Herewith a quick take on my two most recent summer-movie visits:
Wonder Woman is very, very good — and manages to be so by mostly being a World War I movie rather than a superhero movie. I am, of course, much too young to have living memories of the WWI period, but one of my grandfathers was an Army engineer in that war, then puttered around Europe for several years afterward doing a variety of field work for the American Red Cross. My father made a point of writing down and preserving a great many stories arising from those travels, and Wonder Woman surprised me by matching the tone and texture of those stories to an impressive degree. The members of the team Diana and Steve Trevor bring together feel like people my grandfather could easily have met and understood. I’ve heard complaints about the portrayals of some of the minority characters, but my sense is that what’s shown is essentially accurate for the time and place — and that the reactions of the characters in question are as true to period as everything else.
Mind you, it’s not perfect. The scene in which Diana crosses “No Man’s Land” very nearly threw me out of the movie — even in a comic-book world, there should have been too heavy a volume and breadth of firepower for her to survive being shredded using the traditional deflection-and-dodging powers that we usually associate with Wonder Woman and her gauntlets. That the scene works is a matter of the sheer force of will Gal Gadot throws into the role…and by the end of the film, it’s clear that in fact, Diana’s Amazon powers are more literally godlike than they were in the Lynda Carter era.
By contrast, The Mummy is a major disappointment. Tom Cruise tries to coast through the movie on roguish charm, but the script makes him too much of an idiot and cad for that charm to do much good (except to the degree that it persuades the Forces Of Evil to keep him alive). Cruise’s character literally has no control over his actions for large segments of the film — the resurrected Egyptian princess Ahmanet is pulling his strings most of the time — and even when he makes a choice that looks sort of heroic (notably, resurrecting the film’s other female lead), one can rationalize that he’s only doing so because he’s looking out for his own self-interest further down the road.
But the real trouble with The Mummy is that there aren’t any proper mummies in it. What we have instead is Sofia Boutella as the aforementioned Ahmanet, and within five minutes of waking her up, the film has her mostly out of her wrappings and into slinky seductress mode, clad in just enough shreds of green to keep her nominally street-legal. Nor are most of her monster legions mummies; just about all of them are better classified as skeletons, zombies, or ghouls. The Egyptian — or even faux-Egyptian — folklore is just as thin on the ground. With no likeable hero, no mummies, and no mystical Egyptian spice in play, all that’s left is a lot of CGI sludge and generic mayhem. And that’s not much of a recipe for a successful Mummy movie.
Fortunately, I paid for my ticket to the Cruise Mummy by buying a boxed set of four movies from the much better predecessor franchise starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, and eventually The Rock (total price well under $20) — a win for my DVD collection, if not for Universal’s current cash flow.[reprised from The Lone Penman; *not* crossposted to LiveJournal]
The last few days have been challenging. I started a meditation practice. I started an inner child visualization practice. I continued to journal in my DBT journal, which I won't be sharing here. I did these things along with my DBT homework and mindfulness practices. I was taking my medications regularly. Somewhere over the weekend, something in me got willful and I stopped pretty much everything. I tried to meditate; I had no focus. The inner child visualization just stopped. I stopped keeping the daily mindfulness journal that's part of DBT. I stopped taking my medications. At the same time, I discovered that my cat Sophie had a giant abscess that would have to be removed; she went off to the vet yesterday for surgery.
This morning, I had a therapy appointment and everything sort of crashed.
I didn't have my diary card with me. Then I had to admit that I stopped all of these things: meds, meditation, mindfulness and so on. And then we got digging into why. The answer was simple and devastatingly difficult all at once. I was taking care of myself, and I suddenly got skeptical about the idea that I was worthy of that kind of self-care. I'd even started thinking about going back to Weight Watchers. So what did I do? I made myself sick eating badly yesterday. Literally sick. I got three hours of sleep last night because I felt so physically awful and I was so worried about Sophie.
That not taking care of myself, that skepticism about me being worthy of self care, was willfulness. I was not participating effectively in the world as it is, a world in which I am worthy of that kind of self care, a world in which it's important for me to be healthy so I can function properly and can move forward willingly. We talked about where these ideas were first fostered inside me, we talked about how much care taking of others I've done over the last few years, we talked about how all that care taking made it easy for me to put aside my self care, allowed me not to examine my attitude about self care and my worthiness of self care and the love needed to maintain it.
I called in to work sick today because I felt so awful and was so tired. I knew I'd be having to care for Sophie, a kind of care taking I was totally willing to do, that I accepted needed doing and that I was responsible for. But I also had to take care of me, which meant accepting that I am worthy of care, then doing what's needed: taking my medications, journaling, being gentle with myself about starting over again.
Practice makes progress, as a WW leader said to me years ago. Progress. That's all I can ask for.
I should say, clearly, people still do, but they all seem to be retirees, no children. There were hardly any groups that included children, unless they were Native American. We saw several Native American families all traveling together. (Also, the majority of tourists in these places seem to be white.)
Today, however, was one of the few days I regretted this idea. We saw some pretty amazing things, which I'll get to in a moment, but we spent a lot of time on the road. Worse, we kept hitting road construction that was more than a slowdown through some orange cones. We'd come to a full stop and then have to wait for a "Follow Me: Pilot Vehicle." This was frustrating as heck, though occasionally it meant that I had time to frame a kind of lovely-in-its-starkness photo.
I call this, "Lonely Fence Post."
We also legitimately came across sections of road in Wyoming that had been sloppily paved over and a road sign that read, "Road Damage." My family and I spent some quality time trying to figure out if it was more expensive to print up the sign and mark the road or to actually fix it. Obviously, Wyoming Department of Transportation figured the signs were cheaper.
The interstate driving was really, really dull through much of the state. I kept saying, "Well, there are some horses. We must still be in Wyoming." A lot of it looked like this, only more desolate:
The nice surprise was the Big Horn Mountains. Shawn had done some research (naturally) and found us a highway that was rated safe for RVs. Shawn had found a blog and a video of people in an RV driving over one of these stretches (maybe Beartooth?) and we kept repeating what the blogger had said anytime we went down any grade as steep as 7 percent, which was, "My wife was on the floor... crying." (Their experience was apparently much steeper and their brakes were burning out.) We didn't have anything like that, but it was pretty exciting driving through this:
We would pass signs that would tell us which era of rocks were exposed. There was a lot of "Pre-Cambrian" and "Lower Cretaceous." At one point, after a particularly long and arduous "Follow Me" truck construction zone, we decided to stop at a roadside diner called "The Meadowlark Resort," just outside of the town of Ten Sleep. The diner had a poster of Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire from the TV show Longmire/books by Craig Johnson. Apparently, the nearby town of Buffalo was an inspiration for the novelist. The only reason that was particularly striking to us is that Shawn and I, who loved the show, had started thinking about the fact that the landscape must be very similar to the faux Absaroka County that Longmire is the supposed sheriff of.
It was good to sit and have a real meal, something we've been neglecting this whole trip. We've been subsisting on road food and things we've packed like trail mix, chips, beef jerky, and granola bars. A real omelet made by an actual short order cook was just the ticket. It probably added a half hour to our day, but I regret nothing.
Except all that interstate driving. The interstate was hideously boring. I kind of wanted to claw my eyes out after driving for hours and hours along the interstate. The only good thing about the interstate was that the speed limit was 80.
Eventually, we got to Devil's Tower. Or, at least the turn off for Devil's Tower. Devil's Tower was made famous for my entire generation by the mashed potato scene in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." There was, of course, another "Follow Me" truck on the way to Devil's Tower. Also, the guidebooks lie. This is not a quick jaunt off the highway, this is a legitimate detour WAY THE HECK OUT. However, it is classic:
The gift store would sell you aliens.
Also, because I could no longer take the Interstate, I insisted on a detour through "ANYTHING PRETTY." So we took off on 14-A towards the Black Hills National Forest. This also took us through Sundance, Sturgis, Leads, and Deadwood.
The Black Hills National Forest was really amazing, but Mason was starting to lose it in the back and said, "OMG, it's just more rocks and trees. Shoot me now!"
As you can see, he's not wrong. We were getting pretty punchy by this point, too, and Shawn was snapping photos by sticking the camera out of our sunroof. We got some surprisingly good shots that way.
Then, finally, we made it to the hotel! I was super-ready to be here. Our only concern at this point is, do we really want to spend the next several days DRIVING AROUND???!! Ask me tonight and my answer would be: no $%!@ing way. I'm going to guess that tomorrow, I'll be all, "Pack up the car, we're on the road!"
We have to AT LEAST see Mount Rushmore.
Made my rounds, forgot to go to the post office to get the new solar stamps.. they might be sold out already but I will check today.
I did get to Costal, and they had the 40 pound bags of black sunflower seeds in stock and on sale. Checked at Michaels to see if they started putting out Halloween stuff yet, and they said maybe next week.
Discovered that they are putting in a Chezcake Factory at the Clack Mall, no date available.. which will be nice, since thats a fave happy hour for the sister creature and myself.
I need to work outside today, with the heat coming this weekend, I wont be out in it..
I’ve been sitting on this news for nearly a year, waiting for my first piece to go live so I can tell you all about it.
So there’s this game called Legend of the Five Rings. It was a collectible card game and RPG; I got involved with the RPG, doing some freelance work for the later parts of fourth edition, because it had sucked me in overnight. The setting, Rokugan, is inspired by Japanese history and culture, and it’s got the kind of rich worldbuilding that makes the place come to life for me. So when the parent company sold L5R off to Fantasy Flight Games, I was, shall we say, rather determined to stay involved.
And I am. But not writing for the RPG this time: instead I’m one of their fiction writers. You see, one of the defining characteristics for L5R has always been the ongoing narrative of the game, influenced by the winners of various tournaments, and expressed through official canon stories.
I think it should be a decent introduction to the setting for those who aren’t familiar with it. (In fact, that’s one of the goals for this first set of stories: give newcomers an overview of Rokugan, clan by clan.) If you like what I wrote, you might find L5R overall interesting, and you can check out the other fictions here (those provide links to the pdfs if you want to see the pretty formatted versions).
Yeah . . . I’m pretty excited. 😀 The setting has been rebooted back to the Clan War, so there’s an opportunity to do all kinds of cool new things, and this story provided a really great chance to showcase that, with the Dragon facing two entirely fresh conflicts that don’t come with easy answers attached. And I’m working on more stuff as we speak, so my involvement will be ongoing. *\o/*
My dad was a good model for how to gently enjoy human absurdity and I remember him being super entertained by the pet rock and playing along with it super well.
You can troll if you want to You can type your bitter bile But when you project then you don't make sense And you're no match of mine. You can troll if you want to You can tease and try to deflect But the kids' table waits as you try to frustrate And your words have little effect. You can troll You can troll You may think that you're on a roll. You can troll You can troll But everybody sees you're a troll
Just a troll
Just a troll
You think you're on a roll
But you're just a troll. (to the tune of "Safety Dance")
Sunday, June 18, 2017 • Portland, Oregon
This year I didn’t drive into Portland for Pride. Instead, I took MAX. That’s simpler all around. I left the house around 9:15 am, caught MAX at Millican Way, and was at the Library MAX stop near Galleria before 10 am. I actually had time to stop at Powell’s and do a little shopping – and use the restroom. (But, really, saw something I want to buy – I just couldn’t do it and walk in the parade.)
As I did last year, I walked up and down the North Park Blocks looking for photo opportunities. Of course, there were opportunities everywhere – I just had to choose which ones made sense for me.
I was walking up the street when I heard an “Amy!” The shout came from one of the youth from SMYRC – from, like, 10 years ago. We did a quick catchup – and, wow, things have changed a lot. He determined he was trans and has undergone substantial medical work. Amazing and cool. And life remains a struggle – as it does for so many of our youth. (He’s not a youth anymore – he’s 30!) We reminisced about SMYRC, and I received updates on a few of the youth – adults now. We said goodbyes, and I continued my walk through the parade staging area.
There actually wasn’t a lot of time remaining before I had to head back to my group. I took a small number of photos along the way. Soon I met up with my co-workers. There was a good size group assembled in a relatively small space, so it was a challenge to get good angles for photographs. It was a challenge just to walk within the crowd. I had to be quick with the shutter; there would be no second chances. I didn’t have a photography plan – mainly I followed my instincts and leaned on habits ingrained from last year.
And I did whip out my iPhone and do a quick selfie…
The parade started at 11 am. As usual, our group was near the very front, and we were quickly on the move. Our mobile music truck blasted out fun, upbeat dance songs, so we clapped and sang and cheered and danced all the way to the waterfront.
What I love about Pride events is the high, positive energy. It’s a lot like OCF – except with adrenaline. Both events are filled with smiles, laughter, and love. I can’t think of two more fun events to photograph in Oregon.
Pace was about the same as last year, and we arrived at Waterfront Park around 11:45 am. I knew I had taken a lot of photos, and there was going to be a lot of post-processing. And having been at the festival the day before, I didn’t have much motivation to take additional photos. I paid admission to the festival area and went to get myself a slice of wood-fired pizza for lunch – just like I did last year. At the pizza stand I ran into one of my awesome (ex)teammates, and she allowed me to take her picture. She’s like the most gorgeous person I’ve ever worked with!
I then got my pizza and found a grassy spot under some trees to peacefully enjoy my meal.
After lunch I made a photo pass through the festival and then exited through the north gate. I quickly realized that was a mistake. On the north side of the festival, I was trapped in Waterfront Park, blocked by the parade route. I had to walk a long ways north until I got past the parade and could cross Naito Parkway. If I had exited through the south gate, I could have immediately crossed the Parkway and gotten to a MAX station. Remember this next year!!
I caught MAX at 1:10 pm and was home at 2 pm. Time to start processing photos. There were 200 from Saturday and 600 from Sunday. It took much of my Monday to process the lot. By luck, Monday was my one Monday a month off from work. But going forward, I need to always schedule the Monday after Pride as a day off. Remember this next year!!
This year’s photos are in the Portland Pride 2017 Gallery in Zenfolio.
It's about an hours drive between Cody and the east gate entrance to Yellowstone. We passed through mountain tunnels, which is always cool. This is the reservoir made by the Buffalo Bill Dam.
The landscape up to Yellowstone was very similar to a lot of what we'd seen in Montana. No trees and a lot of scrub leading up to rocky outcroppings. Shawn and I both confessed that this was pretty much what we were afraid all of Yellowstone would look like (oh boy, were we WRONG.) In fact, once we got to "cruising altitude," as it were, things looked a lot more like the landscape around Bearskin. Shawn said, looking out at all the pine trees lined up along the roadside, "This looks like home." (Grand Rapids, MN.)
But this is Wyoming/Montana: scrubby.
We passed a lot of horse ranches, too. I joked that where in North Dakota it was all, "I found a cow!" in Wyoming it's "I found a horse!"
Shawn had made a big deal about finding us a hotel room at all in Cody this time of year, and so any time we saw a "vacancy" sign on any of the dude ranch/hotels, we teased her saying, "Oh, sure, you couldn't find anything open! We could have stayed here and had pony rides!" Luckily, she's a good sport and used to us ribbing her.
Even before the official gate, we saw people pulled off to the side of the road. This is what's known in the Yellowstone area as a "bear jam," aka the kind of traffic jam that happens whenever wildlife is spotted.
Here's what everyone was looking at:
I really love the contrast here between the brown/black of the buffalo and the silvery green of the sage brush. This shot seems almost stereotypically Wyoming, don't you think? At first I worried that this big guy was sick being so far from a herd, but Shawn read that male buffalo are loners. Mason said he clearly saw that this fellow was male.
The flowers were really lovely. There were pearly everlastings growing here too (which remind me of deep woods northern Minnesota):
One we were in Yellowstone proper, the road grade started getting significantly steeper. I worried a lot about our new/used car, but it performed like a beauty. Pretty soon there were snow caps in the distance. We had to pull over to take a picture. (We tried selfies, but we kind of suck at them.)
We took a ton of pictures as we moved higher and higher into the mountains. But here are a few of the more interesting shots we got:
Then came the most amazing thing. We saw a traffic jam ahead and I jokingly said, "Hey, maybe there will be bears at this bear jam." GUESS WHAT??!! THERE WERE BEARS.
A pretty good shot considering that Shawn (being non-suicidal) took this picture from inside the car, the window rolled down, with telephoto. There were many more morons who were out of their cars, setting up tripods, and milling around. It is possibly not obvious, but these two are GRIZZY BEAR CUBS. The one in the foregrounds still has a bit of white baby fuzz. There is a mama grizzly somewhere near and, unlike the stupids, we were long gone before she showed up.
We saw dumber people, though.
There was a whole contingent of stupid walking across a grassy plane towards a giant herd of buffalo. Buffalo can run 30 mph. People can not. There were idiots with children doing that.
It does make me wonder how many people die from wildlife every year. Especially since you can get great shots from inside your car. Like this:
Then, we did what every tourist to Yellowstone must do. We went to visit "Old Faithful." OMG. The visitor center near "Old Faithful" is a massive complex and it is ENTIRELY JAMMED WITH HUMAN BEINGS. I don't normally mind crowds, but I do not like being elbow-to-elbow with that many sweaty, impatient people. Mason had the right idea. He put on his Moose Hat (which he picked up at the first gift shop) and read:
But we didn't have to wait that long for the big eruption. For all that, the actual geyser was nifty. Mason and I managed to score some good seats right next to the walkway's edge.
But our stop here was one of those times when no one knows what to do--should we try to eat here? Do we just grab cereal at the convenience store? Get in the car again and subsist on potato chips?--and we were all h-angry and hot. Luckily, I had an epiphany in the bathroom and that was that when the guidebooks told us we needed to practice patience, they didn't mean on the road, they meant with each other. So, we suffered through the long lines and got some real food. (Actually, I made my family find a seat and I waded through the food lines). After that, we felt much better getting out of there and getting back in the car.
We did decide, though, that if someone wanted a cheap version of Old Faithful, you could crush into the bathroom, let someone like me who has stinky farts let out a good gassy one, turn on the hot water faucet, and then everyone cheers. Because that's something that's never in any guidebooks: geysers STINK. They smell like sulfur, like rotten eggs. In fact, the whole "clean pine forest" smell up in Yellowstone has a whole undercurrent of "who farted?"
At any rate, after all that hassle, we decided, in fact, that we didn't need to see any more geysers. If there were a lot of people gathered to see a "site" that wasn't wildlife, we would just pass that site right on by, in fact.
I think we made a good choice. We did see these "painted pots" however:
After that we mostly just pulled out in spots where there were hardly any people. Thus, Mason got some time to contemplate nature on the Summer Solstice:
The very last thing we did was look at the giant falls... that I've forgotten the name of. Because you know what else I wasn't prepared for in Yellowstone? How BAD the signs are... and the maps. I think a lot of tourists would be a lot less cranky if there were better signs directing people to places. But, we had to do a complete 180 at one point otherwise we would have missed these. And, they were pretty darned spectacular, too:
That was Yellowstone. From here, we turn east towards Mount Rushmore and home.... though it will still be a few more days on the road.
Right now, I'm off to avail myself of the hot tub. My shoulders are aching after all that white knuckle driving on the roads. Going up had me worried about the engine, going down had me freaking out about the breaks. I could use a massage, honestly.
Tomorrow? MORE DRIVING. We go from here to Rapid City, hopefully going past Devil's Tower.
It was hot yesterday, by my standards... I didnt work out in the yard because of that, but I did empty out the Focus and the Van of things. Now to put them away or at least in the room they should go to. I collected my pop bottles for recycle and got them out to the Van. Ran a couple of minor errands, turns out Wilco is out of black sunflower seed except in the small 10 pound bags, so I will have to try Coastal to get my supply replenished. Picked up the sister creature and her bottles and away we went. We dont do the Bottle Drop here in town, its hot and icky to start with, and they dont have shopping carts for the bottles, which is what sister and I prefer. We went to the Market of Choice over in West Linn and did our thing. Sister spent her refund on yogurt and bananas, I got some locally made picked onion slices and spicy asparagus. We then stopped to eat at Bugattis.
By the time I got back home and started to water it was after 930pm. I did admire my solar lights ... and I let the sprinkler run in the garden. I do need to put the soaker on the grapes, and I have to put out more plant food.
Today, New Book Tuesday! And the Solstice!
...and still too hot, and the weekend is predicted to be in the 90s ...
People always ask me what I'm passionate about, and I tell them the following story: When I was a little kid, my grandmother took me to see an injustice. I got so mad! I threw my red white and blue popsicle down on the ground. My grandmother picked it up and said, "Winner, these colors are sacred. Never let them drop." And I said, "I know, Grandma, but I don't like to see injustice!" and she said, "That's just the world we live in. Unless you grow up and devise common-sense policy solutions to do something about it. And don't forget the men who died to give that right to you, and proudly stand up to defend her still today."
I think sex is bad unless it falls into one of the five categories below that also conveniently align with my policy proposals:
-- you are thinking about tax reform during it
-- other people are having it and you are vocally disapproving of it
-- at least one of the people involved is committed to being a great dad
-- it involves one willing participant who is a male celebrity
-- it is binding Americans together and serving to restore our common values
So one way I know that I am hopelessly sentimental about civic virtue and so on, and that part of me is an utter sucker for "common-sense policy solutions"/"binding Americans together"-type rhetoric, is that even this parody makes me mist up a little bit. Also I have literally cried (albeit on an airplane) at a Doritos ad that championed bipartisanship.
(As a young'un I came across a copy of Art Buchwald's I Never Danced at the White House and read it and thus learned about Watergate. Art Buchwald was a political humor columnist for the Washington Post. I am imagining some twelve-year-old girl in 2039 reading a Petri collection, getting about 30% of the jokes and enjoying it a lot.)
(Also I should look up whether there is critical scholarship discussing Alexandra Petri, Alexandra Erin, the Toast work of Mallory Ortberg, and whoever else is doing .... this kind of thing in this era. *handwave*)