Friday, June 12, 2015

Movie Review: Jurassic World

They're baa-aack
In short: I loved it.

Lightning has struck twice this year, my friends. I often complain about how action sequences haven't done it for me in a long, long time. I'll watch an elaborate car chase, explosion-heavy war scene or tricked-out superhero vs. villain battle and just feel bored. It's all like "been there, done that" for me at this point.

Until last month with Mad Max: Fury Road. And again this week with Jurassic World. Two totally different kinds of films—the former having truly changed the game and the latter being pretty much the definition of a popcorn movie—but all that matters to me is that I loved every minute of watching both of them, and that's something I can't say about any other recent action/adventure titles. I should probably mention here that I have no nostalgic feelings about the original trilogy, so there wasn't any of that factoring into my enjoyment of the film. This isn't the Star Wars franchise to me, by any means.

Having said all that, does it really even matter if I tell you what Jurassic World is about? No. Plus, you already freaking know what it's about: people being stupid (again) and dinosaurs wreaking having on those stupid people (again). It's a great combination, even though the dino mayhem far surpasses the idiotic human stuff in terms of entertainment value. And I'm not ashamed at all to admit that I was rooting against mankind for the majority of the movie.

Almost nothing of importance has changed plot-wise when comparing Jurassic World to 1993's Jurassic Park, except that this time it's 22 years later, the rebooted theme park has been operating successfully for years, and there's a guy named Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, in full "Hire me as the next Indiana Jones" mode, not that there's anything wrong with that) who's been attempting to train four Velociraptors with "positive reinforcement" techniques, much in the same way that I tried (and miserably failed) to train my black lab years ago.

Oops, we did it again.
Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the park's head of operations, and she's all business. Some people may say that Claire's character is one dimensional because she's so uptight and unemotional, but I actually know women like that so whatever. However, I was annoyed by the fact that she ran around in heels the entire time, even after the inappropriateness of her outfit was actually mentioned by Owen. But I got over it because 1) running around barefoot would've probably been worse in this case, 2) you can't run in heels after the heels are broken off, so that wasn't an option, and 3) I was rolling my eyes even harder at the fact that all of the characters stopped to chat, hug, kiss, joke or do anything other than run their assess off or look for places to hide when there were LOOSE DINOSAURS NEARBY WHO HAD ALREADY NEARLY KILLED THEM.

So I truly had no issue with Claire overall, but the character I thought was most ripped out of the Movie Character Stereotype Handbook was Vic Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio, who I still can't believe is the same guy who played Thor in my beloved Adventures in Babysitting). Vic is the head of security and is all about weaponizing the dinos. He relishes the death and chaos when things start going horribly wrong. In other words, he is the Evil War- and Violence-Obsessed Villain.

Star Lord to the rescue
There of course must be kids' lives in danger again, so Claire has two nephews who are visiting for the weekend... who she promptly hands off to an assistant... who the brothers find a way to ditch so that they're totally alone right before things go south. I was freaking out about the older one (Zach, played by Nick Robinson (The Kings of Summer)) for most of the film, because I thought he looked so much like another actor... but I couldn't put my finger on it. By the end I realized that it was a young, Goonies-era Sean Astin that he resembled. Anyway, the brothers had a go-nowhere subplot about their parents' divorce, but otherwise they only served as a device to bring Owen and Claire together to have someone to save.

And that's all fine and good, because watching these people (plus many other minor characters it's pointless to mention here) deal with the repercussions of humankind's greed, arrogance and inability to learn from the past was absolutely thrilling. The dinosaurs looked great, they sounded great, and everything about them was incredible. They're what's worth the price of a ticket, and thankfully you won't have to sit through too many human-only scenes. Michael Giacchino's spectacular throwback score and shots of the gorgeous island of Oahu (specifically Kualoa Ranch) are worth the cost admission, too.

Yay for Jake Johnson, in the role of Comic Relief, Sensible Human
So if you're looking for some deep statement about man vs. nature or a thoughtful debate on the ethics of bringing extinct creatures to life or cooking up hybrid creatures, this is not the movie for you. (Try Splice.) But personally I don't always need fully formed characters or Big Ideas or even a well-thought-out plot. Really all I want to do when I go into any movie is forget about reality. I want my mind to be so absorbed by what's going down on the screen that for two hours it completely empties of everything that's stressing me out. These days, there is a lot stressing me out. Director Colin Trevorrow's previous film, Safety Not Guaranteed, was one of my two favorites of 2012 (along with Looper). Jurassic World is a very, very different kind of movie, but Trevorrow succeeded in once again hooking me from the opening seconds and making me forget about the real world, which is probably why I broke into applause at the end. And since everyone's looking for a little escapism, I can only hope you enjoy it even half as much as I did.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road

Make no mistake, this is HER movie.
"Masterpiece" doesn't even begin to describe it.

When extremely enthusiastic buzz for Mad Max: Fury Road started leaking after its first press screenings last weekend, I didn't give those early whispers much weight. As a rule, I try not to pay attention to other film reviews before I write my own so as to not have my opinion clouded, and in this case, if I'm being honest, I had already figured there was going to be a strong George-Miller-fanboy element that would need to be factored in to account for all of the glowing reviews coming from mostly (95%, I calculated) male critics.

I had also figured that affection for the existing Mad Max films would bleed over into this reboot of sorts (with Miller back in the director's chair and Tom Hardy taking over Mel Gibson's role as "Mad" Max Rockatansky). Here's the part where I admit to having never seen any of those movies. What can I say? I was an 11-year-old girl obsessed with Madonna and The Goonies when the third film (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome) came out, and for whatever reason just never felt motivated to rent the trilogy in the decades since. They seemed like testosterone-fueled "guy movies" to me. And my general dislike of Mel Gibson didn't help.

I considered catching up before seeing Fury Road, but ultimately didn't. My reasoning: in addition to most other critics being male, nearly all of them have seen the original trilogy, so maybe it would be more interesting if I reported from a totally different perspective.

But as it turns out, my gender and complete lack of familiarity with George Miller's previous films didn't even matter in the end. I'm here to assure you that you don't need to know anything about the other Mad Max installments to have your mind completely blown by Fury Road. I walked out of the theater contemplating that it might just be the best film I've ever seen, ever. (Not my favorite, but the best. There's a difference.)

That's attractive
From Fury Road's very first moments, I was hooked. There stood poor Max, totally alone in the vast desert of post-apocalyptic Australia, hearing voices and hallucinating. He has been on the run for years, trying to survive in a cruel world that is nothing but sand for as far as the eye can see, while also failing to shake off disturbing visions of his family members and loved ones blaming him for their deaths.

Soon he has bigger things to worry about, though, because he gets captured by a gang of War Boys—brainwashed, chalk-covered, wild-eyed members of a feral army that worships King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played Toecutter in 1979's Mad Max). After a heart-pounding escape-attempt sequence that, in retrospect, serves as a remarkably tame appetizer for what's to come, Max finds himself strung upside down and serving as a blood donor for a weakened War Boy named Nux (Nicholas Hoult).

We are introduced to Immortan Joe as he showers his starving, filthy and tumored masses with a stingy taste of the drinking water he's been pumping up from the earth and hoarding. But soon after this display of arrogance and power, he discovers that Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron)—who was supposed to be leading a crew of War Boys on a fuel run—has stolen Joe's five (!) wives and gone rogue. The wheezy, masked ruler promises glory to whomever brings Furiosa to justice, so Nux decides he needs to strap his blood bank (Max) to the front of a vehicle and join the chase.

Cool guys JUMP away from explosions
And it really is a chase. "It" being the majority of the two-hour film. It is a chase that puts to shame all other cinematic chases. All of them. It is a chase that will leave you astounded by its relentlessness, its creativity and its beauty. I've simply never seen anything like it—many parts of the Joe vs. Furiosa land race reminded me of acrobatic and carefully choreographed Cirque du Soleil performances, but even that description doesn't really do it. (Maybe because those performances usually lack spearings, stabbings, rammings and explosions.)

From the increased frame-rate that makes everything appear jumpy and hyper-real, to the electric-guitar and drum-heavy score (by Junkie XL) that's cleverly embedded into the action, to the glorious wide shots of the desert chase courtesy of cinematographer John Seale—you can't help but wonder how in the hell Miller pulled this off, especially when there doesn't seem to be that much obvious CGI. Fury Road raises the bar so high I can't imagine it being met for years to come. Let's just say it reinforced my belief that superhero movies have been taking the easy and expected way out for quite a while now. No action movie I can remember holds a candle to Fury Road. No action movie I can remember should even be classified as an action movie now that Fury Road exists. It's a game-changer.

Those eyes thought
Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris wrote the screenplay, which is very light on dialogue. I suppose that could've been a problem if Hardy and Theron weren't masters at conveying such a range of thoughts and emotions through their expressions. And truth be told, it kind of bugged me when any characters did speak; the slang and accents and levels of sanity varied so drastically among them, it started to shatter the illusion that this awful world was real. I also thought it was kind of odd that Max looked so normal compared to all of the freaks around him. Shame on me for assuming the distant dystopian future could never abide a few good-looking dudes.

Much ado has been made about the film's feminist or female empowerment themes, but I didn't walk out of the theater with any such thoughts in my head. The person who's had enough of Immortan Joe's bullshit happens to be female, and she also happens to kick ass. A lot of the people who end up helping her happen to be ass-kicking females as well. But to me this isn't a story of men versus women or men effing up the world and women having to save it, it's a story of how a small group of people with not much more than their convictions and determination might possibly change things. It's a story about hope. It just takes a while to realize that after you've been holding your breath in amazement for two hours.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Give It Away Give It Away Give It Away Now

As I explained in yesterday's post, I've had some extra time over the past few weeks. My schedule will also be slightly less jam-packed between now and our vacation next Friday, and I have big plans to continue my rare productive streak.

What a great idea, huh?
One of the biggest things I accomplished so far was pulling together a ton—and I do mean a ton—of clothes, purses and toiletries for a few different charities my mom volunteers for. My parents were here a few weekends ago and my mom asked if I had any purses I no longer wanted because she was working with a group called Handbags of Hope. This awesome organization pulls together purses filled with various toiletries for women in shelters or who have fled dangerous situations and took absolutely no possessions with them. (There are many nonprofits like this one around the country, by the way... and hint hint.)

My mom asked the right person. Not only did I have several purses wasting away in my closet purgatory, but I had over a dozen of those random makeup bags that you get "free" with your purchase at various makeup counters. These things were seriously multiplying on my bathroom shelves, and I was thrilled to clear them out and know they'd be going to someone who actually needed them.

And the toiletries? Oh lord, don't even get me started. This is a little embarrassing, but I clearly have some sort of kleptomaniac blood running through my veins because every time I stay at a hotel, I take all of the toiletries home. All of those mini bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, mouthwash, body gel, soap—you name it. And we travel a lot. So over the years I accumulated literally hundreds of bottles, boxes and packets of various toiletries. My reasoning was that we have a lot of people stay with us and that it would be nice to offer our guests a selection of bathroom amenities to choose from. But at this point someone could stay with us for five years straight and not run out of shampoo. It was ridiculous.

So I spent a few hours over the course of that weekend going through my bathroom closets, looking under the sinks and rummaging through every other random place I've squirreled this stuff away and came up with several big grocery bags full of loot for my mom to take back with her. Now I wish I would've weighed all of it because it was insane! All that's left now are a few small baskets for each of our guest rooms that look something like this:

Lint brush & extra toothbrushes supplied by me. All else, um, supplied by hotels around the world.

 I think our visitors are gonna survive AND still be so fresh and so clean when they leave our place.

Next up was the biggest task yet: cleaning out my clothes closets, since my mom mentioned there were other groups she worked with that were holding clothing drives.

I've been freelancing from home since 2007, yet for some reason I still kept all of my very nice suits I wore for The Man, along with a ton of high heels and more businessy stuff that I haven't touched for years. I just never had the time—even on weekends—to go through it all and decide what I should give to charity and what I should keep. But now I finally had a huge motivation to do it: I had a few hours to spare because my parents were watching Desmond all weekend and they were going to be nice enough to actually haul everything to the various nonprofits for me and get me the tax receipts I need. I HAD to get it done.

I went crazy paring down my closets. It felt so, so good. I kept my three favorite suits, but all other outfits only relevant to The Man went bye-bye. As did sweaters I hadn't worn in at least two seasons, pants that didn't fit anymore, shoes that were uncomfortable, pajamas I'd forgotten about, and so on.

We piled it all into my parents' SUV and FILLED IT. We filled an SUV with clothes, purses and toiletries!?!?

Behold the back seat

Behold the way way back

We gave away that much stuff... and my husband still needs to rummage through his closets! We're going to have so much extra room around here, and we can feel extra-good about it. Words can't describe the relief I felt at getting this done.

I hope I've inspired you to do the same if you've been feeling like you need a good spring cleaning. Now is the time! 'Cause it's spring—duh!

- e 

Monday, May 11, 2015


Come at me

It's been a while since I've posted, and this time I actually have a good excuse—or several good excuses, as it were. Two of them can't be shared publicly right now, so I'll have to keep you in suspense on those for a bit longer. But one update I can talk about is that—after 6.5 years of writing movie reviews, blog posts and social media musings—I am no longer freelancing for Redbox. It's only been a few weeks since I stopped working for them, so I'm not even sure it's completely sunk in to me yet. I was a contractor for Redbox longer than I had a "real job" anywhere else, so I guess the adjustment is going to take some time.

I had four months to prepare for my last day, but clearly change is harder than I'd like to admit because I didn't get off my butt and proactively try to secure another film reviewing gig like I should've. And now because of the other stuff going on that I can't share just yet, it probably doesn't make sense for me to try and find a more permanent critic post until the fall. So you can expect to see more movie reviews here on According to e in the meantime, starting this week.

Britney would say I'm lucky
As I was stressing out about how I was going to replace the income I've lost from Redbox, another wonderful opportunity fell into my lap, much like the Redbox job did back in 2008. I must've done something damn cool in a past life for this type of thing to happen to me so many times. Or maybe it's just really good luck?

My new gig will start in a few months and is still social media and writing-centric, but it's not really public-facing—meaning that I won't be sharing links of things I've written. So my hope is to eventually find a way to balance the new client work and my other client work, start reviewing films for a new outlet and also post frequently on this site in order to keep the ol' creative expression flowing.

Now that my personal update is out of the way, I'll be back with commentary on totally random topics starting tomorrow . . . until I leave for Ireland and Northern Ireland next Friday. Westeros, here I come!

- e

Friday, April 24, 2015

Movie Review: The Age of Adaline

If you HAD to stop aging, though, I do think 29 is a pretty great place to pause.

What would you do if you knew you'd stay 29 years old forever?

I hadn't done my homework before seeing The Age of Adaline; I knew who the leads were and that it was about a woman who didn't age, but that's it. So I was surprised to learn afterward that it isn't based on any best-selling novel, but rather is an original story from J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz. I was surprised by this because let's be honest—there aren't a ton of romantic dramas out there these days that aren't adaptations. Actually, there aren't many movies of any genre out there these days that aren't adaptations.

I'd made another pre-screening assumption: that the movie was going to be either too cheesy or too weepy for my tastes. Wrong again.

Maybe it's because I've always been a sucker for any story dealing with the manipulation of time, but I found myself willing to go all in with The Age of Adaline from its very first moments. A voiceover explains the fairly ridiculous (and intentionally comedic in parts) setup of exactly how Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) stopped aging at 29 years old when she crashed her car on the way to pick up her five-year-old daughter after her husband's untimely death. The year was 1937.

Director Lee Toland Krieger (Celeste and Jesse Forever) made a smart decision in putting Adaline's secret out there from the start—and by giving the audience a silly "wink and nudge" moment that allowed them to just laugh out loud at the crazy premise and then move on to caring about Adaline's dilemma. The dilemma being that since she has remained 29 for decades, she can't get close to anyone, nor can she stay in one place for more than ten years before somebody starts getting suspicious.

It's a lonely, mournful existence, which Lively does an excellent job of conveying throughout the film, but there was one scene in particular that stuck with me. Adaline and her now-eightysomething daughter, Flemming (Ellen Burstyn) were at lunch, and Flemming was babbling on about friends of hers who had recently fallen or had hip surgery or had moved to a retirement community. The mix of emotions that crossed Adaline's face within a matter of seconds—concern, disbelief, irritation, denial, sadness, and then back to authentic concern—was amazing and heartbreaking. A different scene where Adaline has to say goodbye to yet another faithful canine companion put me over the edge.

If you look real quick you might think this is Shia LaBeouf, like I did.And so it becomes clear that unless you're a vampire with other vampire friends to hang with (or a virginal beauty decides she just must turn undead and join you), living forever ain't all it's cracked up to be. Adaline can't even pull an Arwen—if she were to find The One, she couldn't simply choose to give up her immortality for her own personal version of Aragorn.

So when Ellis Jones (Michael Huisman) aggressively pursues Adaline after they meet at a New Year's Eve party, it's understandable (to us) why she plays coy. However, she does allow herself a little fun, which leads to a weekend trip with Ellis to his parent's house to celebrate their fortieth anniversary. Things get mighty mighty weird right quick, because Ellis's dad William (Harrison Ford) knew Adaline back in the day. 

This is where I tell you that if you're on the fence about seeing this movie, you must see it solely for the flashbacks of Harrison Ford's character. Because I'm pretty darn sure that my entire theater had their minds blown by not only the physical resemblance of the actor playing young William (Anthony Ingruber) to a young Harrison Ford, but also by how much the two men sound exactly like each other. It is freaky, I tell you. (I later learned that Ingruber got the part specifically because of his Han Solo impressions on YouTube. For real.)

Where's Chewie?
As for Ford himself, he's great, too. He and Kathy Baker (as William's wife) are not in the film long, but they serve to drive home the consequences and pain of missed opportunities and "what if?" scenarios that we'd previously only considered from Adaline's view.

I had but three small issues with The Age of Adaline: 1) I'm so used to hearing Huisman in other softer accents (on Game of Thrones, Nashville and Orphan Black) that I was not feeling the grating "American voice" he settled on for this role, 2) while there were hints at something deeper (bursting into another language, dominating at Trivial Pursuit), I was left wanting to know more about Adaline's past, and 3) the ending was totally cheeserrific. Not in a film-ruining way, but in a "did they really have to be that cheesy?" way.

Regardless, I would still recommend The Age of Adaline because it pleasantly surprised me and passed my test of getting me to think about things that will never happen to me. (What? You thought I was still 29? Why thank you, and you go on and have yourself a fantastic weekend.)

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Great Customer Service: Fitbit

The update on yesterday's Fitbit Fail situation is that there's good news and bad news. The bad news is that my Fitbit One is indeed dead. The good news is that since I only bought it in mid-January, it's under warranty and they're going to send me a new one.

The even better news is that I didn't have to pull teeth to make this happen. I had a very short online chat with a customer service rep who had me try to sync my device after I explained to her what happened. The sync wouldn't work.

Yeah, and it's a BIG problem, people.

And... that was it. I got an email asking for my shipping address and a screenshot of my order details from Amazon. A new Fitbit One should be on its way to me shortly, and it doesn't even seem like they're going to make me go through the annoying task of sending the defunct one bad, which I LOVE.

I asked the rep if there was a known issue with One's flaking out after only a few months, but she said there wasn't, so I'm going to cross my fingers that the new one isn't a dud.

In the meantime, I'm still feeling uneasy without anything tracking my steps. And I don't like touching my waist and not being able to feel my little fitness friend right there by my side. This must be how Tom Hanks felt when he lost Wilson.

Yep. It's exactly like that.

- e

Monday, April 06, 2015

Feeling Naked When You're Not

At around 11:30 this afternoon, I went to the kitchen to get a snack and absentmindedly hit my Fitbit button to see how many steps I'd logged so far.

"0," it glared back at me.

I frantically hit the button again and cycled through all of the categories. Everything was showing a big fat zero: steps, calories, stairs, the works.

What was happening?!?

Apparently I'm not the only one who feels this way.I forgot all about eating and ran to plug the little guy into my laptop. I searched the Help section of Fitbit's site to see what to do. A reboot was suggested. I tried it and then jogged around the floor again. Still nothing but zeroes.

Another reboot. And another. It's just not working.

Fitbit's customer service wasn't online, so I sent them an email and am impatiently waiting to hear back. In the meantime, I've left my Fitbit plugged into my laptop so that it can fully charge, and I'm hoping for a miracle.

I've only had this thing for a few months, so it's amazing that I am COMPLETELY FREAKING OUT without it on. I feel naked without it, and every step I take that it doesn't track seems like a travesty.

Anyone who has a smart phone has felt this same way when they've either forgotten to bring it with them or otherwise misplaced it for a while. We're like trained animals with this stuff, I swear. But with the Fitbit it's even stranger because I feel like any exercise I get while it's off somehow doesn't matter or doesn't count, when clearly it does. A lot of the things I do at the gym are way better workouts than walking is, and the Fitbit I have (the One) doesn't even track that stuff anyway. But for whatever reason, not having it on and not having it working are causing me to meltdown nonetheless.

Pray for a quick resolution, for my sanity's sake!

- e

Friday, April 03, 2015

Tax Time

It's go time.
So yesterday I did something I've never done in all of my years of either preparing my own taxes or getting the files and forms together for our accountant: I pulled everything together in one day.

Granted, I had been keeping all tax-related documents in a folder as things were mailed to us over the last few months, but that's not really what I'm talking about. I'm talking about all of those other random and not-so-random last-minute things you realize you need when tax time rolls around. That includes completing the entire year's profit and loss statement for my writing business. Each year I swear that I'm going to keep my LLC's income and expense spreadsheet current. I vow to fill in what I get paid and what writing-related costs I incur on a rolling basis each month so that I don't have to scramble in April. And then I promptly forget about it (or am just too lazy to do it) as soon as the taxes are filed.

Since my 2014 situation was not that complicated, I was able to complete my spreadsheet in a matter of a few hours. It's always fun to go back through the year and be reminded of which movies I took cabs to versus drove to (cash expenses versus credit-card parking expenses!)—what's even more fun is when a movie was so blah that I cannot even remember what it was about. D'oh.

Anyway, I got everything done and made it over to our accountant's office 30 minutes before they closed for the day. (I used to LOVE doing our taxes on my own, but once I created an LLC I got too nervous I would screw something up.)

There was another guy dropping his packet of forms off at the same time. We went down the stairs afterward together and he said, "It feels good to have the ball be in their court now, doesn't it?"

Yes, yes it does.

- e

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Something I'll Never Buy

A few weeks ago I was enjoying a walk down by Lake Michigan when a strange contraption whizzed by me: the Elliptigo. I immediately emailed myself to remember to look into it later, and today's the day I finally did.

This is not the dude I saw.

Technically it's written as the ElliptiGO... so there's that. My favorite machine at the gym is the Elliptical, so I admit I was curious about this mobile version. For poor souls like me who just can't handle high-impact exercise like jogging, I've found the Elliptical to be the best way to work up a sweat and burn calories without feeling like you've angered the Knee Gods the next morning.

But the cheapest ElliptiGO model costs $1,800.


So I will not be buying one. In convincing myself not to be sad about this, here's what I came up with:
  • I wouldn't be able to use it at all between December and March thanks to bad weather in Chicago. (Well, technically it looks like you CAN use it inside with some sort of stationary adjustment that's of course like $500 more, but you get my point.)
  • I'd need to store it somewhere and we don't have a garage or any place it would be protected from the elements.
  • I already pay for membership at a gym across the street that has Elliptical machines.
  • If I really wanted to be able to both exercise and go greater distances faster than I could by just walking, I could a) ride my husband's bike or b) buy a bike of my own for a lot less than $1,800.
  • It looks kinda silly and calls attention to whomever's riding it, and I like to keep a low profile—especially when I'm exercising. I won't even do any group classes because I 'm so horrified by the thought of someone watching me work out, so riding some beast machine down the jogging path that's the equivalent of blaring "LOOK AT ME" over loudspeakers is kind of my worst nightmare.
  • Again, it's $1,800 (without tax or shipping, I assume).

There. Now I feel better about never being an ElliptiGO owner. I do wish I had a normal Elliptical in my place so that I wouldn't even have to go to the gym. God forbid I have to walk two blocks to exercise!

- e

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

No Fooling

Ah, April Fools' Day. A day that I don't necessarily mind, as long as the pranks are happening to someone else. For example, if anyone pulled this Jimmy Kimmel stunt on me while I had my first sip of tea in the morning, things would end badly. (Seriously, all I can imagine is scalding liquids being spilled and thrown on innocent people. Not cool.)

What I do enjoy, however, is seeing how creative or otherwise into it some companies get. Take Uber, for example. I received this email at 7:30 a.m., which I actually bought for a few seconds until I read the hilarious quote at the end. I just assumed SkyMall was takin' it to the streets, so to speak.

Three-person Slanket -- sign me up!

Best quote ever?

I actually clicked on the video and was even more impressed. The Shoulder Selfie Camera made me laugh out loud. (And you know some people out there actually want one.)

That's some serious effort.

But wait, there's more! They actually created a SkyMall-like catalog. Would you be interested in the blanket of human hair? Or perhaps the Signed and Framed Photo from an Out-of-Work Actor?

If you are in need of a laugh, flip through the whole thing. The best part is there's no mention anywhere that it's a gag.

My longtime freelance employer, Redbox, pulled a great one today as well with Petbox. At first I thought it was just a bunch of already-existing animal-centric films, but then I looked a bit closer...

Hollywood needs to make Gone Squirrel happen.

Once you scroll down past "the fold," as we Web people say, you'll see that they fess up--and provide a little April Fools' Day bonus. My favorites are Gone Squirrel, Fox Catcher and Fifty Shades of Greyhound.

Actually, all of these need to happen.

It's only a few hours into the day, so I'm sure there will be some other great pranks to come. As long as I'm not the unwitting target, it's all good.

- e

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Reality Bites.

Go, Cubs, go! (They actually won, too!)
It's been three weeks since I last posted, but I only have a legitimate excuse for about two of those weeks. If you're connected to me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you know that we were in Arizona (to visit my in-laws as well as go to a Cubs Spring Training game) and then flew from there to L.A. for a trip to Disneyland. Then this past weekend we drove to Michigan to help celebrate my grandma's 91st birthday.

All of that travel caused three things to happen before and after we left.

1) In advance of our trip, I worked like a maniac to get writing for clients, various errands (like doctor's appointments for both myself and Desmond) and other To Do items checked off of my list. We threw the Disney excursion together at the very last minute and I knew it wasn't going to happen again for a while, so I wanted absolutely nothing on my plate or hanging over my head while we were there. This is my (admittedly not totally great) excuse for not blogging in the days leading up to our departure for Arizona.

My own personal Disney tradition.2) The time off was the best. Seriously, it couldn't have been any better. I will definitely be writing about everything we did very soon. But part of the reason I couldn't bring myself to sit down and crank out any posts over the past three weekdays I've been home is because I'd already been sitting so much during the trip. As in, twelve hours crammed in the back seat of our tiny Volt this past weekend going to and from Michigan, three hours on the flight to Arizona, five hours on the return flight from L.A., all of the time in the car getting to and from airports, and so on. The last thing I wanted to do was sit after we got home. I even chose to do hours and hours of laundry over booting up my laptop, if that tells you something.

3) Since we returned, I've been in a complete and total funk. Hence the title of this post. Now, this kind of post-vacation depression almost always happens when I get back from a great trip. So I was expecting it to some degree. But this time it seems worse. Perhaps it was because we were at The Happiest Place on Earth™, so being back in the dismal not-really-spring-yet Chicago weather was an ever bigger letdown then it would've been coming back from anywhere else.

Sing it, brahMaybe it's because we had such an extraordinary time. Maybe it's because real life was pretty much on hold while we were away. Maybe it's because I had the first true, honest-to-god-no-work-AT-ALL vacation since 2008 and I really, really needed it. Maybe it's because when I got back, I could no longer ignore a few major professional and personal situations that have me really bummed out and in denial. Maybe it's because even though there are many things we're doing over the next few months that I'm excited about, we don't have any other vacations planned. (Remember how I always need something big to look forward to?)

So what did I do? We got back late Wednesday night, and on Thursday I had the aforementioned Day Of Laundry. I went through mail, cleaned our place, and did everything I could to avoid opening my laptop. I had every intention to get back to work on Friday.

But then Friday morning hit, and I still couldn't bring myself to accept reality. By this point I did have to do some client work, but in my head I guess I felt like if I didn't go back to my usual routine of doing a personal blog post in the morning then I wasn't really back back. Plus, I had to get things ready to leave again on Saturday morning, I wanted to go to the gym, we didn't have any food at home so I took that as an opportunity to go out to eat, et cetera, et cetera. I would totally be rarin' to go again on Monday. For sure. Because, I mean, it would be Monday and that's a perfect day to start fresh again.

I mean come on. THE BEST!So we went to Michigan and back over the weekend, and then on Sunday night in my head I was like, "OK, I'm going to watch The Walking Dead finale and then that will also represent the finale of these past few weeks of goofing off and then tomorrow I am totally going to get serious again."

Except that yesterday came and I was even more down in the dumps than before. I did a bunch of client work, but still couldn't bring myself to log in to Blogger. By the time it hit 3 p.m. I couldn't sit still anymore. It was halfway decent out, so I justified a long walk around my neighborhood.

I was about 30 minutes into that brisk walk when the tears started coming. Was it because I finally had to accept that play time was over? Was it me coming to terms with the crappy work and personal stuff that's going on? Was it the fact that "Run" by Collective Soul came on my Spotify mix? Who knows, but I decided I was just going to let myself have a pity party right there in the middle of Lincoln Park and be done with it. I turned down a residential side street and had a good cry and felt a million times better.

Yup.Right or wrong, I am the kind of person who doesn't have much patience for anyone who's acting all "poor me" when they don't have something serious to be down about. I am especially hard on myself whenever I feel blue because I know I have a great life and so many things to be thankful for. I mean, being sad that you're back from Disneyland is like THE number one #FirstWorldProblem, am I right? (There truly is more to it than that, but you get my point.)

But a wise friend told me yesterday that I was human, I am being faced with real challenges (the work and personal ones I alluded to, not the post-Disneyland-blues, obviously) and that I was allowed to feel the way I was feeling. And that helped. So did the cry during my walk. So did watching Better Call Saul last night. So is the promise of seeing something mega-silly like Furious 7 tonight. The dreary weather today is NOT helping (hence the SAD lamp is cranking as I write this), but warmer temperatures are ahead, and so is a brighter outlook on my part. "Pity, Party of One" has had its time, but now I need to smack myself upside the head and start acting like an adult again.

And what could be MORE adult than this: actually looking forward to spending the majority of the day tomorrow pulling together everything needed to complete our 2014 taxes. Yes, I am one of those dorks who enjoys tax season. It's no Disneyland, but it'll have to do.

- e

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Good Day Sunshine

Around 3:15 today I realized something with a shock: I had completely forgotten about posting today.

At that point in time I was heading back home from a 2-hour-long, 10,000+ step (thanks, FitBit) walk along Lake Michigan, which is one of my favorite things in the world to do.

Yesterday was the first time in 2015 that I ventured out for a walk rather than hiding from the cold in the gym. But today was even warmer ("warm" in Chicago = 45 degrees) and sunnier and I'd gotten all of my client work done so I decided to go for a really, really long hike.

Around this time of the year, it's more of an adventure than anything. I have to wear my ugly brown waterproof New Balances, I need to make peace with the fact that my pants will have lines of mud splayed up the back by the time I get home, I need to jump over huge puddles, constantly keep my eyes peeled for mounds of goose poop, and leap from boulder to boulder when I'm on some more precarious parts of the mostly-still-snowed-over path closest to the water.

But I have a ton of fun. Today I went down to the beachfront, which does not look like beachfront. I actually don't know what this looks like.

Not bathing suit ready just yet.

Cracked, dry desert? Tundra? Rotting sand dunes? Small mountains? Modern art?

I nearly killed myself climbing up the tallest hill to get this shot and I'm not sure the effort was worth it. But the walk was. And I still got my post done!

- e

Monday, March 09, 2015

What is Your "Claim to Fame"?

Do you have something that you consider to be your "claim to fame"? Longtime readers of this blog might remember that back in 2008 I wrote about how up until that point, I'd never eaten a taco. I was wondering if a thing I had while on vacation in Mexico finally qualified. (The consensus was that it did.)

I still use the "Madonna went to my high school" tidbit referenced in that same post whenever I'm in a situation that requires an "interesting fact about you." But my other go-to statement that tends to shock people is that I've never had coffee. As in, I've never even tried it. Not one sip. This seems to blow a lot of people's minds. Apparently even those who don't consider themselves to be coffee drinkers have at least tried the stuff at some point.

But not me. Not even coffee-flavored ice cream. Not even one of those fancy drinks at Starbucks that has a ton of other stuff in it along with a tiny bit of coffee. NO COFFEE.

There's no reason for this except that I think even the smell of coffee is gross. I know there are people who can't get up in the morning unless they smell a freshly brewed pot of joe wafting through their house. That's something I don't understand.

Know anyone like this?I'm a tea girl, but even with that I'm not too extreme. I have one big mug of Earl Grey each morning and that's it. I'm not too happy if something causes me to have to skip that mug, but I don't transform into a terrible beast in search of caffeine, either.

My husband actually drinks neither. He'll have a bowl of cereal in the morning or a banana or something, but no caffeine. (He will drink coffee or an espresso at restaurants every now and then, though, so he can't steal my no-coffee-ever-whatsoever thunder.)

I'm curious to see if anyone else has one of these claims to fame that they're oddly proud of—something that seems to truly surprise people?

- e

Friday, March 06, 2015

The Problem with Reminders

Of course I picked a fox graphic
Last month I wrote about the four methods I use to help me remember stuff. But I didn't mention the ridiculous lengths I go to in order to remind my husband to do one simple thing almost every single day.

Here's the situation: We bought the three condos in our building with the intention of one day converting them into a single home. But right now, and for the next few years at least, we have these three separate condo units with separate kitchens, separate entrances, and separate electric and gas bills.

My husband goes to our top floor pretty much every night to work on his music. When he's not up there, we want to keep the thermostat waaay down—warm enough so that the pipes won't freeze, but low enough so that our heating bills don't bankrupt us. We do the same thing for our second level, which is where I work during business hours on the weekdays. Each morning I crank up the heat, and each day when I'm done I turn it back to 55. This practice is second nature to me now. I don't even have to think about it. I never forget to do it.

If not, turn around, climb back up 3 flights and DO ITUnfortunately my husband hasn't made the "turning down of the heat" a routine yet. When we were hitting a total of $700 per month in gas bills across the three units, I totally spazzed out at him and found many creative ways to yell, "WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO GET YOU TO REMEMBER TO TURN DOWN THE HEAT?!?!"

But nothing I did worked. I'd go up to the third floor before I'd start my day and dammit if it wasn't warm and toasty up there, meaning that the furnace had been cranking nonstop throughout the night for absolutely no reason.

So then I started putting signs at his eye level on both the door our of the third-floor condo and the door at the end of our stairwell, thinking that would HAVE to work because he'd pass both on his way back downstairs. And it did for about a week. But then even those reminders failed and I'd find the thermostat at 70 in the morning.

I would email him before I knew he was coming down. I would call him. I would text him. Nothing was able to drive it into his head permanently.

My latest tactic is that I've taped a sign right onto the handle of the door he'll go out of so that it's really in his way. But honestly I still don't have faith that this is a permanent solution.

FOR THE LOVE OF GODAnd then today I realized that he's become dependent on all of the nightly reminders I would text and email him to the point that he's ignoring the signs I've hung. He's not even consciously registering them. This notion hit me because I saw some article online about how "spring forward" is this weekend, and I had to laugh because I NEVER remember when the spring forward/fall back dates are on my own because for whatever reason, my mom still emails me reminders about turning our clocks to the right time on the day we're supposed to do this. If my mom stopped reminding me, I would be lost. I've become dependent on those messages twice a year.

So now I really don't know what to do to get my husband to internalize this heating-bill issue. If you're wondering why the aforementioned $700 wasn't enough, it's because I'm the one who actually pays our bills and manages the finances, so it's not front and center in his life. He's not "going without" because of that extra expense. He definitely does realize this is a huge problem and that it's solely his fault, yet he's just not putting those thoughts into repeatable actions every night.

Will publicly shaming him on the Internet like this do the trick? Stay tuned for next month's bill totals to find out! And does anyone else out there have an issue like this? Misery loves company...

- e