Call for Blogtoberfest Entries!

I always welcome guest posts at The Jump, but I take the collection thereof more seriously from October 1 to All Hallows Eve. The results have been varied and awesome, ranging in topic from witches to zombies to Neil Diamond.

Over the years, Blogtoberfest Guest Post submissions evolved into a full-on contest, with winners, prizes, and the bestowing of appropriate amounts of online glory.

Winners will be decided by readers via an online poll at the end of the month. There’s no length requirement or limit, and posts need not be spooky. October is also the month of harvest, baseball, and Breast Cancer Awareness. It may be that you or your organization has an annual event this month that deserves a little publicity. Whatever the topic – if it says October to you is fair game!

Prizes will be announced soon, and posts are accepted throughout the month, so get writing and send your entries to writerjax -at-!

#TBT May 2008: Snark, Car Shows, Pasta Salad & Yoga

Note: The following blog posts originally appeared on The Jump in May 2008, when it was hosted at blog-city. They’re gradually being added back into the current blog as #TBTs, so not to overwhelm subscribers.

How Do You Write a Blog Post About Things That Annoy You Without Sounding Snarky or Unbalanced?

4526411483_739e65404b_zYou can’t.

Roll with it.

I will, however, temper every gripe with something I like:

1. I hate it when people try to make me feel, ironically, stupid for using a word, term, or topic in conversation they don’t understand. This goes back to high school for me, but now, as a gainfully employed woman who writes for a living, I’m ready for y’all to shut it already. It’s not like I’m quoting Proust or something. And if you just asked what I meant, you’d know something new you didn’t know before. Trust me- this would make you a better person and probably a lot funnier.

But I do like – daisies. They’re sunny and simple, like nature’s vapid little Homecoming Queen.

2. I hate it when I’m interrupted in the middle of a sentence, especially when the interrupter was not part of the conversation to begin with. It’s not cool, so stop it. You’re not that important.

But I do like – Karamel Sutra ice cream from Ben and Jerry’s. I like it so much I won’t smear it all over your face when you interrupt me, because I would not want to waste any of the delicious caramel core inside.

3. An addendum to number one – people who assume they know everything and go through life saying supposably, expresso, prostrate cancer, and irregardless.

But i do like – espresso with a nice chocolate chip croissant.

4. I hate women who think it’s cute to act dumb or talk like children. You’re setting all of us back decades every time you giggle and twirl your hair and say ‘Iiiiiiii dooooon’ttt knoooowwww.’

But I do like – Falling asleep to a thunderstorm. Serenity Now.

5. Conversely, I also can’t stand children who act like adults. Mostly little actors. The only motivation a 5-year-old should have is Chicken McNuggets or an extra half-hour of Dora.

But I do like – scarves and hats. And playing dress-up.

Published: Friday, 9 May 2008


A visitor‘ left this comment on 21 May 08
You forgot “precussion”

A visitor‘ left this comment on 13 May 08
This is hilarious. I’ll need to remember to mix in my nasties with some lollipops and rainbows. It does make them go down easier!

A visitor‘ left this comment on 13 May 08
Amen. Can I add one to the interrupter? I hate when people interrupt me to finish my sentence — *and* then they don’t even get it right! Arg!!

A visitor‘ left this comment on 12 May 08
Hey, I tend to snark even on things I like (see, for example, my 50 favorite TV shows). But I’ll bite. Irregardless of whether or not you axed, I am so impressed with your list that I prostate myself before it. And a half-hour of Dora would be as welcome on my TV as a half-hour of jellyfish stings or a half-hour of getting punched in the face by Celine Dion in full warble. Chicken McNuggets are OK, though.

Weekend Pasta Salad

“Wacky Mac” multi-colored veggie rotini, ranch dressing, lemon juice, parm. cheese, salt and pepper, balsamic vinegar, yellow pepper, tomato, scallions, and broccoli. The bowl is from Homegoods.

Published: Sunday, 11 May 2008 Tags: pasta salad food

The Horror! The Sandwiches! The Surf Rock! (Very Late Weekend Update)

I didn’t see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre until I was in my twenties. A group of friends and I rented a bunch of horror movies and loaded up on junk food while I was renting a house in Osterville, Mass., and we camped in the living room for hours of paranoid fun.

Everyone up ‘n left immediately after the last tape in the batch ended, with Leatherface waving his chainsaw in the air at the permanently damaged heroine escaping in the back of a pick-up truck.

I love horror movies. But I was shelled. And when I suddenly found myself completely alone in a big house in the woods of Cape Cod, the terror of that sick flick only grew. It still freaks me out – even the bad remakes and sequels and prequels are disturbing.

However, it’s the dawn of a kindler, gentler new day for Texas, Chainsaws, and Massacres. This weekend, back at the Cape to do some event planning, I had one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had by the same name, at the Box Office Cafe in Chatham, where all of the sandwiches, drinks, and pizzas are named after movies (I blogged about the place once before here).

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre isn’t messy nor does it contain people, so I’m not sure where it got its name, but here’s the lineup: cracked pepper turkey, roast beef, pesto, mayo, tomato, and mozzarella cheese on a toasted ciabatta. Killer.

sandwich box office cafe

Some of the other offerings include The Poseidon (tuna), The Rocky (Italian), The Animal House (meatball sub), and The Caddy Shack (a club sub). As for pizza, there’s the Good Night and Good Luck, for one — described as topped with garlic, garlic, tomatoes, and more garlic — and for breakfast, there’s a selection of sandwiches all named after directors. Where else are you going to walk in and say “Uh, yeah, hi. I’ll have a medium coffee and an Erich Von Stroheim. Thanks.”

Plus, the Box Office has a cute mini-store with mugs, totes, and t-shirts like these:


After lunch, there were other interesting things happening on the Cape of Cod this weekend: we spotted a cruise night sponsored by the Cape Cod Classic Car Club in Dennis, for instance:

cape cod crusie night

And on Saturday night, we caught Earth Junior at Arturo’s. EJ is my brother’s band – a surf rock trio that’s been playing on the cape for more than a decade. They treated the crowd to Sweet Caroline during the seventh inning of the Red Sox game:

My brother told me he hated the rendition, but I had to share it with Red Sox Nation. And besides, it’s not like they massacred it or anything.

Published: Wednesday, 21 May 2008 Tags: sandwich box office cafe texas chainsaw massacre earth junior sweet caroline red sox 12009 cape cod classic car club


Writerjax‘ left this comment on 22 May 08
Really!! I agree the naming of things has a certain je n’ais e quois that really raises the bar for the item being eaten.

That said, a Kevin Smith … I’m going to say at McDonald’s that’d be about the equivalent of an egg mcmuffin. Substantive, with a hint of cheese and a propensiity toward the silent but deadly.

A visitor‘ left this comment on 22 May 08
That’s an awesome idea…I’m now going to name everything I eat…I will insist that the rest of the world comply or at least play along…I’m going to McDonald to order a Kevin Smith right now…thanks

Memorial Day Staycation (Weekend update)

Happy Tuesday as some of us return to the working week … I wish I could recount hundreds of long-weekend adventures for you, but alas it was a pretty low-key holiday for me. And as Stuart Smalley would say, ‘and that’s … ok.’

I started the weekend off, however, trying out a new recipe from Bakerella, the Queen of Cupcakes and all things yummy. I was a little timid after painstakingly creating a braciole from the Good Eats Web site a couple of weeks ago that was more like a salt lick than an Italian delicacy, so I decided to give one of the more simple-looking recipes a try — peanut butter balls.

Success, and my hat off to Bakerella. She’s a culinary genius for World 2.0. The secret is in the Nutter Butters …

and the dipping is relatively easy. Mine aren’t as symmetrical as Bakerella’s but still tasty.

On Saturday, the highlight of the day had to have been a random, huge flea market we happened upon. Apparently Steve McQueen was there before us:

And in the evening, it was off to dinner at one of my favorite places, Cal’s, and then to join the rest of humanity in seeing the new Indiana Jones flick. For what it’s worth, I’m glad we went, and it was good for what it’s intended to be; a transition piece introducing Shia LeBoeuf as the next generation Indy (aka Mutt). Still, it’s no Temple of Doom, but I don’t think anyone expected it to be.

It was around the credits that my second major allergy attack of the season set in, thus setting the tone for the rest of the weekend – sniffly, ears plugged, throat scratchy, ARGH! I muscled through with some craft projects (started repainting the front porch planters, more on that later) and a CSI marathon on Spike TV. Which apparently is the ‘man channel.’ Whatever.

I also pulled out one of my older yoga DVDs, since I wasn’t going to make it to the gym. It’s actually a DVD with a companion book:

…and not a bad 30-minute cycle at all. It’s pretty low-budget – just Yolanda and an Oriental rug, really – but it’s low-stress enough that I went through the cycle twice.

Now, it’s back to the grind … thankful for the short week, though. Meatier posts to come soon, including a 40 under 40 recap and a review of Marie Antoinette: The Journey, which my faithful readers know took me about four and a half years to finish (maybe more like eight months. But still. Eight months? Stop falling asleep with the book on your face, Grandma.)

A New England Autumn Wedding and tips for ‘Guest Photography’

We attended a fall wedding this weekend, one of my favorite things to do!

I’m a sucker for any wedding, but as autumn is my favorite season and October my favorite month, weddings this time of year are sort of a nuptial hat trick.

This ceremony and reception were held in two different Berkshire towns — the ceremony by a small private pond in Hinsdale and the reception at the quaint and totally New Englandy Morgan House in Lee.

Emily and Jay's Wedding

In addition to posting some shots from the big day, I thought I’d share a few of my guest-at-the-wedding photo tips in the process. Most of us are armed with the cameras on our smartphones these days, and guests taking photos at weddings is a ubiquitous affair. Throughout every moment of the ceremony and reception, guests will be glued to their devices at varying times, snapping photos, editing them, and posting them online faster than you can say ‘cheese.’

The very first rule of ‘guest photography’ is to be a guest first, and a photographer second. The professional who’s been hired to capture images that day will thank you, too…go ahead and have fun, and if taking photos and video is part of the fun (it is for me), snap away. Just make sure that, when your nose is two inches from the cake as you try to take an artful shot of the rosettes on top, the professional photographer isn’t behind you trying to do the same thing.

That leads me to tip number two: not all of your photos need to be perfect. The urge to delete that picture obscured by Uncle Bill’s giant noggin immediately is great, when the little trashcan icon on your camera is right there egging you on.

But don’t delete. Not only can you edit photos later, the moment is more important than the composition when it comes to guest wedding photos. The professional photographer is in charge of capturing the money shots… you’re in charge of capturing memories for yourself and the couple. There’s nothing visually special about this picture I snapped of the ring bearer, for example, but the bottle behind him — and the little hand in the right of the frame — serves as a reminder of the babies in attendance that day.

Emily and Jay's Wedding

Because of the over abundance of the aforementioned smartphones and other gadgets, it also bears mentioning that a lot of your photos might end up being pictures of people taking pictures. That’s fine … I call them paparazzi shots, and in a few years, it will be interesting to see what kinds of phones and cameras we were using.

Emily and Jay's Wedding

It’s also an interesting angle to take a family photo from behind another person taking the same photo:

Emily and Jay's Wedding

Things the bride and groom aren’t likely to see while they’re bustling around in their own wedding haze are great things to look for when taking pictures… guests arriving, the ceremony space before it’s filled with people, candids of the people around you, etc. Not only will these be pictures they’ll want to see later, they’ll stand out once the barrage of photos from every guest begins to flood the social networks, and help to create a full, detailed timeline of the day.

Emily and Jay's Wedding

There’s something to be said for snapping pictures of little touches at the ceremony and reception. Chances are, the couple put a good amount of thought into their colors, decorations, and location; a snapshot of the flowers at your table, for instance, is not just a burst of color in your set of photos but also a great marker of the season.

Emily and Jay's Wedding

Share your photo tips in the comments!

More Reading:

Getting Social with Wedding Planners

Nice Day for a White Wedding – Carrie and Kevin

The Art of the October Wedding – Rob and Sara

Shooting from the Hip with Lou Jones – Travel photography tips

McScary: The Art of the Horror Franchise

Speaking as a writer, horror film franchises are great in one particular respect, because they give writers and directors a lot of room to develop a story.

Granted, not all of them take that opportunity, but some do. And even when they don’t, it’s fun to track the evolution of the antagonist, be it an old-school Michael Myers or a new-age Toby.

It can even be fun to pick apart the inevitable plot holes that arise when a movie franchise reaches, say, its tenth installment… just don’t get me started on Halloween III.

My favorite franchises are those I can sink my teeth into (sorry) in terms of an ongoing, intriguing plot line or, conversely, sheer, marathon will-to-live. That is to say I can appreciate the many bloody nuances of Saw as much as I can the longevity of Jason Voorhees. Even after dissolving in an sub-city acid bath, he persisted for 11 movies plus a remake.

What I don’t count among my favorite franchises are blockbusters with a string of crummy sequels after them, a la The Exorcist or Psycho. There’s got to be a little bit of effort – or at least some cache – attached to any sequels.

That said, here are my top four: Saw – Yes, they’re disgusting and gory, but the plot actually connects seamlessly from film to film — at its best in the first three films, but the cross-overs are still there when we arrive at Saw 3D (the seventh installment). John Kramer, aka Jigsaw, actually had human emotions and reasons for his lunacy, and that’s not often seen in horror films. Fun bonus – Cary Elwes returning six films in, because oh yeah – he didn’t die in Saw I!

2. Paranormal Activity – People complain that the these movies are too similar from film to film, but I argue that it’s just this particular franchise’s schtick, and they all need one. Who would Freddy be without his knife-fingered glove? Just some dude in a bad sweater and a fedora, that’s who. Paranormal Activity takes something very timely — our obsession as a culture to document everything we do — and turns it into a horror series that’s been successful four times over now, with a fifth movie in the works. Plus, this is a series that has mastered the ‘one big jump…’ that moment when the entire theater loses its collective shiz due to a great effect or moment in a movie. There’s been at least one in every PA to date, and that’s something.

3. Final Destination – I think the creator of Final Destination, Jeffrey Reddick, stumbled onto gold when he came up with the idea for this series. The ways to die are, gruesomely, endless, and as such so could be this franchise. Dang if it ain’t creative, too. Decapitation by elevator? Gross. Final Destination has been running its course for five films now, the fourth inexplicably called ‘The Final Destination‘ before returning to plain old ‘Final Destination V.’ Honestly, you guys.

4. Halloween – Yes, I complain about Halloween III — what happened there? Did the entire production crew have a stroke at once? — but it’s the franchise that started all franchises, in my opinion. Some argue Psycho or Night of the Living Dead as earlier, better contenders, but I see those more as reboots than legitimate sequels. The third Halloween installment (which, if you haven’t gathered already, deviated completely from the Michael Myers storyline) isn’t the only plot redirect in this series either, but at least the various writers and directors kept trying to get it right. And you know what? After ten Halloween movies, the latest two directed by Rob Zombie, I still don’t think anyone’s gotten it completely right. That means the playing field is still open. Have at it, masked clown-murderer fans of the world.

There are several other Top Horror Franchise lists, including this one at AMC.