Friday, July 30, 2010

Total Eclipse of the Heart

My theme for today is simple. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse movie is ridiculously bad. Discuss.

Let’s start with the basics. I could have trained some dogs, scavenged McKinley High’s prop department, and hired a local children’s theater company as my actors – and I could have done no worse than the director of this movie. Summit Entertainment spent $70 million on what? Wigs RuPaul wouldn’t wear, dialogue written by a fifth grader, and day-for-night shooting FX so bad that basic cable wept for it. You could see the freaking contacts in the actor’s eyes for Christ’s sake. I mean come on!

There is no internal logic to this movie. A scene in which a man climbs a hill in daylight suddenly shifts to him cresting it in full darkness. Ed Wood would have been proud. A woman camping on the top of a mountain is so cold that she is in danger of both hypothermia and frostbite can walk out of the tent the next morning wearing nothing but a pair of jeans and a rolled up flannel? The ground is still covered in snow, so it is obviously still cold and, by the way, she’s at the top of a goddamn mountain in the Pacific Northwest, so you know its not balmy by any stretch of the imagination. Yet nary a shiver or a long sleeve in sight. Better yet, two scenes later, she is hanging out in a field of wildflowers. Glad they weren’t killed off by that sudden biting snowstorm or anything. (And by the way, while a shot of the moon might be appropriate when a werewolf is present, if it is SNOWING OUTSIDE, then it is CLOUDY and hence, no moon. Jesus.)

In another scene, we are very clearly shown that any vampire can smell any other vampire, even after the first vamp has left the premises. Got it? Like a dog pissing on a tree. This point is reinforced several times. So, much later in the movie when a vampire just wanders out from behind a rock without any other of the other vampires standing ten feet away noticing, I honestly thought for a split second that it must be a zombie. I lost complete control of my senses and assumed that the teenage vampire/werewolf movie took a left turn at Albuquerque and suddenly turned into World War Z.

I have mentioned that I never took physics. My concept of it is sketchy at best. (I once almost caused a grown man to cry while discussing aerodynamics.) Yet, I’m pretty sure that a 125 lb man should only be able to turn into a 125 lb wolf. Right? So why do the men in this movie turn into wolves of Hippogriff-like proportions? Seriously, these wolves wouldn’t need to huff and puff a house down, they would merely have to sit on it. It is absolutely ludicrous to see a tiny hairless boy turn into a giant beast. (His fur doesn’t even match his hair color! Like what is that? Do the drapes not match the carpet or something?) Along these lines, I am sorry to say that my lust for underage abs has ended. I’ve seen what a real wolf can look like (Alcide Herveaux, I am slobbering in your general direction) and hence, Jacob is nothing but a puppy to me now.

What I know about filmmaking could fit on a Chinese food menu, but I do know that if every single solitary shot is in close-up, you have defeated the purpose of the close-up. Also, if you are going to shoot the pores of your actors, then your makeup shouldn’t (a) look like it was put on by a drunk clown and/or (b) look like it wore off when the actor last showered days ago. There was no happy medium. Everyone either looked coated in pancake or greasy. They also looked like they bought all their clothes at the SalVal the day before shooting started and no one had time to get them altered.

I’ve read the books, I know they are crap. I’ve seen the other movies, I know they are crap. But still, I was unprepared by how, well, crappy, everything was. A bracelet created by a character (who yes, is supposedly to be mechanically inclined, but was never supposed to be a damn jeweler) looks like it came right off the rack of Claire’s. When an “expensive” diamond is added to it, it looks exactly like what it is – a mass-produced CZ that I can get in multi-packs for the princess party of my dreams. Now, I know the marketing department needs to keep manufacturing costs down when it sells these bracelets in bulk at a retailer near you, but the original should still look like it is, you know, real. Not made of spit and bailing wire.

I don’t expect a lot from these movies. See above about them being crap. But I’ve seen better production values on a Lifetime Original. I am not expecting Oscar-caliber performances (thought these people should definitely be up for a Razzie), or an epic score (which would randomly cut in and out, including at the end of one scene before the dialogue was even complete), or hell, even fantastic locations (if the epic battle didn’t take place on a soundstage, I’ll eat your lunch). But when a bad, evil vampire is about to kill an innocent, she shouldn’t be backlit like she “is never going to go hungry again.” That may well be the case her being a vampire and all, but the red eyes are a dead giveaway that she is not Scarlett O’Hara, so how ‘bout not shooting her like she is?

So, in summary: this movie was awful and I am actually really sad I didn’t wind up going with my fellow fanbangers to MST3K it while at the theater. But I do look forward to watching it with them when the DVD comes out. Will I go see The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (parts I and II) in the theater? Hell yeah. Despite the ridiculously lond and overly pretentious title I’m like a dog with a bad master. I just keep coming back for more hoping that this time, he'll love me instead of hurt me.

By the way, if you want to read a really complex and fantastic review of why this movie is awful in terms of social relations between men and women then check out this link. Never has anyone better explained why this epic story of romance is anything but romantic.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Under the Boardwalk

Sorry for the delay in posts, but I have been on vacation. The whole family went down the shore for a week of surf, sand, sun, and fun. My husband only checked his CrackBerry every two hours instead of every half-hour. I would have preferred the damn thing get turned off entirely as it would make the entire beach bag shake with is constant new e-mail alerts, but I suppose I should be glad he didn’t figure out a way to waterproof it and attach it to his bathing suit.

The hotel we stayed at was awesome. A kiddie pool with slides and lazy river, a family pool with swim-up bar, daily kid’s crafts, and you could walk right out of the hotel and onto the beach. What more could you ask for? Our room was on the 12th floor and we had good views of dolphin rush hour (9 to 10 am, Wednesday only), the invading alien armada (11pm Tuesday night), and biplanes that flew so close I could have asked the pilot for Grey Poupon.

Bathing in general was kept to a minimum. The jetted whirlpool tub seemed really inviting the first night, but after it developed a fine layer of sand, it really lost its allure. In fact, the damn thing was so high and so deep that it required I turn into Ms. Fantastic with bendy, stretchy arms to actually reach and clean two small children. My usual backup plan of just standing them in the shower was thwarted by a low pressure rainforest shower head. Spray bottles produce more water than that shower did. In fact, I learned early in the week that the outdoor hose the hotel provided to guests was better at removing sand than any indoor plumbing they provided.

Cooking was also kept to a minimum, but that was not the initial plan. Our first day, we stocked the fridge with morning essentials so that the entire family would eat a large, yummy breakfast of eggs, toast, and chocolate-chip pancakes cooked in the fully-stocked galley kitchen in our suite. As it turned out, their cookware was horrible and I couldn’t get a pancake to unstick and actually flip to save my life. My husband’s efforts at trying to fry an egg were similarly unsuccessful and the length of time it took for our toaster to crisp a piece of bread could be measured in five-minute increments. Cereal and muffins for everyone!

We took the vacation very seriously. We were at the beach every morning and the pool every afternoon. I’m honestly surprised the lot of us didn’t wind up with diaper rash considering we spent an entire week in damp drawers. My son graduated from eating sand to actually playing in it but never made if further than his knees into the ocean. We tried, he cried. He did enjoy finding seashells for me and proved adept at dropping them into my pockets for safekeeping. By mid-morning, I had pants full of sand and pockets filled with shards. My daughter attempted body surfing, but was limited by the amount of actual surf. Afternoons were spent either at the kiddie pool or the family pool where decked out in giant yellow swimmies, my son floated in the water like a duck, turning this way and that at random and occasionally stopping to tread and drink the water. My daughter just begged to be tossed. It is disturbing how satisfying it is to really throw a child and how satisfying her sputtering splash can be.

My daughter also attended at least one class per day at the hotel. Cooking, clowning, and crafts were her respite away from us and, to be honest, ours away from her. A five year old requires a lot of energy, especially when dealing with her from the moment her eyes open to the moment they close (one bedroom to rule them all). At the very least, her classes allowed my husband and I to enjoy a few kid-free hours (The boy was too young to attend.) What did we do with them? Well, read, of course! Duh. Her classes usually coincided with his naps (when he deigned to take them). A napping child only provides so much freedom. My husband read at the swim-up bar, I read on our balcony. As tempting as any other activity might have been, I’ve been walked in on once before, and what can be forgotten as a dream cannot be denied by a head poking out of a pack-n-play in broad daylight.

We mostly skipped the boardwalk this year due to excessive crowds. No one missed it. Sure, a night of skeet-ball, the Ferris wheel, and crappy food would have been fun, fighting the throng for it wouldn’t have been. And while my husband seemed to briefly forget that kite-flying is not a competitive sport and that his sand castle crew were not union and could not be controlled, he did seem to relax and enjoy the week. We kicked four bottle of sunscreen, successfully avoiding any burns, and at least a pack of swim diapers, successfully avoiding any pool-related accidents.

All in all, a good time was had by all. Next up, a short family weekend in the Poconos and then (hopefully) weekly one-day outings until the summer ends and the school year begins. I don’t require much – I’m not a fan of long plane rides, exotic food, or outdoor adventures. Give me a warm sun, a cool pool, and room for my family to splash and I am one happy woman.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Third Time’s the Charm

I know, I know, I just finished an entry about VBS. What more could I possibly have to say about it? Well, since I essentially wound up volunteering at a third one, a whole damn lot.

The week at my planned volunteer stop has been fine, if a bit odd. When you find yourself outdoors during a thunderstorm, surrounded by seven year-olds attempting to make fake blood, you really have to rethink your life choices. The forecast called for storms, it was raining before I even got to VBS that morning, but with the faith of God behind them, everyone at VBS assured me that it wasn’t going to storm. It did. Violently. Loudly. Wetly. And there I was, with my adult leader, a handful of teenagers, and the aforementioned seven year olds, trying to teach kids about the viscosity of our bodily fluids. Why? I have no idea because I couldn’t hear the lesson being offered at the other end of the table since the thunder kept rolling over all of our words. We couldn’t even see past the confines of our tent – which I have to admit, kept us nice and dry. The second tent housing our supplies was also relatively dry – however, the two inch gap between the tents made those of us who had to go back and forth to get stuff pretty wet. Thankfully, I’m pretty sure any naughty thoughts brought on by our soaking white t-shirts was ruined by the religious logos covering our girly bits (and by the fact that I’m too old to even be a MILF to these kids). The rest of the week was pretty tame in comparison.

But here is where things got wonky. My kids attend a preschool that is affiliated with a church. As it turns out, that church was running a nighttime VBS for free, dinner included, and was being led by Mr. Steve. You’ve never heard of Mr. Steve? He officially goes by the name of Bigsby and he sings children’s Christian music. In fact, he sings it at my kids’ school and they love it like chocolate and ice cream and puppies and rainbows. When he put on a free concert for the school, those kids rocked out. They swarmed the stage, knew the words to every song, and would have waved lighters in the air if they were allowed to play with fire yet. His is the only children’s CD allowed in my car and putting on his music is certain to soothe my savage beasts back to sensibility as they invariably stop hitting each other long enough to sing along. And while Christian music isn’t my usual choice of music (like ever), his stuff really is catchy. So how could I pass up a chance for them to listen to their own personal Dave Matthews?

I didn’t. I wound up taking them to not one, but two VBS’s per day. And since the boy isn’t potty trained, I had to stay in case of accidents. And since a good portion of the kids knew me, but didn’t know the women running the program, I became, quite by accident, a volunteer. I helped with crafts. I helped serve drinks. I helped resolve disputes. I watched Mr. Steve lead his merry band of followers in a variety of activities and they loved every minute of it. And I, well I didn’t have to cook and the food was pretty yummy and since my husband didn’t make it in the door before 9pm most nights, at least it gave me something to do.

But now? I am done. Done. Done. Done. It was lovely to be of service, and I have racked up quite a few karma points in my favor, but damn, am I tired of small children and religion.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The H Stands for Hallowed

I am not a religious woman.

Out of the Ten Commandments, I’ve broken eight. I have never and will never cheat on my husband and I haven’t committed murder. (Only because I’d never get away with it. If my mother ever turned up dead, everyone I know would provide so many alibis that I’d be jailed for sure). But coveting, taking the Lord’s name, idolatry, not honoring (others and the Sabbath), and theft (college was a hazy time) are definitely in my wheelhouse. I am, at best, a lapsed Catholic, and at worst, almost Lutheran. I haven’t been to mass in years, haven’t been to confession in decades, and am way more comfortable talking about the Elf on the Shelf than the Nativity.

So, how did I wind up volunteering at not one, but two different vacation bible schools? It all started way back, such a long, long time back . . . when I felt guilty. See, one of my friends belonged to a church that was hosting a vacation bible school. Twenty bucks for three hours, five days, was a bargain I was not willing to pass up, but I felt like I was taking advantage of them, so I volunteered to help out. There would be a nursery for my infant son and other people taking care of my daughter. My (flawed) reasoning was thus: why take care of my own two when I can keep watch over 200 others?

I wound up outside, in 100+ degree heat, under a tent, teaching kids “science”. First, let’s appreciate for a moment the woman who took chemistry twice in college (and technically failed both times), has never taken physics even once, and had to memorize a mnemonic for the planets. Science is not my thing. Second, I have never, ever taught anything to anyone. I took a few English education classes in my day, but always chose to write a paper instead of a lesson plan. Third and most importantly, I feel faintly goofy using the word Jesus ardently in anything other than the throes of passion. Building a bible story around a science experiment is absolutely beyond my ability. Thankfully, the woman with whom I was paired was actually religious and she handled the godliness while I managed to avoid all hints of cleanliness while showering the kids in a mix of Mentos and Coke. I don’t remember how that tied into the bible story of the day, but it sure was fun. As it turned out, I had a blast, my daughter was thrilled to see me one “class” per day and I felt like I had earned some nice karma points.

The second year, the same reasoning applied. Giving away my two for a few hours still seemed like a deal. Plus, the little guy was too young to go and rather than cart him around like luggage every morning while I used my “free” time to run errands, I thought it would be more beneficial if he got to play in a nursery with other kids. My new partner was an actual friend, I was no longer terrified of the gaggle of teenagers who wandered around in packs, and fun was indeed had by all.

This year, my reasoning was much more selfish. If I volunteered, I could get my son into the program (he’s a month younger than the required age). Woohoo! Now the poor bastard can actually attend something of his own instead of spend his life dropping off and picking up his sister like some sort of midget valet service. Plus, if he freaks out, I won’t exactly have to cancel my massage and skip my pedicure. I’ll already be at the school, so he’ll just be another child underfoot, except he’ll call me Mommy instead of the random noises and such little kids use to get your attention when they don’t know your (almost unpronounceable) last name.

As to the second VBS (though it was first on the calendar), I was hoodwinked! A friend told me to volunteer for crafts with her so we could have a fun week, while, once again, someone else watched my kids. (Are you sensing a theme here? Truly, I love my little teacup-sized humans, but a little separation is a good thing.) Once again, the older would go into the program, the younger into the nursery. Alas, this was not to be as she bailed entirely. Boo! Hiss! And instead of getting put into crafts, I was a classroom aid. See above about my classroom skills. Not good. Not good at all.

It actually turned out to be a fun week. Once again, the real teacher was good and kind and religious, taking over all actual teaching duties, leaving me the random fun stuff. I made the kids act like different animals as we walked the halls. I did constant headcounts, kept track of who was in the bathroom, who was leaving early, and who had food allergies, and generally spent my days singing along to the disturbingly chirpy music. My son wound up the only child in the nursery and spent the week surrounded by doting teenagers, or as he called them, “his girls.” My daughter woke up two hours early every day in anticipation, so I think it is safe to say that she liked it as well.

And me, well, I’m a SAHM for a reason, right? If I don’t take the opportunity to do as much with my kids as I can, then why the hell am I at home? My mother claims she didn’t go back to work until I was in third grade, but I have no memory of her at school functions, outings, etc. Was she there and I don’t remember? It’s possible. Her outfits were probably traumatic enough to trigger memory loss. But I want to be able to say that I was there. I saw you dance. I saw you sing. I hugged you every time I passed you in the halls and I knew your teachers by their first names. And if I took the Lord’s name in vain a few times under my breath, I think He understood. Points for trying, right?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot

When I say that it felt hot as hell out, I really don’t think I need to actually experience the underworld personally. If I were to burn for eternity in a landscape of fire and brimstone, I cannot imagine that it would feel much different than South Jersey right now. (And yes, I do realize some people would consider South Jersey a form of hell, no matter the weather, but those people would be wrong. That would be North Jersey.)

As it will be like this for the foreseeable future, I thought I should start trucking out other sayings. My husband is fond of saying it is “cold as a witch’s tit” outside. I imagine the opposite of that would be “hot as a wizard’s balls.” Being of the female persuasion, I am not entirely sure how hot balls get vis-รก-vis the rest of the male body but I can assure you that my tits can get pretty damn cold, so perhaps the gender switch is apt.

Hot enough to fry an egg. I think that depends on the surface on which the egg rests. Is tarmac preferable to cement? Would a car hood be better than a roof, and does it matter what type of car? How long do you have to leave it outside? Unless it happens fairly rapidly, I don’t think you can count it as fried so much as rotten. Also, what kind of egg? An ostrich egg would take much longer than say, a quail egg? Is the chicken egg the gold standard in terms of frying?

Hot enough to boil water. I haven’t seen a pool erupt into a bubbling cauldron yet, but taking into account evaporation, I think it is pretty safe to say that it is boiling out.

Hotter than a cat on a hot tin roof. What the hell does that even mean? Why is the cat on the roof? Why does the roof have to be tin? Can it be copper? Iron? Who has to get the cat down? Personally, I think the fireman in full-out gear is going to be way hotter than the cat, even if it is a long-haired breed.

Hotter than [insert small animals] in a [insert small space]. Apparently, there are a multitude of animals you can insert into that phrase as well as a multitude of places that add up to the same final image – woodland creatures and farm animals, if placed in a very small space, will create a ferocious amount of heat. Squirrels in wool socks, snakes in a wagon, goats in a pepper patch. You get the picture. For extra fun, you can give the animal in question extra genetalia. So, say, it is hotter than a three-balled tomcat in a barn loft.

Hotter than whore in church. Personally, as long as the whore is praying for forgiveness, I think she’ll be fine. Even if she’s just attending a wedding, I have never heard of a thunderbolt cleaving a bridesmaid in two yet. And if if didn't happen at my wedding, it isn't going to. Plus, when I hear this, I always think of the Old West, where the whores all wore tattered red clothing and lots of rouge. Kind of hard to think of her using her knees to pray, as it were.

Let’s take a left turn at Albuquerque and talk about Hell. Hell on wheels makes me think of a little shark cage filled with moving flame, being carted around on the back of a Red Rider wagon. Not exactly awe inspiring. Hell in a hand basket inspires a similar picture, except this time, a ball of flames is contained within a Longaberger basket. Hell is other people is just a fact of life. Nothing particularly weather-specific there. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions (or Good Samaritans) is just silly. Why use people for pavers? Way too messy and they don’t squish down real well.

I’m sure as the week wears on, I will hear more colorful phrases describing the heat. But after writing a blog complaining about the cold back in February, I think the best saying about Hell comes from the man himself, Neil Gaiman.

“What power would Hell have if those imprisoned there were not able to dream of Heaven?”