Monday, September 29, 2008

Must have music

As my training runs increased in length, I realized that it wouldn't do for me to listen to the incessant sound of my nostrils whooshing. I needed music in a bad way, so I made a date with my good friend eBay and scored myself a nice little iPod. I might be the last person on the planet to have purchased one, but that's the way I operate. When CDs started making their debut, I recall distinctly thinking that they were frivolous when I could listen to all my music on a cassette just fine--with the ability to record it right from the radio to boot! (as long as you don't mind a bit of DJ chatter at the beginning and end of every song on your mix tape, it's totally rad.) I also didn't see Titanic in the theatre, and have yet to create a social networking profile the likes of MyBook or FaceSpace or whatever. So you could say I'm a little slow to react when it comes to trends.

The day after my iPod arrived was to be our longest run yet: 4 miles, so I set to work uploading CDs into iTunes. I am a highly organized individual, and I can't stand the thought of just importing entire albums when I might only listen to a handful of songs from each. I don't want my shuffle setting to be an unending skip session--that would be no better than listening to the radio. So I am painstakingly going through each disc and selecting the songs that are worthy of my playlists. I use the present tense because the process is less than half finished. I don't know all the titles of songs I like, so I have to listen to snippets of some before deciding. On top of this I need to create a playlist just for running: songs with a tempo to keep me moving fast when I just want to lie down.

Since I had informed her that I finally jumped on the bandwagon, Margie brought her iPod for the first time too. But when I turned mine on I realized...I had uploaded a bunch of CDs, but had forgotten to sync the player with my computer. So the only music I had on my iPod was a test song I had downloaded compliments of Starbuck's pick of the week. In my humble opinion it sounded like the music I normally hear blasting from the boombox outside a house being framed by a group of Latin-American gentleman. In case you don't walk by construction sites often, it could be the same music playing over the speakers in your favorite authentic Mexican Restaurant. So that wasn't going to happen. I put my iPod back in the car, but told Margie she should still use hers, it was no big deal.

That was a naive statement to make, because that was a horrible run for me. I think Margie was in the zone with her music, and I felt like I was dragging 50-pound weights on each leg. It was a tough run. Our next run was a shorter distance, but listening to music helped significantly. I felt great and finished the run strong. What a difference.

Yesterday I ran my first race since I was 19. It was a measley little 5k. And it really kicked my butt. I am pleased that I finished with about a 9 minute/mile pace, but I would have loved to quit only halfway through. This makes me quite nervous for the 5-mile race I'm supposed to run this Sunday. My friend Anne, an experienced runner, said that I just need to go slower. She also said that I'm supposed to feel that way during a 5k, because "if you run it right, you should feel like throwing up at the end." Hm. By that advice, I'd say I did mighty well indeed.

Monday, September 22, 2008

First half marathon

On Saturday I walked 13.1 miles at the Champoeg Half Marathon. For you out-of-towners, that is pronounced sham-POO-ie, and it is the name of a State Park here in Oregon.

As you know, I've been training to do some beginner running races in the coming weeks. I thought it would be fun to throw this fitness walking challenge into the mix too, mainly so I could take pride in covering a greater distance, I suppose. I wanted a companion, so I sent an email last month to a select group of friends who both a) were in good enough shape to keep up with me for the distance, and b) I could envision sharing a pleasant 4-hour conversation. The only person I was able to recruit was my friend and Curves employee Linda. Now, Linda is almost 60, but I knew she walked 91 miles the week of Relay for Life this year, in honor of her mother who died of cancer at age 91. And I happen to really enjoy Linda's company, so it emerged as a good match.

I haven't been specifically training for this event, since I've replaced most of my walking with running. I do still push MBW in the stroller through my very hilly neighborhood sometimes, but we don't usually cover more than 3 miles at a time. But come on, it's just walking, right?

Well, Linda and I did just fine, but the last few miles were pretty intense. My iliopsoas (front of hip joint) was the most sore, and my back and ankles started aching too. I never felt like I needed to stop or like I couldn't finish it, but was pushing myself through some mild discomfort.

Here are my three favorite stories from My First Half Marathon Ever:

1. The Thirsty Runner
Walkers embarked on the course an hour earlier than runners. So about an hour and a half in, we were being passed by runners. The race brochure promised 3 water stations along the course. After the 5th mile, we still hadn't seen one. Around a bend in the road, we started up a fairly steep hill. From just behind us came a young woman's grunt of agony. She yelled, "Where is the water?" as she jogged painfully past us up the hill. Several people in the vicinity agreed that a tasty drop would be presently welcome.

This woman, now about 15 feet ahead of us, exclaimed between breaths that she was dying of thirst. She seemed pretty miserable, and so I said, "You can have a drink of my water..." The woman pivoted on her heels without delay and jogged toward me, mouth agape like a shark closing in on its prey. But I didn't have a water bottle I could squirt in her mouth, I was wearing my Camelbak, which has a straw-like apparatus attached over my shoulder, and which requires complete oral closure and suction to extract the refreshing water from within.

So we fast-walked side-by-side while she awkwardly tried to position herself in a way to get her mouth on the straw and suckle a sip. I was contorting as well to provide assistance, and explaining the technique in case she wasn't familiar with Camelbak's unique valve. Within a few moments she was off and running again, surely better off for the hydration. I honestly can't remember right now if she thanked me, but I'll give her the benefit of the doubt here and imagine that she did.
Linda and I continued walking, taking a few moments to contemplate what had just occurred. I broke the silence by stating my observation that she didn't even hesitate. Roles reversed, if I would consider taking a stranger's offer of water, I know I would say, "Really?! Are you sure you don't mind?" And then, once I discovered that it would be impossible to share the water without a significant exchange of mouth cooties, I might seriously reconsider, thanking the person for their offer without taking advantage of it. Her immediate voracity, turning to me with mouth open wide, made me chuckle all the way until we reached the top of the hill...where we encountered the first water station.

2. Satisfaction Denied
Since I haven't been training for this event, I really had no idea what our mile pace would be. I expected it would be under 15 minutes per mile for some reason, so when Linda checked our time past the 8-mile mark and we were at 2h 15m, I was a little bit disappointed. But I didn't feel like we were walking slowly; we were definitely not strolling. We had not passed any walkers the whole time, and although I knew there were at least a couple of people behind us, I was surprised that we were so far behind the rest of the walking pack.

When we starting gaining ground on a couple of walkers ahead of us, I was pleased. Although I wasn't in the race to win, it would be satisfying to know that we picked up our pace enough to get past someone who started ahead of us. As we approached the two ladies, I noticed they weren't walking very fast at all. As we closed in, it became apparent that one was hunched over a bit, and I realized they were both adorable little blue-hairs, just out for a leisurely morning stroll. These two weren't participants in our event at all, our walking paths just happened to cross. So I flipped them the bird as we blew past them and shouted "So long, suckers!"

Just kidding.

3. Default Ribbon
Talk about a fanfare-free finish. By the time Linda and I pulled into the home stretch, most people had eaten their celebratory Clif bar, stretched their quads, and headed home. As we walked through the finisher's chute at 3h 42m, a young girl unceremoniously handed me a couple of medals, assuming I could do the honor of presenting Linda with hers. I examined the label on the back of the medal as I walked, and just as I asked aloud, to no one in particular, "Why does it say, 'Vancouver Marine Park 2.5 mile--'", I was interrupted by the same young girl running purposefully toward me with a sticker for to place over the existing label, this one printed with the information for the event which we had actually just finished. Leftover medals. Nice.

The announcer was reading off the runners who had placed in each age group as Linda and I rested and stretched on the grass. There were maybe 20 people hanging around to listen. Then he moved on to the walkers, listing the overall winners plus 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in each gendered age group. He read off the female winners for age 20-24. Then 30-34, followed by 35-39. He skipped age 25-29 completely! So after all the names were read and a couple of people emerged from the remaining "crowd" to claim their ribbon, I approached the table.

"You didn't read the winners for age 25-29," I said politely.

He looked at his papers and replied, "Oh, there wasn't anyone in that age group."

"I'm 27!" I said, with the excitement of a kid on Christmas morning. I just crossed the finish line 15 minutes ago, but it was looking like I won first place in my division.

As he was getting ready to hand me my blue ribbon, the last four walkers crossed the finish. No one had come in between Linda and me and these two pairs (which puts us at 6th from last place, woo-hoo!). The man hesitated handing me the ribbon, looking at the final finishers. He wanted to make sure none of them would be first place in my age group. Even though they were all coming in after me.

He said, "What about that, she's probably over 30." Really?!?!? I don't care if she's 29, but give her the second place ribbon. Clearly she did not beat my time since I am standing in front of you and she is just walking across the finish line! I finally pryed my prized ribbon from the announcer (not really) and laughed all the way back to the car thinking that I came in nearly last place overall but still brought home a blue ribbon.

Walking the Half Marathon was a great experience, and I would enjoy doing it again. Maybe one day I'll run it and get there before all the Clif bars are devoured. Thank you for joining me Linda!Notice the empty parking lot...

My book got published

My book is now a published best-seller! Unfortunately, I won't be getting any portion of the profits, because I did not write it.

In 2001, I had the idea to write this book:

My work-in-progress title was The Psychology of Dining Out: Observations of Social Customs and Quirks, plus 15 tips for getting the best service in fine restaurants. But truthfully, that was simply a fancy way of luring people to read my Waiter Rant! I believed too few people would actually want to read my jaded commentary on the human condition from the perspective of an apron-clad worker. Wish I hadn't doubted myself. The book got its humble beginnings from a sarcastic waiter's anonymous blog. I discovered Waiter Rant's existence for the first time listening to the author discuss it on an evening radio-show interview. I felt just slightly sick to my stomach, a specific emotion that was faintly familiar to me. Soon it dawned on me: I felt precisely the same way when my car was broken into and my stereo and CD collection stolen. So my brain likened the publishing of this book to a thievery of my imagination. Of course that isn't true, and when you snooze, you lose, right?

I didn't follow my idea far, but it was more than a fleeting thought. I scribbled my inspirations in a spiral notebook, including a pocket-sized version that I carried in my servers' apron to jot those hilarious and poignant moments that frequently punctuate a waiter's shift. Here are just a few of those gems that I scrawled before losing interest and allowing a smarter man to abduct my brainchild:

Say PLEASE. Servers are not exempt from civility.

Your food gets touched. By people's hands. Many of them.

Taste the fish before you ask for tartar sauce.

Don't request the dressing "on the side" if you don't want it at all. Just say "no dressing." We won't be offended, and you won't be wasteful.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Six of my favorite material possessions

In no particular order...

1. Marquis Spa hot tub

  • incredible neck jets

  • sunken in our second-story deck

  • amazing after a night run

  • perfect for star-gazing

  • wonderful in rain and snow

2. Digital camera

  • the one I recently bought is not as excellent as I'd hoped

  • but in general, the digital camera as an invention, is supreme

  • love to take lots and lots of pictures, with no regard for wasting film

  • that's the only way to end up with a couple of good shots

  • fits in my pocket; I hate carrying extraneous bags

3. Crock Pot

  • cook anything while you work, sleep, run errands

  • it's like a personal chef for a one-time cost of $40

4. Laptop

  • let us just say that I spend many, many hours with this contraption

5. Samsung slider cell phone

  • also a necessity for both work and personal life, rarely out of my vicinity

  • this is the coolest phone design I've ever owned, and I'll demand a slide-up cell phone forever after

6. Baldwin upright piano

  • this is the instrument on which I learned to play and grew up practicing my scales and arpeggios

  • now I enjoy my own little karaoke sessions to the scores of Rent, Les Mis, and Miss Saigon

What are some of YOUR favorite things?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The man for whom I would consider leaving my husband

Dennis Miller is intellectual comic genius and strikingly handsome. Gary won't be offended by my saying so, because I know if he had the chance to run away with Dennis Miller, he might not turn it down. So we both have crushes on the guy, which makes it acceptable.

Gary and I had the distinct pleasure of attending Dennis' recent performance at Spirit Mountain Casino here in Grand Ronde, Oregon. I feel like Mr. Miller takes my own political and social views and presents them with the precise cleverness that I can't always manage. I laughed out loud throughout his show, and had the unique benefit of hearing every other joke twice, as the man sitting next to me subscribed to the "repeat everything I think is funny in case others didn't hear it" school of thought.

Don't worry, Gary, you're still stuck with me for now. But I might just vote for DM as a write-in this year. Refreshing.

PS: We won $125 at the Blackjack table too. I love that game!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

$9.75 zoo, expanded version

I posted some words about our recent zoo excursion on MBW's blog, and was encouraged to elaborate here. Read on for more ranting and fewer cutesy photos.

My toddler loves looking at the different animals in her books and can identify several of them, so I thought it was a good time to take her to the zoo to see some in real life. Only I forgot how rare it is to actually see live animals at the zoo. And even then, they are usually asleep, which to a toddler's eyes may as well be nonexistent.

Then there's the price. Madelyn's admission is free for a few more months, which is ironic because we go there primarily for her enjoyment, but pay only for our own tickets. I laughed out loud when I read on their website, "25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo's Future for Wildlife program." Wow, twenty-five cents out of nearly ten dollars, huh? An organization's touting of its benevolent contributions should relieve initial sticker shock. You know, the "Oh, I see, well if it's for a god cause..." I'm glad the Zoo is contributing to whatever cause it has deemed worthy. But I think they would have been better served by writing "Two and a half percent of Oregon Zoo's admission revenue helps fund..." A quarter just sounds so insignificant.

After nearly a half-hour at the zoo, our animal viewing consisted entirely of: creepy-looking salmon in murky water, several types of duck, one playful river otter (the highlight!) and a variety of other water foul. You can always count on fish and birds at the zoo!

In my opinion, the polar bears rank as one of the zoo's most entertaining exhibits. However, when we came by they weren't out to play. We watched a video about polar bears instead. My head is shaking in disgust.

My dear husband waited in line for probably 15 or 20 minutes for a dang elephant ear, but that was nothing compared to the line to get in to see the new baby elephant. We declined to stand in what looked to be a minimum 30-45 minute line (there are few things for which I'll wait in significant lines--a really good elephant ear among them), but the weird thing is there were roped-off zig-zags indicating that the line may well have extended as much as three times its current length! Who are these people? Clearly more elephant-calf-enthusiast than I. However, I did vote for the calf's name online, carefully choosing the least lame-sounding option: Samudra (yep, the other choices were worse).

It's not that we didn't see any cool animals. There were certainly a few. Such as bats, naked mole rats, and sleeping hippos (well, we could see their giant butts, anyway). The tiger was probably our most magnificent sighting, because s/he actually got up and walked around. This accentuated my belief that I've ever seen a wild cat awake at the zoo, because I found her movement mesmerizing.

Gary told me that there is a push for legislation to have tax dollars subsidizing the Oregon Zoo. On the one hand, I was appalled to hear this because the Zoo charges admission, operates an over-priced gift shop, restaurant, and several snack/souvenir kiosks. They are like any other business in our capitalistic society and should be supported by their patrons. On the other hand, in spite of any shortcomings, I think properly-maintained zoos with well cared-for animals offer a unique educational opportunity. I haven't the faintest clue what the operational costs might total, and if their admission/food/souvenir revenue doesn't cover it...I would hate to see the zoo become severely substandard, or disappear altogether. On a third hand (?), every business has to watch their bottom line and make adjustments accordingly. Perhaps if their revenue isn't paying the bills, they should explore some methods of decreasing expenses and/or increasing income. That is the way the rest of us do it, for Heaven's sake. Take a look at payroll and executive salaries, food and energy costs, expenditures relating to facility improvements whose necessity should be based upon funds available. A blank check from the government (aka my pocket) is NOT the answer (and it never is).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Oversight or strategy?

We drove out to the Gorge with some friends last week, and when we pulled up to a stoplight, my husband and I simultaneously broke into laughter. I immediately knew we had both spotted the same trailer ahead of us. I wasn't in a place to take a photo of it, but we all enjoyed a good laugh. Then yesterday, the very same trailer was parked in front of my next-door neighbors' house, fixing their deck leakage problems obviously. So I was afforded my photographic opportunity under the guise of nonchalantly fetching my mail.

So the big question is, is the intimate reference an intentional marketing tactic? Or is it possible that the person(s) in charge of creating their company name and slogan is too naive to get the double entendre?

One-stop shopping

I drive by this store in a ghetto part of Hillsboro on my way to one of my Curves clubs.
They just couldn't come up with a creative name I guess. But hey, judging by the merchandise I can see through the barred-up windows, they deliver what they promise. So the next time I need a new outfit, speakers for my car, and a baby gift, I know right where to go.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Holey me

For my 27th birthday last month, I got my ear pierced. My friend Lindsey suggested that I tell the story of my eight "after-market holes" mentioned previously. So here we go.

As a child, getting my ears piereced was a rite of passage. In my family, we had to wait until we reached the ripe old age of 12 in order to be considered ready for such a life-altering event. It was just like all the other age-bound privileges: baptism at 8, ears pierced at 12, date at 16, vote and smoke at 18, drink at 21...wait, scratch those last two. Anyway, I was a very lucky girl, because I was basically best friends with my cousin Rachel, who is 20 days older than me. It was determined that we could go get our ears pierced together, and the appointed date fell at least several days before my 12th birthday. Scandalous.

In case you don't know or haven't figured it out, I grew up as a Mormon. My mom doesn't approve of body piercing, mainly because it is a desecration of your "holy temple." I have never understood, then, why it is okay to pierce earlobes--one time each--but nowhere else. My first "unapproved" piercing was my upper left ear cartilage. It was very popular at the time, and Rachel (the aforementioned cousin) had one. I tended to get my fashion cues from her (she lived in Lake Oswego and her dad was a lawyer, what would you expect?). I must have been 18, because I didn't need parental approval, and I think Rachel accompanied me to a very nice piercing place--or at least she recommended it. That's about all I remember.

I got a second piercing in each earlobe during my freshman--er, only year at BYU. At that time I was attached at the hip to another awesome cousin, Emily. I did this on a whim at a shop in the mall akin to Claire's where they offer free ear piercing with those horrid needle guns. When I got my ceremonious first piercings at the same type of place, I do not remember the pain being as intense as it was this time. Professional piercing by hand with a needle is SO much gentler.

Number 6 is my favorite: the road-trip-belly-button-piercing. Also during college, Emily and I took a trip to Montana to visit my newly-married sister. Her husband is from Great Falls, and one of the guys in our ward was as well. We stuffed ourselves into his old and tiny Subaru Justy and drove for 10 hours. March 18, 2000 I entered Tattoo York's in Great Falls, MT to experience navel piercing in a not-so-classy establishment. My sister didn't approve, but her husband came in and provided moral support. This was the least painful piercing of all, probably because it was fat, not cartilage. The best part of this story is that I took the following picture with Jed, the piercer, and sent it to my mother along with a very sincere letter saying that I had met the most wonderful guy and felt like he might be "the one" and on and on like this. It was so fun to wait for that phone call!
Next I had my tragus pierced in Las Vegas while attending my first Curves International convention in November 2003. My very good friend Wiyaka, who was one of my Curves employees at the time, got her belly button pierced too.

When I started selling Cookie Lee jewelry as a hobby in 2005, I took out the body jewelry in my ears, as they didn't coordinate well with fashion jewelry. Over time, the holes closed up, which is very disappointing to me. I took out my navel piercing a few months after getting you can guess why. Although I put it back in one day--just for fun--when I was 8 or 9 months along. I could get it through just fine, but it looked a little silly. Now my "mommy belly" isn't fit for that kind of adornment anymore.

This leads us to hole #8, in my right helix, which you can read about here. Perhaps I'll have a really great tattoo story one of these days. But I'm still seeking the perfect image worthy of permanent ink.

Accidental genius

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. But some truly brilliant innovations were actually the product of error.

Do you know how chocolate chip cookies were invented? I do, because my husband watches a lot of History and Discovery Channels, and when there is an opportunity to learn the background of an item so central to my personal life as the chocolate chip cookie, he'll be sure to share it with me.

Ruth Wakefield baked for guests of the Toll House Inn, which she owned with her husband in Massachussetts. One day in 1930, while mixing up a batch of chocolate cookies, she discovered that she was out of baking cocoa. Reluctant to disappoint her eager guests, she chopped up a semi-sweet chocolate candy bar and mixed it in, assuming that it would melt into the batter to create chocolate cookies. Upon discovering her blunder when she pulled the cookies from the oven, she well could have tossed them in the trash to avoid potential embarrassment, but aren't we glad she didn't?

Tonight I had the honor of witnessing a similar breakthrough at my very own dinner table. Transition your tastebuds from sweet to savory here. We were eating a cheesy pasta dish with red sauce and some corn on the cob. Gary topped his pasta with grated parmesan cheese, and when he took his first bite of corn found it to be coated with the same. His emphatic approval convinced me to try a little, and we decided that it just might be the greatest new food combination since Peanut Butter M&M's. Alright, fine, maybe not that good, but perhaps 50 years from now people will be blogging about the Man who discovered everyone's favorite summer treat: parmesan-sprinkled corn. Try it!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Mini-Movie Review Archives

SHERLOCK HOLMES: Adorable and fun and intriguing. I loved the character portrayals.

NEW MOON: I neglected posting this mini-review after attending the midnight showing on 11.20.09 because I thought I would write a whole post about it. But I didn't. I liked the movie. Bridget's review said what I was thinking. Except for this: "Go Team Jacob!" (ha ha)

MAMMA MIA!: Some VERY cute scenes, others (mostly the boring slow songs) I fast-forwarded through.  The story was heart warming and fun, however.

DEFINITELY, MAYBE: I thoroughly enjoyed this creative story about changing relationships.

HENRY POOLE IS HERE: Very similar to "Lars" actually. Slow-moving, but sweet, thought-provoking, and mildly humorous.

LARS AND THE REAL GIRL: A very thoughtful movie. Quietly funny.


THE MUMMY 3: We came THIS close to just turning it off halfway through, but forced our willing suspension of disbelief to new heights and pushed through to the lame ending.

PRINCE CASPIAN (CHRONICLES OF NARNIA): Fairly enjoyable to watch, but it was one of those movies--like most grand epics are for me--that I don't tend to remember much about later. Probably my own fault more than the film's.

WANTED: Quite graphic, in a comic-booky way, but a very exciting action flick. The fight choreography was creative and entertaining; that stuff usually bores me.

HANCOCK: An innovative story, executed perfectly. Really fun.

WAITING...:I've been there. And I adore Ryan Reynolds. Yet the movie was disappointing. Clearly the goal of satirizing restaurant work was of more import than creating a decent movie, but even the restaurant humor would have been much more funny by using the art of subtlety.

17 AGAIN: Yeah, the concept's been done before, but still a cute, wholesome movie.

WALL-E: More confusing than entertaining. Story based on a shaky premise full of unanswered questions. And the characters just weren't that loveable, although I have to give credit to Pixar for making a pretty darn cute robot.

THE ULTIMATE GIFT: Some distractingly poor acting in parts, an expected level of cheesiness, but overall a nice story. No mistaking its adaptation from a book, because portions of character development and storyline seemed absent that I imagine were covered more clearly in the written form.

THE PROPOSAL: Perfect movie for my night out with girlfriends. Our row laughed out loud A LOT. And I have a huge crush on Ryan Reynolds, he is adorable.

SEVEN POUNDS: Warning: bring a box of tissues. This movie wasn't just good, it was good for you.

500 DAYS OF SUMMER: Actually went to the theatre for this one, and LOVED it. The story elements were so real and vivid, but captured very creatively.
RUN FATBOY RUN: Quirky and hilarious.
HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU: Very enjoyable in spite of (or because of?) the fact that I could personally (and somewhat painfully) relate to each woman's unique relationship situation.
INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL: Not as bad as all the reports I'd heard, but still challenged the most willing suspension of disbelief. Almost as though paying homage to the old Indy movies, but audience expectations have come a long way since the 80's.
FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL: Absolutely hilarious. Better than the average Rom-Com.
THE X-FILES: Used to love the X-Files, but this movie was a huge disappointment. Overly contrived plot, awkwardly forced dialogue, weak character development.
SHOOTER: Not a bad movie, but kind of forgettable.
YOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN: So, so funny in an adolescent sort of way. Hummus finally gets some well-deserved time in the spotlight in this film, including the birth of this apt definition: "a very tasty, diarrhea-like substance."
THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS 2: I'm proud to say my husband and I both love these movies. The first was better, but this one was still enjoyable. Such wholesome, fun stories.
KUNG FU PANDA: We laughed out loud many a time. One of the better animated features of late.

BABY MAMA: Not as dumb as I expected it to be. The story boasted
more depth than I anticipated.

PENELOPE: A very fun story and a uniquely presented, positive message.

THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES: Typical youth fantasy in the style of Jumanji, et al.

THE LOVE GURU: Definitely some funny moments, but not sure they outweigh the very stupid ones.

AMERICAN GANGSTER: A powerful story and very well done.

VANTAGE POINT: Pretty fun. Some unexpected twists made up for the less-creative plot contrivances.

TAKING CHANCE: Everyone should see this movie.

FOOL'S GOLD: Pure fun! Just what I was in the mood for. An entertaining action comedy.

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN: Quietly paced. Gripping. Chilling. I doubt the brilliant Coen Brothers could have chosen a less evocative title, however.

TAKEN: If you are not as lucky as I, you will have to pay for an entire seat to see this movie. But you'll only need the edge of it, because this movie was fast-paced and full of thrilling yet emotionally charged action. I liked it.

BURN AFTER READING: Unpredictable. Hilarious. Thought-provoking.

REVOLVER: I really liked this movie, in spite of the fact that I am still baffled by it. I can't entirely make sense of the plot and underlying philosophy.

THE GOLDEN COMPASS: Creative story, clearly adapted from a novel--the plot was far too intricate to develop so briefly. Then all of a sudden it ended while the protagonist announced all of the conflicts they still needed to resolve. Setting up for the sequel of course, but will it ever be produced?

SLEUTH: It took only a few moments for me to correctly guess this movie was based on a stage play. As if Kenneth Branaugh as director shouldn't have given that away. Slow beginning, but a fun twisty plot if you don't mind the theatrics of a two-man cast.

MEET THE ROBINSONS: Possibly the least entertaining animated feature I've seen in a long time. I actually was a little bored, and I usually love these fun movies. Had a cute ending, though.

SWEENEY TODD: Grotesquely gut-wrenching. Passionately heart-wrenching. Perfectly cast, performed, and artisitcally designed. This ain't no Rogers & Hammerstein. Sondheim, Burton, and Depp form a magical trio.

THE CONTRACT: Premise: great. Execution: poor. So disappointing when filmmakers lack respect for their audience to such a degree that they overlook the glaring holes in the story. (i.e. "wouldn't the charaters just [do this?]" and "why did the kid [do that] when in real life he would have just [done this other thing?]"

FRED CLAUS: I love Vince Vaughn, and he was the best part of the movie. It was kind of fun in a kooky way, but I was mostly disturbed by the scene after Fred saves Christmas by delivering all the presents, in which the elves gather around Santa's magic snow globe and watch children all over the world opening their presents accompanied by a very solemn version of the hymn, "Silent Night." The juxtaposition of the holy birth of Jesus in the song with children ripping open shiny new bikes and hula hoops was unsettling.

FREEDOM WRITERS: Yes, we've seen this true-story adaptation a dozen times: the inexperienced yet passionate teacher overcomes opposition and inspires inner-city kids with no future to form interracial connections and apply their minds through [insert sport or school subject here]. Just like in 3:10 to Yuma, it took me 20-30 minutes to feel sympathetic enough toward the characters to want to see what happens. The emotions seemed to run deeper in this film than others of the same genre, and in the end I really enjoyed it.

3:10 TO YUMA: Western flicks, not usually my favorite. It took me about 20 minutes to get connected with the plot, but from then on it was awesome. However, it was a shame to have Christian Bale looking so horrid for 2 hours.

THE INVASION: Really, really bad. If the cheesy zombie-movie plot weren't enough, the filmmakers over-exerted themselves in trying to emphasize a political/existential point about the human race. Also, instead of letting the audience react to the story as it unfolds, they kept using lame dialogue and camera angles to reiterate the obvious.

27 DRESSES: Every conflict and subsequent resolution was predicted within the first five minutes of the movie, because we have all seen this one a dozen times set against slightly different backgrounds. Still cute, but I enjoyed it a little less than I expected.

WHY DID I GET MARRIED?: For the first half of the film it was painfully evident that this is an adaptation of a stage play. But the second half redeemed itself with some meaningful dialogue and more genuine performances.

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH: This is the first movie I've seen where I believe the entire thing was shot in front of a blue screen. That turned me off. It was probably more fun than I give it credit for, since I "watched" it while simultaneously working on a computer project.

WAITRESS: More spiritually profound than expected: very witty, honest, and an overall delight from start to finish!

BEE MOVIE: Definitely some laugh-out-loud lines, held together by a
...creative... idea for a story. Animated fantasy is great, but for my willing suspension of disbelief to remain intact, I prefer either humans OR whimsical talking creatures, not interaction between the two.

AUGUST RUSH: I thoroughly enjoyed this film, in spite of the child's strange raspy intonation throughout. The acoustic guitar pieces were incredible, and both love stories enchanting.

MARTIAN CHILD: I love John Cusack, and the kid was cute, but the plot was a little a short story attempting to fill feature length.

IN THE LAND OF WOMEN: Story a little bit slow, but a cute and sincere relationship drama with genuinely funny moments.

GOOD LUCK CHUCK: I am continually amazed at the kind of CRAP that passes for a movie. We've hit a streak of bad ones.


LUCKY YOU: What was bad: the story, dialogue, acting, direction, and editing. What was good: for about 25 minutes near the end they departed entirely from the horrible sub-plots and focused on an intense poker tournament so I felt more like we were watching ESPN than the awful movie.

REIGN OVER ME: Great character drama with echos of post-9/11 heartache. Have Kleenexes at the ready.

THE DEPARTED: This sat around in our DVR for months before we finally decided to watch. LOVED IT more than expected, even with the brutal Scorsese ending. Kept thinking about it for days...the ultimate sign of a very good movie.

NEXT: Very interesting concept, with plot holes big enough to drive a semi-truck through. Disappointing.


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