Photo Fun Friday: Dana Skully and Fox Mulder

I’m sure a lot of you already know that there’s a new X-Files mini-season playing right now. It’s a six-episode one-shot (so they say) that is now four episodes in. Yes, I’ve been watching it. You might have noticed that I’m a bit of a geek. And while I haven’t really geeked out a whole lot here at the lair over my two favorite FBI agents, I have mentioned them now and again. I also used them for one of my annual holiday photo manipulations.

[Loba Tangent: That might actually be one of my favorites so far…especially Scully. She looks so…right as Mrs. Claus, doesn’t she?]

So, as I’m sure you’re all wondering at this point: What do I think of the mini-season of new episodes?

Eh.

I say that with all due love and respect (to a show that I stopped watching after the sixth season and have yet to finish). Are the episodes bad? Not really. Are they great? Not really. They’re fun. And, of course, it’s great to see Scully and Mulder together again. I guess, though, that I’m growing weary of this constant nostalgia barrage from Hollywood. Just because you make something with characters that say things that will make me go “Hey, I know/remember/used to like that!” doesn’t mean that you have an automatic hit on your hands.

Of course, didn’t I just describe the whole point of The Big Bang Theory?

[Loba Tangent 2: No, seriously, didn’t I? I don’t know. I have never watched an episode of that show. After having the 10th person tell me that it was “my kind of show,” I knew I needed to stay as far away from it as possible. I’m secure that my decision was the correct one.]

Anyway, yes, I am enjoying this new season of The X-Files, if only for those purely nostalgic reasons (with some new joy thrown in here and there for good measure). I’m laughing where I’m pretty sure I should be laughing. I’m sufficiently moved by things I’m sure were engineered specifically for maximum feels. I did find the episode “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” a bit forced. I wanted a monster-of-the-week episode. I did. I just didn’t want one that was so self-aware of being a monster-of-the-week episode. Less is more, people.

And now we’re down to the final two episodes of this mini-season. I feel as though they kind of need to get back to the whole point that they seemed to have in the first episode…and then kind of wandered away from. Not that I want a whole lot of that alien mythos BS bludgeoning me over the head. That was kind of what turned me away from the show in the first place. That and giant spider legs climbing out of someone’s mouth. That was just way more NO than I felt prepared to handle. Ever.

I’m not sure how things are going to wrap up, or even if they are going to wrap up. Maybe they’ll decide they want to do another mini-season. Or another movie. (Please don’t do another movie.) However it goes from here, I will be there to see it through. I’m happy enough revisiting these old friends that this time I’ll stick around until the final curtain call. Plus, I was promised Agent Reyes at some point before the end. I want my Agent Reyes fix, thank you.

And, of course, going home to the FBI once more has re-sparked this little PhotoShop trickery in my brain. I always wanted to do something that made Mulder and Scully’s names more than just names. Over the years, I’ve seen iterations of this idea that kind of came close but not really. This new mini-season finally pushed me to make my dreams real (dream big, Loba!). I actually pre-tested these elsewhere to what I would call success. And by success, I mean people found them to be generally disturbing. Win!

So, without further ado (or curmudgeonly rambling), I give you Agents Dana Skully and Fox Mulder. You’re welcome.

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Logical Art Thou Among Vulcans

It seemed only fitting to choose Spock for this year’s holiday greeting. And just as our venerable Vulcan does, I will you all a most logical holiday, however you choose to celebrate the season. Here’s to 2016 and all the rambling I hope to do here at the lair. I hope you all will drop by every now and then for a visit. I mean, I can totally ramble to myself…but company is nice, too 🙂

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CSI: Catherine Still Incompetent?

Visitors to the lair know that when I’m devoted to a show, I’m in it to win it until the very end. I’ll even follow you into continued “seasons” in book form if I’m really into you (which reminds me: I need to finish the “eighth season” of Deep Space Nine before I completely forget the first three books from the run). It’s no surprise, then, that I have continued to watch the original CSI: Crime Scene Investigation through every bump and dip the show has seen in recent years. And, even though I confess to no surprise from the announcement earlier this year that CBS had cancelled the series after 15 years, I still felt a pang of loss. This show has meant a great deal to me for myriad reasons—so much so that, even though it had become only a sliver of its former self, I mourned the inevitable loss of the comfort I took from its familiar presence in my life.

It was, therefore, with no small amount of sadness that I tuned in this past Sunday to watch the final 2-hour movie that CBS green-lit to wrap up story lines and give fans one final Vegas hurrah. The final movie was, indeed, written almost exclusively for those of us who had watched the show with any sense of religious devotion. It was all about the characters, as it had become within recent years (much to my dismay, TBH). They brought back numerous characters, including Detective Jim Brass, “fan favorite” Lady Heather (who I found entertaining at first, but then quickly found irritating), and one-time show stars Gil Grissom and Catherine Willows.

Clearly, from the title of this post, I’d like to focus primarily on Catherine Willows as well as, more generally, how CSI ultimately failed many of its female characters as well as its female fans. I charge that its biggest failure in this regard, however, was to Ms. Willows.

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When the series began in 2000, Marg Helgenberger and William Peterson clearly were marketed as the stars—sort of the Scully and Mulder of the forensic world, with the sassy headstrong redhead and the nerdy-hot socially awkward loner. As the series got its footing, it became more and more clear that, while Grissom was the technical leader of the team (read: He was the one making the bucks and getting all the attention), Catherine was the engine that made the operation run. However, there was a far less progressive message being conveyed in the depiction of Catherine’s “behind the scenes” role. She wasn’t in charge, but everyone on the team, including Grissom, depended on her to keep everything on track—paperwork completed, assignments passed out, reviews given, etc. In essence, in addition to being a high-ranking and capable CSI, Catherine Willows was Gil Grissom’s administrative assistant, taking care of all the clerical duties that Grissom felt were not what he should be focusing on.

This is not to say that there is anything wrong with anyone who performs clerical tasks. There isn’t even anything wrong with setting up a scenario in which Grissom is completely inept at such tasks and Willows steps in to provide him the support he needed to keep the team on-track. What was wrong, however, was the turn of events that started at the beginning of Season 5, when the lab director decided to split up the grave shift, setting up Catherine as the new swing-shift supervisor in charge of Nick and Warrick. With Willows and Grissom separated, Grissom continued on as he always did, and no attention was paid any longer to his clerical ineptitude. He was simply the grave-shift supervisor. Period.

However, almost from the start, TPTB wrote Catherine Willows as unable to perform her supervisory duties with any degree of aptitude. She bungled cases, her team (two people previously under her supervision on the grave shift and previously possessed of respect for her skills and supervision) disagreed with her constantly, and the generally accepted presentation to viewers was that she was not suitable as the swing-shift supervisor. This was disappointing, of course, but also problematic. When the team was together, it was very clear that Grissom cared far more for cases, evidence, and investigations than in his supervisory duties. Catherine was the one who took care of all that, and Grissom trusted her implicitly. Plus, he trusted her implicitly as a CSI, often deferring to her as the next senior-ranking investigator on the grave shift. Nick and Warrick respected her as well while they were all on the same team. Splitting her away and making her their actual supervisor should not have changed any of what had already been established—should it? And yet, it did. The implication, of course, was that Catherine Willows could only be successful if she was supported by Grissom, who actually gave her no support at all. But clearly, she couldn’t handle all the things she used to handle without someone there to give her no help at all!

It was no surprise, then, that the next season brought them all back together as one team, Catherine once more serving as second to Grissom. Now, I get that this “breaking up the team” story arc was just a one-season ploy to begin with—something to stir up some controversy, shake the dust of familiarity off everything, and whatnot. What was frustrating was the fact that the ploy had to come at the expense of showing a previously capable member of the team fail so dramatically that no one even questioned her unspoken demotion at the beginning of the sixth season. Or at the beginning of the 12th season…but we’ll get to that in a minute.

I’ve already gone off on a tangent about how CSI treated its female characters. And while some of my thoughts from that post have evolved with time, they’re still pretty on-target. However, what I point to from that post is the fact that Jorja Fox and Marg Helgenberger were the ones to call for a truce between their characters. They saw the value of ceasing and desisting with the continuation of discord between Willows and Sidle. It’s just one of the many reasons that I admire both of them. Of course, the writers’ solution? Stop having Willows and Sidle interact. Instead of climbing out of their clear comfort zone of supporting the notion that women cannot work together in the same collegial way that male characters often do and writing Willows and Sidle into two representatives of a new idea…a fantastic idea…the amazing notion that women can work together without sinking teeth into each other, figuratively or literally…they just gave up on having the women interact at all unless they had to. And usually? It was to spark some kind of fight between them that required male intervention to solve.

Again, all part of the process of pushing stories forward, but it’s trite. It’s demeaning. And it reflects the perpetuation of a misconception that deserves to DIAF. Women work together all the time without fanging each other or deceiving each other or betraying each other or just in general hating each other, “because women.” I do it every day. Even better, my female coworkers and I can pass the Bechdel test with almost every single conversation we have—something that, even by the last episode of a 337-episode run, Willows and Sidle failed almost completely.

But I digress. This is about CSI Willows. Fast-forward from the sixth season demotion to William Peterson’s departure in the middle of the ninth season and Catherine Willows’s subsequent promotion-by-default to head of the grave shift. Again, a shift she’s been helping to run for many years, supervising people she’s worked with for years—she’s got this. Right? And yet, at the beginning of Season 10…the beginning of Season 10, when Catherine Willows has barely been in charge for half a season, we learn that one of her staff has left after filing charges against Willows, for what? Incompetent management.

Again, the writers needed to cover the fact that an actress they’d cast the previous season either left or they let go because the character wasn’t working, but notice how this is the second time they’ve made Catherine Willows incompetent to fix the flow of the story? Sara even tells Catherine, in one of those delightful yet sadly rare moments when these two characters interacted amicably, that she’s a great CSI and that “the only thing that Grissom had that you don’t, is you.” (P.S., this was yet another instance in which Sara and Catherine also failed the Bechdel test, because apparently the only way these two could see eye-to-eye was if they first discussed Sara’s relationship with Grissom…but we’ll get to that in a moment as well).

[Loba Tangent: By the way, this could have been an incredible moment in which the writers decided to make Sara Sidle the second-in-charge to Catherine Willows, thereby having two women in supervisory roles. Can you imagine? Instead, they had Catherine make Nick Stokes her second-in-command. Look at there: Catherine Willows, supported yet again by a man. Surely, she’ll be successful this time!]

So was Sara lying? Or was it simply the fact that the writers at some point decided that the best way to fix major story changes was simply to make Catherine Willows the default incompetent scapegoat? Don’t believe me? Head on over to the beginning of Season 12. Laurence Fishburne had decided that serial television was not to his liking so he departed, to be replaced by Ted Danson. Arriving as D.B. Russell, Danson’s character quickly was established as, what? The grave-shift supervisor. Apparently, being He Who Was Sam Malone trumps the status of the woman who has been on the series since the beginning, and once again Catherine Willows becomes too incompetent to lead.

What’s even worse is that this time her incompetence stems partly from her emotional response to actions that took place at the end of the previous season—actions that a few of the male characters were complicit in carrying out for equally emotional reasons. But it was Catherine Willows who fell and served in demoted silence for all of one season before Helgenberger finally called it quits and left the realm. At least they replaced her with another woman when they brought Elisabeth Shue on as CSI Julie Finlay. Strangely enough, Shue didn’t get to become the head of the team. You’d think that being an Oscar-nominated film star would trump being Sam Malone. Guess not.

Jump, jump, jump ahead to the end. Catherine Willows returns in her new capacity as a field agent for the FBI’s Los Angeles office. Incompetent as a state employee? Don’t worry. The federal government has got you covered, bae!

Seriously, though. By the time Helgenberger left the show, the writers had written the character of Catherine Willows as someone whose personnel file was so riddled with problems that she should have been shipped back to the strip club where she started. And yet, they felt it was appropriate to send her off to the FBI? Forreals?

Right.

So Willows comes back to help during a time when Sara Sidle, by dint of reason that she’s literally the last remaining original CSI left (even though she didn’t appear until the second episode), oh and the show is ending, is up for consideration as the director of the crime lab. WHO’S THE BIG DAWG? Winning by default is still winning, AMIRITE?

Never mind that she’s up for a job that we will never get to see her actually work. No, scratch that. That’s one of the things that really pissed me off about seeing Sara Sidle up for this huge promotion. Pardon my language, but big fucking deal. Why didn’t the writers consider her for the promotion when they decided to demote Willows a third time? You want to give these women reason to fight? There would have been your reason. You know, because women never support each other in the workplace. Instead, she’s not up for any kind of promotion until the last episode. A promotion that she gets (spoilers) and then just as quickly gives up (spoilerz) because love interest is love interest and nothing more. Sara Sidle was always meant to be, first and foremost, Gil Grissom’s love interest. All that time that Sara Sidle was on the show after Grissom left? Well, none of that counted. All those cases she worked and victims she helped and suspects she put away. Meaningless. Everything about her was meaningless until Grissom could return and woo her away once more.

So who became the director after Sara rode off into the sunset with her Prince Charming (literally, spoilers)? The intimation was…it was Catherine Willows. Third time’s the charm? Again, though, big fucking deal. Not only do we not get to see Director Catherine Willows, we don’t even get to see her take the role. It was far more important to see Sara Sidle give up everything to fulfill her ultimate destiny as “Gil Grissom’s love interest.”

Wow. That’s a lot more than I anticipated writing. And yet I barely scratched the surface. Not to say that the show didn’t have great female characters. It honestly had many wonderful female characters come and go through the years. For instance, Julie Finlay was a fascinating character—you know, up until the point where they had her beat into a coma by a serial killer, stuffed into a trunk, and then confirmed as dead in the last 10 minutes of the final episode.

Whatever.

Why does any of this matter? After all, it’s just a show. Just a show that not only ran for 15 years but inspired the creation of at least a dozen knockoffs, including three spinoffs. A show that helped change the course of television in highly influential ways. And yet, when TV Guide dedicated a cover to Helgenberger and Fox? This was the photo they felt was most appropriate:

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Nothing like women on their knees, eh?

Oh, and if you’d like to dress like a CSI for Halloween? Better just put your own costume together, because this is what you’re going to find in the stores:

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Positive representation matters. If you think it doesn’t, then you probably are lucky to belong to a group that has never had to worry about any kind of representation, either in the media or in reality. To everyone else, it’s a big deal. CSI made a huge impact in many positive ways, but it also missed the opportunity to make the same kind of impact on how women are depicted in popular culture. They could have taken the character of Catherine Willows and made her an example of a woman who brought herself up from a life she no longer wanted to lead to a life that could have inspired. Instead, she was Catherine Willows, forever destined to make poor professional and personal choices and never ever ever learn from any of them. She—and we—deserved better.

There’s still hope, even in this particular franchise. Patricia Arquette is the lead in CSI: Cyber, which returns this upcoming Sunday. Of course, Ted Danson is shifting over to that show now that the Vegas crew has investigated their last crime. So help me, if he somehow ends up bumping Arquette to second-banana, hell will truly have no fury like Loba unchained.

Go ahead. Try to demote me again.
Go ahead. Try to demote me again.

Fabulous Photo Friday: Zoonami!

This is the post that started the downfall of the lair last September. I wanted to find a nice photo gallery plug-in, which I thought I had. Turns out, though, that because my CMS was already crashing, the plug-in just served to bring it down even more. Strangely, that same plug-in still won’t play nicely with my blog. Oh well, just had to find a new one.

These are photos from a trip I took to San Diego in January 2014. For a couple of exquisite reasons, my time at the San Diego Zoo quickly became the pinnacle of my time there. I spent practically from the moment the zoo opened until right when it closed, roaming the paths, snapping tons of photos, and just standing, mesmerized, while watching all the marvelous beasties at play.

Here, then, are my favorite photos from that day.

St. Patrick’s DIY

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit, denizens!

Aye, tis a grand day to be Irish. Or partially Irish. Or just someone who likes to diminish an entire ethnicity down to one stereotypical pastime.

Sláinte, indeed.

Regardless of your reasons for celebrating the day, please stay safe. As for me, the sudden return of winter dictates that I shall stay within the warm, dry confines of my lair for any celebrations. That’s fine with me, because I have the perfect brew to mark the occasion.

[Loba Tangent: I also fail to spell occasion correctly 95 percent of the time I write it. I don’t know why. Thank goodness for spell check.]

Remember back during Febrewary, how I returned to my ritual of brewing my own beer on a work holiday? Well, turns out that the prep schedule was such that my White House honey porter was officially ready to crack open for consumption this past Saturday. Rather than drink it then, I decided to give it a couple extra days and celebrate today with my very own beer.

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Look at that beer, denizens. Even though it’s not present in this photo, this porter poured out with a fizzy accompaniment of froth that dissipated to lines of carbonation crawling up through its beautiful carnelian center. I took a backlit photo, just so you all could see this gorgeous color:

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Also, look at how clear it is! I’ve finally gotten the bottling correct!

To be fair, even though this is supposedly a porter, that color, the mouth feel, and the taste are all more indicative of a red ale than what I would typically attribute to a porter. I wonder if perhaps the age of the recipe lends itself to this less-than-modern-day-porter conveyance of flavors and feel. Or maybe I simply didn’t steep the malt mix long enough. Not sure.

Whatever the reason, I hesitate to praise this as a porter. I also kind of wish I’d refrigerated it before drinking because, again, it’s not really a “serve at room temperature” beer. Then again, it’s cold enough in the house that this time, “room temperature” was still nice and cool.

Beyond the points I’ve already mentioned, this porter has a beautiful bouquet. It’s wonderfully malty with a frisson of honeyed sweetness. That honey plays through into every other aspect of this beer, with a soft, smooth mouth feel and a delightful flavor that remains on the safe side of sweet without toppling over into saturation. I do wish that it had a bit more carbonation, because if you don’t drink it quickly enough (and I honestly didn’t want to drink it too quickly because it was that tasty), it does start to go a bit flat.

In other words, Irish you all could taste this beer.

Ha. I see what I did there, and I LOLed.

Seriously, I am supremely pleased with this latest homebrew adventure. Northern Brewer wins as a new supplier for my homebrew dabblings. I have their Caribou Slobber kit downstairs right now, awaiting brewing, and then there are a couple other kits that I would love to try as I get more and more confident with this new process. All that being said, I would not be averse to giving this honey porter another go once I finish tackling these new flavors.

Photo Fun Friday: Why So Serious?

So, New Year, new opportunities to rejuvenate the lair…dust off the cobwebs that settled last year, get back on track with writing, musing, rambling, and just having fun. I hope.

Sooner or later, I’ll even get back to Flashback Fridays. Today, however, I needed to scratch an itch that’s been tickling my brain for a while now. Ever hear the P!nk song “Raise Your Glass”? No? Well, here, in all its NSFW glory…

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I love that song. I love the video, too, for all its strangeness. Okay, some of the strangeness is just downright weird. But it’s still fun. The one line that always jumps out at me, though, is when she sings, “Why so serious?”

Obviously, as a comics fan, all I can think of when I hear that line is Heath Ledger’s Joker. Successful ad campaign is, obviously, successful. Of course, you know my wacky brain, denizens. Each time I hear this song, I immediately start combining P!nk and the Joker. It just kept getting worse and worse, until finally? Well, finally, this happened…

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You’re welcome.

Merry X-mas!

No, denizens, I’m not contributing to the “war on Christmas.” You know me, though…always looking for a loophole. And, in this case, our two lovely well-wishers would say nothing less than Merry X-mas. Think about it…what if, at the end of the series, Mulder and Scully disappeared to the North Pole and took up residence as that mythical toymaking duo, the Clauses? We’d all want to believe then, eh? Plus, they’d still be having crazy adventures with strange UFOs…just now, Mulder would be at the helm!

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As a special treat, click the small and get the full-sized version. Use as you wish. Share as you wish. I hope it brings you joy. And, whatever your pleasure, denizens, I hope your day is marvelous. Just like you.

Saturdays Are a Scream

Hey, there denizens. I was actually planning on doing a holiday-themed Flashback Friday for you last night. However, my plans were thwarted by the subject in question being way too overprotective about YouTube clips. And, trust me, this is definitely a visual.

Instead, I’m giving you this alternative. A few months ago, we took what has become in recent years an annual trip to San Francisco, both for a little bit of work and a little bit of play. Okay, it was all play for me. Part of that play was spending a few days up in the Sonoma region, as any fan of drinking is apt to do. Honestly, though, it’s also a beautiful region; I’ve got loads of photos that I really need to upload here at some point.

Today’s batch of photos, however, are all related to a bit of a pilgrimage that I decided to take this year. Any regulars to the lair know that I have quite a bit of love in my heart for the horror movie Scream. The film, set in the fictional California town of Woodsboro, actually was filmed all throughout northern California, including the towns of Glen Ellen, Sonoma, Healdsburg, Tomales Bay (where Sara Sidle was born; geek love crossover!!), Santa Rosa…places that we go through or to every single time we stay up in this area.

So I did a little surreptitious research prior to leaving, tracked down addresses, made sure I packed my GPS and car charger, made sure I had fresh charges on my camera battery packs…and we were off! Time to track down the locations where director Wes Craven made the idyllicly horrifying town of Woodsboro come to life…and horrorific death.

First stop was Woodsboro High:

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The location they used was in fact the Sonoma Community Center in Sonoma, California:

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The filmmakers were supposed to use Santa Rosa High School, but the City of Santa Rosa reneged after reading the script and deciding that the movie was too violent. If you watch the credits all the way through, you will notice that Craven gives a “special” thanks to Santa Rosa for this decision.

I found it amazing that Craven was able to take such a small space as the community center and make it believable as a public high school. I was honestly stunned by how small the center is, and how tucked away in a neighborhood it is. If you didn’t know its horror history, you’d drive right past it without a second thought, merrily on your way to one of the nearby wineries.

Of course, associated with Woodsboro High was Woodsboro Square, where all the kids could hear Principal Himbry tell them over the PA system how much he cared about them:

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This pavilion is still in Healdsburg’s town square, minus the overhang they built in front of it:

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And of course, the fountain where Sidney and her friends met up?

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It’s still there as well. I hung out for a little while, but Sidney never showed.

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Healdsburg actually doubled for Woodsboro in several scenes, including the police station scenes. The “police station” is now a little market. Ironically, the Healdsburg Police Station is right next door, which means that this alleyway, soon to be the location of “Bam! Bitch went down!”:

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Is still a police-associated alley…just with the police station on the opposite side:

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Next stop on my creepy stalker tour was Casey Becker’s house:

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The house, located in Glen Ellen, actually isn’t visible from the road. I found this to be true for both the houses I tried to visit. These foggy early morning shots of the mountains near where the Becker house is located are the closest I could get:

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Same with the Prescott house:

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The closest I was able to get to this house was to take a photo of the drive leading up into the neighborhood, but the big gate at the beginning prevented me from actually driving up there…unless, of course, I had been daring enough to buzz the guard and explain that I just wanted to creeper-stalk the “home” of Sidney Prescott. I’m sure they would have immediately let me in. Totally.

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It’s a shame I couldn’t get up to this house…not only because Sidney Prescott is one of my favorite horror heroines, but also because I would have loved to have been able to catch a glimpse or two of this amazing view that the Prescott house overlooks:

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These two experiences with trying to get to these houses got me thinking a bit more about the movie in ways that I hadn’t really considered all that closely. Got me thinking to the point where I started formulating my own “thesis” for some imagined film studies class…I would call it “Woodsboro: The High Cost of Isolation” or something equally undergrad-clever. Almost every house they used for Scream fit this same mold: beautiful, sprawling property, nestled far off main roads, cut off from traffic, from city life, from everyone. The initial purpose of this is obvious: You want your characters to feel cut off, alone, trapped by the killers. But there’s more to this if you keep looking.

Houses like where Sidney, Casey, and Stu live are muy expensivo. Takes a lot to afford these levels of privacy. So you’ve got well-off families, enjoying the privilege of solitude that money can buy. The parents of all these kids also obviously enjoy other privileges of money. Think about it: The parents are almost non-existent in this movie (as is usually the case with teen-centric horror movies). Casey’s parents are out enjoying an evening alone while their daughter settles into an obviously familiar “all by myself” routine, Sidney’s dad leaves her alone because he has an out-of-town work meeting (can’t afford a view that beautiful and sprawling unless you’re working some serious hours, Mr. Prescott), Billy’s dad stays out late, Stu’s parents aren’t even seen. The only parent that seems even remotely interested in her children’s lives is Mrs. Riley, Tatum and Dewey’s mom.

Even worse? Sidney’s dad leaves her alone on the first anniversary of her mother’s murder. Here’s a man either so uncaring or so emotionally damaged by what happened to his wife that he removes himself from the entire scene rather than deal with the emotions that such an anniversary would no doubt incite. Everyone has their own way of dealing with trauma, but he has completely ignored the needs of his daughter at this time. True, he was captured and perhaps he was meant to be home by the actual anniversary…but I don’t think so.

Then there’s Billy. They don’t really go into it a lot, but obviously Mr. Loomis was a bit of a dead-beat dad. Even though he was still there, taking care of his son in light of the fact that Billy’s mom left…well, let’s be honest, Sid…the reason she left was because Billy’s dad was a naughty boy who still liked staying out late, even when his son finds himself locked up by the local police. So the only time we see Mr. Loomis is when he comes to bail out his son. There financially, not there in any other way.

So no real parental supervision, including one parent who disregards the fact that he has a daughter still damaged by what happened to their family a year prior and another father not really that interested in how his son is coping with the fact that he caused the son’s mother to leave through infidelity. Oh yeah, infidelity with the now-dead mother of his son’s girlfriend.

Kids raised in environments in which they obviously never want for anything material…but are sorely lacking in emotional guidance and nurturing.

Of course, I’m probably reading way too much into all this. But I think there’s something there, some commentary on the darkness of material wealth when combined with moral or emotional bankruptcy. Of course, Mr. and Mrs. Macher might have been Ward and June Cleaver. We don’t know, though. Never will.

And now I need to go watch this movie yet again and look for moments to support this new thesis. Hope you enjoyed my tour of Woodsboro. Haddonfield next time?

H Is For Horror…

Ah, denizens, you know I love you all even when I’m not around. And you also know that I love Halloween most of all the holidays…so I simply had to come back one more time for October.

So I’ve been binge-listening to a “new” podcast recently (they’ve been at it for a while now, actually, but the show is new to me, as I have failed to keep up with several podcasts lately, including this one). The podcast in question is The Little Pod of Horrors, featuring two of the loveliest, funniest horror fans I know. Of course, listening to their shows has once again reinvigorated my love of the horror genre. This whole month, in fact, I’ve been watching pretty much only horror movies for my daily workouts. I’ve caught up on quite a few movies that slipped off my radar, fallen in love with a few, and even added one to my personal collection!

Now, some of you might recall that I have posted a few entries here at the lair dealing with my love of horror. A few Halloweens ago, I even posted a list of what I consider to be Loba’s Most Viewed Scary Movies. What I’d like to do today is expand that list alphabetically. Here’s the deal: I have 26 letters, to which I will be matching 26 horror movies that I consider personal requirements for that mysteriously contrived desert island stranding for which we all feel compelled to prepare.

Now, here’s where I’m slightly “tampering” with these rules (and they’re my rules, so I can bloody well do with them whatever I want). I don’t yet have personal horror movie favorites for the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z. I just haven’t seen any movies that start with these letters that I consider necessary to my interests.

HOWEVER! This works perfectly for me, because there are a couple of letters for which I simply could not pick just one movie. Apparently, there are certain letters in the alphabet that are exceptionally popular with horror movie writers.

Do I think these movies are the hands-down, absolute best horror movies ever made for their particular letter? Objectively, no (for the most part). However, for me, these are the ones that bring me the most joy whenever I watch them, either for their merit to the genre or for purely nostalgic reasons. Will these choices change? Most assuredly, especially now that I’m getting back into the genre with much more gusto than recently. I noticed that a lot of these are older movies (and movies that I write and talk about a lot), revealing that it’s been a while since I was really dedicated to watching horror. Time to change that…but for now, this encompasses what represents, to me, really enjoyable horror (with, admittedly, a couple of thrillers, just to mix things up [and piss a few people off]) and a good sampling of movie options for people who might want to get a good idea of classic (or classically terrible) genre gems.

All that being said, I’m not going to write a lot about these films because: A) I wrote about several of them already in my previous Halloween list; and B) I don’t want to hype them up too much. This is a purely subjective list, so I know that there will be several selections that a lot of horror fans will respond to with “WTAF” looks…and that’s okay. But if you haven’t seen any of the movies on this list, I would hate to build up any of them and cause you to be horribly disappointed by your own experience. Really, just take this all with a grain of salt, eh?

Now…shall we begin?

alien

True, this is technically a science fiction film, but I believe this one falls squarely in the “sci-fi horror” subgenre. I saw Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner before I saw this movie, so I was already well and truly in love with Scott as a director by the time I saw this movie. This simply made me love Scott all the more. Plus, Sigourney Weaver is positively bad-ass as Ellen Ripley and makes an amazing genre heroine (of which there can never be enough). Also, H.R. Giger’s designs for the aliens are horrifyingly beautiful.

bwp

I will always have a special place in my heart for this film for many reasons…filmed in my home state, first “found footage” movie I ever experienced, atmospheric as all hell (which you all know I love more than anything), and utterly fun (unless you suffer from motion sickness). Yes, the three protagonists wear on your last nerve quite quickly at points, and, yes, they’re terrible actors…but that works for this film! If they were great actors, who would believe them as “real people”? Also, maybe the fact that they were so terrible in this movie is proof that they’re actually brilliant actors! Okay, probably not…but you can’t fault me for trying 😉

carnivalofsouls

Another one I’ve discussed here at the lair before. I wish I could explain more precisely why I love this movie so much. It’s so low-budget and silly at points, and I know that it’s not going to be everyone’s particular cup of pickled bat juice. But I love everything about this movie…how it was the only “big” movie the director ever made…how the idea came to him from seeing an abandoned resort at dusk…how many consider it to be one of the earliest “zombie” movies…there are so many aspects of this movie that could have spelled out “Disaster.” Instead, it all comes together as a wonderful little horror gem, waiting to be discovered.

dragmetohell

Spoilers: This is the only Sam Raimi film to make it to this list. As much as I respect his original Evil Dead and actually quite enjoy a great deal of it, this 2009 offering had me at evil buttons and grossed me out and scared the hell out of me and made me laugh in ways that only Raimi can make a viewer laugh. I haven’t watched this in several years, but when I came to the letter “D,” it was the only movie that immediately sprang to mind…others surfaced later, but I’m going to have to go with my initial gut response…I’d hate to suffer a face-gumming for my Raimi insubordination.

exorcist

This was a tough letter…and this was a tough decision. I love William Friedkin’s take on William Peter Blatty’s book (which, by the way, is an excellent read). I think this is one of the pillars of my own House of Horror Love and solidifies my opinion that practical effects still trump CGI in so many ways. Is this a movie I can watch whenever? No, I definitely need to be in a particular frame of mind to watch this one. It’s not a “put it on in the background” or “let’s crack open some rum and have a horror movie laugh.” This movie petrified me when I first saw it, and still sends chills through me whenever I watch it. I also love the poster art (and am now reminded of a feature at the lair that deserves to be revived at some point soon).

fauno

Okay, I’m kind of cheating with this one. The English title of this film is Pan’s Labyrinth, and when I first read the “original” Spanish title, it was listed merely as El Fauno. For years, that’s exactly what I’ve called this movie. Now I realize that it’s really El Laberinto del Fauno.

I don’t care, dammit. Pikachu, I choose you for my “F” film. Again, my rules. I think Guillermo del Toro is one of the most amazing directors in today’s cinema game. I’ve yet to see a movie from him that I didn’t love. His horror movies just keep getting better and better (so wonderful, in fact, that another of his films will be coming up soon enough). He is so masterful at delivering scares that so easily turn into moments of utter pathos. Horror with a soul. Beautiful. And scary as sin.

gremlins

Here’s a purely nostalgic pick. It’s even also shown up in my Poster Picks feature. True, this isn’t the scariest of scary movies and could have been quite scarier (the filmmakers wanted something that could attract a larger audience, however, so they toned down the gore a bit). It’s still a wicked little film with some pretty solid scares, great special effects, extremely funny tension breakers, and awesome little villains. Billy might be a terrible pet owner, but we all benefit from his inability to follow three rather simple instructions.

halloween

All right, you’re more than welcome to flash that “WTAF” look my way now, denizens. Not for the first choice, of course. Only if I meant Rob Zombie’s abomination of a remake would I deserve castigation for selecting Halloween as my first choice for “H.” Carpenter’s masterpiece is just that. There are so few movies from the horror genre that receive almost holistic love from fans (it is such a subjective genre, after all, because it really comes down to the purely subjective answer to the question “What scares you?”). I’ve encountered very few fans who do not feel similarly toward this movie as I do. Bottom line is that this is, hands-down, another undeniable giant in the pantheon of Horror Classics.

haunting

The second choice shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone either, especially considering that I even recently featured this movie in a Flashback Friday (which conveniently saves me from having to write about it now, other than to voice once more my love for this movie).

hellraiseriii

Now, Hellraiser III is a totally different story. I could have gone with the original from this franchise, which is sublimely scary in a rather surrealistic way. However, I love Pinhead. Doug Bradley is delicious as this villain, who wasn’t even slated to be anything more than a bit character from this particular horror world. However, you simply cannot deny the horrifying appeal that Bradley brings to Pinhead. The third installment is pretty much the movie makers acknowledging the gift of Bradley to their franchise. He absolutely makes this movie what it is: a cracking representation of B-horror at its best. Terrible acting (other than Bradley), cheesy script, wonderful practical effects, new Cenobites!, and Jadzia Dax without her spots.

Like I said, this is my very subjective list…

iamlegend

Nothing is more terrifying than a movie that totally destroys a genre literary classic. This piece of crap does just that. It absolutely dishonors Richard Matheson’s novella in ways that are brutally awful, including changing the ending and thereby nullifying the original meaning of the title. Well-played there! Besides, I’m trapped on a desert island. I need something to use as a mirror or a Frisbee or a way to signal passing ships.

P.S.–Did any of you really think I was serious with this selection? I’m not. I’d actually choose Interview with the Vampire because, dammit, it’s such schlocky fun. I just thought I’d give you all a bit of an extra jolt on this fantastic All Hallow’s Eve.

jaws

Back on track. Another one of those widely accepted classics and a perennial favorite at Chez Loba. I wish the Spielberg who made this movie still existed instead of the Spielberg who has to make most of his movies insufferably sweet. Oh well. If wishes were Horta…wishes would be really gross and kind of freaky and no one would make them anymore.

Or something.

Scary shark movie is scary. And fun. And really makes you think twice about dipping skinnily into the ocean (actually, the real horror of murky brown grossness now does that…I kind of prefer the fake horror to the real).

kalifornia

Here’s another contentious one, mostly because…is it really a horror movie? I would posit that it contains many horror elements…which I can’t really get into without spoiling a lot of stuff. It’s definitely a creepy movie. It’s also very violent and disturbing in a lot of ways, which means that it’s another one on this list that I can’t just pop into the player for casual viewing. It’s a “mood” movie. It’s also a movie that puts to great use Juliette Lewis’s natural ability to play characters that are both charmingly fragile and off-puttingly naive, as well as lets Brad Pitt excel at being something other than “sexeh.”

He is most definitely not sexeh as Early Grayce. Unless that’s your thing. Then go for it. He’s all yours. I’ll just be in the back of the car with Fox Mulder and Ensign Ro Laren (trivia: Ensign Ro rocked that red headband for several episodes because Michelle Forbes had hacked off her bangs for this role…).

letright1in

I love two types of vampires…and neither type sparkles. No, I either like my vampires horribly campy (thus, my real pick for “I”) or brutal and primal. Eli is the latter type of vampire. She does what she needs to do to survive. She’s also capable of protective acts of kindness, as shown in her relationship with Oskar, the boy next door. This is actually quite a beautiful story that just happens to rock some awesome horror moments. There’s a rather pointless American remake (because prophets forbid that Americans have to read subtitles), but I strongly recommend the original Swedish film.

maximumoverdrive

No excuses and no apologies for this one. It’s the only original screenplay Stephen King has ever written. He also directed it. He even appeared in it for a brief cameo. It’s terrible. And I love it. How can you not love a movie about possessed trucks, led by a toy company truck bedazzled by a giant Green Goblin head with glowing red eyes? Plus, AC/DC, King’s favorite band,” did the soundtrack, including this little gem:

//www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/_jvqPvDUEW8

VIDEO SPOILERZ.

Seriously pointless. Seriously awful. Seriously fun.

nightmareonelmstreet

Another double-header, with a twist. The first is the original…the second is the remake.

Craven’s original movie is the movie that introduced me properly to the slasher. Freddy Krueger truly is the man of my dreams when it comes to this subgenre. Don’t get me wrong: I love Michael Myers…but I feel that each subsequent iteration of the Halloween franchise slowly whittled away at Myers’ awesomeness, while sequels to this film…well, didn’t necessarily make Freddy Krueger more terrifying, but instead morphed him into a weirdly likeable villain. You might still be rooting for the good guys to defeat him, but you enjoy him while he’s around. I talk a bit more about this in my Poster Pick on this film, if you’re interested.

nightoflivingdead

As for Tom Savini’s remake of Romero’s classic zombie flick…again, this is a “soft spot” movie for me. The remake features two of my all-time favorite Trek guest actors: Tony Todd (whose turn as the Candyman so very nearly made it onto this list), and stuntwoman Patricia Tallman. Plus, it dramatically improves upon the character of Barbara, giving her far more modern sensibilities and turning her into a right and proper bad-ass. I’m not saying the remake makes her a better character, but it makes her a character I’d follow into the zombie apocalypse.

elorfanato

Uno, dos, tres, toca la pared!

This time, Guillermo del Toro puts his money where his acumen for choosing great films is, again showing us why he’s such a force to be reckoned with, not just in Spanish horror but in the entirety of the genre. He helps director J.A. Bayona bring to us another beautifully macabre story with one of those endings that just gut-slams you as only truly well-done horror can.

poltergeist

Tobe Hooper’s 1982 ghost story was the very first truly scary horror movie I can remember seeing. I get all soppy-nostalgic for it in a previous Poster Pick/Flashback Friday combo. For this reason alone, this movie will always have a special place in my heart. Plus, it’s quite a well-made movie, and one that I’m really not looking forward to Hollywood remaking.

petsematary

As for this second appearance from Stephen King, so many aspects of this movie are just absolutely spot-on: the gore, the scares, the creepiness, the ickiness, the humor, the Fred Gwynne. And Gage Creed. As if I needed more reasons not to like kids… o_O

ring

I’ve yet to see the original Japanese film. To be honest, if it’s scarier than the American version (which I’ve heard it is), I don’t think I could make it through the original. This movie scared the living love of horror out of me…and then right back into me. Plus, it’s one of those rare instances where an American remake does the original justice (because, again, we can’t be bothered with reading!). I have to admit, I’ve only sat through this movie once, in the theater. I own the DVD, but…I’m scared to watch it again.

SHUT UP.

I figure, though, trapped on an island, I’d have to get around to watching it again sooner or later, right?

silenceoflambs

scream

I’m not going to write a lot about either of these movies because I know I have written plenty about them both here already. If someone told me, after reading this list, that I had to pick one letter and I could only keep in my collection what’s associated with that letter? “S” wins, hands down. These two movies are the two on this list I have watched the most of any others and the ones I love more than any others…even when their franchise sequels horribly disappoint me.

trickrtreat

Relatively new find for me, but one that really surprised me…in great ways. Several vignettes come together to form quite the excellent story, with great special effects and a pretty impressive cast (I love how the stigma of appearing in a horror film seems to be less and less present for a lot of actors).

vertigo

Know what I love most about this Alfred Hitchcock thriller (yes, I confess, it’s not a true horror movie)? Watching it is like watching two movies in one. Admittedly, the first part is a bit of a slow-burner, but it’s filmed all through San Francisco, which I love. And the second half is so redeeming, you can forgive the first half for being somewhat lackluster at times. I wouldn’t say this is my favorite Hitchcock movie, but it’s definitely in my Hitch Top 5.

whatever

If you have never seen the glorious hot mess that is this movie, then get thee to a rental source STAT. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, two actresses who notoriously loathed each other, as grand dames of Grand Guignol cinema? It’s just too wonderful not to include on this list. Watch the movie, learn all about the back story and what these two would do to torment the other…things like Crawford loading her pockets with rocks for a scene that called for Davis to drag her around…and Davis “thanking” her with a couple of cracked ribs during a later fight scene.

DIVAS. I love them. Subsequently, I love this film.

And there you have it, denizens. I hope this list gives you some ideas for movies to visit or revisit for some fantastic horror viewing…and if you have any suggestions for the letters I skipped…or replacements for the letters I used, click that little question mark below and drop me a line!

High Flying, Adored

So yesterday was my birthday, denizens. How old did I turn? Well…let’s put it this way: Captain Janeway and her crew once discovered a planet that housed several people, including Amelia Earhart, who all disappeared in a particular year. The name of the episode in which Janeway made this discovery was how old I turned (yes, I’m going to make you work for this, and, yes, it’s going to be in a thoroughly geeky way).

Speaking of flying (Amelia Earhart segue, FTW!), I spent part of my birthday morning in a plane. I then spent part of my birthday morning plunging out of that plane, falling at approximately 120 mph toward the ground 2.5 miles below me. While strapped securely and snugly to a rather lovely man named Mario.

I’m very thankful that Mario was so delightful because Mario and I became very close. You’ll see what I mean in a moment.

First, here’s me, properly suited up, rigged, and boasting a bad-ass “Danger” sign on my back:

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I had requested a special “BAMF” sign since it was my birthday, but all they had were these signs. I made do. Besides, the Danger sign was way better than the little hat they made us all wear, which reminded me of the line that Jimmy Doogan says to the umpire who tried to correct Doogan when he was yelling at Evelyn Gardner for missing the cut-off:

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Second cinematic reference…buckle your seat belts, it’s just going to get geekier…

So, to give you an idea of how high up we were, this was our plane at the halfway mark to our ascent. We circled at this altitude to let some solo students jump. Apparently, you have to jump a certain number of times from the halfway mark before you can do any solo jumps from 13,500 feet. That little cross-shaped speck? That’s our plane:

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Finally, we reach our altitude and I’m second in line to dive. We hunker down and kind of duck-walk to the door because: A) Mario and I are now properly attached to each other, and B) the plane was not big enough to allow us to stand up. Here’s a shot of me looking down at the ground before Mario put my head back in the safety position. I love looking out the windows of planes as we fly places. I could have stood at the edge of the plane’s door, just staring down at the earth for hours…

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But that wasn’t the point of this adventure. And so it was 1…2…3…and away we go! Take a look at Mario in this shot. I might have wanted “BAMF” for my sign, but Mario actually is a BAMF. He’s been a tandem instructor for 16 years now, and he’s done this particular move more than 6,000 times. He was awesome in every sense of the word:

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Those first few seconds are astonishing and breathtaking and completely disorienting, as you watch earth and sky trade places several times while you tumble away from the plane:

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But then you right yourself (or rather Mario rights you both) and you regain your senses enough to be able to flash your “gang” signs for the camera:

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I told you it was just going to get geekier.

You know what draws my attention more than the scenery in this shot? The fact that my shoelace is untied!

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But I hadn’t realized this fact at this point in the jump…probably because I was too busy having my breath stolen away from me every single second we were falling by glorious vistas like this:

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I just love this shot. You can be King of the World all you want, Leo. Mario and me? We’re way above all that:

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Did I mention that in addition to being totally bad-ass, Mario was also supremely silly?

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Also, I would like to point out that, yes, I do realize that wind rushing past my face at 120 mph makes me look like an extra from the Twilight Zone episode “Eye of the Beholder.” There’s really nothing I can do about that. I just wanted to acknowledge my awareness of this fact. And now that I have pointed this out to you, you cannot unsee the comparison. You’re welcome.

Meanwhile, Mario is still silly:

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But he’s still fully aware of where we are in our descent and totally in control. It’s at this point, he’s checked his altimeter and he’s now getting ready to signal me that I should pull the release to deploy our parachute. But not before I finish giving a final thumbs-up:

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And…boom. I’m now aware of the fact that my shoelace has come untied. Yes, it does drive me a little crazy the rest of the way down:

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Actually, all I do is keep my one foot under the shoe that is untied so that it doesn’t have the chance to come loose, and then I spend the next several minutes having a great chat with Mario and getting to steer the parachute a little before Mario treats me to a few awesome spins and swoops over absolutely gorgeous landscape. As much as I loved the adrenaline rush of the freefall, I think this was my favorite part of the jump. It was so serene, so beautiful, so unbelievable.

And here we near our final destination. I love how this photo makes it look like we’re leaving a contrail behind us:

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Mario gives me excellent instructions right up to the end and we have a perfect landing…

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…and a groovy birthday hug!

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And, to wrap it all up, I receive a certificate of achievement and the LARGEST bumper sticker I think I’ve ever owned:

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This was, by far, the most amazing birthday gift I have ever received, and a million “thank yous” would cover only the first second of this fantastic journey. I have wanted to skydive for many years. Now that I’ve finally done it? I would do it again in a heartbeat. It is incomparable in exhilaration and in beauty. I would also highly recommend Skydive Orange if you are anywhere near Virginia and feel the need to plunge out of a plane while harnessed to someone as awesome as Mario. Every single instructor I met there was astounding and totally adept and totally professional…while still being totally silly and totally groovy. None of them was as astounding as Mario though. He rocked. And if you do decide to do this, and you’d like documented proof that you did, I highly recommend Christian for your photography and videography needs. He’s the brave soul who hung onto the side of the plane and jumped with Mario and me, to get every moment of my momentous descent. He rocked, too.

And when you’re finished? Get thee to a winery. There are several around Orange, Virginia, including my absolute favorite, Keswick Vineyards, which provided both the refreshment and the scenery for this perfect ending to a perfect morning:

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