Tuesday, February 24, 2009

If It's on a List, It's an Accomplishment

This is what I really love about Netflix... not the "convenience" of having movies delivered to my home or the cheapness of $17 a month or even those adorable little red envelopes.  It's the fact that when I watch a movie, I get to cross it off a list and that makes me a Good Person.  People who make lists and then accomplish what is on those lists are better than people who do not.  This has been proven by Science.  

So, I thought about telling you about the dream I had last night where Crissy from Crissy's Page was the guest priest at my church and kept showing us her butt and singing nonsense songs and then I got in trouble because I was sitting in another guy's seat and wearing my pajamas, including this Natalie Dee shirt:  

And plus I was at the church I grew up in, in Minnesota and about 400 miles from the Sunday School classroom I was supposed to be in.  

But I decided that was boring, so I'll tell you about the two movies I watched this weekend:

Don't they look good together?  The Fall came out recently... let's say "the other day" to be as unspecific as possible... and it's about a man in the hospital telling a little girl an "epic" so that she'll go get him morphine to kill himself.  Yay!  It's directed by Tarsem Singh, of The Cell fame, who has apparently become a one-name guy:  just TARSEM, if you're nasty.  

Anyway, I've heard that people thought The Cell made no sense and that this one hung together only slightly better.  Those people are not smart like me, and they probably don't even make lists, much less check things off of them.  This one did have a slightly stronger storyline, but much like The Cell it relies heavily on being gorgeous and on the fact that most of the gorgeous stuff takes place inside someone's head, so you really can't expect it to follow totally logically.  If you like pretty things and can understand that a story told in bits and pieces to a child might have logical leaps in it, then you'll like this movie.  Also, there are several men with very good abs who take off their shirts a lot.  

Asphalt Jungle, on the other hand, came out not recently.  Let's say "before I was born."  It has a very early appearance by Marilyn Monroe, who looks thin and young and not at all stoned, if that kind of thing gets you off.  Basically it's a heist movie, but most of the action is pre- and post-heist, as the heisters double- and triple-cross each other and get shot all over the place.  Houseboy and I enjoyed pretending that the mastermind was a Nazi doctor, because he had a German accent and a couple people called him "doctor."  We're imaginative like that.  


Monday, February 23, 2009

Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country

That title is just too good not to steal.  This month I got TWO books from McSweeney's book club, plus one I bought for myself because the bookstore didn't have The Wire boxset and I can't leave a bookstore without buying something.  

I haven't gotten to the collection of short stories I bought yet, but these two were great:


"Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country: Kids' Letters to President Obama" is just what it sounds like.  It's letters.  By kids.  To the President.  Obama, not the other one.  They range from cute to touching to confusing and frightening.  I'm about as liberal as the average Internet Personality, and I was raised by a hippie, but I have to say that the one where the little girl tells Obama to get rid of the right to bear arms and reduce the right to free speech kind of freaked me out.  I suppose that growing up in rural Minnesota gave me a healthy appreciation for the correct use of guns, even if I'd never touch one myself.  And as much as I wish that almost everyone else would shutup, I'd hate to find out all of a sudden that I can't say whatever I want on a blog read by at least three people a day.

The Cold Fusion book is one in a series by Dr. and Mr. Doris Haggis on Whey, the comically mismatched couple who are rewriting the encyclopedia.  It provides all kinds of important facts about Cold Fusion, like exactly how to make it and which common items are made better with Cold Fusion.  I keep capitalizing that because it intimidates me, and capital letters intimidate me, so it's thematically correct if not gramatically so.  Anyway, it also had an advertisement in the back for more informative books that I look forward to buying and reading, such as "Giraffes?  Giraffes!"

Both of these books were under 100 pages, and in the case of the letters to Obama, written in very simple and easy to understand words and phrases, such as "What are you going to name your puppy?" and "Smoking is bad for you."  So, get to cracking and report back to me when you've read something that cannot be decoded into ones and zeroes.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Open Letter to to the Jackholes

To the Jackholes that keep stealing my Netflix movies:
You have recently acquired such gems as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 3, Disc 3" and "Boxing Helena." I cannot imagine what possible benefit you are getting out of this. My movie taste is not going to improve, so you're not going to suddenly hit pay dirt. The only thing this is accomplishing is getting my Netflix account put on hold and seriously pissing me off. Stop it.

To the Jackholes that drive the #2 Bus:
I understand that your turnaround at Navy Pier must be terribly tempting. I get that all those kiosks and stores must just call to you... the DoDads-O-Rama and that store that sells the windup helicopters, not to mention the Chicago sweatshirts that I'm sure you can't get anywhere else. I also understand that socializing with other drivers of the #2 route must hold you up. Of course you're supposed to be spaced out by about 10 minutes, but we riders really don't blame you for getting distracted and making us wait in the cold for half an hour, and then finding out when we get off that there were three more buses behind the one we boarded. This is not a problem.

To the Jackholes who order food for free lunches in my office:
Vegetarians. They are people who do not eat meat. Yes, this includes turkey and chicken. Even though you think that those are "light" foods and you've covered all your bases, you have not. It makes us sad when we have to go downstairs and buy a granola bar from the 7-11 because we don't have enough time for lunch because we were told there would be food at the meeting. You don't want sad vegetarians in your office because that is double the sadness.


Seventy-Five Percent More Powerful

So, I'm through the first day and halfway through the second day of learning how to be a better presenter, and let me tell you something.  I look freaking weird.  I'm a weird looking lady.  This is all I think about while watching the videos of myself.  I'm supposed to be examining stance and eye contact and what not and all I can think is "Is that really what I look like?"  

I know that your voice sounds different to you because you're hearing it inside your head, and the first time I ever heard a recording, I was like "What a freaking dork!  Who is that?"  But, honestly, what is my excuse for not knowing what I look like?  I gaze in the mirror for at least two hours every morning and evening.  I use multiple mirrors to see all sides of myself.  I fill photo albums with pictures of me in all hairstyles and combinations of dress and standing outdoors in front of monuments and indoors with liquor bottles.  I thought I knew what I looked like, but apparently I've just been catching myself in good lighting and good angles every time.  

This is not doing good things for my self-esteem, blogees.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cowboys and Powerful Presentations

Today I am going to be learning all about how to give a "Powerful" presentation, which apparently involves things like "vocal variety" and "meaningful gestures."  I did not know it, but I guess I've been talking in a monotone and doing meaningless things with my hands.

Anyway, before I go I need to share my thoughts on All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy, which in googling for a picture I just found out is also a movie.  Well.  Anyway, my quick low down: McCarthy has pretty prose and this is less bleak (almost sweet at times) than The Road, but it remains pretty bleak.  Also, near the end he renewed his obsession with the word "laved."  As in "he laved the water over his neck."  I can't tell you the number of times people laved things in The Road.  Anyway, I still liked the book and, as I said, the man can write.  I don't know if I'll go on to any more of his books, though, especially since all the descriptions in the back involve a variation on the phrase "... in a country where men pay for love in blood..." 

Okay, off to be powerful.  Enjoy reading the cowboys, I think you'll like it.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Diary of My February

Early in February it was quite cold, and I did not want to run:

The cats agree:

Later, we went to Philadelphia, where it turns out, it's pretty warm compared to Chicago.  

We learned important history lessons, like that everyone stands in front of the Liberty Bell for a picture, and they all act very civilized:

I also learned that if you walk in behind a group of Chinese tourists, you will have a terrifying moment where you wonder if you missed the outcome of some important war, because the employees will accidentally speak Chinese to you, and all the displays will already have the "tell me about history in Chinese" button pressed, and you'll have to ask your Houseboy if he's hearing it too.  

In other history news, turns out the Irish were not totally happy about coming here, and a lot of them died:

When not speaking Chinese, the people of Philadelphia like to remember the potato famine.

When we got home, it was 55 degrees outside, and Chicago looked like this:


Welcome home!


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jerry Seinfeld Has an Agenda

I just wish I knew what it was.  I watched "Bee Movie" the other night, and usually I have my shit together enough to understand cartoons, I swear I do, but this one was beyond me.  It was either about veganism or communism or possibly our litigious culture and self-serving attitude.  Since I've been doing a lot of "thinking" lately about "big issues" in my "life" and whatnot, I pretty much shut my brain off and let Jerry the Bee tell me anything he wanted to about what I was doing wrong, but by the time it was over I wasn't sure if I was supposed to stop enslaving bees, or take advantage of the enslavement of bees to save the environment, or open a law office behind a florist shop in New York.  Usually these are not decisions I ponder while watching a bee in a sweater.  Usually in that case I think about how they made such a tiny sweater, and what material it's made of, and why all the bees only have four legs, and whether their extra two legs are under the sweater, and if so, how that can possibly be comfortable.  

Instead, now I'm sitting here with a cup of tea and an almost full bottle of honey (the kind in the bear, which [who knew?] is apparently the worst kind from a bee's perspective) and I can't decide whether I should use the honey or throw it out or donate it to Starving Africanized Honeybees, Incorporated.  And my tea is getting cold.


Monday, February 16, 2009

I Need Validation

So, this here is what we in the Internet Community call a "blog." Those of you reading it via your Blog Reader or other Blog Consuming Device are probably aware of this fact. However, I recently started importing all my "blogs" as "notes" on "facebook," so that all my e-friends could be aware that I am a popular and successful blogger. However, it seems that said friends are just reading the notes and missing out on the awesome experience of the firsthand blog page, wherein you can see what kinds of blogs I read and what Internet Websites I like to frequent and also see photos such as this:

Which I'm pretty sure you won't see on the "note" version of this blog.



Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I promise I like normal things too

And now, to prove that I am not actually mentally incompetant, I will tell you about a movie in which Sherilyn Fenn gets her limbs amputated that I did not like.  This movie is called Boxing Helena, and I actually never figured out what the boxing referred to, because he puts her in a little legless throne after he eventually gets around to torso-ing her, not a box.  I think I initially confused it with an episode of X-Files where they find the mother of an incestous family being kept under the bed in a box because she doesn't have arms or legs.  Man, I loved X-Files.

Anyway, Houseboy saw this movie shortly after it came out, because he had a little high school crush on Sherilyn Fenn and was probably in hog heaven for the first 45 minutes or so, which mostly consist of creepy surgeon dude watching her be naked with other guys.  Interspersed with saxophone-music-filled closeups of one of those marble statues with no arms and a parrot beating its wings against its cage walls.   That's what they call symbolism people.  And foreshadowing.  

Because later, she'll get hit by a car and have her leg crushed, and surgeon guy will get to cut off her legs and tend to her in bed while she throws things at him until he unceremoniously cuts of her arms too.  And I do mean unceremoniously.  Because we don't even get to see the surgery, folks.  I know, right?  Why watch a movie about a creepy dude cutting off body parts if there is no blood?  We don't even get to see the stumps: he dresses her in these flowy nightgown-like dresses and sets her on a throne where she continues to yell at and belittle him, just like his mother.  Oh yeah, that's the other theme: his mommy was not nice to him and walked around without a shirt on a lot.  

There is exactly ONE worthwhile scene in this entire movie, and that's when she is dramatically revealed for the first time with neither legs nor arms, in her little throne, set on a table and surrounded by funereal flowers.  The camera pans back as she begins to laugh.  And then laughs and laughs and laughs and laughs.  It's very creepy.  Unfortunately, the movie  continues for about an hour after that.  

Once again, if you have any intention of watching this movie, on account of thinking it sounds good even after my description above, I would recommend that you read no further, because I'm about to tell you how it ends.  Just as Dr. Awesome finally gets Helena to submit to a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome, and they're about to get all naked, her boyfriend finds them and raises holy hell, knocking out the doctor, who then wakes up in the hospital and realizes that it was all a dream.  I'm not flipping kidding.  Apparently somewhere along the way the writer decided to let a 4th grader finish the script for him, because not only do find out that it was all a dream, we are treated to about 20 minutes of explanation of exactly how it was a dream.  You see, when Helena was hit by the car, she was taken to the hospital, not back into the doctor's creepy old house.  And it turns out that all the parts where he pared her down until she was a loving torso were part of the dream.  But the parts where she had sex with other guys were not a dream.  Get it?  

So, yeah.  Get this from Netflix.  Because it's so bad it's bad. 


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The iPod on Random Game

So, here's what you do.  Put your iPod (or other music player, or computer or pile of records or whatever) on random and write about the first five songs you hear.  Here are mine:

1.  "The Times They Are A-Changin'" by Simon & Garfunkel
This is not one of my favorite Simon & Garfunkel songs, but it does remind me of the record player at my parents' house.  My mom would usually play Simon and Garfunkel or Carol King while we were cleaning and it made it more fun.  She'd put on the record and move the furniture while my sister or I ran the dust mop around the room.  When I was old enough, she let me put the records on and listen to them with the giant headphones--the kind that sort of suction to your ears, especially when you are 10 years old and have a tiny head.

2.  "Trunk" by Kings of Leon
Damn, I love this song.  It’s dark and creepy and makes you want to put every line as your Facebook status.  "I goooooooooooooot... One miiiiiiiiiiiiiiile to go.  On down the rooooooooad.  On down the road."  This is one of those bands that I stumbled on completely by accident, and they have quickly become iPod regulars.  Our dog, Flower, used to perk up every time they came on because she loved the jangly guitars.

3. "D'yer Mak'er" by Led Zeppelin
The first thing I think of when I hear this song now is the reference in a Hold Steady song: "They used to think it was so cute when she said 'Dire Maker.' All the boys knew it was a joke about Jamaica."  In addition to being one of their more pop-y songs, this one is unusual in its total lack of science fiction references.  I love Led Zeppelin because even when they talk about The Lord of the Rings or do a reggae song, they rock.

4. "Thank You Friends" by Big Star
This IS random.  Big Star was added by Houseboy awhile back, and I have barely listened to it, so this is like the first time.  I always find the sort of punk-English accent kind of funny, particularly when used in non-punk songs.  This is pretty though, and I should listen to it more.

5. "Tie My Hands" by Lil Wayne and Robin Thicke
Funny, Houseboy just played this for me yesterday.  Robin Thicke is Alan Thicke's (of "Growing Pains" fame) son.  He has a very pretty voice.  I remember he came out with an album a year or more ago and it seemed kind of cheesy, but his voice almost made it worth it.  This one is a pretty standard R&B / rap collaboration on first listen, but Thicke's voice makes it more interesting, and once you listen closely to the lyrics you realize it's pretty dark.  "I work at the corner store.  We all got problems, problems.  No one's gonna fly down low.  No one's gonna save us now."  

"My whole city underwater, some people still floatin' 
And they wonder why black people still voting. 
'Cause your president still choking. 
Take away the football team, the basketball team, 
And all we got is me to represent New Orleans, shit."

Shit, indeed Lil Wayne.  Because this song is awesome, but you are crazy as a mofo.  


Monday, February 9, 2009

Three, three, three books in one!

So, in the last week I read three book-like things, and I'm too proud of myself not to include all three of them here, even though one is technically a magazine and another one is a collection of articles from that same magazine.  You may have heard of McSweeneys from my sidebar or from a reference in the popular teenage pregnancy movie that is not Unwed Father.  Anyway, the same people who put out the Internet Tendency and the print journal also have a lit mag called The Believer, which is good to read on the bus if you want to talk to the eager Christian types.  I read it with my headphones on so that I just get lots of weird looks.  The issue I just finished is the January 2009 issue, in which I learned about bomb shelters (which came in handy for a later book), a 1961 children's novel, Gordon Lish and a novel/memoir made up of suicide notes.  It made me smarter and it will make you smarter too.

From that I moved on to Shakespeare Wrote for Money, a collection of essays that Nick Hornby wrote for the Believer back in 2007.  His column was called "Stuff I've Been Reading," and in it he cataloged all the books he bought and all the books he read in a month.  It both highlights the cavern between those lists and creates a new list for me, called "Stuff I want to buy/read."  There's a post-it on my cubicle wall right now that says "Clay, Skellig, Sharp Teeth, Don't Sleep There are Snakes."  This makes me seem interesting and intelligent to coworkers who are not at all weirded out by it.

Anyway, I had read all these essays before, being a regular subscriber to the Believer, but it was good to read them again in quick succession.  And especially portentious since he wrote about "The Road," by Cormac McCarthy, which is the third book I read this month.  That, combined with the piece in January's Believer about bomb shelters made it so I couldn't just skip over the M's in my bookshelf, no matter how much I wanted to.

And I really, really wanted to.  Hornby doesn't exactly give it a bad review, but he points out that the adjective "unflinching" is always applied to extremely dark and disturbing books, as though writing about happy things is really just shying away from the truth.  And this book is most definitely dark.  And pretty disturbing, even if you know what you're getting into.  It's very well-written, and it flows more quickly than you'd expect (though I wouldn't recommend reading it on a plane as I did, since it gives you the impression that when you land there might be nothing left of the planet).  But for about the first 150 pages of this 200 page book, the most you can say about the "plot" is this: a father and son wander the nuked landscape, encounter marauders who eat people and people struck by lightning who do not eat people.  They almost die a lot.  

Now I'm going to tell you the ending.  You can read the book even knowing the ending, but I hear that it's bad form to not warn people.  So consider this your warning.  In the end, the father dies of what is probably radiation sickness.  Literally moments later the son is lucky enough to meet some "good guys," including a woman, a man and two other children, who take him in and most likely save him from starvation or being eaten.  Throughout the book, the man (the characters don't have names) spins tales of where they are going and how they will find the "good guys" and tells the boy that he is "carrying the fire."  But, as the boy points out, the two of them don't act like the good guys; they don't share their food or help others.  They don't act like the bad guys either (no marauding or eating people), but until the very last moment I was sure that there were no "good guys," and that that was the point.  As long as everyone considering him/herself "good" does nothing to help others, then there will be no society or grouping of The Good.  They will wander alone, fend for themselves, and die.  If they encounter one another, they will hide or scare each other off, because they're more afraid of getting killed than hopeful about rebuilding.   So the sudden introduction of this small clan of The Good was confusing to me.  I'm not sure whether it's meant to be a ray of hope that some people really were "being the change they wanted to see", or if McCarthy suddenly "flinched" and just didn't know how to end his book without some happy ending.  You read it and let me know.

So, that ought to give you good choices and also shame you into reading.  You should also know they're coming out with a movie version of The Road, so if you want to just lie to me and say you read it, but watch the movie instead.... well, I'll be able to tell the difference and I'll make fun of you.  Plus, you don't want to see half of what they talk about in the book on a big screen.  You'll never sleep again.  


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

From the ridiculous to the sublime

So, I almost burned this mutha down a couple minutes ago, because I accidentally deleted a file from my flash drive and it was just gone baby gone and I was going to have to sleep on the streets tonight because it included the key to my very livelihood.

All hyperbole and clich├ęs aside, this is the best thing ever invented by anyone anywhere ever:


If you don't believe me, you either have never deleted something you didn't mean to (e.g., you're a space robot from outer space), or you're an idiot. Thank me later.


What in the eggspot, Google?

So, I recently downloaded this Google ChromeTM browser because I am on the GoogleTM teat as much as you possibly can be without actually getting paid or even seeing any nipple. Anyway, all in all I like it all right... it's got that "sleek" thing going that I like so well, plus when you open a new tab it's like "We know you only go to like 9 websites: here they all are, just click on one," which is cool in that "Everything I do is being watched" kind of way. Which, p.s., is the best kind of way.

But I found out after trying a bunch of times that it will literally NOT OPEN Hotmail. Do they have a feud? Is Google too good for my junk mail and internet shopping receipts? Possible. Fine, I'll just open that using Mozilla, which is annoying, but whatever.

Then, after about a million bazillion tries today, I discovered that the same damn thing has happened to BloggerTM! Is not BloggerTM owned by GoogleTM? Do they not want me to blog? That's it, isn't it? Google is sick of my blathering nonsense and they want me gone, so they blocked my access to BloggerTM via Google ChromeTM, and they think that is done with that.

Boy are they wrong. Just to show them, I wrote this long and rambling nonsense using MOZILLA. Um. Go me.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Healthy Eating Through Ice Cream

It's been a little while since I've remembered to get good pictures of our meals, but I can assure you that I have not been abandoned by my Houseboy.  We recently collaborated on this meal:

This was inspired by Daisy Martinez's new show, "Viva Daisy!" which we tivo now, because I will watch any show with an exclamation point in the title, and Houseboy has her cookbook, and plus she loves chorizo and frying things, and so does he.  So he's got chorizo and eggs and I have eggs and cheddar.  We both have half an avocado and homemade hashbrowns which we discovered we can shred using the cheese slicer attachment on our mixer, and so we will soon be having hashbrowns at every meal.  

Then, last night, Houseboy made this pasta dish he calls "penne and spinach and pine nuts and tomatoes" and we ate the ice cream we made from our new ice cream maker with homemade marshmallows on top:

The ice cream flavor is vanilla with Nutella and marshmallow fluff.  

I think we're headed for a life of delicious obesity.


Monday, February 2, 2009

Freaks, Frauds and Fine Fellows

So, this weekend, despite having a whole entire Super Bowl to watch as well as many showings of the Puppy Bowl and also tackling the sudden need to rearrange the books in our house to accomodate another "Books I'm in the middle of, leave me alone woman!" shelf for Houseboy, I still managed to breeze through this little number:

Which is just exactly why the McSweeney's Book Release Club was the very best Christmas present last year, and I should renew it for myself this year.  The Book Club sends you a new McSweeney's release just when you were about to have to read "The Road," by Cormac McCarthy and were really depressed about it.  It also sends you a nonfiction work by a guy who "collected" stories about the weirdness of humanity in the late 19th century, when humanity was at its weirdest*.  And then you HAVE to read it, because otherwise it goes on your shelf back in the B's, which you already finished reading a long time ago, and someone will inevitably visit your house and peruse your books and go "What is this?  This looks interesting!  Please report all you know about it" and you'll have to sheepishly explain that you never read it because, even though it's only 116 pages including the introduction, your life is just TOO BUSY and you had IMPORTANT THINGS to do, like fall asleep in front of "Just Friends" for the third time this weekend.

Anyway, even after all that, it also turns out to be a great and fantastic and entertaining read about "Freaks, Frauds and Fine Fellows," which happen to be my three most favorite things, and if you doubt it you should know that my fifth-ish date with Houseboy involved inviting him to see the movie Freaks with me when my Horror, Lit and Film professor was showing it in the science building.  We're so romantic.  

* By this, of course, I refer to unselfconscious and non-dangerous weirdness.  The Holocaust does not count, for example, and neither do any of the videos on YouTube.