Sleeping In

This weekend, Juliette's parents were in town for the restaurant expo and, as so often happens when family visits, we took the opportunity to foist our child on them so we could go out. In the past this has meant that they will stay with him for a few hours while we get a bite to eat or go to a movie, but since Jason has been such a good sleeper lately we thought we'd take the next step and try letting him spend the night with his grandparents in their hotel room.

As I'm sure any parent knows, the first whole night away from your child is a strange one. We had no concerns about leaving Jason with Juliette's parents, of course--they've babysat him enough times now that they know his whole routine. And the thought of being able to have a real grown-up's night out and, even more, to really be able to sleep in the next morning... Well, it's better than ice cream, let me just say that. Still, as nice as it is to be able to have a leisurely dinner at a nice restaurant, to not have to eat as quickly as possible in order to finish before Jason gets too rambunctious, after over a year of thinking about him constantly, his absence is so conspicuous when he's not there.

Friday night, we had a lovely--if somewhat pricey--meal at a local restaurant that a couple of friends recommended to us. We had some cocktails to start, lingered over dinner, and even ordered dessert. It was after ten by the time we got home. (Let me repeat that: AFTER TEN. The boy's bedtime is 7:30!)

The next morning, of course, we both woke up at 5:30. And then again at 6. And 6:30. And 7. After spending the past year waking up just before or after dawn to the sound of a baby crying, our bodies are just too much on alert to let us really relax. We made ourselves go back to sleep, though, and didn't get out of bed until about 8:30. It was glorious. So strange how your perspective changes. Ten years ago, making a 9:00 class was torture. Even two years ago, getting up at 8 to be at work by 9 was tough sometimes. But when I say 8:30 these days is glorious, oh, how I mean it. Waking up because I'm ready, taking the time to fully come awake before getting out of bed instead of stumbling down the hall with my eyes half-closed to splash some milk in a sippy cup--I tell you, I can just about see what people see in mornings.

The best part is that Jason had a great time with his grandparents and slept well. So, of course, when they offered to take him for a second night, we accepted. Glorious.

(500) Days of Summer

In the opening monologue of (500) Days of Summer, the narrator tells us, "This is a story of boy meets girl. But you should know up front, this is not a love story." That declaration is, on its face, a short and simple description of the film. But it's more than that, too. It references the well-established and universally-known tradition of the boy-meets-girl romantic comedy and relies on the fact that we all know that genre so well to quickly set up our expectations. The very next sentence, it turns that expectation on its ear. Really, it's a comment on the genre, itself, and the way we as audience members interact with it. And in that way, it reflects the film as a whole.

This is the thing about genre conventions, though: they're so deeply ingrained in our psyches that even with this kind of up-front warning, we can't help but fall into the trap. We can't help but expect that this movie, just like every other romantic comedy, will follow that pattern we're used to of boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. And that's what's so great about this movie. By being so conscious of these genre conventions, by both following them and breaking them, it manages to give us a fresh experience. What's more, by giving us a main character that is just as locked into these patterns as we are, it challenges us to re-evaluate the impact these patterns have on the way we approach real life.

Somewhat paradoxically, the film's strength is also it's weakness. By creating a main character that's so representative of the audience's expectations, the film ultimately produces a character that's unreasonable, kind of whiny, and ultimately difficult to truly sympathize with. But then, that may well be the point.

Overall, I have to give the cast pretty high marks. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in the lead role, seems to have matured very nicely since his days in 3rd Rock and films like 10 Things I Hate About You. Zooey Deschanel was her normal quirky self, which worked perfectly for the role. The main letdown in the cast was actually a bit part, and was ultimately what kept this from being an A movie for me. Unfortunately, I can't say much more than that without spoiling things. (Though, with a movie like this one that telegraphs so much and is so wrapped up in rom-com tropes, it's hard to say that it could really be "spoiled" as such.) But the problems were pretty minor, and I have to say that this is the smartest, freshest romantic-comedy I've seen in quite a long time.

Viewed: 8/24/2009 | Released: 8/1/2009 | Score: B+

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Tom McLeod Slept Here

On the drive back from Sonoma county this past weekend--Juliette and I went to a friend's wedding--I noticed a bunch of roadside signs on I-5. The whole stretch of road between the East Bay and the Grapevine is pretty much a wasteland when it comes to anything that will attract your attention, so the odd signs really stand out. A bunch of them are little micro-political tracts, which gets extra interesting when you see a series of them on two sides of an issue. It's kind of like watching an old married couple engaging in a very passive-aggressive argument. The sign that really sparked my curiosity, though, was just south of the Highway 46 junction, and it proclaimed "Tom McLeod slept here."

I had no idea who this Tom McLeod was, but I figured there must be some story there so I had Juliette jot down a quick note so I could remember to look it up when I got home. As it turns out, this is one area where the Internet is unfortunately inadequate to the task--Googling the phrase just turns up a handful of blogs pondering the same question as me: "Who is Tom McLeod and why should I care that he slept there?"

It seems like anyone going to the trouble of putting up a sign for such an event must be showing a certain sense of pride. I mean, as far as I know, nobody goes around at the motels I've stopped at and put up a sign about my visit. And we're not even talking about the man's birthplace, or the site of his most famous accomplishment. No, this is just a place he slept once. So my first guess was that Mr. McLeod must have been some old celebrity, possibly an early Western film star like Gene Autry or Tom Mix. Of course, it would have had to have been someone a little less famous--a second-string star, if you will--as I've clearly heard of those men but am quite clueless about Mr. McLeod. Which sort of makes the sign pathetic, even a little tragic. Here's a place whose only claim to fame, what they've decided to proudly display to the world, is that some B-lister that we've all long since forgotten once decided that he couldn't make it all the way to San Francisco or Los Angeles that day and tucked in there instead.

Of course, if there were some famous Tom McLeod like that, that's surely a person that some site somewhere would have taken note of. As far as I can tell, that's not the case here. Oh, I turned up a few names, but a Texas museum curator and a New Zealand composer don't seem quite the types to inspire such a monument.

My best guess right now is this guy, the CEO of McLeod Software, which makes and distributes trucking logistics software. I-5 is, as most Californians know, one of the major trucking arteries in the state, so it's possible that the man behind these truckers' dispatching software is a big name in those circles. Maybe he's the Bill Gates of truckers, I don't know. Except, I don't know that Bill would rate a sign if he stayed in some motel out in the middle of nowhere, so either I just don't understand celebrity in the San Joaquin Valley, or this isn't the guy.

I'm left with a mystery. So, if anyone out there knows which Tom McLeod slept there, please do get in touch and let me know.

At the Car Wash

This past Sunday I finally made it in to get my car washed, which was long overdue. I have this tendency to put off going to the car wash since it seems so lazy to pay someone to wash my car, but this is what we're advised to do in this drought. And, really, who am I kidding? I am that lazy.

Anyway, as often happens when I get my car washed, Juliette and I were sorely tempted by the donut shop that's in the same building, and we both caved and bought some completely unnecessary sweets. We then had to take turns distracting Jason so we could eat our donuts in peace. When it was my turn to distract him, I walked him around and sang Rose Royce's "Car Wash" to him.

The first thing that occurred to me, singing that song, was that I don't really know many of the words. The second was that it's kind of weird that someone felt he had to write a song about a car wash, of all things. I later found out that it was written as the theme song for a blaxploitation movie of the same name, but that strikes me as even weirder. I mean, were car washes some kind of cultural touchstone back in the seventies? Was working at a car wash some kind of common rite of passage for young black people? And why did that song get so popular, anyway? Certainly, it's much more well known than the movie. What gives?

These are the things that keep me up at night, folks.

Movin' On Up

Jason is in the process of moving from the infant group to the toddler group at his day care, and it's been kind of a rough transition. Starting last week, he's been spending most of his time in the toddler room, which means he's officially done with bottles (they're not allowed in the toddler room) and he's also down to one nap a day. On top of that, he seems to be going through some kind of growth spurt, since he is more or less constantly eating. Today he ate two-thirds of a banana, a plum, and two handfuls of cereal for breakfast, and for lunch and snacks he had cereal, Ritz crackers, Spanish rice, a bunch of orange slices, saltines (twice), and a quesadilla, and I'm sure he had a big dinner as well. He also pooped five times. The kid is like a pooping machine all of a sudden.

Anyway, as I was saying, all of this change has put him in a rather bad mood. His teachers have reported that he cries whenever he sees someone else getting a bottle, and that he's been fussy and tired. He's also apparently figured out where they keep the food in his classroom, and will stand there and point and whine until he gets it. All of which is more or less in line with what he's been like at home. He's been very demanding with us, wanting everything and wanting it now, and flopping around on the floor throwing a tantrum when he doesn't get it.

Juliette and I have been, understandably, pretty frustrated and tired ourselves. It's amazing how exhausting a kid can be. Still, there's been nothing we can really do but try to push through, and we've also been taking the opportunity to start setting boundaries for Jason and working on communicating with him. We've also pushed his bedtime about 20 minutes earlier in an attempt to make sure he's getting enough sleep. Nonetheless, we've fretted a lot about him being unhappy, and also about him becoming "that kid." He's always been such a sweet boy and he's seemed to be a favorite of a bunch of the teachers at his day care, which has always been inordinately gratifying to me. I want him to always be so sweet.

He seems to have turned a corner over the last couple of days, though, as he woke up in a good mood that lasted the whole morning. He was very smiley while he ate his breakfast, almost none of which ended up on the floor. (And what did end up on the floor was accidental instead of as a "THIS IS WHAT YOU GET FOR THWARTING ME!" demonstration.) He didn't fall asleep on the car rides to or from school, either, and his teachers reported that he had a very good day. Hopefully this is the start of a new trend, one that works better for all three of us.

As a final note, I was planning to write this yesterday but for once my slacking off has turned out well, because I really like to be able to close with a happy ending.

The Hangover

It's been almost a month since I saw this movie and I saw it over a month after it premiered. Despite the fact that it is still in first-run theaters, I think a normal person would, at this point, admit defeat and blow off writing the review altogether.

Clearly, I'm not a normal person.

Still, by now, what can I really add to the discussion? Does anybody not know what this movie is about?  That the humor is male-oriented and vulgar? Has anybody not heard about the credits? (Anybody that would actually see this movie, I mean.) Probably not. I guess all that leaves is my own opinion.

Well, I thought it was funny. OK, really funny. Obviously we're not treading any new ground here, but that's hardly the point. I mean, would you criticize Bachelor Party for not being innovative Oscar material? Of course not. I could have done without Ken Jeong's full frontal nudity, but on the other hand, Mike Tyson rocking out to "In the Air Tonight" was genius.

All in all, if you're in the mood for a raunchy guy comedy, this should fit the bill pretty nicely.

Viewed: 7/11/2009 | Released: 6/5/2009 | Score: B

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