Sunday, March 26, 2006

Creepy Castle

As some of you may have noticed, I've pulled a complete disappearing act for nearly the past two weeks. I'm still just trying to get a handle on my various work/freelance commitments and needed a break. But I've decided it's a good thing because maybe it will make my legions of fans realize how wonderful and precious A Right Gapesnest is to them. So I've decided to consider it a savvy marketing ploy, to leave you wanting more, rather than a lapsed commitment. In the future, I'll try not to leave you hanging for quite so long, but I'm not 100% committed to 5 squares a week either, if you know what I mean. Thanks for checking back after the hiatus!

So my parents came to visit this weekend, which is always fun. As anyone who has traveled with me will tell you, I like to plan trips. But when you're living somewhere, it's easy to fall into routines. So I love it when people come and visit and I get to plan fun activities that I probably wouldn't do otherwise.

This weekend, we were hoping to go to the Springrove Cemetery and look around, but it was cold and snow-rainy, so we went to the Loveland Castle instead.

I didn't know what to expect. I'd just heard that there was a castle built in Loveland (which is pretty far afield), and I was curious. And my mom loves old things, so it should be great!

Umm, yeah. It was creepy. And not creepy in a "this centuries' old castle has seen bloodshed and plottings and probably has ghosts" cool, historical kind of way. That I would enjoy. It was creepy because it felt like one misanthropic man's attempt to close out the world around him and return to a glorified age. "Sir" Harry Andrews started a group called the Knights of the Golden Trail, who still maintain the castle today. As far as I could tell, they tried to live their lives according to the 10 commandments and chivalric code. An important part of chivalric code being, of course, that woman are on a pedestal and can't do anything for themselves, so obviously no women were allowed to join the group.

He made this group and built his castle on the Little Miami river, carrying stones up from the river bed and cementing them together with homemade mortar. My mom compared it to the Winchester House, which I thought was an apt comparison. Both very amazing and pathetic edifices that had owners completely out of touch with the real world.

I'm glad we got to see it, but Loveland Castle was not what I was expecting. It made me long for the real castles of Scotland and England that I've seen. Ones that served a purpose other than protection from everyday modern life.

Monday, March 13, 2006

It Felt Like a Monday

Didn't it feel like a Monday today? For those of you who may not live in the near vicinity, the weather was awful. I think the worst part about the gray, rainy day is that it was warm. This close to Spring, I'm itching for a chance to be outside and breathe fresh air. When it's nearly 70 out but with 200% humidity and thunder and lightning, it feels like I'm being taunted. We did open the windows for about a half-hour tonight, so at least the apartment got a smidge of new air.

Give it a few weeks, though, and I'll be overjoyed about thunderstorms and bad weather. Once I've become accustomed to warm weather, a day of storms feels like playing hooky. If it's warm and sunny, I should be outside running or walking, or making myself enjoy the sunshine. No matter if I'm tired or have a million things to do indoors.

So, at that point, a stormy day means I get free time from the demands that warm weather places on those of us who see too little of it. It frees me from the guilt of not enjoying it. I can happily curl up with a good book (for some reason, I always want a murder mystery on stormy days) and a mug of tea and enjoy the sound of rain lashing the windows. If I'm really lucky, maybe the power would go out overnight and my alarm clock would get turned off.

Friday, March 10, 2006

I Love My Bed

As I mentioned recently, I am loathe to get out of it in the mornings. But it's more than just the fact that I never get enough sleep. It's a great mattress.

It's the first item I bought as an adult. I'd just gotten back from England and got a job in Dayton. I hadn't planned on moving out so soon; I didn't have any furniture, sheets, appliances—any of those little items that come in handy if you plan on living in anything other than a cardboard box.

I knew I wanted to get a queen-sized bed. No more twins for me; I was a working college graduate! I wanted an adult bed.

When Keith and my Dad and I went shopping for one, Keith managed to talk me up from the absolute cheapest one to this one. It's a no-flip mattress with a lovely pillow top. Understand that I spend as much time in bed as possible, so this was all very important. I handed over my credit card and arranged for delivery.

After the bed, I bought sheets, a futon, a microwave and a few other odds and ends. My credit card was maxed out before I even started work, so I stopped buying. The bed and the futon were not only my first pieces of furniture—they were my only pieces of furniture for several months.

Whenever I woke up in my new pillow-top, queen-sized bed, I would stretch out and remind myself that this lovely piece of heaven was all mine. And even though I share it with Keith now, I still enjoy snuggling into our wonderful bed and avoiding the rest of the world.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Kudos to Krug!

I'm jealous, but can admit when someone other than yours truly may actually have written something worth reading. And I proudly announce with a minimum of teeth-grinding, that Amy Krug has done it.

Amy and I both worked on campus and got our Master's in English at the same time. When you think of someone getting an MA in English, what do you picture? A guy with wire-rimmed glasses and a goatee, pontificating about allegory and allusion? Perhaps a slender, pale woman who rants about Virginia Woolf, feminist writing, and the freedom of expression in the Beats' writing?

We had all of those in the program and more. Luckily for me, there was also Amy. Someone I could roll my eyes at when the classroom discussion got a little too long-winded, when the young literati started taking themselves too seriously. (Which is to say, as soon as they walked in the door.) We would go out for drinks, make fun of our classmates, and toast to our own much superior writing talents.

Amy helped me revise my thesis, encouraged me with my writing and just dealing with life. She's a good friend and a great writer. Congratulations on winning the Erma Bombeck award!

To read her hilarious essay, click here.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Good Day, Sunshine

I woke up the other morning in a really good mood. In the past I've been told that I'm a "morning person," which I think translates to "annoyingly cheerful before 10 a.m." But this was freakishly cheerful even for me.

It was instantaneous! As soon as I opened my eyes, I just felt right with the world. This does not happen. I actually wanted to get out of bed. I never want to get out of bed! Unless it's a Saturday and getting out of bed means rolling to the couch for a few hours, and then I'm cool with that.

Because it was first thing in the morning, it took me a while to realize what the cause of my freakish high spirits was. It was the sun! It's actually getting to where the sun is up before I get out of bed, and I'm am extremely happy about that.

As Keith and I tend to oversleep on a regular basis, there's a good chance that others of you, even those that live quite nearby, have not experienced this yet. Just give it a few weeks&mdashit's coming, I promise.

This euphoric experience made me long for spring flowers, warm evenings on the porch swing, and lemonade. Today it rained all day. When will I learn that I live in Ohio?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

An Imposter or the Real Deal?

Okay, so I write this blog knowing full well that only a handful of people may read it on any given day. Some days, that may be a midget-sized handful.

But that's okay, because the whole point of writing it was to force myself to write more frequently and reliably. No more of this write a book and then not do anything with it for over a year. Of course, the fact that I spend time writing this blog means that I don't have time to rework my manuscript, but that's something I hadn't really taken into account before. Oh, you vengeful irony!

Anyway, even though I sincerely believe that I personally know and bully every one of my blog readers into being my blog readers, I can accept the possibility that's not true. I may have an "avid reader" or—dare I say it?—a "fanatic" that I've never met. (I know we've never met in person, Andy, but we've chatted enough that you don't count as a stranger anymore;) Or, what if a ghost from my past read a blog in which he featured prominently?

Well, over the weekend, I got a comment on my blog about my Middle School Crush. Supposedly from said crush. What are the chances?

I'm thinking STN (slim to none). Especially based on today's comment from "B" that asked—in Latin, no less—"Cat got your tongue?"

That's not like Brian at all. Or rather, that's not like the 12-yr-old Brian of my middle school fantasies. The most I ever got from him was a mumbled "hi" or reluctant nod of acknowledgment. Not that I blame him, since it was probably a little disconcerting to find a giggly girl with frizzy hair staring at you every time you turned around.

And I suppose, in the 15 intervening years, he may have changed a little. Become a little more verbose, a little less frightened by me since I'm a happily married woman. But I doubt that's it.

I may be especially paranoid because Keith just told me about a USC basketball player getting virtually punked by the UCLA student section. But in general if I catch the slightest whiff of a fake persona on the web, I assume it's true. The fakeness, I mean. What I'm saying is, I think this Brian is a fake. And if you're trying to convince me otherwise, you'll have to do better than that! (Good luck impersonating a close-lipped adolescent online.)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Jon Hosts the Oscars

I love Jon Stewart. We actually watched the Oscars last night and enjoyed Jon Stewart's hosting very much. I'm not sure that the academy was ready for it, though. A lot of the humor that would have killed on The Daily Show fell flat at the Kodiak Theatre. (Come on, that bit about the difficulty of making Russell Crowe look like he'd been in a fight was funny shit!)

Funniest foreign speech a la Roberto Benigni goes to: the guy from March of the Penguins who said that, with all of the tuxedos, it was like filming the movie again.

HATED: Charlize Theron's dress. When she was presenting an award, we were afraid the enormous shoulder growth was going to attack her.

LOVED: Reese's dress. She's always so classy. And Keira looked gorgeous, as always. I have such a girl crush!

I am immensely pleased that Crash won Best Picture. In any instance, I tend to root for the underdog, or at least against the shoo-in. Plus, in an earlier post, I mentioned that I personally did not find Brokeback Mountain to be worth all of the hype. I will admit that it gives the viewer a lot to think about, as I have thought about it quite a bit since seeing it. But that can't change my initial impression, which was actually less than spectacularly impressed.

Crash, on the other hand, immediately blew my mind. It was a great, disturbing movie that I am really glad I saw. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see Munich before the Oscars, so I can't say where that one ranks, but of the other I would say I liked Crash the best.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Reality Extravaganza: MTV

MTV: Home of Ridiculous Reality

So apparently I forgot to post a blog entry on Friday. No excuse this time other than I forgot. Whoops!

The good news is that I saw a different reality show on MTV on Saturday to tell you about. I unsuccessfully tried to find a link to it on their website, but it was about OCD. They followed three young people who have OCD: a guy in his late 20s, a girl in her early 20s, and a girl that was a senior in high school.

MTV seems to have more reality shows than there is spandex in Dolly Pardon's prodigious bra collection. Nothing is too little to document with several cameras and hundreds of hours of footage and in-depth interviews. I think the existence and perseverance of "Real World" attests to MTV's status as reality TV's true home. I can't even count how many shows they've had on the topic of overweight teenagers trying to fit in. I think that MTV's theory is that no day should go by without hearing one of their sob stories.

But actually, the show I watched on Saturday was a little "weightier" in the sense of the topic addressed. I was fascinated by all of the different rituals that the subjects felt the need to perform. Some of them were hygiene-related; I think we've all seen Jack Nicholson's character and his pile of soap in As Good As It Gets. But other ones were simple and just strange: All of the light switches needing to be flipped up instead of down; an apple touched 3 times before being taken from the fridge; you must step into the bathroom twice and not look at the mirror.

What surprised me the most about this show is that, of the three case studies, two of them underwent intensive treatment and actually saw marked improvements in their symptoms. The two women went through a kind of shock therapy to get rid of their fears and help them realize that the rituals were just preventing them from having a normal life. By the end, both of them were living almost ritual-free, although the possibility of a relapse always exists. In contrast, the guy was taking medication to control the anxiety but wasn't seeking any additional treatment, and was spending 2 hours a day on rituals.

I can't even imagine. Two hours a day?!? I feel pressed enough for time as it is. At least with this reality show, I could claim that it was slightly edifying and not a complete waste of time. It did seem wrong, though, that during commercials there was a short MTV piece that was a very abridged band bio called the ADD bio. Does MTV not feel a little guilty for using a disorder as a marketing ploy, while broadcasting a reality show about a disorder? Is that life imitating art, or is it completely inappropriate to use the word "art" in conjunction with reality TV?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Reality Extravaganza: The Apprentice

The Apprentice

I've never seen this show before tonight. My first reaction:
Trump is scary. And not a good actor. How did he become such a TV sensation?

At first I didn't understand why, if all of these contestants are already so accomplished, they want to go on the show. Haven't they proven they can be a success without embarrassing themselves on national TV? But, as the episode progressed, I saw how Trump lured them with promises of teaching the secrets of being a ridiculously, filthy rich success in business, and I can see how that would appeal to people.

I don't know if I would watch this show again. It kind of felt like work, except with ridiculously high stakes. I know that if I don't make the phone calls I was supposed to make one day, I'll just come up with an excuse and do them the next day. I won't get fired. No one will figure out what a slacker I am, or really care. As long as I keep up the appearance of being a hard-working peon, that's all that really matters.

And that's how I like it. I don't think I really want to "shine" or "excel." The energy and aggressiveness emanating from the contestants on this show made me tired. I watched it at 5:30 p.m. and then went to bed for the night. If you like neurotic egomaniacs who want to be billionaires by age 30, you'll like this show. If you're happy with your slacker ways, as I am, it might not appeal to you.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Reality Extravaganza: Amazing Race

The Amazing Race 9

I love this show. I tend to like the adventure/survival type reality show, and have watched "Survivor" for years. But "Amazing Race" is my favorite because, when I watch it, I feel like it's teams working together to win a competition; not people trying to make others lose.

In general, they don't play dirty. They are not out to mess with the other teams' heads or make anyone think they are the best people to win. They just have to not finish last in every round.

I suppose now would be a good time to mention the premise of the show. Twelve teams who have a previously existing relationship (the picture is of two best friends) start from somewhere in the U.S. and travel around the world in stages. At the end of every stage, the last team to arrive is eliminated, except for a few pre-determined non-elimination rounds.

I like the fact that the teams are based on pre-existing relationships, so you actually see how they interact with the people closest to them. Who usually navigates and who likes to drive. When one person starts reading the next clue and the other person rips it out of their hands--the kind of thing you would only do with loved ones. It seems much more revealing than someone playing a role in front of a bunch of strangers.

And have I mentioned the gnome? I know it's a cheesy sponsorship gimmick, but I still think he's adorable. Phil, the host, is pretty easy on the eyes too.

Plus, they face some actual elements of real life. I couldn't even count how many times a team is in the lead but loses it because 1) they can't find a taxi, 2) their flight is delayed, 3) they read the directions incorrectly, or 4) they miss a clue right in front of their face. Just last night on the first episode of the new season, items 2-4 occurred. There are also contrived challenges, but a lot of the challenge is just traveling in unfamiliar places and making smart decisions and being lucky.

If I were to be on any reality show, this is the one I would want. I'd like to think that Keith and I would be the perfect couple that everyone is rooting for, but I have my doubts that I could keep my churlishness to myself for that long. And my hair would probably look awful with all that traveling.