Thursday, April 26, 2012

Horsing Around

It hadn't been a lifelong dream.

In fact, for a good twenty years, I couldn't have cared less about doing it.

It only irked me slightly that my brother had gotten to go on one of those circular pony rides as a kid and I had never even touched a horse, much less ridden one. All I ever got to ride was a circus elephant when I was five or so. I was wearing shorts and the elephant's scratchy skin was uncomfortable on my bare legs.

But horses aren't the same as elephants. Horses are in all kinds of movies. They can run like the wind. They can do tricks. You can braid their tails. What other animal lets you braid its tail? 

So at some point, a few years back, possibly during a period of excessive Brisco County Jr. viewing, I decided that my new goal in life was to ride a horse.

Well, actually, what I really wanted was to get cast in a movie where I got to play a heroic western woman who got to ride, nay FLY across a desert on a noble steed in pursuit of A) Bandits, B) A wayward stagecoach, or, you know, C) an escaped elephant. SOME worthy goal, anyway.

But when I came to my senses and realized that was never gonna happen, I decided to settle for just riding a horse, period. Even an old horse whose galloping days were over. Whatever. As long as it was equine, I'd take it. (Yes, I would even ride a zebra, if such a thing were common.)

So. I'm taking a horsemanship class, now. It goes for 8 or 9 weeks.

We are learning all kinds of crazy stuff. Combing fur. Cleaning hooves. Putting on saddles. And, I guess, most importantly... riding.

The first week we rode the horses, it was all good. We walked along, the animals were well behaved and they did their thing.

The next week? The horses decided to revolt.

Actually, it was just this one horse. A big brown guy with an attitude. He was the epitome of naughty. He kept coming to a dead stop. Sometimes he'd even start walking backwards for no reason whatsoever. And if you asked him to go a little faster? He'd burst into a run, as if to say, "Oh, you want to go a bit faster huh? Try THIS!" The only thing he didn't do was completely buck me off. But I'll bet he wanted to.

You know what that means?

That's right. No apple treats. Ha ha on you, horse!

But the other horses were great. At least the ones I rode. And there's this sweet old lady horse that lives at the stables I go to, and I give her treats but nobody rides her because she's an elder.

D'aw, I love her.

I really do love being around horses. After four weeks, I think grooming is my favorite part, though I certainly wouldn't want to do it all day. And while I like riding, I prefer going slow to going fast. Going fast just jangles my nerves.

And so, my illustrious career as a virtuoso horse-riding stuntwoman on the silver screen can be kissed goodbye.

But that's more than okay.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

There's A Trope For That - Week of April 22

Today, in honor of the fact that I feel like it, I'm going to select a trope from the wide world of Indiana Jones, Esq.

Hmmm... *skims list*

Okay, got one.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present this week's trope: Malevolent Architecture!

"Imagine if, every time you went to work, you had to negotiate a complicated laser grid just to get in the building. Every time you needed to open a door, you needed to go on a long trek to find a key, which disappeared into the aether as soon as you used it. If you needed a new stapler, you'd have to push giant granite blocks around a room. Every room is a puzzle, every hallway a maze, and the slightest mistake invites death. Shortcuts? Forget it. They either prove impassable or zap you back outside the laser grid. And that's without having to fight every living thing that crosses your path. And it will be a different set of challenges during your next adventure. In short, everything is explicitly and obviously designed to make life as difficult for you as possible. (Not to mention in violation of every building code in existence.)

Such are the lives of video game characters, where the layout of buildings seems completely divorced from any practical purpose the designers might have originally envisioned for them. Castles aren't large walled structures where people live and work, they're intricate mazes riddled with spike traps and hallways with pendulum-swinging blades or maces. Temples aren't places where people go to worship their various deities, they're where the ancients practiced their Booby Trap- and Death Course-making skills (and they were so good at it that they are still functional after hundreds of years without maintenance). Even places like warehouses and sewers, where the design should be fairly straightforward, are designed solely to deter intruders, even if there is no earthly reason why it should be so, and even if it utterly inconveniences non-intruders. One wonders what the regular people do."


So, yeah, I always feel sorry for the kids in the first few Harry Potter books, trying to navigate their way around Hogwarts when the place seems to have been designed by wily tricksters intent on confusing the heck out of the little witches and wizards. I mean, shoot, I remember my first few weeks at college, trying to get to the dining hall without ending up in another county. It was a challenge, and that was in a place where staircase didn't move on a whim. Harry and Ron, poor dears, end up late to class in an early chapter and get in trouble, but how can it be their fault when they go to school in a humongous freaking castle? I even remember one book, I think it was #4, where Harry tripped on a trick step and got stuck in the staircase. STUCK! 

Then again, I consider just about ANY staircase I've ever tripped down to be malevolent architecture, and there are plenty of those.

Curse you, stairs!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Random Things From My Childhood Part 4

1. Fisher-Price Sesame Street Clubhouse

These days, we barely blink an eye at TV-show/movie tie-ins with popular toys. Lego is all over Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc., Dora the Explora runs rampant at Toys R Us, and even made-for-TV movies can make it onto T-shirts. But in the 70s and 80s, Sesame Street was fabulous (nary an Elmo in sight), Little People were must-haves among the preschool set, and when they put the two together? Pure magic. Stairs, two slides, a trap door/chute, tire swing, jump rope, wagon, tunnels, and all the characters... it was brilliance in a box.

2. Charleston Chew

When I was a kid we got to go to the convenience store on Saturdays and buy one candy bar. Charleston Chews were the longest. THAT MADE THEM THE BEST. Or so my pea-sized brain thought. Seriously, I thought I was getting the most bang for my buck, when in reality, the bars are not as fat as, say, Snicker's, and besides that, they're really an acquired taste. But oh, I thought I was gaming the system!

3. Babes In Toyland

It sometimes happens that, when you grow up, you revisit movies you adored as a kid and have a particular reaction, such as: "Wow, this movie is a lot more profound than I thought!" or "Aw, haha, such a silly film, but gosh I still kinda love it," or even "Hey, it's just like I remembered!"

And then there's Babes In Toyland

I'm honestly convinced that unless you're under the age of seven, or completely, on-the-moon high, there is no way you can actually sit through this film without wanting to fly to Disneyland and kick Mickey Mouse in the shins.

It's so absolutely, mortifyingly creepy, I can't even...

But when I was seven, it rocked.

4. Armless Mr. Potato Head

All the other kids' Mr. Potato Heads had arms as well as secret compartments in their booties. Mine had neither, but it did totally rock a pair of spectacles, a felt mustache and a pipe. I would go on to use the ears while playing "house". They made excellent mushrooms.

5. Skateworld

Skateworld was -- well, still is -- our local skating rink, and during my elementary school days our PTA would have a Skate Night and everyone who was anyone would attend.

Skateworld was radical for a multitude of reasons, including:

-The black light area that made your white clothing glow.
-The "Dice Game", where you had a 1 in 6 chance of winning a free 5-ounce soda.
-The ability to make dedications. "And now, here's Ice Ice Baby, going out to Brandon, from Jessica!"
-Buying fake roses or carnations for people.
-Video games.
-Cotton candy.
-Sitting at the "good table" which was up one step from the others.
-The Hokey Pokey. (this is debatable)
-Icees, blue OR red
-Arcade Games, such as Mario Brothers, where 25 cents could get you 3 lives.
-and skating i guess.

6. A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court, Rudy Huxtable-Style

Forget every other version of this movie ever made. (And for the love of pete, forget First Knight entirely.) This one rocks socks. The kid who goes back in time to the days of Camelot is none other than Keshia Knight-Pulliam, aka Rudy Huxtable! King Arthur is the dad from Family Ties! Merlin's a lunatic, Lancelot's just plain hot, and Mordred is a riot! Keshia impresses everyone with her modern inventions, including a walkman, a Polaroid camera, and a book about bicycles and hot air balloons. It's entirely fabulous. And why am I trying to sell you on this... okay, um, next?

7. Cereal Commercials

When I was little and didn't understand how TV worked, I thought everything was done in real-time. Yeeeah. And there were all these commercials where kids would be like "Man, I'm weak" (or tired, or unmotivated.) Instantly, a bowl of nutritious cereal would appear before them. They would take one bite. A moment later, they would be scoring the winning touchdown or winning a race, and my dumb little brain was certain that I, too, could become a star athlete if I ate ONE BITE of cereal. I would literally do this thing where I'd take a bite in the mornings and then run around the house like I was crazy and like Tony The Tiger was my best bud.

And this is why you shouldn't let your kids watch television. Or befriend me.

8. The Rabbit of Seville

I do love me some classical music, and the more I listen to it, the better I'm getting at identifying pieces and composers. However, all credit for knowing The Barber Of Seville has to go to Bugs Bunny, and if that's something to be ashamed of, then I don't want to be unashamed. (Video)

9. Piano Lessons

Well, I hated them at the time, and apparently I'm supposed to thank my parents, now, for making me take them. I'm torn. Sure, I love that I can now sit down and bang out a medium-worthy impression of nearly any song... tickling the old ivories, as they call it... but really, mom? Seven years of yawn-worthy afternoons, stick figures and staccato, metronomes and diminished sevenths? Think of all those afternoons I spent at lessons. They could have been spent playing Commodore 64 or something.


And finally...

10. Lady Elaine Fairchild

To remind us all that some things are best left in the dark.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

There's A Trope For That - Week of April 15

This Week's Trope: Badass Beard

"Some badasses are not satisfied with just a Badass Mustache or Perma Stubble to show off their awesomeness. No, they choose to take it further. As opposed to facial hair growing above their upper lip, they won't be content until they have a full blown beard to show off. Many times, it works for them where a simple mustache would just look foolish or out of place. And when it does work, the gentleman in question is a bona fide tough guy, a man's man, a veritable buffet of manliness.

In short, it's what happens when the Badass Mustache gets cranked Up to Eleven."

(See also: This.)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Watching The Natural...

...with my mother.

Before the movie

Mom: "Do you have a movie for us to watch? And don't say Pollyanna or Anne Of Green Gables."

Me: "Mary Poppins?"

Mom: "Nooo!'

Me: "Here. Let's watch The Natural."

Mom: "Oh, I saw this movie a long time ago. Many years ago, when your father was alive. This came out when he was alive, didn't it?"

Me: "I should hope so; it came out in the 80s."

Mom: "So he was alive then."

1/5 of the way in

Mom: "*gasp* That guy looks JUST LIKE the guy from Anne Of Green Gables!"

Me: "Um, because it is."

1/3 of the way in

Mom: "I don't remember any of this so far."

Two minutes later

Mom: "Is this not the movie where they build the baseball diamond in the cornfield?"

Me: *sigh*

Monday, April 9, 2012

Not-so-Great Expectations

Great Expectations: We all had to read the book in high school, and it in turn provided us with an arsenal of jokes about creepy old ladies and stale wedding cakes that we could pull out at a moment's notice and amuse all our literary-minded friends for years to come. (And by all, I mean two.)

Now, Masterpiece Theatre has been kind enough to bring the book to our televisions for our entertainment... and, apparently, nightmare fuel as well.

Seriously, I don't remember the book ever being so horrific as this film. But anyway.

Pip, a young orphan being raised by his wicked sister and his more amiable brother-in-law, helps an escaped criminal... uh, escape... well, for about an hour, anyway. This is a good deed.

Later, Pip is asked to be a companion for a young girl named Estella, at the home of crazy old rich bat Miss Havisham.

Pip falls for Estella, even though she's been trained by the jilted-in-love Miss Havisham to be a coldhearted snake.

I know she doesn't look it, but she totally is.

When Miss Havisham witnesses Estella making a move on Pip, she arranges for Pip to become a blacksmith's apprentice and go away. Pip is devastated. No more Estella.


Pip gets word that a mysterious benefactor is leaving him a fortune, and he is to go to London to become a gentleman, which means he gets to wear top hats and coat tails and become a Calvin Klein model.

This makes Pip happy.

In London, Pip meets Herbert Pocket, played by Harry Lloyd, who you may remember from such films as Masterpiece Theatre Presents: David Copperfield, in which he played the main character's chum, only in that movie he was (SPOILER ALERT) kind of sinister, and here he's just a cutie pie.

Alongside Herbert, Pip drinks and smokes and lives it up in ye old London, all the while thinking that Miss Havisham is his benefactor, because who else could it be? And if she's his benefactor, she must WANT him to become a gentleman SO THAT he can marry Estella, of course!

Pip does a lot of assuming. Silly Pip.

Eventually Estella comes to London and Pip has to fend off a rival for her affections, and Estella starts to look like Juliet Landau for some reason.

Meanwhile, all these depressing and/or creepy things are happening to everyone, including:

*Pip has totally turned his back on his family, even his lovable brother-in-law.
*Miss Havisham and Estella have the most dysfunctional relationship ever. They're like cats. ENEMY cats.
*Estella declares that she has "no heart" and can not love Pip.
*Estella gets engaged to a jerky guy who refers to Pip as "Pippy," among his other crimes.
*Pip is being followed by one, possibly two, possibly three shadowy and possibly nefarious figures.

At long last, Pip comes of age and can now be told who is benefactor is. But, SURPRISE! It's not who he thought! Nope, it's not kooky old Miss Havisham, whose house is covered in cobwebs and who has been wearing the same dress for 20 years and should really smell like mule (I'm not sure how Pip can stand her, honestly), NOPE, it's the escaped convict from the beginning of the movie!

So Pip does the whole obligatory NOOOOOOO!!!!! thing, and runs around for the next half hour trying to make sense of his life and why everything he thought was just plum wrong.

Then Miss Havisham goes up in flames. That I remember from the novel.

But honestly? Good riddance.

Pip then goes on to help his real benefactor, the convict, flee the country, but he fails, and it turns out the benefactor is, coincidentally, Estella's real father, but Estella doesn't know, and Estella's still married to that jerk, but then the jerk gets bucked off his horse and dies, and that frees up Estella to get with Pip, though why the heck Pip would want her I do not know.

The end!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Goofy Retro Baby Ads, Part 2

And on to part 2 of goofy baby ads from 1980-1982...

Wow! Can I REALLY turn my baby's first pair of shoes into all those things? A useful TV lamp, smart book ends, OR a handsome ash tray, for a mere $3.99? 

Handsome ash tray.

"Hey, Joe, you got an ash tray I can use?'

"Yeah, over there, between my baby's bronzed feet."

Stay classy, parents of the 80s.

If you don't want your baby to suffer, why did you stick her in a pure white Victorian-era gown, people?

This looks so comfortable, it kind of saddens me that you would never see an ad like this anymore. Baby lying on her side? NOOOO! Baby with a blanket in her crib? MURDERERS! But.... it looks sooo comfy....

The three babies at the top don't look like they're even a part of the ad. They're like the faces you find on billboards. "Have you seen me? Call 1-800-TheLost." Perhaps it's the black & white, but they look kind of sinister.

Maybe it's just me, but when I hear (see?) a name like Don Green, I think of an older gentleman, maybe 70-something. A grandpa who likes to smoke his pipe and play Rummy with the guys. And then we have this baby and all I can think of is that Harry Potter book where the death eater falls into the case of Time Turner sand and keeps morphing into a baby and then growing up and then going back to baby-hood and it's horrible and twisted and for some reason didn't make it into the movie, but whatever; why the heck is an old guy wearing Huggies?

"I don't know much about babies, but nevermind that, give me a couple to hold! What do you MEAN you had to ask your parents who I was? I'm a celebrity! I mean, I was! But I... well.... oh, just buy Borax!"

I'm not sure I'm down (get it?) with leaving a bottle of fabric softener in the baby's crib, but... okay?


I know we used these wipes when I was little, and yeah, I'm still here, but I find it strange that they could sell the product by claiming it contains some secret ingredient known as CSP, not explain what that even is, and expect that parents will snatch it up. Did red flags not exist back then? Did parents just think, "Ooh! An acronym! Fancy! Must buy!"?

Man, now I'm curious. A Google search of CSP brings back "Chest Striped Polo," "Compulsive Skin Picking," and "Combat Simulator Project." Not helpful. The closest thing I could find was Compounded Sterile Product, but even that isn't a cleaning agent, just "a thing that's sterile."

Quick, somebody call History's Mysteries and make them figure out what the hell.

Remember how in fifth grade you'd write a report for school and it would say something like "Abraham Lincoln helped our country in many ways" and then you'd expand on that by saying: "He helped free the slaves, and he helped abolish slavery, oh and also he helped Black People a lot and stuff" and expect to get an A?

This ad kind of does that, too. 

 "And there are so many ways to love a baby with Johnson's baby powder," says the ad. It then goes on to list a mere three ways, and yet they're essentially all the same: you put the powder on the baby.  

It's just baby powder, y'all.... stop making it sound like it's going to suddenly jump up and start doing tricks.

It's the baby farm!

"I love you, Baby. But I really love these towels and my box of Bounce, too! HOW DO I CHOOSE??? Wait... I don't have to choose! I have two arms! There is enough love to go around!!"

So remember that time you pushed out a baby? And you know how now, you can't seem to push out anything? See what we did there? Haha, buy our milk.

Baby, too, huh? Sucks to be your family!

Because landfills are limitless!

"It won't accidentally fold while your baby is inside." Holy crap, the horrors of the past! I'm glad I didn't have to raise kids back when. Sheesh, what with worrying about Polio, Rickets and Consumption, you also had to worry about playpens swallowing up toddlers. Scary times.

Says the ad: "The Infantoy Happy Clam plays Peek-a-Boo, a game that teaches baby that objects still exist, even when out of sight."

I'm so glad they explained this for us. Because you know, some people don't see the value in Peek-a-Boo. People like Father.

Actual* conversation:

Mother: Peek-a-boo!

Baby: Ga ga!

Father: Stop that nonsense at once! Peek-a-Boo is a silly, silly game! Why, Junior should be learning the French Horn and studying Shakespeare, not playing absurd games with no educational value!

Mother: But dear, according to this advertisement, Peek-a-Boo will teach our baby that objects STILL EXIST, even when OUT OF SIGHT!

Father: Still exist? Out of sight, did you say? By jove, you're RIGHT! Why, this is essential to our baby's growth and development. QUICKLY! Resume the game!

Mother: Oh, but my hands are so tired... alas.... Wait, look here! This so-called Happy Clam will teach our child about existentialism and the like!

Father: Let us purchase it immediately! Take my charge plate and GO!

*-And by actual I mean fictional. They're the same, right?

Apparently Mothercare is not only safe, stylish, and SPECIAL... but also... plural? Grammar police, please.

Thank goodness for a well-stocked medicine cabinet full of things that make baby go ni-night! I love you, medicine cabinet.

I like how the man and the woman are getting romantic in the third picture. Before this lady discovered nursing pads, her husband kept his distance. I mean, really, the lady was leaking all over the place and her boobs looked hideous and her husband couldn't even stand to look at her. But NOW-- ooh la la, more babies on the WAY!

Now available in Bam-Bam-With-A-Nipple-Hat variety!

Having trouble getting your baby to fall asleep? We have the perfect solution. In fact, it's so brilliant, we're amazed no one has thought of it before or since. We like to call it PLOWING A LOCOMOTIVE PAST YOUR BABY'S HEAD. No, really! Logic would suggest otherwise, but in fact, the noise and movement totally makes the baby close its eyes and go to sleep. WooWOO! Chugachuga! All aboard for dreamlannnnd!