Monday, February 26, 2007

The Oscars

I'm going to pretend that people will actually check in here to see what I thought about the Oscars and post my review of it, as though I'm some kind of entertainment journalist or something. Why not?

- General thoughts -- most of the telecast was incredibly boring, but in the end I thoroughly enjoyed it, mostly because a) enough of the people and films I wanted to win awards actually did and b) I spent the second half of the telecast posting comments on the blog of my favorite movie critic, Mick Lasalle, and this morning he actually referred to TWO of the things I said in his blog entry about the Oscars. How cool is that? (Look, most of us are total geeks about something, and I am a geek about movie reviews. Not actual MOVIES, you understand -- although I am quite picky about what I see, since I've had kids I don't get out and see movies nearly often enough. But I do read movie reviews pretty voraciously, and pride myself on knowing critics think about all the movies I'm not seeing. This makes it possible for me to both enjoy the Oscars every year even if I haven't seen any of the movies AND scream like Abigail Breslin when I see a movie critic I respect mention a couple of my comments in his blog. I respect your right to find that obnoxious.)

Anyway, if you are interested, here is where Mick and some other fans and I were making comments during the Oscars last night:
And here, in the first paragraph and in item 8, is where he agrees with two of my comments:

And that's enough about that.

- I really wanted Jennifer Hudson to win for Best Supporting Actress. She was awesome in "Dreamgirls" and I have her singing "And I Am Telling You" on my iPod -- it gives me goosebumps every time. I did NOT want Eddie Murphy to win because every time he started singing, it reminded me of his old "James Brown Hot Tub Party" skit from SNL, and also, I think he's a pig. So it made me pretty happy when she won and he didn't.

- I didn't think Alan Arkin was great in "Little Miss Sunshine" but I enjoyed his performance and was pleased that he won. (I actually would have loved to see Steve Carrell be nominated for his performance. That guy is a GENIUS). I also liked it that "LMS" won a screenplay award (even though, as a writer, it irritates me to no end that the screenplay awards are always kind of the consolation prize. My favorite movies invariably win screenplay awards and not Best Director or Picture.). For whatever reason, Reasonable Man's and my favorite "LMS" moment comes the first time they are all running to get in the moving van, and Alan Arkin yells "Get in here, you dumb bastard!" at Steve Carrell, and both the guy who said the line and the guy who wrote it got Oscars, so that was a good thing.

- I really liked "LMS" but wasn't disappointed it didn't win Best Picture because it wasn't that great. It was a really entertaining and well-done little movie and I think it's cool that it got nominated, but it's not like last year where I thought "Brokeback Mountain" was robbed or anything like that.

- We saw "The Queen" last weekend, and I thought it was a pretty solid and interesting movie that was obviously owned by Helen Mirren's performance, and good for her for winning. There's been quite a long streak of young, thin, glamorous actresses winning Best Actress going back to at least the late 90s, so it was nice to see someone break that mold -- at least the young part. She certainly looked thin and glamorous enough to suit me.

- I don't have any particular feelings about "The Departed" doing well. It's something I can't deal with really violent movies -- it's supposed to be pretty good, and being that Martin Scorsese is a highly respected director, it's very nice for him to get an Oscar. (Just for fun, I looked at his filmography on IMDB and was not surprised to find that I have seen total of about 1.6 of his movies -- I watched "Goodfellas" in its entirety, made it about a third of the way through "Cape Fear" before the tension got to me, and I saw his portion of "New York Stories," although the only thing I can really remember about it was that Rosanna Arquette was bitchy and had awesome hair.) So whatever on that. I didn't have a strong rooting interest for anything nominated for Best Picture anyway.

- The actual telecast -- ugh. Why weren't Best Supporting Actor and Actress the first two awards like usual? Starting off with Best Art Direction is not the way to go. I like Ellen Degeneres and thought she did a good job, but what did she have to work with? There just wasn't much energy to any of the proceedings, and by the time Clint Eastwood came out to give a lifetime achievement award to the Italian composer guy, I was about ready to slit my wrists.

- My vote for most fabulous dress/style goes to Kate Winslett. She always manages to wear some color no one else has on and just completely rock it. Her movie, "Little Children" as well as "Notes on a Scandal" are the only nominated movies I'd still like to see -- I read both books, found them just okay, but want to see what really good actresses can do with the material.

- I lied -- I'd also like to see "West Bank Story," which won for Best Live Short Film -- that looked like a good one.

I guess that's about it...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Getting Scammed

The other day I got scammed. And the stupid thing is, I had a very strong sense it was happening while it was happening, and I just went along with it.

On Friday afternoon, two girls knocked on my front door. As soon as I saw them, I know I got that "oh, crap" look on my face, because they told me "oh, don't worry, we're your neighbors." That got me to come outside and talk to them. The fact is, a lot of students live on our street, and I have no idea what any of them actually look like. Then they told me their under-17 girls' soccer team had qualified to play in a tournament in Orlando, Florida, and they were raising money to go. Suspicious point number 1: these girls definitely looked older than 16 -- but I wasn't really thinking about that at the time.

They pulled out a dog-eared leaflet and assured me that it wasn't magazine subscriptions -- it was sets of books, their coach had gotten them hooked up with Borders somehow, and the books were really nice and if I didn't want a set for myself, I could send them to the women's shelter, that's what a lot of their customers had been doing, etc. At this point, I was totally ignoring everything that was a little fishy about this (clearly this had no connection to Borders; sets of books are actually worse than magazine subscriptions; the girls are talking fast and keep evading my question of how much the books cost) and hearing what I want to: raising money for the soccer trip to Florida, donating books to a women's shelter. I like to donate to worthy causes, and these girls are so nice and friendly. I want to believe them.

Finally they give me a price, around $34, and I agree to send a set of set of books to the women's shelter. One of them sits down on the bench on my porch (after asking if it's okay; the other keeps telling me their coach says they have to come back and do me some other kind of favor, like washing my car) and I chat with the other girl. I ask her how long she's played soccer. She says 14 years. If she's about 16, that means she's been played soccer since she was 2? But I don't do the math till later. The girl continues spinning some tale about her father being in the military, which doesn't seem to have anything to do with playing soccer. I write out a check to "Kays Naturals" as instructed. My total is $48. I think that's a lot for shipping and handling, but still go along.

The girls thank me profusely as I hand them the check. One of them asks me about my nosering. The other, who has a nosering, comments on how painful getting her nose pierced was. They tell me they only have one more house to go to before they're done and I wonder which of my neighbors they're going to go suck up to next. As they are backing down my front walk, one of them asks if they can send me a postcard from Brazil. Brazil? They realize their mistake immediately. "Oh, sorry, Orlando!" one says! "We went to Brazil last year!" Unfortunately, at the same time, the other blurts out "we're going to Brazil after!" My eyes narrow, they hurry off, and I go inside.

Amazingly, I still think about it for a while. Sure, there were a few lies in there, but maybe a set of nice books is going to arrive from a women's shelter? Don't be stupid, I tell myself. I take the receipt they've given me, and right there in black and white it says that the person from whom I received it won't earn points toward the trip they are working for if I cancel my order. It's the whole "young people earning points/trying to win a contest" BS that I know how to spot a mile away -- I've been turning these people away from my doorstep for years. How could I have fallen for it? I Google "Kays Naturals" and found several items about this particular scam, including this warning:


I filled out the info on the back to cancel my order and wrote a little note indicating that I knew I'd been lied to. Then I got online with my bank and cancelled the check, just to be on the safe side. I certainly don't trust them to cancel my order. So in the end, no harm done -- these people aren't getting my money. Still, I can't stop thinking about it. I've actually had the desire to drive around and see if I can spot these girls, just to confront them and tell them "hey, I'm not stupid -- do you really think I didn't know you were lying to me?" Somehow, their discovering at some other place and time that I stopped payment on my check isn't nearly satisfying enough.

This whole episode makes me wonder:

Why did I just go along with it? I knew early on that many things weren't right, but apparently I was still made just socially uncomfortable enough in these situations to just smile and go along, despite having developed the assertiveness to say "no thanks" and close the door on people just like them years ago. All I can say at this point is, it won't happen to me again. I'm envisioning the next time one of these kids comes to my door and wondering what I'll say.

The other question is, who are these kids, and why do they want to do this kind of work? It turns out there's plenty of information about them online, and they are being exploited as much as their potential customers. The sleazy "travelling magazine sales crew" industry rounds up young people with promises of travel and easy money, then subjects them to all manner of dangers and abuses. To read more, see and visit

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Having heard from a reader yesterday in no uncertain terms that I "suck" for not posting recently, I feel the need to rectify the situation. So I shall. I just don't want any complaints about the fact that I don't actually have a whole lot to say at the moment. It's 7:20 on a Saturday evening, and after a day of lying around watching about 20 episodes of "Scrubs" with BLB and the Bride, we are currently watching "The Princess Bride" on Bravo (even though we own the DVD) and basically doing nothing productive. The kids are arguing, which they seem to be doing a lot of lately. Reasonable Man and I will probably have bowls of cereal or something equally gourmet for dinner. And tomorrow we host our first ever Super Bowl party, which should be fun despite the fact that I do not give a rat's ass about football and was hard pressed to come up with Chicago's opponent (Indianappolis, and I did come up with it, all on my own) in tomorrow's game.

In more significant news, it's official: Enthusio is having a good year in school. He likes school, has friends, and is graduating from psychotherapy in a few weeks. He still tells bad jokes, but I fear this is something he won't outgrow, as his father also tells bad jokes on a regular basis. Anyway, that's all good. Mermaid has had some issues come up at school recently, but nothing major. She is still essentially the same happy kid she's been for the last year. Who knew puberty would be such a breeze? Homework is still a drag, and is likely to get worse next year when she starts junior high, but she's not worrying about it, so why should I? (yeah right!)

I'm not sure where January went. I did a few projects around the house (put up cabinets in the laundry room, replaced the light fixtures in a couple of bathrooms) and otherwise went about my regular business of going to the gym, drinking coffee, driving my kids around, avoiding cooking dinner, and watching stupid amounts of reality TV. Oh yeah, now I remember: I spent most of January watching the first 6 seasons of America's Next Top Model. I now have two episodes left of season 6 and then I'm done. I don't know whether to be relieved or devastated. What a twisted, aggravating and totally addictive show. Good thing the new season starts at the end of this month!

I guess I should start looking around and figuring out what needs to be done before our party guests arrive. Can you feel my excitement?