Friday, July 29, 2011

Harry Potter, The Final Installment...

Sitting in a slightly manky, virtually empty theater, I waited for the lights to dim. Wednesday was my birthday, and seeing the final installment of the Harry Potter saga on a big screen was one of my presents. To say that I had waited with anticipation to see this last film, well...big understatement. Settling into the dingy and old theater seat, the time crept up on 3:00 PM, Thursday afternoon, when the movie was scheduled to start. After several previews, that is. Finally those ended, and the theater darkened for the main attraction..."Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part 2".

Was the movie enjoyable? Yes. Were the effects spectacular? Yes. Was I left with a feeling of satisfaction when the end credits began to roll? Uhm...not really. I shall explain, but I feel it necessary to inform anyone who hasn't seen the film (or read the book), to not read further if they want to approach 'Hallows' with a fresh perspective. I will be giving at least one major spoiler. have been warned...moving right along...

(A battered Harry in a crumbling Hogwarts)

The opening hits the ground running. Voldemort has the coveted Elder Wand (one of the Deathly Hallows...Harry has the other two: the resurrection stone, and the invisibility cloak), and our intrepid trio is well into their quest for the Horcruxes. (Horcruxes being objects that Voldemort used to house portions of his soul. Harry and company were searching out all of the Horcruxes to destroy was the only way that Voldemort could be killed.) I wish that I had watched part one again before seeing part two. I have seen all of the movies, but I have also read all of the books. It was hard at first to get grounded. I couldn't remember what had happened/was included in the first half of the two films, and my mind was a bit of a jumble as it tried to sort out the film from the book. Yes, I knew what was happening whether it was featured in the film or not, but I couldn't get a comfortable grasp on the film's continuity. The frustration was present throughout, but not at a volume that ruined my experience.

(McGonagal casts the spell to rouse Hogwarts' stone guardians)

With the death of Dumbledore, Snape has taken over as headmaster, and Deatheaters and Dementors are everywhere. At the point in the film where Harry returns to Hogwarts in search of the final Horcrux, one of my favorite moments in the film takes place. McGonagal kicks Snape's ass. I know it was in the book, but seeing it on the big screen was awesome! It was brilliant seeing Professor McGonagal (Maggie Smith) flick that wand around with precision, Snape (Alan Rickman) flying out the window. She is such a bad ass!

I'm going to jump over to the scenes where Voldemort, his army of Deatheaters, and his Giant allies, have managed to punch through the magic barrier around Hogwarts. The battle is well done. (Another of the great ass kicking moments is here when Mrs. Weasley blows up Beatrix LeStrange.) The good and the bad are dying throughout the castle, and in the process much of Hogwarts is being reduced to rubble. It was all very effective, and I braced myself for the casualties to come. For me these moments fell flat. Seeing the prone and lifeless forms of Tonks and Lupin was sad, but it didn't get me like the book did. Even watching Ron go into a fit of hysterical tears over his brother Fred didn't really get to me, either. I am by no means a person to not be sensitive to moving scenes in a film, but...maybe my expectations were too high. Could anything have been done differently to make it more gut wrenching? Would seeing even one of the casualties fall have made a difference? I don't know. Maybe. Then again, I don't think the actual moments of their deaths was mentioned in the book. I seem to remember that we don't know of their deaths until their lifeless forms are scene in the great hall. Hmm...

(Harry and Voldemort locked in battle)

The final specific moment I want to mention is when Harry and Voldemort lock wands in their final battle. They engage in another round of Priori Incantatem, when their wands get linked by the simultaneous energy beams they produce. Their wills are battling away against one another, while Ron and Hermione try to kill Voldemort's pet snake, Nigiri...the last Horcrux. The big death moment of Tom Riddle a.k.a. Voldemort incredibly disappointing. The sword of Godrick Gryffindor manifests in front of Neville Longbottom, who cuts the snake in half before it can attack Ron and Hermione. Cut to the big duel between Riddle and Potter. Tom gets a worried look on his snake-like visage; Harry registers the change and realizes that Nigiri has been killed; the energy beams between Tom and Harry stop. At that point, I was waiting for the final blows between the two of them to happen. An 'Avada Kedavra' from the big V, and an 'Expelliarmus' from lightning bolt scar boy. Instead? Voldemort just kind of collapses back, looks to the sky, disintegrates, and blows away in a wind. What the...that's it?! This was the big moment?! The biggest of the big...and it was lack luster. It should have been a big showdown, but there wasn't much there. Satisfied, I was not.

(Voldemort and his Deatheaters attack the magical barrier protecting Hogwarts)

I am glad I saw this final film on the big screen. The Harry Potter movies have been the only films I have gone to the theater to see for a number of years now. I have specifically mentioned a few scenes, some good, some not so good. I am not fanatical about it, but in many ways I am definitely a Potter purist. My main critique of this film would be that it was very entertaining and not a complete disappointment, but there were points during the plot thread that should have been punched up a lot more than they were. The final battle being the chief one. I have to say that I am very happy that the movie didn't end with the final battle, and the look at the trio nineteen years into the future follows. Seeing them all married with children acted as a much more satisfying ending to it all. If the film had ended with the battle, it would have rendered all that preceded ineffectual.

In the next few days to come, I am sure that I will continue to ponder what I saw today. Going back and watching part one is also on the agenda. Do I think my opinions will change? No, I really don't think they will. Do I recommend the film? Sure. Don't get me wrong, it is a good film. It's just that after my commitment to the series, I was counting on great. On a scale from one to ten? Hmm...let's see...I would say about a seven, or a seven and a half. If the final battle had been more dramatic (as I think about it more and more, I would love to pop the director in the back of the head for it), then my rating would be a tad higher. After all, the whole series (film and books) led up to that one moment. To that single battle. Oh well...tis done and done.

My Harry Potter experience has been so much fun. I felt a part of that fictional world, and felt I knew each character personally. It is a journey I am happy to have embarked on, and to have seen to the finish. The books left me more than satisfied, right up to the very end. It is the books that I gravitate to anyway. The movies were all very good, but each of the tomes were so wonderful. They held the true magic for me.

Cheers to you, Harry Potter!

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children" By Ransom Riggs...

Recently, my boyfriend was ordering some books to fulfill his membership requirements with the Science Fiction Book Club, and as a perk they offered a certain number of freebies. He asked me if there was anything I would like to order. There were a couple of authors that popped off the top of my head, but the club didn't carry any titles by them. That left me to do a quick perusal since he was in the process of placing his order. At a glance, the cover of 'Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children' jumped out at me. After reading the short blurb of a description, I was intrigued. It looked to be something that was 'up my alley', so I chose it. A week or so later, it arrived.

There wasn't a whole lot about the book that was all that original. Sixteen year old Jacob, the central character, works in one of his family's drug stores, a 'pie' he will eventually get a piece of. The story starts off centering mainly on his relationship with his grandfather. The rather eccentric old man regaled a young Jacob with stories of an island where Miss Peregrine looked after an odd assortment of children. They all had special talents/abilities. Tragedy befalls Jacob when his grandfather is seemingly murdered by "monsters". He leaves behind a message for Jacob telling him he must go the island because he will be safe there. I was pretty engaged during that first section of the book, and was hopeful that I would really be in for a ride once he got to the island. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. He does meet up with the peculiar kids, who have abilities such as strength, invisibility, levitation...nothing I haven't seen before. (They kind of struck me as a poor man's 'X-Men'.) Shapeshifting, monsters, time loops, and 80 year olds who look to be ten. Yes, I am leaving out quite a bit of the plot. If I write a review of something, I'm not inclined to say if "the butler did it" in case a reader of said review might want to give the book a go for them self.

From the first page it did grab me, which is usually a good sign. I found the authors' (Ransom Riggs) writing style comfortable in a very casual way. Not to the point of it feeling like it was "written in crayon", but a seemingly easy read that I could jive with. The kick off point to the story and the characters involved also had me wanting to read more. At first it felt like a mystery story with some horror tidbits thrown in, but the horror side didn't really do it's job. There were several points where I feel I should have been at the very least creeped out, but those moments fell disappointingly flat. Once Jacob gets to the island, it loses some of its steam. The genre of the book is one I have spent a lot of time exploring, and much of the book felt...familiar. Like I had visited similar places and witnessed particular events in other books I have read. There was also quite a bit that was easily predicted. No, my assessment so far isn't a glowing one, so I'll get to the one original element that I did appreciate.

One of Riggs' more inspired additions to the book are the collection of vintage photographs that form the spine of the plot. All of the photos are actual pictures, and were not created for the book. At the end of the story, there is a list of the owners/collectors. I don't know for sure, but I think it's a safe assumption that Riggs pre-selected the photos he uses, creating the story around them. His execution of the book and photographs meshing is quite good. He does show that he is an able writer as he created a cohesive world of characters around the antique images.

One of my chief criteria for a good read is 'how did it end?' Did I feel satisfied when I got to the last word of the last page? Not so much with this one. It dangled in the breeze a little much for me. 'Miss Peregrine's' is clearly intended as the first in a series. When it was all over, it left me hanging. You want to write a series? Fine and dandy. Just don't leave me hanging. A book, whether it's going to be the first in a series or not...should be self contained. Even if the story obviously extends beyond the last page of the first volume, I should at least feel a sense of completion for the part of the journey I just traveled.

How do I rate this one? Do I recommend it? I don't give it a 'Thumbs Up', or 'Thumbs Down'. I'll have to waver in the middle, so I rate this one 'On The Fence'. I wasn't bowled over by it, but I didn't feel like it was a complete waste of time when I reached the end. I'll put it this way, if you want something to kill time in the dentist's waiting room, or want something to read while catching some rays at the beach, this would be a good choice. If the second book makes it to the shelves, will I pick up a copy? I don't think I became that invested in continuing the trip. My jury is out...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cloudy Night...

There is a peacefulness to the the night. At first all seems to be enveloped in stillness, but on closer scrutiny one finds that the world is very much alive after moon rise. Just calm. Relaxed. In deep contrast to the bright and bustling day, it instills it's peacefulness in me. How I would love to have a week of that calm.

The last couple of days brought us much needed rain, and a full moon. Both of which rank very high on my favorites list. On a number of occasions, I have tried to capture some photographs of the lightning lit night sky. Good reflexes are a must, but trying to gauge the knife like flashes to the thunder rhythms...well, good luck with that. In my experience, it's just a matter of pushing the button and hoping for the best.

The thunderstorms we had on least I think it was Wednesday. I get my days mixed up at times. It started in the afternoon and raged into the night. It was so lovely. I snapped a lot of pictures on the screened in porch with the flash off...but then I usually have the flash off. I stood in near pitch darkness with the camera to my eye, and my finger on the button, just waiting for the right moment. The bulk of the pictures were black rectangular photos of nothing. The photo above is the best of the bunch. I dig it. It kind of looks like the world in negative. I'm not 100% sure how clear it will appear on my blog. It looked really good on my computer. Knocking wood...

Then there is the Capricorn Full Moon that was at it's peak at about 2:40 this morning. Didn't happen to catch it in it's full glory, but I did catch it tonight. Yes, it is a tad on the wane, but beautiful nonetheless. The couple of days past, and the next few in the future are threatening the possibility of thunderstorms (which is the usual order for this time of year), so a cloud cover of varying thicknesses is pretty much at a constant. The gauzy film of it covered the moon tonight giving it a hazy ring. I tried to snap a few pictures sans tripod, but with my carpal tunnel issues in my dominant hand (my right one), holding still just wasn't achievable. I grabbed the tripod from just inside the front door, and set up shop in a spot just this side of some tall trees between me and the moon. With the flash off (per usual), I fiddled with the macro settings a bit and got several pictures I absolutely love. A bit out of focus, but so expressive. I really dig the way the small chaotic web of naked branches gives them an air of mystery. I can almost feel a cool errant breeze curling by, and can almost hear the hooting of an ever watchful owl from high up in the trees. Yeah...just brilliant. I love it when this little digital camera captures what I see with my own eyes, but improves it. It shows me the 'unseen'. Stuff below the surface of the apparent elements of an image. Very cool.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Capricorn Full Moon...

At 2:40 AM/EST, we had a Full Moon in the sign of Capricorn. It is the first non-eclipsed full Capricorn moon since 2009. That's kind of interesting considering we just finished having a trio of eclipses over the last month, or so.

We came out of Cancer into Capricorn, both feminine signs, and both nocturnal in nature (night oriented): Cancer being governed by the Moon, and Capricorn by Saturn. They relate in that they both focus on family and security. They urge us to focus on our interpersonal relationships as related to conflicts within our families. They also tell us that we need to focus on ourselves - feelings, current difficulties, healing and moving forward, etc. Several of the sites I visit mentioned that we might feel the urge to poke our nose into others business to control their situations, but we will not be successful (and it could cause problems that might have lasting damage attached). The best recommendation is to focus those energies inward and work on the 'self'.

Since we have just passed out of an "eclipse season" of three, there is a lot of garbage that has bubbled to the surface. Acknowledging all of that and resolving it so that we can move forward has been a pretty constant theme over the last number of weeks, but now it is truly a time to look inward and figure our individual best course to decipher any residual issues, deal with them, and throw them out. New Moons signal a time for new beginnings, and Full Moons signal the culmination of things. Basically, the time is ripe for dealing with things so you'll be ready to start down some new paths when the next new moon arrives.

My non-professional amalgamation of my usual moon time reading.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer Nostalgia...

(Green Magnolia seed pods. They will soon be covered with bright red seeds as they start to dry. The squirrels and birds will eat very well. Just a picture I took today that doesn't really relate to this post in any way.)

This 4th of July was rather uneventful for me here on the marsh. We (my boyfriend and I) stayed in, which was more than fine with me. I took a moment to acknowledge the significance of this day...independence and the 'Declaration' thereof. It's one of the main holidays where Americans actually acknowledge the proper origins of the day. Several of the other holidays have been taken over by commercialism and organized religion when in fact the days in question grew out of paganism...but that's a whole other subject for another time.

I did venture out of doors, albeit briefly. I was in the mood to be a slug, and stayed in my "Jammie Pants" most of the day. My two short trips into the outside world (one on the screened in porch, and one out the front) brought the festive scents of charring meat barbecuing away as neighbors worked their magic over burning coals and redolent smoke. I felt a tad jealous as we still haven't gotten a grill. I love grilled meats. Barbecued pork chops especially.

My trip out to the front was brought on by the cracking bangs of fireworks exploding nearby. By the sound, I could clearly tell that they were of the smaller 'neighbor purchased' variety. Firecrackers, roman candles, bottle rockets, and some smaller fireworks that would pop into brilliant flowers of sparks. I managed to catch the last few that were lit by neighbors in a building that backs up against the marsh. They set them off over on the marsh side. How pretty that must have been. Unfortunately, my camera and I missed the display. There were some air born explosions that didn't sound too far off, but as soon as I noticed them, their frequency began to taper off. I engaged in a quick debate with myself about whether or not to hop in the car to go in search of. The pops and bangs were having lengthier pockets of silence between them. It reminded me of a thunderstorm where the periods of silence between claps can tell you how near or far a storm is. This storm would have been moving away. Needless to say, I decided to pass on going on a fireworks hunt.

Since the passing of my mother last year and my reconnecting with my uncle (my mother's brother), and my aunt (my uncle's wife), I have been going through some old pictures that my mother had, as well as a bunch I have but haven't looked through in some time. The smells of cooking barbecue, the sound of exploding fireworks, and those pictures, made me think of my grandparents and the summers I spent at their house during my younger years.

(My brother, Mike, and me ~ I was 2 and he was 5)

My mother's parents, Doris and Harry, lived in a house high up on a bluff overlooking the Cumberland River in Nashville. They had a flagstone patio that had a beautiful view of the far bank. It was also a great vantage point for watching the various boats and barges go by, along with a big ferry boat that would pull up at the boat ramps on either bank. The railing that went around the edge of the patio was really on the edge. It was a rugged but sheer drop down to the water. If someone fell they might get caught on one of the many trees covering the bluffs face, but it was a long way down and I definitely didn't want to check to find out. I didn't like to spend much time right next to that railing.

The main memories the 4th put me in mind of were those summer days when my grandfather would barbecue. He would get out his trusty round grill and get the briquettes blazing. I can see him now with the t-shirt he was wearing wadded up and stuck in his back shorts pocket because of the heat (just like he did when he was mowing the yard), spraying any intense flame-ups with a squirt bottle of water. My grandmother would always make dishes from her usual list of picnic table fare: potato salad, three bean salad and/or barbecued baked beans, deviled was all delicious. I make her potato salad recipe from time to time and it always reminds me of her. I remember many summers eating sweet and juicy slabs of watermelon, juice running down my chin as my brother and I would spit an occasional seed at one another. (kids...) Some of my earlier days would involve hours of my own brand of creative cookery making dirt pies at the top end of the yard with the toy dishes my grandmother had on hand. I had so much fun with that. I remember evenings spent sitting on the back porch talking, shooting at empty cans with the hand pump BB gun my grandfather had, or just listening to the haunting 'toot toooooooooot' of the train at Opryland down the river. If my brother and I were making a trip up from Atlanta with our mother, from time to time we would stop at one of the fireworks stores and get a few things to bring to the house with us. (Firework sales are legal in Tennessee.) I wasn't very fond of the loud stuff when I was little, but I would find no end to the fun of writing my name in the air with a sparkler, or watching long black and twisting shapes form from the small black 'snake' tabs.

I can remember sitting with Harry and Doris while they had 'Happy Hour' and I had a glass of Wink on the rocks, listening to them tell stories of days past. (If you aren't familiar with Wink, think a cross between Fresca and Ginger Ale...great stuff.) Even now I can envision that evening darkened porch, hear my grandmother laugh, and give my grandfather a playful chide of "Harry !" There was a lot of laughter in that house. There weren't a lot of kids in the neighborhood, but I didn't mind. It was a great place to spend time while growing up, as depicted in the photos above. That metal tub with Disney characters on it is very vivid in my memory. So are the memories of filling it with water to cool off.

It's interesting how sounds or scents can spark things we tucked away in our subconscious in the 'forgotten' file(s). There are so many things that get dredged up upon occasion that I am so thankful for. They are like finding an old item I forgot I had ever even owned, but now that I found it I won't ever misplace it again.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Mystery of The Clicking TV...

I had something weird happen about a week and half ago, and it's still on my mind. I'm trying to come up with some sort of explanation for it.

I've been having a lengthy stretch of insomnia, which is not uncommon for me. If I do get any sleep, I usually conk out in the morning anywhere from 3:00 to 8:00, and it's only for a few hours of not very restful half-sleep. The night in question was no different, and I conked out around 5:00 am on the living room sofa.

So I'm about an hour to an hour and a half into my usual sleep pattern. Asleep, but more in that in-between Alpha State than true slumber. I was having some odd dreams. These days when I do dream, it is bound to be a weird one. I'm laying there and distantly hear a click, followed by a kind of silence. Then there is another click and the background noise of the TV that has been there ever since I drifted off is re-introduced. At that point I really have no idea what is going on. Then there is another click, the low voices in the room disappear (I had turned the volume on the TV down in hopes that I would eventually fall asleep). However many seconds later, another click, and the murmur of the TV voices returns. As I focused more on the clicks, etc., I was gradually pulled back into the room. It happened again a few minutes later. 'Click'. The room became silent. 'Click'. The TV voices were chatting away again. I hadn't opened my eyes yet, and I was feeling slightly creeped out. It happened again. I wanted to open my eyes, but my lids were beginning to glue themselves shut in avoidance of what I might see.

Then I had a thought. I fell asleep on the sofa. Maybe I still had my glasses on which could also mean that I still had the remote on me? Maybe during my sleep I had wedged the remote in a way that when I moved I was turning the TV on and off? Made perfect sense...except for the one fact that I could definitely tell I wasn't wearing my glasses. Okay...well, the remote then. It had to be the remote. Mustering up an uneasy courage I opened my eyes. The lamp on the end table at the sofa end where my head had been was on. So was the television. My fluffy purple blanket was partially draped over my lower legs and partially on the floor. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary in the room. I looked on my lap and under some of the folds in the blanket for the remote. Nothing. Then the TV went off. I got a slight chill, but I wasn't freaking out. Standing up, I lifted and shook out the blanket, probed between the sofa cushions looking in every possible hiding place...nothing. Then the TV 'clicked' back on. Where was that darn remote? I rechecked around the sofa until I plopped onto it in bewilderment. It was then that my eyes went to the surface of the coffee table...where both of the remotes sat undisturbed...side by side.

This was too weird, and a little unsettling. I was completely awake by that point. This was most definitely NOT a dream. I looked directly at the TV for the first time since I had opened my eyes. It 'clicked' off.

My eyes went to the cable box on a lower shelf of the stand the TV is on. It was on per usual. The culprit could not have been the cable box. Anyway, if the cable had gone out, it would not cause the power to the TV to shut off. About 30 seconds later the TV came back on.

Picking up both remotes (we have one that came with the TV, and the cable remote we got from Comcast), I used each one to turn the TV off and on. They both worked fine. After I did that, the TV remained on and the strange happenings stopped. The strange energy in the room stuck around for awhile, too. What had just happened?

To say that I remain puzzled is an understatement. I cannot definitively say what was going on. It all remains a mystery. I'm open to any theories if anyone has one.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Cicada's Song...

Saturday evening I took a stroll to the mailbox, and as usual took along the camera. I have been a bit remiss in the last few weeks of taking my usual 'environmental' photos of...well, the environment. Savannah continues to be muggy and hot, but after the long rainstorm of several days ago, I remain hopeful that stormy skies will return in the not too distant future. A few days of "possible/scattered" thunderstorms are predicted for the coming week, so I am knocking wood.

One thing that is very prevalent here are the shocking deep pink blooms of the Crepe Myrtles that dot the grounds, and most of Savannah, for that matter. I believe the technical color name for the fluffy groups of blooms pictured above is "Watermelon Red".

One thing we have had for weeks now are the droning, chirruping serenades of the Cicadas. One of my favorite sounds growing up in Georgia was the chirping of crickets. So soothing during the dark breezy nights of summer. The lovely din always delivered the perfect somber yet magical mood for night, and lulled me to sleep at bedtime. The Cicadas? Think crickets on Steroids. The droning is immediately identifiable to these strange winged insects, and the volume level is quite impressive. I enjoy the Cicada songs, too, but it didn't really register just how loud they are until I was on the phone with my step-mother. I was sitting on the screened in porch chatting with her, and at times I had a little trouble hearing her. It was amazingly loud. She even commented that she could hear them.

The following video is one I took with the camera I have. This camera doesn't record in high quality, and my "less than" steady cam work makes it look like a shot from a low budget horror movie. The main purpose of the video is to give an idea of how loud and continual the Cicadas song is.

I am not 100% certain what they are supposed to be saying. When you are outside listening to it, it does sound like a lot of it is coming from up high in the trees. However, since they are all around here it is hard to tell where the sound is coming from. The video isn't like being up close and personal, but I think one can get the gist.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Arachnids of Summer...

I stepped out on the front porch right around 2:00 am. At some point during most nights I like to get a quick dose of fresh air and look at the stars and/or moon. (Since we are right at the current New Moon's peak, tonight it was just stars.) I had only taken a couple of steps when I noticed something skitter to the wall just below the porch window. I waved my hand past the motion sensor on the porch light to get a better look. What I saw was a clear and definite indication of summer in Savannah. Each year I see tons of these little guys. Well, I guess they are not so little. Would probably be massive to someone who suffers from arachnophobia (fear of spiders). From leg end to leg end, this guy was about 3" wide, and 3 1/2" long. I Google'd around the net for a bit and couldn't find a specific identity for it. My boyfriend suggested a type of wolf spider. From the looking I did I think it might be a southern house spider. Either way, I can tell you they are extremely common. I see them inside the condo and out. Mostly out, thankfully. I did have one encounter last summer when I opened up a drawer in the kitchen to retrieve a spoon, and there was a multi-legged visitor looking back at me from atop the silverware caddy. It did make me jump, but spiders don't bother me too terribly much. As long as any poisonous little arthropods don't munch on me, that is. I had to snap the above picture pretty quickly, as I don't think he particularly wanted his picture taken. As for the roach remains, I'm not sure if that was his dinner or someone else's.

I officially lost what ever fear I possessed of spiders in the early to mid-80's. One day I was in a pet store killing time when I wandered past the area they had the more unusual pets displayed. Various types of lizards, snakes, and the one that caught my eye...spiders. They had a few different species for purchase, but the one that stood out for me was a small black and orange beauty. A baby Mexican Red Leg. Whatever possessed me, I left the store with a new spider and the necessary gear (aquarium, heating elements, live crickets for feeding times, etc.).

I was fascinated by my fragile multi-eyed pet. At the time that I bought it, I think it was one of the more popular spider types for pets. They aren't as moody as others. In other words, handling them wasn't really a problem. They did become harder to find. I was told it was due to stricter importing laws with Mexico. Don't know where all of that stands now.

It took me awhile to reach a comfort level with picking her up (it did turn out to be a female). I built up our pet and owner relationship gradually. Watching it feed was a part of my initial trepidation. It did eat live crickets (which made it extremely economical...25 to 50 cents a dozen, and I could pick them up at the store I purchased the spider from, or any bait shop). I would drop the bugs into the aquarium and then the dance would begin. Danzig (that's what I named her...wasn't ever a real big fan of the band "The Misfits" just seemed to fit) would sit motionless at one end of the glass tank while the crickets meandered around, oblivious to what was to come. I would see the spider at one end and a cricket on the other when WHAM! Danzig would be on top of the bug sucking it dry from the inside out with her fangs. I'm sure you can see how that made me work up gradually to handling her. Once I was able to, it was really no big deal. I would put one hand down and gently stroke her back legs with the other. She would walk right up my fingers onto my hand. I actually broke several friends' severe fear of spiders with her.

Some tarantulas can live 12 to 15 years. Some maybe longer. In the end I only had her for about three years. I was living in Atlanta, Georgia, and with the erratic weather that can happen she just couldn't handle the changes one year. A spider tank needs very specific climate control to make for a happy spider. I was always careful to stay on top of regulating her tank temperature, but I guess her time had come. I was really sad when Danzig died. I know that might sound silly since I'm talking about a tarantula, but a pet is a pet.

Another spider we get here in the south is the Orb Weaver spider. There are all kinds of Orb spiders throughout the world. I took some rather spectacular pictures last year of one that had set up shop over the sidewalk in front of the condo, but I'm having trouble locating them. The photo above is an Orb Weaver spider. They are harmless, spending their time weaving huge webs in places where potential food will fly in. The southern US variety pictured feeds on small insects, but there are other types that eat things as big as frogs or small birds (think hummingbird size). I'm glad those aren't around here! The ones I see are very small, and have the most exquisitely detailed spiny shells, with a variety of color combinations. A beautiful example of art in nature. I have been keeping my eyes peeled for webs, and I hope to get some pictures this year, as well.