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New in town

A new restaurant in town is creating a lot of buzz.


That’s right friends, the International House of Pancakes. The one and only.

No, that’s not quite true. There’s already one 6 miles down the road. There has been for a LONG time. But of course, new is always better in the land of plenty. Except it’s not. It’s just a new wrapper for the same stuff.

So picture me puzzled. Why on Earth is IHOP suddenly hot? The last time I thought about IHOP – which was a LONG time ago – I saw it as a place people went to nurse their hangovers. Hell, Cheryl hadn’t been to an IHOP since she made a hasty retreat with a young Beth after another customer got really upset about a dirty fork and punched the waitress in the face.

I might have stuck around for the conclusion. (I hate cliffhangers.) But Cheryl had the good sense to rush Beth out of the building like a Secret Service detail. She didn’t stick around long enough to see if the customer sold her opinions a la carte.

That’s my idea of an IHOP experience.

So again I ask you, why?

Naturally my mom wanted to go, so we went Saturday evening.

Nobody got punched in the face and no one looked hungover, so it wasn’t so bad after all. I had the pancakes. How can you not?

The best movie requiring a co-pay**

There are different kinds of comedy. Some are obvious and some are subtle. Some have a punch line and others are visual. Some comedy has wide appeal and some does not.

Cheryl and I just finished watching “Little Miss Sunshine,” and I simply must tell you that I’ve never laughed harder. There’s a scene in this movie where at least two human organ systems went critical (for those of you at home keeping score, it was cardiovascular and respiratory). Having said that, I must warn you that this movie undoubtedly DID NOT enjoy wide appeal; although I have almost no basis to make this claim… other than personal suspicion… knowing how my personal favorites usually hold up to public scrutiny. I won’t discuss any of the details, just in case you aren’t scared off by my endorsement, but I will say I thought it was the best anti-establishment movie I’ve ever seen (based on what I perceive to be “the establishment,” or at least some of our society’s “established norms”).

In any case, I’m feeling much better now… in case you were worried. Normal blood flow has returned to my face and I’m breathing regularly.

**The advise of a health related service professional was not sought prior to the posting of this entry.

I’m John, and I can’t see you

Katie Couric is good at what she does. As far as I know, it’s as true today as it was six months ago. What’s more, I’ve always liked Katie Couric (even though I don’t watch much weekday morning TV). I say this up front because this entry is yet another example of me being hyper-critical, which is somewhat ironic given my many flaws. Although, isn’t always the worst offenders that are the biggest critics? I say this over and over in these entries, so tonight I’m going to add one more flaw to the list: disingenuous apologist.

Back to Katie. I hear she had a big debut this evening. I’m not a fan of the Network News genre of “newstainment,” so I don’t know this because I was actually watching. No, you have my wife to thank (blame) for this entry. Cheryl had a number of good things to say about the broadcast, but I wasn’t paying attention to any of them, save one: the first one. I was thrust headlong into a state I like to refer to as: “the blank stare of deep thought.” Irony strikes again… the first thing Cheryl had to say about the broadcast was the last thing Katie had to say. Apparently she signed off by saying, “I’m Katie Couric and I hope to see you again tomorrow.”

Cheryl thought it was nice and personal. Not having seen it, I thought it sounded a little too pleading… like she was afraid that after tonight no one would come back. In a way I guess even that is kind of sweet; a refreshing departure from News Anchors with high opinions of themselves. As my blank stare of deep thought persisted (and Cheryl’s voice was a barely heard background mumble wafting through the mists of oblivion) I wondered why I was the only one in the house that knew that our television is not a two-way video conferencing device. If Katie couldn’t see us tonight, how is she going to see us again? Doesn’t “again” suggest a recurrence, a repeat of a previous event? The only people she saw tonight was the production crew at CBS. Baring an extraordinarily bad case of poor judgement by the head’s of the network honchos, it’s a pretty sure bet she’s going to see them again.

As Cheryl was finishing up (unknowingly) talking to herself, a final thought came to me which brought me out of my altered state of consciousness: I wouldn’t have done better. I shared all of this with my wife and she gave me something I like to call “the spousal stare of contempt.”

There’s a somewhat obvious lesson in all of this: never voluntarily admit to your wife that you weren’t listening to her.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

If Cheryl and I ever renew our wedding vows, I’d like to include something regarding our Netflix Que. One of the most reliable weekend buzz kills ’round these parts is a movie in the mail from Cheryl’s pickings. Friends, I almost had to leave the house when she popped in that Steven Segal flick.

I still shudder at the thought…

Lately, I’ve been pretty good at que maintenece; shuffling the list when one of Cheryl’s choices gets too close to the top. So imagine my surprise when I saw a yet to be aired NBC pilot… not just at the top of the list… but under the heading: “AT HOME.” I’d heard the hype and I knew the cast (not personally), but the previews I’d seen were crap.

So you can see I was fully prepared to use this space to give the show a new output for it’s lower GI. However, a funny thing happened on the way to my forceps and scalpel… the show was pretty damn good. The preview did a terrible job of capturing the feel of the show. Instead, the show was classic Aaron Sorkin. Take the pacing, dialog, and wit of all his other shows; mix in better than expected performances from Matthew Perry and Amada Peet – and a sound track that’s WAY WAY different than the preview… and you’ve got Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

It’s got promise… and I mean that in a good way.

Movie time

Yesterday we watched “…good night, and good luck.” It’s that movie about Edward R. Murrow and his decision to take on Senator Joseph McCarthy during the height of the “Red Scare.” At the end of the movie, after watching several stirring recreations of “See it now” broadcasts, I was struck with one overriding thought. There are few that write like that any more, and even fewer that talk like that in public. The strength of Murrow’s delivery lay not just in the physical aspect: the strength of his voice or the timing of his speech, but in the choice of his words… which lent his message a degree of authority, thoughtfulness, and conviction that has grown more lacking in today’s speech.

This brings to mind some instruction I received in writing, at some point during my education. I recall being told that if I had a choice of words I should choose the simpler, more common of the two – to make my point clearer. The clear implication was that simpler language was better. Now I wonder when we, as a people, decided that “simpler” equals “better?” I do not, and never will, imply that my writing is great… or even particularly good… but how many of the great writers or orators in history were characterized by their simple language? At Gettysburg, Lincoln could have said, “Eighty-seven years ago some folks made up a new set of rules, for a new kind of country.” My guess is it would have long since been forgotten, or at best been relegated to the small print of our history texts – remembered only for the historical significance of the event – and not, as it is now – for the words he used.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not one to praise the “good old days” – and I would never yearn for their return. What’s so good about dying at fifty, hacking and wheezing in smoke-clogged public spaces, flammable waterways, getting Polio/Small Pox (or any number of diseases since vaccinated against), finding half the population useful only as a means of propagating the species, ruthless segregation forced on anything (and everything) society finds the least bit different… I could go on and on. The answer is no, I don’t want to go back to the fifties. However, I do wish our leaders would (or could) stop talking down to us. I wish they would (or could) inspire us to greatness with their words, rather than bring us all down to the lowest common denominator.

Finding your depth

Do you have an actor, in your repertoire of actors, that puts you off on their first appearance in a trailer? (Bonus points if you can guess whether I spelled that French word right on the first try!)

Take that sentence, take it back 50 years, and I’ll bet you no one knows what the hell I’m talking about. For the full effect, you’ve got to read the following sentence in a southern-hick accent. “What-in-the-hell’s that boy doin’ with an actor in his trailer?”

Furthermore, what’s a suburban warrior like myself doing with a “repertoire” of them? Am I having delusions of grandeur? Do I imagine that I can call one up to hang out? No, nothing like that… but… if you rely on your TV for entertainment I think your entitled to take a little ownership, even if it’s for no other reason than making yourself look smart by using a lot of high falutin’ French words.

But I digress…

A year or so ago I saw a preview for a movie called “Proof.” It had that guy from Donnie Darko, and Hannibal Lecter in it… so far so good. And oh… Gwyneth Paltrow. “I guess I don’t have to see that one right away.” (I didn’t spell her name right on the first try either. So if your guess was “no” above, you’re a winner. Don’t you feel better now, knowing that you’re a winner? I’m glad I could help.)

But you know what? I can’t remember the last time I saw a Gwyneth Paltrow movie and walked out disappointed. Go ahead and paint me puce, I’m an ‘ole softy after all. Granted, it could be a function of initial expectation vs. final output, but I’m not so sure in this case. That was just a freakishly good movie. And it’s not like Donnie and Hannibal carried the flick either. Gwyneth was solid. So the question remains; why do I have it in for Gwyneth? Do I have it in for her just because she named her kid after a fruit? If you think that’s a little odd, get this: when I googled “Gweneth Paltro apple” it immediately said, “did you mean ‘Gwyneth Paltrow Apple?’ ” Who would have thought I was such a bad speller (besides every teacher of the mother tongue I’ve ever had)? Not quite as strange… the first few articles returned by my intrepid Google search announced “Gwyneth Paltrow has given birth to her first child, a daughter called Apple.” Ho there big fella! Who talks about someone having a child “called” something? Is this another crazy British thing, trying to wrest control over the language? If a kid’s just been born, it hasn’t been called much of anything yet. Usually when Cheryl “calls” me something, it sure as hell isn’t my given name. Ah, but I digress yet again. To the point my boy, to the point!

If you like drama that doesn’t rely on soundtrack, catch lines, and overall Hollywood “over-production,” Proof is a pretty good pick.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Since Cheryl and I have scaled back our Netflix subscription, movies at the Kauffman house have been rare. We’ve watched plenty of DVDs… like Lost and Oz, but few movies. With two kids whipping around the house, adult time has been at a premium… and rarely can be culled into a two hour block.

So I’ve been choosy about the movies we get. I thought this movie was just original enough, just witty enough, and just gritty enough to overcome my recently obtained, entertainment “news” induced, Pitt/Jolie bias. (Frankly, I’m sick of seeing both faces… and I don’t even read entertainment “news.”) I wasn’t crazy about how it ended, but there was enough glow left over from the rest of the movie to overcome the last couple of sequences.

I’m considering giving it five stars (out of five, on the Netflix rating scale), but I’m teetering on the 4-5 fence. Agh, maybe four… a bias is a terrible thing to waste.


There is no way for me to describe what I thought of this movie without kind of giving it away. So, if you have any intentions of watching it… move along.

Scene: a thirty-something couple finishes watching a movie on cable. The wife gets up as the credits roll… the husband, unmoving, stays behind. The husband seems to be in a daze. He finds himself in an emotional wasteland. This is me. This is my story.

This movie is not The Dead Poets Society. It is not promoting carpe diem, rather, the opposite. It’s a movie about responsibility. While that may make it sound boring, it’s not. All of the main characters are cute, lovable, mostly believable, and conflicted. It’s the kind of movie that I give five stars, but I never want to watch it again. It’s just too painful.

It’s an hour and a half later (after the movie ended), and I’m still thinking about it. I’m still upset about the fortunes of three fictional characters.

What a great movie.

Review: Laughing Corpse, by Laurell K. Hamilton

This is the second book in a series: Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter. I’m not really sure why I bought this book. The first book in the series didn’t knock my sox off. It was mostly o.k. – but it wasn’t something that sent me teetering on the edge of obsession to get the next book. I guess the author’s Merry Gentry books swayed the decision. I just read the first two books of THAT series, and although they were as much soft porn as fantasy/horror, they were pretty darn good. (Though I’m wary to go much further, the soft porn thing is something that gets expanded on in later books, if reviews at Amazon are to be believed.)

After reading the first two Merry Gentry books, this one was a disappointment. I thought about this book quite a bit this morning, thinking of this entry. Why didn’t I like it? There’s good action, there are good characters, there’s a really good main character, but somewhere I got lost. I had to make myself pick it up again. Maybe it was the zombies. Maybe I’m not a big fan of zombie books.

Then I read the author’s after-word. In it, she pats herself on the back for writing successful “mixed genre” books. There must be a lot of people out there that really like them, because each new one ends up on a best seller list. I think I like “mixed genre” books too, kind of. Several of Charlaine Harris’ books come to mind. However, I’m not sure the author did quite as good a job mixing her genres in this one. The whole was about as good as the sum of its parts.

Laughing Corpse @ Amazon