In Lieu of an Adventure: Olympics Edition

So I must have been bitten by a tsetse fly this weekend, as my mother would say, because even though I didn’t do much beyond some laundry and grocery shopping I managed to feel exhausted. My friend Alexis has a theory that watching men’s gymnastics is exhausting, and that works for me.

I love the Olympics, the pageantry, the sports, the international cooperation, the men not really wearing clothes:

And this year with the added bonus of 90% more Ryan Locthe (I mean come on look at those eyes…)

Also the Opening Ceremony was such a delightful string of British inside jokes and it included a shot of my favorite places in the world the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland:

And then today a Northwestern Wildcat – Matt Grevers – won a gold medal for America, I couldn’t be prouder.

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Thing I Love: The Memory Palace

As usually happens when I discover a new podcast I have spent the whole day listening to all the back archives of the new MaximumFun.org show The Memory Palace. I had actually heard a couple of episodes on the Slate Daily Podcast a few months ago but then somehow had forgotten it.

I’m really not sure how though, because the show is remarkable. Produced by Nate DiMeo the episodes are short (the longest one is 15 minutes) portraits of interesting people or events in history. That sounds dry though, and it isn’t. And although there are good facts interspersed, these aren’t really about trivia either. They are wonderful, little time capsules.

DiMeo has a great tone that at times is poignant; the episode about young boys working in coal mines will break your heart. And at other times is irreverent and hilarious: he ends his early episode about Franklin Pierce, in which he recounts his tragic marriage and alcoholism with the line that “as a President he sucked.”

I don’t really want to describe it any more, because I won’t be able to do it justice. Just click here and listen to the archives, you won’t regret it.

Triple Digit Movie: Take This Waltz

The heat returned with a vengeance yesterday. It was literally hard to breathe, so I escaped to the lovely oasis Landmark Theater to see writer/director Sarah Polley’s new movie Take This Waltz. I was initially interested because the cast is amazing – and I had hear Ms. Polley interviewed on Q and she was really charming.

 

 

The basic plot comes through really well in the trailer:

I’ve gone back and forth since leaving the theater about how I felt about this movie. Visually it was really interesting, Polley focuses and frames her actors in interesting ways, but it felt really long in places, and while I really appreciated a lot of the dialogue at certain points I had a hard time imagining people actually talking that way. (Especially the weird game that Seth Rogen and Michelle Williams have where to say I love you they describe horrible ways they would kill each other…not how I plan on expressing that emotion to my future husband, but to each their own I guess.)

The movie is basically a meditation on marriage and fidelity, and while it very carefully does not judge any of its characters, they all seem to be real people to me, there is something unsatisfactory to me about the story it tells, but I actually think that may be the point.

Sarah Silverman’s character (by the way she is AWESOME in this – can she act more please?) has a really good speech towards the end of the movie, where she says “life has a gap in it, it just does, you don’t go crazy trying to fill it” which in some ways is really depressing, but actually can be seen (in the context of this movie anyway) as a relief. If life is always going to be lacking a little, then the pressure of having to “live to the fullest” can be ignored a little.

Overall I would say I appreciated the movie more than liked it, but there were a couple of things that I really loved:

  1. The fact that it was written and directed by a woman, and you could tell. Especially in a really delightful scene where Michelle, Sarah, and another friend are showering after a hilarious water aerobics class, it was a rare scene of female nudity that had nothing to do with sex and was just natural and heartwarming.
  2. Seth Rogen can act. There’s one conversation towards the end where all we see is his face for a solid three minutes as reacts to things. It was one of the most compelling sequences in the movie.
  3. Luke Kirby – I’m obsessed with him and his performance. Who is he? Why have I never seen him in anything else?

(Also thanks for putting this song in my head.)

Weekly Adventure: Drag Show at The Call

My friend Madison’s ballet teacher was a backup dancer at a drag show this past Saturday. It was sort of in my neighborhood and I had never been to a drag show before so we went. It was awesome. And the performers were WAY better at walking in heels than I will ever be. Rather than go on and on about it I thought I would share some of the soundtrack with you (with the really inappropriate songs taken out, because I’m easily made uncomfortable.)

My Body – Original Broadway Cast of “The Life”

S&M – Rihanna

Dirrty – Chrisitna Aguilera

If You Seek Amy – Britney Spears

Glee Adele Mashup

Crazy in Love – Beyonce

LoveGame – Lady Gaga

 

They actually did a Gaga medley, but I had forgotten how much I love that song.

The Call is located at 1547 West Berwyn Ave

Five Star Book: At Home by Bill Bryson

The full title of this book is actually At Home: A Short History of Private Life, but that subtitle is misleading. The book is over 500 pages long and it really is about so much more than ‘private life’ or what is contained between the four walls of our houses.

Bryson is a master of making the mundane seem fascinating, and nowhere is that more evident than in this book, where he literally goes from room to room explaining how our houses (mostly in Britain and America) ended up the way they did. This surprisingly includes forays into the history of salt consumption, anesthesia, many sex scandals, and why Shakespeare left his wife his second best bed in his will.

Although it slows down at some parts, it’s usually just to give background information on the next crazy character that he’s about to introduce. What this book really traces is the evolution of modern society as we like to think of it, and all of the really unlikely characters that built it.

The basis of the book is that none of the things we take for granted as necessary in our lives (beyond basic biological needs) really has to be the way it is. We all recognize a house when we see one, but there’s no natural law that governs what one has to look like. This mindset started to infect my brain while I was reading, (Why are el seats so different from subway seats in NYC? When did Americans start having different accents than British people? – Seriously I can’t stop, it’s like I’m high.)

Also fun fact – corn can’t exist without human intervention – who knew?

Triple Digit Distraction: Bachelorette The Men Tell All

So yesterday’s high peaked at 100 degrees (it’s already cooler today thank God), but I couldn’t hightail it to my usually movie theater refuge, because I had other pressing plans (thankfully they were also air-conditioned).  As I have mentioned before I have a soft spot for The Bachelor franchise, and this season I have had the wonderful experience of sharing my love of campy, obviously staged, but yet somehow still compelling romances (and my love of Chateau St. Michelle Riesling) with my friends Madison and Alyssa.

We have created a delightful drinking game, with sort of ever-shifting rules, (for example last night we drank every time Joe pumped his fist at something), but these are the main 5 that can apply to any season of the show:

  1. Drink when they say ‘journey’ or ‘experience’ – it used to just be journey, but they really cut down on that this season
  2. Drink when Chris Harrison states the obvious
  3. Drink when someone says ‘I’m definitely falling,’ ‘I love you’ or my favorite ‘I could really see myself spending the rest of my life with’ – this last one is usually said after a second date.   
  4. Drink when they make-out (this one gets dangerous as the season goes on so pace yourself)
  5. Drink when someone accepts a rose

For this season we also added a few specific rules that I loved too much to not include:

–          Drink whenever Ryan says something ridiculous/delusional/mostly offensive

–          Drink whenever Sean screams ‘Emiiilyyyy’

–          Drink whenever Michael talks – oh wait he literally never did

–          Drink when Emily swears

–          Drink when Chris Harrison has sass (last night’s addition – seriously where did that come from?)

–          And drink whenever Jef is amazing – oh wait that’s always

 

I hope you guys are ready for the finale this Sunday!!!

Posted in TV

Weekly Adventure: Pitchfork Edition

I’m very very tired, so I cannot really put together cogent thoughts about how awesome the Pitchfork festival was. I only went to Sunday but I got to see Thee Oh Sees (They have a tambourine player – which I approve of.

And Real Estate – whom I now love!

AraabMuzik – Look at his hands…amazing, plus led to a great dance party…

And Beach House – which as one of the people I was hanging out with put it – “so much pretty”

And Vampire Weekend!!! Which is why I bought a ticket in the first place. And they did not disappoint…so much fun. They’re traditional closing number kind of made my night:

Aside from the music Pitchfork was also just a really fun vibe (if hot and dusty…) so many ridiculous fashions and people and stalls including one selling just fedoras.

(Sorry I don’t have pictures – I still do not have a new camera.)

Thing I Love: The Newsroom

I’ve been asked by a couple of people if I was going to blog about The Newsroom, I guess because it took over Girls time slot, but other than this I don’t really plan on it. Mostly because I think Aaron Sorkin is a genius and it would be really intimidating to write about his writing. Don’t get me wrong, I think Lena is a genius too, but she’s supposedly writing about me (as a category) and so I feel like I have a leg to stand on to critique it, I know nothing about how news works so I don’t know how I could write about that world once a week.

But that being said, I have really been enjoying the show so far, yes it is a bit Sorkin by the numbers, but I love the Sorkin formula, so that’s OK with me. And yes, Jezebel has informed me that I’m apparently supposed to be offended by the way he writes women, but I never have been. (Although the second episode gave me a little pause, I’m coming back around on it.) Writing good female characters does not mean writing female characters without flaws. Are the two women we’ve gotten to know so far on Newsroom kind of crazy? Yes.  Does that mean they are bad at their jobs or somehow unintelligent? No. And I don’t get the impression that that’s what Sorkin is trying to say.

And I’m not going into the politics, this isn’t a political blog, but I am a big fan of a call for intelligent thought/conversation.

Of course, we are only 3 episodes in, so there’s no way of knowing what level of Sorkin brilliance this will rise to, but I have been quoting it basically non-stop for the last three weeks a few highlights include:

“BELGIUM HAS FREEDOM.”

“I AM A MARINE DON, I WILL KICK YOUR ASS, I DON’T CARE HOW MANY PROTEIN SHAKES YOU DRINK.”

“This isn’t the America I grew up in.” “You’re twenty years old, this is exactly the America you grew up it.”

“Can I warn you about something? You are a famous person, for that reason alone she may want to sleep with you.” “That doesn’t sound like something that should come with a warning, it sounds like it should come with balloons.”

“I don’t have time to explain the plot of Gypsy to you.”

If you know me at all you know that last one just got me hooked for the next season or two at least. Also these two:

The Summer Subway Playlist: 20 Songs to get you Through Your Monday Morning

Today’s post comes from my friend Katelin, who is currently surviving the unrelenting heat wave in NYC, (there is hope the heat has finally broken here in Chicago)! She’s got a summer internship doing something Law & Order-y and a long commute. She mentioned that the only thing that gets her through is her iPod, I requested a playlist. So here it is, specifically tailored for NYC/Chicago commuters (full credit – all the clever captions are hers):

1. Here It Goes Again–O.K. Go

yayyyyy Monday commute…. let’s go….
2. Don’t Stand So Close to Me– the Police

Self explanatory

3.  Bitch Of Living– Spring Awakening Cast

See: having to transfer from one crowded subway car to another

 
4. Wait a Minute– Pussycat Dolls

Please, it will take longer for the el to get there than that…
5. Feel So Close–Calvin Harris

I feel so close to you right now…literally.  I wish we were farther apart…
6.  Pretty Girls- Iyaz

Shout out to those jumping on the train at Southport/West 72nd–despite the heat, your makeup isn’t shinny and your hair isn’t frizzy and clearly we are all a little envious of your chipper attitude at 7:45 AM.
7.  Shake It Out, Shake It Out- Florence + the Machine

You’ve been underground awhile and oh look it must be raining now.  Clearly this calls for you to shake the rain off your umbrella not on the platform but INSIDE the train.
8.  Harder to Breathe– Maroon Five

See:  Heat Wave 2012 commuting NYC, Chicago
9. Showdown–Black Eyed Peas

When you have those women/teenagers who are having an argument on the train and while you look really really interested in your book, you’re really taking mental bets on who’s winning.

 
10.  The Middle– Jimmy Eat World

WHAT!?! We’re only halfway through this commute?!?!
11.  Body Language– Jesse McCartney

What’s going on with your eyebrows?  Is your face naturally frowny? Dude, you do know subway grinding is a legit crime in NYC, right?
12.  I’ve Got Friends in Low Places– Garth Brooks

 Oh no.  the woman next to you is standing up and weird creepy old guy is eyeing her seat. please please please don’t sit by me… hipster man who finds commuting “so last year” (hairflip), sit down first!!!!!!!
13.  Scream-Usher

We’re delayed.  and you’re late.  YEAHHHHHHHHHHH.
14.  Everybody Talks–Neon Trees

 Everybody talks, everybody talks to much…why isn’t this this silent Paris metro?

15.  Call Me Maybe– Carly Rae Jepsen

Slip your number to the cute suited guy heading towards Wall Street/West Loop you’ve been exchanging looks with for the last five stops, or not?  that is the question…

 
16. You Won’t Feel a Thing– The Script

After fifteen bag bashings and toe-stepping-ons your body is immune to pain.
17. How Will I Know?–Whitney Houston

This train is crowded.  It’s not like you’re going to know if you’ve actually successfully navigated yourself to your work stop, between the bad sound system and lack of readable signs.

 
18. So Good- B.o.B. 

Relief cascades upon you as you exit the station…
19.  Have a Nice Day– Bon Jovi

SUCCESS!  You made it. Now Coffee.

20.  Takin’ Care of Business-Bachman-Turner Overdrive 

Work out.

Happy Monday everybody, and thanks Katelin!!!

Triple Digit Movie: To Rome With Love

Greetings from the land of the unrelenting heat wave, I learned on NPR yesterday that that is a technical term, one I really wish I had no occasion to learn. Yesterday’s peak heat index was 115 degrees, which means a trip to the movies. This week my friend Alyssa and I went to see the new Woody Allen movie at the Landmark, To Rome With Love, he’s apparently in his European period now.

I have a complicated relationship with Woody Allen, which I have written about here before, and this movie did absolutely nothing to help. Originally titled The Bop Decameron, as it is a series of linked stories of complicated romance set in Italy, he renamed it when he was informed that people don’t know what The Decameron is. (Side note I love The Decameron, with all of it’s feudal, bloody, romantic glory.) But without that clue that it is essentially a collection of short stories, tied together by Rome, the movie feels really disjointed. The new title reminds me of the amazing Paris Je T’aime, (and the less than amazing New York I Love You), but instead of a lot of directors taking on one city, there’s just Woody.

And in classic Woody Allen fashion this is two hours of him, told through the voices of different actors, but still. First what I loved, the story actually starring Woody, as Alison Pill’s fussy father who discovers her soon to be father in law could be an opera star, but only if he is in a shower onstage is a delightful little piece of fluff.  Roberto Benigni shines in a lovely little parable about sudden fame, and the delights and horrors it brings with it. (And that’s tough for me to say this man is responsible for this.) Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Greta Gerwig, and Alec Baldwin are all on-screen at the same time – that’s essentially a dream I’ve had.

 

But these things never really come together to form an enjoyable movie. Mostly because the overwhelming point on the movie seemed to be that adultery is OK, if not flat-out good. Seriously only one story isn’t about cheating on your partner. Maybe I’m just a puritanical American, but especially coming from Woody Allen, having a character say the line “You’re famous, the rules don’t apply to you,” before jumping into bed with a married man, is off-putting to me. 

If you are a die-hard Woody fan, this is worth seeing, because he’s back on-screen, but otherwise I would wait for Netflix on this one.