Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Come, Watson! The game is afoot!

Before I delve into the smoke-filled Victorian puzzlebox that is Sherlock Holmes, I’d like to take a moment to gloat: I’ve finally figured out what I want to use this blog for. Everything up until now was just messing around. I want to write about movies. Made from books. That’s my calling. I like movies. I like books. It’s a natural choice.

Anyway, let’s move on to the good shit.


Let me explain a little about Sherlock Holmes and me. When I was twelve, Sherlock Holmes was God. There is simply no other way to describe my endless devotion. I wasn’t in love with him or anything (ewww), I was just captivated and amused by a man who was both fantastically intelligent, and completely insane.

Seriously – and this is the part about him that lot of people miss – Sherlock Holmes is the kind of batshit you only get from high-quality cocaine, or maybe Mickey Rooney’s Crazy Pills. He is the world’s greatest detective, but he doesn’t know whether the earth revolves around the sun, or the sun around the earth. He once spent an entire morning throwing a spear through a dead pig. He does indoor target practice. In an apartment.

Robert Downey Jr. is also insane. It’s not just the heroin. There is an old episode of Loveline bouncing around with him and Anthony Kiedis as guests. They’ve both done a lot of drugs, but Anthony Kiedis sounds like a pretty normal guy. Robert Downey Jr. sounds like he about ten years away from becoming Gary Busey.

It seems like a match made in heaven. Downey as Holmes? Yes please! The physical description might not fit, but surely he can capture the borderline insanity of the great detective.

And now we have a trailer.

Okay. Thoughts.

1. Lovin’ those kicky sunglasses. And the complete lack of the god damn deerstalker hat that’s been permanently attached to Holmes’ head since Basil Rathbone decided it would be a good idea to wear it 24/7.

2. If there is actual supernatural shit in this movie, I will be pissed. Putting an actual supernatural element in a Holmes story is like putting an actual supernatural element in an episode of Scooby Doo. It was Old Man Smithers all along, not Old Man Smithers’ vengeful zombified ghost.

3. Having Irene Adler, “the woman,” prancing around in a showgirl outfit is kind of fucking ridiculous. She was in fact a lady, albeit one not averse to putting on a costume. Just…not like this. There was absolutely nothing sexual between the two, just a cat-and-mouse game that ended in mutual respect and envy. I hate to be one of those horrible RAAAAAH HOW DARE YOU CHANGE ANNNNNYTHING IN THE BOOKS THEY ARE GOSPEL YOU BASTARDS people, but uh, come on. Irene Adler is Irene Adler, this character is someone else, and you could have at least not tarnished her good name.

4. Knee in the balls? Really? Is this America’s Funniest Holmes Videos?

5. I am really sorry for that. Truly.

6. At least 30% of the trailer seems to focus on Holmes fighting Irene and being handcuffed to a bed. I get that they’re playing up Downey’s not inconsiderable sex appeal, but god damn. This is not what Sherlock Holmes is about.

I approach this movie with a sense of cautious optimism. Despite my misgivings, I like that we are finally seeing a young, sharp, attractive Watson – if Jude Law really pulls this off, maybe he can recover a little bit of his shattered career. I have absolutely zero misgivings about Downey as Holmes, he can do anything and he will be fantastic. The look of the movie is slick and attractive. Honestly, it’s the script I’m most worried about. If Guy Ritchie wanted to make a sex-drenched steampunk Victorian supernatural mystery, he could have just invented his own damn characters.

But we shall see.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Let’s Stop Being Zaftig Together

So I’ve gained an alarming amount of weight recently. I’m not going to call myself fat, because my husband hates it when I call myself fat. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll replace the term “fat” with the slightly-less-loaded term zaftig.

Anyway, recently, when I’ve looked in the mirror I find myself going who the fuck is that zaftig bitch? I’ve never been a pixie, but I didn’t used to be so…jiggly. So stretch-mark-y.

Part of it is my inactivity. As a writer, I basically never have to get up off the sofa. But one of the pitfalls of the whole work-at-home thing is that you start putting on weight like a Thanksgiving turkey, which I discovered at summer’s end when I discarded loose-fitting shorts for my old jeans.

Uh oh.

I now have a new pair of jeans, but that’s beside the point. I refuse to resign myself to this fate of inevitably growing larger and larger until they have to knock down a wall to get me to the emergency room and surgically remove several bags of Cheez-Its from my folds. I’m being hyperbolic, of course. In reality, the walls of our apartment building could never be knocked down. Those fuckers are made of concrete.

In the quest to learn a little bit more about nutrition and improving my diet, I’ve learned a lot. And I’d like to share some of my diet principles with the world via this blog, because hey, there are a lot of zaftig people out there who feel scared and overwhelmed by the idea of giving up the foods they love so dearly. Believe me, I’ve been there. It’s really hard. But it’s going to be worth it.

Principle the First: Make It Yourself, You Lazy Sack of Shit

Given that I spend most of my time at home, and that my husband works at a grocery store, you wouldn’t think I’d have a lot of excuses for failing to make home-cooked food. The biggest obstacle, I think, is that I end up falling into one of those computer-induced trances that we’re all familiar with, and it doesn’t matter if I’m five feet away from the kitchen, in Sibera, or on the moon. Actually preparing food is the furthest thing from my mind. If there is a sack of candy nearby, you’d better believe I am going to stuff it in my zaftig face.

Making dinner is one thing. It’s my only scheduled meal, due to my nocturnal schedule. Believe it or not, this is actually a positive thing – not having three constructed mealtimes in a day makes it easy for me to practice the important diet principle of eating small, healthful snacks 5-6x every day instead of huge meals. Not only does it boost your metabolism, but if you eat every 2 hours you’re a lot less likely to get too hungry and end up making a McDonald’s run.

Anyway, I do make dinner, and lately I’ve been making an effort to make them healthier. But what, exactly, does that mean? 99% of the time, it means making everything yourself.

I am somewhat ashamed to admit this, but here goes: on more than one occasion, I have personally purchased (or allowed my husband to purchase) Pillsbury pizza crusts. I have an excuse: I am a lazy sack of shit. Also, I once tried to make pizza crust like three years ago and they came out terrible – like how an alien might make pizza crust if it had been vaguely described to them and they’d never actually eaten human food. The options for pre-made crusts are surprisingly limited: you have Boboli, which is expensive and weirdly sweet, or Pillsbury. So we tried Pillsbury.

It’s…not that good. And it has saturated fat in it. I didn’t realize how weird this was until I started applying the principles in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day to make bran-enriched dough that turns into the most delicious pizza I have ever tasted, and it has five ingredients:


None of which, you may notice, contains any kind of fat. What the fuck is Pillsbury making their pizza dough with? Crisco?

Anyway, this is just an example of how you can be consuming totally unnecessary shit by not making things for yourself. I’ll take a small detour to make sure that my readers are aware that I’m aware that FAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU FAT. FAT IS PERFECTLY OKAY TO EAT IN MODERATION. However, fat has a shitload of calories in it. Check out the nutritional facts on some butter sometime. Those little bastards have like 120 calories for just one small pat, which would take you about ten minutes of busting your ass on an elliptical trainer to burn off. So fat isn’t something you want to be chowing down on, because you could be eating 120 calories of apples or broccoli instead and it would actually fill your stomach.

And there are all sorts of healthy substitutions you can make if you stop being a lazy sack of shit and start making your own food. Unsweetened applesauce can be swapped out for oil in most baked goods, although it can impart a slightly off taste for certain things. Also, be careful with things that need to be able to detach from the vessels they were baked in: without the greasiness the oil usually gives them, they will stick like a motherfucker. Trust me on this. Even if your wafflemaker’s never had a waffle stick in it before, GREASE YOUR WAFFLEMAKER.

You can’t really sub out butter for anything that has fewer calories in it, so it’s time to say good-bye to gorging on cookies for a while. But you can still have cake! Sometimes! If you’ve never tried making “soda cake,” the kind where you just make cake mix with soda and nothing else, it’s something worth trying. A can of soda will typically have many fewer calories than all the oily (and eggy) goodness you’re supposed to add to a cake mix, so for the occasional treat, it’s a smart way to go.

The recipe is pretty foolproof: just mix a can of soda (not sugar-free, which could possibly give you Gulf War Syndrome or something) with a cake mix and bake it as you would normally. It turns out different than usual, but tasty. For light cakes, use a citrus soda; for dark cakes, use a cola. But don’t drink that shit. Liquid calories are the stupidest thing EVER if you’re trying to get in shape.

I’d like to close this out with a list of foods that are surprisingly diet-friendly, just to prove that you don’t have to deprive yourself to get in shape.


Pepperoni (only 150 calories for 15 slices! This will cover a medium-sized pizza, or serve as a nice little snack.)

Eggs (no they won’t make your heart explode, and the protein is a boon to dieters everywhere)

Noodles (Ronzoni SmartTaste: looks and tastes like the real thing, but is lower in calories and higher in all the good stuff, especially fiber! Plus, pasta can be pretty filling when it’s paired with protein.)

Sugar (you might think it has more calories than it does, just because most prepared foods are laden with huge amounts. A tablespoon is only 20 calories, you don’t have to feel bad about sweetening your tea or coffee.)

Almost Everything Else (while some types of food should be avoided as a rule, once you have grown accustomed to a lower-calorie diet, you can “cheat” without actually cheating. If you fall 100-200 calories short of your limit on a consistent basis, then guess what? A pat of butter is perfectly okay.)

That’s all for this installment. Tune in next time for my thoughts on exercise! (It sucks.)

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Mom’s-Eye View

Now, my mom is pretty freaking crazy. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t have some awfully clever things to say on occasion. I’ve adapted some of the wisdom and advice I collected from my mother over the years, so that others may benefit. Please enjoy.

1. Instant messenger is “Satanic.”

2. Don’t ever let the word “I’m depressed” escape your lips. If you do, you’ll never be approved for health insurance again, because you will be considered a suicide risk.

3. There is at least a 75% chance you will be flashed at some point in your life.

4. Don’t be naked in a room with a boy.

5. Even if you are married, blowjobs are not okay.

6. Eighteen? Not old enough for an R-rated movie yet. Check back in twenty years.

7. The only acceptable response to “wanna go out sometime?” is “no thank you, my daddy owns a shotgun.”

8. It’s okay to experience homosexual lust, but if you act on it, you sure as hell better not expect any rights or freedoms. If you appear as a couple in public, do not engage in any physical interaction that might imply you are more than just friends. If you do, then you deserve what’s coming to you.

9. I was at Woodstock, therefore, I am better than you.

10. If you attend public school, you are pretty much guaranteed to become hooked on drugs, pregnant, and be involved in a school shooting. It’s just statistics.

11. Staying late at work on a school night? Fine, but don’t come crying to me when you can’t function because you only got out of work twelve hours before you had class. I WARNED YOU.

12. If you spill or break something, or have had a fight with your husband, the best way to deal with it is to verbally abuse your daughter for the rest of the day. It’s cheaper than therapy!

13. It is acceptable to make fun of your husband’s mother having died when he was a boy. He should be over it by now, right?

14. Discovering that your daughter is secretly writing a story about a vampire should be treated with the same level of hysteria as finding out that she’s shooting heroin into her eyeballs. It is, after all, a slippery slope into withcraft and homeopathic medicine. Oh wait, homeopathic medicine is A-OK.

15. Do not, under any circumstances, admit defeat in an argument. It is logically impossible for your daughter to be right.

Friday, December 19, 2008

We Wish You an Inoffensive Holiday

The other day, I swear I saw a commercial with people singing “we wish you a happy holidays.” Now, I could be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure the lyrics to that Christmas classic actually include the word Christmas. Also merry.

The whole “war on Christmas” thing has been done to death, honestly. Those unfortunate enough to work in retail at this time of year experience all sorts of backlash for whatever season’s greeting they choose: “Merry Christmas” often draws criticism from a superior, “Happy Holidays” makes many customers angry, and actually saying “Season’s Greetings” makes them sound like poorly-programmed robots.

(I realize the previous paragraph is filled with extremely broad generalizations. There are some people, somewhere, who are actually offended by “Merry Christmas,” but I’ve never encountered them outside of the internet and talk radio.)

I’ll never forget the issue of American Girl Magazine I got many years ago, back when I, myself, was an American Girl. It was the holiday issue. You have to understand that this magazine always went to great pains to be all-inclusive; nothing in that magazine implied that any of its readership would be celebrating any holiday in particular, even though I’m sure 90% of them had a Christmas tree. You want Kwanzaa activities? They had Kwanzaa activities.

Now, this particular year, as a craft activity, they featured some kind christmas-scene of ornament you could make with bend-up wire hangers or something. Typical American Girl fare. Bear in mind that, at no point in the instructions did they refer to “hanging it on a tree.” This ornament could go in your window, or on your festive Solstice Snowman for all they cared. They featured many different shapes and colors, all of which were inoffensively winter-themed.

Still, in the following issue, they printed a letter from a disgruntled Jewish girl, wanting to know “what they were supposed to do if they celebrated Hanukkah.” If I’d been on that editorial team, my response would have been “make a Star of David and stop having a complex about it.” Luckily, I wasn’t. The real-life editorial team explained, gingerly, that it was their understanding that this craft activity could be adapted to any holiday.

I guess my point in all this is pretty simple. If an overworked clerk at Target says Happy Holidays to you, or if a magazine features a craft activity that looks suspiciously Christmas-y, it is really, honestly, not a personal attack on you or your faith.

Newsflash to everyone: pretty much nobody cares how you celebrate this time of year. The small percentage of people that do care aren’t the people that you need to worry about. The people who will ultimately disenfranchise you are the people who are trying way, way too hard not to hurt your feelings.

The whole concept of taking a Christmas carol and changing the lyrics so it’s no longer about Christmas? Bizarre. Plus, if you carry this out to its natural conclusion, it becomes painfully redundant: We wish you a happy holidays, and a happy New Year. What?

Here’s the thing. This time of year is about love and family and giving and feeling that warm fuzzy feeling inside. The modern Christmas celebration is a big part of that, and you know what? That is okay. It doesn’t mean your holiday is any less of a holiday. Celebrate it with pride. If someone says Merry Christmas to you, they are wishing you joy in their own way. Smile, and respond with whatever greeting makes you the most comfortable. The same goes if someone says Happy Holidays, or Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Whatever. In the unlikely event that someone’s actually trying to upset you with their chosen holiday greeting, they’re not the type of person who deserves positive reinforcement. Grin and bear it.

There is a surprising amount of joy and peace to be found in the realization that most people just want to do their own thing, and let you do yours. If we can all start living like responsible adults who don’t care what other people do to celebrate the holidays in their own homes, then the world would be a much happier place.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lorena Bobbitt ain’t got nothin on Teeth

Teeth is, of course, about vagina dentata. And like the mythical phenomenon itself, it's a heavy metaphor for the strength and power that women possess. When it comes to portraying vagina dentata, it's nearly impossible to go wrong: man tries to take advantage of woman, woman's vagina bites off his penis. Game, set, and match.

Where Teeth fails is its attempt at an accurate portrayal of young Christians. Admittedly I'm tough to fool, having grown up in exactly the kind of group of friends that the protagonist is meant to be a part of. There's a temptation to believe that abstinent teenagers are teethposters-793555 particularly perverse in their own way, more likely to talk about, obsess about, and engage in particularly freaky sex. Sadly, that's not the case: they're just like anyone else, and while many of them have issues of guilt and shame surrounding the act, it doesn't turn them all into sluts or rapists.

And it doesn't turn them into victims, either. By the end of Teeth, our heroine takes a sort of pleasure in putting herself in sexually harmful situations so she can have her sweet, toothy revenge.

The first man to take advantage of Dawn is a young boy she meets at the abstinence group where she speaks, and as he rapes her, first he is angry at her for denying him, even though he is self-admittedly responsible for his own sexual frustration: “I haven’t even jerked off since Easter!” Then he is comforting: “don’t worry, you’re still pure in His eyes.”

It’s true, you can be a born-again virgin. You can even get your hymen surgically replaced if that’s your bag. But, although modern Protestant Christianity is founded on the principle that you can be forgiven for any transgression, basing your choices on the hope of a last-minute deathbed confession misses the whole point. And Dawn understands that all too well – she throws her purity ring off a cliff after the rape.

(I once lost mine down the drain. Symbolic?)

After that, Dawn becomes a professional victim, bouncing from abusive man to abusive man, leaving a trail of severed extremities in her wake. And this becomes her legacy – her power. She’s like the vengeful matron saint of molested girls, wreaking the kind of revenge that they cannot.

The problem with Dawn’s power is that she doesn’t control it. While she learns its foibles and becomes accustomed to the vicious fangs that lash out at men to whom she doesn’t grant entrance, she still must put herself into traumatic situations in order to display her true colors.

The true power of womanhood lies not in the mysterious, the mythological, or the ill-understood. Being a strong, capable woman is pretty much the opposite of lying back and letting your genitalia do the talking. For all her mythical power, Dawn is still doing what victims do. And a movie that could have held a powerful message about true female strength becomes just another bloody black comedy.

I give it a 5/10.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Weirdo Pride

I have been a weirdo for most of my life. I know it’s an ill-defined term, but it’s also the only way I can think to describe my life. Everything else sounds pretentious: outcast? A “sense of otherness?” Gag me with a rake.

But yeah, I’ve always been a weirdo. A lot of it was self-inflicted, but a lot of it was just me – I was weird, I was quiet, I liked things that other kids had never heard of. (This was back when the Lord of the Rings fandom was dominated by college professors, not twelve-year-old girls.) The internet was a godsend; I spent most of my time there mingling with adults who enjoyed Jane Austen, never letting on to the fact that I was just a kid.

It’s no surprise that I’ve grown up to despise precocious little children. Now I can see their obvious immaturity, the way they talk a big talk, yet lack the emotional insight to deal with…anything, really. Maybe there are a lot of kids who are slipping under my radar by failing to mention their ages, as I hope I did.

My whole life I had to deal with “the homeschooling issue.” I had the following conversation about eight million times:

“So where do you go to school?”

“I’m homeschooled.”

“Ohmigod, really? You seem so down-to-earth! I mean I’m not saying you should be stuck up or something, but wow, that’s just, your mom must have been really committed to your education! Do you get to wake up whenever you want? Are you going to college? BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH HEE DA.”

I very seldom ran into negative reactions, since most people are tactful enough to keep their thoughts to themselves in casual social interactions. There was one notable exception: two fifty-something women in line outside a store (it was a Beanie Baby thing, back when those were cool) who confronted my mom about homeschooling me. Basically, they explained (in front of me) how I was going to be socially retarded for the rest of my life and how she was a Bad Mother (true, but for different reasons). When she explained that she had worked in the school system for eleven years and was a bit soured on the whole thing as a result, they just blustered on about how IT WAS DIFFERENT NOW AND SHE WAS SO OUT OF TOUCH AND YOUR POOR DAUGHTER IS ALREADY SUFFERING LOOK AT HOW SHE WON’T MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH US. (Because you’re a huge bitch, lady.)

I did have quite a few intensely awkward social experiences growing up, but I soon discovered that I'd just been unlucky. As soon as I move on to junior college, I had no problem making friends. It wasn't hard to find people who shared my interests and sense of humor, and even the same group of dubious acquaintances I grew up with in the homeschooling world had matured and branched out and were a lot of fun. But even then, I continued to be the weirdo.

Instinctively, I presented myself as being relatively normal by using words like "curfew" (I'd never had one, since I had nowhere to go) instead of "my mom doesn't let me go anywhere" and "my ride is here" instead of "my mom is here to pick me up since I don't have a license." It worked. I had a good time there. I blended in, somehow.

Nowadays I am a weirdo again. I met my husband on The Internet. (Trust me, those Dateline jokes never get old.) We work nights and sleep during the day (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP CALLING BEFORE 6PM OR I WILL PERSONALLY STAB YOU IN THE FACE). I don't have a ton of friends knocking down my door. While I have a license now, I don't have a car, and a Big Day Out consists of a trip to Walmart, Target, AND Friendly's. From a certain point of view, my life is relatively lame. Sometimes I feel the need to defend it. But other times I realize, hey. This is just me. This is how I live. And I know I'm not the only one, thanks to the internet.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Futurama: Bender’s Game ain’t no Orson Scott Card

That probably sounds more insulting than I intended it. I like Orson Scott Card, to a point. Speaker for the Dead is one of the greatest books I’ve had the pleasure of reading. But the sci-fi classic Ender’s Game is still considered his magnum opus, and it was this title that the Futurama folks decided to parody when they made their third installment in the four-part film series.

Bender’s Game is sort of like Ender’s Game in the sense that people playing a game are actually doing things in real life. Sort of. But in reality it’s a Dungeons and Dragons/Lord of the Rings parody, which would have been a lot more relevant five years ago.

The plot revolves around fuel and fuel demand: dark matter, the substance that keeps ships running in the Futurama universe, is being controlled by Mom’s evil corporation and Farnsworth has a plan to stop her. Meanwhile, Bender is deep into Dungeons and Dragons, to the point where he must seek psychiatric help. It’s all about as exciting as it sounds.

It has the usual chuckles of any Futurama episode, but when compared to the previous movies, especially The Beast with a Billion Backs, it’s kind of…dull. I’m also not entirely sure what point it’s trying to make. You might think cartoons don’t need a point, but Futurama usually has one, and Bender’s Game feels out of place in this regard.

I give this one a 6/10.