Category Reviews

Stuff I Do When I’m Not Here

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for helping to support my blog! On my nightstand/in my kindle:

I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son by Kent Russell – I loved this book. I read an excerpt, Mithridates of Fond du Lac, on a recommendation by my friend Felix, and was so hooked by Kent’s style that I immediately bought the book. Whether the subject is the gathering of the juggalos, Tom Savini’s school of makeup, or a man who is attempting to become immune to all snake venom, Kent captures them with interest, respect, and care, not mockery, in a fashion similar to another book I loved, Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream by Jason Fagone.

The Pirates! In an Adventure with the Romantics by Gideon Defoe – The Pirates! series holds a special place in my heart, and this new adventure with Charles Babbage, Mary Shelley, and Lord Byron is a perfect addition. I cried with suppressed laughter more than once, choking it back so as not to irritate everyone on the plane. Have an excerpt from an argument the Pirate Captain is having with a Swiss banker: The Pirate Captain tossed his beard about and waved his arms. ‘Oh, it’s all becoming clear to me! Shall I tell you what the problem is? It’s that you don’t know what it is to live and laugh and love and run a man through! You’ve never tasted the salty air on your tongue or waved heartily at a mermaid! It would be impolite to call you a shrivelled little bean counter who wouldn’t know drama if it kissed you on the mouth, but nonetheless – I’m afraid that’s exactly what you are. You people have no flair, no romance, no sense of adventure! Everything’s just numbers for you! Well, you can’t reduce passion and flair and eating ham to numbers, sir! Good day to you!’

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive) by Brandon Sanderson – Jason is a huge Brandon Sanderson fan, and he convinced me to try The Way of Kings. It starts off a little iffy, but it didn’t take long for me to get sucked in, and the book later revisits those earlier chapters from a different perspective and by then, you understand what’s going on and it’s much more gripping. By the last quarter of the book, I was saying “What? WHAT?! OH SHIT” about every five minutes and seconds after finishing it, I bought the second book, Words of Radiance, which I’m now plowing through at record speed.

On my TV/movie screen:

Grace & Frankie – I enjoyed the first season of this show but didn’t love it. The acting is phenomenal, but the writing is sitcomm-y and sort of obvious.

Mad Max: Fury Road – I actually was not excited about going to see this from the trailer. But I fucking loved it. LOVED. IT. I would like a war rig for traffic jams, please.

Mad Max –  How did something as great as Fury Road come from something so bad? I fell asleep. Twice.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron – I really wanted to love this movie, but it was just OK. I’d listen to James Spader read the phone book, enthralled, so Ultron is not the problem here. The whole thing just came off formulaic, low-stakes, and sadly, a bit boring. I read this post about the movie’s problems later and couldn’t agree more.

Poltergeist – It was a nice homage to the original, but like so many horror movies, suffers from the ubiquitous jump scares. There’s no horror, no existential dread in that style of movie, and that’s a huge shortcoming.

Maleficent – Hated it. I feel it could have had a variety of different subtitles. Maleficent: Portrait of a Stalker. Maleficent: Cottage Creeper. Maleficent: 90 Minutes of Filler.

Man with the Iron Fists 2 – I couldn’t make it twenty minutes into this movie, it was so godawful. I’ll admit to enjoying the first movie, but it didn’t exactly call for a sequel, especially not a straight-to-video sequel.

Game of Thrones Season 5 – I’m loving and I’m hating the show this season. It probably doesn’t help that they’re drawing from my least favorite book in the series, but the substantial deviations they’ve made from the book are occasionally frustrating and upsetting. I’m not going to really get into it here so as to avoid spoilers for those who are not yet caught up with the show.

House of Cards – I’ve watched a few episodes and so far I hate it. Unless the showrunners are winking at the audience and making a show about about a guy who thinks he’s a puppetmaster but isn’t nearly as smart as he thinks he is, I just don’t get it.

Jurassic World – I’m going to see this on Friday and I am so damn excited. Jurassic Park came out at an age when I was primed for dinosaur based adventure, and this one looks like an actually good sequel. I may have shed a tear the first time I saw the trailer.

In my kitchen:

I’m keeping up with my “try at least one new recipe a week” goal (smashing it, actually). It’s been a great way to try new ingredients, use parts of a plant that I might not otherwise (like carrot tops), make the most of what’s been growing in my garden, and increase my low-carb repertoire. Here’s some stuff I’ve been cooking recently: Bora Bora fireballs, velvety carrot soup with carrot top pesto, easy thai shrimp soup, and low carb meatballs. Tonight I’m making asparagus, leek, and green garlic soup!

On the project docket:

I bought a beautiful desk on Craiglist that I’m refinishing; once I’m done with that, I’ll move it upstairs and do some furniture rearranging, which I’m sure thrills Jason to no end. “Help me carry this desk to upstairs to this room and then we can move the desk that was already in there to another room and take the furniture that was in there downstairs.” It’s the endless shuffle of the never-quite-satisfied. I’m also working to finish up a couple of house project loose ends so I can start the new stuff that interests me more. I’ve also been making progress on Jason’s Halloween costume because if I’m going to make two detailed outfits to wear absolutely nowhere, damn it, I need as much time as I can get. Plus I’m out in the garden more often than not lately. Sometimes weeding, sometimes grazing, sometimes battling wasps. You know, the usual.

Bustin’ Makes Me Feel Good: Pinata Bash 2015

skarsgaard

I heard about the Pinata Bash about six months before the actual event date, which was plenty of time to make a killer pinata. Naturally, given six months to make it, I really only got started in earnest the week of the event, because time pressure makes me excel, or at the very least, gives me a primo excuse for not making something to the best of my abilities (“What did you expect, I put it together in ten minutes?“). I ultimately ended up making a dragon pinata primarily out of cardboard with a thin skin of paper mache, because I remembered all too well how quickly the last pinata I made was sliced in half.

The rules were as follows:

-Your pinata must contain a prize pocket

-The contents of the prize pocket can be anything so long as it’s not liquor, liquid, or potentially hazardous (but it was indicated that it would be ideal if you put in things that people would actually want)

-The pinata can’t be bigger than 5’x5′ or too heavy to lift with a rope and pulley

 

That was pretty much it! My dragon rolled in at just under five feet long, with jaws that snapped up and down when he moved, and was stuffed with seven pounds of atomic fireballs and chocolate coins. I was happy with my construction and my chances at snagging a prize until I got to Re-bar and realized that some people had worked way, way harder on theirs than I did and deserved the prizes way, way more than I did.

clash of the titansClash of the Titans

death starDeath Star

emoji twinsDancing Emoji Twins

ghostbuster pinataGhostbusters

kandi kidzKandi Kidz RaverBallz

romy michelle escape helicopterRomy and Michelle’s Escape Helicopter

smash the patriarchySmash the Patriarchy

sadzillaSadzilla

The first portion of the evening was the judging portion–the judges checked out all of the pinatas, made some initial notes, and then each builder was invited onstage to answer questions about their pinata. Seattle’s Mayor of Burlesque, Jo Jo Stiletto, wanted to know my dragon’s name, backstory, and magical powers, and I was suddenly thankful for all of the bullshit I make up on a regular basis, because while I walked into the club with a generic nameless dragon, I was able to come up with something on the spot. “He’s an…uh… Icelandic dragon who goes from house to house at night, breathing in his minty fresh breath through the windows. Whenever people wake up in the morning and say “Ooooh, it’s crisp!”, that’s him. His name is, uh, Skarsgård.”

After everyone talked about their creations, the judges conferred and selected the winners.

First place: Clash of the Titans. Obviously! This thing had light up eyes and the creators spent a full six months perfecting it.

Second place: Smash the Patriarchy. This one surprised me–sure, the name and concept were funny, but I would have pegged the death star or the ghostbusters ghost for this slot.

Third place: Ghostbusters. It even came with a proton pack smashing stick!

Last place: Sadzilla, where the only prize was a hug from the judges. They were openly cruel to this girl, not just about her pinata, but about her–one said she seemed retarded, and I was appalled. It doesn’t seem like this is how you should treat someone who spent time, effort, and money creating something so you could have an event to destroy it AND paid more to enter a pinata than they would have if they’d paid cover as a smasher. That was the big bummer of the evening to me.

The other bummer was how damn stingy builders were with their prizes, which is what I found out when we got to smashing. The entire point of smashing open a pinata is to get at the goodies inside, so yes, it is a total dick move to stuff your pinata full of glitter, opened fortune cookies, and old dirty socks. Or three starburst.

glitter floor

one sad smiley face

skarsgaard strung up

emoji twins swingSkarsgård went down in one hit (the pinata curse continues), and the crowd fell on him and pocketed his guts within seconds. Someone carried around the head like a trophy, eyeless, because someone else had ripped them out as their trophy. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’m even more convinced that I would not do well in a mob-type situation. Someone get these people some candy, stat! And take away their sticks!

Kualoa Ranch: Home of the World-Famous Stick

kualoa ranch Before our trip to Oahu, I spent some time researching different things we could see and do, which ultimately led to this conversation. “Honey! There’s a ranch that you can tour and see the famous log from Jurassic Park!” “So you’re telling me that we’re going to fly six hours to go see a stick?” “…yes.” There’s more to Kualoa Ranch than their stick. I opted to take their movie site bus tour, which runs about 90 minutes and was the least strenuous of their tour options, which was unfortunately a consideration because I somehow managed to get sick on vacation again. The worst was behind me so I wasn’t creating a plague bus ground zero situation, but I definitely wasn’t up to anything more difficult than sitting on my ass and listening to someone talk. Luckily, the tour bus driver was serving up exactly what I was looking for, telling us about the history of the ranch, local flora and fauna, movie and TV info, and the occasional joke. The movie stuff was actually the least interesting part of the tour, which I never would have anticipated. While we drove to the first stop of the tour, the bus driver told us about Hawaiian land divisions, or ahupua’a. Land divisions would be determined by a chief, and they would generally go in a wedge shape from the mountain all the way to the water, encompassing all the land in between. In this way, not only did each land division contain all of the things that were needed to survive (and thrive), but it was also ensured that the land was being worked to its greatest potential. Hawaiians didn’t believe in owning land, rather, they were its caretakers. Land divisions were not private ownership, but they did share similarities–each land division would stay in care of the same family, passed down from one generation to the next. Those who cared for the land paid taxes back to the overseer, whose job was to collect goods to support the chief. It’s my understanding that Kualoa Ranch comprises the land that was once a land division. In 1850, an American doctor bought the land from King Kamehameha III. Since then, the land has been home to a sugar plantation, been occupied by the US military during World War II, and is now a cattle ranch, farm, movie site location, and tourist destination. Our first stop on the tour was at one of those World War II bunkers, built and abandoned by the military and reappropriated by Kualoa Ranch to display movie posters and other memorabilia. The bus driver warned us about the wind before we exited the bus, and I still almost lost my hat–I think the only thing that saved it was it getting momentarily caught in the rat’s nest I call my hair which gave me enough time to reach up and grab it. Much like the Pali Lookout and the Vista House at Crown Point, you could conceivably be blown away if you caught the wind just right. pillbox kualoa gorgeous ocean view kualoa ranch It wasn’t the wind that took my breath away, though. Look at that gorgeous water! After we finished walking through the bunker and gawking at the view, we re-boarded the bus and drove into the valley.  On the way, we saw some of Kualoa’s pipi (cows, but pipi is a much cuter name), a wild boar, and a native duck that is now endangered which the bus driver says is a tragedy because it’s supposedly delicious, which may or may not help to explain its endangered status. herd of pipi wild pig One more curve in the road, and we were in the Kualoa valley, filming location for dozens of movies and home to one famous stick in particular. kualoa valley misty mountains fake easter island head jurassic park log There it is, in all its glory! Granted, it’s deteriorated somewhat in the intervening years since 1993, and you could basically throw down any log and tell me it’s the one from the movie and I’d believe you, but I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to pose with it anyway. Because have you really lived if you went to see a famous stick but didn’t then pose with the stick and maybe photoshop a few dinosaurs into it later? I would venture to say you haven’t. there's a dinosaur gallimimus t rex kualoa After reboarding the bus, we saw some of the tracks from Godzilla (don’t get excited, it was from the Matthew Broderick one)–they had to fill them in substantially because the pipi were falling in at night and getting trapped. We also saw Hurley’s golf course from Lost, and a bunch of stuff from movies that didn’t crack 20% on Rotten Tomatoes. godzilla track hurleys golf course kualoa ranch valley On our way back to the visitor center, we stopped at a spot with a beautiful view of Kamehameha’s Turtle and Mokoli’i, and then we were released and given the run of the ranch–to check out their petting zoo, pat horses, view their educational video, and (of course), press a penny or two. I made sure to do everything, and while their petting zoo was far from the world’s most exciting, I did greatly enjoy their tree goats. And I’ll always make time for horse snuffles. turtle and dragon tail sleepy kitty goatloaf tree goat tortoise The stick may have been what brought me to Kualoa, but if I’m on Oahu again, I’d totally go back. The zipline tour looks fun, and I have it on good authority that the ATV tour is so fun it might make you pee a little. So maybe I’ll pack an extra pair of underwear, too.

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Weekly Wrap-Up

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I am super pumped for this weekend–it’s the last weekend of the Moisture Festival! Game of Thrones returns! There’s an Easter II feast on Sunday! Plus I just made some homemade butter which practically begs for the buttermilk to be used in some lilac scones. I was hoping to get some time out in the backyard this weekend since I’ll be out of town for the next three and the blackberry bushes are already getting a little too bold in their advancement  (let’s just say it won’t be a surprise when they bust through my bedroom window and attempt to strangle me in my sleep), but it’s supposed to be cruddy out so this may be the excuse I was looking for to rent some goats to take care of business for me.

Speaking of upcoming trips, I’ve got a short jaunt to Portland in the works and a longer one to Hawaii, so I should have some good stories to share soon. There are already tentative plans in the works for insect eating and ghost teasing, both of which I’m sure will go swimmingly and not at all like last time.

This week, I rekindled my love for the gifsounds subreddit–here are my three recent favorites: 1 2 3

I’ve also been catching up on The Walking Dead this week, which means that my zombie burnout has come to an end, at least in this instance. No spoilers here, but it makes me laugh that Judith always looks like she’s confused and angry to be growing up in a world without Cheerios and animal crackers. I’ve also come to realize how profoundly irritating loudly chewed gum can be.

Also on my TV recently: Face Off Season 8. I called Emily Serpico as the winner in episode one, so it was exciting to see her make it to the finale this week. Everyone left is a talented artist, though, and at this point, I think they’re all deserving of the prize. It’s been especially gratifying to see a bunch of women kicking ass and taking names this season, since I’ve complained before about men dominating the positions of authority. No matter who wins, I’m so glad that Face Off has stopped the “not here to make friends” format. I haven’t watched most of the seasons because of the typical backstabbing present in the earliest seasons, and I didn’t think it served the artists to trash their reputation before they ever made it into the SFX industry–it’s so small, and it’s hard enough to get work (much less paying work) without someone thinking you’re difficult or obnoxious. The only aspect of this season I’d call a swing and a miss is the “coaches/team” aspect. Yes, the coaches are there for guidance, but it’s not quite clear what the coach gets out of participating, and whenever they’re on camera, it’s generally worrying about how one of their team members doing poorly might affect them personally. I’m just not feeling it.

In my kitchen this week: gyro lettuce wraps and animal style in and out in a bowl. I’ve been doing the low carb thing six days a week for a few months and it’s working out well for me–I’m fitting into my smaller pants and I don’t feel deprived, and those are both good things.

On my nightstand/in my Kindle:

Mothers Who Can’t Love: A Healing Guide for Daughters – This book is a tough read, but it’s been helpful for me to come to terms with an aspect of my past that has had a long-lasting impact on my life and personality. I’m sure that it’s something I’ll keep referring back to, and if you have a strained/difficult/nonexistent/toxic relationship with your mother, you may find it helpful as well.

Bad Trips – I’ve been looking for travel writers I like outside of Bill Bryson, and now that I’m 75% of the way through this book, I’m fairly confident that I won’t be finding what I’m looking for here. They’re all such twats! There’s a guy whose bad trip was actually a good trip for him, it’s just that a woman he met during his journey was raped twice in short order, and he wondered if she hadn’t been able to shake it off and have a good trip like him that it would have been some fault in her upbringing instead of, you know, the trauma of having been raped at knifepoint twice. There’s a made up story about a tour group going on ‘safari’ to Central Park to watch a woman getting sexually assaulted and blaming her for her own assault. There’s a piece by Umberto Eco complaining that a hotel isn’t decorated to his taste. There are a few pieces where people merely imagine what a bad trip would be like, namely concerning doing the sorts of activities that your average tourist engages in and you already know that I loathe that sort of elitism. I’m finishing it out of stubbornness.

The Queen of the Tearling – I picked this one up mainly because I saw that it was being made into a movie starring Emma Watson, and I wanted to be in on the hype loop for once instead of wondering why everyone is so pumped for a movie I’ve never heard of. I’m really torn on this one–I read through it in two days, and while I was reading it, I was 100% sucked in, but now that I’ve finished it, I have no desire to read the next book in the series. Even with its interesting setting (a return to medieval structure postdating our current technological society, in a place where magic is a thing), the characters and the storyline just felt too familiar. Plus, with the chapter intros being excerpts from books written about the main character at a future date, there’s not really any question as to whether she will prevail.

Mr Mercedes: A Novel – I love me some Stephen King, and it was refreshing to see him go for a detective novel rather than supernatural horror. This is another book that I cracked through in a day or two. It’s fast-paced, deeply engaging, and I only wish that King wasn’t so comfortable with the n-word. I’ll be glad to see those same characters come back in Finders Keepers.

Too Fat For Europe – This is a self-published work by a friend of a friend, and is generally enjoyable. It reads like a long-form blog entry, though, and it could use the strong hand of an editor in a number of ways. If it were up to me, I’d also axe the photos entirely or swap them for illustrations. Granted, I have one of the older, cheaper Kindles which may be a contributing cause, but the photos are so muddy and don’t add anything to the experience.

 

What are you up to? Any weekend plans? What’s on your plate–food, books, or otherwise?

Blood & Guts & Punch & Pie: St Splatrick’s Day

leprechaun lucky clovers

It blows my mind a little to think that I’ve been throwing parties on nearly every Friday the 13th for the last five years. For the most recent iteration, I invited people over to partake in corned beef, fauxtatoes, Irish cupcakes with three kinds of alcohol, and most importantly, the cult classic movie Leprechaun. Leprechaun, at its surface, is your typical “monster stalks and kills” movie, but it’s also so much more. It’s the story of a “monster” who was robbed of his property, wrongfully imprisoned for years, and his eventual release and his attempts to reacquire that which is his. It’s the story of a “monster” who can’t help but stop to clean a dirty shoe when he sees it, because he knows the importance of grooming and presentation. A “monster” who enjoys riding around in an array of tiny vehicles. I’m going to come right out and say it: the leprechaun is an antihero who got a bad edit.

lep-33

Out of everyone in the story, the leprechaun’s intentions and goals are by far the clearest and most relatable. Don’t believe me? Your other options are: 1. A guy who went to Ireland to bury his mother and decided to go gold-hunting instead, shipping his treasures back in her urn, presumably having dumped her ashes somewhere along the way to make room 2. The woman who sees her husband holding a handful of gold coins and telling the story of how he got them, and deciding he’s just some goofball drunken liar despite the physical proof right in front of her 3. A man and a woman who appear to be in a winter-spring marriage situation except the old guy is taking his young wife to a filthy abandoned house in the country instead of, I don’t know, literally anywhere else, and the young wife is insufferably obnoxious with roving eyes and then later you find out they’re father and daughter which is even more strange because what are they even doing? 4. A paint crew dude with a sweet mullet and no personality save for making eyes at the daughter 5. A paint crew guy who appears to spend as much time eating paint as he does actually painting 6. The paint crew’s precocious little scamp kid sidekick who works with them? Or something? And they don’t mind when he hits them with slingshot debris and openly flouts labor laws? I don’t even know.

Actually, now that I look at that list of horrible people, I think I’m going to upgrade the leprechaun to full hero status. These people robbed him, trapped him in a crate, cut off his hand, poked out his eye, shot him repeatedly including in the face,  and he still polished their shoes and gave them so many chances to make things right. Sure, he does some light murdering, and a bit of mangling, but on the whole it’s mostly justifiable. lep-92

Man, I hope Warwick Davis has a stunt double.

The Deep Discount Bin: A Field Guide to Demons

a basic demonSummoned by reciting Katy Perry lyrics into the mirror at midnight.

Every once in a while, I will troll the clearance section of Half Price Books and bring something home that’s dirt cheap and looks amusing. While there recently, I found yet another book that I couldn’t possibly leave in the store*: A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits by Carol K Mack and Dinah Mack. You know, another sort of useful, everyday item to have around the house.

Here’s the bad news for you at-home exorcists, demonologists, and aspiring Ghost Adventures cast members: in the guide to identifying basic demons, the book essentially says that anything and everything can be a demon.

Demons, using only their energy, can appear as smoke, as temptresses, animals, grains of sand, flickering lights, blades of grass, or neighbors**.

Now, I would buy that there’s the occasional neighbor out there who is actually a demon in disguise. Demonic possession makes a lot more sense than any other reason I can think of as to why  a former neighbor mowed his entire lawn with a weed whacker over the course of two days in thirty-second spurts. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Either that guy was a demon bent on driving me crazy or he was trying to wipe out his demonic grass infestation. Grains of sand, though? Ain’t no one got time for that. If I accidentally build a demon-inhabited sandcastle, I’m just going to call it Demon Manor and be done with it.  For an identification guide, it’s not very useful. Same deal with fairies:

There is no certainty about their essential form, but the consensus is they are transparent.

Man, whatever would you do without this truly helpful guide?

After the basic introductions to demons and fairies, the book is broken into sections of all of the places that demons can be found: water, mountains, forests, deserts, the home, and the mind. In each section is a smattering of creatures, their history, and how they can be defeated. Once you reach the section about demons of the psyche, however, things start to fall apart as the authors reach further and further for things to include. The Id. Jung’s Shadow. Mr. Hyde. Granted, you are just as likely to run into Mr. Hyde in your bedroom as a tengu or a djinn, but it seems misplaced to include a fictional portrayal of a real mental disorder as a demon you can fight, especially in light of the fact that the mentally ill have long been accused of demonic possession and treated brutally (or even killed) during exorcisms.

I bought this book for a couple of different reasons. I’m deeply into mythology, and I like having books on hand as reference materials for art and for pleasure reading. I wasn’t sure when I bought it if it was going to be a detached compendium of folklore, a painfully earnest guide to demon hunting, or some lighthearted farce. The problem with this book is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be, either. The authors refer to the guide as an essential resource leading one to believe they are in earnest, but then they undermine it with half-assed graspings at things that could only be tangentially related to the subject matter. It’s missing too much to be comprehensive (the authors explain this as making the guide “highly selective”) but at the same time they include things that have no relation to folklore, a “demon” that they blatantly made up, and three different entries on Satan. The result is that it’s hard to use the book as a mythological resource as it’s not clear what is in the actual storytelling history and what they’ve manufactured from whole cloth. Add in the “this is how you disarm and dispell demons” ridiculousness especially as pertains to real mental illness and deep psychological trauma, and the book becomes a hot mess. It would be much more interesting and useful if it was fully a “we believe this is real” field guide or fully a mythological resource, but the half-mocking tone doesn’t serve it either way.

I guess they can’t all be mega-discount winners. Maybe this time the clearance section of Half Price Books trolled me.

 

*Incidentally, this may lead to my hoarder style undoing, crushed by mountains of my own schadenfreude.

**It’s also possible that this blog post is a demon.

Leveling the WoW Playing Field

poopstain debuff

I love playing WoW, but there are seriously some parts of it that are so terrible. On my server, there are people who sit in trade all day and talk about rape, say fucked-up racist shit, rant about politics and the n-word president, and are generally just awful examples of humanity all around. I’ve got an ignore list as long as my arm. Unfortunately, the same guys just keep turning up so I guess blocks are not permanent or they keep rerolling with very similar names. And then you’ve got the guys who will follow your low level characters across an entire zone, killing them instantly every time they resurrect and struggle to get away until you log out in frustration…and sometimes they’re still there the next day. And the day after that, because they have dedicated their shitty little lives to griefing. These people deserve one another. Decent players don’t. Please, Blizzard, give us the Poopstain Debuff.

The Battle of Five Armies and my Scumbag Brain

The third Hobbit movie comes out a month from today and I am so very very excited! I’ve been stalking the iPic website in the hopes of snagging recliner seats on opening weekend (soon, precious, soooooon). A number of my friends take issue with the splitting of a book you could read in an afternoon into three films and believe Peter Jackson desperately needs a heavy-handed editor, but I disagree because I would probably pay to watch 100 movies of this quality set in that world. If they want to make some pre-prequels, I’m in. I’ll be first in line for Lord of the Rings 17: Isildur Come Home and Middle Earth 9: Honey I Shrunk the Dwarf. Unless Michael Bay takes over on his quest to kill everything I love.

There have definitely been some unintended hilarious moments, though. I edited in what I think EVERY TIME I see this scene from The Desolation of Smaug. Every time.

X-Men: Days of Future Half-Assed

x-men-days-of-future-half-assed

 

Jason: So now that we’re married, I feel like I should probably come clean. I have mutant powers.

Mellzah: What powers?

Jason: Basically all of them, only half-assed. Instead of adamantium claws, I’ve got plastic knives, and occasionally a spork.

Mellzah: And your magnetic powers?

Jason: I use larger magnets to control smaller magnets and the occasional small metallic object.

Mellzah:  And your teleporting powers, can you only use those in the game Portal?

Jason: Now you’re catching on! I can also read minds so long as it involves a thought bubble, hold a laser pointer near my eyes and zap things,  time-travel by turning clocks and calendars back, and I can throw playing cards at people.

Mellzah: That’s really more eighth-assed. Quarter-assed at best.

 

X-Men: Days of Future Past is a unicorn among media portraying time-traveling in that I didn’t hate it. It was set up in such a way that it didn’t result in a paradox or the tired “avoid your past self” business, it established limits to how far and who could time travel so it doesn’t raise questions of “Well, why don’t you go further and do ____”, and there was no “I’m my own grandpa” subplot. I also liked that Peter Dinklage played Bolivar Trask and there was no mention of his stature whatsoever, which is a step forward in terms of putting a greater diversity of people onscreen: everyone deserves to have someone who looks like them represented in popular media without treating them like a token. I like the undercurrent of Professor X learning respect for women. I think the only thing that annoyed me was how they had to show Mystique transform into her blue form practically every time she was onscreen. We get it! We remember it’s her! Frankly, if she was able to maintain her disguise while beating some ass, some of these problems would never have arisen in the first place, because people wouldn’t be like “WHOA, MUTANT”, they’d just think that some garden variety vanilla human came down with a case of whoop-ass. Oh, and that overblown thing Magneto does. That’s annoying, too. You’re already overpowered, dude. No need to bring an atomic bomb to a slapfight.

It’s just reinforcing the class system of…horses…sitting on their high horses….sorry, I gotta go!

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A couple of years ago, Jason and I attended Cavalia, an equestrian and acrobatic show that’s essentially Cirque du Soleil minus the clowns and with horses, and I loved every minute of it. When I saw a billboard for their new show, Odysseo, I mentioned to Jason that I’d like to attend. The next day, he sent me a message: “Do we have plans for SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2014, 8 P.M?”  There was no way he hadn’t directly copy/pasted that from a ticket purchasing site, and I couldn’t play it cool for even a second. “No…are we going to the horse show?!” “No, I, uh, signed us up for a, uh…cross-stitching class.”

SURE.

I needled him about cross-stitching class constantly in the weeks that followed, asking about where it was, what we were learning, their flowing manes, but he stuck to his story, finally exhaustedly presenting me with the tickets on Valentine’s Day. Because nothing says “I love you” like the end of weeks of pestering. Little did he know that while it was the end of waking him up with a flashlight in the middle of the night to interrogate him about our supposed cross-stitching class, it was also the beginning of shaking him awake in the middle of the night to let him know exactly how many hours until horse show time. What I’m saying is, when his coworkers would see how wretchedly tired he looked, waggle their eyebrows, and say something coy about newlyweds, they really had no idea.

When the day finally came, we followed standard protocol and removed all cash and means of credit from my person, and not a moment too soon, as Cavalia has stepped up their merchandising considerably and moved it front and center, so within seconds of entering I was squeezing supersoft plush horses to test their fitness as a friend to Napoleon (verdict: ringing in at $100, they are much too fine for the ten minutes of ass-ripping they would endure in my household). They’ve also got DVDs of this show and the previous one, soundtracks, calendars, shirts, scarves, etc–the usual. What I didn’t see, and what no force on Earth could have stopped me from purchasing, were the SkyRunners, because I’ve got a number of bones in my body which have never been broken, and I’m certain they could help me remedy that particular problem.

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Our seats were pretty excellent; as we were off to the side a bit and angled to see the arena, there actually were no seats in front of us so I didn’t have to worry about the Jolly Green Giant sitting in front of me and blocking my view, which is what normally happens to me at every event. When I saw RoboGeisha in the theater, I couldn’t see the subtitles at all, so I essentially invented my own reasons for why someone might gouge out another person’s eyes with shrimp tempura. When I saw That1Guy recently, the tallest man I’ve ever seen in my life came in three quarters of the way through the show and pushed his way through the crowd until he was standing directly in front of me, and this was so inevitable that I only wondered what took him so long; maybe he lost track of time while shooting himself up with human growth hormone.

The show itself was amazing and beautiful, showcasing strength, athleticism, beauty, grace, and precision. The horses themselves are extremely well-trained, but they’re not forced to do anything they don’t want to do, and that gives the overall production a sense of spontaneity and wonder that it may not have if everything were clockwork. With their enormous screens, sets, and costumes, you’re transported from an enchanted forest to the African savannah, from Easter Island to space itself; woven throughout are the strands of companionship between human and horse, the appreciation of beauty in motion, and the joy of being alive. They incorporated all of the traditional dressage of a Lipizzaner show, but made it entertaining instead of godawful like an actual Lipizzaner show.

There’s a short intermission between acts, during which Jason asked me which part was my favorite thus far. “Every part. Every part is my favorite.” During said intermission, they send someone out in a mini steamroller to pack down the dirt in the arena; you can totally see him out there steamrolling behind the curtain in careful circles, making sure each part was packed down perfectly. The only suggestion I have to the producers is that they could turn the intermission into a little steamroller ballet–put a few of them out there, set them to music, and have them perform some of the same movements as the horses.

While both Cavalia and Odysseo were excellent shows, of the two, I prefer Odysseo, as it integrated the horsemanship and acrobatics more; at some points during the show, it felt like there was so much to see that I couldn’t possibly take it all in. They’ve got four more shows in Seattle before they leave: don’t miss it!