Random Thursday: Rants, Tagging, and Someone Else’s Writing Process

It’s Random Thursday and that’s exactly what you’re getting.


Ever Want to Pop Winter in the Mouth?

Pow! MittensYeah, me too . . .

I probably shouldn’t complain too much about snow—we really don’t get a lot of it.  In fact, most of the major storms tend to part around our river valley on their way to molest Michigan or irritate Indiana.  The wind thinks we’re a convenient shortcut to Chicago, but the precipitation tends to obey the rules.

Most of this is because of the river, but there are some local legends about it, too.  One of these is about a blessing that some flavor of holy man supposedly gave while standing on ground sacred to the local Native American tribes, guaranteeing non-lethal weather for the area.

I mentioned this to Jane, who was seriously bummed about having to go to school yesterday.

“Right,” she said.  “Is there one about a curse, guaranteeing that kids wouldn’t have any fun in the winter?”

Maybe so kid.

Of course, she and Sunny were happy enough with the unseasonably warm weather Tuesday, which made our morning commute look—and sound—a lot like this:



Tag!  You’re it!

A group of high school buddies have been playing a game of tag for 23 years.

It’s true–-it’s in the Wall Street Journal and it sounds like a blast.

For the whole month of February, these gentlemen, who live all over the country,  use guerilla and espionage tactics and plain ol’ fashioned trickery to avoid being the last one tagged IT at the end of the month.

They have a Tag Participation Agreement that prevents the kind of tag-backing stuff that might devolve into a slap-fighting disturbance of the peace.

Some might say this sort of thing is disturbed enough—these guys enlist their friends,  family, and co-workers for offense and defense, form alliances, and develop extreme measures to tag or avoid being tagged.

But it sounds like a unique and fun way for friends to keep in touch.

The next round starts tomorrow—let the games begin!


Gremlin Gargoyles!

The recently renovated Chapelle de Bethléem in France has some familiar-looking gargoyles:

Gremlin Gargoyle

If you doubt Stripe’s willingness to protect anything, never fear—Gizmo is on the job:

Gizmo Gargoyle

If you don’t know these two odd characters because you were under a rock in 1984, go rent the movie.

If you don’t know them because you weren’t alive in 1984, I don’t need to hear it, thanks.


Stormlight Book 2:  The Pre-Writing

A while back, Brandon Sanderson wrote The Way of Kings, the first book in the epic fantasy Stormlight saga. It was pretty good.

In fact, several of us have been waiting impatiently for the second one—even those of us who have been known to take even longer to write a far less complex story (cough).

But to his credit, Mr Sanderson seems to be aware of this, and is making a series of videos to reassure us that he  is writing that second book and to explain how he’s going about it.

I’ll mention here that I watched it the first time with a set of broken headphones, so it tickled the hell out of me that, as far as I could tell, Mr. Sanderson started writing this book by staring at a blank screen for several minutes.

Because, dude.  I can so relate.


Poetry Wednesday: %$#!%ing Snaw

It takes about fifteen minutes to drive between the kids’ school and work.   In that time this morning, the rain, which had been coming down with grim determination since yesterday, went opaque and started bouncing off my windshield.  By the time I reached the parking lot, there was half an inch of the stuff  icing the sidewalks and streets.

I can’t lie to myself any longer.  It’s snowing.

I’d already chosen a weather-themed poem for today but even though it doesn’t fit in a literal way at the moment, the general feeling works for me.  And there’s some satisfaction, I’ve recently discovered, in saying that the repetitive final line through your teeth as you look outside at  the cats and dogs and cows and sheep and ducks and other meteorological livestock falling from the sky and remember that you’ve left your umbrella at home:

Clown Song from Twelfth Night
(William Shakespeare)

When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came to man’s estate,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
’Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate,
Unbrella deathFor the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came, alas! to wive,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came unto my beds,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
With toss-pots still had drunken heads,
For the rain it raineth every day.

A great while ago the world begun,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that’s all one, our play is done,
And we’ll strive to please you every day.

But considering the sudden unwanted reminder that January isn’t done with us yet, I’m sharing another one that truly reflects my mood today:

Winter: A Dirge
(Robert Burns)

The wintry west extends his blast,
And hail and rain does blaw;
Or, the stormy north sends driving forth
The blinding sleet and snaw:
While tumbling brown, the burn comes down,
And roars frae bank to brae;
And bird and beast in covert rest,
And pass the heartless day.

The sweeping blast, the sky o’ercast,
weatherThe joyless winter-day,
Let others fear, to me more dear
Than all the pride of May:
The tempest’s howl, it soothes my soul,
My griefs it seems to join;
The leafless trees my fancy please,
Their fate resembles mine!

Thou Pow’r Supreme, whose mighty scheme
These woes of mine fulfil,
Here, firm, I rest, they must be best,
Because they are Thy will!
Then all I want (O, do Thou grant
This one request of mine!)
Since to enjoy Thou dost deny,
Assist me to resign.

No one understands weather like a Scotsman.

And now, if you don’t mind, I have to go scrape the %$#!%ing snaw off my car . . .

Hansel and Gretel Grow Up

My Monday continues.

The power went out just as I started drying my hair, which signals to the cat that his breakfast is due, so he began hollering at me to hurry it up and then screaming abuse because I kept blindly kicking him down the hallway—he could see perfectly well and didn’t know what on earth was wrong with me.

But I’d rather talk about Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.

I had no real expectations going into the theater.   I’d been told that it was an unrepentant B movie with Troma* leanings and no redeeming qualities, but I wanted to see it because I enjoy fairy tale adaptions, steampunk-ish anachronisms, and Jeremy Renner in generic historical leathers.

Still, I was pleasantly relieved when it turned out to be a decent B movie.

There’s an actual story.  It’s not a complicated story, by any means, but there is one and it makes sense.

There are moments where things could have ventured into Men in Tights slapstick—the milkman putting out bottles with missing children notices tied on them with string was one—but this movie takes itself a tad more seriously.  Not Van Helsing seriously, thank heavens, but there are some non-gratuitous dark moments,  self-discovery and actual character growth.

And there are rules. They aren’t breathtaking, intricate rules, because this is neither Avatar or Inception, but the movie never breaks them.  When Hansel and Gretel discover something  important about their past that could very well be a Deus ex Gamechanger, the movie doesn’t play it that way.  Instead, it’s an emotion-based World-View Changer, and allows both of them to accept assistance from a source they wouldn’t have touched before.  This movie doesn’t cheat.

I respect that.

I also noted that there were none of those awkward moments when the audience laughs or groans or roll their eyes in unintended places.  Tommy Wirkola did a pretty good job of  putting us where he wanted us.

The acting was a big help too—the actors were far better than a B-movie usually deserves and most of the characters who have more than two scenes and three lines were fairly well-rounded.  The one exception is the Sheriff, played by Peter Stormare , who was fully aware that he was supposed to be a Big Bad Misogynist Cardboard Obstacle and, since the movie didn’t give him much room to do otherwise, did his job and earned both his paycheck and his inevitable demise without once showing us the politics or self-esteem issues that made him a #4B-Class Woman-Hating Angry Man in Power.

H&GBut Hansel and Gretel are played very well—siblings who were abandoned as kids without explanation and then attacked, who saved themselves and decided that no other child was going to suffer like that on their watch.  They’re strong, but not super-powered—the only “natural” advantage they have is that dark magic doesn’t work on them for reasons that become clear later—and they work for their victories.  Their lifestyle and dependence on each other don’t help them interact well with others, but  you can see glimpses of who they might have been if they hadn’t nibbled at that candy house.  Gemma Arterton plays it stoic—A Woman Doing a Man’s Job—until it’s safe for the character to crack a little.  And Jeremy Renner is absolutely natural as Hansel, no matter what the movie makes him do—believe me, that’s skill.

The wannabe witch hunter fanboy character is great, too—I like him even better than the one in Galaxy Quest, probably because he isn’t so hyper about it and clearly has a Tumblr-level thing for Gretel that half-embarrasses him to death.  Hansel’s personal fan, Mina, does her best to hit Hansel—who has problems dealing with her because he’s been all about the witch killing since before puberty and she’s, you know, a pretty girl who shows up at the most awkward times—with a clue stick until he actually listens to what she’s saying, which is, thankfully, more than the obvious fact that she’s a sure thing.  And even the Troll emotes like Henson has something to do with it.

The witches are Evil—you could tell because The Stereotypical Ugliness Curse of the Wicked had set in, swapping moisturized skin and normal eye-colors for  the linked compulsions of eating children and using insidious amounts of hair goop —but at least the three Generic Germanic witches had individual personalities and Famke Janssen looked like she was having fun getting paid.

I will admit that, even with the Troma warning and the R-rating, I hadn’t expected quite so much gore, even though I’d seen the trailer and knew it had been shot for 3D audiences, something that guaranteed blood spatter and the occasional thrown limb.  I’m not a huge fan of gratuitous cinematic bodily fluids, but the soft gore horror, as Watson put it, really doesn’t get in the way of the story—plus it’s telegraphed pretty well, so I was able to blink slow in a few places and miss it.


While no one is going to have to angst over which Oscar clips to showcase for this film,** I enjoyed it.  I’m probably going to see it again, because my friend Cha Cha couldn’t go with us and Watson and I are bickering about one of Hansel’s lines.***

It’s a simple, uncomplicated, well-acted, somewhat violent, and occasionally blood-splashed flick that isn’t pretending to be something it isn’t.

It’s entertaining.

Seriously—what more do you really need?


*As in Troma Studios, whom we can thank for such classics as Cannibal:  The Musical and The Toxic Avenger, a movie I saw three times, though in my defense, I was seventeen and the local movie theater didn’t card for R-rated movies.  Though I was unnerved to discover during a quick fact-check (hush, it happens) that there were five movies in the series . . .

** Kudos, though, goes to  whoever conceptualized and/or designed the Desert Gila Witch at the end—they need recognition.

***She thinks he’s saying, “Unleash hell!” and I think he’s calling the weapon “Michelle”  in the French manner. Either, we agree, is possible in context.

Hindsight in the Fog

My driver’s side mirror was knocked off yesterday morning—and I know that’s in passive voice, thank you, but I’m avoiding full responsibility for the damage, which is what the passive voice is for.

I’ve spent the last day and a half alternately worried that I couldn’t adequately see the traffic behind me and certain that someone will rip off the carefully duct-taped mirror from my car while it in the library parking lot.  I’ve also spent a lot of time adjusting the damned thing manually, which is a lot less hit-or-miss (HEY-o!) when I can use the automatic controls, which I can’t do because the wires apparently loosened once I taped the mirror case down, or open the window, which I can’t do because it’s taped to the mirror case.

I’m sure there’s a life lesson in there somewhere, probably more than one, about hindsight, foresight, merging, paying attention to one’s surroundings, the obstacles to establishing budgets, the usefulness of duct and electrical tape, and the essential viciousness of garage door frames.

CargoThat last is a lesson I should have learned the time I tried a slow hairpin turn in our old two-and-a-half-car garage so I wouldn’t have to back down the long, curved, steep driveway, which had a stone wall on one side and one made of railroad ties on the other.   It did work . . . mostly . . . and the garage door still closed and the dent over the front passenger tire gives Rocinante that jaunty air of weltschmerz that all good, faithful, and neglected modes of transportation should have, unless you’re trying to calculate your trade-in value* without wincing.

But that was over a decade ago, and my memory is only good for certain things, like what the founder of our town had for breakfast over 160+ years ago on the day he was murdered and where the bathrooms are located in any building I’ve ever visited.  And, of course, HobNobs.

Accidents that were clearly my fault don’t get many memory cells allotted to them.  If a falling tree clips a Honda in a forest and no one remembers where that dent came from, no harm, no foul—right?

Except it was foggy this morning—if ever a natural analogy there was—and all I could see from the mirror for the first few miles was the yellow line next to the back tire because I’d forgotten all about my little contretemps and either the mirror isn’t holding its angle or my beloved offspring are messing.  The mirror makes a neat click-click-click when you push it, so I know which way I’m betting.

If anyone is curious, side view mirrors were invented so that a driver doesn’t have to bodily turn the whole of her attention behind her to merge into the flow of traffic while zipping quite fast towards the cars ahead of her, which have slowed down to do the same thing.  While her younger daughter’s stuffed pig does the Rhumba in her peripheral vision.

I knew this already, so I pulled over before the Insterstate on-ramp, click-click-clicked the mirror into place, and continued on.

Disaster averted, analogy generated.

The budget will have to be similarly adjusted to pay for repairs—and to those who just said, “Ha! Passive voice,” well spotted.  The ambulance bill hasn’t arrived yet . . .

But we’re all safe for the moment and, since it’s my turn for the late Monday shift, I spent the morning as a library patron, editing pigeons and pressmen in the quiet . . .  in front of a window facing the parking lot, so I could see if anyone paused beside my car.

And after my shift, supposing that no one vandalized Rocinante while I was working, I’ll drive to the grocery store for food, diet Pepsi, and more duct tape.

Guess I’ve learned my lesson after all.

How’s your Monday going?


*Or, rather, the trade-in value of the car.  My trade-in value isn’t much, even in spare parts.

Six Sentence Sunday: Full Metal Librarian LIX (Job Security)

It’s the last Six Sentence Sunday, and I want to thank everyone who has stopped by to read or comment on what has turned out to be 366 of mine.

Because of your support and encouragement—and beta comments from those of you brave enough to read the whole thing—I’ve been taking a long look at that old drawer novel of mine and have decided to give it a thorough edit and see if I can make it agent-worthy.

Who knows?

I’m not sure what I’ll be putting in this space, if anything, but I hope some of you might drop in once in a while for old-time’s sake?


One last snark for the road. . . .



“If someone does break in here, what would you do?”  I wasn’t about to risk a key witness—or a friend.

Reynard’s shoulders lifted, fell.  “Members of the Press are generally held to observing and reporting news, not directly generating it—but self-defense is an acceptable loophole.”

“What do you call bailing me out of jail?” I asked.

“Job security.”


Previous Installments:

First ♦ Second ♦ Third ♦ Fourth ♦ Fifth ♦ Sixth
Seventh ♦ Eighth ♦ Ninth ♦ Tenth ♦ Eleventh ♦ Twelfth ♦ Thirteenth
Fourteenth ♦ Fifteenth ♦ Sixteenth ♦ Seventeenth
Eighteenth ♦ Nineteenth ♦ Twentieth ♦ Twenty-first ♦ Twenty-second
Twenty-third ♦ Twenty-fourth ♦ Twenty-fifth ♦ Twenty-sixth
Twenty-seventh ♦ Twenty-eighth ♦ Twenty-ninth ♦ Thirtieth
Thirty-first ♦ Thirty-second ♦ Thirty-third ♦ Thirty-fourth ♦ Thirty-fifth
Thirty-sixth ♦Thirty-seventh ♦ Thirty-eighth ♦ Thirty-ninth
Fortieth ♦ Forty-first ♦ Forty-second ♦ Forty-third
Forty-fourth ♦ Forty-fifth ♦ Forty-sixth ♦ Forty-Seventh
Forty-Eighth ♦ Forty-ninth ♦ Fifty ♦ Fifty-one
Fifty-two ♦ Fifty-three ♦ Fifty-four ♦ Fifty-five ♦ Fifty-Six
Fifty-seven ♦Fifty-eight