November 8, 2011

I appear to have misplaced October

Seriously, where the hell did it go? The good news is that I have my first school break in just a few weeks. This Thanksgiving I'll be giving thanks for the fact that The Powers That Be were nice enough to set up a holiday on a Thursday, so I get two days off instead of just one. I also may or may not give thanks for the fact that my family can't get their shit together enough to hold the family festivities on the proper weekend; this means that I probably won't be able to attend, due to lack of time and transportation. Thanks, family. (No, that's not sarcasm... any family function I can avoid is a good one.)

The bad news is that I once again pretty much missed Halloween. No haunted houses, no costumes, no candy, no parties. Just an Anthropology lab and a fight with my roommate. I did manage to get in a viewing of Halloween, so it wasn't a total loss. I'm making a promise to myself (like I do after every increasingly disappointing Halloween) that next year I'll do better... there will be some sort of scream-inducing trek through a darkened building full of people dripping with fake blood and wielding rubber weapons; there will be a carefully planned and applied costume; there will be some sort of get-together with other people in costume so that we can laugh at each other and drink. It'll be glorious. No matter how much work I have to put into it, dammit.

Oh, October. I'll miss you.

September 26, 2011

Life on the Couch: Life? What life?

There's been a distinct lack of free time in my life lately, and most of that free time is taken up with laying on the couch and watching television in an attempt to use my brain as little as possible (a difficult thing now that I'm taking several media courses that are teaching me how to be a more active viewer... le sigh).

One of the reasons I have no free time is that I'm a Festie. This means that for seven weeks I spend my entire weekend at the Renaissance Festival. I used to be a season pass-holder, but for the past few years I've actually been working out there. My job is a mix of hawking and heckling for the giant chess board. Once in a while I have to actually play, which is usually a disaster to my ego because I'm lousy at chess. Fortunately it's great for whatever patron I end up playing against. Customer satisfaction FTW!

When I'm not at Fest I'm either doing homework, in class, on my way to class, or on my way home from class. (The public transportion system in Minneapolis... well, let's just say it's not the most efficient of the mass transit systems I've used.) Don't get me wrong, I'm loving every second of it. Well... ok, maybe not every second, but it's a million miles more awesome than getting up to go to a boring job in a cubicle every day.

The class that makes my little geek heart pitter-pat the hardest is definitely Intro to Film Studies (not exactly surprising, that). At the behest of my advisor, I will probably be focusing more on the literary/English/writing side of my interests next semester, but I honestly can't imagine it being a better fit than film study. I'm still on the fence about my major, but there's a distinct lean happening already.

Once the Renaissance Festival ends, I'm planning to up my blogging... if only to keep a better record of what's going on in my life/head/heart/etc as I go through this crazy rewind-to-eighteen-and-go-to-university experience. I don't want any of this to just fade away.

August 26, 2011

Closing one door, opening another

Today is kind of a big deal. It's the last day at my job of nearly two years… but really it's ending a chapter of my life that started more than seven years ago.

In early 2004, I stopped mucking about and decided on a career path. Time to stop all this mucking about! I thought determinedly. I'm 26 now and it's high time to be an adult! I then promptly began to go about it in the wrong way.

I went to community college and plowed my way through a year of generals just to get them out of the way. My second year of school I was working a 40-hour week, taking 16 credits at another school 50 miles away, and commuting four days a week to go between the two. I look back on that year and honestly, I have no idea how I didn't go completely mad. (I reserve the right to assume I'm not mad on my own blog, so there.)

By the third year I had begun to realize that I wasn't doing as well as I wanted to in school (despite quitting my full-time job and moving much closer to school). But I had already invested time and money, and I wasn’t going to just give up. I graduated by the skin of my teeth and started to slog my way through a field that was showing its true (and not so pretty) colors. After two years of clawing and scraping, I backslid into a position which was related to my field, but not doing what I had been aiming for.

I've spent most of my time at this job slowly and painfully coming to terms with the fact that I had failed at what I wanted; that I'd wasted my time and money on a career that was not meant to be.

Fear not, faithful reader, this isn't one of those tragic emo stories.

With the help of a therapist, I finally figured out that I already knew what I really wanted to be doing. Writing. Acting. Creating. I discovered that all those dreams I'd had when I was a kid were still there, they'd just been buried under years of defeat and self-doubt and forced adulthood. So I dug them out and dusted them off and put them back on. The coolest part was that they still fit, even though I hadn't worn them for the better part of two decades.

The end result of this seven-year process is that I'm starting over. I'm off to school at the University of Minnesota, entering as something between a Freshman and a Sophomore. Because one thing my first try at school gave me, besides a hell of a lot of hindsight perspective, was enough credits to skip most of the boring stuff (like Math… we hates Math, yes we do precious). I'm giving myself a few years off from being an adult to give my childhood dreams a second – well, really, a chance.

All of this has been about six months in the planning, and now this denouement is at an end. I'm about to turn the page on this chapter after a long, long time. Too long, perhaps; or maybe just long enough. I cannot wait to see what the next chapter has in store for me.

August 19, 2011

Working things out

I've decided to ditch the attempts at regular posting (Life on the Couch & Geek Weekly), because me + deadlines = fail. I still intend to post about my life and my geekery, but I'm not going to try to keep up with a schedule that I clearly can't deal with.

Relax, I'm not beating myself up about it... I'm being realistic. It'll be more fun for all of us if I'm not blogging just for the sake of blogging. I want it to be about telling stories and sharing observations and hopefully being funny. I want to start seeing things with an eye towards sharing it with my readers (all six of you).

The idea will be to blog as I get ideas. This may be once a month, once a week, or three times a day. Inspiration can strike AT ANY TIME, people.

Now you'll have to excuse me, the pain meds + muscle relaxants are making the fluorescents turn purple and green. I need to stare at them (and occasionally do Crazy Eye) to make sure the dragons don't escape.

August 18, 2011

The hazards of being awesome

Last Friday I changed the broken taillight in my car. I don't just mean the bulb, I mean the whole assembly.

Yeah, I was pretty impressed too. Although, to be honest, we shouldn't be. It was ridiculously easy: lean into trunk, pull back fabric, remove a couple of screws; once the taillight pops out, unplug it. Then plug in the new assembly you got on Amazon (yes, they have everything) for $50, pop the taillight back in, replace the screws and fabric, done.

Seriously. It took me all of five minutes to do something that probably would have cost me $500 to get done at a shop. Needless to say, there was much manly flex-posing in the Treehouse that night.

Unfortunately, there was a price to pay for the cheap and ease of doing it my own damn self; my out-of-shape 33-year-old body decided it wasn't about to take that leaning-into-the-trunk crap without some retribution. By Saturday afternoon I was barely able to bend, stand, or even sit in one position for more than three minutes without a shit-ton of pain. My entire lower back felt like a giant clenched fist... one that was ready to reach up and punch me in the back of the head for my hubris.

Over the weekend I tried a number of techniques to banish the pain, from a slow walk through the neighborhood to a hot bath to fistfuls of ibuprofen. Nothing was helping. So Monday I gave up and went to urgent care.

The doctor I saw seemed to be a specialist in muscle and bone stuff (orthopedics? I'm not a medical expert, ok, stop judging me) who couldn't seem to stop telling me to "be more active." By the end of the five-minute consult I was ready to slap his active face right off his active head, because MY BACK HAS FILLED ME IN ON MY SHORTCOMINGS ALREADY, THANK YOU.

Ultimately I scored some muscle relaxant and Tylenol-3 (with codeine!), which I gobbled the moment I got into my car (after taking a second to admire the shiny new taillight). I've been taking both pretty regularly ever since, and here's what I can tell you about muscle relaxants + prescription painkillers:

1. Dry mouth is annoying. Even immediately after brushing my teeth, my tongue tastes like used socks. Bad side effects are bad.

2. The first few times I took both at once, I spent the next few hours alternately nodding off and dropping things. One of the side effects listed in the Tylenol-3 description was an "exaggerated sense of well-being." Indeed! It's a good thing I don't actually drive my car to work. Or have to pay attention at work.

3. Tomorrow night will be the true test of chemical reaction: what happens when you mix muscle relaxants, prescription painkillers, booze, and karaoke.

I'll leave it up to you to imagine what horrors this combination will bring forth.

July 18, 2011

Life on the Couch: A whole new couch

There's been some big changes in my life recently, which is part of the reason I disappeared from blogging for a while there. The changes are all for the good, but no matter how awesome change is it takes some getting used to. (Translation: change=hard, depressing, and very very scary.)

One thing that happened, less than a week after returning home from a trip to Europe, was that I moved. I am no longer in the dungeon, folks, but in the upper apartment of a lovely old house in south Minneapolis. I have a new roommate and now live with five cats (including my two). We refer to the apartment as the Treehouse. Each room is a different color and it's all very cozy and Bohemian. Possibly the best part of all is that my wretched futon went into the dumpster, and I have a whole new (to me) couch to blog from:

Complete with cat.

Adjusting to living with a new person is always a bit of a challenge, but with only a month behind us we seem to be doing pretty well at it.

The other, less fortunate change is that I've been spending a LOT of time on the aforementioned couch in the past few weeks, because I'm an employee of the State of Minnesota. In case you've missed the news (or don't live in Minnesota), that means I've been laid off since July 1 due to a government shutdown. Which is not my fault at all, but nonetheless brought on a wave of guilt and despair the likes of which I haven't experienced in a long time. Fortunately the shutdown is apparently ending some time next week, so I can go back to work and stop feeling like a useless git.

For about six weeks. Then I quit my job and start college.

A prospect that fills me with a mixture of joy and excitement and anticipation and absolute terror.

I've been to college before, but now I'm going to a Proper University. The majority of my classmates will be fresh out of high school, and I'll be a 33-year-old single woman. I'm going to have to dye my hair blue pretty quickly to keep up. Wait, is dying your blue what the cool kids do these days? Maybe I should do purple instead.

There's also the math placement test I took earlier today... it turns out that the class I took in technical college, seven years ago? Didn't stick. I stared at the questions, sure that I had learned all this at some point. Numbers and fractions and graphs and trains 738 miles apart floated dreamily in front of my eyes as I struggled to remember what a logarithm was and how one went about finding it. Each question had "I don't know" as an answer option, and I picked it for almost every question. In the end, I got 3 correct out of 41.


Out of 41.

It's a good thing I'm majoring in English.

June 29, 2011



It would appear I have a blog!

Sort of... uh... forgot about that.

Ok, that's a lie. I got behind and overwhelmed with life and it slipped through my fingers. More honestly yet, I let it slide, because I've been so up and down lately that I haven't been able to process everything in my own head, let alone on a blog. But I've been thinking about writing a lot, and would like to get back to it again. Especially since there's been lots of interesting stuff going on...


Let's dance, shall we?

May 2, 2011

Life on the Couch: So, this thing happened yesterday...

...and I've had no idea how I'm supposed to feel about it.

I watched along with millions of people around the world as my President announced that the American military, on his command, had killed a man who had spent the last decade being a modern-day boogeyman... and I was frightened. I listened to reporters and correspondents discuss the end of the war on terror... and I was skeptical. I watched footage of a crowd outside the White House singing and chanting and celebrating this boogeyman's death... and I was disturbed. I read statements from my own friends who were fiercely joyful at the news that a man had been killed... and I worried. I heard congratulations being offered by people I admired to other people I admired... and I squirmed.

I also wondered... why he was killed. Why he wasn't captured, and tried. I wondered what happened in that mansion in Pakistan that led to more death.

I've been thinking about 9/11 today, remembering the horror and the devastation and the fear and the mourning. I've tried to make those feelings fit with the feelings I've had about the death of Osama Bin Laden. I can't make them fit. I think about all the people who lost someone they loved as the result of orders and plans made by the man who was killed on the orders and plans of the American military and Barack Obama. I don't want to begrudge these victims the feeling of closure this might give them, the small amount of peace they may get from knowing this man is dead.

But it feels so wrong.

Here's what doesn't make sense. In his address to the nation (to the world), Obama said that justice had been served with the death of Bin Laden. But what happened last night wasn't justice. It was vengeance.

Justice would have been his capture and trail... even if the end result was the same. I am not a military strategist, or a politician, or an expert on foreign policy. I'm not a Democrat or a Republican, an atheist or a believer. There are a lot of situations where I don't like to take a stand one way or the other because I just don't know enough about it to do so. But sometimes I have to trust my gut. And my gut is telling me that it's not right to celebrate Osama Bin Laden's death. I could ramble on and on about why, but Martin Luther King Jr. said it better than I ever could:

“I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Thanks to all the people who posted this on their Twitter feeds or Facebook statuses, and helped me to understand why I cannot celebrate alongside so many people that I love and respect.

April 29, 2011

Geek Weekly: Television review – Game of Thrones

Spoiler alert! For the first episode only.

I'll start with the confession that I haven't read the “Song of Fire and Ice” series by George R.R. Martin, largely because I find literary fantasy quite boring. It's just not my flavor of geek; the politics bore me, the strange and impossible to pronounce names make my head hurt, and the pace drags too much to hold my limited attention span.

However, “boring” is not a word that can be used to describe anything to do with this show.

The episode starts off with a group of gruesomely hacked-up bodies arranged in some sort of presumably symbolic pattern in the nearly colorless winter forest near The Wall. The whole scene is incredibly creepy and atmospheric, not to mention insanely gorgeous. Everything from the cinematography to the costumes to the pitch-perfect casting is breathtaking. There is also plenty of gratuitous gore, which certainly caught my interest. As the action ramps up we are also fleetingly introduced to some creatures who are presumably not human, but who do seem to be a combination of an Uruk-hai and a 28 Days Later rage zombie... an idea cemented by the apparent reanimation of the corpse of a small girl. I had no idea there were going to be monsters in this, let alone possible zombies, and all I have to say about that is AWESOME.

The rest of the episode is a lot of introductory political hum-drum, but the framework is laid out through a series of lovely, dark, and fascinating scenes that keep the dullness of the politics well hidden. We move to Winterfell, which is presided over by the blessedly simply-named Lord Stark (Sean Bean). After a disturbing lesson in the morality of the land and the introduction of several squee-inducing direwolf pups (WANT), we move briefly over to King's Landing, where (conveniently enough) King Robert (Mark Addy) resides with his wife (Lena Headey), her smarmy twin bro (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and their drunken lout of a dwarf brother (Peter Dinklage). There are about a thousand other awesome actors and characters, and if I take the time to list them all this review will be one giant IMDb entry.

There is one more group worth mentioning though, and that's the blondie siblings (Harry Lloyd and Emilia Clarke), and the warrior-clan leader (Jason Momoa), who we meet in Pentos as they plot some more political stuff. I'm sure it's all very important, but all I could think was how delightfully creepy some of the sibling relationships are on this show. Blond brother feels up blonde sister for a bit, then offers her for marriage to the scary and intimidating warrior-clan leader who, as far as I'm concerned, is best off remaining shirtless as much as possible. Woof!

Back in Winterfell, the queen makes inappropriate remarks during the feast and the King asks Lord Stark to come back to King's Landing with him to be his right-hand general or something. Then we return to Pentos in time for blonde sister's wedding to the pectoral warrior. The wedding dance includes lots of bare boobs and humping and fights ending in flailing intestines. Because they're savages, see? I give blonde sister two weeks before she's completely bonkers.

Lord Stark agrees to go off with King Robert and they celebrate by going boar hunting. Then Stark's youngest son accidentally catches the queen having sex with her twin brother. Just when I thought this show couldn't get more awesomely disturbing, they haul out the twincest. Oh, and then the brother casually tosses the kid out the window of a 50 foot parapet as his adorably anxious direwolf pup watches.

Holy hell. I am in love.

April 24, 2011

Life on the Couch: A bit of housekeeping.

In the interest of not being ridiculously off the mark with the “Geek Thursdays” and “Life Sundays” posts, I've decided to rename them “Geek Weekly” and “Life on the Couch.” I'm still going to attempt to do the geek posts on Thursdays and the life posts on Sundays, but at least this gives me some leeway. Just don't be surprised if there are double Sunday posts every week.

It might have been a bit much to expect myself to keep up with a rather rigorous twice-weekly posting schedule, since I'm not good with deadlines. I thought it would be useful practice for regular writing once I start school, and also to help me get some structure that I can apply towards keeping up with homework. I think it will help, too. I'm inclined to be disappointed with myself for not successfully posting on schedule... but I think it's more helpful to be impressed that I've kept up regular posting for this long, and still going strong.

April 20, 2011

Life on the Couch: Creative constipation.

I think there’s little in the world as frustrating to me as wanting to create and being unable.

I’m in one of those horrid blank spots right now, the place where I have all these half-formed ideas swirling around in the strange ether of my brain. Ideas that mock and tease and flit away the moment I try to reach out and grab hold.

I’ve always written, ever since I was old enough to string together sentences. Stories, tales of my life, essays, journals, even the odd poem or song. I’m lucky I’ve always enjoyed writing, because it was the only form of creative outlet I had for most of my life. About four years ago I also discovered that I have some talent for vidding (if you don’t know what that is, go here and click play on pretty much anything, you'll get the idea), which gave me a whole new and fabulous way to express myself. I've even dabbled in graphic art in the form of icons and banners for various online communities.

In the past year or so I've been writing a lot, most of it in the form of fan-fiction for "Alles Was Zählt," the German soap opera I blabbed about in a previous post. It's been exhilarating, getting to flex that muscle again after not writing much in the past three years. Maybe it was getting feedback from my beta writer and the others in the fandom who read my stories, or maybe it was just getting a chance to let my imagination out of my head, but it was the kind of writing that seemed to happen without any effort on my part. The best kind of writing.

I've done very little vidding in the last 18 months or so, and none at all lately. I don’t know if it was related to the increase in writing, or if I simply reached some sort of (hopefully temporary) plateau with the vidding. All I know is that line of expression seems to have been cut off. The graphic design thing never really took off, and I've done none at all in the past few months. The worst part is that whatever momentum I'd built up in terms of writing seems to have come to a crashing halt since the new year. Now all I can do is stare at all the half-finished fics and just shake my head.

I got nothin'.

This constipation of the brain has even overtaken my blogging, which is evidenced by the fact that I can't get a post up on time anymore. This one was originally meant to be about my trip to Europe in May, but all I could come up with was "I'm going to Europe in May. Woo."

I don't know the cause of this particular blockage, but I can only hope it's temporary. I'm in desperate need of some inspiration to get me through. Right now all I can do is shake and tremble at the idea of starting school in the Fall and being completely unable to write anything.

Hopefully plugging away at the blog will help by forcing me to keep flexing the muscle. I'll keep trying to post on time, but I imagine Life Sundays will soon permanently morph into Life Wednesdays while Geek Thursdays become Geek Saturdays. Eventually it'll probably come back around to where it's supposed to be though. I'm cool like that.

April 16, 2011

Geek Weekly: We. Are. Everywhere.

I'm starting to think it was a bad idea to put a specific day of the week in the titles of my theme posts. I'm not this good at committing.

I work in an office that is only slightly different from any basic corporate/government office in that we all know and use sign language on a daily basis. Otherwise it’s exactly as you’d expect… fluorescent lighting, cubicles, people who tetch and roll their eyes at each other’s music, a kitchenette with a sign on the microwave imploring people not to make popcorn. Just another of the many, many skyway-adjacent offices you’ll find in any Midwestern metropolitan area.

Being a geek is a bit like being gay.

Bear with me on this.

Both sets of people tend to hide this part of their lives in the everyday world. Or at least, not call attention to it. Both will steer clear of subjects that bring it out in the open when they are in certain environments (like work), for fear of alienating people with their unique nature. Both were probably traumatized by bullying and ostracism by the “normal” folks when they were young, and often when they find out that a person is gay- or geek-“friendly” (or gay/geek themselves) in a work or similar environment, the floodgates open and they can finally be themselves.

At least geeks can marry each other.

But I digress. My point was that it’s sometimes hard to know who I can talk about random geek things with and not get the blank stare (or worse, polite smile and shifty eyes that says I’ve set off some sort of DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! signal in their brain). So mostly I just keep it to myself… unless someone sets off my geekdar. Or even better, I set off theirs.

The two geeks I’ve met in my Office Space-like environment are H the delivery guy and K the security dude. Both of them are almost always in uniform when I see them, which is why I didn’t catch the geek signals from either of them… although I have seen K in his civvies on a few occasions, so I suspected. But H hides his geek well, under the guise of his good looks (and awareness of them). But in both cases, I ended up out myself to them.

With H it was excited babble about a pending trip to the UK, during which I’d be attending a “Doctor Who”-centric sci-fi convention. When he heard this, he promptly told me how he’d always dreamed of going to Comic-Con, and that he’s a total Star Wars nerd. It was an instant connection, the walls came tumbling down, and we were suddenly geeking at each other with the kind of enthusiasm rarely seen or heard in Cubicle World.

It was another con that outed me to K. I do sign language stuff for a local sci-fi/fantasy convention, so had brought some flyers to work in an attempt to maybe grab the attention of some of the deaf folk who never bothered to go because they didn’t realize there were interpreters. K spotted the flyer, with its eye-catching Metropolis-inspired artwork, and it was 45 minutes before we emerged from our horror-themed geek fugue.

Sometimes it's hard to imagine that all the normal people we interact at our jobs or in our daily lives with could be as geeky as us. But the truth is, geeks are everywhere.

April 11, 2011

Life on the Couch: I'm a whiny beeyotch when I'm sick.

Both of my roommates and a number of my coworkers have come down with some sort of plague, and now it's my turn. I've been hacking and sniffling and weak since Saturday. I'm taking a sick day from work today even though I don't have any sick time left. I'm burning a vacation day to sit at home on the couch and make noises like a dying giraffe.

I also don't have Kleenex or any sick supplies because I so rarely get sick that I don't tend to keep them around the house and I'm too tired to go out and get some. One of the many disadvantages of being single.

I was going to post something awesome and insightful yesterday (as usual), but my poor weak hands could barely reach the keyboard. Woe!

Ok, that was an exaggeration. Still, I was feeling tired and complainey and not very motivated, so this week all you get is a lot of whining and also if anyone would like to bring me some Doritos and Kleenex, I'd be ever-so grateful.

April 8, 2011

Geek Weekly: Movie review – Paul

Spoilers ahead!

So you may have noticed that I'm a fan of the Pegg-Frost-Wright oeuvre. It might have come up before, is all I'm saying. So naturally I'll be reviewing Paul with all the objectivity of a seasoned, professional writer.


Well, you know you're going to love it when it starts by following Simon Pegg and Nick Frost around ComiCon. I mean, dude. What makes this movie so great (much like “Spaced”) is that it's so clear that they're well and truly fanboys, just like the audience. It's brilliant. I even love their ridiculously kitschy rented camper, complete with shag carpeting and little lampshades on the interior lights.

I was really nervous about Seth Rogan as the title character... but he managed to add an endearing charm to the movie that I really wasn't expecting. Probably in part because he's a CGI alien who manages to be far more adorable than he has any right to be when tossing f-bombs around. Paul edges up to the line of schmaltz, but manages to avoid crossing it just in time to keep the audience.

Then there's Jason Bateman, who is completely amazing as always. And yes, his twist at the end totally surprised me, whether because I was distracted by the triple-play awesome of Pegg, Frost, and Rogan or I'm just not too bright sometimes. Or maybe because Bateman pulls off the cold asshole so well that you never for a moment think he could actually be a good guy.

Sigourney Weaver as a badass in a ballgown. 'Nuff said.

I was a bit worried that Paul wouldn't be a proper Pegg-Frost-Wright flick, since it's actually a Pegg-Frost flick directed by Greg Mottola (of Superbad and Adventureland fame... two movies I have to admit I haven't seen). And it does have a distinctly different feel that could probably be summed up by describing it as an Americanized bit of Pegg-Frost-Wright-ery. However, I wouldn't say that's a bad thing... although there were moments I missed the Britishness of the Wright element, I thought it was fun to see the uniquely Britsh sensibilities brought to the movie in the writing (penned by Pegg and Frost, naturally) placed against the quintessential American West backdrop, surrounded by American actors and helmed by an American director. The two cultures, rather than clashing, melded beautifully... and the movie's humor did not suffer a bit for it.

April 3, 2011

UPDATED - Life on the Couch: A walk.

This post deals with self-injury. If hearing about this is a trigger for you, please don't read it.

I took a walk today.

This is not something I do often (like, once-a-year not often). The local winters aren't very walk-friendly, but more than that I can find the simplest things very overwhelming (see my adventures in cooking for evidence of that). I also have an 8:00-4:30 job that is bloated by a 45-minute commute. Worst of all, I rarely feel like I have the energy to do more than slog through my day.

Some of that will be changing in the near future... the work day with the awful commute is coming to an end in just under five months, and I'm working on coping mechanisms to get me through the simple tasks and activities (like walks and grocery shopping) that seem so impossible to me. I'm trying to eat better and get a little exercise so that I'll have more energy. Best of all, I'm setting off on an exciting journey, going to college to explore where my talents truly lie and to wander the bright and shining path of my life.

I also have an incredible summer to look forward to, starting with an amazing trip overseas, followed by moving out of the basement and into a lovely duplex (a move that is long overdue), a visit from a dear friend, the start of the Renaissance Festival (something I look forward to every year), and finally the end of my job and the beginning of my new life.

There's a lot of darkness before the dawn, though.

I've been spending a lot of time the past few weeks smiling harder and harder as I become more and more desperate. Time seems to be slowing down and the light at the end of the tunnel never gets any closer. Each day at my job has become agony, every small annoyance blown to epic proportions. I come home and lay on the couch and try to block out the room around me. I've been smoking more and drinking more and eating more and doing less and less. I'm holding on by my fingernails, white-knuckling my way through the next two months until everything starts.

And I beat myself up for it everyday. What right do you have to be miserable when you have so much awesome in your future? How dare you whine about having to wait, when the time is going to be gone before you know it? Meanwhile, I'm being crushed under the weight of anticipation.

Friday night, everything went CRACK.

The night was going fine. I started drinking, and was having fun. Then, before I even knew what I was doing, I was cutting. It may have been more gradual than that, but in my memory it seemed to just... happen. When it was over, I was overwhelmed with shame and horror and no small amount of bewilderment. Soon enough, I was berating myself for doing it again when I was supposed to be getting better now.

I got some sleep, sobered up, and hid behind my hangover. I napped, I showered (ouch!), I spent a few hours at my second job. I thought about what I'd done to myself, and why.

Today, I decided to take a walk. To get out of the basement and let myself be in my own head for a while, away from the darkness, out in the light. It was one of those great spring days, about 55 degrees, a little breezy, cloudy. I walked on the wonderful trail through town, looking at the buds on trees, the kind that promise leaves at any moment. I saw a cardinal, and my first robin of the season. I let myself breathe for the first time in weeks.

I knew then that I need to stop ignoring the impatience and punishing myself for it. I have to let myself feel it, and give myself a damn break already. I think I've found a better way to deal with it; instead of pushing it down, I can find those moments that make now enjoyable. Small moments, little things. I can't make time speed up, no matter how hard I try, but I can let myself live in and enjoy the present instead of obsessing about the future.

I think I'll start by taking lots of walks.

UPDATE: I was terrified to post this because some people are going to read it and be all, "Uh. Ok. Back away slowly." Other people are going to think it's a pathetic cry for attention or sympathy. I just needed to be clear that it's not my intention to elicit either of these reactions. The reason I posted this in a public forum instead of on a personal locked journal is because I think it's important to talk about it. To show that people are dealing with these issues, and that doesn't make them a bad person. I don't want to hide this part of me, because it IS a part of me, a BIG part of me, and hiding it only makes it worse. In a way it's like the bullying thing... the way to fix it isn't to stay quiet or hide it away as some deep dark secret. It's to talk about it and bring it out in the open and make sure people know that it's ok to get help.

And believe me, I am getting help. I'm seeing a therapist and am a lot better in a lot of ways. Obviously I do backslide sometimes, and this post is here to show what it's like when that happens. It doesn't mean I'm suicidal or having a breakdown. It means that I'm a human being dealing with some difficult things. Things that do not need to be a shameful secret.

March 31, 2011

Geek Weekly: Special review - Shyamalanathon

Since I do reviews on all the first and third Thursdays of the month, I thought it would be fun to do a Super Special Review on the rare fifth Thursdays. For the forseeable future, I'll be focusing them on a series of themed marathons, complete with reviews and blow-by-blow reactions. Since M. Night Shyamalan is one of my favorite directors (I can see a bunch of you running for the hills already, GET BACK HERE), I thought a Shyamalanathon would be the way to start it off.

A few notes: a while back I made a half-assed attempt at a blog, and the Shyamalanathon was one of my first posts. Unfortunately I failed at committing to a blog at the time (as opposed to now YAY), so this post got thrown out. This was originally written before Avatar: The Last Airbender came out, and I have to admit I haven't seen that one yet. It was also originally multiple posts, so it's going to be a bit long. You have been warned.

Shyamalanathon 1/3: The Bruce Willis era

The Sixth Sense
I almost forgot how much I love this movie. Although I am of the MTV generation, I really like when a scary movie takes its time building the tension before making me jump. Of course I've seen this one enough times not to be too affected by the scares anymore. Remember when Haley Joel Osment was so cute with the stiff-legged run? Remember when Bruce Willis still had some hair? Did you realize that the barfing girl ghost was played by Mischa Barton? And then there's Night's very first twist, the revelation that Bruce Willis is one of the ghosts haunting Cole. It's fun watching the movie knowing that, and enjoying his character's non-interactions with the rest of the cast. Scariest ghost = the crawlspace guy; you only hear his voice. CREEPY. Night sighting: the doctor who accuses Cole's mom (played by the excellent Toni Collette) of abuse. Hi, Night!

Blow-by-blow notes:
  • Bullshit! hee
  • the “magic” trick... hee again
  • scariest ghost = crawlspace dude *shudder*
  • night sighting! the doctor
  • I see dead people
  • ACK barfing ghost
  • Bruce Willis is dead!!!

When I first saw this movie, my friend and I dubbed it “That Security Guy vs. Mr. Glass.” It was made to be a sort of prequel to a superhero flick asking the question, “What if superheroes and supervillans existed in the real world?” It does a fantastic job of mixing the fantastic and the mundane, which I think is a trademark of sorts in M. Night's movies. This one wasn't very well-received, probably because most people were expecting “The Sixth Sense 2.” Comparatively this movie is much less scary, but it has plenty of awesomesauce to go around. Ever since I saw it I've been hoping for a sequel, and according to IMDb I just might get it. Night sighting: potential drug dealer at the stadium where Bruce Willis works as a security guard. Hi Night! Surprise twist: Mr. Glass (played gorgeously by Samuel L. Jackson) is TOTALLY EVIL!

Blow-by-blow notes:
  • aw, poor baby Samuel L.
  • Samuel L. deploys The Rage!
  • Robin Wright's “I want to get back together but I'm totally ok if you don't want that *sob*” speech was particularly effective when I first saw it 'cause I had recently gone through a massive break-up and was totally in that desperate place at the time. Ouch, and also? WOW.
  • *crunch crunch crunch wince* the breaking of Samuel L. *wince*
  • Night sighting! potential drug dealer
  • 6:39pm tweet: On movie 2 of the Shyamalanathon (Unbreakable). Supplies still holding out, haven't needed bathroom break yet. Soldiering on. #shyamalan
  • GAH psycho janitor's entry is so creepy “I like your house, can I come in?” *shudder*
  • David becomes a superhero. LOVE.
  • best moment: David whispering to son across breakfast table “You were right.” *sniff*
  • surprise twist: MR. GLASS IS TOTALLY EVIL!! duh.
  • according to IMDb, Unbreakable 2 is in development. Yes, please!

Shyamalanaton 2/3: The Joaquin Phonix era

This one is very sentimental. It's also a study in faith, which is not something I normally enjoy (being essentially atheist). Nonetheless, it's a great, creepy, and often funny movie. Cuteness abounds, helped along by tiny Abigail Breslin in one of her first movie rolls (love the bump-da-bump dance, particularly knowing “Little Miss Sunshine” is in her future). Mel Gibson brings the funny more than once, apparently having not yet been driven insane by Jesus. Then the alien invasion starts, and it is SCARY. One plot hole that occurred to me... if the aliens know that water is deadly to them, why do they choose to attack EARTH?? Twist ending: it all has a purpose. Swing away, Merrill! Night sighting: the dude who killed Mel's wife. Oops. Hi Night!

Blow-by-blow notes:
  • tiny Abigail Breslin!
  • ”I'm insane with anger!” LOLZ
  • night sighting – unexplained guy who makes everyone uncomfortable
  • cornfields are always scary o_0
  • Joaquin & Mel sitting on couch with hands on knees = hee!
  • night sighting 2: awkwardness explained
  • god, Mel Gibson used to be so funny. until Jesus drove him insane.
  • oh HEE Joaquin in a tin hat too
  • ”it's happening” *shudder*
  • they left the dog outside to die DO NOT APPROVE
  • Joaquin protecting the kids... I have no maternal instinct whatsoever, yet seeing a not-yet-dad-age dude protecting kids makes me drop eggs like they're hot

The Village
Aw, it's an M. Night Shyamalan love story. Along with being a world-is-evil story. There are so many amazing actors and performances in this that you couldn't even find enough sticks to shake at them in the scary woods. Also, James Newton Howard's music is particularly great in this one. I think this one might actually be my favorite, although the next one will be high up on the scale as well. Night seemed rather determined to make up for the rather weak twist in the last movie by adding a total of FOUR twists. And, in my opinion, pulling off each one quite gracefully, and saving the best and biggest for last. I can honestly say that I did not see that coming, like, at all. Night sighting: at the end, he plays a ranger who delivers a load of awkward exposition. Nice of him to take that job on himself. Hi Night!

Blow-by-blow notes:
  • Adrien Brody is adorable and creepy at the same time. How does he do that??
  • Bryce Dallas Howard has the awesomest laugh ever
  • this movie is chock full of 70's sci-fi awesomesauce in the form of William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver
  • violin music – James Newton Howard
  • aww!!! Joaquin + Bryce = teh cuteness
  • AAACCCKKKK with the stabbing
  • twist #1: Those We Do Not Speak Of are the elders!
  • twist #2: no wait Those We Do Not Speak Of are ACTUALLY REAL!!
  • twist #3: oh wait nevermind that's just Adrian Brody
  • twist #4: we are in present day, folks.
  • night sighting: mostly just the voice as one of the rangers who kindly delivers giant chunk of clunky exposition

Shyamalanathon 3/3: Parable Time

Lady in the Water
Yeah, this one's my favorite. It's tough to knock The Village off that pedestal, with all the stellar acting going on; but even with the general drop in thespian skillz, there's still some shining exceptions. Most notably Paul Giamatti, who successfully pulls off comedic adorableness and heartbreaking pathos in equal measure. Another highlight is M. Night himself in his biggest role. A little messianic, yes, but well performed. Plus, love the silly interaction with the sister character. In fact, there is not a character in the movie I don't love for one reason or another. The only thing that I would change is that when Reggie is revealed to be The Protector in what is probably considered to be the movie's big twist, I would have like to see him bring some Hellboy-esque smackdown on the Scrunt. It would have paid off his one-side-only workout regimen, for one thing. For another, it would have been awesometastic. As I said, there really wasn't a big twist, more like a series of little twists throughout the movie. And, hi Night!

Blow-by-blow notes:
  • the slaying of the bug LOLZ!
  • eek! grassy dogs!
  • Micah! playing a child prodigy. what a departure.
  • i want to live in that apartment complex, for reals
  • yep, this one's my favorite
  • appx 12:30 tweet: Movie 5 of the Shyamalanathon. Have already put up installments 1 & 2 on The Blog: Supplies still holding, for now
  • night sighting: a major character! and he's hilarious to boot. love his brother/sister stuff. adorable!
  • have I mentioned I developed a crush on night during this movie? so pretty
  • Paul Giamatti is a comedic genius
  • one regret: Reggie should have brought the pain
  • love that eagle

The Happening
After the happy that was the last film, this one takes us darker than any of the others. It's a really cringe-worthy concept, watching people off themselves in increasingly horrifying ways because the plants told them to. As a fan of the horror genre, I loved it! Ok, granted, the ending was a little weak, and not because of the lack of any real twist. Personally I don't have any problem with a straight-forward, twist-free story; if he tried to use that every time, it would get boring. The ending just felt kind of lame. I was also a little disappointed that Night didn't make an appearance in this one... I think he might have gotten panned for his work in the last film and probably decided to forgo an appearance here. What I did love was the Parisian coda. Look out, France, you're next! Can't decide what the most disturbing part was; there were so many. The lawnmower certainly sticks out in my mind. Kudos to Night for crawling right under my skin and setting up camp there for two hours. Guh.

Blow-by-blow notes:
  • just before watching this movie, went upstairs for potty/smoke break and got completely freaked out. movies getting to me. eek.
  • this one jumps right in with the eep
  • wahlberg redux: donnie was superior
  • cameron!
  • zooey. zoooooooooey. zooeydeschanel. that's fun to say in a bad french accent
  • aw john leguizamo as a daddy = cuteness
  • is it wrong that I love the part where three people use a gun one after the other to kill themselves?
  • omg these suicides are bonkers
  • cheese and crackers! hee
  • oh yeah, breslin redux as well: both performed admirably
  • oh ACK the lawnmower ACK
  • are you my mummy? old ladies in gas masks, hee
  • o hai crazy lady EEEKKK
  • no twist, no night, and an awesome coda

Shyamalanathon: Redux and Wrap-Up

The Buried Secrets of M. Night Shyamalan
Surprise! Bet you didn't see this coming... Come now, no proper Shyamalanathon would be complete without this one. It would have been part of the original Shyamalanathon posts, but I kind of forgot to put in on my NetFlix queue in time and didn't get it until yesterday. Oops.

When I first watched this, I thought it was real. I mean, on one level I didn't because, c'mon. It was only a few days later that I saw the retraction/apology, and that didn't surprise me either. When I watched it at night, alone in my apartment, I was, frankly, totally convinced. To the extent that I slept on the couch with the TV on that night. In the light of day it was a bit different. Seriously, there was Deepak Chopra! And Johnny Depp! And all sorts of crazy drama! How could it not be real? Ok, the creepy hoodie kids were a little out there. And the acting was sometimes a bit... well, awkward. Still!

I know a lot of people think the movie is ridiculous (assuming they even know about it). Most people are pretty scornful of the fact that it was an admitted hoax. Personally, I think it was brilliant. Not only from a publicity standpoint, but also as just a bit of really good storytelling. I mean, how often do you get to see a movie about the life of a real person, a famous person at that, which is really creepy and interesting? And that person is actually INVOLVED in the movie? I just thought it was cool as hell both in its attempt to make the viewer believe it was real, and after knowing it's fake, the story itself.

A story that I started writing a long time ago revolved around the idea that horror movies and books aren't fiction at all, just windows into worlds most people ignore or don't want to see. One of the characters in my story is Clive Barker, who turns out to be this haunted guy who sees into those places and whose stories and characters are based on what he sees there. This movie follows that same tradition wonderfully, and the involvement of Night in the process just makes it all the more awesome.

C'mon, they pulled the wool over your eyes for a minute too, just admit it. This movie is well worth watching if you can stop bitching and enjoy it. It would only have been better if everyone involved had managed to keep up with the ruse and left us all wondering if maybe, just maybe, it was real.

Blow-by-blow notes:
  • first time... kinda bought it, kinda not
  • lovely cinematography
  • should have noticed the awkward “acting” from some of the crew types
  • creepy hoodie kids!
  • Deepak Chopra was an interesting random celeb
  • ditch the hate and enjoy the ride, people – this thing is worth it
  • JOHNNY DEPP I almost forgot about that!
  • Adrian Brody = awesome
  • GAH the house part is so creepy
  • it's too bad they had to admit it was fake

Wrap Up
Things purchased in preparation for the Shyamalanathon:
  • smokes
  • milk for cereal
  • lunchmeat and bagels for sandwiches
  • crab dib and pita bread
  • white cheddar Cheeze-Its
  • Papa John's large bacon-green-pepper-onion pizza with extra sauce
  • Crystal Light wild strawberry flavor with CAFFEINE
  • Diet Code Red Mountain Dew 12-pack
  • Friskie's Indoor cat food

So this was a really fun experience, even more so because I got to spew my thoughts about it all over the interwebs. Hope the three or four of you that read it enjoyed it as much as I did, and I definitely suggest giving the Shyamalanathon a try if you have the chance.

I have a few other -thons I'm mulling over for the fifth Thursday reviews, including an American-Remakes-of-Asian-Horror-thon, a Stephen-King-adaptation-thon, a the-UK-is-scary-thon, and the grandaddy of -thons, an Extended-Director's-Cut-Lord-of-the-Rings-including-all-DVD-special-features-thon. Check back in June for the next fifth Thursday to see which one I picked! (Actually, come back before then, because I need validation. Thanks.)

March 28, 2011

Life on the Couch: Adventures in cooking.

I've been doing this menu planning thing for a few weeks now, and have been actually cooking food rather than just taking it out of the freezer and putting it in the microwave. There's been some frustration and a lot of angsting, but I'd like to share some of my excitement with you instead.

Like stir fry. Why did no one ever tell me about stir fry? It's so easy! The way I make it, anyway. Bag of frozen veggies, packet of pre-cooked chicken cubes, can of water chestnuts, bottle of stir fry sauce. Then you just put it on heat and stir it around. WHAT IS THIS MADNESS? Needless to say, I'm exploring the world of stir fry with a nearly ridiculous amount of enthusiasm.

I also made my first-ever chicken dinner. It was a simple rice bake, but it involved actual uncooked chicken that I had to make so that it didn't give me Salmonella poisoning. (Here's the thing... I have this weird, nearly pathological fear of cooking chicken. I have no idea why. I've never had a traumatic experience with undercooked chicken, I don't know anyone who's died from poor chicken preparation. I just feel like it's the pinnacle of how I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to cooking. So the chicken bake was kind of a big deal for me.)

I even have a go-to recipe that I call Baked Ziti (even though I make it with penne). It's possibly the most simple recipe in the history of ever, requiring only boiling the penne, dumping it into a pan, adding a bottle of Prego and half a bag of shredded mozzarella and mixing, then sprinkling it with the remaining half of the bag of cheese. Then bake it for a while and I've got five meals. FIVE. Awesome!

I've got some more adventures in my near future, including fish – FISH! - and from-scratch veggie burgers. I'm also glad to report that I've successfully navigated the grocery store a couple of times now, with almost no blank staring or aimless wandering or panicked beelining.

That sound you hear is me patting my own back. Damn right.

March 24, 2011

Geek Weekly: Growing up geek.

Time for a little nostalgia kick. Once again this is going to be an interactive post... leave a comment with some of the geeky things that you loved growing up!

My mother swears that the first movie I ever saw in the theater was The Empire Strikes Back. I would have been three years old at the time. I'm assuming my first movie would have been Star Wars, but I was still in the womb when that one came out. At any rate, I can imagine my tiny toddler brain absorbing the sights and sounds of Lucas' epic and becoming totally hooked.

As a child of the 80's, I was raised on sci-fi and fantasy movies like The Neverending Story, Gremlins, The Goonies, The Explorers, Willow, and of course the aforementioned Star Wars movies; cheesy but fabulous television shows like “The Hulk,” “He-Man,” “Wonder Woman,” “V,” “The Greatest American Hero,” “Star Trek: the Next Generation,” and “Alien Nation;” and spent lots of time playing with my Transformers and my Atari (favorite game? “Joust”). At a young age I also developed a fascination for classic movie monsters, an obsession that would have had me fit right in with the kids in Monster Squad. I prided myself on my expertise in all things ghost, werewolf, vampire, and the pantheon of Universal movie monsters.

My love of Stephen King's books began at the tender age of ten, when I started reading Pet Sematary by skipping the first 100 pages, and moved directly on to The Shining... and have now read and re-read most of his books.

I became a teenager in the 90's, which was when my focus began to shift towards horror movies. There was a dearth of horror then, but there was some great stuff on television: “Friday the 13th” (not to be mistaken for the Jason Voorhees movies), “Tales from the Crypt,” and “The X-Files” are a few that I loved. Most of my horror movie viewing was stuff from the 70's and 80's, such as the various Freddy and Jason movies, Alien and Aliens, all the Hellraisers and Halloweens, plus every cheesy camp-counselor beach-party prom-night movie I could get my hands on. It wasn't until Scream reminded us just how awesome horror flicks are that the genre began to pick up steam again, and I was in heaven.

Unlike the kids today (please do picture me hunched over a cane shaking my fist as I say that), I had to grow up in the internet-less vacuum of the 80's and early 90's, virtually unaware that there were other kids like me who rejected the possibility of having a life on Saturday nights because ST:TNG was on, or haunted their local video store's tiny horror section (usually located in the back corner, by the curtained door leading to the porn), or wrote stories in the world of their favorite show. Had the internet existed, I would likely be as addicted to it as I am now. But I'm glad I didn't have it, because the movies and shows I loved feel more like discoveries I made myself.

It was a great time to grow up geek.

March 20, 2011

Life on the Couch: Acting class as therapy.

I started taking improv classes a few months ago. As you can imagine, it's been quite an interesting adventure. I frequently refer to them as my learn-to-be-funny classes, although it's turned out to to be a lot more about discovering my fears and boundaries.

Performing isn't really a big fear for me... I have enough of the only child LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME mentality not to be afraid of standing in front of people. However, I developed an instinctive fear of being viewed negatively when I was one of those bullied kids in school. I will usually avoid doing anything that makes me look stupid, both consciously and unconsciously. Little insiders tip about performing comedy: it doesn't really work if you're not willing to look stupid.

I'm next in line to create a scene. I must start as an animal and then become a human with the characteristics of the creature. I'm given “panther” as the cue, and must begin. I find myself crawling along the floor, doing my best stalk, slowly rising to my feet with as much grace as my 220 lb, 5'7” body can muster. I feel embarrassed by the difficulty I have. I'm glad when the exercise is over, sure that I've disgusted my fellow students. The one who suggested my animal persona (who is himself a reasonably attractive straight male), tells me that my performance was his favorite of the night. I don't know what to think.

On a similar vein, these classes bring up a lot of my body issues. I'm not comfortable with my body, and when I'm asked to crawl, or roll around, or bounce, I get really weirded out and have a hard time doing it. I am also discovering just how genuinely bothered I am by people touching me or being asked to touch other people. Just having people invade my bubble without touch makes me incredibly freaked out, and I find myself backing away from them. I'm curious to find out if this is the result of sexual abuse, or simply because my family was never very huggy. It's also something I'd really like to change about myself... I don't want to be scared to touch and be touched.

I try to do the “straight man” to my acting partner's silliness. The teacher stops me and asks me to imitate my partner's goofy behavior instead. I do, trying really hard to just be in this character instead of worrying about how I look. My acting partner lays on the ground and invites me to join him. I insist I don't lay on the ground. “Yes you do!” cries my teacher, and I force myself to at least sit on the ground next to him. He's scared me with the invitation to lay with him, is the thing. On the surface I know I'm safe... I'm in a room full of people, my scene partner is not some crazed sexual predator... but the defenses have come up, covering me in a layer of razor-sharp spines. The scene continues as he keeps pushing my boundaries, playing with my hair, touching my arms... I'm grateful to him, for understanding that I need to be pushed, but not pushing so hard that I can't take it.

Another issue that's coming up is how little I trust myself. I've been having a really hard time pushing myself to spit out those ideas that float into my head during improvisational exercises. Needless to say, if you can't trust yourself, you're not going to do well in improv. It also ties into that desperate need not to look like an idiot, because the nature of improv is that you sometimes fail. Sometimes what you say doesn't work and you just have to find your way back to the funny. A lot of that comes from practice, but there's also an element of knowing that you're good and will eventually make it right. It's something I don't have, but I want. I want to learn how to trust myself.

We stand in a circle, doing two-line scenes, jumping out with no forethought and shouting a line that someone else must jump out and respond to. We are nine weeks in, and I still haven't been able to be the first to jump out. Whatever I say will be too lame, too pointless. It doesn't matter that half the other lines the other students are coming up with are lame and that is the whole point of the exercise.

These classes are not all terror and sweaty palms. I laugh through most of the night, I enjoy watching my fellow students take risks and I learn so much every night. I don't know if improv is an art I'll ever excel at, but I can sense how incredibly good it is for me.

March 17, 2011

Geek Weekly: Television review - “Spaced.”

If you've never heard of “Spaced,” I can't say I'm really surprised. Painfully disappointed, but not surprised. A little background for the uninitiated:

“Spaced” was created by Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Jessica Stevenson (now Hynes), and stars Pegg, Hynes, and Nick Frost (along with some other wonderful character actors). Most of the team went on to create the movies Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, so chances are pretty good that if you're a geek, you're familiar with their brand of humor. The series aired in 1999 and 2000 on Channel 4 in the UK.

The show centers on Tim (Pegg) and Daisy (Hynes), strangers who meet over the classifieds in a London coffee shop. Tim has just been kicked out by his long-term girlfriend, while Daisy is attempting to get out of the squat she shares with several friends. They pretend to be a couple in order to get the perfect flat, thus becoming the nucleus of an odd and wonderful little family that includes Tim's “A-Team”-obsessed childhood friend Mike (Frost), Daisy's blonde fashion plate bestie Twist (Katy Carmichael), Marsha the landlady and her ever-present glass of wine (Julia Deakin), and the tortured and socially awkward artist Brian (Mark Heap).

The show is a celebration of geekdom, filled with loving references to everything from 2001: A Space Odyssey to X-Men comics to Scooby-Doo to the ever-present Star Wars movies. One memorable episode uses a theme centered on the “Resident Evil” video games, and gives a sneak peek into the inspiration for Shaun of the Dead before it's even been made.

What this show does so well is balance the goofy humor with genuine heart and just a touch of romance that's compelling without being too heavy-handed. It's the same formula that made Shaun of the Dead so successful and so much fun to watch. The world is familiar yet surreal, filled with human caricatures that should be completely ridiculous but never fail to remind you of someone you know. My personal favorite being Tyres, the raving bike courier.

The series ran for two seven-episode seasons and is available on a DVD boxed set, which includes the 2004 documentary Skip to the End. It's the perfect length for an all-day marathon, with the more hard-core marathoners among us able to tack on the movies to watch the progression of the Wright-Pegg-Frost triumvirate.

Bottom line, if you're a fan of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, you have to see this show. If you're not, what the hell is wrong with you?

March 16, 2011

The sexuality of “Torchwood.”

Just FYI, this is pretty deeply “Torchwood” geeky, so if you aren't relatively familiar with the show, you may be a bit lost. I highly recommend watching the first two series and the “Children of Earth” miniseries for clarification.

While reading an article online regarding the woeful lack of bisexual characters on television, one of the comments left by a reader got me thinking. He pointed out that the only truly bisexual character was “our beloved Captain Jack.” This immediately rankled, thus necessitating my first ever off-schedule blog post. Thanks, random commenter! (Also, I can't remember if I've already said this somewhere on my blog before, but in case you haven't figured it out by now, I identify as bisexual.)

So here's my argument: the only truly bisexual character on “Torchwood” was actually Owen Harper.

Yes, I mean the doctor guy. It'll make more sense in a bit, just stick with me.

The thing that first attracted me to “Torchwood” was the apparent idea that the characters lived in a world without “straight” and “gay,” where anyone could end up with anyone else regardless of gender. And indeed, each of the five main characters had some sort of romantic or sexual relationship, even if it was as brief as a kiss, with someone of both their own and the opposite gender at some point. However, I believe that there is a distinction to be made between the promised fluid sexuality and the delivered encounters.

The reason I believe Owen is the only truly bisexual character comes from a very brief scene in the pilot episode. When it's revealed that he's using an alien pheromone spray to attract people for the purpose of sex, he initially uses it on a woman. But when her boyfriend comes raging after them with baffled threats of violence, Owen uses the spray on him and invites him along for the night. While the argument could be made that he did it simply to avoid getting beaten up, the look of glee on his face after the man lays one on him and drags him off suggests otherwise. And while it seems like the whole thing is dropped in favor of his varying levels of romance with Gwen, Diane, and Tosh, to me this scene makes him the most honestly bisexual character on the show.

So what about everyone else?

Toshiko Sato did have one lesbian encounter, with an alien bent on manipulating her trust to get into the Hub. While the situation is certainly up for interpretation, my take on it is that it was more about power and control than sexuality. And unlike Owen's casual handling of physical intimacy with either gender, Tosh spends some time wringing her hands about how she's never had sex with a woman before. She's clearly thrown for a loop, which seems pretty unlikely if she were really bisexual. She also goes on to have only same-sex relationships from that point on, with Tommy, Adam, and Owen.

Gwen Cooper hardly counts, since her one lesbian experience was with that sex-energy alien. She's straight.

Now we get to the really sticky ones. These are the two whose sexuality I've probably spent the most time wondering about.

Ianto Jones. Before “Children of Earth,” I would have said that Ianto was the one solid representation of bisexuality on “Torchwood.” He clearly had not just physical but romantic relationships with both Lisa and Jack. Before “Children of Earth” I was thrilled by the ease with which Ianto's sexuality was handled, and how successfully they had shown how a character could love a woman and a man equal amounts. But then... then there was “Children of Earth.” Wherein Ianto confesses to his sister, “It's not men, it's just... him.” Essentially blaming his foray into dickville solely on Jack's uniquely charming persona and supernatural ability to circumvent established sexuality. Thank you, “Children of Earth,” for that painfully exclusionary new bit of canon. The bottom line: Ianto? Not bisexual.

And then there's Captain Jack Harkness. Jack has been identified in numerous interviews as “omnisexual,” not bisexual. Jack is a 51st century human, born in a time and place where humans are spread so thin across the galaxy that they are necessarily adaptable. One of the first lines in the pilot of the series has Jack revealing that he had been pregnant at some point, and if you include the Doctor Who Face of Boe mythology (which, since we're going on stated canon here, I think we must), he will become pregnant again at some point when he's a giant tentacled head in a jar. We also find out in “Children of Earth” that he has a daughter and a grandson living in present time. The point being, in my mind, that Jack does not represent a bisexual character because his particular brand of sexuality isn't anything that exists in the real world.

So there you have it. I've yet to be completely satisfied with any portrayal of bisexuality on television, although there have been a few that have almost gotten there, and a few more that still have the potential to. I would write a whole other blog post on that, but Chris O'Guinn already did it over on AfterElton. Go read the article if you're curious about my thoughts on it, because he said it pretty much the same way I would.

March 13, 2011

Life on the Couch: Work is hard.

This is going to be a short-ish one, 'cause I'm pretty sure I'm coming down with the plague which makes me cranky and unmotivated. Unlike how I usually am.

I've worked a myriad of customer service and retail jobs. I don't tend to stay at them very long, because I seriously suck at customer service. The problem is that I really don't care. I'm terrible at upselling, because what's it to me if the large corporation emblazoned across my chest (or worse, stitched on the breast of my company polo shirt GAH) makes an additional four dollars? I also have this utterly irrational idea that the customer should already know about the place they're in and what it sells or what the program does, which makes them a lazy, ignorant idiot for asking me about it. Doesn't take long for me to succumb to the seething rage.

As a customer, if I ever had to ask myself for assistance, I would think I was the rudest, most disgruntled employee ever.

Of the thirty-odd jobs I've had in my life, almost all of them have been retail or customer service of some sort. And for those of you who just gasped, “THIRTY???” I offer you a list (from memory, so probably not complete):

Paper delivery
Grocery cashier at a small-town store
Grocery cashier at a warehouse grocer
Taco shop clerk
Toy store clerk
Reception/admin at a job placement company
Book store clerk
Reception/admin at a computer training company
Video store clerk
Music/video store clerk
Lingerie store clerk
Admin at a federal office
Lotion store clerk
Admin at a mental health facility
Dispatcher for a cab company
Admin for a technology firm
Rental video store clerk
Box office staff at a children's theater
Sign language interpreter at a high school
Large media/electronics store clerk
Group home attendant
Sign language interpreter at an elementary school
Admin at a state agency

I'm quite excited to start my next job: professional student. Not much customer service involved in that one.

I don't even think this post made sense. I blame the plague.

March 10, 2011

Geek Weekly: The heebies.

You may have noticed by now that I love horror movies. I love the tension, I love the gore, I love the scares, I love the atmosphere... I love it all.

The problem is the after-effects. When a movie succeeds in actually scaring me, it tends to last for a while. Sometimes weeks.

The Grudge was one of the worst I've experienced. To this day, if I watch the movie (for the eleventyth time) or even just think about it too much, I have a hard time looking into dark corners for fear of seeing that white-dress-long-dark-hair shape. I can barely stand to go up the stairs, because the risers are open to the crawlspace beneath and I'm positive a small white hand is going to grab my ankle as I hurry up. It doesn't exactly help that my roommate's cats like to sit under there and stare out between the risers with their creepy reflective eyes. GAH.

The problem is, as much as I love these movies, I'm a total scardy-cat. I have a horrible habit of playing the “I wonder what I would do if...” game. This usually pops up at the most unexpected times: having a smoke on the porch (I wonder what I would do if a zombie came lurching around the corner); laying in bed about to fall asleep (I wonder what I would do if a voice suddenly said my name); brushing my teeth (I wonder what I would do if something walked behind me in the mirror).

I'm not sure if these thoughts are the result of being a horror movie addict, from starting my Stephen King obsession at the age of ten, or if they're simply the product of an overactive imagination. I'm guessing it's all of the above, with a strong dose of general insanity thrown in.

It's a good thing the heebies have become a way of life by now, because Insidious looks awesome, doesn't it?

March 6, 2011

Geek Weekly: Movie review – Paranormal Activity 2

I do realize that it's Sunday. The Life Sundays post is coming too, hopefully tomorrow. If you know me at all, the fact that I've gotten a bit behind is no surprise. The shocking thing is that it took an entire month for it to happen. But enough bluster, on to the main event!

I originally watched the new Nightmare on Elm Street movie intending to rip it to shreds (ha ha), but it was actually so bad that all I could do was seethe and rage. I also happened to rent Paranormal Activity 2 just for my own enjoyment, so I've decided to talk about that instead. We may revisit That Other Movie later, if I'm desperate for topics and feel the need to vent.

On to the fun movie!


I went into this sequel with no real idea of what I was getting into, so I was very pleasantly surprised by the appearance of Katie and Micah from the first movie, and rather devilishly pleased when I realized how the timelines of the two movies wove together. You can watch almost the entirety of the second movie, then stop it and watch the whole of the first movie, then the last few minutes of the second movie again, and the story is seamless. One thing that did bother me was the inclusion of the backstory, since giving an explanation for Teh Evil weakens it somewhat; the scariest stories are the ones where there is no reason for the victims to be targeted (i.e. The Exorcist or The Grudge). That said, I really liked the dark turn it took as the family makes the decision to transfer the haunting to Katie, thus setting the events of the first movie (and the subsequent results at the end of this one) in motion.

What this movie does so well (like the first one) is the slow build... ramping the tension up so high that it's almost a relief when the scare finally comes. For me, the hallmark of a good horror flick is how many times I end up hiding behind my hands, and it happened over and over again during this film. There's a delicate balance to that crescendo; if you get off too quickly, there's no satisfaction, but if you take too long to stretch it out, it can become boring and you barely even care when the scare does come. (Yes, like sex. I see wot U did thar.) The scene when all the cupboards slam open in the kitchen was so loud and startling that it sent my cats scrambling under the nearest furniture. It was the most fun I've had watching a horror movie in a long time.

Another thing that works really well is that you never see the demon. Horror movie monsters rarely live up to their hype, and more often than not once you see the monster, it becomes less frightening. The monster in Paranormal Activity 2 exists purely in the viewer's imagination, and is so much worse there than it could ever be onscreen. And the fact that the protagonists themselves eventually become the monster makes it all the worse, because how do you fight someone you love? How do you stop yourself from becoming the monster?

The sequel has a lot of similarities to the original, a lot of the same kinds of scares and tactics. I think this is a strength rather than a weakness, because it makes sense in the context of the films... after all, they are the same haunting. There is just enough of a difference to give the their own unique twist, and make both worth watching. If you liked the first one, there's no reason you shouldn't like this one as well. And if the first one scared the pants off you, this one should do the same. If it didn't scare the pants off you, you're lying. It totally did.

February 27, 2011

Life on the Couch: The terror of grocery shopping.

One of the aspects of my particular brand of anxiety is the conviction that I don't know how to do certain things unless given explicit instructions. One of the Great Mystery Skills I'm positive I don't have is cooking. And mixed up with this lack of cooking confidence is the terror of grocery shopping.

Not that I break into a cold sweat whenever I walk into my local Cub Foods... what happens instead is a sort of mental block as I wander through the aisles. I stare at all the food, all the varieties and brands and options, and I have absolutely no idea what to buy.

A typical shopping trip takes around twenty minutes. I don't even bother trying to make sense of what I'm looking at; I just zero in on the familiar stuff and load up my cart. I wander straight past the produce and meat aisles without a second glance and stock up on frozen dinners and Doritos, Pizza Rolls and lunch meat.

Then there are times when I'm motivated to eat healthier, to consume fresh vegetables and meals I can't microwave; when I decide I'm going to try buying Real Food. This is when the trips are much longer, becoming a two-hour odyssey. Instead of angling straight for the freezer section, I push my cart resolutely up and down every aisle. I stare at all the items I normally pass by and I wonder how I can take these things and make them into the kind of meals that average people make every day.

At the end of the two hours, my cart is always filled with frozen dinners, and lunch meat, and Pizza Rolls, and maybe a bag of baby carrots. I'm exhausted and dejected and can only hope I've managed to put together enough meals to last me to my next paycheck.

So! I've decided to try something new. Something so radical and innovative that it may just shock me into shopping like a proper grown up: I'm going to try meal planning.

I made my first weekly meal plan today. It took me three hours. I'll be putting together a shopping list once I've gone through the cupboards in search of any supplies I already have. I think the way for me to keep from being completely overwhelmed when I enter the grocery store is to have a plan, and a list. If I can do it that way for a while, maybe I can start looking at those rows and rows of food and start getting ideas instead of just... well, staring at them.

Baby steps. Or, you know, baby carrots.

There is one more hurdle I'll have to overcome to make this work, which is actually using the food I get by cooking. I made a point to find recipes that are simple enough for a seven-year-old to manage on their own... so I'm hopeful. And if I don't do it exactly right, it'll be ok. It'll have to be.

Let the grocery shopping commence!

I plan to post an update on this in the near future. If I don't, please do get on me to do so.

February 25, 2011

Geek Weekly: Gay Fandom, or That German Soap.

This is a day late due to surprise nap attack unforeseen circumstances. Apologies!

Fandom can be a murky and terrifying place for the uninitiated. It can also be one of the most rewarding and amazing things you can be a part of, if you find the right one. I've dipped my toe into a number of fandoms over the years; my first experience was in 1996, when I stumbled on an email list for the USA show “La Femme Nikita.” A few years later I joined a Yahoo!Group for fans of a book series by Laurell K. Hamilton. And just a couple of years ago I became involved in an online campaign focusing on the BBC series “Torchwood.”

My most recent and intense foray into fandom is for a German soap opera called “Alles Was Zählt.”

I can see that perplexed look you're trying to hide. Don't worry, I'm used to it.

So how in the world did I end up involved in a fandom for a foreign-language soap? Well, it all started with “Queer As Folk.”

Yep, there's that look again.

What I discovered while watching watching QAF (the US version, for those In The Know) was that I got a certain enjoyment out of watching relationships between two men. Not just the sex scenes, but the romances and the friendships as well. Something about watching men be so comfortable with one another on a physical level is very appealing to me. (And yes, the sex scenes are hot.)

I've read a lot of differing opinions on the internets about why it is that straight women enjoy watching gay drama. I've always thought of the sexual aspect as similar to the straight male obsession with lesbian sex. As a friend of mine once put it, it's fun to watch two people you're attracted to smooshed together.

Makes sense to me.

Also, why is “smooshed” not in my spell-check? That's totally a real word.

Anyway, I've also read that for some, it's more fun to take themselves out of identifying with one of the characters and simply enjoy the relationship; others like identifying with a character of the opposite gender. I personally find gay men sexually non-threatening, which can be an important factor.

Whatever your reason or flavor, there is an increasing presence of gay fandoms out there, and the majority of their participants are straight or bisexual women, with a smattering of gay men. I personally identify as bisexual, and am what's known as a fag hag, or a fruit fly, or a homo honey. Here's an explanation from Wiki.

As you may have guessed by now, there is a gay element in AWZ. The show itself is a “typical” (meaning “straight”) show, which started with one gay character who was essentially window dressing. About a year in, the show added another gay character, this one a teenager struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. The resulting coming out story remains one of the most realistic and lovingly acted I've ever seen. The romance that followed between the two gay characters was what sucked me into the show, and the lovely folks who translated and subtitled their storyline in English to be posted on YouTube were what brought me into the fandom.

It's sort of amusing sometimes, how difficult it is to explain fandom (and particularly such an unusual one as this). Those rare occasions I do try enlightening the unaware, I'm generally greeted with the slightly blank smile-and-nod of someone who would like to get out of the conversation as quickly as possible. Since I've long given up getting non-geeks to understand me, this can be an endless source of entertainment.

To check out the gay storyline on “Alles Was Zählt” with English subtitles, visit the EskimoKissProject channel on YouTube.

February 20, 2011

Life on the Couch: So, this is really happening.

I just got a letter from the University of Minnesota. I've been accepted to their School of Liberal Arts.

I've been in a state of high-tension anxiety since I submitted my application about three weeks ago. (Yes, I know. Poor me. Three whole weeks. THREE TERRIFYING, ULCER-INDUCING WEEKS.) As a “non-traditional” student (older, already holding an Associate's degree) I was relatively confident I would be accepted... except when I wasn't confident, which was pretty much all the time. I mean, honestly. What was I thinking, applying to a Real University? Obviously I'm just some idiot trying to pretend I'm world-wise and intellectual and will fit in with all the young, artistic types who will doubtless be filling the classes I'll be in. I went from desperately hoping for an acceptance letter to wishing I could take the application back to being completely convinced there was no way I would get in. Approximately six times a minute.

Now that I've hoodwinked them- er, I mean, I'm in and the self-confidence flail is done (related to acceptance in the program anyway), I can start to focus on exactly what the hell I've gotten myself into. Which boils down to: quitting my job and going to University full-time at the age of thirty-three.




One of the biggest mistakes I made when I was getting my Associate's degree (in Sign Language Interpreting) was being in way too much of a hurry. I didn't really care about what I was learning or experiencing; I only cared about getting that paper in my hands as quickly as possible, so I could start working. I firmly affixed my blinders about the reality of the field, and never really found my love of the work. I never excelled, and although I spent a couple of years working in the field, I never succeeded. I did the minimum I had to do to get by, and in the end it wasn't enough.

It's something I've beat myself up over a lot in the past year or so. It took a long time for me to come to terms with the reality of the situation: that interpreting is not for me.

It took even longer to realize that what I should be doing is what I've always wanted to do: to write, to act, to create, to dream.

I turned cynical at a very young age, for a variety of reasons. I gave up on being a writer or an actor or an artist by the time I graduated from high school. Even then, I was already looking for that elusive thing that I could do whether I really loved it or not, with the goal of supporting myself in a hard, cruel world. So I tossed my dreams aside and spent the next ten years bouncing from place to place, from job to job, finding things that captured my fancy for a while but never anything that was really true. And all along I knew that art and expression were what really turned me on... but I was convinced that it was simply not realistic to attempt such flighty pursuits. Not when there were bills to be paid.

I still have bills and obligations and the realistic fear that I won't be able to support myself. Or that I'll try this and I'll still end up working as an office assistant somewhere. The thing is, somewhere along the way everything changed. I realized that the only thing standing in my way is these fears. And the thing is, I can't let that stop me anymore. Scary as it may be, I have to take a leap. I have to follow my dreams and see where they take me. I think I'm finally ready to do that.

I'm about to start a great adventure...

February 17, 2011

Geek Weekly: Television – “The Walking Dead”

Much like my first-Thursday-of-the-month movie reviews, I'm going to be doing a third-Thursday-of-the-month review of television shows. It'll be more of an overall series review, rather than something specific to an episode. Got it? Good. Enough formalities, on to the brain-eaters.

Here's the thing about zombies:

They're slow. They're stupid. They spend most of their time moaning and reaching and stumbling around.

Here's the other thing about zombies:

They scare the hell out of me.

Ever since I first watched a zombie moan its way towards a mouthful of brain matter during an HBO free preview viewing of Return of the Living Dead 3, I've been completely terrified by their shambling relentlessness. Which naturally means I sought out every zombie flick I could find. I would watch with cringing horror as the walking dead slowly but inevitably cornered their prey, nearly impossible to kill and utterly single-minded in their pursuit of BRAAAAAAAAINS. I even fell in love with the new “fast zombies” introduced primarily in Danny Boyle's brilliant 28 Days Later... after all, what's scarier than a horde of nearly unstoppable walking corpses intent on nothing in the world besides cracking your skull open and gobbling your gray matter? Answer: a horde of rage-fueled speed-demons intent on nothing more than killing you in the most violent manner possible.

When I heard there was going to be a television series taking place in the midst of a zombie apocalypse... well, needless to say, I was a tad bit excited.

“The Walking Dead” does not disappoint.

It opens on a deserted road. We are introduced to the main character, a uniformed cop in a police cruiser, as he searches for gas. Within moments, we've also met our first zombie: a little girl with half her face eaten away, keening and snarling as she runs at the hero... who is forced to shoot her in the head. Best first five minutes of television ever.

The iconic hero wakes up and realizes the world has ended scene is delightfully creepy and disturbing, as he stumbles on half-eaten corpses, moaning and bendy-fingered things barricaded behind doors, and carefully-stacked piles of dead bodies. That's before he even finds the still-smoking rubble surrounded by abandoned military vehicles and equipment. Even after all that, the crowning glory of the scene was the zombie who crawls desperately after him, gone below the waist.

And that was just the first episode.

There is nothing particularly original in the storytelling... the characters are fairly standard, but they nonetheless manage to surprise you at times. The show manages gives us just enough lightness and humor to cut the trauma and horror, which is as relentless as the title characters. The fascinating thing about zombie apocalypse movies is watching the haggard survivors fight to stay alive, and sane, and how they waver between ugliness and grace.

My only real complaint about the show is the truncated length of the season at only six episodes. This show is way too good to limit to six hours.

Now please excuse me, I have to make sure the shotgun under my bed is loaded before I go to sleep.

February 13, 2011

Life on the Couch: Valentine's Day, single-girl style.

So, you ask, how should I, as a single person, spend this ridiculous day?

Enjoy the fact that you're unencumbered and have no one to impress. Don't shave. Leave the expensive perfume in the medicine cabinet. Wear sweats. Order a double-onion pizza, and follow it up with an entire bag of those delicious pink and white M&M's. Fart as loud as you can. (Just, you know, be careful... you don't want to gamble and lose.) Marathon your favorite bad show. Hog the remote. Cuddle your pets. Go out and see a movie by yourself. Indulge in some self-loving. Wallow in it.

In case you're wondering what I mean by that, it's exactly what you think. Knock one out. Have a wank. Masturbate. Watch your favorite porn, fire up your favorite battery-powered toy, or just light some candles and run a bath. However you enjoy it most, do it. I bet you'll have a better orgasm than most of the couples out there. 'Cause you have nothing to prove to anyone.

Whatever you do, don't be hard on yourself. Don't feel bad because you're single.

If I sound cynical, it's because I am. Valentine's Day is unfair. It's an insidious thing, and you shouldn't let it get you down just because you don't have a significant other. You're not worth any less because you're not half of a pair. You're a whole, beautiful person all on your own. The gross truth about Valentine's Day is that it is a celebration in exclusion, an arbitrary day on the calendar that gives the false impression that you're more important if you're coupled off. After all, you don't see any days devoted to celebrating single people.

Just as bad, it puts pointless pressure on couples to prove their worth as a pair by having them exchange flowers and candy hearts. Even on those rare occasions when I have been part of a couple on Valentine's Day, it felt totally false and forced. The little gestures people feel they have to make on this one specific day would have so much more meaning if they were spontaneous, driven by love rather than obligation.

Celebrate the day however you like. I'm going to spend it being proud that I can exist as a singular entity, that I don't need another person to complete me. Mostly, I'm not going to do anything at all.

February 10, 2011

Geek Weekly: Celebrities I've been five feet (or less) from.

My very first interactive blog post! I want to hear from you on this one, people...

Here's the rules: it can be anyone you consider a celebrity. I'll go ahead and let you decide who fits the criteria, but a good rule of thumb for me is if I've ever thought “Wow, they're a lot shorter in person.” You must have been within comfortable talking distance of this person. Physical contact is a plus (i.e. a handshake (you pervs)) but not necessary. If they are on a stage and you are not, it doesn't count... even if you were in the front row, inches away, getting sweat/spittle showered on you. If you got your boobs signed after the concert, that would count. Got it? Good.

Me first!

Bruce Campbell broke my celebrity cherry when he did a signing for his first book, “If Chins Could Kill,” at a small bookstore in the D.C. area. He was ridiculously smart and charming, and totally tolerant when I sweatily blurted a request to have my picture taken kissing his cheek. I may still have the picture framed somewhere nearby.

The next I can remember was Taylor Hanson. Yes, that Taylor Hanson. (WARNING: do not click that link unless you want icepick-to-eardrum inducing earworm. You're welcome.) We passed each other as he was entering a restaurant and I was leaving. There was total eye-sparkage, I am not kidding you at all.

I had about a ten-year dry spell in which I met no celebrities at all. It was very sad indeed. Then suddenly, in the past year, I've met a whole slew of famous folk. Mostly at conventions of some sort (because yes, convention meets count. If they didn't, my turn would already be over and this is my blog and that is not on. So yes, convention meets totally count).

Last February I went to the SFX Weekender in southern England, where I met James Marsters, Gareth David-Lloyd, Tom Baker, and Elisabeth Sladen. If it all seems a bit Who-centric, that's because it was a science fiction convention, in England. James was probably the most fun, as he regaled me with a story about how his girlfriend was watching the filming of the scene in “Torchwood” when he makes out with John Barrowman (who was totally supposed to be there too, and therefore would have been on my meet-list, except he has a career or summat so he's not on my list, which is LAME). Also, Elisabeth is ridiculously gorgeous in person (not that she isn't on-screen as well, but in person... woof).

Then in March I went to a much smaller convention called Gays of Our Lives, the focus of which was gay characters and storylines in soap operas. At the time there happened to be only two soaps in the U.S. that had gay storylines (both of which are gone now), and three in Germany. Which means that out of the eight celebrity guests, five flew in from Germany to meet their fans. The American guests were Scott Evans (from “One Life to Live”), Gregory Michael (from “Dante's Cove” and “Greek”), and Hal Sparks (from the American version of “Queer as Folk”). The German guests were Igor Dolgatschew and Dennis Grabosch (from “Alles Was Zählt”), Jo Weil and Thore Schölermann (from "Verboten Liebe”), and Felix Isenbügel (from “Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten”). Having become a rabid AWZ fan, I was most excited to meet Dennis and Igor, and I was not disappointed. They were completely lovely. Everyone was, really, but those two definitely stand out as my favorites. The smallness of the event (there were only 80 fans there) was great since we spent time actually interacting with the celebrities, rather than waiting in line for an hour to get something signed. It was truly one of the most memorable weekends of my life.

Then in July I interpreted for Paul Cornell, who is a writer for Doctor Who and other BBC shows, at a local science fiction convention called CONvergence. I've seen a few famous folk at that convention over the years, but I'm only counting Paul because he's the only one I can count under the proximity rule. One of the perks of being the sign language interpreter.

By far the most random celebrity meet was just a few months ago, when I accidentally snuck into a horror convention at a local hotel. (As you do.) I was wandering about with no idea what I was going to see, and ended up in what I thought was a typical dealer's room (essentially a room full of kiosks where you can buy books and magazines and crocheted Cthulhus. The usual stuff). It turned out there were some autograph sessions going on as well, and I suddenly found myself face-to-face with Dee Wallace (best known as E.T.'s mom), Brian Krause of “Charmed” fame, and legendary That Guy! Jeffrey Combs, who's been in, like, everything. Ever. I think I might have actually cackled in delight at one point, but it's all kind of a blur.

And that ends my turn. Who's next?

February 6, 2011

Life on the Couch: Anxiety? *twitch* Who, me?

I've had problems all my life. Welcome to the club, right?

Hold on. I'm going to stop myself for a minute. Because that thing I just did, where I tried to play off like my problems are somehow less important than other people's? Is so unfair. I have issues, they're painful and difficult, and that's valid. Dammit.

Ok, I'm done talking myself out of downplaying my issues. For the moment.

To give you a very truncated history, I was born to an unmarried mother who was about as good with money as I am. When I was three years old I was molested by a neighbor. I don't know how long it went on (I don't actually remember it at all, which is probably a blessing). As I grew up I was ostracized by my peers, first for being the only kid without a dad, then for being the new kid at school when we moved, then for not having designer clothes, and for being overweight, and for being awkward, and for having bad hair... you get the idea. By junior high I had started entertaining thoughts of suicide, and had I known what goth was (or had emo even existed), I would have been one. I went to prom during both my junior and senior years, although my date was platonic in both cases. I switched schools between my sophomore and junior years, and succeeded in leaving my old self behind just enough to make some friends and finish high school.

It's been almost fifteen years since I graduated high school, and I've continued to struggle with my various issues all along. I've seen therapists off and on throughout, with diagnoses from depression to ADD to bi-polar disorder. It wasn't until I started seeing my current therapist that the anxiety diagnosis came up. And finally it all started to make sense.

My particular brand of anxiety works mostly through denial. When a problem becomes too overwhelming, I set it aside and forget about it. When something becomes too painful or scary, I push it down and refuse to deal with it. If something disrupts my calm, I bury my head in the sand and ignore it and hope it goes away. I hide, or I pretend it's not so bad, and when it all catches up to me I get depressed and start wondering why I bother at all.

Another aspect of my anxiety (or perhaps it's connected more to my absolute lack of self-confidence) is the belief that I don't know how to do things and someone needs to teach me how. Simple things like cooking, and exercising, and finances. I'm positive that I can't do these things right, and that to even try is pointless. So I eat microwavable food and live on my couch and quail helplessly when I can't pay my bills. Or I research how to do these things, but can only find instructions that seem far too complicated to me.

Learning to trust myself is one of my greatest challenges. It's getting better, now that I know what the problem really is. But it's a daily battle, one that I still lose more often than win. But it's not all loss now, and that's heartening.

So why am I sharing this on my public blog? Because I've seen other people share their stories, and been inspired to work harder to get better. Maybe telling my story will help me too, and even help someone else. Or maybe I can find a support system somewhere in this wide world. Or maybe it will just exist as a record for me, to look back on years from now, when I'm better. To remember how far I've come. Because I do believe I'll get better. Somehow. Someday.