June 30, 2006

Say yes

Recently I finished a wonderful book that I'd like to recommend to you all. This was one of those pleasant surprises that I just happened to come across.

I was browsing in Borders to pick up a book I thought ScottE would enjoy, and decided to get us a little "beach weekend travel pack" as we were on our way to the coast for the weekend. For myself I thought I'd pick up something fun and light-hearted. I found a few things which seemed too heavy, and then came across Yes Man. It sounded like silly fun from a British guy, which works for me.

The premise of this non-fiction book is simple. The author (Danny Wallace) purely by chance ended up on a bus due to a subway train that had been taken out of comission (Sound familiar, Washingtonians?) He happened to sit next to a man who offered a simple piece of advice to down-in-the-dumps Danny, "Say yes more."

This leads Danny on a quest to do just that. He vows that for the remainder of the year he will say yes...to everything. Along the way he agrees to comply with internet scams, applying for credit cards and a whole lot of nights at the pub.

But what's extraordinary is the chain of events that happen as one yes leads to another. Ultimately Danny is forever changed as he lets fate rule his life. He learns a lot about life, love and a positive attitude. And so will you!

It's a very easy and fast read, with plenty to keep you smiling. And I freely admit that the ending made me cry...a little. So why not check it out? You may be surprised what you start saying yes to!

On a side note, I just noticed that my previous post was my 100th. So - yay for me!

June 23, 2006

On the road again...

I'm on the road today, currently in Nashville. And what better place to write a blog post than in an airport?

The first thing I feel I must do is make up to you what I promised, and talk briefly about some fun things I've enjoyed over the past month.

I mentioned that we had watched the Scripps National Spelling Bee. I must tell you, people - it was riveting! Never before would I have guessed that the drama of 8th graders spelling words of Persian or Hawaiian origin would have me on the edge of my seat. But it did! A particularly exciting moment came when a young girl was eliminated because the spelling list the judges had was actually wrong, even though she spelled the word right. At the end of the round she was reinstated once it had been verified that she was, in fact, correct. Drama! It came down to a tomboyish blonde from New Jersey and a sweet girl from Canada. (Did you know all kids from countries where English is an official language are eligible?) The blonde (Kerry) ending up winning with an odd German word - just like in the musical. Such fun! I can't wait for next year. Plus it was hosted by my favorite morning news personality (and possible lesbian) Robin Roberts.

Recently ScottE and I had the opportunity to go see a dance show with Lord and Lady B. The group is called StepAfrika!, and they do various types of dance, but mostly step. For those unfamiliar, step is a modern descendant of the stomping and clapping styles of dance that African slaves used so long ago. It was brought into my life in college, where it is a popular form of competition and entertainment for traditional black fraternities and sororities around the country.

Quite simply, this show rocked.

It's really hard to describe, but the dancers had such JOY. Such reckless abandon. Even though the movement is very sharp and rhythmic, the performers still had this unbridled freedom. It was so great, and when they perform again in DC (I believe this November), I highly encourage you to see them if you can. I know I'll be trying to get tickets!

The show was performed in the recently renovated Tivoli Theater which is the new home to the Gala Hispanico Theatre group. It's really quite lovely, and if you can see it, I recommend it. (If you REALLY want to be impressed with a renovation, check out the Hippodrome in Baltimore.)

The final thing I wanted to post about was a book I recently devoured called Bee Season by Myla Goldberg. Yes, I know - something else about spelling bees. But it's really not much about that at all. It's a compelling novel about a family of four that each is trying to reach the same goal of personal transendence. But they travel to that point down very different (and sometimes shocking) pathways.

It's hard to say much about the book without giving away the plot, so I'll just say - READ THIS BOOK. It's fascinating and a quick read. I wasn't 100% thrilled with the ending, but it was really all about the journey.

Hopefully soon I'll get another post up in which I'll talk about another book I greatly enjoyed - this one could change your life.

Until next time, have a great week. Keep cool, and don't forget the sunblock!

June 22, 2006

Away from the keyboard

I just wanted to post briefly to let folks know that I'm not dead or anything. This is just a VERY busy summer for me. Vacation, work travel, vacation, work travel...

I'll be trying to squeeze in a post once a week, possibly from the road. So check back, and you should see something from me!

June 09, 2006

What To Rent

As promised, I thought I'd do a little commenting on DVDs that have been in our player recently. The first is one that ScottE rented (mostly for me) - Nanny McPhee.

Now of course this is a children's film, a twist on the Mary Poppins mythology that was written by (and stars) Emma Thompson. As such, it's not a very deep movie, and it's predictable. But the strength of the movie is in vibrant visuals - terrific sets, colorful costumes, lots of sight gags. The children are led by Thomas Sangster, who was so charming in Love Actually. The maid is played by Kelly McDonald whom I'm a big fan of, particularly because she was so good in Gosford Park. And did I mention that it features my British husband Colin Firth? Even as a bedraggled father of seven, he still is adorable from start to finish. LOVE HIM!

Should you rent this? If you like light escapist fantasy, this might be up your alley. Overall grade from me - B+.

Next I found myself at the store, and just had to pick up Clueless - the "Whatever" edition. Hooray! This movie was a big one for me in college. I had a group of friends that were obsessed with it, and we watched it constantly. This DVD is fun to go back and see all the things that have entered our culture because of the movie - especially phrases like, "As if!" If you've never seen the movie, I highly recommend it. If only to see Paul Rudd being all boyish and cute. Fun fact - did you know that the movie is loosely based on Jane Austen's Emma? Seriously! Go rent the Gwyneth movie, and you'll see the parallels.

Clueless has been out on DVD for ages, but never with any extras. This one has several light and fluffy making-of documentaries, which are all in good fun. The director (Amy Heckerling) is a bit frightening in the interviews - she looks like Tim Burton's twin sister. Overall grade for the movie - A-. For the DVD - B.

Then it was time to watch The Bourne Supremacy, which I got for my birthday months ago but just hadn't watched yet. I. Was. Riveted. And I'd already seen this in the theater! This movie is just THAT good.

If you've seen The Bourne Identity and you were like, "Meh," you still need to see this. It's directed by Paul Greengrass, and he manages to make an extremely exciting movie that keeps the action simple. The cast is great - Matt Damon is at his best, Joan Allen is tough, Brian Cox is scary, Julia Stiles is all class.

Seriously - you must see this movie, even if you're not a big action fan (I'm not, so I know of which I speak). This is a thriller that has everything going for it! I can hardly wait for the third film, which is slated to come out next year.

I haven't had a chance to review the extras on the DVD yet, but I will at least say that my overall grade for the movie is A+.

So what are you all watching now? Summer is prime rental time because summer TV is generally bad, so get out there and send me some reviews! (Although I am kind of excited about Big Brother All-Stars...)

Next blog post will be on the Spelling Bee and StepAfrika! as promised.

June 06, 2006

At least we didn't see "RV"

Now that I'm caught up on the season finales, let me give you the rundown on some movies we saw in theaters recently.

Since it is blockbuster season, we made sure to see the two biggest. First up was The Da Vinci Code. Now I confess that we weren't super-excited about this one, and our expectations were low. Why? I can name it in 5 words - Tom Hanks and Ron Howard. And that hair! But I knew we'd still see it, partly because we loved the book (and yes I KNOW there are some of you out there who hated it), and partly from others in the cast. In my mind when I read the novel I had cast Audrey Tautou in the lead role, so I was happy to see that. And you can't go wrong with Ian McKellen.

It turns out that low expectations pay off, because I'd give the movie a solid 'B'. Tom Hanks was actually not that bad, although I still think he was the wrong choice. The ending was a bit off, and it was really missing a lot of the rich symbolism that the book discusses, which I suppose is understandable. But most of the key points are covered, and McKellen was particularly good. You could certainly wait to rent this, however.

Next up was the one we'd waited for since I-don't-know-when - X-Men United. And it was...not as great as we'd hoped. Hugh Jackman being hot as heck? Check. New mutants to ooh and ahh over? Check. Nasty villainy from Ian McKellen (again)? Check. But it also had the cheesiest dialogue since Center Stage. So conversely I say you SHOULD see this in the theater, because it's mainly about cool action and special effects. All of that will fizzle out on the TV screen at home. (Unless you have some kind of giant plasma thing, in which case I hate you.) On a side note - what the hell was up with Jean Grey's costume at the end (far right, below)? Does her power now cause her to wear Victorian garb?

Overall grade - B. Jean's costume above - D-.

And then we rounded out a nice long (and hot) weekend seeing Kinky Boots with Joyous. Ever since we heard about it, we knew this was the one for us - a British comedy with drag queens. It is indeed a fabulous movie, even if it is predictable and drags (sorry for the pun) at times. If you like Britcoms, then this is certainly one for you. But fair warning - it may cause a rampant desire to purchase footwear. "The sex, my darling...is in the heel."

Overall grade - B+.

Next up in my week of catching up - video reviews! And stay tuned for posts on the National Spelling Bee and an amazing group called Step Afrika!

June 01, 2006

At least he didn't forget the jicama

I would expect you will find a much more thorough recap and discussion of the Top Chef season finale on DC Food Blog's page, but in the meantime I'll offer some random thoughts about the finale and the wacko reunion show.

1. So speaking of that reunion - how drunk WERE those people? Ken was obnoxiously drunk, Dave was combative drunk, Tiffani was full of drunken confidence, etc. Here's a hint Bravo producers - how about just giving them each ONE drink before a reunion show. (Remember Vanessa being a mess on season 1 of Project Runway?)

2. Tiffani had the classic case of thinking that what she was saying in confessionals/interviews were somehow only going to be seen by...her? I guess? It mystifies me on many realtiy shows. If you say it to a camera, you must expect to be held accountable for it. Shut up, Tiffani.

3. I'm completely convinced that the producers stepped in and manipulated the final 2. Sure, Harold was a shoe-in either way. But unless there was some hard and fast rule about making a certain number of dishes, the fact that Dave produced several favorites in that final elimination challenge...he should have gone to the final 2, tears and all. I think the producers wanted drama, and that meant keeping Tiffani. (Although I suppose you could argue they'd have it anyway when she would come back for final 2 challenge, but whatever. I'm right. Accept it.)

4. I liked the nature of the final challenge, although having the sous-chefs pick who they wanted to work for was a bit contrived. Why not just make it random? Anywho, it was all rather telling. And I applaud the judges for choosing substance over style to determine Harold was the winner.

5. I thought it was pretty awesome that the favorite item from Tiffani's menu was completely made by Dave. I wanted to try it!

So will there be a season 2? My guess is yes - Bravo needs a little help, and when Runway isn't on, this could be it. But can we agree to ditch Robotica as a host? Heck, even ditch the other woman - she annoys me.

Next up for discussion - two summer blockbusters!

Get Lost...until the fall, anyway

The finale of Lost - an island full of mysteries. What have we learned? What has been solved? What's coming up? Here's a list of some of the salient points I found. As always, I'm open to hearing any new theories and ideas that y'all have!

- The island appears to have healing powers. Witness Locke walking, Rose is not dying, and now Sun is pregnant, presumably by Jin. If anyone starts fast-healing like Wolverine, I'm gonna be mighty suspicious.

- They are not, in fact, in purgatory. Myth...busted! The men speaking Portugese at the end calling Penelope pretty much confirmed that. Hopefully it will shut up that theory on the internet! (Side note - Penelope was the wife of Odysseus. Look that one up!)

- Do the Others even live on the island itself? Considering that the huts, their "hatch" and so forth are all fake (and they wear costumes), it's hard to figure out what is actually real about them.

- Will Michael and Walt be back? I sincerely hope so. In particular we need to learn why the Others found Walt to be "such a handful."

- Does the vaccine really do anything? I'm guessing it's just another mindfuck.

- Desmond, Locke, and Eko - are they alive? I'm guessing yes on all three counts. There are enough unresolved issues with them that I assume we'll see them all again.

- Why Jack, Kate and Sawyer? Just another opportunity to get them together for love triangle tension?

- The 4-toed statue - is it Homer Simpson? According to the producers there will be more of a focus on the lore of the island itself next season. So hopefully we'll find more about Black Rock, "Adam & Eve" and the Toe-Challenged Statue.

It was a great finale, and I will always love this show, and there is nothing you can say to convince me differently! Tee hee - enjoy. Help a friend and force them to watch the DVDs of season 1!