Well, see, Mark just got back from his annual three week trip to Japan. And like most years, I didn't have time to be bored while he was gone. It seems like my friends and family take turns making sure I'm not lonely when he leaves, which is very nice of them, and leaves me with little time for things like checking and posting to LJ. :)
It also left me little time for writing. Well, what time I had for writing was totally disrupted by that first week of stress over the trial, if anyone remembers me posting about that. A brief recap: a tenant owed us a couple grand in back rent, and yet instead of quietly leaving when we filed for an eviction, she instead filed a motion and took the thing to trial. An actual trial. It stressed me out to the point where I made myself sick for about a week. And at the trial, she basically had her Mom and boyfriend testify to how nothing in this old house works or has ever been repaired (complete BS). It went on over the allotted hour, and so we had to break for a 2 hour lunch and come back for more. In that time, she went and researched a bunch of oregon laws, and quoted them (they had nothing to do with her specific situation, actually). Since she did this, instead of making a ruling, the judge said he needed to review the new things she'd introduced (he seemed quite irritated) and he would be issuing a verdict by mail.
That was almost two weeks ago. We still haven't received a verdict, but my m-in-law called the courthouse today, and while the judge hasn't filed the paperwork yet, he apparently ruled in out favor.
Now realize, we filed for eviction in the first week of June. It is now the first week of July, and do you think this woman has paid a dime for June's rent? This thing just dragged on and on, and we got totally screwed for another long month. Her ex-roommate has also warned us she's very likely to destroy whatever she can just to be vindictive as she moves out, ie holes in the walls, broken doors, trashed carpet, etc. She has officially become "worst tenant ever" in our mental record, and that's saying something.
Anyway, best I can say is it's finally over, and I can't wait to see the back of her. Also, my f-in-law is back, and that means he can deal with any personal confrontations that might have to happen to actually remove her from the unit. Yay.
In the meantime, I am enjoying having the husband back, and looking forward to being able to write again now that I have some down time. In fact, for the first time in a really long time, he and I will be writing together! Separate projects, but still. It'll be nice.
In other news, I'm eating lettuce out of my garden, and the tomatoes have flowers but no fruit yet. :) And my green beans are growing!
Oh, a book rec: while trying to take my mind off stressful things, I recently read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I gather this new series has been getting a certain amount of acclaim and hype, although I had no idea until I was already reading it. It's a very interesting first person narrative in something of a post-apocalyptic future, in which children between the ages of 12 and 18 are forced to participate in a lottery each year for a reality show called the Hunger Games. It's sort of like Survivor, if instead of voting and eliminations, the contestants are literally vying to be the last person standing and thus attempting to kill one another.
I absolutely loved it! A very gripping voice in the MC, Katniss, great characters (Peeta! Cinna! Rue!) good writing, and a rather different sort of book than a lot of what's out there right now. It also ends on something of a cliffhanger...okay, maybe not a cliffhanger, but when I reached the last page, I actually let out a small scream and said to no one in particular "No! You can't end it there!" Lucky for me, book 2, Catching Fire, was already out. Alas, the third and final book doesn't hit shelves until August, which can't get here soon enough for me. Another sort-of cliffhanger! I must know what happens! Gah!
Saw Knight and Day. It was totally unbelievable and all kinds of awesome and fun. In a Mr. and Mrs. Smith sort of way. I would see it again, and I don't even like Cameron Diaz, normally.
I also saw - and yes, I know this is dangerous ground, but I just couldn't not see it - The Last Airbender. What to say? Well, I don't think it was anywhere near as terrible as the critics are saying. But at the same time, I was pretty disappointed. I hate to say it, but the failure to cast race appropriate actors was only the first of many enormous mistakes.
I have not been a fan of M. Night Shyamalan's movies since The Sixth Sense, which I actually enjoyed, but I'd hoped the break from his usual formula with Airbender, and the awesome source material, would somehow make a difference. *sigh* Sadly, like George Lucas, I think perhaps Shyamalan should stay away from writing dialogue. And maybe directing. IDK. The visuals were flat out stunning. The bending looked awesome, and the martial arts that the cartoon series used were well represented. The actors looked like they were really trying. The biggest problem, though, was the lack of character driven writing and directing. The cartoon is SO AWESOME because it is all about the characters and their journey. Book 1 is where Aang goes from carefree child running away from his terrifying responsibilities, to taking on the mantle of being the Avatar. It's where Katara gains her confidence and skill as a waterbending master. It's where out heroes form a tightly knit bond as a group, as a family for each other, when they've lost everyone else. It's where Zuko unfolds from simple villain, to the completely driven young man determined to win his father's love, in a family that gives new meaning to the word dysfunctional. We are missing all of those elements here. The entire movie tells us what's going on, over and over again. It doesn't show us. And the opportunities to do so are glossed over in a voice over that was obviously M. Night's attempt to fit twenty-two episodes of story into one two hour movie. Unfortunately, he could have done it so differently, and it would have been truly, truly spectacular. Instead, the live action version falls flat, and lacks the very elements that made the cartoon series so special.
On the way home, Mark and I talked about what could have been done so differently. Actually, we made a list (and here be some spoilers!):
1. When turning Avatar into a live action movie, why not go to the original guys and say "Hey, would you be willing to write the script?" Then we could have started with something awesome, containing all of the important bits as they were meant to be, with good dialogue, and a character driven story.
2. Cast it right. I was willing to try and give these actors a chance. Honestly, Katara, Sokka, and Aang look pretty close to their cartoon counterparts. But casting the Fire Nation as a sort of psuedo-Persian empire wearing an odd conglomerate of Japanese and Roman armor...it just really didn't work. At all. Of all the nations, the Fire Nation is the most definitively Asian. It needed to be Asian. Mark and I decided Ken Watanabe would've made an excellent Fire Lord. Very intense, commanding presence, about the right age. No one can replace Mako, but Jackie Chan has the perfect mix of martial arts prowess and humor to have played General Iroh. Wil Yun Lee would've been a good Zhao (not to mention hot!) Okay, so he's probably a bit too old for the part, but Leonardo Nam (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) is much more my mental image of Zuko. (If anyone knows of a younger asian actor they'd have loved to see in the role, please feel free to comment. With pictures, or a link!)
Honestly, there are a ton of talented asian actors out there. A lot of them even study martial arts. There is just no excuse not to have used any of them.
3. Don't skip past the important bits. The scenery was beautiful, but The Blue Spirit rescuing Aang would've had so much more impact if we'd gotten to see Zuko chasing him a bit more than we did. Aang is supposed to literally crush the Fire Nation fleet at the end, possessed by a highly pissed off Spirit of the Ocean. Instead, he scares them off with an underwhelming wall of water. When Sokka meets Yue, we don't even get to see them fall in love. Instead, Katara tells us they do in a voiceover. *facepalm* Oh, and it would've been nice to see Katara studying her waterbending. Instead, we see her struggle with it in the beginning, do a few kata in the middle, and then she fights with Zuko at the end for maybe fifteen seconds before he takes her out. WTH was that??! Katara is a badass by the end of Book 1.
4. See #3. Seriously, clocking in at 94 minutes, this movie could've easily been, say, two hours and twenty minutes long, and not been the least bit slow, and we'd've had more of the important bits. Time after time, M. Night led us up to some climactic moment, and then glossed over it needlessly.
Despite how it sounds, I didn't actually hate the movie. Like I said the scenery looked awesome. Appa looked great. Momo looked great. Aang even looked good, and Noah Ringer tried hard for a first time actor. He looked good doing the martial arts, anyway, and his tattoos looked way cooler than I ever imagined they would. But I wanted to love it, and I just couldn't. And sadly, I think this is the only chance at live action Avatar will get.
I do wonder, though, with all of the truly scathing reviews, how M. Night Shyamalan will come out of this.