Game Night

Did I die and go to heaven?  Is there a game that covers my two personal geek niches, trivia and horror, at the same time?  Well, yes, yes there is.  Here it is. One hundred years of horror! Sign. Me. Up.

You may not realize this, but 1981 was a great year for nerds.  This epic year saw the release of Trivial Pursuit (thank you Canada!), the game that allowed us to shine. Cut us some slack; chances are, if we were masters of Trivial Pursuit, we didn’t have a whole lot of outdoor sports skills available to us.  The game itself was originally released in 1979 … but it took a couple of years for it to catch on and catch on it did. It has since exploded with a litany of variations: Star Trek (lucky UK!), Baby Boomers, Lord of the Rings, Silver Screen, and even a Book Lovers edition, just to name a few.

At the peak of Trivial Pursuit’s meteoric rise – between 1983 and 1986, I was lucky to be surrounded by other nerds, and we threw intimate parties to showcase who knew the most about nothing at all.  We took this seriously, and generally divided ourselves into teams: the classic boys vs girls, with the boys excelling in the sports category while the girls swept the rest.  I think it goes without saying that alcohol was a part of these parties, but my memories are of good friends and good times.  At least I think that’s what I remember; like I just said, alcohol played a part of the gatherings.

Trust me, the apple didn’t far fall from the tree… at least in so far as gaming goes (remind me to tell you about my mother’s addiction to the original Mario Brothers sometime). Like most of us in days gone by, my family had game nights.  Today’s kids will never know the joy of bankrupting your brother in a rousing, friendship ending game of Monopoly.  My parents taught us card games like Hearts, and a quirky little game called I Blew It (back off, guys, it was just a dice game).  Then, geeks and nerds everywhere rejoiced with the release of Trivial Pursuit, and my family was right there with the best of them. We were able to showcase our knowledge of state capitals, obscure authors, foreign etiquette, and bizarre scientific facts.  Take that, jocks!

I still love Trivial Pursuit and it’s new-age ilk … I have an unrepentant addiction to the aptly named TriviaCrack.  My brain isn’t full of many useful things, but by golly, I can tell you that John Tyler was the tenth president of the United States, that the first letter on a typewriter is Q, that Yankee Stadium is the House that Ruth Built, and that amoebas can group together and form something called a slime mold.

At the same time, anyone who would be so inclined as to check my Netflix lists would think I am slightly, or mostly, unhinged by my “recommended” movies and watched list.  Goofy monsters, slashers, aliens, and ghosts; if its creepy, I’ve watched it three times. I am nothing if not a horror aficionado.

Now, Trivial Pursuit has raised the bar with a horror movie edition. Horror trivia? Be still, my heart.

I can’t recall where I am supposed to be tomorrow at four (but I know it’s someplace important), what I had for breakfast, or what I did last night, but I can sing every word to the creepy “One, two, Freddie’s coming for you” song and I just happen to know the best-selling fiction book of all time.  Hint: it’s Don Quixote. 

In a world where walking fast is an Olympic Sport, I want to find a way to make money playing Trivial Pursuit, the Horror Edition.

Steaming up the Shower

Sex has become such a predictable part of novels and movies that it isn’t a matter of if the protagonists are going to get it on, it’s when are they going to get busy.   For me the burning question is, where are our sex-starved lovebirds going to get it on?   It seems no setting is too awkward and no place is off-limits.  I recently watched Jurassic World to familiarize myself with how the movie left off before seeing the next one.  Out of all the special effects, blood, gore, body parts and roaring dinosaurs, one scene struck me as ridiculous.  Towards the end, in a burning street with pterodactyls swooping around them and picking up kids to carry them off for unpleasant pterodactyl things, with dinosaurs thundering towards them while they were covered in dirt, sweat and blood, the protagonists stood atop an overturned car and shared a passionate kiss.  Really?  No matter how much I like the guy, I’m not thinking swallowing tonsils is an appropriate response to rampaging dinosaurs. Maybe that’s why Chris Pratt isn’t knocking down my door.

In staged sex scenes, everything is smooth and perfect.  The bedroom is large enough to house a family of four and their seven cats, three dogs, and parakeet. The participants’ clothes slide off and fold themselves nicely on the chair.  Candles light themselves with no outside help.  The bed is neatly made and no one trips over the comforter.  No one’s head slides between the pillows, and the female never gets her hair stuck under her back or in the male’s armpit.  No one giggles like a child over noises or says “eww.” When it’s over, everyone finds their socks.  Flawless execution, beginning to end.

What really fascinates me are the shower scenes.  Somehow our extraordinarily perfect heroes fit into a perfect shower perfectly.  Where can I find these showers?  I don’t want to have shower sex with anyone, I just want to find a shower that would fit two people in it to begin with. And who the hell has a bathroom the size of my living room? Seriously, I just want their living quarters.

Let’s compare, shall we?

Movie shower scene:

Female is in shower, hair slicked back and sexy with water.  Gentle billows of steam frame her naughty bits as the chiseled male slides back the glass door.  He lifts her effortlessly, pushing her against the wall or pushes her against the glass door for added visual fun for the viewer.  These two are obviously Yoga masters.  They kiss passionately, the deed is done, and suddenly they are having coffee in the kitchen while wearing bathrobes.

Reality:

Female is in the shower with mud mask on her face, shaving her legs while her hair is lathered.  Male pulls aside the shower curtain.  Female protests about the puddles of water now all over the floor.  Male diligently adjusts shower curtain.  He turns to female and attempts to lift her smoothly, but her skin is slippery so…not so much.  They both pretend they meant to stand at the awkward angle in which they now find themselves.  Male reaches around female to lower the temperature of the water.  Female turns it back up.  Both struggle to stay under the spray so no one is left out, shivering in the cold.  Kissing ensues, followed by spitting mouthfuls of water out as sexily as they can.  They turn in the space, about as large as a kitchen cabinet (if you lived in a studio apartment, that is), to find an angle where they can fulfill their shower fantasy.  Bottles of shampoo go flying off shelves, and the shower-caddy is knocked to the floor.  Female ignores it because bending over to pick it up is…not sexy.  She is covertly trying to wipe shampoo from her now burning eyes. Feet are placed in shallow corners of the tub in a vain attempt to balance.  What transpires next depends on the height differences of our heroes, but it probably isn’t pretty.  Afterwards, male plops down in front of TV to watch football while female straightens the bathroom and mops water off the floor.

Couch sex isn’t pretty, either.  Somehow in movies they find couches that are seven feet long and six feet wide.  Our heroes will never know the frustration of sliding pillows, or the victory of finding a Dorito between the cushions.  They won’t hit their shins on the coffee table or knock over the lamp, or know the special joy of a dog trying to get on the couch, too.

Let’s face it, real sex isn’t necessarily pretty.  I honestly don’t want the perfection of movie sex, because the laughter is part of what makes it so enjoyable.  Our heroes never seem to make the mistakes that make sex so fun.

But damn, I would love to have their houses.

Of Books and Beauty

The only reason I’m sharing this is because I love the artwork. No witty remarks or long, drawn-out commentary. Looking at it just makes me feel good, and I wanted to hopefully pass that feeling along. Not only does it illustrate what it is like to be lost in a story — perfectly, I might add — but I think it’s beautiful as well. Of course, this is one of my favorite books, so there’s that too.  I don’t know who the artist is and would love to give them credit, however, as soon as I find out, I’ll update this entry.

Update: thanks to Angel of Anthropology, I found out this artwork is by Kylie Parker and is entitled “The Book” (photo below updated).

“The Book” by Kylie Parker

Book Nook Schnooks Unite!

Yes, I’ll admit it. I’m a book nook schnook.  I can definitely relate with The Shop Around the Corner, Meg Ryan’s little bookstore in “You’ve Got Mail.” There’s a coziness, a warmth that the large chains can’t give you. Don’t get me wrong. Stores like Barnes & Noble are still very nice; especially if you like fresh muffins with chocolate icing and cappuccino with your browsing, which I get often when I’m perusing the six, eight, I mean one – yes of course, just the ONE book that I’ve finally decided on.

me in a bookstore

The advent of Kindle and Amazon sounded the death knell for hundreds of small bookstores, and many large, nationally known chains. B. Dalton, Borders, Brentano’s, and Crown Books have all gone the way of the brontosaurus.

Still, there’s a place for the little neighborhood bookstores that have been able to stay open in these trying literary times, thanks to legions of Book Nook Schnooks, just like me, across America. Although not nearly as prolific as they once were, many of these smaller shops are alive and well, and even the big publishers are now paying more attention to them, helping them with pricing and marketing. Why? Here are a few reasons:

  • It’s part of the local community. It’s a meeting place for friends and neighborhood book clubs. It’s like a “Cheers” bar for book lovers. There is a growing “buy locally” movement that benefits the independent bookseller. For every $100 spent in a national chain bookstore, only $43 of it stays in the local community. Small bookstores? More than $73 stays in the neighborhood. There is also a sensory aspect to the small bookstores. When I’m in a Barnes & Noble, while resplendent and heavenly, it nonetheless smells of credit cards, name tags, industrial cleaner, and the aforementioned cappuccino (which really, they’re worth the trip if you ask me). In a small, locally owned bookshop, I smell Emily Brönte, Shakespeare, L.Frank Baum, Jack London, and Mary Shelley mixed with essence of earnestness. And not in a bad way.
  • Who wouldn’t love the small bookshop experience? Visiting one is like putting on a warm sweater on a chilly day, a cup of tea, a shelter from the storm. One never knows what will be found when turning the corner in an aisle and browsing. That’s a key word: It’s a word that is overused, yet underrated. Visiting a small store can be like visiting a vintage clothing store. “Wow!  I didn’t know I needed that, but I want it.” A pleasant surprise — in book form — lurks around every corner, just waiting to be found. Children sit on the floor, poring through picture books. Kindly Ms. Kelly is reading stories to a group of seniors.
  • The staff knows what they’re doing. They are keenly familiar with the store’s offerings. They don’t need a computer to see what’s in stock. But they know how to use one to order any book they may not have but a customer wants, and are probably just as excited as you are when it’s finally located. They love books more than you do, if that’s even possible. “Hey, if you liked X, you’re going to love Y!” Conversely, they’ll let you know if something you’re looking for isn’t your cup of tea. “No, actually, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ isn’t a graphic designer handbook.”  You can count on what a small bookshop employee tells you. It’s like the library except you get to keep your newfound treasure.
  • The “intangibles.” There is an “atmosphere” to a small store. You may find a comfortable amount of clutter, pictures drawn by local schoolchildren, and potted plants. Walking into a small bookshop, you will feel the tension in your neck and shoulders disappear, your attitude improves, and time slow down.

Yes, I am a proud Book Nook Schnook. Do yourself a favor and visit your locally owned bookseller. It’ll be good for you – and good for the neighborhood. There are more than 1600 of them still around. When you do, stop by and say “Hello!” for me. And hey, if you want to buy me a book…even better!

story-time is the best time

Library Etiquette for Kids

I breathed in deep, watching the antics of the children surrounding me.  They built their towering Lego structures then knocked them down in a furiously chaotic jumble – pieces flying, fought emphatically with plastic dinosaurs, screamed with delight at cartoons blaring from the TV, and raced Matchbox Cars around the racetrack themed rug.  Their incessant, ear-splitting squeals and generally deafening racket filled my ears at this amazing birthday party.  One child in particular screamed for two and a half hours straight; I didn’t know this was physically possible. It was impressive really.

But wait.

It wasn’t a birthday party.  This was during my recent trip to the library! Okay, so even though the title says “Library Etiquette for Kids,” it really should read “Library etiquette for parents who let their kids run around and invade every quiet space anywhere, ever.”

What happened to the days of yore when librarians glared over their horn-rimmed glasses and “shhh-d” kids with a menacing shhh that could not, would not be ignored?  Instead, they build an entire open air playground for them within the sacred walls of mystery, reading, and learning.    Gone are the days of teaching children that there is a time and a place for play, and that the library is most definitely not one of these places.

Do you want your kids to blow off steam?  Newsflash:  there are places designed just for that purpose.  Chuck E. Cheese, for example, the park, a playground, or a Bounce Zone come to mind.  Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe in the sanctity of the library. Okay, okay, I know I get up to my own library shenanigans, but hey, at least I’m QUIET about it. I mean, this is serious business, people.

I remember the good old days, when I would go to the library with my friends or parents and read, study, or research…not to mention stock up on books to take home. So quiet were these spaces that you didn’t dare giggle or you would risk being loudly hushed by the bespectacled Gargoyle behind the Counter.

During my fateful trip to the kid zone, I mean, library, there were several high school students scattered around at tables, attempting to have lessons with tutors; my daughter herself was there with a tutor trying to take a test.  These kids and their tutors had to raise their own voices to be heard over the ruckus coming from the kid’s corner.  The resulting cacophony brought to mind a football game or a bar; in fact, if I had a drink in my hand, this atmosphere would have been easier to understand…and to tolerate. Maybe.

I’m afraid of a future where kids have no respect for anything or anyone.  The heart of respect and learning could be found in the pages of the world that surrounded these kids at this specific moment in time and instead, they careened all around this indoor playground and paid no attention to the wonders that could have been found on the shelves right in front of their eyes.

What does this say about the parents?  I do understand that some parents need to use the library and have no-one to watch the kids for a few minutes; trust me, I get it. Been there, done that. But, here’s a novel idea (see what I did there?): encourage your kids to readHelp them to learn.  Point them in the direction of books that challenge their minds, warm their hearts, encourage their imagination.

If they can’t read yet, sit them down with picture books – it’s a library for god’s sake –  there are a myriad of options and opportunities to open your children up to the world of books. If you allow your kid to run wild in a library, you may be part of a bigger problem.  If you cannot teach your kids that they need to be quiet in some situations, Great Aunt Abigail’s funeral will be quite an interesting event.

What do these “play areas” say about the librarians and management of these once fine institutions?  Are they afraid to ask parents to (gulp, gasp) be PARENTS?  Who came up with this fantastic idea of allowing kids to play loudly in a building that is traditionally used to study, read, and learn?

Now, of course I know that kids need to play.  I am a big proponent of kids playing and burning off energy, socializing, sharing and laughing.  I am also a big supporter of the idea, “a time and a place for everything.

To me, the library is not the place for unrestrained, rowdy free-for-alls.  Allowing this behavior is disappointing for the people who still choose to use the library as intended, and for the kids themselves as they ignore thousands of books full of wonderful, wild adventures.

I guess I’m done with this rant for now; I need to go to Chuck E. Cheese and read a book.

 

Library Shenanigans

I was waiting for my daughter to finish with her tutor yesterday at the library, and having already chosen the books I was taking home, I got a little bored.  So, I decided to amuse myself.

  • I grabbed a thick atlas off the Geography shelf and slammed it open at a table full of people. I pored over one page with a magnifying glass while mumbling “There it is!  The biggest treasure in history, just like Grandpa told me, right here on page 98!  He was right; I’m rich!”  Then, I slammed the book shut and put it back on the shelf full of atlases.
  • I went to the Wildlife section and made bird calls from behind the shelf any time anyone came over. My repertoire is quite impressive I’ll have you know.
  • I chose one person and followed him all around the library. Hiding behind the shelves, I kept popping my head out and whispering, “I see you.”
  • I found a book about time travel, then waited for people to come down the aisle before rifling through the pages and muttering angrily, “If only they knew. I could have saved them all.”
  • Strolled up to the librarian and announced, “I’ll have a Big Mac, small fries, and a diet Coke.” She was not amused.
  • I walked out of the bathroom with a thick book and said, “Geesh, I wouldn’t go in there for a while.”
  • I brandished a genealogy book over my head, screaming, “I knew it! Bow down before me!”
  • I read a comic book and kept spewing a running commentary of the entire thing. “Don’t go in there, Batman! Don’t do it! Oh, snap, he went in! Look out!”
  • Grabbed a book on dream interpretation and thumbed through it, feverishly mumbling “Giant mutant flying cannibalistic panda bears…”
  • Paged through a cookbook while sitting at a crowded table, whispering, “Where IS that kitten stew recipe?”
  • Pretended to have a heart attack in front of the CPR manuals. No-one noticed.
  • Built a fort out of books about forts.  The brilliance of this was lost on the security guards. They have no appreciation for genius.

They say I can be allowed back in the library by 2018, with adult supervision. No fair if you ask me.

Books on Tape

Have you guys heard of audiobooks yet? What a genius idea! They’re books that are read out loud by a narrator and recorded, so you can listen to the story instead of read it. Who knew?! (This is where you say, “Wendy, literally everyone knows about audiobooks.”)

Don’t worry, all. I’m not so far out of the technology loop that I’m just now learning that audiobooks exist. But, I will say that it wasn’t until just recently that I started to give them a shot. And you know what…I kinda like ‘em!

It’s not that I dislike good ol’ fashioned reading. Sometimes there’s nothing better than curling up with an engaging page turner, which is why it took me so long to come around to audiobooks. I figured, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And to me, books ain’t broke. I know, I know, perhaps I should listen to a grammar book (as my mother’s voice rings in my head…”ain’t isn’t a word, dear”).

But for some reason I decided to give audiobooks a chance. (The honest reason? They were free.) YouTube and a few other sites have books that you can download onto your phone and, boom, you listen through your headphones. Easy peasy.

The crazy thing I’ve learned since this new trend started is that I sort of like the feeling of someone reading to me. It’s relaxing in a very childlike sort of way. I can hunker down, close my eyes, and do literally zero work to have a story fed into my brain. I wouldn’t call it “laziness,” but rather an alternative relaxation technique I’m embracing. Hey, stop rolling your eyes at my rationalizations! I thought long and hard on that one!

I’m currently listening to Agatha Christie’s collection. Her books are great. Right now, I’m on “Cards on the Table.” The one downside with the audiobook is that it keeps my mind from conjuring up what each character sounds like. I hear the narrator and that’s the voice of the character. Not the worst thing in the world, but still, I miss that little sliver of freedom (such as imagining David Suchet – the quintessential Poirot) reading gives me.

Sometimes I start playing a book before bed to wind down, but I end up falling asleep and in the morning, I have to go back to the beginning again. But that’s not going to stop me. It might take me longer. But it won’t stop me.

Which is why I think it’s safe to say that I’m hooked! Is it sad that I’d rather have someone read to me instead of reading for myself? Or is this me being “hip to the times” and embracing what technology has to offer? You decide. I have a book to listen to.