Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Our Tabletop Games

Since I got married, my husband and I have discovered we really enjoy playing tabletop games. We already had a couple to begin with, but then we started collecting games and now, a little less than 2 years into our marriage, we have a decent amount of games we really enjoy! Here are some brief introductions to the ones we have on our shelves now. I even called upon Jacob to contribute some brief thoughts on each game if he wanted. He did want.


Forbidden Desert, one of our newer games. It's an extremely difficult co-operative game where everyone works together to find the lost parts for your ship, which has crash landed in the desert. But at the end of every turn, the sand storm you're in gets worse, and if your team runs out of water or gets overrun by sand, everyone dies. If you gather all the parts and get back to the launchpad and take off before anyone dies, you succeed! It's a really tough game, but when you manage to escape, it's really satisfying.

Jacob's review: "Forbidden Desert was fun, despite that it reminded me of the movie Sahara, which was the worst. Despite how it reminded me. Despite it reminding me. Grammars are hard."


Batman Love Letter (or is it Love Letter: Batman? It doesn't seem to actually SAY "Batman" on there so much as just have his picture) is a Batman-themed version of the two-person game Love Letters. While Jacob and I haven't played the real one, the Batman version is a lot of fun. Your goal is to end each round with the highest-scoring Batman villain in your hand. If you have the Joker (8) and your opponent has Robin (4), then you win! But each card has a special characteristic that can change the way the game works. Play Two-Face and switch cards with an opponent. Play Poison Ivy and force your opponent to discard -- and if they discard the Joker, they automatically lose. It's an simple, enjoyable game with very short rounds, so you can easily play for as long or as short as you want.

Jacob's review (when I asked what he thought about "Love Letters"): "Isn't it just 'Love Letter'? I draw Bane all the time, which makes me lose, but it's great."


Gloom is one of my favorites, and we've collected both the Cthulhu version and the Unfortunate Expeditions expansion. It's a story-telling game where everyone gets to control their own family of unique characters. Your goal is to make your family as miserable as possible, and then kill them off with plenty of misery points before anyone else has a chance to cheer them up! Get a card that gives +15 for a happy wedding? Marry off an opposing family's daughter, and they'll be stuck with a happy character until they find a way to make her miserable again. Meanwhile, stack as many diseases, shunnings, paranormal encounters, and wild animal attacks on your own characters to make sure they die as miserably as they lived.

Jacob's review: "One time, I made your dog get married to a woman, but the woman divorced him right on the spot, so he left, and then he found happiness again and he got married again, and then his wife died, I think, and then YOU were gonna go make him die alone, so I made him live contentedly with an older married couple, and live out his days with them and it was quite nice."


Munchkin. Pictured here are Munchkin Cthulhu and Munchkin Adventure Time, but there is a ridiculous amount of Munchkin games out there. I've played it before we bought it and didn't care for it much, but Jacob really enjoyed it. Turns out, I may not like Munchkin when it's played the way it's meant to be played: with 3+ people. We tried our hand at two-person Munchkin awhile back, and I've loved that. With Munchkin, your goal is to rise through the levels by defeating monsters, and half the fun for me is siccing extra monsters on your opponents or trying to get people to help you in exchange for treasure. With just two of us, it's easier for me to resort to a blackmail method: "I will NOT raise this monster from level 18 to level 51 if you give me all the treasures you get from killing it." There's no one else to turn to for help, so this method can make for a really interesting (and sometimes very intense) game of negotiation and bribery. Way more fun than any other way I've played it!

Jacob's review: "For Adventure Time Munchkin, I had to take initiative and memorize 'Kee'oth Rama Pancake' for one card that I've never been able to use on it. It's still amazing. Cthulhu Munchkin is OK, it's more boring. It's not as unique as Adventure Time."


Fluxx was one of the first games we got into together, as we got Star Fluxx as one of our wedding presents. We quickly started expanding, and now we're just collecting them all. Fluxx has the same basic set of rules for all its games -- collect the cards that meet the goal on the current goal card. But anyone can change the goal card to something that benefits them or put down new rule cards where you suddenly have to get rid of half your cards or play the special keeper card that lets them steal one of yours. The game changes constantly, and it's a delightful mix of strategy and luck. Each Fluxx game is significantly different, too -- it's not just new pictures. In Zombie Fluxx, a huge amount of the cards are zombies, and if you have even one on the table, you can't win. In Pirate Fluxx, you can force everyone to talk in a pirate accent or call you "Captain" with the right card. A couple of these are out of print, so we were pretty fortunate to find some game store copies!

Jacob's review: "We played all of them once at one time. It was the worst. But Fluxx is amazing. Fluxx is great, all of them suck."


We just played Jaipur for the first time a few weeks ago, despite having it since Christmas. Turns out, it's really interesting. Your goal is to trade and sell enough goods to make you the richest merchant in the game. Sell more of the same kind of items at a time, and get a bonus, but you can only have seven cards in your hand, so you can't horde too many. It's also really hard to tell who won until the round is over and you count up points, so it feels really even -- and important thing for me, as I don't like feeling like I'm either overpowering or being overpowered. We've only played this once, but I'm glad we own it!

Jacob's review: "Money games are great. Yay capitalism."


Once Upon a Time is a game my family ended up buying after I introduced it to them. It's a great, gentler game for people who like storytelling more than they like competition. Everyone gets dealt a hand of cards with popular children's story elements, like "prince" or "under a spell," or "forest," plus an ending card, like, "Then they got married and lived happily ever after." Use as many of yours on your turn to create a beautiful fairy tale, but others can jump in if you mention one of their cards, or if they have an Interrupt card that lets them take over the story whenever they want. This is an awesome one to play with people who like to get creative, though we haven't played it in awhile.

Jacob's review: "I can't remember Once Upon a Time, but it was neat."


Pandemic was another very early game for us. Like Forbidden Desert, it's a complicated, nearly-impossible co-op game, but instead of escaping from a desert in a plane, you're trying to stop a disease from taking over the world. Everyone works together to research cures and treat sick people, but at the end of each turn, the disease spreads to new cities, and every so often an epidemic breaks out and the disease spreads really fast. This is definitely not one you can expect to win all the time, but like a lot of co-op games, it can be fun to play with especially analytical younger players who can contribute their ideas as you all help them out to win together.

Jacob's review: "It taught me more about geography than Carmen Sandiego."


Ha, Qwirkle. We bought this one after seeing it on Tabletop and thinking, "That looks pretty fun." Well, uh, turns out I hate it. I find it immensely frustrating and don't ever want to play it at all. It's a lot more luck-based than a lot of these games, but unlike Fluxx or something else where you can't necessarily plan, the gameplay in this one isn't interesting to me either. It's also one where if you don't get ahead quickly, it can be difficult to catch up, and I just find those frustrating, because I do get competitive, and if I know early on who's going to win and I don't particularly enjoy the gameplay... why bother?

Jacob's review: "It's scrabble with colors and shapes and everyone tries to force themselves to have fun but everyone loathes themselves just for taking it out of the box which is sad because scrabble with colors and shapes should be amazing."


I actually have never played Pleasant Dreams. I kickstarted it, as did some of the people I follow on Twitter. The art is gorgeous, but I've never actually sat down and played it. It's supposed to be playable for one person, though, so maybe I'll have to do that soon!

Jacob's review: "'Pheasant Dreams' would be pretty fun."


This awkward collection of pictures is a tribute to the party games we own/bought/were given that we never play because we don't have anyone to play them with. Or we don't like them as much as we thought. Most people know Apples to Apples and Cranium, but Imaginiff is a game that I played once with Jacob wayyyy before we were dating, so I have a bit of a soft spot for it, and Quelf is a game I've never actually played and know very little about.

Jacob's review: "'Social games'. With 'friends'. Eww."


A game we bought awhile back and only recently started playing (but love!), this is Betrayal at House on the Hill. It's like a light RPG where you send your characters exploring through a haunted house, except halfway though something happens where one of the characters is revealed as a traitor and things take a different turn because players start fighting against each other instead of together. There are 50 different scenarios, so there's LOTS of replayability -- the first time I played it, I was the traitor trying to kill them with ghosts, and the next time, we were all fighting against a demonic fiddler. It's fun and interesting and I'm glad we finally got around to playing it.

Jacob's review: "BAHH: It's a sheep blat when you shorten it. That's fun. Also the game is fun! It's like co-op with the added fun of maybe you get to kill your friends!"


Carcassonne is one of the newest additions to our game library. You build a world made of roads, cities, monasteries, and gardens, and place your game pieces to score points on these various places. I have a feeling it's going to be really replayable because the world has a different layout each time. This is one of those games where the total score isn't in until the very end of the game when you count up all the points, so it's not always easy to tell who's winning right away unless you recount everything every time. This keeps gameplay fun for me because there's always a possibility that I could end up sweeping the points at the end.

Jacob's review: "Meeples are adorable."


We purchased Arkham Horror a year and a half ago, spent forever setting it up... and then never actually played it. One of these days we're going to clear all our stuff off the dining room table and try to play it for real.

Jacob's review: "I'm staring at it right now because it's directly in front of me. Sometimes it seems like it's always been in front of me, watching me, laughing at me. Inside. I can hear it. The unattainable."


Machi Koro was a game we tried at our local game store on Tabletop Day and discovered it was super fun, so we ended up buying it. Jacob compared it to Monopoly, in that you're buying property and reaping the rewards, but I like it WAY more than Monopoly. Gameplay moves much faster and, I think, is much more satisfying. Your goal is to buy up the four big improvements for your town by buying little improvements that earn you more money. Spend too much and you won't have enough left over to afford your goals, but spend too little and your opponent will make money faster than you.

Jacob's review: "It's like Monopoly but now everyone is having fun and not just me."


A trivia game specifically for geeks, with categories like "fantasy," "sci fi," "comics," and "games," Jacob usually beats me at Geek Out -- but it's still a lot of fun. The premise of this one is that your trivia card asks you to list things, for example, "two superheroes who wear yellow" or "four characters from the Narnia series." Your opponent can then outbid you -- "I can name six Narnia characters!" and you go back and forth until someone wins the bid. But then they have to actually name all those, or you lose points. Get too confident and you could end up needing to name 16 different movies where someone encounters their future self, only to find yourself flagging by 13. It's fun and silly and I like it a lot.

Jacob's review: "Trivia usually is lame. Yay for some peeps making a trivia game that's great and not the worst."


And these four are all Jacob's. I've never played any of them with him. I have no idea if they're fun or not. Well, the Monopolys wouldn't be. :-) But I don't know about the others.

Jacob's review: "Monopoly is the best and I always win because I don't whine like, 'WAAAAH. I wish I could have more Baltic Avenues! Booo. Maybe I shouldn't have traded everything I owned for all those trains! Can I have a re-roll? No? I hate everything and I'm going to bed. I hope you die.' I don't do that. Monopoly is fun and everyone should love it and have a great time. I also always win. That's pretty nice."

And those are the tabletop games we own! (Thus far.)

What are your favorite tabletop games? What games do you own that you've actually never played?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Top 5, Bottom 5: Crime

It's time for another Top 5, Bottom 5 blog, this time focusing on crime movies, because I apparently watched my 200th the other day, according to Flickchart. I'm not all that crazy about crime movies, so it's going to be really interesting to me to see which ones really did rise to the top, and which ones may be good but just didn't interest me.

Top 5:
1. Memento (2000, #15). Easily one of my all-time favorites, and I've written about it more in depth before on one of my other movie blogs. It's a fantastic movie with deep themes and a gimmick that really works for telling the story.
2. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944, #80). A completely different feel from Memento, this movie is wacky and funny and one of my favorite classic comedies. I wouldn't have thought of it as a "crime" movie because it's so different tonally, but I suppose it is!
3. A Fish Called Wanda (1988, #96). Another crime comedy, though this one is a bit more morbid in tone than Arsenic and Old Lace. Kevin Kline is one of my favorite comedic actors, and on top of that you've got two members of Monty Python, and Jamie Lee Curtis being forever frustrated as the "straight man" of the group. Really entertaining.
4. My Cousin Vinny (1992, #102). So maybe all the crime movies I like are comedies. This is one of my parents' favorites, so it's one I watched with them as a teenager, and I still think it's great fun. Joe Pesci and Marissa Tomei create two really funny, likable characters, and it's awesome to watch them interact with the world around them.
5. Wallace & Gromit in the Wrong Trousers (1993, #108). And this one is not only a comedy, it's a short. This is my favorite of all the Wallace & Gromit stories, and while it might be a little high on my chart, it's really delightful.

Crime Scene from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Alan Cleaver, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Bottom 5:
5. Mr. Superinvisible (1970, #2281 out of 2348). I honestly don't remember this movie much except that I watched it as a kid and thought it was super lame then.
4. Identity Thief (2013, #2273). Oh, man. This movie was tough to watch, and I find Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy both pretty likable. But it was some actively painful comedy. It deserved the bad reputation it got.
3. American Gangster (2007, #2269). This movie took me forever to get through because I just couldn't make myself care about it.
2. Mean Streets (1973, #2239). I watched this in one of my film appreciation classes, and it's absolutely my lowest Scorsese film on my chart. I just didn't care about it at all.
1. Cold Blood (2012, #2218). Ha! This was a film I did the captioning for at work a month or two ago. It's quite lame. It should probably be lower on the chart, because it being ahead of anything Scorsese did is not OK.

Top 5 Unseen:
1. Breathless (1960, global chart #125)
2. Dog Day Afternoon (1975, #147)
3. The French Connection (1971, #165)
4. Miller's Crossing (1990, #188)
5. City of God (2002, #200)

What are your favorite and least favorite crime movies? And which of my top unseen ones should I watch first?

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Quest for Forgiveness: Secrets Revealed (Some Stupider Than Others)

Last time, Brianna surprised Ethan with a visit and found out that not only is his life terrible now, but EVERYONE'S life is terrible now. All because he and Susan broke up after she lied. I seem to remember getting very annoyed with this part of the book, so, uh, we'll see what happens.

Ethan continues to update Brianna about his crappy life, about how his dad was killed in a hit-and-run and immediately had his identity stolen, and then what was left was paid in back taxes.
“Dad was always there to help America. In the end, they were there for him, too.”
...I don't even know how to categorize someone who is "always there to help America." I don't think I've ever thought that about anyone.

Turns out the police constantly come to ask him about missing kids or abused kids, because I guess he's the only known child abuser in all of... Wyoming, is that where he lives now? Well, that may be possible, because Wyoming has like six people in it. He's apparently also had police "break down the door" in the middle of the night and arrest him while he was sleeping which is completely illegal in this instance, and Brianna may want to look into getting him some compensation for the Wyoming police's apparently frequent unlawful arrests.

Brianna finds a scrapbook of herself on the table and then she and Ethan have a very casual conversation about how much he loves her because she's his daughter, which is a huge shift from the furious, raging, sarcastic guy he was just a minute ago. She gives him her guitar, and he's very touched for a second, or, as our author puts it:
The scene was moving, but just as quickly was over!
I don't know why that random exclamation point cracks me up so much, but it does.

Ethan demands to know why she lied, although she already told him. So she tells him she hated Susan and that she just wanted her parents. Then we get a twist that I'd completely forgotten about: Turns out Ethan is her real dad.

He tells her a loooooong boring back story of how he and Mira met in Paris, and how they would stand for hours at the top of the Eiffel Tower each night watching the city, which sounds romantic but also like it would get very old after awhile. He got her to become a Christian, but when she told her parents, they sent her brothers to bring her home. They got married super quickly so that he could take her home to America with him. Then she was kidnapped and taken back to her home, until she found out she was pregnant and escaped to live with a couple she knew. When her brothers came to kill her in the hospital, that mysterious nurse who wouldn't talk to Brianna swapped out Brianna for a baby who was already dead, so they all thought she was gone.
“Money can buy a lot of information.” 
“Don’t I know that!” Brianna stated emphatically, realizing that is how she received all her information— she bought it.
This is such a weird little exchange. On one hand it sounds like Brianna's being emphatic just because she wants to emphasize she has money and can buy information, but on the other hand... she's just realizing she buys all her information? Especially about her family? She's been tossing money at people left and right all book for info, and that's just hitting her now?

Eventually Ethan found her at the orphanage where she was and adopted her. This whole section is very long and dull, and there's not even much to snark at because it's just boooooooooooring.

Brianna is excited that she finally knows why Ethan... never took her to work with him or introduced her to his business associates? Ethan teaches at a college. So did my father, and he didn't routinely take me to work with him or introduce me to all of his "business associates" when I was a kid. That shouldn't have been some big mystery. It just doesn't make sense for a child to be running around a college campus if she doesn't need to be.

Wait a minute.

I backed up for a second to find out what she understands about that. Why didn't he take her to work with him, since this is apparently a thing in Rothdienerland?
Her evil relatives found out later you were in the United States. My father showed me a flyer written in Arabic. They had sent it to all the mosques in America, searching for a girl with a heart-shaped birthmark on her forehead. I could not risk anybody else knowing you were here. The fewer people who knew about it, the safer you would be. It was extremely difficult since I worked with people of the Muslim faith at the school... that was all the more reason to be secretive.”
...What.

What on earth was his plan for the rest of her life? Was he just going to have a secret child forever? Did he assume there would be no Muslims at, say, Brianna's school? If their town has a big Muslim population, there probably would be.

That's also a lovely bit of Islamophobia, that he assumes that the murderous Muslims are in cahoots with the American Muslims (or maybe he thinks there are no non-murderous Muslims) and will all work together to kill a four-year-old girl. I mean, maybe they were just advertising that she was missing and the American Muslims would turn her in out of goodwill toward her... but he doesn't trust any of his Muslim co-workers with that information? Isn't it going to be much more suspicious when it eventually turns out he's had this child all along?

OH MY GOSH, what on earth did they think when he was suddenly put on trial for abusing a preteen daughter nobody even knew existed? That can't possibly have been good for his reputation.

Ethan explains why he didn't stand up for himself in court:
“It would have been nationwide news. Word would have leaked out about the birthmark.”
Yes, because the birthmark (which was not even seen by anyone there because Brianna never testified in court and none of the witnesses talked about it) was the most newsworthy and therefore most oft-reported aspect of that story.

The books claims Ethan was paranoid after he left jail, but, um, I'd say it started well before. He kept his daughter a secret from everyone (while somehow giving her a fairly normal childhood?) and allowed himself to be put in jail and lose everything because he worried that an extremely wealthy Muslim family was spending their time combing American newspapers for random cases that featured descriptions of Muslim girls with heart-shaped birthmarks because newspapers always report on the physical features of young children who are not even present for the story they're reporting.

Ethan points out that he protected her like God protects her, but I'm pretty sure that's just his way of saying, "My decisions weren't so stupid after all," when, yeah, they kind of were.

She asks for his forgiveness, and he says, "How can I forgive you?" which I thought was a rejection but the book seems to treat it as a non-rhetorical question, as Brianna then runs out of the house "never giving her father a chance to reply, or to extend his forgiveness." Ethan prays, and that's where this chapter ends, and my gosh, am I ready for it to end.

81% of the way through. 61 more pages. Whoooo, the countdown continues!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The 5 Most Depressing Disney Songs

Disney songs are known for being inspirational like "When You Wish Upon a Star" or fun and cute like "Hakuna Matata"... they're not usually known for being depressing. But every so often, there'll be a Disney song that will just encompass a hopeless, dark worldview. Here are five that I think perfectly showcase the darker side of Disney.

5. "When She Loved Me" from Toy Story 2

While Disney has plenty of songs about sad situations, a lot of them lean toward the hopeful -- songs like "Goodbye May Seem Forever" from The Fox and the Hound and "Someone's Waiting for You" from The Rescuers are both in the middle of dark scenes, but both of them focus less on the horribleness of the situation and more on hoping for something better or dealing with the pain. "When She Loved Me" is just all, "NOW EVERYTHING IS THE WORST." And getting Sarah McLachlan to sing this song was just perfect, because nobody can make a song horrifically sad like Sarah McLachlan.

Most depressing lyrics:
So the years went by, I stayed the same
But she began to drift away, I was left alone
Still I waited for the day, when she’d say "I will always love you."

4. "Very Good Advice" from Alice in Wonderland

The Disney version of Alice in Wonderland is less whimsical adventure and more trippy nightmare, but even when it's creepy it's usually not sad... until this moment. Alice's lament at her inability to do the right thing is a heartbreaking expression of self-destruction. It's a particularly weird song to have in the middle of this movie. Nothing like stopping your story of a feisty and independent young girl exploring a strange world to have her suddenly lament that she is too fundamentally broken to do the right thing. And it's not like the consequences of this have been all that bad thus far -- if I recall the movie's sequence correctly, she hasn't even yet encountered the queen who kills people on a whim -- so this is all about Alice's inner turmoil and self-loathing. Sheesh, Disney.

Most depressing lyrics:
Well I went along my merry way
And I never stopped to reason
I should have know there'd be a price to pay
Someday...someday

3. "I Will Go Sailing No More" from Toy Story

While "When She Loved Me" might have been sadder, this one is more depressing because it's about something lost internally, not externally. This is the song of Buzz's existential crisis, where his entire concept of who he is has been shattered to pieces. He thought he had a big huge purpose in life only to discover that his sole purpose is being a children's toy. This does try to put in the characteristic Disney optimism, but then that falls apart as well, and the final, "Clearly, I will go sailing no more" is all about Buzz defeatedly accepting his fate, not because he has chosen to, but because he's beaten down and has no will to resist anymore.

Most depressing lyrics:
All the things I thought I'd be
All the brave things I've done
Vanish like a snowflake
With the rising of the sun

2. "Home Sweet Home" from Lady and the Tramp

If you don't recognize the name of this song, that's because it has no lyrics. This is the song all the dogs howl at the pound before Lady shows up and Peggy Lee sings jazzy tunes at her. This is the song that serves no purpose except to remind us how freaking miserable everything is in here. And then the following scene emphasizes over and over again that, yeah, most of these dogs are probably going to die, and the ones that don't today are living in constant fear of their lives. I don't even like dogs or dog movies, and I still find this one incredibly uncomfortable.

1. "No Way Out" from Brother Bear

This just sounds like a bland little song of regret until you listen to the lyrics and realize how completely hopeless they are. Phil Collins tries to toss in a note of hope at the very end of the chorus when he says, "I will find another way, I will face another day," but, uh, nope, you can't fool us, you've just spent the whole song telling us there is no way (for Pete's sake, you even titled your song about it) and that there is no freedom for you. All the hopelessness in the song makes that attempt at optimism just feel like desperately grasping at straws, and I don't buy it for a second. It's not noble, it's not inspirational, it's just line after line of constant wallowing in despair.

Most depressing lyrics:
Well, all of it except for the last 2 lines. But I guess I'd have to go with this...

There's no way out of this dark place
No hope, no future
I know I can't be free

Well, those are my picks. What do you think are the most depressing Disney songs of all time? And for any of you about to say "Let It Go," you're wrong. :-P

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Top 100: Sleepless in Seattle

I'm settling in to rewatch Sleepless in Seattle right now. This was a favorite of my mother's growing up, and one of the rom-coms my dad liked as well, and given my mom's tendency to watch her favorite movies over and over and over again, I saw this one a lot. I watched it only once or twice as an adult and remember liking it, but today we get to see whether my love for it is real or brought on by some sort of movie Stockholm syndrome.


For anyone who isn't familiar with this movie, it's a 1993 romantic comedy starring Tom Hanks as a man whose wife died about a year and a half ago. His eight-year-old son calls into a radio advice show saying his dad is sad and needs a new wife, even getting his father to talk about it on-air for a while. Meanwhile, Meg Ryan, who lives on the other side of the country, hears this on the radio and finds herself strangely drawn toward this man, despite the fact that she's never met him and is engaged to someone else. And like all rom coms, it's about the two of them getting together.

I'll be live-blogging any thoughts on the movie here, and then at the end I'll address it as a whole.

  • I forgot how dark this opening is. It's so sad for a cheery movie
  • This soundtrack is awesome. Do I own it? If not, I should.
  • Oh, hey, Marc Shaiman did music for this!
  • Tom Hanks is way better than Meg Ryan so far. His performance in this is really lovely.
  • Seriously, this soundtrack is the best.
  • I always kinda feel bad for Walter in this movie.
  • The New Year's scene where he talks to his wife is beautiful and sad.
  • What? I forgot she checks him out with a private investigator. That's super stalkery. I like her much less than I remembered.
  • I feel bad for Tom Hanks too. His kid is trying to write his life for him.
  • It makes a difference to me that Hanks sees Ryan and is drawn to her without knowing who she is. Makes the destiny aspect actually work instead of just being stalkers everywhere.
  • "Is this crazy?" "No. That's the weirdest part about it." Rosie O'Donnell is incorrect.
  • Oh, that's the fun that the music there is the theme from "An Affair to Remember." That's a nice touch. I tell ya, this soundtrack is great.
  • Jonah's expression as his aunt or whoever is talking about An Affair to Remember is hilarious.
  • Were people really into An Affair to Remember in the 90s? Before this movie, I mean? EVERY girl has seen it.
  • Hanks finding his son is great. That torrent of panicked release is really gorgeous. Again, he's the best part of this movie.
  • I suppose she could have just waited by the down elevator, but then they wouldn't get their romantic moment on top.
  • As the two of them leave and keep staring at each other as if they can't quite believe it... that's a really nice moment.

Overall, I do think this is a bit high on my chart. It's a nice rom com, but it's no Love Actually in terms of warm fuzzies. I think a lot of my issues have to do with Meg Ryan, who I just don't find as charming as I'm supposed to. Annie seems flighty more than anything, and I don't sense that this relationship means something to her the way it does to Sam. Now granted, the stakes are higher for him -- he's learning to love again or whatever -- but he also brings a level of sincerity to the role that she just doesn't manage to grab onto.

There's still a lot to like about it. The dialogue is funny and snappy. There are a lot of great side characters. As I gushed in my live blog, the soundtrack is wonderful. One of my very favorites. And Hanks himself is really amazing in this movie. It's a light, fluffy movie, and he could have just phoned it in, but he does a great job creating this character who's just trying to figure out his life after losing the person he loves most.

As I noted above, the movie also does a good job of establishing that fate, rather than stalking, really is driving these characters. The two run into each other a couple times about halfway through the movie (Annie knows who Sam is, but he doesn't know who she is) and there are two great moments where Sam finds himself really drawn to her for no reason. That sounds like a small thing, but that helps to cement the story firmly as a story of destiny, and it makes Annie's actions much more sympathetic than they would be in a story that was more realistic.

So while it's good, it's not as good as I remembered it being. It is almost certainly not #83-level quality. Let's rerank it on my Flickchart and see where it ends up.

Sleepless in Seattle vs. Two for the Money (2005) - An easy win for Sleepless here. It's charming and delightful and memorable, while Two for the Money faded quickly from my memory.

Sleepless in Seattle vs. Eat Pray Love (2010) - This is a closer comparison, but Sleepless still gets the win here. While Eat Pray Love connected with me in a way I didn't expect, it's not as delightful throughout, and it doesn't have nearly as likable a male lead.

Sleepless in Seattle vs. American Splendor (2003) - I do need to rewatch American Splendor some day, because I remember liking it but can't recall anything that will clue me in as to how much I liked it. For now, we'll give Sleepless the benefit of the doubt and let it win.

Sleepless in Seattle vs. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) - My second favorite Indy movie is pretty delightful, and its two leads combined are more likable than Sleepless' two leads combined. I think this is the first one Sleepless is going to lose.

Sleepless in Seattle vs. Jurassic Park (1993) - This is a really difficult ranking for me, because they're such different movies and I love such different things about them. Jurassic has some long slow scenes at the beginning, though, so I'm going to give this one to Sleepless for being pretty consistently entertaining.

Sleepless in Seattle vs. My Neighbor Totoro (1988) - My favorite Studio Ghibli is a wonderful blend of fantasy and realism, and it gets to me on an emotional level Sleepless doesn't quite reach. Totoro takes the win here and knocks Sleepless down a peg or two.

Sleepless in Seattle vs. The Rocketeer (1991) - Oh, man. Another tough choice, as these are two movies I loved in childhood. I remember The Rocketeer being pretty scattered, though, so we'll let Sleepless take this round.

Sleepless in Seattle vs. Shaun of the Dead (2004) - Shaun of the Dead is too high on my Flickchart. I like it, but Sleepless easily wins. Now if it was World's End, this could be another story.

Sleepless in Seattle vs. Shadowlands (1993) - Shadowlands is also slightly too high, and it's one of those movies that I think I like better after having seen it than while watching it. Sleepless is fun throughout, so it's going to win this round.

Sleepless in Seattle vs. Spirited Away (2001) - Spirited Away is right below Totoro on my list, but it leaves me colder and must draw more on the creativity of the world to connect with me. It does a pretty good job, but Sleepless in Seattle still wins.

Sleepless in Seattle's new, definitive ranking is at #184, which is much closer to where it probably belongs.

My random number generator has determined that the next top 100 movie I'm going to rewatch is... my #1, Casablanca. I'll be watching and writing about that no earlier than May 4, so if you want to watch that along with me, you have at least until then!

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Quest for Forgiveness: The Sad Lives of People Who Are Not Brianna

Last time was the worst, most arrogant, entitled, STUPID chapter ever, and I don't really feel like recapping it. So I won't.

After beating up her murderous family with zero consequences because she is rich, American, and beautiful, Brianna goes to visit her mother's grave. She chats for awhile with the caretaker, who remembers a young man who visited 15 or 20 years ago and carved a heart into the gravestone.
When she pulled back her long hair and blew at the headstone to clean it further, the morning sun highlighted her birthmark.
(In case you needed a reminder that Brianna is unique and beautiful.)

She is certain that the man was her father, but seems baffled as to why he'd carve a heart on the stone, because there's absolutely no way it could be an expression of his love for the woman who died or anything, that's just ridiculous.
“He knows Mira is buried here, but does he think it’s her baby buried next to her?”  
Conrad’s response was quick and certain. “Brianna, your father might have put that heart on the grave to let you know he was looking for you.”
What? Now THAT is a leap. If he thinks the baby next to Mira is Brianna (as everyone does, including the caretaker), why would he carve a super secret signal to let the daughter he thinks is dead know he's going to look for her? If he thinks she's dead, he knows where she is. And if not... that's a really obscure clue.

Brianna suspects Conrad is right and asks the caretaker to pass on the message to the man if he ever comes back that she is looking for him. She also pays him to take care of the grave, and we are reminded once more how much better she is than everyone else because she is rich:
He stared at the large sum of money, amazed at her generosity.
Brianna and Conrad leave, Brianna full of hope that her father is still alive.

And that is the entire seventeenth chapter, but I'm feeling pretty good, so let's keep charging on through this turd of a book! Whoo!

On the plane on the way back to the U.S., Brianna is haunted by the visit to her family. Not at how awful she was to everybody, but of "the coldness, the cruelty of her family." Which, I mean, yes, they did try to murder people, but she knew all about that going in. Or she should have. Sonya tried to warn her. What did she expect? That she would waltz in, confront them, and they'd crumble, repent, and become Christians immediately?

Actually, in a Rothdiener novel, that's not an unreasonable assumption.

Anyway, Brianna's also stressed about meeting up with Ethan.
The meeting would be a surprise for Ethan, but Brianna and Sonya surmised that would be the only way he would talk to her.
WORST. IDEA. EVER.

Sheesh. Brianna is bad at making amends. If he doesn't want to talk to her, they can't make him talk to her, and surprising him with a visit from the person who ruined his life without his permission is not a very kind or Christlike thing to do. Also, whatever happened to all that (false) stuff about how he can't be within 500 feet of her or something? Did that ever get resolved? Is she going to stand outside his house and yell apologies in through the window?

Brianna muses on how she can't forgive her family, but she's asking Ethan to forgive her, and on the irony of it all.

They pull up in their rental van in front of Ethan's "dumpy trailer" in a "shoddy trailer park," so already we know that Ethan is a mess because he is not rich like Brianna is.
Brianna wiped away a single tear. “I must stay strong,” she whispered.
I'm not sure I can do that without giggling. That action and line sound like... a parody of serious dramas.

Conrad offers to come in with her, but Brianna insists she must face this alone. Conrad tells her to keep her phone on and "press star" if she feels overwhelmed, and that will summon them. So I guess her speed dial number for Conrad is *.

Ethan is listening to her CD when she arrives, and she is certain that he wouldn't know she was Brianna Bays. After all, she's hidden her birthmark for the press! And Ethan would never have recognized her voice or the songs they wrote together or her face or anything! Just like if you put on a mask, you can be a superhero because nobody will know it's you. Who needs elaborate disguises when covering a corner of your face will keep your closest friends from recognizing you?

She knocks, Ethan comes to the door, and we get an unrelated memory:
Her mind was racing. She recalled when the boys came knocking on the door, Ethan would politely say, “Come back in ten years.” She smiled lightly at the memory, and then shook her head to help her focus.
Conrad was into her when she was 17, so he did not wait ten years...

Ethan invites her into his home and is super sarcastic at her, but I think he's entitled to do that.
“My, you sure have become a beautiful woman. I always knew you would be. I had to fight those young boys off with a stick,” he said, swinging his arm pretending to be holding a stick.
Because, yup, nobody can greet Brianna without first noting her appearance.

She is astonished that he recognizes her, but he points out, duh, he recognizes her voice and remembers writing those songs with her. He's not as stupid as she thought he'd be. He also makes an extremely snarky comment about not getting any royalties from the songs he helped her write, which is a pretty dang good point since she started off her entire career with a potential copyright lawsuit. (But then, as we've seen from Morgan in QfS, Rothdiener doesn't have a lot of interest in artistic copyright unless it benefits his Mary Sue. She can rip off anyone she wants, though.)

They both sit down, and like a second later he stands back up and walks over to her to stare at her cross necklace and touch her birthmark. Then he sits back down again. Then he stands back up and runs into the kitchen to get her some water, but she says no thank you and he sits back down again. Well, there's his exercise for the day.

Meanwhile, turns out ALL ETHAN'S KIDS HAVE TERRIBLE LIVES. Because they all lost their father and lived with Susan, who was materialistic and not really a Christian. But instead of being materialistic and shallow like she was, they all have lives right out of an after-school special. One boy joined a gang and died in a gang fight. Another boy became an alcoholic and died of alcohol poisoning. The girl got pregnant, had an abortion, ran away from home and became a drug addict.

What happened?

Seriously, what happened? There's no reason his time in jail should have caused any of that, since they all went far away to live with Susan and her parents, who are all very image-conscious. I have an uncomfortable feeling that this book is trying to make a point about "when families split up it hurts the children," but usually when people say that, they don't mean "all of your children will die and be drug addicts." I wouldn't imagine they'd grow up to be Sunday school teachers or anything, but... even if Susan wasn't a very attentive mother, her parents were attentive grandparents, and they had plenty of support, both emotional and financial.

We then learn Susan is working at a convenience store in Oklahoma, which Ethan assumes is Brianna's fault as well, even though I have no idea how it would be because even if she lost her job at one place because of bad publicity, surely she could go somewhere else or work behind the scenes instead of being the model and the designer all the time -- there's no need for her public image to become a part of this at all, and certainly not after a couple years (if that) when the media died down.

But this is the other part of this book I hate -- it not only emphasizes that Brianna's Christianity makes her even more rich, beautiful, and deserving, but that those without Christianity will become poor, ugly, and be forever miserable. That's untrue and comes off as more than a little vindictive.

So let's leave these unpleasant revelations where they are and come back to them next week.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Searching for Sunday: The Introduction Already Made Me Cry

Yesterday I bought Rachel Held Evans' book Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church. I'm a big fan of her work in general and I feel very connected with the thoughts and feelings she expresses, so when I knew she was writing about church, my heart gave a little leap. I wrote this on my Facebook yesterday:
I don't know about you guys, but some days, like today, are just long, weary, disappointing days, and then I remember that "Searching for Sunday," Rachel Held Evans' book about church, is available for purchase today, and a little bit of my soul breathes a sigh of relief, and I scurry on over to the Kindle store to buy it immediately, because I suspect that what "Introverts in the Church" was to me in 2009, this book could be to me in 2015. Yay for small moments of joy!
Let me explain what that means.

I read "Introverts in the Church" by Adam S. McHugh in 2009. This was at least a year or two before people started talking about introverts all over the place -- I'd never heard anyone defending it, much less from a Christian standpoint. It took me WEEKS to get through that book because I couldn't go more than about half a chapter without dissolving into tears. These were good tears though. The book was undoing so much self-hatred and self-disappointment and fear that being an introvert meant I was fundamentally broken. This book, with its every page, whispered into my ear, "You are OK. You are not damaged. God loves you and made you this way." I hadn't even realized how deeply I'd internalized the lie that Jesus was obviously an extrovert and we should be too.

At that point in my life, my deepest insecurity lay in my introversion. I have discovered recently that today, my deepest insecurity lies in my relationship with church. That is what fills me with self-hatred. That is what makes me feel fundamentally broken. That's the one I do not feel comfortable championing like I do with introversion, because I'm not sure yet how I can be a good Christian and dread church the way I do. It's the one that if I get into a debate or even a friendly discussion about it, I'm very likely to break down in tears, because there's only so much time you can spend listening to someone accidentally confirm that all those self-loathing thoughts that taunt you at 3 a.m. are completely justified. You are broken. You can't do this. You're doing it all wrong. You'll never grow. What's wrong with you?

So when I read this in the intro of Rachel's book, it was exactly, exactly what I needed to hear:
For me, talking about church in front of a bunch of Christians means approaching a microphone and attempting to explain the most important, complicated, beautiful, and heart-wrenching relationship of my life in thirty minutes or less without yelling or crying or saying any cuss words. Sometimes I wish they'd find someone with a bit more emotional distance to give these lectures, someone who doesn't have to break herself open and bleed all over the place every time someone asks, innocently enough, "So where have you been going to church these days?"
She talks later on in the intro about how despite feeling underqualified and knowing she hasn't reached anywhere near a conclusion on her faith journey yet, she felt she had something to offer in writing this book, "if nothing more than a few hundred pages of 'me too.'"

Well, you know what? Just like I needed to hear, "You feel like you have to be gregarious to be a Christian? Me too!" from Adam S. McHugh in 2009, I need to hear, "You love God but sometimes just can't stand church? Me too!" in 2015. If this book is nothing more than a few hundred pages of "me too," I will take it, because from following Rachel's blog and reading her books, I trust her faith. It feels like mine. She's not the backslider I was told I'd be if I struggled with church. She's someone trying to honestly figure out how to be most like Jesus, someone who loves the Bible even if she interprets it differently than some of the people around her. So when she says, "Me too," I feel genuinely comforted.

I suspect this book will take me a little while to read, since I'm going to need to digest it pretty frequently, so I'm going to be blogging about it as I go. Not on any kind of schedule, but just... as I go. (Though I will space them out if I end up writing like six blogs in two days.) If you like what you're reading, or if you share my complicated relationship with church, I highly suggest you buy the book yourself and read along with me.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Silly Sisters Conversation

I'm having a little trouble staying caught up with the blog this week, so here for today is a goofy conversation I had with my sister Bethany yesterday. There's some important relationship advice in here!

(The conversation starts off as we're discussing Vanilla Sky.)

Bethany: I think I would've enjoyed it more if I had seen it on my own
Bethany: But by the time it got to the end, I thought the plot was very interesting
Bethany: And he did a good job

Me: He meaning Tom Cruise?

Bethany: Yeah4
Bethany: -4

Me: LOL, I thought you were grading him.
Me: "He did a good job. -4."

Bethany: Haha. What do I rate the people I hate?

Me: -4 BILLION

Bethany: And what's my highest? Do I ever get above -?

Me: God gets a 2.
Me: Your future husband and children will be a 0.

Bethany: LOL

Me: Close friends and family members now are -1.

Bethany: Hey, who says that my family and friends are less than my husbands and children?

Me: *shrug* I dunno, I figured they would be.
Me: Jacob ranks higher than my friends and family.

Bethany: YOU'RE SAYING THAT TOM CRUISE IS ONLY 3 BEHIND FRIENDS AND FAMILY? I do NOT like him that much!

Me: LOL
Me: But HE DID A GOOD JOB!

Bethany: But not THAT good!

Me: Well, maybe you typoed and you meant to say -14 for Tom.

Bethany: And yeah, I guess they will definitely be higher than my friends. I can't say over family until I marry somebody who actually IS over my family. I'm sure they will be.

Me: Yeah, ranking people in order of how much you like them is a little weird.
Me: I mean for me Jacob is definitely my favorite of all the people. haha... but I don't feel bad telling anyone that.

Bethany: Haha, well that works. I haven't found my favorite of all the people other than my own family yet... but maybe that will be a defining thing about whenever I DO find a guy. If I don't like him more than/at least as much as families, then I can't marry him.
Bethany: *MY family

Me: AS MUCH AS ALL FAMILIES EVERYWHERE

Bethany: THAT'S WAY TOO BROAD
Bethany: And unhelpful
Bethany: If I don't like him better than the Bluth family, than I DEFINITELY shouldn't marry him

Me: LOL LOL
Me: "Things to look for in a husband:
1. I like him more than the Bluths."

Bethany: LOL
Bethany: I think I should set my standards a little higher

Me: Well, that's just the first of 942 things on the list.

Bethany: LOL

Me: "544. Wears size 10 1/2 shoes.
545. Sometimes dreams about Disneyland.
546. Has never known anyone named Curtis."

Bethany: LOL
Bethany: I like your suggestions. But not because I'm going to use them.

Me: Fine.

Bethany: Hey, if YOU want to write out a list of 942 things for me, I can compare the next guy to that and see how well he matches up

Me: LOL
Me: Well, that dreaming-about-Disneyland thing is going on there.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Weekend Reads

I missed doing this last week, so here's two weeks' worth of readworthy blogs!

Fun and Funny Stuff

Things My Male Tech Colleagues Have Actually Said to Me, Annotated by Cate Burlington at The Toast
“You got it! Clever girl!” Accolades I would prefer to ‘clever girl’ include: ‘inexorable agent of destruction'; ‘unknowable one'; ‘king’s champion.’ Also acceptable: ‘Gov’nor’ pronounced in a Cockney accent.
Sometimes When I See Anime Clothes at Escher Girls

This is a picture rather than text, so no quote here -- but I like it.

God's Not Dead 2: American Revolution (EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK!) by Tyler Huckabee
SYDNEY: Josh, if you don’t write what Professor Crampton told us to write, then I will never become a Christian and I will never date you.
JOSH: Sydney, I don’t want to date you. [He brushes a lock of her hair back behind her ear.] I want to court you.
SYDNEY: [Biting her lower lip] Oh, Josh. You just—you just—
[JOSH raises a finger to her lips.]
JOSH: Shhhh. You shouldn’t be here, Sydney. I am saving alone time with women for marriage.
If Love Songs Were Written Like Worship Songs by Tyler Huckabee
Verse 1
My girlfriend
My girlfriend
Is so great
Is so great
She will be
My girlfriend
Till the end 
My Real-Time Responses to Headlines on the Men's Health Website by Mallory Ortberg at The Toast

Another one that's picture-heavy, but made me laugh ever so much.

Serious Stuff

Madness in Indiana by Larry Behrendt at Jewish-Christian Intersections
The Act was written to protect the individual’s religious belief. The belief need not be the religion’s belief, or even the belief held by a religious sub-sect or cult. It need only be the religious belief of a single person, so long as the belief is sincere. So if I sincerely believe that Judaism requires me to drive at least 100 miles an hour on the left side of the road, it doesn’t matter under the Act that Judaism teaches no such thing. All that matters is that my belief is sincere. 
Mike Pence's Dishonesty about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by Liz Boltz Ranfield
Here’s the thing: RFRA might not actually do anything to change what discrimination looks like in Indiana, but it was sold to a certain block of voters by telling them that it would. That is a problem.
Instead, perhaps we should teach ALL the girls that they are not some boy’s prize for being brave and not slumming it with a “rotten” girl. They are not an object to be possessed. Their value is not determined by whether boys think they are “good” or “rotten” but rather on the fact that they bear the image of God him/herself. 
The Scandal of a Crucified God by Zack Hunt at American Jesus
For a Church that is increasingly insecure about its eroding power and influence in the world and desperately wants to portray Jesus as an über-manly hero who stands ready to lead the charge as we vanquish our enemies and wrestle control of the world from their cold dead heads, it’s disappointing, uncomfortable, and embarrassing to be confronted with the truth that we worship a crucified God who said “no” to conquest, choosing instead to die naked and alone for the enemies we seek to vanquish.
This is the tragic irony of the culture wars: The casualties tend to be the very people Jesus went out of his way to serve: the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the outcasts, the people ostracized and deemed "sinners" by the religious elite.
Jesus Burdens Our Religious Freedom by James F. McGrath at Exploring Our Matrix
Various things may or may not be legal, but if one is a follower of Jesus, it can be argued that his teachings burden our religious freedom. 
The Clean Reader App and Me by Dianna E. Anderson
Consistently through the work, any mention of the word “sex” was changed to “love,” which is an ideological position imposed upon the text. 
But more disappointing was when I arrived at the chapter about rape culture and consent, only to discover that graphic discussions about rape were not changed. “Rape” was not considered profane by this app creator’s rubric.  
On Rough Days by Taleia at Taleia & Company
It's one of the things I've always loved, the sheer physicality of the water. The touch of it against my skin. On a whim, I stop kicking, blow out my breath in a steady stream, and let myself sink. 
All is quiet under here, muffled, soft. It's easy to feel alone, but in the best possible way, surrounded by light and warmth and the soft pressure of the water on every inch of your body. I open my eyes, and I catch my kid studying me from behind his goggles, trying to figure out what it is that I'm doing. 
(The truth is, I have no idea. Anyone watching would think I'm nuts, and I can't blame them.) 
Mark Driscoll: he is risen indeed! by David Hayward at Naked Pastor
Being a bully is not a mistake, it’s a flaw. Having a domineering spirit is not a mistake, it’s a flaw. Being abusive is not a mistake, it’s a flaw. Being narcissistic is not a mistake, it’s a flaw. A flaw in character. A flaw that needs serious and extended attention. Flaws can be repaired, but it takes a lot of work. These may not all be curable, but they can all be manageable. 
Language Myth #6 at PBS
Another study reported that a male science teacher who managed to create an atmosphere in which girls and boys contributed more equally to discussion felt that he was devoting 90 per cent of his attention to the girls. And so did his male pupils. They complained vociferously that the girls were getting too much talking time. 
Gethsemane: The Most Troubling Story in the Bible? by Kyle Roberts at Unsystematic Theology
There simply is no strong biblical reason to let a (Platonic) idea of divine impassibility trump the theologically and pastorally powerful story of God’s entrance into history as Jesus the Messiah, in which he undergoes serious grief, anxiety, and suffering on our behalf. The implication is not just that Jesus suffers–in his humanity–but that as the unified person Jesus–who shares divinity with God and humanity with us–God also suffers in Jesus. 
Will the real villains please stand up? by Justin Lee at Crumbs from the Communion Table
So as I march into battle against the “bad guys,” with images of their crimes against humanity in my head, they, in turn, have been fed propaganda to convince them that I’m the bad guy, and that they are doing the right thing by avenging or putting a stop to my side’s supposed crimes against humanity. 
Maybe the truth is in between.
Two modes by Kevin Megill at Musing Out Loud
In warrior mode, everyone looks like a potential enemy. It’s hard to move from warrior to mode to nurturing mode. It’s probably equally hard to move in the other direction. 
Why is it always about "women and girls"? by Gina Denny
Why is it always about "women and girls" when we talk about body image? Do you really want to know why? I'll tell you why. . . . 
Because, up until two years ago, I had a mental list of all the things I hated about my body. It was 51 items long. 
Because I know a woman who says she has "hideous earlobes". She wants to have surgery to change her earlobes. EAR. EFFING. LOBES. 
Because a friend posted on Facebook a summary of all the miles she ran one month (hundreds) along with a picture and every single comment on that post  was about how she looked.
Weekend Watches

Every Mumford and Sons Song, Basically - Yeah, this sounds about right.

The Boy Who Cried Literally - And this is why it's important not to take away the word "literally." Sometimes you really, really need it!

#TUNESDAY w HANK GREEN! - Hannah Hart and Hank Green make up songs to give people advice. This is one of my favorite editions of this series.

Without me - ragtime remix - Language warning on this one... but the fact that there's a ragtime remix of Eminem's "Without Me" makes me so happy.

Friday, April 10, 2015

No Quest for Forgiveness Today, But Here Is Some Music!

No QfF today, gang, sorry -- I forgot about it until the last minute and now I am swamped with this rock documentary I'm captioning. I do not anticipate finishing that until RIGHT before its 7 a.m. deadline, at which point I will immediately fall asleep and not wake up until long past when this is due.

So in the meantime, here, this is a song I love a lot and cannot get enough of these days, as performed by the amazing Andrew Rannells:



I could swear by your expression
That the pain down in your soul
Was the same as the one down in mine
That's the pain that cuts a straight line down through the heart
We call it love
We wrapped our arms around each other
Trying to pull ourselves back together
We were making love, making love

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Cool People I Know: March Birthdays

So here is a tribute to the cool people I know who were born in March!


Joel. My brother Joel turned... 18 this year. Yikes. What is he doing being so old? (He's only 15 in this picture of us.) Anyway, he and I haven't always gotten along. He's much more... intense than I am and responds to things much more strongly, both positively and negatively, and that's led to some loud conflict in the past. But that's died down as we've both gotten older, and I'm always impressed by his passion and enthusiasm and how much he loves to share the things he loves with other people. He's a pretty cool kid, and I'm sure that as he keeps getting older (because apparently my siblings do that now) and settles into adulthood, he'll get even cooler.

Lauren. I met Lauren my last year at Huntington, where she came in as a freshman when I was a senior. We worked together on one show before I left to do student teaching, but we chatted a lot that first year. She's an incredibly sweet, interesting, and funny person. I went and saw her in one of her last shows a month and a half ago, and I was struck by how much she'd grown as an actress since we first worked together. It's clear that she works very hard to do her best, and it's totally paid off. Whenever we get a chance to catch up, even a little bit, it's a joy, and I wish her all the best when she graduates this spring.

Josh. Josh and I first met in the Religion and Theatre class we took together, and it was clear from the beginning that he had extremely strong opinions. That has not changed. :-) Many of our interactions have been debating or disagreeing about things in class or on Facebook -- we definitely hold very different worldviews! But he's somebody I wish I had chatted or hung out with more often at school. One of the things I remember most about him is that he had a habit of giving really thoughtful, genuine compliments. For someone like me who often feels invisible and unheard, that went a very long way. I truly wish him the best now that he's graduated and figuring out the next step.


Ashley. My kind and generous friend Ashley, who caught the bouquet at my wedding :-) She was one of the very first people I met from NLDC, when she came with a team to my church a week or two before I joined. She went out of her way to make me feel comfortable, give me the rundown on what to expect, and welcome me into the group. When I arrived at homebase a week later, I think I felt comfortable with her first before anyone else, because she was so enthusiastic about having me there and helping me adjust to the very different world of the drama company. Even though we don't see each other much anymore, I still think of her very fondly and have no doubt that if I was able to make a trip to see her in South Carolina, she'd make me feel just as loved and welcomed as ever.


Angela. OK, first off, calling her that is very weird to me, because I met her online during a short period of her life where she decided to have people call her Anna. Then that stopped and only her parents and I kept calling her Anna. So now I call her Anna but everyone else in the world calls her Angela, so that's what I'll call her here :-) Aaaanyway, she and I have been online writer friends for ages. She's one of those people who I can not talk to for weeks or months, and then when we chat we pick right back up where we left off. She's also possibly the first online friend I met in real life. She was one of the first people I knew who loved Woody Allen movies as much as I did. She and I had long online chats about life and God and fear and all manner of deep things -- some in high school, when we were probably not NEARLY as deep as we thought we were, and then more as we got older. Now we live only a couple hours apart from each other, and some day soon I may just have to find a way to visit her, because it has been far too long.


Lisa. Oh, Lisa. Aside from Jacob, she is easily my best friend. We traveled together my first tour in NLDC, when she went out of her way to make me feel loved and welcome and part of the team, and I connected with her more quickly than I did almost anyone else in the drama company. I didn't realize how much I'd come to rely on her apparently infinite love until I traveled without her the next tour and missed her terribly. Since then we've stayed close, and I am forever amazed by how passionately she loves those around her and how just generally awesome she is. Just spending a little time with her is refreshing for me because I swear love and caring just radiates out of her pores. She also was a champion of me and Jacob long before we were actually dating, back when I just kind of liked him. Then when I decided we were just friends, she still kept being like, "You should date Jacob." When it happened, she may have even been more excited about it than I was :-) I seriously miss her, as she now lives all the way away from me in Texas.

Alisha. I didn't get to spend a lot of time with Alisha before she left NLDC, but the words I immediately think of to describe her as "grounded and stable." That may sound like faint praise, but in the drama company (and in life in general), that's like a breath of fresh air. She was always amazing to talk to because she would have such reasonable, well-thought-out ideas and would listen to you, carefully and thoughtfully, before responding. I wish I'd had more time to spend with her, because I feel like we could have really connected -- I felt so comfortable talking with her about deeper conservation topics.


John. I traveled with John for two NLDC tours, one where he was my peer and another where he was my leader. He became one of my very favorite people during those two tours. He was one of the most positive, optimistic people I ever traveled with, and that helped me to be positive and optimistic too, even amid the chaos of the road and that week where we couldn't ever sleep because the hosts stayed up all night with us playing card games. Having him there, always enthusiastic and always ready to take on the next challenge, I felt happier, bolder, and more adventurous myself.

Christy. Christy and I did youth and drama together at my church, but more than that, we were just general hangout buds. One of my fondest memories with her is our all-night movie marathons, where we'd go to the local video rental store on a weekend, pick out five or six movies, go to one of our houses, and watch and snack all night long. We'd generally get loopy around 4 or 5 in the morning and there would be lots of giggling and chatting rather than watching movies, and sometimes we wouldn't even get to a final one before it was morning and we parted ways to sleep. She was a great person to just *do* stuff with, because she was always up for an adventure. We haven't really chatted a lot in the last few years, but I still love reading her Facebook statuses and knowing that life is going well for her.

Lindsay. My last year at Huntington, Lindsay jumped into the theater program -- or, that is, jumped back into the theater program, as she'd completed several of the classes awhile back and had returned to finish up and graduate a year after me. I'm glad we were at school together, even for the short time we did classes and shows together. She was friendly and funny and easily tapped into my weird mix of humor. (I remember one instance where we were watching some show about gangs and spend a good 15 minutes making fun of the strange member names, most of which sounded like cute pet names.) More than that, though, Lindsay was great to work with. We did several projects together in our directing class, and she was constantly encouraging, giving very specific compliments that meant a lot to someone like me, whose love language is so clearly words of affirmation. Every so often we see each other after graduation, and even though we seldom really sit down and talk, the short bursts of hang out time are great fun, and I wish her all the best.

Jane. In my family's home church and the church where I grew up, Jane is the head pastor's wife and also co-taught the girls' middle school Sunday school class. She is one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I've ever known. She was especially good at seeking out the quiet, shy girls who felt unnoticed and unloved and being someone for them to talk with. Even after I graduated high school and was attending college or traveling with the drama company, she still set up occasional lunch dates whenever I was in town to chat with me about how life was going. She attended my wedding shower in Illinois and wrote me an incredibly sweet card that recalled conversations we'd had in my insecure middle school years and looked at how far God had brought me since then. I'm so thankful to have known her and I can only imagine how many other people's lives she's touched like she did mine.


Brittany. Brittany and I only had one tour together, but it was one of my favorites. What I love most about her is very specific -- she is fantastic at encouraging other people's passions and using them to connect with those people. I've always been pretty nerdy and liked some odd things, and I was often a little hesitant about openly gushing about them because when I love something as much as I do Derek Webb or Jason Robert Brown, it makes me sad when other people don't care. But when I shared my hopes and dreams and loves with Brittany, she got excited on my behalf. It never felt fake, it felt like she was genuinely interested in what I loved and what I was passionate about. It's easy to lose focus or be discouraged in pursuit of the things you love, and Brittany was amazing at not only letting me love things, but helping to fan the flames and leave me forever more encouraged and more excited and more ready to go and make things happen.

Alicia. In my first year at Huntington, I took a Voice and Movement class with Alicia, who was a graduating senior then. That was an incredibly difficult class for me (as I thought it might be -- I'm pretty reserved physically and find it hard to let go), and I often found myself uncertain and unsure. In the midst of all that, Alicia was one of the few upperclassmen who actually went out of her way to get to know me a little. She scheduled lunch dates with me and send me encouraging notes about my work during class. I always take a little (OK, a long) while to find my niche in a new group, but having Alicia there to warmly welcome me into the fold did a lot to help while I found my way.

Erika. I am surprised and very saddened that I have no pictures of me and Erika together! She is one of my favorite people from NLDC, despite the fact that we never actually traveled together. One of the things I appreciate about her most is her... let's call it steadiness. She doesn't fly off the handle or have over-the-top reactions to things because she's having a bad day. Even when she is frustrated or upset, she looks to find reasonable, calm ways to deal with that. This makes her one of the most comfortable people for me to be around and talk to. No matter whether we agree or disagree, I always feel like she hears me and sees where I'm coming from. While this is less important in establishing our friendship, she's also funny and nerdy and likes all sorts of cool things, so she's just awesome all around :-) I love Erika very much and wish we lived closer together so we could hang out more.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Top 100: Intro

I've been wanting for some time to rewatch some of my favorite movies. There are several that either launched themselves into my heart earlier in my life and I haven't seen them in several years, or I watched them once, loved them dearly, and never saw them again -- although those are less likely to be called my all-time favorites. Some I've seen multiple times but they continue to connect with me every time.

I also find that when I do rewatch these, they're my favorites for a reason. They are refreshing. They make me laugh. They make me cry. They resonate in my soul. And when I'm done, I feel I want to talk about them.

So I'm going to start a little project here. I'm calling it The Top 100. I'm going to rewatch each of the movies in my current top 100 on Flickchart. After each movie, I'll write about it -- the things I love, any things I wish were different, maybe my history with the movie. I'll also rerank them on Flickchart. I sometimes find that I'm too hesitant to change the rankings in my top 100, and I'd like to shake that up. Maybe some of these movies are better in my memory than they are in actual watching, and I'll end up with completely different movies at the top of my chart. We'll see.

I'm going to aim for two a month, which would have me finished in a little over 4 years, though given my track record with scheduling projects, I fully expect to fall behind. But the point is that eventually I'll finish it. And at that point, maybe my top 100 will look completely different.

To avoid watching this in perceived declining order (though every movie on here is one I love), I'm going to watch these in a random order. I'll also announce with each blog post what my next one is going to be, so if you'd like to follow along and watch or rewatch some of my absolute favorite movies with me so we can talk about them later when I blog about them, I would love that.

My current top 100 looks like this:

1. Casablanca (1942)
2. Love Actually (2003)
3. Moulin Rouge (2001)
4. Annie Hall (1977)
5. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008)
6. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
7. Singin' in the Rain (1952)
8. Sunset Blvd. (1950)
9. Rear Window (1954)
10. The Truman Show (1998)
11. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
12. Fight Club (1999)
13. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
14. Hairspray (2007)
15. Memento (2000)
16. Mary Poppins (1964)
17. Noises Off (1992)
18. Company: A Musical Comedy (2007)
19. Into the Woods (1991)
20. Back to the Future (1985)
21. West Side Story (1961)
22. The Sixth Sense (1999)
23. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
24. Charlie Bartlett (2007)
25. WALL·E (2008)
26. The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (2003)
27. The Music Man (1962)
28. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
29. Waiting for Guffman (1996)
30. Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
31. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
32. The Princess Bride (1987)
33. Groundhog Day (1993)
34. American Beauty (1999)
35. Donnie Darko (2001)
36. Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)
37. The Odd Couple (1968)
38. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
39. 12 Angry Men (1957)
40. The Last 5 Years (2014)
41. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
42. Charade (1963)
43. The Court Jester (1956)
44. Rent (2005)
45. Newsies (1992)
46. Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
47. Amadeus (1984)
48. The Prince of Egypt (1998)
49. Amélie (2001)
50. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
51. Star Wars (1977)
52. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
53. Lost in Translation (2003)
54. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
55. When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
56. Bug (2006)
57. Before Sunrise (1995)
58. The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
59. My Fair Lady (1964)
60. Star Spangled Girl (1971)
61. Angels in America (2003)
62. Legally Blonde: The Musical (2007)
63. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
64. The Seven Year Itch (1955)
65. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
66. Cyrano De Bergerac (1990)
67. Wit (2001)
68. Up (2009)
69. Frost/Nixon (2008)
70. Ladyhawke (1985)
71. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
72. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
73. Billy Elliot (2000)
74. The Lion King (1994)
75. The Remains of the Day (1993)
76. Doubt (2008)
77. Proof (2005)
78. Ordinary People (1980)
79. Vanilla Sky (2001)
80. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
81. All the President's Men (1976)
82. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
83. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
84. Dave (1993)
85. Back to the Future Part II (1989)
86. Desk Set (1957)
87. While You Were Sleeping (1995)
88. The History Boys (2006)
89. 1776 (1972)
90. Midnight in Paris (2011)
91. Peter Pan (1953)
92. Chicago (2002)
93. Schindler's List (1993)
94. Shrek (2001)
95. Harvey (1950)
96. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
97. A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
98. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
99. Tootsie (1982)
100. The Producers (1968)

Some of these movies will remain. Some will leave. Some will shift all around and land higher or lower on the list.

Choosing my first movie with a random number generator, it looks like my first movie is... #83, Sleepless in Seattle.

So I'll be watching that in the next couple weeks, reranking it, and writing about it, and I'd love to invite you all to watch it and talk about it with me! I'll post about it no earlier than April 20, so you have at least until then for a watch or a rewatch.