Point/Counter Point

December 18th, 2012

So this happened yesterday.

And at first I was all….

But in all seriousness, I’m not surprised.  I think that Shaun has been preparing us (and himself) for this for a while now by wearing his hair back and up a LOT lately.  So we’re all sort of visually used to it.  Also, he seems like he’s been trying to age up his look a bit, dressing less like Robert Plant and more like Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  Can’t hate on that*. (Hi, Joe!)

joseph_gordon_levitt-looper-4

tweed-fox

So there’s NO, I repeat NO cause for alarm.  We’ll just need to sit back and wait to discover whether this move will, like our old friend James Hetfield, deprive the Flying Fox of all of his talent and charisma.  My money’s on “No.”

*[Edit: No disrespect towards Mr. Plant intended.  What I mean to say is that Shaun can't go wrong taking either of those two fine gentlemen as his fashion icon.]

Fall/Winter Movie Season in Review

December 11th, 2012

I could just stop with this gif, really.  Picture says 1,000 words and all that.

Seems I’ve entered a phase in my life where I’m going to write more about movies I haven’t seen, or don’t want to see, than those that I have seen.  I’ve pretty much lost interest in every movie coming off of the Hollywood conveyor belt these days.  This should be the time of year when I’m all giddy with excitement for the fall movies and the “Oscar pictures” of the winter.  I mean, even as recently as last year I had Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy to look forward to.  This year? Fuck all.

It’s certainly not a sudden change.  It’s been a long slide that I’ve finally bottomed out on.  So what’s the root cause?  I wish I knew.  Clinical depression?  Years upon years of disappointing movies resulting in bitter-flavored apathy?  A little of both?  I think so, with a good deal more of the latter.  I think I blame Peter Jackson.  And of course, George Lucas.  Those are the biggies, but of course there are others.  One can’t keep on investing the sort of energy that I used to into movies, in the face of so many bad films, without it taking a heavy psychic toll.  The good movies, the ones that recharge a bit of one’s hope, are increasingly fewer and further between.  Which leads to going out to the movies less, which in turn reduces the chance of ever accidentally finding a good movie to restore hope, ünd so veiter.  A self-fulfilling nihilistic film cycle is created.

I wish I could stop it; I miss liking movies.

To wit, here are some movies that I should have seen this fall, but the truth is that I just couldn’t muster the fucks:

Skyfall.  Granted, I do hate, hate, hate Bond movies with a very zealous hate.  Never sat through an entire one in my life.  But I was gonna make an exception for Skyfall.  The trailer almost made it look like a real, grown-up movie.  And Sam Mendes directed!  I love his work; he makes real, grown-up movies.  But.  Two-and-a-half hour run time?!  Twenty-minute opening chase scene?!  Fuck that, I hate James Bond movies.  Can’t somebody get Judi Dench a proper job, for gawd’s sake??  And let’s get this on the record for all time: Daniel Craig is fug.  Pass.

Lincoln.  Oh, Steven Spielberg, you’re gonna drive me to drinkin’.  I had every good, noble intention of seeing this (probably) good, noble film.  I wanted to see what DDL would do with the role.  And JGL has a part, and even TLJ.  Hell, ALL the best three-named actors are in it!!  But even these combined forces couldn’t overcome two immovable objects:
1. My complete and total disinterest in all things Civil War/19th century.  Seriously, if there are top hats involved in anything, count me the fuck out.
2. My disregard for Spielberg.  I’m so over Spielberg.  The old, “It’s so Spielbergian!” joke from Animaniacs isn’t even funny anymore because it’s TOO true.  I can’t take the manipulation and the schmaltz anymore.  Some reviews of Lincoln said that it was the most restrained film, schmaltz-wise, that Spielberg has made in years.  Maybe that’s the case, but I tried to sit through War Horse recently and I’m still carrying around a lot of residual anti-Spielberg sentiment from that experience.  Pass.

Seven Psychopaths.  This is the kind of movie…cynical, self-referential, black-humoured, crime caper starring a bunch of “cool” character actors who engage in a lot of meta-filmic snappy dialog…that I would have loved in the 90′s.  Call them, “The Spawn of Tarantino.”  The problem is, it’s not the 90′s anymore.  Stop making these bloody movies. There have been way too many of these movies made!  I’m sick of these movies! Damn, move on to a new decade.  Pass.

Killing Them Softly.  See entry for Seven Psychopaths.

The Hobbit.  This makes me so sad.  Not that I won’t be seeing The Hobbit (there’s still a slim chance that I might at a $5 matinee, but I have no real plans to), but that ever got made in the state that it did.  I was interested in this project when it first was floated about back in…when was it? 2005 or so? Back when Guillermo Del Toro was going to direct.  But as soon as he dropped out and Peter Jackson was brought back, I knew it was going to be a clusterfuck.  And lo and behold, it is.  Three 3-hour movies to tell a 300-page story and some of Tolkien’s “bonus material” from the LOTR appendices.  The crassness of that commercialism is staggering. And as for the content?  I’ll try to keep this brief.  Peter Jackson managed to totally piss away my good will during the second and third LOTR movies with his ham-fisted need to make everything “extreme” (Shades of George Lucas’ and his famous phrase, “Faster. More intense.”), and his pathetic love of toddler-level humour.  I cannot and will not trust that he didn’t render the delightful story of The Hobbit into a three-hour dwarven fart joke, big fight scene, CGI crap-fest marathon.  It most definitely looks like that from the trailers.  I may see the second one for Smaug, but for now: Pass.

 

Movies I did see:

Argo.  This one was good.  Surprisingly good.  But not so good that I could be arsed to write a proper review of it.

Looper.  The stand-out.  Looked forward to it, saw it, was not disappointed, wrote a review, and still remember doing all of the above.  Thanks JGL!

 

Movies I still (for now) want to see this winter:

Zero Dark Thirty.  The power of Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) compels you!!

Les Miserables.  This one’s a grey area.  I don’t really want to see it.  In many ways I dread seeing it.  Yet I absolutely will see it, and I have a feeling I’ll enjoy it more than I would The Hobbit.  It may even get its own post.

 

Fake and Bake

December 4th, 2012

Everybody loves Starbucks’ Cranberry Bliss Bars, right? Those artery-exploding triangles available Thanksgiving through New Years are an unholy union of near-pornographic levels of perfect texture, fat content, and flavors.  And they cost $2.25 a pop!

Last year I tried making a “copycat” recipe but I just wasn’t satisfied with the results.  Factor in the difficulty level, and I would have been better off buying the real thing.

*movie trailer voice*
BUT NOW…
*/movie trailer voice*

I had a box of French Vanilla cake mix in my cupboard.  I can’t imagine why, or when I bought it, because I hate, hate, hate cake.  (Hate it.)  Needing to get rid of it, I hunted around for some cake-mix-using recipes and came across these easy cranberry bars from Betty Crocker.

“Ok, I’ll just make these for work. That’ll be easy,” I said to myself.

But then I got an idea! A wonderful, AWFUL idea!

“Well, that’s very boring, why settle for that?  I can tweak these bars as a matter of fact! I’ll fake them like Starbucks in 30 minutes flat!”

Muahahaa.

So I stole Betty’s recipe and fused it with this fake Cranberry Bliss Bar recipe and a few bits of hard-won know-how on how to make baked goods come out extra raw and dense and doughy (the way I like ‘em!).  I added orange extract, ginger, yolks instead of whole eggs, more ginger, and upped the butter content.  And then I undercooked that sum’bitch.

The results are….Ah-freaking-mazing and easy as hell!

They’re ginger-topped, white chocolate-enhanced, red-freckled pieces of orgasmicness!!

And now a word from our sponsor.

 

On to the recipe. I was gonna call them “White Ginger Sex Bars”, but in honor of their dubious origins, I’m calling them…

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Hooray Leftovers!

November 25th, 2012

I had the following items left over from cooking all of my Tgiving food: about 15 oz. of pumpkin puree, a cup or two of peeled, cubed butternut squash, and a bunch of buttermilk.  I made this recipe (with tweaks) for dinner last night and not only did it aid me in clearing out the fridge, but it was OMGawesome! (Recipe originally appeared on MarthaStewart.com)

Penne with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces penne rigate (ridged), or other short pasta
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more for garnish (optional)

Directions

  1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 2 cups pasta water; drain pasta and set aside.
  2. In pasta pot, heat oil over medium. Add rosemary and fry, stirring, until starting to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer rosemary to a paper towel, leaving oil in pot.
  3. Carefully (oil is hot and will spatter) add pumpkin puree, garlic, half-and-half, Parmesan, vinegar, red-pepper flakes, and 1 cup reserved pasta water to pot. Stir sauce until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add pasta to sauce, and toss to coat. If sauce is too thick, add some reserved pasta water. Season generously with salt. Serve pasta sprinkled with fried rosemary and, if desired, more red-pepper flakes.

 

Now for the tweaks –

• I reduced olive oil to 1/2 Tbs. and toasted up some chopped pecans along with the rosemary.

• Instead of half and half, I used buttermilk and omitted the vinegar.

• Instead of thinning it out with pasta-cooking water, I used vegetable broth

• I had some sage leaves lying around, so I threw those in, and also added a sprinkle of nutmeg to the sauce at the end.

• While I was cooking the sauce and pasta, I roasted the butternut squash cubes along with 6 or 7 whole peeled garlic cloves (roast at 425 for about 25 minutes, tossed in olive oil and kosher salt) and mixed it in with the pasta and sauce at the very end.  I think this really took it over the top and made it a more hearty meal as well.  Highly recommended.

Nala’s Tale, Conclusion

November 23rd, 2012

Of all the things I did not expect, I did not expect a Frank Capra ending for Nala’s story.

But let me back up…

Saturday we went to Animal Friends to visit Nala, and to hopefully convince my mom to adopt her.  We saw that Nala was happy and healthy and enjoying herself in the cat colony room, where she could watch birds and chill in a cubby hole.  My mom met her perfect cat match in “Syrilla”, now Myrna.  I want my mom to be happy in her choice of pet, so we didn’t try to force Nala upon her.

Instead, we chose to underwrite Nala’s adoption fee, in the hopes that would encourage someone to take a second look at her.  Then we went home.

A few days later, we were feeling guilt about leaving Nala, even though she was so well off.  We thought we might go and get her on Wednesday.  That afternoon, I talked to my friend Janet…who is even more cat-centric than I am.  Janet told me that we should not feel any guilt, that we had done everything to put Nala on a path to a good future, and that if we adopted her out of duty, she wouldn’t find her real forever home.  This gave me food for thought.  then BW came home and said that although we’d be happy to have Nala join our family, he felt we ought to give her a little more time to allow someone else to “discover” her.  So we didn’t go, and I figured we’d probably give it a few days before we gave up and got her.

Now I know that on the very same day, possibly while we were having that conversation, Nala was being picked out and adopted!

On Thanksgiving night, I checked Animal Friends’ website and…..no Nala.  I tried it again.  And again.  I hit Reload probably 6 times thinking that surely something was wrong.  I felt a thrill of hope, quickly followed by terror: what if she had gotten sick and been taken off of the adoption floor??  what if she had been adopted, but by the wrong family?  People with kids?  People who’d let her outside?

There was no way to know until 11:00 Friday when the shelter reopened.

Friday morning, still no Nala on the site.

At about 11:02am Friday, I called Animal Friends and they told me that she had been adopted at 3:16pm Wednesday.  And here’s the Frank Capra part: she was adopted by a married couple with no kids, and with two other kitties at home!  And the family were previous adopters, so they’d passed muster at AF’s screening process before and so must know how to take care of cats properly!  It’s practically as if she was adopted by us!

I have been fighting down tears of joy since then.  I am SO happy for you, baby girl.  I couldn’t have hoped for better for you.  We will miss you, and think of you often.  I wish you a life of love.

Oh, and I have to mention and…when we were donating her adoption fee, they asked if it was in honor or memory of anyone, so we said in honor of Gulliver Flynn Greer.  Thank you Gulli.  I’m positive you had a hand in this.  You are the only angel that I believe in.

Go on wit’ yourself Miss Nala!

 

Ephemeral as an animal life

November 14th, 2012

Warning: Long, incoherent, stream-of-consciousness post.

I think I need a life coach.  I want to be able to hire a professional to make decisions for me — why isn’t such a service available?  You go to some trained counselor-type person, present them with your options, your pros and cons, and they analyze your situation, read you for any unspoken clues in your words and/or body language, and tell you what to do.  In lieu of that, I’m writing this as a form of thinking out loud in the hopes it will lend clarity.  Though if any of y’all have insights to share, by all means pass them on.

Which is all a long-winded way of saying that I’m at a loss about my pet situation.  I thought it would be rather nice to have a new pet join the family around Thanksgiving, not only for the holiday spirit, but because we have free time off.  But there are TOO many choices!  TOO many animals who need help and TOO many humans who suck and don’t do anything about it.

Leaving well enough alone is an option, but it isn’t a satisfying one.  I know from experience that our home has at least a 3 pet capacity, so I feel obligated to give an animal a home because I can.  And I want to. But who or what?

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In case you missed it

November 13th, 2012

All of the photos from our Ireland trip are here:

https://plus.google.com/photos/105735591854862170461/albums/5804094132065303345

By the way, Google, I hate your new way of displaying photo albums.

I suppose I should do a full write-up, but I feel drained just thinking about it.  There were some aspects about it that, in retrospect, make me glad to have gone.  (Book of Kells!)  But I’m not going to lie, there were a lot of negative things: the flight, the constant stress about Hurricane Sandy,  and the fact that I was sick the whole time.  I also learned that I will never again book a package deal like this; the convenience factor is not worth the tradeoff of lack of control, IMO. Mostly because I disliked all but one of the hotels that were pre-booked for us — definitely not the sort of places I’d pick if left to my own devices.  (And on a related note, whoever invented the concept of the “full English/Irish breakfast” and sold it to tourist traps needs to be drug out before a firing squad.  And forced to eat nothing but his own concoction for his punishment in the afterlife.)

None of these things are Ireland’s fault.  Still, even now with some distance and time to think about it more clearly I gotta say: Scotland is way better!

Mainly it’s the landscape.  The Irish landscape (at least where we were) is lovely.  It’s nice.  It’s pretty.  While that’s good, those are the strongest words I can come up with to describe it.  It is uniformly pleasant.  But at no point was I ever in awe.  Whereas driving through Scotland I was in awe and staggered more times than I can count.  The Scottish landscape has drama, and bleakness, and that’s what I’m all about.  Scotland also seemed much less tourist-oriented, while parts of Ireland reminded me of Turks & Caicos in that there seemed to be nothing going on but tourism.  And the tourists!  You wouldn’t think so at the end of October, but Ireland was crawling with tourists!  Our hotel in Killarney was home to I don’t know how many tour groups of Americans, loading up to see the sights in an endless stream of motorcoaches.  If you listened to the accents at breakfast, you could have been at Denny’s.  There was no place we went that didn’t have large crowds of people, and I think literally every third car on the road was a rental driven by some hapless foreigners like us.

It was not like that in Scotland.  We went to a lot of sites where we were practically the only, if not THE only people.  Even at the big “must see” spots like Loch Ness, I recall nothing to compare with the crowds in Ireland.  This gave our trips there the feeling that we were going to a real place, where people really lived and worked, and discovering it…as opposed to making stops on a “Things To See” checklist.  Some of that probably could been lessened if we’d planned our own Irish trip, but I’m not sure by how much.

Still I’m happy to be able to look back and say that I stood upon the Hill of Tara and ate sushi in Dublin on my birthday.  And we did have a few “authentic” unscripted experiences that I’ll remember fondly:  the cat who appeared at Trim Castle, eating fish and chips with a Ninja Turtle, Captain Incredible, Buzz Lightyear and the Hulk on the weekend before Halloween.  And crying at the Book of Kells.  All good things.

Scotland Forever!

Enter the Ninja

October 20th, 2012

Today is a holiday in our house, although this year it will be tinged with sadness.  We always called it simply, “Gandalf Day.”

Eighteen years ago today, a grey and white kitten with a pink nose took up residence with us, and used his great sorcery to transform our family forever after.

What’s bizarre is how vividly I can remember scenes from that day, and the few days after, given that I couldn’t tell you what movies I’ve seen in the past 6 months, what I ate for dinner last week, or the names of 3/4 of my relatives.

It was a Thursday afternoon; he was chauffeured to our attic-style apartment by my mom.  She dropped him off and had to leave shortly after.  BW was at class, so for a while it was just me and kitten.  He was very curious at first, and was very interested as I took him on a tour.  He ate a little food (Kitten Chow, I didn’t know any better.), saw all the rooms (we only had 3), and was shown where the litter box was.

Then I think it started to dawn on him that he was in a strange place and had no idea what was going to happen or if he could leave, because he got a little scared and retreated to under this old green stool we used to have, and just sat there.

I gave him some space and later on was able to coax him out with a toy.  I have to admit (sorry, G!) that Gandalf’s very first toy was on old sock, stuffed with crumpled newspaper and tied off in a knot.  (That and a box with holes in it.  “Transmogrifier” written on the side.  Tell me the reference and win a prize.)  But he played the heck out of that sock.

And that’s what he was doing when BW came home.  We were sitting on the floor near the door, so as soon as BW opened it, there was G, looking at him.  I clearly, like I’m listening to a recording, remember the inquisitive, gentle way BW said “Hello.”

Gandalf stayed pretty frightened the first night, and slept in a little bed I’d made for him (I didn’t know any better.)  Second night we thought he might bond with us better if he shared our bed, so he did.  It worked, and our family was made.

So we’ll make every effort to celebrate this day for what it is — an occasion when an amazing thing happened.  But I can’t help but grieve as well.  We still miss our boy, our friend, so much.  I would happily, and I know BW would agree, give up some years from my lifespan to be able to see and play with that teeny kitten or that badass cat again.

Love you, Mithrandir.  Always will.

Nala’s Tale

October 18th, 2012

This is the update on Nala the Porch Cat, who was “owned” by my neglectful Jerry Springer neighbors, the same people who lost Ed.  Having been through this past week, I’m more convinced than ever that Ed was saved from a terrible fate and sent to us by a higher power (thanks, Gulli!)

We (along with our next door neighbors the old Italian lady, her daughter, and the teens) had been feeding Nala all summer, and she often slept on our porch furniture.  As the nights turned colder, we repurposed a used nightstand/cabinet as a shelter for her.  It was lined with carpet tiles and stuffed with towels and a heated bed.  She spent every night, to the best of my knowledge, sleeping in that box.  I don’t know if she ever spent a night indoors at her “home”, but she would still run up to her house when she saw her “family” coming and going.  But she invariably returned to my porch; they clearly made no attempt to take her in.  Their driveway faces across to my house — they knew she was always at my house, or the neighbors’ — they knew where to find her — they never came to claim her.  I would have welcomed it if one of them stormed up to me and demanded that I give their cat back, because it would have shown an interest.

BW and I have been waffling on whether or not to take Nala indoors and “officially” steal her once winter came.  We weren’t truly inclined to, for many reasons:  She has a microchip, registered to the Assholes.  I still, despite everything I said, consider getting a dog.  We didn’t know if she was carrying any bugs or diseases.  Lots of reasons.  And most of all we have our trip coming up, so we decided that all pet-related decisions would be put off until afterward.

But then she got sick.  Last week, her third eyelid began protruding and it progressed in just days (well before we could get a vet appointment) into a severe infection.  If you’ve been following on Facebook, you know the drama. On Monday, we took her to our local iffy vet.  We were given antibiotics, eye drops, and ointment.  We corralled her in our basement for treatment, but I think it was all too late.  As of this writing, we think her eye has ruptured and will need to be removed.  We are cursing ourselves out for not making more effort to get her to the vet last week.

Meantime, I ALSO called the Humane Officer at Animal Friends.  I’d called before and reported them for neglect during the summer.  At that time, the Officer came, talked to Asshole Mama, was given the usual bullshit story (“Oh we just can’t keep her inside, she always gets out.”), and couldn’t prove any neglect was happening.

The Officer returned on Tuesday, spoke to Asshole Daddy, got the same bullshit story, plus an admission that they knew about the infection and hadn’t done anything.  She also saw Nala, and how sick she is, and talked at length to my neighbor who backed up my story and showed all the meds that we’d bought, the receipt, and closeup pictures of Nala’s eye.  Unfortunately, they couldn’t grab Nala, so they issued Assholes a warning: they had one day to get her inside and either 1. take her to a vet themselves or 2. reimburse the money we’d spent or else be cited with neglect, fined, and hauled into court.

Now you would think this, if nothing else, would make them wanna take the cat inside the house.

Nope.  We weren’t home from work for an hour before she turned up on our porch.  (Thank ELVIS, because the thought of her inside their filthy house with an infected eye made wanna slit throats!)

So again we grabbed her, and she spent the night and day in our basement, and took some more meds.  The Officer was supposed to come and seize her on Wednesday afternoon, so BW and I made sure to leave work early and then proceeded to sit on our porch (with Nala) for 3 hours while no one showed up.  (During which time we saw the Assholes come home, and their daughter walked right past us on her way home from school.)  Soon as it got dark, we brought Nala back inside, and it was shortly after that that her eye ruptured.

Wed. night was one of the most stressful we’ve spent probably since Gandalf passed.  Nala’s eye was draining/discharging, and BW made countless trips to the basement to clean her face.  Honestly, I think the eye was far gone and even if she had gotten to the shelter the result would have been the same.  The one good note is that, with the pressure/swelling of the bulging eye gone, and the gunk draining out, Nala seems to act like she feels a little better.

And now today, Thursday.  BW called in sick (again) so he could either take her to the vet (which is technically illegal since we technically don’t own her) or wait for the Human Officer.  The Officer called at 9:15 and said that, due to emergencies in the suburbs, she didn’t even get back to the shelter until 8:00 last night but she would head out immediately.  (Note: how fucking sick is it that there are so many humane “emergencies” in this godsforsaken redneck hellhole county?)

10:35.  Just heard from BW that Nala went of with the Humane Officer.  She and he were sitting outside, and the Officer came and just quietly collected her.  Assholes were not at home, so no drama ensued, but they will be served with their citation soon.  I hope they don’t pay it, and get into even more trouble.  I think we should bring back stocks and public floggings.  What I want is An Eye For An Eye.  Very literally.

I will miss our little houseguest, but at least we can rest easy she is being cared for while we’re away.  I plan to call and check up on her next week.  After that, after vacation, who knows?  There will be a sweet, petite, and feisty (probably one-eyed) girl at Animal Friends in need of a home, that I do know.

Meanwhile, download this Nala flyer and spread it around. NALA2

 

 

Nanoo-NanooOOooh!

October 12th, 2012

Cumberbatch decided to take on all the bitches who say that he looks like an alien by sitting in a Mork From Ork chair and looking hot.  (As if looking like an alien is a bad thing!  Hmpf!  Commoners.)

 

Some Walk by Night, Some Fly by Day

October 2nd, 2012

This is most unusual.  Looper was my most-anticipated movie of 2012, and….it did not disappoint.

I can’t remember the last time that happened.

In a nutshell, Looper is the movie that Inception wished it was:  an original, highly intelligent piece of mind-screwing sci-fi/action.  UNlike Inception, Looper never drags, or gets bogged down in its own levels of convolution, has better acting and dialog, a world that seems real, and fully-realized human characters who we can care about.  These last few have everything to do with that fact that Looper was written and directed by Rian Johnson, who is not only a great storyteller but a keen observer of humans (among his best efforts was the brilliant “teen noir” Brick, also starring JGL.  If you haven’t seen Brick, FOR FUCK’S SAKE, SEE BRICK!!)  Whereas I’m pretty sure that Christopher Nolan is an android.

I can’t really tell you any more about the story of Looper than you already know from the official promo material.  To do otherwise would ruin the wonderful sense that I had, and I assume you will too, of being drawn into the movie, fully engaged with the plot, and taken in directions in which you completely did not expect to go.

Acting was great all across the board.  My only quibble was that I didn’t buy Emily Blunt (who I quite like) as maternal.  Between this film and Moonrise Kingdom, I have newfound respect for Bruce Willis and the choices he’s been making.  Going out and lending his support and big name to independent, quirky directors’ projects instead of sitting back and wallowing in his Expendables 11 and Die Hard Umpteen money is a really admirable thing.  Good on ya, Bruno!

Anyway, now that I’ve given Looper my wholehearted endorsement as a quality cinematic delight, I can engage in the shallow stuff.

JGL! My sweet JGL, your face, what have they done?!?  Yeah, yeah.  I completely understand that they had to try to make JGL look like Bruce, but still….what a terrible waste of JGL’s face.  Quelle tragique.  And at the end of the day (and the movie), I’m not convinced that they did a very good job.  In certain light, at certain angles, yes they created a resemblance.  Good job on the nose and mouth but, really?  Did nobody watch Moonlighting for research?  David Addison didn’t look like that!  What was up with those 1950′s Joan Crawford/silent movie actor eyebrows?! At times JGL looked like a department store mannequin, the makeup on his brows and forehead was so heavy, and it pulled me out of the movie.  Maybe hi-def digital is to blame; it really makes makeup look like makeup.  (Isn’t the point of hi def to make movies look more real, not less? Get on this, tech people.)

Correction — ONE person did pull a Moonlighting marathon:  Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  He may not have always looked like Bruce Willis, but damn did he ever nail the mannerisms, facial ticks, inflections, everything.  Almost made the makeup superfluous.  Makes me wish that on his most recent Saturday Night Live stint, rather than the Dos Equis beer spoof he did, JGL had sung to us about Seagram’s Golden Wine Coolers.

It’s wet and it’s dry.

Edit: My gawd, what have I done? THIS WON’T LEAVE MY BRAIN!!

Run to the Hills

September 19th, 2012

Last year, I spent pretty much all summer going to physical therapy 2 or 3 times per week after experiencing really bad pain in my right knee.  I’d started trying to up the speeds on my interval sprinting, and suddenly, OW!  The pain was on the side of the knee, and mainly hurt when either running or walking down stairs.  The good news was that it was not a problem with the bones or joint itself.  I was quickly diagnosed with IT Band Syndrome. The iliotibial band is a tendon that runs down the thigh and outside of the knee and, for one reason or another, start to aggravate the knee after overuse.  So I cut out running so fast for a month or so, did all sorts of exercises that were supposed to help strengthen my hips and stretch the IT band, and the pain went away and I resumed my normal workout with no pain.

Cut to last month, when it began to flare up again.  I hadn’t changed my treadmill routine but when I went back to work, I got into the habit of walking up the eight floors to my office every day, so that was probably the culprit.  In my attempt to be extra-healthy, I ended up shooting myself in the IT Band.  Feh.

Soooo, I laid of jogging and sprinting again for the last few weeks and I kinda have been thinking that, even though I get a self-esteem boost from it, running might not be worth the long-term effects.  Now I’m even more convinced.  Today I started “easing back” into sprinting, did my sprint intervals for 10 minutes then started brisk walking and cranking up the incline more than I normally do.  My treadmill calculates calories burned, so right away I noticed that I burned significantly more calories walking up inclines than I do in the same time of running!

So I think I’m going to be trying that for a while.  Because I’d really like to be able to keep the use of my joints for the forseeable future.  And hey, with lower impact, more calories…what’s not to like?  Further, inclines help build up your butt and thigh muscles.

After all, the ideal body type I’ve always wished for has never been this

But has always been this

Dreams Die Hard

September 3rd, 2012

One year ago this weekend, we adopted a greyhound who we named Ciaran.  Later, we had to surrender him because his presence was stressing Gandalf out to the point of not eating.  Gandalf being ill, old, and on heavy meds, that was not something we could allow to continue.

Flash ahead to this summer.  We knew Gandalf’s time was coming to a close, and we consoled ourselves that we could try to make something positive from his death by finally trying again with a dog, helping a new animal.  We spent a lot of time this summer visiting shelters again and again, contacting two greyhound groups, having home visits, waiting for something to click.

To all of the well-meaning people who said, “Your dog is out there,”  I’m sorry but you were wrong.  I give the fuck up, I am worn out.

Shelters were a crapshoot.  Between finding a dog we liked, then testing for cat-safety, then making sure BW wasn’t allergic, then the risk of someone else coming in and adopting it first, there were so many variables that all had to line up perfectly….it just wasn’t happening.

And the more often we went, the more I saw that I’m a really harsh judge of dogs, criticizing behavior that is probably normal or could be controlled with just a little effort.  Then slowly accepting that the reason for that is because well, I just don’t like them very much as a species.  Just like children, certain exceptional individuals I’m willing to have in my house, but the vast majority:  no.  (To their credit, I like most other people’s dogs infinitely more than other people’s children.  My attitude is more “benign disinterest” rather than “active hate.”  Unlike all children, there are some dogs I consider my friends.)

We finally gave up and decided it was hopeless this weekend when we spent a long afternoon with a perfectly wonderful and gorgeous greyhound.  And we turned him down.  I have tried and tried, because I had this lovely idea of dog-ownership and that it would be fun and make me a better, less uptight person, but I just cannot cross that bridge and commit to it again.  It would mean such a huge seismic shift in lifestyle, that when push comes to shove, I can’t will myself to do it and BW can’t muster up the enthusiasm either.

Other people look at dogs and see purity and love, but I see a black hole of codependent need and muddy paws and drool.  Damn, the drool.  If I was into having a coating of drool on all of my stuff, I’dve had a baby.  When I do the math in my head, I don’t see any positives that I don’t already get from cat ownership.

Speaking of the cats, they’re the most major factor of all.  This has been a cat-centric household since 1994.  Whereas in most mixed dog-cat homes I’ve been to or know of, the cats are treated little better than goldfish.  I don’t blame the owners — it’s unavoidable because dogs are such a time-sink, especially if everyone in the family works.  But I refuse to do that. It may be hard for the dog folk to understand, but Cats Come First.  Always.

So there you have my sorry tale.  I really do feel shitty, because it was such a nice idea.  I deleted my Amazon ‘dog stuff’ wishlist and I cried.  Maybe what I really wanted was to buy cute stuff.

Or maybe we’re still too wiped out from Gandalf’s final downhill slide and passing.

Or maybe I just want the dog we had before back.

Or maybe, and most likely, I am irredeemably one of those horrible people that the dog rescue groups get on their high horses about;  the kind who “care more about having nice things than a dog.”  So be it.

Whatever, I only wish it hadn’t taken 15 months of angst and several hundred dollars to reach this conclusion.  I apologize to all the long-suffering shelter volunteers I’ve probably annoyed.  And I apologize to homeless dogs.  I’m sorry I couldn’t help, but you probably wouldn’t have liked me anyway.

Is This White Boy Day?

August 20th, 2012

You’ve probably heard by now that director Tony Scott committed suicide this weekend.

I’m not saddened by Tony’s choice, but I am saddened that we have lost a reliable filmmaker.  Those are on far too short a supply.  I thought his work was always solid; he made a few really great films (True Romance), several good ones, and none that I can say were truly terrible.  Seeing his name in a trailer always made me want to take a second look, to consider, “Hey, this movie might be ok after all…”

Overall, I’d say his track record and the quality of his work was more consistent than brother Ridley’s, though less praised by the critics.  There are quite a few Ridley Scott movies that I NEVER want to sit through again.  I can’t say that about any of Tony’s work.

Tony Scott would have made a good director at a big studio back in the Golden Age.  He turned out entertaining, crowd-pleasing films consistently, he had a visual flair, and he really knew how to make the most of his stars.

And now he has earned a further big dose of respect from me.  Tony chose to not allow cancer to dictate the terms of his life.  He refused to give it that power, instead he chose his own time to die, on his terms.  Would that we could all have that strength when faced with a situation like that.  More power to you, Mr. Scott.

And thank you for giving us these…. and many more.

 

 

Mr. G’s Favorites Day 5

August 10th, 2012

I’m going to wrap this up by saving the best for last.  If anyone has sat through all of these posts, thank you.  And thanks to everyone for the kind outpouring of support you’ve shown.

Gandalf didn’t make films, but if he did, they’d have a Samurai.  I like to think that he followed the way of the Bushido, and here is his absolute icon:  Toshiro Mifune.

“Study the soul to know the sword.”

Your soul was a fine-tempered one, G.  Love you.

Mr. G’s Favorites Day 4

August 9th, 2012

Because he got more action than his man, John Woo.

Here’s Chow! Yun! Fat!  Hard Boiled hardcore.

Mr. G’s Favorites Day 3

August 8th, 2012

Our Mr. Gandalf loved nothing better than to help his Dad out with home improvement projects, making sure that BW got the job done right and didn’t injure himself with the power tools.  He liked to study up by watching Norm Abrams.  Remember, wear those safety goggles!

 

Mr. G’s Favorites Day 2

August 7th, 2012

This one actually made me bust out sobbing.

You can choose not to believe me, but I swear, Gandalf loved Miami Vice.  He always wanted his own cigarette boat.

 

Mr. G’s Favorites

August 6th, 2012

This week I am celebrating Gandalf with videos of all his favorite things.  They make me smile to think of him, and I hope you enjoy them too, but if you don’t….well, Gandalf really wouldn’t care.

Dedicated to you, buddy.

 

A Far Green Country

August 4th, 2012

 

GANDALF: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.

PIPPIN: What? Gandalf? See what?

GANDALF: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.

PIPPIN: Well, that isn’t so bad.

GANDALF: No. No, it isn’t.

———–

Summer, 1994.  Two (very) recent college grads move into their first real off-campus apartment.  One of the criteria for the lodgings is that it must allow cats, because one of the grads thinks it might be nice to have a cat.  Either a black one, or a white one, or a grey one.  Fantasy novel wizard names have already been selected for the hypothetical cat.

Sometimes, very, very seldom in my experience, when you open that sort of door and put a question, an idea, out into the universe — sometimes the universe responds with the perfect answer.

Fall, 1994.  Phone call.  Mother’s co-worker’s cat has had three kittens, they are all grey and white.  Interested?

Grey AND white? How perfect!  I’ll take a look.

So, here’s the kitten.  What do you think?  Deep, charcoal grey.  Pink button nose.  Tiiiiiiiiny paws in teeeeensy white gloves.  Ok, we’ll take him

Oct 20, 1994.  Gandalf the Grey comes home.

The three of us have been a family for far longer than any of our friends have been raising their children.  Dwell on that to grasp some idea of just how much he means to us.

…………………………….

Since the day he joined our family, we have lived in four different homes, changed jobs several times, seen friends married (and divorced), had loved ones die, and watched babies be born and grow to near adulthood.  Other animals have come into our lives, and some left far too soon.  But through all this, there was Gandalf.

He, BW, and myself formed the permanent core of our family, the “grownups” if you will.  We never truly thought of him as our “child”, but as an equal partner.  His concerns were our concerns, and vice-versa.  His opinion carried weight and was always given the respect it deserved.

He was just that kind of a cat.  A cat with gravitas.  A once-in-a-lifetime cat.

Ninja.  Wizard.  Badass.  Secret Agent.  Office Manager.  Reading Companion.  Helper.  Familiar.  Friend.

We all had so much fun together.  We are so privileged to have known him.

My friend, I can only hope that you found us worthy of you.

…………………………….

Here is a photo gallery of Gandalf’s life. 

Thank you to everyone who has been his friend all these years.  Especially to Cheri, who has done so much for Gandalf and been the best Aunt to him.  And my Mom, who found him for us in the first place.