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.

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:

woodsborohigh_screencap1

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

WoodsboroHigh1

woodsborohigh2

woodsborohigh3

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:

woodsborosquare_screencap

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

woodsborosquare

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

woodsborofountain_screencap

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

woodsborohighfountain

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!”:

policealley_screencap

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

policealley

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

beckerhouse_screencap

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:

beckerhillside1

beckerhillside2

Same with the Prescott house:

prescotthouse_screencap

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.

prescott_driveway

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:

prescottvista_screencap

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!

Unleashing the Writer: Switchbacks, Starshine, and Sunrise

I still exist, denizens. I haven’t holed up in a shopping mall to hide from the zombie apocalypse or gone looking for the Blair Witch or spelunking and never returned.

Apparently, I have been watching a lot of horror movies lately. What? It is October.

Things are running at warp speed on many planes of my existence right now, and sadly, I have had to reduce my time here at the lair in response. Only temporarily, though, I promise. I think about you all often, and I have been working on things to post here. I just need to find the time (and energy) to finish them.

Case in point? I’ve been working on this particular piece for an embarrassingly long time. It’s about our trip to Haleakalā National Park in Maui to watch the sun rise. It was one of the most beautiful natural events I have ever experienced, for many reasons. I desperately wanted to capture some of that morning’s events. I hope that’s what I’ve done with this piece. Even if it’s not that great, you at least get some lovely photos at the end, for your effort 😉

Eyelids begrudgingly slip open, pupils swiftly dilating, as my brain registers but refuses to comprehend the startling electronic trill or the cool blue glow against the otherwise perfect blackness of the room. The digital numbers pulse gently as my eyes struggle to focus and my brain drags itself from the shallows of an uncertain sleep. Those numbers: 2:45. In the morning.

In the morning.

Several fuzzy, futile attempts at addition and I realize that in “our time,” it’s really 7:45 a.m. In another world, thousands of miles out of sight and blissfully out of mind, I’d be at the office, pouring my first coffee of the day and mixing blueberries and cinnamon into my oatmeal. Morning rituals designed to ease my descent into another workday.

Cool blue numbers flicker to 2:46. Morning rituals are temporarily on pause and there’s no way but up today.

Roll out of bed and dress: T-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, jeans, baseball cap, and hiking shoes. Pack a sweatshirt and a hoodie. Try not to feel utterly ridiculous at the incongruity of such a wardrobe when it’s still a solid 75 degrees outside. Paradise should not require hoodies.

She’s already packed Kashi bars and fruit strips in her backpack, plus the water bottles the hotel staff so kindly left when they prepared the room for our arrival the previous day, and is standing next to the door, similarly sleep-deprived yet incongruously wide awake. “Don’t forget your cameras. We’ve got to go.”

Hustle across the softly lit lobby to the sound of waves cresting and crashing against the distant shoreline. We marvel at the fact that we’re not the only ones scurrying about. Families wait in irritable impatience for the valet to pull around their minivans. Other couples slouch toward their self-parked rentals. One young woman unrepentantly drapes one of the hotel’s bed spreads across her shoulders as she traipses off into the darkness. It’s surreal and slightly absurd, but the night-shift staff all smile knowingly at us as we pass, completely unsurprised. Nothing more predictable than the tides or tourists, I suppose.

Finally in our rental car, top definitely up for this excursion, and out on the main highway, I settle into a comfortable speed, roll down the windows and listen to the cadence of tires spinning us toward our destination. No other sounds but that. No other lights but our headlights, piercing the nothingness of night. We’ve left the other tourists behind as I roll through the blackness in this still-unfamiliar beast of a rental that growls obstinately at the slightest press of my foot against the accelerator. He’s seen rough roads, this one, even for a relatively new model. I can’t help but wonder where those roads might be.

I’m about to find out.

The GPS finally directs us off the main highway and onto a narrow road barely visible minus the crisp British voice entreating me to “Turn here.” I obey, and the ascent begins immediately.

The rental’s four speeds dwindle to one–a churlish, lumbering grumble as I force it upward along a seemingly endless parade of switchbacks that float out of early mists and bend onward into blinding blackness. Only the distant glimpse of headlights far behind and below shatter the surreal solipsism of this long night’s journey into day.

The world diminishes to the breadth and depth of our high beams as we wind upward, stopping once to pay our entrance fee into the park (even this early, the booth contains a pleasant-faced ranger, donned in forest green and topped by Smokey the Bear headgear) before continuing on to the parking lot at the very end of the line. We glide past a sign that marks our elevation—10,000 feet above sea level—and slip into the first open spot in what seems to be a nearly full lot. Check the temperature gauge: 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Twenty-five degrees colder than when we left the hotel more than an hour ago.

Twist of the key and the whisper of illumination inside the car falls silent against the indigo rush surrounding us. Already the cold presses in around us as well, and in only a few moments, the inside of the car matches the chill of the outside. In that instant, I make my choice: better to roam than sit and shiver. I am alone in this crazy bravery, and I slip out of the car into the shockingly cold night air.

Teeth chattering, I make my way slowly along the slice of sidewalk illuminated by my little LED flashlight. Several yards out and up, fingers so cold I can no longer feel the flashlight, I stop, fumble to click the light off, and look upward toward the night sky.

A misting of stars, like breath released from unseen gods in awe of dizzying heights and freezing winds atop a land forged by molten fire. Sharp, startled awakening within me as I stare upward, struggling to understand, greedily consuming every parsec that I can.

I have never seen stars before this moment.

I stand with head thrown back, no longer certain whether my shivering is from the cold or from the sheer delight of a night sky as I have never seen it…unsure whether my eyes water from the steady, sharp winds or from emotion awakened by this sight so inconceivable. Yes, Inigo, I finally understand what this word means, and my heart feels as though it will burst with the beating of jubilation at the beauty before…above…surrounding me.

Only at the realization that I have nearly lost feeling in all my extremities do I finally look away from the dazzling, dizzying night sky. I make my way back to the car. This beauty must be shared. I lead her back to the same spot, click off my light, and we synchronously stare upward. We came here for one light show and discovered that this morning was going to be a double feature.

Finally, we notice the faintest sliver of color along the eastern horizon, beginning to split the two sides of night right along the seams. We make our way along a lava-formed precipice, taking our place on a rock outcropping, snuggling together against the unrelenting winds, and wait. Let the main event begin…

Haleakala - 001

Haleakala - 002

Haleakala - 005

Haleakala - 006

Haleakala - 009

Haleakala - 010

Haleakala - 022

Haleakala - 023

Haleakala - 028

Haleakala - 033

Haleakala - 037

Haleakala - 038

Fabulous Photo Friday: Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania

Hey, denizens, do you know what Loba’s favorite mammal is?

Yes, that’s right. My favorite mammal is the naked mole rat!

Of course, it really is the wolf. I have always loved wolves. I find them to be magnificent, loyal, beautiful creatures. I own numerous books on them, read about them all the time, donate money several times a year to defend them, and just generally think they’re more awesome than even Star Trek.

That’s how much I love wolves.

So when we recently found ourselves heading up into parts of Pennsylvania other than Philadelphia, I took it upon myself to map out how far of a drive it would be from our actual destination to a place that I have wanted to go for many, many moons: The Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania in Lititz.

[Loba Tangent: The name of the city is pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable. I learned this the hard way. I’m trying to help you avoid the same embarrassing lesson.]

Believe it or not, there are states in this country with such lax exotic animal laws that people can actually adopt wolves. As utterly ridiculous and downright stupid as that sounds, it’s even worse that there are people out there who go through with adopting these wild animals, either for the status symbol or just because they’re morons.

[Loba Tangent 2: Actually, I think anyone who tries to bring a wolf into their home for whatever reason falls into the “moron” category. These are wild animals. If you want something domesticated to guard your house and poop in your yard, do what everyone else does and buy a dog. There are lots of them in kill shelters and rescues that would love to be your pet.]

The Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania, and other sanctuaries throughout the United States, come to the rescue of these wolves when the people who bought them finally realize that, “Hey, trying to keep a wild pack animal alone in my apartment for 8+ hours a day is a really stupid idea.” The sanctuary takes in these wolves, from places as far away as Montana and Wyoming, who live in that terrible limbo realm of not domesticated enough to be be pets, but too domesticated to survive in the wild.

The staff of the Wolf Sanctuary love their pack, respect that they are not dogs, let them have their space, do not intrude into the natural ways in which wolves interact, dominate, submit, and howl away their days. They do their best to tend to the wolves’ needs in ways that do not require that they enter into the wolves’ zones or impede upon the wolves’…sanctuaries.

I was admittedly worried about how I would feel about these wild animals being placed on display (I even have a bit of a problem with zoos, but I understand that a lot of zoos do worthwhile research that benefits both the captive animals and their free counterparts…so I deal). The sanctuary, however, is doing a wonderful job of protecting these wolves while giving them as much space and freedom as they can.

Of course, I took my DSLR, because…wolves. There really isn’t any need for further explanation, right? I took lots of photos, but only some of them turned out the way I wanted them to. It’s quite difficult to capture constantly moving animals while trying to focus out the chain-link fence that separates you from them. But I succeeded a few times. And sometimes, the fence is there, but the photo came out well enough that I don’t mind.

Here, then, are some of my favorite shots from our visit to the Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania. Enjoy!

brighteyes

chill

foxy

thor

scout

temptation

chiaroscuro

whitecoat

whitefeet

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:

DSC_0004

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:

DSC_0016

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:

IMG_0588

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…

DSC_0020

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:

DSC_0023

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:

DSC_0031

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:

DSC_0041

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!

DSC_0046

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:

DSC_0049

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:

DSC_0052

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

DSC_0056

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:

DSC_0060

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:

DSC_0064

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:

DSC_0074

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:

IMG_0612

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

DSC_0087

…and a groovy birthday hug!

DSC_0091

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

IMG_0624

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:

IMG_0631

Unleashing the Writer: Velocirapture

“Let’s watch Jurassic Park.”

Eyelids narrow, dark lashes forming a latticework of suspicion around sable irises. “You hate that movie.”

There was no point in denying her response. I do, indeed, despise Jurassic Park. It’s a troubling truth to most, but to none more so than to me. I should love this movie. I would love this movie if it didn’t come covered in a sickening glaze of Spielbergian schmaltz. As much as I loathe remakes, this is one movie I would love to see redone. I ask only for two things: more dinosaur-induced terror and no kids.

Still, I have my reasons.

Shrugging one shoulder, I head to the DVD shelf and slip the disc into the player. The truth was that it had been fewer than two days since we’d returned from Hawaii and I was already feeling a strangling sense of homesickness…for the beauty, for the freedom, for the unadulterated aloha of it all.

Our time off was steadily slipping away, like sand and warm water sifting and shifting around our legs, between our toes as we stood on random beaches, too beautiful to pass, too bountiful to stop at each one.

I needed to put out of my mind that soon enough we would be back to that mind-numbing regimentation of workweek predictability, broken only by two days in which to dream of the paradise that not even Milton could have sufficiently described.

And so I hit play on the DVD and did the only thing I could think of at the moment: lost myself to the world of Jurassic Park, filmed almost entirely on location on the beautiful island of Kaua’i, so breathtaking as we flew above the volcanic spikes and valleys, nothing more than black bands and silver buckles keeping us from shifting forward into the unrelenting rush of wind and soaring, if only for a few moments of unearthly perfection, above its verdant desolation.

We immediately began pointing at portions of the scenery as the Jurassic helicopter swooped into sun-dappled chasms, alighting atop a landing pad in front of falls we viewed a few days prior, smiling from the memory, laughing at the ridiculous joy of recognition.

All too soon, night descended on the cinematic landscape and nothing more was left to see beyond an imperfect plot, replete with forced sentimentality that I found as tasteless and unappealing as my first scoop of pasty purple poi.

Daybreak ascends once more, clever girl, and we catch a few more fleeting glimpses of that beautiful landscape as the Jurassic helicopter sweeps our heroes once again to safety.

Credits scroll, the only light reflecting in her dark gaze, as she queries, “So, did you like it this time?”

Another one-shoulder shrug. “I liked the scenery. I’m still waiting for it to end differently.”

An eye roll, barely visible in the semidarkness. “No matter how many times you watch it, those kids are never going to be eaten by the velociraptors.”

“One can dream,” I sigh, as we flick off the television and begin toward the stairs, to dream again of soaring above cerulean tides and emerald cliffs spearing the azure of heaven.

jurassicfalls

fourfalls

watercliffs2

watercliffs

sandbar

cliffsclouds

darknesslight

waimea

emeraldclouds

chiseledfalls

skywater

Loba-Lantern

Little break from all the drinking that’s been going on here at the lair. I carved a pumpkin last night. I haven’t carved a pumpkin in a very long time. Too long. I used to love doing this every year (remember, Halloween is my favorite holiday). So when I learned that there would be a pumpkin decorating contest at work, I decided that I would get back to something that used to make me incredibly happy.

I need a little extra happy right now.

Truth be told, I don’t even mind if I don’t win anything for this little cutie. I had a blast carving him. This was also the first time I’ve ever used linoleum cutters for the task. Not bad for my first go, eh?

I snapped a couple photos of my wolfy pumpkin with a candle, but they came out incredibly dark (duh, right?). Therefore, forgive the graininess of this photo, which I had to take into PhotoShop for some level adjustments:

Even though it’s early, Happy Howloween, denizens. Hope you all get your scare on in the best ways possible.

Fabulous Photo Friday: Sarah McLachlan

Know what makes this past week of power outages, extreme heat, sticky-sweaty-ickiness, and general WTFery all better?

I was this close to Sarah McLachlan last night:

All your arguments are now invalid to Loba.

Seriously, this was the perfect way to make up for the hella week we’ve been having here in the D.C. area. I’ve loved Sarah McLachlan since my college days (all those many moons ago, right?), and she is only one of two musicians I will gladly pay top dollar to see in concert whenever they come to town (can you guess who the other is?).

Speaking of Tori (guess I gave that answer away), McLachlan seems to be taking a page from Amos’s current play book. Just like Amos, McLachlan is currently touring with orchestral accompaniment, from the National Philharmonic.

As with Amos’s music, McLachlan’s often down-tempo, haunting songs are perfectly suited for this type of musical enhancement. Regardless of the swelter that surrounded us (she played at Merriweather Post Pavillion, which is an outdoor venue), McLachlan’s voice, strengthened by strings, winds, and percussion was well worth the sweet summer sweat.

The highlight of the evening, as it usually is (for me, at least), was the new arrangement of “Possession,” one of McLachlan’s songs from her third (and my personal favorite) album Fumbling Towards Ecstasy.

The story behind this song is actually quite a dark one. McLachlan wrote “Possession” in response to rather disturbing letters received from some fans, including one “self-admitted stalker” named Uwe Vandrei. Vandrei sued McLachlan, saying that his love letters to her were the basis for “Possession.” The case never went to trial, however, because Vandrei committed suicide not long after filing his suit.

With lyrics like:

And I would be the one
To hold you down
Kiss you so hard
I’ll take your breath away
And after I’d wipe away the tears
Just close your eyes dear

you can’t help but wonder what kind of memories this song must invoke for McLachlan each time she sings it. Yet to watch her sing it is to watch her become the possessed and the possessor—of memory, of lyrics, of rhythms, of every moment and movement, from beginning to end. Of all her songs, I think this is the one she gives herself to completely each time she plays it. She holds nothing back, hides nothing from herself or her audience.

I love watching her sing this song.

Some of my favorite shots of the evening came during this song. I’ll stop blathering now and get on with posting said favorite photos. I hope you enjoy them…and I hope they make up slightly for the fact that I’ve been remiss in my Flashback Friday visits (or any visits in general) to the lair of late. Things are crazy right now. Some of the crazy is good. Some is bad. Some? I can’t wait to show you 😉

Oh, one more thing: If you are jonesing for a little Flashback Friday, why not flash back to my 2010 post on Lilith Fair? Seems appropriate, no?

Mind All Traffic Signals…

…even the ones you can’t see.

I want you to just look at this photo for a moment or two, denizens. Ponder it:

Do you notice anything off about the positioning of the crosswalk signs? Want a closer look?

Yeah. Pretty awesome, right? The one sign is positioned RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER ONE. Result? Total visual blockage.

The signs have been like this for probably three months now. The county had sent a crew out to regrade the sidewalk crossings, and they installed a couple of new crosswalk signs while they were at it. What I want to know is, how did they not realize while they were installing this sign that they were screwing up?

It took me all of five seconds to deduce the DERP of the sign placement. The work crew was there, futzing around with the sidewalk and the signs for more than a week. Did none of them at any point not look up and say, “Hey! Hey, guyz?!!?!11! I think we need to re-evaluate this game plan.”

Or did they all notice it and just not give a damn? Who’s to say. All I know is that I’m very glad that my parents taught me to always look both ways before crossing the street…