unicorn quest

Creative writing, bicycling, wild west living, volunteer work, crafts, literature, religion and philosophy, all delivered to you by a 40 year old aspiring writer with Rosanna-Rosannadanna hair and glasses!

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Outwitting the Mouse

With the arrival of frost came a furry visitor to our house. A mouse.

He first appeared in the kitchen. All I saw of him were his furry grey body and long tail, rapidly disappearing under the table.

Then he became a regular. There were mouse sightings early in the morning, as he’d go streaking across the kitchen floor. Then he began darting under the couch. Once or twice he was so bold as to peer in at the doorway of the computer room in the dead of night. Markus, typing away, paused to give him a stern look, and he faded into the background.

Then he began scratching around under the stove for a prolonged period of time. This had the sound of nest-building, moving in, taking up residence, bringing the wife and kids. "Building a mouse condo, eh?" Mark said. We discouraged him by hitting the stove with hammers and kicking it with our shoes. The scratching noises stopped.

Things progressed to where I was spotting him twice a day, mornings and evenings, and he was running across the floor a bit slowly and lazily–not even intimidated by us anymore.
He had developed a regular route: from under the couch, to behind the heater, under the kitchen table to the crack in the potato cupboard. That was how he was coming up from the basement, Mark deduced. All we had to do, he claimed, was shut it up snugly with duct tape. "Just wait until you’ve seen him go in, then tape it up," Markus, an old hand with field mice, coached me.

The next day I saw the mouse under the kitchen table and ASSUMED he’d gone on ahead through the crack to the basement. So I taped it up.

That evening I was sitting on the john, when who did I see come streaking along the far wall of the bathroom but our friend the mouse. I yelled out in surprise, and this caused the mouse to panic and run in a jagged pattern to the darkness underneath the claw foot bathtub.
"Great! Now he has no way to go back to the basement. I’ll have to un-tape the crack," Mark said.

We decided to try again.

This time, Mark was to do the taping.
He taped the crack across the side and bottom.

Unfortunately for all concerned, the mouse was still in the kitchen at the time.
Mark was soon treated to the sight of the mouse stuck to the tape that lay across the bottom of the cupboard, butt and back legs wiggling frantically in midair, caught like a fly in flypaper.
At last the mouse managed to free himself and disappeared into the cupboard.
Mark applied more layers of tape, and the mouse hasn’t been seen since.

During this whole indoor rodent episode, I spotted a tiny, pear-shaped velvety brown mouse in our garden, dreamily nibbling at a snack, oblivious to my pointing and stares and exclamations to Mark of "oh, look at the darling little Disney creature."

Traps were never even in this equation. You see, I used to have pet hamsters.

However, no mouse is going to strut around like it owns our place!

Mouse–0 Us–1

Sunday, September 19, 2004

No Football Today :) Posted by Hello

Snow in September

Mark and I just looked out the back porch and discovered the nearby hills are powdered with white! Last year we didn't see snow until just after Halloween. But we've been warned that snow can fly anytime--even the 4th of July--in Montana.

The only other time in my life that I've seen snow in September was during my 7th grade year, when I was living with my cousins in Alberta. We were all sitting in class listening to the teacher when there was a sudden murmer, and a mad scramble for the window. Snow! I marvelled that these kids, who'd lived here their whole lives, were excited each year by snow's first appearance.

I'm originally from LA, and the only white Christmas I'd ever had prior to last year was that Christmas in Canada.

Mark and I love the winter: for us it's not a bother, but a wonderful invitation to get cozy, drink hot chocolate or coffee, and get creative, writing, crocheting, doing crossword puzzles. I'm hoping to finally finish my novel this winter. I've spent 10 years working on it.

Winter as a whole is like the hush that descends on a city when the snow falls deep into the night. Traffic becomes a soft swish, people's footsteps are muffled, and often the only sound is the occasional scrape of a neighbor shoveling the walk. It's like Jack Frost unplugged the phone, the tv, the radio, and beckoned you to step back in time, to bank up the fire and sharpen your quill pen, and look into your heart and write.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

the Bicycle Thief

Bike lock can be picked with pen
By Theo Emery Associated Press writer - 09/17/20
BOSTON — You don't have to be the Man of Steel to open a Kryptonite bike lock.
Faster than a speeding bullet, word is spreading across the Internet, through cyclist hangouts and into bike shops that all it takes to open a circular-key lock, like the one on the famousU-shaped Kryptonite-brand lock, is a ballpoint pen.

My first reaction to this article, and that of everyone else I know who read it, was: Gee, thanks so much for telling bike thieves of the world how to pick our locks!!!

But upon further reading, it appears the Kryptonite company is now on the job redesigning the lock, one step ahead of thieves.

I’ve heard that in Holland everyone rides bikes the way we drive cars here, and that people fully expect their bike to be stolen several times a year.

I’ve always ridden bikes that look like thrashed beaters but contain hidden features apparent only to bike experts, and I’ve never had mine stolen yet!
Full article: Bike Lock

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Fairy Tale Unicorn Posted by Hello

The Lady and the Unicorn

As many of you know, I’m writing a novel set in the Renaissance that deals with unicorns whose horns have healing powers.

So imagine how excited I was to run across a new historical novel about the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries!

The author, Tracy Chevalier, is familiar to many due to The Girl With the Pearl Earring, which was recently made into a movie. All of her books deal with history, art, and the real, human story behind famous art pieces.

In The Lady and the Unicorn, a court artist, Nicholas des Innocents, is invited to the home of Paris patron of the arts Jean le Viste. Once there he encounters Jean’s beautiful, witty, young daughter Claude, and the erotic antics that ensue rival those in Chaucer, or Shakespeare’s comedies.

Part two of the book takes place in Brussels, in the workshop of the weavers. In a clever plot twist, Nicholas the lascivious is sent there to assist with the tapestry designs, and of course the sparks fly between him and the weaver’s daughter.

This is history at its liveliest. The "story behind the story" of this famous tapestry should keep you in stitches!

Tracy Chevalier's official site: http://www.tchevalier.com/

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

My Day as a Movie Extra II

We were escorted into the lobby of the hotel to find it transformed down to the last detail into a manicurists’ convention! Two of the extras, wearing identical polyester 1960s airline stewardess style dresses, were asked to sit behind the desk and play the receptionists. They had feathery pens to write with, nametags to distribute, and piles of nail polish and totebags with fluffy tissue paper pluming out of the tops.

I was surprised to find out just how hot and glaring the lights of Hollywood were. It felt like a hot summer day, even though it was a cold evening, and the lights were as bright as sunshine. Little train tracks had been set up for the huge camera to run on, and the cinematographer took a practice ride before the shot was fully set up.

We extras were expertly positioned by Uri, our handler. Women were spread out evenly in front of the hotel registration desk, and I and several others were told to stand in line in front of the "convention" registration desk.

When we were all in position, Wim Wenders himself walked into the room! I recognized him right away from his picture in the paper. He has thick, dark hair and eyebrows, and wore a vest and cargo pants with lots of pockets. A few times he said to us "Ok guys," and then chuckled and said, "I mean ladies." He and a lot of the crew members had German accents.

We were told the story of the scene: we would all be talking and laughing to our friends, and then Sam Shepard would come in and walk through the crowd of women. We’d talk and point at him, as he was the only male in the room, and then it would gradually dawn on us that he was a famous, retired cowboy actor, and we’d exclaim over that. We were to talk without making a single sound, ie in pantomime, and we were absolutely forbidden to look into the camera!

All this is harder than it sounds. Especially when they ask you to perform the same improvised actions, from the same exact spot where you were standing the last time, over and over again! We were told to listen for our cues: Sound, they’d call, Speed, and then Background Action! That meant us!

We rehearsed the scene a few times (yes, even extras have to rehearse), and then they gave the call to "invite Mr. Shepard to the set!"
He arrived with a battered satchel, looking just like in the movies, only maybe a bit older and more tired. Like everyone else had so far, he broke into a grin upon seeing our flock of red, pink and orange sherbet-clad girls in swinging 60s wear.

I felt really self-conscious the first take or two, as the camera barreled right in amongst us. Several girls were asked to do "crosses", ie walk right in front of the camera, to make the scene look more natural. They had to watch their feet and not trip over the little railroad tracks.

I’d heard moviemaking was a slow process; now I was witnessing just how slow!
After doing this scene umpteen times, they finally declared us ready for a break while they set up the next scene. We all milled around tiredly in our extras' holding room. "Boy, I sure wish there was some coffee," several of us piped up.

"There’s coffee on the Craft Services truck," Tina Buckingham told us. (She was the extras recruiter.) We all trooped out the back door excitedly, almost running for the catering truck planted in the back parking lot. As it turned out, they were fresh out of coffee, but had an incredible array of treats to snack on: fresh guacamole, Trader Joe’s tea (both of which I hadn’t enjoyed since leaving Oregon), bottles of ginseng, candy, almonds and dried fruits. The list goes on. We were also surprised to see as many medicines as a drug store–bottles and bottles of asprin, cold medicine, band aids, pms meds, enough things to stock a small town–which is what a movie set resembles!

More and more I was feeling like I’d been invited to a very special all-girl slumber and pig out party!

Our next scene was a lot more raucous than the last. It was set later in the day. The party was getting out of control. We manicurists were drinking champagne, talking and laughing, and then Sam Shepard came down to the phone booth to call his long-lost son. First the girl dressed in the skimpy, fringed western outfit went up to the glass wall of the booth where he was standing and kissed it. Then two crazy fans went up to it and took their tops off!

I was positioned in a small circle of women, and we were to talk and laugh raucously. Right in front of us was another small group with a champagne bottle. One girl was to shake up the champagne and then let her finger off the top, causing it to shoot up in the air. Well, each take when she did this, the champagne shot straight up and hit the ceiling, and then landed on my head! So I was not faking or acting when I’d shriek during each take, from cold champagne hitting me. Does that qualify as method acting I wonder?

The girls who were near the "breast baring" action of course had to shriek and point.

Well, after shooting the scene over and over from the one angle, they reconfigured the scene, and placed me and an Asian girl named Malu right next to the main action!
We were to talk and hug, move aside to let two swaying, "tipsy" girls through, watch the girl kiss the glass, and then be shocked when the girls bared their breasts. Let me tell you, I did not have to pretend to be shocked! I jumped each time they did it.

We didn’t get through until 2 Am. One girl told me she’d been an extra before, and they hadn’t wrapped shooting until 6 Am. After being there, I can understand why. It takes so long to set everything up and get everyone in place that they have to just keep plugging away until they are done. I can now understand how many hours of work it takes to make one minute or less of a movie.

I have to say that everyone, from the crew, to the star and the director, were kind and friendly to we extras. We were not treated like cattle, but like important participants.

As Uri explained to us, the final shot of the day, the one that will be kept and printed, is called "the martini shot."

My final memory: driving off into the lights of Butte with stars in my eyes, with a great story to tell my co-workers, relatives and friends.

And you’d better believe there were a lot of people who were kicking themselves the next morning that they hadn’t gone to the audition! One of my friends remarked, "maybe I’d better start reading the paper. . ."