Friday, October 31, 2008

Reeva Dubois’s Depression Survival Kit: Part 2 – Jigsaw Puzzles

When I’m down and out, all I want to do is shut out the entire world. You know, metaphorically roll the rock in front of my man-cave. That doesn’t mean I sit in the dark, muttering to myself, peeling off my skin, or pulling out my hair (wait, scratch that – I do pull out my hair), because that would imply I actually like being depressed. Well, I don’t. That’s why the jigsaw puzzle is the most powerful weapon in my anti-depression arsenal. I put on my earphones, crank up the tunes, and throw myself completely into a new puzzle. There’s something very therapeutic about starting a project and finishing it. I don’t get that kind of gratification from knitting (most projects take me forever) or writing (it involves too much thinking). With puzzles, I get to disappear into mindless occupation – the hours pass quickly, I forget the garbage that’s pissing me off, and when I’m done I have a new, pretty something to look at. Or if it’s not pretty, I can destroy it, which is fun, too.

Little known fact about me, I’m kind of a puzzle shark. Since that isn’t something you brag about at parties, I’m not sure if I’m any faster than anyone else, but I feel like I’m fast. That’s because I have a strategy. Ah yes... a strategy.

No big secret: the trick to getting a puzzle done quickly is all in the sorting. I’ve found that if I spend a good chunk of time getting to know the puzzle before I start putting it together, the whole thing comes together like lightning.
The first thing I do is sort out the border, which… duh, right? But as I’m doing that, I’m also looking at each and every piece of the puzzle body, mentally sorting them all into different categories. Once the border is put together, which we can all agree is the easy part, I then roll out the rest of the pieces – turning them all right side up and spacing them across my puzzle surface. Once that’s done, I can look at the big picture. I can estimate how many pieces are caught up in all the various components of the puzzle, and from there, plan my attack.

For example, if I’m doing a seascape or something, odds are a lot of the pieces will be blue or watery, so there’s no point in sorting that crap. Rather, I’ll look around the entire surface and see if I can’t organize them into different groups of fishies or plants. If there’s a small item like an anchor that only involves 10 pieces, why not go ahead and throw it together? By tackling the smaller, obvious things first, and getting them situated within the border, you’d be surprised how quickly the pieces start to fly together.

Of course, if you’re a masochist and have picked up one of those puzzles that doesn’t have borders and/or features hundreds of similarly colored animals or flowers or babies or trees or whatever, then you really do have to sort – and quite methodically. Otherwise you’re just trying each piece randomly against the next, which isn’t really doing a puzzle so much as slowly losing your mind.

The hardest traditional puzzle I ever tackled was a mountain scape of the Rockies. It was all white-capped majesty and rock and snow and sky. There was nothing to attack right off the bat, so I spent the entire first evening sorting out the sky from the mountain bases from the snow-covered trees, and that took care of a little less than half of the pieces, but then I was stuck with the other half which were distinguishable ONLY by slightly different gradients of white and gray. That puzzle nearly killed me, it’s true, but I still knocked it out in about three days. Why? Sorting.

Anyway, for this bout of melancholy, I found a most intriguing challenge: a photomosiac puzzle. I’d seen these around, but had never attempted one, mostly because I thought it would be incredibly frustrating to deal with a big picture and thousands of smaller pictures to boot. But I got suckered in by the finished product, quite understandably, because it was Snoopy.

So here’s the play-by-play…

Night 1

Night 2

Night 3

Night 4

One more puzzle after the jump...

A little bit later, I totally killed this puzzle. There's no play-by-play because I knocked it out in one night. I sh*t you not. 1,000 pieces in one night. I was very proud of myself, but my eyes wouldn't focus for about two days after.

This one was easy, admittedly. There were very obvious ways to attack it. First I sorted out all the pieces that made up the element banners on the sides. Then I took care of the words along the top. Since the four paintings on the corners were kind of hard to distinguish from one another, I tackled the map next, starting with the different colored continents. The ocean took the longest, because a lot of the pieces were exactly the same. But once I'd put together the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn, it was breezy from there.

God, I need to get out more.

Reeva Dubois’s Depression Survival Kit: Part 1 – Pop Divas

I shouldn’t have to explain how or why I love Pop Divas. I’m gay so it’s kind of a given. I think it’s in the by-laws.

It’s been a huge year for my favorite female pop acts. Earlier in the year, we had new stuff from Britney, Madonna, Robyn, Kylie and Cyndi Lauper. Now, I have the pleasure of sifting through new stuff from Britney (prolific, isn’t she?), Lady Gaga, Michelle Williams, Jennifer Hudson, Christina, Pink, Keri Hilson… and (SQUEEEEE) Beyonce.

The new videos and singles have been shooting out of my computer like poison darts of pop pleasure, and I’ve been hard pressed to keep up. I’m tempted to do a massive video post (which I’ll probably do later), but now I just want to talk about Beyonce. Why? Because her new video for Single Ladies is, like… the best video I’ve ever seen.

This video is like crack for me. Seriously. I have to watch it once an hour or so. The first time I saw it, I was sitting at my computer with my eyes bugging out of my head, maybe with a little bit of drool coming out of my mouth, paralyzed by the FIERCE!

The Song
To be completely honest, the song barely registered with me at first; I was hypnotized by the amazing legs and Beyonce’s crazy metal glove. But I gotta say, this song is insanely catchy – it’s like Beyonce sneezed and then shook my hand. I didn’t know it was happening, but now I have the song totally memorized.

The Styling
The matching black leotards against the black, white and gray backgrounds are sharp and sleek. The hair piled on top and flowing down the back is simultaneously sexy and super-classy. The decision to film in black and white on a bare soundstage is genius; all the attention is on the choreography.

The Choreography
Shut up! I mean, just SHUT UP! Best choreography I’ve ever seen. There isn’t a single arbitrary step. Every movement reflects the words. Every series of movements reflects the music. There is inevitability to the motions, from the opening steps to the final pose. It’s all about the ring and what this crazy man is missing because he didn’t put it on Beyonce.

The Concept
Ok, so the idea of a Diva with two sexy hench-ladies isn’t new, but the amazing chemistry these three ladies have together quite literally blasts out of the screen. Not to mention all three are amazing dancers with killer bodies. I’ve already mentioned the legs, but I can’t emphasize it enough – those stems almost made me straight. Anyway, what I love about all of it is this: everything makes sense. Every creative choice, from the lighting, to the camera movements, to Beyonce’s one bare shoulder – it’s all flawless. This is a case of everything just working. Don’t you love it when that happens?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go practice. I’m learning the choreography so I can show it off at the clubs. I’m pretty sure that’s in the by-laws, too.

Who am I kidding? I’m not even close to being done with this. Here are some of my favorite moments…

Happy Halloween!!

Presenting these year's punkin'...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Oh Hai there, blog!

I know… I know… I’m a slacker for going so long without a post. But here me out! Things haven’t been all that great for me lately, and blogging is something I do when I’m happy. It’s hard to write about music and TV shows and entertainment when all I want to do is turn off the lights, eat a bucket of ice cream, and wallow in self-pity. Indeed, the past couple of weeks have been a shame spiral, and while I typically resist this kind of behavior (well, I try to anyway), this time it felt right to surrender to the gloom. My moods have been a trailmix of anger, fear, self-loathing and helplessness – and I figure the only way to come out of something like that emotionally intact, besides setting things on fire and/or cutting, is just to let it take its course, much like you do a debilitating migraine.

I actually did quite a bit of writing through it all, but I decided not to post any of it, mostly because I wasn’t interested in any comments of the “Hang in there, Kitty,” variety. When I feel like this, the last things I want to hear are the all-too-true platitudes about how the sun will come out or what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger or everything happens for a reason. Mostly, those kinds of statements just make me angrier, which we can all agree is counter-productive.

So what happened? Well, let’s just say, without getting too specific, my place of business screwed me over EPICALLY… AGAIN… and will continue to do so until I no longer work there. I’ve been looking for a new job for quite some time, but I’ve come up empty-handed, which only adds to my frustrations. I’ve decided to stick it out until my lease runs out, and in the meantime, I’m going to start looking for work in other locales. As crazy as it sounds, I really don’t want to move away. My family is here and despite all of its problems, this town owns my heart. You know what they say, you can’t help who (or in this case, where) you love. That said, a huge part of me can’t wait to get out of this burg.

And I know what you’re thinking… “Reeva, you should just be grateful you are still employed. There are lots of people out there doing much worse.”

To that I say, “Ah, yes… too true, too true. But again… counter-productive.”

The good news, I think I’m ready to start posting again – starting with an epic post entitled Reeva Dubois’s Depression Survival Kit. Part one coming very soon.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Dancing with the Stars, Week 1, Night 1...

700 billion pardons for being so late with my Dancing with the Stars comments. I blame predatory lenders and greedy executives.

Oh, cheer up, Derek! Reeva will catch up eventually...

The first week of this fine program was a 5 hour marathon, parceled out over three nights. There were 25 dances, 2 eliminations, and about a gazillion awkward interviews with Samantha backstage.

And now, if you please, I’ll continue in the present tense, because it’s easier. Except for when I don’t, which is pretty often. You know what? Let's just eschew tenses altogether.

On night one, all 13 couples will dance. On night two, 12 couples danced for the second time right after they were saved from elimination. The last couple standing is eliminated. Night 3 will be a standard results show. I feel the need to explain this because, as easy as it sounds, I was mighty confused all week long.

In case you didn’t read my premeditative post about this new season, here’s the list of contestants and their carefully crafted and meticulously manipulated niches…

Cody Linley, Disney T.V. Star and tween sensation, & Julianne
Rocco Dispirito, Celebrity Chef (the celebrity part is debatable), & Karina
Toni Braxton, Singer desperate to revive her career, & Alec
Maurice Green, Olympic Gold Medalist, & Cheryl
Brooke Burke, Model and Soccer-mom, & Derek
Ted McGinley, Show killer and all around nice guy, & Inna
Lance Bass, Former boy-bander (more specifically – the gay one), & Lacey
Cloris Leachman, Legendary actress and pottymouth, & Corky
Jeffrey Ross, Roast-master and comedian, & Edyta
Kim Kardashian, Reality T.V. participant (I refuse to call her a star), & Mark
Susan Lucci, Soap Opera diva, & Tony
Misty May-Treanor, Olympic Gold Medalist, & Maksim
Warren Sapp, NFL star and goofball, & Kym

I commence with the play by play after the jump…

Leading us off on night one are Cody, Julianne, and Cody’s eyebrows. Since Cody is the youngest contestant EVER, every interaction that takes place on screen must remind us of that at least 50 times. There can be no confusion about who is youngest!! In the first interview package, we laugh as Cody struggles to learn his dance because he is so distracted by Julianne’s rockin’ bod, you know, because he’s young and immature, that little rascal.

Their cha-cha is just OK – the judges harass him for having a little too much energy, you know, because he’s so YOUNG. He scores an 18.

Rocco and Karina suffered a slight set-back during rehearsals when Karina came down on her ankle wrong during a spin and had to go to the hospital. Between you and me, it didn’t look like she turned it that bad. SUCK IT UP, KARINA! Anyway, since she’s a professional (or the injury wasn’t that bad), she has decided that the show must go on.

Their foxtrot is passable at best. Rocco is obviously uncomfortable out there, and I can only assume he lost some rehearsal time due to Karina’s injury, because the routine was about as tentative as a senior citizen in heavy traffic. Frankly, I’m surprised they even started.

The judges are nice about it in their comments, but brutal with their scores. Len actually gave Rocco and Karina a 4, which… I think Tom said it best, “I didn’t know we even had a 4!” And seriously, Rocco, there will never be a dance that involves chopping motions, so QUIT ASKING FOR IT! Wait… now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure we’ll have to suffer through a dance with chopping motions, mostly because this show has no shame. Anyway, they score a 14, which is the lowest score I’ve ever seen on this show, I think.

Toni and Alec are next. Wow… Alec is really attractive, isn’t he? I forget about him because he’s been voted out first two seasons in a row. So apparently I was kind of right about Toni being ill, which explains her absence from the music biz. She was diagnosed with ???, which is a heart condition I can’t be bothered to remember. The point is, her heart ain’t right and she’s coming on this show to battle through it to see if she has what it takes to get back into entertaining. This makes me a little bit uncomfortable because if she really is having heart trouble, I’m not sure I want to see it play out on live T.V. Maybe she could work it out on her treadmill at home?

Their cha-cha is very good, thanks to Toni’s music background. A lot of the look and feel of ballroom dancing is in the music. Basically, if you can make your body feel like the music, you’re halfway there. And if you’re wondering: that’s what the judges mean when they say musicality. Anyway, she didn’t nail all the steps, but her overall impression is enough to earn a 22 – a very good score so early.

Maurice and Cheryl are up with their Foxtrot, and my, my, my… does Cheryl look a little bloated to you? She looked fine in her dress but something is happening with her face… I wonder what that’s all about. Maurice is a breath of fresh air because he approaches dancing without all that macho, I’m uncomfortable with this because I’m a “man”, bullsh*t – I wish the other male contestants would follow suit. This guy is a ball of energy, though, which was apparent in his Foxtrot. The judges like his enthusiasm, but his manic energy needs to be turned down a bit if he wants to appear polished and graceful. They score him at 18.

Next, Brooke and Derek. This woman supposedly gave birth 6 months ago, but you could totally wash your delicates on her abdominals. How is that possible?? We go ahead and meet her army of rug-rats, because there’s no point in delaying the inevitable. All we’re going to hear about all season are her kids and we might as well get used to it. Oh, and her husband is David Charvet. Derek explains that Brooke has hyper-extended legs, which gives them an advantage. That advantage is quickly undermined by Brooke’s inability to remember her steps.

After all the talk about her legs, I’m super surprised when Brooke comes out to perform her cha-cha in pants, which makes zero sense for her and for the dance. But no one asked me, so whatever. I predict Brooke will go far in this competition – not only are her movements tight and crisp, but her musicality is way ahead of the pack as well. The judges agree and score her at 23.

The only good thing I can say about Ted and Inna’s foxtrot was their choice of song – God Only Knows, by the Beach Boys. I love that song in any context.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed in Ted. As much as I like him, he did make me sit through a 5 minute pre-dance interview package in which he aggressively asserted his masculinity over and over and over, and you know… this gets so old. At least he didn’t blame everything on wanting to please his wife and kids, which has been a popular route in the past. Predictably, he was stiff and uncomfortable through his first dance, but all the judges pointed out his potential, and scored him at 18 (too high, in my opinion).

Next up are Lance and Lacey. Lacey will henceforth be known as “Lacey and her Weave of Many Colors,” because, seriously girl… lay off the blues and purples. It’s not cute. Their pre-package is meet-cutesy and fun and there are lots of shots of Lance’s sexy arms, but not the slightest mention of the elephant in the room, which is… Gaaaayyyy. Anyway, their cha-cha is high energy and athletic and crowd-pleasing, but even I can tell there isn’t a whole lot of cha-cha going on, a fact immediately pounced upon by head judge and old geezer, Len. However, Bruno and Carrie Ann loved Lacey’s fresh take on the dance. As for myself, I’m kind of torn. A part of me is on Team Bruno, because after six seasons of the same dances, it’s really nice to see something different. But another part of me is very much on Team Len, because this stage of the competition should be more compulsory. Part of the challenge for these contestants is to perform generic ballroom dances while still allowing their personalities to shine through. The only fair way to accurately assess their abilities is to observe them performing basic dance moves in a restricted environment. Wow, I sound like Len. Despite Len’s (and my) grumblings, Lance and Lacey score an impressive 22. I must mention Lacey’s bold attempt to let the elephant out of the bag (yay… mixed metaphors) during Samantha’s interview. She said, “Yeah, I totally thought I would marry him, but now…” Even funnier was Samantha immediately spazzing and throwing to Tom before anyone used the G word.

Here comes Cloris Leachman, and GOD I love this lady. Her Partner is Corky “father of Mark” Ballas, and you just know he’s getting time out of purgatory after this is over. We’re reminded that Cloris is the oldest person EVER on this show, and frankly, she’s probably the oldest person in the entire studio. Besides that, she might have the biggest boobs EVER on this show, as well. Lots of EVERs.

She danced a very pedestrian foxtrot, but let’s not even talk about that. The good stuff happened afterwards, when she met the judges for the first time. First of all, the lady basically refused to stand still and listen to the judges’ comments, which is so appropriate because who cares, right? We don’t need to hear the judges tell us what we already know (i.e. the dance = horrendous). Instead, she will just put her 82 year old leg up on the judge’s desk and make Bruno kiss it as penance for calling her Battleship Geriatrica, and then she’ll sit on Carrie Ann’s lap, and then she’ll scandalize Len with her ample cleavage. Meanwhile, I’m sitting on my couch in utter hysterics. She scores a very generous 16, but only after everyone involved manages to catch their breath.

Jeffrey and Edyta are next, and Jeffrey’s costume includes a sparkly eye-patch. Apparently, Edyta jabbed him in the eye during rehearsal, resulting in a scratched cornea. Geez, Edyta – maybe it’s time for a manicure? Anyway, I don’t think anyone had any expectations for this guy, and rightly so, because he’s pretty bad. And for the first time ever, there’s a guy on this show whose figure is NOT improved by the tight dance pants. They score an abysmal 12, which puts them in last place.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, Mark did not drop Kim on her head like we asked. Must have been a slip in the choreography.

Ya’ll, my boyfriend is so doomed. We gather from the rehearsal footage that Kim is rather uncoordinated and not so good with the balance. Could that be because of her monstrous ASS? I don’t even know how that girl can walk much less perform a foxtrot. They dance to the theme from the Pink Panther, and Kim is wooden, stiff, and remarkably absent from the performance. The judges point out the pair’s lack of chemistry, which HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE!? Mark Ballas is like dancing porn – a frikkin’ houseplant could muster up chemistry for him! Backstage, she rattles off some overly-rehearsed platitudes about how much fun she’s having and how she’ll try harder to develop chemistry, and Mark can only stand by and watch his chances of repeating last season’s victory dwindle down to nothing, much like the light in Kim’s dull, dead eyes. They score a 19.

La Lucci and Tony’s man-cleavage are next to perform their cha-cha. It’s impossible to dislike Susan Lucci – she’s do dainty and polite and cute – she’s the quintessential lady. And apparently, that was the problem with her cha-cha. I noticed she was a little cautious and tentative, but Bruno calls her out for being too modest. He challenges her to bring out the slut in her, which, awesomely, she promises she will do. Carrie Ann gets a little bit too personal when she tells Susan Lucci that she appears fragile, and might want to eat a cheeseburger now and then. Luckily for Carrie Ann, La Lucci believes in peace, and does not claw out her eyes right then and there. They wind up with a 15.

And now, the glorious return of Maksim! Have I told you how much I missed him? His partner is Misty May-Treanor, but I prefer to call her Misty Mae. In her pre-package, much is said about her beefiness and lack of feminine grace, which seems slightly overdone, because it isn’t like she’s a freak or anything. Yeah, she’s got muscles, but she’s no more butch than Laila Ali was, and Laila did awesome. In typical Maksim fashion, their foxtrot is beautifully choreographed and elegant, despite some obvious gaffes in the footwork. The judges reward them with a respectable 21.

And finally, Warren and Kym’s cha-cha. I’m really starting to appreciate Kym Johnson. She gets paired with these challenging partners, yet she always delivers stellar choreography and style. Warren is a very large man. I mean, he’s kind of huge – probably the biggest football player they’ve had on this show, but you wouldn’t know it by his dancing. Like the judges said, he’s surprisingly light on his feet, and their dance was light, bouncy, and fun. And like Maurice, the other male athlete, Warren doesn’t feed us any macho bullsh*t, and I can’t overstate how great that is. I think it’s fine to say that dancing is out of your comfort zone (because that’s kind of the point of the show), but I think you can do that without implying that dancing is for sissies. Also, he just seems genuinely sweet and funny, in a corny, very approachable kind of way. They score a perfectly reasonable 21.

Coming soon! Night 2 of Week 1: 12 more dances and the first elimination.

She's Just Like Me!...

I try to keep political discussions to a minimum on this blog. For one thing, this isn’t that kind of blog, but for another, I’m incredibly ADD, and when people start talking politics, the talk just goes in circles and circles and circles, and you know… I get bored. Unfortunately for my attention span, politics is all anyone wants to talk about lately.

I didn’t watch the entire debate Thursday night – hellloooo, Supernatural was on – but I did catch some snippets and I did read the transcript. And you know… Palin was pretty impressive, wasn’t she? Yeah, she read from notes and dodged most of the questions, but it’s easy to see that all that training is starting to pay off.

All the talk on Friday was about Palin and how great she was in the debate, something I just have to abide considering where I live and work. One of my officemates is a diehard Republican (she likes to wear pins that say so on her lapel) (yeah, she’s one of those), and she was certainly enjoying the moment. I don’t blame her – last week was rough on her. Something she said, in the midst of her borderline-fangirl gushing, referenced Palin’s folksiness. Palin has successfully found a way to endear herself to the common folk, which my colleague was just thrilled about. Of course, it just made me uncomfortable.

My thing is: I don’t want the leader, or vice-leader, of our country to be part of the common folk. Is that weird? Sarah Palin likes to talk about herself using phrases like, Joe Sixpack and Hockey Mom, and maybe I’m crazy, but all I can think of when I hear her say that stuff is…

Don’t get me wrong, Roseanne and Dan are awesome. I’m sure that would say outrageous things and put tacky yard ornaments on the White House lawn (lots of pink flamingos). But leaders of the free world? I think not. I mean, no offense to Mr. and Mrs. Sixpack whatsoever, but shouldn't the President and Vice-President be more polished, more educated, and more connected than the average person on the street?

My colleague at work has fallen in love with Sarah Palin because, “She’s just like me!” I kind of wanted to snap my fingers in front of eyes and say, “Yeah, you’re right! And I wouldn't vote for you, either.”