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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Film Forum

I've been catching up on my movies lately. I finally saw the new Star Wars, for one thing. I've never been that super into the franchise, but I thought it was pretty good. They did a good job playing on the fact that Adam Driver is super punchable, and I thought the plot moved at a nice pace. It as comforting to see Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher in something that didn't reek of desperation again, and the new characters avoided Jar Jar Binks levels of awfulness. I'm still kind of wondering why they can't come up with a plot that doesn't involve the need to destroy some giant weapon, but it's not like I really turn to CGI space fantasies for script innovation, anyway.

I watched Carol on the airplane coming back from Europe, which was especially interesting when I realized they weren't going to edit out the nude scenes and there were, like, five year olds all around me. It was a good movie, though! I've never been the biggest Mara booster, but I have to admit she gave a really good, lived-in performance. And of course the Blanchett is always solid. I was afraid that it would be one of those kind of musty, boring period pieces, where everything is set designed within an inch of its life but nothing really happens. It was actually really compelling, though. Fun sexy times.

I also enjoyed Spotlight. Again, I thought it might be slow, but it wasn't, which is kind of amazing, since its subject matter is basically people doing a lot of research. Everyone gave solid, understated performances, even though Rachel McAdams doesn't really look like any reporter I've ever seen, even if reporters still existed. And I thought they did a really nice job conveying the horror of these molestation cases without being exploitative. It was the feel good Catholic church scandal flick of the year.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Afternoon Amongst the Damned

So I had to go to FedEx Office today to scan some documents for my mortgage application. Now, you may ask, who still goes to FedEx Office? Don't most people have access to scanners/copiers/fax machines now? And the answer to that is yes. But I am so highly ethical that I didn't want to use state resources to scan these materials at my job, and also I was afraid I'd get caught. And though I do have a scanner at home, I didn't really feel like placing the documents on it a page at a time. So FedEx Office it was.

And of course I ended up scanning the documents a page at a time, anyway. Not sure why they don't have a scanner/copier with a document feeder set up like, well, every other place in the world, but they don't. So I spent half an hour (at 38 cents a minute, no less!) scanning W2s and bank statements. But while I was there, I encountered the most fascinating people. (Not to be confused with Barbara Walters' Most Fascinating People.) There was an elderly lady who was struggling mightily to design a business card she could use for her dog and cat walking service. There was a guy who looked like a serial killer who apparently was there solely to use the internet. And there was a woman who was apparently such a regular at FedEx Office that she knew the names and back stories of all the employees. It truly is an amazing place to spend an afternoon.

Not sure how I'm going to top it, frankly. Maybe I should just go to bed now and try again tomorrow.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Money Matters

Apparently, they're going to change the $20 bill so that it features Harriet Tubman instead of Andrew Jackson. I am all for this move, particularly because I wrote an essay about how Harriet Tubman was the person I most admired in junior high. To be fair, the person I probably ACTUALLY admired the most in junior high was probably Batman, but I knew enough not to put that in the essay. I'm not sure that I really admired Andrew Jackson at all in junior high. Although I probably knew a lot more about him than I do now, since my US history class was a lot more recent. Certainly he had a terrible haircut.

I'm hoping that, while they're at it, they make some other fun changes to our currency, since right now it's kind of ass boring. Maybe add some colors, a little celebrity gossip? Wouldn't it be great if every dollar bill had a "Stars: They're Just Like Us" photograph on it? I personally would love to be reassured that Eva Longoria pumps gas just like me when I'm buying beef jerky at the 7-11. In fact, I'd like to see the whole operation outsourced to TMZ. Though I am ready and willing to serve as Treasury Secretary, should the subject ever come up.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Moving & Shaking

So I sort of bought a new place this week. I say sort of because we don't close until July, and there are still plenty of things that could go wrong, but we do have a signed purchase contract. It's a three-bedroom townhouse in Old Town and I kind of love it. It's got a nice private roof deck, all kinds of cute built-ins, and a walk in closet with a window. And an attached garage with snow removal, so I may never even know it's winter again. I'm kind of jazzed, in a "nervous something could go terribly wrong at any minute" kind of way.

I will be sad to leave Lakeview behind, in some ways. The pizza-by-the-slice place on Clark exposed me to some wonderfully weird things that taste great on pizza, and it's nice to have three dozen bars to stumble home from in a two-block radius. Aubrey will miss the proximity to the dog beach, although I will not miss having to literally drag her back from it. And of course it will be strange taking a train to bacchanals like Pride and Market Days. But Old Town is really a return to my roots, since I lived about a block away from the new townhouse for my first three years in the city. I ground a lot of half-eaten jello shots into the carpet there. And I'll certainly be happy to be near Second City, Corcoran's, and the Old Town Ale House again. Why are all of my happy feelings about my neighborhoods related to food and alcohol?

Anyway, things are happening! I'm sure I'll provide updates as the madness progresses.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Endless Photos IV

I think these will be the last of it. Whew?



This is part of the Hofburg in Vienna. They have horse shows there. Yes, this is basically a gold-plated stable.


They have all these weird statues along the ceilings of the Natural History Museum. These are in the part that deals with fish and reptiles, so they're like water angry water gods or something.

Here's the castle again in Salzburg. It is a long walk to get there. I'm pretty sure I lost several pounds due to sweat alone.


And this kind of gives you a sense of how far down it is. Why no one has thought to set up an extreme zipline and charge fifty euros a trip, I have no idea.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Endless Photos III

We're back, with a minor change in location to Salzburg. It was about two and a half hours by train from Vienna, and we're not talking some shitty CTA car that stinks of urine here. They were double-decker trains with really comfortable seats, fast Wi-Fi, and cool dining cars. Of course, I wholly humiliated myself by proudly presenting a ticket for a different train, but it turns out that, like most embarrassments, it could be remedied by taking out a credit card. Anyway...


Here's the interior of the cathedral. It actually didn't blow me away as cathedrals go, but I'd probably overdone it on looking at old churches by that point.


And this is the outside of the cathedral. Say what you want about religion; they know how to build some attractive god houses.


This is the interior of the castle. It was really fun and medieval, kind of like Medieval Times, but without the food. And you pretty much weren't allowed to touch anything.


Here's the view from one of the fortifications. This is why the castle is such a hot spot on Redfin: location, location, location.


And here's the approach to the castle up the hill. I'm guessing they secretly watch from above and make fun of people as they struggle to climb up. I know I did.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Endless Photos II

And our journey continues. Let's start out with some gratuitous Klimt. They pretty much have Klimt everywhere in Vienna. It's, like, Klimt toilet paper with a side of Rubens tampons.


So that Klimt was at the Museum of Applied Arts. (Not sure what the "applied" part of that is, but maybe the painting is good at math?) They also had the crazy inflatable monkeys below. Good inflatable monkeys are so hard to find stateside.


Next we have a gratuitous tiny beer picture. This restaurant is super old and they sell tiny beer and tiny open-faced sandwiches that have like herring and stuff on them. Better to stick to the tiny beer.


Also: I was stuck on top of the cathedral for a spell. There's an elevator that takes you up, but that elevator apparently stops working sometimes. And then you realize that you're about fifteen stories up and that you don't speak very much German at all.


I did get down, thanks to a crafty security guard who opened up the stairway for us. Then I went and saw this amazing old library that's part of the Hofburg complex there. They do not allow you to run up and down the stairs, however.



Saturday, April 02, 2016

Endless Photos

There is really so much to say about my trip. But pictures are worth a thousand words or more, even, if the words are coming out of Ann Coulter. So let's get started.


This is the interior of the Karlskirche. The scaffolding you see they will actually let you climb. It is quite terrifying, to be honest. The stairs just keep getting more narrow and the platforms seem to kind of bend under your feet. And there's a sign that says "occupancy by more than 15 people prohibited," right before you see about two dozen people climbing up ahead of you. But I lived through it, so that's good.


This is the Votivkirche, which is still undergoing renovation, as it was the first time I was there in 2013. Now it's got a kickin' ad for orange juice on its front, though. Suddenly I am very thirsty.


The Austrians regulate their dogs quite strictly, as it turns out. Much of the parks were "hundeverboten," but this was a "hundezone," which this little guy seems to be enjoying the heck out of.


This was part of a contemporary art installation at the Museum of Applied Arts. The bottom part asks "How happy are you?" in German, and people were supposed to take the appropriate gumball for how happy they were on a scale of one to ten. Apparently, ten almost always runs out first, although I find that hard to believe having met many of the people of Austria. I did not take a gumball at all, so I guess I don't have feelings?


This is a recreation of a prehistoric bird at the Natural History Museum. Pretty intense. I would love to make a career as a prehistoric bird recreator, but I don't want to retake the SATs.  


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Idiots Abroad

Well, I am back from Europe. Also from Springfield. Did I mention I was going to Springfield before Europe? I had an oral argument in a case. It was less exotic than Europe, but there was a tornado warning that led the hotel staff to herd us into the basement in the middle of dinner. Thank God they let us bring our wine.

Anyway, Europe was nice. I had wiener schnitzel and sacher torte and one of those giant chocolate-covered pretzels. I went to approximately six billion museums. And I coached my students, who did a really nice job but did not win anything. They were sort of the Jennifer Aniston of the competition, I guess.

Because I had one completely free day while I was over there, I was able to fit in a side trip to Salzburg, in addition to Vienna. That was kind of amazing, even though I did manage to buy a ticket for one train and then actually board another. They have a really cool old castle in Salzburg that sits way up above the city, kind of like it's judging everyone. And you can ride a special train to and from it that feels like the world's most chill rollercoaster. The cathedral there is really only a B-, but still, it was an interesting experience.

More to follow, including endless photos.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Weekend

A lot of excitement around here. Yesterday we hosted a truly extravagant dog birthday party, featuring a dog cake that we had to eventually take away from Aubrey before she ingested it so quickly that she choked. There was also a cookie cake for humans, which was devoured with a similar speed. And Aubrey got a brain teaser toy that she bested in an unexpected manner by simply destroying it. Take that, Outward Hound products.

I also took my mother to see the Van Gogh show at the Art Institute. It was pretty good, from what we could see of it around people's heads. I can't honestly muster up too much excitement for the prospect of seeing three different versions of the same painting, but they had some other interesting works, too, and the interpretive materials were well done as always. It was kind of unfortunate that some people apparently decided the museum would be a good place to stop on their way back from the St. Patrick's Day parade; I saw more than one person bobbing and weaving suspiciously in front of the Chagall windows.

And my neighborhood was of course flush with St. Pat's revelers. I believe some sort of new record was set when I passed a deeply intoxicated bro on my way to the gym at 8:30 AM. And the legions of young ladies taking selfies in their ethnically offensive t-shirts threatened to shut down Clark street entirely. Suffice it to say that I will not be upset to be out of the country on the actual St. Patrick's Day.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Current Events
 
My life continues to be a glittering whirlwind of excitement. Seriously, I feel like Taylor Swift, only with fewer lesbian overtones.
 
Friday night we had the party/awards ceremony for the bar association show I do each year, and they gave me an award. Not for performing or anything; if this were the Oscars, this would be like the Irving Thalberg award. But that didn’t stop me from carrying it around with me all night like Anne Hathaway. It took the form of a giant cup, which unfortunately was too dirty on the inside to drink from. The cab driver really appreciated it on the way home, though.
 
Then, because I’m an idiot, I had to get up at 6 AM the next morning to drive to a bar committee meeting in Champaign. There is really no better way to start your day than by almost falling asleep at the wheel and swerving across three lanes of traffic into an oncoming semi. But I made it unharmed and had a lovely morning discussing alternative dispute resolution with law students at my alma mater. It turns out that they’ve actually renovated the classrooms since I went there so they look less like the set of the Carol Burnett Show, but don’t worry, the dingy men’s bathroom with two toilets in one stall is still unaltered. I ate two bagels with cream cheese to celebrate, then felt guilty about it and decided it would be my lunch for the day.
 
Yesterday was family time, since my mom is up here for her Spring Break. (I feel like I should take her to a foam party or something to celebrate.) We spent a good portion of the afternoon watching my nephew crawl around and pull himself up to a standing position with varying degrees of success. Don’t worry, we had Mission: Impossible 4 on in the background in case there was ever a lull in the action.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Oscar Predictions 2016

It's that time of year again! The time when we distract ourselves from all of the terrible things going on in the world by obsessing over which ultra-wealthy celebrities will be awarded tiny little statutes. And also make fun of what Gwyneth Paltrow is wearing. So here, while I still have the chance, are my Oscar predictions for this year:

-- There will be jokes about how white the Oscars are, as though that somehow makes up for how white the Oscars are.
-- Sylvester Stallone will win best supporting actor, despite the fact that he thought it was a good idea to make three Expendables movies.
-- Everyone will get up to freshen the chili cheese dip during the awards for costumes and makeup.
-- Kate Winslet will win best supporting actress for Steve Jobs, despite the fact that I do not know a single person who has actually seen that movie.
-- There will be at least three montages of clips from old movies for no reason at all.
-- Leonardo DiCaprio will win best actor, while the horse he slept inside will remain shockingly snubbed.
-- Sharon Stone will be in attendance despite the lack of any logical motive for that to be so.
-- Brie Larson will win best actress, which will never remove the sting of having been passed over for a Teen Choice Award.
-- The ceremony will go on for so long that it will genuinely start to feel like they are just making up new awards to hand out now.
-- For the first time in like ten years, the winner of best picture will actually be somewhat surprising.

Enjoy the show! Or don't, if you prefer -- it's really no skin off my back either way.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

We Need to Talk About Tarek & Christina

I don't know if I've ever written about HTV's Flip or Flop on here before, but I'm too lazy to search my archives and find out, and regardless I feel sort of a desperate need to address the topic. Come to think of it, I don't even know if I've written about Love It or List It on here before, and I could easily see myself filling loose leaf notebooks with love poetry about Hilary. God, I may have really fallen down on the job here. My apologies to America.

Anyway, Flip or Flop follows a mismatched married couple as they buy crappy houses, renovate them, and almost always sell at an absurd profit. Tarek is the real estate agent, as he constantly reminds us, and is pale, kind of generally pointy, and wears lots of bad shorts. Christina is the designer, and always wears enough makeup to star in a revival of Sweet Charity. Primarily they watch other people do renovation work and repeatedly act surprised when houses that were openly vandalized and missing fixtures when they bought them turn out to have other problems like, say, bad wiring. "This could turn out to be a total flop," they say, before selling the place for twice what they paid.

They also make some truly horrific design choices, like artificially distressed flooring that looks like it came from the waiting area at the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and, well, faux everything. I have to feel that these houses disintegrate in a cloud of plywood and laminate the minute they drive away.

Also, why are they married? (That could actually be the title for a lot of HGTV shows.) They often seem like strangers who are vaguely annoyed to encounter one another in the tile aisle at the Home Depot.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Home Alone

Aubrey has what our vet has kindly termed "separation anxiety." The practical meaning of this is that she freaks out and destroys a bunch of our stuff pretty much every time we leave the house. And while it may seem like we should just dog proof to avoid, say, finding the tattered remains of our copy of "Ragtime" all over the bedroom floor, that has in practice proved difficult. Because each time I empty out a shelf or seal a drawer shut, she seems to find some new location to invade. A few weeks ago I found she had figured out how to open the cabinet I keep my actual hard copy music in; there were copies of Michael Jackson and Paula Abdul on audiocassette strewn all over the place. And once I effectively shut that down with a contraption I devised out of rubber bands and paper clips, she figured out how to get up some file folders off the top of my desk and throw their contents everywhere. All this while ignoring the dozens of dog toys sitting at various easily accessible points around the room. I just pray she never discovers the joys of arson.

The best part is that she has us convinced this is all some sort of mental disorder caused by missing us too much. So we feel sorry for her instead of, say, selling her to a cosmetics company for testing. Of course, I've had work colleagues who've managed the same thing. No one better dare ask brittle Angela from accounting about those TPS reports or there is going to be hell to pay.

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