Friday, May 30, 2014

The Perfect Hotel Room And the Week in Reviews

 
[I review the new movie "Neighbors" and DVDs "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," and "How I Live Now" and recommend the book "Heat," a great book for foodies with a Seattle connection]

But first

The Perfect Hotel Room

It's that time of year.  I bet you are planning some fabulous trip to Europe or some exotic location.  Even if it's just a week-end getaway, take my word for it.  If you get a crappy hotel room, it can ruin your trip.

 
Here are some things I have learned over the years about hotel rooms.


Here is what you don't want:

  • You don't want a room near the elevator unless you enjoy the sound of it going up and down and drunk people going in and out, usually late at night
  • You don't want a room near the ice or vending machines unless you enjoy the sound of water dripping, ice clunking down into an ice bucket or the sound of the machine running day and night
  • You don't want a room near the maid's closet unless you like to awaken early to the sounds of women talking and laughing outside your door
  • You don't want a room over the garbage dumpsters.  Invariably, the day you are there will be garbage pick up day.
  • You don't want a room with a highway view because that will also come with highway noise
  • You also don't want a room where you can stand in the center, stretch out your arms and touch the walls.
(Venice)


Here is what you do want:

  • Fluffy down pillows or their equivalent, ones you can sink your head into.  Not those foam rubber things that bounce your head all around every time you move.

  • A refrigerator in your room so you can store your wine, I mean "supplies." You don't want your "supplies" cluttering up the bathroom sink, do you?  But here is an important tip:  Turn the refrigerator OFF at night unless you enjoy the sound of a running refrigerator when you are trying to sleep. And some of them are LOUD!!!! Turning it off will not hurt a thing.  Just turn it back on in the morning. No one is the wiser.

  • A king size bed on the soft side

       I remember the years when the trend in hotel rooms was to have
       really firm mattresses (everyone must have had bad backs in those days). 
       Some of them were so hard you felt like you were on the torture device
       known as "the rack."  No, you want a nice soft, bed you can sink into after
       a long day of sightseeing, minus lumps, hopefully.  And if you sleep in a big
       bed at home, you need a big bed away from home.  Trust me.
  • A view preferably not of the wall and fire escape of the building next door like our last room in Paris.


  • A robe.  We certainly don't have the space in our carry-on for a robe, do we?  So it's nice to have one in the room, since most of the time the towels provided don't usually fit all the way around one's ever expanding waistline from all of the great meals you are having while on vacation.  Also having a robe provided gives you something to lounge around in since you didn't pack sweats.  You didn't pack sweats, did you?

  • More than two large towels.  Don't hotels realize that when we women wash our hair, we need a towel for our head and a towel for drying off our bodies?  If I use the two that are provided, then Hubby has to use a wet one.  Sorry, Hubby.

  • Conditioner.  What is with the combination shampoo and conditioner bottle that is usually provided? I don't detect the conditioner part.  When I use that, my hair looks like I stuck my finger in an electrical socket.

  • Workout room, just in case you are not getting enough exercise sight-seeing.  It also makes you feel virtuous after sampling all of the local restaurants.

  • Top floor.  It's bad enough having people banging around next door.  You don't want them tromping around over your head as well.  And, trust me, if you have someone over you, it will inevitably be a little kid playing kickball or sumo wrestlers in training above you.  It happens every time.

  • A nice hotel bar, so if you are inclined to want to sample the local wines and get a bit tiddly, it's only a matter of staggering, er walking up the stairs or taking the elevator to your room.  

       The hotel bar is also a great place to meet other travelers and flirt
       with the cute barman

 
 
  • And a comfy place to crash (other than your room) after a long day of sightseeing, doesn't hurt either (which with our luck was most likely in the rain).
 
 
(Bruges)
Now getting all of these requirements might seem like an impossibility, but according to Jacob Tomsky's book Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality,





slipping the person checking you in a tip will result in getting a better room. 

He says those desk clerks like tips, too, and they hold the key to the best rooms, no pun intended.  I get that but haven't yet figured out how to pull that off with finesse. 

Do I hold out a twenty and say, "This is for you if you hook me up with a great room?" 

No, that sounds cheesy. 

Do I say, "I am a light sleeper and would really love a quiet room away from the elevator" all the while inching a twenty dollar bill ever closer to the clerk as I smile and wink? 

No, that won't work. 

"Here's a little something for you if you give me your best room?"

See, it just doesn't work.  I read somewhere that one person just walks up to the desk and says, "Give me your third best room," meaning she didn't want to have to see two crummy rooms before finally getting the best one.

I haven't tried that yet.

So far, I have just tried to be really friendly, smile and Hubby might say, "Do you have a nice room for us?" and I will chime in "Away from the elevator, maid's closet and vending machines?"  Smile, smile, smile.

I know, not so great, but so far we have done OK without having to slip the desk clerk a twenty. 

But lest I seem like a really fussy traveler, all of this goes out the window in Europe. 

I don't have the same expectations, because #1, I can't afford the best rooms over there and #2, I am just so happy to be there, I don't care as much, because I know I won't spend that much time in the room anyway. 



In Europe, I am more likely to be adventurous and less finicky like when we stayed in this houseboat in Amsterdam: 
 
 








 
 


 
 
Or the canal boat in England.


 
 
 
 In other countries, I certainly don't want to be perceived as an "ugly American."
 
But there was this time in Florence where the room had no windows and no air con, and it was the middle of summer.

 
    And in Venice once, we were right on the Grand Canal.  At first that seemed
    like such a cool thing, not realizing the Grand Canal is the super highway of
    Venice and all of the action starts at about 5am.  And while showering, there
    was no place to put the soap except to hold it in my hand.
  •  
 
  

In those cases, we made other arrangements. 
 
 
What is your idea of the perfect hotel room? 
What do you do to get it?



Now on to The Week In Reviews


***In Theatres Now***
 
 
 
Every homeowner's nightmare:  A frat house moves in next door.

Not to be confused with the 1981 movie "Neighbors" starring John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd (though the story is very similar), this one stars Rose Byrne as Kelly Radner and Seth Rogan as Mac Radner, a thirty-something couple with a new baby who have just moved into their first home. However, they still miss their "old life," of raves and pot and being cool.

Enter Teddy (Zac Efron), the President of the fraternity and his Vice President, Pete (Dave Franco - James' brother - I didn't know he was in it but as soon as he smiled I knew he was a Franco).  The noise emanating from the frat house late at night bothers the Radners, but not wanting to seem "uncool," they go over to the frat house and try to bribe the brothers with pot and friendship.  The scene where Seth and Zac argue over who was the better Batman - Christian Bale or Michael Keaton - is hilarious and the two bond over that.  However, things at the frat house soon get out of hand and the Radners are forced to call the police.  Oh, no, you didn't.

Now it's war.

There is a lot of offensive humor - penises, farts, sex, vomiting, boobs, drugs - but, hey, it's a Seth Rogan movie, so you know that already, right?

Byrne and Rogan are a charming couple who finally learn that responsible adulthood can also be cool. But who can't identify with that time in your life when you were still fighting the term "responsible adult?"  Efron and Franco are also charming and worthy opponents who also learn their lessons.

Rosy the Reviewer says...it's "Animal House" and the 1981 "Neighbors," but sweeter.  And it passed "The Rosy Test."  I laughed.



***DVDS***
You Might Have Missed
And Some You Should Be Glad You Did
(I see the bad ones so you don't have to)
 
 
 


Walter (Ben Stiller) is a day-dreaming nebbish working at Time-Life keeping track of the negatives used in the magazine.

The term "Walter Mitty" has entered the English language lexicon to describe any unadventurous person who seeks escape through fantasy and comes from a
James Thurber short story of the same name. 

This film does not bear much resemblance to the story on which it is loosely based other than the day dreaming that Walter does, and the film takes it a step further by sending our hero out on actual adventures, something that did not take place in the short story.

Life Magazine in under new management and heading to an Internet identity.  For the last issue, the bigwigs want to use the last photograph taken by acclaimed photographer Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn), but the negative has gone missing.  If Mitty doesn't find it, he will lose his job. So he moves from his mental fantasies to some real life adventures.

One of the charming aspects of the film is Walter's attempt at online dating and the relationship he strikes up with the representative from EHarmony played by Patton Oswalt, who is very funny.

On the other hand, I have a really hard time taking Kristen Wiig seriously as a romantic interest or leading lady.  She still has too many twitches and mannerisms, reminding me of her characters on SNL, and it is distracting to me to see her try to ease out of that.

Many critics were not kind to this film, but I found it rather charming and fun.  Stiller is the king of the deadpan face and just makes me laugh, period. He would be funny in repose.  But he can also be effecting and poignant.

Rosy the Reviewer says...an enjoyable adventure for all of us Walter Mittys.
 
 
 
 

It looks like WW III has broken out in England and Daisy (), an American girl sent to stay with her cousins on a farm in the English countryside finds herself in the midst of the chaos.

You may remember Ronan as the young girl who caused all of the trouble in "Atonement."  Now she has grown up and into an exciting young actress.

Based on Meg Rosoff's 2004 young adult novel of the same name, Daisy arrives in England with a chip on her shoulder, voices in her head and a penchant for hand-washing,  but when she finds romance with cousin Eddie (handsome George MacKay), she softens a bit.  Too bad WW III breaks out to wreck everything.  Everyone is rounded up, separated, and sent to work camps.  Daisy and her little cousin Piper (Harley Bird) escape and make their way through the post-apocalyptic world to try to get back to the idyllic farm and reunite with the rest of the family.

 
Rosy the Reviewer says...Worth a look for the wonderful performance by Saoirse Ronan, someone you will be seeing more of.  Catch her now in theatres in "The Grand Budapest Hotel," one of the best films so far this year.
 



***Book of the Week***
 
 
Heat:An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford (2007)
 
 
Buford fancied himself a good cook, but he always wondered how he would fare in a professional kitchen.  In 2002 he was given the opportunity to work in Mario Batali's restaurant, Babbo, a three star restaurant in New York City.
 
This story is as much about Mario Batali's rise to fame as it is Buford's experience in his kitchen and subsequent journey to the hill town in Chianti where Batali apprenticed.
 
It's a fast-paced narrative foodies will love.
 
Those of us in Seattle have a special connection with Batali since his father founded Salumi, a wildly popular Seattle restaurant, currently run by the Batali family.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like Tony Bourdain's books, you will like this one.
 
 
 
 
 
That's it for this week.
 
See you Tuesday for

"My Best [And Most] of Everything"


 

Thanks for reading!

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Check your local library for DVDs and book mentioned.


Note:  Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database).
If I reviewed a movie, you can now find my reviews there too.
Find the page for the movie, click on "Explore More" on the right side panel and then scroll down to "External Reviews."  Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."


 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Retired Baby Boomer Librarian's Bucket List




One dark and lonely night (we have a lot of those around here), I came upon the movie "The Bucket List."


Believe it or not, I had never heard that expression before.

A little research showed that there is not agreement on how old this phrase is. Some believe it originated with the movie. Others feel it has been around longer. But all agree, it is based on the phrase "kicking the bucket."

For those of you who haven't heard of this, the "bucket list" is that list of things you want to see or do before you "kick the bucket," ...er...die.



 
As a retired librarian, here is my "bucket list," first from a retired librarian's point of view:




  • Before I die, I would like to see the librarian stereotype go away.
 

Throughout my career, when I have replied to the question about what I did for a living, I have had to hear comments like these:

"You don't look like a librarian,"

or

"You must read a lot of books (at work),"

or

"Shhhhh,"
(followed by chuckling because for some reason people get a kick out of themselves by saying that. I, on the other hand, do not).

Since during my career I interacted with librarians on a daily basis and saw the diversity that makes up the profession, it makes me wonder, "What is a librarian supposed to look like?"
 
But ask the "civilian," and nine times out of ten, you would probably hear her (librarians are stereotypically women) described as an intimidating, dowdy spinster wearing a bun and double-tread floor gripper shoes and whose only goal in life is to hush people up and be disapproving.
 

So my ultimate "bucket list" goal would be to see a movie starring a librarian as a sexy, superhero, flying about protecting people's free speech and right to read, pummeling censorship and basically teaching people good manners.

 

She is glamorous, yet practical (yes, it's a woman...we deserve superhero status), plucky (I love that word) and witty. She is also well-read (though she would never dream of reading books on the job), not just in the classics, but in popular culture as well. And she can match the "right book to the right person at the right time."

She never shushes anyone, though when battling the forces of evil, she sometimes must be blunt. As she stares down the bad guy, she says , "If you had just read that book I recommended, none of this would have happened!"

  • I would like to see libraries viewed as educational institutions instead of the often mistaken view that they are only recreational entities.

Yes, people go to libraries for recreational reading and entertainment DVDs, but libraries are so much more than that. 

Libraries and librarians are also instrumental in getting children started on the road to literacy before they enter kindergarten. They offer homework help to children and teens in school, and they are there for the adult lifelong learner who needs to learn new skills.

When the money is handed out by the powers that be or a vote is needed to support library services, it should be a no brainer that libraries are as important as schools. 

Some libraries have actually closed due to lack of financial support.

That shouldn't happen in a country where education and literacy are so prized.

  • I would like to leave this world with the knowledge that every man, woman and child not only uses the library, but knows what the library has to offer.


I have always thought that if people really knew what libraries offered, they would be pounding down the doors.

I never again want to hear someone nervously say to me, "I haven't been in a library in years" or "Why do I need the library?"

Libraries offer quality databases (and these are not the same as going on the Internet) that would help small business owners make more money, that include free online newspapers and magazines and information on a myriad of topics to help people with their research and daily lives and meeting rooms where the community can gather. Library web pages offer downloadable ebooks and other information while library programs include classes to help people with their English and computer skills, family events, I could go on and on.

All free and open to all.

But for some reason, despite hard work and attention to this, for every person who uses the library, there are many more who not only don't use the library, they have no idea what they offer.

 
  • In retirement, find something as meaningful to do to replace my work as a librarian: 

as meaningful as protecting your right to information, as meaningful as getting children ready for school, as meaningful as helping newcomers attain U.S. citizenship, as meaningful as providing a community gathering place for people to share their ideas openly.  Those are just some of the things librarians in public libraries do. 

That will be difficult to replace.



As a retired librarian with 40 years under my belt, those are the items on my professional "bucket list."

 
However,  I am also human, so I have my personal "bucket list" too.

And, as usual, I am compelled to share.






       (I know he's married but so am I!)
 
 
 
 

  •  Become a famous character actress
       (I've missed my chance to be an ingenue, I guess).

 
 

  • Write a juicy best-selling book.

  • Live my Reality TV dream. Star as "the old one" on "Big Brother" (new season premieres June 25) and win "Survivor," where I "Outwit, Outplay, and Outlast" them all wearing adorable swimsuits and cute sandals. (It's easy to lose weight on "Survivor".)

  • Find out that face lifts don't hurt
       (and I can get one for free).

  • Become fluent in Italian and drive my own boat glamourously through the canals of Venice as I head to my villa.
 

  • Become a YouTube star (I am sure I could think of something stupid enough to do to get myself on there), and because of it, be interviewed by Oprah who then asks me to become her best friend. And she gives me my own show.

  • Millions follow my blog
  • Move to Paris
  • Better yet, win the lottery so I could have homes in Paris, Venice, London, the English countryside, Victoria B.C, and wherever my children and grandchildren happen to be living so I can hang around them as much as I want.
 
Sigh. I guess those aren't very realistic - I guess that's my "dream" bucket list.
 
More realistically, if I can live near enough to my children that I can often enjoy them and the grandchildren, travel to Europe when I get the urge, stay well enough to bicycle in the Cotswolds, live comfortably, continue to make and keep good friends and hear more people say,
 
"I go to the library all of the time. I don't know what I would do without libraries."
 
and
 
"I think librarians are cool. You look just like one!"

 
 
Then I could die happy.

 
 
Make my day. 
 
Share some stories about how the library changed your life.
 
What's on YOUR Bucket List?

 
 
See you Friday for

"The Perfect Hotel Room"




 
Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to share it, email it to your friends and
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