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Otters, Chester Zoo, and my dog goes wild.

So I guess baby otters are a thing now, judging by my Twitter/tumblr feeds, though I have loved otters since way before they were Cool On The Internet. *pushes cute-nerdy-girl glasses on nose*  When I lived in Corpus Christi, I was a member of the Texas State Aquarium so I could go hang out and watch the otters whenever I wanted.

That’s not important. What is important is that you watch this video:

Oh. My. God. When I played this, Penny Dog went absolutely bonkers trying to find where that noise was coming from. So of course I had to move the laptop to another spot and play it again. And maybe a third time.

Anyway. This was filmed at the Chester Zoo in England. I do love a good zoo that takes the best care of the animals that they can. Obviously animals belong in their natural habitat, but when that habitat is disappearing, what are we going to do? What I like about the Chester Zoo is that they don’t limit their species preservation efforts to breeding programs. The zoo created the Act for Wildlife campaign, which works to preserve and restore natural habits all over the world. Even cooler, 100% of a donation goes to conservation efforts and none to administration. You can read about or donate to a specific species effort, or you can follow their blog to see how their projects are going.

Frozen Things

So. I finally saw Frozen. Now I know what all the fuss was about. My God, what a great movie. It had all the things. Elsa is so badass (this is my favorite word lately) and she just broke my heart, and then there was that song. So many feels. It was pretty much the exact same song as from Wicked, but I liked Frozen about a million times better, so that makes me happy. But I just fell in love with Anna.  I fell in love with both of them. I don’t know. It was just awesome to have a movie with two multifaceted female leads, and even though there was romance, it was turned on its head a little bit, and… I don’t know. I want to write books that are like that movie.

Frozen sisters

We are awesome.

 

Wait. I do, kind of. Or I try to. That’s what I’m going for. No wonder I liked the movie so much.

I also saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Also an awesome flick, in a totally different way. It might be my favorite of the stand alone Avenger movies. I don’t know. It’s a tough call.  Also, these two topics totally go together because Captain America was frozen in the 40s and thawed out to become an Avenger. See what I did there?

Captain America 2

This is my serious face.

Movie Monday: Pacific Rim

Here are the reasons you should go see Pacific Rim:

1) Giant Robots (Jaeger)  vs Giant Monsters (Kaiju).

pacific-rim-movie-banner-striker-eureka-jaeger-vs-kaiju

2) Idris Elba.  His character’s name is Stacker Pentecost. He’s canceling the apocalypse. This could be ridiculous, but he sells it like it’s Shakespeare.

idris-001

3) They order the evacuation of the city, and there are kaiju shelters, even, so I felt much less guilty enjoying the structural carnage (see item #1) imagining the people of Hong Kong weren’t getting squished right and left.

3) There’s a nice cast of character actors who flesh out the human story really nicely, with full commitment, whether as the nutty, nerdy science geek or the  last-man standing, get the job done hero.  Sure there were a few without enough screen time to avoid feeling a little stereotype (“In Soviet Russia, robot drive you.” and “Australians and Americans like to brawl!”) but it was surprising how many really nice character moments that kept the humans from being totally overshadowed by… well, giant robots and monsters.

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4) The girl–and yes, there was only one, but she’s awesome–was an actual character. She had a, you know, personality. And a backstory. And something really important to do. And here’s the kicker:  Relationships with the male characters that were not about romance.

Sure there’s an attraction between Mako and The Guy, because they’re both young and attractive. But the cool things is, they also challenge and respect each other, and they make a good fighting team because of it.  They are an even match. She’s not there just to worship him (I’m looking at you, Man of Steel), or take care of his kids (I’m looking at you, World War Z).   And Mako has a really cool dynamic with Pentecost. She’s both strong AND vulnerable, and smart and feminine. Also, her hairstyle is adorable, and I’m totally taking a picture of it to my stylist.

rinko-001

So Hollywood blockbusters please take note. You can have a female in a movie and have her, you know, DO STUFF.

5) The storytelling.  Pacific Rim is not high art. And that’s okay. Because it’s damn good storytelling. (And here’s where, as a writer of books, I justify putting a long-ass post about a movie on my blog. Other than the fact I dig movies with giant fight-y things.)

The characters aren’t complex, but they all have a ‘hook’ and every point we know exactly what is at stake for them, and for the human race. We know what they have to do in a scene, and why it will be difficult, and what will happen if they don’t. When you’ve got THAT MUCH CGI going on, and that much destruction happening all the time, this can be difficult to accomplish (*ahem*Michael Bay*ahem*).

Pacific Rim hit every Man vs. Monsters beat, that’s a GOOD thing. Those beats are important, because they make a satisfying story. If you skip one (like the “all is lost” scene or the “hero pulls himself up by the bootstraps” moment) then it makes it less satisfying when the humans (spoiler) win the day.

SO, here’s a note to Hollywood. You CAN have a blockbuster movie that’s fresh, fun and tells a good story. You can have a female character who is an actual character, and not a cipher.

And also, don’t think I missed that if Idris Elba is the head of the Jaeger program, that makes him the Jaegermeister.

In summary:

Pacific Rim is damned enjoyable, loads of fun, intensely satisfying, and even though I HAVE seen this story before, all the elements: script, direction, characters, plus the particulars of the premise (Jaeger, Kaiju, etc.) make it feel like I haven’t seen it a million times.

Goats are always funny.

I used to be one of those people who watched the Superbowl The Big Game just for the ads. While I am capable of enjoying football if I have a horse in that race, mixed-metaphorically speaking, really I’m just there to see what a three million dollar commercial looks like.

But now, with the Internet, I don’t have to sit through all that sports to find out!  I can just wait until Monday morning and watch them all on YouTube. Yay!

So, here’s my favorite, along with an analysis of what makes it great.

1. It features a goat.  The beginning of Texas Gothic features a goat.  It is not a coincidence that both these things are high-lair-ious.

2. Sound effects. And on a related note…

3. Goat Reaction Shot. Made funnier by the fact that goats in real life pretty much don’t react to anything. (Except for fainting goats.)

4. Showing, not telling. This is the kind of less-is-more visual storytelling that relies on the viewer to be smart enough to figure out the….

5. Circular humor.

 

What Superbowl ads were worth their super hype?  Do you have a favorite from past or present years?  (My all time favorite is probably still the Volkswagon/Darth Vader one.)

 

Friday Faves – The Twisted, The Pretty, and the Yummy

Here’s what’s floating my boat this week. Why? Because “Friday Faves” sounds cool.

1. Gillian Flynn. This is not a YA author. (Not by any stretch of the imagination.) Banner for Gone Girl by Gillian FlynnShe writes books about grisly murders and really twisted up characters. Her book Gone Girl is a best seller, and deservedly so. Her books keep me riveted, not just with the plot twist, but because she’s got this astounding facility with voice.

Also, it is really hard to knock me to a place where I’m staring at the book going “Holy $%^&! I did NOT see that coming.”

[YA disclaimer: I'd rate her books almost an R, not for any graphic sex but for disturbing psychology... in both the killers and the protagonists.]

2. The Immaculate Baking Company.  Oh my GAWD these chocolate rolls are so good.  I literally reward myself for getting up early and going to mass by baking them when I get home. (Appropriate, given the name, I guess.)  Only today is Friday and I’m eating one just because. (They also promote Folk Artists and they have a blog with delicious start-with-our-products-and-make-them-even-more-awesome recipes.)

Yum.

Yum.

3. The cheerfulness of Vera Bradley’s Ribbons pattern… and their Pinterest board full of inspiration.

 

4. These floats, covered entirely in flowers (like the Tournament of Roses parade), from Holland’s Bloemencorso.

Look at that little guy on the bottom, helping out with the grooming. So. Cute.

Look at that little guy on the bottom, helping out with the grooming. So. Cute.

What a cutie.

Speaking of cute. This is. 

 

5. Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper. First off, I LOVED that movie. JGL did an incredible job playing young Bruce Willis. His mannerisms and line delivery were dead on.  But I feel like I just discovered this guy. I know he was in Inception (and really great in that, too). But when did he go from being “Wow, that kid from Third Rock From The Sun can really act!” to “Wow, he’s kinda hot as well. A little skinny, but… day-um.”

 

That’s it for this Friday. I guess I’ll have to pull my head out of my book long enough to find new things to be obsessed with next week. Please make suggestions in the comments. Seriously.

Let Them Knit Cake

I am a knitter.

I want to make it absolutely clear that I liked knitting long before hipsters started doing it.

Free time? What's that?

Free time? What’s that?

I started when Mom broke her leg, which meant hours and hours in doctor and hospital waiting rooms. My first project was a scarf. It was pretty awful–eight inches wide at one end and five inches at the other. The scarf, not her leg. Though that was pretty awful, too. Poor Mom. She’s been through a lot. And I’ve gotten a lot of practice knitting in hospitals and doctor’s offices.

So, silver lining and all that, I have progressed beyond horrible scarves to pretty good scarves, plus gloves, shawls, hats, purses and sweaters.  Okay, sweater and a half. One was for my niece, who is only two.  I figured that would be a good one to start with, because my attention span is–

Squirrel!

Which has always been my crafting downfall.  I–like just about every knitter/quilter/crocheter/stitcher–have many many projects in many stages of completion because there’s always some new and bright and exciting project that catches your eye right when you’re in the tedious middle of the current one.

I might mention, this also happens with books. A new idea is always exciting. You can’t wait to start banging out words. And the end is great, because you have momentum on your side. You can see the shape of the finished project! All it needs is a few more rows. But when you’re in the middle, that’s when shiny new ideas for other books appear to tempt you.

Or sometimes it happens with books and knitting BOTH.  I’m working hard on my next book, but I picked up a knitting magazine when I drove Mom to Jo-Ann’s this afternoon. Now I want to knit a sweater.

This sweater:

 

I want to knit this sweater, to give to some hypothetical guy on some hypothetical future date when the hypothetical he will be able to wear a wool sweater in Texas.  Which is about five days a year. Non-consecutive days, I might add.

What are the odds of this?

I totally bought this magazine because of the hot guy modeling this gorgeous colored sweater.

Clearly we have entered a new era of knitting. No longer are doilies and old lady caps and mittens enticement to shell out for a knitting pattern magazine. Now the target audience is women (or men, I guess) who like to picture themselves knitting a sweater for a hot guy.

And I have succumbed to the siren call. I want to be a girl who knits sweaters for cute guys. I want to wear adorable lace wristlets and skinny scarves and not look like dork. I want to refinish flea-market furniture and repurpose antiques into quirky jewelry… Oh my God, next thing you know I’ll be baking CAKE POPSICLES.

Actually, none of that is true.

Except maybe the cake part. I’ll take cake in pretty much any form it comes in.

Mmmm... Cake.

Mmmm… Cake.

Are you a crafter? What are your hobbies (besides reading)?  Do you have a favorite online resource? What are your feelings on Cake Pops?  Delicious bite sized treat or bakery anathema?

PS The pattern for the knit cake above can be found here.