Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fall's Not Looking Too Good...

I was pretty disappointed with the three season premieres I watched this week - you know it's bad when the season finale of The Pickup Artist is the best thing you've seen in a while! Dirty Sexy Money, Big Shots and The Office were all less than stellar, and I'm realizing that perhaps I will not be spending as much time in front of the TV this fall as I have in years past. That's good news for the towering stack of magazines I have sitting in my front room, though!

(If you haven't watched these shows yet and intend to, then don't read this, there are spoilers below.)

Dirty Sexy Money

was a little sillier than I had hoped it was going to be. Peter Krause (new lawyer for the Darling family) and Donald Sutherland (Darling family patriarch) were by far the best things about this show, and Samaire Armstrong (Paris Hilton-wannabe daughter) was the worst. Actually, the "aspiring Senator (Billy Baldwin) hooking up with a transvestite" storyline was pretty tired, too. I am assuming that the reason the show seemed to cut so quickly between scenes and story lines was because it was the pilot and they were trying to establish all of the main characters. But the result was that all of the family members seemed extremely one-dimensional and cliché. The show also doesn't seem to know what it wants to be... is it a drama, a comedy, a soap opera, a murder-mystery?

I just came across an article that mentioned a fairly well-known (and good) actor joining the cast, so perhaps things will get better as the episodes unfurl. Reading this interview with Donald Sutherland also gives me hope that the plot will become a little bit more steady.

Big Shots

I can't decide which show annoyed me more, DSM or Big Shots. I think it was Big Shots. I'm realizing that all of the shows I've really enjoyed over the years - Lost, The X-Files, Seinfeld, The Amazing Race, and even Survivor and The Apprentice back in the day - didn't revolve around characters jumping in and out of bed with each other. In fact, there was/is hardly any of that on any of those shows. Call me a prude, but that's just not what I find entertaining. So I knew it wasn't a good sign when Big Shots opened with my beloved Bobby Donnell getting it on with his ex-wife in a wine cellar. Or when a major plot line involved another character having an affair. Or yet another story line about Michael Vartan's character's wife having an affair. Or... back to Bobby Donnell... a plot line involving - YET AGAIN - a transvestite hooker. What is going on with transvestite hookers being in both DSM and Big Shots?!? As my husband remarked, "It's like they're just trying to think up what could be the most shocking." Except that if all show writers are doing the same thing, then it gets really old really fast - especially when the ideas weren't even interesting in the first place.

But, as I stated a few posts ago, I will watch at least 3 more episodes before I make my final decision, especially since I know they're bringing some well-respected consultants in to help with the dialogue on Big Shots. And there were some decent aspects of the show... I can now see why everyone who watched Alias loved them some Michael Vartan! I think I like him more than Dylan McDermott now - Dylan's just not looking as good as he did when he played a lawyer, what can I say? Maybe I will just forward through the show and only watch the Michael Vartan parts? Three cheers for Tivo!

The Office

Let me state upfront that I will always stick with The Office, so it doesn't really matter how much it starts tanking - it has already made the "Will Watch Until It's Over" list. But that could mean there's a painful season in store for me and the rest of its audience, because I was not digging the premiere episode at all. Like I complained last season, they are making Michael Scott (the boss - Steve Carell) WAY too over-the-top! I know that the show is a comedy and that much of it is supposed to be not completely realistic, but it's really starting to reach now. Michael hits Meredith with his car, she winds up in the hospital with a broken pelvis and he lays himself on top of her in her hospital bed to try to get her to give him a hug of forgiveness as she shrieks in pain? That's just stupid. I also didn't like the turn they took with Dwight, who apparently tried to kill Angelina's ailing cat out of sympathy because "that's what farmers do." And don't even get me started on how they're handling Jim and Pam's new relationship. It's been one episode and they already seem totally annoying - this ain't gonna be pretty, folks! That's why the British version was brilliant in ending the series before you knew what happened to Tim and Dawn (the original Jim and Pam).

However, there's always good news, right? The good news is that Creed continues to rock (his discussion of the cults he is both a leader and follower in was my favorite part of the premiere) - and - guess what? He's now been upgraded to a series regular. YESSSSSS! If you worship the Creedster like I do, then you must must must check out Creed Thoughts - his supposed blog (I guess before Ryan left for Corporate he hooked Creed up with more than just a Word document on which to record his ramblings). Here are a few of his random thoughts, to give you a taste:

"Fall is in the air and that means seven things: Political elections, Lyle Lovett’s birthday, the holiday where ghosts make candy, April Fool’s Day, it’s too cold to play tennis, look out for skunks, and most of all, baseball. I like winners. That’s why I only watch baseball for the last month of the season."

What? And how did April Fool's Day get in there???

Here's part of another entry:

"Sad week for the Creedster. My girlfriend decided to call it quits on me. She’s been locked up over in Muncy for the past seven years on a bogus B and E with intent to commit a felony. I can tell you with absolute certainty that LaDonna didn’t intend anything. She never does. Maybe that was the problem. With only a month left on her sentence, she told me she got cold feet. Wanted her options open when she got sprung, I guess."

Creed is rapidly becoming one of the best characters on TV. But here's the crazy thing I just found out - the guy who plays Creed, actually IS Creed! I know this is confusing, but there is a real man named Creed Bratton who plays the character Creed Bratton on The Office. The character is supposedly based on the real guy, who has definitely had quite a wild life (including being in the band The Grass Roots). That makes Creed all the more awesome! How did I not know this before!?!?

The next three weeks of The Office will feature hour-long episodes, so I hope they get back on track over the course of October. If not, then maybe Creed will get his own spin-off? I'll start the petition, who's with me?

- e

Friday, September 28, 2007

Blindly Addicted

Maybe it's because I wrote a post late in the day yesterday, but I'm still in the mood this fine Friday morning to share yet another guilty pleasure of mine with you, my dear readers.

This one is my obsession with reading "blind items." If you are not a frequent peruser of celebrity gossip magazines or web sites, then let me clue you in as to what a blind item is... it is a rumor about a famous person who is left unnamed. Usually clues are given as to the celebrity's identity, and then people like me go nuts trying to guess who it is. When the items are posted on a web site that allows comments, tons of people start entering in their speculations (along with supporting evidence) and typically some sort of conclusion is drawn. A few of these printed rumors are fairly tame, but most are extremely sordid - dealing with affairs and perversions and all sorts of unsavory activity. I'm assuming that's why none of the publications actually names names... because they would get sued quite quickly by a bunch of high-powered attorneys. So they give telling hints and leave it up to their readership to figure it out.

I will give you an example of one that's harmless from The New York Daily News on September 3rd: " Which Hollywood megastar couple likes to have the hotel where they stay in New York clip flattering pictures of them and their child from the celeb weeklies, to put in frames before they arrive at their suite?"

Everyone agreed that this was Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Here's another one that's a little juicier, but not really surprising! This one is from Lainey Gossip on September 7th:

"Who was in Toronto the other night, attempting to dance while her ex BFF’s ex fiancé worked the tables, and ended up spending half the night in the staff toilet drunk off her tree retching her face off, irritating employees and sending them scurrying for disinfectant and antibiotics for fear of viral contamination? It IS who you think it is."

I know this is a shocker, but this was deemed to be Paris Hilton.

I chose to write about my obsession today because I have found the mother of all blind item sites. This page pulls together ALL BLIND ITEMS from ALL SOURCES (or all of the best sources, at least) so lazy people such as myself don't even need to hunt for them anymore. It's awesome! The early-90s animated .gif on the page is really annoying, but as soon as you click into a month's archive it stops. My only wish for this site is that they would list new items in reverse chronological order so I don't have to scroll all the way down to check for updates... I told you I was lazy!

Think twice before you check it out for yourself... once you start reading these things - you will be forever tormented. You will be wondering WHO a particularly nasty item is about and it will gnaw at the back of your mind - possibly forever, because some of these rumors are never going to be substantiated in public. I fear I'm about to create many monsters... I warned you!

- e

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Mystery of Mystery

My, how far I've fallen.

Guess what I just HAD to watch last night?

The season finale of The Pickup Artist.

You've never heard of it? Well stop reading this now so you can save whatever is left of your soul!

I hadn't heard of this show, either, until Tivo started recording it in our "suggestions" list. My husband became a fan first, and I would walk in on him giggling endlessly at Mystery, the lanky, eyeliner-wearing, Mad Hatter-inspired "master pickup artist" whose job it was to turn eight "socially awkward" guys into suave ladies' men. Actually, perhaps I should paste in the official description of the show:

"There is a man who few outside the “seduction community” are aware of, but VH1 has sought him out to help eight unlucky-in-love bachelors find the women of their dreams. Or at least become capable of approaching a girl without sweating profusely and stuttering uncontrollably. This man’s name is Mystery, and while he may look like a cross between a cowboy and a vampire, he is quite successful with the ladies."

That about sums it up. The show was instantly addictive, and I found myself purposefully tuning in to the last few episodes, even going as far as Tivoing the finale last night to ensure we didn't miss it. You may think the premise of the show is disgusting and chauvinistic: training young men to pick up women by making them compete "in the field" on tasks ranging from getting telephone numbers to making out with exotic dancers to initiating small talk.

And don't get me wrong, I fully realize that - on the surface - the show is quite despicable. But what drew my husband and I into it was the absolute BRILLIANCE and GENIUS of Mystery. Your first look at this guy leaves you in stitches - I mean, just look at him. You MUST be thinking, This guy is supposed to be an expert at picking up women? Is he for real?

But the answer is yes. He's very much for real. The more I started looking into Mystery, whose real name is Erik von Markovik, the further my jaw dropped open. Any article or site about Mystery also inevitably cites a book called The Game, in which the author Neil Strauss breaks into the "seduction community" and ends up totally entrenched in the world of Pickup Artists (or, PUAs, as they refer to themselves), creating his own alter-ego named Style. This book was on the New York Times best-seller list in the fall of 2005 and just hit it again last month, most likely because of the publicity from the show. Mystery is one of the main characters in the book, which is now being made into a movie. What's crazy is that there is an ENTIRE SUBCULTURE of these Pickup Artists - all over the globe!!! And Mystery is the equivalent of their king or something??! I just can't get over it. Their main goal in life is to attract women. For the love of all that is holy, if these people put this much enthusiasm and energy and time into a real problem in the world, we'd have some substantial progress. Granted, on the show, many of the competitors are indeed painfully shy and it is quite inspiring to see them become more confident and comfortable in their own skin, and there's something to be said for that. Many made it clear that they just wanted to be more assured around members of the opposite sex or know how to act at a party and whatnot, which is much more innocent than the goals of the participants in the wider realm of this phenomenon (there's actually a seminar on one-night stands, for example). It boils down to a bunch of guys who were dorks back in the day now trying to live out some sort of revenge with these techniques they have learned. They have their own phrases and acronyms and symbols and everything. The seminars at which they gather, including the one I mentioned above, cost up to $3000 (not including travel expenses) and take place in major cities across several countries. You, too, can spend a long weekend with the Masters and learn from them! It's unbelievable.

So while I feel I've learned more than I ever wanted to know about this little corner of the universe that I find wholly disturbing, I will separate the seduction community itself from The Pickup Artist, which, as I alluded to above, is much less sinister. What my husband and I enjoyed most about this show was how Mystery took concepts that you could find in any major business book about selling skills or negotiating, combined them with lessons learned from the likes of How to Make Friends and Influence People, threw in a dash of confidence and common sense, and then applied the results to the dating scene. He marketed his approach as The Mystery Method and built an entire business empire around what is essentially motivational coaching for nerds. I love it!

On top of being a savvy businessman and ground-breaking fashion connoisseur, Mystery is also extremely well-spoken. I was expecting some Kevin Federline-sounding idiot, but I dare say Mystery speaks rather intelligently. Once again, if only that intelligence had been directed at, say... curing a disease or inventing a useful gadget or... you get my point.

The last thing I have to say about The Pickup Artist is that I love Mystery's "wingman," called J Dog of all ridiculous things, just as much as I love Mystery. J Dog is definitely Anderson Cooper's long-lost younger (but somehow British) brother, wouldn't you agree?

So, there you have it - I have confessed the guiltiest of my guilty pleasures to you. The Pickup Artist is officially over now, but I'm sure you can catch reruns of it on VH1 - or there will inevitably be a DVD made of its short season. It is wrong that this is a show I actually hope gets picked up for a second round?

Until then, I'm off to buy my husband a huge hat and bizarre goggles to wear OVER that hat, so that he, too, can be a bit Mysterious.

- e

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

High School Musical - Why, God, WHY?!?!

I have tried and tried and tried and tried to avoid anything and everything having to do with High School Musical, but the time has come for me to give in. The perennially smiley Zac Efron is invading every magazine and web site I read, the Vanessa Hudgens naughty picture scandal is hogging headlines, and then a reader requested that I comment on this "masterpiece" - so I knew I could hold off no longer.

But the funny thing is, I actually needed to do some research to understand what High School Musical even IS before I wrote this post! Is it a TV show, a movie, a musical, or what? I had no idea. And if you are not a pre-teen yourself or don't have any pre-teenage kids at home, then you may not be clear on this either, so allow me to share my new-found knowledge. High School Musical (and its sequel, High School Musical 2) are actually a made-for-TV movies that ran on The Disney Channel. Its soundtrack went on to become the best-selling album of 2006! WHAT?!?!? I don't know what is more unbelievable to me - that HSM had the best album or that Rascal Flatts came in at #2. The peeps in the UK and in Australia seem to love this cheesiness, too! What is happening to this world!!!?!?

Wikipedia describes the HSM plot as: A modern retelling of Romeo & Juliet - a story of two high school juniors from rival cliques: Troy Bolton, captain of the basketball team, and Gabriella Montez, a shy transfer student who excels in math and science. Together, they try out for the lead parts in their high school musical, and as a result, divide the school. Despite other students' attempts to thwart their dreams, Troy and Gabriella resist peer pressure and rivalry, inspiring others along the way not to "stick with the status quo."

Now, I don't know about where you went to high school, but where I went, the captain of the basketball team would not be trying out for the lead role in the school's musical - you were either a jock or a drama club person, but you were not both. So props to Disney for making this seem like a believable premise and inspiring countless jocks around the world to pursue their Broadway dreams.

But it doesn't stop there... a script is in the works for High School Musical 3, there's now a series of books based off of the movie, and even a Disney on Ice tour is underway. They're taking over the planet - run for your life!

I don't think I can say anything that hasn't already been said about the cast - there are enough bloggers ripping apart Zac Efron for his pretty looks and what many consider to be his for-publicity-only relationship with his co-star, the embattled Vanessa. And while Disney is currently standing behind her after her scandal... more and more pictures of her in compromising positions keep turning up, so I'm curious to see how long they back her, given that her character is supposed to be the serious and studious one. And given that there are ten million teenage girls with aggressive mothers trying to break into the business who would do anything to knock Vanessa off of her pedestal.

What I think is more interesting than any of the behind-the-scenes drama is that fact that there is obviously a huge market for this sort of "wholesome" entertainment. The popularity of this franchise cannot be denied - and perhaps Hollywood and the recording industry will get a clue and realize that what they should be promoting and focusing on is this niche, rather than continuing to get burned by huge pop-stars who don't deliver or rappers who can't think of anything better to talk about in their lyrics than gold chains and Bentleys and all the women who are fighting over them. While I myself am never going to like the HSM phenomenon, I could see how if I was a parent I would be praying for more entertainment just like it to keep popping up so that my tweenager didn't turn to Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan as a role model. My advice to Disney would be to hold a mandatory session for all its actors and actresses entitled, "Why You Shouldn't Ruin Your Chances for a Long-Lasting Career By Taking ANY Photos of Yourself That You Wouldn't Want Your Own Parents To See Because Those Photos WILL End Up on the Internet, DUH!" and then milk the HSM cash-cow dry while developing 5 other shows exactly like it in the meantime.

It will be interesting to see what has become of the HSM cast in 10 years. I'll set a reminder on my calendar to blog about it in 2017, OK? Until then, I just hope Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens take their faux relationship to a deserted island for several months so I can stop seeing pictures of them and getting jealous about his great hair and make-up.

- e

Monday, September 24, 2007

The New-and-Improved According to e!

Just a quick note to make you aware of some updates I made to the site over the past weekend (I incorporated several of the same enhancements on Long Live Locke, too). I was a big ol' nerd and went crazy with my HTML skillz!

Here is what is new, in the off-chance that you, too, are a nerd and care about these sorts of things:

- "Favicons" in the URL field and in tabs (in some browsers) - you will see a maroon "e" if it works on your browser.
- Labels for all posts I've written to date. So if you are looking for, say, every book review I've ever written, you can find them easily in the "So Organized!" section to the right.
- A more easily navigable archives section in the right-hand column as well. Click on the arrows to expose the next layer for any given month or year.
- Emailed posts! If you cannot access 'According to e' at work or forget to check the site often, you can now get any new posts emailed to you by signing up in the field in the right-hand column. If your email system accepts HTML-coded messages, you will even get all the pictures (but, alas, not my roll-over captions). Just be sure to check your bulk/junk email folders when you first sign up, because when I tested it out, the sign-up confirmation email and the first message with a new post went into my junk folder until I designated them as "not junk."
- RSS feeds! Actually, I've always had an RSS feed, but now I've added the icon in the right-hand column so that I don't need to keep reminding everyone about it.
- A new color scheme. You probably didn't even notice. Sigh.

- e

Hey Jude, You're the Best Thing About Across the Universe

It has just dawned on me how many outlets my Beatlemania has had this year! First the Beatles Brunch on Easter, then The Fab Four tribute concert in Vegas in June and Cirque du Soleil's "Love" in Vegas over the same weekend, and now Across the Universe - a movie-musical with only Beatles' songs for its soundtrack. I knew that I was going to see it no matter what, but the wildly mixed reviews (an A from Roger Ebert to a C- from Entertainment Weekly) had tempered my expectations.

The good news is, I really liked it. The bad news is, I don't think most people will. Like many movies starring The Beatles themselves, Across the Universe was extremely trippy and cartoonish in parts and seems to have been produced by someone under the influence of many drugs. In more than a few scenes, the song choices seemed forced, like the writers were thinking: We really want to get in this song, but how? Oh, I know, let's name a character Prudence! Let's face it, when the two main characters' names of a Beatles-inspired film are Jude and Lucy, you have to figure the story's not going to be mind-blowing.

But since I had seen the trailer and read a lot about the movie before seeing it, I knew all of these things and therefore wasn't disappointed. If anything, I was pleasantly surprised because I LOVED the guy who played Jude, the main character. Jim Sturgess - my new movie star crush! I was extremely excited to see that he will be starring in 21 (not 'til March of 2008, though), based on the book "Bringing Down the House," the true story of MIT students who figured out a card-counting scheme to beat the odds in Vegas. He was just perfect in Across the Universe, and since everyone in the movie sang the songs themselves, he had a good voice to boot. My bet is that we will be seeing much more of him in the future.

I would've preferred someone else in the role of Lucy, however. She was played by Evan Rachel Wood, who is currently Marilyn Manson's girlfriend, as unbelievable as that may seem since she looks so innocent and normal. So I couldn't get that vision of her and him together out of my head, which was distracting. And while her voice was by no means bad, I didn't think it was right for the movie - she sounded too formal when she sang.

Other things to note about the film include two fairly major surprise guest appearances (I won't spoil it for you, but if you watch the trailer you will see both of them), and many small nods to cultural figures and lesser-known Beatles songs throughout. While I am a huge Beatles fan, I admit to being most familiar with their more popular songs... so I didn't get that the character Sadie was a reference to their song Sexy Sadie. There were characters coming in through bathroom windows, a shout-out to the Merry Pranksters and the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test... and on and on. My husband explained all of these things to me after we got out of the theater!

If you are on the fence about seeing this movie, check out the trailer and keep in mind that it makes the movie look much more normal than it actually is! But you can get a better idea of what the plot is about. The montage of weird scenes at the very end is more representative of what you'll be experiencing for over 2 hours.

Which brings me to my other surprise about Across the Universe - it was really long!
For some reason I thought it was going to run less than 90 minutes, but it was 2 hours and 15 minutes! They covered A LOT of songs in that time, so just settle in and enjoy the ride. I will give them props for bringing something new to the songs - "Let it Be" and "Helter Skelter" were two of my favorites.

My last bit of advice for anyone who sees this movie is to have patience... in the beginning it seems like the story is jumping all over the place, but it will, as the Beatles would say, come together. Yes, I'm corny.

As the movie is not in wide release yet, you can check here to see if Across the Universe will be playing near you any time soon. Let me know what you think if you see it!

- e

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Prepare the Tivo! Premiere Week is Upon Us.

I've been doing really well keeping up the charade that it's still the middle of summer... and the hot weather has given me no reason to think otherwise. That's why the recent cover of Entertainment Weekly gave me quite a start... it's already Fall TV Preview time?!? Crap!

I have to get out of denial, because The Office is starting on Thursday. I literally cannot believe it is already that time again. While I am of course looking forward to the first four episodes being double their usual length, as well as finding out what has transpired between Pam and Jim (my bet= not too much), it's kind of bittersweet because I absolutely hate the wintertime. And it will be upon us before we know it now that these shows are back on. It's going to go from 83 degrees to -10 degrees in approximately two days, and I'm going to cry. Better start stocking up on the hot chocolate...

Since Lost and 24 are still not going to be on for many more months, I've decided that I will try out two new shows this coming week. The winners are Dirty Sexy Money and Big Shots. Why those two? As I lamented in this post, I simply cannot deny that the over-the-top marketing campaign for DSM has gotten to me. I cry uncle! They've won! I NEED to see this crazy Darling family with my own two eyes. It doesn't hurt that I like Peter Krause, who seems to be the main character. I watched the preview clip they have on ABC, and it actually looked decent. When I was growing up my family really loved Dallas, and I think DSM will be kind of like that, so I think it's worth giving it a try. Plus, it's in Lost's old time slot on Wednesdays, so I have a soft spot for it already!

As for Big Shots... well... this is where I reveal to you, my most precious readers, that I am fairly shallow. Oh, wait, you had already figured that out? Fine, then this should not come as a surprise... I'm watching Big Shots for one reason and one reason only - because Dylan McDermott is in it. While there will never be another Bobby Donnell (shout-out to The Practice fans!), there can be another character on TV who looks just like him. Dylan McDermott is like my Clive Owen before I knew about Clive Owen, if that makes any sense. Maybe Eugene will make a guest appearance?

As a side note, Alias fans will probably be just as happy about Michael Vartan's presence on this show as I am about Dylan McDermott's.

But I digress... so, here's the bad news. The show doesn't look that great. I watched the preview clip for this one, too, and the dialogue seems really forced. We should all be very wary of any show pitching itself as "a Sex & The City for guys." Because you know what? That show already exists, and it's called Entourage, and they've got that niche covered. I read that Big Shots is bringing in the Veronica Mars creator as a consultant for the show, so it may get better. Therefore, for both DSM and Big Shots, I will be watching at least 4 episodes before making my final judgment.

If you would like to see the new fall TV line-up, you can click through the days on Entertainment Weekly's interactive calendar - all times are EST. The calendar lists the normal time slots and doesn't account for things like the four hour-long episodes of The Office.

Off to program my new Season Passes...

- e

Friday, September 21, 2007

Never Dazed But Kind Of Confused: High School Memories

Over the past few weeks I've been thinking about my high school years a lot, because of the following three things:

1) Seeing the movie Dazed and Confused for the first time,
2) Going to my cousin's high school football game, and
3) Getting an invitation for my high school reunion (I'm not saying the year!)

Let's take these events one at a time.

Dazed and Confused

This might just possibly be the worst movie ever. I can already hear the cries of outrage... CALM DOWN. I realize that many people (and most of them seem to be guys) love this movie, but within ten minutes of putting it in the DVD player, Miss M and I looked at each other and just shook our heads. I said, "This is going to be REALLY bad." And it was.

I think it's the kind of movie that if you initially watched it when you were younger and/or closer to the age of the people in the movie (high schoolers), you may feel differently about it than if you first watched it over a decade later. For those of you who don't know, the premise of the movie is... ummm.... that's the problem. There is basically NO PLOT. It trails a bunch of upcoming high school freshmen and seniors on their last day of school before summer vacation, but nothing really happens. On top of that, there was absolutely nothing I could relate to in this movie. I never was, nor did I hang out with, any "stoners." The seniors at my school did not terrorize incoming freshmen by paddling the guys or plastering the girls with various condiments. There was no creepy older dude hanging around all the time saying, "That's what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age."

However, my husband swears to me that some of the things in the movie happened where he grew up (like the paddling?!?!). He claims that that's what many small towns are like. I fear for our nation!

There were only two semi-OK things about this movie:

1) A lot of recognizable people were in the cast: Jason London, Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Joey Lauren Adams, and Adam Goldberg.
2) Matthew McConaughey's character was very funny, and I liked his "All right, all right, all right!" lines.

Otherwise, this movie cannot be redeemed. But it did get me thinking about how lucky I was to have attended a normal high school!

Back in the Bleachers

I had the good fortune of being able to catch one of my cousin's high school football games last weekend, and what a trip back in time that was. It was unusually cold that night, and as I snuggled down in a blanket looking wholly "uncool" with about ten mismatched layers of clothing on, one word kept popping in and out of my mind: "fleeting." The high school years are so... fleeting. But yet when you're in that period of your life, everything seems SO important and SO dramatic. I would have never been caught dead in as much as a simple coat back in the day for fear of looking like a dork, whereas now I resembled the Unabomber perched on a bleacher cushion, whining for my dad to get me hot chocolate. How far I've come!

I shook my head as the "cool kids" walked back and forth and back and forth and back and forth in front of the stands, just wanting to be noticed (and no, they didn't have coats on). I chuckled as the "cool kids from the other team" walked in front of OUR bleachers and were met with "BOOO!"s and shouts and hollers, which was exactly what they were hoping for. I surprised myself by still knowing the moves to the cheer "BE aggressive! Be-e aggressive! B-E A-GG-R-E-SS-I-V-E!" (Yes, I was a cheerleader before my clumsy ass broke a vertebrae trying to learn walk-overs on my own... most people who meet me now find this hard to believe (the cheerleader part, not the clumsy part.)) I embarrassed myself by thinking everyone was yelling the name of some player named "Buddha Chang" when in reality they were shouting "Move the chain!" (Something about yards and downs, I still don't get it.) But I smiled as I saw my cousin out on the field, every once in a while turning around to ham it up to get the crowd to cheer... he was having the time of his life. I was happy for him. And they won.

The Reunion That Wasn't Meant to Be

I get back home and what is sitting in my Inbox but a note from with a high school reunion invitation! I have been to all of the reunions held to date and have immensely enjoyed them. But alas, I will be traveling during this next one and cannot make it. That did not stop me from clicking through several of the profiles of long-lost friends (the best is when they have pictures!) and obsessively checking to see who else has RSVP'd, though!

One of my favorite things in the world is learning "what's become of" people I used to know... I'm fairly good at keeping in touch with anyone I had been close to, but I love love love reading or hearing about lesser-known acquaintances and the turns their lives have taken. While I would never want to live high school over again, I have to admit that those years are when many of the defining moments of my life took place, and so I've had a good time thinking back through everything. I'm just thankful that I didn't have an experience like Dazed and Confused... or else I guess I wouldn't even be able to remember high school in the first place!

- e

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Home Depot: You Can Have A Nervous Breakdown, We Can Help

Although I thought this was impossible, my hatred for Home Depot has in fact grown.

As some of you may recall, I had a bad experience with Home Depot when the lower level of my condo flooded a few months ago. Surely you haven't already forgotten B 4 Real, the employee who tried to "help" me, but failed miserably? I have avoided the store ever since.

But the time has come for me to do something about my ailing water heater. It is hissing and wheezing and I know it's just a matter of time before it gives out. Since I don't have a car and since there are hardly any places in the city that I can turn to for a water heater replacement, I reluctantly called Home Depot after researching what model I would need. My husband had gotten some paperwork from our local store about how they can do same-day delivery of water heaters, completely take care of draining and hauling away your old one and installing and testing your new one... and on and on and on. Oh, how wonderfully easy this would be, they promised.

WHY I keep falling for these ruses, I haven't a clue. But I called the number and was connected to Kimberly, who sounded nice enough. We went through her whole script, and everything was going swimmingly. Hope started to creep its way through my body - could I actually have a painless experience with Home Depot?

No, I couldn't. We got to the part where Kimberly had to look to see if the model I wanted was in stock at the store closest to my place. It wasn't. She said that she would check with other Chicago-based locations to see if they had any, and put me on hold. I did the same thing she was doing - I checked online. There was another location not too far from my place that had what I was looking for.

She came back on and confirmed what I had already discovered myself. But then she said, "And I just need to tell you that there's going to be a $50 trip fee for going through this store."

Me: What?
Kimberly: Ummm, there's going to be a $50 trip fee since it wasn't in stock at your local store.
Me: What? That doesn't make any sense. Are you saying that if I had simply told you another store that had the water heater in stock was my "local store," there wouldn't be the trip fee? So I should call back and get someone else and tell them that the other location is my local store?
Kimberly: Hmmmm, I'm not sure, let me check with my supervisor.

I waited. In a few minutes, she came back on.

Kimberly: OK, so the trip fee is because our installer doesn't have it in stock, it doesn't matter which store you go through... the installer has to go pick it up from the store, so that's $50.

Deep breaths, e, deep breaths!

Me: So, let me get this straight... I'm ordering this water heater from you guys - Home Depot. And I'm going to pay an installer, selected by you guys, hundreds of dollars to come install it. And the water heater I want is in stock at a local Home Depot store, which is who I'm buying it from. But since your selected installer doesn't have it in stock at THEIR warehouse, I have to pay $50 for them to come get it from you?
Kimberly: Yes, that's what the trip fee is.

I can always tell when I get REALLY agitated, because my dog must sense it in the air and he wakes up from his deep slumber on his dog bed and walks across the room to come stare at me like, "Calm down, mom! You're gonna blow!"

Me: OK, so... and Kimberly, I realize that you don't make the rules and that this isn't your fault, but can you see why that makes no sense? Why would the installer ever have ANY incentive to stock your items if they get $50 for driving over to your store? That is bad inventory management and bad contractor management and that shouldn't be something I have to pay for. And I know gas is expensive, but it does NOT cost $50 to drive across town! Do you see why I'm upset? Do you see why I don't understand why I should have to pay $50 on top of the $700 I'm already going to pay for the water heater and the installation? This is crazy!!!
Kimberly: I see what you're saying. Let me talk to my supervisor again and see if I can get the fee waived or if there's something else we can do.

I'm put back on hold. The worst part about the hold music is that it's the Home Depot music with some guy assuredly reminding you over and over again that "You can do it, we can help!" He lies, he lies!!!!

Kimberly clicks back over. I hold my breath...

Kimberly: Um, yes, ummm.... my supervisor says that the way around the trip fee is to come pick up the water heater yourself from our store.


I didn't check a mirror, but I knew my face was beet red. My dog backed away from me; there was nothing he could do for me now.

Me: OK, Kimberly, well, thanks for checking into this. Once again, I know you've tried here, but... since I DON'T HAVE A CAR it's really not going to help for me to pay for a rental car and come get the water heater - it kind of defeats the whole purpose of why I'm calling you guys in the first place - I don't have a car and I'm not handy, so I needed help. But I'm not going to order the water heater now because of this ridiculous fee.
Kimberly: I'm sorry.

She sounded genuinely sad. But I was genuinely beside myself with anger as I hung up. What a scam! And no, it's NOT about the $50 itself to me, it's about the principal of the fee, or lack thereof.

Later on I was telling my dad about this latest Home Depot debacle. We decided that Home Depot shall now be referred to as Home Depoop.

And so it shall be.

- e

Heeeeyyyy.... Yooouuuu.... Guuyysssss!

Just a quick follow-up to my Talk Like a Pirate Day post... I failed to mention a trip my brother and his girlfriend recently took to Astoria, Oregon. If you're anywhere near my age, you're probably thinking, "Why is Astoria sounding familiar?" Probably because it was where one of the best movies of all time, The Goonies, was set! So my brother and his girlfriend got to go INSIDE of the house where the beginning of the movie was filmed (where Mikey and Brand lived) - the woman who currently owns it invited them in?!?!

How awesome is THAT and how jealous was I?

Anyway, I mention this now because The Goonies revolved around a bunch of kids attempting to follow the treasure map of a famous pirate - One-Eyed Willie. My love for this movie warrants its own dedicated post one day, but I wanted to make sure that other fans of the film got to see the many pictures of what the house looks like now.

In other TLAP Day news, I was informed by KG that The Man she works for, an agency that shall remain unnamed, actually sent around an email to all employees about Talk Like a Pirate Day, complete with an .mp3 of the "Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a Pirate's Life for Me!" song. If The Man was always that cool, I might not have felt the need to leave Corporate America!

And finally, Wanders let me know that yesterday in Congress, someone actually brought up Talk Like A Pirate Day during a hearing. Alas, no sword-fighting followed, but it's a start.

So, once again, WHY are pirates still losing against ninjas??? There is no Talk Like A Ninja Day?!?!

- e

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Yo (Ho)... The Pirates Have Great PR People! Who knew?

ALL I'VE BEEN HEARING AND READING ABOUT this week is that today is Talk Like A Pirate Day! I was first clued in to this special day a few years ago, but in 2007 the pirates and their peeps have really gone all out in publicizing their cause. I have seen newspaper articles, newspaper ads, online articles, dedicated web sites, and even parties thrown in honor of the occasion.

But do you want to know what's really sad? Pirates are currently LOSING to Ninjas in the "Pirates vs. Ninjas" battle! Do your part and vote for Pirates now! (By the way, if you keep reloading that page you'll get different pictures... and if you actually read some of the comments on that page, you will see that some people are taking this feud very, very seriously.) If you are interested in understanding how this "holiday" even came to be, you can read its history here (interesting fact, Dave Barry actually had a hand in promoting it).

Other organizations and causes need to learn from the pirates because there is way more buzz about TLAP Day than there is about, say, National Shrimp Scampi Day. (Red Lobster should be ALL OVER that one - come on guys, you're asleep at the wheel!!! No excuses!) What's even more shameful is that today is also National Butterscotch Pudding Day, but you haven't heard a peep about that one, now have you? Someone needs to get fired!

As you already know, I love pirates and therefore am very excited about this day. However, I just can't bring myself to actually talk like a pirate. I guess I could have growled at the Peapod delivery guy this morning, but he was scared enough as it was by my crazy dog barking like mad. Perhaps my dog was honoring the spirit of the pirates? But seriously, it's hard to talk like a pirate. Because, let's face it, unless you look like this, you really can't pull it off, can you?

Oh wait, that's ME! And it wasn't even TLAP Day. That picture was taken earlier this year when I commandeered the Pirates of the Caribbean Gift Shop in Disneyland and forced my friend to take pictures of me in various poses, scaring all the little kids away. I guess I honor the pirates year-round, so I'm not feeling too bad about not talking like one today. Perhaps I'll quietly let out an "Shiver me timbers!" at the Walgreen's check-out counter later on or something.

But in your own way, you should find some small gesture that enables you to release your inner pirate. You know you want to, my mateys! ARRRRRRR!

- e

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The 2007 Emmy Awards (Or At Least the Parts of the Show I Actually Watched)

What's up with all the crappy award shows lately? First the VMAs, now the Emmys - what happened to the days when these events were worth tuning in to? When something of note actually went down during the broadcast?

To be honest, I was never a big fan of the Emmys in the first place, because (while no one believes me) I actually don't watch that much TV. I read enough magazines that I just so happen to know what's going on on just about every major TV show, but I watch very few programs regularly (remember how long those Lost write-ups take me? I don't have time for anything else!). I nearly forgot about the Emmys this year until I read about Ryan Seacrest hosting, and about plans for Kanye West to do something with Rainn Wilson during the broadcast.

So, on Sunday night, I settled in to watch the show just for the heck of it. I have to admit that it was more entertaining than I thought it would be - but those moments didn't come scripted from the show itself. The actual program seemed poorly produced - the sound kept going out (even when they weren't deliberately trying to cut away from someone), the camera panned to bizarre places (like, um, the ceiling, and some big disco-looking ball hanging from said ceiling), the "theater in the round" set-up was completely awkward, Ryan Seacrest was almost non-existent as a host, there was way too much time spent on mini-series and made-for-TV-movies that I had never heard of, and some of the entertainment acts flopped (hello, Tony Bennett and Christina Aguilera!).

But for the part of the show I saw, there was enough to keep me interested:

- Ryan Seacrest saying, "Hellllooo, Teri," to Teri (alien) Hatcher, whom he reportedly dated a while ago (though I think it was all for publicity for the both of them)

- Jeremy "The Pivert" Piven winning Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series and looking like he had enjoyed a hard night of partying on Saturday. Was it just me who noticed his messed up hair (unfortunately not visible in the picture to the right)? I haven't seen that commented on yet elsewhere - it totally jumped out at me and I thought it was hilarious. I also thought it was funny that Ryan Seacrest told just- turned- 18- year- old Hayden Panettierre from Heroes that he did her a favor by seating her far away from The Pivert. Ain't that the truth!

- The hot-air balloon dress that Hayden was wearing. Her small head sticking out of the top of it reminded me of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory when Violet turns into a giant blueberry.

Decide for yourself:

Take Hayden's orange skin and imagine it blue and they are twins, I tell ya!

- Lewis Black's rant against network executives. Normally I can't stand him, but I tolerated his screeching because I agreed with most of what he was yelling about. I, too, am very sick of the "crawl" at the bottom of the TV screen, as well as the endless and invasive promotions for upcoming shows. Everyone likes to bemoan the shortening attention span of the general public, but perhaps TV is helping to speed it along by making shows across all networks look like the control panel of a spaceship?

- The Rainn Wilson/Kanye West "Don't Forget the Lyrics!" rap battle, during which Kanye was surprisingly subdued. Word is that he came to life at the after-party at Les Deux, though.

- The Stephen Colbert/Jon Stewart environmental debate, which didn't get too warm of a reception (probably because Hollywood has no ability to poke fun at itself). The last 20 seconds with Steve Carell were pretty classic, too.

Of course, for me, the best part of the night was right at the beginning, when Terry O'Quinn won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. I thought he wouldn't win because the vote might have been split between him and Michael Emerson (Benry) by anyone who liked Lost. But justice prevailed and I was bouncing up and down on the couch clapping and squealing. Now, let's see if the Academy gets its act together next year and nominates Lost in the Outstanding Drama Series category once again - because it's a total joke that it wasn't included this year!

- e

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Confidence of Kanye

What would the world be like if we all had the level of confidence displayed by Kanye "There's a thousand yous, there's only one of me!" West? There would probably be peace on Earth, as we would all be so busy looking in a mirror or talking about ourselves that nothing would ever come to blows. This guy is over-the-top with how much he loves himself! But for some reason, I get a kick out of it and for the most part, I really like him. Maybe it's because he's from Chicago that I have a soft spot for his antics (though I can't say I feel the same about other Chicago-originating artists, such as Fall Out Boy - blech!). Or maybe it's because I think to myself, How harmful can a cocky hip-hop prepster be? He dresses like he is always about to whisk away for a round of golf! Come on!

It also doesn't hurt that I really like his music. Usually I find it hard to look past silly lyrics, but there are always a few exceptions - and Kanye's work land in the exception pile because they are so catchy. All Falls Down, Gold Digger, Jesus Walks, Heard 'Em Say, Stronger... I love all of these songs. So I can look past lyrics such as:

"The way Kathy Lee needed Regis that's the way I need Jesus!"
"You know how long I've been on ya? Since Prince was on Apollonia."
"He got that ambition, baby, look in his eyes... this week he's moppin' floors, next week it's the fries."

As it turns out, I'm not the only one who likes Kanye. Recently, Kanye and 50 Cent announced a "feud" of sorts - saying that when both of their new albums came out on September 11th, whose ever sold less records would retire. Well, we all know what "retiring" means in the music business - just look at Cher... or more appropriately, Jay-Z! No one ever retires. But let them have their fun - I'd rather have famous people fighting over their huge egos than overdosing and going to rehab and all of that crap. And besides, it looks like Kanye has won! Since the records have been released (does anyone actually buy entire albums these days? Don't you just download individual songs you like, like I do?), Kanye's sales are beating 50's buy a slim margin. I'm sure they're each going to demand a re-count.

Something that should help boost Graduation's sales a bit more is Kanye's appearance this coming Sunday on the Emmy Awards. Supposedly he is going to be performing with Dwight (Rainn Wilson) from The Office! That is going to rock!

Although he better start behaving himself - have you seen the video of the hissy fit he threw last weekend after not winning any MTV Video Music Awards? Most of the video is just dark with audio, but at the end you see him getting in an elevator (I think). Apparently he has sworn off MTV forever now because he's so offended. I have a secret for you Kanye... they TELL YOU BEFOREHAND if you're going to win at the VMAs - you should have had a clue when you didn't hear anything from MTV before the show began! Sorry. But like your most recent song says, "that that don't kill you, can only make you stronger!" (And you know you've got to be right now, 'cause you can't get much wronger - I love that line)

- e

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

You Will Look Mahvelous - Two Under-Eye Concealers Reviewed

This one's for the ladies...

It's been a while since I have commented on any skincare products or cosmetics, but rest assured that I have many posts in the works about items I've tried - along with my corresponding thoughts. I'm just trying to spread them out since my friend CG told me that he doesn't want to feel like he should be "wearing a skirt and sipping Merlot" when perusing my site.

Today's topic of discussion is my under-eye area, a particularly sore spot for me as I have definitely been getting a lot of sleep since I stopped working for The Man, yet the dark areas under my peepers remain. Once again, thanks for the genes, Mom! The good news is that I don't have to look like an undead ghoul if I don't want to (sometimes I do want to!), thanks to two under-eye concealers that I've been particularly pleased with. Even if I am tired, grumpy, feeling like crap and looking like death warmed over, both of these products help to make me look more human-like. And as we all know, it is better to look good than to feel good!

Laura Mercier's Secret Concealer - $22

The Laura Mercier line of cosmetics was recommended to me a few years ago by a fellow makeup fiend - she was in LOVE with it. My hopes were very high after hearing about how much she adored the products on top of the fact that I thought she looked great (and natural, which is key). So I ran out and bought about $200 worth of this brand. Unfortunately, even though the makeup was created specifically for people with really sensitive skin, mine still had a bad reaction to the ingredients. I have a feeling it was specifically the foundation primer, since that was not oil-free, but I'll never know as I tried everything at once and then also pretty much quit everything at once. But there is one product that I will never give up, and that's the Secret Concealer. I pat it on with my finger and immediately stop looking like a Goth Grrrl wannabe. And it lasts FOREVER. I mean, forever. I have had the small pot of this stuff for over a year, at the very least.

Yves Saint Laurent's Touche Éclat Radiant Touch - $40

I had been reading about "the magic wand" for quite a while now, and had even ripped out a blurb on it from one of my magazines to remind myself to investigate further. Then when in NYC with Miss M last month, she brought up how she was using it and how it was "the best." I did some research when I got home, and apparently it is the #1-selling concealer in the world. The thing has its own web site, for the love of God! Why had I been in the dark about this? It was a conspiracy!

So of course I bought it the very next day. The woman at the counter at Saks made me put it on myself (she instructed me), which was a smart idea. I left looking much more presentable than I did when I came in, and I had the wand to boot. Since I've only been using it for a few weeks and am not wearing that much makeup anymore (my dog doesn't judge!), I'm not sure how long it will last, but my friend said hers lasted a few months. You have to click the pen applicator 30 times or so to get it working, and then you probably will use anywhere from 3-6 clicks to cover both eyes, the sides of your nose, the laugh lines along your cheeks and the hollow of your chin in total.

The comparison

Since I now have both of these products, I use them for different reasons. I will use the Secret Concealer if I'm not going to put on full makeup - like maybe if I'm going to meet a friend for lunch, or run errands where I might run into someone who I don't want to think I'm a heroin addict because of my dark circles. It is cheaper than the Radiant Touch and lasts a lot longer, so I don't feel the need to conserve it as much. I also feel that it works better alone than when you put powder over it. This is because it's a bit thicker than the Radiant Touch is, and it sometimes settles in the creases under my eyes (nothing that a quick swipe with the pinky finger won't cure, though). If I actually am going out for a dinner or to an event or am trying to remind my husband that I'm not a COMPLETE hippie ever since I stopped working, I will use the Radiant Touch. I put it on over foundation and it is the smoothest cream I've ever seen... it truly is amazing. I feel like I probably need to use more of it than the average person would - and I'm not going to lie and say that there are no dark areas left after I use it, because it's not a miracle worker. But it does help a lot and I really like the consistency of it. The downsides to this product are that it is definitely more costly, and you need to clean the brush often with rubbing alcohol (I clean it after every use, but you can go a week or so). I guess it starts to smell if you don't clean it.

If you are interested in using either of these products, my advice would be to haul yourself down to the department store near you that sells them, and go in with NO makeup. Tell them that YOU want to put on the concealers - it really is better that you figure out the hang of it before you're alone in your bathroom, cursing yourself because you can't make it look like the girl in the store did!

And if you have any other concealers you've tried and recommended - you better leave a comment for the rest of us!

- e