The Fanny Pack Is Back: A Very Serious Product Review

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Keep diapers and bottles in your fanny pack and make motherhood easy!

 

People can’t seem to stop mocking enjoying my recent(ish) post about wardrobe choices, so I thought I’d share my latest style adventure. On my birthday, I was delighted by one of the most thoughtful and appropriate gifts I have ever received: my friends gave me a fanny pack.

It’s easy to see why my friends realized that this was the perfect gift for me. Just listen to this amazing marketing campaign I found online:

“Are you ready to see the world? This Everest® Signature Waist Pack is ready to join you on what is sure to be an adventure! Brightly colored in Raider Red® and with five roomy pouches, you can take this pack anywhere, whether you plan to cheer from the nosebleeds at a Texas Tech game or bear sweet testimony during your Sunday School lesson. Everest: Discover the explorer within!”

First of all, I don’t want to hear the term “waist pack” ever again. You can’t just rename something and expect us to fall for it. This is a fanny pack. (On a related note, they are not “joggers.” They are sweat pants. Get over yourselves)

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Wallet, keys, snacks, emergency nose hair trimmer…this pack carries it all!

Beyond that, I am ecstatic about this new item. I don’t need to explain how fashionable it is. That truth is self-evident. But it’s functionality blew me away! And contrary to popular belief, these are not just for tourists and old people. They’re also great for hip youngsters like myself!

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Working baby on the go? We got you covered!

As shown above, it has five very useful pouches. The two largest pouches, complete with zippers, are perfect for storing my wallet, keys, sunglasses, days of the week pill case, and any assortment of crackers, fruit snacks, and trail mix. Pocket #3, although a bit smaller, is great for emergency supplies: band-aids, an assortment of condiment packets, and my “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet are always at my side. The smallest zipper pocket is my “Dr. Love” pouch for dates: chapstick, gum, cologne, a copy of the Miranda rights, and my McDonald’s punch card fit snugly inside. Finally, there is a handy cell phone pocket on the front. Perfect for flip phones and pagers, this easily opened Velcro pocket assures you’re never out of touch!

There are a few downsides. Depending on how much I tighten the strap, it bounces around a lot when I run up or down stairs. My keys are jangling around in there and I can’t get the high-knees action that I need for optimal stair ascension. I also have to be careful about bending forward too far, as I might unintentionally crush the snacks that I like to keep in the big pocket. And I have to admit, wearing this thing all day does get tiresome. It’s not always a comfortable fit, and by the time I get home in the evening, the first thing I want to do is unhook my fanny pack and walk around without it.

Despite these slight drawbacks, this fanny pack outperformed my expectations. I would recommend it to anyone, especially to tourists, old people, and hip youngsters. Five out of five stars.

 

 

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My Worst Looks: A Definitive Ranking

I don’t look good naked.

This shouldn’t be news, but I’ve finally accepted it. I always thought I was too skinny, or too chubby, or too white, or too sunburned, and if I could only eat more protein/do more crunches/get more sun/stay locked in my basement, I would suddenly have a sexy body. Well, after lots of effort and several attempts at the LGN diet, I’m not expecting that result anymore.

Fortunately, I live in the 20th century, and we have reached a nice place in history where we can fully cover our bodies at will with “clothing.”

Unfortunately, I have never really cared enough to develop good taste in said clothing, and my hair is in a state of constant experimentation. Some people like to say I have a “unique” style (thanks Mom!), and I appreciate their kindness.

Where am I going with this? As you may know, I love making lists, so I decided to make a list of my worst style choices ever, and then I ranked them! We’ll go through them from last to first (first being the worst, are we on the same page?). I won’t bother to explain the point system; you will understand.

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Honorable Mention: The Handlebar

What is this face. That’s not a question. I think I was going for a dead-eyed, dissatisfied plumber about to call in a bomb threat. But the mustache is noice. Does it matter that I look stoically unhinged? Not at all, that’s how good the mustache looks. But wait, you think this handlebar picture is good? Hold on to your hats.

 

Cowboy Up

Bam! There it is. I know what you’re thinking. “Sterling, this is the ‘Worst Looks’ list. You look too good in this picture to be on this list!” Hey, I appreciate it. I do look pretty dang good in this outfit. Sam Elliot better watch out.

Clothing= +10. A trucker hat and a cowboy hat? Many men have tried, many men have died.

Hair= +15. Did you think ten was the maximum? That mustache is the maximum.

Face= -5. Looking aloof isn’t good in a trucker hat, but quiet cowboys are city girl catnip.

Selfie Bonus= -5. No self-respecting man takes selfies except when his girlfriend needs to know what he’s wearing so she can tell him to change.

Total Worst Score= +15. You’re right, these shouldn’t even be on this list.

 

Tyler Durden

#5. The Tyler Durden

The black-dyed hair. The wispy goatee holding on for dear life. The pink shirt collar thrown over my leather jacket like a maiden in distress. Yeah…my Fight Club phase wasn’t that great. If you think you’re freaked out, you should have seen the look on poor Irene’s face when I went to pick her up for our date. She couldn’t wait for the whole thing to be over.

It only got worse once I started an actual fight club. Nothing is more pathetic than a 135-lb. white boy trying to look cool for his one true love by starting fights in the parking lot at her apartment complex. Somehow that girl never loved me.

Clothing= 0. Shirt is terrible, but the jacket is redemptive.

Hair= -7. That hair would look great on Fred Durst. That’s a bad sign.

Face= -7. Am I scared? Is she? Aren’t we all?

Hot Date Bonus= +5. Irene never loved me either, but she was cute.

Total Worst Score= -9

 

Thrift Store Superstar

#4. The Thrift Store Superstar

Those shorts served me well the next time I needed to play 1980’s NBA basketball. What makes this picture look even worse is the perfect alignment of that red sign with my head, looking like I’m wearing a pipe-cleaner glasses chain. I’m like a poor man’s Kurt Rambis, if that poor man’s favorite movie were Peter Pan. This picture exemplifies my personal fashion motto: Don’t Use a Mirror.

Clothing= -6. You can’t unsee those shorts.

Hair= -3. Though shapely, my legs obviously needed a Venus.

Face= -9. I should have demanded a refund from the store for not punching me in the face.

Watch Bonus= +5. What? It’s a nice watch.

Total Worst Score= -13

 

4142_1149465461953_347464_n#3. More Mustache

You know when you are walking from your car to your house at night, and as you approach the door you suddenly feel a dark presence behind you, so you desperately grab your keys and turn the lock, then slam and deadbolt the door? What were you afraid of? What did you feel might be behind you, but were too afraid to look and see?

This. This is what you were afraid of, and what you didn’t want following you up the porch steps. This is the face of your fear.4142_1149465621957_7272847_n

Clothing= -8. I popped the collar of a pearl-button beauty. Fail.

Hair= -5. My fading hairline (thankfully retreating at a glacial pace) is juuuuuust starting to make a name for itself.

Face= -12. Do I want to take your purse, or steal your virtue? It’s hard to say. That’s why I don’t say anything at all. I just watch.

Ad Lib Bonus= +8. Those weights + that headband = everything.

Total Worst Score= -17

Shag

#2. Shaggy Hair

Did you think the dead-eyed creeper look was gone? Nope. Did you think I had maxed out my bad hair with the Brad Pitt impression? Nope. Do you think anyone can have a wispier goatee and still call it a goatee? Nope…or yep…I can’t tell. Asking yourself questions is supposed to be easy!

There are two things that are very sad about these pictures. First of all, these pictures were taken roughly two years apart. That means that I wasn’t discouraged enough by my first attempt at looking like an Irish Setter had shed its entire pelt on my head. No no, I had to try again. The second thing is, I  asked girls out with this hair and they said yes! A good man really is hard to find.Shag 2

Clothing= -3. The 90’s were a confusing time to grow up. Why was an undershirt always required? Thanks a lot, Zack Morris. Your inept tutelage has followed me all my life.

Hair= -20. I’m…*looks down at floor, wiping tears from his eyes* …I’m sorry.

Face= -10. I don’t think my face is all that weird, but these are leftover negative points from the hair. 😦

Gay Guy Bonus= +5. The guy in the background came out awhile later. It’s not important, I just needed a bonus category. He also told me I needed a haircut.

Total Worst Score= -28. I can’t get over the hair. It’s so bad. At least I was wearing a shirt.

 

#1. Nearly NudeSnow + Mugsey

 

WHAT

 

Porch Swing

 

DID

 

Wilbur's

 

I

 

Car Dealership

JUST

Pumping Gas

SAY ?!?!

I have more questions than answers. Why am I holding my dog in the snow?! Whose porch swing is that?! WITH is my life?!?!?!?!?!

Clothing= -10. Sometimes I get nervous that I’m not wearing the right thing, but discarding all clothing in favor of boxers is not the answer! Silver lining: I was sensible enough to wear socks.

Hair= N/A. That I didn’t have a ridiculous hairstyle back then is a damn miracle.

Face= -25. I look so happy. I’m at the “This is a good choice I’m making. There is nothing out of place here. Move along” level of happy. And that’s wrong.

Ab Bonus= +15. I NEED THIS!

Everything Else Bonus= -100. That this even exists, and that I’m sharing it with you right now, is everything that’s wrong with America and I am at least partially responsible for Donald Trump. I’m sorry.

Total Worst Score= -120

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Coming Home

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Crickets are pleasantly chirping outside, their only competition being the occasional yip of a distant dog and the rare passing car. The quiet is outdone only by the darkness; no artificial light comes through my window. The stars are innumerable.

During the day, I have no such serenity. The constant cacophony created by rival sisters is the foil to the evening’s peace. I am around adults 99% of the time, and although we older people aren’t necessarily the mature ones on earth, we don’t (usually) fight over who has the largest piece of cake. The chaos is interminable.

We drove to the old snow cone shop in the afternoon. I rode in the back of the truck to be one of the kids, and the girls were eager for this quintessential summer treat. After reviewing the flavor menu, incomprehensible to them, they took mom’s suggestions, ending up with ice as colorful and varied as their personalities. I chose coconut, a flavor I resisted for many years but have landed on because the clear syrup won’t stain my clothes. I’m a spiller.

As my brother drove us back to the house, I gleefully ate my treat, but my enjoyment was passive in comparison to the nieces. The intensity with which children consume sugar is amazing; they either thought the snow cones would last forever, or they worried they might be taken away at any minute. In their world, both are likely outcomes.

Tragedy struck as soon as we disembarked from the truck bed. The youngest, the impetuous one, tripped and took a dive into the gravel. I rushed to make sure she was okay, but whether or not she was hurt never entered her mind. “My snow cone!” she wailed. “No, no, no, my snow cone!” The colored ice was sprayed over the ground, melting in the summer sun. Only after I gave her the remains of my coconut did her cries soften, and only then did she notice the reddening scratches on her hand. She shrugged them off, said “Thank you, Uncle Sterling,” and returned to her joyful sugar rush as if nothing had happened. Seeing the little ones in this beautiful and carefree stage of life is my most precious possession.

This is coming home, now. In my early college days, I would get teary-eyed as I came over Grover’s Hill, the summit from which you first catch sight of the dusty little town that raised me. I would pull into the driveway, greet the family dog, and feel like I was on solid ground once again. Sometimes, it hurt. Not because I was coming home, but because I wasn’t. My childhood was so achingly close, but still unreachable.

I live in Texas these days. The distance between this old house and my apartment isn’t very great, but time creates more distance than space ever really can—I don’t need the memories as much as I used to. Instead, I experience that carefree existence through the eyes of these squealing demons, who launch themselves into my arms without any fear, without any understanding of how quickly their childhood will fade. And I don’t bother explaining it to them. They’ll learn the sorrow and the joy of getting older before they’re ready, as we all do. I may not be able to give them my remaining youth, but at least I can enjoy it with them.

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My Favorite Underrated Feelings

 

Unfriend 3

 

A few weeks ago, a girl that I was sort of friends with but didn’t actually like got married. Her wedding picture popped up in my Facebook feed and my first thought was, “Finally, a legitimate excuse to unfriend her!” I immediately cut those last, digital ties and breathed a sigh of relief.

These are the moments that get me through my days. Not all of us are high achievers. For those of you who are hitting home runs, getting promotions, or finding true love, good for you. I, on the other hand, am finding serenity in these underrated moments of bliss.

The Feeling of Unfriending

As mentioned above, I take great joy in getting rid of Facebook friends. Over time, we accumulate these people like a ship collects barnacles. As in the sea, I feel like most of these friends are just pure drag, and often unfollowing them isn’t enough. You gotta cut ‘em loose. And besides, it’s therapeutic. As my friend M once said, “Sometimes, if I’m feeling kind of sad, I get on Facebook and unfriend a bunch of people. That cheers me up!”

So why is it so hard for me to do? It isn’t as if they’re going to call me and tell me that I drove them to alcoholism. In reality, I shouldn’t feel so guilty about wanting to cull the herd.* I guess it’s mostly because I’m a people pleaser. But it’s also because I have had several people try to refriend me only days after unfriending them. How sad is that?

Despite all my neuroses, I love that feeling.

The Feeling of Beating the Alarm

Waking up ten minutes before my alarm goes off is such a good way to start the day. A more responsible, successful person would probably just get up and get on with life. That person is also pretty unlikeable. For me, those few extra minutes that I get to spend in bed, free of any guilt or self-loathing, are amazing. When the alarm finally does go off, I will resign myself to my fate and rise. But for a blissful moment, I am free of the shackles of being an adult.

The Feeling of Canceling

Sweet relief. Freedom. Everlasting joy. When I’m supposed to do something, and then some tender mercy gives me the excuse I need to avoid doing it…you know what, I’m going let my man John Mulaney tell you all about that.

I agree 100% with everything he says. This applies to canceling plans with friends, dropping classes before the semester starts, and that unparalleled moment when I have forced myself to put on gym clothes but then decide I don’t have enough time to work out.

The Feeling of the Sunday Nap

As I write this, I have just made up for 24 hours of going without food by eating three bowls of crockpot stew and about 8 dinner rolls. I feel so full and I can’t move and I’m not sure if I’ve ever been happier. Really, what is better than maximizing our most important evolutionary advantages in a single day via overeating and then taking a monster nap? It’s like having a mini Thanksgiving once a month, minus the awkward family conversation and forced gratitude.

The Feeling of Winning the Name Face-off

Those brief moments of awkwardness when you run into someone and they can’t seem to remember you but you totally remember them so you use their name several times in a single sentence just to drive the point home that you are a better human being. Superiority is so satisfying.

The Feeling of Makings Lists

People love making lists, and I am no exception. We make bucket lists, guest lists, shopping lists, Christmas lists, and baby name lists. I used to make a list at the end of every semester in college of all the people I had met. Once my buddy and I made a list of the girls we’d dated in Provo to see how much overlap there was (about 45%). Even this is a list! Making it was a delight, and I’m not even publishing most of my ideas—I still can’t decide if the one about romantic dreams is too creepy to write. But making the list was a great exercise. It brought me unspeakable joy and I don’t know why.

 

What is your favorite underrated feeling? Am I the only one that has these? Anyone? Bueller?

 

 

*While looking for the top image, I found entire message boards dedicated to “Healthy Ways to Unfriend.” Apparently I’m not the only one with issues.

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The Disappointing Thief

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Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not much of a complainer. I try to genuinely enjoy my life without giving in to the desire to criticize. Hey, who keeps putting in these links?!

Well, anyway, I come here to complain. You see, I was recently robbed, and I’m a little upset at how lacking in creativity the thief turned out to be.

“Robbed?! Sterling, are you okay?” shouts my loyal reader. (Thanks Mom!) Relax everyone; it was credit card fraud. Nobody stuck a gun barrel in my ribs and demanded my wallet. At least, not this time. It was much less dramatic.

My credit union, UCCU, gave me a call Saturday night to ask if I happened to be on vacation in Santa Clara. I told them, “Why no, I’m at my apartment watching a chick flick alone while crying into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Why?” After telling me they were very sorry to hear about my life choices, they informed me that some schmuck had stolen my information and was running up the bill on the west coast.

Visions of outrageous balances, big-screen TVs, and even a new car flew into my mind. Then I remembered I have very low limits, so that car zoomed right back out. But surely this contemptible cur had made off with some very reasonably-priced jewelry! Hopefully for a woman he loves very much who doesn’t yet know the depths of his feelings. But no. All I found was this:

Cropped Fraud Claim Page 2

 

 

 

 

Taco Bell?! You stole my credit card to go to Taco Bell?! Aside from Geoff Nelson, I don’t think I can respect anyone who actually professes a preference for Taco Bell. My hard-earned and your criminally-acquired money was spent so you could “Live Mas?” I am disgusted. But it gets worse:

Cropped Fraud Claim Page 1

 

 

 

 

I mean…does it get worse than Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, and McDonald’s? That’s an unholy alliance that could have only been topped had he gone to one of those Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut combo joints and parked himself at a table for three meals a day. Who is this guy?!

Side note: I thought maybe the perp was trying to make a change and buy a nice present for his grandmother or uncle at a gift shop. Then Google told me that A.W. stands for “Adult World.” Let’s just move on.

Look, whoever you are: I’m disappointed. Your lack of ethics is far outstripped by your lack in vision. When federal agents come busting through your door to arrest you (that’s going to happen, right? No?), I would have hoped you would be splayed out on your new chaise lounge sofa, an expensive but non-alcoholic drink in your hand, your eyes entranced by the 150-inch television screen adorning your wall. Alas, they will only arrive to find a broken man, mouth still stained with the grease of your latest meal, heart stained even more by the despair that drove you to the golden arches in the first place. May God have mercy on your soul.

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Why I Don’t Own a Microwave: How I Ignore the Urge for More Stuff

 

Happy Dog

Along with economists, politicians, business reporters and advocacy groups, we habitually describe our fellow humans as consumers. Of course, that term makes sense when applied to people wolfing down food and drink, but lately it has been extended to virtually every area of our lives. Nowadays we do not just consume hot dogs and Cokes; we consume services and environmental resources and media and durable goods and everything else imaginable, all with greedy gusto and a seemingly bottomless appetite.

—Andrew Benett, Consumed: Rethinking Business in the Era of Mindful Spending

 

I guess the title spoils the surprise, but here it is anyway: I recently decided not to buy a microwave. There it was, in my cart at Wal-Mart, ready to crowd my countertop and zap my brains food. How did I fall to this barbaric low, and deprive myself of a basic necessity? Here’s another non-surprise—I’m about to tell you exactly why.

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In January, I moved to Lubbock, Texas (click here to read about why) (if the previous link doesn’t work, it’s because I decided not to write about why I moved to Texas. Deal with it). I got my own apartment for the very first time. It was spacious, fully furnished, and was well-suited to my needs as a poor graduate student. Jk; it was crap. But still well-suited to my needs.

Don’t worry; eventually I figured out that I merely need to open the fridge to pull out those drawers, I cleaned my room, bought a desk and a mattress, and put away all those sweats. I even bought a standing hat rack! Isn’t that swell?

Despite these quick advances towards luxury, I didn’t have a microwave. I thought I might need one. What happens if I make a big meal and need to reheat20160118_115614 leftovers? How am I going to make instant oatmeal? What will I do when the gremlins come and I don’t have a way to blow them up? (That’s an 80’s movie reference, for you kids out there.)

So I set out to get myself one. I cleared the top of my fridge. I shopped around at Wal-Mart, CostCo, and Amazon. I even got random texts from my buddy’s wife about sales she came across; it had become a community effort. And then, after a few weeks of deliberating, I realized something: I don’t really want a microwave. I have enough “stuff.”

Let’s take a step back and talk about psychology. As you can see from the below picture that I lifted from the internets, this is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. For those who slept through psych class in college, let me sum up: to be happy, you need to satisfy these needs, starting at the bottom of the pyramid. In other words, if you don’t have a roof over your head, it’s hard to spend time exploring your creative side. But if we start from the bottom and build our way to the top, we can achieve self-actualization, which is the fancy way to say happiness.Maslows

In another amazing post for Mr. Money Mustache, my main man MMM relates this Maslow’s hierarchy to personal finance. Our objective in this life, he argues, should be to achieve happiness, and money is a tool that we can put to that end. But often money, and the “stuff” it purchases, can become the objective, rather than just a tool. That’s how our priorities get out of whack, and we end up with alternative pyramids, like this one:

Maslowe's with Internet

Okay, okay, nobody over 15 years old thinks that is a real problem. But how often does “stuff” get in our way of the pursuit of happiness? Am I the only one who is tired of being just a consumer? I’d rather think of myself as a producer, another fine point MMM makes.

So what does this have to do with my microwave? In case you’re wondering, I’m not someone who thinks owning a microwave is a bad idea, even after reading about this and this. And I’m sure I’ll buy one sometime in the future. But it was a good exercise to take a step back and ask myself, “Do I really want this thing? In what ways will it improve my life?”

I couldn’t find a compelling answer to either of those questions, especially the latter. I guess it will make meal prep time shorter, but I don’t know if that’s much of an advantage. Even though I don’t always love doing it, taking the time to prepare a meal is actually good for me. I learn how to make something new, it takes my mind off the stress of the day, and I know it’s radical, but it might be good to give my brain some idle time! Busyness is not equal to productivity, never mind happiness. Going through this mental reality check might be the key to more simplicity. It might also open the door to the power of cumulative frugality, yet another favorite topic of mine.

Of course, I didn’t think about all of this that January day in Wal-Mart. I just looked down at my cart, at the big box with the cheap microwave inside, and thought, “Do I really want this? Really?” The answer was no. And, six months later, it’s still no. And I think I’m happier for it.

 

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Movie Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Although I haven’t any business reviewing movies, as I see so few of them, I intend to do so now. I recently saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, directed by Ben Stiller, and have been thinking about it quite a bit.

In no particular order, here are 5 takeaways from the movie:

  1. So much seemed to happened in this movie, and yet so little really did.
  2. Sometimes, realistic dialogue isn’t actually a good thing.
  3. The scenes in this film were beautiful.
  4. Kristen Wiig’s singing voice holds the key to my heart.
  5. Representing all bearded men in this film as contemptuous is an unscrupulous thing to do, Ben Stiller, and you ought to be ashamed of yourself for trying to undo all the progress beardies have made over the last few years.

When the final credits rolled, my mind echoed with one question: did anything really happen in this movie? It’s hard to believe that this question remained after a film in which a desk jockey leaves his extremely uninspiring routine-driven life in order to chase a photographer to Greenland, Iceland, and then to the Himalayas and ends up on the cover of a nationally published magazine. Oh, and he gets the girl. Yet somehow it felt like nothing had really happened? How is that possible?

My best answer has something to do with the interactions of the characters in this film, specifically their dialogical interactions. In a film about people, the progression of those people’s relationships drive a story forward. In this film, interactions between key characters were sparse, so those interactions needed to be pithy and meaningful. They were not.  I prefer dialogue to be real, but Walter (Ben Stiller, director and protagonist) and Cheryl (Kristen Wiig, goddess of my soul) have such realistically unsatisfying conversations that I had flashbacks to my most boring and non-descript first dates.

Despite having these inner conflicts as I watched, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy some of it. I love Stiller and Wiig’s comic abilities, but it was refreshing to see them in such grounded roles. They came off as genuine people (albeit boring people with no chemistry) that I wanted to like. And the scenery in this movie…wow. There were some moments when, no matter how uninterested I was in the story, I caught my breath a little and thought, “That was beautiful.”

And now let’s talk about the best thing ever: Kristen Wiig, sultry siren, singing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” That moment saved the movie experience for me. I paid my ticket (okay, someone else did, but still), I was physically present at the theater, I wanted to have a good time…but I never really engaged with the story. That is, until Wiig’s character arrived in that Icelandic bar with a guitar and strummed with the rhythm that became my heartbeat. All over America, people (maybe mostly men) like me wished that we had an ocean to jump into, a shark to fight, and a Himalayan mountain to climb, because with Kristen’s voice in our ears, we could have done it.

2 out of 5 stars.

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