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Laura e. Crook

The swing of things: becoming a Chicagoan again


It’s been almost two weeks since I crash landed in Chicago. In that time I’ve furnished 90% of my new studio (nothing left but my bed and some frames for my pictures!), and unpacked nearly everything. It feels… really good, actually. The first thing I did when I got settled and found unsecured wireless in my building (thanks, Linksys!) was change all my virtual locations from Los Angeles to Chicago.

This is the first time I’ve ever lived alone (ever!), so I’m really relishing it. I can’t even tell you guys (on the internet, you know,) how good it feels to just walk down the street to my best friend’s apartment. It’s not quite the same as walking into our shared bedroom, but it’s infinitely better than a plane ride half-way across the country.

And the CTA! People laughed when I told them how much I missed the CTA. I’m an introvert, I really am, but I do love the community of public transportation. I know the train can be gross and crowded and smelly, but I felt so isolated in Los Angeles, commuting alone in my car. I had my podcasts and my audio books and my music, but it wasn’t the same. I couldn’t look across the crowded El car and watch a scruffy, kind of greasy dude wearing some sort of painter’s smock writing (in a highly-stylized manner) “I am not Rene Descartes. I am sorry for deceiving you” over and over on a page, with drawings of what I can only assume are dragons catching maidens in the margins.

I spoke with one of my LA friends this afternoon, and it reminded me that even though I do miss all of my friends, even though my life is up in the air, I have no idea what I’m going to pursue as a career and my depression is currently standing smack dab in front of my creative flow… I am infinitely happier in Chicago than I was during those last, rocky six months in California.

What can I say? I’m a winter baby. I was never cut out to live in the desert.

Guest Post: Blog Swap! Childhood Vacation, by Jennifer (Bottle Up the Crazy)


20-Something Bloggers is hosting a blog swap! I was pleased to receive Jennifer, from Bottle Up the Crazy. The theme was Childhood Summer Vacation, and I was so pleased to read about Jennifer’s childhood memories! You can find my post over on Jennifer’s blog. Read, comment, and definitely check out Jennifer’s blog! You won’t be disappointed.

I can still remember sitting in homeroom, counting down the minutes until summer break. The last day was always fun, but not for the reason you’d expect. You see, the last day was clean-up day. I was a strange kid who loved organizing and re-organizing desks and lockers. The annual purge of papers and notebooks was something I looked forward to. Like I said, strange kid.

Before summer camp, my mom would drop me off by my grandparents’ house where I’d spend the day with my two cousins. Often times my gramps would start filling the pool up early in the morning so it was lukewarm by the time we arrived. Some days he’d even make a tent out of blankets and the clothes line to give us some shade.

We’d spend the afternoons digging in the dirt, collecting as many worms as we could. We’d take big bowls and fill them up with dirt so we could keep the worms we caught as pets — outside of course. It never occurred to us that they’d just slither away, ignoring the blankets of moss and decorative flowers we’d strategically place in there. I can’t even imagine picking up a worm today.

Summer nights were spent chasing fireflies and playing hide-and-go-seek with the neighborhood kids. Or re-enacting whatever sports movie was popular that year (Little Giants, The Sandlot, Mighty Ducks…).

As we got a bit older our parents signed us up for summer camp. It was held at a nearby park and only lasted until the early evening. I’ve never been to an overnight camp, but I imagine you’d find me cleaning up the cabins and organizing the first-aid closet.

Day camp had its perks: swings were within spitting distance, there was a pop machine that only cost $.50, the arts and crafts room smelled like rainbows, and the park district had Guess Who (you know, for rainy days).

The downside to this was the mile walk to another park that had an outdoor pool. This park required bathing caps. I don’t know if you’ve ever worn one, but rubber and long hair was a horrible mix. Plus, I didn’t know how to swim and if you didn’t meet the height requirement (which I never did), you weren’t allowed in the pool.

Why bother bringing me along at all then? Just leave me in the arts and crafts room. The beads could be separated by color by the time the rest of the campers came back. Our park did have giant sprinklers that we could run through, so we were able to cool off, but it wasn’t nearly as impressive as a pool.

Summer nights were spent chasing fireflies and playing hide-and-go-seek with the neighborhood kids. Or re-enacting whatever sports movie was popular that year (Little Giants, The Sandlot, Mighty Ducks…).

When you’re young, summers seem to last forever. Now, back-to-school banners appear before you’ve had a chance to BBQ. It seems that summers stopped being something special once jobs came into the picture. Admittedly I’d probably go crazy with nothing to do all summer, but I wouldn’t mind a couple of weeks dedicated to unplugging and chasing fireflies.

Chicago road trip (day three & four)



I’m updating this a couple days late, but it’s surprisingly tiring to drive and drive and drive. I’m also pretty bad at writing about myself slash my life slash my day. I’d prefer to wax about films or TV or that book I really loved than me, me, me. Anyway: Megg and I spent Monday night in Joplin, Missouri, which is important because that was where my dad and I spent our first night last summer, when I was driving out to Los Angeles in the first place. Megg and I planned to arrive in Chicago on Wednesday (today!), so spending day three in Joplin meant we were only ONE DAY AWAY from Chicago. Exciting stuff.

We didn’t take as many pictures or stop at any sight-seeing places (though I did make my sister stop at the Cahokia Mounds because HELLO it’s the remnants of the oldest known North American civilizations and it happens to be in southern Illinois, so why wouldn’t we stop?) All those pictures currently live on Megg’s camera, but I’ll post them as soon as I can. They’re not that exciting–just pictures of big earth mounds. But still! Oldest civilization!

After some rush-hour traffic (can’t escape that, even 2,000 miles away from LA!), we rolled into Chicago, and promptly ran into a lot of trouble getting into my apartment, but I finally finally made it. Now I just need to unpack. And buy some furniture. And find a real job.

There and Back Again — Chicago 2012


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I feel a little bit like Bilbo Baggins. I left my comfort zone, had an adventure in a dragon’s lair, and now I’m coming back (in one piece, no less!). Instead of a group of dwarves and a wise wizard to keep me company, I have my sister, which is much better.

The trip didn’t start off smoothly. We had a few false starts while packing the car, and I had to sink a couple hundred bucks of my earmarked furniture money in a new battery, an oil change and two new car belts (have I mentioned lately how excited I am to not own a car?), but once Megg and I were on the road, nothing could stop us!

On day one, we stopped in Vegas for lunch (290 miles, give or take), then Williams Arizona for the night (218 miles). 508 miles down, 1,700 miles to go!

Day two (today!) was amazing. Williams to Flagstaff (with a quick stop at the Grand Canyon!), then Flagstaff to Moriarty, NM (just east of Albuquerque). 396 miles! Less than day one, but hey–we saw the Grand Canyon (the first time for my sister, the second time for me!), and while we were there we saw some ELK. WILD ELK. UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL. EATING SOME GRASS AND SUCH. CHILLING OUT. DOING THEIR THING.

While we were in Flagstaff, we just HAD to visit the Lowell Observatory, the home of Pluto!

And then Megg wanted to “stand on the corner” in Winslow Arizona!

We also found the Continental Divide, which is where the rain splits–on the east side it runs toward the Atlantic, and on the west side it runs toward the Pacific!

Tomorrow we’re aiming to make it to Tulsa, OK! We’ll blow through the rest of New Mexico and the Texas panhandle, which is the most boring part of the entire state (sorry panhandle people! Texans assure me the rest of the state is awesome).

Five Things Friday: Five Reasons I Hope “Brave” Is a New Breed of Disney Film


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Brave, in my opinion, takes the best parts of Disney and the best parts of Pixar and combines them into one amazing achievement of animation. Disney and Pixar have been united since 2006, but this is the first “princess” movie that involves both Disney and Pixar (Tangled and Princess and the Frog were entirely Disney produced and distributed). I hope that the themes explored in Brave will carry through to the future Disney Princess films, for five very simple reasons.

(There are minor spoilers for the film in general, but not for the plot or ending specifically. Read at your own risk!)

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Tamora Tuesday: Mastiff (Provost’s Dog #3)


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The Plot: Beka’s been a Dog for four years now, and she’s becoming a better Dog every year. Lots of other stuff has changed for Beka: she was (unhappily) engaged to Holburn, a fellow Dog, until his untimely death before the book begins. Beka fell out of love with Holburn before his death, so she struggles with her guilt and lack of sorrow. Luckily for Beka (and unluckily for everyone else in Tortall), she, Achoo and Tunstall are called to the King’s summer palace for an urgent mission: someone has kidnapped the toddler prince, Gareth.

Beka and her friends are joined on the hunt by the clever, silly mage Farmer Cape. But will Beka and her team find the prince alive? Why would someone kidnap a toddler? Is the entire nation of Tortall in danger? And is there a traitor in their midst? Beka has a hard time trusting the people around her, but she must trust someone if she wants to find the prince alive and stop a brewing civil war.

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Love It and Leave It: The Newsroom


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I’m going to level with you all: I love Aaron Sorkin, but I’m not a die-hard Aaron Sorkin fan. I enjoy Studio 60 because it’s about television, and I objectively understand and appreciate The West Wing for its contributions to dramatic television, but it is not (and probably never will be) my favorite TV show. I’ve seen… oh, maybe the first two seasons in entirety, and I’m sure someday my best friend Elspeth (who adores The West Wing with the kind of love I myself reserve for Firefly) will sit me down and encourage me to watch all seven seasons, which will be great, because I love Sorkin.

I love the way he writes, I love the walk-and-talk, I love his intelligent characters and the way you can find pieces of Sorkin himself–subtly and unsubtly–planted in everything he creates. He is, in my mind, a true artist and auteur, and he is one of the most talented American screenwriters of our time. So it is with unabashed enthusiasm that I anticipated the premier of his new HBO show The Newsroom, and it is with unabashed enthusiasm that I can say… I loved it. Most of it. 90% of it.

In light of this, I want to try a new way of reviewing television (and possibly books, but I kind of like my the good/the bad/the verdict system): “Love It” and “Leave It.” I’ll give a brief low-down of the plot, then jump right into what worked and what didn’t: in short, what I loved and what I could have done without.

Ready? Okay!

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Tamora Tuesday: Bloodhound (Provost’s Dog #2)


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The Plot: Beka is a full-fledged Dog now! The only problem? She can’t keep a partner to save her life. When Beka’s most recent partner–a lazy Dog who doesn’t chase the Rats–dumps Beka, the shift sergeant gives her back to Tunstall and Goodwin, much to Beka’s joy (because they work well together) and shame (because she wants a partner of her own). Though Beka will get her wish when Tunstall breaks his leg in a riot over the rising cost of bread. Beka discovers that someone in Corus has been passing coles–counterfeit coins–which exacerbates the problems created by the poor harvest and rising food prices.

The Lord Provost sends Beka and Goodwin to Port Caynn to investigate the Court of the Rogue (court of thieves) there and get to the bottom of the coles. Pounce stays behind, but Beka and Goodwin are accompanied by Beka’s new scent hound, Achoo. Along they way they run into Dale–a sweet-talking, charming banker who has a lot to lose if counterfeit coins ruin the economy.

Can Beka and Goodwin get to the bottom of the counterfeit coins? Will Beka be charmed by Dale and forget all about Rosto the Piper, who has taken over as the Rogue of the Corus court? More importantly… will Beka be able to hold onto a partner?

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Whedon Wednesday: The Kickoff!


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Anyone who has had a passing conversation with me knows how deeply I adore Joss Whedon–it goes down to my very core as a writer. And anyone who has ever heard of Joss Whedon knows what he’s famous (or dare I say infamous?) for–more than creating strong female characters, more than writing sci-fi television, more than revamping (pun intended) the teen vampire genre almost a decade before Twilight came along and ruined everyone’s day.

Joss Whedon is famous for killing his characters.

You know it, I know it, every Whedonite who has ever cried themselves to sleep because their favorite character was brutally shuffled off this mortal coil knows it. So this is a place to say goodbye to all the characters we loved (and lost). All the heroes, the villains, the heros-turned-villains-turned-heroes-once-more who tugged at our hearts and made us laugh. The characters who became friends, who became family, who we will always mourn.

I am joined in this great adventure with my sister, Megg, my friend Rachel and my best friend Elspeth. So tune in each Wednesday to see who is paying tribute to the characters whose deaths, while sad, still served a narrative purpose. And what more can a fictional character ask?

I will update an archive post every week with links to the respective posts and their authors. If you would like to follow along on this journey, please feel free to follow Megg and Rachel’s blogs. Elspeth’s posts can be found here.

See you on the other side! You can’t stop the signal.

Bunheads 1×2 – For Fanny


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First off, this is my 100th blog post! Thanks for taking this ride with me, everyone! Now on to the juicy parts:

If you haven’t watched the second episode of Bunheads (or are worried about spoilers should you watch it in the future), stop reading now. Cuz I’m about to get all spoiler-y right up in the beginning.



It was a huge mistake to actually kill Hubbell. There. I said it. I was on the phone with my mother last week, and she said what we all had been thinking: “I can’t believe they killed Hubbell so quickly.” But I had faith! I had hope! I was anticipating a coma, which would ensure that Hubbell was a looming force (much like Colin in Everwood), filling Michelle with simultaneous hope and guilt and providing drama for the rest of the season, culminating in a finale where Hubbell would either die (thus opening Michelle up to pursuing the budding relationship with a hypothetical attractive man she’d been pursuing all season, hint hint, cute lawyer friend who showed up in the last 30 seconds) or wake up from the coma (causing her to reevaluate her life and relationships again). See? I had the entire season all planned out for Amy Sherman-Palladino, and she had to go screw it up by actually killing Hubbell.

The thing is, she took a plot device that would have provided constant drama and character conflict and she literally drove him off a cliff. Well, not literally, because I think what happened was he took a corner too fast, but still. There’s no sadness, because, like Michelle, we don’t know Hubbell from Adam. I’m objectively sad because he was Cameron from Ferris Bueller, and I love Cameron from Ferris Bueller, but I didn’t care about Hubbell, so why should I care about his death?

Furthermore, the bunheads are completely insensitive. I know that they’re teenagers, but Boo was the only person to say “really? We’re using Hubbell’s death as an excuse to skip school and go see a Mark Wahlberg movie?” [Side note, Mark Wahlberg is the extremely topical movie star we’re going with here? The one teenage girls are dying to see? Well okay then.] It’s also very helpful that the bunheads decide that, to hell with Fanny’s crippling depression or 100% understandable grief, they want a ballet class, and they want it now. Sasha kind of comes to her senses, which helps, but still. There’s a difference between being a teenager and being a complete bitch.

And then they started crying about Mark Wahlberg and… I’m officially lost. What is happening on this show?

Not to mention Fanny (Hubbell’s mother) and Truely (Hubbell’s ex-girlfriend), who insist on having a loud discussion in front of Michelle about how Hubbell always loved Truely and true love never dies and they were magical together, weren’t they? Here’s a tip, and I know that I’m still single so I’m not the best person to weigh in on this, but if someone is truly in love with you (pun intended), then they’re not going to marry a showgirl from Vegas. They might not marry you, for a variety of reasons, but they’re not going to marry someone else. So nice try, Fanny, but you’re just making  Michelle feel horrible and giving Truely false hope that this dead man loved her unconditionally, because the evidence points out that… he didn’t.

If I was Michelle, I would say “fuck it, I’m going back to Vegas.” And then there would be no show. See? This is what happens when you kill Hubbell in the pilot.

I wanted to love Bunheads, I really did. And I’ll probably keep up a half-hearted viewership for the rest of the season run (only eight more episodes, after all, not much of a commitment). Maybe I expected too much–maybe I expected Gilmore Girls 2.0, and all the gloriousness that that entails. Bottom line is that I wanted to love Bunheads, and it disappointed me. I have never loved a pilot so much and hated episode two even more.

(I did tear up a little during the final scene when the bunheads pulled their heads out of their asses and performed a memorial dance for Fanny. I’m not made of stone).