Trying This Again

I posted this giveaway a few days ago, but there were some errors and it did not publicize. Let’s see if it works today! I would love to have lots of entries!

 

I’ve been visiting my zoo for a very long time, like for more than 35 years. It was an annual field trip in several school grades, and I visited sometimes with my family. I’ve met some interesting folks there in my time. Some of them, I have never forgotten.  I once met a volunteer named Pete who made me feel like a superstar because he let me hold a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach. He made me feel like would only trust mewith his bug, which is heady stuff when you’re a teenager who scarcely trusts herself. Fifteen years later, I became a zoo volunteer, as well. Imagine my delight to learn that Pete was still there. I got a chance to tell him how much his encounter meant to me. How lucky was I?

Some of my relationships go back even further. I met a guy there when I was a small child. He was old and wrinkled and had the kindest eyes. It’s pretty tough to make a lasting impression on a kindergartener. I barely remember both of my teachers’ names, but I remember him.  I saw him again a few years later, greeting guests with the same enthusiasm. Never be surprised at where life takes you. Fast forward a few more years, and that guy is still there. I see him every, single day. He’s a little older, a little slower, but there he is. Would you like to meet him?

This is my pal, Al.

Big Al. And he is big!

Big Al. And he is big!

Al is an Aldabran tortoise, an animal found on the Aldabran atoll in the Indian ocean. He came to our zoo in 1974, when I was a mere toddler. No, seriously. I was three. Our best guess is that he came to us directly from the wild. In the last forty years, he hasn’t grown at all. He tips the scales at close to 600lbs, and around four feet long. His age is unknown, but given his massive size and the fact that he hasn’t grown appreciably in the last forty years, he is estimated to be somewhere between 135-150. Years old. Yeah, I know. I hope we have him for 100 more.

Who would ever have guessed when I first met Al the  tortoise as a six-year-old that one day it would be my privilege to be his keeper? Not me. Life throws us little surprises sometimes, little gifts. And this is one.

There’s another little gift. This one is from me to one lucky winner. First Tennessee Foundation is giving away $5000 a day for 150 days. I would love for my zoo to win it. We raise about 85% of our operating budget, and $5K would be a nice little boost. Those of you who vote get a chance to win a fabulous gift package.

Here’s how to enter. Click the link here. It should open in a new window to the First Tennessee  150 days of giving page. Search for Knoxville

Zoological Park and vote for our zoo. The votes are cumulative, and you can vote on every device that you own, every single day until we win! You get an entry for every time you vote. You can vote for up to ten different organizations. And fair’s fair. If there are 10 things you want to vote for, and my zoo’s not one of them, I’ll still count your votes as an entry. I’m not out to buy votes, just to encourage you to help a worthwhile organization win some dough.

Remember I said that voting is cumulative? It means exactly that. The votes aren’t cleared each day. Your three (or ten!) votes today are added to your votes for yesterday. And the day before. And the day before.

Leave a note in the comments each day that you vote, and tell me how you voted (and how many times). You will also get one entry for sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media, one entry for each network on which you share. That’s a lot of entries! And what are the prizes? I’m so glad you asked!

Winner will receive:

1) One piece of original 8×10 art created by one of the critters in my care – either a snake or a tortoise. You choose the classification and the colors from the list of what I have, and I’ll choose the species. Nothing venomous.

What is animal art? So glad you asked!

What is animal art? So glad you asked!

2) One Mold-a-rama wax skull.

Remember Yorick? Now you can have one of your very own!

Remember Yorick? Now you can have one of your very own!

And if my zoo wins the $5K by Tuesday, May 27, I will add one additional prize. A box of salted caramel MOONPIES!

So get out there and get to voting! Tell your family, tell your friends, tell your enemies. Vote daily and help my zoo win this cash!

Giveaway ends May 27, 11:59pm EST or when the zoo wins the dough, whichever comes first. Comments will be closed when the giveaway ends, so get those entries listed in the comments before then!

If you voted on the original post, those will still count. I’ll add them up from both locations. Sorry about any confusion!

 

Coming Full Circle: The One With the Giveaway

I’ve been visiting my zoo for a very long time, like for more than 35 years. It was an annual field trip in several school grades, and I visited sometimes with my family. I’ve met some interesting folks there in my time. Some of them, I have never forgotten.  I once met a volunteer named Pete who made me feel like a superstar because he let me hold a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach. He made me feel like would only trust mewith his bug, which is heady stuff when you’re a teenager who scarcely trusts herself. Fifteen years later, I became a zoo volunteer, as well. Imagine my delight to learn that Pete was still there. I got a chance to tell him how much his encounter meant to me. How lucky was I?

Some of my relationships go back even further. I met a guy there when I was a small child. He was old and wrinkled and had the kindest eyes. It’s pretty tough to make a lasting impression on a kindergartener. I barely remember both of my teachers’ names, but I remember him.  I saw him again a few years later, greeting guests with the same enthusiasm. Never be surprised at where life takes you. Fast forward a few more years, and that guy is still there. I see him every, single day. He’s a little older, a little slower, but there he is. Would you like to meet him?

This is my pal, Al.

Big Al. And he is big!

Big Al. And he is big!

Al is an Aldabran tortoise, an animal found on the Aldabran atoll in the Indian ocean. He came to our zoo in 1974, when I was a mere toddler. No, seriously. I was three. Our best guess is that he came to us directly from the wild. In the last forty years, he hasn’t grown at all. He tips the scales at close to 600lbs, and around four feet long. His age is unknown, but given his massive size and the fact that he hasn’t grown appreciably in the last forty years, he is estimated to be somewhere between 135-150. Years old. Yeah, I know. I hope we have him for 100 more.

Who would ever have guessed when I first met Al the  tortoise as a six-year-old that one day it would be my privilege to be his keeper? Not me. Life throws us little surprises sometimes, little gifts. And this is one.

There’s another little gift. This one is from me to one lucky winner. First Tennessee Foundation is giving away $5000 a day for 150 days. I would love for my zoo to win it. We raise about 85% of our operating budget, and $5K would be a nice little boost. Those of you who vote get a chance to win a fabulous gift package.

Here’s how to enter. Click the link here. It should open in a new window to the First Tennessee  150 days of giving page. Search for Knoxville

Zoological Park and vote for our zoo. The votes are cumulative, and you can vote on every device that you own, every single day until we win! You get an entry for every time you vote. You can vote for up to ten different organizations. And fair’s fair. If there are 10 things you want to vote for, and my zoo’s not one of them, I’ll still count your votes as an entry. I’m not out to buy votes, just to encourage you to help a worthwhile organization win some dough.

Remember I said that voting is cumulative? It means exactly that. The votes aren’t cleared each day. Your three (or ten!) votes today are added to your votes for yesterday. And the day before. And the day before.

Leave a note in the comments each day that you vote, and tell me how you voted (and how many times). You will also get one entry for sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media, one entry for each network on which you share. That’s a lot of entries! And what are the prizes? I’m so glad you asked!

Winner will receive:

1) One piece of original 8×10 art created by one of the critters in my care – either a snake or a tortoise. You choose the classification and the colors from the list of what I have, and I’ll choose the species. Nothing venomous.

What is animal art? So glad you asked!

What is animal art? So glad you asked!

2) One Mold-a-rama wax skull.

Remember Yorick? Now you can have one of your very own!

Remember Yorick? Now you can have one of your very own!

And if my zoo wins the $5K by Tuesday, May 27, I will add one additional prize. A box of salted caramel MOONPIES!

So get out there and get to voting! Tell your family, tell your friends, tell your enemies. Vote daily and help my zoo win this cash!

Giveaway ends May 27, 11:59pm EST or when the zoo wins the dough, whichever comes first. Comments will be closed when the giveaway ends, so get those entries listed in the comments before then!

 

The Bitter and the Sweet

It happens every spring, that end-of-the-school-year crazy that hits mid-April and crashes over us like a wave, until we’re washed up on the sandy shores of June. It always happens, and I am always taken by surprise by school musicals, awards assemblies, field trips, Scout nights, finalizing grades for my computer students, saying goodbye to my eighth graders. I’m never ready, and this year I was less prepared than ever.

I’ve spent more than a decade of my life living with a preschooler. It’s over now. Two days ago, my littlest biscuit, my funny little Squish, graduated from preschool. He starts kindergarten in the fall. It’s a blow. I knew that it would be. There’s no way to prepare, really. I’ve been cut off at the knees; I can barely breathe. He’s a big kid now.

Kids grow up. They get older every, single year. And so do we. It has never really bothered me before. Growing up is a good thing. It means diapers are done, we’ve outgrown LeapPad’s entire product line (don’t even get me started here), we can go out for a meal without embarrassing ourselves. But there’s a flip side. They’re one year closer to leaving us.

Squish is five. We’ll be living with him for a long time to come, for better or for worse. He’s five. But his sister? She’s seventeen. She begins her senior year of high school in the fall. He embarks on his journey of childhood learning while hers is coming to an end. My bookends.

She will leave us. I am painfully aware that this time next year, she will be picking out the decorations for her dorm. So much change. Her departure is so imminent that discussions on what to do with her room are no longer theoretical. She will leave us.

I do want her to move on. She has to, actually. The boys share a room. That bunk bed will be outgrown sooner rather than later, and neither of them has accepted my suggestion to pitch a tent on the back lawn. She’ll move out and be on her own. And I am grieving. Gone is the little girl with pigtails and gap-toothed grin. She left behind a young woman who is preparing to face the world. It seems like yesterday she was dancing in the living room wearing her ruby slippers. A couple of weeks ago, she went to prom.

click to enlarge

If she grows up, that means her brothers are right behind her. Everything about our lives right now suggests change. We’re downsizing my vehicle in a couple of weeks. The reality is that we are unlikely to make long trips as a family of five anymore, and we’re done with bulky car seats. We can’t justify keeping a van. Even the family car highlights our paradox. Our kids are growing, but the family is shrinking.

To the casual observer, my life looks the same. I work, I wrangle kids, we get ready for some summer fun. But it’s not the same. My littlest guy, sporting a hoodie he refuses to remove even though it’s 80 degrees takes refuge at this moment in his cardboard box. But that box will fall apart and be taken to the curb for recycling. The hoodie will be outgrown and taken against his will to be tucked away as a precious reminder of the child he was. He is growing up, too.

Squish has been a challenging child to raise. As my husband sometimes says, it feels like he’s been five for half our lives. But even he will grow up. He graduated from preschool this week. I wept as he sang the school’s traditional preschool graduation songs “Tooty-ta” and “Tony Chestnut” with joyful abandon, just as his sister and brother before him.  One day in the future that feels not quite distant enough, he’s going to walk across another stage, receive another diploma. And it will be for keeps. I am grieving.

WARNING! Not For the Faint of Heart!

I’ve been at my new zookeeping job for a little over a week now, and I already have an evening ritual. Every, single night, I come home and kiss my kids, then my husband, and I say “I love my job!” It’s every bit as wonderful as I imagined it would be. It’s just the best.

It has been a transition, for sure. I’m pretty tired when I come home. Apparently staying on my feet and lifting, carrying, hosing, catching things is a lot more physically demanding than sitting on my behind and writing. Who knew? And getting used to the schedule is a challenge. Saturday is my Monday, and Thursday is my Saturday. It’s a little odd. But I love it.

Our department is divided into sections, and I have a section of my own. Let me introduce you to some of the animals in my care. I know we’re not supposed to play favorites, but I do. Want to meet the guy who has my heart? You can click to enlarge.

Trans-Pecos rat snake

Trans-Pecos rat snake. Bogertophis subocularis

I call this guy Nosy or Mr. Peepers. Doesn’t he have the best eyes? He’s one of my favorites because of his personality. Every time I open his enclosure, he’s right there.

“Hey, Miss Heather? What you doing? Did you poop in my cage? No? That was me? Oh, my bad. Sorry! Oh, did I do it again? My bad! What you doing? Can I help? You cleaning? I can get that for you… except I don’t have hands. What you doin’?”

He is without a doubt the nosiest individual I have ever met. And I adore him!

Look at the beads of water on its skin - proof that people are slimier than snakes. We sweat when we get hot. Snake skin is waterproof!

Look at the beads of water on its skin – proof that people are slimier than snakes. We sweat when we get hot. Snake skin is waterproof! Annulated boa – Corallus anulatus

 

Another favorite of mine is the Chihuahua Mountain kingsnake. I always think of nature as being perfect, but it looks like whoever painted this snake colored outside of the lines!

Chihuahua Mountain kingsnake - Lampropeltis pyromelana knoblochi

Chihuahua Mountain kingsnake – Lampropeltis pyromelana knoblochi

 

I have more than just snakes. I care for these guys, too.

Puerto Rican Crested toads - Bufo lemur

Puerto Rican Crested toads – Bufo lemur

 

Look at the snout on that guy! These toads are critically endangered in the wild. I look forward to learning more about them.

It’s time for work now, so I will leave you for now. I’ll be back soon, though! I have a lot more to share with you! What have you been up to?

The One Where I Tell You a Secret

I have the weirdest dreams. When I was a kid, I used to dream that I could fly. I still remember that *whee* feeling in the pit of my stomach this one time when I dreamed I was flying on my magic carpet. Okay, so it wasn’t a magic carpet. It was a suitcase. I told you my dreams were weird.

The other night, I dreamed I was a zookeeper. Like, instead of volunteering in the reptile department once a week, they actually paid me to show up. And I had animals of my own that I was assigned to take care of. I didn’t get to fly, but I did get to touch cool things. It was the happiest dream I think I’ve ever had. Then I dreamed that I bought a box of salted caramel MoonPies. When I woke up, I had the biggest smile on my face. Don’t you love dreams like that?

Here’s where things get really weird. I opened my secret hiding place in the closet cabinet, and look what I found!

 

Oh, my gosh! Salted Caramel MoonPies are a THING!

Oh, my gosh! Salted Caramel MoonPies are a THING!

 

But wait. If the MoonPies were real… Does that mean…? Yes, it does! As of this week, I have a new full-time job! I am the newest keeper in the Herpetology department. This is my dream job. I have thoughts and plans for studies on reptile cognition, and I want to do some operant conditioning with our giant tortoises. I am so excited I could cry. And I may have once or twice already.

Can you imagine having a job where you get to continue learning and learning and learning about things you love? Because that’s what this job will be for me. I’ll eventually be in charge of some species of snakes that I have limited or no experience with, so I will be reading and scouring the internet for information to learn as much as I can. About biology and the natural world. What could be better?

My first day is Saturday, and I’ll let you know all about it. My new life is about to begin. First full-time job since Squish was born. It’s exciting and scary all at the same time. Wish me luck!

 

***

In case you didn’t know, I contribute writing in other places. This week, I entered my drug screen post in a competition over at Yeah, Write. If you enjoyed it, click here to go vote for me. You can vote for your five favorite blog posts that you see there.

 I also added a post over at our local City Moms Blog. It’s a silly little poem about how parenthood changes us.  Because it does. Want a free sample, no extra charge? Okay, then!

Motherhood is pretty great.

I know that statement’s true,

But I’d be lying if I said

Kids haven’t changed my view.

.

At restaurants fine, I used to dine

On lobster or capon.

Today, I only choose the place

That offers free crayons…

Click here to read the whole post, and feel free to leave a comment to let me know you were there. I like it when my friends visit me.

 

So Maybe I Failed Another Drug Screen

I’m good at lots of stuff. I take decent photographs. I can cook a decent meal, sometimes I write. There are things I’m good at, see. And then there’s the stuff I’m not so good at. Like passing drug screens, for example.

I blew it once before. It was by accident, of course. Wait. That was a bad choice of words. Allow me to clarify. I didn’t have an accident or anything. I failed the screen because, having been brought up right, I flushed the toilet. And then was close to failing a second time because the sample was a little, er, on the low side.

A few days ago, I had the chance to redeem myself. As part of the pre-employment process of a job I am up for, I had to go and do another drug screen. I promised myself this time would be different. There would be no flush. No flush. Not from me. And there would be no question of volume. I would turn that volume UP!   I knew I could do it! I would pass this screen the first go-round. Sometimes you just need to believe in yourself, you know?

So I went. To the clinic, I mean. Well,  I went, too. Because that’s part of the process. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I showed up at the clinic and registered after drinking enough water and coffee to provide a large enough sample for an elephant. The lobby reeked of cigarette smoke. I looked around to see if they were screening Noah. They weren’t. The closest they had to a Flood of Biblical proportions was a large fish tank with a constantly trickling filter. In the lobby of a place where people go because they’re supposed to pee. Rather dangerous placement if you ask me.

When they called my name, I knew my moment had come. I followed the nice lady back to the Cubicles of Disappointment and got signed in. She gave me the instructions, but she needn’t have bothered. They are burned into my heart. “Pee in the cup, don’t flush.” Like I could ever forget them.

I did what I had to do, and I did it well. After all that water, my cup overfl- oh, nevermind..You get the idea. I walked away from my nemesis feeling a little grossed out without flushing. I had done it! I think I heard an angel sing.

The thrill of success doesn’t last forever – just long enough to remember the poppy-seed bread I had eaten a couple of days before. Poppy seeds. You know the ones. Little black seeds that show up in a drug screen as heroin.  Awesome. Even though my liver problem means I can’t drink OR shoot up heroin, but try explaining that one to Human Resources.

I’m waiting to hear the results. They say no news is good news.  It might also be said that no news means they think you’re strung out on something stronger than dandelions. So now I’m scouring the classifieds for a position with an employer seeking hard-working individuals with a taste for poppy seed baked goods. I’ll let you know what I find.

If I can't get regular employment due to my hygienic and dietary  habits, I could be a kennel girl.

If I can’t get regular employment due to my hygienic and dietary habits, I could be a kennel girl.

 

You shall submit! Your link, that is!

And This Is What It’s Come To

I never thought spending a few hours a week caring for tortoises at a zoo would lead me to this. It’s a slippery slope. I started out innocently enough, just wanting to offer my tortoise friends a little treat now and then.   But here I am, bundled against the chilly weather and sneaking out of the house in the wee hours to cruise the neighborhood for weeds. I am ashamed. Especially when a neighbor drives by and catches me stumbling along in the gloam with my baggie of cabbaged dandelion (not actual cabbage, of course. Real cabbage is bad for tortoises).

It’s not just dandelion I’m after anymore. Dandelions are a gateway weed. Now I’m also searching high and low for mallow, and even the occasional Japanese honeysuckle and chickweed.  If this downward spiral continues, I’ll find myself hitting the back part of the playground for some hoary plantain (maybe it’s more politically correct to call it “plantain of questionable morals?” “working plantain?”).

And not only am I trying to score weeds in the neighborhood, I’ve also been scouring the internet for the proper artificial lighting and seeds so I can grow my own. If I’ get good at it, I may sell some, too.

It's a gateway weed. Look at that lovely bloom! Why don't my dandelions bloom like that? I covet!

It’s a gateway weed. Look at that lovely bloom! Why don’t my dandelions bloom like that? I covet! source: simple-wikipedia

Tortoise-keeping is leading me into all kinds of other sins, as well. I know it says in the Bible “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s dandelions.” Or something like that. But I do. I so covet them. If you saw them, you would to! The base of the plants themselves is six inches wide. The full-grown leaves are twelve inches long. Those are some dandelions! They could feed the entire collection by themselves!

When I look at the piddly little plants in my own yard and their stupid little two-inch leaves, I am just green with envy. Green with a pretty yellow bloom. What does my neighbor’s yard have that I don’t have? Their dandelions are growing out of a brick wall, for Pete’s sake! What’s so wrong with me? Why can’t I have nice things, too?

I’m discontent. It’s true what they say. The chickweed is always greener in someone else’s rock wall. I think we are going to have to pack up and move to a place where the weeds are thicker and a girl can catch a break.

Every time I come home with my bag of weeds, I promise myself this will be the last time. I’ll settle down with some nice collards or a little kale. And then I see this face.

Bored. So bored. What's with the plain greens? Score me some weeds, yo!

Bored. So bored. What’s with the plain greens? Score me some weeds, yo!

And the next thing I know,  I’m cruising the neighborhood with my giant Zip-loc bag and wishing my neighbors were less attentive gardeners. Where will it end? I’m waiting to show up on the daily Neighborhood Watch emails – a suspect with the springtime shakes, covered in dirt canvasing the weedy and seedy parts of the neighborhood weeding people’s gardens. Technically, I’m not actually weeding, though. I just take some of the leaves. If I yank them out by the roots, I’ve essentially cut of my own supply. How sad is it that I’ve thought it through that carefully? Don’t answer.

Maybe it’s just spring fever. We’ve been dependent on grocery store greens for far too long, and now that stuff is blooming and growing, I’ve gone a little nuts. Hopefully I’ll settle down in a few weeks. Maybe not, though. Soon it’ll be watermelon season!

Maybe it’s just spring fever. We’ve been dependent on grocery store greens for far too long, and now that stuff is blooming and growing, I’ve gone a little nuts. Hopefully I’ll settle down in a few weeks. Maybe not, though. Soon it’ll be watermelon season!

First the weeds, and now taking questionable photos of tortoise bellybuttons. But look how it has closed up since last time!

First the weeds, and now taking questionable photos of tortoise bellybuttons. But look how it has closed up since last time!

I have some exciting news to post soon. As soon as I get the green-light to share, I will!

The Benefit of Second-hand Smoke, Part 2

When last we met, my husband and I had gone to see a real movie in a real movie theater, a movie theater that quickly filled with cigarette smoke. I know. I didn’t believe it, either.

Warning. Spoilers abound. Skip to the next bold print if you need to.

I introduced you to the marvelously stupid rock-Transformers, otherwise known as the Watchers. Remember them from Sunday School? Nah, me neither.

Yeah. The Watchers were fallen angels (the Nephilim in the Old Testament. But instead of marrying the daughters of men, these guys helped build the ark. I know. And they looked pretty much like this, give or take a leg or two.

Yeah. The Watchers were fallen angels (the Nephilim in the Old Testament. But instead of marrying the daughters of men, these guys helped build the ark. I know. And they looked pretty much like this, give or take a leg or two.

 

Originally, I thought it was a period piece. I was kind of right. It’s bloated and made me scream a lot.

I don’t know what the message was supposed to be. Was it a fitness movie? There was a lot of running. Or maybe it was about hugging? There was a lot of hugging, too.

It wasn’t about the ark. In reality, it took years. In the movie, it was built in a two-minute montage with the aid of a magic seed and the rock-Transformers. It wasn’t so much about his adventure with the animals, either. They were glossed over, arriving in an amorphous mass and appearing to be generally the same species. Has the director only seen two kinds of snakes in his life? And the moment they arrive, he tucks them neatly away by putting them to sleep with the help of special happy smoke so they don’t eat each other or him during their time on the ark. (But if they wake up with the munchies, he pretty much defeated his own purpose, right?). So they’re going to sleep for the next year.

I think the movie’s biggest failure is that the director forgot he was making a movie that was based on a book – a book that maybe a few billion people have read. It’s a huge risk. There are a couple of ways to pull it off successfully. A director needs to think so far outside of the box that it hits viewers right over the head and they know to expect the unexpected. “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?” comes to mind. It’s a genius retelling of the Odyssey, and one of my favorite movies. I get a lot of satisfaction finding the elements that tie it to the original story. The other way is to stick pretty darned close to canon. This director does neither. Big mistake.

I know Aronofsky is an atheist. I don’t think he had to believe in God the Creator in order for the film to work. Sadly, though, he did not believe in God the character, either. He commits the cardinal sin for writers everywhere. He tells instead of shows. Rather than hearing God’s voice and hearing the message right along with Noah, we are treated to a dream in which Russell Crowe spends ten seconds underwater. The moment he wakes up, he’s all “The Creator said I gotta build this big boat and we’re all gonna die!” Really? That’s what you got from that dream, Noah? Right. Last night, I dreamed my dog Phoebe ate my wallet and turned into a jackalope. So I’m pretty sure that means God wants me to buy a wardrobe of pink hot pants, strap on some rollerblades, and run for President. That leap was weak at best, lazy at worst.

The problem with taking God out of the story is that without Him, Noah’s motivations become muddied. In the first hour, Noah isn’t shown in any act of worship, he just seems to have a general idea about what’s right. It reminds me of the phase of my life when I went to church on Easter because I had this vague notion that’s what I was supposed to do. Would someone with that level of devotion believe they were being told to build a giant boat? And would they obey? Doubtful. Maybe he would build the boat out of self-preservation, but then how do you work killing his grandbabies into it? Suddenly the film makes no sense. There’s no believable catalyst.

Imagine The Lord of the Rings with no Gandalf. Frodo just tells us he met this old guy who said he was supposed to hike 1500 miles and dump a ring into a volcano. Would we buy it? Probably not. We needed to see Gandalf, to experience his terror  first-hand. Only then can we swallow the premise of Frodo’s perilous journey. And we do, hook, like, and Slinker/Stinker.

Maybe it was about vegetarianism? The bad guys were first labeled to us as bad guys because … wait for it… they ate meat. Killing animals is wrong, wrong, wrong. Forget that (in the Bible) God actually instructed man to make animal sacrifices and that Noah was to bring seven pairs each of the sacrificial animals.  Or that in the story of Cain and Abel, the murderer was the veggie-raiser, not the shepherd.

Oh, wait. I did say I would bold a section to let the spoiler-haters know when to tag back in. Here you go!

It was a mess of a film with everything and nothing going on at once. I know it was directed by an atheist. That doesn’t bother me. It could still have been a thought-provoking and engaging film without the religious aspect. But when the intent is to remove the religion from a religious story, it needs to be replaced with something else equally compelling and profound, more than just “eating meat makes you the devil.”

I can live with poor movie making, lazy plot and silly CGI, though. The deal breaker, what prompted us to get up and walk out of the theater, was the over-the-top violence that partially involved over-the-top cruelty to animals. When I buy a ticket for a movie rated PG-13, I should feel comfortable in knowing I am not about to be subjected to animals screaming while they are ripped apart  or have to watch them try to get away after their body is mangled. PG-13, huh? Is that the kind of thing you want your 13-year-old desensitized to? I don’t. When the violence is taken to that level, the film needs to be slapped with a big, fat R. It’s not a kid’s movie. It’s not a teenager’s move, either, in my opinion.

Was Aronofsky thumbing his nose at believers? “Here’s what I did to a favorite religious story! Neener-neener!” I don’t know. Maybe. But it reminds me of the time in an act of supreme defiance, one of my toddler children peed on the dog. Yes, the kid made their point and I had a bit of a mess to clean up, but the kid was the one who stooped to peeing on the dog. Which of us had the bigger problem? So Darren, dude, I hate to be the one to tell you, but you just peed on the dog.

So we walked out. And thanks to the smoker, we had a good enough reason to get our money back. Because that’s what we did. We could have gotten return tickets to come back when Smoky Joe wasn’t there anymore, but we didn’t. We got the refund. Because life is too short to sit through a pointless picture.

 

The Benefit of Second-hand Smoke

My husband and I decided to treat ourselves to a movie. Like, in a theater. I found one I wanted to see, and off we went.

About two minutes into the film, husband and I looked at each other and said “Is someone smoking?” And the answer was yes. Smoking. In a movie theater. The audience collectively waited for the miscreant to put the thing out. We couldn’t see the culprit, but it was pretty obvious to everyone that they were there. (Let me interject right here that I am not a “condemn smokers to hell” kind of gal. I am, however, asthmatic. And seriously. Smoking? In a movie theater? C’mon, kids!) It was like hanging out in a bar.

Don't smoke in the theater. Angry usher will get you! Or bring you pizza. Whatevs.

Don’t smoke in the theater. Angry usher will get you! Or bring you pizza. Whatevs.

One person left the theater and returned with an usher. She could not find the source of the smoke. My money was on the kid who said “F- you” repeatedly when she came up the steps toward him, but I am no Sherlock Holmes. Instead of ousting him, she brought him a pizza. No, I am not kidding. She did get another usher, however. The two of them scoured the place with no luck. After another complaint, a manager was brought in. She could smell the general direction the smoke was coming from, but she couldn’t catch anybody. Finally, we moved seats hoping that we could at least get away from the worst of it. After an hour, we left the theater and got our money back, and as we left, an officer of the law came in to try to sort it out.

My husband and I will be ever grateful to the individual who decided to flaunt social graces and light up illegally. In doing so, they saved us from perhaps the worst movie I have ever seen. And I even watched Dodgeball. Accidentally. The drama in the theater itself was more compelling than the action on screen. Yeah, I’m talking about Noah.

GIANT SPOILER ALERT. I know. You’ve already read the Bible story, so you know what happens. Trust me when I say you don’t.

I knew next to nothing about this movie going in, except that it was a retelling of the story of Noah’s Ark. And it starred Gladiator and Hermione Granger. And Hannibal Lechter as Grandpa. What else do you need to know, really?

So a few minutes in, I began to question the authenticity of the piece. The wheel hadn’t been invented yet, but we are shown a mine with some kind of wind-driven machinery. Okay, then. So it’s fantasy? I can live with that. Then the rock-Transformers show up.

Yeah. The Watchers were fallen angels (the Nephilim in the Old Testament. But instead of marrying the daughters of men, these guys helped build the ark. I know. And they looked pretty much like this, give or take a leg or two.

Yeah.So.  The Watchers. They looked pretty much like this, give or take a leg or two.

The Watchers were fallen angels. And boy did they fall far. Instead of looking all glam and naughty-angel-like, they looked like walking charcoal briquettes. Except they didn’t burn. And they could totally kick human tail, except for when they couldn’t. I don’t know. It didn’t make sense to me, either. There currently aren’t any images of them available because they’re pretty hilarious. Shh. They’re top secret.

This post became entirely too long and cumbersome for one sitting. Stay tuned tomorrow for the conclusion of “Why This Movie Was a Real Waste of Time.”

Have you seen it? Did the rock-Transformers make you giggle?

Sins of the Tweeter

I am not the be-all, end-all when it comes to social media. I should have made you sit down before breaking that bit of news, shouldn’t I? Such a shock isn’t good for the heart.

Anyway, while I’m no expert and have only a few hundred followers, Twitter is my favorite form of getting social. Trying to communicate a pithy thought in 140 characters or less is a constant exercise in effective writing, and I love the interactions I have over there.

I’m not here to give a lecture on Twitter etiquette because I am still learning some of that myself. But here are some big sins I try to avoid.

Only tweeting links to blog posts. It’s a rookie mistake. When I see an account that consists entirely of blog posts directly publicized by the blog host, I assume it’s someone kind of new to Twitter. Potential followers want to know who we are, they want to connect. It’s hard to interact with a list of links. Tweet the link for sure, but in between, talk to other people. Find some other folks with similar interests to talk to.

Tweeting almost exclusively from other social media. It is frustrating to follow someone whose tweets consist only of status updates from Facebook that are a few teaser words followed by a Facebook link. If you’re not engaged, it’s okay to leave. When I realized my only Facebook status updates were my tweets, I dumped Facebook. Engage in social media you enjoy. Writers are supposed to build platforms, but it’s not really building much of a community if we aren’t really plugged in there. Doing one site well is better than half-hearted engagement in several.

Oversharing. Followers want the link to that latest post. It’s part of why they follow us in the first place. But check your Publicize settings and be aware of how it is tweeting. It is frustrating to see six identical links within seconds of each other because sharing to one site automatically triggers all of them to tweet. Unsure if followers are getting multiple tweets? Check your “me” feed.

Using Twitter to artificially build a blog following. In recent years, I encountered one blogger whose following soared into the tens of thousands within a year. They were even interviewed and asked how they did it. Of course the answer was “I write well.” But here’s the secret. If a WordPress blog is set to post to Twitter, those followers are counted on the blog as well. So this individual spent weeks and months following everyone they could find. Many of those people followed them back. Then, the blogger in question quietly unfollowed those same tens of thousands of people. At first glance, they appear to be wildly popular. In reality, they’re just kind of sneaky. Illegal, no. Dishonest, you bet.

Using Twitter apps incorrectly. There are several apps out there that let you know who followed and unfollowed. Such information can be valuable in helping direct your content. If you see a sharp increase in followers after a post on women’s rights, for example, you can plan similar posts in the future. If followers suddenly drop off, you know to take a look at what may have turned readers off.

Used incorrectly, these apps can make tweeters look insecure and needy. Unless an unfollower is a close friend, it is inappropriate to contact them to ask them why they left. Not everyone is going to like us. It’s okay. Let it go.

Including the entire world in every conversation. I once followed someone and could not for the life of me figure out why I was seeing their conversations with people I do not follow. The reason? This tweeter was moving the Twitter handle to the end of their tweet so their conversation was visible to all of their followers. This move is the equivalent of talking loudly on a cell phone in the middle of a restaurant. Few of us have business so interesting that everyone wants to be a part of it. Equally sinful is putting a period in front of their handle so it looks like you’re talking just to them, but it still goes to everybody else.

Shameless plagiarism. I was recently followed out of the blue by an account with 90K followers. I read their profile, and they seemed harmless, so I followed them back. Then I noticed their tweets looked familiar. Yesterday, I read a distinctively worded tweet that I had read (and favorited) a year ago by someone completely different. This account was not simply retweeting. They were claiming the material as their own. Listen, if it’s rampant plagiarism and copyright infringement I’m after, I’ll visit Pinterest. Retweet if you love something. Nobody loves a copycat. In fact, not only do I unfollow those, I block them as well. No free material from me!

So now you know what I do not like in Twitter accounts that I follow. How about what I love? I love thought-provoking and entertaining tweeters who at least sometimes engage in interaction with their followers.

What are the biggest Twitter sins in your opinion? What did I miss?

 

Twitter is my very favorite way to follow blogs. Feel free to leave your handle in the comments!