Saturday, July 29, 2006

Marvelous Sidebar:

Quilt. Is. DONE!

That's right, folks. The quilt I've been working on for, what, two years? That's the one. The one I promised a friend who'd never had a quilt before, let alone a hand-made one.

The one without a machine stitch in it anywhere. The one into which I embroidered the carefully researched kanji for my friend's nickname.

Done.

Dude.

Yeah, it's kinda hard to believe. I feel almost as good about this finish as I did about my first novel. My poor friend has been waiting so patiently for this, yes, but...but it's also finished. There's closure.

And it actually looks pretty good.

No, the blocks aren't lined up exactly right at every single corner, but they're pretty damn close. And it's extremely damn close for hand-sewn. And at least 80% of them are perfectly aligned, dammit!

Yeah, yeah. I'm sure I screwed it up somewhere, but it still looks pretty. Dammit.

And it's done! Woot!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Dear Charlie:

Whew. So, in three days, I put in 32 hours of work. I could work tomorrow and take all day Friday off and still have my 40 hours in.

But I won't. Can't.

Though our part of the big Department of Mental Health audit is over -- and as far as I can tell, we did extremely well and won't have to refund any money, even a single unit! -- I now have a 100% audit to do for one of our employees who is leaving.

See, our caseworkers have to clear up any deficiencies they might have before they can collect their last paycheck. Even those who are fired or who quit without notice. No good audit -- down to each service they billed for -- no last paycheck. Or, at the very least, a severely docked paycheck.

And who has to make sure all that stuff is all in place, reet and compleet? Me.

So, while I will have some time off at the end of next week to visit a very good friend in Kentucky, I can't really take time off this week. Next week is this employee's last week, and I gotta get that audit done.

*wry grin* A records clerk's work is never done.

So I'm chillin' tonight, though I need to go to Wally World and replenish my direly diminished supply of Coke. I'm a junkie without her drug of choice, dammit!

Oh, yeah. I also have to get stuff like...ya know...food. And toilet paper. And...I dunno...light bulbs. But the Coke comes first!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Dear Charlie:

My DVD/VHS is back!

Yes, it took me nearly a whole week to get it plugged back in and such, mostly because I've worked late or been out late all week. However, last night, I got all nostalgic for some old VHS tapes I haven't been able to watch in nearly half a year, so I finally took on the daunting task of plugging the darn thing back in.

Since I can't just move the whole entertainment system, I have to work around it. This means sticking my whole arm up to the shoulder though a smallish opening between the EC and the wall...and trusting that no spiders have built webs and/or family colonies behind there. That's a big leap of trust for me because the little bastards have started moving back in (though apparently only in the bathroom, and only small ones that I find already dead...and only three of those). But I managed, and I even hooked the new, smaller DVD player up to the old big DVD/VHS. Everything works.

Including regular television.

A mixed blessing, that. In a way, it's just in time for football preseason, which is a huge relief. However, I don't really watch much TV besides football and the occasional Law & Order episode of various vintage. I watch mostly movies.

So, I can now watch all my movies again. Woot!

Unfortunately, I have to go to work now. Yup, on a weekend. I think of it as the lesser of two evils, though. See, when I worked for the law firm all those years, we had trial time -- a hectic combination of stress and verbal abuse and crash work that must be perfect -- at least four or five times a year. With this job...the audit only comes around once a year. However, the penalty for error may be more, though I don't know yet.

I find this an acceptable trade-off. Especially since my office manager believes in me and thinks I've done excellent work and won't hold me accountable for others' mistakes, though she appreciates me trying to help fix them and really appreciates me telling her that it's no big deal to work so much overtime this week.

Heh, I'm used to forgetting my social life for two or even three weeks at a time! And several times a year, at that! This is nothing!

So, back to work. Hope everyone has a fun weekend for me!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Dear Charlie:

So Adrienne up and moved back to her home city this weekend. No phone call. No e-mail. No post-it note with a little "Byeee!" on it. No nothing.

Now, not only is this incredibly inconvenient timing from a business standpoint -- a mega annual audit coming up next week that we've all been scrambling to pretty up for and that has pretty much been storied as one of the more stressful and horrible things I'll ever be through since I started working here -- but it's incredibly inconsiderate from a friendship standpoint. Yes, I did consider Adrienne a friend.

She's been to my home. I took her to meet my other friends. We ate out a few times and went to see PotC: Dead Man's Chest together that first time. Things that friends do, right?

So...why no communication? Oh, she left the office manager a little note with her name badge and keys that said something to the effect of, "Sorry, and here are my excuses for never coming back". But though I can understand why she didn't want to let the cat out of the bag early, I thought better of her than to imagine that she wouldn't at least drop me an e-mail saying, "Sorry, kiddo, but that popsicle stand blows!"

Or maybe I'm nicer than I let on, because I wouldn't leave my worst enemy in a lurch like this without so much as a "See ya, suckerrrrr!" to keep them company.

So, the next week or so will very likely be Hell on Earth, where before, they simply would have been Hell in Hell. You know, where Hell belongs, rather than thrust into some heretofore peaceful and rational place. Happy-happy, joy-joy, ne?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Wonderful Sidebar:

As to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, I have three words:

GO. SEE. IT.

To call this movie everything that is good and right in the popcorn venue is to do it a disservice. It is so much more than a great movie. Hell, it's damn near an Experience.

I will tell you no details that might mar your own enjoyment of the flick. I won't even tell you as much as other reviews do. I will, however, enumerate a few of the many things it does right in as generic and vague a manner as possible.

First and foremost, the acting is superb. Everyone falls perfectly into their roles. No one sticks out as the bad apple in the bunch. And Johnny Depp is, of course, superb. Without him, Jack Sparrow would have never inspired so much as a guffaw...nor a "Woo-hoo!" when he does something amazing, as he always seems to do.

Second, the plot has grown by leaps and bounds. The Black Pearl, that legend among sailing ships, is still integral to the entirety of the film, amazingly enough. I won't say more, though I'm itching to, but the Pearl is never far from the heart of the matter. I love that ship. Almost as much as Jack does.

Third, how the hell does Jack run so fast with his arms flailing around like that? It's the question of the day, I swear to God! Bwahah!

Fourth, there comes a moment when everyone suddenly switches sides, though amusingly enough, it's difficult to tell what side anyone's on in the first place. That moment is beautiful to see, as it's quite obvious that not one of them want to do it. The angst is palpable and just about wrenches your gut. But for all that, it's still beautiful to see.

Fifth, while there are extensive special effects in this flick, they neither detract from the plot nor scream "EFFECTS!!" when in motion. They are superbly done. The Kraken is truly astounding. But then again, so is Davy Jones a masterpiece of both make-up and computer art.

Sixth, in the midst of all the entertaining action, death-defying fights, and hilarious character growth and dialogue, there are several well-placed, well-paced scenes that absolutely break the heart. Luckily, I don't have one, so I survived intact.

You know, I've always wanted to live in a world where what you say actually means something. Where, when you say something silly like, "I swear on my soul that I will avenge you blah-blah-blah", you actually lose your soul if you don't avenge that person. Where if you use the proper words to swear an oath, you are therefore obliged to follow through or be forced to face the consequences. Yes, it's harsh, but are you not more careful of your promises when you must, by your life, carry them out?

Oh, that we lived in such a world.

And oh, that such wonders as exist in the world Gore Verbinski has created could push through into this world. That such magic and mystery still thrived. That off the edge of the map be monsters.

That there really is an end of the world that one could journey to in order to fulfill a boon.

This movie is practically insulted by the "everything right and good in the popcorn venue" faint praise because it makes me wish for such things yet again. It makes me remember when I believed that promises sworn were promises kept, that the Kraken truly roamed free in the unfathomable leagues under the changeable surface of the sea. That magic compasses could truly point to your heart's desire and that even death cannot stop true determination.

I think this trilogy -- yes, they filmed the third flick concurrently with the second -- will hold pride of place in my collection. It does not unseat other favorites. In fact, I saw at least three movie trailers before it that I can't wait to see. But...it makes me wish I were a more daring person. It makes me smile.

It makes me dream.

I can't wait to see what happens next. And I SO can't wait for the whole lot of them to be out on DVD! Woot!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Dear Charlie:

You know, it seems like every time I hit my hometown, I'm suddenly America's Most Wanted. Heh.

Don't worry. This isn't ego talking. It's strategy. I'm only so very entertaining in small doses.

But it seems like as soon as folks find out I'm headed that way, they all of a sudden want me to drop by. I was going to my best friend's house to laugh until I cry and to cuddle mini-twins, then to my dad's for some R&R out in the boonies, right? Well, my granddad went back into the hospital, and Dad happened to mention that I was coming down this weekend, so Granddad asked if I'd stop by and give him a hug.

How could I deny that?

So I got up Saturday morning -- not early, but early for Saturday morning, ne? -- and drove the two hours to the hospital in the hometown for a visit. My gramma and aunt where there, too, so we had a nice little chat. They adjurned me to come down more often because they never get to see me. Then, I headed to Kristi's for some grillage and laughage and kiddage. Good times, that.

While I was there, my cousin stopped by Kristi's house -- yes, my cousin is her brother-in-law, heh -- and was apparently thrilled to see me and told me to drop by. Couldn't. Had other stuff on the agenda, ne? Told me to drop by any time because I need to come down more often anyway.

At any rate, I had fireworks that I hadn't been able to set off earlier, and I had plans to shoot them off at Dad's out in the boonies.

So, I drove to Dad's, shot off some artillery shells and roman candles, scared the hell out of the dogs, horses, and cattle, and generally had a good time. Stayed up late watching a movie. Got up earlier than usual Sunday morning. Filled in some sudoku on a nice, quiet, secluded back deck in the cool, morning air. Had breakfast.

Watched another movie. Took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Clinton to eat at El Sambre's -- eat your heart out, Sis! I finally got to eat there! -- and ate too much. Stopped at an Arkansas peach stand, also on the spur of the moment. Found the peaches tasty. Was gifted with a bunch, thanks to Dad. Was recognized by the peach guy's daughter. Dunno quite how that happened.

Stopped at the hospital again to see Granddad, who asked me to come back down and see him again soon.

Went on a lazy, long, roundabout trip to the hometown orchard and got MORE peaches -- of the Missouri variety, this time, and felt a little more loyal to the home state -- some HUGE blackberries, some tomatoes, and some ear corn, again thanks to Dad. Woot!

Talk about hitting the jackpot! Fresh fruits and veggies out the wazoo! Peach cobbler and blackberry cobbler coming soon!

Bumped into the orchard owner, who recognized me immediately -- even before Dad, who still lives close by! -- and came over to ask me my life's story since I moved here. Told me to come home more often -- are you seeing a trend here? -- and finally allowed us to leave.

Stopped back by Dad's place for some grilled steak and corn on the cob. Ate too much again.

Chilled out on the couch with some iced tea. Thought about coming back home. Delayed while watching some TV. Missed the Outer Limits episode with Adam Baldwin that I'd intended to watch but had apparently mistaken either the time or the channel. Eventually came home.

And now, it's time for a nice, long shower and BED.

Apparently, I need to go home more often.

O.o

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Sidebar:

Happy Fourth of July!

Yup, my favorite holiday besides Halloween -- not only because of the potential for blowing stuff up, which is always fun, but because it's a chance to celebrate our independence, the sacrifices made by the few for the many, and hope for the future.

Enjoy the holiday, folks.

And now on to Find Me Guilty. Aw, c'mon! You knew I wouldn't get away from it for long!

I could actually do two reviews on this flick -- one on the movie itself, and one on Vin Diesel's portrayal of the infamous character of Jackie D. I'll endeavor to do both in one, but it'll be a great sacrifice on my part. Heh.

First, the movie itself.

I want to admit something pitiful. I had NO IDEA how this trial ended. Yes, I know. I'm a child of the eighties. It's inexcusable. But I lived in the country on a farm ten miles away from a town of around 800 people. The New York City mob trials weren't exactly a top priority. I was vaguely aware of them happening, but I had no clue how they ended.

Thus, I felt a sense of anticipation that many people watching this flick probably didn't. I didn't have a CLUE how all of the dramatics would turn out. Heh.

Anyway, this is not your average flick. If you're looking for a straight up comedy, there are too many serious moments. If you're looking for a straight up drama, there are too many comedic moments. If you're looking for a tight courtroom thriller...well, you might be closer to the money, but while probably 90% of this movie takes place in a courtroom, it's not really about the trial so much as about the man defending himself. And I'm not sure the word "thrilling" applies, though "fascinating" certainly does.

Judge: It's said that a man who represents himself has a fool for a client.
Jackie D: Is that true?
Judge: Sometimes, yes.
Jackie D: That means sometimes it isn't, right?
Judge: *rueful grin* I guess so.


And that is the plot of the movie, in a nutshell. In a lot of ways, this flick is about the wild card in the deck, the one non-fool who represented himself. Because, while Jackie D has a certain naive belief that the people he loves and works with love him back, he is no fool.

Sure, he takes the trial as a joke at first. He knows why he's there. He knows why he was arrested in the first place and why he ended up with a 30-year sentence for a 10-year crime. But he ain't makin no deals. Jackie D don't sell out.

And he never does, through the whole flick.

And before our very eyes, he changes from a wise guy to a man who can work a witness as well as any lawyer. He's perceptive, and he has the benefit of knowing what actually happened, rather than what his client told him happened. He learns when he can get away with a little buffoonery and when he needs to rein himself in, be respectful, be calm. He ignores the grumbling of his fellow defendants, of the other defense attorneys, the prosecutor's antics. He ignores all of that and focuses on the one thing that's truly important in any trial: sowing seeds of doubt.

See, he realizes what lawyers and judges continually say but always seem to forget. Beyond a shadow of a doubt. It's fairly easy to suggest conspiracy, but Jackie D realizes that, if you actually know the facts, it's easier still to instill doubt in that conspiracy.

I think he says it best when he shows a picture of him and his buddies as kids and says that, if the RICO laws existed back then, they'd have probably been hauled in on a count of conspiracy to buy a milk shake. I dunno about you, but that really struck me. It was brilliant in its sheer, simple truth.

But that's this movie. It's not about the RICO laws. It's not about the other 27 defendants. It's about Jackie D and how he's not trying to pull his own chestnuts out of the fire. His nuts are already roasting. No matter what happens in the trial, he's going back to jail anyway. He's trying to do what Jackie D always did, what earned him the love of his family and friends -- whether they always showed it or not. He's trying to get everyone else off on a technicality.

Excellent flick.

And now, on to Vin Diesel's acting.

I admit freely that I adore the man. If it hadn't been for him, Riddick would have never made it past Pitch Black. He embodied the character, made it his own, made it incredible and shiver-worthy.

He does the same with Jackie D. I never saw the man, never saw any news coverage of him. I don't know what he looked like or how he behaved or any such thing. But Vin Diesel made Jackie D come alive for me. I believed him. I understood him, wanted him to succeed, no matter what his definition of success was.

I mean, who do you really root for in this case? The goombas? A bunch of wise guys completely capable of killing your mother for even half a reason? Or the prosecutor, who just wants to make a name for himself as having never lost a case, especially one that set a record for length and would probably be known nationwide as setting a precedent by which all other mob trials would be measured?

Or Jackie D himself?

Thanks to Mr. Diesel, heh, I rooted for Jackie D. There are a few times when his facial expressions, his eyes, had me so rooted in the moment that I couldn't look away. I believed him. I believed that he was Jackie D.

Excellent acting.

So, in short -- yeah, I know, too late -- I'd have to say that this flick probably isn't for everyone, but I do think that anyone could enjoy it. It's not action-packed. It's not continually hilarious. It's not continually gripping drama. But it's good. It's an excellent character study.

And it's Vin Diesel with hair!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Dear Charlie:

I just watched Last Holiday. I rented it and Find Me Guilty, which I had planned to watch first because I absolutely adore/admire Vin Diesel. Dunno why I watched Queen Latifah first, but I'm pretty darn glad I did. Maybe I'll blog about Find Me Guilty tomorrow.

Probably will.

Anyway, so I watched Last Holiday, and I think this exerpt from Roger Ebert's review says it best:

"Last Holiday" is a movie that takes advantage of the great good nature and warmth of Queen Latifah, and uses it to transform a creaky old formula into a comedy that is just plain lovable. To describe the plot is to miss the point, because this plot could have been made into countless movies not as funny and charming as this one.

It's so true. In anyone else's hands, this film would have been mediocre at best. But because it's Queen Latifah and LL Cool J and Wayne Wang, it comes out as something that made me cheer and smile and feel good. Admittedly, I'm easy to please, but this is a good movie. Not just an entertaining movie, although it's that, too.

No, this movie makes you want to do what Georgia Byrd did -- cash in your savings for the future to live for today. Not all of us have the courage to do that, since we're so focused on planning for the future. We spend so much time planning our lives that we never live them.

Trite sentiment, to be sure, but so very true.

Of course, not all of us have the savings to cash in. Reality bites. But...but you want to root for Georgia. She's such a nice person and so very classy. She's the difference between politeness and genuine warmth. Between a good person and a truly elegant individual. Between money and class.

But Georgia would have been just anyone if it weren't for Queen Latifah.

You know, I've liked most of her movies. I haven't watched every one, but I have noticed that she always brings that class, that integrity to her roles, even if she's playing a crazy chick. She plays someone who is genuinely nice and you can see it in every smile, every wink.

I don't know her at all, of course, but surely that kind of class has to come from somewhere.

Doesn't it?

I also like how, while she continually questions "Why?", speaking directly to God as if He's listening and taking personal interest -- whether He answers or not -- she never actually has a crisis of faith. She never doubts that God is there...just whether or not He's crazy.

Heh, and when she laughs and tells God, "You wrong! You had me goin there for a minute, You know that?"...yeah...priceless stuff. She's just so...well...it's like she's talking to her best friend who has just played one HELL of a bad joke on her...but a joke that was still funny as all Hell. Nicely played.

Anyway, great movie. Watch it as entertainment, as a "guilty pleasure" if you must, but watch it. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

Now, I gotta go watch Vin Diesel stretch his acting chops. Woo-hoo!

[EDIT: I knew that man could act! I will definitely be writing up a review on Find Me Guilty tomorrow! Not your common flick, admittedly, but...oh...to see someone take that part and run with it....]

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Dear Charlie:

Well, hell.

I haven't blogged anything for the last few days, but this was an intentional choice, not a forgetful omission on my part. *sigh* You see, I had a relapse in the poison ivy department, and I just...didn't have the heart to blog about it. This last bout has kinda taken the umph right out of me.

Frustrating as hell.

I woke up Thursday morning with my eyes swollen, my cheeks, jaw, and neck swollen and red and burny-itchy, and all of the other little splatters and streaks of poison ivy all over my body on fire. My jaw ached a bit from getting the ol' wisdom tooth yanked, and to be honest, that was probably part of the swelling, but...the poison ivy was infinitely worse.

I can only assume it's because I had finished up my steroids the day before. I've tried and tried to think of anything else I could be allergic to -- perhaps the penicillin the dentist put me on, for example. But I can't think of another thing that's different, so....

Anyway, I went ahead and drove to work, only to have my office manager fuss over me and tell me to go home because I just looked miserable. To tell the truth, I was miserable, and so much so that I actually cried. In public, though only the office manager saw it. Well, and Adrienne, who drove up just as I finally left and asked where I was going.

Guh. I HATE crying. Especially when other people can see it.

I was just so tired. Physically and mentally. These last two weeks have been...trying, to say the least. And I was just tired.

Anyway, after a good argument -- because I have a crapload of stuff to do at work right now, what with this huge annual audit coming up -- I eventually went home and called my doctor, leaving a message as they don't usually get in until around 9:00 and it was barely even 8:00 by this time. I called back at about 9:30 and was told that the doctor had prescribed another round of steroids that I could pick up at the pharmacy of my choice.

Dammit.

Juuuuuust what I wanted. More steroids. Yay, basketcase time again! Joy and rapture!

*facepalm*

He also prescribed Aveeno colloidal oatmeal baths and lots of rest, since this time around seems to have just wiped me out. I had planned to go back to work and not miss another full day, but I was overruled. He wanted me to soak in the Aveeno stuff for at least an hour.

Dammit. At least I got to read and listen to music while I pruned.

I dunno if it actually helped or not, but the hydrocortisone cream I picked up while I picked up the hated steroids certainly tamed a bit of the burny-itchy thing. Different kind of itch this time around.

But, after all of this, the good news is...*darts a quick glance around to make sure the Fates aren't listening*...*whispers*...I think some of the rashy places are finally starting to dry out.

*heaves a sigh of relief*

No, the itch isn't gone. No, not all of the rashy places are clearing up. But some of them are, and that's infinitely better than none of them, ne?

*crosses fingers*

And while this is officially Day 3 of basketcase-ness and I have been banned from mowing the lawn until the poison ivy is completely gone, I'm gonna bake a crapload of bread today, grill some pork-kebabs and veggies later, and probably tackle the dining room. Tomorrow? I dunno. Maybe buy some fireworks and blow some stuff up.

Woot!

And speaking of the illustrious Fourth, I do have to work Monday, but there's only one provider who only has two clients coming in -- both after 5:00, go figure -- so that's...interesting. So I don't get a four-day weekend, but I get a day off in the middle of the week to just chill, and that's almost as good.

So long as I'm not taking off for being ill! Gah!