Victoria Jelinek


Shameless USA

ShamelessShameless USA is a family drama based on the UK’s long-running hit of the same name. William H. Macy leads the cast as the working class patriarch of an unconventional Chicago clan of six kids who, helmed by their eldest sibling, Fiona, keep their ramshackle home afloat while their dad is out getting blindingly drunk each day.

While the original series, set in Manchester, is grimmer, grittier, and, arguably, more shameless than the USA based series, the American version is still good. Yes, even as the actors in the US version are more attractive, their teeth are good, and their home is larger and prettier than the British version (prompting the question of whether Americans are comfortable with the ugliness of poverty), their circumstances and behavior are similarly outrageous and touching. Sure, Americans don’t ‘do’ subtlety as well as the British, so much of the action is obvious and flat-footed (such as when young Debbie puts the pillow under the head of her passed out father, thereby showing us the acceptance and love that the family feel for him, rather than permitting the audience to discern that via observation), they are still an audacious, criminally-inclined family trying to survive without resources other than their wits and each other.

I came late to these series, which have both been running since 2004 and 2011*, respectively, but it’s never too late to watch entertaining television – particularly during confinement. Moreover, I have found that by watching these fictional families, which in many ways reflect the truth of poverty in that the people make perpetual sacrifices in order to meet the minimum needs of life, have to get by on practically nothing, and whose permitted aspirations are often little more than surviving, I have gained perspective about my own life’s desires and expectations. As I’m entertained watching this series, I’m also inspired and resolved to be more modest in general. And, at this terrible moment in our shared global history, that’s a good thing to learn and to remember as we face our collectively uncertain future.

*Ending in UK in 2013 and in USA in 2021.



Covid-19, April 14, 2020

The following came to me, a teacher, from my mother, who is a retired teacher, and she received it from another teacher. It’s not written very well, but the concept is wonderful!

Just maybe this could happen because of our crisis…

Education and the worldWHAT IF

If they cancel the rest of the school year, students would miss 2.5 months of education. Many people are concerned about students falling behind because of this. Yes, they may fall behind when it comes to classroom education…

But what if…

What if instead of falling “behind,” this group of kids are AHEAD because of this? 

What if they have more empathy, perspective, enjoy family connection, can be more creative and entertain themselves, love to read, love to express themselves in writing? 

What if they enjoy the simple things, like their own backyard and sitting near a window in the quiet?

What if they notice the birds and the different flowers emerge, and the calming renewal of a gentle rain shower? 

What if this generation is the one to learn to cook, organize their space, do their laundry, and keep a well-run home? 

What if they learn to stretch a dollar and to live with less? 

What if they learn the value of eating together as a family and finding the good to share in the small delights of the everyday? 

What if they are the ones to place great value on our teachers and educational professionals, librarians, public servants and the previously invisible essential support workers like truck drivers, grocers, cashiers, custodians, logistics, and health care workers and their supporting staff, just to name a few of the millions taking care of us right now while we are sheltered in place? 

What if among these children, a great leader emerges who had the benefit of a slower pace and a simpler life to truly learn what really matters in this life?

What if they are…”AHEAD?”

*image courtesy of UNICAF.ORG


XXI: Book Club

“My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.” Jane Austen

Geen-Tea-2I went to ‘Book Club’ this evening. Was loath to go after last night out at two bars with all the drinking, smoking and haphazard talk. Have been ‘twitchy’ and irritable all day as a result. My poor family. Self-recrimination ‘cause I’d had one drink more than my ration. Which was already really hard, given that we were out for hours. Self-recrimination ‘cause I’d been visibly irritated and uncomfortable with the drinking and smoking around me, and that’s not nice for those out to have a good time. Self-recrimination because I should know better than to put myself in the line of temptation. And yet. I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. I’ve been near-to-tears all day. And, well, ‘Book Club’ is normally a large group of women in what is essentially a ‘book swap,’* drinking a lot of wine and chattering.

So I went late. And, I went only ‘cause it was a bonafide friend hosting it at her house and I wanted to support her. I brought a thermos of green tea and ginger to drink and in order to keep my hands busy and to keep me drinking SOMETHING while, ostensibly, everyone else drank copious amounts of wine. But it wasn’t like it usually is. For one thing, it was just our host, a dear friend of hers, another American who, while I may not agree with her politics, is an avid reader and I trust her judgment on books, as well as our host’s twelve-year-old daughter who is also a reader, and who makes short stop-action films. They were finishing dinner when I arrived, and the daughter had made a peach cobbler. They also weren’t drinking alcohol, just Perrier, and later, tea, so I didn’t feel tempted or preoccupied with others drinking. Best of all? The conversations were dynamic and interesting. We talked about films, and books we’d recently read, and television programs – both in French and English – and we talked about curricula – both French and American – and we talked about travel, and we talked about exercise ‘fads’ sweeping the globe. It was a good evening. Nothing was discussed in too much depth, as I would generally like to do, but, I am, arguably, too serious.  Ultimately, it was an entertaining evening.

What a happy surprise! There’s a moral here I’m sure. Perhaps it’s that I need to only hang out with people who enjoy talking about subjects I also enjoy talking about? Even if that means I am not as social as I generally like to be. There are several people in the valley whose company I find engaging. Perhaps it’s that I can’t be in bars? I suppose it’s like a junkie going to a shooting gallery. Certainly, I can’t be in them for too long. In my previous homes – Portland, New York, Los Angeles, London – I would have discussed the subjects we discussed this eve, such as literature, film, culture, education (and, ideally, some politics!) every time I met up with friends. However, perhaps in those cities it’s more obvious to find more people and situations in which to do so. I mean, my coterie of friends in each of the aforementioned places were filmmakers, writers, painters, musicians, artists, and conversational skill is highly valued as a source of creativity and collaboration. Moreover, these types of people are generally more expressive. Whereas where I live now, people are outdoorsmen. Mountain people. They like to climb, hike, ski, and maintain their fitness in the outdoors, preferably at altitude. That’s their passion and their focus. Not ‘wrong,’ just not me. While I appreciate the mountains, I am claustrophobic in them, preferring the sea always (“Homme libre, toujours tu chĂŠriras la mer”). As a result of both the environment and the community’s subsequent interests in general, I’m often self-conscious, frustrated, and isolated here.

More so now that I’m trying to substantially reduce my drinking, smoking, and drug-taking after 33 years of ‘caning’ it. Additionally, the social life I’ve primarily known here is centered on boozy lunches, afternoons, and dinners…at restaurants and bars…with those that flock to and spend a lot of time in them. However, for whatever reason, tonight I made the happy discovery that while the people and opportunities like this evening might be few-and-far between, there ARE, indeed, situations like tonight. I’ve experienced them here before. Evenings in which I will not spend the entire time ‘clock watching,’ leaning on, or ‘clucking’ for my ‘crutches,’ and can, instead, enjoy what I perceive to be good company. Is this a new direction? It could be. It should be. Is it evidence of a whole new me? Perhaps not. But, perhaps, it is a peek at what the future could be like here, for the remaining years I am here, and that’s a relief from the bleak perspective I’ve been viscerally feeling for the last couple of weeks.

*We don’t read the same book and then talk about it like a traditional “Book Club” does. It’s for Anglophone women to have a supply of reading material without having to buy books, which is a great idea in theory.



The Baby Diaries 18
December 17, 2013, 12:28 pm
Filed under: The Baby Diaries | Tags: , , , , ,

Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be. George Carlin

108: Baby POVI’ve often felt sorry for my son not having much perspective on things. He’s always carried, lying prone in his cot, or staring at the ceiling. He’s not been able to sit up by himself till now, and propping him up has often led to his slumping to one side or the other like an old drunk. So, when I have had to put him down, I lay him on the floor, where he can only look to his right, his left, and at the ceiling. I’ve purchased playthings that dangle over him so that he can reach up for them, but it’s a rather dull perspective even so. I lie down next to him to see what he sees and am left thinking that I should clean under my couch more…

But, now he’s sitting up on his own! And for the first time in six months, I can take a shower without feeling guilty. Before I had, maybe, four minutes to bathe before he’d cry, and five minutes if I put him in a soft seat just outside the shower and sang to him. I get it. Life can be rather dull when you’re trapped in a body that doesn’t move as and when you want it to. Now, however, I can leave him for an entire fifteen minutes or so if I put some toys and books within his reach. I’ll be able to shave my legs properly again. And I don’t have to lie down and worry about vacuuming in the corners anymore.

Once they begin sitting up by themselves, the experts on various web sites instruct us parents to begin putting things out of the child’s reach. This encourages them to crawl, they say. I can see their point, but I just don’t have the heart to make him yearn for more just yet. I think I’ll let him feel chuffed with himself for having this new point-of-view…