Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Twilight Premiere

Two days after Twilight premiered in LA (and the night before it was released in theaters), the Austin Film Society hosted a special Austin Premiere at the IMAX theater complete with Q & A afterwards with the director, Catherine Hardwicke, followed by the Twilight After Party at the D Berman Art Gallery. I attended this special engagement just a few weeks ago but the story actually starts over a year ago.

October 2007. Rand buys me the three Stephanie Meyer's young adult vampire novels (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse) that he's heard such good buzz about. I read them all that weekend, thoroughly enjoying their angst-romance-focused plot and reveling in the inherently sexy nature of vampires while barely speaking to, let alone feeding, my family.

December 2007. I purchase the trio for my sister's birthday suspecting she will be equally enthused. She is. (After all, she did, --at least in my limited sphere of existence-- coin the term Angst Romance. We both agree that the quintessential modern Angst Romance is Mal & Inarra in Joss Whedon's Firefly [who, coincidentally, also created Buffy, speaking of vampires]. Still, Bella and Edward are right up there, or nearly.) This turns out to be such an excellent choice that she will later purchase them all for our mother.

July 2008. Someone in my book club is considering choosing Twilight for next month's book and is looking for feedback. (She has some alternate very BookClub [a la Kite Runner, Eat Pray Love] book as a more typical choice.) I'm the only person there who's read the books let alone heard of them so it falls to me to explain a little. I start off by saying I enjoyed them, that they are good and fun. But I try to be clear that they are fluff, perfect for end-of-summer light reading. [This is the point in the story where you start to suspect that this might not be your average straight-forward plot but it's still just a vague feeling. Nothing has quite happened yet to confirm this. Bits of dialog seem to have a dual meaning. You wait, unsure.]

is, to me, a guilty pleasure, which I know sounds like a back-handed compliment but hey, it still says 'pleasure' so clearly there's some enjoyment going on. And guilt is something that I'm good at-- I've been steeped in it since birth, practically, (which is not inherently bad as I see it, by the way.) so that's to be expected. But let's face facts: two of the last three books our group read were Uncle Tom's Cabin and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas-- Slavery and the Holocaust; not what I would call light fare. So reading a teen vampire romance novel seemed potentially juvenile to me. And the cardinal rule about guilty pleasures of any kind is you tend to keep them private. Until, that is, you find out that someone else has the same guilty pleasure. (Then, of course, you can confide all your embarrassingly obsessive thoughts to one another.) So, I don't want to rave about the Twilight books before knowing how the group will respond to them. I attempt to play it cool and we put it to a vote. Twilight wins out but not by much. Whew.

August 2008. Our book club has maybe 40 people on our yahoo group but a big chunk of those are primarily lurkers who never actually attend our monthly get-togethers. When it's your month to host, you pick the book as well as serve the meal at your home. In an average month there are usually about 8 of us. Occasionally, one of the selections will resonate with almost everyone and we'll have 20 women together, ready to tell how much they love or hate the book. Twilight is unexpectedly one of these. In fact, in the first week after announcing the pick, I hear from a number of gals, including more than one that wants to borrow the sequel. (And they are delighted to hear the final book, Breaking Dawn, has just been released.) Another call is from a sophisticated Mom who is essentially confiding in me that it's her guilty pleasure. [hold your breath now...this is the part where you discover the good guy is really the bad guy and your whole world is turned upside down.]

You see I, too, am somewhat of a book snob (My favorites include Clavell's Shogun, Austen, Tolkien, Asimov, George R. R. Martin) so I totally get her I-can't-believe-I-like-this-teenage-romance-vampire-novel-as-much-as-I-do feeling. (Although, given that I'm part of the Cult of Buffy and have been a vampire junkie since high school when I started reading Stephen King and Anne Rice , I have absolutely no problem with the vampire aspect. It's the Teen Romance moniker that gets me.) But as to the rest, it's sort of like being a cheese connoisseur and then discovering one day that you love individually-wrapped american cheese slices more than anything and you are horrified at yourself. But you can't help it. And when you are truly honest with yourself, lying in your bed in the dead of night thinking of Edward eating american cheese...oh wait..what was I talking about?

Our Twilight discussion ends up being very lively-- mostly because everyone loves it and is clearly surprised by this fact. (Obviously, few of them have ever read Vampire novels before.) But we do have a few people who just don't get into it and one new gal who is vehemently against it. She keeps going on about Edward's controlling relationship with Bella, and the inherent violence in a relationship where the man is struggling not to kill his girlfriend. (Clearly, she has never read a vampire novel either.) Seriously, though, it makes me wonder if she has a personal connection with a controlling or abusive relationship given her extreme reaction. But maybe not, as it would appear if you search on line you can find many folks ranting in addition to raving about Meyer's books. Oh please....[insert serious eye rolling here] it's just a fantasy, people. If you don't like fantasies, my advice is not to read books about vampires. Clearly, we need to set some Vampire Literature ground rules in the future.

November 2008. I receive one of my regular Austin Film Society member emails about upcoming events. Unexpectedly, it includes details about the Austin premiere of Twilight which I immediately register for and then proceed to forward to our book club mailing list as well as to my sister with an "if only you lived here" preface. She replies with, "Remind me again why don't I live in Austin?" and I begin to make arrangements with a friend to attend. Two days later I receive this email from my sister: "Is it too late to buy tickets?" I'm totally psyched! Meanwhile, not only is she flying in from D.C. to join us, but the friend I'm going with has a friend in Kansas who is going to drive down to make it a foursome. We may not be the Rob Pattinson-screaming, hysterical teen fans but I'm starting to suspect we, too, may have some obsessive tendencies.

Less than 2 weeks later, my sister arrives for the big event. To kick off her visit, after picking her up from the airport, Rand and I take her to a late night showing of a Swedish vampire movie entitled Let the Right One In at the Alamo Drafthouse. Think art house picture meets Nosferatu. It was awesome. And once again the Alamo succeeds in living up to it's Coolest Movie Theater Ever reputation. Thank you, yet again, Tim and Karrie League.

The Big Night is finally here and my sister and I have decided to dress up. Our motto has always been "it's better to be overdressed than underdressed" and once again we succeed. We listen to our self-made Twilight-inspired mixed cd on the drive, enjoying the enticing sounds of Muse, Linkin Park, The Cure, Depeche Mode. We have paid extra for VIP tickets which not only allow entrance to the After Party but also get us reserved seating for the film so we're annoyed when we still have to wait in the long line out in the cold to be let in 10 or so at a time to check in at the so-called Will Call Window. Besides the obvious it's-not-a-window aspect, the fact that everyone attending is waiting in the same line to check in at the same place to all get our tickets clearly calls into question the use of the term Will Call. I manage to refrain from making a scene although I do grumble loudly every time someone that appears to be more important than me is let in past security. (I am somewhat mollified once we get through the glass doors to see that the Entry Elite appear to be friends of Ain't It Cool News' Harry Knowles as I spot his large frame and ginger cloud of hair among a group off to the side. Not that I'm still not miffed.

I should really be a friend of Harry's. I mean, come on. Back in my UT days, when I could spend every third afternoon at the Lincoln Theater, he and I used to go to the movies together regularly. We both liked to get there early and we always sat up near the front-- rows 4, 5, 6ish. Oftentimes it would just be the two of us in the darkened theater. Okay, we weren't actually sitting together. But the rest is true. I swear. When I tell this story, Rand thinks I'm, well, not lying exactly, but remembering the past in a more cinematic way, as it were. But it's the truth! I can't prove it and since Harry wasn't his infamous AICN self back then, it's not like when you spot a famous person at a restaurant and recognize them. I didn't know who he was but I always felt an affinity for this guy, this kindred spirit who might be so much like me, someone who loves movies so much they seem a part of me. It wasn't until years and years later-- maybe ten-- that my subconscious put two and two together and came up with four. Hyperbole aside, I honestly believe it was Harry back then. And if it wasn't, Harry, please don't tell me.

On the walk from the parking garage to the Bub Bullock Museum/IMAX, we meet a reporter for the Austin American Statesman who's here to do a story on the film premiere. I'm not sure if it's our over-dressedness or our tendency to be fun (translation: loud & boisterous in public) but she asks if we're headed to the premiere and then interviews us about thoughts on the book and anticipation of the film. She chats with us for quite a while so I'm privately convinced we'll be the lead story in the paper over the weekend. (Still waiting...)

Despite the long, very un-VIP line-waiting, we end up with good seats in the Reserved section, sitting 2 rows behind Catherine Hardwicke herself. As the lights dim my sister and I brace for what can never live up to our expectations. The film starts off well with a look and feel that makes us both relax imperceptibly, still bracing for the worst. Meanwhile, our counterparts begin the first of many contented laughs as each anticipated plot point occurs. (My sister and I whisperedly (hurriedly + whisper) agree that we'll have the CHR (Completely Honest Review) once we are back home just the two of us. [Yes, the protagonist-turned-antagonist appears to be getting more antagonistic by the minute...and he might even have a twin brother.] As the credits roll, the theater as a whole cheers, but unlike the usual mass exodus that I try to ignore as I watch through to the final-film-company-logo-closing-shot, most people simply shift and start talking, obviously waiting for the Q & A with Hardwicke to follow.

As the lights come up, a man with longish brown hair, goatee, and glasses comes out with a microphone. Looks like our Q & A moderator is here. I'm embarrassed to say that I do not recognize him until he introduces himself. (Of course, I am in a giant, dimly lit IMAX theater and about 25 rows up from where he's standing so it's probably just the distance. Really.) It's Richard Linklater. From Austin. Director of Slacker, Dazed & Confused, A Scanner Darkly, School of Rock, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset. And, oh-by-the-way, Artistic Director of the Austin Film Society. It turns out Catherine Hardwicke's film start was as a production designer and she worked on several of Linklater's films. I'm in cinephilic heaven! (Catherine who?) Linklater does a good job of moderating and Hardwicke is quite a character in her responses, including a couple of good barbs at Linklater for never getting back to her when she was looking for advice about directing. There are a few good technical questions regarding film technique, editing, and shooting locations. (The studio wouldn't let them film in Forks, WA where the story takes place because it was cheaper to film in Oregon. Same reason there aren't a lot of films being made in Texas right now, or so says Catherine.) And then there's the usual gushing teen comments and questions: "Twilight is awesome! Does Rob have a girlfriend?" that make my sister and I roll our eyes in unison.

The After Party is filled with people eating hors d'oeuvres, drinking wine, and ignoring the paintings on the walls. I enjoy looking at the canvases as we circulate, chat, and try to look like we know what we're doing. Only one painting really stands out to me. It's a triptych of sorts and I have this thing about triptychs. We actually spy more intriguing multimedia sculpture in the off-limits back room. A photographer roams around but doesn't take our picture. Later, I realize our animated foursome conversation has morphed into the Jen & Sister Show, and as the designated event coordinator as well as chauffeur, I decide it's time to inquire about our ultimate departure. This is a tricky maneuver, however, if you don't want to give the impression that you want to leave, that is, unless your guests do. You see, we're still waiting for the VIPs to arrive. We're not even really sure if they're going to arrive. But my sister and I could easily kill another hour or more gabbing. So, my goal is to offer an exit strategy that allows for the option of an immediate departure without implying that that is my preference. I use my subtle powers of persuasion and we...depart.

Naturally, as we near the door, Catherine Hardwicke arrives. If this were a screenplay, this would be a major plot turning point. Something funny and unexpected would happen to delay our departure which might, but more likely, might not involve actually talking to Hardwicke. Maybe one of us trips. That would be me, I'm sure. But, alas, this is not a screenplay.

So, we still leave. I'm mostly okay with this. The thing is [and this is where you realize that there's no turning back for the would-be villian in this film.] if this were Peter Jackson, I would stay at the gallery til they kicked me out, hoping he would arrive so I could ask him a million questions. And I might very well follow him to his hotel in an effort to see if he brought the incomparable Richard Taylor, of Weta Workshop, with him. But this isn't Peter Jackson and it's not The Lord of the Rings. (Alas, nary a bigature in sight.) I love the book Twilight. And I think Hardwicke did an adequate job of making the film. But the book itself isn't a complicated story nor is it delving into deep philosophical topics which make me feel compelled to just talk and talk. My most interesting discussion points tend towards the critical so better to just smile and go. And say to ourselves, "We were at the After Party with the director" glossing over, in future retellings, that we shared the same air for barely 30 seconds.

We bail and try to go to Chez Zee for dessert. Dammit, it's Thursday night and they close by 10pm or something ridiculous and now we're too close to home for everyone to want to head back downtime for a more happenin' (read: Open!) dessert spot. So, we wrap our evening with a moderately bland "That was fun!" consensus as we drop off the gals at my friend's house. Then my sister and I proceed to go home and critique the film without self-censoring.

It was better than we expected but has far to go. The swooping camera moves were overdone. Some of the secondary casting was iffy. (Rosalie was supposed to be gorgeous, not just pissed off. Maybe it's just her fake blond hair as her photos in imdb are much better.) And what was up with the white powder makeup on all the Cullens? Fa-ake. (Huge exception: Alice was perfect.) Couldn't they have made the 5 minute Mtv-videoesque baseball game scene half the length and made time for more of the character moments between Bella and Edward? (The blood-typing scene, for instance.) And the screenplay...given that the book was mostly about two people falling in love, couldn't they have worked in more of that progression? My sister and I both agree we could have written a better screenplay. (I know, I know. I sound like Lady Catherine De Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice when she speaks of playing the piano, "If I had ever learnt I should have been a great proficient.")

And then we start talking about writing our own screenplay. This is one of those things that feels like we've talked about before but I'm not actually sure we've ever discussed. I've imagined doing one together for some time. I have, however, been telling her for years now, that if she and her family ever move to Austin, we're totally participating in one of Alamo's Filmmaking Frenzy competitions. She's the only other person I know that seems as obsessed with all aspects of film-making as I am. The only person, I think, that really gets it. I can't explain it. If you get it, you got it; if not, then the more I try to explain it, the wackier I sound. I'd prefer to maintain my usual level 5 wackiness, thank you.

So, did I enjoy Twilight? Emphatically, yes. Is it a great movie? No. But it continues my love affair with all things Vampiric and it makes for yet another little adventure-of-my-lifetime. And most importantly, it furthers my love of film-making and possibly in such a personal way as to motivate me to do something myself in my most beloved of genres. [Hopefully, as the credits roll, you are thinking that although this was not the movie you thought it was going to be, it was still interesting. On the other hand, maybe you just hate it.]

My only complaint regarding our near-perfect vampire weekend? We had to miss the Vampire Prom (courtesy of the Alamo Drafthouse.) There's always next year, Sis...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Spouse Sign Language

I like to talk. And and I come from a family of mostly women that like to talk too. So, naturally, when Rand and I first met, I was a loud talker as that's what happens when 4 chatty females live together. Once we were married and on our own, Rand started to try to lower my max volume. It almost ended our marriage. (Well, not really, but it did seriously piss me off at first.)

I'd be relaying some story to him while in the car and he would suddenly tell me to lower my voice. Although this annoyed me, it was when he did it in public that really set me off. It was condescending and embarrassing in front of others (and generally made me inclined to raise my voice!) even if I did have an excessive appreciation for the decibel scale. Before having to resort to marriage counseling, however, we came up with a signal, something that he could do that only I would understand to let me know I was getting loud. He started gently tugging his ear, as if checking for an earring. It worked great! So great that even now, 15 years later, sometimes he'll scratch his ear and I think he's telling my volume is rising when, in fact, he's just got a scratchy ear.

In the last few years, this idea has morphed into a mini sign language between us. However, it is not for communicating privately in public; rather, it's for defusing the minor yet inevitable marital spat which usually involves one of us not listening to or agreeing with the other. It started with Concede. Rand and I are both assertive, say-when-we-think-we're-right type of people so when a topic comes up that we disagree about, we tend to discuss it, google it, and generally go on about it until one of us ultimately concedes the point. The thing is, often times, once the Convincer gets on a roll, he/she has a hard time stopping even when the Conceder agrees. So we came up with using the sign language 'C' (where you curve your fingers and thumb as if looking into an invisible glass.) to signal to the Convincer that the Conceder agrees and they may cease and desist all debate. Immediately.

Next came Don't Know, signaled with a 'D' (where you close your fingers in a small circle to meet your thumb but leave your index finger pointed straight up.) I tend to ask Rand about things and he'll respond "I don't know" when I know if he would just listen to the rest of what I have to tell him, the answer might actually be, "I do know." I get annoyed that he denies knowledge without hearing me out while he gets annoyed that I insist on giving him the Long Version. Amazingly, the nonverbal "Don't know" seems to short-circuit nearly all of the annoyance. (Score!)

The latest addition is 'B' (palm out, fingers up, thumb tucked in) for Believe Me. Increasingly, Rand has taken to questioning my factual knowledge as a force of habit. He will ask me a question anywhere from "What are the dates for the Renaissance Faire?" to "What street is Moonshine on?" and then immediately dismiss my answer on the premise that I don't know what I'm talking about. This is highly irritating for two reasons. First, why does he even ask me if he's going to discount my answer? And secondly, why is my informed opinion always in question? (Once I consciously realized what was happening, I brought it to Rand's attention; he sheepishly acknowledged that it's probably due to his job where he has to repeatedly confirm factual information given to him by coworkers. This made me feel better except for the fact that he still has a tendency to do it.) Now I forcefully flash him the 'B' in a very convincing imitation of Fran Drescher's Talk-to-the-Hand gesture. He usually believes me. Of course, that's because I'm usually right. (Or rather, when I don't know, I say I don't know.)

It occurred to me recently that all three of these, in essence, are saying the same two words simply with varied tones, hues, and flavors to disguise the essential meaning: Shut up.

Shut up, I said I agree.
Shut up, I said I don't know.
Shut up and just believe me.

It's nice to know after 15 years of marriage, even if we don't listen to one another as well as we'd like, we can still be polite to one another.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Adventures of a lifetime

My mother and I are hiking the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island in June. It's a 9-day hike. We've never done anything like this before. I mean, we both love to hike and are active people but we've never gone on a multi-day backpacking hike carrying 25+ pounds on our backs for 6 hours or more a day. It's going to be an adventure of a lifetime.

We're going as part of a 10-hiker expedition with 2 guides through an amazing Canadian company Sea to Sky Expeditions. Just check out their photo gallery and you'll be in awe. Even their About Us segment gave me chills. You hike in the rain forest as well as along the coast line, camping on the beach at night. I've had 2 handmade leather journals with hemp paper made by Iona Handcrafted Books for Mother and I to journal before and during our trip. They weigh 10 ounces a piece-- an important bit of information when you're carrying everything on your back! (and yes, Rand thinks it's a needless addition. He just doesn't get the journaling. The need to put your thoughts down on paper. Actually, that's not fair. Although he doesn't feel the need and desire to write about his experiences along the way, he does appreciate my desire to. However, he doesn't get the need to have these authentically handmade, all natural, little-works-of-art-put-to-vital-use which to me personify this trip. He thinks I should just take a little spiral notebook that would surely weigh less. I'd give up...well, I'm not sure yet, but I'll let you know once I research my gear more extensively as I'm sure I'd give up something important...but suffice it to say, there's no way I'd take this trip without my journal.

Usually you hear "The adventure of a lifetime" as if there can only be one. I was thinking, however, that really my goal in my life is to make as many things as possible qualify in the "Adventure of a Lifetime" category. The obvious ones are:

  • Our family trip to New Zealand and Australia 2 years ago this month. Rand and I fell in love with NZ while watching (& rewatching, & watching every single commentary on all 3 special edition DVDs & rewatching again) Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was truly heaven on Earth, to us, and lived up to our extremely well-developed imaginations. We drove across both the South and North Islands, seeing as much as we could along the way. I can't settle on any one place as my favorite as the entire trip was spectacular. My only regret? Journaling only our rough schedule of events and experiences. Traveling cross-country with 6 & 8-year old boys in a motorhome for 3 weeks, sleeping in the make-shift bed while 6 months pregnant made little time for reflection and documentation. It was either go-go-go and do-do-do or sleep-sleep-sleep! Unfortunately, we could only carve out 1 week to spend in Australia, focusing on the Southeast corner of the country from Sydney to Melbourne but what we saw was incredible. The 12 Apostles along the Great Ocean Road was the highlight.
  • Ice-climbing on the Mendenhall glacier in Alaska. Although this was only a one-day activity and we were novices, it was incredible-- the vivid turquoise blue of the melted ice, seeing the glacier from above as we helicoptered in, using cramp-ons for the first time.
  • Walking amongst/under the balloons at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. I love black and white (photography, films) but I feel like I dream in color. The Fiesta was a spectacular living dream.
  • Standing in front of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice as it snowed. (We were in Italy for New Year's while visiting my family in Ramstein, Germany. Ahh, my beloved Deutschland. Sadly, I was married by the time they were stationed in Europe. Still, I managed to pack three years' worth of love and attachment for the country in my three week visit over the holiday.
But what about everything else in life? Can't anything be an adventure? Your marriage. Renovating your house. Having kids certainly is. I think it's more about your perspective. If you aren't enthusiastic about something, I don't think it's worth doing. Of course, that's coming from me. So, here's a list of Adventures of my Lifetime that don't involve exotic locales and lengthy travel. They are of the day-to-day variety:

  • Our annual Halloween Party: I make all the food, much of which is ghoulish-- severed finger cookies, brain-molded jello, mummy cupcakes; extensive decorations of which I have more than I do for Christmas, including a full-sized coffin; elaborate costumes, which this year included the winning, life-sized Voodoo Doll and Voodoo Priestess. If you can't tell, I live and breathe Halloween for the 31 days of October. I think it's biological; I was born in October.
  • Pi-Rho Fest: This is almost a personal holiday. Our boys look forward to this almost as much as Christmas. A large group of our friends/family started celebrating Pi Day (3/14) years ago by having a weekend amateur rocket-launching event which also includes an extensive fireworks display courtesy of our good friend Rudy, a giant pot-luck, Christmas-tree-burning bonfire (you have no idea how fast or how hot a 3-month old fir or spruce tree goes up in flames until you've witnessed it first hand.), overnight camping, and the occasional additional highlight such as the year of Shiree's Propane Fireball Maker. (I know what you're thinking and trust me, it was as impressive as it sounds. Too bad it made an appearance only once.)
  • Movie openings: Made obvious by my many movie-related topics, I'm a movie fiend and what better way to add a little adventure and excitement to life than by psyching yourself up for an upcoming movie fav? For Joss Whedon's Serenity, we were there opening night, wearing Brown Coats and I can kill you with my brain t-shirts. Later this week, my sister is flying in from DC to join me in attending the Austin premiere of Twilight, where we'll view the screening at the IMAX theater, along with Q & A with director Catherine Hardwicke and then attend the VIP after party at the Bertram Gallery. (I like to think of myself as a VIP but, really, I just paid for the $50 VIP tickets that include the after party.)
  • Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Road Show presentation of Jaws. We took a party boat out on Lake Travis and floated in innertubes in the dark while watching Jaws on a giant blow-up movie screen in the middle of the water. It was awesome. The Alamo had a couple of divers, unbeknownst to us, swimming around bumping into legs and generally scaring the hell out of everyone. We unconsciously bunched together in a group but the shifting water caused you to eventually be on the outside edge and if you weren't careful you'd start to drift away, which of course, only heightened the scare factor. (Other killer Rolling RS events in Austin: Watching The Descent in local caves and Blair Witch Project out in the woods. Starting in 2005 Rolling Road Show hit the road and took RRS to the original locales for films, including Jaws at Martha's Vineyard. I don't care; it was still scary on Lake Travis even if it is land-locked.) The Alamo Drafthouse is a cinephile's dream come true.
  • Our yearly Christmas projects. Since 1995 Rand and I make it our annual sanity test to design and create a family ornament (about 60 now) along with handmade (rubber-stamped, dry-embossed, etc. etc.) Christmas cards (about 140), wrapping paper, and a brief, yet hopefully-entertaining family letter (often times it's a 1-page, play-like affair but we've also written A Haiku Christmas, A Pop-Up Christmas, and last year's masterpiece (courtesy of Rand 100%!) the Bamberg variation of Good King Wenceslaus, complete with every rhyme and timing, able to be sung to the original carol's tune. This all started because we're both creative and I wanted to have a yearly Christmas card, letter, and family photo; Rand thought all Christmas letters were boring and too long, hence our ongoing efforts to make our yearly letter entertaining, brief, and still informative. As the years have passed, our ornaments have become more ambitious. Some of my favorites are our wax-dipped snowflakes made from heavy wire mesh, FLLW-inspired stained-glass Christmas trees embossed on 2" x 3" microscope slides and then water-colored with Stazon brand solvent ink. Hmmm...this sounds like a possible future topic complete with photos and how-tos.
  • The Saxon Pub on a Monday night with Bob Schneider and Matt the Electrician performing. If I weren't a busy Mom-of-Three, I'd make this a weekly routine rather than a quarterly event. If you haven't been to this well-loved little dive, next time you are in Austin, check it out. But if you go to see Bob, expect to stand unless you arrive by 6pm!
  • Texas Renaissance Festival dressed in full costume and soaking in the faire atmosphere. Often times we drive up and camp overnight and then get up fresh to spend all Saturday at the Faire. Highlights: Beowulf performed in the mud pit, belly dances, bawdy comedy acts, the saucy wenches admiring Rand in his striped velvet tights, Scotch eggs, roasted corn, steak-on-a-stake. The only thing I can complain about-- The Flaming Idiots retired a number years back and every year I yearn for them, still expecting them to be there. Pyro, Gyro, and Walter we miss you!
Isn't life a journey and isn't an adventure just an exciting journey? That's what I want. An exciting journey. Little moments of excitement on a daily basis. Okay, and yes, to be completely honest, with the occasional big excitement thrown in for good measure.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Someone is Writing My Life

Do you ever see movies and think, "Oh my god, that is me! Or, my husband or family..."?

I do. All the time. So, the question is, am I so unremarkable that everything seems like it's about me, or do I just look for connections to my own life in everything. (I do this with the books I read as well.) Or are these screenwriters so good that they manage to write a specific situation and yet have it seem personal to me, the constant Viewer? Or, maaaaaaybe, all these screenwriters are really my separated-at-birth septuplets? nah...that can't be it. It's happened more than 6 times.

First there's When Harry Met Sally and her high-maintenance ways. That is so totally The Fam (and by that I mean the family in which I grew up: my parents, two younger sisters and me.). To be fair, though, over the years I've mellowed a bit (due in absolutely no part to living with my low-maintenance husband for the past 15 years.) You should experience, just once, what it's like to go out to eat at a restaurant with The Fam. The interesting thing is, it's clearly genetic. My oldest son, Will, in this regard is just like my side of the family. He wants caramel sauce for his apple slices (and he'd take them peeled if I let him), his ham & cheese grilled, and for his birthday 2 weeks ago, he wanted Oreo Cheesecake. (That's homemade, mind you, not the pick-up-at-the-Factory variety.) OK, yes, I admit it. I prefer all of those options myself!

Although I've loved the movies since I was a child, Moonstruck was probably the birth of my identification with and love of movies as an adult. I was 16 when it came out and I instantly loved it the moment I heard Dean Martin crooning That's Amore. I have Italian family up in Rome, NY, that seem just like the characters and every melodramatic sigh and eye roll is so familiar, so them. I get warm & fuzzy feelings every time I watch it when Cher's character, Loretta, and her father repeat the same table-slapping gesture after toasting to her engagement to Johnny Camarere. (I can't even type his name without hearing it in my head the sing-song way Aunt Rita says it.)

The movie's tagline says it all: Life. Family. Love. I love every moment of Ronnie's "I lost my hand; I lost my bride" speech by the bakery ovens and his and Loretta's subsequent "bride without a head/wolf without a foot" argument and to this day I still say to my husband, "Go ahead. Take me, take me to the bed!" Every actor in that movie is incredible and it was, of course, Cher's finest acting. And Nicolas Cage at his most broodingly handsome. Especially outside his apartment in the cold, saying "We're supposed to ruin ourselves and love the wrong people." And the final scene when everyone is at breakfast and Ronnie asks her to marry him and her mother asks her if she loves him, Loretta says, "I love him awful." Obviously, you don't want to get me started or I'll just quote the whole movie.

Other ways Moonstruck has impacted me: Inspired by my love of the film, my husband asked me to marry him in a little Italian restaurant, Carmello's . And I love opera. In fact, seeing La Boheme at the Met (I can't even say the New York Metropolitan Opera. It will always be The Met to me. --After their unexpected tryst, Johnny says he'll leave Loretta alone if he can have one night with the two things he loves the most: her and the opera. "Where's the Met?", Loretta resignedly responds.) is one of my life goals.

Cinema Paradiso
is an amazing movie I only just saw recently, despite it being 20 years old. When the little boy peeks his head through the curtain to watch the movie, his face gleefully delighted, I feel a kinship to him. I have that feeling every time I sit down in my seat, the anticipation making me giddy almost. (I try to imagine what it would have been like if I'd seen it when it first came out.) It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't get it, how much value I place on a great, or meanful [to me] film. The truths they tell, the essence of something they are able to express. The way they can make you feel. So vital. So valid. So valuable. Yes, I'm talking about me as well as the film here.

Then there's the Jane Austen Book Club which, unfortunately, didn't do well on a global scale, but it was practically a perfect Jenny movie: Jane Austen, Science Fiction, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, love, literature, friendship, and family. I loved nearly every moment of it while seeing it in the theater and that still holds true on rewatch. I'm in a neighborhood book club which I enjoy immensely but it isn't like this book club. I always envision having these heart-to-hearts about how the book spoke to us and although we usually have a very authentic discussion (We've read plenty of serious literature: Reading Lolita in Tehran, The Fountainhead, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Uncle Tom's Cabin to name a few.) it's never quite as personal as I'd like. It's just too large a group to do that and realistically; unless it's a small group and you get to know each other well, you can't have the kind of connections the characters in this movie had. I relate to the books I read and films I see just as the characters relate Austen's books to their own lives and experiences. I live and breathe them for a time, sometimes a long time, sometimes forever. (James Clavell's Shogun = forever. One day I will write about my Shogun obsession but this is not that day.)

If I had to define my ideal genre, I guess I would loosely categorize it as Drama But. The but being large here. Although I'll admit I do have a penchant for picking heavy fare (Have I mentioned Rand refers to my Netflix queue as The Depressing Queue?), mostly I just want to watch something real. That is not to say that it can't be whimsical or imaginative or futuristic as I love all of those (American Beauty, Amelie, Pan's Labyrinth, The Matrix to name a few) but it has to feel real. It makes me laugh and cry. It inspires. It makes me appreciate my life. It makes me dream. It makes me want to tell my most precious ones how much I love them. To be passionate. To do, to experience. It makes me want to live.

That's not too much to ask, is it?


So, what other movies fit the bill? (This list will obviously be a work in progress.)

Firefly (yes, I realize it's not a movie...but Serenity was.)
Life as a House
Love Actually
The English Patient
Almost Famous
An Unfinished Life

Friday, May 23, 2008

Pimp your life...or at least your computer.

I've been enjoying the newest Zits comic collection, Jeremy and Mom, my sons gave me for Mother's Day (and although I don't have a teenager yet, Will at 10 seems so similar to Jeremy sometimes! Except the part about girls. He's into knowing about sex, like it's a super-secret handshake that he just learned and wants to use as much as possible with the other secret members but he still thinks girls aren't really worth his time. Thankfully.) Anyway, in one 4-panel strip, Jeremy is completely unimpressed with his boring sack lunch and returns to the kitchen and says to his mother, "Pimp my lunch." Not only did this crack me up, it also got me thinking about other things in life in need of a little pimping!

Computers are ripe for the pimping. Could be your garden-variety--ok, so maybe exotic garden given this collection-- physical modding. But what about the actual way you use your computer. Take my keyboard, for instance. I'm a proficient touch typist, use most of the correct fingers for the numbers and special characters, but my speed slows way down when I need to use some of those upper register keys. One in particular, is a constant problem: the hyphen. I know what you're thinking; it's not even a shift character and how often do you need it? Stop whinging. Right? Wrong. It may not be a shift character but I use it a lot. That's a lot for those of you who didn't hear the emphasis the first time. I use the hyphen key like I use my automatic ice maker at home. Constantly. (Don't get me started on how inferior refrigerate ice makers are. Blog topic # 237.) In fact, I'm shocked that I've only used 6 hyphens thus far. Now my shock is morphing to chagrin and as I continue typing, I'm starting to question myself. I'm having the *** oh-no-maybe-I'm-just-a-poser-and-really-don't-use-hyphens-as-much-as-I-- No, wait! There they are. I told you I'm a hyper-hyphenate. (Erin McKean would tell you this word is undictionaried; it's not a judgment call, just a lack of space in the pan. For more on the dictionary as The Pan, lexicography, and a variety of delightful word humor check out Erin's TED talk.) Updated hyphen count: 24. Phew. I was really starting to doubt myself. Disaster narrowly averted yet again.

***Note: This is a minor, but as you can see annoying, downside to excessive hyphenating; Auto returning doesn't know how to format these phrases so it does nothing, leaving an unsightly gap that requires you to go back and futz with your text. Or you could just leave it. Yeah, right. It is all I can do to leave the above gap here to make my point.

Point is, when you type a sentence normally, it's pretty fast if you are even an average touch typist. You hit the space bar without even thinking about it and you even become quite adept at flinging that right pinkie up to the delete key with only the occasional \ thrown in there which simply requires another tap of the big D. But. If, like me, you feel the need to give a lot of detail, even when you don't have much to say. If you like to try to convey the subtle nuances of a feeling or thought, then the newly-patented Intra Hyphenated Phrase is crucial. Most people can use the hyphen in moderation. Not me; I'm an abuser. If it works for 2 or 3 words, it'll work even better for 8-10. (Rand would interject here that I have a problem; he likes to point out any time I do anything not in moderation as if it's yet another sign of my as-yet-unidentified-but-impending addiction problem. As if putting chap stick on your lips 9 times a day is going to make them drier, permanently. Come on. ...pardon me, my lips are dry...) But once you start to hyphenate full sentence lengths, the hyphen really slows you down. Your thumbs keep twitching to the space bar and somehow it turns into a hyphen/equal sign/delete/space bar/delete/word dance that drags your words-per-minute average waaaaaay down. Not that I'm counting. It just drives me crazy and is a repeated issue I have. OK, so I have a lot of issues; I admit it. But so do you; they're just different!

The good news is I've come up with a solution. Two, actually, but one is less of a pimping issue and more of a training regime (If you are a VIM user, you'll see the brilliance of creating a macro to change a given set of text's spaces into hyphens in one keystroke. I haven't done this yet but think it will work and need my geekier-than-me [which, btw, is meant as a compliment, as in smarter-than-me; more-skilled-in-this-area-than-Jen.] husband to help me create it. Say, my hyphen use is accelerating!) No, what I'm thinking is a way to improve my keyboard, but in a somewhat flamboyant and is-that-really-necessary? fashion, hence the eyebrow-raising verbing of 'pimp'. I call it the hyphen lock and it would toggle the space bar just like the shift/caps lock. That way anytime you needed to start hyper-hyphenating, you'd just hit the hyphen lock and until you tapped it again, every time your thumb pressed the space bar, you'd be hyphenating your spaces. It would be totally awesome! (and Jenny becomes her 17-year old self again, momentarily, reliving Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.) Of course, at first glance it could easily go unnoticed, unless, of course, you go for the full Pimp Job, adding some bling to that key. Rhinestones, or maybe painting it fuschia w/ some zebra stripes? I don't know; I'm still working on that part.

So, if you are, or know of, a custom computer builder that could actually mod my keyboard this way, please let me know! It would seriously make my daily life better. I would smile contentedly every time I tapped the key (which you know would be frequent!), and I would be the envy of all type-A-Enthusiast-hyper-hyphenate-writers-and-or-typers everywhere!

Final hyphen count: 54

A final note...

The only sad part? I can't start adding "Pimp my ___" as part of my ever-expanding Favorite New Slang. I mean, really, if you heard one of my boys at school talking about pimping their backpacks, wouldn't you be worried?