Wednesday, August 10, 2022

And BINGO wasn't lame-o

My daughter is part of a student group that volunteers with several local organizations. This has given her a chance to showcase her skills and talents, such as dressing in the Clifford the Big Red Dog mascot costume in 95 degree heat, and being a buddy at a 'Night to Shine' event. Preparation for this event required getting instruction on what to do if your buddy keeps running away from you or wants to keep going back to the buffet. (I suggested that in lieu of attending the info session, she could just ask me to recap every date I had in college...)

The first time she dressed as Clifford was during a community day at a local community center. I arrived early to pick her up so I could see her in action. As I walked in, I saw Clifford heading toward an ambulance surrounded by EMTs, then climbing inside to sit on a stretcher. As I tried to elbow my way closer to get a better view of Clifford's sneakers to determine if this was, in fact, my child, I said, panicked, to the EMTs, "I think I'm Clifford's mom - is she alright?" 

Turns out, she was heading into the ambulance for a photo op with the EMTs. EMTs who wondered how I was unsure whether I had given birth to this thing.

A-OK!

Clifford the influencer.

A couple of years prior to this, she and a friend also had a memorable stint at the local assisted living community running the weekly Bingo game. 

Seemed like a sweet way to pass a couple of hours and as the two girls who volunteered were only 14, I got to be the designated "adult supervision." (stop laughing)

Turns out, Bingo can bring out the worst in assisted living residents, and while she and her friend were leading the Bingo game, they were treated to the following:

  • Arguments stemming from perceived Bingo slights (who got the best cards/table/seat) followed by accusations of cheating
  • Loud complaints about whether one woman should be able to participate because she was hard of hearing and kept calling "Bingo!" when she did not actually have it, because she could not hear the numbers being announced
  • Lots of whining about the available prizes for winners, which included deodorant, snack bags of chips, fun-sized candy bars, shaving cream, and travel-sized tissue packs. And to be fair - for an assisted living facility that costs roughly a zillion dollars a year, you'd think the merch would be a little better
After mediating running the Bingo game, the girls determined they must do this particular activity again.

Months later, when they had the opportunity to do so, they learned that management had apparently tired of the 'feedback' and upped the game on the prize cart (well, at least the prize cart display - it was still a bunch of crap-ola).

You've lived longer than most of your contemporaries -
please celebrate by wearing these novelty socks on
a slippery wood floor 

There was no improvement on the perceived slights or complaints.

Randomly calling "Bingo!",
Brutalism

Saturday, August 06, 2022

Vengeance is (Not) Mine

Note: In coming up with this blog post title, I googled the origin of the phrase and learned it is from the Bible - specifically, Deuteronomy (which before I knew better, I once spelled "Duderonomy" to the delight of my friend, who was like, "I'm stoked to read the Bible, bro").

Still not sure why I was referencing a book of the Bible in an email to a friend (or an email to anyone, for that matter), but as most of my 20s were a blur, it kinda tracks. Amen.

I digress.

Last night's stormy weather meant outdoor activities were a no-go, so I suggested to my fam that we go to an actual theater to watch a movie. They agreed, so I purchased tickets online for the film, "Vengeance," and was delighted to see we were three of only 10 people who had reserved seats for the show. This was good news both because COVID is still very real, and primarily because I'm a misanthrope. 

We got to the theater about ten minutes early and settled into our seats. There was one man directly behind us and a couple of others scattered throughout the theater and we happily chatted in anticipation of seeing a movie together in God-knows-how-long. (Another religion reference - Deut!)

A few moments later, a man came into the theater by himself, briefly sat in the seat on the floor closest to the exit (in hotels, this would be the equivalent of the "murder room" at the end of the hall closest to the stairway that provides quick egress), then set a large black bag down on the floor and exited the theater.

My vigilant daughter noted this seemed a little off, and suggested we leave the theater and see if this guy was at concessions or in the restroom. He was in neither place, so Mr. Brutalism talked to a manager, who assured him he had seen the man enter and had looked through the bag before permitting him to take it into the theater. We re-entered the theater and the bag man came in about ten minutes later and sat in his murder seat, noisily munching the popcorn he had procured - from a concession stand on a different floor, presumably.

Immediate threat aside, we enjoyed previews and the beginning of the movie, which started strong with its interesting premise and solid cast, and let it transport us, as movies do. This lasted 15 minutes until the gentleman directly behind us began snoring loudly. 

Moments later, a couple entered the theater and sat one row and about three seats behind us (a "knight's move" away, if you will). My daughter nudged me and pointed to where they were sitting and I saw what was horrifying her - their disgusting bare feet (or as she referred to it, "them dawgs") stretched out over the seat in front of them. 

Elsewhere in the theater, we heard hacking and coughing.  

Which means that out of ten people in the theater, a solid 50% were boors - an unreasonably high boor percentage, if you ask me.

Nostalgic for quarantine,

Brutalism

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Brutal Conversations

The dynamic at Brutalism HQ is that I tend to get a second wind around 10:00pm when the other members of my household are winding down from the day. This second wind often consists of me making up and singing a song in the most obnoxious voice I can muster or doing some sort of dance while brushing my teeth.

The other night, however, I deviated from the usual creative format to discuss an insight I had while perusing Next Door earlier in the day - that being if you are Jesse D. from Fox Mill's older child, you can simply print out the following ad and hand it, wordlessly, to your therapist. 

That was not all that bothered me about this situation. Call me germophobic, but I firmly believe that bedwetting alarms (and breast pumps, FWIW) should be one-owner-only devices. I queried my husband, "If you are buying a used bedwetting alarm, aren't you effectively paying for someone else's pee?"

At which point he regarded me with very tired eyes and mumbled, "I don't want to have this conversation."

Last night, I was energetically delivering a reggae-style song about my feet which received no response from him. Frustrated, I inquired, "Nothing? No reaction? I'm selling it here."

To which he aggravatedly replied, "I'm half asleep" - and then under his breath added, "I wish I was fully asleep."

Happily ever after,
Brutalism


Wednesday, March 09, 2022

It's A Sign

A charming little burg near us is going through quite a bit of redevelopment lately. Part of this development involves tearing down Vienna's only two-star hotel that in recent years has been - shall we say - narcotics adjacent. 

(I posted pics of the sign on Instagram with the comment about it being a two-star hotel and a neighbor commented, "Huh. Two stars seems generous." This may give you an idea of why this particular plot is being redeveloped.)

This is the Gen X of hotels. Partly because it was built in 1971,
and partly because it loves to make fun of what you spend on avocado toast.

We've been watching the demolition progress over the past week and my husband noted after walking by a couple of days ago that the only thing left standing amidst a pile of rubble was the original roadside sign. Which is when I became determined to own the sign sporting that glorious 70s font. And if this required multiple phone calls and a couple of trips to the demolition site in order to infuse my dull life with some much-needed shenanigans, preserve some Vienna history, then so be it!

Unsure of the process of acquiring a hotel sign, I began my sleuthing by emailing a friend who works for the Town where this hotel is located. She did not know, but learned that I should contact the building owner (based in NJ) directly. I called and the NJ office referred me to their Annapolis office and a woman named Lisa, who excitedly approved my request right away - and suggested that because all debris was being removed that day, my best bet was going directly to the demolition site to tell the demolition manager we had permission to remove it and taking the sign.

This led to a frantic call to my husband, letting him know he needed to come and get me so we could go get the sign NOW! (Adding to the fun is that I recently broke the wrist on my dominant hand and have not yet been cleared to drive and/or handle freeing/moving large hotel signs at demolition sites.) My doctor is uptight.

When we got to the site, Mr. Brutalism went to find the demo manager and I used the time to text my friend a recap of the morning's antics, which is when I noticed some other items available on the site, which I graciously offered her because I am a good friend:

Her response? "Yes, please! The more stains, the more memories!"

then followed up with this sentiment...


The demo manager would not give us permission to take the sign until his boss (who was not on site) approved it, which led to another phone call - this one to the office of the demo company. We were not able to reach the boss, so we left a message and returned home, dejected.

Early the next day, I called the demo company again, hoping the sign had not been razed - and again - my call went straight to voice mail. So, I called Lisa again and she offered to call the demo guy directly - while again giving us permission to just take it, as their company owns the building. I thanked her for graciously helping in our quest for the sign and again called my husband to come get me while I assembled a variety of tools we would possibly need for this operation. 

When we got to the site, I again remained in the car on a work call while Mr. Brutalism went to assess the situation - and moments later, he returned to the car with the following: 

Two signs! And only one has bird poop on it!

Of course, we are the only family in the entire DMV metro area that does not own an SUV, so there was a moment of panic when we realized these would not fit in the car. But because he's a planner and brought twine, Mr. Brutalism had these strapped to the roof of the car in no time.

Cool, right?

My hero.

I texted Lisa the photo of Tim with the sign, thanking her for all of her help  - and she wrote back, "Yay!!! So happy you got it!" because she is cool and a nonsense enabler.  

After all of that, I never really considered what we would do with these if we were successful in our acquisition. Thoughts? 

Monday, January 24, 2022

Not All Heroes Wear Capes

My daughter plays club volleyball in the high school off-season. This gives her a chance to keep her skills sharp, play with different people, and gain competitive tournament experience.

Part of the tournament experience is learning how to keep score and make calls, so during a tournament this past weekend, whenever her team had a 'bye', they functioned as line judges and kept score for other teams' games.

While the girls were scorekeeping, they were also supposed to push a button when someone made a great play so the company hired to record these events would know when in the game great plays occurred and be able to easily locate and edit them into the video highlight reel for the tournament. 

My daughter's friend, sensing that an all-great-plays reel may lack a little dimension, thusly decided to also press the button when girls got conked in the head with a ball, or collided, or fell on their butts on the court. 

And it is because of this generation I have hope for the future.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Peru

Team Brutalism just returned from a trip to Lima, Cusco, and the Amazon Rainforest in Peru. It was both our first time in South America and first time traveling with an organized tour. Planning for this trip happened very recently and was scheduled for the Christmas holidays, when both the Omicron variant of COVID was spiking and thousands of flights were being cancelled due to employees getting sick and quarantining. Pretty much everything needed to go exactly right for this trip to be successful and for us not to get infected and detained in Peru, and fortunately...it did!

Our route. We generally like to travel in a cat's eye formation.

(Boring, explain-y disclaimer: We are fully vaccinated and boosted. Additionally, we did at-home tests before we left to ensure we were not bringing COVID with us, even though this was not required for fully vaccinated people. We flew Copa Airlines, which required/enforced KN95 masks while onboard. And finally, Peru's COVID rate is much lower than ours in the US. All of these factors made us feel it was worth the risk to keep our plans and take this trip - something about which we made a final decision three days before we left.) Phew!

As with all of the trips we take, we learn a lot, which I'm thrilled to share with you in a handy bulleted list format.

Peru travel, what we learned:
  • When you are apprehensive about traveling in a group because you have never done so before and don't know what to expect, you will be delighted with the people who are part of your small group, including your amazing tour guide. We were three of just 10 people in our group, which was the right size and mix of well-traveled, interesting people who were also (most importantly) a lot of fun. We even had a bonus group member join us in the jungle and she was such a great addition to the group, we were sad when her trip came to end and she had to leave us. Best of all, there were four kids in the group and our daughter was thrilled to have other kiddos around. We are now all friends on social media and feel like we have such a bond and would love to see any of them again down the road.

(Bonus: the organized trip removed all the usual logistical stressors for us on this adventure trip. We were on the go constantly on every mode of transportation: buses, planes, boats, trains - and we just had to show up. Heaven.)

  • The Miraflores neighborhood of Lima is lovely - which I suppose is what you'd expect from a name that literally translates to "look at the flowers" - and the Barranco neighborhood is artsy and cool (which is a little more of a head-scratcher as Barranco literally translates to "cliff").  An interesting part of this neighborhood is an abandoned church whose roof is slowly being pecked apart by the vultures who sit atop the structure. It looked like something out of a Hitchcock movie. A movie that should possibly be titled, "Miravultures." 

Christmas decor at our hotel in Miraflores.
Vultures. Eating a roof. As they do.

  • Lima is a culinary destination for a reason - oh my god, the food! You will enjoy ceviche many times including one version you make during a cooking class. You will also have causas, alpaca, great coffee, great chocolate, pisco sours, and the black corn drink chicha morada which you have (randomly) tried before at the Peruvian-influenced restaurant in your neighborhood at home. 
  • Based on the what is being sold in market stalls everywhere, you learn that Peruvians have a penchant for both Panettone and yellow underpants. Panettone because of the Italian influence and yellow underpants because it is tradition to wear a pair of yellow underpants inside out underneath your clothes until midnight on New Year's Eve, which you then flip around when the clock strikes twelve. You understand that yellow represents luck and happiness, although you will question what kinds of NYE parties these are that require the removal of pants. You will then become determined to get yourself invited to one.

Luck and happiness, briefly (heh)

  • When you forgo a pre-dinner shower in the rainforest one evening, opting instead to sit on the porch at the lodge and sip a local starfruit IPA while others from your group wander by and join you one-by-one to have a beer and visit until your whole group is assembled and the kids get involved in a rousing game of Jenga and the soundtrack consists of Titi monkeys calling to each other in the trees above and the lodge staff brings out salty plantain chips fresh from the oven...you will realize you have achieved total contentment. Total stinky, sweaty contentment, but contentment nonetheless.

Trying 'noni' - a superfood fruit that
smells and tastes like blue cheese.
My daughter loved it.



  • You will see cabybaras, macaws, caimans, yellow porcupines, howler monkeys, Titi monkeys, tarantulas, bullet ants, snakes, bamboo rats, piranhas, and countless other creatures on your boat ride and evening hike through the jungle. This will fascinate you. What will terrify you is when you leave the dinner table to use the women's restroom at the lodge and when you turn around to lock the door, you see a gigantic, meaty gecko on the wall of the restroom. You will do some sort of jig out of the bathroom while screaming your head off which will cause all guides and children in the group to come running. 
Capybaras. We sadly did not get a photo of the 'gecko jig'
  • You will think you are in pretty decent physical condition until you are hiking straight up, at altitude, in a KN95 mask. 
  • While you will feel bad tourism has been so negatively affected in Peru due to COVID, you will also appreciate visiting Machu Picchu at half capacity and never feeling crowded or unsafe in other tourist areas.

Watching the clouds part and dramatically reveal Machu Picchu
was one of the cooler things we've ever experienced.

  • When your guide takes you to a scene-y restaurant/bar overlooking Cusco and you see the most amazing cocktails at the next table, you immediately order one without even asking what the ingredients are because that is totally secondary to your enjoyment:
When I finished the drink, Barbie raised her arms in victory.
She then did a downward dog. (And she apparently
got the memo about yellow underpants. 
Though hers appear to be constructed from cotton candy.)

Running around the block
with a suitcase.
  • When your tour guide graciously invites you to his family home on New Year's Eve - GO! New Year's Eve is a big holiday in Peru and you'll experience all the traditions, food, and family that are central to this celebration. This includes fireworks, running around the block with an empty suitcase to manifest travel in the coming year, brushing people with a wheat sheaf that has money attached to bring prosperity, and singing the Peruvian equivalent of "Auld Lang Syne" before eating 12 grapes for luck. It is amazing and generous and such a cool part of the trip that you'll be forever grateful. 
Andre's family 

Wheat sheaf and soles

More fam and yellow
accessories





And more photos from the trip:

Kids all bought matching chakana necklaces as mementos.

Little cutie. And a baby alpaca.

Maybe next time...

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

For what we learned, Indonesia and Hong Kong, click here
For what we learned, Costa Rica, click here
For what we learned, Iceland, Belgium, and the Netherlands, click here
For what we learned, London, click here
For what we learned, Bahamas, click here
For what we learned, Italy, click here
For what we learned, Southern Spain, click here
For what we learned, France and Morocco, click here


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Ode to Darrin Stevens and Becky Conner

Part of my day job now entails planning virtual employee engagement events. Turns out, many of our technical IT folks are fun and creative, so it's always exciting to let them use a different side of their brains in our seasonal contests. 

For instance, last year we hosted our first-ever virtual gingerbread contest around the holidays and it had great participation.

Chasing that high, I suggested our next engagement activity should be a springtime Peeps diorama contest, being as I’m a little partial to these.

However, I made the mistake of running this idea by HR (tagline: "where fun comes to die"), who determined that it may offend folks who don’t celebrate Easter, and suggested we instead call it a “Spring Candy Diorama Contest.” 

Having been down this road many times, I knew better than to argue and simply replied, “We will definitely promote it as the Spring Candy Diorama Contest. But just out of curiosity – are there any 'spring candies' that are not associated with Easter?” 

I did not receive a reply.

This month, we hosted the gingerbread contest for the second year. (Which is in NO WAY associated with Christmas, and which I suggested promoting as a "December timeframe baked residential structure contest.")

And again, we had great participation and recently announced the top four winners via email - including the overall winner who won by a huge margin. 

So it was slightly disheartening to learn from the winner's manager a few days later that he had STOLEN THE IMAGE OFF THE INTERNET and ENTERED IT INTO OUR LITTLE GINGERBREAD CONTEST! On a hunch, she had searched Google images and found the entry, which won a gingerbread contest somewhere in the Midwest in 2016. 

In the interest of not causing #gingerbreadgate2021, we are planning to quietly insert the list of winners into the next company newsletter – with that guy’s name and the picture of 'his' gingerbread house redacted, and the fifth place finisher now taking a spot on the winners list. Hoping, of course, that our employees are children of ‘70s and ‘80s television who learned to blindly accept when a main character was quietly replaced with an entirely different person and will apply that same suspension of disbelief to the holiday gingerbread contest.

(Ring gels, fruit slices, macaroons, almond kisses, chocolate-covered marshmallows, and chocolate-covered matzo are all spring candies affiliated with Passover. I stand corrected, which is what always happens when I get indignant about something.)

Happy Holidays! Stay healthy! Get vaccinated! Don't steal images from 2016 midwestern gingerbread contests!

-Brutalism

Sunday, October 24, 2021

This Is What You've Been Looking For

I recently read the tweet below and frankly, I beg to differ.

I have a total of TWO friends who live in different parts of the country and we're not so pedestrian that we send each other dog videos. Instead, we find more creative ways to check in.

For example, last night, while in Target buying ingredients for my daughter's pumpkin bread-making date (she and her boyfriend are so ridiculously cute), I came across this lil gem:

Why?

So, even though it was a Saturday night and my friend in NYC was likely out doing what cosmopolitan New Yorkers do on Saturday nights, I texted her the photo, with a quick note that proclaimed, "I found that ceramic Dalmatian wearing a Christmas sweater soap dispenser you've had your eye on!" 

You know, so she understands I'm thinking of her.

Other acceptable phrasing (with actual real-world examples) for these touch bases includes:

    "Here's that [cat in a yoga pose figurine] you've always wanted."

    "Here's that [crossed tennis rackets with an inspirational saying wall decor] you've been looking for."

This has gone on back and forth for YEARS whenever the opportunity arises and it never stops being funny. 

At least to us. 

The 'two friends' thing is making a lot of sense,

Brutalism

Thursday, October 14, 2021

This is Nuts

A favorite thing of late is when my daughter comes home from school and shares notable parts of her day - not only because I love hearing what she deems a highlight, but also because her delivery is impeccable.

During a recent debrief, she casually mentioned that while eating with her friends, she noticed a cashew packed in her lunch looked like it would fit perfectly in the ear of one of her dining companions. And because she is a naturally curious child, she felt compelled to test this hypothesis:

Say what you will, she has always done exceptionally
well with spatial relationships in standardized testing.
Also of note: the very blasé expression
on the insertee's face.

I'd heard her mention ol' cashew-ear's name previously so I inquired, "Oh, is this [NAME] you've told me about before?"

With faux exasperation, she replied, "It's not [NAME] who's allergic to buckwheat, it's the other [KID WHO SHARES SAME NAME]. [thinks for a moment] By the way, who's allergic to buckwheat? How do doctors even know to test for a buckwheat allergy? Who's eating that much buckwheat?"

I haven't heard such a rant about boys in her class since she derisively explained one of her classmates lined up essential oil bottles on his desk and would select and rub an essential oil into his temples prior to taking a test. 

So, she's a little intolerant. 

At least it's not of buckwheat.

Brutalism

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Can-Do Attitude of a Different Ilk

I adopted my husband's last name when we married. It had less to do with succumbing to the patriarchy and more to do with ridding myself of the clunky, inelegant family name I inherited at birth. That name was often mistaken for a similar last name and therefore, was always mispronounced and misspelled.

Then, I became a Cañedo (Can-YAY-doh). And although we add to the confusion by going with the Americanized pronunciation of "Can-eddo" rather than the mellifluous Spanish pronunciation, the name is bastardized in so many different ways it sometimes makes me pine for the birth name days.

I was reminded how badly this name is butchered when I recently called to schedule a doctor's appointment. The woman answering the telephone was the embodiment of "perky" and "chipper" and "I need an IV of espresso, stat!"

She helpfully asked my date of birth and last name (which I pronounced correctly), then buoyantly responded, "found your record right here, Mrs. Can-Do!"

As I knew this call would last for a couple of minutes and I would likely never speak to this person again, I did not correct her. 

(Narrator: She would live to regret that decision.)

While she began looking for an appointment date that worked with my schedule, I asked if she could also tell me the last time I was there, to make sure the appointment timing was correct. She cheerfully agreed to do so by brightly announcing, "Of course, Mrs. Can-Do, I'll look that up now."

And she was obviously looking through a list of records because as she scrolled, she chirped, "Let's see....Can-Do, Can-Do, Can-Do, Can-Do, Can-Do, Can-Do, Can-Do..." (repeat infinity times as I looked for a pencil to shove deep into my ear canal). 

She enthusiastically informed me of my last appointment, and scheduled the next one, reminding me to show up at least 15 minutes early to fill out paperwork. 

To which I (naturally) replied, "can do."

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Lackluster and Totally Luster

I recently re-enlisted the time and expertise of a trainer I worked with five years ago. In addition to making me work so hard that I "breathe like an asthmatic pug" (his words), when I am able to breathe, he also makes me laugh. Sometimes even on purpose.

Yesterday, he asked me what I had planned the rest of the day and I mentioned I was meeting six women for brunch who were part of a group that did a semester in London together in college - we were sending off one of our ranks as she embarks on a new chapter in Kansas. He queried, "where are you going to brunch?" and I replied, "a place called Blend 111."

Puzzled, he asked, "There is a restaurant named Bland?" And I sarcastically patiently explained, "yes, they named the restaurant 'Bland' - I guess 'Uninspired Flavorless Pabulum” was already taken."

Note: I feel compelled to share this is 
a really great restaurant. The food is anything 
BUT bland, and the service is phenomenal.


In different and equally ridiculous news, another friend is spending time redecorating a cabin she owns in the woods. (You may remember a horror movie weekend I spent there several years ago.) To add to the rustic, outdoorsy vibe, she ordered these prints to adorn the cabin walls:


So you can imagine her surprise when she opened the (correctly-labeled) prints and found the following inside:

Less of a rustic, outdoorsy vibe, and somehow feels more like a place
I'd wanna stay. (Apparently, Banksy is now at an Amazon fulfillment center.)


Definitely not bland,
Brutalism

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

I'm a Loo-ser, Baby, So Why Don't You Kill Me

It's no secret I'm a bit of a Dilettante, so in the areas of life where I feel I have full comprehension and mastery, I perhaps revel in it a bit too much, and then rest on my proverbial laurels.

Take toilets, for example. 

Toilets, I get: Use for intended purpose. Keep clean. Expert level achieved. 

Until you are required to go shopping for a new one for the first time in years and learn in the time you've been out of the toilet buying game, the entire industry has metamorphosed into something you don't recognize with added "features" and "engaging video content" and hyperbolized claims of what toilets can do.          

To wit:

Do I want the "no slam" seat...

...or the "slow close" seat?
(I mean, it's a $30 value - what have you
done for me lately "no slam" seat?)


Do I want a toilet that can accommodate 
seven billiard balls in a single flush...
(Yes, yes I do want this. Badly.)


...or one that can accommodate a
bucket of golf balls in a single flush?
(Talk about Sophie's Choice)

Aside: My mother has shared an adorable anecdote from when I was very young and our family of four was living in a tiny apartment with one bathroom. She walked by that bathroom one morning and heard the following from me: 
        "Bye bye, barrettes >flush<, Bye bye, socks >flush< Bye bye..."                              Mom runs into bathroom and prevents rubber ducky/bathroom scale/sister from meeting same fate.
I forgave her for being a fun-ruiner just as she forgave me for having our one bathroom out of commission until she could find an emergency plumber. 

Another aside: I am currently reading Sophie's Choice. It is extremely well-written and I appreciate the book, but cannot seem to get past about 100 pages. I don't know, perhaps digging into a heart-wrenchingly depressing book in the midst of a global pandemic was not the best idea. 

And yet another aside: Without getting too graphic, what diet necessitates toilets able to flush insane amounts of sports balls? 

And finally - to the people who have made developing content, video production, and marketing their life's work: kudos for adding this little gem to your resume:


"Never Compromise™ - it's the most perfect flush, yet!
They take flush power, bowl cleanliness, and toilet design to the leading edge!
Aquapiston ® technology! Cleancoat™ technology! ReadyLock™ System!"

So many technologies! And systems!

This was part of the display at the toilet store. 
To enjoy the video in its entirety, go here.

(Hmmm...why does Revolution 360 sound so familiar?) 



Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Great Pink Eye of Infinite Wisdom

Yesterday, Mr. Brutalism texted me while he was out running errands and asked me to take a pic of the grocery list on the kitchen door and send it to him so he could shop for groceries. 

Happy to oblige, I skipped downstairs, snapped the photo, and sent it. 

As a bonus, I also took a close up of the cat's anus and sent that along, sans comment. 

He never replied to this bit of inspiration, but later in the day, I received an email from him with the subject line "Awesome LA house!"

He knows how much I look at LA real estate as I am constantly planning our future there. I send him links to houses on Trulia all the time, but this was the first time he sent me a link. Encouraged, I clicked open the email - only to find the photo of the cat's sphincter. 

He also sent this along: an entire genre of cat butt coloring books - available on Amazon.

On one hand, these are my people and I've never felt so seen. On the other hand...perhaps this is the impetus we all need to take our business elsewhere.

I love a happy ending,

Brutalism

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Sundance Film Festival 2021 - it was virtually perfect!


The big screen

Like many people, I prefer experiences to things when it comes to receiving gifts. Of course, it’s rather challenging to plan experiences during a pandemic, so it is a testament to my husband’s gift-giving prowess that for Christmas, he presented me with an all-inclusive pass to the virtual Sundance Film Festival 2021.

The film festival was this past weekend – so after a weekend comprised of our selection of ten full-length features and 20 shorts (and assorted Q&As with filmmakers and actors) – I bring you “What I Watched: Sundance 2021” with my completely amateur assessments of the most memorable films as determined by me. Enjoy!

U.S. Dramatic Competition

John and the Hole – Michael C. Hall – the guy who played serial killer Dexter -- now plays an affluent and uninvolved Dad whose 13-year-old kid drugs him, his wife, and their daughter and keeps them trapped in an underground bunker for about a week, while the kid lives life on his own terms, using the family’s house, money, and car to maintain his schedule and buy food. (SPOILER ALERT: when he finally helps his family out of the bunker, there is no explanation for why he did this. I do not care for ambiguous, nebulous movies like this – particularly after such an intriguing build up. There is no “why” except possibly flashbacks involving what appears to be his Mom when she was his age may have something to do with it? I presume it is supposed to be unsettling and thought-provoking for the viewer. If so, achieved.)

Rating: Spoon-feed me, please - B-

On the Count of Three  - I unfairly likened this to the male version of Thelma and Louise, which is not at all accurate, but helps provide some sort of context. The two leads have amazing chemistry as best friends and you root for them through the entire film – even (especially?) when they run afoul of the law and Jerrod Carmichael delivers lines such as, “Hey, man – thanks for hitting my dad with a tire iron. You’re a good friend.” Even though this is heavy material (a suicide pact, mental illness, child molestation), it is darkly funny and very sweet. Tiffany Haddish and Henry Winkler make brief but meaningful appearances.

Rating: Buddy movie with a twist - A


U.S. Documentary Competition

Homeroom – Oakland, CA kids organize and rally to remove police from their schools, who are not only threatening and triggering for the primarily black and brown kids in the school district, but whose funding is also taking away necessary programs and services from this same population. The tragic murder of George Floyd occurs during the filming of this documentary, which ultimately helps persuade the school board to vote with the kids after initially not supporting them.

Rating: Hopeful for the future – A

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It – 87-year-old national treasure Rita Moreno has joie de vivre that makes you love her from the minute the film begins and leaves you wanting more when it ends. After describing how Moreno overcame numerous obstacles including racism and sexism to seemingly embody the American Dream of struggling to achieve great success – this filmmaker posits, “and what could she have achieved had she NOT had to deal with that?” It is a deeper look into Rita Moreno’s life, tribulations, and a more complete picture of entertainer-as-human-being, including her early and continued activism, her relationship with Marlon Brando (about whom she delivers a perfectly timed line that made me laugh out loud), and surprising honesty about what looked like her perfect marriage. And at 87, she’s still working, wearing heels, dancing, and celebrating life on her terms.

Rating: Hey, you GUUUYYYSSSS! She’s the best and this was well done - A

Try Harder! – as the parent of a teenager who will be applying to college in a few short years, this film resonated with (and by “resonated with”, I of course mean “scared the crap out of”) me. It follows kids from one of the most selective public high schools in the country as they navigate their high school years and college application process. These kids have taken all the AP courses, have weighted GPAs of 4.5 or higher, and have sacrificed sleep, friendships, social lives, and many ‘normal’ high school experiences in the hope of being admitted to top-tier schools. (Most of them view Stanford as the gold standard, as this is a San Francisco-area school.) It turns out that when you are one of many kids with the same stellar resume, Stanford is simply not interested. Nor is Yale, or UC Berkeley, or Harvard. It is an interesting commentary on ticking all the right boxes to succeed, and it not being enough because it has made you the same as everyone else.

Rating: Be yourselves, for the love of God - A-

Our favorite movie snacks - we fully embraced
being couch potatoes

World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Human Factors – see “John and the Hole” above – are there repeated home break-ins? Aren’t there? What does this mean to this family and their lives? Do I even care?

Rating: Headscratcher – B-


Premieres

How It Ends – a full-length feature comedy with cameos from every person you’ve ever seen on screen - such as Rob Huebel – the guy who is in everything, including my favorite meme:


This is a lighthearted and surprisingly warm and funny narrative about the last day on earth before a meteor wipes out humankind. Interesting aside: it is filmed in LA during the pandemic - so none of the actors are closer than six feet together but it is not part of the story line. (Learned that in the Q&A and didn't even notice it when watching the film.)

Rating: Funniest death-by-meteor movie I’ve seen - A

The Sparks Brothers – billed as a documentary about “your favorite band’s favorite band” and “the greatest band you’ve never heard of.” And admittedly, I’m in the group uncool enough to have never heard of them. It made me miss John Marshall terribly, as he would not only have known their library of songs and been disgusted I didn’t, but would have also pointed out why I was incorrect in my assessment that no one has heard of them because their music is TERRIBLE. If you know this band, and particularly if you like this band, please explain it to me. The documentary was well done – I just don’t get the appeal.

Rating: In tribute to the avant-garde-ness of the subject matter, I rate this film: cucumbers

Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street – you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll still be able to remember every song and segment from this wonderful show. Delightful to reflect on a bunch of smart, creative people doing something that mattered and continues to matter. 

Rating: Today’s letter is - A+

Searchers – documentary about online dating in NYC. I’ll save you the two hours: it’s dehumanizing. Interesting filming – but way too long and not sure we gained any new insights.

Rating: It’s not you, it's me – B-


Shorts

Wiggle Room – easily my favorite of all the shorts. The film focuses on a young woman who is seemingly invisible and powerless due to being poor, a minority, a woman, young, and disabled due to an accident. When she treks to an insurance company to follow up on a long-delayed payment for a wheelchair ramp her coverage is supposed to provide – she proves just how strong she is in a way that will have you cheering for her and thinking about this short many days after watching it.

Rating: You go, girl! – A+

A Concerto is A Conversation – I lied. This was easily my favorite of all the shorts. This film is a conversation between a 91-year-old black man and his grandson – about growing up in two very different times and both realizing different kinds of success (the grandson’s due in large part to obstacles faced, hardships overcome, and choices made by his grandfather). It is devastating (though unsurprising) how much racism and how many obstacles the grandfather was faced with, and instead of being defeated, was inspired to find different paths to his success. Harkening back to the Rita Moreno film – imagine what he could have achieved if he didn’t have to deal with that.  

Rating: This is just fantastic all around, and the interesting choice of using two cameras for close ups was brilliant - A+

You Wouldn’t Understand – I didn’t. I think it was about time travel and lasers and a pricing gun being used as an actual gun and interrupting a gentleman’s picnic.

Rating: SBH (Should Be High to watch this)

 

Documentary Shorts

The Field Trip  – depressingly accurate perspective of what corporate America looks like through the lens of kids spending half a day living it during a fifth grade field trip to Junior Achievement Biz Town.

Rating: I think we should amplify this through our channels and think outside the box – A

When We Were Bullies  - husband and I had differing opinions on this documentary that revisited a bullying incident the filmmaker took part in 50 years prior at his Brooklyn, NY, elementary school. He tracks down and interviews classmates and even the teacher for their perspectives on the incident. I wanted more remorse from those involved and less focus on them and more about the kid who was bullied (the filmmaker said that was the original intent, but he changed his mind). Stylistically, this was great. But if you’re going to the trouble of tracking down the bullies - I need contrition and growth. If not, I don’t need to hear how this affected the kids doing the bullying – I know they are way less traumatized than a child being jumped and pummeled by a crowd.

Rating: They should all get wedgies - B


Two enthusiastic thumbs up,
Brutalism

Friday, January 22, 2021


Yesterday, I learned The Standard West Hollywood is permanently closing after an unsustainable rent hike. 

Tim and I first learned of The Standard during a trip out west when we were newly married. At the time, we were staying at the Riot Hyatt across Sunset Boulevard and were intrigued by The Standard's iconic upside-down sign, so we ventured over to investigate. We fell immediately in love and have visited and stayed there during our subsequent trips to LA. 

Disclosure: Leo DiCaprio is an investor in this hotel
Perhaps he could spare a few shekels to keep it open?

We were nowhere near cool enough to be hanging out here - but somehow also didn't feel out of place in this weird and welcoming hotel. The funky décor, including a fish tank behind reception featuring rotating art installations often had human models as centerpieces.





Standard lobby 2013


              Possibly the best gig, ever           


For spring break 2013, we brought our then seven-year-old daughter here to stay for the first time. 

We rented a very subtle bitchin' Camaro 




Lobby bubble chairs 2013

The rooms were minimalist chic, the 24-hour Standard diner was great, and the impossibly good-looking valets are likely now all starring in major motion pictures.

But without question, the best thing about the hotel was ‘Desert Nights’ – a Wednesday night concert that took place in a tiny room off the hotel lobby called the Cactus Lounge. It seated maybe 20 people and was like listening to a concert in your living room – except instead of your stupid cousin, Gary, playing the accordion, it was fantastic live acoustic music from immensely talented singers and musicians. The audience sat, rapt, and let them do their thing. It is (was) a live music experience unlike any other. 

(Of course we asked if our seven-year-old daughter could hang out with us for 'Desert Nights' even though she was the only kid there, and they graciously allowed it, as long as she met her two Shirley Temple minimum. She has a good life.)

I loved Desert Nights so much, I'd recommend it to anyone heading to LA. Most recently, I suggested it to my boss who was visiting the city with his wife. He hated everything about LA and could not wait to leave, but absolutely loved the evening they spent listening to music at The Standard.       

And although we didn't know it until yesterday, summer of 2018 would be the last time we visited the hotel. My daughter and I stopped in for a late lunch and a sit in the bubble chairs after spending the day together in Hollywood:

Hollywood Ave 2018 

I know there are other Standard hotels - including one in downtown LA - but they will never have the same funky cachet as WeHo. 

Standard Diner menus


Cabo Cantina across the street from The Standard - which
we enjoyed in spite of the mega-rita (the name, not the drink)


I'm gonna need a couple of mega-ritas to process this,
Brutalism