Monday, January 26, 2004

Today's gripe:

Can't I eat something in the presence of my co-workers without their commentary?

If I'm consuming some low-calorie cuisine, I get: "Oh, so healthy!" and, "No dressing on that salad?" or "Ooh, whatcha got there? A chicken breast? What kind of spices are those? You made that yourself?"

And if it's anything else: "You're having carbs?" or, "Ohh, I recognize that bag – Mike bought cookies!"

As if I committed a naughty crime.

Last year I lost a lot of weight and got myself in very good shape, so perhaps I've set some kind of example. People sometimes ask how I did it, and I simply tell them steady exercise and eating less. If they want, I'll give details about how I run and drink lots of water, etc. But as proud of the hard work I've put into this transformation, I don't brag about it; I support and encourage others if they discuss it, so I don't know why my dining habits are up for public scrutiny.

Most of these inanities come from the kooky receptionist, or the dopey file clerk. Like many Americans, these two are struggling to lose 20-30 pounds, an ongoing task that's often the topic of conversation. I completely understand the difficulties in dropping weight, especially when we all do boring office jobs that make our butts big and turn delicious food into a diversion from the daily grind. And I'd have even more sympathy if they had a congenital problem, a glandular thing. But I suspect some jealousy from them -- that I had the discipline to overcome the problem and they didn't.

When Kooky asked, "Oh, are you allowed to eat bagels?" (hovering over me as I'm trying to enjoy my toasted sesame seeds) I remind her I haven't been on any official diet, and yes, since I ran 11 miles this morning. Kooky complains that she has no time to exercise, or doesn't like it, or some excuse or other.

Dopey gives me a rundown of his workout regimen, how he went to the gym and did upper-body yesterday, lower-body the day before. But he eats triple portions of every snack that comes into the office, so his belt size has stayed as consistent as his dumb comments like, "Tsk, tsk, a candy bar?!" It's a protein bar, asshole, for lunch. And if I want a Snickers, who made you my personal trainer anyway, ya big-bellied hypocrite?

I tried to explain once to Kooky, who has a dog, and blames her widened figure on the time-consuming mongrel, that like a dog, I don't like being bothered when I eat (grrrr!). Please leave me alone and save the oohs and ahhs for Emeril's food, not mine. She said in her oh-so-annoying baby-girl voice, "But I wanna be like you, Mikey!"

Then get off your ass, take that mutt for a long walk and eat smart.

Or at least just shut the hell up about it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and I've got a cement mixer full of "I meant to…" and "I was gonna…"

I wanted to post early in the year with my top 10 films of 2003. But I had seen less than 50 movies last year, and was still catching lots of those late-season Oscar-bait flix. People were coming back to town from their holiday vacations, so I had lots of movies to see, lots of friends to see 'em with.

Well, I saw a few then got back into the scheme of things and didn't see movies, didn't post anything. Basically I was back in my '03 rut.

After I saw "Big Fish" the other day… and decided it was hardly top-ten worthy, I realized I should procrastinate no more. By the way, I simply refuse to waste ten bucks and three hours on another Matrix movie, Anthony Minghella epic adaptation or Lord of the Rings installment, so sue me if they're not even considered for this.

10. Matchstick Men – This flick was more than just Nic Cage playing a twitchy con artist. It had a lot of heart and some interesting twists that left me guessing up to the end. Then I figured it all out. But still intriguing. I'd like to see this movie again. Can't say that about 21 Grams or In America, which is why they're not here.

9. Out of Time – Another one full of twists that ultimately disappointed at the end. But for most of the movie, Denzel was constantly faced with obstacles – can he hide the constant barrage of incriminating evidence against himself, while keeping the Feds--whose money he stole--at bay, and try to solve the murder mystery himself without incurring the wrath of his ex-wife, who's leading the investigation? I'm overwhelmed even thinking about this Hitchcockian thrill ride.

8. Monster – I won't repeat all the hoopla about Charlize Theron's uglifying transformation. Except to say I found it especially outstanding from an actress I never cared for (see my #6 choice). But she truly captured the character in deeper way. You almost felt sorry for this low-class, self-loathing trashy girl. Hey, prostitutes and serial killers need love, too.

7. Something's Gotta Give – Lemme first say that I hate the title. I get it mixed up with that other sensitive Jack Nicholson movie, As Good as it Gets. At least that platitude was actually uttered in the movie. What exactly had to give in this one? Give what? Do they purposely release movies about giving and getting during the holiday season? A subliminal message to send moviegoers to buy presents to give and get everyone? Better to call this flick, "A Woman to Love", which Diane names her play, based on Jack's meaningless compliment to her. A confusing title, too, but by the end, we'd get it (or is it give it?). Anway… this movie was funny. Everyone was great: Jack, Diane and of course, Doctor "You had a mild heart attack. Whoa." Keanu.

6. The Italian Job – A heist movie. With funny nicknamed characters and intricate planning and plot twists that are great examples of plant-and-payoff. Can't go wrong. Well, they could've cast more interesting lead roles than underacting Marky Mark and bland Charlize Theron, but the supporting cast more than made up for 'em.

5. Spellbound – Those nerdy kids were so cute. Their p-e-r-s-p-i-c-a-c-i-t-y would make you p-e-r-s-p-i-r-e with excitement. I was pleased to see that most of them had a pretty good handle on their obsession: how to spell some word that describes a condition of sickliness in rare tree fungi is hardly worth knowing, outside of the National Spelling Bee, and fascinating documentaries.

4. Capturing the Friedmans – An even better documentary, if only because it was so provocative and controversial. I grew up in a Jewish family on Long Island in the '80s, in a town similar to the Friedmans, so their home movies struck a chord with me. Fortunately, I got my computer training through the public junior high school, so I was spared being asked by the Nassau County Police if I participated in nude leap frog or was ever touched in my special places. (Well, programming do-loops do make me feel tingly inside, but I digress…) When I saw this movie, one of the filmmakers and a friend of one of the brothers were at the screening, and did a Q and A afterwards. So their impartial story was even more skewed toward one point of view, but I'm still not sure what to believe.

3. American Splendor – How do you make an interesting movie about a curmudgeonly guy who works his whole life as a VA hospital clerk, lives in some drab apartment in Ohio, and occasionally writes comic books about that lifestyle? With different points of view – from Harvey Pekar himself, through crude animation, and, to be sure, cast Paul Giamatti in it. I've loved that guy ever since he was Pig Vomit in the Howard Stern movie, and he hasn't disappointed since. Do I dare admit that I kinda related to his character? Well, him or his buddy who declared: "I. Consider. Myself. A. Nerd."

2. School of Rock – Thoroughly entertaining. In my opinion, Jack Black is a little overhyped as the anti-movie star, but in this movie he was perfect. A blend of John Belushi's buffoon and Bill Murray's irreverent wiseass. And I loved all the music he loved, for all the same reasons. When he brought the kids together to start a version of "Smoke on the Water"?! Brought tears to my eyes. But why doesn't the soundtrack CD feature Metallica's "The Wait"?! Guess I'll just wait for the DVD…

1. Finding Nemo – Everyone loved this. Know why? 'Cause it's awesome! Again, the guys at Pixar show that hard work and research and attention to details, beyond just advances in CGI (which look spectacular here), make for a great movie. This was almost as good as "Toy Story". The tale was simple but nearly flawless, as were the voice work by Willem Dafoe, Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres. My favorite moment: When Dori tries to speak "whale": "Caaan yooooo helllllp uhhhhhhs?"

Here's 10 more that might be added to list if I get to see them:

Whale Rider
Swimming Pool
Gigli (just kidding)
Lost in Translation
Mystic River
Shattered Glass
Elf (not kidding)
Master and Commander: Far Side of the World
House of Sand and Fog

Other good films I saw:

Bend it Like Beckham
A Mighty Wind
Freaky Friday
21 Grams
The Station Agent
In America

The worst I saw:

5: 28 Days Later – Sorry, I've seen zombie movies that were scarier ("Dawn of the Dead"), funnier ("Dead Alive"), and more poignant ("Remains of the Day").

4: Legally Blonde 2 – Even worse than the first. Hey, that shoulda been their tagline. Makes more sense than "Red, White & Blonde".

3. Hulk – Mike wait. Mike want Hulk to smash. Mike watch Hulk sulk. Mike mad. Mike want to smash Ang Lee.

2. Open Range – Kevin Costner did a good Western once, right? Right? OK, I got to see it for free. But I'm still an idiot for expecting another "Dances with Wolves" and not another "Wyatt Earp".

1. Underworld – Mark my words: I will never sit through another new vampire movie. Even if it promises Kate Beckinsale in tight black leather outfits.

Also disappointing: Kill Bill, Vol. 1; The Cooler

Everything else I saw:

Final Destination 2
The Guru
Old School
Bringing Down the House
Anger Management
X2: X Men United
Bruce Almighty
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Pirates of the Caribbean
Bad Boys II
Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star
Once Upon a Time in Mexico
The Rundown
Kill Bill: Volume 1
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Scary Movie 3
Stuck on You
Calendar Girls
Big Fish

Thursday, January 01, 2004

It's the first day of '04. A good time to make resolutions, recover from a hangover, or at least start a web log. Will this thing be full of clever observations, funny stories, pictures and cartoons? Or will this be the only entry? We'll see...

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