Monday, April 27, 2009

At the movies with Emily and Jeff: The Soloist

It's been a while since a good movie came to the theaters, and I was especially anxious to see the Soloist, as I had dubbed its trailer 'perfect' and am huge fans of both RDJ and Jamie Foxx (who knew the guy from ILC would be such a good actor? Like Robin Williams, I much prefer his serious work.) 

I really, really liked The Soloist. Last week, a movie came out called 'State of Play' where (I think?) 'journalists' Russell Crowe and Rachel McAdams fight crime and roll of hoods of cars, or something. Um, no. That's not really the life of a journalist.

RDJ's Steve Lopez rang true as a journalist because, well, Steve Lopez is a real journalist. I love how they set up the story: a columnist desperate for something to write about. He's considering given to him by his editor, but is dreading it. He's looking for something better. He finds it when he stumbles upon Jamie Foxx's Nathaniel Anthony Ayers -- a homeless musical prodigy. Somewhere early in this movie, RDJ narrates 'Everyone has a story.'

That was always my motto in journalism! It's so true. Now before I get into this lengthy aside, I'd like to acknowledge for all of you thinking it that yes -- I covered high school sports. No, I was not a news columnist for the LA Times. But that doesn't mean I couldn't relate to how this story played out.

I've been desperate for a story (a morning spent with octogenarian shuffle board players comes to mind.) I've stumbled upon good ones (local basketball player starting for Afghanistan's first national team since the 70s.) And I've had to build trust and relationships with subjects to extract a lot of material.

On that last point ... what this movie reminded me the most of (and I'm sure the connection will seem stretched) is the season I spent writing about a local high school baseball team. I say season, yes. The story was reported on for close to six months, took another month to write. I had to gain the trust of a skeptical coach, who had previously not had too much respect for 23-year-old female sports reporters. Over the course of the months, our relationship got closer, mirrored by my seat at games. First, I sat outside the fence. Then, on the corner of the dugout. Then, on the bench in the dugout. Steve Lopez had to do the same thing with his subject.

I had to build a relationship with the secondary subjects: the players. I had to choose which ones to focus on, and inevitably put them in a role: 'The Nerd,' 'The Phenom' 'The Dirtdog' etc. I had to decide how I would portray them without exploiting them -- after all, they didn't ask me to write about them. They weren't old enough or paid enough to be pressured and criticized on a high level, but still I had to present some conflicts in order for it not to be fluff. I explained this to them. They seemed to understand. 

I became really close with them, like friends, just like Steve Lopez and Nathaniel. I couldn't control anything about what they did. I couldn't advise them how to lay down a bunt (their biggest issue) and I couldn't force them to beat a team in the first round of the playoffs they had never beaten before (they did.) At the end of the season, before my story came out, they honored me at their banquet -- all of them signing a ball for me, calling me Coach Em. It was awesome. 

I wrote the story as fair as possible. After it came out, I braced for the fact that maybe, some of the kids would take exception. I got a phone call from the father of 'The Bright Talent who Screws it up'... he told me: "When I first read the story I was upset with you. Then I read it again and realized you nailed how my son is."

Look, I know it's not the same. My story will not become a movie, and no one probably remembers it except for me and the subjects. But I saw a little of my story in this movie. (You can read my story here, here and here .... You can read Steve Lopez's columns on Nathaniel here.)

So yeah, I liked the movie. The acting was exceptional. The directing was odd -- there's a seizure inducing light show in the middle that makes little sense. The flashbacks are overdramatic. It's not perfect. But it's a realistic portrayal of a journalist's day-to-day struggles -- no guns involved.

Final rating: Three-and-a-half Werschaibles.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I can't stand the rain.

Lots of stuff going on in the World of Werchadlo and I take this 45-minute work break to share these things with you, my loving audience.

Before I get into all things wedding related and SPONTANEOUS CAPITALIZATION I thought I'd share with you a little photo diary of my trip to Fenway Park the other night.

I haven't been to Fenway since Opening Day 2006, which is longer than it feels. But I was in San Diego for two seasons and then last year didn't have the dough to go, but this year I managed to score some $12 seats in the upper bleachers and gave them to my dad as a Christmas present.

Normally, a night at Fenway can not be beat, but in the cold rain, with everyone complaining because NO ONE thought to dress warmly, it could have been better. But there were a few bright spots.

1. My father returning three hot chocolates because they weren't hot enough. (Guess what? They were the same temperature when he got them back.)

2. Jeff telling a random person he liked "The cut of their jib" which I'm 99% sure he said because he had heard it on King of Queens the night before.

3. Me taking this ridiculous picture.

Don't I look like I was having fun?

I also took some more pics.... 

Hey, at least Jeff didn't almost get in a fight with two drunk guys, have his GPS stolen from his car and me have a cracked windshield! Oh wait, all those things happened. Better times at Fenway have been had.

Backtracking a bit into the wedding world, Katie and I spent most of Wednesday finishing the invites! Finally! They are now sitting on my dining room table waiting to be sent out. And the good news is they weighed in at exactly one ounce, which will save us a good amount of money on postage.

On Thursday, Katie and I headed down to RI so I could spend some more money! First it was proper undergarments -- if you've never been to Ruth's on Rolfe Street in Cranston, you really should go. But um, not if you're shy. 

Then we scoured the entire Providence Place Mall for acceptable footwear and came up empty.... so we went to Crystal Shoes instead. Now, I'm not really a fan of the dyeable shoes, but when you've searched all day for a particular style in a particular color and you're coming up empty, it's probably the way to go.

So here are my shoes, which will be dyed FUSCHIA. Damn skippy.

I went wedge (mine don't have that diamond thing in the middle). A girl like me needs to the wedge to survive. 

So off we went to our last appointment -- my first dress fitting. When I first bought my dress... well, let's put it this way, it took all of Katie's strength to zip. So imagine my happy surprise when the seamstress told me the dress had to be taken in! Yippeeeeee! I have some pictures (before and after if that's your thing) that I obviously can't post here, but would happily send along to those who might be interested.

Tomorrow marks THREE MONTHS exactly! I am so ready! (But not really, I still have a lot of crap to do.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I liked it.

Couple things, couple things.

First of all, I am very pleased to say we finally bought Jeff's wedding ring today! For some reason that I can't quite explain without sounding possessive or barfy, this was one of the things I was looking forward to the most. Just seeing Jeff with a ring on ... it made me smile, a lot. I'm sure brides-to-be can relate and perhaps the grooms as well. 

Anyways, here's a blurry pic.

We decided to go with a Tungsten ring. I had never heard of Tungsten before, but our friend Paul from California had one and I thought it was pretty sharp-looking. Obviously, it's not as fancy as platinum or gold, and I asked Jeff several times if he minded a 'cheaper' metal, and he said he didn't. The ring does have a nice shine though, and it will never scratch, and anyone who's seen the face of Jeff's watch knows that's important. Oh, and it was a good price too. We were in the store for about five minutes and it was decision, done.


A few nights ago I had a mini-panic attack (as I sometimes do) about our honeymoon ... specifically the driving aspect of it. To remind you, we're driving from London, to the Cotswolds (about 45 minutes) to Liverpool (about 2 hours) to Edinburgh (about 4 hours). I was up one night thinking, "Can we really pull this off? Can we handle driving on the other side of the road without crashing? What if we get lost? Will our cellphones work?" So I woke Jeff up at 1:30 in the morning and ... well, he wasn't having any of it. I talked to my mom the next day as well and she talked me off the edge. A good rule of thumb I've had in my life is that if my mom isn't worried about something, it's not something to be worried about. And it would have cost us $500 to change our flights. So we've officially rented the car.

Now that the honeymoon has been almost entirely booked, it's time to think about what we'll do each day. This is the fun part. There's the Tower of London, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Harrod's, etc. Then we want to hit up one of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants and possibly do "High Tea" somewhere. And ever since that YouTube clip, yeah, you know which YouTube clip I'm talking about, reminded me how much I LOVED Les Miserables, I think we're going to see that as well. It originated in London and is my absolute favorite musical. I know some of you are rolling your eyes, but if you sit through a showing of Les Mis and are not moved by the end, you have no soul. Seriously, the first time I saw it, I spent the 20 minutes after it ended bawling. It was ... embarrassing. Though, not as embarrassing as the time it happened when I went to see Pearl Harbor in High School (must have been a bad week.)

It's going to be a lot to pack into a few days but I hope to make the most of it!

Friday Night Lights. Yeah, I know, all but two of you are tired of hearing about it. But we've finished all available episodes and are caught up, and I'm hooked. And I've officially made Jeff jealous with all my fawning over Tim Riggins (which has juiced me up at least 20% to see the new Wolverine movie. I had no idea he was playing Gambit, my favorite X-Men character as a child. But heck, I'm on board now. Tim Riggins can do no wrong.)

But what next?!?! They can't play this like Saved by the Bell right? I hate to harken back to it, but Dawson's Creek played this really well and I think they can follow that as a guideline. But Tim's in San Antonio, Matt's supposed to be in Chicago, Tyra's at UT and Lyla's at Vanderbilt... and coach is in East Dillon?! Oh man, it's nutty.  

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ham Time.

Eight days since my last post. Blech.

I feel a little bit boring lately. I haven't talked to some of my friends in a while and when I call them I feel like I have nothing. to. say. 

Jeff and I went to New York for Easter weekend to stay with the fam. We got there late Friday night and checked out pretty early. Saturday morning Jeff and his dad went golfing, practice for the morning of the wedding. I helped make dinner with Jeff's mom, and while I joked about gender stereotypes in my facebook status, it really was nice. Jeff's mom spends 75% of the time I'm ever at her house cooking or cleaning, so it was nice to help. 

Of course, Jeff's father does his part and has started working on our wedding arch. The story behind this grows and grows. The venue that we're getting married at has an arch they provide, but it's a super-cliche white latticed arch that just wasn't us. So originally I went to the florist, showed them what I did want, and they said "Sure, we can do that. It will cost $500." And that's $500 to RENT. When we were all together over Christmas, Jeff's dad said he thought he could make something similar, and I trust him and roughly 5,000 phone calls and e-mails have occurred since then :)

Jeff's mom has done all the research and they ordered bamboo from California, and got all the wrong sizes. So they re-sent it... and then never charged them for it. Both Jeff's mom and dad have called but apparently the woman at the front desk told them "I know how expensive it is to get married" and isn't making any efforts to correct the mistakes. So we might not be charged, which would be great!

The top bar isn't connected, I just had Jeff hold it up as a reference point, so it's a little crooked.

Jeff's mom will wrap the edges in twine, and they'll stick it in buckets of cement to make sure it doesn't fall over. My mom will sew up some fabric to drape over it and the florist will add some flowers to the joints. A collaborative effort... hours of work for 25 minutes of time! And here, hopefully, is what the finished product will resemble.

I was trying to convince the fam to sell it (as I'm sure there are other brides who don't want to pay $500 to rent something), but Jeff's mom thinks we should put it in our garden so it will be a memory for us. One problem: we don't have a garden. File under: More reasons to buy a house.

Easter lunch was very nice and Jeff and I headed off around 3 p.m. to get home. That sprung a marathon of Friday Night Lights that wrapped up the first season and started us into the second. Some additional thoughts to add to my last post:

1. I can't help but thinking I liked this show better when it was called "Dawson's Creek." Think: Dawson = Half Jason Street/Half Matt Cerasen, Joey = Lyla, Pacey = Tim Riggins, Jen = Tyra. It's all there, minus the football story line.
2. I was a little disappointed they had them win state in the first season. This was probably because they didn't know if they were going to be picked up for another, but I would have liked them to cause some additional drama there.
3. Re: Season 2: I also liked this show better when it was called "I Know What You Did Last Summer." Really?
4. I like the Lyla Garrity "I found Jesus" story line in Season 2. Really in line with her character and an interesting twist I think.
5. Jeff and I have bet a dinner on whether Matt hooks up with the in-home nurse. I say no, Jeff says yes. 

I was thinking where I'd rank this show in line with other series that we've watched on DVD. There are five categories of shows we've watched on DVD.

  • Series we watched entirely on DVD and really liked. (Meaning, shows that were already over by the time we got to them): Six Feet Under, Arrested Development, The Office (British). Probably my three faves. 
  • Series we watched entirely on DVD and was crap: Oz. I still can't believe we rented this entire series. It was garbage.
  • Shows we started on DVD and liked them enough to catch up on the live versions: The Office (American), Extras, 30 Rock, LOST (yeah, we missed season 1 and caught back up in Season 2), Mad Men. Friday Night Lights will go here.
  • Shows we started on DVD and didn't like them enough to catch up on the live version: 24 (sorry steve, couldn't make it past season 5), Nip/Tuck (OK, but not great).
  • Shows where I didn't make it past the first DVD: The Wire, The Sopranos. Save your outrage for another place. These shows just didn't draw me in.
I also have to share one other tidbit from my time at the Schaibles. So often I find it interesting how another family interacts. They have different humor, different traditions, different roles than my family. Of course, Jeff's family will be my family soon, and I feel part of it already. So I feel OK showing you this picture I found in Jeff's room that cracked me up.

I'm sure you won't find this as funny as I did, but the randomness of this picture and the fact that someone actually purchased it at some point cracks me up. This has to be the poor-man's version of Dogs Playing Poker right? 'Dog standing in front of pool table with hat on.' I inquired about it, and no one remembered where it came from... in fact none of them even recognized it and it was suggested it be thrown away. Tragedy right? :)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

TV on DVD with Jeff and Emily: Friday Night Lights

It's a new feature! Jeff and I often find TV shows we never watched a give them a shot all the way through. Since I've gotten glowing recommendations from two of my favorite bloggers Steve and Jessica about Friday Night Lights, Jeff and I decided to give it a try. Below is my review through about the first quarter of the first season.

I am so glad I didn't go to a high school like Dillon High School. Where would I be today? Slapping bubble gum, primping my hair and obsessing over a man past his peak, no doubt. I can't even imagine attending a high school like this. My school was no where close to this. Our football team sucked. The cheerleaders were ... not the prettiest girls in school (I was one as a freshman, so I feel OK saying this). We didn't have any jocks, I don't even know anyone from our school who got a scholarship for any sport. You get the idea.

That being said, I get that's how it is in Texas. People obsess over football, in an unhealthy way. There's a lot of pressure on these kids. I don't have to like it, but it's the truth. 

I'm one of those people who can't get past reality when watching a TV show or movie, at least not right away. So for me to enjoy  Friday Night Lights I have to accept the above, plus the following.

1. The fact that all the actors are in their mid-20s and playing high schoolers. That stuff cracks me up.
2. I've covered maybe a 100 high school football games in my lifetime. Do you know how many came down to the last play? Three? And usually it's the team that's down that's got the ball with a chance in hell to tie... and they throw a pick. The average score of a high school football game is usually like 47-3. Seriously. But all of Dillon's first three games came down to the last play. At least they'd be worth the price of admission.
3. Everybody's gorgeous. Again, not my high school, but maybe that's a good thing.

On top of that, the torrid love affairs between these high schoolers rings false to me. Sure, there was always drama in high school, but ... come on. The coach and his wife have very realistic fights, over not planning for parties, not having time for each other, but these high schools are REDONKULOUS. Also, every adult character on this show, aside from the coach and his wife, are EXTREMELY unlikeable. Over the top, obnoxious dirt bags.

But of course you know this is my favorite writing tool. Give you the bad news first. 

I am enjoying it. I liked the movie (and I think Billy Bob Thorton was really good in that, better than the coach here). I'm wondering if this show is suffering for me because I'm watching the episodes back to back in a short series of time so they run a little bit together. And the writing could be better. But the acting is good, its directed well, and it rings true in a lot of ways. The relationship between the coach and his wife is the heartbeat of the show. If they can sustain this story line and not have it play out like Saved by the Bell (exactly how many senior proms can one person have?) then I'll be impressed. I just saw that they added two more seasons on top of the first three. So far, I'm in. 

Jeff's thoughts: "Steve was right. I'm enjoying it thoroughly with the exception of the blonde girl."

Werschaible ranking: I'll let you know.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Now Cinderella don't you go to sleep.

Well, it's Thursday, so it seems about time to blog the weekend.

Jeff and I had a whirlwind four-day mini-vacation last week. On Friday we were off to D.C. for my boss' wedding. I had been looking forward to this for a while for a lot of reasons.

1. I love weddings. I'm ALWAYS looking forward to them.
2. Seeing Evan and Courtney, our friends from San Diego, now residing at UVA Law school.
3. Seeing my coworkers who, despite the fact that I talk to them for nine hours a day, have only seen them once or twice.
4. Going to a city I've never been to before and seeing the sights.
5. Excessive drinking and eating.

OK, well maybe I hadn't intended to include that last part. Nevertheless, it happened.

The drive down to D.C. seemed surprisingly easy. I drove down to South Carolina last Christmas, and 16 hours in a car like that is just BRUTAL. In comparison to that, eight hours seems like a breeze. The hotel was nice, considering it was in D.C. limits and was just over $200 for three nights (combined). Nothing can set a trip off on a bad foot like a bad hotel room. Later that night, Courtney and Evan drove up to meet us and get dinner. 

The next day we headed down to DC to see as much as possible in the few hours we had. The plan was to see the Smithsonian museums Air and Space and Natural History, and hit up the National Gallery. Now here's my theory: I'd rather sort of skip through quickly and try and see everything, then go through slowly and miss half the museum. However, I was the only one who felt this way and spent most of the day by myself. My favorite was the National Gallery -- saw a real DaVinci! Can't beat that! It far exceeded other art museums I've been to in my life. By the time we got to the Natural History museum, I was pooped. We saw the Hope diamond but I was ready for a nap by then. I'll have to go back!

Courtney and Evan, our excellent and patient tour guides, departed from us around 5 as Jeff and I headed to my coworker Jon's house for dinner and chat. It was the first time the "wives" had met each other after much lead-up. I was so happy everyone got along. I spend a lot of time gabbing about Jeff to my coworkers (I can't help it!). Jeff and I dominated conversation (nervousness?) to the point where we felt bad about it later. Dinner was great, and we went to get dessert afterwards before heading home.

Sunday morning was Matt's wedding and the ceremony was filled with beautiful flowers that made you forget its was supposed to be outside. It was a short and sweet ceremony before the drinking contest, I mean fun, began. Look, when they're passing around mimosas, what am I supposed to do? I know the answer to that: drink as many as possible. I'm pretty sure I revealed some embarassing facts about myself, and that was before I even started dancing. Sigh. Dinner was great and I broke Lent to participate in dessert. (I regretted how much I ate and drank when I came home and found out I gained more than two pounds!! :(

Some neat things about the wedding:

1. The flowers. They were plentiful and beautiful and they made the room smell great! The bouquets also had white feathers on the bottom, which was a neat look.
2. My boss is Chinese and there was a Chinese tea ceremony in the middle of the reception. Basically, the bride and groom serve tea to the grandparents and parents and they give the bride and groom gifts (jewelry). It was highlighted by one of Matt's relatives explaining the ceremony ("And now comes the appraisal.") She was funny.
3. The dessert. Ha! Berries and cream in a chocolate shell. It was tough to break apart, but I managed.

The best pic I got of the bride and groom. My camera skills were sub-par.

The centerpieces.

My coworkers (from L-R): Jon, Steve, Me, Brett and Matt (the groom). Not pictured: The heel of Jon's shoe.

Jeff looked so handsome in his suit and new shirt and tie :)

When we got back to the hotel, I totally crashed on the bed and slept it off for an hour. Got up around seven to have dinner with my coworker Brett and his wife Kim (a total doll). Jeff spent the rest of the night head-first into a pillow. The next morning we drove back and it felt like it all ended too soon. 

I can't wait to see all these folks at our wedding in... holy crap... 114 days!