Monday, February 28, 2011

Maybe I Shouldn't Have Watched This in February


Last night the Dear Hubby convinced me to watch Sunset Limited, an HBO film adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy book.  Cormac McCarthy also wrote "No Country for Old Men" and "The Road". DH had seen it before, and warned me that it was "pretty dark."  DH has an eclectic taste in movies, and occassionally hits on a winner.   And so does HBO, so I decided to give it a go.  Besides, it starred Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones (who also directed).  How could it suck?

I knew this was basically a two-man one-act play, but it still took me a few beats to follow the dialogue.  S.L.Jackson really rocked his character, Black.  He was as good, if not better, than he was in Pulp Fiction, another movie with some major dialogue delivery (although who can forget Snakes on a Plane? Now THAT was some dialogue!).  Black is a blue collar worker (not sure that we ever learned exactly what he did, but he wore a uniform like a maintenance guy or something) who rescues White, a professor (we don't know what he professes, besides despair), when White tried to commit suicide by throwing himself in front of the Sunset Limited.  FYI, the Sunset Limited is a train that runs between New Orleans and LA. 

Anyway, Black drags White home with him, and spends the next hour and  half trying to convince White that life is good, and needs to be lived. Black thinks life sucks, what's the point?,  Let's end it all now.  Tommy Lee Jones, who has kind of a hang-dog look about him to begin with, was a very convincing depressed guy.  His accent was a bit subdued in this film, I notice. 

There were a lot of great lines, but my favorite is the blessing Black said over the food he served White: 
"Lord, we thank you for this food and the many blessings we have received from your hand. We thank you for the life of the professor you have returned to us and ask that you look after him because we need him. I don’t know why we need him, I just know we do.”

That kind of sums up my personal philosophy--we rarely know the meaning of the lesson until class is over, but by golly, I'm gonna keep trying to figure it out. 

I really don't know who won the argument.  I think that maybe you take from this movie what you brought to it.  If you are a nihilist, then White won.  If you are an optimist, then Black won.  Hopefully more of us are on the side of Black! 

Monday, February 21, 2011

I am Number Eleventy-Seven. I Hope.

I Am Number Four Featurette
So, the husband and the Princess of Angst (aka my 13 year old daughter) and I went to see "I am Number Four" on Saturday night.  I think the husband was hoping for Star Wars meets Tron.  When we came out,  Princess Frowns-A-Lot jumpied up and down, saying, "That was AWWWWWsome!"  The husband looked at her, looked at me, and said, "I didn't know I was going to see a CHICK FLICK!"


Okay, I have to tell you, this was not the greatest movie ever made.  In brief, the story is that this kid, who starts off as Daniel Something, and then becomes John Smith, is a refugee from another planet. He has been sent to earth to avoid being eaten by bad guys with gills on their faces and bad dental hygiene, who drive around with a truck full of something that eats alot of frozen turkeys.  Every few years, one of Daniel/John's brethren are killed and poor Daniel/John gets a big rose-shaped scar on his leg, and Daniel/John and his protector, Timothy Olyphant, have to move and change their names to keep hiding from the gill-faced guys. 

One small problem is that John really just wants to be a normal teenager. He moves to a town in Ohio, which we are led to believe is somewhere near Cleveland, because the abandoned house he and TO move into has a Bernie Kosar poster on the wall.  At some point, however, John has to make a quick trip to Indiana, which makes me think that maybe he's a little closer to Toledo or Cincinnati, but whatever.  Another small problem is that there is no way anyone in their right mind would believe this guy is seventeen years old. Maybe if I was a 13-year old girl, I would be able to suspend disbelief.  As a 46 year-old woman, I had a little trouble believing that Timothy Olyphant could be old enough to be the surrogate father of a 17 year-old alien, but I was okay with that.  If he'd taken off his shirt, I might have been even more okay with it, but I am not complaining. 


There is a girl, of course, who is a bit of a social outcast (we really don't need to see what she looks like, do we?  She's a girl, she has blond hair, she wore berets, which made it clear that she is a little edgy and artsy fartsy).  There is also the geeky side-kick, who is picked on alot, especially because he believes in aliens.

In spite of the fact that all John wanted to do was go to school and fit in, he spent alot of time walking around with his head tilted down and to the side, the classic posture for the insecure bad boy.  Of course, maybe that's just Alien scoliosis, I don't know.  John DID take his shirt off, and since he can't REALLY be 17, I didn't feel too creepy for appreciating the time he must have spent doing crunches during alien fighting classes. 

There was also a mean ex-boyfriend of Artsy Girl, he picked on John AND side-kick boy.  He was kind of a James Spader (see "Pretty in Pink") preppy jerk face guy, with dark circles under his eyes.  No WAY should Artsy Girl have really gone out with him, but it was a small town, so maybe she didn't have any other choices. 

So, the aliens find John. John, artsy photographer girlfriend, geeky side-kick and mysterious Other Blond Girl ((who will no doubt be in the sequel (she is Number 6.  Where is Number 5?))  take on the aliens and live to fight another day.  Sorry, I know I just wrecked the ending for you.  But a reminder:  Daniel/John takes of his shirt.  It's worth the $10, even if you know how it ends. 

Oh.  I forgot the cute dog: 

He never even bothered to put a shirt on. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

In Which I Indulge in a Midlife Crisis

Okay, so maybe it's not really a crisis.  Maybe it's just noticing that life is for living.  When I announced to my husband that I was going to try my hand at writing, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "If not now, when?"  This comment led me to start working on a bucket list.  It's not a fancy bucket list. I'm not going to tell you what's on it because I keep adding stuff.  I have already done some cool stuff in my life.  I've been in a hot air balloon with the US Navy (why didn't I appreciate that more when I had the chance?), I've been to Paris, Nashville and Las Vegas (where else do you need to go?).  I can do all kinds of stuff and have had a varitey of jobs: teacher, scientist, fiber artist, bodybuilder posing suit maker. 

What I have never been is an athlete.  I've tried a couple of times.  I played soccer for one season, when I was in the 8th grade (a LONG time ago, soccer had just been introduced to the midwestern US, so no one else had ever played, either).  I did really well at practice, but when the game started, I would completely freak out.  I remember feeling like I was standing in the middle of a busy highway with traffic rushing by in both directions, a helicopter beating the air above my head, and a thousand people with bullhorns, all yelling different instructions to me. 

I joined a "wallyball" team in college, which is volleball played on a raquetball court, but I was really only there because it was  a co-ed team and they needed girls.  The guys knew that I would stay out of the way and not try to actually participate.  We became the West Hamilton YMCA Wally Ball champions, thanks to my non-contribution. 

Anyway.  In an effort to try to get my 13-year old daughter up off the couch more often, I signed us up to go skiing last weekend with my son's boy scout troop.  Oh.  My.  God.  First, let me say that I had a ball, and I can't wait to go again.  Second, third, and forth, "Ouch". 

I used muscles I didn't know I have (and I used to teach anatomy, so I know which muscles I'm supposed to have).  On the beginner slopes, there is this conveyor belt thingy, instead of a chair lift, and I fell getting on it, I fell getting off.  I did great going down hill, though!  Then, when I finally felt confident enough to go down a bigger hill, I tried the chair lift.  Tried.  I did fine getting on, got up in the air, and learned that I have a tiny fear of heights.  I'm 46.  You'd think I would have noticed this before, but apparently, like allergies, phobias can develop at any stage of life.  I also fell getting off that one.  There was a very nice young man waiting to lift middle aged ladies, however, which almost distracted me from my humiliation.

But you know what?  I'm ready to go again.  I still can't bend down far enough to tie my shoes, due to the hamstring I pulled.  I also have a mysterious rash on my left shin, which my son said is from not putting my boot on correctly (I suspect it's flesh eating bacteria from non-sanitized rental boots).  I am really not a fan of being cold, but it's 60 degrees out today. If the snow machines are still working out there and it's open, I'm going to drag that teenager back to Perfect North tonight. 

Is this a sign that I am finally losing my grip on reality?  Or maybe I am more of an adrenaline junkie than I thought?  Maybe, like with writing, I am in "keep trying until I get it right" mode.  I'm going with the latter option.   And maybe I should go find those balloon pilots again, cause I don't think I did that right the first time, either. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Reflections of a Disordered (but VERY creative) Mind

My boss gently pointed out yesterday that perhaps my record keeping skills are not where she would like them.  Perhaps not even mediocre.  As a scientist, keeping good records is pretty important.  Although I would argue that creativity is a big deal, too.  Unfortunately, I put my 99% into inspiration and 1% into perspiration, and I think it's supposed to be the other way around.  I would like to point out, however that I DO write almost everything down.  It's just usually on a paper towel or in Farsi. 


I have the same problem with writing fiction.  ADHD much?  I am making yet another stab at organization and record keeping.  One of my complaints about modern science is that there are way too many places to keep information.  The old fashioned way was to put it in a lab notebook. By hand.  With ink. 

I have one, and I like it, I use it as a kind of a journal of what I am working on.  Unfortunately, I am working on a bunch of different things, so one experiment may cover six non-consecutive pages, so chasing down information requires some indexing, which is usually beyond me. 

So I also have a bunch of looseleaf binders.  I can photocopy pages from the lab journal, and put them in the binder (Yeah, right).

The Before Picture
Except there is this thing called a computer. 
And the boss likes the computer.  She likes having every thing typed in exquisite detail.  Whatever. 
Okay, so I'm on board with that.  I can type up my experiment notes in Word, make and Excel sheet of data, make a little Powerpoint of the results and even keep it all in the same folder. I can email each file to my boss for her to work on.   But where do I keep the folder?  On the desktop, where it is easy to find while the experiment is active.  In documents when I am about done with it.  But wait, there is more!  We have a shared departmental drive where we really keep the bulk of our data...but if I change something in one file, I have to go around and change it in the bajillion places I have the experiment stored. 

And don't let me get started on the Flash Drives.

And then there is the fiction thing.  Eee Gads!  How do you all keep your writing organized?  HELP! 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lost in the Backstory

I have been flipping back and forth between projects that are in various stages of not-done-ness, and was getting bored and frustrated, so I did the logical thing:  closed the files and opened a new one. 

I decided that rather than trying to plot in outline form, or any of the other sixteen hundred ways I've seen plotting suggested, or to try pantsing from chapter one, I would start with some back story. I just started writing narrative, and am not worrying about how much time I am spending on it...I tend to feel like I am supposed to jump into things and WRITE SCENES, and that since back story isn't in the real story, that it's not that important.  Huh?  I'm pretty sure it's even MORE important than the "real" story, in a way. Back Story should be capitalized!  It's what gives our hero a fragile ego and the will to overcome his fears, and makes our heroine so skittish about relationships when she's so courageous everywhere else.  If I don't have all of this figured out in advance, I'll be going back and forth changing things constantly as I figure out who everyone is and why they are doing things.

I am finding myself actually writing the story in reverse now.  It's kind of like this: (note:  this is not my real story...I'm a little too superstitious to put that out here just yet)

What if guy who is afraid of water  falls in love with a lifeguard and has to get over his fear of water to rescue her and prove his love? 
Well, why is he afraid of water?
Umm....his twin brother drowned on a boy scout campout when they were 12, and the hero thinks he should have been able to save him, and now he has to much PTSD over the whole thing that he avoids water like the plague, except to take showers (never baths). 
So how does he meet the lifeguard? 
His son has to pass a swimming test to be allowed to go to summer camp.
Wait, he's got a son?  Where is the kid's mom? 
They are divorced and she's in rehab for meth addiction, but she's going to come back and her dealer/pimp/boyfriend is going to  kidnap the kid and the lifeguard .
How did our great dad/hottie/all around good guy hero get messed up with a skanky ho meth addict in the first place?
well, he had low self esteem because of the thing with his brother.

Okay, you get the picture.  So I am basically just kind of writing back and forth, but mostly back.  I am actually writing this stuff down this time, before I get to the actual point of writing more than notes about what might make a good scene later on.   Do other people do it this way? 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Things I HAVE finished

I was wallowing around in "I suck, I can't finish writing anything" last weekend.  I am done with that, however, and on to "I may have alot of unfinished stuff, but I have alot of damned fine things I've finished, too!"

Okay, none of those damned fine finished things are manuscripts.  But here's the thing.  I am very creative.  I am crafty.  I like to make stuff.  I quilt, I knit, I spin.  I like to get to the bare bones of a craft project and start with the raw materials.  A friend turned me on to scrap booking about 15 years ago, and as I started buying fancy papers and rubber stamps, I got interested in making my own papers and rubber stamps.  I started quilting, and while I did't go as far as growing my own cotton, I have done some fabric painting and printing and stuff like that.  I knit, and I love the fancy yarns, and taught myself how to spin.  We know someone who raises sheep, so I got some raw fleeces from him and cleaned them, and dyed them, and...can I just say that sheep are some nasty-ass creatures?  Phew. 

I dyed and spun the wool for this before I knit it!

I spent a few hours in my craft room Saturday sorting and pitching and rearranging things and realize that, while I have enough raw materials to stock a new Hobby Lobby store, I have alot of UFO's (unfinished objects) in various stages between "done" and "not started".   I have lots of stuff I've finished and not shown anyone, too.  And that's okay!

A few years ago I worked with a woman who competes in women's figure competitions (it's body building, but not as bulky), and she said to me, "You sew, will you make me a suit?"  Ummm.  Okay.  And I did. I went throught miles and miles of spandex and elastic before I got something that sort of worked.  I have a huge pile of bikini bits in my basement, but I finally finished a suit.  God love her, Abbie wore it in competition.  And I learned what I needed to do to make a better suit.  I started making suits for other women, some of whom won their competitions.   Business has trickled off because the requirements for the posing suits have changed, but I learned alot from jumping into that project.  I learned that I need a lot of trial an error and that I will have many, many false starts before I get something right. 

So instead of beating myself up for not having a finished manuscript (less than a year after I decided to get serious about learning to write), I am going to focus on appreciating the things that I HAVE finished.  Maybe I'll get out some new words and toss them together to see how they look on the old design board.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Comfort TV Shows

I would like to say I've been fighting a cold the past few days, but really, I've just been letting it roll over on me.  And letting it kick me.  And spit on me.  I surrender to you, Respiratory Virus!  You win!  Go away now. 

I found myself wishing I could stay home on the couch with my Grandma and eat chicken noodle soup and watch The Price Is Right.  That is one of the best memories of my childhood. My mom's mom lived with us, and she was always home with us when we were sick.  She loved game shows and Days of Our Lives.  I'm sure that it was a major disappointment to her when I grew up to watch ABC soaps.  Sorry, Mamaw, peer pressure won out.  My boyfriend's mom watched General Hospital.  What can I say?  But we bonded over those game shows.  My kids watch Price Is Right with my mother-in-law when they are with her during the day. 

 We went to my parents' last friday night for a while to sit with my dad while my mom went to dinner with a friend.  He's doing much better now, getting himself up and down and pretty much doing for himself after his heart surgery.  His fluid balance is off, he seems to either be retaining water or dehydrated, but hopefully that will settle down soon.  Oh yeah, game shows:  So what do you think we watched with my dad when we were visiting?  Yup. WHEEL.  OF.  FORTUNE!  and Jeopardy. 

I still kick everyone's butt at Wheel of Fortune.

I go to game shows when I am feeling crappy.  My husband chooses bad talk shows and judge shows.  Jerry Springer and Judge Judy make him feel better.  Whatever!

What about you?  What do you do to entertain yourself when you feel crummy?