The (Cookie) Monster in All of Us (Movie Monday: Blooper Reel Edition)

The only thing that makes pop culture iconography better is when it involves Cookie Monster. Like the Siri/iPhone commercial where CM is waiting impatiently for Siri to count down the timer for his cookies in the oven. I have this theory that as adults we love CM as much as (or more than) we did as kids, because we’re all a little bit Cookie Monster, really, deep inside.

Apple just released the outtakes from the filming of that commercial. I have a bad feeling this is exactly how I’d be on set. Or in real life. Or all the time. So, enjoy.

The Thrill of the Hunt

Back in the days I had an allowance and few financial responsiblities, I briefly became a collector of things. The seeds, I suppose, were planted by my childhood collection of Star Wars action figures (which met a tragic end in an alluminum storage building one blistering Texas summer), and the all star cast of Barbie and friends who acted out my early storytelling efforts, before being relegated to the attic where a family of squirrels nested in their Interstellar Luxury Cruiser, aka Barbie Dream Mobile Home.

Funko Pop Boromir.jpgBut in general, I collected things to use, not things to put on a shelf. (Books, obviously, being the exception.) But like many youngsters with money and time on their hands, I fell into bad company. By which I mean the best company, but a company of enablers.

There were four of us, who met in a fan fiction chat room, as one does when you’re in school and procrastinating that term paper. Two were already master hunters and gatherers of collectibles, and they soon showed CM and me the ways of the Force.

See, it wasn’t just about owning the thing. It was the stalking of the prey and the tireless pursuit once started. Trips to every Toys R Us in Birmingham, crawling under independent toy store shelves to see if just maybe they had that one Breyer Arabian way back behind the others. And eBay. Good God, eBay. You never saw someone so good at the Gamesmanship of the Snipe as my friend S.

At first I was content to come along for the ride. But I’m a nerd, which means there is a larger than average world of things for me to collect. First there was that Eowyn action figure…and so I had to get Aragorn. And Legolas came with a horse. And speaking of horses, there are Breyers, where the only grooming required is a bit of dusting now and then.

Obviously you couldn’t have a Rogue action figure without a Magneto Gambit action figure, and that Victorian Christmas Barbie’s green velvet bustled gown is exactly what you would wear if you were a Victorian lady at Christmas. Other people gamble. I played to find a gem at a price that fit in my grad student budget.

But collecting takes time and money and space, and when you chuck everything to become a starving artist, you don’t really have any of those. You have way better things—but you have to clear out temporal, financial, and emotional space for them.

And let’s face it. Keeping things Mint in Box takes up a lot of room.

Long story long, my toys collectibles now have a size and monetary limit. Because I’m an adult that way.

So, back to eBay, in the circular way of things. I’ve just gotten back from the post office where I said a nostalgic farewell to 1998 Portrait Edition Princess Leia in the Medal Ceremony Gown from the end of Star Wars.

In the end it was less painful than immediately saying farewell to the money she brought me, as I sent it off to pay my taxes.

In the immortal words of Sir Paul McCartney: “Hello Goodbye.”

Accio Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

I’m not saying I’m lazy, but sometimes it’s a lot of trouble getting up off my couch.

For one thing, it’s an old couch—well, love seat, really—and it doesn’t look like a sinkhole, but like a lot of older things, it’s not as springy as it used to be. Especially when you’ve been smooshed into the corner for a few episodes of Agents of Shield on Netflix. And by “a few” I mean long enough to get the “Are you still watching?” message. (Don’t judge. We all have our days.)

tea earl grey Also, I’ve got an ottoman pushed up against the front of it. This isn’t for me–my legs are short enough that I can sit comfortably sideways. It’s for the dog, who insists on being next to me whether it’s convenient or not. Usually not. But because I don’t want her (or anything else, like my snacks) to fall into the crack between the ottoman and the couch, I put this very specific quilt over both, and my legs hold it in place. And then Penny insists on being covered up by another very specific blanket. And then I often have my laptop on my, well, lap.

Which is all to say that every time I have to get off the couch, even just to pour another cup of tea, I have to set aside my laptop where it won’t get stepped or sat on, kick off one afghan, swing my legs over the dog, over the ottoman, which pushes me further into the La Brea Cushion Pit so that I have to shove myself up and out, somehow managing not to scoot the sofa back, the ottoman forward, or dislodge the quilt-hammock and drop Penny into the couch chasm.

That’s assuming she doesn’t jump up and start bounding around the sofa trying to grab the afghan and pull it back over herself, or just generally make a nuisance of herself.

I tell you all this because it is not at all infrequent that I wish I had a house elf to bring me a cup of tea. Then I feel guilty for wishing I had a house elf. So I wish I had Mrs. Weasley’s domestic spell skill set so I could just accio a nice cuppa without it becoming a whole production. Because of course once the dog is disturbed, there’s no guarantee she’ll settle down again soon. (In fact, it’s almost a certainty that as soon as I’m ensconced once more, and have rearranged the ottoman/quilt/afghan/laptop to their original positions, she will ask to go outside.)

Anyway. This is what made me think about the conveniences of magic. (I mean, more than I usually think about how cool it would be to have magic.) Yeah, it would be something to be the Dark Lord and take over the world and all, but enough

Penny Undercover

Shhh. I’m undercover(s).

money will let you do the same thing. What intrigues me–and this is why I’m a writer, I guess–in any fantasy or high-tech science fiction world is the way it would affect daily life. The way you brush your teeth or make your bed or call for a taxi.

The fact that (other than the ability to apparate or the invention of a transporter, and even then maybe not) the spell I find myself wishing for most is the “accio” spell. You know, for those times when the remote control is…just…out…of…reach.

Not because I’m lazy, though.

Just because it would be cool.

 

Expectation vs. Reality (To Do List Edition)

Things I planned to do today:

  1. Get up early.
  2. Have coffee on my porch surrounded by the plants I planted this weekend.
  3. Write a blog post.
  4. Exercise.
  5. Buy a watering can.
  6. Pay the electric bill.
  7. Figure out what’s the deal with my porch light.
  8. Write a bazillion pages.
  9. Mind map ideas about my “Brand” and Social Media Strategy.
  10. Review two books.
  11. Zero my inbox.
  12. Eat a healthy lunch.

Things from this list I have done today:

  1. Had coffee.
  2. Ate lunch.

Oh, and I can check off #3. *high fives self*

(High fiving yourself looks pretty much like giving yourself applause, but slightly less embarrassing to admit.)

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My Actual Day

Thor vs. the White Whale (Movie Monday: seafaring edition)

I am a total geek for maritime history. I’m a total geek about a lot of things, but my love of all things Tall Ship related goes under the radar because it hasn’t come up in a book yet (which is about to change). There’s actually a long seafaring tradition on both sides of my family–with Dutch pirates privateers and East India Company merchant marines on one side and captains in the Texas Navy and WWII Gulf patrol boats on the other. CH Heart of the sea.jpg

I, on the other hand, get seasick at the IMAX and am sort of afraid of drowning. So much line my love of ballet and swordfighting, my love remains theoretical rather than practical.

Which is all to say that I was really geeked about The Heart of the Sea movie, directed by Ron Howard and starring Chris Hemsworth. It’s based on a book about the real life whaling ship Essex, and its bizarre encounter with a monster whale that attacked the ship and sank it like a son of a bitch (link). As the trailer points out, it’s “the true story that inspired Moby Dick.” Which is a terrible tagline, because I know how 99% of my English class felt about reading Moby Dick. They should have tagged it: “Chris Hemsworth fights a giant whale.”

01-heart-sea-lead-image.jpgIf only.  I mean, that happens, and it’s cool. And leading up to that is about 30-40 minutes of topgallants and capstans and fo’c’sles and gales and a whole mess of money shots of badass sailorific seatasticness.

Then the whale sinks the ship, leaving our crew adrift and marooned with no food or water in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, which might as well be Mars. Only without Matt Damon to science the shit out of things. So it gets grim.*

And that’s the main flaw of this movie—not that things go to a dark, Donner party place. But that it happens about halfway in, and that’s a lot of movie time to spend with your characters literally adrift. Heart of the Sea Hemsworth.jpg

It’s a “man’s will to survive” story from there, and so the hardest decision they make to survive should be the climax of the movie. In the framing story where the last living crewman of the Essex relates this story, Brendan Gleeson sells this reveal in a fantastic bit of acting, one of those two minutes of a movie where the veteran basically gives a masterclass to rest of the cast. (See also, Peter O’Toole asking Brad Pitt’s Achilles for Hector’s body back in Troy. Also, Michelle Fairley plays Gleeson’s wife, which made my nerd heart so happy.)In-the-Heart-of-the-Sea-Brendan-Gleeson-Ben-Whishaw.jpgWhere was I?  Oh yeah. Basically, once you find out what’s haunting Gleeson’s character, the story should have wrapped up as quickly as possible.

So from a movie-watcher standpoint, the first hour or so was really satisfying to watch. The rest was a bit grueling, but Gleeson gives some payoff there. And I got knitting done.

On the other hand, I thought about the movie for a long time, because there were a lot of great ingredients that should have made a more delicious stew.**  How would I restructure this? Some deeper characterization would have been nice, and if the actual sinking were moved to the Act III break instead of the midpoint, that would allow for that plus more white whale action.***  Then recognize where the story really ends, and bring it home from there.

Or, we could just make a movie of Mad Eye Moody and Catelyn Stark play a married couple running a tumbledown boarding house full of eccentric characters who pay their rent in chickens and gillyweed.

So, this a wait for Netflix one, I’m sad to say. There’s some good stuff here, it’s just kind of out of balance. Everything aboard the Essex delighted and excited. When the story turns dark, it’s simply spread over too much screen time.But Gleeson gives some payoff there. And I got knitting done.

In the meantime, rent Master and Commander. That one has beat to quarters in the first three minutes, takes it’s lull in the middle, then gets all broadsides and boarding party again for the end.

 


*Here’s where I discovered that I have this ability–maybe it’s a talent, maybe it’s just a bad habit–of mentally glossing over the stuff I don’t like about a story, either ignoring it or completely rewriting it in my head. (Like the movie I talked about last week. Something happens to the little dog offscreen, and in my head, I’m like, oh, the dog totally got away, to the point where I convinced myself that actually happened, not just maybe happened if you’re in serious denial. So, sorry about that if anyone was traumatized. But it lead to my discover of the site Doesthedogdie.com. So that’s a plus.)

**This is kind of an unfortunate analogy for this movie.

***This is not a euphemism for anything dirty.

Castle Von Udolpho Crimson Abbey of Blood (Movie Monday, gothic edition)

I have got to start seeing movies in a more timely way, either at the movie theater or when they’re first released at home. It’s not such a thing this week, when something inspires me to talk about its antecedents (⇐this is not the nerdiest the post is going to get), as say, Star Wars, when six weeks after it’s out, I’m like “Let me tell you all my feelings!” and y’all are like, yes, but I heard that in the next movie…

Well, maybe not y’all, because my readers are pretty cool.

So, anyway. Crimson Peak. This movie was like they threw all my favorite things in a cinematic gift bag:

  1. Director Guillermo del Toro
  2. Ghosts
  3. OMG the wardrobe
  4. Spooky $%*#
  5. Tom Hiddleston looking even more Byronic than usual
  6. Creepy house
  7. The most Gothic gothiciness that ever gothicked.

I mean, just look at it:

Crimson-Peak-Banner.jpg

Obviously, I love the gothic novel, since I’ve written two of them. (One is even titled Texas Gothic. (link) ) And I was interested to see what someone with such as visually interesting as del Toro would come up with.

Let’s skip the history of how the Gothic novel came out of the counter-Enlightenment movement of Romanticism.  The gothic story has some very distinct elements:

  • An innocent heroine, very often an orphan or otherwise cut off.
  • An isolated setting that evokes mystery and dread. It’s gloomy, usually decaying. Extra points for secret passages or hidden staircases.
  • Supernatural beings (or what appear to be supernatural goings on)
  • Curse or prophecies. (I actually thing this, along with the idea of ghosts, has to do with the feeling of the past affecting or threatening the present events.)
  • A Byronic hero–brooding, enigmatic, slightly dissipated and untrustworthy air.
  •  Romance, or a romantic sensibility. CrimsonPeak_Hiddleston_Wasikowska.jpg

Most importantly there’s a sense of physical danger, psychological horror, and spiritual peril. 

That leaves a lot to play with, plot-wise. You can tick all the boxes (like the popular gothic romances that Jane Austen sent up in Northanger Abbey), or you can stay in the spirit, evoking the sense of heightened dread and dark tone and atmosphere. Jane Eyre and Frankenstein are both considered gothic novels (among other things).

So, back to Crimson Peak. This movie ticks all the boxes, but in a self-aware Northanger Abbey way. The movie, though, is more of an homage than a parody.

First of all, it calls itself out, right away. Austen and Brontë are mentioned right off. The heroine wants to be an author, and when a publisher dismisses her “ghost story,” she says that there are ghosts in it, but it’s not about ghosts. The ghosts represent the past. (⇑ See what I did there? Fourth bullet point.)  And obviously that’s how this story goes, too.

My interest then became less “what will happen” and more “how is that going to happen, or how will that play out.” Maybe that makes it predictable, but kind of in the same way as a Romantic Comedy or a Western is predictable. Mostly you know you’re going to end up at the opposite ends of the town’s muddy main street, drawing your guns at high noon.

So bookish Edith falls in love with charismatic but mysterious Sir Thomas Sharpe, marries him (oh, she’s rich by the way), and he takes her away to his literally falling down mansion where he lives with his crazy-eyed sister, who you know is going to be trouble. And then there are forbidden rooms and locked trunks and strange noises…

And there were these bonuses:

  • Charlie Hunnam!
  • Bobby from Supernatural!
  • Puppy! Even better? Papillon puppy!

4eea6b0b8c3d0a7ccea44ed60e2c1e04.gif

The adorable dog was a smart touch, and I’m not just saying that because I gave the heroine of The Splendor Falls (link) one. Because of the type of story, I wasn’t too worried about Edith, but I spent a good part of that movie terrified something was going to happen to the dog.

The ghosts were also really terrifying, because they were gross. There were a couple of pretty horrific deaths, which also elevated the tension, because I didn’t want to see that grossness. Bleh. Which bears mentioning because the original gothic novels evoked dread more than the gross out, but when they did have blood and such, it took a lot less to be shocking.

So, final verdict? Would you enjoy Crimson Peak? Well, the costuming is gorgeous, the set is amazing, and the acting is really good. There’s enough danger during the story to keep the tension up. Obviously she doesn’t trust the sister, but can she trust Thomas? That was the big question throughout. (And Hiddleston really does well at keeping you guessing. Also, there’s a love scene, so if Hiddleston is your thing…)

You know, it occurs to me—and this is not a spoiler, and it’s not about the plot, just what floats my boat—I think I was less invested because I wanted Edith to stay in Boston with Charlie Hunnam’s character.

But then it wouldn’t have been a gothic story.

So, have any of you seen this?  What’s your favorite gothic novel or movie, or movie of a novel? I could use recommendations.

807450c0-5674-0133-9e1b-0af7184f89fb.jpg

I don’t care if you’re dead. Throw my ball, dammit.

Four Ways I’m Kinda Colorful

(See what I did there? In a post about coloring as a hobby? Hilarious, right? But there are actually four things you may not know about me hidden in this post.)

Okay, so, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that for adults is A Thing. A Thing that I was doing before it was cool. (*Pushes up horn-rimmed glasses*)

boredpandajohanna-basford-14__880

Courtesy of Johanna Branford via Google images via Buzzfeed via Bored Panda. (Hey, at least I’m trying to be a good blog citizen.)

Leaving aside the fact that Carl Jung used it with his patients, and that he based this on the drawling of colorful mandalas that were traditional (and sacred) in India (and elsewhere), the Huffington Post covered it in October 2014, and the Telegraph mentioned it in a June 2014 article on relaxation.  Then Bustle had an article in October 2015, and in December it was on Fox News which may indicate the wave has crested.

There’s are psychological and sociological reasons for why coloring is relaxing (uses both halves of the brain, the focus is meditative, we’re all a little bit in Neverland refusing to grow up…), and I was going to post about that, but instead I’ll just telling a story and post some links.

So, my dad had a type of dementia that affected his language, so he struggled to form a sentence, but he loved to color his Dover books birds of the world, or underwater scenes, or flowers, or ships, or horses…All those things. I can’t see a Dover coloring book without thinking of him. (In a good way.)

Moving on…

So, the great part is coloring stuff is front and center, I don’t have to feel guilty (not that I did) about using expensive art pens and pencils for my hobby, and a quick Google or Pinterest search nets all kinds of printable pages. Here’s a few that tickled my eclectic tastes. (Follow the links to the source for colorable sized art.)

Starting at the beginning: the Secret Garden by Johanna Basford led the charge in 2013, and here is a link to the Guardian which has five sample pages in .pdf form.

SecretGardenpic

Hoe heerlijk is dit kline meisje? The drawing below is from a Dutch blogger. And since Ik ben nederlandse (en andere dingen), Ik wil koppelen aan haar blog. (Translation: click here to go to her blog and her art.)

kleurplaat-butterfly-tattoo-400x562

 

A personal favorites: Vintagecoloring.com (The Curator Prime is my multi-talented friend Heidi. Shh.) She’s collected art from antique sources for some beautiful themed books (Amazon link), and she publishes free coloring pages on Fridays, like this one below.

2015_1204_vintagecoloringfreefriday

If you haven’t noticed, I like pictures with people. (Not unrelated, I guess, to the fact that I’m more likely to pick up a book with a person on the cover.) I have a particular weakness for the fashion history books from the aforementioned Dover publications. (Because I’m only a fashionista when it comes to bygone days.) Like this Fashions from the Roaring Twenties page (which links back to Dover’s site).

Fashions of the Twenties Dover

So, that’s my show and tell. Any recommendations for me? You know, in my copious spare time when I’m not slaving away on my next masterpiece? (Which I am.)