Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Costumes

Migraine today, so just a quickie. Craftzine blog has a post of the editors' favorite homemade costumes. Good stuff. I wanted a Princess Leia costume as a kid, but I'm not sure I ever told anyone, which would explain why I never had one.

When I was a kid, I would always ask for one of those hideous store bought costumes that were just a mask and a plastic apron. My mom would always refuse. At the time I thought that was evidence that my mom was a big meanie. In reality, it's evidence that kids have no taste. (Insert cheap shots at Hannah Montana and High School Musical here.)

Need a quick costume? Throw a blue towel over your shoulder and make a sign that says "Welcome, Great Pumpkin". Stripy shirt optional.

Need an even quicker costume? Just make a protest sign and go as a protester. If you want to be nonconfrontational about it, go with "Naps for Grownups!" or "Up with Coffee!"

If I had any plans for tomorrow that would allow for costumes, I would probably have come up with a Middleman-themed costume. Maybe a fish zombie. Or Lacey, the confrontational spoken word artist. Or Sensei Ping, the martial arts master who wears a Lucha Libre mask.

Yes, I realize that you have no idea what I'm talking about. If you'd been watching The Middleman, it might not have been cancelled. Get your hands on the DVD (the series finale is available in comic book form and on You Tube as a script reading done at ComicCon).

The premise of the show is that comic book villains are real and what's not to like about that?

What's your favorite costume idea? Be obscure, be impractical, be entertaining because on a migraine day, I could really use the pick-me-up.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Attack of the eBooks

I've had a Kindle since June. It was a birthday gift from my Mom who saw a co-worker with one and thought that such a gadget might be a good idea for me. (When she called to see if I wanted one, I bounced up and down in my chair and said, "yes please!")

I'd been eyeing it for a while. I have a bad neck that can get ouchie if I carry anything too heavy. I once lugged a really big cantaloupe home from the Union Square farmer's market (via subway and 10 minute walk) and had to make 4 visits to the chiropractor the following week. Most. expensive. cantaloupe. ever.

I read on the subway, so being able to carry around a Kindle instead of a big honking hardcover qualifies the Kindle as medical equipment in my book. I needs it.

I know, I know, settle down. The nanosecond I say the word, "Kindle," your brain began preparing to start rhapsodizing about the feel of a book in your hands and how you could never give that up. I usually just hand it to people and there are dumbstrunk by how light it is. Then I take it out of the cover and show them how light it really is (lighter than most magazines).

Some people continue to resist and start talking about the smell of books. These are people who do not have allergies and can read a musty old book without their sinuses revolting. At this point, I usually just mention that you can adjust the font size and that shuts 'em up.

And if it doesn't, an interpretive dance showing the relative merits of books and Kindles for reading in bed does.

We have very romantic ideas about books. Charles Dickens scribbling at his writing desk (often while chatting with friends), that sort of thing.

But if you're reading a book that was written in the past, say, 20 years, do you now how it was probably written? On a computer. That's just how writers work now. A room of one's own isn't even required anymore. We just need a laptop and conveniently located coffee shop. (And let's not forget that many books written in the 20th century before the personal computer revolution were written on a typewriter.)

I write my novel by hand (on a slanted desk, with a fountain pen, in purple ink on lavender paper), because I got into the habit in my late teens/early 20s and it just works for me. I started writing on a typewriter in high school, but found that hand writing was more compatible with how my brain works. (Non-fiction, including this here blog post? Done directly into the computer. Dunno what's different. Just is.)

But I am the only writer I know who writes by hand. Everyone else I know works on a computer. And from what I hear, acquisition editors at publishing houses (the ones who read all the manuscripts submitted by agents to decide what to buy) have eBook readers so that they don't have to lug around piles of paper.

If a book is being written electronically, why can't you read it that way too?

I'm currently reading Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens. (Kindle versions of a lot of the classics are available for free or cheap.) I've never read it before. I have no cover image to gaze at while taking a break from reading. I have the distraction of having to hold this expensive electronic device tightly for fear of dropping it, or having it snatched from my hands seconds before the thief slips through the closing subway doors (though I'm not sure how someone else could load their own books onto it since the only way to get books into the Kindle is through Amazon).

And yet? This book brought me to tears at one point. I can't remember the last time I wept over a physical book. The version I have has an introduction by Dickens that explains that the Cheeryble brothers are based on real people who he never met. They are extremely philanthropic, thanking profusely anyone who brings to their attention anyone in need. When we first see them together, they start reminiscing about how they first arrived in London, barefoot and penniless (they're now quite wealthy). They hold hands for a moment at the memory, addressing each other as "Brother Charles" and "Brother Ned" and it fucking killed me. Tear in the eye, right there on the subway.

If Dicken's sentimentality still comes across in an eBook, then I don't think anything is missing.

I'm not saying that you should buy an eBook reader at all, let alone the one I have. But I am saying that you should stop talking like my Kindle is a sign of the bookpocalypse.

You can keep your musty book smell. I keep my shiny new Kindle.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Scavenger Hunt!

Wow, I just got tired out from typing that title. I am wiped out and I didn't do all that much yesterday.

OK, let me back up. I'm a member of DWNY, which stand for Doctor Who New York. My husband is one of the founding members, because he's just that cool. Doctor Who is a British science fiction show. If you've never seen it and want to check it out, all you need to know is that he's a alien time traveler.

DWNY has events at least twice a month. Usually, there's a pub meet, where we meet in a pub and talk about Doctor Who, and a video meet, where we go to someone's apartment and watch a few episodes and eat a lot of junk food. It's a great way to get to know people and both HA and I have friends that we see separate from the group.

A few months ago, we had a pub meet where there were 50 of us (so many that I was a little afraid to see so many of us at once). Someone pointed out that we have so many new people who don't know anyone. People join the group, meet a few people and then hang out with at every meet after that. Even with 50 of us there, there were a few newbies wandering around looking for someone to talk to.

The suggestion, "we should have party games so everyone can get to know each other," quickly morphed into plans for a Doctor Who Scavenger Hunt. I volunteered to run with the idea and had most of the plans scribbled out before I went home.

To my amazement and great relief, 17 people showed up to play, including a family of 5.

I wanted to keep it cheap, so the teams had to take pictures of themselves at different Doctor Who-related locations around Manhattan, or with Doctor Who-related items. And they were allowed to come up with their own places and things. There was an episode that featured the Empire State Building, so they had to take a picture with the ESB in the background. One character is known for wearing a certain style of military coat, so some teams went to Army/Navy stores and one team even found the exact coat. (Partial credit was given for a similar coat and a photo taken in front of a Closed-on-Sundays Army/Navy store.)

One team even found a red Lambourgini just like the one featured in the Season 2 premiere of Torchwood (one of the spin offs). I gave them quite a few points for sheer randomness.

The same team took a picture of a building featured in the Spiderman movies because the costume designer for Spiderman was the costume designer for Doctor Who in the 70s. We disallowed that because, just, no.

The prizes were bags of Doctor Who toys, books, magazines and videos, donated by several members. We had so many that the top 2 teams got prizes, and the other 3 teams got posters.

After sending everyone off, the 3 judges hung out for a bit, went to the apartment where everyone would be winding up for the monthly video meet and hung out some more.

But when the contestants started turning up, HA and I leapt into action. He loaded photos onto a laptop for judging. You can see some of them on the event's Facebook page. More will be added during the week. After about an hour of judging, deciding how many points to award for a picture of The Brooklyn Bridge (as featured in a Doctor Who audio drama), and speedily figuring out everyone's scores, I was worn out, but really enjoyed being the only one who knew the results until the episode we were watching was over. I was also very tired and in need of salty snacks.

So I'm tuckered out, but a good time was had by all. I'll write up instructions on how to organize one of these events yourself (using the pop culture reference of your choice) if there's any interest.

And now I need a nap.

Friday, October 23, 2009

My Ears! My Ears!

I don't think I'd ever be able to name a specific song my favorite, since my favorite changes all the time.

But I do know my least favorite song of all time. And it is Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond. What did this song ever do to make me hate it so?

Well, you see, I'm from Brooklyn. And not the cool, hipster part of Brooklyn. The lame part where party DJs insist on/are forced to play what I call drill team songs almost exclusively. Drill team songs are the ones, like the Macarena, where no one is allowed to just dance to the music, but instead must perform the same exact motions as everyone else. It's lame and I just can't do it. I've done the Electric Slide exactly once in my life and that was because I was having a lame evening and figured what the hell. I've done the Chicken Dance twice--once because a friend (the sister of commenter Karl) pulled me up (at Karl's wedding) and the other to teach my niece how to dance along with her Chicken Dance Elmo doll.

Now, although Sweet Caroline was not written to be a drill team song, someone decreed that when this song is played anywhere near where I grew up, everyone on the dance floor must stand in a circle, holding hands and swaying, pumping their fists to the bum-bum-bah parts and and shouting "So good! So good! So good!" whenever Neil Diamond sings the word, "good."

I twitch when I hear that song. I have to leave the room when I hear that song. It's a terrible, painful thing for me.

You can imagine my horror when I recognized the opening notes on this week's Glee! But I love that show (and it you don't like it (as HA does not), then you're a soulless husk (like HA is)), so I stayed put. And although they performed my most hated song ever, do you know what they didn't do?

That's right. They did not sway, pump their fists or chant "so good!"

And it was good.

What song gives you the horrors?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Do Over!

I've just started reading Do-Over! by Robin Hemley in which he repeats certain experiences from his childhood. Some he messed up himself, like flubbing his one line in a school play and some were the fault of others, such as his entire Kindergarten experience (it was his teacher's last year of teaching before ending up in the looney bin, so you can imagine how she managed to traumatize the kids.)

While he was doing all this things, people would tell him that they wished they could have do-overs on some things from their own lives. So I got to thinking about what I'd re-do.

  1. My semester in Paris. I was homesick the entire time and didn't enjoy it as much as I could have. On my second trip to Paris, a Frenchman who'd gone to school in Rochester, NY told me that the first 4 months of living in a new country are the hardest. I lived in France for 4 months, so apparently, I would've felt better about the entire thing if I'd gone back after Christmas as originally planned. (I was supposed to spend the holidays with a friend in Poland, but then she telegrammed to say she had appendicitis, so I cancelled my trip and went home for the holidays. And then the Gulf War broke out. Since there had been bombings in Paris during Desert Shield, it was assumed that Desert Storm would bring more of the same and I wasn't the only one who decided not to come back.) So living in Paris again is on my To Do Someday list.
  2. Home schooling. The more I read blogs by secular home schoolers, the more I feel that I would've been happier being home schooled. At Montessouri, where everyone works at their own pace, I did Kindergarten and the first half of first grade during K and then they skipped me to second grade, where I finished first grade, did all of second and took French with the third graders. Once I switched to a school where everyone learned as a group, I was bored out of my mind (and only religious fanatics were home schooling back then, or so it seemed). Plus, I'd forget things as soon as the test was over. That's not really learning, it's test prep. So I'd love to spend a week free range learning, just reading about whatever I was interested in at the moment.
  3. Girl Scouts. I was a Girl Scout for 2 years and my sharpest memory is of the leader at the end of the year sitting us each down separately to ask what we'd done towards earning badges that year. Even though no one had told us that we should be working on that by ourselves and keeping track. My friends coached me for this inquisition (Donna had taught me to put on eyeliner at her house, so that counted for the makeup badge, etc.) Some of our meetings revolved around a badge-earning activity, but not all. How fun would it be to go through the girl scout manual (and then the boy scout manual because I bet there's still some stuff that they teach the boys that they don't teach the girls) and do what it takes to earn every badge there is, or at least every one I want to. Those badges are about life skills and not construction paper, which is what I remember most.
  4. Prom. Our school wouldn't let us go to prom without a date. Their reason? If we went alone, we'd steal each other's dates. (So much for all that character building that allegedly happens in Catholic school.) I gather that the class that graduated before we started pulled stuff like that. We also weren't allowed to wear graduation caps because some of them had thrown their caps at the assistant principal. I wish I'd raised a stink about how ridiculous they were being, so I could've just gone without all the pressure of getting a date. I also wish that I'd been cool enough to not go to prom at all and organize and anti-prom party, but my mom really wanted me to go and she made me an awesome dress, so there is that.
So what would you do-over?

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Crush I Should've Had in the 80s

Once upon a time before the internets and cable TV, tweens (who weren't even called that yet) and teens idolized pop stars based on:
  1. who their classmates were crushing on,
  2. whoever Tiger Beat featured that month,
  3. whoever was in The Outsiders (stay gold, Ponyboy!)
and that was really about it. (Note that there was major overlap between categories 1, 2 and 3. The Outsiders were frequently pictured in Tiger Beat and we hung those photos in the classroom.) Discovering a movie that my friends didn't already know about? Wasn't likely. I was one of the more clueless and oblivious people on the face of the earth back then, or maybe it was just in my class, but you can understand what kind of obstacle that could be.

Now, when my husband first showed me The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai (which I never saw because they never promoted it to mainstream audiences and in 1984, I was 13 and living in the boondocks of Brooklyn, so it was just never going to show up on my radar), I was too busy trying to keep track of the plot to pay much attention to all the pretty men in this movie (they're super genius scientists who are also in a band, so ya know, mrow). After watching the movie twice and reading the novelization once, I now know what the hell this movie is about.

Once I had achieved comprehension, I was able to notice Peter Weller. And his eyes. And those cheekbones.

Here, look at a picture while I swoon.

(photo swiped from Google images)

See what I mean? This man belonged on my wall right next to Duran Duran, Adam Ant, Ralph Macchio and Scott Baio. (I'm not proud, just honest.)

This week, while watching Robocop for the first time (I ignored it when it came out because it was so totally a boy movie), I realized that I've developed a retroactive crush on Peter Weller. I'm not sitting around having fantasies about his younger self, or his current, still hot self. I'm not saying that I won't make him my imaginary boyfriend every now and then, but I'm just not the sort of adult female who worships some gorgeous celebrity and hangs pictures of him in their cubicle and will proselytize about the guy to anyone who asks. But I've retroactively filed him in my brain next to my other favorite 80s hotties, because he would've been there already if I'd had a clue back then.

So who's making you say homina, homina these days?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mrs. G. Torches Her Diet Books

As some of you know, I believe in Fat Acceptance and Health at Every Size, aka the belief that the size of my ass is none of your Goddamned business and my cholesterol and blood pressure are just fine, so feel free to bite me if you're thinking of suggesting a diet and that includes doctors who'd rather discuss my weight than my non-weight related medical problems.

I am a much happier person now and not just because I can eat without doing algebra first.

Mrs. G. of Derfwad Manor and The Women's Colony has just come over to the light(ly toasted and generously buttered) side herself and has written a post that sums it all up better than I could myself.

And then she starts a fire, because re-selling or donating that shit just means that there's someone else reading it.

What stuff do you own that you'd consider barbecuing? I think I'd have to go with clothes that were too small when I bought them, or became too small at some point. Because then it becomes an issue of becoming thinner and therefore worthy of the pants, even though they make bigger pants. Most or all of that stuff has been sold or donated.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Halloween Fun

Via Out of Character (she of the sock zombies), the latest issue of The Plug is up. There's a Treasure Haunt puzzle that was much fun. I gleefully whipped out paper and pencil to play and finished more quickly than I expected. Its challenging, but not in a Mensa acceptance test oh Fuck it I'd never go to any Mensa events anyway so I'll just give up and stop taking the test kind of way.

Go play and then tell me how many tries it took you to get through challenge #3. It took me 3 tries.

Friday, October 9, 2009

I Suffered a Knee Injury While Making Grape Tarts

If you haven't met me and seen the clumsiness in person, this may surprise you. But par for the course, really. I once threw my neck out carrying home a very large cantaloupe. I had a bad neck previous to this, but the cantaloupe required 4 visits to the chiropractor that week. Most expensive melon ever.

So Fall is here and I got a hankering for Cooking Light's Rustic Grape Tart. The recipe calls for 5 cups of grapes, so I bought lots to make sure I had enough. It turned out that I had enough for 2 tarts and so I went for it, because, you know, twice the food for slightly more effort.

So I prepared the crust and put it in the fridge to chill. I prepared the grape filling. I took out the first batch of dough and rolled it out and balanced the rolling pin on top of a mixing bowl while I finished assembling tart numero one. Like this:

No, I couldn't have just rested it on the counter. Do you have any idea how dirty my counters are? I'm a lousy housekeeper. It's the little things like not resting a rolling pin I want to use again on a dirty counter that keep me from being a disgusting housekeeper.

Second tart. I take the second dough out of the fridge, roll it out and balance the rolling pin on the bowl again even though I'm done with it.

And then this happened.

It smacked me in the right knee. It hurt. A lot. I doubled over in pain and made lots of ow noises. And then, miraculously, it stopped hurting and I finished making the tarts. And then laid on the couch icing my knee.

This was last Sunday and I seem to be suffering no worse effects than a bruise that I keep bumping into things, as is my wont. This is actually a major step ahead for me. Ordinarily, I'd be limping to the orthopedist to find out what the hell I did this time.

What's the stupidest injury you've ever received?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Parents Went to Burning Man

What you see here is a picture of my parents at Burning Man.

Allow me to repeat that for you. My parents went to Burning Man.

My parents. They're both over traditional retirement age. She teaches science at a Catholic grammar school and he's a retired phone guy.

And they went to Burning Man.

On purpose.

It's OK. It's funny now. They're home and undamaged.

They knew what they were getting into. My brother and his fiancee have been burners for years. In fact, that's how they met.

That's them. Before you make any snap judgements, I'll just quote my brother, "We're not hippies, we're artists, man."

Glad to have that cleared up.

(In all fairness, that's what they look like after spending several weeks on the playa. Even an insurance actuary would be that shaggy and dusty under the circumstances. And I may have just added the "man" there because my memory added it because it's funnier that way.)

So the reason that my parents went to Burning Man is that the two adorable artists up there got the contract to build the Temple. (Details and amazing photos on their site. Go and look, but don't forget to come back. Those are some memerizingly beautiful pictures.) This is a huge deal and my parents wanted to be supportive and be there for the burn.* (They were there for only a few days and not the whole week. There are limits to their crazy, apparently.) Also? My Dad really wanted to go. My brother got an air conditioned trailer for them because he knew better than to break the parents.

(* Yes, they spent months building this thing just to burn it. It's their thing. Just go with it. Or you can find videos of past burns on You Tube and get an feel for the whole thing. They're not just subverting the concept of ownership and art, it also looks really cool.)

OK, so first thing that happens when my parents arrive at the gates of Burning Man? A lady offers my mom a spanking. My mom. Who teaches Catholic school. A spanking.

I'm told this is the traditional greeting. Welcome to Burning Man. Would you like to get out of your car and roll around in the dust? How about a spanking?

So my mom gives the woman one of her Don't Fuck With Me. I Teach Junior High looks. And the woman directs them to the correct campsite.

OK, so the Temple. It's a very spiritual thing. People write on it, leave meaningful objects in it to be burned, and so on. I'm told that the ashes of several pets and one human being (a burner herself) were placed in the Temple. So the Temple is like Burning Man church. And my parents spent most of their time around the Temple talking to people who were in the middle of most spiritual part of their week, if not their year, discussing what sacred is and how after the Temple has been burned, the ground won't be sacred because everything that was sacred about the space will have been burned and blown away by the wind.

Prolonged exposure to that particular corner of Black Rock City seems to have effected a spiritual conversion. They saw more devotion there than they're ever seen in a church (to paraphrase and greatly abridge what they've both said). So now they've been converted to the Church of Burning Man. Ask them about their trip and they'll get so blissed out that it's a little scary. And now I'm concerned that they're going to start incorporating burns into family gatherings (a large flammable sculpture of Santa for Christmas/Hannukah, etc.).

To quote my brother again, "They'll burn the house down."

I'm not sure they'd mind. It'd look awesome and it would save them from having to go through all the junk in the basement. It would also be very embarrassing, since my dad is a former volunteer fire fighter.

My brother thinks that in that case, they'll move in with me, since I live closer. But I think they'd just pack up and move to Austin to be near him and their Burning Man friends because they've been bitten by the bug.

I don't know what to expect, anymore. Will they start braiding their hair in interesting ways? Make glow sticks part of their daily wardrobe? Will my dad start trying to throw fire even though he knows damn well that an old shoulder injury makes that an incredibly bad idea? Will they start playing hacky sack in the back yard?

I have no problem with any of these things, but how am I supposed to explain it to the neighbors?

Kiddies, don't let your mommas grow up to be hippies.

Monday, October 5, 2009

I Came Through Almost Unscathed

Via Manolo for the Big Girl, Rotten Tomatoes has released a list of the worst 100 movies of the past decade.

As I breezed through the list casually, I started to feel smug. I dodged all those bullets. I hadn't seen a single one. I'd seen the original Yours, Mine and Ours, but it was the 2005 remake that was on the list. The original was good (even though Lucille Ball's character was pregnant and Lucy herself was post-menopausal).

And then I got to #29 on the list. Bless the Child. It was my then boyfriend's idea. I was so happy to get an evening out that I didn't object to the selection. To this day, I couldn't tell you if I thought it was a good or a bad movie. Because every single scary scene hit one of my phobias.

Driving across bridges freaks me out. (Because every time we drove across the Verrazano Bridge on the way to New Jersey, my brother would ask my mom, "if you drove off this bridge, how would you die? Would you drown? Have a heart attack before you hit the water? His scientific curiosity was my lifetime of phobia.) The bad guys in this movie try to get rid of Michelle Pfeifer by drugging her, and she wakes up in a car, driving the wrong way on the Verrazano Bridge, with an open bottle of scotch on the seat next to her. In her attempts to not crash, she hits the side of the bridge and the car starts to teeter. An angel saves her and I am blinded with terror.

Somebody also fell off a building, or was pushed, or something. My fear of heights has me freaking out on roofs where the walls are so high that I'd never fall accidentally. But I'm a big scaredy baby and this movie totally made it worser.

And, apparently, it wasn't even a good movie.

How many on the list have you seen?

Friday, October 2, 2009