Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I'm Back! (Sort Of)

So, here's the deal: my computer is back in Connecticut.  When I was staying with my brothers' friends, they let me use their computer.  The place I moved to doesn't have Internet (though it may soon).  It also doesn't have a computer.  But, I am able to use the Internet at the library (which is where I am now).  Yet another reason to love libraries. :-)  Since the computers are often taken, however, this greatly limits how much time I can spend on them to check email, write this blog, etc., and in the grand scheme of things, checking my email (and my bills) is more important that reading blogs or writing posts.  My brother and I are working on a solution to this problem, so hopefully we can come to one before the New Year.  I'll let you all know what develops.

Until then, I will be sporadically adding posts and commenting on other people's blogs, though the posts will be less frequent and the comments will be fewer (I may, in fact, not comment much at all).  On the bright side, not being on the Internet all the time allows me to read and write more often.  On the negative side, my novel sits in wait on my flash drive until I can get to a computer to work on it some more (I've already gone through it on paper), which means that most of my writing will be focused on short stories for the short term.

Anyway, I hope to have these issues resolved soon, as I will also need the Internet to job search.  Until next time!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Kenny G Moment

Since my mom just went to a Kenny G concert, and since Christmas is approaching, I thought now was a good time to write about a family tradition known as the "Kenny G Moment."

Kenny G is a famous soprano saxophone player who has sold millions of albums worldwide.  He's in the Guiness Book of World Records for the longest note ever held (see his Wikipedia article here, which includes mention of that feat), and he has really long hair.  He is also a great person to mock, since he plays smooth jazz, which is the jazz world's equivalent of soft rock.  Well, okay, it's better than soft rock, but only because nothing is worse than soft rock.  Except the Olson Twins.

The original Kenny G moment dates back to 1992 or 1993, when his album Breathless came out.  Apparently it left women breathless, as it is still the most popular instrumental album ever released, proving that artistic integrity has nothing to do with sales.  Nothing.  That Christmas, my dad bought my mom that CD, not knowing that she really wanted it.  So, when she opened the gift and saw that she was now the proud owner of a crappy instrumental album by a guy with hair longer than hers, she started crying.  Thus was born the Kenny G moment.

Every Christmas since then, my dad (and others in my family, including me) have tried to find a gift that will create that Kenny G moment.  We have succeeded with Josh Groban CDs, Paul McCartney concert tickets, and even Snoopy inside of a snow globe writing, "It was a dark and stormy night" (damn squirrel got in our house and broke the globe--true story!--and I have yet to find that object being sold for a REASONABLE PRICE--yeah, I'm talking to you, ebay scalpers!).  The defining element of a Kenny G moment, however, was the defining element of that first gift, which is that the reaction is unexpected.  So, in a sense, only the first Kenny G moment was a Kenny G moment, even though we never quite know what gift will make our mom cry.

Since that Christmas, other people have had Kenny G moments, as well.  My dad almost had one when I bought him the Ultimate Johnny Carson Collection on DVD.  I had one when my dad bought me a TV (completely unexpected--not even on my list).  But usually, the Kenny G moment is linked to my mom.  Now that she's seen Kenny G live, however, perhaps we shall have to retire the Kenny G moment, for isn't seeing Kenny G live (and from the second row--because no one goes to his concerts ;-)) the ultimate Kenny G moment?

So, dear readers, I hope many of you have Kenny G moments this holiday season.  Feel free to use the phrase, too, so long as you credit it to my dad, who created the phrase (or to this blog, which popularized it).  And since my mom will be reading this, too, I hope you have at least one Kenny G moment this Christmas, Mom!  As long as he doesn't come down the chimney, playing his soprano sax.  Because that would just be creepy.


Monday, December 14, 2009

A Quick Word on PRECIOUS

Okay, I lied.  There will be one more post in addition to this one.  When a movie affects me as Precious has, promises like the one in my last post must be broken.

Shocking.  Brutal.  Audible gasps from the audience during the movie (some from me).  And yet, there's some humor.  Hope.  And much despair.  Excellent performances from Mo'Nique (as Precious's mother, Mary) and Gabourey Sibide (as Precious herself).  Both should be nominated for Oscars, and both might win.  Great supporting performances, as well, from the likes of Lenny Kravitz (as a nurse's assistant) and Mariah Carey (as a welfare worker), especially the latter.  I thought Paula Patton (as Ms. Rain, Precious's teacher) a little too cliched in the heroic teacher role (for example, there are way too many shots of her face beaming as she looks at Precious, though then again, who wouldn't be proud of how this girl, this young woman, is reacting to the challenges in her life?), but she also gives a good performance, if one that pales in comparison to what Mo'Nique and Sibide do, and even to what Carey does.

The camerawork has a gritty, handheld quality to it (punctuated by quick close-ups and framings) that works with the material.  But it's the performances that carry this film, with smart, intelligent dialog that always strikes the right chord.  No cheesy throwaway lines here.  One of the year's best films.

For anyone wanting to read a proper review, here are two:

Roger Ebert's review of Precious:

Grace Wang's review of Precious:

A Slight Interruption in Service

Some of you may have noticed that I did not update my blog last weekend (though I did post on Thursday).  The reason for the interruption was that, on Sunday, I was looking at apartments/duplexes/places to move to (I worked on Saturday), since the people I'm living with now came to an agreement with me about how long I would stay here back when I lived in Connecticut, which recently was amended from six weeks (which would have been to December 3rd) to the end of the year, though preferably before Christmas.  Since this is the first house that they've ever owned, and it'll be the first Christmas that they celebrate here, I was willing to oblige them in this request, if possible.

The search itself I shall leave for another day and another entry, but suffice it to say that I have found another place and will be moving out of here and moving into there over the weekend.  Once I move, I will no longer have use of this computer (it belongs to one of my hosts) nor of the Internet (though I can have it installed and split the cost among any housemates who wish to use it), though my brother said he would try to find a solution to this dilemma in the form of a Christmas gift.  Then, of course, there is the problem of not having a printer, though I can have resumes printed out at Kinko's or Staples, so that's not a big deal.  Printing out my novel is a bigger deal, but it's almost time for me to take a break from writing that and concentrate on shorter pieces for a bit, since I imagine many interruptions between now and when that full time job materializes (or rather, when I make it materialize).  In fact, all of this focus on finding a room, finding a job, networking, procrastinating on the Internet, etc, has left me with very little time to work on my novel.  Since I've arrived in Seattle, most of my writing has occurred on my blog, in my diary, and through responses to people's comments and emails.  Part of this is also due to my making enough time to read, whether in the form of magazine articles or books, leaving less time to write.

I will be sending out one more post before I move, since the subject is relevant to Christmas.  Ideally, I would post it ON CHRISTMAS, but that is impossible without Internet access.  I do have Internet access at work, but who wants to access their blog, or their emails, at work, where website privacy is nonexistent?  I suppose I could use a library computer, too, once I get a library card (which I can get, now that I have a lease, i.e. proof of residency), but they won't be open on Christmas, and probably not Christmas Eve, either.

Anyway, sorry for thinking aloud, but I find that if I write about a problem, I can find the solution easier, since all of my thought processes are revealed on paper (or on a screen).  Of course, I COULD write those posts ahead of time and then come back here on Sunday and hit the "PUBLISH POST" button, but that's a little silly.  Besides, my apartment search will serve as a nice companion piece to my description of my new room and house (it's a shared house), so it would be better to write that post after I've been in my new place for a little while.  In addition, the apartment search has been preserved in my diary, so there's no danger of my forgetting some important detail.  And I do have a notebook, so I can write the post ahead of time and then type it up quickly, once I have access to an Internet-connected computer.

So, to clarify, I may not be posting to my blog for a while, or it may be sporadic, depending on what scheme my brother comes up with.  But, there will be one more post near the end of the week, right before I leave for my new place, so tell your friends, as I'd love for that post to break 100 hits.  Since I've been tracking this blog (in October, soon after Ebert praised it), I've had over 1,000 hits, with "What Happens in Between Sunrise and Sunset" getting 78 hits (that only includes hits to that specific page; it misses anyone who found my blog site and just started reading the entries posted to the home page).

Here's hoping this blog'll be around for 1,000 more hits!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Holiday Reminder: Be Nice to Sales Associates

Just realized that I missed a very important rule for shoppers, so I've added it as rule #3, in italics.

For all of you folks shopping during this holiday season, remember:

Be nice to the sales associates.

Chances are that many of them were hired for the Christmas rush, after which they will be unemployed.  Some of them may be moved around from department to department, and so not know where items are located, or have any specialized knowledge of the items for sale.  Some may be covering areas due to shortages in staff.  Others may have been dropped in the thick of things with register training--and not much else.

So, here are a few rules to keep in mind:

1.)  Don't yell at the sales associates.  This only makes you look like an ass to the other customers, and angers the sales associate with whom you are dealing.  Plus, it doesn't solve anything.  If, on the other hand, you wait patiently in line and correct the associate's mistakes with a smile, you might just get that extra 20% off that was advertised in the paper, even if you forgot to bring the coupon.  After all, we sales associates react kindly to kindness.

2.) Remember, we are sales associates, not your personal valets.  It is not our job to cart your stuff around the store, or to look for items in other departments.  We will, however, direct you to those departments, and hold your items at the register.  Want someone to carry stuff for you?  Shop with a friend.

3.)  We are also not your maids or mothers.  If you're trying on clothes, put back any clothing that doesn't fit you, or hang it on a put-back rack.  We can serve you much better if we don't have to clean up after your sorry asses.  Do not leave it in the dressing room in a large pile, or even hung up in the dressing room.  You brought it into the dressing room; you can take it out of the dressing room.

4.) If you can help it, go during regular store hours (if they've been extended), or towards late morning/early afternoon (between 11 and 7, ideally).  The hardest hours to get coverage in a store are in the early morning (opening) and late evening (closing), so if you go during those hours, you might encounter a stressed sales associate covering two departments by himself/herself.  He/she will be especially stressed out if there are special sales going on that day.  Which leads me to:

5.) Notice the ratio of customers to sales associates.  If there are five customers to one associate, be prepared to wait for assistance, or even for the sales associate to tell you that he/she is busy at the moment.  If you're dealing with a good sales associate, they will help everyone in turn.  But, remember, many of them are only here for the holidays, and so really don't give a shit if you're pissed that he/she can't find the cashmere sweater that was advertised in this morning's newspaper.  Then again, if you're pleasant about it, they might give more of a shit and check the back room for you.

6.) Give yourself lots of time while shopping.  This will prevent unforseen delays and prevent ugly confrontations.  Remember, if you're going to a store on your lunch break to "grab something quick," chances are that so are many other people, and if the store is understaffed...

7.) Sales associates are human.  We make mistakes.  Sometimes they are to your benefit; sometimes not.  If you notice a mistake, help the sales associate out. Kindly point out the error.  If there's anything you can do to help rectify their error (like knowing what the price of an item should be, and not what it's ringing up as), do so.  And if a sales associate is making too many errors for your comfort, you can always have them call a manager.  Or, you can try coming back another time.  And yes, having to make an extra trip to the store is a hassle, which is why I do most of my Christmas shopping online.

8.) Make a plan.  Know exactly what you are going to buy and the general area where it's located.  If you don't know where it's located, do a dry run (it would be wise to do this before holiday shopping season begins).  If you have questions for a sales associate, do it in person.  We often can't give you as much time on the phone because we're busy helping other customers, and if we're not near the phone when it rings, or we're in the middle of a transaction, we're not going to pick up.  And if you're letting it ring for long periods of time, by the time one of us does answer the phone, we're not going to be too happy.  One exception: if you're only getting one item from a store, and you're not buying anything else nearby, you can call to see if it's in stock.  Best time to call? Late morning or early afternoon, but limit your questions to two or less, and make them short.  If you drone on and on, we might "accidentally" hang up on you.

Finally, a word of advice to sales associates about customers.  Many of them have had to deal with long lines, rude associates, even ruder shoppers, coupons that have so many exclusions as to be impossible to figure out, items rung up at incorrect prices, items put in the wrong place so that they cost more than the sign says they do, traffic, and (possibly) unruly children.  So, try to make their shopping experience as hassle free as possible.  Learn as much as you can about your area from experienced sales associates.  Make sure that items ring up correctly.  And treat each customer with the respect that he/she deserves.  Unless they start yelling at you.  Then you can tell them to go to hell.