Alberta says Hi

Some of you who follow me from my live journal may have seen these images already, so don’t worry, feel free to skip. Those of you who follow me just here at 2phatgeeks, I’ve been remiss in showing you a few of the pictures I’ve nabbed at Alberta.

There were very many, most of them of my family who don’t wish, respectfully, to have their images plastered all over the interwebs, and my mother for some reason thinks she’s some sort of hideous monster for which I can’t quite yet fathom what gives her this idea. As she is my mother, and thus, the most beautiful woman in the whole wide world.

Anyway, that’s besides the point–I wanted to show you some of the pictures which turned out to be my personal favorite. Some of them I am still (pussyfooting around) editing and tweaking in photoshop and light room, some of them have been upped to Deviant Art as well as Triond–So here those are:

Up, Up, and Fan-freakin’-tastic

For me, it is one of those little joys in life to go and see a movie with my better half. I’ve always been a huge film fan, and I love sharing a movie day, even if it’s an “ehhh” movie (I’m looking at you Ghost Rider), with the other Phat Geek. With Mel so recently back from a really long six weeks away, we decided to go out and spend a couple days catching movies this week.

Monday we went and saw Star Trek. This is good solid geek fare and just as much a part of her welcome back as the dinner that followed. You can check out my review here, but suffice it to say she liked it and I enjoyed seeing it a second time.

Today, though, we went and saw Up. One word: beautiful.

It was an absolutely perfect example of the reasons I enjoy movies and why I especially love sharing them with her. How Pixar consistently manages to put out films of this quality is beyond me. To follow up Wall-E, which was arguably the best animated film I’ve ever seen, with a film that in some very important ways surpasses it illustrates the sort of phenomenal product they’re putting out. With predictably nuanced charm, Pixar has managed to create a film that appeals to audiences on two basic levels.

For the kiddies we had the basic story about an old man and a little boy saving the day from a dastardly villain. The animation is bright and colorful and up to the normal high standards we’re used to in Pixar films. The main characters each have a very distinct look and feel though we can see a bit of the humans from Wall-E in the little boy. The film is presented in a narrower field of format than the usual cinematic fare though you hardly notice it. I have a feeling this has more to do with the fact we saw the 3D version of the film than anything else.

It has been a long time since I saw a 3D film. I just can’t get over the fact that I have to put crap on my head to see a film in the theater. I’d been hearing good things about the more recent usage of 3D and decided to give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised. The 3D was convincing but there was a welcome lack of purposeful gags playing on the 3D gimmick. There were no ping pong balls bounced at the screen, there were no water guns. The 3D added to the film more by bringing you into it and working with the surround sound effects. All in all I was pleased. Will I go see other 3D films? I’m not sure, but it’s definitely an improvement!

3D or not, though, the first level of the film is perfect for the little kids and loaded with tons of good humor, too. The damn bird had me laughing out loud as did the scene of the kid getting dragged across the window. I absolutely loved the talking dog thing and it was a great solution to the whole “Why can the people understand the dogs?” issue that occasionally pops up in these animated films. This film would have been a good enjoyable romp on just this level.

But on the second, deeper level this films goes from enjoyable to just plain wonderful.

Underneath the bright colors and funny gags, there is a nuanced and touching story about an old man dealing with the loss of his best friend and wife and of a boy dealing with a father largely missing from his life. In a very general sense the overwhelming message of this movie is that the only way to deal with hardship is to rise above them and become a better person. However, the story that Up tells is a very real and touching and expresses even more tenderness than Wall-E’s beautifully crafted story. I’m not ashamed to say that, on more than one occasion, I teared up during this film. If you can watch this movie with a dry eye, you’re dead inside.

I watched Wall-E about a week-and-a-half ago. I remarked to myself on how perfect the film was. The animation was fantastic, the story both amusing and touching and the message topical and well told.  In the animation department, I still have to give the nod to Wall-E. It is in the message that Up takes the title.

The messages in Wall-E were simple and universal: Life and the Earth are to be protected and Love overcomes all boundaries. These are messages that resonate with people of all ages. Even the youngest child can understand the love between Wall-E and Eve. The love shared by Carl and Elie is no more difficult to understand but the sense of loss and incompleteness expressed by the little old man are far more complex and personal. In the same way the abandonment issues experienced by the little boy, Russell, will not be as easily appreciated by the younger audience. Carl’s and Russell’s stories are both very adult in their themes and both exceptionally well done. The end of the film gave the sort of wonderful warm feeling that everyone needs now and again.

If you haven’t seen this film, you need to. If you have… maybe see it again, and be thankful you’re not on the team at Pixar that’s just been told “Ok… that was great. How can we improve on this for our next film?”

2phatgeeks Issues/Maintenance

Hey boys and girls! This is just a heads up for the coming few days: will be going through some Maintenance as we’re currently experiencing some WP plug in issues.

I would like to blame this on bariguy, my husband, but I fear that it’s due to me and we think trying to use the debacle that is Intense Debate. We couldn’t save drafts or posts directly from the WP admin yesterday either, but today we can–and now the ads went down. So we’re going to try a fresh re-install of everything and see how goes.

Don’t worry! All your comments and all of our scintillating posts will remain for you to enjoy! I sincerely hope you’ll stick with us which we beat the shit out of some gremlins in our system! Sorry guys for any inconvenience this may cause!

Day 3: Spread the Love

April 17  II 2009

Atlanta loomed large and sleepy in late night, early morning orange street lamps. Their flickering orange lights highlighted my own reflection in uv darkened bus windows as I found myself spending more and more time simply staring out of them in the hopes it would make this trip go faster.

I don’t honestly remember much of Atalanta, although I remembered the bus station. I’d been through there before several times years ago in several different bus trips. The bus station in Atlanta seemed crowded as well as protected by the broken-teeth rows of old, abandoned factory buildings. Brick buildings everywhere, including the station itself. I was never so glad to get off a bus in my life, as I did not have to sit and smell the armpits of Stinky Australian man who sat behind me, the reeking pot stank of Fifteen Scent, or listen to the quiet snores of Mr. Nap who, whilst saving me from losing my bus ticket–really shouldn’t sleep on large, fat, tired geeky white women.

Atlanta was cold. Atlanta was colder than I’d expected; living in Florida had spoiled me rotten against winter. I had thought all those past months of complaining about how hot it was might actually do the opposite and help me embrace my long distant Canadian winter blood. Alas, this was not so. My teeth began chattering the moment I trundled off the bus and onto the ramp leading inside. Atlanta, however, gave me my first hour and a half at a station to do several things. Up until that time Grayhound had herded us on a bus, then herded us off, then herded us in stations, herded us in lines immediately and then called for boarding even if our tickets said 2 or more hour layover.

There are no showers or any other facilities past a toilet, sink and mirror in every Grayhound station I can remember, so I packed smart. Let me just tell you plainly at this very momoment–after two days on a bus surrounded by coughing, sneezing, farting, drinking, smoking, snotty people there is nothing quiet so awesome as a baby wipe bath. A baby wipe bath that you scrub so hard you emerge pink and squeaky.  It was one of those moments where I realized how grateful I was to have a home with running water, a place to have a shower or bath if I wished.

I didn’t spend too long in there however, because as per usual with Grayhound, there was an immense line up for the Atlanta to St. Lois bus and by the size of the line? I knew boarding call was coming soon.

When we all trundled onto the bus, most of us were over tired, cold, exhausted and simply wanted to get back into our iron maiden chairs cleverly disguised as being bus seats. I didn’t pay much attention to the happy-go-lucky driver as I piled myself into a chair near the window and tried not to kill anyone with my uber-bag of emergency everything. As I was settling, I heard over the bus’ intercom, “Heh. Heh. Heh. ” I can only describe it as the most laid-back, cool, ‘heh’ I have ever heard in my life.  Was it possible to make ‘heh’ sound both as awesome as the Fonz’ eyyyyyyyyyy and as funkin’ as Shaq’s theme song?

It was. It so was.

“Ladies n’ gentlemen, welcome to the big daaaawwwwg buslines,” mellow and drawn out, he took his time pronouncing each word and made sure to dramatically pause here so he could say, “also known as Grayhound, heh, heh, heh. Just want to inform ya’ll that there will be no smokin’ in this here couch,” pronounced: cowch. “There will be no ingestin’ of alchoholic beverages of any time. Please don’t smoke in the bathrooms, s’bad for ya’ll anyway.

“Before we go on our trip I’d also like to take this opportunity to remind you that while we are all together on this here cowch, we’re all just tryin’ to get some place. So let’s spread some love out there in the world today.  We family, and I want ya’ll to treat one another like family. Ain’t nobody here to look after one another but each other, so remember that. Treat your fellow cowch passengers as you’d like to be treated, like y’treat your mom, your dad, your sister or loved one.  This how we do it–how we start spreadin’ the love all over the place, in little spots like this, you know? Then it’ll get bigger and spread more.

“I’ll be your driver all the way to St. Lois, if you need anything please feel free to ask. Thank you for choosin’ the heh big daaawwwg, grayhound.”

He was without a doubt, one of the coolest and best driver’s I ever remember having. He walked up and down the aisles after to talk to everyone while we waited for refueling to finish, smiled and listened to people.  When the trip got under way and it was time for some bus passengers to leave, he’d always remind them to ‘Spread th’ love,’ and thank them for riding the big dawg.

It didn’t seem to matter so much that the stranger sitting next to me kept elbowing my boob, or that the bus smelled like a salad of gas and shoes–I felt like perhaps there were pockets of hope scattered around the universe, just waiting for us to spread the love and reward us. That was the first time I was able to rest my head against the bus window and get several hours of sleep. The sleep was almost as glorious as the magnificent St. Lois Arch I was greeted with, awashed in the gray morning light of a cold rainy day.

I had one more day to go before arriving at Alberta. I was full of niave hope that the trip there might finally go without a hitch.

This is part III of a series of writings pertaining to Mel’s experiences traveling four days on a greyhound bus from Florida to Canada. Miss the first post? Why not read it: here? Check out the second post here

Good Bye, and Thank you Sir.

David Eddings, July 7, 1931–June 2, 2009

David Eddings, July 7, 1931–June 2, 2009

I was in high school when I stumbled over the single object which would change everything for me.

When I was in high school, I wasn’t interested in Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. I didn’t know what they were. I didn’t like elves, I didn’t day dream about pretty men wearing 100 pounds of shiny steel armor and still managing to look good. I didn’t imagine what the scales of a dragon looked like sparkling in the sun. I was just another over weight out-of-place fat girl who couldn’t find anywhere to fit in.

One afternoon while in the Library and bored out of my mind, I meandered through the rows of books looking for something to do that wasn’t actual home work. I didn’t find a single book that marginally interested me and I stopped by the Librarian’s little section near the door. I remember leaning on the make shift counter, which consisted of several very short shelves turned about so they appeared solid to the rest of the room, while the Librarian could use the shelves for storage and what not on her end.

It was in mid pithy conversation that I looked behind her to the tiny, teeny, itty bitty collection of books behind her. The shelf itself must have been no longer than two feet and perhaps no taller than six. In the middle, spreading across three of the central shelves were books I had never noticed they were there; I had been walking past them in the Library for two years at the very least.

This was our library’s Science Fiction and Fantasy section.

I asked if I could look at them and the Librarian, a middle aged woman with hair so curly it formed a helmet on her head, stepped graciously aside and allowed me behind the counter to look.

pawnofprophecybookcoverI wish I could say that the heavens opened up, a chorus of elves strumming lutes and something magical happened when I randomly plucked a book from those shelves–because it seems now such an event deserves such accolades. No, instead, all I had in my hand was just a dog eared worn paper back in the middle of a hick-town tiny library. The cover pictured a woman with dark black hair protectively holding the shoulders of a young, sandy haired boy. The woman had a single streak of gray within her hair and was facing opposite a menacing dark figure on a horse.  Behind them, a faded yellow map of some sort served as backdrop. It was a pretty unassuming book cover now that I think about nearly fifteen years later.

The book was called: Pawn of Prophecy, and it was written by David Eddings. That book changed me. I had no idea at that moment when I picked it up and idly read the blurb on the back that this book would change everything for me.

It was the single book and perusal of everything else he wrote which started on my long journey of imagination. David Eddings was my gateway drug to my sweet crack habit of Sci-fi and Fantasy I have now. Without David’s book I would never have bothered with books at all. I’d never have the voracious appetite which allows me to finish one of George R. R. Martin’s books in a single night, I would have never sat in my bedroom at sixteen and filled three binders filled with painstakingly bic-pen written pages of loose leaf with asinine teenage angst fantasy writing.

I wouldn’t have ever realized the magic that was awaiting me.

On June 2nd, 2009, David Eddings passed away. The man responsible for my geekery today has left this world to perhaps, settle down in Aunt Pol’s cottage with her twins and sneaking an ale or two with Belgarath behind her back.

I always wanted to thank him for that book.

Thank you, sir, for opening these doors to me. Thank you, sir, for carrying me through the awkward awful times of high school.

Thank you for the dreams.

Don’t give Crazy Loud Ladies Energy Drinks & Other handy Bus Lessons

April 16th, 2009. 2:00 am – 9:00 am.

Earlier on the 15th when we arrived at the Orlando Greyhound bus station, I was in for a mightly surprise.

For three hours on the first evening when I started my trip I was literally in heaven. The bus was sparsely populated and I had two bus seats of my own to easily stretch out across. The bus, while not being new was at least relatively clean enough and it was quiet. All that changed in Orlando.

saaa_cream_by_bingevil_stockInside the bus station was pretty much standing room only. Every seat had been taken and lines that spanned from the Greyhound boarding doors facing the parking garage, to the front entrance door spanned the building. Children were hot, bothered, cranky and screaming from within their mothers clutches. Some of them weren’t even held within their mothers clutches, they ran willynilly within the bus terminal stepping on other peoples luggage and screaming shrilly until it bounced off white-tiled walls. There may have been an air conditioner inside the Orlando bus terminal, but the humidity from everyone packed together exhaling, sweating as well as generating body heat made it as useless. Every face of nearly every person inside was twisted in some semblance of exhaustion or outright blank, soulless, oh-god-why-the-hell-did-I-take-the-bus expression.

After what seemed like the millionth time some kid kicked over my suitcase, I decided to retreat to the outside in hopes of finding some relief from the bleak, unusual hell also known as ‘inside the bus terminal’. The outside was little better than the inside of the terminal. Lined from one end of the curved single lane drive way meant for pick ups, to the other, were yellow taxis. Weaving in between the taxis were men and women begging to use stranger’s cell phones and spare cigarettes (because every 20 pack comes with an extra 5 dontcha know!).

Nearing boarding time, I head back inside thinking I might return to the sweet, sweet cave of a sparsely populated Greyhound bus from Orlando to Atlanta, Georgia.

How I was wrong. So, so, so wrong.

The line for the Orlando to Atlanta bus? It was one of those lines from one end of the terminal to the other. By the time I got myself in the right cattle-loading-lane, I was very near the end with a handful of other stragglers that moped about at the back of the line with me.

One was a young Australian fellow who I learned shortly would be traveling with me all the way from Orlando, FL, to Calgary, Canada. With me and the Aussie at the back of the lineBeverly Hills Hotel was an immense man who was a dead ringer for Michael Clarke Duncan, right down to the laugh.  He made a quip about not fitting into the seats because he was so very tall and I made a quip about not fitting in the seats due to being very fat. He laughed, loudly, his voice definitely tipping toward basso.  As I picked up my 49 pound bag of clothing, my second over-the-shoulder back of food, supplies, books and ipod as well as my camera bag…I once again thought, aw, well, maybe things are looking up despite the line!

That brief flicker of hope was cruelly snuffed when we were sardine packed within the Orlando to Atlanta bus to full capacity. No seat was left empty, no space in the above storage compartments that was  not crammed full until it creak-groaned over every little bump. I was stuck one seat directly in front of the Aussie fellow I had met in Orlando, and my seat partner was an Arabic gentlemen who spoke perhaps a handful of words in English.

wheels_of_cheese_by_prognarAs the second night wore on, I realized that the Aussie, whom I had thought earlier I might offer him some ribbon candy to see if he’d get into my van marked: Candy–(He was cute and young. Put him on roller skates and I would have called him Meals on Wheels.) –smelled like three year old sweaty gym socks and ass cheese. The scent was wafting over me as the buses air circulation system kept blowing this unwashed, ass cheese, pit fungus scent like a drill directly up my nose holes. To make things worse, every time he lifted his arms a wave of death would arise out of the dark cesspools he called armpits. I literally spent the next two hours until the Aussie went to sleep (where he finally  lowered his arms… ) struggling not to gag loudly. The icing on the cake was that the Arabic fellow who seated himself next to me fell asleep. He fell asleep on me.

I spent the next mind-numbing moments attempting to pretzel-fold my fat ass into a wafer thin greyhound seat and jostling Mr. Nap beside me so I could get comfortable. I didn’t get a wink of sleep. Every time I thought I would, the bus stopped, Mr. Nap fell asleep and slid over until his unconscious body hit mine–or someone decided to sneeze and not cover their mouths whilst doing so, spraying the people nearest them with a soup of spitsnot. To make attempts at sleep a bit more interesting at night; every single stop the bus made to pick up someone or drop them off the bus driver flicked on the lights. Now, I understand why they have to do this. Some schmuck would probably sue Greyhound if they ever tripped in the dark and got themselves a hang nail on the way down. But I am not sure those of you unfamiliar with traveling a bus at night, understand just how special these lights are. At night, these lights are like a thousand white-hot melty plastic stir-sticks jabbing into your eye to tickle or dislodge pieces of your brain stem.  They are retina raping lights! And every stop the bus driver flicked them on for seconds to illuminate the newest member of this ride to hell on their way to their seat.  One of these pupil violating stops picked up a half-drunk, horse faced beauty with limp brown hair.

The moment she stepped on the bus she was so goddamn loud you could literally hear her thinking. She settled down in her seat, which as fate would cackle about it, was one row away from being directly across from mine and behind Michael Clarke Duncan Clone’s seat. In the span of an hour, the entire bus learned this woman’s sex life, how much she liked stock___empty_beer_cans_03_by_lordmanchaeto drink, where she lived, what she thought about “ignorant fucks who walk down the aisle with their elbows out,” and what kind of underwear she was wearing. As time appeared to limp like a freshly struck-by-a-car deer toward morning, I had visions of strangling her dancing in my head. Delicious, slow motion visions.  At 1:30 am when the bus had stopped at a convenience store, she informed the entire bus she was not fucking sleeping, no way then trundled on in to purchase an arm load of energy drinks. As everyone boarded again, they settled in some semblance of quiet.   I assume Crazy Loud Lady could not abide silence of any kind because At 2:00 am precisely she burst into “99 BOTTLES OF BEER ON THE WALL! 99 BOTTLES OF BEER! TAKE ONE DOWN, PASS IT AROUND, 98 BOTTLES OF BEER ON THE WALL.” To which, the Huge Michael Clarke Duncan look alike lead the majority of the bus in a hearty:  shut the fuck up, it’s two in the morning! I felt the sting of proud tears prick my eyelids as I once again attempted to sleep snapped in half against the window.

I couldn’t do it–I couldn’t grasp hold of this beautiful, illusive creature called sleep so I dug around in the carry on bag I had stuffed full of random-bus-things  for twenty minutes in the dark to find some of the cashews I was sure I had packed. On a whim, and because Arabic Mr. Nap was still awake, I offered him some cashews to eat. I think he said no thank you, and I continued to juggle the thought of committing seppaku on a packed bus.

I’m glad I offered Mr. Nap the Cashews. As we reached Atlanta and the lights clicked on for the last time, I was in a hurry to get the fuck off that bus. I wanted to stretch my legs, run around in the strange, alien cold that Atlanta had and get away from Crazy Loud Mouth Lady and Mr. Nap. As I was almost ready to step into the aisle with all my bags and leave the bus, Mr. Nap took hold of my elbow and pointed to the floor. In heavily accented English he said, “Is that your ticket?” In a panic I whirled about and look down. Sure enough! It was my ticket laying on the floor. It had fallen out of my bag with my earlier squirrel-digging when I was looking for my cashews.  I swooped down and picked it up in a hurry and thanked him profusely.

So day 2 of my 4 day Greyhound ordeal was nearing to a close and I had already learned two valuable lessons:

  • Don’t give Crazy Loud Ladies energy drinks and
  • remember to offer cashews to whomever naps on you encase you drop your ticket.

This trip was looking more and more fanfuckingtastic as it went!

This is part II of a series of writings pertaining to Mel’s experiences traveling four days on a greyhound bus from Florida to Canada. Miss the first post? Why not read it: here?
Credit for Stock photography in this article: bingevil-stock, prognar, lordmanchae,