Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Post About Nothing

Nothing is awesome.


I'm sitting on the couch with my 10 year-old nephew James, and I asked him what I should blog about. He told me that I should blog about nothing. When I asked him to further clarify, he said my first sentence should be what I wrote above. So here we go, writing about nothing (Seinfeld-style).

Why do they call it Ovaltine? The jar is round, why don't they call it "Roundtine?"
Huh. I think that bit may have already been done.

I'd have to say that I enjoy Doing Nothing. Not all the time, just from time to time. Here's a picture of James and me sitting on the couch Doing Nothing:
Really, when you're Doing Nothing, you're actually doing Something. It's like trying to have complete silence; you can't actually be completely quiet, or else you'd be dead. I think that Doing Nothing is more along the lines of whether or not whatever it is that you are Doing is Meaningful or Worthwhile. In that picture above, James was (and still is) playing Super Marios Brothers on the DS, and I was playing Taipei on my computer. Is that worthwhile? It's fun and relaxing, but where does that get us in life? One hour further on, is all.
I think that the masters of Doing Nothing are Calvin & Hobbes. While Calvin tends to slide his way through life with the help of his pal, Hobbes, he truly knows how to relax and Do Nothing. And he's creative about it! I think we can learn a lesson from their Doing of Nothingness - do we rush around focusing so much on all of the Somethings that we have to do that we fail to take time to do Nothing? Doing Nothing is an important part of our lives - it's like a palette cleanser between meals or Kazimir Malevich's White on White in a Jackson Pollack museum (a breather between zaniness!).

So I recommend to you all to take a moment, stop with all the Somethings you've got going on, and Do a Little Nothing. You may just accomplish something great! For example, James just beat Super Mario Brothers! With 73 lives to spare!! Now that's Something.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Before it's too late!!!

Yesterday I was helping one of my kindergarten/1st grade classes get ready for lunch when two of the girls in the class got in a little bit of a tiff. One of the girls (we'll call her Ella) was crying and mad at the other girl ("Hannah" for our story here) and Hannah said, "Ella, why are you so mad at me? We've been best friends since last year!" Ah, youth.

While I was dealing with the mini drama between the girls, I wasn't paying too much attention to the other students who were lining up for lunch. All of a sudden little Ana comes up to me and says, "Joey kissed me and I didn't like it!" Now HOW am I supposed to keep a straight face? I couldn't!! I chuckled a little and said, "Joey, you're not supposed to be doing that until you're at least 16! Didn't you know that girls have cooties?" A roomful of 5 and 6 year-olds does not get my sarcasm. After the crickets subsided, I told Joey he needed to respect Ana's space and not do that unless she wanted him to.

I also encouraged Ana to use her "I statements," which is something we try to get all of the students (k-8th grade) to do. For example, Ana could say, "Joey, I don't like it when you kiss me." It's a way to get the kids solving problems on their own and also to not just get mad and yell at/tell on someone, ie: "He kissed me!" It's quite effective for all ages!

I breezed past that cootie comment back there, but would like to talk about them for a minute. I don't think that I was fully prepared as a child for all that cooties entail. Wikipedia, the most accurate website of all time, gives us the following information about cooties: One catches cooties through any form of bodily contact, proximity, contact with an infected person's possessions, square-dancing, or third-party transmission. I didn't know you could get cooties from square dancing!! Oh, I'm doomed.

I have some questions about cooties, too. Do you become immune when you get married? Is it like building up an immunity to iocane powder, done little by little? What if a boy tries to do something like (heaven forbid) hold your hand, and you haven't been immunized? The horror.

Here is a video that should be required viewing for all children:

I tell you, my cootie shot is WAAAAY past due.

I'd like to take a moment here to use an "I statement" of my own:

I don't like it when boys give me cooties.

So, be prepared my friends. Don't Procrastinate your immunization!! If you do, it could be too late.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Truth About Betty Cooper

Elizabeth tagged me in her blog, and I fully intend to respond to that tag, but on my own terms. This "tagging" reminds me of those emails I often get where you have to answer all of these questions about yourself: favorite food, favorite TV shows, greatest fears, etc. I think I answered them seriously the first 2 or 3 times that I got one, but the next 90 or so times I decided to get creative. On more than one occasion I answered them as my alter-ego, Betty Cooper. (Well, one of two alter-egos that I have. It's tricky balancing them, but having Wonder Woman's super powers helps.)

I hope you now enjoy finding out some secrets about Archie's sometimes girlfriend, Betty!

3 Joys
-Spending time with the love of my life, Archie Andrews.
-Hanging out with the gang at Pop Tate's.
-Baking! And making my own clothes. And puppies and kittens! And baby-sitting, and surfing, and school...how am I supposed to keep it to just 3?!?!

3 Fears
-That Archie will leave me forever for Veronica!
-That we'll never achieve world peace.
-That Pop's will close down...where would we hang out then??

3 Obsessions or Collections
-Um, well, I guess you could say that I am obsessed with Archie. I mean, I wouldn't say that, I think our relationship is perfectly healthy, but some might say that...
-I collect mementos of dates with Archie.
-I suppose I'm a little obsessed with cooking...it's the way to Archie's heart!!

Surprising Facts
-My hair is actually really blonde! Don't let Veronica tell you otherwise.
-Sometimes I think Jughead's kind of cute! I mean, he's so good with Jellybean! I think his hatred of girls is just a facade.
-I like fixing cars more than I like baking. Crazy, huh??

A side note from Katherine...I think it's interesting to note that my paternal grandfather, Archie, married my grandmother, a woman named...Betty. Seriously!! So we all know who gets him in the end...sorry Ronnie!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Snow, That Cunning Little Vixen

Snow. It really thinks a lot of itself, all white and fluffy and pretentious. I may sound angry, but really I just feel like Snow is a big flirt, teasing us all winter long.

For months and months our lives are fine, we're going about our business, getting tans, enjoying the flowers and the greenery, the sunshine and even the occasional thunderstorm. We're even fine with the leaves changing colors - it's a gradual thing, and we enjoy the slow process and being called "Leaf Peepers" and jumping in leaf piles and pressing leaves between pieces of wax paper. Takes us back to our childhood, I think. Then out of the clear blue (well, grayish-white) sky, BAM! Snow.

Now I suppose that you're going to say to me here, "Katherine, Snow takes us back to our childhoods, too! Remember? Snowmen, snow angels, snow forts, snowball fights, sledding...remember that stuff? Do ya? Huh?" My answer to you would be a resounding, "Yeah, I guess..."

I s'pose I just feel like Snow can be a bit of an interloper. I mean, Snow forces you into a completely different wardrobe, for Pete's sake! And you just never know what form it's going to take next: will it be big fluffy flakes, soggy wet flakes, tiny scarce flakes that barely cover the ground, or will they gang up on you when you least expect it and strand you in your car on the side of the dirt road at midnight near the Troll Bridge when you're being chased by an army of zombies and a woodchuck? ...Sorry, I got a little carried away. What can I say? Snow makes me a little crazy.

Speaking of crazy, let's talk about the game playing. It's here, it's not, we got 2 inches, it all melted away, back and forth and back and forth...you never know where you stand with Snow. It's tricky, that Snow. I prefer more reliable weather.

Rain - now there's a precipitation I can get behind. It doesn't pretend to be something it's not; it's rain, and you're gonna get wet. Deal. Yeah, it may mist sometimes or throw you off with a good old fashioned downpour, but who doesn't love to jump in puddles and wear big, goofy galoshes?

Well, I hope you're all prepared for another up and down relationship with Snow this winter. Most likely it will tease you at first, make you think it's here to stay, play a little hard-to-get, stick around for a while, then take off for good at the first sign of a little tilt of the earth. And when you get really fed up and don't know what else to do, sometimes all you can do is say, "It's not me, it's you..."

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Grand Finale

Well, my friends, it is here. And...it is long. You may need to read it in more than one sitting...I thought about posting the ending in two parts, but decided to give the whole thing to you here and now, since you've been waiting so patiently! Enjoy! (Again, if you haven't read Parts I and II, scroll down and read those first!)
III

“Frank, are you…I mean, that’s not…” Maggie’s sentence trailed off as she stared at Frank, who was staring back just as earnestly, his eyes pleading for her to understand.

“No, Maggie, I have not lost my mind, the cider hadn’t expired, and I really saw them!”

She stared at him for a moment before responding. “And you saw these…these lumpy thingies two weeks ago, but you…”

“…didn’t tell you for fear that you would have this exact reaction and think that I was senile. Maggie, you of all people know me. You know just how much of an imagination I have, or, well, don’t have, and just how much I don’t believe these things. I would not make this up, I’m not imagining it, and I’m not crazy!!” Frank was pacing now, without realizing he’d gotten up out of the chair.

“Frank, listen,” Maggie shook her head before going on, “let’s just say you saw these, these things under your rug.” Frank looked as if he was about to protest, but Maggie held up her hand and went on, “What do think they are? I mean, you said nothing was there when you looked, but maybe it was a…a particularly fast…mouse or something.”

“No.” Frank shook his head and continued his pacing, his arthritic knee slowing him with each turn. “No. It was too big to be a mouse.”

“A rat…?”

“No! Besides, when I dropped the book, it, it…it divided! It multiplied!” He stopped and looked directly at Maggie. “Maggie, I think it has everything to do with that book you lent me.”

“You, but…but nothing like this ever happened when I read the book, Frank! Why should it just happen to you? This makes no sense.”

“Think about it, Maggie. I’m an old man…” Maggie cut in, “You’re not old…” but Frank went on as if he hadn’t heard her. “I’m set in my ways…I don’t believe this stuff. You do! You didn’t need convincing! I did! Maybe it’s meant to only happen to those who are skeptics, or maybe only at a certain moon, or in a certain atmosphere…Maggie, come back with me to my house. We need to see the room. Maybe it’ll help us.”

“Help us…what exactly? Should we call a medium? Have a séance?”

“Maggie. There was something under my rug. And you need to help me figure out what exactly it is.”
-----O-----

They approached Frank’s house with considerable trepidation, and found it dark as they had left it. Frank’s mind spun with visions of creatures infesting every nook and cranny of his home, his sanctuary…anger flared in him briefly as he put his hand on the door knob. They had infested his house, and he was taking it back. With a boldness pulled from unknown recesses in the usually mild Frank Batton, he pushed open the door, switched on the light, and, with Maggie close behind, walked straight for his sitting room.

All was still. No movement under the rug, no change from how he’d left it: lamp in pieces on the floor, wooden chair splintered on the rug. No noises or shuffling sounds, just silence.

“Frank,” Maggie’s voice caused Frank to jump.

“Shhh! It was here!” he whispered, pointing to the spot on the rug where he’d smashed the chair. He approached the spot slowly, pulling Maggie behind him, and dropping her hand as he grabbed the splintered pieces of wood and moved them off the rug. Maggie helped, then they both grabbed the corner of the rug and folded it back. There, just where the remnants of the chair had been, was a perfect, polished circle in the wood. No dust or dinginess or scratches like all of the wood around it; it was as if someone had sanded and refinished a six-inch circle of wood in the middle of Frank’s old, well-trodden floor.
-----O-----

The following day found Frank on the phone with what seemed to him to be the most unhelpful human on the east coast. Her nasally voice was like nails on a chalkboard, but Frank endured. If she gave him what she wanted, he would put up with it. Heck, he’d send her a dozen roses and a basket of throat lozenges if she would just give him the information he sought.

“I’m sorry, sir. There is no one in our records with that name.”

“But…” Frank’s already disheveled hair was being pulled through his fingers yet again. “…this book was published by your company! How can you not have the author’s name in your records? How is that possible?”

“I’m sorry, sir, we have no record of this book. Maybe you should check another publishing…”

“There is no other publishing company! The book is right here, in my hands, and the name of your publishing company is stamped on the side! How do you explain that?!”

“I’m sorry, sir…” the rest of her words were cut off as Frank slammed the phone on the receiver. He turned to Maggie, who was sitting at the table working on her laptop. After cleaning up the broken furniture, they’d both decided to leave the sitting room alone for now, and had spent the day working in the kitchen. “The publishing company doesn’t seem to have any record of this book being published by them. Can you believe that? I thought technology was supposed to help with the distribution of information. What about losing it?!”

“Wait, what do you mean, ‘no record’? How is that even possible?!” Maggie spoke as her fingers flew across her keyboard. “That’s weird…how could they not…Frank! Frank, I’ve got it!”

“You have it? Let me see!” Frank put his reading glasses back on as she turned the computer to face him. “Wait, what is this? This is the contact information for M. John Livret. We don’t need a reviewer’s number! We’re looking for information on the author of this blasted book!” He slapped the cover of the book whose last chapter he had not yet brought himself to read. “Why would you look up him?” He gestured at the computer screen, his mind going back to the phone call he’d just ended.

Maggie turned to him. “Frank, Livret reviewed the book. He had to have been contacted by someone and asked to do that review! Maybe he has some information! Call him!”

Frank stared at her for a moment until what she said finally registered. He was exhausted, having gotten little sleep the previous night (for obvious reasons) and he felt like the cogs in his brain were going in slow motion. He turned his head to face the computer once more, his hand reaching for the phone.

Moments later someone picked up and answered with a brief, “Yes?”

“M-m-m,” Frank cleared his throat and tried again, “Monsieur Livret?”

“Oui, this is John Livret. Who is this?”

Frank took a deep, steadying breath. “Monsieur Livret, my name is Frank Batton. I’m a big fan of your reviews. I read everything…” he paused and looked at the book lying in front of him on the table, “…I read practically everything you recommend!”

“I appreciate that, Monsieur…uh…”

“…Batton…”

“…Monsieur Batton, but this is a private line. Kindly send a note next time. Au revoir.”

“Wait! Please! I need your help!” Frank’s heart was pounding and the phone slipped in his sweaty hand. He grabbed it before it fell and pressed it against his ear, praying M. Livret wouldn’t hang up on him. “You reviewed a book! It was by an author named ----- -----! I need to know about that author!”

There was silence on the other end of the phone. Frank was about to hang up when he heard the reviewer swear softly in French. The line was silent for a few more moments. “…Where did you get that book?”

Relief flooded over Frank and he gripped the phone still tighter. Someone else had heard about the book! “My neighbor…she’s a friend of mine, and she, well, she works at a book store in town. She bought the book there…” Maggie was shaking her head, her eyes wide. Frank put his hand over the mouthpiece and whispered, “What?”

“Frank, I didn’t buy that book.” Frank looked at her, his eyebrows pinched together. Maggie hurried on, “A friend of mine gave it to me. He said someone gave to him, that it had been passed from person to person and should be passed on when I was done.”

“Wha…?” Frank’s surprise was interrupted by an impatient “Allo??” on the other end of the phone. “I’m sorry, M. Livret…I was just… Well, as it turns out, my friend was given this book by a friend, who was given it by a friend, and so on. She gave it to me a few days ago, and, well, I just wanted to know if there was a way that I could get in touch with the author somehow.”

The phone line was quiet again. “I am afraid that there is no way for you to get in touch with the author. C’est impossible.”

Frank paused for a moment. “Excuse me?” Maggie was looking at Frank, her eyes ablaze with curiosity. “Forgive me, M. Livret, but I don’t…I don’t understand. Is the author…dead?”

“M. Batton, I don’t know exactly how to explain all of this, so I shall be, how you say…frank.” Despite the tension, Frank chuckled silently to himself, then shook his head at Maggie’s confused expression as Livret went on. “The author of this…this book you spoke of…does not exist. There is no record of such an author anywhere with any agent or with any publishing company. I do not know or understand how this book came to be published, and any inquiries made into this, this…mystère have come up blank. No one knows where this book came from, who wrote it, or how it got into circulation. There is no record of it having been sold at any store, ever, and the publishing company whose name graces its spine has no record of any author or book bearing those names. As for my review…” M. Livret paused and cleared his throat, seeming hesitant to go on. “I…I once read a book when I was a young man traveling the world. It was a translation of an ancient text and it fascinated me. I retained a copy of this text for some weeks, and wrote notes in the, ah, margins, notes expressing my opinion of the book.” He paused again, taking a deep breath. “One day my small room was broken into, yet the only thing missing was that text. Time passed…then, some years ago a friend of mine called me and asked about a review I’d given of a strange book. He said he was surprised to see my name on the back of such a book as it was not the sort of book I usually reviewed. That book, M. Batton, is the one of which you have spoken to me, and that review is nothing more than the words I once scribbled on the pages of the translation of an ancient text.”

Frank sat, silent, his heartbeat still racing.

“I have no way, Monsieur, of knowing whether or not that book in your possession is the same as the ancient text I once read. Several times I have tracked down someone with a copy of the livre…excuse me, the book with my own words on its back. Each time, that person promises to send me the book, yet it never gets to me. I have asked them to read it to me over the phone, and the phone lines go dead. I have even tried to go to the book, but by the time I arrive, it is always gone. Stolen, lost, disparu.” The Frenchman sighed heavily. “This book, Monsieur, it plagues me.”

“M. Livret, it plagues me as well.” Frank’s eyes had gone wide during Livret’s story, and he stared in shock at the wall in front of him. “Has anyone, that is, those people you spoke of, who have read this book…has anyone ever mentioned anything…strange…happening to them when they read the book?”

Livret considered for a moment. “Monsieur, all I can say is that everyone with whom I have spoken about this book is more than anxious to be rid of it.”

“Thank you, M. Livret. I appreciate your help. I myself am rather anxious to be rid of it.” Frank’s heart had slowed as he adjusted to the news.

“Au revoir, M. Batton. I wish you luck.”

The line went dead and Frank turned to Maggie with a tired look on his face. “Would that you had never brought me this accursed book, my dear Maggie.”
-----O-----

The wind blew lightly at the windows as Frank and Maggie sat quietly in Frank’s sitting room. They had deliberated for some time about the future of the book. Frank had suggested burning it, but Maggie felt that there was some purpose behind the book and eschewed that idea immediately. She kept telling Frank that before they did anything, Frank needed to finish the last chapter.

“Maggie, I don’t…what if…”

“Frank, I will sit with you while you read the last chapter. Just read it!”

After a few more minutes of cajoling and Maggie practically shoving Frank into his chair, he finally settled in to finish the book. They had turned on all the lights as a precaution, and Frank didn’t drink anything, hot or otherwise. Hands shaking, Frank set the book in his lap and opened it to the last chapter. He glanced up at Maggie, who was sitting nearby with her own book in her lap, then around the room once more before settling in to read.

Just like the last time, the book practically turned its own pages as Frank flew through the last chapter. It seemed he’d just begun reading and then he was on the last page, his eyes sliding across the final words. Fin. He closed the book with a snap, and Maggie jumped and looked around nervously. Frank’s eyes darted around the room as well, at the rug, at the new lamp on his side table, at the empty spot where the wooden chair once sat.

Nothing. No movement, no bumps, nothing. Curious, he dropped the book on the floor where it landed open and face down, but still, nothing. Maggie looked on as he lifted the corner of the rug once more. He had to check. Had he been dreaming? Could this all be a strange dream?

There, on his scratched wooden floor, the polished circle remained. He looked up and met Maggie’s curious gaze. “Do you have any friends who are interested in a book?”
-----O-----

Evan Drabinski sat in his worn recliner with the book his coworker had given him. She hadn’t said much about it, just that it was very…unexpected. He wasn’t one to read fiction, as a rule. He preferred concrete fact…but every once in a while his sense of adventure kicked in.

He settled in and began to read the first chapter, finding himself pulled into the strange story line…when out of the corner of his eye, something moved.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wait for it...

I apologize for the long wait for the finale of the story, and I promise it's coming!! In the mean time, here's a Calvin and Hobbes comic to entertain you:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The story continues...

Hello, friends! Thanks for your patience...I know you're all dying for Part 2 of my story, so here it is! (If you haven't read Part 1 yet, scroll down to my last post!) P.S. I bought the book (The Mysteries of Harris Burdick) a few days ago (the "poster" edition)-all of the images are so intriguing!! This Harris Burdick story thing may become a regular Robot Tuesdays feature...

II

It was a sunny yet cool Tuesday evening as Frank stood on his porch and took a deep breath, inhaling the scents of autumn that he loved so much: burning leaves, a slight crisp feeling in the air, a waft of cider mulling in his kitchen. It was his favorite season, yes, but he always told his friends that it seemed tainted by the cold, dark, wintry days that followed. Frank shivered, though the action had nothing to do with seasons.

Frank’s mind wandered back once more to that evening two weeks ago. The evening he chalked up to bad hot chocolate. The cocoa company had sure got an earful the next day, and though the coupons they’d sent had appeased him a bit, he still felt troubled. He had seen something move. He was sure of it. Yet every time he’d looked around, nothing was there. No bump under his expensive, if well-worn (like so many of Frank’s possessions) Persian rug; just the faded patterns in reds and golds and greens. He hadn’t told anyone what he’d seen, not even Maggie, fearing what they might say or think.

Frank turned back into his house to attend to his spiced apple cider – his favorite alternative to the cocoa he now shied away from. Since that day, the day of the “Incident,” he’d taken to reading a little earlier in the evening, so as the days got shorter, his routine started earlier. It was unsettling to Frank, this change in his tradition, but more unsettling than that was the memory that kept popping into his mind.

Yet still…Frank felt a little adventurous trying new things, and enjoyed the slight thrill he felt each time he did something a little differently (and admittedly, that happened fairly rarely). He’d even read a few pages…ok, a few chapters…in Maggie’s book, and had to admit there was something appealing in the language of this new author. It seemed almost like some translated ancient texts he’d once read. He felt a kinship with the author that he didn’t want to admit.

After testing the temperature of the spiced cider and deeming it ready-for-reading, he poured it into his favorite blue mug (the one with the small chip in the handle) and headed for his chair. The book Maggie had given him was open face-down on the table where he’d left it the night before, and after settling himself down into his mould, he picked up where he’d left off.

Before he knew it, darkness had settled around him, his cider had gone cold, and only the last chapter of the book was left unread. Frank had lost himself in a book before, but this was an extreme he was unused to. The single lamp next to Frank’s chair was the only source of light, giving the room a slightly eerie glow. He blinked his eyes a few times as if waking from a dream, and as he did so, something moved out of the corner of his eye.

“No.” Frank’s voice cracked as the single word escaped from his lips. “No. Not again.” His voice sounded to him as if it came from a stranger’s mouth. His mind reeled back to two weeks ago, and as it did, the strange lump under the rug moved. Frank jumped out of his chair and the book in his hands fell to the floor, landing open on the rug. As if on cue, the single lump under his antique rug split in two, then four, then six…and every lump moved directly towards him.

He jumped again, grabbed a wooden chair from near the wall, and raised it high above his head. The lump nearest him moved aside, as if anticipating a blow, and jostled the table next to his chair. The small lamp wobbled almost in slow motion before it crashed to the floor making a much louder commotion than Frank would have thought possible. Frank was plunged into an inky darkness, alone, with a flock of otherworldly creatures that seemed to be chasing him…

He raised the chair once more, stared at the spot in the darkness where he’d last seen one of the lumps, and brought the chair down with a resounding crash. The chair splintered in his hands just as Frank heard a frantic knock on his front door.

“Frank? Frank!” Maggie’s worried face peered through the windows on either side of the front door. “Frank, are you in there? I heard a crash! What’s going on? Are you ok?”

Frank dropped the splintered wood he still held in his hands and stumbled toward the front door, pulling it open the moment he got there. Maggie’s fist was raised as if to pound on the door again, but she stopped cold and stared as Frank’s palid face came into view.

“Frank, wha…what happened? Are you ok? I heard…what’s going on?”

Frank stepped onto the front porch, pulling the front door closed behind him. “Maggie, there’s something I need to tell you.” He paused, his breathing coming in quick gasps as he glanced back into his dark house. “But can I tell you at your place?”

Before she could respond, he grabbed Maggie’s slender wrist and pulled her down his front porch steps.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fine. I'll tell YOU a story.

Those of you who regularly read my blog know that in my last post I challenged you all to write a story based on a picture from Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. Sadly, no one stepped up to the challenge. To recover from my disappointment, I decided to write a story myself. I had such a fun time writing it that it ended up longer than I'd anticipated, so I've decided to post the story in three parts. Today I'll post the first part, followed by part 2 when I feel like it, and part 3 when it's ready. Way to be cryptic and a little ostentatious, huh?

So, without further ado, here is Part 1 to "Under the Rug," by Katherine Downie. (Copyright Katherine Downie, 2008. No stealing my work, or something may just get you...read on...)
I

Frank Batton liked nothing more at the end of the day than a cup of hot cocoa and a good book. Every evening for the last twenty-seven years (with very few exceptions) he was in his green wing back chair by 7pm, hot cocoa in hand and a well-loved book in his lap. His reading chair was so old and worn that you could pour plaster in it and come out with a perfect mould of Frank’s backside. His friends joked that he could sell them both to museums – the chair to a historical museum, the mould to a museum of modern art. Frank wasn’t much of a jokester, but that always got a chuckle out of him.

Twenty-seven years of the same thing every night seemed boring to his young neighbor Maggie Grippin. She urged him to try something different for a change, but Frank always told her that he liked tradition, order, and familiarity, thank you very much. Maggie loved new things: going to a new play at the local theater, trying the new coffee flavors at the coffee shop on the corner, a new dress, the smell of a new book. And she loved science fiction, something Frank Batton could not tolerate.

“Hogwash” was Frank’s favorite word to use when he disapproved of something, and Maggie kept a secret tally of how many times Frank said it concerning her latest sci-fi novel. Nevertheless, Maggie was insistent, trying to interest Frank by telling him surprising plot twists and unexpected endings. Being a kind man, he usually let her go on for a while, until she knew her time was up by the unfailing utterance of his favorite word.

“Hogwash! That’s all these newfandangled authors write!” Frank spat a little in his excitement. “What happened to the classics? Moby Dick, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, David Copperfield! These are books worth reading, my dear.” Frank took a breath and gave Maggie a steady look. “This book you’re reading is pure and simple balderdash.”

Balderdash?” Maggie thought to herself. That’s a new one.

Maggie had stopped by Frank’s on her way home from her job at the Lonesome Dove Bookstore in town. She often dropped in on Frank, worrying that he might be lonely, all alone in that big house with nothing but “tradition, order, and familiarity” to keep him company. Though Frank could be a little grumpy during these visits, Maggie often caught him smiling into his hot cocoa when he thought she wasn’t looking.

“Mr. Batton, how can you call this ‘hogwash’? This writer has been compared to Jules Verne, ‘The Father of Science Fiction’ and one of the most read authors in the world!” Maggie watched as Frank scratched his balding head and gave her a pitying look. “You say this book is balderdash, but how can so many readers and literary critics be wrong?”

“They may not be wrong…” Frank said slowly, “but I don’t have to agree with their opinions, do I?”

She turned the book over and pointed to a name on the back. “Look at this, Mr. Batton…Frank…see this name here? M. John Livret. Your favorite literary critic! You told me once that whatever Mr. Livret recommends, you read. Well he read this book, he loved it, and here is his testimonial right here!” Maggie jammed her finger at the words in quotation marks as she set the book on Frank’s lap. An onlooker observing this scene might have thought that Frank had just been told that his best friend and confidant had published Frank’s innermost secrets in the book now lying untouched in his lap. “L-Livret?” Frank felt almost betrayed by this critic, to whom he owed so many pleasurable hours of literary joy. “He…recommended it?”

Half a minute passed before Frank could bring himself to pick up this unknown book and look at the words printed on the dust jacket. Maggie saw his lips move as he read, and caught phrases like, “more magician than author,” “instant classic”and“story brought to life” as Frank’s consternation grew.

“Try it, Frank. Livret wouldn’t lead you astray.”

Frank sat there for some minutes staring at the book, lost in thought.

“Well, Frank, I’d better be getting home. I’ll stop by tomorrow to see how you’re liking the book.” Frank barely lifted his hand in farewell as Maggie stepped off the porch. It may have been her imagination, but she thought she heard a faint “Balderdash” as she walked towards her house.

----------

That evening, 7:00 found Frank in his usual chair with his usual cup of cocoa and his usual well-worn book. All thought of the “Abomination,” as Frank called Maggie’s book, was lost as he dove into the ocean with a well-known whale. Frank could hear the sea gulls and smell the salt in the air as Melville carried him on the waves of the sea. The outside world was lost on Frank, totally lost…but...what was that shuffling sound?

Pulled from his novel, Frank looked around the room to identify the noise, but all was still and silent. Returning to the book, he got 2 sentences in and heard the noise again, but again found no change in the familiar room. Except…the Book, Maggie’s book, caught Frank’s attention once more where it lay on a nearby table. He stared at it for some moments…

When out of the corner of Frank’s eye, he saw something move under the rug.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tell Me A Story

If you are familiar at all with SpongeBob SquarePants, you know how fun imaaaginaaaation is. You also know that Squidward Tentacles has very little imagination, though he plays a mean clarinet. While Squidward can entertain himself to a certain extent with his clarinet skills and his hobby as a painter, what does he do when he's out of reeds and his paint has dried up? And the TV is broken? And Patrick Starr borrowed his radio and used it to rig a jelly fish trap? And the Krusty Krab is closed due to one of SpongeBob's shenanigans?

He needs to hone his imaginaaaaaation!

And so do you.

There's a book that I've been wanting to buy for a while now called The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg (the author/illustrator of Polar Express and Jumanji among others). In this book, a fictional editor introduces the images contained therein by telling about an author/illustrator named Harris Burdick. Burdick came to his office wanting to publish some books he'd written and illustrated, and left one picture from each book with the editor, each with a title and a caption. Before they could be published, Burdick disappeared, along with the rest of the stories. All that is left are these mysterious images with their cryptic captions and our thirst to know the whole story.

Below I have included one of the images from this book. The title of the image is "Under the Rug," and the caption is, Two weeks passed and it happened again. (OoOoohh...mysterious!!) My challenge to you is this (it's pretty simple): come up with a story to go along with this picture!

Here are some options:
Option one: come up with a full story on your own and post it on my blog.
Option two: start a story to go along with the picture, but leave a cliff hanger. The next person to sign on will continue the story, and so on. (You've all played games like this at parties...) I like this option, but want to leave you to choose.

Let's dust off those imaginations and get writing!



Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I have no time to post because I'm busy doing boring things.

Monday: made 2 phone calls, sent 7 emails, responded to 6 more, worked, complained about work, bought some supplies for work, did some grocery shopping, and did some laundry.

Tuesday: made 3 phone calls, worked, complained about work, panicked when another student said she had head lice, got a flu shot, responded to 2 emails, and sent 1.

Wednesday: worked, had a break down at work, complained about work, talked to one of my students about his bad behavior, pulled that same kid out of another class to talk to him about bad behavior as he travelled from my class to his next class, sent 1 email, responded to 4, made dinner, ate a lot of junk food, and complained about the pain in my arm from the flu shot.

I'm thinking it can only go up from here.

P.S. I'd like to give a shout-out to Joe the Plumber, who's having a much more interesting week than me.

Note to self: In order to make blog more interesting, run into a presidential candidate next week and become a sound bite.

P.P.S. I'd also like to give a shout-out to Joe Six Pack, who's probably feeling a little resentful of Joe the Plumber for stealing his name and air time.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Roald Dahl Tells It Like It Is.

I have read almost all of Roald Dahl's books. I own most of them, and just recently got his second autobiography, Going Solo, for my birthday. There is one part that I really wanted to share with my female readers. (I was inspired by Christi's blog!) In this part of the book, Roald Dahl is in the forest in Africa with a group of African soldiers and hears frogs croaking incessantly. He describes the way that the frog's croak sounds and goes on to say,

"This is his mating call and when the female hears it she hops smartly over to the side of her prospective mate. But when she arrives a curious thing happens and it is not quite what you are thinking. The bullfrog does not turn and greet the female. Far from it. He ignores her totally and continues to sit there singing his song to the stars while the female waits patiently beside him. She waits and she waits and she waits. The male sings and he sings and he sings, often for several hours, and what has actually happened is this. The bullfrog has fallen so much in love with the sound of his own voice that he has completely forgotten why he started croaking in the first place. We know that he started because he was feeling sexy. But now he has become mesmerized by the lovely music he is making so that for him nothing else exists, not even the panting female at his side. There comes a time, though, when she loses all patience and starts nudging him hard with a foreleg, and only then does the bullfrog come out of his trance and turn to embrace her.

"Ah well. The bullfrog, I told myself as I sat there in the dark forest, is not after all so very different from a lot of human males that I could think of."

ZING!!

Just thought I'd share that with you. I don't know about you ladies, but I was picturing a couple of guys of my acquaintance when I read that passage... For any fellas who read this, I know you're not one of those guys. You would never fall in love with the sound of your own voice! Or if you did, you would at least try to hide it better than a frog. ;)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Questionable Variety of Crud...QVC!

Whenever my friend Megan and I get together, we turn into 14 year-old girls. Not literally, but we certainly seem to become completely ridiculous. We go on some strange road trips to such places as Hell and Sleepy Hollow State Park, and do strange stuff like watch hideous jewelry being sold on QVC for waaay too long.

This past week, when Megan was visiting once again, we ended up watching QVC. There was really nothing else worth watching on TV, but that's no excuse. We should have changed the channel MUCH sooner, but it was hard to turn it off! We kept seeing the timer at the bottom of the screen and wondered what monstrocity would come up next! Here are some examples:

They may not look that bad here, but let me tell you, they are somethin' else. The woman selling them was an oddity. I mean, could she really have been THAT in love with the jewelry?? When she was showing the piece on the left, she was raving about that the circles were a full INCH in diameter! Can you believe it? She couldn't. The piece on the right is an "Enhancer." What that means is that you can clip it onto any chain. A miracle! Truly, a miracle. I couldn't find any pictures of the multi-colored chains. Very sad indeed. She was SO in love with the green gold! And was thrilled to mix it with the purple gold and the blue gold. As lovely as they sound. (Yikes!)

I highly recommend that you watch the video. It'll be the best thing you watch all week! Ok, that's a promise I can't really back up, but it'll be entertaining.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"How're You Feeling?" "Pretty Darned Millish*, As a Matter of Fact!"

I took a ceramics class last year and found myself surrounded by an odd assortment of people - it was a class for non-art-majors and I was the only art major in the bunch. While we practiced the ancient art of molding clay into butter dishes, we usually listened to music - either a radio station or a CD that someone brought in. One sunny spring day, one of my more colorful classmates stuck in a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers "best of" CD. She was feeling that music. At one point she uttered a phrase that has forever stuck with me: "Tom Petty speaks to my soul."

Tom Petty? Really?

I think that we'd all agree that music can effect our moods, and our moods can effect what kind of music we listen to. I certainly have music that speaks to my soul, so I shouldn't mock our Tom Petty No. 1 Fan. I went so far once as to create CD mixes (not as good as a Mixed Tape, but still serve their purpose) that I could listen to according to my mood. When I was feeling amorous, I could pop in a CD full of love songs. When my heart started to feel the strain of being a twenty-*#$%! year-old single woman, I'd toss the "amorous" CD into the back seat (sometimes with excessive force, I'll admit it) and stick in my CD of melancholy songs. Then there was the one for when I was feeling happy (which included such classics as Kool and the Gang's "Celebration" and the Jackson 5's "ABC") or one for when I was feeling a little more riled (which included Natasha Bedingfield's "Single" and Kelly Clarkston's "Since U Been Gone"), etc. You get the picture.

This past Thursday evening my friend Jen and I went to The Ark in Ann Arbor to see a band called Millish. Not just any band called Millish (as if there could be more than one band called Millish...), but the band called Millish that a friend of mine from high school is in. Jesse and I met our freshman year of high school in a Biology class and formed a friendship while making fun of our teacher. And having 3-way conversations over the phone with our friend Brian while watching TV or playing video games. And hanging out at Jesse's house while he played the piano upside-down. And having our shoes (both Converse All-Stars, or "Chucks") get married. I think his shoe's name was Winston and mine was Wilhelmina.

Wait, what was I talking about? Oh, yeah...Millish...

I have seen Millish perform a number of times and always feel electrified when I hear their music. Jen was commenting after the concert that there's no easy way to describe Millish's sound. There's an initial Celtic feel to it, some jazz undertones (or sometimes overtones), a smattering of Blue Grass, with a dash of funk and a side of cheesy fries. (I should eat more before I blog...) Then there was the Michael Jackson break in the middle of one of the songs... If you've never heard "Thriller," Billy Jean," or "Will You Be There" (you know, the theme song from the epic movie "Free Willy") played on a fiddle, well, you're missing out. Each member of the band is beyond talented and play their instrument(s) so well that they seem perfectly at ease playing the songs that are as natural to them as a conversation with friends.

As I was listening to them play this time around, I was really caught up in their sound - the melodies and harmonies, the undertones, the humor (Tex-Mex Epic!), the feeling they put into it while performing the songs - and discovered that their music really speaks to me! (Take that Tom Petty!) It made me feel hopeful, happy, and optimistic. On top of being amazing performers, here these guys are, doing what they love to do and getting paid to do it! As an artist, that is naturally my dream, but it more often than not seems like the kind of dream where you wake up and think, "What was I thinking?" and then the dream is immediately forgotten.

While I'd consider myself an optimist, I could also be categorized as a cynic. Recently, however, some pretty awesome people have helped me ease up on the cynicism a bit. Just a few weeks ago I felt inspired by some photographers in Ludington - Brad and Todd Reed - another couple of guys who make a living doing what they love to do. And now Millish. A few posts ago, when I was regaling you all with my Tales of Being an Extra, I mentioned a woman I called Motivational Lady. She was SO forceful in her belief that you can do ANYTHING if you really want to. I have since then seen these examples of people who felt the same way and have succeeded!

As a result of their great show, mad skillz, and hope-inspiring music (for me, at least), I have decided that when I am feeling hopeful or optimistic, I'm going to say that I am feeling "Millish*." (Though I'll mostly only say that around my blog readers - all 3 of you - and myself in order for people to not look at me the way they did when I went to the library in my Wellingtons.)

I hope you have a very Millish day!

(*Not to be confused with "mulish: of or like a mule, as being very stubborn, obstinate, or intractable.")

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

School Schmool.

There is a common misconception that students dread going back to school more than teachers. I would argue that it is the reverse. As I got ready this morning to go to school, I was thinking, "If I was still on summer vacation, I could lay in bed and read for another hour." "If I didn't have to go to school, I could watch The Price Is Right at 11." "If the accursed first day of school hadn't befallen us, I could go to my aunt and uncles' pool this afternoon." etc. Matters only got worse when I went outside and it was 80 degrees and sunny. They should pass a law that the first day of school should be overcast, chilly, with a misty rain.

As a "Specials Teacher" I didn't actually have to teach today. It was only a half day at the school where I work, so the kids met their teachers, found their lockers, and got settled in. Meanwhile the classroom teachers made sure their classrooms were set up, tried to remember 20+ names, corralled kids from one thing to the next, dealt with students who were hating life either because they'd rather be home playing video games or because they'd rather be home with their mommy, and were generally pulled from place to place like a marionette.

Tomorrow I get to start. The difference between what I do and what a classroom teacher does are subtle: I have to remember not 20+ names, but around 190 names; I don't have a classroom to get set up, but an office and a cart; I get to push said cart from room to room and be a guest in each classroom (so I don't have to corral the kids, but get corralled myself); I also have to deal with students who'd rather not be at school, but also with the ones who think, "Art is stupid." or "This is lame." or "I can't let my friends think I like art." etc. I call them Minimalists: those who do as little as possible but at least do something so I don't report them to their teacher or send them to the office. I'm basically a glorified baby-sitter for these kids.

Do I sound like I'm excited? Well I AM! Okay, part of that may have been forced enthusiasm, but some of it was sincere. While there are those Minimalists, there are also the saviors of teachers: those students who really do love art, and who are so excited when I show up in their classroom each week. I love it when a student really identifies with a project and discovers a talent s/he may not have known they had. I love getting silly pictures drawn by kids especially for me. It's awesome when students bring in art projects they've done at home and share them with me.

While I, like most other teachers (except for those nutty ones who live to teach...), have been bemoaning the end of summer, I know that being back in school will be the time of my LIFE! I mean, I haven't had as much fodder for my blog as I'd've liked this summer (well, I may have had some fodder, but that's none of your beeswax, thank you very much), and now...! Just wait till I start blogging about the kid who sneezed in my face, or the class that made me run out of the room crying and questioning my career choice, or the apology notes I got from the kids who were misbehaving and forced to write the notes by their teacher...

Ah, Back to School...a magical time of year.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Day Without Celebrities Is Like a Documentary About Snails...

...slow and boring.

I feel a need to bring my readers up-to-date on my experience as a celebrity. Although maybe I should be careful about playing it so fast and loose with the word "celebrity." "Slave" would be more accurate, or maybe my proper title, "Background."

I got called back Monday and Tuesday of last week as an Extra for "Whip It." I'd had such a fun and unique experience the first time that I decided to go back for round 2. I went solo this time, and felt a little like the new kid in school, or else a kid whose best friend has moved away so she has to try to get to know the other kids now, even though she ignored them completely before and mocked them on more than one occasion.

I was a little nervous.

I got to the warehouse and knew right off the bat as I pulled into the Extras parking area that this was not going to be like last time. How did I know so quickly? Because Stripedy and Dubber were not there. It was with a heavy heart that I pulled into my parking space as guided by the security guard directing traffic (what little there was) this time. He was friendly enough, but he was no Stripedy. How could anyone live up to that title?

I entered the warehouse and found a much smaller number of Extras there than before. Score one for Katherine - I'd be in more shots! I retired to my corner of the holding tent and read a little bit in between people watching. I saw a few familiar faces: Afro was back, as were Short Skirt, Underage Hottie, McMuscles, and a few of the Self Importants (no Business Man By Day, though). We were called in fairly quickly, which was nice, and got pretty darned busy standing around. I ended up next to a really nice woman who was all sorts of motivational. She was telling me that I can do anything I put my mind to. That's right, I can! Let's hear it for Motivational Lady!

The rest of the day was, well...let's just say that there's no reason to break down the day minute-by-minute this time around. It was hot as BLAZES in the warehouse, and they didn't bring water around to us nearly enough. Needless to say, we all got a little grumpy pretty quickly. To top off the heat, thirst, and grumpiness, we had a severe lack of celebrities in the house! When we first got there, Kristen Wiig and Eve were there, but that didn't last too long. They filmed a couple of scenes, then Kristen was done for good here in Detroit. She came back a few hours later with a new hair cut and her copy of Derby Girl (which the movie is based on) for her fellow actors/stand-ins/stunt people to sign, and stood right next to me talking to them. Then she left. I ran after her crying and screaming, begging her not to go, to come back and entertain the Background, to hang out with us, anything to make the time go by quicker, but she simply patted me on the head and said, "Katherine, Katherine. Silly girl. You're just Background. I'm afraid I can't help you, minion." Okay, so I didn't really run after her, and she didn't really talk to me, but I wanted to, and I imagine that's what she would have said.

The rest of the day was spent standing, screaming and shouting, standing, pantomiming, standing, sweating, standing, complaining, and standing. The terrible thing was that, not only were Stripedy and Dubber missing, but so were Sarah's and my Boyfriends, as well as the rest of the regular crew that was there last time. Even Drew was absent! Where were they?! They had a new crew there, which included Dana Carvey Look-alike, and Good Looking Stunt Director (Jeff Dashnell). Jeff was pretty funny, but New Extras Coordinator (who replaced Stripedy, Dubber, and Sir Mics-A-Lot) was a little grumpy and rather like a high school gym teacher. I was never a big fan of gym in high school...

Despite my former mocking attitude, some of the other Extras were super-duper friendly, and I made some new friends: Girl From India Whose Name I Can't Remember (she was really nice, and we spent quite a bit of time talking about the Others, including Guy Who Didn't Know Where India Was...), Two Girls Who Were Funny and Friendly, and Interesting Guy Who Likes To Talk About Books And Looked A Little Like A Lumberjack. I also made an arch-enemy: Guy Who Pretended He Knew Me But Was Really An Annoying Git. I think the name is fairly self-explanatory...

A rather important highlight from this time was my New Boyfriend Jamie. Ahhh, Jamie. Jamie was there last time but slightly out-shone by my Old Boyfriend. He (Jamie) plays one of the referees, but also works the skate camera (any shots you see in the movie that are in with the skaters are shot by him). He had a pack strapped onto his back and a $200,000 camera in his beautifully muscular arms, and skated around filming. He was dreamy. And, unlike with Old Boyfriend, I actually talked to and flirted it up with Jamie...and he flirted right on back. (For details and a wedding invitation, see me.)

Tuesday was better since the weather was cooler, Juliette Lewis was back (though only for a little while), I got a high-five from Jeff, Guy Who Pretended He Knew Me But Was Really An Annoying Git wasn't there, and we only had an 8-hour day. Not as magical as before, but at least I got paid.

So, as we like to say in The Biz... "Cut, check the gates...that's a wrap, folks."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How Do You Hold A Moonbeam In Your Hand?


A few nights ago, Elizabeth and I were chatting late in the evening. It might be more correct to say that it was the wee hours of the morning, actually. She was checking the news online and came across an article talking about a Group that was protesting a new movie. While we could sort of see where they were coming from, we still felt like this Group was taking the meaning of the movie the wrong way.

Elizabeth decided that her new calling in life was going to be renting movies and finding reasons to protest them. She realized that this might be less-effective than protesting movies that are in theaters, but figures you've got to start somewhere. I suggested she start with "Singin' In the Rain." She decided the first movie she'd tackle would be one of her favorites, "The Sound Of Music."

Keep in mind, it was very late.

So, what is there to protest in this movie? Well, first, why does the Fraulein have to be played by a woman? Why can't it be Fraulein Mario? Or...whatever the male equivalent for "Fraulein" is... Elizabeth said that instead of nuns in a convent, the movie could feature monks in a monastery. I suggested that Mario Lopez play, well, Mario. Elizabeth suggested that he wear lederhosen. I suggested that he also wear a hat when running through the fields singing "I Have Confidence!" Then there was some singing (by me) of "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Ma-reee-oooo?" and some gut-busting laughter as we pictured the monks singing and dancing through the monastery with Mario in his lederhosen...

It only got better from there.

I figured that Captain Von Trapp could still be a Captain, but should be Mrs. Captain Von Trapp. It took us a while to figure out who should play Mrs. Captain Von Trapp. After a lot of thought, Elizabeth decided that the perfect person for the role would be none other than...Julie Andrews! She can be all strict with her whistle-blowing (and I don't mean calling attention to illegal activities...) and will fall in love with the clumsy but lovable Fraulein Mario. Of course, the kids will still play the usual tricks on Mario - the frog in the pocket of his lederhosen, the pine cone on his dining room chair, etc. Of course Mario will play the guitar, but in a modern twist, he will teach the kids how to dance. And naturally he will make clothes for the kids out of the draperies - he's a liberated monk with mad seamstressing skills!

I think we knew we'd gone too far when we talked about Liesl being played by a guy who is only "16 going on 17" and needs to depend on his older girlfriend, the telegram delivery girl. We did decide that Uncle Max will remain Uncle Max, though The Baroness would of course be switched to The Baron.

There's already been Oscar buzz...

Maybe Elizabeth and I should stop speaking to each other after midnight. You never know what we'll say after that.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

15 Hours Later...

I'm Famous!! I know you’re all dying to find out how it all happened, so I’m gonna tell you. I thought it’d be best to give you a minute to minute report, then realized that might be too long. And dull. So here's a briefer, yet still broken down, report of my brush with fame. (Times are approximations. I didn’t actually write down every moment that something happened.)

10:45am: Sarah Frantom (aka Franpom) picks me up, looking all punked out and awesome.
11:53am: We arrive at the Extras parking lot. Guy in a Blue Shirt tells us to go over to where "Guy in the Stripedy (pronounced stry-ped-E but said quickly) Shirt" is. We later find out that their names are Chris and Ryan, though we shall always know them as Dubber and Stripedy. (Dubber because he supplied us with our first nickname of the day by calling, or dubbing, Ryan's shirt “Stripedy.”) Both are in charge of directing the Extras. We park (as directed by Stripedy) and make our way into the warehouse.
11:57am: We sign in, get our paperwork, and go into the Extras Holding tent (which is still inside the warehouse - it was a big warehouse). We fill out our paperwork, wonder what the heck we’re supposed to do with it, and end up people-watching for a while. MAN, there were some weird people there! Needless to say, we come up with many more nicknames as the day progresses.
12:45pm: Sarah and I get free donuts and apples and eat a late breakfast.
1:30pm: Half of the room is taken out to film, while we sit and wait and People Watch. There is a group near us of Self-Importants (people who have been Extras more than once and who are aspiring actors), including Business Man By Day, an odd guy who went a little over the top with his costuming - ie: sprayed his hair blue & added a small blue hair extension at the front...yikes!
2:30pm: The rest of us are finally asked to herd into the main filming area. In this area is a roller derby rink surrounded by grandstands on three sides (which have creepy “Inflatables” – inflatable upper bodies with masks, wigs, and clothes on), with a bar (part of the set) and concession stand (with roller derby paraphernalia for sale – also part of the set) at the fourth end.
While Sarah and I are waiting in the grandstands, we spot Drew Barrymore. It was surreal to see her; she’s smaller in person than I thought she’d be. After that first Celebrishock (the shock of seeing a celebrity), it feels really natural to be around them. They just seem like normal people and were super nice and fun!
2:48pm: They move Sarah and me over to the end near the bar, and we are at the edge of a shot with Marcia Gay Harden! They do the scene lots of times with Drew giving Marcia instructions in between each take just feet from us. I can hear the whispered instructions - Drew is trying to really get her into character and into the emotions of the scene. We get stuck behind Afro Guy, who plagued us throughout the day. We also get annoyed that Old Lady With a Hat got in the second shot with Marcia. Sarah and I are SO much more punk rock! (We both had dark eye make-up on, Sarah had on a red tank and hard-core cargo pants; I had on a black short sleeved tee over a long-sleeved gray one with punk rock jeans on and, in some shots, black gloves with the tips cut off- just so you know what to look for when you see/buy the movie.) At this point we also see Jimmy Fallon on the rink and have another brief Celebrishock. I love that guy!
Around this time Sarah and I also find our respective Boyfriends. Mine has a slight Anderson Cooper look to him (and if you know me you know how much I looove A.C.), but younger. He is a grip or something – he helps with the main camera. Sarah’s Bo. fri. has on a yellow AARP t-shirt (though he was definitely NOT old enough to be a member) and a red hat. We were always very excited to see them throughout our day there. It was meant to be.
4:03pm: Sarah and I have to move to another spot, which turns out to be a “sweet spot” – people have to get on and off the rink right where we are. Some of the skaters also have their baskets of gear by us, so we get to hang out next to Ellen Page, Eve, Juliette Lewis, Kristin Wiig and others while they gear up and get on and off. Drew spends more time near us talking to said celebrities, so we feel pretty dang special. I realize later that one celebrity I didn’t recognize at first is Alia Shawkat, none other than Maeby from Arrested Development!

Drew gives us instructions throughout the day as to how we’re to act, etc.
In one scene, those with birthdays from January to June cheer for the Hurl Scouts, while those whose birthdays are from July-December cheer for the Holy Rollers. I cheer for the Holy Rollers, and get to get high fives from all of them! Several times, actually, since there are several takes. I’ll never wash these hands again. Well, I did already, actually. Too much of a germophobe. I DID have my gloves on during a couple of these takes, so I may sell them on E-bay to the highest bidder/biggest Juliette Lewis fan.
5:22pm: We’ve come up with several other nicknames at this point. Some are Extras: there’s Boobs McGee and her boyfriend McMuscles – we try not to have her in our line-of-sight if we can help it; Annoying Guy, who obviously wants to be Discovered, so sings really loudly between takes (really badly) and talks loudly about Drew and his opinions on her movies; Guy From Our Table in the Holding Area, who turned out to be from Ann Arbor and really nice; Short Skirt, who should NOT have been wearing a short skirt – we are terrified she will bend over.
Then there are the Cast and Crew members: J.W. (who’s real name is Jonathan) a.k.a. Sir Mics-a-lot – he is the one who calls us all to order, gets us excited and re-energized, and calls “action” and “cut.” I don't know his official title, but he is sort of the voice of the directors. There is another crew member who wore one of the wigs from the Inflatables for a while, so I think of him as “Wig.” Then there's Angry Guy, this man with chin-length blondish-brown hair and a full beard and angry eyebrows. He is the Hurl Scouts’ coach in the movie and wears a white sweat band on his forehead and cut-off jeans. Awesome! The coach of the Holy Rollers (at least that’s who he seems to be - he doesn't do much) is wearing a striped shirt and always seems to be dancing…and not well. But he is hilarious to watch! He also has beautiful curly hair that I really want to play with. Anyway, we call him Stripey Dancer.
5:48pm: We’ve seen some AWESOME roller derbying scenes! Juliette Lewis isn’t the best skater (she falls a lot), and has a stunt-double. Ellen Page has one, too, but doesn’t use her as much. We’ve had to do a lot of pantomime, which apparently was a new word for a lot of the extras – they started cheering and J.W. had to say, “No! Pantomime!” They finally get it when they see what the rest of us are doing. Jimmy Fallon is hilarious (as is his outfit for the movie) and keeps the Extras laughing.
6:00pm: We break for “lunch,” have to wait in the longest line known to mankind for it, and are rejoiced to finally be able to sit down for a while.
7:12pm: We’re called back to set and the fun starts up again. Sarah’s and my Boyfriends are adorable and devoted to us, and our relationships are stronger than ever.*
8:02pm: Jimmy Fallon comes over towards Sarah and me and I wave (not a crazed fan wave, a “’Sup, Jimmy” wave) and he smiles at us and tells us we’re doing great. Sarah and I are about to launch into a deep conversation with Jimmy when a girl near us says, “Hey Jimmy! Do you remember me?!” Jimmy turns to her, rolls his eyes a little and laughs, then goes back out to the center of the rink. Stupid Girl-Who-Ruins-Meaningful-and-Potentially-Lifelong-Friendships!
9:28pm: We’re moved to the opposite side of the rink. We end up in a small group that kills several of our brain cells just by existing. One bleached-blonde girl tells us that one of the camera guys (not my Boyfriend, of course) said he’d get them some beer. She is lovingly dubbed Eighteen Year-Old Bimbo. (We calls 'em like we sees 'em...) Our group is given a short break, but I stay and hang out to watch a scene that they’re shooting with Jimmy. That guy is such a hoot!! He really works the crowd and cracks us up with his ad-libbing.
10:56pm: Sarah and I are moved back to the other side of the rink, but up in the stands now. Dubber asks who is there for the first time, and picks Sarah and me to move into a prominent position at the front of the stands. We are right in a shot of a conversation between Juliette Lewis and Ellen Page (they’re Jammers on opposing teams – Juliette – a.k.a. Dinah Might – is a Holy Roller, and Ellen – a.k.a. Babe Ruthless – is a Hurl Scout). A guy below us is dubbed Crowd Surfing Pro because he REALLY wants someone to crowd surf and goes on and on about how he knows what he’s doing. He asks Stripedy if he can do it, and Stripedy says Heck No, or something along those lines. Afro Guy is below us for a change. Annoying Guy gets moved…’cause he’s annoying. Juliette hangs out and chats with the Extras. We also chat with the other Holy Rollers – they’re real roller derby players and are super nice. One of them gives us this card telling us about the Detroit Derby Girls, which has several teams. Now that I’ve seen even a simulated game, I’m totally hooked!
12:07am: We’re given a brief brake with snacks. I call Elizabeth and chat for a while before we’re called back in.
12:22am: Sarah and I are faceless cheering arms in the crowd.
12:48am: We’re back near one of our original positions and everyone’s getting a little goofy. We do a scene so many times that I’m starting to think of Drew Barrymore as “Madame Perfectionist.” We’re near Crowd Surfing Pro and Underage Hottie.
1:13am: Sarah and I move to the other side of the rink for the last shot of the day. While they’re setting up, they play some dance music, turn down the lights, turn on the mirrored disco skate and the set turns into an impromptu dance party! Sarah and I break it down with Juliette, Jimmy, Stripey Dancer, Dubber, Ellen, Kristen, and the rest of the cast and crew. SO fun! “Dancing Queen” comes on and we all get excited and break it down more. Woohoo! The energy level picks back up and we get ready for the last shot. I’m not sure if you’ll see much of Sarah and me, but you may see our hands clapping and pounding on the track as we root for Babe Ruthless as she recovers from a fall. Sarah and I get a smile from Dubber as well as a thumbs-up from Stripedy. We know they love us more than the rest of the Extras.
1:50am: They wrap! Drew gets on J.W.’s mic and thanks us all, telling us how AWESOME we are and how much they all appreciate our enthusiasm. She gives Sarah and me a personal thank you, telling us that we can call her any time. Okay, maybe that last part didn’t actually happen, but she did look at us a few times throughout the day and smile!
3:00am: I get home. What a day! I had SO much fun, exhausting as it was. This is something that everyone should do at least once in their lives! I’m really glad that I went with Sarah. It may have been awkward otherwise, and she and I had a great time Naming People.

P.S. I know you were all hoping that Scenario 2 from my previous post would happen. Sadly for YOU, it didn't. Yet I STILL might end up in the Blooper Reel - At one point, Jimmy Fallon started to sing along with "Hey Ya" on his announcer's mic (it's the kind that hangs down from the ceiling like in a boxing ring) and Drew was roller skate-dancing around him. They played music often during the down time between shots, but this time they were still filming, so they told us all to dance. Sarah and I were behind them in the shot, so were breaking it down pretty hard core. So keep your eyes out...we might be more famous than you can imagine!

*It should be noted that the only contact made with our Boyfriends was maybe if they brushed past us, and while we did catch them looking at us frequently, very little, if any, words were actually exchanged. But sometimes...you just Know.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

15 Minutes...of What, I Don't Know.

So it's getting closer and closer to my big day. The day that will change my life forever. The most important day of them all. Yes, that's right, the day I'm going to be an Extra in Drew Barrymore's new movie, "Whip It." This Friday, August 9th (W.I. Day, I like to call it), I will take that biggest of steps into movie stardom. Or into Pedestrian Number 3942-dom. Possibly Roller Skater Number 412-dom. Or maybe just That Girl in the Back Who We Had to Edit Out Because She Kept Looking at the Camera Waving and Giggling-dom. No matter what happens, though, there is one thing that is pretty much guaranteed. I will, somehow, make a complete and total fool of myself.

I'm not just being down on myself. I am cynical, yes, but I am also mostly optimistic. I wake up each morning fully expecting to, at the very least, fall up the stairs in a blaze of glory. I may do something smaller like accidentally touch a VERY hot pot lid. Or run into a door frame. Or drop something, usually that's breakable and/or valuable. It's a part of me, of my very existence. It's who I am.

I am a klutz.

There, I said it. Ask anyone in my family and they will confirm it. Heck, watch me for a half-hour and you can confirm it for yourself. I can't deny it because Elizabeth will call me out, so I must share it with the world.

So here's my problem. I told the Extras Casting People that I can roller skate. This is not a lie. When I was in kindergarten, I roller skated around our basement and garage, usually rocking out to Madonna's "True Blue" album (her best stuff by FAR), and I could skate circles around anyone! (Quite literally - you couldn't do much else BUT skate in a circle in those small spaces.) It's just that it's been a while. When you're in kindergarten, if you fall you are fairly close to the ground. Plus, you haven't been walking all that many years, so the fact that you can roller skate at all at that age is pretty amazing. But when you've been walking for nearly 27 years, it's not so cute when you fall down and go "Ouchy!" I'm thinking that roller skating is like riding a bike - once you've done it, it's not that hard to pick up on it again. However, my klutziness-to-age ratio has increased over the years, and I have to factor that in. It is very possible that I will get on set on W.I. Day and, as they say, "fall down go boom."

So, best case scenario, I walk in, the director (Drew Barrymore herself) sees my innate acting skills and instantly decides to put me in the forefront of all the scenes as well as to re-shoot most of the other scenes they've done so I can be featured more prominently. (She'd cast me as star but has contractual obligations, so promises me a starring role in her next big film.) I'm smooth, whitty, and graceful, and the envy of all the other Extras.

Worst case scenario, I walk in, the director (Drew Barrymore herself) is knocked over by the door as I open it (too fast); I trip over her but manage to stay up on my roller skates, but lose my sense of direction as my helmet has fallen over my eyes; I then go careening into the closest camera person, who falls backward into the camera, knocking it into the executive producer, who spills her coffee all over the sound board, and all the while I'm still shooting all over the set like a ball in a pinball machine, my arms flailing and Mormon-style expletives ("holy monkeys!") falling from my lips.

Well, at least I'll make it into the Blooper Reel.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My Alarm Clock Hates My Guts

I'm not joking. I feel like when I set It at night, I'm pulling the pin out of a hand grenade and setting it next to my bed. Or else that my worst enemy sits up on the window sill each night and plots ways to get to me. I don't think I sound paranoid, because I'm pretty sure you all feel the same way. Think about it: I'll be asleep all soundly, restoring all of my rods and cones, unconsciously preparing myself for the coming day...when all of a sudden this obnoxious beast penetrates my peaceful slumber and jarringly jolts me back into reality. Pure evil.

What's worse is that It seems to know when I'm most comfortable. Now I realize that it is I that set the alarm, but it seems like no matter what time I set It for, two minutes previous to that time I find my "sweet spot" - you know, when your bed is the perfect temperature, your pillow is cushioning your head just right, your blankets are tucked just so around you...then, two minutes later, IT rousts you out. It's cruel.

My alarm clock has this annoying feature where the longer you let It go before hitting the snooze, the closer together the Beeps. Or, as they sound to me, the Mocking Laughs. So It goes off and It sounds like this:

Ha (pause) Ha (pause) Ha (pause) Ha (pause) Ha
Ha(pause)Ha(pause)Ha(pause)Ha(pause)Ha(pause)Ha(pause)Ha
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

Hates my guts.

My alarm clock is not the first or only inanimate object to hate my guts. When I was 9 a ride-in Fisher Price Power Wheels Barbie car hated me so much that It tripped me and broke my arm. When I was in high school, my best friend's sliding doors had it in for me and tripped me, causing me to sprain my toe. (I had to be on crutches for a week.) Some stranger's car hated me so much It crashed into me when I was 18 and messed up my foot. (More time on crutches.) Even just a few weeks ago one of the pews at church loathed my very existence to the point where It tripped me. Twice. Two weeks in a row! My stairs despise me and like to trip me as I walk up them as often as They can. I know some of these might be attributed to me being "Clumsy," but it's not like I walk around in a blind daze. These things really detest me! They have a club. And I don't mean "a heavy stick, usually thicker at one end than at the other, suitable for use as a weapon; a cudgel." I mean, "a group of persons organized for a social, literary, athletic, political, or other purpose" (that other purpose having been elaborated upon above).

A number of electronic devices abhor me as well. They get me in a different way. As mentioned in a previous post, I have super-human hearing, which means that I hear the high-pitched sqeals given off by TVs, radios, light bulbs, etc. They're all determined to drive me mad. Again, I'm certain that no one thinks I'm paranoid, since I'm sure that you all feel the same way and have certain things that hate you. Right?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Role Reversals

For some reason as I was growing up, a lot of typically "male" roles fell to me. Or maybe they didn't fall to me so much as I chose to do them. One of my favorite things to do as a child was to sit in the garage with my dad and hand him tools while he worked on one of our cars. He would have W4 Country on in the background, and to this day I feel a need to turn the radio on to 102.9 FM when I'm doing a project in the garage.

Growing up I was often called on by my sisters to kill spiders, by my dad to help build shelves or drawers, by my mom to lift things, and by the whole family to pack up the truck for vacations. I know what a flapper ball is and what it does; I know the difference between a Philips and a flat head screw driver; I know how to use a drill press, a blow torch, a random orbit sander, a jig saw, and a plethora of other tools both electric and manual. I can program the VCR, and am the household go-to for minor (emphasis on minor) computer problems. This evening, I fixed a leaky faucet by replacing the stem and springs.

Here is my question: Does this make me less feminine?

I am also a painter, I love to decorate, I LOVE shoes, I enjoy sewing and know how to use a sewing machine, I like to cross-stitch, I giggle when I come across a cute boy and know how to use my feminine wiles to gain the upper hand...

Here's my next question: Does being able to do the typically "male" jobs listed two paragraphs above make me more threatening to guys?

I'd be interested to hear your answers to both of my questions, and I have a little something to say, too. First, despite the fact that my sisters call me the "man" of our sisterhood, I think being able to do jobs or projects that men usually do and to be able to correctly use typically masculine tools is empowering to a woman. If I need something fixed or built, I just DO it! The toilet is running? Nope, not any longer. The fan belt in my car is squealing? A little belt dressing'll fix that. Need a shelf put up? Get me a level, a stud finder, a cordless screw driver and we're good. Of course there are things best left to a professional (or my dad), but it feels good to be able to tackle a project, get down and dirty, and get the job done. And my small hands often give me an advantage, too! If I happen to be listening to Backstreet Boys or the "Hello Dolly" soundtrack while I do these jobs, who's going to complain, really?

I think I'll leave the answering of the second question up to you. I like to think that any man comfortable with his masculinity wouldn't be threatened, but fall madly in love with me because he's met his ideal woman and can now proceed to spend all the money he would be spending on repairs on lavishing me with gifts. I mean, on um, helping homeless puppies.

P.S. I love this Norman Rockwell painting of Rosie the Riveter. Man, she's got huge guns! I also think it's interesting that she's got a halo and that her foot is resting on a copy of "Mein Kampf." Ah, Normy, always throwing in the little details.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Elizabeth's blog is funnier than mine.

Yeah, it's pretty much true. Stink! Is it my fault that my life is so boring that all I have to blog about is wearing my boots to the library? (It is my fault, in case you were wondering...) You might have noticed in Elizabeth's blog (grumble grumble) that I also attended the "Mr. Pretty Legs" competition at the Saline Celtic Festival and was, in fact, photographed with the winner. "Why not blog about that, Katherine?" you might ask. Well, Elizabeth already did, and it was really funny! How can I follow that? It'd be like the first contestant voted off "Last Comic Standing" having to follow the Last Comic Standing! (Did that make sense? It did to me, but then things don't always go down on paper...er...computer...the way they are in my head.) I also happen to be the co-chair of the Wee Folks Island Committee for the aforementioned festival (maybe I should blog about the fact that I always type "festical" instead of "festival" and have to go back and correct it...not the greatest typist...). I s'pose I could blog about that. Maybe I should blog about how much I love Optical Illusions...take THAT, ELizabeth's blog! I also could blog about the radio DJ who said this afternoon that they were going to play a song that was, and I quote, "an HNL... a 'Hole Nother League'!" Huh?! Stupid bad grammar on the radio.

My point in writing this post is...um, because I'm bitter about not being funny? No. Okay, maybe a little. It could be that I have some unresolved issues and should see a therapist. Or an acupuncturist. Or a cruise director. My real point is that I made a realization this evening when spewing milk out my nose as I read Elizabeth's blog entry: I don't entertain my audience enough. I promise you, my faithful reader, that I am going to DO INTERESTING THINGS! And then blog about them. If they happen to be funny interesting things, all the better! If I do nothing else this summer, I will entertain you, and live each day as if my blog depended on it.

On a side note, I pulled a muscle in my thigh from riding my bike. May not be interesting or funny, but it's true.

Monday, July 7, 2008

I wore my Wellingtons to the Library

I thought about titling this post, "Some people think I'm crazy." Then I realized that this is a phrase that is true most of the time, and isn't singular to the incident that I am about to relate, so changed it to the title above.

This evening I had to go to a meeting for the Saline Celtic Festival, which is being held this coming weekend. I am the co-chair of the Wee Folks Island Committee, and needed to be there for the final walk-through to make sure that everything is set up as planned. As it rained quite a bit this afternoon, and the walk-through was to be at Mill Pond Park, where the Festival is being held, I wore my pink plaid Wellington boots to keep my feet dry. I was not alone in this thinking, and was pleased to see other Wellie-clad people there, too. The meeting was a little dull, but we got done what we needed to get done, and had a few laughs to boot (no pun intended).

When the meeting was over I went straight over and paid a visit to my grandmother, who had had knee surgery this morning, and stayed for a few minutes with the rest of my family who was there. She was reading when we arrived, which reminded me that I'd had a hankering for a good Agatha Christie novel for quite some time now. The Saline District Library (one of my favorite places) closes at 9, and it was about 8:43 when I left my grandma's. I knew that if I were to make it before close, I wouldn't have time to change out of my Wellies, so I went straight there. I figured there wouldn't be that many people there right before close, and I knew right where Agatha's books were (I'm there a lot). I thought about going in the back entrance, since the mystery section is close to it, but realized I'd have to wait in the check-out line anyway, so what's the point?

As I was walking up to the front doors, a woman saw me, looked quickly away and smiled. The only way I can think to describe her smile is like this: when you see a small child who has obviously dressed him or herself - shirt on inside-out, bathing trunks instead of shorts, shoes on the wrong feet, mismatched colors - you don't want the kid or their parents to think you're laughing at them, so you look away and sort of smile to yourself. That's what this woman did to me. I chuckled to myself as I produced several more looks of this nature on my journey through the library to the mysteries. I was so amused that I took a picture or two to document the occasion.

I have to admit, I felt like a little kid as I stood in line to check out my books. Like I was Junie B. Jones, or Lilly with her red cowgirl boots and Purple Plastic Purse. (If you haven't read any of their books, I highly recommend them!) I couldn't help but smile to myself. I think I need to wear my Wellies out in public more often!


In case you were wondering, this is one (of the three) Agatha Christie books I checked out. I'll let you know how it turns out! (Or, as we seasoned Agatha readers like to say, I'll let you know "who dunnit.")