Random Reviews

Just something light today because I’m trying to get back in the habit of writing every morning. I’m actually just trying to get back into the habit of a lot of things that I know ease my soul but are so hard to do when you’re feeling gray. That’s the Catch-22 with depression, you know that some things make you feel a little better, but the drive to do those things is 100% gone. So you phone it in with a blog entry about various things you’ve read/watched/listened to lately and hope that helps.

  • I read The Circle because it’s my book club book AND I was thinking I’d see the movie on Mother’s Day Movie Extravaganza but y’all – it frustrated the hell out of me. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been living inside the internet for over a decade or what, but I found the story unbelievable from the first few chapters. When I couldn’t easily get the movie to fit into my 3-movie day, I opted not to see it because I found the book so frustrating and I didn’t want to associate two of my favorite actors with it if I found the movie just as bad. Have you read it? What are your thoughts? It wasn’t bad in the quality sense, I just couldn’t believe it.
  • I did see the new King Arthur movie on Mother’s Day Movie Extravaganza and while I don’t think the script was that great, I loved the cinematography and the acting and the costumes and special effects. It was VISUALLY COMPELLING, which held me to a kinda weak script. And the acting was superb. And some of the music/visual combinations were just mesmerizing. I hate it’s getting crappy reviews because – even with the kinda weak script – I think it’s worth seeing, ESPECIALLY on the big screen.
  • I’ve got another podcast I’ve been listening to lately that I’m so surprised I love. It’s Sawbones and it’s a husband/wife duo discussing medical history. (Wife is a doctor, husband is a McElroy brother from many other of my favorite podcasts.) This is a great one to put on absentmindedly to just fill the space while you’re walking the dog or falling asleep. I don’t feel like I have to worry about missing something if I doze of or zone out, it’s just light and entertaining. I love it. And there’s several years of it to listen to so I think it will last me for awhile!

The Two Sides Of Trusting The Internet To Recommend Things

Often times the internet and my friends within, recommend something and I have to check it out. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it, and weirdly in the last two weeks I had shocking results from two big things being discussed in my circle of exposure: The Great British Bake Off and S-Town. I’m going to talk about the baking show first and then I’m going to try to talk about S-Town in as VAGUE of a manner as possible. BUT! If you want to stay 100% unaware, you might want to skip that section. There are a few key elements I have to discuss although I won’t discuss the who or the when, you will be spoiled a little if you read my thoughts on the podcast.

The Great British Bake Off

There are two things lately that have really helped stifle my anxiety. 1) I’ve gotten back into running (34 miles in 3 days!) and 2) THIS DAMN BAKING SHOW. I’m so sad there are only 3 seasons on Netflix because listening to British people talk and then watching footage of hands kneading dough and piping icing are two of the most SOOTHING DAMN THINGS ON THIS PLANET.

First off: I do not watch Food Television. Never. Ever. It’s just not something I’ve ever enjoyed because I don’t like cooking so I don’t find it interesting. But GBBO was recommended by so many different people and I was so bored one day I thought: Well, let’s just give it ONE CHANCE. (FYI: While the show is called The Great British Bake Off on the BBC, Netflix calls it The Great British Baking Show.)

The first thing I fell in love with are the hosts/comic relief: Mel Giedroyc & Sue Perkins. I guess they’ve worked together for decades and I love them. They have great chemistry together and they seem 100% invested in the lives of the contestants. If a baker is having a breakdown, they really sincerely seem to care. I’ve also read articles that indicate they threatened to walk off the first season when they felt like producers were starting to try to force unrelated drama into situations. This is one of the things I love about the show, they don’t seem to be trying to capitalize on the pain of the contestants. If someone screws up it’s pointed out gently and then we all move on.

Legend also indicates that if a contestant is having a REALLY BAD breakdown, those two will stand in front of the cameras and use foul language so they can’t use the footage.

But besides Mel & Sue (who I think are leaving the show but it won’t matter because I think we’re several years behind on Netflix) the contestants are relatable (they have real jobs during the week and film this on the weekend) and the judges are harsh, but in the nicest way possible. I just adore it. I’ve been watching it before bed every night and it truly helps me wind down with the accents and the piping icing, and the kneading of the dough. I ADORE IT. Netflix has three season on it, but the best I can tell they’re actually seasons 4,5 and 6. Also, it seems the BBC version has a lot more extras than we get, like cooking lessons and historical deep dives.

Either way – it is LOVELY. Try it!

S-Town

UGG. The podcast everyone in the world loves and I hated. Truly. Now, I’m not going to spoil things completely but my comments WILL SPOIL THINGS FOR YOU. I will be as vague as possible but some stuff I just have to come out and mention even without names/details. I really hope my distaste does not offend anyone who loved it. I hate to yuck the yums or poop on the joy of others. Please know that 100% of my hatred of this podcast can be connected to very personal connections to the story that maybe you don’t have. So I’m not saying EVERYONE should hate it, but there was no way around me hating it…with my personal history and my well-documented reaction to some elements used in this show.

The show starts as an investigation into a crime brought to the attention of a journalist by a unique character in Woodstock, Alabama. And what starts as an intriguing “Who Done It” mixed with a little bit of “sideshow display” type treatment of Alabama…quickly changes course when a character dies (the journalist mentions a death as a spoiler early on) in a way I found upsetting and then we deep-dive into this person’s life for the rest of the season. I felt like the death was exploited and the deep dive was done with no permission whatsoever. I kept listening through the season for what I was hoping would be some sort of recording of consent for this creepy dig into this person’s life, and when the season ended and I never got that? I felt terrible. Like I had been a part in some sort of perverted peeping Tom behavior.

It didn’t help that many of these elements hit close to home: Characters who felt out of place in Alabama. Mental Health. Racism and Homophobia. There were very few moments in the show where some raw spot on my heart and mind was not being picked at to make bleed. It almost felt like someone sat down and said, “How can we build a story that will upset Zoot the most?” And then went at it from there.

I felt dirty and ashamed for listening. I felt like I owed an apology to so many people involved for listening to this perversion of their lives. And yes, we’re all adults and many agreed to be part of this, but did they really know what they were getting into? Do we ever? Just because someone gave permission to be part of something, does not mean they want to be part of what that becomes and I didn’t like the idea of these real people being treated like fictional characters in a overly dramatized fiction.

But – like I said – it picked at several raw spots in my heart so not everyone is going to react as violently as I did.

SO! What have you been enjoying/hating lately?

How An Old Lady Became Obsessed With D&D

I’ve been writing here since late 2003 and there are very few topics I haven’t covered. And today? I’m 99.9999% positive I’m in uncharted territory here at misszoot.com. I’m also worried that 99.99999% of you will NOT CARE IN THE SLIGHTEST about this topic but if you all will hang with me, we may end up in this new world together.

Let’s talk Dungeons & Dragons!

(Did I lose you already?)

(Please! Hang in there!)

My only experience with Dungeons & Dragons was learning about it when my brother played with a friend in our youth and the idea sounding SO COOL. But that’s it. And every time I hear other people talk about it I think, “THAT SOUNDS SO COOL!” But I’ve never seen it played nor do I know anything about it or – really – any other Role Playing Games (RPGs) for that matter. I’ve never even seen/played online RPGs much less table-top ones. Meaning, NO EXPERIENCE WHATSOEVER.

But that part of me that says, “THAT SOUNDS SO COOL!” has always been intrigued when hearing people talking about it. Fantasy role-playing? I mean…it just sounds like me, right? I like fantasy. I have a very vivid imagination. I’m a nerd. How I never ended up in a D&D crowd in my life is beyond me.

NOW! Fast-forward to a few weeks ago when I learned that a silly group of brothers (The McElroy Brothers) I listen to in a different podcast (My Brother, My Brother And Me – it’s a bit profane) also do a D&D podcast called The Adventure Zone. I quickly looked at it on iTunes and learned the 3 brothers do it with their Dad and there was “only” 45+ episodes which is a reasonable amount to catch up on. (I’m currently running 50’ish miles a week, it doesn’t take me long to burn through 45+ episodes of podcasts.) And I hadn’t listened to a fiction podcast in awhile and was itching for a new one, so this seemed like a good one to fit the bill.

So, I queued up episode one and went to town.

In case you know nothing about D&D it’s simple. You have a DM/GM (Dungeon Master/Game Master) who plans an adventure and the other players are characters who have pre-determined abilities based on base-definitions and you roll various dice to see how you perform in certain instances.

(That sounds SO boring.)

And y’all? I AM SO HOOKED NOW. I’m looking into trying to start a game with the kids, or maybe joining a different one (Donnie knows someone who might be able to DM for us as a family) but either way, I will play soon if it kills me. This series of podcasts has cracked me up (I already love these guys because they’re hilarious even though they can get SO FOUL) so many times. I’ll be on a run, or in my car, or washing dishes and they’ll do a goof that has me LOLing in a very real sense. BUT! It’s also super-riveting. In one episode Travis McElroy (who plays Magnus) paused Griffin while he was doing the story telling and said something like, “I just want to say I’m on the edge of my seat here,” and I was thinking THE SAME THING. Who knew an audio format of a group playing a table-top role playing game could have me BITING MY FINGERNAILS WITH NERVES.

But there have been some moments when Griffin (The DM) has announced a twist or a turn or a result that has had me literally GASP. I got goosebumps at the end of one episode recently. I looked down at my arm and there they were: GOOSEBUMPS. And then? Most recently? Two episodes ago? I SOBBED LIKE A DAMN BABY. This crazy podcast with 4 guys playing a game – NOT EVEN IN THE SAME ROOM (they live in different cities and play via Skype) – has me ADDICTED and LAUGHING and CRYING and SCARED and OH MY GOD I AM NOW CAUGHT UP WITH THE REAL WORLD AND I HAVE TO WAIT LIKE EVERYONE ELSE DOES WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?

It took a few episodes to get into it. I think this is partly because I didn’t understand the game that well (not sure I still do) and it was hard for me to figure out what was going on with dice rolling. It might be harder to get into if you don’t already know the guy’s voices from their other podcast because it might take awhile to sort out who is playing who. But! It didn’t take long for me to understand enough to get the gist of the thing. I think it also took a bit for the guys to really hash out their characters so they became dimensional. Once Travis said, “Okay. There’s something I really want to do right now but it’s something TRAVIS would do, NOT Magnus, so I’m going to NOT do it and respect the fiction.”

I thought that was SO COOL.

And I love hearing Griffin McElroy MDM’ing. My favorite is when the guys do something unexpected and he gets excited. He’ll even say, “Okay…I’m totally into this…” like he LOVES the challenge to build a story based on some of these insane actions. While I love Magnus the best (played by Travis McElroy), I think Justin McElroy’s character is the funniest (His character is Taako, pronounced “Taco.”) and it doesn’t help the he’s SO good at the voice so sometimes it’s not WHAT he’s saying that cracks me up but HOW he’s saying it.

I just love the whole thing. I’m super-sad that I’m now caught up with the real world and I’ll have to wait 2 weeks at a time like everyone else. It was already hard enough to remember what had happened when I only started a few weeks ago, it’s going to be impossible to keep it all straight now.

Either way – I’m looking forward to trying to actually play this game some time in the future. Hopefully with the kids if I can figure out how to DM a game I’ve never played. I think I’d be a terrible DM but the kids won’t mind me being bad, I think they’ll just get into playing it. The podcast is not as foul as MBMBAM can be (They’re foul in the way any 3 brothers are foul when they get together), so I’ve let them listen to it periodically. They can’t wait to get started playing.

So here’s to a new thing to obsess over. I’m 41, that’s the age when most people start playing D&D, right?

Hogwarts is so close I can smell the potions!

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Our package from Universal came this week! The one with the welcome letter and the owl plush and the tickets to things like our breakfast at 3 Broomsticks and our other breakfast at Leaky Cauldron! TWO BREAKFASTS WITH WIZARDS! I can’t wait.

You get this type of package when you specifically book the Harry Potter travel dealio. It’s really nothing more than those reservations and this welcome package BUT IT IS ALL WORTH IT BECAUSE…HOGWARTS!

I’ve been very tired lately and not really mentally stable as my life feels like it’s 180 degrees different than it was 2 months ago and I haven’t really settled into this new life successfully on just about any level but then…

HOGWARTS!

I’ve been reliving a lot of my Hogwarts memories lately. The one I visit the most awesome is when I was depressed on of my weekends (in 1999) without E, when his Dad and I still lived in the same town so we were doing the every other weekend thing. So – I did what I always did when I was depressed and I went and bought books at Books-A-Million (we didn’t have a Barnes and Noble) on my credit card I shouldn’t have been using because I was too poor to make payments. There was this interesting display with three Harry Potter books on it, and I assumed it was a trilogy and I thought, “Well…this should get me through the weekend.”

And it did. BUT IT WAS NOT A TRILOGY.

I went to everyone I knew on Monday and was like, “Have you heard of Harry Potter?” and of course they all had because none of them were as disconnected from the real world as I was with no TV. I was hooked, and would forever be hooked.

Since then we’ve done midnight releases for every book and every movie that there was one. The first movies didn’t have a midnight release locally but everyone that did – we attended. Harry Potter is/was E’s childhood and in a way – it was mine too. Nikki has made it through book 3 now and I’m hoping Wes starts reading them someday.

This will be our first time to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we’ve been planning this trip since the first park opened several years ago. We just now really were able to set aside the money. First family vacation in 5 years. FIVE YEARS. All 5 of us on a trip together for a whole week. The last time we did that was the summer of 2009. WAIT. SHIT. THAT’S SIX YEARS. I’ve been saying 5 but it’s actually six. I’m good at math.

We leave May 2nd and come back May 9th.

Or maybe never. If I find a job in Diagon Alley I’ll send the family back without me.

Ode To A Remake

I’m going to be honest.

I love a good remake.

Now, it has to be good, but it doesn’t have to be great. But I don’t have that suspiciousness of them that a lot of people have. And I don’t make snarky comments about how there’s “nothing new” left in Hollywood. Look, remakes are GENIUS. Because they Target adults with money by using something they loved as kids. I don’t have a problem with it and I enjoy it and I keep hoping someone will take on my favorite: Neverending Story.

my-daughter-loved-it-anywayLast night we watched Annie. Nikki was so excited about that one that she insisted I get it first thing when the Red Box opened up as we knew it came out yesterday. Which I did. She was SO EXCITED last night to watch it, it was almost the total thrill just to see that.

But it was SO GOOD. I adored Jamie Foxx as the new Daddy Warbucks. LOVED him. But y’all? My favorite? Was Rose Byrne as Grace. I don’t know why she’s not been giving All Of The Rolls yet because she has range! I saw her be serious/dark on that dreadful show Damages which I only watched for about five minutes because it was WAY too grown-up for me. But she was also great in Bridesmaids and Neighbors so she does comedy great. And in Annie? She did sweet and charming BEAUTIFULLY. I really believed her adorable slip-ups about being a dorky kid who liked talk radio and being an overworked adult with no friends. She was GREAT.

And of course Quvenzhan√© Wallis was great. I loved her turn on the character and my daughter ADORED her. I wouldn’t say the original movie was my favorite by any means. I don’t even remember a lot of it as I’ve not seeing it in full probably since I was a kid. But this one? This one I LOVED. So, would someone who adored the original love it? I have no idea. But Nikki and I laughed and I cried and we squealed…it was great.

I’ll be honest, I can’t think of a remake off the top of my head that I haven’t liked. What about you? Any you’ve hated? Any you’re dreading in the horizon? I keep hearing mixed reports about this Ghostbusters thing – is it all women? Or men? I have no idea but I watched that movie 100 million times growing up, so I’m curious about it either way!