Let’s Get High and Watch Labyrinth

When I asked for suggestions for which movie to watch for a “Let’s Get High Movie Night”, over 50% of responses were for Labyrinth. This is one of my all-time favorite movies, but for some people the implied sexuality between David Bowie and a very young Jennifer Connelly is unnerving or uncomfortable. Since teen sexuality is so often discussed with regards to this movie, I talk about that at length. That’s why I’m going to label this with a CW for things relating to teen sexuality that might make CSA survivors uncomfortable.

LET’S GET HIGH AND WATCH LABYRINTH

The original movie poster for Labyrinth, featuring an illustration of David Bowie as the Goblin King looming over a menagerie of various goblins and creatures, with Jennifer Connelly as Sarah in her ball gown from the fantasy ball room sequence, fleeing the castle in a mist.   As always, cannabis consumption is optional, and you should definitely follow your local laws. Download the mp3 here and start when the movie starts and the first title card comes up (it says Henson Associates, Inc and Lucas Film LTD present).

Got an idea for a Let’s Get High And Watch Movie Night? Drop it in the form below:

The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S03E08 “Lovers Walk”

In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone just spent a whole weekend off her meds because she forgot to pick them up before the pharmacy closed. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:

  1. Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
  2. Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
  3. Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
  4. Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
  5. Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
  6. The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
  7. All the monsters look like wieners.
  8. If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
  9. Angel is a dick.
  10. Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
  11. Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
  12. Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
  13. Science and technology are not to be trusted.
  14. Mental illness is stigmatized.
  15. Only Willow can use a computer.
  16. Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
  17. Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
  18. Oz is the Anti-Xander
  19. Spike is capable of love despite his lack of soul
  20. Don’t freaking tell me the vampires don’t need to breathe because they’re constantly out of frickin’ breath.
  21. The foreshadowing on this show is freaking amazing.
  22. Smoking is evil.
  23. Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shit is homophobic as fuck.
  24. How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?
  25. Technology is used inconsistently as per its convenience in the script.
  26. Sunnydale residents are no longer shocked by supernatural attacks.
  27. Casual rape dismissal/victim blaming a-go-go
  28. Snyder believes Buffy is a demon or other evil entity.
  29. The Scoobies kind of help turn Jonathan into a bad guy.
  30. This show caters to the straight female gaze like whoa.
  31. Sunnydale General is the worst hospital in the world.
  32. Faith is hyper-sexualized needlessly.
  33. Slut shame!
  34. The Watchers have no fucking clue what they’re doing.

Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments.  Even though I might forget that you mentioned it. WARNING: Some people have mentioned they’re watching along with me, and that’s awesome, but I’ve seen the entire series already and I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So… you know, take that under consideration, if you’re a person who can’t enjoy something if you know future details about it.

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How To Build An Epic Cake (A Recipe From A Seven-Year-Old)

Yesterday, as we grocery shopped, my seven-year-old stopped, put her hands out and said, “I just had a vision.”

The vision was a cake. “The best cake anyone has ever made.” A cake for the ages. And today, we’re going to share her recipe with you.

You’ll need:

A photo of the ingredients, which will be listed below.

  • Red Velvet cake mix (and the eggs and oil to make the cake
  • Two cans of chocolate fudge frosting
  • Birthday Cake Oreos
  • Mint Oreos
  • That weird Betty Crocker frosting in the aerosol can, in blue
  • Read-made chocolate chip cookie dough
  • Sprinkles (here, she has gone patriotic with red, white, and blue)
  • 2 round cake pans

You don’t need the whipped topping. During the creative process, I convinced her that it was a bad idea, as the cake would have to be refrigerated, and our refrigerator looks like the place where leftovers go to die right now.

Preheat your oven according to the directions on the cake mix you’re using and prepare you pans. We greased and floured the pans as per usual, but I also put down a layer of parchment paper, because I had no idea how her “vision” would play out. Then pat down a layer of cookie dough to cover the bottom of the pan.

A round cake pan with a layer of chocolate chip cookie dough covering the bottom.

Add a single-layer of Birthday Cake Oreos on top of the cookie dough.

Two adorable little hands pushing Oreos into the cookie dough.

 

Once that step is completed, prepare your cake mix according to the directions on the box. Pour half of the mix into the cookie dough pan. In your second pan, pour in a thin layer of cake mix, then put a layer of the Mint Oreos on top of the cake batter. Pour the remaining batter into the pan.

Red Velvet cake batter pouring into a pan and covering a layer of Oreos.

 

Bake the cakes according to the directions on the box. You might need to give it a little more time, just keep checking on it. This was totally an experiment, so we had no idea how long it would have to go in. I think we did thirty minutes. Your mileage may vary.

Once the cakes are out of the oven, give them a while to cool down. When they’re cool, cover the bottom cake (the one with the cookie dough bottom) with frosting. You’re basically using the frosting to glue the top and bottom cakes together, so you could just do the cop, but I went ahead and slapped a crumb coat on the bottom while I was there. Place the other cake on top of the bottom one:

Two cakes stacked on top of each other. The bottom is frosted in chocolate frosting, the top is unfrosted.

Then, slap a crumb coat on the top, and frost the whole thing.

After frosting, garnish the top with the remaining Oreos and anchor them with the blue icing:

A double-layer chocolate cake with Oreos standing on their sides, propped up by mounds of blue frosting. The Oreos form a circle around the outside, with one in the middle.

 

She chose to alternate the Mint and Birthday Cake Oreos. You may also add the decorative border around the bottom, if you like.

And of course, you cannot forget the sprinkles:

The same cake, this time covered with way, way too many sprinkles.

So, there you have it. My daughter’s “vision.” How did it turn out, eating wise? Well…let’s just say it’s a complex flavor experience. And you can only eat a couple of bites, or the sugar will overwhelm you. But she’s proud of it, and I am, too. Because if you have a creative vision, whether it’s a book or a film or a painting or a cake, you can see it through and achieve your dreams. You just have to believe in yourself.

Don’t Do This, Ever: “Reviews Feed Us” edition

There have been a few graphics going around social media lately that kind of rub me the wrong way.

Graphic reads: Save An Author. Give A Review" with a heart beside it.

 

Photo of an open book, with the words "The best way to thank an author is to write a review.

In the past, this sentiment never bothered me. I may have even expressed it a time or two. But I’m seeing an increase in readers speaking out about this practice. Now, from a reader’s point of view, I’m starting to see why this is frustrating.

Imagine going to see a movie. It’s a fun movie, you enjoyed it. You left the theatre feeling you got your money’s worth. Then, when you got home, the director has posted a Facebook message: “If you want us to be able to keep making movies, please consider writing a review at Rotten Tomatoes or IMDB.” How would that make you feel? Pressured? Guilty? Obligated? Maybe you wouldn’t go see a movie directed by that guy again, because you don’t want to deal with the plea for reviews.

What if you went to Home Depot and bought a new plunger? You brought it home, it worked fine, you’re happy with it. Then Home Depot sends you an email saying, “It would really help us out if you reviewed that plunger.” Nope, no thanks, Home Depot. I’ll shop at Ye Olde Hardware store from now on.

Do you, like me, get annoyed when Amazon Marketplace or eBay sellers send out messages asking for ratings and feedback? I freak out. I just wanted to buy something from you. I don’t want to help you build your business. I’m not looking for a symbiotic relationship here. Just let me buy my stuff and leave.

When someone reads my book, I view it as a consumer transaction. They either bought the book or checked it out from the library or downloaded it, and once they’ve done that, the transaction is completed. Nothing further is required from either of us. If a reader wants to reach out, I’m there, but they’re not obligated to. They can leave a review, if they’re so inspired. But they owe me nothing, because we’ve both benefitted from the exchange (unless they thought the book was shitty).

Some of the graphics I’ve seen suggest that if you don’t review, the writer might starve:

Graphic says: "The care and feeding of an author on Amazon. Buy the book. Share "I just bought..." Write a review. Like it. Tag it. Share the link. Keep 'em fed. Keep 'em writing." with various graphics from Amazon, Facebook, Youtube, etc. A thumbs up graphic with "Feed an author, leave a review".

Or, that they might stop writing. This is some fanfic bullshit if I’ve ever seen it. So many writers will tell you that the reason they write is because they enjoy it. It’s too difficult a job to do if your heart isn’t in it. So, if what you need to enjoy it is reviews, and you’re not getting them and your heart is not in it, then maybe it’s time to rethink some priorities. But it’s your job to decide whether or not to continue. Don’t put that responsibility on readers.

I’m not trying to be harsh here. I know that it’s frustrating when you see people racking up fantastic review after fantastic review. I know you want your book to reach the widest possible audience and have two full pages of positive quotes to sell it. But why alienate the audience you do have by holding that “no new chapter until I hit fifty reviews”-style fanfic threat over their heads?

What about making money? Don’t reviews help you make money? If you’re a professional writer, writing is your job. It might be your second job. Hell, it could even be your third job. But if you’re making money from it, it’s a job. If isn’t financially feasible for you to continue, then…you don’t continue. A reader doesn’t need to “feed an author”. They’re not responsible for the financial success or failure of your writing business, so to suggest that by not leaving a review they’re condemning you to poverty is absurd. Especially if they already bought your book, thus actually contributing on a monetary level.

Which brings me to the graphic that inspired this post. Six writers I’m friends with on my personal Facebook have shared this so far. They’re all awesome people, with only the best intentions. I’m just not sure they get how this sounds:

Graphic that reads: "Reviews help authors. Readers choose books based on recommendations. Leaving an Amazon review is like telling your friends how much you enjoyed your last read. After 20 to 25 reviews, Amazon includes the author's book in 'also bought' and 'you might like' lists. This increases its visibility on the site and helps boost sales. After 50 to 70 reviews, Amazon highlights the book for spotlight positions and includes it in its newsletter. A HUGE books for the author. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW AT AMAZON FOR AUTHORS YOU ENJOY READING!"

Since when do readers need to worry about helping us overcome Amazon’s arcane algorithms? It’s not their job to publicize our books for us. If you want to get into a newsletter, there are plenty of them out there. And blogs. And ad space on blogs. Is it cheaper to get free promotion? Sure. But is it worth the risk of losing readers by constantly begging for reviews?

Again, I’m not trying to be harsh. It’s one thing to ask for reviews on something you’re giving away for free, like fanfic or fan art or what have you, because the review, or even clicking the kudos button on AO3, is a form of (voluntary) payment. But if someone is paying you for a book, all they need to give you is money. My dentist has never once said to me, “Yeah, you paid your bill, but if you don’t help me fix this hole in the roof, I have to close down my practice.” The consumer has already paid for what they’ve gotten. They don’t need to stick around and fix the hole in your roof.

Plus, reviews are time consuming. Even a single line of “It was good, I liked it” takes time out of a reader’s day. They already gave your book the time it took to read it. Why on earth should we be asking for more? And it feels as though the question devalues that reader who doesn’t leave a review. “You don’t count,” we’re saying. “You read the book, but you didn’t leave a review, so you’re not as appreciated as my other readers.” And many bloggers have been scared into not writing reviews anymore, because of the way some bad apple authors have treated the whole blogger bunch.

Reviews are nice. Good ones make us feel good. And that’s super. But just because something makes you feel good, doesn’t mean you deserve it. And we have got to stop acting entitled to a reader’s public opinion.