Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sucked into Facebook

Just as everyone eventually gets a blog, I suppose everyone eventually succumbs to Facebook. Curiosity will get the best of you, you will create an account, you will look up everyone you ever knew, you will stalk an ex, you will suddenly befriend someone you wouldn't have spoken to 20 years ago, you will compulsively update your status, you will experience a period of Friend inactivity, as I have done, and then you will think... it is too late to abandon Facebook without insulting everyone you have friend-ed?

" [Facebook] is my church." - Dr. A

It is unfair of me to quote her without context. It was early Sunday morning and I had encountered her on-line. On Facebook, of course. She was making a point.

I have now said Facebook more times than Super Sugar Crisp. Any true insider knows one says FB.

Let me also comment here that you can put eyeglasses on any cartoon and she will look like me.

None of which FB will encourage you to use -- lots of blah-blah about copyrights. I don't need to be sued by DC Comics and Lynda Carter. FB, I think, is what Prodigy hoped to be when it launched in the primordial ooze of on-line community (so pretty).

When I first explored Myspace, my reaction was, "Ew. Just because you CAN use 15 colors and 25 animated fonts doesn't mean you SHOULD..." It was all teen txtspk and the only people I knew who used it were Moms spying on their kids. We in Massachusetts heard about FB early on, as it was born at Harvard, but it was still "Myspace for college students" at that time, and I was still using a VCR.

Is Our Lady of FB better or worse than....

About neutral for convenience sake, but more entertaining. As any FB-er will tell you, mail is something they have to go GET (aaagh...huff puff) and wall messages and updates are just... there.
So... sort of the same if you are the person sending email, but a little better if you are receiving it.

Yahoo seems to give you a lot of design creativity in making invitations. FB seems behind on this aspect. It's so Use-nety. Like leaving a note on the fridge, while Evite is scrapbooking.

Linked in?
Linked In can't hold a candle to the personal aspect of FB, but it doesn't have to. Linked In should stay a little buttoned up to serve its purpose of networking you to your next job opportunity. Your interviewer doesn't want a sheep thrown at him.
I have admitted to being quite slutty on Linked In -- I will offer to Link to total strangers, simply because I think their network could build my network, and get me a few degrees closer to someone hiring at NPR. On FB I discovered I play it coy. If you cross the room to talk to me, I'll be glad to have punch on the patio, but no thank you, I still don't dance.

uccch. I'll tell you what a Friend (capitalized, as in, an FB friend) told me: "It's all kids and porn," he said without any irony. And FB doesn't provide you with the tools to make red text on a black background with a marching paisley border. I admire them for that level of client discipline.

Book club?
I really wouldn't know.

So what's the compulsion everyone talks about?
Remember when you first got your answering machine...voice ad... and you couldn't stand the idea of not knowing for 5 minutes whether anyone has appreciated your brilliant outgoing options...domain name...thumb-typing skills...sparkling personality? It's that. That's all.

Unresolved argument

Parker.... or Shaun....?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Your Netflix failed you, and I have failed you

if I post a picture of Richard Clarke on my website, did I just go on some list?

In this space, in 2006, as part of my evangelical mission to bring you all into the Netflix fold, I boldly claimed I could solve the last problem you had with the queue management system. I promised that I could save your Netflix marriage.

Now Netflix announces that come September, your multiple profiles will be no more. They are not vague about what will replace them. well... nothing, they say. Good luck with that.

Let me try to organize my thoughts here, so I don't sound like a completely crazy person (ship sailed exhibit A and B).

I had abandoned my own extra queue because I was never going to watch those workout videos anyway, much less work out to them. I had considered a documentary queue and a TV series queue, but then I missed the opportunity to create themes (Charlies Wilson's war, the real story behind charlie wilson's war, Dr Strangelove, etc). I am upset for you. I am upset because you listened to me (I am brilliant, after all) and now you are back to fighting about whether Spiderman 3 is queue-worthy and to add insult to injury, you now have to MANUALLY consolidate your queues.

I am so very sorry.
So is this guy.

I invite Cranky Product Manager to weigh in on this one. I link to her as incentive.

Here is Netflix's explanation:

"Not very many of you used it anyway. "
Down at The Mill we rip seams like this with alarming frequency. Netflix reports 2% of customers use the multiple profiles feature, and they are probably right. The fact that it is 8000 consumers bothers them not one bit. In functional design, you play the odds.

Even Deisel admitted he had never heard of it (see comment) and he is a developer/genius as he humbly confesses. I gasped, but I think he had already built a robot to sort his queue for him anyway, and didn't need multiple queues.

"Nobody else got how it worked"
Be careful what you wish for, Customer Service.

"We're trying to keep it simple"
I know this one! Pick me! It means, we never built it right in the first place, and now it is a performance suck and doesn't scale.

"....distracts us from the mission of presenting to all our members the easiest way to find the best titles..." OOo, snap. Search features - IN; Account management -OUT

We will now take questions from the floor.
Does Netflix think I am going to BUY a 2nd queue?
I don't think so. I think they really don't know how to keep it it from breaking whatever it is it breaks or is blocking in some Exciting Netflix 3.0 universe. Which appears to be downloading to TV and possibly getting out of the postal game.

Are they replacing it with some other feature?
Doesn't sound like it.

Why shouldn't I just switch to Blockbuster?
They don't have that feature either, but you are supported in taking your business elsewhere. Netflix is not the only game in town, and they do appear to have driven off Start-Up Island. Might as well go back home.

Where the 2% are ranting:

7th Grade style petition
Sample letter template
Noble insider new-guy
Really angry consumer
Strategic analysis

I wish you luck in consolidating your queues, working things out with your roommates, negotiating Movie Night with your spouse.

Recommendations ~~
Rotating being queue managers and don't clog your queue with multiple episodes of things.
Or just go out. Whichever.

You don't want to be the dinner guest in this house

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

It happened at town mee'in

Really good reasons to move to New England:
a) Sports
b) Foliage
c) Town Meeting

Open Town Meeting is the best and the worst of every committee, board of directors, family time-share on the Cape meeting you have ever been a part of, with grit. It is the event that helps you understand why we say "the only politics that count are local."

Here's how it works:
The Board of Selectmen (BOS) and several committees run things in Town. Just like Ways & Means runs things in your church. They are elected by You, the people, and they manage day-to-day policy through the BOS meeting where you can complain about your neighbor's dog and ask for longer hours at the dump, and question when the bridge construction will be done. It is usually broadcast on TV, but is unwatchable. Like Congress.

All registered voters of the Town may attend, and special guests with prior permission may observe, but must sit in the gallery with Scout and Jem.

Here the People will approve the budget for the coming year, which includes all salaries of public servants, public works monies, emergency funds, and the like. These are the compulsory figures and are moved through pretty quickly. What you are really here for is the long program: the warrants.

Warrants are petitions, from town committees, the BOS or citizens at large asking the town to support a position which becomes approved or disapproved before your eyes in real time. By show of hands. You find out how susceptible you are to peer pressure at a time like this.

We had 34 warrants. For dramatic purposes, I present them in paragraph style:
Approve officer reports, accept town salaries, give a 3% raise, approve the budget, pay our bills, fund social services, donate to the food bank, buy a police car, back-pay the police, pay for real estate assessments, buy a new water tank, replace the field house, renovate the vets' memorial, remove oil tanks we found under the library (what? say more), give the director of the senior center a raise, make a change to the way the budget is presented, finish renovating the old fire house, a bunch of warrants about gaining easements (eminent domain, anyone?), exempt R&D companies from personal property tax (do we have any? just you wait), impose some fines, designate a big swath of land where a factory used to be as Priority Development, create a Bioscience zone (seeing the pattern?), add "cordials and liqueurs" to the wine and malt license, increase the number of liquor licenses, build a little league field, protect the rifle range, (they are not the same land), strip the fire chief of his hiring powers, given the powers to the BOS, then give the BOS the authority to delegate those powers to someone else.

It took me as long to write that as it did to get everyone seated.


Robts Rules
You don't get to use this enough in life. And nothing makes me happier than a bunch of tradesmen yelling out "Point-a ord-a Mist-a Mod-a-rayt-a." The folk in my Town know how to work that system. They know how to move the agenda around, how to challenge, how to pack the room with their supporters, how to use the word "proponent." They know the inside tricks like calling to "reconsider" after they have actually won, because everyone will vote Hell No, and then the idea can never be recalled in that meeting. If anyone wants a do-over, they have to change the law that was just passed.

Show of hands
This is seriously your show of courage. I had befriended a row-mate as one does in airplanes and jury pool rooms, and we noted we were completely surrounded by Ayes, and neither of us had our hands up. On the Nays, we both raised our hands, and nodded our approval of each other to remain in the row. I rarely abstain, unless I really feel like the topic is dumb or I have truly not formed an opinion in the 5 minutes you have to consider your options.

Citizen Outcry
The real deal, though, is the stand-up. Selectman reads a warrant, anyone can second, and usually does while he is still reading, and the Moderator says, "questions, comments, discussion." You must bounce up, be recognized, and head for the mike. State your name and your address. If you live in Del Boca Vista like I do, people will actually murmur. We are Outsiders, and merely tolerated for the tax money. We rarely show.

Expect to be challenged, and by someone with deeper roots and far more connections. In my town, he will also have a crazy nickname, and will refer to the dignitaries by their childhood nicknames. "I understand what Nubbin is saying, but Porkpie has been in that job for 14 years and is doin' a heckuva job."

The sudden ballot
Under certain conditions, a paper ballot is required. We had 2, and were headed for four, except for a turn of events that happened later. All rise, head for your precinct line, check in, get handed a Yes/No tear off ballot. I believe the locally-owned printing business may have this monopoly. Tear and drop, return to your seat. Wait while 300 people do this. Twice.

This is when I asked my voter-lady, "I'm the only one here, aren't I?" meaning of my carpetbagger village. She said, "You're the only one on that page."

The challenge count
This happens when the show of hands seems too close to call, and can be requested by anyone. Then that has to be voted on, and you can nest-vote yourself into Thursday, so this is not resorted to often. When it is, the Masons, or the Rotary, or some other gents who look just like that, walk through like deacons and count your section. Their word is bond.

That Nay vote I referred to earlier resulted in 152- Y; 154-N. I said to my row buddy, "That's you and me, friend," and felt (almost) like a real townie.

The quorum and its challenge
The quorum must be filled to start the meeting.
You must be seated for your vote to count.
You may, if you are a selfish jack*, sneak out after the things you wanted to vote on were completed.
At which point... someone challenged the quorum. We were all counted again, and found lacking.
Democracy came to a screeching halt.

We completed maybe a third of the warrants, and I am not sure what happens next. A follow-up meeting, I expect, and more of the same. The local discussion forums are full of talk, which always starts out above-the-line and intelligently argued, then eventually turns into either
a) why do you hate america
b) support the troops
c) shut up
d) You're not "from here"

take the bitter with the sweet.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Jump Cut

This is the time in the Drawing In Room when I have to jump ahead and jumble everything together into a clipshow. Because it is not at all June 15. In fact, it is June 23, and when I am 10 days behind, there is little hope of any item on the list getting its own title. And the collide-o-scope they form when you read them all together this way might be too good to pass up.

Really, I just want to get to my 2 big set-pieces: the spectacle of Town Meeting, and how cheesed-off I am at Netflix. Come back for those later.

Pandora sells out
Heard my first ad on today. It was "sponsored by Bose," so I suppose I can look the other way for a moment. But I dumped radio for AOL Radio because the advertising was on my nerves, then dumped AOL radio for the same reason. And Pandora... let me warn you, I will pull this car over and give it to you and Netflix at the same time. Don't think I won't.

There are no Blue Women
This was the observation of my houseguest when we attended Boston's long-running percussion/performance/wtf-show Blue Man Group. Blue Man has done for the Theatre District what The Fantastix did for off-Broadway those many years. Since 1995, the show has been the resident production at the Charles Playhouse, but doesn't hold a candle to Shear Madness' record of 29 years without ever actually being funny.

So where are the Blue Women, she wanted to know, in the way I wondered where the girl-Muppets were before they added one. (oops, I mean...) So here's the thing: Blue Women welcome, according to their Careers/casting page. Tall women welcome. Are there any Blue Women right now? Not that I could prove.

like you didn't see that coming.

H'ray. This is very old news now. And according to the date on this post, hasn't actually happened. But I am so glad to know the slump is no longer my fault. I moved to New England in 1987. Check your rafters. So I never knew The Celtics. Even I watched the final game, and as you know, basketball stresses me out.

Sucked into Facebook
Yes... it happened to me. And I want to spend a lot more time breaking that topic down because I have a lot of observations and questions. If I could just get time off of Facebook to reflect on it. More to come then.

Tomorrow (because it is 11pm now and God knows I have statuses to check) I will replay Town Meeting for you, bring the posting dates up to date, and start this list again. There are 3 other topics I think deserve a full review. I was going to clip them for this post, but I have gone on far too long.

In the Freakomending column, Brett Tarleton was recently recommended an Oldies Rock-n-Roll Cruise -- based on his love of what we haven't yet determined.

Bonus link: make digital Kaleidoscopes

Saturday, June 14, 2008


a new way to entertain yourself and stick it to The Man of your choice while you are up late on line.

You may recall this time last year (and if you don't, here) when Netflix recommended that because I liked ABC Afterschool Specials, I might also like.... Saw.

I have found you a new place to play where you can submit your favorite freakomendations, and learn how to create some of your own. By manipulating your searches on any database site, you can drive the alogrithm batty until, for example, it begins equating Stalin with Ann Coulter, then (likely in retaliation of course) Stalin with Hillary Clinton.

I stumbled across this while gathering material for my Netflix Jumps the Shark essay -- coming soon unless Cranky Product Manager writes it first.

This is a short post without much merit, but I was falling asleep watching The Hustler and I just needed to stay up another hour. I've heard there are books for this, but they are in another room.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Super Sugar Crisp

#11 in an occasional series of repressed 70's memories that turn out to be true.

I could not get the video to embed. So I will have to redirect you. Apologies.

"Golden" Crisp, my eye. I was there, USDA. You changed the Food Pyramid to include FAT as a food group. I distinctly recall the picture of the butter pat. We were happy with our four food groups, then you decided that Fat and Sugar could be their own group together, and the cereal industry happily complied.

Now you want to pretend that didn’t happen and the “Super” Bear and his “Golden” Crisp are all about fighting the evils of the world. But dig the Sugar Bear here, all Dean Martin boozy, pushing the Sugar before the Crisp and super-sizing the whole affair.

Do you know why you can’t get enough of Super Sugar Crisp? Because you are addicted to it, you poor sap. The word sugar is used 15 times in 60 seconds. And I am certain that is Ruth Buzzy as the witch.

What do we read into the motif of trickster cereal spokescharacters and their schemes for taking and keeping all the delicious fortified goodness for themselves? Sugar, Lucky, Trix Rabbit, Toucan Sam, such clever junkies when it came to making the score. And we kids are to cheer for their team, because Hell NO, you ain’t getting’ your hands on my stash. [some other time on the Frito Bandito, but certainly we must discuss him in this space soon]

By the time it was Morning in America, we were all out to “eat healthy,” all the better to retain energy for doing lines at Studio 54. A simple global search & replace was able to substitute “golden,” “honey,” “cinnamon” for the word not to be spoken of with praise.
This site presents a nice before/after list, along with a comparison rant about what happened to those classic blends.

  • Sugar Frosted Flakes lost their opener, as if we might forget what they were frosted with.
    “Honey, what’s the frosting on these flakes? They’re ggrrreat!”
    [Singsongy, from the other room] "Sugar, darling."

  • Ditto Sugar Corn Pops, before they were repackaged as Kettle Korn

  • Sugar Smacks became Golden Smacks, the Smacks, then eventually Crystal Meth, as we know it today.

Not quite what Kellogg had in mind. And no definitive answer on what flavor Apple Jacks are supposed to be.

Now a study is suggesting that this “part of a nutritious breakfast,” (which, if you recall, featured toast with cereal, again with the important butter pat) may help us in memory retention – like the memory of how much we love sugar. The preceding sentence is an example of how a person hopped up on sugar might form a sentence about being hopped up on sugar.

Here’s a fun tool you can use to name your own cereal, or your next software release.

I used this tool to make the below.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Faux Family Dining

In which.... 10 project managers take on The Melting Pot.

Their motto: "Get your fondue fix coast to coast."
Your fondue..... fix

The latest trend in Ya-Yas' Nights Out activities, at least here in the right-hand coast, is The Melting Pot -- corner on the market of fondue dining experiences. Every wife at our table remarked, at some point during the meal, "My husband would hate this." Exactly.

Men put topless women in their restaurants so we won't show up there. We serve absurdly small portions of food cooked one piece at a time and dipped into a girl's favorite sauces: chocolate and cheese. It was really a matter of time before this product was perfected.

Our waitress Gloria was a treasure, and there were enough of us that we had our own dining room, but she lacked something in explaining what was about to happen, so let me take care of that for you. You can be the star of your book club, and avoid some of the pitfalls we found when a power vaccum meets a roster of decisions to be made. We did what any group of women will do in that situation: we formed a committee and nominated a chair.

Like family dining, only more complex
Like any Groupeat situation, you'll first offer up all food taboos, allergies, dislikes, and restrictions, and see what you are left with. Because this group will have to order together. Waitress Gloria explained to us some math about # of party members divided by # of fondue pots. She served cocktails while explaining it, so we never understood it. We asked her 3 times to tell us how to order.

Please lead us to Cheese
The Lieutenant took control, since she owns the Nut Allergy and could drop dead at the table. Another of our party, I'll call her The Arranger, (because I have been groping for a blog-name for her for some time), challenged the fondue math and got us a third pot. This made things much easier.

Begin with your cheese. You choose 1 sauce per pot. We arranged a spectrum of Bland on one end, Spicy on the other, and the neutral crowd-pleaser in the center. Because heaven forbid we approach this without a system.

Dip bread in cheese. Talk about it a lot. Declare your love for cheese.

Know your fork colors
I once wrote an entire short story about this. You'd think you could keep track of 2 forks, but it was a big table. And I do love a Manhattan.

Salads are a la carte
But big. The Lieutenant and I had agreed on one to split before the rest of the table had found them in the menu.

Yer Meat or...why your husband will be glad to have you go alone
We did see some couples in some of the tucked away booths -- very date-y -- but you know those guys went to Arby's on the way home.

This picture.... ridiculous

How do these people even know each other? Cindy & Mark celebrate their engagement with Cindy's Dad Allan and his longtime companion Gerrick.

The lobster in the center of the table? We had 3 cubes of chicken, 3 beef, 2 shrimp and 2 ravioli each, plus endless boats of broccoli, potatoes, mushrooms, squash etc. Gloria showed us how to make mushroom caps. The Arranger pointed out that we had to cook our own food.

Think of that moment at the wedding buffet where you discover, say, the peapod with shrimp dipped into the chicken sate, and you have to make sure everyone at your table knows about this possibility and tries it. That was dinner.

"You guys! Do the chicken in the tempura then the caribbean pot!" It seems we never outgrow calling each other "you guys." Now you have 3 tries with your chicken, so you have to know who of your Guys to trust. Own your plate. Plain Jane would not fall for the curry mushroom and wondered if she could ask for the cheese back.

This went on for another hour.
This is math I can get behind.

Be silent. The chocolate has entered.
We chose the basic milk (for Plain Jane end), the chocolate/peanut butter (legumes are safe), and the Turtle with pecans on the side. Shut even up about what they bring you to put in there.

Sponge cake - again, some people like plain
Brownies - some people indulge
Bananas - "Oh my God, you guys! bananas in the peanut butter one! Hurry!" Why hurry? I don't know. We were beginning to speak in tongues.
Marshmallows plain. Marshmallows chocolate.
Rice Krispie Treats. Please. Slap me. You guys. hurry.

The Late Roman Empire began to make perfect sense.

Gloria in Excelsis.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

You have my sympathies, gentlemen

According to my Spam folder, this must be just a constant distraction.
I have no envy over it. none.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Muh-muh-mu-myyy Winona

This story requires a little stage setting -- diorama stage setting, in fact.

I recently visited the Salem Witch Museum (for which I have another pet name) which is an earnest pumpkin patch of a museum that has outgrown its day, even to a person like me, who still captures people's souls on celluoid take-it-in-blind-faith film.

Anyway, the purest of the witch museums is made up entirely of life-size dioramas that are illuminated during a retelling of the witch trials. Except for the freakish Satan scene, they are not even illuminated in a very dramatic way.

This is one of the scenes.


I knew this would not impress my namesake/house guest, who was born in 1994, and was no doubt waiting for the multi-media portion of the program to kick in. "No, dear," I cooed: "Lights. sound. 2 media. Let's get lunch. " I had been trying to impress upon her that these people were real, that this thing happened, that 20 people were executed in one summer, based on the testimony of a pack of the Meanest Mean Girls any public school cafeteria ever dreamed up.

The Crucible eventually came to our rescue.

Man, remember when Winona Ryder used to be in everything? According to IMDB, she is in pre-production and production on several works, and will soon be back everywhere. And even I will go to see her as Amanda Grayson in the new Star Trek. Because that is hot.

So Winona appears, all dirty-sweaty for Daniel Day Lewis, and The Namesake says, "Hey, that's the Pirates of the Caribbean girl!"

thank ...... you.

I said, "You know, I am so glad you said that. this is Winona Ryder. The girl in Pirates is Keira Knightly. She's girl they get now because Winona Ryder is my age." Which, she is not quite. She is 37. but still. "though..." I added, " ... they can still manage to get Johnny Depp."

Do you even remember what broke them up? Was she pilfering his stuff? Did she mistakenly sleep with Skeet Ulrich? It could happen. Don't you picture them like a couple who hooks back up at the 20th high school reunion?

I am trying to explain this to a girl who loves Jack Sparrow without ever knowing there was a Tom Hanson! Shouldn't you have to grow into that? Otherwise, aren't you just in love with... Keith Richard(s)?

I found a website that morphs stars into each other. this is Winona + Keira. It is hardly a change from either. They did not have Keira Knightly morphing into Keisha Knight-Pulliam.
Winona Ryder and Keira Knightley -

Later that weekend we watched Reality Bites, which is still great. Heathers is the best, but I was not sure I would have mother's permission. I would love to be the one who teaches her the quote:

It's like they're people I work with, and our job is to be popular and shit."

Come home, Winona. All is forgiven. We miss you so much, we'll let you be Spock's Mom.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Old School Update

You can still get FILM developed at Ritz Camera. This is film. Isn't it charming?

I had taken it to CVS, where all film drop envelopes, signs, and the rest had been removed from the counter. Exuberant film processor lady (in a lab coat, which the pharmacists must really resent) assured me she would "do yours" (mine) right after "this," (whatever she was gesturing to) and I could "pick up in the morning."

She took a blank square of paper and said, "write your name down and pick it up in the morning."

You know I would never see those pictures.

I said, "I am surprised you don't have an order form."
Dr Photo: "Just write down whatever you want and pick it up tomorrow."

And I actually started to write it out -- on the little square of paper -- and then said, "I am not comfortable with this. I think I'll go somewhere more familiar."

She says, "Suit yourself, but don't go to CVS. Because this is how we do it now."(My film is old-fashioned to a woman who says "suit yourself," and who wears a lab coat as if her job still involves chemicals)

So: Ritz Camera - 1 hour service, doubles, choice of finish, with or without CD, with or with borders.

I also have a lead on phonograph styluses and pencil sharpeners. Stick with me.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Late to the Oscar Show

I've been wanting to write about No Country for Old Men, the 2008 Oscar winner which I only recently saw. You'll recall I let it lie in my Oscar preparation -- I chose to see There will be Blood instead, having decided they were the same picture anyway. And in the end, I named Atonement as my pick because I underestimated how ticked off at the system everyone in Hollywood was.

To quote my damn self, ".....the egg is on my face if it actually wins, but I don't think it will."

To explain this photo: Bacon and Eggs in Stone from once-world famous Luray Caverns. I see now it should be called Clams in Stone. And the kids who work there probably call it Stone Cold Loogies. Remind me to rant some time about the lost glory of Luray Caverns. Anyway, it was a creepy picture of eggs. Fit the mood.

I can not recommend No Country for Old Men to most of you. You wouldn't watch it anyway, and if you did, you would hate it. And you would hate me for saying.... that thing is brilliant.

Hats off to you, academy, for being so brave, whatever your motivation was. You haven't made this daring a decision since Midnight Cowboy, which was just as bleak, but nowhere near as cinematic.

I was right about 1 thing: No Country and Blood are pretty much the same film. And about both of them I thought, "I am not enjoying this on any level except for what a well-made film this is."

If you already love the Cohen Brothers, think Fargo without the funny. If you already hate the Cohen Brothers, think Blood Simple with a better budget. If you can't feature how 2 people can direct a movie, join the club. Meetings are at the Country Pitcher Wednesday mornings.

If you have already given up on this posting, scroll up to the next one. Something here for everyone.
No Country opens with voiceover, so I sucked my teeth and sighed.
Tommy Lee Jones. We love you. But you are no actor. Later that weekend I watched The Valley of Elah and he was the same character. How do you figure he gets nominated for one and not the other? Was one a cowboy/cop and the other a cop/cowboy? And I thought I knew what we were in for and it would just be a simple evening.

But you never do know what you're in for with the Cohens. Sometimes it's all story, like Raising Arizona, or all acting, like Fargo, or all character, like Lebowski. And sometimes, like Barton Fink, you have no idea what is happening to you but you can't look away. No Country for Old Men brings all of that together, and once the opening voiceover was behind us, the show was on.

Violent, disturbing, suspenseful, confusing, an audio describer's nightmare --- but grant me this: you haven't quite seen this before. John Carpenter style Bogey Man + Hitchcockian Wrong Man + Gary Cooper's reluctant sheriff in a plot that boils down to a simple fable: if you want to free your hand from the cookie jar, best to let go of the cookies.

What made No Country better than that there's some blood all right had to do the use of sound and dialogue. There will be Blood is big and loud, with long talky speeches and some fine writing. And it is a very good film. No Country for Old Men manages to do without. Without dialogue and narration (after the opening) and without much music at all. No screaming volins tell you to be scared; you know what the condensation on the milk glass means. You know to watch the clocks on the wall, and the reflections in car windshields. And you remember that the language of film is visual. And you can't look away.

The first film I remember seeing contained no dialogue at all that I could understand. It was The Red Balloon and it blew my little mind away. No one told me that story -- it was shown to me. And yet I understood it and I felt it. I couldn't get it out of my mind. And that was THE MOVIES.

I am sorry that the characters are unlikeable, and the story unbelievable, and the action is bloody, and the ending is anti-climactic. I am sorry that there is not one scene I can show you that on its own is as brilliantly constructed as when you see it inside of the whole. I am sorry that a film that can actually make you feel kind of s****y is not how you want to spend a Sunday night at home. So I won't make you watch it. But don't blame Oscar if you don't.

Watch this then.

Monday, June 2, 2008

I made it out of Ikea on $150

I knew a few things about myself going in:
1) I knew I would need a guide. because I am not above driving an hour to some giant warehouse of everything I need and leaving because people stood too close to me or the Musak was unnerving.

2) I knew I can not buy something better than anyone I know (see above) and that I should warn my guides that this might happen.

3) I knew that I lack basic spatial understanding and will -- without fail -- buy the wrong size fill-in-the-blank no matter how many times I measure.

4) I knew I never return merchandise.

5) I knew I will use something for the wrong purpose for years until it disintegrates rather than buy the actual item.

6) I knew I once promised myself I would no longer buy furniture you had to assemble.

Remember Service Merchandise? In 1988 the Baroness drove up to Chelsea, where I had no car and no furniture and took me to Service Merchandise where we bought everything, somehow fit it into the Orange Omni, and spent the weekend putting it together. I still have that kitchen table (see rule 5) but I was ready to get a sleeker work surface and a comfortable chair that didn't require an Allen wrench duct taped underneath it for convenience.

The Fellas came out to help me, so good natured, kind, and patient. So mean about my giant tape measure. GIANT. I was not informed that the clever minds of Ikea would have tape measures for you.
I did not know how to work Ikea, so let me educate you, in case you have no Fellas.

Like Jordan's, you will follow a primrose path through the assembled rooms -- from dining rooms, to living rooms, and bedrooms, and home offices, and ooohh... oat cookies! and the media centers and marketplace -- Honey! those nesting glass bowls you like! in an attempt to make you buy so much more.

Like Service Merchandise, or Brookstone, you write down the part numbers on your pad and load up your cart with 600 $1 things that are just so awesome.

Ok - true confession. I fell for this at the Container Store, and came out with silly-shaped ice trays and a container perfectly sized for bologna.

Like any other furniture store you will sit on absolutely everything. What I experienced for the first time was design envy -- not because it is particularly attractive (because it really truly is not). It's just so... smart Like Jerry Mulligan's apartment in American in Paris.

One dinette was designed in such a way that when you pushed the chairs in, they form-fit to the table to keep the footprint exactly the same. And man, was that table moderno-ugly.

We sat in Lucite chairs, blaze-orange chairs, Naugahyde chairs, chairs that seemed very small for Swedes to build, and didn't fit any of our seat-pans. Is that word, seat-pan? Did I make that up?
One chair was felt. Like a scratching post. Totally stupid -- amazingly comfortable.

We determined that Scandinavians spend a lot of time indoors and have learned how to make it work.

I chose a desktop (4 ft plank of varnished wood) and adjustable legs (telescoping poles) and a chair that looks like this. It had a name I could pronounce. Though the Klappe and the Skruvsta were inviting.

I realize I could have gotten this at Home Depot. But I wouldn't have, don't you see?
Speaking of Home Depot, at the end of your cinnamon-scented shopping adventure, you will enter the warehouse pictured above and locate all your parts. They expect you to get it wrong and to bring it back. To consume more cinnamon buns and purchase more dish towels when you do.

My niece has agreed to totally helping me, like, put it together. I think so she can use the power tools.