Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Friendly Skies, My A$$!

Do not read this book if you have trouble sleeping.  Read it if you don't WANT to sleep for about three weeks.I don't have a good memory, so there have been very few books that I've read in the past that have stuck with me over the course of time. But one that has is "The Hot Zone." No, I don't remember the characters or any of the details, but I remember that it scared the living daylights out of me and everyone I worked with.

At the time (1994) I was a summer intern at GMC Truck, and my boss had read the book and then became so terrified of germs that the rest of us read it to see what the fuss was all about. Which resulted in meetings where we all sat nervously around the conference table, afraid to breathe on each other in case one of us had unknowingly contracted the Ebola virus. The book recounts the true story of multiple outbreaks of the Ebola and Marburg viruses, and went into great detail explaining how those who contracted the unfortunate diseases would essentially bleed out of every crevice and pore until they died. I repeat: this was a true story!!! When Stephen King says a book is one of the most terrifying things he's ever read, then you know it's got to be horrific.

Why I am bringing up a book that I last thought about 13 (gasp!) years ago? Because I was reminded of it again today when reading an article on entitled: U.S. seeks fliers possibly exposed to rare TB.

After finishing the article, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I could laugh when considering how ridiculous it sounded to request that people "in the same row, or two rows ahead or behind" the TB-carrier get exams to see if they, too, became infected. Ummmm.... I'm sorry, but if I was on the flight that left the gate five gates DOWN from the flight in question, I'd be busting it to the doctor's office before you could say "hypochondriac." I mean, this strain of TB is known to be fatal!!! Don't mess around with us, CDC! But I could cry thinking about the fact that you can never really ensure that something like this doesn't affect your life or your loved ones' lives, now can you?

And get this: "The man's tuberculosis had been diagnosed before his departure, but he disregarded his doctor's recommendation that he not travel."

Well, guess what, Mr. TB? When you get out of the hospital, if you DON'T die from the dangerous strain you're carrying, an angry mob of frequent fliers is going to be waiting for you, and they are going to give a whole new meaning to the term "Air Rage."

Like we don't have enough to worry about when we fly... making sure we've got on easy-to-remove shoes, shoving any and all liquids we have into a teeny plastic quart-sized container, remembering to take out laptops, worrying about missing our flight because of ridiculously long security lines, I'm BAD, I'm bad... OK, maybe not.feeling crappy from eating airport food, the ramifications of delayed flights, etc., etc. Now you've got to think twice about everyone sitting around you - are they carrying a flesh-eating virus, perhaps?

Now that I've vented to you all, I'm going to stop fretting about this. Any of us could meet our maker at any point in time, there's just no telling if you are going to get hit by the proverbial bus on a given day. However, I realize that the odds of me, or any of us, being on a flight with someone who is carrying a freakish airborne disease are extremely slim indeed. I'll take my chances and still go to Vegas in a few weeks - twist my arm! But I may carry a Michael Jackson-style face mask with me in my backpack, too, for good measure!

- e

Monday, May 28, 2007

Pirates 3: At World's End

Try trimming THAT beard!
If you intend to see Pirates 3, do not read this post as it contains spoilers.

I knew Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (or, "Pirates 3," as I like to call it) was not going to be good. It was getting so-so reviews, and since I thought the second installment was drawn out and disappointing, I didn't have very high hopes for the supposed last chapter of the Pirates trilogy. Yet, I still went to go see it on opening day. The Man let everyone leave early on Friday, so I went to an afternoon show. It lasted three hours (including ten bazillion previews), so I'm glad I got it out of the way earlier rather than later in the day.

Why did I see it in the first place, knowing it was going to be bad? Because I felt like I needed to know "what happened," I wanted to see Keith Richards as Pirate Daddy, and even in the second movie I felt that Johnny Depp's performance was worth the price of admission.

So now I know "what happened," but feel a tad tricked as they definitely set it up for a fourth movie, when Captain Jack is seen looking at a map detailing the location of the Fountain of Youth at the very end. Keith Richards as Pirate Daddy was OK, but let's just say he should keep his day job as a musician. And Johnny Depp was great once again, but since there were a lot of scenes with multiple Captain Jacks, his shtick became tiresome.

My hat is more piratey than your scarf!The biggest surprise in the movie came at the end [once again, stop reading if you intend to see this movie!]... Will Turner (Orlando Bloom/Legolas) actually died! Or rather, he became undead and took Davy Jones' place as captain of the Flying Dutchmen. Now he supposedly can only come ashore for one day every ten years. Therefore, if they do undertake a fourth movie, I have no idea how they could incorporate two of the major characters - Will and Elizabeth. It doesn't seem like it would be realistic to make the next movie take place ten years into the future on the one day that Will can return to the human world... but it also doesn't seem likely that they would make a Pirates movie without Orlando and/or Keira in it.

All in all, the best part of the movie for me was the trailer for "The Golden Compass," as I loved that book and was extremely pleased with how the movie looks based on the preview. But that one doesn't come out until December, so I will have Harry Potter 5 to quell my fantasy fix in the meantime this summer.

- e

The Office - Season 3 Finale

For some reason I found this EXTREMELY hilarious, OK?

Yeah, I realize it's been a few weeks since The Office finale, but it takes me a while to process things, OK?

While I absolutely HATE what they've done with Michael Scott this past season (can anyone say 'over the top?'), the rest of the characters make up for it and continue to be the reason why I watch the show. The finale exemplified this sentiment - Michael was once again completely ridiculous in his reaction to Jane's "enhancements," and his job interview wasn't even funny because it was just so unrealistic (changing "Dunder Mifflin" to "Super Duper Paper"??), but the tomfoolery of Dwight, Creed, Ryan and others saved the episode.

Lesson learned: don't sell your condo before you get the job!I get frustrated with what they've done with Michael because in the original BBC version, while David Brent was very silly, it still seemed to work. As in, you could believe that there was a person that self-absorbed and clueless that they would unwittingly make themselves look like a fool over and over again. Granted, they deliberately cut that series off after only two seasons (and a Christmas special) in order to have it go out on a high note, so who knows if David's antics would've also gotten really old had we been exposed to them a third year. I fear that the longer the American version of the show goes on, the less I'm going to be able to stand Michael Scott. I hope they tone down his character in Season Four, because he really is becoming unbearable.

The rest of the cast, however, continues to rock the house. While Jim and Dwight will always be my favorites, Creed holds a very special place in my heart for his unapologetic freakishness. To me, besides the very last scene, my favorite part of the finale was Creed talking about his "blog" at: And of course his reaction to Jan was another classic moment: "I find it offensive. Au natural, baby. That's how I like 'em. Swing low, sweet chariots."

Then you had Dwight, in his search to find an acceptable "number two," stating that his ideal co-worker would be Jack Bauer. But unfortunately, Jack is "unavailable, fictional, and overqualified." I don't know, Dwight... after Day Six, Jack may just need to take some time off and chill at Dunder Mifflin. And then Kelly would have someone else to obsess over, as Ryan is clearly outta there. In a surprise twist at the end of the episode, it appears that Ryan ended up getting the job in NYC: "You and I are done."

Which leaves everyone wondering what, exactly, happened to Karen? In a flashback, we see what played out between Jim and Pam after her out-of-nowhere speech to him during the beach outing. Next we see him leaving the NYC office, then a cut to Pam talking to the camera, professing that "It's OK" if she never sees Jim again, and then all of a sudden he busts into the room and asks her if she's free for dinner. Say what?

I was very happy with the finale overall, but let's just hope they don't screw up the Jim/Pam thing in Season Four...

- e

e's favorite poem: Desiderata

Every once in a while, I reread my favorite poem, "Desiderata." You have probably read it before, as it's fairly well-known. I don't claim to be into poetry, so if I've read a poem in the first place, chances are that it's not going to be that obscure. What I like about "Desiderata" is its honesty - it doesn't make the world or life out to be all butterflies and roses, but it also is cautionary in its advice on how to keep things in perspective. The title itself means "Something that is needed or wanted."

I have never once, NEVER ONCE, read this poem without tearing up! My favorite line is about the "universe unfolding as it should." I am a strong believer in the notion that everything happens for a reason, so I liked the way it was phrased it a bit differently here. I hope you enjoy it as well:


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

- Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

'24' Day Six Debrief

Who are you kidding, you can't quit ME.
To those who have not yet seen the finale of 24, this post contains spoilers.

Something struck me as I collected my thoughts before beginning this post... I don't even know the majority of characters' names from this season of 24!?! Talk about not caring anymore...

I started watching 24 in its fourth season (the one with the teenager Behrooz, who remains my favorite minor character of all time on the show). During the summer hiatus that year, I got Season One on DVD, and was fairly disturbed by it. I think that had I originally watched the series when it premiered, I would not have continued watching it, it was simply way too dark for me. However, since I didn't find Day Four as disturbing, I tuned in again to watch season five (the one with the shady President and his crazy wife). While I felt the story line was OK - enough to hold my attention - I didn't think the show deserved all of the praised being heaped upon it from the media that year.

I was the best thing to happen to this show!This year we were delivered Day Six, which first revolved around a nuclear threat against the U.S. (with a nuclear bomb actually going off early in the season), but then switched gears to be about Russian bad guys, Chinese bad guys and Jack's dad all fighting for control of a chip that held the key to Russia's defense systems. Or at least I think that's what it was about - everything got to be so convoluted that I stopped paying close attention and was reading magazines most of the time and just glancing up at the screen whenever Kiefer was on. And I completely missed two hours near the end of the season because I just didn't have the patience to catch up with everything (or figured that it wouldn't be hard to figure out what was going on without the benefit of having watched those two hours).

I don't really want to dissect the season finale because it was THAT lame. Instead, I will offer my opinions on the season overall:

My first, my last, my everything!- Overall, very poor casting choices were made this season: 1) I could never get past the fact that the Presidential Advisor (I *think* his name was Tom on the show... Tom Lennox or something...) was that kooky guy from Ally McBeal. I kept expecting him to run into the restroom and break into a Barry White song while doing a silly dance. 2) The Vice President was so obviously supposed to be Cheney that it almost became comical. And creepy, since he was having an affair with that blond chick who was half his age. Every time he was on screen, it seemed like a Saturday Night Live skit. 3) Jack's dad being the Guy from 'Babe' and Six Feet Under was acceptable at first, but as he mentally unraveled near the end of the season and became all obsessed with getting his grandson to China, I kept thinking he was the character from Six Feet Under again, lapsing into alternate realities. 4) Jack's sister-in-law/obvious-ex-flame was THE WORST. She has one of those weird faces that definitely isn't ugly, but isn't exactly pretty, either. She's forgettable, and combined with the fact that she was almost always in hysterics yelling about "her son," it didn't seem believable that she was someone who Jack would've ever fallen for in the past. 5) Her son, who I think I remember being named Josh (not sure), was NOT a good actor. His floppy blond hair heightened the vibe of slackerishness I got from him. He could have EASILY taken out his Grandpa but yet he just went along with everything, stopping to whine once in a while. Annoying! 6) Wayne Palmer was a horrible actor as well. I realize that they were pretty much locked in to casting him if the plan was to have David's brother now be in the Oval Office, but you would've thought the actor would've taken some classes on "how to act convincingly like a President or at least not like a totally wimpy, conflicted guy unable to make decisions" in between seasons.

- Bad moves: Killing Curtis and killing Milo. Neither was necessary to move the plot along, and doing so only served to make viewers mad. The ultimate unfortunate decision was killing off Edgar last season, but I won't go there as I don't want to drudge up old feelings of extreme bitterness.

- What was up with the Bizarre Love Triangle between Milo, Ricky Schroeder and Nadia? When you remember that the entire season is supposed to transpire in one DAY, it's pretty laughable to think that so many conflicting emotions flew between and amongst those three, especially when Ricky didn't show up until well into the day. And then after Milo died and his brother came to get the body or whatever he was doing in the finale, did anyone else get the sense that he was "making eyes" at Nadia or vice versa? It just all seemed very wrong.

- The two hours I skipped were the hours when they rescued Audrey, so I have no idea what happened to her, or for that matter, how in the hell her father is still alive. All I know is that I'm SURE that scene at the end where Jack goes in to tell her that he is a bastard and can't help take care of her despite his promise to do so was NOT meant to be funny, but it was to me, because I kept expecting her expression to change or her to be like, "BOO!" and scare the crap out of Jack or something. Alas, she didn't wake up, and the season ended with a whimper. At least they didn't kill off Chloe or Morris! By the way, I didn't realize that they were even married until the finale!?!? For some reason I thought they were ex-spouses. Am I proving my lack of attention paid to this season yet?

Which brings us to the one thing I was surprised about - it was something that didn't happen. I was positive since the kid Josh was introduced that he would turn out to be Jack's son. I WAS POSITIVE. But, it didn't happen - at least not yet. I hope it doesn't - I really don't want to see that kid or his mom back on the show ever again.

See you in 2008, suckas!Does that mean I'm going to watch the show again in 2008? Yeah, it does. I love Jack too much. As long as he's on, I'll probably watch it, even if that means multi-tasking and only getting glimpses of what's going on. There's something weird about 24 - it makes me feel better about whatever I'm worrying about in my life. Nothing ever seems quite as bad when comparing it to the troubles poor CTU is going through, now does it?

- e

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

AWFUL trend: High-waisted pants

Look what my grandma left me in her will!John Mayer will never come back to her if she's wearing those!

A month or so ago, I saw this picture of Jessica Simpson in extremely high-waisted pants. I thought it was horrifying, and agreed with the accompanying article that stated that she really needed a new stylist. I didn't think about it again.

Then... a few weeks later a picture of Mischa Barton, known for her fashion sense, starts circulating - and she was in extremely high-waisted jeans. A few days later she was snapped in high-rise shorts.

I must shield my eyes!!!Now you can see people sporting this trend all over the place, but the results haven't gotten any less hideous. The current issue of Fortune magazine, which highlights Generation Y in the workplace, features a 20-something girl wearing *that* type of pant. I just don't get it. THEY DO NOT LOOK GOOD ON ANYONE!

Please, please, make this trend stop! I will take low-rise over high-rise anyday - but really, isn't there a happy medium we can find? Trends like this make me confident that the fashion industry is just a bunch of mean-spirited, shallow people snickering over what ridiculous fad they can come up that people actually go along with. I think it's all just a big inside joke!

A new generation of fashion faux pas

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My American Idol Prediction: Jordin Sparks

I write this post on Tuesday night after having returned from a long walk along the lake with my doggy, but before watching American Idol on Tivo. Not that it really matters - I don't need to watch Jordin and Blake actually sing again to make my prediction that Jordin will win. Because as we've already learned, it's not about who sings the best.

Having said that, I'm glad that Melinda got the boot last week. I COULD NOT STAND her and her no-neck, faux-shocked expressions. Yes, she is an incredible singer, but she just didn't seem to connect with the audience or viewers at home, and she was definitely not "contemporary," as Simon always likes to say. If you're constantly being compared to Tina Turner, that should tell you something about the "wrong generation" vibe you're giving off!

My personal favorite was LaKisha, and not just because she hailed originally from Flint, Michigan (represent!). I just liked her personality and also of course her voice. But like Melinda, she didn't really have that connection to the audience.

While Blake, BY FAR, is the best entertainer, he will not win. Even though this decision is going to be made mostly by pre-teens and teenagers across the country, and even though the young girlies like him, they like Jordin, too. Blake is the only person in the competition this year who had a stage presence and could actually move naturally and be at ease in front of the crowd. He also was the most original, hands down.

But what is going to kill Blake is the frightening memories we all have of Jimmy Walker Blue.

Absolutely inexcusable!

Plus the fact that he looks like a 5-year-old choir boy when his mouth makes an elongated "O" when he hits high notes. And have you noticed that he has NO LIPS? It's really bizarre.

So there's my take. I've never watched American Idol before this season. I got sucked into it this time around when Tivo "recommended" the audition shows early on. Those were definitely hilarious and worth watching, so I'll probably watch those early episodes again next season. But overall, the "Rock Star" series was way better than American Idol. If they could get Simon to judge "Rock Star," then they'd have the best of both worlds.

Oh, and Paula just broke her nose!

- e

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Enchanted Highway

The man behind the magic.I don't claim to be a creative person, so perhaps I just can't imagine what it is like to get the urge to design the largest metal sculptures in the world. I mean, how does one come up with that idea, exactly? However, that is what Gary Greff decided to do back in the early 1990s.

I came to know of "The Enchanted Highway," as the completed project is called, during trips to see family in North Dakota. In the course of the last visit I made at the end of April, my husband and I decided to drive the entire thing. While there were very long stretches of road in between sculptures, I have to admit that pictures don't do the works justice - it was pretty cool to see these gigantic creations in the middle of nowhere. On our way back, I thought that it is random things like this that I love best about America - places like Wall Drug or "The World's Largest Ball of Yarn" or the Paul Bunyan statue.

What was neat about the Enchanted Highway, however, was that there was literally NO ONE around. It was very eerie to see the fields and plains just stretched out all around you, and these enormous figures rising up and dotting the landscape. We had ample time to take photos, a few of the best are below.


I don't think he's going to hop away any time soon...

REAL quails were flocking to these statues, no lie!

Shrek the Third... and The Illusionist

Work your magic, boy!This past weekend I was able to fit two movies in... "The Illusionist" on DVD Saturday night, and "Shrek the Third" in the theater on Sunday afternoon. Talk about two completely different experiences! Besides the fact that I watched "The Illusionist" in the privacy of my own home, the most obvious difference between that movie and the third installment of the beloved ogre was that "The Illusionist" is NOT a kid's movie. I don't mean that it had violence or sex or bad language, I just mean that it was an extremely intelligent and complicated movie that leaves you sorting through everything that happened long after it is over. And unlike "Shrek the Third," there were no jokes revolving around bodily functions. Furthermore, despite the fact that Justin Timberlake's latest lady love (Jessica Biel) is in "The Illusionist" (whereas Justin himself voices a character in "Shrek the Third"), all of the acting was great and heavy-weights Ed Norton (one of my favorite actors) and Paul Giamatti rocked the house as always. I highly, highly recommend "The Illusionist." And if you never saw Ed Norton's performance in "Primal Fear" that made him one of my faves, then stop what you are doing right now and go rent it. I challenge you to not get the chills after seeing it!

We gotta milk this thing for all it's worth!Unfortunately, I cannot pass the same judgment on "Shrek the Third." While it was by no means bad, the clever wit and inside jokes that the previous two films have been known for were scarce this time around. I felt like the writers went on auto-pilot for this one... creating a simple story that was predictable and not bothering to fill it out with all of the crafty nuances I had come to expect. However, that doesn't seem to be fazing film-goers, as it broke all sorts of records in its opening weekend. As I went to see it on a Sunday afternoon, I was literally surrounded by little kids who did not understand the concept of keeping quiet in a theater, nor did their parents. We constantly heard requests for more candy, more popcorn, or explanations of what was happening, and my poor friend MB suffered through frequent kicking of her seat, as well. Having said all of that, it was kind of funny to hear the silly laughter of the youngest patrons who always seemed to have slightly delayed reactions to some of the most obvious jokes. All in all, while I was disappointed that it wasn't as good as the other two Shrek movies, it was probably what I should have expected.

Next up on the slate for Memorial Day weekend... Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End!