Mysteries of Children’s Entertainment

I spend a lot of time watching preschool television and reading children’s book to my son. If you just suspend disbelief a lot of it is palatable, and even cute. (Big shout out to Jack’s Big Music Show and Maggie and the Ferocious Beast.)

But some of it is just too much for my psyche. I can’t even talk about why adults think children like clowns. Clowns are just…never mind, I can’t talk about it. I need to sleep tonight.

So, without further ado, I present:


1. Where the hell are Max & Ruby’s parents?

2. Why is Caillou bald? For that matter, what kind of name is Caillou?

3. Why does Mickey wear shorts and Donald a shirt? Why do some cartoons wear clothes at all, while others wear none?

4. How did this creepy guy get a televisions show?

5. Why does Franklin (and the rest of his family) have names, but all his friends are named Bear, Skunk, Goose, and so on?

6. Why are all puppets not created by Jim Henson so creepy?

7. Why is there only one female Smurf? Do Smurfs reproduce like bees, with all the males serving one great queen?

8. Why is paranoid 1950s propaganda scare-fest Harold’s Trip to the Sky still in print? And why does my son like it so much?

9. Why hasn’t someone knocked Wow Wow Wubbzy out with a mallet, tied him up in a bag and tossed it into the nearest river?

10. If Dora has two perfectly good parents, why do they let her go wandering through the jungle alone all the time?

I know I’m just touching the tip of the iceberg.

What bugs you in children’s entertainment?

– Liz

You Should See My…

I think most writers have a tendency to self-efface. Maybe I’m a masochist, but I find it easier to receive constructive criticism than praise. Even to the extent that I don’t believe people who only offer praise. (“Oh, she’ll read anything,” “They’re just saying that so I’ll read they’re stuff.”)

In my family, the tendency is practically a personality trait. Talent seems to flow like a river through my gene pool, and although none of us believe we ourselves are talented, we are more than willing to tell you about other people in the family.

So, today, that’s what I’m going to do. (This sort of counts as More About Me Monday, right?) Okay, then.

I have at least three aunts or uncles, and one cousin who have supported themselves as freelance artists. The rest of them (and there are eight, including my mom) can only draw well enough to get scholarships to art programs, reproduce famous art flawlessly, or give you a Bart Simpson tattoo if the need arises. As any of them, and they’ll say, “Yeah, but you should see my _________.” Fill in the blank with your choice: brother, sister, nephew….

My mom is a seamstress extraordinaire. I could go on about the Halloween costumes and beautiful dresses she made me as a child, but the real proof is in the fact that she has made wedding dresses for about a dozen of the young women I know, mine included. You don’t hand over your wedding dress to just anyone with a sewing machine.

My grandfather, my aunt, and another cousin are all poets so talented you’d wonder why they haven’t been named editors of poetry journals–oh, except they’d never submit their work for that sort of thing, because they’ll all tell you they aren’t as good as __________. (Sidenote: one of them–I won’t say who for his/her sanity’s sake–has originated the Twitter trend #almostpoetry, in which s/he tweaks famous poetry for hilarious results. My attempts are not so hot, but if you want a good snort now and again, follow @borogroves)

All of which brings me to my point today: My cousin has started a blog and etsy store for her amazing paper crafts. Knowing full well that I could not and would not ever create a scrapbook for my son when he was born, she made me a blank scrap book that only required me to drop in the 4×6 photos. It was the hit of my baby shower, and I think these pictures will show you why:

** try not to be distracted by the cuteness of my son. I know, it’s hard, but you’re looking at the pages people!

She, however, is convinced that anyone’s interest in her work could only be a sign of the coming apocalypse because she is so clearly not deserving of anyone’s admiration. The way she sees it, her talent is about a -1 on the scale of 0-10, 0 being “can walk and chew gum at the same time” and 10 being “sings, dances, paints, writes poetry and does competent small engine repair.”

This is my public objection to her self-depricating nonsense. Wanna help me? Heart her store, if you’re an etsy shopkeeper, follow her blog if you’re a frenzied parent, or follow her on Twitter if you’re neither of those things.

And, in return, I promise not to pimp out my family to you anymore.

Do you, as a writer, or whatever you might be, suffer from “Yeah, But You Should See My _______” Disease, too?

– Liz

LOST Predictions – You Heard it Here First

I have a long and proud history of being obsessed with television shows. When I like a show, I see every episode, often twice. From Northern Exposure to Friends, The X-Files to Big Bang Theory, if you catch my interest, I will be a loyal fan of the highest order.

So it has been with LOST since the very first episode. The opening scenes were enough to get me wide-eyed and fluttery-hearted. I turned to my husband at the first commercial break and said, “I love this show.” I wasn’t lying.

Now, it’s almost over. Two episodes left. When I’m not busy planning my mourning attire for the big day, I think about how it will end. This is pretty much the main hobby of anyone who watches the show.

So, today, before these precious last two episodes air, I am putting down my predictions in public so that if I am right, no one will think I just made it up after. And if I’m wrong, well, by God, I’m going down in flames. Publicly. The American way. Or something.

The final scene of the show will feature the classic, slow LOST theme (dun-da-dun da-da-da-dun da-dun…) and we’ll watch as, alive and well, all the Lostaways disembark from Oceanic Flight 815 at LAX. As scheduled, and on-time. But not to any flash sideways this time, although to an alternate future where all of the events of the past have been assimilated into the passengers. Therefore all our happy couples get their happily ever after. (That last part might be wishful thinking on my part.)

The only difference? Jacob’s replacement won’t be there.

And I think Jacob’s replacement is Jack. BUT, I think Kate will be trapped on the island forever, too.

Here, I have two possible outcomes. Both of them make me want to cry a little, but they came from my own head so I have no one to blame but myself.

In the first, I think Jack will be the new guardian, but Sawyer will be the new Man in Black. And somehow, poor, caught-in-the-middle Kate will get stuck there. An eternal love triangle. I freaking HATE love triangles. That one would really kill me.

In the second, I still have Jack as guardian, but he has to choose between letting Kate die and letting her become the new Man in Black. Being Jack, he will of course choose to save her, pitting them against each other on the island for all eternity.

My brain is pretty twisted, eh?

So, there you have it. My big predictions. I hope I’m wrong in a way, because those endings, while appropriate would be pretty darn frustrating. On the other hand…I do so love to be right about things.

*sobs* I need a new obsession! LOST, what will I do without you?

(In a more rational post, perhaps we can talk about the long arc storytelling the writers of LOST used and how incredibly innovative that was.)

(On second thought, I’ll probably be too busy crying quietly at the mere mention of the show for a few years. Hmm…)

If you’re not a fan, my apologies. If you are–well, by all means, tell me what you think!

– Liz

In Which I Confess To My Own Grossness

In the last few days I’ve had reason to acknowledge a couple of my weirder quirks. Unfortunately, they’ve all been ones that are kind of gross.

Since it’s More About Me Monday, and I know how a good dose of Schadenfreude* can get the week started off right, I’m going to let you all in on a few of my secret disgusting habits.

1. I prefer to drink room temperature water. So much so, that when I pour a glass from the in-door dispenser on the refrigerator, I let it sit out for a while so it warms up a bit.

2. I bite my nails. Yes, I am capable of stopping. Yes, I’m aware that it looks gross. Yes, I know that it makes me look like an eight-year-old. I don’t care. I don’t know why I do other than the fact that they’re there.

3. I love Taco Bell mild sauce so much that if I have packets left over after appropriately saucing my food, I will tear the ends off and suck the sauce out directly.

4. When I have a specific craving for a kind of food, I will often settle for eating just that food. Even if that means I’m licking mustard off a spoon.

5. I don’t sweat much. Or really at all. This is a documented medical fact. Therefore, I wear my jeans so many times they are nearly sentient when they go to the washing machine. They could probably walk there if I gave them a map.

Bless me Blogger, for I have sinned…nah, forget that, I don’t intend to enter rehab for any of these proclivities.

So now you just have to live with knowing these things about me.

Anyone brave enough to share one of their own? Hmm…? Anyone? Anyone…? Bueller?

– Liz

* I know, this isn’t precisely a case of Schadenfreude, but it’s close. See, you’re enjoying the fact that you’re better than me because you like ice, don’t consider condiments a snack, have a French manicure and clean pants. That sound you hear is me sticking my tongue out at you.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…No, it’s SuperLiz!

I probably spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking about super powers.

I want to have them.

I have a big fat crush on Batman, although Superman is pretty darn swell, too. If a new superhero movie is coming out, I want to see it. From Hancock to Iron Man, X-Men to Watchmen, I love them all.

And after giving it some serious thought, I’ve decided what superpower I would like to have most of all. Are you ready for it?

TELEPORTATION!!! *swoons, faints*

*comes to*

Sure, flying and super strength would be great. Laser eyes, controlling the weather, making fire, ice, or even paperclips would be a great party trick. But teleportation is where it’s at.

Now let me be specific–I want the kind of teleportation that we saw in the movie Jumper. I want to go anywhere in the world, arrive in my clothes without a hair out of place, and be able to take other people and things with me. And I don’t want it to hurt like Harry Potter describes Apparation. Just dress appropriately, choose the destination and voila!

I would never have to drive to work again. I could sleep until 5 minutes before I had to be at the conference table for report. I could go on vacation and never get a hotel room–I’d just come home every night. My own bed, all my clothes, and my favorite shampoo and conditioner just waiting for me with no packing hassles.

Got a few extra hours? How about dinner in Paris? How about lunch with a friend in Texas, Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, or even Dublin, Ireland? (Note: Love you, Slingers. *kiss, kiss*) Moving truck? Forget that, I’ll just sit on the couch and zap it to my new house. I’d never go through airport security again, I’d never be late for anything, I’d never forget an ingredient at the grocery store…

I’m getting all swoony again. I have to stop talking about this or I’ll just be depressed.

So, what would you choose as YOUR superpower?

– Liz

My Magnetic Youth

Over the weekend, my husband and I were sorting through some old things in preparation for a yard sale (Get this, we just get to take our stuff to the sale our friends are hosting–is this not the best way to yard sale or what?!)

One of the things we found was an old zip storage case full of cassette tapes. More to the point–mix tapes.

Now I am not usually one to long for the past. I love modern conveniences (to the point that I fantasize about how fabulous it would be to move to college in the age of laptops and iPods). And I still make a mean playlist. Don’t believe me? Check here, here and here.

But seeing these mix tapes gave me a pang of regret. Regret for today’s teenagers, who don’t know the experience of sitting on the floor, surrounded by a pile of CDs, tapes, or even the radio (hey, desperate times call for desperate measures), and plotting out the perfect collection of songs to express the moment. Whether that moment was for yourself, a friend, a crush, or the love of your high school life, there was a soundtrack. And in my world, the song selections were just the beginning.

Next came the title. I poured over quote books, scoured the inner corners of my mind, chewed the end of my pen as I tried to out-clever myself.

These titles are:
Beatles for Beginners
“Rock and Roll is the Hamburger that Ate the World.”
Elizabeth’s Extra Tasty Crispy Yummy Tape
Adrenaline, Anyone?
It Makes My Estrogen Want to Tango*
*(note the terrorist-like use of cut out words/letters from magazines)
Beatles for the Advanced Listener
La Cantatrice Chauve
Joe’s Rockin’ Mix Tape o’ Kick Ass Songs

And once that sweet, sweet mix was laid out and named, I took on Cover Art. My medium of choice? Stickers. Inside and out, cassette and its case.

So dedicated was I to the art of the Mix Tape, that I occasionally even made liner notes. Yes, there are more stickers.

Here was a laundry list of my thoughts about some of the selections for Beatles for the Advanced Listener. This particular mix was made for the man who would become my husband.

And I’ll never show you what was inside the liner notes. A girl needs some secrets 😉

I was never, and am still not a journaler. I didn’t even have one in high school. These tapes–the deliberation, the dedication, the art, and science of distilling a state of mind into two reels of magnetically coated plastic–these are my journals. Or as the Barenaked Ladies might say, “This is me in Grade 9, baby, this is me in Grade 9.”

– Liz

More About Me Monday

I feel that I have been a lax blogger of late–and I’ve got the passive-agressive self-snipes to prove it–so I’ve decided to start planning my blog days a little better.

So, from now until further notice, Monday will be known as More About Me Monday. I’m hoping that writing about whatever is in my head on the first day of the week will jump start the blogging machine in my head for the week.

Today I’m giving you some random thoughts and facts.

I’m fairly certain that I ate at least three dozen cookies in the last five days. All I know is that I bought a box of 42 from Sam’s Club on Wednesday, and there are now two left. Unless my husband has been at them a lot more than I thought–it’s all me. Gross, but I’m strangely okay with it.

Today, sometime between 11:31 and 1:31 CDT, I’m getting a new bed delivered to my house. It’s making me feel very adult. I haven’t had a new bed in almost ten years, and my last one was part of my graduation from college gift. I slept on a futon in college, so it was a huge step toward adulthood at that time. But today, my very own bed that I picked out all by myself (okay, the husband was there) and some big burly delivery guys are going to bring it to my very own house and even cart away my old one. I’m going to sleep like a baby tonight. Scratch that–I’m going to sleep like the dead. Anyone who’s had a baby will tell you they don’t sleep that soundly.

Walgreen’s made me feel old last week. Sitting at a stoplight by a store I don’t frequent, I had enough time to read their scrolling LED sign. One of the items the store felt compelled to share with the public was: We process 35mm film. Which, I can only assume, means it was in question. My first camera used 110 film, and now there is a question about whether or not a national chain will process 35mm? I am not that old, am I?

I am.

Today’s final thought: I’m having a series of weird tests done on Thursday (I should be a case on House M.D., but that’s a story for another day), and in preparation for those tests, I have to stop taking all of my prescribed medications. I also have to stop taking any antihistamines, pain relievers and caffeine. I assume that means I shouldn’t be hittin’ the booze, either, though they didn’t specifically say. So–of course–today, I wake up with a head ache. This is going to be a long four days. As Joanie Mitchell once said, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?”

How was your weekend? What do you think of More About Me Monday?

– Liz

The Way Back Machine

I’m currently revising an older project in the hopes of revitalizing it for agent interest. It’s made the rounds once before, without much success–a fate I attribute largely to my poor query letter. This time, the letter is going to kick ass and I’m going to be more careful about which agents I go after. It can be done.

The major task of this revision is changing the timeline. Originally, it was written as a series of flashbacks laid out between present-time scenes. I thought it was a nice structural device. However, I got a very thorough critique from a very nice agent (who no longer has the time to offer such extensive readers, sadly) who told me that flashbacks are inherently weak story telling. He said there is no tension in them, because we already know the characters have lived to tell the tale.

Sidenote: The 3 year-old is in charge of the iPod right now, and he’s chosen Kings of Leon. My kid is the coolest.

It’s an interesting point. We see flashbacks in movies fairly often. In fact there was a movie a few years back that told its story in much the same way that my project did. It was called Definitely, Maybe. Starring the adorable Ryan Reynolds, it told the story of a man’s romantic past as his daughter tried to guess which of the names-have-been-changed-to-protect-the-innocent women was her mother. Not the greatest piece of cinema ever made, but certainly passable. (did I mention Ryan Reynolds?)

There is also an entire sitcom based on this structure. How I Met Your Mother, which oddly, also features a father relaying the story of his dating youth to his (very bored) children. I happen to love this show, but not because of the structure. It’s funny, and that’s enough for me. Neil Patrick Harris is a bonus, ’cause, you know, sometimes he sings. And I love that.

All of that being said, the mystery agent is correct: we already know these characters have lived to tell these tales. Does that destroy the mystery, or does it just ease the tension?

As I slog through the middle of these revisions, I find myself wondering if I’m doing it all for naught. Part of the reason romance (or romantic comedy in my case) is popular is that readers know what they’re going to get. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. We love it. We want it to happen that way. Do flashbacks mean we’re not interested in the details? The details are the very reason we’re here.

So, I am at a crossroads and I am confused. To flashback, or not to flashback? I just don’t know. At this point, I intend to slog my way through to the end in chronological order, because I’ve started it, and I’m just stubborn enough to see it through. But will I be happy about it? That remains to be seen.

What are your feelings on flashbacks? Clever structure, or weak storytelling? Your input will mean the world to me.

– Liz

I Will Never

…be Martha Stewart.

…be able to throw a baseball without looking like a sissy.

…post new blogs on a daily basis, or even three times a week.

…stop watching too much television.

…workout for fun.

…pass on a good chocolate chip cookie.

…understand football.

…enjoy potty training my son.

…think ground beef in a frying pan doesn’t stink.

…want to go to work.

…stop reading Young Adult literature.

…regret my years in undergrad, even though I don’t use my degrees.

…abide snakes.

…read War & Peace.

…stop writing.

– Liz

Lessons from the Weekend

1. Julia Child was 6’2″. Also, a really fascinating woman if Julie & Julia is any indication. Great movie, and I expect to add it to my will-watch-it-anytime-it’s-on list.

2. When cleaning out the toy box, I really need to get the toys out of sight before the boy starts playing with all of them again.

3. Sometimes, I wish antidepressants were available in blow dart form. I’d hit the streets loaded for bear.

4. I never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever want to be in a ground war in the Pacific. Thank you, HBO for giving me another glimpse of a life I never want.

5. Butter sauce risotto ROCKS.

6. Warm weather is a rare jewel to be cherished and admired when you live in Wisconsin.

7. I need to stop slacking on my blog. (That particular lesson is one I’ve been learning over the last few weeks, not just the weekend.)

What did you learn?

– Liz