Wednesday, June 29, 2005

'War of the Worlds' ...

This movie is going to make a zillion dollars.

I'll predict that between today (Wednesday, its opening day) and the end of the day Monday (long holiday weekend, you know), it'll rake in $100 million.

It is spectacular to look at. It's references to 9/11 are unabashed and were difficult for me to watch.

But I hate the ending. And from a filmmaking perspective, well, from a screenwriting perspective, I had several issues. Though reviewers who continually invoke how this movie makes "Independence Day" look like crap should have been stopped in their tracks by their editors. "Independence Day" is, what, 10 years old?! No. You can't compare these two movies stylistically. It's not fair.

But comparisons don't matter anyway. It's going to make a zillion dollars.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Disney's Big Lie ...

I won't go into how an IM discussion with Doreen got around to lemmings, but she told me that lemmings don't really jump off cliffs, that the whole lemming thing is a myth.

How can it be? How have I been spoonfed these lemming lies? Who's to blame?

Disney.

http://www.snopes.com/disney/films/lemmings.htm

It's all over the Web. Apparently, lots of people have been living with this correct lemming knowledge. Why has it taken me so long to see the lemming light?

Monday, June 27, 2005

Not Mixed Up? ...

I had coffee today with Drew, a long-lost pal from my Thomson days. Drew was the friendly face (and body) who sat across from me in my early days at the company and made me feel as though I wasn't completely insane for taking over a NASCAR publication. He is very funny and very kind.

We got to talking about pseudonyms and anagrams -- we literary types are nothing is not crazy-fun! -- and tonight, I surfed on over to wordsmith.org to plug in a few names, including his and mine.

For me, I tried Beth Kujawski, and my given name, BethEllen Kujawski, and you know what I got?

Nothing.

I am unanagramable.

But "unanagramable" is my new favorite word.

Well, not so fast, really: I searched first for two-word anagrams and got bupkus.

Once I upped the ante to three, for "Beth Kujawski," I got:

Khaki Bust Jew
and Baked Whisk Jut

For "BethEllen Kujawski," I got:

Bakelite Welsh Junk
Wheelbase Kilt Junk
Likeable Jews Thunk
Beatnik Jewel Hulks
Blake Whiles Junket (What's Robert Blake up to these days, anyway?)
Blanket Jewish Luke
Khaki Sunbelt Jewel
Wealths Belike Junk
and my co-favorites: Ablest Whelk Junkie and Stable Whelk Junkie.

Just looked up "Whelk" -- it means "pustule."

And "Unanagramable" comprises:

Alabama Gunner
Banana Arm Glue
Area Lab Gunman
Anagram Unable (Clever!)
and -- yikes! -- Anal Urban Game and Anal Urbane Mag!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

My Childhood, Myself ...

My brothers used to torture my toys.

There was The Sunshine Family baby, so cute in its little yellow onesie. The Sunshine Family had a pickup with a house that fit in the bed of the truck. I received it for Christmas one year. I was probably six. My brothers, Paul and Brian, abducted the baby and tied it to my dad's Lionel train tracks. Opened an encyclopedia and stood it over the track to create a makeshift tunnel. Flipped on the transformer, got the train up to speed, through the tunnel, and tried to run over the baby! It didn't work. The train derailed, but not before leaving a scorch mark on the soft yellow onesie, right on the baby's butt.

And then there was my Skipper doll. Granted, I didn't play with her much, but that didn't give my brother Brian the right to take a red skein of yarn, tie one end around Skipper's neck, tie the other end around a brick, and give Skipper a sacrificial heave-ho off a railroad bridge into a river.

I had a stuffed turtle with woeful eyes. And one day, in the basement, for no good reason, my brother Paul stuck its head in his mouth. The turtle had a big head but Paul had a big mouth and he managed to cram it all in. He didn't bite the head off the toy turtle, mind you, but he did get lots of spit on it.

And then there was Dressy Bessy, the coup de grace. Now, granted, Dressy Bessy had been relegated to the toy bin in the garage, no longer an A-list toy, but she hadn't been discarded. I still liked her. Sure, she was a little worse for the wear after several years of service, helping me to learn how to buckle and tie and zip. There was a tear in the seam in her neck, her exploitable weakness. Paul, the would-be turtle devourer and baby maimer, found an M-80, crammed it in Dressy Bessy's neck, lit the fuse, tossed Dressy Bessy up into the air, and -- KAPOW! -- Dressy Bessy stuffing rained down on me like so much synthetic snow.

Paul went on to get several degrees, one of which is in robotics, though he's never gotten around to systematically destroying toys, which was probably his intent. Brian is a partner in a toy-design firm, his desk often littered with eviscerated toys, sacrificed for their inner workings to help bring another toy idea to life, because fate is funny that way.

Friday, June 24, 2005

'Family Guy' Fun!

HUGE big thanks to L.A. Dave for providing me with this link:

http://fgmma.com/Gallery/Song/

(Click on the images to get the audio.)

We are baffled, from week to week, with just how much this show is able to get away with. Dave sent this link to me so I could hear the song "You Have AIDS" (hey, no one accuses "Family Guy" of being too PC), but I also took a few minutes to relive some other moments from the show, including the guys' karaoke version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' " and Brian and Stewie's pop attempt, "Intercourse."

And I was brought to tears by "I Need A Jew."

Good times.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Music Questions? I'm In! ...

Henry, a long-ago pal from so long ago that I can't even remember how old I was when I first met him, answered some music questions on his blog (http://htsblog.blogspot.com/) and passed the baton to a few of his friends. His Qs and my As, then:

What is my total volume of music?
~ 800 CDs.

What is the last CD I bought?
Like Henry, I have several possible answers. In this age of iTunes, the last complete CD I bought there was "A Love Song for Bobby Long," the soundtrack from the movie starring John Travolta and Scarlett Johansson. The last CD I bought in a store? Hmm. Um, wow. I'm not sure. Duran Duran's "Astronaut," maybe? From BMG, I recently received a bevy of U2 discs and one by Patricia Barber.

What song is playing right now?
When I first started this entry, it was "When We Dance" by Sting. But then I got a phone call, and now it's "Je Sto Vicino A Te" by Pino Daniele. Italian guy, don'tcha know?

What five songs do I listen to a lot because they are special to me?
Well, if we go by the iTunes counter, the top 5 are: "Send Your Love" by Sting featuring Vincente Amigo, "Send Your Love" by Sting, "Chemicals" by Icehouse (an as-yet-unpublished tune by Iva Davies), "Whenever I Say Your Name" by Sting with Mary J. Blige, and "Never Coming Home" by Sting. This is completely weird, as all the Sting tunes are from "Sacred Love," which I like a lot, but which I haven't listened to in ages. So clearly, this iTunes method is skewed.

So, to answer this question another way:

"Forever" by Kenny Loggins, though I still can't tell you why.

(Wow, this is much harder than I thought it would be.)

"Solitude" by Dave Huizenga. A CD of his music is in the CD player next to my bed; I go to bed listening to it, and my alarm is set to play this track in the morning. I fell in love with it the first time I heard it, and wrote to tell him so. He replied that it's one of his favorite compositions, too. I am more in sync with him musically than with anyone else in my life.

"If I Had You" by Nnenna Freelon. It's the song I recorded for Dave for his 50th birthday. It was for him that I broke through my near-lifelong fear of singing in front of another person.

"The Curtain Falls" by Kevin Spacey. I'm so proud of him for making "Beyond the Sea" and amazed at how talented he is as a vocalist. I love singing this song.

"Icicles" by Charles Bisharat. From the Windham Hill album "On a Winter's Night." Beautiful piano and violin. It just speaks to me.

"Mountain Majesty" by Gary Remal Malkin. In 2000, when I lived downtown, I housesat for my brother and sister-in-law for a few nights and made the commute into the city every day, to gauge if moving this far from Chicago was something I really wanted to do. The first night, lying in the unusually dark darkness, under the whir of the ceiling fan, I heard this piece. It's was like a lullabye. In that moment, I decided to buy this house.

OK, that's six songs, not five.

(And in a moment of iTunes synchronicity, after playing "Mountain Magjesty" while writing this, "Forever" by Kenny Loggins just shuffled up next. I have 2,377 songs in iTunes. Honestly, it's like iTunes knows what I'm thinking.)

Speaking of 'Batman' ...

I have, on this computer, a file called "Memoir ideas." I created it a couple years ago after reading Sting's "Broken Music." He's of the belief that everyone should write their autobiography as a means to get in touch with themselves. I liked the idea -- still do -- so I started jotting down ideas.

Somewhere in the list, I decided I was lacking in childhood moments, so I began to focus on when I was a kid, and one of the things I remembered was this:

We kept a black and white portable TV on a chair in the corner of the kitchen's dining area. We used to like lying under the table to watch TV (I *just* remembered that detail). "Batman" used to be on in the afternoons when I was a kid. (I was probably six, for the purpose of this memory.) Paul seemed to be under the table a lot. But when "Batman" would come on, I would go get a red towel and a safety pin, put the towel over my shoulders so the length hung down my back, pin it around my neck, and as the "Batman" theme emanated from the TV, the "duh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh, Batman!" I would spin around the kitchen to make the towel cape fly behind me.

I'm almost pleasantly dizzy, just thinking about it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I Am Done With Milk ...

A few years ago, I interviewed Dr. Neal Barnard, founder and president of the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, for a story I wrote for the Chicago Tribune about girls being given massive doses of estrogen in order to arrest their growth, and their ensuing health problems later in life.

Last year, he was in town for a book signing and had the chance to sit down with him to talk about an idea I have for a piece which really might be a book-in-waiting. But that's another story. Dr. Neal was in town to promote "Breaking the Food Seduction." I've read it, and it makes a lot of sense. Dr. Neal is vegan, which I know strikes many people as extreme if not downright crazy, but what he wrote (and has written -- he's authored several books) made enough sense that I thought his approach was worth a try.

In February, I was in Washington D.C. for work and arranged a lunch with Jeanne McVey, Dr. Neal's communications person, who had been very helpful over the past few years, setting up interviews and such. Over lunch, she told me about an upcoming press conference Dr. Neal would be holding along with the other authors of a new study, stating that, basically, dairy is non-esssential in our diets and shouldn't be recommended as part of our nutitional guidelines.

"That should piss off the dairy industry," I said.

(Read the PCRM's take on milk here: http://www.pcrm.org/health/Info_on_Veg_Diets/milk.html; Need more evidence? OK, then read this, too: http://www.pcrm.org/health/Info_on_Veg_Diets/dairy.html; If you're saying, "But kids need milk to grow!", allow me to say, "No, they don't! Read this!": http://www.pcrm.org/health/Info_on_Veg_Diets/vegetarian_kids.html)


Still, I continued to drink milk. Not much, but I'd still buy it from time to time.

And then, this morning, I read this:

http://www.milksucks.com/pus.html

EWWW!

I've waffled on my use of soy milk. Sometimes I buy it, sometimes I don't. Soy milk, here I come. (Of course, I also read this morning that women who are trying to get pregnant should avoid soy milk, but right now, that's not me.) (And as Lewis Black points out, soy milk isn't really soy milk, it's soy juice, but no one would buy soy juice. Still, I'd rather drink soy juice than diluted pus.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

My New Favorite Find ...

... and, of course, his name is David.

www.davidlowemusic.com

I *love* "House Doctor" on BBC America, in large part for the cool tunes that the show features during the reveals.

So I Googled "House Doctor + Music" and found out that David is the composer of what I've been hearing.

If you sign up (for free) for the Members area of his site, you'll see (on the third page of offerings) a cut called "Sirens Spell." It's one of the tunes from the show.

Some people collect stamps. I think I'll start collecting friends named David or Dave who compose for television.

104.3 Jack FM ...

In these parts, 104.3 used to be an oldies station. It is programmed in my car because when I bought her, Larry the Sales Guy was showing me how to program stations. I let him program the last button. Larry likes oldies.

But in this world of radio turnover, WJMK The Oldies Station is no more. Now it's Jack FM. I don't know who or what Jack is, but he's got himself a winner. It's a very cool mix of music. Tag line: "Playing what we want."

Today in the car, throughout the day, I heard: That "Oh Yeah" song from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," Christopher Cross, Love and Rockets, Eric Clapton ("After Midnight" -- is that Cream?), Creed, Madonna, Tom Petty, Duran Duran, John Mellencamp, Styx, Depeche Mode, Macy Gray, Bruce Springsteen, Nirvana, Cyndi Lauper, Sniff 'N' The Tears (I confess I had to look that one up), and The Bangles.

It's like Internet radio, without the Internet.

Monday, June 20, 2005

'Batman Begins' ...

Went to see it today.

Typically, I try to avoid press about a movie I want to see. I don't want my experience colored by reviews. But it was damn near impossible to avoid the hype for this film. Ebert gave it four stars. Dean Richards, a local guy, gave it an A+. For all the gushing, you'd think that everyone involved in this film had a hand in reinventing cinema.

(I was happy to discover, on iTunes, that Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard scored the movie together. Two of my favorite composers on one film? I'm in soundtrack heaven.)

So I went to see it today.

And you know what?

It's a Batman movie.

The acting is fine. The casting is good. The effects are cool. The cinematography is downright spectacular in a few shots. Lower Wacker Drive in Chicago was used to good effect.

But it's a Batman movie.

Liam Neeson is good, but then, I'm a sucker for anything Liam Neeson does. Christian Bale is good. Michael Caine is good, but he's Michael Frickin' Caine. Of course he's good. Tom Wilkinson, good. Katie Holmes, she's fine. Rutger Hauer, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, fine, fine, fine.

But it's a Batman movie.

Yes, the Batmobile is cool. Yes, Gotham/Chicago looks moody and foreboding. But the mask that one of the bad guys uses is a burlap sack. And, um, last time I checked, stone buildings don't crumble in a fire.

Don't get me wrong. It's a summer flick. See it on a big screen with a really good sound system and you'll have fun.

But it's a Batman movie.

Blogging In My Dreams? ...

OK, this is weird: Last night, I had a dream that Arianna Huffington was sitting at the counter in my kitchen, telling me that she wanted me to start writing for her blog because she liked what she read on mine.

I asked her if she was sure, as I was concerned that my blog didn't have a consistent voice. In the waking world, I thought about that statement in my dream and realized that I am a moron.

My blog has a consistent voice because I am the sole author, and, as far as I know, I am not schizophrenic. Why I was thinking, subconsciously or otherwise, that my blog needed to conform to a single style, I don't quite know. As though I'm only allowed to wear one outfit.

Why you cry? ...

Just when I was beginning to get my bearings back, just when I was beginning to accept that I wasn't living in an alternate universe, my cousin Patty sends me this:

http://www.cryingwhileeating.com/

Actual video of actual people actually crying while actually eating.

First up is Helen. She is eating ice cream with her hand. I will guess that she is crying because she does not own a spoon.

Then there is Joshua. He is eating moldy cheese. I will guess that he is crying because he has lost his ability to swallow.

The site offers why each person is crying, but I like to make up my own theories. Except for Ted. Ted is crying because of "the somber moments after dawn."

Who can't relate to those?

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Tall Treatise ...

I wrote this a few years ago, thinking I'd sell it. The Chicago Tribune was doing a story for its magazine about living life as a short man, written by Dan Santow. I used to sit across from Dan when I interned at Chicago magazine. So I had this idea to write a piece about living life as a tall woman, and they could run side by side in the magazine, and Dan and I could be the art for the story, standing next to each other, and we'd "stand" at the bottom of the page and the image would be a cutout (so the text would wrap around us). It was a good idea -- in my head, anyway -- but the piece Dan wrote was pretty serious and this, well, this is not.

So I submitted it to a new tall magazine that was launching, and the editor liked it (suggested I should consider becoming a columnist -- the brass ring for many writers) but thought the tone was wrong for his publication.

But that's what a blog is for, to publish whatever I want! It's not entirely finished, but at this point, it never will be.

My take, then, on being a tall woman in an average-height world:


No, I don’t play basketball. And the air up here is just fine, thanks.

My mother gets mad at me when I call myself a freak of nature. But I’m taller – way taller – than the average female height of 5-foot-4. Five-foot-4 is elfin to me. Adorable. Precious, even.

People ask me, more often than I’d care to respond to, “How tall are you?,” as if it matters. I’m taller than you are, aren’t I?, I want to retort. Actually, I never quite know how to answer them. Which height do they want? The in-my-stocking-feet-with-my-hair-smooshed-down doctor’s office height? Or the ready-for-work-wearing-shoes-with-my-hair-kinda-poofy height? My stock answer has become, “Six three, six six with the hair.”

I suppose I could save myself a few askance glances if I’d just wear my hair like Marcia Brady, but it’s not a good look for me, so I endure.

(For those of you who are wondering about my parents, my father’s peak was 6-foot-4 and mom was always proud to tell people that she was 5-foot-9 “and three-quarters.” She’s very honest. She never rounded up.)

All through my school years, when it came time for class pictures, you could always count on seeing me in the middle of the back row. I was the starting point. Tallest kid in the middle of the top riser, thereby making me taller still.

And clothes? Not as big an issue these days, but when you’re in 7th grade, it’s a different story. My mom used to make my Halloween costumes in grade school, so I suppose I could have donned those every day. What’s weirder? A 5-foot-11 7th grader wearing clothes that aren’t long enough, or a 5-foot-11 ... Lutheran ... who attends public school ... 7th grader wearing a nun’s habit every day?

I’m amused by stores and catalogs that tout “tall” sizes, only to discover that their definition of “tall” is up to 5-foot-9. Ha! Long Gap jeans are too short for me. And yes, you’re right, there are shops for tall women, and yes, the jeans are long enough, although while I suppose jeans for tall women technically do have deeper pockets, I don’t quite understand why I pay $60 for a pair of jeans that are $30 at the Gap. Thirty dollars for a couple extra inches of inseam seems like a bit of a rip-off.

Which brings me to shoes. I wear a 12. Most stores stop at 10. And I get plenty annoyed with my friends who wear a 7 who complain, as if to sympathize with me, that they, too, can never find shoes because 7 is the most popular size and it always sells out first.

Boo. Hoo.

So, off I go to the price-gouging tall-people shoe store in search of some simple, conservative oxfords to go with a simple, conservative outfit recently purchased for some business events. When I tell the salesman what I’m looking for, he half-heartedly shows me what might work, and then adds, “Everything else we carry is a little more … fashion-forward.”

I’m living in the Dark Ages of footwear. Well, here’s a bulletin for this guy: Chunky-heeled, square-toed black leather shoes might look great on, say, Mary Lou Retton, but on someone who’s my height? One word: Frankenstein.

And then there’s dating. The most popular question on that topic is, “How do you find men tall enough to date?” As if the doorframe of my house is notched in 1-foot increments with a big red arrow, a la the rides at Disneyland, proclaiming, “You must be this tall to enter.” The two men with whom I’ve had discussions of marriage are both about 5 foot 8 – and pretty secure with themselves.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The End is Nigh ...

Forget the four earthquakes in California this week.

Irrefutable proof of the end of civilization comes this morning in the form of a news report that Tom Cruise proposed to Katie Holmes at the Eiffel Tower.

Let's look at the facts:

[My pal Doreen points out in her comment that Cruise was married first to Mimi Rogers and kicked her to the curb for Nicole Kidman. I'd forgotten about that.]

Cruise was married to Nicole Kidman for 10 years. They adopted two children together. He eventually kicked her to the curb. Perhaps the marriage had run its course. Or maybe Kidman is too damn smart to buy into all the Scientology crap.

Then Cruise quickly hooked up with Penelope Cruz. Cruise and Cruz, the media oh-so-cleverly called them. (Better than "Brangelina," though.) Three years with the insanely beautfiul accented one and he couldn't make that work.

So now comes Holmes, 16 years his junior. They've been dating for, what?, 7 weeks? Actually, it's been less like dating and more like mugging for every camera they can find.

I'm not usually a betting woman, but if this marriage actually takes place, I give this "relationship" six months.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Apple? No thanks ...

Yesterday, an unexpected e-mail arrived.

It was from a former Doculabs co-worker. "I don't know if you remember me," he wrote. We worked together for 11 months. I remembered him.

He left Doculabs to take a job with a company in New York City. There will soon be an opening at his company that involves writing, so he was getting in touch to see if I'd be interested in the position.

I wrote to thank him for thinking of me, and to decline his offer, but not before thinking, "If I were to move to New York, it would have to be for a dream job, not just *a* job."

Which then made me ask myself (because I talk to myself a lot), "What *is* the dream job?"

And don'tcha know? I had no answer.

I've been looking at my life for clues. For instance, I subscribe to far too many magazines, most of which are about shelter or entertainment. I like housey things. I like to decorate, to pick paint colors, to pull rooms together with various finds. I like books and movies and music.

But if life's true career guide is the answer to the question, "What do you do when you don't have to do anything?" the answer continues to be "Sing."

Uh oh.

The other night on the phone, English Teacher Dave called me "a professional writer." Which I am, if you consider that I get paid to write things and those things get published. Still, it feels funny to own that title. "Professional writer" implies, to me anyway, a level of success I haven't yet achieved. Stephen King is a professional writer. Maureen Dowd is a professional writer. Akiva Goldsman is a professional writer. Surely I'm not in their company.

But then I think that there was a time when Stephen King wasn't "Stephen King," when his name was just his name, and not a brand.

There is a sign up on my office wall that reads, "1,000 words a day." Because writers write. And I'll write right here.

I don't need to pay $2,000 a month rent in New York.

And for now, I'll just sing on the side.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Perspective ...

After tragedy struck in Southeast Asia last December, a group of friends began using a single word to check ourselves when we found ourselves bitching about something insignificant: "Tsunami." That one word centered us, made us realize that no matter what we thought we had to complain about, we were just being whiny little brats.

During the past two days, I've been reading in the New York Times about Mukhtaran Bibi, a Pakistani woman who was subjected to a sanctioned gang-rape (because her younger brother slept with someone in a higher caste -- how's that for logic?) but who has fought back, using money she received as compensation for her ordeal to open schools, one for boys, one for girls, taking forgiveness and benevolence to a new level by inviting the children of the men who raped her to enroll. She is an extraordinary woman. "Bibi" has been added to "Tsunami" in my reality-check vocabulary.

A year or two ago, I was on the phone with Mark Kogan, a friend from my Tribune days with whom I'd lost touch. Mark is a very smart man, always looking for ways to better understand his life and his roles. That day on the phone, he said something very sage. (I'm sure I'll butcher the eloquence now.) Essentially, he told me to ask myself, in any given situation, "Am I OK right this minute?" That yes, there may be bigger issues at play, looming worries, fears. But we get caught up in the enormity of things and lose sight of the moment.

His voice came to me the other day in the car. I was driving downtown, on my way to voice class, fretting about things, when I heard Mark say, "Are you OK right this minute?" And I was. In that moment, I wasn't going to solve everything that concerned me. And I drove on.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Dear Anonymous ...

You know what I hate?

Well, I hate a lot of things: Intolerance. Spiders. Dr. Pepper. But I also hate it when I go to a Web site and it wants all kinds of crazy personal information about me before it will let me read a story. Register, my ass. I don't want to register.

In the past, I used to shrug my shoulders and think, "Well, I guess I can't read that story after all."

Not anymore!

L.A. Dave was kind enough to turn me on to www.bugmenot.com! Type in the URL for the site you want to access, and presto!, bugmenot.com presents a username, e-mail address, and password that you can use to gain access to the site.

Heh, heh, heh. Take *that,* snoopy Web masters!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Music, The Uniter ...

Work Pal David and I took a walk over to Blues Fest yesterday. (It was hot. It was humid. It's summer in Chicago, though summer has not yet offically arrived. Which makes people cranky, because who wants a hot, humid spring? But I digress.)

We were standing in line to buy tickets, so we could later exchange them for overpriced food into which workers were most likely sweating. (If I was hot standing in the middle of the street, you can bet that those folks are hot standing over grills and chafing dishes. But I digress again.)

Standing next to the window, waiting for his friend to buying tickets, was a shirtless, well-toned, well-tanned man with a mane of wavy hair held off his face with a headband. (Quiet Riot fan?) I couldn't help but notice that down his left arm, he was sporting a nearly inch-wide scar that had to be at least 9 inches long. (How does one find themselves with an injury that results in a scar that huge?) And then he turned away from the window and I was treated to the finishing touch: he had both his nipples pierced.

Rock on, man.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

U2 Binge and The One Campaign ...

Recently, in a hotel room in Louisville, I watched Diane Sawyer interview U2. All of them, sitting in an empty arena -- the United Center in Chicago, maybe? "Good Morning, America" filmed several of the band's song during a performance in Chicago to kick off the "Summer Concert Series," but first, Diane sat down with the boys to ask the questions she's paid so much to ask and to attempt to stroke their egos, as if nightly sold-out stadiums of screaming fans leave them somehow hungry.

"It must be difficult," she said (or maybe she said "grueling").

Bono scoffed.

Diane continued, to clarify: "Touring, out there, night after night."

Bono was definitive and almost dismissive: "We're spoiled rock stars. We live like princes."

I was proud of him for saying that. The man knows his place in the world: A superstar who wants for nothing, so instead wants for those who want for everything. Who doesn't admire his dogged determination in bringing the plights of Africa to light, and his launch of The One Campaign as an international face to focus the spotlight on the fight against the global epidemics of AIDS and extreme poverty?

Today, a box of CDs arrived from BMG Music. BMG Music e-mailed recently, wanting me back. BMG is always writing. I join, I fulfill the membership requirement, I quit. BMG writes, asking me to return. I rejoin, I fulfill the membership requirement, I quit. I've amassed half my CD collection through this dysfunctional relationship.

This time, six of my seven introductory selections were chosen to shore up my U2 collection, which was woefully lacking in earlier material.

"The Joshua Tree" is playing now, one of the best albums ever recorded. "Mothers of the Disappeared," according to songfacts.com, "is about the thousands of opponents to the Argentine military regime that took power in 1976 who were kidnapped and never seen again. Known as 'The Disappeared,' their mothers formed a group demanding accountability from the government of Argentina."

"On February 5, 1989, U2 played in Buenos Aires with The Mothers of the Disappeared onstage with pictures of their missing children."

Can you imagine how much better the world would be if more of us, celebrities and civilians alike, did our part? You can start at www.one.org. The US government gives less than one quarter of one percent of this country's budget to global relief. The One Campaign needs you. Visit www.one.org to sign The One Declaration, buy a wristband, or get a banner to host on your site.

As Tom Hanks says at the end of the PSA: "We're not asking for your money. We're asking for your voice."

Giving the Gifts of Sites Again ...

Because I seem to have some new people reading, and because I don't imagine they've gone all the way back to the beginning to read everything I've written on here, I'm posting this again:


This can be your good deed for the day: Find the Links section of my blog (it's over there, to the right, underneath my profile) and go to The Breast Cancer Site. You'll notice that it's actually a group of "click to give" sites, all bundled together for your conveniece. So while you're there, you can also fight hunger, help children receive healthcare, save the rainforests, aid animals in shelters, and give books to kids.

It only takes a few seconds to click through all of them. You can do this in the time it takes for your Starbucks to cool down enough to drink it. (For those of you without a high-speed connection, you needn't wait for all the graphics to load on each page. The words will show you where to click, and the fields will be hot even if the pictures aren't loaded.)


I have this link in the Bookmarks Bar of my browser, so every morning, clicking is an automatic part of the start of my Internet day as I check news, read Doonsbury, read blogs ... Bookmark it, and visit and click every day, OK? Thanks.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Short, But Not So Sweet ...

I get a lot of porn spam. (I also get a lot of ads offering me Viagra at cut-rate prices, which I'm sure I'll appreciate if I ever become an older, impotent man.)

Most of the subject lines feature words intentionally misspelled to get past filters, but one this morning made me laugh out loud for its clarity and brevity: "barn action" -- all righty, then!

Monday, June 06, 2005

'The Sea Inside' and Hollywood's Lament ...

Javier Bardem just knocked me on my ass.

His performance in this Oscar-winning film is one of the best I've seen in years. As with Ralph Fiennes in "The English Patient," he is brilliant at acting with only his eyes.

Hollywood laments, despite making billions every year, that moviegoers are staying away from the theaters now more than ever.

Please, please, please will the studio execs take a cue from foreign filmmakers? Spain gives us "The Sea Inside" and what do we give the world? "Soul Plane."

To be sure, there are good movies in America, and not every trip to the multiplex need deal with life-and-death issues. Fun is fun. But Hollywood seems to have forgotten that not all of the movie-going public is 15. Or in 3rd grade. Or a frat boy.

Bless Ron Howard. "Cinderella Man" only made $18.3 million this weekend, but if Clint's boxing flick, "Million Dollar Baby," can pass the $100 million mark, Opie's can, too. "A Beautiful Mind" cost $60M to make, made $2.5 mil its opening weekend, and went on to gross more than $170M.

"Soul Plane"? Budget: $16M. Opening weekend: $7M. Gross: $13M. Yo.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Davids and Daves ...

Update: Keeping the Dave/David list current.

In a past post, I alluded to the bounty of Davids and Daves in my life.

This morning, I made a list.

The number has shrunk a bit. A Dave attrition of sorts. (Some haven't landed on the list because while I know them, they're not so much a part of my life.)

Still, many Daves remain. For the sake of clarity, each has at least one qualifier. There's:

Dave (aka Music Dave, Composer Dave, or Kurtis Dave). I haven't known him as long as some of the other Daves, but he has achieved Alpha Dave status, and so is usually refered to simply as Dave.

L.A. Dave is a fish out of water on the west coast. By which I mean that he's far too interesting and intellectual to live in such a superficial, vapid place. But as an entertainment journalist, he needs to be where the action is.

English Teacher Dave put me through my paces for a year and a half in high school. He is a delightful balance of quirky and thoughtful, and is, single-handedly, the reason I was able to get through my freshman year of English in college. The most influential teacher of my life. And a good friend to this day.

College Boyfriend David (aka David-With-The-Smile David). Self-explanatory, who he is. Mom gave him his alias. We dated only briefly, but have stuck around in each other's lives ever since.

Gemma's Dave, a good friend's husband, unassuming at first glance, but one of the funniest people you'll ever meet.

Jeannie's David, another good friend's husband, terribly adorable with a British accent, and very smart, which explains his very good choice of Jeannie for a wife.

Cousin Dave who looks like, I kid you not, John Travolta.

Sister-in-law's Brother Dave, who I only see at my sister-in-law's house, mostly, but who is then in the company of other Daves, whom I haven't included on the list because we're not that close.

And then, in making this morning's list, I realized that I have someone in my Palm who's last name is rooted in the Dave tradition: Davies.

But his first name is Iva.

New addition:

New Neighbor Dave. I was returning from a walk a couple weeks ago and he was cutting his grass so I stopped to introduce myself and stifled a laugh when the revealed his name. I mean, seriously: Every new man in my life is named Dave.

Jon-David aka J-D. My hair architect. Luckily, he goes by J-D. I can't remember the last time I called him Jon-David. I've been going to him forever, so he should hardly be new to the list.

And just because I find it funny: At my mom's church, they've been interviewing for a senior pastor. The junior pastor's name is Dave. The new senior pastor's name is Dave. Clearly, the Dave-itis is spreading.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

A Message From iTunes ...

Apparently, I am not the only one who experiences this phenomenon.

Work Pal David and I discussed it yesterday: Particular artists who turn up disproportionately in iTunes. What does it mean? Statistically, with so many songs, you'd expect that the Shuffle feature would shuffle rather finely. But the other day, three Icehouse/Iva Davies (same difference) came up in a row. I have 2,292 songs in my library. What are the odds?

No, really: What are the odds? I suck at math.

Friday, June 03, 2005

eHarmony Discord, Continued ...

I am on hold with eHarmony.

When you quit the service, you are given a 1-800 number to call for your "confirmation" number.

But of course it's not about calling for your confirmation number that you've quit within 7 days and will be receiving a credit for the $49.95 you charged to your credit card to sign up in the first place. No, it's a chance for them to get you to change your mind.

So Chris wanted to know why it was I was quitting after being a member for only six days. Because Chris, I'm sure, isn't just a customer service rep ... Chris really cares about my future happiness, right?

I told him that the price was a big factor, that $49.95 was pretty steep, given that I only really had a week to try out the service, and that it was taking some people days to respond. And that you couldn't sign up for another plan, thus lessening the financial commitment, but still get out of it. I told him that I was suspicious that I'd gotten so many matches in just six days from a service that touts how exclusive it is. I didn't tell him that eHarmony's screening process is crap, since I was matched with a guy who listed "guns" as one of the Five Things he can't live without.

Ah, but here's the juiciness: Since one of my gripes was that 7 days wasn't long enough to actually accomplish anything (even though he jumped right in to tell me that I can bypass the "stages" of communication and start writing to people right away), Chris was willing to extend my membership an additional two months for the same fee, so instead of $49.95 a month with monthly renewals of $39.95, which is what I signed up for, I could have three whole months for $49.95. Three months for the price of one. (If you sign up for three months right off the bat, you're gonna spend $99.95, and it's non-refundable.)

I told him that I still wanted to cancel. That's when he put me on hold, and said he'd have my confirmation number when he came back. It took several minutes. (I've finally gotten my confirmation number and hung up.)

All totaled, it took nearly 20 minutes for me to end my relationship with eHarmony. But if you want to pursue one, use what I've learned: Sign up for the $49.95 plan, cancel within 7 days, and then take them up on their offer to extend your membership to three months for $49.95, and save yourself the 50 bucks.

And if you find the love of your life, invite me to the wedding.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

eHarmony Discord ...

Well, that was a short-lived experiment.

Last week, I signed up for eHarmony (which is no small commitment of time and effort). Several friends had told me that matches don't always show up right away with eHarmony. The eHarmony folks will tell you that this is because they're much more precise about the matches, and that they'll only send a match if it's really viable.

I had at least 10 in fewer than 6 days. That made me suspicious. eHarmony's own marketing-speak says I might have to wait, and suddenly, I have 10 people who just might be the love of my life? Made me wonder if: 1) eHarmony was lying about it taking time to get matches, so it could send me lots of matches right away, and make me think, "Wow! I must be special!" or 2) Their selection criteria just ain't all it's cracked up to be. In my 35 years on the planet, I've only met two men who I could see myself even possibly spending the rest of my life with, and in six days, eHarmony found 10?

Then there's the cost. If you're not sure if you want to do this for the long haul, you can buy the one-month membership, the only membership that's refundable (within 7 days) if you change your mind. The montlhy fee? $49.95, with auto-renewals of $39.95. Of course, if you commit to a longer term right off the bat, you can spend less per month, but if you change your mind, you're SOL.

But eHarmony's method of communication doesn't lend itself to quick exchanges. You exchange close-ended questions (multiple choice) then other things that you select off of lists. You don't get to "open communication," where you can just write back and forth, until stage 4. So, really, you can't accomplish much in a week, because people take their time with the close-ended questions and such (must be hard for some people to check off boxes ...) so you really can't get to know anyone in a week.

So I canceled yesterday. Part of me is cynical about finding love through advertising. If I'm meant to be with someone, if it's in the stars, I'll meet him because we're meant to be together, not because I put myself on display. Maybe it's naive. Maybe I'll end up not getting married. Maybe that's the way it's supposed to be. Time will tell.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Ode to Vermin ...

I am not often moved to write poetry, but today I was inspired. I give you:

Fuck You, Chipmunk Bastard

Fuck you, chipmunk bastard
Your small size does big harm
To my potted plants
And my green grass

Do not dwell in the burrows
In my lawn that you’ve made
As though you are welcome
You are not

You may think you are endeared
To generations of fans of Disney
But you are loved
Only in cartoon form

I may seem a kind lover of nature
But you must learn that the
Double Impatien on my porch
Is not for digging nor dining
Hence the hot sauce

The Effect of Basic Black ...

On Memorial Day, I went to English Teacher Dave's house for the annual cookout he hosts with his wife, Gail. It was a nice day, but a cool day, so I wore black jeans and a thin black stretchy sweater. My hair has gotten pretty long, and I was wearing new sunglasses.

In high school, when Dave was my teacher, he started calling me Ku. Now he has decided to start calling me Glam Ku.

I do not think of myself as glamourous, and just told him that Glam Ku sounds like a martial art.