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Monday, February 08, 2016

The Incredible Journey

I've now been to Guadalajara and back. And honestly, that was mostly it -- there and back. I didn't really see much of the city, other than the hotel, the university, and the nice shopping district we went to for dinner on Saturday. Most of my time was spent teaching and learning about international sales law, as one does. And though I had thought I might use my lunch breaks to sightsee a bit, it turned out that the university was inside a walled, gated compound, and I was genuinely concerned that trying to leave might get me shot. Which hardly seemed worth it to see the Jose Cuervo Express, even if TripAdvisor user cfry1937 did call it "loud and proud."

It was still a pretty good experience, though. It was in the 70s and 80s the whole time, which left me feeling very smug about the misery everyone was experiencing in Chicago, and very green and hilly. Everyone was super nice to the point that it was almost irritating; I've never been kissed hello so many times in my life. And my students were like 99% not needy for the weekend. They even handled some of the small talk duties so I could rush off to the bathroom and discretely remove the taste of the disgusting congealed chia lemonade I unwisely tried from my mouth.

The one big downside was the sleep deprivation. We got in pretty late on Thursday, they had us heavily scheduled both days, and the cab to the airport picked us up at 4:30 AM yesterday. Oh, and for good measure, I couldn't sleep at all Saturday night and had to just lie there in the dark watching Tropic Thunder in Spanish. So I celebrated the Super Bowl by sleeping. Which, come to think of it, is the most I've enjoyed it in years.

Monday, February 01, 2016

The Mexican, Starring Brad Pitt & Julia Roberts

So I am going to Gaudalajara this weekend. This has happened sort of suddenly and in a ridiculous way. You see, I am accompanying a group of my students on the trip. (No, I will not be confiscating alcohol and taping doors shut to deter sexual experimentation.) The school realized a week ago that it had funding to send me, and I am not one to say no to a free trip to Mexico in February. Even if I do somewhat fear getting the Zika virus. That was a google gone awry, let me tell you.

I have been to Mexico before, but not to Guadalajara. Frankly, my experience of Mexico has primarily been swim-up bars and bus trips to picturesque but somewhat vertiginous ruins. And of course the major motion picture The Three Amigos. I'm sure that's a pretty accurate depiction, right?

One thing I can tell you right now is that Mexico is cheap as hell. The hotel is costing me $150. For three nights. And it's not like some motor court inn where the murder happened. Breakfast and free wifi are included. I mean, I don't think there will be mints on the pillows or anything, but I can always bring some Tic Tacs and make do.

The real pity in this is that Sean Penn already got that El Chapo interview. I would have gotten him a spread in Us Weekly, or at least a 25 Things You Don't Know About Me.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Teach for America

I don't know if I've ever mentioned this here, but I teach some law students who shall remain nameless a subject that will go unmentioned at a school that I won't specify. And I've been doing it for years, too, so for all you know everything I'm about to say is about some jamoke who graduated in the late aughts. Or perhaps it's about a composite character I invented based on some things that actually happened and some didn't. Like an old school Law & Order, any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

I love my students. For the most part. They're smart, they're articulate, they participate in class, and sometimes they're even kind of funny (and some of that is even intentional, I think). But I also hate them a good portion of the time. They view all deadlines as purely optional, if they even bother to take note of them at all. They ask me questions that I've already answered a dozen times, in writing, sometimes bold and underlined. They ask me for all kinds of help that has absolutely nothing to do with what I've been hired to do. I mean, I sympathize with your concerns about getting a travel visa, but I really don't think driving you to the consulate falls within my job description. And no, I don't think I should come to your Cinco de Mayo party. In fact, I'm really concerned about you even having that party, as it is a very tricky one to not make racist.

Anyway, I think everyone should probably teach at some point, because it really helps you think about how you do what you do and, better yet, how you learned how to do it. And also because it's awful. And great at the same time. And isn't that really what America is all about?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Good Morning America

So this morning it took me an hour and fifteen minutes to make the six and a half mile trip from my house to my office. It was an amazing journey, which I assure you will be optioned for a major motion picture any time now.

The fun started when I got all the way to the train station before realizing I had left the house without, well, any of my belongings. No work bag, no gym stuff, no lunch. How this happened I cannot say; I can only blame Ashlee Simpson and her amazing hit single "La la" for distracting me, I guess.

After a quick dash back to the house, where I set off the alarm and caused what appeared to be a series of canine heart palpitations, I got back to the train, this time fully equipped for my journey. And lo, what luck! A purple line was waiting right there for me.

Now generally I am delighted to get a purple line because it goes straight to my office building, whereas the red line forces me to walk the unbearable distance of two blocks once I arrive downtown. But what I did not realize was that this purple line would, from the moment it was too late to transfer to any other line, make no fewer than four unplanned stops for an increasingly comic series of reasons. I believe the last one was that the operator was feeling despondent following the lackluster box office performance of Steve Jobs.

Nor did I anticipate that there would be not one but two pungent and vocal homeless individuals on this particular purple line. Which is fine for your garden variety trip down to the Loop; I enjoy random screamed expletives as much as the next person. But after forty-five minutes or so, some of the material starts to feel a bit recycled.

Anyway, I made it to work only slightly late, and I'm super middle class and this is America, so I am properly grateful. But man do they need to get that teleportation technology up to speed stat.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Thank You, Dr. King

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has always been one of my favorites. When I was still at a law firm, it was one of the few days that they actually closed the office, perhaps because they were afraid otherwise people would think they were racist. Of course, all the attorneys pretty much came in anyway, because we basically did that every day of the year. It was nice to work without the noise of secretaries screaming at each other about their lunch orders, though. Or the mail guy with the inane comments centered on what day of the week it was. I bet he's chairman of the firm by now.

Anyway, now that I'm in government, we fully believe in taking days off, and I am at home. I decided to observe the occasion by trying out a new fitness class, which will likely have me paralyzed in a matter of hours. Until then, though, I'm catching up on some writing and some household tasks. I haven't shred anything in like a year and a half, because I hate cleaning up the stray little shreddies afterwards, and therefore have a stack of financial statements about as high as my waist to get through. Also our front door won't stay closed for some reason, and the strategy of propping it shut with an umbrella is probably not optimal. So yeah, I won't be bored.

I do realize that it is more than a little bit sick to get up at my normal time on a day off and spend the entire thing working, but hey, we have to be honest with ourselves about who we are. I'm not the world's best relaxer, but I sure do know a thing or two about organizing a closet.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Hollywood Minute

I've been catching up on movies lately, and not just the kind that air on the Hallmark Channel and star Days of Our Lives line reciter Alison Sweeney. We actually went to a movie theater for the first time since like July the other day, to see Joy with my mom. (At 10:20 AM on a Sunday, no less.) It was all right. I am officially no longer willing to give Jennifer Lawrence the slack to play women like twenty years older than her, but I always enjoy David O. Russell's dialogue and find it fascinating to see Elizabeth Rohm when she's not ruining Law & Order. And Isabella Rossellini should, I feel, be president of something.

We also watched the latest Mission:Impossible on demand. I like watching things on demand because by the time the cable bill comes I've always completely forgotten about watching them. Surprises are fun. The movie was entertaining, though it suffered from a shocking lack of people dangling off of very tall buildings. I guess I just don't find Tom Cruise believable playing a human being any more. And what is the purpose of Jeremy Renner? Just generally in life, even. I don't really get why he's there.

And yesterday we watched Ant:Man, which I ordered when I realized that I still subscribed to the DVD service but had not ordered anything for a year, choosing instead to leave two Key & Peele discs gathering dust at my mother's apartment. This one I actually enjoyed a pretty good amount. The first half hour or so was a bit slow, but once people started shrinking and riding CGI ants and shit, it was pretty amazing. I've got no beef with Paul Rudd, despite the fact that he does not appear to age, and I still have a lot of residual good will for Evangeline Lilly from the Lost years, which not even the terrible wig could destroy. It's a great choice if, like me, you suddenly realize you haven't watched any movies not made for TV over two weeks on a soundstage in Canada since Flag Day.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Out With the Old, In With the New

What can one say about 2015? The biggest news story of the year was probably Donald Trump, which makes it sound a lot more like, say, 1988. And if you listen to the rhetoric involved, maybe more like 1958. Bernie Sanders became everyone's favorite curmudgeonly old person not featured in a Life Alert commercial, while Hillary Clinton got in on the Jurassic World craze by rebooting herself repeatedly. Suddenly everyone hated True Detective and loved Fargo, while remaining largely indifferent to the existence of CBS. No one could figure out if we're done with comic book movies yet or not. It was a strange time, the type we'll probably look back on someday and be largely unable to distinguish from the year that happened before or the ones that have passed since. And now it's gone.

On my end, I have to say that 2015 was pretty good, and not just because 2014 was about as bad as they get. Having a nephew has been great, and not just because I get to enjoy not being the person who has to get up in the middle of the night with him. It's genuinely fascinating to watch a little person develop, and then go home and still be able to pretty much do whatever it is I want to do exactly when I want to do it. Aubrey has also been a fine addition, especially once she got past her early bouts with rug peeing. She's adorable and always doing something crazy I can laugh about, much like Lindsay Lohan in her prime. So I guess we'll keep her.

Happy new year, friends. As meaningless observances go, this is a pretty good one.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Silent, Holy

Had a nice, relaxing Christmas this year. Since my mother is (largely) local now, there was no travel involved. And since it was just me and her and more beagles than could reasonably be deemed necessary, there was no real entertaining involved. Mainly we just binge watched and ate. We did have a minor crisis when we discovered how few options there were to order delivery from on Christmas Eve, but we rebounded by making our Christmas brunch for dinner that night. Hollandaise, as it turns out, fixes everything.

This was the first year, well, ever that I have not spent my holiday in Quincy. It was a bit weird, but actually pretty good. It turns out I really like the city when almost no one else is in it. And I got a huge dose of small town Christmas from the Hallmark Channel, anyway. The fictional version starring Shenae Grimes is much, much better.

Now I'm back at work, but only for a few days. Turns out I have to use my personal days before year end or I lose them. So I guess I'll just have another four-day weekend. It is so hard to be me.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Happy Holidays!

Really accomplished writers – the Dan Browns and Leah Reminis of the world, if you will – often speak of their “writing processes,” which generally seem to involve adorably distressed-looking roll top desks and locales rustic enough that you might run into a ferret or something but not so rustic that you won’t have easy access to a T.G.I. Friday’s. My own process, I must admit, is not quite so much like something you might see in a Pottery Barn Teen catalogue. Typically I climb into my favorite Pajama Jeans, eat an entire bag of Funyuns, and stare blankly at my laptop, pausing only occasionally to google what Willa Ford is up to these days (being fired from the set of a movie based on a video game, thank you very much) or whether Dennis Franz is still alive (mostly). From time to time I type and then erase some hilarious observation about a certain Real Housewife’s battle with Lyme Disease or the way strangers accidentally dry hump you on the train. I flip on the television, since obviously all that is lacking is a little inspiration from Candace Cameron-Bure’s masterpiece of understated psychological realism, Christmas Under Wraps. And then ultimately I write the whole thing in about ten minutes immediately before it absolutely has to go out (or my entire family will be murdered, assuming my life has become a Liam Neeson action thriller). Clearly, I am never going to be Ernest Hemingway, which is too bad, because I already had my descent into alcoholism and madness all planned out.

And speaking of madness (do they give out Cable ACE Awards for transitions?), it’s been kind of a crazy year. I’m not just talking about the fact that our political discourse has been reduced to the level where that guy who stands outside the Daley Center blowing a whistle and wearing a sign that says “The FBI Raped Me Daily” now seems like a viable presidential candidate. The biggest movie of the year was basically the biggest movie of 1993, but with more Bryce Dallas Howard. Hillary Clinton’s email generated more excitement than any electronic communication since I got that amazing business opportunity from that Nigerian prince. Pope Francis visited the United States, but not EPCOT Center, which is boring. And same sex marriage became legal nationwide, although as I understand it, repeatedly asking same-sex couples when they plan to finally tie the knot remains punishable by death.

In the midst of all this madness, my own life thankfully remained relatively stable. I’m still working for the Attorney General’s office, because the thrill of trying to avoid accidentally looking at photographs of horrific gunshot wounds never wears off. Ian and I still live in Wrigleyville, Chicago’s number one source for questionably-themed bar crawls and disappointment. In April, we adopted an adorable yet impressively neurotic beagle from a local rescue organization, furthering our lifelong quest to ensure there is no surface in the condo that has not yet been soaked in urine. In June, we welcomed our first nephew, Jack, who is incredible at tummy time but admittedly seems confused by some of my more obscure pop culture references. We also traveled to Spain, where we thrilled at the artistry of Gaudi and Goya, as well as the fact that Spanish McDonald’s serve mayonnaise with their French fries. It is such a big world, and yet I remain undeniably the single most important part of it.

I kid, of course. It’s Jennifer Lawrence’s world; we’re all just waiting to inevitably turn on her in it. Until then, let’s all have fantastic holidays and great 2016s, even though it turns out Santa is pretty much a dirty communist.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Pier One

Last night I took my mother to Navy Pier. Before you condemn me too fiercely for that statement, let me clarify that we had tickets to the Shakespeare Theater. But of course we made time to have some $15 hot dogs in the food court beforehand. The Ferris wheel has been dismantled so they can build a slightly larger Ferris wheel, however, so it was out of the question. Which is too bad, because I've had some truly excellent panic attacks there.

The Pier is undergoing a bit of a renovation which, judging by the results so far, is designed to make it look like an Urban Outfitters that just happens to be filled with screaming children demanding novelty license plates. Everything is very grey and industrial-looking, in stark contrast to the rows of bright orange garage doors that used to populate the place. And it appears that most of the trinket shops you couldn't believe anyone every actually patronized have now been downgraded to pushcarts outside the IMAX theater. Which is good, because waiting in line for a movie isn't nearly irritating enough as things stand.

The show itself was quite good. It was a translation/adaptation of a French play from slightly after the era of Moliere. And therefore slightly before the era of Dane Cook. It was all in verse, which I find enjoyable; it's really a shame they didn't do more episodes of Murphy Brown that way. And the acting was great -- one of the leads used to play Rachel's boss at Bloomingdale's on Friends! If that doesn't just say it all, then I really don't know what can.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

There Isn't Enough Bedazzle in the State of Ohio to Save These Costumes

That's an actual line spoken by a purported human being in the Mariah Carey Hallmark movie that debuted last night, "A Christmas Melody." The movie not only starred Mariah Carey as a mean girl PTA president who was perpetually filmed through a thick layer of gauze, but also was directed by Mariah Carey. I assume this means that Mariah herself signed off on casting Lacey Chabert, who is thirteen years younger than her, as her former high school classmate. Let's now recall that Lacey Chabert was a child television star on Party of Five well after Mariah had already made it big as a fully adult singer and crazy person. To be fair, I'm pretty sure Chabert was grown up by the time Mariah hit it big on the Home Shopping Network, though.

The movie also features the music of Mariah Carey and, presumably, lighting and set design by Mariah Carey, featuring makeup and wig work by Mariah Carey. It was followed, and I am not making this up, by an hour long Christmas special hosted by Mariah Carey, in which Kelsey Grammer read "The Night Before Christmas" and all of Mariah's contractually-obligated friends from "A Christmas Melody" stopped by to celebrate. It was a big night of Mariah.

Somewhere a huge wave of relief is sweeping over Nick Cannon right now.

Monday, December 14, 2015

I Have a New Hobby

And it's reading the IMDB comments on terrible TV movies. It's an amazing thing, first of all, that anyone would take the time to write a comment about a TV movie that probably took as long to make as it takes to write a comment. But beyond that, the comments are wonderful windows into some very strange psyches. For example, here's part of a comment on "Web of Desire," a Lifetime movie starring a woman who once guest starred on Friends as Joey's love interest:

Web of Desire is a typical Lifetime movie; I really wished it didn't end so abruptly. It showed Beth and Jake rescuing Finn from a car accident at the end of the movie, but I was wondering how Beth would end up sorting things out at work with Brian, Friedman and Massey. Lifetime movies always end without closing the whole plot, but this one annoyed me that way. If I were the script writer though I'd have finished the whole story. Was Finn arrested for her harassment of Beth? Did Beth patch things up with Brian Doyle? How did Beth explain things to her kids? Did she ever thank Jamie for the help he gave her in catching Finn? Was Beth able to get Dr. Friedman's trust back after he caught her in her office watching Finn's sick DVD? There are so many unanswered questions at the end of this movie that it's very frustrating; I'm only giving it 7/10 stars for that.

* * *

Seriously, so many unanswered questions! What did Beth do the day after the harassment ended? What is Dr. Friedman's home life like? Has he seen any good movies lately?

And then there's this gem discussing the Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez classic, "Holiday in Handcuffs," which inexplicably has attracted thirty comments:

Maybe it's just me, but I absolutely loved this movie, I loved Melissa in Sabrina The Teenage Witch, and Mario is such a cutie (love the dimples). The ending was predictable, but I didn't care, I love happy endings. I didn't like Melissa's hair at the beginning, but throughout it, it was looking up. I loved the storyline and have never seen any of the other movies people have posted on here, so I don't have anything to complain about. It was the first Christmas movie that I have watched, that made me laugh since the Christmas season has started. I loved the grandma, she cracked me up! I also loved when David realized that he was starting to like Trudy, It just proves that it doesn't matter what you do or who you are, love can always be where you least expect, even if it is a wild and crazy way. At least you will have a great story to tell!

* * *

The "what you do" that doesn't matter in this case is kidnapping at gunpoint. But enough about that, let's talk about her hair!

And finally here are a few excerpts from reviews of "Unstable," starring Shiri Appleby, who I had never heard of until I saw "Unstable:"

After a while, things are happening in such rapid succession that you begin to wonder that all is not kosher with the newlyweds. What's going on with the blouse, the cell keys, the phone, emailing private business to others, and all other sorts of mayhem?

Kathy Baker stars as our victim's mother. She does the best she can with a script that really limits her role.

Recommended viewing strictly for those who have something better to do while they're watching -- like doing the dishes or scraping bubble gum off the floor.

The film never manages to be even average though.
* * *

I could do this all day!

Monday, December 07, 2015

The Business of Show

I just finished the run of my annual show for lawyers. You may question whether such a thing should exist, but you can't that it does, thanks to the following photographic evidence.


Gentle warmups and a visit from the muse of dance.


Fancy dressing rooms, complete with mirrors and such.


This is a world of many a wig.


Type casting, naturally.


After hours magic, or something.

Friday, November 27, 2015

No Really, Thanks

I can't tell you how amazing it has been to sleep in for the past few days. Sleep is among my favorite activities, even if I do have strange dreams where I'm the president of the Hallmark Channel and Lacey Chabert is going on strike. Of course, when I was in college, sleeping in meant rising at noon to pop over to the cafeteria in my sweats to eat a mixture of Lucky Charms and Coco Puffs for lunch, but now I'm lucky to make it to nine. Aubrey tends to be an early riser, even if she subsequently balks at the rain and has to be forcibly carried outside to pee.

Watched both the New York and Chicago parades yesterday, which is also now a very different experience than when I was younger. There are a lot more drop crotch pants, for one thing. Also, I have to admit that I fail to see the connection between preteen dance troupes dressed like middle aged hookers and holiday joy. But there are still plenty of floats and balloons based on things children can ask their parents to buy, so I guess that's a good thing. And David Arquette was the grand marshal of the Chicago parade, so we now have confirmation that David Arquette is still alive.

Anyway, we're putting up the Christmas tree today and, as it turns out, watching a Top Model marathon. 'Tis the season, bitches.

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