Monday, December 31, 2007

Out With the Old...

Happy New Year's Eve, everyone! This is going to be a short post as I returned from my holiday travels last night and am now frantically trying to clean my condo before guests arrive this evening to count down to 2008 with us.

One of the things I had to make time for last night, though, was rummaging through my closet and finding a way to fill ten garbage bags with clothes and shoes. A few weeks ago I called a local charity that takes all sorts of donations and scheduled a pick-up for today, and had to estimate how many bags I would be donating so that they could pre-print the tax receipt and hand it to me when they arrived. The good news is I had no problem filling the ten bags. The additional good news is that my closet now looks much more orderly, I can deduct the donation on my 2007 taxes, I did a good deed, and I won't be tempted to wear those ill-fitting tops/pants or blister-causing shoes ever again.

There's really not any bad news, except for the fact that what spurred me to give away some of my older pants was an embarrassing incident that occurred on the very first night of my Christmas vacation. My husband and I were visiting his parents in North Dakota, and we were on our way to church. As I stepped out of the car, I had reason to believe that something was not right. My lower half felt like the wind was whipping through my pants. While it was pretty darn cold in North Dakota that night, it wasn't that cold. I reached around behind my (thankfully) long down-filled coat and was horrified to learn that the back of my pants had split down the middle. As in had COMPLETELY split down the middle.

Luckily, the church service was pretty laid-back and many people kept their coats on for the entire hour, even when going up to Communion. So that's what I did--and then high-tailed it to the mall to buy some extra clothes for the duration of our stay.

Of course I felt awful that on the FIRST night of our trip my pants split, because I knew with all the holiday goodies that would be around me for the next 9 days I would only gain more weight and probably bust through everything else I had to wear. I really can't understand why the pants split (I only gained 5 pounds on the Antarctica trip, I swear!), but I think it may have had something to do with the fact that they were corduroys from the Gap that I got over 10 years ago and were pretty much threadbare. They had the last laugh, as my you-know-what was bare walking into church. So believe you me, I did away with any pants that were even remotely worn when it came time to pull together my charity donation.

Here's to hoping that my outfit holds together tonight while celebrating New Year's Eve!
Have a safe and fun night...

- e

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Holidays...

Your blogger friend e is taking yet another break--no trip to a far-off land this time, but rather a week and a half with relatives in a few different states.

So I leave you with these pictures of my dog, curled up with his "blankies" to keep warm... may you have a wonderful holiday season and I will be back on December 31st!

- e

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Trailer Bonanza, Part Deux

(Note: the trailers below may appear like they will not work, but I assure you that if you hit the play button, they will run)

As I mentioned a few days ago, when we saw I Am Legend there were several new trailers beforehand... the first of which was Rambo. It was so ridiculous that I can't bring myself to embed it here. How can the writers of that script look at themselves in the mirror after making Sylvester Stallone say, in his trademark monotone voice, "Live for something, or die for nothing"? That is the cheesiest, most cliché line they could've possibly used. Sheesh.

The second trailer was for Cloverfield, the much-buzzed-about movie from our beloved creator of Lost, J.J. Abrams. For a long time "Cloverfield" was thought to just be a code name for the movie, but it looks like it's the actual title now. I don't know what it means. But it premieres less than a month from today on January 18th! Believe it or not, I'm not sure I will go to see this one unless it gets INCREDIBLE reviews. The reason why is because the cameras are so jumpy (it's supposed to be shot from the characters' views on hand-helds) that I think I may throw up. Judge for yourselves:

So, what do you think? I suspect this may actually be a remake of Godzilla and that they've kept that fact extremely under wraps. We will find out in January...

The next trailer was for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. I will probably go see this because, as has become very evident to long-time readers of this site, I am a sucker for fantasy/sci-fi movies. I was glad to see that Aslan the talking lion is back!

Prince Caspian was followed by a trailer for a movie I'd never heard of until that point--10,000 B.C. I'm not sure what to make of it, but I don't think I'll be going to see it despite the cool effects. Although, no one can deny that woolly mammoths rock the house!

Last but certainly not least was a new, longer trailed for Batman - The Dark Knight. I am totally biased because of all of the Chicago shots in this preview (two different places where I used to work for The Man are prominently featured! Ahh, the memories!), but I honestly think this movie is going to be incredible. I was struggling to think of an actor or actress I still actually liked, and Christian Bale is one of the few that continues to be deserving of my adoration. I will definitely be in line on opening night for this one...

- e

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Oops, She Did It, Too!

Oh, Lordy.

I was not ready to learn that 16-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears is pregnant before I even ate breakfast today! That being said, I still thank the anonymous commenter who informed me of this unbelievable news a little while ago. There had been speculation for the past few months that she was expecting, but I didn't post about it because I figured that no one in Jamie Lynn's situation (which is: having her own show on Nickelodeon and watching her sister's downward spiral for the past several years, not to mention being only 16?!?!?) would ever be that stupid. Silly, silly me.

But it is true. The father is her boyfriend, Casey Aldridge, and Jamie Lynn claims that, "I was in complete and total shock and so was he."

Umm, I hate to break this to you, girlfriend, but while YOU may have been in shock, HE was seeing dollar signs. He's now hooked to The Spears Money Machine for life, and I guarantee you that he is not concerned in the slightest. What did you both think was going to happen, exactly, when you were getting it on? He was probably praying for this to happen.

Word is that Britney found out with the rest of the world because she has been estranged from her family for a while now. So Kevin was actually told by the family, but Britney found out from the media. Her agent's official statement is, "Britney is aware of the news regarding Jamie Lynn's pregnancy. She wishes her sister nothing but the best and asks for privacy during this time."

I just keep getting more and more upset about this. NO ONE in the Spears household really wants privacy?!?! Please! If Jamie Lynn wanted privacy, she wouldn't have agreed to tell her story to OK! magazine (and you can guarantee she was paid well for that--this is the same magazine that paid millions for Jessica Simpson covers and Eva Longoria's wedding pics--they're nothing in comparison to this scoop!). And Britney doesn't want privacy, either, because literally every day she is out and about in some conspicuous way, basically begging the paparazzi to take her picture.

I checked Jamie Lynn's official web site moments ago to see if her news was posted. But the last update on there was, "Congratulations to Jamie Lynn for being nominated for the Favorite Television Actress at the 2007 Kid's Choice Awards!!"

D'oh! The parents of all of her kiddie fans are NOT going to be happy when they have to explain why Zoey 101 goes off the air! I seriously can't wait to see how Nickelodeon chooses to handle this...

As if it weren't bad enough that this young girl from the most screwed up family ever is pregnant, British singer Lily Allen (who has been seen smoking very recently) and Jessica Alba, who is completely dense, are as well. The only good news about this situation is that at least three of my friends are also pregnant right now, and they don't smoke, do drugs, nor are they insane. In fact, they are all very smart and are upstanding citizens contributing good things to this world. I hate to have to be the one to inform all of them that their future babies must be the ones to fight the level of stupidity that will be brought into the world around the same time, in an attempt to not throw the universe off-balance. It's a big job for people who aren't even born yet, but somebody's got to save this planet!

- e

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

STOP THE PRESSES!!! The Hobbit in ON!

There I was, just scanning the headlines on, and just as I was about to click away from the site, I saw it.

"Peter Jackson to produce 'The Hobbit.'"

YESSSSSSSS!!!!!! Nerds, rejoice! Our leader has not let us down!

The weird thing (but fine by me) is that they're actually making TWO movies out of the prequel story -- the first is scheduled for release in 2010 and the second in 2011.

2010 is going to be a big year for me... Lost ends and The Hobbit arrives! Then the second Hobbit in 2011. And then the end of the world in 2012 because there's just nothing cool left by that time. So fitting.

- e

... But They Have Good Ads!

Despite the fact that I did work at McDonald's one year during high school (which some of my guy friends would never let me live down--they would come through the drive-thru and harass me by ordering items McD's doesn't have, like Whoppers), I have never really been a fan of any fast-food restaurant. These days, during our occasional five-hour drive home to Michigan, we will usually stop at Arby's (where I eat the roast beef sandwich without the bun--which isn't that bad for you--plus, Arby's sauce is the best!)... and I did have French Toast Sticks at Burger King once within the past year--but that's about it.

It's long been known that these types of "restaurants" serve extremely unhealthy food, but within certain circles, Burger King is deemed the worst of the worst. That may be true, but guess what? Their new commercials are hilarious! Whoever controls their menu items and refuses to use healthier ingredients may be an evil bastard, but their advertising agency rocks the house!

I could not find the new ads online, but they are basically the funniest clips pulled from the 7.5-minute video below, entitled "Whopper Freak-out." If you haven't heard about the "Whopper Freak-out" yet, what they did was tell everyone who ordered a Whopper at a certain Burger King one day that it had been discontinued. They had hidden cameras behind the counters, and some of the reactions they caught were priceless. The best was the guy who suggested, in what seemed to be complete seriousness, that they "might as well change their name to Burger Queen."

As a marketing person, what I found most interesting about the video was that it wasn't even like the majority of people were mad that they couldn't have the Whopper to eat... it was more that the thought of the Whopper going away made them sad because of all of the good memories they had about that particular item. The whole thing reminded me of the time I was interviewed about Triscuits several years ago (shout-out to CM!) as part of a customer research effort. I found myself talking only about "making Triscuits" (which in my family means melting cheese and then putting Lawry's seasoning salt over Triscuits) and nothing about how the cracker even tasted. It was the emotional connection those little wheat crackers stirred up that made me keep buying them.

One thing is for sure, we Americans are crazy about our food, so trust that the Whopper isn't going anywhere any time soon. Just remember the next time you have a Double Whopper with Cheese that you also just had HALF of (what should be) your daily calorie intake. Blame it on the ads!

- e

Monday, December 17, 2007

Lunch Lady Land

As I mentioned a few months ago, I started watched Survivor about half-way through its season after getting into it during my parents' visit at the end of October. Last night was its two-hour finale followed by a one-hour live reunion show.

About half-way through the show, I was hit with a memory of one of the most brilliant songs of all time: "Lunch Lady" by Adam Sandler. Why did I think of this song? Because of Woe-Is-Me Denise, one of the final four contestants on Survivor who is (was) a lunch lady in real life. If you want a great blast from the past (1996!), check out the video below. Don't be afraid to sing along, either. My dog was treated to "Sloppy Joe, Slop-Sloppy Joe!" mere moments ago and I'm sure he really enjoyed it.

OK, back to Survivor. If you don't want to be spoiled, stop reading now!

So I have to say that I was really annoyed by how everything went down in the finale. Amanda, who I honestly thought would win (up until her dismal performance at the final Tribal Council), was a complete IDIOT for voting off Denise rather than Todd. Todd is perhaps the smoothest talker in the show's history, and as soon as he was safe in the final three, his fate was sealed to win the million. Because he said all of the right things to the jury (including the hilarious faux-compliment to Jean Robert which achieved its purpose), whereas Amanda looked utterly defeated and was too apologetic and wishy-washy. People don't want to vote for someone who already acts like they've lost!

Which is exactly why Amanda should have kept Denise by her side. Whereas DENISE was confident that she would've won the million had she made it to the final three, I honestly don't think she would have--she would NOT have done well during the final tribal council against the quick-witted members of the jury, who never bonded with her in the first place. The game is about strategy... and simply assuming that people will vote for you because you have kids and only make $7 an hour is the WRONG approach. That's like going in to ask for a raise and telling your boss that you are maxed out on your credit cards so you really need the money, rather than telling him about all you've accomplished and why you're worth the extra bump in salary. I think if Amanda was sitting next to Denise during the final vote, she would've had more confidence in herself, made a better argument to plead her case, and would have won. Denise would have turned everyone off with her sob story, and Courtney was, as she admitted, just a tag-a-long. Courtney was also completely unrecognizable at the live finale--SO glad to see that girlfriend gained some weight! I could barely stand to look at her at only 86 pounds... that's just not right.

So when it was all over, I was really disappointed in the women of the final four. I wish that Peih Gee would have been in the final three, because Todd versus Peih Gee would've been awesome.

As for Todd, well, he deserved to win. Even though he looked like an evil elf, his foresight and strategery were incredible.

It was no surprise that James won the $100k "fan's favorite competitor" prize during the reunion hour, and I also knew that after Denise essentially blamed the show on live TV for causing her to lose her lunch lady job (she's now a janitor), that Mark Burnett would cough up some sympathy money ($50k) on the spot for her just to avoid protests by all of the Denise Sympathizers out there.

I dare say I will be tuning in for Season 16 in February. This time it's going to be "Super Fans vs. Favorites," which I think will be quite interesting. Since I haven't watched it in so long I probably won't know any of the "favorites" from the more recent seasons, but in the last few months I have been reminded of just what a good show Survivor can be when it has the right mix of people.

But since Lost is now going to be on Thursdays starting at the end of January, rest assured that that will still be my priority!

- e

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I Am Scared by I Am Legend

As planned, I went to go see I Am Legend Saturday afternoon with my friend MB and my husband. I thought no one was going to be at the random 2:30 PM showing, but I was wrong--it was a wet snowstorm in Chicago and apparently everyone thought it was a good idea to bail from Michigan Avenue and into the nearby AMC. Except for the first row, the entire theater was full, and the lobby had been swamped going in, so I expect that other movies were packed, too.

There was a round of great trailers before the show just like there had been before The Golden Compass, but I'll post about those next week.

You all should know by now that I'm not going to include any spoilers in this write-up, but I feel the need to say that over and over again for new readers of the site! So trust that it's not giving away anything to explain that the premise of I Am Legend is that "something terrible" has basically wiped out mankind and Will Smith (er, "Robert Neville") and his dog are now alone in New York City. Or are they?

I knew a lot about this movie going in, so I knew it was going to be scary (and remember, I have a very low threshold for scariness... most people who like true horror movies would NOT think I Am Legend is the slightest bit scary). However, MB and my husband hadn't known as much as I did, and both of them were surprised by just how tense it was. For you squeamish people out there, rest assured that nothing gross is actually shown--it's more left to the imagination, so you don't have to worry about seeing a bunch of blood and guts. The most frightening part of this movie, in my opinion, is the whole "what if?"-ness of it. Could the thing that wipes out mankind in this movie actually happen? (I personally fear that a similar scenario is very possible) How would the world react to stop it? And if the powers that be in the world failed to stop it, and if you were Will Smith left alone, what would you do? Would you give up or would you hold out hope? Would you find a way to stay sane if you had only a dog to talk to day in and day out--for years?

What can I say, I am a HUGE sucker for Doomsday/End of the World/Armageddon/World Catastrophe movies. I love the questions they raise and I like to think about what I or others I know would do if, God forbid, we were faced with the same dilemmas. But since I tend to get freaked out pretty easily, I limit my exposure to films like this to about one or two a year. For example, the movie Right at Your Door got excellent reviews and I was very intrigued to see how it turned out for the married couple the movie focuses on, but I couldn't bring myself to see it because I knew I would be too disturbed. I watch 24, for God's sake, that's enough to stoke my morbid imagination most of the time! (Just please don't remind me that should disaster really strike, Jack Bauer won't actually come to the rescue)

But back to I Am Legend... all three of us liked it, and I think that the less you know about the movie going in, the more you will enjoy it. Why don't I learn from my husband who never reads up on the movies beforehand and then is always pleasantly surprised? That said, we all agreed that the end was a little cheesy. It is not ruining anything to say that the end includes a voice-over, and that's the part I would've cut out. There are a few other things I wish they had done differently, but overall I am glad I saw it on the big screen, and I'm quite sure that anyone sitting behind me thought I was a total freak. I'm one of those people who, when I get scared, flings out all of my limbs and jumps about two feet in the air and then instantly curls back up into a tiny ball and covers my face with my eyes, leans down in my seat and peers out at the screen every few moments until I know it's "safe" again. Let's just say I did that dozens of times during the movie and felt pretty silly when it was all said and done.

If you see or already have seen this movie, I'd be curious to know what you thought, as the "official" reviews have been very mixed. A few people actually clapped at the end in my theater--and while I didn't think it was that good, I admit I probably liked it more than most people would have. Because Will Smith and I have a special connection--I saw him in concert way back in the day when he was The Fresh Prince!

Come on, you cannot be surprised by that...

- e

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Ushuaia, Argentina: At World's End

After spending three days in Santiago, Chile, we flew with the rest of our group to Ushuaia, Argentina on the morning of November 20th. We also spent the last day of our trip in Ushuaia (on December 1st), so I'm going to combine those two days into one post.

Ushuaia's claim to fame is that it is the southernmost city in the world (weakly disputed by a few other cities in South America). So everywhere you go there are "Fin del Mundo" or "Fin du Monde" ("the end of the world") souvenirs. There is even "a train to the end of the world" that prisoners built back in the day.

Prisoners, you ask? Yes, prisoners. For the first half of the 20th century, Ushuaia was not much more than the site of a prison for serious criminals. The Argentinian government was following the example of the British government and its use of Australia (" . . . and Australia is entirely peopled with criminals, and criminals are used to having people not trust them, as you are not trusted by me, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you!"). Eventually The Powers That Be in Ushuaia realized that they had a pretty good location for a port, and that they also had some decent skiing areas, so they instituted some drastic tax incentives to get people to move to the area, and the city has now grown to about 64,000 inhabitants. It is the capital of the Tierra del Fuego providence.

We visited Tierra del Fuego National Park and went for a catamaran ride around Lapataia Bay while waiting for our ship to dock in Ushuaia. It was a little bit rainy out, but scenic nonetheless, and we got our first glimpse of seals. At first I thought all of those birds in the picture below were penguins (as did everybody else), but they were blue-eyed shags. If you click on any of the pictures you can see a larger version.

I have to admit that I wasn't a huge fan of Ushuaia, simply because there wasn't much there and it seemed like not much more than a backpacker town. On our last day we did eat at a nice restaurant up on a mountain that looked down at the city and the port, but it's just not that picturesque overall--everything is still very much in development there.

Here is our ship, the National Geographic Endeavour, alongside a cruise ship (we're on the far left). Our ship only held a total of 200 people, whereas cruise lines hold thousands. However, these big cruise ships just go around the nearby waters and coastline of South America, they do not go down to Antarctica (for reasons I will explain in a later post, but that may be obvious after looking at this picture!).

The best thing about Ushuaia for me was all the pirate lore. At the Maritime and Prison Museum, there was lots to read about the famous pirates who once frequented the area--most notably Sir Francis Drake (everybody but the English considered him a pirate--trust!), after whom the Drake Passage was named (more on that not-so-calm waterway in future posts).

Finally, it was time for the real reason we came on the trip, to get to Antarctica. We boarded our ship the night of the 20th and were on our way... Penguins, here we come!

- e

Friday, December 14, 2007

w00t! w00t! The Top Ten Words of the Year

You know you're old when you've never used the Word of the Year (until December 14th, that is).

Yes, "w00t" has taken Merriam-Webster's top honor for 2007. In case you're not up on this stuff, last year's word was "truthiness," thanks to Stephen Colbert.

What exactly does "w00t" mean, you may ask? While most people think it is an expression of joy (and it is), it actually is derived from a shorthand language that a lot of online gamers and computer nerds have been using for a while, known as "l33t" (pronounced "leet," meaning elite). It's a combination of letters and numbers that are substituted for proper words. "w00t" is technically shorthand for We Owned the Other Team, and the two O's are actually zeros.

"Owned" has been a gamer term for a really long time, but the funny thing is that it's usually spelled "pwn3d" (or just "pwn" for the present tense). It is widely believed that "pwn" became a unique term to the online world because of how easy it is to accidentally type "p" instead of "o" on the keyboard. Others, however, claim that the term dates back to the game WarCraft, when a coder misspelled "Own" as "Pwn" within the game. Who knows, it's all nerdy! And in case it's not obvious, "pwn3d" usually means "dominated" (but can mean "compromised" when talking about hacking). So shouldn't "w00t" really be "wp0t?" I can't think about this any more, nor can I look at words in the l33t language any longer--they hurt my eyes!

The full "top ten words of the year" list is here. My personal favorite is "blamestorm." It reminds me of how happy I am that I no longer work for The Man!

- e

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Pet Peeve of the Week: Junk Mail That Isn't

A few months ago I sounded off about the increasing level of spam messages I was receiving, and how the "spam filters" were failing to keep some of these emails from my Inbox.

Around the same time, I switched my main email address from Yahoo! to Gmail because so many of my legitimate messages to friends (who all had my address in their address books) were being sent to their spam/bulk/junk folders. I figured it was because my domain name was, and I was worried that if I sent messages to new contacts they would therefore probably not ever get through. Things immediately got better with Gmail and my messages made their way to everyone--old and new friends alike.

But recently, things started to go awry again.

Last week I posted a frantic cry for help on the Feedburner message boards because it appeared that the email delivery function for my blog posts was no longer working. I got no reply.

Two days ago it was brought to my attention by three different people that my emails had gone into their spam/bulk/junk folders, despite the fact that my new email address was in their address book. Around the same time, a friend of mine who has a Hotmail address mentioned that her messages to certain friends seem to have disappeared.

And just fifteen minutes ago, I checked my "base" junk mail folder. Meaning, not the one that's easily accessed from my email program (Entourage on the Mac, which is the equivalent of Outlook or Lotus Notes for PC users), but the one I can only get to if I actually log in to through a web browser. There were 421 messages in THAT spam folder (versus only 15 that still made it through to Entourage's spam folder... so the folder is the initial filter, if you will), and I was shocked to see that about 15 of the messages were totally legit. Some of my blog post emails that I thought had never been sent out were in there (take heed to those of you who have signed up for the service... you might want to check and see if you missed any posts...), as were messages from three of my friends who are in my address book. I have no idea why these messages were treated as spam.

So I thought I would make a Public Service Announcement of sorts and advise everyone to check their "base" junk mail folder if you typically use an email software program (and you should definitely check your easily-accessible junk mail folder often, too). Gmail only keeps spam messages for 30 days, so I'm glad I caught some of the "real" messages before they were deleted. It is totally annoying because checking the spam folder pretty much defeats the entire purpose of having a spam folder, as I was forced to scan all of the message subjects dealing with every prescription medicine known to man, various "enlargement" offers, and pleas for bank account numbers that were "not a joke." However, it was worth it, as otherwise I would have missed my friends' emails and then would have been all bitter about why no one was writing me back.

I don't think The Powers That Be at these various email service companies are ever going to perfect the logic for the coding of the spam filters. By and large, the creation of the spam folder has been a great thing, but it does screw up occasionally. If anyone has NEVER had ANY problems with any of the issues I have mentioned above, please do us all a favor and leave a comment telling us what service you're using!

- e

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Trailer Bonanza

As mentioned in yesterday's post, there were a zillion trailers before The Golden Compass, and the vast majority of them were decent enough to keep me entertained. Nothing was as exciting as the Lost Season Four clip, of course, but still.

First up was 21, which is based on the book Bringing Down the House, which is in turn based on a true story. I will definitely go see this movie because it has that guy I'm in love with from Across the Universe as the lead. Plus I like Vegas. And Kevin Spacey. And Laurence Fishburne. And that kid who was Shia LaBeouf's friend in Disturbia. And all of that will make up for the fact that Kate Bosworth is unfortunately also in it.

Next there was a behind-the-scenes-ish spot on Leatherheads, starring George Clooney, Renée Zellweger and John Krasinski (Jim from The Office). It would take a lot for me to go see a movie with Renée in it that isn't something related to Bridget Jones, but truth be told, I was hoping this movie would be really good because John/Jim seems like a cool guy in real life and I hope he becomes a major movie star one day. But alas, it's probably not going to happen because of this movie. The dialogue was annoying and since it's about football, that's a double-negative-whammy for me. I will not be spending $10.50 on it in the future.

I will be dishing out that much for Speed Racer, though. Some of you (are you listening, Wanders?) will be very happy to see that this movie based on the cartoon series looks pretty awesome, in my opinion. However, there are a lot of major haters out there on the message boards who think that Wachowski brothers (the same guys behind The Matrix trilogy) screwed this movie up big-time. Take a look and judge for yourself, but know that the trailer below does NOT do justice for how it looks on the big screen. Regardless of your first impressions, you must admit it's a unique style of movie for which I can't quickly think of a comparison. Plus, the Mad Doctor is the villain (he's at the very, very end.)

The final five (yes, there were five MORE) trailers were for The Spiderwick Chronicles; Horton Hears a Who; Definitely, Maybe; Sex and The City (the same one I posted last week); and Inkheart. I will be seeing SATC no matter what, but I'm not sure about the others. The Spiderwick Chronicles is based on a children's book series which I have read (just last year... are you seeing a pattern with me reading kids' books?), and while I liked the books, they are truly for the youngsters, and therefore the movie version also looked a little too childish, even for me! Horton Hears a Who seemed interesting and there are some big voices behind it (Jim Carrey, Steve Carell), but I think I'll wait until reviews come out, because it didn't blow me away. Definitely, Maybe is something I will definitely, maybe go see. The plot is pretty unique--see for yourself (but for all you guys out there, you have been forewarned that it's pretty mushy, especially near the end):

As for Inkheart... well... the dude who thought up that awful movie title needs to be fired. It's about these peeps who can bring stories to life, but then this one bad guy won't go back into the book. Cool concept, but I would be too embarrassed to say I saw a movie named "Inkheart." Plus, I am not a fan of Brendan Fraser--The Mummy was one of the worst movies I've ever seen (even though The Revenge of The Mummy RIDE at Universal Studios in Orlando is one of the best rides of ALL TIME, so it wasn't a total loss).

This coming weekend I am going to try to see I Am Legend, which I have very high hopes for. I'm going for the cool dog, but I don't mind Will Smith, either.

Supposedly there's almost no talking in it. Not even rapping! You would assume he'd get so bored being the only man left on the planet that he would at least bust out 'Gettin' Jiggy Wit It' or something? Maybe that would actually be depressing, now that I think about it.

- e

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Only Thing to Fear about The Golden Compass is...

(There are no spoilers in this write-up)

While I was in New Zealand, a group of fellow travelers recommended the His Dark Materials series to me after learning about my love for The Lord of the Rings. I read all three books in the HDM trilogy earlier this year--The Golden Compass being the first.

While I thought the HDM books were decent, they are in no way comparable to LOTR, so I was almost offended at the comparison after having finished the trilogy. That being said, incredible concepts are explored in The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, and they're worth reading for that reason alone. These books make you think much more than the LOTR trilogy does. And while the His Dark Materials set is found in the Children's section of the book store and most of the main characters are kids, I strongly feel that these are books for adults.

It's not spoiling anything to say that there has been a great controversy brewing over the release of the movie because the books are deemed by several religious groups to be against religion or anti-God. I think all of that drama is hilarious, because anyone who's read the books and then actually thought about their message for more than 2 seconds will know that the books are definitely NOT anti-religion. They are "anti- organized- religions- that- abuse- their- power," which would seem to be a sentiment that the vast majority of people would/should agree with. The author is warning people about the consequences of any one organization having too much authority, and is at the same time advocating free will. The organization in the book just so happens to be "the Church," but it could just as easily have been "the Government," in my opinion. When I first read it, I did not know about this aspect of the story and admit that I was a bit shocked that "the bad guys" all seemed to be angels and figures from the church and whatnot (more so because I knew it's widely thought of as a children's book and I thought the concepts were really sophisticated), but once I took some time to think through what was going on rather than having a knee-jerk reaction and running with it, I was more comfortable with everything.

What annoys me about the people protesting this movie is that 1) they probably haven't read the books or seen the movies themselves, they're just jumping on the bandwagon, and 2) even if they have read the book/seen the movie, they are simply not giving readers, and kids in particular, enough credit. I give huge props to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for endorsing the movie and applauding it for what it is: "an exciting adventure story with a traditional struggle between good and evil" (and no, I'm not Catholic). My belief is that reading The Golden Compass isn't going to turn kids away from religion any more than Harry Potter or Star Wars did (those franchises sparked the same concerns, remember!). The ironic thing is that the groups protesting this movie are proving the very point it makes--that it is dangerous and insulting when a religious group assumes it "knows better" than everyone else and doesn't think its members or the general public can make up their own minds.

After watching this movie, I'm pretty sure that the only two things any kids who see it are going to be thinking about afterward are 1) what their daemon would be (in an imaginary world, mind you) and 2) how cool the polar bear fight was. They're not going to be like, "Sign me up, Satan!!!!"

And if there is anything a child would be scared of in this movie, it is Nicole Kidman's forehead. "Mommy, why doesn't it move?" Good luck answering that one, all you parents! Seriously though, the twelve-year-old in the movie had more facial expressions--I couldn't believe it.

Back to the controversy--as has been widely reported, the movie stripped out many references to "the Church"--but I thought the allusions they left in were still pretty obvious (to the adult audience). And I think that's OK--it would've been really lame if they tried to drastically change the entire plot. The other huge difference between the book and the movie is the ending. No, I won't spoil it, but for a very obvious reason the movie cut the storyline off a bit earlier than the book did so as to end on a happy note. Anyone who has read the book will know what scene they most likely are leaving for the second movie.

If there IS a second movie, that is. It hasn't done so well at the box office!

Watching the film, I found myself thinking, "If I didn't read this book I would be really confused right now!" However, my husband never read the book and said that he could follow the plot just fine. What can I say? I'm slow. I was surprised that he said he liked it overall. "It was better than that Narnia movie," was his exact quote.

I was disappointed with the movie simply because I thought the story line seemed choppy and some of the special effects looked fake (Lyra riding Iorek and some of the animals talking). But other effects looked very good (the daemons changing shape). And everyone knows I just don't like Nicole Kidman. Daniel Craig was fine, but he was hardly in it. The saving grace of this movie is the main character, Lyra, played by Dakota Blue Richards. She was cast perfectly and did an excellent job.

If you liked the book, then you should see the movie. If you didn't read the book, you should see the movie if you liked "that Narnia movie." But if you are scared of extremely Botoxed foreheads, steer clear!

- e

P.S. There were some excellent trailers in front of the movie which I will discuss tomorrow.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Dear Powers That Be at Hershey's,

PLEASE do not discontinue the "limited edition" cherry cordial Hershey's Kiss! It is THE BEST!!!! Listen to one of your best customers, dammit!

Your Big Fan, e

To the rest of you... have you tried this new Hershey's Kiss? I wouldn't have known about it except for the fact that the place where I get my hair cut had a huge bowl of them in the waiting room (which I stole half of) when I visited a few days ago. These things are awesome, you must find them and try one before they're off the market! But Hershey's would be stupid to pull them after the holidays, since they are sooooo good. Obviously, however, The Man is not always logical (or else my beloved pumpkin cream cheese at Einstein's would be available year-round--don't get me started).

While looking for a picture of this chocolate masterpiece, I ran across the site of this girl who collects all of the different kinds of Hershey's Kisses there have ever been. Who knew there were so many?!?! And how can she actually have the willpower to not eat her collection? She better hope I'm never in her 'hood...

As a totally random side note (but kind of related)--have any of you ever been to HERSHEYPARK in Pennsylvania (they write it that annoying way as all one word, don't blame me)? I went there and was almost driven mad by the smell of chocolate wafting around the grounds. I went there waaaaay back in the day, but after clicking around their site it looks like they've now got some decent rides. Perhaps going there at such a young age did something to my brain and that's why I am addicted to all things chocolate.

Do tell if you have recently been there!

- e

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Not Chilly in Chile

Our trip to Antarctica began with an overnight flight from Chicago to Santiago, Chile (through Miami). God bless the creators of Ambien, because I just slept the entire way down there. We arrived at the Grand Hyatt in Santiago early on Saturday morning, November 17th, and had already made up our minds that we were going to spend the entire weekend at the hotel. On Monday we were going to meet up with the rest of the group who would be on our ship to Antarctica, and we knew a city tour had been planned for that day, so we figured it would be best just to rest up and take in all the warmth that we could before heading down to "the white continent." It was 80 degrees the entire time we were in Chile--a full 50 degrees warmer than it was in Antarctica.

Unfortunately, I took in a little too much warmth . . . even though I had on a long skirt and tank top and was sitting under a huge umbrella, on the first day in Chile I got extremely sunburned on my shoulders and neck. Lesson learned: You can get sunburned through a gigantic umbrella made of heavy cloth! The next day I remained under an umbrella but still put on SPF 30 in addition to covering every part of my body with towels. I am sure many people mistook me for Michael Jackson.

In addition to being shocked at getting sunburned, I was shocked at how poor the exchange rate was, and therefore how expensive meals at the hotel restaurants were. After signing off on the bill for lunch on Saturday, I did a quick calculation in my head and then froze. "I think we just spent $90!" I whispered to my husband. We indeed had. That chicken satay was good, but it wasn't that good!

Needless to say, except for one sushi dinner, we ordered room service (slightly cheaper) for the rest of the stay. If you ever go to Santiago, I do still recommend the Grand Hyatt. It definitely seemed like one of the nicest hotels in the area, and they did a great job with the landscaping so that you never felt like you were in the middle of this big, loud, polluted city (if you look at the picture at the top of this post, you can see the smog haze - the city is in a basin surrounded by the Andes, which doesn't help matters). The pool area was absolutely beautiful, so I was glad that our room looked down on that.

Santiago seemed like a very industrial city, and after taking the tour on Monday, we were glad we decided to stick to the hotel premises all weekend. We did go to the very interesting Pre-Columbian Museum and drive around some of the main city squares. At the city's center we were puzzled by the huge Christmas tree they had on display, covered with a ton of Coca-Cola bulbs?!?!

Strike fever is everywhere!

Like in Hollywood, there was a big strike going on in Santiago, too. The union representing the entire county's public sector workers was striking because they wanted pay increases, and our tour guide told us it was a pretty big deal. Fight the power, Chilean peeps!

After meeting up with the rest of the group that would be on the National Geographic Endeavour with us for eleven days, we bid adieu to Chile and flew to Ushuaia, Argentina, "the southernmost city in the world," in the wee hours of November 20th. And that will be the topic of my next post about this trip!

- e

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Pour Those Cosmos...

The first Sex and the City movie trailer has arrived!

- e

What To Do?

Yesterday, I noticed a message that The Powers That Be at Blogger had posted after the log-in screen. It was about a blog that has been made into a book--all about To-Do Lists. There is even a "trailer" for the book (this is the newest form of book promotion, if you didn't know...).

I immediately checked out the site as I, too, am a To-Do List fanatic. What is it that's so appealing about writing down a long list of things that you know you're going to (or have to) do no matter what anyway? Is it an attempt to be more organized? (Not if you're like me and jot down lists over and over and over again on all different sorts of sticky notes, paper scraps, notebooks or the back of your hand!) Is it to feel good about crossing things off the list--does that simple action heighten the sense of accomplishment in some way? Is it to seem busier or more important than we actually are? Is it because we're Type A? Is it a form of brainstorming? Is it an obsession?

Who knows. But I found the site (and therefore the book) fascinating. The author basically asked people to send in their to-do lists, and she's been collecting them for years. You should see some of the things she's got (keep scrolling down on the home page)! My personal favorite is the list of "Possible Screen Names." I would totally get along with that nerd.

OK, I can check "Write According-to-e post" off of my list now!

- e

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Holiday Specials That Won't Induce Therapy

'Tis the season for holiday specials!

You've got all of the usual suspects--Rudolph and the Abominable Snowman and the Misfit Island peeps, Frosty and that dude who keeps chasing him for his hat, the Grinch and the Whos and the awesomest of all cartoon dogs, Max, and Charlie Brown and his poor little Christmas tree. These shows have been around for decades because they remain the best of the best. However, sometimes efforts to celebrate the season can go awry--the best example being The Star Wars Holiday Special. To this day, it elicits outrage amongst Star Wars fans and has become somewhat of an urban legend as it only aired once in the United States in 1978, and recordings of it are extremely hard to find. To those of you who have seen it and are now disturbed all over again by my mentioning it, I sincerely apologize. Word is that George Lucas himself despises it and is trying to get all remaining copies destroyed.

Two new specials are coming up in the near future that I thought some of you may be interested in... The first is clearly not going to be shown after this year, but may be fun for those of you who watched the series or are sick of reruns. It's Top Chef: The Holiday Special. They've got chefs from the first three seasons mixing up festive meals, and Padma is hosting it. It airs tomorrow at 9 PM EST.

The second may become another classic, as I've read many positive reviews for it already. So I have high hopes and am pretty excited for Shrek the Halls--it's got all of the main characters back and they're still voiced by the likes of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas (Puss in Boots rocks!!!). That one is next Tuesday the 11th at 8 PM EST.

Set your Tivos!

- e

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Way Less Than Six Degrees of Separation from... The Apprentice

Shortly before I left for my trip, a wonderful, sunny day graced the city of Chicago. I went for a walk by the lake with my dog, and as we were trotting along, a guy jogging in the opposite direction caught my eye. He was tall, tan, had blindingly white teeth and an extremely familiar face. Wait a second, I thought. I know this guy.

Where did I know him from? I struggled to remember and could almost hear my mind cranking through my memory bank.

A few seconds after he passed us, it hit me. It was Bill Rancic - winner of the first season of The Apprentice. What was even stranger was that my husband had met him just a few nights prior as they were in the same box at a Bruce Springsteen concert.

But I, too, had met Bill before. Back in 2004, I stood in line for over 8 hours during the open casting call for the third season of The Apprentice. To keep our minds off of the cold weather and blisters developing on our feet, Bill (who is from Chicago) stopped by to visit with all of the hopefuls - here's a pic of him (far left), me (second to right) and a few of my fellow reality show wannabes. . .

Alas, it was not meant to be for me, which is probably a good thing. But being on the show certainly turned out to be a launching pad for Bill, who has since gone on to write two New York Times bestsellers, host a TV show, make the rounds on several other television programs, and get married to E! News co-host Giuliana DePandi in Capri almost exactly three months ago. He truly seemed like a nice guy (my husband thought so, too), so I hope things continue to go his way.

The show that made him something of a celebrity has gone downhill, however. Have you heard about Celebrity Apprentice? You know when they count Omarosa (the "villain" of Season One) as a celebrity, it can't be a good sign. Here is the official list of participants, if you're interested. Unfortunately, I'm sure I'll still check it out. Because Lord knows there's nothing else on TV and it's premiering on January 3, so there's still a month before Lost is back on the air. I'll be sure to report my initial thoughts to spare you the pain if you cannot lower your standards enough to tune in!

- e

Monday, December 03, 2007

Back from "The Ice," Headed for The Hills

Hello my dear friends!

Long time, no write. I am finally back from Antarctica (which I hadn't mentioned before my trip as I wanted it to be a "surprise" of sorts, but then when a ship sunk in the area, I posted a short message to ensure that people who knew where I was knew that I was OK)!

Now that I've returned, all I have to say is: what is UP with the coldness in Chicago? When I left it was 55 degrees and when I got back there was an ice storm and it's 19 degrees! Despite the fact that, as another passenger put it, I looked like Hannibal Lecter during my trip because of all of my excessive fleece coverings, it actually was much warmer in Antarctica than it is in Chicago. I want to go back!

Rest assured that there will be several posts in the near future containing wonderful pictures from and details about my trip, but for now I need to decompress and let the experience sink in before I attempt to write about it. And what better way to decompress than to fire up the ol' Tivo and see what I had missed over the past few weeks? Turns out that I missed a whole lot of nothing. It was quite obvious that the writers' strike is still in full effect as only reality shows had been taped. Since I was pretty tired last night (Antarctica is only 3 hours ahead of Chicago, but I had traveled for over 24 hours straight to get back, and it doesn't take much to screw up my sleeping patterns in the first place), I knew that I would only be able to absorb only the lightest of fluff--so of course I chose to watch The Hills.

The week I left, the much-hyped confrontation between Heidi and Lauren had aired. While Lauren delivered one memorable line, "I want to forgive you, and I want to forget you," it was overall a let-down for me. I wanted to see some physical violence! And don't even try telling me that the whole thing wasn't scripted, because Lauren could not have come up with some of the lines she had on her own.

If you have never watched the show or missed that episode, here is a 3.5-minute clip of the climactic meeting. They are fighting over the fact that Lauren believes Heidi's fiancé, Spencer (he of the mouth that's too small for his teeth and face), started rumors about the existence of a sex tape starring Lauren and her ex-boyfriend. Lauren has always denied that such a tape exists.

In the two episodes since the showdown, the series has returned to its formula of filming the lives of people who do absolutely nothing. The only thing of note was the introduction of Spencer's sister, dubbed "She-Pratt" by Lauren and her roommate Audrina. Oh, and Audrina and her completely idiotic boyfriend, Justin Bobby, broke up (for now).

Unbelievably (since nothing ever happened), the season is already over, with its finale airing next Monday. MTV is making a HUGE to-do out of it. There is supposed to be a big announcement at the end of the after-finale show, and if you don't care about being spoiled--click here for a good guess as to what it is.

Now that The Hills will be over as of December 10, there's yet another 25-or-so minute time slot open in my week. Good thing I didn't get through all 300 magazines during my trip...

- e

Friday, November 23, 2007

Vacation, Interrupted

While I was trying really, really hard to take a break from technology for a few weeks, I figured that the extraordinary events of this day warranted a short message to let you all know that, believe it or not, your blogger friend e is currently down in Antarctica. Perhaps even more unbelievably, I am on the National Geographic Endeavour--one of the two ships involved in the rescue operation early this morning for the Explorer, which sadly had to be evacuated after it began to sink as a result of damage incurred in its engine room (we don't know exactly what went wrong, but figure they hit an iceberg). The internet connection on board is slower than the dial-up line I had in 1996, so this will be the only message I'll post until I am back on December 3rd. However, since the story has made headlines (though from what I've seen, many of the details are incorrect), I figured I should let my dear readers know that I am down here, I am safe, and I will have some incredible pictures to post in December! The pictures of the sinking ship that are on the BBC (I have only heard about them, haven't seen them yet because of this slow connection) were taken by one of the crew members on board with us, Mike Nolan. Some from-the-air pictures, however, were taken from a helicopter from a nearby military base (I think it's Brazilian or Chilean, not sure).

Anyway, we are now almost back to where our ship was when we received the distress signal at 1:45 AM and will be disembarking soon at Half-Moon Island, and then later on this evening at Deception Island (it's never dark here, so that's a bonus), for you nerds out there with maps of the Antarctic.

Let's hope the rest of my trip is a bit calmer!

Until December 3rd,
- e

Friday, November 16, 2007

e's on strike, too!

Everyone else is doing it, right?

OK, so I'm not a member of any union and am not even working for The Man, so I guess I really can't go on strike. But I CAN take a break (and the best part is that I don't have to use any vacation days!), and I'm going to.

I will be back updating this site daily on December 3rd, and I promise some very cool posts at that point. Until then, for those of you in the U.S., happy Thanksgiving! Since this is the season for appreciation--thank you for reading and commenting over the years on both this site and Long Live Locke, it means so much to me!

Enjoy the last two weeks of November!

- e

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Are You Smarter than a U.S. President?

Earlier this month, my husband and I spent a weekend in Washington D.C.--shout out to my brother and JB for hauling us all around!

While there, we visited the National Archives. That's the huge institution where all sorts of documents are housed--most notably the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. I was prepared for Nicolas Cage to cold bust in there at any moment and steal everything! I don't think the very tired-looking security guards could've stopped him, either! Those two historic documents, along with a handful of others, are behind glass cases in a very cold, very dark area of the building in order to attempt to keep them preserved. Unfortunately, they are already extremely faded, but there are of course replicas of the originals that are more readable. But I was able to make out the fact that "Congress" was spelled Congrefs on the Constitution. Maybe everyone else knew this, but I didn't. I noticed this on several other documents throughout the building, and asked my brother if they used to put an f in place of a double-s or something. He said that back in the day that was indeed common. Here's why, if you're interested. I kind of dig it--bring back the "fs!"

While there, we also wandered through a traveling exhibit that was very interesting: "From School House to White House: The Education of the Presidents." Nearly all of the modern-day presidents were represented--they had pictures, report cards, elementary school essays, yearbooks, uniforms, even videos! Let's just say that not all of them did that well in school. What was most fascinating to me, though, was that a few current presidents had met future presidents, unbeknownst to everyone at that time. One example is a video of John F. Kennedy meeting Bill Clinton when he was in school. How crazy is that? And how crazy is it that they got it on tape?

One thing I was surprised to see was a picture of the former President Bush with his fellow Skull & Bones peeps at Yale. If it's such a secret society, why is there a picture of it in one of the country's major institutions, exposed to the masses? The Illuminati are gonna be pissed! (GHW Bush is to the left of the clock)

Let's end my talk of this display on a lighter note, shall we? Below is Bill Clinton, farthest to the left, in kindergarten. In every picture they had of him growing up, he was smiling or laughing (this is in great contrast to many of the other future presidents). Classic. I'm just surprised he's not closer to all the girls...

If you're not able to get out to D.C. before the exhibit ends in January, check out this detailed article that includes pictures of many of the display items.

Finally, we roamed around the rest of the building--they really had some unbelievable stuff. For example, there was a letter from Fidel Castro (age 12) to President Roosevelt, asking for a ten dollar bill. You can see it here. His English was not very good, but you can't blame a kid for trying. What is not explained, however, is exactly how and why they still had that letter?!?! Hellooooo, who would have known what young Fidel would grow up to be? They are archiving everything, my friends. Big Brother is watching!

But I digrefs.

- e