Friday, February 29, 2008

Incident-free and proud to be

The insurance company informs me I am a "99," which is an excellent-excellent driver. According to the 3 paragraph letter they sent, I am eligible for a discount-plus-credit. But they didn't say what it was. The backside of the letter, I am informed, is "intentionally left blank." This also took more effort than telling me my discount.

I suppose "discount" is always good; I just wonder why they would bother to send this letter without the information that I might actually want.

I also wonder if this is a planned jinx.

'cause that's how they get ya.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Back on the platform

Miss Bender regrets her absence from the scene. Some stuff has been going on, and not all of it bloggable, which is not to sound mysteri0ous, but to acknowledge that one of my roles in life as your spinster auntie friend is to step in all Supernanny-like when situations call for it. And you trust me to hold those situations in the vault. So nothing more about that, I'm afraid, but there is plenty else for us to discuss.

So here's a recap since Oscar Night because we haven't talked since then.

Had dinner with my fifth-grade teacher. I should explain that more, because that sounds like we reunited after 35 years, which would be an entertaining story, but not the truth. We have been in touch all along, so really I should say, had dinner with a home-town friend who happened to be in Boston for a weekend. But that is not quite the same paragraph opener. When I was a ghastly 11-year old, in big-eyed panda bear sweatshirts and converse high-tops with no socks (because that was my "thing"), and she was an ivory-skinned 26 year old who believed she could influence the lives of children, she went ahead and did it. It was entirely my pleasure to take her to a chowder dinner on the coldest night in Boston.

The teens she was chaperoning were attending a Model Congress conference. And that gave me renewed hope in the young people of America, who do look promising in dark business suits.

Renewed hope in myself came from an invitation to speak at my favorite local college campus, at the invitation of someone I met through (that's Otto's joke. I am very jealous of it, and tried to make a whole post about it, but stands alone). I haven't been on this campus in so long it doesn't exist anymore. That's not a metaphor. They sold every building I ever worked in and built and converted new ones, so if I was worried about any Scene of the Crime feeling, I didn't have to.

Most of the day, down the Mill, I can expect disaster. and not of the catastrophic kind, but of the inept, ridiculous, nonsensical, who-is-driving-this-bus kind. Often, in response to some executive act of clumsiness, I am known to declare, "I have worked with 19 year old girls who would have known better," and certainly I have. And over the years I have begun to wonder whether excellence is just something outdated, like the IBM Selectric and pegged jeans. These are things I enjoyed at the turn of the 90s that simply can't be found anymore. I am "counseled" by my current leadership that "chaos is the new structure," and "it's like this everywhere."

I went into this speaking engagement expecting more of the same -- so I made a slide deck in case they didn't really have an internet connection like I had requested. Then I made printouts of the slide deck in case there wasn't really projection. I called twice and made 2 email confirmations. I requested a snow-plan. Then we cancelled the snow plan because it wasn't going to snow. So it snowed.

And, I promise you Readership.... it was only snowing on the Mill. I stood there at my desk and watched it fall, and bit my lip and prepared myself to never get to the city on time, to not find a parking space, to have no one show. As I approached the city, it was only rain. The group hosting me had 3 people in charge -- one to make sure I got there, one to make sure I had my requested tech set-up, one to introduce me and show me around. He wore a tie. A tie that didn't match his shirt, which was so wrinkled it looked deliberate, but these are Emersonians, so he acknowledged it as "what not to wear." I myself was in a purple suit, which is the college color. I feel in love with them all over again, and I didn't even know them before.

So ~~ MEMO to you overpaid executives who don't know your asses from your breakfast. No, wait, I will type it in my pica-ball font:

TO: Overpaid Boneheads
FROM: Caroline Bender
SUBJECT: Your replacements
DATE: every bless-ed day

Please be advised that I am requesting that you be replaced with the leadership of the Zeta Phi Eta fraternity, as I feel they are more prepared to run this company than you have shown yourselves to be.

Specifically, they have excelled in the following areas where you are collectively the most weak:
1. Organizational planning, both long- and short-range
2. Attention to professional development for their members
3. Events planning
4. Distribution of labor
5. Contingency planning
6. Professional courtesy
7. General likeability
8. Group dynamics
9. Women in leadership
10. Let's face it; I just hate you

I flew on that high for the rest of the week. I am also pleased to report that I still got it, platform-wise, and can sustain a 60 minute talk on fewer than 10 slides, and 45 minutes of follow-up questions. And yes, they did send a thank you note.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Just as stupid as you remember

Was this really ever a "manly" drink? In an era when they wouldn't eat quiche?
Just a bunch of frat-boy porch minkies kickin' back with the spritzer.

I drank a lot of coolers. They were never dry.

I know you want me to post something new to read.
I'm getting around to it.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

35th Annual Pilgrimage

7:30 first thing I notice is that Spanish captions are on my TV. How did that happen? Has Jerry Remy been watching sports down here ?

Second thing is that I have not watched broadcast television since the World Series, with the exception of the Pats playoffs, and not even the Super Bowl. I have no patience for these commercials.

I also can not believe that Oprah has a game show.

8:00 Red Carpet
80 years. I started practicing the religion the year I saw American Graffitti and The Sting and realized I had an emotional investment in the outcome. I was hooked.

I don't wish to accuse without evidence, but Regis may have broken into my desk nip.

8:56 Why haven't we written a vehicle for Katherine Heigl and Charlize Theron? With Catherine Deneuve as their mother?

9:30 I never ever wanted to see August Rush, but I just might buy the
9:38 memo to Tilda. Dress like you think you might win.
9:48 while I don't yet "regret" that I didn't see Old Country for No Men, I do think I'm going to have to.
and that Diesel looks like one of the Coen Brothers.

I feel a caption contest coming on.

10:15 - Things I do not miss about past Oscar productions:

1. Dick Clark standing back stage to interview people.
Dick clark anywhere, really.

2. Debbie Allen production numbers.
Right here is where you start payin'. In cheese.

3. Multiple unqualified hosts. Remember the cast of thousands Burt Reynolds-Sally Kellerman-Fred Astaire nonsense of the 70s?

4. Lapel ribbons

5. Bob Mackie spectacle gowns

10:30 2nd glass of wine. Steve Gutenberg will make Dancing with the Stars sexier? how so?

So, while the foreign language film award is accepted, let's get caught up on some things since my prior post. I had a list going for when I got back on line, but they seem like old news now.

"Going Legit" was to be the title of the post that honored Great Moments in Home Ownership #11 - figuring out the DSL directions. I have JB to thank for talking me through it, because I am notorious for misunderstanding the simplest of assembly directions. I once put a filing cabinet together upside down.

Even the illustrated-by-the-airplane-safety-directions pamphlet and the CD that read it to me did not prevent me from making a mistake so common it is warned against twice. Anyway, I'm back on line. I know you can breathe more easiely now. Maybe you are glad that I didn't write about yet another snowstorm. I know I am, but we had it all the same.

10:49 When did John Travolta's head get so much bigger than his face?
11:10 unfortunate speech moment: "it's called a movie because it's a very moving film." Someone should have waited for the WPA to come back on the job.

11:15 When did Tom Hanks' head get so much larger than his hair? Remember that orr-sum pompador from Big?

"It's a robot that turns into a building? I don't get it."

Things are speeding up now, and ABC is trying to bring this production in before midnight. They will probably make it, though I have lost track of how many are left. 4, I think: Actor, Director, Screenplay, Picture. I am not surfing as I write this, because in spite of getting back on line, I have not done so in this room, and there is no TV in the wired room. Do you comprehend the sacrifices I make for you, my readership?

11:23 screenplay = the writers' big moment. Oscar received by Pebbles Flintstone, who may or may not ever work in this town again. I have to take back what I said about the crazy-ass gowns.

Some other things I'm thinking about.
Why doesn't a commercial about changing your job ever feature someone who wants to work in a corporation, wear a suit, and sit in a cubicle? Someone must, because so many of us do.

Why couldn't they call those "general overview" layman's textbooks something like "For The Curious"? or "For the Self-Taught"? Why do they have to be so mean?

This is really JB's joke. I just carried it through.

Rachel Ray, seriously, what do you do?

I think it's fair that I get Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Tingle confused, as they are both unfunny blockhead windbags. But then why do I have to be so mean?

11:43 The applause for the Coen brothers sounds kinds of polite. But I don't want to have to sit through their movie.

And the 2007 Oscar goes to...No way am I seeing No Old Country Men. Ok, maybe I will, but not before exhausting ways to mangle its name. And it's not even at the Strand anymore.

Have a good night, everybody. Shoutout to Carol and Sam, and their first Oscars in LA. Drop my name.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Oscar Pix

remember when the nominations came out on Valentine's Day?

[:02 FANFARE] presenting Caroline Bender's Oscar Picks for 2008, just in time for you to play along.

You'll recall that I had very little time to get my viewing in after the nominees were announced, but I am now prepared to give my commentary.

No Country for Old Men
didn't see it. There. The spell is broken.

It isn't playing anywhere anymore, it has no buzz, and the whole thing looked completely annoying. So the egg is on my face if it actually wins, but I don't think it will.

This is in the Babel, Munich, Traffic category. Movies like this are always in the Final Five and they don't win. This one made the additional mistake of having too many words in its title.

There will be Blood.
Will there? I said to the guy at the box office, "Is this any kind of guarantee? Because I am coming right back here if there is no blood."

There is. But you have to wait until the final scene to see it, and by then you have put out your own eyes out of sheer boredom so you may miss it.

This is by men, for men, menmenmen. Oddly, the night I went, there was not one man in the audience, which proves that women really will sign up to hear Daniel Day-Lewis read the phonebook, even if he does so, inexplicably, in John Houston's voice. For two and three-quarter hours.

This is the cast of Lonesome Dove on the set of Giant reading the script from Chinatown.So it is not without merit. The cinematic language is poetic --Bring your friends who don't speak English. Bring your deaf friends. For about an hour it won't matter at all. And... they will not have to suffer the over-orchestrated score that imposes itself on you like an uninvited guest.

This will win many awards -- it may even win Best Picture -- but when you finally see it you will wonder why.

Now for something completely different.

Juno breaks the first of my cinematic rules, which is opening with voiceover. Voiceover says, "well I had no idea how to convey this visually, so... here ya go." OR it says, "the audience didn't get it. so we added this in post." Let me also acknowledge that To Kill a Mockingbird also breaks this rule and it is otherwise flawless. This is the downside of filming a novel whose best feature is its narrative voice.

Juno is not the kind of film that wins Best Picture. It is the kind of film the WGA gets into the Final Five, and they have had a lot of time on their hands. I found the script over-written in most parts, but saved by its acting and richer-than-chocolate Art Direction. This is probably Best Screenplay for 2008, and some other production awards, but comedies rarely win, movies about teens rarely win, contemporary settings only sporadically win, and when any of that happens, they are Annie Hall, Ordinary People, and American Beauty. Juno is very good; it is not that good.

Michael Clayton
Back when I had only seen one of the nominees, it was this one, and I said then that it was good enough to take it. That is still true, but it has other obstacles.

It came out too early in the year is the main one, and people forget. Now be clear about this: Acamdemy members don't need to schlep to the mall to see these pictures; they are delivered to them. So the danger is not that voters can't get to see it. The danger is there is no buzz. Hence the "for your consideration" campaigns and the existence of publicists.

Pulling for it: Hollywood loves George Clooney. You may think he is a pretty boy TV star who lives with a pot-bellied pig, but to his co-workers he is a prince among men.
Pulling against it: Corporate liability movie? never happen. hasn't yet. They win acting awards, not Best Picture.

In a year where the little guy wants to stick it to the man, some might lean their votes this way, but I expect instead they will show their solidarity with Diablo Cody and Juno and this vote gets split. (Unless No Country for Old Men is actually good, which I would not know.)

Michael Clayton is Jonathan Edwards -- people like him, just not enough.

I was wrong about Atonement. It is not Legends of the Fall for girls. In fact, it is The Children's Hour, or you think it is, until it goes Sixth Sense crazy at the end.

Film should be many things, but the thing it should be most -- and the thing that all of its individual elements should combine to be -- is transporting. The story should compel, the characters should capture, the sound should draw you in and the visuals should keep you there. The reality of the world you have been taken to should be believeable to the last detail; you should never look up, as if from the page, and say with wrinkled nose "really?" You should never look up at all. You should not move.

If Atonement had not been nominated for Best Picture I might have thrown it at the bottom of my Netflix queue and let it float up as it would. Or I might never have looked at all. London...war...english people... Keira Knightly (who is beginning to out-Winona Winona. Take a note: Winona Ryder, Keira Knightly and Natalie Portman in King Lear. Get back to me). And I would have missed the most transporting film I have seen all year.

Just see it. Just see it -- big screen, stadium seating, THX and the whole bit. This is what you go to the movies for.

Rent the DVD later and hope that there is enough director's commentary to break down the Dunkirk beach tracking shot, which I know in my brain has to be digitized but it spellbound my heart felt like watching a magic trick.

I'll be on the mezzanine Sunday night. I am wearing Donna Karan. My date refuses to wear his uniform.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Left to my own devices

It may be that I finally have too many devices -- certainly too many things that need to be plugged in to work, and which require more attention than a webkin.

In fact, I have decided that Webkinz are just training devices to get us used to constant worry about our phone battery, our unchecked email, whether we have enough entertaining ringtone choices, whether our iPod is synched
(or whether it has somehow unsynched, because you chose the wrong command -- because "synch only the selected folders" really should mean "and leave everything else alone," but it actually means "and throw everything else out." Oh, like you've never done it. Here's something else I'm sure you've never done -- treated your purse to your entire music collection overnight. Oh, good morning. Song 222? Enjoying that, are you, Kleenex pack and Charlie Card?)
....or whether you have checked recently on the downloadable audio book list from the public library.

I actually have 2 'pods -- an iPod and a little MP3 that is compatible with the public library book files, where Apple is not. So I hang onto it, but it has nothing on it at the moment because I transferred a disc book onto the iPod which I am also not reading/listening to, because the 2 movies that are on there that I am not watching are a higher priority. It's good to have that book to not listen to while I am not working out because I need to be blogging without posting because I have no internet because I can't order it while offline.

One thing I do know is that I will not need digital TV now that I have weaned myself off broadcast television with the help of the WGA and the miracle of reliving the 70s in my 40s. So I will keep the 3 foot deep monstrosity I have (mostly because I can't move it) as a DVD player, since DVDs are the one thing I can manage to squeeze into my day - though I have found the thrill of watching them on my laptop, since it can't connect to anything, and even though I promised no TV in the bedroom, it is not really TV and this is the guestroom.

Last night I ate half a box of Cheezits and watched 2 hours of Here's Come the Brides. Boys, I am livin'the dream.

Speaking of brides, two of the brides in the Mill (one newlywed and one affianced, which I think qualifies them both on the bride spectrum and allows me to use the word affianced) were discussing the No TV in the bedroom rule, which New-Mrs. has been able to enforce and Mrs-to-Be has not. She is still working on "we are absolutely not putting a minifridge in here." That is a monologue you have to hear her present for yourself.

More proof that I am my own spouse: I considered for a moment the minifridge idea, then came to the same conclusion Mrs-to-Be did: it makes noise all night.
"...and it's ridiculous" is secondary.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The ethics of signal rustling

A friend was scolding me for using a free signal in the first place, and showing no sympathy for having lost it, not because anyone moved away, but because they finally got wise to it and secured it.

I can rationalize anything, to be sure, but to me it isn't much of an ethical stretch to rationalize the use of a signal my computer picked up without my looking for it, and connected to without asking me. And when I inquired, knowing full well how he would answer, if it was really stealing, he said, "would you take your neighbor's bicycle?"

Fortunately, he added before I could, "I realize that he left it in your living room..."

As I write this now, in a different living room on a different bicycle, I confess that not getting my own internet connection is not the same as not having, say, a microwave or the "good" cable. That's just streamlining. And cheapness. Respectively.

I am perfectly happy to clutter my already limited time by adding the Internet, and can easily afford an acceptable speed. The only reason I have not picked up the phone and pursued any solution to this problem is that I just don't know how to. File it in that folder.

I am on "chat" with Nicholas the phone service boy, who is walking me through my questions by copying paragraphs off his website (which I am also viewing) into an IM window. Occasionally that window grabs text out of this window and when I hit return, I am creating a very disjointed conversation that he is somehow tolerating. I sit very close to text agents in my mill room...and I know what he is saying. In return he repeats himself by pasting, "Good place to check and start for that would be the link I am providing you right now." But I don't give him time to paste; I just hammer him with more questions, like, "Is there any condition that would require a technician to visit my house?"

Part of me feels that when I finally get this figured out, I should float an unsecured wireless signal for a year. It's only fair.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Super Weekend

One way Massachusetts can recover from the jaw-dropping Super Bowl outcome is to indulge in our 3rd favorite sport (it goes by voting the hell out of the primary tomorrow.

How blue is Massachusetts? So blue it's almost Green.

2.8 million voters in the 2004 primary. 30% of the total population, which includes out of town students, and about 1M under the age of 18. [these statistics are hurried and not very well researched. But not skewed]

On the other hand, we elect Republican governors year-over-year, because Massachusetts Republicans in any other state are ...moderates.

Remember Bill Weld and his late-term abortion bill? That took his party by surprise, and the next thing you know he's Ambassador of Nothing. When you are judging a book by its party cover, you might want to check if he is a Deadhead. Or if he is wearing jeans in his State House portrait.

So where am I going with this?
Not toward an endorsement of Mitt Romney, you can be sure of that.

I mentioned in this space recently that I sometimes use my primary vote to have a say in the Republican nomination. So I can confess that I have voted for John McCain before, and thought I would again until he said we might be in Iraq for the next hundred years. I am not just falling for ther Mother Jones spin on this, because I do recognize that he did not say we would be at war for 100 years. His example, in fact, was Korea where we have been at ceasefire for 60 years.

And is that good? is that bad? Beats the heck out of me -- we've been kneedeep in a quagmire somewhere my whole life. What I reacted to was his lack of a need to have a different plan. He actually shrugged (which, not to put too fine a point on it, is not easy for the man) and said "fine by me."

It was a little Bushy.

Romney. Please. Stop it. I'm from Utah! I'm from Belmont! I'm a native son of Michigan! I'm whatever you want me to be. I'm Zelig. And I am damned good-looking.

Mr Governor, the role of John Kerry has already been filled.

Who's left on this ticket? Ron Paul? If you typed his website out in courier font on erasable bond, you could hand it to the guy who rants outside the library, and no one would be any the wiser. There may be some good stuff in here, but I couldn't read it. I have said the same thing about the SCUM Manifesto. Honestly though, 12 hours before the polls open is no time for me to be picking my spoiler GOP candidate just so I can feel like I played both sides.

I'm truly a crazy Kucinich democrat, which used to be called Rooseveltian socialism when it was socially acceptable.

So what do we got over here? The Illinois-bred history-making Senator with the activist background and the wonky healthcare plan. And the other one.

I finally listened to the "And then there were 2" debate rebroadcast the other night, and remain in the middle of the road between them.

What it starts to feel like to me is the difference between choosing Leadership or Management. Dodie described Sen. Clinton as a Beaurocrat, and true enough. You may see someone who goes back as far back as Watergate as an entrenched insider or someone who has learned how to work the system. Is she the boss in meetings so much the staff doesn't know who she is?

Sen. Obama is charismatic, no doubt about that. He preaches a good message -- who doesn't want to live in the world he describes? The children hold hands and sing a song of peace and harmony. Can he make that happen? Is he the coach who tells you before every game that it's a building year, and after the trouncing says you're so much better than you used to be?

Certainly, you want the head of state to have both Leadership and Management, but when I ask myself which I would sacrifice for the other, I am still not sure.

One thing I do know is that the United States of America is not a business, and it is not a sports team. It is a society. An organism that requires one...out of many. Structure...and freedom. Rules...and exceptions. And what I hope is that these 2 Senators get themselves partnered up for this thing. Put Edwards on HEW, Slick Willie on HUD, bring back Robert Reich, and confuse everyone by making McCain the Sec'y for Veterans Affairs.

I can not end this post with my endorsement. I don't know what it is.

So let me leave you with this. The photo at the top is Lucy Burns, who went to jail for asking to vote. In Kenya today, about 900 people are dead and 300,000 people have been displaced by widespread violence following a presidential election gone horribly awry, Florida 2000 style.

It may snow tomorrow morning. But if voting feels like something that is just too much trouble for you, please spend all the free time you have gained by reflecting on everything else in your life that comes so easily for you and which much of the world can never even dream of.