February 27, 2009
February 26, 2009
My friend Michael can attest that I become ridiculously excited while in The Container Store. He and I nipped into one after going to the National Zoo last November. (The proximity of pandas AND The Container Store: just another reason Heather loves D.C.) I went in for one item (which I did get), but I kept veering off towards endcaps and aisles. At one point he had to physically restrain me from a particularly attractive display. We both made it out alive, but don’t think I wasn’t tempted to find a tote large enough to sleep in and set up base camp right in the damn store.
My aim with this blog certainly isn’t the gratuitous pimping of products (Mindy Kaling does it far better here)—at least, other than entertainment and food. However, in case you’re unfamiliar with my love of The Container Store (um, hi, have we met?) or wondering what YOU might be able to get during the 20% off sale that runs through Sunday**, here are my items and justifications.
Ice Cube Tray with Lid. In the battle of Heather vs. sublimation, sublimation is winning. I don’t consume a whole lot of ice, so I hate using my fridge’s icemaker and accompanying giant bin. I also can’t stick a few cubes in a cup because they freeze together. Or sublimate. Or freeze together and THEN sublimate. I’m hoping a tray with a lid will solve both problems.
Grid Stacking Shelves. I don’t clean my bathroom nearly as much as I should. And before you say something like, “Oh, Heather, surely you jest,” you should know that I have not one time mopped my bathroom since I moved. Since I moved FIVE MONTHS AGO. I mean, I’ve swept (by which I mean I’ve used the hose attachment on my vacuum to suck crap off the floor). But I have not mopped. Anyway, now that I have people (well, a person, whatever) coming over, I try to keep things a little cleaner. While doing so the other day, I realized that my undersink cleaning supply storage needed a little somethin’ somethin’. Enter these shelves. (Just remind me to measure the cabinet before I buy these things.)
Bottle Couplers. Yeah, I know. Throwing away that last ounce or two of lotion in the bottom of the bottle isn’t going to break the bank. But it does annoy me. Plus, in these economic times, we
So there you are. An investment of only $20 or so, but oh what dividends.
* I am pleased to report that I have so far been able to resist organizing the personal areas of my neighbors, co-workers, and/or significant other. Not that I haven’t been tempted, mind you. But I figure that things like “Have you considered shelving?” and “Sterilite’s shoe boxes would really clean this up” would be considered relationship-killers by the average person.
** Wow, didn’t I JUST say something about avoiding gratuitous pimping? That resolution lasted a whole two sentences, eh?
February 25, 2009
Those of you who follow the celebrity chef world at all have perhaps heard of Anthony Bourdain, a self-proclaimed bad boy chef. Don’t get me wrong; I’m sure he can whip up a soufflé with the best of ‘em. But he also was apparently quite the wild child in his younger days, with the drinking and the smoking and the drug use. Then again, who wasn’t?*
Bourdain wrote a book about it (thus making it all worthwhile) called Kitchen Confidential. That, in turn, was made into a short-lived Fox program of the same name, starring Bradley Cooper. It was sort of a culinary version of The Loop: Cute young protagonist navigates the working world. The typical gang’s all here, including the socially-awkward geek, the swaggering British (!) hotshot, and the uber-hot-but-off-limits daughter of the boss.
The show’s certainly no masterpiece, but it made me chuckle regularly and involved food. And Bradley Cooper. It’s also only 13 half-hour episodes. I can take that kind of commitment.
Here’s the pilot:
* Um…that’d be me.
February 24, 2009
Thus Valentine’s Day found my dad and I* at The Day the Earth Stood Still. Technically, you would call this a remake of the 1951 film of the same name. Untechnically, you would call this “that alien thing with Keanu Reeves and the guy from Mad Men.” *I* would call this “A movie with Jon Hamm in it?!” with an accompanying squeal.
Since this has been out for awhile, I assume that you have either seen it or have no plans to. Thus I feel a little freer to spoil than I normally would in a movie review.
Jennifer Connelly (she whose oeuvre includes both A Beautiful Mind AND a Hulk movie) plays microbiologist Helen Benson. No offense to Ms. Connelly, but I’m always a little disappointed when the brainy femme is also wicked hot. I mean, I know brainy femmes. I sometimes consider myself one of them. Even on our best days, we don’t dream of looking like THAT. At least they didn’t put a pair of glasses on her. Because, um, Jennifer Connelly in glasses is still like a gazillionteen times hotter than your typical cog of academia.
The prime mover is a large UFO speeding toward Manhattan. Long story short: aliens have decided that since humans apparently can’t take care of planet earth, we must be exterminated. There was actually a more detailed explanation here (Al Gore may or may not have been involved, I dunno), but that’s the gist. The aliens communicate through the human-by-all-appearances Klaatu (Keanu Reeves).
[Begin short aside to haters of Keanu Reeves]
I realize that Keanu Reeves’ best work has for the most part involved out-of-control vehicles and computer networks. However, in this film, Reeves’ character is humanoid and not human. So the oddly-stilted mannerisms and speech actually work in his favor.
[End short aside to haters of Keanu Reeves]
Since Dr. Benson is apparently also a kickass action hero/microbiologist, she ends up breaking Klaatu out of custody and taking him to her old professor (John Cleese) in what may be the most gratuitous casting of a member of Monty Python ever. On the plus side, this plotline led to a pretty cool scene involving Reeves, Cleese, a big chalkboard, and SYNCHRONIZED EQUATION WRITING. Commence geekgasm.
Dr. Benson manages to convince Klaatu to put in a good word for us humans and prevent our utter annihilation. What seals the deal is a tender scene Klaatu witnesses between Benson and her (I have to say it: HUGELY ANNOYING) stepson (Jaden Smith). I know I’m not a kid person and all, but even the parents out there have to agree that child was cruisin’ for a bruisin’.
The film ended rather abruptly, with earth damaged (who turned out the lights?) but not destroyed. But at least everybody (well, everybody but Klaatu—spoiler alert!) lives to fight another day.
February 23, 2009
In addition, DOING things usually involves other people, whether it’s a friend, relative, significant other, or random person who sits awkwardly close to you at the movies. As anti-social as we (and by “we,” I mean “I”) tend to be, you can’t deny the social instinct. [utter disregard for science ahead] I guess it probably goes back to prehistoric times, when we, y’know, hunted in tribes and stuff. “Safety in numbers.” “That tyrannosaurus won’t get us without a fight.” “Hey, Glurg, maybe if we joined this group, we could EACH have a wife.” Et cetera.
The study’s results came out around Valentine’s (yeah, I’m a bit late), with a gist of “Economy, schmeconomy. It’s not what you give; it’s what you do.” I’d like to point out that this philosophy’s probably a good one year-round. I’d also like to point out that I hope none of your Valentine’s Days consisted of a simple gift exchange, unless said exchange involved a stark white room, bare but for a table and two chairs, in which you and another person wordlessly slid gifts at each other. Because that would actually be pretty freaking cool.
However, the study also notes that sentimental things are sort of a twofer. Yeah, they’re THINGS, but they’re attached to memories. Despite my cynicism, I have to admit to keeping ticket stubs, programs, and the occasional dried flower. (Hey, I’m a girl; it’s in my DNA.) On the flip side, I’ve also indulged in the rare cathartic purge of memorabilia. Double-edged sword.
A group of wise men once said, “All you need is love. Love. Love is all you need.” I guess they were right.
February 22, 2009
Here's my problem, though: those will last me a week and a half.
That statement isn't me kidding, or being snarky, or exaggerating (as I am admittedly prone to do). Granted, my math may be a little off, but at the rate of two teas and three (or four) sodas a day, I figure that's a good 10-12 days of beverages.
I'll bet that would last normal people a whole month or so, eh?
February 20, 2009
Click here or use the player below.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Doubt
Best Original Screenplay: In Bruges
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, Doubt
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Best Actress: Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Best Actor: Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best Picture: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
February 19, 2009
(I actually once thought that this blog could serve as my “Here are all the bad things about me” list as once mentioned by Liz Lemon on 30 Rock [actual show screenshot above—note that she is ALSO a lefty, woot]. However, I found that that doesn’t work so well in execution. Heather the Blogger is a lot funnier than Heather the Person. Heather the Blogger has the benefit of hyperbole, clipart, and Word’s synonyms function. While there are many things I might do while on a date, breaking out into a threeve is not one of them.)
Lest I destroy any and all goodwill I may have with you, I’m going to limit myself to 10 random facts about me. Granted, my memory’s so bad that I may have written about these things before. None of them are going to be as revelatory as they should be; I feel awkward blogging about my hopes and dreams and whatnot. So take this for what it’s worth.
1. One Christmas, I asked for a set of chimes. I got a coloring book. It was at that point that I began to suspect Santa was either not real or a very mean man. What sealed the deal? One St. Nicholas Day, I very distinctly remember going down for a nap and deciding that if there wasn’t a Snickers bar in the stocking on the wall above my bed, Santa wasn’t real. The candy bar did not appear; thus my love was lost.
2. I would prefer not to marry someone whose last name ends in the –er sound because I’m afraid doing so would make my name sound like a Dr. Seuss book title. Too much rhyming. Sadly, this eliminates a LOT of surnames. Think about it.
3. I had warts on my knuckles when I was little. The ones the doctor removed left very faint scars. The ones we put duct tape on didn’t. (Did I just solve America’s health insurance crisis?)
4. I prefer to close my eyes when I’m on the phone. At home, at work, wherever. If you and I have spoken on the phone, there’s a good chance my eyes were closed. I find this strategy doesn’t work so well when talking to someone in person, though. Shame.
5. Speaking of talking, I talk to myself a LOT. I attribute it to growing up as an only child, but even that isn’t enough to explain it. I mean, it’s like I have a continual dialogue going. With myself.
6. I prefer to eat Altoids two at a time. One alone doesn’t seem like enough. (Did anyone else just think of Monica Gellar and tic-tacs?) The recommended serving size is three (seriously, check the back of the tin), but that strikes me as overkill. They’re CURIOUSLY STRONG, people.
7. I’m entirely too non-confrontational. I won’t call if I can email. You know the girl at work in the next cubicle who IMs you instead of standing up and talking over the wall? That’s me. (Well, I have an office now. But that WAS me.)
8. As a child, I secretly feared that my parents would have another kid to the point that I had nightmares about it. Looking back, I wish I’d had an older sibling to teach me the ways of the world. But I remain in agreement with my younger self that having a little brother or sister would have whomped. Utterly.
9. I have probably Googled you. I’m a serial Googler. Friends, co-workers, dates, family, you name it. Heather likes to do her research. This probably relates to item 7. Ideally, I would know what you’re going to say before you say it, so I can have my response prepared. (Item 9b: I’m a horrible improviser.) (Item 9c: Unless it involves bullshitting, in which case I can roll with the best of ‘em.)
10. The first thing I notice about a man is often his hands. Not (totally) because I’m checking for a wedding ring, either. You can tell a lot about a man from his hands, even without Sherlock Holmes-esque powers of deduction.
More than you asked for, I know. But at least I cut you a little slack; 15 items' worth, to be exact.
February 18, 2009
I’ve had my eye on you for awhile. Granted, I haven’t made any overt moves. No dealer visits or anything. I guess I have spent a good amount of time on your website, but you probably get a lot of admirers there, huh? Unlike many of them, though, I have been planning a future for us, Mini. How I would someday bring you home so that we could be together. Forever. I mean, if this were high school, I would write our initials and the word “4-eva” on my notebook, surrounded by a heart. (Well, okay, no, I wouldn’t. But let’s pretend.)
Mini Cooper, I’m now starting to think this won’t be the case.
You see, I’ve spent personal time with you on several occasions. Every year at the auto show, I made sure to get you alone for a little physical contact. I wanted both of us to remember what we liked about each other: you’re cute and I have money. As you know, this has gone on for several years. And it’s not like I let the big Move to Washington dissuade me. I took time to visit you there, too.
See, but now I’m starting to think that it’s not going to work out between us. Though you’re as cute as always, and I’m still loaded, you continue to have the tiniest rear window known to man. Mini, I need to be able to see out of that window for my rearward maneuvers and whatnot. I used to think that I’d grow taller and that that would help, but I had to let that pipe dream go. Then I thought maybe it was a Milwaukee phenomenon. Shrinkage in the frigid upper Midwest. But our time together in D.C. involved changes in both aspects of the time-space continuum and that window was still too damn small.
Mini, I’m starting to feel like you aren’t putting an effort into this relationship. I have tried to make you happy. All I ask is for a little happiness in return. And that Union Jack roof is only gonna get you so far. I think maybe we need some time apart. The Beetle never treated me this way. And you know what? I went and saw IT recently, too, and we had a really good time.
It’s not me. It’s you.
February 17, 2009
Perhaps this is the reason we’re so fascinated by the idea of a superhero. Someone out of the ordinary, but in a GOOD way. (Because, c’mon, we all know someone out of the ordinary in a bad way. Like that guy on the subway who mumbles in Latin. Or people who only vote third-party.) Witness the success, past or present, of most comic book series. They aren’t about accountants, folks. They’re about people with, like, laser beams for eyes.
Push stars Christ Evans (The Human Torch himself) and Dakota Fanning as two reluctant superheroes living in a not-too-distant dystopian future. He’s telekinetic; she can see the future. The movie gave them (and all those with different powers) special names, but seeing as I went to this a few weeks ago and don’t have the superpower of super memory, I’ve forgotten them. Eh.
Sadly, the history of how people with such abilities were created (eugenics, yay!) was shunted to one small sequence. Happily, the history of how people with such abilities were created was shunted to one small sequence in order to make room for fights and explosions and shooting, oh my. I mean, sure, there’s an ostensible plot. To rescue a girl (aw). But that sort of thing tends to pale amongst, oh, I don’t know, AN ENTIRE BUILDING’S WORTH OF COLLAPSING BAMBOO SCAFFOLDING.
To be fair, the fact that some people, known as Pushers (hey, I guess I CAN remember stuff), are able to implant false memories keeps you guessing right until the very end. These people are like Eden from Heroes*: they take the power of suggestion to the next level. Not the flashiest ability, perhaps, but certainly handy for getting out of traffic tickets and whatnot.
Go in expecting to see neato action and effects, and you won’t be disappointed. Go in expecting to see one man’s plight to save the world, a scathing examination of the manipulation of science for personal gain, or Professor X, and you will.
* A show that I’ve stopped watching. It had been such a good relationship, I know. But I needed to move on. Then Jack Bauer came along and got me on the rebound. So it’s all good.
February 16, 2009
FBI raids peanut butter factory
Folks, THIS is the sort of mission that gets people like me to sign up for the Bureau. Condiment-based cases. Hummus heists. Ketchup capers. Mmm.
In all seriousness, competition for any FBI job—be it analyst or agent—is pretty fierce. (And not in the Tyra Banks sense of the word.) I applied for several positions* but didn’t make it past the first round. So it’s not like the FBI needs to throw extra (delicious) incentive at people. But even the most jaded among you have to admit that the possibility of busting into a Jif plant is pretty tantalizing. Like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Bad Boys.**
I can’t say that the peanut product recall has affected my life any. I’m still working on the jar I brought from Milwaukee back in October, and I don’t eat anything else containing peanuts. (Almonds are my nut of choice.) Though, really, if the pot pie and spinach recalls of years past have taught me anything, it’s that the potential of contamination will not discourage me from foods I like. I actually try to stock up before the stuff is pulled from shelves. Who doesn’t like to live on the edge, right?
However, if there’s suddenly a huge scandal involving grape jelly, I’m going to get suspicious.
* That’s what she said.
** Co-starring Will Smith and Mr. Peanut.
February 14, 2009
Overall thoughts: Am I the only one who thinks this episode would have been much better served by airing immediately after part 1 of "Lecture Circuit"? It took me a minute to get back up to speed on the plotlines. That being said, I probably enjoyed the Kelly birthday story best this week. For one, it had cake, HELLO. It was also a nice match of Jim vs. Dwight—always fun. I didn’t think Amy Ryan was going to be on, so I figured something would have to go awry in Nashua. Sadly, I was right. And the cat plot just weirded me out. I think I can sum up my reaction with "Ew ew ew."
Favorite quote: "I was looking at pictures of food on my computer." I have done the exact same thing. Sometimes when you’re hungry late at night, the best thing to do is fire up Flickr. (Did I just go to a bad, food porn-like place? I think I did.)
Favorite quote, runner-up: "So far, our ideal party consists of beer, fights to the death, cupcakes, blood pudding, blood, touch football, mating, charades, and yes, horse hunting." They had me at "cupcakes." Then they lost me. Then they got me again with "charades."
Favorite character: Pam. Second week in a row. This time, for her amazing rescue of Michael. As a former administrative professional, I know that behind every good executive, there is an even better assistant. Usually armed with alcohol wipes, extra business cards, and a good pen.
Favorite character, runner-up: Kelly. I loved to hate her in this episode. I mean, who turns away cake? It’s CAKE. Her delight at getting a nap, however, was adorable. I wish I had more chances to nap, though not necessarily at work.
Favorite scene: Pam and the chainsaw. Because that awkward discomfort is EXACTLY how I would look with any power tool.
Favorite scene, runner-up: Michael in Holly’s workspace. The USB drive, the cardigan sleeve, the screensaver…all the great little details of cubicle life. Well done, writers.
5.17 – Lecture Circuit (Part 2)
“I didn't eat all my lunch.”
third-generation show cat
"I could get you a kid for that."
Juvie. Nile. Detention center.
"How do you hate it? It's a cake."
the nashua pam is hot
is that a crying baby?
"Good morning Vietnashua."
"What kind of name is AJ? You race cars?"
Go go Pam the improviser
"I have a chainsaw."
it's like the angela martin show
don't click, michael
mother bites the cord
"why is there a chiclet on my cake?"
chiclet = pillow/television
hour of tv/hour of napping is a toss up
"It is your birthday."
* You can O.o me all you want, but you’re not getting any more detail other than the fact that it was awesome.
Yeah, that one. The book with the bright green cover that was probably read to you in kindergarten. Not exactly The English Patient, I know.
Think about it, though. What is love, distilled to its essence? It’s caring more about someone else than you do about yourself. How one demonstrates love depends on what he or she value. Some people sacrifice their lives. Others risk their safety. I myself use the “last piece of pie” test. If I offer you the last piece of pie (or any food, really), take note.
The Giving Tree did just that: it gave. The gifts started out small, as these things often do. Shade. Some apples. (I’m not going to examine the symbolism of the apples, though if I ever bang out that MFA in English, it’d make an interesting thesis.) As the boy ages, the relationship deepens, and the gifts become more serious. Sure, there are a few bumps in the road. The boy goes off to college and discovers the brave new world of adult life. But the tree waits.
At the end of the book, what do you have? The boy and the tree, together in quiet companionship. That, to me, is one of the surest harbingers of love. To quote one of my favorite scenes from Pulp Fiction:
Mia: Don't you hate that?
Mia: Uncomfortable silences. Why do we feel it's necessary to yak about bullshit in order to be comfortable?
Vincent: I don't know. That's a good question.
Mia: That's when you know you've found somebody special. When you can just shut the fuck up for a minute and comfortably enjoy the silence.
Everybody needs someone to share the silence.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
February 13, 2009
On this day in 1779, Abigail Adams sent a letter to France, to her husband, John Adams, who was there serving as an ambassador for the newly formed United States.
John Adams had left for France exactly one year before. Abigail wrote a letter that begins:
My Dearest Friend
Febry. 13. 1779
This is the Anniversary of a very melancholy Day to me, it rose upon me this morning with the recollection of Scenes too tender to Name. — Your own Sensibility will supply your Memory and dictate to your pen a kind remembrance of those dear connections to whom you waved an adieu, whilst the full Heart and weeping Eye followed your foot steps till intervening objects obstructed the Sight.
This Anniversary shall ever be more particularly Devoted to my Friend till the happy Day arrives that shall give him back to me again. Heaven grant that it may not be far distant, and that the blessings which he has so unweariedly and constantly sought after may crown his Labours and bless his country.
From 1788 to 1798, John Adams was in Europe, with only occasional visits home to see his family. Abigail stayed home, ran the family farm, raised their children, and wrote her husband many letters.
I don't know about you, but I find that relationship pretty darn inspiring. Rock on, John and Abigail. Rock on.
Happy Valentine's Eve.
I think of them as a British version of The Shins. The lead instrument is the piano rather than guitar, so that’s also a bonus for me. I think part of the reason I like Coldplay so much is Chris Martin’s keyboard; the opening of Clocks during the Peter Pan trailer hooked me and I’ve not looked back since.
Originally called the Lotus Eaters (points to those of you who get the literary reference), Keane is short for Cherry Keane, the name of a friend of the acoustic guitarist’s mother. As fascinated as this mini-history of the band’s nomenclature is, you’re no doubt more interested in its sound. As I said before, it reminds me a lot of the Shins, though I think Keane’s a bit more aggressive. I’ve only listened to Perfect Symmetry, the band’s most recent album, so far, but I like what I’ve heard. The tricky thing for me when trying out a new band is selecting what album to try first. Do I bow to anal retentiveness and go with the oldest? Or do I assume they’re a work in progress and that the most recent stuff is the best?
Truly, a quandary.
According to Wikipedia, the members of Keane cite A-ha, The Beatles, U2, R.E.M., Radiohead, Queen, and Pet Shop Boys as influences. If any of those float your boat (I hope at least a couple do), take that into consideration.
Since embedding is "disabled by request" (bah), you'll have to click here to watch and listen on YouTube.
February 12, 2009
Other of us, though, take delight in small joys. Here are some of mine:
Reading a book straight through in one sitting. As I’ve mentioned time and time again, I have a pretty poor memory. “Did we already talk about this?” is an almost-constant refrain from me, as are “You’ve probably already told me” and “Wait, what?” (For the record, we’re going to continue to attribute this to confusion and not ambivalence. Thank you.) Thus being able to read an entire novel at once is quite the treat. I don’t have to keep flipping back to remind myself who did what and when.
I benefit similarly from watching entire seasons of tv shows in a short span of time, though I really need to spread some out (Lost, 24, etc.) in order to keep my head from exploding.
Target’s plastic bags. Target brings me many joys. Musical commercials...stores that have so! Much! Red!...Dollar bins filled with goods from The Office. But allow me to mention the plastic bag. It’s thicker than the typical one you get from that other mart, or from most retail outlets. It also has suggestions for reuse printed right on the side. (Did you hear that? It was Al Gore performing a tiny cheer.)
Countdown clocks. I CANNOT LOOK AWAY. I watched a lot of home shopping as a child, but not because I liked the items. I just couldn’t tear myself from the clock going DOWN while the “items sold” counter went UP. Scintillating!
The beep made my Metrobus fare machines. I’m a big fan of classification. Your first clue may have been my penchant for labeling. Or my willingness to drive an hour and a half to visit the Container Store.
What does any of this have to do with buses, you ask? I’m getting there.
Most public transit users* in the D.C. area have something called a SmarTrip card. It’s a reloadable debit card for buses and trains. Whenever you get on the bus, the fare machine makes a really distinct beep to indicate that your fare has been deducted. It’s like a little boopy stamp of approval for each rider.
I wish all actions had such noises. Maybe I need to start carrying around a chime. And also a Taboo buzzer for people who do things that piss me off. (Guess which one’s batteries would get used up first? HAHAHAHAHA, yep.)
Little things all. But they get the job done.
* Dear people who still pay in cash: Seriously? Cheers, Heather
February 11, 2009
Included in the 113 (!) pounds of luggage I brought back from Milwaukee after Christmas were several board games. Yes, I live alone. But you just never know. Some contingency plans involve shelter and water; mine involves Jenga. (Incidentally, a few years ago, a film called “I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With” made the indie film festival circuit. Despite a title that is ALSO near and dear to my heart and my odd fascination with indie flicks, I didn’t see it.)
Do people still play board games? And by “people,” I mean “people my age, and who perhaps also live in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.” I know people still play chess. And by “people,” I mean “the homeless guys who, despite not having a job or a high school diploma, could still kick my ass in a game of chess.”
But I’d really love to find a group of likeminded people to, you know, play a few rounds of Scattergories with or something—that’s one of my favorites these days. Ooh, or Taboo. I love Taboo, not least because of the AWESOME BUZZER ACTION. As a child, I coveted Mouse Trap, mostly because I was dazed by its complexity and fascinated by the little silver ball.
You all can keep your clubs and your karaoke and your streaking (or whatever cool people do for fun these days). Give me a little Parcheesi.*
* I have no idea how to play Parcheesi. I just like saying Parcheesi. And typing it, apparently.
February 10, 2009
The Midwest: It is quietly lovely, not preening with the needs to have its attributes remarked on. It is the place I am calmest and most myself.
Alice grew up in Wisconsin. Her family was happy enough in its own way, as were so many during the post-war boom years. Alice herself (and, really, you almost have to picture Laura Bush here) was a Good Kid. Respectful, smart, a bit mousy. Didn’t make waves or seek out the spotlight. Like the reticent so often do, Alice left the hijinks to her outspoken best friend.
I had come of age before sexual liberation really took hold, there’d been curfews in place when I’d started college—ten on weeknights, midnight on weekends—and men weren’t allowed in our rooms in the sorority.
I have no comment here, other than to note that Alice and I apparently went to the same college.
“I’m not a Democrat because I haven’t thought about the issues,” I said. “I’m a democrat because I have.”
The most jarring difference between Alice Blackwell and Laura Bush (to me) was the fact that Alice was a pretty staunch democrat. Then again, perhaps I just need to further research Laura Bush. Alice and her husband Charlie had an agreement: he wouldn’t harass her about her political beliefs, and she wouldn’t make a big deal about them. Ah, compromise.
I will not be the one it happens to—this is what we all believe, what we must believe to make our way in the world each day. Someone else. Not me. But every once in a while it is you, or someone close enough that it might as well be you. People to whom something has never happened trust fate, the notion that what’s meant to be will be; the rest of us know better.
The crisis event in Alice’s life happened before the big dance.** One the way, Alice misses a stop sign and plows into the car carrying the love of her life (thus far). Tragically, he’s killed instantly—and the trajectory of Alice’s life is forever changed. For those of you who don’t know, the same thing happened to Laura Bush in 1963.
I can’t even begin to fathom the sort of guilt and ramifications something like that would have. There is not enough ice cream in the world, people.
Assuming I’m elected…from here on out, it’ll only be people wanting favors and access.
Alice is introduced to Charlie Blackwell by mutual acquaintances. I have to say that I prefer the “real”-life version depicted in W. better, if only because everyone had cowboy hats. Long story short, though, Charlie charmed Alice not with intelligence but with honesty. She didn’t find him scintillating or classy, but she did find him genuine. My male readers might do well to remember this. (But, um, also, still try keeping it classy. Can’t hurt.)
Charlie Blackwell is one of four sons of Wisconsin’s governor—a man who also has a hugely successful meat company. Charlie’s never had a head for business, preferring baseball and parties. However, he’s used to a life of privilege and entitlement that throws Alice for a loop. Furthermore, Charlie’s mother is an imposing enigma. Alice spends entirely too much effort trying to win her approval. I can only conclude that Barbara Bush is, well, a badass.
You can probably guess what happens. Charlie decides to run for state office, eventually becomes governor, and finally makes it to the White House. Once there, he responds to a catastrophic terrorist attack, starts a couple of unpopular wars, and loses favor with the public. Sound familiar?
The title of this book is no misnomer: Alice’s life is parsed in terms of her role. So with all famous spouses, I suppose. What really struck me was her constant assertion that Charlie had never promised to be anything more than he was. If given a choice, she would have chosen to remain a librarian while her husband became the commissioner of baseball.***
Unfortunately, an American wife can’t always have her way.
* If I end up marrying a politician, it could also be me, sorta. I found…not a few eerie similarities. Seriously, though, I think I’d make a horrible First Lady. You just KNOW I’d spill soup on Putin and start World War III. Sorry, Vlad.
** With a lot of girls, it’s the other way around. Kids these days.
*** There was a nice little Brewers subplot here that the cheesehead in me appreciated. Actually, though I was keeping an eye out for Wisconsin mistakes, I only found one. Nice research, Sittenfeld.
February 9, 2009
I haven’t played a piano since October. This is the longest I’ve gone since I started playing in 1993. (Wow, I’m old.) I’m not sure how to describe my feelings exactly (though that’s never stopped me before, I know); it’s not the acute longing you feel when you’re away from a loved one. But I definitely realize it often. I never realized how much a part of me it was until I couldn’t do it anymore.
I’m hoping to end the drought when I go home this weekend. I’ll be alone in the house on Friday night, and I prefer to play when no one else is there to listen. Paradoxical, I know, but I’ve always been of the “I play for me” school and not the “I play for recognition” one. Probably comes of practicing so much as a child in empty church auditoriums. Eh.
As other musicians would attest, playing an instrument is a great stress reliever. I can only speak from the piano perspective, obviously, but I like a little Chopin to calm me down. I also have a book of sonatinas that I’ve been using since elementary school (I got really good really fast and then plateaued, so sue me). There’s something about the order of a good classical (the era, not the genre) piece that’s soothing. I like baroque music for similar reasons. I memorized a Bach invention (number 9) for guild* in the eighth grade and worked it up again last year for this reason. Also, because I figure it’s something to whip out at parties. Not that I’ve yet been asked, mind you. But if I ever am…HA.
Sadly, I realized a few years ago that I’m no longer as flexible as I used to be. And flexibility is key.** With a lot of practice, I could probably regain some of my former dexterity, but I fear I’m already too far gone to really whip out a Pischna scale ever again. (I can still do Hanon pretty well. Small consolation, but still.) You know how they say violinists should start as wee children and grow into it? Same thing, but with less screeching catgut.
I can’t envision ever having a piano while I live in an apartment; I’d be afraid of death threats from the neighbors. Keyboards just won’t cut it for me; my touch is way too heavy. In college, our dorm had a keyboard in the basement that I tried a few times. Poor thing didn’t know what hit it.
* Yes, I was in a national pianist guild. Yes, I had to memorize and play pieces from the four classical eras. Yes, I still have the certificate. Yes, that was the proudest accomplishment of my life until I took the ACT. Shutup.
** That’s what he said.
February 6, 2009
February 5, 2009
Though all three plots were funny, I most enjoyed Jim and Michael (the A plot, I’ll call it). Not only did we get Pam vs. the giant suitcase (a battle Heather has also fought), but it allowed us to see Utica in action. Pam got her closure; hopefully Michael will get some, too.
The B plot (Andy, Stanley, and the sale) didn’t end quite so happily (poor Andy). The C plot (Kelly’s party) piqued my interest at “ice cream cake” and lost it at “brown balloons.”
Favorite quote: “Sugar boobs.” I’m sorry; sometimes I’m juvenile.
Favorite quote, runner-up: “Is there a guy…or a person…or a sperm machine that did this to you?” After Jan, Michael’s faith in the reproductive process is shaken, poor guy.
Favorite character: Pam. She actually showed some chutzpah tonight. Karen’s happiness aside, I think Pam wins.
Favorite character, runner-up: Creed. Partially because he called Andy “Jim.” Partially because he had a $3 bill.
Favorite scene: Andy singing Feist. Look carefully at that sentence and you can find three reasons for my affection.
Favorite scene, runner-up: The decision to go to Nashua. Can the advent of Holly be far behind?
5.16 – Lecture Circuit (Part 1)
Ah, speakerphone. Such a tricky technology.
Covert scissors action
“And we’re off…like a herd of turtles.”
“Pam is my hot roadie.”
“This is a new cardigan.” Stop the cardigan hate, Michael!
Ooh, forgot the birthday.
Silence / Sam Kennison
If Al-Qaida got to know Pam, they wouldn’t hate her.
“She’s out of your league, Andy.”
Nard Dog vs. crippling despair, loneliness, and depression
Ice cream cake: good choice
“Just picture her naked.”
And she’s preggers.
“Is that Jim’s?”
“Wow, you’re huge.”
Match the balloons to the carpet
“my feelings regenerate at twice the speed of a normal man’s”
It IS good to know the deets of the girl you’re wooing.
Yay, Feist reference!
“Do you need to go…pump?”
Old McDonald had an allegiance.
“amazing pneumonic device”
“It’s very insulting.” “But it works.”
“We already know each other’s names.”
Andy, singing, Feist. SIGN ME UP.
“I like her…with all my heart.”
“Utica chainsaw massacre”
Wow, he’s tall
“Old hatreds dissolve into new friendships.”
“Have I ever steered you wrong, Jim?”
“I’m gonna be in touch with you. In about three months.”
“We lost the account.”
“Mose doesn’t know how to use a phone.”
Bring back Holly!
“Perfect boobs. Of course I remember Holly.”
“What you and Jim have, times 100.”
Wow, what a cliffhanger!
I hope that by now you have recovered from the devastating examination of the American dream gone wrong that was Revolutionary Road. I find that the best movies stick with me for a little while, whether through the drive home, the rest of the day, or a few days afterwards.
However, judging by your behavior during the film, you may have needed no time at all.
You probably noticed me shooting you dirty looks at various points during and after the film. I’d like, if I may, to explain the reasoning behind those. While I spend almost all of my time annoyed at other people, I rarely show it so overtly. Thus one would have to conclude I found your actions pretty egregious.
Man Who Sat Next to Me at Revolutionary Road, you came in late. Not just “Oh, we had trouble finding parking” late. Or “There was a line at concessions” late. No, sir. You came in “We thought Batman was still playing but it wasn’t so we came to this” late. Unacceptable.
Man Who Sat Next to Me at Revolutionary Road, despite a long stretch of empty seats in my row (the very back one, of course), you sat RIGHT NEXT TO ME. You may not be familiar with the unwritten rules of personal space in western culture, but unless you and I share DNA or bodily fluids on a regular basis, I would rather you didn’t sit RIGHT NEXT TO ME. You know how you put your coats on the seat to your right? How about putting them on the seat to your left, a.k.a. the seat RIGHT NEXT TO ME?
Man Who Sat Next to Me at Revolutionary Road, you brought your son. At least, I assume he was your son. Honestly, I don’t know whether that makes it better or worse, as Revolutionary Road is perhaps the worst movie in recent memory for children. Your son can’t have been more than 8. Maybe 10, tops. Revolutionary Road is rated R—not the fun, violent, profane R. This was more of a yelling, adulterous, botched abortion R. Tell me, sir: what part of that did you think your son would enjoy? Does he plan on becoming a marriage counselor? Or an OB-GYN? I should point out that I do appreciate the fact that you hushed your son every time he chewed too loudly, though said hushing was almost more distracting than said chewing.
Which brings me to my last point:
Man Who Sat Next to Me at Revolutionary Road, you had snacks. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge fan of snacks. Not at movies, no, but as a general concept. However, your giant bucket of popcorn plus your son’s tub of nachos multiplied by a noisy snacking style equaled NO FUN FOR HEATHER.
It’s not that you shouldn't go to movies, Man Who Sat Next to Me at Revolutionary Road. It’s that you shouldn’t go to movies where I am also present.
February 4, 2009
Revolutionary Road is my second-favorite film from 2008 (first place goes to The Duchess; nothing tops a good corset). I’m not sure what it says about me that suburban marital discord floats my boat, but there it is. I’m going to chalk it up to the chemistry that
I guess the easy summary of Revolutionary Road would be “Mad Men, the movie version.” But, really, that doesn’t do either work justice. As a series, Mad Men can address the topic at hand (life in the postwar years wasn’t as great as everyone thinks: discuss) in a leisurely and nuanced format. As a film, Revolutionary Road must concentrate and compress. Both have their merits; it’s like eating Ferrero Rocher once versus eating Choxie every day for a couple of weeks.* Delicious either way.
Revolutionary Road is about Frank and April Wheeler: a couple who vowed not to become just another suburban couple…right before they became just another suburban couple. Each becomes increasingly despondent; Frank loathes his pencil-pushing job while April’s dream of acting has been swallowed by the concerns of hearth and home.
To rile things up a bit, April decides the family should move to Paris. It’s simultaneously amusing and tragic to see the excitement that goes into preparations. Amusing because the Wheelers have finally, FINALLY found something to bond over and make them get out of bed in the morning. Tragic because you suspect it’s not going to happen. I mean, this isn’t a happy ending sort of movie. No singing animals here, folks.
Another hint of an unhappy ever after comes in the form of John Givings, the son of the Wheelers’ realtor and friend Helen (Kathy Bates, continuing the Titanic reunion). Despite being mentally-unstable after 37 bouts of electroshock therapy, John is the only one gutsy (or uncaring) enough to call the Wheelers on their bs. They’re not embarking on something new, he says. They’re just running from the old.
Then, in the sort of unfortunate odds that always seem to come up in the face of Grand Plans, April gets pregnant. She wants to have an abortion, but seeing as this is 1955 that’s easier said than done. She and Frank argue back and forth about it quite a bit…then she performs the procedure on herself. And dies. Yep, she DIES.
At the end of the film, we learn from Helen (the realtor) that Frank moved to the city with the kids. In fact, she continues to blather on to her husband for quite some time until he turns off his hearing aid. And then it cuts to black.
Lest you walk away from this film never wanting to get married, I suggest you see it more as a cautionary tale. The hopes and dreams one brings into marriage (or any relationship) aren’t necessarily those one derives from it. April’s problem was that she let despair and frustration control her. Kudos to Kate Winslet for portraying this, by the way. The desperation that woman can convey in a single look is just phenomenal.
“You want to play house, you got to have a job. You want to play nice house, very sweet house, you got to have a job you don't like.”
“It takes backbone to lead the life you want.”
* I’m sorry. Valentine’s Day is coming up and I’ve been ogling chocolates.
February 3, 2009
The simple life.
An admirable goal, to be sure, but probably an unattainable one. Life isn’t simple, and all references to halcyon days aside, I don’t think it ever was. Each generation has had its problems, its struggles, and its doubts. Some more so than others.
Case in point: a small Catholic school in the Bronx in 1964. Sure, it’s New York City. So it’s all gritty and whatnot. But these kids and their teachers live a relatively easy life, right? Teaching, learning, and the occasional classroom hijinks?
What drew me to Doubt was the cast—Phillip Seymour Hoffman is quickly becoming my favorite actor. He transfixes me every time I see him in a role, no matter how small (Almost Famous), lighthearted (Charlie Wilson’s War), obscure (The Savages), or odd (Capote). Hoffman plays Father Flynn, a priest accused of harboring inappropriate feelings towards the school’s only black student. Meryl Streep (not just a Prada-wearing devil, folks) is Sister Aloysius, Head Nun and Self-Appointed Evil Sniffer-Outer. Amy Adams (The Office’s very own Hot Girl) is Sister James, the wide-eyes ingénue who just wants things to get tidied so she can go back to teaching history. I can’t say that Viola Davis was an attraction for me (I’d never heard of her), though she certainly had a powerful and significant scene.
It doesn’t spoil anything (I don’t think) to say that this movie never really resolves itself. We don’t find out whether Flynn was guilty. Or whether the boy was complicit. Or whether anyone’s actions were right or wrong. As my dad likes to say, life isn’t black and white. It isn’t even grey. It’s shades of grey.
The quote above is a line Father Flynn uses in one of his sermons. (Three guesses what the subject is.) I think people tend to view doubt as a bad thing. Unless your name is Heisenberg, uncertainty isn’t going to do a whole lot for you. Maybe, though, the shared experience of not knowing is good for us. We’re uncertain, yes. But we’re all uncertain together. It’s how we act on the uncertainty that makes us differ.
“You just want things to be resolved so you can have simplicity back.” So says Sister Aloysius to Sister James. I daresay she's not the only one who feels that way.
The simple life, indeed.
February 2, 2009
Though I wasn’t able to live-blog or –notate last night’s episode, I thought it was good overall. Not a great, tightly-plotted episode like some we’ve seen, no. But it also wasn’t as broad (read: boring) as others. A good middle-of-the-road show.
My friend Michael and I often analyze The Office (well, and 24 and Lost and Heroes, eh) by character, so I’m going to use that convention here.
Dwight and Stanley. I guess Dwight’s main purpose in this show was as the prime mover, with Stanley as the catalyst. I don’t know about you, but I was cringing during the entire cold open. It was simultaneously brilliant and horrific. I certainly felt horrible for Stanley, though it was nice to actually, you know, hear him speaking lines.
Jam. Did anyone else briefly wonder whether Jim’s role in the Beesley divorce would have ramifications on his relationship with Pam? I fear that the Powers That Be aren’t going to let our favorite couple live happily ever after just quite yet. Apparently, however, last night’s episode wasn’t about to be the bump in the road. (Speaking of bumps, though, Karen’s appearance next week might, uh, prove differently.) I also found the illegal downloading thing endearing, possibly because I myself do, um, a lot of that as well. Shutup. Whatever. Don’t judge me.
Oscar. I have to put him in here only because his jumping into the ceiling may have been my very favorite part of the entire freaking episode.
Andy. As my friend Amanda asked, Is Andy...gay? I thought maybe I was just reading into his uncomfortable glances, but now I wonder. Oh, but also, how much did I love the guitar playing? C’mon now.
Michael. He lets the little people trample on him, and it works. Only too well. I felt awful when he had to leave the roast—he was almost CRYING, people! (The Boy did not share my viewpoint on this; you menfolk are entirely too stoic. Crying! Michael Scott was almost crying!) When Michael came back and mini-roasted everyone, though, I realized that pity for Michael Scott is probably better used elsewhere.
Kelly, Meredith, Kevin, Creed, et al. Everyone got something in tonight, whether it was Kelly’s dancing or random Creedisms. Heck, even Bob Vance put in an appearance.
“Stanley! Barack is president! You are black, Stanley!”
“I have got to make sure that YouTube comes down to tape this.”
“If it were an iPod, it would be a Shuffle.”
“When you’re a kid, you assume your parents are soulmates. My kids are going to be right about that.”
Defiance recounts the story of a group of Polish Jews who used the evade-by-camping-out anti-Nazi strategy during World War 2. Led by the Bielski brothers—Tuvia (
As someone who has camped exactly one time, I can’t even begin to imagine what that must have been like. (Actually, I’m not sure you could call what I did camping: I slept in a tent at Yosemite, but there was a bed involved. Also, an Asian family one tent over whose children delighted in singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic repeatedly all night. Let’s split the difference.)
As someone who has camped half a time, I can’t even begin to imagine what that must have been like. I love to travel, but I also like hot showers and electricity. They’re called the conveniences of modern living for a reason. As Joey Tribbiani once pointed out, a blind man who gets his sight back doesn’t walk around with his eyes closed.
The movie starts with some pretty grim deaths, continues with more grim deaths, lightens up a bit for a couple of romantic story arcs, and then turns violent and exciting (dynamite! tanks! running!) . If you’re a fan of shooting, trees, or the color brown, you’ll definitely get your fill. That’s not to say it’s not an enjoyable movie; however, I think this film is more one that most people see because they feel they SHOULD rather than because they want to. I realize that not everyone shares my passion for history, war, and
Defiance may not give you warm and fuzzy feelings about, well, anything. But it will perhaps hearten you just a little bit. Never discount grim determination, even against long odds.
(For those of you that end up seeing this and spend a good bit of the movie wondering where you’ve seen Lilka before, she was on Reunion. Thank you, Wikipedia.)
(Consequently, if anything in the previous parenthetical made sense to you, please let me know so that I may applaud your knowledge of obscure Fox programming.)