Sunday, July 31, 2011


Yinz better redd up, because they're filming dahntahn and all arahnd the 'Burgh!  All this excitement needs discussed, so get ahtta yinz's hahs, grab a sammie from Primanti Bros., and let's talk abaht it!

That was my very best attempt at Pittsburghese (a legitimate dialect of American English) describing the truckloads of sheer awesome that arrived in the 'Burgh last week.  Christian Bale is here.

He brought some friends, of course, on account of they're filming a little flick here, maybe you've heard of it, I don't know,


Yeah, it's pretty exciting. Yesterday, my mom and I got a firsthand glimpse of the film production process, because we went onto campus for lunch.  There were hordes of trailers and an entire tent city accommodating hundreds of extras.  We had to wait fifteen minutes to walk down a particular block, because they were filming a scene in the alley.  While we didn't spot any of the stars, I DID get a good look at the scaffolding when we finally got to walk past it:


Then, I got a guerrilla shot of a Gotham convict, as well as the Gotham news van:

And then Mom and I saw something even more incredible.  The Batmobile.

(that's it right in the center of the picture, behind that streetlight.  I swear it's bigger in person.  Oddly enough, it was a couple shades of tan instead of black -- maybe it's some kind of post-production thing.  My silly little camera phone doesn't have a zoom feature, but I'm seriously considering investing in a digital camera solely for the purpose of stalking the Batman set over the next couple of weeks)

Those are all the semi-decent pictures I got yesterday, but I'm going to get as many as I can while they're shooting on campus this week, and I'll post them all here!  PLUS today Husband and I drove past the Mellon Institute on Fifth Avenue in Oakland, and we saw a RIOT SCENE!  Hundreds of men duking it out on the steps of this big old stone-pillared building in the snow.

Yes, the snow.  Apparently the scene takes place during the winter, so they were blowing fake snow all through the air during the fight.  It was about 85 degrees outside.  So when you see the film, if you see a riot scene in front of a big old stone-pillared building in the snow, you'll need to lean in and see if you can see any of the poor extras sweating bullets.  Because you'll know that Gotham winter was filmed in Pittsburgh in July.

You're welcome. :)


EDIT: I had to add this, considering that Mom and I saw two weddings going on yesterday across the street from the set (Heinz Chapel and St. Paul's Cathedral).  SO GLAD that their special day was made even more so by the Dark Knight crew!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kill 'Em with Cuteness: Puppy Parenting

Okay, so I think I've officially become that dog owner.  The one who treats his or her pet like a kid.  In my defense, Husband TOTALLY went down this road with me.  And we were both just trying to save our new carpet from the stink.

The Stink of Foxtapus.

Let me explain.

Our dog Riley is one of the sweetest four-legged beings I've ever met.  If you haven't met him yet... you should.  He's a two-and-a-half-years-old Huskador (Huskie-Lab, so he's basically a beautiful white Lab with blue eyes and a fluffy tail), and he's so kindhearted that he doesn't even chew up his toys.  He just kind of hugs them with his teeth.

And Riley loves foxes.  For Christmas he got a stuffed fox without any stuffing, like one of these fellas:

Riley was in Heaven.  He would roll around with Fox in his mouth, grunting and grinning, and we knew he just couldn't get any happier.  Right?


A few months later, a new quadripedal stuffing-free friend appeared on the horizon.  It was the cute new baby to Fox's older, wiser big brother... the Buzz Lightyear to Fox's Sheriff Woody... it was

Foxtapus was Riley's every wish come true.  He SQUEAKS!  His middle is a KONG!  He has TENTACLES!!!  If Foxtapus had been made of bacon, Riley's universe just might have imploded.

At first, Fox 1.0 found himself in the basket with the chew-toy equivalents of Hamm, Rex, and Mr. Potato Head.  As time went on, though, Riley learned to play with both Fox and Foxtapus, gently gnawing on them each in turn, much as Andy learned to play with Woody and Buzz... [cue "You've Got A Friend In Me"]

But tonight, something threatened to rock Foxtapus' very existence within our family unit.  As Husband and I played Keep-Away with Riley and Foxtapus, we began to notice something.

A stench was wafting through the air above our new carpet, leeching its way onto our skin as we tossed Foxtapus back and forth.  It became pungently apparent that our beloved dog toy must have been secretly dragged through a frat house bathroom and baked in the sun for three days.

I gagged and lobbed Foxtapus towards Husband.  He gagged and threw it back.  Keep-Away took on a whole new meaning.  Something had to be done.

How do you wash a stuffed-but-not-really, rubber-bellied, tentacled dog toy?  Like this, evidently:

I really couldn't help but go all cutesy-bootsey Kodak moment on this.  Riley was SO CONCERNED for Foxtapus' welfare throughout the cleansing process.  This cleansing process included a super-heated bath with laundry detergent, in our sweat lodge - I mean, house.

I mean, SERIOUSLY concerned.  If Riley could speak English, in this moment he would have been saying something like, "Foxtapus?!  FOXTAPUS?!  SPEAK TO ME!!!  WHAT ARE MOMMY AND DADDY DOING TO YOU?!?!!?  SQUEAK TWICE IF YOU CAN HEAR ME!!!!!!"

Then our panicked pooch had to live through watching me use the hair-dryer on Foxtapus, whose water-logged squeaker was temporarily muffled to a feeble bleat.

Trust me, Riley wasn't as calm as he looks in this photo.  But at least he seemed to have realized by then that we weren't trying to drown Foxtapus in the utility sink.  And once we were done wringing all the water we could from Foxtapus' tentacles...

There was a sweet and swift (and squeaky) reunion.

So yes, I have become that puppy parent.  The one who lovingly washes out toys at eleven o'clock at night and nearly gets heat stroke from the hot water and blow-dryer in the 85-degree house, so that the furry, four-legged baby can cuddle up to his teddy-bear-equivalent while he sleeps.  And photographs it for posterity.  And blogs about it.

So thanks for reading, enablers. :)



My sweet, beautiful friend Susan brightened up my Monday with this little Youtube gem.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  The song is now my ringtone.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

White Board Journal Entry!


Also, Husband and I just did a mini-extreme-make-over-home-edition on our third-floor family room... and it left me a little wiped out for a few days.

Riley too, apparently.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Grammatical Rage-Induced Haikus

Sometimes I can be a little bit of a Grammar Troll.  Perhaps excessive reading as a child did this to me, or maybe it's just been exacerbated since I started tutoring students for the SAT.  Please note that I do not judge individuals by their grammar usage.  We all share this planet, and some of my favorite people in the entire world confuse their objective and subjective pronouns on a regular basis.  In any event, I try to restrain myself when possible, but sometimes I just cannot stop myself from blurting out, "It's 'him and ME!'  NOT "him and I!'"

(Please note: "him and I" is NEVER correct in ANY context!  Neither is "she and I's <noun>" or Heaven forbid "her and I's <noun>."  Le sigh.)

I don't do this to put on airs or to seem self-righteously linguistic; I simply have to release the bilious grammatical rage from my core from time to time, before it morphs into a Strunk & White supernova that consumes my person, the surrounding civilians, and eventually the world, collapsing into a black hole that was once the English language.

I should remind you that I occasionally hyperbolize.

Anyway, my rage this evening was stirred during a seemingly innocuous night in with the Husband.  There we were, lounging on the loveseat and fast-forwarding through The Biggest Loser to get to the parts when things actually happened.  I have largely grown accustomed to the poor grammar of reality television, but one bit of idiomatic idiocy stuck in my mind like a throwing star, flung by a grammar assassin ninja disguised as a Biggest Loser contestant:

"I think the team really stuck it out this week.  We binded together."


Oh no.

Really?  REALLY?

Rather than revisit the shock and anguish I felt, how about I just dive right into my rage-induced grammar haikus?

To the Guy from The Biggest Loser
It's "BAND together."
NOT bind, NOT bound, NOT bonded.
Don't forget this one!

(band together (against someone or something)
to unite in opposition to someone or something; to unite against someone or something. We must band together against the enemy. Everyone banded together to finish the cleanup work.
See also: band, together

McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.)

Apostrophe Catastrophe
Its: different than
Really.  Look it up.

Positive "Anymore"
Pittsburghers say this,
Like, "This bus stinks anymore."
I think it sounds weird.

Variations on "Your"
"Your" belongs to you.
"You're" serves to shorten "You are."
Not rocket science.

Hear and Their (Limerick!)
If it belongs to them, use "their";
Combining "they are" creates "they're."
With your ears, can you "hear"
How and when to use "here"?
It's the opposite of the other "there!"

Where You At?
Hate you, Boost Mobile.
Your slogan's a grammar fail.
On many levels.

Ten Items or Less
It should read "Fewer!"
Items are countable nouns...

Hardly None
Double negatives:
Little buggers cancel out.
Make a point next time.

What are your grammar/spelling pet peeves?  I've got an extra copy of "The Elements of Style" (or a super-sweet Grammar Award -- no joke) for anybody who expresses their peeve through poetry and sends me a mailing address. 

Have at it!


UPDATE: My excellent friend Andy has offered the following delicious additions to the haiku collection above.  Andy's wonderful, pun-derful brain is like a gigantic, fuzzy teddy bear of neurons.  And his Grammar Award is forthcoming.  Soon.  In the meantime, I hope that you enjoy Andy's poetry as much as I do.

"Him and I"
For people in lists
...Use the pronouns you'd use if
Each one was alone.

"Your Friend the Semicolon"
No mutant comma,
It has specific uses.
Strunk and White, page six.

"Do Not Take If You Are Nursing, Pregnant, or May Become Pregnant"
This is wrong, guys. Math's
"Distributive property"
Works for writing, too.

"The Car Needs Washed"
Dear Southwest PA:
"To be" is not optional
For Hamlet or you.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Writing to a Soundtrack... and an announcement!


Okay, announcement first.  On Friday, on the bus home from work, I completed the first draft of Ugly Stick, my second (yes, SECOND) novel!  What a great feeling!  I looked around at all the other bus riders, wanting to rocket into the aisle and announce that they had all witnessed the conclusion of an artistic undertaking... but the Pittsburgh buses have enough crazy people, and most of the sane ones wear earphones anyway, so I waited until I got to my house to celebrate. =)

I had originally hoped to finish Ugly Stick's rough draft by the end of August, when fall term starts for my Master's program, but June turned into a writing marathon (about 75 pages -- very fast for me).  Now, though, I will have the rest of the summer to revise, polish, and receive criticism from my highly talented pool of beta readers: fellow writers, my mother and teenage family members, and various wonderful supportive friends.  Thanks in advance, everybody!

As for "Writing to a Soundtrack," it is something that really helped me through the completion of this manuscript draft.  Writing in a first-person narrative for the first time in a full-length novel allowed me to get so much deeper into the protagonist's personality and shifting mindset throughout the story.  Sometimes (especially when writing around a ton of strangers on public transport), it can be difficult to dive in and out of that persona.

So what's a writer to do?  I used my other great artistic love, MUSIC, of course!  For several segments of the story, I picked a song that represented, both in style and theme, my protagonist April's frame of mind at that point.

For example, at the beginning of Ugly Stick, when April is outwardly insecure and inwardly sarcastic at her high school, I chose "Grace Kelly" by Mika.  The sassy retro-rock sound alongside the chorus of "Why don't you like me/why don't you like me/why don't you walk out the door!" put me in the perfect writing point of view and mood for writing those scenes.

In contrast, towards the end of the story (spoiler alert!), when April has developed the confidence to appreciate her own inner beauty and that of the people around her, I looped Bruno Mars' earnest and heart-thumping "Just the Way You Are" on my headphones to drown out the noise of downtown and focus on her excitement and satisfaction.  I kept it playing as I wrote the final scene -- what a great feeling!

How about you, fellow writers?  Have you ever used a song as inspiration when writing a scene or chapter?  And fellow readers, are there any songs which remind you of moments in a favorite book?  If so, what?