Sunday, January 30, 2011

Miscellaneous culture question

The other day I was listening to the Old 97s's "Big Brown Eyes" on the radio, and at the line about "calling time and temperature just for some company," I started wondering--do other countries have a phone number you can call to be told the current time and temperature? If so, how widespread is it? Is it government sponsored, or do companies sponsor it like they do here? For that matter, do most or all cities in the U.S. have a time and temperature number, or do I just think they do because there's always been a time and temperature number everywhere I've lived?

This inquiring mind really, really wants to know.

I don't have anything else to say, so I will tell you what movies I saw last year

My last post covered current events, the weather, and sports, so I guess this post should be entertainment news. I will therefore complain about the fact that I did not know that Prince was going to be in town. I would have paid to see him in concert. Probably. I mean, I hate crowds, so maybe not. But still! Prince! Yeah, I think I would have gone.

That's all I've got in the entertainment news area. I guess I could talk about movies?

I love watching movie trailers. I regularly go online and hunt down new trailers so that I can decide in advance, months and months in advance, whether I'll want to see a movie. By the time the trailers starting hitting television, and my friends start mentioning to me the movie they think I'll be interested in, my reaction is less "oh, that sounds interesting, I'll look into it," and more, "oh, that's finally coming out now?"

I think that what I like about trailers is the possibility a trailer represents. The possibility of seeing a movie with friends, the possibility that the movie will be enjoyable, that kind of thing. Actually seeing the movies, on the other hand, is something I usually don't get around to doing. I think it takes some extra factor besides just "I think I want to see that" to make me actually get in my car and go see the movie. I saw two movies last year: Alice in Wonderland and The Man From Nowhere. I saw Alice because a friend wanted to go see it. I mean, I wanted to see it, too, in the sense that, in theory, I was amenable to the idea. But she wanted to see it in the real, concrete sense, the sense that involves actually picking a day and a theater and a time, making plans, committing to them, and following through. So we went because I had someone for whom the statement "I'd like to see that" is something that you follow up if you have the means, rather than just a statement of wishful thinking that you can't actually make come true merely by taking affirmative steps, like "I'd like to win the lottery."

So I went to see Alice, and I didn't love it, but it wasn't bad. Visually, it was certainly interesting. Helena Bonham Carter was fantabulous.

I wanted to see The Man From Nowhere because I love, love, love action movies, but what got me to actually follow through with seeing it was that it was a foreign film. I knew if I didn't actually make plans, it would be gone from the theaters pretty quickly, and I had no way of knowing if it would be available on DVD here. So I went, and I was really proud of myself for that. It was quite good, if you like action movies, and in particular the "awesome conflicted, damaged main character battles bad guys to try to save innocent victim" type of action movies, which I do. A lot. If you don't like those types of movies, I can tell you that although visually, it was quite pretty (I don't know film terms but I liked the coloring/lighting of it), there won't be much else to interest you. If you do like that type of movie, then you should see it.

Also, Won Bin is not bad to look at. At least, that's what I thought until I looked the movie up online and saw pictures from some event relating to the movie, in which he wore a shirt that made him look like an extra from a Tupac video:

You see what I mean? And some things cannot be unseen. I'm sure that shirt is from some high-end fashion designer's collection, but some things don't look good on anyone. Let's please all agree to lay off the outfits that make some people have flashbacks to their sophomore year in college when "California Love" was on heavy rotation on MTV. *shudder*

So. Those were the two movies that I saw last year. Despite my love of action movies, I did not go see Reds or Salt because I didn't have a friend who wanted to go, and I knew I could get them on Netflix. Which of course, I haven't done, because I also don't rent movies, and when I do rent them, I don't watch them. My Netflix queue is where movies go to die. I refer to it as the list of movies that we're going to pretend that we'll watch eventually.

Oh, wait, I forgot that I also saw Due Date. Well, "blocked it from my memory" is probably a more accurate statement. I would love to have those two hours of my life back.

But this year is starting off well, as far as movie watching goes. I watched The King's Speech this month (thanks to the same friend who wanted to see Alice), and I loved it. Of course Colin Firth can make me cry without saying a word, and I'm a sucker for any story set in the lead up to World War II, as well as a movie about a person overcoming a personal disability, or overcoming family problems, so they basically wrote this movie for me. But still, it's only January, and I've already seen a movie in the theater, so this year is looking good for me, entertainment-wise. I can't think of anything else that I want to see this year, though, at least from the trailers I've seen so far. Except for maybe that Justin Bieber movie. Ha! I kid.

Seriously, though, this year is not looking good for me. I do want to see Desert Flower, and the new Jane Eyre looks decent (though I don't see how it can top the recent BBC production), but I'm not sure either of those will be something I see in the theater. Unless one of my friends wants to go, of course.

Movie suggestions, anyone? And please don't say Black Swan.

Run normal! This would be the path where normal people run! The weird triathlete training complex is somewhere else! Ok? Run normal here!

Thank heavens that Januay is almost over. This has not been the greatest month of my life. I probably shouldn't complain because it could have been worse. But it certainly could have been better. Just as an example: one day last week, when I was trying very hard to get to work on time, I got stuck in traffic that had not been reported in any of the traffic reports on the radio. Then, when I got to work, I got stuck in the elevator. It was only for about 10 minutes, and it wasn't crowded, so it could have been worse, but still. That's not how you want to start your day. The rest of the day was better, but that's all I can say about it--it was better than being stuck in an elevator.

Also this month: had to replace all four tires on my car. One of my tires was completely flat when I went to leave work one day, and the other three were apparently pretty worn out. Also, I think I might have a cold. And that's just the least of my January troubles.

So I think maybe January is out to get me.

But looking on the bright side, the weather this weekend was beautiful. That's what I love about winter in Texas--it's January, and it's sunny and warm. Seriously warm--it was 70°F (21C) this weekend. Of course the high on Wednesday is supposed to be 28°F (-2C), so it won't last long. But then it's supposed to be back up into the 50s by next weekend. This could be January's last try at killing me, since my body tends to freak out when the temperature fluctuates this much. Nice try, January, but I'm not going down that easily--I'm used to feeling crappy! Never give up, never surrender!

At least I get to work from home on Thursday and Friday to avoid Super Bowl traffic. I'm not at all excited that the Super Bowl is hosted here this year. This would be a really cool event if I liked football, but I don't, at least not professional football, so it just means that a bunch of drunk crazy people will be driving around my neighborhood this weekend. My plan is to not leave my house for four days. It will probably turn out just like when a big winter storm blows in every year threatening to leave ice all over the roads, which, if it turned out as bad as the weather forecasters said, would leave us all iced in for several days since we don't have the equipment to clear the roads. So we all rush to the store to buy milk and toilet paper, and then it doesn't ice over at all. I always hate those days. I feel so let down. One Monday this month everyone was grumpy at work because bad weather had been predicted, and we had all expected to not have to go into work, but then the bad weather blew in early and just ruined our weekend instead. I think that's probably how the Super Bowl thing will go down. Not that it will blow in early. I mean I'm preparing for the apocalypse and in reality, traffic (and crowds at the grocery store) probably won't be that bad.

But I'm still going to work from home on those days because I like to work in my pjs. Also: no judgment on how much coffee I drink, and on a related note, nobody noticing how many trips to the bathroom I make. I swear my coworker across the hall keeps tabs on how many time I go. I don't think he can help it, I would too if the person across the hall from me was constantly popping in and out of his or her office, but still, it makes me feel weird about it. I am tempted to say to him, "yes, that's right, I have to pee again," but I don't in case he hasn't actually noticed how many times I leave my office, but he will in the future if I point it out to him. Also, I'm pretty sure saying "pee" is kind of vulgar. At least, we weren't allowed to say it growing up, so I feel like a 8 year-old boy every time I do say it. But my usual expression wouldn't have the same oomph, because saying that I need to "step across the hall" would, in this case, be a little vague, so I'd have to say something like, "yes, that's right, I have to 'step across the hall' again, and not to make copies or get more coffee or check my mail, if you know what I mean, and I think you do." I think we can all agree that it would be better to just say nothing.

Ok, I just sneezed so hard that I gave myself a serious headache. I officially hate January.

Speaking of hate, in jogging news, I can jog an entire mile now. A slow, plodding, angry mile, but a mile is a mile, and I'm pretty proud of myself. The first two times we went a whole mile, I thought, "hey, this isn't hard at all," except for the part where RR and I realized that we ran like (and were kind of dressed like) Joe from If Lucy Fell, and we started laughing at how ridiculous we must look. It's hard to run when you're laughing. Plus, we jogged past a big puddle of water that was, I swear, shaped exactly like Africa, which was, for some reason, hilarious. Probably because we were short on oxygen at that point. But yeah, it wasn't bad.

But every time since then, I've hated every step. I'm guessing that this isn't going to change and that when I get up to two miles, I'll still feel the same way about it, except I'll be angry for twice as long. But I'm sticking it out. When I get to the end of my jog, I get that weird feeling in my legs that you get when you are no longer in control of some part of your body, but that only lasts for a few minutes, and I'm pretty sure that means I'm doing it right. Right?

And by the way, I think people who run form some kind of weird cult-type thing, because everyone I know who runs is super excited that I've taken it up. My coworker who is training for a marathon, despite hating running, is always telling me how great I'm doing and giving me tips to keep going. My doctor was practically beside herself when I told her I'd started, and she mentioned that she and her nine year-old grandson ran the Turkey Trot this past November. A grandmother and a child can run more than I can. I'm going to choose to think of that as inspirational instead of really depressing.

If anyone has any tips on how to stop hating running, or how to keep running in spite of the hate, please pass them along.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Dear local community college,

I can’t help but notice that you have not yet replied to my application to take some classes at your campus. Please allow me to point out that I already have a bachelor’s degree and a J.D. I don’t argue that this makes me more important or more qualified to take classes at your school than your non-degree-holding applicants, because it doesn’t. But to the extent that your application process is designed to weed out those people who aren’t ready for college classes, my education history does establish that when it comes to higher education, I can “hack it,” as the kids say.

So what’s the deal, school? If some unmotivated slacker who chose community college over getting a job because she thinks it means she can put off becoming an adult takes my spot in that nutrition class, I may do something drastic, like writing to my state representative. Or maybe angrily shaking my fist in your direction.

Also, I stopped by your cafeteria today, and two of the grapes I bought from the salad bar look moldy. Plus, I think I might be having an allergic reaction to the non-moldy grapes, which makes me wonder what you did to them. I was also disappointed to see that you didn’t have any bananas among your fresh fruit selection. Even my neighborhood gas station sells bananas. I really don’t want to take that as a sign of what to expect from your school, but so far, I’m not impressed.

Future Student, or Possibly Just Angry Taxpayer

On an unrelated note, I hate UPS, and this is a big part of why:

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

I get extra points because part of my jogging route is up a slight incline

So, I decided to start running. My legs, to paraphrase Covert Bailey, are saying with surprise and shock, "Oh my word, she's running."

No, I do not anticipate having to outrun pursuers anytime soon. I just decided that I need to get in shape. Yes, I have said this before. No, I haven't been successful at at.

But this time I've actually been making progress. RR and I have been walking regularly, and now I can run half a mile at a time. That's a laughable distance for real runners, but that's more than I've ever been able to run at a time. I haaaate running. Every part of me feels like it's falling apart---my knees, my ankles, my shins---it just feels like all of my bones are crashing together and I might shatter at any moment. I blame that on my very, very slight scoliosis, a condition that's to blame for my hips being uneven, and, I suspect (despite the total lack of any scientific or medical confirmation) the fact that my ribs stick out so much that I can't wear button-up blouses if they are too fitted. It doesn't help that my legs are uneven, too, with one leg being longer than the other, which makes me stand crooked, which prompted a "friend" in college to tell me that I looked like prostitute on a street corner when I stood still. We weren't friends for very long considering that was about the nicest thing she said to me during our friendship.

But it's probably not really the lopsided body that makes me hurt but rather the fact that I don't know how to run properly. Also, my running shoes are years old.

I say "run," but of course, I run like a grandma. A grandma who's out of shape and beat down by the trials of life but who keeps plodding on. Instead of "run," it's really more accurately described as the slowest, saddest jog you ever saw. I imagine it's how I'd run if I had rabies: a slow but purposeful forward movement, more or less in a straight line, staring off into the distance, wearing a confused, angry look on my face. I don't foam at the mouth or anything, but the cold air does aggravate my asthma, and I get this wheezing, phlegmy thing happening, so I feel like I'm filtering my air through a mucus filter, and that's kind of gross. I keep at it, though. I plan on ordering one of those cold air masks, which I guess will make me look like someone who has rabies jogging on her way to rob a bank. Hopefully, though, after a few months, I will look like a slim, trim, rabid jogging would-be bank robber.

As an unrelated note, I can't believe that I left Ok Go off of my list of favorite songs from 2010. "This Too Shall Pass" and "White Knuckles" should have been on that list, and no, I am not a hipster-in-training. I just like Ok Go. And of course I also like their videos. Ok Go is just one of many music acts out there that, in my opinion, weigh against the arguments of some people that American music videos are generic and uninspired.

I don't know how to end this, so here's a drawing of a squirrel playing the drums:

You can buy a t-shirt with that screen print at the Ferdinand Home Store website, btw.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Music Notes: Favorite Songs of 2010

I'm a little late posting a "best of" list, since those are usually end of the year tasks. But I'm late for everything else, and it's only three days into the new year, so I think I'm ok.

JLR's Favorite Songs of 2010

These songs don't have much in common other than the fact that I like them all. Some are fun, some have a good beat, some have great lyrics, and some are just fun. These are not necessarily what I would classify as the “best” songs that came out in 2010. Some are. But some are just songs that either I couldn't stop listening to, or songs that made me happy every time they came on the radio. So here they are, in no particular order.

The National, “Bloodbuzz Ohio
It's hard for me to narrow down a list of songs to my absolute favorites, but this one was a no-brainer. This song is both my favorite song of the year and my vote for the best song of the year. The National is one of those bands whose music is so good (and sometimes so over my head) that I feel like maybe I shouldn't be allowed to listen to it, like a club I got into by mistake. “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” like The Pretenders' “My City Was Gone,” has to do with going back home to Ohio, but that's the end of the similarity between the two songs, either in focus or in sound.

Gorillaz, "Melancholy Hill."
It's dating myself, but I'll admit it: my adoration of Damon Albarn goes back to the early 1990's, when I was in high school. I liked Blur in the early days (you had me at "There's No Other Way"), and I liked how the band continued to evolve, so that later albums sounded different from earlier albums but were still recognizable as Blur. Gorillaz seems like it's turning out the same way.

Arcade Fire, “Ready To Start
Was there a music critic this year who didn't like Arcade Fire's The Suburbs album? They pretty much swooned over it, and for good reason. I liked "Modern Man" best at first, but I wound up liking "Ready to Start" the most.

Sleigh Bells, “Rill Rill”
It seemed like whenever I searched for Sleigh Bells on the Internet this year, I would find people writing about “Tell Em.” But it's “Rill Rill” that makes my favorites list, probably because I found myself playing it repeatedly every night for weeks as I cooked my dinner. Any song that makes tedious dinner-making feel like fun-time dance-time gets two thumbs up from me. And apparently, someone at agrees with me. (And on a side note, the same list includes Yeasayer's "Ambling Alp," which was also one of my favorites this year).

The Burning Hotels, “Allison
I posted about this song not too long ago. This is another one that I listened to obsessively this year. I'm not sure what it is about it that makes it so addictive, but listen to it once and see if you don't find yourself singing it the next day.

The Black Keys, “Everlasting Light
Speaking of songs I listened to obsessively, this is a song that I kept telling myself not to keep putting on repeat lest I get tired of it, but I kept in on repeat for weeks and I never did get tired of it.

Spoon, “Written in Reverse
I love Spoon. As in, “I can't help but think a little less of you if you don't like Spoon” love. If you're not a fan, maybe this song will change your mind.

Broken Bells, “The High Road
I wasn't sure what to expect from Broken Bells, but this wasn't it. It was a pleasant surprise, not in the sense of “I hate The Shins and Gnarls Barkley so I'm surprised they didn't put out garbage,” but more of the “This isn't at all what I expected they would sound like if they got together.” I loved “The High Road.” Loved it.

Deer Tick, “20 Miles
Oddly enough, I wasn't blown away by any of the other songs I heard from this album. I say “oddly enough” because I really, really liked this song. Good music, good story, with exactly the right voice for the song.

The Cat Empire, “On My Way
If you saw me in my car this year, dancing as I drove, there is a good chance I was listening to this song.

Sarah Jaffe, “Clementine
I'd never heard of Sarah Jaffe before this year, and honestly, her voice reminds me of a number of other female indie singer-songwriters. But that doesn't mean she isn't on my list of favorite new music discoveries. “Summer Begs” is a great song from Suburban Nature, but “Clementine” is more than great. One of those pretty but heartachey, bittersweet songs.

Dutch, “Just Before the Rain
Dutch is another collaborative effort, this one between Liz Fullerton and Stoupe of Jedi Mind Tricks. Not that Dutch sounds like Portishead, really, but something about the music/voice combo when this song first started playing triggered a PTSD-like flashback to the hours I spent hanging out in my upstairs neighbors' apartment in undergrad, mooching their food and cable and begging them to play something, anything other than Portishead. But then I snapped out of it and realized that I actually really liked this song. Whether it's Stockholm Syndrome or it's just a good song, you'll have to be the judge for yourself.

Janelle MonĂ¡e - "Oh, Maker"
Janelle Monae has one of those voices that sound effortless, and I can understand why she seems to be making everyone else's best-of list for 2010.

The Orbans, “Like a Liar”
See my previous post.

And for songs that make me happy when I hear them:

Hockey, “Song Away
This one was technically released in 2009. But they have two videos for the song, and I'm pretty sure that the second version came out in 2010, so I'm putting it on the list because it's my happy song. I've seen some people who really liked "Too Fake" but found "Song Away" too light-weight. I don't care. When I have a bad day, this song cheers me up. Like making a good comedy, making a good "it's gonna be ok" song is an under-appreciated and harder-than-it seems art form. Plus, how can a song that references Roxy Music be bad?

Guster, “This Could All Be Yours
Like “Song Away,” this song makes me happy when I hear it.

The Pass, “Crosswalk Stereo
The beginning music actually reminds me of “Song Away,” so maybe that's why I like this song so much. Or maybe I like “Song Away” because it reminds me of this one.

And that's all I got. If you have any recommendations for good stuff I missed, please send it my way!