Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Stuff I Read: Agatha Christie: Cast of Character Types: Men

The Poor Chap/The Hero: He’s flawed in some way. Wimpy, works too much, has a gambling problem. The men in Christie books are not ever a typical Hero. This character is not the handsome, rugged yet sensitive cliché that crappy romances spit out.

A fact he is very aware of.

He’s either pathetically anxious (Mr. Cust The A.B.C. Murders), not overly intelligent (Ralph Paton The Murder of Roger Ackroyd) or bitter and jaded (Jerry Burton The Moving Finger) . He wants personal freedom, peace of mind, love, the courage to keep living. He stands in his own way. The Poor Chap is a classic Man v. Himself example.

Note: just because I title him “The Hero” does not mean that he can never be the murderer. We’re just really bummed out when he is (Norman Gale Death in the Clouds)

The Arrogant Jerk: Often handsome, though doesn’t have to be. He does have to have “something” that appeals to women. If not physical appearance (Michael Shane After The Funeral), it’s his radical political ideologies (Howard Raikes One Two Buckle My Shoe) or talent (Amyas Crale Five Little Pigs ).

The Curmudgeon: “Bah, kids these days...Bah, women don’t understand how hard finance is...Bah these foreigners with their Socialism...Bah these police are bothering me...Bah stop touching my ancient artifacts/medical equipment/mysterious letters."

He’s middle aged or older. He’s either portly or very thin. His nationality doesn’t matter, he appears as French (Georges Death in the Clouds) German (Dr. Bessner Death on the Nile) American (Rufus Van Aldin The Mystery of the Blue Train) and English (Lord Caterham The Seven Dials Mystery).

When Christie doesn’t want him to be two dimensional, she gives him someone he loves very much. Usually, a daughter.

The Butler: Of course. Wherever English nobility are, there is an ancient, white haired old man to wait on them. He's loyal, never impolite, never shocked, though he can be unnerved. My favourite, Gudgeon (The Hollow) as a cucumber when he found a handgun in a basket of eggs. He cleaned it and put it away. Of course. As a good servant should.

The Very English Man: He gets uncomfortable around emotional displays (Leonard Clement Murder at the Vicarage), flamboyance (Dr. James Sheppard The Murder of Roger Ackroyd), foreigners (Col. Melrose The Love Detectives). He can’t imagine that anyone would want to live anywhere other than England. He’s “modest”, be that a natural part of his personality (Douglas Gold Triangle at Rhodes) or because it’s improper to boast (Lord Mayfield The Incredible Theft. Very much about playing by the rules of society and country.

Capt. Arthur Hastings

Arthur Hastings is the favourite example of this character, and it’s his inherent sweetness that allows the reader to forgive his priggishness.

A very specific Very English Man is The Very English Soldier: eminently respectable, full of stories about shooting, India, and a whole lot of people that no one else in the cast has ever heard about or cares about.

The Copper: Tenacious. Unimaginative. Suspicious of psychology. Truly believe that people have nothing to fear if they’re innocent by law. If there’s a private detective (amateur or otherwise) involved in the case, the Copper is usually patronizing in attitude. That is, they are patronizing until the p.d. proves their ability beyond reproach.

Many of Agatha Christie’s Coppers return for a few more stories (Superintendents Spence & Battle, Sir Henry Clitherling), and the shared history is pleasing to long time readers. Certainly in the case of Chief Inspector James Japp, who was not only a collaborator of Hercule Poirot’s, he became a very close friend.

The Foreigner: The Foreigner varies depending on the situation. Sometimes he’s comic relief (Akibombo Hickory Dickory Dock), sometimes he’s a serious character used as the scapegoat (Jacob Tanios Dumb Witness).

Agatha Christie was a well traveled woman, and she didn’t seem to have the mistrust of foreigners that many of her characters did. The unifying trait her Immigrants and Visitors seem to have is that they are not what the British meant or expect them to be.

Sometimes, of course, The Foreigner is a brilliant, witty, dapper little Belgian. A man with fantastic mustaches and particular tastes in food, who does "not approve of murder".


Saturday, March 24, 2007

There's going to be a #10!

Agatha Christie

Thanks to Colin (commented on this post) I am adding

10. Top 5 Agatha Christie "Monsters"

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tag, I'm It.

I have to stop meme-ing.

Historical things that happened on my birthday that I think are kind of interesting:

1709 - Peter the Great defeats Charles XII of Sweden at the Battle of Poltava. (I'm Swedish)

1893 - Crash of the New York Stock Exchange. (Sucks)

1950-The United States decides to send troops to fight in the Korean War. (Sucks)

1953 - Joseph Laniel becomes Prime Minister of France. (I heart France)

1957 - Hurricane Audrey kills 500 people in Louisiana and Texas.
(Wow...Not a good day in History for the USA)

1967 - The world's first ATM is installed in Enfield, London.
(I would not have survived my month in London without them)

1969 - Stonewall riots begin in New York city.
(Give us our jams and jellies NOW!)

2007- Air date for First Annual Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, awarded to Paul Simon
(Uh. Seriously?)

These people got born:

1462 - King Louis XII of France (d. 1515)

1550 - King Charles IX of France (d. 1574)

1880 - Helen Keller, American spokeswoman for the deaf and blind (d. 1968) (Oh, now THAT is cool!)

1927 - Bob Keeshan, American actor (d. 2004) (CAPTAIN KANGAROO! AWESOME!)

1930 - Ross Perot, American billionaire and politician

1932 - Eddie Kasko, baseball player (Played for my Sox!)

1949 - Vera Wang, American fashion designer

1959 - Dan Jurgens, American comic book writer and artist ("Death of Superman" guy)

These people died:

1988 - Hillel Slovak, Israeli born guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers (b. 1962) (Love that band)

1996 - Cubby Broccoli, American film producer (b. 1909)
(I have no idea who he is, but that cannot be his real name!)

2001 - Jack Lemmon, American actor (b. 1925)
( I remember feeling awful about that.)

2002 - John Entwistle, English bassist (The Who) (b. 1944)
(Another band I totally love. Felt bad about that, too.)

2005 - Shelby Foote, American author and historian (b. 1917)
(I remember when he died, but I didn't know that it was actually on my birthday...I think I heard about it a few days after.)


National HIV Testing Day in United States
(I didn't know we had this, and I think it's awesome! They need to promote it more.)

National Veterans' Day in the United Kingdom (I'll wager that's a Balderdash question...)

And finally:

In Shirley Jackson's Novel The Lottery, the annual lottery is held on this date each year.

(What? I don't remember that! That's the story where everyone stones a woman to death, even her own family!
Dammit, Shirley Jackson, why did you have to pick that day?)

I tag no one.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Stuff I Read: Agatha Christie: Cast of Character Types: Women

The Earnest Girl: always plain and dowdy and unhappy. Often in denial of that final trait. Can be either very clever or very stupid, but is always one of the two. She’s either pathetically in love (Patricia Lane Hickory Dickory Dock)with the Arrogant Jerk, the relation that everyone feels sorry for (Mildred Strete Murder With Mirrors), or some kid with a rotten job (Edna Brent The Clocks). When she’s the victim (Pamela Reeves The Body in The Library) you feel really sorry for her. When she’s the murderer, everyone’s shocked (Gerda Cristow The Hollow) because they all thought she was the very stupid kind.

Notable Exception: Cornelia Robson Death on The Nile. She’s ugly, poor and doesn’t care. She has an infectiously cheerful outlook that makes the Arrogant Jerk and the Curmudgeon (I’ll describe them later when I tackle the men) fall in love with her.

The Spitfire: Never beautiful, but described as attractive or interesting. Often a redhead (Sally Finch Hickory Dickory Dock, Susan Cardwell Dead Man’s Mirror, Jenny Driver Lord Edgeware Dies)! If she’s not, attention is usually called to one unique physical feature (Jane Grey’s extraordinary gray eyes in Death in The Clouds). She’s the best friend, the girlfriend, the daughter of someone hugely important to the story. The Detective always takes a strong liking to her and she’s almost never flustered when it’s her turn to be accused in the Parlor Scene (innocent or guilty). She’s always clever and possesses a good sense of humor. Usually happy. She can be rich, poor or somewhere in between. Almost always gets the guy, though sometimes not the one we think she’ll get.

Notable Exception: Rosalie Otterbourne Death on The Nile (there’s a reason this was Christie's best and favorite). She’s good looking, with a sarcastic sense of humor, and she’s no shrinking violet, but she has an alcoholic mother who makes her life a living hell. It’s a relief to finally see her happy and with a decent enough guy...after her horrible mother was shot through the head.

The Beauty/The S.A.: Gorgeous and aware of it. There’s at least one Poor Chap who’s besotted about her...frequently two. She can be intelligent (Ruth Chevenix Gore Dead Man’s Mirror) or an idiot, (Valentine Dacres Triangle at Rhodes) it doesn’t matter.

In the 1950’s a cultural shift began where Sex Appeal (Christie often calls it S.A.) became more attractive than classic beauty, and Christie noted the change with this character type. The lovely, feminine Marthe Daubreil of Murder on The Links gave way to glamourous, obvious Adele Fortescue of A Pocket Full of Rye.

The Exotic: A lady always, but not at all English. She is alluring, witty and charming. When young, she can be cast as the S.A. (Pilar Estravados Hercule Poirot’s Christmas), though typically she is middle aged (Vera Rosakoff) or older (Princess Dragomiroff Murder on The Orient Express). Let’s face it, life experience adds to a woman’s charm and few knew that better than Agatha Christie.

The Very English Lady: She can be a bit of a spitfire, a beauty, or an earnest girl, but the sheer Britishness of her keeps those traits from being capitalized. She is well mannered, well (but modestly) dressed, well educated and unemotional. She is the paragon of English Decorum. She is Lydia Lee (Hercule Poirot’s Christmas), Miss Bullstrode (Cat Among The Pigeons), Rowena Drake (Halloween Party) and Mrs. Allerton (one of my personal favorite characters, from Death on The Nile).

The Most Notable Examples: Miss Jane Marple, Tuppence Beresford, Ariadne Oliver and Felicity Lemon.

McEwan & Wannamker

If you have read any amount of Agatha Christie’s mysteries, you know who they are. Women of intelligence, women of ability. Three women of unerring instinct and one of a staggering grasp of facts and information. I need say no more on them.

Christie fans, did I miss anyone?

Monday, March 19, 2007

It Doesn't Hurt Them To Cry

Them. It doesn't hurt Them.

We're in the final stages of weaning.

Soon my son will not be breast fed at all.

Months ago we let go of daytime nursing, and he had little issue with that.

It's the middle of the night nursing that he wants.

To be honest, so do I. I love the feeling of feeding my son, his little warm fuzzy head snuggled up against me.

However, I want him to sleep through the night, I want to sleep through the night, and this June I'm going to Chicago for two days without him.

So we are weaning.

Weaning the last middle of the night feedings.

We hate it.

The system I am using is to set specific times when I will go in and get him to nurse, and only get him at those exact times.

For example: I will go get him if he's crying at 10:30, but not before and not after until 2 am.

I only get up to nurse him twice (instead of the habitual four times a night).

In a week we'll cut it down to one, and hopefully by Easter it will be over.

My doctor, my mother, everyone says it doesn't hurt babies to cry.

I know it doesn't hurt him.

I hate hearing it.

After half an hour it isn't crying anymore, it's yelling.

Right now it is 10:17 and he has been crying for an hour.

Taking breaks in between to catch his breath, then "YAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGH!" some more.

I am writing this to steel my will.

I will not go and get him until 10:30.

It is 10:21. Nine minutes.

I wonder if people will read this and think I'm being cruel?

It feels like I am, but every single mother I have talked to has said that I'm not.

That he won't remember this.

It will not scar him.

In a few months time he'll be sleeping through the night.

I will think of that. Of sleeping through the night for the first time in months.

He slept through the night when he was a month old, and then around six months he stopped, what the hell was that about?

Six minutes.

I’m spending the next two weeks sleeping on the couch. Husband has trouble sleeping already (serious sleep study trouble) so I don’t want the wailing through the monitor to kill the few hours he may get.

Four minutes. Still crying.

I realize I’m wearing the exact same tank top and hoodie I was when I did that meme I posted a while ago.

I realize that has nothing to do with the topic of this post.

I think it serves an as example of the distractions my brain is searching for as it clicks down the minutes (three) until I can go in and nurse.

God, he’s been crying for a long time.

I hope he’s worn himself out to sleep after this.

Two minutes.

Spell Check.



The Stuff I Read: Agatha Christie

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be talking about Agatha Christie. I read a lot of her mysteries, horror and I'm starting to get into her espionage work. I'm always thinking about the types of characters she used, the patterns that emerged and changed, the social commentaries, the similarities between stories.

I may do this with other authors. Not sure yet.

Each Wednesday I'll be posting something new (about her work...other stuff may go up between Wednesdays). Here's how it's going to appear:

1. Cast of Character Types: Women
2. Cast of Character Types: Men
3. The Hastings
5. Same Story, Different Names
6. Times Change: Politics
7. Times Change: Sex
8. Holy Crap That's Creepy
9. Just Plain Entertaining

I am never going to claim to be any kind of expert on her. I am so not I'm just someone who has spent the last 17 years haunting libraries and ticking off titles, checking out four of her books a week (I can read them in one night...typically). I'm just someone who likes her and wants to talk about her. That's all. Hope you enjoy. If not, like I between Wednesdays other stuff will be going up.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Real content next week. For now: Belly Roll!

Okay. I may not have the perfectly flat post baby stomach that Mella has, but so what? This is the belly that gave me my baby and I should be proud of it!

1 year after giving birth.

My husband thinks I'm sexy and the woman who gave me a massage the other day told me I look amazing for having a 1 year old! I am going to accept that they were being completely honest, and if someone looks at this and says "Ew...chub." than they can (in the words of Tyra Banks) "Kiss my fat ass!".


Thanks also to Zhoen, Lorianne, and Leslee.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Why Write When You Can Meme?

1. Do you like cheese? I adore cheese!

2. Have you ever smoked heroin? Nope. I only ever smoked cigars, and that I haven't done since college.

3. Do you own a gun? No. Not a fan.

5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? Am I getting a shot? Blood drawn? No? If needles are not involved than I am cucumber cool.

6. What do you think of hot dogs? If they are kosher and cooked on a campfire I like them. That's the only situation.

7. What's your favourite Christmas song? Carol of the Bells, just like Mella.

8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Hot chocolate. High Quality. Schokinag.

9. Can you do push ups? No. I have the upper body strength of a mouse.

10. Is your bathroom clean? Yes. It's very tiny, and very easy to clean.

11. What's your favourite piece of jewelry? My wedding ring, my engagement ring, and the locket that Husband gave me for our first Christmas together.

Twelve wasn't feeling well. He went home.

13. What is your secret weapon to lure in the opposite sex? I have a flirty smile that seems shy...and yet not shy at all. Oooh. I am mysterious.

14. Do you have friends? Lots, and they rock.

15. Do you miss someone? Sister, friends, people who aren't speaking to me anymore.

16. Middle Name? Name? I have middle names! Since, however I keep myself anonymous on this blog I am not going to tell you.

17. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment.

My thumb hurts.

I do not want to go get gas in the freezing cold tonight.

Daniel Craig is so sexy.

19. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink: 2% Milk. Water. Frappuccino.

20. Current worry? What if we can't afford to buy a house?

21. Current hate? Exploitation of celebrity death.

22. Favourite place to be? Snuggled up in my bed with Husband and Baby.

23. How did you bring in the New Year? Kissing Husband! At a party at our house with several buddies playing card games and having a very good time.

24. Where would you like to go? The South of France.

27. Do you own slippers? I go through slippers once or twice a year...high quality L.L.Bean slippers, too. I don't wear shoes in the house, so I am always wearing slippers inside.

28. What shirt are you wearing? A black tank top and a pink hoodie that I borrowed from a friend over two years ago.

29. Do you burn or tan? Burn. Burn. Burn. Burn.

30. Favourite colour? Lavender.

31. Would you be a pirate? I would love to be a pirate! I am hoping someone writes a screenplay about Anne Bonny so I can star in it!

32. What songs do you sing in the shower? Whatever is in my head. It could be anything.

35. What's in your pocket right now? Nothing.

36. Last thing that made you laugh? Dr. Perry Cox saying that people were "Bastard coated Bastards with Bastard filling."

37. Best bed sheets as a child? Fuchsia flannel. So very soft and warm.

38. Worst injury you've ever had? I think it was when I broke my foot in 8th grade...some jerk tripped me.

39. What is your biggest pet peeve? Passive Aggressiveness.

40. How many TVs do you have in your house? One.

41. Who is your loudest friend? terms of volume of voice or loquaciousness? I think it may be the friend I borrowed this pink hoodie from.

42. Who is your most silent friend? This guy. If I can call him a friend.

43. Does someone have a crush on you? At least one does. Husband. If anyone else does, I am flattered.

44. Do you wish on shooting stars? When I see them. Which is not often.

45. What is your favourite book? The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe.

46. What is your favourite sweet? Dark chocolate. Preferably Lindt.

47. What song do/did you want played at your wedding? Friends of ours sang "Power of Two" at the beginning of our ceremony. Our first dance was to "At Last".

48. What song do you want played at your funeral? "I'll Fly Away".

49. What were you doing at 12 AM last night? Sleeping.

50. What was the first thing you thought of when you woke up? "Please please please dear God let him fall back asleep so I can get another hour. I'll even take half an hour."