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This is my story...

I celebrated my independence today by sleeping in until 2:47 p.m. I then exercised my constitutional right to drink wine coolers and play Final Fantasy X until 10 o'clock at night. It's great to be free.

I would write more, but as I said before, I've been drinking wine coolers since this afternoon, so I think it's best that I stop talking now to avoid embarrassing myself.

Munchkins under water

Jamie and Laura and I took Rob and Hope to Joe's Crab Shack on Friday night to celebrate their birthday. (Rob turned 26 and Hope turned 1.) Rob appreciated the gesture a little more than Hope, since Hope was a little freaked out by the flashing lights, the loud music and the freaky clowns making balloon animals. To be honest, the clowns scared me a little, too. Ok, really, Hope didn?t even notice the clowns, but it was all I could do to keep from cowering under the table.

Anyway, any of you out there who have ever been to Joe's Crab Shack probably know that birthday boys and girls are always likely to be humiliated by the waitstaff. When my family took me there last year for my birthday, I was taken to the middle of the restaurant and made to stand there while a waiter serenaded me with "Love Me Tender." I got off easy.

We knew that Rob was in for some fun when we saw our waitress approaching the table with a silly hat, a lei and a grass skirt. They decided to sing "underwater Happy Birthday" to Hope, while Rob wore his classy outfit and did the hula. (By the way, underwater Happy Birthday involves holding a pitcher of water over the victim?s head while using your finger to flap your lips to make you sound like you're under water while you're singing Happy Birthday.) Rob got very into his hula dance, and Hope looked around at everyone like they were insane. It was all very cute.

On Saturday morning, Jamie and Laura held a birthday party for Princess Hoppy. After breakfast, we all surrounded Hope while her parents tried to get her to open her presents. She was a little too preoccupied by all the people staring at her to really care about her toys, but we all got a kick out of it. The best part, though, was when they put Hope in her high chair and set a small cake in front of her and let her go to town. It wasn't long before she was totally covered in icing.

Hehe, frosted babies are cute.

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Footnote: As I write this, I'm also watching "Paradise Hotel" on Fox. Just when I thought Fox couldn't get any more horrible. And yet I'm watching it. God help me, the Fox Network is stealing my soul...

Things I've learned lately

I would like to make an announcement. As of approximately two days ago, I am officially cultured.

While Rob and I were on our honeymoon (which we got home from at about 6 a.m. today), we went to "The Wynn Collection" in Las Vegas. This is a group of paintings gathered by some controversial hotel megamillionaire and tastefully displayed smack in the middle of The Strip. Actually, the building they're displayed in is very pretty, with all kinds of columns and shit.

Anyway, on Monday, we went over to the Wynn Collection and paid $20 to go into the gallery and listen to a recorded tour narrated by none other than Steve Wynn himself. There are eleven paintings in the Wynn Collection, by such artists as Manet, Picasso, Van Gogh and Renoire.

Let me say now that I know pretty much nothing about art. But good God, that stuff was cool. More than anything, I think Rob and I were most struck by the realization that we were standing in front of paintings that Van Gogh and Picasso actually touched. They actually put the paint on those canvasses. I stood there and looked at a work of art that Picasso put his soul into, even if only for a day or two. Wow. Picasso. Holy shit.

All of the art was very very cool to look at, and I learned a lot of interesting facts about the artists. But, best of all, I now get to be one of those snobs who says, "Well, the prints are nice, but the real painting looks so much better." I hate people who say things like that. What I hate even more is that they are so right.

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So, Rob and I have now been married for exactly one month. Here are my thoughts on marriage so far (some of them are derived from life before marriage, but are nonetheless important):

1. If your husband wants to go into a Best Buy, bring a book. You're going to be there for awhile.

2. No matter how quickly you think you're going to get your name changed after the wedding, you won't be as ambitious as you think. Before you know it, a month has gone by and you've only managed to change your social security card. The credit cards and driver's license may take a few more months.

3. Clean out your fridge at least once every three months. Four-month-old milk is pretty rank.

4. It is possible to watch an entire season of Friends inside three days.

5. Reading one Harry Potter book can take a year and a half.

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On our way back from Las Vegas, Rob and I listened to a lot of talk radio, which I've never really listened to before. In those fourteen hours, I learned that listening to crazy people rant can be very addictive. It's like reality TV -- you know it's making you dumber by the second, but you can't quite make yourself turn it off.

Take Dr. Laura for example. The vast majority of her callers have truly asinine questions that probably could be resolved with a conversation or a few minutes of actual, clear thinking. Rather than take a moment to chat with their loved ones, they turn to a gay-bashing conservative talk-show host who somehow magically has all the answers to how they should live their lives. Don't know whether or not to go to your niece's theme wedding? Call Dr. Laura so she can interrupt your explanation of your problem to insult your family and your intelligence and give you a simple solution without taking all factors into account.

My favorite was a talk show hosted by a guy named Roy who claimed to have all the answers to all the health problems in the world, but never gave much of a hint as to what his miracle cure was. He berated the populace of Philadelphia for not calling in to support his radio show and ask questions, all the while forgetting to give the phone number so they could do so. He mentioned once that Jesus' secrets had been somehow given to him, and that he had all the answers to making the world a better place. "Just log on to my Web site and pay the membership fee, and you can have all the answers too!"

I really like the way Rob responded to that. "Can you imagine how far Christianity would have made it if Jesus had been a salesman?" If Jesus had offered to turn water into wine at the low, low cost of $19.95, we wouldn't even know his name today. Prophets who practice profiteering don't get far, I think. Good luck, Roy.

Anyway, I'll probably be a faithful listener to talk radio from now on, if for no other reason than to yell at the radio when it annoys me. My only fear is that I'll get so hooked that, a year from now, I'll be calling Dr. Laura for advice.

Honeymoon in Vegas

Woot!! Rob and I get to go on our honeymoon!

A few days ago, there was some question as to whether we'd be able to go to Las Vegas this coming weekend, but today we found out we get to go after all. Which leads me to suddenly wonder how we're going to accomplish what we need to accomplish in the next day or so.

So now we're leaving the day after tomorrow -- in fact, it'll probably be almost exactly 48 hours from now. We'll drive overnight and stay in the Stardust Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights, and drive back on Tuesday. We'll also be taking Wednesday off work to recover.

Yay for drinking and gambling!

The last time I was in Las Vegas, I went with two friends -- one of which was a boy I had no real interest in, but who occasionally decided we were soul mates and was always trying to find stealthy ways to profess his love. I've never been there with my actual soul mate before, so this is pretty exciting. I'm sure strolling through the casinos past crumpled-up strip-club fliers and old ladies playing nickle slots will be all kinds of romantic.

Last time I was there, my friend Kelly and I were out of money but incredibly thirsty, so we devised a plan to get free alcohol. We had a total of one dollar, and we were pretty sure the waitresses were only supposed to bring free drinks to people who were actually gambling. So we got quarters for the dollar and we each took 50 cents. Then we waited for a waitress to walk by and each dropped a quarter into a slot machine so we could pretend we were serious gamblers. The waitress took our orders and we sat on the stools chatting until we saw her coming back with our drinks. Then we each put another quarter in the slots and pretended we'd been gambling the whole time. Turns out the drinks we ordered (Cosmopolitan martinis) tasted like ass and we ended up leaving them on top of our slot machines and wandering off to find something else to do.

Yes, I am aware that that story was lame and that I'm a big dork.

Movie review: Hard Left

So imagine this scene. A desperate writer is in a movie executive's office and he has sweat running down his face. The executive has said no to every movie idea so far. He didn't like the poignant coming-of-age tale of two boys who run away while on a family vacation in Italy. He didn't like the Romeo-and-Juliet-esque story of a young couple torn apart by family squabbles.

What he was about to do next would haunt the writer forever. He'd never be able to look in the mirror and take himself seriously again.

"Screw it," he thinks. "I have to pay the rent."

He paces for about ten seconds, building up momentum for this new idea -- the idea that he will cry about later, when he realizes this movie is all his fault.

"What about a band of mutant inbred rednecks in the hills of West Virginia?" the writer says. "They kill people for no good goddamn reason."

"Brilliant!" the executive shouts, leaping up from his leather chair to pat the writer on the back. The writer chokes back a sob.

This is what I imagine the scenario must have been in the beginning stages of the movie "Wrong Turn." The writer had to have been desperate for the paycheck and the executive who bought the script had to have been high.

Though the writer above pretty much summed up the plot already, let me give you an idea of what this movie is about. This med student Chris is on his way to some big important interview in Raleigh. We never know what this interview is for, just that it's important. The interstate is closed off by a big truck accident and Chris is desperate to keep moving. A brief encounter with a truck driver shows us that, gee, Chris sure is a reasonable, levelheaded guy.

Chris goes to a gas station and sees on a map that there's a dirt road that runs in the hills near the interstate that will probably take him around the accident. So, smart, levelheaded med student Chris takes his vintage Mustang and goes driving down an unfamiliar dirt road. While fumbling for a dropped CD, Chris rear-ends an SUV that's stopped in the middle of the road. That, folks, is the biggest tragedy of this movie -- the Mustang was a really nice car.

The SUV's passengers are a group of five friends, conveniently Chris's age, who are on a camping trip to cheer up Jessie after her bad breakup. Jessie establishes herself early on as "the tough chick," capable of handling difficult situations. Do I sense a stale, unbelievable romance budding in the air? You betcha.

It's then revealed that the SUV's tires were blown out because barbed wire had been left in the road. Rather than realizing they're in a horror movie and just killing themselves on the spot -- which would have been a more satisfying resolution to the movie -- the protagonists decide to search for help.

And so the terror begins. Bwa-haa-haa-haaa.

Two of the good guys stay behind with the vehicles to smoke weed and have some sex while the others wander off in search of benevolent hillbillies with a phone. I'll let you guess what happens to the ones who stayed behind.

Jessie, Chris and the other two -- I'm not going to bother with the rest of the names, since it's obvious from the beginning that they're destined to be redneck food -- find a cabin in the woods, surrounded by junk cars and buzzing with flies.

Being the valiant knight that he is, Chris volunteers to go inside and look for a phone. The others follow because one of the girls really needs to pee. For some reason, she feels a dirty, smelly cabin is better than squatting behind a tree. About the time they realize this cabin's residents like to store body parts in the fridge, the rednecks, of course, come home.

What follows is about an hour of gore that involves genetically mangled faces and slaughtered college students. There is one amusing moment when a cackling redneck gets flung from a tree. The rest is just the same old horror movie tripe.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like silly, stupid horror movies. I mean, I'm the one who paid $25 to see it -- that's after you add in snacks and a movie ticket for my husband. This movie was worth every penny, in terms of entertainment value. I don't laugh this hard when I go to see comedies.

I'm just amused by a movie that make no attempt whatsoever to explain why those mutant rednecks were in the woods in the first place.

"What about the newspaper clippings in the beginning?" the writer protests weakly. "They talked about inbreeding."

Give up, writer. You know your movie was crap.

Yeah. Inbreeding. It seems to me that you probably can't breed without women, and there didn't seem to be any women in that cabin, except for the dead ones. Well, it's possible the skinny, high-pitched redneck was a woman, but it was hard to tell with just four strands of hair on its head, three teeth its mouth and skin that was apparently modeled after Freddy Krueger's.

Anyway, I give the movie a C+. It gets the plus because it made me laugh and it briefly had a cool car in it. I also have to give it a little credit because I'm amazed at their ability to somehow make an 84-minute movie seem unbearably long.
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