Monday, October 29, 2007

Have an Original Thought Already

For some reason, I love horror movies. I am stating the fact in this manner because horror movies, as a genre, are consistently disappointing. All the good parts are in the previews, so you think you're going to be batshit scared and then, not only is the plot shaky and dragged out, not ONLY is the acting weak and misdirected, NOT ONLY is the dialogue predictable and painful to follow, but the anticipated edge-of-your-seat queasefest is entirely nonexistent.

It's probably just the fact that it's all been done, and all there is left to do is gross out the audience. I mean, once upon a time, Jaws was terrifying. Today, that shark is fairly laughable, even if the movie is great. Even films like The Shining and The Exorcist can't scare me (side note: admittedly, Evil Dead does). I need faster, grosser, weirder monsters — or a psychological element so terrifying that I can't sleep at night.

Last night I was watching the Horrorfest 2006 movies that were being aired on Sci-Fi. I caught the end of The Hamiltons, which, while not particularly frightening, is a fairly interesting flick. It, unlike the rest of the Horrorfest films that I've seen, had its moments of innovation. It had a twist on an old favorite (vampires), a morally ambiguous cast of characters, and quite a few surprises. In addition, a lot of the shots were through the eyes of the teenage protagonist, and the lens of his hand-held video camera. Unrest, while a step up from many horror films in some of its visual stimuli (a huge chunk of the film takes place in a bleak cadaver lab, with medical students cutting and groping at body parts in a totally-not-for-Grey's-Anatomy fashion. But, naturally, the whole the dead-comes-back-to-life-to-avenge-postmortem-disrespect thing is so overdone that no element in this film can possibly make up for it, especially with its lack of subtlety, giving no credit to the intelligence of the audience. Penny Dreadful is the worst of the batch, as it could have been a great psychological thriller, but instead is the audio-visual torture of a girl trapped in a car with her dead therapist crying and having panic attacks.

I really don't know why I keep watching horror movies and expecting something out of them. The last truly scary movie I saw — a squeeze-your-date's-hand-so-hard-it-sorta-hurts movie — was 28 Weeks Later. It was fast-paced and unpredictable. I really liked it. Previous to that, only the Japanese could make me cringe. Films like Ju-On and Ringu really got my attention, but, like all trends, this one hit a rut as well. Reincarnation (Rinne, in Japanese), was a part of last year's Horrorfest, and since it was directed by Ju-On's Takashi Shimizu, I expected it to be so terrifying that I couldn't bring myself to watch the DVD for weeks. But it was as predictable as any other horror film. Come on, Horrorfest, give us something to sink our teeth into!

This year's "8 Films to Die For" look remotely promising. The blurbs on the website make the films sound more creative than last year's, and interesting enough that I'm tempted to have hope. I worry that I've become completely desensitized to gore, but at least one of these eight films must have what it takes to make me cover my eyes and scream.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Recipe Time

My room mate says I'm like Izzie from Grey's Anatomy. If you're not familiar with the show, she deals with stress by baking, to the dismay of her room mates who are then forced with the dilemma: to eat or not to eat.

I don't know what's come over me, but recently I, like Izzie, can't stop baking. Muffins, cookies, breads — it just doesn't stop. I've been modifying recipes (note: you can try, but you just can't make cumin cookies taste good) and heating up the kitchen. While it is probably stress-related, I haven't heard many complaints from coworkers, who are happy to share in the bounty of my bakathon.

Tonight I made pumpkin muffins. Sadly, I was out of walnuts. Hazelnuts are no substitute, and neither are almonds. So I was forced down a different route altogether: chocolate chips. I added both miniature semi-sweet and white chocolate to the batter. And they are delicious. So, if you would like your very own muffingasm, try this recipe. It's my very own, so, you know, if one day I'm famous and write a cookbook, you can say you were privy to this information back in the day.

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup canned pumpkin purée
1/2 cup olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup water
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/3 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and baking soda. In a separate bowl, with an electric mixer, blend the pumpkin, oil, eggs, water, and spices. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Add chocolate chips. Pour into papered muffin tin. Bake 25-30 minutes (until a knife comes out clean when poked into the center of a muffin).

I cannot promise that they will be beautiful, but they will certainly be delicious.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Body of Evidence

Women are fat.

We're not chubby or plump. We're not hefty or big. We're fat.

Men can be jolly or whatever.

I've decided to be squishy.

Most of the time I'm okay with squishy. My boyfriend is okay with squishy, he's really only ever known me squishy. Of course there's the inevitable return-to-the-hometown desire: I hope everyone else is fatter than me. The truth is, I would love to be tiny for my 10-year reunion. And recently I've discovered that some pants don't fit like they did six months ago. Being happy with your body is just really bad for dieting.

And I don't believe in dieting. This whole culture of feeling in control of our lives by controlling what we eat is weird. The Atkins diet shits me - the guy DIED from cardiac arrest and put a ban on vegetables but people still want to eat steak steak steak to lose weight weight weight. And then there's Weight Watchers where you go to meetings, which, I presume is something like AA:
"Hi, I'm Judy Jones, and I'm FAT."
"Hi Judy."

"Hi, I'm Katie Clarke, and I have been thin for six months!"
(thundering applause)
And of course Nutrisystem, which, apparently, costs a damn fortune (their prices don't include a lot of parts of the "meal" they send you - like the meat).

And there is, of course, the idea of skipping food control all together and going straight to appetite control. Pills! We have a pill for everything — AND YOU NEED THEM. We have celebrities to endorse them all, too. FAT celebrities, who got skinny.

I don't think AmericansWesterners, even — will ever have a healthy relationship with food. We think of food like something naughty, an indulgence, a vice. Food is not something we eat to sustain ourselves, but to satisfy ourselves. And there's no balance. If we are satisfied, we must have had too much. My weight loss plan is this: don't think too much about it, do some pilates, walk more. I don't want to think about my snacks in terms of calories and carbs.

My friend Amelia has this theory on feeding children: kids' bodies know what they need. If you make good food available, they will, usually, get what their body requires. Her daughter seems to eat like a pigeon, but, if you watch closely over several days, you see that she gets everything she needs from several food groups. I don't see why we, as adults, can't function similarly. Eat what we want, when we want, listening to our bodies instead of the ingredients list on the backs of packages. And if I want I need I must have McNuggets, so be it. If I never lose this extra weight, I'm okay with that, too.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I'm Almost Proud of Him

This is my cat, Telemachus. He is a 15lb Maine Coon, and about two years old. He loves mischief.

When I woke up this morning, he had caused a bit of a massacre in my bathroom. As long as I've known him, Tele has had a fascination with toilet paper. As long as I've known him, he's loved to unravel it to play, generally creating a mess for me. However, I've never seen anything quite like this:

As you can see, he's quite proud of himself. This is a cat masterpiece. I think this is the feline version of TPing your teacher's yard. There's nearly a whole roll there, including some that is in the bathtub and behind the toilet. My other cat, a wee Siamese — who is, incidentally, dumb as a stick — was rolling around in it, as if trying to take credit for Tele's hard work. Sadly, yes, it's an incredible waste of paper. My grandfather used to roll it back up onto the tube, but I can't bring myself to do that. This is why my room mate shouldn't feel bad about the fact that I buy most of the toilet paper. When so much goes to entertaining the animals, I just wouldn't feel right asking her for TP money.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hug Your Mail Man (or Woman)

I can really understand why postal workers are so grumpy. They do what I've been avoiding my whole life: dealing directly with the public. I was at the post office today and the line was a slow-moving fifteen people deep when I walked in. Some of these people had children with them, one of which was running wild, playing with the stamp machine and one of the mailboxes.

I don't know about where you live, but where I live, the postal workers are all behind double panes of bullet-proof glass. You speak through an intercom, and any time you give them something (or vice versa) you open your side of the window to place the item on the counter and after you close your side, they open theirs to retrieve your goods. National security at its finest.

So you can see, perhaps, why the line of customers moves slower than molasses in January. Mailing a letter requires quite the rigmarole - opening and closing windows, etc. - and if you're the attendant dealing with a cranky old woman (my neighborhood has its share) who can't hear or can't lift the heavy glass or just feels like being difficult, it's going to take that much longer, and you're going to wish that much harder for a freak tornado/tsunami/nuclear explosion to blow up your postal district.

Enter my new best friend, the Automated Postal Center. The APC, or, as I like to call him, the MailBot, is a lovely little machine that I've seen in several post offices that will do almost everything a human postal worker can do without any attitude or security systems. And, in my neck of the woods, there's never a a line. There was one man in front of me today, and the only other time I've had to wait was so that the receipt paper could be replaced. So, why on earth would you wait in that long line to mail a letter when, using your debit or credit card, you can purchase stamps, weigh and mail a package, and purchase delivery confirmation or insurance.

I'm in the post office every week at least once. I mail out submissions to lit journals like a well-oiled machine. On top of this I have friends all over the globe, not to mention a boyfriend in Texas and a wee sister at her first year in college up in Maine. Care packages are necessary. The MailBot gets me. He doesn't judge the amount of mail I send — though I'm sure the mail carrier considers it odd that I receive so many small manila envelopes addressed to me in tag-like print (my goofy handwriting) without any return label (rejection letters). And the MailBot is just so fun to use! With a touch screen and perfect postage you can affix yourself, there's nothing better. Except, well, a lot of things. But, as an individual obsessed with mail, I have to give props.

And let's give those postal workers a break, eh? They have to deal with plenty of stooges every day. I'm sure they love the MailBot, too.