Wednesday, October 31, 2007

HBO Evenings

We don't get good reception of Panamanian TV here, and we have not signed up for cable because I'm afraid that the temptation of 24-hour English programming will be hard to resist and we'll end up TV junkies.

Instead we order movies on Amazon and have them delivered to us via our Miami P.O. Box. We almost always order them used - it's much cheaper and we've never had a problem with quality.

Often we order entire seasons of TV shows. You get so much more viewing time for your money - for example I got the first season of NYPD Blue for $14 - and it's fun to watch an episode of the same show every evening. Every night after Salma has gone to bed we sit down with our dinner in the bedroom and watch one episode of whatever show we are viewing.

Over the last several months we've watched the first three seasons of The Wire. This is a fantastic HBO show. It's about a crack police surveillance squad in Baltimore that is approaching urban crime in a different way. Each seasons deals with a single case. At first it feels slow, but then you begin to realize that this is TV on an entirely new plane. The depth of characterization (of both the good guys and the bad) and the level of detail is unlike anything else on TV. Situations don't get neatly wrapped up in 60 minutes, and a as a result it feels very real.

More recently we needed a break from all the drama and we decided to try another HBO show, a comedy this time (we never had cable TV in the U.S., so all these shows are new to us).

Curb Your Enthusiasm stars Larry David, the creator of Seinfeld. Curb Your Enthusiasm is unscripted. That is, they come into each episode with an outline of the story, but the actual dialogue is improvised. In addition, they use the actors' real names for the characters. The result is that, once again, it has a very real-life feel to it, even if the situations that Larry gets himself into are ridiculous.

It's funny and I do laugh out loud, but I get frustrated at the idiotic situations that Larry ends up in time and time again. Still, comedies this good are rare, so I think I will order season two.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Salma's New Game; Worrying About the Kid

In the past, whenever we got home from a big shopping trip, one of us would have to care for Salma while the other put the groceries away. Not anymore. We have discovered that all we have to do is put Salma down on the floor with a bag of (non-breakable) groceries and she will happily spend an hour stacking the items on top of each other, knocking them down, and sorting and re-sorting them. Sometimes she gets stacks of three!

I worry about her a lot. Most of the time she is energetic, playful, happy and talkative. But she seems to get sick a lot. Little things like colds, fever, mysterious rashes that come and go... For the last two days she's been very irritable, not sleeping well and wanting to be held all the time. Today we noticed a rash on her chest and back. It could be insect bites and frankly I hope that's the case, because that's easy to fix. Put some ointment on her, air out her mattress and bedding and make sure there are no bugs around.

I've found that being a parent means worrying a lot. I worry that she'll fall down, eat the wrong thing, become ill, get stung, or simply be unhappy.

When Salma is irritable and weepy like she has been lately, we have a standard set of distractions that we employ to keep her occupied and entertained. We take her to the Centro Commercial - the main store in town. She knows all the employees, the store has two cats and several pigeons living in the store or the storeroom in back, and they have a small tricycle that Salma likes to sit on.

Then we go down the street to the open air market. Again, Salma knows the vendors there and often there are children or babies for her to look at and interact with. I enjoy walking through the aisles and browsing the crafts, though I rarely buy anything except perhaps some fruits or vegetables.

Back at home we try reading books to Salma, walking around the house with her, or even letting her play with things that are normally forbidden, like my cell phone.

If none of this works and Salma is still grouchy, there is a last resort: the TV.

Well, what are you gonna do? Idealism is fine, but when you've got a crying kid, believe me, you're glad for Sesame Street. No matter how bad Salma's mood is, if I sit her down in my lap and put Big Bird and Elmo on, she gets a big smile on her face and settles down to watch peacefully and happily.

By the way, we don't curl Salma's hair. That's 100% natural.