Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Adventures in Zombieland... Or, Leap Day at Disney!

Good morning! For those readers in the Eastern time zone, you may just have woken up. For those who share my Pacific time, you're undoubtedly still asleep. With good reason! It's 4 am as I write this.

"What are you doing up?" you may be asking. Or, possibly, "what are you doing blogging at this hour?"

And to that, I say: Happy Leap Day! It isn't usually celebrated (except by pirates from Penzance and 30 Rockians)... but this year, Disney is throwing an unusual celebration called "One More Disney Day," keeping Disneyland open for an unusual 24 hours - an extra park day for an extra day of the year.

Now, I was born into a Disney-lovin' family, and my husband Tom is a convert (so to speak.) So I was surprised when Tom suggested that we not only attend the park today, but we attend the park for the entire 24 hour period. And that, my friends, sounded like an adventure!

So for today's Adventure Wednesday post, I'll be liveblogging our journey through the day, at least once an hour (barring nap time at Snoozy Moments With Mr. Lincoln.)

Check back with me today for my adventures in zombie Disneyland! And take good care of you!

5:35 AM, February 29
After some oatmeal, banana and a shower, we've made it to Pumbaa parking lot and found our spot in line to get in. Lucky we got our wristbands earlier - there's a lot of early birds today!

5:48 AM
Bag check! And the Disneyland Band is playing nearby! Man, the overnight line reminds me of the "tent city" at DCA, 3 AM before the 50th anniversary!

6:08 AM
In the gates! Yay!

Caught in the crush for free ears. Fluster cluck! Helped find a list girl and finally got my free ears!

In line for Pan, both of us feeling excited about the day. Tom is taking one photo every 10 minutes to commemorate the day. I'll post a link when he uploads in a few days.

We've already found friends!

Beautiful morning. So beautiful. I just added a few photos, though I'm not sure how they're integrated from the Blogger app.

Oh my gosh!!! Modern Family is filming here! We're rubbernecking at Rivers of America... Can see Claire, Alex, Haley, Jay, Gloria, and Manny!!

Stopped in for a spot of breakfast since we've been up and at 'em since 4. Our friend got a cinnamon roll, and we watched as they used an ice cream scoop of frosting - whoa!

We seem to be an hour early for a traditional noon meet... But we're all mostly here!

First yawn. Bad sign?

Warm enough that I'm down to my coolest single layer! I just got a personal best score on Buzz Lightyear, but only cause we were paused mid-ride.

Another Modern Family shoot - this time, Cameron, Mitchell and Lily! Just Phil and Luke left to spot. Wish us luck!

I'm on a boat! The Sailing Ship Columbia. It is not technically a pirate ship, but it sure looks like one.

Rode Haunted Mansion with my head resting on the side and my eyes closed. The sensory deprivation is sublime. I couldn't tell where I was or what direction I was moving. You should try it sometime!

Breaking with our gang for the Afternoon Nap portion of the day. On the hunt for best in-park napping locations! Turning my phone off to preserve battery for the time being. Back online in a few hours when I'm rested!

Couldn't resist popping back online to note that we just saw the cutest marriage proposal. Groom and bride stood by the Rivers of America as their friends and family went by on the Sailing Ship Columbia, holding a huge "will you marry me" banner. She said yes! Tom's ten-minute photo alarm went off just in time to get a photo for his series today. OK, back to napping.

I'm officially a No Nap Harry Cat. Not for lack of trying... on the train, in Lincoln... I couldn't fall asleep! In line for coffee now, with the promise of free refills later. Just gonna ride this night out!

Sitting with friends and having a mock meta-argument about Victorian versus Edwardian architecture and how it should or should not be used for the Jolly Holiday Bakery.

Back online after running out of phone charge! We are having such a fantastic time. So many of our friends are here, and we haven't had a big old-fashioned Disneyland meet in so long that it's a genuine joyfest!

6:47 AM, March 1
We. Did. It.

Despite mobile network failure and drained batteries preventing all updates... With the fuel of coffee and the support of our friends, we made it through 24 hours, riding Pan one last time on the way out to bookend the amazing experience.

We have Tom's pictures, plus my missing nighttime commentary, coming soon. For now...


Monday, February 27, 2012

Another Media Monday Without TV? Plus Oscar Thoughts.

Hello from Hollywood, where our neighborhood was still overrun with party rental trucks mid-morning today, long after the last Oscar after-party guests have stumbled into their limos, barefoot with their stilettos in hand.

We live almost exactly two miles from the (formerly known as) Kodak Theater, and this became abundantly clear Sunday morning, while the Goodyear Blimp hovered over our local farmer's market. (Also as we tried to commute home from the market, as they began to shut down all useful streets to non-limo traffic.)

We typically keep our distance from the neon lights of Hollywood and Highland during the days that lead up to the Academy Awards, but one year we had tickets to see something at the nearby Egyptian Theater, so we took the opportunity to walk the just-laid red carpet. It was a total trip.

This year's awards were pretty on the mark, I thought - though I admit I'm sad for Viola Davis. (Not that I don't love Meryl Streep.) I was especially pleased for "Man Or Muppet," though I find it completely disappointing that the songs weren't performed. It's the first time that's ever happened - and I hope it's the last, too.

We watched the awards with a small group at our friends' home, and I was proud to have won yet another consecutive Oscar pool (by default - the host took himself out of the running.) Call it a weird talent (or too many movies watched) but I've been a solid prognosticator since Titanic swept. Next year I'm hoping we can host again, as hosting Oscar is a favorite activity of Tom's and mine. We usually go all-out with themed food and bingo cards and what not. This year, since we weren't hosting, we only came up with our menu concept - we didn't actually cook it. Here's what we came up with:

The Artist: Black-and-White cookies
The Help: Chocolate pie (though a friend actually did bring one!)
Hugo: French baguette
War Horse: roasted turnips
Extremely Loud: bagels & lox
The Descendants: Hawaiian chicken
Moneyball: peanuts and Cracker Jack
Midnight in Paris: French cheeses
Tree of Life: broccoli trees

I'm slated to tell you that Sunday was, as planned, my first TV of the week, but it wasn't. And, actually, I'm glad! We kept the TV completely off from Monday morning until Friday night. On Friday, we discussed how we felt about the TV diet... and it turns out we both really LIKED it! We liked it so much that we wanted to make every work-week a TV-free zone. But in order to do that and still watch TV (as aspiring television writers really must do), we needed to do some watching over the weekend. Which we did - but now it's back to our non-TV dinners!

Man, I was so surprised that it was the case. I expected to grit through the week and then cling to our "TV: teacher, mother, secret lover" (credit: Homer J. Simpson) again, if less than before. Instead, I found myself appreciating how much better I felt without looking forward to TV each night. I created other things to which I could look forward. My productivity AND my creativity increased, as did my mood. And it did interesting things to my appetite. More on that tomorrow.

I didn't manage to blog after the first two days last week, so I'm thinking this week I'll stick to my gradual increase. I'll aim to write 3 days out of 5, and pretty soon I'll be back at my old blogging rate.

I will be back tomorrow, though, and I have special plans for Wednesday's adventure blog, which I'll tell you about tomorrow! Til then, keep taking care of you!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

At long last, Weigh-In Tuesday

It's Weigh-In Tuesday - or WIT, if you will - and I don't feel like I have any good wit to offer today.  But here I am, for the second consecutive day, writing anyway.

Now that it's day 2 of my TV fast, I'm beginning to run out of cleaning projects, so I'm going to have to get more creative.  This is exactly what the fast is designed to do - drag me kicking and screaming from my stasis.  But it's mental fists a-flyin' while I try to punch my way out of my rut.

Wanna guess what else is in a rut?   The scale.  The holiday season was tough, but I thought I got through it OK.  When I hopped back on the scale upon my return, it was up ten pounds from before I left.  That is a terrifying feeling - knowing how hard you've worked to move in one direction, and how long it took.  And seeing it reverse in a matter of days.  I'm not quite sure how it happened, but I didn't like it.

I've lost about four pounds since that weigh-in.  My progress is compounded, I'm sure, by the lack of exercise.  As I've mentioned before, I've haven't been exercising (flu, depression, flu, simultaneous surgery recovery and depression) all year with the exception of one week between the first depression and the second flu.  And I am STILL not healed enough to work out today.  It's really bugging me that it's taking so long.

Food hasn't been ideal, either.  Not terrible, but not mindful.  It's been a little too erratic -- waiting too long to eat and getting too hungry, for instance.  I'd indulge in a craving moderately, but indulge another craving the next day.  That adds up.  So although I'm down from where I was at the beginning of the year, I feel frustrated with myself.  And when I feel frustrated with myself, I talk shit about myself.

Hell, I talk shit about myself even when I feel good.  An example.  This Christmas, I had a blast playing Just Dance III with my nieces and nephews.  It was great to get moving after holiday meals, and dancing is such a playful way to connect with family.  I was kicking butt (I am seriously good at it) and after awhile, I got warm and wanted to remove my jacket.  But it meant that I'd be shaking my arms to the beat, and I know what that looks like in the mirror... I spent three days a week at Slimmons last year, watching my arms jiggle in the mirror.  And as I lost progressively more weight, the jiggling didn't get better... it got worse.  You see "before/after" pictures everywhere you turn (lately even on billboards) but you don't hear so much about the challenges of skin and sagging.  Which, with 70(-minus-twelve) pounds lost, are now my challenges.  So, as I took off my jacket, I tried to make a joke about it.  "OK, everybody.  Flying squirrel alert!"  I got some puzzled looks, so I explained that my upper arms sag, that if I jumped, I could fly like a flying squirrel.  I expect laughs.  All I got was some firm eye contact from my niece M, who pointedly asked me to cut out the negative self-talk. So wise for a thirteen-year-old.

It hit me hard.  It's true... sometimes I make jokes about myself, and it's one way I can make light of life when it's challenging.  But it's also one way I can tear myself down.  And I need to stop tearing myself down.

That's why, this week, I'm working on building myself up.  Turning off the TV and the phone.  Cooking and savoring healthy and nourishing meals. Writing, on the blog and for my portfolio. Centering. Generally turning on the creative juices.  Or trying to summon them, at least.  I still feel stifled and just plain off... but less so than last week. Little steps are still progress.

The best I've felt so far was last night, when - after a long day of laundry and showtunes - I decided to decorate a pretty shelf we mounted last fall.  I loaded it up with my Disneyland collection.  It was a creative act, and a little out of my ordinary, and it felt... satisfying. 

Thanks again, Dad, for helping us mount the shelf.

Annotated version, for the nerds.

I hope you will you do something that satisfies you today.  Something that helps you take care of you.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Media Monday, Oscar 2012 Edition

OK, OK.  I said I'd "be back tomorrow" a week ago, and then I disappeared into the ether again.  But I was thinking about you, my readers, my friends, my family.  I was.

My computer finally came back from the shop, and we seem to be OK for the moment.  We being my computer (which is functioning enough to post this blog) and myself.  I've been battling depression lately. (Always? No, not always. But lately.)  It's been hard to even send a text-mesage, let alone an email, let alone a full blog.  The challenge of chemical depression is that sometimes there isn't a great reason to be blue, but you're indigo and cornflower and cerulean all the same.

When I'm in such a rut, I refer back to a phrase we say commonly in our home, that I "need to fill my well."  I first learned the phrase from my mother, referring to the general ennui and emotional exhaustion when one isn't taking care of oneself (or from taking care of others and not receiving care in return.)  Tom first learned the phrase in an artistic context, from Julia Cameron - author of The Artist's Way, a favorite book of ours.  It's the same basic concept - you're running dry of resources - but in the realm of creativity, it's about needing a steady input of inspiration before you can create a steady outflow of creation.  I find that when my well is running low in one way, it's also running low the other way. 

I put myself in a dearth of self-care and inspiration.  And when I do it, I often half-heartedly attempt to fill my well.  Oh, I'll watch some dumb TV.  Oh, I'll play some silly mobile game.  Oh, I'll watch something clever but only give it part of my attention.  Instead of well-filling, it becomes further well-draining.  To truly turn myself around, I have to be conscious and mindful -- not only about my self-care, but about the creative inspiration too.

And almost never am I more mindful about entertainment than while watching the Oscar-nominated films.  Ten of which I watched this weekend! It felt good to get out and spend time with friends while watching the Oscar-nominated short films (an outing I mentioned in last week's Media Monday post.) 

The films are still playing at the NuArt in West LA.
Photo courtesy of Rochelle

It was a pretty good batch this year!  I found something to appreciate about each of the films, which is perhaps the first time that has happened.  Often in the past, we've joked that the live action films are 80% cancer- or holocaust-themed (and nearly 100% of the time, a cancer- or holocaust-themed short wins.)  But this year, I was surprised to find that none of the films were malignant or swastika-ed . The one film that included illness didn't focus on the main character being sick, but on the eccentric hobbies he indulged in during his illness.)

Of the live-action films, I am torn between several, but I probably land on "The Shore" as my favorite.

When it comes to the animated films - which I tend to prefer - I'm fond of many of the nominees, but one definitely stood out.  I highly recommend "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore," a fanciful and elegant love letter to the warmth and soul-satisfaction of books.  The short brought my bibliophile friends and loved ones to mind - Rena and Audra chief among them.  The two of them ought to see it... and so should you.  And, luckily, you can -- it's available on iTunes for FREE!

A still from the film, as Mr. Lessmore enters the library for the first time.

We're big Oscar-watchers here, and as of last weekend, we've seen all 9 of the best picture nominees, all but 2 of the acting nominees, and all but 2 of the writing nominees.  Here are my picks for the winners (of the categories that matter most to me) as well as who I'd vote for, were I voting.

Best Picture
Who I think will win: The Artist
Who I'd vote for: The Artist.  I loved it.  My favorite film of the year (and my favorites are not always nominated.)

Best Director
Who I think will win: Hazanavicius for The Artist.
Who I'd vote for: Hazanavicius for The Artist.

Best Actor
Who I think will win: Jean Dujardin
Who I'd vote for: Jean Dujardin

Best Actress
Who I think will win: Viola Davis
Who I'd vote for: Viola Davis

Best Supporting Actor
Who I think will win: Christopher Plummer
Who I'd vote for: Christopher Plummer. I just saw - and LOVED - Beginners.

Best Supporting Actress
Who I think will win: Octavia Spencer
Who I'd vote for: Honestly... this is the strongest category I've ever seen.  I have a deep appreciation of every one of these performances, and I'd be perfectly happy if any of them won.  If pushed, I'd vote for Spencer.

Screenwriting, Adapted
Who I think will win: The Descendents
Who I'd vote for: Hugo, but The Descendents was also strong.

Screenwriting, Original
Who I think will win: The Artist
Who I'd vote for: The Artist, but I loved Midnight in Paris, too.

Best Song
Who I think will win: It had BETTER be "Man Or Muppet."
Who I'd vote for: I've been declaring it publicly since the day the film opened: "Man Or Muppet" needs to win the Oscar.

Best Score
Who I think will win: The Artist
Who I'd vote for: The Artist

I usually care a great deal about animation, but we couldn't see 2 of the nominees this year, so I'm not going to weigh in with a guess or a vote.

Wow!  There's usually far fewer categories where I'd vote for my predicted winner. 

It's funny to me how long this post became.  Because it's about entertainment... and as of this morning, I'm on a self-imposed entertainment diet.  I put a moratorium on passive entertainment, for one week.  As I described earlier in this post, my well-filling has been half-hearted, and I've too easily leaned on passive entertainment to distract me from self-care or active creation.  So this week, I will not be watching TV or movies, nor playing games that aren't social with someone in person.  I've tried this a few times in my life (while I was reading The Artist's Way - though Cameron's recommendation is for no reading.  Reading is not my particular vice.)

During this week, I plan to create my own entertainment.  I'll write, I'll blog, I'll photograph.  I'll clean, I'll organize, I'll call a friend.  I'll stop zoning out, and start tuning in to my surroundings.  It will give me the freedom to focus on self-care... which I'll share more about tomorrow.  Really, for-real, tomorrow.  Because I have no excuses - entertaining you will be my way of entertaining me.  That or braiding my cat's fur.  I don't know how crazy I'll be after several days without watching anything.  My hope is that when I finally turn that TV back on - for the Oscar ceremony - it'll be well-filling instead of creativity-crushing. 

I'm off to take care of me, with a prompt bedtime and some calming music. I hope that you will come back to visit here tomorrow, and that in the meanwhile, you will take care of you, too.

Monday, February 13, 2012

On last lines and Oscar shorts

Greetings to you all on this fine Media Monday.

First -- an explanation of my whereabouts.

Holy, hell... this year has been a crazy gerbil wheel of circumstances.  It's like a pattern repeating itself.  We got back from the holidays.  I got sick for a week+.  I got better enough to want to do things, but not well enough to do things.  This phase is a perfect recipe for depression (which I already battle.)  Then, finally, I'm better.  We settle in to write, and... the computer breaks down.  Off to the shop for a week+, and then, finally, it's back.  And the day it gets back... sick.  Again.  And the whole cycle repeats, almost exactly.

I've finally beaten the flu, and the computer is in the shop... but this time the wheel of circumstances has changed a little bit.  I would ordinarily think this was a good sign, but... alas, no.  A week ago, I went in for a routine dermatology check-up, and my doc decided I needed a mole on my hip removed.  So... just as I was starting to feel well enough to exercise again, I can't.  I tried to do some low-impact walking on Saturday, which felt great... until that night, when we discovered my whole hip had become irritated and inflamed.  My area formerly known as mole is sensitive to a little chemistry equation known as "bandage adheisive + sweat = flaming hips," which is apparently not uncommon.

What does this all mean?  Well, on the good side, we nixed a spot of skin that won't become cancerous.  Got the biopsy back today, it's all clear.  On the frustrating side, I haven't been able to exercise... really exercise... except for a total of two workouts.  ALL YEAR.  More on that tomorrow.  It also means I've either been out of a computer, booked with writing work (which is good), or too sick to think straight... which, in turn, means I haven't been blogging.  Which you already know.

I'd planned for my first entry back to be about my favorite comedy of all time, Billy Wilder's brilliant Some Like It Hot, starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe.  I was all ready to tie it in to a mention of Michelle Williams' performance in My Week With Marilyn.  I was going to recommend the excellent new show Smash, which follows the development of a play-within-a-show, a Marilyn musical.  And last but not least, I was going to expound on the brilliant writing and delivery of the last line in Some Like It Hot.  I had even art-journaled the line. 

But my laptop's away.  And my scanner is thus useless.  And it's taken all of the creative oomph I've got, just to come here and post what I've already posted.

And to that... I say... "well, nobody's perfect."

I've been away too long, but tomorrow I'm going to give you the best imperfect post I can.

In the meanwhile, I'd love for you locals to take a look at your calendars.  My very favorite movie outing of the year - a screening of the Oscar-nominated animated and live-action short films - is coming up this weekend, and we always invite our friends nearby to come check them out with us.  It's always a mixed bag, but the best part of watching them is that we only have to slog through the less-appealing ones for a few minutes before another good one starts.

We will be going to see them at the NuArt theater in West LA this Saturday February 18.  The animated shorts begin at 2:40 PM, the live-action at 4:50.  You can buy tickets for one or both.)  We'll probably head out to dine and discuss after the live-action screening.  The group always votes for their personal favorites, and it's an annual tradition to be elated or furious when our winner wins or loses the race.  Let me know if you want to join us on Saturday... I hope we see you there.

And until then... take care of you!