Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen, My Family

Scenario: I am sitting in the conference room (where I can spread out), eating wilting arugula (a disappointing lunch), picking ants out of my hair (the conference room is infested with ants), listening to the wind (it's 48 degrees under a solidly overcast sky, here in May in Chicago) and staring at the fragments of a PhD proposal on my laptop screen. 

I get this text message from my mother: "Question: do you have a problem with your mother drinking at 10:30 in the morning?"

(Answer: "Aren't you about to get on a plane/sort of on vacation? In either or both of those scenarios, it is permissible to begin drinking as early in the day as you like, or indeed, as early as possible.")

Meanwhile, my brother is taking credit for the arrest of Ratko Mladic:

On May 26, 2011, at 10:31 AM, Laura Merwin wrote:

i assume this is a result of your penetrating questions to state department officials the other day

On May 26, 2011, at 1:00 PM, Jack Merwin wrote:

i attribute 100% of this to my visit to the Ministry of Defense yesterday.

My dad is drinking diet coke and has not yet today claimed responsibility for any world events.

End of the Season

Two nights ago San Jose went down to Vancouver in double overtime, sending Vancouver to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1994. Last night Tampa Bay managed to take the B's, sending the series to Game 7 tomorrow night. The winner will head to Vancouver, and then there will be only the final series before the real end of the NHL season, and no more happening in the hockey world until October, except for the retirements, awards, off-season trades, entry draft, free agent negociations, minor league championships, parades, and things with the Cup. Come to think of it, by the time all that's over, it will more or less be time for training camp and European pre-season exhibition games.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mamma Mia Confessions

Confession 1: I kind of love Mamma Mia.
Confession 2: I want to be friends with Meryl Streep.
Confession 3: I think the decision to let all the men do their own singing, even though they aren't, you know, good, was kind of brilliant.

I was watching the Dancing Queen scene, where all the women go dancing down the hill and onto the dock and then jump into the water, and I was noticing that apart from Meryl and her friends, they obviously used locals as extras, and none of them look Hollywood at all. There are lots of old and wrinkled and chubby Greek women, and they all look real, and they all want to be the dancing queen, and I kind of love that. (Interestingly, the bachelorette party scene is the total opposite. Those girls are all thin and perfect and airbrushed.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Even More Hockey News

We got Crow for 3 years and 8 million dollars.

Winnipeg gets the Atlanta Thrashers; Blueland gets a conundrum.

Marleau gets two goals for the Sharks first win against Vancouver.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Game 2, VAN vs SJS, Highlights

Vancouver wins 7-3, in a game that became a blowout in the third period. Also a game:

in which there is a lot of punching

in which the Sedin twins continue to locate their missing mojo

in which Ben Eager demonstrates why no one really wants him on their team anymore by acting like a total fucking idiot

in which Patrick Marleau attempts to silence critics by dropping the gloves vs Kevin Bieksa, a man generally acknowleged by other large strong men to be terrifying, and getting a Gordie Howe hat trick

in which everyone continues to critique every. single. thing. roberto luongo does (I'm actually starting to feel a little sorry for the guy. not much. but a little)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Season Finales

Castle: In which everyone in the cast gets to make at least one overly dramatic speech, and/or punch each other, and in which the network manufactures a shameless cliffhanger even though we already know the character in question will survive, since the show has been renewed and she has not left it.

NCIS: In which nearly everyone is placed in mortal danger and I really could not summon up the energy to care. Seriously, where has the mojo of this show gone? Perhaps over to:

NCIS: Los Angeles: In which they go to Prague and Romania, which are apparently sepia in tone, and in which we get some more dramatic hints about G. Callen's past, a mystery which after two seasons still intrigues me, and in which Ted's mom from How I Met Your Mother plays a Romanian crime family boss, which is awesome.

Hockey Updates For Jack, As You're In Some Balkan Wasteland

So Glendale is keeping the Coyotes for another year at least (they don't want to take the loss on the stadium) and the Thrash are back in talks with Winnipeg, for a potential move as early as next year:

Sorry dude. Guess you'll have to think about becoming a Canes fan. Or TB, who btw crushed Boston in Game 1.

No news on the Boogaard death, waiting for toxicology. But he was in the NHL rehab program, so...

I think you should come to Chicago in October and we'll go to opening day at the UC, if we can get tickets.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rural America, Modern Music, and Methods of Navigating

Yesterday I drove down to Purdue, which is in West Lafayette, which is deep in rural - RURAL - Indiana. On the way, I was listening to some local radio station and dear god their news broadcast featured, as its top story, corn (apparently this year the planting is very late, but not quite as late as in the Late Planting of 1961, which I could tell from the way the announcer said it was supposed to be capitalized). I was deep into the story before I realized it was actually the news and stopped waiting for a punch line. I had to change the channel when he moved into the high school baseball report. You can imagine my relief at returning to the metropolis.

I also listened to quite a bit of today's hit music, much of it highly unpleasant, and I just want to take this opportunity to mention how disturbing I find Katy and Kanye's song "ET". Leaving aside the fact that Katy seems to think that "supernatural" and "extraterrestrial" are more or less synonymous, the message of this song mystifies me. What is sexy about the classic version alien abduction alluded to here? When I think of alien probes, I think about brightly lit rooms, cold instruments, fear, and violation. Katy is apparently turned on by this, she wants to be a "victim" and pleads for "abduction"; I fail to see anything desirable about this scenario. (If you think about it as a metaphor, it becomes even more disturbing, but perhaps luckily, based on this and the rest of her canon, I'm not sure if Katy is aware that words can have a non-literal meaning.) Anyway, I ended up listening to light rock, because even though I don't really like Phil Collins either, he apparently feels complete in my eyes, which is a sentiment I can get behind, unlike "Imma disrobe you, then imma probe you." Ew, Kanye. Just - ew.

My mother navigates in California by always knowing where the ocean is (even when inland - don't ask me). I have found that when driving I can navigate in and around Chicago by a similar method using the Sears Tower. Generally I know whether I want to be going toward the tower or away from it, and since the streets are gridded, my strategy is just to go in the vague direction that I want until I arrive either at my destination or a place I recognize. This has worked out pretty well for me so far, and in the event that I take a slightly circuitous route to where I want to go, I have seen some interesting (and occasionally terrifying) parts of the city to which I would not otherwise venture.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Live-Blogging Wanted (Read From Bottom Up)

Aaand a final plea for us to all feel bad about our own lives, because we haven't killed a supervillain with custom bullets from a parking garage today. What a quality film.

What happened to Morgan Freeman??? SHAMELESS SET UP FOR A SEQUEL. Oh wait, here he is.

Commercial break: Pirates of the Caribbean 4. Beating a dead horse? Discuss.

Oh dear, something has happened to the Loom of Fate.

Oh, including herself?

Angelina kills like nine people with one bullet. Honestly, if anyone could do that, it would be her.

I'm going to be honest, when Morgan Freeman tells me what the Truth is, I'm inclined to believe him.

Blah blah blah fate blah blah accusations blah blah my father

Angelina Jolie is having DOUBTS. Partially based on the evidence presented by James MacAvoy of the corruption of Sloane, and partly, I wager, on the way James MacAvoy's sweaty hair curls on his forehead.

Shouting the name of your opponent a la Achilles outside of Troy, very classy.

Apparently you can become the best assassin in the world in a matter of weeks. Good to know, in case I'm ever contemplating a career change.

Slo-mo catching guns in mid-air and shooting some more.

Slo-mo shooting.

Slo-mo screaming.

Oh, lots of slo-mo running.

PETA must have had a fucking heart attack while watching this movie.

It's like they didn't know how to end the movie, and gave the script to a bunch of reasonably imaginative eighth-graders.

Note to writers: lazy narration is just...lazy.

Oh god. The secret weapon is peanut butter.

Commercial break: Why does Elijah Wood appear to be wearing eyeliner in the promos for Wilfred?

Angelina has a thing for James MacAvoy. She's going to turn against Morgan Freeman. I can feel it.

Aw man, a shirt.

The Loom of Fate has decreed...something. I don't know. James MacAvoy figured it out with a Sharpie. Apparently he is going to remain shirtless for a while. I'm okay with that.

His dad had an apartment across the alley and spied on him? That's...that's a little creepy.

Are these sudden purple flashes part of the cineamatography, or is my tv freaking out?

Ok, so James MacAvoy is RIPPED in this movie.

"Luke, I am your father."

GASP. Everything they told him was a lie? Say it ain't so.

I think they just killed an entire trainload of innocent people. Don't worry, I'm sure they all had boring, meaningless jobs like postmen and middle managers in marketing firms. Death was most likely a relief.

Aaaand, there we go, Angelina has jumped onto the train, only she's done it by taking the entire car with her.

This is the SECOND time - nope, there we go, THIRD time we have bullets meeting in midair. Even the Matrix didn't pull that shit.

Angelina is definitely going to jump from this car onto a train.

I'm strangely ok with the rampant usage of slo-mo in this movie.

I can't think of Marc Warren as anyone but Danny Blue from Hustle. I keep expecting him to smirk and then con someone out of several thousand pounds.

Ok, so the makers of this movie are FASCINATED by the L. It's in like every other shot.

It kind of seems like his girlfriend's tirade is justified? I mean, he did just kind of leave without telling her, right?

According to this movie, ALL streets in Chicago run under the L.

Commercial break: What the hell is Priest about? Why is Paul Bettany vaguely hot even when shaven, tattooed, and ordained?

The Loom of Fate? Really?

Ah, I see, James MacAvoy has never been able to care about anything, because his life was so bland and meaningless, seeing as he was only an accountant. It's only after he found out that he was fated to be a superpowered assassin that he finds meaning in life. Right, I mean, who would find value in being something boring like an accountant? Clearly your life is only worth living if you have some incredibly sexy and illegal profession. And get to hang out with Angelina Jolie.

Curving bullets just seems like a particularly retarded rip off of the Matrix. Also, this whole thing with super talents is like a slap in the face to Navy Seals and Army snipers and all the people who come by their skills with nothing more than some natural talent heightened by about a zillion hours of dedicated practice.

Oh hey, this is Chicago! 

I can never decide whether James MacAvoy is hot or not. He has monster teeth. There are gaps between them, like a little kid drawing teeth on a picture of a monster. And yet, kind of hot (not the teeth, just in general). I think I speak for many women (and some men) when I say that I never had a thing for fauns before he played Mr. Tumnus.

Coming in about 15 min late. (By this, I mean, it was on FX and I wasn't ready to go to bed.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Found Poetry

For whatever reason, after about ten rounds of replies, the oldest part of an extended email chain in my uchicago email starts to look like this. This is a very mundane email about a meeting, but when you space the lines weirdly, it starts to look like free verse, and I find myself wanting to interpret it: "By offsetting the word 'bring', the author is emphasizing the meeting as a place where the cohort will share the objects they have created (that is, their proposals), even evoking their fledgling dissertations as a kind of sacrifice, brought to this communal table and examined ritualistically."

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Friday Nights

It turns out that if you really, really, don't want to pay for a cab, you CAN fit seven people into a Honda Civic, but it is recommended by absolutely no one.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bad Signs

Tonight I had the totally earnest, non-sarcastic thought "I wonder what happened on the second half of the latest season of Jersey Shore."

I should...I should probably seek help about this, right?

Pictures of Chicago On A Grey Day

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Stanley Cup Playoffs

Playoff Teams I Would Be OK With Winning The Stanley Cup, I Guess:


I really have nothing against Nashville, except for the fact that Shea Weber's playoff beard looks like an independent organism has taken up residence on his face. Also, they have never won before, so that would be kind of nice for them, I guess. I am currently supporting them strongly because I have everything against Vancouver, their second round opponents. The Chicago-Vancouver rivalry is relatively recent but promises to only increase with time, especially after the last playoff series.

Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis holds my personal award for Most Badass Hockey Moment this year when after taking a stick to the face early in Series 1 of the playoffs, he had an emergency double root canal after the game and played again 48 hours later.


Boston is kind of nasty, exactly as you would expect a Boston sports team to be, and they have an awesome goalie who sports an awesome porn star stache.

Teams I Would Not Be Ok With Winning The Stanley Cup:

Everyone else still in the playoffs

Vancouver and Detroit are Chicago rivals and must be hated on principle. To a lesser extent, so is San Jose, who is currently playing in front of our Stanley Cup winning goalie from last year. I would be ok with Antti Niemi winning the cup again, just not the rest of the people on his team. The Caps are enormous douchebags. The Flyers are last year's Stanley Cup enemy and feature Chris Pronger, a really enormous douchebag.

All of this has very little to do with who will actually probably win...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Semi-Mediocre TV Procedural Update

Last night on Castle: Beckett and Castle go to LA, solve crimes, and stare into each other's eyes for a really, really long time.

Tonight on NCIS: This show has become so poorly written that I couldn't tell if the lack of follow-through on some heavy-handed hinting (if you watch, the lay-it-on-with-a-trowel suggestion that DiNozzo's old partner was sleeping with DiNozzo's ex-fiance) meant that said hints were (a) a red herring (b) accidental or (c) foreshadowing for future episodes. And not couldn't tell like "ooh, so enigmatic", couldn't tell like "not sure if the writers have ever heard of the concept of foreshadowing."

Tonight on NCIS: Los Angeles: Deeks gives everyone smouldering looks and they get in about six gun battles with assault weapons. That's what LA is like, right?

All this begs the question: how long can you drag out the sexual tension between two characters before it jumps the shark? Having two characters who are clearly going to end up together and yet DON'T, for seasons and seasons sometimes, is totally a gimmick, and it's a gimmick because it works. (At least, it works on me.) But at some point (and I'm not naming any shows here but BONES), it just becomes SO utterly ridiculous. You can only gaze longingly into each others' eyes for so long before the audience stops thinking it's exciting and dramatic and starts shouting at the television "JUST GET IT ON ALREADY."*

*Peter Jackson has tested the limits of this theory.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Welcome to my fourth blog (consecutive, not cumulative). I'd like to take this moment to greet each of you individually, since I know very well who my audience is: Hi Mom! Angie, as always, this is an extended letter to you. Jack, the hockey bits are mostly for you. Heather, you crazy bitch.

As you can see above, this is a blog about Chicago, hockey, pop culture, and the art of being a grad student. I thought to start out, I would offer some of my current thoughts on each of those things.


Chicago slogans currently being considered:
Chicago: Really, the winter’s not THAT bad until the sixth month.
Chicago: Some of our sports teams don’t suck!
Chicago: With 99% less animal slaughter!


After coming back from a 3-0 deficit, the Chicago Blackhawks' heartbreaking overtime loss to Vancouver in Game 7 of the Western Conference quarterfinals - you know what, fuck it, I'm still too depressed about this to talk about it.

Pop Culture: 

Two recommendations that only sort of count as pop culture, since they both have been around for at least sixty years. (1) T.H. White: The Once and Future King. At once an homage to and a parody of Malory and the Arthur legends in general, White's version of the epic is charming, funny, farcical, anachronistic, whimsical, touching, and heartbreaking. It's not without problems: there's too many Oedipal complexes for my taste, and the wide variation in tone is a weakness as well as a strength. But overall, ambitious, engaging, delightful. (2) Laura (1944). Lots of trench coats, rain, dames, hard-bitten detectives, and biting retorts. Great mystery, great atmosphere, great characters. Classic for a reason.

Also, currently watching Castle, where Beckett and Castle are in LA. 
Ryan to Beckett: "How's the weather in your world?"
Beckett: "Sunny, chance of ass-kicking."

The Art of Being a Grad Student:

The coffee shop really shouldn't sell such large cookies. They are delicious, and before you realize it, you've eaten 500 calories of giant cookie and feel terrible. Although I'm obviously just as much to blame, I'm almost 25, you'd think I would have learned how to eat by now without making myself nauseous.