Thursday, February 27, 2014

Coldplay: A Love Story

Coldplay was my first favorite band. Okay, okay, there was a brief Hanson stint in the fourth grade, but Coldplay was the band I followed religiously--I had their website bookmarked on my parents' computer, I looked up fun facts about the band members, I listened to their albums (on CD) straight through repeatedly. I bought the piano sheet music to several of their albums, learned the songs, and then memorized the songs in case Chris Martin suddenly needed a back-up player. They had me at Parachutes, and it's been a love affair ever since.

This week, Coldplay released a surprise single via twitter, and the affair continues. The first years were a flash--after Parachutes came A Rush of Blood to the Head and X&Y, both during high school. They joined me many nights while I did homework or wrote in my journal. The Twisted Logic Tour was a last hurrah family vacation before my senior year. Viva la Vida rushed in while I was in college, and I clung to its pop/dance vibes. Then things quieted down between us. It took me some time to warm up to Mylo Xyloto--I fell in and out with several other bands during this time. I graduated. I moved. I got an iPod and finally updated my music.

When "Atlas" came out last year as a part of the Catching Fire soundtrack, I knew we were back in full swing--I just listened to it again, and it still got me. "Sometimes the wire must tense for the note" is a brilliant and lovely lyric. "Midnight," while less catchy, is still a welcome tune, reminiscent of Imogen Heap. I eagerly await album number six. Until then, it's full album listening sessions and more piano practice (just in case).

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Insidious: Chapter 2

There are few movie genres that Jesus and I both enjoy. The only movies we watch in theater are either animated (Wreck-It Ralph, Epic) or screen versions of YA books we've both read (Catching Fire, Ender's Game). When we watch movies casually at home, we like to revisit old favorites or check out musicals. On more special "date" nights, we go for horror. Horror = cuddles, so it makes perfect sense.

For Valentine's Day, we decided to watch the sequel to Insidious, aptly titled Insidious: Chapter 2. Insidious set things up for a sequel that would resolve its unanswered questions and bring a conclusion to its cliffhanger ending, and I:C2 follows through on both parts. Picking up shortly where the first left off, this sequel explains the back story of the Lambert family, especially Josh's childhood.

[A quick recap of Insidious: Josh and Renai Lambert and their children move to a new home. While exploring the attic, their son Dalton gets hurt. He later goes into a coma and travels to a realm called "The Further," where spirits of the dead roam. To get him back, Josh too must travel there--and he has to make sure none of the spirits follow them back to our world. It doesn't sound that scary, but it has its moments. The acting, script, and music all added to this scary thinker.]

What Jesus and I most appreciated about the sequel was its adherence to the "rules" that the original created. We learn that Josh has traveled to "The Further" while he sleeps since his childhood--an ability he passed on to his son, Dalton. Some of this is recapped from the first movie, but this time we see Josh as a young boy, and we see why grown up Josh didn't remember his otherworldly trips right away. The sequel also explains more about the spirits who inhabit "The Further"--why they are there instead of in a more permanent resting place, why they want to follow the living back into real life, and what happens when they succeed.

While I:C2 has some good scares, it was more story-driven than most horror flicks. It kept us thinking, making guesses as to how it would end, and re-evaluating our theories as the plot developed. The repeat performances were great, especially Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier, the ghost hunter/spiritual world guide who helps Josh and Dalton in their voyages through "The Further." If you haven't, check out Insidious. Then enlighten yourself with I:C2. Stay out of the cold and snow--find someone to snuggle you while you get scared from the comfort of your own couch.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Allegiant (Divergent, #3)Allegiant by Veronica Roth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's been over a week since I finished this book, and therefore the Divergent trilogy, and I'm still a little confused about how I feel about it. It gets three stars instead of two because of a major plot point/spoiler that I've selfishly wanted since the first book (though I know other readers weren't happy about it). Like Insurgent, this book continues with no time lapse--it's literally as if Veronica Roth wrote the entire trilogy as one large piece, then chopped it into thirds. The only thing setting the final installment apart is its switch to co-narrators, Tris and Tobias (the boyfriend), instead of just Tris.

Having Tris as the narrator (as opposed to writing from third person point-of-view) was one of the major downfalls of this entire series, and bringing Tobias on board did little to salvage the narrative tone. First, it was hard to distinguish his voice from Tris's. I'm not sure if this is because Veronica Roth can't write voices for two different people (her mediocre dialogue is evidence of this), or if I got confused because I was already used to Tris as the primary narrator thanks to Divergent and Insurgent, but either way, there were several instances where I had to flip back to the beginning of the chapters to see who was doing the talking. Second, it turns out Tris isn't the only whiny, self-absorbed character--Tobias had some pretty cringe-worthy thoughts that again made me wish for a third person perspective.

As far as the plot goes, it lagged in many places and got bumbled in others. We've already established the factions (based on personality traits) and the factionless (those rebelling against the current system) in this world, a Chicago of the future. At the very end of Insurgent, we learn that there is a whole other world outside the city limits. Tris and Tobias, along with several others (by this point there aren't that many people left--the series does not lack violence, one thing that works in its favor, credibility-wise), leave the city to figure out what exactly that is. Then things get both confusing and boring. I wasn't quite sure who the enemy was in the middle section of the book, and this wasn't helped by the lack of action. The narration sounds like robotic descriptions: There were beds. We ate food. We wore clothes. Tris and Tobias's "romance" gets a little tumultuous when Tobias talks to another woman while--gasp!--Tris isn't even there, and once again, they prove that no dystopia/civil war can stop their hormones from forcing them to kiss and canoodle at any moment.

And the ending. I won't reveal any spoilers, but let's just say it was one of those where things magically work out because the author is ready for the story to end. As for the things that don't magically work out, they felt like cheap shots--just there to force emotion, and serving no real purpose. I said Allegiant got an extra star for one of these plot points, but that was awarded for its end, not its means.

Much like the other books in this series, I don't hate Allegiant. It was still a fast read. I can't fault it for trying to be the next YA craze. Deep down it has some interesting themes and views on the world. I only wish it had been read/edited even once more before publication.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014


"You've just reached a new high level in Ignoring Me." Lucy picked an unpopped kernel of popcorn out of the bowl on her lap and launched it at the side of Benjamin's head.

Benjamin shrugged and kept his focus on the TV, where a CGI army under his command attacked a mostly abandoned village. The sound of bullets and barely intelligible radio communication drowned out Lucy's sigh.

This romantic funk--going on two months, based on the last time Benjamin and Lucy went out together to somewhere that didn't have a drive-thru--wasn't how Lucy pictured their relationship progressing, but the oddest part was Benjamin himself wouldn't label it as a funk at all. He would say they were settled into a routine typical of any couple who had been dating long-term.

If Lucy knew that, she would treat it as the first of many red flags.

But Lucy didn't know that, like she didn't know Benjamin's internet search history or the subjects of his recently sent text messages, or of his recently received text messages. All things which would raise several more red flags.

No, what Lucy knew was boredom. And brief forays into anger. And the way the light from a video game made her skin look blue, like she was underwater.


Funk: A perfect word to work with this week, as it sums up where I'm at mentally.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

New Order

"Don't blame the Sinner. Compel the Sinner to follow the path of Surrealism. We, the Surrealists, believe in the expression of the unconscious, the juxtaposition of realities, and the liberation of imagination."

Max listened to the Credo warbling over the loudspeakers as he got dressed in the dark, an Order practice meant to extend dream time.  His single room only held a bed and a desk, but it did have a full-length mirror on the back of the door, for Visualizing. He zipped his Order-issued jacket over his sleepwear. The black made his pale skin even more striking.

At first bell, he joined the others in the Refectory. Everyone sat at their preferred tables without regard for the Order's loose hierarchy--Fathers, Brothers, Novices, and Acolytes--and waited for the opening invocation. Father Andre stood and spread his arms as if to give a hug. A belt made out of rope held his white cassock in place; a set of keys hanging from the belt clinked together as he moved and the talking in the hall quieted. "Good Morning, everyone."

"Good Morning, Father," they answered in unison. Max's stomach growled loud enough for his table mates to side-eye him. He shrugged his shoulders and bowed his head.

"We greet the morning with open minds. We invite our dreams to coexist with reality. We welcome the day that could be." Father Andre brought his arms down and began to dismiss the tables for breakfast.

“Did you get your Sinner yet?” Marcel asked from across the table. As another un-initiated Acolyte, he was the closest thing Max had to a friend in the Order.

“No, I thought we got them after breakfast. Do you already know yours?”

Marcel started to answer, then suddenly found interest in the table.

The sound of Father Andre’s keys jangling grew closer, then stopped. Max felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to its owner. "Hello, Father."

"I need you in my studio," Father Andre said.

Max eyed the serving line behind Father Andre.

"Now. We can worry about food later."

Father Andre’s directness unsettled Max, but he followed him into the hallway. Nothing happened quickly within the Order. There was a reason they fondly referred to themselves as the “Dis-Order of Surrealists”--experimental performances and visionary exercises took precedence over structured activity.

“Is something wrong?” Max asked as they followed the hallway around a corner, away from the common rooms.

Father Andre swept open a pair of double doors nearly hidden behind a large paint-splattered canvas. “As our newest un-initiated recruit, we have yet to see your talents as a Converter.” They entered his studio, a corner room with several floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the lake that separated their monastery from that of the New Order on the other shore. “I wanted to know your background before assigning you a Sinner, so I checked the records this morning.”

Max hovered at the entrance of the room. Father Andre stood behind his desk.

“It’s funny, I couldn’t find a file for Max Viole anywhere.”

Max walked with even steps to the windows and placed a hand on the glass. A red flag flew above the towers of the New Order’s black monastery. In the time it took Max to turn back to Father Andre, the windows shattered behind him. Father Andre dove to the floor. Max lunged towards him and grabbed for his keys.

“Let’s go, Muriel.” A woman stood at the jagged opening of the window. She wore a harness attached to a thick cable stretching out the broken window.

Max knew he was Muriel in the same way he had known the window would break: not at all, then all at once.

Father Andre clutched at his cassock from his prone position at Muriel’s feet. Muriel pulled her jacket sleeve over her hand and lifted a shard of glass from the wreckage, using it to slice Father Andre’s belt so she could slip the keys off. She dangled them above him. “There are no Sinners.”



Monday, February 17, 2014

Waiting for Buses with Strangers

The old man took deliberate steps towards me. He brandished a length of polished wood, like the leg of a table, using it for a cane. His orthopedic shoes and flat-topped Stetson gave him a harmless air, but the way he made direct eye contact from behind his wire-framed bifocals left me checking for escape routes. Not for the first time in my life I wished for a “NO SOLICITATION” tattoo on my forehead.

"Is the next bus coming soon?" He paused in front of me at the bus stop where I was waiting for the 49 with several other riders. I sought out an ally--literally any other person waiting for the bus with us--but no one was looking up from their slush-covered boots or out of their scarf-wrapped hoods.

Though I'm not a professional bus tracker, I nodded. "Yep, should be about five minutes." It seemed like a good guess. All I wanted to do was take a breather after work, wait for the bus in peace, and go home for dinner. I wasn't trying to engage in conversation. The only people who make small talk really just want me to: subscribe to a magazine, join their bank, join their church, join their gym, or allow them to linger in my personal space far longer than is normal or comfortable for me.

He took a few more steps and turned around to face me, but didn't say anything. I could feel his gaze, though perhaps he was looking at something past me. I didn't want to check, instead opting to keep him in my peripheral. People get robbed when they let their guards down, and this man was already giving me weird vibes.

He came closer and I pulled my purse to the front of my body. "Could you tell me the time?" he asked.

I checked my phone. "It's 7:13." Did he only ask so he could see where I put my phone? I slipped it into my jacket pocket and kept my hand in there with it.

Again he did his few steps away, turn, few more steps back maneuver. Now he was in my personal space. I leaned away, willing the bus to show up.

"And you said the bus would come when?"

I was annoyed. We were already waiting--the bus comes when it comes--and again, I'm not a bus tracker. I had checked online before I left work to get a vague idea of how fast I would have to walk to the bus stop, but there's no telling what kind of delays/traffic a Western bus will face on a weeknight. "Well," I took a step back, "the last time I checked, it was coming at 7:17."

He smiled at me, unfazed. "And you said it's what time?"

When the bus pulled up, I checked through the windows for empty seats. The queue formed at the door, but didn't move. The Clockless Wonder stood at the front, nearly bowing as he motioned for me to get on first. I smiled and boarded. Spotting a few empty rows in the back half of the bus, I quickly sat down. He took a spot in the reserved area. I let out the breath I didn't realize I was holding and closed my eyes. Another day, another awkward interaction, another reminder to bring headphones with me when I go out in public.

"Please Go Away." T-shirt courtesy of St. Norbert College's study abroad program, but also effective as a weirdo repellent.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Chicago Auto Show 2014

Jesus and I went here today. An auto show is maybe a strange place to spend the day for a couple with only a 1996 Honda Civic between them (that is, Jesus owns a nearly 20-year old car and I have nothing with more than two wheels), but we enjoy a good convention as much as the next person. There's just something about huge buildings and hordes of people that sounds like a fun date for us.

Because this is the last weekend of the Auto Show, there really were hordes of people: families, couples, fathers and sons, and groups of high schoolers elbowed each other for glimpses of the latest models of both foreign and domestic vehicles. There were test rides, test sits, and lots of photo opportunities.

The lines for the Jeep and Toyota off-road test rides were super long, so Jesus and I opted for the street rides. Everyone else in line was waiting for the Dodge Charger, but we aren't picky. The ride coordinators shuffled us to the front of the line and we joined our driver in the small but powerful Fiat 500. While I doubt we'll purchase it anytime soon (or ever), it was fun pretending.

And that's what the day was like for the hordes--pretending to own concept cars, pretending to be outdoors surrounded by said concept cars, and pretending that road salt, ice, and snow weren't real things waiting for their real cars once they left for the day. If anyone could use a little imaginary escape, it's Chicago's car owners.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Pacific Rim

Sometimes you have to watch robot vs monster movies to placate your boyfriend. Sometimes you actually enjoy them, despite falling asleep at the movie's climax. After months of gently persuading me to watch Pacific Rim, followed by weeks of insistent pleading, followed by the outright purchase of the DVD, I finally gave in to Jesus' need for me to see this movie. I wasn't disappointed. [Note: Jesus had already seen the movie, so this was his second viewing. Also, my falling asleep had nothing to do with the movie's quality and everything to do with my inability to stay awake past 1:30 am.]

The plot is simple. Kaijus = monsters who enter this realm via a portal at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The first Kaiju appeared in 2013. Jaegers = the human answer to Kaijus, giant robots controlled by co-pilots who have connected their minds in a "neural bridge" so that they can together bear the load of pursuing and hunting the Kaijus. Now, in 2025, the Jaeger program gets shut down due to its ineffectiveness against stronger and more frequent Kaiju attacks. New plan: build a huge wall to keep the Kaijus away from humanity.

Raleigh Becket and his brother, Yancy, co-pilots of Gypsy Danger, used to be a dynamic duo in the Jaeger world. Raleigh retired after a traumatic hunt, but in Pacific Rim he is called back to duty for one final face-off against the Kaijus, where a thermonuclear bomb is to be deployed, closing the portal once and for all. He is paired with Mako Mori, a Jaeger expert and adopted daughter of Raleigh's Jaeger commander.

This is where things start to get a little fuzzy for me, summary-wise. It really doesn't matter how exciting a movie is, when my body decides it's done, I'm out. I fell asleep sometime during the climactic battle of Pacific Rim, so no worries of spoilers here! Up until sleep defeated me, the plot held up. The acting was believable, despite the outlandish story. I was even okay with the depiction of men/women/gender relations in this decidedly guy-geared movie. If you're willing to suspend some disbelief, Pacific Rim is fun and fast-paced. It has poetic moments and the high action, high drama feel of a summer blockbuster.

I even told Jesus I was game to re-watch the ending with him someday. Sorry for doubting you!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love Models

I'm in uncharted territory. I'm celebrating Valentine's Day with the same Valentine I had last year AND the year before. In years one and two, we tried new restaurants. There were flowers. We dressed up. Jesus shaved and I washed my hair--if nothing else, Valentine's Day has encouraged us to keep up our personal hygiene. We finished our nights with binge chocolate-eating (mostly me) and decidedly non-romantic movies (Fight Club and Mama). We congratulated ourselves on being in like and in love.

And for year three? I don't know what the plan is. Jesus and I got as far as "We should eat dinner..." before we ran out of ideas. I have a little something planned, gift-wise. I'm wearing a heart shirt and two pairs of heart socks (out of necessity for their warmth, not because I'm that into Valentine's Day). I bought a bag of red and white M&M's that I had for dessert last night and pre-breakfast this morning. The festivity is out of control.

What I'm really reflecting on this year isn't the flowers or the chocolate or making lovey dovey eyes over the dinner table. I'm thinking about how I learned what love is, and who taught me: my parents. Already this morning, my dad was the first to text me with Valentine's Day greetings. They are spending the day with my brother--not off on a date by themselves. In the past they've spent their anniversary with me. Spring Break? They're hanging out with my sister. Especially now, with all of us kids out of the house, my parents like to celebrate their love by being with their kids.

I don't know what kind of relationship I'd be in if I didn't have my parents as role models, but it certainly wouldn't be the same. My parents' relationship taught me about gender equality, selflessness, communication, and truly enjoying someone else's company. Because of them, I rarely pined for a boyfriend growing up. As lame as this sounds (and there were times I did pine--I was still a teenager), I had Mom and Dad as Valentines. Besides, I wanted what they had, not something slapped together out of desperation for connection.

Now that I have something real (after a few missteps and wrong turns, of course), I'm even more grateful I have their relationship to reference. And not only theirs--both sets of my grandparents celebrate 60 years of marriage this year. Wow! I'm grateful to have so many caring men and strong women to look up to.

Because I know they'll be the first to read this--Happy Valentine's Day, Mom and Dad! I love you both.

Happy Valentine's Day to you, too, Jesus...I know you'll read this after I remind you I posted. :) And can we watch this tonight?



Thursday, February 13, 2014


He asked what she wanted to do.
She shrugged, even though she knew. "I want to go."
"Where?" He reached for her hand.
"Away." She stood. "And I want you to stay here."


[Taking a non-sappy approach with Trifecta on Valentine's Day Eve.]

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Midnight Snack

[Author's Note: I recently noticed this story had been reverted back to a draft. I have NO IDEA how that happened and I'm currently pretty upset with Blogger/Google for having no explanations. Not only did it revert to draft, it reverted to a super duper early draft of this story--not even close to my final draft. Everyone's comments are still here. What happened? If anyone knows how I can recapture my final--published--draft, please let me know! Until then, here is a super sloppy copy because I'm too sad to rewrite this story right now.]

When Amelia quit her job at the restaurant to go back to school she assumed she would finally get to eat dinner at dinner time and go to bed before bar close. Instead, she went to class all day, did homework all evening, and gazed out her window all night, waiting for the sun to rise so she could get up and do it again.
Tonight was no different. She wanted to blame it on her neighbor's insistence that he vacuum in the early hours of the morning, but Amelia's insomnia was all her own fault. Besides, she actually liked knowing someone was being domestic nearby. It comforted her--just not enough to take her past the point of counting sheep. With an exaggerated sigh, Amelia sat up and pushed herself out of bed. There was no use fighting to keep her eyes closed.

She shuffled to the kitchen, flipping on lights as she went. Living alone had great benefits, especially for an insomniac with a midnight-vacuumer for a neighbor. In the kitchen, she pulled out pots and pans and knives and cutting boards, lining up tools and ingredients on the counter with no regard for noise.

She could see her small TV from where she stood, and she turned it on to late-night cooking shows. With the volume down, flashes of the chefs and their dishes in the works caught Amelia's eye, but she didn't lose focus on her own midnight meal.

Her mother always told her to finish eating by 8 pm, to let her food digest, and because a meal after dark meant double the calories, but Amelia never listened to her mother. It might kill her, but cooking after dark felt made her feel alive.

When she was done eating, she washed every dish and put it back in its place. No one could ever know what happened here, in her kitchen, in the wee hours of the morning.



Sunday, February 9, 2014

Smartphone Self-Reflection

I've done it. I've made the switch from basic phone to smart phone. While I know I'm not the last, I'm definitely late to the game. As in, it's embarrassing how slow I am at figuring this thing out. This switch wasn't originally my plan--U.S. Cellular pulled out of Chicago, leaving my phone in a limbo of eternally roaming despite my nationwide plan (don't ask me to explain--the customer service guy couldn't even tell me how that worked), so despite my easy comfort with my brick phone, I had to move on.

Now, for the first time in my cellphone-having life, I'm not on my family's family plan; I took a big relationship step and joined Jesus' plan. That's right, we made it phone bill official. It took about 20 minutes for us to have our first phone bill fight. Namely, I wanted him to pay his balance and he refused, out of spite. Up next: I fight with customer service to allow me to make changes on my line, despite my non-primary account holder status. Why is that a thing? It's 2014, can't we have co-primaries? Or can't we trust that if I have all the required numbers/passcodes and I've sat on the line for more than several minutes, all I really want to do is switch my number?

I'm getting all worked up again and that's not why I came here. I came here to make a Self-Reflection Statement. I came here to be intentional about my phone. On this, the day my phone goes officially active, I pledge to not get sucked in. I pledge to be a smart user of a smart phone. I have gadgets, and they already suck me in, so this is like a renewal of simple living vows--I want to take a step back from all my devices and recognize their function in my life.

Without making a bunch of rules and putting restrictions on myself, I plan to cut down my mindless internet time. I haven't downloaded games onto my phone, instead focusing on apps that will simplify my life (CTA tracker and virtual banking) or allow me to communicate with all my favorite people (international texting). Things like online to-do lists, grocery lists, calendars, and budget calculators sound practical, but I'm wary of downloading these things willy-nilly. I'm a hand-written, hard copy sort of person. I don't think digital lists will be useful (or used in general)--at least until I learn how to do basics like answer calls or send group texts.

In short, I want my smartphone to work for me, not the other way around. Pre-smartphone, I had to be savvy about what places had free wi-fi (looking at you, Target), places where I could check my email during work, so I hope having access all the time alleviates some of that stress. And while I rarely get lost (especially in Chicago, especially after living here for 3.5 years), knowing that GPS is at my fingertips will be nice. I'm going to enjoy having music and knowing where my bus is and having sibling conversations with Bailey and Quinn. This is the start of something smart.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar WaoThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Polar Vortex seems like a good excuse for me to read books that are both a) On my To-Read list and b) On my physical bookshelf. Nothing like a billion inches of snow to convince me to check out some of the books I already have instead of going to the library for stacks and stacks of books I only wish I had.

First up, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. This book made its way onto my To-Read list ages ago. It was about time I gave it a chance. While I'm not exactly glad I did, I don't regret it either. This was a good book, but I just don't think it was written for me. It's also not a "happy" book, so I doubt many people are "glad" to read it.

We know from the get-go that poor Oscar has a brief life, but let's not forget that it is also wondrous. From his obesity to his obsession with all things nerd (I definitely did not get all the sci-fi/fantasy/comic book references--there's my first hint that I'm not the ideal reader), Oscar never quite fits in. Add to that his deep and intense love-feelings for unavailable women, and we have ourselves a tragic character. I found Oscar lovable. I related to his writing and to his unpopularity. I rooted for him, all the while knowing he doesn't/can't win.

I also found Yunior, the narrator and Oscar's one-time college roommate, rather lovable--or at least honest. Especially in the first and last parts of the book, his tone and voice drew me in, and make me want to seek out more of Junot Diaz's (perhaps shorter) works.

That middle section, though. That's where he lost me. I don't know if it was the lengthy footnotes (much too hard to read on a bouncy city bus in the gray of winter, so I gave up on them) or the change of focus (instead of learning more about Oscar we get the back-story of his family's curse and the history of his grandfather, mother, and sister), but I had to skim to keep myself going and make sure I actually finished.

Don't get me wrong--I liked this book, and I think I'll be thinking about for a few days. There's a lot to digest. I just really don't feel like I'm the intended audience, at least not at this point in my life. I wonder what a younger, less-in-love, more awkward and unsure Rachel would think. I might have absorbed this book in college. After finishing, I appreciate the middle section more. I get what it was getting at. I was just way more interested in Oscar.

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Friday, February 7, 2014

Saltiest Day 2.0

It's the Second Annual Saltiest Day--did you remember to mark your calendars? A year ago, I "celebrated" by doing dishes and eating whatever I found in the fridge. This year, Saltiest Day takes on a new meaning--with all the snow and ice, everything is actually salty. The roads (when not snow-covered) are white with salt and my boots have a nice crusty layer of salt around the bottoms. Besides the literal salt, my mood is, as per usual in February, on the salty side as well--I suspect I'm not alone here.

I have a vision for Saltiest Day--we may only be two years in, but I think the holiday people should hop on this train. Why not Saltiest Day cards? They would have to be plenty sarcastic: "Happy Saltiest Day! I love it when you throw your socks on the floor." Flowers for your Saltiest would look more like funky cheese. We could eat Ramen, Chinese delivery, asparagus, tuna, and broccoli. Got beef with someone? Let them know on Saltiest Day.

Until that takes off, though, I'm going to battle these salty Saltiest Day feelings. It's Friday, so already we're doing better than last year. As for me, I'm making my signature Friday Night Pizza (perhaps pizzas?), watching the Winter Games Opening Ceremony, and snuggling my boyfriend, who also (conveniently right now, annoyingly in the summer) doubles as a space heater.



Thursday, February 6, 2014

XXII Olympic Winter Games

Let the Games begin! I don't know what the rest of the country (or world) has heard so far about Sochi, but in Chicago the Olympics seem like a joke--a tragic, dangerous joke.

I've heard of Chicagoans wondering how Sochi won the bid for the Olympics while Chicago didn't--especially since it's been as cold, if not colder, than Russia these past weeks. (It should be noted that Chicago lost to Rio for a Summer bid, not to Sochi for the Winter Games, so maybe it's best if we held off comparison/complaint until 2016.) 

Still, if the Olympics are supposed to highlight the good of the host country, if they are used as a platform to show progress and prosperity, then Russia and Putin are off the mark, at least pre-Opening Ceremony. I truly hope tomorrow's festivities (and the next two weeks') prove otherwise, because the Winter Olympics could use some credibility even without Sochi's shortcomings. With only 15 sports (for a total of 98 events, compared to Summer's 26 sports/over 300 events), they are like the JV Olympics to the Summer Games' Varsity-esque legacy.

I'll be tuning in (tonight, since the actual Games start before the Opening Ceremony), cheering for the underdogs, the human interest stories, and sometimes even the Americans. If Bob Costas has anything to do with it, I'm game to check it out.

UPDATE: Bob Costas has pink eye. You are failing me, Sochi.

FURTHER UPDATE: Uruguay doesn't care about the Olympics, at least as far as Bailey knows. They are only worried about the World Cup right now.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Super (American) Bowl

For those of you who didn't tune in to football last night, don't worry: you didn't miss anything. If you didn't see the halftime show, well, that's okay too. Bruno Mars didn't disappoint, but I'm sure you can YouTube his performance with Red Hot Chili Peppers. My favorite part was his drum solo. And the commercials? You'll be seeing most of them for the rest of the year, so fear not. Oh, and I'm about to review them.

The Good. Overall, it felt like the advertisers were like "Hey, guys, this years theme is 'America,'" as if we need someone to sell our own country to us (let's be honest, I do sometimes feel that way)--and if so, well, they succeeded. I'm so ready for the Olympics now. USA! USA!

Coke. "It's Beautiful" : I hope Coke doesn't apologize for this ad AT ALL. They had to have known it would spark some ignorant comments from ignorant people, but that didn't stop them from making a sweet commercial featuring "America the Beautiful" sung in multiple languages over shots of all sorts of people just being American.

Honorable mention goes to their other commercial, "Going All the Way," which features an adorable kid running through Ashwaubenon to get to Lambeau Field after his coach tells him to "keep going," when he miraculously ends up with the football during his game.

Cheerios. "Gracie" : Another company that shouldn't apologize, despite viewer criticisms. And by viewers, I mean more ignorant people. This commercial continues the story of the interracial family from a commercial they aired last year; now "Gracie" is getting a little brother. Yay! Does this ad have anything to do with Cheerios themselves? Only as counters for family members, but very few commercials actually advertise the product they are advertising, so if this is your reason for discrediting the Cheerios family, that's weak.

Intuit. "GoldieBlox" : This ad was technically for Intuit, but featured toy-maker GoldieBlox, who tells us girls can (and should) be engineers, too. Not only that, but girls' toys don't have to be pink. Like the founder says in her contest entry video: "We don't have a national shortage of princesses; we do have a national shortage of engineers." What an awesome toy, and awesome for GoldieBlox to have this kind of exposure!

The Bad. There weren't any commercials that I felt failed the Super Bowl, but a few could be improved.

Volkswagon. "Wings" : Speaking of a lack of women in engineering, here is Exhibit A. Why is there an overwhelming amount of male engineers in this commercial, and why is the only featured female used as a sexual object?

Doritos. "Cowboy Kid" : Basic summary, mom pulls up in her car with groceries. "Boys, can I get some help?" Boy 1: "I don't know, can you?" STOP RIGHT THERE. If that was my kid, I would have sat down and eaten all those Doritos while he unloaded the groceries AND made dinner. Commercial not worth posting and I'm too angry to find it on YouTube anyway.

A Smattering of Car Commercials Featuring Celebrities Who Have Either Sold Out or Really Need a Job: I don't think I'll ever enjoy a car commercial...sorry America, I'm just not the market. Same goes for beer, especially beer/puppies/military.

The Confusing. Some commercials I just didn't get. Or I got, but didn't want to.

Axe. "Make Love, Not War" : My initial reaction to Axe's more social-minded commercial was positive. Yes, give peace a chance--they even partnered with Peace One Day, a nonprofit working to establish a global day of ceasefire. Still, this isn't Axe's normal angle. Usually they are trying to tell us how sexy Axe body spray will make you, at least smell-wise. I applaud this new direction while recognizing it probably isn't a permanent direction.

Dannon Oikos. "The Spill" : Not exactly the Full House reunion I wanted, though probably the one we deserve. I also just have a weird prejudice against yogurt commercials. When did yogurt become lady food? Why does it have to be sexy? Funny, but I'm not convinced I want to switch yogurt brands.

Butterfinger. "Cup Therapy" : Not for the overly conservative, this was probably one of the most risque ads of the night, if you really thought about it. What I got from it: when your relationship is shaky, try a threesome/swinging...but don't take it too far, aka no gay/bi stuff. I would've put it in with The Bad, but it just wasn't strong enough to illicit any other feelings besides confusion and slight groaning.

Did I miss any big ones? I'm happy that advertisers kept it (mostly) clean this year, and focused on positive images and messages. While it would have been nice to have a few more laughs, the Super Bowl itself was pretty funny. Now, bring on the Olympics!