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Monthly Archives: August 2010

Books vs. Movies

Jess and I have this argument all the time.  She’ll tell me that some movie is really great and I’ll make the snide remark that the book is better.  (I can be a bit of a smart ass at times.*)  She’ll watch the movie and skip reading the book.  I, on the other hand, read the book and then see the movie.  I try to give myself enough time between the reading and the viewing to forget enough about the book so I’m not disappointed in what’s left out or changed in the movie.

The first time I watched the movie version before reading the book, I felt dirty, like I was doing something sinful.  The movie was Practical Magic and I enjoyed it.  When I read the book, though, I ended up disappointed.  I thought, “The book didn’t follow the movie at all!” when really my thinking should have been the other way around.

Last summer when The Time Traveler’s Wife previews started airing, I was determined to read the book first.  I was also trying to save money so instead of buying one of the 100 copies we had in the store, I put my name on the reservation list at the library.  My number in line to get a copy was somewhere in the 200s.  I figured that by the time I got it and read it, the movie would be out on DVD.  But Murphy’s Law kicked in and I got the book sooner than anticipated (the library purchased several new copies to distribute to patrons).  Still, it took me the full 3 weeks to read it and then I waited another 4 months before I watched the movie.  I’m definitely glad I read the book first, unlike Mom, with whom I watched the movie.  Some of the time travelling wasn’t explained well in the movie and a couple of times I paused it to make sure that Mom understood what was going on.

But I have a confession to make.  The last two movies I’ve watched have been based off of books but (are you sitting down?) I didn’t read the books before watching them.  Oh, I will read the books eventually, but I was so eager to see the movies that I broke my own policy.  The movies in question were Shutter Island and Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.  I haven’t heard if Shutter Island stays close to the book or not but I’ve heard several complaints about Percy Jackson.  One friend even described it at a complete rewrite of the book so I know I wouldn’t have enjoyed the movie if I’d read the book first.  Yet I think I will still enjoy the book after the movie because I want to see how it really plays out.

Now, those books that have on the cover, “Based on the screenplay by…” means it was a movie first and then a book.  This doesn’t work the same way.  In cases when the book is written after the movie, then the movie is always better.  Trust me on this one.

*Understatement of the year.

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Posted by on August 9, 2010 in Entertainment

 

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No cons about it

I am one of the few people here that doesn’t have on a shirt with a pop-culture reference on it or is dressed in anime costume.  That’s because I’m at GenCon in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Once a year, gamers flock to the circle city for a four-day cavalcade of everything geek.  Now, I’m not full-blown geek but I am friends with people who are and I like geeky things.  I would call myself a wee-geek.  Some of my favorite shows share much of the same fan-base of the attendees here (those shows being Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Big Bang Theory).

This is my first GenCon and I’m only here because Judy offered to buy me a ticket for the day.  Judy and her husband, Tony, are a bit more hard-core geek than I am, although Judy doesn’t game and Tony does.  Even so, they’ve been attending GenCon for 8 years and have even made the trip to California for Comic-Con.  Tony has the biggest Star Wars collection I have ever seen; I once counted 30 huge tubs full of Star Wars items in his house.  That didn’t include all the stuff out on display, either.  Like I said, hard-core.

Judy and I skip the gaming rooms altogether and go straight to the booths.  Most booths are selling game pieces, t-shirts, strategy books, and collectibles.  Others are selling costumes, including some corsets (if I had the $100 to spare, I would get one).  Still others have science fiction and fantasy authors and artists.  The booths selling games have demo stations set up.  Everywhere I look, groups of people are playing all kinds of games.

I’m not as interested in the games as I am in the people.  Specifically, the people in costume.  There are all types and degrees of costume, from anime characters to goth fairies to steam punk.  It is fascinating.

My favorite part, though, has to be the goth lounge.  I have no idea what it is for but I am enthralled with the chaise lounge chairs, the chandelier-esque floor lamps, and the iron grating on the walls.  After Judy and I are done snapping pictures of the area, I turn to her and say, “I think you should decorate a room in your house like that!”  I’m sure she would, too, if she had the money.  Hell, I would if I had the money (and the house).

While I enjoy the few hours I am at GenCon, I probably won’t go again unless someone connected to Buffy or Big Bang Theory is there (and there’d be no stopping me if Neil Patrick Harris made an appearance).  But that’d be more likely at Comic-Con so perhaps I’ll have to attend that one year.  Until then, I’ll just enjoy my one purchase: a red “Bazinga!” shirt with Dr. Cooper’s face on it.  The fact that I’m excited about my purchase just goes to prove that I do, to a degree, fit into this group, even if I don’t look like it.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2010 in Crafts & Hobbies, Entertainment

 

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Here’s a tip: be a good customer

Waiter Rant started as a blog and the writer, waiter Steve Dublanica, then turned it into a book which became a New York Times bestseller.  It gives an inside look into the front end of the restaurant business (and a little into the back end, as well).

There’s one chapter about bugs and sanitation*, another about Russell Crowe eating at his restaurant and throughout all chapters are stories of customers, some good, but mostly bad.  It’s an eye-opening look on human behavior.  One story tells of a man who demands to be seated for where he made his reservation, despite the woman having a stroke in that area and it being cleared to give the medics room to work.  I work retail so it doesn’t surprise me that people act like this.  It just made me hyper-aware of how I act at a restaurant.

The are 3 appendixes as well: how to be a good customer, how to tell if you’re working at a bad restaurant, and items a waiter should always carry.  Since I’ve never been a waiter, the first appendix was the only one relevant to me (but the other two were still interesting and funny to read).  Some of the things he listed were obvious to me, like the Golden Rule and not snapping your fingers to get the waiter’s attention.  (Sadly, some people don’t know this.)  Other tips were one’s I never knew, especially when it came to wine etiquette.  One of his tips on this subject: check to see if the cork matches the label on the wine bottle.

All in all, this was a fascinating book to read.  Everyone should read it and then take an honest look at themselves to see if they are a bad customer or a good customer.  I’m eager to pick up Dublanica’s follow-up book Keep the Change, which is due out in November this year.

*I read this part while in bed one night.  Dublanica stated, “As you’re reading this, you’re being watched by a dozen pairs of eyes peeking out of the dark corners of your house.”  Thankfully, I didn’t have the nightmares I thought I would.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2010 in Literature

 

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The real world – puppet style

For my last birthday, Fred bought tickets to see the play Avenue Q.  In short, it’s Sesame Street in the real world.  The play is done with puppets and humans.  Many of the puppets have Sesame Street counterparts, like Rod and Nicky who are the alternative Bert and Ernie.

Fred and I had never seen the play before but I had the soundtrack which I’d purchased based on a friend’s recommendation.  I hadn’t really listened to it but once I found out we were going to see it, we started playing the CD.  We couldn’t stop laughing.  “What Do You Do With a BA in English?/It Sucks to Be Me” quickly became one of my favorite songs.  The first part is a solo by Preston, a puppet just out of college and starting out on his own for the first time.  It goes:

What do  you do with a BA in English?
What is my life supposed to be?
Four years of college
And plenty of knowledge
Have earned me this useless degree.
I can’t pay the bills yet
‘Cause I have no skills yet.
The world is a big, scary place.
But somehow I can’t shake
The feeling I might make
A difference to the human race.

Oh, how true his words ring!  What does one do with a BA in English?  Teach or work in a bookstore; those are the only two options I’ve been able to think of.  (Later in the show one of the puppets gets fired from her assistant teaching position and gets a job at a chain bookstore.  She reflects, “I’m making as little as ever.”  Word, sister.)

The second part of the song has the characters lamenting why each of their lives suck.  It culminates when the super of the building, Gary Coleman, comes out and says why his life sucks.  The other characters agree, “It sucks to be you!”  Check it out on YouTube!

Of course, there are other great songs on the album (“Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” is another favorite) but it would be easier if you just run out and get the album yourself.  You won’t regret it.

When the day finally came to go see Avenue Q, I was extremely excited.  I knew what to expect music-wise but seeing a play and hearing a play are two different things.  There were so many visual jokes throughout the show.  For instance, there are two screens that hang above the stage and at different intervals will have cartoon pictures and kids shouting out what those pictures are.  “One, two, three, four, five nightstands!” the kids shout while five cartoon nightstands appear on the screen, one by one.  Then, one by one each nightstand disappears until only one is left.  “One!” the kids shout.  “One nightstand!  One…night…stand!”  This is something that isn’t on the soundtrack and can only be appreciated when viewing the live production.

At the end of the night, Fred and I continued to laugh through the hour-long drive home.  It was a great present and I can’t wait to go see it again!

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2010 in Entertainment

 

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Veggie burger in paradise

Whenever I order a veggie burger at a restaurant, I ask if the patty is grilled with the regular burgers.  More often than not, they are.  For a vegetarian, this defeats the purpose of a veggie patty.  Hell, it defeats the purpose for a health nut because they’re still getting the grease from the burgers on theirs.  Last I checked, Chilis and Denny’s were both perpetrators but one that isn’t: Cheeseburger in Paradise.

I never would have gone to Cheeseburger in Paradise if it hadn’t been for Judy, a pesco-vegetarian*.  Still, before I ordered my veggie burger, I checked with the waiter.  “Are the veggie burgers cooked with the regular burgers?” I asked.  His answer surprised me.  “Everything has a separate grill.  One grill for the beef burgers, one for the turkey burgers, one for the grilled chicken, and one for the veggie burgers.”  I cannot describe how ecstatic I was to hear this.  Why didn’t other restaurants do this as well?  Pushing aside space issues, this is really a great idea.  What if someone had a severe allergy to, say, chicken but their beef burger was cooked right next to a chicken patty?  Or on the same space a chicken patty had just been and the grill wasn’t cleaned between the two?  Why risk contamination and a possible lawsuit?  More restaurants should take a page from Cheeseburger in Paradise’s book.  Not only are they safe for vegetarians and those plagued with allergies, but they have a little something for every taste.

*Pesco-vegetarians eat fish but not meat.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2010 in Food

 

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Generic headline here

I can be a bit of a snob.  Looking around my apartment, one wouldn’t be able to tell because I don’t keep it meticulously clean nor do I have high-priced furniture (most of it has come from Target and Ikea).  But when it comes to buying groceries, I’ve been known to spend more just to get a brand name.  I know I’m not the only one to do this; millions of people do it every day.  Most of the time we don’t think about it.  It’s ingrained in us to just pick up the soda brand that we’ve been drinking for the past twenty-some years or to purchase Kraft’s frozen pizza because Kraft is well-known and it, therefore, must be good.

Years ago I saw a report on a show like Dateline about generics versus brand names.  The report even had a blind taste test and most people went for the generic over the brand name.  They also reported that many of the products were produced by the same people as the brand name one; the only difference was the label.  Even after seeing this report, I was in full denial.  I wouldn’t change my shopping habits.  Once I did experiment a little and tried the grocer’s version of Honey Nut Cheerios but I was disappointed.  The taste was alright but the crunch was not the same.  I didn’t buy them again.

Fred, on the other hand, is a firm believer in generics.  Why pay more when you can get the same thing for less?  So, it was because of him that I tried my grocer’s version of Diet Dr. Pepper.  I was surprised.  It was actually pretty good, even a little better than the “real” thing.  The next time I was at the grocer, I picked up a couple of packs and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was $2 for a 12-pack.  The brand name 12-packs are at least twice that much.  No, thank you!

Now, I haven’t completely switched over to buying all generics, but I’ve come quite a way.  Bread?  Sure!  There’s another $1.50 in savings.  Chips?  Throw that in the basket as well!  Yet another $2 in savings.  It’s a great natural high to see how much less I spend at the grocery store now.  With each trip, I think about how I the $5 or $10 I saved right then will add up greatly over time.  Maybe one day I can actually have a decent savings account.

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2010 in Food

 

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Shudder Island

If you want a creepy, psychological thriller, then look no further than Shutter Island.  Based on Dennis Lehane’s book, the movie follows Teddy Daniels, a US Marshall in search of a missing “patient” at a mental institution for the criminally insane.  He soon reveals to his new partner Chuck that he is also looking for a guy named Laeddis, who’d set an apartment building on fire and killed his wife.  Soon after arriving on the island, however, Teddy begins having nightmares and hallucinations.  He also believes there is a conspiracy with those in charge of the institution to experiment on their patients, much like the Nazis did at the concentration camps.

Most movies that come out are not worthy of the price of admission into the theater, nor even the low price of a DVD rental.  But this one definitely is worth it.  There is a twist, which I won’t reveal here but I’ll just say it completely blind-sided me.  It’s one of those twists that makes the viewer want to go back and watch it again, just to see all the clues that were missed.  If you haven’t seen it already, I highly recommend that you do, though it’s probably best not to watch it by yourself or on a stormy night (and most definitely not by yourself on a stormy night).

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2010 in Entertainment

 

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