Owl I Want Is You

owls

Every year, my dance school puts on a stage show in March, featuring Irish stories told through stepdancing and music. It’s a great way for my students to really show off their creative sides, since they get to act as well as dance. We use special costumes and props, and sometimes we even have sets. The shows are a lot of work to put on, but I love doing them.

This year, one of the numbers is about the Dublin Zoo. I decided that the dancers playing the animals at the zoo would look really cute in animal pajamas, and it just so happens that there’s a craze for animal pajamas (called kigurumi) in Asia. That means that you can buy these big, baggy pajamas shaped like just about any animal you can think of online. There are even whole sites dedicated to selling  these pajamas. Perfect, right?

After reading reviews of some of these sites, however, I was worried about buying the pajamas through them (there were multiple horror stories about goods never arriving, money never being returned for damaged goods, etc). So I decided to go through Amazon instead, which not only was a known company, but has a generous return policy and good customer service.

Since Amazon is kind of like the online version of a giant bazaar, though, buying the pajamas I wanted wasn’t as easy as all that. It required a couple hours of sifting through products, reading reviews, seeing what sizes I would need, finding out which vendors had those sizes, finding out which vendors could get me the pajamas before the date of my show (since the pajamas were mostly coming from China), etc. Also, I discovered that I wouldn’t be able to get all the animals I was looking for from one vendor.

But eventually I was able to find two vendors who had all the animals and sizes I needed between them, and I placed the order. For a little extra in shipping, I was also able to guarantee that the pajamas would arrive before our next rehearsal, which was great.

One of the vendors was based in China, the other in the US. Interestingly, the package from China arrived first, and the pajamas were just as adorable as they looked in the pictures. They were much bigger and baggier than I expected, making me a little worried about dancing in them–the owl pajamas especially looked enormous–but I figured we could always alter them if we had to.

The package from the American vendor arrived a couple days later, and at our next practice all the dancers got to try the costumes on. They looked great!

The only problem was the enormous owl costume from the Chinese vendor. It was supposed to be a child XL, but when our tiny dancer tried it on, she was completely swamped in it. It looked even bigger than the adult Small owl costumes that two older girls were wearing (which I’d gotten from the American vendor). There was no way she was going to be able to dance in it, or even walk around without tripping all over the gigantic legs.

But one wrong size out of 11 pairs of pajamas ain’t bad, and everybody else’s costume seemed to fit. Through Amazon’s website, I contacted the vendor and explained that we seemed to have been sent an adult-sized owl costume instead of a child-sized one. How could we exchange it?

After a delay due to the time difference between the US and China, I received this reply:

“Dear buyer, can take a photo to me see?I’m not sure if the warehouse send the wrong goods”

I must admit that I groaned at this reasonable request, since March is so busy for us that I already have five times as many things to do every day than I can actually get done, but after a day I managed to get a minute to take the pictures and send them off.

OwlCostume1web

The owl on the left is the one from the Chinese vendor; the one on the right is the Adult Small from the American vendor. Definitely not a Child XL. But aren’t they cute?

Would it be possible to get the child XL by March 10? I asked. Our performance was the following weekend, and I was starting to freak out a little bit about having the costume in time.

I received this reply:

I’m really sorry, we have only this size, the owl other size didn’t goods, we return to you the owl’s money, $32.31, then you go to other places to buy, ok?

I was not exactly excited to see this email. It meant that I had to go back through the whole process of looking on Amazon for child-sized owl pajamas, then seeing which vendors had the child XL, then seeing which vendors could get them to me by March 10, then reading reviews of the vendors to see which seemed the most reliable, and then saying a little prayer before actually placing the order, because if this didn’t work I was going to have one tiny owl with no costume come showtime.

The whole time I was grumbling, “If they only have one size of owl pajamas, why did they bother putting a drop-down menu with different sizes on their page?!?”

But by tonight, when I decided to blog about it, I was smiling every time I thought of the email. Really, it’s one of the cutest, friendliest emails I’ve ever gotten from a vendor.

So thank you, friendly vendor, for getting me my order so unbelievably quickly (it takes 2 weeks for us to get shoes from Ireland, and you got our order to us from China in a little over 2 days!). The two sets of monkey pajamas you sent were perfect, and the dancers are very excited to perform in them. And since the owl pajamas you sent are my size, maybe I’ll just keep them for myself. They are pretty adorable, and I bet it’s hard to feel stressed out when you’re dancing around at home in an owl-shaped adult onesie.

Movie Review: Hail, Caesar!

caesar

I went to see the Coen Brothers’ latest film, Hail, Caesar!, this weekend. I’m kind of on the fence when it comes to the Coen Brothers. I like O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski, and Intolerable Cruelty, but I really didn’t understand Fargo, Miller’s Crossing, or The Man Who Wasn’t There (which I think, in film circles, disqualifies me from ever being a real movie critic). So I really wasn’t sure if I was going to like this new movie or not.

I liked it! Mostly.

The film is about Eddie Mannix, a movie studio “handler” in the 1950’s, played by a fabulous Josh Brolin. Mannix’s job is to protect the studio’s stars from themselves and the studio from scandal. As he goes about his action-packed day at Capitol Studios, we are treated to cameo-laden homages/parodies of various 50’s-era films: Scarlett Johansson as an Esther Williams-type synchronized swimmer; Channing Tatum as a Gene Kelly-type song-and-dance man; and George Clooney as a Roman centurion in a sweeping Biblical epic. If you love both classic movies and modern movies like I do, these little scenes are totally worth the price of admission.

The main plot centers around the kidnapping of Clooney’s character. With this plot, I was hoping for an exciting whodunnit (I love mysteries), but you find out relatively quickly who the kidnappers are, and the revelation is a disappointment (it was for me, anyway). I think the situation with the kidnappers is supposed to be funny, but I found it awkward, dry, and waaaaayyyy too long. Even the reveal of the Big Bad at the very end (and what happens to the Big Bad) isn’t very exciting, and it doesn’t really make sense. I found myself wondering if they could have just cut out that part of the plot altogether–which is always an issue when you’re talking about the main plot.

But there were so many funny moments that it almost didn’t matter if the plot made sense. There’s a great scene where Ralph Fiennes, as an elegant, sophisticated director, is trying to teach a Roy Rogers-type singing cowboy how to say his lines correctly in a drawing-room drama. In another, George Clooney’s centurion is reacting to seeing the face of Christ in the Biblical epic, and you can hear the director shouting in the background, “Squint more! But with grandeur!” And the film’s climatic moment is fantastic–but I won’t spoil it for you.

If you’ve never seen any movies from the 1950’s (Ben Hur, On The Town, Trigger, Jr), you probably won’t like this. And if you’ve never seen a Coen Brothers movie before, I don’t know that this should be your first one (I’m not sure which one SHOULD be your first one; I think mine was Raising Arizona, which was pretty good, but opinions are as varied as the Coens’ movies themselves).

But if you like classic movies and you like “lighter” Coen Brothers movies, give Hail, Caesar! a try.