Sunday, August 28, 2011

Good Night, Irene!

Things were looking pretty sketchy weather-wise earlier this week, with big bad-ass Irene churning in the southern Atlantic. She pounded parts of the Caribbean and the Bahamas and seemed ready to pummel the Mid-Atlantic states as a Categeory 3 storm. Fortunately, the bitch got a little anexoric before hitting the outerbanks, weakening to a strong Category 1. 

While she left a few deaths and plenty of damage in her wake (and still is tonight as she continues her northward trek into Canada), things could have easily been MUCH worse. On her way north toward NYC, she blew through several major metropolitan areas. Can you imagine what might have happened had she traipsed through those cities as a stronger storm? That's a scary thought! I know a few people who live in her path, so I am mightily relieved that she lost a lot of her power before swirling through.

Those of us who live in the southern Atlantic states know all too well that although hurricane season officially began on June 1st, it's only just now really getting cranked up. Early- to mid-September is the peak, just around the corner. And while Irene is currently exiting the stage, Tropical Storm Jose has already popped up near Bermuda. Not much is expected of him, but a new tropical wave has also rolled off the coast of Africa with a 70% chance of developing into a storm. Something we'll have to keep an eye on over the next week or two.

Batten down the hatches and hold on to your hats, kids... this hurricane season could get a lot bumpier before it's over!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Monkey at the Movies: The Help

One of my husband's favorite things to do is go to the movies. We try to go at least once a month, and it's usually on Sunday mornings (at some AMC Theaters, it's only $6 before noon). So I figured maybe I'd post an occasional review here, since I already did one (Horrible Bosses). Not that my opinion counts for much, but it might help you decide what flick you want to see on your next date night... As long as you don't mind it coming a bit late in the game... we're not crazy about crowded theaters, so we generally don't see movies until at least a week or two after the release date.

When I thought of having this blog's movie review post titles begin with "Monkey at the Movies:", I googled that phrase. There were really only a couple blogs already using it, which later combined into one (they were both by the same guy), and it doesn't appear to be currently active. So with a respectful nod to GeekMonkey (great confused minds think alike), I'm running with it.

Last night we saw The Help. I'd been meaning to read the book since I designed the invitation for my mom's book club luncheon when they read it a year and a half ago. I could NOT bring myself to see the movie until I read the book, so I bought it last week and finished it over the weekend. It's a wonderful book! I knew I was going to enjoy it when after only about 30 pages in, I had already laughed out loud four or five times.

The movie is also wonderful. I have to say, they took a lot of liberties with the book. (I'm sure they had to modify things to keep it within a 2-hour-or-so timeframe.) There are some pretty major differences in some details and plot lines, but the gist of the story remains intact. Emma Stone wowed me again with another engaging performance in her role as Skeeter (she was great in Crazy Stupid Love, not reviewed here but highly recommended). And who knew sweet little Ronny Howard's daughter (Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly) could be so convincing as a completely evil bitch?? Viola Davis portrayed a gentle strength and courage as Aibileen. Paired with Octavia Spencer's brash and veracious Minnie, it's a delicious combo. The movie is studded with other actors who are always fun to watch... Sissy Spacek gives Missus Walters a lighthearted flair. Allison Janney as Charlotte Phelan imbues her character with a stubborn toughness that I didn't infer from the book. I was disappointed in Cicely Tyson's portrayal of Constantine... maybe it's just me, but Ms. Tyson seems to play the same character the same way in every film I've seen her in over the past couple decades. From the book, I envisioned a less feeble, more self-assured Constantine.

Overall, the movie works. At 2 hours 17 minutes, it's a bit long, but it keeps moving so it never "feels" long. There are laugh-out-loud moments, and some that may bring a few tears (I heard several weepy sniffs around me in the theater near the end). Don't get the wrong idea... it's not a tear-jerker by any means, and the overall message is a positive one. And can I just say, although America still has plenty of racial issues, as a country we sure have come a long way since the early 60's! It's hard to believe people ever thought that way, and that some still do. I also have to say that I may never look at a chocolate pie again without chuckling.

Monkey at the Movies rating? A whole bunch of bananas!

Monday, August 15, 2011

What would your mother think?

Mr. Remarkable Monkey and I went out for dinner Saturday night. He was in the mood for Mexican. We decided on a local non-chain joint that I've been to a few times, and it's always good. We knew it would be crowded... after all, it was 7:30 on a Saturday night when we arrived. The hostess added our name to the list, and we retired to the outdoor patio area to people-watch while we waited for a table.

Eventually, a group of six or eight college-age looking kids arrived. They were fairly oblivious to those around them, talking loudly to each other and invading the other patrons' personal spaces. They also seemed to be dressed for a kegger, not a Saturday night dinner at a fairly nice restaurant. Mr. RM and I immediately dubbed them an H.O.D. (herd of douchbags).

Most of the guys were dressed just on the slightly overly casual side... shorts and t-shirts, not too bad... with one or two of them in tank tops. Tank tops? Really? But what I thought was particularly in poor taste were the girls. They weren't dressed like tramps... that may have been slightly better. They were in short shorts and hoodies. HOODIES!! It was about 90 degrees and humid, and these chicks were wearing heavy, long-sleeved HOODIES! Why???

First of all, it's hot outside. What in the world do you need to wear a hoodie for? If you think it will be cold inside, carry a sweater or jacket with you. Secondly, you're going to a "real" restaurant... not McDonald's, not Panera, not the college cafeteria. Didn't your mother teach you how to dress appropriately? You're gonna wear that out to dinner, on what looked like a group date? What kind of white trash are you? Have some self-respect, for Pete's sake. I mean really... I'm a pretty casual dresser, but that's just ridiculous. If I'M thinking you're under-dressed, it's really bad! You could at least put on a nice shirt to go with those hoochie shorts you're wearing. Carry your poorly-attired ass down to Taco Bell if you're gonna go out for dinner dressed like that.

I guess that's what they did in the end... they decided the wait for a table was too long. Maybe they were worried about losing their buzz. **siiiighh**

On a side note, our dinner was delicious. And there were no other fashion traumas. Until we were almost ready to go. The couple seated to my left had gone, and another couple got their table next. They were dressed okay, but the guy had evidently bathed in "Eu de Club Boy" or whatever his stinky cologne was called. I could hardly breathe. Thankfully, I had already finished dinner and was just sipping my margarita and nibbling chips. But here's a tip on cologne and perfume... less is better. Nobody wants to smell you from six feet away. Or maybe it's just me.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Municipal Principles...

There's a small park in our neighborhood. For a long time, it was pretty much a haven for vagrants, drug dealers and vandalizing punks. We rarely saw anyone else use it. A few years ago, we started walking our dog there. We'd walk around the grounds and think to ourselves "This could be a really nice park... too bad it's such a shithole." Park maintenance staff? About the only time we saw them, they were sitting at the picnic tables under the shelter playing cards and smoking. Park security? They seemed more interested in yelling at us to put our dog on a leash than anything else (even when we were the only ones in the park... which we usually were).

After a while, it occurred to us to start picking up some of the litter that was so generously strewn about, since no one else seemed to take responsibility for doing it. Some of the more vile things we'd regularly find were used condoms just steps away from the playground equipment, drug paraphernalia and cooked spoons, glass beer bottles shattered on the basketball court and picnic areas, and soiled clothing and underpants. Some disgusting waste of life even took a crap in one of the baby swings. Once, there was a marijuana plant growing in the cracks of the cement under one of the picnic shelters. We left it there to see how big it would get before Park Maintenance noticed and removed it. It was there growing happily for a couple weeks. My guess is some stoner probably unearthed it and took it home to replant. (To be honest, we actually thought about doing that ourselves!)

I had been battling with City Hall on another neighborhood issue at the time, and I mentioned the sad state of our neighborhood park to my city councilman in an e-mail. He forwarded it on to the head of the Parks Department, who forwarded it on to the Chief of Police. Apparently, the cops were aware of the rampant drug activity going on there, and the Chief indicated he'd look into stepping up patrols in the area. Meanwhile, we kept using the park and doing our best to keep up with the trash and discourage the "unsavory" characters from hanging around. I'll tell ya, people waiting to buy or sell drugs really don't like it when you just stare at them. It's kinda funny to watch them fidget for a while, then make a call and slink off. And they REALLY don't want you to see their license plates!

Eventually, the shady activities seemed to decrease a bit, and other dog owners began to use the park. (Not all of them were good about picking up after their pets, but that's another story.) Then a couple years ago, a new Parks Department District Supervisor was assigned to our area. The old rusty fence was replaced. Then the playground equipment was touched up and got a new rubbery cushion and lots of new mulch. New trees were planted. The picnic shelters were repaired and painted and BBQ grills were put in. Park Maintenance staff routinely came in and cleaned up. The new supervisor really worked hard to make a difference in our park. And ya know what? People started using the park as it was intended... softball practice, peewee football practice, even jr. lacrosse practice, family picnics and birthday parties. Slowly, it has become a nice, thriving neighborhood park once again. We still have the occasional vagrant and vandal, but nothing like it was just three or four years ago. We call Park Security when we see a transient dude sleeping on the picnic benches or hanging around, and they usually say "Thanks. We'll send someone out."

Usually. One morning last week, there was a homeless dude sitting at the table under one of the picnic shelters. I'm not comfortable confronting these guys... I don't know who they are or what their story is, or if they're violent or packing weapons or whacked out on drugs. So when we got to the other end of the park, I called Park Security. Here's the gist of how the call went:

Me: "Hi, I want to report a vagrant hanging out in (insert park name here) Park."
Security: "Where is he?"
Me: "Sitting at the table right beside the playground equipment."
Security: "What's he doing?"
Me: "Uh... sitting there."
Security: "Well, we can't kick him out for sitting there. If he was exposing himself or defacating in public or being a nuisance...."
Me: "So... even though the sign posted at the gate clearly states 'No Loitering', you won't enforce it?"
Security: "We can't kick him out for being homeless. He has a right to use the park."
Me: "Well I'll tell you, I really wouldn't feel safe in the park alone with him there, and I sure as heck wouldn't be comfortable bringing kids here."
Security: "That's why we recommend people go to (bigger park name) Park, or (bigger park name) Park. There's safety in numbers."
Me: "So... you're telling me that I SHOULDN'T use my own neighborhood park if I'm uncomfortable with vagrants loitering in it? That I should drive 20 minutes away to another park? Is that how my tax dollars work now?"
Security: "You can try calling the Police non-emergency number. I can give it to you if you want."
Me: "No thanks... I have that number already. Thanks very much and have a lovely day."

WTF???? Now, I'm not insensitive to the plight of the homeless, especially in the current economy. That being said, I have a real problem with transient men hanging around what is essentially a neighborhood playground! Is it just me? Or does it seem extremely inappropriate to you, too? And for the security staff of the Parks Department to tell me to use another park if I'm uncomfortable with it just seems grossly negligent. Maybe I'm just overly fearful of the park reverting back to the sorry state it was in before, especially if security can't (or won't) enforce the posted rules. If they won't enforce the loitering policy, what about the other rules? Are they arbitrary too? I wonder.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Aloha... and how!

They're not big, but they sure are pretty!
Remember the post a few weeks ago with photos of our plumeria and pineapple plants? Well, not sure if it was because of the recent thunderstorms, or if the plants just got too big, but the four pineapple fruits that were growing on our two plants all sort of drooped severely at the stems. They broke completely off when my fabulous husband was watering them yesterday, but fortunately one was ripe, one was almost ripe, and the other two MIGHT ripen off the plant. Probably will... I'm sure they don't ship 'em from Hawaii already fully ripened, right?
Cut off the crown, and save it!
Trim the sides...
...then halve lengthwise and slice.
So... we cut up the beautiful, golden ripe one last night... I can't even begin to tell you how delicious it was! It was still warm from the sunshine outside. So sweet, so juicy! You can get "fresh" pineapple at the grocery store, but it won't taste anything like this little baby did!
And I got to have the rest of it with my lunch. Mmmmmm! Jealous? You should be. It tasted amazing!

If you live where it's warm enough, you can grow your own delicious pineapple. All you need is the crown from a store-bought pineapple and a little patience. (That's what we used.) It takes about two years in the right conditions (warm, sunny, humid) to get a fruit. But while you're waiting for the fruit to grow, the pineapple plant is a damn fine looking plant in my opinion. Sharp and pointy though, so be sure to plant it where you won't bump into it often (ouch!), or in a big pot you can move.

There's probably a correct way to root the crown, but we just stick in some water until we're ready to plant it in the ground or a pot. I wouldn't leave it longer than a day or two, though. A little MiracleGro when you plant it probably wouldn't hurt, either.

Good luck if ya decide to try it!