Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Study in Sherlock

Every few weeks or so, I post something about a new show that I love or have recently started loving. One of my first posts was about Downton Abbey, then it was Breaking Bad, then Hell on Wheels, and most recently, Call the Midwife. The reason I so easily become obsessed with these shows is because they are great stories that are very well's that simple. If you know me, you know I love a good story, be it a novel, a movie or a TV show. Writing that manages to produce rich characters, plot and dialogue is hard, so I'm always impressed when they make it look so easy.

Today, I'm talking about "Sherlock" on the BBC. While I did like the movie with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, that's for another day. And I have some serious problems with "Elementary" on CBS... with Sherlock in New York with a female Dr. Watson. Now, I have no issue with Lucy Liu as Watson, but Sherlock Holmes and London go together like tea and crumpets, and to separate them is just...nonsensical.

The BBC's "Sherlock" has everything that I expect from a Sherlock Holmes show, and they've successfully modernized it to current day London. Instead of letters and elementary forensics, there are cell phones and advanced science helping out the Baker Street duo. Watson is the narrator in many of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, and in "Sherlock," he is writing a blog about all their adventures. Of course the focal point of the show is Sherlock, who is unpredictable and unpleasant, but somehow so appealing. For me, it's those rare moments of sentiment and softness that make him likable.

This is not one of those moments, but one of the first scenes we meet Sherlock, he's sizing up Watson to be his roommate, and it kind of gives me chills how awesome it is:

There are so many other great quotes that I couldn't choose just a few, so of course I turn to Buzzfeed to do the work for me. Check it out.

Also, I would go on about how handsome I think Benedict Cumberbatch is, but I will spare you.

Another great thing about this show is that it comes on right after Downton Abbey, so my Sunday nights are so chock full of drama and intrigue that I can barely stand to get up the next morning. So, let's raise a cup of tea to many more nights of "Sherlock."

I'd love to know, what's your favorite show? Do you love Sherlock as much as I do? What other shows should I be watching?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Breaking 'Em In: My Mountain Climbing Gear Woes

Talk about a reality check: I'm climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in a less than a month (eeek!!). Training and getting ready physically and mentally is crucial, and I'll talk about that once I get closer to the trip, but it is just as important to have the right gear.

The group we're going with sent me a Kit List, so that I can mark off each item once I've gotten it. Handy, but incredibly daunting. When I pulled the list out of the packet, I gasped and hid under the couch for about 30 seconds. Then I remembered that I'm an adult (sort of?), dusted myself off and tried to wade through it all.  Some things are listed as simply Recommended or Optional, but the majority of items are Essential. My dad has done this before, so he has a few things that I will be able to use like walking poles, sunglasses and a lot of fleece.

Kili kit list. Wouldn't you freak out, too, if you saw this? But look at all my check marks. #responsible 

The "right stuff" includes equipment like boots, fleece jackets, fleece pants, actually just a whole lot of fleece, gloves, backpack, duffle bag, sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, wool socks, mountain socks, sock liners, gaiters, waterproof shell jacket and pants, a down jacket, insect repellant, hiking pants, floppy hat for the sun, wool hat for the cold, head lamp for summit day, mittens, tshirts not made of cotton, underwear not made of cotton, travel pillow and towel, trekking poles, sun glasses that block out the sun on both sides, hand and feet warmers... Not to mention the copious amounts of Advil I'll probably be taking on a daily basis, snacks, energy gels or bars, a camera and phone... and I could keep going.

Many stores around North Texas are uniquely suited to equip people for trips like these, and of course there's my friend, the internet. The REI store in Plano was a tremendous help, and I recently drove over to Backwoods in Fort Worth to try to find a few things that I am still missing. I'm having problems finding hiking pants and waterproof over-pants for summit day. The rest of the things I don't have I'm pretty sure I can find at Academy here in Abilene. They're things that I have never thought of in my life, like a floppy hat and hiking pants. Also, aren't hiking pants just regular pants? and why does this list say 4-5 season sleeping bag? Is there a 5th season on mountains that I'm not aware of? Let's just say that no class in college educated me about all this.

Have any tips for hiking/mountain climbing/Kilimanjaro? I'd love to hear them!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Backstory on the Story

Lately, I've been neglecting what I think of as "serious" writing in favor of more journaling, making notes on my phone, and just generally observing people and situations. I mean, this is my first blog post of the new year, for heaven's sake! When this type of writers' block (perhaps it's just laziness...) happens, it's nice to be reminded of the things I have written in the recent past that I am extremely proud of. Below is an excerpt from my second article published in the Abilene Scene Magazine, and I'm thrilled it's finally here and up on the website!

I'm pretty ecstatic about all this. Mad props to Sandi Haynes for this photo.

When I started writing this article, my intention was to simply write about the incredible month I had in Paris last summer. But somehow, it turned into an homage to my hometown, with a few snipits of my semester in London. I wanted to add my stint in Spain too, but by that point, it was as long as War and Peace, basically. On the same note, I wish I could have added in all the lovely people I've met in all my travels and my amazing family and friends at home, but we writers sometimes have to "kill our darlings" to make the story stronger. (I learned that little piece of advice last summer, too.)

The craft of writing amazes me. In this project, I saw the story come alive, and take its own form. I thought it was going to be about one thing, but it turned into something incredibly different.

Here is an excerpt from the article, and please read the whole thing over at the Abilene Scene website!

As my feet dangled below me, 25 feet above the Seine River, I peeked over my knees at the murky surface. Across the river, a guitar player strummed an American song that I had heard before, but I couldn’t remember the name or the lyrics. His audience was a group of 20 people on the steps that climbed to the top of the quai to Rue Saint Jacques. Hovering above us, the bells of Notre Dame struck the late hour and reminded me of my limited time left in the City of Light.
“Please don’t Bogart that wine, Jennabeth,” Andrew called out in his Australian accent. Relinquishing the bottle of Rosé, I tore off another piece of bread and smothered it with the almost-foul smelling Camembert cheese. I chewed the warm bread and thought of an early autumn night years before in Abilene, the air still hot from summer’s lingering breath, when I picnicked on Chick-Fil-A and iced tea in the parking lot of Shotwell Stadium before Friday night’s game. Texas’ obsession with high school football is practiced with the same vigor with which French people practice their cuisine and people watching.
I had been in Paris for a month-long writing workshop with the Paris American Academy, a school I found through none other than Google. I had come to the decision to spend the summer in Paris when, after quitting my job of almost three years, I began to look for an adventurous interlude. Paris seemed like a perfect place to explore while avoiding real life responsibilities and my hometown, which I felt had become increasingly dull over the past year. After reading reviews of the program online, I was convinced that this was the adventure I was looking for, that I would make friends, and that my suitcase was (hopefully) big enough. I set off on a hot afternoon in July to discover what France’s capital city had to offer.