Friday, January 30, 2009

Single in the City: Taken

I saw Taken this afternoon. Ever since I saw the promos for the film (you know, with Liam Neeson going bada$$) I knew I wanted to see it. I've been in the mood for a kick butt thriller.

I first got used to going to the movies by myself when I lived in Europe. In America it's almost taboo to be seen in the theater or in a restaurant by yourself. The first week I was back in the States, I went to Old Chicago in Green Bay. The hostess looked at me like I was crazy when I told her I was eating lunch alone. I've been heading out the theater solo since I moved to Milwaukee. Most of my good friends are married, and so it's not only hard to find someone to go to the movies with all of the time, but it's also hard to find someone who wants to see the same films as I.

Hence me attending the 3pm show at Mayfair today.

I have two criticisms of Taken:
1. The Kid Rock National Guard commercial beforehand.
2. The girls in the film, who were preparing to follow U2 around Europe, which brings up two sub-criticisms:
a. These girls were supposed to be 17 and, if anything, they'd be following Beyonce around Europe.
b. The girls brought suitcases for their multiple city, summer long trip, and not backpacks.

Other than that it was your standard, guilty pleasure shoot 'em up thriller. I enjoyed it. Neeson was quite convincing as a vengeful father, and I was on his side the entire time. Even when he killed every Albanian in Paris, and one very important Sheik in his yacht on the Seine. All of this without consequences.

I give it a "sure if you like that sort of thing," two thumbs up.

Monday, January 26, 2009

It's "Library" not "Liberry"

One of my best friends works with a girl who pronounces "frustrated" as "fustrated" and "library" as "liberry." We've decided the poor girl was never taught how to use R's.

This seemingly unrelated introduction brings me to my topic: The public library.

Many folks in Milwaukee are talking about how usage of public libraries is increasing due to the hard economic times as stated by this article in the Journal-Sentinel.

This is great news to bookworms like myself because it means that I am no longer alone in my need-to-read-everything-I-get-my-hands-on nerdiness. There is, however, one beef I have with the public library that I must get off my chest.

Two weeks ago I needed to get my hands on a copy of Shirin Ebadi's "Iran Awakening." She is coming to campus and I am attending a book discussion with her, thus I must read the tome. I went to the library's website to search the catalog and found a couple of copies available at Central, which were both on hold, and one available at Cudahy. Not wanting to drive myself down to Cudahy, I requested it to be sent to Wauwatosa for maximum pick-up ease.

Slick, no?

During the next 12 days I incessantly checked the online records which stubbornly reported the book to be "in transit."

Now, I'm no mathematician, but even I know that it does not take more than twelve days to move a book from Cudahy to Wauwatosa. In fact, had I known it would take so long I would've driven myself down to Cudahy.


Once I saw the book was in Tosa, I checked online to see if my card was still valid. I hadn't used my library card in awhile and wanted to make sure I wouldn't have to renew it. The renewal process requires you to bring a photo ID and a piece of mail with your current, in-county address visible. My card was indeed still valid, and does not expire until June as the library operates on a 2-year renewal cycle. Huzzah.

I arrive at Wauwatosa ready to run in and check out the book, when the librarian asks me if I have any documents on my person that will verify my address. As I haven't used my card in 12 months they want to make sure my address is still valid for Milwaukee County library usage.

I explain that, because I checked online to ensure library card validity, I do not, in fact, have any such documents. And why, I questioned the lady, does the library require affirmation of my address on a yearly basis if my card does not expire for two years? Remember, dear reader, the card renewal process only requires you to, drum roll, verify your address.

CAUTION: Mind-bending logic approaching.

Why does the library not, I asked the lady, just enact an annual card renewal process if, when you do not use your card within 12 months, you must still go through the same process?

She turned to the other librarian and asked if she could forgo the process this one time and let me take the book.

This is really the end of my beef, which isn't really a beef so much as a question of why the public library, holder of knowledge, does not utilize logic in their own operation.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Wall Street needs to relocate to Darfur

I came across this headline on MSN's website. I could barely bring myself to read the article because just the word "entitlement" in these economic times infuriates me. I get a helpless feeling when reading about former CEO's who ran their financial companies into the ground (along with the economy and helpless American's pensions), and yet still received multimillion dollar bonuses and severance packages. Probably because the words turn the part of my brain that depends on logic into mush.

If I hear "that's the way it was always done on Wall Street" one more time, I'm afraid my head will implode.

Wall Street and all of the narcissistic, greedy bankers who work there need to relocate to some third world slum for awhile. After they've seen what their million dollar monthly paychecks could do beyond buying seven vacation homes in the Caymen Islands, they can come back and work for a reasonable salary. You know who else works unbearably long hours R. Edward Freeman? Youth Program Coordinators in inner city nonprofits. Elderly citizens in former East Bloc countries where social security and pensions don't exist. Doctors in free clinics working in third world countries. And I don't see any of those people feeling "entitled to being rewarded" (para. 3).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

History Currently Being Made

I'm writing this as I am watching one of the most historic events in America's recent history - Barack Obama's inauguration.

Currently, Mr. President Obama is giving an address to the nation, and I am struck, as I usually am by his speeches, by what an amazing orator he is. I assume he has a speech writer, and wonder why former President Bush's speech writer could not create such prose.

Perhaps I am selling that person short, whomever he or she may be. Perhaps No-Longer-President Bush's speechwriter was forced to "write down" to Not-in-White-House-Residence Bush's level. In that instance, I commiserate with the guy (or gal), because that means he was, not only limited in what he could write, but also had to watch his carefully crafted words butchered by a man who had a tenuous grasp of the English language.

President Obama's speechwriter, however, has free reign. Listening to the words and phrases Mr. President Obama is delivering, I can't help but notice that they would sound terribly trite and cheesy if spoken in any other manner, by any other person. It takes a great speaker to take cliche phrases and turn them into inspiring soundbytes.

I teach Contemporary Presentation as an intro level college course, and we recently added a Famous Speech assignment that is optional to any student who wishes for extra credit. For the assignment, they choose a speech from a list we provide of famous orators and deliver it in class. We've chosen speeches that cover a variety of events given by famous men and women of centuries past. We tried to choose speeches that had no audio or video recording so that the students' delivery would be their own interpretation. I am excited to see what they come up with, and I cannot help but notice how studying Mr. President Obama's rhetoric and delivery will only aid my students in learning how to deliver powerful prose by famous speakers of the past.

The new president's oration reminds me of the inspiration of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, a short speech President Lincoln wrote in the carriage on the way to the battlefield, and Roosevelt's address to the nation after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Both Lincoln and Roosevelt's speeches were addressing the nation in times of trouble and hardship. President Obama has the same task today, and he has lived up to that task with aplomb.