July 8th, 2007


Dang ...

I was having a chat with a couple of folks over on Info Island in S.L. last night when the subject of sobriety came up, and I realized that we'd (my family) "missed" my Anniversary, again. Earlier on in my not-drinking this was celebrated with roses (one for every year), and special stuff. I guess ever since my sobriety got "old enough to drink" it's lost its innocence and is now just a fuddy-duddy like the rest of us (July 1 marked my 22nd year).

I did come up with a real sweet line last night, though:

Time just flies when you're not hungover!

heh ...

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An odd day ...

Well, we set out to go have lunch (at a bar, how ironic) to do a late celebration of my sobriety and then go to a movie, but things got screwed up. I don't know what the deal was up on Division Street, though. We were going to have lunch up at Finn McCool's (we have gift certificates) but when we got there around noon (it's scheduled to open at 11am) it was closed. Not only was it closed, but both Shenanigans and Butch McGuire's across the street were closed, as was The Lodge, as was the pizza place, all of which regularly are open for brunch on Sundays. Since the beer signs were on, it must not have been a power issue, so I'm guessing there was some water problem up there. It's been in the mid-90's, so a lot of "system failure" possibilities are in play, but I'm surprised that I couldn't find anything on the web about a Division St. shut-down.

Unfortunately, we had been cutting the time short, so by the time we got a "plan B" worked out, we were not likely to make the movie showing we were planning on. We ended up getting on a #22 bus at Clark & Division, which then sat there for 10 minutes before the driver told us it was broken! We ended up going downstairs to take the El down to Grand, and figured we'd find some place to eat down there. We looked at both the Rock Bottom and the Weber Grill, but neither had a kids' menu, and I just hate being charged $10 for a fucking hamburger, so we kept walking towards Michigan, hoping to find something near the theater. We decided to pop up to the food court at the Nordstrom's mall, but came in through the back way (through the store). We noticed the little cafe they have there, which did have a kids' menu (and some interesting salads), so we opted for that. The sandwich prices were a bit high (I'm not real enthused about paying $9 for a panini) but they had a couple of entrees that were a DEAL ... I had a beautiful grilled hunk of salmon with very nice roast veggies for half of what they could have gotten for that (it was under $12) ... so that worked out well.

According to the newspaper, the next available movie time (at the other theater) was 3:10, so we took The Girls down to the Lego Store to kill some time on the play tables. When we got to the theater, though, we found that there were more showtimes than had been listed, so we could have seen the movie (Ratatouille ... review to follow) an hour earlier, had we known. Strangely, the movie only depressed me (a lot of reasons for that), and we came home and I'm in my office writing this.

All in all, the day was pretty fucked up, but ended up not being a total disaster.

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Eh ...

So, we went to see Ratatouille this afternoon. #1 surprise: the "star" rat's name is not "Ratatouille" but "Remy", which I think is a good thing. In fact "Ratatouille" is something of a punch line saved for the end of the film, but that would involve "spoilers", so I won't go into more details on that. Disney is flogging the hell out of this, though, so I sort of expected something better that what this delivers.

Once again, Hollywood showed that it either is pretty slim on ideas or has real bad corporate espionage, otherwise WHY make so damned many similarly-themed movies? There was Madagascar in 2005, followed by The Wild in 2006; Happy Feet in 2006, followed by Surf's Up in 2007; and Flushed Away in 2006, now followed by Ratatouille in 2007 ... one would think that the various studios would "get wind of" very similar stories of zoo animals, penguins, or rats in development nearly simultaneously, but I guess we have to think this was just "in the water" at a given time. Frankly, I had "Flushed Away" flashbacks a couple of times in this film, and I can't help but think these were triggered intentionally (much like how that film had blatant nods to other projects).

To tell the truth, I was uncomfortable through much of the film, having worked in the Food Industry for a long time, and the whole "fancy French restaurant" thing was hitting a lot of buttons for me, so my take on the movie was likely to be reasonably unusual. Frankly, I walked out of the movie feeling depressed ... largely because they were parading 3-5 star Parisian cuisine in front of me and it has been many LONG years since I've been able to really afford to have any top-notch restaurant cooking, and I miss it terribly. Back in my P.R. days, we'd eat out in fine restaurants 2-3 times a week, and these days I'm lucky if I manage the equivalent 2-3 times a year. Anyway, that's the level that I connected with this movie!

I was surprised to see some of the names involved when I got home and punched up IMDB.com ... none of the voice talent was featured in ads, and you have to stick around through a ton of credits to get the point where they very quickly scroll the cast. For instance, the female lead is voiced by Janeane Garofalo, the Famous Chef is voiced by Brad Garrett (both of these doing thick French accents), the evil Restaurant Reviewer being voiced by Peter O'Toole (!), and roles voiced by Brian Dennehy and John Ratzenberger. I suppose that having three of the main characters being voiced by nearly unknown actors might make it a bit difficult playing up the names in the supporting cast, but it does seem odd that one pretty much has to go on the web to find this info!

Technically, of course, the film is superb ... the level of computer animation that Pixar is delivering creates a very nearly seamless world that sucks the viewer right in. The story, while certainly far-fetched, plays out with an internal logic, plot twists, and emotional involvement. My not enjoying it (as much as The Girls and The Wife seemed to) I think has more to do with MY issues around the "fine cuisine" story line than the movie itself. As such, I think this could well be recommended to anyone, as it has as much to deliver to adults (as a comedy) as to the kids (as a cartoon).

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another ...

Here's another of those books that re-surfaced when we dug out the front bathroom ... I recall having this sitting around a while, but I don't recall buying it, which makes me think (along with the retail stickers on it) that it came from my late Mother several years back.

As I've noted previously, I don't really read "business books", and this is on the border of being one of those. As opposed to those "newagey" positive-think books I read a month or so back, this is coming out from the "INJOY Group", which appears to be one of those suppliers of rah-rah business meeting speakers, including it's author, John C. Maxwell. The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow is at least brief and to the point (albeit seemingly a follow-up to another "21" book Maxwell had previously released on "Leadership"), being, not surprisingly, structured in 21 chapters, each with a couple of more-or-less to-theme quotes, a "story" about a leader who manifested that particular quality, a "Fleshing It Out" section with key points of that quality broken out, a "Reflecting On It" section with questions to ask yourself about how you exhibit (or not) that quality, a "Bringing It Home" section with something of a to-do list to work on that quality, and a "Daily Take-Away" section which generally deals with some public figure who did something which illustrates the quality being discussed in that chapter. Maxwell suggests spreading the 21 chapters out over a month or so to be able to "work" through each (yeah, I just read through it).

So, what are these "indispensable qualities" a leader should have? Here's the list: Character, Charisma, Commitment, Communication, Competence, Courage, Discernment, Focus, Generosity, Initiative, Listening, Passion, Positive Attitude, Problem Solving, Relationships, Responsibility, Security, Self-Discipline, Servanthood, Teachability, and Vision. Unfortunately, much like those "positive attitude" books (oh, look, it's there again), if you're deficient in any of these areas, you fail as a leader. Although the book is structured to allow one to work on oneself, the attitude seems far more dismissive for those who don't already "measure up".

So, would I recommend The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader? I guess so ... again, it's "not my kind of thing", but I admire its structure, and found some of the bits and pieces in it quite fascinating (I've especially glommed onto one of the quotes, from anthropologist Margaret Mead: "What people say, what people do, and what they say they do are entirely different things.") ... of course, if the self-help genre is your cup of tea, this will likely be one of your favorite books (it certainly has a bunch of 5-star raves on its Amazon page). Speaking of Amazon, this is still in print (so might well be at your local brick & mortar bookstore) and they have this for about 1/3rd off of cover, which is likely as good as you're likely to do on it, as it's about a wash (with shipping) on what their new/used vendors are currently offering.

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