Thursday, November 24, 2005

About Posting ...

It is so nice to read things like Andrea's asking me to post more often -- would she believe that I have about four different posts I am working on? But, I might not post for a little while, because I have four books I'm in the middle of right now. One of them is The Singing Season by Isabel Paterson, which I got from the inter-library loan and can only have for three weeks with NO renewal. I'm desperate to read this book, so almost every moment not dedicated to momming and wifing will be spent in stolen moments wandering through 14th Century Spain and the adventures and trials and romance that befall the two lovers, Isabella and Roderigo. I'm also reading Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L'Engle, which is so amazing and breathtaking -- I'm just entranced (it's so hard to put it aside, even for The Singing Season). I'm almost done with An Honest President: The Life and Presidencies of Grover Cleveland by H. Paul Jeffers, which has only served to make me more depressed than usual about the political weasels we're stuck with nowadays in the USA. I've also started Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey, which is excellent too, but has the lowest priority (since I own it, but have the others from the library). So, I'm so busy reading, it is hard to find time to put the thought and effort into writing that I find necessary. I'm still reading everyone else's blogs (more reading!) and commenting when I can.

In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving!! So much for which to be thankful -- my cup runneth over.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. -- James 1:17

Friday, November 18, 2005

A Dad and the Things He Loves

Father of the Year (1980?)
I tried to blackmail my dad for $2000, but he wouldn't bite, so up this picture goes on my blog. Seriously, it's just too good to keep hidden from the world. Jason calls this photo: Your Dad and All the Things That He Loves. Yep, that's me (6 or 7 years old) in the background. While my dad doesn't smoke cigarettes any more, he is still a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, still enjoys a brewsky, and still loves his little girl. Groove, if you will, on the cabin decor done up in late-Hippie. Bet Dad would love to have that belly back!
The photo's caption was suggested by my dad, but I used it only partly tongue-in-cheek. You see, my dad really deserves to be "Father of the Year" every year. No daughter could ask for a better dad. He was always there for me, my biggest supporter, my number one fan. He filled me with confidence, with curiosity, with courage. I would not be the woman - the wife and mother - that I am today without his loving influence throughout my life. God saw that I needed just such a dad and, in His infinite goodness, provided. My dad is not (yet) a Christian, but he is the kind of father who made it easy for me to accept, when I learned of Jesus' Abba, that such a Heavenly Father was true and good.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Your Girl Friday

Well, I kept re-taking and re-taking this silly test, trying in vain to get the result that my inner Classic Dame is Carole Lombard. The problem with this particular test is that so many of the answers would work for me, depending on my current mood. I re-took it for the last time this morning, being as honest as possible instead of anticipating Carole-esque answers, deciding that whatever I got was my true match. Behold, your humble blogger houses within the comely form and outrageous attitude of:
Rosalind Russell

You scored 21% grit, 52% wit, 28% flair, and 11% class!

You are one wise-cracking lady, always quick with a clever remark and easily able to keep up with the quips and puns that come along with the nutty situations you find yourself in. You're usually able to talk your way out of any jam, and even if you can't, you at least make it more interesting with your biting wit. You can match the smartest guy around line for line, and you've got an open mind that allows you to get what you want, even if you don't recognize it at first. Your leading men include Cary Grant and Clark Gable, men who can keep up with you.

Find out which classic leading lady you most resemble by taking the Classic Dames Test.

Find out what kind of classic leading man you'd make by taking the Classic Leading Man Test.

Don't you love this ridiculous hat?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Some Not-So Random Thoughts

One thing that I really admire and envy about the blogs I read is how you folks are able to scan the plethora of news for juicy and infuriating tidbits and then distill the information in a concise manner with added pithy commentary.

In the spirit of your collective (yet highly individualistic) coolness, I'm going to offer a few quick thoughts for (hopefully) easier digestion than my usual prattling essays:

Andrea Yates gets a new trial. I'm sure that post-partum depression is real, but it is still no excuse to murder your children (or anybody else's children). I also do not believe in psychologically treating murderers -- seems like a smoke screen and another way for society to blur the lines between right and wrong. Nor do I believe (in most cases) in the death penalty. I do think that every murderer should be locked up without any possibility of parole for the rest of his or her life. If Psycho Yates were really a "victim" of post-partum depression, then she should have no need for a stay in the looney bin -- i.e. if her hormones made her do it, then those should (four and a half years after her unspeakable crime) be calmed down by now. Do not give her any meds to cloud her memory -- simply lock her away with a clear mind for the rest of her life to contemplate the young lives she brutally took. Have you ever read a re-telling of the way she ruthlessly drowned them? Her oldest child, Noah, having seen his younger siblings drowned, tried to run from her, and then she collared him and forced him face down in the bathtub -- filled with the other children's feces and vomit. And yet he still struggled to come up for air and said, "I'm sorry Mommy," before she forced his head down again. Can you imagine the terror that encompassed that poor little boy's last moments on earth? Can you imagine calling a cold-blooded killer such as she merely a "caring mother suffering from post-partum depression"? And I am really sick of people out there blaming Mr. Yates as much or even more for his children's murders as Psycho Yates. Since when is a poor guy's going to work everyday to support his wife and children with shelter, food, and clothing such a condemnable act? Only in some sort of warped, alternate, man-hating reality where men can do nothing right -- ever. If women are such amazing, brilliant, strong, rational, independent creatures, then why do so many feminists immediately blame the closest man around when a woman does something unbelievably evil? Funny how women love to be victims when it suits them.

I heard a March of Dimes commercial this morning on the radio. Their new fight is against premature birth -- preventing it, helping premature babies, finding out why premature birth is on the rise. My husband commented that "[the babies] probably just want to get out before they are aborted." Many true words are spoken in jest.

Well, in my state, Washington, the elections last night proved disappointing. The state legislature had rammed through a 9 1/2¢ per gallon gas tax earlier this year (soon after the illegitimately elected governor, Christine "We'll Keep Re-Counting the Ballots Until I Win" Gregoire, began her reign). Normally, in WA, all tax increases need to be put the people for a vote, except when there is an "state of emergency." This is how we got Safeco "The $500 Million Ballpark for a Team That Has Never Made it to The World Series" Field after the voters rejected publicly funding it -- twice. The enlightened legislators decided that the prospect of the Mariner's leaving Seattle was a "state of emergency," and*presto* funding was secured. Queen C promised no tax increases (which, for a Dem, is like promising not to breathe) during her campaign against (decent, wonderful, pro-life businessman) Dino Rossi. Luckily for her, she discovered an "state of emergency" regarding transportation soon after she stole the office. Whoo-hoo! Stick it to the commuters! The 9 1/2¢ was to "fund transportation projects." Ah, the political bliss of nebulous promises. The thing is that Western Washington really does have a "state of emergency" regarding transportation. This area has outgrown its infrastructure in a big way. Driving anywhere is an exercise in temple-pulsating frustration. But no one in the state government was willing to specify how much of the increase was to fund which projects. They threw out a bunch of ideas, but did not analyze them in relation to alleviating congestion and cutting commuting times. There was, and I know this will shock you, absolutely no spending accountability. So, a bunch of taxpayers (many from outside the traffic-clogged counties of King, Pierce and Snohomish, who would be paying for Western Washington's transportation projects while not receiving any benefit from them) put forth an initiative to repeal the gas tax -- Initiative 912. This ruffled the feathers of a few big turkeys in Olympia, and they started a massive anti-912 campaign based in many lies and false promises (a.k.a. lies) about how we need new and expanded roads (we do!) and how if 912 passed we would only have more and worse of the same. So, they scared enough people within the populous counties that the whole state got screwed over by 912's being defeated last night. 912 was never about not funding transportation -- anyone who drives a car (even someone who only drives one day a week such as I) knows that we need to create, repair, and widen roads. 912 was about holding bureaucrats responsible for the money they appropriate and spend. Now, the politicos have their 9 1/2¢ validated, and there is still no accountability for how the money will be spent and on what projects. Knowing the proclivities of the commies up here, I figure that most will be spent on public transportation boondoggles (see: Seattle Monorail Project -- that monster having received a final stake in the heart last night in a rare moment of Seattle sanity -- still $150 million in the hole with the car tab tax for funding outliving the ill-conceived project for a few more years -- haven't these people ever seen The Simpsons? "What's that word?" "Monorail!"). Also, Ron Sims of CAO fame was re-elected as King County Executive. I'm beginning to hate this state, despite its excellent weather. Well, it's good to know that we're out of here soon.

Intelligent Design. Our local ABC affiliate, KOMO, is running a special tonight at 11 PM on intelligent design. I can only imagine their take on the controversy. Even before I was a Christian, I always thought that the theory of random evolution was pretty silly. It just didn't fit with the order of the universe around me, or answer the hows of complex biological structures like eyes, the liver, the human brain. When would evolving into a human not be beneficial to an ape? Why aren't cats smarter after all these years? Of course, maybe it is pretty smart after all to find some sucker species to let you live in their homes where you can sleep all day on a down comforter and be fed and petted. Maybe cats have achieved the highest level of evolution! I still accept parts of evolutionary theory, but I mostly hold to creationism. Intelligent design seems to be a middle theory. What do you all think? I've often thought that The Bible, while true, is in many ways a "Reader's Digest" version of historical truth -- i.e. it's "everything we need to know at this point." I've always liked its description as Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. To echo the ending of John's Gospel account, would the true, complete history of earthly time be revealed by God, the world itself would not hold books enough to record it.

The first year is always the hardest -- at least that is what I am thinking. We are trying to extricate ourselves this year from the Christmas Present Merry-Go-Round on which we've been spinning with family and friends for years. Basically, the exchange of presents within our intimate circle has become a ridiculous cycle of "Look! I Got You a Gift!" banality and undue stress. This year, we have really felt that the Lord has placed in our hearts the knowledge that it is time to say, "enough is enough." So, we're bowing out with as much grace as possible. We'll only be giving gifts to the munchkins we know (the only ones who really get pure, unmitigated pleasure from Christmas presents anyhow) and charities this year. It's been very awkward to try to broach this subject, but everyone's seemed rather relieved thus far. I bet most of them have been feeling the same way for years too. These people know that we love them 365 days a year -- and, hopefully, we are showing that love more than one day a year anyway. We really just want to concentrate on the non- and not-so-commercial aspects of Christmas -- the celebration of Advent, the beautiful decorations, the music, the tree, the church services, the Christmas pageant, the Christmas cards, the joy of family traditions, the sharing of His love and the material blessings He has given with the less fortunate (which seems to me the way that Jesus would most want us to celebrate His arrival) -- rather than the dilemma of finding gifts for people who already have so much.

Anyway, those are some things that have been on my heart and mind this morning. Talk to y'all later -- or, as they say in The Prisoner, "Be seeing you."

Thursday, November 03, 2005


In a makeshift laboratory in the depths of a bunker, a scientist carefully mixes powders and liquids in a large beaker. An immaculately dressed woman nearing middle-age sits tensely by his side. She anxiously inquires, "How long will the effect be?" The scientist answers, "About four hours."

The woman and the scientist take the mixture into another room in the bunker where six children (ranging in age from about four to thirteen) are sitting and reading a bedtime story together. They look up to greet their mother and the man whom she introduces as a doctor coming to bring them some medicine to guard against the dampness of the underground shelter. "But Mutti, it is not damp in here," the youngest little girl interjects. "Quiet now," the mother replies, "Who will take a sip of the medicine first?" The youngest volunteers. The glass is passed from child to child, each one dutifully taking his or her share, until it reaches the eldest girl, Helga. Helga has been watching with growing horror, and refuses to take the medicine. What does she fear? Her mother insists and holds her daughter's head still while the man forces the concoction down her throat. Helga breaks free and collapses sobbing onto her bed. The mother and the scientist leave the room.

What Helga can only guess at the viewer already knows. We have already watched the mother, Magda Goebbels, agonizing over the thought killing her children. She resolves to end their lives, because she does not want them to grow up in a world without National Socialism, without the German Reich, and, mostly, without der Führer. She and her husband, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, have decided to stay with Adolph Hitler during his last few days as Berlin falls to the Russians and Hitler himself falls to the madness and delusions of his own megalomania. They will die with the man to whom they have pledged their devotion and service, and they will take their children with them. Various Nazi officials, including Hitler, try to convince her to spare the children, but she sees no future worth living as the Third Reich falls. At this point, the viewer hopes, knowing that the effect of the "medicine" will only last four hours, that Magda Goebbels has had a change of heart and will only drug her children into a deep sleep while the last vestiges of Hitler's reign crumble.

Jason and I finished watching the excellent German-language movie Downfall last night. It was an experience that will not soon leave me. I went to bed thinking about what I'd seen, and I woke up this morning with scenes from the movie still seared into my consciousness. Never before had I seen a portrayal of that personification of evil, Adolph Hitler, that made him anything more profound than a cartoonish example of madness. Never before had I seen on film a representation of the psychological hold Hitler had on so many of the German people, especially his closest advisors and companions. Nazis are so often presented in American (and other countries') films as nameless, faceless arms of automation -- performing their senseless horror with mechanical precision and without passion. How many "Heil Hitlers" and boot-clickings can they fit on screen before getting back to the real characters in the World WAR II drama at hand? This movie brought to vivid, heart-wrenching life some of the key players in the last hours of Adolph Hitler, and, while it was not attempting the impossible feat of making Hitler and his close associates sympathetic, it succeeded brilliantly in making them human -- fatally flawed, intensely disturbed, incurably insane humans.

The movie is told through the eyes of Hitler's personal secretary, Traudl Junge, a young Bavarian woman who goes to work for Hitler in 1942. The action quickly fast forwards to April 1945 and the unstoppable Russian forces closing in on Berlin. Even as Hitler tries every strategy to rally the German forces to overcome the Russian advance, he prepares his suicide. Key characters in his regime pass in and out of the bunker throughout the movie. One of the areas in which the movie excels is the constant tension created by observing the reactions of those closest to Hitler, as the world for which they have fought disintegrates about them. Who will stay to the end? Who will abandon Berlin? Who will be loyal? Who will betray? Who will fight for the Reich in the bombed-out streets? Who will accept the inevitability of surrender to the Russians? The script is so well crafted, that Nazi officials from sixty years ago become known to the viewer in distinguishable vignettes. Although it is a foreign language film (and I speak some German, but not enough to watch without subtitles) and the actors are all unknown to U.S. audiences (and wearing, essentially, the same uniform), I had no trouble following the actions and motives of the different characters as they chose their fates.

The actor who played Hitler, Bruno Ganz, was amazing. He brought to the role such an ability to round out the personality of a man that everybody knows of, but whose own mistress (later wife) Eva Braun, admitted that nobody knows. You could believe him -- that's my highest praise. You could believe that he loved his dog, was kind to his secretary, was complimentary to his subordinates, was absolutely without mercy toward his perceived enemies, was unconcerned about the suffering of German civilians, and was able to sentence over six million Jews to death. His odd mixture of courtly civility, unbalanced irrationalism, and blood-thirsty self-righteousness simply blended into an incredible psychological specimen -- the mind of a genius and a lunatic.

The actress who played Eva Braun, Juliane Köhler, created a needed foil to Ganz's Hitler. You would have to be more than a little off-kilter to fall in love with such a madman, and her portrayal of the most infamous mistress in history was pitch perfect. Her laughter echoed off the bunker walls while she cranked up the Victrola and led a madcap dancing party as bombs shook the foundation of the earth. She smoked, dranked, and ate meat (all things that Hitler abhorred); she had giggling girl-chats with the lady secretaries and expressed a light-hearted point of view so far removed from the darkness of the souls surrounding Hitler; and she loved der Führer with unquestioning devotion. When she begs her (newly-married) husband to spare the life of her brother-in-law who abandoned his post and was to be shot as a traitor, and Hitler caresses her face while explaining that there is no mercy for those who betray him, and she sits back and looks at him with a mixture of resignation and complete reverance and says, "You are the Führer" -- that is a great cinematic moment.

Alexandra Maria Lara plays the secretary, Traudl Junge, who witnessed this culmination (much of the movie was based upon her autobiography). She also did an excellent job. Frau Junge was only twenty-two and non-political when she went to Berlin to work for the most powerful man in Germany -- a man she always described as "the best boss I ever had." In the last days, as the Reich was unravelling and the bunker walls were becoming more and more like a prison than a refuge, we see her growing horror at witnessing Hitler's hate-filled invectives and merciless attitude toward the sufferring German civilians. Ms. Lara plays the role with the right balance of naïve surprise and detached world-weariness. For a short while in the film, she and another secretary gladly accept cyanide tablets from Hitler so that they too can die with the Reich.

Some of the greatest revelations of this film are the scenes portraying the German civilians outside the bunker in war-ravaged Berlin. It is hard to find an American movie about World War II that shows the incredible sufferring of the ordinary men and women who lived in the bombed out cities of Germany, and the Berlin street scenes in Downfall are particularly poignant -- maybe in part because it is such a novelty to reflect on this aspect of the War. One thing that the movie shows very well is that many ordinary civilians had as much to fear from the Nazis as from the invading Russian forces. In one brief but powerful scene, civilians are scurrying across the streets in a bombing lull. All of a sudden -- BOOM! -- a bomb hits the ground and the people instinctively dive flat on their bellies. The smoke clears and the people get up again and continue on their ways, except some mothers who huddle over their bloodied children. That low moan of complete despair escapes one mother's lips as she cradles her dead son and cries, "Hans . . . Hans . . ." In another scene, war-weary civilians are hanged from street lamps by remnant Nazi troops for daring to seek mercy from the Russians.

Hitler's suicide is shown as the methodical act of self-will -- not so much out of desperation, certainly not of depression, but an act of pride. He will not allow himself to go into hiding. He will not allow himself to be captured. He will not even allow the Russians to get a hold of his corpse, so he orders it burned upon his death. Eva Braun, not more than thirty-six hours Frau Hitler, applies one last coat of red lipstick and resolutely joins in death the man she made her god in life. Behind a solid bunker door, they each break a thin, glass capsule filled with cyanide between their teeth, and Hitler puts a bullet through his temple simultaneously. Their bodies are taken out to a ditch outside the bunker, doused with gasoline, and set aflame. As Hitler exits in this manner, the German people are still starving and common soldiers are still dying. The juxtaposition of his suicide to a desperate people suddenly abandoned is a skillful way for the filmmakers to comment subtly that this was no noble act, but one of extreme cowardice.

Frau Junge decides to make her escape. The viewer gets the impression that she has seen enough self-destruction and murder to turn her away from the idealistic decision to die with the Führer. She decides that she would rather take her chances on the streets of Berlin, filled with the advancing Russian forces, than spend one more minute in the poisonous atmosphere of the bunker. It was interesting to learn (from the documentary included on the DVD we rented) that Frau Junge's husband has been one of Hitler's personal servants, but he had volunteered to go fight on the front lines because, as he told his young wife, "The longer I stay here, the less I can call my mind my own. I echo everything the Führer says. I go to sleep thinking about the Führer; I wake up thinking about the Führer. Better to go to the front lines and possibly lose my life than stay here and lose my soul." He soon lost his life in battle. Knowing this, though, I wondered if his young widow remembered his words as the regime crumbled, and decided she would rather not lose her life or her soul. Her escape from Berlin is one of the uplifting moments in this profoundly disturbing and dark film.

And what of the young Goebbelses? What of those six precious children who were left in the bunker? What of those Kinder -- the truly innocent pawns in this game of death?

Back in the bunker, Magda Goebbels enters her childrens' room. They are sleeping a deep, drugged sleep. Resolutely she goes to the first child. Her face is set like a mask -- absolutely no emotion. She pries open her daughter's mouth and places a cyanide capsule between her teeth. Then Frau Goebbels pushes the child's jaw up to crush the capsule and release the poison -- a small spasm and then the small girl's head lolls to the side, lifeless. This act is repeated another five times, until all of the children are dead -- robbed of their young lives by a mother blinded by her fanatical devotion to a cult of death and destruction. Magda Goebbels pulls the blankets up over each of their heads. She leaves the room and closes the door. She sinks to the floor -- not in a faint, but in mental and physical exhaustion. Her husband stands a few yards away and stares at her in mute sympathy. In a minute, she arises and says nothing but sits at a table and calms herself with a game of solitaire.

Soon, Frau and Herr Goebbels go outside the bunker to the courtyard. He shoots her and then himself. They too are burned in the ditch -- the minister of Nazi propaganda becoming the final ironic statement of absolute devotion -- offering not only himself, but his wife and children as sacrifices upon the altar of a demonic political philosophy.

This movie is very difficult to watch, especially the scenes with the children. It is hard to believe that these events happened only sixty years ago. More than anything, I was left feeling so grateful that I worship the Lord of Life and not the government of men. It is so scary to see what happens when people put their faith in governments and not in the Creator -- whether that government is Naziism, Stalinism, or any other system made by sinful man. I would recommend this film with the only reservations being the violence on screen and the emotional drain. It is an important movie and a worthy addition to the cinematic examinations of the horror of World War II.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Quick Update for Those Who Visit

The family (Jason, Sadie and I) are back from a recent grandparent-visiting trip to the Midwest (South Dakota and St. Louis). We three are completely exhausted and are looking forward to hanging our travelers' caps on the hook by the door for six months at least. After a twelve-hour journey home from St. Louis last Wednesday, I'm still in bone-tired mode. If you are ever tempted to think that airline-employee, non-rev, stand-by travel is glamorous and thrilling -- whoo boy! -- I could learn ya a different tale! You out there with toddlers know what I'm talking about. Traveling with Miss Two-And-A-Half is hard enough without being bumped off of three different flights for lack of space. I am grateful to be able to give Sadie that all-important grandparent exposure, BUT moving out to the Midwest ourselves (and closing the grandparent-proximity gap) is looking mighty attractive after a trip like this one.

Anyway, I am desperately trying to get caught up with all the sidebar blogs I read. Goodness, I do love what you people out there write! I'm as addicted to your writings, dear Cyber-Community, as I am to sweet, sweet java nectar. And that says quite a bit if you know how much coffee I wash down my gullet every day. So, a big "thank you" to all I read -- you bring me laughter, tears, teeth-gnashings, and always, always something to contemplate. And thank you for stopping by this blog o' mine.

I've got so much to write about -- especially the scores of books I've read and not yet reviewed.

Thought the old blog could use a winter-themed facelift. What do you think?

I love you guys! Happy blogging to all and KEEP ON WRITING!