My Latest Reason for Not Sleeping

I haven’t been sleeping much lately. Mostly this is from stress. I decided I need to do something to de-stress. My usual go-tos of alcohol and exercise weren’t helping, so I decided to try a strategy recently recommended to me by a colleague. I decided to try reading fiction. And since the piece of crap book I’m trying to slog my way through wasn’t helping either, I decided to pick up some new fiction.

I was at Target to buy a new flashdrive, and I had to walk by the books to get to electronics. I saw The Hunger Games on a display, and since the same colleague had also recommended this book, I decided to pick it up.

When I couldn’t sleep again Friday night I decided to start reading it.

Bad mistake.

At 4am I finally got to sleep.

The good news is I read it in two nights (I skipped Saturday). The bad news is that’s because I stayed up till 5:45am on Monday to finish the damn thing. Keep in mind I’m a sleep deprived narcoleptic who tends to fall asleep after five pages.

The question is: why?

Admittedly, the writing style has some minor issues. Most notably a tendency to break the “show me, don’t tell me” rule. And yet, I’m totally addicted. And unlike with Twilight I’m not even ashamed of being addicted. I’d blame this on social pressure, but you all know how eagerly I admitted my soap opera addiction, so that seems doubtful.

I could give you the answers everyone else seems to give regarding this book: the social commentary inherent in the dark future and the strong female character. Those are both true. I like that Katniss is not just a strong female character, she’s a well rounded one. Let’s face it—emotionally the girl’s a train wreck.  Understandably so.

But I think the truth is that the book actually does a remarkable job of blending plot and character. A lot of popular fiction these days is all about plot. Which bores me. A lot of other writers (myself included) get so distracted by character they forget they need a story. This book balances both forces perfectly. Enough that it can break my heart and keep my heart pounding for five hours.

Needless to say I can’t wait to read the other two books. But I’m not letting myself stop them till Spring Break. When not sleeping won’t be such a problem.

One Step Closer to the Crazy Old Lady I’m Destined to Be

The other night I made a late run to the grocery store after work.  It was about 9:45 when I was coming home, pitch black out with a few snowflakes starting to fall.

So I was more than a little shocked as I turned into the neighborhood when my headlights cast across two boys around the age of 13 or 14 clambering all over the big sign displaying the name of the subdivision.  A name that includes the word “Stone.”  I’m sure I need not trifle with your intelligence by listing the kinds of spray-paint additions that the idiot children of this predominantly upper middle class community like to make to that sign.

It being snowy, dark, and a school night, about the only reason I could see for two young teen boys to be on and around that sign–and not home on their X-Boxes hijacking virtual police cars or taking out enemy foxholes with pixelated grenades–was to entertain residents of this subdivision with their wit and potential Scrabble acumen.

I very nearly pulled the car over to roll down the window and start questioning what the hell they thought they were doing out there, but it really wasn’t a good place to stop.  While it was later in the evening, there was still a fair amount of traffic about (did I mention that these were idiot children?), and while I do relish the stress relief of verbally berating others, I didn’t want to negate that by getting my damned car rear-ended by someone else turning in to the subdivision.

So, I reluctantly continued home, wondering if they would have added their marker to the sign by the time I got in my garage.  I supposed I would know the next day on my way to work.  The obnoxious little shits….

And that’s when the part of me that is destined to become the mean old hag at the end of the cul-de-sac with the 15 cats who sits out on the front porch shaking her fist and yelling at those “damn kids” decided that she was not satisfied.  If I wasn’t going to yell at them personally, I was still going to teach ’em.

I called the cops.

Sure, it’s a small step.  It lacks the satisfaction of personally hollering and asking those kids why they can’t find anything better to do than deface others’ property, but there’s a certain amount of twisted “feel good” I get while imagining the local PD rolling up on the little miscreants and handing down a level of intimidation I’m not currently capable of providing.

In my imagined version?  They cry and repent.

Coffee with Bernadette Peters

Would we drink coffee with Bernadette Peters?

Kristy: For context, she’s this week’s choice because tomorrow is her birthday and because I just rewatched the recording of the original Broadway Cast of Into the Woods. Hmm… I guess so. I have reservations because as much as I’ve enjoyed a lot of her work, I really have no clue what she is like in real life. But I guess the whole point of “Coffee with…” is to find out what people are really like (even if it’s all hypothetical) so why not? In addition to actually getting to meet her, you figure she’s got to have some great behind the scenes stories. Besides a respectable number of Broadway shows she worked on the movie version of Annie, Animaniacs, and Ugly Betty (just to give you an idea of the random assortment). You just know she has random bits of info on other famous people, trivia about this and that. I should prove to be interesting if nothing else.

 

*Speaking of random trivia: A woman behind the counter at a bagel shop once insisted she couldn’t comprehend my order (which I had given three times) because she was distracted by how much I looked like Bernadette Peters. This is amusing to anyone who knows me on account of the fact that I really don’t look anything like Bernadette Peters.

 

Cammy: Given that Bernadette Peters has done such a wide variety of cool stuff (ANIMANIACS!!!), I assume that she would be the kind of cool person you could have coffee with.  But, like Kristy, I know little about her other than her work in Animaniacs, Annie and Into the Woods.  And, on top of that, I’m Broadway Ignorant for the most part.  So there’s a definite intimidation and uncertainty factor here.  I think I’m in for at least buying her coffee as a salute for her work that I’ve enjoyed, but I’m totally prepared to scoot off to the other side of the Spacial Anomaly in the event that she’s not up to providing trivia and chatting.

Changing the Channel Part II: Days of Our Lives

So for part II of my changing the channel adventure, I decided to check out Days of our Lives. I didn’t really have much of a concrete reason for choosing this one other than the online buzz for the show at this point seems fairly decent.

I didn’t have any trouble figuring out what was going on. For the most part (more on this later). Just like in stereotypes they do a good enough job of working exposition into scenes that it’s easy enough to catch up. Even though there’s major plotline that seems to be referencing some deep history.

Over all, I’m digging the show a bit more than B&B (which annoys me since it’s twice as long). There are things I definitely like about it. I like that they’ve spent a lot of time dealing with the friendship dynamics between Abigail and Melanie. Abigail kind of grates on my nerves, but the big issue is that television usually gets so swept up in couple swapping that they forget to include non-sexual friendships. And friendships can be just as compelling dramatically. I loved watching Melanie listen to Abbey’s whole story about sleeping with her married professor boss. You could see Melanie thinking that her friend was crazy and stupid and yet trying to still be a good friend. A lot of us have been there. It was a nice touch of reality.

Other things I like: EJ is a wonderful villain. Smarmy and smug. Devious. But he’s also multifaceted—seems to actually have some sort of a heart and feelings etc. I was blindsided by the revelation that EJ and Sami had slept together (this is a big deal because they’re both married to other people) because ordinarily on soaps when people have secrets they talk about them constantly, loudly, in public locations. I’m amazed that the show enabled me to be surprised. Nicely done. On the other hand, I wasn’t entertained by Sami’s husband Rafe making out with her sister Carrie because they kept building and building to it, yet I don’t really see any chemistry between the two. I’m also incredibly sick of listening to Sami yell at people about it. I hate when television shows do this thing where they have characters have the same conversation over and over again and it goes nowhere. Oops, this was supposed to be the things I liked. I like Will. By which I mean Will is an obnoxious little punk, but that’s an accurate portrayal of a young man in his late teens/early 20s. Particularly one simultaneously struggling with being in the closet and knowing his mother cheated on the step-father he really likes with the ex-step-father he hates. I liked the corporate espionage storyline with Sami and Madison, particularly in the way it made it clear that people around the two women would not have been so upset out of similar behavior by men. Nice. I like that the professor sleeping with the student subplot didn’t go with the standard seductive teacher but when with the kinda psycho undergrad. (By the way, since you may not be watching, they didn’t actually sleep together, she’s just convinced him they did. He was actually too drunk to stay conscious that long).

Things I dislike: Stefano is simultaneously too much of a cartoon villain and not enough of a cartoon villain. It’s hard to do a fleshed out caricature, and they aren’t pulling it off. I’m not entertained by this whole subplot where Hope (who thinks she’s married to Bo) is actually married to John (who thinks he’s married to Marlena). I don’t care. I don’t get why they care so much. I just want it over. I don’t like the whole election storyline because I’m clearly supposed to be rooting for Abe, but I can’t get past is unethical behavior (he let someone give him the debate questions ahead of time while slipping his opponent fake debate questions). His whole logic that his opponent (the aforementioned EJ) was dirty and so he had to sink down to fight him at that level didn’t convince me. Nor did his desperation that EJ would do horrible things as mayor. Seriously, he’d just be mayor. Too my knowledge that doesn’t come with missile codes or anything. How badly could he screw things up in one term? I was relieved when Abe’s wife finally pointed that out to him, but not relieved enough to like this storyline.

So over all, I’m definitely liking it more that Bold and the Beautiful. But I’m not loving it. I’m not invested in it. When my DVR crashed and erased an episode I wasn’t that upset. I didn’t even go watch it online. Maybe investment takes time. I had half a lifetime invested in OLTL and I don’t expect to feel that for any other show any time soon. But I’m still trying to support scripted drama where I can. And I’ll admit I’ve been thrilled to see ratings for all the non-ABC soaps increasing while the ratings for ABC’s new reality show nosedive into the toilet.

Downton Fail!

If you were waiting last night for our weekly Downton Redux, you were disappointed. I doubt this actually happened to anyone seeing as I don’t think we have many readers who don’t follow me on twitter, and I spent a good chunk of time whining about this on twitter. My DVR has been acting squirrely for weeks. I knew it was going to need to be replaced. When it crashed on Thursday night, deleting all my recordings for the second time in two weeks, I knew it needed to be replaced soon. But I was leaving town Friday morning and I was able to get it back online, so I figured I’d deal with it another time. When I got back on Saturday night it needed to be reset twice, but each time came online without deleting anything. And I was tired, so I did nothing about it. I had to reset it again on Sunday, but I was still tired and my vertigo had returned. And once again, I was able to get it working again. I was even able to watch things I had recorded on it. I decided to call AT&T on Monday.

About 6:00pm it started making a funny noise (I wasn’t watching TV at the moment) and I realized it needed to be reset again. Only this time restarting it didn’t work. I tried resetting the gateway it connects to and that didn’t help. Then I tried unplugging it and resetting everything. Usually that wipes my DVR but gets it going again. Not this time. I went to online customer service (AT&T has recently made the phone number for customer service nearly impossible to find). The man on the other end of our chat talked me through restoring my DVR to factory settings. This still did nothing. He informed me that he would send someone out to repair/replace it and the earliest time slot available was 8:00am on Monday morning (due to my work schedule we had to schedule a much later one, but that’s not relevant to the story.)

And that’s when the nagging fear I’d had since Saturday night became a reality. I would not get to watch the Downton Abbey Christmas special when it came on at 9:00pm. Yes, it would later be available online. Yes, my friend J who lives across town and currently owes me some serious karma already has the DVDs and I could borrow it from him. Yes, my mother bought me the DVDs as a thank you for introducing her to the series and for paying off my car early and will probably get them to me by this weekend. No, it was not the end of the world in any way.

But I still sat down and sobbed. Then I realized it was stupid to cry over such a trivial thing when there are so many worse things going on in the world. Heck, there are many worse things going on in my life. This only made me cry harder.

You have to understand I am having the semester from hell. In the past couple weeks I have been reminded/realized 1) that I am a tiny insignificant cog in an overworked system 2) my staff sucks and I have to do all of their jobs 3) I have been screwed over by my committee 4) I will probably not get to take my qualifying exams this semester as planned 5) I am really not all that smart, and that might be an impediment in my chosen career path.  Add to that a severe case of vertigo.

In the midst of all that, the one bright spot has been Downton Abbey. It’s the only show on television I look forward to watching. It’s also the only time in the week I stop multitasking. Any other television I watch while grading papers, sending emails, cooking/eating meals, working out, etc. But for the past several weeks on Sunday night I take my shower early, fix myself a cup of tea or a glass of wine or both, and sit on my couch in my jammies with my kitty on my lap and lose myself in a delicious bit of fluff.

Last night that opportunity was taken away from me. And, naturally, I did the neurotic grad student thing of telling myself it was because I don’t deserve to relax like that. I have too much work to do to spend two hours watching television unless I’m also doing something productive. This was probably the judgment of the universe punishing me for being a slacker. I hadn’t been as productive Sunday morning as I could have—this was my punishment. Hell, if I had just had the initiative to contact AT&T in the morning I might have been able to get it fixed earlier. I had only myself to blame.

In the end it’s still not the end of the world. Some very sweet stranger on Twitter let me know I could watch on YouTube, quickly adding a note that he would ordinarily not endorse such a thing, but he recognized it was a major emergency. It was bizarrely touching. And since I knew I was useless for grading papers (I would have failed everyone) I decided to indulge a little bit. Not trusting the image quality on YouTube I decided to rewatch last week’s episode on PBS.com. I didn’t relax the whole time—I was periodically minimizing it so I could print today’s attendance sheets, packing everything I would need for today at work, and organizing the papers I was not going to grade until today. But I also relaxed some. I drank a cup of tea and a glass of wine. I ate a Reese’s peanut butter egg that’s been in my freezer since last Easter. I looked though my cookbooks for my next ice cream recipe.

And the upshot is that next Sunday, when I otherwise would have had to deal with the reality of no Downton till next year, I can lounge on my couch and relax one last time.

A Foolish Fixation

So… I missed my post on Wednesday. And I’m making today’s post only moments into the day. This is really all because I’m going to a conference this Friday and Saturday. But it’s really, really because of a particular road trip fixation I have: having the proper music. And because I have a CD player in my car that plays data CDs, this boils down to making the perfect massive mixed CD.

Driving back from Virginia this January I engineered CDs that held seven or eight musicals, because musicals are the perfect music for road trips. But this time around I’m driving several other students of various backgrounds, musical tastes, and languages. So musicals didn’t seem the best choice (particularly in that one of my passengers hates musicals so much he dislikes “Once More with Feeling” even though he’s a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan). So mix CD it is.

But it was extra pressure. Figuring what of my music would go over with my friends. Not helped by the fact that two of my passengers are ethnomusicologists. People who study music for a living. So I wound up spending several hours that I logically should not have putting together the perfect playlist on Wednesday. Only to have my burning program malfunction and decide it would not work. So I switched to a different program and rebuilt my playlist. Well… I started to, because it crashed halfway through and erased what I had done so far.

So we’ll hope the CD works. Because if it didn’t I will realize that all that time was an even bigger waste of time than it seems.

Travesty of a Time Vampire

This time vampire is one that I will never repeat (if I can help it).  Truth be told, I knew it was a bad idea.

Once upon a time, a dude named Kevin Sullivan made two fabulous miniseries portraying much of the Anne of Green Gables series.  It was not completely true to the books, but the creative license taken was forgiveable.

Then came a third series.  We try not to talk about this one.  It diverges so far from the actual books as to make it a travesty.  Rather than use the plethora of material in the books and bring to life the characters we knew and loved, this third installment utterly screwed the timeline (moving Anne a full generation later) and had no characters or plot remotely resembling the real thing.  I own the DVD only because I could not obtain the original two mini-series without it being stuck in the box–if I could have handed it back to the clerk, I would have done so.

So, when I found out that Mr. S was making a prequel to Anne, I knew this would be a train wreck.  After all, the pre-Green Gables period in Anne’s life is summed up in a chapter in Anne of Green Gables and a tiny pilgrimage in Anne of the Island.  In order to build a prequel, we would again be subject to completely non-canon material.

I avoided this one like the plague for several years.  But, when I stumbled on it at the library today, it jumped out at me.  After all, I’d gone through the other travesty and survived.  I might as well complete the full cycle, right?

ZOMG.

WRONG.

The scenery is gorgeous (as one would expect–it’s the same parts of Ontario-masquerading-as-PEI as featured in prior productions).  And the cast is quite good (Shirley MacLaine is always awesome, of course, but there’s no weak link in the cast–even the kids do a good job).  But no amount of scenery and acting makes up for the weakness in the material.  The timeline is still screwed up, it’s full of anachronisms and multiple key moments in the show are clearly cribbed from either prior Anne series or Jane Eyre.  Even the relationships themselves are clearly shadows of those in the real Anne series (Mrs. Thomas and Anne is a poorly drawn Marilla and Anne).

If I was able to completely set aside everything I know about Anne and treat this as a true stand alone story, it might not be too horrible (other than the anachronisms, but even those could partly be overlooked).  A family-friendly kind of costume drama.  The trouble is, they throw the Anne part in your face so much with those cribbed moments and copied snippets of dialog (and the care to cast the same Mrs. Hammond from the earlier miniseries).  It’s like Anne is being used as a marketing tool to sell something that someone wasn’t sure would stand up on its own (when, really, without that, it may have done better).

More than two hours Hoover’d outta my life to see one of my favorite literary universes subjected to a Mary Sue prequel.  This is to Anne fans what Star Wars I-III were to those of us who grew up in a world that started with Episode IV.

 

Colorful Casting

I have a very crappy memory about some of the strange mental exercises Kristy and I collaborate on.  Thankfully, Kristy is more inclined to recall our more creative moments (and save documents) than I am, so she was able to dredge up our attempt to a dream cast for the musical Into the Woods.  We had a few minor holes to plug in tonight, but we managed to figure out those final few  (the Steward, for example) to bring you the cast that we’d assemble if we could.  This list involved a lot of thought–weighing Willie Nelson against members of ZZ Top, evaluating what artist would be most likely to be the embodiment of a tree, splitting roles to accommodate just the right people.   And here we have it:

Witch–Anne Hathaway
Narrator–Dule Hill
Cinderella — Andrea Corr
Baker – Neil Patrick Harris
Baker’s Wife–Zooey Deschanel
Jack–Eric Millegan
Jack’s Mother–Mary McDonnell
Little Red Ridinghood–Amber Riley*
Cinderella’s Stepmother–Allison Janey
Florinda–Tricia Helfer
Lucinda–Kristen Bell
Cinderella’s Father — Nathan Fillion
Cinderella’s Mother — Emmylou Harris
Mysterious Man –Willie Nelson
Wolf–Antonio Banderas
Rapunzel–Kristen Chenowith
Rapunzel’s Prince–James Roday
Grandmother–Reba**
Cinderella’s Prince–Hugh Jackman
Steward — TJ Thyne
Giant’s Wife — Patricia Belcher***
Snow White — Michaela Conklin
Sleeping Beauty — Maggie Lawson
Baker’s Baby — Ardilla Voladora****
*Originally we had Lindsay Lohan cast here, but this was before her most recent bout of drinking, drugs and flaunting judicial orders.  Much as we know that she once had the talent to rock the part, until she can sober the fuck up, she is off the list.
** We realize that some people might have a time with a black Red Riding Hood who has a painfully white, red-headed grandma but A) we embrace diverse families because we both have them and B) if Keanu Reeves and Denzel Washington could be brothers in Much Ado About Nothing, this is just as plausible.
***If Reba really doesn’t work as Grandma in workshop, we’ll swap Patricia Belcher in and make Reba the Giantess.
****Ardilla Voladora is a story for another post.

Coffee with a Fellow Alum

Would we drink coffee with Jon Stewart?

Kristy: I’m really kind of shocked this one hasn’t come up before. I actually did a search before writing this, because although I couldn’t remember doing one, it seemed we must have. But if we have, I can’t find it.

The short answer is: Hell yes. How could I not? He’s that William and Mary alumni that gave all the rest of us hope that we might actually be cool some day. And not cool in the frat boy, business major kind of way, because those of us who weren’t that already had no desire to be. Cool in that smart, funny, people listen to me and love me kind of way. There are a lot of things I love about Mr. Stewart. He brings the funny and knows how to use humor to call attention to things that need it and to elevate the conversation. I love that he doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously. These things would be enough to make me buy him a cup of coffee. But I’d also sit down with him for a cup because there are things I’d love to ask him: What’s the truth behind his time at W&M? He’s alluded several times to not being happy during that time, was it the general pressure cooker that is W&M or was there something else? None of my business, but that doesn’t matter at the Spacial Anomaly Coffee Bar and Refueling station. I’d love random gossip about what the people he’s worked with over the years are really like. I’d love to know his actual opinions on current events. And just in case he ever misses the ‘Burg, I’d bring him ginger cakes and maybe even a Cheese Shop sandwich.

Cammy:  Oh, hell yeah!  As Kristy said, how could I not?  We owe him coffee for giving us hope.  And it would be interesting to find out how he feels about being the bench mark for W&M students to aspire to (move over, TJ).  I’d like to get his stories of the most surprisingly funny interview-ees.  He’s nerd enough that he’s interviewed a lot more than just entertainment personalities, so which of those writers, politicians, historians, etc. really caught him off-guard with their ability to banter back?   I also need to apologize for hating his guts for the first 6 months he was doing The Daily Show (I was a fan back in the Craig Kilborn days and was pissed when Kilborn left.  I took it out on the new guy.  Until I realized the new guy was way funnier).

Feminine Mystery

 

I’ve always said I’m grateful to have had a brother (even though growing up there were plenty of times I wasn’t grateful to have my brother) because I think I understand the opposite sex much better than girls who grow up without them. There’s something about spending that much time in a nonsexual relationship with a member of the opposite sex that is very educational and helps you avoid certain misunderstandings if you start dating the opposite sex when you grow up. Now my brother and I are six years apart and even though we have a good relationship we weren’t super close, so I’m sure there are plenty of things I still don’t understand about guys, but I still find myself from time to time explaining male behavior to friends who’ve done more dating than I have, just because they don’t get men.

Tonight I was reminded of just exactly how much women can remain a mystery to men without sisters. I’m often amused to discover that my male friends actually believed certain movie stereotypes about women; for example, they’re often disappointed to learn that at slumber parties we don’t sit around in our underwear braiding each others’ hair (apologies to our male readers if I just shattered any fantasies). But I had never encountered the particular delusion my friend K suffered from until tonight.

K is at a special disadvantage in that he has no sisters, he works in a male dominated profession, and he’s gay. He’s spent seriously limited time around women. Tonight a bunch of us were drinking some apocalypse cocktails (don’t ask) and one of our mutual friends left, leaving behind a skirt she had just been given. We realized it after she left and there was a lot of joking about what to do with it. Someone offered it to me, as the lone remaining female, but I quickly demurred on the grounds that the lime green color would make me look like I was suffering from a liver disease. Then K picked it up and pretended like he was going to put it on. He looked inside and said, “Wait, where are the pants?”

We all looked back at him blankly, not knowing what he meant and he said, “It’s just a tube of fabric.” We pointed out that’s what all skirts are and he looked totally confused. He motioned to me (I was wearing a skirt and tights) and said, “Yours has pants attached to it.” I shook my head and stated that I was simply wearing tights underneath my skirt. “But you have short type things under the skirt,” he insisted. I shook my head. “So if I looked under your skirt I would see your underwear?” “Sort of.” I tried not to look too offended when he shivered at the prospect.

Turns out that he believed all skirts were skorts or that they were made like dance skirts with trunks attached. Poor boy had just never had occasion to put one on take one off, or look underneath one. I guess us ladies retain more mystery than we think.