Monday, August 30, 2010

Because my happiness is your happiness.


I don't know if you guys know this about me, but sometimes I get a little moody. And since I'm not the type to write in my Gratitude Journal every night, sometimes I need to make lists of the things that, even on a totally sucky, stir-crazy day, can still bring out the "Aw, life, you guys! LIFE!" vibe.

Things that make me ridiculously, exuberantly happy this week:

1. "The Drumming Song" by Florence + The Machine and "Airplanes" by Local Natives
These songs have ruled my life for the past 3 days. Songs are like boys to me - I love music in general more than I can say, but when I love a song...I really love a song. And not just because it sounds good: It has to be the kind that makes me want to write a whole book off of how it makes me feel when I listen to it. And after a stagnant summer of feeling stuck in my writing, I listened to "The Drumming Song" on Saturday night and actually sat down to write a story - a story that wasn't for any book, but was just for fun, and just for me.

2. Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks
As I explained to my old pal Tom Bartel, I spent a morning last week searching the internets for information on when the fall seasonal drinks would be out at Starbucks. And I learned nothing, save for a couple of updates on a message board dated Sept. 3rd, 2009, about just picking up a Pumpkin Spice Latte and wondering how many calories or grams or fat might be in one (seriously, lady, way to be a total downer). So then I did what any good investigative detective would do - I went into Starbucks and asked them when they'd be out. The barista whispered to me that they already had the mix and could make one for me, but that they were still in the "soft release" phase and so they weren't promoting them yet.

3. F*ck Me, Ray Bradbury video
I posted this on the blog earlier this week, but seriously, you guys - how fun is that video, right? Sometimes, when I start taking myself too seriously or I start feeling all old and mature and stuff (i.e., lame) all I need is something that's gonna make me wanna pull on my knee-high tube socks and pull my hair up into a ponytail and just stupidly dance around my apartment. And then I get excited again about posters of Gerard Way and gossip about Twilight stars and shows like The Daily Show and Metalocalypse and suddenly I'm back to filling my life with all the things that are totally freaking awesome. And then I don't feel so lame or old anymore.

4. Knee-high boots.

5. Realizing that Holiday Chick had another book inside of it.
When I wrote Holiday Chick, I didn't intend for there to be a sequel of any kind. However, while going over it last week, I suddenly realized that there was one (a prequel, to be exact), and that I had another story premise (with quite a few scenes already written for it) that I had been playing with for the past 4 years that would fit it perfectly. And it's the kind of story that has so much potential that writing it would be fun and interesting and unpredictable. And this whole realization snapped into my mind with such quick and perfect clarity that I have to do it now.

6. Hanging out at the VFW with friends who have guts.
On Friday I got to have some much-needed hang time with my friend Erica. We had originally planned to just meet up for happy hour...but then that turned into dinner, and then the amazing idea of going to the VFW for drinks and karaoke. Highlights of the night: Hearing Erica tell someone to put "your money where your mouth is, pussy!"; singing 3 songs with Erica and Connor, including my dream-karaoke-song "Islands In the Stream"; having some girl get up after us and make us all look like assholes by actually doing a good job of singing (seriously, who does that at karaoke? Go join a glee club or something); drinking like a bunch of frat boys while rolling our eyes at actual frat boys for being a bunch of chumps; and just generally having the most amazing, crazy, and hilarious time with Erica, Conner, and Ang.

7. Talking books with this guy

8. The fact that Kevin Watterson (aka, @kwatt), in all of his Republican, heterosexual, pleated-pants-wearing, sports-watching glory, loves Lady Gaga.
And, as Brandi pointed out, the soap opera Young & the Restless. You are a man of many mysteries, Kevin.

9. The Renaissance Fair
Seriously, the Renaissance Fair sucks so bad, but how can you not love it? And one year, just one, I want to get dressed up in a beer wench's costume with someone who might actually have enough balls to get dressed up in a swashbuckling sword-and-stuff costume and see if we can pass as True Ren Friends and maybe even get invited to the Ren Friends orgies that they have there after hours (whatever. We all know the rumors are true. Those people are not getting laid at any other time during the year, so it makes sense that they try to pack it all in with as many people as they can during the one time of the year when they're accepted and even paid for their super-nerdatron-lifestyle and interests). Any takers? We don't have to hang out during the orgy bit. In fact, it would probably be smarter to go our separate ways during that time - there might be some video and artful photography that I may or may not post after the fact, and you probably won't want to be implicated in that.

And that's it. Happiness time OVER. Get back to work.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wednesday Video Treat: F*ck Me, Ray Bradbury

So I feel lame when all I do is post videos for a week, but this one is so fun that I had to post it straight away. One of my favorite things in the world are music videos that look and feel like a really hilarious comedic movie, and this one is right up there with "I'm Not Okay" by My Chemical Romance.

Let us take a moment of silence to honor how much I love that video, that band, and Gerard Way.

Anyway. I, myself, am admittedly not that great of a video watcher. Tons of people post, "So great! You gotta watch this!" type-videos on Facebook every day, and usually I roll my eyes and move along to the next status update. But I think we all know that I am nothing if not a tastemaker, so you should probably watch every video that I've ever posted, knowing full well by now that it will enrich your soul and enlighten your life.

Also, pretty sure people are soon going to be talking about this video the way they're talking about Cee Lo's "Fuck You" music video (I'm not even going to link to it, because you're going to be seeing it so much about it in the next two weeks that there's just no point of me going out of my way to show you something you soon won't be able to get away from), so you should probably be up on the trends so you don't become an embarrassment to me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I made a shirt about Favre and football. Sorry if the world explodes.

Notice that the chalkboard says I am capable of mind-blowing analogies. Keep that in mind for later.


My mom is not a stage mom. Her reaction to news like getting asked to be in Chasing Windmills or being selected as one of the Ten Minnesota Blogs That Deserve Your Attention or my announcement that I was writing a book? "Oh. That's nice, Amber." I know she's proud of me - I think she might be a little bit more proud if I were announcing my intentions to enroll in law school - but it's usually displayed in a very quiet, subtle way. And that's okay. She probably has been terrified my whole life that I'll get a big head from all the greatness and genius I possess, and she's probably just looking out for me. And someday I'll just write an illuminating and best-selling book all about a mother-daughter relationship in which the mother does psychological damage to her daughter by never giving her enough encouragement, which directly influences the daughter to become a brilliant overachiever, yet emotionally cold and barren (that means single and childless, Mom).

So when she posted a comment and a link on my Facebook wall about how she had thought of me when she read an article about a museum looking for someone to live there for 30 days and blog about the experience? I had to check it out immediately. I figured it was probably some little historical museum up north, which would still be cool even if it was probably haunted by long-dead lumber barons and fur traders. When I saw that it was the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, my heart dropped, then kicked back up into my throat.

The Museum of Science and Industry of Chicago is, hands down, my all-time favorite museum in the world (and I like a lot of museums, if you know what I'm sayin'). I haven't always been a science girl. I had a very traumatic experience once in the 2nd grade when my super-mean teacher informed me that I needed science to learn that the moon was not made out of cheese or fairy dust or "whatever your little Disney movies would like you to believe." I decided right then and there that I hated science (and my 2nd grade teacher). And the eloquent line from Billy Madison where Billy yells out, "Chlorophyll? More like BOREOPHYLL!" It was like he was speaking the lines from my heart. Yes, Billy, I remember thinking. It really is boreophyll.

Things have changed, mainly due to the Museum of Science and Industry. This may sound a little cheesy, but that place was the first thing that showed me that science didn't have to be the absence of magic...in fact, it could be the very thing that brings magic to life. And it made science fun and accessible and it didn't make me feel stupid, which is a big plus. My first visit there was the first time I thought, "I could be into this stuff" (and then I watched Tate Donovan in Space Camp and it was really all over for me).

Even though I was just recently made aware that I tend to begin arguments with "Weelll, as a scientist, I think...", I'm not the girl you'd pick out of a crowd and say, "Wow, I bet that girl really likes petri dishes and scientific algorithms." Science rules my life, though. My favorite aspects about my work is that it's in a scientific field, and I delight in finding new ways to make science fun and interesting and applicable to everyday life...for instance, my new coffeeshop project. Also, dating.

Anyway.

So I saw this project and I hyperventilated about how much I wanted it. It was one of those things that you want so badly that you almost don't want to even try for it - because what if you don't get it and you end up being one of those people - the kind who spend the rest of their life talking about how they were almost Homecoming Queen or almost got into Harvard or almost won American Idol? And there will probably be thousands of people who will be applying for this thing, I thought to myself. Some of them will be Grade-A science teachers (get it? I said "Grade-A" when I was talking about teachers. DID YOU GET THAT JOKE?) or physicists or just really really good-looking guys who should be starring in their own kids show on PBS.

And it was going to be speedy, panicky, rush-to-the-max work to even apply. The due date was a week away, and there was an intensive application to complete, a 500-word essay to write, a 5x7 headshot to procure, and a 60-second video to shoot. The application and essay, that I could do. As you all obviously know, I regularly write myself into the hearts of millions with the greatest of ease. Getting the headshot would also be relatively painless. But the video was another story. I've done video-blogging on here before and it's been fun, but coming up with a creative concept, much less trying to figure out who could film it, edit it, and produce it onto a DVD? Frick-frackin' clueless.

"AMBER!" My friend Karah yelled as we drove back to her house last Friday night. "Why didn't you tell us about this before?! THIS IS WHAT WE DO!!" Oh yeah, I dumbly thought to myself. Two of my best pals, Karah and Chelsea, are producers, not to mention just incredibly brilliant and creative people. The rest of the night they sketched out and speed-talked and dialed up reinforcements for the video. On Sunday afternoon, five friends and I hung out at the amazing Jeff Johnson studio and shot one of The Coolest videos I've ever seen (the above photo is a still shot from the shoot).

So there are two morals to this story. One is that I have the most amazing friends in the universe. Jeff Johnson, Chelsea, Matt, Karah, Meredith, and Jeff Warner totally went out of their way to help me with this thing when they totally didn't have to, and I'm overwhelmingly grateful. Chels, Matt, and Karah came up with the concept, Chels and Matt spent an afternoon painting the chalkboard prop, Jeff Johnson let us use his studio and did the amazing photography for the shoot, and Meredith and Jeff Warner lent us their beautiful artistic tendencies (in fact, Jeff is part of the Sticky Sweet exhibit, showing at Fox Tax from August 12 to Sept. 3. You should check this out - the exhibit looks amazing) and undying enthusiasm and energy during the shoot.

The second moral is this: The Try. If nothing else, this year has taught me to just shut my mouth and get out there and at least try. I'm not afraid of much. I've learned, though, that for some reason and for some time, I've been afraid to go out of my way to claim the things I really want. I think it's because I fear that, if I really want something and don't get it, the feeling of failure will be that much more keen and thus devastating, if not humiliating. But so what, right? Screw that noise. This year has been amazing, and not because things have just fallen into my lap like I wanted them to. It's been amazing because I've been getting out there and busting my ass to get them, much like Tony Manero does in Staying Alive, the epic sequel to Saturday Night Fever. He doesn't want to stay in bed all morning with the pretty and super-nice-but-also-a-super-pushover Jackie, who's in love with him. He wants to make something happen today.

AND I DO, TOO, TONY MANERO/JOHNNY TRAVOLTA! I do, too.

There are also provisions in my will for a life-sized ice cream cake to be made in my likeness. We can maybe discuss this later, though.

Scene: My mom, little brother Daniel, and myself at my parents house up north, cleaning up after dinner.

"So, Daniel," I began, shooting a smirk at Mom. She rolled her eyes. "Mom and I were talking on the way up here, and I was discussing with her the plans that I've set forth in my will for my burial."

Daniel looked at me. "That's kind of weird."

"Anyway. What I was discussing with her was the fact that when I die, I would like a Viking Pyre burial-"

Loud, put-upon sigh from my mom.

"WHICH, if you study NORWEGIAN CULTURE," I continued, "You would KNOW that it is a beautiful and poignant ceremony where they put your body on a raft made of sticks, put the raft in the lake, and then set it on fire and send it out to the water."

"Amber, it's ILLEGAL!" My mom protested, as she had done in the car. "And I'm not setting any of my children on fire!"

"So, Dan," I continued, ignoring her. "The reason I'm telling you this is because, since it's in my living will already, that means that if I die unexpectedly while running out in traffic to save a deaf child or rescuing an elderly person from a burning building, I'm going to need to count on you to carry out my last will and testament."

"Does that mean I get most of your money?"

"Yeah, to pay for my funeral with."

"Forget it."

"See, Amber?" My mom smiled, gesturing over to Dan. "He doesn't want to do it, either."

"Well, someone's going to have to, and I would like to think that my family would care about sending me out from this world in a way that would make me happy and give me peace."

"By setting your body on fire?"

"Yes, at TWILIGHT, in a GLORY OF FLAMES. The way they did it FOR VIKING WARRIORS."

"Well, when I die," Dan announced, "I want my body to be doused in gasoline, lit on fire while I'm in the plane, and then thrown from the plane." He bit off another piece of beef jerkey. "At NIGHT."

My mom let out another exhausted, put-upon sigh as she flung the kitchen towel down on the counter. "I don't understand why my children are intent on making their funerals so gory and gruesome."

Dan took another bite of beef jerky. "Because it'd be cool."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Reading Rager Review

So I had originally intended this post about the Reading Rager to be this gushing read about what a great night it was (which, seriously, it was - one of the best nights of my life)...but then I got this question from a blog reader, which begs to be answered -

"What makes someone go to a book signing for their ex-girlfriend, when their ex-girlfriend writes about them in the book, and it's not exactly flattering?"

Because I'm incredibly charming and adorable, that's why.
Actually, no - even though that reason has merit, as I'm sure all of you would agree - I think it's more this: Holiday Chick is fiction. While it's true that a few characters in the book are loosely based on people I've known in real life, the trick is that almost all of those characters are based on more than one person. So whatever might seem unflattering to a particular person could either be attributed to them or to someone else. See? Easy!

And, it should be said, despite my usual vehement defiance towards even the idea of it, ex-boyfriends tend to reappear later in my life in the Good Old Friend reincarnation. So. Most ex-boyfriends who show up to my stuff are not showing up with any hope of rekindling any type of flame. Most of them are showing up because there's a 90% chance that I'll make an absolute fool of myself at some point in the evening and reconfirm any feelings they might have concerning our general lack of compatibility.
Did I also mention that the book is fiction?

And that I'm incredibly charming and adorable?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Things I Learned Today At The Hennepin County Government Center:


1. The Hennepin County District Court in Edina has a library attached to it.

2. The Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis has a lovely terrace with a pond-like structure that you can sit by and wait for two hours until your number is called.

3. Did you know that you can call the District Court office dozens of times to check up on the processing of your speeding ticket, and each time you call, the person on the line could tell you something totally different from all the other people you've spoken to? Variety is the spice of life!

4. Did you also know that, if you get your license suspended due to a lost, late, incorrectly processed, or unpaid speeding ticket, this is what happens to you -

i. They will not inform you that your license is suspended. You're just supposed to know.

ii. If you are, say, unawares of the fact that your license is suspended and you get your plates run, you will get ticketed for driving on a suspended license.

iii. The cop's partner should not open the door to your vehicle without A. informing you that he is doing so and B. without probable cause to search your vehicle. If you happen to know your legal rights and inform him of these two things and then also file a complaint, good for you. You are going to feel very proud that you know your rights and not so proud that you totally wasted your time by filing a complaint, mainly because they don't care.

iv. If the cop happens to forget to write down the total amount of the fine you need to pay for your ticket, tough luck. Oh, and by the way, 171.90 is the code of the violation, not the amount you need to pay. So, if a month later your license hasn't been reinstated yet and you find out that it might be because what you paid was only half of the total fine because the cop forgot to write the fine on the ticket you sent in with your payment, balls to you. Again, you were just supposed to know this. Hope you weren't planning on spending $160.00 on anything else this month!

v. Did you also know that on top of the almost $300.00 ticket you just got for driving on a suspended license, there's also a $25.00 reinstatement fee? You should pay that. Buuuut, you still can't drive for 72 hours while it's being processed. Sorry if you had anything big planned this week, like going to work and stuff.

vi. By the way, when you do all of this, you need to call this number in 3 days to make sure that your license has, in fact, been reinstated. Because if you don't, or if you just assume that you've done everything you possibly could have to make sure that this mess is taken care of, OR if you talk to a clerk who tells you, why, yes, your license is good to go but is, in fact, misinformed, guess what? You're gonna get to do all of this AGAIN when you get pulled over a month later! WOOT!

5. According to my clerk hearing waiting room gentleman friend, It is absolutely not okay to be a white woman who unfairly STEREOTYPES and ASSUMES that black men have, "you know, bigger thangs" than white men. In fact, my waiting room friend will have you know that the other day? He was at the YMCA, taking a shower, you know? And this white guy walks in and he was like, "Well, my god, this ain't right. All these white women thinkin' that they should git with me because of all the things I can do for them in the bedroom, and here's this white boy with his thang bein' bigger than mine! That's racism, you know. Thinkin' that just 'cause I'm black, I got a, you know, bigger thang than a white man."

Check, CHECK.

6. You could be a white woman and not like this, but that's the way it is.

7. Did you also know that, for years, black men have been dealing with the stereotype that they exploit their women, but that white men do it to their women, too? Did you know that Calvin Klein fella took that 10-year-old girl and had her pose nude in those underwear ad campaigns of his and made millions of dollars off of her young naked body while her mother just stood there and told him it was okay?

I didn't, either!

8. The walk from uptown to downtown and vice versa isn't that long, and it's kind of pretty. It is, however, less fun since you don't really get to take all that much credit for loving the earth by walking when, in fact, you're just not driving because you have a suspended license. But, you know...some guys might find that sexy.


So, check in all week, guys! I'll be here, blogging instead of working and driving and stuff.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I guess what I'm trying to say is, if it matters to me, it matters to you.


I have a lot of posts I'm trying to get written and up this weekend (that's what we in the blogging world call a "teaser") but, first, I would like to make a very important announcement that I've finally decided to do something about a serious issue that affects us all. It's a community issue. It's a personal issue. In short - I'm doing it for you. But I'm also doing it for me.

I'm talking about coffeeshops.

Today I was hanging out in my apartment, struggling with the temperamental wi-fi that my building neighbors and six-degrees-of-separation relatives, Sherman and Amanda, let me ride on for free. It's a pretty sweet deal, which is why I will never complain about it and only be patiently understanding about the laws of physics and such as the connection is coming from across a courtyard and up a level of the building. But today, I had work that I needed to get done. I had blogs posts that needed to be written. I had e-mails to reply to. I had tweets to send. I had pictures of this guy to look at.

So I had to go to a coffeeshop. But which one, I wondered? Because, as most of you know, I am a little feisty about the ones I will frequent. Let me be clear: I've worked in the service industry, and because of that, I think it makes me more understanding and patient than the next guy when it comes to service. I'm friendly, I'm nice, I'm not cheap, and if I like your establishment I will be unfailingly loyal to you for as long as it takes for you to screw me over.

But fucking coffee shops, man...I can't seem to find one in Uptown that I actually want to go to on a regular basis. To me, coffeeshops should be like men: They should be reasonably accessible, friendly, outfitted to meet the needs of life (lots of outlets, seating, etc), cool on a hot day, not out to rip you off, care about being an asset to the local community, and not one to play their douchey music so loud that you can't even hear your own thoughts.

Side note: Has anyone else noticed this shit? Why the fuck would I want to go to a coffee shop that blasts music all night (aka, Spyhouse)? I'm trying to work, bitches. Or listen to my music. Or watch a video online. Or have a conversation. If I wanted to be assaulted by your bad musical tastes, I'd just take my laptop to the VFW on karaoke night. But I DON'T, because that would be weird.

But I digress. In my experience, most of the coffee houses in Uptown possess some of these attributes but also present a glaring con - like hipster-jerk service - that makes those attributes seem less than so. Thus, in debating the pros and cons of various coffeeshops in and around Uptown, I have decided to start rating them. I know how to work an Excel Spreadsheet. I even know how to graph stuff (BOOM). And I even know how to ask people to do most of my work for me in a way that makes them feel involved and integral to the project. For instance...

Here are the categories I've come up with in the grading each coffeeshop (any variables will be rated on a 1-10 basis - 1 being totally crappy, 10 being totally awesome):

Free Wi-Fi
Friendliness of service
Price of a Mocha (to gauge price discrepancy across houses. Also because I like mochas)
Volume of music
Availability of seating
Availability of outlets
Clientele (Do I hate every single person who goes there? Or is it the type of place where I find my Ben Stein-sounding inner voice saying, "You. Are. Very. Attractive." fifty billion times during a single visit? )
Loyalty grade (Do they have a customer loyalty incentive like coffee cards or discounts via Twitter? Do they seem to recognize the people who go there on a regular basis? Is there any reason at all why I should want to be a loyal and regular customer (get the net, Common Roots and Spyhouse))
Ease of Purchase (do I have to have cash on me if I just want to get a coffee? And do I like them enough otherwise that this doesn't piss me off if I do?)
Accessibility (ie - within walking distance or equipped with reasonable parking)

I may or may not narrow these down. I may add more simply because I enjoy being particular. I don't know. It's my list, so I guess I can do whatever the hell I want with it, yeah?

So how about it readers - any particular establishments I should visit and add to the list, good or bad? Oooh...let's share horror stories of our least favorite coffeeshop places!! And then we can write group letters to them telling them how much we all hate them!

And group letters to the ones that we like telling them how much we love them, too, I guess, if you want to be boring like that.

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