Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Because I thought I may have seen there a peach

Hello my blog. Have you missed me? (I didn't think so.)

I missed you. Sort of. I thought I'd miss a place to write down – sometimes exhaustively – my thoughts on whatever, but since I have Facebook now, I do that in 140 characters or less instead. Efficiency, thy name is social networking.

Well, it's resolution time and I should resolve to maintain this blog more consistently, life crises or no. I should resolve to do this and that as well but all these resolutions, while well intentioned, will eventually go the way of the dodo for one simple reason.

I am a pisser.

That's right, ladies and gents, I am a first class pisser. If given a deadline or a resolution or a goal, I guarandangtee you that I will absolutely not achieve it – just because it is there.

See? Pisser.

Sadly, this state of pissiness only has one casualty – me. Pretty much no one else is affected or frankly gives a good overall damn. (The ever present exception to the rule are those who have given me the deadline and consequently, are awaiting delivery. Of something.)

So I have decided not to resolve, not to vow, not to promise or swear, but to unfailing do one thing this year.

I will finish the damn book!


Postscript: Curious about the title? I know you are. Thank my beloved West Wing and the awesome Ainsley Hayes. Or click on this clip. I may not agree with the politics – I really don't know, I try not to pay attention to them mostly – but I do love a good set down. You go girl.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Next Time, Just Stick Your Leg Out

On the phone yesterday with my grandfather. I swear, I make none of this up.

K: You got me into trouble.

Dad-Dad: I did? How?

K: I told you we were coming down this weekend when I called last week. You just asked Mom when we were next coming down.

DD: You're coming this weekend?

K: Sunday

DD: Oh great. Hey, when you do, don't get any more tickets speeding on the off ramps.

K (wearily): For the record, I've never gotten a ticket on any kind of ramp.

DD: No? Really?

K: Yes, really. I haven't had a any tickets in 6 or 7 years.

DD: You haven't?

K: Hey! Don't sound so surprised. That's not too shabby considering all the driving I do.

DD: That's true. So, no tickets?

K: No. Well, okay, I got a parking ticket in New Hope this past spring, but that was because they lied. The sign says you don't have to pay the meter for the handicap spot, but they mean you don't have to refill the meter if it runs out.

DD: Did you tell them that?

K: I did. I marched right into the police station that I was parked in front of and told them all about it.

DD: So you got a ticket but it was their fault.

K: Exactly.

DD: That happened to your aunt when she took me for my MRI today. She paid the ticket ahead of time, got it stamped "$3 paid" and everything. And then when we were leaving, the person asked her for $3.

K: But she'd already paid it?

DD: Yeah. They said that's why it didn't cost $7.

K: Wait a minute. I thought we were taking you for your MRI.

DD: Yeah! I thought so too! I went out to the curb this morning to wait for you, but you didn't come.

K (puzzled): What? You were at the curb?

DD: I was looking for you. You didn't come to the door and it was getting late, so I decided to wait at the curb, but you never showed up. Good thing your Aunt Jean was driving by. She swung over and picked me up.

K: She was just driving by?

DD: She was flying by and I had to flag her down. I took off my sweater, you know, my yellow sweater, I took it off and started waving it over my head to catch her attention.

K (laughing): That didn't hurt your arm?

DD: Nah. I stuck it on the end of my cane and started waving it around.

K: Next time you should just stick your leg out. That'll bring the entire street to a screeching halt.

DD (laughing): Yeah, okay.

K: So you got a ride then. That's good. When I overslept this morning I figured you could just hoof it to the hospital.

DD: I did! I was halfway down Bells Mill Road when Jean caught up with me.

K: That's what I'm saying! What, was your exam in center city at Jefferson?

DD: No. It was at Chestnut Hill.

K: Oh, come on! You could have walked that easy!

DD: I know! I probably would've needed a new rubber tip for my cane, though.

K: That road is so full of pot holes, anything your cane could've made wouldn't have mattered.

DD (laughing): I guess not.

K (laughing): You stinker.

DD: Yeah. So I'll see you Sunday afternoon.

K: Yep. Ticket free.

DD: Drive careful, hon.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Celebrity Sitings a la Docce

Thanks to MJS, I read a so-called mommy blog almost every day at www.docce.com by Heather Armstrong who has a million plus following, so my little RSS feed is just one in a, well, million.

Considering I don't have children and don't ever plan to change that set of circumstances, it's a little weird that I frequent her site, but there it is. The dogs are a big pull, but I also like how Heather thinks and talks for the most part. I find her experience with writing a blog and the consequences and ultimate successes of it fascinating and inspiring (the successes, not the failures, obviously.) And I find her little snippets about growing up Mormon interesting as it reminds me that it's not just the Christian church (I mean the physical church, not the spiritual one here) that shoots it wounded and can mess one up left, right, and center. Reason number three hundred thousand why it's not about the people, people, an attitude that's it's easier to articulate than it is to emulate.

But I digress.

Today Heather has a trademark funny post about a celebrity siting she had in LAX and since I laughed out loud at several spots, I thought I'd spread the yucks around (caution: link includes adult language, so be an adult about clicking through). I'm insanely embarressed to approach a celebrity in such circumstances and the one or two times I have, I've been a total ass. There's just no hiding from it. So I get it and it made me laugh, so I'm sharing it with you.

Are you the lucky ducks.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Transportation Triumph

Today's traffic alert e-mail:

As of 9:45 a.m., Midtown Direct trains (6600-series trains) are operating in both directions between Dover and New York , subject to delays of 30-60 minutes due to wire damage near Maplewood.

Gladstone Branch trains (400-series) will operate to/from Summit only. Customers traveling to/from points east should transfer at Summit Station to continue their trip.

Morristown diesel service (800-series trains) will operate to/from Summit only. Customers traveling to/from points east should transfer at Summit Station to continue their trip.

Customers traveling to/from stations between Newark and Summit: All trains in both directions will stop at the eastbound platform. Westbound platforms are closed.

NJ TRANSIT buses are honoring Morris & Essex tickets and passes.

Updates like this make me giddy because I am not on these trains anymore.

I rode the Midtown Direct from Millburn to Penn Station everyday for four years when I worked in the mid-50s on first sixth and then fifth avenues and later in Times Square (no, not on a corner). For three years prior to that I took the Hoboken Express train to - unsurprisingly - Hoboken and then the Tube to the World Trade Center. All were good commutes as far as NYC commutes go, an hour door-to-door on a good day, but good commuting days can be hard to find. Like the day the entire city subway system (so it seemed) flooded from a major midsummer storm and nothing, and I mean nothing, was running. I remember what I was wearing on that day (my beloved sky blue suit with the ankle long skirt, the only thing I would have changed about it); its calamity is still that vivid.

I get a similar rush of feeling on days the traffic report details back ups on Routes 3 or 80 and feel a particular euphoria whenever Route 495 is mention - the only direct route in or out of Weehawken and the main route to the Lincoln Tunnel. I spent five years driving the commute from Weehawken to Parsippany navigating its few highs and many lows, s0me days literally entering into vehicular combat just to get home (seriously, people, don't get in the left-hand lane if you're not even going to do the speed limit! 65 means 80 in New Jersey!)

Every time I hear an alert like this morning and know that it has absolutely nothing to do with me, I just feel blessed. And yes, there is gloating, I'm not ashamed to admit it. It reminds me yet again of how lucky I am to have found such a great apartment last year, how much better off I am now location-wise than I was then. Yes, it takes longer to get to Philly and yeah, I'm becoming intimately acquainted with 287 from tip to stern. And yet. I sat in my backyard yesterday afternoon with my laptop armed with music, key-lime fizzy water, and Hershey Nuggets and not a single siren was heard. Fortunately no one urinated adjacent to me either so it was all good.

Oh joy, oh rapture unforeseen. Simple pleasures, ya know what I'm saying? Amazing how the little things in life can so affect my mood. I'm having a pissy morning in general, the back-to-work blah after a holiday weekend. The sky is cloudy and the air on the low side of cool that I'm just not ready to embrace just yet, best evidenced by the blue capris and t-shirt I donned for this chilly morning. Now I've just received news that I'm shuffling off to pitch in at our sister company down the road, so I won't even have the comfort of my own space to off-set the general ick of the day.

But at least I'm not on the Midtown Direct today or tomorrow or the next day and much as I miss working in the big city (Boy! Howdy!) I wouldn't trade this morning's commute for the world.

You gotta hold on to the little things that matter. That's all I'm saying.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Movie Mondays - Inkheart

What might happened if reading a book out loud brought its characters to life? Would it be incredibly cool, or would disaster ensue?

Me? I'm going with the incredibly cool option. My apartment literally hemorrhages books and that's before accounting for the bulging boxes in my closet. If you were to ask me what resonates most about my favorite stories (all 200 or so of them) regardless of venue (movie, book, tall tale), I'd immediately say the characters. Strong characterization makes or breaks any story. So the idea of a silvertongue who can bring characters to literal life simply by reading out loud from a book is really just delicious.

Imagine having tea with Elizabeth Bennett. Or riding on Aslan's back. Or anything regarding Aragon (much of which probably couldn't be printed here.) Possibilities abound. But what if instead of Elizabeth, Mrs. Bennett shrieked to life? Or if the White Witch came off the page sans Aslan? What would happen if, in lieu of Aragon, orcs and goblins came to life instead?

This is the story of Inkheart. Things get a little meta if you look too closely. Inkheart the movie about a book called Inkheart that comes to life, is adapted from Inkheart the book by German writer Cornelia Funke about a book called Inkheart that comes to life. Follow? Yeah, took me a minute too.

In Inkheart the movie, Mo Folchart (Brendan Fraser) is a book doctor specializing in antique tomes. He is also Silvertongue, a man able to read characters from books to life. Mo first learns of this double-edged talent when while reading to his baby daughter Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennett), several unsavory characters from the novel Inkheart come into his living room from out of the book - while his wife Ressa (Sienna Guillroy) is sucked into it.

Twelve years later, Mo travels Europe repairing antique books, always searching for another copy of Inkheart (his was stolen by the bad guys) that he might read Reesa back into the real world. He and the unsuspecting and uninformed Meggie are pursued by Capricorn (Andy Serkis, formerly Gollum from LOTR) the big bad that emerged from Inkheart all those years ago. Capricorn wants Mo to read his dark master to life so they might take over this world. This dark master is called The Shadow and if your mind immediately went to "only The Shadow knows" then you and I are in the same slightly off-kilter place.

As our story begins, Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) a fire juggler who also came out of the book that fateful night, has located Mo. Dustfinger longs for Mo to read him back into the book and will do anything - and betray anyone - to make that happen.

And we're off to the races.

Inkheart the movie isn't perfect. There are several plot holes. Why did Mo never think to visit the book's author until Meggie mentions it? And if someone has to go into the book when someone else comes out, who exactly has been sucked into what book as Capricorn has had another imperfect silvertongue reading his fiends to life for years?

The movie also get a little cartoonish in execution. Serkis enjoys more than one scenery chewing turn, though he is still incredibly effective with the creepy when he really wants to be. The story cribs here and there from Tolkein and Lewis, not to mention the overt allusions to Baum's Wizard of Oz that were wholly incorporated into the plot. But imitation...flattery...etc. Still, some aspects of the film were at times just too convenient or conventional.

And I don't care one bit. I had a blast with this movie. My total delight in the concept carried me straight into a willing suspension of disbelief that extended to any cinematic hiccups.

I simply gorged on the sumptuous scenery of the Italy with its mountains and riviera. Then there was the cast; only a Harry Potter film could envision a better roster. Helen Mirren puts her classy two cents in as eccentric Aunt Elinor whose (but of course) lakeside Italian villa is filled with priceless books she treasures as old friends. The delectable Jim Broadbent adds his indubitable charm to the proceedings as the eccentric author of Inkheart (the book inside the movie, not the author of the actual source material. Srsly, a flow chart would have been a good idea here), though he does take a little too long to figure out that his all too real characters are three dimensions of dangerous. But his glee at seeing his creation viscerally brought to life is enchanting. What a total trip that would be for any writer.

Paul Bettany is, as always, an acting treasure. He gives life and layers to Dustfinger that far outstretch the limits of the film. (In another, less confusing, meta moment, Bettany's wife, actress Jennifer Connelly, shows up in brief flashbacks as Dustfinger's mate.)

My favorite moment, though, was in the bowels of Capricorn's castle, when Mo and Meggie are lead past all the creatures Capricorn's imitation silvertongue has read to flawed life. Flying monkeys, a unicorn, the minotaur...a zoo full of mythical creatures that made me feel like I was among old, somewhat psychotic, friends.

The big finale fully delivers even with its blatant homage to Sauron and the LOTR series. I was significantly involved to yell at the screen for Meggie to stop gaping and get on with the reading already! And the HEA feels well earned by those characters who get to experience it.

If reading is fundamental, then imagination is quite simply essential. Books put the imagination to flight and this is amply evident in Inkheart a story where imagination quite simply changed the world.

Inkheart rated PG for fantasy adventure action, some scary moments, and brief language, something that never appears on this blog.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Weekend Tidings

During the early afternoon drive-by drop off of food for dinner with my grandfather last Sunday.

DD: Is that your car at the curb?

K: Yeah. You saw it last time.

DD: It's a station wagon.

K (confusedly): What?

DD (patiently): It's a station wagon.

K (looking over my shoulder): It's a small SUV.

DD (nodding firmly): A station wagon.

K (understanding): Yeah Dad-dad, it's a station wagon. A Japanese station wagon.

Later that night over cheeseburgers (that I made):

DD: Why'd you want to buy a station wagon?

K (resigned to it): I like it.

DD: Yeah, but why do you need it? Or is it just because your sister has one?

K (smiling a little wickedly): Little bit. I drove hers when I was out there in June. I really liked it. I wasn't looking for one specifically. I happened to find one I liked, the price worked, and voila.

DD: But whatd'ya need a station wagon for?

K (after a beat): I'm compensating for my lack of children. It's a crutch, I know. I look in the rear-view mirror and imagine all the children I'm never going to have buckled in the back seats. I know! I'll strap the cats in back there as placeholders for all the kids I don't ever want to have.

DD (laughing): Yeah. OK.

K: Eat your burger.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Movie Mondays: John Hughes

I was saddened to learn of the death of director John Hughes. Since his passing a few weeks ago, I've read a number of obits filled with first-hand accounts of how Hughes impacted lives, both personally and professionally. But my Pavlovian association to any mention of John Hughes is an immediate regress to the holy cinematic quintet of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Some Kind of Wonderful.

For me, to remember John Hughes is to remember not so much the direct impact of his films but more how my life revolved around them at the time. The things I did - with able assists from friends and my sister - during them or because of them still resonate as some of the better moments of adolescence. My eulogy for John Hughes, therefore is to recall some of those moments in association to the Hughes movie that inspired them.

1. Sixteen Candles: Oh, how much did we desperately want Michael Schoefflling to show up on our sixteenth birthdays and whisk us away?! Didn't happen. Shocking, I know. The first of many teenage disappointments I learned to live with. As usual, it's the quotes that stay with me such as "What's happening hot stuff?", "Automobile?" and "Lake. Big lake", and so many more.

I think the scene where Joan Cusack is wearing a brace (was it mouth gear or a body brace? I can't remember) and attempting to drink from a water fountain is a snapshot example of Hughes' uncanny ability to show teenage dilemma. It's a small but brilliant moment of an awkward teen already singled out for looking different, alone, mostly friendless, desperately trying to appear casual while talking herself through the difficult-for-her experience of drinking from a water fountain. Which of us has never similarly bluffed our way through a socially awkward teen experience? Hell, that's me just getting out of the car and into the office building some mornings. It's OK, Krum. Just in the door and down the hall, there's a nice cold Coke waiting for you. You can get through this morning, really. Here it's pathos and humor beautifully and heart-tweakingly sewn together, a quintessential John Hughes trait.

2. Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Reportedly, music was always an important component for Hughes in crafting his movies. It's fitting then that my biggest association with this movie is the memory of sitting in the top row at the Millburn Theater with MD so we could get up and dance to Twist and Shout. For me, there is no Danke Schoen without Ferris Bueller (sorry Wayne Newton) and I will forever associate the tune Oh Yeah with Jeffrey Jones' long denouement down the school bus aisle.

Though speech writing for Nixon is only one of his many impressive accomplishments, I will always associate Ben Stein with the immortal, deadpan delivery of "Anyone? Anyone?" and "Bueller? Bueller?". Like Star Wars quotes (they really do apply to nearly every situation in life, but that's another post) I find myself rolling this one out almost without conscious decision into appropriate moments regardless of professional or personally situation.

It's sad, I know, but I still do Cameron's version of "swing, batta, batta, batta" when I'm at a baseball game, though I don't limit it to baseball because that would be boring. This movie was fun, a joyous dream of our heartfelt desire to blow off school and have an adventure. As Ferris says, Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

3. The Breakfast Club: I think of all his films, this is the one that is remembered as Hughes' best, unequivocally the best high school film ever. A youth pastor friend of mine maintains that this is the best example of what it's like to be a teenager. For years he'd tell his staff to watch it as sort of a training video for youth work, though I'm sure it'll never be found in the church cannon.

My then best friend and I would write quotes from The Breakfast Club on torn scraps of paper, furtively passing them back and forth in what I think was French class. While scanning the IMDB page, I was struck at once at how many Breakfast Club lines were still in my lexicon.

So it's sorta social, demented and sad, but social.
Answer the question, Claire.
Being bad feels pretty good, huh?
You mess with the bull, you get the horns.

And while nearly everyone quotes that last great voice-over kiss off as the ultimate summation for this film, I prefer this one: We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all.

4. Pretty in Pink: I have a sharp memory of bitching a teenager's angst long and too loud with my best friend over dinner in a Secaucus strip mall, feeling so grown up, before going to see Pretty in Pink - again. We slipped into the back of the theatre to watch the closing scenes of the showing before ours because we just couldn't get enough of that final romantic embrace. Also? That ridiculous tux Blane is wearing to the prom? Twenty years later, it's still ugly.

That same best friend and I heartily wished we could make clothes as awesome as Andie's prom dress. We thought Annie Potts rocked and loved watching Ducky embody Otis Redding. I've heard tell that Jon Cryer improved the immortal line "Blane? That's the name of a major appliance! That's not a name!"

We loved the music, we adored the Romeo and Juliet angst, we thought James Spader's girlfriend was a t
otal skank, and we wanted a best friend like Ducky who sticks to his Duckman shoes even at the prom. And to this day, I can't see a Carmengia and not immediately flash onto Pretty in Pink. Demented and sad, but sorta social.

5. Some Kind of Wonderful: OK - I'm including this one for my sister. I've never been gung-ho about SKOW, but she loves it unconditionally. We used to passionately argue whether Some Kind of Wonderful was better than Pretty in Pink and, more importantly, whether Andrew McCarthy was cuter that Eric Stolz. I like the parts that don't have anything to do with the girls, the detention scenes and anything involving Duncan and his delinquents is always good for a laugh. I guess my penchant for the bad boys was broiling even then. And Hardy? (Good grief, where did Hughes get these names? The Preppy Handbook?) Hardy's final comeuppance is a marvel of cathartic revenge.

I'll confess, like any girl with a pulse at that time, I swooned over the closing lines: You look good wearing my future. But I didn't find Amanda Jones particularly worthy of all the adoration and I wasn't as charmed w
ith tough girl/smart ass Watts as I gather I was supposed to be. And never, not even then, not for one moment, could I understand unloading a college fund on diamond earrings and the perfect date for a girl who barely gives you the time of day. You do NOT spend that kind of money on a girl - especially not when you're seventeen. At least use it to pay for art school! Jackass.

Once, all of this and more was incredibly important to me. Now, it's a fond footnote from a tumultuous period, one it's good to reflect on and remember, but boy howdy, not to return to evah again. It's sad that it took a good man's death to remind me of how very much I like and once passionately loved John Hughes' best films.

RIP John Hughes, you neo maxi zoom dweebie.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

There's a Reason I'm This Way

My sister sent me an e-mail today that included a PowerPoint slide show attachment. The slide show featured really adorable photos of animals. mammals, and even one or two marsupials including, among others, dogs, kittens, cats, dolphins, squirrels, otters (I think), and a kangaroo. Yes, a kangaroo and yes, it was cute, which is a lot coming from me because I rarely do cute. Attempt to resist the automatic lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my! association.

The attachment also included various positive reinforcement statement revolve around a general wish for God to bless friends and loved ones. And it had the standard accompanying message that should I forward this e-mail to everyone I've ever met in the whole of my lifetime, puppies and blue jays would dance around me with joy, riches would be bestowed, men would clamor for my attentions (like they don't do that already?) and tonight, at 11:23, someone will call me with something I want to hear, not to be too ambiguous about it.

What. Evah.

Okay, I admit, I did enjoy the utterly adorable photos of the furry cuties.

Then I arrived at the punchline. "Angles exist. They just don't always have wings. We call them friends." Aw. And, somehow, yech at the same time. Just a bit too saccharine for me, however welcome the core sentiment. But the typo amuses me, especially in the midst of this involved PowerPoint slide show. Someone invested a lot of effort here only to have the ha ha mistake be the part that resonates most.

I sent a reply to my sister with tongue firmly planted in cheek:

Me: Thx for this. I didn't know that angles had wings too.

My sister: You are welcome. Figured you could use a smile.

The whoosh from my point fleeing, nay, hurtling straight over her head was strong enough to reach all the way from her office in Phoenix to mine in Jersey and rifle my hair. Now that's talent.

See? There's a reason why I am this way. And if anyone ever figures it out, I trust they'll be sure to let me know. I'm betting on genetics playing a part in it, particularly those that come from the side of the family that begins with "P" and ends with "olish", but you never know.

I went ahead and forwarded the e-mail to a few friends with the same addendum, that I didn't know that angles could have wings. One friend, who is in the midst of pursuing her English degree in creative writing, wondered if I realized I'd said angles and not angels (quick on the uptake there darling, as always) and my editor friend KB wrote back with a question, my response to which kind of sums everything up nicely.

KB: Are these right angles, acute angles, or obtuse angles? It's hard to tell with all the fur.

Me: Based on the responses I've been getting, I gotta go with obtuse.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Birthday Greetings Family Style

On the phone with my grandfather late in the evening on my birthday.
: Hi Dad-da

DD: Hey! How ya doin'?

K: OK. How're you?


K: I'm calling so that you can wish me a happy birthday.

DD (laughing): Well Happy Birthday!

K (laughing): Thanks!

DD: Did you have a good day?

K: I did, though I had to work.

DD: You just getting home?

K: Yeah. We went to dinner and got steaks. Then to a free outdoor jazz concert in the town next door.

DD: Uh huh.

K: Yeah. There was a keyboardist, a bass player and drummer with a vocalist. They were actually quite good.

DD: This was at your office.

K: What? No.

DD: I thought you said you just got home from work.

K: No, I said we just got home. Mom and I. We went to dinner and then to a jazz concert.

DD: Oh. I see.

K: The concert was really good. A keyboardist, bass player, drummer, and a vocalist. They had some really interesting arrangements and rather clever transitions.

DD: Uh huh. They were Japanese?

K (confused): What?

DD: Didn't you say you went to a Japanese concert?

K: I said it was jazz. A jazz concert.

DD: Oh! Jazz. I thought you'd said Japanese.

K: No. They were actually quite good. Mostly a mix of Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, that sort of stuff. And the vocalist sang a few pieces her husband had written in the same vein and they were quite lovely.

DD: Did she sing in Japanese?

K (with exaggerated patience): No, Dad-dad. It was jazz.

DD: It wasn't a Japanese jazz concert?

K: No.

DD: Okay.

K: It was part of an outdoor summer concert thing that the next town over presents each summer. Right near the hospital Mom was in, actually.

DD: Doesn't it bother the patients?

K: What?

DD: The patients. I'd think the music would bother them.

K: No - what? - it's - the park's a good 1/2 mile from the hospital.

DD: Oh. So it doesn't bother them?

K: I'd be surprised if they could even hear it. The half shell keeps the noise pretty enclosed. I mean, there's speakers so that the audience can hear the music, of course. But I think it's fairly well contained. (growing frustrated) I dunno! I'm not a sound engineer. I'd think the patients are more bothered by sirens than anything else.

DD: I bet it bothers them.

K (sighing resignedly): Well, I enjoyed it. I'd gone there last week to a Broadway review put on by a few choir friends of mine from church who are Broadway vets.

DD: Wow. That's nice.

K: Yeah. So I got a flyer that night, saw tonight's concert listed, and thought it'd be a nice way to round out my birthday.

D: And it was.

K: Yep. Full moon, nice breeze, good music, great night.

DD: Sounds good. And you understood the Japanese.

K (sighing wearily): Yes. Absolutely. I understood every word of Japanese.

DD (pausing to regroup): I thought you said it was jazz.

K: You've managed to convince me otherwise. Even though I was the one who was actually, you know, there.

DD: Did you drive your new car tonight?

K: My Honda?

DD: Isn't that what you have now?

K (warily): Yeah.

DD: Yeah.

K: Of course I drove it tonight. How else was I supposed to get there?

DD: Well, that talks in Japanese, right?

K: Absolutely. It greets me every morning when
I turn on the radio. Remember? It said Konichiwa when you were in it last month.

DD: It did?

K: Sure.

: Okay. You enjoyed the concert?

K: Very much. We got home about 20 minutes ago and now I'm waiting for Mom to get off the other phone so we can have cake.

DD: What kind of cake?

K: Chocolate truffle cake. And before you ask, no, it's not Japanese.

DD (laughing): No, huh?

K: Nope. OK, she's off. I'm gonna go eat cake.

DD: Well, Happy, Happy Birthday, Hon.

K (grinning): Thank you.

DD: And d
on't go over 75 on the highway on-ramps.

K: Never. I always keep it to 70 on on-ramps. 75's for the exit ramps.

DD (laughing): OK. Good.

K (laughing): Love you lots, Dad-dad. See you soon.

DD: Bye Hon.

K: Koinichiwa.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Movie Mondays - Up

Confession time: I am not a big fan of Pixar films. I'm probably one of the very few who doesn't like Finding Nemo. I only really start to enjoy The Incredibles once they're all on the island and the action picks up (plus I just hate the boy child Speed or Fleet of Foot, or whatever he's called). And I have never seen Cars and just don't really feel its lack in my life. None of the other Pixar triumphs, not even Toy Story, have made any real sort of pleasurable impact on me. I've lived The Velveteen Rabbit, my friends. Imitations need not apply.

What I do like about Pixar is its commitment to telling complex stories within the fish and car and superhero motifs and the flat out refusal to dumb down the material simply because it's in an animated film. This meshes nicely with their frequent use of pop culture references and their vast appreciation for some of the classics (more on this later) as I love a good tongue-in-cheek jibe. But this is the source of my dissatisfaction at the same time. I cringe when Mr. Incredible is abused by his Napoleon-esque boss. The nebbishness of Papa Fish annoys me, and the whining, good Lord, the whining, really aggravates me. I do admit that his fear for his child does somewhat reflect mine for that which lurks beneath the surface of the deep, deep ocean. An odd sensibility particularly in light of the fact that I could swim almost before (or at least as soon as) I could walk and grew up spending summers body surfing down the Jersey Shore (grammatically, that phrase doesn't make sense, but if you're from Jersey, it does). But the weirdo creatures of the deep, while fascinating and often extremely beautiful even in their creepiness, freak me out. I figure this has more to do with "fear of things unseen" and therefore uncontrollable (have you met me? Control. Freak.) then it does with the actual creatures, but I'm not signing up to scuba dive any time soon just the same.

Aannnddd that concludes today's tangent.

Pixar's use of its medium to explore aspects of the real world is both a mark for and against it in my mind. I'm all for using new avenues to dramatize the issues of our lives, but when it comes with talking fish, cars, or portly, retired superheroes, it depresses me, happy ending or no. If the cute, fictionalized cartoon creatures of celluloid are having identity crises, the rest of us are seriously screwed.

UP is the latest offering from Pixar. I caught (unintentionally) the 3-D version of the film to kick off my Fourth of July holiday weekend, doing my solo act in a late afternoon viewing so as not to be bothered by having to be polite and nice to a companion, however welcome he/she may have been. I like going to movies with people because I like having someone to talk with about the film afterward (and, yes, during) but I'm also just as happy on my own. Sometimes more so.

UP tells the story of balloon salesman Carl Fredrickson. A shy, young boy who won't step on a sidewalk crack, Carl secretly wishes he was brave enough to be a swashbuckling adventurer. Then one day, Carl meets Ellie, herself a fearless dreamer determined to set off for the wilds of South America. Carl, she quickly decides, can come along for the ride. It's not long before these childhood best friends grow up to become man and wife. Over the years, Ellie's fierce exuberance balances Carl's practicality and they share the many happy adventures of everyday life together. But when their dream to have children is squashed, Carl decides now is the time to stop talking about going to South America and just do it. They set aside a fund jar to save their loose change for the journey. But, as so often happens, life frequently invades and the jar is smashed time and again to pay for things like a new roof, a mortgage, an illness. Now in the twilight of their lives, South America is as far away as its ever been. And when Ellie succumbs to illness and old age, Carl is left alone in the house they built together as condos and high-rises increasingly encroach around him.

And this is only the first 10 minutes or so of the movie.

Carl has vehemently resisted the developers vying for his property, but when he inadvertently assaults a construction worker, Carl is forced to relocated to a retirement community. On his last night at home, Carl remembers the promise he once made to Ellie.
When the men in the white coats can pick him up the next day, it's to watch the house float away, anchored to thousands of balloons as Carl finally begins the journey to fulfill Ellie's lifelong dream and plant their home at the top of a waterfall in South America.

Immediately after lifting off, though, Carl discovers that he has a stowaway: 8-year-old Russell, a dedicated member of a Boy Scout-like wilderness explorer club who has been trying to complete his badge requirements by fulfilling his "assisting the elderly" responsibilities. Stuck with the nonstop chatterbox that is Russell, Carl is forced to take him along to South America.

From start to finish, UP is a total delight. The opening montage featuring Carl and Ellie's life together lasts merely the (OK, considerable) length of the opening credits and is heart-warming, tender, and lovely. My heart winced over and over for Carl as first his Ellie and then his treasured home and, more importantly, his independence is taken from him. I couldn't help but superimpose my own beloved grandfather over Carl's likeness as he, like Carl, struggles to find purpose for his every day life in the two years since my grandmother's death with no yard or house to maintain, no wife or children to care and provide for, just a lonely retirement apartment and a failing physical frame. Watching the early scenes of Carl's life and the desperate crisis that finally causes him to lose control (scaring himself to death in the process) and leads to him being forced to vacate his home, well, it quite simply broke my heart.

We are not doing anywhere near our part for our seniors, my friends. We simply aren't. They are our past. They have given us our future. They should be feted and pampered, they should be honored and revered. We cannot ever, not ever, do enough for them.

But I digress.

The humor runs nonstop through this film, effortlessly partnering the pathos without it all ever becoming schmaltzy. Ed Asner gives voice and life to Carl with his trademark lovable gruffness and newcomer Jordan Nagai makes Russell frustratingly endearing, playing up to the edge of supremely annoying (see Fleet of Foot above), but never trundling past it.

I was surprised and pleased that the actual balloon flight didn't take up the majority of the movie. It's not long before Russell and Carl land in South America - just not exactly at the spot where Carl was aiming. Thus the land journey commences and soon, Carl and Russell meet the rare bird Russell dubs Kevin, and the dogs chasing him.

This is where I must make my second confession.

The dogs just kill me. Observe: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi4071227929/

They crack me up. From the moment Dug comes on the screen, it all just slays me. No description I could come up with can do it justice. You'll just have to trust me on this. And watch the clip. The dogs rock.

I felt real peril in this film, not just for Carl and Russell and eventually Kevin and Dug. There was definitely a lot of that - how could there not be when the only thing holding them all up was a bunch of balloons? But mainly, I was worried about the house. I found myself gasping out loud at certain points, whispering (to myself of course) the house! WHERE'S THE HOUSE? I was so invested in getting Carl his happy ending, of him somehow finding ease for some of his grief at losing Ellie that I was wound up tight each time it was in jeopardy. I was well and truly along for the ride.

Ellie would be so proud.

UP heralds the notion that that it is never too late and you are never too old to fulfill your dreams. There should be no point at which any of us says, "I'm too old for that". UP also reminds us that we can never know exactly how our lives will change or who or what will do the changing. It takes courage to recognize those moments and to make the best of them. Often it needs a helping hand; sometimes it even requires a talking dog.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the exciting, thrilling, wonderfully impossible climax of the film, where the slightly twisted homages to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars (and one to the infamous Dogs Playing Poker velvet painting) had me cackling with delight. As soon as I saw the bi-plane hanging from the dirigible, I knew what had to come next and those Pixar boys did not disappoint. It just never gets old, man.

Go see UP. It'll remind you to hope. It'll encourage you to dream. It'll help you appreciate all the people in your life that make you happy. And it might make you want to buy a balloon or two.

Just in case.

UP is rated PG: Parental Guidance suggested for some peril and action

Monday, July 20, 2009

Movie Mondays - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I confess, I never read the HP books until after I'd seen the movie for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I dislike being part of a fad, as if I haven't enough oomph to like something on its own merits or my own desires rather than because the rest of the world is keen for it. I did see each of the films as they released, however, and when Ralph Fiennes' incarnation of the terrifying personage of Voldemort in GOF set all my epic story nerves atingle, I just had to find out what happened next. Commence the reading.

I consumed the books madly, plunging through one after the other while on vacation in Phoenix that same summer, plumbing my sister's personal library and local library for each text. I devoured all the intricate details jettisoned by the films and adored especially the tale of HBP, all that lovely back story unveiling itself, fleshing out the rotting frame that made up Voldemort. This
, of course, became my great mistake as ever since then, the cinematic doppelgangers of these novels have failed to live up to hype.

Now of course, I've read the story to its end and know the stunning denouement that is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (SPOILER ALERT: I've maintained from the start that Snape wasn't a full on big bad and crowed mightily to be proved right.) HBP is very much a placeholder in many ways, a bridge between the painful ending of Order of the Phoenix and the final chapter of DH. The recently released movie version of HBP follows this plan tonally even if the point-by-point doesn't line up exact.

The beginning of HBP echoes with the tragic pangs of OOP as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) numbly stands for rabid photographers in the combat ruins of the Ministry of Magic. Voldemort's return has been broadcast to the world and where once he was mocked and reviled, now Harry has returned to the relative good graces of the populace. And he could care less. Of greater importance to Harry are the tasks that Dumbledore has set for him, even taking Harry along as his companion on a pre-term recruitment of potions master Horace Slughorn, deliciously enriched by the brilliant Jim Broadbent.

Let me say here that I really enjoyed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Already, plans are in the work for a second viewing. (Yes, I plan these things. Have you met me?) The show is steady and solid for the most part and a fitting bridge between what's past and what's to come. Its overhanging themes of doom and depression seep through the entire 2+ hours and it's never for a moment staid, dull, or boring.
I will admit that the cinematography across the board is riveting, a work of genius, the special effects and technique, the fascinating play of light and shadow belying the disappointments of plot and structure. The terrifying, fascinating cave of zombies even offered a quick hearken back to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, an image of Harry being pulled under by the zombie forming a nightmare echo to his descent into the Black Lake for the second Triwizard task. It's brilliant work.

That said, I'm picky and a little pretentious and my expectations - well, to say they're high would be limiting them. Ergo, I do have quite a few - hmm - vexing points to raise.

For book and film, there's no overreaching Big Bad in this installment; of greatest threat is the increasing menace of Harry's nemesis, Draco Malfoy, as he sets about some as yet unknown task ordered (so Harry rightly believes) by Voldemort himself. Tom Felton plays Draco with great promise and skill, finally moving Malfoy beyond the cardboard shape of his bully role to showcase a fully-rounded character, unable to be easily pinned as good or bad, much like Alan Rickman's staggering portrayal of Snape. But what fills most of the minutes of the HBP movie are hormones. Raging teenage hormones.

As if making up for the lack in OOP, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) is featured more prominently here as his rising success on the Quidditch field gains him the clinging and public attentions of Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave), much to Hermione Granger's (Emma Watson) chagrin. And slowly, ever so slowly, Harry and Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright) are taking those first romantic steps towards each other that we readers of the source material already know will climax with their marriage.

At the core of the HBP plot is a potions textbook previously owned by the unknown Half-Blood Prince that has now randomly come into Harry's possession. Within the margins and lines of this book are hand-written notes from this mysterious prince that alter and improve the book's spells. With the help of the prince's notes, Harry becomes a star in potions class, a skill that leads Professor Slughorn, self-confessed collector of students bound for glory, to allow Harry into his inner circle. This position is key for Harry as it's only through this increased intimacy with Slughorn that Harry has any chance of recovering a key memory from the potions master, a memory Dumbledore is convinced holds the key to defeating Voldemort once and for all.

The bones of all this are included in the movie, but what's lacking is a sense of Harry's increasing obsession with the Half-Blood Prince - who he is, where he went, who he may have become - and the sometimes cruel and cheating spells carefully encoded in the textbook. Hermione (in the novel) repeatedly expresses concern regarding the book, a concern rooted as much in the irritation that Harry is beating her in class for the first time as it is in a genuine care for Harry's well being. In the movie, only her irritation at being surpassed is given voice (and only once as I recall). When Harry uses a mysterious and dangerous spell from the book in a duel with Malfoy and is convicted by its disastrous results, only then is he ready to admit to the book's inherent dangers and the probable dark intentions of its true owner. But as the movie does not give the book and this conflict its proper weight, its revelation more as a "oh yeah, that" moment then the "finally he sees reason" moment it's meant to be.

And where is Snape? This, more than any of the prior installments, is where Snape begins to comes into play, foreshadowing his crucial role in the final chapter. Yet Snape merely flits in and out at key moments and when every moment with Rickman is a treat (see Matt Zoller Seitz's review here where he states the lack of Rickman thusly: "
I would have liked to have seen more from Alan Rickman's Snape, who's as cranky and droll as he is malignant and tortured. (Savor how this great actor delivers the simple line, "You just....know." You could bake a pie in that ellipsis!)") his absence is a particular loss.

Despite its name, HBP pays the least amount of attention to the Half-Blood Prince, shirking this plot point to focus on 1. Slughorn's recalcitrant memory, 2. Draco Malfoy's spiraling and conflicted descent into murder, 3. Harry and Dumbledore's trips down memory lane and other dangerous ports of call, and 4. the teenage antics of romance and Quiddich. It's fun and delightful and entertaining to be sure and the cave of zombies is a wonder to behold, a fierce and faithful imagining of the source material that will scare the beejezus out of you. But - eh.

All of this leaves out key minor roles that don't get enough of a moment to shine. Tonks and Lupin barely make an appearance, merely shoehorned into the pointless attack on the Weasley homefront simply because they're necessary to the next two films. McGonagle is hardly featured, likewise Neville and Luna Lovegood (Neville doesn't even get lines!) their presence only a sop to those who know how crucial they are to the final installments. Even the evil Fenrir Greyback, the werewolf that deliberately converted Lupin to were status, is a mere enforcer, the Weasley attack no doubt drummed up simply to put a evil cookie-cutter impression to this heretofore unnamed component. Please. Do it right the first time why don't you? (I will say that the one good thing about the Weasley homefront feature was seeing Mr. Weasley in his shed, surrounded by the deritus of Muggle junk - old vacuums, bicycles and such - that he no doubt treasures.)

I've never like David Yates' direction of these movies overall. I've said from the beginning that he wasn't the right director for the movies, and I've yet to see anything brilliant enough to change my mind. I didn't like the abbreviated version of OOP and felt that there was a huge missed opportunity there where brevity cancelled out depth. That said, I was blown away by the end battle to that film (brief though it was; Sirius arrived and moments later was dead - poof. Jeez, give the man a proper death scene already) and thought the clash between Dumbledore, Voldemort, and Harry was an excellent piece of work on every level.

If only the whole movie had carried that zest.

I wasn't happy to learn that Yates' had been signed to direct all the Harry Potter movies through to the finale. I had been holding out hope for the return of Alfonso Cuaron, the genius behind Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, still the best movie of them all. Cuaron upped the stakes for the entire series, taking it from Chris Columbus' limited hands and bringing it into the fullness of its adult themes, morals, and conflicts. He added an art-house patina to its summer/holiday movie structure and it still tops the list as my favorite.

Still, I was encouraged by the lengthier time frame for HBP and allowed myself to hope. Nevertheless, I again felt an empty hole at its conclusion where usually anticipation and wonder reside. It was just...nice.

Daniel Radcliffe has become a remarkable actor and the years stretching before him promise to show that developing skill and talent bursting forth into brilliance. Harry's seething anger in OOP has evolved into a reckless disinvolvement and precious little gets under his skin. Even his surveillance of Malfoy is low key and while culminating in a great confrontation between the two of them, the passion he displayed in OOP (when trying to convince people of Voldemort's return or even when he believed Sirius was in danger) is long gone. Which is why the obsession with the Half-Blood Prince's textbook is so important and why its lack was so noticeable.

And then there's the end battle. Here too, though, Yates stumbles. While the climatic confrontation in the observation tower fulfills most of its promise, Harry is a sidelined observer to these final moments as he was in the novel, if not in the same way. Cursed into immobility by Dumbledore and hidden beneath the invisibility cloak, he could not interfere with the terrible tableau unfolding before him. In the film, however, he is not so encumbered or protected, and his lack of action is thus harder to justify. The futile battle that follows (SPOILER ALERT) Dumbledore's death (surely the worst kept secret by now) never fully manifests. Sure Harry pursues the culprits to the castle's borders, but there is none of the intricacies of the battle detailed in the novel, the plunge down the observatory's staircase, the fierce, rabid pursuit across the grounds. Rather a simple chase sequence with a limp conclusion. What should have rivaled the foundation rattling confrontation of OOP instead simply, merely, ends with a brief coda between the three leads to add the final set up moment for the next film.

Overall, I give Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince a solid B on the scale, a B+ when held up against the other films in this series with Azkaban an A+, Goblet of Fire a strong A, Order of the Phoenix a B+, Sorcerer's Stone a solid B for simple whimsey and the joy of the Potter world unfolding before us, and Chamber of Secrets a sorry D. New York magazine featured a fairly accurate ranking of the Potter movies so far (though I hold GOF over OOP simply because there's just more meat to it - and that dragon! - plus, most importantly, Ralph Fiennes' Voldemort is a master class unfolding on the screen before you.)

If you haven't read the novels, stick to your guns and don't start now. You'll be much more fulfilled by it all in the end. I for one, despite my critics, am eager for the conclusion to this riveting saga. I may already know the conclusion, but I still can't wait to see how it ends.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is rated PG for
scary images, some violence, language, and mild sensuality.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Reality Bravo Style

Last month I made a hard push through a very late night to complete my first contest entry. This involved cutting 5 pages from a chapter and 3 from the (newly written) synopsis to fit everything into the contest's requirements. I'm a night owl so when I say it was a late night, you can believe it was a doozy. I knew I was in trouble when the birds started to wake up and I was still at my laptop working. That weekend, I attended an all-day writing seminar that left me with a fantastic tool for editing and forming structure and a horrible sense that every word I've written so far is total crap. Ever since then, I've been struggling to generate word count on the WIP. It'll happen eventually (probably) mostly because it pokes and prods at me incessantly and I have to let these people out of my head or else surrender to the insanity once and for all, but for right now: blah.

The contest entry experience did help to hammer out broad plot strokes and some smaller character moments and in the ensuing two weeks, other excellent ideas on both have furrowed through my cloudy brain. But even trying to push through to complete the rough draft by opening new Word files for a "fresh" page has left me frustrated and pissy.
My roadblocks appear firmly entrenched for the moment.

In the meantime, I've been fixated on the adverts for Miami Social, Bravo's newest exploitation of the rich and shameless. Amidst early morning reruns of my beloved West Wing,
I'm inundated with previews for every bleeping Bravo reality show under the sun from NY Prep and The Fashion Show (really? another fashion show? sigh) to the endless incarnations of the Jersey housewives reunion show. And now the social elite of Miami joins the fold.

Talk about market saturation.

I don't do reality shows. I've never seen The Amazing Race, The Apprentice, The Bachelor, or his rejects on The Bachelorette. I watched a Survivor episode once - Come on! It was Australia! - and have seen, I think, an hour of American Idol, one I greatly wish returned. I've got enough reality in my life; I don't need to watch television for some bastardized idea of it.

So a show like Miami Social would usually barely blip on my radar except for one eensy weensy thing:
The Voice.

One of the men on this show has this incredible voice, deep and plummy, nearly tactile in its seductive qualities. Sure he seems to always be in a suit, in Miami (poor dear), and while Michael Westen can pull this off in Burn Notice, I have my doubts about anyone else evincing such effortless aplomb. Thus I'm left with a Thurston Howell-on-the-lido-deck vibe that could be eminently snarkable but is completely canceled out by The Voice. Whenever I hear that voice, this frisson of pleasure literally streaks up my spine. I'm watching the commercials on my DVRd shows just to hear it; it's almost enough for me to break my reality-show- boycotting streak. Almost.

The guy's voice is potent is all I'm saying. He could likely wear a bag over his attractive head and still talk me into just about anything as long as he just kept talking. It's akin to my visceral response to Captain Jack Sparrow's wicked reply
when accused of threatening Miss Swan:

Only a little.

Oh yes, please.

And if that can't stimulate my muse (the fickle wench), I'm in serious trouble.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Doing My Part

I'm trying to renew fealty to writing regular posts again now that my day job workload is beginning to ease up on using me (and my team members) as a daily whipping post (today notwithstanding). In the meantime, let me do my part for the sisterhood here by sharing this awesome article.

This USAToday article is making the rounds through the romance world, online or otherwise, and I wanted to add my support by posting a link here.

I was starting out as an assistant at Avon Books in the mid '90s when Julia Quinn's The Viscount Who Loved Me launched - I still have the ARC. Those early entries in the Bridgerton series - bookended by Viscount and Romancing Mr. Bridgerton - are still among my all-time favorite novels. The Mallet of Death kills me every dang time.

I then worked on Eloisa James/Mary Bly's first few books while in the advertising/promotions department at Bantam Dell in the late '90s/early '00s. I had the privilege of meeting/hearing her in person this May at the LSFW group meeting where she was the speaker of the day (holy crap, was she good.)

Eloisa/Mary is a smart, savvy, clever woman who writes marvelous, funny, poignant books and is at the vanguard of the ever-advancing, respect-the-romance-novel-(dammit!) crusade. Her impressive academic pedigree combined with the great success of her novels gives her a unique platform with which to educate the general public about our complex and empowering industry (or as the Smart Bitches put it: "not chick-porn!")

There's been a lot of press about romance novels in recent months as the genre has seen ever increasing sales in spite of (because of?) this recession. This USAToday Article is one of the best/fairest/least patronizing/most supportive yet.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Leaving Paths of Destruction in My Wake

I completely obliterated my work computer this week.

Last week, I learned that there was a virus on said machine, manifested by the fact that every time I click on a link in my RSS feed, or on a web page, or on any search results in Google, I was immediately taken instead to a series of advertising web sites - most notably something called bit-find. My brilliant IT guys ran spy bot and ad spy ware, and spy god or whatever search and destroy bites and bytes they have in their considerable electronic arsenal right away. Yet for nearly a week following, I still got "virus purged" alerts every morning when I booted up the computer. Not a good sign.

Yesterday, the computer resisted even that task and froze on the boot up commands. On my second IT call SOS, the boy genius came over and worked some unsuccessful magic (bad magic? bad mojo?) before confiscating my entire hard drive.

When I checked up on the poor baby around 2:30, the Prince of IT told me the hard drive was toast. The virus had burrowed in so deeply that they had to give me an entirely new hard drive to replace it, uploaded with my files from the diseased memory.

Trust me not to do things half way.

A little research by the prince revealed that this particular virus could only be caught from IM messages. (On the rare occasion, I'll use IM through my gmail or on Facebook, so be warned.) Naturally I leapt to the most alarming conclusion:


What about my baby, keeper of secrets, late night brainstorms, and potential novels galore? I transfer my flash drive back and forth between my work computer and my laptop all the time. Could this rancid corruption have been allowed to run rampant through my own precious hard drive?

I may have succumbed to too much hyperbole on that one.

Thankfully, the goat I sacrificed to the great computer god Bytius and his goddess Ioioi was successful and the prince of IT worked his divinely inspired magic successfully this morning and have declared my laptop virus free. Huzzah!

Still, it's comforting to know that my penchant for leaving paths of destruction in my wake is still strong and well.

We all have our own special talents, after all.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Return of the Cat Engineers

As my job has drop-kicked me flat on my face this week (and likely next week too), here's a quick video for the holiday weekend just as soon as I figure out my aspect ratio.

It may be the 3 hours of sleep I got this morning, but I think this is awesome. Maybe because of the Monty Python vibe these guys give me. I have a particular appreciation for the Cat Polka for obvious reasons (Polish!), but the yodeling? Comic genius.

From the clever guys who brought us the brilliant if under appreciated, An Engineer's Guide to Cats.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bosom Sightings Abound

I indulged in a rare weeknight out yesterday where I wasn't working or rehearsing or attempting to speak Italian and made my way to the Clifton Barnes and Noble - a lush Mecca for any book lover - to attend the book reading and signing of the cleavage-baring, snarkolicious Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan. Sarah is the east coast embodiment of this duo while Candy personifies the California contingent of Smart Bitches. Together, they are the mavens extraordinaire of the Smart Bitches Trashy Books Web site, one of my RSS daily reads.

Every day, in one form or another, the SBs take up the banner of Romanceland with their stalwart championship of well-crafted, thoroughly researched, good romance novels. In addition, they offer
hot-topic insight to the romance industry and the genre in general, cutting-edge involvement in advancing romance in academia, so-honest-it-hurts reviews, and much, much more. They have no limits on the types of novels they review (everything from the conservative Loveswept to the more erotic Ellora's Cave) and their frank, ballsy, no-BS attitude practically leaps off the screen. Though you may not always like what they say or how they say it (and, full disclosure, there have been times when I haven't) it can't be denied that they know much of what they speak. In the four years since their inception, the SBs have become a juggernaut in the romance community and frequently speak on conference panels, NPR, Australian radio, and various other outlets on everything from man-titty to blogging to crackolicious books that were so bad, they couldn't put them down. As the name subtly hints, these are Not Always Nice Ladies - and they're more than okay with that.

the thing that, in the end, really cemented my all-consuming, throbbing passion for the Smart Bitches (SBs) was Alan Rickman.

What, you may ask, does demigod Rickman have to do with the Smart Bitches?

So glad you asked.

It was the great SBs that gave me the heads up on this video of the band Texas' In Demand featuring Le Rickman that nearly caused me to break my mouse with the repeated clicks to replay. Then, about two weeks ago, their goody bag of online contacts clued me in to a sublime recording of Rickman reading the work of one of my all-time favorite authors, which I swiftly downloaded to my itunes, ipod, I'd make it a flippin' ringtone if I could figure out how.

Tangent: I'm throwing up a severe Whoa Now! right here regarding any further details on this item because I'm giving it as a gift to one more person and don't want to spoil it. Suffice it to say that I uttered the words (to my attentive computer, natch) how did I live in this world for the six years following the publication of this treasure and not know it existed?! It's awe-inspiring, mouth-dropping stuff, I promise.

So, a Web site that doesn't apologize for snarkitude and shares my tough love for romance AND all things Rickman? Gimme, gimme.

I've been reading the SB Web site now for nearly a year and a half and was just tickled purple when they got the book deal for BHB. Their hot trot up to publication has been a treat. When I read they were doing a local signing, I Post-It Noted the dets to my office wall, penned the event into my calendar, and alerted all involved (basically my mother and my boss) that UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES was something to prohibit me from attending.

I was a tad excited.

Finally, last night, having retrieved my newly discharged mother from the hospital, I trudged down the parkway, in the rain, with my bronze-medal worthy windshield wipers (just not quite getting the job done) to my old stomping ground of Route 3 and the Clifton B&N for Sarah's signing (Candy, sadly, stayed on the west coast. I question that girl's commitment to self-promotion, I really do.)

Sarah was delightful, a heaping cup of awesomeness and fun. Her actual reading was on the short side as we spent so much of her time gabbing about the book, the site, Sarah's reading at the Happy Ending Cafe, NYC on erotica theme night with her
inquisitive mother-in-law in tow, the stalking of Fabio, the adoration of cover model John DeSalvo, the totally ass-hat behavior on FoxNews, the excellent Eloisa James and her fascinating thesis comparing J.R. Ward's Brotherhood to the formation of the Department of Homeland Security, the before and after bosom bookends to the Cosmo shotout for BHB, and much, much more. Laughter ensued often and heartily. Books were signed, novels were snarked, bosoms heaved - though that was mainly me trying to get out of the large, plush, black hole masquerading as an armchair.

In case it didn't register, let me repeat something here: my mother went with me last night. Amidst talk of subversive homoerotism in ubermale heroes, verbal Freudian slips on cable news that inadvertently alluded to presidential deviant sexual practices (that I did NOT explain to my mother), the awesome crack that is Twilight (which I still haven't missed not reading) and J.R. Ward novels (guilty on this one), and a reading of the top five sexual mythologies in romance novels, my mother sat beside me taking it all in. You may think, OK, so what? But noooo - this is the woman I hid my novels from throughout my adolescent/high-school years lest she confiscate them. To be fair, these were the great 80s novels where the rape fantasy often ran amok - not a good road map to sexual intimacy for an impressionable girl. Still, I loved them mightily and true (not the rape fantasies, obviously) and developed increasingly canny ways to hide them from my mother (like under my bed where I'm sure she never, ever thought to look for them.) So while I was happy to have her company last night, especially as we have spoken before at length about the community, the site, and the book (plus there was that whole just-got-out-of-the-hospital thing), my brain was exploding a little bit about the surrealism of it all.

I swear she laughed more than once.

I'm thumbing through my copy of BHB as I write this post and the laughter? It is luscious and good.