Friday, June 27, 2008

A Perfect Storm!

My dear friend from Look What I Found just sent me this about Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog:

I can't watch the trailer yet (I'll have to wait till I'm home from work), but come on! It's like it the perfect storm of coolness! A low-rent villian? Whedon? Nathan Fillion? NPH? You can't go wrong!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Flashback: Run Away! The Signs of Aging are upon us!

In celebration of my birthday.

Originally published on Machinations of a Wandering Mind - June 27, 2005:

It was terrible, it was hideous! It was a sign that I'm getting older.

Two weeks ago was my 27th birthday, and during this time, my mother and I went shopping. We looked for a lovely summer ensemble that didn't make me look, well, you know...sausage-like. Of course this doesn't preclude Mom from exercising her miss-judgment in recommending pieces of fabric with more ruffles than Scarlet O'Hara's curtains in Gone With the Wind.

Here is a dramatic recreation: Please imagine my mother fawning over this ugly bluish monstrosity on a hanger:

"Oh this will look lovely." Mother said, holding up the frilly blue ruffled skirt up to my body.

"No it won't."

"You're just being picky. Be daring for once."

"It's horrible." I state, no inflection in my tone as I finger a ruffle with obvious disdain.

"Just try it on. You'll be surprised."

"Did I mention it's ugly?"

Of course, it goes into the pile. Let me just share the warm feeling to bask in the glowing light of I-told-you-so when I put on the offending "garment" and I ended up looking like a large blue covered sausage that got caught in a paper shredder. I will always remember the blank look of my mother trying to think of the best way to describe the quite laughable image of me in the mirror.

"Perhaps you should take it off." Her eyes are smiling but she exercises a cool control that is to be commended. I'm sure if given the opportunity she could fool a highly trained interrogator.

"You think?"

"Yes. You were right."

"Let me bask in the moment."

"Enough basking."

"I hope we learned a valuable lesson from this."

"Yes dear. Now take it off."

"You want to try it on?"

"No! thank you. It's safe to say we'll put it in the 'No' pile."

And this is where I found it...the grey hair, sticking straight up from the top of my head like a short, crinkly flag staking out the victory of middle age.

In a flight of pure panic, I ripped the offending hair out of my scalp (it hurt, by the way) and examined it. Indeed it was bright white and stood out from my naturally brown/black tresses. I showed my mother, holding the hair away from me, as if its loss of pigment was something that could infect the rest of my folicles.

"What did you expect. You're getting older." Were the words mom had for me. Strangely enough they didn't have the desired effect of calming that I wished. Mom was also strangely unsympathetic to the fact that her daughter has a grey hair. My mother, herself, had grey hair at a young age. I was hoping this was not the case for me...though it wouldn't change much since I dye my hair anyway.

"Plus," She sagely added, "It's only one hair." My eyes widened...surely the one strand could not have already convinced the others to go pigment free. I return to the dressing room mirror of Hecht's to inspect the rest of my head, in what must be the most vain moment in my entire life.

I even called up my husband with the news. He laughed. I was not pleased.

Satisfied that there were no more pigment-free hairs, I went on with my shopping.

I dyed my hair again. Though that one hair seemed to be a fluke, I'm not taking any chances. It's a war...a war I may not win...but by the gods I will have dark hair at least until I'm forty.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

On Obsession

There has always been something not quite wired correctly in my head. I would say it was "wrong" but it harms no one and to me, it's rather natural. It's hard to describe, but suffice it to say, I get obsessive about certain things. I need to KNOW.

I remember when I was young, I would sit and sort my cards of the United States Presidents on the brown rug in the living room. They were the sort of cards that had a semi-glossy presidential portrait on one side and on the other a list of facts and stats coupled with a short bio. I'm sure my mother meant for me to learn about the Presidents, but instead I sorted them. I still remember the enigmatic painted faces of Thomas Jefferson or Franklin Pierce looking back at me as I sat for hours with them.

Instead of studying them however, I sorted them by number first, then I would pick a quality (like eye color, political party, home state, left-facing portrait, color necktie, etc.) and sort them, eliminate a pile, and pick a new quality to find the "Best" president in my deck of presidents. Sometimes I enjoyed the irony of picking a "Best" leader of the US from a combination of completely random and superficial categories.

(To me, the "best" was defined by the combination of random characteristics I pulled out of my head. To this day the definition of that word has continued to be fluid in this way. Ultimately, I think I enjoyed changing the basis of what the term, "best," meant just to see what the different outcome would be.)

After one or two cycles of this activity my butt would go numb and I would ask myself, "Why am I doing this? This sorting doesn't mean anything...I'm wasting time. Time I could be putting to better use drawing, or doing something fun." Then I would shuffle the deck and continue on, undeterred by self-doubt.

I feel like I've gotten past the need to sort things, though I occasionally sort all our movies in alphabetical order and I can't seem to do a good spring cleaning without getting sidetracked with alphabetizing or sorting. Generally, it starts with a spark, like an idea or subject, and then it continues as I need to consume all the information available.

In this vein, it seems every few months I get a new obsession. Previously it has been Hunter Thompson, Dorothy Parker, Giacomo Casanova, the health-craze of the early 1900s, and the comparison between Dante's Inferno and Milton's Paradise Lost. One summer when I was young, I read all the books I could find about utopian society and compared them. I also remembered trying to explain to my teachers why I didn't pick my books from the recommended summer reading list and went on my own. That was me...renegade reader.

This month's obsession is Charles Chaplin.

My fascination with Chaplin came about just like many of my interests, from a minor and only semi-related compulsive obsession brought on by an event or happening. It happens all too often and while it's normal for me, it may not be the norm for others.

It usually starts out that I see a movie, hear a song, or read something and either the subject or perhaps an actor/artist impresses me so much that I wish to see the rest of their work. I think it is so that I can get a better understanding of whether if it was role I admired or if they were talented in general. So I start through their career (in no particular order) and go about watching their works. I do appreciate talent. I love seeing how someone can have so much talent and then see how they wield it.

This habit usually fills me with a certain amount of shame actually. I'm not a person who squeals over a handsome actor and puts their poster on the wall. I don't watch those entertainment shows religiously and I certainly don't read the tabloids. Entertainers are people who work in the public eye, not people I would agonize over. However, I feel very paranoid that I might falsely project that quality, so I normally just keep the whole thing quiet.

Let me illustrate what I mean. In one particular case, it all started with Iron Man...I never noticed before but Robert Downey Jr. is a fantastic actor! And because of this whole compulsion, I just had to see what else he did. After a few rather good movies like Fur: The Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, I found an older movie of his called Chaplin that scored him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. The movie was wonderful and got me thinking about those heady days of film class in college and watching the great silent film stars like Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and, of course, Charlie Chaplin.

Coupled with a small bout of a blue mood, I thought, "What would be a better thing to cheer me up than a Chaplin movie?" They were easy enough to find on YouTube or Netflix. I saw a snippet from The Circus on YouTube and I was hooked. As I started to familiarize myself with Chaplin's works I found that each one was a complex series of emotions wrapped up in simplistic vignettes. His movies are the perfect combination of humor, humanism, and sentimentality with a dash of sadness and tragedy. How could I not appreciate them?

What really interested me with these amazing movies is the man behind the mustache and underneath that derby hat. I am currently reading his autobiography, originally titled, My Autobiography, and I found that I admire this man who came from poverty to become one of the most famous men in the world. He was a genius. He acted, directed, and even composed the music to his works. He came at the birth of film and ushered in a quality and creativity that I do think is rare even now.

At times my obsessiveness brings me shame and uneasiness but this time, for having discovered such an interesting subject to study, I am pleased that it brought me to this path. Perhaps I shouldn't say that I am wired incorrectly...just differently. I can't wait to see where it leads me next.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Flashback: An odd experiment...brought to you by baking supplies and matches

Originally published on Machinations of a Wandering Mind - October 18, 2005:

Sit back and let me tell you a story.

The story involves a woman. That woman would be me. I was really bored one day and after watching Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, one question reared its ugly head: How or why did the windmill explode like that?

Windmills don't explode on a fairly normal basis, so there must have been a catalyst, some flammable catalyst. I was going to assume that there was no ammo in there, no TNT, no nitro-glycerin, no other items of explosive goodness. So, what was in that mill that made it explode? There was flour. Bags of flour, barrels of flour.

My mind was reeling...was it flour dust? I remember hearing that flour dust might have been the culprit. My husband only looked at me dubiously.

To support my theory, there was only one thing to do. Set fire to flour.

Being the safety-conscious person I am, I decided to put my cup of white baking flour in the kitchen sink so I could douse it before the impending fire could torch the rest of the house.

My husband was on standby. Not with a fire extinguisher, mind you. He was there for support. And laughing. He was definitely on "flour is not flammable" side of the peanut gallery.

I was determined to prove him wrong. So, with a flourish, I lit my first wooden match. As I carefully touched the warm flame to the small mound of flour in the sink, moving slightly away as not to singe my eyebrows from the inferno I was about to start. However, nothing happened. I actually extinguished the match by sticking it into the hapless flour.

There was a snicker behind me, one that I ignored by lighting another match and another one until there was me, the sink, and the mound of flour with some charred spears of used matches sticking out of it.

Dad decided to come home at that moment and asked what we were doing. I said, "I'm trying to light this pile of flour on fire."

"You're what? This house is made of wood."

"I know, that why we're doing it in the sink."

He then proceeded to tell me that flour is not flammable. As if my experiment was telling me otherwise. This was a year ago or so.

I only thought of this due to the fact that I found out yesterday that flour DUST is flammable and is the cause of many industrial fires. So there!

Flour, however, still remains annoyingly inflammable. I am also still not allowed to set fire to the house in any form, with or without baking supplies.