Monday, July 21, 2014

Music I Grew Up With

Today's post is a short one, as I just got a new working computer cord and am rushing to write this in just a few minutes. :-) I just thought I'd post a few songs and artists that are extremely familiar to me from when I was growing up.

What are some of the songs you remember most vividly from your childhood?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Della: The Speed Story That Started It All

For almost a year, I snarked through The Quest for Skye. It was horrific and awful and sometimes hilarious and sometimes a lot of work. :-) I do want to get around to more snarking in the near future. I have four possible snark options in front of me, and ultimately I'm going to let you decide which one I snark next. But for now I still need to take a bit of a break.

In the meantime, though, I thought I'd present this short series for, um... Snarky Fridays, I guess we'll call it. Today you get the introduction, with the first true installment happening next week.

Once upon a time, I was having trouble getting fiction written. I was playing around with various writing exercises to get the flow going, and I discovered one that worked magic for me. At the beginning of every writing session, I took 10-15 minutes or so and just typed whatever came to mind. I dubbed this "speed writing." I generally started off with a story idea, and then just wrote. The deal was that I wasn't allowed to stop typing for any reason. Even when my conscious brain was lagging way behind and the words being formed on the screen were ridiculous.

I found that this got me into the right frame of mind to continue writing, but at the same time it was producing wildly entertaining results. When I wasn't actually thinking about what I was writing, my subconscious took over in truly bizarre ways. They were nearly always coherent sentences, but the stories made absolutely no sense. Character motivations changed by the minute, the dialogue was horrendous, and I found that I had a weird fascination with making my characters perform random actions while speaking.

I shared what I'd written in my writing exercise with a friend, along with my snarky comments and explanations of what I think might have meant, and she enjoyed it a ton. Then I ended up sharing it with more friends, and then I made a blog entirely dedicated to my speedwritten stories, and for awhile I had a small group of people who were always reading the results of these exercises.

Then that sort of dropped off, but I thought this might be a good place to store it.

This was the very first story I ever wrote through speedwriting, and it has yielded an incredible amount of weird inside jokes and quotes for my siblings and me. It was initially known just as "the Della story." Della was our main character, who I think remained a high schooler through most of the story. The story is mostly a murder mystery, and you do get an answer at the end, but in the meantime there are all sorts of tangents, run-ins with bizarre exotic animals, and interrogation scenes that... really shouldn't have yielded any information at all.

Keep in mind as you read these... They are very, very, very silly. Not because I intended for them to be. But because when my brain tries to create narrative without me letting it actually think of words or logic, things get odd. I am fascinated and amused by the results, and I hope you are too.

To give you a taste of what I'll be posting the next few weeks, I present the opening line:

It was always darkest before the dawn, the computers said.

What computers? Unfortunately, you will never know, because the story never mentions them again.

On with the snarking!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The New Words H.P. Lovecraft Taught Me

One of the nice things about the Kindle is that you can look up definitions for words you don't know. I have a pretty wide vocabulary, so I don't do this very often, but I did that all the time when I was reading through my collection of The Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft. Man, did that guy use a lot of words nobody uses anymore.

My Kindle keeps a list of the words I've looked up, so I thought it might be fun to share the new words I learned while reading Lovecraft, along with my condensed definition of it. Education for all!

abeyance - Temporary disuse. Lovecraft used "kept in abeyance" to mean basically "put on hold for now."

adumbrate - To report in outline form. It can also be used to mean other similar things like "to foreshadow," "to symbolize," or "to indicate faintly."

aedile - A Roman magistrate that was responsible for 1) public buildings, 2) public games, and 3) grain supply. Combine them all together for a race to get as much grain into the public buildings as you can, and you've done your job for the year in one day.

anent - Concerning/about. Lovecraft's usage: "He had had black suspicions of his own anent Joseph Curwen." So you can basically use this all the time to sound fancy and nobody will know what you're talking about.

appurtenance - An item associated with a specific living style or activity. I was going to use the original book's usage as an example of how to use it, but the original book said, "Others claimed they had seen it as a monstrous insect with astonishing supernumerary appurtenances," and even knowing what "appurtenances" means, that is not an easy sentence to understand.

charnel - An adjective, meaning "associated with death," which is weird because it sounds like a very pretty word. I mean, if I said, "Your dress is charnel," it sounds like it would mean something complimentary, not, "Your dress reminds me of death."

colloquy - A conversation. I knew "colloquial," but not "colloquy." More formally, a colloquy can also be a gathering for discussion of theological questions.

coruscating - Sparkly.

cyclopean - While it can mean "like a cyclops," it also refers to a specific masonry style where they used enormous irregular blocks, which to me just sounds like the walls would fall down, but whatever.

desiderate - An archaic verb meaning to keenly desire something that is missing. Lovecraft uses it as an adjective though, referring to "the desiderate ship," which I assume means the keenly desired missing ship.

diabolist - A devil worshiper. I maybe could have figured this one out on my own.

extirpate - To root out and completely destroy.

foetor - The British spelling of "fetor," which is a strong yucky smell.

homologous - Exact dictionary definition: "Having the same relation, relative position, or structure." Lovecraft referred to a monster moving an arm or some homologous limb. I like this one and think I am going to try to use it in every conversation I have now.

inchoate - Not fully formed. In the legal sense, it's used to refer to an offense that anticipates a further criminal act, like incitement or conspiracy.

irrupt - To enter forcibly or suddenly. I like this word because it sounds like "erupt" and it makes me mentally imagine a volcano bursting down a door and pouring lava into the room.

matutinal - Of or occurring in the morning. I like this one too. I want to start referring to everything I do in the morning as matutinal.

natheless - Nevertheless. It's like people just got lazy saying the word.

palimpsest - I shared this one on Facebook because I liked it so much. It means a manuscript where the original writing has been erased to make room for new writing but you can still kinda see the old writing beneath it. It can also be used metaphorically to describe something where you can see traces of what it used to be. Adjective form is "palimpsestic."

periwig - An old-timey wig worn as a fancy headdress.

phthisical - Related to phthisis, which is ome tuberculosis-esque disease. I just like the "phth" sound, though apparently the "ph" is silent, which takes all the fun out of the word.

presage - As a noun, it means "omen." As a verb, it means "to be an omen."

quiescent - Inactive or dormant.

redoubtable - I hoped this meant "able to be doubted again," but turns out it means formidable, but used in a mostly humorous way. So if I ever say someone is redoubtable, I expect you all to laugh.

refulgent - Shining brightly. I'm trying to figure out how to fit it into "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," but I'm not quite sure how yet.

skyey - This one gave me the definition of "sky." I just really enjoy the use of the word "skyey" to describe something that's like a sky. It must be real because a real writer did it.

susurrus - Used poetically to mean whispering/murmuring/rustling... basically all the nature sounds poets gush about.

swain - A country youth, but poetically it means a lover.

untrammeled - Unrestricted.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Top 5, Bottom 5: Sea Adventure

Well, hello again, everyone! I know it's been about a month since I posted here, but it's been a busy one. We moved from a house to an apartment much closer to my husband's workplace, and so it's been a month of packing and cleaning and unpacking and cleaning and while not everything is unpacked yet, things are getting done slowly. Hopefully now I can get back into the routine of blogging again.

But to start things off, here's a quick top 5, bottom 5 post, since I watched my 20th "sea adventure" movie last week with Deep Blue Sea. All Flickchart rankings are out of a total chart of 2176, as of this writing.

Top 5:
1. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003, #42). One of my very favorite action/adventure movies, Pirates is still super fun to me. I didn't like any of the sequels, but I enjoy this one a lot.
2. Jaws (1975, #419). It's been awhile since I saw Jaws, but I thought it was solid and interesting the last (and first) time I watched it.
3. The Pirates of Penzance (1983, #437). A good, very funny film adaptation of what is probably my favorite Gilbert & Sullivan show of the three or four I know.
4. The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012, #494). This movie didn't get anywhere near the attention I thought it deserved. An animated flick by Peter Lord, I thought it was funny and creative and entertaining.
5. Crimson Tide (1995, #655). A good serious sea adventure that I really need to get around to rewatching.

Bottom 5:
5. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001, #1805). For such an exciting and interesting premise, this movie is surprisingly boring.
4. Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1989, #1817). This is the old BBC version of the story, and to be far, most of my downvoting here is for Prince Caspian, which I find the least interesting of all the Narnia stories. But Voyage isn't that fun either.
3. Rich and Strange (1931, #1848). I can remember very little about this movie except that I found it awkward and weird, so I can't really say whether it's justified being this far down the list.
2. Shark Tale (2004, #1983). Ugh, I hate this one so much. It's creepy and not funny at all and just bizarre.
1. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954, #2079). OK, Shark Tale should definitely be further down the list with this one, because I don't hate it as much as I just find it blah.

Top 5 Sea Adventure Movies I Haven't Seen:
1. Das Boot (1981, #553 on global rankings)
2. The Abyss (1989, #593)
3. Lifeboat (1944, #600)
4. Titanic (1997, #741)
5. The Poseidon Adventure (1972, #1133)

What are your favorite movies set at sea? What do you think of these choices? Which of the top 5 unseen ones do you most think I should watch?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Movie Talk on Sunday: Visiting Aliens

There's a Twitter movie chat that happens every Sunday, and I occasionally get to participate. The idea is that every week, Twitter user assigns a movie-related topic and asks 10 questions around that topic for people to respond to. I thought the questions (and offered answers) this time were so interesting that I wanted to share it on my blog as well. In this case, for all my answers, I typically went with the first one that came to mind, figuring I'd trust my instincts. I still stand by most of my choices, though, as you'll see, I changed one of them while writing this blog.

It’s the alien invasion. Only, they’re benign, and curious about our world. We’re an oddity, and they want to learn about us. You have been chosen, against all odds, to give them an idea of the films that this planet makes. You want to give a good variety of films for them. So, what film would you show them to show the following…?

Q1. What film best depicts human kindness, and why? #MTOS
My response: Lars and the Real Girl. You can't watch that movie and NOT feel good about people.
Other interesting choices from Twitter: 12 Angry Men, It's a Wonderful Life, The Iron Giant

Q2. What film best depicts human cruelty, and why? #MTOS
My response: I'm going to go with Se7en. It simultaneously portrays everyone as being awful and everyone somehow being worth fighting for.
Other interesting choices: Schindler's List, 12 Years a Slave, Pan's Labyrinth

Q3. What film best depicts human humour, and why? #MTOS
My response: Oh, man, human humor is so varied! I think I'm going with Modern Times, because slapstick's pretty global.
Other interesting choices: Airplane!, Monty Python, His Girl Friday

Q4. What film best depicts human history, and why? #MTOS
My response: I think right now I'm feeling Gandhi, to demonstrate that there is always chaos and always SOMEONE working against the chaos.
Other interesting choices: Metropolis, The Seventh Seal, 2001: A Space Odyssey

Q5. What film best depicts how we rewrite or romanticise our own history, and why? #MTOS
My response: Hmm. Evita. The conflict between a romanticized truth and a darker truth is a major part of the story. (Although in retrospect, I change my answer: Midnight in Paris all the way. I just didn't think of it at the time.)
Other interesting choices: Back to the Future, Inglourious Basterds, Life Is Beautiful

Q6. What film best depicts how we show our natural present day world, and why? #MTOS
My response: TV movie The Lorax (haven't seen the new one). The message is that the natural world is beautiful and we keep breaking it. (I had a tough time coming up with answer for this.)
Other interesting choices: Koyaanisqatsi, Black Fish, Planet Earth documentaries

Q7. What film best depicts how we show our man-made present day world, and why? #MTOS
My response: WALL-E. Though it's futuristic, it covers positives and negatives of new technology, plus the whole "it's making us lazier!"
Other interesting choices: The Truman Show, The Social Network, Dr. Strangelove

Q8. What film best depicts how we view potentially benevolent / hostile alien species, and why? #MTOS
My response: The 1950s The Day the Earth Stood Still. It shows how quickly we start panicking and what an alien might have to do to stay alive.
Other interesting choices: District 9 (also one I considered), Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Independence Day

Q9. What film best depicts how we envisage the future could be like, and why? #MTOS
My response: V for Vendetta. Or really any dystopian future. We are SCARED of the future, folks.
Other interesting choices: Robot and Frank, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Children of Men

Q10. What single film best sums up the human condition? #MTOS
My response: Annie Hall. A constant search for SOMETHING, followed by, eventually, adapting when we don't get what we want.
Other interesting choices: Groundhog Day, Schindler's List, A Clockwork Orange

So there you have it. I would show the aliens Lars and the Real Girl, Se7en, Modern Times, Gandhi, Midnight in Paris, The Lorax, WALL-E, The Day the Earth Stood Still, V for Vendetta, and Annie Hall. That's... an interesting lineup.

Share your thoughts and suggestions!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tips for Traveling Introverts

I love traveling. I just came back from a two-week road trip. I spent a year traveling around the country doing drama at churches. I've trekked enough across the U.S. that now, the only two states I haven't visited are Alaska and Hawaii.

But traveling can be extremely draining for an introvert.

I am definitely on the "oh so very introverted" end of the continuum, so as much as I love going around and visiting new places, it's easy for me to get tired out quickly. Here are a few of the tips I've learned over the years about how to travel and stay sane as an introvert.

1. Choose your traveling companions wisely.

Traveling with just one or two people is easier for introverts than with a large group, so as much as you think you might love having a huge road trip with seven or eight good friends, it'll get overwhelming much more quickly than if you just bring along a couple. Also, traveling with people you don't know well can be tough. It's hard to relax when you're constantly around acquaintances rather than good friends. If you're the one planning a trip, plan your companions carefully. You don't want to burn out halfway through because you're surrounded by too many people. And don't discount the idea of traveling by yourself, either. I've done that before and it's super fun and flexible and if you want to make friends along the way, you can, and if you don't, you don't have to.

2. Budget extra money for introvert escapes.

Specifically, I'm talking hotels. A lot of the times when I've traveled, we've saved traveling money by crashing with friends around the country. It's definitely cheaper (you can usually get a meal or two and a place to stay out of that), and it is awesome to visit with old friends, but it can also be exhausting spending time with someone new every single night. For me, a safe ratio is spending one out of every 3-4 nights in a hotel. It gives you a chance to recuperate so that you'll be ready to socialize again the next day. (If you like camping, that's a cheaper way to get some social recovery time. I hate camping so that's not really an option for me, hehe.)

3. Don't plan too many outings -- or be ready to drop out.

There's a tendency to want to do and see everything when you're spending time in a city, but don't overextend yourself. I frequently find that after a few hours of sightseeing, I'm done for the day. Sometimes I have extra energy and can do more things, but sometimes that's all I've got in me. This means you should avoid buying multiple tickets ahead of time, thus committing yourself to spending a full day doing tourist activities. I generally try to set in stone no more than one thing per day -- with other flexible activities that I can join or not join as I wish. Keep your schedule as flexible as possible to accommodate your social energy, and you'll be able to really enjoy all the things you do choose to participate in.

4. Feel free to go do things on your own.

You really don't have to sightsee as a group. If your whole group is hanging out for the day in a city (especially if it has good public transportation), you can always get some quiet time by saying, "Hey, I'm going to go check out this museum and then do some shopping, but I'll meet up with you guys for dinner." That is perfectly OK. If you're somewhere that doesn't have public transport, you can always look up a cool place en route to where they're going to be spending their time and request that they drop you off and pick you up there. This lets you be touristy while still enjoying some introversion time.

5. Take advantage of the travel time itself.

You can get some great to-yourself time in a car, a plane, or a bus. Just have an MP3 player ready with your favorite music and a Kindle ready with some good books, and you can spend the whole travel time charging your solitude meter. Then when you arrive at your destination, you're full of energy and ready to go have some fun.

What do you guys think? Any other good introvert traveling tips? What is your favorite travel destination?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Four Silly Puns

I went looking for this last night -- turns out it was on my dad's Facebook wall -- and figured, hey, I need a blog for today, I should just post this.

So here are four silly puns all in a row, as created in a Facebook status last January:

Dad posts: From my son Nathan: If you try to destroy someone's chimney and by accident it destroys their entire house instead, then the whole building comes down with the flue.

My uncle David posts: And if you do this destruction by aiming a gun at the chimney and pulling the trigger, I suppose that would be a flue shot.

I post: And if you feel bad about it and decide to build their chimney again but just the chimney, not the whole house, and then you find that the place where you want to build it is on top of a bird's home but you build it there anyway because you're kind of a jerk, then when you finish you can point to it and say, "Ta-da! One flue over the cuckoo's nest!"

I post, a day later: And if, when you were finished building the flue, someone came to you and said that there were a bunch of cuckoos AND people trapped underneath and you should tear it down and let them out, you would have to do the right thing and destroy the flue and free them because the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the flue.

Happy Monday.