Sunday, April 4, 2010

Change of Address

I've moved.  Well, sort of.  Until I have more purpose for this blog, it is on sabbatical.  In the meantime, wander over to to read all the latest stuff.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Don't Pitch the Post-holiday Poinsettia!

I've written an article for about caring for poinsettias after the holidays are over. Please take a look!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Twilight Movie Review

I was a part of the midnight madness that was the Twilight movie premiere. Although outside the target demographic, I packed into a theater of tween-Twilighters (one of whom dressed in full werewolf costume and was heckled by Team Edward for it) and sat in eager anticipation of the movie version of the uber-popular book.

I was not prepared to like the books but by page 20 of the first, I was completely sucked in. All four books now sit on my bookshelf, happily read and often loaned out to others. So, I wanted to like the movie. No, the leads were not who I pictured to play Edward and Bella, but I was keeping an open mind. In a spirit of female solidarity, I wanted director Catherine Hardwicke to knock the film out of the park. Sadly, the movie is a bunt at best.

It just doesn't work, and I've spent the past 24 hours trying to figure out why.

Unfortunately, the problem sits squarely on the director's shoulders. The gritty realism of independent films Hardwicke captures so well (see Thirteen for a stellar example) doesn't work for the romantic story of a vampire and his tasty, mortal girl. Twilight is dark, yes, but not gritty. And placed in the understated independent film-esque atmosphere, the leads flounder. They're left to rely on long looks that end up looking more like glares than longing. However, the realism does work well for some of the supporting characters: Billy Burke as Chief Swan and Gil Birmingham as Billy Black, for example. But 15-year-olds everywhere haven't piled into the theater to see Bella's dad, so the support helps but doesn't save the film.

Overall, the casting is problem. Nevermind that choosing real people to play beloved book characters is a losing proposition (even Gone With The Wind had its casting critics). Rob Pattinson and Kristen Stewart are fine as the leads, not great, not bad, just fine. Bella's mortal highschool chums fit their roles well. Even Peter Facinelli as Dr. Carlisle Cullen is fine (if you can get over his being an eerie doppleganger of Tom Cruise's Lestat). But casting hits the skids with the films villians. James, Victoria, and Laurent look more like punk-teen models off of a Gaultier runway than blood-sucking fiends. The fact that they travel with their very own smoke machine is the only way we know to be afraid of them. And Jackson Rathbone as Jasper Cullen better have been cast for the pedigree his last name implies because his constant look of panic is funny and his teased, dark blonde hair looks too much like Edward's (the teen audience screamed when he walked into the lunch room thinking he was Edward; they booed when they realized it wasn't). If a film is only as good as its villians, Twilight fails miserably.

And then there's the money. According to E!, the movie was made for 37 million and every penny pinched shows. In the hands of a more creative director, the lacking funds might not have mattered. For instance, the low-budget Fargo under the direction of the Coen brothers was iconic and haunting. Two things Twilight should have been. Instead, Twilight's special effects are downright lame. Scenes that should be impressive--like Edward's tree climbing and forest flying--become laughable. When Edward stands in the sunlight, he looks just like any other boy standing in the sun. Nothing special there. And the werewolf legend montage looks more like trick-or-treaters at Halloween than menacing werewolves. Someone needed to explain to Hardwicke that "special effects" mean more than speed framing and smoke machines.

What really makes me angry is the tragic waste of potential. Twilight should have been the perfect storm of the built-in book audience of Harry Potter and the over-the-top romance of Titanic. This film should have broken records and added all ages to the Twilight fan-base. Instead its loyal fans were treated to a bargain-basement version of their beloved story. The movie does stay true to the book, and because Twilight has sold millions of copies world-wide, the film should do well at the box office, guaranteeing sequels. But the fans and book deserved better.

The bottom line? Twilighters are better served by saving their $10 on a movie ticket, using it to buy the soundtrack (which is fantastic) and re-reading the book instead.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

Top Ten Underplayed Christmas Songs

I quit the job boards early today to focus on something more pleasant: Christmas music.

With the holidays right around the corner, it's time to take out the Christmas CDs and pour the wassail. In the last decade I have amassed quite a collection of songs, and so that you know what sort of girl is making these recommendations: my ipod playlist includes everything from Mendel's Messiah to Brenda Lee to Destiny's Child. I love "Joy to the World" and "Jinglebell Rock" just as much as the next person, but these popular favorites can be heard everywhere.

Here is a list of ten Christmas gems that deserve to be as popular as "All I Want For Christmas Is You."

10. "Christmas Wrapping" by Waitresses. A modern day Christmas fairy tale unfolds in the lyrics and will have you going to the store for cranberry sauce.

9. "Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer" by Jewel. Jewel and her mother sing about Rudolph an a capella duet. It is a fun spin on a classic song, and I can't help but smile with the last "bawm."

8. "Christmas Alphabet" by Dickie Valentine. Long before Fergie felt the need to sing-spell her favorite words to us, Mr. Valentine spelled out Christmas in this swanky-schmoozy, catchy song.
7. "Winter Wonderland" by Harry Connick, Jr. I first heard Connick Jr.'s jazzy piano version of the song in When Harry Met Sally. Have loved it ever since.

6. "It's a Marshmallow World" by Vic Damone. This is a light, breezy song about the fun of snow. And let's face it, what can be bad about associating snow with sugar!

5. "Peace on Earth" by Bing Crosby and David Bowie. At the height of his glam-rock popularity, Bowie teamed up with '40s crooner Crosby for what is simply the most beautiful duet. Past and present, new and old, traditional and modern--whatever metaphor you like--in perfect harmony.

4. "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" by Sixpence None the Richer. This is a folksy descant to the classic carol that I can listen to over and over.

3. "White Christmas" by the Drifters. A doo-woppy fun variation of a classic Christmas song.

2. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings" by The Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan. Channeling Peter, Paul, and Mary, the three deliver the perfect antidote to hearing "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" one too many times.

1. "The Christmas Song" by the Raveonettes. My new favorite. The only thing this song has in common with Nat King Cole's is the title. The '80s punk sound and lyrics are all their own.

Honorable Mentions:

Sarah Bareilles' "Winter Song" is a new release. A haunting, melancholoy song. Perfect for winter, or the Christmas blues.

Aled Jones' "Walking in the Air." I found this traditional song when I was living abroad. I'm a sucker for a song in a minor key.

Ella Fitzgerald's "Santa Clause Got Stuck in My Chimney." Beware: this one will stick in your head too! I have often wondered if this song inspired the beginning of Gremlins, but now that I've typed out the title, I realize it has all sorts of implications. lol.

Happy Holidays!


Today in the mail I received a bill. Yeah, yeah. Shocker! There's no need to feign surprise. This is as typical for me as it is for anyone else. But when I looked more closely at the the bill for my new red couch, I realized that the loan was through AIG. The very same AIG that the government bailed out so AIG top execs could float their golden parachutes over some tropical paradise.
Now, if my taxes are paying for AIG and I owe them money, shouldn't I just pay myself?
And does this mean everyone who pays taxes is insured? Afterall, how can you own an insurance company and not be insured?

Does Craigslist Really Work?

Three months ago, without a job, I moved to a new city. I am intelligent (despite deciding to move without a job) and presentable. I have an undergraduate and a graduate degree from respected universities. Granted, I majored in my mother-tongue, which qualifies me for nothing in particular, but it does mean I have a killer vocab and know what-the-heck to do with a semicolon. I figured I am as smart as your average bear, so surely I could find at least an office job answering phones and making copies, right?

Wrong! Wrong, wrong, wrong.

What I hadn't considered was how incredibly frustrating job hunting online would be. Prospective employers don't want a phone call or office visit. They say just send your resume in an email, which sounds easy (if easy means anonymous and ineffectual).

For the moment, I will leave and alone (although this is an altruistic move neither has afforded me). Nope, today I will aim and fire my ire at Craigslist is positively brilliant in theory. For a fee (or no fee at all), anyone can post an ad for almost anything (digruntled wives take note: craigslist doesn't tolerate ads for hitmen), but barring murder and prostitution, anything.

I, at first, thought I hit the job ad motherload. According to the list, offices all over town needed an "intelligent, personable receptionist to direct clients and answer phones." I dove right in. Ads were vague but I wasn't picky. I sent off 5-6 resumes a day with friendly, professional coverletters tailored to each posting.

Three weeks and 40+ resumes later, nothing. No "thanks for your application, but I hired my cousin" or "we will be reviewing resumes and will make a decision by March 2010." Nothing. Wait, that's not true. I did receive three automated responses from the grammatically challenged James who informed me that "applicants are required to post they resumes first." The third time, I emailed back to the job that "me resume is posted." Okay, so I totally understand why I didn't hear back on that one.

But, that still left more than 40 active resumes out there...somewhere. One particularly dark day, I looked out the window to see if the electronic ghosts of my resumes were quivering in a pile on the back lawn. They weren't. I am almost sorry. At least then I would have known where they landed and why I had yet to get a response. Eventually my coverletters became more creative and my resumes shorter (what Master's degree?) and still nothing.

So, I decided to cast a wider net that included freelance writing gigs, you know, where my creative coverletters might be appreciated. Nope. Nothing. I keep checking the back lawn just in case.

So here's the question I pose to anyone out there who is using, or ever has used, craigslist to job hunt. Did it work? How on earth did you do it?