September 30, 2008

It's everywhere.

As I’ve mentioned, a new initiative at work involves the marketers writing [insightful] blogs about the state of the market, industry, etc. Now, because I know my SEO (that’s search-engine optimization, yo), I would never duplicate content online, and jeopardize the search rankings of my company’s website. But because it hasn’t been published yet, I thought I’d share here for now.

Mixing it up, marketing-style

Finding creative ways to reach consumers isn’t new. From sponsoring radio shows, to the ever-present green screen ads behind home plate, advertisers have always been looking for the newt, creative way to get in front of their ideal audience. The past has brought us such advertising gems as:
  • Billboards inside bathroom stalls: The best one I’ve ever seen of these was for some kind of liquor – it listed random trivia facts, for no other reason than to occupy your time (Did you know that Donald Duck is banned in Finland because he doesn’t wear pants?) The worst? An ad for the boxed DVD set of “Sex and the City” that started playing the theme song as soon as you entered the stall. I couldn’t get out of there quickly enough.
  • Commercials before movies: Remember when these appeared out of nowhere and everyone was in an uproar? Now, we’re used to the complete branded experience that theaters offer – sneak peeks at a television show that you can chat about with your date, while seeing a car ad while texting the cinema radio station to tell them what song you’d like to hear next.
  • Text ads that populate based on what you’re writing an email about: The talk of the town when Google introduced these, they allow advertisers to contextualize their product. Writing an email about a new CD you bought? Go see that band in concert! Creepy, or helpful?
The newest trend is what Forrester research has deemed “ubiquitous marketing,” a varietal of marketing that acknowledges that today’s consumer environment is all about interactivity. We text message to vote for pop stars, choose interactive kiosks over human interaction, read magazines online so we can share our comments, and check review websites for everything from doctors to bars.

To reach consumers in such an environment, it can’t just be about broadcasting more ads out into the world, and it’s certainly more hopping on the Web 2.0 buzz train – effective marketing must be about providing targeted information to your audience and knowing how that audience expects to receive information. Let’s not rehash how the internet has changed the way the world works. Beyond the changing face of online advertising, there’s a world of interactivity options out there for your marketing message – and a slew of compelling reasons that your brand should consider them:

MOBILE. While Japan and Europe are already aboard the mobile train, American brands are running a little late. Mobile marketing doesn’t have to mean a promotional text message that most consumers would align with SPAM. Rather, start to think of phones and BlackBerrys (how are those for ubiquitous?) as a way for consumers to interact with the rest of your marketing mix. In field marketing, use a bar code or SMS to provide your audience with an additional branded experience – or to gather more information from them. Mobile couponing – already widespread in South Korea and Japan – truly shortens the distance between your audience and point of purchase by allowing the consumer to carry your promotion around with them.

OUTDOOR. A time to interact with your audience that was once lost can now be filled with out-of-home advertising. Is your message particularly relevant to a certain audience or environment? Align it with content offered via videos or interactive kiosks in sports clubs, bars, restaurants, elevators, amusement parks, taxis, trains, at gas pumps, etc. Your customer is already engaged, this type of interactivity enables a natural call to action. Digital outdoor displays kicks the billboard business up a notch (or 50) by delivering content in real time, to truly relate to its viewers in an and actionable way: In Times Square during lunch time? Stop in at Friday’s.

Effective marketing shortens the sales cycle and/or narrows the space between point of purchase and consumer. For your message to reach the right consumer and elicit the right reaction today, your marketing must be service-oriented and truly facilitate the consumer experience. Ubiquitous marketing allows you to do this by relying on digital technology that is inherently easier to track, evaluate and update.

Most new media channels have measurement built in – gone are the days where a media plan that was crafted 18 months in advance can see your fiscal year through. The successful brand must be nimble – able and willing to react to data as it comes in. Imagine the possibilities of performance-driven advertising: No longer do you have to cast a wide net or be satisfied with brand awareness. You can follow your consumer through the marketing funnel and fine-tune your message – and investment – to maximize sales.

Does your brand have an identifiable audience, and a goal beyond building awareness? As consumers flock to DVR capabilities, upgrade to the latest phone with the gamut of interactivity offers, and become more and more immune to the One-Size-Fits-All mentality of traditional advertising, not supplementing your media mix with some cutting-edge capabilities becomes dangerous. Ubiquitous marketing is a challenge, but an exciting one that promises a more practical return on your investment, as well as productive data that you can use to establish workable campaigns, procure more budget, or justify an unusual spend.

Just breathe.

I just had a 90-day "mini-review." It’s a good idea – after 90 days in a new job, both parties should have an idea of how things are going, what should come next, and any looming issues that could be nipped in the bud (Hey, not unlike in a relationship).

Things are going well – my boss thinks that I am organized and efficient and have a solid grasp of the business and processes. And we’re finally going to start splitting up responsibilities, so the other manager and I aren’t constantly overlapping efforts. Here’s the problem. The two initiatives that I am supposed to work on are:

  • "Getting out there": At least a few times a day, walk to someone’s office and have a conversation instead of emailing.
  • Breathing: Talk more slowly.
He could have told me that I needed to double company revenue and I probably would be equally concerned. I mean, he really summarized my workplace shortcomings, right?

Yes, I prefer email as a way to communicate and, yes, I may have heard once or twice that I need to slow down when speaking (Let’s not let this little ironic tidbit pass without comment: Because I talk too fast, email really is the most effective way for me to communicate.). This office is relatively small – 70ish people – and people are always gathering in the hall, eating lunch in the kitchen together, etc. I know that not strictly work-related conversations can actually be productive. So, it’s not that I couldn’t see this coming.

But here’s the thing – I’m not exactly a “visitor.” Email was invented for someone like me – I feel like I am interrupting people or being a micro-manager if I pop into someone’s office. I mean, we’ve had a kick-off meeting and then an email outlining next steps, how is it not overbearing for me to check in with you? But, according to my boss, that’s how things get done around here and people will appreciate me making the effort. It will help me become a fully-engrained part of this team. Really, it’s not about getting more done professionally, it’s about being more involved personally. And that’s making my heart beat really fast.

But, this is a new job, and my boss is right – even getting here was a huge leap outside my comfort zone. So, if I’m going to be good at this, which I think I could be (whether or not I want to be, well, that’s a story for a different day), then I need to play by these rules. Um, wish me luck.

Happy Ben Folds Day!

Today marks the release of ‘Way to Normal’, Ben Folds first album since 2005. Hello Ben, 2005?? I know you were busy getting all divorced and remarried and traumatizing me with the not-romantic information that this is Marriage #4, but come on, no time for an album release in between all that?

Ben Folds has brought a lot of good to my life – He led me to Ben Lee, once opened a concert to the ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ overture and provided the perfect Father/Daughter dance song, so I would like to overlook his whole ‘personal life’ thing and celebrate today with a little breakdown of the Best of BF/BFF.

Magic. I listened to this song a lot when Donovan was sick. It helped.



The Luckiest. Apparently, Ben feels like every other woman he meets makes him The Luckiest, but for those of us with only one One-and-Only, this song is still pretty sweet.

Late. This is one of the songs that I occasionally find myself thinking about and that I MUST hear right away. He wrote it for Elliott Smith, someone he didn’t know too well, but whose death he was effected by. Who can’t relate to that?

Song for the Dumped. This song is hilarious. Give me back that black t-shirt indeed.

‘Regrets’ and ‘Don’t Change Your Plans for Me’ should be on the ultimate mixed tape for a recent college grad. Not that this (from ‘Regrets”) has ever been me:
I thought about the hours wasted
Watching TV, drinking beer
I thought about the things I thought about
Until immobilized with fear
And all the great ideas I had
And how we just made fun
Of those who had the guts to try and fail
Nope, never done that.

I can’t even highlight a single poignant lyric from ‘Don’t Change Your Plans’ because each one could hit you in a different place.

I could [try to] wax poetic about each and every song Ben Folds and Ben Folds Five has ever released and that’s because over the years I’ve been obsessed with all of them. Lyrically, I don’t know of anyone who marries (ha!) the poignant and the hilarious quite so well (Think: ‘Song for the Dumped’ followed by ‘Philosophy’ – you can read a lot into the juxtaposition just from the song titles.), and so many of his songs start out with just the right bang (Is there a better opening lyric than “I feel like a quote out of context”?).

Specific, touching, searing and insightful – I have high demands/hopes for ‘Way to Normal,’ and am confident I won’t be disappointed. Unless he gets divorced again.

September 26, 2008

Concert Review: The Swell Season

Last Friday, Jessica & I celebrated our 8-year friend-iversary with a pizza/beer/concert date. We met for dinner at Sicilia’s, which is the site of our first real bonding session, following our first ever college party – if college parties involve many foreign exchange students and martinis. (This is a party we now refer to as the “Russian Party” – it probably would have been cleverer to call it the Romanov Party.) Never again in college did we attend such a bizarre party, so it’s perfect that that one was our first. And it marked the first of many bonding sessions involving food and booze.

Okay, so the concert! Was amazing!

The acoustics were kind of terrible – occasionally it sounded like there was a screeching microphone going crazy behind the stage. Also, it was freezing. I honestly don’t know if that had anything to do with the hockey ice beneath the floor, but I kind of wanted to die. So, in general – hockey arenas = non-ideal settings for concerts. But they really overcame all those handicaps and put on a heartwarming show.

The opening acts were both enjoyable, even though neither introduced themselves. Having completed some research, I realize that perhaps I should have known who Patty Griffin was. But I’m going to need you to at least tell us your name when you come out – I’m probably more musically informed than 50% of the crowd of double-dating couples over the age of 60 there and I didn’t recognize any of your songs that have not previously been performed by the Dixie Chicks.


Once the Swell Season came on, things really got rocking. Marketa is totally tiny, and she spoke very little – Glen Hansard is definitely the face and mouth of this band (hopefully not that relationship too?). They performed most of the songs from 'Once,' a few old Frames songs and two new songs that sounded amazing. At one point, they brought up a busker who they (and we!) had passed on the street on the way in, and had him play a song, after which, Glen said “He was really fu**in’ good, eh?” It was pretty adorable.

The best part of the show is that it was obvious throughout the full hour+ how happy they were to be there. How fortunate and overwhelmed they have been with their success. They said thank you (actually, “tanks”) after every song, and never once did it seem insincere. I felt warm and fuzzy, especially when Marketa came out for the encore and sang 2 songs by herself. I am not sure a more quietly beautiful song than “The Hill’ exists.

In conclusion, 10 Twix bars! I hope The Swell Season stops touring soon so they can work on a new full album. In the meantime, I’ll work on expanding into a The Frames fan.

A new leaf.

A co-worker of mine recently returned from his honeymoon, and as I crossed paths with him this morning, I found myself saying “How’s married life?” (I don’t know where it came from – it’s one of those small talk phrases that just pops out, like – ugh – “Happy Friday”.) and he responded “Awesome!”

I was seriously moved by that.

When people asked me that, I would say something like “Oh, it’s just soooo different” and quickly move on, because I was sure that no one actually wanted to know how married life was, they just needed to say something, and it’s better to be slightly sarcastic than to over-share, right? But why do I have to be like that? Negativity isn't helping anyone. And you know what – married life IS awesome.

September 24, 2008

I have a bone to pick.

I have largely moved beyond my Disney Channel phase - though, to be honest, I will never fully move on from this:



But beyond that (and my tiny fascination with 'High School Musical'), I really have no clue about anything going on there lately, and that includes 'Hannah Montana', besides the obvious fact that Miley Cyrus is on it. I didn't even know that my mom's early-90s boyfriend Billy Ray Cyrus was also on it until some Wikipedia research for this very blog post (Pst, Billy Ray, please stop highlighting your hair - it is the opposite of hot country heartthrob. Please refer to Brad Paisley for better guidance.)

So, I was pretty aghast today to learn that a main character on 'Hannah Montana' is named Jake Ryan. Jake. Ryan. Also known as The Boy Molly Ringwald Loves in 'Sixteen Candles.' As if I need to tell you that.

I have a hard time buying that this is a coincidence (I mean, it's like: Ferris Bueller, Marty McFly, Maverick, Jake Ryan, right?), So, is it a tribute? Or is this some kind of conspiracy? I was so traumatized when I Googled "Jake Ryan" to see these results juxtaposed:


It's as if they are trying to create a second generation of girls obsessed with a character named Jake Ryan and somehow usurp the power of the 80s by making them swoon over the wrong one! Go ahead, tell me I'm wrong.

September 22, 2008

Movie review: Towelhead

Trevor & I are making a conscious effort to see more independent movies. Over the last 6 months especially, I’ve really fallen off the Smart Film wagon.

My main excuse for this is the time and effort required to see these types of movies. The amount of time it takes to get to a further away theatre, as well as the lack of show time options and therefore inconvenience of being an indie filmgoer is easy enough to understand. But the bigger issue is the feeling that I will be so drained after seeing a “deep” movie that I just can’t get up the emotional energy for it. I can’t tell you how many Netflix movies have sat on the coffee table for months because, no matter how much I want to see the film, I’m just not willing to commit myself to it that day. It’s so much easier to see an un-challenging movie.

I’ve been especially guilty of this lately, constantly opting for the easy, enjoyable movie escape – you know, one that’s perfect for a snuck-in bottle of wine, and very little post-viewing analysis. Before this weekend, the last 5 movies I’d seen were: ‘House Bunny, ‘Mamma Mia,’ ‘Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,’ ‘Dark Knight’ and ‘Wall-E.’ It was hard to even get me to ‘Dark Knight,’ because I was dreading the emotional rollercoaster of watching Heath Ledger playing a disturbed, doomed depressive.

Now, obviously not all independent movies are heavy and intense. And I would argue that the movies that make you think and feel heavy things are more worthwhile to the viewer (and society) by providing insight into an aspect of the human condition you likely have no idea about. Essentially, if I want to continue calling myself a movie person, I have to put my money where my mouth is, support independent movies, and join in the conversation.

Are you wondering where the movie review portion of this blog entry is? Okay, here we go.

Towelhead’ was written and directed by Alan Ball, the creator of ‘Six Feet Under’ and the writer of ‘American Beauty.’ It tells the story of about 6 months in the life of a 13-year old Lebanese-American girl, who, in the early 90s, goes to live with her father in Houston after an inappropriate almost sexual interaction with her mother’s boyfriend. She’s a girl coming to terms with her sexuality, and confused about what she’s supposed to feel (and for whom) and how she should act. She’s naively flirtatious, and completely isolated in her confusion (When her mother sends her away in tears, she says “This is your fault.” Her father forbids her to wear makeup, use tampons or date a black boy.). She becomes the babysitter of a boy who lives next door, whose father (Aaron Eckhart) is an Army reservist with a stash of dirty magazines.

I wasn’t a big fan of the man playing Jasira’s father – I thought he took the obvious road a few too many times, but everyone else inhabited their characters fully and realistically. Towards the end of the movie, there’s a scene where Toni Collette’s pregnant character lies on the couch while major action takes place around her – it’s a testament to the lines she was given and her ability to fully inhabit her character that she didn’t have to move once to command the screen.

It’s a quiet and deliberate movie, with glances pushing the plot forward. It’s the kind of film that’s hard to recommend because of its intense story – children and sex abuse aren’t exactly date movie material – but it’s a film that’s certainly worth seeing for its commentary on sexual politics, family dynamics, race, and even the first Gulf War.

As you watch this girl tiptoe towards The Line, and then get shoved over it, you almost lose all hope, thinking that she's lost forever. Ball, like he did in ‘American Beauty’ before this and throughout ‘Six Feet Under’ gives the audience just one tiny sliver of light in an otherwise bleak landscape: With only her eyes visible, the sun shines on her face in a hospital room, a new life comes into the world, and you are rewarded for your hope – this girl is not broken.

7 Twix bars.

September 19, 2008

Rich man, poor man.

I’ve been watching a lot of TV recently. What with season premieres and all sorts of free downloads on iTunes, there’s a lot to catch up on. But everywhere I look, I see something I’ve seen before (and I’m not just talking about recycled plotlines) – I’m talking about new actors/actresses who are like the Poor Man versions of some more famous faces.

From 'Fringe':

This is not just an excuse for more Joshua Jackson. Poor Man’s Cate Blanchett, no?

From '90210':

A Very Poor Man’s Elizabeth Berkeley. Except with less acting chops.

From 'Lipstick Jungle':

A Poor Man’s Scott Speedman

*Actually, Scott Speedman – recently seen in such critical delights as 'Underworld' – might be the Poor Man version of himself. Because this guy is kind of hot.

** I was going to put the Andrew McCarthy doppelganger next, but upon further review – the guy isn’t just someone who looks like an Andrew McCarthy who aged really badly and got a totally different voice – its actually him.

Blane, what happened?

It hurts.

I did this exercise yesterday @ the gym, and I might never recover.


I realize that it looks harmless enough, but I challenge you to try it out. If your arms do not immediately stop working, you are my hero.

September 18, 2008

Movie Review: Paris Je T’aime

The way that ‘Amelie’ tells a grounded, meaningful story while lightly floating across your screen, this quilt of vignettes devoted to different neighborhoods and relationships throughout Paris pieces together to become something truly moving.



A number of different directors and actors demonstrate love in all forms and stages. My favorite vignettes were the one about the African man who had been stabbed, the man re-falling in love with his wife as she dies of cancer, and the mom who has to leave her baby in childcare so she can ride far far across town to care for someone else’s.

The directors succeed in telling one coherent story about the presence and significance of Love – both the Big love of your life, and the Everyday love you take for granted – and they do it without becoming gooey. The New York version is coming out next year – if it comes close to matching the depth and emotion of this one, I’ll be the first in line.

I'll cover you.

Like most girls who once attended high school, I have a soft spot for acoustic covers – really any cover: Hey, I know this song! But it sounds…different. Ooooh, neat. It’s like that dreamboat of a lead singer actually understands ME!

I was completely guilty of falling for the New Found Glory trick.



As I’ve grown and my music taste has matured oh-so-much, that affinity for acoustic covers has also. It's not just about cute boys and their guitars anymore - sometimes they have pianos instead. I kid. My cover love has translated into an adoration of all-unusual-versions-of-songs-I-know (Think John Mayer doing 'Kid A' or Ben Folds and 'Tiny Dancer'. And I'm pretty sure everyone in the world can agree on Johnny Cash doing Nine Inch Nail’s 'Hurt'.)

The latest incarnation that I’ve discovered and am completely in love with is the Black Cab Sessions. This is an awesome initiative that’s filmed in London – they recruit some of the hippest bands/singers around and put them in the backseat of a London cab and record them – one song, one take.

Now, the roster is full of musical acts that I’m in no way hip enough to know [yet], but there are also awesome ones with: The New Pornographers, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Okkervil River, Spoon,
Death Cab for Cutie and My Morning Jacket. Remember how before I had all those issues talking about my favorite music because I have a new obsession every week? Well, I’m currently way obsessed with The National, and lo and behold:

September 17, 2008

Like musty aftershave and cigars.

I am wearing a wool sweater (yes, fall is on the way). I sat next to an older gentleman on the bus this morning. And now I feel like my sweater has absorbed old man scent. It’s all I can smell!

September 16, 2008

It's time to move on.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d get over the Lakers vs. Celtics NBA Finals. Let’s go back:

I’ve lived in Boston for 8 years, and it’s hard to resist the pull of a hometown team. Last year, of all years, Trevor & I decided to become more regular Celtics game attendees by sharing a 12-game package with Dan and his brother-in-law. I mean, we’d be crazy to not take advantage of the ticket prices for a near-to-last-place team that had just gotten its hands on Kevin Garnett & Ray Allen (I mean, on Scot Pollard and Eddie House). But, as born and raised Southern Californians, we could never be 100% Celtic prideful. So, we’d spend our weeks rooting for the Celtics, and the weekends (when we could stay up late enough to keep up with the Lakers), cheering on KB24 and the rest of the purple and gold.


And then, after a season of sitting in front of the World’s Most Annoying Basketball Fan (Imagine a 22 year old kid who alternates play-by-play instructions to the players – “Roll it to Ray Ray” was one of his favorites – with stories about how many beers he drank that weekend), it was time to face reality: The Celtics and the Lakers were both going to the playoffs, and (at least according to Magic Johnson and SI), would face each other in the finals. There began the weeks of stress – staying up way too late night after night, watching each game, knowing that the match-up was on its way, and being really unsure of how I wanted it to unfold.

It only took attending Game 1 of the Finals to clarify my loyalties, after which I was in Prague for the final 2 games, up at 3AM in the morning to listen to them over my laptop speakers. If I had gone to bed that night, I would have cried myself to sleep. But, instead, I spent the day working – and the cloud of What-If and How-Did-This-Happen hung over my head for weeks. And I wasn't the only one:


Over the summer, I avoided all mention of the Finals – I couldn’t deal with photos, analysis, or any kind of commentary. And I certainly couldn’t deal with Bill Simmons – that one I’m not sure I’ll ever get over. I didn't go to ESPN.com for weeks, and the Sports Illustrated featuring the Celtics went immediately to the recycling bin. During my commutes to work, I would avert my eyes from any billboard featuring a Celtic player, and I would jam my headphones in my ears if anyone remotely near me would begin discussing the NBA.

I couldn’t understand how the Lakers fell apart so badly at the end. I couldn’t understand how the re-introduction of Derek Fisher wasn’t enough to win with. I didn’t get why a team so full of great characters, including a very bearded Spanish man, couldn’t get their Hollywood ending. I cursed the Celtics for buying their way to the championship. I was ashamed for ever having rooted for Rondo or swooned over Paul Pierce. I thought about burning my brand new Ray Allen [Sonics] jersey. I hated Luke Walton and blamed Phil Jackson and didn’t think it would ever get any better.

I was so grateful for the Olympics and a Celtics-free team of gold medalists, and maybe that’s what started the road to healing. I can say now that the gray is finally lifting, and I can feel myself getting excited for the NBA season. At least something has been decided – I am 100% a Lakers fan now. No more of this splitting loyalty business – it’s just too stressful (Of course, now I work at an advertising agency that does the Celtics, and I walk past posters of Paul Pierce and a life-sized Lucky cardboard cutout every day.). In a lot of ways, it’s sad. It’s like another mark in the Con column of permanently living in Boston.

If you’re wondering what this means for my neighbors the Red Sox and the Angels hat hanging in my closet… It’s a little easier to be loyal to 2 (I mean 3!) teams in baseball, which I think is because of the pace of the game (There’s very little adrenaline associated with watching baseball, and a good basketball matchup is almost all adrenaline. I mean, there’s a reason that guys can score 80+ points in a game one night, and the next night their team won’t even score that many). But really, it’s simple – I still sing “So root, root, root for the Angels” during the 7th inning stretch, and whether or not the Halos have to face the Red Sox [again] in the playoffs, this year they are going to the World Series. And I’ll be in front of the TV, rally sticks and rally monkey in hand, screaming my head off.

Okay, so anyway. The whole point of this post was to talk about how I AM getting excited for the NBA season to kick off again, largely so that Dave Damshek, et al can start making new songs about the Lakers players. Like this gem about Derek Fisher to the tune of the Verve Pipe’s "The Freshman" - Go ahead, click on the link. Even non-basketball/Lakers fans will get a chuckle.

September 12, 2008

Movie review: 21

What a clunker!

I’ve wanted to read the book for awhile, and probably still will, since I’m sure there are some pretty ridiculous Hollywood twists included in the completely formulaic plot. Good kid with single mom and nerdy best friends with a longtime crush on a super hottie who just happens to be a genius at MIT impresses a professor who recruits him to join a semi-legal card counting ring that has him flying high in no time, forgetting all about who he is and what he really believes in. There are ups and downs, but, wouldn’t you know it – at the end he re-discovers what he really wants. And that’s go to Harvard Medical School. Bored now.

And why do I get the feeling that Kevin Spacey phoned in for this role? It felt like a reheated version of a character he’s played a million times before, and I don’t know if it was the script’s fault or his. But as long as we’re talking about the script…come ON: It was forced and clich├ęd and without much in the way of redeemable value.

On the plus side, I like Jim Sturgess and he wasn’t half bad. He has the same kind of appeal as Cappy on ‘Greek’ (the most underrated designed-for-pre-teens show on TV!) , a kind of dreamy hapless goofball.

By factoring in the bonus points for being filmed in Boston and my alma mater, BU, serving as the set for all the classroom scenes, "21" gets…5.5/10 Twix bars!

It won’t be the fur trade.

When in Hawaii, Jill & I had a nice conversation on the way to the airport about jobs – careers, salaries, job satisfaction and resume holes. Jill has a Master’s degree and works in emergency planning for the City of San Francisco, in a job that she really likes. She is also a certified yoga instructor, and she said she thinks it's really important to have a "trade" - whether as something to fall back on, break up the monotony with, or complement your fullblown career. Like I’ve said before, I really admire/respect Jill, and that got me thinking about my options.

So, I ask you – what should my trade be?
A. Bartender. Pro: Flexible hours. Con: Is there anything more annoying than drunk people when you’re sober?
B. Massage therapist. I imagine that training for this would involve a lot of student-on-student practicing, and I am totally good with that.
C. Pastry Chef. The whole vegetarian thing pretty much eliminates me from future contention as an Iron Chef, but I’ve always liked dessert better than the main course anyway.
D. Court reporter: On the plus side, I’d be very informed about civic happenings. On the negative side, I’d probably have to wear a herringbone blazer with shoulderpads in order to fit in.
E. Hair dresser. I’d have to spend a lot of time on my feet, but I could sleep in every day.
I will now Google “trade school” and see what else I can come up with.

Oh what a beautiful morning.

Fall must be on its way, b/c this picture of the lovely sky above Boston from this morning sure looks crisp.

September 11, 2008

Traveling tips, aka: Vacation blog, part 3

Over the last 5 years, I have done a significant amount of traveling – most of it by myself. While the exceptions have been wonderful (Yes, Trevor and I did fly together to our honeymoon – though not to the wedding…), I’ve also gotten into a bit of solo routine, and thought I might share some Helpful Tips.

#1 – Always check a bag. Yes, there are horror stories. We’ve all [unfortunately] seen “Meet the Parents.” But there are 2 reasons for this: First, when you check a bag, you don’t have to elbow your way into line to be among the first in your Group onto the plane to ensure you get a slice of overhead space. Your carry-on with all the in-flight essentials will fit easily under your seat, and you can remain off the plane on your feet (aka @ Starbucks or reading trashy magazines in the closest Hudson News) as long as possible. Second, chances are you’re going to have a layover. There is nothing worse than trying to fit into a bathroom stall with your suitcase. Trust me.
EXCEPTION: Never check a bag if your trip is shorter than 2 days, or if your trip marks some kind of traveling milestone, like the last time you’ll travel for business on that particular job. That guarantees that your bag will go missing A) Until your trip is over, or B) With all of your necessary supplies to complete that final business trip effectively. Also, never check a bag if you are my sister. That just guarantees something will go wrong – likely something that will involve driving back and forth between major metropolitan airports searching for your suitcase.
#2 – Be nice. Help people put their bags in the overhead, agree to switch seats if someone asks, and say thank you to the flight attendants. Don’t roll your eyes at the woman with the crying baby, man with a hacking cough, or grandma with a really upset cat underneath her seat – You will be one of them someday.

#3 – Skip the drink cart. Sure, it provides a nice distraction – and when else do you get to drink Cranberry Juice from a tiny, tiny can? But do you really want to be that person teetering down the aisle on the way to the bathroom, whacking people with their elbows as the plane hits some unexpected turbulence?
EXCEPTION: Nothing spells stress relief like a nice [alcoholic] drink, so if you’re headed home from a business trip or on your way to a celebration or long-awaited vacation, bust out your wallet and order yourself one. Let me recommend the wine – It comes in a miniature bottle, which is adorable; It’s better quality (and serves more) than the Heineken Light your airline is likely to offer; And, $6 for 2 glasses of wine is a better deal than you’ll get anywhere – even with feet firmly on the ground.
#4 – Be patient. This goes along with #2. Have you ever noticed how on traveling days, you always see the same people over and over again? Checking in, going through security, loading up at Starbucks, boarding the plane, deboarding and stopping at the bathroom, waiting for their luggage, waiting at the cab stand... Everyone’s on the same schedule - Save yourself some stress by being willing to take the hit of the 5 cumulative minutes you’ll lose by allowing a stroller-pusher cut in front of you at security or letting someone from 2 rows back rush to deboard in front of you.

#5 – BYO. Puzzle, that is. It’s never a good idea to rely on the airline magazine’s crossword or Sudoku. There’s an excellent chance that someone much smarter than you already filled out the crossword completely – or that someone much dumber than you half-completed all 3 Sudoku games with the wrong numbers.

And finally, not a tip, but an observation:

If you are flying on a red eye and really need to get some sleep, the movie will be something you really want to see. If you are flying, bored, in the middle of the day, it’s guaranteed to be something A) Horrible, B) You’ve seen multiple times, C) You would like to watch, but can't because the tape is broken. Then the flight attendants will choose something that fits criteria A or B.

Lesson concluded. Happy travels!

September 10, 2008

Hawaii Five-Oh: Vacation blog, part 2

Let’s talk vacation. Trevor & I spent 5 days in Hawaii last week with the Graham clan, including Jay (sister’s boyfriend) and Jill (sister’s best friend). We also got to spend a ton of time with our mutual friend Beth. We sunned, ate and drank up a storm, and I think it’s safe to say that a great time was had by all.

Highlights:
  • The Napali Coast Raft Tour – Not so much a highlight for Jay, (and I wish I had remembered to put sunscreen on my legs – that shorts burn looked pretty awkward the rest of the week.). However, I can’t think of a better way to spend a first day on Kauai than on a high speed Zodiac boat, zooming up and down the western coastline, viewing scenery from a perspective otherwise impossible. It’s like a roller coaster through beautiful landscape.
  • Anini Beach – After visiting the Kilauea Lighthouse, we made a stop at Anini Beach (or possibly Anini Beach’s neighbor – the directions weren’t super clear) on our way to Hanalei (Yes, home of Puff). A quick swim, a lovely nap, some Frisbee and a Negro Modelo – what a perfect afternoon!
  • Bocce Ball with my mom – Now, we all know I love me some bocce ball. Saltbox, Arboretum, Esplanade (I still don’t understand why Trevor won’t let us play on the roof…), these are all lovely bocce backdrops, but I’m just not sure that they can compare. Also – my mom is freakishly good at this type of game (by which I mean, casual “lawn” sports: badminton, croquet, ping pong, ladder golf... And also bowling. She could beat me – and you – at every single one of those.). Though Trevor pulled ahead at the end, I think I see a future bocce champion!
  • The coconut ratatouille at the luau – No, really.
  • Drinks @ the Grand Hyatt – I had a Lava Flow, which was pretty much life changing. I don’t see how much booze it could really have in it, being as it tasted like a delicious strawberry milkshake. Good thing we had to leave after one.
  • Beth! Trevor & I were on summer staff @ Camp Stevens with Beth in 2002, and Jill & Meredith have been friends with her since her winter staff year of 1998. Having not seen her in 6 years, what a great surprise to find out this summer that she was moving to Kauai and would be there when we got there! So, we got to reconnect, and hang out a ton, which was really special, and I’m sure we’ll keep in touch this time. I mean, hello – we’re already totally Facebook friends. (Now, I don’t want to leave Jill out here just because I see her relatively frequently (4 times in the last 18 months – not bad for someone who lives in San Francisco). She’s a good person to have in your life – hilarious and honest and with some great life experience that she’s willing to share. Nothing but love.).

You know what was also awesome about this vacation? We didn’t do a single bit of shopping (Okay, we went to one gift shop – but it was in a gift shop SLASH museum in Waimea Canyon) and we went to bed by 10 (mostly 9) every night. Awww yeah.

My 2 favorite quotes from the week:
  • Apparently, the Napali Coast used to have copious numbers of waterfalls, cascading down its sides into the ocean. A long time ago (I honestly can’t remember if we’re talking about the late 1800s or like 1970), they were all dammed up to divert the flow to the sugar cane plantations. Our tour guide’s take on it: “Nothing a bottle of Jack Daniels and a sledgehammer couldn’t fix.” Amen, brother.
  • After everyone else had departed, Trevor & I spent a day with my parents, playing bocce ball with my mom, lying by the pool, then off to a luau and back to the condo to play Scattergories. During said game of Scattergories, the letter was ‘J’ and the category was “Something you keep hidden.” My mom couldn’t say her answer out loud, giggling until she finally said, “I put joint?” Classic.
So there’s the wrap-up. I’m ready to go back anytime.

Announcing Man of the Month.

Dear Joshua Jackson,

I am writing to inform you that you have been selected as the inaugural Man of the Month for “Man of the Month – Online Edition.” Man of the Month is a historic and respected tradition, dating back to a Boston University dorm room in 2002. Previous honorees include Mos Def, Diego Luna and Luke Wilson. It is with great excitement that I welcome you to this illustrious club.

As a longtime fan of yours, who may or may not have counted down the days to the theatrical release of "D3" in her drama textbook, I was thrilled to see that you would be making your television comeback with “Fringe” (JJ Abrams has a way with characters previously or currently named Charlie.). And though you were equipped with clunkers of lines like, “A cow. He wants a cow,” I see you haven’t lost your touch. No one can quite do bewildered sarcasm like you. In fact, I hope it is not out of line for me to posit that your deepened brow crease is from all the hard work your eyebrows have done over the years.



In conclusion, I sincerely welcome you as Man of the Month, and will be keeping my fingers crossed for better scripts for you in the near future.

Love,
Ashley

PS: And, by the way, congratulations on getting Joey in the end. It takes some balls to wind up with the title character’s girl. Emilio would be proud. He, however, will not be eligible for Man of the Month until he apologizes for ‘Bobby.’

September 8, 2008

In the name of all that is decent!

As background - this movie poster was banned in the US by the MPAA for being indecent.


While my first intention with this image was to discuss the MPAA and decency and what should be considered offensive and how certain pop culture offerings become scape goats to prove there's still interest in "protecting" the "innocence" of the youth or the conservative ideals of America... All I can find myself thinking about is how much Elizabeth Banks and Rachel McAdams are starting to look like one another.

It's a sister thing.

I just found out something truly mind blowing.

Blake Lively. She of the enviable hair, star of TSOTTP Parts 1&2 and the addictive Gossip Girl, is the sister of none other than Robyn Lively, she of Teen Witch and the slightly less enviable hair. Shocking!

Book review: Loving Frank

Welcome to the first edition of mini-reviews. Books, TV shows and movies – look for my thoughts here.

Loving Frank, Nancy Horan

I finished this book in the time it took me to get from Boston to LAX, with time to spare – it’s that kind of page turner. Easily digestable, with a middle section to really get the feminist in you thinking. And by you, I mean me.

  • Can you consider yourself a feminist if your Power to the Woman awakening comes out of a relationship with a man?
  • When it comes to family, love and your own self-worth, where does the line between empowering and selfish fall?
  • Could I have forgiven a parent who was totally absent by his/her own volition for 2+ years of my childhood?

I found it concisely written, though towards the end overwhelmed by dialogue. I also felt like the end – a shocker if I’ve ever read one – was almost too abrupt. I wasn’t even paying attention to Julian – and was actually wondering why he had even been introduced – when race dynamics sort of started coming up and then all of a sudden… (no spoilers here). While I get that there’s a parallel to the shocking impact of the event with its out-of-nowhere introduction into the storyline, I think that those characters could have been introduced more casually a bit sooner.

I’m curious about the real story here, and can definitely see myself reading up more on Frank Lloyd Wright soon. Overall, it’s an intelligent yet easy read for anyone interested in good ol’ story telling about a man and a woman, American history and/or the women’s movement.

Reflections on a zip code…

Firstly – let’s keep in mind that the original Beverly Hills 90210 was hilarious. Drama-filled, lesson-laden and California/high school myth-perpetuating, but mostly campy and hilarious. Not a serious television show that earned Emmys and critical acclaim. So let’s all get off our high horses.

Moving on – I could use a refresher or two.

1. Was Nat on BH90 (This is how I will now insist on referring to the original, as the previously-hated “90” moniker is also applicable to the current.) until the very end?

2. Sure, Brenda left to pursue her drama career in London, but how did it end with her and Kelly?

3. Are we really supposed to believe that Kelly’s kid is Brandon’s? Because last I checked, they didn’t get married, and she was being set up to head toward forever with Dylan.

4. I’d like to get into the Rob Estes connection – I understand completely that they are giving him a fake history with Kelly, but what was his character’s deal on Melrose Place? Because let’s not forget that was originally a BH90 spin-off from Grant Show being all sexy construction guy in Kelly’s backyard…

As far as actual plot –

- Could Rob Estes & Lori Louglin actually have a 15-year old daughter? Could said 15-year old daughter actually look any more like Lori Loughlin?

- Please tell me they’re not setting us up for Ryan-the-English teacher to be the given-up-for-adoption love child of bitch-popular-girl’s mom and Rob Estes’s principal character.

- A high school could never do Spring Awakening (Sample songs: Totally F*****, B**** of Living, My Junk, Word of Your Body). And please don’t sing anymore. (PS: Your new love interest – A drama nerd? Really?)

- I’m just not sure that both druggie artsy yet popular girl AND formerly popular rebel blogger girl are necessary (Side note: I love that her blogs are just like David Silver and his ridiculous radio shows.)

And PS: EW, please don’t call Ryan Eggold a hottie. It makes me very uncomfortable. And while we’re at it, are you really not going to do a TV Watch recap? Burmpt.

Vacation blog, part 1

While flying back to Boston

Question: Should a woman pushing my purse back and “yelling” at me that it’s pushing against her legs under the seat make me cry?

Question #2: Can I blame “27 Dresses” for putting me emotionally on-edge?

Question #3: Should “27 Dresses” really have me emotionally on-edge: A) Ever, B) After having seen it three times?

Question #4: What is the seat in front of me for if not putting my bag under it? Listen to an in-flight announcement every once in a while. And put your seat up - IT's pushing into MY legs, biotch!