Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Aaaand we're back. 'Tis time for some more list insanity to celebrate the dusking of 2011. This time it's a much shorter list: Movies I Saw In Theaters This Year. We're talking super-short. Goblinesque. But enough riffraff, let us commence:

Movies I Saw In Theaters This Year

1. The Chronicles Of Narnia: Voyage Of The Dawn Treader - So Prince Caspian is hot. Good movie.

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 - You know which Harry Potter character is hot? Oliver Wood. Know who's not in this movie? Oliver Wood.* But that's not what made me cry. Oh Snape, you crazy fool....

3. Puss In Boots - Kittehs!!!1 Adorable little romp. (Also: much better than Shrek.)

4. Muppets - As much as I enjoy the Muppets themselves, I've never LOVED any of their films. This was good, not great. Maybe it needed more Rowlf.



Well, I told you it was short.


*-I've been told Oliver is, in fact, in the movie, somewhere among all the fightin' wizards towards the end, but I have yet to spot him. And so, as far as I'm concerned, it does not count.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Tube

Well, 2011 is coming to a close. And I'm sure you know what that means! Yep, it means it's time for me (and you!) to start producing an obscene amount of lists. I know, I hate it too, but end-of-the-year listmaking is tradition, and I'll be darned if you try to mess with tradition. Especially around Christmastime. Do you want to make the Baby Santa cry?

I didn't think so.

So here's my first list to commemorate the ending of 2011: TV Shows I Watched This Year. This includes broadcast, cable, and on-demand shows, as well as stuff I gleaned from Netflix. 

TV Shows I Watched This Year

Community - The quirkiest, savviest, goofiest, most absurd TV show on the air right now. Says I. It cracks me up week after week. Thursday nights, NBC, 8pm. Except NBC has just put it on hiatus. Meanwhile, Whitney lives on. And there is no justice in the world, etc. etc.

Raising Hope - This is made by the same people who brought us My Name Is Earl, a show I also enjoyed. Martha Plimpton (THE GOONIES!) plays a grandmother. If that doesn't set you up for what kind of wackiness abounds here, well... just watch it and see. It's a clever little half-hour gem.

Castle - Okay, so it's formulaic to the max, but somehow I don't mind watching Nathan Fillion do roughly the same thing week after week.

Burn Notice - Jeffrey Donovan, who I've been crushing on for the past 14 years, plays an ex-spy who, along with Bruce Campbell (!) kicks some bootie in Florida. It's a fun romp. I'm only into, like, season two and there are five or more now... but I'll get caught up eventually!

Parking Wars - Who knew that watching the daily rituals of meter maids, booters, and towing company employees could be so fascinating? But really, this show makes the job seem kinda fun -- so long as you can avoid being beaten up by angry Philadelphians.

America's Next Top Model - In the past, I've really enjoyed this show. It's utterly ridiculous and hypocritical, but also entertaining. But this past season was an All-Stars season, and A) I'm really tired of reality shows doing all-star versions. Enough with the people we've seen before. And B) The focus of the show changed. And then one day, mid-season, they took things far, far down Ridiculousness Road. We're talking "past the point of no return." They forced the contestants to write their own pop song and do a music video for it. AND they made a rule that the song had to have the phrase "Pot Ledom - That's Top Model backwards!" in it.


And that's when my soul left for Barcelona.

Toddlers & Tiaras - Another utterly ridiculous guilty pleasure. If you've only ever heard of the show, you may think it's about a bunch of bratty kids and their overindulgent parents. Yeah, some episodes are about those types. But there are actually a lot of perfectly normal kids involved, and plenty of INSANE PARENTS. If you can even call them parents. I saw one ep recently where the pageant mom cheerfully admitted that she had children in the first place so she'd have someone to enter in pageants. Lord help us all.

Cash & Cari - A self-proclaimed "treasure broker", Cari from Michigan runs estate sales and repurposes old furniture and other items. I love going to estate sales, so it makes sense I would also like watching a show about them. It's cool taking a peek into other people's homes and seeing what they collected. And no, it's not creepy at all... why, does it sound like it is?

Auction Hunters - There are a lot of auction shows out there right now, but my favorite is Auction Hunters, in which two guys go to storage locker auctions and bid on ones that look good at a minutes' glance. Then they get to dig through the units they've won and see what kind of treasures are lurking. While the show generally only covers the units in which they score big (which they admit are rare), it's fun to watch. I live vicariously through those two!

Pawn Stars - Another "treasure" show, this one mostly focuses on people coming into the pawn shop to sell their supposedly valuable items. Half the time the items turn out to be genuine, the rest of the time, the patrons leave swearing up a storm. It's neat.

American Pickers - Mike and Frank drive across America with a van, picking up junk and goodies out of backroad barns and backyards. It's as much a "treasure" show as it is a show about people. I wish I had the guts and gusto to do that sort of thing.

Switched at Birth - Two teenage girls -- one, a rich brat (Bay), the other, a ghetto-dwelling deaf girl (Daphne) -- discover that they were switched at birth. Daphne and her mother and grandmother end up moving into the guest house of Bay's family. Complications ensue. It's really a neat show that raises a lot of questions and deals with family and friendship issues. It's surprisingly well-done -- except for the acting. In true ABC Family tradition, you kind of want to strangle 70% of the actors. Even Lea Thompson, who I love from the Back to the Future films, grates on my last nerve. But it's still worth watching.

Drop Dead Diva - I've barely gotten into this show, but I like what I've seen so far. Two women die on the same day, and one comes back to life in the other's body. Only it's a much larger body than she's used to. Cool concept, and I love the main actress.

Pan Am - This is actually a brand-new show on ABC, and I really enjoy it. It's about a group of Pan Am stewardesses and pilots, and is set in the 60s. At first I thought it couldn't be very interesting if every episode is about a plane ride, but I was pleased to discover they spend only part of the time on the plane and the rest in exotic locations. I love the time period; I wasn't around in the 60s, but it feels authentic.

7 Up - 49 Up - This is an older show that is now available on Netflix. Back in the 60's, a filmmaker interviewed a dozen or so children, asking them questions about their lives, families, friends, wishes, and dreams. Seven years later, he talked to them again. Then seven years later. With each episode, we watch the "children" age and change. Some get married, some get divorced, some have children, some spiral downhill, some make a comeback, some leave the project altogether. But the ones that stick around become like old friends. It's a fascinating series.

Portlandia - My first thought upon hearing about this was: "A show about Portland?! What do THEY know about my hometown?" I didn't know it was going to be a sketch comedy show reminiscent of Kids In The Hall. I found it highly amusing -- not because it satirizes PDX (one could argue it satirizes artsy, booksy hipsters everywhere) -- but because it's just plain funny.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Places I've Never Been

Just about everyone I know has been to Europe or Africa or Asia or South America.

I have yet to leave North America.

And, in fact, I haven't even set foot in New England. Or New York City. Or our nation's capital.

But I hope to remedy that someday. Or maybe next summer.

So here it is: a list of places I want to visit. Not all at once, of course. But someday. And as I visit them, I will come back here and cross them off. Or put a :) next to them. We'll see.

You may think some of these places are strange choices. You may also think a few places are missing from this list. Feel free to make suggestions. But this is what I have so far:

Places I Want To Go/Places I've Never Been

Tivoli Gardens and Legoland in Denmark

Disneyland Paris in France

England: London and surrounding towns, Hadrian's Wall, Sherwood Forest (uh, sensing a theme?), places of my ancestors' birth (Shelton, Exeter, Taunton, Chesham, Brushford, Shalford, Essex, Giggleswick, Hatton), and the WB Studios.

(ETA 12/26/13: Also locations from Pride & Prejudice)



San Diego Zoo

Massachusetts: Boston (10/2015, 6/2018), Concord, Walden Pond

New York City: Central Park, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Niagara Falls

Washington D.C. (10/2015)

Connecticut (10/2015)


New Hampshire

Nova Scotia (6/2018)

New Brunswick

Amsterdam: especially the Anne Frank house

Gibraltar (Saw the Rock - 9/2015)


Salzburg, Austria

Venice, Italy (9/2015)

ETA 12/26/13:

Florida - Harry Potter land, Beauty and the Beast attractions at Disney World, EPCOT, Legoland



Panama Canal

ETA 10/11/15:

Rome, Italy

Florence, Italy

Munich and Berlin, Germany

ETA 1/21/19:

Tyrone, Ireland

Östergötland County, Sweden

Plymouth, UK

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Wingardium Leviosa

I'm in the midst of rereading the Harry Potter series for the first time in maybe four years. In that span, three HP films have been released. I've seen all the movies twice or more, save for the very last one, which made me cry, darnit. CRY! Actually, that isn't that big a deal. Lots of movies make me cry. Pollyanna, for one. Glad game? More like SAD game, amirite?

Anyway, the HP movies are good enough, but it has always bugged me how different they are from the books. It rarely bothers me when I'm watching the movie... Okay, yes, sometimes I'll be sitting there going, NOOO! Why is that DIFFERENT?? But usually, it's when I'm rereading the book after seeing its celluloid counterpart that I start to get my mittens in a twist.

I've just finished with book 5 and I think this is the worst so far... for having changed things from page to screen, I mean. Movie 4 certainly cuts a lot of rubbish out of book 4, streamlines things -- and thank goodness for that, because Hermione's obsession with the welfare of house elves is disconcerting at best -- but movie 5 just... rips apart the book. It was as if the filmmakers said, "Nice premise, Rowling, but we think we know how to tell a story just a leeetle better than you do!" I get it; books and movies are not the same. But boy is movie 5... off.

Here are a few of the differences that I noticed:

In the movie, Harry (inadvertently) reverses the legilimency spell on Snape to see his traumatic teenage memories. In the book, Harry uses the pensieve when Snape gets called out of his office and that's how he sees the memories.

In the movie, Harry and Hermione lead professor Umbridge to Grawp the giant; then the centaurs show up and chase her off.  In the book, Hermione leads them to the centaurs, not Grawp, and once she realizes THAT was a mistake, Grawp comes along and the centaurs scatter (but they still take Umbridge, hehe.)

In the movie, Hagrid barely mentions his travels to see the giants. In the book, there's half a chapter devoted to his adventures.

In the movie, Cho Chang betrays Dumbledore's Army, but later we learn that it was because she was fed truth serum. In the book, it's Cho's friend who betrays them, truth serum has nothing to do with it, and Cho is really, really annoying.

In the movie, as I recall, there isn't any Quidditch. In the book, Ron tries out for keeper and makes it but he's really bad (they explored this in movie six instead). At one of the Quidditch matches, Harry and one of the Weasley twins are provoked by Draco Malfoy and beat him up, and as a result have their broomsticks confiscated by Umbridge and are banned from Quidditch "for life". I mention this, not because I particularly like Quidditch scenes, but because there are SO many in book five, it seems very strange to have all them left out of the movie.

In the movie, there is little or no mention of Percy. In the book, he's a huge gitasode, he leaves the Weasley family over their differences, and they don't reconnect for like two years.

I could keep going, but A) I sound like a nerd, B) I'm sure someone else on the internet has already done their dissertation on this very subject and has covered it in much more depth than I ever could, and C) seriously, I need to stop being nitpicky and just try to enjoy things.

And so I'm off to read book six...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Antique Show Creepshow!

I love going to estate sales and antique shows, but let's face it, there's some creepy stuff out there.  The eeriest of items usually fit into one of four categories:

-Toys that used to be quite normal-looking but have deteriorated over time.

-Items that were designed to be creepy (ie scary masks.)

-Things that were generally acceptable back in their day, but freak out modern shoppers because we just don't know how to deal with them.

-Plastic-faced dolls that look to the side.

So yesterday I went to the tri-annual antique show at the Portland Expo Center, where I came across many things to fit the above examples.  Below is a photo gallery for your nightmare fuel enjoyment.

The thing that gets me about this bunny is that it is an actual toy that was designed for actual children to actually play with. I mean, what the h?

 Annnd it gets worse. Augh. Ever since I watched Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders I've been frightened of chiming monkeys. (And Ernest Borgnine, but can you blame me??)  Meanwhile, what exactly do they mean by "multi-Action?"  It claps, and....?  Oh no, please, PLEASE NO!

 "Honey, can I get you a cup of coffee this fine morning?"
"Sure, dear!"
"In a mug?"
"Sounds good."
"Here you go."
"Mmm, nothing like a good cuppa joe t--WHAT THE FRIGGIDY FUDGE!?!?!?!??!"

 "Why hello, Grimace! I, Ronald McDonald, can see that you are riding a merry-go-round, but I can ALSO see that you are thirsty, and so I will come aboard and pour you a cup of boiling hot coffee! And the fry guy will watch. Won't that be just grand?"

"I'm a little teapot, sick and twisted..."

 Dolls. Nuff said.

 Buxom dolls.

 Bare dolls.

And this.

 Once upon a time this doll may have been loved. But now her hair is fried, her eyes have fallen back in her head, she's naked and she's holding out her hand in a desperate gesture.  You may ask yourself, What happened to this poor doll?  But a better question might be, Why is this for sale??

 Lollipops are all well and good. It's when you throw that extra "L" in the second part that things get iffy.

Happy HalloDEATH!

 Can you spot the possessed kittycat?

This is the kind of bathroom where toilet seat covers and a travel-sized can of Lysol are a must.

Why is this creepy?  It's got something to do with the juxtaposition of the mother bear bottle-feeding her cub while next to her is another bear's head on a pole. Although that might be a mouse, and that might even be a lamp, but still. Something's just not right.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Scary" Movies (Halloween Blog Part 1)

Want to watch a movie this Halloween that'll leave you haunted, depressed, and frightened out of your wits? Forget ghosts, vampires, zombies, and werewolves... those are sooo cliche.  Get on board with TERRIBLE MOVIES instead!

Here are some recommendations from the one- and two-star section of my Netflix Ratings History.  I'm not saying there is nothing redeeming about these films.  All I'm saying is that I will never go near them again.

Annnnd spoiler alerts, because... I spoil stuff

Annie Get Your Gun

What makes a good musical? An interesting story? Great lyrics? Tolerable characters?  Whoops, missed the boat on that last one: yikes.  I get that there are people out there who love this musical.  I also get that those people and I can never be friends.

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

What could be worse than hiring a creepy-looking actor to play an Oompa Loompa?  How about hiring a creepy-looking actor to play NINE THOUSAND OOMPA LOOMPAS???

Oh, you're so creative, Tim Burton.  I WANT MY NIGHTMARELESS SLEEPS TWO HOURS BACK!!

27 Dresses

Katherine Heigl is ever so popular!  Why, she has been asked to be a bridesmaid 27 times -- and has the dresses in her closet to prove it!  BUT as they say... three times a bridesmaid, never a bride.  Which, according to my calculations, means that Katherine is doomed to "never be a bride" nine times.  Oh, wasn't that joke funny?  Didn't think so.  Neither is the movie.

The Bounty Hunter

Imagine that, for two hours, you are forced to be chained to someone you loathe. Think of how much that would suck. Now you can imagine what sitting through The Bounty Hunter feels like.  Then add more suckage.  Even Gerard Butler's hotness can't do a thing for this car crash.

Superman III

In its defense, I think they were trying to make a cheesy movie.  It is laughably terrible.  According to one YouTuber, this is the best scene in the film. Make of that what you will.

The Three Musketeers

It's 1993, and you've got Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen and Chris O'Donnell in the same movie?  How could that possibly go wrong?  Well, I'm still not entirely sure, but let's just say it does.

Home Alone 4: Taking Back The House

Hey, we're back! Macaulay Culkin's been replaced, the parents have been replaced, Harry and Marv have been replaced (BY THE MOST ANNOYING PEOPLE ON THE PLANET), the siblings have been replaced, and oh yeah -- two siblings are (apparently) dead annnnd the parents are divorced.  Merry Christmas, you filthy screenwriters!


Hi.  I'm John Travolta.  I can do awesome things with my mind and inspire people and chay-ay-ange the world... BUT WAIT.  The real reason I'm so awesome is because I have brain tumor.  Gotta go die now, cya! 

Go ahead and defend any of the above. I don't care. Or add your own "scary movies" in the comments section! Let me know what I should avoid and never, ever put in my Qwikster Netflix queue.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Book Talk

On this, the One-Year, Three-Month, Seven-Day Anniversary of my book's publication (a momentous occasion, to be sure), I present you with: Half A Dozen Ways You, Too, Can Get A Copy Of The Book, If You Have Not Done So Already, And If You Have Not Done So Already, For Pete's Sake, WHY NOT?

Six ways. Pick one!

The name is Just South Of Normal.  It's a novel.  Here's a picture:

This is me finishing with the novel pimping. Good night. 

Friday, October 14, 2011


A few weekends ago I decided to pay a visit to the campus of one of my former colleges, Western Oregon University. This is where I attended school from 2001-2003, earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Humanities, and had a lot of crazy times. I wasn't into the party scene, but my roommate and I did watch a lot of cable TV, rent numerous VHS tapes from the local mom & pop video store, and make many trips to Wal-Mart. So, you know, crazy times.

Even though the campus is only about an hour and a half away from where I currently live, I've only been back twice since 2003. Which is lame of me, because there are many reasons to visit, not the least of which is the food court. But more on that later.

I now present to you a pictorial account of my recent visit to WOU, home of the Wolves.

WOU has a fun history! It has gone through more name changes over the years than Prince: Monmouth University, Oregon Normal School, Oregon College of Education, and Western Oregon State College are its previous monikers. Fun fact: Beverly Cleary's friend went here!

Ah, Main Street. Home to classrooms and bricky buildings. A lovely place.

This is the Administration Building. Once, during my first year, I joined some of my professors and fellow students in a "march" where we... well, marched... outside this building, chanting things about fairness and equality. And we got to wear buttons. It was exciting! But mostly it scored me points with my profs. Maybe it was my imagination, but they were nicer to me after that. I still have the buttons somewhere.

Okay, so there's this tree. And it's a big deal around there because it's the tallest of trees, and possibly the oldest. At Christmas time, it has lights all over it and they have a tree lighting ceremony and it is very special. But this tree isn't perfect. That's because the top's gone. It was struck by lightning. How cool is that? So now, no point. It is the Mt. St. Helens of trees.

This is Campbell Hall. Allow me to tell you about Campbell Hall, though not about that blue thing in front because I have no idea what that is. No, but about the building. It used to have a bell tower on top, but then, during the Columbus Day Storm of 1962, it fell down.

Exclamation point!

When it fell, two things were destroyed. One, the bell tower. Duh. So they were like woe, no bell tower, BUT we miss the bells so let's build a bell-tower-ish thing on top of the building next door and play RECORDED BELL SOUNDS!

See that brown thing on top of that other building? That's a bell tower, but I'll be darned if there's an actual bell in it. But that didn't stop us from being treated to bell chiming on the hour and olde tyme music three times a day.

The other thing that was destroyed in the Storm was the left side of Campbell Hall. I guess it was totaled. So they walled/bricked it off, but you can see where the doors used to be.

Or, you know, there's probably some other reason why it's like that. I'm no architect. All I know is that door-looking thing creeps me out.

Speaking of creepy...

This is Todd Hall, named after Jessica Todd. Beverly Cleary's friend and her classmates used to call it Jessica Todd Hell. Apparently nobody liked Jessica Todd. Which may be why some say the building is haunted. By HER, naturally.

Now, I don't know if it's true, but I do have to say there's something about the exterior...

...that strongly suggests "Nefarious after-hours doings." It is definitely the creepiest-looking building on campus.

This is the University Center, home to the bookstore, dining establishments, a mini-mart, a coffee place, offices, computer labs, and a "game" room, which, when I went there, had a foosball table and video games that ate your quarters. It's actually one of my favorite places on campus (not counting the food court). I can spend hours in the bookstore. It's probably a good thing it was closed when I was last there, or else I might've spent a pretty penny, and me without my 10%-Discount Alumni Card!

Now heading toward the dorms. A mere ten years ago, there were just 5 dorm buildings and now there are eight, I think. Mine was Gentle Hall, and I was in room 121.

Yep, there it is. Top floor on the right. That was "home" for two years, and it kind of weirds me out that other people dwell in it now. Yeah, I'm weird and possessive, what?

This is the Gentle Hall lounge. The RA's were always trying to get us "involved." So there were parties sometimes. Getting-to-know you extravaganzas. I remember everyone gathered to watch Friends when Rachel had her baby. I also carved a pumpkin in that room, made a decoupage box, and celebrated Mardi Gras for about an hour before returning to my dorm room to watch a Cosby Show marathon on TV.

Well, I promised I'd talk about it, and here it is...

 The food court. Valsetz. It was actually attached to Gentle Hall via a series of walkways. If you lived in the dorms, you could have a food card which was like a debit card and it meant that whenever you were hungry, all you needed was that card, and you could get anything you wanted. They had a soda fountain, a bagel station, a bakery, a pizza place, a salad bar, a sandwich bar, a grill, a waffle stand, and oh so much more. In the mornings you could get an omelet for a dollar; in the evenings you could get a Boca Burger and fries for less than $2. Once a month, they served lasagna, and it was so delicious we'd often buy 2 or 3 pieces and keep the leftovers in the fridge (for all the good it did; we still had them devoured in a days' time.)

And yeah, one time I did get food poisoning from their lettuce, but no hard feelings.

Valsetz was also the place where the dorm association would sometimes sponsor Bingo nights. My roommate and I were unusually adept at winning prizes. I actually won a 23" TV, a serious upgrade from the 13" one we'd been using. I still feel kind of bad I didn't act more excited when I won, like jump up and down and scream, but that isn't like me. I hope they realize I was, indeed, grateful. A big TV made watching Gerard Butler movies even better!

Another place to get snacks on campus was this little mini mart inside the Werner Center. We called it either the Wolf Store or the Candy Store. I am only slightly ashamed to say that candy was most often purchased here, though a few Icees and Jones Sodas were procured as well. The Food Court was awesome for everything except having candy. So we got it here. And we got it often. It's a wonder we still have all our teeth.

This is the library, and it is fantastic. It opened right before I started at WOU. It has three floors, and in my quest for a quiet corner, I would often make my way up to the second or third floor to find a comfy chair on which to study. One day, I accidentally stumbled upon a section full of children's books. I love children's books! It was like my own personal Room of Requirement. So whenever I wasn't studying or involved in various shenanigans, I may have been found curled up on a cushy chair, nibbling Skittles and reading Judy Blume.

And now this tour must come to an end. I want to visit again soon -- if anyone wants to go with me, I'm taking applications. Kidding. Sort of.