Game of Thrones Methadone

[mild spoiler Vikings season 401]

Here is one of the better scenes in Vikings 401, where Aethelwulf attempts to rescue Queen Kwenthrith at the behest of King Ecbert. She’s been locked in a tower with her illegitimate son (fathered by Ragnar).

If anyone out there is in Game of Thrones withdrawal, this should scratch the itch. In fact Vikings has long been recognized as Game of Thrones methadone. Be sure to watch both parts through to the end- that final line is priceless!



Vikings Season 401

[spoiler free]

I finished the first ten episodes of season 4 Vikings, History channel’s epic rendition of Ragnar Lothbrok’s campaigns into foreign lands. As I mentioned in my previous review of Vikings I was genuinely surprised by how visually stunning and dramatically gripping the first three seasons were. Truly this is a magnificent- and more or less historically accurate- show.

Unfortunately season 401 lags behind its predecessors; the writing is weak and pacing sloppy- at times the writers unsuccessfully attempt to inject humor into the scripts. Some episodes occasionally, and not intentionally, border on farce (in fact there is a farce of Vikings, Norsemen– it’s terrible) and in some more awkward dramatic exchanges it is again painfully clear the actors playing vikings are in fact stuntmen by trade. Ex-model Travis Fimmel spends a lot of time grimacing, not too convincingly.

One of the stranger aspects of season 401 is Ragnar’s bizarre relationship with Yidu. Aside from the fact their encounter would be 99.9% historically implausible, I have my own theories on this: I think Yidu is a figment of Ragnar’s imagination. Their interaction is just too strange to explain otherwise, unless the writers just felt like being weird.

talking to himself?

Vikings fans can take heart because by episode 6 the snoozefest stops and the action picks up. It felt like the normal Vikings again, with well paced plots, astonishing panoramas and breathtaking battle scenes. Aethelwulf’s strike against Mercia is not to be missed (one of the few good scenes in early episodes) and Ragnar’s recalculation against Paris is amazing in recreation. Rollo’s procession through Paris alone makes this choppy half-season worth watching.

I was disappointed by the treatment of religion in this season. What was adroit and nuanced in previous seasons (Athelstan’s turmoil with conflicting belief systems, for example) felt kind of sloppy and forced here. Some episodes had literal montages of viking – saxon – frankish customs, cutting from a religious event of one group to another. It was like paging through a textbook. However I did learn the christmas custom of mistletoe is of viking origin. Who knew?


Vikings and Common Core

I had a decent long weekend (long due to the snowday- one school had both thurs and friday off), even helped my 4th grader with math. Her school, like most schools these days, uses a kooky common core approach for basic math. All these weird grids, charts, nebulous instructions and strange doodles for simple division. Was this some kind of sick joke? Anyway I showed her how to divide the way I was taught in school, the ‘tableau’ method.

After just ONE example her eyes lit up! ‘That’s so simple,’ she said, sounding genuinely surprised, and she abandoned her crazy charts, quickly polishing off three workbook pages. I warned her to keep trying the way her teacher instructs math… I don’t want to piss anyone off.

I don’t like to discuss politics but suffice it to say I’ve seen nothing good since the catholic school converted to common core standards and tests.

Anyway I spent much of Saturday watching vikings season 4. I absolutely loved vikings season 1-3 but season 4… well it sucks. Much to my heartbreak. The plots are erratic, there are weird nonsensical sex scenes, and I highly doubt vikings spent much time pondering their inner true selves, but apparently season 4 vikings are filled with ontological doubt.

Then I started to feel sick. At first I was in denial but by midnight I was awake with a fever, body aches, and a killer sore throat. Not again!

I could barely sleep and sunday morning limped into urgentcare. Sure enough I have strep AGAIN! This time the doctor prescribed a stronger AB, I limped back home and spent the remainder of the day languishing in bed.

I have a few theories. 1) god is mad at me 2) I re-infected myself somehow (I did buy a new toothbrush!!) 3) one of my children is an asymptomatic carrier- a few days ago I ate a few bites of leftover chicken off one daughter’s plate. What can I say, I was starving!

You Like Led Zeppelin?

While birthday shopping for my now sixteen year old I noticed a led zeppelin t-shirt at target. I’ve always wanted a led zeppelin t-shirt! I obsessed a little over the size (to wear as a nightshirt or not to wear as a nightshirt?) waffled over whether to spend $12 on myself, but through the checkout did it survive. Later that day I warned my husband: I bought a led zeppelin shirt while shopping for ***** so don’t be alarmed if you see me wearing it.

He blinked, nonplussed. You like led zeppelin?!

This wouldn’t be a strange exchange were it not for the fact this is at least the FIFTH time we’ve had this conversation in 20 years: I mention something regarding led zeppelin, he acts completely stunned and asks: you like led zeppelin? Like he never heard me utter the name before. YES I LIKE LED ZEPPELIN.

Indeed, led zeppelin was one of the few non-classical artists I heard as a kid. In her teens, my sister briefly dated a guy who was into led zeppelin- the group was an ‘oldie’ even then- and while the relationship did not last the music did. I was struck by the expert musicianship, the pathos of plant’s voice, the relentless complexity and melancholy. My favorites were kashmir and the battle of evermore. But admit it: ALL their music is good!

In true superhuman form robert plant’s voice is still damn good. Have you heard his songs with alison kraus? They sound like a duet of angels. The guy is nearly 70 and his voice is still astonishingly poignant. Most rock singers lose their voice well before middle age.


32 Pills

32 Pills is not the kind of documentary I typically gravitate to, but it kept appearing at the top of the HBO documentary list, perhaps because its title begins with a number which ‘alphabetically’ precedes A in some lists.

I started watching it when I was sick, but it was so sad and depressing I had to stop. When I regrouped my inner wherewithal a few days later, I finished watching.

The documentary is about the painful lives of Ruth and Hope Litoff, two sisters who grew up with privilege in manhattan in the 1980s and 90s. Both sisters are beautiful, intelligent, artistic, educated and well off, but manage to fall down the rabbit holes of mental illness and substance abuse respectively. After a lifetime of depression, emotional volatility and countless suicide attempts, Ruth kills herself at the age of 42.

32 Pills is the saga of surviving sister Hope trying to come to terms not just with her sister’s suicide but with the ghosts of their fraught relationship and painful family history.

More than once the documentary crosses the line from ‘documentation’ to exhibitionism. I struggled to see how so much public bandaid-ripping could in any way be healing to this poor woman, whose first drink in 16 years (double vodka on the rocks) is filmed via selfie cam. In another scene her beleaguered husband is following her around their beautiful apartment, camera in hand, while she frantically throws back drinks.

The quality of this documentary is not great. The pacing is weird and I disliked the endless montages of creepy, scribbly drawings from Ruth’s journals (montages, in general, get on my nerves in documentaries). In terms of execution I’d give this docu a weak 4 on a 1-10 scale; in terms of human interest I’d give it a 6 to 7. Unfortunately this is a common theme in the documentary world- interesting subject, poor execution.

I’m not sure I can recommend this documentary unless you happen to have some kind of personal connection to losing a loved one through suicide (I hope you don’t), or an interest in documentaries about drug addiction and mental illness. Just be forewarned it’s incredibly sad.

Christmas Music Wrap Up

I know I’m late with this, but here are some of the christmas songs the kids and I enjoyed this holiday season.

This one my 16 year old discovered. More than once, while playing, someone would ask is this michael jackson.

The wonderful mercy me. On my bucket list is seeing these guys in concert, though by the time I’m dying they’ll probably be dying too. Unless god has something prematurely in store for me.

An odd little tune I discovered on the ancient contraption known as the radio. Who knew mary was the queen of galilee!

And my kids are crazy for pentatonix, especially my 9 year old.

I know christmas music can get annoying, but I enjoy finding unusual or lesser known holiday tunes.


The Magic Washcloth

I came down with another cold! Two in one month! What a way to start the new year. The last time I was this sick was about three years ago- I remember standing in line at costco so feverish and dizzy I began to pass out before bracing myself against the conveyer belt.

I was feverish and miserable new year’s eve, spent as much time as I could in bed which I don’t enjoy doing. I’m not exactly a productive person but I hate sitting (well laying) around doing nothing. I read Graceful Exits: How Great Beings Die, compiled by Sushila Blackman. The book gives vignettes of how gurus and zen masters leave their mortal coil. Most will predict the exact day and time of their death, and sure enough on that day and time they pass away. Occasionally they throw in a zinger: don’t touch my body for three days! And after three days he starts breathing again, only to really die this time. There were also reports of bodies remaining warm to the touch after death, particularly at certain chakra points.

In retrospect this was perhaps not the best book to read while sick. One passage struck me- when ramakrishna was dying he would say, O mind, do not worry about the body. Let the body and its pain take care of each other. For some reason that resonated with me.

That night going into the new year I continued to be feverish and in pain despite hefty doses of advil. Let the body and its pain take care of each other. It got so bad I thought of how lokenath brahmachari promised to protect anyone from the dangers of war and jungles.

Baba lokenath, I thought inwardly. I’m not in a war or jungle but could you please make me feel a little better?

Right away I ‘heard’ a response: get a wet cloth and place it on your forehead.

I hadn’t done that since I was a kid! I scrounged around in the dark for a rag, wet it in the sink then collapsed back in bed with it folded over my forehead. A little water dripped onto the pillow.

Within five minutes my body was cool to the touch. It was the craziest thing! I couldn’t believe it myself. I touched my face, throat, stomach, legs. What had been burning up was now ice cold. Was it divine assistance? A magic washcloth? Did the advil decide to kick in? I don’t know but I managed to get some sleep- only to wake up that morning feverish again. But at least I was rested.

Despite feeling like death warmed over I had to do some birthday shopping for the almost 16 year old, then it was back to bed. I reread some Graceful Exits then watched a very funny episode of the IT Crowd where Douglas learns the truth about his new love interest. Reader advisory: if you’re easily offended, you may not want to watch these highlights. Why is british comedy so much better than american stuff?


The 100 Year Old Cure

When I was diagnosed with diabetes, once I got my hands on a glucose monitor it took me three days to determine which foods increased my blood glucose and which didn’t. Meat, eggs, fish and fat had negligible impact. Starches, including beans and ‘healthy whole grains’ put me through the roof. One of my worst readings ever came after an unsweetened, modest meal of brown rice and kidney beans; I found the recipe in a diabetic cookbook borrowed from the library. Oh, the irony.

Feeling like a scofflaw I immediately went against medical advice and began eating low carb. As a former devout vegan this was particularly difficult. I never had much of an ethical problem with meat, I just found it gross to eat something dead. But I’ve eaten a lot of dead things over the past three years and I sincerely believe it is preserving my life.

I wasn’t fat. I’ve never been fat. When I was a kid I was so thin my parents repeatedly threatened to hospitalize me unless I ate. I was BMI 19 when I fell pregnant with my three year old, and had gained all of 5 pounds when diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I was BMI 19 when officially diagnosed with type 2, after his birth. I’m currently BMI 17.5… and still diabetic. However I have managed to avoid any medication or insulin by eating a very low carb diet.

But I was puzzled. My primary care physician told me to eat potatoes and brown rice when I was diagnosed. These foods spike my numbers astronomically! Why didn’t he simply advise me to eat low carb, or to avoid carbohydrates altogether (I have gone long periods eating zero carb, or close to it)?

It’s been a real alice in wonderland situation. Armed with nothing but a glucose monitor I figured out how to control my diabetes; I have a perfect A1C and a ‘superhuman’ hdl – triglycerides ratio by eating a virtually zero carb diet. But the entire medical establishment is unable to assist the countless millions of people out there with diabetes without pharmaceutical intervention? What was going on?

I’m still unsure what IS going on: are diabetics unable to stick to a strict low carb regimen? Does big pharma have a vested interest in diabetics being dependent on medication and insulin?

Imagine my shock when I stumbled across a book written more than ONE HUNDRED years ago: The Starvation Treatment of Diabetes:

The book is a series of diabetic case studies who were treated with nothing but a very low carb, high fat diet (remember this was before insulin was even an option). All the patients, except one already in a diabetic coma, leave treatment with normal blood glucose levels by doing nothing other than eating a carnivore centered, low carb/ high fat diet. In case I have to spell it out for you: it has been known for more than a hundred years that a meat based, low carbohydrate/ high fat diet controls diabetes, but for whatever reason this has been dismissed by the medical community.

Not long ago I was in costco and stopped in my tracks. I realized I was surrounded by foods that would kill me: cereals, dried fruit, beans, candy, breads, cookies, desserts, sacks of potatoes and huge bags of rice. But it was the animals keeping me alive and sparing me medication and insulin dependence. Those animals were sparing my vision, my limbs, my organs, and quite possibly preserved my pregnancy with my youngest son: he’s babbling away happily today because I ate those ‘dead things.’

Instead of guilt I just felt incredible gratitude. Gratitude to have access to meat, gratitude all those animals were preserving my life, my health, and granting me years to care for my children.

So once again I will implore any diabetics out there, both type 1 and type 2, to consider a very low carb diet. 100 years of knowledge can’t be wrong. Even if you just try it briefly, what do you have to lose beyond extensive medical hassles?


Fan Death and Cats on Roombas

The other day my almost 16 year old daughter told me the strange fact that south koreans have a long standing superstition/ phobia concerning death by fan. Turn a fan on in a room, goes the superstition, close the door, and you’re inviting death through some vague concept of ‘disturbed air.’ The phobia is so intense that fans sold in south korea include the ‘life saving’ feature of timers, because SLEEPING in a closed room with the fan running is considered even more treacherous than being awake in a room with a fan running and the door closed.

The superstition is so pervasive that the government issues warnings about closed door fan use, and the media implicates closed door fan use in connection with otherwise natural deaths.

My daughter and I found this funny because she and I both sleep in closed rooms with a fan running for white noise, every night!


For christmas my mom gave my little guy a toy robot. It wanders around roomba-style trying to goad anyone within earshot to play a game (red light green light, and guess the animal sound are two favorites). Watching him react to the robot made me wonder how a cat would react to it, which made me wonder how cats react to roombas, which in turn made made me wonder if there are funny cat-roomba videos on youtube. Not one to disappoint, youtube provideth:

In case there was any remaining doubt, this proves my hypothesis that cats are completely useless!

Washing Woes

Just in time for christmas, the washing machine died! Well it’s not entirely dead, but dead enough to cause major problems. It still fills with water, and still drains, sort of, but the clothes are left sopping wet and sometimes the soap doesn’t really rinse away. I’m not too angry with the washing machine, considering it was the replacement for the washing machine that died during hurricane irene (our basement flooded horribly). That was 2011. Given the insane amount of laundry I do- some days I simply lose track, but it can be upward to eight loads a day- this washing machine has fought the good fight. On the low end it has washed 6,500 loads of laundry, and some of those loads contained ghastly compounds (two babies were born over that period).

Right now I put the clothes in, add a tiny amount of detergent, close the lid and hope for the best. If I’m lucky the soap is rinsed out a while later and the clothes are sitting in a somewhat clean puddle of water. Then I hang the sopping wet clothes in the basement until they’re downgraded to very damp, then into the dryer they go.

I’ve gone long periods of time without a dryer but it’s virtually impossible to go without a functioning washing machine. It’s very difficult to wring out clothes by hand and the detergent never seems to really go away when you wash by hand. Plus the constant exposure to detergent is killer on your skin- even if you wear gloves some always seeps in. Someone once told me back in the day daughters never went to school on laundry day because their help was needed at home. I can vouch for the fact that doing large amounts of laundry by hand is an arduous, labor intensive process that probably fomented the roots of feminism.

I advised my husband yesterday on the state of the washing machine. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘There’s not much we can do about it today. Do we have enough laundry to last us a week?’

HAHA… this from the man always complaining on lack of available towels. If I go even two days not on top of laundry it piles to epic heights. Nope, I told him, then showed him the sad situation in the basement where puddles of water spotted the floor like an aerial view of lakes.

We have a family habit of running appliances, cars and shoes into the ground then squeezing yet more breath from them. Right now I have two leaking fridges, a dishwasher that has been repaired five times, a dead stove, a second semi-reliable stove, and my husband was turned away by the shoe repairman yesterday because his shoes were deemed terminal. He’s still wearing them.