Friday, August 26, 2016

We Need a Hero

To get you in the mood for today's post, we begin with a song...

Or maybe you'd prefer the spoken word version...

If you haven't seen The Way Way Back, check it out sometime when you're not binge watching whatever it is you have to binge watch to keep yourself entertained before the Gilmore Girls revival begins.

Anyway, I probably shouldn't watch television. That's not entirely true; I probably shouldn't watch television in which I will become attached to one or more of the characters on the show. I can't help myself with certain shows. I become so invested with a character or characters that watching the show becomes stressful. Or I get irrationally irritated with a character because he or she makes a choice I deem is a bad one. My poor neighbors have heard me yell "Make smart life choices!" at my television more times than I care to admit. And when a character dies? No thank you. This is the worst part of watching any halfway decent show; a favorite character will always die. I believe this is related to being a very dedicated reader; the same thing happens to me when I read a book or series. I become so invested in characters that I don't want the story to end OR I want them to be real. Such is the life of a fan.

Among my invested characters we have Rory Gilmore (seriously wanted to shake her most of seasons 5 and 6), Lane and Zach from also Gilmore Girls, Terry and LP from Treme, everyone on Firefly, Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Detective Mike Logan from Law & Order (before he was Mr. Big). I love Detective Logan so much I watched the movie NBC did featuring him trying to redeem himself or some such nonsense. Mike Logan was and always will be Law & Order. Everyone else is just an imitation.

There are others but these are really my go-to list of fictional friends. I have very specific opinions about them (#TeamLogan) and will argue with other people for hours about minutia within the universe of the show. I would like to believe that these opinions will serve some purpose for me later in life but I'm not entirely sure how that will work. More than likely, it'll just be more information to store away for trivia or when I go to an Escape Room with interns who weren't born in the 1980s and I need to use my knowledge of the era to solve the puzzle to get us out of the room. This is how the world works.

I recently finished watching the Netflix series Stranger Things. I don't normally binge watch television shows even on Netflix. Sometimes I get into a Gilmore Girls binge but that's about my level of tolerance for the practice. I like the unfolding of a show over the course of season. I like looking forward to something each week as I anticipate a new episode. To me, that is the beauty of watching serialized television. I realize I'm in the minority on this. However, with Stranger Things I definitely binge watched the show. I watched four episodes last Friday and the second four episodes last Saturday. It is a remarkable and enjoyable show, made better by watching it all at once.

I don't want to talk about Eleven (who is amazing and badass) or the boys (also wonderful) or Barb (#justiceforbarb) or even the fact that I want to smack the smug off Steve Harrington's face so badly every time he's on screen. No, we have more important things to discuss. And by more important things, I mean Chief Jim Hopper.

Chief Hopper is the true hero of Stranger Things. He is the glue that binds this crazy town together and he is the man that gets shit done. No one else broke into a secret government facility with the cool and attitude he did...multiple times. No one stared down the creepy blonde government agent and dared her to disagree with terms of his plan. No one else faked his way into the morgue to make sure that his suspicions about "Will" were right (this was a hard scene to watch). No one else didn't call the librarian after they hooked up and then thought she'd help him with research for the case. No one else agreed to go with Joyce to multiple locations that could have gotten him killed. And frankly, no one else really believed Joyce until Chief Hopper did. I don't know where that car was taking him in the last episode but you can bet he handled whatever it was like a boss.

Side note: The actor who plays Chief Hopper, David Harbour, is a fantastic actor and is so perfect in this role. He also feels really bad about Barb according to this Buzzfeed post.

If I lived in Hawkins, which I would never do because it is truly a terrifying place to live, I would want Chief Hopper to be in charge and protect our town. Despite his drinking and other poor life choices, he gets into the investigation and gets into some real police work. I love shows and movies set in a pre-cell phone age; everyone manages to live their life and accomplish things. One of my favorite scenes with Chief Hopper involves him and Officer Powell sitting in the library scanning through microfiche. Microfiche!? There are people reading this blog who don't know what that is and probably had to look it up while watching the show. That's just sad. And what about the hat? Normally, I have ambivalent feelings about hats in terms of men's fashion, but the hat is as much a part of the character of Chief Hopper as his cigarette, his sense of humor, and his perpetual hangover.

And let's admit it, he's hot. Chief Hopper is, by far, the hottest dude in Hawkins. I'll give you the cute factor of Officer Callahan; he's cute in a "nerdy boy you date in your first year of college" sort of way. Hopper is the older gentleman you move onto after you realize nerdy college boys will always be a disappointment. Yes, he's a womanizer but I'm okay with this for some reason (normally I would not be) and I've come to terms with it as a part of his character. I want to sit around with Chief Hopper listening to Big Star records and talking about life and love. I don't know why Big Star because I don't actually think Chief Hopper would be a Big Star fan but that's how I feel. 

I don't condone smoking but I approve this image:

Or maybe this is better:

Of course because Chief Hopper is my new television show crush (Is a Netflix show considered a television show? I don't know how that works.), I spent a large portion of every episode suffering anxious feelings because I thought that he was going to die. (Spoiler: he doesn't.). This is what a good character does to us. We get so wrapped up in their life, we can't help but only want good things for them. Television (or a movie or book) becomes stressful. It's not normal. I never felt this way about any television character before I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Was it the shows that changed or was it me?

Chief Hopper & the boys
Smoking Chief Hopper
Hopper and Indy
My Dream Man

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Brownie Friendship Song

I was never going to be a good Girl Scout. I'm not good at selling things, we moved a lot when I was younger, and I'm not a fan of the outdoors. I was in Brownies (girls aged 6-8 I believe) but never made it past there. We moved and I moved on to do ballet, gymnastics, softball, and eventually found a true home in theatre. I support the Girl Scouts despite my failure as one.

Sometimes, for no apparent reason, the Brownie friendship circle song "Make New Friends" pops into my head. If you're not familiar with the song, take a moment to listen:

We used to sing this song at the start of our meetings and yes, we sang in a round. Our meetings would typically end with another friendship circle with the added bonus of a friendship wish. Basically, a friendship wish is making a wish and passing it on to the girl next to you by squeezing her hand. That's how Brownies roll. The squeeze thing also happened when I joined the theatre department; we did something very similar during our pre-show circles. Friendship is friendship no matter where you are.

Anyway, this song gets in my head randomly from time to time. Sometimes I know why the song pops into my head; there was that time I found my Brownie sash and it had my friendship patch on it. Or another time when the Girl Scouts were out selling cookies and were having the best time hanging out with one another despite the fact that it was 10 degrees out. Other times, it's a lot of little things that make the song appear. This week has been one of those week; stressful, kind of stupid, and the type of week that needed to be over the second it started. I decided to treat myself to some new books for my Kindle (for gym reading) and stumbled upon the thing that finally caused me to hum "Make New Friends".

There is a fifth Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book.

I had no clue. It's called Sisterhood Everlasting and takes place about ten years after the last book. If you're not familiar with these books or the two films based on the first two books, the story is centered on four friends who literally grow up together. Their mothers, all pregnant and due around the same time, meet in a fitness class for moms and become friends. While the moms drift apart, the girls remains friends throughout school and into college. They share a "magical" pair of pants that fits each girl perfectly despite each one being a different shape and size. There's drama, heartbreak, humor, trips to Greece, nerdy boys, and above all else, friendship. The first book was released in 2001 (the year I graduated from college). I didn't read any of the books until later, maybe around 2008. By then, the first four books were all out and I was able to read them back to back.

The books are solid YA fare but aren't patronizing and don't feel totally like YA novels. I liked many of the characters, particularly Tibby, Carmen, and Brian, and even though I was much older than the main characters when I started, I could see myself in them and in their struggles and successes. I felt for them and laughed with them. I had friends sort of like the girls in the book. At the time, I was moving a lot, first back to Virginia following Hurricane Katrina, then out to California because everyone should move to California once in their life. Adult friendships are challenging. As a slightly more introverted person, they're downright stressful. I've written about this before; adult friendships are almost as stressful as dating.

What I liked most about the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books was that they followed female friendships in a realistic way. The girls fought, they shared secrets, they kept secrets from one another, they just knew when one of the others was in trouble or needed the rest of the group. They were jealous of one another, which does happen. Sometimes friends move past it; sometimes they don't. This group always found a way to work through the bad things without diminishing them or making light of something sad or upsetting. They also celebrated when things went well and laughed and had inside jokes. Ann Brashares, the author of the series, captures all the complexity of friendship in a way that many novels fail to do, especially when the characters grow up.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find out that a fifth book exists. It was released in 2011, well after I stopped reading the original series. I don't remember hearing about it but am excited I found it. I'm only a few chapters in and already I'm back in the world of Lena, Tibby, Carmen, and Bridget. Already, I'm a bit of an emotional wreck (a very sad thing happened already to a character I really love). The book picks up as the friends are approaching their 30th birthdays and they're all in various states of unknown. They're still friends but maybe not as close as they once were, maybe not as in each others' lives as they were back in the day. And of course, they're spread around the country and the world.

This is exactly what happens in real adult friendships. Whether you've know a person since preschool or met in college or at work, eventually everyone has to start their lives. People get married, they have kids, they move for jobs, they get divorced, they grow up. Friendships shift and change and sometimes, they fade. It's sad but it doesn't mean you failed as a friend or a person. I've struggled with this over the years; losing touch with friends or investing time into friendships that I shouldn't anymore, not because of anything negative but because they've come to their natural end. I don't expect Sisters Everlasting to solve all of the problems of changing friendships. But I like the comfort of the story more than anything else.

On the same day I started reading Sisters Everlasting, I watched the first four episodes of the Netflix series Stranger Things. I won't spoil anything about the show but in the first episode, the boys, Mike, Dustin, and Lucas are explaining to Eleven what a friend is. She's never heard this term before and is genuinely confused by the concept. Mike tells her, "A friend is someone that you’d do anything for … and they never break a promise … that’s super important because friends tell each other things; things that parents don’t know." I had no idea this show that so many people love for so many reasons would get friendship, at least for the group of boys and Eleven, so right. The fierce dedication they have to finding Will and the protectiveness of the boys towards Eleven and her towards them makes me think of the girls of the Sisterhood too. My only other comment on Stranger Things, for now, is #PoorBarb.

I don't expect Sisters Everlasting or Stranger Things to solve all of the problems of changing friendships. But I like the comfort of the stories more than anything else. Sometimes my fictional universes make me feel better about my actual universe.

You may now form your own friendship circle and sing "Make New Friends" in a round. Now that song is in your're welcome.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

That cat on the internet

I follow Nacho Flay on Instagram. Nacho Flay is a majestic and handsome Maine Coon cat.

He also happens to belong to celebrity chef Bobby Flay. I had no idea Nacho existed despite the fact that he and Bobby Flay are the coolest cat/owner duo around. During the last season of The Next Food Network Star, there was a random episode (the finale maybe?) where we got to meet Nacho Flay and Bella De Laurentiis (Giada's cat). I think Bobby Flay mentioned that Nacho has his own Instagram account so I immediately followed the cat. I assume this is why the internet was invented.

As you can imagine, Nacho lives a pretty great life. I dare say he lives a better life than most people. He naps in glorious sun patches. He is always on the counter and no one seems to mind. He seems to have knowledge of tequila and knife technique. He sits in bowls. He hangs out with other celebrity chefs. He goes to press conferences. He likes hiding in bags and boxes. He looks startled and uncomfortable when his owner holds (sometimes). He is a weirdo just like every other cat in the world. He also has a brother named Taco.

We should all hope to be reincarnated as a celebrity's pet but only a celebrity who really seems to enjoy being a pet owner. Bobby Flay seems to be that celebrity pet owner. I missed out on all the early press about Nacho and Bobby; they have been bro-ing it up since 2015 with Nacho being declared the pet to watch on Instagram. People seem really taken with their story. I'd watch a cooking show consisting of Bobby Flay hanging out with Nacho just living their lives, being dudes. They could make brunch food and maybe on occasion, nachos. Or maybe brunch nachos. I don't know if brunch nachos are a thing but if Bobby Flay puts them on the menu at one of his restaurants, I would like credit.

Nacho Flay has over 64K followers on Instagram with just 91 posts. Many of those posts have well over 10K likes. Nacho also has a Twitter account (I don't follow him on Twitter) with a smaller fan base but equally amazing presentation. I don't even follow Bobby Flay on social media; I only follow Nacho. And yes, I am aware of the fact that Bobby Flay is the person behind most (if not all) of the Nacho Flay posts but it's not the same. I'm not interested in what Bobby Flay is doing; I'm interested in what Nacho is doing. Cats on the internet doing cat things is the best reason to be on the internet. Sure, we can look up just about anything on Google and learn things from a variety of sources (credible and not) but the true joy of the internet, particularly on social media platforms, is animal videos and pictures. And Nacho Flay is winning on social media every time "he" posts a new picture or video. He is giving his followers a little oasis in their day. He is living the life we all dream about.

Which, of course, brings up the most important question: does Pumpkin need her own Instagram account? Let's take a quick look at this lady's range:

Sweet, cuddly cat
Sun worshipper
Adventure - Pumpkin is up for anything!

Or maybe this gem:
Is it Pumpkin? Is it Batman? I don't know.

She may not be hanging out with celebrities but you can't argue that Pumpkin isn't out there living her best life on the internet (and in real life). Since she doesn't currently have her own Instagram account, her work is seen on my account instead. I created my account in 2011 but didn't really start posting until 2012. Pumpkin has been featured in 242 of my 1029 posts. That's 23% of my photos. While I didn't really have time to look into the numbers, I know in my heart that her photos are my most liked. This is particularly true when the photo features Pumpkin with a look on her face that screams "I'm judging you and your life choices." People really enjoy Pumpkin's judginess (not a word).

Look at all the shade

I've written 10 posts (not counting this one) that prominently feature Pumpkin. Three were written this year garnering 157 combined views. If we look back at the posts from 2013-2015, Pumpkin-centric posts garnered another 396 views bringing the grand total to 553. I've also written 6 posts about a fictional cat named Pickles, who may or may not be loosely based on Pumpkin. The Pickles posts add another 212 to the mix, bringing our total to 765 views for posts about Pumpkin or that reference Pumpkin. That's a lot of people reading about a cat who doesn't belong to a famous person.

This does not, however, answer the question of whether Pumpkin should have her own Instagram account. People, mostly my friends, enjoy Pumpkin so we could theorize that they would continue to enjoy Pumpkin on her own Instagram account. Strangers reading this blog seem to really dig her but is that enough? Do I have the time to manage another social media account? Would my Instagram account become boring without Pumpkin's antics and cuteness and napping?

I don't know the answer to any of these questions but I suspect the answers come down this: "Don't create an Instagram account for your cat. Don't be that person."

Such a lady #cutestcat #thoseears

Nacho Flay images from Instagram
Pumpkin images by me (all can be found on Instagram)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Road to 300: Lady Parts

I don't normally get political here on the Island; we all need a little break from politics and loudness and whatever else comes with living in the middle of an election season. Regardless of your personal feelings about Hillary Clinton, you can't ignore the historical significance of this election. While other women have run for President, no woman has ever been nominated by a major party for the presidency. She achieved this first just over a week ago at the Democratic National Convention. I admit that I teared up a bit during her speech; she is not the soaring orator that Barak Obama is but her words and the moment were enough for me. I'm not naive enough to believe the next 90-ish days are going to be easy or fun but they will be fascinating to watch. And I will be there with her on this journey, hopefully all the way to the White House.

However, today is not about Hillary Clinton or her historic bid for the presidency. No, today I want to discuss some other ladies who haven't had the easiest time of late but have chosen to rise above that and bust some ghosts.

Yes, I'm taking about the all-female cast of Ghostbusters.

Like most people, I love the original Ghostbusters. It's not a great movie but it's funny, a little scary, and featured a great cast who are the reason the movie works. The sequel is less exciting; I tend to watch it when I'm sick. It's one of the movies that I call fall asleep during, wake up in the middle, and still know what's going on before I fall asleep again. People, mostly men, lost their shit when it was announced that Paul Feig was going to be making a new version all female cast. Clutch your pearls or whatever it is dudes do when they're shocked by something. It didn't matter that the original cast was behind the film (and all make an appearance in the new one, including a lovely tribute to Harold Ramis who died in 2014). It also didn't matter that this isn't a remake in the way that other movies have recently been remade; Feig wasn't interested in recreating the same characters from the original films but creating a movie that exists within the universe of Ghostbusters. I didn't read this as a remake as much as an addition to the story in the way comic book stories often cross paths within the same universe.

What this movie makes abundantly clear is that people have zero chill and are incapable of simply being entertained. Everything doesn't have to be an epic masterpiece that will last the test of time. This could be the greatest movie of all time (it is not) and it wouldn't make a difference to a large percentage of the population who refused to see the movie because of ladies in lead roles. I cannot with these people. Are people with vaginas really that scary? Is that what's happening here? Interestingly, the movie plays to this theme in several places most notably with the character played by Kristen Wiig. Erin (great name) is a physicist, working towards tenure at a prestigious university. She is constantly being criticized for being uptight and dressing in a dowdy fashion. It doesn't matter that she's an accomplished scientist; she's still female so apparently it has to be hard to "make it" in academia. This is the reality for so many women in the world and not just in scientific fields. I'm not making this up; it's a reality. Hollywood isn't that much better and this movie is a clear example of that.

I liked the movie a lot. I would have liked it even if there wasn't controversy around it and if I didn't feel like I was required to go see it because I have lady parts and I need to support other humans who have lady parts. My favorite things included:
  • Leslie Jones as Patty Tolan, an MTA worker who also happens to know a ton of New York history. This comes in handy throughout the movie. I feel like Patty and I would be friends and go on history tours together.
  • HOLTZMANN! Kate McKinnon is freaking hilarious as the engineer/physicist who gives us some of the best moments and the best gear in the movie. She's probably the only character that has a true parallel to the original cast; Ramis's Egon, but she takes the weird and wacky to a completely different level. Egon was the straight man of the group; Holtzmann is something else. 
  • Cameos by the original cast except Rick Moranis (who declined the chance to be in the film and has been on a hiatus from Hollywood for the last 18 years following the death of his wife). My favorite cameos include Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, and the firehouse. 
  • Chris Hemsworth. Is it stunt casting? Yes. Was he funny? Yes he was. Did I objectify him a bit when he was wearing the white t-shirt and dancing at the end? Absolutely. It's hard being in a movie just for your looks isn't it?
  • The friendships between the women. It's great to see the Abby/Erin friendship evolve during the movie to what you imagine it was before Erin went all academic on Abby. Dropping Patty into the group changes it for the better. They don't compete with one another; they need one another to bust some ghosts and save the day.
  • The climactic fight scene. History, ghosts, cool weapons, slow motion fight sequences, improbability, and something seemingly innocent being turned into a rage filled ghost monster - this sequence had everything.
Seeing this movie didn't ruin my childhood memories of the original or discredit its originality. It added a new chapter to the Ghostbusters universe and let some seriously funny women showcase their talent. If the fact that they are female while being funny and busting ghosts bothers you, you need to take a long look at your life.

Ghosts are scary; feminism isn't. Ectoplasm is gross; funny, talented women are not. Considering a future led by an angry hornet of a man is terrifying; women as Ghostbusters is not.

Ghostbusters & Car

Monday, August 1, 2016

Sometimes What Happens In Vegas Should Definitely Stay In Vegas

There should not be four Sharknado movies. If I want to be 100% honest, there shouldn't be any Sharknado movies. There should be a sequel or some other extension of the Firefly/Serenity universe or another season of Parks and Rec or another Spy movie but that's not how the world works. SyFy has built part of its brand on low budget-ish, oddball "horror/sci-fi/creature/freak weather phenomena" movies (I don't really know how to categorize them) so something like Sharknado was going to happen at some point in our collective history. People like sharks; I don't but people do. People also like escapist television (I really do). It makes sense to combine both of these elements to create the pop culture zeitgeist that is the Sharknado franchise. And so we have Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens. Yes, that's it's actual name.

I try not to read too much about these movies before they happen. I enjoy being surprised by "celebrity" cameos, plot twists, and the inevitable shark-based puns. I'm still waiting for someone to put together the definitive list of ways sharks are killed in the movies. The cameos truly are the best part of any of the movies. My favorites all happened in the second movie; Downtown and Uptown Julie Brown, Biz Markie, and the cast of the Today show. Seriously, watching Matt Lauer kill a shark with an umbrella is the only time I've ever enjoyed watching him on the Today show. I take that back, my favorite cameo was George R.R. Martin in the third installment; he dies like all GoT's fans dreams of him ever finishing the series.

This year, for fun, the wonderful Neek Confessional (aka Jessica) and I decided to include a drinking game in our annual live tweeting/viewing extravaganza. Jessica was smart and took Monday off; I did not (new hires start on Monday so I have to be at work). Here's the game:

Next year, we should change puns to shark jokes but other than that, the drinking game worked well. I think I missed a lot of the cameos because I'm not up on my reality stars and MMA fighters. We also had a question of whether Fin's niece was being pouty or emo. I think we decided on pouty which is not the same thing. I finished my beer and a half and woke up just fine this morning.

So what does Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens have to offer us? We learned the why having the world's largest ball of twine is important. We learned that some things should really stay in Vegas. We learned that marrying into the Shepard family is a poor life choice. We learned that while we were in Kansas, we definitely weren't in Kansas anymore. But most importantly, we learned that you can just throw a word in front of "nado" and you have a new weather phenomena that sounds terrifying - that's what Sharknado 4 gave us. By my count there were 8 types of nadoes in this film: regular sharknadoes, firenadoes, sandnadoes, bouldernadoes, lightningnadoes, lavanadoes, cownadoes, and nuclear sharknadoes. I hope I didn't miss any of them.

Apparently, sharknadoes were not enough. We, and by we I mean the makers of these movies, decided that the only way to up the "suspense" and the action of these movies was to add more types of made up-nadoes because that's how movies work. The cownado was probably the most effective; between Gilbert Gottfried shouting about cownadoes (as he does) and the sharks eating the cows in the cow/sharknado, it was pretty spectacular to watch. The nuclear sharknado at the end of the movie was pretty amazing too. It looked exactly like a nuclear cloud from a 1950s horror movie had a baby with the bomb at the end of the tv movie version of Stephen King's The Stand so vaguely realistic and yet sort of like a child drew it. I feel like that description could describe most of Sharknado 4 but that also seems sort of mean to say out loud.

What did I like about Sharknado 4? I enjoyed many of the cameos this year but admit that I may have missed a lot of them since I'm not as up on my reality show stars as I should be. My favorite cameos included Cheryl Tieg as Fin's mom, Vince Neil as Vince Neil, Alexandra Paul and Gena Lee Nolin as astrophysicists but really there to recreate their famous Baywatch slow motion running, Patti Stanger as a report (asking a matchmaking question of course), Paul Shaffer randomly playing a keyboard during a sharknado attack, and Carrot Top as the most unlucky Uber driver ever. Vince Neil's appearance led to my only excuse to ever tweet about Vince Neil:

PS - the answer is yes except that it won't matter because sharks.

My least favorite cameo was that of Stacey Dash as the mayor of Chicago. Now, if this was 1995 and we were discussing Clueless there would be no problem but it is 2016 and Stacey Dash has become that "celebrity" that needs to go away. I cannot with her. I can suspend my disbelief for literally everything else that happens in Sharknado 4, including that time April used sharks as a makeshift defibrillator, but I cannot and will not accept Stacey as the mayor of Chicago. Somehow this morphs into her being the Wicked Witch (a la The Wizard of Oz) including wearing striped socks AND having a house dropped on her. I get that most of the cast of every Sharknado movie is stunt casting but this just seems so wrong for so many reasons. She does ask the question that plagues these movies "Is Fin responsible for the sharknadoes?" It's a mildly valid question but I don't think we'll ever get the answer to this since it's been asked in three of the four movies without an answer.

We also find out the fate of April. If you remember from Sharknado 3 after she gives birth in the belly of a shark during her reentry into Earth from space (just go with it), April is possibly killed by spacecraft debris. Fans were invited to decided whether April lived or died; I voted firmly on the side of "April should die" because April is the worst. But apparently, the "April should live" camp was more vocal and won. Now, I say she's alive but she's not really. Her mad scientist father, played by Gary Busey (of course), has turned her into a cyborg. Not just any cyborg, a cyborg that somehow has a built-in reference to every sci-fi/fantasy/comic book movie made in the last 30 years. There's definitely a nod to the Star Wars franchise (some on Twitter even referred to her as a Sharknado Jedi - I'm so, so sorry Star Wars fans), there are references to Star Trek, the Terminator series, and at some point, April becomes a weird Iron Man without the suit but with some of the toys. April's entire existence reminds me of that Kristy Swanson movie from the 80s called Deadly Friend; there's something super creepy about her in the entire rest of the movie. Keep in mind that her husband and children all think she's dead so her reappearance as a sharknado fighting cyborg is traumatic to say the least. Her youngest child, the child born in the belly of a shark, refuses to recognize April as his mother. He says a shark is his mom. In fact:

It's not until the entire Shepard family decides to face the nuclear sharknado as a family (because "family rules" as Fin tells us), that Little Gil (seriously) decides Cyborg Mom is okay. He even pulls a chainsaw out of a rock (in a nod to Excalibur) to save his family when they've all been "eaten" by sharks Russian nesting doll style. The youngest Shepard has now battled sharks and won so he's truly one of them.

I'm going to admit that only about 15% of the movie makes any real sense. This sequel was so fast paced and moved through so many states that it was hard to keep up with where the family was, how many cameos I missed (we haven't even discussed Dog the Bounty Hunter and his weird Deliverance-like family of chainsaw aficionados), the "science" of why the sharknado and specifically the nuclear sharknado keep coming back (thanks to Al Roker for the explanation), and why Fin has a niece all of the sudden and she's hanging out with him, base jumping to safety, and generally kicking ass. I have no idea why she's here except that Nova is missing and there has to be a hot woman who's not Fin's daughter or wife because that's how these movies work. I thought it would be Fin's son's wife but she dies, setting us up for the end of the movie and the return of Nova.

Yes, Nova returns at the very end (literally the last 30 seconds) riding on top of the Eiffel Tower. I'm not even joking about this. She's been in Paris, as Fin's daughter so helpfully tells us (or maybe it was the niece). I wanted to believe she was there on vacation and finding her one true love but no, apparently, she's been fighting sharknadoes.

I guess this means there will be a fifth Sharknado movie and it will star Nova. Maybe she only appears in odd numbered movies (she was in the first and third installments). Maybe she (the actor) realized this one was a lost cause and held out for a movie where she is more of a central character. Maybe once and for all she will get her Shepard dude (I'm guessing it will be the older son since that's what the first movie told us would happen). Or maybe the next chapter of Sharknado will be free of the freaking Shepard family and Nova will be able to finally avenge her grandfather's shark attack death in the way she has always shark annihilation.

I'll be here for you because I watch these movies so you don't have to.

Sharknado poster
Drinking game image by Jessica 
Tweet images by me (from my account)
Tweet image from @SharknadoSyFy

Friday, July 22, 2016

You're Doing Everything Wrong: Civic Duty Edition

I enjoy being a good citizen. The citizenship award in elementary school was one of my favorite things and I wanted to be the good citizen of the month every month. That's probably not fair since a true good citizen would want to share the award but 3rd graders are selfish. Anyway, as an adult I've strived to do the things I can do to be a good, productive member of society. I was a high school Civics teacher which means I'm a super citizenship nerd. I vote and pay my taxes and I always put my cart back at the grocery. When I was younger I was much more of an activist, participating in protests more and being a more active volunteer. I've come to the realization that I don't love crowds as much as I used to so I tend to support the organizations I love and believe in through donations, background activities, and being an advocate. I enjoy writing strongly worded emails and letters to my congressional representatives and the county officials where I live. I describe this as "quiet activism." We all have to opt for the level of activism that we feel comfortable with in our lives.

One thing has been missing all these years: I've never served jury duty. I know most people would jump at the chance to not serve on jury duty but I am not most people. I received a jury summons once before from the state of Hawaii. However, I had recently moved back to Louisiana so Hawaii didn't want to spend the money to bring me back for jury duty. I guess I understand their reasoning but I was a little disappointed. I was never called in any of the other cities/counties/parishes I've lived in since. No jury duty in Metairie (Jefferson Parish), New Orleans (Orleans Parish), the City of Alexandria, or the City of Alameda. Sad. I've even been a little jealous of my friends and family when they've been called. Why did they get picked and not me? Yes, it's weird. I know that and I'm ok with it.

To say that I was pleasantly surprised when I received my jury summons from Arlington County would be an understatement. I was excited - finally I would be able to complete the good citizenship puzzle I've been working on my whole life. I would see the inside of a courtroom. I would listen intently to the lawyers argue their cases and make a decision based on the evidence presented. I would do my civic duty. Finally, my jury duty week arrived.

And I failed. I failed at jury duty.

This is not to say I did anything wrong; I did nothing wrong. I arrived on time (early because it's me). I dressed appropriately. I brought my jury duty lunch (which was super sad but still I did it). I read The Answer Book for Jury Service cover to cover once I checked in. I vowed to answer all the questions asked of me during the selection process truthfully. I binge watched the tv show Conviction (more on this shortly) because that's what one should do to prepare.

I didn't get picked. I didn't even get the option of being an option for a trial. Here's what happened: we watched a surprisingly well made video featuring the Chief Judge and met with the Clerk of Court, an incredibly polite gentleman who took us through what would happen over the course of the week. Apparently, July is a light month for jury trials in the county. There were only three cases set for the week and they couldn't be sure if the cases would actually go to trial. There was also a second jury pool that would be called for the week so they could take the spots on the actual jury instead of any of us. We were told we would all be going into the court for the one case being heard on the first day but it never happened. Between the clerk briefing us and lunch time, the case was either dismissed or settled without the need of a jury. We were let go for the day and told to check the jury site for our next report date.

I gathered my things and made my way back to work (like a good citizen). I was disappointed and I was the only one in the room that was disappointed. I'm 100% sure of that. I checked the jury site over the next few days and was told not to report. On Wednesday afternoon, I received an email from the jury coordinator:

"Your service is complete."

My jury duty had come to an end without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom. I didn't get to make jury summons room friends or find out if the security guard at the court entrance won her Fitbit fitness challenge for the week (because we Fitbit people always find each other). I fulfilled my service but didn't really do anything. My friends tried to convince me that I had fulfilled my duty and should be okay with what I did accomplish by simply showing up and being a good sport. I think they're wrong.

The one thing I truly accomplished was re-watching the show Conviction, a short-lived addition to the Law & Order universe. The show focused on a group of young Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) headed up by Alexandra Cabot (Stephanie March), before her character fakes her death on SVU, and Jim Steele, played by a favorite actor of mine, Anson Mount. The show only lasted one season which in Law & Order terms is the equivalent of one minute. I was a fan when the show when it originally aired and was disappointed when it wasn't brought back for a second season. I don't really watch procedural dramas anymore; once Lenny Briscoe died (on the show and in real life), I just couldn't do it anymore. But this was for jury duty so I watched. My binge watching brought back the same unanswered questions I had way back in 2006 when the show originally aired:
  • Are all ADAs incredibly attractive? Is there a section of the bar that rates attractiveness and somehow that impacts a lawyer's employability? Exhibit A:

  • Did Jim Steele ever figure out which lady he really loved? Was it Bureau Chief Cabot, poised to marry another man and a few years away from faking her death on SVU? Or was it Jessica, ADA with amazing cheekbones and a super sassy attitude? How would this have impacted the larger Law & Order universe had it actually been resolved? Steele and Jessica would have had impossibly attractive children. 
  • Does Erik Balfour ever look trustworthy? I can't recall any movie or tv show I've seen him on where he didn't look sweaty, shady, and like he has a secret family somewhere. Exhibit B:
  • Would my jury service end in a hostage situation as the two part series finale ended? Would I be one of the people forced to stand in a window because the guy holding court hostage thought that meant the SWAT team wouldn't shoot? For the record: they always shoot.
  • Why did the priest in the episode about the kid who stole money from the church poor box have an Irish accent in some scenes but not others? Did they think no one would notice?
  • Did Finn and Peluso make it? There were an inordinate number of couples on this show who all worked together. Did none of them realize that dating at work is a poor, poor life choice? 
  • Did rich boy turned ADA Nick Potter stay with the job or go back to being an insufferable rich person like everyone else in his family? I like to think he stayed.
I'll continue contemplating these questions while I wait for my next jury summons. I can be called again in the next three years or sooner if needed. Or it could be another 15 years before I'm called again (the time between my Hawaii summons and Virginia summons). Or never. I guess I can live with that.

Next week: It's Sharknado Week on the Island of Misfit Toys! During the week I'll repost my previous blogs on the first three Sharknado movies in anticipation of the premiere of Sharknado 4 on July 31st. I'll fulfill my other civic duty by watching the fourth movie so you don't have to. Check it out next week on the Island!

Conviction cover
Conviction cast photo
Erik Balfour

Friday, July 15, 2016

Transient Suburbia: Tales of a Fourth Grade Skating Party

Regular readers know that I'm working on finishing my novel. One of my beta readers (I type that like I know what I'm talking about) shared that she'd like more of Harper as a child outside of the letters so I've added three new chapters in that section. I thought I'd share one of the  new chapters from the section of the book set in the fourth grade. Harper, our heroine, has recently discovered her pen pal is a boy and that they seem to enjoy reading the same books. I added the roller-skating party, based loosely on a party I attended around the same age. Previous posts from Transient Suburbia can be found here

Chapter Five

1988-1989, Fourth Grade

    Dear Ben,                        September 30, 1988
    I got your first letter after I sent my first letter so I couldn’t answer your questions. Hopefully, you’ve gotten my letter by now. How are you? How’s school? What kinds of music do you play?
    I don’t play sports either but it’s because I don’t like them. My older brother plays baseball. I think I already told you that. I go to games and cheer for him with my parents. My sister goes with us but she always sits with her friends. I don’t play with Barbies but I do have Jem and the Holograms dolls. I mostly build stuff with Legos and read. My friends and I like to roller skate.
    Are you done with  “James and the Giant Peach”? I read the end last night. My mother never should have bought me a reading light. I always stay up past bedtime reading. Miss Spider is my favorite character. I like the part where James rescues Centipede from the ocean - it was scary but exciting. I’m starting on “The Witches” next and some Judy Blume books. What else do you like to read?
    What’s your treehouse like? Do you get to sleep in it ever? We can’t have a treehouse because we move a lot.
    Your friend,

    Dear Harper,                         October 9, 1988
    Wow we both just finished “James and the Giant Peach”! That's awesome. I like the part with the sharks and when the aunts get in trouble at the end. Grasshopper is my favorite. I haven’t read “The Witches” but maybe I will soon. I mostly read comic books and stuff my older brother shares with me. He just gave me some books based on the “Star Wars” movies; they’re pretty cool.
    My dad makes me play classical old music. It’s ok I guess. I want to learn rock songs on my guitar. I’ve been trying to listen and play along but it’s not that easy. My mom says I can take some guitar lessons for fun this year if I keep up my classical piano lessons. I told her I would but so far no guitar lessons. Maybe for my birthday in December. When is your birthday?
    You like Legos? I have a bunch of them. My brother and I like to build tanks and planes. He got a castle set for his birthday and we’ve been working on it for a few weeks now. We keep it in the treehouse. What do you build? Sorry about the Barbies; a lot of girls I know have them.
    Why do you move so much? We’ve always lived here in the same house. Maybe you could get a treehouse that could some way be moved. I don’t know how that would work but I’m sure they make them. My treehouse kinda looks like my house. My dad had one of those treehouses from the back of a magazine when he was a kid. When we moved into our house, he built us a treehouse that was bigger and better than the one he had. Or at least that’s what he always tells us. It’s pretty big. My friends and me get to sleep in it in the summer. My mom always worries that I’ll fall out of it when I’m sleeping and break my arm again.

“Hangin’ Tough” blared from the speakers at Roller Skating Paradise. The album was released right after school started. Sophie, Harper’s best friend, had been listening to it on repeat ever since, much to Harper's dismay. Even her birthday party was New Kids On The Block themed, right down to the pictures of Jordan, Joey, Jonathan, Danny, and Donnie on the cake. Harper didn’t particularly like the New Kids but it wasn’t her birthday party and she didn’t want to be a bad friend.
Sophie’s party was the first birthday party of the school year and it was the first girl/boy party anyone in their class had ever thrown. All of their class was invited and just about everyone came. Harper skated around the rink expertly, spying her mom and Sophie’s mom manning the snack table. A group of boys were clustered around the table, throwing popcorn at one another. Mrs. Monroe shooed them back out to the skating rink. Harper caught up with Sophie, Claire, and Tiffany, her closest friends. They were dressed in various shades of purple, pink, and teal. Harper thought they looked like a Lisa Frank folder come to life. The girls were whispering and giggling about something.
“Why are we whispering?” Harper asked as she joined the group.
“We’re deciding who’s going to couple skate with who,” Sophie replied. “It’s coming up in two songs.”
“How do you know when it’s going to be?” Harper hated couple skates. Her friends had only recently expressed interest in couple skating.
“Sophie asked the DJ.” Claire said matter of factly.
“Aren’t they guys supposed to ask? Or are you in charge of it somehow?” Harper hoped her friends left her out of it.
“Well since it’s my birthday, I should get to skate with who I want to. I pick Jay.” Sophie had had a huge crush on Jay ever since they were assigned as science partners at the beginning of the school year.
“Claire’s going to skate with Mark and Tiffany with Tommy.” Sophie turned to skate backward to face her friends. She was the best backward skater of the group.
“That just leaves you, Harper,” Claire laughed a little as she said this. She knew Harper hated the idea of a couple skates.
“I think I’ll help our moms get the cake ready. It’s almost time for us to have cake and to open presents.” Harper tried to deflect the conversation away from her participation.
“No you aren’t. All of us have to couple skate. That’s the rule.” Sophie was in bossy birthday girl mode. Harper knew she would lose this argument so she opted to play along and beg for a good partner.
“Fine. Just pick someone who’s not a dork for me.” Harper sighed.
“Peter!” The three girls said at the same time.
Harper blushed; it was dark in the rink so she didn’t think anyone noticed. Her friends knew she liked Peter so of course they would arrange it so that she would skate with him. He was the smartest boy in class, although Harper had the highest GPA. and was cute in a preppy sort of way. He was wearing a pink Polo shirt and Bugle Boy jeans, the uniform of boys in her class. His brown hair was brushed to the side so he looked kind of like DJ’s boyfriend on Full House. He sat next to Harper in class and always borrowed pencils from her. Mrs. Henderson never paired them up, much to Harper’s disappointment.
“Great,” she replied. The group skated through the next song, ending over by where the boys were skating. The DJ changed records from another New Kids song to a song Harper had never heard before. She knew it was an old song but couldn’t place it.
“Alright all you lovebirds out there, it’s time for a couple skate. If you’re not a couple, please move out of the rink until the end of the song,” the DJ's voice boomed over the opening chords of the song.
Harper’s friends started to pair off as Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love” started to play. Even though Harper didn’t know the song she immediately loved it. She was trying to figure out some of the lyrics so she could ask her dad about it later; he was good at helping her figure out songs from just the lyrics. She barely noticed when Peter skated up to her.
“Do you want to skate with me?” he asked.
“Sure.” Harper took his hand and they skated into the rink together.
It was hard skating with someone else. Harper had to concentrate on keeping her speed consistent with Peter’s and holding his hand. Peter was taller than Harper by a few inches so his stride was a little longer than hers. He was constantly slowing down and speeding so they could get in sync. He smiled at her a few times but didn’t say much. That was okay with with Harper; it allowed her to listen to the song more closely and skate in time with it. Peter’s hand was a little sweaty; Harper wondered if he was nervous too. Maybe that was why he didn’t say anything. Harper saw her mom as they passed by where she was standing. Mrs. Monroe was taking pictures of her and Peter. Awesome, Harper thought. Her mom would tell her siblings and Harper would never hear the end of it especially from her sister.
As the song came to an end, Harper and Peter skated back to where they started. “Thanks for skating with me,” Peter said shyly.
“It was fun.” Harper smiled at him.
She turned to exit the rink. At the same time, Peter skated closer to her and quickly kissed her on the cheek. He sped off before she could say anything as a Huey Lewis & the News song began to play. Harper stood there for a minute, a little shocked by what had just happened.
Her first kiss. It probably didn’t count since it was only on the cheek but still it had happened. Had her friends seen it happen? Had her mom? What did she do next? Before she could do anything, Sophie skated up to her.
“And you didn’t want to couple skate!” Sophie had definitely seen the kiss. She grabbed Harper’s hand and skated them over to the cake. “Peter likes you,” she whispered.
“That’s cool.” Harper wanted to appear cool with this despite the fact that she was freaking out on the inside.
Before the conversation could continue, Sophie’s mom called everyone over for cake. Harper stood next to her best friend as the group sang "Happy Birthday." In the seconds before Sophie blew out her candles, Harper looked up over the glow of the candles and snuck a look at Peter. He smiled at her. She smiled back and quickly looked away. Skating parties were pretty fun after all.