Back to Those Weird Celebs


What's up with Jared Leto? Wasn't he a teenbopper heart throb ages ago (My So Called Life)... and now he's looks like some goth in a band whose songs are featured on the Madden NFL football game?
I'm nearing the dreadful conclusion that Mom knew what she was talking about when she said celebrities just do things to get attention. I dismissed it as her being cynical and unimaginative. Guess not. Or maybe I'm just cynical and unimaginative now too. Is that what the 30s are about? Hopefully it's just about realizing your mom might have been right about a few things.

I'm having a "getting in touch with the youth movement" tonight, as the MTV Awards are on in the background. Did you know they have a "Best Ringtone of the Year Award?" Serious, Fort Minor won. I heard that music stars now stand to make more money on their ringtones than their songs. That's a lot of attention.

Dear Sir/Madam

To know me is to know that if there is something that makes me unhappy, I will write a letter about it. It began in fifth grade, carried away in fit of environmentalist activism, I wrote to the Harriet Carter catalog to suggest that they stop selling a halon fire extinguisher because it was bad for the ozone layer. I think I dramatically insinuated that Harriet threatened the health of my future grandchildren. Let's count it a victory because while you can purchase the Bra Baby, $15 Pet Monument, and the waist extender from the HC catalog, nary a fire extinguisher is found. Your grandchildren can thank me later.
I also wrote to the Philadelphia Department of Sanitation when I found myself in stop-and-go traffic behind a trash truck with no brake lights, and to various senators and congressmen, most recently on the topic of gay marriage. (They never write back.) I did get a form letter from Bill Clinton once when I wrote to him.
My missives do not always carry scorn and discontent. I wrote to British TV presenter Jon Snow to tell him how much I liked his colorful ties. In return I received a hand-written note from Mr. Snow himself. I was ecstatic. (Yes, I'm a nerd.) Mom suggested that maybe he thought I was an attractive single young woman and this prompted the personal attention. (As a young teen my response was likely, "Ew, he's old.") I understand that since we moved away from England Jon has had to bring fancy socks into the repetroire as the TV set has changed, presumably now revealing his tootsies. I got a free magnet when Quaker found out how much I liked their Nutrition for Women oatmeal. I hate the little dried fruit pieces in normal oatmeal that are supposed to revive with boiling water. The NforW line features yummy flavors (Vanilla Cinnamon!) that don't rely on leathery fruit being reincarnated. And to believe their advertising, NforW provides me with 50% of my daily calcium.

However, it was a wardrobe concern that prompted my most recent letter, to Ms. Ann Taylor. I bought this lovely silk blouse, pictured. On its first day out, three of the tiny buttons fell right off! Making a professional and "buttoned-up" impression is not sucessful when your buttons are falling off in three locations up and down your torso. I rescued one button before it could roll down the floor of the train car on my way home, and another I found just last night next to the door jamb of our apartment, suggesting that Little Button didn't even survive long enough to experience his first day of fresh working-day air. For a $50+ blouse, you'd think the buttons might function. We'll see what Ann has to say for herself. I'm hoping for a coupon, but I'd definitely settle for a few more replacement buttons. (She only provided one, and I'm certain more buttons might fly if I don't reinforce them all.)

I'm So Over You

It was with tepid interest that I looked up from my catalog browsing on the couch when the news reported that Paramount had severed its ties with Tom Cruise. Just about...what?...six months after me and the rest of American had decided that he was cr-aaaa-zy. Admittedly, I haven't been a member of the Tom Cruise Fan Club since his Top Gun days. But he really jumped my shark with couch bouncing on Oprah and his critique of Brooke Shield's postpartum depression -- taking on the mantle of every despised man who looks to his wife or girlfriend and asks, "What's your problem? Are you on your period or something?? Get a grip." He's just so strange and unnecessarily pedantic.
In the last year or two, Condaleeza Rice lost my allegiance too. Not that I ever agreed with her politically (don't like her boss) but she was impressive for how articulate, composed and intelligent she is. But then I heard her answer the question, "What was the title of that memo?" "Bin Laden determined to attack within the United States" and I felt a little different. Likewise, Don Rumsfeld used to amuse me, but no longer.
The celeb who currently teeters on my fence is Madonna. "Like a Virgin" was the first album I ever bought, and I danced to "Borderline" at slumber parties (my friends providing the swirling flashlight disco lighting effect.) It's with a little guilt that I start to question my feelings. But lately, she's looking older and weirder. Like living in England too long has already given her bad teeth, and made her pasty and pale. And what's with the fake accent too? Is Madonna a poser? Or am I an infidel and I should promptly repent by heading to H&M to buy the track suits she's pushing for them? (Available August 24th) Shopping does sound nice.

Is This Normal?


An orange watermelon. What's that about? Since we were serving guests, we went back to the store and bought another (red) one. I guess we disagree with the focus groups that supported this colorful venture. The red one tasted sweeter, more juicy and crisp anyway.
I advise you to check the labels next time you're at the store. I was pretty surprised when I sliced into this fellow.

Never Thought I'd See This


Waking up on Thursday to the sound of rain drops on our window and the rolling thunder clouds above didn't make our second outing to Wrigley Field seem very promising. With the same sad tone he used to tell me he didn't think we'd won on the morning after our last Presidential election, Jason rose and said, "I guess no Cubs today." I pulled the comforter closer pretending I didn't hear, because I didn't want to hear.
I checked weather.com and watched every local newscast I could find, and both hinted that thunderstorms were only predicted for the morning. Our 1:20 game was firmly scheduled in the afternoon I reassured myself. And surely, I hadn't taken the day off of work just to finally have time to clean the cat's litterbox. (Sad.)
Sure enough, the clouds went on their angry way out to Lake Michigan and the sun shone on Chicago again. We were off to the game, grabbing last-minute sunglasses no less!
At the game, things seemed to get impossibly better: the Cubs were playing well. Hit after hit soared into the left field bleachers. By the 7th inning the Cubs were into a double-digit score, while Philadelphia lagged with just two measly runs.
Sensing that the rain might return, and that the game's conclusion was predictable, I was nudged by my companions to consider leaving the game early. And miss the growing staccato of hands clapping across the stadium as the Cubs pitched for the third out? The exuberant cheer that went up when the scoreboard flashed "CUBS WIN"?? (A light show that I'm guessing doesn't happen very often.)
No sir, I stayed. Leaving early is chintzy and for those whose pragmatism values getting out of the parking lot more than the emotionally satisfying finale of event they came to see. (I'm the person that insists on seeing the final scenes of a movie, even if it's just the panning out over the water, much to Jason's chagrined impatience to hit rewind. It could be worse though, at least I don't sit through all the credits to honor the contribution of the Key Grip.)
Final score of Thursday's game: 11-2 CUBS. Remarkable, and only in my first year in Chicago.

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No More Excuses Required


That's it, there is no need to make any excuses for lingering on ABC while flipping channels in primetime anymore just to catch a glimpse of "Dancing with the Stars." The line-up for this season is hilarious:
- Tucker Carlson: who Jason claims is my hair double. His moves could be ugly.
- Jerry Springer: Jason's hero. I was a little surprised that when Jason first got his TiVo, it was Jerry who made the "Now Playing" list with great frequency. Not what I expected from the guy who regularly reads the Washington Post, LA Times and New York Times. Jason's a complicated man, who advises, "You've to have some Jerry in your life."
- Harry Hamlin: played Dad's doppleganger Michael Kuzak on LA Law
- Joe(y) Lawrence: I went to high school with him, already seen him slow dance at the prom. Maybe he's learned some new moves since then.
Premiere September 12th, 8 pm and 7 pm for those of us living in Central time.

Let's Go Cubbies! (Repeat and Clap)


Seeing a baseball game at Wrigley Field, it's a good item to put on your list of Things to Do Before You Die. Now we've done it.
Walking the cement ramps up to our seats made me reminiscent of our annual visits to Vets Stadium for Phillies games sponsored by Uncle Paul and Dad. Each year the game was picked according to the most desirable giveaway: Phillie Phanatic t-shirt, Phils backpack or baseball glove. Free Glove Day gave Dad the opportunity to be a hero in the eyes of his little, left-handed girl. For simple logistics they hand out righty gloves at every entrance and those in need of the opposite hand must take an additional trip to the entrance behind home plate to do a swap. Uncle Paul and Dad situated me, Juliet and our cousins in our seats, and Dad headed back into the swarming crowd for me. It seemed like an enormous journey in my 8 year old eyes, and I remember thinking how much Dad must love me to get me my glove. I waited, hoping no hits might come our way and I'd be caught gloveless.
These are the classic Americana moments that define a summer baseball game.
To increase the nostalgia, Monday night the Cubs faced the Phillies. Probably two teams with the poorest win records, but I figured as a Philadelphian living in Chicago, either way I could call it a victory. Indeed it looked grim for the "Cubbies," remaining scoreless for most of the game. I don't think I'd ever seen the Phillies make a sweep. We laughed at the Wrigley Field tradition of the fans chucking back the ball homered into the left field stands by the visiting team. A sign of disgust, and certainly not a worthwhile souvenir. But an electrifying 9th inning had fans on their feet cheering: the Cubs were suddenly trailing by a whisker, 6-5. Clapping, cheering, those Chicago fans turn it up.
Sadly, hope was quickly snuffed out with the third out. And we headed home on the El. But we coincidentally go back on Thursday. We had tickets for Thursday and invited our neighbors. They returned the favor by inviting us to the game on Monday.

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It's root, root, root for the Cubbies, if they don't win it's a shame, because it's one, two, three strikes you're out at the old ball game.

News Rant Part II

While I am on a good roll with my feelings towards CNN, I'd like to point out someone who likely has the most useless job on TV: the CNN Internet Reporter. Appearing on The Situation Room, she essentially googles whatever the story of the day is, and then tells Wolf Blitzer what she found. Digging into a news story at the most shallow and easy level.
When there was that guy that went crazy on an airplane a few months ago and was shot by air marshals, she might have told us that his wife's named appeared in a community newsletter thanking volunteers for the Annual Veteran's Day picnic. And she employs her shrewd journalistic insight to leap to the conclusion that these folks were pillars of their community, leading charitable causes. Based on one google hit.
Or she might take the temperature of the blogosphere: "Bloggers are criticizing George Bush..." (Aren't we always?) This is the lazy reporters "Man on the Street" interview, which I've never liked anyway. I know what I think already, I turn on the news to find information that I don't know or can't find myself by sitting on the couch and googling.
Her bio notes that internet reporter Abbi Tatton has a master's in international politics. Did this woman laugh out loud when CNN first told her what her job would be?
Post-Script: The great irony is that it's actually kind of hard to find CNN's web reporter on their own website. I had to google, proving that if you want something from the internet you should just go straight there, not to CNN.

The Problem With Travel


The problem with travel is... well, really the problem is that there are probably a million ways I could complete this sentence. (Stay tuned for the airport etiquette column I'm scripting in my head, and in the meantime please step back from the baggage carousel so that the rest of us can see our luggage coming too.)

The most topical way to finish the statement today is that I'm often stuck at a hotel that overserves the 24-hour news channels and underserves the shows I want to watch. For two nights I've had no Comedy Central and no Bravo. (During new episodes of Project Runway, and in the time while we wait for digital TiVo, this is a loss.)
So instead of Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, I was listening to Bill O'Reilly (shudder). Or Wolf Blitzer, or Keith Oberman (like him at least a little.) And boy, have I seen enough of the JonBenet Ramsey case now.
What's particularly irksome is that the 24 hour newschannels run in a continuous repeating loop, so I saw that super creepy John Karr guy be walked through the airport six times, but never got any deeper into the story. (Like what about the "strange ransom note" the anchors kept on mentioning but never really talking about?)
I found myself lying in bed at night flipping: MSNBC, FoxNews, CNN, CNN Headline News, the local news, and quickly back around again, until one was undistinguishable from the other, the competing anchors seeming to complete each other's sentences.
Can you imagine if it had always been this way? (My first Fark.com link, courtesy Jason.)

Check It

Tonight I find myself in Houston, Texas. I observed, on the cab ride to the hotel, that momentarily the air smelled of oil. Appropo, but likely just coincidental.

Since the airport security changes I've already flown twice. The thought of losing my right to carry hair gel in my carry-on created some angst. (I take a broad interpretation of our constitutional rights to life and liberty.) I'd venture that while I fly often I hadn't checked a bag in over a year. My former boss was a bit of a totalitarian grump about checked baggage (and I mean that with the utmost respect.) Even if you were the lackey in charge of carrying both the projector and laptop for a presentation -- you just had to make it fit carry-on, so what if you had no room for clothing? Despite the demands to arrive at the airport three hours prior, I confess that I've found the process of checking luggage has usually taken between 5 and 20 minutes. Security likewise has taken the same amount of time. I joked with friends that the longest line I stood in at the airport was waiting for my egg mcmuffin at McDonald's. (30 minutes, can you believe it? And even with all that time, the guy in front of me reached the register and had to ponder what he wanted to eat. I had to suppress an audible, exasperated gasp, and shove my hands in my pockets so as not to give him an angry bop on the head.)

Next month will find me traveling to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Oh yes, and of course, a little trip back to my second home of C'bus for Labor Day weekend. With all the going here and there, I think Jason and I might be celebrating our birthdays in October instead, which might be just one way to fight aging.

Besides being glad that I wasn't on an international flight from London with the folks who ended up with nothing to read but the small print in their passports last week, this NYT article about those suffering more from the new TSA rules made me feel a little better: Tighter Security Is Jeopardizing Orchestra Tours.
I was delighted that solid lipstick is now allowed under the most recent reconsideration of the new rules. Hurrah for women's rights.

When You're Lonely

When you're lonely, think of Lonesome George. When I first heard of him on the radio, it was my own NPR "Driveway Moment." George is a galapagos tortoise, the last of his kind. He was only found in the 1970s, and another tortoise like him hadn't been seen since 1906. What's worse, all of his family and peers were killed (indirectly) by goats. (Can you imagine? Everyone you love, lost to the goats?) They've tried to mate George with his close genetic cousins without success.
"I have to say that I think Lonesome George will never find a mate," Dr Gisella Caccone a senior research scientist at Yale's department of ecology and evolutionary biology said. "He has been lonely for a long time."
George is just 70 years old now and could live 150 years. Sometimes I think about Lonesome George and wonder how he's feeling. Right now, they can't figure out how to clone him, but I guess there's still a lot of time.
When you're lonely listen to Lonesome George's story, or read about him.

I Love Letterpress

There's just something very special and pretty about letterpress stationary. I don't really know how it works, but my favorite designs are nice, neat, and even when the design is complex, there's always a basic beautiful simplicity to it. And printed on substantial but soft card stock paper. It's unassuming and humble in its origins, but the design possibilities can be intricate and sophisticated. If I were stationary, I'd want to be letterpress.
Juliet's wedding invites were letterpress, to those who might wonder about the look and feel (and who were invited.) Nice pick, sis.
Like anything in the world (people, cars, and art) there are likely very ugly and clumsy examples of this medium, but I'm transfixed by the better ones. I can certainly convince myself that letter writing should come back into style when I look at the Elum website.

Jauntin' About Town


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In perhaps our most expansive outing yet, Jason and I traveled to Chicago's Chinatown Saturday morning for dim sum, then to Millennium Park, then to Grant Park to eavesdrop on the sounds of Lollapalooza, and then finished up with shopping on Michigan Avenue.
The dim sum met with mixed reviews from our group, mainly for the textures (often squishy and slimy) and unusual taste. I should have remembered to mention that dim sum is different than dinner Chinese like eggrolls and fried rice. The dining experience was a little more frustrating by the stationary servers' backs being turned to us the entire time. The carts have wheels for a reason - get wheeling girls! But while on Michigan Ave I picked up the Chicago Zagat's so I can look these things up before asking for a table for five again.
At Millennium Park kids were frolicking in the fountain while parents and tourists followed on their heels with cameras clicking. A signature of city living: the public fountains are your swimming pool. We noticed that there were a number of kids whose parents probably hadn't planned on the water excitement as they were leaving the fountain fully clothed but also fully soaked. I'm guessing it started with a plea to just get little toes wet, and then became a full dousing under the fountain spouts. I have to say big toes were tempted too, but we stayed dry.

Summertime Sippin'


In another venture into mixology, Jason and I hosted an impromtu deck party to test out this lemonade-watermelon-vodka drink last night. (Definitely need a smart name for this drink! It should have been an assignment for those who attended the launch party.) At last weekend's Pitchfork Music Festival we enjoyed the virgin version, which features chunks of seedless watermelon in a cup, with cold lemonade poured over the top. Refreshing and highly recommended. We can't claim the cocktail as a totally original idea, as the only thing we brought was the vodka. A neighbor suggested that we might have just drilled a hole in the watermelon and poured the vodka in and chilled it, thus infusing the alcohol into the fruit. But we realized that this quickly happens anyway when the drink is mixed.
My only regret was that this didn't stay very cold for very long outdoors in the heat, so I'm considering a frozen version. Like a frozen margarita, or maybe just lemonade-watermelon bit popsicles, but I'm not sure how well the vodka will freeze. Or perhaps just chop up the watermelon and put it in the freezer beforehand; treat it like ice cubes in a drink.

Home Ec: Needs Improvement

They don't teach home ec in Quaker school. Too busy bringing peace to the world and folding clothes for the villagers in Africa to learn how to properly carve a turkey or make rice/beans/potatoes that aren't crunchy. Despite this underprivileged upbringing, I forge on in the kitchen.
Tonight my objective was grilled pork chops with tropical mango salsa. (I'd offer a helpful direct link, but Kikkoman would like to entertain you first. My recipe is at 11 o'clock on the little clock of meals.) Sounds yum, no? 'Cept I forgot that marinating for 4-6 hours was suggested, and tossing it in the refrigerator for an hour while you chop the fruits for the salsa is not an equivalent. Is there any way to speed up marinating? Or is it one of those "watched pot never boiling" rules of the kitchen? (A forgotten marinade never catches up.) On top of my teriyaki grilled pork chop went a salsa of mango, pineapple, strawberry, one jalapeno pepper, a squeeze of lime juice (ooops, I'm just realizing I forgot that part) and coconut flakes (which I also just realized I neglected.) I guess my next culinary adventure will have to involve lots of coconut, because they just don't sell small bags of coconut flakes at the grocery store. (Here's a recipe that might take advantage of the rum I bought for my earlier cocktail experiment: or are Banana Rum Coconut Cookies just too much?)
For dinner I did make some potatoes on the side, thanks to a nice little ready-made bag that saved chopping work, so we could eat at 8, instead of 9 pm. Turns out 8:05 would have been better, the taters were a little firm. But it looked pretty.

Post-Script: The Chicagoist blog also covered (better than me) the Pitchfork Festival, or in their take: Sweatfork. An apt description.
 

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