Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Miracle of Laundry (and Tiny Games)

One Christmas, we decided to go to the West Coast for the holiday.  And by "we," I mean my Unit and her family.  Five adults (me, my Unit, Unit's sister and brother-in-law, Unit's mother) and two small children (Unit's niece and nephew, aged 2 and 6 at the time) all sharing a small beach house on the Oregon coast.  If you're thinking "That sounds like a disaster," you're right; we now refer to it as "the worst Christmas ever" (and by "we" I really mean "me").

There were a lot of things that went wrong during that week, but this is not that story.  And there were a lot of things that stressed me out when all I wanted to do was sleep, eat, knit, and relax (having just closed my sixth show of the year literally days earlier and my first year and a half of grad school), but this is only partially that story.

During our week-long holiday/vacation/forced interactions, my sister-in-law kept doing laundry (among other things).  We were staying in a house, not a hotel, so we had laundry facilities and a full kitchen and other regular house-type things that we all had to share.  And it seemed like she was constantly doing laundry, particularly for her two children.

Now I know kids can through a lot of clothes during the day, especially infants.  But these weren't infants, so why was she constantly doing laundry?  And my stressed-out-on-vacation self was all, Who the fuck does laundry on vacation?  Did you not pack enough clothing for all six days?  Did you just bring dirty clothes with you?  Hey, I did that a time or two in college when going home for a holiday or break.

I did not and could not understand the rationale, especially as it seemed to be one of the many things stressing her out, which in turn, stressed everyone else out.

Now let's fast-forward to six years later -- to August, 2016, to be exact.  My Unit and I are just barely recovering from Treepocalypse 2016.  On August 2nd, we moved into an actual house ("temporary housing" from our insurance company), after spending weeks in both her mom's one-bedroom house and a hotel room.  We walked into a new, larger house, completely furnished -- but none of the furniture (or linens or dishes or housewares or ANYTHING) was ours.  A week or so after that, we were able to get the first portion of our items from the storage company, including clothes and MY SHOES.

And somewhere in there, somewhere between moving into the house with my bags and suitcases from the hotel and getting boxes of items from the storage company, I started doing laundry.  The "temporary" house included a washer and dryer, on the main level no less!  No more walking up and down stairs into a possibly creepy basement for clean things.  So I washed nearly everything I could.  And dried it.  And I happily folded things and stored them neatly in our new (to us) temporary dressers and closets and drawers.

And it dawned on me:  I know why* she was doing laundry!  I finally understood.

Because when things are chaos, laundry is one thing I can control.  When things are chaos, if I can at least get my clothes clean and put away, that will make me feel grounded and at home, at little less "all over the place" and a whole lot less like I'm living out of a suitcase.  That one small thing is done and clean and fresh and "ready to start the day" (or week or month or whatever).  The entire house (literally or metaphorically) might be a mess, but my clothes are clean and in their proper place.
I could have agency over this one part of my life.

And I've come to realize it's also why I often play tiny stupid games on the computer (in the "time management" genre):  because it's one small thing I can control -- a thing I can control and often complete.  They provide a wee sense of accomplishment (as does clean laundry), even if the tiny game is ultimately useless. 

It only took six years, but I finally understood the miracle of laundry.

*Either that, or she really did not bring enough clothes for her kids -- fuck if I know.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Day #1: Embarkation


We arrived at the airport at 5:30 a.m. for our 7:40 a.m. flight.  We sat in the gate area, drinking water, saying goodbye to social media on our phones, and people watching.  And in came a family of eight (three adults, five children ranging in age from 12 to two, including a wee redheaded girl who clearly gave zero fucks as she kept trying to ditch her family to go exploring).  The size of their family wasn't the remarkable part; the fact that it looked like they hadn't checked a single piece of luggage was.  Every one of those eight people had at least two carry-on items (probably more), plus a blankie or two, and a stroller.  That's 16+ pieces of luggage to carry on!  And you know most of those children were not going to help carry things, and Mom was already carrying one of the younger ones (fast asleep on her chest because he had apparently had a meltdown earlier in the terminal).  What a horrible, uncomfortable way to travel.

As my Unit and I made our way to our seats on the plane we discovered that we weren't sitting together; we both had aisle seats right across from each other.  A single white man sat in the middle seat next to my Unit, and he quickly agreed to trade seats with me; in hindsight, I should have kept my aisle seat.

Seated two rows in front of us were part of the party of eight:  the mom, the sleepy kid, and wee redhead who gave zero fucks.  None of them, thankfully, were crying or having meltdowns, but the redheaded girl would sometimes just scream and yell for the fun of it, which I sometimes feel like is worse (it's not).  And in the row in between the family and us was an older woman who was only too delighted to strike up a conversation with the home-schooled mother of five.

Unfortunately, on an airplane, at several thousand feet in the air, with all engines going, holding a conversation basically means screaming at each other for everyone to hear.
Which they did.
Nearly the entire flight.
And then the redheaded toddler began playing a game on a tablet of some sort that sounded like a slot machine.  I know it sounded like a slot machine because they had the volume turned all the way up, competing with both the plane's engines and the two women talking.

This is not the point where I rant about small children and technology.  You want to give them a screen of some kind to occupy them in public?  Perfect!  But do it all the way:  give them earbuds, too, so the rest of us aren't subjected to it.

In response to the cacophony, I dug out my iPod for its intended purpose:  to drown out my surroundings.  So I did, and I was enjoying everything from Taylor Swift's "Look What You Made Me Do" to Lin-Manuel Mirando & Co's "Almost Like Praying" when my Unit nudged me and gave me a dirty look.
"I can hear your music!"
"Well, I have it turned up to drown out all of that," I answered, gesturing to the rows ahead of us.
"Yes, but I'm trying to tune them out, and now I have to tune out your stuff, too."
"But, they're earbuds!" was my useless argument as I couldn't understand how she could possibly hear anything from my technology with everything going on around us.  (In her defense, they were older earbuds and don't quite go all the way "in" the ear as newer ones do.)
So I huffed and grumped and I turned off my music and slumped in my seat for the remainder of the flight.  When she said again, "I'm sorry, but I could hear both," I countered with, "So now we both have to suffer??"
Her:  "Well, yeah!"
And that, kids, is marriage in a nutshell.  Should have kept my aisle seat.

At one point, I needed to use the restroom, so I set my water bottle on my seat and squeezed past my Unit.  Returning to my seat after doing my business, I picked up my water bottle and noticed that it had leaked.
All over my seat.
A significant puddle of water.
I sighed in resignation as my Unit tried to keep her laughter to herself and went to ask a flight attendant for some paper towels.  She came back with a large handful of paper towels that I used to sop up all the water.  And I sat back down and sighed, realizing I had become "one of those people," the people who make a mess, who spill things, who just can't get anything right on an airplane, much to the dismay of their nearby passengers.  My apologies to the young lady on my left, in the window seat.

Our layover in Charlotte, NC was uneventful (after getting off the plane, following the family of eight and all of their misplaced luggage and children).  Next flight my Unit had the window seat, I had the middle, and another white man sat to my right on the aisle.  I'm gonna fast-forward, except to say that the A/C was cranked up so much in plane that you could see the air coming out of all of the vents up along the walls (I assume because of the difference in moisture/humidity).  It was a little disconcerting at first, looking like we were getting gassed with something.  We weren't, and eventually it got cold enough that I put on my sweater.

So, on behalf of perimenopausal women everywhere:  thank you, American Airlines.  I wouldn't be chilly again for at least another eight days.

Here's where things get tricky:  our cruise was scheduled to leave at 4 p.m. EST.  Our embarkation time was between 2:30-3 p.m. EST.  Our flight was scheduled to land in Ft. Lauderdale, FL between 1:30-2 p.m. EST.  Needless to say, we were worried about making everything on time.  We had purchased "cruise insurance" which covered us in case of flight delay, but still.  This was our first cruise.  Everything once we left the airport was new to us (in bold because that's important).

The info from the cruise line had said that porter service for baggage stopped two hours priors to leaving, so we assumed we'd have to schlep our bags to our room ourselves with our 2:30 time.  Apparently not so.  When our cabbie dropped us off, a porter immediately offered to take our bags (and got a generous tip for his effort).

And then we walked.  And then we walked some more.  I was trying to follow the signs that told us what to do.  I'm not sure what I expected, but I do think I thought I'd just be able to walk onto the boat, and that'd be that.  Not so.

More lines, more security checks, more longer lines.  At least we weren't schlepping our luggage.  When we got the last line to check in, the lady at the desk informed us that lunch on the Lido deck stopped at 4 p.m., but that our rooms should already be ready.  I remember that in the cruise line literature, too; something to the effect of, "many people enjoy a leisurely lunch on the Lido deck while waiting for their staterooms."  Okay, cool.

More walking, more ramps, some really steep ramps, and then finally, the boat itself!  Yet another person scanned our papers and gestured into a room that my memory can only partially register because of the sensory overload.  It was pink-ish colored, full of lights and sounds, and people with drinks, kids with ice cream, music, and shouting.  I just looked at the guy in the white sailor's outfit, lost, and said, "How do we get to our rooms??"
"The elevator," he says, with a gesture.

So we find the elevators and the long line for them.  This may have been the point where my Unit and I decided to take the stairs; it was only three floors.

We get to our room; our luggage isn't there yet.  Oh well.  I desperately want to change clothes and shoes into something cooler, but start to settle for stripping off every article of clothing and lying on the bed.  But my Unit stops me and says, "Let's get you something to eat and a drink."
Yes, please.  That's what vacation is all about.

So we head up to the Lido deck -- remember, the "leisurely lunch" from earlier?  I'm not sure what I expected, but I had an image of people sitting at white-clothed tables on an open deck eating, I don't know, tiny cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off or something.  I couldn't have been more wrong.

What we found was complete and utter MADNESS!  It was a buffet -- A BUFFET OF CHAOS!  I think even a "normal" (non-anxiety-ridden) person would have been stressed out at the pandemonium of this "buffet."  For me, though, a person with crippling anxiety who needs to know where I'm "supposed" to go, the order in which I'm "supposed" to do things, where the line begins, if I order my own food, and what "the rules" are, etc., it was torture1.  I think my body and brain just shut down the moment we stepped into the room and were hit with the noise and bodies scrambling for food.

And then, to make matters worse, they announce over the loudspeakers that food and beverage service would be shutting down entirely for the safety briefing.  So then they start taking the food away!  Little signs start popping up saying, "Buffet Is Closed." And some devious chefs left the food out, but just removed the serving utensils.  I was carrying around an empty plate, almost in tears and walking aimlessly, when I found my Unit and just said, "They keep taking the food away!"
"Just grab something, anything!" she says before heading back into the fray.

I managed to put some squares of red Jell-O on my plate and two bars listed as "mint chocolate glaceau."  And that was it.  I didn't even have utensils; I ate everything with my fingers.  Rejoining my Unit, we searched desperately for an open (and clean-ish) table to sit; we ended up going outside to the humid deck and sitting down at a semi-clear table.  She had managed to grab some tortilla chips and potato salad and a napkin. We sat in silence and ate our miserable scavenged lunches, any thought of obtaining an adult beverage long since dashed.

Now begins the portion where we go back and forth to our stateroom in hopes that our luggage would be there.  Guess what?  It wasn't.  And every time we got back to the room I would strip down in an attempt to cool off.  This lasted throughout the hour-long "safety briefing" (mandatory attendance, outside, standing 3-people deep), my Unit going in search of the smoking area, and even a false alarm knock on our door that I thought was our luggage, but was the room steward asking when we wanted our room cleaned.

I was actually lying on the bed, sweating, my Unit out of the room, when the ship's engines started and we actually started to move.  I wanted to yell out, "We're moving!" but I was too exhausted and no one was around anyway.  I laid there, waiting to see if I'd feel seasick.  Nope!  I (mostly) loved the feel of the moving boat; it feels like lying on a giant, snoring dog (you can quote me).

My Unit arrived a bit after that with a glass in her hand.
"I got you a drink.  It's sangria, but it tastes awful.  Here, try it."
Again, marriage, folks.
And yes, I drank it.
It wasn't that bad; I discovered later it was sangria out of a bottle, not made fresh, which explained the not-fantastic taste.

We had hoped our luggage would arrive before dinner (we had the "early" dining time of 6 p.m.).  It did not.  So we went down to dinner in the hopes that it would appear by the time we returned to our room.

Dining on a cruise is an experience in and of itself.  For starters, you have the same waitstaff every night, so you get to know each other.  You are also seated at a table with strangers (unless you have 6-8 people in your own party).  And when you're two lesbians in a new situation among strangers, things have the potential to go badly quickly because, frankly, there are bigots everywhere.

On this our first night at the dining table, we were the first two to be seated.  And we waited and watched if anyone else would be sitting there, trying not to hold our collective breath if new people would suck or not.  Two separate times a waiter led people (women) to the table, in 2's or 3's, and each time there was a quick, hushed conversation with said waiter and anxious, furtive looks from the women, and then they were led away.

Now maybe they had mistaken the table number.  Maybe they had meant to sit with their friends?  Maybe it wasn't about us at all.  Or...maybe it was.  It wouldn't be the first time.  About halfway through our dinner a mother-daughter couple was seated with us and we all politely said hello.

My Unit and I ordered drinks with our meal, of course, and then, as we were looking at the menu, my Unit asks me if I think the theme drink for the evening is included in our drink package (because of course we ordered the drink package!).  Our waiter (Gideon) said that for drink package drinks the receipt handed to us should always say $0.00. 


Our drink receipts from the earlier sangria (and then a pina colada) had dollar amounts on them.  Then Gideon brought back our current receipts:  also dollar amounts.  He suggested we check with customer service about our package.  My Unit swore up and down she purchased the drink package.  She even remembered the total amount we'd be charged;  I remembered the day she did it (because I was working from home that day and she was trying to talk to me about drinks).  Nevertheless we were going to have to investigate; I needed to ask about our off-shore excursion tickets anyway.

We were going to hit customer service right after dinner, but first -- back to the room!  Joy of joys -- our luggage had finally arrived!  It had only taken five hours since we first gave it to the porter.  I changed clothes (finally!) and shoes and we trekked to customer service (down 3 floors and all the way on the other end of the boat).

As we didn't have Internet access on our phones (on purpose), we could not show the credit card charge for the drink package and stingray excursion to the customer service lady to prove that it had happened.  We ended up having to purchase everything over again (mentally deciding to check all statements when we got home again in eight days; if there were duplicate charges, the credit card company would remove the extras).  We purchased our drink package and two tickets for the stingray excursion in Half Moon Cay, Bahamas (Day #3).

And all we had to do was stand in line for 15-20 minutes behind a crazy lady who decided to befriend us.  She stood all of five feet tall (if that), had dyed blonde hair, and was in her mid-fifties (by her own admission).  And just beneath her blonde bangs were two jet-black eyebrows that had to have been tattooed on her forehead.  I couldn't stop staring at them; thankfully, it looked like I was making general eye contact with her as she chattered about why she was in standing in line.

"Eyebrows" (as she shall henceforth be known) had "spent the last three hours" cleaning her stateroom because it was "filthy" when she got there.  (By "cleaning," she meant wiping everything down with a damp paper towel, she explained to us.)  "None of the corners had even been touched by a vacuum cleaner."  And she cruises a lot -- A LOT!  She's a flight attendant, so she knows about these things.  And she's cruised with Carnival before, and she has never had a room this bad.  And she "told the steward it wasn't his fault, but really it is; I mean, it's his job."  And she would heave a sigh as only the truly put-upon can and say, "I don't want to complain; I want to enjoy my vacation,...but" (conspiratorially) "if the rooms are dirty, what else is dirty?"

But that's not the kicker.  And neither were the eyebrows the most bizarre part.  The bizarre part was during all of this conversation she had her room key in one hand and a black plastic knife in the other.
And we never found out why.
She never said why she had the plastic knife (or how it related to the room-cleaning saga).  Sometimes she would use it to punctuate her statements, as we saw when it was her turn at the customer service counter and the customer service guy would instinctively back away a bit when she waved it around.  We never saw her again during the remainder of the trip.  And we never could figure out the plastic knife.

After all was said and done, we got (more) drinks and sat on our room's balcony.  I took in the air, the stars, the waves, the rock of the boat (and my Nth drink) and finally, finally said, "This is very relaxing."  But it took the entire fucking day to get there.

Up next:  Our First Port

1Other fun things I stressed out about during the time in the cabin and rushed to look up while my phone still had an Internet connection:

  • Do we really have to attend the safety briefing?
    • Where is our "mustard station"? ("Muster station," but it sounded like "mustard" every time)
    • Where are the life jackets?  Are we supposed to wear them?
  • Is this water included in the drink package?
  • Are we supposed to eat in the dining room on the first night (or is it just more buffet chaos)?
  • Where's breakfast tomorrow morning?
    • Is there breakfast tomorrow morning?
    • Why isn't it listed?
    • I thought I read something about a brunch.  WHERE'S THE BRUNCH??
  • How do we know when it's a "dress-up" night?
    • What happens if you don't meet the dress code?
  • What day is our off-shore excursion?
    • Where are the tickets?
    • This says tickets will be delivered to our room, but they're not here.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Listen to Your Gut

And by "your gut," I mean MY gut.  I've advocated frequently in the past for listening to your body, your "gut" and what it's trying to tell you about (possibly dangerous) people.  And I was recently slapped in the face by the Universe with not one, but two reminders to take my own damn advice.

Reminder #1:  If It Feels Awkward, It's Because It Is

Friendships shouldn't feel awkward.  If you continually feel awkward around a person or get a "weird vibe" from them, a second glance should be taken at said friendship.  Sometimes it can be hard because you'll tell yourself it's just in your imagination or even "Well, maybe s/he is just an awkward person."  Listen to your gut.  Even if the latter is true, you will eventually find a rhythm with that friend, and things won't be awkward.

Unless they are.

In which case, look for the patterns.  Dammit, Leonard, you're an analyst by trade!  You should have seen this sooner.  But just like in my day job, sometimes it's hard to see the larger patterns at work when you're up close and personal with the data.  Ya gotta back up a bit.

Patterns in no particular order include:  walking on eggshells for fear of upsetting said person, the giving of unwanted gifts, randomly showing up to a person's appointments and things (unannounced), continually having to defend said friendship as not being inappropriate or "that way."

There's wearing your heart on your sleeve, and then there's obsession with people.  And each obsession follows the same steps and same patterns above, lather rinse repeat.  There's having a friend with whom you can talk and discuss things, and then there's using a person as your personal (verbal) punching bag.  It took me five fucking years to realize this particular pattern and lesson, despite the awkwardness and despite my gut.

Reminder #2:  If It Sounds Fishy, It Probably Is

Caution should be taken when entering into business arrangements of any kind -- even businesses with friends and acquaintances, even business ventures that don't require any money from you.  I've realized that I tend to take most things at face value until proven otherwise.  But when you keep asking for data, for answers, for things to be accomplished, for months at a time, and it's a continual delay and/or lip service, Leonard is out.  I wouldn't put up with that during my day job or any of my other business dealings, why would I take it from an acquaintance?

And that's just it -- an acquaintance.  I had to step back and realize "I've only known said individual for X number of months."  Friends, those I've known for years, are deserving of some faith, some "benefit of the doubt"; they've earned some good will and a little free work (my time).  But even after that time has passed, I would expect results from them.

People who I have known for less than a year, I need to start asking for proof up front.  And sometimes when starting a project from the ground up, that "proof" won't be there.  And that's okay; that just means that I'm not meant to be part of the "ground-up" team.  Call me when you have data, answers, contact information, receipts, a functional website.

And again, look for the patterns:  continual removing and/or replacing of people.  The same or similar answers in response to "Where is this thing?"  Walking on eggshells, uneven temperament, extreme reactions to nearly everything.  None of those are ideal characteristics when trying to run a business, a foundation, or start a program from the ground up.

And frankly no one project is worth my feeling sick to my stomach every time I check my e-mail, wondering what fiasco, drama, or temper tantrum is awaiting.


Some of this is on me.  I don't consider myself a gullible person (but what gullible person does?).  I'm a cynic, a skeptic, and an irritatingly rational person well-versed in the art of rhetoric.  I need that healthy dose of skepticism at the start of a project (or friendship), not later, when I'm waiting to be proved wrong.  A little less good will and a lot more "please provide your references."  I need to speak up louder when I begin questioning things and when I disagree and to not feel bad about doing so.

And, as always, I need to listen to my gut.  It hasn't been wrong yet.

Comic by The Awkward Yeti

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Regarding Charlottesville

From my Facebook page (and too long to share on Twitter):


There are not "good people" on "both sides." There are Nazis/white supremacists (bad) and everyone else (not bad).

This is not about "erasing history" or "heritage" or some such bullshit. We still remember the horror of the Holocaust, but we don't do it by putting up statues of Hitler.

This is not new; it's just "new" to some of us who haven't been experiencing it our entire lives.
Black Lives Matter is neither a hate group nor a terrorist organization. Gun-toting, radical Christian, straight white men, however, are.

This country was founded on the backs of non-white people, of slaves, and of indigenous people. We did that. Us. And it was awful. And people of all colors still feel the reverberations of those actions; as a white woman I benefit because I don't have to fear for my life when encountering the police because I'm just "a harmless white woman." My black and brown friends do NOT benefit from it in a myriad of ways (institutionalized racism, the U.S. prison system, redlining of neighborhoods, just to name a few).

The only way to ever truly move forward is to acknowledge that we did horrible, unspeakable things without "justification" or "qualification." WE DID THEM. IT WAS HORRIBLE. And spend the rest of our time DOING AND BEING BETTER.

Not up for discussion, bitches.

Also, educate your fucking selves by reading this .  If you somehow cannot take the time to read the entire thing, at least look at the timeline as the pattern is pretty fucking clear.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

American Godz on Starz

When it was announced that Neil Gaiman's American Gods was being made into a television show and a good portion of my Twitter went wild, I decided I should read the book (before watching the show, of course, like a good doobie).  When Tom + Lorenzo started posting their reviews and I would catch a glimpse of a costume in their thumbnails, I thought, Now I really need to read this.  And then, eventually, I really need to finish this book.

~Spoilers Follow;  You've Been Warned~

It was a beast of a book to read.  And I'm still not entirely sure why.  Yes, it's 600-some pages long, but I've read longer.  Yes, it deals with a lot of mythology, but hello, Tolkien nerd here.  If I had to try to verbalize (in bullet-point fashion, of course), why getting through this book sometimes seemed onerous, I'd say:
  • Non-linear timelines
  • Non-tangential tangents/storylines
  • A lot of dusty, back road travelling
  • Some tough visualizations (mostly with the coin tricks, but I eventually had to accept that my spatial recognition is sub-part at best and just move on)
Some of those may seem odd (especially the travelling bit), so let me explain.  American Gods the novel is very interior; it is almost entirely Shadow's story with a lot of important pieces taking place entirely in Shadow's memory and/or subconscious.  American Gods the novel is also a literal journey (not just the figurative hero's quest, which it also is); Gaiman does a good job conveying the sense of wandering and sometimes isolation/desolation when traveling the dirt roads of the Midwest and other places.  For someone who doesn't enjoy that sensation (one too many road trips in Midwest growing up), that can be a bit headache-inducing.

There were some points that left me hanging and some things that I just didn't "get."  Many of the "non-tangential tangents" are simply there to show how the old gods came to America.  And that's it.  They are part of a larger tapestry, but on their own, they're sometimes just loose threads.

But I finished it nonetheless and wasn't entirely dissatisfied with the process.  And then my Unit and I started to watch the first season of the television adaptation via Starz.  And damn.

Shit just got real, as they say.

I could write an entire paper on the opening credit sequence alone.  The visualization and symbols used are amazing and intense and I have yet to get tired of watching it.  It's even been nominated for an Emmy (did you know there's a category for opening credits?  I didn't.).

I had read on Twitter from Gaiman himself that:
  • Season 1 ends at House on the Rock
  • Some things happen out of order
I remembered getting to House on the Rock in the book, and I thought Wow, it takes an entire season to get there?

And then shit got even real-ER.  As in there is a veritable shit-ton of stuff happening in this series that simply does not exist in the book.  A friend said, "Oh, so they're expanding the shit out of it?" but I'm still not convinced "expand" is even the right word.  More like "created mythologies to go along with the other mythologies [that Gaiman invented to go with existing mythologies]."  Are you confused yet?  Good.  

First and foremost, Gillian Anderson is a goddess.  Watching her as Media in these different representations is a fucking master class on acting.  She's amazing.  She's never quite doing an "impression" of the famous person/character, but she is unmistakably them and also herself as Media.  And here's where we differ from the books.  Media talks to Shadow as Lucy ("Hey, you wanna see Lucy's tits?") from I Love Lucy, that's there (and awesome).  But then, THEN, THEN Media shows up as:
  • David Bowie (in his blue "Life on Mars" suit)
  • Marilyn Monroe (white dress from Seven Year Itch, complete with wind effects;skirt-blowing)
  • Judy Garland (in her final costume from Easter Parade, complete with a dancing Fred Astaire, of sorts)

It's brilliant and makes me think, Why didn't Gaiman do that?  In fact, I find myself asking that a lot whilst watching.  But more on that later.  Watching Anderson in American Gods is worth the price admission, period.  Any other faults, supposed or real, are washed away.

Another major difference is the treatment of Laura (a.k.a. "dead wife"), as in, she actually gets one.  There's little background to Laura in the book, and I was fine with that.  In fact, I am strongly disliking this extra treatment of her in the series.  I'm not sure if it's the actress or the character, but I am so over her.  Shadow could do so much better than her.  Her initial boredom with life, her treatment of him -- she has few redeeming qualities.  I think I'd rather know nothing about her than know that she really is a horrible human being (dead or alive).  The book offers a small bit of redemption for her, and that was all we needed.  I also appreciated the fact that in the novel she only sporadically showed up to Shadow; we have way too much Laura in this visual version.  It also doesn't help that they cast an actress whose nude body looks like a 12-year-old child, therefore making all of her nude work and sexual interactions really, really uncomfortable.  Eww.

On the positive side, in this incarnation, more Laura means more Mad Sweeney!  Yay!  I am really enjoying Pablo Schreiber's performance; you could have fooled me that he's not actually Irish.  And his IMDb.com headshot makes him look like a psychopath; I think I prefer his Mad Sweeney look.  But I often wondered about Mad Sweeney and the coin (with regards to the book); maybe I just wanted things spelled out for me more.  At any rate, him saying, "She's a lepre-cunt" made me LOL.

More thoughts, Leonard's patented (not really) bullet-point style:

  • Ricky Whittle is a STUNNING man and does very solid work as Shadow Moon
  • Ian McShane does some darn good work as Mr. Wednesday, too.  Not quite the casting coup as Gillian Anderson, in my opinion, but a close runner-up.
  • Hey look, it's Cloris Leachman!
  • "Vulcan."  I see what you did there.  (That entire episode is not in the book, nor are any swords, but I enjoy Corbin Bernsen, so I'll let it slide.  Plus the gun commentary is timely, appropriate, and terrifying.  P.S.  Did you know a Psych movie is coming??)
Unfortunately, I call bullshit on the casting of Kristin Chenoweth as Easter/Aostara.  Yes, she's adorable and should probably always dress in pastels and be surrounded by bunnies.  But in the novel, Shadow specifically uses the word voluptuous to describe Easter.  Despite her many other qualities, wee Chenoweth is decidedly not voluptuous.  It's important because Easter represents life, fertility, the bountiful plenitude of spring and harvests.  She should practically be bursting with womanhood.  They should have cast Christina Hendricks (a.k.a. Joan from Mad Men) as Easter.  Or, y'know, me.  But whatever.

I can see a bit why Hendricks may have scared them off; she plays a lot of strong characters.  They would have missed the adorable "cuteness" of Chenoweth's candy-colored extravaganza.  They would have missed the (cheap?) joke of her getting upset at her own swearing.  I know Hendricks can play sweet and girlie because I've seen Firefly, but I can see that thought process against using her.  Nonetheless, her body type (not to mention her acting chops!) is what Easter requires.

Other changes (really without commentary):

  • Laura interacting with Audrey post-death
  • Ibis and Jacquel sewing Laura back up
  • Mr. Nancy sewing Easter suits for Shadow and Wednesday
  • More of Salim (who is still looking for his Ifrit-lover).
  • Bilquis' back story.
  • Bilquis interacting with Technology Boy
  • Wednesday and Shadow getting caught, arrested, and then an entire police station of workers murdered.
  • Easter joining "the fight."
  • Taking back the Spring.

Continually comparing the show to the book is not necessarily an exercise in futility but not always helpful either.  Sometimes it is just comparison for comparison's sake with no real purpose (English teacher habits die hard).  Having read the book helps point me in the right direction, but (and my English teacher self cringes typing this) I don't think it's all that necessary in order to watch and enjoy the television adaptation.

I've read this far; where the fuck are the pics, Leonard?

I couldn't possibly do them justice, friends.  Do yourself a favor and go read TLo's breakdown and costume analyses of each episode (which is what I'm going to do in a hot second).  They go episode by episode and are therefore much more in-depth than Leonard is here.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Armada (Book Review)

ArmadaArmada by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First things first: is it as good as Ready Player One? That's kind of a loaded question. I can answer it by saying this is different from Ready Player One. While still definitely science fiction, Armada is firmly rooted in the present (well, 2015, when it was published), whereas Ready Player One exists in a mythical near-future. If you like your sci-fi farther away than the here and now, then no, you probably won't enjoy Armada as much as you enjoyed Ready Player One.

Putting Armada in the "real world" (so to speak) does allow for some great additional pop culture references that wouldn't have otherwise made it in. Pop culture and geeky stuff is one of the things Ernest Cline excels at, so he's doing us all a favor by adding some more. Where Ready Player One had a heavy 80s nostalgia going on, Armada gives us that, some mid-70s nostalgia like Star Wars, and then some more contemporary stuff like Firefly and Battlestar Galactica, plus some additional genres -- meaning, we're not just dealing with video game-type nostalgia here, we're dealing with science fiction across movies and games, alien invasions like Close Encounters, Contact, and (of course) Independence Day.

Armada is pretty action-oriented; indeed, most of the major plot events take place over the course of just a few hours, rather days or months. Additionally, if it's hard for you to visualize some things like spaceship cockpits, aerial maneuvers, and fighting techniques (like it is for me), you may start to glaze over (like I did) when Cline's text gets weighed down by his own technical prowess. Even so, I didn't stop reading (finished it in 3 days).

Other possible "cons" -- yes, it is a coming of age story of sorts. So if you don't like reading about teenage white boys attempting to figure out life, you won't like this; thankfully, that aspect is neither forced nor the focus of the story, otherwise my patience would have been spent. And it's definitely a story with some "daddy issues," which Cline's protagonist calls out right away. In fact, he acknowledges a couple of tropes right out of the gate, and some of them even get subverted a bit, which I always appreciate. But "daddy issues" also have their place of honor in most sci-fi canons, so it's not out of place in Armada either.

Last but not least, these are teenage boys, and they speak like teenage boys, most of which I found both realistic and pretty amusing. And possibly indicative that I might also speak like a teenage boy.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

One Year

My Unit and I enjoyed a nice, relatively quiet 4th of July yesterday.  We worked on the house, going through the pile of items my parents brought with them 3 weeks ago ("you might need it!").  That took a couple of hours, complete with smoke/drink breaks.  We tried (semi-successfully) to use our new charcoal grill (note to self:  I am far too impatient for this charcoal nonsense; I miss my gas grill).

There were loud booms of fireworks, but it was so incredibly different from the city.  Instead of a barrage of sounds for three days straight, at all times of day and night, things mostly started after 8 p.m.  And yes, they were loud -- bigger, more professional grade pyrotechnics -- but also farther away.  No one was shooting them right outside our house or in the dumpster in the alley.  Our dogs didn't like the noises, of course, but it was much more manageable.  Not the 75+ pounds of shaking, panting dogs like before.  That was a nice change.

And now it's July 5th.  I'm back at work.  And it's been one year.  Sometime during this day, one year ago, you went ahead and decided to pull the trigger.  Literally.  I don't know if it was during the morning (those are hardest for me) or during the night (those were hardest for you) or sometime in between, when you crawled into your bathtub, pulled the shower curtain closed, and put a pistol in your mouth.  Pulling the curtain closed was so you; it minimized the mess for those who had to clean up afterward.  Considerate to the very end.  They told me you even left your laptop and cell phone on the office desk, passwords and things all organized and easily accessible.  This was no rash act; you had planned.

I wouldn't find any of this out until late at night on the 6th.  I had gone to bed ridiculously early because I was worn out from a doctor's appointment and blood draw earlier in the day.  My phone kept going off, so finally, by around 10:30 p.m. I said, "What?!??" to my phone and looked at it.  Looked at the flood of messages.  "Do you know yet?"
"Are you okay?"
"Oh my God."

It took some scrolling to get to the heart of the matter, and I went cold with shock.  Then I had to go to the living room, wake my sleeping Unit on the couch, and in a state of half-asleep, tell her that you had killed yourself.  That you were gone.  And she cried out -- literally cried out -- "Noooo!" in a high-pitched tone that she rarely uses because it's completely unfiltered emotion, almost keening.

And I just sat on the bed and stared later while she cried.  "Why aren't you crying??" she asked me.  I couldn't.  Just shock.  I couldn't even mourn until the next afternoon (July 7th).  I made an emergency visit with my therapist and just sobbed on her couch.  "I don't know what to do with this!" I said.
And I didn't.
Sometimes I still don't.

I don't know how to handle the weight of this information, the raw emotional burden of this act of violence, of desperation, of finality.  Do I talk about it?  Do I hold it close?  "What am I supposed to do?" I kept saying over and over again.
I still don't know.

My therapist asked, in terms of "doing something," were there other people who might be affected that I might want to reach out to?  "Are any of your friends a suicide risk?"
"Well, according to the messages I've been getting, it's me," I said with a tearful laugh.  Gallows humor.

Thank you to the handful of people who texted me personally during the aftermath.  "Are you okay?" and "How are you doing?" are code for "checking in on you."  And I greatly appreciate it.  One of the major triggers for suicides is...other suicides.  So I know what you were doing, and I appreciate it more than I can adequately say.  You know who are you.

I am not the spokesperson for depression, mental health, and/or suicide attempts.  Not really.  It's a burden I bear relatively quietly; transparency is all good in theory, but I don't do it a lot of it in real life.  But it's here.  It's me.  Hello, my name is Leonard, and I'm mentally ill.

The evening of the 7th a handful of us closest would gather near, drink wine, and read over the statement to be released about your death.  And I cried reading it aloud, but I was so very grateful that it acknowledged everything that had happened.  It needed to be said aloud.

And then we heard the entire story, the process over three days of what had happened.  No gratuitous, gory details; just the facts, ma'am, hard, cold, horrible facts.  I needed to hear them.  I requested to know the details; I needed to know to make sense of it all, and GFB obliged.

There would be more crying; not quite as much drinking as I would have imagined.  And then, exactly one week later, a tree would destroy my house, nearly kill my Unit, and our lives would be uprooted and changed, again, forever.  Was that you?  I often wonder.  You knew how we felt about living in the city.

And another week after that, six of us would get covered in sweat and dirt and dust while completely cleaning out your apartment.

Sometimes it's like you're not really gone.  You still show up on m "On This Day" on Facebook:  your posts with jokes about grammar and cats and knitting.  I still remember your last text to me ("Fabulous job tonight, as always!  Thanks for all you do," after last year's theatre crawl).  And I swear, I could have rounded the corner into the office next to the dressing room just the other week and found you there, typing away.  But you weren't.

I said hello to you anyway, just in case.

One year.  525,600 minutes (thanks for counting, Rent!).  I don't have anything profound to say.