Monday, August 31, 2009

"Julie & Julia" - spoiler movie review

When I'd heard about "Julie & Julia", I was at first surprised that Meryl Streep would be playing Julia Child, but after I saw the trailer for the film, she actually looked terrific in the role. The movie sounded interesting, so I wanted to see it.

It's actually two movies in one, one following Julia Child during her experiences in France, based on her book "My Life in France" and another that follows a blogger named Julie Powell, who in 2002 decided that in one year's time, she would cook all the recipes in Julia Child's famous cookbook entitled "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", and her blogging efforts were consolidated in the book "Julie and Julia".

Julia's husband Paul worked for the U.S. government, so he was stationed in many different countries, one of which was France. Julia didn't really have any kind of career or even hobbies really and was just looking for something to keep herself occupied. She happened upon cooking because she loved food, but she encountered a very snooty French woman in the cooking school who pretty much told her she'd never amount to any kind of cook simply because she was an American. Julia immersed herself in her cooking class, and while she had some difficulties to start with, she was determined to be good at it, and good she was. She then ended up helping to re-write a cookbook that was supposed to be designed to teach American women how to cook French food, which turned into the now-famous book.

Meanwhile, Julie has some issues of her own, and she decides to make a goal for herself. She's already a decent cook, but she decides that she's going to give herself a year in which to cook all the recipes in the French cookbook, and she's going to blog her experiences along the way. At first, she doesn't think anyone's reading, but her blog soon proves to be very popular, as she posts about the trials and tribulations of learning all the different techniques necessary to make all the recipes.

I really enjoyed this movie, and I liked following the dual tales. Of course, I knew who Julia Child was, but other than that she was a very famous cook and that there was that hilarious sketch on Saturday Night Live (I *loved* that they included that in the film) about her, I had no idea that she sort of happened her way into cooking. I liked seeing the development of the book and most particularly, I loved seeing the relationship between Julia and her husband Paul. I also liked following along with quirky Julie. I've heard that her depiction of herself in the book isn't particularly sympathetic, and that she's a bit more sympathetic in the film because of how Amy Adams portrays her, but I have to say, I did really like her. No, she wasn't perfect, and yes, she had her own flaws and melt-down moments. But that just makes her human. And I'm ok with seeing flawed, human people on screen.

It was also fun seeing her doing all that cooking, but I am really glad we had lunch right before the movie. Seeing that movie while even remotely hungry would have been torture. Speaking of torture, yeah, I'm a horrible person, but I found the lobster scene to be very amusing.

I thought the acting all around was stellar, led off by Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci as Paul and Amy Adams. I had seen the last film that Meryl Streep and Amy Adams were in together ("Doubt"), but this was obviously a much different story, and they don't even have any scenes together because of the structure of the film. The supporting players were good as well, including Julie's husband, Julia's cookbook co-authors and the other people they encounter. I liked seeing Mary Lynn Rajskub as one of Julie's friends, though she had a pretty small part with not much to do.

I absolutely *loved* that Julie's husband used the quote from Douglas Adams about the sound deadlines make as they fly by, and the fact that it was actually attributed to him. Who references Douglas Adams in movies? And how many people had no idea who he was when they heard that line?

I enjoyed the film enough that I'm actually interested in reading both books upon which the movie was based.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

rides from strangers

The past couple of months, I've somehow gotten to thinking a lot about the whole "don't accept rides from strangers" rule that kids are usually taught. And the same goes for picking up strangers, since you never know if random person you pick up is going to be an axe murderer or, even worse, someone who thinks that WDW's Fantasmic is better than DL's Fantasmic. They tell you not to hitchhike and also not to pick up hitchhikers because it's dangerous since you don't know anything about the other person or what their intentions are. ("The Hitcher", anyone?)

I wish there was a way to figure that out, because I have found myself on several occasions wishing I could safely offer a ride to a total stranger. The last time was a couple of weeks ago when I saw an older woman, maybe in her 60s or 70s, walking along the sidewalk and carrying two grocery bags which were obviously a little heavy. I assumed she was walking home from the store. It would have been really easy for me to just stop the car and offer her a ride. I wasn't in any big hurry to get anywhere, and I figure that if she was walking, she couldn't have been going too far, so it's not like it would have been completely out of my way.

On other occasions, I've seen people waiting at a bus stop in the pouring rain or the blistering heat, and I know that for a while at least, I'm going in the same direction as the bus they're waiting for, so it would be easy just to offer them a ride - they'd be more comfortable and it's not like it would be a hardship for me or anything to give them that short ride.

But then, I remember that no matter what they might look like, I don't know anything about them, and I'm not trusting enough to just give them the benefit of the doubt. I don't know what could end up happening, and it might just be that the first 99 times it happens, nothing bad comes out of it, they're happy to have had a stranger do them a favor, and I feel good about doing something nice for a stranger. But if something were to go terribly awry the 100th time I did it, I wouldn't feel comfortable taking that chance.

And on the flip side, I think I generally don't appear to be a sinister person, so I would probably look safe to accept a ride from, but again, looks can be deceiving, and they don't know that I'm not just going to kidnap them or do something bad to them once they get in my car. Who knows, I could be one of those decoys, someone who doesn't *look* like they'd do something bad, which is precisely who you want to lure people in so you can do bad things to them.

So I was trying to figure out if there was some way to build a car so that there were safeguards built in. There would have to be a separate compartment or something for the passenger to sit in so that no funny stuff could happen. Both the driver and the passenger would have to have the ability to separate the passenger from the car, so the driver can't kidnap the passenger against his/her will, and the passenger can't refuse to leave the car if the driver wants him/her out, so maybe some kind of detachable sidecar that has some kind of mechanism for control so that even if the passenger gets all creepy, and the driver detaches the sidecar, the sidecar doesn't just go careening into traffic - it would have to be able to be steered and stopped in a reasonably short amount of time. But then, that might be expensive for the driver, because now, they need a new sidecar, which I expect would cost a bit to replace.

So every time something happens that brings this dilemma back into my head, I try to figure out a way to make it work, and so far, FAIL.

And while I've never picked up a total stranger, I will admit that I've accepted a ride from a total stranger.

When I was going to Cal, they were notorious for having limited student housing, and I didn't make it into any of the on-campus housing slots. Cal rented out a dorm in another college a city away (about a 30 minute city bus ride), so that's where a bunch of us Cal students ended up staying. The college was up a dead-end hill, and the bus stop was at the bottom of the hill, so before I had a car, I hated that uphill climb every afternoon. One particular afternoon, it was POURING RAIN. I think I had an umbrella, I can't remember, but I was getting soaked as I trudged up the hill anyway. A station wagon pulled up next to me, and a woman was in the front seat. She said she lived nearby and asked if I was going up to the college and if so, did I want a ride, because she saw me drowning in the rain and felt bad for me. The walk up the hill went past a number of houses, so I did know that it was a residential district. She looked nice and concerned, and she was driving a station wagon for goodness' sake - she totally looked like a mom with kids, though there were none in the car at that moment. I hesitated for a second, heard the warning in my head about accepting rides from strangers, but then remembered I was still getting soaked, so I thankfully accepted her offer. She drove me all the way up the hill and pretty much to the front door of the dorm entrance. I thanked her profusely, and she said she was happy to do it and drove off. Since we were heading up a dead-end road to the college, I figured it wasn't like she could just easily take off in a different direction if she had any nefarious plans to kidnap me. I was also sitting in the back seat, so she couldn't grab me and hold me, and I could pretty much just open the door and get out any time I wanted to, jumping if necessary, I suppose. All of that, plus her appearance and the car and circumstances flashed in my mind as I hesitated that second before I accepted. And obviously, everything turned out just fine. And no, I've never done that again.

But see, there are drivers and passengers who are perfectly nice people who don't have any sinister plans and who just want to offer a nice favor or who just might be the grateful recipient of a nice gesture - if only there was a sure-fire way to tell.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Napa Rose - restaurant review (dinner)

Napa Rose at the Grand Californian Hotel in Downtown Disney (Anaheim) is one of our favorite restaurants, so when a friend wanted to have dinner there on her birthday, we were more than happy to join her. She'd been to Napa Rose many times before, but she'd never sat at the chef's counter, and she wanted to try it this time. Ummm, yeah, twist my arm.

The chef's counter has two seating times - 5:30 and 8:30 - so we decided on the earlier seating, which is just as the restaurant opens. I had met up with her about an hour and a half beforehand, and we spent a little bit of time inside DCA before heading to the restaurant. We were a little bit early, so we checked in and then waited in the lounge and chatted. The husband joined us a bit later, and shortly after that, we were taken to our seats - seats 5, 6 and 7 at the counter, which are between the food pass (where the food is delivered by the kitchen to the runners to take to the tables) and the dessert pass (where the desserts are delivered for delivery to tables. Napa Rose has an open kitchen, so those seats also overlook the meat and garnish stations and the dessert station. Seats 5 and 6 are generally where the husband and I like to sit when we go to Napa Rose.

The Executive Chef of Napa Rose is Andrew Sutton, and shortly after we were seated, he came by to say hello to us. I introduced him to our friend and mentioned that it was her first time at the chef's counter, so he welcomed her there.

The husband ordered sparkling water for us and still water for our friend. The last time I was there with another friend and we had the still water, it was actually bottled Smartwater, which I like and so was happy with. This time, I noticed it was Dasani, which I decidedly *don't* like, so I'll have to keep that in mind for future reference.

We all perused the menu and made our dinner choices.

Napa Rose has a special four-course menu called the Vintner's Menu that changes every week starting on Friday and usually features whatever is currently in season. On many occasions, that's what we end up ordering, though I'll admit that sometimes, I go in hoping I won't like the Vintner's Menu so that I can have an excuse to just order off the regular menu.

Following is the Vintner's Menu for the current week. I definitely liked the selections, so I decided to have that, but I'm not much of a wine person, so I skipped that. The husband also decided to have the Vintner's Menu but with the suggested wine flights. The friend decided to order off the regular menu.

Vintner's Menu from Friday, August 28, 2009 through Thursday, September 3, 2009.

At Napa Rose, when you order the Vintner's Menu, you also get an extra little taster course, referred to as "amuse bouche". We've noticed that if a significant portion of your party orders the Vintner's, then the entire table gets the amuse bouche, probably so that the others don't feel left out, and the little extra taster also engenders good will.

The amuse bouche this night was a watermelon cube with basil sorbet surrounded by melon froth. I think this is the first time that I've experienced where the amuse bouche was closer to a dessert dish than a regular food item, but it was quite good. The watermelon was crisp and sweet and juicy, and the basil sorbet was really, really good - the friend jokingly wondered whether she could get a pint of that to take home - and the froth added a little extra flavor. Very nice indeed.

The first course on the Vintner's was prawns with a side of halibut ceviche. The prawns were nicely cooked and seasoned (with a tamarind rub on part of it), and the ceviche was absolutely delicious. And the presentation of the dish was quite nice.

For a starter, the friend had decided on the zucchini blossoms stuffed with goat cheese. She really enjoyed the dish.

The second course on the Vintner's was a goat cheese tart topped with mission figs on duck prosciutto. The tart was very nice, and the fig added a really nice flavor to it. I love duck and I love prosciutto, so combine the two together - YUM!

Next up was a nice little gift from Executive Chef Andrew - Napa Rose's signature portobello mushroom "cappucino" bisque. If you really like mushroom, this is definitely something to order. There are lots of bits of mushroom at the bottom, and even the broth is rich in mushroom flavor - so much so that you can just smell it. I had been raving about it when I told the friend about the mushroom bisque earlier, so she had initially ordered that as her starter, but Andrew was listening in as the server was taking our order, and he had told her she couldn't order that because she was going to get it anyway because he was going to be giving it to her, so she had ended up ordering a different starter. So, we had known she'd be getting the bisque, but it was a nice surprise to get it ourselves as well. The serving was a taster portion of the soup - the appetizer portion is actually larger - but it's still a decent-sized tasting. And really, REALLY yummy.

The main course on the Vintner's was the Santa Barbara style barbeque tri-tip. After we got our courses, Andrew came by to explain what the Santa Barbara barbeque style was, and you could really taste the smoking in the meat. It was absolutely delicious and very tender, and the accompaniments went very nicely. The chili in the sauce also gave it a nice kick. The only "complaint" that I have about Napa Rose and the Vintner's Menu is that the entree portion is actually larger than it needs to be. The entree is pretty much the same size as a regular entree, but you've already had two courses (and the amuse bouche) at that point, not to mention dessert still to come. The tri-tip was four generous slices, and I ended up only eating two of the slices - I took the rest home.

The friend had chosen the duck breast for her entree. Andrew also explained how it was prepared and all the ingredients that were used in the marinade for the duck, all of which I've forgotten now, but it was pretty amazing. The friend loved her entree. She gave me a little bite, and it was indeed very tasty.

The dessert for the Vintner's was a root beer float shooter with root beer Baked Alaska. I am not a particular fan of root beer, but it did sound good, and I'm glad I had it, because it was quite nice. I had a drink of the shooter, and the root beer was quite tasty - I wish I could remember what kind of root beer Andrew said it was, and he mentioned that he quite liked it, because I would probably drink it myself. I ended up having the rest of it last, so by then, the ice cream had melted some, and drinking it was very easy - no spoon necessary. The float came with a rolled stick of white chocolate, but since I'm not a fan of white chocolate, I didn't eat that. The Baked Alaska was really cute when the dessert chef took it out of the freezer. It had root beer ice cream inside, and root beer granitas on top with root beer pearls on top of that. The husband referred to the pearls as "root beer ikura" because other than the color, they did look like ikura - raw salmon eggs used in sushi. It was a really delicious dessert all around.

Customarily, when you're celebrating a birthday, Napa Rose comps the dessert for the birthday person, so I wasn't surprised when the server, instead of actually bringing the dessert menu for the friend, just asked her what she was interested in for dessert. I had been extolling the virtues of their amazing strawberry ice cream earlier, so she decided to have that, coupled with a scoop of the mango sorbet. Her dessert came very nicely plated.

All during dinner, we enjoyed good conversation amongst ourselves and with the kitchen staff. From those seats, you have a very good view of what the chefs are preparing for the other diners in the restaurant - we noted that the walnut-encrusted rack of lamb and the short ribs entrees were quite popular. One of the line cooks working in front of us had various interesting things he was working with, and we couldn't always tell what they were, so a few times, we were able to ask him about them, and he very kindly answered our questions. There were a couple of things that the dessert chef was doing that I wanted to ask about, but she was so incredibly busy, and she was a little bit farther from us, so I didn't want to yell to her, and I didn't want to interrupt her work. We also had a chance to talk to Andrew about a few things, both related to the food and the restaurant itself as well as other related promotions.

It was another remarkable dinner at Napa Rose. They never disappoint.

Friday, August 28, 2009

"Run for the Roses" by Dan Fogelberg

There are a lot of songs from Dan Fogelberg that are terrific, but the melody and feel of this particular song has always been beautiful to me. So, I'm dedicating it to a fellow Dan Fogelberg fan today. (Oh, and the video has pretty pictures of horses, too.)

Happy Birthday, Dodie!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Glee" - pilot episode spoiler review

I hadn't known anything about "Glee" until some friends of mine started talking about it after the pilot episode had been broadcast. I hadn't even known about the pilot and didn't really know what the show was about. After hearing more about the show from a particular friend and learning that the pilot was available on Hulu, I decided to check it out.

The show started a bit slow for me, but I think that's a problem all new shows run into because they have to set up the story and the cast of characters. The quirks of the various characters were a bit much at first, but as they started to gel, I liked the show better. Each of the characters was drawn with basically one particular identifying quality, but that makes remembering them easier, and while many of the characters are currently stereotypes, I'm hoping those get flushed out as the show progresses.

The main character in the show is teacher Will, who has come back to his old high school to teach and who ends up being the new teacher to run the glee club. His efforts are hampered by a lack of funds and a lack of resources but mostly, the perception that glee club is for losers, resulting in there only being 5 kids in the club. Will accidentally discovers that one of the football jocks (Finn) can actually sing and resorts to questionable tactics to convince said jock to join the glee club.

Will has problems at home as well, with an extremely high-maintenance wife, but life gets even more complicated when his wife announces that she's pregnant. Will initially decides to quit his teaching job to apply for the higher-paying accountant job that his wife has been pushing him towards, but when he sees that the glee club kids have put all their effort into putting on a show, he decides to stay and do what he loves instead.

I liked most of the lead characters, even the "bad" characters. The only exception is Will's wife, who comes off simply as a shrill spoiled brat who you basically just want to stuff in a box. I'm hoping that they give her some redeeming quality so that you can at least not root completely against her.

Much of the conflict is going to arise from the division in the school between the popular kids and the losers, with Finn being the tenuous bridge between the two.

The kids are fun to watch as they sing and dance, and there are some really funny bits in the show. But the show-stopper is the finale of the show, when they've arranged a version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'". The lead singers are very good, and the backup kids aren't bad either. And really, it's a terrific song - how could you go wrong?

The songs really got me into the show. The use of Journey songs as well as REO Speedwagon's "Can't Fight This Feeling" - ahhh, it's the 80s songs that I love so much!

I liked the show enough to give it a try when the regular season starts. The pilot will be re-aired on Fox on September 2, Wednesday at 9pm, which will be its regular time slot. The first episode of the season will then air on Wednesday, September 9 at 9pm. A friend who went to Comic-Con this year has already seen the first episode and was telling me about it, so I'm really looking forward to seeing it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Megan Fox's public service announcement

Many celebrities use their fame for personal reasons like restaurants and clothing lines and such, but since celebrities do have some influence on the public, many of them also agree to do public service announcements to draw the public's attention to important issues or to provide encouragement and support to those facing difficulties.

Megan Fox is one such celebrity who has agreed to use her influence to help kids in school who might be facing difficulties. Here's the public service announcement that she recorded.

In case there are any issues with the video above, here's the direct link.

Yeah, pretty awesome video, huh? :) I heard about it from the Kevin and Bean morning radio show, and I thought it was just too damn funny, especially since it's a promotion for the film "Jennifer's Body". I hadn't known anything about the film until I saw a one-sheet, and what caught my attention was not Megan Fox, but rather, Amanda Seyfried.

I *loved* Amanda in "Mamma Mia", and I like Megan Fox ok, so I was interested to hear that they were in a movie together. And then I found out it was a horror movie. I'm not really that big into horror movies, so I still wasn't sure, even though I was amused that it was written by the same person who had written "Juno".

And then last week, when we were at the movies, we saw the trailer for the film. And yeah, it looks like it has the regular elements of the horror genre, but it also has a *lot* of humour in it, which I really appreciated. Amanda looks really good in this too, and I could enjoy a chick fight scene or two between her and Megan. I won't be looking forward to the make-out scene between the two that is also purportedly in the film as much as a lot of other people, but it won't bother me either.

I was leaning a little more towards going after seeing the trailer, but I was still unsure - until I heard about this PSA and saw it for myself. That kind of wicked sense of humour is right up my alley, so I've decided I'm definitely going. Heck, I was the one (along with a friend) who wanted to see "Jason vs. Freddy", that the husband came with us to see, because I wanted to see if they did a good job with melding those two franchises.

For "Jennifer's Body", I'm just going to have to make sure that I have Teddy with me.

Here's the trailer for "Jennifer's Body".

Even though there are a number of stellar lines in the trailer, here's my favorite exchange:

Amanda Seyfried's character: I thought you only murdered boys.
Megan Fox's character: I go both ways.

And one of my friends who is (hopefully) reading this will know *exactly* why I find that so frickin' hilarious. ;)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Star Wars and Indy LEGOs!

Some new Lego sets in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones universes have been announced, and I think some of them are really cool.

This is a motorized walking AT-AT, which I think would be awesome to have, though I'm not sure about actually putting the thing together. I love all the little details and that it even comes with a dangling Luke!

This set depicts the Battle of Endor and comes with a lot of figures (including Ewoks!) and the glider and the chicken walker too.

Even though I'm not a fan of certain aspects of this film and this sequence, the Temple of Doom set still looks pretty spectacular. However, I think I might be tempted to just burn the Willie minifig...

Here's the link to the full list of new sets.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tamaya Restaurant - restaurant review

I met a friend for dinner a couple weeks ago, and she took me to a new place that she'd discovered a little while previous. She knew that I was a fan of ramen, and she said this place had a ton of ramen choices, so she really wanted me to try it. For most ramen places I've been, they do indeed have a fairly good selection of ingredients that you can add to your ramen, so I figured another good ramen place to go to is always a good thing.

Well, when we got there, she had not been exaggerating. In addition to the customary soy sauce and miso choices of soup base, they had a couple of others as well. They also had more than just the normal choices of ingredients to have in your ramen. It actually took me a while to look through the menu at all the available choices, but I loved that the menu had pictures of most everything. I know some people find picture menus to be tacky, but I'm a fan because I like having the description and the visual, especially if it's something I'm not totally familiar with.

In addition to ramen, they also had some rice dishes, side orders, and random other dishes. They also had a "make your own ramen combination", where you could combine one of the ramen dishes with one of the mini dishes. They also had a set combination special for each month, and I ended up getting the special for August.

I had been looking at the chanpon (seafood) ramen because it came with a nice selection of seafood. The August special was the chanpon ramen with a spam roll. Now, I remember having spam as a kid, but I haven't had that stuff in years. I'm not a particular fan, though I'm not as adverse to it as some people. I do remember liking it when it was cooked hot in some things, but I'd also had it in other things that I decidedly did NOT care for. I had heard of spam sushi and decided it was *not* my thing. Well, my friend had had it before, and she said it was very good, and when I expressed my concerns, she said that wasn't how it tasted, so she ended up convincing me to try it. August set menu combo special it was.

I really enjoyed the chanpon ramen. The mix of ingredients was indeed quite good, and the broth was very tasty. I actually ended up liking the spam roll ok. I did dip it in soy sauce, and it wasn't bad. It's not something that I'd be racing out to get, and I'm not sure how often I'd get it as part of a combo meal, but I wouldn't be adverse to having it again.

My friend ended up getting a combo with the gyoza ramen and inari sushi. She enjoyed her meal as well.

For dessert, we ended up sharing an order of ice cream. Normally, it's a trio of vanilla, green tea and red bean, but they were out of the red bean, so we had one scoop of vanilla and two scoops of green tea instead.

The restaurant is on a corner location but while there is signage out front, I don't think it's necessarily an attention-grabber, so the place might be easy to miss. There's a small parking lot behind the restaurant, but there's also parking on the street. It's not a very large restaurant, but I liked it. The service was good, and our waiter was very nice. They were good about coming and refilling our water glasses. The decor is very casual, and since they weren't that crowded on this particular Saturday night, we sat and chatted for a while after dinner since we didn't figure they needed our table.

Tamaya Restaurant
645 E. Main Street
Alhambra, CA 91801
11:30am - 9:30pm daily

second location
17142 Colima Road, #E
Hacienda Heights, CA 91745
11:30am - 9:30pm daily

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Alive in Joburg" - original short film

Further to my review of "District 9" yesterday, a friend mentioned to me last night that the original short film upon which the feature film is based, "Alive in Joburg", was available on YouTube.

I just watched the short, and it's really an amazing piece of work. I can imagine seeing that and completely being on board to letting him make a full-length film version of the story. You can see a lot of the same themes and styles that are expanded upon in the feature film. The actor who plays Wikus, the lead in "District 9", also has a small part in the short.

Here's the link in case you want to go there directly.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"District 9" - spoiler movie review

Going in to see "District 9", I really didn't know anything about the movie. For some time previous, I'd seen the billboards and bus stop ads and such about non-humans being spotted in places and to report them, or that they weren't allowed in certain places. I think maybe I saw a one-sheet at some point, but I'm not even sure about that. I don't think I ever saw a trailer in the theatres - I think I might have seen one TV spot, so I did know that it was about aliens on Earth who were pretty much marooned here. It looked interesting, and the husband really wanted to see it, so ok, we went.

However, we ended up going at a time that I hadn't really expected, so I was totally unprepared. We were out running errands for something else and then ended up going to the movie, so I didn't have Teddy with me. (For those who don't know, "Teddy" is a vampire teddy plush from "The Nightmare Before Christmas" who I generally bring to movies with me when I think there's going to be a lot of tense stuff going on. Since he's soft, I can grip him, saving me from ripping the husband's arm off. Teddy has come in quite handy on many occasions.) I had known that I'd need Teddy for this film, especially after I heard somewhere that the R rating was partially because of scenes of "bloody violence". And here I was, sitting in the theatre without Teddy. Uh oh. (Oh, and there's also "pervasive language". Yeah, they're not kidding. F bombs are dropped left and right pretty much throughout the entire film, sometimes in rapid succession.)

Luckily, since I'm currently carrying around a Vera Bradley purse, which is made of soft cloth, I ended up using that instead. Yeah, I'm sure it would have looked weird to anyone who would have been looking at me, as I was clutching my purse, but it sure helped.

It's a little hard to describe "District 9". Yes, it's a science fiction movie to some degree, but the aliens from outer space are really a plot device. The key is that they're "aliens", foreign to the world in which they find themselves, foreign to the people already living in that location. And to a large degree, people are afraid of and don't want to be around things that are foreign. Their home is very far away, and they look very different, and they speak a different language, but that could be true of many other cultures - theirs just happens to be on another planet.

The often documentary style of the film reminded me a lot of "Cloverfield", including the use of many hand-held cameras. Anyone who has read any of my reviews knows that kind of technique is not a friend to me, and yes, it did bother me in many cases. It wasn't quite as bad as in "Cloverfield" in that I actually watched very little of that movie because of the camera movements. I did see most of this film, though I did look away in parts where the jarring camera was exceptionally bad. But, as with "Cloverfield", I did understand the need for using that device, and it worked very well.

This film is based on a short film called "Alive in Joburg" which "District 9" director and co-writer Neill Blomkamp created back in 2005 which also incorporates much from the childhood that the director spent in South Africa during apartheid.

The movie starts off with an interview with Wikus Van De Merwe, a government official who ends up being our guide through the story. It's then revealed that an alien ship had arrived on Earth 20 years previously, stopping right over Johannesburg, South Africa. After some time, the ship was boarded by U.S. forces and alien creatures were found in squalor conditions. The survivors were moved to District 9, a cordoned-off section on the outskirts of Johannesburg where the aliens were housed in makeshift shacks.

There were many clashes between the aliens and local citizens, and there were many harsh feelings towards the aliens, not just for their presence alone, but for the money being spent to house them.

Government officials have created a new area, District 10, where they want to move the aliens to, which is further away from the populated city. It's advertised as being a nicer complex, but it's really a modern-day version of a concentration camp for the aliens. They decide they need to evict the aliens from their current abodes and come up with the preposterous plan of having the aliens sign forms agreeing to be evicted. Wikus is put in charge of the entire operation.

What starts off as an iffy proposition anyway turns worse when the aliens object to being moved. The government officials are accompanied by armed forces, who show no hesitation at shooting and killing the aliens when they deem necessary, and some of them even enjoy doing it. When one particular alien refuses to be relocated, Wikus decides to threaten to take the alien's child away under the guise of unsafe conditions.

Unbeknown to any of the humans, though, two aliens have been scrounging for the means to get back to their ship. Wikus happens upon the liquid that will power the alien aircraft hidden underground, and he is sprayed with the dark liquid when he opens the cannister. It turns out that the liquid slowly acts to turn him into one of the aliens, and for the remainder of the film, we see the effects on him as he deals with the bureaucracy that he was once proudly a part of, one that manufactures lies in order to cover up the atrocities that they're committing, including experimenting on and murdering members of the alien species.

I'm actually pretty glad that I went in to the movie with no expectations and with very little knowledge about the film. It was really an amazing piece of work, impressive beyond any description, pretty much all around. The acting on all fronts was stellar, good guys and bad guys and in between. I didn't find any of the storytelling to be heavy-handed, and I can't imagine the creators of the story and film didn't understand the significance of where they chose to set the film. The treatment endured by the aliens isn't all that different than the treatment endured by many other cultures who have been deemed by their surrounding society as being unworthy and beneath them. They're not being viewed as living creatures who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. They're like insects, further devalued by being affixed with the derogatory name of "prawns", because "that's what they look like". (The aliens actually reminded me quite a bit of the title character in the "Predator" films.)

Taking the journey through the film with Wikus was pretty interesting. He has no idea that he was really put there as a pawn by his father-in-law, who sees nothing wrong with lying to his own daughter about her husband, as long as it suits his purpose. Wikus shows complete disregard for the aliens, even as he tries to get their "signature" on his bogus forms.

One of the most disturbing scenes for me involves a building that Wikus comes upon. Yeah, it does look pretty disgusting in there, per human standards, but Wikus takes great pleasure in setting the building on fire, and he even makes gleeful comments that it sounds like popcorn with the little bits individually exploding inside. And he makes all of these comments with the greatest degree of joviality, after he has already explained that the building was actually a nursery that was created to feed the embryo of the aliens. The building he set on fire was housing the potential children of the aliens, and the "popcorn" sound he referenced was the sound of each baby alien exploding.

Wikus really does do some heinous things in the course of the film, but oddly enough, he comes back from that because of his own bewilderment and horror at turning into one of the aliens, especially after the government starts experimenting on him once they figure out that his now-alien left arm has the ability to make one of the alien guns work.

There's also this whole side-story having to do with Nigerian gangsters who are taking advantage of the aliens. It's an interesting story in and of itself and adds to the overall problems encounted by Wikus.

As much as he dismissed the aliens previously, Wikus ends up joining forces with one of them to retrieve the black liquid to power the ship. The alien has told him that if they go back to the mother ship still hovering above, he has the means to reverse the effects of Wikus' alien transformation.

Complications arise, though, and while the alien and his son are able to make it to the ship and back to the mother ship, Wikus stays behind to ward off the military forces.

I really loved the ending of the film, with it being already established that Wikus had made little things for his wife, and after all is said and done, his wife found a flower on her front step, made of metal petals. She wants to believe that Wikus made it for her, though everyone tells her it's impossible and that he's dead. They then show an alien while he was making the flower, and yes, it's very clear that it was Wikus in his full-alien form. As far as the alien and his son that escaped, there is debate about whether they've gone away for good or whether they will bring backup forces to wage war on Earth and to rescue their fellow aliens.

One of the things I really liked about this film is that it's not your normal aliens-come-to-Earth story. In most depictions, the aliens are the aggressors and are trying to take over the world, and the people are just trying to defend the Earth from them. In this film, the aliens aren't really that much different than a boat or plane of people who have crash-landed in hostile territory. The aliens are *not* human and so are treated as sub-human, even in a land where division of the races have been so horrible even in recent memory. It seems that there's always a hierarchy, someone who's the oppressor and someone who's the oppressed, some group of people (or in this case, creatures) that are considered undesirables and treated accordingly.

About the only complaint I had about the film was a small plot point that ends up needing to drive the story. The alien admits to Wikus that the process to reverse his transformation will take three years because now that he knows his own people are being held captive and tortured and experimented on, he needs to go back to their home planet to get reinforcements, and he will need all of the liquid for that and so can't spare any to help Wikus. I was surprised that he told Wikus this at that point rather than telling him once they'd gotten back to the ship. I would think he would have expected Wikus' outraged reaction at having to wait that long, though he perhaps wouldn't have expected Wikus to knock him out and take the ship.

The special effects in this film are fantastic. All of the aliens are CGI, but you can't tell at all. The effects were done by Peter Jackson's powerhouse company, Weta Digital.

I do think this is a terrific film, completely worthy of recommending to anyone, but I know that two factors - the genre elements of aliens and science fiction as well as the extremely graphic violence - will keep a lot of people away, and that's really too bad. I suppose that eventually, a version edited for regular television broadcast could at least reduce the violence, but in this film, the violence is actually intrinsic to the story. They very graphically show aliens, and people, being blown into smithereens by the various weaponry. But that's the nature of the disregard bestowed on the aliens as well as the consequences whenever the aliens decide to finally fight back. The scene towards the end when Wikus is saved from the military guy when aliens converge on them, and the aliens end up literally tearing the guy limb from limb is gross and violent and graphic, yes, but it's also vital to the story, of what that military guy has done to so many aliens, of the aliens finally being able to make a stand, and the transition that Wikus is making from human to alien, both physically and with regard to being in each world and culture.

I know someone who I think would really appreciate this movie, but she doesn't do the fantastical, so I've told her that if she can get past that the aliens are from outer space, I think she'd be ok, since the violence wouldn't really be an issue for her.

You don't often get science fiction films that are this thought-provoking. This is truly an amazing piece of work.

Friday, August 21, 2009

magical memories - nice car, dude

This is a different kind of "magical memories" entry in that it wasn't something that happened to me but rather, something I witnessed. This happened a long time ago, but I still think about it periodically, and it *still* just really amuses me.

So I've mentioned that I went to college at Cal (that would be the University of California at Berkeley), so once I got a car, I would drive back and forth a couple times during the year (start of school in August, Christmas/semester break, end of school in May) instead of flying, which is what I'd done previously. Highway 5 northbound is B.O.R.I.N.G. There's really nothing to see (except for the other cars similarly packed to the gills with other students making the afternoon drive to college), and the road is pretty much straight all the way. There was just regular radio, so I was at the mercy of whatever stations were along the way, and let me tell you, there are a lot of stretches where there's really nothing to listen to. I didn't have a tape player in my car, so that was out, and this was way before CD players were in the car, much less things like iPods and such. And, they kind of frown upon reading books while you're driving the 5 if you're the one actually driving.

OK, so I mentioned that it's a boring drive, right? So, northbound and southbound have a divider in between, and each direction is a two-lane highway, and I'm in the right lane like a normal person (we won't get into the lame-ass people who drive 45 miles an hour in the left lane). I'm driving normal speed, just a little over the posted speed limit. And this guy in a bright red convertible goes flying past me in the left lane. OK, yeah, dude, your car can go 400 miles an hour, and you have a spiffy car, whatever. A couple minutes later, a Highway Patrol car races past me. Hmmmmm. A few minutes further down, I see the Highway Patrol car on the side of the road with said red convertible. Have a nice day, dude.

So I'm driving further along, and maybe 20 or 30 minutes later, the red convertible dude flies by me in the left lane again. And a couple minutes later, a Highway Patrol car goes by me - I don't know if it was actually the same one as earlier. And a few minutes later, Highway Patrol car and red convertible are on the side of the road again. Two speeding tickets, for going at excessive speed, in less than one hour. Have a *really* nice day, dude. If you're going to drive a "please give me a ticket, Mr. Police Officer" high-profile might-as-well-have-a-blinking-beacon-on-top car, you might not want to drive like a homicidal maniac. Twice.

And no, the red convertible didn't fly past me a third time.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

things I don't understand - baseballs and bullet holes

The question had originally come up in my mind quite a number of years ago, but a recent reminder brought the issue to the forefront.

I was driving along and at a stop light, I noticed that the car in front of me had a baseball that had hit their back windshield, cracking it, and the ball was still stuck there. OK, it's not real - it's one of those fake ones. I'd seen those previously but hadn't really noticed them lately. At first glance, it's kind of amusing, I guess, but I'm not sure I understand going to the expense (even though they're not all that expensive) and trouble of making it look like my car had been severely damaged. Maybe I just don't have that kind of sense of humour? I'm figuring the actual situation happens on a regular basis, whether it's at a ballpark where a major league baseball player might actually hit a ball out of the park and into a parking lot, presuming there are still baseball stadiums designed that way. Or it could happen at a local park with a baseball diamond or even as a result of playing baseball on a neighborhood street. When the real situation arises, I would imagine it's not a particularly happy or funny event for the owner of the vehicle, so I guess I'm not sure why faking it is particularly amusing.

But even more puzzling to me is something I saw multiple years ago, when I was seeing more of these fake baseball-in-windshield deals. I was driving along and noticed that the car in the next lane had, not a fake baseball in the windshield, but FAKE BULLET HOLES ALL OVER THE CAR. It was on the side of the car, on the front and passenger doors and elsewhere in the "metal" of the car as well as the windows, and it was also on the back windshield and trunk. Seriously? Really. Ummm, ok, so what's the status symbol or joke or WHATEVER about pretending that your car has been riddled with bullets? That's supposed to be funny? Or cool? I'm supposed to look at that and think it's the best thing in the world? If anyone I knew actually drove up in a car like that, I'd probably stare at them as if they'd just sprouted three heads.

I don't get it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Danny's Kosher Pickle - restaurant review

The husband and I had driven by Danny's Kosher Pickle many times because it's located inside a mini-mall on a street that we frequent for other things. It's a little hard to see from the street because it's quite inset, but as we were scanning for other businesses, it had caught our attention (yes, the "kosher" and the "pickle" were the eye-catchers), so we finally decided to stop in for lunch one day.

Wouldn't this sign on the outside of the restaurant make you curious to try it?

We really enjoyed our visit, and we've been back a couple of times since. This particular visit was a couple of weeks ago when we were in the neighborhood and needed somewhere to have lunch so decided to stop in.

Another pickle gives a warm welcome to the customers.

I guess the best way to describe the restaurant is a mom-and-pop diner. It's very homey, not fancy, but it has a nice comfortable feel to it. In the picture directly above, you can see a bit of the decor and hopefully get a feel for the atmosphere of the place. Each time that we've been there, we've been sat at one of the booths.

Here's the front of the menu. Cute, huh?

The menu is pretty simple - they have several kinds of soups, a bunch of salads, and a TON of different sandwiches and burgers and melts. I think I had the burger once, and it was pretty good. This time, I opted for the reuben sandwich, which comes with corned beef or pastrami (I chose corned beef this time) and sauerkraut, swiss cheese and Russian dressing, with a pickle spear on the side. The pickle spear is pretty small, and last time when I got the burger, I got a side order of extra pickles, but this time, since I had the sauerkraut, I didn't figure I'd need the extra sour flavor.

The reuben was really yummy, fresh and hot and great flavor. For most of the sandwiches, you can add french fries for just a little more, but I didn't feel like having french fries this time, so I had opted to start with a small cup of soup.

They also have a fairly good breakfast menu and some interesting things on the dinner menu, so hopefully, we'll have a chance to go back for those meals at some later time.

The service was good, and the waitresses (I only saw women - the men were the cooks) were really friendly and nice.

Danny's Kosher Pickle
326 N. Azusa Avenue
Covina, CA 91722

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"Adam" - spoiler movie review

I had seen the one-sheet for "Adam" but didn't really know anything about the movie until I heard a blurb on some radio show, and that piqued my interest.

Beth moves into a new apartment in New York and has an encounter with odd fellow-resident Adam. She has several more odd encounters with him but is nevertheless drawn to him. She then learns that he has Asperger's Syndrome, and while she is hesitant at first to develop any sort of relationship with him, she (and we) learns more about him and really gets to like him. Meanwhile, she is dealing with her parents, and a father who is not what he appears to be.

I really loved this movie, for many reasons. It's a small quirky story, which in that sense reminds me a little of "Juno" - very much character based. It's not stated until later in the movie that Adam is an Aspie, so we follow the journey with Beth, thinking initially that Adam is just quirky and then being told later that it's actually a medical condition that accounts for his behaviour. Once Beth figures out what social situations Adam has problems with, she is much more able to help him adjust. An innocent situation where Adam goes to visit Beth's school after he is fired turns into a nightmare for him when cops are called because he is watching the children, further complicated when he can't understand why the cops are treating him that way. The relationship that develops between Beth and Adam is very sweet and very honest - at least on Adam's end, but when Adam finds out that Beth lied to him, over something fairly non-important, he does not know how to handle it and loses control. Meanwhile, Beth is on edge herself since her father is on trial, and while he has consistently told her that he's innocent, she not only finds out that he's actually guilty but that he has also cheated on her mother, having an affair with the daughter of a family friend.

But Adam conquers his fears and goes to see her, even telling her that he's conquered even more by accepting a job in California. When he tells her that he can't go without her, it's a very sweet moment. But later, when she finds out that he almost literally means that, because he needs someone to help him acclimate, it's heartbreaking when she realizes that she can't go with him for that reason. I liked that he went on his own anyway, and I especially loved the ending. They're both doing fine, she's written a book, and it's left open-ended about where their stories will go next, whether together or apart.

I particularly enjoyed the movie because I don't know much about Aspies, and I'm realizing that even with Aspies (as opposed to autistics), there is a wide range of behaviours and understandings. I loved the sequences of Beth teaching Adam how to act when he has to go on an interview, and it was hilarious when there was the misunderstanding when Adam asked about whether she was aroused at a particular time, freaking her out, until he explained about being an Aspie.

I've not seen Hugh Dancy's earlier work, but he is absolutely terrific in this film as the title character.

Rose Byrne was also terrific as Beth. I don't really know her, though I have APPARENTLY seen her in "Knowing", but I can't remember who she played.

Peter Gallagher was his usual terrific self in this film, even though his character (Beth's dad) is basically an ass.

I hadn't known that Amy Irving was in this film, and it was nice to see her, though she looks different than I remember her. She was very good as Beth's mom.

Frankie Faison was absolutely terrific as Harlan, the friend of Adam's father who takes care of a lot of stuff for him. The character starts out fairly non-descript, but as the film progresses, he really turns into a very interesting character, well played.

I'm not sure how this film is going to be sold to audiences, and I think that might prove to be a difficult task, but I certainly hope it works. This is a movie I would definitely recommend.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I ... wanna Wal-Mart all night...

KISS is releasing its first new album in 11 years. And it will be released exclusively at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club.

I'm just saying.

(And in case anyone is wondering, I have no issues with the Wal-Mart release. Genesis did that a couple years ago as well.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

not so much a cupcake as a megacake

I've always thought of a cupcake as a smaller version of a regular cake, and then a mini-cupcake is, well, even smaller. But if a "cupcake" is GIANT SIZED, can you still really call it a cupcake? What's the requirement for being a cupcake anyway? (And I mean the baked confection kind, not the endearing pet name kind.)

In any case, a gigantoid cupcake has been deemed the new world's record, coming in at a whopping 1,224 pounds. Vanilla cupcake seems kind of boring to me, but at least they turned it into a worthy fundraiser.

Can you imagine what the cupcake tin must have looked like???????? ;)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

ice cream doesn't just come in vanilla

With all the different companies making ice cream nowadays, there are a ton of different flavors available, but wanna know about some *really* funky flavors? Well, here's a list of some that Ben & Jerry probably haven't thought up yet. They're not nearly as exotic as the weird-ass flavors that the Japanese have come up with (link to that list is in the article referenced above), but then, the Japanese are whack.

Sweet corn ice cream - now that's a flavor that I can definitely see a particular store owned by a particular person to come up with. Actually, I'm wondering if he has/they have already done that.

Grilled potato? Ummm, no, pass.

Sauerkraut - now, don't get me wrong, I *love* me some sauerkraut, but in ice cream? I'm not sure I can get with that particular program.

If someone had asked me about bacon ice cream a few months ago, I'd have said, no thank you, no way, leave me alone. But, since I've already decided that I'm going to be trying chocolate-covered bacon in another month or so, I'm thinking I'd probably agree to try bacon ice cream too.

BBQ ice cream? Pass.

Lobster ice cream. Hmmmm, I don't know. I don't think I can deal with crustacean in my ice cream.

As for the garlic ice cream mentioned at the beginning of the article, I've actually had that! Multiple years ago, I met up with a friend at the Gilroy Garlic Festival (I so want to go back, but the timing of the festival is really inconvenient for our schedule.), and we both were not whelmed when we heard about the garlic ice cream. But after spending a day of eating a ton of garlic-laden food, we decided to try it. At that point, it was actually pretty good, but the garlic didn't bother us. Heck, with as much garlic as we'd had up to then, EVERYTHING tasted like it was garlic infused. Now, if I'd tried the garlic ice cream upon first getting there, that might be a different issue.

Friday, August 14, 2009

North Woods Inn - restaurant review

My first visit to a North Woods Inn (there are three locations) was when the husband (then-SO) took me there multiple years ago. I'd never heard of the place before, though I had remembered seeing the seemingly-snow-covered rooftop. There was sawdust on the floor, which I thought was a little weird because it wasn't a western place. When he had first said that he wanted to go there because he wanted a good steak, I protested because I didn't feel I was appropriately dressed for a place like that. He assured me that my t-shirt and jeans would be fine. When I saw the sawdust and the rest of the decor, I realized he was right. We were seated, and I perused the menu, and the wait being brought a bowl of peanuts in the shell. The then-SO told me that you're just supposed to throw the shells on the floor, and I even saw the sign that said that, but I wasn't comfortable doing that, so as I ate the peanuts, I left a pile of shells next to me. And the next time the wait being came by, she swept the pile off the table and onto the floor.

That was my first experience. I'm an old pro now, and throwing shells on the floor is no problem for me. I also happen to love the place. When I want a good steak, there's no question about where to go - it's North Woods Inn, of course. They have great cuts of meat, in different sizes to fit your appetite, and they're absolutely terrific at cooking the meat however you ask for it. In most places, I ask for my meat to be cooked medium rare, but at North Woods Inn, I know that if I ask for it medium, it will actually be cooked to true medium, with the meat still pink on the inside. The only time I have a problem with that is when I used to order the steak skewers. Because the chunks on the skewer are so small, and they cook so much meat, the chunks invariable are cooked more than I like, so I just know not to order them anymore.

But at North Woods Inn, it's not just that they do really amazing meat. They have great salads that come with the meal as well. There are two salads, one with regular lettuce and bleu cheese dressing (which I don't normally like, but theirs is good) and one with red cabbage in a vinegar dressing. The husband taught me to put a bit of each into your bowl and then eat them together. Yum. But, I've also taken to having a second portion of just the red cabbage at the end of the meal. They also have the best cheesebread. Again, yum. You also get a baked potato with your meal, which I like with butter and their mushroom gravy.

The atmosphere is pretty casual - I can't say I've ever felt the need to dress up to go there. I'm usually there in a t-shirt and jeans. The decor is homey but not overly fancy. I noticed a couple years ago that they've replaced a lot of the paintings they used to have of naked women. OK, I'm not talking Playboy centerfolds, but these were more like artistic semi-nudes. Very tasteful, but I guess some people get offended. They still have some of those paintings left, but not as many as before. The service is generally quite good, and they're pretty good about refilling water glasses. I always marvel at how the staff is able to carry all those heavy plates.

The lounge area is pretty nice too. When there's a wait for a table, we hang out there and enjoy peanuts. On a couple of occasions, though, we've actually just eaten at the lounge. They have appetizers there, and you can also order the salads and cheesebread. They also have at least one fairly big television, so when we're not hungry enough to have steak, we've stopped in to the lounge to watch whatever sporting event is on, have some salads and cheesebread and split another appetizer.

For those not red-meat inclined, they also have chicken and fish options. For those not meat inclined at all (fish included), the only choices would really be the baked potato and the salads and cheesebread. There are no vegetarian options on the menu.

We love the restaurant, and we make regular trips there. We've also been there many times with friends, and we even had our rehearsal dinner at one of the locations.

We usually go to the San Gabriel location, though we also occasionally stop in at the La Mirada location since it's on the way home from Orange County. We had a not-as-great experience last time we were at the Covina location, so we don't go there anymore.

Reservations are not accepted, so on busy nights, be prepared for a bit of a wait. During peak dinner time on a Friday or Saturday night, we've had to wait 40 minutes to an hour for a table for two. Parking is also not usually an issue as they have their own parking lot.

Here's the website highlighting the San Gabriel location, but there are also links to the other two locations. There's also a slide show on the site to give you an idea of what the restaurant looks like.

There are a couple of sister locations as well. The Galley is right next to the San Gabriel location, and we tried it out a couple of months ago, and I have to say, I was really disappointed. I figured they'd probably at least do great hamburgers - it was mostly like just eating in a cafeteria. I was not happy at all and would pretty much have to be dragged to go back. We've also been to the Steak 'n Stein once, and while we enjoyed our experience (they had GINORMOUS baked potatoes), they don't serve the salads there, which we consider an integral part of the dining experience, so we haven't been back.

If you're looking for somewhere to have a great steak and nice atmosphere and not-outrageous prices and nothing too fancy, North Woods Inn is definitely the place to go. One of our servers at a favorite restaurant asked us for a steak recommendation a couple months ago, and without hesitation, we directed her to North Woods Inn.

North Woods Inn
7247 Rosemead Blvd.
San Gabriel, CA

Thursday, August 13, 2009

4 week old kittens

Yeah, another kitten video! Kittens are cute, right? You like looking at kitten videos, right? Well, like it or not, that's all I can muster right now. But they *are* really cute.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" - spoiler movie review

When we had been in theatres watching a bunch of other movies, they showed the trailer for "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra". I was surprised that Dennis Quaid was playing the leader, but I guess ever since "Vantage Point" and "The Express", he's been playing tough-guy roles, unlike earlier in his career. The effects looked cool, and things blew up, so I was interested in seeing it.

"G.I. Joe" is the latest in a line of movies based on toys, and there have also been a lot of movies based on comic books, so it was quite interesting that this movie was actually more cartoony than any of the movies based on actual comics. The characters were pretty one-dimensional, and the dialogue was pretty basic. There wasn't too much to the story - bad things happen, elite covert squad comes in to fix stuff, but there's always a twist. New hot-shot guys want to join the squad, and one of them has the key to discovering the bad guys - hot chick who's on the side of the bad guys is actually his ex-girlfriend, who used to be sweet (and blonde), but she's now gone over to the dark side, literally, as she's now a brunette. But in the end, even her brainwashing can't completely control her and she has to save the man she really loves.

And then of course there's the other twist that the mad scientist bad guy is actually said ex-girlfriend's brother that dude thought he had let die in war. Because, you know, it's fair to make your boyfriend promise that he'll bring your brother back alive from a WAR. Yeah, and he was a jerkwad for not having the balls to face her when he thought he had let her brother get blowed up.

But then, after it's revealed that said not-dead brother is really the bad guy (I only realized that a couple of seconds before it was revealed on-screen), there was ZERO followup with bad-girl-turned-back-to-good sister finding out that her beloved brother was actually alive and had been responsible for the controlling chip in her head. Oh, yeah, that's not important.

The on-going blood feud between the two "brothers" was kind of interesting, moreso because the bad brother was in white while the good brother was in black. The end was kind of anti-climactic for me though - you pretty much knew that eventually, there would be the showdown, and good dude would win out.

I joked with the husband that "Rise of Cobra" should actually be the name of the *second* film in the series since that's usually when the bad guys make their stand (e.g., "The Empire Strikes Back", "Revenge of the Fallen"), but he pointed out that the bad guys hadn't even been born as a group yet, and that's what was happening in this film.

And ok, fine, the bad guys are called Cobra, I guess, but I seriously did not expect to SEE AN ACTUAL SNAKE in the movie. No, I didn't watch most of that entire section, but yes, I did figure out that he stuck his arm in and got bitten. Ewwww.

One of the things I really didn't like about the movie was the CGI. Yes, the CGI was *really* obvious to me, and I thought, "Hmmm, this isn't good enough to be ILM. They must have hired Digital Domain." Sure enough, credits roll, and the major effects house is Digital Domain. So, I guess I recognize them now for the work I hate. And yes, I've hated their work since "Titanic".

Hasbro seems to be trying to set themselves up as the toy company equivalent to Marvel Comics, but they're going to have to try harder. The first "Transformers" movie was spectacular, and even though I didn't care that much for the second film, it's still a better franchise than this one has started out to be. I'd have to be convinced to give a second movie a try.

Dennis Quaid was ok, but he didn't really have all that much to do.

Channing Tatum was ok as the lead, but he didn't have a very complicated character.

Marlon Wayans was actually pretty good in this, being a Wayans notwithstanding.

Sienna Miller was ok as Ana, the good-girl-turned-bad-turned-back-to-good, but she *really* looks different as a blonde and as a brunette. Guess they'll have to figure out how to get all those pesky nanites out of her in the next movie.

Rachel Nichols was fine as the other hot chick - and yes, the chick fight was pretty funny. No hair pulling though - they just kicked ass.

Dude who was Mr. Eko on "Lost" was pretty good, but Ray Park was awesome as silent dude, even though you never see his face.

Dude from "The Mummy Returns" was his usual creepy self, but he's now out of a job since Jonathan Pryce will now be taking over his role as the not-President.

Brendan Fraser has this tiny little role in the film - no clue why.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Reno, here we come! (in 2011, that is)

The 67th WorldCon in Montreal just ended, and it's now official - the 69th WorldCon is being held in Reno, Nevada from August 17-21, 2011. I knew that Reno had been running unopposed, but I didn't know their bid continued to remain unopposed after Seattle dropped out of the running. The husband and I went to WorldCon when it was in Anaheim (as L.A.con IV) in 2006, and we had a blast. It was definitely something we wanted to do again, but it had to work geographically for us. When I heard about Reno, I thought that would be perfect. It's not a very long distance to travel (just over an hour by plane, if I recall), we've been to Reno before so we won't feel cheated out of visiting the city because we'll be spending most of the time inside a hotel in meeting rooms and such, and best of all, we can attend panels (or "classes", as we ended up calling them) all day, room hop and party all night, and then when we're done, hit the casinos, and then start all over again! How much fun is that going to be?

The con is being held at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, and the main hotel will be the Atlantis, with the second hotel being the Peppermill. When we went to Reno a couple years ago, we stayed at the Peppermill but went to the Atlantis as well, and we enjoyed both hotels. I think I might want to stay at the Atlantis this time since it's just walking distance to the convention center - we'll just have to make sure we have a room that's not near the main party floors. However, I do want to go to the Peppermill for dinner one night - the White Orchid restaurant was terrific.

We expect to purchase our memberships (meaning, admission tickets) soon, though we have until April of 2010 before the price changes. The prices are cheaper the earlier you buy the membership, even more so if you purchase a membership while it's still in the bid process, before it gets accepted. So yeah, you could end up buying a membership for a bid that ultimately doesn't get awarded the WorldCon.

The 68th WorldCon will be held next year in Melbourne, Australia. As much as I'd *love* to go to Melbourne, I would so not be happy with just hanging out inside a hotel, no matter how much fun it'll be. If I'm going to Melbourne, I'm going to see the city.

So far, the only bid submitted for the 2012 WorldCon is Chicago, and that will be voted on at next year's WorldCon.

I'm so excited that we'll be going to another WorldCon!!!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

kitties on a treadmill

My head feels like it's going to explode, so let's watch a cute kitty video today instead!

They've disabled the embedding, so I can't just put the video up here, but it's good enough for me to put up the link to the video. It's totally worth watching all the way through.

Cats are weird.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


So I went to an open house today at the location of my Vera Bradley pusher. There was a drive to collect school supplies for local kids, there were a couple of sales going on, I had a good time talking to people, and I got to see some of the new patterns and styles coming out in the fall.

And I did manage to buy two things, but they were small. There were two other things I wanted, but one hadn't arrived yet, and one was out of stock, so I have to wait for them to get more.

This is the Hannah style in the Jave Blue pattern. (And I even got it at 50% off the regular price!) I have a couple things in the Java Blue pattern that were giveaways, and I rather like the design. I have another purse in the Hannah style, but I decided I liked this one too, and I'm trying to get myself over the notion that I can only use this kind of purse if I'm going somewhere fancy. It's a cute little purse, and it'll force me not to carry too many things around, so I'm going to try to use it on a more regular basis.

This is the new Blue Rhapsody pattern that I really like. The other purse in this pattern that I had thought about buying turned out to be a lot bigger than I expected, so I didn't get it. I was looking for a particular little purse today because of something that I'm doing this week, and I think this is going to work out really well.

I really like one of the patterns that will be coming out with the Fall collection, though I can't remember what it's called. The picture below doesn't quite properly represent how pretty the pattern is - all the pictures I took made the pattern look a lot more orange than it is and didn't really show the pinks and reds the way they really looked, but I think you'll at least get an idea.

There was one purse style I was looking at today in the Blue Rhapsody, but I decided not to buy it. I think I might get it in this new pattern come Fall.

And then after the event, I ran a couple of errands and then wandered around the Disney Character Warehouse in Fullerton to have a look. And lookie what I found there.

Sure looks like a Vera, doesn't it? But I felt the fabric, and it wasn't nearly as soft.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Is everything better deep fried?

I keep hearing that it starts in the south, but nowadays, it seems that you hear about more and more foods that are deep fried. Well, here's a list of 15 of these foods, many of which I've personally never heard of. But then, that doesn't surprise me.

I don't understand deep fried pancakes. Deep frying it pretty much destroys the flavor and texture that I like about pancakes.

Deep fried ravioli - now those, I do like. They're on the appetizer menu at Olive Garden. Yum.

Deep fried quarter pounder? WTF?

Deep fried Cadbury egg? I don't even like them in their normal state. Ewwww.

Friday, August 7, 2009

playing the victim

Emilia Domingo Raras is 73 years old and has been in prison since 2000, serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole.

She has recently asked a judge to commute her sentence, stating that she has suffered for her crime, and that being in jail is like being in hell.

What is the crime that earned her this sentence? She arranged for a man to kill her daughter-in-law because she felt she had been disrespected because the daughter-in-law did not invite her into the delivery room when her grandson was being born, and her daughter-in-law did not accept or ask for her advice on how to raise the child.

Her lawyer says that she's "an educated woman with no criminal history before the murder charge". So, if she had no prior criminal history, then by all means, they should have been lenient with her and given her a freebie, right? It was just one little murder, no big deal. If she was an educated woman, then she should have know that there would be consequences to her actions. She can't claim ignorance of the law then, can she?

"No human being should die in prison," she said. "Please give me a second chance. I need a second chance."

No human being should be sliced to death for simply being a mother. Her daughter-in-law will never have even a first chance to raise her own son, to see him grow up. There is no way in hell her murderer deserves a second chance. Her grandson was 16 months old when his mother was murdered. And at the time Raras was arrested, she was babysitting him. It makes me sick.

It's interesting that the article doesn't mention her son at all. I would hope that he has never visited his mother in prison and has no contact with her. She doesn't deserve to be anyone's mother or grandmother. And if she were let out of prison, I would bet that her next move would be to want to see her grandson. After all, her grandson doesn't have a female figure to nurture him, now does he? She could provide him with the support and guidance he needs. No, I don't think I would just be making that up.

If she showed any remorse at all, I could maybe stomach hearing about her request. I still don't think she should be let out only because she's served 10 years in prison and has failing health. None of that mitigates the awful crime that she commissioned. But she's shown that she has no remorse whatsoever: "Raras said she had no feelings of anger toward anyone and had forgiven her victim."

FORGIVEN HER VICTIM? Forgiven her for what? For being a mother? She was brutally murdered, taken away from her young child, and somehow this monster thinks there's anything she did that she needed to be forgiven for?

I hope that Raras' health improves. I hope she lives another 30 years. And that she spends all of it in prison. And any time she whined about how she's suffering and that being in prison is like hell, I'd sit her in a room, and I'd make her listen to a tape over and over again, the tape of her daughter-in-law screaming while she was being murdered. Maybe then she'll understand what suffering is really like.

Her lawyer has asked for mercy for her. She showed no mercy to her poor daughter-in-law. Maybe God will have mercy for her. The courts should not.

Here's an article with the full story.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"I Survived a Japanese Game Show" - August 5, 2009 episode - season finale

Yep, you read that right. I didn't know this was the last episode. I mean, there were 5 people still in the game! And I didn't know beforehand that it was a two-hour episode.

But first, some old business from last week. I present to you - Judge Bob as Mr. Banana Man.

OK, now, new business.

The show started off recapping the season so far. OK, that was weird. And then the announcer said they'd be eliminating one person at a time tonight until there was a winner since it was the season finale. Awwwww, no more shows? Sadness. (Quick, who did I acquire that particular saying from?)

Even with only 5 contestants left, they were still in their teams. The first game was called "Dude! Where's my luggage?" Each team had to run up a moving conveyor belt that had luggage coming down. They had to collect only the bags with blue tags and toss them into a luggage bin. After 30 seconds or if they fell off, the next team member would take a turn.

Since the teams were uneven, the Green Tigers had a handicap - one of the team members would be wearing a carrot suit and boxing gloves. Brent volunteered to wear those. Cathy did pretty well during her turns, and Linda did ok, but Brent really sucked because of the cumbersome outfit and because he couldn't really pick up anything with the boxing gloves. I don't think he got even one piece of luggage. The tag on the bags were a lot smaller than I thought they'd be, so it was hard to identify the right bags. And there weren't just suitcases - there were giant things coming down that conveyor belt! And as time progressed, the conveyor belt moved faster, and more and more luggage was sent down, piles at a time.

After the Green Tigers went, the Red Robots had their turn. There were only two of them, so when one fell off, the other one immediately had to step up, which meant they each had more time on the conveyor belt and no time to rest. With the Green Tigers, even though Brent didn't get anything, the time he spent on the conveyor belt meant that Linda and Cathy could catch their breath for those couple of seconds. But Megan had one really amazing shot, falling down and shooting a piece of luggage into the bin. SCORE!!!!!

When the results were tallied, the Green Tigers had 24 pieces of luggage and the Red Robots had 17 pieces of luggage. Cathy's winning record was still safe (insert "safe" motion here) for the moment. Megan was upset that she had volunteered to change teams because now, she was going to have to fight for her survival in the elimination game against Justin.

For winning, the Green Tigers' reward was to board and ride the Himiko, a futuristic boat. They were then taken to Joypolis (which the announcer pronounced as "Joyopolis" except that the spelling doesn't have the extra "o"), which is a high-tech arcade/amusement park. Brent, Cathy and Linda had a blast.

The Red Robots had yet another punishment. Megan and Justin were taken to a temple of Zen monks, and they went through "monk bootcamp", which first consisted of chanting and running back and forth between two spots, and then they later waded through freezing water while chanting again. Justin was pissed off at having to do all of that and pretty much just made disparaging remarks the whole time and "woe is me" comments. Megan, however, was very spiritually moved by the whole experience. She and Justin were both in the elimination game, so she hoped that Justin's anger would throw him off balance and her calmness from the experience would help her.

Running barefoot on hot pavement.

At least the monk didn't add "and more intense".

Megan preparing to wade into a cold river.

For the elimination game, they wore muscle suits and had gloves on that had pointy ends. The game was called "balloon assassin". Each person would be strapped to a bungee cord and bounced on a trampoline to pop the balloons hanging from the ceiling. The bottom layer had yellow balloons, which were worth 1 point each. The upper layer had blue balloons, which were worth 2 points each. (When each balloon popped, confetti came out.) Whoever got the most points in 2 1/2 minutes won the game.

Megan went first and was doing a pretty good job. She managed to clear out the layer of yellow balloons, but then she couldn't get herself to bounce high enough to reach the blue balloons. But she finally figured something out - the husband thought she was pulling on the bungee cord more, which would bounce her higher than just using the trampoline - and she was able to pop quite a few of the blue balloons.

Justin was up next - he was shorter than Megan so would be at a disadvantage to reach the balloons. He missed on quite a few of his early attempts, hitting balloons but not being able to pop them. But, he also clicked and began annihilating the balloons.

After both had their turn, it was time for the tally. Megan had 23 points, and Justin had 31 points, so Justin won the game. The Sayonara Mob climbed out from under the trampoline to take Megan away. Brent and Cathy were upset to lose Megan, but Linda was devastated since they'd become friends.

Good job, Megan. Sorry that you have to leave your new-found boyfriend Rome.

Megan Bentley
Megan puts the ME in Megan. The world revolves around her and, if it doesn't, she'll do something about that! Growing up on a farm in rural Ohio, this only child is also a walking television show, and everything that comes out of her mouth is wildly funny or sarcastic. Beneath the sarcasm and bravado, however, you'll find that Megan is incredibly sensitive, likable and prone to drama and tears.
Age: 28
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Occupation: Dental Supply Salesperson

With four contestants left, the teams were now divided by gender. Cathy and Linda were Green Tigers, and Brent and Justin were Red Robots. For the next game, they came out dressed as samurai (Cathy and Brent) and geishas (Linda and Justin). The game was called "You Stand Still! No, You Stand Still!" This was similar to a game that was played last year. Each team member would be in a chair that spun around a lot before the game started, with each member on the opposite side of the game field. Once the chair stopped, they had to make their way on a narrow walkway to spinny discs. While each kept pace on a disc, they had to change costumes, dressing the other person in the clothes they were wearing. They had to put on the headpiece for the other person, and then they could each put on their own shirts, but the other person had to put on the wrap. They then had to make their way to the other person's chair to pick up the accompanying item to their new costume (sword for samurai, fan for geisha) and then make their way back to their own chairs.

The Green Tigers were up first. Linda didn't have issues with spinning so she wasn't worried about that part. As they were on the spinny discs exchanging costumes, Cathy fell into the flour once, but they generally did a good job.

The Red Robots were next, and Brent was definitely *not* good at dealing with spinning. He had a very difficult time when the chair stopped, and it took him a bit to steady himself. He and Justin had difficulties with the costume exchange, but they finished their task as well.

The Red Robots' time to complete their task - 2:16. The Green Tigers' time to complete their task - 1:44. Cathy and Linda were jumping up and down with joy, and Cathy's winning streak remained safe for another game.

Justin was very dejected at having lost yet again, and he was close to just wanting to quit, but Cathy and Linda talked him up. They were actually rooting for him to beat Brent in the elimination game because they thought they'd have a better chance of beating Justin then Brent when it came to the final 3 competition.

For the Green Tigers' reward, Cathy and Linda were going to be special guests on a popular Japanese morning talk show called "Zoom in Super". They were on national television and were interviewed by the hosts and given some stuffed animals as gifts. (I have to say here that during this segment and during the earlier Joypolis segment, when they got stuffed animals as well, I was *so* looking for Gloomy. I was really hoping one of them would get a Gloomy. I had to learn to live with disappointment.)

The Red Robots' punishment this time was to work in a bento factory, making bento boxes as part of an assembly line. Justin complained the entire time - big surprise - claiming that he was being tortured in Japan. Drama queen much? And then he said that making bento boxes was woman's work, and that Cathy should be there to do it instead. Seriously, is he really that much of an ass in real life or did they tell him to play it up? I hope it's the latter because if it's the former... While Justin was making lunches, Cathy was having a good time going on roller coasters and playing games. Oh, and by the way, she kicked his ass in the challenge. Which is why he was making lunches instead of having fun.

After they made all the bento boxes, they then had to deliver them, on bicycles, and they had to collect money for them as well. They didn't know their way around too much so they got lost a couple of times, making them late in their delivery to unhappy customers. That was pretty cool to watch though. Those bento boxes looked awesome - I wish someone would deliver bento boxes to me at work for lunch!

It was time for another elimination game. Brent and Justin had to wear goggles while they put on a whole bunch of different colored t-shirts on over each other. The game was called "t-shirt of torture". They had to take off one t-shirt at a time and hang each up on a clothesline. Each t-shirt had a letter on the inside back, and the letters would spell out a phrase. The first person to correctly guess and say the phrase would win the game. So while Brent and Justin were taking the multitude of t-shirts off, things would randomly be dropped on them - gallons of water, piles of flour and gobs of seaweed - ewwwwwwww. They were pretty even most of the time, but Brent would get a little bit ahead, and then he'd hit the buzzer to guess the phrase and then be wrong. Cathy and Linda were really cheering for Justin. After Brent had guessed wrong multiple times, Justin figured out the phrase before he got all the t-shirts off: "I need to win this game to be safe." Justin had made it to the final three, and Cathy and Linda were ecstatic.

The game started with a waterfall.

Hanging t-shirts on the clothesline.

Now, how about some flour? What is it with them and flour anyway?

Like seaweed mana from heaven. Not.

Justin is the winner.

The Sayonara Mob came out from the audience to get Brent, who took the loss very well, and he was actually rocking out to the whole sayonara ritual.

Good job, Brent. You were a great competitor, and you seem like a genuinely nice guy, but you jumped the gun by stopping and guessing so many times, and that eventually led to your downfall.

Brent Alexander
Energetic, smart and fun, Brent is the guy all the other guys want to hang out with and all the girls want to date. Possessed of a certain charm, he can't help but be the life of the party, and others can't help but befriend him. Brent is as genuine and real as they come: He'd give the shirt off his back to help a stranger, but would also be straightforward and honest if he didn't agree with someone or something. A good personality and good looks aren't the only things going for him; he's also extremely smart, athletic and an incredible dancer. For someone who has it all, he's surprisingly humble. Accomplishing any task he puts his mind to, Brent says he is "confident but not cocky."
Age: 28
Hometown: Miami, FL
Occupation: Salsa Instructor

The next game was called "Making new friends in Japan". I loved this game when they did it last year. Each of the three remaining contestants had to go out into the city and get total strangers to help them complete five tasks:

1. bow 10 times

2. put lipstick on the contestant and then let the contestant kiss them on the cheek

3. listen to the contestant recite a Japanese phrase and then tickle the contestant

4. let the contestant borrow their cel phone and make a call

5. five strangers had to do 10 chorus line kicks together

Once the contestant had completed all five tasks, they were to race to the base of Tokyo Tower. The first two to arrive would be in the finals. The last one would be out of the game.

And before the contestants were sent on their way, they were given schoolkid costumes and brightly-colored wigs to wear.

And they were off!

They each had difficulty getting people to even stop and listen to them. Without being able to speak Japanese, they couldn't get their point across, and their weird costumes didn't help. Linda was very boisterous, which was off-putting to most, and Justin was aggressive, which frightened some.

The guy that Linda got to put lipstick on her and then let her kiss his cheek was just WAAAAAAAAY too into it - heck, she could have charged him for doing that, and he probably would have agreed! Justin, on the other hand, just about molested the woman who agreed to put lipstick on him.

Getting someone to tickle them proved even more difficult as they tried to get the phrase out correctly and to get a total stranger to actually touch them to be able to tickle them. Justin had to contend with a woman with a child in a stroller who insisted she couldn't because she was married, and he was pretty obnoxious to her.

From the footage that was shown, they didn't seem to have too hard a time getting people to let them borrow their cel phones - I don't know that I'd hand my phone over to a stranger who I couldn't understand, not knowing who they were going to call. They then called Rome back at the studio to complete the task.

Completing the last task took much more coordinating because they had to get five people gathered to agree to do the kicks together.

Rome and the audience had been watching all of the action via the numerous cameras out in the field. As one player was close to completion, they all journeyed by bus over to the Tokyo Tower to await the contestants. The first person to arrive was Linda, securing her spot in the final competition. Cathy and Justin were finishing up around the same time, and it was a race to the Tower. Cathy arrived minutes before Justin, so Cathy was in the finals, and Justin was eliminated from the game.

Justin took his loss well, and in his final speech, he said he enjoyed all of it and wouldn't change a thing. I hope he meant that, because that wasn't close to what he was saying at the time. And hopefully, he didn't really believe all the sexist, racist things he said either. Maybe he'll be able to grow up and mature from all the experiences that he had in Japan. And maybe he'll learn to be less obnoxious too.

Justin Brown
Justin Brown is a real life "Van Wilder." He is funny, has tons of ambition, but lacks the focus and dedication to truly get what he wants. As a fifth year senior, he has gained the confidence and subtle arrogance that come with being a big fish in a small pond. He often uses humor, charm and wit to get what he wants, including talking his way back into school after being academically discharged and being elected president of his fraternity.
Age: 22
Hometown: Carbondale, PA
Occupation: College Student

It was down to the final two - Cathy and Linda. They were picked up by a limo and taken by helicopter to the roof of the Mori Tower, and when they ventured down below, they were greeted by Rome and a huge audience and cameras and flash bulbs and people holding up pictures of each of them. The first female defense minister of Japan came out to make a little speech and give each of them a plaque commemorating their accomplishment so far. However, they don't seem to have gotten the cushy night's stay in an amazing hotel that last year's finalists got.

Then it was time for the final competition. They were each dressed in kitty costumes, and the game was called "awholebunchofstuffthatRomesaidreallyfastthatendedwith...Super Majide!" It was an obstacle course, combining the hardest parts of the games played earlier this season. They first started off being sent on a conveyor belt into a balloon foam pit. They then had to carry 10 bento boxes across a narrow walkway while also having balls shot at them. If they fell, they had to start over again. They had to keep going until they got 10 boxes across. Both Cathy and Linda fell off the walkway or had the boxes shot out of their hands. Cathy made it over with 5 boxes, but Linda made it over with 7 boxes. Cathy fell a few more times on subsequent attempts, and Linda was finally able to get 10 boxes into the bin and move on. The next task was to yank the tentacles off five squid using the contestant's mouth only. Linda had a serious problem with this. Cathy eventually got the 10 bento boxes she needed and moved on to the squid. She ended up finishing just before Linda to move on to the next task. At the end, Linda didn't so much yank the tentacles off the squid as she did just yanking the entire squid off the string holding it up. Oh, and the floor had that really sticky stuff on it, so when they fell, they'd have a hard time getting back up, and they ended up shedding their kitty costume and other garments after this task.

Cathy noticed that Linda was having a hard time getting her costume off from the sticky stuff, so she raced ahead into the lotion bath and through the slides to the spinning disc where she had to release paint from overhead and catch it in a cup strapped to her front. The task was to fill the cup and then pour it in a bin, and when enough paint had been collected in the bin, the weight would cause a balloon to burst, releasing the key inside.

Both Cathy and Linda were working on the paint challenge, and they were both slipping and falling and not being able to fill their cups and just being exhausted, but neither one gave up. Linda managed to get a full cup at one point, but it wasn't enough yet. Cathy had been getting little bits in her cup many times, and finally, her last cup tipped the scale enough to pop the balloon. She grabbed the key, unlocked the door and pushed the buzzer. Not only had Cathy participated in every single team reward, but she completed her sweep by actually winning the game! That was so awesome. She was proud of herself because she was the oldest and the shortest, and she was a mom, but she said that they all underestimated her.

And hell yeah they did. They kept talking about her being a "soccer mom" since she was a stay-at-home mom raising two kids. And the other contestants were saying derogatory things about how good they were and how could they possibly lose to a soccer mom. What, like moms just pop out of nowhere having done nothing in their lives up to that point? Sure, there might be the occasional one like that, but most moms have gone through school and maybe had a career but have certainly had experiences that have made them more than just a couch potato who doesn't know anything and can't do anything. Being a mom is supposed to mean that you have no ability to do anything? Really? These people know nothing about what it means to be a mom, what it takes to get everything done, especially with two kids, huh?

To everyone who looked down on Cathy just because she was a mom - IN.YOUR.FACE.

Judge Bob came out and gave a trophy to Cathy, and the Congratulations Mob came out for Cathy, and everyone was chanting "Omedeto" instead of "sayonara". And Linda, as second place, didn't get any recognition or get to experience the Sayonara Mob. As the husband said, it's like the first runner up in a beauty contest - you get a quick mention but no actual acknowledgement because everyone is then too busy focussing on the winner.

You did a great job, Linda, and you were gracious in your defeat. Congrats for *almost* surviving a Japanese game show.

Linda Plaxen
Athletic, fun and easygoing, Linda is a tomboy who still likes to look good and shop. Extremely active and in great shape, she works hard to keep her physique. Brutally honest and a trash talker, Linda isn't afraid to speak her mind. Born and raised in Southern California, she has the laid back California vibe and the cute girl-next-door look. Down to earth and likable, Linda gets along with boys better than she does with girls. Nothing gets under her skin more than fake blonde bimbos - she HATES them.
Age: 32
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Occupation: Button Seller

Congratulations to Cathy. You did an amazing job, being on the winning team for every single one of the rewards. You never had to face even the possibility of going to an elimination game, and you certainly contributed to every win by your team. And when it came time for the individual challenges, you showed that you didn't need to rely on anyone else and could do just fine on your own. (And we'll even overlook your "duh" moment, thinking that adding "o" to the end of any word automatically makes it Japanese.) You set a great example for your kids, and your husband and kids should be so proud of you.

You won $250,000, but more importantly:


Cathy Grosam
Cathy is the cute and funny housewife who's also ultra competitive. She's is one of those moms that everyone wishes they'd had growing up: She's super involved, loud, crazy and a whole lot of fun. She's also always the loudest mom cheering from the sidelines. Not a 'desperate housewife,' Cathy loves being a full time, stay at home mom, calling herself a "child engineer." Some may call her controlling, but she'd say she just loves to be involved in everything her kids do. She is the VP of the PTA and the coach for her son's soccer team. The moms around her neighborhood call her "The Queen of School."
Age: 36
Hometown: Bartlett, IL
Occupation: Housewife

I really enjoyed the show this season, and I'm sad that it's over so soon. I'm really hoping it comes back for a third season next summer. And maybe next year, we'll get to see more of Mama-San again, instead of her just mostly being relegated to very short vignettes on the website.

Until then, everybody:

Hai, Majide!