Thursday, October 01, 2015

Day the First

The Return of 2 Sentence Horror Stories

While the weather can't make up its mind between warm or chilly, I present to you a new year of two-sentence terrors. By the time this month is over, you'll have a new collection of 31, or more, stories that will leave you a tad uneasy.

So, while the days start getting shorter...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Farewell the Blogpost Fantastic

The school year is already a fourth of the way over and the leaves are beginning to change, which brings us to the inevitable: summer is over.

I've tried to hold on for as long as I can, but my grip is slipping. It's hard to fathom the pool when the air temperature in the mornings is a balmy 55 degrees. I'm even beginning to contemplate shoes with socks. Up until now, I forgo socks. I wear my Sperry's and Toms without socks until my toes can no longer stand it. Although I've thought about shoes with socks, it doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to go put them on.

I'll go sockless for as long as I can.

It will be late October, early November when I can't take it anymore.

That's about the same time we turn the heat on in the house, too. We grin and bear it until our teeth start to chatter, and then we begrudgingly turn up the furnace.

When I was in high school and purchased a new sweater or sweatshirt during the late summer months, I couldn't wait for the warmer weather to go away. I wanted to wear all my new clothes that I got. The minute school started, the weather needed to be cold. School = cold. As a teacher, instead of a student, my views are very different. With school always starting up in August, right when the hot weather for the pool shows up, I've learned to cling to the summer instead of push it away.

I kind of feel like that with Blogpost the Summer Fantastic. I want to cling to this seasonal series, but I know I've got to let it go for now. It's time to make way for some spookier things.

Antiquing, Part V

Earlier this summer, we stopped by some yard sales, taking part in The Historic US 40 Yard Sale. This yard sale is so long that it stretches from Baltimore, MA all the way to St. Louis, MO. There were definitely some treasures, but instead of the gorgeous finds, I wanted to share the not-so-gorgeous finds.

Because pewter figures never go out. Of. Style. They never go out. Of. Style. That and if you owned this beauty, you shall not pass: my ability to be your friend anymore. 

Here is an example of contrast. The artist wanted you to focus solely on their small faces, using a black wire to shape glasses around their faces that showcases the old-lady style the artist was going for. 

Because baby dolls from the past were always ugly. Always. Did doll manufacturers think if they baby doll looked cute, it would be mistaken for a real baby? "Where's Baby Natalie?" "I'm holding Natalie." *gasp* "This isn't Baby Natalie! How could I have gotten them all confused?" 

The 'Welcome to Our Cabin' sign did not come with the pirate, but if it did: sold!

The $15.50 price is worth the burlesque alone. 

I've decided to purchase this and put it on top of a cake. Or, make it look like it's jumping OUT of a wedding cake. The groom doll will be face down on the table. 

I had this one! 

While at a yard sale, it's always a good idea to search for health care items. Used health care items. Especially this asthma kit. Can you imagine the chapped lips of its former owner? Crusty white flakes of skin peeling of lips as they press against the inhaler. Go on. Buy this and use it!

This one's for all you on the '21 Day Fix.' She's making fitness fun again. Now, go, put on your Reebox high tops and drink a large Shakeology. 

Once you're done downing your Shake-o, pull on that leotard and go for it. 

Do you want to eat cleaner? Susan will help you. Don your potato sack and white pants and get going, Whole Foods isn't open as late as Walmart. 

Do these even work in a modern stapler? Should we ask Milton?

This train farts.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

In search of minstrels

Are you going to this year's Song of the Commune?

Now that the world has gone and moved on, it doesn't mean we need to give up on festivals. In fact, our community of survival almost needs them more. Long before there was electricity, there were festivals. You may not like those people down the way, but you still need to rely on your neighbors as we learn our grit at the end of the world. We need to celebrate together.

I may not be able to play any instrument, but I can't sing in the car anymore -- we've run out of gas, or, at least, it's a commodity that we use only when we absolutely must.

And it's locked up. Cathy paid that price a few months ago when bandits went and took off with the last of her supply.

So, any guitar playing friend of mine will join me as I mark my premiere at the Song of the Commune. This year's bounty for the winner? Homemade canned items from this past summer's crops. The cost for this year's entry is a canned good each -- and winner takes all.

I mean, we're all canning these days, doing out best to make reserves for the winter, as usual, but we won't argue over a few extra.

I may not win, but it's worth entry. We have enough pickles, so what's one jar?

Last September, an old pop song was needed for the win. Something to take us back to the time from before, when a smudged face wasn't the norm. I can't remember words to songs for the life of me, but I may be able to handle the lyrics to a song I helped write.

Something hashed out on paper from my core.

That's this year's theme for the Song of the Commune: homemade. Anything goes. As I made my way downtown on my horse, I passed a few people working on something that sounded like hip hop. I never liked it before, but I slowed my horse as I heard them and their words. More like heeded. I finally understood, and for the first time, related.

My song may mourn in the form of bluegrass, with some fiddle and banjo, but their song hit rhythm and spat consonants. The fire of fear and the smolder of survival was a staccato with which we all could relate. And I applauded.

They tilted their heads up in response.

And I rode on.

If all the performances will be as good as that one, we will lose ourselves. At the end of the world, we need to right now.

But it's more than that. We need to tell the stories. We need to sing the survival. We need to protect ourselves from the anarchy, but we need to know what's going on elsewhere.

The Song of the Commune may be a festival, but it also allows us to hear word from other towns, other cities. We aren't all going through the same motions, and no one is printing a newspaper right now. The Song of the Commune also allows us to search out minstrels. We need their stories, and we need other's stories.

We may be able to write things down, but our history is becoming an oral one.

The Song of the Commune becomes our new social studies textbook.

It Leaches, Part Two

ere's the thing, we started out friends.

It was cool, but it was all pretend.

Yeah, yeah.

Since you been gone...Volkswagen Beetle.

After my grandfather passed a few years ago, I was able to use his Ford Taurus boat station wagon until we decided what to do with the Beetle that supposedly had head gasket issues (or so our mechanic thought).

It turned out, we weren't sure what to do with the Beetle, so it sat and the SS Blue Whale Williams station wagon became my mode of transportation. I was OK with this. I had already made the dumb-brained decision to buy the Beetle 10 years ago during a time that wasn't financially feasible, so I deserved to drive whatever car I could get my hands on, be it a Ford Taurus or an El Camino.

I had my time with the car of my dreams. I didn't get a choice anymore. All I cared about was that there was still no monthly payment.

Even if I have to drop anchor in order to park.

It had tinted windows that would make a hoopty mobile jealous. I'm surprised I was never pulled over for the dark tint.

Then again, the police probably thought I was elderly. They must've figured they were sparing me the heart attack. Because, you know, I'm old.

Regardless, the soul of the car enveloped me, and there were days I would drive just as fast as any 1990 Cadillac on 32.

When I say fast, I mean slow.

Sunday-Drive-On-Valium slow.

And the CD selection was a doozy. Like, it will lull you to sleep. After having the station wagon for a few months, I finally decided to see what kind of CDs were in the five-disk player.

My Old-Person Soundtrack came booming through the speakers. 1980's department store jazz poured through the speakers. It was the car's soundtrack, and it ached to be played.

As it did, my bones hurt. It was like I had arthritis. And then, I became terrified of driving 55 mph. I had to slow down.

People started passing me.

I was becoming an old person.

But the station wagon wasn't stressful. It was reliable, minus a few repairs we had to make, up until this past spring when the alternator started to hiccup. The engine was throwing oil, and it was pointless to fix. The new alternator would eventually meet the same demise. It was not the alternator, but the engine. The Taurus had just been given an expiration date.

It was time to figure out what to do: find a "new" used car or repair the Beetle.

I had all summer to get this done. Looking back, I should've utilized that time more efficiently, but like any good person, I waited until the last minute.

I decided on a mechanic that specialized in foreign cars that was very close to where I worked. I had the Beetle towed there and awaited word on the diagnosis.

Was it the head gasket? Was the engine melting? Was a spark plug out of place? We needed to know. Since there was the potential that fixing the Beetle would cost less upfront than paying for a used car, it became a very real possibility that I would get my VW back.

It was a gamble, but I felt good about the decision.

Optimistic, even.

I should've known, though. Leaches waited in the wing.

I received the call bright and early one Friday morning with the laundry list of repairs. The head gasket was not one of the things ailing the car. Instead, it was the timing belt/water pump, serpentine belt, thermostat and cooling fan. The car needed an oil change, fluids refilled, and new tires. The brakes were rusty, but the shop was honest and said not to worry about them right now. The pads were still good, and my dad said they would rub the rust off.

Do keep in mind: What they didn't mention was that the airbag light was on. This will be important later.

So, we said, "Fix it!"

Which was a good thing because the Wednesday before it was finished, the Taurus died on my way to work. I had to be rescued by the school's police officer.

Thursday, when I went to go pick up the car, I paid -- some cash, some credit. I handed over my license plate, and they pulled in car in the garage...and never came back.

While I waited for the mechanics return (my gut was sinking at this point because it shouldn't take that long to put a license plate on the a car right?), I noticed a poster stating that they offered financing. A full year without interest. I asked to refund the credit card and do that instead, but the manager look at something for a few moments, not really trying to figure out if he could, and then said he couldn't.

Then the master mechanic came in and told me the check engine light came back on.

"Do you want to drive it?"

"Uh, no."

So they kept it. And my ride had already left.

The excitement I had all day had filled me like a balloon. I was about to get my Beetle back. I was going to drive my small car that was easy to parallel park. But that burst, and my evening was mutilated. I went to parent night at school the wind knocked out of my sails.

Then, the anxiety crept in. I hadn't had any so far. I knew fixing it was going to be a bit pricey, and I was mentally prepared for the laundry list of fixes. What I wasn't ready for? Another go-around just like Tom Wood gave me back when the Beetle was first a mess.

I waited for the phone call the next day, like a patient waiting for test results.

"It was a cracked censor," the manager told me. "We'll only charge you for an hour of service, and the censor."

But, then I told him I wasn't happy about the financing. Why hadn't they told me they did that? He apologized, and I said that he could look into refunding the card and putting me on the financing so we didn't have to owe interest.

He had to go check and call me back. Once he learned that he could, he said there was a 6% fee attached to the refund. I said they should eat it. He said he coudn't do that. I told him to attach the fee to the financing, if they could, even though it wasn't right. I told him I would call him back, and when I did, luckily, I got the owner.

When I told him my story, that the interest-free financing wasn't offered, and that they should pay the 6% refund fee, he went silent. He was thinking about it. Then, he asked if he could pay half.

At least he met me half way. And I got the financing.

That anxiety attack was over, and I was able to have a good weekend.

Come Monday, I got the call that the car was finally fixed, "But..." the manager said.

And my stomach lurched. "But, what?"

"Your back window's gear is broken. We had to tape the window up."

"Why did you roll down the window?" I would eventually ask him.

"To air out the car," he would say.

Or, to put the top down during a joy ride as you drove the car to make sure the engine wasn't overheating I thought.

"That will be $600 to fix it," he said.

"Just duct tape it. I don't want to fix it right now."

So, I picked up the car,

I got in. Turned the key. The engine purred. The warning lights on the dash all turned off, except for one: the airbag light.

On my way, I called.

"Um, my airbag light is on," I said.

"Yes, we noticed that. Bring it back in tomorrow, and we'll do a diagnostic for free to see what it is."

"Yeah, you will," I thought. And then, "But, I don't want to go back to your shop so soon."

After talking to Steph about it, I called back to ask why they didn't do anything about it, if they knew it was on.

"Because you didn't tell us to," the manager said.

Because I didn't tell you, too? Well, it seems I needed to be psychically connected to my car in order for it to be fully checked out.

My anxiety, at this point, was aflame. I was on the verge of catatonic. I knew I needed to confront the owner, if I could, the next day, to showcase my frustration, but the whole idea of confrontation freaked me out.

I wish I loved confrontation. I wish I could go up to any old person making my life difficult and give them the what-for. I wish I could be so sure I'm right, like Dr. House, that I could look an auto shop owner in the eye and burn into his soul so badly that he will give me a lifetime of work for free.

So, the next day, while my hands were shaking and I couldn't focus, I was ready for the owner to meet me at the shop so I could for-shame him. He never responded, and the manager was all, "He would direct you to me, anyway."

So, I told the manager how negligent it was to have me drive with the airbag light on (based on the information in the manual, it sounded like the airbag could just go off, you know, whenever, killing me), and I told them it was silly that I couldn't ask them to check the airbag light when I didn't even know it was on.

When I did pick up the Beetle, finally, the manager told me: "Steve (the mechanic) said you were told about the airbag light. You said to leave it."

I didn't say anything, because my brain doesn't work that way. My ability to snap back in real situations is difficult. Later, though, it came to me what I should've said to the manager, after he made me feel like it was my fault the airbag light was on.

"I'm a journalist that takes notes while on the phone. The airbag light wasn't mentioned. End of story."

Or something like that. It could've been so sassy that my students would've cupped their hands over their mouths and yelled "BURN!" if they were there to witness it.

But whatever. The Beetle's been home for three weeks now. The window will get repaired at some point, and the airbag light is connected to a censor in my seat belt. Neither are dire right now, so I drive.

Let's pray that's the end of the story for now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

It leaches, Part One

eople with anxiety fixate. Usually, there's some blob in their life they will choose to focus on, and even if it's not really stressful, they will use up all of their being to focus on said blob. All the synapses in their brains hem and haw over it, pulling this way and that. It becomes the only thing they can think about, and it leaches.

And like a leach, it drains.

Just recently I got to experience the fixation of worry over my Volkswagen Beetle (again). Any normal person may have just been annoyed with the dealings of a car, but not me.

I fixated. And shut down. Concentrating at work became almost impossible. When I found myself easing into the day and not worrying, I would stiffen up, and realize I wasn't thinking about the thing and begin thinking about only the thing!

You would assume that I would be over the moon about driving a Beetle, and most of the time, I am. Three years ago, however, the Beetle's 'check engine' light lit up and like any normal car owner, I took it to our mechanic.  He said to do away with the car -- shun! Be gone, you!

"Once you fix what's wrong, it'll be a domino effect," he said. Who knows what would happen next if we fixed the engine, but it couldn't be good.

But, instead of trading it in and getting money, I let sit at my in-laws for a while, and then at my parents for the rest of the time.

How much time?

Almost three years.

The Beetle is/was my dream car. When they came back into production back in 1998, I knew I wanted one as a junior in high school and hoped they would remain popular so I could eventually buy one.

I made a rash decision when I became an official adult with a job to buy one off the lot -- well, not quite off the lot because the one I wanted needed to be shipped in. So, off someone else's lot.

Not one of my finest moments, especially since I was just about to get married, just about to buy a house, and my soon-to-be wife was just about to enter her doctoral program.

I didn't think about long-term expenses.

The car has gone through much in our tenure together -- the biggest was the truck tire (we had no choice, it was right in the middle of the highway, and we were surrounded by traffic) we ran over.

That tire ripped apart the Beetle. We were lucky we didn't die in traffic. I steered the car off a close-by ramp:  the brakes were shot, the steering, locked, and we rolled through the grass, which slowed us down. We got out to assess the damage: flat tires, the front of the car was lop-sided, purple liquid sprayed all over the sides of the car, etc. The truck tire murdered my Beetle.

It was totaled, but, our insurance company didn't think so. It was still too new, so instead of paying off the car and getting rid of it, they had it repaired.

And my best friends worst enemies at Tom Wood Volkswagen were the ones that got to repair it.

Yippy. Skippy.

I was without that car for a long time. Three weeks? 64 months? Who can remember the time frame. What I do remember is the giant asterisk floating next to the car when I finally went to pick it up.

*I will never be the same again. Your insurance company should've just considered me totaled and called it a day. Instead, I'm going to cause you all kinds of trouble. You and me? We're going to be friends. Best friends.

It looked at me like the crazy roommate from a dorm room horror movies.

When I drove it home the first time, it started to shake when I reached anything over 50 mph. This was not normal, so I took at it back to Tom Wood the Devil. The next day, he told me it was a bent wheel -- so insurance covered a new wheel and tire.

I picked it up again, and as I hit 50 mph on my way home, guess what happened?

That's right! It was still shaking.

I took it back again, and they the Devil found a small crack in the suspension somewhere. Once that was fixed, I got to go back and pick up the car again. This time, the steering wheel wasn't centered. It was cock-eyed. Instead of saying anything, I was over it. I drove it home.

A few days later, a light on the dash board came on.

I took it back and told them the steering wheel wasn't right.

They had the car for a week after I spoke to them. At some point in all of this, I was sitting with one of the customer service reps Imps -- you know the kind, they only where golf polo shirts, pleated khakis, where white sneakers, and deal with customers like we're all idiots.

I tapped the desk gently as an eerie calm swept over me. "I am tired of playing these games," I hissed, my voice low. "You will take care of this, and I will get a rental car from you."

Or something like that. The room shifted. There was a moment of frost in the air. My pupils dilated, eclipsing my irises.

And yes, it was all finally taken care of after four completely different trips to Tom Wood.

When I picked up the Beetle, sitting in the back seat was a giant slab of anxiety, buckled in, ready for a ride. After all of that utter nonsense, dealing with Tom Wood became synonymous with anxiety. Driving into the lot was enough to bring out a panic attack.

And since it was a brand new car, I had to deal with the warranty. I was afraid to have any other mechanic touch the car in fear I would void the warranty. Tom Wood did every oil change for almost five years, and I swear, practically every time I went in for the oil change (after the truck tire accident), they would come get me while I sat in the lounge and tell me about more problems the Beetle had.

It was never just an oil change.

It was ridonkulous.

"There's a penguin lodged in the engine. We need to fix it for $300."

"But, I just came for an oil change. I don't have $300."

"You'll die if you don't fix it."

Then: "Oh, and we also just found out that your car has a tumor. It's benign, but it needs to be removed."

Every. Single. Time.

I tell you this prequel because, as much as I loved the Beetle, it has always come with its share of worry and frustration.

This is probably why the car sat for almost three years. Years of anxiety from Tom Wood created a nasty residue in my dealings with the car. Get rid of the car? I would just rather not deal with it.

And so it sat.

And sat.

I did not remain car-less, however. I inherited my grandfather's Ford Taurus station wagon. It was a band-aid. It got the job done, and so the Beetle was "out of sight, out of mind." Until this past spring and summer. The Taurus began to give me some trouble. To my chagrin, the engine was throwing oil on the alternator.

He suggested a better drive-able car before the 2015-2016 school year. Since we still had the Beetle in our lives, we decided a good option was to see if we could go ahead and fix it. It had to cost less than buying a used car. Had to.

As a teacher, I had all summer to deal with the Beetle and get it fixed.

I waited until my last week of summer.

If that doesn't say "procrastination," I don't know what does. It's the journalist in me. I work better under pressure with a fierce deadline.

Since I had the entire summer, I ignored it for a few weeks, and then, when I knew I couldn't ignore it any longer, it leached onto me. With nothing more to worry about, my anxiety began to creep in and take over. This project, fixing my car, became a cavernous mouth that yawned before me. If I dared enter, I would not come back out.

To deal with the car meant one thing: the unknown.

In my dreams, a Tom Wood worker would come out of the corn fields, stop me, and tell me the ball bearings needed to be replaced. In another dream, as I was buying milk, the head of a Tom Wood worker was in the cooler, and oil was coming out of his mouth. He spat black spittle my way, warning me, "The car will never be fixed! There will always be something else. Always."

Any normal person would've just called a tow truck to take it to a shop to see what really was wrong with it. Not I.

I wanted to wait.

And in doing so, it turned into anxiety. I had every right to feel that way, though, because getting the car repaired and drive-able also came with it's fair share of trauma.

Something inside me must've known. Two weeks later would find me curled up in the fetal position, feeling the same way I did about dealing with Tom Wood.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

"The Marvelous Land of Oz" by L. Frank Baum

Boy did I choose the right time to read this book this summer. With transgender studies heavy in the media this season from the reveal of Caitlyn Jenner, I didn't realize that L. Frank Baum was so ahead of his time in 1904.

To become familiar with the various Oz books, I've done my middle school reader analysis by looking at all the covers and titles of the Oz books. I've learned the different titles and characters involved in each, and the name that has always returned to my Oz vernacular is the character Ozma, the princess of Oz.

I just had no clue that she was a he in the "Marvelous Land of Oz."

Seriously. Just when I thought "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" was a child's fever dream, Baum throws us another curve ball.

That curve ball is Tip, a boy that's trying to run away from some old witch that owns him.

Yes. He's a slave. Owned by a witch.

And he has no idea that he's actually Ozma.

Transgender studies and slavery? Where are the academic literature papers?

The witch's name is Mombi, and she is far worse than the Wicked Witch of the West. You have to remember, the WWoW had just one eye in the "Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and was barely even in that book. Sure, she had a hat that controlled the flying monkeys, but that was about it.

Mombi? She had spells and magic and evil all up in her sleeves just waiting to curse and destroy. I'm assuming a former lover had left her, and she just never recovered (maybe that former lover was the infamous Wizard?).

There ain't going to be no prequel musical about Mombi, folks.

I'm sorry.

Sadly, no house or otherworldly presence demolishes Mombi. Instead, she goes off to meet up with some accomplished magician to purchase some new spells. Or steal them. Or date said magician. In the end notes, it did mention how she used the Tinder app on her phone.

This leaves Tip alone to build a man out of wood with a pumpkin head to scare Mombi when she returns from her rendezvous with her boy toy the accomplished magician. The dummy frightens her for a moment, but she decides she'll just kill Tip.

Talk about a short fuse.

But she's dumb. She actually tells Tip that she's going to do away with him, but she'll just wait until the morning. Her back hurt, or something. This gives him ample time to escape, steal some magic powder, make the pumpkin dummy come to life, make a saw horse come to life, and here I am just giving you a play-by-play.

The "Marvelous Land of Oz" is easier to swallow than the first. Familiar characters like the Tinman, the Scarecrow, and Glinda all play important roles in the book. Although Tip escaping starts the book off, we find the true plot to be the Scarecrow reclaiming his throne to the Emerald City (yup, he's king) from a bunch of bratty girls who overtook the city with knitting needles.

More inanimate objects come to life with the help of that powder, and the motley crew scurries to Glinda and asks for help in reclaiming the throne. By the end of the book, we realize the bratty girl that took over the Emerald City nor the Scarecrow are the rightful owners of the thrown.

It belongs to a girl named Ozma.

She disappeared eons ago, and no one has ever found her. It was one of the most popular episodes of "Unsolved Mysteries."

Narrated by Robert Stack, we learn that the "wonderful wizard" had Mombi get rid of Ozma.

Wow, Mr. Wizard. Just. Wow.

Mombi does have some kind of heart because instead of killing Ozma, she just turned her into a boy named Tip. While Mombi is trapped by Glinda, she is forced to transform Tip back into Ozma.

And with that, the rightful ruler of Oz has now retained her throne. She was simply a he.

We'll see what happens in the third installment, "The Mean Girls of Oz," when Dorothy and Ozma, the two most popular girls of Oz, finally meet.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Live-Tweeting today's storms

We obviously have not enjoyed this summer as much as other summers (in Indiana), am I right? That is, unless you've gone on a ton of vacations. As we wade through another day rained-in, this time with the threat of terrible storms, I'm just joining the masses on Twitter. Just like water through a storm drain, these are the posts of my day:

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Liveblogging Event: Labyrinth

It's time to sit down and dissect one of my all-time favorite childhood movies: Jim Henson's "Labyrinth." Although this movie was a bomb in the box office, it has established a cult following that would've made Mr. Henson proud. 

I'm a little worried for my mood, though. It's already a gloomy day, and although Jim Henson's name is all over this film, it is a far cry from any of the Muppet movies. 

In celebration of San Diego Comic Con where everyone dresses up as characters and strut their nonsense all over the place, I thought I would celebrate at home with the viewing of this movie that has it's own cult following. 

We begin with our white pegasus jumping over the Tri Star Pictures triangle. I need to ask my mom if I have ever seen a Tri Star Picture in the movie theater. It's been ages since I've seen that beautiful horse jump over words. We need more horses jumping over words.

For those of you tuning in without any knowledge of "Labyrinth," let me give you a short plot synopsis so you don't think I'm too crazy. 

Jennifer Connelly is a bratty teenager asked to babysit her little baby brother. Instead of being somewhat responsible, she's nerd-tastically absorbed into some book or play about a Goblin King at the park. Like, the minute she gets home from acting it out in the park (late because she's supposed to baby sit) she yells at her stepmom, who has done nothing wrong, and runs up to her room to stare at her eyebrows in the mirror, with a paper crown on her head, continuing to recite lines. 

It's like, go to San Diego Comic Con, already.

Am I right? 

She wishes her baby brother away using lines from her Goblin King novel, and wallah! Her baby brother is gone, and she has to confront David Bowie (the Goblin King) to get him back.

Oh, and she and David are the only actual humans on screen -- the rest of them are puppets. 

And, go!

The nasty babysitter summons the Goblin King to take her brother away

SHUT UP! Do the credits actually include a CGI owl? It's bad CGI ala "Tron," and David Bowie is belting it out like it's his job. As he should. I mean, he wrote the songs.

Yes, there are songs

I can't wait for the karaoke addition to come out (complete with a David Bowie head bouncing over all the words).

We start off with Jennifer Connelly quoting some book in her hand.

"I have fought my way to you, beyond the Goblin City," she quoteths, all eyebrows and LARP (for you non-nerds out there, that stands for Live-Action Role Playing). 

She's late and runs home in the rain as David Bowie serenades us. He sings out how it "hurts like hell!" Whaa? Isn't this a kids movie? Shouldn't you sing something like, "It hurts real bad!" or "Ouch my boo boo!" ?

Cut to: Jennifer Connelly thrashing about her room, yelling about her "stolen" teddy bear named Lancelot. I think she's got bigger issues if she's 17 and crying over her teddy bear. She runs to the baby's room, yells at him about how much she hates him (because he has the bear) and begins to tell him the story about goblins and how they're going to take him! 

And the babysitter award goes to...!

Cut to: Puppet goblins gasp because they're listening to her tell the story. They're biding their time, waiting for her to say the right words. They want to take the baby. It would be scary, but the goblins are kind of cute.

"Awww, let me pinch your cheeks."

Swats at me, "Stop it! We're about to steal a baby!"

Cut to: Jennifer can't get her baby brother to stop crying. She's tried every horror story. First, there was the goblins, but then she unleashed Jason and his machete, but that didn't work. After that, she told the story of Freddie Krueger. She started to tell him the story of "Poltergeist," but the TV scene freaked even her out, so she starts to wish: "Goblin King! Goblin King! Take this baby away from me!" 

Let's stop here and ask a question. Which character from the "Babysitters Club" is she? She's definitely not Dawn.

She's horrible. No wonder the baby is sobbing. 

They must have a mutual hatred for each other. 

Just so you know, there's intense music, lightning, thunder and rain pounding on the window which lets you know that her hateful wish is about to come true. 

She dramatically runs to the crib. The baby is missing! 

Then, there's an owl fluttering at the window, similar to the CGI owl in the opening credits, but this one looks real, or at least, puppety. The windows flutter open and the grandest entrance of all time happens: The Goblin King David Bowie!

Stop listening to his album "Tonight" and pay attention. He looks dashing in his mullet and cape. 

And is that eyeliner on his eyebrows? He's New Wave to the max!

He's all: "Forget about the baby," while he juggles three crystal balls. He's real smarmy right now, stealing babies and hitting on teenage girls. "Go back and play with your toys and costumes. But first, you must admire my eyebrows, my mullet and my leather tights."

Then they teleport to the labyrinth.

Jennifer begins her journey

The Goblin King David Bowie pulls a clock out of the tree once they've landed and tells Jennifer, "You've got thirteen hours to get your baby brother. After that, the adoption is finalized." 

"I started this," Jennifer whispers. "I will end it."  

Jennifer is all proud right now. 

"Come on feet," she declares. She skips up to the entrance of the labyrinth when she stumbles upon an ugly puppet peeing in a pool of water. His name is Hoggle, and he has bug spray that kills fairies. 

I'm being so serious right now. 

Hoggle reminds me of the grouchiest Billy Bob Thorton. 

Jennifer's now in the labyrinth while a drum machine and a bass guitar thrum. There's nasty vines, plants with eyes, and uneven ground in the labyrinth. She believes that there's no bend in the maze, and then, vest and XL button-down shirt billowing, she begins to run. "Maybe I'm not looking at it right, or whatever," she says. She gets nowhere because she's being a total brat again and kicks the wall. 

"I'm totally spazzing!"

As she catches her breath from the 50 meter dash, she meets a talking worm. He's very British and has fuzzy blue hair. He probably teaches culture classes at Worm Labyrinth College. He seems professorial. As of now, he's trying to convince her to have tea with him and his missus, but she's all "stranger, danger." He's not so much of a danger, though, and gives her a tip to start her journey through the labyrinth: just walk through the wall. 


But then they have a "Who's On First" moment with the world that

"Just go that way," he says.

"That way?" she asks.

"No, that way." 

And when she leaves, he says, "She should've gone that way, it would've led her straight to the castle." 

But then we wouldn't have a movie, right Blue Hair?

Cut to: Baby Brother Toby is crying as synth-drums tells us a song is coming. At first you think he's crying at the goblins laughing and trolling all around him, but then you see David Bowie with his high-waisted, tight trousers and a billowy pirate shirt. It's massively unbuttoned, and he's wearing a huge necklace. 

I would cry, too.

Oh, it's time for another song! "Dance, magic, dance!" he sings. Here's a sampling of lyrics so when you go to karaoke, you're ready:

"Put that magic jump on me/Slap that baby make him free." 

It reminds me of a saying I heard down south: "Hoo-wee, shut your mouth. Slap your grandma!"

Jennifer continues her journey through the labyrinth, makes friends

Let's just go back to Jennifer and her trials in the labyrinth. 

She's currently lost. She problem-solved and used lipstick to draw arrows on the ground to keep track, but the maze outwitted her because it wasn't Maybeline. Little people jumped up from under the stones and turned the arrows around. Now she's talking to door keepers that look like dogs without fur suffering from a serious skin condition. 

She's figured out their riddles, goes through a door and falls -- just like Alice, except the tunnel Jennifer falls into is filled with "helping" hands that grab on to her. 

That tunnel is a sexual harassment lawsuit just waiting to happen.

They form faces to talk and hit on her. They're very handsy. 

"Let me go!" she cries, and of course, they do. 

When she lands, Hoggle is down at the bottom. Don't worry, though, he's not peeing this time. She coaxes him to help her by giving him jewelry. 

Too bad he doesn't know the bracelet is plastic and from Claire's. 

At least she has a friend, now. 

Jennifer keeps calling Hoggle, "Hogwart." 

Hmm... I wonder if that's where Ms. Rowling came up with that famous school's name. 

Favorite part alert: Underneath the labyrinth, where they are, are giant faces in the walls called "false alarms" that are telling them they're going the wrong way, that there's terror around every corner, and that they should just give up. Hoggle keeps telling them to shut up. One of them is sad and wants to finish his line.

"Fine then," Hoggle says, "but don't expect a big response." 

"Oh, no, of course not," the face says, demurely. Then voice booms: "You'll never get out alive!" 

It's all very Macbeth. 

Uh-oh, David Bowie Alert! He's here to pester Jennifer.

"This is cinchy!" she says, all proud, puffing up her chest. "I'll be picking up my brother in just a few hours." 

"Well, if that's the case," Bowie says, and pulls another clock out of thin air, skipping ahead a few hours.

"Hey! No fair!" Jennifer cries, but whatever. She learns in a few scenes that fair isn't always equal. 

Let's introduce a new character, shall we? A trip through a labyrinth isn't complete without a ragtag team of misfits.

Jennifer finds a giant-horned-yeti-gorilla-bear that's upside down being attacked by helmeted goblins with naked chihuahua's on sticks. The chihuahuas are biting the giant-horned-yeti-gorilla-bear, but Jennifer is really good at throwing rocks. 

Aaaaand, the giant-horned-yeti-gorilla-bear is saved. We'll call him Ludo, pronounced Loo-Dough. Now that we're all friends, let's continue our journey. Come on, Jennifer, get a move on. This movie moves slower than I remember. It needs more David Bowie and synth. 

At this point Hogwart, I mean Hoggle, has abandoned Jennifer and Ludo. She gets into a spot of trouble, and he yells out that he's coming for her. As he turns around, guess who's there?

The Goblin King David Bowie! In this scene, he looks like Avril Lavigne. 

Random scene alert! Jennifer is getting sidetracked by a bunch of singing, dancing puppets. They're a mix between the following: foxes, cats, vultures, Donald Trump, witches, and NSync. Their heads can come off, so she's throwing them.

The Bog of Eternal Stench, or Jim Henson's scene of fart jokes galore

I need to backtrack. As we know, The Goblin King David Bowie is not making Jennifer Connelly's journey easy. He keeps making threats about some Bog of Eternal Stench. When Hoggle hears this, he clutches his pearls. The Bog of Eternal Stench is worse than being unpopular! 

Well, since misfortune is at every turn, Hoggle and Jennifer (Ludo is MIA) slide down through the stone version of a McDonald's Play Place, and when they come out the bottom, Hoggle grabs a stick and holds on. Jennifer almost goes down too, but, whew, they save themselves. Later, they fall off the ledge and land on Ludo. 

They look down to see numerous buttholes puckering and spitting up juices. 

This must be the Bog of Eternal Stench everyone's been talking about.

We get it, Jim Henson. It smells, but did you really need to concoct a bunch of sputtering buttholes to drive your point home. 

As we survive the fart joke that is the Bog of Eternal Stench, we come across a chipper and brave small fox puppet that takes a deep breath and says he smells nothing. Jennifer, Ludo and Hoggle gain a new friend -- Didymus. He rides a shaggy white dog. 

Oh, no! Jennifer's in danger. She's hanging onto a tree, her feet dangle over the diarrhea pond. What's a girl to do? 

Easy, have her giant-horned-yeti-gorilla-bear call on the rocks to save her. They come bubbling out of the bog, and with every step, a fart. 

This land must've been thought up by Jim Henson's son. 

"Hey, son, what kind of land should I have in my new movie?" Jim asks. 

"Farts! Poop! A pond of Diarrhea! Sputtering buttholes!"

"Sounds legit!" 

Enough of this scene, let's move on. I sense a musical number coming on. Can you feel it? 

Let's just get on with this movie already

Apparently, The Goblin King David Bowie gave Hoggle a rufie peach that he is supposed to give to Jennifer to eat. This is all too college party for my taste. 

Jennifer takes a bite of the peach, and she's transported to some dream world. Everyone's wearing masks, and sporting Victorian fantasy hair. Jennifer walks around the room, about ready to Vogue, when her eyes meet The Goblin King David Bowie's eyes. Is it love at first sight? Did he pull up in a van? Is it a dream? 

It is a dream! She was drugged, or it was a spell, or something. It looks like she was stuck in one of his crystal balls. It broke, and she woke up in a junkyard.

But, did she get there?

Let's move on. This movie is beginning to feel thirteen hours long. The Goblin King David Bowie didn't take time away, he added it. Soon, I'll be stuck at some strange party wearing tight pants, donning a mask, sporting a mullet, and singing with David Bowie. 

Wait, the junkyard is a good thing! We made it! We're outside the Goblin City! Google Maps was right! 

All we have to do is walk down this street to get to The Goblin King David Bowie and...wait, what is that? A wall of machine parts just closed and a giant sentinel stepped out of it with an axe that would make Thor jealous. Hoggle takes some time away from peeing in a pool to jump on the giant, kicks off its head to find a goblin driving it, and throws him out. Hoggle can't drive it. It starts steaming, and he jumps out.

"I just drove my Goblin Sentinel out of the lot and got into an accident. My insurance company says it's depreciated. How can my Goblin Sentinel depreciate before its first oil change?"

Those Rabble Rousers made it too far. The Goblin King David Bowie has sent his goblins to stop them. I hope the fight scene doesn't last as long as the one in "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King." I actually fell asleep during the "Return of the King" battle, woke up rested, and the battle was still happening. The one major difference between these two battles? 


"Lord of the Rings" didn't have enough 80s synthesizer in it. Peter Jackson should've taken a lesson from Jim Henson.

Just when the battle looks grim, Ludo uses his super power to command the rocks to come and help.

Let's move on. We get it, puppets, you should be on American Ninja Warrior, but we've got a baby to rescue and a final David Bowie song to hear.

The climactic Jennifer versus The Goblin King David Bowie:

She's about to rescue her brother, but The Goblin King David Bowie is trying to persuade her to stay? To be his betrothed? To have a picnic? I have no clue what's happening. She just begins to sputter more LARP at The Goblin King David Bowie, and it seems to be working. He backs up, threatened.

"I took acting classes!" she says. "You didn't!"

The scenery is all falling down in piles of cloth, delicately fluttering to the floor like 80s pop trash. I guess this is the end of the movie?

It's missing just one thing: A shirtless Prince rolling around the floor on sheet music.

Just kidding.

It ends with a dance party with all the puppets from the labyrinth in Jennifer's room.

Best. Slumber Party. Ever.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

One wet and not wild summer

It was one of those days when we decided to grocery shop.

In the rain.

And it came on fast and furious.

After we rescued the groceries from the car, getting wet by doing it, we looked out the window to realize the downpours were never going to stop. We live on a main road, so in the winter, it's always plowed, but in the summer, well, you can't plow rain.

Unless you attached an enormous squeegee to the front of a truck.

Our house sits lowest around the houses on our street, so we've got two storm drains -- one in the driveway and one in the yard. We watched from the windows as the rain continued, and after looking at different radars, it wasn't going to stop. Not for over an hour.

And more was on the way after this current round.

This isn't normally a problem, but all the storm drains on the street, and the ones in our front yard, weren't working.

The water wasn't going anywhere.

We opened the garage door, armed with umbrellas, and watched as the water crept closer and closer to our house. I began to fear the water. It was too close to the garage.

We moved our cars, and I pulled up my Taurus station wagon, since it sits lower, so the bottom of it wouldn't get wet.

Small bouts of thunder and lightning still pounded and flickered in the sky. We had to do something. I changed into clothes that I did not care out (I should've just changed into a bathing suit), I waded out into the driveway in my trusty Crocs, and found that debris covered both of the grates. At this point, standing water was in the front yard and in our neighbor's front yard.

I didn't even bother with an umbrella, and as rain tapped me like a million poking fingers, it soaked me through. I knelt in the water and scooped up all the grass and whirlygigs (from our Silver Maples) and threw them out in the street. I stuck my hand across the grate, but I still felt no suction. After a while, I manned the grate in the yard, while Steph took care of the grate in the driveway, and although we kept scooping and throwing all the wet crud out into the street, there was only a small amount of suction.

It wasn't just the debris causing the flooding, there was just too much water.

At this point, the water was half-way up my calves. When I knelt down in it, to check out the grates, my rear end was fully immersed.

Meanwhile, our neighbors came out of their house to watch.

Wading through the water, me soaked, and Steph with her vivid umbrella, they got their own Cirque Du Soleil performance.

Then, the Lady Neighbor started taking pictures.

I don't think they were of us, but I've got a feeling, if she wanted to get a shot of the entire scene, without trying, we were definitely in the shots.

And the rain continued to fall.

I felt very Bill Paxton to Steph's Helen Hunt.

We took a break to see how bad it was in the backyard. There was standing water in the "back forty" where Nigra goes Number Two, creating our very own cesspool. And if that wasn't bad enough, the cesspool took it's yucky fingers and moved mulch from one side of the yard to the other.

We returned to the front yard, and thankfully, the rain did start to slow down. All the drains finally caught up, and when we placed our hands over the grates, we felt the pull of the water going down. With all my being, I pushed my soul up to the sky and willed the clouds to continue the slow drizzle, or even, to stop.

At this point, we each manned a grate, gathering yard sludge, throwing it out to the street.

After an hour outside, doing what we could to combat the flooding, the height of the water started to fall. The drains pulled the water toward them, the rain finally stopped, and we were able to go back inside and throw a pizza in the oven.

The water never made it to the garage, but the weatherman was still on the news -- flash flooding was imminent, he said, and lucky for us, more rain and storms were on the way.

With no rest for the weary, I went out a couple more times throughout the night, making sure the grates were clear. Although there was standing water throughout the evening, the grates and drains were able to keep up with the second and third wave, and I continued to throw brown gunk from the grates into the street.