Monday, December 21, 2015

Yuletide Presents

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Mom, a year later.

Mom's been gone not quite a year. She left us at 4 AM on Monday, Dec 15, 2014. Today is the anniversary of her last good day.

She didn't feel well at all on Sunday. She posted a couple of videos of my niece's dance team. And we were going to my sister's for dinner. We think she had a stroke in the car on the way up, because she collapsed on my sister's steps. I stopped being able to  sense her around Raytown on the trip up. I kept checking with her during the last few miles until she grumped at me to let her have her nap. When I helped her out of the car, she walked backward down the (steepish) drive, as if she had no control over gravity. And as we watched and waited at the hospital, I saw Michael come for her. I knew she wouldn't be going home.

But Saturday was a good day.
This is Mom as I remember her looking most of my life. The men in the bottom pictures are, Husband 2, Husband 3 and her father.
I don't have a scanned picture of her with Joe (Husband 4)

This is her and my dad (Husband 1) and my 3 of my kids in July of 2014

This is mom in later years, after she retired, quit dying her hair and just decided to be.

And this is Sunday, Dec 13, 2014. Mom had been given 6 months back in November, after three years of fighting pre-leukemia.  Christopher was on leave so we drove up, possible broken foot on my part be damned. While we were having my foot x-rayed for workers comp, Chris announced he wanted to go to the zoo. Mom said it sounded like fun and wanted to come. She borrowed a wheelchair from the church. Her pastor asked if she thought it was a good idea. She smiled and said "Pastor Tim, I'm terminal. Nothing's a good idea. But I haven't been to the zoo in a long time, and I'm going to go with my grandson."

So mom in her wheelchair and I on my scooter, toured the zoo on a brisk December day. Chris pushed her all over the exhibits. Including up to see the elephants, Mom's favorite. We got to see them being fed. It was feeding time for the penguins too, and that was fun to watch.


Chris was delightfully silly, obliging me for pictures. (I had a pic of him in this egg when he was about 6)

We looked at old parts of the zoo, that aren't in use anymore. the WPA built cages, the Great Ape House (the latter has been demolished)

Dad got pizza from my favorite place and Mom managed two slices (a lot for her) Then he took us down to the Country Club Plaza to see the lights. They don't photograph well in a car.

A commercial shot
Image result for country club plaza lights

Goodbye, Mom.
I still have your teeth, although they aren't in my crochet bag. They sit in their case on my mantle/altar, at the feet of Mother Hera. Someday, I will get a Persephone statue in your honor and lay them before her. She wasn't your deity, but you were her handmaid nonetheless, escorting people from this life to the next. May you rest as long as you need to, and may your next trip back be a better one.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Silver Screen Gods and Demons

It's the high religious season, so let's talk  about religion on film.

God and Jesus and The Devil are some of the favorite characters for filmmakers to use. They're instantly recognizable.

Well, usually.  (for those playing the home game: the first is Charles Manson and the second is young Obi-Wan)

But who does it best? Who is your favorite and why? I'll be tossing out mine. I can't promise 5 in each category, but that's the goal. And anyway, the Devil gets all the best lines, since we writers are in his camp, at least according to William Blake.


Please feel free to comment with suggestions for any of these lists.

God, on screen (John Huston in The Bible doesn't count):

1) Alanis Morrisette in Dogma. This is a God I could believe in. She loves, she hurts, she laughs. She kills and she heals.

2) The definitive on-screen God of my childhood was George Burns. Wise and kind and wanting to get the word out about love instead of rules.

Aside from voice-overs: John Huston, Val Kilmer, that's pretty much it.
Many people will add Morgan Freeman, but I avoided those movies.

To quote Jean Kerr "For all intents and purposes, God is a  lousy part in the theatre."

Jesus gets a lot more screen time. 
And usually more to work with.

These are the ones I grew up with. I haven't caught the Dafoe or Caveizel ones. And I've avoided the newer Extruded Religious Cinematic Product movies.

1) Victor Garber tops my list. Always. Like Alanis' God, this is a Jesus that I can believe and love. He's a Holy Fool, an avatar of the Trickster, sent to teach humanity and love them.

2) Ted Neely's Jesus was intense and tormented and a little scary. You can believe this guy came out of the desert with a new revelation. Ultimately, he's one man, up against political and religious power, all for trying to teach people about his radical vision that has nothing to do with Roman or temple politics. And he looks more at home flipping tables than blessing children

3)  I was about 9 when Robert Powell in the miniseries "Jesus of Nazareth" made a huge impression on me. 9 was my mythic period: Greek, Norse, Star Wars and Bible all jumbled together and left me with--to coin a phrase--"too much heaven on my mind."

Slim, intense, with piercing blue eyes. He looks like an El Greco brought to life. He also seemed to make suffering into something ecstatic, not just pain. He looked not only as if it hurt, but as if he was transcending the pain. (Powell describes himself as "a face like a haunted parking meter")

4)  And no list is complete without Max Von Sydow

The Greatest Story Ever Told, or as I call it "White People in White Robes on White Rocks" was a 1960s exercise in Studio system tedium. I watched and livetweeted it some years back.

He learned English phonetically for this role and had to give up cigarettes on the set, lest an errant paparazzi post a "Smoking Jesus" picture. Still, he did the best with what he had, even if he looked mostly baffled.

Honorable mention goes to Kenneth Colley in Life of Brian.

 Because the movie is about Brian, we only see glimpses of Jesus. But the Pythons treated him with all seriousness, even as they laughed at Brian's parallel adventures. He has no lines
(geek note: he was Admiral Piett, Image result for admiral piett and also in Brassed off with Ewan McGregor)

And where there is good, there is also evil.
Before we get into that, let me toss out a few contenders who aren't quite the Devil himself, but close to it.

Tim Curry's brilliant Darkness in Legend

Jamie Sheridan's Randall Flagg in The Stand

And Max Von Sydow again, playing the other side as demonic merchant Leland Gaunt in Needful Things:

And no, not even the King of Hell rates, because Crowley only holds that throne as long as Lucifer in The Cage

And when he's out of the box, he holds his own very well, whether in the temporary vessel of Nick, or in his designated, long-awaited Sam Winchester. The writers keep him consistent throughout. (Sam is scary enough when he's not hosting the Fallen Angel)

Viggo Mortensen turned in a splendid job in The Prophecy. There was an awful lot of Bad Touch happening. He doesn't get much screen time, but what he does? He dominates the scene.

Robert DeNiro turns in a subtle, understated performance in Angel Heart, capturing his scenes, and transparently obvious as to who he is, (Louis Cyphre? Really?) but still captivating. A good friend to have, until you anger him.

There is nothing at all understated about Al Pacino in Devil's Advocate. (Again with the transparent names: John Milton.) He chews every bit of scenery he can get his teeth into and has a splendid time doing it. That was what struck me most. He seemed to be having the time of his life in the role.

Image result for al pacino devil's advocate

And on the small screen, we get another veteran scenery-chewer, John Glover, for 1997's "Brimstone".
This short-lived Fox show raised deep theological questions, questions about life and death, God and grace and love. And it did it all in the context of a chase plot. Peter Horton's cop character, Zeke Stone, went to Hell 15 years ago for killing his wife's rapist. But a jailbreak occurred and 113 damned souls escaped to walk the earth. So, Morningstar has sent Zeke out to find the damned and shoot out their eyes. If he succeeds, he gets a second chance at life on earth.

The markings are the names of the damned. They burn themselves off when he kills one.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Yuletide Youtube: Kitchen Witch Corner

Sounds of the Season:

A little traditional. I love this voice, and I love the presentation of Christmas as a city thing and not just for country folk with snow and horses and chimnies.

And because we all need some Spike, ca 1980s.

Merry Moments, Midweek Cartoon Edition:

Kitchen Witchery

Let's talk about cranberries a minute. They're a holiday staple, but what do you do with them? Just cook them with some sugar? Or are you like me and open the can to slice up the red jelly cylinder?

Here are a couple of Kitchen-Witch Tested recipes.

Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish
Mama Stamberg is the mother-in-law of an NPR host.

2 cups whole raw cranberries, washed
1 small onion
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons horseradish from a jar ("red is a bit milder than white")

Grind the raw berries and onion together. ("I use an old-fashioned meat grinder," says Stamberg. "I'm sure there's a setting on the food processor that will give you a chunky grind — not a puree.")

Add everything else and mix.

Put in a plastic container and freeze.

Early Thanksgiving morning, move it from freezer to refrigerator compartment to thaw. ("It should still have some little icy slivers left.")

The relish will be thick, creamy, and shocking pink. ("OK, Pepto Bismol pink. It has a tangy taste that cuts through and perks up the turkey and gravy. Its also good on next-day turkey sandwiches, and with roast beef.")

Makes 1 1/2 pints.

Aunt Jen's Cranberry Sauce
My sister makes this and my kids devour it.

1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 (12 ounce) package fresh cranberries
1 orange, peeled and pureed
1 apple - peeled, cored and diced
1 pear - peeled, cored and diced
1 cup chopped dried mixed fruit
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a medium saucepan, boil water and sugar until the sugar dissolves. 

Reduce the heat to simmer, and stir in cranberries, pureed orange, apple, pear, dried fruit, pecans, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. 

Cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst. 

Remove from heat, and let cool to room temperature.

Note: Jen says, “I juice and pulp the orange (basically scoop it out with a citrus reamer or a fork), I have even used orange juice instead.”

Queer Sci-Fi Holiday blog hop

QueerSciFi is running our first ever holiday blog hop. Our members will be sharing a number of our great holiday-themed titles on their blogs - it's a great way to find speculative-fiction themed LGBT holiday books! We've included buy links for each of the books below - books are listed in alphabetical order by title. Happy Holidays!

And mine just happens to be first. --Angelia

Candle in the Dark Anthology
Author: Various
Price: $5.00 eBook / $10.00 Paperback
Summary: In almost all traditions, winter has been a time to huddle around the fire and be thankful for those the fire is shared with. The holidays grew out of a need to celebrate that time, from Christmas to Chanukah to Solstice. The longest night of the year has always held some special mystery, and we’re proud to present you with several stories of how those mysteries bear fruit.

When exiled  Hevik Montag is caught by the Solstice and his daughter's birthday, he makes a very special layover on a new planet to get her a gift, and one for himself as well.
Buy Links:

A Christmas Cactus for the General
Author: Angel Martinez
Price: $3.99 eBook
Summary: Exiled to Earth for perhaps the worst failure in Irasolan history, General Teer must assimilate or die. Earth is too warm, too wet, too foreign, but he does the best he can even though human males are loud, childish louts whom he can't imitate successfully. When a grieving seaplane pilot strikes up a strange and uneasy friendship with him, he finds he may have been too quick to judge human males. They are strange to look at, but perhaps not as unbearable as he thought.
Buy Links:

The Darkest Midnight in December
Author: Jana Denardo
Price: $3.99 eBook
  Summary: The year is 1930, and something is hunting infants and young couples in Economy Village, PA. When a local priest begins to suspect a demon may be the culprit, the sheriff calls in a team of Soldiers of the Sun. Caleb, Agni, Temple, and Li specialize in demon hunting, but they can’t rule out an old religious sect as the true culprit. Prejudice, distraught parents, and angry townspeople don’t make the team’s job any easier. And if something goes wrong, their own their own, because by the time their backup arrives, it will be too late.
  Buy Links:

Author: Renee George
Price: $1.99 eBook
  Summary: Losing your boyfriend because you see monsters...not good. Getting locked up in the local mental hospital because you accused your boss of being an actual ogre…also not good. Falling for your crazy roommate, who thinks he’s one of Santa's elves…so not good! Or is it? Come along for a sexy ride as Donner and Bran try to escape the locked ward before Christmas Eve so Bran doesn't lose the only job important to him. USA Today Bestselling author Renee George pens a laugh-out-loud MM Fairytale Christmas…Nuts included!
  Buy Links:

Holiday Lights
Author: Jana Denardo
Price: Free
  Summary: Aaron asks Rhys for some help with putting up the tree and finalizing their holiday plans, even though he knows Rhys will have something to say about all of Aaron's geeky ornaments. Rhys puts his own special touches on the holiday decorating as only a fae could.
  Buy Links:

Ilya and the Wolf
Author: Rory Ni Coileain
Price: $1.99 eBook
  Summary: Ilya, the youngest son of a Moscow oligarch, is so deep in the closet he’d find Narnia if that weren’t a decadent Western story. On Christmas Eve, his brothers lure him into the forest, intending to murder him and erase the shame he inflicts on their family by existing. However, the attempt is interrupted by Volyk, a wolf who carries the blood of the ancient oboroten’ —shapeshifters. Ilya never imagined a Christmas gift like the handsome wolf, but accepting what Volyk offers will have consequences that change both of their lives forever.
  Buy Links:

Lion's Hero
Lion's Hero
Author: Alexis Woods
Price: $.99 eBook
Summary: Eight nights to fall in love. Ari has a mission: meet and fall in love with a man chosen for him by God. The catch: he only has eight nights to complete it—the eight nights of Chanukah Gabriel has a test of faith. Reaching out to a young man, he finds himself confronted with the unbelievable. Believe, and the Festival of Lights may herald a miracle.
Buy Links:

Loving Blitz 
Author: Charlie Cochet
Price: $3.99 eBook
Summary: From North Pole City to Winter Wonderland, preparations are underway after a royal announcement sweeps everyone into a frenzy of festivity. At the heart of the celebration are the city’s most beloved elf pilots, the Rein Dears. Once the Big Flight is behind them, the pilots prepare for the royal event. Assigned a special task of finding an Elska rose, Cupid and Blitzen are unaware of how their friendship is about to change forever. Yet not all that glitters is gold. The sweet, angelic Cupid hides a dark secret, one that threatens to destroy his Rein Dear status, his friends, and the elf who’s captured his heart. It’s up to Blitzen to help Cupid see the light in the darkness and show him that together they can mend broken hearts.
  Buy Links:

The Magic of Christmas
The Magic of Christmas
Author: Pelaam
Price: $2.99 eBook
  Summary: Jared joins his four best friends on an early Christmas holiday in a beautiful winter wonderland. He's been in love with the talented and extroverted Casey for years, but lacked the courage to say anything. Casey loves Jared, but despite his gregarious exterior, inside lurks someone shy and insecure and so he's never spoken up. Both men are about to experience real Christmas magic.
  Buy Links:

Author: Dianne Hartsock
Price: $6.99 eBook / $14.99 Paperback
 Summary: Betrayed by a lover, Jamie rents an isolated cabin on Lake Huron, wanting only to be left alone. Instead, he is pulled from his solitary existence as an artist and tumbles headlong into the legend of Saint Nicolas. As a young man, Nicolas accidentally killed a man intent on murdering three children, only to have the man's malicious spirit rise up against him. Fleeing through the centuries from the Krampus, the evil troll-like creature that dogs his steps, Nico finds refuge with the young artist who takes him into his home and bed. But Jamie has questions. Who is Nicolas, and why does the Krampus want to destroy him?
  Buy Links:

No One to Greet the Season 
Author: Elizabeth Barrette
Price: Free (poem)
  Summary: Victor Frankenstein and Igor have a queerplatonic relationship and a constructed son. Igor's deformed back causes him more trouble in cold weather, which makes Christmas more of a challenge. Victor helps him through it. Gothic fluff, holiday hurt/comfort.
  Buy Links:

Scrudge & Barley, Inc 
Author: John Inman
Price: $6.99 eBook / $14.99 Paperback
Summary: A classic tale takes off in sexy new directions! Poor Mr. Dickens must be twirling in his grave. When E.B. Scrudge, putz extraordinaire and all-around numbnuts, is visited by his dead ex on Christmas Eve, he can’t imagine how his life could sink any lower. But the three ghostly spirits that come along after are even worse! Good lord, a dyke, a drag queen, and rounding out the trio, a big, hunky bear with nipple rings and a butt plug! What’s next? What’s next is a good deal of soul-searching and some hard lessons learned with a dash of redemption thrown in for good measure.
  Buy Links:

Author: Belinda McBride
Price: $6.99 eBook
Summary: When dream hunter Dylan Ryve spots a beautiful shapeshifter raising hell in a bar, he knows he wants the wild young man. But Travis Feris is more to Dylan than a few hot minutes outside in the snow; he's the assassin's ticket into the magical town of Arcada. He didn't plan to rescue the kid, but when he found the shifter being attacked, the opportunity to play hero was too good to pass up. Through the solitude of a long winter night, Dylan walks in Travis's fevered dreams, learning about Arcada and the pack, and showing the shifter the man he'd been so very long ago.
Buy Links:

Spindrift Gifts
Spindrift Gifts 
Author: Aidee Ladnier
Price: $TBD
Summary: Scars and a tattoo may be the only physical reminders from his years as a slave, but when Jimenez suffers a setback in his medical treatment, the only option is a therapy that will wipe away his all memories of the past including his time with Teo. Teo, torn between supporting his lover's decisions and the good intentions of his family, sets out to teach Jimenez about Spindrift Gifts and how memories are celebrated on Celos even when they are painful. Can Teo and Jimenez weather the storm to find their happily-ever-after on Celos?
  Buy Links:

Tempted from the Oak 
Author: Rory Ni Coileain
Price: $5.60 eBook
 Summary: With his blue eyes and heart-melting smile, Gavin could have been made-to-order to entice Tearlach, a lonely tree spirit. But the human is the one who’s been enticed—stolen from snow-buried Minneapolis to the Scottish Highlands by Tearlach’s darag, the ancient oak tree of which he is the living spirit. Tearlach is trapped within the darag by the terrible memory of his own death—hundreds, maybe thousands of years ago, but as recent to him as his last heartbeat. And if desire for the handsome human fails to tempt him out, spirit and oak are both doomed.
  Buy Links: