Archive for May, 2009

Yeah, I know someone may have already preached at you about this. That’s not my aim.  I want to offer some painless and constructive ways to remember what Memorial Day is about as you enjoy the long weekend. I wholeheartedly feel that, like voting, remembering those who have fought for our country is a responsibility that comes with sharing in the fruits of their terrible labors.

No matter what your politics or your feelings about US military endeavors, the fact is that Americans enjoy unparalleled freedoms thanks to those who fought to create this country and keep it this way.

Some organizations that are dedicated to preserving the memory of our veterans suggest ways to observe Memorial Day, including going to cemeteries to place flags and flowers on the graves of deceased vets, lowering the flag to half-mast until noon, visiting veteran memorials, playing Taps and observing a moment of silence, and visiting a vet at a retirement home or VA hospital. These are commendable endeavors, certainly.

I don’t know about you, but with my schedule, I don’t think I’ll be doing any of these things this Memorial Day. (I have in the past, but never on this day. Besides, if everyone did all this at once, think about how crowded these places would get!)

Here are some ultra-easy ideas that will help keep the meaning behind this observance at top of mind.

  • Remember some of the pivotal contributions of the American military by reading about them. This brief compilation is an easy way to start.
  • Honor the fallen heroes by supporting today’s troops:
  • It may seem hokey, but take just a minute at the start of your barbecue or other long-weekend celebration to say thanks … just ask everyone at the party to toast those who ultimately made the occasion possible.

To learn more about the history of Memorial Day, check out this parks service site and this article on Wikipedia.

Birthday Business

Another birthday has come and gone…the BIG 4 – 7!  Yeah, it’s not so big, and it’s no big deal either. But it does seem to be big business.

This year, I received an incredible number of birthday greetings with coupons and special offers from all kinds of establishments. Sure, there was the same old stuff, like the goofy card I get each year from my Allstate agent (over the years, I have memorized how much bread and gasoline cost back in 1962). However, staggering number of other businesses also sent greetings. Companies seem to be taking advantage of every occasion to boost traffic and sales.  Good for them, in this economy, but it struck my funnybone.

First in line was the local O’Charley’s restaurant, plying me with a certificate for a free dessert…when I buy a meal, of course. Then came the coupon for a percentage off my next purchase at Border’s in honor of my special day (um, these coupons hit my email like clockwork every week…my birthday doesn’t seem all that special in light of that). Next, there were discount cards from Kohl’s, Chico’s, Office Depot, and at least half a dozen other stores where I have accounts or a membership, all offering discounts or dollars off with a purchase by a certain date…naturally.

All right, I may have made some snarky remarks above. Fact is, I’ll be taking advantage of many of these offers–just like these companies want me to–because these are places where I shop anyway, and I’m always one to take advantage of a bargain (in case you didn’t read the last blog entry about indulgence).

It’s a great idea to send customers a celebratory perk and drum up some business at the same time. So, I was thinking about some other ways in which businesses could use this gimmick. Take, for instance, the writing and editing services I offer through Z-ink–how could I use this tactic with current and potential clients? Here are some thoughts that came to mind:

  • On your birthday, get one dozen FREE words written with a minimum purchase of 500 words! And, if you act now, we’ll throw in another dozen–absolutely FREE!
  • Feeling festive? Sign up now for a monthly retainer with Z-ink, and we’ll take $10 off your first invoice in honor of your special day. (New clients only.)
  • During your birthday month, receive one FREE page of editing with every chapter you submit of your new book! (Minimum number of pages per chapter required; not valid with any other discount offer.)
  • Happy Birthday! Celebrate now with 15% off revision of your resume. Be ready for anything!

OK, I am ready for the onslaught of new projects!

An Indulgence with Perks

This year’s tax return was kind to me (or my CPA was especially creative), and I received a bit more back from Uncle Sam than usual. So, I decided to splurge. I went out and bought a package deal of six-for-the-price-of-five, hour-long massages from the genial and talented masseur just down the street (gotta be able to get home fast and keep the Zen buzz going after a good rub-down).

My roommate tells me this is no splurge—I need a massage now and then. What are you saying? Do I seem tense?!

For me, this was huge decision. You see, I have issues with spending money on myself. Like most tendencies we carry into adult life, it comes from my mother. But she is in recovery, while I still hunt bargain bins, wait for sales, and just plain do not buy things I don’t really need (except to feed my addiction to film, to which my movie-lined shelves bear witness). Even when I do need something, I stress about it. If you keep reading, you’ll see why this is humorously ironic.

Anyway, to make myself feel better about the frivolous expense of massages, I patted myself on the back for the bargain pricing (six for the price of five) and rationalized about all the ways I save money. But that wasn’t enough. I needed to know that massage is not just a temporary feel-good proposition. You know, like renting a drink. A bit of research revealed some interesting tidbits about the benefits of massage (beyond “it feels good”) which I thought I would share. Continue reading

It’s no secret that Hugh Jackman has been tops on my “guys I think are hot” list for some time. And here, we even get to see him naked. Cool.

I also happen to crave movies based on comic books and graphic novels. So, of course, I had to go see X-Men Origins: Wolverine as soon as it came out. (OK, so I didn’t catch the midnight showing, like someone I know, but I was there today…that counts.)x-men-wolv

Except for a few thin threads, I liked it. You may think, “No surprise there.”  But, mind you, I have been known to be sorely disappointed by some films, especially if I had high hopes (the last of the previous X-Men trilogy was one…darn that deserter Bryan Singer).

There are several points from some reviewers that I don’t agree with. One is that there are too many CG effects. Rubbish. If you want too much CG, go see Transformers. The effects here are well balanced and build as the film progresses. Another is that there are just too many mutants. Dude, it’s a movie about mutants.  It’s about how they stick together, from the opening scenes of two mutant brothers running for safety to the fighting team they form under Stryker, as well as about how they are at odds. It would be tough to show this without mutants. Besides, each one is present for a reason…it’s not as though Logan meets a girl who just happens to also be mutant—she was sent after him. And he sets out to find Gambit because he can point the way to The Island. ‘Nuf said. Continue reading

A friend called me the other evening and said, “You’ll never believe it, but I rented a film with subtitles.”

Good for you, I thought…try something new.

Subtitles are nothing new for me, but finding something different, which distinguishes itself without trying too hard, seems to be. My friend’s revelation made me think about a recent small but fun revelation of my own.

If you’re a cinephile like me and feel like you’ve nearly seen it all, it may take quite a bit to get your blood pumping, to make you go “Hmm.” My favorite genre for generating this sensation (a comfort zone, for me) is dark comedy. Heck, I love the likes of the Coen brothers, Tarantino, and Guy Ritchie, but even their sadistic twists and frankly contextualized violence barely make me blink anymore.

Leave it to the Danes to provoke some attention in my jaded movie-watching corner. I recently watched a Danish film called Adams aebler /Adam’s Apples adams2(2005), and I really did not know what I was in for. The reviews are very mixed—and, truly, this is NOT a film for everyone.

OK, don’t get all excited. This is no Days of Wrath (1943) or Babette’s Feast (1987)—two of many award-winning Danish films. But it is a kick in the pants.

In this silly yet startling caricature/morality play, a neo-Nazi (Adam) is released from prison and must do community service at a small church in the country. The priest (Ivan) who runs the program has the ultimate Pollyanna complex, which Adam takes it upon himself to beat out of him…with surprising results that are hilarious after the initial discomfort.

Adam is played by Ulrich Thomsen, a prolific actor whom I first saw in Festen / The Celebration (1998), a film that was riveting as a car accident but a bit too bleak for me to enjoy. The priest, stoic and mad as a hatter, is Mads Mikkelsen, most recently seen as Le Chiffre in Quantum of Solace (2008). Ivan’s other wards are fat ex-tennis-playing con Gunnar (Nicolas Bro) and aspiring terrorist Khalid (Ali Kazim), who are later joined by the pregnant Sarah (Paprika Steen) who comes to the priest for some less-than-stellar advice. Continue reading

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