This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Horrific To-Do List

I love using best of lists to work off as a to-do list for entertainment. I am doing that with the 100-in-the-90s movie list; the Harry Potter challenge (list of the HP books); the National Book Foundation Challenge; as well as other book challenges I came upon. I am now adding another: the Boston Globe's Top 50 Scariest Movies of All Time.

I love scary movies. I grew up watching anything remotely scary. I still remember the B movies and Karen Black, who starred in many of those scary flicks in the 70s. One was called Trilogy of Terror and that movie scared the crap out of me...every time I watched it which was about a zillion times. The movie came out in 1975 but I probably watched it a few years later, so I was in the pre-teen age when I watched it. You can find excerpts of this movie on youtube. Look for scenes involving the "zuni doll".

The other movie that was a series of stories was a movie called Asylum from 1972. I didn't watch it until years later but another one that I watched over and over. My memory of the body parts wrapped in freezing paper was pretty freaky.

They didn't make the Boston Globe list.

But I watched many of the ones that did make the list. And the number one movie? The Thing was my all-time favorite movie for my entire teenage-d years and most of my young adulthood. Just last week we all watched it together so the girls could see what was one of my favorite movies ever. I thought it stood pretty well through time.

Overall, I have seen at least 29 of the 50 movies. I may have seen more but I didn't count some because I saw some of it (not the entire flick, like Alien) or I can't remember it (like The Changeling). But I hope to watch many of these again so I can write a brief write-up of it, especially now that my girls are watching them with me. The past few months they've endured The Descent, The Thing and we just spent the weekend helping Paranormal Activity 3 become the #1 movie blockbuster.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

I owe another book post for A Clash of Kings but since I just now finished this one, I'll start with the one of recent memory.

*** Spoiler-riddled review ***

This one was a doozy. So much death and destruction. And my shock at reading, what is now known as The Red Wedding. More on that later...

But first, the intro by Martin for this novel explains that this one overlaps the chronology from A Clash of Kings. As I mentioned before, each chapter is titled for the character that we will be (aka the character's point of view). And in this one, Martin brings us Jaime Lannister, the Kingslayer. I was pretty shocked to see his name as one of my new intimates but, as I mentioned in my previous post, Martin is a god himself, a superhuman being who is brilliant beyond words. And bringing me Jaime Lannister was genius.

In the first two novels, we know Jaime Lannister to be in an incestuous relationship with his sister, Queen Cersei (the ultimate douche-bag ever created. ever.). We find out in A Game of Thrones that the big secret being hidden from King Robert is that his four children with Queen Cersei are not his, but in fact, Jaime's. Because Cersei and her father, Lord Tywin, are such fucking assholes, we assume the same of Jaime. Jaime: the great knight of the Kingsguard; slayer of the King Aersys, the king to whom the kingsguard are suppose to protect with their lives; asshole who threw Bran Stark over the tower and crippled him, for seeing him and Cersei doing the dirty deed. He is captured in A Clash of Kings by the King of the North, Robb Stark. This is an amazing feat as Jaime is the gem of Lord Tywin, who is pretty much the 'king' over his grandson, Joffrey.

Yes, it's a bit confusing. It is difficult to summarize the story because, well, there are just so many things going on in this world.

But basically, Daenerys Targaryen is building up her army in the lands of the East. We pretty much know that she is chosen one as she is the one with the dragons born from stones, as the red comet comes across the sky as the symbol that she is 'born'. However, back in Westeros, the sign of the comet is confused with others thinking that Lord/King Stannis (Robert's brother and technically, rightful heir to the King's throne...for the fact that Robert's children are not his...) is the one. The dragons haven't been seen for hundreds of years and no one in Westeros, yet knows of Dany's dragons.

But she builds an army of "the unsullied": eunuch slaves who a trained from a young age to be stoic, unemotional, and savage. The path that we follow in the Eastern lands with Dany is like reading about Robin Hood: she is brutal and cunning in slaying the leaders of each city they reach, but she frees the slaves and the people from their brutal leaders. In turn, most of those who are freed end up following Dany's "khalasar" and she ends up being seen as, figuratively, their "mother". We know, from her POV, that she cares deeply for the greater good and struggles with the responsibility of caring for each and every one of the free people.

One of Dany's greatest moments was when, as her khalasar marched into the city of Meereen, the city's Great Masters were prepared for her arrival by nailing 163 slave children up on posts, pointing the way to the city. Her men tried to hide the sight from Dany but she told them that she would see them all...she would remember them. And when she took over Meereen, she kept her memory in tact and had 163 great masters nailed in similar fashion. Isn't that the coolest? She is vile but for a good reason. :)

Sidenote: I told CJ that I wanted to rename her Daeneyrs Targaryen. She didn't like that idea. I still do.

Jaime, surprisingly, is actually a good man. Unbelievable that I would say that as I wanted Catelyn Stark to kill him so badly in A Clash of Kings. Instead, she let him go, to trade him for her daughters held hostage in Kings Landing, Sansa and Arya.  But reading through his eyes and thoughts, I learned that he indeed, as sick as it may be, loved Cersei truly. He wanted to marry her and show the world how much he loved her. He loves his brother, the Imp (Tyrion) and has disdain for his father, for trying to make Jaime be the man _he_ wants, not what Jaime wants to be.

He is escorted by Brienne of Tarth, a member of Lord Renly's Rainbow Guard who flees with Lady Catelyn when Lord Renly is murdered. The adventures, and the bonding, that Jaime and Brienne encounter are amazing. In the end, Jaime loses his good swords hand to Vargo Hoat; returns to King's Landing and becomes Lord Commander of the Kingsguard.

Where to end the summary? There's too much. But there are many deaths. The most shocking for me is at the wedding of Edmure Tully (Catelyn Stark's brother) and Roslin Frey (Walder Frey's daughter; the Freys are Tully bannermen). It was obvious that something was up. Robb Stark was promised to marry one of Walder Frey's daughters but instead, married Lady Jeyne during one of his battles. This was a humiliation for Walder Frey but instead, he claimed he would take Edmure Tully to marry his Roslin as a supposed 'truce' to Robb's broken oath. So Robb, Lady Catelyn, and Edmure Tully (amongst others) galloped to the Twins, where the Frey's reside. The wedding was cast and during the wedding feast, the most amazing blindside took place: archers took aim and started killing Robb Stark's men. Robb is hit as well and Lady Catelyn takes one of Walder Frey's grandson, a "fool" (one who is not right in the head, and thus, is dressed like a fool) and threatens to kill him if he (Walder) does not let her son go free. Walder laughs and Robb is KILLED. OH MY GOD. Then Catelyn slashes the throat of the young grandson, as promised. And then...SHE IS KILLED. It was an incredible scene. I had to read it three or four times. I think I would go back to that, to reread it again. I just couldn't believe what had happened. And as much as Catelyn was irritating the shit out of me, I never thought she would die and it shocked me through and through.

This would be dubbed as the Red Wedding throughout the rest of the novel. Catelyn would be stripped naked and thrown into the river. Her son Robb would be decapitated and they would sew on the head of his direwolf, Grey Wolf, in place of his head. The direwolf had forewarned this disaster all along...but who listens to a direwolf?

Next shocking moment? During King Joffrey's wedding to Lady Margaery. Sansa is saved from having to marry King Joffrey because, well, marriages in the Seven Kingdoms are about uniting houses to have more men supporting your war effort. And for Sansa Stark, she had no more: brothers are dead, Jon Snow is at the wall, Arya is presumed dead, and now her mother...  But she is forced to marry the Imp to have House Lannister inherit Winterfell, despite the fact that Winterfell burned.  She is still the heir and with her married to Tyrion Lannister, it falls into Lannister's hands if she were to bear him children.

So at Joffrey's wedding, Tyrion and Sansa are at the wedding feast. Joffrey is as bad as his mother Cersei. A complete imbecile who is powerful because of his bloodline. But inept at everything else. He hates his Uncle Tyrion...and for whatever reason, has it for Sansa despite having her father killed and beating her up all the time. And he teases Tyrion continuously at the wedding feast. He forces Tyrion to pour his wine into his new wedding gift goblet. He humiliates Tyrion constantly and then...he starts choking. Joffrey is choking, spitting, gasping and whistling for breath. And then, by the sound of Cersei's screams, we know that Joffrey is dead. Hallelujah. I was waiting and wanting this for hundreds of pages since A Game of Thrones and my dream has come true. It was a great sense of relief and validation of vengeance. And because I hate Cersei, I was happy to see her ruined.

Sansa disappears and we find that this was a plot for her to escape from King's Landing. In the end, it is Petyr Littlefinger who has helped her escape. Petyr is a little devil...and I can't wait to read what becomes of him, and Sansa, in the next book.

The Imp is tried and convicted of plotting and murdering his nephew Joffrey. But before his day of execution, Jaime and Varys (another eunuch) help him escape. Before he does, he leaves two deaths behind: Shae, his beautiful concubine who, surprisingly, turns on him at his trial...and the best one? His own father, Lord Tywin, while he sat on the privy (toilet). I was as shocked as Lord Tywin was to see that Tyrion would kill his own father.

This was an amazing novel to read. There were so many twists and turns that I was just boggled by all the action that took place.

And since there are only two more books to read, but four more to be made, I am a bit sad that I will not be able to finish the series, one after another, as I did with the Harry Potter series. I will have a long wait before the sixth book is written and printed, since book five only came out this past summer. Alas. I may have to re-read the tomes again. And again. And again.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Err uhFair

My title is a play on the book, The Eyre Affair (not a great big, if you ask me). However, "Err" would be the critical error that was made during our visit to the "Fair"...

Yesterday, after a full day's work, plus Girls on the Run (for me and MiMi), we headed to the State Fair so that we could do all the _other_ things we have already planned for the week (swimming, running, cycling, Fall Festival, volleyball tryouts). I promised CJ that she could get up late for school today since her wish was to go in the evening.

I loaded up on ride tickets this round. And even seven books, plus eight leftover tickets from a friend, we managed to use all but six of them.

The girls planned on riding all the "big rides". That's usually the plan every year but once they stand face-to-face to the big ride, their minds quickly changed.

Not this year. First ride: those things that go round-and-round really fast to loud music. You go one way for half the ride then they switch and send you backward for the rest. I remember riding this as a tween/teen...and one specific memory was listening to Michael Jackson's Beat It during the was the coolest thing in the entire world...

But the reality of the ride is the person on the inside of the seat ends up squishing the person on the right side of the seat.  Still, the girls looked like they were having a blast, sitting together and screaming. I could hear MiMi's scream through the whole thing.

Next ride was the white water ride - a roller coaster-like ride through water. I've ridden this with CJ one year, and MiMi the following year. This year, I thought all four of us would be able to ride but instead, they divided us into twos and CJ and MiMi ended up riding together and Tim and I together...  That wasn't the plan...

The ride is fun if you like roller coasters. And when I rode it twice before, not a lot of splash. Of course, not this time. Tim and I were splashed so hard that it soaked are entire left side. Great. I have no change of clothes...and we just started. Fortunately, by the end of the evening, since we were there until 10PM, I dried up.

The girls tried the know, the viking ship that goes back and forth really high? I couldn't believe they wanted to ride that but CJ couldn't stop talking about riding it. I rode that often when I was a kid but one year, it scared the shit out of me because, IT'S FUCKING SCARY. And my kids figured that out quickly enough. They had their eyes closed the entire time. If they could have curled up into a fetal position, they would have...

Tim, of course, laughed the entire time. I, on the other hand, had to look the other way as it was too scary to watch your kids on a ride that looked like they could be catapulted out.

They rode a few more and I managed to get CJ to ride the roller coaster with me, after her terrifying ride on the boat. She started off pretty scared but in the end, it became the favorite ride of the entire night.

Now for the "err". Tim and MiMi went into a fun house and CJ and I decided to watch the ride named "Enterprise". It looked interesting: a caged ride where the riders straddle a seat (like a banana seat on a bike). I saw couples cuddling; parent and child sitting pretty. It looked like a ride similar to the first ride the girls rode, where it just goes round-and-round-and-round...except in this case, you're in a cage and it was obvious that these cages would go totally sideways.

We watched the ride start and go on until they were sideways and then we walked back to the fun house to wait for Tim and MiMi.

When MiMi walked out with Tim, she ran straight for the Enterprise ride. CJ and I were like: oh, it just goes that first ride they rode. So Tim was like: OK. CJ didn't want to ride it and I am not big on spin-ney rides CJ and I stood outside to watch them ride it. While we stood there, the carnie called out to us and told us to come on the ride..."just one time". I looked at CJ and said "you wanna ride it?" and she shrugged a "sure, whatever".

When I went to pay with tickets, Pedro said no...we were getting a free ride. I thought I was tres cool then and we ran by Tim and MiMi where I boasted about getting a free ride.

So here we are, CJ and I, sitting pretty...the ride begins and we go super fast. Whoa, I think...this is going way faster than I anticipated. CJ and I scream for a bit. The spinning is making me dizzy but I can deal with it. I hear a weird sound come from CJ and I look out and notice that we are going up. Ah...I think, it goes UP and we spin round-and-round a few feet off the ground.

But no...instead, the fucking thing starts tipping over until we are almost at a 90 degree level. Think merry-go-round that becomes a ferris wheel...THAT IS WHAT FUCKING HAPPENED. By this time, I am traumatized. CJ is like a limp blob in front of me but her knuckles are white with grip on the bars...if it weren't for that grip, I would have thought she passed out she was so quiet and still.

I tried to play of how much "fun" the ride was, so I could help ease her horror. I annoyed myself so bad with my lame attempts at "oooooo! woooow! coooool! this is FUUUUUUUUN! wooooow!" When I asked CJ about it afterward, she heard not a peep from me.

The ride went forever. I couldn't walk after getting off...something to do with something called "centrifugal force". Needless to say, I was DONE with any big ride after that. Of course, we couldn't hear the end of it from Tim, who thought he was riding a fast merry-go-round too. He said while they were waiting for the ride to start, he wondered why there was a hydraulic arm sitting in the middle...but it didn't click until the arm started moving before he realized what was happening. MiMi, according to Tim, kept yelling "I can't feel my feet! I can't feel my feet!"

It makes for a funny story. CJ says that probably, the minute we turned around as we WATCHED the ride, it must have gone up and we missed the MAIN part of the ride.

The rest of the evening went off without a hitch. UH, not really... As we drove within our neighborhood to get home, I could see the lights from the car _behind_ us guiding the road in _front_of us. Tim did a great job being very patient because the care followed us at every turn to our house. Finally, we pull in to our driveway and the car passes on. Tim mumbles a few curse words and then? The car parks along the rode in front of our house and a young girl comes out, running towards us. WTF? She merely wanted to read the rest of the bumper stickers on my car. Seriously? It is now close to 10:30 at night and this chick is running into some stranger's driveway to read bumper stickers.

Interesting evening, eh?

Monday, October 17, 2011

You know nothing, Jon Snow

***Warning: subtle hints to the The Song of Ice and Fire that may be spoilers.***

It wasn’t Jon Snow that knew nothing. It was my family.   I am a bit behind in my blogging. But in relation to The Song of Ice and Fire, I am on A Storm of Swords. I owe a book review for A Clash of Kings.   I bring these books everywhere, in case I have a few minutes to read. Did I mention how I obsessed I am with these novels? This world? If I haven’t, my family knows. My language has turned a bit, um, medieval. My analogies always have something to with the events and characters in the Seven Kingdoms.  For instance, Tim was explaining to the girls what monks were: how they took a vow of celibacy. And I excitedly said “Much like the men of the Night’s Watch and the Kingsguard”. A groan from CJ, who really is troubled by my newfound language. I swear fealty to no one!  

Back to my book, A Storm of Swords.   Sunday, we were on our way to Ganyard Hill Farms for our annual pumpkin patch adventure. It’s about a 15 minute drive so I delved into the world of Westeros. I am nearly 3/4ths of the way through and if you have read through this novel, you will understand this story.  I am reading through Edmure’s wedding. I am definitely suspicious about all that is taking place (missing Frey’s throughout) and then? The most unbelievable events happen that change the face of the story. And there I am, in a car, with three people who have no idea of the magnitude that has just happened in my obsessed world.  

I am in disbelief. I want to talk about it but Tim, being a fan of the show, does not know anything other than what has appeared thus far on HBO…which is BOOK ONE.  I am on BOOK THREE! And none of this will ever be broadcast for years!!  

I thought about just spilling the beans, because he just wouldn’t remember by the time the third series airs. But it’s pretty significant that I doubt he could forget…especially the way I would have told it.  

So, alas, I am internalizing my shock. Reliving those significant moments I read in disbelief and horror. And continuing to elevate George R. R. Martin to a superhuman being. How in the world did he do this? I don’t care. I love him. I love Westeros. And I hate the Frey’s.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

My Little Bon Vivant

I love have a daughter who eats anything. Well, except meat since MiMi is still a vegetarian. But even before she opted for the herbivore life, she would try anything.

This morning, as I was contemplating what I could make for breakfast. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day -- especially when I have time to make whatever. I had arugula and goat cheese in the fridge and I wanted to do something with those ingredients. I found this recipe and was figuring out how to incorporate my on-hand ingredients into this dish.  While brainstorming, MiMi walks in and asks what I was making for breakfast.

"How about baked eggs with goat cheese?" She nods her head in acknowledgement and approval, then walks back out.

OK. That was easy. And wow, she is just amazing...I think to myself. What 8 year old would just accept it and go on? Certainly CJ at 8 wouldn't, nor would she do it at 13.

I am just tickled as I get my ingredients out. I modify the recipe to my own and start chopping up some arugula. I LOVE arugula. It's one of the most appealing greens I have ever encountered and the smell of it, as I chopped it, was just wondrous. MiMi walks in and I ask her to smell the chopped arugula. She comes over, takes a whiff, puts her hand over her chest and closes her eyes in bliss: "I can't wait to eat it!" I ask her if she knows what it is. She tries: basil? parsley? lettuce? I let her peek at the lid and she says "ah roo goo lah". I love it...I actually say "ah roo gyoo lah". She's right; I'm wrong but I don't care.

"Can I eat one?" she asks. "Go for it". And she grabs a piece and eats it.

She then asks if she can help and immediately washes her hands. We work together to get the butter melted, mix the cream, add it to the dishes, then bake them. Once we got those out of the oven, I let her add the eggs to each dish, sprinkle the arugula-garlic mix, crumble goat cheese on top, then salt & pepper it.

I followed the recipe except for the herbs portion. I chopped about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of arugula (did I mention how much I loved it) and a whopping humongous garlic clove. If it wasn't so big, I would have used two garlic cloves (I love garlic too; it scares the vampires away).

I put two eggs in each ramekin and baked it much, much longer than the 3 minutes cited in the recipe. I prefer my egg whites more done so I probably kept them baking for about 5 to 6 minutes. This allowed the whites to cook more and leave at least one yolk runny and the other done but not like a boiled egg done.  They came out wonderful. I served it with buttered toast but next time, I would serve it with some really good buttered bread, such as a slice of french bread.

This one is MiMi's, along with her gummy bear multi-vitamins.

What did the other child have? A nice cheese omelet.