April 9th through the History of Confessions of A Watcher

Fellow bloggers Herba, Servetus, Perry, and Guylty have been posting about today through the history of their blogs.  (Let’s pretend I’m not a day late.)  So I took a look in my archives and discovered I’m not a good April blogger.  In some years I didn’t blog at all following meager posts in March.  I think the strain of stoically marking off another birthday in April contributed to the silence.  The years also reflect the trajectory of my fangurling, slowly starting out, steadily building to a flurry of writing, then leveling off to an intermittent trickle.  Such has been my life in any fandom.

2011 oversaw a steady increase in posts.  April 9th was a Saturday which meant the usual Surreal Saturday posts dedicated to the weird, the usual and the downright scary.  That day I showcased the parody group Lonely Island and their dance video The Creep.

2012 was my heyday in fandom with posts galore.  Oddly, April 9th showed a blank spot on that date between The Four Tops singing Reach Out on Serene Sunday feature and a popular Foolish Friday entry My Gal Marian.

2013 showed my fascination starting to ebb with nothing written in April between some March and May posts.  2014 to 2016 had very few posts with due to ongoing personal issues coming to the forefront.   Had I bottomed out?  I don’t know.  But I continue to post. 

Confessions of a Watcher marches on.

 

Here’s a Retweet You Need to Delete #Richard Armitage

I haven’t figured out how to embed Keke Palmer’s dumb tweet and Richard Armitage’s dumber retweet of it into my blog.  But then I’m too annoyed to work on it.  If you really want to see it, look here and here.   Here’s my imaginary message to his retweet:

Dear Rich,

What in the hell is wrong with you?  I know defenders will say “but he’s British!” and therefore doesn’t know but you’ve been in this country long enough.  Keke Palmer might think she’s hip and edgy using the N word but being black doesn’t make it any more acceptable.  It’s a derogatory term and no supposed “re-appropriating” of the word makes it any more palatable no matter the spelling.  It’s still a derogatory racist slave epithet and will always be one.  This is an ongoing big bone of contention in the African American community.  Personally I think it’s a hallmark of colossal ignorance.

And you, my white friend, don’t get to use it, retweet it or anything else.  Don’t add to the confusion and perpetuate the ignorance.

No Love,

Judiang

Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017) SPOILERS

Just because you can remake a movie, doesn’t mean you have to.

Disney takes a second shot at its own 1991 classic animated film by the same name.  It offers what you would expect: big lavish production values, an array of stars, and a sense that this live action version must achieve parity or surpass the first mega-hit.  As I read in another review, Disney seemed to “ask themselves in every scene whether it met the original and the answer was no.” So they added new songs and subplots which served both to lengthen the story and, I suppose, justify the additional material.  Considering that Disney intends to remake its other classics like Little Mermaid in live action films, the stakes are very high. 

Unless you have never been the original, it’s impossible not to make comparisons.  In fact, several scenes are replicated line for line, frame by frame.  But there’s an inherent problem with comparing live actors to their animated counterparts.  Does Emma Watson look like Belle?  (No.)  Can you overlook it? (It depends.)  Is her voice good enough?  (That’s debatable.)  This running dialogue ran through my head all during the movie.  However, some actors rose above the chatter.  Luke Evans as Gaston has a good voice and Josh Gad is a wonderful DeFou. The scenery is beautiful.  The production is spectacular. The movie delivers on the extravaganza.  It even has some magical moments towards the end that pulled me in.

But Emma Thompson singing the title song isn’t Angela Lansbury.  Kevin Kline is miscast as Belle’s father.  Dan Stevens’s Beast needs to learn from Richard Armitage’s Thorin and use his eyes to convey emotion under all that fur.  The added songs and subplot are unnecessary and unmemorable.  The story-line changes in odd ways.  Cogsworth, Lumiere, and Mrs. Potts lose their charming animated expressions of the original.  Even though the big razzle dazzle Big Our Guest seems to strain to be as Over the Top as OTP could ever be, there is something missing.  In sum despite all the lavishness, some essential charm has been lost. 

Audiences have apparently been coming in droves to see why Disney would want to risk remaking its own classic.  Well, it’s for the usual reason: to insure that these old classics continue to make money by retreading them every generation.  That’s not to say that this Beauty and the Beast is a waste of time.  I didn’t leave wanting my money back.  Those who have never seen the original should enjoy it.  It’s just that for old-timers like me, there is a reason why a film becomes a classic after all.

The Non-Joy of Photoshop

Program cover for the upcoming Music Inspires 2017 concert.

Unless you’ve been following me on Facebook, you may not know that I have become Girl Friday for a friend who is a fine arts chairman at posh college preparatory.  I point out the poshness because it’s the only way the school can afford the many concerts and productions it has a year.  Aside from assisting in musical production (such as Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables), I’ve taken over creating programs for her musical events. 

It’s not just a matter of slapping information on a flyer.   Oh no – you know me.  Each flyer must be a production in itself, a work of art, starting with the cover.  It must have acceptable graphics.  In the past, I was content to surf the internet looking for freebies.  But since the music department has upped the ante with lavish musicals, I realized that I needed to take the covers to the next level.  In other words, create my own graphics like the one in the picture on the left.  Looks pretty simple, right?

Let’s talk about Adobe Photoshop.  I used the program for years to perform simple sharpening, cropping, etc.  Then the program became increasing exorbitant and too rich for my blood.  Now Adobe allows users to pay a monthly subscription for the software that’s always kept updated via uploads.   Okay, I thought.  I can teach myself how to slap some elements together and voila, my vision will be realized.   I downloaded Photoshop CC 2017 and opened it. 

Let me say, right out of the box, the program isn’t the least bit intuitive.  Adobe prides itself on saying there are 10 different ways to do one thing.  I had trouble discovering one.  The software has become so bloated and involved.  The drill down menus have drill down menus.  I had to google how to turn off the splash screen.  The Adobe site had tutorials but not the ones I needed, of course.  So I visited PHLEARN.com for lessons.  What was I trying to do? The music bar in the picture did not have a transparent background which meant I had to cut it out or mask it.  Masking is an action Photoshop has always done and it even has magic masking that failed to work like magic despite control tweaking.  And – you know me again – I’d picked a graphic that required detailed painstaking masking around the bars, between the lines and notes and flowers.   Then I discovered that only keyboard commands worked some of the actions, so simple clicking would not do.  Fun. Fun. Fun.  By the time I realized properly adding text to the graphic wasn’t really intuitive either, I was ready toss everything out the window (but the desktop is expensive and really heavy).  Eventually I broke down and added the text using Microsoft Publisher.  And that was just over masking. There was still the zillion other things Photoshop could do chirps Adobe.

I may have to bring my visions down a notch.  Sheesh.

Searcharama

I’ve hardly been back any time and already weird searches are hitting my page stats.  Here are some head scratchers:

  • xxxvidoes – 5 visits – I have no idea what this even means.  And no, I have no XXX-rated videos on this blog; maybe a risque story, but nothing XXX-rated.  *Cough.* (Follow the bread crumbs, newcomers.)
  • (not provided) – 63 visits – So informative!  So many visits; I’m dying to know what this possibly could be.
  • klingon – 2 visits –  WTH?  The only time I ever mentioned the word was when…ohhhh…nevermind.

And my all time favorite:

  • how to get more beard – 1 visit – Now here’s a loaded search term if I ever I saw one.  I have some beardy posts during the Hobbit years but certainly nothing about how RA could get MORE.

Now I feel disappointed that some viewers are going away empty handed.  Hmmm.

 

On Missing Muses

I imitated one of my fictional stories and joined a writers’ group at the nearby library last November.  The group is fluid, consisting of about five older regulars and a revolving number of newcomers (to me).  They meet the second and fourth Monday on the month to read our stuff and have it critiqued. 

My attendance had been interrupted by first by the holidays, then visitors and finally an unshakable writing paralysis.  I’d submitted an old ghost story for the group to review and happily survived the process. Nobody skewered me; they’d enjoyed the story (although it needed a few tweaks) and looked forward to seeing more of my work. 

But my muse was missing in action.  How could I critique others’ work when I had nothing really to offer up?  Many in the group were working on novels and bringing in chapters.  I hadn’t written anything for quite some time and felt like a fraud. Walking past the library to the local cantina, I remembered that it was again the fourth Monday of the month.  I mulled over a rather delicious strawberry margarita. Should I go?  Sure, said the margarita.  There will be other muses there.  Maybe you’ll catch one!  Making a mental note not to order a big drink next time,  I rushed to the meeting, hoping to catch a muse that was non-alcoholic. 

The regulars greeted me as if I’d never been away but no muse jumped me at the door.  The usual suspects pulled out their book chapters.  Wait, I blurted out.  Does anybody have writer’s block?   One man raised his hand.  We exchanged battle weary sighs.  You just have to write, said the novelists.  You just have to sit down and do it.  Don’t wait for a muse.  Try to write a sentence differently.  Write nonsense.  But you just have to write and the rest will come.   The facilitator asked who would submit a story for next time?  Well, I had a short story.  It’s old, I added as if an apology.  We wouldn’t have known that until you told us, they said.  It doesn’t matter.  Then they bowed their heads and began critiquing. 

I looked around the room at the writers laboring over their literary children.  Some were inspired, some weren’t.  Then I recalled that the man with his writer’s block had yet to submit a completed story while I was there, but he never missed a meeting.  That’s tenacity.

Even though I already intellectually knew their advice, there’s nothing like a group of writers poring over their work, saying it aloud that puts things in perspective.

Oscar Thought Smörgåsbord

Warning: stream of consciousness and possible movie spoilers ahead.

I watched some of the Oscars last night. Frankly I didn’t care enough because many of the film scripts seemed to be written as a How Not to Write One.  I know script writing is different from crafting novels but aren’t stories supposed to have a payoff at the end to reward us for watching?  Manchester by the Sea is one example.  The protagonist Lee, well played by Casey Affleck, is a sad, sad sack with serious issues stemming from a tragedy that left him stunted.  We watch him flailing through life hoping that he might learn something by the end and then – that’s it.  There’s no payoff for sitting through this two hour sad, sad drama, unless Lee’s inability to deal was the point.  Such an ending might suffice in a book but it made for an unsatisfying ending for a film.

Manchester by the Sea won for Best Script which goes to show either I don’t know what I’m talking about or the Oscars are too highbrow for me.

I used to enjoy gown watching.  Now I don’t even know who most of the actresses are (and actors for that matter).  Must be getting old.

I heard Justin Timberlake instead of Jimmy Kimmel did the opening number.  Is that legal?  Aren’t hosts supposed to sing?

…..

La La Land was the victim of its own hype.  After garnering 14 nominations, I expected Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone to knock my socks off.  While they did credible jobs, neither are singers or dancers (although Ryan did amazing key work) and I believe the awesome cinematography and retro-musical feel unfortunately highlighted this problem.  Plus the songs didn’t leave me humming anything afterwards.  I really wanted to like this movie, but it was Ho Hum Land for me.

La La Land won 6 Oscars.  I just don’t get it.

Denzel Washington was robbed.

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty did a Steve Harvey. *snicker*

Maybe my tastes are becoming too provincial and pedestrian.

 

Happy Halloween!

halloweenI’d planned to have another spooky story ready but sadly that’s not the case.  It’s not a lack of motivation but problems with sparking something good enough to post.  Where’s my muse when I need him!

Anyway this marks the day when I indulge in too much candy while awaiting little trick 0’treaters at the door. This will take place at my friends’ house since condo building living is not Halloween friendly.  They just moved and have no idea how many children to expect in the new neighborhood.  Considering that the area is a little woodsy, probably not that many.  More candy for me!

Have a Happy Halloween folks.

I’m Baaaaaack!

grand openingAs you might have noticed, my blog has been down since March.  My site was hacked and infected with nasty malware.  The web host therefore took the site down until I did something about it, never mind that it was on their server.  They gave me a list of 91 infected files and left me to it.  Needless to say, the development didn’t help my shaky mood so I let the whole mess languish… and languish… and languish.  I could have erased everything and started fresh but didn’t want to lose all my posts.  A computer friend looked at it and said I was pretty much screwed unless I had a clean backup (nope) or somehow puzzled through the server language to do a clean sweep.  OR the web host could do it for me- for a one time hefty fee.  Lovely.  So I bit the bullet and forked over the cash. I’m now back in service.

So a lot has happened in six months, although poor The Man is still stuck in London playing in The Crucible.  Will have to rectify that.  Stay tuned!

 

What Makes You Happy?

I came across the following video by the late Alan Watts, advocate of the human potential movement.  I again ponder what is the real meaning of success and satisfaction in life.  The answer is easier said than done.

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What would you do if money were no object?

 

 

Hitting the Road or How I Survived The London Journey

I used to travel a great deal. During the 1990s, I traveled abroad almost once a year, mostly to Europe.  London was such a frequent spot, tourists there stop me for directions -and I can tell them.  One year averaged a trip once every three months (mostly in the US).  Ah, those were the days.

packed suitcase

When you travel that much, you tend to suss out the best way to pack and travel.  In 1991, I embarked on my first trip abroad on one of those 16 countries in 1o days tours, otherwise known as “blink and miss it.”  Seriously, I dozed for 5 minutes on the bus and missed Lichtenstein.  (Okay, maybe it was 12 countries in 10 day – my memory is fuzzy and this was pre-Twitter and Facebook).  In preparation, I bought an international suitcase, one of those humongous monsters to hold a new wardrobe.  Oh, I was a fashion plate with a new daily outfit complete with shoes and jewelry.  But it all made for a heavy suitcase at the beginning and an even heavier case at the end filled with souvenirs and dirty laundry.  It was a pain to roll over cobblestones and through narrow doorways.  That suitcase survived two trips.  After having to lug it up three flights of stairs, I swore never again.  Over the time, I acquired a to-do list for how to travel.  Here are a few tips.

Everything you’ll need should fit in a carry-on suitcase.  Yes, the kind you roll onto a plane.  How?

  • All your clothes should be neutral colors that are interchangeable. If one piece doesn’t go with everything, then discard it.  The material should be wrinkle-free and easy to roll.

packed sardines

  • A rolled article takes up less room than a folded one and can be packed more tightly.  You can roll underwear, bagged shoes and breakable souvenirs in the clothes if needed.
  • On my trip to London that was supposed to last seven days, I packed according to a formula: 7 days minus 2 days traveling, divided by 2 = how many outfits to pack.  Wear the same outfit coming and going; unless it’s a stinking mess, hang it up and let it air.  It should be ready for the return trip. Don’t wear the traveling outfit at any other time.  I recommend a cotton blend top and jeans; they are breathable, wrinkle-free and the best material should disaster strike.
  • So I on my seven day trip, I could take two or three whole outfits.  In a pinch you can take two for day and one for evening that can changed with scarves, jewelry etc.  Since I didn’t intend to dress, I opted for three outfits and and an extra pair of walking shoes.  Always take an extra pair and alternate them every day; your feet will thank you. Never pack shoes with no arch support like flats or ballet slippers.  If  I’d brought a dress, I would have selected not -new (already broken in) shoes with a comfortable heel and scuffed soles to prevent slipping on pavements.  Underwear and socks follow the same formula.  Ideally, I should wash my undies out in the sink at night but I can’t be bothered. So I took daily changes.
  • If you’re bringing a bulky coat, try to wear or carry it.
  • If traveling more than a week, take small packets of detergent and portable clothesline.  Fourteen changes of undies gets bulky; the whole idea is to economize on space. If you trip is 14 days or more, it’s time to start washing clothes.  There is usually some laundry facility in the hotel or nearby.  A carry-on bag can only hold so much even expanded. The most I’ve gotten into one is 5-7 outfits plus daily undies and two pairs of shoes.  On long trips bring a collapsible bag for those souvenirs and gifts you’ll want.
  • Bring a small toiletries bag with things you need in small travel bottles, not the bulky regular sizes.  Don’t worry about running out; most everything you need can be found at nearby store.
  • Bring several spare plastics bags for dirty and wet items and to separate out things.  You’ll be surprised when you need them.  Inquire if the room has an iron and dryer; they usually do.
  • If you have a high ick factor, bring plastic hair baggies you can put on your feet to shower.  Pack thin traveler’s slippers to avoid walking on carpet.
  • If you’re traveling abroad, don’t forget to bring the smallest, lightest plug adapters (and voltage changer if needed) you can find.  Remember, DO NOT USE A VOLTAGE CHANGER ON ELECTRONICS.  They have internal adapters; you’ll burn them out.
packed living in suitcase
  • Bring a tote bag big enough to carry a slim wallet, a collapsible umbrella, spare glasses, sun glasses, lipstick (leave the make-up kit in the toiletries bag) and other sundries you can’t do without.
  • Most importantly, buy a waist wallet you can wear under your clothes.  This should hold: a copy of the inside of your passport; a copy of your birth certificate; you driver’s license; any traveler’s checks; and temporarily unneeded cash and credit cards.  This will be a lifesaver should you lose the tote bag I told you bring. When my backpack was stolen in London years ago, my waist wallet helped get me a new passport in a matter of a few hours.
  • Lastly I’ve forgotten this every time, but in case of flying internationally and encountering a journey like my Rome adventure where my bag was AWOL for two days, pack in the tote bag a change of undies, a top and maybe a bottom if it will fit. Then while your suitcase journeys elsewhere, you can feel fresh while you wait.

So if you travel lightly and prepared, you have half the battle won.  May the travel karma be with you.