August 31, 2010

August 31, 2010

Welcome, Class of 2006

Eight years ago today, I started college. Though classes didn’t begin until Tuesday, freshman orientation (now optimistically called “Jump Start”) started the Friday prior and ran straight through to Monday night. I would like to proudly point out that this initial weekend of my college career was the only one during which I stayed on campus. The other 200 or so, I went to my home, my parents, and my TV. Not in that order.

Anyway. Freshman orientation was about three things. Getting to know your roommates, adjusting to life together, and figuring out why the frak you decided on [private college name redacted] when [state college name redacted] was cheaper and had much better entertainment opportunities.

Ah, the roommates. My first two years of college were the only time I shall ever live with five, yes FIVE, other women in one room. TheBoy went to Georgia Tech and can’t fathom how six of us would be crammed into a single living space. I believe Tech rooms top out at two. TWO. Probably with a bathroom, or at least a sink. We, on the other hand, had to go down the hall for running water. For an only child like myself, homicide was a very viable option during freshman orientation weekend.

[Side story: While I was washing my hands in the bathroom that first weekend, I saw a tableaux outside that made me tear up. Asian mom, Caucasian dad, daughter. Mom hugs daughter. Dad pulls out wallet to hand daughter some money. Everyone’s sad. It’s the exact same scene I had played out with my parents a few hours prior. SADSADSAD.]

Keep in mind that most upperclassman don’t even really arrive until Monday, so the throngs around you are just freshmen. The lines in the cafeteria are just freshmen. But since most of us came up in small private or home schools, there are still more people than we have ever experienced in academia. To be fair, athletes always got to move in a week early—something about pre-season—so they were there, too. Plus they got all the best bunks. What a gyp.

That first weekend was so hot, so traumatic (I almost didn’t get a bed because the idiot admissions office thought I would live off-campus seeing as my parents lived a SCANT 56 miles away), and such a weekendus horribilis that I still can’t speak of it. Even knowing that it started me towards valedictorianship, a graduate degree, and a career in public service isn’t enough to wish I could do it over.

Ah, memories.

August 26, 2010

August 26, 2010

My 2010 Emmy Picks

Since Fridays are always Natalie Dee of the Week, allow me to present my picks in the major categories (shown in red below) for this year's Emmy awards, to be handed out on Sunday evening. Though I plan on attending a certain medieval dinner theatre earlier in the day, I hope to be planted in front of a TV set at 8/7c. How about you?

DRAMA

OUTSTANDING DRAMA
Lost
Breaking Bad
Dexter
Mad Men
True Blood
The Good Wife

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
Mariska Hargitay (Special Victims Unit)
Glenn Close (Damages)
Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)
January Jones (Mad Men)
Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights)

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights)
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
Hugh Laurie (House M.D.)
Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
Matthew Fox (Lost)

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
John Slattery (Mad Men)
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
Martin Short (Damages)
Terry O’ Quinn (Lost)
Michael Emerson (Lost)
Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Sharon Gless (Burn Notice)
Christine Baranski (The Good Wife)
Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
Rose Byrne (Damages)
Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife)
Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)

COMEDY

OUTSTANDING COMEDY
Glee
Modern Family
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Nurse Jackie
30 Rock
The Office
Curb Your Enthusiasm

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Lea Michele (Glee)
Tina Fey (30 Rock)
Toni Collette (The United States of Tara)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (The New Adventures of Old Christine)
Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)
Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm)
Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
Matthew Morrison (Glee)
Steve Carell (The Office)
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
Tony Shalhoub (Monk)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Chris Colfer (Glee)
Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother)
Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family)
Jon Cryer (Two and A Half Men)
Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live)
Jane Krakowski (30 Rock)
Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
Sofia Vergara (Modern Family)
Holland Taylor (Two and A Half Men)

REALITY

OUTSTANDING REALITY SHOW HOST
Ryan Seacrest (American Idol)
Phil Keoghan (The Amazing Race)
Tom Bergeron (Dancing with the Stars)
Heidi Klum (Project Runway)
Jeff Probst (Survivor)

OUTSTANDING REALITY SHOW COMPETITION
Project Runway
Top Chef
The Amazing Race
Dancing with the Stars
American Idol

VARIETY, MUSIC, OR COMEDY

OUTSTANDING VARIETY, MUSIC, OR COMEDY SERIES
The Colbert Report
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Real Time With Bill Maher
Saturday Night Live
The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien

MINISERIES OR MOVIE
The Pacific (HBO)
Return to Cranford (PBS)

OUTSTANDING TV MOVIE
Endgame (PBS)
Georgia O’Keeffe (Lifetime)
Moonshot (History)
The Special Relationship (HBO)
Temple Grandin (HBO)
You Don’t Know Jack (HBO)

OUTSTANDING VARIETY, MUSIC, OR COMEDY SERIES
The Colbert Report
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Real Time With Bill Maher
Saturday Night Live
The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien

August 25, 2010

August 25, 2010

Not in My House

The more I watch HGTV, the more I realize that people have very different perspectives on what items are essential to comfortable living. I apparently grew up in a rather crude environment, if the preachers of “five beds, six baths” are to be believed. Though not raised in a barn, I am the offspring of modest parents. I’m okay with that.

My parents didn’t have a dishwasher. I have one in my apartment now, but I have never used it. Wouldn’t know how even if I wanted to. I use it to store extra oatmeal and my big bowls.

My parents didn’t have a fireplace. You’d think that fireplaces would come with Wisconsin homes by default, but I can prove otherwise. On the plus side, my pyromania developed young, and easy access to fire would no doubt have ended very badly.

My parents didn’t have a waterbed. I used to go over to the neighbor’s house after school. The kids and I sat on a waterbed and played Nintendo (two completely foreign experiences for me) and I almost peed my pants for excitement. Or perhaps motion sickness.

My parents didn’t have a pool. To be fair, in Wisconsin, pool season lasts approximately ten days (late July to early August).

My parents didn’t have a garbage disposal. I have one now (oy with the fancy apartments), but I rarely use it because a) I cook very little real food, b) I leave even less uneaten, and c) loud appliances are VERYVERYVERY bad for me. My reaction to blenders, vacuum cleaners, and garbage disposals is usually only seen in the tiniest of children or dogs.

My parents didn’t have a dining room. We ate at the kitchen table. Or, preferably, at a restaurant table, amiright?

Perhaps I’m coming off very poorly here; or my parents are. Not at all the case; they certainly could have afforded the luxuries live fire and sleeping amongst the waves. They just chose to spend on other things. Like their only daughter, hey-o.

Home owners, what things do you have now that you could no longer live without? If you past self invented a time machine and met your current self, would s/he smack you in disgust at your affinity for appliances? Discuss.

August 24, 2010

August 24, 2010

It's a...fetus.

Every month, I get together with friends-of-blog Carrie and Charlotte (not their real names*) for dinner, conversation, and ranting about the world in general. It’s not exactly the Yalta Convention, but I like to think our discussions are broad enough to make Churchill smile.

Recently, Charlotte shared what is quite possible the best bad date story I’ve heard in a while. This may be due to the fact that I just don’t hear (or tell) as many bad date stories as I used to, but I think it’s more the fact that this date turned so epically bad, so quickly, that few can hope to surpass its crash and burn.

The facts are these:

A workman at Char’s office had been not-so-subtly flirting with her for a while. Couple of months. Nothing too overt, but certainly more friendly than “How ‘bout this weather, eh?” Char suggested drinks and appetizers after work one night recently.

Through this point, I’m with her. Make it casual, make it adjacent to work (no separate preparation required), make it involve food. Even if you have to pay for it yourself. I did not get details on the physical appearance of the guy, but let’s assume he was hot. It makes this epic fail so much better.

So Char and Hot Workman head to the place. Chat. Snack. Drink. It’s all going well. She may be imagining it, in fact, but she realizes he’s actually sort of, um, glowy.

HW reaches into his pocket, pulls out a piece of paper, and lays it down on the table. Char’s thinking: Phone number? Business card? Directions to his private plane?

Then she realized what it was.

A sonogram.

Indeed, HW is a proud daddy-to-be. He hastened to add that his *ex* was only ten weeks along, but still.

Char, whose day job involves biostatistics and who can whip up an algorithm in less time than it takes you or I to spell “algorithm,” did the math and realized that ten weeks ago, he was both hitting on her and (apparently) ensuring the continuity of his genetic material.

Ew. Just ew.

Char hightailed it out of there pretty quickly, though I do hope she grabbed the rest of her appetizers. And his. And made him pay for all of them.

What to expect when you’re expecting? Awkwardness, apparently.

* These are their Sex and the City egos. Carrie is the stylish one, Charlotte the beloved. I’m Miranda, the driven and caustic.

August 23, 2010

August 23, 2010

Antiques Roadshow: The Live Experience

All right, fish sticks. Here’s the lowdown: I went to Antiques Roadshow on Saturday. I definitely took some pictures in prohibited areas. I’m afraid that posting those pictures will cause the almighty wrath of PBS to come crashing down upon me, presumably in the form of the ghost of Julia Child.

I don’t want that, so I’m going to be careful with this.

Before the day arrived, I’d done some research into how the whole process works. Basically, you arrive at the site, wait in one line to get categorized (classifying your antique as a doll, or a book, or a gun, etc.), wait in another line to see the appraiser, and possibly get on TV if you have something really good.

Keep in mind that I knew ahead of time that I did not have, nor could I find, anything remotely good. Nor does this story end with a “Surprise, I found a thrift store painting worth a gajillion dollars!” denouement. But keep reading.

Our entry time was 8:00 a.m. Turns out this was the earliest entry time; a definite plus. Lines just get longer as the day progresses, since no one forces you to leave after your appraisal. I am not the only weirdo fascinated by AR, high five!

The line to get to the preliminary appraisers wasn’t actually too bad at 8:00 a.m. I enjoyed waiting and scoping out other people’s (real) antiques.

Toting THAT in on the train cannot have been fun.

I also enjoyed spotting film of one of the Kenos. AR: the Greatest Hits.

I had a small book my Dad found used for like a quarter.

I convinced TheBoy to take a folk art painting someone gave his grandpa during a transaction that also involved a used car. We believe the painter was, in fact, the used car salesman. So, again, nothing remotely valuable.

We got to the preliminary appraisal table. I was assigned to the “Arms & Militaria” table and TheBoy got “Paintings & Drawings.” I was shocked not to get “Books,” but hell if I’m going to turn down the line with GUNS and CANNONS and whatnot.

It is at this point that pictures posted on my blog must cease and desist, according to the fine print on the back of the ticket.

(For the real dirt, check my Facebook. But anyway.)

We got “on set,” and stood near Mark Wahlberg as he filmed the opening segment. I overheard him say that this is going to be the season premiere of next season’s AR, so keep an eye out for my back and profile. Ahem.

TheBoy and I were allowed to wait in each other’s lines and hear each other’s appraisals. The way I saw it, this gave us twice as much AR time. Yes, I was actually a FAN of waiting in this instance. Possibly the only situation not involving food that I will be patient for.

The appraiser at the “Arms & Militaria” table gave me an incredibly thoughtful review. Terms like “mint condition” were thrown around. Value of the book: $15-$20. Value of getting to take to a freaking AR appraiser in the flesh as host Mark Wahlberg films mere feet away: ZOMG PRICELESS.

We then headed to “Paintings & Drawings” for TheBoy’s appraisal. I was ready to die happy, honestly. The art appraiser also did an excellent and thorough job with the painting. She didn’t recognize the artist; I considered telling her to Google him and see that he sells Chevys in Houston or whatever. I refrained. Value of the painting turned out to be $150-$200, holy crap.

On the way out, we stopped in the feedback booth—where they film little segments that air over the closing credits. I said a little ditty about “We had so much fun, blah blah blah” while grinning like an idiot. Just my luck, it’ll actually air. Meh.

All in all, even more awesome than I’d hoped. Just imagine if I’d had something actually valuable.

August 19, 2010

August 19, 2010

Check, Mate

Occasionally, you make a discovery about yourself so disturbing that it borders on an existential crisis. Perhaps you realize you no longer believe in a higher power, or decide to switch political parties, or convert to veganism. Your previous system of beliefs and practices goes right out the window, causing you to question why you ever held and did them in the first place.

My friends, such an event occurred for me last night. I realized that I like playing chess.

It seems like only yesterday that I was completely unaware of how chess worked—the board, the pieces, the rules. (Considering that I lost several games yesterday in addition to the one I won, you could actually argue that the preceding sentence is still technically true.) When I launched Chess Titans on my laptop for the first time ever several weeks ago, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to discern between pointy hats, castles, and horsies.

However, after dropping the computer’s skill level as low as it goes, learning the actual names and powers of the pieces, and finally understanding TheBoy’s explanation about a draw versus checkmate, I have won several games of chess. Like, more than five. (Less than ten, shutup.)

However, it hasn’t all been fun and games. (No pun intended.) While this is no forum for the philosophical implications of chess, even someone as unskilled as I am notices a couple of interesting facets of chess.

White always moves first. Forget the whole white supremacy argument—maybe it just means we’re all twitchy little buggers, quicker to initiate conflict than we should be.

In my opinion, the queen is the most strategically significant piece. It can move almost anywhere. To win the game, you have to place the king in check. But to place the king in check, you almost always have to capture the queen. Women everywhere, rejoice.

Chess is not for the impatient. This reason alone is what kept me from chess all these years. I’d much rather see immediate payoff, whether a skip-skip-reverse-draw two play in Uno or a toppling pile of Jenga blocks. Whereas TheBoy is a skilled player who anticipates the consequence of his moves (as well as the effects of his opponents’ moves) for every damn piece on the board, I’m all “ZING THAT BISHOP ACROSS THE BOARD, OH YEAH” accompanied by zooming noises.

If you are not a chess player, it’s okay. I’m not trying to convert anybody. I don’t even consider myself converted. Chess, like republicanism or white pants, isn’t for everybody. Luckily, unlike republicanism or white pants, it doesn’t hurt to give it a shot.

August 18, 2010

August 18, 2010

In My Opinion: Robin Hood

Keep in mind that I will watch any historical epic, no matter the confounding subject, no matter the bad reviews, no matter the length. You too, you say? Show me a Gladiator and I will raise you a Kingdom of Heaven AND an Elizabeth. Yep.

Anyway, you certainly don’t need me to tell you the legend of Robin Hood. (Or, as he’s called in this film, Robin of the Hood—SO much more authentic.) You’ve probably seen one of the many other adaptations; perhaps one involving an animated fox? You know the whole “robs from the rich and gives to the poor” thing. Ridley Scott, director of this movie, knows that, so he decided to do an origin story. Sort of a Batman Robin Hood Begins.

Thus, when we meet our protagonist, he is not heroically zipping from tree to tree while zinging arrows shoot past. Instead, he is an archer in Richard III’s army, crusadin’ it up. Sadly, Richard dies in battle. Happily, this provides an ideal opportunity for Robin and a few of his merry men fellow soldiers to hightail it out of there. There’s nothing like a good crusade, after all, and this was nothing like a good crusade.

As Robin and his buddies are making their way home, they come upon the caravan taking Richard’s crown back to England. The caravan is ambushed by Bad Guys and Robin & Co. barely fight them off to save the crown. (If ever there were a tie-in for UPS, amiright?) Robin ends up having a very “Aragorn and Boromir in Fellowship of the Rings” moment with a dying knight, in which he ends up promising to return the man’s sword.

Where is that man from? Nottingham.

Dun dun DUN.

Robin and his friends take the guise of the dead knights and sail that crown back to England themselves. Hand it over to the new monarch, King John.

Dun dun DUN.

Lemme say, that dude was one crazy shut-your-mouth.

Robin heads to Nottingham to Finish His Quest and return the sword. Once there, he meets the knight’s widow, Marian. And the new clergyman, Friar Tuck

Dun dun DUN.

Further complications ensue, leading Robin to stick around Nottingham in a continuing search for truth, justice, and the English way. (Seriously, the Magna Carta is basically name-checked several times: “We need a CHARTER.” “Sign the CHARTER.” “Where is the CHARTER?” The film’s set in 1199—I kept yelling at the screen for them to wait 16 years. Well, not really. But I wanted to.)

In all seriousness, I thought this was an excellent film of the gritty-historical genre. People are downtrodden and dirty, as was the condition of humankind for most of history. Enough of shimmering Egypt and glittering Rome. Give me dirt and England!

August 17, 2010

August 17, 2010

In My Opinion: Knight and Day

Have you seen Mr. and Mrs. Smith? Y’know, the film with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt as a married couple who bytheway are also assassins hired to kill each other? Okay, so you remember how that involved a great mix of thrilling action (explosions, chase scenes, gunfire) and romantic banter? Except that it was a little too sensual because Angelina is frankly too lusty to be allowed? Knight and Day is like that, but with an acceptable level of sexuality. Probably because Cameron Diaz plays an adorable spaz and Tom Cruise will forevermore be known as a couch jumper.

(In case you can’t tell, I really liked this movie. Bad box office and reviews aside.)

Tom Cruise plays Roy Miller, a spy who’s gone rogue. (Or has he?) Cameron Diaz plays June Havens, a car restorer* whose meeting with Roy in the Wichita Airport is pure coincidence. (Or is it?) They end up on the same flight to Boston, where all hell breaks loose. And by that, I mean that Roy ends up killing everyone on the plane in incredibly badass ways. Ways that almost make you squee for Tom Cruise. The COUCH JUMPER.

Miller has to crash the plane to destroy all the evidence and confuse the fuzz. He drugs June; she wakes up the next morning in her own bed. And proceeds to find Post-Its from Roy that shift her hazy memories of a plane crash from “Oh no it di’int” to “Oh yes it did.”

The fuzz soon find and question June. Tell her that Roy is A Very Bad Man. Ask her to come with them, please. Roy had warned her about all of this, so she’s understandably confused. Luckily, Roy shows up to open a can of whoopass.

We then entail on the “Running from the law” portion of the film. The Alps, trains, and a kid scientist are involved. The film’s McGuffin is introduced: a tiny, uberpowerful battery called Zephyr. Shooting. Car chases. Salzburg. Running of the bulls. Etc.

I don’t want to spoil the ending, but suffice to say that Cameron Diaz gets to drive to Cape Horn, and Tom Cruise gets the girl, and not once is a single couch jumped upon.

Roy: Some people are gonna come looking for you now.
June: Why?
Roy: They'll tell you I'm mentally unstable and violent and dangerous and it will all sound very convincing.
June: I'm already convinced.

* Not in all my years of oil changes have I ever met a mechanic who looks remotely like Cameron Diaz. Or any serviceperson, for that matter. I’m just sayin’.

August 16, 2010

August 16, 2010

Governin'

I have long held the belief that the Cabinet departments can be shortened to one word. Further analysis indicates ending this word in –n’ gives our government the sort of old-timey homespun feel that’s missing in today’s world.

Here you go. Feel free to add your own suggestions.

State --> Negotiatin’
Treasury --> Fundin’
Defense --> Fightin’
Justice --> Lawyerin’
Interior --> Conservin’
Agriculture --> Farmin’
Commerce --> Tradin’
Labor --> Workin’
Health and Human Services --> Healin’
Housing and Urban Development --> Developin’
Transportation --> Goin’
Energy --> Powerin’
Education --> Learnin’
Veterans Affairs --> Honorin’
Homeland Security --> Safeguardin’

August 12, 2010

August 12, 2010

What do you mean, "why"?

Scott Adams (yeah, the Dilbert guy) recently posited that it takes three kinds: negotiators, bullies, and pushovers.

Let’s ignore the obvious “Which one are YOU, click here to find out!” quiz that will inevitably pop up on Facebook. I think the better question is, which one is the best? Yes, I am American, and I’m all about the competition.

To quote Adams’ definitions of the three types:

Pushover: I'll do whatever you want.
Negotiator: I'll do this if you do that.
Bully: Do what I want or there will be consequences.

Sure, different situations are going to require different roles. But which one is going to get you the best result most of the time? I say the bully. Don’t get me wrong: I understand the importance of negotiation and submission and all that. But when push comes to shove (wow, literally), bullying is the way to go. Sometimes you can’t stop and think and discuss and decide, you must TAKE ACTION NOW, RIGHT NOW, IS IT DONE ALREADY?

Yet another reason I’d make a terrible parent, boss, or politician. I’d be a great tyrant, though. Someone call me when there’s an opening for someone who needs to rock the “Because I said so” line of reasoning.

August 11, 2010

August 11, 2010

I Call BS: The National Gallery of Art

While I love D.C. museums with the sort of ardor usually reserved for things made of cheese, I’m unafraid to call bs when something goes wrong. Not “long lines” or “crowded galleries” sort of wrong, either. Those things are a given when you live in the National Capital Region, where monuments attract millions of tourists every year. (Note: I have no basis for that figure, but it reads better than “hundreds of thousands.”)

Please step forward, National Gallery of Art.

TheBoy and I visited the NGA a couple weekends ago to check out the “In the Tower” Rohtko exhibit. Though I’m an Impressionist girl through-and-through, Rothko’s bold blocks of color resonate with me on a subficial level. (That’s right: we’ve moved from arty pretension right into coinin’ our own words!)

Local press, including blog DCist and commuter paper The Express, noted that the exhibition is in the NGA’s east building’s tower. What they should have done is pointed out that the tower is almost inaccessible to anyone who cannot fly.

The east building was designed by I.M. Pei, so it’s understandably “modern.” By which I mean, “confusing as hell.” Let’s take a look at the ground level’s floor plan:

Now, I’ll waive my criticism of the triangular structure. I accept people who come in funny shapes; I can do the same for buildings. I’m a little wary of the oddly-placed elevators and stairs which BY THE WAY don’t always exist where this map indicates.

Anyway, assuming you can find one of the super-secret hidden elevators, you’d think you could just ride on up to the tower, right? Right? RIGHT?

Wrong. Because this is the tower floorplan:

As you might be able to tell (though I don’t blame you if you can’t), the tower is only accessible by two means: the freight elevator or the staircase that only goes to the third floor. To reiterate: going from ground level to tower involves combining elevators, stairs, and a whole lot of luck.

Did I enjoy my 15 minutes in the Rothko chapel? Sure did. The hour it took to find the freaking place? Not so much. And to the guard who responded to my query, “Do you know how to get to the tower?” with “Yes” and a pause…BITE ME.

National Gallery of Art, I call bs.

August 10, 2010

August 10, 2010

Wisconsin State Fair: 2010 Roundup

Before I moved to the D.C. area, I lamented all the things I’d be giving up. Chief among these: the Wisconsin State Fair. Many of you were raised in farmin’ parts, so you’re familiar with the singular joy that comes in seeing prize-winning cheese. As I suspected way back when, nothing in Washington compares. Not the county fairs, not the street festivals, not the parades. It’s as if giant dairy fashioned into livestock isn’t even a THING out here.

Luckily, cheap transportation and free room and board at my parents’ means that it’s pretty easy for me to do a long weekend in Milwaukee. For two years and running, I’ve made it back to my beloved State Fair, making my attendance streak somewhere between 15 and 20 years in a row.

Here’s the lowdown on 2010.

My favorite item on the to-do list—and the most time sensitive—is the Expo Center. Hundreds of booths containing all manner of wonder mops, miracle choppers, homemade fudge, and (new this year) coffins. If you need it while you’re awake, asleep, or dead, it’s here.

The key to a successful visit to the Expo Center is to go EARLY. As in, right when the doors open at 9 a.m. By 10 a.m., it’s almost completely impassable due to wheelchairs, scooters, and STROLLERS THE SIZE OF CADILLACS, WTF.

Again, EARLY. Otherwise you’re not going to get within shouting range of the guy with the veg-o-matic and your chances of getting sprayed with carrot juice are slim to none.

You of course should also take time out to see the livestock. These animals are the entire point of the fair for dozens of farm children who trek hours across the state. You drive ten hours to Milwaukee, show the animals, get some ribbons, and sell them to a grocer. Cradle to plate, if you will.

The final thing I’d advise doing is eating as much as possible that is a) deep fried, b) on a stick, c) covered in chocolate, or d) ALL THREE. To wit: the deep-fried Snickers bar.

I flew 800 miles for that thing, and it did not disappoint. You tell me what else has that kind of batting record.

There are, of course, many other things you can do. Bingo, flavored milks, Coke Zero shots, Days of the Dinosaur, midway, cookie dough fondue, etc. Just pace yourself, and watch out for cow pies.

August 9, 2010

August 5, 2010

August 5, 2010

Homework

Once a week, I telework. In case the meaning isn’t obvious, that means I work from home. This concept may or may not be available to you, but it’s a pretty big deal at federal-agency-that-shall-not-be-named. Some people like it because they can watch their kids. Some people like it because they can get away from the distractions of the office. All people like it because it saves 2+ hours of commuting time.

The dark side for me, though, is the lack of all my files, papers, and other ephemera. I’m reduced to the materials on hand, or whatever I’ve brought home from the office. And if I’ve got an important conference call and no notepad, I grab the nearest paper:

Post-Its. No surprise. The call ran about 40 minutes, and I ended up with, well, a crapload of Post-Its.

You may also notice my cottage cheese. To quote my mom, “You gotta have a snack.” No matter where your desk is.

August 4, 2010

August 4, 2010

In My Opinion: Toy Story 3

You got a friend in me.

Now that I’ve seen Toy Story 3

Okay, it’s not like you really care what I thought of Toy Story 3. What I say isn’t going to dissuade you from seeing it. You’ve probably seen it already. Let’s be real. There are two kinds of people in this world: those who have seen or will see TS3, and those who are dead.
So here are some things I noted while viewing.

How freaking old are all of us if Andy is going to college? Isn’t he like six years old?

I’m so pleased that kids these days (yeah, I said it) still play with Mr. Potato Head, and that talking phone, and Barbie. I may be old, dammit, but children today enjoy some of the same toys I did as a wee lass.

Plenty of my college acquaintances have worked or do work in daycares. Is that caterpillar room for realsies? It was like an asylum up in there, Give me the butterfly room any day.

Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are now my favorite couple. I want to have them over for dinner. I want to hang out with them.

Speaking of characters, Ken = hilarious. That is all.

Day and Night, or whatever the pre-movie short was called? Excellent, and so visually clever that I bow to the brains behind it.

Finally, I cried LIKE A BABY during the entire scene in which Andy introduces all his toys to Bonnie. We’re talking streaming tears, dripping nose, the whole bit. The guy on my right (not TheBoy, he was on my left) did, as well, but he kept playing it off as an itch. I guess he didn’t want to scare off his date. I was like, No, embrace the tears! They are Pixar tears! All is well!

Pixar, you did it again.

August 3, 2010

August 3, 2010

Return to Sender

When you were a kid, were there certain activities that struck you as utterly grown-up? Maybe it was driving a car, or going to the bank, or making phone calls. Like, you’d know you were an adult once you were allowed to do these things.

For me, it was all about writing checks and having address labels. Not sure why the two go hand-in-hand for me; possibly because checks and address labels are often sold together. Regardless, I felt that once I had address labels and checks with my name on them, I would have ARRIVED. My fascination with the clerical started young.

The mail process has always interested me, really. I can’t be the only one, since Blue’s Clues has a whole segment about getting mail. During summer vacations, checking and distributing the mail was one of my favorite parts of the day. (After mealtimes, obviously.) Sure, we were a household of three, and one of us (me) never got any mail. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t glue two paper plates together, write “Heather’s Mail” on them, and tape them to my bedroom door. Other mothers would perhaps have put in a note or two out of pity, but my mom’s Korean. I’m pretty sure their language doesn’t have a word for “pity.”

Remember the Publisher’s Clearing House ads, the included all the stamps for magazines you could order? I used to tear those apart and put them in a little mailbox toy I had. Did I realize that there’s no point in mailing just a stamp? Obviously not.

I think we can all agree that kids like kid-versions of adult activities—Fisher Price has made an entire industry of kid kitchens, and tool benches, and keys. Nothing wrong with any of it. It’s like practice for when the youth of today actually have to cook, build, and open things.

Too bad that once you have the checks, and the labels, and the keys, you have the bills, and the letters, and the locks that go with them.

August 2, 2010

In My Opinion: The A-Team

Growing up, many of us had favorite programs. Perhaps you liked Sesame Street, or Blue’s Clues, or Howdy Doody. (I obviously have no good metrics on the age of my readers. Bear with me.) I suspect that many of us also had programs we enjoyed watching with our parents, confusing as we may have found them. Mission: Impossible. The Twilight Zone. The A-Team.

Since Hollywood and Solomon both agree that there’s nothing new under the sun, many of our favorite programs of yesteryear have now been remade into films. I finally caught The A-Team a few weeks ago, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d feared. Call me judgmental—I certainly do—but I don’t expect a whole lot from a movie centered around rogues and a van.

Anyway.

The A-Team is about the misadventures of four former Army men who were framed for a crime, kicked out of the military, and imprisoned. After the obligatory break-out, they go about clearing their names. I have no idea whether the TV series showed all of this background stuff, or just what happened once the team busted out, but the time spent on set-up was greatly appreciated. (Not so greatly appreciated: Jessica Biel’s character, who was really too pretty to be taken seriously as a government employee. I see them every day. Take my word on this.)

You don’t really need to know WHY the events of The A-Team happen. Or even when, or where. It’s all about the HOW. Cars explode. People die and come back to life. Helicopters chase people down. This is work not about substance, but about style. If only they could have found a way to include Mr. T.

Speaking of casting, I thought Bradley Cooper as Face and the guy who played Murdoch were pretty good. Liam Neeson as Hannibal was odd; this most American of characters really requires someone who can chomp that cigar with devil-may-care abandon. The sort of abandon few Britons since Churchill can muster.