking blanket vacation” unearthed a list of “The Most Embarrassing Travel Gear” including a blanket to use on the airplane in which only your nose sticks out (not only discouraging chatty seatmates, but for ease of picking access) http://www.independenttraveler.com/blog/?p=522

Tip: don’t use words that are in any stretch of the imagination sexy or phallic (like pickle), unless you have a really great net nanny.


To iPod or Not To iPod

…that is the question!

Yesterday I came home to find my eldest offspring not only loading the dishwasher, but wiping the counters after cleaning the entire kitchen. She told me she was in there anyway doing her chores, so she might as well pitch in. There was hugging, possibly tears. I congratulated her on her consideration and responsible attitude. I congratulated myself on my kick-ass parenting skills.

Later that evening, she sat down primly and asked to speak with me. “I was hoping I could have some clarification on the iPod issue.” That is a direct quote. I have to give her props for waiting a while after the cleaning and for her oh-so-professional delivery. Also the repeated use of the word “responsible” in her subsequent speech.

In summary, “Can I get an iPod Touch please? I will save up my money and pay for it myself. I know you said you would discuss it with Dad, but it has been 13 hours since I last asked and a lot of things have changed since then. For instance, I am now very ‘considerate and responsible’ (this is my paraphrase). Please see the exhaustive list of reasons I have written on the blackboard explaining what a good idea this is.”

Can I please get an iPod Touch?

It is the only question that matters to our 9 and 11-year-old this week. Two of their best friends have them. Apparently so do “like, EVERYONE I know Mom.” Which I sincerely doubt – I know one family that doesn’t even have a home computer or *gasp* email. Technophobes aside, this is an issue for us already, no matter how much I want to pretend otherwise.

I think back fondly on the good old days when times were simpler. Community was face-to-face: “Gather round kinfolk, it’s time for ye old hymn sing.” And problems were straightforward. “Pa, them coons done et all our muffins agin. Git the shotgun!”

“Ma, Old Yeller’s done got bit by a rabid coon! NOOOOOOOO!”

Okay, so even pioneer days weren’t a fantasy of perfection. Life isn’t Little House on the Prairie, for which my husband is infintely grateful. Especially after an entire chapter about making candles and two on maple syrup.

I blame myself.

As I sit here writing my blog on my laptop, with my iPhone close at hand, I am keenly aware of why my children are geared toward technology. And I can’t blame them.

For those who do not have their very own walking catalogue of features to sing its praises, the iPod Touch is not a phone. It is everything else.

This weekend, they used their friends’ iPods to make an adorable movie (complete with soundtrack), take pictures, listen to christian music, play games (some educational, some silly), email a friend, and watch stupid animal movies on youtube.

Nothing evil, nothing scary – except for, maybe, the youtube videos. That talking dog is creepy.

We have a lot to discuss. Can net nanny be put on an iPod? Can we turn off the texting function? Or all internet? Are we ready for them to have their own e-mail address (with copies of everything sent to us)? How much screen time is too much? How closely should we moniter it? How long will it take them to save up the money? What if they start making talking dog videos?

Insert answer here.

I left space here for the thoughtful, balanced, wise answer. But I don’t have one. For now the answer is no, but I’m not completely against it. Perhaps I should let them know the cleaning helped?

We’ve talked to a number of other parents we respect and their advice ranges from:

“Yes, this is a reasonable purchase for your pre-teen. With the appropriate boundaries and monitering it can be a useful tool. Earning the money themselves will be a good experience. Plus, they will stop fighting over your iPhone (okay, that last part is from me).”

to

“Are you kidding me? Useful for training as obese couch potatoes and cyber bully fodder. Buy them a candle making kit instead. And the box set of Little House on the Prairie while you’re at it.”

And both sides sound reasonable to me. I’m not sure…

So here’s me, flummoxed.

What do you think? We respect every parent’s right to decide this for their own children, so use your nice words. Should children be allowed personal technology? What kind and at what ages?


The X Factor

It was the best of T.V. It was the worst of T.V.

Simon Cowell’s slick marketing has paid off in our house. Our family jumped right on the bandwagon last night – or at least pulled up a chair to watch the fallout. He’s a money-grubbing jerk and I really can’t stand him, so what am I doing here? What is the allure of reality T.V?

It appeals to our worst instincts….

You know, the one that taps on the brakes when you pass by an accident. The one that has you craning your neck to catch  a glimpse of the fashion faux-pas your children are snickering about. The one that perks up your ears when the couple in the booth behind you is having a heated argument. These are the instincts that make reality T.V. so appealing.

We’re amused when people play the fool. We enjoy a chance to heckle with impunity (or maybe that’s just me). And there is something interesting about seeing just HOW BAD it can get, whether it is dancing, singing, or contrived social situations.

In the grand tradition of She Bang there were many “What the WHAT?” contestants last night. The perennial question is: are these people actually trying or is it just a cheap ploy to get their 5 minutes of fame? For their sake, I hope it’s the latter. Although the shocked and outraged rants following can be rather convincing; perhaps a future in acting?

Note to parents: When watching reality T.V. with children in the room one must keep a finger on the fast forward button at all times. We have taught our kids to yell “BEEP” when something happens with which we disagree. This is a fine time for moral discussions and exploring our family’s stance on _________ (insert: sluttiness, profanity, grandstanding, arrogance, stupid hair cuts), and that’s just the judges.

Case in point: the low light of the night’s episode was a smarmy middle-aged hippy in velour pajamas singing his anthem “I’m a stud, not a dud” while stripping off said pjs. Even in fast forward this was horrifying. I’m slightly disturbed that his profession was listed as “internet blogger.” Are these my people now?

I’m not a complete idiot. My brother-in-law is a big cheese in this industry, so I know that reality shows are not entirely (or even mostly) real. Yet somehow I am willing to overlook the obnoxious shenanigans, shameless self promotion and forced emotion to find the happy ending.

It appeals to our best instincts…

It’s not all hip thrusts and screeching; there are also the highly cheesy but deeply satisfying “diamond in the rough” storylines too. Tonight is was the cute 13 year old who announced to the world that her family “has, like, no money” and then went on to sing like a seasoned pro. And the heavily tattooed garbage man fresh out of rehab trying to prove something to his young son, singing a touching if unfortunately named original song, “Young Homie”.

But the real tear jerker for me was single mom Stacy Francis. After years in an abusive relationship, she began to believe that she was not talented enough, not young enough, not good enough, quite simply not enough.  At 42 she stepped up and said, “I don’t want to die with this music in me.” She sang Natural Woman in front of thousands, if not millions of people, and blew us away. Whether fame and fortune follows or not, she gave the world a moment of pure brilliance.

Was it real? Does it matter? Despite the over the top theatrics, there is something uplifting about watching people succeed, even if it is only for a moment.

So here’s me, with one finger on fast forward and one eye open for the next Susan Boyle (or William Hung, whatever).


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