Arizona Shrimp Horny

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That’s a line from one of my favourite TV shows, The Good Place, about Kristen Bell’s character, self-described Arizona trashbag Eleanor Shellstrop, a woman who REALLY loves her shrimp.  And maybe even in the biblical sense, according to dimwitted friend Jason Mendoza, an act I would really not put beyond her – Eleanor’s a delightful pervert who’s constantly, improbably horny for everyone and everything, and I’m sure that includes her beloved shrampies.

But all this talk of shrimp, in service of this manicure I did after getting the “Arizona shrimp horny” line stuck in my head for days, made me realize that there are a lot of references to shrimp in my favourite movies and TV shows, and they all make me laugh uproariously.  Brooklyn 99’s Jake is dismayed when he discovers that cruise ship latrines empty into the ocean – “But that’s where my shrimp live!”  Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Anya loves to talk up the all-shrimp (or no-shrimp) worlds that populate other dimensions.  The Birdcage’s Agador (Agador Spartacus?) protests when another character whisks away the seafood chowder he’s prepared, calling after them in a singsongy Puerto Rican accent, “But you forgot da tshrimps!”  Raising Hope’s Jimmy horrifies his family after returning home from his grocery store job reeking of disemboweled decapods (“Oh my god, what is that smell?!”  “The poop of 50,000 shrimps.”)  And let’s not forget about The Muppets’ Pepe the Prawn, who always seems to be on the unfortunate end of one of Miss Piggy’s schemes to make Kermit jealous (I laugh for days at the bit in the movie with Jason Segal and Amy Adams where Kermit walks in on Piggy and Pepe, in costume, practicing the lift from the end of Dirty Dancing.  He’s in a tiny little leather jacket, and desperately trying to fend off Piggy’s without-warning attempts at launching herself up and over him while “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” warbles in the background.  Mr. Finger Candy and I practically giggled ourselves into fits contemplating this wee shrimp version of Johnny Castle (we’ve dubbed him Prawny Castle, because how could we not?)

Turns out there’s a lot of references to shrimp in my favourite pop culture, and now here the little buggers are adorning my nails.  Think I might have as big a problem as Eleanor? 😉

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Fangirl

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Well, would you look at that – actual nail art on this nail art blog!  And all it took to drag me out of my self-inflicted hiatus (in the sense that I was the one that accidentally ripped off all of my nails whilst crowbar-ing approximately 800 square feet of hardwood flooring out of our apartment) was my weird old lady musical crush on that Yungblud kid I haven’t been able to shut up about recently.  Dude’s got a very particular kind of English rocker yob style (your usual black and studded, but also lots of gold chains, pink socks and gigantic, improbably vertical AND horizontal hair) and I love it.  So here it is on my nails.  Feels good to be back. 🙂

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The Umbrella Academy

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LOVED IT – zero surprise there.  As a one-time disciple of the Church of My Chemical Romance, I’m required to love anything that comes from the mind of Gerard Way, MCR’s enigmatic front man and co-writer of The Umbrella Academy comics from which this charmingly weird Netflix series was derived.  (As a huge aside, yes, before twenty one pilots there was My Chemical Romance – and before both of them, and still, always, there is Green Day – and oh my, did I have it bad for their whole goth dork theatre geek screamo thing.  I joke about the Church of MCR, but I had the next best thing to a bona fide religious experience at one of their shows, one of those top 10 moments of my life sort of deals.)

So I was probably predisposed to love The Umbrella Academy, which is a beautifully filmed and acted distillation of MCR’s entire musical catalog, vibe and aesthetic.  You’ve really got it all here, from repeated references to the hardships of war, to the prep school uniforms worn by the kids of the Umbrella Academy, to the Victorian-by-way-of-the-1950s office wear sported by the employees of the Commission.  There’s also Wes Anderson-level awkward family dynamics, an opening montage scored to the Phantom of the Opera (dope), a lot of commentary on the ethics of medicating children, multiple dance scenes, and a caffeine-jonesing 58-year-old man in a 13-year-old’s body who’s in love with a mannequin torso named Dolores.  Oh! also a robot nanny and a monkey butler.  For real.

If I didn’t lose you with Dolores, Grace or Pogo up there, there’s really so, so much to recommend this gorgeous show; don’t let its on-paper weirdness freak you out, if only so you don’t sidestep the ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE soundtrack, which features lots of Gerard Way tunes, of course (covers of Happy Together and Hazy Shade of Winter), rock classics of the 60s, 70s and 80s (see above re: the Turtles and Simon and Garfunkel songs, as well as appearances from the Kinks, the Doors, Heart, Nina Simone, Queen and the freakin’ Bay City Rollers!) and two brutal fight scenes scored to They Might be Giant’s Istanbul (not Constantinople) and Lesley Gore’s Sunshine and Lollipops.  It’s also filmed in Toronto, and boy, does it look it – I can pick out specific intersections, one right down the street from a friend’s old apartment.

Umbrella Academy Collage

Here’s the basic setup for the show: In 1986 46 women the world over, none of whom were pregnant when the day began, give birth.  An eccentric billionaire by the name of Reginald Hargreeves comes along and buys – let’s not mince words – seven of the children, all of whom bear superpowers ranging from incredible strength, to teleportation, to the ability to speak to the dead.  Assigning each child a number, but no actual names, Hargreeves begins to mold the kids into a crime-fighting unit by the name of The Umbrella Academy.  But Hargreeves is a distant, exacting and cruel father figure, and Nos. 1 to 7 – eventually christened Luther, Diego, Allison, Klaus, Five, Ben and Vanya by their robot “mother” – all bear a not-so-healthy resentment towards the miserable old bastard, though the siblings all care deeply – if not awkwardly – for one another.

One day, many, many years after the children have fled the nest and scattered to any corner of the globe not occupied by their father (one went as far as the moon, for pity’s sake) the old man kicks it, and this weird, fractured family reunites to finally put their demons to rest.  Except time travelling assassins and one-eyed bandits and the apocalypse.  As you do.

It’s awesome, please watch it.  Really, get thee to Netflix post haste, friends.  And I hope you like this manicure as well, inspired by The Umbrella Academy’s graphics, and the umbrella tattoo each member of the Academy has inked on their inner wrists.

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Handbook for the Recently Diseased

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Deceased.”

Hey, so check out this awesome Christmas gift I got from Mr. Finger Candy!  As the little (removable) sticker in the top right-hand corner states, this is a set of note cards and other stationary-type items (oh, how I love paper products!) housed in a box designed to look like the battered Handbook for the Recently Deceased from my favourite movie, Beetlejuice.

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Inside there’s a mess of Beetlejuice-themed goodies, including cards, envelopes, stickers and a cute little notebook with an MC Escher-esque Sandworm on the cover swallowing its own tail.  Careful, buddy – I’ve got it on good authority that you’re 100 percent non-natural polymer clay, so you might want to take smaller bites.

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And because this is me, I just had to do some inspired-by, matching nail art.  I’m not sure how successful I was at capturing the very retro design on the cover of the Handbook; things got quite muddled once I added the matte topcoat.  It *did* lend the manicure that sort of undone, shaggy appearance that cloth-bound books begin to take on after a millennium or so of sitting about, but it’s not a look I deliberately set out to create – just one of those random moments of nail art kismet.

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I’m so delighted with this present!  I actually wasn’t expecting anything this Christmas, because my husband and I decided pretty early on in the season that we’d instead put our earmarked funds towards another trip to Disney in the new year.  But if he’s not as big a Beetlejuice nerd as I am (he’s not) then he’s definitely just your garden variety nerd (he is) because I think this awesome gift speaks to him as well – who wouldn’t want this sitting all nonchalantly on an end table?!  My man knows me – us – so well. 🙂

The Challenger

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Hey, so would you look at that – I once again biffed my friends’ annual reading challenge, working through a measly 12 books!  I very nearly made it to 13, but Christmas came, and the time for leisurely reading fell by the wayside.  So 12 it is.  Sorry Julie, sorry Jay, I’ll try, try again in 2019 with your next, just-announced reading challenge.  Maybe next year I’ll get to 14!

But it’s not a numbers game, and it’s important to value quality over quantity, and some other trite expression that’s not coming to mind right now, but I did read a number of excellent novels this year, including The Night Circus, which was a beautiful, dreamy revelation; easily one of my favourite books of all time.  Too Big to Fail was another bright spot; I was proud to have tackled a book about such a dense, weighty and frequently boring subject matter as the American financial system.  I’ll Have What She’s Having was probably the most pointless of all the books I read this year; a humour novel without the humour is a puzzling animal, indeed.

Below you’ll find all of the books I read this year and the matching, inspired-by manicures I did for each one.  If you click on the titles, a link will take you to my thoughts and reviews of each book, plus lots of pics of all that nail art.  Once again, The Night Circus was the big winner here, its sumptuous, Victorian-esque carnival atmosphere providing ample inspiration for five different manicures, although I’m really quite partial to the gothic lettering of those Petunia (of Stephen King’s Christine fame) nails.

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The Burning World by Isaac Marion – Another Warm Bodies novel, this one a sequel to the first Romeo and Juliet zombie romance, this entry suffers from having to act as a bridge between that novel and a third, planned book to be released later on this year.  It’s a big exposition dump, and much of the bedrock on which Warm Bodies – a gentle, thoughtful novel about the downfall of humanity – is based is blown viciously asunder (presumably so it can be pieced back together in the final novel, but dang if some of those new revelations don’t smart extra hard; now I know how old school Star Wars fans felt during the overlording of George Lucas.) 😉 I read this book for week 26’s challenge theme of “A book title that sounds like the cool name of a band.”

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling – Hey now, another thing to be proud of in this reading challenge – I FINALLY finished the Harry Potter series!  Just 15 or so years off the pace, no big.  I read this novel for week three’s theme of “The next one in a series.”

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Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – I burnt the edge of a page of one of TWO forewords to this novel and applied the singed bits to my nails.  I think I might have missed the point of this book.  I read Fahrenheit 451 for week 11’s theme of a banned book – it doesn’t get more banned than being torched with gigantic kerosene fascism hoses, now does it?

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – Not the most uplifting of stories, but so beautifully written.  I was just in awe of Atwood’s writing.  I re-read this novel for week 30’s prompt of “a book picked up in a thrift shop.”  I got this copy of The Handmaid’s Tale from the university bookstore in second year, and there’s nothing thriftier than an English student trying to stretch their book budget.

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I’ll Have What She’s Having by Rebecca Harrington – I’ve had this little humour novel sitting on my bookshelf for years, and I finally got around to reading it this year for week nine’s theme of a book from your to-be-read pile.  I think there’s a lot of good comedy to be mined from mimicking the wacky diets of image-obsessed celebrities, but this slight book was less observational humour and more straight up observation.  So Karl Lagerfeld is a (self-described) grumpy bastard.  That’s most likely because he starves himself stupid and consumes nothing but Diet Coke.  We’d all be grumpy bastards, too – this is practically a given.  So wither the funny?  Ultimately, there was not much humour here, just tepid commentary on predictable outcomes.  Cute cover art, though.

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The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King – Every ’80s kid’s favourite author is getting old, and he’s super worried about the real world things that go bump in the night.  I read this zippy anthology of short stories for week eight’s theme of “A collection of short stories.”

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by anonymous, edited by W.S. Merwin – A 14th Century epic poem – both in its original Middle English and translated forms – for week 23’s challenge theme of “An epic tale.”  Go medieval or go home, right?

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Oh my goodness, I adored this book!  It was utterly enchanting – appropriate given that it’s a tale about star-crossed magicians plying their trade at a mysterious, after hours Victorian carnival.  This was a very gratifying read; I actually sighed with contentment as I closed the back cover for the final time.  I read The Night Circus in service of week 28’s theme of “a work by a debuted author.”

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Christine by Stephen King – I continued filling in the gaps in my Stephen King education this year by reading Christine, one of his earliest works.  It was appropriately unnerving and gory in all the right places, but absent the killer car, I was struck by the simple human heartbreak that formed the core of Christine, which was just your average, emotionally deadlocked family trying – and failing – to grapple with shifting family dynamics.  Whilst being hunted down and murdered by a sentient – and very vengeful – 1958 Plymouth Fury.  As you do.  I read Christine, a book I nabbed from my condo’s community bookshelves, in service of week 15’s theme of “A book from the library.”

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Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin – I hate these nails (too heavy-handed, and the lighting is crap) but improbably, I really loved this book, which I read for week 14’s theme of “non-fiction to tickle the brain cells.”  More like set my brain cells on fire – I spent a lot of time shouting out various aghast “OMG, did you know”s to Mr. Finger Candy as I stomped about the house, raging at the inequalities of the global financial system.

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Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith – After the M.C. Escher-esque financial mindf**k that was Too Big to Fail, I was in need of a literary palette cleanser, which I found in Blue Shoes and Happiness.  My mom loaned me this gentle little book from the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series, a favourite of hers set in rural Botswana.  I read this book for week 27’s theme of “A book that was gifted to you.”

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Small Spaces by Katherine Arden – Jay of The Scented Library gave me this spooky little book, ensuring that I’d absolutely hit week four’s theme of “a purple hued tome.”  Also that I’d be thoroughly, delightfully creeped out, and also get some great nail art inspiration out of the bargain.

Hello Bows

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Hello Kitty nails!  And the third design I’ve attempted from this cute instructional book, Hello Kitty Nail Art by Masato Kojima.  I think this manicure turned out rather well, don’t you?

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I actually really like following these sorts of tutorials from time to time.  I have a tendency to fall into ruts of style sameiness where I’ll lean on one colour palette or a single design type time and time again.  Guides and tutorials (particularly this one; it’s a very nicely laid out book) always present some neat options I hadn’t considered, like adding sparkle to just one nail, or the cute negative space cutouts at the base of my cuticles.  A very pretty Kitty, indeed!

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Literary Inspiration: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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Look who finally motivated herself enough to finish a book series the rest of the world put to bed over 10 years ago!  Yay, I’m (still not remotely) current!  Really, though, I’m thrilled beyond belief to have finally crossed the final book in the Harry Potter series, the Deathly Hallows, off my to-be-read list in service of the third prompt in my friends’ 2018 reading challenge.

I will please virtually no one with this statement, but like all of the Harry Potter novels, I found the Deathly Hallows to be a deathly slow slog.  If you ARE one of the 86 bajillion people who read the novel over a decade ago when it was first published (or watched the films, as they’re really quite close in terms of both tone and structure) you know that the final book in the series details Harry’s efforts to stop an increasingly desperate Voldemort from forcing his violent nationalist tendencies on a terrified, unwilling populace.  Sound like anyone we know?  Along the way Harry and his friends are tasked with locating, and then destroying, Voldemort’s Horcruxes, physical objects tagged with bits of the Dark Lord’s murderous, fractured soul.  Once they’re disposed of, he’s nothing more than a mortal man, vulnerable and open to attack.

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It’s in the hunt for and subsequent eradication of the Horcruxes that the Deathly Hallows gets terribly bogged down, lingering for 300 some-odd pages on a locket already in Harry’s possession that defies all attempts at destruction.  This passage goes on forever – it is an interminable slog of Apparating and wind-swept moors and Apparating ONTO wind-swept moors.  In a 607-page book with multiple major character deaths (spoiler: arguably THE major character’s (temporary) death) as well as three big battle sequences and a satisfying peek into the future, it’s a puzzling bit of pacing.  We’re in more than 450 pages before Harry, Ron and Hermione return to Hogwarts to kick off the final, epic showdown between the Dark Lord and the Boy Who Lived.  The long, lackadaisical tease of those first 450 pages followed by just 150 pages of frantic fighting and exposition makes for a jarring contrast.  It’s also why it took me four months to read the Deathly Hallows – because I was deathly unmotivated to continue.

In hindsight, some days removed from finishing the book, I can see that the seemingly endless literary slog had a purpose.  Had Harry, Ron and Hermione’s six-month search played out with seamless ease – say, flashing by in a series of condensed vignettes – we may not have gotten a true sense of just how taxing, frustrating and arduous their journey really was.  As it stands, we were with them for every false start, every near miss, every fake lead, every betrayal and every heartbreak.  I don’t know if there was a better way of conveying the sort of despair that results from a long, protracted fight in which you must carry on despite enjoying no victories, but I do wish it hadn’t taken up quite so much of the book.

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Things I did like?  Voldemort proving once and for all what a toothless wussy he really is.  Voldemort suffers from the same problem in my mind as Darth Vader – both are more legend and reputation than actual threat.  And I positively loved that his ultimate undoing was thinking himself beyond the need to do his research and double check every facet of his plan.  You’d think if you were a hideously malformed megalomaniac making a vicious grab for ultimate power you’d at least take the time to educate yourself, do your research and get your friggin’ ducks in order.  Still sound like anybody we know?

Other things I liked?  A naughty little “It’s not the size of the wand” joke Ron makes towards the beginning of the book.  Ron and Hermione finally acting on their sweet, slow burn of a romance.  The epilogue.  Neville, Defender of the Meek.  Everyone finally realizing just how awesome Luna really is.  A longer explanation – actually, any explanation – of Dumbledore’s tragic past.  Always.

Things I didn’t like: Dobby’s death.  And not because he died – I’m glad he did, I friggin’ hated that shrieky house elf.  I just thought given how touching his death is in the film (I cried, and well…see above) the source material might grant his passing more than a handful of paragraphs, and none of that “dying with his friends” tear-bait business either.  Fred’s death (one-half of the delightful twin duo, Rowling, are you freaking kidding me with this crap?  That’s the suckiest move you pulled in seven books.)  The fact that the Dursleys never got their comeuppance.  Don’t know about you, but I generally like to see child abusers get their virulent (and in this case occasionally levitating) just desserts.

Another thing I don’t particularly like?  This nail art, depicting the hidden message and final puzzle piece inscribed on Harry’s bequeathed Snitch, “I open at the close.”  My cursive writing is not great here.  I was going for elegant and refined, and it came off more big ‘n’ bubbly, my everyday writing style.  Although this manicure does look so pretty glittering almost magically under the midday sun.

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But by gosh am I glad to be done the Deathly Hallows, and indeed the entire Harry Potter series.  I never latched onto the novels, actually found Harry to be a snotty little know-it-all.  I far prefer Daniel Radcliffe’s film version of Harry – he’s a kinder, more thoughtful and reasoned young man than his literary counterpart.  But the world J.K. Rowling created, as reflected in the films and now various exhibits and attractions around the globe, is vivid, detailed and fully realized right from the very first page.  I think her knack for world-building is unparalleled, and I’ve always loved the Dickensian flair she takes in naming her characters.  I enjoyed the books, and particularly the Deathly Hallows, so much in that regard.  Ultimately, they were really enjoyable reads, and I’m glad to have finally finished the series so I can fully join the Harry Potter cultural zeitgeist.  All was well.