Saturday, January 31, 2009

It's going to be a good weekend

Per my goals for the New Year, I'm going to a workshop tomorrow from 8:30am - 2pm for ACTION. ACTION stands for AIDS Care Teams in Our Neighborhoods and they put together volunteer CareTeams that provide friendly community and support for individuals and families living with AIDS in Orange County. Honestly, I'm a mash-up of feeling excited yet daunted by expectations (both the organization's and mine), but overall I'm looking forward to getting outside my box.

And then as a reward, UFC 94: St. Pierre vs. Penn at night. Georges St. Pierre is one of my favorite fighters. But BJ Penn is a talented, flexible fighter, so this should be good.

Then Sunday, SuperBowl. Rootin' for my boo, Hines Ward and his Steelers. Plus I've sunk money in the SuperBowl Squares pool.

Wish me luck. On all of it, please.

Friday, January 30, 2009


I know it's a cliche to say this, but Meryl Streep is flippin' brilliant. Truly, she is amazing. It's no wonder she got the Best Actress Oscar nomination for "Doubt". From her first hissed words to her closing confession, I was glued to her presence. She never drops the New York accent and never stops inhabiting the mind and body of this domineering nun obsessed with proper monastic behavior (man, the look on her face when Phillip Seymour Hoffman's character requests sugar in his tea--so perfect) and stubbornly doing the right thing.

I am a huge, huge fan of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and I recognize that Amy Adams is a great actress, but amazingly they both pale in comparison to Streep, to the point where I'm surprised at their Oscar nominations for their supporting roles. At times, I was distracted by Adams' choices, as if naive idealism has be to portrayed as a soft, and at times, shrill, child. And I was surprised that Hoffman drifted in and out of his New York cadence almost to the point of sounding anachronistic in a big scene with Streep. Impressively, Viola Davis holds her own in her scene with Streep, with a simple muted performance. Coupled with the disquieting choices her character has made in the best interest of her son, she will probably win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

The movie as a whole, I'd give a B+. The movie is enlightening both of the time period and the sexism of the Church. The plot is gripping in that there is no clear answer on what was done or what the right thing to do was. It's worth seeing this movie, whether in the theaters or on DVD, for Streep.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Or as I came to call it, The Brad and Cate Handsome Show.

I wasn't dying to see this movie but after it got an astounding 13 Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor and Best Picture, I became curious. It is a beautiful movie filled with great technology and performances, but overall I'd give it a B-. To be honest, I was going to give it a C or C+ but the friend who I went with loved the movie and when I told her my struggles with it, she sighed, well I guess I didn't watch it so...critically. Ouch, point taken.

First, I have to give a Shout Out to Myrton Running Wolf! I did "Journey Beyond the West" with him years ago and it was awesome to see him on the big screen as the navyman, Dennis Smith. Second, I have to say that Cate Blanchett never disappoints. Always love her. Third, Taraji P. Henson is wonderful. Though I haven't seen "Vicky Christina Barcelona", of the Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actress, Henson would be my pick (Viola Davis will probably win as her character reveals fairly shocking parental choices in "Doubt"). Fourth, though the point of including her character is arguable, I have been fascinated with Tilda Swinton ever since I saw "Orlando" and I was glued to her whenever she was on screen. And finally, for the first half of the movie, I thought Brad Pitt was great. After he starts to hit the handsome point, the Nawlins accent starts to drop, and there was less wonderment of his character except how handsome he was getting. I wasn't grasping that in this young body was an old man. I was distracted by his pulchritude, often thinking, is he going to get more good-looking? And, lo and behold, he would.

Overall, I was distracted by this movie's devices, plot-wise and technically. Back in the '90s, I remember seeing a Martin McDonagh play, "The Lonesome West" and a climactic scene involves blowing away a stove with a shotgun. I hardly remembered anything afterwards because in my mind I kept thinking, do they replace that stove every night? how do they keep all those parts from flying into the audience? Man, I bet the stage hands hate cleaning that up...etc. So yes, this movie is a technical marvel the way it ages Pitt into a tiny old man. But soon I was distracted by the how did they do that? and the makeup of it all. I also felt like some of the scenes were plot devices to force the story in a certain direction (one scene felt lifted out of another famous Pitt movie, "Legends of the Fall") and to allow certain conveniences to the story (e.g., the money he provides near the end of the story).

And it is long. I was aware at one point of stretching my stiffening body, thinking, yeesh, Brad Pitt still has to get even younger... Between the distracting luminosity of the two leads and the length of this movie, I would have gladly taken the second half of the movie as an Annie Leibowitz spread in Vanity Fair.

So if you've got the patience, time, and money, check it out. Given how many Oscars this movie is up for, it has a chance for winning quite a few this year.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Got wood?

My friend and blog mentor created these wood (yes I said wood) notecard sets, which are available on her etsy site, One Bored Girl. I have no idea how she made them, but they're pretty flippin' cool. They come with envelopes, you don't need special writing implements, they can be sent through the mail, and they're ridiculously well-priced for a set of handmade, wood notecards. I love the organic simplicity of this set: the birds, the flowers, the simple sentiment.

And this set would be sweet for Valentine's day:

Pretty cool, right?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Well, at least I'm informed

for the Oscar pool. Ouch! Only 2 out of my 6 SAG predictions right (Heath Ledger for Best Supporting and Dark Knight for Best Stunt Ensemble), though I can confess that, though my predictions were off, I actually voted for a number of the winners.

For the Oscars, I think I'm getting a pretty good idea of the folks NOT getting them.

The Big Question: Can Slumdog Millionaire win the Best Picture Oscar?

Friday, January 23, 2009

My SAG nom predictions

These are my predictions for the Motion Picture SAG Awards on Sunday (though I'm not sure if I'll get all right like last year):

Theatrical Motion Pictures

Outstanding Male Actor: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Outstanding Female Actor: Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road
Outstanding Male Supporting: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Outstanding Female Supporting: Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Outstanding Stunt Ensemble: The Dark Knight
Outstanding Cast: Milk

I haven't attempted Television predictions, only because I haven't seen most of the shows nominated. But there are a bunch of shows that I'd love to catch up on, including Mad Men, especially after seeing Jon Hamm on Saturday Night Live (reminded me of Alec Baldwin--awesome in all the sketches).

I'm still trying to catch up on all the movies...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Revolutionary Road

Does anyone remember Starman? Briefly: an alien comes to earth and takes the physical form of Jenny's (Karen Allen) dead husband. Being an advanced life form, he quickly absorbs functions of American life simply by watching. In one memorable instance, he is riding in the car with Jenny and as she approaches an intersection where the traffic light is turning yellow, she guns the car through before the light turns red. In a later scene, as he is driving, Starman sees the light turning yellow and he starts gunning it. In his case, of course, he is much farther from the intersection and he ends up speeding through the red light causing fender benders as cars careen, swerve, and screech. As Jenny perplexedly yells at Starman, he simply tells her, "Yellow means go faster."

If Starman saw Revolutionary Road, he would simply say, "Babies ruin everything."

Yes, there is more to Revolutionary Road than that. Though the subject of a struggling marriage is nothing new, it's always the relatable journey and characters that make watching a movie interesting. In some ways, I found myself watching this movie like a play, as a series of scenes. And that was my problem with this movie: I felt I was watching great performances of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio (as April and Frank Wheeler) in some great scenes, not necessarily a cohesive movie. Some scenes reminded me of an exercise from my acting days where we were told to make choices that took action to "100%"--especially the scenes where Frank and April would argue to the point of playing the Marriage version of Snaps! (or Yo' Momma is...). But perhaps because we never see Frank and April as the, ostensibly, former young and happy couple, nor do we really see them as a young and happy family with their children, the weight of their complaints and cruel words don't land as hard as they could. For all the scenes we watch hammering in our heads that their lives have been put in some cruel, unhappy box, we didn't get to witness the marriage worth fighting for.

The cast as a whole, was great. Michael Shannon as the Wheelers' realtor's son who has just returned from a stay at a mental institution, yet has the voice of clarity and reason (Get it? The crazy one is the sane one here!) is a scene-stealer. And Zoe Kazan as the innocent girl in the typing pool who wises up fast is also memorable. And of course, love Kathy Bates as usual. I confess I was distracted by the cast's wide spectrum of adopting the '50s cadence--from DiCaprio gamely using the word "swell" (which elicited a few chuckles in the audience) to Dylan Baker full-on channeling William Powell from The Thin Man.

Overall, I'd give this movie a B. It's got some great moments where you can't take your eyes off the screen but you can wait to see it on DVD.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yes We Can

Very exciting day with today's historic inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama. I'm so hopeful even though I know what daunting tasks lay ahead for this new administration. But I remain positive because Yes We Can.

Anybody doing anything special? I feel I should be doing more than going out for pizza and a very Happy Hour.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Wrestler

Mickey Rourke won a Golden Globe for his performance as Randy "the Ram" Robinson in The Wrestler. And he deserves it--you never doubt that Rourke, as Randy, has not lived this life. As a professional wrestler past his prime making a living in the local VFW hall circuit, we witness the punishment Randy puts his body through, the minutiae of maintaining his image, the humbled struggling in making ends meet with unreliable income, and we are immediately invested. As Randy clings to his success in the 80s, abusing his body in the process, we are encouraged and hopeful when he tries to make a go leading a regular life, but end up witnessing a man who cannot cope with the life and disconnection caused by the decades dedicated to the Ram's persona and success. A moment of comic relief reflects Randy's devotion to the past when he invites the neighbor boy to come over and play Nintendo. The system is Nintendo 64 and the game is laughably outdated, featuring a pixelated version of wrestling featuring his own character, the Ram, in the game. The boy starts talking about the latest game he's playing, "Call of Duty 4", and Randy has no idea what he's talking about.

There is a parallel story in his love interest, Cassidy, a stripper played by Marisa Tomei. (I have to digress to say that every teen girl should see Marisa Tomei in this movie to at least to grasp that a woman in her 40s can have a gorgeous body, which Tomei nakedly exhibits a lot, without a ridiculous boob job.) As a stripper, Cassidy relies on her body as well, to get by and eke a living. The difference is while his body goes through physical punishment, Cassidy suffers humiliation through the nasty comments about her age as she tries to ply lap dances from obnoxious customers in their 20s. Cassidy and Randy are both conscious that they cannot rely on such careers forever but both cannot cope for the most part, of their professional lives merging with or intruding on their regular lives.

"The Wrestler" is great--well directed with a strong cast. If you cannot relate to the Wrestler's struggles--someone desperately clinging to a happily successful period of one's life--you can at least understand it and will be moved by the Wrestler's story. Another plus for me--as a girl growing up in West Trenton, New Jersey--identifying locations made me smile, including the hospital where my daughter was born. Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, holla!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cleaning up

Until I got sick (I'm looking at you, Jonathan Demme), I was on this cleaning and organizing kick for the new year. We've successfully cleaned up the girl's room and save for a few stacks of magazines and comic books, the master bedroom is almost there too.

Unfortunately, my cleaning and organizing efforts have been like digging in sand. When I get one area kind of done and move on to another area, the area I just cleaned attracts new clutter. Which is not above reason, I understand. When there's an empty space in a house, don't people tell you that you need to put something there or else it looks soooo empty? When you finish all the ice cream in the freezer, don't you look and go, time to buy more ice cream? When you finally get your bathtub sparkling, don't you just want to soak your hard-working, filthy body in it? So my that's one of my sad realizations--the analogy of my cleaning efforts is like cleaning a filthy tub, ad nauseum. Who has it worse, me or Sisyphus? Well, I guess Sisyphus, because I'll get to stop when I die.

The other sad realization (or probably just a realization that sucks) is that this place needs a new coat of paint badly. With all the scuff marks, holes, scrapes, dirt, etc., the walls just add an overpowering dinginess to a room. The worst? The main bathroom. When I go to my friends' houses, their bathrooms are like episodes of the Martha Stewart show. My bathroom, on the other hand, is like a Lifetime Movie rape scene. My friends' bathrooms have a scented candle burning and cute towels folded on the counter. Our bathroom suffers from windowless, flourescent lighting, the dirty, banged-up walls, and the dim, dingy shower stall. Cleans walls would go a long way in brightening it up.

The decorators on HGTV all say that paint is the best value for improving a room. The problem is I hate painting. I did a huge job a number of years ago and by the end, I would have rather been told to drink paint than to roll it on the walls. I would love to hire painters but my gut says it'll be cost-prohibitive. Though I'm gathering some numbers, I got a feeling that it's going to come down to me doing it. Which sucks a lot. I really don't know if I can muster up that much motivation. It's bad enough I've got a filthy tub to clean, right?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm going to work sober

And by that I mean, no NyQuil hangover and no DayQuil to get me out the door.

I spent yesterday in that weird DayQuil cloud where I think my body is moving through water, my mind is wading in Elmer's glue, and I think all my clicky pens need to be tested for clickiness. I fell asleep early easily last night enough without the NyQuil and I felt clearer when I woke up. Kind of like when the Kelly Hu character (Yuriko/Deathstrike) in X2 briefly breaks out of the control cloud that Colonel Stryker (played by Brian Cox) keeps her under with a chemical he burns into the back of her neck. So I decided to forgo the DayQuil as well.

Here we go...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Still going to blame Jonathan Demme

Still sick. Yes, I'm still going to pin this on Demme and my horrible night at Rachel Getting Married. Yesterday, I left work at 9:40am, went home, put on sweats and climbed into bed and woke up at 2pm, sweating under the covers in the afternoon sun. What a waste of day--too out of it to do anything productive and too exhausted to read. Didn't even feel like eating. Who was I? Called it quits at 9pm, downed Nyquil, and lights out.

Now, after ingesting 2 Dayquils (though I think I should have gone with the liquid), it's showtime.

Here we go...

Monday, January 12, 2009

I'm sick and I blame Jonathan Demme

I tried to go see Rachel Getting Married this weekend with friends, but we all walked out after 15 minutes because we were thisclose to puking. I'm assuming the director, Jonathan Demme, intended the cinema verite style to induce the wandering intimacy of attending a close family wedding, not vomiting. Unfortunately, all the hand-held camerawork was too, too much for me--all the swiveling, the walking, the blurred shots coming into focus, people walking between the lens and the characters we're watching--I was turning green and panicking in about 5 minutes when I realized that they weren't going to put the damn camera on a tripod, for Pete's sake. Which was a shame because I was sucked into the story and the characters--and the luminous Debra Winger had just arrived as we were exiting.

The topper--I'm sick. I guess alternately clutching my clammy face and my way to a movie theater's ladies room stall (not knowing if the Fiber One bar I ate before the movie was going to be doing me no favors and exit the opposite end and when) is not the most sanitary activity during cold season. It's all Jonathan Demme's fault.

Time to hit the Nyquil.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Even more Secret Santa mischief

Okay, this is the last post about my Secret Santa adventures for 2008. So on Day 3, I gave Erika a $5 Starbucks card and our two most recent issues of Game Informer to peruse with her hot tasty beverage (yes, she said she liked video games). She also said she like action/martial arts movies so on Day 4, I put up the Original himself, Bruce Lee:

And I left a gift on her desk:

What's inside? Oh, it's just something I put together:

I kind of boo-booed the iron-on but at least she'll know it was hand-crafted with heart and affection.

And as it turned out, another Secret Santa was going to be absent at the end of the week, so I volunteered to deliver his gift. On Day 4, he had pretzels for his Secret recipient (because he found out she likes pretzels). So, of course, I asked if it was okay if I crafted it up a bit. He was fine with it. So I put together a theme, which included a grocery bag turned pooping reindeer:

And of course:

the pretzels:

Sigh. It's almost a let down on Day 5 when you know Secret Santa is coming to an end. On Day 5, I gave Erika a book, Forbidden Knowledge: 101 Things Not Everyone Should Know How to Do, and a DVD, Brick, with gift receipts of course. And Erika totally guessed I was her Secret Santa on her first try, despite my efforts to throw her off my trail. Nonetheless, I still had a great time being her Secret Santa (as well as assisting other Secret Santas).

I hope we do Secret Santa again next year!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

More Secret Santa memories - Day 1

I know I'm backtracking to the holidays but I wanted to share some more of my Secret Santa adventures. So my Secret recipient was Erika and I gave a subdued gift for her on Day 1, per the previous post linked. But my normal m.o. is a bit more crafty so when a friend said she was in need of ideas, I volunteered my services to trade. So I did Day 1 for her Secret recipient as well and she did Day 2 for both of ours. She did well by Erika on Day 2 and gave her some puzzle books and a very fancy iced Christmas cookie. Here's what I set up for my friend's Secret recipient for her Day 1:

I had originally intended to use a lot of tinsel on the door but I couldn't find any on sale so I went the homemade route and fashioned metallic stars with cardboard, aluminum foil, pipe cleaners, alcohol inks, and glitter glue. Here's a more direct look (the stockings were already on the door):

The sign on the glass window by the door said this:

And my lovely little assistant will demonstrate what it looks like when someone complies with the above request:

And the icing on the cake was a decorated tin:

that had these inside:

The beauty is that this threw Erika off my trail but also made a nice start to the other Secret recipient (well, I think she enjoyed it) and let me get my crafty freak on.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Be careful what you wish for

I forgot to mention that yesterday, when I was heading off to jury duty around 7am, I was met with what I thought was an ominous sign of my day to come:

Can't quite see it? How about a closer look:

That's right, that would be the internal organs of, I'm guessing, a rat devoured by some bird. The stomach, the large intestines, bits of fur, some mystery organ, and the coup de grace,enough bird poop to signify a good meal was had. Kind of like an avian version of how some people have coffee and cigarettes after a big fancy dinner.

Sure, the first thing that went through my mind was the symbolism of it all as I headed off to jury duty. Was I in for some bureaucratic carnage? Was I going to be torn apart by some kind of jury duty madness? Was the jury system going to take a big dump on me? Or perhaps simply, you're in for a bad day, lady.

Well, my jury duty was as easy and comfortable as anyone could hope for so it didn't seem indicative of that. Then I realized that the night before, as I was walking from my car to the house, I saw a rat run across the sidewalk. I totally gave a shocked shriek and I was telling Paul about it and ranted on how I wish something could be done about the rats in the neighborhood.

I was telling the girl about it this morning and she pointed to the car and said, Be careful what you wish for, Mom.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

And she out.

The afternoon court decided to delay until tomorrow.

So I'm done.

For 12 months, at least.

On Standby

And I'm no longer Juror #147.

I didn't get called on the list of 63 folks to go back down to that jury selection I was in this morning. I also didn't get called for another jury selection and there are about a dozen of us left. But they told us that we're on standby because apparently there may be another court session starting this afternoon.

So all we can do is wait...

Juror #147

Today is one of my rare mid-day posts because I'm at Jury Duty today. Hooray for free Wi-fi!

Truth be told the setup here isn't too bad. If anyone has to do jury duty at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana, CA, it's a nice setup. If you want to have internet connection on a laptop, I'd suggest getting here early to snag one of the workstations (it's a nice, relatively private desk with its own power outlet). You can also use one of the open tables but there aren't outlets nearby and you're out in the open. They even have "Quiet Rooms" for reading and an extensive magazine rack. Sure beats that big room with just a bunch of chairs back in New York.

I was picked for jury selection and they made a hundred of us go down to the courtroom. They did roll call and gave us numbers. I got 147. Then at 10:20am they gave us a 15 minute break. Which turned into an 80 minute break. At which time they made us file back in the courtroom to tell us to take a lunch break until 1:45pm, when they'd tell 63 of us to return for jury selection.

So right now we're all on lunch break and they're playing a movie, Invincible, but I've been too distracted by the guy next to me blathering on his cell phone: She's crazy dude, crazy...She doesn't stop calling, dude...she's like, how does that make you feel? How does that make you feel?...yeah, I was sober... And so on. Yeesh, I wish he would just shut up and share his darn French Fries with me already. sigh. I'm so hungry. I didn't pack enough lunch.

To be honest though, I can't say I'm trying to get out of jury duty. Given that we're not in a police state or dictorship, I'd like to think that if I were on trial that folks with an open mind and a voice of the people like me would be on my jury. The downside is that my employer doesn't pay for days off for jury duty. So I get to use my vacation days. But to be fair, I know I'm not the only one. That's justice, right?

Oooo, they're going to announce the list...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Bring on the New Year

As I head off to work, after 2 days of decluttering/organizing and trips to the used book store (BookOff) to sell the unwanted books, Goodwill to donate clothes and the unwanted books that BookOff didn't want, and Ikea to pick up magazine files, I'm ready to dig my heels in for the new year.

The house is still a mess, especially with piles of magazines to be sorted (and I haven't even touched my creative space!), but I did enough that I'm motivated to continue and it's all looking very possible. At work I'm going to put my shoulder to the wheel and produce, produce, produce.

The fly in the ointment is reporting for jury duty tomorrow.

Anyhoo, here we go. Happy first Monday of the New Year.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy 2009

Happy New Year to everyone!

So the girl wanted to stay up on New Year's Eve and we cracked cans of root beer at midnight. Not the biggest fanfare, and less so, leading up to it we read and watched the "Elf" marathon.

I chatted with a couple of people and I'm pretty much the only one interested in New Year's Resolutions. A convincing reason not to make them was that it'd be a total downer when you didn't reach them. Another reason that crossed my mind was that they sort of feel like corporate goals--congratulations, another 4 years of completing your resolutions and you'll be certificated. The most common reason is that making New Year's Resolutions is totally cheesy, lame, or passe.

But lordy, I am a sucker for redemption and hope: Oh, to absolve the previous year's disappointments to other people and myself. To be the better person I should have been--not just to others but myself as well. The jaded part of me is embarrassed that I've bought into the New Year Resolution machine. As if you can't make resolutions and goals any other time of the year, for cryin' out loud. But here I sit, alighted with optimistic promise of the new year...

Bottom line, though, my resolutions are ridiculously common and banal. Hallmark could make a card of them: Hey you, Happy 2009! Are your resolutions the same as mine? Family, friends, and lose the fat, That's where the new year is at! Be a better person, grow your soul, write that down, that's a new year goal!

So yes, my goals gravitate to family & friends, health, and growth. I really enjoy time with family and friends--this year it is about making time for them. Health--I weighed in at 157, which is surprising low for the amount of sugar and butter I have consumed in the last month (I thought I'd be above 160 again), but I feel grossly out of shape. I did drag myself to the gym today and did 30 minutes of cardio on the elliptical. Hooray for me.

Growth--I started reading books regularly again and I feel better for it. So far I finished the Watchmen and I'm finishing a biography of Billy Bean tonight. I'd like to keep the good habit of reading. In terms of getting organized, I started using a Franklin Covey dayplanner last year and I need to use it better this year. In terms of my creative growth--I made a little scrapbook page today--an ode to one of my favorite candies: Good 'n' Plenty--and I'd like to continue allowing myself little creative outbursts like that no matter how ridiculous the reason.

And in terms of growing my soul a bit, I'm reflecting on how I can be a better person in this world and serve it better. I tell my girl regularly that there are enough lazy, rude, and selfish people in this world and we don't need to add anymore. But simply being productive and beneficent--is that enough? Sometimes I feel I've got a comfort zone of serving (soup kitchens, blood drives, charity walks, donations, tutoring, labor volunteering, protests, marches, talks, etc.) perhaps I need to reach outside this box a bit? I'll have to reflect more on that...

Anyhoo, I think my first task at hand to kick off the new year will be de-cluttering. Yes, yes, I know, the constant item on my To Do list. But I think I have a plan of action. And it involves a lot of purging. Hopefully.