“How I learned to drive” by Paula Vogel

What is it about sexual abuse stories? They are such a strange combination of feelings. One part is the seduction, the sexiness of talking about sex. But at the same time there is the alarm bells, ringing “Danger! This is wrong!” There is the pushing-away feeling of disgust at the molester, that is part of the alarm-bell feeling.

There is also the hypnotic sensation of watching a car accident happen in slow motion. This horrible thing is happening; is the bad man going to get caught? Is the poor child going to be okay? and you are not sure of either.

And while I am wondering if the kid in the story is going to be okay, I also wonder if I am a sick person to be seduced into the sexy side of the story.

It makes me feel sick to my stomach, while being slightly turned on, which makes me feel even sicker.

That is what this story did. I guess that means Vogel did a good job of making me feel the same sort of thing that Li’l Bit felt. Surely she must have felt those feelings and more.

This play was better than just a “How I recovered from my Molesting Uncle” article in a woman’s magazine. There was a stronger pull of power between the girl and her Uncle Peck.

It reminded me a whole lot of Lolita, the way Li’l Bit turned the situation to have more power. Lolita had a pull of power over Humbert too.

The influence of Li’l Bit’s family on how she dealt with issues of femininity were quite funny-a horrifying combination of frankness and misinformation, high expectations and hypocrisy.

The characters are all sympathetic, Vogel made everyone come alive.

_A Bridge Too Far_

One of the things I always have trouble with, in the WW2 movies, or really, almost any war movie, is that I can never tell the different characters apart.

They all look somewhat uniformly handsome, they wear uniforms. As the movies progress, they all get kind of dirty and greasy.

How am I supposed to tell who from who?

Some people, guys especially, can tell the difference by the hats and the insignias on their uniforms. Chris knows all about it. Even more!

He brought over a bunch of DVDs, A Bridge Too Far among them. We started to watch it. He would pause it and explain to me all the different implications of what was going on.

Boy, that made a difference! I mean, I could tell, when they talked, who was american, british, german and polish. But it was hard to tell when they were just walking around. And they would refer to each other by numbers: 82nd, tank support, etc.

This movie tried very hard to make the characters distinct by using famous actors. Robert Redford, Gene Hackman, Elliot Gould, Sean Connery, Laurence Olivier were among the characters. That helped.

The story was a really amazing battle that took place towards the end of WW2. The Americans, Brits, and Poles all cooperated to try to close in on some bridges in Holland.

They used Paratroopers extensively, and the battle was the first to do so. It was amazing to see, in the movie, all the parachutes opening up in the sky. I kept thinking, “they are going to land on top of each other!”

The movie is almost three hours long, but it was gripping. It took some paying attention to keep track of who was where and who they were talking about at different times. The movie didn’t let you rest.

I kept feeling sad about the whole thing. The difference between the enemy and the allies was just placement. This story did not focus on the atrocities of one or the other. It just seemed to show the damage to all involved.

Mind your nouns and tenses

Yesterday, as i was riding the bus home early because I was coming home sick, a young man got on the bus. He handed the bus driver a ticket, and then made some gestures like he needed to say more.

After trying to understand him for a moment, the bus driver said, “I speak six languages, but I do not speak American Sign Language.”

The young man gave up and sat down.

He had been motioning that he wanted to write something down. But he didn’t have any paper. I happened to have a pad on me.

I took it out, and wrote down:

What do you need?

I handed him the pad and pen:

I told him that I did paid ticket at the metro rail transfer to bus should give me ticket is some

You want another transfer?

I gave him my ticket need to change a bus ticket. also i paid ticket at the metro rail machines

You need another tranfer or what? a ‘transfer’ is a ticket that lets you get on the next bus.

I need a ticket because my grammar isn’t good. but most of time I using on american sign laguage.

Well, if you need another bus pass, you need to pay for it. He will give you one.

I did gave him of my ticket. I was paid a ticket machine at the metro rail, can rail transfer to bus don’t need I another to pay a ticket just I gave him give me one a ticket. if I not paid only metro rail it mean i can’t get another a ticket

Do you need something else? You are riding the bus now

Just forgot about that I’ll pay other but I knew depend on the people force to the people to pay but i knew about rule MTA

Then it was time for him to get off the bus. He blew me a kiss and held his hands to his heart, mouthing the words ‘thank you.’

He was very nice, I thought. A nice deaf young man.
I really wish I could have understood what he meant.

All this, I write, to illustrate the

There are times when it is very important to be understood. Constructing sentences with subjects, objects, verbs and prepositions really helps out with being understood.

I wish that boy luck, but man, he needs to study his grammar.

_Crimes of the Heart_

More Southern Drawly Drama.

This story is basically funny, but if you only look at what actually happens you wouldn’t think it was. But the family, and the way they handle the problems that come their way make it comedy.

The action starts on Lenore’s birthday. Her sister Babe is just being released from prison, because she shot her husband in the stomach. The oldest sister has come back from her failed starry singing career in Hollywood to help out the family. The family tragedy, one that happened years before, is that their mother committed suicide, hanging herself and their pet cat in the basement. All these things are definitely the makings of tragedy.

But it doesn’t turn out like that. The sisters are so funny–the way they interact and bicker! They do foolish things, but they are very good-hearted about it.

They bring up the subject of their mother’s death, and wonder why she did it. The only thing they can come up with is that “She had a really bad day.” Towards the end, they decide that they have got to figure out how to get through the really bad days.

The sibling interaction alone makes this worth seeing.

_Portnoy’s Complaint_

This novel by Philip Roth is number 52 on the “Top 100 best English language novels of the 20th century.” I’ve talked about this list before, and I’d said how I’ve read a number of them already.

I hadn’t read Portnoy’s, although I’d read another more recent Roth novel, The Human Stain.

That one was really good. Interesting characters, challenging themes, plot twists, all good stuff. I figured I would like Portnoy too.

Mm. Portnoy’s Complaint came out in ’67. I think the author has matured quite alot by the time he got to Human Stain.

Intresting how there are some similar themes: Female who is illiterate, Jewishness, Racism, Sex.

But PC positively reeks of the sixties. I think, what with the sexual revolution and all that, the on-going topic of masturbation was much more compelling than it is now. And I guess all of Portnoy’s sexual exploits were supposed to be deviant and shocking.

Gotta tell ya, they just aren’t anymore. Other than his obsession with choking his chicken as an adolescent, his main sexual sin seems to be fulfilling his fantasy of sleeping with two women at once.


This is regular prime-time fare in the naughty aughts. What shocked in the 60s is discussed around the dinner table this side of the 20th century.

I found his resentment of his family to be a far more interesting story line. And his Jewishness. Ethnic distinctions have also faded in importance by now, but it is interesting to remember how important they used to be.

I’m glad that I’ve read Human Stain already, it lets me know that the author has also progressed with the times. The Anti-Semitism that is the obsession of Portnoy is completely outside of my own experience. And the 90s setting of Human Stain reflects that cultural change. In some ways, chronicles it.

But that’s another review.

Portnoy’s Complaint seems like an artifact now. Perhaps the reasons it is so heralded is because it said some things for the first time. It does not come to any kind of conclusions. It just states a problem, Portnoy’s problem.

I don’t identify with him that much. And even if I did, he never offers any kind of solution. He’s just complaining.

What does it MEAN?

I went to visit a hospital for a checkup, but they put me in a gown and gave me a bed. The bed was in this huge open room with tons of other beds and no walls.I didn’t know why I was there, or what was wrong with me, other than that they were going to operate. There were going to open up my stomach and cut me.

I was so upset, I didn’t want to have this operation. No one would tell me what was going on, no one would talk to me. I felt fine! I thought that if there was something wrong with me, surgery should be the last, rather than the first, effort to solve the problem.

I was crying and pleading with people as they passed, asking what was happening, demanding to see a doctor, but no one would pay any attention to me.

Finally a nurse stopped, and explained that I had little growths, like plantar’s warts, on my intestine, and that they were going to remove those parts of my intestine.

“But, That sounds very risky! what if they grow back? Or my intestine doesn’t heal properly!”

“That’s ridiculous! This procedure has a 100% success rate”

I didn’t believe her. I begged to see a doctor, and she left, exasperated that I was so silly about this perfectly safe procedure.
I just lay down on the bed and cried.

Then I woke up. Freaky. Dreams can be so interesting.

Fortunately, I have a marvelous book.

10,000 Dreams Interpreted

I will admit, this dream is kind of baffling, but I have found Dream dictionaries (which is what this book really is) to be quite useful for understanding what my subconscious is trying to tell me.

This book is a good resource.

_On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft_

Stephen King writes books that a lot of people like. I mean, A LOT of people like his books.

I am not one of them. Can’t stand horror. Not it a snide “that’s so low-brow” kind of way. More in a “Oh my god, I will never close my eyes again” kind of way. So, I’ve avoided Stephen King books the way some people avoid battery acid. I know what they will do to me.

This book, however, I sought out and enjoyed. King was writing about how to write. That subject can be scary too, but in a totally different way.

He has some good things to say, starting with what started him off and moving on to more technical issues.

I think I might have gotten more out of the story if I were familiar with his works, but even so, I got plenty enough out. He was fairly personal, talking about his young life and influences, and even exposing his drug and alcohol addiction.

He gave out some good advice: Don’t use adverbs, especially ‘zestfully.’ Interesting. And he even gave some real nuts and bolts, like specific magazines and books to check out if you want to be a writer.

I will say one thing, though. I listened to a recording of this book, and that was great. I got to hear King’s memories and thoughts in his own voice with his own rhythm and cadence.
The man has the strangest way of pronouncing the sound “L” that I have ever heard in my life. He closes his throat around it. And as much as I was interested in the last bit of the book, when he got into some very practical advice, I STILL wanted to strangle him for that weird gutteral “L.”

Go get the book. READ it, and you will be glad you did.

_Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships_

Shanower took the Illiad and made it, or at least the first part of it, into a graphic novel. I love the heroic epic, and comic book format is a perfect medium to use for its re-interpretation.

I confess, I’ve started the Illiad, but not finished it. I know the story, but I’m shaky on some of the details. Really, the poetic language of the original can obscure some of the more prosaic details.

Also, the different Gods require interpretation. Maybe the Greek listeners knew who everyone was and what their ‘powers’ were, but had a little trouble keeping the dieties sorted out.

This novel was great in showing the action of the story. Naturally, the incredible beauty of the poetry can’t be shown to the same advantage in a comic book. But Shanower wasn’t trying to go there. He has a huge Bibliography in the back, which impressed me. I feel pretty confident that he stayed true to the facts.

I could already tell the he had kept to the characters of the people. Oddyseus had the arrogant and sales-pitch kind of conversational skills i remember from the original. Achilles and his mother interacted on their comic cell the same way they did in the stanzas.

Also, Shanower pointed out some of the political implications I had missed. Somehow, I hadn’t realized that Troy was such an important trade route. It made more sense that the battle be fought from political and monetary reasons than just that Helen was such a hottie.

The drawings were wonderful, too. The decorations and clothing of the people were interesting to see. Also, Shanower employed a range of graphical devices for his storytelling that kept things very interesting. He uses his drawing in ‘shots’ like a movie camera, sometimes. It gives a greater perspective.

This is a worthwhile book.

_All About My Mother_

Foriegn language films have always had that mystique of being particularly sophisticated. The subtitles mean that you must READ, and if you READ you must be smart.

And sophisticated.

All About My Mother has subtitles in English-the language spoken is Spanish. Spain-ish Spanish, that is, which sounds different to my ears accustomed to the rythms of Mexican accents. They lisp: “Grathias” and “Barthelona.” It sounds very gay to me.

But gay works in the story, even though the lisping was an unintetional addition to the gayness of the story. There are a number of transvetites who are important to the story.

The director, Pedro Almodovar, came highly recommended. He has another movie out right now, Talk to Her.

All About My Mother makes it sound like there is a main character whose mother we are learning about. But, the one who might be such a character died very early in the film.

It’s kind of a creepy thought, that the heroine’s son would be hanging around watching. The movie doesn’t really worry about his afterlife.

It seems to be more the director’s, Almodovar’s story about his mother. Or more broadly, it is a treatment of what femininity is. The story focusses on women, or men who feel like they are women. Transvestites always cast a bright light on conceptions of femininity, because they challenge what it means to be a woman.

This movie is really lovely, with amazing camera shots and situations that bring out real feelings in the viewer.

And it was fascinating to see Streetcar Named Desire played in Spanish.

Civilization is one missed lunch away from bedlam

Rank and file workers in America are not doing so well lately. Apparently, the UN cafeteria workers were striking for promised wages.

Those folks over at the UN are supposed to be the world’s best diplomats, right? The ones chosen from all over the world to reasonably work things out fairly and equitably. Force is for savages; we are all civilized here.

Hmm…That works until they have to give up their after-school snacks. With the workers on strike, the cafeterias were closed.

…count the seconds until someone storms the kitchens and the looting begins…

TIME.com: Food Fight

“The decision to make the cafeterias into “no pay zones” spread through the 40-acre complex like wildfire. Soon, the hungry patrons came running. “It was chaos, wild, something out of a war scene,” said one Aramark executive who was present. “They took everything, even the silverware,” she said. Another witness from U.N. security said the cafeteria was “stripped bare.” And another told TIME that the cafeteria raid was “unbelievable, crowds of people just taking everything in sight; they stripped the place bare.” And yet another astonished witness said that “chickens, turkeys, souffles, casseroles all went out the door (unpaid).” ”

That is the result of the world’s best experts in diplomacy being left to their own devices.

Be very afraid.