My Write Life

First of all, supper today was dragonfruit with a greater than normal allowance of chocolate sauce, so I apologize if this post seems like it was typed by a caffeinated squirrel.

Now to my main point. I have a confession to make. I enjoy writing these blog posts, I really do. But my first love is writing novels. In fact, that’s why I have a blog in the first place. To help spread awareness of my currently nonexistent (or at least nascent) novels and/or short stories.

Now to my main point. I have a confession to make. I enjoy writing these blog posts, I really do. But my first love is writing novels. In fact, that’s why I have a blog in the first place. To help spread awareness of my currently nonexistent (or at least nascent) novels and/or short stories.

But just to help, you understand. This isn’t going to become one of those “writer blogs” whose primary purpose is to sell the author’s books about writing, and courses about writing.

And oh yes, maybe the novels they’ve written too. You know, the reason they got into all this in the first place. I don’t want that to be me.

Still, sharing a bit about my writing journey seems like an appropriately bloggy thing to do, and it’s one of the things I feel like I could write about ad nauseum.

Also, unlike my folklore posts, it doesn’t even require any research!

I know, I know. Library people are supposed to be all about research. And yes, I do like…Well, I do research. When I have to. Or when there’s something I want to know. I suppose I have a bit of a hangover from all the obligatory research I had to do at school.

So the point is, occassionally I will post an update on my projects. I thought initially it was going to be in addition to the other posts I do (roughly) once a week. So then I would end up posting once or twice a week.

But let’s get real. This is me. The person who puts off doing the dishes until the sink starts getting colonized by one or more species of invertebrates and/or bacteria (sorry Mom). Or until I run out of spoons.

Chocolate sauce is totally a food group.

So I have two projects on the go right now (not counting the short story I’ve been putting off finishing because then I’ll actually have to do something with it.)

One of them, the dominant one, is based off of an unused segment of a novel that I loved but didn’t fit and then got rewritten into oblivion. It’s about a young widow who believes she is cursed by the same sort of boogeyman that caused a horrible happening (I haven’t decided what yet) long ago in her town.

She’s actually part elf or something (again, haven’t decided) whereas what happened was caused by something else, but people in the town sort of lumped everything together. And now everyone hates anything that isn’t human.

So one day this stranger rolls into town, and she recognizes that he is like her. But so does the town. And so does the actual boogeyman. Chaos ensues.

And obviously they fall in love.

Her name is Gwendolyn Fairfaith, and his is Killian (something that doesn’t start with J). 

I feel like this has gone on long enough, so I’ll leave project 2 for the next installment. Stay tuned!

Alexis’ Bestiary: Library Gnomes

dwarf-3321347_1280I feel like I’ve spent enough time on the creatures that terrorize America and Australia. Now for something a little closer to home: Library Gnomes.

These creatures are very similar to the British domestic Hobgoblin, with the main difference being that they only inhabit libraries.

I suspect that they are endemic to most of the Western world, although I have only been direct witness to their activities in the libraries of North America.

They are generally described as small, hairy people, with clothing made out of discarded book jackets. I can’t imagine these are very comfortable, so perhaps this accounts for their demeanor. Having tails and bright eyes, they are sometimes mistaken for library cats such as the famed Dewey Readmore Books.

Library Gnomes are rarely seen, but library staff sometimes catch a glimpse of them when checking for lingering library patrons at closing time. Seeing one is a sure sign that closing is not going to go well.

Typically, these closing mishaps involve technology. Many students work late at the library on papers, which they then need to either print off or submit electronically at the last possible minute before closing. Library Gnomes are particularly fond of breaking printers so that closing is delayed.

When they are in a better mood, they merely break one of them so that there is a longer line at the working printer. However, if they are in a particularly bad mood they will break both printers at once, so that all the students will have to either try the printer at the other library, or turn their paper in late.

In extreme cases, especially malevolent Library Gnomes have been known to punish students who wait until the last possible moment to electronically submit their assignments by permanently deleting their term papers. They also only ever do this outside of IT office hours, so that help cannot arrive in time.

How Library Gnomes became so tech-savvy is not known. One might suspect some kind of witchcraft, but then it is also possible that the Library Gnomes read library materials as well as destroying them.

Other mischief attributed to the Library Gnomes include stealing student’s library cards and using them to check out laptops, which are then presumably either broken or sold on Craigslist. I have personally been witness to more than one student who had a laptop or a book on their account they had no memory of checking out, so it seems the Gnomes are growing fond of this pernicious form of mischief.

On rare occasions the Gnomes directly interfere with library staff, but this is usually relatively minor, such as eating all the jelly-filled Timbits in the staff lounge, or leaving inexplicable crumbs on people’s desks.

Some library staff believe this is because the Gnomes know that the staff already have enough to deal with, but given the plight of the modern student I suspect not.

The origins of the Library Gnome are unknown. Some believe that the Library Gnomes were once benevolent creatures, pointing to the sudden return of long-lost library books as evidence of some shred of continued good will as evidence. On the other hand, it is not known whether the Gnomes were responsible for the books going missing in the first place, so this theory is considered suspect.

Others believe that Library Gnomes are the work of the same evil forces who are responsible for exorbitant textbook prices and unreasonable database license agreements.

Whatever their origins, for better or worse (probably worse) these perfidious little monsters are here to stay. But never fear, it is well known that the best way to keep the Library Gnomes at bay is to return library materials on time, and never lie to library staff to avoid paying fines (the Library Gnomes know when you are telling the truth.)

Alexis’ Bestiary: An Interview With A Jackalope

This photo was taken from the internet. My guest declined to be photographed.

Well, folks, I have a special treat for you today. I have secured an interview with a creature of folklore: the Jackalope. What follows is an accurate description of our encounter, except where I have embellished to add interest.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that I claimed that the interview questions I used were submitted by my readers in order to avoid personal injury, as some of the questions are quite sensitive in nature and the Jackalope is known to have an irascible temperament.

I arranged the meeting to take place in a neutral location, the back garden of a friend’s house. This not only provided us with a quiet and relaxed setting, but also prevented any possible unpleasantness that might otherwise arise. Like extra dishwashing, or the Jackalope learning where I live.

He was large, for a rabbit, about the size of an average labrador. His fur had come in thick and glossy against the coming winter, and of an attractive color: light tan darkening to an orangy brown on the shoulders and the back of his large ears. As the legend suggests, he also boasted a set of impressive antlers. Six points on one side, and five on the other. One had apparently been broken off in some mishap. The points were intimidating and looked as though they had been polished, if not actually sharpened.

Having hopped up on the lawn chair set up for our interview, he sat upright on his haunches with his forelimbs tucked against his chest, an incongruously bunny-like posture, compared with his relatively imposing stature.

I leaned back in my own, uncomfortable, lawn chair in what I hoped was a casual manner, and pulled out the notebook with the interview questions and a pen with which to record his responses.

“So, Mr. Jackalope,” I said.

“Just call me Jack.”

“Okay.” I had no intention of calling him Jack.

“You said there’d be whiskey.”

“Yes, so I did.”

Lacking hands he couldn’t actually hold the tumbler I gave to him, but he managed to grip it between his forepaws nonetheless. I was a little worried he would spill it all over himself when he tilted it back to take a sip, but he seemed confident.

“A lot of legends way that whiskey is a favorite of yours. Can you tell us how that became part of your myth?”

“I don’t know how these things get started. I do like whiskey, though. But I also like bourbon. And beer.”

“Do you prefer beer with hops?”

He stared at me for a few second before breaking out in a peal of raspy laughter. “That’s very offensive.”

The fact that he kept chuckling through the following monologue assured me that he was not, in fact, offended.

“You’re lucky I don’t believe in political correctness,” he said. “Some people these days can’t take a joke. That’s funny. Hops. But really, whether or not a beer has hops doesn’t matter, so long as all the flavors are in balance. It can’t go crazy and overwhelm all the other flavors. Balance, that’s the key. And it always tastes better from the tap than a bottle. Why does that make a difference? Can you tell me why that is? Why should it matter out of a tap or a bottle? But it does.”

“I’m afraid I don’t know. Getting back to the origins of your legend, some people say that the legend of the Jackalope is derived from sightings of rabbits infected with the Shope Papilloma virus, which sometimes results in the growth of tumours on the forehead.”

“If that’s true, people need to have their heads examined.”
“Don’t you mean their eyes?”
“That too. Someone seeing some poor deformed rabbit, and thinking it’s me– That’s just not reasonable.”
“What about the brothers Ralph and Douglas Herrick, who claimed that the legend came out of a clever bit of taxidermy they did?”
“It could be that happened, but my lot have been here long before them two. My Native American name is Manabozo.”
“So you’re endemic to North America?”
“Well no, actually my ancestors were the Wolpertingers from the Black Forest of Germany. Rather a fetching name, don’t you think? Like wolf-tiger.”


The majestic wolpertinger

“I don’t think that’s what that means, but never mind. Beyond origins, there are a few other pieces of your mythology I wonder if you could shed light on.”
“Some people say that the milk of  the female jackalope has magical healing properties. Is that true?”
He didn’t answer, but just tilted his head in a way that suggested a raised eyebrow, and something like a smile formed on his muzzle.
“Okay, we can move on from that. I’ve also heard that you can be quite dangerous. Some have suggested wearing stove pipes on the legs when traveling in jackalope country.”
“It would take a lot more than just stovepipes. I once cleared a twelve-foot wall. Stovepipes. Honestly.”

“Well, it seems that’s all the time we have for today. Thank you very much for coming.”

He nodded graciously. “You’re welcome.”

All the facts in this otherwise nonesensical bit of fiction are from:

The Bunyip: I Ain’t Afraid of No Swamp Beast

Today’s journey into the world of folklore takes us to the swamps of Australia, to visit a creature even less physically consistent than our friend the Snallygaster. While the Snallygaster of Maryland (and other places) had a variety of guises, it always appeared in the manner of a winged bird-reptile thing.

No doubt the Bunyip, who has been described as anything from a giant starfish to a crocodile covered with feathers, would deem this lack of imagination terribly passe. It has been suggested that instead of describing a single beast, the term “bunyip” might simply be what one calls any number of large (usually) evil creatures who happen to live in the swamps of Australia.

Other theories include that the creature is too terrifying to allow for accurate recall, or that the bunyip was a prehistoric beast of some sort.

Now, despite how much our courts rely on them, eyewitness accounts are known to be terribly inaccurate. Still, the notion that the bunyip is so frightening that the human mind can’t process it clearly enough to remember what it looks like is, if not unlikely, then at least highly offensive to other terrifying creatures of folklore.

Many other creatures have habits (which we’ll get to in a minute) that are just as frightening as those of the bunyip, but most of them are described fairly completely. Why should the bunyip be so special? It has been suggested by some mythical beasts that this is just a cheap trick by the bunyip’s PR department, intended to boost its image without having to come up with a truly terrifying description.

The idea that the legends of the bunyip might have originated from cultural, or more recent, memories of prehistoric creatures could have some merit. It is certainly what the early European explorers hoped was the case, eager as they were (where ever they went) to find living examples of the bones they found and thus gain fame and prestige back home.

One more modern explanation is that the legend of the bunyip is derived from sightings of seals that wandered up river.

Which makes complete sense. I can totally see how you could mistake a seal for a feathered crocodile.

Now, as to the creature’s habits–which are only slightly less various than its physical description. As I’ve said, it is a swamp beast. And yes, Australia has swamps. It’s not all desert. Where do you think platypus’ live?

It is normally thought of as evil, and highly dangerous to humans. Some stories describe the bunyip killing its victims by hugging them to death.

Which might explain why no one knows what it looks like. If I was hugged to death by a giant starfish I don’t think I would remember the event clearly either.

Others paint a more nuanced view, with the bunyip as the frightening guardian of the Australian wilderness. A swamp Batman, if you will.

This disparity could easily be explained by differences in perspective. Or perhaps the bunyip is a moody creature, indiscriminately vicious one minute, and concerned about its home the next.

Either way, if you needed another reason not to visit the swamps of Australia at night, the bunyip certainly fits the bill.


The Snallygaster: Fake News Ain’t New

Hello, and welcome to episode one of Alexis’ bestiary, the part of the show where I talk about some silly beast. Today, we’ll be discussing the Snallygaster.

The United States is home to a number of fearsome creatures, but few have a cooler name than the Snallygaster. Of course, as any quick google search will tell you, the creature’s first victims, German immigrants in what is now Maryland, called it the “schneller geist” or “quick ghost.”

Like many such creatures, the Snallygaster was a pain in the neck for farmers. It preyed on livestock, often sucking their blood like Mexico’s El Chupacabra (“goat sucker”). To this day you can still find some barns marked with the seven-pointed star, said to ward off the creature. Why seven? Beats me.

And to follow another tradition of folklore and crypto-creatures, the Snallygaster too had an annoying habit of changing its appearance, having no regard for consistency whatsoever. However it tended to stick to features between that of a bird and reptile, usually appearing as some sort of scaly flying thing.

It was fond of metallic weaponry, whether beak, teeth or claws. And sometimes tentacles.

Tentacles on a wingy thing? Why?

I can’t picture it either. Maybe something like prehensile catfish whiskers? But would those have been described as tentacles, or whiskers? Who knows.

For many years, however, not a peep was heard from the Snallygaster. Evidently it had retired, and decided to live in peace. Then in the early twentieth century, the Snallygaster was the victim of a terrible fake news campaign perpetuated by the Middleton Valley Register, a newspaper seeking to profit from the Snallygaster’s notoriety.

The editors of the newspaper told outlandish tales of the creature carrying off livestock, uttering train-whistle-like calls–(“It’s the Snallygaster Mom!” “No, it’s just the train.” “That’s what they sound like!”)–and laying barrel-sized eggs.

To add insult to injury, they even dragged the president into the mix, claiming that good ol’ Teddy Roosevelt was undertaking a venture to hunt the Snallygaster. And to add a thin veneer of credibility to the stories, they claimed that the Smithsonian was interested in studying the creature.

This went on for some time until, mercifully, the powers that be told the newspapers to knock it off, and charged the editors with fraud, thus allowing the maligned Snallygaster to recover the pieces of its tattered reputation and move on with its life.


A note on sources:

I got all this information from wikipedia, and other websites that appear on the first page of a “snallygaster” google search. In keeping with the haphazard nature of the oral tradition of folklore, and my intended audience, I’m not citing any of them.

But as a “library person” I encourage you to take the list of sources from the wikipedia article, or any of the others, to your local library person and see what they can do with it. Or do the research yourself, that works too. Or not.

One Year In

Wow it’s been a long time since I’ve written on here. Of course, I didn’t have many readers to begin with, but still, to the three of you I’ve disappointed: I’m sorry, and I intend to do better.

To my main point, I’ve now been out in the world, left mostly to my own devices, for a year. I could say I have changed, but it would be more accurate to say that I have progressed along the journey of being the person I was already. Some of the results were unexpected, if only because of my naive optimism.

Any of you remember going into a semester with wildly unrealistic expectations of how this time things were going to be different, and how you’d be all organized and amazing? I did that pretty much every semester, even though I was always wrong.

But I didn’t realize that in all my daydreams about what it was going to be like when I moved out, I was doing the same thing. I’m learning that the only way to change is to do it slowly. One habit at a time.

That wasn’t easy to accept, given that I’d held onto my lovely illusions for so long. But I’ve made some good discoveries about myself too. I’m quite good at using The Box.

What box you ask?

Well, it’s where I keep the rat’s butt that I don’t give.

Handling difficulties has taught me this, I think. I’ve also gotten more confident in general, probably because of said challenges. I never used to believe it when people complimented me on something. Now instead of secretly doubting that person’s intelligence, I think something along the lines of “you’re dang right my earring are cool.”

But only if the compliment is for my earrings. Otherwise that would be weird.

Also, when I figure out something clever, like how to clean the gunk out of the plastic tube in my water bottle with some cotton yarn and a crochet hook, I consider it confirmation that I am as clever as I hoped rather than a fluke.

And when I’m not amazing at something, I am not as likely to consider it a reflection on me as a person. But I’m still getting better at this. The box helps.

I didn’t expect any of that. In some ways, however, this experience has exactly met my expectations, or exceeded them. Being financially independent (although not yet of my employer, but that will come eventually) is even more gratifying than I expected. The decisions I make involve more compromise and are more complicated than I’d hoped. But daydreams tend to simplify things, and compress time.

I expected to enjoy having my choice of music and entertainment, and I do. I didn’t expect to enjoy the freedom to yell stuff at the TV without bothering anyone, however, or to be able to pause it and walk away to cool off when I just can’t even anymore; I didn’t know I wanted to.

I also didn’t expect to take advantage of the freedom to watch or listen to things I suspect my parents wouldn’t approve of. Is that a good thing? Maybe.

I enjoy it, does that count?

So, it’s been a mixed experience. Apart from being difficult, to say the least, moving out also hasn’t magically transformed me into well…I guess a version of Snow White who always enjoys cleaning and mending things, and is artistic and stuff into the bargain.

Am I that sometimes? Sure. I always was.

But most of the time I’m the person who wants to do whatever she wants to do, and a lot of time what I want to do isn’t that productive. I’m working on that. In the meantime, hand me the box.

Signing off now, if I feel like it you’ll hear from me next Sunday.


Zombies, Run!

zombieAnd by that I mean this is my review of the running app by the same name. Arguably, there are no real zombies, and the real zombies about which one could argue are not things one needs to run from.

I’ve only played one chapter of the app so far, but the prognosis is good.

For me, the main appeal of Zombies, Run is its combination of two of my recently-discovered interests: fitness, and zombies. Needless to say, if you don’t like either of those things, you won’t like this app. However, if you like fitness, but don’t like zombies, it could be a really great motivator. It stands to reason that people who are most afraid of zombies will run faster to get away from them.

Or rip out their earbuds and throw their phone away.

Regardless, its main function is motivation, and it works quite well. Scenes from the story are played to you like a radio show or audio book. You hear a scene, run for a bit to your own iTunes music (if you so choose), then hear the next scene, and so on, automatically collecting items along the way.

You can also turn on zombie attack mode, which increases interactivity, so that when the zombies in the story are chasing you, you will hear them and be told how close they are to you. If they catch you, you lose items. Some of which are really important to the story.

Now, this is motivating, but I found it somewhat less motivating than I thought it would be. Partly because I’m already quite familiar with the fictional undead. I’m just not that afraid of them anymore.

I mean, fine, running away from a horde of zombies makes sense. If you’re alone, trying to fight that many will just waste ammunition. But a one zombie, even one that’s “right behind you” isn’t that big of a deal. In a zombie apocalypse, that’s called a Tuesday.

You just turn around, wait until it gets within point-blank range, and then shoot it. Problem solved. Even the comic relief can do that.

But in this app, the solution is to “run faster.” Why don’t I get a gun? Other people get guns.

I don’t get a gun because it’s a running app, that’s why. Next time, I’ll have to save some energy for sprinting, and get in the mindset of someone in the zombie apocalypse who inexplicably doesn’t have a gun, or a knife, or a club, or a chainsaw, or a rock, or any other available object that could serve such a purpose.

Which is unlikely, in the zombie apocalypse. Or anywhere else for that matter.

I mean really, how hard is it to find a rock with which to smash a zombie’s head? I would prefer a gun, personally, but rocks work. I’ve seen it done dozens of times at least.

Still, it’s a very good app. It’s extremely customizable. You can use your own music, and even pick the specific iTunes playlist you want to use (*gasp* I must now make a zombie playlist!) You can tell it to track your speed and distance using your phone’s GPS for outdoor runs or using the step-counter for treadmills. Which I really like since the treadmill option fits better into my schedule.

But I do like running outside. Running outside is great. The scenery changes, there’s up and down, you can run around corners. Running downhill around corners is really fun. Even jump over park benches if you get adventurous (I didn’t do that.) Plus, you get to show off your snazzy new lululemon running tights, should you own such a thing.

And let’s get real, the point of owning excessively-expensive, nice-looking running tights is so that other people can see you looking all athletic in those running tights. In exercise, it’s all about motivation.

For example, according to my phone I walk about 4 km a day, what with walking to work and going for walks (my personal euphemism for playing Pokemon Go) during my lunch break. Today I logged almost 12 km. Taking into account the walking I did today, I would estimate my workout was responsible for 8 km of that. My usual treadmill workout is more like 3 km.

That’s not quite as impressive as it sounds, though. I alternate between walking and running, but that’s still pretty good.

Which reminds me, you can link the zombie app with the health app on your phone so you track stuff like that. Pretty cool, huh?

In summary, if you own an iPhone and even marginally like running or zombies, give it a try. Get in shape the fun way! By running away from zombies.

Oh yeah, and it’s free. That’s the best part. I like free.

Why is Netflix Such a Big Deal?

netflixAt the end of my last post, I mentioned that my biggest emotional problem, at the time, was the fate of one of my favorite characters in a Netflix series.

I felt odd, even guilty, about that. Because there are other things going on in my life and those of others around me, but nonetheless, it was embarrassingly true (and frankly I’m still not over it).

It was about to get worse. This series kept me up at night. But not in the way you think. No, I didn’t stay up too late watching it. On the contrary, I decided to go to bed at a decent hour because I couldn’t take it any more.

And then my brain said, “Oh you think it’s sleep time? Nope, you’re going to be up at least another two hours sulking about this, so you may as well work off some of that emotion on computer game opponents.”

Plus, I was on edge so I woke up early…

It was a stupidly grueling weekend, and I needed a nap afterwards. A couple naps. All over a TV show.

Normally, I don’t get this upset. Especially about Tommy, who I love, but I know he’s the sort of fan-favorite character that writers like to pretend to kill about once a season, just to keep things interesting. So I don’t fall for that. I enjoy worrying about him a little, but I know perfectly well that if something big was going to happen, it wouldn’t be accomplished so flippantly.

This time was different. The writers were making a giant, hairy deal out of it that stretched over I don’t even know how many episodes. They even foreshadowed it and everything, by making the same thing happen to a character close to Tommy, and then almost making it happen to him just so the audience could see how horrible it would be if it did happen. (Note to self: excellent foreshadowing technique, I must use this later.)

Plus this time it wasn’t just about him dying. I had to watch him slowly lose his free will knowing that at some point his friends were likely to have to kill him … it was awful …

I think I cried at least three separate times over this whole being-kicked-in-the-feels fest. Not to mention repeated pleas of “Lord, please not Tommy! Anybody but Tommy!” (And I mean that in the most devout way possible.)

But I had to wonder why. Was I really getting this emotional over someone who didn’t exist? Why, indeed, is Netflix such a big deal?

And this could be anything really. Hulu, Amazon Prime, whatever. Even movies, sports, movies about sports, and stories in general. But I’ll stick with Netflix because I use it most. So why does this effect us so much?

Two reasons, I think. And they’re two sides of one coin called “escapism.”

On the one hand, most of us who live in the Western world experience unprecedented levels of comfort and security.  This is a great thing. But it’s boring.

I think the fact that our news resembles entertainment speaks to exactly how bored we are. It’s not that the problems we freak out about aren’t real. But many of us are merely using them to occupy ourselves. We get mad about things, but we don’t do anything about it. Like the way I worry about Peak Oil but don’t stock up on cans of anything.

Watching my Netflix show lets me vicariously experience all the trauma and excitement of a post-apocalyptic world without any of the risk and hardship. Same thing goes for sports. You get to be on a team and share in the victory (and defeat), but you don’t have to put in any workouts, or risk any broken bones or concussions.

That is not to say we don’t still have hard things to go through, which leads me to the other side of the coin.

This time, I think I got so upset because I was attached to the character and got carried away (I may have been a little bit lonely, too). But that’s not always the case. There have been times when I’ve been crying over a story of some sort, and realized that I was actually crying for a very different reason. One that was very real. But focusing on the story was an easier way of processing the emotions being caused by something much more difficult to think about.

Stories also give us somewhere to go where we don’t have to think about whatever is troubling us in real life, at least for a little while. A break from reality, if you will. Even if it sounds kind of silly. Especially if, like me, your life isn’t that hard to begin with. But it’s still nice. The dishes will still be there after the show is over (And who knows? Maybe the soap will be more effective with my tears mixed in.)

There is a caveat to all this, though. I do believe what I’ve just typed. Netflix is cathartic, and it is a nice mental getaway. But on some level this is propaganda cooked up by my brain to rationalize how much time I spend on it. There are tons of better things we could all be doing with our time than watching Netflix. Including things that would let us deal with emotions and entertain us. But it ain’t going away, either.

By the way, “Tommy” is fine. He could use a shave, imho, but he’s fine. I’ve avoided specifics (including the character’s name) for spoiler purposes, but I will tell you that he got infected with a zombie-like virus, and then he got better, and then he got worse, and then he got a lot worse, and then he died. And then he was fine.

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed and cried at the same time before. And did I very non-sacrilegiously thank God for his borderline resurrection? Oh you bet I did. But that’s okay, Jesus gets me.


Six Months Gone

It has now been roughly half a year since I moved out on my own.

I have to admit, it isn’t quite what I thought it would be, but my independent life is still under development.

Having daydreamed about living on my own since I was about fifteen I thought I would be more prepared. But I certainly never anticipated the emotional hurdles I would face (although I thought I might spend the majority of the first week in my closet, curled up in a ball). And I have not spontaneously morphed into the super-productive, crafty person I envisaged. I’m still only that person intermittently.

But the fact is, I can’t be upset about any of this. Because my independent life is what I have made it. After all, that was the point of all this. Given that I am still so early in this process, I suppose I can’t really make demands of myself until I understand more who I am absent of other influences.

My surroundings are also not what I originally thought they would be. I had hoped to move somewhere lusher and greener, preferably near the sea. But compared to the soft, rolling hills of Metropolis, Smallville’s rugged terrain looks almost prehistoric in comparison. And it’s even drier than the dryness Metropolis is known for.

The river snakes through Smallville like a giant anaconda that occasionally breaks loose and swallows things. Happily, I am well out if it’s reach. But when I got here, the major concern was the fire beast whose handiwork enveloped my new home in a thick shroud of smoke, and resulted in an influx of refugees. There was even a possibility, however slight, that it would force me back home. Maybe even destroy all the stuff I had carefully and expensively collected and carted to my new home.

These days, the snow beast is of more concern. One of the major highways I rely on for food is so treacherous it has it’s own reality TV show. I am told there is another supply route. If this were not so, I would seriously reconsider staying here in the long term, or at least have a much larger stock of supplies set aside for the zombie apocalypse (my personal euphemism for disasters that are both devastating and likely enough for me to not want to think about too much.)

I should probably more prepping anyway, but I do know that the great river anaconda has a baby near me which I can use in emergencies, albeit one who is a bit tucked away in a gully. Although these days the amount of snow makes any concern about water irrelevant.

It does, however, highlight to me the difference between my chosen lifestyle, and those of other people.

See, I have no car. This makes me much more reliant on myself, and my physical ableness, to get around. But also less reliant on my job for financial security. Notwithstanding my other reservations about spending, the fact that I am able to avoid owning a car probably has the most to do with the sizable chunk of change I sock away every month.

This is what I wanted, but it also means that I run the same risks as a wild predator of starving to death if I become injured or otherwise disabled. (Which is really not true, a number of local grocery stores delivers and my employer has a nice disability benefit plan, not to speak of the people who would help me.)

But I still like thinking of it that way. Making expeditions out to the stores on foot and hauling back my finds, hopping over snow berms on the way, appeals to my hunter-gatherer instincts.

I didn’t expect that either, although in retrospect I might have. I also didn’t expect my proccupation with physical fitness. (Although the extra inch around my middle that appear during Christmas and Just. Won’t. Leave. might have something to do with that.) I suppose one needs hobbies. I’ve always had a lot of hobbies, but that wasn’t one of them.

In short, there are a few things still missing from my independent life, and several things that are here that I didn’t expect. It’s a mixed bag, but considering that as of this writing my biggest worry is what will happen to a particularly imperiled favorite character on Netflix, I’d say things are going pretty well.

The Pirates Movie That Should Not Have Been

(Spoiler warning, btw.)


That I like the PotC franchise used to be one of the first things people knew about me, but I gave that up to become merely a closet fan after writing a feminist essay about it*. In fact, I didn’t think of myself as much of a fan at all.

It turns out the only thing that could revive my interest in it is outrage. First, I was upset when I found out that Johnny Depp had decided to take on a role in the Fantastical Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise instead of continuing to make Pirates movies.

Having seen the last Pirates film, I now think he quit one movie too late.

I will say this, Dead Men Tell No Tales (hereafter DMTNT) had some good moments. The explanation of how Jack Sparrow got his name (as opposed to being called Jack Teague) was really clever. I would have wholesomely enjoyed that flashback scene if the CGI wasn’t so awful, and if it didn’t directly contradict the other movies and Jack’s backstory in general.

DMTNT was *just* good enough to demonstrate what a great movie it could have been…if the writers hadn’t screwed it up so badly.

In all the other movies, Jack is not great at the basic, practical elements of piracy**. This is true in the fifth movie as well. Except that they missed the part that he is really, really good at being a lousy pirate. He’s like a basketball player who makes all the trick shots but can’t play on a team.

DMTNT really lost me when Jack walks into the bar and sees his wanted poster with an ever decreasing monetary reward for his capture. That’s not Jack.

Jack is the person who is at first glance mistaken (key word) for “the worst pirate” one might have heard of, and then quickly proves himself to be otherwise.

In contrast, the Jack Sparrow in DMTNT is just a smarmy drunk who used to be a good pirate, and does virtually nothing that has an impact on the plot.

And I’m sure I don’t have to remind you all of Jack’s fantastic monologues. But I will. The time in Dead Man’s Chest when he explains why what happened to Norrington was really William Turner’s fault. His speech at the Brethren Court, during which he quotes Shakespeare and speaks Latin. (Both of which imply that he has been to university at some point. The writers may not have intended this, depending on how much they know about history, but nevertheless it does.)

Where did those go? I can’t think of a single, remotely clever thing Jack says in DMTNT, let alone a monologue.

The videogame did a better job of capturing his wit. There’s one moment in particular. Captain Teague goes to break Jack out of jail and says something like, “You’d sleep through your own hanging, Jacky.”

To which Jack responds, “I always assumed they’d wake me.”


It’s not just Jack’s character who suffers in this movie, although those sins are in my mind the most unforgivable. The movie makes numerous logical missteps, in this case indicative of poor writing rather than fanciful leaps the other movies used to make their stories work. I will provide a short list of sins. Not a full list, because many of them I am still trying to erase from my memory, but a short list. Feel free to provide more of your own in the comments.

  • If Barbosa was Carina’s father, why didn’t he already know all about his own journal and the island it led to?
  • Speaking of Barbosa, why is he back on the fake nobility kick he clearly abandoned in On Stranger Tides?
  • In Dead Man’s Chest Tia Dalma states that Jack bartered his compass from her, contradicting the flashback scene in DMTNT.
  • Dead men tell no tales? Posidon’s trident? Really? Well, I suppose they were running out of nautical cliche’s after using up Davy Jones, mermaids and Blackbeard.***
  • Unless William Turner decided to stop ferrying dead people to the underworld, there is no reason why he would turn all barnacle-y, or act pretty much exactly like Bill Turner did in P2 and P3.
  • Speaking of the Turners, why doesn’t William take steps to free himself if there might be a way to be with Elizabeth? Why isn’t Elizabeth helping Henry to free him?
  • Also, Henry Turner? When the child of William Turner and Elizabeth makes an appearance in the easter egg at the end of At World’s End, he is listed in the credits as Young Will Turner (it’s on imdb, I checked.) His name should be Will Turner Jr.
  • Assuming Jack was 20 when he made his deal with Davy Jones (at 20, William Kidd was one of the youngest ever captains), he would be 33 at the start of Dead Man’s Chest and, adding the 18  or so years between that movie and DMTNT, he can be no younger than 51, more realistically late 50s or early 60s. Yet he still looks like a forty-something with access to make-up, modern health-care, and hair dye.
  • As a logical extension to the above, how in the blue blazes is Barbosa still even alive!? If we assume Barbosa is in his 50s when we first see him, in DMTNT he’s pushing 70, in a time period when people even in low-risk lifestyles lived to 45ish. (Pirates had an average career-length of five years.) And he has little or no gray hair either.
  • At the time of the flashback scene, what will later be called the Black Pearl is still known as the Wicked Wench, as per the name painted on the stern. Jack renamed the ship shortly after being branded a pirate and making his deal with Davy Jones. Therefore, there is no reason for the pirate-slaying Captain Salazar to be going after the Wicked Wench because Jack shouldn’t be a pirate or part of a pirate crew at this point.


Now, having unburdened myself of my outrage, I wash my hands of this weirdness.



*Don’t ever write a feminist essay on your favorite Hollywood movie. Now I can never unrealize that Jack Sparrow treats women like dirt and is mean to animals. However, I have also come to realize that like most Hollywood movies, pirate movies in particular are about saying “for the next two-and-a-half hours, I don’t give a crap.”

**Although the stories Elizabeth mentions in Curse of the Black Pearl suggest that he can be, unless we interpret these as well as the sort of “trick shots” we see in the movies.

***Although this I could have forgiven if the movie had been as good as the previous ones. That being said, I don’t see why the writers didn’t try inventing something original like the first movie did.