How far would you go to get to your favorite place?

This week’s photo challenge is to show a favorite place … a happy place, a secret spot. In the first half of my life, I had many favorite hideaways, almost all of them outdoors.  As I begin the second half of my life in a new part of the country, though, I have to find my new happy places.

This is a shot of my local park, taken back in October, 2017. The foliage has already started to die down for the autumn, but the grass you see here would have been up to my knees. In the foreground of the photograph, you can see a bit of railing. When I took the picture, I was standing on a bridge-like path that runs through the park. The walkway is designed this way to keep folks safe from the wildlife, not to protect the habitat from traffic. This is a common arrangement, here in North Carolina, and it’s a wise precaution. One that I’ve taken seriously because I know just enough to know that there are some dangerous critters hiding in all that grass and in the underbrush.

As a native of Minnesota, I was comfortable with my biome. I knew which plants to avoid. I knew how to stay clear of the icky but harmless creepy-crawlies that inhabited the areas I prowled. I knew where the dangerous critters might be, and what to do in the (unlikely) event that I encountered one. In most cases, I had a good chance of seeing the trouble coming. (‘Pretty hard to miss a bear or a temperamental deer, if you’re paying attention.)

In Minnesota, there were two (rare) species of venomous snakes, and both were polite enough to stay within a confined, easily identifiable, ecosystem and come equipped with a rattle, in order to warn an unwary trespasser.

One other significant, hard to detect, threat came in the form of the Northern black widow spider (L. variolus) — the least aggressive of all the widows.

As a transplant to North Carolina, I’m less confident. Here, instead of staying alert for big stuff, I have to watch for sneaky dangers. Here, the Northern widow is joined by both Southern (L. mactans) and brown (L. geometricus)  widows. Here there is also the brown recluse (Loxosceles reclusa) which creeps me out more than the widow sisters. Probably because the bite of a recluse causes something called “external tissue necrosis.”

On the non-venomous front, we have a whole host of spiders that I’d rather not surprise, including the Carolina wolf spider, the largest wolf spider in the US. (It can be as big as the palm of your hand.) And let’s not forget the possibility of running into the uncommon but not-unheard of fire ants that are trying to expand their territory up from the deeper south.

The biggest difference between my old stomping grounds and my new home, though, lies in its venomous snakes. Here, they are not exactly rare. And there are SIX of them — three rattlesnakes, and three silent snakes: the copperhead, the cottonmouth, and the coral snake. (Which is both the rarest and the deadliest of the bunch.)

Being the cautious sort, I’ve pretty much stayed on the paths and boardwalks as I’ve been exploring my new state.

Today, though, I realized that the season has opened up more options for a just a little while. Right now, the undergrowth is mostly still dormant, so I can see what is underfoot much better than I will be able to once the verdant growth begins. The bugs aren’t yet active. The snakes will most likely be slow and dimwitted from the cold, if they are out at all.

Today, I stepped off the path. I followed the little stream that runs through the park instead. It was a joy to be able to get close to some of the details that have been hard to see from the approved walkways.

(Can you tell I was closely watching the ground?)

Then I came to this, one of Mother Nature’s little personality tests.

Which led me to a question — a kind of poll, if you like — that I want to ask you:

If a new favorite place might be on the other side, would you cross by walking over the fallen tree (spiders) or or by wading through the water (snakes)?

~***~

Here are some of my favorite ‘FAVORITE PLACE‘ responses from others:

(I’ll add more as I have time to browse, so feel free to check back.)

amongst the elephantsunchangeddownfalllook for the “bathing hut”the spider web video at the bottom seems aptrugged beachlost in the pines

click her for more on the Weekly Photo Challenge

Find all my photographic projects at Haunting Photos (there’s also a link in the blog header.)

Fair warning: I’m returning to regular blogging after a long hiatus. I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet. My posting schedule is off, and things might be a little messy if you wander around long enough. 

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Can I “camp” in a van, so the monsters don’t get me?

This week’s weekly photo challenge prompt is “I’d rather be …”

I had to think long and hard about this one, because I pretty much love my life as it unfolds; I’ve reached an age where I decide what I’m doing in any given moment. (Not that I always choose the right thing to be doing, but that’s on me.)

It wasn’t until I saw Facebook post from a friend who had a bonfire over the weekend, that I knew what I should share.

The truth is, I’d almost ALWAYS rather be tending a nice, manageable backyard fire. Preferably with my husband, my family, a good friend or ten,  a couple of dogs, a cold beer, a hot mug of something tasty, some marshmallows … or any combination of such treasured companions.

I have to confess: I didn’t take this photograph. It’s actually a shot my son took, when he was visiting his girlfriend in MN last summer. But it’s the only campfire picture in my photo files, so I stole it. I did a little cropping and re-touching, and adjusting. I played with it until it looked “right” to my nostalgic eye.

You see, I haven’t been able to sit fireside since we moved to NC, two years ago. (We’re in an apartment as we explore the state, looking for Home.) The closest I can get to a fire in my current living situation is to creep down to the charcoal grills late at night, once every month or two, to burn up journals filled with Daily Pages-style ramblings.

These charcoal and paper fires are not satisfying.

So. I’m using this prompt to remind myself to get out there and find a way. I don’t think we’ll be buying a house yet this year, but I know there must be campgrounds where fire-making is allowed. I guess I’m just going to have to learn to camp.

Baby steps, right? The Ogre and I (and the dogs) took an impromptu trip to the Uwharrie Mountains, on Friday. It was just a day trip, and a good one, but we only walked a short trail before we had to head back home. We didn’t have time to explore campground options. (And I was unable to convince him to find an all-night diner and park in the lot. Between the two of us, there was too much uncertainty about how likely it was that we’d get ourselves rousted or arrested.)

Does anyone know if it’s okay to “camp” in your vehicle? Apparently, I have been deeply scarred by too many horror movies that prove the thin fabric of a tent is no protection from the serial killers and monsters that inhabit campgrounds. I’d feel a lot better if I could sleep in my van.

~***~

Here are some of my favorite I’D RATHER BE responses from others:

(I’ll add more as I have time to browse, so feel free to check back.)

old men on a beachwalking in the woodscontemplating – Frank Lloyd Wright – Carolina BeachRome at night

click her for more on the Weekly Photo Challenge

Find all my photographic projects at Haunting Photos (there’s also a link in the blog header.)

Fair warning: I’m returning to regular blogging after a long hiatus. I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet. My posting schedule is off, and things might be a little messy if you wander around long enough. 


A picture can prompt a thousand words.

My first thought, when I saw this week’s prompt, was to share a few of the photographs I’ve taken which have either inspired stories and story elements, or served as reference for scenes I’ve written.

And I will do that, in just a sec.

First, though, I must share my all-time favorite story-in-one-picture shot:

I call it: “I do NOT like celery, Mom.”

It’s not the best photo, but it perfectly captures my dog’s sense of betrayal. In my defense, he likes almost everything people eat, so I had no idea he’d hate it so.

And, as promised, here are a just a few of the shots that have prompted some of my writing:

~***~

Here are some of my favorite STORY responses from others:

(I’ll add more as I have time to browse, so feel free to check back.)

winter noir –  love storycanvas tool kitbeginners chessfrogs are backmatchbox cars in Georgia (the country)this makes me miss the beach so muchforsakena Raleigh ghost storywitch house visitors –  cemetery guardian  – where did he go? –  some party last night, eh?careful!St. Louis Cemetery 1october 2, 2017simba, king of the neighborhood

Click her to view the photo challenge.

Find all my photographic projects at Haunting Photos (there’s also a link in the blog header.)

Fair warning: I’m returning to regular blogging after a long hiatus. I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet. My posting schedule is off, and things might be a little messy if you wander around long enough. 


Horror, Thriller, and Dark Fantasy Movies at the Oscars, Part Two.

Last week I shared a list of horror, thriller, and dark fantasy movies that were acknowledged at the Academy Awards prior to 1992. (And the list shows that the academy is not as stingy about honoring “our” genre as water cooler chit-chat might suggest.)

If you’re a dark movie fan, you probably already know the significance of 1992, but if you’ve forgotten, I’ll give you a hint:

Okay. That was a big hint.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) was the third film in the history of the awards to win the Big Five: best picture, best director, best actress, best actor, and best screenwriting. (The other two films that accomplished this feat were It Happened One Night (1934) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975).)

Here are its stats:

1992 The Silence of the Lambs

  • Winner of Best Picture
  • Winner of Best Director
  • Winner of Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
  • Winner of Best Actor in a Leading Role
  • Winner of Best Actress in a Leading Role
  • Nominated for Best Sound
  • Nominated for Best Film Editing

(If you didn’t catch it last week, you ought to take a peek at how well Hitchcock’s Rebecca did in 1941. It actually garnered more nominations than SotL.)

Since The Silence of the Lambs so emphatically broke through the perceived barrier to acclaim, many of our favorite movies have been given a nod. This is what the record looks like:

Horror, Thriller and Dark Fantasy Movies

Honored at The Academy Awards Since Silence of the Lambs

(also in) 1992 The Addams Family

  • Nominated for Best Costume Design

1993 Bram Stoker’s Dracula

  • Winner of Best Costume Design
  • Winner of Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing
  • Winner of Best Makeup
  • Nominated for Best Art Direction – Set Decoration

1994 Addams Family Values

  • Nominated for Best Art Direction – Set Decoration

1995 Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

  • Nominated for Best Makeup

1995 Interview With the Vampire

  • Nominated for Best Art Direction – Set Decoration
  • Nominated for Best Music, Original Score

1999 Gods and Monsters

  • Winner of  Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
  • Nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role: Ian McKellen
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Lynn Redgrave
  • (Also winner of Bram Stoker Award – Superior Achievement in Screenplay, tied with Dark City. See below.)

2000 The Green Mile

  • Nominated for Best Picture
  • Nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Michael Clarke Duncan
  • Nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
  • Nominated for Best Sound
  • (Also nominated for Bram Stoker Award – Superior Achievement in Screenplay)

2000 The Sixth Sense

  • Nominated for Best Picture
  • Nominated for Best Director: M. Night Shyamalan
  • Nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
  • Nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Haley Joel Osment
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Toni Collette
  • Nominated for Best Film Editing
  • (Also winner of Bram Stoker Award – Superior Achievement in Screenplay)

2000 Sleepy Hollow

  • Winner of Best Art Direction – Set Decoration
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography
  • Nominated for Best Costume Design

2001 The Cell

  • Nominated for Best Makeup
  • (Also nominated for Bram Stoker Award – Superior Achievement in Screenplay)

2001 Shadow of the Vampire

  • Winner of Best Makeup
  • Nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Willem Dafoe
  • (Also winner of Bram Stoker Award – Superior Achievement in Screenplay)

2007 Pan’s Labyrinth

  • Winner of Best  Cinematography
  • Winner of Best Art Direction
  • Winner of Best Makeup
  • Nominated for Best Writing, Original Screenplay
  • Nominated for Best Music – Original Score
  • Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

2008 Sweeney Todd: The Demon of Fleet Street

  • Winner of Best Art Direction
  • Nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role: Johnny Dep
  • Nominated for Best Costume Design

2011 The Wolfman

  • Winner of Best Makeup

2011 Black Swan

  • Winner of Best Actress in a Leading Role
  • Nominated for Best Picture
  • Nominated for Best Director
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography
  • Nominated for Best Film Editing

Next week, I’ll share a list of horror and dark fantasy films that Oscar (wrongly?) ignored in the years between 1993 and the present.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m annoyed by some of the exclusions — 2002 and 2015, for example, were painful.

(PS: I already have half of next Monday’s post written, because I got a bit carried away once I started looking at the films that did not get any love from Oscar. I gotta pull the trigger for today though, so I’ve decided to stop here for now, and save the rest of today’s research for next week. I’ll talk more about the Bram Stoker Award for Screenwriting which I mention above — and probably about the SATURN Awards — then.)

HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT MOVIEPASS?

Before I go, I want to share something that you can use right now, to see this year’s nominees.

For $9.95 per month, you can see one movie per day, in (almost) any theater, at any time. No film exclusions. No catches. You don’t even have to sign on for a long subscription period. You pay month to month; it’s automatically billed; you can cancel anytime. You need to be able to install an app on your phone, so that you can check-in once you get to the theater. MoviePass then authorizes a transaction. Next, you walk up to the ticketing window and present a MoviePass card which looks like a normal credit card. The theater processes the card like any other, charging the full cost of a single ticket. This card only pays for the ticket, not for concessions.

I know this sounds too good to be true, but it really, truly works. We signed up about a week and a half ago, got our cards in the mail promptly, and used them this last weekend.

Do you have any idea how much money this is going to save our cinephile family?!?

Go here: https://www.moviepass.com/

(I’m still not entirely clear on how this is a sustainable model, but I’m willing to take advantage for as long as it lasts.)

Also remember that many theaters will have special showings and package deals for the nominees. Check AMC, Cinemark, and Regal. There may be others too.

STATUS OF MY PERSONAL QUEST TO SEE ALL THE NOMINEES:

I have now seen ALL the Best Picture nominees for this year’s  Academy Awards.

Of the nine nominees, I hated two, really liked four, and loved two. If you add that up you’ll see I’m missing one. That’s because one film has me veering from love, through WTF, to hate, and back.

You can see all the trailers here:  http://oscar.go.com/nominees

What have you seen so far, and what do you intend to see before March 4th? What’s you love/like/hate tally?

 


We paranormal people* have TWO contenders for Best Picture in 2018.

*By “paranormal people”, I mean people who are:

Para- / par-ə / Prefix. ”Alongside, near, beyond, altered, contrary to.”

Norma/ nawr-muhl / Adjective. “Conforming to the standard; usual; regular; natural.”

Also, people who love horror and speculative fiction.

I remember the first time I saw one of *my* movies win an Academy Award for Best Picture. It was a wintry evening on March 31st, 1992, and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) swept the big five awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best  Actress, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture.

As I watched a movie I LOVED win award after award that night, I grew increasingly giddy. Finally, I thought, my genre was getting some respect after years of being completely ignored.

You see, in the weeks leading up to the broadcast, I had been listening to the “buzz” about how Silence of the Lambs might win. And it was always accompanied by a lot of talk about how it couldn’t REALLY win, because the Academy ALWAYS snubbed genre movies — suspense, speculative fiction, sci-fi, and horror in particular.

(Rather like the buzz we are hearing right now, as the news of nominations for Get Out and The Shape of Water spread across the internet.)

That night, I didn’t yet know that in 1941, Hitchcock’s Rebecca had not only won Best Picture, it had received enough nominations that it could have (should have, in my opinion) performed as well  The Silence of the Lambs did in 1992. I didn’t yet know that the Academy had actually nominated many horror, sci-fi, and speculative fiction films — right from the beginning of its existence — and that it had handed out several prestigious awards to the best of them.

In 1992, I just didn’t know enough about the history of the Academy Awards.

As a kid in the late 70s and early 80s I watched the Oscars on TV every year with Mother, even though we never went to a movie theater.  I saw a lot of beautiful, elegant, people win that little gold statuette, but I’d never seen a movie that hadn’t been edited for television and interrupted by commercials, let alone any movie that was contemporary enough to be up for an annual award. (This was before videos were available, Children.)

I didn’t start seeing real movies until I began dating in the mid-80s, and those early dates certainly weren’t taking me to see Oscar contenders. That’s not to say I didn’t see some great flicks. I saw The Terminator. Beverly Hills Cop. The Karate Kid.  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  All of them on the big screen. Hell, I saw Return of the Jedi in its first run at least three times. 

The blockbusters were fun, but I didn’t become truly infatuated with films until we could afford a VCR in the late 80s. That’s when I started spending all of my “spare” money renting all the film adaptions of my favorite books, and all the classic movies that my favorite authors talked about in their afterwords. (And everything Stephen King recommends in Danse Macabre.)

One thing led to another, and my affection for horror and speculative fiction films, from all eras, became consuming. My friends and I rented everything from Psycho, to Carrie, to Last House On the Left, to Faces of Death. (I regret that last one to this day.) I had found my niche.

By the time 1991 came around, I hadn’t bothered to watch the Academy Awards for years. I wasn’t interested in “that kind” of movie. It was a busy year for me and I wasn’t going out as much. I was still renting movies like crazy, but the only two times I remember going to the theater, I saw The People Under the Stairs and The Silence of the Lambs. I loved both movies, for different reasons, but it didn’t occur to me that the Academy would consider either one for an Oscar.

Then the buzz about Silence of the Lambs began. I gave the Academy another chance, expecting to have my hopes dashed. Instead I was rewarded.

I’ve watched the Oscars every year since. And I’ve been doing my due diligence in researching the history of the Academy Awards.

The truth of the matter is — with a few notable exceptions — the Academy is generally happy to reward a genre movie … IF it really is the best in a category in any given year.

This week I’m sharing the Oscar highlights of my favorite genre’s movies, prior to 1992. (See list below.) Next week, I’ll share some thoughts about films that followed The Silence of the Lambs. (Hint: It gets even better.)

Right now, I want to encourage you to catch the two films that are in contention for next month’s 90th Annual Academy Awards, while you still can.  Go ahead. Get excited. These movies have a great shot at winning. (But be warned — the field, as usual, is really competitive.)

Get Out

  • Nominated for Best Picture
  • Nominated for Best Director
  • Nominated for Best Original Screenplay
  • Nominated for Best Lead Actor

Get Out is available through Redbox, and will likely go into re-release now that it has nominations.

The Shape Of Water

  • Nominated for Best Picture
  • Nominated for Best Director
  • Nominated for Best Original Screenplay
  • Nominated for Best Lead Actress
  • Nominated for Best Supporting Actor
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography
  • Nominated for Best Film Editing
  • Nominated for Best Sound Editing
  • Nominated for Best Sound Mixing
  • Nominated for Best Production Design
  • Nominated for Best Original Score
  • Nominated for Best Costume Design

Movies The Academy Acknowledged

Even Before The Silence of the Lambs

1932 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

  • Winner for Best Actor in a Leading Role: Frederic March (Tied with Wallace Beery for The Champ)
  • Nominated for Best Writing, Adaptation
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography

1936 Bride of Frankenstein

  • Nominated for Best Sound, Recording

1941 Rebecca

  • Winner of Best Picture
  • Winner of Best Cinematography
  • Nominated for Best Director: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay
  • Nominated for Best Actor in a Leading role: Laurence Olivier
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading role: Joan Fontaine
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Judith Anderson (And it’s a crime she didn’t win for her portrayal of Mrs. Danvers.)
  • Nominated for Best Art Direction, Black and White
  • Nominated for Best Film Editing
  • Nominated for Best Effects, Special Effects
  • Nominated for Best Musical Score

1944 The Phantom of the Opera

  • Winner of Best Cinematography – Color
  • Winner of Best Art Direction – Interior, Color
  • Nominated for Best Sound, Recording
  • Nominated for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture

1946 The Picture of Dorian Gray

  • Winner of Best Cinematography – Black and White
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Angela Lansbury (She won this category at the Golden Globes.)
  • Nominated for Best Art Direction – Interior Decoration, Black and White

1957 The Bad Seed

  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role: Nancy Kelly
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Eileen Heckart
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Patty McCormack
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography, Black and White

1961 Psycho

  • Nominated for Best Director
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting role: Janet Leigh (Leigh won this category at the Golden Globes.)
  • Nominated for Best Art Direction – Interior Decoration, Black and White
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography, Black and White

1963 What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

  • Winner of Best Costume Design, Black and White
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role: Bette Davis (An ouch for Joan Crawford.)
  • Nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Victor Buono
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography, Black and White
  • Nominated for Best Sound

1964 The Birds

  • Nominated for Best Effects, Special Visual Effects

1968 Wait Until Dark

Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role – Audrey Hepburn

1969 Rosemary’s Baby

  • Winner of Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Ruth Gordon (Gordon also won a Golden Globe for this role, and Mia Farrow won a Globe for Best Actress – Drama.)
  • Nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material From Another Medium: Roman Polanski (Polanski won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay.)

1973 Ben

  • Nominated for Best Music, Original Song: Ben

1974 The Exorcist

  • Winner of Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material From Another Medium: William Peter Blatty
  • Winner of Best Sound
  • Nominated for Best Picture: William Peter Blatty
  • Nominated for Best Director: William Friedkin
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role: Ellen Bustyn
  • Nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Jason Miller
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Linda Blair
  • Nominated for Best Cinematography
  • Nominated for Best Art Direction – Set Decoration
  • Nominated for Film Editing

1975 Young Frankenstein

  • Nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted From Other Material
  • Nominated for Best Sound

1976 Jaws

  • Winner of Best Sound
  • Winner of Best Film Editing
  • Winner of Best Music, Original Dramatic Score
  • Nominated for Best Picture: Stephen Spielburg
  • NOTE: I do think there were some performances here that should have been nominated, but weren’t.

1977 The Omen

  • Winner of Best Music, Original Score
  • Nominated for Best Music, Original Song: Ave Santini

1977 Carrie

  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role: Sissy Spacek
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Piper Laurie

1980 The Amityville Horror

  • Nominated for Best Original Score

1980 Alien

  • Winner of Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Winner of Best Art Direction-Set Decoration

1982 An American Werewolf in London

  • Winner of Best Makeup (Rick Baker)

1983 Poltergeist

  • Nominated for Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Nominated for Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing
  • Nominated for Best Music, Original Score

1987 The Fly

  • Winner of Best Makeup

1987 Aliens

  • Winner of Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing
  • Winner of Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role: Sigourney Weaver
  • Nominated for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration
  • Nominated for Best Sound
  • Nominated for Best Film Editing
  • Nominated for Best Music, Original Score

1991 Misery

Winner of Best Actress in a Leading Role

 

 


Go see The Greatest Showman.

Everything the critics are saying about the movie The Greatest Showman is true.

Kinda.

It isn’t even close to historically accurate. It’s simplistic. It’s squeaky clean. (On the surface.*) There is not a single swear word in the flick.

All true.

But this critical dismissal is also all rather funny, considering one of the themes of the movie itself. (In the film, watch for what the newspaper critic has to say.)

If you’re heavily invested in personifying a sophisticated critical thinker, you will find the movie to be too shallow, too light, too pop-culture-friendly. If, on the other hand, you’re up for letting your guard down so you can be cracked wide open by an explosion of song, color, dance, and, yes, optimism (in a year when it is sorely needed) then you have to go while you can still see it on the big screen. (Find it soon. I caught it near the end of its run, I think.)

I was not prepared for the emotions that hit me as soon as the first musical number began. (Be sure to be in your seat and attentive by the time the last preview is done.) I hadn’t read reviews. I didn’t know anyone who had seen it. In fact, we almost didn’t go, because Ogre and I are on our annual quest to see as many serious Oscar contenders as we can, and this didn’t seem (and still doesn’t seem) like a real candidate. (But if it doesn’t win best original song, I will be annoyed. Listen via the video below.)

I don’t want to set you up for anything less than my going-in-blind experience, so I’ll won’t give a review or a summary of the movie’s plot here. Besides, none of that matters. Either this movie will hit you or it won’t. And whether it does or doesn’t has nothing to do with the flaws film critics are pointing out. I won’t even tell you what I loved and what I have quibbles with.**  At least not here in this post which is encouraging your to go if you haven’t.

Just on the off chance that this movie does make you feel the way it made me feel, risk the investment of time and cash. If you don’t like it, you aren’t out that much. If it thaws you, even half as much as it did me, you’ll be so appreciative you did. (Maybe even appreciative enough to go again. The next day. Dragging someone you love with you.*** )

* I do think it helps to come to this movie knowing the truth of who Barnum was and what he did. I enjoyed spotting the nods to history that are scattered throughout the movie. Don’t research, but be glad if you already know a little about circuses and freak shows … like I know most of you do.

** Of course I have quibbles. I’m open to discussing the details in the comment section.

*** I can tell you all three of my hostages loved the show.


Starting off 2018 right.

I’ve got this crazy plan (just don’t call it a resolution) to resume regular blogging in 2018. The plan itself is reasonable enough, I think: one biggish / major article on the 13ths of each month, and shorter, chattier notes once a week, on Mondays. This plan has been in place since –oh — sometime in September.

You’ll note it is currently the 3rd Monday in January. You’ll also note it’s the 15th.

Clearly, it hasn’t gone so well so far.

But:

  • I’ve got an article about weird weather nearly done, so the coming February deadline is all but covered.
  • It’s Monday, and I’m actually here.
  • And I scared the hell out of my upstairs neighbor this weekend, so I’ve got a story to tell.

 

We’ve been having a cold snap since Christmas here in North Carolina. It’s nothing compared to the bomb cyclone that hit the upper east coast at the beginning of the month. And it’s nothing compared to every winter of my life (up until two years ago) in Minnesota. But it’s chilly. And for a day or so, we even had some snow.

One night last week, we were watching the local news for the forecast, when the weather guy flashed one of the cool nature photographs he regularly solicits from viewers. This one broke our hearts. It was of a Rufus hummingbird, looking desperately cold, perched on a snow-dusted nectar feeder. (I’m sorry, but I can’t find the picture on the newscast’s site. They only have the 2017 photo collection available so far.)

My Ogre and I have a long history with hummingbirds back in Minnesota, where we used to feed them faithfully. When we moved here, we tried setting up a feeder, but were outsmarted by the voracious ants that climbed up the support we made on the deck area outside our door. (We live on the second floor of a three-story apartment building with breezeways and individual entrances.) After some trial and error, we reluctantly conceded defeat to the hordes of sugar ants and packed away our hummingbird supplies.

The meteorologist said the snowy photo of the little Rufus had been taken the day before, in a Raleigh neighborhood not far from where we live. This was a shock. It never occurred to us that hummers would actually winter here in NC. According to the weatherman, the population that does stay around is small but persistent. And he noted that they do have a hard time finding food in January and February.

In that moment I realized I had accidentally solved the hummingbird v. ant battle while I was putting up our Christmas decorations this year.

Just as I had done with some pairs of over-sized ornaments, I could suspend two feeders of equal weight, using only fishing line, from the floorboards of the breezeway above us. The combination of the thin fishing line, the long drop from one story to the next, and a good feeder with an ant moat, should theoretically prevent ant-thievery. (In any case, the ants aren’t very active when it’s this cold. I guess we’ll see if it’s a good long-term solution when spring arrives in about a month.)

By the time we had found our feeders, made and cooled nectar, measured out an appropriate length of fishing line, and tied slender hooks on either end of the line with intricate fisherman’s knots (okay, Ogre tied the knots, I watched), it was late. Like two-thirty in the morning late. No matter.

We went out onto the breezeway — Ogre in sweats and me in a long white flannel nightgown — to put up the feeders. I ran upstairs and dropped the line down to him, making sure to arrange it so that it fell between the boards, onto the cross support, so that it couldn’t get caught by the foot of someone walking on the decking. Ogre received the hooks and attached the feeders. It worked. But. After we looked at the arrangement from a few angles, we realized we really wanted them to hang from a point a few boards away from where they were. No problem.

We detached the feeders and attempted to pull the line down. We figured, when it was free, I could just run up and drop it down again, in the correct position. We figured wrong. One hook got caught in a crack. We wiggled and tugged, but our efforts only served to wedge it in more tightly. I was going to have to go back up to the third floor, with something really long and thin that would fit between the boards, to push the hook free. Something like my longest butcher knife.

Do you have the image that greeted my neighbor yet?

In case you don’t, I’ll describe it for you: It’s past three o’clock on a Thursday night. It’s cold. It’s quiet. Everyone in the complex has been asleep for hours. I’m crouched (in my white nightgown, with my long graying hair loose and blowing in a cold, fitful wind) just outside my neighbor’s door. I’ve got a 13″ butcher knife. I’ve just freed the hook and I’m happy, so I’m brandishing my knife, in a kind of ta-dah! way, to celebrate.

Of course that’s when the door opened.

Just to be clear, we didn’t wake him with our bird-feeder project. I don’t know where he was going at that time of night, but he was fully dressed and carrying car keys. I was able to see that much before he slammed the door shut.

To his credit, he was very casual about it all when he came out a few seconds later. He didn’t even wait for me to clear the stairs before he started out for his destination again. Maybe he realized I’m the same woman he chats with when he finds me, during the day, working at my table on the deck. Maybe his curiosity about the activities of the crone on his doorstep got the better of him. Maybe his errand was just very, very important.

I do know that, despite my rushed explanation, he didn’t seem completely reassured until I was able to show him the hummingbird feeders when we reached my floor.

We wished each other a good night. He went on his way. Ogre and I finished hanging the feeders.

I haven’t seen Mr. Bates since, but I’m sure we’ll be past any lingering awkwardness by the time it’s warm enough for me to work outside again.

Right?

PS: Yes. I did just creep up to my neighbor’s doorstep so that I could lay my butcher knife on his welcome mat and snap a pic.

So, anyway. What did you do over the weekend? (Besides watching the Vikings pull off a miracle?)