Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Send A Message ...

No, literally: Send a message.

At AlGore.com, you can create a postcard that he will deliver to your representative in Washington in March.

Go here to create your card.

Stumped for what to say? Just speak from your heart. Or, hell, cut and paste what I wrote: "I know that in Washington, change is typically made slowly. On this issue, we do not have the luxury of time. No one is asking that we shun electricity and cars and return to candles and horse-drawn carriages. There are many small things each of us can do that will have an enormous, positive impact. The United States is the biggest producer of CO2 on the planet. Therefore, it is, very simply, our responsibility to lead the charge for change. Mr. Gore has shown us the way. It's time to act."

But lend your voice. Please. There is no bigger issue facing mankind.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Lip Balm Junkie ...

This stuff is like crack. (I tried linking to the Mode de Vie web site, but none of the links would work, so fine, buy it from Amazon! It's cheaper anyway!)

I'm actually not a compulsive lip-balmer, but I do put it on every night before bed and in the winter, it's quite the necessity.

Yes, it's crazy expensive compared to cherry Chapstick, though I'm sure it was cheaper when I bought it at Whole Foods - and how often do you get to say *that*?

Words To Live By ...

Oprah is always good for a message. Not a light-tap-on-the-shoulder message, but a core-shaking-stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks-make-you-see-your-life-in-a-new-way message.

Last night, curled up on the couch, unsure if I was truly getting sick or if I was just feeling slightly blah, I watched "Building a Dream," Oprah's special about the creation of her Academy in South Africa.

Her producers are the best in the business, so it's no surprise that it's insanely well put together. And Oprah (I just typed "Orpah" by mistake, which isn't really a mistake, as that's her actual name) simply emanates greatness and goodness. But the girls are the real story, of course.

All of their stories tugged - hard - at my heartstrings. I've lived a very middle-class life. I never wanted for anything. Which isn't to say that my parents spoiled me outrageously, though looking back, I did get pretty much everything I ever wanted. I just didn't want extravagant things.

But the basics were always there: Not only did I have enough to eat, I ate well. When mom was stumped for what to make for dinner, we had steak. Not only did I have a place to sleep, I had my own room. In sixth grade, my birthday gift was a new bedroom set. And I still use most of the pieces today.

These girls, though. These gorgeous, sweet, smart, funny girls, walking home from school, hoping they don't become the next rape victim in their crime-ridden neighborhoods, carrying on after witnessing the murder-suicide of their father and mother, studying by candlelight in a tin shack and cherishing a sparkly pink pen.

All of their stories are inspiring. But one girl in particular said something that I heard deep inside of me. Lesego, whose mother left her when she was four to be raised by her father, who does the best he can, said to her classmates, "You are an individual. Act like an individual. Don't try to blend in. Blend out."

Blend out.

Blend. Out.

I was flattened by that.

I've printed them out, Lesego's wise words, and put them on my wall of quotes. The quotes go on my wall as they come to me, so the order is random, but today Lesego, who can be no more than 11 years old, joined the ranks of Einstein, Sophocles, Dostoevesky, Dickens, Goethe, Tolstoy, and Twain.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Moody Movies That Start With 'The' ...

You can order your Netflix queue however you want, but it's really up to the Netflix gods what movies you get when. Last week, "The Illusionist" arrived followed by "The Prestige."

I watched "The Illusionist" first. I totally dig Edward Norton. Whether by choice or by circumstance, he doesn't make enough movies for my taste. And Paul Giamatti should be in more movies, too.

Being a heterosexual female, I don't quite get all the fawning over Jessica Biel. Men drool over her because she's got a hot body, right?, not because she's a great actress? OK, I guess I get that. There are women I find attractive, but she's not one of them. Then again, I wasn't watching the movie to see her.

It's a beautiful film. If I wore a hat, it'd be off to great cinematographers and set designers.

But it doesn't matter how pretty a film is if the story doesn't hold up, and the story of "The Illusionist" holds up well.

Ditto "The Prestige." In fact, I think the story is even better than its eerie cousin. Or maybe I dozed off during a crucial moment, but I found it necesssary to watch the last part of the movie again to figure out the story.

And "The Prestige" boats a bevy of star power: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, everyone's favorite Gollum, Andy Serkis, and David Bowie as Nikola Tesla, to whom, I've mentioned before, I'm related.

The cool thing about the Tesla role in this movie is that his electrical creations aren't fictions for the film. The work he was doing in Colorado Springs is documented, and it was woven into the movie. You gotta love a guy who could create lightning in a lab, bolts up to 135 feet in length, though one wonders how you measure the length of a bolt of lightning. They're not straight lines. Do you measure from Point A to Point B, or do you try to factor in the jagged aspects of the bolts and determine the length as if the bolt was stretched taut? Then again, what's the relevance of the lengths? Or do men just feel the need to measure everything?

I don't know much about electricity, but I'd figure it's not the size of the lightning bolt, it's what you do with it.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

'Man of the Year' ...

Holy mismarketed movie, Batman!

Robin Williams could truly just read the phone book and I'd pay money to see it, but this was a terrific movie, quite the social commentary on the election process in this country.

What's that? You say you had no idea? Neither did I.

Whomever was in charge of marketing this movie totally missed the boat. From trailers, you thought this was just a goofy political send-up, didn't you? Yup, me too. But there's much more to this film than Williams in a powdered wig, cracking wise about making Bruce Springsteen his secretary of State.

Do yourself a favor and add it to your Netflix queue. Not a Netflix user? Go here. You can try it for free. (Psst! This has worked for friends in the past: When your free trial ends, tell Netflix you don't want to become a member. They'll give you a deal, either an extension to your free trial or a break on the subscription price.)

My Favorite Chef ...

Kristen writes gezellig-girl.com, one of my daily must-read blogs. (She writes regularly, as - ahem! - all good bloggers should.) Today's post, "5 facts about me," ended with a reference to Jacques Pepin. Ah, Kristen and I are Jacques Pepin soulmates. (I headed over to his site to grab a picture and am charmed by the selection of press photos. His site also features video demonstrations for lots of kitchen basics. Learn from a master.)

I've always had a thing for Jacques: maybe it's his accent or the way he finishes most of his sentences with "you know" or his insane level of skill in the kitchen. Women, after all, really dig men who cook. For that matter, women really dig men who try to cook. You don't have to be a professional chef, you just have to try. It's endearing. But I digress.

He can be a perfectionist in the kitchen, but that's one of the things I like about him. Sometimes, "good enough" just isn't good enough, and when it comes to preparing food for people I love, they deserve my best effort.

Poking around the cookbook section of Borders one day, I ran across Jacques' memoir. I usually read the first page of a book to decide whether I'd like to read it. Standing there in the store, I must have read 10 pages. It's captivating. He's a terrific writer. I didn't buy the book then, but it's on my list for "someday." Why is it that someone who can do one thing really well can usually do a lot of things really well?

Friday, February 23, 2007

McDonald's Latest ...

I was hungry.

But I'm trying to eat better, which pretty much rules out many of the offerings at fast-food joints. And I don't cotton to paying upwards of $6 for a grilled chicken sandwich, a side salad, and a drink at Wendy's, especially since its swapped out the slightly spicy sauce it was using for something that tastes like watered-down honey mustard.

So as I was tooling along in my car, steering in the direction of food options, I remembered the new McDonald's Grilled Honey Mustard Snack Wrap. Yeah, that's it, I thought. That and a side salad. Fast food but not.

I ordered, I payed, I received, I drove home. I took my Snack Wrap out of the bag. It felt pretty light. Not that it was supposed to feel like a shotput, but shouldn't it, oh, feel like there was something in it? I unwrapped my Snack Wrap and then unfolded it to inspect the contents. And gee, there was a piece of chicken in it, I kid you not, about the size of my index finger. A few shreds of lettuce. A few shreds of cheese. Seriously? This cost $1.29. A McChicken sandwich is $1. A less-healthy option, yet it has something resembling a very small chicken breast on its bun.

And so, I've dubbed the McDonald's Snack Wrap the Snack Crap and cut out yet another fast-food option for myself. Which, really, is a good thing, as I shouldn't be eating that stuff anyway.

L.A. Dave suggested the TenderRoast sandwich at KFC. Ooh, yeah, that sounded like a good idea. Until I checked the nutrition information online.

McDonald's McChicken: 360 calories
KFC TenderRoast: 430 calories
McDonald's Double Cheeseburger: 440 calories

As Jack Bauer would say, "Dammit!"

On a somewhat-related topic, Ethan and I have become treadmill buddies. We report on our progress (speed, duration, etc.) on a semi-regular basis, if by semi-regular you mean "whenever we think to ask each other." During an IM convo the other day, he mentioned that he found an online calculator to figure out his daily caloric intake, figuring he should be eating the body he wants, not the body he has. Smart guy, that Ethan.

So I found this tool and plugged in my stats, both what I think might be my current weight (I don't own a scale) and what I think I might like to weigh, and was really startled by the numbers. Even to maintain my goal weight, I'd need to consume nearly 2,700 calories a day? That's madness. Isn't it?

That's 10.4 Snack Craps.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Price Of Fame ...

All this Britney tabloid-and-beyond feeding frenzy has set me to thinking about the nature of fame.

Ten years ago, give or take, when Brit donned her sweetly sexy schoolgirl get-up and pranced through her first video, the world was a different place.

Sure, there were the weekly gossip rags, but you could count them on one hand. And Entertainment Tonight was the only nightly entertainment "news" show. There weren't a hundred cable outlets. And the "Internets" were still, technologically speaking, toddlers.

Today, the paparazzi are out of control. With a bazillion outlets for their photos, they'll shoot anything. I saw a picture today of Kirsten Dunst in her car trying to shield herself from photographers by holding a hat in front of her face. Turns out, she ran her car into a curb, you know, because she couldn't see where the hell she was going. But the bigger question is, why is Kirsten Dunst driving her car a photo anyone should care about seeing? Kirsten Dunst DRIVES?! What's the world coming to?

So I feel for Britney. It's insane that celebrities shouldn't be able to walk down the street without a throng of photograhers blocking their every move. Or walk out of their house, for that matter. Or drive down the street.

That said, in Britney's case, my sympathy for her is tempered by the fact that she's actively courted the media attention throughout her career. Anyone who produces her own reality show about life with her new husband, splashing her newlywedness all over television week after week, can't really bitch when people demand more and more minutiae about her life.

The pursuit of fame comes at a price these days, and those who chase the dream know what they're in for if they manage to grab the brass ring.

But I don't see an end to the madness. Every print and video outlet feels the need to glom onto all of these stories because we - sadly - have an insatiable appetite for this voyuerism and we'll find it wherever it airs. At the risk of losing viewership or market share, everyone carries everything and the circus never ends.

I hope Britney slays her demons. For the sake of her children. She has a responsibility to those two lil' guys.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Whither Stars? ...

So the new crop of "Dancing with the Stars" contestants have been announced, but the announcement begs the question: Do these people count as "stars"?

Shouldn't it be titled "Dancing with People You've Heard Of"?

What defines a "star"?

If this show featured George Clooney and Justin Timberlake, hell, even Britney if she had her act together, I'd call them stars, but some of these people? If the news reports didn't tell me who they were, I wouldn't have known, which seems like a pretty good litmus test for stardom: If you're not a household name, you're not a star.

The list:

Heather Mills: She's famous for being married to Sir Paul. Sure, she's done good charity work, but if she hadn't married Paul, you wouldn't know about her.

Laila Ali: She kicks ass in the boxing ring, but her name recognition comes from her dad.

Billy Ray Cyrus: He had a big country hit and a stint as a TV doctor and his daughter is on the Disney Channel.

Clyde Drexler: Great basketball player, but he's not Michael Jordan. MJ counts as a star.

Joey Fatone: 'NSync is 'nover.

Shandi Finnessey: Former beauty queen. I'd never heard of her until today, but then, I don't follow the beauty queen circuit much.

Leeza Gibbons: Talk-show and infomercial host.

Apolo Ono: Olympian.

Vincent Pastore: Actor on The Sopranos.

Paulina Porizkova: '80s supermodel and, so L.A. Dave tells me, actress in idependent films.

Ian Ziering: Beverly Hills 90210 dude.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Vice ...

I don't smoke. I tried smoking when I was younger, but - at the risk of sounding like Bill Clinton - I didn't inhale. I tried to, but I could never fill my lungs without smoke without hacking up said lungs.

I drink, but not often. When I worked at the Tribune, I was much more impressive in a bar. These days, a couple of drinks has me teetering on the brink of tipsy.

I've never done a drug. Nothing. Never. Not a hit of pot, not a line of coke, no mushrooms, no Ecstasy, nothing.

But I have a vice, a vice I very rarely indulge, but a vice just the same.

I love cheap disgusting cookies.

You know the kind, the kind you buy for next to nothing. I call them cheap disgusting cookies as an inside joke between me and my mom. They're cheap, to be sure, but they're not disgusting. If they were disgusting, I wouldn't eat them. And I don't eat them often. I picked up a package tonight and it was the first time in I don't even know how many years. And I came home, and I ate 9 of them (they're smaller than Oreos) with a glass of milk, and then I took the rest of them outside and threw them in the snow. For squirrels. For dogs. For passersby. They're there for the snacking, sprinkled on the snow.

I've had my fill. I won't want them again for a long, long time. But damn, they were good.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Seriously. I Mean, It's Toilet Paper ...

Yesterday, I went to Target. I am firmly a Target girl. I won't set foot in a Wal-Mart. KMart just feels sad, like a slightly older uncle trying hard to be hip. Meijer is just too flippin' big. Does anybody really need one store at which to buy propane grills and picture frames and windshield washer solvent and plants and yarn and boots and jeans and shampoo and potholders and greeting cards and soup, and get shoes repaired and do banking? Maybe if I was a working mom, I'd appreciate the one-stop-shoppedness of it all, but the mere thought of walking into Meijer exhausts me because God help me if I go in on the "wrong side." If I go in the non-food side and then think, "Well, as long as I'm here, I might as well pick up some Triscuits," I have a quarter-mile trek in front of me. Screw the Triscuits. (That is the first time I've ever had occasion to write that sentence. And I suspect it will be the last. But it was fun while I wrote it.)

So I went to Target. Ah, Target. Home of affordability and good design. Even the television commercials are cool. The parking lot was crowded, being a Saturday afternoon, but I was unprepared for what awaited me - or didn't await me - on the shelves. Everywhere I looked, gaps. A lone item here, a couple of items there. Had I, somewhere between the two automatic doors, entered a wormhole that spat me out in Soviet-era Russia? There was no line outside the store. No babushka-d women hunkering down against the cold waiting for their turn at ill-sized men's shoes. No suspiciously parked black Mercedes sedans. What the hell?

I wheeled my cart to the paper-products aisle. When did Puffs decide that all tissue boxes should be designed to coordinate with prison cells? Dear God, they're depressing. Not that it matters much to me. I have a tissue cozy (as cozy as stainless steel can be), but I carry the tissue torch for my non-cozy brothers and sisters of the world. What are they supposed to do? Endure the hideousness? Isn't there enough strife in the world? Must we gaze upon an ugly tissue box as we evacuate our sinuses?

I needed toilet paper. I'm a Charmin girl. The six-pack bundle of four-roll packs. Or so I thought. I stood before the Charmin like a tourist trying to decipher a map in a foreign subway. When did it become this difficult to buy toilet paper? Why are there so many classifications? In other parts of the world, toilet paper is a luxury. Here, we have an embarrassment of choices, but why? I'm not talking about one-ply versus two-ply. Everyone knows one-ply is for suckers. I'm not talking about quilting. If your ass is that chafed, you might wanna have that looked at.

No, I'm just talking about how many sheets can be crammed onto a roll before said roll no longer fits in your bathroom. I stood before the Charmin, searching in vain for my usual pack o' 24 rolls, and tried to crack the code. Big, Giant, or Mega. Regular was out of the question. There were no Regular rolls to be had. No, I had to choose between Big, Giant, and Mega, all in various roll combinations, all designed to last longer so I needn't spend precious milliseconds of my life changing rolls.

OK. Raise your hands if you've ever found yourself cursing at your toilet paper for eating up too much of your life. Do you keep your toilet paper in a safety-deposit box? Do you have to drive to the bank and find an officer with a matching key to help you access your stash?

Thankfully, Charmin supplies a chart on its web site to take the guesswork out of it all. You might want to print it out and tuck it into your wallet for the next time you're faced with this newly monumental decision.

I ended up buying the 12-pack of Big rolls, which, as the chart below demonstrates, does in fact equal the 24 Regular rolls I'd been buying in the past.

But the package doesn't fit neatly on my closet shelf.

Where's an old Sears Roebuck catalog when you need it?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

'How Not To Talk To Your Kids' ...

Po Bronson has a fascinating article in New York magazine.

I Know Why I'm Here ...

The question is, why are you?

I blog because it forces me to write every day, more or less.

I marvel that people stop by to read what I have to say, but it's nice that they do. I don't write for an audience. I write for myself. Thinking on paper, so to speak, virtual paper. And a daily writing exercise.

Would I still write if my site counter never moved? Sure. This is kind of like my online journal. Of course, in a real journal, I'd write more-private things. But then, if I was only journaling, you'd have to wait until I died to read anything. Blog posts may be less juicy, but you get them every day.

So today, I received a comment to my Snowy post that read (let's give this self-proclaimed new Anon his 15 minutes, shall we?):

Begin quote:

Sorry but "clever" is not the word that comes to mind.

Try "woefully self-absorbed" or "trying a little too hard for some external validation."

I just landed on this blog by mistake,read a few entries and i have to say there's a lot of blogs that are boondoggles but this one is the mother of all boondoggles.

Too much time on your hands??

End quote.

I suspect that because Anon "landed on this blog by mistake" and was so displeased with what he found that he won't be back.

But as I replied to him in the comments, "Uh, it's my blog. Who should it be about?"

And then Ethan fed me this line from Mark Pilgrim: "I must have missed the part where I was put under any sort of obligation towards you whatsoever."

The funny thing is, today's earlier blog entry mused about the fact that I don't write about my own experiences so much as I comment on things: politics, movies, music, events of the day. People seem to respond the most (favorably) when I write personal stories, like my reminiscences of Charles.

Anon would find those "woefully self-absorbed," I suppose.

So why do you read this blog?

Why do I read the blogs I do? Some of the blogs are written by people I know and blogs are our way of keeping current on each other's lives. Other blogs are written by people I don't know and may never meet, but I've gotten to know them through their sites. Some of the stories are happy. Others are sad. My comments cheer the writers in their happy moments and commiserate with them when times are tough. It's a connection to other people. In "Shadowlands," C.S. Lewis says, "We read to know we are not alone." I've referenced that quote before.

The same goes for blogs. Writers allow a window into their lives, a door, even, and invite others inside. But we're not standing on the sidewalk, pulling passersby into our kitchens and forcing them to sit at the table and listen to our tales.

If you don't like what you read at one blog, you can walk on by to the next. Maybe there, you'll find someone you can relate to.

I'm pleased for all of my regular readers. I presume you return on a regular basis because what I write or the way I write it seems worthwhile to you.

As for the Anons of the world, there are millions of blogs out there. I'm sure you'll find something else to read.

Boring. Boring Like '60 Minutes' To A 7-Year-Old ...

College Boyfriend David called last week to check in. Phone calls from David are more shocking than good behavior in Washington. But he truly has the craziest schedule of any of my friends. So he was calling from his car. What was new in my life, he wanted to know.

I thought for a moment, cradling the phone in my shoulder, washing dishes. “Nothing, really,” I said. “I'm boring. Oh, I’m going to New York in April!”

“Well, I guess I’ll call back in April,” he said, with a smile in his voice that I could see. David has the best smile ever.

Lately I've been reading my Bloglines blogs and thinking to myself, "Huh. I don't write much about stuff that happens to me. Maybe nothing happens to me. Maybe I don't do anything."

It's my blog, sure. But I tend to comment on things rather than write about personal experiences. So when I find myself without anything to write about, maybe that means that I'm not living enough.

Maybe it's seasonal-affective disorder. Or maybe it's the cold weather. Or maybe it's me being lazy. Or maybe it's the dearth of cash in my wallet.

Maybe it's all of the above. I'm pretty sure I'd be doing more stuff if I was a millionaire living in California.

I can't remember the last time I've been to a movie in a theater. Granted, the theatrical-to-DVD cycle has been shortened to about 30 minutes, but I like movies on the big screen, especially in them there new-fangled stadium theaters. And there's been plenty out that I've been meaning to see, so what's my damage?

There's a lot of decent TV on these days. That might have something to do with it. But Friday and Saturdays still kinda suck when it comes to TV, which is intentional because the networks know that most people are at the movies on those nights. The movies. Where I should be.

Maybe I don't like crowds. Yes, that might be part of it. I'm too passive-aggressive. If people behind me in a theater make noise, I don't turn around and ask them to be quiet. I turn my head as if to acknowledge their noise and expect them to shut up. As if they're noticing my subtlety. Of course they're not. They're too busy yammering.

But when I do go out, I like it. It's not as though I'm itching to flee to my home and pull the curtains.

Clearly, I need to make my own fun. Not that I've been expecting others to do all the planning. I'm very much a plannner. Maybe I plan too much. But I've gotta come up with different things to do, new experiences, new perspectives. I'm going to more theater. That's good. And concerts. But that can get pricey. Tickets, parking, dinner before. Suddenly I've dropped a couple hundred bucks.

Yes, I need free fun. Or nearly free fun. Fun on a budget. Ooh, I need to go to the ATM and extract a single $20 (Yuppie Food Coupon, as my friend Drew calls 'em) and see what I can do with it. It'll be like Rachel Ray's $40 a Day, except less annoying. And it won't be all about food. And I won't have to pretend that everything I put in my mouth is bringing me to the brink of orgasm.

But first, I will take a nap. Or lie on the couch and watch "Network."

I'm bored as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!

: o )

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

'Beauty and the Geek' ...

I don't watch reality television. I've never seen an entire episode of Survivor. I've seen one episode of American Idol, and that's because I was with friends who watch the show. The Bachelor? The Bachelorette? Fear Factor? The Amazing Race? No, no, no, no.

Oh, wait, I did get kind of sucked into America's Next Top Model this fall. And right now, on the telly, is the season finale of "Beauty and the Geek." So let me amend my first sentence to "I don't watch much reality television." As reality shows go, I think the premise of this is brilliant. I wonder if Ashton Kutcher was a bit of a geek in high school and one day he thought, "Damn, who ever thought a geek like me would be married to Demi Moore?" and the idea of the show was born.

SPOILER ALERT (for all my readers who TiVoed the show - I have no idea if that applies to any of you):

I happened to see an early episode of the show, so I'm familiar with the contestants. Megan (Playboy model) and Scooter (graduate of Harvard in social anthropology) and Cecille (bikini model) and Nate (studying anthropology at Harvard) were the final couples. And all the eliminated couples decided the winning team based on who had made the biggest transformation during the course of the show.

Reality shows are popularity contests to a large degree, but there's strategy involved, too. Pitting members against each other, forming alliances, may seem sound at the time, but oooh, when those you plotted against return to decide your fate, suddenly your scheming returns to bite you in the ass.

Such was the case tonight. (The show is over now; I've moved on to a repeat of last week's "Lost.")

Cece (or is it Ceci?), her head as full of herself as her bikini was full of her breasts, made a lot of enemies over the course of the show. In the last 24 hours, she had the opportunity to make nice with her former competitors to try and salvage the competition for herself and Nate.

But Cece wasn't about to start kissing ass. She remained as self-centered and defiant as she'd been throughout the course of the show. Contestants who didn't like her then didn't like her in the end.

Which just goes to show you that it pays to always treat people with respect, because you never know when those people will re-enter your life in impactful ways.

One of the geek contestants asked the well-liked Nate why he should vote for Nate's team. And Nate, displaying a staggering amount of maturity, replied, "I'm not so sure you should." And then proceeded to campaign against his own win.

In the end, he decided it was more important for Cece to learn a lesson - that it's not OK to treat people the way she does, that such behavior does indeed have consequences - than for him to walk away with half of the $250,000 prize.

And contestant after contestant lined up behind Megan and Scooter, but not before telling Nate that he's a great guy but that Cece didn't deserve their vote. And Cece pursed her lips and copped yet another attitude and was ungracious to the, literally, bitter end.

Next week is the "reunion" show. It was Nate's hope that Cece would someday realize the reason why she didn't win. It'll be interesting to see if it's sunk in or whether she's the kind of person who never learns.

Snowy ...

And this, kids, is a picture of a snowdrift on my deck, taken through my French doors.



(The bars you see are the result of taping out a design and spraying a frosted medium onto the glass. Not that you can tell, but the pattern is the reverse of the design of my deck railings. Damn, I'm clever.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

'The Last Kiss' ...

On a snowy, blowy day, I curled up on the couch and watched "The Last Kiss," a remake of an Italian film.

The well of ideas in Hollywood may be running dry, but remaking films from other countries seems to me a much better solution than a sequel to "The Dukes of Hazzard." Honestly, if the first television show-cum-movie sucks, do we really need a sequel? Or a prequel?

I saw a trailer for "The Last Kiss" on another recent rental and added it to my queue.

Have you heard of it? I hadn't until a month ago. Kelley mentioned that she rented it, and then I saw the trailer, and decided to give it a whirl.

Two words: Uh oh.

It's a good movie.

It's well cast.

It's well written.

It's well acted.

It is, in many ways, very much like the movie I'm writing.

That's not the reason for the "uh oh." They're not exactly the same movie, no one beat me to the punch.

I'm not writing my film with the sole goal of making my life's fortune, but it gives me pause that a smart, character-driven movie flew under the radar while the world focused on "Employee of the Month" or, God help us, "Jackass: Number Two." Heh, heh, look, Beavis, the title is like an inside joke about poo.

Wait. What's that I hear? Why it's the collective lowering of the country's IQ.

Roger Ebert gave the Italian version of the film two stars.

Rottentomatoes.com gave the Italian version a 73 percent rating, while the American remake only garnered a 46 percent. Ooh, Ty Burr from the Boston Globe called it "... an iPod playlist in search of a movie."

Ouch. Though, the soundtrack is pretty great.

It's a plateful of food for thought. Is any relationship really secure? Are we humans simply too flawed? Can we count on others not to stray, or is straying the only thing we can count on?

College Boyfriend David once said, "Why can't we just accept that we're not meant to be with one person forever?"

He said that, incidentally, long after we'd broken up. It wasn't a justification.

I was much younger at the time and I balked at the sentiment. I still clung to the notion that there's one perfect person out there for me and that it was my job to find him and his to find me.

I've grown up. I no longer think there's one perfect person. I'd like to share my life with someone, but I don't believe marriage has to be part of the arrangement. Marriage isn't any kind of guarantee. And a divorce is just a protracted, expensive break-up.

Of course, marriage is what you make it, but the only person you can control is yourself. No matter how much you love the other person, it's up to them to love you back.

Some relationships last forever. Some don't.

You might have a last kiss, but that doesn't mean you'll never have another first.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Dissonant Notes II ...

♪ A couple weeks ago, I read "Running with Scissors," Augusten Burrough's memoir of his dysfunctional childhood, and I was happy that the DVD of the movie adaptation was due out February 6. In a rare moment of Netflix benevolence, I received the movie right away. My cousin Patty stayed with me for the weekend and we popped it in. The movie is not like the book, but then, it turns out that the book is not like Augusten's life. Not entirely. It's greatly embellished, exaggerated, erroneous. Pick a word that starts with "e." Patty is the one who informed me that the family portrayed in the book filed a lawsuit against Burroughs. Turns out, it's not enough to simply change someone's name. It's a good thing Oprah didn't select this book for her Club. Then again, James Frey would probably have appreciated some company in his exclusive club. I was irked by the dramatic license. The parts of the book that were changed for the screen weren't necessary tweaks. I love forming pictures in my head, but film adaptations rarely match the movie I see when I read.

Ethan, pal that he is, was nice enough to burn a DVD of a special he watched about "The Electric Company," one of the shows of my youth. It was a total trip to see Morgan Freeman so early in his career. And it was another total trip to realize the star power behind some of the skits. One fond memory was "The Adventures of Letterman." I totally remembered it, but didn't realize when I was a kid that the characters were voiced by Gene Wilder, Zero Mostel, and Joan Rivers. Check it out! (I tried embedding the YouTube clip here, but YouTube isn't cooperating with me tonight.)

♪ The Police have pulled the trigger on a 2007 World Tour! (Yeah, I know, I'll stop with the police puns.) Chicago dates will be announced in the coming weeks, but there's a rumor swirling that the dates will be at Wrigley Field. And according to stories I've read today, the top ticket will only be $225. I expected top tix to go for more. But $225 to see The Police is a steal. (Ooh, there I go again.)

♪ I was telling Patty about buying seasons 4 and 5 score for "24" for Dave for his birthday. Patty's reply: "There's music on '24'?" And I realized that composers and editors have a lot in common: if we do our jobs well, people don't really notice our work. Of course, composing is way cooler and gets you listed in IMDb.

♪ Out shopping yesterday, Patty spied a restaurant in a strip mall and asked, "What's Old Country Buffet?" We nearly wet ourselves considering the duplicity, if "Old" modified "Country Buffet" or if "Old Country" modified "Buffet." One way, you get homey, feel-good fried chicken and biscuits. The other way, you get sturdy women with chin hair in knee-high stockings and babushkas serving borscht.

♪ Watching the terrorist dudes on "24," both the bad guy and the bad-guy-who's-trying-to-reach-a-compromise guy, I realize all over again how much of a thing I have for swarthy men. Come to think of it, Hamri Al-Assad is like the Middle Eastern version of House. And we all know how much I dig Dr. Gregory House.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Vapors ...


First of all: THE POLICE ARE BACK!

Second of all: STING'S ARMS.

Holy mother of God, that man. He's 55 years old and he looks better than ever.

David Bauder from the AP wrote, "Wearing a punk-short haircut and displaying biceps that most 55-year-olds would kill for, Sting sang the rock trio's first hit, 'Roxanne.' " I ain't the only one takin' note of those guns. Biceps and triceps and delts, oh my.

There's talk that The Police will hold two concerts at Wrigley Field this summer. I will pay any amount of money to see that show.

The funny thing about watching their performace tonight - and how the hell can "Roxanne" be 30 years old?! - is that the band is still all about Sting. The bass player is rarely the lead singer. Right this minute, I can't think of any other bands with a bass-playing frontman. And I'm sure Stewart and Andy are still well aware of the fact that it's still Sting's show. Sting has been playing Police tunes on tour all through is solo career, but hey, he wrote 'em.

Still, I'm elated that they're back together. I stood in my TV room screaming at the screen, like I was at a concert. I can hit a pretty high-pitched, loud "Wooooooooooo!"

The Police are back!

I'm a bit of a junkie. The Police are a vice. (Vice. Police. Clever, Beth.) I just did a quick count of my Sting and Police CDs: 38. If you include discs/soundtracks on which Sting appears with one song, I have more than 40. (I'm counting actual CDs, not albums, so for these purposes, Message in a Box counts as 4, Bring on the Night counts as 2, etc.)

My all-time favorite Police tune is "Don't Stand So Close to Me" with "Every Breath You Take" a very close second.

And yours?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Due Process ...

I'm pretty smart. My math skills aren't the greatest, but most of us don't need calculus in our daily lives. I can balance my checkbook and make change in my head. Not that I ever need to make change for anyone. I'm pretty good at presenting an argument and making people see my side of a story. My grades weren't always the greatest, but that's because I'm lazy. My friend Qusai used to harp on me in college (and I mean "harp" in a nice way), "Do you realize that if you just applied yourself a little, you'd be a straight-A student?"

"Yeah," I'd reply. "But I can not apply myself and be and A and B student." Who looks at college transcripts anyway?

And Mensa keeps bugging me to pay my dues and join in all its cerebral fun.

So this computer in my head is running on a pretty spiffy processor, though my RAM isn't what it used to be. Why can I remember the names of most of my kindergarten classmates, but I can't remember if I opened the garage door before I walk outside?

All that said, the one thing my brain really struggles with is death. And maybe that's true for everyone. It's not something you use to strike up a conversation: "So, do you have a hard time contemplating death? Not just your own, but everyone's?" Maybe it's the finality of it. But finality is an easy-enough concept to grasp. Things begin and end all the time. My brain really hurts if I try to contemplate infinity - What do you mean the universe has no end? - but death is well defined.

Or is there simply an assimiliation process that takes time? Or are there two layers of understanding? When the twin towers fell, part of me understood that the buildings were coming down, but part of me couldn't grasp that what I was seeing was real.

Mind you, I don't dwell on the idea of death. I'm not Harry Burns in "When Harry Met Sally ...": I don't read the last page of a book first so I'll know how it ends in case I die before I finish it. I don't spend hours, days contemplating death.

But when people pass away unexpectedly, it's jarring. And obituaries for younger people are always more surprising than obituaries for older people.

So while the coverage of Anna Nicole Smith's death seems excessive to some, I figure, she lived her life in the media, so it's only natural that her death would be of great interest to those same outlets. Couple that with the recent tragic death of her son, the pending paternity suit, the newly announed lawsuit, her general kooky persona, and top it all off with the comparisons between her and Marilyn Monroe, and you've got a towering story sundae.

But it's not Smith's death that startled me the most yesterday. The woman who does my taxes wrote to me about a number of things, including the fact that she lost her son in December. He was 44. And she saw him just hours before he died. She said he had a strange, serene smile on his face when he kissed her goodbye.

Did he know he was dying? Could he already see the light? Was he still fully here?

I suspect most people don't know on any given day that they're waking up to their last day on the planet. And yet, we might be. Odds teach us differently, I suppose. For every day that we wake up and go to bed, we have one more reason to think that the same will be true tomorrow. But eventually, we all wake up for the last time.

And so someone's death sets us to pondering about how we should live each day more fully, and maybe we do, for a time or two, but we lapse back into our complacency, confident in another day.

It seems morose to wake up every day and think about dying, but maybe that's a good way to inform our lives, a little daily reminder not to dawdle. But is it realistic to strive to make every day extraordinary? Or do we need to adjust our defintion of extraordinary? Maybe it's just enough to wake up and be grateful and kind and make the right choices.

Hmm. My processor's feeling a bit bogged down. Maybe I just need to play Tetris.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

'A Clockwork Orange' ...

(Before I talk about the movie, allow me to revel in the fact that the temperature in these parts is forecasted to climb into double digits today, though it is presently -4.)

OK, so I struggled to get through the rest of Stanley Kubrick's early-'70s psychotic episode last night. I've seen bits and pieces of "A Clockwork Orange" over the years, but I've never put them in order in my head.

Now I have.

And you know what I think? I think Kurbrick must have failed a philosophy class somewhere along the line.

When I was in college, I took an intro philosophy class. I remember syllogisms. That's about it.

But then there was Senior Honors, a year of study with three professors, a program for which you had to apply and be accepted. I applied for my junior year with what I thought was a very clever one-page essay. It did the trick.

And so I took a class with an English professor with roots in philosophy, a man who clearly was used to dealing with grad students. One day, as class took a break, I mentioned to him that I was going to get something to drink and asked if I could get him anything. He seemed somewhat stymied by the question. Perhaps he was unaccustomed to basic kindness. I seem to remember him agreeing to a Sprite. Maybe it was a Coke.

What I do remember, though, was when it came time to write that quarter's paper, I had no idea what I was talking about. But based on past philosophy experiences, my own and those of my friend Brian who was double-majoring in philosophy and architecture, I proceeded to write the most convoluted paper I could craft.

(I just flipped through my college-paper folder, the few that I culled from all the files from all the classes. Not surprisingly, I didn't save the paper I wrote for Ned. It was likely relegated to a landfill long ago. Too bad. It would be entertaining to read it today.)

Anyway, watching "A Clockwork Orange" felt like writing that paper. Many have raved about its social commentary. Roger Ebert wasn't buying it. His review begins, "Stanley Kubrick's 'A Clockwork Orange' is an ideological mess, a paranoid right-wing fantasy masquerading as an Orwellian warning. It pretends to oppose the police state and forced mind control, but all it really does is celebrate the nastiness of its hero, Alex." Ebert's entire review is here.

Yup. Alex, with his false eyelashes, phallic prosthetic nose, and exaggerated codpiece, is quite the son of a bitch. In Alex's world, beating up drunks and raping women are ways to pass time between visits to his gang's milk-bar hangout. Of course, it's not just regular milk. And it's not dispensed in a regular way.

Eventually, all his nasty behavior catches up with him, which brings on the second half of the movie, which I didn't like any more than the first.

It felt contrived and indulgent, a way for Kubrick to flail about a lot of penises and undress a lot of women. Maybe he was trying to make some kind of statement about man's basest motivations. I think he just figured that if he made it all really weird and slapped some Beethoven over the whole mess, people would think it was genius.

The same way I tried to write the most absurd paper I could for the Senior Honors class, figuring that if it didn't really make sense, it would probably pass for philosophy.

Many hailed Kubrick's film as a masterpiece.

My professor gave me a B.

Close enough.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Two-fer Tuesday ...

It is cold.

I know this because my Mac weather widget tells me that it's 9 outside.

I also know this because I just came in from shoveling show. Pushing, snow, really. It's the fluffy, Hollywood snow, but there's plenty of it, so the pushing took some time.

Planning for the cold, I put on two of everything: my stretchy leggings as well as my heavier-weight walking pants (a yoga pant/sweatpant hybrid: drawstring waist but straight, loose legs), a long-sleeve thermal T-shirt as well as a sweatshirt, my cashmere-lined leather gloves as well as my ridiculously floppy magenta fleece mittens, a scarf wound around my neck as well as one worn over my head. (I don't own a hat.)

I was outside perhaps 20 minutes. My fingertips have finally warmed enough for me to type without missing letters.

Cold.

I didn't think it could snow when it was so cold. I figured the atmosphere was too dry. I was wrong. My driveway had four inches of snow on it. Maybe five. Thank God it was fluffy. I'd still be out there if it was wet, heavy snow.

No, actually, my neighbors would have fired up the snowblower and cleared my snow for me. They're great about that kind of thing.

When it's fluffy, I try to clear theirs as well as my own. Fair's fair. But William had already gotten to his (he uses his leaf blower to clear this kind of snow), and I would have frozen in place if I tried to do more than my own surfaces.

I fondly remember snow days as a kid: WGN radio the soundtrack of my mother's mornings. She'd listen to the weather and school closings and would come into my room and tell me that I could stay snuggled in, that school was canceled for the day.

Of course, nothing makes a kid get out of bed faster than the news that they don't have to get out of bed. When we got a day off for snow, we were damn well going to make the most of it. There were snowball fights to be fought, snowforts to be built, snowmen to make, snow angels, snow hills, snow, snow, snow.

In those days, we wore snowsuits or snow pants and jackets. Unlike Ralphie's little brother in "A Christmas Story," we could always put our arms down. I loved the zip-zop-zip-zop sound we'd make while walking, the nylon rubbing against itself. My mom used to put my feet in Baggies before slipping them into my boots, partly to aid in getting my feet into the boots, but also, I suspect, to keep my feet drier.

Today, I managed just fine with athletic socks and a beat-up old pair of New Balance. My pants didn't zip-zop, but the snow was squeaky.

I have earned a cup of cocoa.

And me without any marshmallows.

Monday, February 05, 2007

What Is Love?, Part Deux ...

Whew.

I just read my pal Steff's post about love.

Steff's posts are always good for inspiring a "Hmm ... ." I wrote about love before, here, but it's not like it's a topic that one can exhaust.

In Steff's post, she mentions that she's only ever used the L-word with one man. Ever.

Ditto.

As coincidence would have it (not that I believe in coincidence), he called this afternoon.

We dated briefly in college (his name is David, of course, because all men in my life are named David, except the ones who aren't) but, unlike every other man I've ever dated, we've stayed in touch for all these years.

Not regularly, necessarily. It's been years since I've seen him, but we pop up in each other's lives from time to time, and always, it's like no time has passed.

I should clarify my comment about only ever telling one man that I loved him. I've said it to male friends, of course. And I once said it to a guy because he said it to me (far too soon) and I was young and felt the need to say it back. But I didn't mean it. And when we split up, I learned the power of those three little words. It was the only relationship I've ever actively ended (as opposed to those dating scenarios in which you both stop calling each other, absurd as they are, or situations in which I've been the break-upee, not the break-uper) and he was hurt. How could I break up with him if I just told him that I loved him?, he wanted to know. Ouch.

So I'm very judicious with my use of the word "love." If I say it, I mean it. Which means I don't say it much.

To my family, all the time. Friends, not often enough.

But David's the only man I've ever said it to in *that* way.

David has a magnetic personality. He's a force of nature. More charming than anyone I've ever met, but in a very real way. There's charming charming and there's smarmy charming. David is charming charming. A boundless heart. Unfathomable generosity. A true love for humankind. An insatiable curiosity about the world. And a father's limitless pride.

There are certain people - very few, sadly, though we're lucky if we have even those - with whom you identify in a mystical way, a connection deep and profound that belies understanding. You inherently respond to something in their soul. It defies explanation. It just is. Words to describe it don't exist. You just know it and feel it and I don't believe it ever goes away.

Soulmate is a word that seems cheapened from overuse, but that's as close as I can come to a label.

Finding a soulmate is a quest for many. David is one, surely. So why aren't we together? Well, technically, we are. We always will be. But he's not here and I'm not there. Maybe we were physically together in another life and we've met up again in this incarnation. Or maybe we'll be together down the road. Or maybe we won't.

But it's nice to know he's there.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Doofus, Party Of One? ...

Yeah, yeah, I know, politics is nasty blog fodder in these parts. I have readers who don't like it when I pipe up about politics, and everyone who reads me on any kind of regular basis knows where I stand on Fearless Leader.

Of course, part of what I don't like about the current administration is the "us vs. them" mentality, not just abroad but in our own backyards. Civil discourse has been ground into the carpet like a half-smoked Marlboro under a dusty boot. "Hell no, you can't have an opinion," everyone seems to say, "unless it matches mine."

But on this topic, I will speak: Dude admits that global warming is an issue, even wants to save the polar bears that are teetering on the brink of extinction, but refuses to implement CO2 caps because doing so might be bad for the economy.

Um, how about we take a step back from the books and look at the bigger picture: If the planet's destroyed, the U.S. economy is gonna be pretty far down on the list of things to care about. As sea levels rise, large portions of the continents will end up under water and millions of people will be displaced. Finally, Malibu beachfront for cheap.

Even before I watched "An Inconvenient Truth," I blogged about the film's list of simple things we can do to make a difference. And then I watched the movie, and blogged about it here.

I've become much more aware of my energy consumption. I admit that I still drive too fast and therefore realize less fuel efficiency, but I recycle more than ever (and I recycled a lot before) and keep things not only turned off but unplugged. I use my treadmill less than an hour a day. Why leave it plugged in and turned on when I'm not using it? (No, smart ass, I'm not talking about leaving the belt running all day.) I don't necessarily make coffee every morning. Why leave the coffee pot plugged in all the time? It takes two seconds to plug it in when I want to use it. Many little things add up to a big difference.

El Presidente flies around on a big airplane which, on any given flight, is mostly empty. And hey, he'll be dead by the time this global-warming business really comes home to roost.

The United States is home to approximately 5 percent of the world's population, yet we dump nearly 25 percent of the world's CO2 in to the atmosphere.

So it frosts my ass when Georgie Boy refuses to play ball because he can't dictate all the rules. Last I checked, we didn't own the planet.

Some might say that we throw a lot of money toward global-warming initiatives, more than anyone else in the world. Yup, we're mighty good at throwing money at situations. Iraq comes to mind. There's a well-oiled machine for you. Oops, did I say "oil"?

Al Gore, back in the days of Bill and Al's Presidentialpalooza, signed the Kyoto Protocol, but we've never ratified it, so as far as we're concerned, it truly isn't worth the paper it's written on.

So it's not just George's problem, but the problem keeps getting worse. Al, for his part, is out there trying to shake people by their collective shoulders. (And good for him and his Nobel Peace Prize nomination.)

But The Big G is in the Oval Office these days. A lot of smart scientist types just released a report that we're the cause of the problem and it's a problem that won't go away for generations to come.

So how about we put some of that good ol' American ingenuity to work in figuring out how to make the economy work while protecting the planet instead of whining that we don't like the new rules?

We made the mess. It's up to us to do what we can to clean it up, not continue to trash the place and let someone else worry about it later.

Because later will be here sooner than we think.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Dream Come True ...

Sometime, last week perhaps, I was watching Oprah.

One of her guests, not a movie star or a recording star or a politician but just an everyday gal, sat across from Oprah on the set, talking about whatever it was she was talking about. Teary-eyed, at the end of the segment, she told Oprah that it was her life's dream to meet her.

Oprah, of course, is accustomed to hearing that, as much as any mere mortal can be accustomed to being worshipped so. But without skipping a beat, she said, "Now you'll get a bigger dream."

Because there's always a bigger dream.

Today, I received the most miraculous e-mail.

One of my very dear friends sent word (and pictures) that her daughter has arrived from Korea. She and her husband had been waiting and waiting. In November, many of us gathered for a baby shower. I've been excited the entire time, but it didn't yet feel quite real. Their daughter was on the other side of the world, waiting to be granted a passport. A few weeks ago, they got word that she would be arriving a little sooner than anticipated. Today, the e-mail came.

She's here.

I, being a sap, started to cry.

Becoming a parent: There is no bigger dream.

For me, anyway. And for them. And for many.

So what are the dreams after the arrival of the bundle of joy? The dream of her health and happiness? The dream of a life full of love? The dream of a future filled with family and friends?

Good dreams for her. Good dreams for all of us.

A few years ago, I reconnected with the brother of a friend from my Tribune days. It was only briefly, just one conversation. But it was one of those conversations that resonated loud and clear, just the right message at just the right moment. And it all boiled down to a simple question: "In this moment, are you OK?"

His point was, no matter what may lie in wait for us outside our doors - issues with money or relationships or careers - the answer to the question "In this moment, am I OK?" is almost always "Yes." And since all we really have is right this minute, we're more OK than we realize.

My friends, of course, are more OK than OK.

And I couldn't be happier for them. It's not every day you get word of a dream come true.