Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Things-to-Do-Before-I-Hit-35 List

I guess a lot of people have a "things to do before I'm 30" list.  Well, since I'm already 30, I guess I missed the boat on that one ...

And creating a "things to do before I'm 40" list seems a little depressing.

So while I know that it's not realistic to make a "things to do before I'm 35" list considering I'll be hitting that particular milestone in a matter of months, I'm at kind of an interesting juncture in my life right now.  I've finally developed some guts, have come a long way with following through on things, and ... well, if I say I'm going to do something, I'm at a place where I'll at least give it my best effort.

So, with that being said, here it is.


Things To Do Before I'm 35
1.  Read at least five "classics" that I've never read.

2.  Get at least one piece of writing published in a place that is "legit" (in other words, not me posting my writing on this blog or on a place like Wattpad, which is a cool thing to be sure, but not the same as being actively solicited ... um, that sounded bad ;-))

3.  Fly in an airplane.

4.  Make amends with people in my life that I've disappointed, let down, or grown apart from.

5.  Lose 20 pounds.

6.  Organize my clothes.

7.  Be in a normal, healthy, happy relationship with a nice guy.

8.  Do a random act of kindness every day.

9.  Go out socially at least once a week.

10. Learn how to walk in high heels.

Considering that the deadline is October 26, 2011, I have a lot of work to do ... but at least now I've verbalized it.  And in a public forum, no less, so that means that you, my lovely readers, will have to hold me to it.

Which of these do you think is most likely for me to pull off?  Which isn't (or aren't) going to happen?  

Book Review: Tarrin P. Lupo's "Stash Your Swag"


Note to readers: I LOVE reviewing books; let me know if you're interested in having your stuff reviewed, and I'll happily do so :-).  


Tarrin P. Lupo’s Stash Your Swag is both history lesson and financial advisor … and it’s timely.  Very timely.

As a boy, Lupo learned that both of his grandfathers hid cash money, causing him to wonder aloud why they didn’t just go to the bank.  Turns out that, after being burned by the Great Depression, both men (gentlemen to whom Lupo dedicated his book) came up with creative ways to keep their money close at hand.

But isn’t that just one of those quaint, antiquated mindsets?  After all, there are a lot of people in the older quartile of American society who feel more comfortable dealing in cash. 

Shortly before my grandfather passed away, he told my mother and my uncles to “find the basket” in his house.  They had no idea what he was talking about, and tore the house apart looking for an answer to the mystery.  They finally located his secret stash, and there was so much money in it that my mother wouldn’t tell me a dollar amount.

Lupo’s question, following a brief overview of the banking industry and how they absconded with people’s money during the Depression, is whether or not this could happen again … and he explains how this very nearly happened in 2008. 

It’s not just banks, either … your money is coveted from many and varied directions, so Lupo’s advice?  Spread it out.  A lot.

Now, as I was reading, I was thinking to myself, “Self, I’d have to be a real idiot to leave wads of cash lying around.  I mean, I could hide some in my car, I suppose, since there’s only one set of keys.  And I could stick a couple hundred in a jar and bury it in the backyard … but I have dogs that revel in digging holes, and just my luck they’d find it.  There’s always the ‘Purloined Letter’ concept of hiding it in plain sight, I guess, but ..”
And then I decided I should get back to reading.

Am I ever glad I did!  The possibilities are endless, even in the yard (and much better glimmers of thought than my completely non-creative jar-burying concept—my personal favorite is the “fake bird house roof”).

Stash Your Swag is a real treat, one of those rare books that combines useful advice on a topic of wide  interest to the general public with relevant history lessons along the way.  And, uh, the history lessons aren’t boring … I learned a lot of really interesting stuff even as my brain was grappling with how to put a pond in my backyard so I could hide money in the middle of it.

You can sample Stash Your Swag online, although I definitely recommend that you buy it.  Useful + relevant doesn’t always equal a good read, but in this case, Lupo pulls it off with aplomb.

The versatile Lupo is also the author of the historical fiction novel Pirates of Savannah and a children's book, Catch that Collie!

You can learn more about Tarrin P. Lupo at his website or by following him on Twitter.     

Sunday Stealing: The Fifteen Movie Questions Meme

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand ... it's time for Sunday Stealing again :-) This week's fare is about movies ... should be fun!

1. Movie you love with a passion.
I think it has to be The Godfather. That movie has everything in it--action, drama, romance, suspense, mystery ("It was Barzini all along ..."). That is, in my humble opinion, a gold standard movie.

2. Movie you vow to never watch.
Twilight, or any of its asinine sequels. Reading the books was quite enough ;-)

3. Movie that literally left you speechless.
Wayne's World. It was so bad that I literally walked out of the movie theater ... and rendered me speechless, which is kind of hard to do. I have a really juvenile sense of humor, and it seemed like a give that I'd like it, but it was stupid that I just couldn't handle it.

4. Movie you always recommend.

Okay, I always recommend this movie because it epitomizes pure '80s cheesiness but isn't necessarily what I refer to as "The '80s Canon" (Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and so on). It falls into the "so bad it's good" category with its Velveeta goodness ... yup, for anyone that's known me for awhile (especially in my childhood), let's get your hands up for The Legend of Billie Jean. Fair is fair!

5. Actor/actress you always watch, no matter how crappy the movie.

It should go without saying that it's Johnny Depp. And any other certain bloggers that think that they own the Depp patent ... I'll fight you for him ;-)

6. Actor/actress you don’t get the appeal for.

Tom Cruise (and I was saying that before he was bouncing on couches and partaking in odd religious circumstances).

7. Actor/actress, living or dead, you’d love to meet.

Sean Penn. Definitely a bit out there, but a fascinating guy.

8. Sexiest actor/actress you’ve seen. (Picture required!)

I'm backing off the Depp thing here (I hate being predictable), so here's a pic of Rob Lowe from The Outsiders. I would so hit that!



9. Dream cast.
Gosh, I don't know ... there are so many variables involved ...


10. Favorite actor pairing.
DeNiro and Pacino.  Obvs.

11. Favorite movie setting.
I'm going with Harry Potter here.  The books created the magical mysteries of Hogwarts, but the movies brought it to life.  Those shifting staircases, the castle, the Quidditch field ... very cool :-)

12. Favorite decade for movies.
There was no decade quite like the '80s :-)

13. Chick flick or action movie?
It depends.  Some action movies (Gone in 60 Seconds jumps to mind) are just so stupid that you walk out feeling like you wasted two hours of your life.  Same with chick flicks.  There are a lot of good ones in both categories, though, so I sort of judge on a case-by-case basis.


14. Hero, villain or anti-hero?
I tend to be a little complex ... I always loved Severus Snape even before he was ... well, you know, the hero.  And I adored Marlon Brando (and Robert DeNiro, too, now that I think about it) as Vito Corleone, even when he was causing death and pain and dismembered horses and such.  I don't like my heroes to be too heroic, if that makes any sense ...

15. Black and white or color?
There is nothing quite like the moment that Dorothy steps out of her Kansas house from her black and white midwest world into the glorious colors of Oz.  

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I Wrote a Short Story--Read and Critique, Please?

My primary weakness as a writer of fiction is that I am trapped in the world of novel.  I seem to be incapable of writing anything short ... it all just wants to grow into a novel that might or might not come into fruition.

I'm making a serious effort to work with the "short story" concept, which I've struggled with.  If you're interested, you can check out a couple of my prior attempts here ("Ruffled Feathers"), here ("Fading Bouquets"), and here ("Que Sera Sera").  The following is my latest crack at it.

Please let me know what you think--comments, criticisms (only please don't say, "It sucks" without elaboration), suggestions, general "keep trying ... you'll get better" words of encouragement--all would be welcome and much appreciated.

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                                       "MATRIARCH"
                                                 by
                                          Katie Loud

Carol Butterick sighed with pleasure, careful to make sure that the noise could be construed as pain, discomfort, sadness.  She was, after all, dying.

She allowed her eyes to open a crack, taking in the sight of her family huddled around her hospital bed, as close as the IV stand would allow.  She noted with satisfaction that they were all there, the whole lot of them. They were quiet, and Carol knew that her presence was the reason why.

Nobody was looking directly at Carol--that was clearly too painful for them as they struggled to imagine a world without her.  She had, after all, been omnipresent in all of their lives for ... well, forever, as far as she was concerned.  

Her husband Herman was sitting close to her on her right side, his hand almost touching hers, but not quite.  She was glad.  

Herman looked old and haggard; he was a heavy smoker whose every breath was characterized by the wheeze of emphysema.  The doctor had suggested that Herman use a portable oxygen tank, but Carol had put the kibosh on that right away.  Herman needed to carry her wheelchair from place to place, to help her in and out of the car, to run and do her bidding as he'd done for the duration of their marriage.  That was his role.

Herman was a car mechanic, and he wore his work uniform even on weekends.  It was easier that way, since the garage laundered employee attire; the thought of his dirty, greasy clothes mixing in with hers in the washing machine ... well, it was just not going to happen, and that was all.

They lived in a small, almost stereotypical New Hampshire town, and the Buttericks were considered an odd, even a dysfunctional, family.  Carol didn't mind; it was easy enough to ignore the "Jack Sprat and his wife" jokes and the implication that Herman was what the young ones called "pussywhipped".  

That was a joke; Carol hadn't allowed her husband carnal knowledge of her body since their wedding night.  

He did her bidding, came running when she called, and handed over his paycheck.  She handled the bills, the household expenses, and it briefly occurred to her that someone was going to have to step up and help him out.  She knew for a fact that Herman Butterick didn't have a clue how to do something as simple as writing a check.

Her eyes, still slitted snake-like, moved to the other side of the bed where Amber sat.

Poor Amber, who was the spitting image of her whore of a mother.

Amber was overweight, homely as sin, spotted with acne even though she was approaching thirty, and bound to be a spinster.  Amber had been born dangerously prematurely, and the lack of oxygen following her birth had unquestionably damaged her brain.  Carol's view was that the girl's evident cow-like stupidity was a direct punishment for her mother's sins.

Amber had tried to escape, as much as her limited brainpower would allow.  As Amber's aunt and legal guardian, Carol had ignored the school's requests for special education testing.  Why bother?  The girl was numb as a stump, and nothing was going to change that.

She'd worked as a cashier at one of the town's two gas stations since her graduation from high school with a D- average.  The station's owner, a friend of Herman's, had carefully gone over the cash register with her, had patiently taught her how to make change, and Amber was a fixture at the gas station now.

The year before, she'd moved into an apartment in town with a couple of her old friends from high school.  Carol couldn't remember their names, but one of them flipped burgers at the Burger King uptown, and the other one had a baby and lived on food stamps and welfare money.  

Carol had liked having Amber at home, had become used to bullying the girl into submission.  It was an art form she'd mastered over the years, and besides, Amber had kept the trailer sparkling clean.  Since she'd moved into that hophouse down the road, nobody had vacuumed or dusted or picked up.  Herman wasn't capable of picking up the slack, not with the number of hours he worked each week, and Carol certainly wasn't going to do it.

It might let them onto the fact that she wasn't anywhere near as sickly as they all believed, and that just would not do.  It would lead to all sorts of complications, to questions best left unanswered ...

And anyway, he was back, now, her shining prince, and she knew--knew--that he wouldn't tolerate a messy house.  She'd left instructions with Herman to hire a housekeeper after her death, since she would never make her boy do anything as mundane as housework.

Carol had been married to another man once, when Herman was just another boy from town who was hardworking and came from a family that owned their own land but would never amount to much.

Jerry had been different.  Although possessed of a snake-like native intelligence, Carol Butterick wasn't an educated woman; the word charismatic  was not in her repertoire, although it fit Jerry Melanson to a T.  She had married Jerry without a moment's hesitation, had gone to live in his cabin in the woods without a second thought.  That it didn't have running water or a refrigerator was beside the point--no, what Jerry did to her at night, the way he touched her when he was in a good mood, his booming laugh, those were the things that mattered.

Jerry had a bad temper, and Carol was very cautious not to set off his hair trigger.  Of course, "cautious" was something of a foreign concept to a woman who truly believed herself better than anyone else, a woman who dropped out of school following a fight with another student.  They'd made Carol talk to a "special doctor", and her mother's eyes had widened when the word sociopath was mentioned.  It hadn't been hard for Carol to convince her mother that the shrink was all wet, and it had been with her parents' blessing that she'd left school.

Despite Carol's awareness of and deference to Jerry's quick, violent anger, he spent a lot of nights out of the house, ostensibly because he was out drinking with the boys.  It never occurred to Carol that he was stepping out on her.

So the day that her mother pulled her wheezy Chevrolet into the cabin's dirt driveway and told Carol that her younger sister, Valerie, was pregnant and had named her brother-in-law Jerry as the father was a dark one indeed for Carol.  

Jerry had quickly and, with something close to relief, admitted his affair with Valerie.  He filed for divorce and, as soon as it was finalized, married the now hugely pregnant Val.  To prove that she didn't hold a grudge, Carol had arranged for herself and Herman, who she'd been dating for approximately a month, to be married the same day.

If Valerie felt slighted at having to share her wedding day with the older sister that had tormented and tortured and basically eclipsed her entire childhood, she said nothing.  Valerie was a simple soul, and her affair with Jerry had been based solely on the fact that someone was paying attention to her for once.  

Valerie's baby was a boy, a son she named Albert, and their daughter Amber was born two years later.  

Two years after that, Jerry and Valerie got into a serious car accident.  Valerie received serious, potentially life-threatening injuries.  Jerry received a DWI summons.

Carol, who had largely avoided her sister and former husband other than lavishing expensive gifts on young Albert and, to a noticeably lesser degree, little Amber, swept in to play nurse for her sister.  

There were no questions asked when Valerie succumbed to her injuries despite the best efforts of her sister.  Certainly nobody noticed that the bottle of antibiotics prescribed to Valerie to stop her infection contained the same number of capsules as it had when Carol picked it up at the drugstore.  The numerous painkillers that should have made a woman suffering from tremendous pain feel a little bit better had likewise been untouched.

Shortly after Valerie's death, Jerry was on his way home from a late night at the bar.  His beat-up pick up truck crossed the yellow line and crashed into a small car carrying a family of four on their way home from a picnic at the lake.  He was sentenced to many years in jail, needless to say, and custody of Albert and Amber was transferred to their Aunt Carol.

Carol looked now at the foot of her hospital bed, where Albert was slumped in a chair.  His resemblance to Jerry was striking, and Carol felt a surge of pride ... and a tug of something else as well, deathbed or no.

Albert had been her shining star, the valedictorian of his graduating class, a Boy Scout, a volunteer at the local nursing home, and a three-season athlete.  She had given all of herself to him--all of herself--and, when he tried to protest, she reminded him of all that she had done for him.  It was the least he could do.  Nobody else would ever want him anyway.  If he didn't do what she wanted him to, she would consider sending Amber to an orphanage.

Albert lived under a heavy weight of guilt--the guilt of his very existence which had been at the expense of Aunt Carol, the guilt of protesting her physical desires when she had done so much for him, the fact that Amber was treated like a niece and he was treated as better than a son ...

Carol had not wanted Albert to go to college, but of course a boy of his stellar successes was college-bound. She made Herman buy him a car so that he could come home every weekend, though, and was insistent that he did.

And then Albert met a girl down there in Boston, a high society bitch who clearly thought she was better than Albert's poor white trash family, and suddenly Albert stopped coming home every weekend.  When he did return to the trailer, he brazenly brought the Boston bitch with him.  Carol had no choice but to get the message.

She was disgusted by Albert's weakness as he bought the bitch a diamond ring and wedding plans moved forward, Albert's family left out of all aspects of the planning.  Carol got in her digs when she could--she brought the girl to tears by telling her that she was going to wear black to the wedding, for example--but she mostly had no choice but to gnash her teeth and take out her anger on Amber, who actually showed a degree of gumption by moving out.

The marriage lasted just over a year.  Albert, who'd gotten some hard-core executive job that Carol didn't understand (nor did she need to), had found himself in trouble at work when his aunt (who he referred to as his mother) called him every hour.  He was reprimanded at work, first informally and then on paper.  She continued to call, telling him that she was alone and sick and needed him.

He started leaving work at odd hours to drive the three hours up to make sure that Aunt Carol was okay.  

His wife was not pleased, and between being a failure at work and being a failure in his marriage, Albert started to drink heavily.  He drank as he drove up to the tiny New Hampshire town that was his prison, he spent time with his Aunt Carol, who was the only person that seemed to think he was worth anything, and then he drank all the way back to Boston.

It was inevitable that he would be bagged for DWI eventually.  It happened the day before he was fired from his job, a rising star that fizzled like the bubbles in a bottle of alcohol.

His wife, distraught and confused, was called to bail him out.  She made an appointment for marriage counseling the next day, and for the first time he confessed about the horrible abuse he'd suffered at the hands of his Aunt Carol.  That was the only counseling appointment that he went to sober, and after the third time Albert beat her badly enough to require medical assistance, she filed for divorce.

Carol, who sat in the courtroom holding her son's hand as the divorce was granted, licked her lips like a cat who'd gotten the ultimate dish of cream.  Albert moved back home, and she bought him bottles of wine because that was what he wanted, and he did whatever she wanted as long as he had his wine.

Sometimes, though, the Albert that had crossed the graduation stage covered with gold braid to give the valedictory address, the young man with so much potential who had caught the attention of a bright and beautiful girl and earned her love, tried to stand up to her, tried to say no, both to the wine and to her.

Carol had a history of diabetes, of heart problems, of debilitating blood clots in her legs.  Her history of mental illness was unknown, of course, but Carol had figured out that stopping her medication led to a trip to the hospital in an ambulance ... and the gathering of her family by her bedside.

This was the third time she'd done it, and Herman and Amber looked worried, perhaps even a little suspicious.

Albert just looked resigned.  

His glanced upward, his eyes meeting hers.  She winked at him, a promise of wine waiting at home for him, so long as he played things her way, and he looked away.

She groaned again, an expert at making herself sound pained and long-suffering.  Herman took her hand, and Amber rang for the nurse.

Albert looked away, but she knew it was only a matter of time.  She had her boy back, and he wasn't going anywhere this time ... she knew that it was the wine that held him to her, but that didn't matter to her.

What did was that he wasn't going anywhere.

Books That Changed Your Life

It's funny how sometimes different parts of your life come together to create perfect moments, especially valuable when you're trying to avoid writer's block (both on your blog and with your own writing).  

I'm a slapdash writer--a talented writer (as Stephen King once noted, "Talent is cheaper than table salt.  What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work")--but a lazy, disorganized, fits-and-spurts kind of writer, the kind of writer that will go weeks without writing a thing and then crank out thirty or forty amazing pages in twenty-four hours.

I'm working hard to develop better writing habits.  Really hard.   

And sometimes that leads to a perfect storm of keeping you from being at a complete loss for what to write about.

Writing for Zelda Lily has led to me staying on top of current events --> I created a Twitter account to follow news outlets (and interesting people with odd political ideas) --> I realized that one of my biggest problems as a writer is that I'm ... overly verbose --> I've added Tweeting every day to one of my writing goals since it forces me to be concise --> I found a cool piece on The Huffington Post via Twitter that gave me the idea for a blog post.

I've read a lot of books over the years, but the books that actually changed my life are in a category of their own.  I've put my top five down here, and I would encourage you to consider doing a post on this (it's actually a very telling and philosophical journey).

I've left a linky thing at the bottom of this post, so please link up if you go for this so I can check out the books that shaped and molded each of you.  Oh, and please feel free to leave comments ... I sort of thrive on comments (another motivation to keep on blogging, right ;-)?).

So, five books that have changed my life ...

1.  The Dark Tower (series of seven books) by Stephen King
The Dark Tower (The Dark Tower, Book 7)Honestly, this series changed my outlook on the entire world.  It's what started my fascination with philosophy, with thinking about things on a higher level, of exploring the possibilities of parallel universes, of seeing how Shakespeare does not hold the patent on the concept of universal themes, of ....

Well, I'll stop rambling now.  

These books are not easy reads (they're very well-written and interesting and such, but you have to be willing to twist your brain in unusual and sometimes difficult ways to wrap your head around them); even Stephen King fans have struggled with these books.

All I have to say is, they blew my mind.  Totally blew my mind.

2.  The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
The Thorn Birds: A NovelI first read this book when I was at my family's beach house one summer.  I'd read all the books I'd brought with me, and this was before we had cable television at the beach house, which contains an interesting collection of literature (basically, stuff that my mother and uncles read in high school, my grandfather's golf books, my grandmother's needlepoint books, and so on).  For some reason, The Thorn Birds had made it into this mishmash of books, and I figured one rainy summer day that I'd give it a shot.

It was the first time a book made me cry adult tears.  

As a fifth grader, I obviously had no concept of romantic love, but the story of a man and woman unable to be together, yet clearly destined for each other ... well, it planted a seed.

I think the book also made me appreciate my siblings more, to be completely honest.  There is a lot of death and loss related to the love between a girl and her brothers, and that pain was torturous to experience vicariously.  

For me to have taken on The Thorn Birds under the circumstances I did, it's evident that I wasn't getting along with Adam and Mary one rainy summer day when the beach was off limits and the card games had gotten boring (or I'd lost a lot and pouted away with my book).  Ironic that said book reminded me of how important they are to me ...  

3.  How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
How the Grinch Stole ChristmasThis book taught me how to read.  Well, this book and my father.  Before he went to law school, my father was a teacher, and he got really into reading with me.  This book was one of my absolute favorites, and I can still remember as my father's fingers moved over each word until I understood them.

I can still recite this entire book, by the way, and the words contained therein probably played some sort of role in developing my hard-core visual memory.  The brain is an amazing thing ...

4.  Centennial by James Michener
Centennial: A NovelWhen I was in Honors English 11, my teacher had us choose an author to do a yearlong study on.  We had to read one of the author's books each quarter, write analysis papers, and the final paper required us to identify a common theme that ran through each book.

I was kind of a laissez-faire student (I did well enough, at least in English class, but I neither tried very hard nor cared very much), so I gave the list to my mother and asked her to pick an author for me.  She recommended Michener, and I figured I'd go with it.  I should have known better when my teacher asked if I was absolutely sure about committing to Michener ...

Yeah, many of Michener's books, Centennial included, weigh almost as much as my seven-year-old does ...

I pulled my usual procrastination act and left both reading the book and writing the paper until the night before, but ... wow.  I got it done, did well on it, and then proceeded to eat up Michener's entire canon.

The idea of a certain geographical location serving as almost a character, the cultures that mix together as years go by, and the connections that exist between geography, characters, history, and pretty much everything ... 

James Michener taught me that vitally important lesson. 

5.  My completed novel (currently titled Unbreakable, but that's of course subject to change) by Katie Loud

I've written a lot about the history of this novel (which you can read about here ... it's actually kind of an interesting story as I went from a middle schooler to an adult with the same work in progress), and I think it's a pretty good read (you can read excerpts here and here, and check out a list of 25 unusual and/or interesting things about it here (this was actually a really cool exercise, by the way, and I'd recommend any writer to do this).

Bottom line, this book taught me two extremely valuable lessons that no other book could.

1.  All fiction is, to one degree or another, a form of author autobiography.  It's all in the details.

and 

2.  I can actually finish something that I've started ... even if it takes me over fifteen years ;-)

So, what five books changed your life?  Link up here :-)





30 Day Music Challenge: A Song That I Can Dance To

Well, 30 Day Music Challenge, I have to admit you've stymied me here.  There is only one song that I can post in response to the category of "a song that I can dance to" ;-)


Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Fragments--A Short Overview of My Week

I'm really into the whole "Friday Fragments" thing ... what a great way to do a quick catch-up on the week :-)

*  *  *  *
So I got my hair cut last night.


It was kind of interesting because I went through a long phase of really not caring what I look like.  However, the grays were starting to get to me, and I realized that I'm 34 years old and, realistically speaking, the days when I can look really good are limited.  Plus, I'm single and looking, right ;-)?

My hairdresser was great ... I explained that I've decided that I want to start looking good (like, wear my contacts every day instead of my glasses and so on), so I gave her complete artistic license with both the color and the cut.  I'm glad that she didn't go far from my natural hair color, though ...

I was also reminded while trying to take pictures of it so that my friends could all see it via Facebook and Twitter how truly atrocious I am at taking pics of myself.

To wit ...



*  *  *  *
On Wednesday, my mother brought Addie and Belle up to visit my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew at their cabin in Maine.  My aunt and her partner were also there along with a lot of other cool people.  I was sorry to miss out, but I had to work in the morning and then had a dentist appointment in the afternoon (my life is currently revolving around dentists between Belle, Addie, and me).

Anyway, a good time appeared to be had by all :-)


On the way home, though, there was a very bad accident on the highway.  My mom and the girls were stuck in traffic for almost three hours ... they were about five minutes from home, but because the accident was so bad there was nothing they could do but wait.

Addie was especially shaken up by this because she is petrified of car accidents, particularly those involving big trucks.  My hearts go out to the victims of this terrible accident, and my thanks go out to whatever higher power exists for keeping my family safe.

*  *  *  *
I am loving the summer school gig, even though I grumble about it from time to time.

Last week was especially exciting because I came up with an amazing lesson (actually, I totally stole an amazing lesson that one of my former colleagues did, but of course I adapted it a bit).

We'd been working on sequencing, following directions, and precision of language.  I felt like things were going well until I asked my students to write directions for how to make a peanut butter sandwich and most of the responses were something like:
1.  Put peanut butter on the bread.
2.  Eat it.

So I figured I'd try to come up with a creative way to get the point across ... and thus the robot game was born.  Basically, I brought in a bag of props (ranging from straws to a flyswatter to chocolate syrup), and the kids worked in small groups to give me, "the robot", directions for what to do with the props.

They loved it ... and also learned the very things (directions, sequencing, and precision of language) I'd been trying to get across.  To a child, they were able to articulate what they could have done differently and why some of the directions didn't get the results they'd envisioned because they weren't specific enough.

Regardless, I ended up covered with chocolate syrup, animal cracker crumbs, applesauce, and sticky garbage bags that were intended to protect my clothes.

Here's what happened  ....


Also, I figured I'd let the kids eat the animal crackers that were left over, and one of them found this:

Sometimes you just don't know whether to laugh or cry ;-)
*  *  *  *
I noticed that there is a lot of bad stuff going on in New Hampshire this summer when I was reading through some of my recent Zelda Lily pieces.  I'm giving links and short descriptions, and I hope you check them out. Zelda Lily is a very cool site :-) (and not just my stuff, either!).

+ A 34-year-old mother left two bags of doggie doo and a nasty note on the doorstep of a kid her daughter was having problems with.  That sends a great message to a thirteen-year-old, don't you think?  The idea that some parents want to be "friends" with their kids ... it just scares me badly.

+ A little boy was found dead and abandoned on the side of the road.  It took several days before he was identified as Camden Hughes of Texas ... and that evidence points to his mother as the one who killed him.

+ A man was found guilty of the rape of a fifteen-year-old girl in his church congregation ... fourteen years after the fact.  In spite of the guilty verdict, it does not exactly give rape victims a lot of encouragement in terms of coming forward.  The girl's treatment by her congregation was dreadful, and this only underscores the myriad of difficulties faced by rape victims that go beyond the act itself.

+ An Amber Alert was issued for a four-month-old baby in order to capture his father, who was wanted for a crime; there was no evidence that the baby was "missing", and it was in fact known that the baby's mother was also with him.  The idea of such an important tool as the Amber Alert being used in kind of an underhanded way bothered me quite a bit.

+ A young mother disappeared without a trace, her abandoned (and still running) car with her baby daughter in the backseat puzzling the heck out of police.  Turns out the woman was killed as the result of a drug deal gone bad, and she went from a media darling to a publicity pariah overnight.

*  *  *  *
Finally, I got over my literary snobbery (again ;-)) and read Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy (the other two books are Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) and Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, Book 3).  I highly recommend them and once again wonder why I am so reluctant at times to read books that "everyone" is reading; I almost always end up loving them!  So odd ...

*  *  *  *
Hope everyone's had a great week :-)



30 Day Music Challenge: A Song I Know All the Words To

It's going to take me about three months to get through The 30 Day Music Challenge, at this rate, but I guess that's kind of the story of my life ;-)

This one's kind of a toughie, not because there aren't a lot of songs that I don't know all the words to but for the opposite reason--I know every word to pretty much every song that I listen to. What can I say, I'm a lyrics freak? Must be an English teacher thing ...

But just for the heck of it, here's one from way back ;-)


Root Canal :-(

This has been the summer of the dentist for the girls and I. I'm sitting in the waiting room of the endodontist right now, contemplating a very real problem.

I don't have dental insurance. Now, I have excellent medical insurance but, when it comes to the dentist (including the endodontist who will be doing a root canal on me shortly), it's all out of pocket.

I am fortunate--my mother is willing and able to loan me money for the dental dilemma should it become necessary (it hasn't yet, thank goodness).

I am feeling like the biggest jerk in the world, though, because I, from my orthodontically perfect smiling ivory tower, have made fun of a lot of toothless (or green-toothed) people.

It never occurred to me how lucky I was as a child that my parents had dental insurance.

This root canal is probably going to hurt a lot, and I kind of deserve it for my hubris...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Nostalgia for Literary Analysis Via MTV

I was not what one would have called an intellectually curious child.  I read all the time, of course, but my taste in literature was not exactly scholarly.  I read books that entertained me, that resonated with me, and the fact that there are ties that bind many and varied works of literature together was a concept that was well beyond me.

As an adult, I remembered how much I loved Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain, so I reread them ... and then explored Welsh mythology touched upon in Alexander's series through works such as The Mabinogion.  I found myself fascinated with the nature of evil after reading Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, and consequently read not just other books about Charles Manson but exploring the dark side of human nature in many, many literary works.

I was thinking a lot about this when I was driving home from another day at summer school today, though.  Why is the message that books can do a lot more than entertain, inform, educate, or persuade you so elusive?  It's a struggle to get a lot of kids to read anything period, and opening their minds to the connections that exist, the places your mind can go if you follow the individualized road maps each person is provided with any time they read something ...

And then I remembered that I'd been no different myself.

Except it hit me like a ton of bricks that I had been.  I'd found a passion for learning, for coming up with my own questions and doing my own research and discussions and such that, somewhat ironically considering what a voracious reader I was from a very young age, came from a most unusual place--MTV.

I haven't watched MTV in a very long time.  Once it got all reality show-heavy and music-light, I didn't see any point.  However, a large portion of my childhood was spent chilling with my siblings in the TV room watching music videos, contemplating them, discussing them, arguing over their meaning, and asking questions.  Big questions.

There are three music videos that jumped to mind when I realized the tremendous thought and springboard for further reading, research, and reflection that MTV provided me with.

1.  Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" 


I still say today that this video is an artistic masterpiece, with the interspersion of words, newspaper clippings, and other images into the story of a troubled young boy who eventually commits suicide in front of his class at school.  

Aesthetic value aside, though, I can vividly remember writing down the Bible passages referenced in the song, looking them up, and discussing their meaning with my sister.  In fact, I'm pretty sure the first time I read the Bible cover to cover was a direct result of how interesting it was to see how relevant it was in terms of Pearl Jam's song ... so what else, my lazy brain admitted, might be contained within its pages?

There were also a lot of rumors circling about lead singer Eddie Vedder going to school with a student who killed himself and the controversy over such a violent video (who ever thought a gun would be in a school?).  So much to think about ...

2.  Guns N' Roses' "November Rain" 


If my school was any indication, there were scores of lunchtable conversation based around what happened to the girl in the "November Rain" video.  I mean, I can remember debating the fate of the fictional bride portrayed by Stephanie Seymour for months ... and with many different circles of friends.

One day, when I was watching the music video for what was probably the 300th time, it occurred to me that I could actually read the short story mentioned at the end of the video, "Without You" by Del James.  I did ... it helped a lot.

I should also note that, while I was always in Honors and Advanced Placement English classes, I learned more about symbolism from this music video than I ever did in a high school classroom.

3.  Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire"


My sister and I spent hours writing down the lyrics to this song, trying to figure out what the dude was saying. We're talking hours, and I'm not exaggerating.  My poor parents, who we brought our list to and asked to help us out (we'd literally jotted down on notebook paper "Nasser ran for coffee" instead of "Nasser and Prokofiev" and, even more egregious, "something about 'blue balls'" instead of "Dien Bien Phu falls"), did the best they could.

I don't know about my sister (we're two and a half years apart in age, so we were either best friends or completely hated each other ... and it could change on a dime; while I remember writing down our phonetic list and trying to get corrections and explanations from my history buff stepdad, I seem to recall going through the Encyclopedia Britannica set on my own), but I know what every single event, person, and place mentioned in that song is about.

I even understand the point Billy Joel was making and how each of the historical and/or pop culture words were part of a bigger story that fit into the bigger idea of the not-always-positive nature of human beings.

I just turned on MTV, and there wasn't music playing.  I'm not surprised, but I am nostalgic for the days when MTV didn't just play music but made me think ... and far more than I realized.

The 30 Day Music Challenge: A Song That Reminds Me Of a Certain Event

For today's installation of The 30 Day Music Challenge, I'm supposed to share a song that reminds me of a certain event.

This is without question too much information, just to give you a heads up.  Feel free to stop reading.

So I had a vaginal prolapse.  It's actually very common (well, so said my gyno) in women that have had children.  I don't know if she was just trying to make me feel better, or if it's a problem so embarrassing that normal people don't talk about it, but I'd never even heard of it until I experienced it.

My little problem is solved now, but I will tell you that it was pretty disgusting for awhile (I'll spare you the details).  I have amazing friends that keep me laughing always ... they started calling me Lola.

Yup, humor is the best medicine, right?  And so this song will always remind me of the vaginal prolapse ... and how fortunate I am to have friends with the ability to find humor in any situation.


Monday, July 25, 2011

The 30 Day Music Challenge: A Song That Reminds Me Of Somewhere

I actually had a really hard time thinking of a song that reminds me of a specific place for The 30 Day Music Challenge.  However, as I was driving to my summer school gig trying to think of one, I had an epiphany.

When I was in college, one of my summer jobs was working at a Cumberland Farms gas station/convenience store.  I was theoretically on second shift (two in the afternoon to eleven at night), but the guy who worked graveyard shift during that summer consistently called in sick.  Like, every other night.

And if you're the only person working at a 24 hour store, you can't just walk out at eleven just because the paper schedule says that's when you get to leave.  Suffice it to say, I got an awful lot of overtime that summer (and on one memorable occasion worked for 26 hours straight).

And this song seemed to be on the radio almost non-stop, it seemed, kind of like rubbing salt in open wounds as I mopped the floor and bleached the coffee urns and inventoried cigarettes and stocked the milk and six-packed loose beer and ... well, you get the idea ;-)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Amy Winehouse, The 27 Club, and the "Crazy Artist" Mystique


I don't think anyone's all that surprised to hear that Amy Winehouse has died at a far-too-young age.

I suspect there are even some cynics that consider her death an attempt--either intentionally or subconsciously--to become a member of the so-called "27 Club", an exclusive group of gifted musicians who all died at the far-too-young age of 27.

Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix ... Amy Winehouse?

There's no question that Amy Winehouse was a talented, arguably brilliant singer and songwriter.  Her death--currently "unexplained" but almost certainly drug-related--is a loss for the world of music, where Winehouse paved the way to a degree for the excesses of performers like Lady Gaga and reintroduced a jazz element into mainstream music.

I should note that one thing that really ticked me off about the media coverage of Amy Winehouse's death is that it got top billing over the horrible attacks in Norway, but that's a tangent I don't feel compelled to say any more about yet because I'm still kind of reeling.

But anyway, back to Amy Winehouse.

I was reminded of a poem by Anne Sexton called "To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph", a piece that always reminds me of Cobain and Joplin, of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley, of Sylvia Plath and J.D. Salinger.

Consider Icarus, pasting those sticky wings on,
testing that strange little tug at his shoulder blade,
and think of that first flawless moment over the lawn
of the labyrinth. Think of the difference it made!
There below are the trees, as awkward as camels;
and here are the shocked starlings pumping past
and think of innocent Icarus who is doing quite well.
Larger than a sail, over the fog and the blast
of the plushy ocean, he goes. Admire his wings!
Feel the fire at his neck and see how casually
he glances up and is caught, wondrously tunneling
into that hot eye. Who cares that he fell back to the sea?
See him acclaiming the sun and come plunging down
while his sensible daddy goes straight into town.
There's an almost stereotypical image of artists (musicians, painters, sculptors, actors, writers, and so on) as being, shall we say, unstable.  In other words, he or she is just a "crazy artist", so there's no explanation for his or her actions.

As a writer myself, I think there's probably a kernel of truth to this.

No, I don't believe that artists are crazy.  However, there is an unquestionably high correlation of traumatic events, of challenges faced from an early age, substance abuse, learning disabilities (and even more so, twice exceptional status), victims of bullying, and so on and so forth among those of us drawn to artistic expression.  

As Anne Sexton points out in her poem, the mythological Icarus took a chance and soared to amazing, dizzying, heart-stopping heights.  He saw things that most of us never will.  Short-lived as it was, Icarus had one hell of a ride.

So did Amy Winehouse.

Do you think it was worth it to her?

Sunday Stealing: The Twenty-Fiver Meme

Hit up Sunday Stealing ... it's a great weekly event to look forward to :-)

1.      1. Tell us about something that made you laugh last night.
I was writing a piece for Zelda Lily about this crazy mother that took her thirteen-year-old daughter (plus two of her daughter's friends) with her when she went and left two bags of dog crap and a profanity-laced note on the doorstep of a kid her daughter was having issues with.   

The sheer absurdity of the situation had me alternating between laughing and crying.

2. What were you doing at 8 PM last night?
Trying to figure out why Blogger wasn't letting me blog ... it wouldn't save anything I typed in the body of a post, and I was getting really annoyed.  I finally gave up for the night, but same thing happened this morning.  Grrrr.

So I figured I'd abandon Firefox in lieu of Google Chrome to see if that helped, and ... well, you're reading this, right ;)?

3. What were you doing 30 minutes ago?
Drinking coffee, cursing Firefox, and trying to convince my mom to go to the emergency room.

Okay, here's the story.  I staggered into the kitchen this morning and, before I'd had any coffee, my mom says, "I think I have a corneal abrasion" (I'm pretty sure that's what she said ... she's a nurse practitioner and sometimes forgets that I know nothing about the medical world).

I guess she'd gotten a scratch on her eye while picking blueberries last night.  It must have hurt a lot, because my mother is not a complainer about physical ailments.  Anyway, I finally convinced her to go to the ER and get it looked it.

Shockingly, she listened ... like I said, it must have hurt a lot.

4. What happened to you in 2006? (Feel free to republish an old post from '06.)
2006 was probably the year that the seeds were sown for Pythagorus to become an alcoholic. 

Pythagorus had a really crappy childhood (REALLY crappy, but the details of which are not something I would ever share), and he compensated by excelling in school.  He was the salutatorian of his graduating class and received all sorts of Presidential Scholar Awards when he was in college and so on.

Like many abused and tormented children, Pythagorus never dealt with the things that happened to him.  He buried them deeply and went through life with a facade of success.  He also felt a strong need to help out those he saw as "suffering".

In 2006, he stood up for people that he saw as being mistreated at their job by a power hungry tyrant of a boss.  He wasn't inaccurate in this assessment, but he was sort of foolish.  He was not given a contract for the next year.

In other words, the guy who had succeeded at everything had gotten fired.  That it had nothing to do with his job performance (and it didn't--he truly was one of the best) and everything to do with an SOB with a Napoleon complex flexing his muscles doesn't really matter.

But I think that experience reminded Pythagorus of the adult bullies that destroyed his childhood.  I think it dredged up some memories, and once they started coming, nothing could stop them ...

Except wine.  A lot of wine.  And I guess that's the anatomy of an alcoholic, as I understand it.

5. What was the last thing you said out loud?
"I cannot believe you slept in until 9:30!" (to Belle, who in general thinks 6:30 is sleeping in) 


6. How many beverages did you have today?
Two cups of coffee and SoBe Lifewater (black cherry dragonfruit ... what the heck is dragonfruit, anyway?) 

7. What color is your hairbrush?
I have two, one purple and one gray and black. 

8. What was the last thing you paid for?
Soup for Addie. 

9. Where were you last night?
Home fighting with my computer and reading a book. 

10. What color is your front door?
Blue.  I think it's called "colonial blue" or something ... I don't know, my mother's all Williamsburg obsessed.  You should see the curtains! 

11. Where do you keep your change?
In the cupholders of my car.  There's much overflowage, which I guess means I should roll coins or something, make a deposit into Addie's college account. 

12. What’s the weather like today?
Hot and sticky.  Again.  The weatherman has got to stop lying about when this yucky stretch is going to end. 

13. What’s the best ice-cream flavor?
I actually don't like ice cream all that much, but I occasionally indulge in Ben and Jerry's combination of chocolate chip cookie dough and chocolate fudge brownie.  Mmmmmmmm :-) 

14. What excites you?
Good times. 

15. Do you want to cut your hair?
Yes, actually.  The last time I got it cut, the hairdresser left it way too long in the back and made the layers way too short ... if I wear it down and don't go through the whole blow-dry/straighten/excessive hair supply routine (and this is so not me), it kind of looks like a mullet.  Thanks for reminding me to make an appointment ... with a different hairdresser ;) 

16. Are you over the age of 35?
Nope :-)   

17. Do you talk a lot?
Yes, I often do ... stupid ADHD ;-).   

18. Do you watch Franklin and Bash?
Uh ... who?

19. Do you know anyone named Steven?
I know a lot of people named Steven.  

One of the occupational hazards of being a teacher is knowing someone with pretty much any name.  When I was pregnant with Belle, it was horrible trying to find a name that I didn't automatically associate with a former student.

I've actually had three students with Belle's real name, but she has kind of an unusual nickname derived from her name that is not common.

20. Do you make up your own words?
Oh, yes ... particularly derivatives of the f-word.  It's kind of entertaining to fit it into every part of speech as well as the pluperfect tense and such ;) 

21. Are you a jealous person?
No, I'm really not.  I get really annoyed by inequality (like when people at work get ahead based on how they look in a skirt rather than the quality of their abilities), but it's not really "jealousy", just irritation. 

22. What does the last text message you received say?
"Not alone."  Haha, have fun figuring that one out ;-) 

23. Where’s the next place you’re going to?
Not sure ...I might well not leave the house at all today since I've got to plan the week for summer school, read, write, soak up the AC.  I'll probably go walk on the beach, and I usually end up at the store for some reason or another. 

24. Who’s the rudest person in your life?
Pythagorus, without a question. 

The big drama this week involved him wanting me to drive Belle to the town he lives in (two hours away on a good day, but it's a resort town, so it's more like three in the summer, so we're talking at least six hours round trip) and then acting like I was being a jerk when I asked for gas money.  

I mean, it is not my fault that he got yet another DWI, and his assumption that I have any obligation to transport Belle halfway across the state to visit him is just ... rude.  Rude and insensitive.

This is especially noteworthy because Belle had already expressed not wanting to spend extensive time in the car (not her favorite thing to do).  

25. Are you crushing on anyone that you shouldn't be?
Nah, I'm not crushing on anyone ... just waiting around rather impatiently for Mr. Right to show up ;)

The 30 Day Music Challenge: A Song That Reminds Me Of Someone

Well, I've totally dropped the ball with The 30 Day Music Challenge.  That being said, I'm not quitter ... so here we go with a song that reminds me of somebody.

I'm not going to state who this song reminds me of, but people who know me (and those who read this blog with any regularity) can probably figure it out ... and no, it's not my ex-husband.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Odd Request--Help a Friend Out :-)

As you may have noticed if you've been a longtime follower, I've been posting a lot regularly.  This is part of my new list of writing goals (also on the list is using Twitter frequently to practice short, quick writing--I have a tendency toward wordiness ;-) ... and if you don't follow me on Twitter, you can right here).

Anyway, I have a tendency to blog in much the way I work on my writing--in fits and spurts.  I am making a concerted effort to post a thought-provoking, interesting, discussion-worthy piece every day.

But sometimes I run out of ideas for awhile.

So my request (or we can call it begging, I suppose) is to make suggestions for posts.  If you go back and read through my blog, you'll get an idea of what I'm about.  Basically, nothing is off limits, as long as it induces thought.

You can (PLEASE :-)) leave suggestions in the comments or e-mail them to kloud1026(at)yahoo(dot)com.

30 Day Music Challenge: A Song That Makes Me Sad

Wow, Day 4 already ... "The 30 Day Music Challenge" goes pretty quickly once you start :-) Also, and I know this sounds lame, but it's been a very interesting self-reflection opportunity. Who'da thunk?

But anyway ...

My stepfather, one of the most wonderful human beings ever, died in 2004 from lung cancer. He was the only person who never gave up on me, and I am a teacher (and a halfway decent human being) because of him.

He loved music, and this was one of his favorite songs. I tear up every time I hear it--a sad song that reminds me of how sad I am that I will always have a hole in my life.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Nitpicking Harry Potter--Because You Can Only Nitpick Good Movies ;-)


I finally got to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II yesterday, and I loved it. Yes, I did. I also kept saying, "I haven't cried this much at a movie since Beaches."

I absolutely cannot wait to see it again (especially since Belle and I had to make a quick bathroom run ... fortunately, Addie had already seen it and told us "the best" time to go).

That being said, though, there were a few things that bothered me.

Okay, I know, movies are for entertainment and should be enjoyed as such. However, I am an English teacher (not to mention a ridiculously voracious reader), and the magic of the movie your mind makes while reading is going to be limited by a film adaptation, no matter how good the movie might be.

The Harry Potter books were so exemplary, in my humble opinion, that transferring them to the big screen was a downright draconian task.

And for the most part, I think the movies are fairly true to the books, no mean feat. I mean, J.K. Rowling created an entire world with her stories, a world with complexities and political repercussions and betrayal and intertwining storylines and seemingly innocuous actions having serious ramifications and so on and so forth.

That being said, I had three glaring issues with HP7-2 that I felt either egregiously countered the magic of the book or else left open plot holes that bugged me. A lot.

If you haven't seen the movie yet and want to be surprised, please stop reading right now. If you haven't seen the movie yet and don't care about being surprised, by all means read on. (By my logic, any of the real hard-core "Pottheads" that would care about scene spoilage have probably seen the film by now)

****************SPOILER ALERT**********************************

Still reading? Good :-)

Here you go ...

1. Neville Longbottom somehow knew that he needed to use the sword of Gryffindor to kill the snake.
In the book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry made very clear to Ron and Hermione that, should he die, it was imperative that he kill Voldemort's pet snake, Nagini. In turn, Ron and Hermione sent this message on to Neville. As the last horcrux (well, the last known horcrux), Nagini had to be destroyed no matter what the cost.

The film left out the conveyance of this message to Neville. Addie argued that it was "implied", but Neville roaring out of the clear blue sky and beheading the snake with the only weapon that could have killed it just as it was about to strike at a defenseless Hermione and Ron without any sort of foreknowledge seemed ... well, contrived.

It irked me.

2. The backstory of Dumbledore's little sister, Arianna, is all but ignored.

I can remember leaving the theater with Addie after seeing HP7-I and talking about how great it was that they divided the book into two parts so that important events, specifically including the sad death of Arianna Dumbledore, could be addressed more directly.

Uh ... it wasn't.

Perhaps it's because the filmmakers didn't want to get political with the fact that Albus Dumbledore blew off his family responsibilities because he was having a homosexual affair with the dark wizard Grindelwald (he of "for the greater good" fame).

Maybe exploring the possibility that the great Dumbledore might have killed his damaged sister was considered potentially too much for filmgoers.

It's even possible that the violent rape of Arianna Dumbledore by Muggle boys and her father killing them in retribution was just too much for the necessary PG-13 rating. (And I know these events are touched on in HP7-1, but if I hadn't read the book in advance, I'm not sure I would have gotten the full picture)

For whatever reason, this plot arc is seriously minimized in the movie, and it's significant because of the conflict faced by Dumbledore's younger brother Aberforth, who helps Harry, Ron, and Hermione when they arrive in Hogsmeade (in a far less interesting way than in the book, I might add) and plays a significant part in the battle for Hogwarts.

3. Dumbledore is ultimately portrayed as an uncaring jerk who falsely befriended Harry knowing full well that he was just going to let him die at some point.

This is perhaps what bothered me the most.

While it's technically true that Albus Dumbledore knew that Harry Potter would have to be "killed" by Voldemort in order to defeat him, it is made very clear in the book that Dumbledore had a degree of foreknowledge that Voldemort's actions would once again ricochet against him.

As I recall, Harry confronts Dumbledore at King's Cross following his "death" at Voldemort's hands with his frustration at being used so cheaply by a man he trusted, even revered. Dumbledore basically says it was a hunch, adding with a typical Dumbledore wink, "a strong hunch".

This allows Dumbledore to remain a "good guy" ... a flawed character, certainly, and a man who spent most of his life trying to make up for his role in the death of his sister, but ultimately "good".

The impression I got from the "King's Cross" chapter of the book was that his actions toward and feelings for Harry Potter allowed him redemption for his past failures. It made Dumbledore "real" as well as "good", and that was very important to me as a reader.

The Dumbledore portrayed at the end of the movie? He basically affirmed to Harry that he'd been playing Russian Roulette with a loaded gun. I kind of wanted to punch him.

If I was Harry Potter, I would never have named my son "Albus" after a man that had treated him so shabbily and appeared to have no remorse, floating off into space with so many questions unanswered.

But anyway ...

Those were the three main sticking points for me. Otherwise, I thought the movie was outstanding and would highly recommend it to anyone.

Also, I've started writing a piece on Snape as the true hero of the Harry Potter series ... it's very good, I think, but quite time-consuming. Is this something y'all would be interested in reading?

If you saw HP7-2, what were your thoughts? And am I being too nit-picky here?