Monday, May 23, 2011

Things to Watch on Netflix, Part II

I've finally figured out how to see stats on Blogger (which is horrifying if you know how many techy people are in my family).  Quite amused by which posts seem to be popular.  But it seems like people are always looking for stuff to watch on Netflix, and there are tons of new viewing, so let's get started...

Doctor Who: Series 5

The Premise: The Doctor (Matt Smith) has regenerated and landed somewhere in Scotland.  He meets a young girl, and after a repast of fish fingers and custard, offers to take her for a spin in the Tardis.  Thing is, he's got to be right back.  He leaves and returns to find that young Amelia is gone.  In her place is Amy, Amelia all grown, a girl who grew up with the idea of her imaginary friend, The Doctor, in the back of her mind.

My Take: Stephen Moffat has taken the reins for the series from Russel T. Davies; likewise, Matt Smith has replaced David Tennant as the Doctor.  But the story-telling is so strong, and Smith so winning, that in many ways the series feels re-reborn (especially if you're watching series 6 right now on BBC America. Oh. My. Goodness).  Rory takes a while to become likeable, but (as it always happens on the show), once he does, he's grand.

Masterpiece Mystery: Sherlock Holmes

The Premise: A modern-day take on Holmes and Watson, solving crimes out of 221B.  This time, Holmes mocks the police with text messages and Watson's war wounds are from Afghanistan. 

My Take: Written by Who writers Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss, the dialogue is snappy and the plot is twisty.  A Study in Pink is my favorite.  The others aren't quite as tight, but they're still completely enjoyable.  House viewers will particularly enjoy the dynamic between Holmes and Watson, as it's quite similar to House and Wilson at their best.  I'm very much looking forward to the second season.

**P.S. You should know that Watson is played by Martin Freeman, who's also the new, younger Bilbo in Peter Jackson's upcoming adaptation of The Hobbit.  And it makes sense.  He has a proper hobbit-y sort of nose.

Premise: Young, innocent Richard ((Zac Ephron) gets more life lessons than he bargains for when he finagles himself into a role in Orson Welles' Broadway production of Julius Caesar.  Richard is alternately awed and disgusted by the sheer talent and hubris of Welles, brilliantly played by Christian McKay.  Claire Danes has a supporting turn, but my favorite appearance is Zoe Kazan's short story-writing Gretta Adler.

My Take: Me & Orson Welles should have received more American awards love, but at least Christian McKay received an Independent Spirit nod, as well as a BAFTA nomination for his turn as Welles.  For writers and film-buffs, it's really not to be missed.

Premise: In a scenario that's rather like Hitch in reverse, Alex (Romain Duris), his sister, and her husband have tapped into the niche-market of breaking up bad relationships.  But when he's hired to break up the perfect couple (Vanessa Paradis, most famous in America for being the mother of Johnny Depp's children, and Andrew Lincoln, of Love, Actually), Juliette and Jonathan, before their Monaco wedding, he meets his match.  Specifically, his love-match in the spunky, independent, George Michael and Dirty Dancing-loving Juliette.

My Take:  Since Hollywood hasn't released a proper romantic comedy in a while that's managed to be both romantic and funny, Heartbreaker is a breath of fresh French air.  It's spontaneous and light, and while some of the subplots get a bit murky, the comedic high-points make up for it.  Romain Duris, of Moliere and Paris, is charming and funny in a way that most American actors wish they could be.  Vanessa Paradis' Juliette is a class act, whip-smart and winsome as her wedding approaches and she starts to second-guess her choice in a spouse.  There are dozens of hysterically funny set-ups and pay-offs (and trust me, it's even better the second time around), but my favorite is the ongoing tribute to Dirty Dancing as Romain Duris' Alex recreates Patrick Swayze's iconic dance sequence.  He's no Patrick, but he has enough French swagger to make it a memorable cinematic moment.

...and if watching a tribute to the classic makes you want to watch the real thing, you're in luck!  One of my favorite parts? Watching Emily Gilmore shimmy at the end. 

Glass bubbles in space! Angry indigenous peoples! The Spanish Inquisition! Awkward bathtub scenes! Monkey test subjects! Hugh Jackman tattooing himself in space in linen pajamas! Not only is it Darren Aronofsky's worst film, but it was the film Danny and I watched on our first real date.  I highly recommend watching the first twenty minutes, just so you can see how completely bizarre this movie is.  In worst-beginnings-ever, it's up there with Scorpion King; the trouble is, it's sincere.

(Though it should be noted, the last ten minutes are really something as well.  Especially if you garden.)

So! There you have it.  What are you watching, especially now that network TV is wrapping up for the season?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Maybe Later

So, I've tried to write a blog about characters for two days now.

That dog just won't hunt.

This one won't either.  She's a herder, not a hunter.

She also likes tulips.

And naps with Danny.

Baths? Not so much.

Peanut butter?  Yes, ma'am.

P.S. The Black Heels to Tractor Wheels: A Love Story contest runs through tomorrow at noon, so be sure to pop over there if you haven't had a chance to enter!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Black Heels and a Book Contest

So, a long time ago (February), in a far away land (Memphis), I attended a very large, very cool book signing at the Davis-Kidd Bookstore.

The business has since been auctioned off, but I'm VERY glad I got to be here, the night before we left to return for the Northwest.

Who was the author? None other than The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond!

Though in reality, it took some work to get to the point where you could actually see her.  You know who was easier to find?

A slightly iconic figure of the blogosphere...

...whom we usually see frowning at cows or covered in dirt.  Or cow poop.  Or...let's just be honest, from the back.  Not only was he clean and posing for picture, but he signed books!

It was very impressive.  Danny was in awe, since my book signings cause him conflicting desires; to be wildly proud of his wife vs. staying as far out of the fray as humanly possible.

After a not-short wait in line (which turned out to be longer because the line system was a bit confusing, and I was VERY glad I'd worn flats rather than heels, because I wouldn't have wanted to be in tears by the time I got to the front of the line), I made it to the lovely P-Dub...

...who graciously signed the stack of books I'd brought her.  Bless her.  And bless Danny for shooting the picture for me. Did I mention he was there with me through the craziness the whole time? Aside from when he had to make an emergency Best Buy (or was it Office Max?) run when I realized I'd forgotten the memory card for my camera (again.  I'm going to chalk it up to the going-crazy-packing-to-drive-across-the-country-brain).

He's quite grand, my husband.

The other funny part of that whole experience is that the girl in line in front of us was not only on her cell phone, but she stayed on her cell phone when she took her books to Ree and in fact passed the phone to her, asking her to speak to the person on the other end of the line.

For the record, a.) PW handled it very graciously, b.) I would not personally encourage this behavior, and c.) if a reader did that to me at a book signing, I can't even imagine what awkward thing I would say.  But I thought it hysterically funny.  What *did* people do before cell phones?

Anyway, I have a copy of this book...

(Which Tesla, an avid reader, recommends very much. And this picture was taken with my phone, so don't judge.)

...signed by both Ree and Marlboro Man, whose real name (for those interested) is Ladd Drummond.  This book has been lovingly transported across the country, protected from the elements, and has been hanging out in my closet (until just recently, when I made the dog pose with it) until I could get my electronic act together (more on that later).

Black Heels to Tractor Wheels is the story of how Ree and Ladd met, fell in love, and married.  If you've read the blog account (as I had), rest assured that there are parts not in the blog, and also tells the story about  their crazy Australian honeymoon and the birth of their first girl-child.  Also, if you're familiar with her recipes, gives a bit of history around some of her favorite foods and how they came to be.

If you'd like to win the copy, here's what to do:

1.) Comment below and answer the following question: What food means love to you?

2.) Hit the "Like" button on my Hillary Manton Lodge Fiction page on Facebook...


3.) Follow me on Twitter


4.) Hit the "Follow" button to the right of this blog.

If you're already following, liking, Twittering, what-have-you, then all you have to do is comment, the other part is automatic.  The winner will be chosen at random.  Good luck!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Back From Hiatus

The Columbia River from Howard Amon Park in Richland, WA
Didn't exactly *mean* to go on hiatus, but that's what happened.  Since the Oscar post with the ever-delightful Robbie Iobst, we've...

1.) Driven across the country
2.) Visited friends and family at home VERY quickly
3.) Gathered our somewhat-in-storage belongings from various family members (four homes in total, bless them)
4.) Drove northeast with family to Richland, WA, our new home, and moved into our
5.) Glorious corporate apartment, which is fabulously amazing (especially after than ideal hotel room we'd survived for the previous three months.)

I can wax about the apartment.  It has a mostly full kitchen, complete with a real oven and a real dishwasher and a real garbage disposal, which means I don't have to flush scraps down the toilet anymore.

If that grosses you out, you can either a.) know that the toilet was only six feet away, so this was actually a very convenient solution, or b.) pretend I didn't write it.  Whatever works for you, I'm good with it.

Anyway, we also have a second bedroom, AND a second bathroom (which is great for the after-church bathroom rush, you know?), and there are walls and doors and - oh yeah - CENTRAL AIR, and a fireplace...

...the only thing that could make it more magical would be a unicorn on the patio.  Which the dog would probably bark at.

Also a little more counter space.  But it's fantastic for now.

What else?

6.) The dog - we got a puppy.  And in all honesty, this is probably one of the biggest reasons I've been on hiatus.  Because she's less of a puppy than she is a 7-month-old infant who bit and peed and ran circles around things and caused me to cry and wonder why I'd spent three years desperately wanting a puppy.

Then, because she's full of much wisdom, she would choose that particular moment to curl up in my lap and sleep.

This caused two reactions.  First, I didn't give her away.  Secondly, I went to sleep myself.  Since those first few weeks, Tesla has a.) house-trained, save the evening accident, b.) kennel-trained, c.) learned to sit, d.) learned to lay down, e.) learned to drop (when it suits her), f.)  learned to roll over, and most importantly, g.) figured out that nipping lands her in jail (aka kitchen), and that licking people's hands instead grants her far more positive attention.

However, she's yet to figure out that a bath has yet to lead to her imminent demise.  Oh well.

So things, at this stage, are good.  We love the puppy.  The puppy loves us.  It was just a bit rocky there for a while, especially on four hours of sleep.

But wait, there's more!

7.) We put in an offer on a house.  After a long, protracted amount of back-and-forthing, we
8.) Decided to build in a neighborhood with easy access to the Barnhart yard for Danny, and easy access to Target and Starbucks for me.
9.)We've since picked out our exterior paint as well as our counter tops, despite the presence of walls or counter tops.

But enough about us.  How about the rest of the world?! The Royal Wedding-pocalypse came and...kind of went.  Kind of, in that it isn't dominating all of the media, but there's still plenty of coverage concerning Pippa's date and the going-away clothes and the timing of the honeymoon...

And let's be honest.  We know the pregnancy speculation is right around the corner.  It's like a Presidential campaign - you know it's coming, and there's nothing you can do to stop it.  If I were Kate, I'd invest in some industrial-strength level Spanx.  Though she is impressively svelte as is, you know that the moment she exhales the wrong way, that photo's going viral in a mater of seconds.

That's just my two cents.

And while the world was engrossed in said wedding, a super-secret-don't-tell-ANYONE-especially-not-People-Magazine SEAL team (who used to be referred to as Team 6, but after the press coverage, they've probably changed their name to Team 8 or something, to keep things top secret) struck in Pakistan, killing Osama bin Laden in a fire fight, thoroughly confirming the identity of the body before burying it at sea.

While I'm glad the search is over, I do have mixed feelings on this.  I wish bin Laden could have been tried for his crimes.  I wish another death wasn't necessary.  I wish we didn't live in a fallen world. It's interesting seeing the reactions of others, from measured dread to jubilation. I think this C.S. Lewis quote sums up a Godly response nicely - "We may kill if necessary, but we must not hate and enjoy hating. We may punish if necessary, but we must not enjoy it."

On a lighter note...

A few days ago, Tesla picked up her water dish (my 5-inch Corningware dish) with her mouth from its place on the carpet to the tile by the fireplace, where she dropped it for no reason but noise.  Now, it's Corningware, so it's nearly indestructible (I say nearly, because I broke one at a Target once), but the overall effect was reminiscent of the clanging of a beer stein and yelling for the barkeep.

Glad to be back! Be sure to check in in the comments section down below.

Oh! And to kick off my return to the blogging world, I'll be doing my first-ever contest.  And let me tell you, it's cool.  So stay tuned!