fall film challenge update

September 29, 2017

one. jackie. category: reviewed last year on slothsandmovies. natalie portman is a talented chick. jackie kennedy was a remarkable woman, and portman plays her well. i liked the way the story's told, but, despite all that, something's keeping me from saying this film is amazing, and i can't tell you what that is exactly. just that's it's there. it's really good, just shy of great. worth seeing for the history.

two. room. category: about fortitude. this movie had me bawling. that little boy is adorable, and brie larson is amazing. they both play their roles so, so well. i hadn't expected to like this one as much as i did. i was wary of watching it. borrowed it from the library and kept it for some time after its due date because i wanted to keep it; reviewed several scenes from this film on many occasions. SO GOOD. one of three that i would say is the best from my list.

three. gifted. category: about temperance. LOVE this movie SO much. chris evans is phenomenal, best work he's ever done. hands down. i love the little girl's sass and smarts. this is the best movie i've seen on my list.

four. wind river. category: about justice. AMAZING. SO, SO incredibly good. solid storytelling through and through. chilling film, but so worth watching. one of the three best on my list.

five. the founder. category: about pride. before i watched this, i thought it was better suited for greed, but it turns out it works better for this category because it's a fine example of pride going before the fall. i've mixed feelings about michael keaton's character in this one. he's persistent, tenacious, determined, fearless, forward-thinking, clever... such admirable characteristics, and it's not that he doesn't use them well. he's not necessarily a villain. i'd say he's more an opportunist. he doesn't give a fuck whom he hurts. he has no conscience. i don't want to like him. i don't think he's an admirable dude, and yet... the men he steamrolls, they could've avoided it. had they been willing to consider his ideas, they could have profited from them, but they were so unwilling to consider any ideals but their own... they should've done a better job of protecting their dream, so i didn't feel as much sympathy for them as i would've liked. it's a horrible train wreck of story; its collision is impressive. keaton does fine work. but i never want to see it again. never want to eat at mcdonald's again, either.

six. footloose. category: starring kevin bacon. okay. i have NEVER liked that song, yall. i thought it was cheesy as shit, and i assumed this movie was just as cheesy. when those opening credits rolled, i was sure my original thought was right. and then it started... i really liked this film, as predictable as it was. the casting's great, and there are some really, really good scenes in this thing. some of the dialogue is just perfect, like when the preacher's wife says: you can lift a congregation up so high they have to look down to see heaven, but it's the one-one-one where you need the work. i love dianne wiest, yall, but never more than in this movie. i've never cared much for kevin bacon, but after having seen this film, i can understand the world's fascination with him.

seven. chef. category: about gluttony. i dig this one. good stuff. i live about six hours from new orleans and have never wanted to visit that city. jon favreau's movie has tempted me to give it a look.

eight. their finest. category: starring jeremy irons. it's a good story and a pretty film, and i enjoyed it well enough. i had been happy about it, eager to tell folks i really liked it... until this one thing happened in the story (completely unnecessary, badness for the sake of badness, could've and should've been avoided, really annoyed that it wasn't) toward the end. i had been thinking it was one i'd watch again, and maybe i will because it's certainly got merit and shows a bit of history with which i was not familiar, but my enthusiasm for this one's gone, and i'd really been looking forward to watching it because i love bill nighy. also i'm with michael, who said, jeremy irons has an amazing voice, and i would listen to him read a grocery list for home depot. his role is brief (and maybe a little annoying) in this film, but yeah. he does have a damned fine voice.

nine. spider-man: homecoming. category: starring robert downey, jr. god, i love that man. he's pretty damned awesome. and this was a pretty good flick. i've never really cared for spider-man, and all the other spidey flicks i've seen haven't ever inspired me to do so. but this guy, tom holland, he does alright. and michael keaton's not so bad at playing the villain. but mostly, iron man's presence make this movie for me.

ten. the wolf of wall street. category: about greed. of the films on my list, this was the one i was least interested in seeing. i loathe the subject matter. i'm not a fan of leonardo dicaprio and have never cared for any of his films i've seen. i can't say i care for this one, but he does good work here. it's a horrible story about utterly despicable people who choose to use their talents for ill. it's well done, save for the fact that it's LONG.

eleven. the case for christ. category: about prudence. good story. done well enough. didn't inspire me a lick (and i like my god movies to make me love god). not one i want to watch again.

twelve. don jon. category: about lust. i actually liked this one and wasn't expecting to do so. joseph gordon-levitt plays a manwhore who has to watch porn to really get off. i thought it was going to be awful. i liked seeing his character grow. i loved that he would do catholic penance (saying his hail marys and our fathers) while working out. that made me laugh. and i like brie larson in this one. she doesn't say much, but what she says is good. it's got some sweetness in it that i really hadn't expected to find.

thirteen. bottle shock. category: starring alan rickman. good story. chris pine annoyed the crap out of me, and that's never happened, but despite his character's antics, the guy had a good heart. that hair though, gah. anyway. alan's his usual bad self. it plods along at times, but it's good. yall should watch it, at least for the history.

fourteen. mr. holmes. category: starring ian mckellen. didn't love this one. was bored through most of it. can't really recommend it.

fifteen. megan leavey. category: about charity. good story. the movie's not bad, but i wanted it to be better.

sixteen. war room. category: about faith. it's not unrealistic like other religion-based films i've seen. i did enjoy it, more than i thought i would. there are some really good moments in this story, and i was surprised to find them. i do think it's cheesy, but i didn't mind it so much. it inspired me, which is what movies like this are supposed to do.

seventeen. elizabeth. category: set in a castle. everybody wants to rule the world. i didn't love this one; it's not one i'd ever want to see again. but i didn't loathe it either. i did like geoffrey rush, which is a rare thing for me. i wasn't sure i was going to at first, but then... he played a pretty cool dude.

eighteen. creed. category: about hope. it's like every other rocky flick, and i knew it would be going into it, but i kind of hoped it would be better than the rest, and it wasn't.

nineteen. the big sleep. category: listed on nathan bransford's best hundred movies challenge. i wanted to love this one because bogart and bacall. it's got some good lines and great camera work, and i did love seeing these two, but it's hard to follow (or maybe i was too tired when i watched it). LOTS of tampering with evidence. lots of people dying. lots of me thinking what the fuck? meh.

twenty. snow white and the huntsman. category: about envy. never seen charlize theron overact more than in this film, and rupert sanders sure did love to have the camera on kristen stewart. there's some cheesy moments. but the special effects are pretty nifty, and i don't mind looking at and listening to chris hemsworth.

twenty-one. dunkirk. category: set in an exotic locale. didn't care for this. definitely NOT the best war film ever made. not even anywhere near the best. and for a story as badassed as this one is, it should've been AWESOME. the beginning was strong enough, and the conclusion was alright. the middle sucked ass. i was really disappointed in this one, and the music, if you could call it that, definitely didn't help sway my opinion in the least.

twenty-two. logan. category: about wrath. of the wolverine flicks, it's the best, i guess. of the x-men films, i liked it about as much as i liked the third one where jean grey's on magneto's team. i'm not a fan.

twenty-three. howards end. category: starring anthony hopkins. LOATHED this one. too fucking long and boring. didn't give a shit about the characters or their plights. STUPID movie.

twenty-four. the space between us. category: set in space. SO BAD. SO, SO BAD. i knew it was gonna be stupid, but i hadn't realized the extent. every time i thought it couldn't possibly get more ridiculous, they'd pile on another outlandish plot device. i don't understand why gary oldman would agree to be in such a pathetic excuse for a film.

twenty-five. kiss kiss bang bang. category: starring val kilmer. the only good thing is this movie was val. STUPID story, stupid script.

so i've knocked my list out, and i've plotted and prepared the bonus round to post in a couple of weeks. and sure there are a couple of gals who've knocked out their lists, too. BUT it's not too late to join in, so if you're interested in participating, click here for details.

check out what michael and audrey have seen!


September 20, 2017

speaking of men...

sunday. some dude emails me on match: hey beautiful! how's your day going? i'm joe* and you are?

joe's profile stats say he's in florida, but his headline says he's a midwest guy new to the west coast. the second sentence in his about me section says that he's recently settled in louisiana... just an fyi, guys. pick one place. i don't care if you're military. more to power to you, actually, for doing what so many are unwilling to do. but... fuck, man. i know you're all over the map; you don't have to brag about it.

next, don't ask us how long we've been on the site and how it's going so far. if you see our profile, there's a chance it may not be going well because the place is populated with an array of idiots, and some of us are choosy. i know what you want that answer to be: not long, and it's been interesting. the reality? five months, and not well.

i don't lie all that often, and never to strangers. i don't see the point in that; if i'm gonna bother to fashion some fiction for people, it's because i'm shielding those who matter to me from something ugly. i'm not gonna waste my time concocting bullshit for someone i don't know, unless i'm getting paid to do it. i prefer direct, but it usually gets me in trouble. lying is for writing, and i'm damned good at it. in life, i try to be honest. i think picky's a pretty good reflection of just how honest i'm capable of being. shit, i share stuff on here that i haven't shared with my family, but that's because i like to spare them the dirty details. they get to see me on my ugly days. i spare yall from that... a lot, so much more than it appears. anyway...

being on match is essentially a waste of money, but i'm bored and a romantic... and if a guy does write me, i usually write them back, even if i think he could be an idiot.

guy wanted me to text him. so i said i would, but only if he wouldn't use the word beautiful with me ever again. yall use it too often and too readily -- too loosely -- and have cheapened it. it's worth about a penny when it should be worth a thousand bucks. at least.

i told him to text me tomorrow (monday) because the packers game came on in two minutes, and i was gonna be busy admiring aaron's form and physique and jordy, randall and clay's mad skills.

i didn't know that bulaga and bakhtiari were out, and i'd forgotten that the falcons beat the pack twice last year (i think?) and were likely to be picking off packers all night.

so... not a good night for me. i felt like this. the whole goddamned game.

in the middle of it, i notice that the idiot texted me: hello. i didn't acknowledge it. in fact, i acted kind of like aaron rodgers does in that there gif. tomorrow is apparently a word with which this particular idiot is unfamiliar.

so i text him the next day: hello.

and then i get a text from him clarifying that it's joe from match. no shit, sherlock. i couldn't figure that out from the number you'd provided the day before.

what's he do? how's your day going, beautiful?

i am not pleased, but i figure, fuck it. we text back and forth that day, and i'm cordial enough.

the next morning, i get a text with this shit: a cup of hot hello, a plate of crispy wishes...

it's like seven or eight lines of schmaltzy, shitty, STUPID words. i looked at my phone kind of like aaron rodgers does that tablet at the start of that gif and struggled to find some decent way to acknowledge this pitiful excuse for a text. he didn't type that shit. i doubt he's capable of even being that poetic, as lame as it may be. but... i didn't want to be mean, so i said something like: that's a pretty way to start my day. and then i tossed my phone aside.

that was all i got from the idiot the whole day. but, to be honest, i didn't care to, because REALLY? this guy's five years older than me. what's he doing sending me shit like this?

i go about my day, hang out until about two a.m. with some friends. crash about an hour later.

and about two hours after that my phone wakes me up, that double beep it makes when someone's sent a text. the light's glowing. i'm annoyed that the thing's woken me up. i assume it's some of my writing friends (they're fond of sending group texts early in the wee hours of the morning).

it's not. it's the idiot. with another one of his cheesy wake-up texts. these words:

it's barely five a.m. i'm too tired and too annoyed to be too civil: ok. i know this seems like a good idea to copy and paste this stuff to me, but it's actually not.

i turn my phone off. sometime between five and ten a.m., when i turned my phone back on, i got a hey from him. i've not replied. all i've got to say is hey, and what's the point?

i keep thinking of the film hitch, when will smith says try harder stupid.

*name changed to protect the idiot.

north of happy

September 16, 2017

why i wanted to read it: because i needed a book with a cardinal direction in the title, and this one sounded interesting.

what i liked:  i've never acted impulsively in my life. felix got all those genes. it feels like i'm borrowing his disobedience, like i'm stealing something, acting unlike myself. but that doesn't keep me from putting a knee on the suitcase to force it closed...

i look at my reflection in the mirror and can almost see the back wall. all my edges are blurred... i think: i can't do this anymore. i think: i'm barely even here. i say: "i have to go, dad." 

the words come out like a whimper. so, i'm not stealing all of felix's personality traits, then. felix never whimpered... for a wild moment i consider confessing, telling them about felix, how i still see him but i feel like i'm the one who's gone. his death made ghosts of both of us and i just want it to stop (pages 27-29).

i remember going on trips to the store with mom and felix when i was twelve. felix would insist on pushing the cart, running and taking his feet off the ground, letting the cart carry him down the aisles. i'd wander behind, dragging my feet to prolong the trip. i didn't know a thing about cooking back then, but i was drawn to the ingredients in a way i didn't understand yet (page 39).

since the night of the perfect taco, i haven't really been able to make anyone laugh. dad even pointed it out a few times. "you used to be funny," he said once, as if he couldn't think of any possible reason why i may have lost my sense of humor (page 105).

on my tenth day of training with chef, i'm making another omelet. i rushed the first one and it fell apart before i could plate it, making chef snort derisively and put me back on onions for the day. the second one looked good to me, but chef stopped at the first bite, reached for the nearby ramekin of salt and dumped it over my head. i'd been so focused on the cooking time that i forgot to season.

this one, though, looks perfect. not a tinge of brown, perfectly shaped and fluffy. i garnish it with a sprig of parsley on top...

now chef is examining the omelet, lifting it up with her fork to inspect the bottom. she lets it drop with a sneer, and pushes the plate back toward me. her eyebrow's raised. "you expect me to eat that? that's not how you make an omelet." then she grabs the parsley sprig and pops it into her mouth. "don't waste a garnish on shitty food" (pages 191-192).

"a prep garde manger position is opening up. i thought a little test for you would be fun. you've been working hard, both with me in the mornings and doing what you're paid to do. your staff meals are good, but those don't really mean shit. it's a little too soon, but let's see what else you can do."

my heart quickens.

"i need a special for the day." she crosses her arms in front of her chest and nods to the clipboard. "you get to come up with one of them. if i like it enough, maybe i'll put it on the menu." i want to run and hug her. all those early mornings, those double shifts made harder by the extra work -- this is what they were for. elias was right. "and," chef adds, "i'll promote you to the line... i want to see a detailed recipe wth exact quantities of every ingredient you'll use per portion. make sure we've got enough for at least the day. i don't want to eighty-six it before we're even setting up for dinner."

"yes, chef. thank you, chef."

she nods and heads toward the door.

"um, chef?" i ask, remembering all of chef's outbursts, thinking there's gotta be some sort of catch to this. "what if you don't like it?"

"then i don't make it and you don't get the job, genius," she says, not slowing down. "and i don't let you cook again for a year. you have until the prep cook shows up" (pages 249-250).

i marked a few more pages, but they're too close to the end for me to comfortably share.

what sucked: it's a bit predictable, starts slow and the end's a little too pat for my taste.

having said that: i really liked the characters and conflict. it's a good story.

sweet jesus, mary and joseph!
i finished the challenge!!!
i did not think i would do it this time because...


so that's about
just those two alone.

but i did it. YEE!!!!!

refuge for masterminds

why i wanted to read it: because it's the last of the school for unusual girls trilogy by kathleen baldwin. i wanted to know how the story ends.

what i liked: "save your lectures, lady jane... no one will think you are a tavern wench... one look at you puts that idea to rest once and for all. there is nothing about you nearly so comfortable or amiable as a tavern wench" (page 25).

upon returning to the cove, i stand awaiting the next bit of the prototype to be ferried to the barn. alexander stops work and peers at me. "you are near dead on your feet, lady jane. take yourself off to bed. it won't do to have you collapsing in a heap." his voice echoes weirdly in the cove, and just when i think he is expressing genuine concern, he goes and spoils it all. "we've too much to do to be carrying you up the hill, as well."

"that is no hill," i argue.

"exactly," he mutters (page 67).

still stunned, i stand, unable to move, softened into a useless pudding by the merest touch of his lips to mine. at the same time, his cryptic remark bewilders me. i try to puzzle it out. does he mean kissing me would've been an ordeal? surely not. he hadn't come toward my mouth like a man about to suffer pain for the cause. is it possible he meant our kiss would devastate him more than it did me? why would he think such a thing? perhaps it saddens him that this first kiss will also be our last, our only kiss. i shake my head, unable to fathom a sentiment like that coming from him, the glib mr. sinclair -- i think not. not him. more than likely, it was another of his meaningless jests.

i am vexed now. quite vexed...

alexander turns me around, so i am facing the right direction on the path, and with a steadying hand he guides me upward. it is completely unnecessary. i am quite capable of stomping my way to the summit on my own (page 73).

"all right, lady jane, what are you up to?" he stares down his nose at me... "i see cogs turning in that dangerous little head of yours."

dangerous. not pretty. of all the things he could've called my head, lovely, or even clever, he chooses dangerous. what's worse, i am completely innocent of plotting at the moment. i was merely enjoying looking at him.

"i'm not up to anything." i cross my arms. "why should i be?"

"because you always are." he says this with a modicum of respect, as if it is not entirely an insult, even though it is. "craftier than a mongoose chasing a cobra, you are. i never know what to expect."

a mongoose?

suddenly, i want to punch him. my fists are balled and i have half a mind to actually do the deed, except that would not be ladylike, and fortunately for him captain grey and miss stranje are approaching... mongoose, indeed....

"i'm surprised you would trust a mongoose."

"with my life, your majesty." he adds a jaunty smile. but his flippant remark, with my life, jolts me back to the cold cruel fact that his life may indeed rely on whether or not i can catch the cobra.

my fists uncurl (pages 180-181).

meanwhile, georgiana and lord wyatt, tess and lord ravencross, and i, are doing our utmost to teach mr. sinclair, the most obstinate man on earth, steps to a simple country dance...

"that is not it at all." i stop and gesture vehemently at mr. sinclair's long lanky legs. "your knees must rise higher. like this."

"what do you mean?" he waves his hands at my gown. "i can't see a thing. your skirts are in the way."

i raise them, so he can see how to do a proper twirl and hop. 

he shakes his head. "still can't see it. do it again."

i repeat the step, but this time lord wyatt sputters into a guffaw. i whirl around and see alexander, the scoundrel, grinning and indicating i should lift my skirts even higher.

"wretch." i drop my skirts. "you've seen more than enough" (pages 183-184).

what sucked: it lagged at times. that's really all i've got.

having said that: it's alright. i liked jane and alexander. i wish baldwin had included more interaction between the two of them. it's better than the second but not as good as the first. i think it would've been better if baldwin had made it one book instead of three. overall, it's an interesting trilogy, though, and i did enjoy it.

tuesday topics: one. worst vacation

September 12, 2017

three days in the garden of good and evil.

i should've planned the trip better. i should've gone alone or with a different friend. i should've handled things -- so many things -- differently. i can't tell you why this particular vacation sucked, just that it did. it wasn't all horrid: the weather was damned near perfect, so i got to take what i think are some lovely photos of some beautiful things, and i got the best kiss of my life in savannah, georgia. BUT, overall, it was miserable from the moment i met my friend at the airport to the moment we went to our respective terminals to catch our flights home. i spent the majority of that weekend letting her unload, attempting to placate and offering advice. a single woman, one who is pitifully unlucky at love, counseling a married woman. it was not a good time for me.

i want to go back. plan it better, choose a better travel companion. see more.

what's the worst vacation you've taken? share it with me!

random quarter

September 11, 2017

stephanie posted about questions you didn't ask today, borrowing from two hundred questions she'd found. i thought i'd use some from that list as prompts for an rq post.

one. what is one of your favorite smells? gardenia. it's hard not to feel pretty when i've used bodycology's pure white gardenia bath products. pair that with ralph lauren's romance, and i feel fine (at least for a little while... the trouble is, i don't use this stuff every day. maybe i should).

two. what lie do you tell most often? i'm good.

three. if you had to change your name, to what would you change it? the one i've got suits me pretty well: jennifer kristin. lots of i's in my name, and for a gal who is as selfish as i am... also, jennifer is the cornish derivation of the welsh guinevere. i've welsh ancestry (damn proud of it, yall), and i'm as weak as guinevere was. but if i absolutely HAD to change it... i would choose elin (the welsh spelling) josephine, after my paternal and maternal grandmothers.

four. how do you get in the way of your own success? i let people's opinions of me matter; i believe what they believe; i assume that if someone more beautiful and bright and brave had come up with the idea for a thing, it would fly far and fast, but because i came up with it, it'll fall flat and i'll be humiliated or ignored; i let my anger at injustice and envy at others' successes color my logic. i'll think i'm better than someone and that they succeed because they know the right people; i know plenty of the right people, but many can't be bothered to help, and i know it's because i'm not beautiful and bright and brave, that if i were, they'd be clamoring to give me a hand. i'm angry. that's how. i've been angry since i was eight. it kept me alive for a long time, that anger. it's keeping me here now, but i'm stranded. i don't care much about fighting anymore. i wish i did.

five. to what stereotype do you completely live up? that mentally and physically disabled individuals can't contribute much to society and should be hidden away.

and since stephanie referenced her astrological sign in her post and i've a fondness for the zodiac...

this about aries from darkside zodiac by stella hyde:

you are either thirty minutes early, raring to go, and incandescent that everyone else is late, or you turn up four days later at a different venue and are outraged that the expedition left without you.

after a five-minute rant in the bathroom when you throw everything out of the window looking for your tube of toothpaste, you finally find it in the laundry basket. you hammer it flat with your bare hands.

temper gauge
zero degrees to boiling point is instantaneous, and occurs roughly every two minutes because people just won't do what you tell them, and you've lost the keys/hammer/remote control/plot.

yes, to all of this.

six. about what are you most insecure? my face and figure.

seven. what television show or movie do you refuse to watch? so many. television (and i realize some of these may no longer be running, but i'm listing them anyway because i can): the walking dead; family guy; american horror story; house of cards; breaking bad; vikings; criminal minds; sherlock; true detective; homeland; dr. who; dexter; lost; sons of anarchy; orange is the new black; better call saul; westworld; true blood; orphan black; the vampire diaries... movies: taxi driver; psycho; seven samurai; jaws; a clockwork orange; inception; the shining; lawrence of arabia; raging bull; the exorcist; once upon a time in the west; memento; pan's labyrinth; war for the planet of the apes; split; transformers: the last knight; it; fifty shades of grey; girls trip; annabelle: creation...

eight. who's your go to band or artist when you can't decide on what to listen? usually u2 or van halen.

nine. what's the one thing you did that you really wish you could go back and undo? it's a tie. i regret each of these things equally. the first has to do with the only man i've ever loved. sometimes i wish i could go back to approximately nine p.m. tuesday, april sixteenth, two thousand two at carlyle place apartments at the intersection of babcock and callaghan roads in san antonio, texas, to the day i should've tried harder to shove aside the thoughts swirling -- mine: how could you possibly have thought he would be interested in you? how could you have forgotten how ugly men think you are? how could you have been so goddamned gullible? why the fuck would he want to be with you when you know nothing about love and life? look at all the scars on you; stupid, foolish girl; theirs: no one will ever marry you because you're too ugly and no one wants to wake up next to something that ugly every morning; you should go kill yourself because you're a waste of valuable air and space and there are more important people who need it; ugly; stupid; worthless. i was twenty-eight. the day i'd met him, he had told me he thought i was gorgeous. i should've clung to that, but i couldn't. i should've either walked away from him that day or found a way to deal with the insecurity, but i couldn't. and since i couldn't... approximately eight p.m. thursday, march twenty-first, two thousand two at international house of pancakes at the intersection of de zavala road and interstate ten in san antonio, to the day i met him and we gave each other tarot card readings and the cards said he would not be good for me (i wasn't so stupid as to ask that question aloud, by the way, but my face was so stricken when he'd revealed that ace of spades that he'd asked about it... i knew better than to tell him. i should've walked away from him then. all those times i saw that opera carmen in my youth... i should've known to pay attention to the goddamned cards. it was his idea to do the reading, by the way. how weird is that? i'd thought it was a neat idea for a first date. i'd liked that we weren't going anywhere special. i should've known we weren't. i wish i had saved myself the heartache. i wish i had saved him from myself. i wish this didn't matter, still. it probably wouldn't if i could let myself really care about another man again, but i can't. i loathe who i was after i lost him. i was the best possible version of myself... and then i was the worst.

that's the first one that comes to mind. and i always feel guilty, and angry, that he's first, when it should be my older brother and the day he tried to give me a proper hug. he always gave me one-armed ones. i wish i could tell you the day. it was after i lost the boy, before i learned that i could love my brother again. i was hating him for all the hurt he'd caused. i was at my younger brother's house, and jon was there with us and our friends, and i was either coming or going and he went to hug me -- a good hug, with both arms, tight tight as i call it to my niece and nephew, and i didn't let him. i didn't really hug him back. i gave him the kind of hug i'd come to expect from him. i wish i could have held onto him a little better.

ten. on what topic could you give a forty minute presentation with no preparation? either what it's like to deal with depression on a day-to-day basis or how to ace an essay.

eleven. what are you afraid people see when they look at you? how flawed i am, how much i lack. 

twelve. what is one thing you really want but can't afford? major dental work.

thirteen. what gives your life meaning? writing.

fourteen. what did you think you would outgrow but haven't? an appreciation for kraft singles cheese slices and premium saltines. it's still my go-to comfort food, and i always feel like a little kid when i'm eating that stuff.

fifteen. what keeps you up at night? shame and inadequacy and fear.

sixteen. what is something you will never do again? fall in love.

seventeen. what's the best thing about you? talent, tenacity and resilience.

eighteen. which of your scars has the best story behind it? the ones behind my ears and along my hairline. surgeons took my face off twice when i was a baby.

nineteen. if you could make one rule that everyone had to follow, what rule would you make? respect others' personal space.

twenty. what bends your mind every time you think about it? the implausibility of the terminator storyline. i've been trying to make sense of that thing for like three decades and still can't do it. and here's a little something else for yall to ponder: two of my characters are named kyle and reese. i swear i didn't do that on purpose... or did i?

twenty-one. what is the most annoying question people ask you? how can you drive?

twenty-two. what's the best thing you got from your parents? their determination for and faith in me.

twenty-three. there are two types of people in this world. what are the two types? bricks and sponges. after a storm and the sun dries up the rain, bricks retain their shape and strength, but sponges have to be wrung out. bricks don't need anyone; sponges do. bricks don't have much compassion; sponges do.

twenty-four. to what fact are you resigned? that i will never be capable of loving a man, and one will never be capable of loving me, and i will die alone and despaired because of this.

twenty-five. what are three of the most significant numbers in your life? twelve, sixteen and seventeen.

gone with the wind

September 9, 2017

why i wanted to read it: it's my mother's favorite book.

what i liked: there's a lot, yall. a LOT. it would take me days to type up all the things, so i'll just share a few specifics.

"that's no way to handle men, my dear. you are forgetting your early training."

"i don't need you to tell me how to behave," she said and wearily put on her bonnet. she wondered how he could jest so blithely with a rope around his neck and her pitiful circumstances before him. she did not even notice that his hands were jammed in his pockets in hard fists as if he were straining against his own impotence. 

"cheer up," he said, as she tied her bonnet strings. "you can come to my hanging and it will make you feel lots better. it'll even up all your old scores with me -- even this one. and i'll mention you in my will."

"thank you, but they may not hang you till it's too late to pay the taxes," she said with a sudden malice that matched his own, and she meant it (page 587).

"so all i can say is, keep that pistol of yours handy -- and when i'm in town, i'll try to be on hand to drive you."

"rhett, do you really -- is it to protect me that you --"

"yes, my dear, it is my much advertised chivalry that makes me protect you." the mocking light began to dance in his black eyes and all signs of earnestness fled from his face. "and why? because of my deep love for you, mrs. kennedy. yes, i have silently hungered and thirsted for you and worshiped you from afar; but being an honorable man, like mr. ashley wilkes, i have concealed it from you. you are, alas, frank's wife and honor has forbidden my telling this to you. but even as mr. wilkes' honor cracks occasionally, so mine is cracking now and i reveal my secret passion and my --"

"oh, for god's sake, hush!" interrupted scarlett, annoyed as usual... "what was the other thing you wanted to tell me?"

"what! you change the subject when i am baring a loving but lacerated heart?" (page 684).

"really, scarlett, i can't go all my life, waiting to catch you between husbands" (page 832).

"did you ever in your novel reading come across the old situation of the disinterested wife falling in love with her own husband?"

"you know i don't read novels," she said and, trying to equal his jesting mood, went on: "besides, you once said it was the height of bad form for husbands and wives to love each other."

"i once said too god damn many things" (page 837).

strange, what a pang it had been even in her pain, to know that she would not have this child. stranger still that it should have been the first child she really wanted...

rage had been swallowed up in pain and she wanted rhett. but he was not there and she could not bring herself to ask for him. 

her last memory of him was how he looked as he picked her up in the dark hall at the bottom of the steps, his face white and wiped clean of all save hideous fear, his voice hoarsely calling for mammy...

whenever scarlett opened her eyes, she said, "melly?" and the voice answered. and usually she started to whisper: "rhett -- i want rhett" and remembered as if from a dream that rhett didn't want her... she wanted him and he didn't want her.

once she said "melly?" and mammy's voice said: "s'me, chile," and put a cold rag on her head and she cried fretfully: "melly -- melanie" over and over but for a long time melanie did not come. for melanie was sitting on the edge of rhett's bed and rhett, drunk and sobbing, was sprawled on the floor, crying, his head in her lap...

"i've killed scarlett, i've killed her. you don't understand. she didn't want this baby and --"

"you must hush! you are beside yourself! not want a baby? why every woman wants --"

"no! no! you want babies. but she doesn't. not my babies... i wanted to hurt her -- because she had hurt me. i wanted to -- and i did -- but she didn't want me. she's never wanted me (pages 962-965).

behind that door, melanie was going and, with her, the strength upon which she had relied unknowingly for so many years. why, oh, why, had she not realized before this how much she loved and needed melanie? but who would have thought of small plain melanie as a tower of strength? melanie who was shy to tears before strangers... scarlett felt her courage and self-confidence ooze from her as she realized that the sword which had flashed between her and the world was sheathed forever (page 1012).

"you are tired," he said, still watching her. "you'd better go to bed."

"but i must tell you!"

"scarlett," he said heavily," i don't want to hear -- anything."

"but you don't know what i'm going to say!"

"my pet, it's written plainly on your face. something, someone has made you realize that the unfortunate mr. wilkes is too large a mouthful of dead sea fruit for even you to chew. and that same something has suddenly set my charms before you in a new and attractive light," he sighed slightly. "and it's no use to talk about it" (page 1027).

what sucked: that it's more than ONE. THOUSAND. PAGES. holy CHRIST. mitchell must have been BORED OUT OF MIND to write that much. also, i question whether the editor was in his or her right mind prior to press, letting that book fly with that many pages. the hardcover's as heavy as a doorstop. it's more a history text book than a novel. at least until you get to the eight hundredth page or so.

i borrowed the audio book from the library. it's TWO BOXES of cds. there are FORTY-ONE discs.

having said that: i don't think i've ever bitched at a character more than i did at scarlett while reading this. jesus, she's a STUPID girl. i cried listening to this one, though, and in the handful of times i've seen the movie, i've never cried for her or for rhett. and there's so much sorrow in scarlett's heart in the last of this thing that the film just can't capture. also, ain't no way in hell scarlett gets rhett back. this is one hell of a tragedy. mitchell sure knew how to pile on the damage.

the book thief

September 8, 2017

why i wanted to read it: because erin sent it to me years ago, and i finally decided to tackle it for her latest book challenge in the nonhuman character category.

what i liked: first the colors. then the humans. that's usually how i see things. or at least, how i try... i most definitely can be cheerful. i can be amiable. agreeable. affable. and that's only the a's. just don't ask me to be nice. nice has nothing to do with me (page 3). (that's a damned fine first page, by the way. there's a prologue... it doesn't count.)

the question is what colour will everything be at the moment i come for you? what will the sky be saying (page 4).

people observe the colours of the day only at its beginnings and ends... a single hour can consist of thousands of colours... in my line of work, i make it a point to notice them (page 5).

she was the book thief without the words.

trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out, like the rain (page 85).

even papa's music was the colour of darkness.

the strange thing was she was vaguely comforted by that thought, rather than distressed by it.

the dark, the light.

what was the difference?

nightmares had reinforced themselves in each... (page 108).

it reminded her of an unpopular child, forlorn and bewildered, powerless to alter its fate. no-one liked it. head down. hands in pockets. forever. amen (page 119).

as he looked uncomfortably at the human shape before him, the young man's voice was scraped out and handed across the dark like it was all that was remained of him (page 187).

the frozen motives of rudy steiner

1. after months of failure, this moment was his only chance to revel in some victory.
2. such a position of selflessness was a good place to ask liesel for the usual favor. how could she possibly turn him down?

'how about a kiss, saumensch?'

he stood waist-deep in the water for a few moments longer before climbing out and handing her the book. his pants clung to him, and he did not stop walking. in truth, i think he was afraid. rudy steiner was afraid of the book thief's kiss. he must have longed for it so much. he must have loved her so incredibly hard. so hard that he would never ask for her lips again, and would go to his grave without them (page 326).

there are skies manufactured by people, punctured and leaking, and there are soft, coal-coloured clouds, beating, like black hearts.

and then.

there is death.

making his way through all of it.

on the surface: unflappable, unwavering.

below: unnerved, untied, and undone (page 331).

while liesel sat in the dark, rudy tried on the suit behind one of the curtains. there was a small circle of light and the shadow dressing itself.

when he returned, he held out the lantern for liesel to see. freed from the curtain, the light was like a pillar, shining onto the refined suit. it also lit up the dirty shirt beneath, and rudy's battered shoes. 

'well?' he asked.

liesel continued the examination. she moved around him and shrugged. 'not bad.'

'not bad! i look better than just not bad.'

'the shoes let you down. and your face' (page 485).

she had seen her brother die with one eye open, one still in a dream... she had seen a jewish man who had twice given her the most beautiful pages of her life marched to a concentration camp.

those images were the world, and it stewed in her as she sat with the lovely books and their manicured titles. it brewed in her as she eyed the pages full to the brims of their bellies with paragraphs and words.

you bastards, she thought. you lovely bastards.

don't make me happy. please, don't fill me up and let me think that something good can come from any of this. look at my bruises... i don't want to hope for anything anymore. i don't want to pray that max is alive and safe. or alex steiner.

because the world does not deserve them (page 353).

what sucked: that it's nearly SIX. HUNDRED. PAGES.

having said that: it's good. it made me cry, and it's rare that a book has that kind of power for me. listen to this one, though, rather than read it. i got about two hundred pages in before giving up and borrowing the audio book from the library. the guy who reads it does a pretty good job.

three things

September 7, 2017

three experiences i recommend
one. the van gogh museum in amsterdam. do the audio tour. it's fantastic.
two. hike to neuschwanstein and explore the castle.
three. hike in wales. just make sure you plan the trip well.

three things that are always in my fridge
one. bananas.
two. white wine.
three. assorted jams and jellies.

three things that are always in my freezer
one. ice cubes.
two. ice packs.
three. ziploc freezer bags.

three most often used makeup products
one. clinique beyond perfecting foundation and concealer in breeze.
two. clinique high impact mascara in black.
three. clinique different lipstick in surprise.

three things i'd give up in a second
one. port wine.
two. jagermeister.
three. bitters.

three things upon which i'll spend money
one. films.
two. literature.
three. music.

three things that are always in my pantry
one. assorted spices.
two. plastic containers.
three. tonic water.

three things upon which i won't spend money
one. skiing.
two. golfing.
three. playing tennis.

three pieces of advice for everyone
one. i've always thought people weaker for not being able to appreciate when others own who they are;
sharing your struggles can be helpful.
two. NEVER smoke; if you do, QUIT NOW. seriously. the amount of money you'll spend on dental work's HIDEOUS.
three. NEVER get a credit card; if you have one CUT IT UP NOW.

this post idea swiped from steph.

a sadness i can't erase

September 3, 2017

hootie and the blowfish

someone please talk to me 'cause i feel you cry
and you're sitting with him, and i know i'll never see you again...

i wonder if you're looking down at me and smiling right now
i wanna know if it's true when he looks at me, won't you tell me
does he realize he came down here and he took you too soon...

right now i just can't see 'cause i'm feeling weak
and my soul begins to bleed
and no one's listening to me, not even the trees

third eye blind

every thought that i repent
there's another chip you haven't spent
and you're cashing them all in...

the god of wine comes crashing through the headlights of a car
that took you farther than you thought you'd ever want to go...

she takes a drink, and then she waits. the alcohol, it permeates
and soon the cells give way and cancels out the day...

every glamorous sunrise throws the planets out of line
a star sign out of whack, a fraudulent zodiac
and the god of wine is crouched down in my room
you let me down. i said it. now i'm going down
and you're not even around

there's not a day where i don't think of my brother and get either, if not both, of these songs in my head soon after. i, who lived in san antonio then, was listening to the first one right around the time the cops in lake charles were calling my parents in conroe to tell them that their older son, their firstborn had died.

and when my parents called me six hours later, when i made the roughly four-hour drive home, the second song was on repeat. i played it most of the way home because i didn't know the circumstances. my brother had a drinking problem. it developed when i was in high school. so for a decade, i'd been living under the assumption that, yes, chances were quite good that i would see his death sooner rather than later, and that he would most likely die in an automobile accident. so while i'm making that trek, i'm imagining the physical, literal wreckage. i should've been more preoccupied with the figurative kind.

the sky was white that day. there was no break in the clouds, no variance in the hue. it was raining, but it wasn't. it was more like a mist, like the air was sweating. but it was the middle of march, not hot enough for that. it was like that the whole way home, halfway across texas.

there's not a day where i don't see that sky and think, that's how it was. and every memory of that day and the events to follow flood my consciousness.

i've always felt as though my brother was the best of the three of us. imagined him being born on a day that began with a glamorous sunrise, that maybe if he'd been born on a different one, things would be different. it's a silly thing to think. it does me no good whatsoever.

he didn't die in a car. he died alone, in front of l'auberge casino resort in lake charles, louisiana. he'd spent his last day on earth fishing with friends. drinking buddies. they'd hightailed it to my parents' house after he died. i remember greeting them at the door. i remember the air outside feeling oppressed by their grief. the sun had come out sometime between my arrival home and their appearance on our doorstep. i remember their faces, the guilt on them. like they thought it was their fault he'd died because they'd left him alone.

my brother could be a vicious bastard when he was drunk. i was unfortunate in my life that i got to see how callous he could be. he'd gotten so drunk the day he'd died that he'd become that cranky jackass, and they'd left him in his room while they'd gone to dinner, figuring a nap would do him some good. they came back afterward to find that he was still cranky and left him again to go to the casino. when they came back at around ten that night, he was not in his room.

a stranger found him face down on concrete at half past midnight on march twelfth, fifty feet from the resort's entrance.

the guilt on those men's faces haunts me. they couldn't have saved him. no one could.

i spent that first week running errands: calling on his oldest friend to get the word out about the memorial service we had here for him; gathering the things my mother requested; packing for the trip to colorado for his funeral; turning a bulletin board into a photo collage:

i kept busy. i was so concerned with whether my parents and younger brother and our friends and jon's friends were alright. i hadn't been that close with my older brother. i'd been preparing myself for this moment since i was in college so i hadn't expected grief would sucker punch me.

but it did.

it waited a couple of months, waited until i was back in my apartment in san antonio. until i was alone. and then...

there were days i didn't leave my apartment. days i didn't bother to brush my teeth or comb my hair or change my clothes or shower. it was disgusting. i was disgusting. not so much because i missed him but because i'd fucked things up with him. i'd not loved him well enough. i'd spent the first two decades of my life putting him on a pedestal, and then when he'd broken it, i'd thought he was no better than the rubbish beneath the debris. i'd never bothered to know him.

and i couldn't lean on my family, didn't want to weigh them down with my guilt and grief when they were struggling with their own. didn't want to lean on his friends. didn't really have friends of my own on whom i could call for help.

here's the thing, though: the only person i would've allowed myself to lean on would've been a romantic partner, had i had one. i wouldn't've shared my feelings. i would've wanted him to distract me.

i can't tell you what else happened in two thousand three. that whole year was march. that month dragged on and on and on. i don't remember anything but death and grief.

i wish this weren't the case. how awful is it that a whole year could be so significant and so ghostly at once?

you would think the first year would be the hardest. it's not. it's the second one. there's the anniversary of the death. there's all the holidays and birthdays that he's not here to celebrate with us.

then you fall into a routine, acclimate yourself to the new normal. you start to forget him: the sound of his voice, the things he loved, the stories he told, the horrible taste in music, the way he could NEVER sing in key. maybe this is a good thing. maybe it helps you heal. you can't cling to him, to the grief, the loss. he's not there anymore. not anywhere.

and then people kind of forget that you've lost him.

of his friends, the only one who makes a consistent effort to keep in touch is one of his corps buddies from a & m. he tells me stories. he doesn't mind sharing them. his daughter was born a few years after my brother died, on the anniversary of his death. i have no trouble remembering her birthday. i need to be reminded when her brother's is.

the other day a friend messaged me because a friend of hers had lost her brother, and she wanted to know how to best help her friend. i told her that my grief might be different from her friend's because i felt my brother's death had been intentional: he'd put himself on that path and chosen to walk it to its dead end. i have a lot of anger, still: at god because he couldn't save him, because he took him instead of me when my brother's presence in this world was so much more appreciated and by so many (when he was sober, he was amazing, yall. he was beautiful, and i am not); at him for not finding the strength to conquer his demons, for not appreciating how much he was loved; at myself for being angry with god and him and myself, for not loving him, for thinking all these things. i told her i needed to think on this some.

so how could i have been helped...

i don't need to talk about him. he's buried in the mountains of colorado, near the rivers and slopes, where his spirit is free to fish in the warmer months and ski in the winter... or so i like to think.

but on the occasion that i want to talk about him, i want people to be willing to engage. my younger brother is never interested in doing this, but he's an olympic internalizer. i know not to bring jon up with him. every now and then, i'll see jon in him: in the sound of his voice, his mannerisms, the way he expresses himself. prior to my brother's death, i'd never seen the similarities. it's kind of nice to see them now.

i wish i could remember that year. i wish i could i remember the good that occurred then. i wish more of his friends were present in our lives now, not because i want them to help me keep his memory alive but because his death is enough... the death of those friendships just adds to the grief, makes the loss that much more prevalent.

i'd want someone there... often. not to grieve with me but to brighten my world because it was so, so unbearably bleak. i needed color and chaos, the kind that's born from creativity rather than tragedy.

my mother struggled with what to put on my brother's headstone. one of the television programs i liked the year he died was called ed. there was an episode where the main character was struggling with something -- can't tell you what exactly, because, again, i can't remember much from that year -- but i do recall from that episode the words life was his art. my mother liked that. and so on my brother's headstone are the words laughter was his art. of the things i've written, the pieces i love the most have come from the most hideous experiences. art's one of the best therapies there is.

what i miss most is my brother's laugh and the ease with which he could make others laugh.

in the film steel magnolias, truvy says laughter through tears is my favorite emotion. THAT'S how you get through grief, yall. laughter. the more, the merrier.

nine things to celebrate in september

September 2, 2017

one. september third. skyscraper day. travel to the nearest metropolitan area (if it's within a reasonable distance) and take a picture of the skyline. if the distance is too great, dig through your travel photos for a favorite skyline shot.

two. september sixth. read a book day. if you're anything like me, you've got stacks of books you've been saying i'm going to read this... someday. someday's here. pick one that's been on your to read list for far too long. read some.

three. september eighth. pardon day. what unforgivable curses have been used on you and by whom? find the strength to forgive one person. be brave enough to confess the forgiveness.

four. september ninth. teddy bear day. donate a new teddy bear to a children's hospital.

five. september twelfth. national video games day. what was one of your favorite video games to play in your childhood? find an arcade that has that game and play some.

six. september thirteenth. fortune cookie day. snag six fortune cookies. give five to your friends or family, and keep one for yourself. what's it say?

seven. september seventeenth. national women's friendship day. of your girl friends, which have you known the longest? what's sustained that friendship? send a note letting her know how much you value her presence in your life.

eight. september twenty-first. world gratitude day. this one's got two parts. ONE) on this day, make a concerted effort to say THANK YOU if someone pays you a compliment. women are so bad at shrugging off positive attention, like we don't deserve it. like the other day when a friend commented how sweet i was, i contradicted the compliment. if someone says THANK YOU, instead of saying NO PROBLEM say YOU'RE WELCOME. TWO) as you go through your day, make a list of everything you see for which you are thankful. there's a notes app on your phone. USE it. if you do it right, by the end of the day, it should be a rather long list. type it up. send it to me. i'll be grateful for the mail.

nine. september twenty-eighth. national good neighbor day. check in with one of the folks who lives nearby, if not next door. take fifteen minutes out of your day to visit.

the beginning of everything

why i wanted to read it: because i liked the title and the cover and the first few pages grabbed my attention. but it, like so many books, made it home and then was untouched for quite some time. i picked it up again for the book beginning with b category in erin's book challenge.

what i liked: so who was i in the aftermath of my personal tragedy? at first, i was a lousy sport when it came to the chipper attitudes of the pediatrics nurses. and then i was a stranger in my own home, a temporary occupant of the downstairs guest room. an invalid, if you will, which is probably the most horrific word i've ever heard to describe someone who is supposed to be recuperating. in the context of a mathematical proof, if something is considered "invalid", it has been demonstrated through irrefutable logic not to exist (page 13).

we wound up debating the merits of free market economics, which definitely wasn't my strong suit, and i argued pro again. i thought i'd managed to present the argument okay, but the moment that freshman adjusted his belt, straightened his tie, and shot me a look like he expected me to suck it, i knew i was done for. he filleted me. 

it was so frustrating, knowing that, if we were on a tennis court, i could've killed him with my backhand, slicing it to land short and watching him run like hell. but this was debate, and my superpowers were nonexistent. i almost wished he'd debated cassidy in her ridiculous harry potter costume, so she could've wiped the smirk off his muggle-face (pages 146-147).

"the world tends toward chaos, you know," cassidy said. "i'm just helping it along. you could too. just write down a made-up name, or even a fictional character..."

"fictional people?" i teased... "i think i'll stick with reality," i said, handing cassidy back her phone... "imaginary prisoners are still prisoners" (pages 175-176).

she'd put on a pair of boots with big heels, and the extra height made holding hands feel different, as though she was closer, and easier to reach (page 194).

"just once i want someone to be afraid of losing me," phoebe said (page 221).

"i -- just -- the whole time, it's been someone else?" i said numbly.

she cocked her head slightly, her hand on her hip, as though it pained her to have to explain it to me.

"how could it have been you? my god, ezra, look at yourself. you're a washed-up prom king who lost his virginity to some cheerleader in a hot tub. you take me out for burgers and friday-night movies at the multiplex. you're everything i make fun of about small hick towns like this one, and you're still going to be here in twenty years, coaching the high-school tennis team so you can relive your glory days."

back when they'd reset the broken bone in my wrist, i'd woken up on the operating table. it was just for a moment, before the doctors upped the anesthesia, but in those seconds when the lights were bright and hot and the surgeons were bent over me with my blood dripping from their scalpels, it'd felt as though i'd woken into a nightmare.

hearing cassidy say those things was worse. because i hadn't been broken when i left my house an hour earlier, with a wrist corsage of white roses still cold from the refrigerator, but i was certainly broken now.

i stared at her, horrified. her chin jutted stubbornly and her eyes were a hurricane, and there was nowhere for me to seek cover

i turned and walked away.

"ezra!" she called desperately, as thought i was the one who was being unreasonable.

i paused, considering it, but what more was there to say? and then i continued my funeral march toward the parking lot.

the death of a relationship. at least i was dressed for the wake (pages 244-245).

"remember my twelfth birthday... how all of the sudden, we weren't friends anymore... you're pushing me away, exactly like you did in seventh grade... i was the fat kid who drew comic books. i was going to be bullied no matter what. you act like that day at disneyland was my big tragedy, but you're the one who lost your best friend" (pages 269-270).

what sucked: the writing is mediocre, at best. most of the time, it was disheartening for me to read this book because i felt my own writing was equal to this, and i want to do better and am not sure i can... which made me feel like shit, because it's really not good writing. too much telling, bad dialogue, poor character development... it doesn't read quickly enough for my liking. it's fairly predictable. there's not much more heart than what's in these passages here. he break-up scene is barely a page. that should be gut-wrenching, and surely what's there has some power, but... the author always seems to fall a little short. not much heart, and much less chemistry.

having said that: the bones of the story are good. there's some amazing conflict here, and the author does do well in creating a believable world in which these characters live. although i'm not fond of the writing style, i cared enough about ezra's plight to see it through to the end.