December 31, 2008

December 31, 2008

2008: The Year That Was

Ah, yes, I too have fallen into the “Hey, let’s sum up the year in a tidy post” trap. In my defense, I did the same thing last year. And no, you aren’t getting that number one out of me. I’ve left instructions in my will for it to be revealed after I die. (Totally haven’t.)

As I mentioned last year, 2008 was the first of the Great Years for me. (I cannot promise that that is the last Lord of the Rings reference I will make in this entry. I am, however, fairly certain it is the first.) The year is split for me into “Pre-DC” and “DC” parts. For those of you more seasonally-inclined, I had a summer of discontent (motto: “Someone GIVE ME A DAMN JOB”) followed by a fall of satisfaction. I can’t label winter yet since (as far as I can tell), it has not yet started. Because, seriously, it’s like 50 degrees here every day. This isn’t winter—this is awesome. But anyway.

Since the whole “Implementing the final phase of my seven-year master plan” was obviously the story of my year, let me briefly mention notables in a few other areas.

Media. My e-story of the year would have to be Mad Men’s second season. You know what it wasn’t? A sophomore slump. It was the utter opposite of a slump. A…parabola maybe. I dunno. Math people, get on this.

Late contender: the engagement of Zooey Deschanel and Ben Gibbard—they will have the most excellent indie babies.


Business. Seeing as I until very recently had no bills or investments to speak of, the collapse of economic civilization as we know it (*dun dun DUN*) elicited hardly an eh. However, my condolences to those of you who lost dwellings or jobs. I suggest stashing your money in a can, or perhaps listening to that lovely British woman on the telly who keeps going on about gold.

Late contender: Madoff the Magic Man and His Ponzi Wizardry. You gotta admit that the guy had chutzpah.


News (for those of you scoring at home, I’m basically copying the sections of a typical USA Today newspaper; no need to reinvent the wheel). The final year of election 2008 was obviously the big deal. That half the Republican ticket looked and sounded sorta like me was just gravy. Eerie, eerie gravy. On the plus side, I have something to regale co-workers with at parties. Should my co-workers ever decide to throw any parties. (We’re not exactly a sociable bunch.) (This is why I fit in so well.)

Late contender: Blagojevich, Blagojevich, Blagojevich. If the world can learn THAT last name, certainly there’s hope for mine.

So that about sums it up for me. I’ll be spending most of tomorrow in my happy place (Audrey Hepburn had Tiffany’s; I have a Swedish furniture store). I figure there’s no better way to ring in 2009 than with particleboard and lingonberries.

December 30, 2008

December 30, 2008

In My Opinion: W.

I like history and politics. If you haven’t caught onto that by now, perhaps you should try another blog. Maybe that one with cats and cheeseburgers.

I meant to see W. on Election Day, but ended up watching a little robot instead. While he was cute and all (if he can find love, so can I, right? Right?), I must admit that W. is more my style (which is apparently pro-Republican and anti-robot).

As my viewing companion* said, “It’s an Oliver Stone film, so take it with a grain of salt.” It’s best not to expect a faithful recreation of the life of George W. Bush. Rather, think of this film as coloring in the outlines of history. I was relieved that the time-jumping was kept to a minimum and clearly labeled with the year almost all the time. Props to Josh Brolin for being able to portray frat boy to president and everything in between.

I most enjoyed Elizabeth Banks’ performance as Laura Bush, but that could just be because I’m a big fan of Laura Bush. The backyard-barbecue meeting of George and Laura was an interesting glimpse into the dynamic. The man may not be smart, but he sure is charming. Then again, all the Jack Daniel’s may have helped. (Seriously, were they a sponsor on this thing, or what? There was almost as much Jack as there was Cheney.)

I least enjoyed Thandie Newton’s performance as Condoleezza Rice, but that could just be because I’m a huge fan of Condi. I know the woman has a distinct cadence, but I thought Newton laid it on a little think. If the audience can’t get past the mimicry, something’s wrong. This is where Josh Brolin excelled, as I think the average viewer probably forgot several times that it was an actor up there and not the Commander in Chief. I mean, the voice, the mannerisms, the gestures…they were all spot-on.

Most of you have already formed opinions on the Iraq War, and this movie isn’t going to change those. What it does is show the motivations, right or wrong. I thought Stone played up the “He just wanted to impress his father” angle a bit much; not everyone has a daddy complex. Then again, when your father’s been the freaking POTUS, I suppose there’s a bit of a standard to live up to.

* My dad this time, so no need to protect the innocent.

December 29, 2008

December 29, 2008

Sorry I Missed It: What Not to Wear

Spending an hour every day on the treadmill has its obvious benefits, mostly in the 388 calories burned via the magic of kinesis. However, a subtler but just as important perk is the fact that the treadmills in my building have televisions. WITH CABLE. God bless America.

After short stints working out to news (depressing) and cooking programs (even more depressing), I settled on TLC’s What Not to Wear. I figured it would be a longer version of a show I used to like called Knock Knock Makeover. Hapless folks in sweatpants madeover into slightly-less hapless (half-happed?) folks in department store trousers.

For those of you unfamiliar with WNTW, a person with little or no fashion sense gets nominated by friends or family. Stylistas Stacy London and Clinton Kelly secretly tape the contestant for a couple of weeks, then confront the person with the footage. This is my third-favorite part of the show, as it usually involves dialogue like this:

Stacy: So here, we see you in rhinestone-studded pleather pants.
Contestant: Um, I thought they were cute.
Clinton: Seriously, I think my eyes are going to start bleeding.


After a little of that, Stacy and Clinton offer The Deal: the contestant gets $5,000 to spend on a new wardrobe during a two-day shopping spree in New York. In exchange, Stacy and Clinton get to take possession of the contestant’s entire wardrobe and toss whatever they like (which is usually all of it). Stacy and Clinton also get to set some wardrobe rules (“No pleather” would be an example.)

At this point, the contestant goes to New York (because, c’mon, who’s going to turn down $5,000?) and enters the 360-degree mirror wearing what he or she (I’ve never seen a male contestant, but I’m told it’s possible) thinks is a nice outfit. More sample dialogue:

Contestant: So…this is something I’d wear to dinner with my husband.
Stacy: Let’s hope it’s dark there.
Clinton: You’re really not doing yourself any credit with these pants, honey. I definitely see baggy butt here. (gestures around butt area)
Contestant: Is that what my butt looks like? Wow.


Stacy and Clinton give constructive criticism along these lines (phrases like “vertical stripes” and “dark wash jeans”) and the contestant starts a-spending. On day one, he or she wings it alone as Stacy and Clinton surveil and bitch (“Did she NOT understand what vertical means?); they join the person for shopping on day two. Shopping day two is my second-favorite part of the show, as it always involves a lot of Stacy and Clinton feeling fabrics. You’d think it would have gotten old by now for them. Apparently not.

After the $5,000 is long gone, the contestant gets the traditional makeover: hair and makeup. Then he or she models a few outfits for Stacy and Clinton (typical reaction: “Shut UP, you look amazing!”—this is my favorite part of the show), then heads back to wow the folks at home.

While I can’t deny enjoying the schadenfreude of watching someone with ridiculous clothes get savaged by the fashion gurus, I find that I more enjoy the shows featuring some clueless person whose only crime is owning too many cardigans.* I have also picked up a few fashion tips, though I quietly boo the tv every time a tall woman complains about, well, anything.** Seriously, what’s it like to have sleeves that are too SHORT? Or be able to wear pants? Anyway.

I have no idea when WNTW actually shows new episodes; I just know that reruns air weeknights at 6 eastern on TLC. The Learning Channel, indeed.

* In the interest of full disclosure, I myself own three cardigans. I work in an office shutup.
** I actually have a special level of hatred reserved for women who complain about a very specific body issue, but there’s no way I’m blogging about that here. My female friends know what I’m talking about, and I’ll just give them a minute to nod sagely.

December 24, 2008

December 24, 2008

In My Opinion: Changeling

Who watches the watchmen?

Going into Changeling, I expected some good period drama and a lot of pouty Angelina Jolie. Well, and a flapper hat or two. Despite the film’s great pedigree (directed by Clint Eastwood, c’mon), reviews were middling and the film didn’t do nearly as well as expected. Apparently, Eastwood films do best when they’re about boxers and euthanasia. Whatever.

I’m going to be frank: I found this film riveting.

PLEASE NOTE THAT I WILL SOON BE SPOILING MAJOR PLOT POINTS. SKIP DOWN TO THE NEXT SENTENCE IN RED CAPITAL LETTERS.

Changeling begins in 1928 San Francisco. Christine Collins (Jolie) is a single mother to Walter who works (a lot) at a telephone company. Let me here mention that she for some reason completes her supervisory duties while on roller skates. This made me realize that very few jobs would NOT be improved by the addition of roller skates. If only the halls of my agency weren’t carpeted.

One fateful day, Christine gets called in to work unexpectedly. She leaves Walter home alone with a sandwich and the radio. As anyone who has seen the film’s trailer or remembers 1928 probably knows, she comes home to find Walter missing.

That’s when it all hits the fan.

To make a long (2 hours and 20 minutes, for realsies) story short, the police refuse to get off their asses for quite some time, then try to pass off some random boy as Walter Collins. Christine, with an assist from the world’s creepiest clergyman (though that could just be John Malkovitch’s way), asserts that the boy isn’t her son—even when that results in her being committed without cause.

[Sidebar for fans of The Office: Amy Ryan makes an appearance as another woman unfairly committed. Imagine how weird it was to see Holly Flax getting electrotherapy.]

I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice to say it’s bittersweet. Life in a nutshell, no?

OKAY, SELF-RIGTHEOUS SPOILER PHOBES. YOU CAN GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSES AND START READING AGAIN.

What fascinated me about this film was its demonstration of the subjectivity of truth. People tend to blindly follow authority, whether cop, doctor, or priest. When everyone has pure motives, this system works out fairly well. But when corruption enters the picture, things (booze, prostitutes, missing children) tend to slip through the cracks.

December 23, 2008

December 23, 2008

Smells Like Happy

So Burger King has finally realized that scent is one of the strongest sensory triggers. I’m not saying that I would buy the new Whopper-scented body spray. In the interest of full disclosure, I bought a year’s worth of peppermint-scented body spray this weekend at Bath and Body Works. I couldn’t resist the siren’s song of 75% off, despite the fact that it required me to be in a shopping mall the weekend before Christmas.

While I rarely eat at fast food restaurants (preferring to eat out either at fancy places with dates or a good buffet with just myself and a small mountain hearty serving of Chinese food), I can’t deny that the Whopper is my favorite burger scent. The Big Mac (and McDonald’s restaurants in general) don’t really have a smell. Maybe greasy. No one knows whether Wendy’s smells or not because they’re blinded by ALL THE YELLOW. But Burger King? Burger King is flame-broiled, baby.

My Master’s thesis equivalent was a strategic plan for Burger King. In it, I advocated things like building more restaurants in Latin American markets and developing healthier menu options. I recall nothing about striving to make the world smell like charred beef. Way to think outside the box, BK.

But, seriously, the King has to go. He may not be a phobia-inducing clown, but he’s no grinning girl with pigtails.

Tell me that’s not going to give you nightmares. Seriously.

December 22, 2008

December 22, 2008

Things I’ve Read: I Was Told There’d Be Cake

There are little elements in a person’s life, minor fibers that become unintentionally tangled with our personality.

I now know there’s no need for me to write a memoir.

I mean, I think we can all agree that what I have going on here with the blog, the food-tinged musings on life, are all well and good. But now that I know such a book exists as I Was Told There’d Be Cake, I realize the world doesn’t need another. I would be bitter, but Sloane Crosley’s book made me laugh so much (on public transit, no less), that I can’t begrudge her for being first. Especially since the book jacket notes that “She also wrote the cover story for the worst-selling issue of Maxim in that magazine’s history.” Self deprecation AND wit…I think I love her.

Dirty movies are like roller coasters: you have to be tall enough to ride them.

As my memoir was planned to be, this book is a collection of essays. While the traditional memoir topics (relationships, summer camp, first apartment, etc.) are all there, a few things unique to Crosley get comic treatment as well, like her penchant for getting toy ponies from boyfriends. Or the paradox that while she’s a vegetarian, she eats a LOT of sushi, thus confusing the hell out of people.

I thought we had reached an understanding, the institution of marriage and I. Weddings are like the triathlon of female friendship: the Shower, the Bachelorette Party, and the Main Event.

As a 29-year-old, though, Crosley reminisces about things that anyone of A Certain Age will remember. The Oregon Trail and its eerie affect on the subconscious of today’s 20-somethings (as well as its parallels with life in general). The first job that involved menial labor for people who think a caps lock key opens a door. Being asked to stand the wedding of someone you haven’t spoken to in years.

People are less quick to applaud as you grow older. Life starts out with everyone clapping when you take a poo and goes downhill from there.

Crosley’s stated in interviews that this is a book of comic disappointment. It’s not that you feel depressed as you’re reading. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Ask anyone on the 13 or 21 Metrobuses. (You may have to refer to the brunette who read while chuckling as she waited in line at the Pentagon Transit Center.)

Crosley has also stated that she sees in color and remembers in black and white. As I see it, this is the best possible system for a good memoirist. Too many people seem to cast a rosy glow on the past, whereas the reality is probably that yesterday sucked just as badly as today does. (Unless today is Monday, in which case it probably sucked less. But anyway.)

December 18, 2008

December 18, 2008

Kiss the Cook

I suppose one could say that I have cooking skills. One would then, however, have to clarify that said skills involve the microwave, instructions on the sides of boxes, and the occasional pot (cooking, not smoking). Even I am amused when watching myself trying to peel a potato. It takes like 10 minutes. One potato. Yes, folks, I have a graduate degree!

Thus when several (yes, SEVERAL) people informed me that Nintendo’s coming out with what’s basically a cooking videogame, my reaction tended along the lines of “HAHAHAHAHA, shutup.” I appreciate the suggestion and might follow it if it didn’t involve shelling out who knows how much for the game and system and if frozen foods weren’t so damn quick, tasty, and portion-controlled. I drank the Lean Cuisine Kool-Aid; it was both delicious and sugar free.

Ironically, I flip between TLC’s “What Not To Wear” and Food’s “30 Minute Meals” every night while on the treadmill. I’ve watched Rachael Ray* chop up a LOT of stuff. That’s just as good, right? And I’m pretty sure I see this commercial at least once a day:



Even Phoebe is selling this thing!

* Along with Kelly Ripa, one of the few “so perky she’s gotta be on SOMETHING” people who does NOT annoy me.

December 17, 2008

December 17, 2008

Give It Up

While I really have no clue what the demographics of my blog readership are, I daresay many of you are approximately my age. Thus you’re more than likely buying gifts for at least one yuppie, whether yourself, your significant other, friends, or family. (I mean, I think we both realize that what I’m doing here is hinting at what you should get ME, but whatever.)

You may have already finished all of your Christmas shopping; I think my friend Amanda does all of hers on Black Friday, armed with a list and a shiv. You may be waiting until December 24th in order to get deep discounts (on whatever’s left in the bottom of the bin—I hope your kids don’t mind stainage on their Tickle-Me-Elmos). But if you’re somewhere in the middle, and thinking about buying gifts for me a yuppie in the next few days, here are my suggestions for things that can’t go wrong:

- Candles. I prefer ones that smell like food. Shocker, I know! Woodwick are a personal preference. They’re pricey but of amazing quality. The wick is made of a reed that crackles, fireplace-like, as it burns. Other good choices include Yankee Candle and Illuminations.

- Books. Like I haven’t already written enough about books, I know. A gift book is tricky, because there’s all sorts of implied meaning. As a sort of general guideline for me, dictionaries bad, art/history/food books good. Look for something that’s not too deep and has glossy pictures.

- Board games. Jenga is my game of choice, though Scrabble, Yahtzee, and Clue are also good choices. Target has library versions of these, which come in nice mahogany boxes and are attractive enough to put on your bookshelf.

- Dinner. Clear some space in January for some food and a few hours of good conversation. If nothing else, you can regale each other with tales of holiday party antics. Crazy uncles, spillage, that sort of thing.

Note that I have not listed gift cards, though I people love to get them from Target. I see gift cards as saying either “I had no idea wtf to get you, so buy something yourself” or “You’re so picky, I daren’t attempt to please you.” Both are good (and lord knows the latter’s appropriate in my case), but there’s a time and a place for that sort of thing. This blog entry isn’t it.

December 16, 2008

In My Opinion: Australia

I went into Australia looking for spectacle. Not “Jason Statham drives really fast” spectacle or even “Women wear shiny dresses” spectacle. Just some historical epic with a dash of funny accents. I don’t know a ton about the country of Australia (kangaroos? Boomerangs? It’s, um…down under something?), so I was ready to be educated.

The best way for me to sum up this film is to say that it’s the Gone with the Wind of Australia. Ostensibly, there’s a love story set against Notable Events of History. Which would have been well and good if director Baz Luhrmann had stuck to the plan.

Folks, I can deal with a movie that is both historical epic and romance. I could even have gotten on-board with the “buddy film” aspects of the first half. It brought the two romantic leads together, yada yada yada. But when you throw in the genres of war, musical, and comedy, IT’S TOO MUCH. You can’t please all of the moviegoers all of the time, Baz.

To be fair, the first half of the film, taken alone, would have made a perfectly-acceptable movie. While the opening 30 minutes or so is quirky and frenetic in an almost slapstick way (Luhrmann’s signature style, I’m told), things quickly settle down. The plot at this point has two focuses: Nicole Kidman is a fish out of water (a FANTASTICALLY dressed one, though she could stand to eat a few kangaroo burgers) and a motley crew of main players, led by Hugh Jackman’s Drover, must get a crapload of cattle from the ranch to the port. Think Hidalgo with cattle and less sand.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that early on there’s a gratuitous scene of Hugh Jackman, shirtless, bathing. That it is obviously gratuitous does not make it any less awesome. Ahem.)

Once the drive is over (I won’t reveal whether it’s successful, but take a wild guess), things would appear to come to a natural conclusion. As my viewing companion* said, everyone lives happily ever after.

But, um, no. We still have like 4 hours of movie.

World War 2 comes to town. People are kidnapped. David Wenham, who played only my favorite fictional man EVER, turns out to be a total asshole. So! Much! Confusion!

Thus I can only really endorse the beginning of the movie. I felt that it tried to be too many things to really gel into a cohesive film. I read that Luhrmann was working on the thing until just two weeks before its release; I think you can tell. His use of both Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze” (which will definitely be played at my wedding) and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (not even at the reception, sorry) as musical motifs helped unify things a little, but it wasn’t enough.

* And that’s all you’ll be hearing about that, thank you very much.

December 15, 2008

December 15, 2008

Remember This? Volume 9: The NeverEnding Story

The NeverEnding Story was one of those things I had to go to the neighbor’s house to enjoy when I was little. The neighbors (including two kids close…ish to my age) had all the good stuff. A Nintendo. A waterbed. A pool. Luckily all that separated our yards was a chainlink fence, and my feet were still small enough to find toeholes.

Anyway.

One of the films owned by the neighbors was The NeverEnding Story. I don’t remember much about it other than the title song, something involving a mirror, and the fact that every time I watched the movie, I saw some completely new scene that I had no recollection of from previous watchings. Bear in mind, I watched The NeverEnding Story a LOT. It’s a kid-specific ability, I think, to be able to watch a program over and over and over without losing any sort of enjoyment. As for the “new to me” scenes I stumbled on during each viewing, I can only chalk them up to the fact that my memory then was apparently as bad as it is now. (Or maybe I was distracted by the waterbed. Not sure.)

Wikipedia discusses the plot in more detail, but doesn’t ring any bells for me (except the book stuff at the beginning and the aforementioned mirror). The trailer is proof, though, that this was very definitely a movie of the ‘80s—animatronics and CGI, oh my!



They say the book is better, and I’m sure that’s true. But for a small kid, reading a book isn’t quite the same as watching a movie. On a waterbed.

December 12, 2008

December 12, 2008

My Thoughts on The Office

Overall thoughts: WOW. There were certainly a lot of developments (Meredith’s rehab) this week, balanced with a fair share of episode-specific events (Princess Unicorn). I actually like that; I don’t want the series to become either too serial or too episodic.

That being said, the BIG REVEAL was certainly a shock to me. I can’t say I agree with Phyllis’ behavior, but I’m glad it happened. Enough deception, Dwangela. I shudder to think how Andy’s going to take it, though. His wardrobe’s about to get a lot less colorful.

Favorite quote: “Dwight and Angela are having sex.” Or however it was phrased. My jaw was too busy DROPPING for me to get the exact wording.
Favorite quote, runner-up: “It’s Christmas.” “She knew it.” “I knew it.” Jam = too adorable.

Favorite character: Meredith. She may be an alcoholic, but she’s a hardcore one. I almost expect her to show up on an episode of Californication.
Favorite character, runner-up: Toby. Who knew he was bitchy?

Favorite scene: Anything Angela/Phyllis, whether or not it involved shoving a nativity in a drawer.
Favorite scene, runner-up: The beginning of the Christmas party. I’m not saying I think people should drink at work. (Though I’m fairly certain both public sector workplaces I’ve been with could’ve benefited.) However, you must admit things get much more interesting…and fiery.

5.11 – Moroccan Christmas

black belt in gift wrapping
skin a mule?
big guy, tiny hat
Moroccan grandmother
Jesus will judge Phyllis
blackmail via formal letter
doll/unicorn hybrid
Splenda? That is one HELL of a cocktail.
creepy lamp rubbing
One way in which the private sector wins: liquor at work.
I love Andy's sweater vest for the second week in a row.
Hummus! Pita! WHY DO I NOT WORK THERE?
"Fire girl." "Too soon." "Yeah."
"My nickname was 'Puke.'"
"Got straight B's."
"Five-fingered intervention"
Rockin' the hairnet
Addicted to porn
"I stab her in the brain with a wooden stick."
"A watch would be nice."
Wow, Toby's evil.
"Is there something wrong with the doll?"
"I have a deposit. Alcoholic. Do I sign?"
ANGELA/PHYLLIS CATFIGHT?!
HOLY CRAP.
"No matter the cultural millieu."
Oh, poor Andy. Poor, poor Andy.

December 11, 2008

December 11, 2008

Winter Reading

Unprovided with original learning, unformed in the habits of thinking, unskilled in the arts of composition, I resolved to write a book. –Edward Gibbon

Once upon a time, I decided that I would write a book about my college years. You may have noticed that I enjoy writing (though whether my readers feel the same about my work is perhaps debatable). Those of you familiar with the school I went to know there’s a wealth of information. I could probably do a couple of chapters alone on the dress code. But anyway.

While I have, in fact, put in a little work on my roman a clef, it’s hard to make a lot of progress when people keep coming out with more interesting things for me to read when I should be writing. Since I assume many of you don’t keep an eye on my BookJetty listing to the right of this page and I don’t write up everything I read, allow me (with a huge assist from the Washington Post) to preview what I plan to read over the next few months whilst on Metrobuses, trains, and my couch. The blurbs are from the Post, and the links are to full reviews.

FICTION

The Good Thief, by Hannah Tinti.
Follows a bright, one-handed orphan through enough harrowing scrapes and turns to satisfy your inner Dickens.

The Invention of Everything Else, by Samantha Hunt.
A whimsical love story about one of the world's most remarkable inventors, Nikola Tesla.

NONFICTION

The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes, by Andrew Lycett.
A surprisingly action-packed biography of Arthur Conan Doyle.

Mrs. Woolf and the Servants, by Alison Light.
Focuses primarily on the interaction between Virginia Woolf and the women who cared for her, it also probes the complex nature of dependence.

Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell.
A powerful brief in favor of the argument that time, place and resources are decisive factors in success or failure.

Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (And What It Says About Us, by Tom Vanderbilt.
Jam-packed with carefully researched information about every imaginable aspect of driving. It's one of those rare books that leaves you wondering: Why hasn't this been done before?

Washington: The Making of the American Capital, by Fergus M. Bordewich.
Less about Pierre L'Enfant, whose classic design for the city is today barely recognizable, than about the speculators whose high-wire acts nearly brought the city down before it got built, and the slaves whose labor, generally unacknowledged, made it possible.


So that’s what I’ll be reading. You?

December 10, 2008

December 10, 2008

Listen to This, Volume 18: Lily Allen

The return of 8 hours of Pandora a day to my life hopefully means more music suggestions inspired by the Music Genome Project and fewer motivated by ads for the Gap. Thank you for your patience.

I feel that this entry should address two aspects of Lily Allen: the person and the musician. (I imagine that were I ever to stop rejecting Pandora’s Amy Winehouse suggestions, that entry would do the same thing. I, however, am not quite at that place yet.)

Lily Allen the person is described on Wikipedia as “mockney.” Issue the first: BEST WORD EVER. Issue the second: Who knew this was a phenomenon? Despite the fact that most people try the reverse approach (to the joy of universities and haberdashers everywhere), I suppose I can’t fault someone dropping a social class or two in order to find success. Plus, who doesn’t love a good cockney accent? I’d fake it if I could.

Lily Allen the musician seems to have a lot of songs about how men are jerks. Male readers, please skip the following paragraph.

Okay, ladies, I think we can all agree that while this isn’t true in every case, it’s not a totally-unfounded generalization. There was a great comic in this Sunday’s Washington Post magazine: three guys are in a lineup, with a woman and a police officer in the room behind the one-way glass. The cop’s on the phone and says, “Number two, step forward and say ‘I’ll call you.’” I think we’ve all experienced this, right? You know that comic’s now on my fridge, between the White House magnet and the “Top Ten Reasons I Didn’t Make It in the CIA” one.

I like Allen’s light pop treatment of the subject. It’s sort of a laissez-faire approach. Try this video (but don’t get distracted by the RED WALLS and the CHOCOLATE like I was).



I’m sure guys can use this video as proof that women are crazy. Women, though, use it as reason to dream of a) giving that guy what he deserves and b) rocking the dress/tennis shoe combo.

Sometimes, it really is that simple.

December 9, 2008

December 9, 2008

A Capitol Time

One of my favorite tours in D.C. is the U.S. Capitol. Besides the grandiose architecture and historical decoration you get in any building around here (seriously, ANY building), the Capitol is, you know, where the law of the land is made. Say what you will about government, that’s pretty cool.

I last took the tour a couple of weeks ago, ironically just before the new gazillionteen-years-in-the-making visitors’ center opened.

Regular readers know my feelings on crowds, blatant tourists, and people in general (against) and the corralling of those people with good signage (FOR). Thus a structure that would both contain visitors as well as educate them is what I call a win-win. As an added bonus, I myself might be able to benefit, as you can now reserve tour tickets online.

This may sound like old hat to those of you who’ve never visited the Capitol. Let me describe the old system:

Tickets are distributed starting at 9 a.m. for the day. You go to the ticket booth, get in line, and wait to get yours. Despite the fact that tours start every 10 minutes or so, all tickets for the entire day are usually gone within a couple of hours. Seriously. I went on a Saturday in November and scored a 3:30 p.m. ticket at 10:30 a.m. And there were still a lot of people behind me.

Thus my excitement at being able to get tickets for free, online, early. When you, dear reader, come visit me, we don’t have to stand in line for hours.

Well, ideally. I have to admit my doubts at the new system. I mean, the reservation screen doesn’t exactly scream competence:

Did I miss a memo, or are those arrival times, um…okay, seriously, what IS that?

December 8, 2008

December 8, 2008

Whither the Blogger?

This is the entry wherein I explain some of my life choices. I realize that this might be of little interest to those looking for my typical reviews of movies, food, and cute boys.

Read at your own peril.


Life is about reading one person's plan and thinking it makes a lot of sense and trying it on and seeing if it works. And then it does work, sort of a little bit. But, no, not completely. So you take the parts you like and you move on to a different plan. And you find that the new plan doesn't totally fit either, but some elements of this one mixed with the elements of that one could work okay. And you go on, repeating this process until one day you realize you're following such a mishmash of modified plan-parts that -- hey -- you can safely call it your own.

--Kristy, of the hilarious yet sometimes Très Deep blog
She Just Walks Around With It

Some people are master improvisers. Comedians. Jazz musicians. Politicians.

I am not one of those people.

I like a plan. I want to know exactly what I’m doing, when, where, and with whom. (Also, whether there will be food, but that’s another entry.) The large stretches of Unknown Territory that might excite and inspire other people just freak me out. As I see it, the blank canvas is an accident waiting to happen. (This may explain why I am not an artist: fear of spillage.)

Thus the creation and implementation of my seven-year Master Plan. To be fair, I don’t know whether I can really call it that if it’s only seven years long, but it sounds good. And that’s really the most important part, right? Right?

In January 2001, I visited Washington, D.C. for the first time. My mom was stationed here on business, and I was able to take a week off school, pay only for my airfare, and see the nation’s capital.

DID I EVER.

I honestly can’t even remember all the things I saw that week; I know I hit all the major Mall and near-Mall stuff as well as Arlington and Capitol Hill. I definitely remember being sore. But that’s not the single impression I was left with.

Most of all, I remember being awed.

More history, power, and politics are packed into this little intersection of Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia that just about anywhere on earth. Every building you walk past downtown is either amazingly old or the world headquarters of something. Maybe both. This may not sound exciting to you, but it’s the sort of thing that thrills me. (Judge away, person-who-owns-multiple-video-game-consoles. Judge away.)

When in D.C., I felt a sense of, for lack of a better word, belongingness. It clicked in a way no where else ever has. I know that’s not a long explanation (people always seem to want more), but it’s accurate.

What I soon realized, though, is that not just any Caribou Barbie can succeed in the nation’s capital. You need book smarts. You need street smarts. You need the ability to kill a man with your bare hands. I figured one out of three wasn’t bad (ooh, but which one?), so I pursued degrees not in my dream field, but in the practical yet versatile field of business. And kicked academic butt while doing so. I figure that anything worth doing is worth doing well enough to get some Latin appended to your name on graduation day. Y’know.

The only point during which my Master Plan was touch-and-go was the summer after grad school. I knew I was moving. Soon. With or without a job. Gutsy? …maybe. I should point out that I, like Jerry Seinfeld, seem to be an Even Steven. Things just always seem to work out for me. However, after about the 200th application (you think I’m kidding—I AM NOT KIDDING), my enthusiasm started to falter. But then the law of averages kicked in and I got two job offers the week before I moved. Thank you, math. (The first time I have ever uttered that sentiment. Huh.)

Now I’m here. Living the dream, as it were. Places to go, people to see, things to do, and all of it. With any luck, I’ll be able to avoid grave bodily injury for some time, though my penchant to ride Metro after dark may be working against me there. Eh.

That, as they say, is the rest of the story. Thanks for playing and come again.

December 5, 2008

December 5, 2008

My Thoughts on The Office

Overall thoughts: I thought this was a great episode. We got a main plotline that actually happened IN THE OFFICE. Always a plus for me. The secondary plot was just as good (i.e. Andy-filled—not only was he rocking that vest; he also whistles Pachelbel). I wasn’t sure where they were going with the Jim vs. Pam battle royale, but I think it was done well. And who knew that the first wedding we’d see this season would be performed in German?

Favorite quote: “Let’s threeway this little issue.”
Favorite quote, runner-up: “It is so on.”

Favorite character: Oscar. Who knew he could cogently explain accounting concepts even to one as simple as Michael Scott? That he tried the old “woo them with lunch” ploy just sealed the deal. (I’m easily wooed by lunch. Shocker!)
Favorite character, runner-up: Kevin. I know all he really had was the math stuff at the end of the episode. But the man worked that calculator.

Favorite scene: Michael’s office walkthrough. Kelly’s door open, Pam’s ass compliment, and all. How great must Michael have felt after that?
Favorite scene, runner-up: The wedding. It was weird to see Angela…happy. (Weirder still when she jumped into Andy’s lap and started macking on him, but that resulted in a happy Andy so I let it go.)


5.10 – The Surplus

As someone who does budget, I would LOVE to have a surplus. I'm just sayin'.
“X ax…sick.”
Oscar’s a good teacher.
“Next summer…” “I’ll be six.”
$4200 in ONE DAY?!
My office ALSO needs a new copier.
Pam vs. Oscar smackdown
“That should tell you how terrible the chairs are.”
“YOU are the silent killer.”
“Let’s threeway this little issue.”
Love Andy’s argyle vest
“Manure covers up the smell of the slaughterhouse.”
“There’s a hose out back.”
“It is so on.”
5 years, 2 engagement rings, 1 chair
Ooh, tiramisu. Yum-o.
“Nine dollars. Boys’ department.”
Hot Tie Guy
Cow butter sculpture of a cat
Andy whistling Canon in D—love it
Is Dwangela married now?
“The office is at a crossroads.”
Hank the Decider
They ARE married!!!
$645 will buy you half a Burlington Coat Factory. Seriously.
Urkel-nomically correct
“I already have $645 more, or less.”
“Totally kidding. I’m gonna need four.”

December 4, 2008

December 4, 2008

And this is in reference to...?, Volume 3

It’s been awhile, so here’s another installment of phrases I use way too much for no apparent reason.

“And the inventor of the…” You know that one of my favorite (all time, perhaps?) shows is Friends. Or, if you didn’t, you do now. I can watch an episode at any time and enjoy it. (More so if it’s pre-Monica and Chandler. Though I truly am a Monica, for some reason those later episodes don’t do it for me like the early ones. But I digress.)

In “The One with the Tiny T-Shirt” (Frankie says relax!), the following exchange takes place:

Ross: I can't see anything with the door closed!
Chandler: And the inventor of the door rests happily in his grave.

I like that, and use it for many concepts. Sadly, many of the things I reference have no inventor. This leads to awkward real-life exchanges like this:

Person I know: There’s dirt all over my shoes.
Me: And the inventor of dirt rests happily in his grave.
Person I know: So…God?
Me: …


Yeah. Then again, I long ago made friends with awkward. Awkward and I have a pretty good relationship.

“Alas.” No idea where I picked this one up, nor of how uncommon it is. Are people really not using this one? I guess I haven’t heard anyone else alas-ing lately, but this is true of many things I say. Oeuvre. Juxtaposition. Everything in this Heatherisms series, frankly. Perhaps this should be cluing me in to something…

Nah.

“Duly noted.” Yes, it’s the name of the blog. Thus you know I enjoy it. But I really DO use this one quite a bit in conversation. [pause for nods from my AIM buddies] It’s to the point that when I say just “Noted,” my smartass friends (the vast majority) will retort, “Yes, but DULY?”

HAHAHAHAHA, hush.

“I’ll note it in your file.” Speaking of notes: While I’m certainly anal-retentive enough to keep files on men I date people, I do not yet. However, I DO enjoy telling men I date people that I’ll note things in their files. You just never know with me. Once the robots take over, I may hard copy my mental interface a la the Matrix or whatever. Readers beware!

(Note: If I use the phrase “I’ll put it on your list,” I’m actually not kidding. There are lists. Liz Lemon-esque lists of pros and cons. I cannot disclose the contents of these lists. I really shouldn’t even have acknowledged their existence. Let’s keep it quiet.)

Now you know a little better how to translate me. If you’re going to take anything away from this, try fitting in more “alas.” Shouldn’t be hard—seems to be plenty to alas about these days.

December 3, 2008

December 3, 2008

Urban Quirk

In my apparent attempt to become a hobbit (see: predilection for mushrooms, fear of dragons), I was delighted to learn that my current state was once, in fact, made of shires. That’s right: shires. This is the nice part of living somewhere founded by transplanted Britons and not, I dunno, retirees (sorry, Arizona).

There appear to have been eight original shires, none of which still exist in their original states and some of which are labeled as extinct by Wikipedia. I’m not sure that’s quite the right term. I mean, I imagine the land still exists. While I haven’t explored too much of Virginia, I haven’t yet noticed any large craters, black holes, or other warps in the space-time continuum. I suppose the shire form of government had to eventually give way (alas), though I wish Warrosquyoake Shire were around just so I could have my mail sent there. Between my last name and the name of the shire, well…you’re gonna need a bigger envelope.

Wikipedia also notes that demise of shires may have been influenced by Virginia’s crazy unique system of independent cities. Here, many cities exist outside the auspices of a county. They’re like Jack Bauer cities: shunning authority and going rogue. Forty-two of these things actually exist in the U.S., and THIRTY-NINE are in Virginia. (The others are Baltimore, St. Louis, and Carson City.)

What with all the “County? We don’t need no stinkin’ COUNTY” people, and the “Shire? We don’t need no stinkin’ SHIRE” people, it’s a wonder the Old Dominion hasn’t fallen into chaos. I mean, here’s another Wikipedia quote:

Arlington County, commonly referred to as just "Arlington," is not an independent city. However, it is often referenced, popularly, as a city because it is geographically small and dense; is fully urbanized; is close in size to other independent cities in the state; has no other city or town within its borders; and through a quirk of Virginia history, maintains its own highway infrastructure like independent cities (but not like nearly every other Virginia county). It consists solely of much of the land ceded by Virginia to the Federal Government to form Washington, D.C. in the late 18th century, and retroceded to Virginia in 1846.

I don’t know about you, but by the time I get to “retroceded,” I already want to kill myself. MAKE UP YOUR MIND, Arlington. Make up your mind. (To be fair, I was shopping last week in Arlington and it was actually quite lovely. Shutup.)

Just another thing to get used to, I suppose. A hobbit sighting or two would probably help.

December 2, 2008

December 2, 2008

Things I’ve Read: Prep

Let me preface this review by saying that people who neither have experienced nor feel interest in the East Coast, boarding schools, or semi-cloistered communities will have no interest in this book. A quick check: Do you like fall? Have you ever referred to a campus as “the bubble”? Are you in possession of more than one piece of plaid clothing?

If the answer to any of those questions is “Yes,” please read on.

If a guy believed my value to lie in my looks, it meant either that he'd somehow been misled and would eventually be disappointed, or that he had very low standards.

The narrator/protagonist of Prep is Lee Fiora: a girl who falls in love with the idea of going off to boarding school and reinventing herself. After all, the only difference between the Indiana school where she excels and the Massachusetts school she aims for is one time zone, right?

Well, no. Not so much.

It turns out that Lee’s new school is home to a sub-society of fabulously wealthy, beautiful, and talented people. She may have been the sharpest crayon in the South Bend box, but the kids of Ault School have gone digital. Perhaps an utterly-confident girl with a knack for reinvention could have swung it without problems. Lee, unfortunately, is not that girl (see quote above). Throw in the not-insubstantial travails of teenagerdom and she’s pretty much doomed from the start.

There are people we treat wrong, and later, we're prepared to treat other people right. Perhaps this sounds mercenary, but I feel grateful for these trial relationships, and I would like to think it all evens out—surely, unknowingly, I have served as practice for other people.

The book follows Lee’s four years at Ault, with each chapter covering a season. While the usually high school events all occur (classes and dances and crushes, oh my!), a few out-of-the-ordinary things are put in, too. One classmate gets expelled for theft. Another tries to commit suicide. A third comes out of the closet. (To be fair, these things may all have happened at your high school. If so, you and I have very different academic histories.)

You confuse being weird and spending time alone. But anyone who's really interested in anything spends time alone...if you want to be good at something, you have to practice, and usually you practice by yourself. The fact that you spend time alone—you shouldn’t feel like it's strange.

Throughout, Lee struggles. Academically. Emotionally. Romantically. I won’t say whether she comes out better in the end (you’ll need to read to find that out), but you can be sure she leaves Ault a changed woman.

I enjoyed this book immensely. I felt it had a strong enough narrative thrust to overcome being read it in snatches on trains and at bus stops. You know I’m a sucker for a good bildungsroman. And as someone who’s experienced her fair share of segregated academic communities, I could appreciate the “wtf” moments one has when encountering rules and traditions that seem to exist for no good reason. (Someday, I WILL be able to walk on public grass without shame. Someday.) I can also identify with that desire to move and reinvent yourself; I think all of us have those moments at some point, though so few people actually act on the impulse.

Perhaps what I appreciate most (other than the examination of crippling self-doubt) is Lee’s fascination with the structure, mores, and habits of her school. The joy she gets in reading the school directory. Or looking at the names of all the school’s prefects engraved in gold in the dining common. Unfortunately for Lee, school’s not just about the building. It’s the people that make it…interesting.

December 1, 2008

December 1, 2008

In My Opinion: The Apartment

The Apartment earned a place on my list after one of the characters on Mad Men mentioned wanting to see it. While an endorsement by Joan Holloway isn’t necessarily required, it’s certainly something to keep in mind. For me, anyway.

Jack Lemmon plays C.C. Baxter, a corporate drone who’s just trying move up the career ladder at a New York insurance company. As is so often the case with corporate drones, Baxter finds himself put in a precarious situation by management: several bosses use his apartment for…extracurricular activities. Ah, the swinging sixties. Anyway.

As you can imagine, misunderstandings with the neighbors and comedic hijinks ensue. Jack Lemmon plays the put-upon underling to perfection; he grins and bears it…while decluttering his apartment of empty liquor bottles and women’s gloves. (Which, by the way, are one fashion trend that has never really made a comeback. I’m not protesting—I don’t need another item of clothing to spill condiments on. Just an observation.)

No good movie of the early ‘60s would be without either a racial or gender liberation plotline, though, and The Apartment proffers a pre-crazy Shirley MacLaine as Fran Kubelik, a cute and perky elevator operator (yet another hallmark of a bygone era) in Baxter’s office building. He crushes on her in the way that men do with servicewomen.

*pause for waitresses everywhere to nod*

Luckily for Baxter, Kubelik’s not unwilling, especially after he turns out to be one of the few good men. To go into more detail, however, would spoil the film.

The parallels between this film and Mad Men aren’t perhaps as strong as some people would like to make out, but I do think they exist. Palely. Both address gender in the workplace, set in the milieu of 1960s New York. Once you get past the “Jack Lemmon is so YOUNG” aspect, you can appreciate his performance as the good guy who never gets the girl.

Or does he?

"Just because I wear a uniform doesn't make me a girl scout."

"I guess that's the way it crumbles...cookie-wise."

"Shut up and deal."

November 27, 2008

November 26, 2008

November 26, 2008

Open the pod bay doors, Hal. (Part 2)

Facebook and Pandora were obviously in a thankful mood, as they gave me even more blog fodder just this morning. I'm sure you're impressed by my almost real-time blogging. Ideally, a little 24-esque clock would pop up right now accompanied by that "Doot...doot...doot...doot" sound effect.

Use your imagination.

First up this time, Pandora:

"Headnodic"? Am I reading that correctly? Because if it means what I think it means (you can NOD your HEAD to it), "headnodic" may simulateously be the most ridiculous and awesome word I've seen this week.

Closing this round, Facebook:These ads popped up on my screen today. I see them as the comeditragic plot arch of today's single female. There's a bit of questionable fast food, a need (or hope) for an engagement ring, and the young woman's penultimate option for quick cash. (What's the ultimate option, you ask? The last resort? THINK ABOUT IT.)

I assure you that only one of those ads tempted me to click the thumbs up approval button. I'll leave it to you to decide which one.

Open the pod bay doors, Hal.

Though we’ve had a few rough patches (see: the time a virus bitchslapped my laptop), technology and I generally get along. Without it, I would certainly be out of a job…or at least much more familiar with an abacus. I’d also have a lot less to entertain me, though one might argue that the gazillionteen shows I watch on television already fill that need. Shutup. Whatever. Don’t judge me.

Sometimes, though, technology passes “It’s so useful,” veers around “It knows exactly what I want it to do,” and heads straight for “WTF does this even mean?”

Case in point:

I like to think of this status update as “Facebook fail.” If it helps, we can pretend the negative sign means this event actually occurred in the future. And if Facebook’s predicting the future, I retract my griping.

Here’s another one. I’ve been listening to Pandora all day at work (now that I have a job again), and last week I got this:

Don’t get me wrong: Pandora’s great. I like learning about music in ways other than iPod and Target commercials. But while I am maybe (maybe) on board through “danceable beats,” “lyrics about partying” cracks me up. Because I’m such a CUHRAZAY partier, y’all.

I’ll still turn against humanity soon after the robots take over in exchange for a moderately high-ranking position in the new robot-dominated world order. But I’ll be sure to bring my own music.

November 25, 2008

November 25, 2008

To Sights on My Commute

Dear Pennsylvania Avenue,

I one of the many Washingtonians who walks across you every workday. Twice. I must admit that at first, I got a little thrill as I crossed, realizing that one of the most important buildings in the world was just a few blocks down. Does the part of you at 1600 NW get a little chill? Potholes, maybe?

However, I’m sorry to say that the honeymoon phase is over. Pennsylvania Avenue, you’re a little wide for my taste. Let’s be honest: you’ve let yourself go. And the diagonal thing totally throws me. It’s like I’m crossing the equivalent of six lanes. On the way home, you trick me into thinking you’re actually I Street and that I’ve finally reached the train station.

Stop being such a tease.

Cheers,
Heather

-----

Dear World Bank,

That you’re surrounded by vehicle barriers indicates your importance. As does your giant, white, pseudo-industrial façade. To be honest, you’re sorta hot, World Bank. I can easily imagine the plots of several thriller movies occurring in and around you. I can only hope for the day that, as I’m walking past, Jason Statham runs out with a gun and a bag of gold bars.

How can we make this happen?

Cheers,
Heather

-----

To the Panhandler Outside the Farragut West Starbucks,

You know who you should ask for change? The people walking out of Starbucks, juggling their coffee and their change.

You know who you shouldn’t ask for change? The people running to catch the blue line train.

Just a thought.

Cheers,
Heather

November 24, 2008

November 24, 2008

Feed the Beast

Whether you’re a fan of one-stop shopping or not, I think we can all agree that it’s a timesaver. Even if you prefer to hit many stores in search of that one perfect gift, you have to admit that it’s faster to hit an ubermart, get a gift receipt, and cross your fingers. (I said “faster,” not “wiser” or “sure to make people love you.” Let’s be realistic, people.)

I guess I fall somewhere in the middle on the issue: I don’t mind checking out two or three places, but by the time I’m hitting store number four, I’m probably a) irritated and b) hungry. To be fair, those are also my default moods. So eh.

However, one thing that I absolutely prefer to one-stop shop (so to speak) is news. This is why I love USA Today (aka McPaper, I know) so much. It’s colorful It gives me news, business, sports, and entertainment in colorful easily-digestable form. I once read that the creator of USA Today purposely wanted only cover stories to last more than one page. Short attention spans ftw.

(I’d like to here pimp the Express, but only my DC area readers would understand. Once you all move here—I can’t see why you haven’t already—we’ll talk.)

For those of you more digitally inclined, I urge you to check out The Daily Beast, Tina Brown’s newest project. (Her previous projects include Vogue and a pretty interesting book about Princess Diana.) More specifically pertinent to the topic at hand (blog?) is the Cheat Sheet. In a nutshell, this sheet tells you what you need to know about our world now. Actually, wait, let me impress you with my mad Paint and Word skills.

Right now, it's obviously a little politicentric. But there's also the occasional story about business, entertainment, and, um, other stuff. Anyway, do you see how useful this is? I assume that since you, like me, are intelligent, inquisitive, and well-read, you, like me, also want to be informed. The Daily Beast’s Cheat Sheet can help you do that. (For those of you who converse with me regularly, I’ve just ruined a little bit of my “how does she know that?” magic. Even Heather has sources.)

November 22, 2008

November 22, 2008

Monologue of the Week



What is my perfect crime? I break into Tiffany's at midnight. Do I go for the vault? No. I go for the chandelier. It's priceless. As I'm taking it down, a woman catches me. She tells me to stop. It's her father's business. She's Tiffany. I say no. We make love all night. In the morning, the cops come and I escape in one of their uniforms. I tell her to meet me in Mexico, but I go to Canada. I don't trust her. Besides, I like the cold. Thirty years later, I get a postcard. I have a son, and he's the chief of police. This is where the story gets interesting. I tell Tiffany to meet me in Paris by the Trocadero. She's been waiting for me all these years. She's never taken another lover. I don't care. I don't show up. I go to Berlin. That's where I stashed the chandelier.

November 20, 2008

November 20, 2008

My Thoughts on The Office

Overall thoughts: In my opinion, they saved the best for last with this episode. Dwight’s closing scene, recounting his perfect crime, was one of my favorite closing scenes ever. It just kept going, and going, and going. Phenomenal.

I also enjoyed the Pam and Jim house plotline. I suspected that she’d be freaked out, and that the writers would use this as a way to introduce tension in the relationship now that she’s back in Scranton. Luckily, she loved the house, shag carpeting, freaky clown picture, bad neighborhood, and all. They’re definitely going to have to put a lot of work into the place, so we’ll see how that goes.

The Toby/Michael stuff just made me uncomfortable. And not in a fun way.

Favorite quote: “Sometimes the ends justify the mean.”
Favorite quote, runner-up: “We should hang out by the quarry and throw things down there.”

Favorite character: Pam. While I would have just cleaned the microwave out myself (I’m considering doing so with the fridge at work), I appreciate her desire to passive-agressively snark at whoever made the mess. (By the way, do we think it was Andy? I didn’t totally catch what was up there.)
Favorite character, runner-up: Creed. Only he could calmly fake a talking head as DEA agents searched the office.

Favorite scene: The closing. There were European cities…and secret children…and Tiffany…SO good.
Favorite scene, runner-up: Pam vs. Ryan. Receptionist vs. temp. I wanted to see a smackdown. And frankly, my money’s on the girl.

(Click to enlarge.)

Things I’ve Read: Middlesex

Middlesex was not an easy book for me to explain to people. You can’t really respond to “What are you reading, Heather?” with “Oh, it’s a book about a hermaphrodite. Recommended by Oprah. That may or may not actually have happened.” Seriously, there is no point at which that sentence becomes okay, unless you are perhaps a middle-aged woman or Elton John.

For those of you not avid followers of Oprah’s book club (as I, apparently, am), Middlesex is a bildungsroman about Cal(liope) Stephanides, a hermaphrodite who lives years 1-14 of life as a female and the rest as a male. Cal’s grandparents were siblings (ick, I know), and thus genetic tomfoolery abounded. For those of you wondering, the novel was not set in Appalachia. Most of it takes place in Detroit in the 1960s.

I love a good bildungsroman, so I enjoyed that coming-of-age aspect of the novel. It was a lot more graphic than my usual commute reads, though. 7 a.m. is WAY too early to be reading about certain body parts, if you know what I mean. I was also paranoid that the person sitting next to me would look down at the page and then suspect me of being some sort of pervert, rather than my perfectly-normal self.

HAHAHAHAHA, anyway.

The thing that really weirded me out were the eerie similarities between the narrator’s life and that of the author. I realize that most authors put some of themselves into the main character, whether consciously or not. But the fact that both are Detroit-raised, of Greek heritage, and ended up with Asian women, as well as the author’s reluctance to talk about certain aspects of the book, make me wonder. I mean, if all that other stuff is true, well…? Talk amongst yourselves.

Middlesex (which is both the name of the narrator’s childhood home as well as quite possibly the cleverest play on words I’ve seen lately) won the Pulitzer Prize. I have to admit that it handles an extremely awkward situation deftly. It’s not a perfect book by any means, but it’ll make you think twice.

Just don’t read it on the train.

November 19, 2008

November 19, 2008

In My Opinion: Quantum of Solace

Some sequels expand on the original film. They take the ideas and characters and give them a new mission, or another instance of the old mission, or put them in space. As someone who’s seen the first film, you know just enough to give you some idea of what’s coming, but people who are new to the franchise can still jump on board pretty easily.

Some sequels have very little to do with the original film. They’re like spin-offs. Perhaps set in the same place, or with one of the first movie’s lesser characters. I call it the Scorpion King effect.

I’d have to place Quantum of Solace in the first category, though that would mean classifying this film as, well, a film. As much as I liked it, I came away from it thinking that I’d really just seen the second half of a movie and not an entire one. I think that watching Quantum and Casino Royale together would be spectacular. The Daniel Craig action alone would be worth your time and money. Because, um…

YES.

There is, of course, an ostensible plot. As all Bond plots, it can be summed up as “X person wants to do Y thing, and Bond must go rogue and stop it while bedding Z girl(s).” So you have that going on. As well as lots of phenomenal running, and shooting, and exploding, and setting things on fire. Seriously, I want Daniel Craig to always be running.

Would I see it again? Probably. But mostly for the giant explosions. And...

I'm hoping the next film is just this.

November 18, 2008

November 18, 2008

The Icebox Cometh

We all use our refrigerators for different things. I assume that like me, most of you keep food and beverages in there. Perhaps also science experiments, important documents, or clothing. There’s nothing like a cold shirt on a warm day, really.

But that’s the inside of the fridge. I think we all know it’s really the outside that counts. (Superficialism: now for appliances!)

A person’s refrigerator is like a little insight into their personality. A magnetic, take-out-menu-centric insight. For example, here’s mine:

You’ll note that the majority of it is related to The Office. No shocker there. I also have the Entertainment Weekly holiday movie calendar, because (as you may have noticed), I see a lot of movies. I’ve already blogged about the kid’s drawing on the left, and the collage thing on the right is just little things that amuse me.

But perhaps my favorite thing is the mood magnet on the right. It’s one of those “Today I am…” deals, with characters like “Little Miss Chatterbox” and “Mr. Messy.” I don’t update it every day (or even every week), but I like knowing it’s there, waiting to cater to my whims.

All of this, of course, would look even cooler on Amana’s dry erase refrigerator. That’s right: the entire fridge is a whiteboard. The WHOLE THING. Brilliant.

November 13, 2008

November 13, 2008

My Thoughts on The Office

Overall thoughts (for those who wanted them, and you know who you are):I felt like this was another “biding time” episode. I keep waiting for something BIG to happen. I guess the major development is the return of Pam. Definitely a welcome occurrence, though I thought her departure from art school was too abrupt. Way to write off your dream, Pam. (To be fair, I might write off MY dream for John Krasinski. People who live in glass houses, Heather…)

Michael’s not doing well, poor guy. Not even a rebound fling with a Canadian geisha could fix him. I’d like to point out that he still made the sale, though. Say what you will about Michael Scott: he knows sales.

I guess I was the last person to realize that the mice would play while the a cappella loving cat was away. I’m thinking Angela could use Andy’s drunk dial as a reason to break it off. I, however, would counsel her to remember the French speaking. AND THE BERET. Oh, good lord, the beret. Do NOT get me started on the awesomeness that was the beret.

Favorite quote: "We’ll press 'send' together."
Favorite quote, runner-up: "I want to see you naked." (I look forward to a spike in Google hits now that I have blogged that sentence.)

Favorite character: Andy. See BERET, above.
Favorite character, runner-up: Kevin. Loved the fist bump.

Favorite scene: The reunion of Jam. Duh.
Favorite scene, runner-up: The reunion of Ryan and Kelly, last scene. Ryan always looks either smug or shell-shocked. I prefer the latter.

(Click to enlarge.)

Remember This? Volume 8: Sabrina, the Teenage Witch

While on the treadmill recently, I was flipping through the cable channels and stumbled upon a Sabrina, the Teenage Witch repeat on ABC Family. I ask you to look past the fact that I was watching something on ABC Family (apparently a channel of angsty teens and movies with talking animals) and focus instead on the content. Sabrina Spellman, her zany aunts, and their magical adventures!

I’m now in the process of re-watching the series. It’s comfort food, really: this show takes me back to a simpler time, when Friday nights were all about TGIF on ABC and a little popcorn. Never underestimate the power of nostalgia. (Never overestimate it, either. I’m talking to you, McCain.) The show wasn’t always hilarious, nor was it ever really earth-shattering. But it was fun, and short, and cute. The characters were likeable and the premise (girl finds out she’s a witch; hilarity ensures) provided plenty of plot fodder. Though not, perhaps, enough for seven seasons. Once Sabrina went to college and the show switched to The WB, I think the shark had been jumped.

I actually also read the novels (yes, there were novels, shutup). While enjoyable, they didn’t quite compare to actually seeing the magic on-screen. Special effects: 1, Imagination: 0.

Plus, re-watching the series gives you the chances for such Mouse House synergy as this:



Ah, the good old days.

November 12, 2008

November 12, 2008

1923 Was My Year

There’s a Facebook application out there challenging you to learn your “real age.” I haven’t taken it, so I have no idea whether that entails answering questions, submitting a DNA sample, or something in-between. I do know from my friends’ results that one’s “real age” and one’s, um, real age seem to be pretty close. According to that test, anyway.

I think there are other, low-techier (but perhaps more accurate) ways of determining one’s real age. Look at habits. Look at preferences. Gauge the amount of crotchetiness. THEN decide how old you really are.

In my case, I’m ballparking myself somewhere in the early 80s. Seriously.

For one thing, I watch the show NCIS. While I’m not the only viewer born in the ‘80s, the average age of an NCIS viewer is 55.3. AVERAGE. That means that for every me watching this show, there is an 85-year-old also watching. We’re talking someone who lived through World War 2. Watching one of my shows. Give me a minute, because my head just exploded.

I also like to play bingo. Bingo has numbers, but they aren’t scary numbers. I can handle Bingo math…because it is non-existent. I’ve played a few times at a casino (a real one, run by Indians getting their revenge on the white man and everything), and let’s just say that most of the players appear to be on their last legs. Granted, they’re still pretty serious about the bingo. I’m just thinking a win could do them in.

Finally, I’m a big fan of prunes. No, that’s not code for something. We’re talking dried plums. I don’t like them for the fiber or whatever. I think they TASTE GOOD. Sweet and chewy and happy. The day I discovered Sam’s Club carries giant bags of them was a happy day indeed.

So regardless of what Facebook tries to tell me, I’m pretty sure I was born 60 years too late.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s an early-bird special at Denny's and I'm already late.

November 11, 2008

November 11, 2008

Writer's Almanac Highlight of the Day

I love Abigail Adams. I've written about that already, I know. But far be it from me to miss another opportunity to squee over her.

It's the birthday of Abigail Adams, the wife of the second U.S. president and mother of the sixth, born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, in 1744. She was a frail and sickly child, raised by her well-educated grandmother. Early on, separated from her friends and family, she developed her habit of writing letters, a habit for which she later became well-known.

She opposed slavery. She also strongly advocated women's rights, especially in the areas of education and property ownership.* She expressed these views freely in letters she wrote to her husband. She and John Adams had a close and happy marriage, though they often had to endure long periods of separation. She wrote long, lively, loving, witty letters to him whenever they were apart. She wrote, "I've always felt that a person's intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting points of view he can entertain simultaneously on the same topic."** And while he was in Philadelphia working on the Declaration of Independence, she wrote to him: "As to your extraordinary code of laws, I cannot but laugh."***

John Adams was the second president, and she was the first first lady to occupy the White House — and she wasn't very impressed with the place, parts of which were still being constructed while they lived there. At the time, Washington, D.C., was a rural area, and she missed the city life of Philadelphia and New York, where they'd previously lived.**** She said, "I begin to think, that a calm is not desirable in any situation in life. Every object is beautiful in motion; a ship under sail, trees gently agitated with the wind, and a fine woman dancing, are three instances in point. Man was made for action and for bustle."

* Frak yeah.
** Page 145 of the Republican playbook.
*** The old-school "lol."
**** Yeah...it's no longer rural. I could do with a little more rural, in fact. Especially on the train after work.

Car Pay Diem

One of the many delights of moving to Virginia has been the quadrillion-fold process of registering my vehicle. Until now, my relationship with the DMV has been one of respectful avoidance. I leave it alone and ask that it does the same to me. I acknowledge its existence but keep a respectful perimeter. It’s like the Voldemort of state agencies.*

Unfortunately, Virginia likes a little more contact. Because in addition to the fact that every government entity that can tax my vehicle will tax my vehicle, I’m required to have my car inspected for both safety and emissions. I thought this would be easy, as the Virginia DMV’s website says they accept Wisconsin emissions tests. It turns out that not every DMV employee knows and/or understands the information on that website. Long story short: I had to get emissions testing and registration done TWICE on my car. Incompetence lives!

However, I must give credit where credit is due. Despite the fact that I created this screenshot specifically to snark about how THE WEBSITE LIES, IT LIES, MY PRECIOUS, it actually turned out to be quite true.

I didn’t even connect butt to chair before my number was called. I guess this is the plus side** of employees who just don’t care: they get you in and out pretty quickly.

* D-M-V-who must not be named?
** For the negative side, SEE ABOVE.

November 10, 2008

November 10, 2008

Just IMDb It

Like many people, I have trouble remembering names. I know there are plenty of tricks, like repeating the person’s name when you meet them, imagining their name written on their forehead, or perhaps asking them to wear a name tag whenever in your presence. Good ideas, all.

My system, though, seems to revolve mostly on picking which famous person they remind me of most. How does this help me remember their name, you ask? Turns out not at all. I never said it was a perfect system.

A couple of Saturdays ago, I was riding the train home a little before 11 p.m. I was a little dressed up, as one often is at 11 p.m. on a Saturday. Y’know. While Metro was definitely busier than the post-midnight hours, it was nowhere near as crowded as rush hour. (Seriously, sometimes it seems like the BEST you can hope for during the evening rush is to keep your grope count in the single digits.)

As my train was waiting at one of the platforms to load and unload passengers, a teenager started knocking on my window. I say “teenager,” though I’m the worst judge of age; I’m pretty sure he was at least 14. However old he was, he continued to determinedly knock, despite my best attempts to ignore him. After a while, he switched to obscene hand gestures. Classy.

While I perhaps should have been irritated, the only thought running through my head was “I’m being hit on by Walt from Lost.” Because I kid you not, this guy looked JUST like him. I knew that if I paid him any attention, I would just smile and start laughing, and there’s no way THAT would end well. (Note: I have researched pepper spray. It’s illegal to own in D.C., but NOT in Virginia. I’m on it.)

Like I said before, you’ll need to find another method to keep people’s names straight (or you could try my strategy of not really caring). This system is for your amusement only. And perhaps to fend off those annoying guys (or women, for my male readers) on the train.

November 7, 2008

November 6, 2008

November 6, 2008

My Thoughts on The Office

Favorite quote: "If history tells us anything, it’s that you can't go wrong buying a house you can't afford.”
Favorite quote, runner-up (tie): "What color mustard is his shirt?"
Favorite quote, runner-up (tie): "You juked the stats, cupcake."

Favorite character: Dwight. Whether it was outing Kelly the Conspiracist or proffering Schrute Farms for Andy and Angela's wedding, he cracked me up.
Favorite character, runner-up: Alex. Not just because the actor is also on Mad Men. (Well, maybe a little.) I just think it’s good for someone to make Pam really ponder her choices.

Favorite scene: Jim finding everyone’s mugs. What I thought was another Andy quirk turned out instead to be quite possibly the weirdest party favor idea ever.
Favorite scene, runner-up: The Schrute-Farms-as-wedding-site pitch. Can you say…subtext?

(Yeah, so the one time I use green pen, I can't figure out how to make the photo enlarge. Sorry about that. Bic and Blogger: 1, Heather: 0.)

That Girl

While catching up on Californication recently, I was pleased to see Judy Greer make an appearance. She’s one of those actresses that you’ve seen in small roles in a lot of things and can’t help but like.

Her most notable role for me is Kitty on Arrested Development, a show that was too smart for the vast majority of the American viewing public. Shame on you, nation. Shame on you.

(And now, a moment of silence for Arrested Development.)

(Thank you.)

Greer was apparently also in The Village, which I don’t recall at all. Then again, I watched most of The Village through my fingers. M. Night Shyamalan’s movies and I don’t get along terribly well. I go to see them and they return the favor by scaring the crap out of me.

Despite my admiration, I didn’t watch Miss Guided, her foray into a lead role. For one, I watch WAY too much tv already. For two, I think she might be one of those people who’s better in a secondary role. As someone for the lead to bounce stuff (not literally) off of. If not the comic relief, then at least a capable verbal sparring partner.

I think I join weird girls everywhere in celebrating one of our own who’s made good. We’d have a party…but we’re all too busy watching tv.

November 5, 2008

November 5, 2008

Good for Kindling

Since I assume most of you are NOT Oprah fans*, let me inform you that her newest favorite thing is apparently the Kindle.

Um, yeah. Okay.

I won’t rehash my pro-book apologetic (though I will, apparently, link to it), but I’m afraid this is yet another area in which Oprah and I disagree. Don’t get me wrong, I admire the woman a lot. She’s from Chicago. She’s a successful businesswoman. SHE GIVES AWAY FREE CARS.

But the Kindle? Oprah was doing so much for the book industry with her book club. I highly doubt nearly as many people would ever have read East of Eden or Anna Karenina without the endorsement. (Because, seriously, those things are like doorstops—get thee to an editor, Tolstoy.) Thus I find it a little disconcerting that she’s sorta bitchslapping the publishing industry. Oprah, don’t bite the hand that reads to you.

Innovation be damned**; give me a book with pages any day.

* I imagine the Venn diagram of my fans and Oprah’s has an intersection…that is non-existent.
** Also, I believe, the motto of the second crusade.