Wednesday, May 30, 2007


I'm not going to be posting for a few days!

I'm going to Chicago!

I'm going with Beloved Husband,
while Baby stays with Mum-Mum and Auntie!

I'm going to wear dangly earrings!

I'm going to wear the top that with the really low back
that I haven't worn in two years!

I'm going to wear my leather pants
(I don't care how hot it is)!

I'm going to wear sexy strappy heels!

I'm going to have lots of wild hotel sex!

Uh...too much information?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Stuff I Read: Agatha Christie: Just Plain Entertaining

Or: The Lists Of "You Should"s.

If you want to get started on Christie

1. The Mysterious Affair at Styles
2. The Murder at The Vicarage
3. The Secret Adversary
4. The Mysterious Mr. Quinn
5. Parker Pyne Investigates

These five books are the first for each of her detectives. Hercule Poirot, Jane Marple, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, Harley Quin (no relation at all to this person), and Parker Pyne. Christie's detectives are so fine, that if you really want to experience them fully, you should start where they start, and follow them.

If you want to read Christie's personal favourites

1. Crooked House
2. Ordeal by Innocence
3. And Then There Were None (play version...because of combination of complex story and the romantic ending. The original story doesn't have a romantic ending).
4. The Complete Quin and Satterthwaite (Mr.Quinn was her favourite character)
5. Death on The Nile

If you want to know what my favourites are

1. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: Because I haven't mentioned this book enough. The execution of the murder is done well...not brilliantly, but well. It's just the Oh Holy Crap moment in the parlour scene. I was reading Christie for a decade before I got to Ackroyd and it threw me for such a loop. Whenever I feel like Christie, I pick it up, and even though I know what's coming, it never loses its fun for me at that moment. Also, Caroline Sheppard is so neat!

2. The A.B.C. Murders: This was the first one I read, when I was eleven. I still have the same copy. I don't think it's the sentimentality that keeps me coming back, though. It's very much a story where we see Poirot's brain at the best of his ability, and I like that it's a story that spans several months with periods of inactivity between crimes. It's one of the few stories with a deliberate serial killer who calls attention to his work. In that, it's more like a lot of mainstream detective fiction, but the characters keep what could have been a tired cliché anything but. It's engaging, it's fun, and it makes you say "Ahhhhh...yesssss." at the end.

3. Death on The Nile: For the cleverly executed murder, but also for the diversity of the female characters. Rosalie Otterbourne, who is so, so unhappy, who has had such a hard life that she has "forgotten how to be nice". Mrs. Allerton, who is bright and sweet and practical and has such a great sense of humor. Cornelia Robson, ugly, uneducated, unaffected and quite possibly the most emotionally healthy person in literature. Jacqueline DeBelefort; passionate, tragic, intense and fascinating. "Tall, Golden" Linnet Ridgeway,"Linnet La Blonde!" who is so beautiful, rich, smart and admired that she is completely removed from reality. I have imagined myself playing each of these roles at one time...every time I read it, I choose a different woman and read her lines aloud in the voice I think she would use. Huh. Typed out, that sounds...a little nuts.

4. Hickory Dickory Dock: I read this in high school for the first time, and I think it resonated because several of the characters were only a little older than myself. It was also pretty cool to see that Felicity Lemon (first of all, this is where the reader learns she has a first name...and it's Felicity, of all things) is human after all. That she has a family and affections. It throws the brilliant Poirot for such a loop in the first page, and it takes the audience a minute to recover, as well. Oh, and Colin McNabb and Len Bateson are really sexy.

5. The Murder at The Vicarage: Miss Marple is so wonderful, but for me, it just doesn't get better with her than in her debut. The photographs you get in your mind of St. Mary Mead and this delicate, elderly, overlooked lady are never more vivid than the first time you see them.

Thus ends my Christie Breakdowns. I think I may do more of these "Stuff I Read" posts. I'm thinking of Conan Doyle, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Graphic Novels (the genre, not one specific writer) for the future.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Stuff I Read: Agatha Christie: The Top Five Monsters (Spoilers Ahead)

My intention was to do the Top 5 Lists of Agatha Christie Books (Just Plain Entertaining), but it seemed to me that it would be better put next week, which will be my last week of Christie.

Top Five Agatha Christie Monsters, In My Humble Opinion.

Simeon Lee Hercule Poirot’s Christmas

He made his fortune in South African diamonds. When he came back to England, he married a women he was never faithful, or even kind to. He enjoyed flaunting his mistresses before her and the four children he had with her (there were more, by other women). When his sons were grown, he took his delight in pitting them against each other, baiting them as to who may or may not get his money. His old son uncomplainingly stayed home to care for his father once he became an invalid, and he treated him the worst. He’s not actually the murderer in this story. He’s the victim

Mr. Ratchett Murder on The Orient Express

Many years ago in New York City there was a wealthy and admired family who loved each other, their community, even loved their servants. The Armstrong Family consisted of Toby, his wife Sonya, and their daughter, Daisy.

When Daisy was 3 years old Mr. Ratchett kidnapped her. When her parents paid the very high ransom, he took it, and brutally murdered her. Sonya was pregnant at the time, and when she learned her daughter had been killed, she fainted and went into premature labor. She died at the hospital, as did the unborn baby. Having lost his wife and two children in 24 hours, Toby went home and blew his brains out. That’s only four of the people Mr. Ratchett destroyed. In this book, he’s is murdered.

Mrs. Boynton Appointment With Death

Mrs. Boynton was a prison wardess before her marriage. She grew bored torturing prisoners, so she married and began to torture her very young stepchildren. By the time Lennox, Raymond and Jinny were adults, they were mentally and emotionally stunted to a spectacular degree...Jinny almost to the point of insanity. Mrs. Boynton loved it. She loved the power she had over them.

She loved it so much that when she learned she was going to die from heart disease, she committed suicide in a way that implicated each of her children just enough for them to be suspected by the police for her murder, but not enough for it to be clearly proved which of them did it. So the shadow of murder would stay on them for the rest of their lives.

Michael Garfield Hallowe’en Party

He was a gardener. More than that, he was an artist. He created beauty, he was obsessed with beauty. He was beautiful, he was vain. He murdered for his art. Michael Garfield was Agamemnon and Narcissus in one completely inhumane person. Remember what Agamemnon did?

Franklin Clarke The A.B.C. Murders

You don’t notice a particular pin when it’s in a pincushion surrounded by other pins. Franklin Clarke knew that people wouldn’t notice a personal, family murder if it was surrounded by other murders. Murders committed by a made up psychopath. So he planned multiple murders. He murdered people who had loving families, all to cover the one murder that benefitted him. He implicated a man with epilepsy, a kind, lonely mad who had blackouts from time to time, who wouldn’t know that he hadn’t done these horrible things. He did all of this for his brother’s money. That’s all. Four dead people, and one man almost hung, so Franklin Clarke could get his brother’s money.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Stuff I Read: Agatha Christie: Holy Crap, That's Creepy!

This is about Agatha Christie. She whose pen spouts the clever capers. Her very genteel detectives will make sure that everything is cleared up and everyone gets their cup of tea.


Yeah, not so much.

In The Last Séance, a parent begs a medium to call up the spirit of a dead child. The medium does this. Really, really well.

In A Glass Darkly has the protagonist seeing a crime reflected in a mirror...or does he? He tells the woman he thought he saw, and she changes the path of her life because of it. Years later the vision comes true anyway...or does it?

As for The House of Dreams...I won't tell you the plot. It's freaky and tragic.

What really kills me, is that these stories are in collections with her regular mysteries. Her horror stories (I'd classify them as that, anyway, though the Cool Kids may disagree) are woven in to what a typical reader expects, packing a greater "...the hell?" reaction than if they were put in a volume with "The Horror Stories of Agatha Christie" on the cover.

The first of these that I read remains my favorite. It got the best reaction (an inability to fall asleep).

When I saw the title The Dressmaker’s Doll, I expected a jewel thief would steal a large diamond from Lady Honoria Flotherling-West and hide it in the stuffing of a doll. Something like that.

Way off. Waaaaaay off.

The Doll sits in the fitting room of a dress shop. She matches the walls. She matches the drapes. She must always have been there. She clearly belongs there. one who works at the shop can remember seeing her before.

Alicia (the owner) starts finding The Doll at her desk every morning. It must be a junior employee being silly, surely. Then, things start to disappear, and are found under wherever The Doll is sitting. Customers complain that she gives them the creeps. They actually stop coming to the store because they don't want to see her. Whenever The Doll is moved to the sofa from where she seemed to begin, she is back at the desk the next time the employees enter the office.

Weeks pass, and the cleaning woman won’t go into The Doll’s room. The women become convinced that The Doll is evil. She consumes their thoughts: What does she want? How can they get rid of her? Can they, will she just come back? Can they destroy her? Why are they so afraid of a her in the first place?

They surrender. They lock her in the room she seems to want, keep the only key, and vow never to go in there again.

Locks don’t matter to The Doll.

I read this story late at night, six months ago.

When I finished, I looked up. Paige was staring at me.

Paige has a sweet rag doll face and purple streaks in her yarn hair. She wears a denim miniskirt and a T-shirt that says “Girls Rock”. My son loves Paige. When he was 9 months old he crawled around with her hand between his teeth. He tugs her hair and bites her feet and hugs her and she smiles all the while.

Before reading The Dressmaker’s Doll, I believed Paige to be precious.

After reading it, I believed Paige to be planning a subtle takeover of my house.

Ridiculous! It’s a story about a doll, for crying out loud. Remember what Costello said about Chucky?

"So, I don’t get it again. It’s a little talking doll. It tries to kill you. Kick it. Hit it with a broom. Whatever - it’s stupid." (Little Terrors, November 2004)

That was three years ago? Okay, maybe no one remembers that but me.

Anyway, he's right! It is stupid! Punt it out a window, you're fine.

I spent hours that night trying to get anything other than possessed dolls out of my head. Calvin and Hobbes, porn, Cartoon Network, yoga...nothing worked.

Damn you, Agatha Christie and your unpredicted creativity!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Elm Park. Wednesday.

My son has taken to hanging about the big window in our living room and saying "Go? Go? GO! GO!" when it's good weather.

Hot with a cool breeze, sun blazing overhead.
We paint ourselves with SPF 50 and set out for the Park.

He squeals and giggles on the swings.
Somehow his hat stays on as he goes higher and higher.
Checking out girls
I sip an iced coffee and revel in the sun on my bare arms and legs.
The air smells of sun block and the new flowers on the trees.

Then the buses arrive.
A hundred (that's a fair estimate, not an exaggeration) school children
- with giant stickers "Park Ave. Elementary" stuck to their shirts -
pour out and descended upon the few parents
and grandparents with babies.
Amusing at first, but when Sam wants to run around
he keeps getting in someone's way,
and I fear he's going to get plowed.

So into the stroller. We meander around the rest of the park.
To the bridges, the shady, flowering trees.
We run into Belle
(named for the Al Green song, her daddy has told me)
and her daddy.
We see them most times we're here.
She's 2, and I think Sam is in love with her.
She runs to him "Shammy! Hi Shammy!" and he hugs her head.
He gets out, and toddles around after Belle.

A woman and a dog are paddling in a carnation pink kayak.
Pink Lady & Dog
They approach the ever present geese,
Geese Reflection
and the geese take flight, relatively low.
They go right over our heads.
I tell Sam to look, but he's sitting in the grass,
munching a dandelion.

The schoolchildren are on the march,
and the playground is deserted.
Sam and I bid goodbye to Belle,
who wants to climb a cherry tree,
and he swings until he gets tired.

Home for snack and a nap.

And a chronicling of our morning.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Stuff I Read: Agatha Christie: Homosexuality

I know it's not part of the original list, but in researching some of the other subjects, I kept making notes on it, so I decided to add it in.

If you read Christie's books, you're going to come across characters who are most likely homosexual. She never actually says it, but you can see that it's there. I started reading Christie in elementary school, and I've always found her handling of said characters interesting.

In Five Little Pigs there is Philip Blake, who despised his best friend's wife to a desperate degree. Another character in the story suggests that he was actually in love with her. That suggestion (when I first read it at age 12) seemed way off base. Still does today. In Three Blind Mice, Christopher Wren is a walking stereotype. He's a 1930's Jack McFarland.

Hinch & Murgatroyd in A Murder is Announced are women who have been living together for years, and have developed that comfortable similarity that middle aged married people have. The rather masculine Katherine Casewell in the play version of Three Blind Mice has secret correspondence with "Jessie" (a cop reads her letter and sneers "Friend of yours?"). Suggestions have also been made about Jane Plenderleith of Murder In The Mews and her passionate devotion to her friend Barbara Allen. Also of Mrs. Macatta in The Incredible Theft.*

In the 50’s, Miss Marple’s nephew Raymond mentions one of his friends, a writer, and refers to him as “a queer”, asking his aunt if she has heard of them (gay men, as I assume he would know she had heard of writers). It wasn’t until the 1960’s...Hallowe’en Party that the word “lesbian” is said out teenage boys trying to sound sophisticated.

The women, likable (except for Mrs. Macatta), smart, naturally straightforward have cause speculation that Christie herself was bisexual. Some people believe that a relationship with a woman was the reason for her mysterious 11 day disappearance in the 20's.

Many of Christie's works have been put to television and film, and certain characters have been adapted to be most definitely homosexuals. With Five Little Pigs, it seems to make the story fit her intention much better. In some, it's different, but it works (Tim Allerton Death on The Nile) His gentle delivery of "Em...barking up the wrong tree, I'm afraid." after Rosalie kisses him is cute). The lesbian and the gay man in Cards on The Table are the murderers, and there it seems a little defamatory. Though...their reasons for keeping were (for the woman) to keep the girl she was in love with from being sent away and (for the man) to keep his lover's wife from exposing them. I'm not saying they were justified, but you could say that their actions were a result of society's insistence that there's something shameful about being gay (and I am not going to get on my soapbox about that here, because it's been a good day so far and I don't feel like getting worked into tears).

I will say that I'm not a fan of people adapting characters (or writing original ones) and then saying "Hey, we need someone gay in this book/show/movie/comic, let's pick this supporting character who can be comic relief/a scapegoat/used to titillate the straight guys". That comes from my attitude that you need to treat the characters you create as multi dimensional beings, and to write gay people off as a plot quirk (in my mind) exploits them and diminishes homosexuality as a trend instead of something genuine and natural (I realize I'm getting close to the soapbox now).

Then again, my view of this, the interpretations of Agatha Christie the individual writer and the media at large, are from a distance, because I'm heterosexual.

Monday, May 07, 2007

He's sleeping through the night.

This past week, he has slept all through the night. Or, he's woken up to whine a bit, and go right back to sleep.

This is great.

This is freeing.

This means I can finally pack up the nursing bras and in a few months the size of my breasts will be consistent from day to day.

I can buy new bras.

Pretty new bras.

Lacy, pretty, new bras.

It hurts.

Not physically (well, yes...they are the size, shape and hardness of beer kegs and they're killing me, but that isn't what I mean to talk about).

It's the feeling of flesh being torn off slowly.

It's the feeling of warmth leaving my skin.

It's the feeling that comes when your child grows up.

I really loved to nurse.

Feeding 3

I loved looking down at his big blue eyes, loved the doped little smile he would get when he was done, loved the way he would curl up and fall asleep with his soft peachy cheek next to my heartbeat.

I loved the knowledge that my body was still taking care of my baby.

I wish I'd paid more attention the last time I nursed him. I really didn't think when he finally got it, it would happen that fast. We went from screaming to be picked up every few hours click out cold for 12 and a half.

I didn't know the last time would be the last time.

I just have to tell people about this!

I have found the coolest web site for anyone who reads.

Paperback Swap!
You take your used books (soft cover, hardcover, audio tapes and more) and list them on the site. Someone, somewhere orders one of your books, you mail it out to them (mailing costs about $1.75). For every book you send out, you get a credit for a book to receive.

This site is free and it's so fun. I had a ton of books that I knew I was never going to read again. Now I have more shelf space and a stack of books yet to read.

This was especially good when my *adorable* son found my copy of "The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader" and destroyed it. My "new" copy arrived this afternoon!

I'm going to use it for books for him, as well. "Are You My Mother?" is on the way.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Stuff I Read: Agatha Christie: Times Change: Sex

There is a line in a Marple book (damned if I can find which one*) where she is talking about the attitude of sex, and how it has changed since she was a girl. She says that she believes people “enjoyed it more”, though they discussed it less.

Christie had an interesting reaction to the looming Sexual Revolution. It’s thoughtful, but not judgmental. It doesn't condemn promiscuity (or any fornication) as a sin, but asks if something very nice is lost when restraint is.

Lots of people believe that it is the sacred aspect of sex that makes it so very good...I’m one of them. I could never have sex with someone I did not love, though I know that many of my friends can and do. I do believe (and something tells me Christie, or at least Miss Marple would agree) that the negative shameful aspect of sex needs to be removed, as that only makes people feel bad about themselves. Shame of sex leads to shame of our genders and bodies. Shame of our genders and bodies leads to a whole mess of emotional crap that could fill volumes (pornography addictions, eating disorders). Also, it encourages rebellion in an arena that should be used for joy.

I went to a Christian college, and so many girls arrived there without having ever been felt up, because they were told that sex before marriage was flat out bad. You know what happened to those girls? They left parental supervision and their panties exploded! They went really far, really soon, and felt bad about it later. Or (and I think this is far worse) they got themselves engaged and then married to the first guy they desperately wanted to bone (yeah, I'm channeling a teenage boy) and ended up unfulfilled and in some cases, divorced, in their early twenties.

Back to Christie: throughout her books she dealt with The Act Of sex in socially appropriate ways, being demure in the 20's through 40's, and more conversational in the 50's and sixties. Whether it was a marriage that sadly lost, than gladly regained its passion (The Mysterious Affair at Styles, They Do it With Mirrors ) or the affect a really really hot person can have on raging hormones (Lord Edgeware Dies, Triangle at Rhodes, They Do It With Mirrors again) she seemed to be saying subtly that sex was important. Tread lightly.