Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sons of Anarchy - To Be, Part Two (Season Finale)

Did you watch the season finale of Sons of Anarchy this week? What surprised you the most? What are you still wondering about? And how are you going to pass the time between now and the beginning of Season 5?

Probably the biggest surprise for me was when Romeo & Company revealed their association with the CIA. We knew that Romeo had “a guy inside” the CIA—he’d told Jax that in the prior episode. What we didn’t know was that Romeo was working with the CIA. That was a great plot twist because it complicated everything enough to tie Jax’s hands and prevent him from killing Clay.

Because of Romeo’s connection to the CIA, the RICO sting that would have arrested many of the Sons was thwarted because the CIA needs the gun/drugs deal to go down between the Sons, the Irish, and the cartel. But the Irish will only deal with Clay. They want nothing to do with Jax. When Romeo revealed the truth of it all to Jax, it became obvious to Jax that Clay had to live to make the deal go down. If Clay died, the Irish would walk away from the deal, the RICO sting would be back in play, and Jax and his brothers would go to prison. Jax was forced to stay in Charming.

We wondered here at home if Jax would tell Tara the truth about the CIA and the RICO sting. We were happy when he told her everything, but we expected her to leave. (And yet, we couldn’t really see Maggie Siff leaving the show.) When Tara walked into the chapel at the end of the show and put her arm possessively around Jax, staring Gemma down, the juxtaposition of Tara and Jax with Gemma and JT was a great effect. Jax is at the head of the table; Tara’s his old lady; Gemma’s looking on from the periphery.

I loved, loved, loved it when Jax prevented Tig from taking the Sergeant-at-Arms position to his right and instead asked Chibs to take that place. It was a brilliant move—Tig is way too loyal to Clay to take that seat, and Chibs is an upstanding dude. The noticeable hole at the table was the empty VP seat. Will Opie show up? Will he take the office? I think he will, but it was cool that they didn’t wrap that up for us in this episode.

We all knew that Jax wouldn’t really be able to kill Clay this season. Ron Perlman’s portrayal of Clay Morrow is much too integral to the whole plot of the show to lose him. But it wouldn’t have been true to Jax’s character to just have him change his mind and not do it. The disclosure of the CIA’s involvement in the deal and the threat of RICO arrests hanging over the Sons was a perfect vehicle to prevent the murder. Jax would never sabotage his club.

The next best thing to killing Clay, though, was Jax stripping the president’s patch from Clay’s cut. It was even better than the minor slice he gave to Clay’s neck. Gemma almost got everything she wanted—Jax is staying in Charming, and he’s sitting at the head of the table. But Clay isn’t dead, and I can’t wait to see what that means for Season 5 of the Sons of Anarchy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sons of Anarchy - To Be, Part One - Gemma plots!

Did you really think part one of the season finale for Sons of Anarchy would answer more questions than it asked? I actually thought we’d know … something. Ha! That’s what I get for thinking!

I suppose it did answer one of the biggest questions left hanging in the air from the previous episode—Clay’s not dead. The sadistic part of me that is thrilled by his evil ways is happy he’s still with us. The side of me that sympathizes with all of his victims thinks, “Really? He’s still alive? Really?” We’re led to believe it’s a temporary state of affairs as Jax is determined to do away with his stepdad—with the help of Tara and her medicine bag. But things never seem to go the way you think they’re going to, and I just can’t imagine Sons without Ron Perlman. Can you?

The jewel of the episode, though, was Katey Sagal. Oh my gosh! Gemma is the most manipulative, scheming bitch I’ve had the pleasure to watch on TV. Would she know the truth if it came up and bit her on the ass? I’m thinking not. Last week, we were wondering what was up with the kiss she gave Clay and her telling him that she loved him when only the week before she’d told Wayne that Clay needed to die. Now, this week, she tells the surgeon to keep Clay alive—with about as much interest and enthusiasm as I show for a bologna sandwich (not much)—so that she can manipulate Jax into killing him. It didn’t surprise me that she wanted Jax to kill Clay, but what a convoluted path we took to that point.

Then, we also have Gemma and her double-dealing with Jax and Tara. First, she convinces Tara to cough up JT’s letters and promises Tara that she’ll give the letters to Clay so that he’ll calm down and stop killing people. When Tara asks Gemma if Gemma understands that she and Jax are taking the boys and leaving Charming, Gemma says yes. And she says it without a hint of anger—only resignation evident on her face as if she knows there’s nothing she can do to prevent it.

A couple scenes later, though, we have Gemma walking into the chapel at the clubhouse where Jax is sorting through Clay’s paperwork. She hands Jax the letters and tells him everything—well, almost everything. She conveniently leaves out the part about JT’s death that implicates her and Wayne. After she tells Jax about Clay killing JT, about Clay killing Piney, and about Clay putting out the hit on Tara, there’s nothing left for Jax to do but kill Clay. And then, Gemma says, after he does, he has to take his rightful seat at the head of the table. So much for being resigned to Jax and Tara leaving Charming, right?

Next week—the season finale—will hopefully answer some of our questions. Will Jax kill Clay? I don’t think so. We need him around. Will Jax and Tara leave Charming? Jax won’t, but I think Tara might. Will the ‘Niners retaliate for Tig’s rogue attack that killed Laroy’s woman? What’s gonna happen to Opie, Bobby, Juice, and Otto? And what will my favorite bitch do for kicks next week? Gemma is the epic mother figure, isn’t she? Don’t mess with her family and don’t try to upset her happy home. Hell truly hath no fury as a pissed-off Gemma.

I don’t know what I’m gonna do when Season 4 of Sons of Anarchy ends next week. I guess I’ll have to re-watch the earlier seasons to get me through until next year and Season 5 begins. Maybe we should form a support group or something—share our favorite scenes, lines, murders, laughs. But I digress … we’ve got one episode left and I’ll bet Kurt Sutter’s got a helluva story planned. See ya next week!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sons of Anarchy - Discussion, Part 1

OK, so I can tell I've got a lot of people reading my Sons of Anarchy blogs, but hardly any comments. I'd love to know what you're all thinking, so I'm inviting you to share your thoughts, your hopes, and your fears for the end of this season as well as into Season 5.

Do you want Clay to die? Why or why not?

Do you want Jax to leave Charming? Why or why not?

What do you want for Gemma and her relationships with Clay, Jax, Tara, and Wayne?

How do you feel about Otto ratting out Bobby and the Sons?

What do you want for Opie now that he knows about what Clay has done and has shot Clay?

Do you want Tara to stay with Jax if Jax decides to stay in Charming? Why or why not?

Anything else on your mind about the Sons of Anarchy? Please feel free to share. I'm eager to hear your thoughts!!

Thanks for reading. Please keep coming back!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sons of Anarchy - "Burnt and Purged Away" Opie Shoots Clay

Did Opie kill Clay this week on Sons of Anarchy in the “Burnt and Purged Away” episode? The show has been building up to Clay’s demise for weeks now, but I never really believed they’d kill him off. How does the show go on without Ron Perlman’s Clay? The ending definitely didn’t make it clear—Opie shot Clay twice, but were they fatal wounds? I didn’t think they were until we watched the previews for next week. Did you see them? Clay looked dead.

Are you mystified by Gemma’s actions this week? A couple weeks ago, she told Wayne that Clay couldn’t be saved, that he had to go by the hands of a son/Son. Then, this week she tells Wayne to recant the tale he told Opie about Clay killing Piney and she tells Clay she loves him. Does she want personal revenge? Has she had a change of heart and decided she wants to try and save Clay? I love it that I don’t know, that the show constantly keeps me guessing.

Why did Jax try and stop Opie from killing Clay? Did he do it for Clay or did he do it for Ope? Did he really want Clay to have to answer to the club, or was he just worried about what would happen to Opie if he murdered Clay in cold blood? Jax doesn’t know about the letters, so he probably does have a hard time believing Clay would shoot Piney.

I’ve enjoyed Drea de Matteo’s return to play Wendy in the last two episodes. She’s a great actress, and Wendy is interesting now that she’s sober. But could Jax and Tara have any more complications in their lives? Death threats, damaged hands, warfare with rival gangs and cartels, and now the ex-junkie ex-wife is back and wanting to spending time with her son, Abel.

How did you feel about Bobby’s arrest? I can’t make up my mind about how I feel about it. I really like Bobby. As far as the Sons go, I think he’s one with a lot of integrity—MC integrity to be sure as it’s all relative—but still, he’s a good guy. Yet Otto has done so much for SAMCRO while he’s been inside and he was right—he only asked for them to protect Luanne. Not only did they not do that, but Bobby had carnal knowledge of Otto’s old lady. I guess I’ll say that I don’t blame Otto one bit, but I feel bad for Bobby all the same.

Where’s this wild ride gonna take us next week. We only have two episodes left this season. Did Clay die? If he didn’t, how will Gemma react to all of this? What’s gonna happen to Opie for shooting Clay? What’s gonna happen to Bobby inside and how long are the feds gonna hold Juice? Will Wendy get to see Abel? Will Tara stay with Jax in Charming—because I don’t see him leaving anytime soon now, do you?

I love Sons of Anarchy. I love the twists, the turns, and the characters that are so well written and so well played that I feel as if I know them. I’m glad Opie shot Clay. But I want Clay to live. He’s too bad to lose.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sons of Anarchy - "Hands" Clay beats Gemma

I can’t believe Clay didn’t kill Gemma in this week’s episode of Sons of Anarchy. Leaving her alive is signing the death warrant for one—or maybe both—of them. He has to know that she’s done with him and his lies and his greed. He has to know that she intends to tell Jax everything, and that, once Jax knows—about JT, about Piney, about Tara, about what Clay did to Gemma—he won’t rest until Clay is dead. And Gemma isn’t safe just because she's still breathing.

Who’s gonna move first—and fastest?

The episode was aptly named—“Hands”—don’t ya think? Clay’s hands are in everything except he’s holding on to less and less with them. His power is crumbling, and in that scene with Romeo after the botched hit, he’s beginning to realize it. Romeo’s pulling Clay’s strings now, and all the pres can do is dance when told.

Then we have Clay and Gemma putting their hands on each other. I thought Gemma’s rape was brutal to watch in the second season, but the beating she took at Clay’s hands in this episode was at least that bad. This was someone who was supposed to have loved her. I flinched away when his fist came down at the screen and it faded to black for a commercial. Ron Perlman and Katey Sagal are phenomenal actors. Hats off to them, always.

As the episode opens, the attempt to steal Tara away is botched, and the van door slams shut on her hand, the obvious reference to the title is clear. She’s so bitter after her operation, trying to deal with the news that she may never use her hand—at least for surgery—again. She has every right to be pissed about her hand, to be bitter, to be depressed. But I hate it that she blames Jax. I hate it when women on shows like this (think Carmela on The Sopranos) get involved with a bad boy and then get all righteous when the bad boy’s lifestyle incriminates or harms them in some way. Jax is who he is. He’s still living the life he was living when she got together with him, got pregnant by him, got engaged to him. She saw him and the MC with her eyes wide open. Who’s surprised she’s been in danger and gotten hurt?

There are lots of other people’s hands getting dirty too. Poor Wayne. His hands are all over Piney’s murder scene, trying to clean up what Clay left behind. Roosevelt’s hands are dirty in the way he’s dealt with Juice and the feds, but at least he knows it and tried to apologize for it. Opie’s reaching out his hands to Jax, begging his friend not to leave SAMCRO. Poor Ope. I’m still wondering what’s gonna go down when he discovers his dad’s dead. I don’t think Jax will be able to leave Opie (and the MC) then.

I can’t decide what I want to happen to Clay. He’s so bad, and that’s what makes the show so much fun to watch. He’s growing more and more evil with time. I can’t imagine him ever coming back from it. Like Gemma told Wayne, “Clay can’t be saved.”

But what happens to the Sons of Anarchy—the show and the fictional MC—without him? I don’t like the pain he inflicts on the others, but I don’t want him to go.

Tune in next week—the episode is 90 minutes long. What do they have in store for us in Charming?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Walking Dead: Lori pregnant in "Cherokee Rose"?

This week’s episode of The Walking Dead (“Cherokee Rose”) wasn’t as exciting as last week’s, but I guess they can’t all be quite as intense as that one.

I think my favorite part was when they were trying to get that zombie out of the well. First—hats off to the dude playing the zombie. He was both highly entertaining and disgusting at the same time. But the best part of that scene was—if you saw it, you know what I’m going to say—the part where the zombie, well, ripped apart. Did you see the maggots that flushed out of his abdomen and lay squiggling on the ground? They do revolting well on that show, don’t they? I loved it!

My next favorite part was Daryl’s scene with Carol in the RV when he brought her the flower the episode was named for and told her the story behind it. When a redneck like Daryl shows a sensitive side like he did, it strikes a chord with me. And I’m feeling optimistic too—I think they’ll find Sophia, and I don’t think she’ll be bitten when they do.

When Glenn and Maggie got busy in the pharmacy, I didn’t really like it and here’s why. I like Glenn. He’s a good guy. He’s always helping people and he never loses his temper. We know he likes Maggie—they’ve been giving us those clues for a couple weeks. Glenn deserves better than to be used, and I think that’s what Maggie was doing. I almost think that’s why she took Glenn with her. I’m wondering—and so is my husband (in fact, he wondered first)—if she didn’t plan the sex in the hopes of getting pregnant. There were some interesting looks passing between her and her father before and after she and Glenn went to town. I know, sex is sex is sex. They’re both adults and they’re lonely and they got lucky. But I still want more for Glenn.

Then, finally, we have Lori and the pregnancy test. I’ve lost track of how much time has passed since Rick found her and Carl, so I don’t know if she’s wondering who the daddy is, but I think the writers want us to wonder. Was the distraught face she showed us at the end of the episode caused by her confusion over the paternity of the baby, or is it her fear about raising another child in the world they live in? Remember how she talked about not saving Carl because the world is so horrible? Remember how she said maybe he’d be better off if they just let him go? How would that mother feel about trying to care for a baby in the world of The Walking Dead?

Looking forward to next week. And still wondering if we’ll see Otis as a zombie. Shane should have shot him in the head.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Dexter Can't "Just Let Go"

Did you think that Brother Sam was going to be able to help Dexter leave his Dark Passenger behind? I did. I really did. And then, sadly, in this week’s episode (“Just Let Go”), Brother Sam died, and put Dexter to his most rigorous test yet.

Brother Sam asked Dexter to tell Nick, the man whom Brother Sam had tried desperately to save from a life of crime, that he forgave Nick for shooting—and killing—him. That’s not how Dexter operates—forgive the pun. Dexter knew before Brother Sam made his dying request that Nick was the one who pulled the trigger. He’d already begun to plan how he was going to get Nick onto his table.

But Dexter liked and respected Brother Sam, and he wanted to believe—I think—that there was a lightness inside him that Sam could see and that could maybe, eventually, be brought out to shine over the Dark Passenger Dexter carries with him. So he tried to carry out Brother Sam’s wish.

When he took Nick for that walk on the beach, I didn’t know how it was going to go with Dexter. I did believe, though, that when Nick found out Sam forgave him before he died, Nick would convert and be the person Brother Sam thought he could be. I think maybe that’s what Dexter thought would happen too because he was giving Sam’s request consideration.

And then Nick laughed because Dexter was the only person who knew of Nick’s guilt. Nick was jubilant that he’d gotten away with the murder.

Dexter, as he told us, hit his fork in the road. Nick’s laughter was more than Dexter and his darkness could handle, and he drowned Nick there in the knee-deep surf. And I think he also drowned any hope he had of finding the light inside himself. It made me really sad for Dexter.

Then, when Big Brother Brian shows up at the very end of the episode, I got really worried about Dexter. On the same day that he loses Brother Sam—someone who saw both the light and the dark in Dexter and believed in the strength of the light—the darkest figure in Dexter’s life comes back.

The trailer for next week’s episode of Dexter promises a reconnection with Trinity. Will Dexter ever be able to separate himself from his Dark Passenger? And is he even going to want to anymore, now that Sam is gone?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sons of Anarchy - "Kiss" and Clay orders the hit

At the end of Sons of Anarchy this week, Clay dialed the number that Romeo gave him for the hit man. We heard it ringing. Lots of dramatic irony this week—we know stuff Clay doesn’t know. We know Jax and the boys are going with Tara to Oregon. Clay thinks she’s going alone. But remember what Romeo said, once the ball is set in motion, it can’t be stopped.

So who’s going to die? Tara and Jax? Tara or Jax? I don’t think so. I could maybe see Tara, maybe. But my money’s on one or both of the kids. Will Gemma “kiss” that murder away from Clay like she did Piney’s? Will Wayne help her cover that up too?

Clay’s not happy with Jax right now. Jax wants out earlier than what he promised Clay, and we know Clay is all about Clay. He wouldn’t mind if his VP was gone. But Gemma would mind. A lot. And I think even Clay would feel bad if he was responsible for the deaths of the boys. I think. He’s such a viper, it’s hard to tell.

Gemma keeps letting me down. I know she loves Clay. But she’s not blind to his darkness, and she knows what he’s capable of. She knows who he’s hurt and who he’s capable of hurting, and yet she keeps trusting him. I want her to be more honest. I want her to take better care of her family. She keeps letting me down. Maybe she keeps believing in Clay because if she has to really see him for who he is, then she has to see herself for who she is too, and what she’s helped him do all these years. I just really used to think she was a better mom than she’s turning out to be.

I hate it that Juice seems to be believing Lincoln, the federal agent who’s been blackmailing him. And don’t you just hate what the cops are doing to Otto? That poor guy has taken it and taken it for SAMCRO and here he’s getting it from the feds. I want some retribution for Otto!

Who knows where this crazy story is going next? Will Clay’s hit succeed, and, if it does, who’s going to take the bullet? Sons of Anarchy is one of the best shows on TV and this “Kiss” episode is another example why. See ya next week!

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Walking Dead: Shane shooting Otis--Hero or Coward?

Sacrifices on The Walking Dead this week: Blood. An arrow. A gun. A life. The episode was called “Save the Last One.” Save the last child—Carl? Or save the last bullet? Shane saved the last bullet so that he could help save Carl. When he shot Otis, was he acting the hero or the coward? The truth of the satirical maxim, “I don’t have to outrun the zombies, I just have to outrun you” became abundantly clear in this episode.

Otis volunteered to go with Shane to get the medical supplies for Carl because he was racked with guilt over accidentally shooting Carl in the first place. When they got to the school, Otis told Shane which trailer held the supplies and together they outsmarted (and outran) the zombies. Then it got ugly.

Getting from the trailer to the truck with the supplies proved impossible, so Shane and Otis had to take refuge in the school. They didn’t stay safe for long, though, so they made a pact to leave separately and meet up outside the building and head for the truck. They succeeded in that. But then the zombies converged on them again, and both men were slow because they had hurt their ankles jumping during their escape from the school. They shot at the zombies until they each had only one bullet left, and the zombies kept coming.

“I don’t have to outrun the zombies. I only have to outrun you.”

Did Shane do the right thing shooting Otis? Part of me says yes. He had to do whatever he could to save Carl who is practically family to Shane. After all, what would Rick have done if he’d been in Shane’s shoes? There was no way they were going to escape the herd together.

The biggest problem I have with what Shane did—and it isn’t lying about it when he got back to the farmhouse—is that he shot Otis in the leg and not the head. That was cruel. The zombies would have stopped and eaten Otis anyway, if Shane had shot him in the head. And, if he’d shot him in the head, there’d be no chance that Otis could show up as a zombie later.

Shane’s got issues, but I don’t blame him for shooting Otis. I blame him for leaving him alive.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sons of Anarchy - "Family Recipe" and Piney's last stand

I knew what was coming this week on Sons of Anarchy, didn’t you? Yet when Clay pulled the trigger and literally ripped Piney’s heart out of his chest, I could do nothing but sit and stare at the TV with my mouth hanging open. Some part of me had hoped that Piney would make it another episode or two.

Clay had figuratively ripped Piney’s heart out a long time ago. The president’s greed and his penchant for making his own rules have destroyed everything the First 9 created. Piney knew he was marking time, but he believed he was going to last long enough to bring down Clay. I didn’t let my optimism carry me that far (besides, we need a criminal like Clay to keep the tension high), but I still can’t believe Piney’s gone. How’s Opie gonna take it? What’s Jax gonna think?

And I also have to address my post from last week. As many pointed out on various sites (including this one!), the branch did break and Juice didn’t manage to hang himself. I feel for this guy, don’t you? He loves the Sons so much—they really are his family—and he was forced to betray them or have his race revealed to them. Can you imagine the torture he’s been going through? And now, Chibs knows. How bad is it gonna get for Juice? If/When Clay finds out….I don’t want to think about it.

Then we have Tara preparing to leave Charming for the safety of Abel and Thomas (and herself). Is she actually gonna go? I don’t see it. I just don’t see her leaving. It screws up the dynamics of the show, don’t you think? But I love how protective Wayne is being with the whole threatening letter thing—the lengths he’s going to and the risks he’s taking—he’s trying so hard to do what’s right (in his own, twisted mind).

And, because the episode is called “Family Recipe,” we can’t overlook the comic relief that Chuckie offers us every time he’s onscreen. The chili scene with the deputies reminded me of the “secret’s in the sauce” bit in Fried Green Tomatoes. How hilarious was that when Gemma stirred the pot and found the secret ingredient? It’s good that we get to chuckle every now and then. These episodes are getting crazy—and GREAT!!

No one can predict what’s going to happen next on Sons of Anarchy. But we can’t wait to find out, can we? See ya next week!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sons of Anarchy - "Fruit for Crows" RIP Juice

If you watched Sons of Anarchy this week, you had to hand it to Bobby—it took some cojones to call for a vote for a new president. He sees the damage Clay is doing to the club, and he cares enough to try and stop it. I’m left wondering what it’s going to end up costing Bobby after the vote because you just know that Clay’s not handing over that gavel.

Clay is slowly but surely eating the club down to the bone. It’s all about him—his greed, his lust for power and control, and (I think) his fear of his own weakening hands. What good’s a Son who can’t ride—let alone a president who can’t?

I’m ashamed of the rest of the club that are going against their own consciences and gut feelings to follow Clay down the drug and guns trail. I understand that it’s a loyalty thing. I know it’s also a trust thing—they truly trust Clay and don’t believe he’d do anything that would hurt the club. That makes his deception even worse because he knows that about his guys. He knows they trust him and believe him and he’s using that to his own personal advantage while he destroys SAMCRO.

We can’t forget, either, about the “strange fruit” hanging in the tree at the end of the episode “Fruit for the Crows.” Clay has that on his hands too because if he hadn’t started the whole guns-and-coke thing with the cartel, the feds would have had no use for Juice. Clay’s eaten Juice’s life away, but no one’s going to hold him responsible, are they?

Clay has no “off” switch. He’s gonna have to be disabled or he’ll never have enough. He’ll never stop. No matter what. No. Matter. Who.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sons of Anarchy - Where'd the honor go?

One of the foundations of SAMCRO is supposed to be honor. It’s an honor to be patched in to the club. You honor your brothers in the club. You even, to a lesser degree, honor members’ old ladies—not crow eaters, but old ladies. You honor the code of the club—you protect the club.

Well, in this girl’s opinion, poor ol’ Piney’s the only one with any honor left in him. Maybe Chibs too, but he did vote in favor of the guns and the coke this season.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not complaining about the show—far from it. There are all kinds of conflicts being built up as a result of the lack of honor in the club. It’s making for great TV.

First of all, everybody’s lying, and they’re not lying about who forgot to take out the trash or who didn’t clean up the clubhouse. Gemma and Clay are lying to each other about JT’s letters. Clay’s lying to Jax about the extracurricular activities he’s asked Romeo to conduct. Juice is lying to everybody about the brick of coke—and Miles died for that one. Wayne’s lying to Gemma and Clay about the letters. Lyla lied to Opie so Opie cheated on her. It’s one big cluster and it’s a mystery as to who’s gonna die in the middle of it because you know Miles won’t be the last.

I feel bad for Piney. He’s one of the First 9, and he’s watching his club disintegrate around him—and I do mean his club, the club he helped establish. Clay’s wretched morals are eating it away from the inside out. I was actually happy when Piney punched Opie this week, and I agreed with him when he told his son, “I don’t even know who you are anymore.” I think he could have been talking about any of the Sons when he said that.

My heart also breaks a little for Wayne. Yeah, he was a really crooked, dirty cop, but there’s something sweet about him too. He loves Gemma—and I’ve never gotten the feeling that it’s lustful love, but more of a father-daughter love. Maybe I’m not seeing that completely straight, but that’s what I think. Wayne’s been a protector of the club. You’d be hard-pressed to name a crime he hasn’t committed to keep SAMCRO safe. And now, his gut’s telling him—rightly so—that Clay’s up to the kind of no good that could result in a murder that would rip apart the lives of everyone in the club, if Wayne can’t stop it. So Wayne’s going up against Clay, a plastic Big Wheel against a diesel locomotive, but I’m rooting for the Big Wheel.

There’s some honor left in Charming. Piney’s is intact, and Wayne’s struggling to hold onto what’s left of his. There’s a battle brewing, and not all of the Sons will be standing when it’s over. Maybe the right ones will fall, and honor can find its rightful place in the chapel again.

But, now, how much fun would that be?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Breaking Bad Season Four Finale

Season Four of Breaking Bad wrapped up this week, and what a season it’s been! For some reason, I was under the impression that this was the final season, and the suspense and cliff-hangers built into each episode helped support that false belief. I’m grateful that we’re going to have one more season—I love this show! But I’m also apprehensive because seriously, how are they going to top this season?

If you’re unfamiliar with the AMC hit, first of all, shame on you! But rest easy—you can get the early episodes on DVD. The show’s two main characters are Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher, and Jesse Pinkman, a low-level meth cook and dealer. Walter finds out in the pilot episode that he has lung cancer, and his prognosis is bad. His wife is a writer who makes little if anything working from home. Together, they have a son, Walt Junior, who’s in high school, and who has cerebral palsy. Plus, the Whites are expecting a new baby. They’re in debt and have no assets. Walter’s worried about how his family will get along once he’s dead.

Then he takes a ride with his DEA brother-in-law, Hank, and watches the good guys bust a meth lab. While Walter watches the raid from the car, he sees his former, way-underperforming student, Jesse, jump from a window and elude the police. Walt’s a smart guy and a great chemist. He has a general understanding of how much money can be made from cooking and selling meth, and he has the know-how to produce it. Jesse, obviously, has the beginnings of a marketing network. Together, they form a (criminal) partnership and the fun begins.

In the first two seasons, Walt and Jesse go up against characters of all types—vicious and lethal, bumbling and hilarious, sad and stupid. The minor characters add layers to the story and help develop Walter and Jesse’s characters further. And then they meet Gus Fring at the end of Season Two.

Gus offers them a job that seems like it’s too good to be true. Well, you know what they say about things seem too good to be true, dontcha? Throughout Season Three, the enigma that is Gus begins to grow claws and teeth. During this last season, Gus shows us his worst, and brings out the worst in Walt and Jesse in the process.

I loved the way the final episode of Season Four ended. I loved the way certain plot lines were wrapped up and the way they implicated Walt at the end in a crime that I just can’t believe—and yet I have to believe—he committed.

Next season will likely be a battle of values—trust, love, and honor—between Walt and Jesse. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul are phenomenal actors, so I have no doubt their portrayals of these constantly evolving characters will be worth watching. I hope, though, when it’s all said and done—for good—this time next year, that I won’t be wishing Breaking Bad had ended this week with “Face Off.”

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sons of Anarchy and Flesh-eating Ants

I love the episode titles for Sons of Anarchy. Last week’s was “Dorylus.” I had to look it up because, if they mentioned it during the episode, I missed it. As soon as I saw the links that Google pulled up for me, I understood. It’s a type of ant. A mean, “flesh-eating” ant, to be specific.

The literal reference to the episode is the scene at the Wahewa reservation where Clay and Bobby are taken by Charlie Horse to see a man who was buried up to his shoulders in the ground and who was covered in dorylus—flesh-eating—ants. The Wahewa hoped to see the man suffer another couple days before he died. Clay had other ideas.

As is often the case with Clay these days.

I think “Dorylus” was a well-chosen name for the figurative “flesh-eating” that’s going on in SAMCRO right now. Clay, with Jackson’s help, is slowly but surely devouring the club. He’s tearing it apart. It’s not going to be a quick death, it’s not going to be pretty, and it’s certain to be painful—probably even deadly for more than one Son before it’s all over.

Clay’s appetite and greed are so selfish that he is destroying the “family” he’s sworn to protect and love for his whole life. Will Jax continue to help Clay eat SAMCRO down to the bone, or will he stand up for the club before it’s all over? What will Bobby do?

I love this show because it’s so well written, the characters are so well drawn, and the conflicts are so multi-layered that you never know what will happen next. But you can’t wait to find out.

Oh, yeah, and it’s one of those shows where I just can’t help myself—I root for the bad guys.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Saying goodbye to the Summer of 2011

It’s almost time to go back to school, and I’m not looking forward to kissing this summer goodbye. It’s been eventful, and I’m grateful to have the memories from it that I do. I shared time with people I love, so this post is dedicated to them and the Summer of 2011.

Only three days after I signed out of school in June, Terry, Tori, and I headed to Chicago with Mom and Dad. We spent the night only a few miles from O’Hare, got up early the next morning, and caught a shuttle to the airport. Where did we go, you ask? Mexico! We landed in Cancun about four hours after taking off, and, within another hour or so, we stepped across the threshold of the Now Jade all-inclusive resort in Puerto Morales, about twenty miles south of Cancun.

We spent four nights that I’ll never forget in that beautiful resort on the Caribbean Sea. I watched my mom and dad walk hand-in-hand across the sand so that they could wade together in the sea. I’ve got a picture of Terry and my dad with their arms around each other, waving at me underneath the big blue sky. I don’t know how many hours—all together—Mom, Tori, and I spent in the water, playing in the waves, exclaiming every time we saw a school of silvery fish flash by.

I’ll never forget the night we ate at the Asian restaurant, Spice, and Mom discovered that maybe margaritas aren’t so very bad after all! She had so much fun that night and kept us laughing out loud the whole time we were there. (She went on to discover that Dos Equis isn’t a bad beer, either, during lunch one afternoon in Playa del Carmen.)

There are so many moments from that trip that I have locked away—in photos and in my memories. I’m so happy that we all got to experience that trip together.

Just a few weeks ago, Tori and I took our annual trip to the Smoky Mountains. We rented a cabin a few miles outside Gatlinburg, up the steepest driveway I’ve ever encountered! It unnerved us quite a bit when we arrived to find the front door unlocked and hanging open. It wasn’t dark yet, so we explored to make sure we were alone and about jumped out of our skins when the pinball machine that was upstairs in the loft started talking. It took us a while to settle down after that, but with the help of an episode of Pretty Little Liars, we were able to chill and sleep well that night.

It was one of our more laid back vacations down there this year. We didn’t whitewater raft, which we often do. We hiked, but we chose trails that offered waterfalls at the ends of them instead of mountain peaks. We shopped, but we avoided the outlet mall. We did take a haunted tour of Gatlinburg, which was big fun, and in the process, got to see a bear! There’s only been one year that we’ve been in the Smokies in the last nine years that we haven’t seen a bear, and every year except this year we’ve seen them at Cades Cove, in the national park. This young one was hanging out behind a church downtown, and we startled it as tour group approached. He ran off down a hill, and we continued on. It was big fun!

As much as I did enjoy the trip to the Smokies and my time with my daughter—and believe me, I did. (She’s growing up so fast, I’m trying to savor every minute I have with her here at home.) There was no denying that I missed my husband on this trip. We’ve become a good threesome, Terry, Tori, and I, and it felt like a piece was missing when we were apart. I figure that just means I’m really blessed—I have a daughter who I love so much and who still enjoys spending time with me, and I have a husband who is generous enough to give us our time girl-time and who I miss when we’re separated.

This has been a good summer. It was the summer that Tori got her first job—which she actually likes, thank God. It was the summer that I really got serious about freelancing and am now working on turning it into a true business for myself. It was the summer that I ALMOST finished my newest novel. (I’ll finish it soon, I swear!!)

So, as I said, I’m sorry to see the Summer of 2011 end. I’m not eager for the school year, for myself, but I am excited about the fact that it’s Tori’s senior year. She has so much to look forward to—beginnings and endings, both. I’m grateful to be her mom and to be witness to the amazing woman she’s growing up to be. I pray to God that we all have many, many more summers ahead of us.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ladies, what do you have to offer the world?

I saw a commercial on TV yesterday that insulted and angered me in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever been insulted or angered before—by a commercial, anyway. Let’s see what the rest of you think.

Ladies, how would you feel if you were told that your female anatomy was the cradle of life and the center of civilization? That many have fought and died for it? That it’s the most powerful thing on Earth?

Then, how would you feel if, after you were told that, you were also told to “show it a little love” by purchasing and using Summer’s Eve cleansing wash and cloths?

I’m getting mad again just typing this blog.

I almost didn’t put the actual name of the product in the blog because I don’t want to offer them more advertising. My hope, though, is that you all will be as insulted as I am and that you’ll boycott their products on principle.

Who thought up this campaign? Who thought, “Let’s appeal to today’s woman by telling her that the most valuable thing she has to offer the world is her lady parts and that she should do us all a favor and clean them properly”? Are you not seething at the moment, ladies?

I’d like to tell the brainiacs who came up with this campaign that the best I have to offer the world is my intelligence, my compassion, my strength, my creativity, and my heart. What about the rest of you? What do you have to offer the world? What is it about you that’s worth fighting and dying for? Is it really just your lady parts?

Of course it isn’t. And isn’t it horrible to think that Summer’s Eve—a company that should cater to women—doesn’t understand that about us?

They should be ashamed. And the people behind that ad campaign should be fired for crippling the brand.

Who would have thought that in 2011 we’d still feel the need to stand up and say, “There’s more to me than my ability to please my man and bear children”?

Not me, but I’m up for this fight. How ‘bout you, ladies?

Monday, April 18, 2011

School lunches - don't bring them from home in Chicago!

In the Chicago Public Schools system, it is left to each individual principal's discretion as to whether or not students are allowed to bring their lunches from home. Six years ago, Principal Elsa Carmona effected a ban on home-packed lunches at Little Village Academy, a K-8 public school on Chicago's west side.

Carmona said in a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, “Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school. It's about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It's milk versus a Coke.”

A CPS spokesperson was also quoted in the Tribune's article, defending Carmona's school lunch policy, saying, “this principal is encouraging the healthier choices and attempting to make an impact that extends beyond the classroom.”

It's the whole “attempting to make an impact that extends beyond the classroom” part that doesn't sit well with me, and remember, (for now) I'm a teacher.

In education today it seems we are asked more and more to “make an impact that extends beyond the classroom.” Don't get me wrong. When it comes to trying to teach our students about being responsible, conscientious citizens who want to make good choices in school and beyond, I'm all for that, and I work hard trying to do this with my students.

But more and more, we're asked – and sometimes required – to take on many roles that I firmly believe belong with the parents. This school lunch policy is a good example of the schools reaching too far beyond their boundaries. It should be up to the parents to decide what their kids will eat for lunch, to take responsibility for ensuring their children are eating well. With the computer programs being utilized in most schools , it's not hard to keep up with what our kids eat for lunch. I can check every day, if I want to, to see what my daughter bought for lunch. If parents check what their kids are buying and don't like it, then they should be parents and put a stop to it.

Another question I have, and one that is raised in the Tribune article is, what about the kids who don't like the school's food? They don't eat. They throw it away. And they have no other option. How is eating nothing “better nutrition”?

Chicago Public Schools are taking away the rights of parents to decide what to feed their children. How can this be good, and why aren't parents arguing against it, if for no other reason that the principle of the whole thing?

There will never be a time when the school knows what's better for my child than I do. Never.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Walking with Mom

For many years, my mom has been participating in a Relay for Life event. She raises money, she walks for a couple hours, and she decorates luminary bags in memory and support of family and friends who have battled or are battling that disease. When she speaks of the event, of what it feels like for her to be there, she gets kind of a faraway look in her eyes and struggles to explain the experience. Regardless of the words she uses, it’s obvious how much it means to her to be there.

For the first time since Mom began participating in the Relay for Life, I joined her for a while on the track. I was there for the luminary ceremony and the playing of “Taps” by the bagpipes and drum corps. And I felt what (I think) she’d been trying for years to describe, though I too find myself at a loss to truly put my feelings into words. I can tell you that I’m sorry I haven’t been there with her before now.

I thought that I would come home and try and write about my experience with Mom, about the importance of the fundraising, the awareness, the support that the Relay for Life is all about. And while all of that is certainly worthwhile, it’s not what keeps coming to mind.

Mom keeps coming to mind.

My mom is one of those quiet supporters. She gives to so many people. She gives her time. She gives her hand. She gives her ear. She gives her shoulder. She gives her heart. My mom is the most generous person I know, and that quality in her shone so brightly at the Relay. It means so much to her to be there and be part of that.

Mom inspires me more than she knows. I pray to be the kind of mother, wife, sister, and friend that she is. I also pray that Mom always knows and never doubts how much love I have for her, how much I respect her, how much I value her friendship, how much it means to me to be able to call her “Mom.”

I’ll walk with you anywhere, Mom. I’m so proud to be your daughter.

Friday, April 8, 2011

No tears for Pia Toscano on American Idol

I don't know how many of you share my sentiment, but I was very pleased with the American Idol results show last night. It was time for Pia Toscano to go home.

I won't argue that she can sing, but I don't believe she deserved to win the whole thing. First of all, I thought her performance on Idol's Wednesday night episode left a lot to be desired. When Pia sang “River Deep – Mountain High,” she only hit about every other note. When the judges all but bowed at her feet, it made me feel like we had a whole row of Paula’s sitting there.

Lately, I've been feeling too that she has this attitude that comes across as though she'd already won. There's never been any real humility about Pia, and as the last few weeks have come and gone on Idol, I think that has gotten even worse. You could tell just looking at her every Thursday night (during the results show) that she never expected to go home. I don't like arrogance in someone who is in the company of so many other talented people.

Which brings me to another reason that Thursday night's Idol honked me off: Did you hear all of the people booing when Pia was sent home? I understand that she had fans that were not happy that she got voted off. What really bothered me was when the judges joined in, so adamantly opposed to her leaving. What they were saying, in effect, is that the other people who were in the bottom three deserved to go home more than she did, which makes Randy, JLo and Steven hypocrites, if you ask me.

Jacob Lusk and Stefano Langone were in the sad seats with Pia before Ryan announced who was going home. All three judges have all but kissed the feet of both of those men after each of their performances. (Personally, I was ready to see all three of them go home last night.) Supposedly, Randy, JLo and Steven all LOVE Jacob and Stefano, so how do you suppose Jacob and Stefano felt when the judges were so against Pia going home? (Meaning, then, that they would have rather lost one of those men.)

I guess the reason for my blog today is basically that I'm just sick of a lot of the contestants already, and I'm sick of the judges loving everyone. All of the contestants are not that wonderful. They all have bad nights and hit bad notes. (And don't get me started on Haley Reinhart. If you ever get the chance to listen to her sing in between that ridiculous growl, be ready to cringe. She's rarely on pitch, which must be why she sounds like a cat in heat most of the time – she's trying to hide the fact that she can't sing.)

My reasons for sending Stefano and Jacob home? Stefano comes across as a cruise ship entertainer. I just can't stand watching him sing. He makes me feel greasy. Jacob is annoying to watch, too, and his voice isn't unique enough for me. I wouldn't turn to a different station if Jacob came on the radio, but there is nothing about his voice or his performance style that would make me want to buy one of his albums.

Who do I like? Every week I look forward to Casey Abrams and Scotty McCreery. Casey has one of the most original sounds American Idol has to offer. He's humble, he's personable, he can sing – well – and I think he'll go far. That upright base of his is a welcome diversion from all the electric, techno music being offered by so many artists these days. And then there's 17-year-old Scotty. I have to remind myself when he sings how young he is! That voice of his warms me from the inside out, and I'm always smiling by the time he hits the chorus of any song he's singing. Either one of these guys could win it all and I'd feel like there was justice on the American Idol stage.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Michael's proposal to Holly on The Office - PERFECT!!

Friends is one of my all-time favorite sitcoms. I watched almost every episode when it was newly aired, and I still watch them in syndication, almost every night. The show is still funny and touching and real to me. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.

One of my most favorite episodes was when Chandler and Monica got engaged. That episode was perfect. Joey was running around in his Mr. Beaumont outfit. Chandler called Richard a “big tree” and yelled at him because he “made my girlfriend think!” Monica was all torn up because Richard finally loved her enough to marry her when all she really wanted was for Chandler to stop talking about pig sex and propose to her.

How could it have gotten any better than Joey telling Chandler that Monica had left, Chandler falling quickly into depression, only to be bowled over when he found Monica in their apartment with about a hundred candles burning? When Monica said, “You wanted it to be a surprise,” I got a lump the size of a baseball in my throat. I thought that was the epitome of TV marriage proposals.

I was wrong. Michael Scott – and the rest of The Office – upstaged Friends this week.

I’ve been rooting for Michael and Holly ever since Amy Ryan walked on the set. They are absolutely perfect for each other and no matter what else you can say about Michael Scott, the guy deserves to be truly loved. He’s wanted it - and worked for it - for so long.

When Pam asked to see the engagement ring and Michael popped the lid open on the ring box, Pam and I both about collapsed. The ring was as big as a robin’s egg. Pam said (what I was thinking), “Is that real?”

Michael looked at Pam and said, “Yeah. Three years’ salary, right?” I knew then the proposal on Friends was in danger of being knocked off its pedestal.

I don’t know if I could pick a favorite part of the episode: Michael’s bad ideas for the restaurant proposal that Pam, Jim, and Oscar talked him out of; Michael’s bad idea of getting a corpse that was supposed to be him falling off the roof and losing his head over Holly; Michael stopping Holly from proposing to him. Yeah, those were all great and made me belly laugh, but they weren’t the best part.

The best part was the actual proposal. It was so typically Michael, so sweet, so weird, so from-the-heart. When he opened the door to the kitchen and everyone in the office was standing there with a candle, the guys taking turns asking Holly to marry them, that lump in my throat started growing again. When Michael and Holly made it through the kitchen (without Holly accepting any of the other proposals) and into the annex, when Michael popped open the ring box and asked her, in Yoda-speak, if she would marry him and Holly answered yes, in Yoda-speak, I heard the distant tumble of Monica and Chandler falling from the perch they’d held for so long. And I wiped my eyes.

I can’t really imagine The Office without Michael Scott. But if he has to leave, I’m really glad he isn’t going alone.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Big Love - I wasn't ready for the end.

A Big Love affair of mine ended Sunday night. Yes, Terry knew all about it. In fact, he was having his own Big Love affair, and so was Tori. It was a family thing.

In case you’re not familiar with the HBO series, Big Love, well, that’s the affair that’s over. The series came to a shocking end Sunday night, and I have to say, I’m really going to miss Bill, Barb, Nicki, Margene, and their special kind of polygamist big love.

We got hooked on Big Love with its pilot episode back in 2006. Bill Henrickson was your typical suburban husband living outside Sandy, Utah, with his wife and three kids. He owned Henrickson’s Home Plus – a family take on a big home improvement store such as Home Depot. Barb, his wife, was a substitute teacher. Their kids were wholesome (when their parents were looking), normal kids.

And then, in the house next door to Bill and Barb’s house lived Nicki with her two sons, who were also Bill’s two sons because Nicki was also his wife, although second in line behind Barb. Nicki was the queen of do-it-herself, fix-anything she can get her hands on, prairie-dress wearing, braid-down-her-back wife from the compound. She was one of many daughters of the prophet of Juniper Creek, Roman Grant. With Nicki and the Grants came boatloads of trouble.

And, finally, in the house next to Nicki lived sweet, innocent, always happy, always perky, Margene, Bill’s very young third wife who started out as a babysitter for his kids. Marge had two sons with Bill when we first met her; she would have one more – a girl – before the series ended.

It was quite a tribe to keep track of, and believe me, I haven’t even scraped the surface of minor, yet infinitely important characters. This show was so well done, though, that it was hard to get lost in all of the faces. The characters were so well drawn – Roman, Alby, and Adaleen Grant; Don Embry (Bill’s business partner and fellow polygamist); Hollis and Selma Greene (fundamental polygamists such as the Grants with very violent tendencies – a lot like the Grants); and a host of others who came and went through the three houses and the compound at Juniper Creek over the course of the last five years.

I loved this show. Last season (Season 4) wasn’t the best for me, but the other four, especially this last of the series were original in their conflicts and characters, plot lines and settings. Big Love is an unforgettable show about people trying to live the lives they believe they are destined to live.

The Henricksons – Bill, his three wives, and most of their children – believe in plural marriage. All three wives entered into it freely and their children were free to choose their own paths, if plural marriage wasn’t for them. (For some of them, it wasn’t.) The conflicts, crises, and celebrations that came about because of these unusual dynamics made me laugh, cry, rage, rant, and clap my hands. I felt I knew these people, and I cared about them as much as anyone can care about fictional characters. That’s what art does, right? It stirs something inside you.

Big Love also made me think about plural marriage and made me consider why it’s illegal. If you only look at the compounds (the Warren Jeffs of the real world), then you think – that’s horrible! But there are real polygamists in the world living as the Henricksons lived in Big Love. They live hidden in the open. But what I wonder is, why should they have to hide?

It’s not against the law for a man to marry a woman and have countless extramarital affairs with other women. It’s not illegal for him to father children with women who are not his wife. He will not face an indictment for those crimes – those are moral and ethical issues but they don’t make him a criminal.

So here’s what I don’t understand. Why is it illegal for a man to marry more than woman? I’m not saying I condone it, or that I’m a fan of it. But what I am saying is, it seems hypocritical for the affairs to be legal and the marriage to be illegal.

In Big Love’s case, Barb was willing to open her marriage to Bill to Nicki and then to Margene. Bill and Barb had ceremonies making the other two women part of their marriage. It was these ceremonies that broke the law. If Bill had simply built Nicki’s and Marge’s houses, moved them into the houses, fathered the children, provided for them financially and otherwise (as he did) but did all of that without a ceremony, the state would have had no problem with him.

The state also would have had no problem with him if he’d had affairs with Nicki and Marge and then forgot they existed.

How can this hypocrisy be acceptable? We have laws in place to protect children from abuse; we have laws in place to prevent human trafficking. These are the crimes Warren Jeffs was charged with. Why not go after him for that? Isn’t that plenty? Why does polygamy have to be a crime?

I know I’ve digressed, but I don’t really care. Big Love was a great show. I wanted one more season so badly, but the ending of the series was breath-taking. It tied things up so much better than I ever thought they would be able to do.

I own the first three seasons on DVD and will soon own the last of it as well. That way, Bill, Barb, Nicki, Margene, Alby, Roman, Lois, and Frank will never be that far away. And I know that they’ll continue to make me laugh and cry, rage and rant, and clap and gasp for years to come. Good TV never goes stale.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Obama has gone too far

The Constitution of the United States established three branches to our government to ensure that none of them could usurp too much power. The Judiciary Branch is the branch vested with the power to decide whether any law or executive act is unconstitutional. That is not a power granted to the Executive Branch – the president.

Then what in the heck is President Obama doing, and why is he getting away with it?

On Feb. 23, he announced that he had instructed Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., not to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, that he was declaring it unconstitutional. The DOMA was signed into law in 1996 by President Clinton and denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages. Don’t get caught up in the politics of gay marriage and whether or not that should be legal. That’s a blog for another day.

Pay attention to what Obama is doing. He has picked and chosen a law that he believes to be unconstitutional, has declared it as such, and has instructed the Justice Department not to uphold it any longer.

That is not his right. That right belongs to the Judiciary Branch of our government.

Do you know what we call heads of government who unilaterally decide to ignore their established government foundations – especially those foundations that are rooted in democracy? What we call heads of government who unilaterally decide what laws to disregard, what laws to enforce, bypassing systems of checks and balances established to prevent that very thing happening?

We call them dictators.

What other law or laws do you suppose Obama will decide are unconstitutional? Term limits? The right to bear arms? The right to free speech? If he gets to pick and choose which laws are constitutional and which ones aren’t, then how are we supposed to feel secure in any of it?

Someone (besides this blogger) needs to stand up to him and say, “Mr. President, you’re out of line. You don’t have that right. Back off.”

Because what scares me is that if someone doesn’t do that soon, it may be too late.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Let 'em smoke outside in NYC - I'll move if I need to.

I can’t stand cigarette smoke. I don’t like to be around people when they’re smoking. I don’t like the way it clings to my clothes or my hair when I’ve been somewhere smoky. And I hate what it does to the human body – how it opens the door wide open for the big “C.”

With that said, though, I think New York City has gone too far. As spring melts into summer this year, smokers in NYC will no longer be allowed to smoke outside in public places. They won’t be able to smoke in parks, public plazas, or on beaches. According to a recent article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a citation for violating the new law will cost them $50.

A spokeswoman for the mayor’s office is quoted as saying, “There is a lot of public support for [the law].” Know how they figured that out? In a city the size of NYC – more than 8 million give or take a head or two – they called (on land lines) 1,002 residents and surveyed them on the topic. Of those surveyed, 65 percent supported a smoking ban such as the one that’s been signed into law. Go ahead, do the math with me. That means 650 people in New York City are in favor of this law.

Now, I know that if they had managed to survey every single person in the city, there would be many more than 650 people in favor of it. I get that. But did they really try and get a true sample of residents’ opinions?

The article goes on to say that the city has tried to curtail smoking by raising taxes on cigarettes to the point that a pack goes for at least $11. I don’t have a problem with that. As I mentioned, I hate cigarettes and their nasty byproduct (smoke). They kill you. Period. If you want to commit suicide slowly by smoking, then it doesn’t bother me if you have to pay $11 per pack to do it. Maybe, at that price, people might actually think twice before buying them and choose not to. That would be wonderful (for them and for those who love them and would like to have more time here on Earth with them).

But I digress a little. I have a problem with the government forbidding this act in public. Proponents of the law say that smoking isn’t a fundamental right and that the laws are enacted for the good of our public health, which the government is obligated to protect. But I’m not certain I need – or want – the government trying this hard to “protect” me. If I’m outside at a park or on a beach and someone lights up too close to me, guess what I do. I move. Wow, that’s hard. I don’t need the government babysitting me this much.

And here’s the really scary part of this. In 2007, Belmont, California, passed a law forbidding smoking in apartments and condominiums – in people’s homes. Since that law passed, many other California cities passed similar laws. According to CBS News, a law will soon be passed in Minneapolis that prohibits smoking in public places – even your own car.

Now, doesn’t that scare you a little? Smoking fan or foe, do you want the government’s fingers reaching that far into your private little corner of the world?

I don’t.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

RIP Dear Coach and Friend

On Thursday, I received an email from an old friend who had been fighting cancer (melanoma). I was on his prayer list and got status updates from him as he sent them out to keep us all posted on his treatment and recovery. Thursday’s update explained a recent emergency room visit he’d had to make but reassured us that he was home, and that Hospice was there only to help with his recovery. “Certainly do not look at this as a here today, gone tomorrow situation,” he wrote to us.

Saturday, two days later, he was gone.

Mike put up an inspirational fight. In all of the emails he sent out, he was positive and upbeat, regardless of the chemo he was enduring and the way it made him feel physically. He and his family shared this incredible faith and belief in the goodness of God, in His immeasurable wisdom, and they never seemed to worry. They amazed me through all of this.

When Donna, Mike’s wife, sent out the email telling us that Mike had passed away, she put in the subject line, “New bass in God’s choir of saints.” I know that heaven’s doors swung open wide for Mike, and I love picturing him singing in a heavenly choir because I can only imagine how happy he is there.

I’m writing this blog for two reasons. First of all, Mike was a friend. He was my high school volleyball coach, and he became a colleague and friend when I began teaching at my alma mater. I have known him and Donna for so many years, and he will be missed by many.

Secondly, Mike’s death brought home to me (again) how quickly our lives can end. I knew he was sick, but after Thursday’s email, I never expected to hear news of his passing this weekend. We need to remember that each day is a gift and to treat them as such. We hope for tomorrow, but we don’t always get it.

And finally, I wrote this blog also because of Mike’s life. He and Donna lived their faith. Their belief in God was evident in the grace with which they battled Mike’s cancer. They knew they could handle anything because they weren’t handling it alone – God was with them.

They have been reminders to me that God is with all of us, and I, for one, am so grateful to have Him in my life. I pray that as you read this, He is with you too.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Valentine's Day - to spend or not to spend?

“How much are you going to spend to show your love this Valentine’s Day?” was the opening line of a story on the local news last night. I rewound the DVR to make sure I’d heard that right, and yep, that’s what she said. “How much are you going to spend to show your love?”

Hmmmm…..Really? That’s how we show our love? We spend? The news story went on to say that Americans as a whole spend $15 billion – yes, that’s right, billion with a “B”- on Valentine’s Day. The biggest chunk of that pile of Benjamins is spent on jewelry to the tune of $3.5 billion, with dining out running a close second at $3.4 billion. Flowers cost us $1.7 billion. It makes me wonder, how is the remaining $6.4 billion spent?

I admit to liking Valentine’s Day. My husband, in the past, has given me both flowers and jewelry, and I enjoyed receiving those gifts. Money is a little tight right now, but we are going to try and have dinner together out somewhere this Monday.

Do I doubt Terry’s love if I don’t receive flowers or jewelry on Valentine’s Day? Do I feel unloved if we don’t celebrate the day somehow together? Of course I don’t. Terry shows his love for me every day in so many ways – in his sense of humor, his patience, his consideration, his affection for Tori.

I got really irritated by that news story last night, and I think those ill feelings were the result of the way the anchor led us into the story, that whole “spend to show your love” comment. I thought – at first – how horrible that made us Americans sound. We spend billions to “show our love.”

Then I felt guilty after I got irritated because I’ve been the beneficiary of Valentine’s Day and enjoyed my gifts. Did that make me an Ugly American?


Many of us are so busy that we don’t pay as much attention to our husbands, wives, significant others, as we should. Sometimes we let too much time go between the last time we said, “I love you,” and the next time we said those three important little words. Sometimes we don’t show the gratitude to our partners that we should for everything they bring to our lives. I think Valentine’s Day reminds us to do that. And, hopefully, it reminds us that we should try harder to keep those “Valentine’s Day” feelings alive and well throughout the year.

There’s nothing ugly about that at all.

The last figure that the news story presented was that the average American spends $116 on Valentine’s Day. If you divide $15 billion by $116, the number you get is approximately 129,310,345. There are about 300,000,000 people in our country, so that means that almost half of us are buying presents, and, hopefully, about half of us are then receiving those presents. Doesn’t this mean then that almost all of us are taking part in saying, “I love you,” to someone who probably ought to be hearing it? If those good feelings can carry over into the rest of the year for so many of us, then I am firmly in Cupid’s corner.

Tell the people you love how you feel about them on Monday. Then do it again on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, … well, you get the idea.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Illegal immigrants are breaking the law

Immigration laws are touchy subjects, I know, but I saw an article in Sunday’s South Bend Tribune about one being proposed for Indiana, so I decided to blog about it. Hopefully, there will be some discussions as a result.

According to the article, Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, introduced Senate Bill 590, which bears a close resemblance to one passed in Arizona. For example, if someone is thought to have violated a law or ordinance and is apprehended (or stopped) by a police officer, and if then that police officer has probable cause to believe the person is an illegal immigrant, then the suspect would be required to produce proof of citizenship.

Those against the bill cry foul and say this is “racial profiling.” Delph counters that by saying the bill expressly forbids racially profiling.

The bill also would require the state to send an expense report to the federal government requesting reimbursement for illegal immigration costs to the state, it would prohibit state and local governments from corresponding in any language other than English, and it would increase penalties against businesses that employ illegal immigrants.

Some complaints that have arisen in opposition to the bill say that anyone not carrying proper papers could be in danger of being arrested under this bill. Some say that other more pressing types of crimes – such as robbery or domestic violence – could be ignored or at least may receive a delayed reaction because officers are trying to sort out one of these cases. Others complain that it is asking state and local law enforcement to enforce federal law.

Here are my thoughts:

First, regarding the proper papers, if you’re a legal citizen, it’s not difficult to get – at the bare minimum – an identification card. Most of us, I would bet, have driver’s licenses that you can’t get without proof of citizenship. What’s so wrong with asking those of us who are rightful, legal citizens to carry something around that proves we are? I know some might argue this is too “Big Brother-ish,” requiring us to “register.” But I already am registered by virtue of my license, and I don’t lose sleep over it. And here’s my other thought on this aspect of it. Have you ever traveled outside our country? I have. When you do, you are advised to carry on your person at all times proof of your citizenship (of your home country) as well as a legal document proving when you came into their country and when you are leaving (not to mention why you’re there in the first place).

My next thought has to do with the employers and the enforcement of the existing law. Somebody needs to start policing the laws already in existence making it illegal to employ people who have entered the country illegally. If we don’t crack down on the employers who give these people a paycheck every week, it’s never going to stop. It’s cheap labor – some may even say slave labor – and those employers who make a habit of employing illegal immigrants are not going to stop until they start suffering damages from it. If that means state and local governments have to help the federal government do its job, so be it.

In my positions as both a teacher and a news reporter, I have met and even come to know people who have come to our country illegally. I’ve been fond of many students in the past in that situation. On a personal level like that, it’s hard to think about denying them the same opportunities my daughter has. In my travels to Mexico, I’ve ridden through some of the “real” sections of the tourist towns. I’ve seen the shacks some of them live in. I’ve watched them carry bottles of water to their homes because the tap water in their homes isn’t safe for consumption. I understand the allure of America.

But I still have to insist, if you’re going to come here, please, do it legally.

There’s a contestant on American Idol this season - Melinda Ademi – who came here from Kosovo with her family. War raged in her country, and her parents feared for their lives. But they waited. They applied for green cards and finally won those green cards in a lottery. Their lives were literally at stake and they still did it right.

That’s all I’m asking. Why do some people make it sound like it’s so wrong to ask that those who come do it legally?

There are laws in this great country of ours that we all have to live by because we are citizens of this country. That’s where I get caught up – illegal immigrants want the benefits of citizenship but they start off their pursuit by breaking the law.

I empathize, I even sympathize with many of them. But that doesn’t change the fact that the law is the law. I was born here and I have to obey the laws. Shouldn’t everyone?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

For my husband

I have discovered a comfort in knowing that my husband is my best friend. He loves me absolutely and unconditionally, and that is a gift that should never be underestimated nor devalued. He knows everything about me, and he accepts me for who I am. No, he doesn’t just accept me – he likes me, respects me, and continues to choose to spend his life with me.

Terry and I have had some difficult times in our relatively short time together. But he never gave up on us. He never stopped loving me. He never stopped wanting me in his life. He threw me the rope that I chose to grasp onto.

I think it’s important for your spouse to be your best friend. I didn’t really “get” that for a long time. Now I do. Terry’s fun to hang out with. He’s generous and kind, and he’s got a great sense of humor. We have compatible – not identical, but compatible – tastes in TV shows, movies, music, and books, which give us fun things to do together and to talk about. Sometimes our politics mesh and sometimes they don’t, but that’s good for conversation too. He sounds like a friend, doesn’t he?

For a long time, I think I saw “husband” and “friend” as two separate entities. I just didn’t understand how many things are less difficult when you let your husband be your friend too. Terry’s my best friend, and, on top of that, he’s the love of my life.

When I see him walk in the door at the end of a day, or when my feet are resting in his lap at the other end of the couch; when he’s driving Tori and me to a school function or just to the mall, or when he’s teasing my mom, listening to my dad, or playing with my nephew, I see the man I said “yes” to five years ago. I see the man I love so much more today than I did even then. And I see the man that I want sitting beside me on our front porch when we’re retired and waiting on grandkids to visit.

I’m grateful. I’m blessed. I’m Terry’s wife, and I’m happy to say it.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"The Cove" will change the way you see dolphins forever.

There is footage in The Cove, the 2010 Oscar winner for Best Documentary, of a lagoon turning red with blood as dolphins are slaughtered. As I watched it, I thought about other movies I’d seen where seas bled and felt horrified as I reminded myself that this wasn’t being done with special effects – real blood turned that ocean red. Real animals were being slaughtered.

In Taiji, Japan, 23,000 dolphins are still slaughtered every year.

Why? Partly for money, but partly, some think, simply because they can. Because there is a national sense of pride – for those engaged in this enterprise – that they are doing something the West doesn’t want them to do. And they hide these activities with the help of corrupt police officers, politicians, and fishermen.

The filmmakers and the crew of The Cove had to enlist the expertise of former U.S. military personnel to infiltrate the forbidden area around the cove where the slaughters take place. They hired professional Hollywood prop makers to create “rocks” which hid high-definition cameras that the crew placed around the cove – risking personal safety under the cover of night – so that footage of the slaughters could be recorded. Award-winning free divers who have been fortunate enough to swim with dolphins in their natural habitat signed on to the mission and placed underwater sound devices in the cove, enabling us to hear the last cries of the dolphins.

Every dolphin show, dolphin encounter, and dolphinarium (did you know that was a word?) has to get their dolphins from somewhere. Many – if not most – of them get them from Taiji. The dolphins are herded into a lagoon from the ocean by scaring them with loud, clanging noises. From that lagoon, dolphin trainers come to pick out the ones they want and pay as much as $150,000 or more for each one. The rest are then herded into the cove, which is hidden from view, and slaughtered. The dead ones are sold for their meat for about $600 each.

Dolphin meat is very high in mercury. Food safety commissions recommend no more than 4 ppm (parts per million) of mercury in any serving of food. Dolphin meat from Taiji registers as high as 2,000 ppm. Who eats it? Many people (most of whom are Japanese, it would appear from the film) who purchase what they believe to be whale meat are actually buying dolphin meat. How is this allowed? Well, dolphins are little whales. Did you know that? I didn’t.

Most Japanese citizens don’t know about the slaughters in Taiji. When interviewed on the streets of Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo, the citizens were shocked when told about the killing and the selling of the meat. They said it needed to stop. Ironically, at the end of the film, it is revealed that Hideki Moronuki, the man who was the chief of whaling for the Japanese Fisheries Agency had mercury poisoning.

Dolphins are amazing, beautiful, highly intelligent creatures. No one knows this better than Richard (Ric) O’Barry, the man who trained five dolphins in the 1960s to play the part of “Flipper” in the television show of the same name. “Flipper,” O’Barry feels, is one of the biggest reasons that dolphin shows and experiences are as popular and widespread as they are today. And no one regrets that now more than the man himself.

“I spent ten years building that industry up [i.e. capturing and training dolphins],” O’Barry says in the film, “and I spent the last thirty-five years trying to tear it down.”

After watching The Cove, I want to help him. I challenge you to do the same: Watch the movie (I did an instant view on Netflix) and then figure out a way to help him stop the slaughter.

For more information on the movie, click here or on my link above. For more general information, visit The Cove on Facebook, or the Save Japan Dolphins coalition.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Skins" - (sigh) more teen sex on TV

There has been a lot in the news lately about an American version of a British (scripted – not reality) show aimed at teenagers called “Skins.” It’s been on the air for two weeks with original presentations of new episodes aired on MTV on Monday nights at 10 p.m.

I first heard about “Skins” when I read an article this weekend in The New York Times that focused on whether or not the show – which shoots in Canada – crosses the line into child pornography. Evidently there was concern about Episode 3, which airs Jan. 31, which allegedly revealed teenagers in situations that could be considered pornographic. Many of the cast members of the scripted show are 18 years old, but some are only 17; one is as young as 15.

I wanted to watch the show before I commented on it, and I’ve now seen the first two episodes. It centers on a group of friends who seem to care about little else than sex, drugs, and drinking, all of which they engage in as often as they can – which includes school too. Most of the adults in the show are flawed, foolish caricatures of the stereotypical adults who inhabit the lives of urban teenagers.

MTV is losing sponsors for the show. Different news agencies report that Subway, GM, H&R Block, Wrigley, and Taco Bell have pulled their support because of pressure from the Parents Television Council. (H&R Block reps stated they never intended to sponsor the show in the first place, and their ads that ran during the first episode were mistakenly aired.)

My opinion on the show? It’s another vehicle to show teens gratuitous sex, as well as drug and alcohol abuse. The acting is dreadful. But what am I saying that’s new here? In other words, what is MTV doing that’s new here”? Television shows and movies that cater to teenage audiences often have sex, drugs, and alcohol as part of the content, if not at the center of it. “Gossip Girl,” anyone? “The Secret Life of the American Teenager?” Even the much-lauded, fun-to-sing-along-with “Glee” series has its share of teen sex scenes and issues. It’s out there, and that, I think is what I’m weary of.

There’s. So. Much. Of. It.

Did you think about sex when you were in middle school? I did. I’d bet you did too. It’s not a surprise, nor is it unusual (or even unhealthy) that our kids who are middle schoolers today think about it too. The thing is, there is so much out there on television – cable or network – that is available to them that shows them what it looks like to have sex – all kinds of sex. There’s so much out there that shows young teens drinking and doing drugs. Do all of these visuals egg our young teens on when it comes to engaging in activities that they really shouldn’t engage in? Do these images make those activities look so fun, so glamorous, and so cool, that they become irresistible?

I also wonder about what the younger teens are reading on their older friends’ Facebook and MySpace pages. When they read about older kids partying and having sex, does that make them want to do it more because they want to be older?

I’ve posed a lot of questions, I know. Here’s how I think I would answer them. I do think there is too much sex on TV – especially that which is aimed at our kids. I can’t change that, and honestly, I don’t want to be in the business of censoring what gets made.

What I do believe in is censoring what my kid sees and is exposed to in the home. My daughter is 17, so boundaries have grown and changed as she has, as I believe they should. But when she was in middle school and wanted to read the Gossip Girl series because her friends were reading it, I said no. She’s never read it. She didn’t watch the show when it came on TV.

The other thing I believe we can do at home to help offset our kids’ exposure to sex, etc., in the media is to talk to them – a lot – about all of these issues. They have to know they can come to us with questions. We have to be willing to ask questions of them and to do what we can to ensure we’re getting the whole story – the real truth in their answers. I’ve said it before – we have to be involved.

MTV defends its production and airing of “Skins,” saying they closely monitor each episode and the manner in which the issues are handled. They say they’re covered because the show is labeled “TV-MA” and never airs before 10 p.m. This label and this time-frame are supposed to keep young kids from watching the show. Yeah, right. My students are up until after midnight texting each other. Many of them have TVs in their rooms, as well as computers. (“Skins” episodes can be seen in their entirety on MTV’s website. All you have to do is tell the computer you’re 18 or older.) If they want to watch the show, MTV has done nothing to ensure they can’t watch it.

That job is ours.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Prescription drug research is not new for Uncle Sam

Have you read the article in The New York Times about the “new” institute Obama and the federal government have created called the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences? It’s going to have a $1 billion budget its first year of operation, and its reason for being is that private drug companies aren’t coming up with new prescription drugs fast enough, so the government wants this institute to do that.

This is a very complicated subject; one that I’m sure I won’t do justice to because the levels of it are almost unfathomable. However, there are a few things I know, a few things that made me go, “Huh?” when I read the story in the Times, and I will share those things with you.

First of all, it’s important to know that the National Institute of Health had a budget in 2010 of $31.2 billion. Almost all of that money – about 90 percent – is spent on basic science research in the form of grants to institutions of higher learning and its own labs in Bethesda. What is basic science? Basic science means finding the connection between A and B. It means identifying a single protein on a single gene. Why identify the protein? The hope is that with the protein identified, an enzyme produced by that protein will also be identified and then tied to some disease or another.

All of that research takes a long time (and millions and millions of dollars), and private companies generally don’t take part in it. What they do is they wait until something is discovered (by a federally funded institution) and then one way or another they get a hold of the research – through less than honorable means because the researcher didn’t patent his discovery in time, or they bring the researcher on board, enticing him away from academia. Either way, the private company makes use of the millions of dollars the federal government has invested.

My first point being, this announcement of this new center makes it sound as though Obama’s administration is just now getting involved in the research for and manufacturing of prescription drugs. That is soooooo not the case. The federal government has been funding drug research for more than 80 years.

My second point has to do with genetic patents. When the Human Genome Project revealed the sequencing of our DNA, there was a gold rush by many private companies to identify and then patent genes (there are 30,000 of them) as well as the proteins produced by the genes (there are about 300,000 of those). These patents were issued – by the FDA – without anyone knowing really what any of those genes and proteins did. It was simply, “I found it. I claim it. Because, by God, if there’s any money to be made off of it, I want my chunk.” Well, those patents last 20 years.

New drugs can’t be discovered before the basic science of the genes and proteins are understood. Who owns a bulk of the patents that have been issued? Private companies. Who does (or funds) the majority of the basic science behind new drugs? You do. I do. The federal government does. Are they talking to each other? They don’t like to.

My last point, which I guess just sums up what I’ve been talking about, is that this new center (IMHO) isn’t needed. In order to get this center up and running by October, one of NIH’s existing institutions has to be eliminated. The government is aiming that arrow at the National Center for Research Resources. Over 1,000 people have commented on a complaint blog about this closure, and many (if not most) of them are doctors and researchers who have benefited from grants issued by the NCRR and who wish for their research to continue, even if the NCRR is dismantled. The NCRR’s annual budget for 2010 was $1.308 billion. The administration plans to transfer some of its functions to the new center. Does that mean some of its budget will go to the new center as well? Will we continue to fund the research being done by the NCRR to the tune of $1 billion-plus as well as the new $1 billion budget for the new center?

My biggest problem with the whole thing is that Obama’s administration is putting this new center out there as something that’s never been done before – the government’s finally getting into the search for new prescription drugs! – and that’s malarkey. I’m also confounded by what is actually going to take place at this new center. And I’m fearful that it’s just more money being taken from our pockets to fund things already being done, to pay people to do jobs other people are doing. More government, but nothing more to show for it.

I learned a lot about this from reading a book for my freelance job called The $800 Million Pill. If you’re interested in learning more about how private drug companies benefit from publically-funded research, about how it’s another bit of malarkey when the drug companies tell you they have to charge excessive amounts of money for their medicines to help fund further research, pick up that book. It’s very scientifically written, but it’s an eye-opener.