September 30, 2010

September 30, 2010

It’s What’s for Dinner

While preparing my evening meal recently, I looked down at the ingredients and was struck by a number of freakish facts.

One: I have started willingly eating pasta. Probably something you’ve been doing all your life, I know. But when you’re raised by a Korean mother and a Polish/German grandmother, your go-to starches are rice and potatoes. Yet I find myself in the mood for filled pastas (but not other noodles) quite a bit lately. I blame TheBoy.

Two: Wegman’s has an unhealthy hold on me. I buy Wegman’s store brand over the brand names. Like, even with cheese. Best string cheese I’ve had recently, better even than Sargento.

Three: I’m going to count making prepared pasta and sauce as cooking, since it entails boiling water and waiting more than 5 minutes to eat. So, um, I’m (sorta) cooking.

I’m not sure what the original point of this entry was, or even if it had one. BUT I think we can all agree that if I can change into a cooker of starches, the sky is really the limit for those of you with actual culinary talent.

Have your tastes changed since you were a kid?

September 29, 2010

Zoom Zoom – Not Just for Mazdas

Though my affinity for NASCAR had faded somewhat over the years, my love of free things is as strong as ever. Thus I jumped at the chance to attend a real-live NASCAR race for little more than the cost of some Diet Coke. (Did you really think I’d be able to spend four hours sitting and observing without aspartame?)

My seat was really good. Hint number one that I didn’t pay for it myself. Props to co-worker-of-blog Sandy and her husband who generously allowed my butt to fill one of their season ticketed-seats.

We left for Dover at the butt-crack of pre-dawn, stopping along the way at this restaurant for breakfast. The waiter was surprisingly bitchy. I’m guessing his life plan did not include a stop at “Foodservice on Route 50.”

After parking the vehicles, we checked out the vendor trailers. Most of the drivers had one, as well as major sponsors.

Dover is known as the “Monster Mile,” apparently as represented by this creature here. Gao gao.

I had a deep-fried Twinkie. I wanted a deep-fried Snickers, which years of State Fairs have taught me is A Very Delicious Treat. But the candy bars were still frozen, so I had to settle for this. If you can call consuming a deep-fried Twinkie “settling.”

Before I know it, it was time to head to our seats. Somewhere up there. We grabbed our drinks, snacks, and personal ephemera before going on the march to Bataan the grandstand.

As with many sporting events, there is some preliminary stuff before the action starts. A convocation, the National Anthem, a flyover, etc. Finally, they got down to business.

During the 3.5 hours of racing (with no wrecks, alas), I had plenty of time to check out my fellow fans. I concluded that while we share a love of auto racing, they have a few things I don’t (tattoos, mullets, a smoking habit).

Finally, the 400 miles were over and it was time to head out.

With this blog entry and those Diet Coke cans as witness that I Was There.

(PS to NASCAR fans: In case you’re interested, the race was won by Jimmie Johnson. My boy Jeff Gordon placed 11th, despite running in the top 10 almost all day. The last caution screwed his car up, and he never recovered. As thrilled as I am for a Hendrick win, it would be nice if the 48 could share the love a little.)

(PPS to NASCAR fans: How much did I love that people actually boo the Busch brothers at a race? It’s fun enough to do it in the comfort of my own home. It’s so much better when 88,000 people are echoing the sentiment.)

September 28, 2010

September 28, 2010

I Love a Parade

As you probably know, one of the many things I enjoy is looking at houses. Old houses, preferable, but new ones are good, too. I’ve never been on a tour of homes or anything like that, though I’d love to catch one at some point. Until then, I make do with scoping out open houses and peering into people’s windows.

(Not really.)

(Or do I?)

Friend-of-blog Aimee, though, has been good enough to share the pictures she took while attending a tour of homes in the Twin Cities area. Go look at her album here. I’ll wait.

Okay, some observations. Remember, these were all taken by Aimee and not me. Photo credits and high fives go to her.

First, has anyone ever seen a square clock like that? It’s like Salvador Dali meets Tron or something, and I like it.

Do you have a freestanding fireplace? I saw one on House Hunters once, but I thought they were a thing of myth, legend, and TV show. Apparently, they do really exist. How many kids would love to run laps around that thing? Actually, I wouldn’t mind, myself.

If your bathroom can contain all the normal accoutrements PLUS a leather bench, perhaps it’s time to downsize.

Finally, if you can identify what that freaky sink is, please let me and/or Aimee know. Thanks.

September 27, 2010

September 27, 2010

Things I’ve Read: The Handmaid’s Tale

Remember when I mentioned my weird fascination by dystopian films and stuff? Yeah, that’s spread into books as well. Not that Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was my first-ever dystopian read (that would be The Giver, still one of my favorite books all these years later), but it was pretty freaky-deaky as far as the dystopic pantheon goes.

In The Handmaid’s Tale, the United States has been turned into the Republic of Gilead. It’s heavy on men, military, and religion. The narrator, known only as Offred (read: Of Fred), is one of the class known as “handmaids.” They function as surrogates for the wealthy/powerful/sterile. Through flashbacks juxtaposed with events in the current time, we learn a bit about how Gilead came to be and a lot about how screwed up it is to be a woman in a totalitarian state.

Here, perhaps, is where the novel lost me. While I am a hearty advocate of women in general, years of fundamentalism beat feminism right out of me. I agree with you that we should be able to vote. I don’t agree with you that we should punish men for having kept us down lo these many years. I do not choose to have a chip on my shoulder, unless it is made of chocolate.

My personal views aside, I enjoyed the “how this all came to be” sections of the novel, as well as the epilogue that gave additional detail on the downfall of the United States. (It was incited by a staged terrorist attack attributed to Muslims. This book was written in 1985. Dun dun DUN.) Offred’s history and what happens to her during the course of the book, less so. I suspect it would have more resonance for those who have or have tried to have children.

Whether you’re up for a critique of gender roles, religion, and government is up to you. All of us, though, can use a good reminder of the dangers of totalitarianism. I mean, this book has people getting hanged and beaten to death. Even worse, most women aren’t allowed to read. Don’t even ask about television. Gah.

September 23, 2010

September 23, 2010

In My Opinion: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Though you probably saw Prince of Persia months ago (or deliberately decided not to see it), events conspired to prevent me from catching it in theaters despite my desire to do so. I did the next-best (well, second- or third-best) thing and grabbed it as soon as it was available from Redbox.

The plot (based, as I understand it, on a video game) follows Dastan, street urchin turned prince, on an adventure to prevent evil powers that be from getting and using a magical dagger. Said dagger lets you travel through time via magical sand power. Normally, the net effect is only a minute-ish in the past; a pretty cool feature for a hand weapon. However, we learn that if the dagger is united with the source of the magical sand, literal hell will break loose.

Now, in the game-cum-movie spectrum, you have to start with Super Mario Bros. I think we can all agree this film was better than that, if only because the special effects didn’t involve goo and people dressed as reptiles. The character throughline (orphan becomes prince, meets a girl, and ends up happily ever after) smacks to me of Aladdin redux, but I’m sure that’s mostly due to a condensation of what I assume is a fabulous game. (I assume so because friend-of-blog Ian is a huge fan of it, and he has pretty good taste. It’s the same consideration I give to the things all of you recommend. Aw.)

This film doesn’t beg questions of realism vis a vis political tensions in ancient Persia, or discussions regarding religious imagery inherent in weaponry with mythic powers.

There’s a knife that lets you travel through time, and the good guys want to use it for good, and the bad guys want to use it for evil. Enough said.

Re: the cast, I thought Jake Gyllenhaal did all right, though I see him more as an artsy actor than an action one. Closer to the Brokeback Mountain side of his oeuvre. Still, he did a bang up job here of leaping casbahs in a single bound.

Gemma Arterton, to me, will always be Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I find her ethereal and inaccessible in an almost elven way (Lord of the Rings, what?), so rooting for her to fall in or stay in love with the Dashing Male Lead is awkward. I keep waiting for Celeborn to show up. (Too far, I know.)

But may I say that Sir Ben Kingsley as the villain was so bad it was good? If only they’d given him an eyepatch and a swirly cape.

September 22, 2010

September 22, 2010

That Sesame Street Song is ALL LIES

Annoying me today: the sun. I understand its many helpful functions, like sustaining life on earth, providing solar power, and residing in the upper-left-hand corner of every single outdoor scene I drew as a child. (I drew my sun with sunglasses—did you?)
That’s all well and good, but I didn’t realize until recently how freaking bright the sun is. Chalk it up to my years of being driven around by parents and public transportation operators, but DANG. Now that I find myself driving weekly to help my mom with the latest relocation-induced crisis, I’ve noticed that 30 minutes of squinting makes my brain get stabby.

Ironically, last week’s mom incident involved her glasses breaking. Since she doesn’t have The Internets or a functional sense of Virginia navigation (I think it’s worse even than Seoul here, seriously), I valiantly offered to drive her to the closest LensCrafters and earn some Good Daughter points. (Which I am now squandering with this blog entry, but let’s focus here.) (No pun intended.)

I need go into the actual procurement of the glasses no further than to state: it took two pre-lunch hours. TWO. PRE-LUNCH. HOURS. Bonus: I wasn’t even the crankiest person there, and it’s rare that I can say that. This one old person seemed like she was prepared to die while waiting out of spite. That is one badass grandma.

On the plus side, waiting at a glasses place gives you plenty of time to check out the frames. With the prices on those things, they better be made by fingerless orphans from the solidified dreams of circus performers. And don’t even get me started on the lenses. In short, I strongly suspect it would be cheaper to get a bionic eye.

Regardless, it’s probably time for me to start looking at ways to prevent the collision of cosmic radiation and my eyeballs. What’s cool for those of you with uncorrected vision or contacts is a logistical nightmare for those of us without. My dad uses clip-ons, but I don’t want to scratch my regular glasses. My mom has prescription sunglasses, but they cost as much as my college education. Where is the happy medium, I ask you?

Maybe I’ll just keep squinting.

September 21, 2010

September 21, 2010

Things I’ve Read (Again): Prep

Just finished re-reading Prep (wasn’t able to get to the library to pickup new books after zooming through The Handmaid’s Tale in two days). Found it just as delightful as the last time.

The quote that stuck out to me most?

“It would be better once I got on the plane, better still back on campus. But while I was in their city, it seemed like such a mistake that I had ever left home, such an error in judgment on all our parts.”

Anyway, since I’m busy spending government money that expires September 30, would you mind just reading this again?

Cool. Thanks.

September 20, 2010

I Call BS, Volume 2: Suburbs Posing as Cities

Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of “House Hunters” on Hulu. (Whoa, alliteration alert.) The most disturbing thing about this practice is the realization that I am no longer completely against owning any property ever. I may, maybe, someday, get a condo or something. Small. Something small. No huge investment.

*pauses to let the commitment shakes die down*

But, yeah, the SECOND most disturbing thing about “House Hunters” is the sheer number of people who claim to live in a normal city while really living in a small suburb. Though I grew up on the hardened streets of Milwaukee (HOLLA), I have nothing against those whose childhoods involved trafficless cul-de-sacs, yards of more than half an acre, and/or libraries absent of homeless people. It’s a different life out there. Or so I’m told.

Let’s take a maybe hypothetical example. The show will open with a statement like “John and Jane are looking for a house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.” The viewers see John and Jane in their current one-bedroom apartment in which the closet doubles as a gym or something. Then John and Jane start taking a look at houses.

In Fox Point.

Um, no. Nonononono. They are not the same. You cannot claim citizenship if you live NEAR something. This is the whole raison d’etre of Customs and Border Protection. You live IN the city or you live OUT of the city. This is not horseshoes or hand grenades; close doesn’t count.

People of suburbia, embrace your privilege! Though you may feel banished, we city folk envy your freedom. You can walk alone at night! Your parks are more grass than trash! You can probably swim in bodies of water without contracting disease! This is the stuff that dreams are made of.

You know what we have in the city? Traffic. Noise. Pollution. Violence. I mean, I wouldn’t give it up for a minute, but that’s probably my short attention span gained by years of dodging cars, covering my ears, smelling exhaust, and knifing strangers. (Um, what?) If you’ve never had to deal with these things, you don’t have the same immunity. But that’s okay. It’s not like you envy people who can drink Mexico’s water. “Woo! They can tolerate stomach parasites, lucky bastards!”

Besides, it’s not like you can’t still enjoy the good parts of the city. The entertainment, the dining, and all that. Just don’t swim in the river.

September 19, 2010

September 19, 2010

TV is New Again

Friends, Romans, countrymen, I have broken my normal weekend silence to answer this burning question:

Now that the TV season has begun, what shows am I following?

Monday
8-8:30 How I Met Your Mother
9-10 Gossip Girl
10-11 Hawaii Five-0

Tuesday
8-9 NCIS
8-9 Glee

Wednesday
9-9:30 Modern Family

Thursday
8-8:30 Community
8:30-9 30 Rock
9-9:30 The Office

Friday
8-9 Human Target
9-10 Good Guys

New for me this year: Hawaii Five-0 and Human Target. The former because I just want to hear that theme song as many times as possible in my lifetime. The latter because TheBoy and I like Good Guys and I’ve watched enough of it to tolerate it. It’s not half bad, honestly: 24 without the complicated plot.

September 18, 2010

September 17, 2010

September 16, 2010

September 16, 2010

In My Opinion: Equilibrium

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m a big fan of media (books, movies, etc.) in which future society is all style and no substance, because we’ve eradicated emotion, or illness, or what-have-you. Ever read The Giver? Exactly.

In Equilibrium, Christian Bale is John Preston, a member of the grammaton cleric. The cleric is sort of a thought police, charged with destroying the things that cause emotion and the people that feel it. These efforts, combined with daily doses of Prozium (betcha can’t figure out what THAT is supposed to be), make the society of Libria the very best that it can be. Which is, apparently, gray.

As in The Giver, the plot development hinges on the temptation to feel, and those who succumb to it (or don’t). Some people gladly feel and are proud of it. Others are just as proud NOT to feel. It’s a little confusing. To be fair, most dystopian movies are going to pale for me when watched after Gattaca. Also, when watched in 11 parts on YouTube. So here are the aspects of Equilibrium I liked:

Cast. Christian Bale, Sean Bean, Emily Watson, Taye Diggs. This is a lot of talent, even when stuffed into questionable wardrobe. I was disappointed (spoiler alert) that Sean Bean was killed off so early, but I assume he had LotR commitments, and ties always go to the hobbit.

Plot. Though the execution of “A World Without Emotion” was lacking, the concept is pretty cool. Bradburian in overtones, a sort of Fahrenheit 451 meets Communist Russia. Plus, the desire to overthrow a totalitarian regime, though oft-used in this genre, works like a charm every time.

And the things I didn’t like:

Atmosphere. Gattaca succeeded so well here because it chose a timeless feel (noir) for its costumes, interiors, vehicles, etc. Despite being filmed in 2002, Equilibrium’s sets are more early 1990s than anything. It’s jarring, like when the Taco Bell pops up in Demolition Man. I want my dystopia to loom in a non-specific way. Don’t give me a gordita.

Violence.
Perhaps this is my penchant for sterility over messiness, but I felt there was way too much overwrought badassery in this film. To quote Wikipedia: “Gun Kata is a fictional gun-fighting martial art discipline that is a significant part of the film….The Gun Kata shown in Equilibrium is a hybrid mix of Kurt Wimmer's own style of Gun Kata (which he invented in his backyard) and the martial arts style of the choreographer.” None of that is okay.

I’ll leave it to your viewing pleasure (or Googling) whether Preston succeeds in bringing a brand new day to Libria or not. One has to wonder whether the right to put “Grammaton Cleric” on your business cards isn’t worth a little non-feeling, though.

September 15, 2010

September 15, 2010

In My Opinion: Gattaca

What comes to your mind when you think about the future? Do you envision a post-apocolyptic wasteland, populated only by the knowing grin of Al Gore? Or perhaps a sanitized utopia, devoid of chaos and the Gosselins? I myself personally am somewhere in between. Someone who loves the Container Store as much as I do isn’t hoping for anarchy a la Mad Max. Nor am I drawn to the sterility of a world run by robots or whatever, even if they design a Matrix full of Ikeas.

No, what I anticipate is a good old dystopia. Wherein society has utilized enough genetic engineering, electronic banking, etc. so as to render the society of today almost unrecognizable. (Am I sounding a little Book of Revelations New World Order here? I don’t mean to, though I’m sure my high school Bible teacher would be pleased.)

In Gattaca, Ethan Hawke stars as Vincent, a man of the “not too distant future” who had the misfortune to be born of natural methods. See, in the future, baby customization is the norm. Parents choose physical and mental characteristics. Forgot about wanting a blonde girl—we’re talking a blond girl with language and math skills above average and a running speed in the 80th percentile. Creating a single fetus, as Vincent’s parents did, is so passé. Thus Vincent is born into the world scrawny and with vision and heart problems. Shameful. He’s known as an Invalid, as opposed to his later-born and carefully-crafted brother Anton.

Through a nifty bit of black marketing known as a Borrowed Ladder, Vincent assumes the identity of a Valid named Jerome Morrow (Jude Law). He also gets a job at Gattaca, the NASA of the future. Like many a young fellow, Vincent has always dreamed of going into space. And if you thought NASA took issue with heart problems, forgot about getting past Gattaca. Hence Vincent’s adopted identity and painstaking attempts to cover up his true self. (Turns out that cleaning up your own DNA is ew ew ew ew ew ew.)

The day finally comes that Vincent has been dreaming of: he is going into space! Into! Space! Woo-hoo! Until the mission commander is brutally murdered and the entire place goes on lockdown until the culprit can be caught. Complications ensue. WILL Vincent’s true identity be revealed? CAN Jerome keep up the ruse? WHY is a love interest introduced when that extraneous plotline could have been cut to make room for more dystopian awesomeness?

Some of these questions are perhaps mine only. Whatever.

Overall, I thought the movie was great. (The second half of my dystopian film mini-fest less so, see: tomorrow’s entry.) I could’ve done without the love story, though perhaps that’s just the awkwardness inherent in witnessing the beginnings of the Uma Thurman/Ethan Hawke relationship. Such a promising beginning, and yet. A lot like society, I guess.

September 14, 2010

Sticker Shock

One of the tasks I ended up assisting my mom with last week was the purchase of a brand spanking new car.* To date, my largest negotiation. Yeah, it took almost four hours. Pre-lunch hours. Towards the end, I was ready to stab a stranger for some pretzels or something.

(True story: while the salesman and I were negotiating, my mom pulled out a bag of trail mix and started eating. Professional credibility out the window, THANK YOU MOM.)

On the plus side, I got the car for almost $4,000 under the sticker price. Then I found out that TTL (tax, title, and licensing fees aren’t I smart) add like an extra $2,000. Wtf. But still. Small victories.

Let’s hope I never have to buy a house because I am not a good negotiator. I take after my mom. Our negotiation stance is generally “My way or no way,” unless it is “My way or I get a bigass meal out of this.” Thank goodness for the online quote system provided by the dealership, because I was able to turn my usual tactic into “Your quoted way or no way.” And they actually went with it!

If only settling on a price was the end of the fustercluck that is buying a new car in Virginia.

Because you also have to get insurance. And my mom, recently returned to the U.S. of A. and brand-spanking new to the commonwealth, didn’t have any. It being Labor Day, my insurance agent’s office was closed. Commence a 30-minute phone call between me and Geico to set up a new policy.

Then we needed proof of residency because the car was being titled in Virginia. Sure, we said. Here is a copy of the lease. No no, they said. That is not sufficient.

&*@%. @$!& ^@($ )@&%. Why must you put the dumb in dumbass? And also, the ass?

I was prepared to pay for the entire car, in cash, in my name, JUST SO I COULD GO TO LUNCH. Note to future self: don’t make any big purchases in the morning. Ever.

I eventually explained the unique situation to the dealer—and my mom got through her bag of Sweet ‘n Salty mix—and we drove the car off the lot…and straight to lunch.

* 2010 Hyundai Accent hatchback, as pictured. Our family's four Hyundai. We are nothing if not loyal. And cheap. And Korean.

September 13, 2010

September 13, 2010

Best If Used By

Though lunch is more often than not the most satisfying part of my workday, I found myself in a bit of a quandary last Tuesday. A ramen-induced quandary.

I sense that you’re starting to go judge-y on me. Remember that ramen is cheap and doesn’t require a lot of preparation. Remember that I am cheap and don’t know how to cook. Understand that I have a Korean mother, and ramen to Asian people is not just a cheap filler favored by college students and welfare recipients. It is actually a thing. A respectable thing.

SO STOP JUDGING ME ALREADY AND LISTEN TO MY DAMN STORY.

Anyway, I’m prepping the ramen by crunching it into tiny pieces in the bag* when I notice that the expiration date was August 13. Um, since when does ramen expire? Call me crazy, but I always lumped ramen with that group of foodstuffs that never expires, like spices and pasta and the crap in the bottom of the deep freezer. Sure, the experts tell us that these things have limited shelf life but they also tell us that honey found in the tombs of the pharaohs is still sweet. PICK ONE, EXPERTS.

Obviously, ramen a few weeks past its prime wasn’t going to thwart me from lunch. This is the girl who was (and still remains) willing to risk salmonella in exchange for free pot pies. I’m please to report that the ramen was overly salty, oddly spicy, and full of mushy noodles. In short, exactly what I expect ramen to be.

* A preparation I first saw performed by college roommate-of-blog Hayley. College roommate-of-blog Heather was the first person I’d ever met who drained the soup from her ramen and only ate the noodles. My freshman dorm was a veritable petri dish of ramen preparations. And of other things, most likely.

September 12, 2010

September 9, 2010

September 9, 2010

Remember This, Volume 14: Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman

I’m not sure what made me decide to start re-watching Dr. Quinn. A wiser viewer would realize that the new TV season is right around the corner, at which time approximately a gazillionteen shows will demand her time. Sadly, I have never been the wiser viewer (see: my devotion to Birds of Prey, The Jury, and Murder in Small Town X).

Regardless, as soon as I heard those swelling strings in the opening theme song, I was just as “Dr. Quinn, yayayayayay!” as I was when I watched it lo those many years ago. You can keep your Little House and your Prairie. I’ll take Dr. Mike any day.

Perhaps it’s my fascination with the Oregon Trail. Not the video game. Well, not JUST the video game. (I can’t lie: I actually have handwritten strategy notes from back in the day to ensure that I scored as many points as possible on both versions I and II. Why not versions III or after? My computer wasn’t fast enough. An Apple Performa 6360, bless its heart.) No, I consider pioneer living my third-favorite time period (after Victorian England and whenever Mad Men is set). Would I have made a good pioneer? Frak no. I can barely camp. But I sure as skippy admire those who did. They walked across the flipping country, you guys. While eating pemmican and fording rivers by oxen.

(Side note: Is pemmican still made and eaten? Discuss.)

As a kid, all I saw in Dr. Quinn was pioneer living. Ooh, Colorado: the West. (Hey, I’m from Wisconsin. Deal.) Ooh, horse riding. Ooh, log cabins.

Now, re-watching, I realize that the message is less Pioneer Living and more Female Empowerment. And I’m all, “Whoa, it just got awesome ON A WHOLE NEW LEVEL.” Because nothing is more enjoyable than watching Jane Seymour metaphorically flip off the male establishment of Colorado Springs while wearing a hoop skirt.

And Sully. Has he always been so, um, ruggedly rugged? He’s not Chuck Norris or anything, but I daresay he could kick any pansy vampire from here to Twilight, if you know what I’m saying. Two words: Toma. hawk.

I’m a little concerned by how disturbing this show must have been for normal kids, though. Not everyone was accompanying their parents to R-rated movies during their formative years (HIGH FIVE TO ALL THE ONLY CHILDREN), so how did everyone else deal with the constant death/epidemic/death/war/Indian violence on this show? For realsies.

Also, did anyone else completely miss the 2001 TV movie? After the show was unceremoniously canceled, they did two TV movies. The latter was in 2001 and intended as a series wrap. I watched it recently—yeah, it was like reading the last chapter of the book first, judge away—and don’t recall it at ALL. Good thing the internet giveth when television taketh away.

September 8, 2010

September 8, 2010

Things I’ve Read: The Time Traveler’s Wife

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been reading books off a list that I found on Facebook. If you’re as saddened as I am that that sentence is true, raise your hand.

*waits*

I know.

As I also mentioned yesterday, more than a few of the listed books have, well, sucked. A few have been moderately delightful.

Then I read The Time Traveler’s Wife and ZOMG. Thanks to my hour-each-way commute, I got through it in about three days, and at the end of it, I SOBBED LIKE A FREAKING BABY. Because of a book. A book that doesn’t even feature hobbits. Ridiculous.

Now, don’t let the Rachel McAdams/Eric Bana film (or any of it’s Notebook-y trailers) discourage you from the book. Had I succumbed to that temptation, I would’ve missed all the cathartic sobbing.

Despite its title, the book has two main characters: Henry, the time traveler, and Clare, the wife. Now, time travel plotlines often careen into a Möbius strip of weirdness. The author mitigates that here by using a dual-narrator conceit and clearly marking almost every scene with date and age of the character(s) involved. So, for example, when Henry travels back in time to meet his wife, the chapter might be labeled as:

Wednesday, May 13, 1987 (Clare is 6, Henry is 32)

So you know when-ish Henry’s coming from by gauging his age, and when he goes to by gauging Clare’s age. In “real time,” he is eight years older than she is, btw. And in this book, it’s quite possible to co-exist with your past or future self. Henry spends time with his other selves quite a bit. No explosions or anything.

Thankfully, this book is more about the results of the time travel than the technicalities of it. It’s hard to sob like a freaking baby over equations, unless you are Albert Einstein or TheBoy (hi, honey!). You, the reader, are asked to accept the time travel as a given, and focus rather on how these happenings affect the relationship of these two people. Henry travels back to Clare’s childhood repeatedly, eventually revealing to her that in the future, they are married. They don’t see each other for two years (when Clare is 18-20).

Then, when Clare is 20 and Henry is 28, they meet in real life.

Clare, being used to periodic visits from Henry throughout her entire childhood, is thrilled.

Henry, who at age 28 hadn’t yet traveled back to Clare’s past, has no idea who she is.

With me so far?

See, it’s all about determinism and free will. At first, Henry is the omniscient “I know what happens to us” person. He gradually reveals snippets of future facts to Clare. Then, they meet in real life and Clare is all-knowing about how things will be with them, whereas Henry has no idea. They fall in love, of course, and get married and all that. But did they do it because they truly wanted to, or because Future Henry told Past Clare that it happened?

Henry mentions several times that when he goes back to the past and tries to change things, he can’t. Things happen once, one way, and no time travel in either direction can change that. People have posited along these lines for millennia. If I go back in time and kill my grandfather, wouldn’t I cease to exist? Then how could I have gone back in time to kill my grandfather?

Möbius strip gah brainhurt.

The latter portion of the book is concerned with Clare and Henry’s difficulty having a child. Not as touching (for me) as the love story, but this is probably because I am happily childless. The parents among you would likely do more sobbing at these parts.

But the end? That last scene, where Current Henry goes to Future Clare when she is very old and lonely because he has (spoiler alert) died a long time ago?

The only time I remember crying more at entertainment was the 30 straight minutes after I saw Titanic. (She would never let go. SHUTUP.) This was, like, a good 5 minutes of crying. SO! GOOD!

Read it. Read it now. I don’t care if you’re a man, or morally against time traveler, or what. The only way you will NOT like this book is if you’re prudish, because there’s a fair bit of, um, nudity. Such is the way of time travel.

"When you live with a woman you learn something every day. So far I have learned that long hair will clog up the shower drain befor you can say "Liquid-Plumr"; that it is not advisable to clip something out of the newspaper before your wife has read it, even if the newspaper in question is a week old; that I am the only person in our two-person household who can eat the same thing for dinner three nights in a row without pouting; and that headphones were invented to preserve spouses from each other's musical excesses."

"Don't you think it's better to be extremely happy for a short while, even if you lose it, than to be just okay for your whole life?"

"I'm sorry. I didn't know you were coming or I'd have cleaned up a little more. My life, I mean, not just the apartment."

September 7, 2010

September 7, 2010

Things I’ve Read: Notes from a Small Island

A while ago, a list of “classic” books was floating around Facebook. There were a crapload of them—probably near 100 or so. You were supposed to mark those you’d read, tag your friends so they’d do the same, etc. It was much preferable to the usual “HELP ME WIN GOLD IN FARMVILLE” crap I see in my timeline.

Sorry, pseudo-farmers. It’s just not happening.

Anyway, being an avid fan of both reading and positioning myself as superior to others, I was disturbed to note that I had read just over half the classics cited on the list. I made a Notepad (so high tech!) document of those I’d yet to read and have been plugging away ever since. With pauses for Mary Roach books and whatnot, because the vast majority of these classics have turned out to be less-than-stellar. A Confederacy of Dunces, I’m looking straight at you. WTF was that, seriously.

My last two list reads, though, have been phenomenal. I’ll get to the second and better one tomorrow, but let me talk about Notes from a Small Island today.

Though the title might suggest fiction a la Gulliver’s Travels or something at least involving a midget or two, I was pleased to discover that Notes from a Small Island is a collection of travel essays about Britain. The author grew up in Iowa, moved to Britain, raised a family, then decided to move back to the U.S. Before his trip home, he took one last sightseeing tour of Britain. All of it. Like, up to the frigid north and through all the little towns like Putney-on-the-Woldshire and all that.

What makes the book enjoyable to Yanks like me (I love the British, but still) is the author’s ability to see just how crazy-yet-endearing British people are. Impeccable politness. Weird place names. That whole stiff upper lip thing. And for some odd reason, all these British characteristics just become more concentrated out in the dales and villages. You think you have trouble understanding someone from London? Just wait until you’re out in the boonies. It’s not real words!

Here’s a great quote: “To achieve the same density of population in America as in England you would have to uproot the entire population of Illinois, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, Colorado, and Texas and pack them all into Iowa.” Um, whoa. He also includes a handy glossary of Britishisms. Love. It.

September 6, 2010

September 6, 2010

It's only labor if you're paid for it.

It's Labor Day; ironically, a day on which most of us do no labor at all. I'm not a big fan of unions, but God bless 'em for getting us another day of paid leave.

If you are one who must toil today, beg/borrow/steal yourself some grilled food. It's a requirement for this end-of-summer celebration.

If you aren't one who must toil today, wtf are you doing reading this blog? Go out there and do something you love, like playing with the dogs or gardening or assembling Ikea furniture.

Guess which one I'm doing.

September 2, 2010

September 2, 2010

In My Opinion: Salt

Salt, with its intriguing plot, connections to Washington, D.C., and government-conspiracy vibe, was definitely a must-see for me. I was rather pissed off when Liev Schreiber spoiled the big plot twist during this Daily Show interview, but such is our hyper-aware way of life.

In Salt, Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt. She’s your typical CIA interrogator: a badass in heels. She’s good at her job, she’s got a great husband, and she lives on U Street. It’s the perfect compromise between old-school D.C. and new-school D.C. (For those of you not from around here, U Street is a gentrifying hotspot favored by hipsters of all ages.)

Imagine everyone’s surprise, then, when Salt is fingered by a reputable source as a covert Russian spy. Who’s been training since childhood to infiltrate the U.S.. And is planning to kill the Russian president. I mean, wtf, right?

Rather than cooperate with the authorities, Salt goes rogue. This involves climbing buildings barefoot, turning fire extinguishers into weapons, and all sorts of other badassery. Honestly, if my government job were anything like hers, I’d spend most of the day crying in a bathroom stall.

I don’t want to spoil the plot (unlike Liev Schreiber), but I will say that a lot of people get shot.

Now that I work in government, movies and TV shows set here are even more enjoyable because I can smugly point out the inaccuracies. Well, and applaud the accuracies, but that’s not as much fun. (I’m bitchy!) Salt did a phenomenal job, probably because they did actually film here. (Even screwed up my commute one night, though everyone on my bus had fun trying to spot Brad Pitt on the Mall.) My only issue was the complete lack in the film of rush hour traffic. After being accused, Salt leaves her D.C. office around 3 p.m., maybe 4 p.m. At that hour, you aren’t getting anywhere at a decent speed. Forget about a car chase. Plus, does the White House Situation Room really look like that? I’m guessing no. But it’s fun to imagine.

After this summer’s Russian spy ring bust, you never really know what’s out there. Could be Angelina Jolie, climbing barefoot outside your window. Just no way to tell.

September 1, 2010

September 1, 2010

Septembre

Holy crap, it's September already. My plans for the month?

Move my Mom into the Old Dominion. Yes, she's back in the country. Yes, she's gotten a job at federal-agency-that-shall-not-be-named-but-isn't-mine. Yes, I get to furnish her apartment. Which means, yes, I GET TO BUY AND ASSEMBLE $1000+ OF IKEA FURNITURE FOR THE SECOND TIME IN MY LIFE. No one should be so lucky.

Attend a NASCAR race. I have a co-worker with season tickets to the Dover race. Will I stalk Jeff Gordon and/or book his wife? Too soon to say. (Yes.) I'm sure I'll find the whole thing too long, too loud, and too petroleum-scented for my taste. Yet I hold out hope for deep fried something on a stick, possibly dipped in cheese.

Remember when September just meant the end of summer and the start of another school year? Being an adult rocks.