Archive | November, 2008

The Christmas Factory: An Endorsement

30 Nov

It’s one thing to go to a restaurant because the food is good. It’s another to go because you like the ambience. But that’s how I feel about the Cheesecake Factory, which every year plays the single best holiday music of any store or restaurant I patronize. It’s like they somehow got a copy of my Very Marty Christmas mixes and put them all on shuffle. No kidding. They play Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas,” Stevie Wonder’s big tunes … all the classics, plus some not as good but still enjoyable ones like Kelly Clarkson’s “My Grown-Up Christmas List.” And this year, to up the ante, they even have a holiday-themed cheesecake with peppermint candies. No, I didn’t have that when I went to the Factory Saturday night, but I almost did. I may just have to go back to try it. But anyway, that’s another endorsement from me: The Cheesecake Factory at holiday time.

Temporary Insanity?

29 Nov

Todd and I were talking yesterday while wandering around New York City and I commented to him matter-of-factly that I was having such a good time that I could see myself being very happy living here. He said it was just because the weather was so nice, and because New York is a fun city to visit. I called it temporary insanity. After all, I know full well that I have absolutely no desire to live in Manhattan. Hell, I don’t even like New York City. But that doesn’t change the fact that I had those thoughts again after another day of playing tourist.

I was in the city to see Todd — in from Los Angeles with his wife and child, Naomi, who is already a year old — and we did a typical tourist thing on the day after Thanksgiving: wander around Fifth Avenue looking at the various store windows at Saks, Bloomingdales, and Bergdorf Goodman. (Oh, and it should be noted, we did all this with Kerri.) Then we went to 30 Rock to see the tree (unlit until Wednesday). And I’ve gotta say, the combination of perfect weather and being amongst people full of holiday cheer (not just Todd and co., but the entire city, it seemed) was really fun.

When we separated, I was having such a good time that I made the decision to stay in the city and try to see a show. After an hour-long wait at the new TKTS booth, I had tickets for (of all things) Shrek the Musical. (I know, I know. But I had included it in a recent article for Continental and I was curious.) I’ll write more about the show a little later, but I’ll say I am enjoying this annual tradition of getting spur-of-the-moment theater tickets (last year I saw Spring Awakening). For laughs and, well, because I had to go, I returned to Charmin’s free public restroom, browsed the Virgin Megastore for a while, then fully embraced my inner tourist by grabbing a quick dinner at Planet Hollywood (mmmmm … Chicken Crunch). Suffice it to say, it was a cheesy couple hours, but I enjoyed myself.

Yeah, Todd was right: In small doses, New York can be a lot of fun. But small doses is key. I’m not moving anytime soon.

Two Years

28 Nov

At what point do you remove someone from your cell phone?

I asked myself that question again this morning as I thought about my Bubby.

Today is the two-year anniversary of her death, and I still find myself wanting to call her every now and then as if she’s still with us and might actually answer the phone. Of course, I know that’s not true (heck, I know there’s not even an answering machine hooked up to her phone anymore), but it’s just what happens when I scroll through my cell phone and see her there. I’m in no rush to “erase” her, or delete her name from my numbers, so I think I’ll keep Bubby on my phone for a while more. Continue reading

Just Saying Thanks

26 Nov

Since it’s the day before Thanksgiving, I thought I’d take a second to post a brief list (in no particular order) of the things I’m thankful for this year: Continue reading

They Come from a Land Down Under

25 Nov

Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! was such a brilliant mix of sight, sound, and story that I paid to see it three times in the theater.

(Really. I thought it was awesome and unlike anything I’d ever seen before.)

His latest film, Australia?

Not so much.

It’s a sweeping epic love story set during World War II, and it’s consistently a feast for the eyes, but the story just isn’t a compelling enough one to make it worth seeing. Continue reading

Don’t I Have Anything Better to Do?

25 Nov

A new study out Monday said that more people are watching TV than ever before. According to the study, by Nielsen Media Research, the average American watches 142 hours of TV in a month, five more than last year. Yes, I said one hundred and forty-two hours. That’s a lot of TV, and it got me thinking about how much TV I watch these days. Let’s see: On Mondays, an hour and a half (Gossip Girl and How I Met Your Mother); Tuesdays and Wednesdays, nothing regularly (no more 90210 for me , thanks); Thursdays, two hours (The Office, 30 Rock, and Grey’s Anatomy); Friday, nothing; Saturday, four and a half hours (Beverly Hills, 90210 reruns and Saturday Night Live); and Sunday, two hours (The Amazing Race and Brothers & Sisters). Throw in (at least) three hours of Countdown with Keith Olbermann each week, and maybe an hour total of the Today show, plus the nightly news, and that’s … about 15 hours a week. Figure there are four weeks in a month and that brings me to a total of, let’s say it’s about 55 hours of TV watching in a month — waaaaaay below the new average. Phew.

Of course, the study includes more than just time spent watching a television; it also includes time spent watching content on computers and on mobile phones. I watch my daily dose of YouTube and other clips, but please. There’s no way I watch 90 other hours each month. And it’s a good thing, because there’s this other study that came out recently showing that the more TV you watch, the unhappier you are. “Happy people spend more free hours socializing, reading and participating in religious activities, while unhappy people watch 30 percent more television…. On average, the down-and-out reported an extra 5.6 hours of tube time a week, compared with their happiest counterparts,” says a Washington Post article about the study. Thankfully, I consider myself a happy person, and don’t consider my TV watching to be excessive. (And no, that’s not denial.) After all, it’s not like I watch all of that TV in a week; the DVR allows me to watch it whenever I want, and to have a life outside of my living room.

Which brings me to another recent study you may have heard about, the one that said teens who watch more TV are more likely to have sex. Well … um … how about I not even comment on that one and let you assume what I’m going to say about it.

Point is: how much TV do you watch? Am I watching too much? Or maybe not enough?

Fowl Play

24 Nov

Keith Olbermann was on vacation last week enjoying some much deserved peace and quiet. There was just one problem: he missed one of the funniest Sarah Palin video clips of, like, ever. So on tonight’s show, he got all caught up. And if you, too, haven’t seen this one yet … enjoy.

Whole Milk

24 Nov

If you want to see tour-de-force acting, look no further than Gus Van Sant’s Milk, which features Sean Penn playing the title role of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the United States. The film couldn’t really be much more timely, what with barriers being broken in national elections and with Proposition 8 passing in California earlier this month. But modern-day parallels aside, Milk recounts how one man seeking to stop injustices rose up and made a difference, becoming an icon and an inspiration for people everywhere. The movie’s so good that Milk comes off as someone that gay and straight people alike can call a hero.

I don’t know how much more you need to know about the plot given that Milk is about a real person and it’s based on a true story. I’d rather tell you about the excellent cast, which besides Penn also includes James Franco as Milk’s lover, Scott; Emile Hirsch as Cleve Jones, Milk’s protege; and Josh Brolin as Dan White, Milk’s assassin. Franco especially gives a very moving and sympathetic performance, but all members of the cast are impressive. Van Sant tells the story in a tender and not heavy-handed way, making this a universal story and not a “gay” one or any other kind of marginalization. Milk is undoubtedly a sympathetic portrait of the man, and he comes off as one of us: someone who saw a wrong in his community and sought to make it right through sheer will and in the face of extreme prejudice. By the end of Milk, you’ll not only be cheering for Milk’s accomplishments (and Penn’s performance), you’ll be wondering why the gay community still has so far to go in terms of their quest for equal rights. I love this movie. It’s one of the best of the year, and one that I hope has an impact beyond the box office. I’m giving Milk an A–.

A Winner

23 Nov

Not since Once have I enjoyed a movie as much as I did Slumdog Millionaire.

A story of hope and love, Millionaire is a rare must-see in a crowded movie marketplace. It’s definitely one of my favorites of the year.

The plot of the movie is rather simple: When Jamal, a former street child from Mumbai, appears on the Hindi version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and gets every question right, he is accused of cheating. After all, there’s no way an uneducated young man who grew up poor and without parents could get questions right that scholars and other brainy people couldn’t, right?

Well, as it turns out, every question Jamal is asked has some kind of tie to something in his life. The film jumps back and forth from the quiz show to those events, but not until the end do you really know whether it was luck, money, cheating, or destiny that lead to Jamal’s success. Continue reading

I’m Sporting a Yule Log

21 Nov

Ho ho ho … the Christmas season officially begins this Sunday when Stephen Colbert‘s holiday special A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All airs on Comedy Central at 10 p.m. Check out these previews (or read this one), and then watch the whole thing this weekend. (Brothers & Sisters isn’t on, so there shouldn’t be any conflicts for you loyal Walker watchers out there.)

And if you want even more, check out Colbert’s very own yule log. Merry Christmas, everybody!

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