March 31, 2007

March 31, 2007

I Pity the Fool

Tomorrow, of course, is April Fool's Day. I'll take any excuse to get excited, and who am I to sit out a celebration that's apparently been going on since the Middle Ages (yeah for Wikipedia)? Though I had a really good joke planned for this year, I've decided to sit on it until 2008. Partly because one of my acquaintances has been running a similar gag for the past few weeks and partly because the joke I have in mind wouldn't work on a weekend.

So mark your calendars for next year. And in the meantime, check out this list of the top 100 April Fool's jokes of all time. My favorite is the one involving Alabama and pi, because Southerners are just that crazy. "Arm the Homeless" is a close second and "Viagra for Hamsters" gets the bronze.

March 29, 2007

March 29, 2007

Good Writers, Bad Moms

If my math is correct, sixty-six years ago yesterday (March 28, 1941), Virginia Woolf put on her coat, threw a really heavy rock in one of the pockets, and walked into a river. I've not read terribly much Virginia Woolf, just a few short stories and Mrs. Dalloway. Well, and The Hours, but that's really only quasi-related. What I have read I liked, but mostly in an admiration sort of way.

But while I'm on the subject of great female authors who ended up offing themselves, let me write a bit about Sylvia Plath. In case you didn't know, she put her head in an oven after setting out cookies and milk for her kids. See, just because you kill yourself doesn't mean other people shouldn't enjoy baked goods. Anyway, I've read quite a bit of Plath's poetry, and I'm very fond of it. Much fonder than I usually am of poetry, at least. I'm also fond of The Bell Jar, a thinly-veiled (in my opinion) autobiography of Plath. It's a good combination of smarts (very) and length (not very).

And while I haven't seen The Hours, I can wholeheartedly recommend the film Sylvia, in which you can see Daniel Craig, the current James Bond as the philandering Ted Hughes.

March 28, 2007

March 28, 2007

Does Not Play Well with Others

For reasons beyond my comprehension, one of my professors this semester decided to assign a group project. Despite the fact that this is an online class and the members of my group are dispersed among several states. The madness continued when the professor told us that not only would we have to collaborate on a paper and slideshow, but we'd also have to somehow present our findings to him as a group. Can you say "logistical nightmare"?

I've never been a fan of the group project. I'd much rather do the entire thing myself and just put everyone's name on it. This makes me sound incredibly arrogant, I know, but at least that way I know it's done well. You can imagine my chagrin when I realized I'd have to motivate 6 other people that I've never met to write 20 kickass pages on the feasibility of daycare for a small company in Neenah, Wisconsin. Though I'm probably the least qualified, I kinda took the "project manager" role and just started telling people what to do.

I'm not gonna lie; it hasn't been fun. Thankfully the professor eventually realized that group presentations are impossible in this context, so he canceled that requirement. I'm still pretty freaked out about how the whole thing will turn out; it's worth half the semester grade. According to my calculations, though, even if we bomb, I can still pull a C in the class.

Yes, I've come a long way from college valedictorian. The real world sucks.

March 27, 2007

March 27, 2007

And this is in reference to...?

It has come to my attention recently that I avail myself of certain strange idioms and allusions. To avoid confusion, and as a sort of community service, let me clarify a few, um, Heather-isms:

  • Third rule of Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is "You don't talk about Fight Club." The second rule of Fight Club is "You do NOT talk about Fight Club." There are actually, like, eight total rules, but I only know the first two. So whenever I need something to have the stature of a rule, I say it's like the third rule of Fight Club.
  • I wanna go fast! I wanna go fast! This was a catchphrase of Ricky Bobby's in the movie Talladega Nights. I use it to mock Southerners and NASCAR fans. Which are not quite the same thing, but there's a great deal of overlap.
  • Shibboleth. The word "shibboleth" was used in an Old Testament story as a password and a way to distinguish enemies (who couldn't pronounce the "sh" sound) from friends (who could). I may say "shibboleth, shibboleth" quietly (and sometimes into my hand) when I'm talking about a situation that's being taken way more seriously than it deserves.
  • Give me a shtikle of fluoride. That spelling looks weird, but I looked it up in a Yiddish dictionary and that's what it is. Anyway, that's a quote from a Seinfeld episode in which Jerry's dentist converts to Judaism. I just like the word "shtikle."

March 26, 2007

March 26, 2007

“I wanna go fast! I wanna go fast!”

On Friday night, I finally watched the movie Cars. Yeah, a little late, I know. Being a grown-up has seriously cut into my movie-viewing time, alas. I liked Cars a lot; it didn't make me laugh out loud as much as Monsters, Inc. did, but it had many redeeming qualities nonetheless. The Pixar movies usually do.

As a NASCAR fan, I'm allowed to mercilessly mock other NASCAR fans. In fact, I respond to peoples' incredulity by stating that I'm only in it for the jokes. (I'm not, but that's a good 75% of it.) The great thing about the typical NASCAR fan is that he embraces the Southern hickdom. There's no pretension or attempts at good grammar; it's all rifle racks and RVs. Anyway, I loved Cars' little insider jokes. Like the Piston Cup, the Junior cameos, and, of course, "Boogity, boogity, boogity." Oh, and the European disdain. Gotta love that.

And once I got past the impossible logistics (wondering how a vehicle-based economy would work when none of them appear to pay for anything and why the eyes were in the windshields instead of the headlights), I found the whole world kinda cute. I mean, the jet contrails were tire marks. Adorable! (I found the sensitive fire truck dubious, but I'll allow it.)

This film plus Little Miss Sunshine are really making me want a road trip. But we all know I'd get bored of it after, like, a day. Somewhere in the middle of Iowa, probably.

March 23, 2007

March 23, 2007

De l'été, livres, travailler, etc.

Rather than posting my usual pensive musings, I'm going to mash three random items into one:

Between holidays, fairs, festivals, and trips to see people, all of my summer weekends but one are already booked. Freakish.

I started reading East of Eden yesterday and my thought so far is "wow." It's epic Steinbeck, but in a good way. I'll be writing more about this after I finish it.

The servers went down today at work, so I not only had nothing to do, but I couldn't have done anything even if I'd wanted to. I compensated by making personal calls. You know, the way God intended.

March 22, 2007

March 22, 2007

A Word from Our Sponsors

We've already established that I watch an excessive amount of television. As a natural consequence, I also take in a lot of commercials. An ad that's been (deservedly) getting a lot of press recently is for Gap's Boyfriend Trouser. (Here it is on YouTube.) The first time I saw this commercial, I remember wondering whether the dancers were actors who could dance or dancers who could act. Obviously, the fact that they were Claire Danes and Patrick Wilson completely eluded me. And I've seen them in stuff, too.

Allow me to utilize my two semesters of marketing classes and say that this is a really good commercial. It spotlights the product, looks good, and makes you feel happy. Um, hello, marketing trifecta.

Still, not my favorite commercial. That would be one from a few years ago featuring a girl dressed as a hot dog who meets a guy dressed as a Pepsi while Blind Melon's "No Rain" plays in the background. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please, please, please watch it here. It makes me smile every time I see it. And the song rocks.

March 21, 2007

March 20, 2007

March 20, 2007

From Thirteen Original Colonies

This site challenges you to name as many of the states as you can in 10 minutes. I was able to name 49 in about 5 minutes. It took me 3 more minutes to get the fiftieth (for me, Pennsylvania). My system involves picturing a map in my head and going west to east, top to bottom.

There was a similar situation on a Friends episode. I don't remember the details, but I know Ross was making a list of states. And he had Delaware, like, three times. Hilarity ensued.

Give it a shot. Good mental floss.

March 19, 2007

March 19, 2007

Letterman, Leno, or Montel?

I teach a Sunday School class of first and second graders. I don't expect much from them; it's early, they're tired, I'm tired, and the subject matter isn't always thrilling. I do what I can, though, and sometimes they surprise me.

For the past few weeks, I've had a boy named T.J. in my class. He's in the second grade, probably around 7 or 8. He's very smart and actually kind of witty. For example, a few weeks ago, I was telling the class the saga of how one of our cars died when my dad and I were on the way to lunch. After all of this, T.J. says, "Here's an idea: how about getting food from the grocery store?" I was like, oh, snap! I actually responded with, "Well, I did go to the grocery store" and listed some of the foods I had bought. On my list was spinach, to which T.J. responded, "Yeah…I'm not a fan of the spinach." Snap, again!

He outdid himself yesterday, however. At the beginning of the lesson, I had the kids name professions. I was expecting stuff like doctor. Or cop. You know, community helpers. Right off the top, though, T.J. raises his hand and gives me "talk show host." People, it was just too good.

March 16, 2007

March 16, 2007

The Wearing of the Green

Milwaukee apparently once had quite an Irish population. You really wouldn't know it now. German, yes. Polish, yes. Irish, no. However, we Milwaukeeans do so love drinking, and thus heartily embrace any excuse to drink beer of a funny color.

We don't dye the Milwaukee River. Granted, this may be mostly due to the fact that it's rancid enough already. Yet it flows right into Lake Michigan. Milwaukee: squandering the Great Lakes, one at a time.

Some of my fondest St. Patrick's Day memories are actually transit-related. Since most Milwaukee citizens get drunk on March 17th, the transit system offers free bus rides. This is advertised with the slogan "No fares, no blarney." The bus route I take runs through the Marquette campus, and college students just that side of sober take great pleasure in yelling "No fares, no blarney" at random.

March 15, 2007

March 15, 2007

Yep, I Still Got It

My inner piano geek wrote this entry, so beware.

I had an hour to kill last night between Top Model and Lost, so I decided to pull out some of my old competition pieces and see whether I could still handle them. And, actually, I was quite surprised at how well I could.

The Heller from ninth grade ("Epilogue," Op. 45, No. 25) I still love. It's mostly loud and bangy—a style at which I seem to excel. Yet it also has a nice little section whose sixteenth notes remind me a lot of Debussy's Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum.

The MacDowell from tenth grade ("Polonaise," Op. 46, No. 12) was a little harder to pick back up. I did some Googling on it today and found out it's apparently classified as "very advanced." I'll say. Apparently, my hands have not grown at all in the last 7 years, since I could barely reach a couple of the tremolos back then and it's still quite a stretch. Anyway, I would like it entered into the record that the last two pages of this piece are totally the best two pages. Because when I hit those chromatic scales just right, it's amazing. I get a tiny inkling of what a figure skater must feel like after nailing a triple jump or whatever. I mean, you just land it and it's kickass.

I also found my old guild report card. In the eighth grade, I auditioned for a national piano guild, which is totally as cool as it sounds. (I'm pretty sure it was this guild, because I know my certificate is district and gold level. And I got a pin. Which is now lost.) According to the report card, I was only 13. That doesn't seem right. Anyway, it was an insane amount of work, involving memorizing pieces from each of the four musical eras (six pieces total). I did a Bach (which I still have memorized, yay!), a Beethoven, two Schumanns, a Heller, and a Kabalevsky. Also, I had to know all the scales and chord progressions, which I remember hating. Stupid circle of fifths. Still, it was a pretty cool experience and provided a fun fact to whip out at parties. What more could I have asked for?

March 14, 2007

March 14, 2007

It's Just a Little Soapy Water

I have recently restarted an old college habit: blowing bubbles. I know it's insanely childish, but it's also really relaxing. Bubbles led to a lot of good times in college, once my roommates got over the initial "What the…is she blowing bubbles?" thing. Don't believe me? Ask any of my old roommates.

And in case you were wondering, I tried coloring. It's not the same.

March 12, 2007

March 12, 2007

House of Misery and Woe

Warning: The following may contain plot details of the film House of Sand and Fog.

I just finished watching House of Sand and Fog. Well, "just finished" when I'm writing this, not when you're reading this, because I write these in advance. But I digress.

More than anything, this movie made me sad. Not necessarily sad in a crying kind of way, though I definitely cried a little when Esmail was killed. More sad in a "this world is so screwed up" kind of way. Because there wasn't anyone to really cheer for, and the people that you're sort of cheering for all end up killing themselves. The protagonist was, in my opinion, a bit of a loser. Harsh, I know, but I think she brought the whole thing on herself. I mean, read your damn mail, for crying out loud.

I tend to make comments to myself a lot when I'm watching movies alone, and the one I made the most was "Oh, this can't end well." Granted, I was kinda prepared, because the summary on the back of the box ended with the line "A surprise ending that will leave you breathless!" Also, I had an ominous feeling after that first scene. It was obviously out of narrative sequence, and only the Jennifer Connelly character was in it. I did the math.

It wasn't all bad, though. I was reminded about how pretty San Francisco is—I really liked the fog when I was there. The score was good, too—the chord progressions and use of strings reminded me of A Beautiful Mind, which is one of my favorites. I was also crushing on the guy playing Lester, though I kept going back and forth on whether he was Tim Roth. (He wasn't. But, I swear, he looked so much like him, just with a differently shaped head.)

March 9, 2007

March 9, 2007

Boxing Day

I don't understand the fascination with boxing. It's so…blunt. Well, in fairness, there's probably lots of strategy and athleticism involved. Yet it strikes me as not much more than two guys wailing on each other.

I recently heard a long rave about the movie Rocky. Apparently it's the quintessential American underdog story. Um…okay. One of the Sports Night episodes I watched last night was centered on a boxing match. Come to think of it, so is Ocean's 11, one of my favorite movies. I know I'm sounding elitist, but why pay ridiculous amounts of money for something you can see for free in prisons and most metropolitan alleys?

March 8, 2007

March 8, 2007

Music and Lyrics

Why are things so much easier to remember if they're set to music? I mean, most of us know songs for the big stuff, like Presidents and states. But I found in high school that turning almost any rote memorization assignment into a song helped. Granted, breaking out into song during a test might earn you a few stares, but bah. Someday, when knowing the entire Bill of Rights has gotten you a fabulous job, you can have the classmates who laughed at you "taken care of." (Whoa, I've been watching way too much 24.)

I was thinking about this (setting things to music, not having people offed) the other day on the bus. I realized that I know the entire Preamble to the Constitution because of Schoolhouse Rock.

If you aren't familiar with Schoolhouse Rock, I have the following comments:
1. Holy frak. Have you been living under a rock?
2. Read
3. Find DVD or video copies of the series and watch immediately. I would recommend starting with my favorite segments, handily listed below.

My Favorite Schoolhouse Rock Segments
America Rock: The Shot Heard 'Round The World; The Preamble; I'm Just A Bill
Grammar Rock: Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here; Conjunction Junction
Money Rock: Walkin' On Wall Street
Multiplication Rock: Three Is a Magic Number; Figure Eight
Science Rock: Interplanet Janet

According to the Wikipedia article, there was also a series called "Computer Rock." That I have no memory of this makes me extremely uncomfortable, since I usually have pretty good recall when it comes to tv. I mean, my formative years were all about PBS. At any rate, I plan to watch the DVDs this weekend and reminisce a little.

March 7, 2007

March 7, 2007

I Heart The West Wing

I do. I really, really do. Why isn't mysterious. It takes place in my dream city. It's chock-full of walk-and-talks. The pilot episode actually featured a hooker with a heart of gold. It throws around terms like "amicus briefs" (and, yes, I know what those are—do you?). I'm halfway through the first season, and the exterior shots still make me giddy.

I'd like to believe that in some parallel universe, Jed Bartlet actually is President. The man speaks á la an Old Testament character. He loves rare books. He speaks Latin. He's good with kids. And is there anything more endearing than a man who's good with kids?

I shall now express my love in a threeve:
  • Job I most want: Sam's. Me likes words.
  • Job I'm most likely to actually get: Donna's. Basically, her job is what I do now.
  • Personality most like mine: C. J. Except she's more badass. And way taller.
  • Character I'd date: Sam. His prettiness notwithstanding, he showed some steely resolve that I rather enjoyed in a recent episode.
  • Character I'd hang out with: Toby. We'd be cracking jokes and no one would be able to tell. Not even us. Seriously, sometimes even I don't know whether I'm kidding.

    Oh, and Leo McGarry is my hero. Enough said.

March 6, 2007

March 6, 2007

A Prairie Home Companion

I watched the movie A Prairie Home Companion recently. I was drawn to it for a couple of reasons. It's set in Minnesota, which is possibly the only state more frozen than mine. It features Garrison Keillor, for whose Writer's Almanac I have great affection. It was directed by Robert Altman, helmer of my all-time favorite movie, Gosford Park. His style is quite unique and most enjoyable.

Having been born and raised in a frozen tundra, I believe that I'm qualified to say this movie nailed the whole Midwestern vibe. A buffet featuring meatloaf, squash, and other regular food for 5 bucks? Sign us up. Home repairs with duct tape? Oh yeah. Oshkosh? Totally been there.

I really liked the sound effects guy. Foley artists have been interesting to me since I saw a thing about them on Wishbone. I didn't like the white trench coat angel lady or whatever she was. That just seemed a little incongruous to me.

March 5, 2007

Dear Sally...

Who remembers those "Dear Sally" tapes on Felicity? I had a friend once tell me I did a really good impression of the "Dear Sally." I dunno.

I do know that I'm a sucker for narration. I'll admit it. Many people skip through exposition; I savor it. In fact, narration may be second only to the episode-ending musical review montage on my list of favorite expository devices.

I'm not sure why narration affects me so, though I suspect it has something to do with my overly analytical and verbose existence. I found my first diary a little while ago. It started on June 24, 1991. I was seven. Here's my exact entry for June 25, 1991:

Today I went by Rosemary's house. It was fun, because "The house was AIR conditioned!. For lunch I had a tuna fish sandwich. I made it myself. It was delicious because it was on wheat bread. And I love tuna.

Alas for the days when all you had to worry about was the content of your sandwich. My love of seafood continues, though.

Anyway, I've kept a diary on and off ever since those good old days, and now I have the blog, as well. What can I say? I find writing things down cathartic. And, unlike a lot of people, I try to make my entries interesting. (You think these are good, you should read my diary. I name names in there.)

Are diaries and blogs just a way of narrating our lives? Like (I think) playlists are a way of soundtracking them?

March 3, 2007

March 3, 2007

Auto Show

I went to the Milwaukee Auto Show yesterday. Despite the fact that I almost got blown over walking the two blocks from my building (seriously, it was like Nanook of the North), I had a coupon and I wanted to see the Mini Coopers, so I toughed it out. Also, since my parents are going to be buying a car later this year, I actually had an assignment to get literature on compact cars.

The Mini Coopers did not disappoint. They're small enough for me to parallel park without hitting any other too many vehicles. I think. And while I don't plan on needing to drive through Italian sewers or anything, it's nice to know I could.

I noticed a lot of people buying beer. Granted, most people up here live in a state of permadrunk, so I shouldn't have been surprised. I guess the temptation to get a picture of oneself with alcohol in a vehicle was just too great. This is my country, land that I love.

Overall, a good time. I managed to avoid the many roving bands of college guys and was only approached by one salesperson. The key? Avoid eye contact.

March 1, 2007

March 1, 2007

In a Word

Have you ever tried to describe yourself in one word? I've often thought about what word I'd want people to use for me. I've concluded that I want it to be "clever." My reasoning here is that clever indicates being able to apply your smarts in an interesting and useful way. Like when you need someone to forge something. After hacking into a database. And, also, other applications that are actually legal. So goes my logic, anyway.

I'm re-reading Harry Potter in anticipation of Book 7—I like to remind myself of what happened, since I have a horrible memory. There's a quote from Sorcerer's Stone in which Hermione downplays her virtues as "books and cleverness." Whenever I read that, I think, Whoa, let's not be so hasty to downplay my ideals. Granted, the clever people may not be the ones running into burning buildings. Or driving evasively while defusing a bomb with a butter knife and some toothpaste. But, the way I see it, we're less likely to die from smoke inhalation or be impaled by a butter knife.