Friday Favorites 3

This song:

You know that song “Mirrors” by whats-his-name former *NSYNC lead?  The song that is played three times an hour on every radio station in the country, including those stations typically reserved for classical and/or talk?  That song has been stuck in my head for the past three days.  This afternoon I even invented an elaborate system which involved showering with the door partly open so that Mac could blast “Mirrors” without suffering steam damage.

Mystery critters:

Ruby–who has only just learned to whine when she has to use the outdoor facilities (before she simply followed one of us around with her ears perked)–and I discovered a mystery whilst patrolling the yard yesterday evening.  Sidenote: Ruby is a dog, not my human younger sister.  My real human younger sister only whines when I talk to her during Pretty Little Liars.  Anyway, some kind of animal was up in a tree clipping sizeable branches and letting them fall to the ground.  There was already a scattering of green-leaved sticks when Ruby and I arrived on site, and a few more fell as we peered up to catch a glimpse of the creature.  No luck.  The foliage was thick enough to hide it, and it quieted once it spotted us.  Was it a squirrel?  But I’ve never seen a squirrel prune branches like that, unless it’s beginning to build a nest for winter and planned to gather the clippings later?  Was it a bear?  I’ve seen a treed bear before.  For a split second I thought maybe a pet monkey had escaped from somewhere and was about to flash down at me, teeth bared.  But perhaps that’s not it either.  If any zoologists care to comment, particularly if you can support my monkey theory, I would be grateful.

This book:

cheaperbythedozen-book

I would like to dispel any rumors involving the feature film Cheaper by the Dozen, starring Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt.  The movie is, in fact, based on a real-life family, but only so far as both the real and the fictional family had twelve children.  The real-life family, the Gilbreths, were quite different than Steve and Bonnie’s in every other way.  The parents, Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr. and Lillian Moller Gilbreth, were pioneers in the field of motion study around the turn of the century.  And the book–written by two of the children–details the uniqueness of a large family governed by notions of efficiency.  Think French and German language records played in the bathrooms.  The book is heartwarming and very funny:

“Dad himself used to tell a story about one time when Mother went off to fill a lecture engagement and left him in charge at home. When Mother returned, she asked him if everything had run smoothly.
Didn’t have any trouble except with that one over there,’ he replied. ‘But a spanking brought him into line.’
Mother could handle any crisis without losing her composure.
That’s not one of ours, dear,’ she said. ‘He belongs next door.”

Weddings:

my-big-fat-wedding-590kb032310

I’m attending my first tomorrow.  I mean, I was a flower girl for my aunt and uncle’s wedding when I was five, but all I remember about that is enjoying the swish of my beautiful dress.  Tomorrow two of my friends from college marry.  I will be wearing lipstick. I will likely cry.  I will likely make a fool of myself on the dance floor.  But I’m so excited that I doubt I’ll sleep well tonight.

This blog reader:

feedly-update-640x521

Okay, guys: this is cool and something you should look into if you, like me, keep tabs on about twelve different blogs.  To get set up, all you have to do is make a free account with Feedly, enter the URLs of the blogs you read, and then the day’s postings appear right on your Feedly.  No need to go to each individual website.  I use Feedly on Mac and as a mobile app, and both are user-friendly and frankly pretty slick.

This TV show:

Official-Office-Wallpaper-the-office-28us-29-34269_1024_768

When I was in high school and everyone else in the nation was watching The Office, I wasn’t.  What was I watching instead?  Survivor, House Hunters, probably some Disney Channel.  The commentaries on the Chronicles of Narnia DVD.  I don’t know what was wrong with me, either.  I’m on the bandwagon now, however, and happy to be here.  Kevin and his squinty-eyed one liners are my favorites.

Advertisements

The Good Universe Next Door

You know that E.E. Cummings line everyone quotes?

“listen: there’s a hell
of a good universe next door; let’s go”

That’s it.

It’s a funny line, because at first you think maybe he’s talking about heaven. Or Heaven. What’s funny is that if so, he’s referring to heaven as “a HELL of a good universe.”

All funnies aside, I think what E.E. Cummings meant was not heaven. Or Heaven. But rather some sort of transcendence that might be compared to heaven. Not even a transcendence. Perhaps a withdrawal into the more beautiful parts of ourselves.

I felt something like that today. I had spent the most of the afternoon watching season 3 of The Office, waiting waiting waiting for Jim and Pam to get together. And then I played with Ruby. Actually, I threw her ball as far as I could and then vaulted into the truck bed to hide. I didn’t peek over the rim until I could hear her snuffling close to the back bumper. I laughed at her entire back end wagging, her ears down in surprised delight. Then I watched part of Inception, but discovered halfway through that I was not, in fact, in the mood for Inception. Finally, I wandered to my laptop and began to write on one of my long pieces.

And for a split second, it was strange to be writing, to be deeply immersed in some worthy creating after the paltriness of the day. For a split second, it was as if some small bit of subconsciousness were waking up and whispering, “About time you got back. Do you remember this?”

Of course I did. My own hellofagood Universe.

Airheads

I associate indoor swimming pools with candy.  This I can trace back to my years of swimming lessons at the local high school pool.  After lessons, hair in clumps, skin smelling of salty chlorine, we kids would crowd around the small counter in the lobby.  Lining the wall behind the counter were boxes and boxes of candy.

I remember only fruity, sour candy: Push-Pops, War Heads, Ring-pops, Skittles, and best of all, Airheads.  Every flavor of Airhead, foil-wrapped and glorious.  I preferred the white “mystery” flavor.  Both the packaging and the candy itself was milky white, and so there was no way to know which flavor you had gotten until you bit into it.  Strangely, it always tasted the same to me.  Not quite like cherry, blue raspberry, or grape.  The white had its own chalky, delicious taste.

The candy, eaten while our feet were still dripping into footprints on the floor, seemed to make up for the general trauma of the swimming lessons themselves.  The bobs, particularly, made me feel at the end of each lesson as if I had drowned several times within the forty-five minute window.

Have you ever been exposed to bobs?  They seem extraordinarily cruel to me, even now.  We stood in water up to our chests, and at the instructor’s whistle had to bend our knees so that our entire heads submerged, and then pop back up for a quick breath. This was repeated as many times as possible before the instructor blew his whistle again.  The catch was that we weren’t allowed to use our fingers to pinch our noses.  My poor nostrils exposed, I seemed to inhale a gallon with each dunk.

But when I stopped, when I paused and gripped the tiled pool ledge for even the briefest moment, the instructor–a golden high school boy–gave me a look of utmost disappointment until I felt that perhaps he wouldn’t ask my ten-year-old self to the prom after all.  Then he blew the whistle and the other bobbers sputtered and splashed to a halt.  Some more triumphantly than others, we all climbed the ladder to locker room sanctuary and, if our parents were generous with their quarters, Airheads.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

One of my elementary school teachers was an organized sort of person who not only liked to hang charts on her classroom walls, but also liked to lay down the facts straight off.  On the first day of school it felt like we learned more about her than she learned about us.  We learned her pet peeves, we learned her expectations, and we learned the meanings of distinct phrases she frequently uttered.  “Heavens to Betsy” was one (an expression of mock despair or genuine surprise).  “Crumbuttons” was another (the Catholic school version of “oh shit”).  “Garbage in, garbage out” was a third.

We became used to hearing the phrases after a while, just as I became used to having to stare at the large red x’s that abutted my name on the behavior chart (often, my report card from that year tells me, for talking out of turn.  Imagine that).

But up until now, I had always associated “garbage in, garbage out” with television.  Perhaps the teacher explained it to that effect.  Anyway, it meant that if you watched TV shows with excess violence or profanity, you ran a high risk of adopting similar behaviors yourself.  It made sense.

All these years later, however, I’ve realized that the phrase goes further than that.  Namely, in my case, when I read poorly written books, my writing takes a nose dive in quality as well.  But when I read beautiful books–The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, recently–my writing becomes (forgive me) a little bit beautiful as well.  I’ve always known that as a writer, books are a great influence.  I sincerely doubt I’ve ever written anything that I hadn’t first picked up in one existing book or another.

This is still a dramatic realization, though!  On one hand, if I read Woolf, Fitzgerald, Atwood, I may have a shot at standing in their ranks some day.  On the other hand, I like to read the odd low-grade paperback.  I like to revisit my childhood favorites, down to about RL5.  I sometimes like to not think as I read, as horrific as that may sound to you.  Am I doomed to forever waver between genius and foolishness, then?  Shall I publish a Pulitzer one year, bonfire kindling the next?  Or should I simply stop reading altogether, removing the good in order to avoid temptation to indulge in the bad?

Crumbuttons.

DSCN1570

How to Avoid 114 Minutes of Ghost Rider

I am not a YouTube lurker.  I don’t often browse Tumblr, Cracked, Instagram, Twitter  or Pinterest.  When I’m not reading blogs online, what I’m doing is watching movie trailers.  Either at trailers.apple.com or at IMDB.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this fixation before.  I’m passionate about movies–or films as a true aficionado would call them–but I often suspect that I’m even more passionate about movie trailers.  Previews.

They’re entire stories shrunk down into two-minute reels.  They often feature a fantastic song or two.  They show you the best of the movie they’re selling.  The most exciting, most beautiful, most romantic parts of the thing.  And in that way they spare you the mystery that comes with watching movies; you never have to wonder if it will actually be good or not.  You never have to regret wasting your money or your time.  You will never again have to suffer through ONE-HUNDRED AND FOURTEEN MINUTES OF GHOST RIDER (which remains to this day the worst movie I’ve ever seen in theatres.  I would have walked out had it not been a date).  You can simply watch the trailer, absorb the high points, and continue on with your day, free of anguish.

Here are a few of my current favorite trailers, for your enjoyment.  I may see the full movies later, I may not.  And that’s okay.

1. Romeo & Juliet

2. Prince Avalanche

3. Austenland

4. The Lifeguard

5. Her

6. Saving Mr. Banks

7. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

The Thunderbird Project: A Guest Post by Author Rebecca Harwell

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine from high school asked me if she could write a guest post for this blog.  Oh sure, I said. That would be quite nice, I said, as if I am frequently approached in such a way.  I’m sure I radiated suaveness, but truthfully, I was and am terribly excited about the post you are about to read.  Rebecca Harwell has written a book entitled The Thunderbird Project, which has been published and is available for purchase beginning today (August 13th).  While just looking at the cover tells us that this is no amateur piece of business, and reading Rebecca’s blog tells us that she takes her writing as seriously as any seasoned author, in her guest post Rebecca takes the time to talk about the specific struggles she has faced as a young author.  Which is, you know, pretty inspiring for those of us who often find it difficult to push ourselves in the writing department.  

I’ll surrender the mic now so you can get to the good stuff.  

But first, can we all take a moment to exclaim over how awesome this book cover is?  

TP_cover_CSfinal-1

Guest post by Rebecca Harwell, author of The Thunderbird Project:

“It’s about superheroes.”

Ever since I announced my book deal for THE THUNDERBIRD PROJECT, people have enthusiastically asked me about getting a book published at a relatively young age (a soon-to-be sophomore in college) and then want to know what it’s about. When I tell the truth, they pause, say “Oh,” and politely change the topic of conversation. Sometimes, I wonder if I should say something impressive like, “It’s a treatise on the nature of good and evil and what it means to be heroic in modern society.” But even though some of that might be true…

It’s really about superheroes.

Superheroes with awesome powers. Superheroes who don’t wear spandex tights or impractical capes. Superheroes who have to face the darker side of having abilities that set them apart from society and mark them as something other than human.

I wrote THE THUNDERBIRD PROJECT when I was seventeen—a junior in high school. It wasn’t the first manuscript I had written. It was the fourth. I began writing when I was eight (when I honestly believed a story about unicorns fighting evil dragons would be published) and finished my first 200+ page manuscript in eighth grade when a school assignment forced me to buckle down and get to “The End.”

That first book was horrible. So was the second. The third was passable, but lacked the spark that makes readers fall in love or publishers jump up and offer contracts.

Then I began THE THUNDERBIRD PROJECT. I left behind all the “this is what the book should be” and wrote the story I wanted, filling it with my love of superhero movies and comic books. It has a larger plot and more complex themes than anything I’ve written before.

Like almost any writer will say, the road to publication is long and frustrating. After spending a year writing the book, I had to write up a query letter and a synopsis (pure torture) and send it out into the world with my fingers crossed. This book took a long time to find a home. I submitted it for nearly a year before it was signed by Bedlam Press, an imprint of Necro Publications.

THE THUNDERBIRD PROJECT is being released in e-book, trade paperback, and limited edition hardcovers by Bedlam Press. Check out my website www.rebeccaharwell.com for details on where you can find it. Many thanks to Holly for letting me take over for a day to talk about it.

From the back cover:          

Not all superheroes live a glamorous life.

The Thunderbird project was an FBI-run group of superhumans until they were unceremoniously disbanded and sent out into the world to live normal lives. But unfortunately for the red-headed, mean-tempered Jupiter being 18-foot tall makes blending into society pretty much impossible. She resigns herself to living in warehouses and searching for a place where she can just be left alone.

Some just want the world to forget them.

Four years later, after being followed for days by unmarked vehicles, Jupiter is attacked and left for dead on a bridge, narrowly rescued amidst screams and camera flashes by an old teammate. She discovers that members of The Thunderbird Project are being targeted and one is already dead. Jupiter reluctantly joins the newly reinstated group.

But some people won’t forget and just want them dead.

With a whole lot of pain and past between them, the team struggles to find the identity of the assassins so they can all go back home. Since any chance of getting away from the world disappeared the day she crawled onto that bridge, Jupiter just wants to make the guys who came after her pay. And if that means sticking it to a world that hates her…so much the better.

You don’t get a ‘happily ever after’ when everyone considers you a freak.