Monday, April 30, 2012

Movie Monday - Mirror, Misfits

Yep. That's right. In the past week I've actually seen TWO movies. IN THEATERS. Weird, I know. Granted, the first one was the middle of last week, and there were only two people in the entire theater, so it was kind of like seeing it at home - only bigger - but, still. Two theatrically released moves, theatrically viewed. Amazing.

The first one was "Mirror, Mirror" - the Julia Roberts comedy version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Amazing (no, really, amazing) sets and costumes. Julia Roberts at her snarky funny (and, yes, beautiful) best. A damsel in modest distress. A handsome prince. And seven dwarfs.

There's humor. There's romance. There's some cool special effects. And there were two things I really hadn't expected: intelligence and sexy dwarfs.

I'm not sure which of those things was more of a surprise to me. The fact that the director went a direction that caused me to laugh aloud because some things were so funny and smart, or the fact that they actually let the dwarfs be more than just caricatures. Don't get me wrong - they're still a bit of comic relief, but they're also individuals with personalities and brains (and heart) and, yes, they were even allowed some sex appeal.

On the other hand, "Pirates! Band of Misfits!" doesn't have much sexy to it. But it is *very* smart, which I had totally expected because it's by Aardman - the people who created Wallace and Gromit.

It's about a hard-luck pirate captain who, with his plucky crew, decide to try to win the Pirate of the Year award. Along the way they encounter Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria. They also encounter other pirates, some science-y stuff, and - as you often do - a monkey who speaks via flashcards.

I laughed a LOT during this one - sometimes quite inappropriately. Some of the best jokes are visual gags that you only really see in the background. The signage on the walls and the posters are priceless - and, luckily, we found that if you stay until the credits you can read a lot of them while the names scroll by.

So... scores...

"Mirror, Mirror": A-. I liked this quite a bit, but the end was a little off. Even so, if you can still find it in a theater, I highly recommend going to it. It was very fun.

"Pirates! Band of Misfits!": A. Not quite an A+, because... well... it just wasn't. But gosh it was good. Go see it. (Aarrgh.)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Passing on the Past

You know how I wrote the other day about watching the past catch up with me? In that case, I was talking about watching all of the reruns of "Dr. Who" in order. But, lately, it seems like the past is catching up in a lot of really bad ways, too.

Like the fact that there's actually a massive blockbuster movie coming out this summer about "Battleship" - which (for better or worse) seems to have absolutely nothing to do with the game I had when I was a kid. This, unfortunately, is simply the latest in a list of movies which are taking the premise - or sometimes just the name - of something that was well and good 20 or 30 years ago, and making it into something... wrong.

I've watched this happen with a bunch of movies. And some TV shows. And even some cartoons (being made into movies and TV shows). Heck. It seems to happen once per season on Broadway, too.

And don't get me started on fashion. I mean... If I'd known that people would be wearing 80s fashions (I'm not calling it "style"), I could have kept everything that used to be in my closet.

Of course, the people who are trying to mimic the 80s frequently don't even know that what they're wearing is a re-tread of some other era. And what's worse is that, although they're wearing all the pieces, they're not doing them right. I mean... It's the little things that get me. Like... if you're going to layer your Polo shirts, you need to pop both collars. And if you're going to cuff your pantlegs to the length of Capri pants, you need to roll them so they hug your ankles and don't hang loose.

Better yet, find a style (or an idea for a piece of entertainment) that's actually new. Then I won't have to be bothered trying to explain it, and I can mock it in peace.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Watching the Past Catch Up

A few weeks ago, they started re-running the "new" Dr. Who episodes in order. Christopher and I have watched them as they've gone along, but after that we've kind of watched them in a hit-or-miss fashion.

So I'd see one with Rose, one with Amy, one with Donna, a Christmas special, and they're all out of order and jumbled. Which, although enjoyable, doesn't lend itself to really getting the full experience.

What's worse it that I don't tend to remember a TV show after only seeing it once - unless it really made a strong impression. So while Christopher (and his sisters, and some friends) can quote chapter and verse of episodes, I've always kind of had to sit back and just smile and nod and hope to figure it all out.

But this time around I've been recording them and watching them all in order. And, frankly, it constantly amazes me how well they're put together.

I mean... I've seen how they layer things through the episodes, but I hadn't ever paid attention to see just how well - and how much - they do it. Now, though, I'm watching episodes that are making me go "Ohmigod. They clued us in to that that early?"

Tonight, I watched a two-part episode where the Doctor meets River Song for the first time. And, having seen so much more of her since then, I simply marvelled at what clues we were given - multiple seasons before we, the audience, go to know her.

It makes me wonder, now, whether something I'm seeing will show up in a new season down the line.

It also makes me think that I should say something like "Expect purple pansies at the door" and then send them to people in 20 years, just to see if they remember...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Before the Travel...

Since it is, in fact, before Travel Tuesday, I thought I'd mention that Christopher and I have begun making plans for our summer vacation.

I've heard that the average traveler gets the most joy out of any vacation about 6 weeks prior to the trip. Yes, that's right. A vacation is the most enjoyable 1.5 months before you take it.

At that point, I guess you're still working with expectations. You're able to be really happy and excited about it, without the whole issue of reality setting in.

As you get closer to the departure date, you start thinking about the little things. The "what do I pack?" stuff and the "will I look okay in my swimsuit?" freakouts. But not when it's still weeks away.

When the trip is weeks away, you get to plan, and consider the possibilities, and build up the expectations - which, according to that same study, most vacations never quite live up to. And that's why the during AND after times aren't as highly regarded as the 6 weeks before.

So... As we start planning, I think I will also plan to bliss out a little over the fact that summer is almost here - and so is vacation.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rainy Days and Saturdays

I completely get that Rainy Days and Mondays can get people down. Although, sometimes, I really like rainy days.

But rainy days on Saturdays can be kind of weird. If you aren't able to just stay on the couch and curl up in an afghan with a book for the day, rainy Saturdays can be kind of annoying.

On the plus side, I took the pup for her morning walk before it started this morning, so we didn't get soaked. As I started my errands, it started to get a little drizzly out.

Now, it's kind of doing some strange "not rainy, just too wet to go out" thing. Of course, this is just before Christopher and I are supposed to be going out to do some shopping and run away for a bit.

Hopefully, in about an hour or so, we'll be back indoors and able to give the rain it's due.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Yeah. What She Said.

I don't think I get up on my soapbox too often on here. And, sometimes, I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

But I saw this posted online, today, and felt like I could share it and soapbox just a little simply by quoting something from the news, and not something that I said on my own:

"Gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world. They are all ages, all races, all faiths. They are doctors and teachers, farmers and bankers, soldiers and athletes. And whether we know it, or whether we acknowledge it, they are our family, our friends, and our neighbors. Being gay is not a western invention. It is a human reality."

So you're probably wondering what gay activist said that. Or looking for the twist, where I say that it was from Oscar Wilde. Or that it's from a Hollywood type just trying to get air time.

You'd be wrong.

It's a quote from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A woman with almost nothing to gain - and a whole lot to lose - from givng a soundbite like that to the national and international press. But she stood up for what she believes in and put it out into the ether for all eternity.

One voice, speaking out for equality in a world that often advocates war over the discussion of ideals.

You know... I think that the more I hear from her, the more I like her.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

If It's Not Schadenfreude, What Is It?

"Schadenfreude" is one of those words, and feelings, that has moved into the public consciousness over the past few years. I think I probably first really noticed it in the musical "Avenue Q" where they have a whole song about it - and even spell it out in time with the music (which, frankly, is how I know how to spell it).

If you don't know about schadenfreude, it's one of those fun words that comes to us from the German language. It means, roughly, "happiness at the misfortune of others." You know, like when someone you don't like working with gets fired and it makes you happy. Or when you laugh at someone who is texting and walks into a post.

But that's not what I want to talk about.

What I'm having issues with, today, is something that's kind of on the flip side of that. It's having to deal with people who don't seem to deserve the good stuff, yet who somehow get the good stuff. It's a little bit of jealousy. It's a little bit of sour grapes. It's a plea for instant karma.

Yes, I know it's also a perfect chance for forgiveness and rising above - but I know myself well enough to know that that ain't happenin'.

Here's one of the reasons behind the need for the new word: Someone I dealt with as a client - who was really really really mean to work with (to the point of being belittling and threatening - especially when she knew she was wrong), has apparently been doing quite well, lately. I keep hearing about this through mutual friends, who don't realize what went on in the past (because I don't talk about things like that with mutual friends). It annoys the freakin' hell out of me.

There's also the guy who has decided every single person at my company is out to "nickel and dime" him, and so he's getting meaner and meaner. (How *dare* we charge him what it says we will charge in the contract which he signed!) And, lately, his book sales have been going up. And although I've never read the book, I know it's supposed to be about people doing "good" things. I guess he wasn't writing from a place of personal experience.

And so I think we need a new word. Kinda like schadenfreude, only different. Something that means "I'm happy for you, but I would be even happier if karma would come around and bite you in the ass. Really really hard. Twice."

If you find a word like that, could you let me know?

Thanks, everso.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tiz List o' Learnin'

(Not sure why I call this a "Tiz List"? Check out the other posts with the same name in the "Label" group listed in the left-hand column.)

I feel like I've had an informative weekend, and I thought I'd share some of what I've learned with you.

1) Sometimes, for no reason, the basement can take on a smell kind of like... well... scallops.

2) As much as I like scallops, having the basement smell like that is not a good thing.

3) When the gas company people get a call asking them if they have any idea if anything they do would smell like scallops (instead of rotten eggs), they get a little giddy and send someone out to take a sniff, just in case.

4) You should not tell the gas company person you're on the phone with that you're standing in the house on the home phone - they take the whole "leave the house and call from somewhere else" thing pretty seriously.

5) Apparently - according to the gas company guy with the nifty gas detector thingy which registered absolutely no gas in our basement - in very humid weather, you can get standing water in your washing machine which can kick up some odd aromas. (We're going with that explanation for the smell, in case you're wondering - the main thing we know are that it was *not* gas, and that it went away after a little while.)

6) Patience is a virtue - especially when in line at Target when the cashier can't seem to find any of the barcodes to scan.

7) I'd never really realized it, but apparently "barcode scanning" is an ability people either have or they don't. I scan my own groceries a lot, and I'm pretty good at getting it on the first swipe. Sadly, the gentleman at Target had obviously not inherited that gene.

8) There are animals which eat only the red-leafed peonies, and leave the green ones behind. We may have a rather unbalanced peony crop in front of our house in a month.

9) No matter how many times you put them on your list, you can check out of Target without buying vitamins.

10) When you forget to buy vitamins, you tend to realize it at 9:30 at night. Possibly while blogging.

11) I learned that our pup automatically decides it's time for bed whenever one of us goes in and lies down. Even if we're on the phone and not going to sleep.

12) There is a different size of pillow for a "Standard Sham" and a "Queen Sham." (I know... I know... It all sounds like a sham to me, too...)

13) JCPenney has a really small optical department.

14) Simply getting out margarine to soften at room temperature does not always result in baking getting done - particularly on spring days when the weather is freakishly warm and the house is kind of sticky.

15) Sometimes, no matter how much you want it to work, a hat just won't look good on you.

Friday, April 13, 2012


As the concert was wrapping up, tonight, I noticed that there were some flashes of lightning showing up in the windows high above the back of the balcony. (That might make more sense if you know that the concert I was attending was a Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra concert being held in a church.)

Earlier in the evening, I had been looking up at those windows (I was seated off to the side), and thinking "I wonder what it would be like to watch a storm roll in." When I saw the lightning we were just a few minutes from the end of the concert, so I gathered up my coat and, as the applause was thundering, I made a beeline to get out the doors and to my car before the rain came.

I did pretty well. As I looked outside, I could see that it was just barely sprinkling. Nothing too bad. Some lightning from time to time and a little dampness, but that was completely manageable - especially since I had beaten 99% of the audience out of the hall.

And then... well... I've never heard the CRACK and BOOM of thunder while the flash of the lightning is still in the air.

The man who had walked out just before me was startled enough that he kind of froze in place, then turned and almost plowed right into me. We kind of looked at each other, then peeled off to go to our cars.

There were a couple of cars in the lot with their alarms going off, and a strange kind of metallic smell in the air. I did not hang around to see if anything was going to come of that primary lightning strike.

Although, as I jogged to my car, I did look back to see whether or not the top of the church steeple was on fire - that's how close it all seemed to be. I stayed mostly dry, and then drove home through intermittent downpours and some more massive lightning.

And reminded myself that this is only April.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Things Skin Cream Won't Do

I've had an interesting couple of days of learning.

After probably six months of a progressively worse minor pain in an area I've been referring to as "the down there area," It finally got bad enough after last weekend's drive back and forth to South Dakota, that I complained about it to Christopher. He, rightly, turned to me and said "You need to go to Urgent Care."

I took that advice into advisement, and kind of ignored it on Tuesday morning. Yesterday, though, I decided I couldn't keep ignoring it. So I got up in the morning and headed to Urgent Care to get there just after they opened at 8am.

It was remarkably empty at Urgent Care, so I got in pretty quickly and got to have my chat with the doctor by probably 8:30 or so. He was a very nice man. We talked about what issues I'd been having and what had brought me in. I pointed out where the pain has been concentrated, as well as the kind of "side issues" I've been having.

He looked at my painful areas. He put on some gloves. He looked again, a little more closely. He backed away. He took off his gloves. He said "I think we can get you some cream for that."


"It's weird that you don't have any itching, but I think I see some discoloration, like a rash. So we could get you some skin cream for that."

Will it help the pain?

"Well, no. But if you'd like I can give you a referral to a skin clinic."

Would that help the pain?

"Well, no. But I could get you that skin cream."

But that won't help the pain, right? So maybe I'll skip the cream.

The nice doctor left pretty soon after that, and gave me a referral to not the skin clinic but an orthopaedic walk-in clinic. And, there, I found some people who didn't offer me even the smallest amount of cream, unguent, salve, or ointment of any kind.**

You know, I'm all for skin creams for rashes. Or itching. Or acne. Or as a help in mitigating the look of a scar. Or even for ringworm on your upper arm. (Don't ask.)

But skin cream for acute pain in the down there area? Well, maybe not.

**In fact, the woman I saw - as she was leaving - chuckled and said "I didn't see any rash, though."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Freezing. Sort of.

For the second night in a row, we're under a "freeze warning" in Minneapolis, tonight. And not just a "dip below 32 for a moment" kind of thing, but actually spending an hour or more below 28.

I learned, last week, that when it comes to a lot of plants, 28 degrees is the magic number. Which, according to that camp of gardeners, is when pretty much all foliage bites the big one. They went on to say that not only would any new plantings be in peril this week, but also any perennials that were growing (which, really, would be everything at the moment after the massively warm March).

But we've been good and haven't planted anything new yet this year (after all, our last frost can some as late as mid-May), so everything that we have growing in the yard is of that "hearty perennial" stock. And according to another camp of gardeners, temps even as low as the mid-20s (for a couple of hours) will simply slow those plants down, and not kill them.

Oh, and those frigid temps might also slow down pollen production and kill off some mosquitoes. So, no matter how cold it gets, it's really not all bad.

But it does mean that contemplating the garden is a little strange this week. On the one hand, I feel like I should be out covering all of our garden areas in sheets and blankets. On the other, I feel like natural selection will make it all okay.

Of course, on both hands, I have my fingers crossed.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Home Again

It's odd, sometimes, when I catch myself talking about going "home."

I'm one of those people who has been lucky enough to have his parents live in the same place for most of his life. Except for the first 2 years of my life, my parents have lived in the same house. So, I still talk about that as "home." And, when I go there for any length of time, I tell people I'm going home.

Of course, once I'm there, I have to kind of split the conversations. I talk about being home, but I also talk about when I need to leave to go home. Of course, that latter "home" is my current home in Minneapolis, with Christopher and the pup.

Which means that I left home this morning, after having had a really kind of relaxingly busy sort of weekend, to drive home. I got home around 5:30, and spent the evening at home with Christopher after calling home to let my folks know I'd gotten home. (Confused, yet?)

And then there's an even stranger bit.

Later this evening, I got a phonecall from a friend of mine whom I've known for... umm... 21 years, maybe (perhaps I just should have said "since grad school" since that doesn't seem like quite so long ago), as he was driving to his home in Baltimore from a weekend at home with his parents. We haven't had the chance for a long phone conversation in a while, and we talked for about an hour. And, well, that hour of being on the phone with someone I've known for so long... that kind of felt like home, too.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is, here's to the weekends of going home. And then being able, happily, to find yourself at home, again.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Dining at a Fashionable Hour

I know that it's very European to eat dinner at a late hour. The last time I was in France, I know that Christopher and I had dinners that started after 9 and went on for hours. And when we were in Las Vegas and Montreal, we did that as well. (Not that Vegas is European, but the restaurant we were in was French bistro-y, at least. And Montreal is about as European as you can get without transcontinental travel.)

Today, though, I was awakened at 4:39 am to let the dog out. She let me get back to sleep for a little while - well, she let me doze at least - while she curled under the covers between Christopher and me so that she could stay warm. I eventually got up around 6:30 - a good 15 minutes before my alarm was expected to go off, and about an hour before I would usually get up for work.

I worked 8-4, today, so that I could drive home to South Dakota after work to spend the weekend with my folks. And I'm quite happy to report that traffic moved smoothly and I got here about 9:30. Which leads me back to where I started.

You see, Mom had asked me, earlier this week, whether I'd want any dinner after I got here. And I said that it sounded good. So just after 10 o'clock - about 16 hours (and a 5.5-hour drive) after I got up this morning - I was sitting at the kitchen table eating a hamburger (or two).

Now it's after 11, and although I feel like I really ought to go to bed, I'm also feeling like I should keep moving so the food doesn't just settle in my stomach like a lump. But after the yawn that just kept me from finishing that last sentence, I think the lump is going to win.

Oh... And before I go... Chag Pesach Semaech! (That's basically "Happy Passover!" in case you don't read Yiddish like some of my friends do.)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I Bet You Can't Say This

I've been working on an edit, at work, which focuses on - in the loosest sense - relationship styles. I say that it only loosely focuses on them because, really, it focuses a lot on sex, with some relationship stuff thrown in. And, yes, it's partially a how-to manual. (With diagrams!)

How many of you can say that you've been sitting at work reading a sex manual for the past week? Yeah. That's what I figured.

Now ask me how many of us (all you readers, and me, this time) have enjoyed reading a sex manual at work for the past week? You can't see this, but I can guarantee you that I am *not* raising my hand at the moment.

I never would have guessed it, but I found out this week that it is entirely possible for a book about sex to be totally and completely boring. At one point, I was scrolling through to do a search-and-replace of a couple of terms. When I stopped the search and went back to the editing, I started in the middle of a paragraph 3 pages down from where I had stopped. And I didn't notice. Because the book was that boring.

We've had a few good laughs about it at work, though. I've gotten to say things like "I have to get back to my Sex." And - when I finished this round of editing - I unintentionally replied to someone asking what I was up to "Well, Sex is out of my hands for a few days." It's truly a strange world I work in some days.

After all, last week I was working on a manuscript about heaven, and next on my list is a children's picture book guide to stocks and portfolios (which I already know includes such gems as "you should ask your financial advisor about your stocks" - because as we all know children who look at picture books all have financial advisors...).

Even better, I'll get to have a second go-round with the Sex book after I have a phone conference with the author. I think, just for fun, I might block out the time on my calendar at work as "Phone Sex," just to see if anyone notices.

I bet you can't say that about what you're doing at your job. (And, if you can, I really hope your hourly pay is better than what I'm getting...)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Movie Monday: JCM, 50/50, EPL

In the past week, I've actually seen three movies. Okay, only one was in the movie theater, but I still wanted to write about all three.

So, in the order I saw them:

"JCM" aka "John Carter of Mars" aka "The Princess of Mars" - It was perfectly fine. A sci-fi adventure movie based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs story. Handsome drifter finds himself miraculously transported to Mars, where he meets a few alien races and one gorgeous princess who can kick butt with the best of them. The movie, apparently, is now the biggest flop in all of moviedom. Which is too bad, because I enjoyed it. I thought it was fun and fluffy with decent 3-D effects. It had a crappy early marketing campaign - only ever showing up as "JCM" with no explanation - and came out just barely before "The Hunger Games," which means that the box office take was horrible at the outset. Which is really too bad, because I found myself at the end of the movie thinking "The sequel should be really good" - but there never will be a sequel.

On Saturday morning, before I got myself moving, I decided to watch "50/50" - a "cancer comedy" about a guy who finds himself in a relationship with a shrew, working for a company he doesn't like, unsure he likes his best friend, and not speaking to his mother... and then he gets cancer. If you ignore Seth Rogan (the best friend), and focus on Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anjelica Houston (the guy and his mom), you end up with a really good movie. Funny and sad and angry and hopeful all at once. Definitely worth the rental. The kind of movie that you get to the end of and think "I wonder what this guy does, next?"

Saturday evening, on kind of a whim, I caught "Eat, Pray, Love" on one of the cable channels I never watch. Julia Roberts decides she doesn't like her life, her husband, her boyfriend, her job, herself, and goes on a journey to find herself. She eats her way through Italy, she meditates her way through India, and she kind of gropes through Thailand, all surrounded by gorgeous scenery and great supporting cast. Great movie? No. Good movie for a late night when nothing else was on? Yes. (I should mention that apparently the movie is nothing like the book, which may not be a bad thing...) Do I wonder what happened to her at the end of the movie? Yes, although I'm not totally sure that I care.

And there you have them - three movies in three paragraphs. And their grades are:

"John Carter of Mars" - B+ (It had heart, but not quite enough soul.)

"50/50" - A (Lots of heart, decent amounts of soul, luckily I was alone and had tissues at the ready.)

"Eat, Pray, Love" - C- (It was a good idea, but really didn't make it on either the heart or soul meters.)

By the way, did you notice the theme of the movies? I didn't, until I was driving home from work today. All three are about people who desire to change their circumstances, and all three left me wondering what happened, next. And none of them made me want to change places with their main characters.