31.3.09

To Those Vegans and Health Food Nuts Out There

who say you can substitute rice or soy "cheese" for a healthy alternative "cheesy snack:"


You are completely full of LIES!!! and I hate you! Especially when you claim ANY cheese substitute to be "delicious!"


Seriously, you know you're in trouble when "It Melts!" is the best thing you can say about a product. I mean, plastic melts, too! Hmmm, plastic.....maybe I should be chewing on my stapler? Probably has more flavor....


I suggest you health nutters and Peta-peeps who want to congratulate me on my healthy, animal cruelty free afternoon "snack" choice stay faaaaaaaaaaaaaar away from me until Easter, and even then I'd wait until after I've gorged myself into a stupor on chocolate bunnies, cheese fries, Ben and Jerry's new organic chocolate macadamia nut ice cream, a gallon of Pepsi, fried mozzerella, a bucket of fried crispy chicken, mac and cheese, pizza, chicken-fried cheese, chocolate coated cheese curds, cheezy cheese bread, chicken fried chicken, and an Outback Steakhouse-sized plate heaped high with grilled cheese sammiches. If a SINGLE ONE of those sammiches is made with fake cheese, someone will pay. DO WE UNDERSTAND EACHOTHER???




Now excuse me while I finish choking down my organic brown rice crackers and pepperjack rice "cheese" while I try to imagine not so much that they are the real thing, but that they are edible, and that I'm not dying a little inside with each bite.

Huh. These crackers would actually be okay topped with brie.

Or smoked cheddar....

or sharp cheddar!

or stilton...

or Stinking Bishop!

or Dominick's spinach dip....

or abondance....

or leerdammer, munster or jarlsberg!

or cream cheese and smoked salmon!

I must stop now or I will cry.


29.3.09

Blogging Rashomon Style - But About 24 Hours Late

I do apologize for this being posted a day late. Shannon and I picked up a bookcase yesterday, an errand we were going to run today but we'd heard the weather was going to be CRAP (which it totally is.) Then we, erm, I, had to be a total anal freak and rearrange THE WHOLE BOOK COLLECTION (we have 1500-2000 books) to fill the new bookcase without just throwing things in will-nilly. There have to be SECTIONS. There has to be FLOW. The fact that I've nearly accomplished both in just over 4 hours of actively working on this project is a bit of a concern. I'm getting WAY too productive with my OCD and it's bound to find new ways to exhibit itself to torture me.

Shannon and I took off after work on Friday to head down to Hyde Park where we'd meet James for dinner and a movie and an episode of "The Mighty Boosh" and a lovely spilled riesling and a look-see at the medieval and theology sections at Powell's book store.

I got home at about 5, puttered about for about an hour to work off the stress of driving an hour and a half in Friday afternoon traffic, and we headed to Starbucks where I made AN AMAZING DISCOVERY!!!: The Starbucks on Lincoln and Wilson has a little tiny parking lot!!! They share it with Fleet Feet! Already the evening was promising to be fantastic.

We arrived at James just before 7 (me? early?? I know, right!?!?) and we left directly for Medici's. I was expecting Medici's to be packed because, well, it always is - especially on a Friday night, but it wasn't even half-full when we arrived. James informed me that this was the U of C's spring break, so I assumed all of the people in the place were losers with no friends and I looked sympathetically at all of them in turn. They, in turn, looked confused and alarmed.

As per usual, I had my entree selections narrowed down to two. I do this EVERY TIME we go out to eat at a new restaurant. I used to work as a waitress and bartender, and I learned early that if you suggest something that is REALLY GOOD, your tips reflect how happy the customer's belly is based on your suggestion. Many waitpersons totally screw this up by immediately suggesting the most pricey dish on the menu. Those waitpersons do not get tipped well if the most pricey dish on the menu isn't very tasty (I MEAN YOU, WAITER AT PAPASPIROS IN OAKBROOK!!! THAT LOBSTER MOUSSE DISH WAS DISGUSTING, AND I STILL HATE YOU FOR IT 8 YEARS LATER!!!) So I narrowed it down to the turkey burger and the salmon salad special. The waitress immediately pointed me toward the salmon special and was so sincerely jealous that I could order it and she could not (waitstaff can order anything from the menu except for the specials, turns out), that I took her suggestion. And was delighted. It was a little salty, but REALLY tasty.

After dinner we headed for Powell's where Shannon and I went directly to the medieval history section because we are nerds. We found a couple of books on Wales (we're going there in June, so we want to be prepared! Or at least able to pronounce stuff, like the names of places we'll be driving through), I found one on Dublin during the time of the Black Death (the plague from an Irishman's perspective! What could be more bleak??) and a gorgeous book on the designing and building of cathedrals. I got out of Powell's with $66 worth of books, James with $35, and Shannon? $120. Oh, and then we borrowed four more books from James because, obviously, we don't have enough to read including this one, which will offset the dense textbook on the middle ages that I'm currently tackling nicely.


Shannon and I put our take in the trunk of our car on the way back to James' to pretend the rape of the medieval section at Powell's hadn't happened. The day before we purchased OUR LAST BOOKCASE AND WE MEAN IT THIS TIME!!! no less.

After making ourselves "comfortable" on James' futon (note to James: I'll be sending you the bill for the hemorrhoid cream and x-rays to rule out sciatica in the mail later this week), we were introduced to The Mighty Boosh, season 3, episode I: "Eels."



OMG.

It is NUTS! It's an iTunes downloadable acid trip! I can't even describe it other than to say: I LOVE IT!! Oh, wait - it's not on iTunes. That means we have to subscribe for cable to get Adult Swim in order to view it. That or James is going to find us complaining on his futon every week or so.

After being Boosh-whacked, James broke out the booze - 43 for him and a lovely riesling for us, which I spilled about an hour into the film (thanks for not kicking me out for that, James!). We watched a film noir movie directed by Stanley Kubrick called The Killing (1956). I recommend it - especially if you're a fan of the film noir style. It was a bit disconcerting, though, that Nikki (Timothy Carey) one of the guys involved in the scheme looked a bit like Noel Fielding.





Aethelred was very interested in that clip, BTW - he watched it with me to see if he agreed Carey resembled Fielding after all. He's not so sure, and thinks maybe I was a bit "touched" by Boosh. He doesn't think I should watch it anymore, that maybe the pink-tentacled-head dude will be the next thing I'm seeing everywhere.

This is an outrage!

We had a great time hanging out with you, James! Thank you again! Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my booky wook.

24.3.09

If Katy Perry Had Talent,

She'd be Lily Allen.

Give a listen to my favorite song of the year so far, "The Fear."

It does contain some foul language, but then, it is Lily Allen.


Why, yes, that is a decapitated Bambi dress she's wearing!


I'm pretty sure this girl would have been a hero of mine if I was in high school at the height of her popularity. Minus her drinking binges and foul outbursts, that is. I was pretty straight-laced despite my appearance - a half-shaved head, the other half dyed purple-y-black, Doc Martens, "Party Naked!" t-shirts*** and jeans that I'd shredded with wear. You young whippersnappers that buy your jeans pre-shredded make me sad.


***(that shirt disappeared right quick as soon as my mom got a hold of it despite the the fact that our drama club had printed them up as anti-drug campaign (partying "naked" was partying sans drugs, not sans clothing, mom! Come on! Now where's my shirt? I know you've still got it hidden in the basement somewhere - you would NEVER throw away a perfectly good shirt, no matter how offensive! I know you're at least using it as a rag.))

20.3.09

It Takes A Special Kinda Talent

....to make Katy Perry look classy in comparison.

Love, Light, and Blessings to All! So Mote It Be.

Happy Spring Equinox!



It's too early for The Cars, but today I have to remove two of my favorite songs from my playlist because of their wintry themes.

"Snow (Hey, Oh!)" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers:



And my favorite song of 2008: "White Winter Hymnal" by Fleet Foxes:



Such a catchy little song, and so strange and oddly morbid! A perfect JoSong.

"I was following the pack all swallowed in their coats
With scarves of red tied 'round their throats
To keep their little heads from fallin' in the snow
And I turned 'round and there you go
And, Michael, you would fall
And turn the white snow red as strawberries in summertime"


I'm going to miss both of these songs dearly, but removing them from my playlist is a small reminder that the days will be getting longer and warmer soon. YAY!! Besides, returning them to my playlist in November will give me something to look forward when another Chicago winter looms!

I AM Freaksworthy!

On and off for about a year, Netflix has been recommending the movie Freaks to me based on some of the movies I've given high ratings to.




...Huh.

I was skeptical.

Here's the description:

"Director Tod Browning cast authentic circus folk, not actors, in this Greek tragedy about sideshow "freaks." Normal-sized trapeze artist Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova) marries diminutive Hans ( Harry Earles) with plans to poison him, take his inheritance and marry the brute Hercules (Henry Victor). When the freaks uncover Cleopatra's scheme and Hercules forces himself on an innocent girl, they gang up on the two miscreants. Wallace Ford also stars."

Hmmmm. Sounds like an excuse to exploit people with disabilities, and not even thinly veiled! But 4&1/2 stars? Maybe it's pretty good after all...? Anyway, I KNEW Shannon wouldn't be interested in this movie, but my curiosity got the best of me and I rented it through iTunes to watch on the plane on my way to or from Palm Springs. I ended up reading on the way there and being talked at by a woman who hates..well, everything on the way back; so it sat on my iPhone until Wednesday night. My rental would expire in a few days so I would have to watch it or eat the buck 99.

What the heck. I popped in my earbuds and started to watch.

Okay, so it's not the best movie I've ever seen, but I really enjoyed it. I especially loved that these people with disabilities were shown living their lives. I can't really explain it, but I loved to see these people able to take care of themselves and eachother while engaging in the kinds of petty dramas everyone experiences. Like the siamese twins. One of them is married to a man who loathes her sister (the feeling is mutual) and doesn't want her to "hang around that tramp anymore!" Voyeuristic? Oh, hell yes. But there was no call for pity. These "freaks" were portrayed as the people they are and were (I'm assuming many of them are gone now - the film was made in 1932) - taking care of themselves and taking care of eachother. I loved that.

Now I truly am Freaksworthy!

19.3.09

It's A Jungle Out There

Shannon and I are watching Monk via NetCrack, and we're about halfway through season 2. The theme has changed from the one I liked in season 1, an upbeat instrumental light jazzy piece, to one I'm conflicted about - Randy Newman's "It's A Jungle Out There." It's not that it's a bad song, I actually quite like it. It cracks me up every time he sings "I could be wrong now/BUT I DON'T THINK SO!" Heh! Good stuff!



My problem is that Randy Newman has been forever tainted for me by Will Sasso's portrayal of him in several sketches on MTV. Sasso was so good that the two of them - Randy Newman and Will Sasso is: Randy Newman - have been completely enmeshed in my brain. I can't think of Randy Newman without seeing Will Sasso as Randy Newman. And as you can see here, that's a good thing, and that's a bad thing:



Speaking of songs about Star Wars....

You'll thank me for this later.

Mixed Feelings about Repo! The Genetic Opera!


Shannon and I watched Repo! The Genetic Opera! a couple of weeks ago, and since then half of me wants to say "SKIP THIS!!" because the story borders on lame, the acting is "meh," the songs are trite, and the lyrics are stupid....

....but the other half of me wants to say "SEE THIS!" because I want to discuss how "we could have done a MUCH better job!," I loved the dark, gothic feel of the whole thing, and most importantly,

the more people who see it will know who Blind Mag is so I can go as her for Halloween.





*sigh!* I can't in good faith tell you to pop this film in your Netflix queue. I guess I'll either have to go as Blind Mag and risk nobody knowing who I am, or go as a cult favorite from a film that achieved true cultitude on it's own merit, thus inspiring "near miss" knock-offs like Repo!:


Nosy Women Used To Bug Me

"When are you going to start having kids?"

It's a question I've been asked different variations of since I was a high school senior. It started with "You'll be wanting to get married soon and start a family!" to "You're not getting any younger, and you're going to want to have energy to keep up with your kids! You'd better get married soon!" which progressed to "When are you getting married? You won't find one better than him!" (I did) to simply "When are you going to start having kids?"

I do get this one less and less frequently now that I'm getting older, so perhaps, after months of nobody asking, I was finally prepared with an answer this morning when a woman I barely know essentially told me I'd better start having children because I was going to be too old soon and I'd regret it.

My response? (After the initial internal "...Wow." I mean?)

"I'm not planning on having children because I'm afraid my enemies would try to use them as leverage."

That one, ladies, is a keeper. Take note of it. I've never seen a nosy woman back off so quickly and silently!

So, THIS is Underwhelming

I did get to the gym last night, but, aside from a couple of achy triceps and a sore tummy, I did pretty well. No tales of tying ("tying?" ...why does that word look so weird to me?) myself to one of the ping-pong players with my jump rope because I was backing up little by little with each jump and ran into him at the same time the rope was behind us both; no tales of having to be extricated from the tummy machine (the one that reminds me of that roller coaster bar thingy that you pull down from over your head on rides like the Iron Wolf!) with the jaws of life; not even an incident involving my falling off the balance ball and shooting it into the step class.

I'll try to do worse next time!

18.3.09

JoTivation


I have been a total lump about getting my butt to the gym or out the door for a run, and I think I know why. I haven't had the proper motivation. Sure, while some may want to work out to get in shape (mine is currently "pear, Bartlett"), run further (than the 1/2 block I can do currently without collapsing), lose weight (No, I am NOT telling you. Let's just say, I'm going to complete a virtual pilgrimage to Santiago, and I was originally going to start at the French border, but somehow, since October, I've found myself a little further east. Like, somewhere outside of Kyoto.), fit back into that cute skirt they wore in high school (or, for me, that cute skirt I wore last week); I require a different form of motivation, which may, at this point, be pretty obvious:

The opportunity for supreme self deprecation.

Expect your first installment of my "progress" tomorrow morning.

February ATE MY BLOG! Part Deux

I got back home from Rancho Mirage on February 25 and had to work FOR AN ENTIRE DAY on February 26. That night, though, we left for a much-needed vacation - a long weekend trip to Ohio to visit Mu and Mere.

We left around 6:30, and it had just started to rain.

It was a dark and stormy night....

Sheets of rain, cats, dogs, wildebeests, marmosets, and feral ferrets rained from the sky. Thankfully, we were stopping in Michigan for the night - a drive that usually takes about 2 & 1/2 hours. It took us a little longer what with the rain and the construction and the resulting narrowed lanes through Indiana along the 94; but we made it just after 10 (ET). At times I could barely see through the windshield it was pouring so violently, and the lanes on the expressway were all but invisible at times. I was a bit of a wreck by the time we reached Michigan, but we made it safely and had a good snooze before heading east in the much finer weather that greeted us the next morning.

After stopping at Sammy's for a brekkie (I had my usual: shredded potatoes, scrambled eggs made orangey-red with tons of Tabasco, wheat toast and a mugful of good coffee), we made our way towards Akron. Mu and Mere work at a high school where we were to meet them so they could put us to work teaching a class and coaching some Fools. We got there around 1 and in retrospect, a stop for a bite would have been a really good idea. I had a migraine threatening on the horizon and all I could think of was how to stop it, so I was pretty distracted when we go to the school. Thankfully, Mere led me to the vending machines in the cafeteria where I was able to stave off the migraine with what turned out to be the perfect cure: a granola bar, a Pepsi, a Zomig and a couple of ibuprofen.

Now I was ready.

Mu coaches an improv group of high school students called The Royal Fools - a great group of game souls consisting of mostly juniors and seniors - all year long, and he invites us to coach them about once a year. If we lived closer, we'd probably barge in more often. These young adults are fantastic to work with. They are SO full of energy, and they balk at nothing. This year, Mu's friend and colleague Brandon asked if we could guest-teach his drama class and introduce them to improv, since we were going to be there anyway. This was a scary prospect! Teach a high school drama class? Of non-improvisors?? Okay, there was one Fool in the class, but still! Turns out I wished we had another half-hour with that class. Like the Fools, though they were just a little more shy, they were game to try anything we threw at them. At first I thought we'd just be telling them about improv, maybe doing a few scenes to show them the form, but we ended up splitting the group in two and engaging them in scenes of their own with us coaching. They came up with some neat stuff! And it was all organic. It was really humbling and eye opening to see what happens when you "learn" the form and all of its rules, which can get you all tied up in your head. Here these kids were coming up with engaging and interesting scenes, and they didn't even know the RULES!

Shannon, by the way, is a natural teacher. I'm pretty good at warming people up and coaching scenes, but he is fantastic at explaining and giving feedback and SHOWING groups why we're doing what we're doing when we're doing a specific exercise. He gives examples. I just want to watch them and be entertained by what they come up with, helping them out of corners or derailing them from an emerging plot. (o: I'll say "this is a heightening exercise, and this is what you do," for example. That would be my form of "teaching," whereas Shannon'll SHOW them heightening, and then he'll get in there and give them an activity and he'll see a thousand ways to heighten that activity and he'll make them heighten it until they truly can't anymore. It is truly an awesome gift, and it was wonderful to see.

He did this one exercise with each of the Fools that truly got them out of their heads. It's an exercise that I'm intimidated by and hesitant to do when Shannon's directing the Buttresses, and here these high school whippersnappers were pretty fearlessly marching up one by one to take their turn. One of the Fools made the mistake of wearing baggy pants to the class and he had to heighten hiking them up while spinning around and SLAMMING his hands down on Mu's desk before spinning around again, jumping higher and higher, and repeating the action bigger and bigger for about 5 minutes. But he never stopped, and Shannon was right there with him the entire time. I really wish I had that on film. Talk about committing! They were BOTH right there.

After class, Mu and Mere took us to The Mustard Seed Market for dinner (I had the salmon. YUM! I've had salmon twice since we got back and neither was as good.) Mustard Seed Market is like a Whole Foods, but like a Whole Foods about 10 years ago. And I mean that in a good way, but I can't really describe it. There was a friendly folk singer with long, free, naturally greying hair singing throughout our meal, there was hemp milk and organic coffee; gelatin-free toaster pastries and nary a mass-produced label to be found. I picked up a pound of fair trade coffee beans for the road, and it is the yum! When we got back to Mu and Mere's place, we played It Was A Dark And Stormy Night (Mere (and I) won 8 to 7!) while waiting for the air mattress to inflate, and then went to bed. The next day, Shannon and Mu set about finding ways to redirect water from hitting a problem area on the roof (this involved about 2 hours and 6 trips to Home Depot) while Mere read Frank Conroy and I read Watchmen, which I wanted to finish before we left so that I could leave it for Mere. Some time after noon, we went for lunch and a poke-about at a bike shop, then I settled in to read Watchmen again while Mere read and the boys snoozed. Saturday night we kidnapped Mere and went to see the Clevelend Orchestra peform my favorite piece of music (THANK YOU, SHANNON!) - Beethoven's 7th (I'm especially fond of the 2nd movement!) - at Severence Hall (WOW!). I think Mu is still trying to download a film to his computer to watch that evening.

I finished reading Watchmen on Sunday morning and left it for Mere before we locked up and headed back west. We made it to Michigan in the early afternoon for a lovely visit with Eevam and Marc, and then left Michigan - after a breakfast of shredded potatoes, scrambled eggs made orangey-red with tons of Tabasco, wheat toast and a mugful of good coffee at Sammy's, of course - for home.

16.3.09

Treated Well By Starbucks

(Again)

Okay I know this is going to make me unpopular, but you know what? I really do love my Starbucks. I got a FREE VENTI SOY LATTE at this morning because the cup the barista had grabbed had (*GASP!*) a SHAMROCK drawn on it in marker. "It's not St. Patrick's Day anymore! I'm so sorry about that!" she said as she comped my drink for the "inconvenience." Holy bejeebus! What an awesome way to start my morning! Starbucks gets a bad rap because, well, it's true it is as ubiquitous as McDonald's, but I'll happily stick up for them. If they screw up my order, they forget me, or they take a longer-than-average time to get it to me, I get a voucher for a free drink. This has happened a total of 3 times in the last 5 years, and I go there at least once a week.

JoRant.

In contrast, I've been to The Grind and Ventrella about 5 times combined and The Grind had me waiting for 30 minutes once for a mocha (I had to ask for it - they'd forgotten me though I was one of 5 people reading in the place), while the one and only mocha I'd ever ordered at Ventrella sucked so badly I was totally put off the place. For good. Beans and Bagels always has me waiting forEVer, and they can rarely even remember what I ordered, or that I ordered anything, or they hope that if they ignore me I'll just go away and they won't have to be bothered with making my drink and/or sammich so I'm stuck there EVEN LONGER. This was really embarrassing the first two times I went there, because I was the only person in the place. Now I make sure to stick a book in my bag before I head out the door so I'll at least have something to read if they decide to look through me in anticipation of the yoga class across the street's ending soon.

This past Sunday we had to ask for Shannon's plain bagel three times. I understand that things get busy, I do. I've worked in pharmacies that filled an average of 7,092 prescriptions an hour, and you know what happened if we forgot someone's prescription or we gave them the wrong order? Do you? THEY DIED! So don't TELL me about pressure, bucko, and drop the attitude! I do want independent places to succeed (especially CafeNeo!!!), but some of them make me wonder how on earth they do....It's like the customer is an afterthought, or worse: a nuisance. The resumes at some of these places must ask you to rate your level of attitude from 1-11 and anything under a 15 is immediately thrown in the trash. If Beans and Bagel didn't have the best turkey reuben in Chicago, I'd never go there.

But they do.

So I go.

Once when I ordered one the guy just stared at me as though waiting for the punchline, and then actually asked me "Seriously? They're really a pain to make."

If that's true, take it off the menu and save me any future trips, jackwad. Until then, make me my damned sammich and let me get out of here so I can snarf it down in four bites out of sight of the fit and fabulous Bloom yogis who are drifting across the street on their shiny blue clouds of nirvana. They find enlightenment striking poses on a thin squishy mat, I find my perfect harmony in turkey, saurkraut and thousand island dressing on lightly toasted marbled rye.

So, yeah. I know why Starbucks succeeds. And I know why CafeNeo succeeds. I don't know why Beans and Bagels...? OH! They're located 40 feet from the Rockwell stop. And again, as long as they keep serving those turkey reubens, they'll get about 40 bucks a year outta me.

EndRant.

13.3.09

After Seeing Recipes On TasteSpotting Several Times

I finally looked up what "capsicum" was. *RELIEF!* Turns out it's a red pepper! NOT the ingredient I kept getting it confused with.



Sometimes that pharmacy backround causes me a lot of grief!

2 Signs That Marketers Are Taking "Food Porn" In A Totally WRONG!!!!! Direction

1) The Bacon Tuxedo, which actually smells like bacon:


Now, I LOVE bacon, and the smell of bacon. I drool over bacon. But do I lust for bacon?...okay that's arguable. But do I want to sleep with bacon??

A RESOUNDING NO.

2) Flame Cologne by Burger King. No, this is not a joke. It's actually for sale. Yes, they've actually bottled that trademark Burger King smell so you can smell like one of their tasty flame-broiled burgers yourself! You can have that smell with you, and on you, all day long...

Okay this is just so wrong on so many levels. Again, yes, Burger King smells fantastic. They've got that DOWN. But it's fast food. Do you really want to smell like something you can get 4 of for under $10? I don't think so. And again, I just do NOT want my man to smell like a piece of meat. This is GROSS. I am not a cannibal.

You know what's even MORE gross?

The ads.



If I wasn't off the red meat before, baby, I certainly am now! *barf!*

Another Zombie Celebrity I'm Not Familiar With?


or Living Dead Doll?

Funny how art imitates life! Or is it death, I mean? Or...living death?, or ... Oh, I don't know! I have a migraine. Can't. Philosophize. Hurts. OW!

12.3.09

February ATE MY BLOG!

Holy Bejeebus have I was remiss in my blogging. Is it because I've done NOTHING interesting since the middle of February? No. I have been wasting alot of valuable blog time working on several new projects at work and keeping myself updated on my new favorite time-suck: Facebook. I have to see what my Friends are up to on a quarter-hourly basis, comment on statuses, and play Lexulous and Word Twist until I finally beat Evan and Claire. In addition to Facebook, I was in Rancho Mirage, CA for a conference for 4 days which also threw me off my blogging. I didn't bring my laptop to Cali because I knew I wouldn't blog from there because I'd be too busy enjoying myself in the warm warm weathah....

....or would I?

In retrospect, having the computer would have been great. The weather was pretty awesome half the time, kinda chilly for the light clothes I'd brought the other half (Note: I'm on a quest for The Perfect Black Cardigan. I have a green one, but it doesn't match everything. Let me know if you find it!), but Rancho Mirage is NOT my cuppa. It's beautiful, but after two or three days I'm DONE. DONE with Rancho Mirage and its green green golf courses in the middle of the desert that are "watered five times a day ("more often in the summer!" Brilliant!) and it's lack of sidewalks and its sucky locals who live on bile and silicone and who surround Rancho Mirage in their gated and walled communities* (that keep....well, who out, exactly?), and their UTTER FREAKING RUDENESS TO EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE, including their own kids. I don't know, maybe they're irritated at their kids because those ungrateful twerps don't recognize them because of all the work they have done on, what appears to be from an outsider's perspective, a weekly basis. So they have to keep reintroducing themselves to their own children which makes them cranky.

Honestly, I saw a total of 5 locals outside (Oh yes. You can spot them.), and 2 of them had some serious and obvious work done. The first had her face pulled back so tightly you could bounce a quarter off her cheek, and, after the attitude she gave me and the poor cashier at Walgreens for not getting out of her way quickly enough, I was sore tempted to do so. (I was in the process of taking my bag from the cashier - my transaction was over - when this bitch charged over and IMMEDIATELY started tapping her credit card on the counter for ATTENTION!!!! THERE WAS NOBODY ELSE IN THE STORE. She was, essentially, THE ONLY CUSTOMER. "I'm EXHAUSTED! I've had an EXHAUSTING day! I just want to GET OUT OF HERE! I've been at the gym for AN HOUR AND A HALF!").

I think a lot of the locals take the latter part of their town's name, "Mirage," too much to heart. From far away it looks beautiful.....

And then you meet the people.

There are dozens of plastic surgeons who populate the strip malls of Rancho Mirage the way Thai restaurants do in Chicago. And it looks like the people who live there stop in regularly for a quick "fix" at these places the way normal folk stop in for a cuppa at Starbucks. And by "fix," I mean "really expensive and painful way to make you look like a really mean plasticshiny alien that's doing a horrible job of passing for a human. Or maybe an exotic cat." They haven't "fixed" anything that I can tell. Maybe they shouldn't be frequenting doctors who have storefronts sanwiched between Payless Shoes and a dry cleaners.

As for the other woman I saw, well, let's just say I'm pretty sure I know now where Darren Lynn Bousman came up with his ideas for Amber Sweet (Paris Hilton), the surgery-addicted daughter of the owner of GeneCo in Repo! The Genetic Opera:

Amber Sweet being dosed with an injection of the surgery pain medication, Zydrate, by Graverobber

The chick I saw may have been (unnaturally) blond and not dark-haired like Amber, but she certainly looked as though she was totally high on Zydrate at 10 in the morning, and she may have had had as many boob jobs (she was a size 0-2 with a double D chest) as Amber'd had face jobs.

Some of which had gone awry for Amber, for example, the time her face kinda started to peel off during her big debut.


And then there's Amber's brother, Parvi! Take note people!! This is where a few of you are headed:



In retrospect, I think the gated communities may be meant to keep THEM IN, AWAY from normal folk! Their bilious clouds of attitude made me long for Chicago, which will always be a far warmer place despite it's thick'n'cloudy cloudcover and (then) 7 degree temps!

So, yeah. If you have to go to Rancho Mirage,

1) Keep going. Pass up Rancho Mirage altogether and stay in Palm Springs actual. It's a further drive, but it's more beautiful, less phony, and the people, though some of them have more money than God, are really great.

If this is not an option,

2) RENT A CAR. There's tons to do several miles away, but NOTHING in Rancho Mirage, unless you've travelled all that way to check out the new Walgreens, which is the very cleanest, brightest, EMPTIEST Walgreens I've ever seen. Just make sure that plastic-faced bitch-woman isn't lurking in the card aisle waiting, just WAITING to spring to the counter at JUST the moment when you're finishing your transaction. She'll ruin your day.

3) Make it a short trip. 3-4 days max. It is BORING - especially after you've seen the new Walgreens. And it's stupidly expensive, because there's nothing else around. Oh, sure, the plastic surgeons's rates may be competitive..... Even if you golf (courses ran about $125/person, and we were there during the off-season!) 4 days is enough. That's enough time for a pedi and a vitamin D infusion and a relax. Again, it's ridiculously expensive - a 15 minute cab ride to Palm Desert - the nearest community (of sorts. Mainly it's an upscale mall. Makes Oak Brook look like Golf Mill. Yeep.) - cost us $35 each way.

4) Stay at the Rancho Mirage Westin and don't leave the gates. Unless you're in a car headed for Palm Springs or Palm Desert.

Maybe I'm just bitter because I only escaped the resort twice - once to go to Palm Desert for what really was a fantastic meal at a Pacifica, and once to walk to the Walgreens for a Pepsi that would've cost me $5 in the resort. The concierge almost had a heart attack when I told him I was going to LEAVE THE RESORT to walk A HALF MILE. He offered to have a resort driver take me. On my return, a golf cart was waiting for me at the entrance to take me back to my room.

Are you KIDDING??!???

Actually, in light of my new theory that those walled communities are there to keep the SilicaBeasties from destroying the glowy happiness of us Midwestern rube travellers who'd escaped from terrible weather for a few days of sunshine, maybe he was just trying to protect me.

You know what really kills me? The desert is BEAUTIFUL. Have you ever been to the Sonoma Desert Museum in Tucson? Go. It is AMAZING. My point is: the desert should NOT look like THIS:


Seriously, you can see miles of green from the plane. I know I have irrational (or are they...?) fears about the obscene waste of water in communities like this one and Las Vegas, but this is ridiculous. I had to fight down a panic attack in the taxi on the way to the airport when we passed a massive water park.

But I digress.

Anyway, the testing conference was pretty good!

Oh! And my computer would have been handy to have as I had hours here and there between meetings and vendor-sponsered events where I could have sat at the table on my little porch at the resort blogging, and I wouldn't have fallen so far behind (what do you mean, "Behind what? JoDrivel?" You know you find me fascinating!) There's only so much being driven around the resort in a golf cart a girl can do, and I'd already had my toes done at the spa within hours of my arrival.



*(JoSideRant regarding these gated communities: You can't walk through these communities unless you live there or are "announced" as a guest of a resident - a fact Shannon and I learned when we tried to walk around the resort two years ago when what we thought would be a half hour "jaunt" turned into a 4 hour nightmare where I thought one of us was going to die of thirst and the other would be forced to drink the fallen one's blood for the water content to survive - meanwhile we're surrounded by million dollar homes fronted by lush green lawns.)

Watchmen - No Spoilers!


My only one piece of advice before you see Watchmen: READ THE BOOK FIRST!!! It's such a good book. I found the movie to be a lovely companion to the book, but I don't think I would have enjoyed it nearly as much or followed it as well as I did if I'd gone in "cold." That said, you can skip over the pirate subplot in the book. I mean, I couldn't because my OCD wouldn't allow it, but you can. It isn't in the movie, and, though it's a good story in itself, it can be distracting.

I thought the director did a fantastic job of sticking to the text, though he did allude to things in the book that were not explained, so he could have, expounded a bit on the Keane Act, for example, or left it out all together. He also changed the ending a bit, which I thought made it even better.

Shannon and I went to see Watchmen last Saturday morning at 10:30. After reading a few reviews I was concerned that it might not be that as fantastic as I'd hoped, but ANYTHING would be better than the crap Saturday morning cartoons they have on these days! Honestly, whatever happened to Looney Toons? Kids today don't know how good we had it!

The beginning of Watchmen was amazing. There was a 3-way tie for The Best Part Of The Movie According To Me among opening credits, John Winchester, erm, I mean, Jeffrey Dean Morgan's performance as The Comedian, and Jackie Earle Haley's performance as Rorschach. The movie ran was 2 hours, 40 minutes, and it really flew by.

Don't read the rest of this until after you've seen the movie. It's not a spoiler, but I don't want to color your view! And after you've seen the movie, tell me, which Watchman are you? I think I would be Nite Owl II with Rorschach tendencies...

No, if I was a vigilante, I would be Rorschach with some Nite Owl II tendencies.


Hermann Rorschach
I make all of my dinner reservations under "Herman." COINCIDENCE???

JoRant!

I CANNOT STRESS how GODAWFULTERRIBLE Malin Akerman's acting was as Silk Spectre II. She. SUCKED. From the love scene where Akerman's acting like she's filming a back-room porno for $50 bucks and a case of Zima, of which she's drunk half, and the director made the unfortunate, moronic move of using Leonard Cohen's version of "Hallellujah" as the backround music (It was SO BAD I was laughing through it to keep from crying. SO. BAD.) to the end of the film, this bimbo gave her co-actors, excuse me, the actors who were forced to work with her useless ass, NOTHING to work with. She was awful. AWFUL! She shouldn't even be awarded a Razzie, she should just be turned away from and her existence quietly and completely forgotten. I'm sorry, I'm sure there are people out there who love her very much. Those people should surround her, preferably with soundproof foam, and keep her as far as possible from Hollywood and it's cameras, especially those Hollywood cameras that utilize motion and sound. The only reason I can fathom she had been cast was because she had legs up to Mars, where, incidentally, she ends up at one point. Shannon and I agreed that Apollonia Vanova (Silhouette), a character who had ZERO LINES, was FAR more compelling than The Silk Spectacle. I think the ONLY reason the director could give that he'd cast Akerman instead of Vanova as Silk Speculum is that Akerman was the perfect comic-book-formula height of one-half-head shorter than Nite Owl, whereas Vanova looked as though she'd tower over him. The very least they could have done was to switch the Silk Spectre I and II actors, so we would have seen Carla Gugino, an actress who can, well, act, through a much larger percentage of the movie than we were forced to endure Akerman.

That said, the rest of the movie was great, but from that godawful love scene on, every time Silk Spectre II (again, not to be confused with Silk Spectre I, who is actually a good actress (check her out in Sin City!) was in a scene, I did have to consciously keep myself from rolling my eyes. And Akerman was in A LOT of the movie. So my eyes were really sore by the end of it. In retrospect, going for a bathroom break or for some popcorn at the first strains of "Hallelujah" would have increased my enjoyment of the film exponentially.

Da GUILT!

Ah, Lent. This year, in addition to donating a total of $400 between Ash Wednesday (February 25) and Easter (April 12. 31 days from today. Not that I'm, heh heh, counting or anything....) to charity and reading 3 NONfiction (*GULP!*) books I gave up:
  • Fried foods
  • Desserts
  • Potato chips/unhealthy snacky snacks
  • Cheese (except feta and paneer). In fact, all dairy, outside of fat free yogurt, the occasional dash of skim milk in my coffee, or dairy found as a secondary ingredient in a dish (I won't allow myself a cream soup or an alfredo pasta sauce, for example; but if there's a cup of milk in a dish that someone made, I won't refuse it).
  • White sugar (esp in my coffee)
  • White pasta
  • White bread (except for those rolls Shannon gets at Harvest Time to dip in Honey B's awesome lentil stew)
  • Mayo
  • Soda
I have stocked the fridge with rice milk and the pantry with wheat pasta. I went to dinner at a French-American fusion restaurant on Monday and had an appetizer of scallops, a sauce-free John Dory, and mug of black coffee for dessert (Illy!!! Yummmm....) in lieu some of the richer main dishes. I had a mug of spicy hot chocolate and drank about half before setting it aside, realizing that I had forgotten to use rice milk.

I have been very, very good the past two weeks.

That is, I HAD been very very good - until yesterday. We went to my brother's for dinner and we ordered from my favorite Chinese restaurant: 168.

168 has my favorite dish: Empress Chicken.

I know that Empress Chicken, though not as popular as General Tso's chicken, is not an uncommon dish, but I have not seen it anywhere else. And even if I had? I don't know if anyone could make it better than 168. For serious.

What exactly is Empress Chicken, you ask? Empress Chicken is, essentially, pieces of battered-and-fried chicken in a spicy sauce. 168 serves the fried chicken bits separate from the sauce so it doesn't get all mushy in transit to your carry-out destination.

It.

Is.

So.

Good.

I went through the entire menu, line by line, knowing that the only thing I wanted.

Out of the 738+ items listed.

Was the Empress Chicken.

And I ordered it. The fact that I ordered it by number (118) and not by name doesn't make it any less true.

Heck, I figured I was damned anyway, so I threw in a fried egg roll to boot.

Now, I realize I gave up alot for Lent, and I'm okay about allowing myself a Diet Coke or half a sprite once a week or so, so why does this even bother me? I didn't throw out the salad I ordered last week because it had parmesan sprinkled on it, or the turkey reuben from Beans and Bagels because of the slice of swiss cheese. I haven't been to church in years, why do I feel so guilty and irritated with myself? Do I think God's mad at me?

No.

The answer? Fried foods are my biggest weakness. I LOVE them. Though I don't eat them every day, I certainly crave them every day, and knowing that I can just run and get a small fry from the cafeteria is a comfort, albeit one that I rarely indulge in. Just knowing they're there if I need them... In short, of all of the things I gave up, fried foods was the most difficult. Call it what you will - Guinness-batter-fried cod, Popeye's chicken, pakora, potato chips, fries, onion rings, mozzeralla sticks, shrimp fried rice, Empress Chicken...I crave fried foods more than any other, and they were the most difficult thing for me to give up. (I know! Even more difficult than CHEESE!!! and I LOVE CHEESE!!!!).

I have had no problem passing by a bakery, or wincing through extra-bitter black coffee knowing I can't temper it with the cream and sugar on the table. I actually love rice milk and wheat pasta; and I prefer pomodoro, puttanesca, and diavola sauces to creamy alfredos. I do miss pizza and grilled cheese, but I don't feel totally deprived when I'm eating a fabulous spinach salad at I Monelli while everyone else manges on pizza. On the other hand, I saw a picture of a woman eating a drumstick the other day and I almost went mad.




I told my boss that day that if I came across a Fry Daddy, I'd fry my own arm.

So when I had a slice of swiss on my reuben? No biggie. When I actively ordered a dish I KNEW was fulla fried awesomeness?

No good.

Now, I do realize that most people (?) agree that Sundays are free days during Lent, and that you can relax the rules on Sundays. Yes, this was a Wednesday, but I had observed my self-imposed penance through two Sundays, so why not cut myself some slack?

1) HAHAHAHAHAHAH!!! That's a goodie! You obviously have not been raised Catholic if you are asking me that question.

2) I don't agree with that "Sundays are FREE!" rule. Never have, and, no matter how many Yahoodies chime in to say "it's not cheating! Or "It's totally okay to cheat, man!" I never will subscribe to that view. My parents and grandparents made it clear that we kids could cheat on Sundays, but once we hit adulthood we'd be expected to do what they did and observe Lent actively from Ash Wednesday through Easter. Do not pass "GO!" Do not collect a bucket of KFC.

3) Lent isn't the same thing for me as it is for everyone who observes it. It's about my being strong and aware of my shortcomings, weaknesses, and tendency towards slackness, and my ability to be a better, stronger person for a little over 40 days. SO. When I gave into that craving - that particular craving - no matter how strong a craving it was?

I failed myself. Big "F" for Jo for Lent, 2009.

Luckily for me, Lent isn't over. There's still plenty of time to make myself suffer for my weakness!

So! I've raised that donation pledge to $500; I'll be reading God's War by Tyerman and The Medieval World, edited by Linehan and Nelson, as two of my three NonFiction books; and I'm extending the "fried foods, soda, and potato chips" portion of my fast to April 26. There now! Does that make me feel better about cheating yesterday?

Honestly?

No. No it doesn't.

Moral: Knowledge is power? I don't think so. You are, in fact, deluded. Now GUILT, my friend, GUILT: GUILT can get things DONE!