Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Who Are We to Judge?

A Healthy Dose of Criticism is a Good Thing

Recently Patti LaBelle (known for her malleable hair), was in the news for stating that "some" people don't have the qualifications required to judge the contestants on American Idol.
She doesn't name names (fair enough). She also thinks many of the comments are too mean.

Now Patti isn't the only person saying stuff like this - I just couldn't resist the opportunity to remind everyone that the woman could rock her hair like a peacock, (that's what a "New Attitude" will do). Comments like this are funny to me for a few reasons. Lots of people have said that AI is "too mean" and that some judges, Ellen DeGeneres, in particular, doesn't have the cred to sit in judgement. But think about it. Consumers of downloads, CDs, etc., are for the most part "non-musicians". Doesn't that earn us a place at the table? We're going to end up being the judge anyway (AI is a contest and the general public is asked to vote, regardless of musical training or knowledge). We'll also eventually "vote" with our wallets.
And the claim that these judges say mean things pales in comparison to the painful realities of actual show business. One of the most valuable things a performer can receive (sometimes even more valuable than the opportunity itself) is ADVICE. AI is a lesson in how to handle this - and how to move forward.

At the age of 8 I was dancing with the Tennessee Ballet Company and believe me, even at that age, the real world doesn't pad criticism with any niceties. My German teacher explained to me after a particularly aggressive lashing regarding my turn out and posture (hot tears rolling down my cheeks) that I was lucky. The rest of the class was simply not even good enough to waste her time critiquing. That incident at such an early age prepared me (though, not always - sometimes it is chemistry) for dealing with criticism and direction. Personally, I judge the contestants on how well they receive and apply the valuable criticism they receive.

There are simple facts. Some people "have it", and some people don't. Doesn't matter how badly they "want it", they got to "have it" first. If we spoon feed all of the "have-nots" we'd have even more crap on the radio to listen to, and a lot fewer people waiting tables at restaurants. I wish they were even harsher. These people are performing live on television 2-3 nights a week, we should be asking ourselves are they worth it?

Shut It Spoil Sports!

Good grief. Is anyone else getting sick of Evgeni Plushenko? How about Katherine Heigl? What about the Canadian fans that were so rude they made a Danish curler cry?

Do any of these people, wait, scratch that, these people CLEARLY DON'T know how good they have it.

First up Plushenko. You are a very sore loser. You lost, now take some deep breaths and return to retirement. Did you watch your performance yet? Your jumps, although impressive attempts, were not landed perfectly and that, my commrade, is what it takes to win gold. You get points for difficulty, but you don't win when you aren't the best sweetie.
Your choreography was choppy, and frankly, you looked ridiculous. It reminded me of the awkward rock and roll routines of Viktor Petrenko - only without with the charm - and he lands his jumps. Please shut up and go away. I'm sure someone would be happy to buy your silver medal off eBay if you don't want to keep it, spoil sport.
Do you want to get some McDonalds?

Dearest Katherine. If Grey's Anatomy is such a crappy place to work, do yourself a favor and quit. Stop pussy-footing around it. Just quit. The "she might quit" rumors are tiresome, and nobody is watching anymore anyway! But as long as the show still airs, there are millions of actresses chomping at the bit for a chance (including me). Go do your horrible anti-feminist movies (so IRONIC Katherine, after your very public criticism of Knocked Up - the very vehicle that put you on the map).
No one likes it when a work colleague (try thinking of it that way sweetheart) takes time off to bond with baby (3 months), comes back to film a handful of episodes and then plans to leave again to film a movie. Then on top of everything you WILL NOT SHUT UP ABOUT THE HOURS. Last time I checked, a paycheck that looks like yours requires a lot beyond the typical 9-5.
Now, if you're so tired, go lay down and take a nap.

Hey Canadians - I didn't forget about you! I get it. You're super excited, eh, about curling and just being the Olympic host, eh? I get it. However - try educating yourself on proper spectator behavior for sports that may be new to you. I'd hate to see the wrath you'd get on a golf course with this type of rambunctious display. That said, I'm cutting you a break. After all, you did come up with "Eh, oh, Canada!" Which is just funny.
Sore-ee uh-boat -that Canada.

Plus - your Country has the most sportsmanlike and poised athlete at the Olympics.

In this Olympic season, can we all try to remember what we do have - and try to show some grace and poise under pressure. Case in point: Joannie Rochette. Her mom just died, and yet she only became more focused, more grateful for the opportunity, more appreciative of her fans and the gift she has. I bet you'd never hear her complaining about outcomes, hours or even raising her voice. If gold medals could be awarded for grace, Joannie would be at the top of the podium.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sun, sun, su-uuuhhh-un...Song Sell-Outs


Lately, as I listen to Pandora, reels of commercials get played inside my head alongside the music. Is there a song left that isn't shecking Toyota Prius, Wheat Thins, iAnything?

Remember when it was considered a faux pas to lend your artisitic creations to the "man"? It seems that there isn't a song on today that doesn't have an accompanying marketing message strolling through the sub-conscience of my mind.

Here is a list of songs playing this hour on Pandora and their accompanying ads:

5 Years Time (Noah and the Whale): Saturn Vue, SunChips, Ford Focus, Cheerios...
Somewhere Only We Know (Keane): Victoria's Secret; Many TV promos and Movie montages
Point of View (Ivy): Not this song, but practically every song off Apartment Life has been used.
Here's Where the Story Ends (The Sundays): Not this one, but Wild Horses sold Budweiser.
Karma Police (Radiohead): Only used in the documentary about them, Meeting People is Easy.
There She Goes (Sixpense None the Richer) [Thumbs down]: Parent Trap, Girl, Interrupted...
We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye (Toni Price): Nothing. Classy!
Portrait of an Artist (Lizzie West): Not this, but a killer version of Chariots Rise in Secretary.
Island in the Sun (Weezer): Beaches Family Resorts and crappy movies.
Falling (Ben Kweller): Natch! Only an episode of Austin City Limits.

It's not that I'm against anyone marketing themselves (I Read Michelle's Blog!), I just think it's kinda sad that the first time I hear songs, it's not often a radio DJ introducing it, MTV, or a weekend hit show. It's usually a commercial.

But then again, radio is not what it use to be. Check out my buddy's blog on the subject - specifically, Songs WXRT Should Stop Playing.


Monday, February 22, 2010

40 Drinks in 40 Days - My Lenten Challenge

So - you can tackle Lent many ways. Give up stuff. Do stuff. Give stuff. Ignore stuff. Or any combination of these things.

This year, Rob and I are trying "40 Drinks in 40 Days". That is the total number of alcoholic beverages we can consume over the Lenten season. My mother is reading this and judging us. But, I would like to point out that St. Patrick's Day falls during this time period, and in Chicago, it is an all day sporting event.

Since last Wednesday I have had one Dark and Stormy (Friday), one beer (@ Wilde Pug for Mickey's birthday - you have to buy something to hang out with your dog there for an extended period of time) and one glass of wine (Saturday night dinner). See how this works?

This weekend should be challenging because we have 2 events 1) a Bull's game (don't think I'll have more than two there...are you aware of the ridiculous cost of a Miller Lite at any professional sporting event?) 2) a good friends' homecoming party. He was halfway around the world. That is a 5 drink allotment, minimum.

We actually have a tally sheet on our fridge:

And less than a week in, we've already found ways to "cheat". Order doubles. Order "Ladies" drinks. Order "talls". Select "Large Format" beers. If you drink wine, get someone to refill the glass before it is empty, that is still one drink. Yeah, I know - kind of lame that we're not really trying to challenge ourselves that much.

But it is interesting to actually keep tabs on consumption of any kind. As Americans we're not just known for our loud patriotic cheering, we're also known for our fat asses. I for one am tired of having one of those - and have been paying close attention to what I eat, and now what I drink.

I'll keep you posted, one drink at a time.



Thursday, February 18, 2010

Spring Fever!

Anybody else catch the fever yet?

When the weather starts to turn (even from the 20's to the balmy 30's) I just can't concentrate.

Spring means shedding all of these layers of clothing. Finally getting all that Vitamin D I've been missing. People crawling out of their winter dens and slowly making their way to the lakefront for some spring exercise and fresh air.

Summer plans begin to take shape. Lollapalooza rumors start spreading. Summer shows begin rehearsals. Catchers and pitchers report to camp. March Madness brackets come together. The freezer has been emptied - whether through consumption or boredom - chili, soup and stew no longer sound good. Bright cotton tees and dresses push out drab gray sweaters and coats, marked down embarrasingly cheap - they were never cozy enough.

And of course a renewal of interest in the opposite sex (or if you don't roll that way, your preferred sex). Doesn't matter if you're married, taken, spoken for, betrothed or anything else, spring awakens so much more than the tiny buds in the trees gawking anxiously outside your frosty windows.

I have always had a bad case of spring fever boy crazies. Luckily my husband finds this somewhat endearing. It's probably because the feeling is infectious. Look around and notice that people start smiling a little more. Are just a tad more engaging on trains, at bus stations, just walking around. I just notice people more. It's funny how we all fade into the background underneath our scarves and hats and gloves. Our hunkered postures and harried pursuit of indoor shelter from the cold deny any time for niceties. Dude, get outta my way, it's freezing!

But as soon as we begin to shed these layers, everything really does seem new again. How is it that we forget every year? That people are beautiful to watch. That nature is breathtakingly resilient. That it feels good to be noticed. Knowing you are alive and feeling alive is at once both comforting and exhilarating.

The collective restlessness is palpable. Do you feel it? Not yet? Well it is still just February. Perhaps I've caught the fever early. I smile in your general direction.

And thanks for reading! If you're digging it, please follow it. You can follow me on Twitter too (#michelletweet).


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How I Stay Motivated

Eating healthy and exercising daily can be a challenge. I have come up with a few ways to keep myself motivated. Here's a few of them - all pics taken during yesterday's work out.
Keep goals (whatever they may be) in PLAIN sight:

The straight ahead view from the elliptical. A dress that looks good, but I can't sit in it comfortably yet, and obviously, a swimsuit.
Keep the tools you need close at hand - all the time! For me, this means my journal, water, weights, calculator - all in reach from the elliptical.

The journal is where I keep each workout's goals (ex. 3 sessions, burning calories in increments of 300, 275, 250), daily calorie counts up until the workout time (breakfast toast 80, PB 70, soup 80, carrots 25, laughing cow 35, almonds 35, etc.). This has been a good reference for tracking what's working best - it also is a nice way to challenge myself. If I don't meet a goal I give myself a check minus - which I really hate. I also come up with some of my best sketch ideas, song lyrics, and other stuff during workouts, so I write them all in that little journal too.
The timer and session summary are my lifeline.

And of course - everyone needs a secret weapon. Mine happens to be a magazine basket that has an old Vanity Fair with a layout of Robert Pattinson in it. I just happened to notice that if he's visible, I work a lot harder!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Making Yourself Productive Anywhere

Tips and Tricks for Creating a Work Space Anywhere

Today's Office Space:

Window (natch). End stool (double natch). Far from door (triple natch).

I have become very good at creating a mobile office for myself wherever I have to...I have a nice space at home, however it is too close in proximity to a nocturnally scheduled spouse, and sometimes I have to interface with clients by phone. So I typically work in the large overstuffed chair under a large bay window in our living room. The broad armrests serve as a perfect desk and lunch tray.

Today, our housekeeper Helena is working so I have been ousted from my normal place. This means an earlier start to the day, and wearing actual clothes. Not workout/pj hybrids. It also usually means heightened productivity. (I think it's because people are watching.)

It also means packing up all the things I need to serve four different clients into one bag (there is no guarantee that I'll have more than the room under my chair to stow it once I'm settled in). Luckily, most of the information I need for them is online somewhere or in email trails and other project notes.

Some advice on working mobiley:

1) You want to go somewhere with a clean bathroom. (Your own house is #1 - hopefully, if not I can give you Helena's number - but coffeehouses aren't all created equally when it comes to cleanliness and usage. Read: Homeless people.) This is a necessity because in order to justify four+ hours of loitering, you must nurse at least two coffees, or a huge coffee and a breakfast item, or breakfast and an overpriced juice.

2) Go ahead and pay for the secure wi-fi. Stealing, or hooking into a free one is a security faux pas and also provides shotty performance. Unlike at home where a brief interruption can give you a few seconds to throw clothes in the dryer or unload the a mobile location it's just lost time.

3) You want a view that is better than one you have at home. The sky is the limit. There are countless lunch counters in the city located far above ground with panoramic views of the gorgeous skyline and the lake. But for me, my local coffee house suffices. This is too easy for me as we live in a garden unit, and although we look out to a pretty yard, my chair is actually under the window, and I have more of a Laverne & Shirley view from there.
Better View.

4) Bring only what you need, but make a list to make sure you have everything. Once you're settled in and have nabbed a good spot - you really can't leave and come back. Also, once you've paid your $3.99 for wi-fi, you don't want to disconnect.

5) Be overly nice to the employees. You are in their house. Don't spread out too much, don't hog too many outlets or chairs. Don't inconvenience other customers...because this inconveniences the folks that are turning their heads to your loitering.

6) Don't go anywhere too child friendly. Kids that are not in school are not usually very well-behaved yet. They are disruptive, don't care that you are trying to earn a living, and in general, noisy and sticky. Don't let them anywhere near your space.

7) Don't go where all the other "writers" go. It's like being a living Mad Lib. Writers write about their environment and what they see in front of them. Unless you want to be the subject of an ugly blog about people who write nasty things about children, go somewhere with more neutral clientele.

8) Avoid any place too close to train tracks. Obviously, trains are noisy, however I find them quite romantic and inspiring. You really do get use to the noise. I'm referring to the constant flow of traffic into the shop every time the train stops. New people entering coffee shops and restaurants tend to be loud until they assimilate to the vibe that has been so carefully crafted by the current patrons.

9) Go somewhere that changes up the music a lot. I love the barista here because he has great music taste and an uncanny ability to get a feel for the vibe of the customer taste and very subtly conducts the morning to a great soundtrack. It flows from songs that snap you right out of your work and give you that 2 minute respite which reinvigorates your creativity, to soothing but bland white noise. Today I've heard Train in Vain, some Duffy, some Van and a little Tragically Hip. I still listen to my Pandora real low, just to help drown out the loudest customers of all...Chicago's Finest. The police.

10) Which brings me to my final tip. Go to shops with lots of cops. It's safer. If you do have to go to the bathroom, go when the shop is full of cops. Your laptop is much less likely to get swiped then - you may even be able to leave it where it is with a sweet nod to them, your space, the bathroom door. Usually they are happy to assist with a lookout.

Have a great work day - whether you're in Cubeland or beyond...

QUICK UPDATE: There is nothing more awkward then coming home and your cleaning lady is not done yet and you can't go anywhere because you're waiting for a business call and she is grunting and huffing and puffing and you can't go into the back bedroom because your husband is asleep and you can't go back to the coffee shop because you already spent 5 hours there...


Friday, February 12, 2010

We have a delivery for you in the lobby...or not.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Or Hallmark Holiday!

Or Make Him Do Something that Says We Do More Than Hook Up Day!

Or Let's Have to Come Up with Some Anti-Love Sentiment to Cover Up that We're Pretty Pissed to Be Alone ANOTHER Valentine's Day.

Or You Really Like Valentine's Day, Valentine's Day!

At least as adults, we can tie one on regardless of our thoughts on the holiday. I have to admit, I'm one of the lucky ones. I have a nice husband who gets the memo regarding gifts and no I never get stuck with whatever Kay Jewelers is shoving down our collective throats. "Journey Pendant", Jane Seymour's "Hearts", or whatever that thing that looks like equestrian equipment with the creepy thunderstorm commercial - "I"ll never let go of you". I can usually expect a little something, thoughtful. I'm lucky now...however it certainly wasn't always that way.

Both the junior high and high school I attended took Valentine's Day as a serious fundraising opportunity. They pushed molded chocolate roses, cheaply made plastic hearts that play Let Me Call You Sweetheart, and hot-pink dyed Carnations. Making sure to drive home the need to have a "special someone" very early in every Warrior's life. Oh, how I coveted those girls called to the office or the front of the room to pick up their tacky trinkets. I was never called.

Valentine's Day became such a huge popularity contest. The popular pretty girls would literally be carrying crap around in garbage bags. Somewhere around Jr. High (when I learned I should probably lie about the balloon bouquet and bear my Dad - c/o Mom - sent me and say it was someone from a nearby town), I was on my own for V-Day. Sure, I had the occasional sweet friend who sent everybody one of the carnations - but the boys...not so much. I once found myself with a boyfriend in high school on 2/14 who gave me perfume and took me out to dinner which was nice - but he was older and didn't go to my school, so nobody really knew about it. I was so sad that no one would see that I actually did have an interested party, that I packed that perfume and card when I went on a ski trip that weekend. (Not exactly the best idea. Ski equipment + cranky bus driver + 50 overzealous youth groupers = one very sweet smelling duffel bag.)

I never got flowers from a boy (except for corsages for dances) until I was in college. And then, they were usually picked along a highway or from a drug store.

Then, when I was 23, I met my husband, and I think he sent me flowers like once a week for months. I was fully getting more than my payback for the humiliating and empty-handed walk to the bus I did every Valentine's Day for years. It was almost embarrassing though, such a showy display of affection...but still, I always remembered how bad it was on Valentine's Day when I was a teenager, and how I felt left out, undesirable, dorky, immature, and somehow less than, so the flowers were always appreciated.

It's a shame that a holiday could make one group of people feel alienated, ashamed, pressured and another feel like they are floating on air. No matter which side of the line you're on, just have a good weekend. Hey, it's President's Day too - most of us won't get anything for that one!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Officemate is Kind of a D.B.

So there is this dude I work with.

That's him. We have to share an office. As you can see he has some hygiene issues. He's clean, but seriously, has the guy ever SEEN a comb? He takes horrible phone messages too. You should see the shit he writes. He is always happy to share my lunch with me, but he never brings anything. He never refills the paper in the copier or makes coffee. He's kind of an asshole.

This is after I told him he needed to go outside to do his business. I guess he was mad.

Good thing I don't like to keep Christmas themed stuffed animals after the holidays. Not sure what I could do anyway. He doesn't care when he gets in trouble. What a douche.

I was busy trying to drum up business all day.
He just stared at me.

You should have seen how drunk he got at our company holiday party. That's our IT guy trying to talk him down.

Dude did he get sick on the couch? Gross.

He's so dumb. This is what he considers "Business Casual."

He kept saying it was "BEES"niss Casual.
I hate him.

But I'm stuck with him. I guess it could be worse...

Who is the worst person you ever had to share workspace with?

Jeans with "Stretch" Should Come with a Warning

Stretching is a good thing. Good when you first wake up. Good to keep your joints healthy and loose. Good on Thanksgiving. Good when you first zip up jeans from the dryer.

However, the goodness gets, ahem, stretched thin, when after wearing jeans for about half an hour they are nearly two sizes larger than when they first went on.

Case in point. Bought some jeans. Pulled them on the first time, fitted and no muffin top - choice! Unfortunately, every five minutes I felt a little "give" until finally I was pulling them up. They became SO stretched out they feel like sweat pants. So I slept in them.

Look at that stretch!!!

Never thought I'd be one of those people looking for "skinny" jeans without any stretch, but I think I might. Denim stretches eventually anyway...but this is ridiculous. You think it's some ploy by the manufacturer to trick people into thinking that they are smaller than they really are? According to this I am a child's medium.

This guy needs a little more stretch in his pants...but he likes to stretch. You can watch him.

Have a good day, and may your pants only give out when you're ready.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wish I Could Just...

pick up a guitar and wail.
make a funny face that isn't ugly.
drive through the snow without fear of hitting anything.
eat without guilt or regret.
stop worrying about money.
fast forward to the fall when I'll be in Germany and London.
rewind 10 years and redo everything with more bravado, that inlcudes mistakes.
believe that people are generally good, and not manipulative or selfish.
take some of the pain and discomfort my family has known and carry it around a while.
listen to great music all day and not be jealous.
be really honest with everyone, myself included.
stop wondering "what if"...that time has passed.
appreciate what I do have.
realize I might be better off the way I am.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Weight Plateau

I was dropping it like it was hot! But then I stopped. Goal is about 10-15 lbs away and I've hit a brick wall.

Trying to shake up the work out - elliptical not exactly getting boring, still having fun, but not seeing the results like I was before - and not burning up the calories the way it use to. I stay on for a long time (sometimes 2 hours - 4 sessions) to burn the # of calories I want.

Today I'm trying: Eating more calories (to kick up metabolism) and YBB + Elliptical.

Eating healthy and exercising is very rewarding - wish I had always felt this way...then it wouldn't be as hard to get to where I would like to be. But being healthy is giving me a lot more confidence, especially when I am performing - and with improv you never know where you or your body are going to end up.

One thing that is really motiviating is working out to really great music. What songs pump you up?

Some of my current faves:

Listen to my fave Pandora station if you like.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Show Time!

Getting back in the improv saddle tonight! I had about 3 weeks off and I'm feeling a little rusty - which usually can work in my favor. I might able to parlay this nervous energy and excitement I have to get back on stage with my fellow pHers into some fun tonight.

I have several pre-show, show day rituals.

1) Eat light - usually a dinner type lunch then no dinner ("Always go on stage hungry." - Sally Anderson)
2) Work out. Helps me to feel confident about my body. In a show called pHetish, you never know what you'll end up doing.
3) Listen to a special mix.
4) Crossword puzzle. You'll never believe how often this helps to pull random crap out of thin air.
5) Leave early to get some "people" time. Helps to create new characters, ideas.

Ah. So come see what all of this amounts to!


pHRENZY - 8 PM StudioBe 3110 Sheffield (Rated PG)
pHETISH - 12 AM StudioBe 3110 Sheffiled (Rated R)

All shows BYOB.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Waiting Game

As a consultant and freelance writer I spend a lot of time waiting for comments.
I work quickly, then wait. Work quickly then wait. Work then wait.



Bleep! Email!Bummer. It's from "".






Perhaps they'll be juicy comments with lots of nuance - something for me to really chew on. Maybe they will just be a couple of corrections. Maybe they will just say, "go live". Don't know yet. All I can do is wait.