Oscar Night Predictions 2016 – Leo is a Lock!

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It’s the most wonderful time of the  year!

Yes, it’s that time again.  And, as promised, I will be watching from my very own brand new house!  I even have a few guests coming over.  I’m hoping to start a tradition, but who knows where I’ll be this time next year?

2016 marks an Oscar rarity for me, in that I’ve seen nearly all the Best Picture nominees  (Sorry, Brooklyn.  I just…can’t).  So, before I get into who’s predicting what tonight, allow me to vainly list my reactions to all 8 (er…7).  This helps, right?  If you haven’t seen them?  My opinions matter!

The Big Short

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SPOILER ALERT: This is my pick for Best Picture.

It’s funny, it’s smart and it’s important.  Michael Lewis, the author of the book The Big Short is based on has crafted a number of accessible Numbers=Drama tales (see also: Flash Boys, Liar’s Poker, Moneyball) and is quickly emerging as one of my favorite non-fiction writers  (Mary Roach still holds the top spot).  Of all the films on the list, this is one of the only ones that I think people need to watch.

Best Line: “I have a feeling in a few years people are going to be doing what they always do when the economy tanks. They will be blaming immigrants and poor people.”

Considering the rise of King Trump…this movie is prophetic.

Bridge of Spies

‘Bridge of Spies’ by DreamWorks Studios.

My gut reaction?  This movie is kinda forgettable.

As in, I don’t really have much to say about it.  And, considering I worked in the Spy Exhibit in Times Square and stood next to the flight suit of Francis Gary Powers for hours at a time, that’s saying something.  It was an entertaining film.  But not terribly thought provoking.  Did it have anything to say about the multiple scandals our CIA and NSA are undergoing?  Not particularly.  Unless…it was meant to make me feel more patriotic towards the spies.  Hostage negotiation and Tom Hanks worked much better in Captain Phillips.

Best Line: “This war does not for the moment involve men at arms; it involves information.”

Brooklyn

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Didn’t see it.  Probably won’t. Doesn’t have a high heel’s chance in the Outback of winning.

Mad Max: Fury Road

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This was the first Best Picture nominee that I saw and that was months ago.  While it’s not going to change hearts or minds on any Big Important Issue, it definitely leaves an impact. It’s a finely made movie, one that takes on a level of spectacle the movies were always meant to adopt…it takes us to another world.  I literally left the theater telling my friend, “I feel like I have tetanus now.”  It’s a dirty, pokey movie and a nice little thrill ride.

Best Line: “Do not, my friends, become addicted to water. It will take hold of you, and you will resent its absence!”

The Martian

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I  secretly wish this would win Best Picture (it won’t).  I was enraptured with every second of this movie.  Is it believable?  Hell no.  But the journey with Matt Damon’s astronaut Mark Watney is way more fun than the shit show DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass puts us through (more on that later).  Watney is funny and resilient and a hell of a good time.  Knowing that this was the author’s first novel only further impresses me with the story.  I hope he writes more.

Best Line: “They say once you grow crops somewhere, you have officially colonized it. So, technically, I colonized Mars. In your face, Neil Armstrong!”

The Revenant

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I’m angry, at a psycho-physiological level at how many accolades this movie is receiving.  It’s ridiculous.  I looked into things and, yes, there was indeed a furtrapper named Hugh Glass that apparently went through all this shit.  But, what, I’m just supposed to take his word for it?  When he went over the cliff on the horse and lived to tell the tale (and then climbed inside the horse for the night!), I checked out of the movie completely.  This shit is a Tall Tale, in the vein of Paul Bunyan and would have been a much better movie if it’d been directed by the Coen Bros.

Best Line: “AAGHH…Uuuuhhh.”

Room

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Remember when I read this book last year?  As depressing as all that was, I have to say I found the movie a little uplifting.  Maybe it’s the kid.  Yeah, it probably is.  Brie Larson gave a devastating performance and deserves the Oscar she will inevitably win for this.  Not sure I’d ever want to watch it again, though.

Best Line: “It can’t really be room if door’s open.”

Spotlight

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When I say that this movie is Erin Brockovich vs. The Catholic Church, I mean that in a good way.  The ensemble of actors here is crackling, the narrative thread almost makes a moviegoer feel like an investigative journalist.  A screenplay Oscar well won.  The scene when they break out the Catholic directories to cross-reference all the “sick leaves”?  I thought to myself, “God, that sounds like fun!”  But, then again, there’s nothing I love more than a tedious task that could lead to a big surprise.  This one I would watch again.  I’m not sure the public needs to see it in the way they should The Big Short, but it’s definitely a thought-provoker.

Best Line: “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse them.”

Ok, ok, so now that I’ve self-importantly spouted off my armchair reviews…who’s going to win?

Well, (no doubt inspired by Spotlight), I cross-referenced several sources for predictions and have made the following matrix for your convenience.  However, I must warn you: there aren’t many surprises.  Most critics are agreeing on most of the races.  Best Picture and the Dreaded Sound Awards (always my downfall!) are the only ones that Those In the Know seem to be at odds over.  So, if you want to keep an element of surprise in your predictions…maybe best to skip this part.

Title Entertainment

Weekly

Variety New Yorker 538 Blog
Best Picture

 

The Big Short The Big Short The Revenant The Revenant
Best Actor

 

LEO LEO LEO LEO
Best Actress

 

Brie Larson Brie Larson Brie Larson Brie Larson
Best Supporting Actor Stallone Stallone Stallone Stallone
Best Supporting Actress Vikander Vikander Vikander Vikander
Best Director

 

Inarritu Inarritu Inarritu Inarritu
Best Adapted

 

The Big Short The Big Short The Big Short The Big Short
Best Original

 

Spotlight Spotlight Spotlight Spotlight
Best Animated

 

Inside Out Inside Out Inside Out Inside Out
Best Cinematography The Revenant The Revenant The Revenant The Revenant
Best Costume

 

Carol Mad Max Carol Mad Max
Best Makeup/Hair

 

Mad Max Mad Max Mad Max Mad Max
Best Editing

 

Mad Max Mad Max Mad Max Mad Max
Best Visual FX

 

Mad Max The Revenant Mad Max The Force Awakens
Best Prod Design

 

Mad Max Mad Max The Martian Mad Max
Best Sound Edit

 

Mad Max The Revenant The Force Awakens The Revenant
Best Sound Mix

 

Mad Max The Revenant The Revenant The Revenant
Best Score

 

Hateful 8 Hateful 8 Hateful 8 Hateful 8
Best Song

 

Gaga Gaga Gaga Gaga
Best Doc. Feature

 

Amy Amy Amy Amy
Best Doc. Short

 

A Girl in the River Claude Lanzmann A Girl in the River
Best Live Short

 

Shok Stutterer Stutterer
Best Animated

Short

World of Tomorrow Bear Story Sanjay’s Super Team
Best Foreign Film

 

Son of Saul Son of Saul Mustang Son of Saul

As for my picks?  Here goes:

Best Picture: The Big Short. For all the reasons listed above and so many more (including Selena Gomez).

Best Actor: Miichael Fassbender.

        Nah, I’m just messing with you!  Leo.  538 Blog gave him 1 to 100               odds.  There’s not a more sure thing in any of the other races.

Best Actress: Brie Larson.  She’s also a near-given.

Best Supporting Actor: Stallone

Best Supporting Actress: Vikander (they all agree, so I guess I have to go with it!)

Best Director: George Miller, Mad Max.  Because Fuck ’em, I’m going rogue.

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short

Best Original Screenplay: Spotlight

Best Animated Feature: Inside Out (I told you there are very few surprises)

Best Cinematography: The Revenant (The fogging up the camera lens scene was kinda nice)

Best Costume: Carol

Best Makeup/Hair: Mad Max (So.  Dirty.)

Best Editing: Mad Max

Best Visual FX: Mad Max

Best Design: Mad Max

Best Sound Editing: I’ll get back to you

Best Sound Mixing: Same

Best Score: The Hateful 8

Best Song: That awful Lady Gaga song.  But thank God no one’s showing any love to Fifty Shades!

Best Documentary: Amy

Best Doc. Short: A Girl in the River (though I really want to see Body Team 12)

Best Live Short: Stutterer?

Best Animated Short: Sanjay’s Super Team (This will likely be another surprise)

Best Foreign Film: Son of Saul

 

But no matter what happens….Oscars will STILL be #SOWHITE!  Here’s to hoping for more diversity next year.  And for an eventful telecast!

Enjoy, errybody.

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A Valentine’s Playlist for my Single Friends

Is it weird that, most Valentine’s Days, I wind up thinking about my single friends?

In my thirty eighth year, I have had a steady Valentine for eight years now, but for the first three decades of my life I spent most Valentine’s in a bitter pool of resentment.  I remember attending a special square dancing “workshop” in fifth grade, where the boys and girls were asked to pair up and…I got left the odd-man out, having to dance with the teacher.  I remember thinking to myself, “This is how it’s always going to be.  I’m always going to be the one left alone.  I’m Quasimodo.”  And every Valentine’s, even now, I think about that moment.  But since Valentine’s Day 2004, I have kind of a different perspective.

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At that point, I was already pretty cynical when it came to love.  Point of fact: I was in the early drafting stages of a one act play called “Two Fools: A Cynic’s Fairytale” at the time all this went down.  I had become accustomed to thinking of myself as That Jilted Girl, the wallflower that never got her own flowers on VD.

SONG: Don’t Let It Bring You Down, Annie Lennox

I have been ridiculed both to my face and behind it, been not-called-back by enough men to form a professional football team and stood up? Don’t get me started. I had one guy stand me up (actually, physically, standing at the screen door for ninety minutes waiting for him to show) and when I finally heard from him he said he didn’t come or call because “Dave Matthews was on Storytellers and he couldn’t tear himself away.” (Dave Matthews.  Textbook Douche.)  I went out with one guy who sat with me at the table of a pizzeria for five minutes, got up to go to the bathroom and never came back.  Fun fact? After twenty minutes of waiting, I called his phone and he had changed his OUTGOING VOICEMAIL MESSAGE to a message to me that said, “I’m sorry, Sarah…I had to bail.”  Another charmer: the friend I’d asked to escort me to my first sorority formal who showed up half an hour late. When I asked why he didn’t call to let me know he was running late, he LITERALLY SAID: “I’m not your boyfriend, I’m never going to be your boyfriend, so I saw no reason to call.” By the time 2004 hit, needless to say, I didn’t have a great deal of faith in men.

SONG: The Trouble with Love, Kelly Clarkson

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I was in New Brunswick, New Jersey attending my first year of graduate school at Rutgers.  A few days prior, I had met a man at Doll’s, the bar my friends and I frequented (GOD, I miss that place).  We had talked all night and, I thought, had hit it off.  He asked if I wanted to go out with him sometime and I agreed; mentioned that I had theater tickets for that Saturday night (which just so happened to be Valentine’s Day).  He had just gone through what he claimed was a tough breakup and, admittedly, expressed some hesitation about going out with someone new on Valentine’s. I told him we could do something else on another, less hot-button-y day, but he persisted, said he thought it’d be good for him.

SONG: Shakey Graves, Roll the Bones

That Saturday morning he called and cancelled.  I was less than pleased, but the situation worsened when I spoke with a friend who claimed that the bartender had overhead this young man making jokes at my expense that evening when I hadn’t been listening.  I dropped my basket, going from Zero to Quasimodo in about…ninety seconds.  I tried to get through my day, was miserable to be around and in the early afternoon, found myself smoking a cigarette outside the theater building.

SONG: Vienna, Billy Joel

There, I was introduced to a friend’s roommate, Shawn.  She’d been telling me I had to meet him, that he and I would be best buddies if we knew each other.  (He is not romantically inclined towards women, I don’t want you to get the idea that this was that kind of love-connection…)  When he heard what had happened to me that morning, he offered to take my date’s place and see the show with me that night.  This began a friendship that, twelve years later, is still quite profound.  Shawn went on to become my roommate, to spend a stranded and memorable Thanksgiving with me, to take me to my first and only Broadway Opening Night (Alas, poor People in the Picture.  We hardly knew ye).  You guys, Shawn officiated my wedding.

SONG: Crystal, Stevie Nicks

The effect of his addition to my life was instantaneous.  I returned to my apartment for the rest of the afternoon and changed my attitude.  I decided to make homemade Valentine’s cards for my classmates, like you do when you’re in grade school.  On the front of each one was a black heart with a quote from a John Mayer song:

SONG: Wheel, John Mayer

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And I put inside each one a bay leaf which, according to an old gypsy wive’s tale, would bring you dreams of the person you would marry when put under your pillow (I did not, in fact dream of Jason-or anyone-that night, sorry gypsies…your shit’s broke).  I handed them out to all my classmates at the show that night and slowly, the spell of resentment was broken.  For me, every Valentine’s Day since, I remember this moment with gratitude.

SONG: To Get Me To You, Lila McCann.

Because of that day, I truly do think there’s a balance to the universe.  I think you get back what you put out, but it’s important to do the putting-out (spoken like a true ho, I know).  I think to truly love someone (as cliché as this sounds), you do really have to love yourself first, to value the unique brand of love you’re putting out into the ether.  And I think karma exists, that sometimes we’re meant to be alone to teach us what we need from other people and from ourselves.  But more than anything, I think sometimes there are people who are meant to be in our lives no matter what, people whose light attaches to ours for good and makes it burn brighter and last longer.  I have several of those cherished people in my life and I was just lucky enough to get to meet one of my best ones on Valentine’s Day.

SONG: Song for a Friend, Jason Mraz

So, if you’re single this Valentine’s Day, you’re in my thoughts.  Whether you’ve loved and lost or never loved at all, I hope my story brings you comfort.  Not all fulfilling relationships are the ones that involve flowers and scented candles, as fun as those may be.  Reach out to those that are important to you, put your love out on display, because your life will see it brought back to you.  I’m a living testament.

SONG: Feels Like  Home, Bonnie Raitt

And, if nothing else, remember, kids…tomorrow candy is 75% off!

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Of Bondage and Billionaires: Why this Oscar Nomination makes me Furious

There’s been a lot of uproar over some of the overt snubs by this year’s Academy.  If you’ve been on social media in the past two weeks at all, I’m sure you’ve seen at least one #OscarsSoWhite article, if not dozens (Or perhaps I’m just seeing more of them because, as an Oscar fanatic, the Facebook Algorithm Gargoyles like to feed my addictions).  While we’re on the subject, I will say that last year I thought the Selma snubs were pretty messed up and this year…yeah.  I have not much to say on the subject that hasn’t already been said, but if this is something that angers you as it does me and you haven’t seen it yet, you should totally watch the SNL sketch that takes the issue on in a way only good satire can.

But this post is not to express my anger over one of the snubs.  This post directs my fury right at one of the nominations itself.  Usually, when I’m mad about something that’s happening in pop culture, a lot of other people are, too.  And so I feel vindicated when it pops up in my feed (or on late night talk shows) over and over again.  Like Palin endorsing Trump.  Or Sean Penn talking about farts in his El Chapo interview.  Or the overuse of the term “Bye, Felicia.”  God, I hate that shit.  But on this issue, the airwaves seem expressly mute.  And so, the gauntlet is laid at my feet and I can no longer remain silent.

You guys.  Fifty Shades of Grey was nominated for an Oscar.

Fifty shades lego

Granted, it’s just for Best Original Song.  But it’s the WORST song from the soundtrack!  The nomination is for The Weeknd’s Earned It.  If you haven’t heard it yet (or didn’t really pay attention), I invite you to have a gander.  With lyrics.  I’ll wait.

When I say this is the worst song from the soundtrack, I’m not even really saying I dislike the song.  I kind of enjoy The Weeknd.  His backbeats are dramatically bombastic and, in The Hills, he worked the words “gated residential” into the lyrics.  I’m a fan.  But I hate.  I hate.  I hate that this song is attached to Fifty Shades of Grey.  And to explain that hatred, I don’t really even need to delve too deeply into the lyrics (though I could).  All I have to say is: Earned WHAT, exactly?

Weeknd

There’s been plenty of sturm and drung voiced against Fifty and I’ll try not to get redundant.  Yes, it depicts an abusive relationship.  Yes, it gives a skewed expectation on the nature of modern BDSM.  Yes, the prose is its own special breed of pathetic.  (It’s been well documented that Fifty started out as Twilight fan fiction, which makes it literary bottom feeding).  As a somewhat enthusiastic erotica reader (or, as one friend calls it, “smut”), I think that there’s something more insidious at play.  I think that, because it plays on one of the most guilty pleasures in the undercurrent of the feminine psyche, Fifty Shades of Grey is Lolita for chicks.

Let me explain.  We all know that there a lot of men out there with a thing for young girls. It’s one of the reasons Lolita is the classic that it is (though, I must say, its structure and language is vastly superior to E.L. James’ sloppy shipping).  In fact, if you read Diablo Cody’s Candy Girl , her memoir of the year she spent in the sex industry, she discusses her brief stint as a phone sex operator. When her employer provided her with various “scripts” for identities to play out on the phone (i.e. “The Mommy,” or “The Cougar”) the only one men ever really requested was “The Barely Legal.”  So, ok…this is a thing.

And women have their own version of it.  I call it the Elizabeth Bennett Syndrome, but most dudes refer to it as the Golddigger. Or, if you prefer Bill Burr, an “epidemic of golddigging whores.”  If the prevalent, underlying male fantasy is the barely legal young blonde girl, then I can say with great certainty that, especially since Fifty hit the scene, the big trend in erotica has been the Handsome Billionaire.  If you do a search on Amazon Kindle Ebooks for “Billionaire Erotica” about twenty thousand listings come up.  TWENTY THOUSAND.  This trend is reversing feminism and I can’t not say something anymore.  

I know what you’re thinking.  Did she just call Pride & Prejudice the story of a golddigger?  In fact, you probably didn’t read the rest of that paragraph, so I should address this.  It’s my theory that Pride & Prejudice has remained such a classic (passionately so), because of the character of rich, handsome Mr. Darcy. (Kindle store search for “Darcy” returns over 2,000 options).  You see, yes, Elizabeth rejects Mr. Darcy’s advances early on…until she comes to visit his big, fancy house.  Then, somehow, her opinion of him shifts.

Darcy

Do I think Austen wrote Elizabeth as a golddigger?  Absolutely not. (I ain’t sayin’ she a golddigger.  Couldn’t resist).  But she has become the archetype for the kind of dance that the fantasy golddigger now plays.  The woman whose ultimate motives may be for the man’s pockets knows that, if she plays it like Elizabeth Bennett, she’ll not get labeled a golddigger.  Not sure what I mean?  I give you Fifty.  Anastasia patently refuses Mr. Grey’s lavish gifts in the early chapters of the books, so that you, the reader, can see she’s clearly not interested in him for the money.  But then the rest of the book goes into great detail about the car he gives her, the house he lives in, the plane he takes  her around in, her room, with a fully stocked closet full of expensive clothes, just for her.  It’s golddigger porn; and the same formula is present in, I would venture to say, every single one of those 20,000 Billionaire romance knock-offs (Yes, I’ve read a few).  They all go on and on about the lap of their true love’s luxuries, only they have to pretend it’s not about the money because that makes them horrible people, right?  

Yes.  Yes, it does.

Mr Grey

“Girl, you’re perfect, you’re always worth it and you deserve it, the way you work it.”

Gag me.

Ladies, we’re better than this.  Our mothers did not burn their bras so that we could make seventy-some-odd cents on every dollar our male counterparts make.  But if we want that to change, we have to be part of the change.  We must stop sending the message to our young girls that a man is a paycheck.

It’s a long hard road to hoe, though, hoes.  Submission is deeply ingrained into our feminine DNA.  In the Human Sexuality class I took in undergrad, I learned that one of the most prevalent female fantasies is to be raped.  ?!?  Couple that with the 20,000 Billionaire fantasies on Amazon, and how could E.L. James NOT have had a recipe for success?  Far be it from me to tell anyone what they should be fantasizing about; some people really get off on latex, others on feet…the heart wants what the heart wants.  But is it possible to just take money out of the bedroom?  It really has no place there.

Good smut

So, if bondage is what you’re into, may I offer Secretary?  Or Venus in Fur?  Throw out your copies of Fifty Shades, and trust me, there’s no need in looking at any of those knock-offs. Wouldn’t it be thrilling if the next hot, sexy trend was about a Female Billionaire?  Why not fantasize about being the one that has it all, not the one that has to get it all from her man.

Cause, girl…you earned that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 – The Year of Lowered Expectations!

Everyone’s making New Year’s resolutions and…well, I just kind of want to get back to my Growing Personally project.

2015 was a game changer: I finished the first draft of my novel, I bought a house and, hey, I made bread from scratch!  Unfortunately, because the end of the year became so eventful for me, my Personal Growth project turned into actual growth.

There were so many things I didn’t get to.  Books by Krakauer.  Euginedes.  Atwood.  I never did zumba.  I didn’t cook any kind of red meat really, at all.  I wasted time, sure.  But I grew. And I hope you did, too, out there in 2015.

So, I’ve compiled a list of favorite things I did this year:

BOOKS

Favorite: Blindness

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Honorable Mention: Poisonwood Bible, Lolita.

I don’t know why Blindness won out for me.  Maybe it’s because, like my sister Jen says, I really just like miserable things.  But I like to think it’s because of the character of the Doctor’s Wife.

There were a lot of really badass women in Poisonwood, as well, of course. Their arcs are what ultimately led me to give them an honorable mention.  Lolita?  Well, I just enjoyed taking a trip inside the mind of a deviant.  But overall, the horrific circumstances playing out in Blindness, led by a heroine of such distinct caliber…it was my faves, you guys.

RECIPES:

Favorite: Jelly Bean Bread

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Honorable Mention: Banana Bread, Croque Monsieur

Ok, so full disclosure: the banana bread became a staple in our house.  It was so easy to make and a nice little grab and go breakfast…I thought about listing it as my favorite.  The croque was DELICIOUS and made me feel like a Fancy Pants Superstar after I was able to pull off that sauce.  I’ll definitely be making it again, though it’s kind of spendy.

But when reflecting on which recipe drew the most pride from me, which one was the most memorable experience…I gotta go with the Rainbow Bread!

It started off as a dare from my sister and took an entire day to muster, but once it was done…Holy Shit, y’all.  I made bread.  In different colors.  From scratch.

WORKOUTS:

Favorite: Swimming laps at the pool

Honorable Mention: Belly dancing, Rowing with Pedro

For those of you who know me well, it should come as no surprise that swimming beat out pretty much everything else.  I bought a new speedo right after Christmas and Jason got me an underwater ipod for my birthday…I plan on kicking this habit up a notch in the New Year.  I just have to find the most convenient LA Fitness pool to use corresponding with:

MY NEW HOUSE!

Okay, so after about the end of September, I was out of commission for this project because Jason and I decided to buy a house.  And we got a pimping one.  Just look:

My dogs have a yard,  my food has a pantry, my clothes have their own washer/dryer!  I feel like a G.D. grownup.  I can’t wait to have you all over for tea and trumpets: Because fuck crumpets, we can make all the noise we want!

A NOTE ON GERTRUDE MACCABEE:

As I’ve referenced earlier in this post (and extensively on Facebook, TYVM), I finished the first draft of my novel.  I have an editor working on it now (LOVE YOU, CHRISTINA!) and another dear friend who is giving it a pass.  I say this to you now and with love: I would like more readers.  If any of you out there in the ether feel like reading my novel (either this first draft or the next one) and giving me your constructive feedback, I would sincerely appreciate it.  I’m looking for about two or three of you.  Hit a girl up.

Here’s the closest thing I have to a synopsis for your consideration:

A mind-reader from London.  A speed-reading supergenius from Beijing. A giant from Siberia and a healer from Alaska.  Meet the seven teens who, very soon, could be the last remaining people on the planet.

When Gertrude Maccabee, the chubby, only-single-girl at EvenStar Academy, helps her popular classmate deliver a baby in a broken down train and the infant survives against insurmountable odds, it makes national news. The new celebrity enjoys an uncomfortable notoriety, until she’s abducted by a mysterious order of monks and taken to their secluded chateau, where she is told that she and six other extraordinary teenagers are prophesied to be the Onliest: the last people God has chosen to survive after a cataclysmic extinction event.  

LOWERING EXPECTATIONS:

So, what’s next in 2016?  Well, for starters, I’ve learned not to try and keep myself on a schedule.  Halfway through 2015, things were going so well that I planned on this year being an exploration of all Holy Texts (Bible, Quran, Baghavad Gita…) of the major world religions (along with visits to their corresponding worship services, where I could find them).  I’m, uh…not sure that’s going to pan out.

To be clear: I am going to do that project.  I’m just not sure when I’ll have time for it.

I’m also developing no less than FOUR playscripts.  Needless to say, I got super backlogged these past three years, working on Gertrude.  I’ve been submitting the same play to competitions for years and not getting any bites.  I need some fresh blood.  So, that’s where my focus has to be for the time being.  Once I get a draft of the most recent script I’m working on, I’ll need about six actresses to pull together for a reading, so any of my Cincy thespians reading this (Tara? Tess?  Lauren?): I’m hoping to be done by Easter.  (I’ve put it in writing, so now I’ve got to do it!)  Hit me up.

But, in the interest of maintaining well-rounded habits, here’s some goals for the year:

SHIT I WANT TO READ:

  1.  The Girl on the Train
  2. Leaving Time, by Jodi Piccoult (Mom, I told you I would!)
  3. The Outlander series (Susannah and Amelia, I told you I would!)
  4. Moby Dick (because I’m an insane person)
  5. Into the Wild
  6. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
  7. Odd Thomas (Mom and Dad, I told you I would!)
  8. Middlesex
  9. LOTS OF PLAYS…

Seriously.  I’ve discovered this New Play Exchange where playwrights can upload their work in the interest of getting it published, produced, or generally talked about in some fashion.  I’ve already compiled a giant reading list of works by…well, some of them are people I’ve never even heard of!  But this year, I want to start reading plays.  By everybody.

And maybe some of them will read MY plays.  Because God knows no one else is.

SHIT I WANT TO DO:

  1.  Attend more theater.  Last fall I got so busy with everything, I missed all the Playhouse shows except Sex with Strangers.  I vow to not let that happen this spring.  I have friends with shows coming up that I’m super excited about at other venues (Ave Q and Beauty Queen of Leenane for starters!)  I must make my passion a priority.
  2. Go out.  Trivia night?  Karaoke?  Escape the Room? I need to feel like I’m in my twenties again.  Before menopause starts, please.
  3. Expand my cosmetology experience.  I’ve never dyed my hair or had anything waxed.  I’m thinking that may change this year.
  4. Go to church.  I’m a Unitarian.  I just have never lived close to a Unitarian church or been able to be awake on Sunday mornings to attend services.  I hope to change that this year.
  5. VOTE.  Oh, yeah!  It’s a big Election Year!  So I’m sure I’ll be weighing in on that as the months wear on.
  6. Host parties.  I have a big swinging pad now.  So, you’re all welcome to come over.  There’s a modest, but exciting above-ground pool.  The Oscars are coming up.  I’m told you can grill things on the machine that’s on our patio.  Literally, you guys.  Come on over.
  7. Join a book club?  Or something of that nature.  Something with booze and opinions.
  8. Zumba.  Seriously, let’s make this happen.
  9. Take a trip.  Vegas?  NYC?  Tampa-sanctuary again?  Who knows, but I’m sure I’ll need to GTFO sooner or later.
  10. Do a Cousins Craft Show.  I make purses out of old jeans, if you didn’t know.  I’ve kind of back-burnered the habit this past year, but I hope to resurrect it and take the stock I’ve made (old and new) to a craft show to sell my wares with my cousins who make blankets and candles.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

Overall, I have every hope that 2016 could be as good as 2015.  But no expectations.  As I write this, my brother is recovering from surgery in Dearborn County Hospital.  My sister’s kid is preparing for another surgery.  I have loved ones in jail, others reeling from difficult breakups, crushing personal grief and loss or having a crisis of purpose.  Even I myself, at least once a day, get a small feeling that I’m just barely keeping the wolf of Midlife Crisis at bay.

But I lay me down to sleep in the evenings (on my new, memory foam mattress!) and tell myself that the wolf didn’t get me or my loved ones today.  That I love and am loved, abundantly.  That my cup runneth over.  

And that I have a feeling it will continue to do so through December and beyond.

Happy New Year to All!

 

 

 

 

 

I Zoned Out: A Listicle

Did we all really think I was going to stick with this for a whole year?

Ok, the bad news is, I’m totally off the rails of this project.  The good news is: it’s working.  I started at the beginning of the year to expand my horizons: mentally, physically and socially.  And I can feel myself getting more comfortable outside of my comfort zone.

Before I got lost in the giant wasteland known as Mists of Avalon, I got some books read:

Books:

  1. My Sister’s Keeper     

You may have read already on Facebook, but I got SUPER mad at this book.  Listen, a long time ago, I went to the movies with my Mom to see an adaptation of one of those Nicolas Sparks books, Nights in Rodanthe.  It was a fairly compelling romance, two characters finding redemption in one another.  Things were headed for a happy ending that I would have been totally satisfied with.  But then….

SPOILER ALERT

…one of them died.  At this point, I forget who it was, that’s how big a CLEAR PLOT TRICK the death was.  I think they were riding a horse that fell of a cliff or some equally treacly bullshit like that.  It felt like I was being manipulated into crying at the end and that’s how pretty much ALL of those Nicolas Sparks things wind up.  A Walk to Remember. The Last Song.  And don’t even get me STARTED on The Notebook. 

Anyway.  My Sister’s Keeper Nicholas Sparks’ed me.  There was a good story, with great characters who were facing a genuinely difficult decision. Do they put one daughter’s life at risk to prolong the life of the other’s, who will likely die anyway?  It ends with a Deus ex Machina CAR ACCIDENT that pretty much makes the choice for them.  I hate that bullshit.  It’s always harder to force your characters to make a decision.  But ultimately, it makes for better writing.

2. Room    

This book, though also very sentimental and melodramatic, made me a little happier.  The story is told entirely from the perspective of a five year old named Jack who has lived his entire life in one room with his mother, an abductee.  The plot has some nice, unexpected twists and explores issues like post traumatic stress disorder and how children see the world.

It’s also being made into a movie, to be released later this year

3.  Revival  

I am a sucker for many things.  One of them is religious issues.  Another is Stephen King.  So when I found out that one of his newer releases was a story about a pastor that was “not everything he seemed” I had to have it.  So, when Mom finished her library rental of it, I took over the lease, abandoning my scheduled book for that week.

 I get a little upset when people tell me that King has lost his touch since the accident.  I mean…did they NOT read Cell?  He has his hits and misses, like anyone else (though I really can’t find one I don’t like, and  yes, I’m including Gerald’s Game).  Pastor Jacobs abandons his faith pretty early in the novel, following a horrific tragedy.  But he never gives up on his electrical healing methods.  And, reemerging as a faith healer many years later, our protagonist seeks  him out to finally get to the source of Jacobs methods and their potential risks and stumbles upon the “truth” of what happens after we die.

And it’s not effing pretty, folks.

Revival isn’t my favorite King novel, I don’t think it was ever going to be, but I maintain that (despite milquetoast reviews) it’s a solid work that examines lowered expectations and what happens when Bad Things Happen to (Good) People.  Stephen King is the anti-Nicholas Sparks for me…because he 1. always surprises me and 2. usually has a better point to make than “look at how much I can make you cry!”

4. The Mists of Avalon  

I’m starting to think I will never finish this effing book.

I started it right after I finished Revival and I just. can’t.  finish.  I’ve been working on finishing my novel (see below).  And I discovered RuPaul’s Drag Race.  And it’s just hard to slog through.  At 800 pages (in very small font), it’s essentially four books in one (split into four parts).

It’s not bad.  In fact, it has parts where it’s even quite good.  But a little anti-climactic, in my opinion.  It’s a re-telling of the Arthurian legend, from the perspective of the women.  (Morgan le Fay, mother to Arthur’s bastard child Mordred is the main character.  Juliana Marguiles in the TV miniseries).  It sounded like a winning combination, especially for a cynical feminist like me.  But…I went the first hundred pages wondering how she would treat the sword in the stone and it was glossed over with a one-paragraph throw-away.

I’m a little over halfway done.  I’ll let you know how it comes out.

UP NEXT:

Survivor 

Palahniuk is one of my favorites.  Been meaning to get to this one for a while.

Lady Chatterly’s Lover  

Because who doesn’t want Period Smut?

I’ve seriously lapsed on my cooking adventures.  Time management has always been an issue.  BUT…

Recipes:

I made a Cake for Jason  on his birthday!  From scratch.  Icing and everything.  It was a little bland, admittedly, but I did it and it didn’t come from a box.

Because they’re all over Pinterest and Buzzfeed, I decided to try Overnight Oats 

They said in the recipe that you could use overripe bananas, like you would for banana bread.  This was wrong.  I can’t talk about how badly this went down.  I want to try overnight oats again but…they’ve lost my trust.

The one thing I am JAMMING at right now, though is Excercise:

1.   Yoga at the Library

Sick of YouTube instructionals in my chaotic living room, I got out of the house!  My library offers free Beginner Yoga once a month and I went.  I didn’t bring a mat and quickly realized that I’d have to be barefoot.  But, you guys.  I didn’t suck!  And it wasn’t so bad.  I kept pace with most of the others in class and really enjoyed the little siesta at the end.  So, next I tried…

2.  Yoga at the Gym 

And the Beginner’s class proved to truly be Beginner level.  See the girl in the picture?  They wanted me to do that.  It’s called the Wild Thing pose.  It didn’t happen.  The instructors at my new gym (see below) are clearly not fucking around.  But I’ve been going when I can and hopefully it’ll get easier.

3.  Swimming at home  

So, my apartment complex has a pool.  Which I’ve been able to swim in for the first time in over a year.  Last summer, due to frozen pipes the winter before, this amenity was sadly unavailable.

The re-opening of the pool brought in ALL the kids.  For about the first month or two, the only way to describe the pool was infested.  As you can see, it’s not that big a pool and its a rather large complex.  So, I stuck to the deep end and tried to get what little fitness I could.  I wound up swimming back and forth between the edges of the deep end using only legs or only arms.  It was…not very challenging.  But it relieved anxiety and beat the heat a bit.  Until…

4.  Swimming at gym  

I joined LA Fitness.  They have a pool and it is very rarely crowded and I can go year round and it’s Olympic sized.  And so I’ve been doing laps!  At least three times a week.

The first time I went, I mistakenly went to shower in the Men’s locker room (to the horror of my husband!) and left my bathing suit behind.  But I’ve been upping my game.  I’ve got breathing techniques and a swimcap and goggles now.  It’s intense.

5.  Elliptical – gym v home  

SO, the fitness room in my apartment complex is ultimately what led me to LA Fitness.  When we signed a lease, we did so under the impression that we’d have a pool every summer and a free membership to Better Bodies gym down the street.  When new management took over, all of a sudden the pipes were freezing (killing the pool for an entire year) and they were building a “Fitness Center” connected to a “Business Center” where we’d be able to do Yoga in a Studio, there’d be an extra laundry cash-to-card machine accessible 24 hours a day and wifi.

When the “Fitness Center” opened, our Better Bodies memberships were immediately cancelled.  I tried to go to the new facility but it seemed to still be working out the kinks.  So I gave it a rest.  Tried the YouTube tutorials.  Waited.

I went back a couple of months ago and it was in WORSE shape.  The door to the Business Center is perpetually locked (even though they told us we’d have access 9-5)  There was no machine to put cash on a laundry card.  The wifi was password required and no one is around to give you the password.  The televisions would change channels at random and worst of all…

I couldn’t turn on any of the machines.

I went to LA Fitness to take a tour and consider joining, but signed on the dotted line as soon as I saw the facilities.  $35/month for both Jason and I.  Unlimited classes.  Raquetball, basketball courts.  A pool.  A sauna.  So many rowing machines!  I’ve been going for a month and a half or so and couldn’t be happier.

I also signed up for a…

6.  Rowing class  

As part of a Living Social voucher, I started taking rowing classes.  It’s powerful, a great workout.  It gave me confidence in group exercise.  I was considering pre-paying for 20 more lessons (aside from the five I had bought on voucher).

But then I joined LA Fitness.  And it didn’t feel worth it.

Around Town:

I’ve finally gotten around to amping up my social activities, too!  Some things I’ve done:

  1.  “Brews and Books”: A monthly book discussion on assorted topics.  Hosted by a high school chum in congruence with his used book store, the two events I’ve attended so far explored Time Travel and Anthropomorphism.  I’ll be back.

2. Shakespeare in the Park     

Hosted by Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival.  Above, you see Romeo and Juliet ala Captain America (It was a costume party!)

3.  Shakespeare in the Cemetery 

The same series, only this time it was Midsummer Nights Dream in Linden Grove Cemetery.  You know I love cemeteries and theater…this was probably one of the favorites of the summer for me.

4.  Writer’s Workshop

A gathering of serious amateurs in Rising Sun, Indiana.  So much fun!  Haven’t done a roundtable like this since grad school.

5.  The Complete Tom at Harriet Beecher Stow House

Hosted by Cincy Flash, I saw some friends perform the last installment in a traveling Tom Sawyer series at the historic Harriet Beecher Stowe house, which in itself was so enriching.

6.  I saw…Neil de Grasse Tyson at the Taft; Bill Burr a week later (Tyson was better).  I saw the amazing production Sex with Strangers at the Playhouse, but also Luna Gale at the Ensemble (and am headed back this week for Buyer and Cellar).  I took a fire safety class and learned to put out a fire.  I went to the Fair in my hometown and watched the Swing Choir perform (Go Knights!)  I went to a Bengals game with Jason (and got a pretty solid idea for a play about NFL cheerleaders). I had lunch with my sister for her birthday, went house shopping and got the Playhouse crew together for mac n cheese.  I think it’s safe to say…I AM GROWING!

I just…didn’t have any time to write about it.  Until now.

Week 23: Never Let Me Go

Catching up with the week of 6/29 – 7/5!

I’m feeling terribly productive in the summer months, likely because work has been very slow. I’m steadily making progress on finally concluding the first draft of my novel; in fact I had wanted to be finished by July 4th, but a small bout of writer’s block (read: procrastination) blew that.  But I’m starting to see the light at the end of the Volcano and able to begin making plans for other projects.

The Recipe

I honestly don’t remember too much about this recipe, other than the fact that it was very similar to the Turkey Black Bean Sloppy Joes I made back in February or March.  It took a long time in the crock pot, I do remember that.  I mean, can anyone honestly tell me why meat that’s already cooked needs SIX HOURS in the crockpot just to meld the juices?

I added cheese and sour cream

Actually, now that I think about it, I think I like the black bean sloppy joes better.  They were quicker to make and more flavorful.  As dinner, this worked, for sure, but…I’m not sure I’m going to leave it on my Tried and True list.

The Workout

Ever since the slew of doctor visits regarding the BUG, I’ve been trying to get active and into a routine that allows me to exercise more frequently and eat better, using MyFitnessPal to count the calories.

That said, I’m not sure the Workout Videos in the Living Room plan is working.  Yes, ChromeCast allowing me to stream YouTube to the big tv has been really helpful, but the novelty of that is starting to wear off.

The biggest hurdle is literally a HURDLE that I have had to create to block the dogs from entering the living room while I’m fitnessing.

I mean, who lives like this?

With all the talk of buying a new house, Jason and I have contemplated putting money down on an elliptical.  It sounds so user-friendly: a gym right there in your own house!  But with all the distractions in my living space (the four legged furry ones most of all), I worry that I wouldn’t use a home gym.

So, I’ve been experimenting the idea of venturing out more.  More on that in the next post.

This is not a stretch. It’s actually one of the moves.

Because it was billed as a separate exercise, I decided to do the Jazzercise Burlesque Leg workout.  It was ten minutes long, which I knew felt lame (and kind of was).  Turns out, it was just ten minutes of the full length workout I had done the week before!

It looks more provocative than it feels.

I’m so done with these hookers.

The Book

I remember reading about the book Never Let Me Go when the movie came out.

Entertainment Weekly positioned it as a coming-of-age with a twist ending, but, while I enjoyed both immensely, I didn’t find anything about the book or the film all that twisty.  Alas, if you’ve no experience with either medium (and you think you might care to at some point), SPOILER ALERT: The children in the boarding school in this novel are clones of people, meant to donate their organs when they reach the proper age.

This book is the perfect novel.  It’s thought-provoking, emotionally stimulating and has a quick moving pace, written in prose that reads fluidly.  I felt endeared to the characters, there was something childlike to the narrative from Page 1.  In fact, the character of Ruth felt all too familiar (I won’t say who she reminded me of, but the comparison was profound).  By the end of the book, I was an unceremonious MESS.  It was 4am and I think I even woke Jason up with my sobbing.

I’ve read a lot of SAD books this year.  Most of them are on a lot of Required Reading lists and those types of collections tend towards the Important Life Lesson via Tragedy zone.  This one fits that criteria, but…it’s different.  When I look back on all the prestigious books I’ve read: Slaughterhouse Five, A Farewell to Arms, Crime and Punishment, Fahrenheit 451, 1984…none of them were as relatable and accessible as this book.  Maybe that’s because it’s set in mostly modern times, yes that’s a big part of it.  But I think it goes a step further by drawing out female characters that have real depth.

If anything, this Book Project of mine is cementing my status as a feminist.  Of the 22 books I’ve read so far this year, only one has been written by a woman and only five of those (Poisonwood Bible, Blindness, Wicked, The Lost World and Never Let Me Go) have had what I would call three-dimensional women.  Even Lolita was pretty flat, as far as characters go; Nabokov knew she was being oppressed, but he still didn’t know her, I would argue.  Fortunately, the week after this is Jodi Picoult week, followed by Emma Donoghue’s Room, so…it gets better, I suppose.

If you don’t really have time to read the book (which you should if you can because it doesn’t disappoint), check out the movie at least, starring the Amazing Spiderman before he was Spiderman.

NEXT UP:

The Recipe: Overnight Oats

The Fitness: Walking the Dogs!

The Book: My Sister’s Keeper

Weeks 21 and 22: Big Brother, Burlesque and Brave New Bread

So, I’m behind.  Again.  I’ll be brief, trying to cram two weeks into this post, then I’ll have two more to catch up on.

THE RECIPES

Week One: Amazing Pork Loin

This was, to my recollection, one of the easiest recipes ever.  I literally put everything into the crockpot and ate several hours later.

Hubby liked it, too.

Week 2: Jelly Bean Bread via Diply

This recipe popped up in my newsfeed, I don’t recall who shared it.  But it was by far the most difficult one to date.

Things did not start well…

After discarding the idea that I should stick closely to the “two and a half cups” of flour suggested in the recipe, I finally added enough flour to feed three Depression Era families and wound up with something that was not a gelatinous mess.

My cutting board will, I fear, never be the same.

Then the worst part:  FOOD COLORING

It called for an 1/8 of a teaspoon of coloring. More like half a vial.

It took two hours of prep time before I was even ready to “let the dough rise” and take a break.  Most of that was food coloring.  But, hey!  I got caught up on my Nightly Show.

One of these is not like the others.

There was also an incident involving the blue ball.  I dropped the blue ball on the floor.  I had to improvise a new blue ball out of leftovers from the bowl and dough swiped from the purple ball to add to the blue ball.  I’ve now said “blue ball” five times.

All egg washed and ready to sit for a bit before baking.

I really, truly thought the hardest part was going to be the braiding, but by the time I’d finally got ’round to it, I was in Zero Give-a-Fig Zone, so that made it easier to just toss it around.

All done!

So, yeah…it burnt a little.  But dude:

1.  I made bread from SCRATCH.

2.  I made it in different colors that did not all wind up brown.

3.  It was actually edible.

4.  I got to have WINE when it was all said and done.

THE FITNESS

Week 1: Keaira LaShae’s Belly Dancing

I continue to really enjoy Ms. LaShae’s style.

I missed Brina K. in this one.  But appreciated the costuming choices!

Also! One of the dances you boogie down to in this bit is her own single!  I’m a fan.  Fun fact: I did this routine shortly before getting in the shower for work.  No one was home and I was in NO mood to spend five extra minutes putting together a work-outfit.  So I closed all the blinds and did this one totally in the buff.

Don’t tell anyone.

WEEK 2: Burlesque by Jazzercise

The most Burlesquey thing about this workout was the Neon Blitz Victoria’s Secret Fitness line couture featured on all the hookers dancing.

Seriously, it was pretty standard aerobics, there was nothing terribly risque about it.

But my legs did hurt for a couple days after, so that’s not nothing.

THE BOOKS

WEEK 1: Brave New World

The caste system, which included conditioning of the children to make them happy to be poor/lower class.

I’m kind of really glad to be combining these two books in one post.  They’re alike in a lot of ways and have had multiple comparative analyses.  They’re both set in dystopian future environments, both with far overreaching governments.  But, though they share so many similarities, the takeaways (for me anyway) was very different.

No one does any babymaking anymore, they just make babies.

Brave New World is the story of Bernard Marx, a man who feels out of place amongst the upper crust Alphas and in his leadership position at the Hatchery (because people are hatched now, not born).  He takes a girl (Lenina – yes, they’re all throwbacks to socialism and communism) on a vacation to visit savages in the west, where they meet John.  John was born of a woman who used to live in their community but was ousted when she got Pregnant For Real.  He reads Shakespeare and prefers the simpler things in life.  And they turn him into King Kong.  Mostly because he doesn’t want to take “soma” (like their version of alcohol) or participate in technology.

He’s sort of like a teenager without a cell phone.

WEEK 2: 1984

I won’t spend a lot of time on the plot description of 1984, because I feel like we all know it:

Winston Smith lives in Oceania, as part of the Party, which tells him everyday that they are at war (and have always been at war) with a country he knows was an ally only mere years before.  They monitor his every move, such that his decision to begin a diary of his subversive thoughts feels like the plot of a bank heist.  Yes, Big Brother is watching you (through the television, no less!  Brilliant).  This book has such a commonplace position in the zeitgeist that I felt I should read it and that I didn’t need to all at the same time.

Two weeks after the fact and I couldn’t tell you if I’m glad I did.

Winston Smith paved the way for Katniss Everdeen, for sure.  But the restrictions placed on his freedom are profound.  Just the idea of a Thought Police, the idea that your thoughts could make you criminal.  It has a lot to say about how people allow themselves to be brainwashed.

Here’s a pretty awesome chart of the differences between the two books:

When all is said and done, I think I enjoyed Brave New World more.  Was it because I expected less of it, having heard so much over the years about the profundity of 1984?  Maybe.  But there was something quite relatable about the technology worship inherent in Bernard Marx’s world.  I remember in high school, I had a teacher that said he didn’t own a television and I thought, “What must your life be like?”  I LOVED that the word Lord in Brave New World had been replaced with Ford (i.e. “Oh, my Ford.”).  I’d actually really love that to be a catchphrase that hits the stratospheric heights that Big Brother has.

But for now, I can say I’ve read them both and discuss at length.  And, in the coming weeks, the books start to feel markedly less “reading assignment” and more recreational.

UP NEXT:

Recipe: Slow Cooker Tamale Pie

Fitness: Burlesque by Jazzercise Legs

Book: Never Let Me Go