Friday, December 1, 2017

Arachnophobia

In the old house, pre-Treepocalypse, this once happened.

My Unit: "...and there was a big fucking spider under the fridge that was alive. It may have been -- what's the kind with the fiddle on its back?"
Me: "A brown recluse. Was it a brown recluse?"
My Unit: "I don't think it was brown enough. I just saw something red on it before I sprayed it [with vinegar]."
Me: "That would be a black widow."
My Unit: "I don't know..."
Me: "Did it look like this?" Bringing up spider images on the computer.
My Unit: "I don't know! I already sprayed it."
Me: "Did it....look like Scarlett Johansson?"

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Brown Bag, Indeed

When I was still teaching, I used to insist on having some kind of adorable lunch box to take with me.  And when my Unit was home, she would sometimes put together a lunch for me while I got ready for the day.
"Hey, I put some snacks together for you for today."
"Thank you!"
"But I had to throw away that kiwi you had in there."
"...kiwi?"
"Yeah." 
Eyes widening with realization.
"That wasn't a kiwi.  That was," {gulp} "the artist formerly known as an orange."
Unit immediately throws everything -- snacks, lunchbox, everything -- into the trash can.
"You need to buy a new lunch box."


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Joys of Working from Home

So sometimes you're loading dishes into the dishwasher (while on your "lunch break"), and Dogzilla comes to "help" (she likes to lick the dirty plates and silverware). And then WHOOSH! Suddenly the bottom rack is yanked right out of the dishwasher!
...because something is snagged on Dogzilla's collar, and then she's freaking out because an entire rack of dishes is following her, and you're trying to get her to be still to un-snag the offensive item from her collar. But she manages to violently wrangle herself free, breaking one of your nice(r) wine glasses in the process. So then you have to keep everyone calm and sitting still and DON'T WALK THERE! while you clean up broken glass from the kitchen floor.

Good thing I go back to the office tomorrow.


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

Also Known As:  I FUCKING HATE EVERYONE

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.
"What?"
"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. 

Uh-oh.

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.

Conclusion:

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):

CAN'T.


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.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Playing Possum

Last night, I came directly home after the show because I was hot and tired and in pain.  I was just going to take the dogs out and then go to bed, no excitement.....EXCEPT

...within seconds of being outside, Dogzilla has something in her mouth; 2 seconds after that, the circus dog wants in on the action.  I yell at her, which just makes her play with it more.  There's no squeaking or anything, so maybe it's not an animal?  (Or maybe it's already dead.)

I approach her slowly because if you run at her, she'll just run across our gianormous yard (with thing still in her mouth), thinking it's a game.  As soon as I'm within arm's length, I grab her collar, saying "Drop it."  But I can't see what "it" is (it's super dark outside at 10:30 p.m. in the county, y'all).  It's clear she's not going to leave it alone, so I prepare to drag/walk her inside by the collar.  Except she doesn't have her regular collar on (WTF?!?), something I failed to notice to before going outside.  So I lead her by the glow-in-dark LED collar we make them both wear at night (see above:  dark outside), but gingerly because

  1. said LED collar can slip right over her head and
  2. it's also a break-away collar
In fact, it DOES "break away," and so I grab her by the scruff with my cat-like reflexes so she can't run back to "i"t and then drag/walk 65+ pounds of dog back into the house, by her fur, with the circus dog running around my heels (his glow-in-the-dark collar still in tact).

I passive-aggressively wake up my sleeping Unit by saying loudly, "Rosie, where is your collar??"  A groggy, "Oh, it's in here" comes as a response.
"She found something in the yard," I announce.  "I don't know what it is," but I grab my phone and go outside to find out if it's still there or what.

My phone isn't giving enough light (and I deleted the flashlight app a long time ago), so I use the flash on the camera by snapping two quick pics revealing "it" to be....

a smallish possum.

Shit.

Back inside.  "It's a possum," I announce.  "Rosie killed a possum.  Or maybe it was already dead; I don't know."
Groggy mumbling in return.

And now I'm torn.  I don't want to go back outside, in the dark, and put the dead body in the trash can.  What if it's not really dead?  What if it's just, y'know, "playing possum"?  What if I try to grab it and it bites me??  And so I whine.  "Do I have to do it now?  I don't want to grab it in the dark!"

"But I don't know where it is!" is her rsponse, which translates into:  "I don't know what section of the yard to keep Dogzilla away from when I take her out at 4 a.m. because she will immediately try to 'play' with the dead animal again."
"And you're awake!" she adds (no translation necessary).

I sigh.  And find the one pink latex kitchen glove we have left (used the others in previous dead-body-tossings) and grab my phone and head back outside for a third time.  On my way out, I remember we do actually have a light for the back patio (duh!),  so I turn it on in an attempt to make things less icky/scary.

And then I grab a stick from the patio on my way to the possum.

Glove on one hand, stick and camera (using the flash on the "video" part now) in the other, I make my way back to the possum.  It's still there.  So I poke at it with a stick.

Nothing.

Poke.  Poke.

Still nothing.

Damn, it looks really gross.  Is it breathing?  I can't tell.  What if it bites me?!?!
Oh God.

And randomly, Damn, its tail is tail is a lot longer than I thought it would be.

Still using the phone for a light and keeping the stick for "self-defense," I very slowly pick up the possum's limp, furry body with my gloved hand.
Ohgodohgodohgodohgodohgod.

Nothing happens, but the possum is bigger than my hand.  So it's not a baby.  Maybe a teenaged possum?  (In its defense, Leonard does have delicate, lady-like hands.)

I'm standing, possum in one (gloved) hand, phone and stick in the other (non-gloved) hand and I find myself at a (figurative) cross-road.  Do I put the possum in one of our trash bins, like we have previous dead animals?  Or do I dump it somewhere else?  What if it's not really dead and gets stuck in the trash bin?  What if it's not really dead but tossing it over the fence causes a concussion or internal hemorrhaging?  What if it IS dead, so who the fuck cares??  Trash bins are to the right; to the left is the edge of yard with a fence and a drainage ditch on the other side.  Fence/drainage ditch is closer -- decision made!

I do a weird quick walk/not run to the fence, furry body jiggling in hand and try to "gently" drop the possum over the fence.  And I wince.  "Sorry, possum!"
Then quickly go back the other direction to the trash bins to ditch my pink latex glove only to discover a giant spider web between trash can and house that I nearly walk into.  Jesus!

Glove gone, go back inside.  Except I still have to take Dogzilla back outside to pee because she didn't do that the first time around.  Fuck.  She, of course, inspects the area where the artist formerly known as a possum was hanging out, not believing me as I say repeatedly, "It's gone, Rosie."  We come back inside for the fourth and final time.

I wash my hands, put on pj's, and then -- convinced that I'm going to have nightmares about possums -- look up on my phone (whilst lying in bed) how to tell if possums are really dead or just "playing" dead.

90% sure said possum was just "playing" dead (thanks, Interwebs!).

Update from this morning:  possum is no longer in the ditch.  Either s/he "woke up" and left or some other, larger animal ate it.

Last but not least, this all reminds me of a bit of perfect casting:  William Shatner as the father possum in Over the Hedge.  He does a Shakespearean-esque death monologue except
he. does it. in. the Shat. ner. style.


Fucking brilliant.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Halls of Terror

My Unit and I were having an ongoing conversation regarding closing doors.  She had mentioned the other night that the closet door was continually ajar when she'd use the bathroom in the morning; meaning, that I had not quite closed the door the entire way (which is entirely possible).  I made a mental note of it, but apparently was still not completely closing the door because yesterday evening she mentioned it again.  I didn't even remember using the bathroom closet, let alone not quite closing the door.

My Unit brought up the fact that I don't quite close the bathroom door (completely) either (also true).  It's often ajar because otherwise our animals will bang on the outside of it, desperately trying to save me from the shower, the bathtub, or the need to poop.  Please keep in mind that all of these conversations were light-hearted on my Unit's end and really no big deal, but suddenly it all came rushing back:  the hallway in the house on Tompkins Drive.

Apparently I've always had an issue closing doors "properly," as I informed my Unit.  I demonstrated on our bathroom door, pulling it closed until it clicked.  "This way is apparently 'too loud,'" I explained.  Because my psychotic step-mother once punished me by making me close all the doors up and down that hallway by turning the handle, then gently pulling the doors closed (still making sure they [quietly] clicked) because I just pulled them closed.  And that was wrong.  And "too loud."

Once I had closed all of the doors "properly" I had to go open them all again in order to repeat the process until I "got it right."  That hallway had doors to:
  • the bathroom
  • the linen closet
  • the master bedroom
  • my bedroom
  • my brother's bedroom
  • my sister's bedroom
That's six doors.   Approximately 20 feet, one-way. Six doors closed and opened and closed and opened and closed ("the right way"), lather rinse repeat, I don't know how many times.  Three?  Ten?  40 feet "round-trip." And I was probably all of 8 or 9 at the time.

And then there was the time I ran down that same hallway to my bedroom at the end, desperately hoping to outrun said psychotic stepmonster who was coming to spank me.  I got to my room, slammed the door, and looked around, panicked, wishing I was big enough and strong enough to push furniture in front of the door.  She found me anyway and spanked me so hard I peed on myself, while crying.  Age 10?  11?

Or the time -- maybe it was the same time? -- she chased me up the same hallway, calling me "a little bitch."



So yeah, I often don't close doors all the way.

(Not our actual hallway)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Logan (A Review)

I know, I know.  Leonard is sorely behind the times in that we only just watched Logan two weeks ago.  I think many of my thoughts can be summed up by this Unit conversation:
Me: "Professor Xavier said 'fuck'!"
My Unit: "So? He's a grown man."
Me: "Yeah, but usually he's the one who's all 'we like everybody, let's give you a family,'..."
Her: "That's how you know things are fucked up."
Me: "Exactly."
Her (referring to its R rating): "And then they had sex and smoked cigarettes."
Me: "Professor X and Wolverine did not have sex. In that scene. That I'm aware of. But if they do --"
Her: "You'll let me know."
Me: "Of course! I'll be like, 'What the fuck is this?? Triple-X-Men??!?'"
While I did enjoy the movie, I also felt a little bit lost in the first 10 minutes or so.  Looking at other reviews and commentary after I finished it, it turns out I was not alone. (X-Men:  Days of Future WTF has also seriously screwed up my entire timeline/understanding of this franchise.) It also turns out that was entirely intentional.    For instance, "the Westchester incident."  Even as some of the details were dribbled out to us, I didn't fully understand the weight of what they (and Professor X) were saying.  I immediately recognized "Westchester" as "home base" for Xavier's school, but it didn't dawn on me that the "incident" and Professor X "hurting people" truly meant wiping out mutants.

Reading that SlashFilm.com article filled some holes and brought even more gravity to an already heavy film.  I really feel like Logan is a contemporary Western, and not just because Johnny Cash is featured on the soundtrack.  (Sidenote:  the use of his cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" in the first trailer was fucking brilliant.)  Perhaps I've not watched enough Westerns (original or contemporary or remakes) but "Old Man Logan," world-weary and still struggling with "doing the right thing" or being left alone, a fiesty young girl character, zero love interest, and yes, of course, all of the desert landscape featured all said "Western" to me, in the same vein as True Grit and 3:10 to Yuma.

Laura's first fight scene (even her name screams "Western!") was insanely cool.  I did gasp"Jesus!" at the screen when her toe-claw first flipped out.  I was trying to explain to my Unit the intensity of the scene, but could only squeak out, "She's practically feral!"

In fact, let's talk about Laura for just a moment.  Well, let's talk about Dafne Keen Fernandez:  she's under 13 and can do more (and better) acting with zero words than some adult actors I know, even with whole monologues at their disposal.  And how awesome is it that she's:

  • a girl
  • Spanish
  • kicks major ass in this film
I don't have much else to say on this topic except representation matters.


"Old Man Logan" is kinda hot.  There.  I said it.  Just as we get used to Hugh Jackman as "Old Man Logan," though, the movie smacks us in the face.  Old Man Logan makes sense: he's older (well, closer to looking his own age, I guess); he's a little more mellow (for Wolverine) with age; he needs reading glasses; he's used to hard work put you don't wanna poke the bear (see:  Munson family scenes).  We don't even realize how accustomed we've grown to him until BAM!  Other Wolverine (X-24) shows up and reminds us what we're really used to seeing.  It's a great visual comparison to show us exactly just how far he's come/how much he's changed.  Plus, how often do you get watch Hugh Jackman fight himself?

I love Patrick Stewart's Xavier in this film because he's quite a bit different from previous Charles Xavier's, even the James McAvoy Xavier's.  Everything from saying "fuck" to the funny (but still sad and pathetic) "I need to pee" -- all of it.  He runs the emotional gamut in this film in ways that we're not used to Professor X (or really Patrick Stewart, for that matter).  Like the Unit conversation above said, it showcases how desperate things have gotten.

As a whole the movie had only one false note for me, and unfortunately, it was a large (loud?) one.  The ending fight scene, as Logan is impaled by the tree branch and Laura is crying over him, she cries "Daddy."  Not "Dad," not "Father," not even the (infinitely more plausible) "Logan," but "Daddy."  And then she repeats it, like, two more times.  Those three words felt entirely forced to me; they did not ring true at all.

Yes, we know Logan's DNA was used, so he is technically her father; chances are she knows that, too.  And even though they formed a fast and strange but slightly paternal relationship, it didn't make sense (to me) that she would cry out "Daddy" while crying over his dying/dead body.  If anything a "Nooo!" (though not Luke Skywalker style dramatic) would make more sense; best would probably just be the crying/ wailing/keening that doesn't require any words at all.  Maybe it's because Leonard is dead inside, but that part struck me as entirely forced; I can't seem to find another word to describe it.

Now that I've purchased, watched, and finished the movie comes the really tough question:  do I file it under "L" for "Logan" or under "X" alongside X-Men, X-Men 2, X3, X-Men:  First Class, and Wolverine?


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The End of the Brush (3 in a Series)

For the occasions where I slather make-up on my face, the process goes a little something like this (NOT A TUTORIAL):
  • If I have not just washed my face (and stepped out of the shower), I will cleanse with a toner of some kind.  
  • Then moisturizer/primer
  • Maybe color correction
  • Then I'll apply foundation.
    • Okay one small tutorial:  as always, when applying things to my face, I remember the wisdom of a Mary Kay consultant many, many years ago:  we already have to fight against gravity as we age, so don't add to the problem by continually pulling your make-up, sponges, brushes, et cetera downward.  I try to go upwards, against the grain of gravity, and sometimes in new and different directions so I'm not continually pulling my skin in the same ways all the time.  Does it work?  Who knows, but I'm not taking any chances.
  • Then translucent powder
  • Eyes go in this order:
    • Brows (brush and color in)
    • Eye shadow
    • Eyeliner (liquid, black)
    • Eyelash curler (so they stop poking me right in the eyeballs) 
    • Mascara (also black)
And this is when I think of Aimee.  Every time.  I remember watching TV together -- no idea what (maybe an episode of Friends?) -- and a commercial came on for some mascara.  Among their many (unrealistic) promises, this brand promised to get "every lash," all the way to the "corner of your eye."  And Aimee yelled at the T.V.  "It's called using the end of the brush, dumbass!"
And we laughed.  Because she was right.

And I smugly apply my mascara, utilizing the end of the brush for my outer corner lashes, thinking of Aimee every single time.




**Blush, lipstick happen next, in case you were wondering; lipstick is always last, often after I'm dressed.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Text Message Interlude

Ridiculous Role Play Edition:

Me: "Coming home [from the gym]. Would like a red pepper, please."
My Unit: "Excuse me...this is not a restaurant. Today's special is chicken & dumplings $7.99 all you can eat."
Me: "If it's not a restaurant, why are you charging me for chicken & dumplings? :-) And can I get a side of red pepper with that?"
Her: "No substitutions or sides are offered."
Me: "Can I use a coupon?"
Her: "NO COUPONS!!!! ONLY CASH!!"
Me: "Hmmm,...I think I'd like to speak with a manager."
Her: "I own this joint!"
Me: "That's not what the guy who gave me this coupon said. The coupon also includes a free glass of wine."
Her: "WELL IT'S FAKE AND WE DON'T HAVE A LIQUOR LICENSE. NO MEN WORK HERE, JUST LESBIANS."
Me: "Why are you yelling at me? And tell that to Poe-Poe [one of our cats]."

End scene.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Review: Marine Biology

Marine BiologyMarine Biology by Gail Carriger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three stars is rather low for me for a Gail Carriger book. I think much of that stems from it being rather short (yes, I know it's a short story). Nonetheless, it felt a bit rushed, especially toward the end: one sort-of dinner date, and now (Read on Goodreads to view spoiler) but it still seemed a little too "wrapped up neatly with a bow" for my taste.

On the other hand, some of the exposition just left me with more questions: like why are two merpeople investigating financial crimes? Is this a twentieth-century, American version of B.U.R. (and maybe I missed that detail?)?

Now that I think about it, "Two merpeople investigating financial crimes" actually sounds like a decent T.V. series -- BRB!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Things I Miss (Anaphylaxis Edition)

I started to develop food allergies in my mid-twenties.  Until that point, the only things that had been trying to kill me were the usual suspects:  dust, pollen, ragweed, mold, and hay.

And the one by one, my body decided different nuts and related foods were unacceptable in various degrees:  first coughing, then wheezing, then lips swelling and face getting red and blotchy as I tried to scratch my own throat out.  And lately I've been missing some of those foods.

  • Peanut butter toast -- especially when the toast was hot enough that the peanut butter would get a little melty in the middle
  • Celery sticks with peanut butter -- crunchy deliciousness that made you feel that you were "eating healthily" (ha!).  Oh, but don't pull any of that "Ants on a Log" crap.  Keep your disgusting raisins to yourself!
  • Pistachio pudding!  The taste, the color, the ingredient in so many "salads" we white people make.
  • Pistachio ice cream -- although I did feel a little jaded when some brands lacked the green food coloring
  • Peanut butter and plain (lightly salted) rice cakes:  I used to eat these all the time in grad school; I could "graze" and read/study at the same time
Organic peanut butter was actually the penultimate food that got scratched off my list.  But I found I could still eat some candies and things with "peanut butter" in them because, let's face it -- that's not real peanut butter.

Or is it?  My immune system decided it was "close enough."
  • Mini Reese's peanut butter cups -- how you taunt me during the holidays.
  • Reese's Pieces -- we had such fun during movies.  (Twizzlers say hi, BTW.)
  • Girl Scouts Tagalong cookies -- seriously?!?  This cruel move of Fate just started last year when I discovered I could no longer eat one cookie without the coughing/hacking starting.  This year I didn't even order any boxes so I wouldn't be tempted to try again.
    • Don't worry.  I made up for it by ordering ALL OF THE THIN MINTS
Now not everyone who is allergic to peanuts is allergic to tree nuts, and vice-versa (peanuts are technically a legume).  And not everyone who is allergic to those things is allergic to coconut.  Aren't I the lucky statistical anomaly?
  • Valentine's Day is coming up -- filled with bite-sized coconut truffles to mock me.
    • I also particularly liked the kind where the coconut was mixed in with the chocolate (rather than a ball of pure coconut dipped in chocolate)
  • my mom's Ranger cookies (that I also used to make).  They were yummy and I liked to tell myself they counted as a breakfast food because main ingredients included:  oatmeal, Rice Krispies, ...and coconut.
  • Coconut lip balm and other skin products -- how much is too much?  I don't necessarily miss these, but it does suck discover the allergy because your lips swell up on the way to work.
Now I'm both sad and hungry. You dear people:  don't take your snacks for granted!  They could be taken away from you, leaving you with nothing but memories that quickly fade from your taste buds.  Please go eat some for me.


Monday, January 23, 2017

La La Land (Film Review)

I saw La La Land just before New Year's with a friend who lives and works in L.A., and she was able to give me some insight into several properties.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie.  It was fun, visually appealing, and a delightful homage to the golden age of movie musicals.  That being said, there's a fair amount constructive criticism to be typed out.  Let's start with what we liked.

Pros:
  • Diverse casting:  No, not in the leads; don't be silly.  Hollywood can't seem to handle that.  But in their "chorus," most notably in the opening number taking place during L.A. rush hour traffic, I was pleased to see people of all kinds of colors, ages, shapes, and sizes -- not just "typical musical theatre types" (y'know, lithe, wholesome-looking dancers in their 20s).  So that was nice.
  • So many colors!  The (mostly) primary colors of this film just pop all over the place making it visually appealing and sometimes downright stunning.  The color palette is part of what makes it such an homage to the movie musicals of yesterday (primary Singin' in the Rain, which I'll be referring to a lot during this review).  I was also pleased to see that Emma's four friends were all wearing different (though similarly styled) solid-color dresses -- a theatre standby to make it easy to find the characters on stage.  If we had seen them in any other numbers, I would have fully expected them to stay in their same color tones.  But look at this image and tell me you don't see the same?
"A Face in the Crowd," La La Land (2016)

From "Gotta Dance" Montage, Singin' in the Rain (1952)

  • The music -- wait, no, the jazz.  The score and orchestrations were lovely.  My date (who is much more versed in such things than I am) pointed out to me that the director of this film, Damien Chazzelle, is a jazz musician himself; the film Whiplash (2013) is his story.  So naturally he's going to pay special attention to the jazz; however, I think that may also be his blindspot, but we'll save that for the cons in a moment.
  • I enjoyed the dialogue and chemistry between Gosling and Stone:  "Can I borrow your outfit?  I have an audition later this week for a serious firefighter."
  • I particularly enjoyed all of the contemporary "interruptions."  Just when we'd find ourselves falling into "musical theatre territory," Chazzelle gives a delicious (modern) interruption:  car horns honking, a cell phone ringing, movie film breaking, et cetera.  Those touches keep the movie from becoming too saccharine.
  • The homages to older films, specifically movie musicals.  Here is another list/article by Aisha Harris at Slate of all of the tributes to those films of yore; I haven't read it yet because I didn't want it coloring my own initial thoughts, but I recommend it (and will be reading it shortly).  For La La Land, it starts with the "expansion" of the screen to the old "Cinemascope" logo (which only some people in the audience will get) and goes from there, including a swing around a lamp post a la Singin' in the Rain to the drive up to the Planetarium a la Rebel Without a Cause.
    • Sidenote:  I have seen some people claim the "dancing in the air" sequence was ridiculous/unbelievable/stupid, etc.  First off, if you are looking for reality in a musical -- any musical -- I'm afraid I have bad news for you.  Secondly, that dance sequence is an homage to many, many predecessors, including (but not limited to):
      • The "dream ballet" in Rogers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma! (or almost any R&H musical)
      • Part of the "Gotta Dance" montage in Singin' in the Rain -- which has a dream sequence within a montage within a "what if" scenario
      • Gene Kelly's dance with Jerry the Mouse in Anchors Aweigh (dancing with an animated mouse -- again, not looking for reality here).
      • "A Jolly Holiday" from Mary Poppins wherein they jump INTO a sidewalk chalk painting and dance with animated people...and penguins.
      • It even happens in non-musicals:  the dream/dance sequence in Susan Slept Here, starring Debbie Reynolds and Dick Powell (1954).
Those were all things I enjoyed.  Now the things I did not:
  • The songs.  While the jazz and the score were both good, not one of those songs was memorable.  Not one of them made me want to run out and buy the soundtrack or (better still) buy the sheet music to learn them.  Not. One.
  • The singing.  This is caused in part in how it's recorded (and when it's so very obvious the people on screen are not singing there) and partly the lack of the vocal training of the (non-)singers themselves, but everything sounded the same:  the same volume, the tone, the same wimpy, breathy vocalizations that show lack of confidence and lack of breath support.  Songs shouldn't all sound the same, nor should you sing them all the same.  We should hear things like piano, forte, pianissimo, etc.  Unfortunately, all of these songs were done in that "Gosh, I hope I'm not wrong, so I'm going to sing/speak quietly" piano mode.  Listen to Sarah Michelle Gellar on the Buffy:  The Vampire Slayer musical episode, and you'll hear exactly what I'm talking about.  And this is why I think songs versus orchestrations may be Damien Chazzell's downfall; he may be so focused on the latter that he didn't realize how bland and/or poorly recorded the former were.
    • Part of the reason for this style of "singing" is that he didn't hire actual singers.  And while Ryan Gosling spent 3 months studying jazz piano (which is awesome!), at least as much time should have been spent on voice lessons.  Same with Emma Stone and, well, nearly everyone in the cast.
  • The dancing.  Again, it wasn't bad; much of it was very cute.  But it wasn't great.  And frankly, it wasn't perfect.  I have much higher standards for films than I do for live theatre because in a film you can take as many takes as you want to get it right.  Theatre's a lot harder because you rehearse, but for each audience, you only have that one moment to be right (which is part of the beauty of live theatre, but I digress).
    • Again, they didn't hire dancers (not for the leads).  So they could spend months training these talented actors, or they could, y'know, hire actual dancer/singer/actors!!!  It's a novel concept, I know, but I know those triple threats are out there.  In fact, I know some of them.
      Exhibit A:  look at their hands -- completely different!  INEXCUSABLE!!!
  • Some of the transitions felt a little long; overall, the movie itself felt long.  I was surprised when I got out of the theater to see it was under 2 hours.  That's not necessarily a good marker of a film:  that it feels longer than it is.
Overall, I did enjoy it because I enjoyed the movies it made me think of (and made me want to go watch).  I liked the chemistry and banter between the leads.  Now I would just like them to do it better.

P.S.  I couldn't find a way to work it into this (very late) review, but go watch the 1955 movie version of Guys & Dolls (with Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra).  It's similar in color and style to La La Land as well.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Documentation

For posterity.  In case I forget.  In case we're told not to...

"The fight is over reality itself. If people treat every fact as partisan, facts cease to be facts. In the confusion, the populist attacks opposition media for causing the confusion" (Melik Kaylan, Forbes, January 10, 2017).

January 21, 2017, Day #2 of Trump :
"'This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,' Spicer said, contradicting all available data."

"Spicer said, without any evidence, that some photos were "intentionally framed" to downplay Trump's crowd."
From "White House press secretary attacks media for accurately reporting inauguration crowds" by Brian Stetler, CNN Money, January 21, 2017

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Celluloid to Stage (A Review)

I have long said that most movies don't translate well to the stage.  I've been saying it pretty much ever since I saw/was in the stage version of Victor/Victoria where I discovered right up close that often the things that make the movie the piece of art that it is simply don't work on stage.  Sometimes it's a problem with screenplay to script to songs, but I strongly feel that it's trying to squeeze information from one medium to another.  And I could list several stage musicals that started as movies (musical and non) that are just awful, but I won't.  This post is about the show I saw last night, Finding Neverland.

I knew going in that this stage musical would be a hard sell for me because I absolutely love the film, and I love Johnny Depp in the film.  So I tried very hard to appreciate this stage musical for itself, as its own piece of art, and not judge it solely on "version of the movie."

TL;DR version:  is it a "bad" musical?  No, it is not.  Is it a "great" musical or something I'd want to see staged again?  No, it is not.


Musically, my date for the evening hit the nail on the head:  most of the songs sounded the same.  Some sounded so similar that I couldn't tell if it was a reprise of an earlier song or a new song entirely.  And it wasn't like there was a recurring musical theme woven in and out pieces as happens in some other musicals (Hamilton, Evita to name a couple); they just sounded alike.

She and I also agreed that there were some really compelling visuals happening during the show -- interesting choreography and just a lot of really awesome ensemble work so that no matter where you looked, something fascinating was going on, but it wasn't so predictable that we "knew" hey, people are going to pop out again!  The show made heavy use of projections (some animated/moving) during the performance.  Projections can be an interesting and also compelling visual aid -- the key word being "aid."  They should add to the performance but never take center stage.  At one point, during "Circus of Your Mind," I think, the projections were too forceful, too attention-grabbing, a bit like hitting the audience over the head with the merry-go-round theme of the music and lyrics rather than letting us figure it out (which wasn't hard to do given the above mentioned music and lyrics).

More importantly, all of the characters were....flattened...from their original selves in the film.  I wish I could say they had been distilled instead.  Distillation would mean the purest version of their selves; like cologne instead of eau de cologne, so strong that it can only come in small doses.  Flattened means they were simply made one-dimensional, reduced to the lowest common denominator.  Examples:

  • I could tell from her first appearance during the opening number that Barrie's wife, Mary, was a flattened, one-dimensional version of herself.  She's been made into a grasping, materialistic caricature of a villain rather than an early twentieth-century woman struggling to do what society has instructed her to do:  to be a good and proper wife with all of the good and proper trappings of that position.
    • She is accompanied by 3 foppish caricatures of servants; more on them later.
  • Barrie's producer, Charles Frohman, has also been turned into a blustering, yelling "villain" type, shouting at Barrie about budgets and costs and schedules.  Dustin Hoffman's Frohman had the same worries, but he never lost faith in Barrie (and he certainly didn't yell).  While they did finally allow Frohman to say one of my favorite lines in the film1, it was far too late for any type of character redemption.
  • Speaking of Frohman,....while having him double as Captain Hook (a bit that looks like it may have been taken from the movie's first concept) seems like an ingenious bit of casting, Captain Hook is now Barrie's alter-ego?!?  Wow.  I find that,...let's say "problematic" for a couple of reasons:
    • In the film (yes, I know I'm doing it again), the inspiration for Captain Hook comes not from Frohman but from Mrs. Emma du Marier (the Sylvia Llewelyn Davies' mother).  The bit of tech in the stage show that shows the inspiration coming from Frohman is fun visual pun -- don't get me wrong -- but making this change takes away from Mrs. du Marier's agency as a female character.
    • It also changes the trajectory/arc of Barrie's character.  In a lot of ways.  He is no longer given inspiration for a children's "villain," but instead is battling his own id/ego/super-ego for recognition as, what?  A man (Hook is certainly masculine in this manifestation, also reinforced by his appearance during the "romantic" scene/love song between Barrie and Sylvia)?  A free agent (now that we've taken it away from Mrs. du Marier)?  In the stage show itself, this number is the Act I finale, and it is something to be seen, indeed.  I'm just don't agree with the character and story line changes it necessitates.
  • Barrie himself is a lesser version than he is in the film.  Again, while they did include one of my favorite lines/scenes2, its emotional impact was completely lost.  And speaking of his relationship with Sylvia Davies (mentioned above), they made the mistake of making them an overt romance.  One of the things the film does (and however much of it is true, I couldn't say) is that the two of them are never explicitly romantic; that's part of what makes their situation so complicated -- it has no name or definition.
Things we liked:  besides the movement/choreography, there was some gasping during the end sequence.  My date gave a small gasp when the handful of glitter was thrown in the air, and I may  have gobbed (that's a gasp plus a small sob) when they added Mrs. Davies' wrap to the swirling air.
....and then, because my brain is crazy, I immediately start thinking How long do they have to wait?  How long is it supposed to swirl?  Is it supposed to be carried away and disappear entirely?  How long do they wait if that doesn't happen?

Conclusion:  I think the overarching issue with this movie to stage translation is that they attempted to turn Finding Neverland into a musical comedy.  One need to look no further than the caricarature of the servants -- fairly unnecessary characters to be added, let alone to be stealing focus by the continual scenery-chewing.  Even Mrs. Barrie's later intended (Mr. Cannan) is turned into a cheap joke of a character.  Finding Neverland (the film) is not a comedy; it's a drama with some funny (and touching, endearing) moments, and that's what got lost in translation.


1Frohman: "You know what happened, James, they changed it."
Barrie: "They changed what?"
Frohman: "The critics, they made it important... hm, what's it called? What's it called?"
Barrie: "Play."
Charles Frohman: "Play."

2 "What a horrible, candle-snuffing word -- 'just.'"