Archive | January, 2013

Fish Advice, Anyone?

27 Jan

Last weekend, Husband and I decided to get a fish. To be more specific, we decided to allow our three-year-old to use some of his birthday money to buy a fish. He had expressed some interest in a pet of his own, and fish seemed to be the most simple way to allow him that opportunity. The fish he had specifically requested was a goldfish, but, when we arrived at the pet store we were told that Betta fish were far easier to take care of than a goldfish. Presuming the person working at Pet Smart was telling us accurate information, we bought a Betta fish which Child named Rusty. We planned on using a tank we’d had from an old Betta fish (which was actually a centerpiece at my brother-in-law’s wedding). The person at Pet Smart told us that the size bowl we had was fine, but that the fish would need a heater (especially given the below zero temperatures we’ve had in MN lately). We came home that day happy with our new pet. We settled him into his bowl with his heater and went to bed. He died that night.

We told Child that Rusty was just sleeping and used our ninja skills to switch out the fish when he wasn’t looking (we are very, very sneaky). We had no idea why he died, but when we checked the water temperature it was much higher than it should have been, probably due to the small size of our bowl (even though the Pet Smart person had told us that wouldn’t be a problem). Thinking we’d better safe than sorry, we decided to upgrade our fish bowl to a larger size. Rusty the Second was living the life in a gallon-sized bowl with natural spring water set to a comfy 77 degrees. He seemed to be thriving. He was eating, swimming around, etc. Today, after swimming around in his tank all morning, he inexplicably died. Now, once again, Rusty is sleeping and we’re at a loss as to what to do.

The Betta fish we had previously owned survived for nearly two years in his small wedding centerpiece bowl with no heater. Everything I’ve been able to find on owning a Betta says we’re doing everything right. Is there anyone out there who has any advice? I’m not looking forward to purchasing our third fish in one week. This was supposed to be an “easy” pet to have, but at this rate it would have been cheaper to buy a caged animal. I hate to give up on the fish idea entirely, especially since I’m not sure how I’d break that news to my son. He loves his fish, and I’m not ready to have that conversation about death with him. Is there something glaringly obvious I’m missing? Do we abandon the heater? Switch to a different kind of water? Something else? Any words of wisdom you fine people of the interwebs have would be much appreciated.

A Matter of Priorities

21 Jan

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time at all, you may have picked up on a couple of recurring themes. One of these themes is a lament I write every few months or so about how the only one holding me back from my own goals in life is myself. I’m happy to report that this is not one of those blogs…not exactly.

Normally I manage to spew a bunch of excuses into the air about why I’m not getting things done that my soul needs done. They run the gamut from being in school to birthing a child, but when it comes down to basics there’s time. I’m just not using it efficiently.

Sometimes I think all I need is an example. Something to look back on and hold tight to when I’m struggling. When my bestie (thanks again, Brook) and I were writing our over/underrated blog entries, I was writing every day. Every day. Was it a lot of writing? Not usually. Was it at all related to the novel I’ve been working on for all eternity? Absolutely not. But it was writing. And it was consistent. In my days where I would normally say, “I didn’t have time,” I made the time.

For me it was an inspiring experience. I was able to prove to myself that I can shuffle my priorities. I’m capable of not being a hinderance to my own dreams. My goal is not an unattainable one. I just need to stay the course and keep up this momentum. If I can do that, and I can do that, there’s nothing in this world that can stop me.

Over/Underrated 2012 – Part Ten

10 Jan

Well folks, when I wrote the date on a piece of paper today I actually remembered to write the correct year, which means that I’m officially able to move forward in 2013 and leave 2012 behind me. It also means that this is Brook and I’s last edition of Over/Underrated 2012. Immense props go out to Brook for helping me write these entries; I couldn’t have done it without her. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as we have enjoyed writing them. Later this week, my blog will return to its random musings and metacognitive rantings. But for now, I leave you with one more pop culture dish. Happy new year.

Overrated

Fifty Shades of Grey

Every time I start to think of the literary atrocity that is Fifty Shades of Grey, I have to stop and remind myself: it started as Twilight fan fiction. Given that tiny nugget of knowledge, it makes sense that E.L. James’ popular erotic novel is as poorly written as it is. Like her Stephenie Meyer-penned muse, James has a tendency to use the same phrases repeatedly throughout her novel to describe the same damn thing she described only pages before (in James’ case, the beauty of one Christian Grey). If I ever see the words “subconscious,” “inner goddess,” or “mercurial” printed in a novel again it’ll be too soon.

Even if I, a self-proclaimed literature snob, were able to put aside the appalling quality of the writing and just examine Fifty Shades of Grey’s plot, I would still sadly come to the same conclusion: it’s terrible. The Mad Hatter could come up with a more plausible and satisfying storyline. For those of you blissfully unaware, allow me to pop your Shades of Grey cherry and catch you up. Supposedly smart and sensible Anastasia Steele is taken by surprise when the fabulously wealthy – and did I mention attractive – Christian Grey takes an interest in her. The only issue is that he’s not just interested in her as his girlfriend. Oh no, instead, he proposes that she sign a contract thereby allowing him to beat the shit out of her for his own sexual pleasure. Rather than saying, “Okay, creepy, good luck with that…” and then booking her ass out of there (as someone who was actually smart and sensible would do), Steele thinks to herself, “Well, I don’t like the idea of getting beaten to a pulp, but you are really hot…” Dilemma and tortured inner monologues ensue. While I’m someone who isn’t necessarily deterred by the ridiculous (I do love Lost, remember), there still needs to be a sense of logic amidst the absurd; characters still need to act in a way befitting of their description. This was just not the case in Fifty Shades of Grey.

So, even if I, a self-proclaimed literature snob, were able to put aside the appalling quality of the writing and the ludicrousness of the plotline and just examine Shades of Grey’s ummm…erotic qualities, I would still come up with the same conclusion: it’s terrible. As I, embarrassingly, told a male colleague once, “I’ve read better.” (Open mouth, insert foot.) The bottom line is that Fifty Shades of Grey is lacking in everything it’s touted as possessing. It’s true the second and third novels in the series are better, but barely. If your eyes haven’t already been scarred by what Fifty Shades of Grey has to offer, I’d hold out and wait for the movie. With names like Ryan Gosling and Matt Bomer being tossed around there’s no doubt that the movie will be better than the book, but then again, pretty much anything is. In the meantime, I suggest you get your kinky kicks elsewhere by authors such as Victoria Dahl, whose quality of writing (and everything else) surpasses James’ by leaps and bounds.
–Andrea

Fifty Shades

Underrated

Girls

Lena Dunham is nothing short of a wunderkind. On Sunday, season two of the 26-year-old’s critically acclaimed drama, Girls, returns to HBO. She is not only the show’s creator, but she stars in the show, and has written and even directed some of the episodes. And with Judd Apatow as the producer, Girls hardly stood a chance of being anything other than a smash. However, despite its positive reception, Girls has not been immune to controversy. Namely, some accuse Girls of not being racially diverse. Save for one homeless character, the entire first season cast was comprised of white people only, which overtly sensitive people took to mean that the only place for brown people on TV is as a low life of some kind, which is obviously absurd. People find it doubtful that a twenty-something living in New York City didn’t stumble on a more diverse group of friends. True though that may be, I think it’s fair (if not obvious) to point out that Lena Dunham is using her show to tell a story, noteveryone’s story. But of course, no one wants to upset the ratings whores on the top floor of whatever building HBO executives congratulate each other on yet another job well done, so Dunham has apologized saying that the all-white cast in season one was in no way intentional, and she hopes to right that wrong in season two.

Honestly, if the race card is all there is left to play, that must mean the show is pretty damn good and that other faults are hard to find. Instead of getting hung up on a total non-issue, I want to praise what the show does right. My generation grew up watching Sex and the City and Friends. We fell in love with Hollywood’s version of New York City, a land where opulence and luxury were not only possible, but ours for the taking with little or no effort. We were gonna live there one day. Live in a fabulous apartment, have so many fabulous clothes we’d have to use the oven for storage, and since we’re using our ovens for storage, we’re obviously going out to eat every night at the chicest restaurants. Anyone who’s been to New York City knows that’s a bald-faced lie. The city will chew you up, spit you out, and then trample over you. And that’s on a good day. But if you can handle it, it may just be the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of.”

Girls makes no bones about it. Living in New York City is a bitch, especially after your wealthy parents cut you off, which is how we find Dunham’s Hannah Horvath in the pilot. But not unlike SatC or Friends, Hannah gets through with the help of her gal pals. Girls takes the romanticized version of NYC and flips it on its head.  The result is not the total truth (because really, when does TV ever tell the truth?), but it’s closer to be sure. They live in tiny apartments, drink milk straight from the carton, and put up with weird shit in the bedroom just to avoid being alone for more than five minutes because if they were left alone, they’d have to come to terms with the fact that their lives are not what they thought they would be.

For far too many this hits a little too close to home which explains why Girls has struck a chord with so many regardless if the show is alienating some of its viewers.  Self-loathing and self-doubt are equal opportunity monsters.  No one is exempt from that desperate, paralyzing, downward spiral, though we’d never admit it to each other.  Girls lets us know we’re not suffering alone, and with the help of good friends, we’ll be just fine.
— Brook

Girls

Over/Underrated 2012 – Part Nine

9 Jan

I’m pleased to announce that both Brook and I are back in action tonight to bring you our penultimate installment of Over/Underrated 2012.

Overrated

Moustaches

When I first started seeing the outcropping of moustaches back in November, I assumed it was for the noble and pretty bloody awesome movement known as Movember, where men sport moustaches in the month of November to raise awareness for prostate cancer and other male health concerns. To quote the official Movember slogan, the purpose of Movember is to “change the face of men’s health.” While I personally am not a huge fan of facial hair beyond a bit of stubble, Movember is a cause I’m all for standing behind. The thing is, November ended and the moustaches didn’t. They’re popping up everywhere. This Christmas season I saw them on flasks, notebooks, pencil pouches, ties, water bottles, and even a so-ugly-it’s-cute toddler t-shirt at Target. No, I did not buy it for my son. I had a coworker bring in cookies shaped like moustaches, and this Friday night my friend’s kids are going to a Moustache Dance at their school. I don’t even know what that means. Do the kids wear fake moustaches? Do they play music about moustaches? Does music about moustaches even exist? The sad thing is, I wouldn’t doubt it. Maybe I’m just too old and my bones are too feeble to jump on board this current bandwagon. Maybe it’s just something for the cool kids get. But, if facial and body hair are going to become something that starts trending regularly, I do not want to know what’s coming next.
— Andrea

moustache

 

Underrated

Pitch Perfect

If I’m being honest, I’m surprised that this movie didn’t get made earlier. A lot people hate on Pitch Perfect for riding Glee’s coattails, but that’s an unfair charge. If that were true, Pitch Perfect would’ve come out in either 2010 or 2011, not to mention the fact that Glee has been steadily declining in popularity following its premier in 2009. It seems to be fizzling as quickly as it caught on. Pitch Perfect is Mean Girls meets Bring it On (two of my personal faves)with a cappella singing thrown in. As glad as I am to see Anna Kendrick in anything other than Twilight, I don’t buy her turn as sullen Beca who at first blush is too cool for school, let alone the Bellas, Barden University’s all female a cappella group. However, what her performance lacks, the supporting cast more than makes up for. Rebel Wilson is a breath of fresh air in this movie, even if she plays almost the exact same character as she did in Bridesmaids. The girl has deadpan delivery down pat. “Fat Amy” stole the show. For reasons previously mentioned here, I have a girl crush on Anna Camp. Let’s just leave it at that. Brittany Snow also did not disappoint, which is good considering she was one of the only veteran singers in the movie. Besides the spot on cast, the music in the movie was surprisingly good. The vocals seemed to be on point. The mash-ups were cool. There was a great mix of older and contemporary tunes, which served the movie’s target demographic well. Perhaps my only complaint about the movie was that Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins didn’t get enough screen time as the quirky competition judges.
— Brook

pitch-perfect

Over/Underrated 2012 – Part Eight

8 Jan

Brook is pulling a double shift tonight for tonight’s better-late-than-never installment of over/underrated (don’t worry, I’m not still eating birthday cake). Enjoy!

Overrated

Taylor Swift

In October, Taylor Swift released her fourth studio album, Red. I hate to admit it, but I hauled myself to Target to buy the actual CD. Yes, I realize there’s more self-preservation in downloading it, but in my defense, the album had been out for a few weeks before I actually got it. Honest! And besides, this is the circle of trust. Right…? I am nothing if not a sucker for a bad pop song. And the girl has those, in spades. Please don’t judge, but I digress. Swift has a mediocre voice at best, but she writes her own music and plays instruments which automatically makes her light years more talented than most of her contemporaries. The problem is that she’s being compared to predecessors way out of her league…predecessors not even playing the same game…predecessors like Carly Simon and Joni Mitchell. If anyone is a fan of Love Actually, they will remember that Joni Mitchell taught Alan Rickman’s “cold, English wife how to feel.” That being said, the most Taylor Swift has taught anyone is to sit coyly by on the sidelines hoping the guy of their dreams will take notice and whisk them away to the prom. The only problem is that Swift has been going to prom since 2008. I realize she began her career as a teenager, so songs about young love make sense. But songs of young love have morphed into songs about young love broken up. And as we grow up, we learn that airing one’s dirty laundry in public isn’t always the best option. Apparently Swift never got the memo, and she’s laughing her blissfully ignorant self all the way to the bank. The only thing I know for sure is that if I were a guy, I’d never, ever, ever, ever date Taylor Swift.
— Brook

Taylor

 

Underrated

The Newsroom

 The reviews of HBO’s newest scripted drama have been mixed at best and abysmal at worst. Following an Oscar win for best adapted screenplay for The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin became an unlikely whipping post as critics called his writing style on the show condescending and accused him of “self-plagiarizing.” In Sorkin’s defense, he is arguably one of the best entertainment writers of our time. In addition to The Social Network, he is the genius behind The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (a brilliant TV show that came to an untimely end), Charlie Wilson’s War, and The American President. 

The Newsroom, Sorkin’s latest project, follows a cable network news team after the highly publicized meltdown of their anchor. When a college student asks “what makes America the greatest country in the world,” Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) proceeds to give her whiplash from verbal assault as he recounts all the ways in which referring to America as “great” in any way is a bogus assertion. The show comes nicely full circle when, in the season finale, said co-ed applies for and nabs an internship with McAvoy’s show.

Many say McAvoy’s meltdown mirrors exactly the meltdown shown in the opening of Studio 60. While it may be true that there are similarities that run through all of Sorkin’s works, to call it “self-plagiarizing” is absurd. We live in a time where there is almost nothing new under the sun. Any movie that comes out is either an adaptation of a novel or comic book. All sit-coms are Friends reincarnated. It’s a time of constant recycling, especially if an idea sold big the first time around. At least Sorkin is playing off his own work, instead of hovering over the carcass of someone else’s work like a hungry, washed up, has-been buzzard looking for a comeback at any price.  The kicker is Sorkin never left.

As for his condescending tone, I couldn’t disagree more. It only sounds condescending to people who want to sit at the cool table but end up having to eat in a bathroom stall alone because everyone knows they don’t belong at the cool table. And instead of opening a book, they hurl insults…they call a show condescending to mask the fact that in the first five minutes of the show, 10 new words were used that they’ve never heard. It’s the same reason other great shows like Arrested Development can’t survive on the air…especially not on network television. Americans are lazy, and God forbid we use our brains when we turn on the television, which has basically become a zombie apocalypse of reality TV. The Newsroom is one show that shines brightly and proves that not all of us are willing to waste away in self-complacency.
— Brook

Newsroom

Over-Underrated 2012 – Part Seven

7 Jan

Well folks, tonight it’s Brook’s turn for a double entry, as I am far too busy eating birthday cake with my son (GAH HE CAN’T BE THREE ALREADY). While I’m over here feeding my denial with chocolate, take a gander at what’s over/underrated in today’s installment.

Overrated

Magic Mike

I can’t tell you how many people I heard complain about Magic Mike. “The plot was static.” “There was no real story.” I’m sorry. You went to a movie whose trailer promised nothing more than man ass, and you were disappointed with the story?! What were you expecting? The sequel to Gone With the Wind, only with full-frontal male nudity? I, like millions of other American women, held out hope that this would be the year the Academy finally recognized a much-needed new category: Best Ass Shaking. Alas, I was disappointed. Magic Mike was a letdown, not because it the plot was lacking, but because the movie was lacking naked men. Soderquist played it safe in his story about a male stripper wanting to change his wayward lifestyle. But everything about it was cliché…except for the one thing that should have been cliché. After that movie, the audience should’ve felt the need to go home and shower because the film was that dirty. Yet the result is a feigned attempt at drama that shadows the real reason anyone wanted to dole out $10 to see it in the first place. I’ve grown to expect more from Channing Tatum in the wake of movies like 21 Jump Street.  Call me crazy, but I think the sequel should be nothing but “dance” numbers.
— Brook

magic-mike_610

Underrated

Anna Camp

Though she can hardly be considered a household name, if her role in 2012’s Pitch Perfect is any indication, it’s just a matter of time. An accomplished Broadway actress who has had guest starring roles on shows like True Blood and Mad Men, Camp has the perfect blend of “girl-next-door” charm and Southern Belle good looks to make us all swoon, with the acting chops to match. She also has the ability to bring an endearing quality to generally unlikable characters, such as her turn as Aubrey in Pitch Perfect where she played a domineering a cappella group leader. Camp was recently downgraded from series regular to recurring role on The Mindy Project…ACA-SCUSE ME? If you ask me, that just frees up her time for something bigger and better.
— Brook

Anna Camp

Over-Underrated 2012 – Part Six

6 Jan

I’m back again with another solo installment (who does Brook think she is?) for you folks at home. Here’s just a little morsel to send you into the work week.

Overrated

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Usually always when it comes to film adaptations of written works, I prefer the book better than the movie. Somehow, movies always seem to leave out key parts, or make something magical and beautiful into something downright cheesy. Then, there are some things that just don’t translate well to screen, such as telepathic wolves. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is my one exception to this rule. Throughout my life, I’ve tried several times to drag myself through J.R.R. Tolkien’s “classic” novels, but I’m still not able to do it. There seems to be far too many superfluous descriptions of scenery, food and bloodlines of hobbits (among other things), which is why these books are a masterpiece on the big screen. Peter Jackson’s movies took out what was unnecessary, and what was left was a work of art. Because I have such high regard for the LoTR films (and because I think Martin Freeman was born to play Bilbo Baggins), I was beyond excited when I heard Peter Jackson was at the helm again for The Hobbit. I even paid nearly $20 for a ticket to see the HFR 3D movie in a VIP theatre setting. Boy, was it not worth it. For one thing, Jackson’s attempt to match James Cameron’s advances in film technology was a massive flop; the higher frame rate made the movie look less real, which is certainly not what he intended. It also proved to be distracting to me as a viewer. But, even if I had seen the movie in normal 2D without the distraction of the unnecessary 3D experience, The Hobbit still would have paled in comparison to LoTR. There’s far too much joking, far too much singing, and far too much of everything that’s kept me from reading Tolkien’s books. Now, I did have a friend tell me that I’m looking at this all wrong; LoTR was written for adults while The Hobbit was intended as a children’s book, so it makes sense that the film would be more hokie as well. Be that as it may, The Hobbit is still be touting as Jackson’s prequel to his LoTR films, so viewers have the right to expect the same caliber of film work to be taking place. Unfortunately, those expectations are not being met. The only redeeming quality of The Hobbit is the return of Andy Serkis as Gollum. He’s only in the 166 minute film (and that’s just part one of three?!) for about 15 minutes, and in my opinion that was the only 15 minutes worth seeing.
— Andrea

The Hobbit

Underrated

Bunheads

Let me preface this review by saying it is my goal in life to become a Gilmore Girl. While I know that Lorelai and Rory Gilmore are fictional characters and that I am not (I’m not that crazy), their intelligence, rapid-fire wit, and ability to eat junk food without gaining weight is something that I aspire to. I never watched Gilmore Girls when it was originally on air for reasons that are still inexplicable to me, but I fell in love the instant the first episode played in my DVD player, and my sorrow at the series’ being over is still something I think I should probably discuss with a therapist. It’s that serious. Imagine my joy, then, at the announcement last year that Bunheads, a show from the creator of Gilmore Girls (Amy Sherman-Palladino), was going to begin airing on ABC Family. It’s true that I was skeptical about a show with a title as ridiculous as Bunheads, but I hoped and prayed that Sherman-Palladino would bring back even a morsel of the Gilmore Girls charm. I was not disappointed. Bunheads takes place in a similarly quirky small town (this time on the West coast), with a similarly quirky band of characters. The protagonist, Michelle Simms (played by the lovely Sutton Foster) has an ample supply of snappy, Gilmore-esque comebacks, and even a large portion of the actors appearing in Bunheads have a shared history of walking the streets of Stars Hollow. It’s everything this Gilmore fan could ask for. Ok, not everything. While additional episodes of Bunheads were picked up to form a complete first season, the future of the show after that is still uncertain. This world needs Bunheads on television, if for no other reason than to bring Kelly Bishop into our lives each week. I’m crossing my fingers that it’s here to stay. *SHAMELESS PLUG* Bunheads returns with new episodes tomorrow night on ABC Family at 9/8C. 
–Andrea

EMMA DUMONT, KAITLYN JENKINS, KELLY BISHOP, SUTTON FOSTER, BAILEY BUNTAIN, JULIA GOLDANI TELLES