Heard it in a movie — June 29, 2022

Heard it in a movie

I’m not into supernatural and/or paranormal stuff, so I don’t watch Stranger Things, a Netflix series set in the 1980s that features supernatural and paranormal stuff. Yeah, I’ve been told I would dig all the ’80s pop culture references and homages as well as Winona Ryder, who appears in the show. But this is a case of risk – supernatural/paranormal – versus reward – the ’80s and Winona. Reward doesn’t stand a chance.

Apparently in this season, its fourth, Stranger Things uses Kate Bush’s 1985 song, Running Up That Hill. After being featured in the show, the song became a hit again, nearly 40 years after its original release. Although I’m happy for Kate Bush, I harbor an irrational hatred of that song, which only solidified my stance against watching Stranger Things.

The renewed attention to Running Up That Hill reminded me of songs I had never paid attention to until hearing them in movies, proving that the combination of song in scene can be just as important as words or costumes or actors or etc. in scene. With that in mind, here is an incomplete list of songs I discovered in movies. (The movies are in parathesis.)

  • Maybe I’m Amazed (An Unmarried Woman): I have a confession. Whilst I’m a fan of The Beatles, I’m not a fan of Paul McCartney’s band, Wings. Thus, Wings’ Maybe I’m Amazed was just another song for me until I watched 1978’s An Unmarried Woman and saw Jill Clayburgh and her movie daughter sit at a piano and belt out the song. Now when I hear Maybe I’m Amazed, I think of that scene, which shows the close relationship between mother and daughter in a flick about Clayburgh, a married woman (at the beginning of the movie) who learns her husband has been unfaithful.
  • Misunderstanding (Mona Lisa): This song, by the group Genesis, was so off my radar that I thought it was called Understanding. I can’t remember exactly when Misunderstanding is played in Mona Lisa, a 1986 British crime drama, but it undoubtedly left its mark because I sought out the song afterward. I still do.
  • I Got a Name (Django Unchained): Jim Croce’s 1973 tune, which had never before made an impression on me, was a perfect choice for this 2012 movie. I loved the scene where it’s played: Django and the dentist ride horses over snowy landscapes as mountains loom in the distance. But I hated the rest of the movie so much that I swore off the director’s subsequent work. I did not develop an irrational hatred for the Croce song, though. On the contrary, I developed a fondness for it.
  • Levon (The Ice Storm): When I was fact checking myself, I saw that Croce’s I Got a Name was also on The Ice Storm’s 1997 soundtrack. (I told you it didn’t make an impression before Django.) Until The Ice Storm, to the best of my knowledge, I had never heard Sir Elton John’s 1971 song, Levon. I became consumed with it afterward. Written by Sir Elton’s longtime collaborator, Bernie Taupin, the song’s lyrics have been the subject of much speculation. Taupin told Rolling Stone he didn’t know what he intended as the meaning and that the lyrics were just lines that were interesting. The lyrics, including “Jesus blows up balloons all day, Sits on the porch swing watching them fly” certainly caught my interest.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Outside the box — June 22, 2022

Outside the box

According to James Bond creator Ian Fleming: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”

Well, dear readers, when it comes to boxes of tampered hair dye, I am up to twice.

For those of you who don’t know, I found my first gray hair when I was but 21. As I advanced toward 30, the gray had sprouted atop my head like weeds, and I had taken to trying to stop their advance.

As I have shared before, those attempts to dye my hair had mixed results. I did a passable job, but the bigger problem was all the dye dripping from the walls and sink. It looked like beavers had fought to the death inside the bathroom and on my face.

I eventually started paying professionals to do the job. But then a global pandemic put an end to that and I resumed coloring my hair. At first, I also resumed making a mess of things. But I improved, if not perfected, my technique.

Of course, I’ll probably grow tired of dying my hair every few weeks. When that happens, I plan to invest in wigs. After all, maintaining colored hair is my one vanity. I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in years last week. She said, “Who the expletive cares?” about my hair color. I care.

Hence, my working plan for wigs. When I share this plan, it is usually met with disbelief or derision. My bestie supports me, though. In fact, she has encouraged me to buy multiple wigs and give them names and personalities, à la Moira in Schitt’s Creek. My great niece (emphasis on great) also seems nonplussed by my plan. She has encouraged me to wear wigs outside my house and my real hair inside. I’ll admit that I hadn’t thought that far ahead.

Anyway, a year or so ago when I got ready for one of my frequent dye jobs, I was the one in for a shock when I realized the box of dye had been tampered with. Indeed, someone had sliced the seal and removed the crème, activator, and conditioner. All that remained were the instructions and the plastic gloves.

I don’t have the best memory, but I’m not one to forget a slight. Since that betrayal, I have always checked the boxes of hair dye before I make a purchase. Last week, armed with a coupon, I checked two boxes of hair dye.

The seal on one of the boxes had been broken. Obviously, I did not purchase that box of dye.

If I happen across a third box of tampered hair dye, then it will definitely be enemy action.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Boon or burst — June 8, 2022

Boon or burst

When I was a wee lass growing up on the Goff Estate, I enjoyed attending baby and/or household showers with my mom and sisters. My absolute favorite aspect of the events was the games. I particularly enjoyed any game that made the adults look foolish.

They played one game where they tried to put as many balloons as possible into a clothes basket. They weren’t allowed to use their hands. Instead, they had to use a yard stick to bat the balloons toward the basket. I can’t remember all the rules, but I do remember my mom serving as host for a few showers. When that happened, we got to bring the balloons home.

And you know what that meant.

Balloon tennis!

I’ll level with you – I can’t recall if we kept score or if we established rules to balloon tennis. Basically, my cousin and I used fly swatters and yard sticks to lob balloons at each other. We played in the living room. No, silly readers, there wasn’t a net. It’s not like we had an extra one lying around the Estate.

Balloon tennis provided dozens of minutes of fun and I thought of it recently as my great-niece and great-nephew (emphasis on great) played ball in the house. As the ball zipped past my head, barely missing lamps and electronics in the process, I said to myself, “Self, perhaps balloons would be less dangerous.”

With that in mind, I bought a bag of balloons for the children. For what it’s worth, balloons are inexpensive. You can buy a bag for a buck.

With the first selection, my great-niece picked a pink balloon. My nephew-in-law blew up the balloon, which my great-nephew pronounces boon, and I taught the children the intricacies of balloon tennis. By intricacies, I mean I showed them how to tap a boon with a fly swatter.

My great-niece enjoyed the game, but became more interested in learning how to blow up balloons. Yes, it didn’t take long for the pink boon to burst. You should have seen my great-nephew’s sad little face when that first boon popped. I thought he would burst into tears.

Luckily for him, Antie Cookie had a whole bag of boons in her purse. With the second selection, he choose green, his favorite color, and we returned to the game. And he returned to giggling with delight.

Yes, balloon tennis was a hit. A couple more boons burst, a couple more selections were made, and my great-nephew eventually threw down the fly swatter and started tapping the boon with his chocolate-covered hands and kicking it with his feet.

But like I said, there are no established rules with balloon tennis.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Be careful what you wish for — June 1, 2022

Be careful what you wish for

I have clear memories of longing for à la carte TV offerings. Indeed, I can remember saying on multiple occasions back in the day that I wanted the satellite or cable service to provide à la carte menus.

By the way, Merriam Webster defines à la carte as “according to a menu or list that prices items separately.”

You might be saying to yourself, “Self, who doesn’t know that?”

Well, I didn’t know the meaning until I was a grown adult and established in my career. One day, when I invited a friend to lunch at a cafeteria, she asked, “Is it à la carte?”

You live and you learn. You also start sprinkling conversation with new phrases you’ve learned. Hence, my yearning for à la carte TV.

Back to that. I sort of got what I wanted. I cut the satellite and cable cords and added a streaming service. By doing so, I saved dozens of dollars and rid my life of channels I never watched. I told myself I’d occasionally add and drop streaming channels, aka apps, for something like five bucks a month and have access to oodles of content.

I didn’t do that. Primarily because I’m cheap. Whenever someone suggested I watch a series, I’d perform a search. If said series wasn’t on my streaming service or one to which I had access, I’d hesitate. Then the suggesting someone would screech, “It’s only five dollars!”

Only?

That’s just one channel/app, though. Each one you add is roughly five bucks. Captain Obvious popping in to let you know those five bucks add up.

But it’s more than the money. All those years ago, when I longed for à la carte, I saw a future where all these channels were already on my TV, and I simply clicked on what I wanted to watch. I did not realize I would need to create accounts with passwords and payment information.

I also did not see a future where creating an account and password would be the proverbial straw that broke my proverbial back. I don’t just have to want to watch something before I’ll go to the trouble of creating an account. I need to watch it.

So, yes, I did add another app a few months ago. I should also share that it was on sale, that the series that drew me in was merely meh, and that another account user and I have found oodles of other stuff to watch on this app.

Otherwise, as of this writing, I’m even hesitating to add a free trial for another app.

It requires the creation of an account and password.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Cabbage check — May 25, 2022

Cabbage check

I tried an egg roll.

As you might remember, a few weeks ago I broke the news that I had never eaten an egg roll. Indeed, I had avoided egg rolls because I thought they contained scrambled eggs. And who would want to eat a scrambled egg wrapped in deep-fried flour?

Anyway, I had the hankering for fried rice and sweet and sour chicken (sans sauce), the only Chinese fare of which I partake (with one notable exception – keep reading), so I swung by a Chinese place that offers takeout from the buffet. When I spied the egg rolls, I said to myself, “Self, why the expletive not?” And I added one egg roll to my takeout box.

I had concerns that the egg roll would taste horribly, so I decided to get it out of the way first. I also had concerns it would contain an onion aka my nemesis. Luckily, I did not detect onions. In fact, I enjoyed the first bite, so I took another one. I tasted either chicken or pork and vegetables. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t the best food I’d ever eaten, either, but not everything can be as good as soup beans.

Then I took the third bite. That’s when I tasted the cabbage. That’s when my association with the egg roll came to an end.

When I shared this saga with my sisters, they opened their mouths to protest after I arrived at this part of the story. After all, they’ve seen me feast on cooked cabbage. But that’s different. I don’t eat any other form of cabbage or food that features cabbage. No cabbage rolls. No coleslaw. No sauerkraut.

Stop rolling your eyes. I have told you people repeatedly that I’m a picky eater.

By the way, I have another food update. I also recently shared the breaking news that doughnuts make me high. No, I have not tried a chocolate glazed doughnut to see if that phenomenon continues to hold true, but my lunch at the Chinese buffet reminded me that I can eat Chinese doughnuts. You know, the kind that seem like canned biscuits that are deep fried and rolled in sugar.

Now, I’m not saying that’s how they’re made in the restaurants. Hence, the word “seem.” I’m just saying that’s how they taste. They’re light and almost like air. If air tasted sweet and was full of dozens and dozens of carbs.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Making the case — May 18, 2022

Making the case

A few weeks ago, my bestie wrote an excellent blog post about organization, as in decluttering her house.

Although she has made progress, she conceded there are items she just can’t let go of, including a videotape of the Tae Bo exercise routine. (By the way, I also used to do Tae Bo back in the day, but I gave my tapes away a long time ago.)

Anyway, I sent her a message after I read the post and told her not to be so hard on herself. After all, everyone keeps stuff they no longer need or use. To prove my point, I told her I hold onto the video cassettes I recorded off the TV of Princess Diana’s funeral.

Indeed, every time I consider throwing the tapes into the trash, I hesitate and decide to keep them … just in case.

Just in case of what, you might ask.

The heck if I know.

I no longer own a VCR. Even if I could locate one, I’m not sure the tapes, which were recorded almost 25 years ago, would play. What’s more, if I’m in the mood for self-torture, I’m sure I could find the funeral on the Internets. There is no rational reason for me to hang onto those tapes.

Of course, an argument could be made there was no rational reason to record the funeral and the accompanying coverage. Need I remind you, however, that the world was in mourning. Sir Elton John rewrote and preformed an iconic song at the funeral! After all, she was the people’s princess!

To circle back to a point I made earlier, unless you’re a hoarder or you’ve started keeping more and more stuff you no longer need or use, there’s nothing wrong with keeping a little bit here and there.

There’s also nothing wrong with shoving things in a closet because you can’t decide what to do with it. When I was younger, I would have recoiled at this attitude and stated that everything has a place. Now I nod and say that stuff has a place on the top shelf of the closet, far away from my gaze.

Maybe some day I’ll deal with that stuff. Maybe I won’t.

Just like maybe some day I’ll finally decide to toss the Diana tapes.

Or not.

But I’m holding onto them for some reason and they’re not taking up much space.

So, they stay.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Event planner — May 11, 2022

Event planner

When I discover a writer whose work I enjoy, I make it a goal to read that writer’s entire bibliography.

Such was the case with Australian author Liane Moriarty. So excited was I when discovered her novel, Three Wishes, that I shared this find with my bestie. Imagine my surprise when said bestie told me she was familiar with Moriarty. My surprise deepened when I spied another of Moriarty’s novels, Big Little Lies, on a shelf in a coworker/friend’s office.

As it turned out, by the time I discovered her, Moriarty was not a relatively unknown writer who needed me to spread the word about her funny (and occasionally dark-ish), intricately-woven stories of suburban Australia.

Although Moriarty doesn’t need my help to garner readers, now that I have read her complete bibliography (well, at least the books geared toward adults), I have written mini reviews of each novel.

  • Three Wishes (2003): The book that introduced me to Moriarty, it remains my favorite. As is the case with most of her books, she begins with a traumatic event and works back and forth in time to reveal what lead to the traumatic event. Three Wishes’ traumatic event – an argument among thirtysomething triplet sisters that results in a fork protruding from the pregnant sister’s stomach – is told from the point of view of the triplets’ fellow diners in a fancy restaurant. By the way, one of the triplet’s names is Catriona. I pronounced it Cat-ree-on-uh whilst reading the book. It’s Catrina.
  • The Last Anniversary (2006): This is one of the few Moriarty books I don’t recommend. It centers around a woman who inherits a house from her ex-boyfriend’s aunt. The house is located on a mysterious island. I figured out the mystery by the end of the prologue and spent the book rolling my eyes at the characters for not seeing the obvious.
  • What Alice Forgot (2009): The traumatic event is that Alice falls during exercise class and bumps her head. When she wakes up, she’s a decade younger, but life has marched on. She’s frightened by her husband as well as the changes in her life and in herself. Moriarty’s books always have a deeper level and this one made me wonder if my younger selves would recognize the current me and if they would approve.
  • The Hypnotist’s Love Story (2011): This one doesn’t have a traumatic event or much of a mystery. It did make me chuckle, in part, because the hypnotist and her mom are serious eavesdroppers. They legit stop talking at dinner so they can listen to the conversation at the next table, which leads me to another thing I love about Moriarty. It’s like she’s in my head.
  • The Husband’s Secret (2013): I call this one the Easter book because the characters legit go all out for Easter. They hide eggs and/or candy the night before the holiday and I feared a kangaroo or a koala would snatch the candy. Alas, my major complaint about Moriarty is that no kangas or koalas make appearances. The traumatic event concerns a wife learning her husband has a secret. Hence, the title. This is one of her darker books, and it’s also one of her best books.
  • Big Little Lies (2014): Another dark one, it’s probably the most popular but not in my top three. The traumatic event, a parent’s death, occurs at a school’s trivia night. Oh, I should mention that I love how most of her male characters call one another “mate.”
  • Truly Madly Guilty (2016): The one fans refer to as the barbeque book, this is another one I don’t recommend. When I consider her books, I ask myself, “Self, did it hold your interest after she revealed the truth behind the traumatic event?” The answer with this book was “NO!” The characters bored me. I simply didn’t care.
  • Nine Perfect Strangers (2018): Controversial among fans, this book doesn’t have a traumatic event. Instead, Moriarty put nine people in a health resort run by a woman who might be a lunatic. I love the main character, Frances. She licks the inside of a candy wrapper to ensure no chocolate is left behind. Who among us hasn’t?
  • Apples Never Fall (2021): Controversial for the ending, this book entertained me. Joy Delaney has gone missing. That’s the traumatic event. As the book unfolds, we meet Joy, her husband of 50 years, their four adult children, and a mysterious young woman. The Delaneys are tall. When a character sees one of Joy’s daughters, she speculates that she’s fixing to perform the long jump. Get out of my head, Liane Moriarty, and write another book.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

What’s in a name? — May 4, 2022

What’s in a name?

Monday, April 25, 2022, will go down in history as the day I learned egg rolls do not contain eggs.

I can hear the guffaws from the smart expletives who were apparently born knowing this. To you know-it-alls, I ask, “What was I supposed to think? Egg is in the name!” After all, chocolate chip cookies contain chocolate chips. Orange juice contains oranges that have been squeezed into juice. Bean dip contains beans that, along with other ingredients, have been turned into a delicious dip.

But apparently, egg rolls have been getting by with false advertising all these years.

I learned this historic truth from a friend/coworker who shared the ingredients of a hillbilly egg roll she had during Hillbilly Days. When I inquired about the whereabouts of the egg, she gently explained, well, you know what she explained.

Obviously, I have never eaten an egg roll. Honestly, the thought of eating one repulsed me. I like deviled eggs and sometimes I’ll eat hardboiled eggs. Otherwise, I’m not much of an eater of eggs. So, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of eating a scrambled egg that had been deep-fried in flour.

Yep. That’s what I imagined an egg roll to be.

I repeat, “What was I supposed to think? Egg is in the name!”

Speaking of eggs … my sister and I almost came to blows whilst making cookies last Christmas when she claimed fried eggs and scrambled eggs taste the same. Granted, I have never eaten a fried egg and have rarely eaten scrambled eggs, so maybe she’s right. Still, I maintained that if they taste the same, then why are diners given the option of scrambled or fried?

Anyway, after learning the historic truth about egg rolls, I wondered why a foodstuff that does not contain eggs has the word egg in its name. Thus, I consulted our friends at Wikipedia. Here’s what they have to say on the matter … “it is unclear how the word ‘egg’ appeared in the name, since the predominant flavor in American egg rolls is cabbage, not eggs. A 1979 article in The Washington Post speculated two possible theories: 1) that the Chinese word for ‘egg’ sounds very similar to the Chinese word for ‘spring,’ and 2) that Chinese chefs in the South relied on using actual eggs when trying to make the thin noodle skin from flour and water.”

In other words, who knows?

So, now that I know the truth, do I plan to sample an egg roll? As picky as I am, I’ll take that on an egg roll by egg roll basis.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A doughnut or a dough-not? — April 27, 2022

A doughnut or a dough-not?

As I’ve mentioned before, to the dismay of many, I do not eat peanut butter or drink coffee. Well, dear readers, get ready to once again be dismayed. Thanks to a conversation I had this week, I remembered another popular foodstuff I avoid – doughnuts.

Unlike peanut butter, which I have loathed since our first encounter, I spent years enjoying doughnuts. (I also drank coffee from childhood into adulthood.)

Indeed, one of my aunts is something of an expert when it comes to preparing doughnuts. She frequently made them for my cousins, my siblings, and me when we were wee lads and lasses growing up on and/or near the Goff Estate.

What’s more, one day in elementary school I, a lifelong cheapskate, agreed to go halfsies with a classmate and purchase a jelly doughnut. That was a big deal for me because I had never eaten a jelly doughnut.

And I didn’t eat one that day, either. When we cut into the doughnut, we discovered it was a glazed doughnut sans jelly. As you might be able to infer, I have not let go of that disappointment. Sometimes I wonder if my life would have turned out differently if I had gotten to eat one-half a jelly doughnut that day. Or if I had asked for a refund upon learning the doughnut was free of jelly. You never know. That could have been the turning point in my life.

Anyway, my sisters and I learned to make doughnuts and for years we would legit jump up at dern-near any hour of the day and whip up a platter of doughnuts. Then, for some reason I can’t recall, we stopped making them.

Maybe it was because we could more readily and easily purchase tasty doughnuts at the stores. And purchase them we did. As an adult, I discovered that jelly doughnuts left a bad aftertaste. This discovery elated me. So, I stuck to glazed or chocolate glazed.

But at some point a dozen or so years ago (it’s not like I noted the date in my journal), I realized that doughnuts made me feel, well, high. You might be saying to yourself, “Self, what’s wrong with that?” Nothing. Unless you’re feeling high at work.

Once I studied on the matter, I further realized this doughnut high had been occurring for some time. And it was always followed by a migraine.

Oh, there’s more. I also remembered that I had developed my first doughnut-induced migraine in college. Of course, that was a certain type of microwavable yeast doughnut that I swore off after it caused the second headache. These glazed – chocolate or plain – doughnuts hadn’t started bothering me until a dozen or so years ago.

What changed?

If I knew the answer to that question, I would be penning articles for medical journals.

All I know is that when I tell people I don’t eat doughnuts, I detect their disappointment. It’s as if they just cut into a plain doughnut…

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A good read and watch — April 20, 2022

A good read and watch

As a teen reader, I discovered the mysteries of Agatha Christie. And although I eventually read oodles of Christie’s books, I don’t think I ever figured out whodunit. (By the way, Christie’s And Then There Were None is one of only a handful of books I’ve read in one day. Indeed, I might have read it in one sitting. Yes, it’s that good.)

Anyway, even though I tried – and failed – to solve the mysteries, for me it was more about the characters and the settings. I enjoyed being transported from the holler to grand manors or English villages.

I thought of those books again recently after watching the most recent adaptations of two of Christie’s mysteries, Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile.

Parts of both movies are boring, but overall they entertained me. I preferred Orient Express because I’ve always favored that story – it’s one of Christie’s most memorable – and because of the stunning shots of snowy mountains and landscapes.

Nile, as the title suggests, is set in Egypt and also features stunning shots. But most of them look like they were created by CGI (computer generated imagery) … because they were. Here’s the thing: CGI is kinda like wigs, hair extensions, and cosmetic surgery. If I notice them, then they must be really obvious.

My only other major complaint of both movies is with the character Hercule Poirot, played by Kenneth Branagh, who also directed the movies. In the books and earlier adaptations, the Belgian detective – the world’s greatest detective (he proclaims this statement frequently) – is conceited, egotistical, and mannered. In fact, David Suchet played him to perfection in the aptly-titled BBC series, Poirot.

Branagh’s Poirot, whilst conceited, egotistical, and mannered, is also so morose and devoid of any spark that, if not for his signature moustache and accent (and for the fact that everyone calls him Det. Poirot), I wouldn’t know who he was supposed to be.

These movies center around murder and death. Not exactly fun-filled times. And in the case of Orient Express, it’s a sad, sad story. I legit became emotional at one point whilst watching that flick. But most of Christie’s mysteries are so over-the-top and filled with such hyperbolic characters that I can’t take them seriously. This includes Nile. More than once whilst watching that flick, I legit rolled my eyes at the characters’ hysterics.

So I’d really like Poirot to be outrageous as well and not constantly moping around with a bad case of the sads. (I’ve read that another adaptation of another book with another actor features an even sadder Poirot. I implore filmmakers and actors to please stop this nonsense.)

Nevertheless, I recommend the Branagh movies. And, of course, Christie’s books. I’m happy to report that after I watched the films, I advised a younger person in my life to read Orient Express. She took my advice.

As should you.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.