Her Fearful Symmetry

her-fearful-symmetry

I read The Time Traveler’s Wife at Thanksgiving, 2007. It was an amazing book, I figuratively could not put it down. It sort of defies genre — the title alone both implies a romance, and science-fiction, but really, it’s just really amazing literature.

So when Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry was released this month, based solely on the strength of Time Traveler’s Wife (okay, and maybe reading that she was really well compensated for it), I snatched up a copy. If I’d checked Atlas — the database we use at the Bookstore to keep track of stock — perhaps I should’ve been concerned that the book had been out for four days and I was the first person to buy a copy*.

I didn’t get to it right away — I was in the middle of another book, and then The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest arrived, and I had to dig into that.

But as soon as I was done (it was pretty good, by the way, but I think The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is still my favorite in the series), I picked up Her Fearful Symmetry. I really didn’t know much about the book, except that it’s a ghost story set in Highgate Cemetery in London. The perfect late October read, right?

The story concerns two sets of twins — Elspeth and Edie are estranged from each other, Elspeth living in a big flat next to the cemetery in London, Edie overseas in America with her husband Jack and their own twins, Julia and Valentina. When Elspeth dies, she leaves the flat to the twins with the condition that they must live in it for a year before selling it. The twins accept the terms, fly to London, and live in this big flat, next to this spooky cemetery, with a couple of eccentric neighbors and, oh yeah, a ghost of their dead aunt who is trying to communicate with them. Meanwhile, Valentina feels smothered by Julia, and is trying to plan an impossible escape.

The book was a quick read, but it wasn’t a particularly compelling read, and I found myself disappointed when I finished the book. Whereas with Time Traveler’s Wife, I felt very strongly Clare’s sense of loss, I was just sort of “Oh, is that what happened? Is this over yet?” Because I was excited to dig into my current read: Matthew Pearl’s The Last Dickens (so far, my judgement** is that The Poe Shadow was superior, but I’m only about 50 pages or so in).

Also, an odd note about Her Fearful Symmetry — Niffenegger is American, but the book is written with British English slang and spelling. This makes sense — she did live in England, I believe, while writing or researching the book, and Edie and Elspeth are English, but Julia and Valentina are Americans living in England. Maybe the BE usage is a metaphor for assimilation?

*The first person at the store, anyway.

**I have always spelled “judgement” with two of the letter “E”, but according to Wikipedia, that’s the British spelling. Weird.

for you? I’ll be Barbara

Sunday morning, Glasses Manga Man approached me for help. His real name isn’t Glasses Manga Man, that’s just a nickname we gave him — for one, to differentiate him from all the other customers with a “Manga Man” variation we have, and for two, so that we can warn each other: “Glasses Manga Man is in the store.” That’s code for stay the fuck out of his way. He wears these oversized eye glasses that look like their peeling. I also think he’s borderline retarded, usually because when he walks up to me, first he asks if I’m Robert.

No, I’m not.

Are you Stephen?

No, I’m not.

Are you Jim?

No, my name is Snay.

Okay. He then talks for several minutes, and I have to interrupt him a few times to try to determine what, exactly, his question is. Once I’ve ascertained his question, I log onto the computer, check some databases, and determine what I believe to be the answer.

When I tell him, I do not use any words that would indicate that I do not have a certain, non-changing answer. “No, this is not part of a series. Yes, I am sure.” Even though I’m not sure, because if I tell him this, he’s going to say “Are you sure this is not part of a series? Because if it is, I want to read the other books. I really liked this book. Is it part of a series?” And he will repeat this, ad naseum, until I kill myself by running my head into a really thick hardbound copy of War and Peace.

So I tell him, “No, this is not part of a series.” And off he goes.

But he’s back a minute later.

One minute. Sixty seconds. A heartbeat.

“Are you Robert?”

“No, I’m not.”

“Are you Stephen?”

“No, I’m not.”

“Are you –”

“I’m Snay. I’m Snay. From a minute ago?”

“Okay, so you’re not Jim?”

At this point, if he asks if I’m Barbara, I’ll tell him yes. Yes, I’m Barbara. Who is Barbara? I have no fucking idea. But I’ll be Barbara if it’ll shut him up. I’ll be a bald bearded Barbara. With man boobs and a beer gut. That’s fine. Barbara.

He goes into his sob story: it’s early morning (if by “early morning” you mean 10:30, at which point I’ve already been awake for over four hours), and he wants to spend his day reading (cracking the spine, taking up a chair, discarding books on the floor instead of reshelving them), but he has a hard time reading without his morning coffee.

Can I loan him some money?

Loan = Give.

Because he really needs to wake up so he can read.

“It’s really brisk out today,” I reply. I’m trying not to be a jerk, and I’m failing. I understand that this individual deserves my respect, regardless of his conduct. People deserve a base level of respect regardless of their income level, or any mental defects they may or may not have.

But boy does it gall me when people just expect a handout. Like, what, you couldn’t scrounge up a buck for a coffee?

“Why don’t you take a walk around the block? That’ll wake you up.”

I don’t know if he took a walk around the block or not, I do know that I didn’t see him again that day.

***

Also, let me just add: I love Street Sense. If you’re new to DC, or you’re not new to DC, and you don’t know what it is, Street Sense is a little daily published for homeless vendors to sell as a way to earn money and eventually reintegrate themselves as home-rich folks. They get some cash, and you don’t feel like you just gave somebody a handout. Win-win!

never get this pram

I like to think I’m a fun guy.

I like to think I have a sense of humor.

More importantly, I like to think that I don’t have much of a problem expressing my interest in things I enjoy. So, y’know, if I am ever able to buy this apartment and furnish it the way I want? Well, one of those suits of armor in the Gallery will probably be Klingon. Because I enjoy Star Trek, and Klingons are pretty damn cool.

But if I ever had kids in that apartment? If I ever turned one of those big chambers into a nursery? A Klingon pram is the last thing I’d fucking put in there.

(Does anyone actually know what a pram is? I think I do but I’m not sure. If I used it incorrectly, please let me know).

HT: Boing Boing

My World Series Pick

You know what I would love? Season tickets to the Caps. I went to my first hockey game last March, and I loved it. I barely understand the rules, I didn’t know who any of the players where, and I couldn’t figure out why the guy I went with, a coworker, a mousy quiet guy in the Office, was suddenly screaming like he’s spent a dozen years in the Navy. Hockey is my favorite sport, ever.

After hockey, though?

Baseball.

The World Series is coming up this week, and I’d like to go through my complex and highly detailed decision-making process through which I determined which team to throw my support behind. This is a 2 step process:

1. Are any of the baseball teams that I have an emotional connection with in the running?

There are four teams on this list:

#1 The Baltimore Orioles – I grew up just outside of DC, and Baltimore shared the O’s with DC as this city’s home team, because, y’know, DC didn’t have one. I can remember going to games at old Memorial stadium with my Dad when I was just a wee one. But they’re not in contention for the World Series.

#2 The Boston Red Sox – Yeah, yeah. My uncle is a huge Sox fan. In fact, Thanksgiving 2004 we gathered at his place, and halfway through the prayers (that side of the family is big on Catholicism), he stopped thanking the Lord, and started thanking the Sox. I saw a game at Fenway when I was a little one, and I’ve seen the Sox play many times in Baltimore. But they’re not in contention for the World Series.

#3 The Washington Nationals – Just because, yanno, I’m living in DC. I still haven’t been to a game, and as is unsurprising to no one, they’re also not in contention for the World Series.

#4 The Philadelphia Phillies – That same uncle? Well, he and my aunt used to live in Philadelphia. I don’t know that I ever saw the Phillies play (in person, I mean), but I remember having a shirt or a hit with that awesome P on it. And they are in the World Series.

2. Are the Yankees playing in the World Series?

Why, indeed, yes!, they are.

And that settles it.

My pick:

phillies-logo

My Incredibly True Halloween Plans OR! Christmas is All Around

I have the most exciting Halloween plans ever*.

This isn’t saying much, since usually I just loaf around my apartment watching horror movies and trying not to scream when one of the cats nuzzles the back of my neck with their cold noses.

At the Bookstore yesterday afternoon, our acting General Manager pulled me aside for a minute and asked what plans I had for the forthcoming weekend, would I be available? Halloween night we’re going to “dress” the store for the Christmas shopping holiday — this involves decorations and merchandising (because Christmas is all around). Decorations should be self-evident. Merchandising, for those unfamiliar with retail, is the term used to describe those tables at the front of store piled high with new releases, designed to grab your attention (and your wallet).

I’ve always wanted to do an overnight — it seems so fun to work in the store without any customers around. I’m actually kind of jealous of our overnight crew, who get to spend their nights blasting music and working without being interrupted every few minutes by someone looking for a blue book about, y’know, that subject? By that guy? Who also wrote that other book, about something?

Yeah, I don’t know where that book is, either. For some odd reason, they prize knowing the alphabet over being psychic when they hire booksellers. Shocking.**

Anyway, my Saturday will begin, as usual, with two back to back episodes of The Practice on F/X (full series DVD release! Full series DVD release!), but then I’m off to help a friend move apartments. Fortunately, she’s moving in the same building, and only a couple of floors, so by the time that’s over, I should have time to get home and take a nice, long nap — because my working shift begins at 9pm Halloween night, and will run until the early morning hours of November 1st. We’re expecting to wrap everything up around 8am or so, which is perfect timing***.

I need to remember to bring a lot of quarters because I think I’m going to be drinking a lot of caffeinated sodas. (While there will be plenty of coffee available, frankly, I hate that stuff).

Honestly, I’m so used to waking up in the dark, going to the Office, then going to the Bookstore and working all night, that the time I leave my apartment in the morning it’s dark out, and by the time I get home, it’s dark out. It’ll be refreshing to get home when the sun is up. I’ll still be leaving for work when it’s dark out.

I just hope I can not fuck my sleep cycle all out of whack, or next Monday might be really really rough.

Things I need to remember to bring:

1. My iPod
2. A mix CD to play over the store’s speakers. Remember to include Glee cast covers of “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Somebody to Love.”
3. Something to eat for “lunch.”
4. Money for soda machine.

* Yes, I have an odd definition of “exciting”, but I’m fortunate enough to work with a bunch of mostly really cool, fun people, especially when we’re not running around helping customers.

** A lot of our customers are really cool people. Not all. Some are borderline evil. Some are crazy people, and some are homeless people, and some are crazy homeless people. Some masturbate to art books, and some steal the soap from the men’s room, and some steal our merchandise, but most just want to browse and spend money and leave empty cups of coffee on the shelves because they forgot they’re not in their home and the staff isn’t their mother. Seriously, we have trash cans — if you can buy a coffee in the cafe and take it downstairs with you, certainly you can lug that heavy cup back up to the cafe to throw it out.

*** Because I can catch the Circulator from Franklin Square up to Columbia Heights and buy crap I don’t really need from Target before going home and passing out exhausted.

Cats: A Love Story

1190046644_l

I’ve had these two furballs as part of my life since the fall of 1999. They were both adopted, just a few weeks apart, from the Humane Society of Baltimore County.

bellycatrub

Guy is usually neither this cute nor friendly. When I went to adopt, I had a clear picture of what I wanted: two kittens. That plan lasted right up until I met Guy. I was walking down the bay of cat cages, running my hand along their doors, when I felt a furry explosion. I stopped, at Guy’s cage, as this cat threw himself at my fingers, rubbing his head against them like his life depended on them. When I got to hold him, the first thing he did was hiss at me.

But that’s okay, because he was scared, and I was in love.

tippylamp

Tippy was a kitten — she was six weeks old when I took her home, the only non black-and-white cat in her litter. She’s a calico, all grays and browns and some subdued tans. Interestingly, when I adopted her, her name was Pipi. I wasn’t thrilled about this, but it wasn’t until a roommates’ friend fed her a bottle-cap full of beer that I came up with an alternative: Tippy. Because this six week old cat was walking into walls, and not in a cute cat-nip way.

Those guys were both retarded.

catsonbed

The first day I took Guy home, the first thing he did — after I locked him in the bathroom for an hour so he knew where the litter box was — was to run under my roommate’s recliner and stay there, right up until it was time for me to go to bed. And right when I slipped into bed and tried to get some sleep, guess who was there? Rubbing his head into my chin, licking my fingers? Meowing? Oh, cat, oh cat — finally, to get sleep and not lock him out of the bedroom (which I don’t think he would’ve stood for), I turned him on his side, put my arm over his chest and ran it up between his paws so that my hand was under his head. And I went to sleep, and he might not’ve gone to sleep, but he stopped trying to keep me awake.

IMG_0019

They both have wildly different personalities. Guy can be a very social cat — he was two when I adopted him, and he’d spent those years living in a college frat house. “Attention whore” might be a strong word to describe him, especially as he’s mellowed with age, but his eyes light up at the sight of a bottle cap. He’ll still lick my fingers on occasion, when I’m lounging on the couch and my hands are dangling off the side.

Tippy is very much a woman: she won’t come to me, I have to go to her. Sometimes, I have to chase her a bit around the apartment, but she rarely runs under the bed or goes someplace I can’t pursue her. And once I’ve scooped her up, she’ll rub her face against mine and purr and act content — but only for about a minute or so, then she wants down. When family or friends come over, she’s out and about, an ignorant slut of a furball wanting someone to scratch her rump.

tuckeredout

She’s also a complainer. Guy? Oh, if I’m slow on changing the cat litter, or the water bowl could use a cleaning, he’ll just sulk. Tippy? Oh no, she’ll be crying and running about, tail wagging, rubbing up against me, refusing to be picked up and comforted. Sometimes, this can be a real pain because what she’s trying to tell me is, “Hey, open the door to the closet so I can curl up on the unwashed clothes”, but by the time I’ve figured that out, I’ve washed the food bowls, put out new food, and changed the litter.

cats

I felt a little guilty about moving to DC — moving to an apartment about half the size of my previous place. But they adopted very well, and quickly. Well, Tippy did. Guy was traumatized by the move, and refused to move from his cat carrier until I pulled him out of it. He then spent two days under my dresser, but fortunately, he realized he was safe. Now their favorite activity is getting up on the window sill when they’re open and listening to the exotic bird calls from the Zoo.

hooker heels

This morning, after spending two hours glued to reruns of The Practice on F/X (damn, why can’t that show get a Complete Series DVD release? Best legal drama ever? I say yes!), I showered, dressed, and made my way down the street to grab the Circulator out to Columbia Heights and Target.

I crossed Connecticut and walked south on the west side of the avenue. Surprisingly, this is relevant. When I reached the crosswalk at 24th, I passed a woman waiting at the curb and alerted her: “You’ve got the walk.”

What I meant was the image of a walking person which indicates that pedestrians have right of way to the crosswalk. Which she apparently hadn’t noticed.

What I heard — over my iPod — was a rather indigent, “Excuse me?”

So I half turned, pulling out one of the earbuds. “Huh?”

And then I took notice of what she was wearing, and how it screamed ‘going-out wear.’ Or more appropriately, ‘rumpled going-out wear,’ complete with high heels.

Kind of sheepishly, I motioned to the light and clarified: “Crosswalk. You’ve got the crosswalk.”

UPDATE:

Found this on the internet: the Walk of Shame kit. What a brilliant idea! Wonder if they’re making any moolah?

God I want this apartment

Picture 1393

And if I had the money to buy that pad, here’s how I’d decorate it (because I’d have to be rich as like, y’know, fuck, right? Rich as fuck? Yes?)

Gallery: Remember that scene in the 1989 Batman where some of Bruce Wayne’s guests are wandering through Wayne Manor and find that room full of suits of armor and old weapons? Totally this room. Artwork: I’m thinking along the lines of those paintings of dogs playing poker and cats driving cars. Totally put people off balance — laugh? Or cringe and run away?

The Dining Room: With a fireplace like that, I’m thinking a medieval theme: a long plank dining room table, with a bench and a mix of stools. A dark hardwood floor, perhaps carried over to the wall (or tile the walls in faux stone?). A mounted Maryland state flag (most awesomest flag in the 50 states). Along the wall: period (or replica) weaponry, shields, and pendants?

The Living Room: A pool table is an absolute necessity, and while the room’s size makes me loathe to do it, I think I’d have to put a television in — over the fireplace seems kind of tacky though. A piano? A bar? While I certainly want some comfortable seating arrangements (especially around the fireplace), I wanna be able to dance (or have enough room to pretend to be fighting over invisible attackers when the mood strikes). Hardwood for the win. Artwork: vintage movie posters?

The Library: A wall of built in shelves along the south and east walls, flanking the fireplace and running around the windows. A long table with lamps for reading, comfortable chairs and perhaps a couch or other lounge. The walls a warm red with brown trim. For artwork, I think I’d have to go with vintage promos: either for the books themselves, or perhaps those “reading is fun!” PSAs I remember from the library — I’d love a huge painting of “The Stray.”

Chamber No. 1: Did you know I once built a huge castle out of Lego? I did, but due to limited space, it had a footprint of only 64 by 64 pegs. Then it just went up seven feet. Pictures here. This room? Big enough I could do it on a massively awesome scale! A durable floor (linoleum?), a huge sturdy table, work benches and work tables and storage space.

Chamber No. 2: Den/computer room. A nice big oak desk (with like, seriously, four monitors for my PC) sitting out from the wall, although I’m not sure of the orientation: facing the windows, or with my back to the windows? A seating area around the fireplace. Warm and cozy. Andrew Wyeth on the walls. I mean, not his corpse, but his paintings. Not this desk.

Chamber No. 3: Media Room, without a doubt. A projector, perhaps? Along the east wall, with seating across the west side of the room. A media cabinet could be built against the north wall. Artwork? Totally easy, this one: posters of my favorite flicks, and, uh, this.

Chamber No. 4: Master Bedroom. Yeah, there are bigger rooms I can use, but all I want to put in there is a bed, a dresser or two, maybe a chair or something. When I have the space, I prefer a pretty spartan bedroom — no TV, no bookcases. Oh, a nightstand. I’ll have one of those, too. Hardwood floor is fine, but only if couple with a rug.

Servant’s Quarters: I don’t really see myself as a “servant” kind of guy, y’know? It’s one thing to hire a cleaning service to send over a maid once or twice a week (I’d totally do that!). I think these servant’s rooms could be cleaned up, maybe knock a wall down, turn them into some nice guest rooms. Yeah, it’s only big enough for a bed or two, but why do people obsess on doing things other than sleep in their bedrooms? (Er, and sex).

Butler & Second Man: Again with the servant stuff, nada! Stick a TV and a treadmill in one, and use the other for storage or as an additional guest room, although that weird bathroom arrangement is … weird. Maybe rip that bathroom out, turn it into one larger exercise room.

Family Room: I’m picturing something cozy and very informal where I’ll wind up watching horror movies late at night and imagining that my huge apartment is filled with murderous assassins waiting to kill me or disembowel me or something, so a comfy couch will be important so I can just fall asleep without having to make the long way to the bedroom. Also, a gun cabinet. Because I’m irrational like that.

Kitchen: Yeah, at this point, I don’t know what to say. Nice? Modern? Comfy? That’s a huge space for a kitchen, and really, most of what cooking I do involves a George Foreman grill.

I Might’ve Just Gotten Over Swine Flu

It’s cold season, so I really shouldn’t be surprised that my Saturday night out at Stetson’s resulted in me sick as a dog.

Of course, I don’t know that I wasn’t already sick, and that I wasn’t “Patient Zero”* who infected the vast majority of PB and Tuna with the illness that sunk most of those in attendance. If there’s any consolation to being sick, however, it’s that the douchy preppy kids who were being remarkably inappropriate are also probably sick.

It started late Sunday night with a scratchy throat, and by the time I was in my early afternoon meeting that Monday at work, I began feeling light headed. I tried to call out for the Bookstore, but others already had, and my feelings of duty trumped my feelings of blech-blarg-boo. I left early, went to bed early (where I promptly discovered that one of the cats had thrown up in bed, so I discarded the sheets and slept on the bare mattress), and promptly my scratchy throat went to full bore “extreme agony to swallow” that kept me up until 2am, by which point I’d had so much theraflu I was able to swallow without pain, and went to sleep.

Just to wake up three and a half hours later to go to work, even though I felt awful. But I was a trooper, and I went in anyway. For two reasons:

1. I’d stayed up late Sunday baking pumpkin pies to take into work. I baked them Sunday to take in on Tuesday because one of my coworkers, a big Phillies’ fan, was up in Philadelphia through Monday, and had begged for pumpkin pies on his return. I’m a nice guy like that.

2. I used the bulk of my available PTO (paid time off) for my vacation a few weeks ago. I don’t need a large block of time for quite some time, but I do need a day Thanksgiving week, a day or two for Christmas week, and a day or two for New Year’s week. And since PTO accrues at the rate of 4.61 hours a pay period, I kind of need to hoard it, yanno?

Yeah, well, good plan, but it failed around noon when my lack of sleep and illness both double-teamed me. I was on the phone trying to get in touch with a business contact in the United Kingdom. One moment, I was talking with a pleasant enough Scottish woman, musing on her appropriate use of British slang, when suddenly, I realized my head was lying against the receiver, my glasses were askew, the phone was making a dial tone, and I’d been pretty damn sound asleep.

I managed to crank my eyes open and gave it another try, but I fell asleep again. Fortunately, I have an isolated and large cube, so I slunk down in my chair, propped my feet up on the other chair in my cube, leaned back, and tried to take a power nap. That lasted until my team leader shook me awake and asked if I was okay. Nope! Nada! Zilch.

And just like that I committed to heading home. And I did. I napped on the bus, and I napped on the Metro, I woke up long enough to jump off at Van Ness and stocked up on orange juice and throat drops, then bused home. I walked in the door, put the groceries away, and slept until about 5pm. It was weird waking up because it felt like Wednesday.

Odd.

I spent the rest of the evening recovering, drinking copious amounts of TheraFlu, commiserating with other drunk bloggers on Twitter, and doing research for my upcoming post “Die Hard: An All American Christmas Movie.” First time I’ve seen that film in probably close to a decade, but yippie-cayee, motherfucker! never goes out of style.

Fortunately, I’ve got a fairly strong immune system. Nothing more than a cold, I kept telling myself, right up until — literally, just now, I read @lustyreader’s latest Tweet: “ITS OFFICIAL hubby has the swine flu, just came back from the doctor @pbandtunakilledmyhubby.”

Wait, so did I just survive Swine Flu?

Anyway.

My alarm goes off this morning, I get out of bed, get dressed, go to work. My appetite is back pretty much full strength, so I talk a few other office peeps into ordering out, and we dial into our favorite Chinese delivery place. Quoted a price and a delivery time, gather the money together and give it to the attractive Eastern European woman who sits closest to the front door.

And just a few minutes before the food is supposed to arrive …

… the fire alarm goes off.

And as we’re walking out of the office, two things:

1. Is that the smell of burned popcorn?

2. Why does this seem familiar?

The reason it seems familiar is this: a month after I first started working here, say April 2008, one of my new coworkers burned toast, set off the fire alarm, and we were only allowed back into the building after the fire department entered our suite, removed the offending toaster, took it outside, and doused the fucking thing with a spray of water. Then they confiscated it.

And in fact, that smell of burned popcorn?

Yeah, one of my coworkers. A new guy, he actually started the week I was out.

He burned microwavable popcorn, and it set off the fire alarm.

Just when we were supposed to get our lunch.

Fortunately, wandering around outside with every employee from all six floors of our building (with the exception of the douchebags on the 2nd floor who are so important that they refuse to leave their offices, but that’s okay, because some day this building really will catch on fire and we’ll all be standing outside safe as we watch them burn to crispies. Fuckers), I found the Chinese guy, and paid him, and shortly there after, we all got to go back into the building, and now I might just’ve recovered from Swine Flu.

Awesome.

*I mean, I might’ve been: folks been sick at both jobs, you know?

October Movies

The other day, a customer was in the Bookstore looking for recommendations for a good horror movie. At first, I told him I didn’t care much for scary films. And then I realized, wait, I do. I mean, I’m not into slasher flicks, but I enjoy a good zombie film now and then. Given the time of the year, here are five Halloween appropriate films for your viewing pleasure:

CLUE

As absurd as it sounds to base a movie on a board game (or, y’know, a Disney ride), this one’s a classic: six strangers are gathered at the haunting Hill House, where they learn their host is actually the man blackmailing them, and the mansion’s staff? His informants. As the night progresses, the body count climbs until butler, Wadsworth, pieces together the clues and names his suspect. Clue is a hilariously campy film which I first saw as a kid, and watching it for the first time many years later, I was shocked at how much dialogue made sense, now that I know about, y’know, sexual innuendo and stuff. Although it’s got comedic moments, the film can be quite scary at points — Professor Plum’s reply to Miss Scarlet’s question as to why his car stopped once they got a view of Hill House, “It’s scared”, is dead on — Hill House is fucking terrifying. And, in point of fact – suspect? Singular? There are three endings for the film, so everyone’s got equal shot at being a suspect.

THE WICKER MAN

Forget the Nick Cage crapfest remake of the film, the original remains the best. Here’s how I describe the film: “It’s soft-core porn, a musical, and it’s got Christopher Lee, so I guess it’s a horror film, too.” But it doesn’t feel like a horror film — not until the very end, and even then, it isn’t gory, you won’t jump out of your seat and scream, but what happens on an island populated by pagans to the protagonist, Edward Woodward as Christian moralist and police officer Sgt. Howie, will stay with you long after the credits roll.

THE OTHERS

Of the five films here, this one is by far the scariest. No, really, it’s terrifying. And great.

THE EXORCIST

Look, especially if you live in DC, there’s no excuse not to see this horror flick, set in Georgetown, and making famous a fairly steep stair on M Street. I myself only saw this for the first time earlier this year, having previously finished the novel, and I will say this: I watched the film, at night, with every single light in my apartment on. You think I’m exaggerating: I am not. Every single light fixture I had was on, and I had two flashlights and an old police baton close at hand. Really, though, the horror in the film comes from the acting and the characters’ reactions to the developing situation: how terrifying to have such a force in control of your daughter, and every resource available worthless? While there are a few “Holy Shit OMG” moments in the film, the F/X are so out dated (and the film so well lampooned in pop culture) that you’re hard pressed to be terrified. Scared? Yes: there’s something really creepy about a 12-year old guy telling a priest what she wants to do to him sexually, and in such vulgar terms.

SHAUN OF THE DEAD

Last, certainly not least, this film is a romantic comedy — with zombies. Or, it’s a zombie film with a romance. Either way, you’ve got good talking points to get your significant other to sit down and watch it. Shaun is a London slacker, whose life got away from him: his relationship is crumbling, his job sucks, and he’s got a rocky living situation. Things only get worse when his girlfriend ends their relationship, and the living dead rise up and begin decimating the population. Armed with records and a cricket bat, Shaun is intent on rescuing the woman he loves (and his mother) from the undead hordes.

25″ of Snow This Year? I Hope So!

At the end of August, I made a prediction:

My point is — I think this is going to be a very, very snowy winter.

And The Baltimore Sun is backing me up:

El Ninos occur every three to five years when the surface waters of the central and eastern tropical Pacific become significantly warmer than the average – by a couple of degrees at present. That influences the track of the jet streams across the Pacific, which in turn influences weather patterns across North America in ways that scientists have come to understand fairly well.

For example, the northern and western states tend to be warmer than average during El Nino winters; California sees more storms off the ocean; the Midwest tends to be drier and milder than average; and the Southeast tends to be cooler and wetter than average.

At AccuWeather.com this week, Bastardi cited El Nino as the chief reason why he expects the core of this year’s wintry weather to shift out of the Midwest, where it was last winter, and into the Mid-Atlantic states. Asked for a prediction for Baltimore, he did not hesitate to crawl out on a limb: “Twenty-five inches at BWI, and 2.7 degrees below normal,” he said.

The average snowfall for Baltimore for the 30-year period from 1971 to 2000 was 18.2 inches, and the city has only topped that once since the big snows of 2002-2003. Even then (in 2005-2006), it was by less than an inch and a half.

Bastardi isn’t predicting anything like the 55 inches the airport recorded in 2002-2003. But a snow total of 25 inches would seem like a lot after six winters in a row with less than that. The past two winters combined produced less than 18 inches of snow.

On the other hand, he said, “It has the potential to get there [55 inches]; don’t get me wrong.”

Among the other factors that Bastardi takes into account, in addition to El Nino, are winter analogs – past winters when conditions were similar to those setting up this year. He sees similarities between this year’s patterns and those that prevailed during the winters of 1976-1977, which was very cold, and 1977-1978, which saw 34 inches of snow at BWI. He also sees a resemblance to the winter of 1957-1958, which brought 43 inches of snow to Baltimore and very wintry weather in February and March. “There are some very heavy hitters coming to the plate,” Bastardi said.

Yeah, I know, Baltimore isn’t DC, but you know what? It’s not like Baltimore is that far away (it isn’t). If Baltimore gets a snowy winter, DC is going to get it too. And me? I’m supremely excited!

(I’m also stocking up on mass quantities of toilet paper the next time I’m at Target).

Yeah, I learned to sword fight by watching Highlander: The Series

I was browsing YouTube a week or so ago, and somehow came across a great series of sword fighting techniques. My initial reaction was to chuckle at anyone who learns how to wield a sword off of YouTube videos, then I had a humbling realization: I’m actually kinda familiar with some of these techniques, and my teacher? Highlander: The Series.

Just for the record: I don’t mean that I’m actually anywhere near qualified to get in a sword fight with someone, unless it’s me with my Duncan MacLeod katana fighting shadow Immortals in my apartment, but when it is me fighting invisible people? Yeah, I got some moves.

(For my money, this is the best sword fight of Highlander’s six year run).

Four Eyes

8317_1259398567796_1314602267_739801_5767837_n

I have owned three pairs of glasses in my life.

I got my first pair when I was a sophmore in high school. Wearing them, that first day, I literally turned green and had to be excused to lie down in the nurses office. I didn’t realize I’d turned green until I ran into my science teacher after school, “No, literally, you were green. Like Kermit the Frog. Green.”

I wore them when I needed to read something off the blackboard, but more often than not, they remained off of my face. When I realized I needed glasses full time, they were no longer in wearable condition, and I went to another optometrist and got two pairs: the ones I’m wearing now, and a prescription pair of sunglasses, which arrived sooner than the other, and also broke far, far sooner than the other.

The end result of this was that a professor at Towson got angry with me for wearing sunglasses in class, and I had to explain that I’d gotten new prescription eye glasses, but the regular ones hadn’t yet arrived!

I was trying to remember how long ago this was, and I came up with a pretty scary realization: this was 2001.

Eight years ago.

I’ve been wearing the same damn glasses for eight years. No wonder stuff thirty feet away is blurry, my prescription is way the fuck outta whack. Plus, I have a mild panic attack whenever I remove or put on my glasses because I’m afraid they’re going to break.

Well, enough is enough.

After polling DC optometrists by asking for recommendations from friends over Twitter and Facebook, I settled on Hour Eyes, a local chain conveniently located at 18th & K Streets, and happily offering a buy one, get one deal. Eye exams are $40, and are walk-up, and there’s a good chance that even though I don’t have vision coverage, I can use my HSA to cover at least part of the purchase.

I am so excited. Also, this time? I need to find frames that actually fit my head. That’d be nice.