Sunday, May 31, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Burning Questions

This evening, I took my teenage daughter to see X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I really enjoy being a mom, but one of the iffy aspects of parenting is that you get to see ALL the movies based on comic books and comic book characters. All.

So, of course, I've seen all of the previous X-Men movies, and I must admit that Hugh Jackman Wolverine has always been my favorite character. I was less reluctant to see this one than I was, say, Spiderman 3. I also like to Know Everything, so a line of films tagged "origins" seemed promising to me.

It turned out, though, that the movie raised as many questions as it answered.

For instance, why did the man who WASN'T anyone's father at the beginning of the film look so much like Wolverine?

And were those Hugh Jackman's arms, for real, or did they do that with some of that crazy putty they use to make people look bigger than they are?

My daughter also pointed out that they never really told us how Logan or Victor obtained their powers (or those nifty little retractable claws)--they explained how Wolverine became indestructible and lost his memory, but nothing about his actual ORIGINS, if you will.

And are those Hugh Jackman's real biceps? Because I've never really noticed them in any of his other movies.

We also wondered when Logan became Canadian, since most of the early catch-up scenes had him fighting in American wars (including, apparently, the Civil War, so it's not likely that the Canadians were just backing us up).

And why, if those are Hugh Jackman's actual shoulders, he looks so slight when he's dressed more professionally. Or, you know, at all.

The list could go on, but it feels futile. After all, this was the "origins" movie. It seems unlikely that we'll get another installment called X-Men Even Further Back: Wolverine. Or even The Origins of Hugh Jackman's Biceps.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Turns out I DIDN'T Know What Roses Smelled Like

If you know me well, you've probably heard me say, "I know what roses smell like...let's move on." I'm a multi-tasker, not much about sitting around and watching the sun set. Maybe, then, it's appropriate that I am at this moment at the Get a Life conference in Chicago (blogging...see, there's that multi-tasking thing).

It's actually a very interesting and entertaining program of legal marketing and practice-management speakers, created around the concept that lawyers needn't actually kill themselves or give up food, water and sleep in order to build successful law practices. And it's been highly informative thus far. But I learned something at lunch that might be even more important.

Different colored roses smell different.

No, really.

You might not think that's a particularly important piece of information, and maybe standing alone it's not. But here's the thing: I'm 42 years old and for years, I've been saying, "I know what roses smell like...let's move on" and it turns out that I DIDN'T. I assumed I knew what roses smelled like precisely because I hadn't ever taken the time to truly smell them before. Now, maybe it turns out that I don't care (that seems likely, at the end of the day), but who knows what else I've been missing?

Today, at a conference designed specifically to remind me of such things, a woman stepped forward and offered me roses to smell. That probably isn't going to happen in most areas of life. Maybe I'd better stop multi-tasking and listen up.

If you're reading this on May 27 or 28, you can too--free streaming video at

Monday, May 25, 2009

Laughter, Hilltops, and Utilitarian Signage

Last night, I had dinner with a very old friend. Well, she's not THAT old, but we've been friends for a very long time--25 years this August. We're both pretty strong-willed and we've hit some glitches over the years, but one thing that has never changed is the laughter. She's pretty funny--a former stand-up comedian, actually--so I have no idea whether this is a function of some chemistry between us or she makes everyone she comes in contact with laugh non-stop.

Well, that's not entirely true. I'm pretty sure we were only entertaining ourselves the day we returned to our college dorm and earnestly proclaimed our conversion to Hare Krishna ("I know it sounds crazy, but we really listened to these people, and what they're saying made a lot of sense...") or with the tea-time marble ritual. I suspect that it would have been the same last night, when we decided it was imperative that we use brightly colored post-it notes to improve the park district signage. I mean, what good is a map with no "You are here" icon?

But some things are universal. EVERYONE (yes, this means you) should go out at once, find a grassy hill, remove his or her shoes and roll down it as quickly as possible. I know you're skeptical, but I'm really sure on this. Seriously. Take your kids. Lie on your side, stretch your arms over your head, and just roll. Let the momentum build.

My friend was a little skeptical, too--especially about the part where she had to hang her purse in a tree and leave it unattended to climb the hill. But I think she's been converted now. Rolling down a hill barefoot in the cool grass has much more to offer than the Krishnas ever will (no offense to any followers who might happen to be reading this).

There was one somber moment, though...the moment when I noticed this sturdy and utilitarian sign marring the otherwise lovely landscape of the riverbank:

I feared I might be responsible.

In the summer of 1989, I walked that same path late at night with a young man. I don't want to name any names, since he's now a respectable professional with a wife and two kids, a member of my church and (most importantly) my friend on Facebook, where this blog feeds into my notes. But in those days he was best known as guitarist for the dive-bar band Big Daddy Pickle & the Sweet Midgets.

Long after dark, we encountered a yellow and orange sculpture that purely begged to be climbed. It was created in a sort of woven grid--it looked for all the world like a jungle gym. And at its foot was a quaint, hand-painted sign that said, "Please Keep Off the Sculptures". I remember the sign clearly (and not just because I still have it somewhere in my storage unit). It was wood, painted a lovely sea green with pale blue writing on it, and it scarcely disturbed the landscape. I was something of a legalist, though, and when Bruce..errr...the guy I was with...suggested that we climb the sculpture I pointed to the sign. "It says right there..."




He placed the sign neatly face down in the grass and gestured to the sculpture again. It was, indeed, meant for climbing. Since it was already broken, I took the sign home with me. My mother, never conventional, laughed and said, "That's almost worth getting some sculptures."

This new sign couldn't be removed by human hands. It's much smaller and much more modern, and I'm quite sure those signs would have been updated by now anyway...but I'm willing to give back the original, if they'd like to go back to those quant, hand-painted signs that sat so nicely among the flora.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The best thing in my life...

is this pear tree:

Okay, that's an obvious lie.

I have, for instance, a fabulously beautiful daughter. I have a job I love working for people I respect and admire--from the comfort and convenience of my own home. In short, I'm Spoiled Rotten.

But this pear tree, somehow, just changes my whole day every time I walk outside. For about half the year, it just looks like a regular tree and I don't pay it much attention. But then one day in spring--and I do mean one day--it blossoms. Suddenly, like an explosion. One day it's green, the next it has a few little spindly things opening up on it and then's a mass of white flowers and perfumes the whole yard.

This year, it bloomed at the end of a full day of rain, so that the blossoms seemed to come out with the sun. They don't last long, but later, of course, there will be pears.

I'll try to eat them when it's far too early, and they'll be hard to bite into and not at all sweet. Later, when the tree is hanging heavy with fruit, I'll be more discriminating, choosing the pears that are exactly right. And toward the end of the season, when fruit is rotting on the ground and bees are circling, I'll have to pull this out:

Pretty rudimentary, yes. You've probably noticed that it's basically a stick with a bent piece of wire hanger attached to it with electrical tape. But it does what I couldn't do for the first three seasons I lived here: pluck the fruit from the uppermost branches while it's still good to eat. Maybe just as importantly, it was a gift from my father, who dropped by on his Harley and witnessed my efforts to reach that fruit one afternoon and came back later that same day with this tool in hand.

Occasionally, I'll look out the front door and see strangers, often families, picking pears. I usually offer them a helpful hint or a bag or the use of my pear picker, not so much because I think they need my help as because it's the most subtle way I can think of to say, "Welcome. Help yourself."


I'm starting to think maybe it WASN'T such an obvious lie, after all