P. Kirby's Blog
July 8, 2014
Been AWOL, busy, making like a hippy (growing my hair). And creating art.
May 3, 2013
"Dancer" flower pot whimsy
Looking for something fun to do in Albuquerque? Drive just a smidgen north to historic and charming Corrales, New Mexico for the annual Art Studio Tour, the first weekend in May.
This year, me and the hubs will be participating! We will be opening our studio/workshop and garden and exhibiting our metal art. Gardeners: this means you can visit an established Corrales garden, free; get ideas for your own yard; and see what works in my high desert garden. The garden is at its finest mid-June through July, but stuff is starting to bloom now.
Tree of life garden gate by Justin Kirby
The Corrales Art Studio Tour is the first weekend in May (the 4-5) and maps can be picked up at the tent outside of Frontier Mart and at Villa Acequia (Preview Gallery), both on Corrales Road. Maps can also be downloaded here. Did I mention it’s free! Free tour! We’re Number 69 on the tour.
The weather should be great. See you there!
Click on images for larger view.
April 12, 2013
Give a husband an iPhone and he shall torture the dog.
In which I try to teach the greyhound geology.
The lesson is precipitated by our new granite countertops and because I have nothing better to do (other than laundry, yard work, writing, taxes, etc.).
I’m in the kitchen, having a healthy snack of baby carrots and the greyhound is watching in that bright-eyed, super intelligent way that dogs have been watching humans with food since the dawn of time. I crunch a carrot, chew, swallow and consider the hound.
“See this?” I point at a reddish smudge on the counter. The greyhound, a very tall dog, shoves his skinny nose where I’m pointing. “That’s garnet. My birthstone. Can you say, ‘garnet?’”
Finding no food where I’ve indicated, he flares his ears out like a bat and stares at me in a way that says, “Carrot!”
“No, not ‘carrot.’ ‘Garnet.’”
I try again, finger on a black streak. “This here is biotite, a mica. Can you say, ‘biotite?’” ‘Mica?’”
Because I’m stupid that way, I try with feldspar and quartz. I go back to garnet, because it sounds like carrot.
I give the hound the damned carrot.
November 22, 2012
When Pigs Fly
Poking the sleeping blog to do some art promotion.
This holiday weekend, November 23-25, 2012, in Corrales, New Mexico, please come out to the Corrales Society of Artists Holiday Show. Just drive north up Corrales Road until you see the big white tent on the left side of the road. Parking and admission is FREE and there will be loads of talented artists selling their work at very inexpensive prices.
Where's the Picnic?
My hubby and I will have a booth there–Adobe Dragon Designs, featuring our functional and fun metal art. I’ll also have copies of my book, The Music of Chaos, available for sale.
Do come out and visit!
August 13, 2012
And, no, the greyhound isn’t budging from his spot on the carpet.
In fact, his head is up is because he saw me with the camera and wondered what was going on. In the absence of the camera, the end result would have been a roughly greyhound-shaped dirty spot on the carpet.
He also does this with the lawn mower, so he isn’t allowed outside when I’m cutting the grass.
On the other hand, he’s wary to wet-himself-afraid of nearly everything with a heartbeat. Even rabbits, yes rabbits.
Of course, Wonder Horse was quick to exploit the hound’s neurosis.
Once upon a time, before heading out for a mid-afternoon walk, the hound and I would stop by the barn to visit the horse. I’d bring along carrots for both critters. We’d meet the horse at the gate and there I’d give a carrot to the equine and one to the canine, then another to the equine, and so on. The greyhound would eye the horse very warily, but tempted by the carrots, stay at my side.
Then one day, the horse, in one of his Professor Snottypants moods, banged his hoof on the metal gate, making a delightful racket. The hound leaped back, startled. At this point, you could see the wheels turning in the Wonder Horse’s brain. After a pause, he banged again. Dog leaped in the air, and strained on his leash, trying to get as far from the horse as possible. Horse smirked and banged again. And thus was the demise of carrot sharing at the gate.
To this day, when the horse sees the hound approaching, he lifts a foot, poised to start hammering on the gate. I have to drag the hound, his long legs braced and feet sliding through the sand, to get anywhere near the barn.
The hound, the predator, is deathly afraid of the horse, the prey animal.
August 10, 2012
Five minutes later, and I’ve got this. Four quick horse sketches. Because I can’t stop myself. I’ve been drawing horses since I could hold a pencil. People are hard to draw, with their weird round heads and walking on two legs.
Anyway, I’m making this a sketchbook dump Friday and excerpt Friday. Technically, the sequel to The Music of Chaos is about 90-percent done. First draft, anyway. I got stuck on a scene at the end, and then wandered off to two other projects. The problem is, I got two author voices–Hello, Sybil!–the snarky, first person, Mary Sue-ish voice of The Music of Chaos and the third person voice that I use elsewhere. The second voice has been in control lately.
In this bit of dialogue from Chapter One, Hallowbone Holiday (working title), Regan O’Connell leaves work, the day job, early….
“That’s it,” I said, switching off my computer. I scooped up my briefcase and headed for the door, changed my mind and turned around and headed for the admin offices.
Eva Osborne had recently scored a promotion, and was now the head of the human resources department. Her promotion earned her a tiny office, not much bigger than a typical cubicle, but with real walls and a door. Taking the partially open door as an invitation, I marched boldly through the doorway.
“Hey, I–” My greeting strangled in my throat as I nearly collided with a very large man.
“Regan,” said the man, a sneer on his face.
“Erm, Kyle. How the heck are you doing?” I asked. Eva, who sat behind her paper-strewn desk, beamed at me and then at her lover.
“Good,” said Kyle, his gaze moving immediately to my chest and just as quickly moving away, poorly veiled disdain on his face.
Kyle Peterson was the classic all-American guy. Square-jawed, with a powerful physique that someone less generous might call steroid-enhanced, he was probably most women’s idea of sexy. I found him rather simian. Most humans, with their total absence of magical ability, held no attraction to me.
“Regan, honey. Are you going home? You just got here,” asked Eva.
“I’ve been here. . .” I looked at my watch, “three hours. Plenty of time to download an eternity in hell’s worth of pornography.”
“Regan,” she chided. The first time Eva laid eyes on me she decided I was a waif in need of mothering. Normally, I’d resent that sort of attitude, but Eva softens her maternal instincts with baked goods and I’m a cookie whore.
“Monica and Barry still haven’t lost that lovin’ feeling. My lunch, on the other hand, is fixing to see daylight if I don’t get out of here.”
Eva leaned forward, a prurient glint in her eyes. “Really? Are they in there now?”
“Er, yeah, but I’d rather not talk about it or think about it.”
“Oh, okay,” she said with a gentle smile. I’m sure my prudish attitude to sex only enhances her need to mother. What she mistakes as youthful shyness is actually the remains of a Victorian upbringing.
“I gotta hit the head,” Kyle said.
“Okay, sweetie,” Eva oozed, her sweetness wasted, since Kyle was already out the door.
The divorced mother of two teenagers more demonic than actual demons, Eva was still a rather attractive woman of about forty. By no means a small woman, she was shaped like Barbie. That is, if Barbie ate three square meals a day with generous snacks in between.
Five years Eva’s junior, Kyle was married and the father of a three-year old daughter, though Eva didn’t know this. There was a hell of a lot Eva didn’t know, including the true nature of his employment.
As far as I knew, Kyle had found Eva’s desire for something more than casual sex irritating and had dumped her about a month before.
His sudden reappearance in Eva’s life was worrisome–”shivers up and down my spine like someone is doing the tango on my grave” worrisome.
“Regan? What’s wrong?” Eva’s voice dragged me from my thoughts.
Realizing I was staring warily in the direction Kyle had gone, I forced a cheerful smile. “You and Kyle are back together?” I asked, hoping the answer was “No.”
Her supernova-bright smile almost made me feel bad about begrudging her any happiness. Almost. Kyle was an asshat and I didn’t for one moment think any good could come of their relationship.
“Yes,” she said with a girlish titter. “Kyle and I are going to the movies tonight. Maybe you and Jason–?”
“Er. . .no, Jason and I are having a cooling off period.” Think Ice Age.
**Copyright 2012 Patricia (P.) Kirby, All rights reserved****
August 8, 2012
It all started with a beep.
At 3 AM in the morning.
Remember that episode of Friends where Phoebe’s fire alarm keeps beeping? She unplugs it, takes out its battery, beats it with a shoe, and then throws it in the trash, but it keeps beeping.
Yeah, it was like that.
Beep! Then blessed silence. Just as I start to doze off again, “Beep!” Like the flipping Roadrunner, but without Wile. E. Coyote and his army of ACME toys. (Roadrunners, btw, don’t beep; they don’t eat seed–they eat cute little bunnies; and coyotes don’t fuck with them because they’re mean.)
After about a half hour of this, my husband growls and staggers out of bed and into the living room. He returns a minute later and flops back in bed. On the floor, the greyhound stretches his long legs, claws scratching on the bed, sighs and goes back to sleep.
“Fucking alarms,” says my husband after the fifth beep. He gets up again and turns on a fan to block the noise.
“I hate the fucking fire alarms!” Angry spouse climbs out of bed and scratching noises from the living room follow as he yanks the offending alarm out of the ceiling. He returns to bed.
Lather, rinse, repeat as my Dearly Beloved blisters the night air with curse words and removes the alarm’s batteries.
Husband growls, gets up and I hear the sound of a door opening and closing as the alarm is sent out to commune with nature (roadrunners!). Greyhound’s tags jingle as he lifts his sleepy head, wondering what’s going on and if it involves feeding the hound.
“Just close the door,” I suggest. He closes the bedroom door.
Once more, husband goes into the fray, this time shutting off the fire alarm’s circuit.
Horse is now neighing at the house, because, hey, we’re up, it must be time to feed the horse. Husband and I both try to ignore the noise, and start to doze off. We’re nearly asleep when the beep is accompanied by the sound of the clock radio’s alarm. We owe, we owe, it’s off to work we go.
A while later, something is still beeping. A weird bit of inspiration strikes and I come out and eye the carbon monoxide detector that’s sitting by the fireplace.
Yeah…it was that damned thing. All along.
July 31, 2012
Needs more toys
Saturday morning at Casa de Kirby. At the obscenely early hour of 6:30, the greyhound hops up from his pile of bedding on my husband’s side of the bed and starts making slobbery snorting noises. A few minutes later, my husband crawls out of bed and feeds the early morning chow hound.
I stay in bed until around seven, when it becomes impossible to ignore the sound of the shrieking Wonder Horse. (If I could understand horse, I’m sure his ranting would be R-rated.) Get up; put on whatever’s on the floor and head out to the barn to feed the horse and clean up his paddock. The day has begun.
While I’m doing the morning garden chores, my husband walks the greyhound. They’ve returned by the time I come back in the house.
“What’s that?” I say, bending down over a red streak on the mostly gray carpet. (It’s supposed to be pale gray, but more than a decade of habitation has made it more of a gray dappled with mystery stains.) The red blotches lead like bread crumbs to the greyhound, who is stretched out by the front door, panting like an asthmatic, in full “They took me on a death march and tried to kill me” mode. (Oh, honestly, he’s fine. After the walk, he gets wet down with water and is given ice cubes–he loves crunching ice.)
I start inspecting doggie feet and find that he’s somehow ripped out a toenail on his left rear paw. And so begins the doctoring of the hound, who looks mournful, but really, loves any attention. Husband and I try to figure out what happened. The only easy explanation is that he somehow caught the toenail in the metal mesh that makes up the floor on the little bridges that cross the irrigation ditch.
Hound’s wound gets cleaned; carpet is de-blooded; all seems well, so husband and I head out to do the morning shopping.
We return to a slaughterhouse.
The greyhound, in a minor fit of pique over being left alone (we do this every, fracking Saturday, oy) has trotted around the couch several times, made a circuit of the kitchen, and then marched across my brand new laminate flooring in the dining room. Prior to his little jaunt, he licked his bloody toe until it was running red again.
Somebody fetch Dexter, because boy, do we have some blood splatter for him to analyze.
I’m most aggrieved by the mess on the laminate floor. In primitive cultures, blood was super glue. Now I’ve got red sticky stuff drying on my beautiful new floor. We get out the paper towels, spray-on carpet cleaner, and the steam cleaner. Scrub, scrub, scrub.
Tiny problem. Partially dried blood, when made wet makes the house smell like a slaughterhouse. I wonder, for the millionth time, why I have pets. The greyhound looks bored and starts to lick his foot.
Husband and I yell, “DON’T LICK YOUR FOOT!”
Some time later, most of the red is banished and I’m burning incense to cut the smell of carnage. Now the house smells of blood and incense. Yeah, I’m Martha Fucking Stewart.
Three days later the greyhound has a tummy upset and poops and vomits all over the carpets. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
At this point, I’m thinking of pulling up all the carpet and painting the underlying concrete a vivid motley of blood red, shit brown and vomit green. Oh, and adding a drain in the middle of the living room for easy cleanup.
July 18, 2012
Why the long face?
Alternate title for War Horse: Cursed Horse. Because nearly everyone who climbs on that animal’s back, gets dead.
War Horse, the movie, is epic. As in epic disappointment.
In a picturesque Devon, Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) watches a horse grow from colt to horse in a neighbor’s field, wishing the horse could be his. He gets his shot at horse ownership when his drunken father, Ted (Peter Mullan), purchases that horse at an auction. As with most decisions made under the influence, it’s a poor choice, since the family needs a sturdy draft horse, not a Thoroughbred, to plow their rocky field. Albert’s mother, Rose (Emily Watson), is appalled, but Albert insists he’ll train Joey to do the necessary landscaping work. Looming in the background is the menacing landlord, Lyons (David Thewlis), who is eager to take the family farm if rent isn’t made. Albert, who knows nothing about horses, trains Joey to come when he’s called, while Dad gets drunk and Mom makes excuses for his alcoholism.
The story moves to a predictable mini-climax where, against the odds, Joey plows the rocky field like an equine Hercules. The family plants turnips; all is well until it rains and the crop is ruined. None of this makes any sense. First, Joey and Albert finally overcome the field when it rains and the hard ground is “miraculously” softened by the moisture. Right. Because it never rains in England. Ever. Second, if turnips are such a rain-soluble crop, perhaps they shouldn’t be planted in….rainy England. Third, plowing a field with a Thoroughbred is like going off-road in a Ferrari. (Then there’s the pesky little problem that Joey isn’t a Thoroughbred, but an Andalusian, just one of a zillion equine inaccuracies in a movie about a horse.)
With the family’s dreams of turnip-based wealth melting away, and WWI about to begin, Dad decides to sell Joey to Captain James Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston), who is about to join the good fight, as it were. Albert is heartbroken. Captain Nicholls is doomed. Joey…is still a horse.
Captain Nicholls is the first in a succession of not-forever-homes for Joey. Next up are a couple of young brothers in the German army. Then a young girl, Emilie (Celine Buckens) and her grandfather (Niels Arestrup), then the German army again, where he and his equine buddy pull heavy artillery, the kind of duty that is the end of most horses.
Albert, meanwhile, joins the army and is soon in the midst of the war, tromping around trenches and charging heroically across the field of battle.
I get what Spielberg was trying to do: illustrate the vast scope of the war through a collection of smaller stories, from the soldiers on the field, to the civilians whose lands were invaded in the course of the action. In theory, it’s a great idea; in practice, flat as a pancake because the people involved are never more than the barest character sketch.
Though some of the cast are rather bland–notably Jeremy Irvine who is just blah–there’s a lot of talent present. Unfortunately, they’re underserved by a feeble script.
Take for example, Tom Hiddleston: Hiddleston’s portrayal of big bad Loki, both in Thor and the Avengers, was charismatic enough to earn the supervillain a bigger fan base than the Avengers themselves. By all accounts, Hiddleston is devouring scenery in the BBC’s production of Henry V. But, though he makes a game attempt, the actor can’t flesh out a character from the scant dozen lines he is given in War Horse. A fabulous smile and big blue eyes can only do so much.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Major Jaime Stewart, is similarly underused, his role consisting of looking like he’s caught a wiff of dog shit. David Thewlis seems to have been cast largely because of his gift for sneering; Emma Watson, for her ability to look pretty and downtrodden simultaneously. Spielberg appears to have hired the actors for their trademark characteristics and little else.
Then there’s the ongoing ludicrous nature of the story itself, starting with the aforementioned adventures in incompetent farming and getting progressively worse. For example, in one scene the two young German brothers desert, fleeing into the countryside and taking shelter in a presumably abandoned windmill, along with Joey and another horse. There the boys are soon captured by the German army, who arrive noisily in trucks and summarily execute the deserters in a field. The next morning, young Emilie finds the horses and wonders where they came from…even though the mill is smack dab on her grandfather’s land. Do Emilie and her grandfather go deaf and blind at night? How could they miss the convoy of German trucks who showed up, headlights blazing, in the middle of the night? And so it goes….
But the worst aspect of War Horse is that despite being a movie about a horse, it is riddled with equine inaccuracies. For people who know nothing about horses it may be tolerable; for a horsey person like myself, it’s nigh unwatchable.
For example there’s the overly-anthropomorphized equine behavior. To train Joey, Albert only has to have deep, heart-to-heart conversations with the animal, because Joey somehow understands English. Then there’s the scene where Joey’s equine pal is about to be harnessed up to pull a heavy gun, and Joey rushes over to volunteer for the arduous task, desperate to save his friend. I remind you, Joey is a horse.
Horses are incredibly intelligent animals; smarter than dogs (yes, they are), but they don’t speak English or any human language; they don’t perceive complex moral scenarios. They do have an uncanny knack for reading body language and emotion, and if Spielberg knew anything about horses, he would have explored the real complexities of equine behavior. Instead, he went for cheap emotional tricks, making Joey into a cartoon, like the horses in Mulan or Brave.
Next, there’s the amazing non-pooping/non-peeing horse. Here, Emilie and her grandfather are hiding Joey and the black horse from the Germans. When the Germans notice fresh hay in the barn, they ask where the horses are, but Gramps and Emilie make up a lie and the Germans believe them. Were Germans really this stupid? Because if they were, the war should have ended five minutes after it started. Horses poop and pee in vast quantities. Even if Emilie mucked the barn out every day, it would still reek of shit and piss.
The movie goes on to insult anyone who’s ever learned to ride by introducing the most annoying of all archetypes: the rider who has never-ever been on a horse but nevertheless, hops on board and gallops away with ease. That would be Emilie, who is supposedly too sickly to ride in the first place, but her grandfather gives her a saddle anyway and lets her climb on Joey’s back. Emilie rides away at an effortless canter, never falling off, not even when she is attacked by German soldiers and Joey is darting around, trying to escape. At this point, I starting looking for a spork to scoop out my eyes.
But wait, it gets worse! The big climatic scene involves Joey galloping across no-man’s land between German and British lines, where he becomes hopelessly entangled in barbed wire. Anyone who’s grown up around horses has heard cautionary horror stories about horses and barbed wire: how a single strand of wire and a panicked horse meant the end of that horse. Horses can hurt themselves on any kind of fencing, but barbed wire is the stuff of nightmares. There’s suspension of disbelief and then there’s “No fucking way is that possible.” Joey ends up wrapped up in barbed wire from head to toe, after flipping upside down and crashing while tangled in the stuff. He emerges with nothing more than a couple of ugly, but harmless cuts on his legs. (Seriously, the injuries presented in the movie are average, run-of-the-mill, horsey boo-boos. Probably wouldn’t even require a call to the vet.) No horse is going to survive that. Just no. No way, no how.
Joey’s injuries illustrate the other huge problem with the movie. For a movie about the horrors of war, it’s quite bloodless, presenting an almost benign view of war. There’s a few wide shots of bodies littering a field, shot at an angle and with lighting designed to hide the fact that said corpses are made of felt. It’s a Muppetpocalypse! The only emotional scene in the movie–where Joey’s equine friend dies–is rushed, giving neither Joey nor the viewer the time to mourn for the loss.
If you know absolutely nothing about horses; if you have a high tolerance for schmaltz; if you love it when a plot makes no sense at all; if you are ten, then War Horse is the film for you. Otherwise, file this one under, “Not Recommended.”
July 13, 2012
No, Merida is NOT the typical Snow White/Cinderella-style vapid heroine, whose only aspiration is marriage to a total stranger–handsome, but still a stranger–her reward for being pretty and well-behaved. Merida is a strong, capable, self-rescuing princess.
But the film busts other tropes, as well. For instance, there are no evil stepmothers or wicked witches, driven to destroy the princess out of jealousy. Because, you know, the princess is now the fairest in the land? Why is that, by the way? Male villains are given straightforward motivations like greed and lust for power, but the typical female (Disney) villain’s megalomania is nothing more than a beauty routine gone out of control. For once, I’d like to see a villainess who isn’t hung up on beauty, who wants to rule because she knows she’s bigger, badder and smarter than the current crop of idiots who are running things.
Speaking of big bads….Brave departs from formula there with the absence of an absolutely evil antagonist who is out to suck the joy out of the universe. There’s a scary “other” lurking in the woods, but that character’s job is to add an additional plot complication, not take over Scotland. At its heart, Brave is a family drama, a mother-daughter film.
Now, boys, that doesn’t mean Brave is a talky, blah-blah, film with no action. I don’t like those either. It has sword fighting, archery, things break and people belch: all the stuff of great movies!
The story. In long ago Scotland, there lives a king named Fergus (Billy Connolly) who has four children and a lovely wife, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Along with their young sons, the hyperactive triplets, they have a teenage daughter, Merida (Kelly McDonald). Merida is Daddy’s girl. As in she’s fearless and enjoys hobbies like galloping across the Scottish highlands on her trusty Clydesdale, Angus, rock climbing and archery. Queen Elinor, however, finds herself in the wrong movie, since she longs for an old-fashioned Disney princes, the kind who is demure, well-spoken and doesn’t bring her weapons to the table. Therein lies the conflict.
Things come to a head when Elinor arranges a tourney, inviting three of the most eligible bachelors in Scotland to compete for her daughter’s hand in marriage. Merida, who doesn’t want to be married in the first place, takes one look at the losers on the field, and refuses to play along. There’s an angry clash of wills and, in a teenage huff, Merida rides out into the woods where she encounters a strange little hut, home to a witch, no woodcarver, no witch, woodcarver…. See, the witch hasn’t had much luck with magicking, so she’s decided to take up woodcarving. She’s quite talented, but sales aren’t that good in the middle of nowhere. Location, location, location.
Merida agrees to buy all her inventory if the witch will craft a spell to “change” her mother. The witch agrees and whips up a magic sponge cake. Although the witch is a pleasant sort, she’s also dotty and forgets to pass on a crucial factoid about the spell. Merida takes the treat home to mother, who agreeably, tries it. And changes.
Oops! Not what Merida had in mind.
The result is a kind of furry Freaky Friday where only Mom gets zapped by the spell’s mojo. It’s up to Merida to find a way to get Elinor back to normal and protect her from King Fergus and the visiting warriors. In her present form, Elinor is now a future fur coat, no longer the woman Fergus married. Along the way, of course, lessons are learned and mother and daughter patch up their relationship. Happy endings ensue because this is a kid’s movie.
I’d agree that this doesn’t have the narrative complexity of other Pixar films, Toy Story, for instance. Nor does it have the clever commentary on society and genre conventions of The Incredibles (another family-centric) film. E.g. lines like:
Helen: I can’t believe you don’t want to go to your own son’s graduation.
Bob: It’s not a graduation. He is moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade.
Helen: It’s a ceremony!
Bob: It’s psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity, but if someone is genuinely exceptional…
But Brave is not that kind of movie. It’s driven primarily by internal conflicts; repairing the damaged mother and daughter relationship is key to the plot line. The absence of a cackling villain and a romantic subplot is actually a bold move on Pixar’s part. Of course, had the storyline included a love interest, I reckon many critics would have whined that Pixar was bowing to traditional fairy tale tropes.
Anyway, the animation is gorgeous, with breathtaking Scottish vistas, dark and creepy forests, and…Merida’s amazing head of wild red hair.
Brave may not be Pixar’s greatest offering, but it’s tremendously entertaining, and yes, cliché busting. Recommended.