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Strangers on a Train

26 Dec

The biggest mystery about The Tourist isn’t the whereabouts of the guy people think Johnny Depp’s character is. It’s how a movie with so much going for it could be so disappointing. Depp stars as Frank, a Wisconsin math teacher, who innocently meets the mysterious Elise (Angelina Jolie) on board a train en route to Venice. Elise involves Frank in a plot to distract some mobsters and some British Interpol agents, but something goes wrong and of course, the two fall for each other. It all unfolds on land and water in the Italian city, and the film was directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, director of the Oscar-winning film The Lives of Others.

Sounds intriguing (mostly), but I just didn’t buy it. I’m not sure exactly when the film lost its credibility, but it had to be around the part when Depp revealed himself as the most stylish, sophisticated, athletic, and resourceful math teacher of all time — and he’s from Wisconsin to boot! Is there any reason for him to fall in love with someone who has put his life in danger, even if she looks like Angelina Jolie? Of course not. So I don’t mind telling you that the “twist” at the end couldn’t be any more predictable. And as moviegoers, we’re left wondering why Depp, Jolie, et al didn’t just stay home instead of taking this ill-fated trip. I’m giving The Tourist a C–.

Woman in Search of a Word

13 Aug

You might think that after seeing a movie called Eat Pray Love, that I’d want to do one of the above.

Or, that maybe I’d want to hop online and plan a trip to Italy, India, or Bali.

But that would imply that said movie was any good, and portrayed the activities of the title and showed the places where they’re undertaken in attractive, tourist-friendly ways.

Unfortunately, EPL is not the kind of movie that would inspire such a reaction. Continue reading

Summer in Michigan City

6 Jul

Growing up in suburban New York, I never thought that one day I’d get really excited about spending July 4 in Michigan City, Indiana.

But after going there last year and having a great time, that’s what’s happened. So that’s why I went to Chicago this weekend.

Thursday and Friday I wandered around town (about 6 miles of walking, in fact), took a day trip to Evanston to see Northwestern (just for fun), checked out two of Chicago’s leading cupcake places (Molly’s and Sweet Mandy B’s — both of which were tasty, but not as good as the hype), had some custom-made rapid-frozen ice cream at a place called iCream (really, that’s its name), and finally got to meet my friends’ daughter, who is totally cute.

But spending the weekend in Lake Michigan was the highlight of the trip. Continue reading

Sunny Days

8 Feb

Since my parents basically live in Florida, going down there is more like going home than going on vacation.

That said, going down to Florida with my niece, Abby, makes it a vacation. And that’s exactly what I was doing last week.

We all went down for our first full family vacation with Abby. The first half she was with my sister, brother-in-law, and his family, and the second half they were with me and my folks. Continue reading

I Resolve To …

1 Jan

Like it or not, January and 2010 are both here.

Among other things, that means it’s time to stop looking back and start to look forward.

In most cases, that also means coming up with some resolutions for things to change in the new year.

Generally, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because I’m never able to keep them.

But this year I’m going to publish my list of resolutions here, and I’m hoping that the public declaration will help me stick to them.

So with that in mind, I resolve to … Continue reading

Miles Above the Rest

6 Dec

In the film Love Actually, Hugh Grant says that if you want to see true love, all you have to do is go to the airport.

Well, chances are good Grant’s never met Ryan Bingham, the main character in Up in the Air.

Love doesn’t even begin to describe how Bingham (played by George Clooney) feels about airports and traveling. He’s got the whole thing down to a science: what and how to pack, which line to choose at the security checkpoint, how much time he saves by not checking baggage, how to make the most of his per diem so he earns more frequent flyer miles faster, etc. etc.

If business travelers are considered “road warriors,” then Bingham, who spends around 300 days of his year on the road, is their leader. Continue reading

The American Way?

24 Oct

I was in Chicago (or, more accurately, at a hotel near O’Hare) this week for the MarketingProfs Digital Marketing Mixer. Great time, a very worthwhile couple days. But don’t you hate it when a nice trip is ruined by the ride home?

Here’s what happened: My two coworkers and I were scheduled to be on the 7:40 American Airlines flight out of O’Hare Thursday night, but we got to the airport a little early so that we could try and go standby on the 5:55. No surprise, we were not the only ones with that idea, and we weren’t so lucky. So, we decided to grab some dinner and wait. The weather outside was bad; it was raining pretty hard. But planes were still taking off, although some were starting to be delayed — including ours, which we learned was pushed back from 7:40 to 10:30. (Holy delay, Batman!) Um, that sucks, we thought, and we ordered another round of drinks.

A couple hours later, though, some odd stuff started happening: We saw that the flight to Boston scheduled for 9:35 had also been delayed, but only until 9:55. Why was a flight scheduled to take off after ours, that’s going to the same destination, leaving before ours? How does that happen? Why was our flight delayed nearly three and a half hours (at this point, the departure time had changed to 11:00), and this one only 20 minutes? That’s very wrong, we thought. Of course, by the time we noticed this, it was too late to try and get on the flight.

And then, around 10:40, we made our way to our gate, where we found just about nobody waiting for the flight. That’s because the time had been moved up to 10:45. We just barely made it! Given how rare it is for a flight to take off early, and given how long this one had been delayed for, why wasn’t there an announcement made over the public address system? How much would that have sucked if we had been at the airport for six hours and then ultimately missed our flight?

I can think of worse things for American Airlines to have done than to delay us for 3.5 hours, and to tell us early enough so we didn’t have to stress. It’s not like they kept pushing back the flight by 30 minutes or an hour at a time, and we had to sit there not knowing what was going on. And it’s not like we were stuck on the plane waiting for it to take off, or anything like that, either. And it’s not like the pilot overshot the runway on his way into Logan Airport. And, truth be told, it wasn’t so bad hanging out waiting for our flight; we ate, we drank, we watched the ballgame, and we had a good time.

But seriously, American. What was up with that scheduling? We should have left before the 9:35 flight did. Isn’t that what being in line is all about? And given the late hour and the few people still left in the terminal, couldn’t you have made a loud-enough announcement about pushing up the departure time?

And, because our flight was delayed for such a long time, aren’t you supposed to offer us a voucher or something? Isn’t that what most airlines do in that situation?

I know the weather and the delays weren’t your fault, but I still think you could have handled things a little bit better.

Oh, the Places I’ll Go

19 Jul

There was an article recently in GQ about how we’ve all lost our ability to get lost, thanks to GPS and other tools that show us where we want to go.

Well, ironically enough, in the month or so that I’ve had an iPhone, I think I’ve gotten more lost than I ever have, because rather than just rely on directions I’d printed out, now I check and re-check the Google Maps app, re-calculating my route when I think I’ve made a wrong turn, over and over — which, of course, only makes it worse. Continue reading

It Never Lets Me Down

8 Jul

I say it every time I go there, but it’s true: Chicago is my kind of town.

And my trip over the past few days was definitely one of the best yet.

Sure, I do some of the same things whenever I’m in the Windy City (hello, Bean), but I haven’t had the same agenda twice.

There’s always something new and different to do. Continue reading

On the Edge

2 Jul

The Ledge at the Sears Tower in Chicago officially opens today.

I totally want to go and check it out.

I mean, when you’ve gone skydiving and taken a trapeze lesson, how scary can it be to stand in a 1.5-inch–thick glass box that’s extended out 4.3 feet from the Sears Tower’s 103rd floor, 1,353 feet off the ground?

If I get to do it, I’ll let you know the answer to that question. In the meantime, here’s a clip about the Ledge from yesterday’s Today Show.