Rantings of a Picky Pen User

Apparently, I’m just too picky for my own good.  First I bitch and moan about trying to find the perfect purse/bag (I found a reasonable substitute….it’s being field tested as I type this….I’m finding chinks in its armor….), now I’m going to bitch about pens.

About a year and a half ago, I finally got my first fountain pen.  I picked it up in part because I liked the old-fashioned novelty and in part because I’d heard that it can make writing more comfortable for people who are experiencing hand/arm strain/pain (which I was starting to have problems with…very troublesome for a girl who loves to write things out longhand).  I can’t say for sure there’s not some placebo effect going on, but I feel like it has made a difference in my writing comfort–the change in angle and the reduction in the amount of pressure necessary to write have made a difference.

Unfortunately, the big draw back to fountain pens is that it can be very tricky combining them with air travel.  Because of my crappy luck, I wasn’t about to tempt fate on my travels and risk winding up with an ink disaster somewhere over the Pacific.  So, I am having to resort to ball points.

At the time of this writing, I am just finished with leg-one of this adventure.  A one hour and fifteen minute flight.  And I have NO IDEA how I’m going to survive with just a ballpoint pen.

I’m totally not used to writing with these anymore.  I have to press so hard, and the lines look so dry and weak after consistently having those liquid, flowing, solid lines you get with a fountain pen (even the extra fine nibs like I use).  And my hand is already cramping.  Granted, some of this is just because I’m out of practice for this type of writing instrument, but….

Yes, I’m whining.

At one time I thought a gel pen or a roller ball was going to be the solution, but I’ve had a lot of trouble with those on planes.  I don’t know if it’s my crappy luck again, or if it has something to do with the dry air in the cabin, or the altered pressure, but roller balls and gel pens skip and dry up on me on planes.  And, to be honest, they are only marginally better than a ball point as far as writing (they do seem to require less pressure for me).

I’m sure I’ll survive somehow, but I think my written output is going to suffer because of all this.

Movie Review: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

Title:  Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
Director:  Karan Johar
Starring:  Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Rani Mukerji

This movie fits into the category of Secret Heresy.  I should not like this movie.  It’s ridiculous, campy (literally and figuratively), and more full of cheeZe than a Velveeta factory…but it’s also strangely addictive and a rather essential film to watch if you’re going to get educated on Hindi films.

In Bollywood watching circles liking Kuch Kuch Hota Hai isn’t really heretical.  It’s pretty well liked over at Bollywhat, and if you’re getting into Hindi films, you will probably encounter plenty of references to this both in discussions and in movies themselves (Kabie Khushie Khabie Gham, by the same director, and also starring Kajol and Shahrukh Khan has plenty of KKHH in-jokes) but when surrounded by non-Bollywood film fans, this probably isn’t the thing you’re going to trot out on movie-night.

Let’s summarize this Cammy-style starting with the first half of the film, most of which is a flashback.  Imagine Bayside High from Saved By the Bell.  Now stick it in India.  And add song and dance numbers (if you’re picturing the infamous “I’m So Excited” episode, know that you’re not alone, but no one here will have a drug problem–this is family style Bollywood–and we’ve expanded our dance troupe way beyond The Max), slap brand name logos on everything that stands still for 5 seconds, include people who cannot dribble a basketball with any level of respectability and stir in liberal use of wind machines.

The second half, hmmmm, imagine a one-kid, highly condensed, musical version of The Parent Trap, mixed with The Sound of Music’s rain-soaked gazebo scene (only better and fulfilling the semi-obligatory wet-sari criteria for most Bollywood films), a kid who sees dead people, the decorations from a church basement kindergarten Sunday School classroom, a smattering of anti-British Indian patriotism, and a last minute wedding-crisis averted scene.  In Hindi.

You want to see it now, don’t you?

The real summary is more like this:  Little Anjali is given a mission from beyond the grave.  Little Anjali’s mother, Tina, knew she was dying right after her daughter was born, and so wrote her one letter for each of her first 8 birthdays.  Little Anjali is chomping at the bit to open the final letter when the movie opens…but this one is different.  Tina tells her daughter the story of how she met Little Anjali’s father, Rahul–and how their meeting ended his relationship with his tomboyish best friend, Anjali (hereinafter known as “Original Anjali”).  Tina knew Rahul and Original Anjali belonged together, and she’s using the only tool at her disposal to rectify the situation she caused:  from beyond the grave she instructs her little girl to play matchmaker.  So, Little Anjali and her Grandma figure out where Original Anjali wound up….they track her to a kids’ summer camp, and wherever Little Anjali disappears off to, her doting Dad must follow, so there, in the middle of singing, dancing kids, Original Anjali–who is no longer a tomboy and now engaged to be married–and Rahul re-unite.  Of course there’s some drama, what with the fiance (who is not a bad guy so it’s not like you’re rooting for his ultimate demise), but it’s classic Bollywood, so you know it all comes out right in the end (but only after multiple song-and-dance numbers and a lot of glycerin tears).

The good:
-It’s fun
-It’s colorful
-It’s got great Bollywood Song and dance numbers (and if the title theme doesn’t get stuck in your head, I kinda hate you)
-The love triangle between Rahul, Tina and Anjali is the first love triangle I’ve ever encountered on film, tv or in a book where I really didn’t hate one of the pairings.  I mean, it’s a given that Rahul and Anjali belong together, but I don’t hate Tina, not even in the flashbacks.  It’s to the point where I literally cannot understand the people who are avowed “Tina Haters.”
-The little boy counting the stars.
-What Anjali sees at the wedding
-You will wind up spotting references in other films

The delightfully bad:
-Re-living Saved by the Bell for the first half of the film.  ZOMG, it’s wrong to miss the early 90s this much….
-The most unrealistic basketball playing ever in the history of ever
-Even MORE unrealistic “playing” of musical instruments (Rani Mukherji and Shahruhk Khan, have you REALLY never watched people play a guitar?!?!?)
-Obligatory random song scene in a painfully European location

The Just Bad:
– The outcome of the second basketball game (so much for sportsmanship and women)
– Miss Burganza and Principal Malhotra (WTF was all that??)
– Every time “The Neelam Show” was on
– They couldn’t put Little A in a better outfit for the wedding?  Really?

The part of me that wants to shun cheese, cliche, over-the-top acting moments (“CHEATER CHEATER CHEATER!”) wants to put this as a 2, but that part is way smaller than it ought to be.  I’m embarrassed to say it, but for the cheesy fun, and the educational reference for further Bollywood watching, I give this 3.75 jars of peanut butter.

The Bobby Pin Time Forgot

I feel like this one should be filed in the same category as the zombie tomato story. But I have no photo documentation.

I went to brush my teeth tonight and  noticed something sticking out of the drain. For one frightened moment I thought it was a bug of some sort, but I quickly realized it was the rounded end of a bobby pin. Well that’s not all together surprising. I live with a small ball of orange fluff who frequently knocks things such as bobby pins into the sink. Assuming this was what had happened I grabbed it and pulled it out.

That’s when I discovered this was the bobby pin time forgot.

Actually, I’m just saying that because it’s a cool name. Clearly time had not forgotten this one, since it was rusted beyond belief and wrapped in a whole bunch of my hair. Now none of this is incredibly surprising. One can easily deduce how a bobby pin got in my drain and how a bunch of hair got in my drain and if they’re down there together, they’re going to get tangled.

What I don’t get, is how I never noticed it before. I mean, a good quarter inch of it was visible, and this is not the first time I’ve brushed my teeth recently. This leads me to suspect it wasn’t visible, but if that’s not the case, where was it? Did it fall further down and get shot up by some sort of air bubble? Was it there, but not visible and something caused it to shift just enough to be visible? Is there a time slip in my sink drain?

Altogether, not a momentous experience, but certainly an odd one.

(She said before the bobby pin climbed out of the trash and ate the Commonwealth of Virginia.)

Movie Review: Bunty aur Babli

Title:  Bunty aur Babli
Director: Shaad Ali
Starring: Rani Mukerji, Abhishek Bachchan

This film was one of the 10-run Rani-Mukerji-stalking-my-Netflix-recs incidents. The first time I watched it, I wasn’t sure I’d ever watch it again.  A month later, I owned a copy and was working on a true effort to be able to replicate the dance steps to “Nache Ballye”

I just had so many misgivings. Despite the safety net I had going on (the ever-present, inescapable Rani Mukerji), I was unsure.  Who was this Abhishek Bachchan guy?  This con-artist jaunt across India….would this be too over the top?  Did I even like the idea of a movie centered on criminals?  That cover art looked awfully….bright.   How head trippy were the musical numbers going to be?  Would Rani Mukerji continue to be someone who delivered good performances?

Oh, me, of little faith.

I really did resist.  Even after seeing Abhishek and acknowledging that I had here a Bollywood candidate for the “Mama liiiiiiiiiiiiiike” category of male attractiveness, I remained aloof.

I tried to dismiss the first song based on Rani rockin’ the side ponytail.
I tried to dismiss the proliferation of the bright-and-shiny colors.
I tried to dismiss the fantastic montage of con-artist wackiness presented with an overlay of the Bunty aur Babli song.
I tried to dismiss the delightfully over-the-top cheeZe of Vimmi’s sobbing  “MUMMMMMMYYYYYYY!”
I tried to dismiss the appearance of Abhishek’s Daddy Amitabh-the-Awesome and of Abhishek’s wife Aishwayra Rai (the sickeningly beautiful).
I tried to dismiss the cliches, the completely BollyWTF moment that is the Nache Ballye dance number, and the totally X-Files/Men-In-Black ending.

I actually walked away after the first viewing saying, “Well, that was entertaining.  I’ve seen something else from Rani Mukerji, which is adds to my unwilling collection….but I don’t need to see that again.”

But about a week and a half later, I had a moment where I realized the “Dhadak Dhadak” was stuck in my head I thought I’d watch just the one song.  That was all she wrote.

It’s just a fun movie.  The songs are very peppy, very danceable, and very catchy.  Abischek is funny (and fun to look at), and Rani once again proves she’s got acting talent every time Vimmi sobs and you laugh instead of rolling your eyes.

Maybe it’s just the lack of a fun, whacky, colorful movie in my collection that made this one so entertaining that I bought a copy, but when I try to find an English language equivalent of this type of straight up fun?  I’m at a loss.

I wouldn’t count this one as an Intro-To-Bollywood flick for the average viewer, but for the Glee-lovin’, Broadway-worshiping type?  Bunty aur Babli might just be a fabulous starting point.

Things I Liked:
-Way more of Vimmi and Babli’s outfits that I ought to admit (really want the blue dress from the first con)
-The wedding and wedding night scenes
-Every.  Single.  Song.
-The old Sikh with the bus who stops to help
-The federal agent ending

Things I didn’t Like:
-Amitabh’s hair (but this is a universal problem, not just this flick)
-I could have done with a little more non-musical development during the series of cons (discussion of what they would vs. wouldn’t do…clearly Babli drew some boundaries)
-I want more after the Fed-wear ensues!  Where’s Bunty aur Babli II????

Dizzy Time Vampire Part II

So… I haven’t been good about this “keeping the blog going while Cammy’s in another hemisphere” thing. While this is really because I’m a lazy procrastinator, I’m going to blame it on this week’s time vampire.

About a year and a half ago, I blogged about vertigo as a time vampire. I complained that it made it impossible to do anything and all I could do was lie in bed and watch costume dramas on Netflix. Well I’ve discovered something worse: having vertigo and not being able to lie around doing nothing.

Yeah, my vertigo came back a few weeks ago. The upside is, this time I have a diagnonsense—eustachian tube dysfunction aggravated by an upper respiratory virus. Yeah, I viral infection I totally didn’t notice until the doctor pointed it out. I’d like to pretend it’s surprising that I could have an illness like that and not notice, but… yeah, it’s not at all. So a diagnosis is nice and all, but it’s not a cure. I was given a decongestant and something to help the dizziness. Well the latter did nothing but knock me out. I’m not sure the former did a whole lot more besides make me even more dizzy (listed as possible side effect) and make me drink a shit ton of water.

And the worst part of all of this is, it happened during crunch time. The end of the semester. Right as I was receiving sixty-one 8-12pp final papers. (Almost literally, it started an hour or so before.) So I couldn’t lie around in bed and do nothing. Instead I spent the weekend parked on my couch grading papers. I got through a lot. I’m not sure I did the best job of grading ever, to be honest, but I don’t think my students noticed. If anything I erred on their side, and no one ever complains about getting a grade that’s too good.

But that was all I did. I didn’t decorate for Christmas. I didn’t get any of my own work done. I didn’t even cook meals. Needless to say there was no socializing.

It sucked!

I found I’m actually very efficient in these situations. But efficiency is not the same as quality. I got all my Christmas gifts purchased, but I’m not going to pretend any of them are great. I got to my parents’ for the holiday, but I left my own home a wreck.

So maybe vertigo is more of a quality vampire than a time vampire.

All I know is I’m ready for it to end.

The Downside of Flying

I did a double crochet from the air tonight! Got it on my first try. It was very exciting.

I’m guessing none of you have a clue what I’m talking about. Or maybe some of you think I’m making an afghan. As it happens, I do make afghans, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about a move in aerial silks: You grab one upright in each hand, flip up into an inverted straddle, then wrap each leg around one upright twice. Then you hold your legs in a vise grip and cross the silks behind your back. You pull them out straight then tuck them under your arms. Next you bend your knees and point your toes hard so you are gripping the silk tightly under your knees. Keeping the silk tight in your armpits you swing up grab the silks above your knees. In one quick motion you pike your legs towards the ceiling and arch your hips up so that the silks slide up and lock around your hips (this is super uncomfortable, I call it “diaper hang”).

Got that?

Yeah… I didn’t think so.

This is the problem of doing something like aerial dance. I did aerial dance for a year before I moved out here and recently started up again after three years off (which means I’m basically starting from scratch). And I love it! It’s fun and empowering and the best workout I’ve ever had.

But sometimes it’s frustrating. Because when I have these little victories, there’s no one I can gush about them to other than my classmates. My roommate is very tolerant and listens to me politely, but she has no clue what I’m talking about. I guess the flip side (ha ha, punny) of doing something cool that not many people do is that no one understands your struggles and your victories.

Sydney Style Memo

Attention men of Sydney:

You have officially surpassed all recommended per capita limits on males wearing girly pants.  For the record, the tapered leg look is a bad idea generally, so to allow more than half your male population to go about thus attired does nothing to improve my view of your city.  Guys should not be wearing their girlfriends’ pants. Ever.  The 80s are over, and “Don’t You Forget About Me” May be a fantastic song, but it’s no justification for reviving those tapered legs.

For a town that is otherwise so trendy that they should have stopped my fashion-fail ass at the airport, the men here are taking “metro” to new and terrifying levels with sadly NOT attractive results.  I am fairly certain judgement on my outfits and hair are passed more by the men than the women ( I am beneath the notice of the Sydney female set, all of whom appear to be petite and can bra shop wherever they want–If they see me, they assume I am a figment of an alcohol soaked mind, for surely nothing so chubby and worn down could be real), though I am not sure where they get off with those critical looks when they are wearing shirts that look like they are made from my grandma’s old house dresses and scarves from the ladies accessories section.

If I had Two Coffees…

Would we drink coffee with Christina of Denmark?

Kristy: I would. First, because I think that I’m contractually obligated to have coffee with any other Christinas whenever possible within reason. Second, because of the whole “If I had two heads, one should be at the King of England’s disposal” quip when marrying Henry VIII was floated in her direction. Granted, until I started this “coffee with” that was all I knew about her. And for a long time I couldn’t remember who said it. Just that it was someone blonde named Christine who I thought might have lived in Milan. But it’s a good quip. And whether she actually said it or not, people believed it was something she would have said, which says something about her. Also, have to love a woman who wears mourning clothes to pose for her possible future husband. Nice way of saying, “Yeah, you divorced your first wife and beheaded your second. No, I will not be wife number four.” You figure this is the kind of woman who will have lots of catty commentary to make while people watching. There’s also the whole part where she led a fairly interesting life between the proxy marriage at fourteen and the part where people tried to overthrow the king of Denmark on her behalf. Figure she might have a good story or two.

Cammy:  Hey, she was painted by Hans Holbein (apparently we’re talking Hans Holbein The Younger not The Elder), which makes her cool in my eyes.  And Kristy is certainly right about her possibly having catty, snarky commentary to offer up on the people passing by (and if there’s anything that makes people worth having coffee with it’s the potential for snarky people watching).  And there’s an added cool factor of her being married by proxy.  I don’t know why, but marriage by proxy amuses me greatly.  For no really good reason, other than the vague thought in my head about how elaborate it might get and how awkward it could be to play the stand in.  But I digress.  Yes, coffee with a Danish Christina should happen.

Christmas Lights Rant

Setting aside my usual rant on Christmas lights going up entirely too early (i.e. before Thanksgiving), I really do enjoy the way my street is lit up with twinkling Christmas lights now that the timing is appropriate.  Part of this is a love of Christmas, and part of it is because I leave for work in the dark, spend most of the day in a windowless office, then return home in the dark.  This mole-ish existence is made more bearable by sparkling strings of lights outline roofs and dangling from trees and shrubs.


(You knew there was a “but”, right?)


There are some practices that I abhor in exterior Christmas-lit decor:

-Lit-up inflateable figures:  8 out of 10 times these are just flat tacky, 1 of 10 times they’re downright creepy (you’re either spotlighting them with a ground-level flood light so you get the effect of Santa holding a flashlight under his face to tell a ghost story–or it’s lit from within, making Santa look like Satan) and the final time they’re deflated because this is the prairie and those things take off like kites if the wind picks up, so you have to deflate them all the time.  Verdict?  Don’t bother.

-Light-Nets:  CHEATERS.  We all see the uniformity of those lights draped perfectly over your box-hedge, and to any normal human eye, that just looks wrong.  If you don’t have the time to drape lights over your shrubs artfully and creatively, just don’t bother.  Your short cut may add twinkling lights, but in their creepily lock-step formation, the beauty is diminished.

-Solid color lights (other than white):  All red, all green, all purple?  Really?  The consistent scheme may seem like a good idea, but it comes out looking cheeZy, creepy, or cheap–and sometimes all three.  The all red looks like you’ve started a brothel, the all green looks like you’re signaling the mother-ship and the all purple just makes you look like you allowed 14 year old girls to handle your decorating.  I guess I could make an exception for blue if you’re Jewish and these are Hanukkah lights, but even then, you ought to mix in some white.

-Mixing traditional and LED lights:  I’ve accepted the different look of LED lights for the sake of the power savings they offer.  If we get our twinkling wonderlands with less pull on the grid, I’m for it.  BUT… you need to commit.  Don’t mix the old power-sucking strings in with the moddish new LEDs.  Not only are you defeating the power-saving purpose of the LEDs, but the color clashes are visually offensive to your neighbors.

-F’d up flashing:  If you’re going to use the flashing lights, it’s a bad idea to mix three different flashers (flashing at three different rates) AND chaser lights.  Unless you’re setting this whole thing to music like the Christmas light nerd-guys with the whole light show, you’re probably just going to give the neighborhood kids seizures.

We love the sparkle, the twinkle and the fun of lighting up long winter nights….just try not to make it fugly.

Rise of the Zombie Tomatoes

It’s been a while since I updated you about my black thumb. This is very dated information, but I feel the need to inform you that I did manage to keep my tomato plant alive for some time. It looked quite pretty for a while. I even kept some tomatoes alive after death.

Thriving tomato plant

Whu? You ask.

I accidentally cultivated zombie tomatoes.

How did this happen? Well, for various reasons that I won’t go into some furniture was temporarily brought onto our patio which resulted in all of my plants being moved. And, in the case of my tomato plant, being bumped. Imagine my despair when I went out to water my plants one day and discovered that the one branch with the little green tomatoes on it had been nearly completely severed. Just a tiny bit of stem held it on.

Severed branch

Well that’s it, I thought. In a day or two this branch will completely wither and the tomatoes will turn brown and fall off.

So imagine my surprise when that didn’t happen. Imagine my bigger surprise when I discovered over a week later that rather than turning brown and shriveling, those baby tomatoes were finally starting to ripen. The branch stayed totally alive long enough for them to ripen completely (my roommate ate them; I abstained because I don’t trust zombie fruit and I’m not a big tomato fan).

Zombie tomatoes. Over a week after branch was severed.

The branch did eventually wither and die; of course, at this point the entire plant is fairly dead since it’s below freezing here and I don’t care enough about tomatoes to bring the massive planter inside.

I guess the big test will be whether the entire plant rises from the dead come Spring.