Friday, September 28, 2007

NBC iSucks

I'd like to add my name to the list of Office fans disappointed by NBC's decision to move the episodes online rather than on iTunes.

This old blog entry from TAUW details how iTunes essentially saved The Office's ass when NBC first agreed to put the show's episodes online. (I can only dream of what might have happened for Arrested Development had iTunes had video back in 2004...) But NBC seems drunk and greedy with success. The NYTimes reported that Apple claimed NBC had demanded that the episode charge increase by three dollars, from $1.99 to $4.99 per episode. (NBC denies this claim and says they wanted a higher wholesale price, not retail.)

But who cares about all those numbers and figures when you just want to rewatch that really cute scene from last night's episode where Jim takes Pam's hand while they walk blissfully together down the sunny sidewalk? Answer: Nobody.

And so, today when I wanted to watch aforementioned scene, I was totally willing to accept that NBC had moved its shows online--even happy since two of my three favorite shows air on NBC (The Office and Heroes). But when streaming video is constantly interrupted because of your average shitty Comcast signal and the throngs of other fans trying to access the same tools, it's enough to make you want to turn back on The Office and run to the sheltering, all-American arms of of to curl up with a rerun of The Bachelor.

Speaking of which, how is it that ABC's video quality is soooo gooooood? My third favorite show is Ugly Betty. I used to relish in purposely missing its Thursday night airtime and then curling up Friday afternoon with a cup of hot chocolate (or a glass of Riesling, but who's counting?) and watching the beauty that is ABC's streaming full screen video. Meanwhile, somewhere in a distant universe, some Office fan screams in agony as NBC's grainy stuff (that people outside of the U.S. can't watch, by the way) stutters and stumbles its way across the Internet.

NBC says that by November, us Office fans will be able to subscribe to a weekly download service where we can watch the last episode of The Office for free on our computers for one week. Afterward, it will somehow self-destruct, a la Mission Impossible and/or Tom Cruise's dignity.

The next advancement for NBC's viewers will be when they can do exactly what they were doing on iTunes--legally pay for the episodes, download them to their computers and watch them on repeat to their hearts' content. But don't hold your breath because NBC says to expect that to happen by...drumroll...mid-2008.

Until then, I'll accept that NBC has pushed me toward lawlessness on Youtube or wherever else I can watch Angela crush Dwight with another rolly chair.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fear and Loathing

I was never a normal child. Rather than the carefree child I should have been, I emulated something more like a worrisome grandmother who takes Lou Dobbs seriously.

I’ve whiled away days looking at old diaries, reflecting on exhausted hopes and fears, and wondering how I came to be the way I am and was. I still have no explanation for the hours I spent fretting as a young child, concerned about things like—if I lay in bed on my back, I’ll turn into a corpse; or if I don’t love my dog with diabetes enough, she’ll die; or what if I grow old and become like the Chicken Lady down the street in her dilapidated Victorian house full of chickens and their feces.

When I was in elementary school, I got a brand new diary—a plastic book stuffed just slightly with some synthetic material that softened its cover. Plastered on the front, of course, is the word “DIARY” in curvy, sophisticated letters. Below are a pair of pink and purple ballet shoes, balanced precariously on a line of unmelodious notes on a music staff. I can’t tell you when I first bought the diary because, for some reason, I tore out most of its first pages—seemingly an entire section of pink papers have gone missing in the series of pink, yellow, and then blue lined pages. So, the early years remain a mystery.

However, the plot thickens quickly from the first entry about my elementary school’s May carnival to the third entry dated January 26, 1993, which reads directly as follows:

Tonight, I was getting scared because I always—hold on. [Here, I vaguely remember hiding my diary under my pillow as my mom came in to tuck me into bed. I was very suspicious of my mother and convinced myself she was reading my introspection. Every few pages there is an entry written with forceful capital letters like, WHO IS READING THIS!! Of course, if I had any real investment in hiding the diary from Mom, I would have probably not used string to tie the key of the diary to its tiny lock for constant easy access. Anyway, as I was saying:] Sorry. Well let me get back to what I was saying. I have thought my parents steeled me away from the hospital and then pretended that I was their child. [I told you. Suspicious.] But I was also worrying about MORGAGES, TAXESS, CHECKS, BILLS! It’s just a disaster. I’ll wright back when I’ve got this all sorted out.

Well, I haven’t exactly got it all sorted it out. But I am “wrighting” back to say that at least can look back at my eight-year-old self, a gangly, freckled girl wrought with self-doubt, suspicion and fear of finances, and sympathize.

Although I eventually purged the image of my so-called mother and father ripping me away from my rightful parents--some young, good-looking and successful couple, of course--moments after my birth and wielding me home like a trophy, I didn’t get through it easily. Before I could accept my parents as my own mom and dad, I first had to believe that my dad was having an affair with his secretary, then that my mom had secret children from a previous marriage, and finally that there may be more of my siblings hidden in our barn. After several investigations, I determined that these half-siblings didn’t exist after all and that my parents have legitimately conceived and birthed me.

But old habits die hard.

J tells me that I worry about small problems as if they’re big ones, and that if I don’t have any problems, I create them.

At age ten, I started a section in another diary (I had dozens, most of them, like this one, half-full and sporadically dated) dedicated to “Child Advice.” Child advice…from a child. At the time, I saw this as my breakthrough. I, at age ten, would write and publish the first ever by-a-kid, for-a-parent book of parenting advice. I was like Jane Austen, a social iconoclast, breaking down stereotypes and an editorial pioneer, forging words into new territories.

7/18/95. Another note. Sometimes your child will lean towards you, then more towards their father. If you have a son, he’ll go toward you when he’s real young, then toward his dad when he’s probably somewhere between 5-11. Don’t be left in the ‘woman’s place!’ Are they playing baseball? Cheer ‘em on, if you can! Then when your kids are grown up, they’ll be by both of you!

Age 10, and already I feared my own unborn Oedipus.

In my oldest diary--a blank journal stolen at age 6 from my mom's closet, I wrote in its first three pages a children's story, illustrated with a red Bic pen. A simple three-pager, it was riddled with a child's fear of abandonment and her secret desire for a pet cat rather than her moody miniature Schnauzer.

Cat and Keeteen, By Caitlin, 1991

[page 1:] I have to go to the store wiffout Cat and Keeteen.
[Here we see two cats left sitting lonely at a closed door.]

[page 2:] Mamma, I'm scaerrd abot Cat and Keeteeen. Mamma saeys, Its OK. Dont warry abot Cat and Keeteen.
[Pictured: Daughter clings to mom's hems.]

[page 3:] Yay! Cat and Keeteen!
[Here, our heroine has returned home, stick arms thrown up in the air while Cat and Keeteen jump at her feet.]

Scientists and psychologists everywhere extol writing as therapy. And at age 6, I was doing just that. We put these thoughts into words, or sometimes into crudely drawn kids' stories, to work things out. These days, the demons I face are slightly more complicated than my guilty desire for a cat to replace our dog (although then again, for a six-year-old, what can be more complicated than that?). Fears for young 20ish Caitlin are embodied by unemployment, death, and the impact of the Empire of George W. Bush, among other things. But still, I find myself rationalizing--and admittedly, occasionally repressing--to work things out. I usually do this by doing what I'm doing right now--writing. So I guess some things never change.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Kid F'n Nation

Am I the only person in love with Kid Nation?

The general feeling, surmised by the acid test of a Google Blog Search, is not just negative. It's Midwestern-soccer-mom-running-on-nonfat-Starbucks-and-Vicodin angry. Elisa, posting on, bemoaned how Kid Nation dared show its hardboiled viewers everything from homesickness to "younger children being picked on by the teenagers." God knows that only happens on TV screens.

And while I'm sure some of these kids ended up on this show with a soft--or maybe not so soft--push from stage moms in the wings, I also have to say that the first episode revealed nothing worse than a sprained muscle and some chalk graffiti.

If anything, Kid Nation appears to be Kids Say the Darndest Things, reality-show remixed, minus-Bill Cosby, and plus-desert. Or, something like this:

And as if the excitement of their Showdowns--wherein the first episode, they pumped red, blue, green and yellow water that left the kids with sickly, food-coloring tinted skin--was not enough, the Easy-to-Love and Easy-to-Hate kids add a whole new dimension of moral pondering and introspection that may leave the average CBS viewer quivering.

To simplify things, here are a few of the of my own Easy-to-Love and -Hate Kids, broken down by their bios from the Kid Nation website, which--luckily for you--I have spent entirely too much time on today.



OK, not only is this kid freaking adorable with his little bucktooth and tinted glasses, but he's also the most lucid kid on the show, next to Michael (see below). Just check out his answer to this question:

Who have been some of the worst U.S. presidents, and why?

George W. Bush, for leading us into a war without checking his facts first and for not having a clear plan prior to the invasion. He also suppressed anyone who wanted to question his decisions, which is against the American concept of free speech. William Harrison because he was too stupid to wear a coat at his inauguration speech, and caught pneumonia and died without doing anything in office.
ANY kid who cites William Harrison is a winner in my book.


This kid is Buckaroo City's 14-year-old, white version of Barack Obama. It seems pretty certain that he is not only a genius (Knowledge Bowl!!), but he's also super-sweet. What would he do if he won the lottery??

Become a philanthropist.

I'm also pretty sure that the Town Council really owes Michael that $20K gold star for bringing the kids to order not once, but twice. Michael is also the anti-thesis to Greg (see below).


Just in case there was any question to how much more mature women are than men from the very earliest of ages, Laurel is here to remind you. She is easily the most competant and take-charge member of the Council and also has the best accent. She especially won me over when she took aside Jimmy to encourage him to stay. She's obviously an emotional person, since she even apologizes to Bush before bashing him:

Who have been some of the worst U.S. presidents, and why?

I'm not sure if President Bush will read this (probably not) and I don't want to hurt his feelings but I am not to happy with his decisions. I believe he vetoed a bill that would allow children to get access to free health care. The whole War going on that he is in favor of and I am strongly not in favor of. There has been a lot of lying and deception with this President. He does not seem real bright like a president should be.


Jared, 11

So the word 'hate' might be a little strong when directed toward an 11-year-old. I don't really hate this kid at all.

But I couldn't help but feel thoroughly creeped-out by this kid every time he was on the screen. Memories of childhood flashed back where there was always that ONE kid--you know, the one doing bad MLK impressions and talking with religious fervor about the "shells of men"--who left you hiding under the swingset.

However, I have to absolutely give Jared props for his best quote of the show so far:

"This is like the worst day in three years."

Brett, 12

When faced with choosing one of two rewards for each kid completing the Showdown, Brett wanted the Town Council to choose the crap ass TV instead of seven outhouses.

Enough said.

Greg, 15

Greg is Kid Nation's male answer to reality shows' formulaic cast member "The Bitch We Love to Hate."

We have Greg to thank for the chalk graffiti as he and his minion Blaine torment kids half their age. He also seemingly underwent a change of heart when the $20K star was unveiled. Although evidently, unlike Sophia who received the first one, he'll unveil a new leadership style a la Ted Kennedy. See video below.

That video alone makes me shake in anticipation for the next episode. Oh God, oh God.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007


It may not sound entirely possible, but I'm relatively certain--the sun shines brighter in Andersonville.

Out of the canyon walls of downtown and the towering buildings of the near north, Andersonville's sidewalks radiate sunshine and streets play with their leafy-green shadows. Rosy-faced babies strapped in strollers squint in the light and their parents, clad in the hippest clothing you'll see parents wearing, glance in the storefronts. In our own Swedish farmhouse-turned-apartment, the third floor rises above the neighbors' dark brick buildings and the sun filters through skylights. It's not a dream. It's the North Side.

And while Andersonville is hip, it's no Wicker Park where the need to be counter-culturally cool hangs tangible in the air. There's no need for presumption along this north bend of Clark Street. In fact, it's that effortlessness that makes Andersonville just so cool, like the older kid you secretly admired in high school who was quirky but comfortable with himself no matter what everyone else was doing.

The neighborhood, tucked just south of mostly-Hispanic Edgewater, is rooted in hard work and charm. The streets are dappled with brightly-painted old farmhouses turned apartments. Before they were apartments with dark-paved city streets, they were homes for large Swedish families who worked in the cherry orchards and farms surrounding their northern suburb. Of course, it didn't take long for Chicago to bloat and swell onto the north side, loosening its belt as it devoured its own boundaries. Some Swedes stayed, but Middle Eastern, Hispanic, and Korean families moved in, adding their own tastes to a neighborhood filled already with flavor. Soon afterward, young hipsters moved in and opened their new boutique stores, sweets and coffee shops, but kept the feel of the neighborhood--keeping the dive bars divey, the old Swedish water tower towering, and the cheap produce shops...well, cheap.

My new favorite haunt is undoubtedly Sweet Occassions where I've rediscovered a love for all things Irish Mint. I also have spent a ridiculous number of hours poking around in The Brown Elephant, trying on big derby hats and oversized sunglasses. Andrea and I spent most of Thursday afternoon layering every scarf there about our necks and checking our reflection in the mirror.

John and I have also totally exploited the restaurants in the neighborhood, traveling beyond even the Hopleaf (God bless the Kwak) and trying out pizza places like Ranalli's Anderonsville outpost, Turkish/Middle Eastern Reza's, and of course Hamburger Mary's, which is no independent spot, of course, but I had never eaten there before.

But I have to say that my favorite dinner so far was the only one we've made at home. Try this C&J Fatty Sandwich recipe:

Ingredients: Sourdough bread, bacon, fresh peanut butter, Muenster and Gouda cheeses, Granny Smith apples

-Fry bacon til it's good and crispy.
-Cut up apples into thin slices.
-Slice the loaf of sourdough into medium-thickness slices and toast.
-Slather one side with the peanut butter, another side with butter.
-Layer the apples, sliced cheeses, and bacon onto the sandwich and close the sandwich.
-Fry in pan on medium heat. Try butter in the pan rather than other oils, and enjoy!!


Friday, September 7, 2007

iPhone, schmiPhone

Okay, okay!

I know that everyone is freaking out, just like this dude, because Steve Jobs lowered the price of the iPhone by $200. That news is two-days old.

But I, one iPhoneless girl, can't help but put a plug in all this pissing and moaning. What's more, I think all those "I was first to the new technology!" twats deserve that $200 slap on the wrist.

I endured more obvious flaunting of their new hot thing by iPhowners on the El, at Panera, and even at the Evanston Fourth of July fireworks. (What our founding fathers would think!) Usually, the iPhowners would go about their technoboasting in the same quiet way:

Hm...It sounds like some people near me are talking about the iPhone. I think I'll take mine out at hold it at eye-level for everyone to see while I send an email.

Oh, you have a Blackberry? Let me sit next to you and angle my iPhone at you so you can see all the pretty graphics.

Oh, what time is it, you ask? Let me just pull out my iPhone to check, rather than glancing at my wristwatch.

Do you possibly need to make a phone call, friend? Oh, feel free to use my iPhone. (pause) Oh, didn't I tell you I got one? Here, let me show you.

I mean, look at that guy in his Panama hat and thick-rimmed glasses with his newly-bought iPhone. I think he's okay without that $100 refund for his ego-boost.

Oh, and if it drops in price again, I'm buying one.