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Dexter’s Response to the Casey Anthony Verdict July 10, 2011

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What can I say? It’s Why I Love Dexter.


Hands On Learning October 24, 2010

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I haven’t written a new post in what seems like a bazillion years, but I have what seems like a bazillion more students this year AND I’m working on my Gifted and Talented (GATE) Certification online.  I hope to have it done this week, so I can begin walking around with a pyramid on my head, so as to look the part.  (I’ve already got the Albert Einstein hair thing going.)

My husband sent me this link, and dang, if this ain’t gifted, I don’t know what is.  These two get even more creative as the video progresses.  I guess I’ve got to quit telling the girls to stop those hand clapping games while they’re standing in line. Who knew?

True Blood July 2, 2009

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After reading Twilight, with its endless descriptions of Edward’s chest, I swore off vampires.  Later, when my book club read Three Cups of Tea,  I even threatened to make a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast adjectives used to describe Edward’s chest with those used to describe the mountains in Afghanistan.  

But,  I have to admit that I enjoy watching True Blood on HBO.  First, it’s got a mighty fine theme song by Jace Alexander.  And how can I not love a show that, with all seriousness, has characters spew lines like “Clearly, she’s no fan of the fang.”  

I’ve written before about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and used the vampire analogy.  So last week when a character said, “He used me up and sucked me dry.  It was like I was his snack machine!” it was music to my ears.  Yeah, I’m a fan of the fang.

Baby Doll Brawl – From Bach to Iggy Pop June 28, 2009

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“Girls, fishnets, track slapping, heart stopping ACTION!  Could there be anything more American?  Red, white and bruise!”  How’s that for a promo? That’s how I came to be standing in one very long line on a hot Saturday afternoon in East Hollywood outside The Doll Factory.  Just the night before, we’d driven to Claremont to hear my niece play Bach on cello in a picture perfect setting.  What a difference a day makes.

“We’re roller derby virgins,” the woman ahead of me announced.  She had a husband in tow and a couple of kids.  No visible tattoos.  Not at all what I’d expected.  “Me too,” I volunteered. “Do you think this means we’re going to be sacrificed to a volcano?” From the rumbling coming from inside The Doll Factory, this seemed a distinct possibility, as the DJ had the bass cranked up.
This was my friend Kelli’s (aka Kocoa Krunch) skating debut with The Baby Dolls, the up and comers in the L.A. Derby Dolls.  I’d been hearing Kelli talk about roller derby for almost a year.  At 39, she’s a little long in the tooth to be an up and comer, but she’s also got long legs that stretch to Cleveland, her hometown.  An actress (and sometimes substitute teacher), Kelli may be the only person I know who can pull off wearing silver lame hot pants.

The Doll Factory is an airy warehouse.  Instead of a mirrored disco ball, there’s a mirrored roller skate suspended over the banked track.  For $10 you get standing room only tickets and a trip to the porta-potties outside. We’d sprung for the $20 VIP tickets so we could sit on bleachers and use the VIP bathroom.  (It’s VIP because there’s only ONE toilet.)

Inside it was loud – like being  trapped inside a pinball machine.  There was a Vendor Village where you could buy everything from pizza to organic enchiladas (Hey, it’s L.A.!) and the Beer Garden where you could swill Tecate while watching the action on a big screen. During the Skate Out, when the players warm up, they really crank up the music.  But it set the mood which was fun and raucous.  And somewhere in the middle of Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life, my stuffed up ear from my summer cold blew out.  Suddenly, life was good  – and much LOUDER.

Roller Derby is an American sport (the only other being basketball), so we were asked to stand while Jes-sicka Rav-edge sang the national anthem (and did a bang up job).  Two periods.  Lots of action.  Kelli had a very vocal contingent and her husband, Kap’n Krunch, got a shout out.  She spent some time in the penalty box, but since I’m a newbie, I figured that was because she looked too good in those hot pants.  But I have lots to learn. Kelli’s team, the Meteorfights, came from behind to beat the Scars and Stripes then took a victory lap around the track.

A sampling of the skater’s names:  Marina del Rage, Queen Elizadeath II, Wanda B. Onya, and May Q. Holla on the Meteorfights and Tilda Whirl, Eat-It Piaf, Got MILF?, and Helen Surly Frown on the Scars and Stripes.  Everybody has a name, including the referees (e.g. Charlie Frown), who in their black and white striped shirts, were referred to as “zebras.”  The official photographer wore a shirt emblazened with “Stalkerazzi.” I think the only person on the track who didn’t have a name was the EMT.  He needs to get crackin’ before the bones do.

Since everyone I know seems to have The Cold, I thought I’d put up the cure (not to be confused with The Cure).

Jonathan Winters LOL April 7, 2009

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For the last four years, my husband, Richard, has been working on a film about the legendary comedian Jonathan Winters.  This has been one interesting ride.  While Richard schmoozes with Sarah Silverman and Jimmy Kimmel, I’m at school on yard duty and confiscating Hot Cheetos.  

Sometimes I do get lucky though and come home to find leftovers from one of Richard’s infamous lunches with Jonathan at Piatti’s in Montecito.   Then I get to forgo Lean Cuisine for a day and chow down on Pappardelle or Pollo Parmigiana.  I also settle for leftover stories about the day’s shoot.  After a long day in the trenches of public education, I can use a good laugh.

I grew up eagerly anticipating The Jonathan Winters Show.  He was the real deal – a total original.  Hand him something – anything, and he could do a shtick with it, and a damn funny one at that. 

Through a chance meeting in Santa Barbara, Richard and his partner, Jim, met Jonathan, who is also an accomplished artist.  What started out as a documentary about Jonathan and his art, evolved into a “mockumentary” with a supporting cast of some of the funniest people I know.  But then I think Ryan Stiles (from The Drew Carey Show) is a poker-faced scene stealer.  

Certifiably Jonathan includes clips of Jonathan’s original comedy routines from his show and from The Jack Paar Show.  I still laugh every time I watch these. You could call it a “heist movie,” as the plot hinges on Jonathan having his sense of humor stolen.  A stellar cast tries to cajole Jonathan and advise him on how to go about regaining one’s sense of humor.  If nothing else, it’s a film for the times we live in.

When I finally met Jonathan, he was wandering though my house wearing a cavalry hat and looked a bit like a long-lost Kamikaze.  The title of the film. Certifiably Jonathan, was inspired by Jonathan’s commitment in a mental institution.  Jonathan, who is bipolar, is candid about how his childhood and this disorder have shaped him as a human, and ultimately as a comedian. They always say that all comedy springs from a dark place, and Jonathan’s been there, done that.  Yet he still has that twinkle in his eye.

It was while making the film that we met Nora Dunn (SNL, Entourage) and her brother Kevin Dunn (Transformers, Samantha Who), people I now count as friends and are way fun to hang with.

What amazed me most was that at the screenings, it was the 20 somethings, many who’d never heard of Jonathan Winters, who laughed the hardest.  The film is brilliantly edited (and no, my husband, the producer and editor, didn’t tell me to write that), and Buddy Judge’s score is perfect AND quirky (Now there’s something I’d wouldn’t mind on my tombstone).  Jonathan is indeed certifiable – as a comic genius who paved the wave for a generation of improvisational comics to follow.  You can see the trailer and find out how to order a DVD on the Official Certifiably Jonathan website.

Why I Love “Dexter” September 13, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder, TV/Film.
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Who wouldn’t love Dexter Morgan? He’s such a nice young man, and he’s got that CSI thing going too, what with his job as a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department. What’s that you say? He’s a cold-blooded serial killer! I’m sorry, but with his professional manner and that disarming smile, that’s a little hard for me to fathom. This is a guy who is so thoughtful, he brings donuts in every day for the office. It’s not like he has horns. And THAT is exactly why I find Dexter so fascinating. I, for one, am counting the days until Sept. 28th when Season 3 premiers on Showtime.

Least you think I’m one of those women who has pen pals on death row, think again. I’m happily married to the original model, have two grown sons, and teach adorable third graders, who think serial is spelled “c-e-r-e-a-l.” But after spending G-rated days with children who still believe in the tooth fairy, I’m ready to go to the dark side – of humanity, that is.

There’s another thing you should know about me. Just like Dexter Morgan, I too have a dark side. After I’d just given birth to my second son, my friend Wendy visited me in the hospital. What she remembers most is that I was reading The Stranger Beside Me, Anne Rule’s account of her friendship with serial killer Ted Bundy, as I nursed my newborn son.

But I have an excuse (or should I say alibi?). I may not come from a family of criminal psychopaths, but my family had more than a passing interest in them and crime. When I was a kid and we visited my uncle in a small town in Iowa, my brother and I unearthed his collection of True Detective magazines. All of the stories seemed to involve the murder of “nude coeds.” After reading the breathless and lurid accounts of these crimes, I ascertained at an early age that any “clothed coed” was a moving target.

My dad also liked to tell about how when he and my mom first married, the man who shared their duplex in Boulder, Colorado, was arrested for killing – you guessed it!  –  a college coed. (It turned out the one in the trunk of his car was one of many.) Years later, when my parents talked enthusiastically about where I should go to college, I couldn’t help but wonder if they might be trying to get rid of me.

When people gasp, “I can’t believe someone could do something so horrible!” I don’t bother to feign shock or surprise. I’ve always been fascinated by human behavior. As a teenager, when I wasn’t reading books about crime, I read The Diary of Anne Frank. So I knew that seemingly ordinary people are capable of doing unspeakable things. I know that there really is a bogeyman, and he looks a lot like you or me.

After college, I worked as a reporter at a newspaper in Hammond, Indiana in 1978. I was supposed to generate ideas for stories and, low and behold, I discovered that the Indiana State Crime Lab was located nearby. It was during that interview, I first learned of a new forensic technique – blood spatter analysis. I was in hog heaven. Cue that sound of snapping the latex gloves on (that’s music to MY ears!). But this was B.C. – Before CSI,  Before Court TV, and Before Cold Case – back when a cold case meant beer.

Which brings me back to Dexter. Based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, Dexter is brilliantly played by affable Michael C. Hall. Dexter is a real living breathing psychopath yet most of his co-workers, even his sister, and girlfriend, think he’s the proverbial nice guy. But seriously, how could they not know? This is a guy who has a Costco-size stock of black plastic trash bags and duct tape at the ready.

Hey, in Anne Rule’s book, she describes working side-by-side with Ted Bundy at a suicide hotline, never suspecting her “friend” was a serial killer. It’s not like serial killers have a secret handshake or froth at the mouth. Remember this – charm disarms.

I began watching Dexter when I was still reeling from my “friendship” with a person I later realized had Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).  (You can read about THAT experience in my 3-part Close Encounter with a Narcissist series.) NPD is one of the Cluster B Personality Disorders in the DSM-IV, which are often referred to as “The Drama Club.” Other members of this “club” include Antisocial Personality Disorder (sociopath) and Psychopathic Personality Disorder (psychopath aka Dexter).

I was surprised to learn that all psychopaths are narcissistic, while people with NPD aren’t psychopaths. Following this logic, psychopaths would be “Papa Bear”, sociopaths “Mama Bear,” and that would make narcissists the “Baby Bear” (Can you tell that I spend way too much time with small children? Don’t worry, I won’t bring the Three Little Pigs into play.) The Cluster B personality disorders share many similar traits. Unlike psychopaths, however, who derive pleasure from hurting people, narcissists hurt people due to their indifference.

The similarities though between these two personality disorders can be jarring. Dexter often worries that “his mask is slipping.” Just like a narcissist, Dexter, the psychopath, wears a social mask (his False Self) that he presents to the outside world to pass for “normal.” Dexter’s constant attempt to “read” human emotions, so he can react accordingly, is also painfully reminiscent of my friend with NPD.

In Season 2, Dexter met Lila, his “soul mate,” who exhibits strong NPD traits herself. But when Lila got too emotionally close, Dexter gave her the ultimate D&D – Death. So, I eagerly await Season 3 to find out what America’s favorite prime time psychopath is up to. Remember that knowledge is power.

Dexter is officially a psychopath. If you’d like to see how he stacks up using a diagnostic tool called the Psychopath Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), a clinical rating scale, you can visit the following link. Scroll down to Dissecting Dexter – it’s an interesting read. Dissecting Dexter – The Official Diagnosis

NOTE:  Since first writing this post, Dexter’s diagnosis on the official Dexter site has been softened, which I feel is a strategy to make the character more likable. From all of my reading, I’ve never heard that a traumatic event produces a sociopath. Make no mistake, Dexter is a psychopath. If they keep fiddling with his profile, before you know it, he’ll be Santa Claus.  Jan

As a public service, I also feel obliged to inform you that I believe clowning is the gateway drug for serial killers. Anyone willing to don a neon wig and red nose has already gone over to the dark side. (Cirque du Soleil clowns are exempt, but should still be monitored closely – just in case).