Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Daddy Day Care Begins

Andrea went back to work today meaning my tour as house-fiance officially began (I'll be getting promoted to house-husband in a little over a month). There are no plans to turn this space into The Wonderful, Fantabulous Tales of Ollie and Nate, but I figure I at least have to write about day one, which actually starts the night before...

I stayed up until after 1 AM painting shelves (admittedly, not the night before, but they were started then) believing that if I waited until the morning, I'd either have time to paint them or install them, but not both, due to my upgrade in responsibility. I rolled into bed, promptly fell asleep and was soon gently awaken by Andrea stirring. I don't know what time it was, but it was early. She fed the boy, fixed herself some food and came back in to feed the boy a little more when she heard him get a little fussy. I laid still in bed hoping she would do just that because lord knows I didn't want to get up and prepare a bottle for him. Andrea finished getting ready for work when he fell back asleep and before she left, she came back in and topped him off with food from the source. Another desire that had played out in my mind achieved!

Finally, Andrea left and the boy dozed for about ten minutes and started doing a little cranky bed dance which entails him flailing his arms and legs around willy-nilly. Realizing my efforts for more sleep were being dashed, I got up and checked the time. 8 AM. Christ. Not only did the boy make it impossibly for me to get more sleep, but the little so-and-so went back to sleep for another hour! He just wanted the bed for himself.

At least if gave me time to make breakfast and do the dishes. I called my mom to wish her a happy birthday and during our talk, Ollie awoke. Took him to the changing table, put my mom on speaker phone, and Ollie promptly peed all over the changing surface the minute I got his diaper off. Annoyed and unable to find another waterproof pad, I sopped up the urine with a towel, cleaned him off, and prepared his diaper. He peed again. Wash, rinse, repeat. This time, I get his diaper nearly on and somehow, he lets loose with more pee. What's he think he is, a dog? Holding it in to dispense at strategic intervals? Lucky mom, she gets to listen to all of this happen.

My greatest fear about having Ollie all day is if he'll take the bottle. I've had varying degrees of success in the past and I do feel it's far more stressful for me when he doesn't want to eat than it is for him. My mom and I end our phone call just as I'm about to feed him, which was for the best since no matter how hungry the boy may have been, he did not want to be fed from the bottle. Truly, save for one brief, shining moment where he drank almost a whole bottle without objection late in the day, Ollie would have rather sucked on anything that the nipple of that bottle. My finger, a blanket, his toys. And not one of those things even tried to give him what he actually wanted. Being stuck in a room with a being that has three needs (eating, sleeping, and diaper changes) and two of those are met and the third is occurring but that being wants it to happen in a different way is highly unpleasant. Basically the only thing to do is stop and try to console the being no matter how much you want to bite it.

Fortunately, Ollie did sleep a good deal of the time and occasionally, I slept too. In the moments I didn't sleep, I watched a movie and tried to put him down to get to work on those shelves, but damned if the boy totally rejected the idea of being detached from me, so I was stuck on the couch most of the day. At least it was quiet and if you count watching a few episodes of a TV show you've been slowly working through (The Larry Sanders Show) as productive, then it was mildly eventful. At least there was a Red Sox game today to leave on in the background, even if it started after 4 PM.

There was some joy in Mudville, too. Shockingly, his happiest moments were on the changing table which is the site of some of Andrea's and mine most heinous crimes against the boy (at least as he perceives being changed). And he had a pretty good time practicing his standing. I'm sure these days will get easier and more fun. Ollie will get used to the bottle and I'll send Andrea pictures to make her jealous of our good times. But right now, my main consolation is that one day, I'll get to tell him what a pain he was on mom's first day back at work.

Monday, June 18, 2012

How to Turn a Mediocre Biography into a Terrible Biography -- Stan: The Life of Stan Laurel

Even the cover sucks.

I'm a huge fan of biographies and autobiographies. One of the best books I've read in the past ten years is The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (seriously, that man was a champ!). Until recently, I don't recall ever being unsatisfied by one*. Obviously, I choose the books based on an interest in the subject, but after reading Stan: The Life of Stan Laurel, it's apparent that an interest in the subject is not all you need.

Stan (the book, as opposed to Stan, the man, who will be referred to as Laurel) is certainly an easy enough read and mildly informative, but the author, Fred Lawrence Guiles writes from the perspective of an uninformed fan. He assures the reader that he has done research, yet there are no foot/endnotes and it isn't apparent he interviewed anyone for the biography (or even culled past interviews if he couldn't get in contact with key characters). Guiles continually asserts that Laurel was nearly as great, if not equal to, Charlie Chaplin** in writing gags, yet gives no insight into how. The reader is told that Laurel was a driving force in his career, yet there is no one there to confirm the claim. Guiles' authority is undermined by his vagueness. Basically, all I got out of Stan was that Laurel had a trouble with women and alcohol. Pretty bland.

If the above represented the worst of the book, that would be fine. I'd put it back on the shelf to be forgotten. An easy, mildly interesting, ultimately fleeting read. Then, the reader begins to get insights into what kind of person Guiles is, culminating with (and this will be a long quote):

Jean Arthur is important to this chronicle of the fortunes of Stan Laurel because she as much as anyone was a transitional figure. She was in some ways as innocent as Stan and Babe. She was daft in ways that were akin to those small madnesses that set Stan apart from Lloyd and even Chaplin. If she had ever appeared as Mrs. Laurel in one of their comedies, she would have seemed almost too much at home. There would have been nothing for Stan to play against, since she was as much not-of-this-world as he. But Jean was attractive, warm and in every way enchanting. Beginning with her role opposite Gary Cooper in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), she was the first -- albeit quite innocently -- to bring down the curtain on slapstick as a favourite movie mode. Shortly after word, Irene Dunne joined her with Theodora Goes Wild (1936), and Carold Lombard, whose My Man Godfrey (1936) had come out at about the same time as Theodora.
Laurel and Hardy would survive this female revolution for another two years, but after 1938 it would be downhill for the rest of their careers. Some writers remarked that the movies had "grown up." Actually, as we survey the devastation and loss, the movies suffered a grievous wound that would never heal and audiences a deprivation of incalculable dimensions (emphasis mine).
There's a lot to unpack here, and I'm not sure I'm up to the task, so I'll start with the obvious: how can one possibly claim that women gaining prominence as comedians ruined Laurel and Hardy and CINEMA AS A WHOLE? Guiles leaps to the most extreme conclusion possible ignoring the fact that Laurel and Hardy had been making films as a team ten years by that point and that Laurel had been making movies since 1917. Perhaps they were just running their course and it's meer coincidence that women were making popular, funny movies at the same time. Additionally, Guiles book was published initially in 1980 and released again (with some additional commentary from the author) in 1991. Is the author suggesting that the 1970's, often held up as the greatest decade of filmmaking alongside the 1930's, would have been EVEN BETTER if funny women hadn't become so damn popular? And these lists are by no means comprehensive or even authoritative (as it's all subjective), but is he suggesting that it would be filled with movies of an incomprehensible greatness if only Laurel and Hardy had remained on top?

I've got news for Fred Lawrence Guiles (whose works include not one but TWO biographies of Marilyn Monroe alongside Jane Fonda, Tyrone Power, Marion Davies and Andy Warhol), movies were just fine. Simply because your preferred funny people stopped*** making the funny as funny as you liked and other people's funny was preferred, that doesn't mean cinema broke. And it certainly doesn't mean you get to write stupid things for other people to read in your mediocre book.

Some joy to cleanse the palate:

*As a side discussion, I find that I'm generally satisfied with all the books I read. At least to the extent that I have no qualms finishing them, thought there are some I struggled through ( On the Road and other that I finished simply to claim I finished them (Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day, which, of its 1000+ pages, I remember dirigibles and the Chicago World's Fair. But I finished it!). I chalk it up to knowing that a book can be  a significant time investment so I try to stick with things somewhat in my taste wheelhouse.

**From my perspective, this could easily be true. I find most of Chaplin's work to be fairly dull, overly saccharine, and immensely on-the-nose. The man wasn't subtle. His most interesting film (to me), Monsieur Verdoux, offers many good ideas and he kills them all with a terribly obvious and awkward speech at the end. Give me Buster Keaton any and every day, followed by Laurel and Hardy, then the Marx Brothers, Harold Lloyd, Abbott and Costello...

***Did you know stoppled is a word? It means plugged or clogged. Do with that what you will.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why Yes, I Am Alive

I've been off the map for going on three weeks now. There's no doubt that you've all been chomping at the bit for more of my patented mind nuggets and I've failed you. This post will do little to quell that hunger aside from assuring you that there is a light on the horizon.

Surprisingly, buying a house and moving into it is a time consuming process. There's the pre-move prep (which I've already touched upon) and an endless list of things you want to do and the things you have to do (hello, home inspection report). The effort to prioritize the fun with the practical is taxing to say the least and that's before trying to decide if we can afford it (I'll give you a hint: no). And we can't forget the projects that crop up all last minute like and jump to the front-burner. It almost feels like in Tetris when you're trying to fill the screen with those blocks but they keep disappearing when you make a completely row*. Our progress keeps disappearing.

Andrea and I still aren't completely moved in even though it's been about a month since we closed. In addition to the odd jobs mentioned above, we've also been unpacking slowly to assess our Stuff. Do we need this much Stuff? Why do we have several of that Stuff? When was the last time we use this Stuff? There's some Stuff I've never even seen before. Toss that into the yard sale/Goodwill/trash pile. Intelligent people would take care of this before they move so they don't pack a bunch of Stuff they don't need. But doing that would take an organizational level that doesn't exist in our lives right now (possibly even before).

Finally, any time I'm at work, Andrea can write her night off. It's her and the baby and the baby hates productivity. It might be his least favorite thing in the world, next to the car seat and getting changed. So one of these days the house will be set up and we'll invite you over and I'll start writing more specifically about the move, the baby, movies, and general rants against humanity. It will all be worth it, I promise.

*That is the point of Tetris, right?