Tuesday, March 30, 2004

And here's a link especially for T'Other Liz, but others might get a kick out of it too.
Campaign 2004

I got this from a co-worker, and thought it was way too funny not to blog. What, you were expecting Henry VIII? Consider this the gratuitious political post of the month.

2004 GOP Bumper Stickers

Bush/Cheney '04: This time, elect us!
BU_ _SH_ _!
Bush/Cheney '04: Over a billion Whoppers served.
Bush/Cheney '04: Putting the "con" in conservatism
Bush/Cheney '04: Because the truth just isn't good enough
Bush/Cheney '04: Apocalypse Now!
Bush/Cheney '04: Compassionate Colonialism
Bush/Cheney '04: Deja-voodoo all over again!
Bush/Cheney '04: Thanks for not paying attention
Bush/Cheney '04: Leave no billionaire behind
Bush/Cheney '04: Making the world a better place, one country at a time
Bush/Cheney '04: Or else.
Bush/Cheney '04: The economy's stupid!
Bush/Cheney "04: The Asses of Evil
Don't think. Vote Bush!
George W. Bush: It takes a village idiot
George W. Bush: The buck stops Over There>
Bush/Cheney '04: God Save the King!
Vote Bush in '04: "I Has Incumbentory Advantitude"
Vote Bush in '04: Because dictatorship is easier
Vote Bush in '04: It's a no-brainer!
Vote for Bush & You Get Dick!
Bush/Cheney '04: WWJB: Who Would Jesus Bomb?

If you have read this far, under Section 17 H(2)a.3 of the Patriot Act, you are under arrest
All good intentions

I meant to blog tonight about Henry but I kind of lost track of time between making pizza dough for tomorrow night's dinner and playing Civilization. I only meant to play Civilization for a couple of years -- I'd started the game yesterday and retired after about 30 minutes, so I didn't think I'd be enthralled today. Ah, but that was before I discovered the power of the right click button! And oooh, I finally figured out how to do the espionage thingy! And I have a culture overflowing with... well, culture. I kept playing thinking, "I can stop anytime." Well, no, no I can't. You'd think after a decade of playing this game I would know better. My delusions and I will be sitting right over here doin' just fine.

So no Henry VIII for you people tonight. Maybe tomorrow.

I still have my cold, but it's now a liveable cold rather than "I'm going to die" cold. Just so you know, OTC drugs are wonderful, wonderful things.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Just passing through

I've got the cold (or something) from hell. A bowling ball sized lump settled in my throat and chest last Sunday and stubbornly refuses to leave.

Two things: here's a a study on how too much sleep is not a good thing and second, results from the World Figure Skating Championships.

In the next few days, I shall have my thoughts for you on "The Autobiography of Henry VIII" by Margaret George. Yes, my time with Henry has finally come to an end and on a day when I'm feeling less tepid, I will let you know what I thought about this particular novel.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Nothing to see here, folks

Literally. Nothing. Reminds me of a skit I did once when I was in middle school where I played a librarian. My entire part consisted of walking out on to the bare stage, standing in front of the audience and then shushing them and walking off. That was the entire skit. Call it a one-woman show. Seema the Librarian!

At any rate, what I'm saying is, I'm offline for the next few days. Enjoy your weekends, be safe, and I hope to have fun and clever things to report to you.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Philosophy. Maybe

So there is an article or two about why people blog. It's all fascinating stuff, but it's all about the journalism, baby, it's not about the people. In B-School, they taught us to come up with a mission statement, something that defines who you are. For instance, part of the mission statement for Very Big Insurance Company included the word's "to be the first and best choice for the customer."

I surely don't intend to be your first and best choice because God knows, there are 80 million screaming blogs out there on the Internet and I'm amazed that you found me and that you stick around to read. So I thought, intead of having a journalist tell you why I blog, I'm going to put some of that B-School knowledge to work and tell you myself.

I blog because about two and a half years ago, my brother sent me an email that said, "Blogger. You should do this." And when it comes to tech stuff, I usually listen to him. So I got the blog and then it was like, "Oooh, scary, what do I say?" Just for the record, this whole blogging thing is pretty darn scary becuase you start out with the theory that no one is reading and it's all fun and games until when you look at site stats and realize "Ohmygodpeoplearereadingme!"

But I digress (I do that a lot).

It took a while to figure out why I blog and what I blog has a lot to do with the why. Over the 2 1/2 years I've had this blog, I've meandered through my day, reviewed books, gone off on televisions shows, occasionally lambasted politicians (This blog is a W-free zone!) and whinged about Stuff (tm). But that's an inherent lack of focus. So starting from today, I'm going to run this blog like a corporation, with a mission statement and everything. The action plan comes later, but the mission statement is first and foremost the most important (after the logo, of course; nothing succeeds without a cool logo. And oh yes, a catchy slogan rocks too. But. I digress).

In a nutshell, I like to laugh. I like to see the ridiculous and I prefer the ridiculous over the serious. If an egg explodes in my face, yeah it sucks, but when I take a step back, I realize it's damn funny. There is humor in everything and I use my blog to try and take myself -- and life -- less seriously. If there is something I cannot poke fun at, chances are I'm not going to blog it here. I don't want to whine and I don't want to complain. That's not what the blog is for -- navel gazing, yes, but a pity party, no.

So that's what this blog is really here for. I like the funny and I want to bring the funny. I'll try to keep the politics and intelligent stuff to a minimum. That's right, this is the shallow!blog. For the most part, you're going to get exploding eggs and chair building stories; if explosions and random burnings aren't your thing, you can find the dull here. Politics are here.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

I am Seema, hear me roar!

Today, ladies and gentlemen, I built a chair. Yes, yes, I did. Now some of you playing the home game might say, "Well, that's no big deal, I build chairs all the time." Those of you who are impressed that I built a chair without inflicting any bodily harm on myself might lose that respect when I tell you it was from IKEA (especially my brother and Bjorn, who apparently have furnished their entire living space from IKEA; just to clarify, my brother and Bjorn do not live together). As for me, I've never built anything before. Except a wheelbarrow. But that doesn't count because I was helping my dad and iirc, I screwed something in backwards. My dad is the only person in the neighborhood with an upside down strut assembly (or whatever it's called). But I digress.

So I built myself a pretty new chair. Specifically this chair. I chose white because I have as of yet not bought a sofa and I thought white is a nice color to go with any sofa I might choose to buy in the future. However, it took me 8 months to buy this chair, when I'd decided in August that I wanted it. Who knows when I'll buy a sofa? (Though I did see one I liked a lot when we were at IKEA; btw, we were at IKEA for five hours yesterday. Isn't that a very, very long time to be at IKEA?).

But. Back to my story. So it took me 90 minutes to build the chair. I know, I know, really long time, and those of you handy with tools? Stop. Laughing. But I have a good excuse, honestly. For about 20 of those minutes, I was on the phone with my cousin. For 30 minutes, I was distracted by "Sports Night" and really, the hard work all took place in the last 40 minutes; my thumbs will never be the same again; they are still feeling all tingly from their wrench work.

Thankfully, IKEA provided the wrenches for the job, so I didn't have to purchase any tools. Granted, teeny tiny wrenches, but whatever. There was also a pretty diagram with very clear instructions made so any person who has never built a chair before can follow and absorb. However, despite the pretty diagram and very clear instructions and the supplies provided, the crucial missing element was another person. I think theoretically, you can build this chair without another person; I obviously did. But it'd be a hell of lot easier if someone else was there, if for nothing else, to hand you a beer when you can't figure out why something won't screw (while on the phone with my cousin, I realized I was using the wrong screws in the wrong place -- hence, My Issues (tm) and why I wasted almost a half hour -- the "Sports Night" half hour -- trying to get the supports put together).

Plus, building this chair means you have to contort your body into very interesting positions, some of which I had not thought physically possible. In addition to my sore thumbs, I have muscles creaking at me, muscles which after 28 years of living in my body are just now making their presence known. And I had the blinds open which means, I'm pretty sure, the lady across the way with the big beautiful dog, probably had a great view of me going through the IKEA workout. I'm hoping it was raining hard enough that the view was obscured. Either that or she was too busy playing with that big beautiful dog to pay attention to me. Why, yes, I do think the world revolves around moi.

Anyway, I finally got all of the pieces assembled; the chair comes six pieces. That's a lot of pieces! And there are a total of 10 screws. That's a lot of screws! And all of the screws are labeled with numbers like 00324X and even the wrenches have numbers -- this is for easy matching and so you know whether you have the right parts or not. I was able to figure all of that out and only screwed in the wrong screws once (and it took 30 minutes to figure that out, but whatever); I'd like to say it wasn't my fault because eight of the screws bore startling resemblance to each other and are probably related by factory.

What I found most difficult was actually figuring out how to get all the pieces to line up so I could screw them together. Because of the way the chair is shaped, it's not easy at any time to lay the thing down flat. The most extreme hardest part was screwing the actual sitting part to the support, because of the awkward angle. This is the part where it would have been very helpful if IKEA had included another person in its packaging. As it was, building this chair would make a good challenge for Survivor. Especially if you withhold the wrenches.

But all in all, life is good and while I don't have a sofa, I now have another very comfy chair in the living room so I can actually have people over to watch movies etc. And, before you ask, yes, I have sat in the chair and no, it did not creak or fall apart. So there. I am so all over this IKEA thing. Rah!

Thursday, March 11, 2004

When is a story not a story

I've been thinking more about what ails me concerning "Lost in Translation." I complained about the pacing -- utter slowness -- and the overwhelming feeling of despondency in the movie, punctuated by brief bursts of humor or insight. But in general, I didn't like it, Sam I am.

I think Bjorn hit the reason on the head when he noted that "Lost in Translation" was not a story, but rather than a character vignette. Granted, I've been struggling long and hard with how to write a story, because as a writer, that is my shortcoming. The stuff I put out? Not really a story.

But even so, I'm going to say one thing I do know for certain, is that a story involves change. If nothing changes -- ie character, situation -- or we don't learn anything new about a character, it's not a story. Call it a vignette, a character sketch or a portrait of a situation -- there are tons of phrases out there -- but it's not a story.

A story involves a journey of some kind. The journey can be external or internal, can be action-orientated or character-orientated. In the end though, the journey means the story started at point A and ended at point Z. There may have been detours or backpedaling, but in the end, we the readers end up at somewhere other than where we began. That is a story. And in "Lost in Translation," nothing happens.

Two strangers meet up, they find their perfect "right now" opposite and they spend time together, and then voila, at the end of the film, they back to being the people they were before they met. I had no doubt, at the end, that Charlotte would return to slinking around in her underwear and Bob would continue to fax his wife. These two characters had a relationship (platonic), it didn't work out for many very good reasons, but bam! All of that sushi-eating, karoke-singing and mutual despondency had no effect on either Charlotte or Bob. Neither of them learned anything or accepted anything.

In the end, "Lost in Translation" failed for me because I didn't learn anything new, nor did I feel any sympathy for either character and I certainly didn't have any hopes for their future. I admit it's a good film if you're interested in the here and now without the prospect of a pay-off in the future. There are subtle nuances that are well-done, bits of dialogue that are snappy and clever, but in general, it's not a story, but a vignette about two very, very depressed and boring people.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

My brother is a man of his word. He says he won't talk about gay marriage any more in his blog, so he has passed the baton on to me. Here are 12 reasons why you shouldn't support gay marriage. I'm especially concerned about the possibility of dogs getting married. I hereby propose a Constitutional amendment to limit marriage to only those who have no more than two legs, however that would include birds as well. So dang it, a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to home sapiens sapiens only (the extra 'sapiens' are just in case an erectus or habilis is suddenly discovered in the White House).

Come to think of it, I think the amendment should limit marriage to those born only on this planet; this is just in case the Daily World News (found at a supermarket near you) is correct and there are indeed skulls and other Martian remains littering the red planet. Heaven forbid if a Martian wants to marry an Earthling!

I have now completed my sisterly duty.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

I spent the weekend as a mad party girl, flitting from one place to another. Somewhere in there, I managed to get time to see Lost in Translation, which I've been dying to see for just about however long it's been out. I was ready for high class, deep, moving, light-hearted fare; the last movie I saw in the theater was Freaky Friday and I was ready for a film not aimed at the Disney audience.

But, was I ready for Scarlett Johanssen in her underwear? High brow film this may be, and possibly the reason why I. Just. Didn't. Get. It., because I've spent too much time digesting mall movies and aforementioned Disney flicks. There are three characters in this film, along with their supporting props: Tokyo, and there's Scarlett in her almost see-through underwear and then there's Bill Murray with his whiskey. Bill plays Bob Harris, a famous movie star who is doing commercials for a Japanese whiskey company for ::gasp:: $2 million. Scarlett plays Charlotte, who has been married to John for two years, but acts like she just met the guy at the bus stop (in all fairness, Hubby flirts with Cameron Diaz look-alike in front of Charlotte).

Both of Bill and Charlotte's relationships are tenuous. Bob forgets his son's birthday, talks to his wife via fax (and the obligatory cell phone) and she sends over samples of carpet for his study. Charlotte mopes, sits around in her underwear a lot (at one point, I was screaming, "For God's sake, you're in Tokyo! Put on some pants and go out!). So our depressed and morose heroes meet up in (surprise) a bar and form some kind of connection, built of mutual detachment. If these people were any more out of it, they'd be orbiting the planet.

They bop around Tokyo, sometimes together, sometimes not, and they share long silences and meaningful conversations over alcohol and sushi; the pacing is unbelievably slow and yes, there are a few funny moments, but they are far and few between. You have to sit through a lot of oddness and weird scenes to get through to the good stuff, and meanwhile, you're still wondering about the prostitute who shows up at Bob's door asking him to "lick her stockings."

There are a few obligatory karoke scenes, a beautiful scene of a Buddhist temple (don't ask me the significance -- I have no idea), and lots of flashy, bright photography. In terms of acting, can't complain. Murray is great. Johanssen does a fairly good job as well. The problem was, I didn't like either of these characters, didn't feel a connection, and just wanted them go away.

The fact that the relationship remains platonic is a Very Good Thing (tm). Neither of these people knows what they want or how to get it; the crux of this movie is that these two people are perfect for each at this very moment. Not in the future, but now. It's an interesting idea -- not all relationships are meant to last forever, and all relationships have their sags, where people drift apart briefly and find someone/something else to get them through the rough time. I'm just not sure whether that requires two hours of film.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

You can test your WPM here. I average between 84 to 92 words per minute, and believe it or not, I'm more than 80 percent accurate. The Huckleberry Finn test was the hardest for me; I kept correcting Mark Twain's grammar and Huck's speech, and that's no good. I did the best on the competitive analysis piece and fell apart on the tiger thing again, mostly because I kept spelling words like "the" wrong and inserting random punctuation.

But still, much fun. I think one can type much faster when it's all in your head, versus copying something out, because there's that whole brain-to-fingers lag time.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Two things

First, one of my favorite short stories of all time is Hills Like White Elephants by Hemingway. Sparse prose, careful attention to necessary detail, atmosphere and character conveyed through choice pieces of dialogue, and of course, a gradual unveiling of the conflict between the two characters.

Second, Elmore Leonard talks about writing and while some people aren't happy about his stance about adverbs or "book-saidisms," it's got to be said. And I'd like to add to the list to avoid paragraphs talking about a character's boredom (the worst story openings are the ones the begin with "Mary Sue was bored because she had nothing to do) and also a reduction in the use of the passive voice, ie the verb to be.

That is all.