Monday, December 26, 2016

Reveal-ation

And then it dawned on me:

You don't want a conversation.
You just want people to agree with you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

P's (2 in a Series)

Strange as it may seen, I often think of Pam when I have to pee.  More specifically, I think of Pam when I'm debating whether or not I should pee.  Do I have enough time before the call for "Places" to pee?  

Should I pee before starting my commute home?  

Do I really have to go?

...because of Pam's words of wisdom to me years ago:  "Pee when you can, not when you have to."

It's excellent advice that I've taken to heart, especially as I've gotten older and my bladder has gotten weaker.

If you have the chance to go, go.  You don't want to be stuck in a one-hour commute seriously debating if you can use your water bottle for purposes other than intended and wondering if other commuters will notice if you unbutton your pants?

Image courtesy of Fresh Step cat litter



Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Random Friends at Random Moments (1 of a Series)

A lot of you probably don't realize that I think of you at random times.  I figured I should write them down, for posterity.

I think of Katy Anne whenever I put on socks, especially if said socks are starting to get worn out and/or have holes in them.  Why?  Because when we were in high school, I complained one day of having a hole in the toe of my (white crew) sock*.  Katy said, "Just turn it around."

I stared at her, dumbfounded.

She again told me to turn it around.  I blinked and said, "But then it wouldn't fit right because the heel of the sock would be in the wrong place."

"Oh," she said.  "I don't have that problem; I wear tube socks."

"Cats in tube socks" yielded this image.  Google you never fail me.

*We went to a private, parochial school complete with uniforms; hence, all of our socks were also the same.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

New Paper

What is it about a fresh notepad that sends my fingers flying?  It's so thick and perfect beneath my pen that my handwriting instantly becomes fancier.  A whorl here, a curl there, Why yes, I always loop my S's like that -- why do you ask?

I could write in calligraphy, the stylus scratching against the paper, as easily as I currently write in cursive with this pen and its rubber "comfort grip."  My words are both beautiful and have meaning, importance even!

If I press a little harder, these meaningful and rippling words will make their imprint on the pages beneath, so future generations who use this same 5x8 legal pad will know
cat litter
paper towels
dryer sheets
wrapping paper
wine
eye doctor appointment

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Review: The Paper Magician

The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy, #1)The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, like many books, this one started out well. My first thoughts within the first couple of chapters were that it was hitting the Daddy Long-Legs-meets-Jane-Eyre genre fairly hard. That's not necessarily a bad thing; it was just very obvious. Just as that bit was nearly played out, EXPLOSIONS!

And then the majority of the book was spent traveling through Magician Thane's literal and metaphorical heart(s). At the same time. Don't ask me how that's possible because I don't know. Once Ceony survived that, the ending was predictable as the above mentioned books would have it, if a little "twee" (and less adult) in its presentation.

My issues with this book can be listed as follows:
No subtlety: in addition to the obvious ploys listed above, there was little subtlety anywhere to be found. Our villainess Lira had blood-red lips, dark eyes, a large bosom, and if that wasn't enough, she actually threw blood from her dripping fingertips. Nothing delicate or subtle there.

Time period anachronisms: if you're going to insist that the book is set in late eighteenth-early twentietch century London, then you best be sure to not use contemporary words such as "make-up," "barrettes," "catering," and the like. How could a man slip his "ungloved hand" up Ceony's skirt if she was standing and he was seated? The skirt would have been down to her ankles, not to mention the layers of petticoats and undergarments. A lady, even an evil lady like Lira, never would have worn pants. A schoolgirl like Ceony would have been shocked to seem them. And they wouldn't have been called "pants" (see below).

Lack of Britishisms: I haven't looked up if Holmberg is British, but for a book set in England, it was nearly devoid of Englishness, including but not limited to: tea (serving and making of), saying "trousers" instead of "pants," etc.

It's entirely fine to have an English-like universe set it an unnamed time where one can mix and match their verbiage as they see fit. However, by giving concrete times and places, a writer is best to stick within those conventions. If you don't know the conventions, do the research. If you don't want to do the research, don't give concrete details to which your story is tied.

Pros:
To quote the book, "I like the dog."

While Book #2 promises to continue Ceony and Thane's story, I doubt I'll be reading it.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 5, 2016

Mental Energy Not Withstanding

Iron infusions (a.k.a. "superhero treatments") seem to be working.  Despite the side effects immediately following each treatment, I do actually feel better!  *knock on wood*

The downside of all of this newfound energy (y'know, what normal people feel like) is that my brain can't keep up.  Meaning:  mentally, the energy (or desire) isn't there.  I don't want to think, process, read, write, analyze.  Before, I was exhausted and in bed by 8 p.m., and my brain was done, no problem.  But now...

Is this why people watch TV?  So they can turn off their brains for a while?  But I can't do that.  When I watch TV or movies, I want to be involved, interested, invested, and engaged.  So far, the boob tube hasn't been allowing me to "tune out."

You know what does?

Wine.

And sometimes vodka.

But I shouldn't be getting liquored up just to douse my brain.  That doesn't seem right.  In fact, I know it's not right -- there's a whole episode of House about it!  (Except the guy in that episode doped up on cough syrup, of all things -- just like one of the first guys I ever date, but that's a different story.)

My Unit helpfully made a list this morning of things I can do to help us since last night I was wondering around our (rental) house saying, "I don't know what to do with myself!"  From here, my desk at work, I've accomplished 3 of the 5 things on the list -- in addition to doing all of my work for the day, editing/proofreading a holiday letter for a business, and sitting in a chair with an IV in my arm for two hours.

Ugh.

Time to find some new (time-consuming) hobbies as I don't have any shows on the books for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

To the Fragile, Conservative Few

It must be very hard to have your beliefs challenged nearly every single day.  It must be exhausting, indeed, to have to defend yourself, your choices, your "lifestyle" all the time to your detractors.  (I know it's exhausting over here to fight for those human rights.)  It must be tiring to be constantly questioned, especially when you find yourself unable to come up with answers to those questions.  And when you do find yourself ever so slowly inching away from those antiquated, racist/sexist/homophobic views, you probably want encouragement.

I imagine you want praise for gradually moving down the spectrum from "Complete and Utter Bigot" to "Somewhat Intolerant."  Maybe a nice pat on the back or someone to say, "Congratulations on your trek to fully evolved human being!  You are doing the right thing!"  Perhaps a participatory ribbon that says "Not a Complete Asshole...Anymore."  You want acknowledgment of your journey toward enlightenment, and I know there are people out there who will kindly and patiently give you such.

But let us be clear:  that person is not me.  It will never be me.

It is not my job to praise you for doing the absolute minimum when it comes to not being a conservative dick.  It is not my duty to measure your painfully slow progress and give you a cookie at each teeny benchmark.  I have no time for your fragile ego; my time is too busy spent fighting tooth and nail for those basic human rights that you can't seem to accept.

Image Compliments of RogueNegro.com

Monday, November 28, 2016

Movie Review: Doctor Strange

Leonard finally made it out of the house to see a movie!  And there was much rejoicing throughout the land.  We opted for a date with just us and our favorite pasty Brit, Pumpernickel Cumbersnatch.  Before we get into the review proper, though, trailers!

  • I hadn't seen the trailer yet for Logan.  If there was ever a perfect pairing of a trailer and a song, Logan with Johnny Cash's rendition of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" was it.
  • There was much chair-dancing and internal squeeing when the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 trailer came on.
  • Matt Damon and The Great Wall:  what the fuck is that shit??  It seemed very,....I don't know.  Too much.  Too much CGI, trying to shove too much awesome into one package, the incredibly wrong vehicle for Mr. Damon.  Aha!  This blogger sums up my feelings accurately:  "general disdain, not for inserting fantasy into history, but [for] doing it badly."
Now onto our regularly scheduled goodness:  let's address the White Elephant in the room.  Whitewashing.  In fact, I'm going to come back to this because I need to do some research.  Let's write my other thoughts down first. ==> All done!  So Tilda Swinton.  She is amazing.  And I'm all for previously male roles being given to women; rather being made into something androgynous, and especially played by someone as breathtakingly beautiful/androgynous as Tilda Swinton.  But not at the expense of whitewashing a non-Caucasian character.  And it's not like they tried to simply make The Ancient One a woman; they changed him/her from a man born in "land high in the Himalayas" to a (bald) Celtic woman.


Yeah, that's not even a little bit similar.
That's quite a difference.
This article explains the studio's decision a bit, but completely ignores the race/ethnicity factor.

Just to make sure I wasn't overlooking something, I looked up the original Doctor Strange comics as well; however, I can't find evidence that Dr. Stephen has been anything other than a gray-at-the-temples white dude:

You, sir, are no Sherlock Holmes!
Thoughts on the movie proper, in bullet-point style as we do around here:
  1. Benedict Cumberbatch.  Benedict.  Ben.  Benny.  Can I call you Benny? Maybe just 'Dict.  You know I love you.  I have loved you since before most people even heard of Sherlock.  You starring in an honest-to-goodness superhero movie seems like the merging of all of my interests.  I would gladly pay money to listen to your basso profundo rumble across my eardrums, even just reading the phone book.  Or a take-out menu.  (Although I vote for phone book because it would take longer.)  -- in your original, natural dialect.  Your U.S./American dialect needs work, my love.  Some British actors can get it and it doesn't sound weird in their mouths (Hugh Laurie comes to mind).  But yours:  several vowel sounds were a bit "off" (like in the word "chart") and "r" sounds were odd, which is a distracting thing when one's character's name is "DoctoR Stephen StRange."  And perhaps it was an attempt to take the beautiful clipped British diction/enunciation out of the picture, but your words often sounded slurred -- and not just when your character was coming out of a drug-induced surgery/coma/car accident.  When I caught the mid-credits scene, my first thought was "Crap, more of this!" but hopefully it means you'll have more practice between now and the next movie.  Call Hugh Laurie, get the name of his dialect coach, and get back to me.
  2. The Award for Best Sidekick goes to...The Cloak of Invisibility Levitation!  Chiwetel, my friend, you've been upstaged by a costume piece.  Seriously, I loved the cloak, and it nearly upstaged all y'all.  It reminded me a bit of the magic carpet in Disney's Aladdin; however, Aladdin's sidekickery was spread out across the magic carpet, Abu (the monkey), and almost Robin Williams as the Genie (although he was such a genius he was pretty much the star of that movie and was upstaged by no one, let alone a costume.  Or rug.).  The Cloak added a fair amount of levity (see what I did there?) and even got an "Awww!" out of me during the mirror scene.  Speaking of the comedy...
  3. Dying is easy; comedy is hard.  Recent film-makers (in the past decade or so) have hopped onto the Joss Whedon bandwagon of mixing humor with cosmos-shaping derring-do's.  In his words:  "Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke."  With most things, Mr. Whedon makes it sound easy, but it is, indeed, a fine balance of using some humorous bits to diffuse intense, dramatic situations; better than just defusing, the really great artists make it come out of nowhere where you'd never put that funny bit.  This movie attempts that balance, but ends up a bit heavy-handed on both ends of the spectrum which then comes across as "trying too hard."  This is nit-picky stuff on my end, but the balance of the comedy and the timing just wasn't quite there.  The funny was trying too hard, too obviously to be funny; the drama was slightly pretentious, and the back and forth between them only highlighted these disparities, rather than balancing them.  Which brings us to #4..
  4. Benedict IS funny.  I know he is.  I've seen it before.  It's a very dry sort of British funny (as Sherlock Holmes) and sometimes just flat-out silly (as himself), but it's there.  However, the comedy (as written) in Doctor Strange did not do him any favors.  The rhythm of this particular humor, which has a sort of American cadence to it (if I may be so arrogant to say so) did not find its way into my Pumpernickel Bendersnatch's delivery.  Like #3, it just wasn't quite there.  In this kind of situation, a director/producer has two options;  retrain the actor (read:  give them line-readings) OR rewrite the dialogue to a patter(n) that better fits their skills.  I think the latter would have been feasible here; play to Wonderland Bandersnatch's strengths, please.
  5. Fancy hands.  I love fancy hand movements!  Whether it's sorcery, illusionists, card tricks, or Michael Moschen as David Bowie's hand-double, I love 'em!  Wish I didn't have tiny hands; I can't even snap my fingers.  
    That's right.  The Goblin King doesn't spin his own balls.
  6. Wong.  Wong is awesome.  Wong's real name is Benedict Wong; the levels of meta happening here are just delightful, as is Wong's portrayal and (eventual) laughter.
Moral of the Story:  don't look at body scans and drive....unless you want to be a SUPERHERO!!!!

End result:  I did enjoy it.  Will I purchase it when the time comes?  Absolutely, don't ask stupid questions.  Do I hope for improvements between now and the next Doctor Strange movie?  For love of all things Marvel, YES.

I didn't write this, but I could have.

Monday, September 26, 2016

They Say You Can't Go Home Again

I say why would you want to?

I often have recurring dreams of the house and neighborhood in which I grew up.  In the dreams, I'm usually coming back to the house or subdivision after having been away for quite some time (just like in real life).  But in the dreams, the roads are longer and more desolate.  The house is quite a bit bigger, similar to how my little eight-year-old self might have seen it.  It's almost always night, and sometimes there are large dogs involved.

It doesn't take a Freudian scholar to analyze the messages my subconscious is sending to me.  My brain replays the images of my youth, distorting them to show the fear and sometimes abject terror I felt growing up.  The anxiety and anger is there, too; I often wake up feeling irrationally angry.  In the dream I may have been screaming in anger and throwing punches, things I was never able to do when I lived at #6 Tompkins Drive.  Of course, even in the dreams the punches are unsatisfying; the anger feels impotent.

I feel I should insert a disclaimer here:  there are people who fared far worse than I growing up.  Compared to them, I'm sure my childhood looks like middle-class paradise.

I haven't had these dreams in quite some time -- crap, I'm even getting teary-eyed just writing about them -- but lately I've been haunted by the fact that I did go back one time and snap some photographs of my childhood home.  My father's family has long since left #6.  There were no people to visit, just blank places to stare at.  The fact that I did go back and take photographs is disturbing to my mind because I can't quite remember which memories are real (from my childhood), real (from the return trip), or just recollections of my vivid (and disturbing) dreams.  Perhaps seeing the photographs will help me clear up the confusion.

I had planned, I think, on posting the photos on my old blog (really old, like that site doesn't even exist anymore), but just never got around to it -- which translates into, "It's too heavy to deal with, so I'll put it off."  So I decided to look back at those pictures, post them here with perhaps some small descriptions attached, and maybe lay to rest a few ghosts, though certainly not all.

Imagine my surprise when, just now as writing this (and multitasking, as usual), I brought out the external hard drive, looked through my files from that Thanksgiving road trip, and found one.
Just one photograph of the house in question.  None of the roads leading up to it, the signs of the subdivision, not even the fence or the yard of the house.  Just one lone picture of an innocuous ranch-style house.



I don't know whether to cry or vomit or both.  I was actually looking forward to a small bit of catharsis by seeing and attempting to describe things that hold so much negativity for me.  I was really looking forward to clearing up in my brain what was real and what was false.  But now I can't.  It's just the same Swiss cheese muddle it was before.

I think the fact that I took only one picture is somewhat telling.  I took over seventy pictures on that road trip -- of me, of my dog, of the apartment building I grew up in, even a couple of my old high school.  But the house in which I spent seven years of hell?  Just one plain photograph.

Still I suppose I can tell you about that one photograph:

The house is now a light beige color (as shown).  When we moved in, it was a delightful light peach color.  Not a pink house, but my little girl heart thought it was close enough.  Within a few weeks, my stepmother demanded that it be repainted.  Something about light-colored houses getting too hot; I don't really know.  So they picked out a new color, and sometimes I'd get to help paint.  The new color?  A dark, I'm-not-getting-enough-water-so-my-stool-is-really-hard brown.  The house looked like a giant glob of mud.

See the window on the far left?  That window was home to one of my greatest achievements as a former food-hoarder.  I used to hoard food for years, sticking snacks and crackers and cookies in various drawers and coat pockets.  My dad and stepmother could never quite figure out why my bedroom had a near-constant infestation of ants.  I used to spend hours watching the ants eat the poison they put out, but that's another story.  One winter I managed to sneak a frozen fudge bar (or fudgesicle, if you will) all the way from the kitchen freezer down the hall to my bedroom on the corner of the house there.  When my stepmother came in to inspect my room (as she did after every time that I had to clean it), she looked in, judging as usual.  My heart pounded in my chest because the fudgesicle was stored in that window between glass and the storm window on the outside (so it would stay cold, of course).  The thick wooden window frame (maybe two inches wide all the way around) kept my fudgesicle hidden from view.  When she left, I enjoyed my tasty frozen victory and said a silent "fuck you."

And that's all she wrote:  that is where this particular post, originally started sometime in 2013, ends.  And I think that's where I'll leave it for now.  For more on houses, monsters, and childhood terrors, see "The Long Road Home."

Friday, September 23, 2016

Everything Is Easier in the County

I was kind of proud to live in the city.  Not proud in a "Look at our great and thriving metropolis!" way, but in a "Yeah, I'm a bad-ass motherfucker because I know how to live here and not die" way.  That being said, my Unit and I will be hard-pressed to move back now that Disaster Destruction Displacement 2016 has happened.  Everything is simply easier in the county.

It is no longer a pain in the ass to take out the trash.  I no longer have to lug the trash to the back door, down steps to the patio, through the yard, unlock the the six-foot-tall wooden privacy fence, and then trek down the back alley to the dumpster.  My Unit no longer has to insist on watching me do all of the above from the window to make sure that I am not accosted or assaulted (even in broad daylight) during said trash-schelpping.

Now we step outside to the backyard, plop the bags into the trash bin (either over the chain link fence or walking through the [unlocked] gate).  Once a week, my Unit wheels the bin to the end of the driveway.  Easy peasy.

Speaking of driveways:  holy shit, we have a driveway!  And a garage!  We no longer have to wonder and worry:  will we have a parking spot when we come home?  Will "our" spots be available (not really; it was public parking)?  Will we even be able to park near our home or on our same block?  Will neighbors and strangers alike have parked multiple vehicles up and down the street?  Will people who don't know how to parallel park take up more than one spot per vehicle?

No more stress and no more ritual cursing of Lent and Catholics and fish fries (okay, I probably still will, but for different reasons).  We are guaranteed safe and clean off-street parking each time we return home now.  Additionally, we no longer have to worry if we'll wake up to vandalized cars, car windows smashed, trash strewn in the yard, trash thrown on our front porch, porch lights shot out by BB guns, air conditioner units stolen, or used tampons tossed in the gangway1.

No more additional taxes!  That 1% additional income tax if one lives or works in the city?  Gone!  Take some other suckers' money, ZMD!

Even the laundry is easier in the county!  This particular house has laundry facilities on the main floor, so no more taking my life in my hands by lugging baskets of laundry up and down treacherous city basement steps.

Not all safety and laundry is guaranteed in the city.  I am well aware of that.  I also sometimes worry that I'll lose my parallel parking skills or that I'll become lax and forget to lock my car doors or I'll start leaving valuables in my car.  But I gotta say,....life is a whole lot easier than it was.

1Yes, all of those things have happened, including the tampon.


Friday, July 22, 2016

Further Leonard Adventures

Yesterday, on my drive home two separate and incredibly disturbing things happened.

Thing #1
A driver changed lanes and moved right behind me.  No, that's not the disturbing part.  I saw the driver in my rearview mirror, and s/he was grinning at me.  I did not recognize this person.  They had white hair cropped short and I still don't know the person's gender; I couldn't tell (and it's not really relevant to the story).  But s/he appeared to be grinning at me -- not just smiling, but full on, teeth showing, grinning.

I didn't know this person.  I tried to surreptitiously look around me.  Was there something hilarious happening around me on the highway?  Was the back end of my car suddenly amusing?  I don't have any bumper stickers on my car nor do I have a vanity license plate, so there was nothing funny for the grinning person to read.  I was wearing sunglasses, so the person couldn't seem me continuing to glance in my rear view mirror to check on them.  But every time I did, they were still grinning.  Their FACE WASN'T MOVING.  AT ALL.  Just frozen in that psychotic, unblinking, perma-grin, with several white teeth showing.  For the next quarter of a mile in stop-and-go rush hour traffic.

And all I could think was, This is what happens when you tell women to smile all the time!  We get psychopaths following us down the highway with a facial expression that would give Jared Leto a run for his money.
He's so much prettier when he smiles!
Thing #2
Not ten minutes later during the same commute, I was nearly killed!  Well, if not killed, then nearly severely injured!

I was in the exit lane to go from one interstate to the other, and traffic was backed up.  We were all at an almost complete stop, brake lights for as far as the eye could see.  And it wasn't a sudden "oh crap, everyone is stopping!" kinda deal.  We were pretty much on our brakes from the time we turned on our blinkers to get into that lane (those of us conscientious drivers who actually use our blinkers, that is).  So I'm sitting there, paying attention to the cars in front of me, and when I hear super loud tire squealing from behind.

I immediately glance out my side mirror, and I can see a burgundy car barreling toward me.  The driver who was immediately behind me pulled all the way on the shoulder (to the right), another driver was pulling toward the left, to get out of this maniac's way.  The maniac (a young woman, BTW) started to pull toward the left as she was squealing her brakes and narrowly avoided slamming into me -- me, who had nowhere else to go.  And then she had the nerve to still try to get into said exit lane.  I gestured broadly Please!  Go Ahead!  I didn't want to be anywhere near her.

Is it any wonder I continually look for jobs that would allow me to work from home?  Oh, except I don't have a home (see:  Disaster Destruction Displacement 2016).  More on that later...

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Book Review: Poison or Protect

Poison or Protect (Delightfully Deadly, #1)Poison or Protect by Gail Carriger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let it be known that I don't often give five-star reviews. So for a novella to earn that from me,...well, that's kind of a big deal. But when I finished Gail Carriger's Poison or Protect I was satisfied, for lack of a better word. I couldn't think of something I'd want to change or rewrite or edit; there was nothing dangling in my head as "unfinished."

It is the mark of a good writer that s/he can make us feel affection for villains, or, more accurately, that s/he gives us rounded, fleshed out characters who are complicated and complex, rather than flat characters who can be described as "hero" or "villain" with no grey area in between*. And Carriger has just done just that with Lady Preshea Villentia, the Mourning Star (and extra points for always giving us fantastic character names!).

If you've read Carriger's "Finishing School" series, you will recognize Preshea as one of the "mean girls" of Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
[Please note that you absolutely do not have to read those four books in order to read and enjoy this novella. Some of the winks and nods to the reader may be lost on you, but you won't even notice as they fly by.]
Telling (at least half of) this story from Preshea's point of view gives us a chance to understand her and her meanness just a bit more. Carriger doesn't try to change or rescue Preshea; she simply gives us insight to a complicated character. As Poison or Protect takes places a couple of decades after the Finishing School series, there is plenty of time for Carriger to fill in Preshea's backstory.

I also found it rather remarkable that, for a universe built on the existence of the supernatural (as that's where the Parasol Protectorate books start), there are only two -- count' em, TWO -- supernatural characters in this book**. And only briefly at that. (You'll recognize them both.) While some of the other characters refer, briefly and generally, to werewolves and vampires, they are not the focus; and the book does not suffer for it. I don't think that's a feat easily attained.

And while we're on the subject, the "steampunkiness" of Carriger's universe is also not such a focus in this novella. A couple of dirigibles here and there, and that's about it. Very little gadgetry, yet we do not notice that it's missing. It was only after the fact that I came to these two realizations.

So without the supernatural and without the steampunk, what are we left with? Dammit, Gail Garriger, you got me to read a romance novel(la)!! And I may or may not have enjoyed it. I may never forgive you for that.

Speaking of romance, Carriger manages to write some very tasteful (though no less sexy and/or erotic) sex scenes. I think I saw the word "cock" maybe once. I'm no shrinking violet when it comes to sex (or sex scenes), but there was nothing crude or vulgar about these. I appreciated that.

Last but not least: writing in Scottish dialect. I don't think I'll ever tire of some of these characters and their "dinna's" and "ken's." It's just sprinkled in there, even in their thoughts, and never forced in a way that feels like "I'M SCOTTISH. HERE I AM SPEAKING SCOTTISH AND DOING SCOTTISH THINGS."

So go, read, enjoy. Whether or not you do it whilst drinking tea and wearing a corset is up to you.

*See also Marissa Meyers' Fairest (Lunar Chronicles #3.5), or even just the first few chapters of Game of Thrones. When the POV switches, we suddenly find ourselves not sure whose side we're supposed to be on.
**I should say three, I think. There is Formerly Connie.
***Y'know what,...there is something slightly left unfinished
(click to read whole review with spoiler).

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Friday, July 8, 2016

White Privilege in Two Paragraphs

There are yard signs around the city which say, "We Must Stop Killing Each Other."  There is one on my sister-in-law's block.  And she was grieving the fact that her nine-year-old daughter (our niece, Little Red) is now able to read, which means that she will have to explain to Little Red what that sign means and why it's posted and what is going on with the state of the world.  I said, "Well, it's true [that we must stop killing each other]" to my Unit, who then expressed her desire (similar to her sister's) to keep Little Red as young and innocent as she can be, before she has to realize what a horrible place the world is.

I see one of those signs "We Must Stop Killing Each Other" every day when I drive home from work, and it dawned on me that for other children, other nine- and ten-year-olds, "We Must Stop Killing Each Other" is an everyday reality.  Other, non-white children have to be told on a daily basis why their friends and families are being shot and killed.  Other, non-white children have to be taught things like "Hands Up; Don't Shoot" and to always comply with persons of authority because at any moment they could be unjustly harassed, assaulted, and/or killed.  That is their everyday reality.  And the fact that Little Red's parents have the luxury of deciding when to tell her about this reality -- this "other" reality -- is white privilege.  Plain.  Lucky.  Stupid. Privilege.



Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Book Review: A Hundred Essays I Don't Have Time to Write

100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater by Sarah Ruhl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You MUST read this book. If you are an actor, playwright, dramaturg, technician, director, producer, stage manager, and/or lover of theatre/storytelling of any kind, you need to allow Sarah Ruhl's brilliant essays into your life. There are only a hundred of them (with the longest being maybe three pages); you'd do well to find the time.

Ruhl's wit and wisdom are apparent in the very title, and they carry through her offerings. One of this book's best qualities is that these are a hundred essays she "doesn't have time to write" -- meaning, none of them are too long, and Ruhl isn't necessarily digging for truth or trying to unlock the earth's great mysteries. She asks a lot of questions, but does not force any answers. Ruhl tells some wonderful, touching, funny stories (some of which may or may not have brought me to tears whilst on the treadmill at the gym), but she's not didactic. She'll make you stop and think about storytelling and theatre and drama and communities and our need for play and social interaction. But she'll never make you feel like she's demanding that you think about these things.

I didn't necessarily agree with all of the points she brought up (her bit on subtext in dialogue, in particular, seemed counter to everything I've learned), but I appreciated the opportunity to see another viewpoint and to maybe -- just maybe -- approach some of my own work differently.

I borrowed this book from the library, but that didn't stop me from highlighting a passage in nearly every essay, sometimes two! (On my Kindle, people, don't freak out.) I'm still going to have to buy it so I can go back and read those gems whenever I like.

Like I said, you MUST READ THIS BOOK. This book is a necessary tool of the craft, right up there with Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. The two shall be bosom companions on my bookshelf.

View all my reviews

Friday, June 3, 2016

Of Squirrels and Angels

Scene:  7 a.m. on Sunday morning, my Unit rushes into the house after taking Dogzilla for her morning constitutional.  I am, of course, still in bed.

"Well, Dogzilla caught a squirrel!" she announces.
"What??"  I'm really only half awake.
"Yes!  It practically jumped in her mouth!  I think this squirrel wanted to die.  Seriously, it ran right into her mouth.  And then of course, she wouldn't let it go -- "
"This was on your walk?  Or out in the backyard?"  (See? Still not entirely awake.)
"While we were walking!  And I try to keep her away from squirrels while we're walking, and it still ran and jumped directly into her mouth!!"
"Kamikaze squirrel?"
"I guess!  So I have her on the leash, I'm trying to get her to drop the squirrel, but of course, I don't want to touch the squirrel!  And she wouldn't let it go!!  I didn't know what I was going to do!  Was she just going to bring it home??  So I have her down on the sidewalk, I'm still holding onto the leash, and I'm telling her 'NO!' and 'DROP IT!' and this short, scruffy, white guy comes out of nowhere -- why are all my angels short, scruffy, white guys?"
"Wha--?"
"And he says, 'Hey, I can help you,' so I say, 'Sure!'" my Unit is both exasperated at this point in her story and in the telling of it.  "So he slowly reaches into his pocket --"
"Wait, I can't see!"  (Still in bed, no contacts or glasses.)   
My Unit comes closer so my sorry blind self can mostly see her, and she slowly acts out the dramatic reaching into the pocket.  "And he pulls out...a taser."
"WHAT?!?!"
"YES!  A fucking taser!  And I'm like, 'Dude, don't tase my dog!' and I'm thinking, 'And don't tase me either!!'"
"Who goes around with a taser in their pocket??"
"Apparently short, scruffy, white guys do!  So then he leans in real close [to Dogzilla] and goes zzt-zzt!" (Unit mimicking the sound and action of a taser.)
"WHAT??!?"
"Just to scare her a bit!  He didn't touch her. And she dropped the squirrel!  And the squirrel is lying there on its side, all huhuhuh" (Unit mimicking squirrel death-panting.)
"Yeah, it was probably bleeding internally."
"And the guy says, 'Oh.  I'm gonna hafta put it out of its misery.'  So I say, 'Okay,...umm, do you mind if I walk away before that?'  And we left."
"Wow."
"Yeah!  So that happened.  Okay, I have to go to work -- bye!"

And then she left.
End scene.



Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Not the Super Power I Was Hoping For

The other day, as I was leaving Walgreens, I heard this horrible high-pitched sound in my car.  I first made sure all of the windows were rolled up properly.

They were.

I turned off the radio to make sure it wasn't part of some (horrible) song.

It wasn't.

I realized I had the A/C going, so maybe one of the vents wasn't opened all the way?  You know how sometimes if you open or close the air vents, some air squeaks through (literally)?  I checked them all, and it made no difference.  I could still hear the high-pitched whining noise, almost like an awful whistle or some tiny fairy screaming while it's infesting the tissue of my brain.  The only thing that made the noise go away was cranking the A/C fan up to 3.

So I did.

Until I got too cold, but then I was thankfully near my destination so I didn't have to be cold or have a headache by the horrible squealing noise Satan brain fairy.

Later that night, when leaving rehearsal, I heard the sound again.  Crap! I thought, and I went to crank the A/C fan to 3...when I realized I didn't have the A/C on.  At all.

But you know what was "on"?

The pink car lighter adapter and (matching pink) lightning cord I had purchased from Walgreens earlier that day, which was currently charging my phone.

What the...???

I unplugged the cords at a stoplight.  The high-pitched noise stopped.
I plugged them back in.  The noise started again:  eeeeeeeeeeeeeeIIIIIIIEeeeeeeeeeeeeee
I unplugged them again.  The tiny demon fairy noise stopped.

I plugged it back in -- eeeeeIIIIIIIEeeeeee -- I wiggled the plug around to make sure it was connected all the way.
It was.
The noise didn't stop.

I sighed and unplugged the cord for good so my brain would stop screaming in unison with the squealing.

This was not the super power I wanted*, Universe!

It's the same super power that lets me hear if a TV or computer monitor is plugged in within a 20+ foot radius.
It's the same super power that lets me hear "silent" dog whistles.
And now it lets me pick up iOS charging materials.

*Where's Leonard's origin story?  Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeell, have you heard about my #lightningcar?  Or the airplane I was in that was struck by lightning?  Or those times I was electrically shocked?  But instead of Electro, I got Krypto the Super Dog.



Thursday, May 19, 2016

Team Iron Man

You should know, before even going into my review of Civil War, which side I'm on.  Tony and I go way back.  It's a matter of loyalty at this point.  And of stubbornness.  So while I'm in the minority, I know which side I'm on.  But enough about me, on to the bullet points!

By the time this post will be published, I will have seen Captain America:  Civil War twice, and naturally, I have thoughts about that.  Here they are in some semblance of an order:
  • They wrote Pepper out of another film.  I realize it's not her movie (it's not even Tony's movie!), but it still feels like a bit of a cop-out.
  • Who else was completely and utterly weirded out by the CGI "young" Robert Downey, Jr.?!?  I was so distracted by his face during that scene I almost missed what was happening.
    • Civil War says this "memory" is 1991, the year the Starks died.  The flashback at the opening of Iron Man 3 (when they're in Switzerland) is in 1999.  I think they may have turned the Way Back Machine back too far for 1991's RDJ.
  • Sokovia?  Really?  His whole deal is "just" about Sokovia?  A friend asked me if rewatching The Winter Soldier would be helpful for this movie, and I said, "As long as you remember who Bucky/Winter Soldier is, you're fine.  In fact, rewatching Age of Ultron would be just as if not more helpful."  And I stand by that.  Because there's a lot more that has to do with Sokovia than anything else (in my opinion).
    • But Zemo's whole modus operandi did feel a little lacking to me.  This theory helped to allay some of that.  (CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS)
    • After my second viewing, I've realized that the above theory is incorrect in one major point:  there are bullet holes in the glass of at least four of the five "containers" (fifth container was not shown close on screen to check).
  • Speaking of MacGuffins, what about Crossbones?  Has anyone addressed this yet?  He was only there so the Avengers could cause some (accidental) mass destruction as a final catalyst to the Sokovia Accords.  We never really saw why he was doing it (except Cap "dropped a building" on his face), we did not know what biological weapon he was stealing (or why), and then he was dead before we could even really care.
  • Hello Black Panther!  Leonard loves her some cats, no matter the size.  What I appreciated most about Chadwick Boseman's portrayal is that they managed to make him look both feline and masculine.  We often associate cats with femininity (see:  Freud, literary theories, and DC's Batman), but I felt they managed to make him look, act, and move masculine and cat-like and, of course, bad-ass. 
    "Dude shows up dressed like a cat, and you don't wanna know more?"
  • Speaking of His Catness, what's his deal?  His suit is bullet-proof (possibly made of vibranium), but does he also have super powers?  Or is he just really athletic?  See my list below.
  • The airport fight scene, the one that everyone (Leonard included) lost their shit over in the trailers -- yes, THAT one,...felt a bit stiff and contrived for me at first.  It didn't feel like "THE" fight.  Thankfully Wanda addressed my issue (to Hawkeye):  "You're pulling your punches."  Of course it felt a bit stifled -- no one wanted to actually hurt their friends!  They're holding back, and I could tell.  As soon as that became clear, I felt better.  Even after Wanda's moment, they still (mostly) held back.  And I was glad; they're my friends, too, and I don't want to see any of them get hurt.
  • Spider-Man:  let's address address the Spider in the room.  Everyone (except Leonard) also lost their collective shit over seeing the Spiderling in the trailers.  I said it then and I'll say it now:  he sounds (and looks!) like he's twelve!  It's hard for me to take him seriously (or even like someone who has at least gone through puberty) with his li'l pumpkin face and giant awkward ears.  Yes, his lines were funny, but his intro scene with Tony was, well,...weird.  The timing of their dialogue was off, and not in that "this should be awkward" way; in a "this is awkward because we actors haven't been given proper direction" way.
  • Black Widow's hair was getting dangerously close to the "too fussy" zone in this film; in the mean time, ScarJo is doing her best Farrah Fawcett impression while kicking ass and taking names.
  • Holy Beefcake, Batman!  You know what I'm talking about: 
    Look at my guuuuuuuns!
    This was almost too much, when he switched his grip and we got the bicep pose and the manly grunting face.  There was a fair amount of beefcake in this film compared to the others, and I'm okay with that.  Similarly there was a lot less cheesecake (did you see Black Widow wearing pants, boots, and a COAT in the opening fight scene??), and I'm also okay with that.  Turn about is fair play, fellas.  It's your turn to be objectified for once.
  • Lots of fun lines, too many to quote, really.  Pick your own!
  • I thought the film did a really good job showing the points of both sides of the major argument.  Which is why this is STILL VERY UPSETTING!!! 
    2 against 1 isn't fair, people!
Having seen the movie twice in the theaters, I think I've memorized the lines I like and can now happily wait for it on DVD.  It has also inspired this spreadsheet of superheroes:


Name
Suit?
Training
Power(s)
Evaluation
Black Panther
Yes
Probably some military
Unknown
3 of 5 asses to kick
War Machine
Yes
Military
None
3.5 asses to kick
Iron Man
Yes
Not really
None
Genius playboy billionaire philanthropist
Bucky/Winter Soldier
Yes (well, an arm’s worth)
Military & general brainwashing
None
4 of 5 asses to kick
Black Widow
Nope
Lots of military/assassin
None
ALL the asses to kick!
Captain America
No
Military
Beefy arms.  And legs.  And chest.
Nearly Indestructible
Vision
No
Does having Jarvis in your make-up count?
Synthetic, Infinity Stone, Change Density at any time
Indestructible
Scarlet Witch
No
No
“she’s weird” and can apparently bend reality
Glass Cannon*
Spider-Man
Yes
No
Scaling walls, shooting webbing, enhanced sensory all around
Ask me again after he hits puberty.
Falcon
Yes
Military
None
“Bird costume?  That’s cold.”
Ant Man
Yes
Just Thieving Stuff
None
Not the first I’d call unless I just wanted funny stuff
Hawkeye
No
Military
None
Pretty bad-ass for someone so vulnerable
Thor**
No
Asgardian Military
Giant hammer, lightning & thunder
God-like
Loki**
No
Very little Asgardian Military
Staff with Infinity Stone, glamours
So very pretty
Hulk**
No
No
ANGRY (and giant)
HULK SMASH!

*My friend Casey explained this term:  can hit superhard ("cannon"), y'know, like take down friggin' Vision!  But is also fragile, will down from one punch from Cap ("glass")

**Not pictured in this film



Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Don't Read the Fine Print

Or:  Ignorance Is Bliss
Or:  Why I Won't Be Going to the Y


In case you haven't heard, Leonard has started going to the gym again.  Well, two different gyms,...trying to find the right one.  And in case you don't remember, Leonard went to the gym once before.  If you want to read the boring reasons of why I'm trying a gym again, scroll to the bottom:

Two things to keep in mind while reading Leonard's Quest for Gym:

  1. I'm cheap.
  2. I'm lazy.
I don't want to spend a lot of money or really commit to anything.  And I don't want to travel too far out of my way to get to this place where I will sweat and smell bad.  Near me are two places that fit my requirements:  the YWCA and a Planet Fitness.  And at first glance, they appear to fit my very basic gym needs:  weight machines, some kind of cardio, locker rooms/showers.

I was wary of the Planet Fitness.  Was the location skeezy?  Would people be creepy?  Would it be dirty?  What's up with offering pizza and doughnuts at a gym?  So then I looked at the YMCA, but I couldn't find any prices whatsoever.  I did sign up for a Guest Pass, though, and it was delivered to my e-mail box with a note that "someone would be contacting [me] about a membership."  I printed off the pass, put on my big girl panties, and went someplace new and large and loud and scary to the YMCA.

The people were friendly enough, and I told them that I was interested in membership details, but still no one got back with me on that.  This particular facility is downright huge for a Y, and it was the hopping place to be at 6 p.m. on a weeknight.  It was busy, but not too crowded.  They had a lot of cardio equipment (treadmills, stairmasters, stationary bikes, etc.), some weights (the big, "manual" kind), and a smattering of weight machines.  I'd say they had only one of each type of weight machine, sometimes two; that, in turn, meant I had to wait for the weights sometimes (see what I did there?) or do something else and come back.

I spent 30-35 minutes on the treadmill, which was about 15 minutes too many; by the time I got down, I felt like I was floating all the way to the locker room and beyond.  When I got home, still breathless, my Unit commented,  "You look pale.  Like all the blood went straight to your heart."

It wasn't a bad experience, although I was disappointed that I couldn't find any pricing information online and that no one had contacted me about it.  The next day I decided I wanted to work out again (who AM I??!??), but my YMCA Guest Pass was only good for one day.

I looked at Planet Fitness again online, but I couldn't find any information about guest passes. I called them and was informed that a "day pass" costs twenty dollars ("but that fee is then applied to your membership if you sign up").  Then I tried to research more on the Y's website (give me dollars and prices, people!) when I stumbled across their Membership Handbook.  I was scrolling through the PDF file when I discovered page three under "Lockers":
"Use the gender appropriate locker room with which you legally identify."
Wow.  What if my legal status hasn't been changed/updated to reflect my gender identity?  What if I don't have an updated legal photo I.D. with my new name/gender?  While it's not as bad as North Carolina saying to use the biological sex on one's birth certificate, it's close.

And then I found under "Code of Conduct" this little gem:
"We take pride in our family friendly environment. Please keep attire appropriate and modest."
"Modest" according to whom?  What is "appropriate"?  Your family and my family may be entirely different.  If it's hot and I'm busting through my cardio, am I not allowed to wear capris and a sports bra?  My swimsuit probably shows cleavage because I have big boobs; is that going to offend your family's modest sensibilities?

Granted, those things did not happen to me in the hour that I was there, but the fact remains that they could.  The fact remains that the language alone made me very uncomfortable.  And when I told all of these things to my Unit, she pointed out the same thought I was having, "YMCA does stand for 'Young Men's Christian Association.'"

And that clinched it for me.  Off to Planet Fitness I went, despite the charge to try out the facility. Luckily for me when I showed up to the desk, the attendant was the same person I had spoken to earlier.  And she let me use the facility for free (without me asking) -- which practically guaranteed that I would sign up for a membership because I am a sucker for good customer service.

So there ya have it.  Reading the fine print will usually destroy your blissful ignorance and remind you of what those pesky abbreviations stand for.



Prologue:  Why a Gym?  Why Now?  And then I dislocated my knee (for the third time), so I stopped.  But after last September's adventure on a trapeze (yes, a real trapeze!), I decided I wanted to try more things, new things, fancy aerial things.  And I did aerial yoga for a while.  And I really enjoyed it (and didn't hurt myself).  But my schedule of rehearsals combined with crippling anxiety ("where have you been? why haven't you been here?) mean I haven't been there in months.  And when I looked, the class I had liked was no longer on the schedule.  Also I realized that yoga was not doing enough; I wasn't sweating enough, getting my heart rate high enough. 
But you know what did do those things?  Going to the gym.  But I no longer teach at a university with a fitness center, so now what?  Cue Leonard's search for a gym.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Smells Like My Childhood

I just tried dry shampoo for the first time yesterday.  Where have you been all my life??  Why did I wait so long to try you??  Actually, I can answer that last question.

Ever since my stylist mentioned dry shampoo (like five years ago), I've had the notion in my head that it was akin to dumping a box of corn starch on your head:  powdery, messy, and ultimately not worth the bother.  And I've had that thought until just last week when I saw a rather hilarious commercial:




As you can see (and hear), it mentions dry shampoo and shows women using -- wait, what's that?  An aerosol can??  I needed to rethink my whole stance on dry shampoo because let's face it:  I don't wash my hair everyday.

Maybe I should have warned you before dropping that bomb.

But I don't.  Many of us don't.  In fact, you shouldn't.  Washing your hair everyday is hard on it and can strip it of the natural oils it needs to be healthy, but sometimes those oils get out of control and your hair looks wet even when it's not (ew).  Dry shampoo is perfect for that.  Or for mornings when you don't have time to shower and simply take a whore's bath (sponging yourself off and/or using a "wipe" of some kind) instead.  Don't lie.  You know you've done it.

Yesterday when running errands, I added "dry shampoo" to my list (yes, I use a list).  But what kind?  What brand?  Trying new things is scary!  Only one of my go-to, recognizable brands had a dry shampoo, which I nearly bought.  But another -- a brand I had never heard of -- had their bottles tagged with "UK's #1 dry shampoo" in several different scents.  Like a total redneck, I took off the cap in the store and sprayed just a tiny bit so I could smell it.  Not bad!  And I bought it.

I used it later in the day at home, a sort of test run before going in public with this.  I hadn't washed my hair since Thursday, so it was a good day to try.

Results:  It's still powdery.  In fact, it's still a powder (which makes sense when trying to absorb oils...because science!).  But it's an aerated powder -- aerated?  Aereolized?  That sounds like something you do to become a redheaded mermaid with nipples.  It's in a spray can, goddammit.

Mermaids are not in the market for dry shampoos.
As such, they're not kidding when they say to hold the can 12" away from your hair and to also brush your hair when done to get rid of any excess.  I did both, and I still may have overdone it a little.  But it was miraculous!  Suddenly, you wouldn't have guessed I hadn't washed my hair in more than 48 hours!

And the scent!  The bottle said "cherry," but it doesn't smell like an actual cherry so much as it smells like a toy from 1980s that was supposed to be cherry-scented.  Something in my childhood smelled just like this (not necessarily a bad thing).  I kept sniffing my hair because I enjoyed it so.

 Batiste Dry Shampoo in Cherry
The cons:  If you're not careful, it will look like you dumped some cornstarch or baby powder on your roots because of the powder.  And wow, it really makes my gray hairs stand out adds to your highlights!  And if you run your fingers through your hair too many times, they will feel all powdery, too.  Clearly, this is not for everyday use, but I may be hooked.  If you catch me sniffing my hair, you can bet it was a dry shampoo day.





News Flash:  Just now, while looking for images, it appears they make a dry shampoo with "a touch of color" for redheads!!!  We may be on to something here, folks.

FOR REDHEADS!
(But still not mermaids)