Thursday, November 27, 2008

I'm Getting the Shakes Already...

It's time for my next trip -- I'm heading out at 3 AM tomorrow morning (ugh) and will be back to my normal posting schedule on December 10th. If I don't have a nervous breakdown by then, that is.

I realized that this will be the first time I've been utterly and completely offline for more than three days straight (as in, with no Internet access whatsoever) since mid-2004. Four and a half years?!?! Did you know that my nickname "e" is a shortened version of what my co-workers used to call me -- egrrl? And that they called me that because I am ALWAYS online?

Therefore, I'm positive that I'll start suffering Internet withdrawal symptoms sooner rather than later over the course of my trip. It's going to be ugly. But I know I'm in desperate need of a break from the dear old web and that this experience will be good for me. At least I'll keep telling myself that.

OK, I must finish packing... I hope all of you in the U.S. had a happy Thanksgiving... check back in 1.5 weeks to see how I fared!

(Oh, and lest you think I'm cheating... my posts that will continue to go up daily on redblog were all written in advance!)

- e

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Curse You, Calculating Media Manipulators!

I've never been shy about my disdain for the publicity-hungry Simpson family. Or my lack of excitement over the fact that younger sister Ashlee started dating Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz, got pregnant, and then got married. Now my fears for their child have been confirmed: in their first act as parents, they named their son Bronx Mowgli.

I don't actually have anything against the name Bronx -- I'm more upset by the reasoning that I'm positive went into their choice of baby names. I'm annoyed that:
1) They most likely thought it would be very "Brangelina" of them to have a son whose name ends with the letter 'x.'
2) They also probably figured that they could kill two birds with one stone and blatantly imitate the Beckhams as well, who named their oldest boy Brooklyn. I can just picture Ashlee and Pete's brainstorming session: "I don't know, I think Queens or Staten Island might seem too out-there..."
3) A source told UsWeekly that the couple has never even been to the Bronx.
4) Wentz commented that he thought the name would be appropriate for "either a rock star or a senator."

God help us all if a Simpson offspring ends up having any part in running this country!

OK, enough about Bronx, because it's the baby's middle name -- Mowgli -- that absolutely kills me. My fond memories of the Disney classic The Jungle Book are forever ruined! I can never again sing along to "The Bare Necessities" or "I Wanna Be Like You" without thinking of creepy Grandpa Joe. Why, God, whhhhyyyyyy?

To make matters worse, a few days after the Simpson/Wentz baby made his debut, I sorted through my mail pile and saw Heidi, Spencer and news of their elopement (Is that a word? No? I don't care, I'm too angry to think straight!) staring back at me. If these two procreate, I am moving to the other side of the globe. Please, please hold me to it.

For now, however, I'm trying to calm down about the Speidi marriage news because it dawned on me that it might just be a publicity stunt (since everything else they do is). Remember when Whitney Houston was accused of smoking crack and she demanded that somebody prove it with "the receipts?" That drama came back to me last night because I realized that so far, there's actually been no proof that these two idiots from The Hills actually tied the knot. No one was there to witness it... yet they magically had a ton of pictures from their ceremony preparation in UsWeekly... before Heidi even told her own mother the news? Something fishy's going on.

And so, in order for me to believe that this union is for real (not that I should even care), I'm following Whitney's lead and demanding the couple to "show me the receipts!"

- e

Monday, November 24, 2008

They Got Me.

As the holiday season prepares to smack us all upside the head with its presence (OK, so some retailers have had decorations up since Halloween, I just refuse to acknowledge them), the entertainment industry is doing anything and everything it can to vie for your attention, not to mention your hard-earned cash.

Don't forget to buy our soundtrack!
Don't forget to watch our show!
Don't forget to pre-order your ticket!
Don't forget to read this book!
Don't forget to check out our new album!

I surrender! I'm going to more movies, watching more TV and buying more stuff off of iTunes and Amazon than ever before -- bad economy be damned!

Here are my thoughts on just a few of the marketing blitzes I fell for:

- Coldplay: Viva La Vida - Prospekt's March edition

First off, I'm sure some people out there are going to rip me apart for not knowing this, but I've searched diligently online and cannot figure out what "Prospekt's March" even means, and it's bugging the bejeezus out of me. Do any of you know?

Regardless, that's the name of Coldplay's album (released today) that is basically just their old album with a few more tracks -- some of which are remixes of existing songs. I hate when bands do stuff like this. It's just like when DVDs come out in ten million different versions -- each with approximately two minutes of new material -- just enough to trick die-hard fans into buying the same movie they already own once more. How many box sets of the Lord of the Rings trilogy or the Star Wars saga does one really need? The answer: not as many as one wants!

- 24: Redemption

Yeah, I watched this crap last night (stop reading if you have it on Tivo and haven't gotten to it yet - I will be spoiling away...). Ten minutes into it, my husband said, "That's it, I'm done, this sucks," and left the room. But I, ever the Jack Bauer groupie, stuck it out for the entire two hours.

All this "TV movie" was was a blatant attempt by FOX to rake in advertising revenue and ensure that we haven't forgotten about their show that hasn't been on for over a year. Guess what? I would've tuned in for 24 in January regardless; now I'm just bitter about the show for two months before the season even begins. Around the same time my husband threw his hands up in disgust, I had already figured out the entire plot: Jack's going to give himself up to ensure the safety of the African orphans and that's how he'll return to the U.S. to start kicking ass alongside CTU, or whatever the hell it's going to be called, in Season Seven.

I'm going to pretend that I actually didn't see the previews for the new season, however, because I fear that the show has finally jumped the shark and I just can't bear to believe it. When people start coming back to life, that's a bad, bad sign.

- Twilight: The Soundtrack

You can read my write-up on the movie here... the actual film is not what I need to rant about at this point. It's the fact that I was cajoled into buying the entire film soundtrack even though I was only interested in two songs. But it was all or nothing on iTunes. Sneaky.

I gave all of the tracks a chance, and the good news is that I do like a few of the other songs, but the bad news is that I can never fully erase the memory of Perry Farrell's "Go All the Way (Into the Twilight)" from my head. It is awful and he should be ashamed of his transparent attempt to make himself and his music relevant to tweens. I almost passed out when I heard Radiohead's "15 Step" kick in during Twilight's last scene and continue over its end credits -- I'm sure Thom and the boys got paid for that, but at least the song was nowhere to be found on the soundtrack. That would've surely been a sign of the Apocolypse.

I shudder to think what else I'm going to buy, read, listen to or watch between now and January 1 that I'll live to regret...

- e

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Revenge of the Nerds at 'Video Games Live'

You may remember my excitement last month at securing tickets to Video Games Live. The show was this past Saturday, and... um, how do I put this? Let's just say that it was quite a unique experience. Although my husband proclaimed the crowd at the Chicago Theater that night to be "the single biggest gathering of nerds" he'd ever witnessed, even he still had fun. If you have a fondness for video games -- regardless of whether or not you've played any in recent years (I haven't) -- I guarantee that you would get a kick out of this show.

We arrived at the theater about forty minutes early because there was going to be a little pre-concert entertainment -- in the form of a costume contest. That's right, people actually dressed up as their favorite game characters. Don't ask me who any of these guys are below, though:

At least I recognized Link and Princess Zelda!

But EVERYONE not only recognized but also loved the young "Power-Up," who easily won the contest (judged by audience applause) as a defeated Mario and Princess Peach Toadstool looked on.

The show itself consisted of a live orchestra and choir performing memorable soundtracks from video games across the years. As expected, I'd never heard of most of them (Metal Gear Solid, God of War, Civilization IV...), and most of the titles I had heard of, I've still never played (World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy). But it really didn't matter. There was a huge screen above the stage that showed sequences from the games as the live music was performed, and it was nothing short of mesmerizing.

They did, of course, have a few "old school" montages that satisfied the adults in the crowd -- remember OutRun? Joust? Duck Hunt? Punch-Out? Clips from all of them (among many others) kicked off the concert and I was instantly transported back in time, squealing with delight and clapping. I'm sure the teenage boys next to me thought, "Who is this old lady and why is she such a freak?"

My favorite part of the show was the Super Mario montage, simply because those were the games I played the most growing up. It was absolutely amazing how the happy theme song from the Mario series came back to me within seconds. On top of the orchestra playing along with the video clips, they also had "the video game pianist" perform his world-famous lightning-quick medley. I found a clip online below of the same guy (Martin Leung) doing his thing for a smaller crowd (though it's not the most recognizable part of the Mario tune). He kicks it into overdrive around the 55-second mark. The video doesn't do him justice - it was ridiculous how fast he was playing. His fingers were just a flurry of motion, like he had superpowers or something! He is my new hero!

There were a few other cool surprises that the Video Games Live team had in store for the audience, but I won't ruin it for anyone out there who may be attending a future performance. What I will say is that I absolutely must haul out my old Atari and my brother's Nintendo when we're home over the holidays in order to play some of our favorite video games again. Forget all of the newfangled, realistic-looking Halos of the world - I'll take Pitfall any day!

- e

Monday, November 17, 2008

Look at Me, Saving You Money

It finally happened last night as I was walking home from seeing Let the Right One In: it freakin' snowed. And then this morning, the cement contractors who were supposed to fix my building's front walkway called to cancel because of today's horribly cold weather and on-and-off precipitation. This swift and extreme drop in temperatures can only mean one thing -- the holidays are right around the corner.

Although Michigan Avenue has seemed slightly less crowded than it typically is at this time of the year, bad economy or no bad economy, people will still get their gift-giving on! If you're one of the many who has friends, relatives, co-workers or others (dog-walker? mailman? hair stylist?) left to shop for, keep reading...

I was recently burned when I bought a few gift cards for family members and then the stores from which the cards came proceeded to go bankrupt (yeah, I'm talkin' 'bout you, Sharper Image). With more and more businesses going under (on my walk home last night I was also shocked and dismayed to see that Linens 'n Things is outta here), you may want to consider pre-loaded debit cards that can be used anywhere instead of gift cards tied to a specific place. Because let's face it, times are tough all around right now, so why restrict where your giftee can shop? Maybe they don't WANT any more clothes from J. Crew! Maybe they secretly despise TGI Friday's! Maybe they're just too embarrassed to put "cases upon cases of Magic Shell" on their Christmas list!

It just so happens that someone I used to work for The Man with, MF, is now at, and he (along with fellow 'According to e' and 'Long Live Locke' devotee JS) are offering the other mega-cool peeps who read my sites $2 off customized photo gift card orders. All you have to do is enter in the code ErikaO when you check out.

Yes, MF and JS are still "remembering the little people" even though their products have received what is perhaps one of the greatest honors known to man: inclusion on Oprah's Holiday "O List" (See bottom-left of the page below.)

If you are interested in making a photo gift card (or if you just do whatever Oprah tells you to do), go to and follow the easy instructions. Just like that, you'll have a Visa debit card in whatever amount you'd like to give away to whomever you deem worthy. You can put one of your own pictures on the card... or choose one of the pre-designed cards by, say, Sawyer on Lost! Yep, a bunch of celebs got in on the action and created cards to help benefit the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.

So once again, the code to use is ErikaO for a $2 discount up until December 18th of this year. Remember how that freaky kid Johnny said over and over again in Better Off Dead, "I want my two dollars!!!"? Well, you can have it with the discount code ErikaO. You're welcome!

- e

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rants from My TV Marathon

The temperature dropped over thirty degrees (pretty much within the span of one day -- sorry, fall wardrobe!) here in Chicago last week, and therefore my hibernation instincts have fully kicked into high gear. I am not looking forward to the next several months of crappy weather... but to keep myself from getting too depressed, I watched a whole bunch of TV this past weekend. All huddled in my bed under several pounds of blankets, comforters and clothing, mind you.

I have now annihilated my Tivo list, so if you aren't up-to-date on any of the shows below, you might want to skip reading this post until you've watched their latest episodes...

The Hills

My prayers have been answered! Audrina moved away from the flake that is LC and the shrew that is Lo, Heidi was fired, and someone finally told Spencer what time it was! I knew that sacrificing thousands of my brain cells to this show would eventually be worth it.

But wait... Audrina is trying to get Justin Bobby to live with her, it looks like Heidi is going to be given back the job she was fired from a day earlier, and Spencer will continue to slink around LA doing nothing whatsoever of value. Oh, well, I was happy for about three minutes, so there's something to be said for that, right?

Dirty Sexy Money

Ahh, crap. They "went there." They actually had Nick separate from Lisa and run to Karen. I am not liking where this story line is going. I'm actually no fan of Nick's wife -- their chemistry is non-existent, but at the same time, it's totally unbelievable that he would ever actually want to be with ditsy Karen. Aren't we supposed to LIKE Nick?

The Office

Double crap! I was worried before that they were going to make Jim and Pam run into problems before they actually got married. And that seems to be the way it's going, with Pam's friend's speech about Ms. Beesly needing to stay in NYC for the advancement of her career. On top of that, Amy Ryan seems to have left the show, and her character was perfect as a match for Steve Carell's Michael Scott. And on top of THAT, I am getting a really uncomfortable vibe now from the whole Andy-Angela-Dwight triangle. That needs to end. Now.

Gossip Girl

This used to be the show I could count on for pure entertainment that wouldn't annoy me in any way, shape or form. But Serena's new flame is a total loser and not cute at all. And Little J's lame drama is taking up way too much air-time. And while I was of course excited to see The Princess Bride's Vizzini ("Inconceivable!") as Mrs. Waldorf's romantic interest, I need WAY more Chuck Bass to be satisfied!

Powers that be at The CW, please make a spin-off show solely about Chuck. Pretty please?

The Amazing Race

Unfortunately, I'm not really rooting for anyone this time around. Nick and Starr are obviously the most competent team, and I have no problems with Dallas/"Teen Wolf" and his mom, either. But those frat guys have GOT TO GO. As does the chick with the eyebrows that are giving me nightmares. At least the bratty and ultra-stupid divorcées are gone -- I was getting way too riled up shouting at them through the TV screen. Seriously, how many times did they just straight-up NOT read the clues carefully?

Survivor: Gabon

I can't believe I'm about to say this, but Survivor has actually been my favorite show this fall. I was watching it on the treadmill last week and literally gasped out loud when it was revealed that Marcus -- and not Susie -- had been voted out. As in, the dude on the machine next to me looked over to see if I was OK. I even yelled "Yay!" when nerdboy Kenny made his comment about how in comic books, everyone roots for the underdog to triumph over the bully. I hope he wins the whole thing -- he's my favorite player by far this season.

As a side note, I was equally as shocked when I watched the previous week's episode where Ace got the boot. I wouldn't have counted on Sugar to follow through with it. Even though they're regretting it now, I think it was the right move.

Real World/Road Rules: The Island

Yes, it is totally unacceptable that I watched this show. At least it's over now, right? I actually sat through FIVE episodes in a row the other night, so I was in a Stupid Stupor for hours afterward. I will say, however, that the final few installments were absolutely riveting. Ev -- who I hated in Rookies Vs. Veterans -- became my favorite player this time around because everyone else was certifiably insane. Her move to save Johhny in order to secure a spot on the boat that would surely make it to the treasure chest first was pure brilliance.

And that reunion special? Yowza. Talk about drama. KellyAnne needs some meds -- that chick is NUTS. What's with throwing gang signs when you're shouting at everyone?

The Future

Tonight, Top Chef returns. While I doubt I'll enjoy it as much as I did when it was in Chicago (remember my millisecond of fame?), my hopes are high that this season will provide a lot of entertainment.

And hopefully you've heard about the upcoming two-hour TV movie "24: Redemption," airing on November 23, which will serve as a set-up for the seventh season of the Jack Bauer Power Hour. 24 will (finally) return to us with back-to-back episodes in January. American Idol is back at the start of the new year, as well. Now that Simon's broken up with his girlfriend, you can bet that he's going to be extra-snooty!

I better stock up on hot cocoa -- there's lots of TV-watching ahead!

- e

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Next Made Me Cry, "NEXT!!!"

I'm not really sure what compelled me to rent Next, but I should've realized that it was a bad sign when I couldn't even remember the film being out in theaters last year -- despite the fact that it stars Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore and Jessica Biel (among other recognizable names). However, although I always try to deny it, I just can't get enough of Nic Cage's hair, so perhaps I was feeling the need to see it again, who knows.

On the surface, Next seemed like it should've been right up my alley: a man (Cage) can see two minutes into the future and therefore continually changes his actions in the present so that things go his way. I'm all about time manipulation -- bring it on!

Alas, when they said that this thriller was loosely based on sci-fi master Philip K. Dick's short story "The Golden Man," they meant really, really loosely. In place of the mutants that dominated the original story, there's a goofy and totally unbelievable love story between Cage and Biel's characters. Yes, I can believe that a dude could possibly be born with the power to see two minutes into his own future, but I cannot believe any attempt Cage and Biel could ever make at feigning romantic chemistry.

If a movie motivates ME to complain "that would NEVER happen," then it is truly ridiculous, because as you all know, I can suspend disbelief with the best of them.

I can't recommend Next in good conscience, which makes me truly sad, because its premise is extremely cool. Maybe someone will make a TRUE adaptation of "The Golden Man" one day and not screw it up with the lovey-dovey crap.

Here's the trailer for the film, which smartly plays down the romantic angle:

Ah, Nic. I'll just have to wait for National Treasure 3 to see that hair again.

- e

Monday, November 10, 2008

Back to Reality

I've been back from Hawaii for a full week now... so why haven't I been posting?

The good news is that while on a day-trip to Oahu, I ran into my favorite actor of all time, and then spent several days back in Chicago perfecting my write-up of the experience, which I've since posted on Long Live Locke. It's a must-read for Lost fans!

The unfortunate news is that my aching back went from bad to worse while on vacation... I don't know if it was all the time spent in planes, in cars or hunched up writing in a less-than-ergonomically sound set-up... but regardless, my back, shoulder and neck started hurting so intensely that I put in a call to my doctor immediately upon my return home. Hence, I've been trying to limit my typing over the past week.

I now have my first physical therapy session this afternoon -- wish me luck (and thanks to everyone who wrote in with other options for me to try... I will explore some of them if PT doesn't work out...)! I've only got 2.5 weeks before I go on yet another long-distance plane ride, so I hope that the six appointments I have scheduled between now and then help me prepare for some cramped quarters and long stretches of sitting.

I've got tons of things to write about from my Hawaii trip (and still need to finish recounting all of last year's Antarctica antics, while I'm at it), and also have lots of commentary for you from my marathon of TV and movie-watching over the past few days -- the Tivo list is now clear! But for now, I leave you with the picture of me in the kiddie pirate ship play area at the Marriott Ocean Club in Maui. I almost killed myself climbing UP the slippery slide (in the back of the structure). But what a way to go that would've been...

- e