Monday, April 27, 2009

Live-Blogging Jury Duty

Do you guys know what jury duty is good for? An amazing, hand-delivered blog entry. The heavens opened up, the sunshine camp spilling in, and lo: the good Lord hath delivered me more country folk and 35-year-old grandmas (seriously) than I ever could have imagined.

The hillbilly PO-lice man at the front of the room likens the morning to “Let’s Make a Deal” or “Judge Judy.” Then he said if we didn’t squish in on the jury pews, he would bring in “them folding chairs that give you a zap if you move around too much in ‘em.”

A lady just told us, “We do things casually around here. If you’re eatin’ a donut outside and you get called in, just bring your donut on in with you. Ya never know, the judge could be eatin’ one too!”

I fantasize about breaking into song and standing on the pews and then having everyone else join in one by one. I smile a little to myself.

It’s silent in here, save for the buzzing of fluorescent light bulbs, coughs, the rustle of newspaper pages, and the two ladies behind me occasionally laughing or complaining about the cold temperature.

Halfway through planning my delightful recap of the hilarity that is jury duty, I freeze. Is it illegal to blog about jury duty? Is that an accusation, jury blogging? Blogging while jurying? Must check on that and--

OH MY HEAVENS they just said “All rise” and called the judge that walked in “The Honorable.” This is so a movie. And there’s even a score! Holy everything I think there is music swelling while the judge talks about our duties. Where is that coming from? Oh. The street outside. It’s car horns. So, maybe not so much...with the score... Man I've been in here too long.

Hey, you know what should be illegal? Smoking smelly cigarettes before being forced to sit in close quarters with your fellow jurors. Sick. I am ready to get out of this cramped hallway and back into the courtroom.

After a group of us misses the last exemption, a man across the hall quips, “I don’t guess I should buy any lottery tickets today.” Everyone chuckles. We have a camaraderie now, I suppose. We’re all this together! Again I suppress the urge to break out into song.

Oh. Em. Gee. I’m back in the courtroom. They are asking questions about why we wouldn’t be a good choice to serve on this case. Nothing that comes up applies to me, and therefore HOLY MOSES I’ve just been selected. I am a juror now.

Umm... could they not warn a person that in the event of your being selected for jury duty, you could end up having to stick a giant JURY pin through your shiny new-ish shirt? I mean really. Talk about hardship.

I am listening to the facts of the case. I really am. But at the same time, I may also be thinking of all courtroom dramas, songs about juries, crimes, and lawyers, and certain Veronica Mars jury duty episodes. The worst thing is that even as I sit here viewing evidence and hearing testimony, the song “Crime of the Century” from Ragtime is reverberating in my head. I've never been more glad that people don't know what I'm really thinking....

We ushered to a tiny room lined with boxes and boxes labeled “Warning Tickets” and the like. Very official.

Annnnnnd it’s freezing. I want to get out of here. But I don’t want to be like Juror Number 7, here! No way, I am here to be Henry Fonda! I will stick it out. I will fight. Bring it on.

In the end? Guilty.

Don’t cross me, fool.

Friday, April 24, 2009

E is for Expectation

I hated Great Expectations.  I just needed to say that before I get going.
A wise friend is always quick to remind me that when expectations and reality don't meet up, all that's left is disappointment.
And it's amazing how much truth is found in that simple statement.  My happiness on any given day can greatly be affected by the expectations I set out for that day.  And birthdays are the worst.  I cannot tell you how many birthdays go down as some of the least favorite days of my entire life.
When my 27th birthday came around in January it began with a text from my newly tech savvy mother and a call from my punctual father.  I had prepared myself the previous night for lowered expectations in general.  No one wants to enter the day hoping for a surprise party and end up crying in a bathtub at 11:00pm listening to Josh Groban.  (Not this year, but this did happen.)
So here's my dilemma.  Lowering expectations can allow for pleasant surprises, but it can also deplete the ability to dream or even hope for great things.  I'm starting to wonder if all expectations derive from selfish motivations or if I need to look at the entire idea in a different light.  Rather than allowing my mood to be dictated by the hoped-for actions of others, I must ground my hope in something more stable than the human condition.  I cannot demand that the entire world read my mind and behave in the manner I deem acceptable.  That's just not going to work.  
My mantra for the year is on loan from my dear friend Becca.  I'm 27 and acting like I'm 11.  Sounds fair enough to me.  I feel as though I am both 27 and 11 at the exact same moment... wanting to be treated as an adult while at the same time riding around on the back of shopping carts through the grocery store.
As my favorite Anne with an e says:  "There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.”(Lucy Maud Montgomery)
I do not have multiple Annes in me... as that would be a real cause for concern.  But I do posses so many different hopes, dreams, and desires that are all angling to become priorities in the world.  My prayer is to live year 27 with hands open and expectations high.  I want to live trusting the one who will make good on his promises.  This was a giant mess of a post, but all I really know is that I am clinging to Psalm 62:5,  My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."  Ephesians 3:16-22

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Look Out, Wisconsin! It's-- The Wonders!

Another one of my favorite movies of all time is “That Thing You Do.” I know several of my friends (and my blog friends!) have a deep affection for this film as well, so I can only hope to do it justice!

I have loved “That Thing You Do” ever since it came out in theaters in 1996. The soundtrack was one of the first CDs I ever owned; I consequently know every word of every song. An endlessly quotable movie (“You gotta be quick! You gotta be quick with me! I’m from Eerie, PA!”), “That Thing You Do” was actually written and directed by Tom Hanks. After the weight and scope of “Philadelphia,” “Forrest Gump,” and “Apollo 13,” Hanks was urged to take some time to work on a project he’d been thinking about for a while. A comedy about a band in 1964. Thus “That Thing You Do” was born.

Let’s just call us “The band you’re about to hear!”
“That Thing You Do” is the story of four guys in a local group who, after a series of very fortunate circumstances, end up signed with and touring for the famed (and fictional) Playtone Records. Though they start out The One-Ders (“It looks like The Oh-Need-ers!”), their name is soon simplified to The Wonders (“From now on you boys will just be simply The Wonders.” “As in… ‘I wonder what happened to The Oh-Need-ers?’”). This of course completes the joke that they are indeed the “one hit” Wonders (“It’s a very common tale.”), and the rest of the movie is spent not only chronicling the continued rise in fame for the band, but also in ensuring that they will never record another song and that The Wonders themselves will not stay together.

Are you crazy? A man in a really nice camper wants to put our song on the radio! Gimme a pen, I'm signin'! You're signin'! We're all signin'!
I absolutely adore all the excitement that permeates throughout the entire movie. It’s like a tiny victory for the audience every time The Wonders succeed, and you want to applaud their win at the Mercy Hurst talent show, congratulate them for getting discovered by an agent, and most definitely scream and jump and dance with them when they hear their song on the radio for the first time. That is truly a transcendent moment, and a great picture of pure, unadulterated joy.

Even later in the film, their excitement never fades. As their record climbs the Billboard charts and as they meet famed stars of the Playtone Galaxy, they never fail to celebrate each milestone with the fervor and jubilation as if it were their first.

Well now, Faye is special, isn’t she?
One of “That Thing You Do’s” greatest strengths is the subtlety of its romantic subplot. Throughout the movie, Faye is with Jimmy, the super-serious songwriter and driven genius (“If Jimmy’s a genius, I’m U Thant.”) of the group. As the movie progresses, we see and more just how much Faye and Jimmy are growing apart, and just how much of a jerk Jimmy is. As their relationship is disintegrating, the audience, as well as band manager Mr. White (“And what about Guy? Does anybody at home think he’s amazing?”), begins to then see what a perfect match Faye and nice-guy drummer Guy are! But this realization just barely lingers in the back of the mind of the viewer- we are far too concerned with the fate of the band to give it too much thought- and we don’t spend a lot of time yearning for Faye and Guy to finally get together—until it happens. Now a lesser movie would then have the Faye/Guy love story hijack the movie, but Tom Hanks knows where his story is, and he sticks with the band.
You fellas look great in gold. Have I told you that yet?
Hanks is, unsurprisingly, a terrific director. His care for the characters and the overall story are evident from the very first scenes in the opening credits, and he shows some masterful skill behind the camera. I am by no means any sort of expert, but take a look at a few of what I believe are some well-crafted and interesting shots.
Mr. White has his first interaction with the band in their dressing room, seen conversing with them in the mirror between Jimmy and the Bass Player. Just after this shot Mr. White steps seemlessly into the frame with the band members.
At the Hollywood Television Showcase, we see the Wonders at the top of their game, and Hanks features them in a colorful, surreal- almost cartoonish- stage setting. This is the the climax of the band's success, and Hanks celebrates this with a color pallette unlike anything in the rest of the movie.

I love the way this shot is framed, particularly coupled with the fact that Guy has just been abandoned by everyone. He is alone left in this dreary studio that should be the most exciting place he's ever been, instead transforming into a stark and lonely expanse of space.

Good news fellas- you get to keep your wardrobe!
"That Thing You Do" doesn't just have a stellar cast, it also features some very solid and clever cameos. Hanks' old "Bosom Buddies" co-star Peter Scolari plays Troy Chesterfield, host of the Hollywood Television Showcase. You might also recognize Anita in the "Weekend at Party Pier" film as Tracy Reiner, aka Betty Spaghetti in "A League of Their Own." Finally, eagle-eyed movie buffs will recognize sandwich-scarfing Playtone CEO Sol Silar as doomed Las Vegas syndicate boss Moe Green in "The Godfather" (When my movie club watched this on Sunday I was absolutely itching to look him up on IMDb to confirm my suspisions!). Of course, the movie also features Chris Isaak as Uncle Bob, Hanks' wife Rita Wilson as cocktail waitress Marguerite, and even Hank's son Colin as the usher that escorts Faye into the Hollywood Television Showcase.
See you, guys! Hold my calls!
What else can be said? So much more, and yet-- nothing at all. I simply can't convey what this movie means to me, and just how much I love it. As (hopefully) evidenced by the titles of my paragraphs and the random quotations sprinkled throughout, you can see how clever the dialogue in this film is, and how easy and fun it is to repeat back. In any and every situation. Seriously, I still have quotes I want to include ("Know what that is?" "Presidential flash cards?"), but you've got to stop somewhere, right?

This movie is just...amazing. I love the Wonders. I love Mr. White, and Faye, and the Fan, and Lamar. I love the music, the pacing, the jokes, the references, and the fact that the bass player never has no name. I love "Weekend at Party Pier" and the montages and the setting and the epilogue.
And I know everybody loves a nice guy, but I really really. Love Guy.
Any questions, don't ask. I'm tired of talking to you, and I want to sleep.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Straight up now tell me.

I found a gold mine tonight.  My tape library. I received my first cd player in 1995, so almost everything listed is probably from about '90 to '95.  Let's see what gems this treasure trove holds.

Eagles: One of these Nights (What every 4th grader wants for Christmas.)

Maverick: The Soundtrack (I purchased this with my own money in 6th grade.  Point of pride.)

Evita: The Soundtrack (The Madonna Edition.  No excuses.)

Big Time Recording Studios: Memory (A recording from Six Flags of me singing the hit from Cats.  It's as bad as you might guess.)

The next genre of tapes is my collection of "Studio Series Background Tracks". (For singing the offertory, of course.)

Go Light Your World by Kathy Troccoli (Way too low for my range, or the range of most women.)
Jesus Is The Answer by Point of Grace
Lamb of God by Twila Paris
How Beautiful by Twila Paris (Twila, Twila, Twila.)
Joy To The World by Anointed (Because I of ALL people should be singing stuff by Anointed)

And the tapes to which I could probably still sing every lyric if required:
Point of Grace: The Whole Truth
Susan Ashton, Margaret Becker, Christine Dente: Along the Road
Songs from the Loft (With just about every Christian Artist living in Nashville in 1993.)
Susan Ashton: Self Titled Release (Wanted to be her.  First and only fan letter ever written because of this tape.)
Michael W. Smith: The First Decade (Go West Young Man, Place in this World, Friends...)
Amy Grant: The Collection (First tape I ever owned that was not a blue singing songbook)
Paula Abdul: Forever Your Girl (Second tape ever.  Straight Up was my favorite track)

Not sure if there's even a fraction of the population that would be able to identify with this "eclectic" mix of private school early 90's jams.  If that's the case, you are more than likely my sister (only instead of the Eagles you received Neil Diamond) or my cousin who lived by anything produced by Word Music (Michael W. Smith poster and all.)

Oh, one last thing.  Who jacked my Cindy Morgan tape?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

And which is YOUR favorite god?

I guess I’ve just spent my entire life making lists. This one is from 7th grade….

Movie: Newsies
2nd Movie: Greace
3rd Movie: League of their Own
Color: Green
2nd Color: Black
Singing group: Beach Boys
2nd group: Newsboys
3rd group: Point of Grace
Book: And Condors Danced (I was far more enamored with the cover of this book than with its actual contents… And seriously, that's the best picture of the cover I could find!)
Food: Steak
Holiday: Christmas
Cousin: Shane
2nd Cousin: Hilary (Apologies to those cousins that actually read this blog… Love you, Shanni!)
Teacher: Mr. Kruse
Friend: Ashley
2nd Friend: Anna
3rd Friend: Charran
4th Friend: Margaret
5th Friend: Todd (Sorry, Margaret and Todd! Better work harder next time…)
Day: Saturday
2nd Day: Friday
Month: December
Season: Winter (I don't remember winter EVER being my favorite! Where did this come from??)
Candy: Milky Way
Reseraunt: Black-eyed Pea (pretty prophetic, considering I ended up waitressing there in college…)
Fast Food: McDonelds
Number: 13
Letter: V
Subject: Choir (aka the only class that didn't assign homework...)
President: Teddy Roosevelt
Animal: white tigers (so classy, Val...)
Ft. ball team: Dolphins
B. ball team: Rangers
Sport: Soccer
Soda: Coca Cola
God: Jesus, God
State: Texas
2nd State: Colorado
My modo is: Don’t Mess with Jesus (Completely original and not at all ripped off of a t-shirt I used to wear…)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

What's eating Gilbert's face?

It's a good thing I am not nostalgic and do not name things like my plant, car, or house. That is, I had not named anything EVER until the purchase of the Mac. My sister asked me over the phone if I had named my second born. (The first born is named Canon Rebel. He’s a bit rebellious, so the name just fits.) I jokingly replied that I would indeed be calling my laptop “Apple” after Chris Martin’s firstborn. She did not find this humorous. I decided to appease her and threw out “Macintosh, Granny Smith, and Gala.” Needless to say, she was not overly amused, although I could not stop laughing the entire time. I really am the funniest person I know. I think it embarrasses the Mac sometimes.

Well guess what? I’m not amused either. I hate my life. (Read: Technology hates me and I’ve literally screamed aloud 20 times in the last two weeks at computers, projectors, and my co-workers.)

You read the joyful birth announcement of little Apple. He was a surprise, as I was expecting a water filter. What I was not expecting was to have that child shut down repeatedly in the next 24 hours. Gilbert Grape, as the Mac was “affectionately” called, was clearly being eaten by something. (The amazing part about the name is that I can scream at the top of my lungs “WHAT IN THE HECK IS EATING YOU?!!”)

Gilbert was returned to the store after a few heart attacks and phone calls, and his hard drive was placed into another machine. He was handed back with plenty of apologies. I take home Gilbert II (I’m super creative), and plugged him in only to have it NOT TURN ON. I let it charge, all the while noticing a green light radiating from the charge connector. Two hours later, Gilbert is apparently still born.

So as not to appear like a complete idiot, I bring the Mac to work just to have my boss make sure it’s not a user error. He turns the computer on with just one tap of the finger. (INSERT LOUD SCREAM). It stays on all day. I stop at the store just in case to tell them about the issue and ask for assurances that the computer will see me through my trip to Texas. They reassure.

I use the laptop all evening with no problems and charge it up for my flight. Fast forward to 10:30am the next morning as the captain has just informed us that we are now free to use approved electronic devices. I have a ton of work to do and affectionately smile at Gilbert. I open it up, press power, and WHAT THE FREAK!? Nothing. Nada. Zip. I pray, try pressing the power button from several angles… all to no avail.

I calmly pull out the writer’s old-fashioned solution, my favorite easy grip pen and a journal. All is well for roughly 20 minutes before my life becomes a scene straight out of Earnest goes to Jail. INK EVERYWHERE. Hands covered. No other pen with me, of course. I’m left with a giant mess and only a highlighter to my name. This left me with some great prayer time once I had calmed down, but seriously?! Really? Really Mac? Really pen? REALLY?!

I popped out the battery during my layover and then put it back in. The Mac came to life. This relationship is killing me. I don’t know what to expect from my child. Over the course of the weekend Gilbert turned on 80% of the time, shut down improperly 3 times, and then would drop from 40% battery life to 0% in less than a second. Is it wrong to hate your children? I wish he had never been born.

I’m taking him back. Today. I don’t even know if I’m ready for the responsibility of this kind of relationship anyways. So now I’m working on my trusty PC reject. (Which has shut down with no warning THREE times this morning. REALLY TECHNOLOGY? Really?!!)

The PC does not have a name. Nothing will ever get a name again. My own offspring will be referred to as Child 1 and Child 2.

I have to be this way to make the passing of Gilbert easier. I cry at Hallmark commercials and movie previews and therefore I cannot overly-feel my own life. Maybe it's because I’m German, or maybe I am the world's only romantic-realist. Can you be both? Guess so...

***UPDATE 4/3/2009***

Left Gilbert on the steps of the Mac Store. Picked up The Golden Child. Let's hope he lives up to his name. [He is not refurbished and has Apple Care. I feel the winds of change.]