Monday November 6

Diary entry, just an update on life, things, whatnot.

November 6

The view from my office today around 4pm

This morning the sun came up at 8:57am and it set at 4:11pm. The high was in the low twenties while the low is in the single digits.

So NaNoWriMo started. I didn’t get the surge of creativity on November first like I’d hoped. I managed to write a few hundred words, and immediately got a monster headache.

Haven’t touched it since.

Like so many things, I like the idea of having written, but not so much the actual work of writing. I haven’t been able to have fun writing in a long time. I was hoping that NaNoWriMo and my crafty composition notebooks would at least make me want to write, but I honestly haven’t wanted to write in a long time.

Probably I picked the wrong story for NaNoWriMo. And probably I should have just tried typing instead of writing longhand. And I probably should have remembered the lesson from last year–if a thing is supposed to be fun, but there’s a time limit and/or daily goal, I’m not going to do it.

I know I could write 50k words in 30 days. But trying to write 50k in 30 days brings out my stubborn, toddler brain that only knows how to say NOPE.

Monday October 16

Weekly check in, overview of last week and plans for next week.

October 16

The view from my office at 5pm, actively snowing.

The sun came up at 8:48am this morning and set at 6:23pm. The high was predicted at 33 with a low of 24. We had some sun this morning, but it has been snowing steadily since about 4pm.

LAST WEEK

Between the weather changing, overtime, and Inktober, I spent a lot of time sitting down last week.

We rewatched Passengers, Liar Liar, The Goonies, and the first season of the animated Spawn series. We also binge watched Stranger Things again so it will be fresh in our brains when season two starts next week.

And then there’s this…

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Season six of 2 Broke Girls (Amazon affiliate link). I loved the first season of this show, and I enjoyed season two. Season three was just okay, but it’s been downhill ever since. The show has finally been canceled, so season six is the last. Because I adore Kat Dennings, I’m forcing myself to watch the entire series. I got season six last week and it’s been a painful slog to get through all these episodes. Today I’m just over half way through, but I know if I don’t finish the thing it will bug me. If I didn’t love that first season so much I wouldn’t bother, but it’s like I have to know the thing is dead before I can bury it and move on, you know?

THIS WEEK

I’m putting in twenty hours of overtime this week. Between work, sleep and Inktober, I’ll blink and it will be Saturday again.

Bye!

Monday October 2

Just an overview of last week, my plans for this week, and some talk about living in Fairbanks, Alaska, movies, books, and maybe the occasional home improvement project. Read at your own risk.

October2

View from my office window at 5pm

This morning the sun came up at 8:07am and it will set at 7:13pm. The high temperature was in the upper 40’s with a low in the upper 30’s. Mostly cloudy, little bit of wind.

Last Week

Having finished most of this year’s home improvement projects, Jason and I have been spending more time crafting on the couch with a movie playing in the background. Last week we watched The Shawshank Redemption and Poltergeist.

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We rented Predator 2 (Amazon affiliate link) from Blockbuster. I hadn’t seen the movie since it came out, and I was curious to see Bill Paxton’s part. (Still cannot believe he’s gone.) We were halfway through when the disc stopped. That’s one drawback to renting physical media–it gets pretty beat up! But we figured we’d seen enough anyway.

My two cents: the original Predator is a masterpiece; the extended cut of Alien Vs Predator is a decent movie; and Predators was pretty good, too. I have no love for the other sequels, and I have no interest in Shane Black’s upcoming version.

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Saturday night we watched Guardians of the Galaxy. Sometimes you just want to enjoy a fun, entertaining movie, right?

Sunday was our 12 year wedding anniversary. We’re still in the cute phase.

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As a treat we went to see It, you know, the one with the clown?

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I’m terrified of clowns, but this version of Pennywise didn’t bother me at all. Maybe it was because we were in a crowded theater with smelly people and whispering kids, but I spent most of that movie bored. Bummer.

Afterwards we splurged on some more fun crafting stuff from Michaels, then did our best to relax the rest of the night.

 

This Week

We’re both participating in Inktober this year. That’s the one where you take the daily prompts listed on @Inktober and complete an ink drawing every day. Check out my Instagram if you want to giggle at me.

I’ve also started doing “preptober,” for NaNoWriMo next month. I plan to devote a separate post to preptober.

But right now, I’m going to cut this short. Today has been a heart-wrenching day, and I want to hold Jason’s hand and snuggle with my cats. Please be safe and considerate, wherever you are.

Bye.

Monday September 25

This is my first entry in what I plan to be a weekly update. Just an overview of last week, my plans for this week, and some talk about living in Fairbanks, Alaska, movies, books, and maybe the occasional home improvement project. Read at your own risk.

September 25

The view from my office window at 5pm today

This morning the sun rose at 7:46am, and it set at 7:39pm. The high temperature was in the upper forties with a low in the upper thirties. And it rained, straight down, all day.

Last Week

Metropolist

I showed Jason the movie Metropolis (Amazon affiliate link), and he enjoyed it. This movie gets better every time I watch it. Like most older movies, it’s reassuring how much things haven’t really changed.

Wonter Womyn

We rented Wonder Woman (Amazon affiliate link) from Blockbuster. It’s the best DC movie I’ve seen since The Dark Knight, but I wasn’t exactly blown away. It felt very paint-by-numbers to me. Enjoyable but forgettable.

And I see James Cameron’s point about it being a step backwards. Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley were heroic badasses who paid no attention to their appearance and were attractive anyway. Every Amazon lady in this movie looked like she was styled for a magazine shoot. Sort of like the airbrushed abs in 300. Hey, I understand the aesthetic. Pretty people are much easier to look at. But I don’t think a gorgeous woman running and wearing an outfit like that is especially groundbreaking, let alone a victory for women everywhere.

Debt Mtn

I wanted to read this book, Dead Mountain (Amazon affiliate link), ever since Caitlin Doughty (of YouTube’s @AskaMortician and on Instagram @TheGoodDeath) recommended it.

It’s the story of nine mountaineers who died mysteriously on a mountain in Russia in the 50’s. Was it aliens? Government conspiracy? Yeti? Alien yeti working for the government?

The local library has the ebook to borrow via Hoopla, and I happily checked it out. Then I found out that Hoopla isn’t available on my Kindle. So I got the app on my phone, opened the book, and the margins cut off the first few letters of each line. No big deal right? Adjust the margins and read! Until I turn the page and the margins move back. Again. And again. Every time I turn a page. Crap.

I don’t know if it’s the way this ebook was formatted or if it’s a Hoopla thing. If anybody knows how to make Hoopla behave on the iPhone, please let me know. Or better yet, if you know of a way to get Hoopla books onto Kindles, I would love to hear it!

In the meantime, I started re-reading the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. Once I start reading that series I compulsively burn through all thirteen books. So I’m forcing myself to only read it while walking on the treadmill.

Yes, I have to trick myself into exercising.

Last week we sold our old Volvo. We bought it when we got here in March. It was going to take nearly a month for our Civic to get up here, and then it wouldn’t be ready to drive until it warmed up. A rental car would be incredibly expensive (Alaska!) so we bought a twenty year old Volvo. It was still pretty nice and took great care of us, and even though stuff kept breaking Jason was able to keep it running. But when the transmission started to fail, that was too much. I was worried we’d have to just scrap it, which would be like putting down a pet, so I’m glad Jason found a buyer. And yes, the guy knew exactly what he was buying.

I also attempted the keto diet last week. I didn’t make it past the keto flu. I have a very tender tummy and irritable bowel. Any change to my diet is tough, but trying to eat so much fat was just too much for me. Oh well.

 

This Week

Settling into a new place seems to take longer the older I get. We’re nearly settled into this house…seven months later. Our bedroom closet is the last real disaster area. It’s the only place in the house truly off limits to the cats, so it’s overflowing with all kinds of junk. The bad thing is, there’s a single shelf with a single bar, and that’s it. It’s a good sized walk-in closet, but the space is wasted (which was definitely this house’s theme).

I’m going to empty it out, try to get rid of the stuff we never wear, find new cat-proof homes for the breakables (my poor knitting needles and yarn!), and see if I can’t make better use of the space.

Next weekend is our twelve year wedding anniversary. So far the plan is to finally go see It and then go to our favorite restaurant, Taco King. Fairbanks is not known for great restaurants, and this little Mexican place is so far the very best we’ve found. Who doesn’t love tacos?

 

Bye!

Book Review: Dizzy & Jimmy

Dizzy & Jimmy by Liz Sheridan.

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Here’s the first part of the very long blurb from the dust jacket:

A long time ago, when I was a young dancer in New York City, I fell in love with Jimmy Dean and he fell in love with me.

So begins this beguiling memoir of Liz “Dizzy” Sheridan’s passionate yet ill-fated romance with the young, magnetic, soon-to-be-supernova James Dean. The year was 1951. Dean had recently arrived in Manhattan in search of Broadway stardom. Sheridan was a tall, graceful aspiring dancer. They met one rainy afternoon in the parlor of the Rehearsal Club, a chaperoned boarding house for young actresses–and before long Dizzy and Jimmy were inseparable. Together they hunted for jobs, haunted all-night bars and diners, and gloried in the innocent rebellion of early ’50s bohemian New York. Dizzy Sheridan and James Dean were lovers; they lived together; as even ardent Dean fans may be surprised to learn, they were engaged to be married. But when Dean began to find success on the Broadway stage and then was lured to Hollywood, the couple parted amid tears and broken dreams–dreams that would be dashed forever when Dean died in a car crash in 1955, not long after seeing Dizzy for the last time.

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This is James Dean. Unless you’re interested in him (or Liz Sheridan herself), this book probably won’t be interesting to you unless you really enjoy memoirs about young love.

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Ms. Sheridan, “Dizzy”, was a dancer and an actress. You might recognize her from Alf or from playing Jerry’s mom on Seinfeld.

Dizzy and Jimmy were best friends and lovers for over a year, and this book is her memoir of those times. It is fantastically classy and tasteful, relatable, funny, and romantic (aching heart, tears flowing, warm romance). She shares personal moments and the intimate details of their relationship. Because the book was published about fifty years after the romance there’s no way the included dialogue is verbatim, but one never really forgets the way another person spoke or behaved. And it’s those little details that really made me feel like I was living through the romance with them. This book, more than any other I’ve read, really helped me to understand what spending time with a man as complicated as James Dean would have actually been like.

As a great big James Dean fan, I’ve read several James Dean biographies in the last twenty years. Most of them leave a lot to be desired. But what was always conspicuously absent from those books was Dizzy Sheridan. Typically they would give her what amounted to a footnote: “Oh yeah, he also, um, dated Dizzy Sheridan for a year and they were engaged.  Moving on!” She wasn’t even featured as a character in the James Franco movie based on his life. This always bugged me. Those biographies would be filled with anecdotes from random people who only met Jimmy once in passing, but the biographer didn’t even bother to speak to Dizzy?

But now I know–she didn’t speak to them. Their relationship was theirs, and not for the public. When James Dean died so suddenly, only one of his movies had been released. And as Rebel Without a Cause came out, and then Giant, the public were in a frenzy to get everything James Dean they could find. The studios capitalized on this and produced all kinds of photos and fictitious interviews, even an entire movie, anything they could conjure to satisfy the public. But Dizzy remained silent.

I don’t know why she finally decided to write about her relationship with Jimmy, but I am grateful to her and I hope she doesn’t regret it. I can’t imagine how painful it must have been for her, both to experience Jimmy’s passing and then to write about it. Hopefully writing it down brought her some kind of peace or closure. After finishing the book, I think Dizzy would be a wonderful person to know, and I completely understand why Jimmy was in love with her.

If you’re interested in reading about James Dean, this book would be a great place to start.

Book Review: Vivien

Vivien The Life of Vivien Leigh by Alexander Walker

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I picked up a copy of this biography of Vivien Leigh years ago when I was going through a biography kick. Gone With the Wind is one of my favorite movies, and I always wondered why she didn’t appear in many films after that. I knew she suffered from bipolar disorder and passed away at a young age due to tuberculosis, but that was as far as my knowledge of Ms. Leigh went.

After finishing this book, I know that Ms. Leigh didn’t make many movies because she preferred performing in the theatre. The book also told me about her two marriages and her daughter, along with a chronological listing of the main events of her life.

But, I didn’t learn anything I couldn’t have easily discovered on her IMDb page or her wikipedia page.

The book is divided into three sections: Leigh (her first husband), Larry (her second husband), and Jack (her male companion at the end of her life). Frustratingly, the book reads more like an ode to these men rather than a biography of Ms. Leigh. In fact, I suspect the author really wanted to write a biography of Sir Laurence Olivier (aka Larry) but couldn’t get a publisher to pay him for that due to the many already available Olivier biographies, not to mention Sir Laurence’s autobiography.

And so this book feels like a lengthy anecdote regarding Olivier’s second wife and how she affected his life. Here and there you catch a glimpse of what Ms. Leigh might have been like herself, but these moments always came across as detached and offhand. She had a great many friends and admirers, and was not without her eccentricities, but all of this was told through the eyes of men agonized by being in love with a woman with bipolar disorder. And, the author seems to presume that anyone reading this book is already well aware of Ms. Leigh’s diagnosis and personality. It’s the rare biography that was written for her friends and family instead of her fans.

I’ve read many biographies, but this is the first one that felt voyeuristic to me. Despite the book’s missing personal details, I felt as though I was invading Ms. Leigh’s privacy. If this book taught me anything it was that she was acutely aware of her fans and her public persona, and that maintaining her proper, graceful image was terribly important to her. So really, why should any respectful biography of Vivien Leigh contain any personal details?

And why should I read biographies, anyway? Just because someone is famous does not mean their privacy is forfeit or that I have any right to know their life story. I stopped buying magazines years ago because I got so tired of my dollar funding paparazzi photos. And now I can’t help but think that biographies are just another part of that intrusive industry.

I pulled the rest of the unread contemporary biographies from my shelves. They’ll go to Good Will with this one.

Short Story Exercise: Fix a Flat Tire

(using this book, set timer for ten minutes and wrote a short story relating to the phrase “fix a flat tire,” lightly edited)

Hugh sang out his window as he sped down the highway. “And I can’t fight this feeling anymooooooooore…”

BANG!

The Subaru made a sharp turn to the right. Hugh nonchalantly brought his left hand inside and put it on the wheel, lifted his foot from the gas pedal, and guided the injured car onto the shoulder. He set the emergency brake and killed the engine.

Humming to himself, Hugh stepped onto the pavement and sauntered to the back to get his jack and the spare. He’d driven these lonesome straight desert highways enough to know a flat tire when he got one.

The sun roasted his neck as he pumped the jack to raise the wagon. It was mid afternoon, prime sunburn time, but Hugh removed his shirt anyway. Without a breeze it was far too hot to work fully clothed.

He had just pulled the flat tire off, a pair of scissors firmly planted in the tread, when he heard another car coming up the road behind him. Its engine made a terrible noise, and when the car pulled in behind him, Hugh stood to greet his would-be rescuer. There on the shoulder was an ancient red Volkswagen bug.

He wondered if it had just happened to break down in the same spot.

The woman who got out of the bug was all smiles. “Howdy,” she called out. Her eyes widened as she took in his lean, sweaty torso. “Want some help?”

“Thanks, I got it.”

Looking unsure, the woman said, “Do you want some water, or maybe some sunblock?”

“Really, I’m fine,” Hugh said. “Be back on the road in a minute.”

“Okay. Take care!” The woman waved then dropped back into her car and roared away.

Hugh stared after her, the flat tire forgotten. He rubbed his eyes and blinked. He could have sworn that woman only had three fingers on her hand.

Short Story Exercise: Swat Flies

(using this book, set timer for ten minutes and wrote a short story relating to the phrase “swat flies,” lightly edited)

THWACK!

Dallas pulled his hand from his neck to examine his kill. “That’s number eight,” he muttered, smearing the green goo, antennae, wings and legs that now covered his fingers. If there was one thing Dallas hated about being deployed to New Venus, it was all the damn flies. They had the high pitched whine of mosquitoes, bit like horse flies, and looked like a cross between a potato bug and a dragon fly. Doc said they were great for seasoning steak if you dried ’em out and ground them to a fine powder. Dallas reminded himself to never eat one of Doc’s steaks.

He slogged through mud around a rubber tree, swatting another gargantuan insect away from his face. In front of him Tallahassee was whistling a tune, sounded like The Clash. Tally’s pack held all of Dallas’s favorite things: the radio, the Slim Jims, and at least eight sticks of gelignite.

As Dallas fantasized about strapping an explosive to some of the larger insects inhabiting New Venus, one of those bzzzzzing flies began swirling around Tally’s pack, probably after the greasy meat sticks. Dallas waved his hand toward the bastard, but it ignored him.

Tally, seeing the motion behind him, stopped and said, “What now, Dallas?”

Snatching with his left hand, Dallas caught the bug before it could fly into Tally’s face. He gave it a squeeze, enjoying the squirming sensation followed by the gloppy pop. “Swattin’ flies, man.”

Tallahassee opened Dallas’s hand to look at the insect’s innards. Then he grabbed a few of the legs and dropped them onto his tongue. He groaned with satisfaction and said, “Tastes just like old number seven.”

Short Story Exercise: Zadie Phones Home

(rolled a D12, took that number of Rory’s story cubes, shook ’em up, lined them out in order they fell top to bottom, wrote short story)

Zadie giggled and shook her golden locks out of her face. Tor remained on his cot, stoic as ever.

“This is good news,” Zadie insisted, reaching through the bars of the cell towards him.

“No touch!” the guard yelled.

“I’m not,” Zadie replied sweetly, then turned back to her man. “Tor!  Look at me.”

The beaten warrior shook his head, his gaze trained on the cracks in the stone floor. He would be staring at this floor for the rest of his days, no matter what Zadie said. She could no more remove him from this dungeon than he could fly through the wall.

“You will see,” she whispered, then she blew him a kiss goodbye.

***

Clipping one of her golden curls and delivering it to the witch had been no trouble at all. Finding the hunchback had been easy. And now Zadie waited patiently with her bucket for the goat to give her the last thing she needed. Ten minutes later, her bucket filled with steaming scat, Zadie hurried back to the witch’s cottage. 

Having delivered all the goods, the witch gave her a map, a shovel, and a key. The full moon led Zadie through the trees near the creek, as detailed on the map. In the still night air, the sounds of the forest echoed in her ears. Rustling leaves, snapping twigs, and the overwhelming silence of all life informed Zadie she was being followed. She maintained her pace and resolutely balanced the shovel on her shoulder. And then she whistled a popular tune in the wrong key. Before long, the beast gave up its pursuit and Zadie was left alone once more.

She rounded the dome-shaped hill and found the stunted tree. Zadie plunged her shovel into the muddy ground and began to dig. Thankfully, the pirate who buried the treasure had been in a hurry. Zadie was yet to break a sweat when her shovel struck the wooden chest. 

Using her hands now, she freed the top of the chest from the earth and then used a hairpin to remove mud from the lock. But the key didn’t fit. Zadie didn’t even hesitate and began striking the box with the pointy tip of her shovel. As she splintered the wood, light erupted from inside.

***

When Zadie returned home, she carefully cleansed her body and set her hair in curls. Feeling content, she laid down to sleep. The sun awoke her promptly at dawn, and she completed her preparations. 

She arrived at the castle an hour later, and as before was immediately granted access to the dungeon to visit her beloved. The guards did not look in her basket, nor did they notice the pleased look in Zadie’s eyes. She wound her way through the tunnels, offering a smile to every guard she passed. When she finally reached Tor’s cell, she found his guard dozing slightly. She tapped on his chest and he awoke with a snort.

“Good morning,” Zadie said.

He glared back at her. “I was having a nice dream.”

“Oh I am sorry,” Zadie said, setting her basket on the floor. “Let me make amends.”

She cupped her hands around the large man’s ears and began to sing, loudly and off-key. The guard, bewildered and annoyed, couldn’t bring himself to strike the pretty woman or even to remove her hands from his ears. She moved closer to him, her voice rising in volume and in pitch until finally the guard screamed in agony and collapsed to the ground.

Satisfied, Zadie removed the treasure from her basket and carefully turned it over in her hands. The witch’s instructions had been vague. Zadie pushed on the red spot, but nothing happened. She tried to move the silver lever but only succeeded in bending her thumb backwards. 

“Ow!” she cried, putting her thumb in her mouth.

“Pass it to me,” Tor said, his hand extended through the bars.

Zadie shoved the object into his hand and backed away, her eyes on the guard who was still sobbing and clutching his ears. Tor expertly manipulated the device and a brilliant blue glow filled the dungeon. The guard on the floor felt immediate relief from the pain in his head, but in the same instant found that he could not move. Every guard in the castle had been paralyzed, while Tor’s fellow inmates simply fell asleep.

Suddenly a strange being appeared next to Zadie. It had large, dark eyes, pale gray skin, and wore a blood red cloak. The blue light glinted off the being’s hairless head as it turned to focus on Zadie.

“She’s with me,” Tor said gruffly.

The being closed its eyes and vanished. The blue light remained…and Zadie realized that her surroundings were now transparent. The bars that separated her from Tor remained, yet she could see through them. In fact, she could see straight through the walls of his cell, and looking up she could see through the ground, to the sky…and beyond to the nighttime sky.

“Take my hand,” Tor said.

Zadie stepped forward and placed her hand in his. Tor leaned back and, pulling Zadie along with him, flew through the dungeon wall, up through the earth, and into the sky. Zadie watched the village shrink beneath them and laughed.

***

Later, Zadie and Tor were enjoying a stroll on Tor’s home planet. They stopped on a bridge and Tor asked, “Would you like to get a magnifying glass and burn some ants?”

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