Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Late-Night Thoughts on Watching Supernatural

I have a habit of not really 'watching' tv when I'm watching tv. I tend to be cooking or cleaning, or sorting and scanning old newspapers to get rid of, or doing something else that doesn't require all of my (ever-diminishing) brain power. I used to think this was actually a fairly virtuous habit - my dad used to call the television the 'idiot box', after all, and if I wasn't actually just sitting on the couch watching then I wasn't a couch potato.

A few years ago, I read a book about how to better use your time. I don't remember all that much about it (yes, that's right, I ignored all of its sound advice and I'm having a blast just flinging my time around profligately, thank-you very much), but I do remember the suggestion that if you were going to watch a television program, maybe you should actually just sit down and watch it with all of your attention, and if it wasn't worth that, then maybe you shouldn't watch it at all.

I still have trouble doing this with the actual television, especially if I'm alone. On one of Zarah's visits, she asked if I'd watched Sherlock, and I said yes, but then realized that I'd been doing my usual flitting around while it was on and I really had very little idea of what had been happening. So I sat down and watched it with her and then smacked myself in the head for almost missing a freaking brilliant example of acting, writing and directing.

I can, however, focus exclusively on what I'm watching if I curl up in a chair with my ipad. It's like six feet of intervening space between my face and the show just leaves too much room for distraction (and if I sit too close to the tv I hear my mom yelling "don't sit there, you'll go blind!")

So if I really want to watch something I try to sit myself down with my ipad and devote my whole attention to it. This means I often don't watch an hour-long show or even a half-hour long show all at once - if I find my attention wandering I stop and go do something else. It also means that when I rewatch series on Netflix that I originally watched week to week on television, I discover multitudes of details that I missed the first time around, as well as rediscovering things lost to my child-trampled, age-shredded memory.
Photo by JMiu

I started watching Supernatural right at the beginning, ten years ago - TEN YEARS AGO. I had a four-year-old and a one-year-old. I wasn't paying close attention to anything except whether nipple cream was on sale and if what I was about to eat was relatively poop-free. But it was a fun diversion and I love anything that's both scary and funny and has interesting characters.

I watched more-or-less faithfully, although the channel it was on complicated matters - I PVR almost everything to watch later, and I can't remember why, but it was sometimes hard to catch, and if I missed it, it was one of the few shows I couldn't catch up on with On Demand.

Recently, I realized that I didn't even know whether it was still on, and that I had recorded the season 9 finale on the PVR and hadn't even bothered to watch it. I'd sort of lost the plot and wasn't sure whether I felt like trying to pick it up again. Then I decided to rewatch it on Netflix from the beginning. It seemed like a good idea. The weather was still crappy, I was on some enforced rest for a sore foot, and I was taking two annoying courses with assignments that needed a suitable reward.

It wasn't the greatest idea. I'm a little OCD, and when I get into something I really get into it, and did I mention there are NINE SEASONS on Netflix? And not Walking-Dead-ten-episode-seasons. We're talking something in the neighbourhood of TWO HUNDRED FREAKING HOURS. My reading has fallen way off. I've thrown clean clothes in the wash just to have laundry to fold because I can do that watching the ipad. You know that expression "when you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras?" I think of hellhounds. With, um, hooves, instead of just evil, um, paws - you get the picture. Yesterday Eve was going to the park with her friend and realized she only has winter boots, no sneakers, because her last ones were so gross we threw them out when the snow came and forgot to buy new ones. Her friend was wearing Doc Martens, so I went down and grabbed an old pair of mine for Eve to try on. She put one on, and said "fits okay, but it's soulless". I was about to dash to the kitchen for salt and matches, and she said "they just need some in-soles." (Sorry).

In my next post: thoughts that are actually ABOUT Supernatural. Right now I have a date with my chair and my ipad.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

List-ing

I used to be more selective and discerning when adding books to my to-read list. Sometimes I was self-conscious about the fact that other people could see which books I was adding, or realized that I already had many, many books in the same vein on there, or just that there wasn't enough time left in my life to get through them all.

Then I thought, screw it. My tastes are wide-ranging, from the elevated and erudite to the tawdry and profane, and anyone who knows me already knows that. And if I leave one off, I inevitably end up spending long minutes searching frantically for it a few days later. I've started to think of it less as composing a prescriptive list than gathering butterflies in a net - "you get in, and you get in, ooh, you're pretty, squish over everyone, this one's going in too". I won't get to all of them, and if I did only a few would maintain their lustre after the first few pages, but every once in a while it's a pleasure to fan them all out and admire their jeweled wings.

So I have this: Adam Gopnik's Winter: Five Windows on the Season, which is "an intimate tour of the artists, poets, composers, writers, explorers, scientists, and thinkers, who helped shape a new and modern idea of winter". The words "existential", "meditation" and "homage" are at home here. 

And then there's this: The Stars Never Rise (Unnamed Series #1) by Rachel Vincent. Soul-consuming demons, a girl with a dependent younger sister, and a hoodie-wearing fugitive with deep green eyes! Okay, yeah, it's blatantly whoring in on the whole trilogy thing and the series isn't even named yet, for crying out pete's sake, and it's most likely a Hunger Games rip-off, but WHAT IF IT'S NOT? Can we take the chance? I think we owe it to ourselves not to. 

Oh, I just noticed I had Etta and Otto and Russell and James on there twice (gorgeous literary debut, plucky old woman, pilgrimage, Canada, talking coyote, 'nuff said). Whew. That means I'm down to one thousand and NINE.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Mondays on the Margins: Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst

Yesterday I finally fell into a book and sank through it like a stone instead of glancing across it like a smooth, flat skipping rock. Trying to read with anxiety and pain, especially on the ipad, leads to way too much hopping from book to book, or to the internet to check something that I thought of and must know RIGHT THIS MINUTE before I forget about it, or to Netflix to get even more thoroughly and comprehensively sick of Supernatural (sorry guys, I love you but I have surfeited myself to the point of nausea).

It wasn't the best book ever. It was better than the last book I read by this author, which was also the first book I'd read by this author. I talked about starting that book in this post, and it did indeed begin very promisingly, but then it all went horribly, mushily, disappointingly wrong. The character, who was flat and without agency at the beginning of the book for understandable reasons, continued to be flat and insipid for way too long, and the big reveal about the Big Terrifying Menace was more of a splat than a fireworks explosion.

Chasing Power was not fantastic, but it was more even and held narrative tension to the end with some nice twists. The character was more developed and at least had opinions and acted in her own interest, but was still not extremely deep or nuanced. The set-up - Kayla exercising her telekinetic power for shoplifting and general screwing around, in defiance of her mother who is terrified they will be found by Kayla's father who already killed her sister Amanda - is attention-getting. Daniel showing up needing her help to rescue his kidnapped mother and starting off blackmailing her deepens the plot nicely, and Selena is a classic smart-assed smart-mouthed best friend with issues of her own who really raises the novel's quality a notch. The quest is well laid out, the relationship between Kayla and her mother is quite well-done, and the resolution is fairly satisfying.

The writing and characterization don't quite rise above 'good' to 'really good'. A couple of times I wondered if I was just missing things. Daniel uses the word "amazing" to describe Kayla way too many times, but then at one point he said "you are..." and she says " Yes, yes, amazing, I know", so maybe the author meant to do that, but it doesn't do much to make him seem like more than a vocabulary-limited dolt. At one point when Kayla discovers that he's lied to her about something, instead of flipping out about it she says that she actually sees why he lied about it and thinks it was a reasonable decision - I LOVED this, since one of my pet peeves is when people go ballistic over being lied to when, if they thought about it for a second, they probably would have lied similarly in the same situation.

But anything I admired was only on a cerebral level - I didn't really feel any of it. This might be just due to my mental and emotional state right now, but I don't think all of it was. This is an author who has a knack for plotting; if she ever steps up her writing game, she might be amazing.

Memorable quotes:

-"'You know, if you worked for me and you made me wait that long, I'd have flogged you.' Kayla hopped into the car and buckled her seat belt. 'No, you wouldn't. You have people to flog your people.' 'Yes, yes I do. I have floggers.' 'And slappers, for anyone who doesn't deserve a full-out flogging.'"

-"Kayla had felt as if she were a pillow, battered and damp. She'd slept badly, racked with guilt, and she'd woken to an empty house... After that, Kayla had started to feel angry. And the anger ate the guilt for goddamn breakfast."

-"'Of course it's not over. Don't you know how these things work? The wise old woman gave you cryptic advice to start you on your quest. Now the trusty sidekick, who is far smarter than the heroine, finds the pertinent information our beloved lead needs. Or she at least checks Wikipedia.'"

-"She wanted to fall into that smile. It made her want to frolic through fields with him, and Kayla had never frolicked through a field in her life. Oh, good grief, am I falling for him? How completely prosaic."

-"'This is serious. You have the common sense of a dim-witted lemming, and I don't want you to plunge off a cliff and die.' A corner of his lips quirked up. 'Hey, you do care.'"

-"'Don't listen to her. This is your destiny. This is what we've worked so long and so hard for. This is our chance at greatness! Every great achievement requires a great sacrifice.' 'What fortune cookie did you read that in?' Kayla asked. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Stream of Unconsciousness

OKAY, enough of this nonsense. True, my husband's been away two and a half weeks out of the last four AND all of the openings in my kids' heads suddenly had to be investigated during that time AND Eve and I went to London for part of March Break AND my school library instructor is kind of an ass, so I'm spending an inordinate amount of time on strange, sprawling assignments that I then get low marks on because she changes the criteria on a whim AND this is kind of annoying time to be trying to train a puppy AND my left foot has stopped working so I'm back in physio AND my obsessive tendencies have locked me into a compulsive rewatch of Supernatural from the beginning AND I've had an unwelcome anxiety resurgence or two, but none of those are really excuses. Or not really good excuses anyway. Not blogging for me is kind of like not exercising - I think I'm too tired to do it, but then not doing it makes me even more tired and depressed. And since exercising is kind of curtailed anyway because of the foot thing, I should actually be blogging DOUBLE.

But let's not get all crazy.

That's good for a start, don't you think?

Can you get a zit on your eyelid? That would be really gross.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Extremes


Today we have Angus!....

...now with fourteen percent less toenail! (I watched the whole procedure, it was super-gross!)

In less barfy news, OMG look what Nicole sent me! So pretty I almost can't bear to open it!


Just kidding ha ha ha *faceplants in box*

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tuesdays on the Margins Because Reasons

So I saw my (rather dreamy) eye doctor and he thinks my contacts are giving me pink eye because of microscopic areas of inflammation in my eyes, possibly left over from when I was really sick over Christmas. So, eye drops. Then my ears got sore and I couldn't hear very well, so I went to the doctor, and she said I have an ear infection because of poor fluid drainage, possible due to who the fuck knows. So, ear drops. And (TMI alert), the nasal prongs from my CPAP have given me a blister inside my left nostril. So, laying off the CPAP for a few nights (who needs to sleep and breathe at the same time, let's not get greedy). And yes, first world problems and yay Canadian health care and all that crap, but perhaps you'll forgive me if I feel a bit like the seven plagues of Egypt have descended into my head. I'll keep you posted on whether locusts start flying out of my throat.

So my reading focus has been less than stellar. I keep starting new books and not finishing them. I keep reading YA and feeling like weeping when I contemplate tackling anything challenging. I can only read on the ipad once Lucy's in her crate, or it disturbs her (thank god I didn't get a dog before there were ipads). Which is fine, I have a crapton of books on my ipad, but making decisions is not my strong suit at the moment.

So, here are a few reviews of the partiality of the books I am reading at the moment.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: I bought this for my friend Janet for her birthday because she wanted to read it, and then she didn't love it. She passed it to another friend, and I finally remembered to ask for it when I was at her house, and then didn't touch it for a few months. I finally picked it up even though I didn't really feel intellectually equipped to read it (see above), but I'm finding it completely entrancing so far (not very far, see above). I'm torn between loving the setting and the writing, and being desperate to find out what happens next, and being sickened by the cruelty with which the two children are being used, and being afraid to find out how it all ends.

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel: The main character's name is Nora Dearly, ha ha so clever. I think I borrowed this ebook on a whim from the library, and it is kind of interestingThe year is 2195. The place is New Victoria, high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. But it's also reminding me that I very rarely like steampunk as much as I want to or feel like I should. Also, I was promised a zombie love story, and I'm not seeing how that's going to happen. Of course, I probably have to read more than forty pages before complaining.

Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst: I think my friend Sue recommended this author, so I borrowed a couple of her ebooks. So far this is totally intriguing - the character is some kind of magical girl in some kind of non-magical Witness Protection Program, and I have no idea what's going on, but in that delicious way where you feel like when you do figure it out, it's going to be mind-blowingly cool. The only thing bugging me is how mean the female marshall is to the girl. Did anyone else watch In Plain Sight? I loved that show. The female marshall is like Mary Shannon but with only the bitchy parts and none of the heart-of-gold and humour. And also, remember how her partner was a marshall NAMED MARSHALL? That never got old. 

Emergence by David R. Palmer: I read this in a list of great but little-known post-apocalyptic books, so I ordered a crappy secondhand copy of it, which I carry around in my purse for when I'm in waiting rooms, and it's getting progressively more and more beat-up and losing little pieces, but it's AWESOME. The main character is an 11-year-old girl genius who, through an improbably set of coincidences ends up virtually alone in the world after a nuclear exchange. The whole book is written in shorthand, with no articles or pronouns. This is surprising in a couple of ways: first, how fast you get used to it, and second, how much funnier or more heartrending certain statements are when stripped of articles and pronouns. I will review this more comprehensively when I've finished.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLean: I was dimly aware of this for quite a while but not really interested - I don't really see the point of this kind of fictionalizing of actual historical characters. Do I recall why I went ahead and borrowed the ebook then? I do not. Do I recall why I started actually reading said ebook? Sort of - I think I opened Overdrive, and it was the only adult book on my bookshelf, so I forced myself to read a few pages and got hooked. It's not stunningly beautiful prose, but it's very readable, and I'm enjoying the evocation of the jazz age. I'm half reading it just ignoring that the characters are real people, and half enjoying the glimpse (even fictionalized) of Ernest Hemingway before he was Ernest Hemingway (it's so weird sometimes to think of famous people as only their first name; Ernest. People called him Ernest. That seems so wrong,). 

There are a couple more on my Goodreads currently-reading list, but these are the ones I'm actually reading every day or two right now. If I try to start anything else, somebody slap me.