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:

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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!

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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.

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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*)

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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.)

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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.

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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.)

 

Trendsetting again, darn it. (Pen and Paper Edition)

So, I’m kind of a dork for stationary.

Pens, paper, and if I’m in a whimsical mood, stamps and stickers… But mostly it’s about pens, pencils, and the perfect thing to use them in.

This can be an expensive obsession. Check out Levenger or The Goulet Pen Company for proof. There are entire forums for fountain pen aficionados, facebook groups, and I don’t know, probably conventions that rival SFF cons for geekiness.

Why do I mention this now? There’s a not-really-new trend for “analog” planning and journalling. You’ve got your hipsters with their index card journals and the Cult of the Planner with the tricked out Erin Condren Hobonichi Fauxdori DIYs with the stickers and washi tape and stamps. (Which is not even the same thing as the scrapbook planner or “smashbook.”)

These are distractions from the sublime satisfaction of a black fine-point ink pen and a black, hard-cover, grid-lined, classic size Moleskine.

A Moleskine is the perfect canvas for customization (see Cult of the Planner above, or Google “Moleskine hacks” for proof) but one thing I know about myself is that my outside world has to be pretty tidy for my inside world to work properly.

SO let me tell you about my discovery of the “Bullet Journal,” aka “Writing Stuff Down in a Book.” Who knew I’d be such a trendsetter. I’ve always kept multiple journals (some of you have heard me talk about this), and joking aside, this guy Ryder Carroll didn’t reinvent the wheel so much as say how he got it to roll better for him, and maybe it’ll work for you, too. The blog has ideas/modifications to try, but it’s really just about finding a way to put everything in one place—events, to-dos, notes, future planning, etc.

 

But dammit!  I’ve been “analog” all this time! And now I’m following a trend. Heck, I”m not even on the cutting edge of it. There are blogs and facebook pages and instagram tags devoted to making your “BuJo” all it can be.

All you have to do is look on Pinterest (speaking (affectionately) of the Cult of the Planner) for infinite ways to make your planner take up more time than it saves you. I stopped trying to make mine pretty, but I have added ideas that work for me (Click here for lots of info on Tiny Ray of Sunshine), and I am not exaggerating when I say that being more intentional about writing things down and keeping track of my time (both going forward and looking backward) has had a serious impact on my projectivity and general mental health. (This actually deserves a post of it’s own. Watch this space.)

Ugh. I hate following a trend.

Except, of course, when it gives me an excuse to shop for pens.

 

In Which I Get Domesticated

My friends. I’ve wandered into a dark back alley of the Internet, and I can’t quite break my addiction. It was a slow slide. A random link, a pop-up add, an “I’ll just take a little peek” click of the trackpad.

As part of the Year of Getting My S*** together, I wanted some inspiration for getting organized. So I searched “organization tips.” Oh. My. God.

No, I’m not wasting time looking Pinterest. I am GETTING ORGANIZED. I can QUIT ANY TIME I WANT.

No. I can’t. Because I have been sucked into the seedy underbelly of the blogosphere. I had discovered the world of Organizing Bloggers.

Not like a blogger’s union or anything like that. Blogs about getting organized.

And decorating.

And sometimes cooking.

Dammit, I’m addicted to HOMEMAKING BLOGS okay. I have bookmarked freaking Better Homes & Gardens and Real Simple. Why don’t I just turn in my hipster card right now.

But look at this. LOOK! My stuff could look like this!!

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Just a Girl and Her Blog are adorable.

My desk could look like this!

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From A Bowl Full of Lemons, one of my favorites.

 

THIS could be my pantry:
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From I Heart Organizing (And right on the front page (when I wrote this) was a Free Printable. See what I mean?)

Okay, obviously not. My talent lies in translating my vision into words, a virtual world. Putting it into the three dimensions of the physical world is a different thing. I can tell you that my dream cottage looks like Laura Ashley and Anthropologie had a baby, but I will stand in front of the paint chips at Home Depot all day long unable to decide whether Ice Lilac or Violet Whisper will match the image I have in mind.

On the other hand, I can knit really beautiful things (if I say so myself) as long as I have a pattern and some practice. So when I look at what miracle someone has pulled off with an IKEA shelf, a drill, and some duct tape, I’m like… I have a drill, duct tape, and an IKEA catalogue.*

That’s the idea. The problem is, it’s much easier to pin pictures to show the home decorating fairy when she shows up.**

Here’s a few more recommendations, so you can know my full shame:

For crafty things I follow Mollie Makes and Interweave Knits on Pinterest.

For recipes that aren’t the same ol’ thing I love The Other Side of the Tortilla.

For getting things clean…or aspiring to get them this clean, there’s Clean Mama.

For design inspiration I love Apartment Therapy, and also IKEA has a bazillion ideas collected and easy to find on their Pinterest Board.

And finally THIS PINTEREST BOARD is the hub of wonderful organized things.

One minute I was roaming free, a lone wolf, and the next I’m reading about Ikea Hacks. How did I become a den mother…auntie?

I might as well give into it. At least I’ll get to cill in my newly redecorated bedroom. Ha ha, not really.

 


 

*I am Rosemary’s frustrated need for order in a world she can’t control.

** Inertia is a bitch. (And if any of you have struggled with depression, you know that change means not just inertia working against you, but also the gravity well of your couch and blankie.)

 

Recent-ish Science Fiction Movies That I Think Didn’t Suck

popcorn-1085072_640It’s just embarrassing how long it sometimes takes me to see a movie, even once it comes out of iTunes. Really Sad, becasue I don’t really have an excuse. Except, I guess for working all the time. (Pinterest and Tumblr are work, right?)

So among all the other things I’m catching up with in 2016 (The Year Where I Get Caught Up on S***) are movies. Maybe you are, too. Or maybe you don’t get that much time to watch movies, and you want an opinion so you don’t waste your limited iTunes budget/Netflix time on something lame. So I offer you this diffinitive guide:

Relatively Recent Science Fiction Movies That Didn’t Suck (in my humble opinion)

  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Just getting the obvious one out of the way. I freaking loved this movie. I was the absolute last of my friends to see it, and sometimes after a movie has been out for… oh, lets say a month… some of the bloom comes off of it.  Well, TFA is blooming awesome. I laughed, I cried, I squee’d. I had ALL THE FEELS. Then I had all the thoughts about my feels, then thoughts about storytelling, and this movie is actually probably worth it’s own post, maybe when the Blu-Ray comes out.
  2. The Martian. Another movie that my friends pretty much all liked or loved. I loved it. When I’m at home, I measure the engagement factor of a movie based a lot on how many rows of knitting I get done during the run time. The Martian scored a “1” which is about as good a score as you can get. The plot is that astronaut Mark Watney gets stranded on Mars and then he has to science a way to stay alive until they can figure out a way to rescue him. I was totally engrossed and invested in Watney’s survival. Matt Damon always makes me want his character to be all right (even sociopaths like Tom Ripley).  But with such a strong cast, I felt how invested their characters were in getting Watney home, so I wanted THEM to succeed. So, great actors and Ridley Scott to find the heart in this really sciency story. (I loved it, but I was exausted at the end.)
  3. Time Lapse is on Netflix right now, so it’s free to take a chance on it. The professional reviewers didn’t seem to like it as much as I did, but that’s not unusual. It’s got a very “indie” feel to it (all takes place on limited sets, lots of silences and slow, minimalist piano music), but that’s what I liked about it. The premise (Three friends discover a camera that takes pictures 24 hours into the future) isn’t totally original, but I liked watching how the paradoxes and inevitabilities played out. It’s a good Netflix movie—I was glad I watched it, because I wouldn’t have payed movie theater prices to see it. (Plus I got more knitting done in this one).

I also enjoyed the heck out of Jurassic World, but I couldn’t think of a fifth movie, and the lists look weird when they stop on four, like you’re not decisive enough to pick three, but you lack commitment to go to five.

So help me out. What should I download next in my quest to catch up with 2015?

Some Psyches Are a Bit Passive-Aggressive. Just Saying.

addtext_com_MDAyMDIwNjI1MjU1A confession: Though it may appear that I only write on this blog every month or so, this is untrue. The truth is, I write a lot—I mean, a lot—that I end up not using. (Much like my manuscripts.)

Let me share the titles of some of the drafts in my folder:

Please Don’t Reset the Year Until I Get to a Save Point. — In which I feel really bad about David Bowie and Alan Rickman dying within a week of each other, but I accomplished a Major (and overdue) Thing and I really don’t want to have to do it again, because it was hard the first time.

My Word for 2016 is ‘Badass.’ — Pretty much what it says it is.

Death and Taxes — As in, the only two things in life that are certain. (This was kind of a downer.)

OMGSTARWARS! — Too many feels to contain. Too many spoilers to post.

All I Want to Do is Keep a Schedule, So Why Do I Need All These Stickers and Colored Pens? — In which I type the word “Planner” into the Pinterest search bar and get sucked into a Filofax-LifePlanner-Hobinachi-SmashJournal Wormhole. (I found out I really like just a Moleskine and a pen. Maybe I color code it a little. Okay, a lot.)

It’s Not You, WordPress, It’s Me. Is blogger’s block a thing? What if I’m only brilliant 140 characters at a time? I have a master’s degree in communication! Social Media shouldn’t be this hard! *sobs into couch cushions*

 

Yeah, I’m totally making this harder than it should be. Don’t try this at home.

No, really. Don’t. I have years and years of training.

Why would anyone write things and then throw them out?  Especially, you know, a professional writer. Well, I’ll tell you. Here’s a sample conversation in my head.

addtext_com_MjM1NzM2MjE1NTk1Me: La la la, I’m so happy to be writing a blog post today. I hope people enjoy reading it.

(Metaphorical) Devil on my shoulder: Oh honey, no. There was a school shooting today, so you’d better post something Important and Profound.

Me: Man, that makes me angry and sad. I’d much rather post about how much I love colored pens.

Devil: Hmmm. Better not post anything. Then we can go get a cherry lime slush from Sonic.

Me: Mmmm… Sonic.

The devil on my shoulder is kind of a passive-agressive asshole.

And then there’s this:

(Metaphorical) Angel on my shoulder: You know what Every Single Writing Article ever says: you’re not a Real Writer if you don’t write every day.

Me: But I didn’t write yesterday.

(Metaphorical) Devil on my shoulder: Then you must not be a Real Writer.

Me: Okay, then. I’m going to sit here and stare at this blank screen until I’ve writtten something.

*stare*

*stare*

Me: Maybe I’ll be inspired if I look at Pinterest for awhile.

Angel: DO NOT TOUCH THAT TRACKPAD, YOUNG LADY.

Me: *touches trackpad*

Devil: You know, if you were a real writer, you would have written 10 pages by now. Just look at all those Real Writers posting their word counts on The Twitter.

Angel: Do NOT even THINK about clicking over to— DAMMIT!

Me: Wow. Those are some Real Writers.

Devil: Yep. And you haven’t written anything in two days now.

Me: I must not be a Real Writer.

Devil: My work here is done. Let’s go to Sonic.

This isn’t just a writer thing.  I know I’m not the only one who thinks “Welp, I’ve blown my calorie count for the day, so I might as well have this ice cream sundae.”

(It occurs to me that I might be a little hungry as I’m writing this.)

ANYWAY…

I’m not any crazier than the next person (in this regard)–we all have an inner passive-agressive asshole. (It gets it’s script from all the outer passive-agressive assholes we’ve met in our lives). But we don’t have to listen.

(I just cut a lot of metaphor about volume dials and car radios on bumpy roads. You’re welcome.)

So, I’ve managed to post a blog before January is over. (*makes checkmark in turquoise for social media task*) And I even I managed to work it around to a takeaway point.

My work here is done. And Sonic is open for another 15 minutes.

 

 

 

 

Four Calling Birds

I’ll bet you thought Christmas was over. Psych! Today is the fourth of the twelve days of the liturgical season of Christmas, which means that as far as Christian Christmas is concerned, I am not actually late with my Christmas cards. Or presents. Whatever.

This is actually my favorite time of the season, because the blitzkrieg of Christmas Shopping commercials has ceased, I still have my little Christmas rosemary tree decorated, everyone is in a pretty good mood because the shopping pressure is over and they’re spending their holiday gift money and the mood is generally one of hope for good things in the new year. Plus, you don’t have to worry about offending anyone with “Happy New Year” because it applies to everyone. (Except for the Chinese, I suppose.)

And I don’t have to worry about Santa Claus breaking into my house  for another year. *shudder*

I guess this is why I’m able to create such a separation in my mind between American Secular “Christmas” and what I commemorate as a Christian. They don’t even really fall on the same days if you’re being pedantic technical about it.

But what I really want to say is that whatever you celebrate (even if it’s just the fact you won’t have to hear “Jingle Bells” for another nine months), I wish you joy of it. In the longest nights of midwinter, one thing we all share is faith that the dark will get lighter, and a new year brings the hope of peace on Earth to people of good will.

And lots and lots of poultry.

Calling Birds Stamp 1977

Stamp Issued in 1977