August 31, 2007

August 31, 2007

Sorry I Missed It: Arrested Development

Though I watch a LOT of tv, sometimes really good shows miss my radar. Thankfully, the advent of tv on DVD lets me run after the bandwagon and jump on before they totally disassemble it for parts. (Yeah, again with taking the metaphor too far, I know.)

I was aware of Arrested Development while it was airing in 2003-2006; it even had a couple of things going for it. Columnists whose judgment I trust championed it, and Jason Bateman’s sorta hot, in a Nathan Fillion-lite kind of way.

Unfortunately, 2003-2006 fell smack dab in the middle of my college years, also known as “The Age of Not Being Allowed a Television in the Dorm and Thus Having to Tape 8+ Hours of TV Every Week and Watch It All on Saturday.” Those were dark days, my friends. Dark days. At any rate, I’ve now seen the light. In this case, that involved several weeknights with my laptop, an Arrested Development disc or two, and a fridge pack of Diet Coke.

Wikipedia describes the show as a “riches to rags” story, which is actually not bad if you’re going for succinctness. There’s no easy way to explain Arrested Development, but it’s very smart, witty, dry, and occasionally dirty. Maybe it was too smart for the general audience; you don’t often see the sentence “The show is highly intertextual and reflexive, features commonly associated with postmodernism” applied to primetime network programming. It’s usually more along the lines of “Hosted by Ryan Seacrest” or “Now with whistling monkeys.”

If nothing else, enjoy this 8-minute highlight reel. I did.

August 30, 2007

August 30, 2007

To the Woman with a Babybjorn

Dear Woman with a Babybjorn,

Since I assume you are not a regular reader of my blog, I should explain that one of my many pet peeves is parents of small children who take strollers to crowded public places but don’t use them. You, as a parent of a small child, have perhaps seen these people: they are usually hauling a stroller or two and a wagon while their child toddles along. And while I don’t mind strollers, wagons, or children under most circumstances, I do take issue with them when they are in my way.

You and I were both at the Shedd Aquarium on Saturday. Like most Chicago attractions, it was ridiculously packed. I may have been violated several times; I may also have violated a few people. It happens. No, what really irked me were the scores of families I saw wheeling around unoccupied strollers. I am not an expert in this area, but it seems to me that having small children underfoot in a darkened area is not likely to end well.

However, when I saw you, Woman with a Babybjorn, my faith in parent-kind was restored. For you, perhaps inspired by the product placement in one of my favorite primetime television shows, had decided to utilize the babybjorn. In this way, you kept your small child safe, close to your body, and (most important to me) out of my way.

Madam, I applaud you.


August 28, 2007

August 28, 2007

I was on the Batman set (Chicago, Part 2)

For part 1, click here.

I met my friend Lydia at this really great pizza place called Giordano’s (thanks for the suggestion, Nicholas!) for quite a lunch. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say On Demand, certain periodicals that shall remain nameless, and the joys of work were among the topics discussed that I can disclose. Also, she told me (with the air of a native Chicagoan) that they were indeed filming the new Batman movie. This is part of the reason I can’t ever live in Chicago; there’s no way I’d be able to intelligently communicate things like that. As it was, our exchange was something like this:

Lydia: “Yeah, they’re filming the new Batman movie.”
Me: “Christian Bale! Christian Bale is in this city! So is Heath Ledger! Health Ledger is here! They’re here! And I’m here!” (several minutes of squealing)
Lydia: “Wow.”
Me: (heavy breathing)

We were in the restaurant for a really long time; I think the servers were probably setting up for dinner by the time we left. They were very good about not forcing us from the table. Or having me escorted from the premises, what with all the squealing.

While Lydia and I were walking along afterwards, preparing to go our separate ways (her to do fabulous things, me to visit the Lincoln Park Zoo), this production assistant chick approached Lydia (who had her cell phone out) and proceeded to freak out: “No phones allowed here! You’ll have to go around! I’m sorry, this way is blocked!” Lady, it’s not the nuclear launch codes. Relax.

Anyway, I eventually got on the bus going to the zoo. And since I hear you thinking, “The zoo? What are you, 6?” let me point out that admission is free and we all know I will sit through almost anything if it’s free. (That’s how I ended up in a 90-minute lecture on furniture not so long ago.) Unfortunately for me, while Chicago traffic is normally insane, Chicago traffic when part of the loop is shut down for Batman is cosmically bad. As my bus sat in Michigan Avenue traffic without moving for several minutes, I realized I could always come back for the animals. (My actual thoughts were something along the lines of, “Screw the zoo, I wanna see Batman.”)

So I hopped on a bus going the other direction and meandered over to the south end of the filming area. Unfortunately, I could only see the backs of the people in the movie, but it was something. Power-tripping Production Assistant was STILL there, and though a small crowd had gathered to watch filming, she and I had this little exchange:

PA: “Ma’am, I’m sorry, you’re going to have to keep moving.”
Me: Looks around at the dozens of other people watching. “So…people aren’t even allowed to watch?”
PA: “No.”
Me: Looks around again, pointedly, at the dozens of other people watching. Looks at PA. “Okay.” Inwardly adds a few choice comments.

So I circled around to the north end of the set, which was free of power-tripping production assistants. Plus the actors were now facing me, and it’s a lot easier to tell what’s going on that way.

I now understand why movies take so long to film. In the hour I watched, the following took place 4 times:

-10 minutes of set-up
-Someone calls “Rolling!” (not “action”; weird, I know)
-The scene: It’s a memorial service of some sort. A couple of mounted police officers come in, and three shots are fired. On the third shot, everyone scatters. Some people duck behind squad cars, others run away.
-Someone yells “Cut!”

The production assistants were constantly telling people not to take photographs. This made me quite nervous, as I’d taken several earlier in the day. They’re sitting in my disposable camera right now; I keep expecting network executives to hunt me down, confiscate the camera, and arrest me. I didn’t even want to call anyone while I was watching filming for fear they’d take me down right there.

As much as I wanted to stay until they finished (and perhaps catch a glimpse of Christian Bale [Batman] or Heath Ledger [The Joker]), I had to catch my bus back to Milwaukee before any of that could occur. Still, it was a pretty cool experience, all told; I wish some of my other Illinois friends had been there. Maybe next time.

August 27, 2007

August 27, 2007

Lazy Humor

A few weeks ago, a little blurb in my local newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, asked readers to submit their "Wisconsin words": basically Wisconsin puns. I sat down one night shortly thereafter with a notepad and some Diet Coke, brainstormed for a while, and came up with about 6.

The list was published today, and several of mine actually made the cut (5 in the print version, 4 in the online version). As someone who gets overexcited about pretty lame stuff (like this), seeing my name in the paper several times (including once in a purple pull quote box) pretty much made my day. Yet instead of congratulating me upon hearing that my name's in the paper, most people have reacted with "Did they spell your name right?" (They did.)

Ironically, I don't even like puns. I consider them to be lazy man's humor. Obviously it's "standards be damned" if there's a possibility of seeing my name in print.

I was on the Batman set (Chicago, Part 1)

Note to Readers: If you’re interested on the details of my time on the set of the new Batman movie, you should wait for tomorrow’s installment. In today’s entry, I describe my visit to the Shedd Aquarium and lay the groundwork for the Batman stuff. I’m such a tease.

I went to Chicago again on Saturday. Partly to see some stuff, partly because I didn’t have anything else going on, and partly because, well, Chicago is cool. It’s like Milwaukee with upgrades. It’s the motorcycle to our messenger bike. Yeah, we have the basket and the little bell, but it takes forever to get anywhere. (Wow, metaphor out of control.)

I spent the morning at the Shedd Aquarium. I’d been there once before when I was quite small and thus remembered nothing of it. Also, on that visit we’d only paid for admission to the aquarium part, because my parents are even cheaper than I am. (Apparently that is possible, yes.) This time I ponied up for the Day Pass, which included the aquarium, oceanarium, and lizard and reef exhibits. I did not get the Premium Day Pass (“Only $3 more!”), since the only extra was a SpongeBob movie and he’s always weirded me out a little.

The fish, lizards, turtles, etc. were very nice, though they all started to look the same after awhile. I began faintly hoping that perhaps one of the sharks would go berserk or something—smell a nosebleed through the glass, maybe. Alas, nothing worthy of Animal Planet took place, except maybe the feeding demonstration by a staff diver. But he didn’t even lose a limb.

On the way to lunch, I was walking through an area in which several streets had been closed off for several blocks each. There was some sort of platform in the middle of one of the streets, with lots of people in police dress uniforms milling about. I thought perhaps there was some sort of convention going on. I walked past some marked vehicles and noticed an unusual seal on one of the doors: "City of Gotham Police Department."

Okay, I realize that 99% of people would immediately have known what was going on. (My second clue would have been the “Gotham” license plates on all the cars. Hi, I'm Heather, and I'm clueless.) As it was, something in my brain lit up and I took a few pictures of stuff, all the while not totally realizing I was on a movie set. In my defense, filming wouldn’t start for a few hours and things were pretty deserted.

Tomorrow: A native clues me in over pizza and a production assistant yells at me…twice.

August 24, 2007

August 24, 2007

I need hot oil and some sticks, stat!

It's State Fair season, and that means thousands of midwesterners are eating foods not found in nature. (Actually, unless there's a cream of mushroom soup tree I'm not aware of, we do this for most of the year.) Anyway, my recent conversations about and consumption of objects with pretty iffy nutritional value reminded me of this "ad" from Saturday Night Live:

Sadly, this restaurant would probably do quite well in my home state. We do so love our tote bags.

August 23, 2007

August 23, 2007

Bring on the Precogs

While reading the news feed on my local paper's website, I stumbled upon an interesting item:

Jury brands man sex predator for thoughts

A convicted sex offender whose thoughts and fantasies about children prompted authorities to revoke his parole two years ago now faces indefinite secure commitment for treatment after a jury verdict Thursday branded him a so-called sexual predator in a case that added a new dimension to the 13-year-old law.

"He didn't commit any crimes while he was out," attorney Steven Prifogle said of his client Michael Monyelle. "This whole process got started after he told them what he was thinking."

Is it just me, or is this eerily Minority Report-esque?

To the Makers of Chocolate Chex

Dear General Mills,

I’m sure you get hundreds of letters every day from Count Chocula, Lucky Charms, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch consumers on sugar rushes, so I’ll make this quick.

You are probably not aware that chocolate at breakfast for adults has, until recently, been somewhat of a social taboo. No one seems to mind if you have chocolate cake at dinner, or chocolate pudding at lunch. But pull out a Snickers bar at 7 a.m. and the reactions of your breakfast companions are likely to range from grimaces to outright mockery.

No doubt sensing the need for a socially-acceptable cocoa-based grown-up breakfast, you introduced Chocolate Chex. Let’s start with the best part: like Cocoa Puffs, this cereal turns the milk all chocolatey. This is a definite plus. It harkens back to the simpler days of childhood, when all I had to worry about was whether I’d be using sticky tape or paste in art class. When “astronaut,” “movie star,” and/or “race car driver” seemed like viable career options.

However, I must take issue with your marketing strategy, and please keep in mind this is coming from someone with 9 college credits in marketing. General Mills, you decided to tie this cereal in with the movie Ratatouille. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s a wonderful movie. Heart-warming and everything. But why link your product with a rodent that cooks? For one thing, there’s no cooking involved in cereal. (This is partially why I love it; I’m not so good with tools in the morning.) For another thing, everyone knows rodents are better seamstresses than cooks. (Or is that cops?*)

So, in conclusion, thank you for finding a way for me to eat chocolate at all three meals. Just lose the rat.


*Incredibly obscure Will & Grace reference.

August 22, 2007

August 22, 2007

Things I've Read: Angela’s Ashes

Like taffy, parallel parking, and saltwater taffy, memoirs can be very tricky. While many people think their lives are worthy of a novel, very few actually are. Let’s be honest: you could probably summarize the typical day of most people (me included) with the words “work,” “eat,” and “sleep.” (Of course, an actual description of my typical day is likely to also include “remote control,” “maniacal laughter,” and/or “crazy man on the bus.”

Thus I tend to stay away from memoirs and instead read mysteries, classics, and a lot of things involving elves (geek alert!). If I’m interested in someone’s life, I’ll read a biography. There’s something reassuring about the biographer’s methodology. Example:

Biography: “After much research, I have found his favorite soup was tomato.”
Memoir: “I had soup that day. I think it was red.”

However, Angela’s Ashes is a memoir actually worth reading. Though written in the voice of a child, the narrative is very readable (maddening absence of quotation marks aside). The story is set mostly in Ireland in the 1930s and 1940s. Unfortunately, it reinforced just about every negative stereotype I had about Irish people. It’s not all bad, though. I won’t spoil the ending, but the story does conclude on an uplifting note. And, obviously, things turned out all right for the author; he’s richer than I’ll ever be.

So if you’re interested in a non-elvish read (as even the best of us are on occasion), consider Angela’s Ashes.

August 21, 2007

August 21, 2007

Not His Real Name, Part 2

If you missed part 1, click here.

After thinking about it for a while, I decided to go against my gut and accept Matt's offer to work together. I’d planned on doing 100% of the work myself; if worse came to worst, I’d end up doing, like, 99%. Obviously, I wasn’t expecting much.

But as the semester went on, I began to realize that Matt was some sort of Production and Operations Management savant. I mean, the teacher actually posted his work for us all as an exemplar of what to do. TWICE. Meanwhile I was foundering along (and, since this is me we’re talking about, you know that “foundering” still means doing pretty good, but still). I was in the (for me) unusual position of NOT being the go-to student in a class. I’m not gonna lie; it was freaking me out a little. I started wondering whether I would pull Matt down, when I’d totally expected it to be the reverse.

Anyway, long story short, Matt chose a topic, did some research, and made conclusions. I did some research, wrote the paper, and made the PowerPoint. We turned it in (5 days early!) and crossed our fingers.

And the teacher responded:

Wow -- You two really did a great job here! Perhaps I should not be all that surprised, however. You have done well throughout the term and I am thankful for your active participation in the course.

I wonder if it would be ok with each of you if I posted the work for your classmates (if not also the students in future ops management classes) to see. Students in this class have already seen a sample (albeit a less-polished one) but they may still find the content of your report quite interesting. Students in future classes would, I think, be interested both in the specific content as well as the general approach taken. Clearly, your work demonstrates the value-added possibilities of a detailed analysis of process which is so central to the field of operations management.


So there you have it. My mind’s not totally changed on group projects; I still think they let the slackers coast along in the wake of the smart people. But I guess they can work.


August 20, 2007

August 20, 2007

Not His Real Name, Part 1

I’ve already discussed my distaste for group projects, especially in the online format of my MBA grad classes. So I won’t rehash. I would, however, like to give credit where credit is due and recount the freakishly pleasant experience I had this semester in one of my classes.

The class was Production and Operations Management, and even less exciting than it sounds. You know it’s going to be a long ride when phrases like “lean systems” and “waiting line models” are thrown around with reckless abandon. And there was a lot of math involved, which (my ACT score notwithstanding) is really not something I care to partake of in polite company. So you can perhaps imagine how I felt when I saw that this class, in addition to all of that, would mean yet another group project. It was like a trifecta of things I abhor. My one small window of hope (a porthole, if you will) was that we would be allowed to work alone on the project if we wanted.

But then a funny thing happened. During the third week of class, I got an email that read, in part, as follows:

Hi Heather,
My name is Matt, we've never met in person, I'm in the same Production & Operations Management class as you at Lakeland this summer. I'm writing to see if you would be interested in joining forces for the project due at the end of the semester. From what I've seen of your discussions online you are a solid student and I feel we would work well together. Please let me know if you'd like to work on the final project together or if you'd rather pass. No pressure either way, I look forward to hearing from you.

Well, now I had a dilemma. I’m a sucker for both flattery and being proactive, so he totally had me there. But I also have that whole despising group projects thing. What to do?

Tomorrow: My decision…and what came after!
(I like to serialize for no reason.)

August 18, 2007

August 18, 2007

I Wish I Were Irish

I went to Irish Fest yesterday after work. I even decided to walk the mile and a half there because the bosses let us out early and the weather was incredible. Seriously, it was sunny and in the 70s, which strikes me as rather un-Irish. But whatever.

The welcome sign included the words “Cead mile failte,” which I thought might be something obscene but actually turned out to mean “a hundred thousand welcomes.”

As with every festival, there was a lot to see and learn. And as I wandered around avoiding strollers, wheelchairs, and the occasional drunk (“More Guinness!”), I made a few observations:

Irish dance kicks it up a notch. There’s a Friends quote in which one character explains his fear of Michael Flatley (Lord of the Dance) by noting that “His legs flail about as if independent from his body!” It’s like whoever invented Irish dance back in the day looked at the dancing of all the other cultures and said, “Okay, let’s do all that…WITHOUT USING OUR ARMS.” So unless there’s some ethnicity that dances without using arms or, like, eyes, the Irish pretty much have the rest of the world beat in this area.

Irish food is incredibly bland; thus I love it. I have more than once made the statement that I wish everything tasted like mashed potatoes. I mean, I don’t eat salsa EVER. On ANYTHING. So when my plate of bangers, mash, and cabbage all tasted the same, I was in heaven. You all can keep your spicy this and your tangy that. Give me unidentifiable white mush and I’m happy.

Irish people know their music. Typical ethnic festival musical group: a couple of guys with a guitar. Irish Fest musical group: a woman with a harp, bagpipers, and some fiddlers. And don’t even get me started on the song “O Danny Boy.” Because I will begin to sob.

Besides loving all of that, I had a bonafide Irish roommate freshman year of college, and she was awesome. Also, I’m super pale. And quick-tempered.

Maybe they’ll let me be an honorary Irish person.

August 17, 2007

August 17, 2007

My Favorite Scene: Seinfeld

If it's Friday, it must be time for another YouTube-based blog entry...

Sometimes it hard to pick a favorite scene from a long-running tv show. A favorite episode, maybe. But a favorite scene? Not a chance.

Seinfeld, for me, is not one of those shows. I have a very definite favorite scene, from episode 84, "The Fire." The following makes me suffocate with laughter every single time I watch it. I'm not able to make any noise until after the line, "Well, people kept ringing the bell!" At that point, I start gasping for air.

Happy Friday.

August 16, 2007

August 16, 2007

And this is in reference to...?, Volume 2

If you missed Volume 1, click here. This time, I've decided to focus on Heather-isms inspired by television.

"Keep cool, my babies. Keep cool." This is something Conan O'Brien says occasionally in monologues, often after he's gotten a big laugh. There's a special voice and gesture that go along with it, though I usually just do the voice.

"Oh, chasquito." One of the characters on My Name Is Earl has "Oh, snap" as a catchphrase. For reasons outside the scope of this blog, she ended up in Mexico for a time during season 2. In preparation for the trip, she made sure that she'd be able to communicate, including translating her catchphrase. I do this one in a heavy and (probably) racist Spanish accent. And you have to accent the "chasquito."

"So you call this a _____, do ya?" Another multi-purpose, quasi-racial quote, this one inspired by Saturday Night Live. During a show hosted by Liam Neeson, SNL did a parody of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition by showing the Irish version, "So You Call This a House, Do Ya?" (offensive but hilarious script here). Whenever I encounter something shoddily done, I use this quote (with stereotypical Irish accent!):

Person: "That was the worst Chinese food I've ever eaten."
Me: "So you call this an egg roll, do ya?"

August 15, 2007

August 15, 2007

State Fair Recap: What I Ate

I’ll preface this by noting that this was spread out over two Saturdays. Not that that makes it any better; it’s still roughly equivalent to the annual caloric intake of some third-world families.

Bison, ostrich, elk, and venison. In the form of “snack sticks,” which were kinda like Slim Jims. The venison was the best; the ostrich was bland and the elk and bison were too spicy.

Grilled Wisconsin cheese sandwich. It’s really not an event in Wisconsin unless cheese is involved.

Duck fajita. I’d not had duck before. Tastes like chicken. A little greasy, but smother anything in sour cream and wrap it in a tortilla and it’s pretty frakking good.

Wisconsin baked potato. Apparently Idaho isn’t the only one growing these. Who knew? Sadly, you could barely see the potato under all of the cheese and sour cream.

Saz’s sour cream and chive fries. Like any true Milwaukeean, I would kill for these.

Wisconsin apple sundae. A sliced apple, topped with whipped cream, caramel, nuts, and a cherry. Yeah, even the fruit at the State Fair is bad for you. But there was a coupon, and I can’t resist a deal.

Deep-fried s’more on a stick. About the size of a corn dog, but with a graham-cracker breading and a marshmallow filling with a thin chocolate coating.

Deep-fried oreos. I ate all 6 and immediately wanted to kill myself. Or go into a sugar coma. Or both. (I did neither.)

Flavored milks from Herb Kohl’s Milk House. Hands down, the best deal at the Fair: 25 cents for a glass. I always get strawberry and root beer. This is really the only apparent benefit I get out of either of Wisconsin’s senators.

August 14, 2007

August 14, 2007

State Fair Recap: What I Did, Part 2

If you missed part 1, click here.

Bingo. I know my fascination with this game is unnatural for someone born, well, after the World Wars. But I really, really enjoy playing it, especially when buy-in is free. When I’m one away, I get a huge adrenaline rush. Kinda sad, really. Anyway, I played six sessions this year and actually won TWICE (O75 for Crazy Kite and G52 for Little Turtle, for those of you keeping track). I also won a door prize. In case this needs to be reported to the IRS, my total winnings were:
-$40 in bingo vouchers
-2 tote bags
-2 t-shirts
-2 jars of mini highlighters
-1 thermos and mug set in travel case

Timber Tina’s World Champion Lumberjills. This was actually something new. Four women competed in sawing (both with regular saws and chainsaws), chopping, and logrolling. I’m willing to overlook their poorly-spelled slogan (“Chics with Axes!”) because they were willing to wear flannel in August and because I’m pretty sure any one of them could kill me bare-handed.

Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. This was also new. I was hoping for actual exotic animals, but they turned out to be animatronic. I was pretty ticked-off that a multi-billion dollar insurance company couldn’t shell out for some live penguins. Then they gave me a four-color grippy pen and all was well.

So that was most of what I saw and did. However, two of my favorites were mysteriously absent this year: the circus and the dream home giveaway. Considering that last year’s “dream home” was actually a smallish log cabin, I kinda saw the end of that coming. But, um…where my elephants at?

Tomorrow: The Dark Side of the Wisconsin State Fair: it’s a food orgy.

August 13, 2007

August 13, 2007

State Fair Recap: What I Did, Part 1

When you’ve been going to the Wisconsin State Fair for what seems like forever, you tend to develop a routine. Some of the more interesting things I always make a point to see or do:

Animals. Wisconsin’s pretty heavily agricultural, so you have to check out the animals. As tempting as it is to try and tip a cow, I’m always too intimidated by the farm kids to approach any cattle. Seriously, those farm kids have pitchforks and they know how to use them. My favorite livestock area is probably the “Rabbit & Poultry Palace” for two reasons: 1) It smells least bad, and 2) Someone with admirable chutzpah decided to call it a palace, and I give him (or her) props.

(I did not get a chance to see the racing pigs this year, unfortunately. I am told they were excellent as usual.)

Boardwalk Vendors. I’m way too cheap to ever actually buy anything from these people, but it takes motivation to sit outside all day convincing people to pay you to guess their age. Or analyze their handwriting. Unless they’re just making all of that up. Hmm...

Prize-Winning Baked Goods. Actually, it’s prize-winning all-kinds-of-crap. Vegetables, meats, cheeses, you name it. The sheer number of categories is insane; people compete for stuff like “Best Use of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing.” I believe this is Exhibit A that we as a society have officially becoming too self-rewarding.

The Exposition Center. Back in the day, all of the infomercially products were sold in two dimly-lit buildings dating back to roughly the late Stone Age. A few years ago, though, the State Fair Powers That Be built a huge expo center where Wonder Mops, Magic Slicers, Aqua Massages, and several hundred other products can be hawked in bright, climate-controlled environs. Doing some rough math (and you know that all of my math is pretty rough), I calculate 19 aisles and about 700 booths. That’s some serious commercialism.

Tomorrow: Things new this year...and things that went MIA.

August 9, 2007

August 9, 2007

Listen to This, Volume 5

Maybe I'm just a sucker for little dancing girls. That would explain my fanaticism for Little Miss Sunshine. At any rate, the tap-dancing Bee Girl plays a big role in the music video for the song featured in this installment of Listen to This: "No Rain" by Blind Melon.

I, too, like watching the rain. And reading books.

This song makes me feel good. That is all.

August 8, 2007

August 8, 2007

Living Dangerously

While I have no immediate plans to go beyond the veil (Harry Potter reference, check), I’ve noticed lately that I pursue several habits that are quite likely to lead to an early death. I should probably find this distressing, but…eh. Rather, let me warn you against what I do on (unfortunately) a pretty regular basis.

I never wash my produce. That’s right. It goes directly from grocery store shelf to my mouth, via my fridge. You’d think that huge E. coli outbreak last year would have phased me. Or the fact that my apples come from South American banana republics. Not so much.

I always cross against the light. My friend Jenn lives in a town that (despite her protestations) I imagine as a crossroads with a single blinking red light guarded by a man in overalls named Zeke (Macomb joke, check). Crossing against the light in this kind of situation is probably okay. However, I tend to do it downtown during rush hour traffic. (In my defense, I always look both ways, because that and “stop, drop, and roll” are pretty much all of kindergarten that I remember. Kindergarten—the appendix of schooling.)

My favorite restaurant is of questionable quality. I love this one Chinese place in suburban Milwaukee and go there almost every Saturday. The food tastes really good and the prices aren’t bad. Yet if FOX’s illustrious programming combo of “Busted on the Job” specials and Hell’s Kitchen has taught us nothing else, we know that what happens in the kitchen stays in the kitchen. And I shudder to think at what the (possibly illegal) immigrant workers are doing back there amongst the pots and pans. It’s not just that I prefer not to know; it’s that I actively avoid even thinking about it. When the doors swing open, I turn away, knowing that sooner or later I’m bound to see them cutting up a hedgehog or something (Sega reference, check).

So while some people know they’re most likely to be done in by penchants for cliff diving or raw meat, even the non-adventurous, steaks-medium-well of us have reasons. And, in my case, they are three-fold (Friends reference, check).

August 7, 2007

August 7, 2007

To the Director of “The Last of the Mohicans”

Dear Michael Mann,

As a renowned director (some might even say “auteur”), you probably get a lot of fan letters that begin with sentences such as “I love your movies,” “OMG Miami Vice was awesome,” and “Can you introduce me to Will Smith?” Please forgive me for not starting with something along those lines. I am writing this more as a concerned viewer than a rabid fangirl.

You see, I recently watched your adaptation of the James Fenimore Cooper classic The Last of the Mohicans. And I’m not ashamed to tell you, sir, that I am most grievously confused.

Wanting to fully experience the film, I read both the original Cooper work and the story’s CliffsNotes before popping the tape into my VCR. I must admit that Cooper’s penchant for extended action sequences, the fact that he wrote several centuries ago, and the presence of a character with a pitch pipe all left me with a rather tenuous grasp of the plot. I looked to your handiwork to smooth over my narrative bewilderment.

However, you appear to have fully exercised the liberties inherent in the words “adapted by” and “based on.” Because the storyline of your film was not so much a movie version of the book as it was a loose reconstruction of some iffy fanfiction. Allow me to point out a few of your liberties:

Nathaniel (Natty) Bumppo
In your movie: Is the male protagonist; falls in love with Cora
In the book: Plays a minor role, falls in love with no one

In your movie: Falls in love with Alice; throws himself off a cliff
In the book: Falls in love with Cora; dies

In your movie: Falls in love with Uncas; throws herself off a cliff
In the book: Falls in love with Heyward; lives

In your movie: Falls in love with Nathaniel; lives
In the book: Falls in love with Uncas; dies

You can see how someone who’s read the book would get a little confused. (If you can’t, it’s right around the part where people are jumping off cliffs.) And while I appreciate your excising of Gamut (seriously, wtf was up with him?) and the amazing soundtrack, I would ask that if you are asked to helm the final Harry Potter movie, you would please resist similar plot tampering. Because I can only assume it would result in the Weasleys turning evil, Hagrid marrying Hermione, and/or house elves ruling the world.


August 6, 2007

August 2, 2007

August 2, 2007

The Wisconsin State Fair: A Preview

The Wisconsin State Fair starts today. And while your state fair may be a dunk tank, a man with a musical saw, and a cow made of butter, you should know that Wisconsin takes its fair seriously. Not quite Green Bay Packers seriously, but close.

Because there’s so much to do (and because I’m that much of a dork), I go twice. I’ve been attending the fair for over a decade, so I’ve got it down to a routine. Things I know I’ll be doing at least once:

- Playing bingo with hundreds of people, getting one number away, and losing to someone else at my same table.
- Ogling overpriced crap usually relegated to infomercials.
- Eating something fried.
- Eating something put on a stick (new this year: Smores).
- Eating something fried, then put on a stick.
- Watching pigs race (I love that they race for Oreos. Because, really, who wouldn’t?).
- Wondering what exactly constitutes 1st place pickles, and whether the 2nd place pickles feel there was judging bias.
- Adding another tiny souvenir Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to my collection. At last count, I have 14.
- Riding the skyglider and wondering what the people who throw their flip flops on the roofs do afterward. (Buy more? Go barefoot?)
- Hoping not to catch bird flu in the poultry barn. (“Did that rooster just sneeze? It did, didn’t it?”)
- Inwardly cursing the people trying to navigate a huge stroller through the crowd while the kid who should be in the stroller toddles along at half-a-mile-an-hour.
- Outwardly cursing those same people.

So, as you can see, it’s a fun time. For all the stereotypical jokes I make about people from other parts of the country, for these 11 days, I morph into a true Midwesterner: all about the agriculture. And the fried foods.

August 1, 2007

August 1, 2007

My Favorite Director: Wes Anderson

Many people have a favorite actor. When they hear that Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts is in a film, that movie immediately becomes a must-see. And even if it turns out to be the cinematic equivalent of nails on the chalkboard, at least fill-in-the-blank was in it, right?

I really don’t have a favorite actor or actress. Some intrigue me (Edward Norton), scare me (Ray Liotta), or make me laugh (Owen Wilson), but there really isn’t one whose every film I have to see, whose picture I would hang over my bed, or whose half-eaten toast I would purchase on eBay.

For me, it’s all about a director: Wes Anderson. For those of you not familiar with the Anderson oeuvre, this is the guy who did Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. He’s incredibly quirky, and I do so love quirky. I think his style, evocative of some sort of alternative universe that feels almost real, is pretty well summed up in this recent commercial:

Wes Anderson’s movies evoke a universe that never existed but feels as though it could have. And as tempting as it is to compare these films to children and claim not to have a favorite, we all know that’s crap. I’ve already discussed The Royal Tenenbaums in detail; that’s the one I’d send to a private university. I’d send Rushmore to a state college. The others I’d send to trade school. (Wow, I got my money out of that analogy.)

If you prefer the big-screen experience, The Darjeeling Limited comes out September 29. I’ll be there; will you?