Swirling Hot Mess of Emotions

My heart is just so bursting full…of everything.  Love, gratitude, depression, exhaustion, sadness, grief, body image issues, joy.

My mood swings are controlling me.  I feel like my whole life is out of control, and rightly so…because was it ever within my control to begin with?  Like when my son was born, this out of control feeling lit a fire under my usually only moderately crazy OCD tendencies.  I go nuke if something goes missing.  I clean even when I’m supposed to be doing something else.  I try and control the things in my house because I can’t control any. thing. else.

Being alone with my two kids often terrifies me.

The things my body is capable of continue to astound me.

Breastfeeding is a beast.  I’m having PTSD flashbacks around what it was like to breastfeed my son two years ago.  I hate how my entire outlook on life depends on how well our last breastfeeding session went. And they are hit or miss.  At least she’s latching better than my son did and I am very thankful to report that, for whatever reason, I am actually making more milk than I did after my first pregnancy.  Huzzzzzzah.

I hate talking to lactation consultants. They mean well, but man they hit me squarely on my breastfeeding shame trigger. On one hand, it’s my fault that I can’t feed my kid. The simplest thing ever, just feeding her so she doesn’t die. I’m not doing the right position, or I’m not making enough milk, or I’m not pumping enough, not getting enough sleep.  Take your pick.  On the other, it’s her behavior that’s getting in the way because she pushes and claws and bites and thrashes around and screams.  And I resent her for it. Damnit. Either way, horrible mother. And in suggesting I try something different, like massage the breast, use a hot compress, nipple shield, football hold, pump, pump, PUMP – the lactation consultants just seem to highlight the fact that IT’S NOT WORKING and somehow it’s all my fault. You see the spiral.

In order to get through days without falling apart, I’ve had to work hard to disconnect myself from my feelings. It feels so yucky to just numb out like that, but the alternative is to burst into tears while listening to a voice in my head that is wailing, “It’s noon and we just finished breakfast! We can’t do this! How are we supposed to be able to get outside today? Or brush your teeth? Or put on pants?!”

Instead, I have to force myself to listen to the other voice, the emotionally sterile voice saying, “Hey. Now we need to feed the baby. Your toddler can wait to eat, but she’s screaming. Go on now, first things first.”  It’s a constant struggle, but it works.  And some days are easier than others.

When I look back, I realize that 2015 was the year when nothing happened.  I know I blogged about how it was the year a grew into being a mom, and I am so glad that I had that time with my son.  That year, we didn’t change marital status.  We didn’t move.  We didn’t change jobs.  We didn’t get pregnant or have any babies.  Things were stable and boring.  Yay for boring!

My hope is that 2017 is like that, too.  I’d like the time and space to develop a routine with my kids, a relationship with my daughter, and a new relationship with myself as a mom of two.  As for 2016…that was the year when things got progressively harder.  I got pregnant, I got tired, then I got huge and tired.  I slowed down while my toddler sped the fuck up.  I had daily pain for a while and I could barely bend over to pick up things my toddler had dropped…or thrown.  We still managed to have a lot of fun in 2016, though.  We went camping and (barely) survived.  I applied for a job I didn’t end up taking, but it was nice to put on professional clothes again.  We took our son trick-or-treating and he loved it.  We took him to the snow and had mixed results.  We took a trip to California and had fun seeing family.  We took our first family road trip and D danced at his first wedding.  We successfully became DAYTIME POTTY TRAINED, people!  We went to the zoo and hunted for Easter eggs and went on a train and picked strawberries and saw a parade and ate ice cream and played in the water features and went to the planetarium and went to the pumpkin patch and toured a cheese factory.  Whew.

I’m glad I just typed all of that out because, according to that list, 2016 wasn’t all that bad.  We were a family!  We really got to enjoy my son being a fun age.  My hope for 2017 is that things just get better from here on out.

Even though my current days are often dark, I can totally see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Part of it is because I’ve been through this once before.  I know a little better what to expect, and we’ve already adjusted how we’re dealing with raising a newborn since the first time.  Another part is that I’m done making babies.  This is it; this is my family, and it’s beautiful!  I’ve gotten everything I’ve ever wanted, and I feel so amazingly (hashtag) blessed, as cliche as that sounds.  But it’s true.

And with that, this blog post has come full circle.  It’s a swirling hot mess of emotions: welcome to my life.  My beautiful, imperfect, perfect life.

 

 

I read some books last year

This post is a bit overdue, but better late than never.

I keep a list of just about every book I have ever read since the age of 8 (first book on the list is Little House on the Prairie).  I find it fascinating to look back on the years of books that I chose to read, and my choices really reflect where I was at emotionally, personally, professionally in my life.  These books trigger memories and tell a story all their own.

I wrote a post last year around this time summarizing the books I read during 2011 and the story they told, and in this post I am doing the same for the books I read in 2012, in the order I read them.

First of all, I only read 15 16 (apparently I forgot one – which is now #10 on the list) books in 2012 (compared to 21 in 2011), which is the least number since 2005, and that makes me sad.  Looking over the list, I think the reason for the small number was because I was trying to get through books that didn’t fully capture my fascination, and that means the process took much longer.  For 2013, I plan to spend time choosing books that are more pleasurable to me – I’ve already started World War Z, so I think I’m on the right track.

(all pictures are from Wikipedia)

1.  Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson

This book was recommended to me by Brian, and it was fairly interesting, but took me a long time to finish for whatever reason.  If I remember correctly, this book is set in the future, and I describe it as being like The Matrix, even though it was published in 1992.  The main character is named Hiro Protagonist, and he’s a high-speed pizza delivery man and professional hacker.  We’re introduced to this whole virtual world that has its own set of rules and ethics.  Hiro’s good friend is basically turned into a vegetable by this virus/drug called Snow Crash that affects a person’s nervous system in the real world when that person’s avatar is infected in the virtual world.  Hiro is then launched into this adventure with a sassy, scrappy young woman named Y.T. that involves murder, samurai sword fighting, cults, drugs, and the giant mass of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean.

2.  *The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

The asterisk means that I had read this book before, and I was reading this book a second time in preparation for seeing the movie.  I lurve this book.  I love dystopian fiction, and I love a good fight-for-survival story, especially one where the main character is a strong female.  I admired Katniss for her strength, for her competence, and for her courage.  I also admired Effie’s outfits.

3.  Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – Jenny Lawson

I had been waiting to read this book for a while, and I was definitely not disappointed.  Jenny Lawson is The Bloggess, aka one of the reasons I started blogging.  This book is a mostly true autobiography that was laugh-out-loud and pee-your-pants hilarious, blunt, vulnerable, and endearing.  I feel like I know her now, better than I ever did before, so maybe I can take a break from some of my weekend stalking escapades.

4.  Dune – Frank Herbert

I read this book because Brian and I struck a deal.  I really wanted Brian to read Half The Sky because it changed my life, and in exchange I told him I would read a book of his choosing, and he chose Dune.  This book was exciting during the action scenes, but it really dragged for me during the downtimes.  From what I remember, this book took place on two distant planets, where a ruling family moved from their home planet to rule over a foreign planet where water was a very scarce resource and sand dunes covered the land.  The family is plunged into turmoil when the husband and father is murdered, and son and heir Paul is forced to flee with his mother into the dunes.  There, they work to earn the trust and learn the way of life of the sand people who have entirely blue eyes (what would normally be the whites of the eyes are blue as well) due to consumption of Spice, which is the main valuable resource on the planet.  The story basically reminded me of Star Wars – picture Paul as a young Luke on his home planet.  One of my favorite parts was Paul’s struggle to learn the coming-of-age task of riding the humongous and highly dangerous sand worms.  Yee-haw!

5.  Politically Correct Bedtime Stories – James Finn Garner

This short, fast read was absolutely hilarious.  Ever wanted to shake the traditional damsels in distress and tell them to take control of their own lives?  Ever thought they should open up a bank account and run for congress instead of fretting about a lost shoe and caring selflessly for 7 little people?  Read this book.

6.  Night – Elie Wiesel

This book is Elie’s true account of surviving the holocaust, including the harrowing death marches right before the liberation.  I cannot even begin to describe how horrifying, powerful, and moving this memoir was for me.  This is the type of book that I am constantly drawn to (I have a problem picking “fun media,” which you’ll see gets worse as the year goes on), and I think it’s because of my thirst to read about human resilience in the face of pure evil.  This book definitely satisfied that need for me.

7.  The Tenth Circle – Jodi Picoult

After Night, I needed a much easier read, and Jodi Picoult was just the answer.  I’ve read a few of her books in the past, and they are all the same, so I knew exactly what to expect for this one…or so I thought.  This book hit a little closer to home than I thought it might since it dealt with rape and the after-effects of it.  Throw in some infidelity, murder mystery, and running away from home for good measure.

8.  Room – Emma Donoghue

This book marked my profound descent into the world of trauma and choosing traumatic books for pleasure that I manage to do every year.  This book was also unlike any book I have ever read in a way that’s hard to describe – I think because we get to see the world through the eyes of 5 year old Jack who has never been outside a 12×12 room.  The narration reminded me of the blunt starkness of Push, but the remarkable similarities to Jaycee Dugard’s real-life account of her 19 year imprisonment freaked me out.  Let me back up: Jack is narrating this story where we find that he and his mother are being held captive by a sick kidnapper who fathered Jack by rape.  Jack describes the normal-as-possible routines that his mom has created for him that involve mealtimes, reading, TV, bathtime, exercise, games – including one “game” that involves screaming at the top of their lungs towards the one skylight they have in Room.  I won’t ruin any more of the book for y’all, but it was exciting and an interesting look into PTSD from the confused and scared eyes of a very isolated, yet hopeful 5 year old.

9.  Fear – Michael Grant

This book is the 5th in a series of 6 books called the Gone novels.  My friend originally recommended Gone to me by saying that it was a young adult series where everyone over the age of 15 suddenly disappears.  My interest was more than peaked.  Basically, these books turned into Lord of the Flies on steroids pretty quick, with a hint of sci-fi in there because some kids realize they have powers.  Sam, the main character, can create balls of burning light with the palms of his hands.  A struggle for power and order ensues, good kids and bad kids emerge, leaders and followers are identified…and they are all trying to figure out where the hell all the adults went and how they’re supposed to survive without them.

I almost didn’t keep reading this series because it started to feel all crazy like Lost did in the second season.  When Gone introduced talking coyotes I figured I was done.  But, something lured me back to this series…it’s fun, they are fast reads, and I like the characters.  The plot is unpredictable and exciting.  I’ll be waiting for all the answers to be revealed in April when the final book comes out.

10. We Thought You Would Be Prettier – Laurie Notaro

So, in the first published draft of this post, I totally forgot this book.  I read it during my vacation to Puerto Rico because it was easy, fun, and it was paperback.  It was recommended to me by a friend because this author was like The Bloggess – and it was, in that it was absolutely hysterical.  I suppose I forgot it because of all those rum punches…

11.  Black and Blue – Anna Quindlan

Sigh, here I went again.  I dove back into trauma land and I kind of regretted it.  I had this book for a long time and just never read it.  It’s fiction, and it’s about a woman and her son fleeing a very abusive husband and dad who also happens to be a cop.  This woman basically goes into hiding, gets a new name for herself and her son, and tries to start over.  While you’re reading this, you’re fucking scared the whole time.  You’re just like the main character – at every moment you’re waiting for her husband to turn up.  This book had a sucky ending and it made me sad.  I usually like to keep books I read but I am planning to give this one away.

12.  Tomorrow When the War Began – John Marsden

Since I liked the Gone books so much, I decided to try this other young adult series that came highly recommended by Brian.  This one is written by an Australian teacher and is about a group of teen Aussie friends.  They go camping in the Australian bush and come back to find that their country has been invaded by a foreign country and all their families have been taken hostage.  What I love about these books is that the kids do what they can to fight back as guerrilla warriors rather than just waiting it out.  Also, all the cool Aussie slang is really great.  Did you know that “chooks” means “chickens”?!  Amazing, mate!

13.  The Dead of the Night – John Marsden

14.  A Killing Frost – John Marsden

There are 7 books in this series and I began to lose interest after the 3rd book.  The books had bursts of action, but really dragged when they were dealing with angst and squabbles amongst themselves.  The young adult books that I like are written as if they were written for adults, and these books are written in a way that talks down slightly to teens and seems to trivialize their inner struggles.  My waning interest directly influenced my next book pick.

15.  *Eclipse – Stephenie Meyer

I’ve read the Twilight books before, and I have a love/hate relationship with them.  Eclipse was my favorite book in the series, and I find myself going back to these mindless reads when I feel like I need to escape life for a while and live in the land of vampires, talking wolves, and annoying powerless females.

16.  Darkness Be My Friend – John Marsden

I tried one last time to get through this series, and I decided that this would be my last Tomorrow book.  Sorry, Mr. Marsden.  I gave it a good try…onto bigger and better books for 2013.

My fellow psychos – what was your favorite book you read in 2012?

Apocalypse 2012: I’ll bring the marshmallows

I happen to love disaster and post-apocalyptic themed media. I dunno, something about them make me feel alive at the thought of having to defend my life; my body prepares to fight for its life as I watch. Of course, I always know better than those dumbass characters on the screen. (how the hell do they end up surviving, anyway?) At least Zombieland got it right with all his rules at the beginning. To this day I always check the backseat of my car when I get in. That, and cardio.

I watch these programs with my partner, and we discuss how we’d do it differently, how we’d do it right. We have a meeting place in case all hell breaks loose and our cell network is jammed (cuz of course it would be). I already have his permission to wake him up in the middle of the night so he can watch my back when I need to go pee…but only after the Zompocalypse breaks, he reminded me angrily/groggily.

The past few years, Brian has encouraged me to go backpacking with him, and I have slowly started accumulating all the necessary gear: pack, boots, socks, freeze-dried food, super-light sleeping bag. A few days ago while catching up on season 1 of Walking Dead (I joined that party a little late), I got it.

“So, all those backpacking trips…all the gear I now have…you’ve been testing me, TRAINING me…for the coming apocalypse! It all makes sense now!

He just smiled and nodded. Well done, young grasshopper.

My first backpacking trip in 2009. I look fierce!

So, all this leads me to a critical piece of planning that, so far, I have neglected: what are my skillz? What would my post-apocalyptic job description be, realistically, for my survival group to want to keep me around? I need to be able to bring some serious ass-kicking skills to the table. I need to start developing my portfolio!

Skill #1 – I am highly trained in crisis intervention

I know how to keep people calm and rational in a crisis! What a deal you’d get with me!

“Whoa…whoa. Calm down, everyone. I know we’re faced with almost certain death, but let’s remember to breathe…and let’s stay focused, okay? We are bigger than this fear, stronger than this fear, and we have each other. Let’s hold hands and meditate before taking a vote on what to do next.” And that’s me just getting started.

What about the crazies who carry guns and are loud and can’t be reasoned with, you say? Simple, I say. To intervene on this particular crisis, I would quickly assess who be cray-cray and who be rational human beings with a will to survive as a group. Then, we find the largest, strongest normie, give that person a bat, and have the normie take out the crazie(s) and we’ll be on our merry way. If that won’t work, we can go the classic passive-aggressive route and leave in the dead of night when all the crazies are passed out after drinking all the booze we ‘accidentally’ combined with windex. Done and done.

Skill #2 – I can keep people sane for the long haul

You don’t want people in your group growing weary and suicidal after months and months of chronic chaos and trauma! Remember the pilot of Falling Skies where the lady was having the kids draw out their feelings? I can do that, and with a master’s degree to boot! We want the human race to prevail, right? In order for that to happen, we need healthy, happy kids to turn into healthy, happy, baby-producing adults. Art therapy to the rescue!

Skill #3 – I am very good at being quiet

I’ve noticed that people supposedly trying to survive on the teevee/movie screen make a lot of noise and don’t always pay the price for it. (“The price” being living flesh ripped from bodies or your group gets robbed by another more ruthless band of outlaws.) Worse example evar: we’re bored in this zompocalypse. I know, let’s go to an amusement park and turn everything on! Not dangerous enough? Let’s strap ourselves into the rides and let our slowly-moving, hungry enemies surround us from below…

You don’t want that to happen to you, do you? Sure, one last roller coaster ride might be nice, but is it worth getting your intestines ripped out of your abdomen and worn as a candy necklace to save for later? And I know what you’re thinking – you may be quiet yourself, but your group is only as safe and quiet as your loudest white trash idiot. Might I suggest you choose me as a safe, quiet addition to your survival group. As evidenced by this post, I am very comfortable with silence (and common sense, for that matter) and I am rather good at at. Especially when silence sits between me and the undead.

Skill #4 – I know how to pack for the apocalypse

Remember in Space Balls when Lone Starr told Princess Vespa to bring only what she needed to survive? I am actually capable of following those directions, unlike spoiled fake princesses with naturally unruly hair. I am actually prepared for survival on a regular basis and I ain’t even a mom yet. At any given moment my bag contains: paper, a pen, dental floss, gum, mints, a book, kleenex, phone, wallet, keys, water, granola bar and those are just the basics. Hell, I have my backpacking pack already partially packed just in case. And you know I wouldn’t be unpacking my shit all around camp with that false sense of security. No sir. Packed and ready, sleeping-with-my-shoes-on kind of ready. And my hair is naturally gorgeous, thankyouverymuch.

Skill #5 – I can pop a squat like a champ

I was in Girl Scouts for 11 years growing up. Being a Girl Scout taught me many things, for example: to be courteous, to be prepared, and to be of service to others. The most important skill I learned from being a Girl Scout wasn’t about tying knots or how to sell the most cookies – it was how to pee in the woods in record time without soaking my socks. Ladies and gentlemen, my thighs are mighty, my squats are steady, and my stream is swift and precise. You don’t want any female member of your group being a liability every time she needs to take a leak. Choose me for your group and you won’t even notice that I have an unusually small bladder. Choose me and choose safety.

In closing, I may not be a good cook, a great warrior, super strong or super fast, but I sure gots the skills needed to survive the zompocalypse and have fun while doing it.

So. Do you have what it takes to survive? What is your zompocalypse skill set?

I’m bringing joy to the picnic

I get the symbolism, the tradition of making new years resolutions, but what I don’t get is why people keep making them since they don’t work.

I’ve observed that the nature of the most common new years resolutions is often to do something that we “should” be doing already anyway: lose weight, stop smoking, exercise more, eat better.  The “should” is in quotes because my immediate response to “shoulds” and “have tos” is “who says?!”  The “should” is a value statement that came from somewhere- friends, family, the media, society, etc. -and a person has to believe in a “should” in order for it to have any meaning.  Very arbitrary indeed.

My assumption is that people who make new years resolutions must be resolving to do something that they don’t want to do…otherwise, wouldn’t they have just done it already?  If quitting smoking was something that you really, truly wanted to do, then why would you wait to begin doing it until the first of the year?

I am rejecting this guilt-based form of resolutions!  I support joy-based resolutions!  I am resolving to do things that I like to do, things that bring me JOY!  One thing I started doing already (because why wait?!) and that is to blog.  Check.  The other is to take my picture everyday for at least the year of 2012.  So far so good.  Another is to continue to read. 

In my attempt to pass on the joy I experienced through reading this year, below is my year in book reviews for 2011.  They are listed in the order I read them, and an asterisk (*) means I had read the book before.  Enjoy!


1. *Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut

I had read this in high school and remembered liking it.  I think I am a Bokononist at heart. I just love the close-to-home absurdity of it all! 

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
3. The Girl who Played with Fire – Stieg Larsson
4. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Stieg Larsson

I just tore through these books, and I think they really highlight the year for me, especially since I followed these with the three Swedish and first American movie versions.

5. Enlightened Sexism – Susan Douglas

Awesome non-fiction about how sexism as backlash is more covert in the media now more than ever.  I like books that teach me how to be a more critical consumer of media.

6. Gone – Michael Grant

The Michael Grant Gone series (more below) are young adult books, and even though they start to go a crazy, far-out TV show Lost route, they are still fun, easy, and imaginative reads.  I look forward to the few more in the series he has yet to write.  Basic premise is that in one moment everyone in this town over the age of 15 just disappears…

7. Bossypants – Tina Fey

Tina, I love you, I love you, I love you!  This autobiographical hilarity she calls a book is well worth it.

8. *A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle

I read this one as a child and reading it again made me feel like I was 10 again.  Love the power of books.

9. Hunger – Michael Grant
10. Lies – Michael Grant
11. Plague – Michael Grant

These titles really indicate how the plot thickens…

12. *Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – JK Rowling

I think this was at least my third read.  I had to read it before the last movie came out so that I could properly tear the movie apart for inconsistencies.  The end of all things Harry Potter was and still is traumatic for me…

13. *Tales of Beedle the Bard – JK Rowling

To ease the pain of the Harry saga coming to an end, I read this for the second time.  For this reading, I actually read one story out loud each night to the boyman before we went to sleep.  He hadn’t heard them before, and there was something magical about sharing the stories out loud to someone else.

14. The Golden Compass – Philip Pullman

So this book seemed right up my alley.  I was still mourning the loss of Harry, and I figured this whimsical fantasy with a female protagonist would help ease the pain…but it was soooo slow and parts were boring and I struggled to get through it.  I struggled so badly that I gave up hope trying to finish the series.  Maybe someday I’ll try it again.  And maybe I learned the hard way that nothing can ever take the Harry Potter PTSD away.

15. Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer

This non-fiction first account of a disastrous trip to the top of Everest was the most captivating and anxiety-provoking book of the year for me.  I could not put this down, and I even had dreams about being in mortal peril in the freezing snow and not having enough oxygen.  I recommend this adventure of a book!

16. Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen

I remember that at this point in the year, I said that I would choose media devoid of abuse and trauma, so I chose what I thought was a charming, old-timey circus fling.  Sigh.  I still enjoyed it, even though there was some domestic violence and animal abuse thrown in there. 

17. A Stolen Life – Jaycee Dugard

At this point I think my curiosity got the better of me and I threw out my rule about choosing books free of abuse.  This book gets me enraged and hopeful at the same time.  Enraged that someone could do horrible things to someone else for SO LONG before getting caught, and hopeful because Jaycee and her girls are so resilient and kind and determined and not broken in any way.

18. The Help – Kathryn Stockett

Phenomenal book, beautifully written.  This book makes me want to visit the south.

19. The Whistleblower – Kathryn Bolkovac and Cari Lynn

Here is another example where I couldn’t help myself.  This is a true story where Kathryn, a cop, was hired to help prevent and police sex trafficking in Bosnia, only her superiors were sabotaging her work and were consumers of the sex trade themselves.  I love a story where women kick ass and not only take names, but take them to court!

20. Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim – David Sedaris

I had heard good things about Sedaris, and so I borrowed this book from a friend.  Full of autobiographical stories of David’s family and life growing up.  He has this dry humor I find amusing, although I expected the stories to be more laugh out loud funny.

21. Holidays on Ice – David Sedaris

More stories, less autobiographical.  I found that these stories were either hit or miss for me.  One was absolutely hilarious, and the other was so over the top that it missed its mark.

~Here’s to many more happy, fun, exciting reads for 2012!~

Kicking Ass and Taking Names (in more ways than one)

Since the boyman has been hunkered down in his hole working on his thesis, the two of us haven’t been to many (any) movies recently. So now that he’s all good and gradumacated (pause for applause), we’re going hog wild!!

Basically, we struck a deal. I love women kicking ass and taking names, and Brian loves history and war where men are kicking ass and taking names. This means we went to go see Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and War Horse.

SPOILER ALERT! I reference a few details of these movies, but I don’t spoil any endings. Hopefully you’ve either already seen these movies cuz you’re superfly, or you don’t care about them being minorly spoiled because, hey, it’s better than getting your toes gnawed off by a rabid clown.

TRIGGER ALERT as I reference events of sexual violence.

Both of these movies are about wild, spirited creatures who are being controlled by others more privileged than they are. Both of these movies involve intense violence, perseverance, devotion, and justice. It’s very possible that this is where the similarities end, although if I was in a pinch I could probably drag this on for a few more paragraphs.

Have you ever wanted to watch a movie so moving, so beautifully stunning, so captivating, but still have that constant reminder that you’re in a movie theater surrounded by cranky old people??! Then see War Horse!

I don’t understand why older folks feel it’s ok to talk through movies while at the theater. Do they even realize they are doing it? Do they realize it and not give a fuck? It was all I could do not to turn around and ironically ask them if their parents had ever taught them any manners.

Not only did these cranky-pants folks comment throughout the movie, the things they said were in no way contributing to the richness of the entertainment (although, now that I think about it, unless you’re at Rocky Horror, commenting at the screen will in no way improve the experience). The asinine comments can be placed neatly into 3 categories. Some examples:

1. My personal life and hopes and dreams should be heard by everyone

“My arm hurts…it’s been hurting me all day.”
If you keep talking, more than just your arm will hurt, sister.

“This movie has been everything I had hoped for.”
That’s nice, lady. I had hoped for a movie free of bitching and moaning, but I guess we can’t both have what we want now can we?

2. Captain Obvious to the rescue!

“Whoa, there’s the horse!”

“Ooh, he’ll be competition!”

“Oh look, they’re in love!”

Let’s see if I understand. Either you don’t quite get what’s going on and you’re attempting to confirm your current comprehension level by indirectly asking for input from your fellow moviegoers, or you very much do understand and you are selflessly translating the difficult content so that those around you can catch up. Either that or you have no filter and can’t keep your trap shut. Not sure, though.

3. Maybe if I yell loud enough, Spielberg will hear me

“No, don’t kill him!”

“He’s not dead, he just needs medicine!”

Ok, so that last one was from Lord of the Rings, but still, I admire your sentiment and I actually agree with you that the horse still had more life left in him, but hows about we give the cute horse our moral support in controlled, mature silence?

[Edit: contrary to popular belief, these last two statements do not give away the ending of the movie.  It’s the kind of movie where you’re left guessing til the end.]

Bottom line is that if people want to talk during a movie, then STAY THE FUCK HOME and wait for Netflix.

So I guess that was my review for War Horse. I recommend it, especially if you like horses or war. And the story is an Odyssey story, in that it follows the horse through the war and through various owners, places, and predicaments. My only caution is if you have this rare disease where you’ll die from overactive tear ducts, then don’t see it. And also, if you’re like me and you can’t stand to see animals in pain, then there will be one heart-wrenching scene where you’ll have to look away while your body is heaving with sobs. Needless to say, I felt very cleansed and vulnerable in the aftermath. My therapist would be proud.

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Now for Dragon Tattoo.

I read the books, saw the Swedish movies, and now I am licking my chops for the American versions.  I am a huge stickler for staying true to books in the movie versions, and any significant deviation from the original plot warrants a strongly worded letter in my book.

I thought Noomi Rapace’s Swedish performance as Lisbeth in the original movies was pretty well done, and I was skeptical that any second attempt could improve on the character, especially when left in the hands of Americans.  David Fincher  and Rooney Mara did not disappoint!  In fact, I thought that Lisbeth was indeed made much more three-dimensional, we could see a few more layers to her, and there was even some time devoted to giving a peek into her traumatic past, tidbits of the story yet to unfold.  Yes, Lisbeth sometimes chooses violence, but she does so only when she’s provoked and only when she sees no other option.  When we see Lisbeth mugged on the subway, she first hesitates and then runs after the guy and fights only to get her bag back and then runs away.  After her escape, we see her heave a sigh of relief and not one of satisfaction.

In my personal opinion, Lisbeth suffers from severe PTSD (post traumatic stress). The books describe her ability to cut herself off from all emotion and often stare back blankly when she chooses not to answer a question (that choice is yet another way she is able to fight back against her imposed narrative of being victimized and having power taken away from her).  I feel that this vital piece of Lisbeth’s behavior hasn’t been expressed fully enough in either movie version.  The American version did a slightly better job in that Lisbeth avoids eye contact and physical proximity, but the Swedish movies had Lisbeth responding with too many quips, too normal, too wordy, too talkative.  I wish some director out there would have the balls to put that gut-wrenching silence up on screen.  Let her eyes and that defiant silence do the talking.

I very much preferred Daniel Craig as Blomkvist to the actor in the Swedish version for the same reason as Mara – Craig was more human, more 3D.  In this version, Blomkvist was warmer, sweeter and less stoic than in the Swedish version.  He was also a bit more passive and humble.  His reaction when Lisbeth first comes on to him in her no-nonsense fashion was endearing, with his wide-eyed, stammering, chivalrous concern.  And plus, Daniel Craig is an awesome piece of ass to look at.  Thank you, casting director!

Another concern going into this movie was how Americans might portray the rape and sex scenes.  On one hand, I appreciate Europeans being able to portray sex and sexual violence with more transparency, rawness, and in graphic detail.  The books were certainly in graphic detail, and so there’s that part of me that wants the movie versions told as closely to the book as possible.  The American scenes were not as graphic as the Swedish ones, and maybe it was because I have already seen the Swedish scenes that I didn’t feel like anything was lacking from the American scenes.  The fear and pain and anger were all still there.

In closing, an ode to Lisbeth.  I fucking love Lisbeth Salander. She is a tortured soul who doesn’t play the victim.  She uses violence only when she doesn’t see any other options, but when she does use violence it’s with awesome warpaint that would scare the shit out of Hitler, let alone pathetic rapist pigs.  She’s not a maneater or oppositional-defiant in a negative clinical sense.  She’s not empowered by the violence she inflicts, she merely wants to level the playing field that has been tipped against her favor even before she was born.  People like me relish watching her take her power back from her abusers in any creative way she can think of, like tattooing their heinous acts on their chests.  She does the things that I sometimes wish I could do and she says the things I sometimes wish I could say.  She doesn’t abide by gender norms or sexual norms, she does what she wants, when she wants, and basically just asks people to leave her the hell alone.  My inner angsty-feminist teenager squeals with pleasure when Lisbeth comes on the screen.