Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Toast to Toast

(Yes. I actually wrote that.)

Today's posting comes to us thanks to Christopher. He sent me the following link and it made me very happy. But... Before I send you off to look at someone else's blog, I would like to pass on the news that the toaster is now 100 years old. 

No. Not any specific toaster, although there may be a 100-year-old toaster out there, somewhere. But, in fact, the whole species of appliance known as the toaster is now 100 years old. 

And look at how far they've come. Toasters have gone from metal prongs which broiled one side of a slice of bread at a time, to new models which will actually "brand" a picture into the side of your breakfast. Always doing the same job, but always doing it better than anything else. 

And, really, where would we be without it? Where else would we heat our Pop-tarts? What other brave little appliance would have had his own movie? And what other challenge to weed out the weak in the herd would we have to come up with to replace the "pulling a slice out with a knife" technique?

So, here's a toast to toast - and the toaster from which all of it comes. 

Oh. Right. And here's the link (it'll take you to a site called Gizmodo) I was talking about. Enjoy. 

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fair is Fair

It's been a while, I think, since I've rambled on about The Amazing Race, but tonight they did something which deserves comment.

I have always held to one major reason why I watch this competition show instead of so many others: the fact that people win or lose based on their own smarts or stupidity. This isn't a show with alliances and back-stabbing. It isn't a show where plotting against other teams makes a big difference. And tonight that point was brought home once again.

One of the teams in tonight's episode tried to make trouble for the other teams by hiding all of the bicycle pumps they could have used to make the next challenge easier. None of the other teams actually noticed this had been done. But the producers did. And the producers quite bluntly slapped the team with a 30-minute penalty for their nefariousness. 

I realize that life doesn't usually work this way, but I do prefer to think that karma works, and that what goes around does -- in fact -- come around. So I'll keep watching The Amazing Race and screaming and yelling when the "wrong" teams are making it to the front of the pack. But as long as they get there under their own power, I guess I'll be okay with it in the end. 

Friday, March 27, 2009

Comfort Food

Let me start by filling in a few weather blanks: Minneapolis has been about 15 degrees below average for our highs for the past few days -- about 48 hours below 32 degrees -- and we've had snow flurries off and on. Granted, March is frequently the snowiest of the year around here, but usually it's also warm enough that the snow goes away in a day or so, while our flurries have just been sitting on the grass and looking sad. 

At the same time, before I continue whining, I'm very glad that we don't live in the Fargo (ND)/Moorhead (MN) area. I know people up there, and I have been sending as many positive vibes their direction as possible. The flooding -- and potential flooding -- up there is massive this year. I mean... the river could crest at 43 feet above flood stage. That's about the height of a 3- or 4-story building. That's a lot of water. 

But, back to me and my self-absorbed weather complaints...

On the one hand, I'm really frustrated by the cold. I made it through most of the winter wearing t-shirts and jeans in the house. But the past few days I've been in sweaters and wrapping myself in afghans. I think my body has given up on trying to keep me warm. About the only times I'm really warm are when I'm in bed or in the shower.

On the other hand, though, the extra cold weather has allowed for some extra comfort food meals. Last weekend, Christopher made a batch of tortellini soup which was really amazing and I got to eat the leftovers earlier this week without feeling at all guilty about it. Tonight we baked a ham, and I've already started planning what to do with the leftovers. Mmmm... Comfort food...

Yes. I know that the summer shorts season will be coming right on its regular schedule and I'll be sorry that I didn't switch over to salads and fruit sooner. Yes. I know that comfort food isn't always that good for my body. But... Wow... During a stretch of weather like we've been having, it sure is good for the soul.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

'Cuz You Gotta Have Friends

Recently, there seems to be a larger-than-average outpouring of "asks" for money. The foodshelves are as empty as they've been in years. The Arts are losing funding at every turn. We're all tightening belts on a daily basis. 

But if you pay attention to the news, you'll find that - while all of this is going on - people are finding more and more ways to help out their friends and neighbors. Whether it's Ellen Degeneres giving out her own version of stimulus packages on her daily talkshow (by the way, when is that $2000 whirling cashbox going to show up at my door?), or the non-profit Texas-based "Birthday Blessings" group (their website is a slightly over-the-top religious, but even so I like the idea of what they're doing) who are throwing birthday parties for needy kids, apparently there are a few things going right while the economy is debating whether or not to turn around. 

Well, closer to home (where my personal economy continues to stagnate), I've recently been asked to contribute money to two of my cousins who are going to be participating in this year's Twin Cities Breast Cancer 3-Day. Or, rather, since they know that I don't have much extra cash these days, they've been including me in their notification emails, reminding all of us that moral support is just as important as monetary. 

Originally, Katie was going to be walking alone in memory of my cousin Judy (Katie's mom), but then Kris (Katie's cousin, Judy's niece) decided to join in and walk with her. They've both already begun training for the walk (even though it isn't until August), but they won't be allowed in it unless they raise the requisite minimum funds. Of course, who wants to only raise a minimum? I know they both want to raise as much as possible to help in the battle against Breast Cancer. 

Here's the thing... I know I don't have a lot of readers (Okay. Yes. I know I have a loyal few, but I also know I'm not breaking any records), but if you'd even consider donating to either of my cousins, it would be great. Katie's donation page can be found here (and it includes a picture of Katie with her mom, as well as Katie's own "training" blog). Kris's donation page is here (and... well... she needs to put something on it! ;-).

If you're not able to make any donations at this time (boy, do I know that feeling!), don't worry about it. Or, if you'd rather donate to your local foodshelf, or any of the other gazillion equally worthy causes out there, that's cool, too. But, if you do decide to donate to Katie and/or Kris... well... that would just be pretty darned nifty.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday Watchings...

I realized, yesterday, that I have been remiss in writing up the movies I have seen in the past week. Two of them I watched at home in South Dakota, and two since I've been back. I was all set to write up the former, but then did the drive back and forgot to do it. I was about to write up one of the latter when the other of the latter came on TV unexpectedly, and... well... I do get distracted easily. So, without further ado...

1) La Vie En Rose (also called La Mome, apparently) - the Edith Piaf biopic for which Marianne Cotillard won the Leading Actress Oscar in 2008. Wow. What a movie - and what a life Edith Piaf must have led. This is an easy movie to watch, but not an easy one to experience. The tale flows perfectly, even with juxtapositions of past and present, and although you know how it's going to end, the ending is still wrenching. But, as with many great stories, knowing the destination only heightens the journey. This dark and stormy film was incredible. I'd say it's a "must-see", but I'd caution against it if you're looking for a happy "Life in Pink" kind of film. 
Overall rating: A (No equivocation at all!)

2) A New Kind of Love - while this is also primarily set in Paris, that is where the similarities between it and La Vie En Rose end. A New Kind of Love is a rather delightful comedy of manners and comedy of errors from 1964. Full of the music and fashion - yes, lots of Parisian fashion houses are featured - of the era, this is a wonderful excuse to watch a young Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman spar and flirt their way through cafes, around Montmartre, and in impossibly rich rooms in Paris. The supporting cast is stellar, and we all laughed as we were reminded that even actors known for their serious roles can be fun. 
Realistic representation of the city of lights? Nope. Wonderful exactly as it was? Definitely. Overall rating: A- (Having lived in Paris, I do sometimes get frustrated when it's not portrayed realistically.)

3) Flushed Away - It looked like a cute Aardman-esque animated movie. It had a couple of great lead "actors" in Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet. It should have been fun. I turned it off after 25 minutes. I was bored and felt completely let down. Who knows? Maybe it picked up after the first third of the movie, but I wasn't willing to waste any more time on it. 
A witty enough "lost mouse" movie? Nope, not witty enough. Cute enough to allow me to pretend I was a kid and enjoy it anyway? Not even that. Overall rating: D (I can't give it an F since it might have gotten better had I not turned it off.)

4) The Dot and the Line (A Romance in Lower Mathematics) - Last night, while not finding anything interesting on most of my usual channels, I stumbled on a salute to the incomparable animator Chuck Jones on TCM. I watched part of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and even stayed up late to watch The Phantom Tollbooth, a movie based on one of my favorite junior high-level books (both Dot and Tollbooth were written by Norton Juster, if you were wondering). But the highpoint of the evening, by far, was The Dot and the Line. Although the short movie came out in 1965 (from a book published in 1963) I remember first seeing it at a math competition when I was in either junior high or high school in the early 1980s. It's a beautiful little story about a Line who wants to get the attention of a Dot who is infatuated by an unkempt Squiggle. There's a lot of geometry in the film, but it's also an allegory of what people are willing to do for love. There are some very cool graphics in it - from realistic drawings to "Line" drawings (you'll know why that's funny once you watch it) and Spirograph-style sketches. It was wonderful to catch up with it, again. 

** sidenote ** Although the book is apparently still available, the short film seems hard to come by. One note online says that it is available as a "special feature" on at least one DVD release of Doris Day's The Glass-Bottom Boat, of all places. And I did find the entire film on YouTube, here. ** end sidenote **

Need a knowledge of lower mathematics to watch it? No (although a few jokes are better for it). Will it make you wonder what to do with your own wild and unkempt Squiggles? Maybe. Overall rating: A (of course)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

You Can Almost Feel the Change

I heard from a friend in Baltimore, today, that she was out doing springtime gardening this weekend. And the newspaper was full of ads touting yardwork supplies. And the weather in Minneapolis -- though predicted to be rainy and windy all day, was fairly warm.

And, somehow, this is all pointing toward actual (not just calendar-related) spring. Of course, there's a threat of snow in the long-range forecast, but in the meantime we have a couple of days with chances of rain and thunderstorms. (Yes, I know those weather phenomena are in what would normally be considered the wrong order.)

Right now, I honestly couldn't point to a single person I know who isn't looking forward to spring. It's not that we didn't all enjoy winter (at least a little), but winter has had it's fun and now we want to move on to the next big thing.

Yep. I'm ready to quit cleaning "leftover" mud off my shoes. I want to start cleaning fresh mud. Aren't you?

Friday, March 20, 2009

It's Spring, Right?

We woke up this morning to a dusting of snow in Minneapolis. Yes. Today was the first day of spring, and our first day of spring started with snow. Granted, by the end of the day, we had rain instead, but I have to admit that waking up to that coat of white on the front walk was, to say the least, disheartening.

With that in mind, I wanted to share the photo I took while on my way back from my parents' this week. Remember when I was talking about how everything was looking beige? This is what I was talking about. And... umm... no... that's not my car sideview mirror in the picture. I swear I was not driving while I took the picture.

Can you see how everything is just kind of all one color? Actually... Now that I look at the picture, the ground kind of looks more golden. But can you see how beige the sky is? That's just not right...

I am happy to say that we're supposed to be getting rain this week and tomorrow is supposed to be up in the 60s and sunny. And this week the gardening guy on TV said that -- although it's too early in the year to do real work in the garden -- it's the right time to start seeds and begin cleaning up the detritus of last year's growing season.

Whew. I just might make it through this winter, yet. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Back in the Big City

I've been back in Minneapolis for just about 28 hours. And I think I'm almost all of the way through my email inbox. Almost. 

The drive back went pretty well. It was cloudy for the first half of the trip, so by the time it was clear, the sun had gone far enough that I wasn't driving directly into it. I decided that I'd take a little extra time on the way back, though, and stop at a place called Emma Krumbee's in the town of Belle Plaine, Minnesota. 

I've driven past it for the past 6 years, and I've always wondered what it was all about. Their huge billboards all along highways 60 and 169 in Minnesota promote fresh-baked apple pies. This place is big -- two main buildings plus a hotel on the "campus" --  and the billboards promote a restaurant, bakery, general store, floral shop, farmer's market AND -- almost as an afterthought -- an apple orchard. When you try to drive through Belle Plaine on the weekends in the fall, cars are lined up along the shoulders of the road trying to get in. 

Unfortunately, I decided to check the place out in the late winter. Although their website promotes "year-round family fun," I can't imagine most families having a great time there at the moment. 

I started my visit in the General Store and Bakery area, where there were 2 women chatting behind the mostly-empty Bakery counter where, I'm assuming, they bake a ton of pies and pastries when they're busy. Yesterday, though, there were just a few lonely pastries and a bunch of pies and crumbles in the Bakery's freezer case. There was no one in the "General Store" (although I did find a nice stash of Minnesota postcards), and the one young woman who seemed to be minding the entire place was helping out some people in the Flower Shop. And... Well... I'm not sure where the Farmer's Market is supposed to be, but I'm guessing that's only there when the farmers have something to market. 

In a continuted effort to find something to bring back to Christopher, I figured I'd try the shop connected to the Restaurant, but only found a small, completely generic Gift Shop, next to an even smaller bakery case. Nothing there to bring home. And I didn't take the time to check out the restaurant menu, since I was on my way home to dinner with Christopher. 

I don't want to give the place too bad a rap. I know people who really like Emma Krumbee's and stop there on almost every trip through that area. If you're looking for a consistent restaurant stop, it's probably a good place to stop.

On the other hand, there are a good half-dozen apple orchards along that same general stretch of road, and I've had a great time poking around in some of the smaller ones (especially Jim's Apple Farm in Jordan, MN) with much better results. Granted, those orchard-based shops are only open during the growing season, not year-round. But maybe that's not such a bad thing...?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Laundry Day

Yep. Laundry Day can only mean one thing: Tomorrow I head back to Minneapolis. I will be leaving yesterday's 70-degree weather behind, taking one last look at the trees whose buds have begun to swell the past few days, packing up leftovers and heading to a part of the world where trees won't be budding for another month. Only 5.5 hours away by car, but weeks away by season.

It's been a very nice week in my parents' house. We've eaten a lot of things I'd never eat at home (for sheer calorie count, among other reasons), and I've spent more time working than I expected to do. From inside tasks (like cooking and helping with some organization) to outside tasks (like the 2.5 hours of pre-spring raking I did, yesterday, for which I am still paying in achy muscles), I've put in a decent amount of work. 

But it's been good. The inside work made time for me to hang out and get to re-know the house. The outside work forced me to enjoy that 70-degree day and not simply hang out inside on the couch. I've read my way through most of a novel, watched a movie, and slept--fairly well--in my old bed. But I've also gone out to tour the Library, Youth Center, "Good Stuff" and grocery store. And even got to see where the car hit the Catholic Church on Sunday morning. (It was the biggest news in town all week!)

Tomorrow morning I'll pack up and head northwest. The goal is to get home before rush-hour so that I can be there for dinner with Christopher. It's a weird feeling which never really becomes less weird. That feeling of leaving home to go home. Even the terminology is inherently odd. 

For now, though, I'm going to move my laundry to the dryer. I'll worry about moving farther than that tomorrow.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ahhh... Sunday Morning

I think we all know each other well enough, by now, that you know that one of my favorite times of the week is Sunday Morning. I love sitting at home with Christopher, reading through the newspaper (which is different than "reading the newspaper"), and making something really bad for us for breakfast/brunch while we watch CBS Sunday Morning and/or old I Love Lucy reruns (or other random things we happen to land on).

In case you've been wondering where my propensity for such gloriously lazy Sunday Mornings comes from, it comes from right here. Oh. Sorry. I don't mean it comes from my blog. I mean it comes from where I am at this moment: home in South Dakota at my parents' house. 

When I rolled out of bed this sunny (and warm: 33 degrees at 8am!) morning, Sunday Morning was on the TV. All three cats were stretched out in various sunbeams (or on the back of the couch), and life was good. I let Mom and Dad each go off to their different church services, and turned off the TV in favor of a few low-key CDs. They should be home any minute now, with the Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper in hand. And in about 5 minutes I'll be pulling a lemon and blueberry coffee cake out of the oven. 

It's definitely not the same as stretching out on the couch with Christopher, but I have to admit that it's kind of nice to get back to my roots from time to time. 

Friday, March 13, 2009

Monochromatic March

You know the old Simon & Garfunkel song, where they sing about "Kodachrome"? Sure you do... The line goes something like... "Kodachrome... Give me the nice bright colors..."

Well, having spent yesterday driving across Minnesota into South Dakota (where I'm spending a week with my parents) (And using a keyboard which I'm not used to -- forgive any typos, please), and then -- today -- driving about 35 miles to Yankton, SD, to meet a friend for lunch, I can guarantee you that there is nothing "Kodachromatic" about the colors of the world around here right now.

The primary color is... well... beige. Granted, it's a lot of different colors of beige, but it's all beigely monochromatic. The formerly white snow is covered with sand and grime. The fallow fields, which were golden in the fall, are now faded to... well... golden beige. Even the sky seems to have taken on a beigeness in its blue. 

Beige. Beige. Beige.

On the plus side, however, we noticed on the way home today that there are trees already beginning to gain some weight in their limbs as the buds grow, which means they'll turn a soft green soon. And, of course, the areas where snow is melting are a nice dark brown muddy color -- definitely NOT beige.

So maybe it's not all beige. Just mostly beige. But... wow... spring needs to come soon and put a little color in this area's cheeks. 

Monday, March 9, 2009

A "Revolutionary" Ride

Last week I promised that I would write about Revolutionary Road, which I went to see last Monday night. I decided to wait until Movie Monday, to give it a week to percolate in my brain. 

** sidenote ** Although I started this on Monday, it's now being finished and posted on Tuesday. Sorry for the delay. I'm choosing to blame the weather. ** end sidenote **

Let me start by saying I think it's a really well-acted movie. From Kate Winslet on down through the cast of lead and supporting characters, they are all stunning. Kathy Bates is a perfect "I just promise I'm trying not to be nosey" real estate agent. Zoe Kazan (thank the nice folks on the movie's website for listing the full cast) is amazing as the not-quite-innocent girl from the typing pool. And Michael Shannon is almost terrifying as he speaks the truths no one else will speak. 

And then there's the look of the movie. It's gorgeous. The 1950s suburbs are pretty. The 1950s city isn't too gritty. The clothing and cars and furniture, which in some movies just kind of wash over you, are so perfectly tied in to the movie that you simply feel it all around you. 

In case you don't know the story, the movie is about a young couple who -- with the world open in front of them -- choose the safety of the suburbs over the uncertainty of Paris. As life moves on around them, they become more and more desperate, both dealing with it in their own ways. 

I guess that's how the entire movie felt: Desperate. And I appreciated it for its desperation. Which is not to say that I entirely enjoyed the movie, but I did appreciate it. And the blame for some of my lack of enjoyment belongs squarely on the heads of the audience, and not on the movie, itself. 

You see, for some reason, people kept laughing at fairly strangely inappropriate times during the movie. And because we were all feeling uncomfortable, a solitary laugh would kind of become a quick cascade of "oh, God, what do we do?" laughter through the theater. By the time the third or fourth of those mood-breakers happened, I was finding it hard to re-immerse myself in the film. I think if I had seen it in an entirely quiet movie-house, I might have had a different reaction by the time it was over. 

So, here's the scoop: Worth the accolades? Yes. Worth taking the time to see it in a theater, as opposed to a hopefully-quiet screening at home? Not necessarily. Overall grade: B. (But if they want to send me the DVD for a home screening, I'd be happy to revisit their grade. :-)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Who's Watching The Watchmen? (Me, for one)

It's a very rare movie that gets me to see it on the day it opens. And, honestly, I'm not really sure what it was about Watchmen that got me to go. Well... Actually... I know why I went -- Christopher and two of our friends wanted to see it, as well. Since Christopher was off on Friday, we all met up for the final matinee (also the cheapest screening) of the day to see the movie.

If you haven't seen any of the hype (although you've probably at least seen the blood-stained smiley-face button somewhere), here's the basic story: Ragtag bunch of former superheroes band together to figure out who killed off a member of their group. Of course, it wouldn't be a 2h45m movie without a lot of other stuff going on, but that's all you really need to know walking in to it.

But, just in case you want more, here are a few more details: 

More detail #1: Watchmen (the movie) is based on Watchmen (the graphic novel), so there's all sorts of stuff which readers would know about going into it. This is both good and bad. Good because they know backstories and know what to be looking for. Bad because they might be looking for things that don't show up. Having never read it, I found a few things confusing, but mostly just let those things slide. On the other hand, Christopher -- having read it -- found a few things missing, while a few other things he felt could easily have been trimmed to shave some of the time.

More detail #2: Watchmen takes place in an alternate universe in the year 1985. There's a strange blending of pop culture (music and TV) from that era, along with things which are just a tad different (like Nixon being in office for a third term). Unfortunately for our heroes, this means they're trapped in 1985 haircuts and glasses. I lived through all of that once, I so wouldn't want to do it again -- even with super powers.

More detail #3: Don't take small (or even medium-sized) kids to this movie. It may be based on what many people would call a "comic book" -- and one of the superheeroes is named The Comedian -- but this is NOT a comic movie. In more correct lingo, Watchmen is a graphic novel. And, with that in mind... It's graphic. There's fairly-realistic violence. There's really disturbing blood. There's also something I like to call "full frontal male bluedity" -- which shouldn't really bug people more than the blood and gore, but probably will. 

More detail #4: The visuals are really stunning. There's a bit at the beginning where the action is framed by the metal around window panes, giving the scene the look of a paneled comic book. There's a sequence on Mars which is gorgeous. And the superheroes look pretty darned good in their supersuits. 

So... I went to it on opening day, and I seemed to like it. Let's see about ratings... Good for the folks who are tired of squeaky-clean heroes and are looking for a little more grit? Yes. A great way to get away from your own life for a while (assuming, of course, that you're not a gritty superhero)? Yes. A movie which -- at close to 3 hours -- actually gives you your money's worth? I think so. Best superhero movie I've ever seen? Sorry, no. Overall, though, for giving me exactly what I was expecting: A.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Paperwhites (Yes. One More Time.)

I know I said the last Paperwhite post would be the last one. But... Having had a conversation with someone just a couple of days ago about the Paperwhites we've been growing, I decided I had to do one more post. 

You see, in the literature I was given about them, I was led to believe that they would grow to about 6 or 8 inches in cool temps, or 8 to 12 in warmer temps. That info also cautioned that if they got tall, they would be unable to hold they're flowers up, and would most likely topple. 

Well... Ours have been growing and growing and growing. Sure, we've had a few times when they seemed about ready to topple (I've got the single one tied to a chopstick, and one day I actually had tied the whole bowl together to prevent some of them from flaring out from the central bunch.) 

But here's the thing -- last weekend, they all perked back up. This is even more amazing considering that the one in the vase was horizontal on Saturday morning, resting on the sofa cushion next to it. As of today, they are each standing about 18 (yes, EIGHTEEN) inches tall. And, as you can see in the pictures, there's no toppling in sight. 

Unfortunately, I noticed today that the blooms are beginning to go down hill. They're beginning to crinkle up and look like they may not have much more energy. But the snow is beginning to melt, and the time change happens this weekend. I think they definitely did their job of getting us through the late winter doldrums. 

It's their turn to rest.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Wheel-well Snow

There's something strange about the snow that gets stuck and compacted into a car's wheel-wells. 

I was at the grocery store, yesterday, and realized that there was snow so massively impacted into the areas both behind and -- and this is simply more evident of how much snow we've been driving through -- in front of the tires that I couldn't even get it to fall when I kicked at it. 

** sidenote ** If you haven't ever lived in a snow-prone area, you may not realize that carefully kicking the panel of your car immediately adjacent to the snow-filled area will often result in the snow falling in a massive chunk onto the pavement. ** end sidenote **

** sidenote sidenote ** If you practice this procedure in your own garage, there is a good chance that a massive chunk of snow will land directly behind your tire. Not a big issue if it's warm-ish, but a huge problem if it's cold enough out that it re-freezes there. Basically, in this situation, you've just created your own ice tire block. (You know, like the rubber stoppers you shove under a door to keep it from sliding.) This is why you do it in a parking lot, instead, so you can back over it and leave before it has a chance to harden. ** end sidenote sidenote ** 

Okay... So there I was in the parking lot, yesterday, and the snow from behind the tires falls out, but the snow in front of the tires in the wheel-wells won't budge. I figured it was no big deal, since we're supposed to get above freezing this week, and it should soften and/or melt and fall out of its own accord in no time.

Tonight, having not driven anywhere during the warm and sunny-ish portions of the day, I was on my way to meet up with a friend of mine for a movie (Revolutionary Road -- we'll talk about that later), when I hit a bump and heard the snow hit my back right tire. It was kind of a horrible sound. If this hadn't been winter -- and if I hadn't seen how packed in the snow was, yesterday -- I probably would have immediately stopped the car and gotten out to check on it. Instead, I kept driving and listening for any changes. 

A block later, a pothole apparently jarred the chunk of semi-petrified snow loose from where it had been attached to the car. I know this because I suddenly started hearing it rub up against the tire. Not just when I hit a bump, but constantly. I sped up. Same noise (but faster). I slowed down. (Same -- but slower -- noise.) Finally, in the middle of a block, with no one behind me, I alternated between the brake and the accelerator for about 3 cycles. With a strange sliding noise which sounded oddly like a metal snow shovel cutting through a snowbank, the snow released its hold and fell to the ground. 

Or at least I'm assuming it did. For the rest of my drive -- even driving over bumps -- there was no more noise of protesting snow from the right rear wheel-well. 

Now if only the rest of our snow could go away as easily.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Oscars (now where is that trademark symbol?)

I realized, today, that I never responded to the Oscars broadcast, which seems like a rather large oversight since I talk about movies a lot. So, since it's Movie Monday, I thought I'd jump back in time and talk a little about that awards show.

First of all, let me say that I think Hugh Jackman did a great job of moving things along without making it seem like he was rushing. And the show ended early enough for the strange "movie previews" at the end, so they must have done fairly well with time.

I thought the opening number was good, and I think Anne Hathaway (whom Hugh literally carried up on stage) did great. The big production number in the middle, though, seemed to go way too many directions and really fall flat. I wasn't sure what had gone wrong until Hugh saluted Baz Luhrmann and thanked him for staging it. (Luhrmann has a tendency to do the same thing in some of his movies--throwing in a few too many "extras" and muddying the waters. Don't get me wrong, I've loved most of his movies, but they do get a little off-track at times.)

I also thought that having 5 former winners in each of the acting categories present the current winner was really amazing. It was great seeing all of the women, especially, and watching them all congratulate the newcomer. 

In the same way, I kind of liked the montages of the year's movies along the way. I think that the "comedy" one (which had the two stoners laughing at everything) was off the mark, but the others were nice enough and not too off-the-mark. 

Of course, it's been a week, so the winners have all kind of faded into the background. Well... To some degree. I have two favorite moments from the broadcast which still resonate: 1) Watching the guy who won for WALL-E thank his high school drama teacher for making him play Barnaby in "Hello, Dolly!" (that's where the song which is the heart of WALL-E came from, in case you missed it); and 2) Hearing Kate Winslet's dad whistle when she said that he should do that so she knew where he and her mother were. Each of those was pretty amazing. 

I have to admit that I kind of glazed over during some of the more standard acceptance speeches--including the preachy ones. But I was truly caught off-guard by the speech given by Milk's screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. If you weren't paying attention, he spoke out about gay rights and the right to gay marriage, but he also spoke about love and acceptance. I'd love to post a link to a YouTube video clip of the speech, but the only one I found was pulled by the Oscars folks (after all, the broadcast is legally theirs). If you want to know what he said, you can click here and go to Broadway World, where they have it transcribed. 

So... yeah... there were pretty people in great clothing. There were some good speeches and some fun moments. And there were a few strange moments which probably should have been cut (like what was up with Ben Stiller?), but it was--overall-- a decent broadcast. 

I can only hope that this year's crop of movies will be as good.