Wednesday, July 25, 2007

for once, i'm not talking about me. well sort of

It's no secret that I don't mind talking about myself. But when Jam recently tagged me to tell you eight more things about me, I couldn't come up with much. Well, beyond the fact that some lady on the train had on an almost identical shirt to the one I was wearing. The one with all the beadwork that my cousin had sent me from India. The only difference was color. And she was at my train station, getting on my car and sat down in front of me. Bizarre.

That perplexed me so much that I couldn't come up with anything else for a list.

However, partly to celebrate his gracing us with his presence for a couple of weeks and partly to shut him up for repeatedly telling me my blog sucks because I don't talk about him enough, I'll tell you eight things that have to do with my brother.

1) When we were little, there was a death match nearly every night at dinner about who would get to eat off the cheesy McDonalds plate. I'm talking about screaming, hitting, tears and vows of starvation, all over a stupid plastic plate about how Mayor McCheese was going to get some cold april showers. (It's the one on the bottom right. And no, I have no idea why we only had just the one, or what the hell the appeal was.)

2) This girl, Amy "The Kisser," would smooch my brother every day in kindergarten. But when she started touching him with her tongue, the engagement was off.

3) Every Indian kid has a real name and the pet name for which people will ridicule them for years. At age four, I was in charge of coming up with my brother's and resolutely decided on "Mickey Mouse." Later, because I was so frustrated with his always having to defer to his wishes, I dubbed him "Highness," which became a term of endearment. I've only called him by his real name (and only once in awhile at that) for the last two years, and he's still Highness on my cellphone. However, if anyone else calls him that, I will kick their ass.

4) We watched The Dukes of Hazzard every single summer morning, usually while perched on top of the "car ramp" my brother would build out of the couch cushions.

5) When I went away to college, I forgot to hide the Betamax tape my dad had recorded of Strawberry Shortcake: In Big Apple City off tv in the early '80s. This particular movie was the one tape i secretly treasured beyond belief. Plus it had these badass commercials for Star Wars action figures and the Sit-n-Spin, the toy upon which I built my fame of being fearless at preschool. I must have seen it hundreds of times growing up and sometimes I'd like to put it on when I wanted to forget that I was supposed to be figuring out how to pay for books or what I was going to do with the rest of my life. And, in my parents' house, it was the only videotape earmarked for me. All the rest were designated for the recording of Hindi movie songs or sporting events so my brother could rewatch games he already knew the endings of.

So I was away, and one weekend my mom refused to give him a new videocassette for that Sunday's football match. He couldn't bear to tape over any of his other precious games, so the kid obliterated Strawberry Shortcake and all her fruity friends with some Bears game that they didn't even win. And when I discovered the unforgivable offense, I was beyond irate.

He was sorry, but I didn't realize how much until the Christmas, when I opened my gift from him. This was a big deal, because as a 13-year-old in a pre-Internet household, he managed to figure out what he had destroyed and get an original by using only a telephone and his schmoozing skills. I haven't watched it since that Christmas Day, but I was very touched (I still miss those commercials, though).

6) His obsession with Dave Matthews Band is only eclipsed (as is everything else) by his die-hard devotion to the Chicago Cubs.

7) My brother is notorious for what he says under the influence of surgery-related pain medication. One time after he had come out of an open-heart procedure, his world-renowned surgeon was checking that everything was going according to plan. My brother asked what kind of car the doctor drove and then proceeded to ridicule him beyond belief about his Ford Taurus. The kid has threatened to pulverize men three times his size as well as romance all the ladies in the entire hospital wing (with commentary on varying degrees of hotness to their faces). And I'm sure he has no regrets.

8) He can't grow facial hair to save his life and he barely has any hair on his legs. That last part is particularly annoying.

I have no fear of retribution because he won't see this list until probably next week when they let him out of the hospital. He's having surgery tomorrow morning to move his pacemaker, which they put in his abdomen last summer. Apparently, his body had other ideas all year, as it has refused to completely heal around it all this time. Let's hope it likes the new spot better.

As always, any good vibes are always appreciated. We will be back to our regular programming soon.

Friday, July 20, 2007

i need to hold my hippogriffs

On some of your blogs recently, I've commented about how I stumbled upon the whole Harry Potter phenomenon--basically this law professor that I admired and feared closed a complicated lecture with a p.s. he prefaced with "Now, hear me out." It was a little after the first HP came out and he had been reading it to his kids at bedtime. He confessed that it was the first of their books that he looked forward to opening every night and consistently kept reading after they'd fallen asleep. He said that even though it's a "kids' book," HP is an excellent read for anyone. I was so curious, I went out and bought it right after class. I stayed up all night, didn't do any homework and finished it in nearly one sitting.

Granted, I had the benefit of being the first person outside of that class to get hooked on what would become a billion-dollar franchise. (I'm sure if I hadn't discovered it so early on, the hype would have been an automatic turnoff.) I saw the first movie, but because they left out one of my favorite parts, I've been sour on them ever since. I get it; it's tricky to condense 900 pages into two hours of screentime, and I sure don't envy that job. But I still prefer the books--pacing is at your own discretion and no amount of CGI magic can top your own imagination. Plus, it's well-written (can't say that about a ton of books these days), exciting, unpredictable, and--with the cost of movies today--you get more entertainment for your money.

The last of the series comes out tomorrow, and I plan to be holed up and inhaling it as fast as I can so someone doesn't spoil it for me (last time around, somebody gave away the climax to a whole line of people waiting to buy the book). To refresh my memory, I've been trying to read the two that came before it, but I haven't been doing a very good job. And I think the frenzy of finishing on time is addling my mind.

* This week has been extremely busy at work, with my putting in 15-hour days three times and collapsing in exhaustion as soon as I get home. Last night I actually fell asleep early with the book on my face and didn't even notice for a couple of hours.

* When the train stopped in the city this morning, I was so engrossed I couldn't remember if I retrieve my monthly train/bus/El pass ($140) until I was almost all the way to the bus and didn't see it in the pocket of my bag. I ran all the way back to the tracks and went through 2/3 of the cars searching for it until the conductor announced on the intercom, "You have exactly one more minute, young lady!"

When I got off, defeated that I hadn't found it, he gave me a stern lecture about how I should either keep the ticket on a lanyard around my neck or just hold it in my hand instead of putting it into the little clip on the edge of my seat. He went on to say that I'd made them late getting back to the yard which really pisses off the engineer and these days money is tight for everyone and the chances of it being returned to Lost and Found are slim. Then he put his hand on my shoulder, looked down and me and said he hoped I'd learned my very expensive lesson.

I'm usually very good about holding onto that sucker and I thought I remembered taking it off the clip and putting it into my bag-- especially because the head of the sleeping guy in front of me was lolling dangerously near my ticket and I had to wait for him to shift to get it. Upon further inspection, it actually WAS in my bag, tucked between the pages of my datebook, which is why I didn't see it earlier. I still feel like I had to go to the principal's office for no reason, but at least I didn't waste my money.

* All that drama made me miss my bus, and another one didn't come for forty minutes. After I got on I was so distracted by the book that I didn't realize I should have gotten off until three stops past my office.

* After all the chaos of this past week, today is a slow day at work, and it's going to take all my will power to leave HP in my bag and focus on reports. But I'm sure I'll find a way to justify taking it out to the park for some catching up during lunch.

Despite all that, I still recommend ignoring the hype and giving the books a whirl to those who haven't already. You've gotta admit there's something special about a story that has got kids putting down their PS3s to pay attention. But after today, I probably should add a warning: READING HARRY POTTER MAY PUT A HEX ON YOUR BRAIN.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

what you got in that BAG?

What is up with all the $1,000-plus spending on trendy handbags and shoes these days? Don't get me wrong, I love me some cool mules or a sexy purse as much as the next broad, but DUDE, how are people in my tax bracket affording the latest Coach or Christian Louboutin every few months? Mortgaging their kidneys? Foregoing trips to see grandma? Hiding sugar daddies in their closets?

Take this, for example. Basically, designer Anya Hindmarch is giving the U.K. snootietooties another reason to turn their noses up at disposable plastic grocery bags. But how many people who buy her bags actually get their own groceries in the first place? And you know it's only a matter of time before Americans jump on the bandwagon. Thomas Rogers pointed out, for's Broadsheet, that another designer is capitalizing the frenzy and calling them out on it. Now that's what I call wearing your heart on your sleeve.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

but it would have been cooler with the song

I'm not going to lie; I had a great childhood. And part of what made it so quacktastic is Duck Tales (you know, along with all the love and nurturing I got from my family). That fine-feathered program was only one of about 68* shows from those carefree days that I look back on with a great deal of fondness. My heart still melts just a little when I remember how I would dream about having enough money to take off my spats and dive into without worrying I'd get a concussion.

Sigh. Those were the days.

I love all my favorite shows from yesteryear in much the same way, and that cheesy sentimentality is probably what makes me a target demographic for Transformers: The Movie 2 (let's not forget about the original 1986 bigscreen adventure, Transformers: The Movie, which was animated). I saw that one and probably all of the original American episodes, too, because back then my brother and I just loved to watch those Autobots wage their BATTLE. to. DESTROY. the EVIL. FORCES. OF... THE DECEPTICONS.

H is a fan, too, so of course we went to see it when he was here, and I liked it. A lot. That has come as a surprise to a shocking number of people, in my opinion. So let me break it down (WARNING: MAY INCLUDE SPOILERS):

* The girls were dressed like hoochies, which I have been told prepubescent boys (another major target audience) like to look at as well as technogeekery, things blowing up and elaborate car chases. And while I adore that last one myself, the whorified getup on the girls--peroxide/dark roots and stiletto heels ensemble doesn't really scream "government analyst," and skirts that are wider than they are long don't lend a lot of cinematic credibility when it comes to taking apart a carburetor--was irritating. But what do I know? Regardless, what are the young chickadees watching this going to think? You have to dress like a tramp if you want your brains to get noticed? Ugh.

* The CGI work was great. But sometimes, especially during the fight scenes, it was hard to differentiate Autobots from Decepticons.

* The battle scene was a little convoluted and went on too long. I understand that was probably an attempt for reality, but it didn't stop me from dozing off during part of it (I have a reputation to live up to, after all).

* Product placement? I'm not a big fan, but the truth of our Tivo World is that it's here to stay. Hell, it's been here for ages, even if it was subtler before. Besides, anything's gotta be better than seeing Jennifer Garner bark, "Get to the Ford-F150!" in Alias. How credible is a double agent who has the time to say all that when she's chasing a baddie or trying to avoid getting assassinated? Didn't she learn anything from Batman?

* Aside from a stuttering speech to impress the girl, there was no reference to the show's original kickass themesong. It was short, original and catchy, (something that is missing from television of today, but that's a post for another time). I thought they might've even used a little snippet of Gnarles Barkley's "Transformer," but no.

* Some of the main characters weren't even alive when the show came out in 1984.

* The girls were the ones who most reliably proved to have enough brains to save the day, and on multiple occasions. Ole girl analyst is the one who spotted the problem (thank God she wasn't reduced to flirting with somebody to get attention), and junior-hoochie proved to be very handy with mechanic stuff and had some impressive backwards-towtruck-driving skills. For reals.

* They had the sense to use the original voice of Optimus Prime. If they hadn't, the movie would have been total crap.

* Bumblebee has always been my favorite, and he still is. Answering questions with song lyrics is classic '60s Herbie-style fun. And I was still chuckling about the scene featuring No Mercy's "Baby Come Back" even as we left the theater. But I do think it's beyond creepy that people can feel comfortable making out on a car hood knowing that the car can comprehend what is happening on top of it.

* It was an improvement on the original. The television series wasn't known for its technology or the strength of its screenplay, and even though this film is a piggyback on something old--which i generally despise--at least it was better in all aspects save for themesong. It's not a corruption of something that was fantastic in its own right and should either be remastered and re-released OR LEFT THE HELL ALONE. I'm looking at you, Alvin and the Chipmunks remake: As cool as he is, Jason Lee is NO Dave Seville!

* I was sad when Optimus Prime died in the The Movie 1, so I'm glad they had a whole new story.

* Even though he's everywhere at once right now (can we say Jude Law in 2004?), Shia LaBeouf was very endearing. My heart went out to him in a very Boy Meets World kind of way. After the movie, H and I caught the tail end of an Even Stevens marathon in which a curly-headed Shia was eating a soggy philly cheesesteak in the ocean with his surfer buddy. Adorable.

Aside from all that, I probably loved the movie most because it took me back to those great days. I was surprised I remembered so much about the characters--even down to Decepticon names like Bonecrusher and Starscream. I wonder if people who never watched the show had any idea what was going on during certain scenes. For me, somehow, watching the robots transform in and out of disguise was comforting in a warm, fuzzy, nostalgic kind of way.

But the experience wasn't complete without going home and watching this on YouTube.

*One night when I was stuck in the dungeon especially late, H and I were e-mailing back and forth about the Scooby-Doo themesong. That discussion turned into a lengthy treatise and compilation of all the significant cartoons we watched as kids. I have searched high and low for the 2006 planner in which I recorded the list, to no avail and my great frustration.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

every time i go outside, it rains

"This is turning into an epidemic."

"I'm telling you, write a letter to Mayor Daley..."

"No kidding! Last week there was an eight-percent-visibility monsoon when I was driving to the airport to pick you up, and as soon as you got in the car it was gorgeous the whole time--right up until your plane took off again five days later, when it promptly started drizzling. You really are magical."

"It's probably rained more in one afternoon there than it has all year in Southern California."

"Hmph. Let's see, Monday it was hot and sunny--until I left the office to walk to the bus stop when it rained only until I got onto the bus. Then Tuesday the same thing; as soon as I started shutting down my computer the Heavens decided to unload. That time I made it to a bus shelter, but then the bus didn't come for FIFTY minutes and there was half a foot of water in the street. And then this morning just as I stepped onto the platform to wait for the train, it began to pour! All these people stood out in it with their umbrellas so they could get on the train first, so the poor chumps without umbrellas got soaked waiting behind them while they stopped before getting on to close their umbrellas. All for what? To make that four-foot trek from the awning to the train without getting wet? What are they, made of sugar?!"

"Howcome you don't carry an umbrella?"

"You think I haul around that hugeass bag without an umbrella? I guess I never deem it worthy of opening because I either won't be outside long enough or it's not raining hard enough to make it worth the trouble."

"I didn't think so, but you kept talking about how you were getting dumped on... Have you thought about plastic work clothes?"

Monday, July 09, 2007

And the card attached would say

Now that I work during the DAY! (No it hasn't gotten old yet), I can check out all the cute little city shops that taunted me back when I was on dungeon duty. So to make up for lost time, I leisurely browsed around in Greer, weighing the value of each and every item in the store with my hands, my heart and my wallet.

There are so many clever little things in that store, among them a pack of tiny thank you cards. I thought they were cute, but didn't buy them. And then somebody gave me one.

The 1 7/8" by 2 7/8" card, on a stripedy bedspread.

And on the back:

"Please reuse"

You know how I like to follow directions, so I carefully tucked it away for just the right moment and have sent it along to a very deserving recipient. CC went to Greece and Cyprus and brought back a souvenir that was just perfect for me:

An age-old Hellenic symbol to protect me from haters.

Everybody knows how superstitious I am, especially cc, who researched and explained the how this symbol is used to ward off bad things, from curses to bad-hair days. And, while I haven't decided if I completely believe in that stuff, I do know that I need all the help I can get--especially in the departments of catching trains and matching clothing. Thanks cc, you rock!

Speaking of people who rock, Radioactive Jam says I'm a

How awesome is that?

YOU rock, Jam. You got an honorable mention and you're a boy.

I happen to think Jinius rocks. Recently, she nearly gave up on her blog but decided to give it another shot. Plus she can appreciate the subtleties of Golden Girls and has a near reverence for food. Keep on truckin', Jinius!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

while the world plays

I am at the office.

H is in town and currently sailing down the Chicago River on an architectral tour.

I've finished up most of today's to-do already, so I had time to check this out:

Dance Dance Revolution

No, it's not the get-off-your-rump video game, it's about a traveling man and his happy dance.

It made me smile today.

Monday, July 02, 2007

one more for old times--and disco lights

They say that it's hard to keep childhood friends. Something about how you don't really know who you are when you're a kid so you can't make the best decisions about what's going to last you a lifetime. And while that may be true, If you go through enough crap with people--no matter how much they make you want to tie them to a chair and duct tape their mouths closed so you can beat them about the head and explain just how wrong they are--one day you'll wake up and they're part of your family. And everybody knows, no matter what you do, it's not easy to break away from family.

If you search this blog for Ale, or Ri, or Kai/Kaiya, or Highcon/High Contrast or even Chandler, you'll see that I'm still pretty tight with my high school peeps. And it's been a good while, now. In October we went to the ten-year reunion together and some of us have known each other since fifth grade, collecting the rest along the way.

We've been through a lot. There have been unproductive library meetups, school dances, aid to hide those *secret* highschool sweethearts, cross-country moves, inter-university visits, weddings, funerals, graduations, intercontinental moves and long long waits in hospitals. There have been eight-hour tournaments of how-long-can-we-keep-this-tennis-ball-in-the-air and 5 a.m. post-clubbing sing-alongs of '80s television theme songs. There has been puking in the street, screaming at top volume in public and bouts of the silent treatment. There have been long evenings of hanging out followed by long nights of sitting in somebody's driveway, discussing relationships. There have been out-of-state vacations, out-of-country vacations and out-of-mind vacations. There have been three- and four-person telephone marathons. There has been crying on shoulders and lots and lots and lots of listening. And then there was that time we all tried to share one tiny futon mattress in Buffalo. (Everyone sleeping with both their head and their feet hanging off a mattress just so nobody has to be on the floor is not a good idea, trust me.)

The beauty of a longterm closeknit group is that you learn what everyone's weak points are, but that doesn't make those habits irritate you any less. While arguments are never restricted to the two people directly involved, it also means there are more hands to mend fences and more pressure to make nice. And if there's one thing in abundance when that many people are that comfortable with each other, it is opinionated discussion. Plenty of it.

Our nongroup friends, families and even coworkers often hear more than they should about the group--sometimes simply from overhearing phone conversations over the years. That talk gained enough notoriety that someone I worked with suggested our group be featured by a suburban Chicago newspaper as the "real-life local counterparts" to television's Friends in the coverage of the show's series finale. We are nothing like that tv bunch but, then again, in some respects we are exactly like them.

As reporters sometimes do, he doggedly pursued ridiculous angles he wanted for the story: Did any of you have a pet monkey? No. Are any of you neat freaks or actors? Nope. Did any of you marry somebody who turned out to be gay? Uh, definitely not.

The story was cute and very short. (No, you can't find it online.) But to be honest, it would have been a lot better if the reporter wasn't trying so hard to squeeze us into Central Perk stereotypes. He should have focused on the best gems about our group instead. Like how Highcon and I once went toe-to-toe yelling at each other so loudly outside an improv comedy theater--screaming with the force and flying spit of a baseball manager and umpire--that when we paused to take a breath and realized the entire block was staring, Ri, Kai and Chandler thought fast enough to clap as though it was all just a "sketch." We took a bow and smiled even though we were livid. (I believe that fight was about shoes. Don't ask.)

For better or worse, one thing that's always brought us all together is a birthday. We've always done those up with style. Overpriced 30-person meals at some frou-frou restaurant? Sure, sometimes. But we've also thrown a dress-the-part murder mystery; a full-out luau with an island mural, leis and all kinds of tropical food/drinks; a Guy-Smiley This is Your Life gameshow (where are my Sesame Street fans?) complete with a big board and question cards; and a 40-person suburban houseparty with samosas and jell-o shots that somehow migrated to a field beyond somebody's back yard.

Unfortunately as the years went on, free time began to evaporate. People moved away, got longterm partners, were chained to dungeons or became 90-hour-a-week work dorks. These days, hanging out needs to be scheduled a month in advance and getting someone on the phone for a chat is tricky in itself. Gone are the days when you could call somebody up and say, "Hey I'm thinking about going to the movies; meet me in 20 minutes?" Even the annual post-family-11-pm Thanksgiving rendezvous at our favorite latenight diner may not be a tradition much longer. But we'll always have birthdays.

A couple weekends ago, Highcon was in town for his 29th. This was especially nice because he moved to New York last year and few of us have seen him since. We decided to keep the celebration small but loud and took him to a homey Thai restaurant for family-style face stuffing, followed by an evening of entertainment at a nondescript Karaoke place in Korea Town where you can rent a private room and rock out to your heart's content with an audience of only your best pals. And for a guy who--until he went corporate--was notorious for singing into everybody's voicemail at the top of his lungs, Karaoke was right up his alley.

The place was seriously high-tech, with a huge flatscreen tv showing lyrics, TWO microphones, and a songbook in English, Korean and Chinese. The remote control wasn't in English, so that took some getting used to, but soon enough we were all belting out everything from Guns 'N Roses to Shakira. The light-up tambourines, disco lights and free champagne all helped with the so-you-think-you-can-sing ambiance.

At the end of the night, we were hoarse and pooped. It had been just like old times in somebody's car jamming to the radio and singing along at the top of our lungs. Except now it's 12 years later and we can't stay up late anymore. We went out for one last drink, said our bon voyages and talk to you laters and went off in different directions into the night.

It was the best kind of oldschool fun. Who knows when we'll all be in the same place to cut cake and sing with abandon again. Maybe we shouldn't have taken it for granted back when we could.

The birthday boy, serenading the ones who know him best.