Weekly Roundup: March 20th, 2015

Again, late, I know. But I have been super busy!

Watching: iZombie

izombie

The title iZombie really initially made me roll my eyes. Not another zombie thing about zombies with feelings. For me, zombies are the mindless, shambling, braineaters that I’ve grown to know at love over the years. But then I found out Rob Thomas, of Veronica Mars and Party Down fame, was making this show, and that it’s loosely based on a comic. I picked I picked up the four trade paperbacks that the comic ran from the library and realized that this could make a pretty good show. And then it starred Rose McIver, who I somehow started to really like between her playing Tinker Bell on Once Upon a Time and as a serene blonde on Masters of Sex.

The comic is about a girl named Gwen who becomes a zombie (she initially can’t remember her death) and works as a gravedigger for access to the brains she needs to eat in order to retain her humanity. Along for the ride are her friends Ellie, a ghost, and Scott/Spot, a wereterrier (yes, you read that correctly). It all get very complicated very quickly but I’m not going to get into that here. In the show we get Liv Moore (hilariously, she deadpanned), a once promising medical student who was scratched in a zombie outbreak (this is… sort of glazed over but suffice it to say there’s an outbreak that happens and it’s dealt with swiftly and then hardly mentioned again. This not The Walking Dead) and has since let herself go. Now she works in the morgue for food access, and has distanced herself from friends, family, and her ex-fiance. She has to feed regularly so that she doesn’t become a mindless monster. Otherwise she just looks like she’s in desperate need of a tan and a dye job away from the white. But, as in the comic, when Liv eats a brain she absorbs the memories of the person to whom the brain belonged. Soon she hooks up with a police detective, who thinks she’s psychic, and helps to solve murders in a delightful mashup of Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, and Tru Calling. With the snark of Veronica Mars. Because, yes, this is definitely Rob Thomas. Only one episode has aired but I thought it was well worth watching; the dialogue was witty, the characters likable, and McIver delightful. Of course, with future episodes it could either shine or start to stink up the place like an old corpse but for now it has my seal of approval and my inklings that it will continue to amuse.

iZombie airs Tuesdays at 9pm EST

Reading: A Mad, Wicky Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

madwickedfolly

It’s weird writing about a book that I fished several books ago, but being on vacation I plowed through five and a half books in nine days. Right now I’m in the middle of one of the most fun books I’ve read in awhile, but nowhere near finished and certainly not reading for writing about here. A Mad, Wicked Folly was something I picked up awhile ago because the plot is basically right up my alley. Victoria Darling doesn’t care about the dresses and parties that she’s supposed to love as a wealthy Londoner in 1909. Her family, members of the nouveau riche, are anxious that Vicky should marry well and help elevate the family name. Vicky doesn’t care about any of it. Instead she is determined to become an artist. After a scandal in France Vicky is sent home and given a choice; marry the man her parents have chosen or else accept a life of exile with an elderly aunt in Norfolk. But Vicky wants a place at the prestigious Royal School of Art, and she’s willing to do what she needs to do to get it. Together with a sympathetic maid and the policeman who has become her artist’s model Vicky builds her portfolio; but there are greater things at work in these turbulent times and Vicky soon finds herself involved with the suffrage movement almost despite herself.

I liked Vicky. She was plucky and willing to break traditions for her dream. This is basically something I’ve been on board with since a kid. I love rebellious princesses (hello Ariel). Vicky didn’t always know the best ways to go about things but these flaw made her real to me. Her hesitation to throw herself full throttle into suffrage, at first, didn’t seem cowardly to me, it seemed realistic. And her reactions to changes in circumstances was natural, if frustrating to those around her. She was a good heroine. She didn’t always know the best way right off, but she figured it out.

A lot of this book was struggling against tradition, but there were a lot more things at play. The Darling family, for example, seemed stodgy, old school, but the fact that they weren’t really was an issue. Mr. Darling was in the toilet business. Literally. They had spent years clawing their way into the aristocracy, in a country where there really is an aristocracy, and weren’t happy about having their name ruined by a daughter who appears naked in public as a nude model and who breaks an announced engagement. Their indignance makes sense for their point of view.

However, we are reading this over a hundred year after it takes place. Women did win the vote, and options have been opened up (though true equality is something women still fight for). Vicky’s lack of choices was infuriating. She was thwarted at every turn and ultimately had to sacrifice far to much. I loved that this book made me care to much about the flight of not just Vicky and her aristocratic problems, but also many of the women struggling for freedom and those who put freedom away for comfort. It’s easy to side one way or another, but this book made me look at the big picture. I say bravo.

Listening to: this rad track

Random:

I’m back from Sanibel by about twelve hours as is writing this and it’s super depressing. It was so relaxing and beautiful. Yesterday at this time I would have been on the gorgeous beach for my daily two mile walk. Today I woke up from a dream I was Lucrezia Borgia to a text message confirming that nine in the morning was a good time to report to work. The nice thing is that the snow that was pretty much piled up taller than me is more gone than not and I was able to park on the street with more ease than I actually remembered. It’s the first day of spring and I can actually feel like we’re on our way there. Which is clearly lovely. But! But. I miss the beach. And it’s making me yearn for summer like I can’t even believe, given I live in a city where an April snow covering is almost as required as the leaves gently blowing away in Camelot. At night, of course. So, I guess I’m going to need to get a jump on my spring bucket list and find some things to look forward to in the upcoming months. Winter’s bucket list was the lamest so far with a few things left to check off, I definitely wont make it. But that’s okay. More for next year. In the meantime there will be trolley rides and daffodil hill, and this hilarious gif:

088130a81f9a6e385e036488cc4177602f91ae9f

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Weekly Roundup: March 13th, 2015

Random: 

Well, here I am in Sanibel, Florida where it looks like this:

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IMG_20150310_185444

Obviously I am past the point in my life where I go on “Spring Break” but going on an early spring vacation just about hits the spot at any age. Especially after the crap winter we’ve had (though I still maintain that it was not as bad as last year and that people have insanely short memories). Sick of snow, it’s amazing to see some green things again. And the blue sky and green Gulf of Mexico really don’t hurt either. Plus, there is shrimp. Oh so much shrimp.

Watching:  Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

unbreakable-kimmy-schmidt

Produced by Tina Fey this show was passed over by NBC and found a two season order from Netflix. It stars Ellie Kemper as Kimmy Schmidt, a woman who was kidnapped at age thirteen by a Doomsday cult and forced to live in an underground bunker for fifteen years after she was told the apocalypse had taken place. After she is rescued Kimmy impulsively decides to move to New York City where she lands a job helping Jacqueline Vorhees around her townhouse and an apartment equipped with a fabulously gay roommate.

The fact that Tina Fey created this show pretty much guaranteed I was going to watch this. I was decidedly tepid about Ellie Kemper (Bridesmaids is probably the only thing I’ve actually seen her in) but this show likely relies on a lead that’s able to carry off Kimmy’s mix of stunted development and unrelenting optimism, and Kemper really pulls it off. The ancillary characters also charm. Jane Krakowski as Jacqueline essentially plays her 30 Rock character, if Jenna Maroney had married well and never worked instead of playing the diva television star. Tituss Burgess as Titus, Kimmy’s roommate, delivers some genuine laughs (my god, the werewolf episode…) and manages to make a cliche, that could come across as tired, endearing. Carol Kane entertains as Kimmy’s world weary landlord. Overall, Kimmy Schmidt is very cute and often laugh out loud funny. Not quite 30 Rock, but what is. And what’s more, why would I want it to be? Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt stands on it’s own and it’s own is hilarious.

Reading: Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel

charlie presumed dead

I started out my vacation reading Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer and found it to be one of the most profoundly disappointing reads of my reading career. It was full on ridiculous from it’s overly unreliable narrator, to it’s poor use of magical realism, to it’s incredibly dumbed down language. It’s a horrible misconception that the only way to write a YA novel is to write a book about teenagers poorly. I was pretty annoyed. But then I found the antidote. Charlie, Presumed Dead was something I picked up on a whim. The plot seemed interesting; a college age boy is involved in a plane accident and presumed dead then at this funeral two girls discover they were both his girlfriend and together go across continents, searching for answers. And the high ratings on Goodreads boded well. This was a perfect vacation read. It was fast paced, intriguing, mysterious, and frothy in all the right ways. It’s not terribly deep and there are certain things (especially the epic ending) that could easily be picked apart from the crowd less inclined to go along for a ride, but there were enough exotic locales and twists and turns here to satisfy even the most jaded reader. Every time I thought I had a grip on what was going on the mystery went even further. I liked all the characters, even while they did terrible things, because they were well drawn and multifaceted. It’s YA, which I’m inexplicably addicted to, but it’s the best kind of YA; fun as hell and written maturely enough to prove the author doesn’t think all young people are incapable of reading a well constructed sentence. I would definitely recommend this for anyone who thinks all this sounds interesting. I can’t stop thinking about it.

Listening to: The sound of waves on the sand.

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Weekly Roundup: March 6th, 2015

Reading: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

these broken stars

This is really not what I expected it to be. It was much better. I thought I was getting myself into a fun but ultimately tepid space romance with a pretty cover. Instead this was a (sort of realistic) love story set in a survival situation.

Lilac LaRoux is the daughter of the most powerful man in the universe and Tarver Merendsen is a soldier, a war hero son of a teacher and poet. In other words, not nearly good enough for Lilac in her father’s eyes. But when Lilac and Tarver are the only survivors of a ship disaster that leaves them stranded, alone, on an unfamiliar planet. Struggling to survive the two come to depend upon each other and soon form the blossoms of love, but it’s soon evident that the planet is far different from either of them could ever have imagined.

I can truly say that this was a very original story. There were genuinely points where I had no idea where this was going and I was never disappointed in a plot twist. The other books in the Starbound series apparently deal with different characters, which makes sense because this story is a complete one, so I wasn’t sure that I felt the need to continue. But upon finishing this book I am interested to see what else these authors can come up with.

Watching: House of Cards, season three

house of cards

I’m about halfway through the season (due to my lack of time) but I managed to make it through season two in less than a weekend. I love me a political drama, and this is a stylish one. It follows the political career of ruthless Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey). Initially the House majority whip, passed over for Secretary of State, a position he felt promised, Frank deceives and connives his way up the political ladder. At his side is his equally devious wife, Claire (Robin Wright). After two nearly flawless seasons I’ve heard the third has some issues, but I’m still curious to see what it has in store. House of Cards is based on a British series of the same name from 1990. I’ve only seen the first installment but know there were two more. Perhaps that’s where the American version should leave off, but Netflix has a hit on its hands and is understandably loathe to let it go. It’s already been renewed for a season four. And, really, since we’re getting it, I have faith that the writers can come up with a compelling fourth season, no matter where season three leaves off.

Listening to: 

Taylor Swift 1989

 

So, this CD is fucking good. It haven’t really stopped listening to it since it dropped like three months ago. I liked her country(ish) albums, but honestly how far was that going to go? Swift is a pop artist at heart and this album only proves it. Her tunes are impossibly catchy and her lyrics are far better than anyone gives her credit for as they dismiss her as a girl who can’t keep a boyfriend. There isn’t a single song on this album that I would classify as a dud.

Random: 

In embarrassing news, I went with my friend (who’s name will be left out of it lest she should die of embarrassment) to see Fifty Shades of Grey.

50shades

Yes, I felt that way too, Anastasia.

There was really not a point where I wasn’t going to see this movie because there was a point where I had every intention of reading the books. I feel, as a pop culture addict living in this time, that I have to experience cultural phenomena. Like Twilight before it (awful but oddly magnetising) and Harry Potter before that (luminescent, obviously) [and leaving out all the Hunger Games (posted about that a long time ago, here) and Divergents in between] Fifty Shades is something liked by so many people that I feel like I need to have an opinion. I also feel like unsubstantiated opinions are bullshit. I was gearing up for a vacation a couple years ago that was going to involve a lot of driving and I thought it might be a good time to experience Christian Grey and his closet full of whips and restraints. As I was transferring the audio CD to my iPod I had the misfortune of hearing a thirty second snippet. It sounded like it was written by a mentally disabled middle schooler and I just couldn’t. I was waiting for the movie. And now I can fully report that Fifty Shades of Grey sucks ass. But, it sucks in such a way that makes it rip roaringly hilarious. Miss Steele has very little personality and Mr. Grey is a bundled nerve of contradictions. The film is so prevailingly… gray that my companion leaned over early on and said “No wonder he falls for her, she wears color!”

And really, we couldn’t stop whispering to each other the whole time. For awhile I burst out laughing  and literally could not stop. This pile was achingly unromantic and decidedly not very racy. I was actually surprised by how vanilla the sex was. But then, this isn’t a story about BDSM as I have so often been told, it’s about the ordinary girl who normalizes an emotionally damaged man who’s into BDSM. Or… something.

On a more serious not, there are those who claim the story features an abusive relationship. That’s tricky, but on a whole I do disagree. This relationship is not healthy. Anastasia does not get the emotional connection she craves, and Grey is a controlling asshat but I don’t think he’s abusive. And I found Anastasia to have a lot more backbone than I was expecting. Nothing physical happens without explicit consent and he is upfront about his emotional issues and what he can and can not provide in a relationship. His controlling nature, which I think is the main issue, is problematic, but not, to me, abusive.

So, yes,it was awful, but pretty amusing too. Afterwards my fellow viewer and I went to coffee and found ourselves wondering about what happens in book two. Soon we looked it up on our phones and were in peels of laughter as we read the synopsis. Stalking, vendettas, cheesy marriage proposals… we actually high fived in amusement at one point because it read like a bad episode of Law and Order. But, you can bet your ass I’ll be seeing the movie.

 

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Weekly Roundup: February 27th, 2015

Yes, I am aware that it is March 5th and that I am almost a week late at posting this. But better late than never so here is last week’s Weekly Roundup.

weekly roundup

Reading:

Love, Fiercely by Jean Zimmerman

love fiercely

This book purported to be a love story of two prominent New Yorkers during the Gilded Age. In 1897 John Singer Sargent painted Edith Minturn Stokes and her husband, Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes in a stunning double portrait, which now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Both individuals were remarkable and contributed much to society, while loving each other far greater than most of their contemporaries, but I would not call this a love story. They fall in love, but this is much more about what they created. Apart from the acclaimed Sargent, Edith was also the model for Daniel Chester French’s Statue of the Republic at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893; her face gazed upon by 27,3000,000 visitors. Stokes is the author of an astounding six volume iconography of Manhattan. Also detailed was their day to day life, slices of a lost era that was known for it’s over the top decadence. Which, is probably my favorite era.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

art of racing in the rain

For months my dad pestered me about reading this book. Every time I saw him he would somehow ask me if I had read it. I had nothing against it… really, but my pile is often very large and this is narrated by a dog. A dog that’s into race cars. I am a cat person. Blah. But, when one’s father is continually asking about a book and insisting it’s good then it’s time to read a book about a dog and race cars. Luckily, this book isn’t really about either of those things. This was the poignant story of a family. It’s plot isn’t the typical family story, but it’s not anything we haven’t heard before. Without the narration gimmick this book would not have worked. Enzo (the dog in question) was a pretty great character who hoped for more but worked with his limitations. A lot of the plot was easy to see coming, but, like Enzo, the reader is helpless to do anything but sit and watch. I’m glad I finally got to read  this. And I will admit, at the end, I couldn’t help but cry.

Watching: Sleepy Hollow

sleepy hollow 

Well, this could be the last time I am actually able to talk about this show in the present tense. A year ago I wrote a whole post about how this show was so fun and that it shouldn’t work but really does. I never quite finished writing and never posted it.

I don’t even know how this show got past the development stage. I can’t imagine anyone being pitched this concept; Icabod Crane from Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleep Hollow wakes up some 200 years after battling the headless horseman (who, in this version, is one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse), and thenceforth exists to battle the forces of evil in modern times, would think this was a good idea. Sleepy Hollow uses different mythology but sets it against a brand name that’s recognizable. It’s a silly show, to be sure, where anything, from demons emerging into this world to holograms of founding fathers that can speak and interact with the characters, can happen and quite frequently does.

But I have never been one to shy away from the fantastical, as Buffy and Lost are two of my all time favorite shows, both of which went to some very strange places. I love battling the forces of evil, and since I can’t do it personally I have to watch characters do it for me.

I was very hopeful about season two, especially after the pretty epic season finale last year, but… it really fucked it up. The lead character’s witch wife emerged from Purgatory where she had been trapped for over two hundred years and became a major character. Unfortunately, her powers were boringly limited and her character did very little but exhibit angst over various plot points that I wont recount here. A new, roguish, character appeared who traded in mystical items and inexplicably had the hots for both the lead actress and her sister, depending on the episode, and really didn’t fit in at all. To be honest the shift of focus onto both these new leads (Katrina, the wife, was in season one but she didn’t have a large role) seemed to a lot of viewers as an attempt to shift attention from the established cast, which included three black actors in lead roles, to new lily white characters that no one cared about. The writing was, frankly, all over the place and everything that worked in season one ceased to in this mess of a sophomore season. I didn’t hate it as some did, but it certainly lost it’s magic. Still, I hope it gets its chance to fix itself in a season three because right at the end it seemed to show signs that it could redeem itself.

Listening to: 

Marina and the Diamonds, FROOT

 

Marina is probably my favorite singer; the pop I love with a little more substance. She writes about all things of life, from romance and that backstabbing bitch, which we hear about from so many pop artists, to dealing with neuroses, all with the additional aid of a great hook. I’ve loved her since her first CD, The Family Jewels, dropped in 2010. FROOT is her latest and reminds me more of the first album than her second, concept, album, Electra Heart.

Random: 

I’m writing about this for posterity. There are certain cultural things that just take people by the throat. I don’t care about sports at all but I watched the Superbowl half time show because I love Katy Perry and was amused as anyone by her dancing sharks. I didn’t care one way or another about the lack of dance skills from left shark, I just liked those ridiculous costumes. The next day the website Shirt Punch unveiled a shirt featuring an imagine of the shark with the slogan “You the real MVP”. Couldn’t agree more, Shirt Punch, but as my friend tried to convince me to buy the thing I just had to refuse. How long, really, would that be funny? Such is with this dress:

the dress

Last week this picture of this dress caused quite a stir on the internet when it became clear that some people saw completely different colors in it than other people. Some saw the dress as white and gold and others saw it as black and blue [which, ew, black and blue together is not cute, and actually the dress was pretty ugly in general]. This phenomenon apparently caused rifts between family and friends. The ones who saw blue and gold felt marginalized and people booked eye appointments for fear of color blindness. Many have told me they started seeing one combo and then switched to the other.

I went to a hockey game last Friday and they showed a picture of the dress and had the crowd cheer for which they saw. The man behind me started screaming “Black and blue” like a mad man and even started in again when I pulled the picture up on my phone and started discussing it with my friend. He was so sure of his opinion that he became belligerent. I found this interesting. Others insisted that it was stupid to care at all. I could not disagree more. I found this fascinating. I saw white and gold and nothing else ever, except a brief glimpse from the corner of my eye that I might have called black and blue. I saw several people post, the next day, a page of optical illusions that are “more interesting than that damned dress”. I had seen all of them before and have always been able to separate the illusion from what is there. Not so with the “damned dress”. What I find interesting here is something that I have always wondered; How can we possibly know that the colors we preceive are the same colors that others see. I know what red is because I have been told red while pointing at a color, but there is no way to know if other people see the same color. I am sure there is something scientific that I don’t understand to answer that question, but on a “what does it all mean” scale it’s a question I think about. This dress was like the whole world asking a similar question all at the same time. Yes, I know the dress is black and blue, but my inability to see it as black and blue is astounding to me. I can understand how a light colored dress could look darker because of shadows but I have seen blue in terrible backlighting before and it has never looked white before. But more puzzling; I can see how something could look the wrong color in a photo, but the fact that two people can look at the same photo and see two different colors is amazing. It’s amazing.

 

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Weekly Roundup: February 20th, 2015

weekly roundupIn attempts to post more often I am starting a weekly roundup where I talk about what I’ve been up to that week. It may be benign, it might be exciting, but either way it’s going online.

Reading: How to Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis.

how to be a heroine

When I reserved this book from the library I wasn’t sure I planned on reading it from cover to cover. But, I found a light but interesting memoir wrapped into the trappings of literary criticism. It was funny and Ellis’ thoughts on her favorite heroines made for good reading. Even if I didn’t always agree (I feel like her adult elf is way too critical of Cathy Earnshaw… which is funny since it seems to have been the catalyst for the entire book. People act rashly sometimes and make terrible mistakes. Cathy and Heathcliff aren’t really romantic heroes [though possibly Romantic]. I don’t want Heathcliff, but I want him for Cathy). Also, I think it’s entirely possible to love both Cathy and Jane Eyre, which Ellis apparently disagrees with. The author’s growing up in her Iraqi-Jewish community was interesting as well, though not the main focus of the story (is it possible to write about something you love with parts of yourself not bleeding through?). I like hearing about people’s life experiences and I knew nothing of Iraqi-Jews.

Listening to: “Nobody’s Empire” by Belle and Sebastian on repeat constantly from Cleveland Heights to Chagrin Falls. I don’t know, it’s catchy and captures that lolling pseudo-aristocratic lightness that I can never get enough of.

 

Watching: Black Sails

black sails

Why don’t I know anyone else who watches this damn show? Let’s be real, I’m likely to watch pretty much anything that involves pirates, as my summer of wearing a pirate hat daily and my viewership of the craptastic Crossbones will attest to, but this show is actually very good. It combines character’s from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island with characters from history, like Anne Bonny (my mother didn’t know who she was and I despaired), Charles Vane, and Calico Jack Rackham. The first season I fully enjoyed but it was definitely slow burn. These aren’t goofy fun pirates like we might see in movies based off theme park rides (though not disparaging those, I like those, they are fun. Yes, all of them), they are much closer to what real pirates would have been like. They don’t pull many punches. The second season, which started about a month ago on Starz, grabbed me quicker than season one did and now I find myself anticipating Saturday nights. Not because I am any fun but because I can watch that pirate show.

Random: 

– I finally got to chicken paprikash ones from Pierogi Palace at the West Side Market. They were fabulous. I have never managed to actually get them before because they always sell out before I can get my butt out of bed and over to Ohio City. I have also gotten pretty good at cooking pierogies. The key is to keep the temperature low and let them brown on both sides without burning.

– Due to my babysitting job, I have watched so much Octonauts in the past week that I am waking up singing a song about a creature report. I have also learned about the existence of the vampire squid. And that it speaks with a Transylvanian accent.

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2014/2015 Winter Bucket List

Making lists of all the things I want to do in every season is working out pretty well. It’s forced me to get off my butt, stop watching TV, and get out and do all the things I’ve always said I would do. There were two things that didn’t get done from the Autumn List, the Cultural Gardens and the Kent State Museum, the former due to the sudden early onset of Winter and the latter to time constraints. The good news is that one gets bumped one season and the other gets new life on my as yet unmade Spring List!

Winter is one of those months were it can be very difficult to force yourself into doing things. It’s cold, so going outside at all is a chore, and snow often makes mobility a concern. Still, there are plenty of things to do in the winter and here’s a list to make them happen.

Tobogganing at the Chalet Metroparks

chalet

 Flying down a seven hundred foot ice chute at speeds of up to fifty miles per hour? Yes please! The bestie and I have been saying we want to do this for years. It’s written down now so it’s finally happening. 

Ice Skating at Wade Oval

wade oval ice

Another thing I’ve been saying I should do for ages. Every year Wade Oval sets up an ice rink in the circle surrounded by Cleveland’s museums and for a very reasonable price you can rent some skates and swing around the ice to your heart’s content. 

Go Sledding

Plenty of hills around and they sell sleds (which I long abandoned to my youth) at Five Below. There’s so much fun to be had in acting like a kid. 

Go to the Christmas Story House

christmas story house

So, that Christmas classic, A Christmas Story, was filmed in Cleveland. A fact that anyone who has ever been to Cleveland knows. We just love that that movie was filmed here (though it takes place in Indiana), particularly in Tremont where you can nary walk five steps without seeing the famous leg lamp that graced the front window of the family in that film (you can see one in the window of the house above). The house that was used for the filming has been turned into a museum that people can tour. I have never been and it seems like the sort of ridiculous and festive thing I should get into. This is the year. 

See the exhibit In Grand Style at the Western Reserve Historical Society

in grand style

Ah, the Western Reserve Historical Society. One of my favorite places. The Chisholm Halle Costume Wing always has something impressive, but I was pretty ridiculously excited when I heard that their next exhibit was going to be clothing from the 1870s through the 1930s, which encompasses both my favorite and my second favorite period of time. Also, when Cleveland was in its heyday and Euclid Avenue was otherwise known as Millionaire’s Row. Their exhibits are always great but this one promises to be top notch. 

Lantern Tour at Hale Farm and Village

hale farm lantern

Hale Farm and Village is a historical farm and a village constructed of historical homes placed around a square in Bath, Ohio about an hour away. A trip there is always a good time; earlier this year I went to their Civil War battle reenactment and toured the farm and village on two separate occasions in the summer. For the holidays they do lantern tours. I’m not one hundred percent sure what it will encompass, but I’m pretty excited to find out.

See David Bowie Is at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art

david bowie is

Full disclosure; I have already done this but included it because it was on the list before the list made it online. This exhibit was pretty incredible. The sort of exhibit you travel to other cities for. There were costumes, lyrics, artifacts, and lots and lots of music. With a audio component that changed as you moved around the room it was definitely the full Bowie experience. I would recommend anyone seeing this. There’s not much more time that it will be in Chicago but if you’re there, see it. 

Go to the Dittrick Museum of Medical History

dittrick museum

When I was younger we had this Health Museum. I loved the Health Museum. I went there all the time with my family and at least once with school. I remember one time going into another room that wasn’t usually open, or at least that I had never been in before, and it was filled with the coolest old timey medical stuff. I can’t be sure, but I would be willing to bet that when the Health Museum closed some of that cool old timey medical stuff ended up at the Dittrick Museum of Medical History at Case Western Reserve University. I follow them on Instagram and it definitely looks like it’s worth a visit. The fact that it’s free is a huge plus. 

See the exhibit The Great War: Women and Fashion in a World at War at the Kent State University Museum

great war

I didn’t make it here in the fall, so I am going in the winter. It’s happening. 

Complete the Hot Cocoa Tour

cocoa

It was ice cream in the summer and coffee in the fall, now it’s hot cocoa. We tried and tried to come up with something to do in the Winter and then Scene published this article. Thanks Scene!

Deck the Hall at Stan Hywet Hall

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Stan Hywet Hall is one of my favorite places. The estate of F.A. Seiberling of Goodyear tires, Stan Hywet (Welsh for Stone Quarry) opened in 1915 and is a beautiful example of a preserved Gilded Age mansion. I have been there a lot of times. Over the summer I went on their Nooks and Crannies Tour. Last year I also went to Deck the Hall, their annual Christmas celebration, but it’s always beautiful and always a good time so this year it’s also on the list. 

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Fascinating Tales from History: The Winchester Mystery House

Recently I finished reading this book, The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red, which is the novel prequel to Stephen King’s Rose Red, a mini-series that aired in 2002. If that’s not complicated enough. I never saw the mini-series but a friend thought I would get a kick out of the book (love me a good ghost story) so I bought it and promptly left it sitting on a shelf for over ten years. But, I have been going through a rash of haunted house stories this Halloween and this title seemed to fit in with the group so I picked it up, dusted it off, and gave it a chance. It was decent. Certainly entertaining. The fictional home, Rose Red, bore a great resemblance to Hill House in Shirley Jackson’s phenomenal The Haunting of Hill House. But it was also clearly based on another house, a real house. The Winchester Mystery House.

The Winchester Mystery House from above, as it looks today.

The Winchester Mystery House from above, as it looks today.

The Winchester Mystery House was built, starting in 1884, by Sarah Winchester, window of William Wirt Winchester of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. After her husband’s death Winchester consulted a medium who told her she should move across the country and build a home for herself and the victims of Winchester rifles. She did just that, moving to San Jose, California and started construction on her home. Of course, with most building projects there comes the time that the building stops. That didn’t happen with Sarah Winchester’s house until her death in 1922. At which point she had spent approximately $5.5 million dollars (roughly $75 million when adjusted for inflation) and built the mammoth building up seven stories. However, the 1906 earthquake, which devastated San Francisco, claimed three of the top floors of the Mystery House.

The Winchester Mystery House before the 1906 San Francisco earthquake

The Winchester Mystery House before the 1906 San Francisco earthquake

Throughout her life Winchester became more and more paranoid about the ghosts and spirits she believed were haunting her and her money. To confuse and deter the phantasms, she built her house to be deliberately confusing. Not only its vast size and sprawling layout, which she designed herself without the use of an architect, but windows in the middle of rooms, doors that lead out a second story wall, and staircases that lead to nowhere.

The famous "Door to Nowhere"

The famous “Door to Nowhere”

wmhstairs

wmhstair

In the end the house ended up 24,000 square feet, with 160 rooms; 40 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, six kitchens, two basements, 47 fireplaces, 52 skylights, 10,000 windows, 2,000 doors, 3 elevators, and one shower. [statistics courtesy of the official website]

Dining room

Dining room

Bedroom

Bedroom

The Winchester Mystery house is now open to the public and available to tour. Needless to say the house is considered haunted by countless ghosts including the ghost of Sarah Winchester herself, who built the house that just wouldn’t quit.

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