December 31, 2008

Brilliance, blockbusters, bombs, oh my.

284 movies were released to theaters in the US this year. I saw 34 (23 in the theater, and 11 subsequently on planes/DVD). 12% - not very impressive, but it'll do, especially since over the next week I hope to see: Milk, Frost/Nixon, The Wrestler, Revolutionary Road and Benjamin Button. That will bring me to a hefty 17%. Nice. Some commentary on those I saw, those I missed and everything in between:

Movies I am shocked that I haven’t seen:
  • 'Mad Money' – Let’s be honest. A movie about girl bonding starring Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah. I have no idea how I didn’t see this.
  • 'American Teen' – A real world 'Breakfast Club'? Hello.
  • 'Young@Heart' – If the film is anything like its heartwarming preview, I think I’ll be in love:
Movies I forgot even came out this year:
  • 'Rambo' – Not to be confused with ‘Son of Rambow,’ which I clearly saw. This is how I learned that Chuck Bass is actually British. Fantastic.
  • 'Deception' – Remember this one, starring Ewan McGregor, Michelle Williams and Hugh Jackman? Yeah, me either.
  • 'How to Lose Friends and Alienate People' – This came out?
Please go away:
  • The Scary Movie franchise that brought us 'Meet the Spartans,' 'Extreme Movie,' 'Disaster Movie,' and 'Superhero Movie' all this year. I can’t decide which undying franchise is worse – this, or 'Saw' (which, for those of you keeping track at home hit Installment #5 this year).
  • Paris Hilton: Somehow starred in 2 movies this year (And, I owe an apology to Christine Lahti, because for a moment, I was supremely aghast thinking she had co-starred with our resident ridiculous heiress in ‘The Hottie and the Nottie’, but thank heavens it was someone named Christine Lakin instead.), and I also kind of blame her for 'Beverly Hills Chihuahua.' Remember how, post-jail, she was going to be a better person, and like contribute to the world and stuff? Yeah, I wonder how that’s going.
  • Jason Statham-if-all-you’re-going-to-do-is-the-same-movie-over-and-over-again: 'The Bank Job', 'Death Race' and 'Transporter 3', all in the same year? Look, I get it. You’re strapping and British. You had me at hello. Do something else please.
  • Clint Eastwood (And I mean this with the utmost respect for your long and storied career): Besides the fact that I am completely over you and the only film of yours I’ve liked in the last 5 years is 'Letters from Iwo Jima,' you are 78 years old. You do not need to release 2 movies within 2 months of one another.
Hey, what haaappened?
  • Jonathan Schaech: You had such a promising mid-90s career. Then somehow Christina Applegate became relevant again, you two divorced and now you’re starring in 'Prom Night'? (Starring might be a little generous of a term, given I saw the preview a couple million times and had no idea you were in it until 2 minutes ago.).
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still is not the same as Journey to the Center of the Earth. Right. One stars a former heartthrob famous for action movies. The other…oh wait. At least TDTESS (Try to keep up) featured both Jon Hamm ('Mad Men') and Kyle Chandler ('Friday Night Lights'!).
  • Did anyone else get ‘Wanted’ confused with ‘Eagle Eye’? This is especially funny since one stars Angelina Jolie, and the other, Billy Bob Thornton.
  • The I-Guess-I-Actually-Like-You award goes to Mila Kunis, mostly for her role in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall,’ but she was also in ‘Max Payne,’ which I actually would have seen.
Comebacks

In addition to Leelee Sobieski, Helen Hunt, Elisabeth Shue and Bill Pullman, none of whom I’d seen in a movie since the early 2000s, these former stars made their own attempt at comebacks in 2008:
  • Martin Lawrence: I hadn’t realized until just now that I had combined Martin Lawrence Comeback Film #1, Welcome Home, Roscoe Jennings with Martin Lawrence Comeback Film #2, College Road Trip. Which, judging by their IMDB summaries, isn’t really that much of a stretch:

    In one: A successful talk show host leaves Los Angeles to reunite with his family in the Deep South. In the other: An overachieving high school student decides to travel around the country to choose the perfect college, and her overprotective cop father also decides to accompany her in order to keep her on the straight and narrow.

    Hm, I wonder if hijinks ensue in either of these cases?
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt: My favorite hyphenated star, especially because I remember this interview you did with Jay Leno back in '3rd Rock from the Sun' days about your parents being reformed hippies who drive BMWs now. (Wow, I had really forgotten about him. Again. He really should have been on my Teen Idol Wish List. I loved him so much more than Heath Ledger in Ten Things I Hate About You.). Anyway. This year you starred in 2 films, 'Stop-Loss' and 'Miracle at St. Anna' – nice work. Maybe next year, you should try to make them not be about war, because in case you haven’t heard, the public tends to stay away from those these days.

  • Shocking Find: Johnny Whitworth starred in a movie this year! Oh, AJ, ye of gluing-quarters-to-the-floor-and-being-in-love-with-Liv-Tyler.
It pains me to remember that I saw:
  • 'Fools Gold'. In my defense, I was on a plane. As bad as the preview was, the actual movie was worse. The fact this movie was #1 at the box office makes me fear for the sanity of our country.
  • I also really could have lived without ‘House Bunny’ (it says something when not even snuck-in booze can help), 'Indiana Jones' (SPOILER ALERT. Really? Aliens? Has Stephen Spielberg turned into M. Night Shymalan?), '21' and 'Speed Racer' (Thankfully, those were home/plane viewings, which are somehow less painful).
And finally, just like Dwyane Wade, here are my fave five for the year 2008:
  1. Rachel Getting Married
  2. The Visitor
  3. Be Kind, Rewind (Why can I not find a positive enough review of this movie?)
  4. WALL-E
  5. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist/Pineapple Express (These are throw-ins of movies I genuinely enjoyed, which won't top any Top 10 list anywhere. But they definitely had the best trailers of the year.)


More on this year in review in the new one. Have a safe one y’all.

December 30, 2008

It's viral.

The Daily Beast recently released its list of 2008's best viral videos. I'm sure there are a million lists out there just like this, but as one of my most trusted news aggregators, I'll defer to theirs (Bonus points for including my own personal favorite - 'You Can Vote However You Like.'). Have you seen this one? It's a heartwarmer.

December 29, 2008

Lessons Learned from Christmas 2008

Trevor & I spent six days in California for Christmas. With 140 miles between our parents, another 100 between my parents and camp, and a final 130 miles back to the airport, we really covered some ground -

and learned some important lessons along the way:
  • Things that matter: Friendly AAA drivers who show up on Christmas day to fill your car with gas when you’ve run out in the middle of nowhere. Things that really don’t: Lakers vs. Celtics.
  • Banana Bread Beer tastes just as bad as you think it would.
  • Chihuahuas are kind of like cats.
  • 26-year old bodies don’t recover from air mattress / floor / airplane sleeping quite as quickly as younger ones.
  • The Stone Brewery - despite its kind of weird warehouse-like location in the outskirts of Escondido - is an amazingly awesome demonstration of the slow food movement, not only featuring over 20 of their own beers on draft and in the bottle, but offering beers from other craft breweries and tons of local and organic goods and produce, including onion rings so thick and delicious they look like donuts.

  • When a kitchen-full of Californians tells you the hot sauce is too hot – it’s too hot.
  • Just like video cameras, airport scales add about 5 pounds.
  • A pie can be cut into 8 pieces with just 3 straight lines. This makes little to no sense to the Tecate and Irish Car Bomb swilling masses. So, we'll just have to believe you, Cranium.
  • A full year of eating Mexican food twice a day couldn't get you to all the amazing-looking places between LA and San Diego.
  • When your Grandma and Mom drink (and enjoy) a Lambic, it's official: It really is the right type of beer for non-beer drinkers.

December 18, 2008

A Public Service Announcement: It doesn't have to be this way.

I’ve generally given up on celebrity gossip blogs – though once obsessed with Pink is the New Blog, I could never quite get on the Pop Sugar or Perez Hilton bandwagon, and, frankly, once Trent moved to LA and became a full-time blogger/partygoer, his commentary just didn’t feel original anymore.

Now, my blog reading is mostly limited to ones by my friends, about cooking, or GoFygYourself (not technically a gossip blog, though it does feature celebrities - this one I read for the brilliant commentary and constant 90210 references) and PopWatch, from Entertainment Weekly (Yes, Hollywood-focused, but moreso on things like casting news and industry trends, which clearly makes it more high brow.).

But no matter how hard I try, at least once a week I find myself reading an inane “article” about Katie Holmes’s brainwashed home life or Jessica Simpson’s feeingls about the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. I catch myself, and wonder, “Where am I? How did I get here? Where did I go so wrong?”

Well friends, the problem stems from corporate America.

You see: Entertainment Weekly is owned by Time Warner, which also owns People, and therefore People.com. So, at the bottom right of every PopWatch page, there is a small text ad box featuring headlines from People.com. Now, as a marketing professional, I’ve done this and tracked results and I know that this is a tactic that works – using your website’s network/parent company/partnerships to promote relevant content (Makes sense: You have a captive audience and content you’re pretty sure they’ll be interested in.). In my case, it’s also proof positive that text ads are more efficient display ads than banners. And let me tell you – it’s like a gateway drug.

I always find myself reading these headlines, and, inevitably, I click on a headline like “Jeremy Piven Abruptly Abandons Broadway Play.” It’s innocent enough, but People.com has its own network of sites, including Fox News and Huffington Post and other terribly sensationalist ones, and while I think that I’m just going to quickly read about how Will Smith donated $1.3 million to charity this year (Because I need another reason to love him?) before you know it, I’m learning about how “Even the Trump Family Re-Gifts Christmas Presents.”

Kids, listen to me. Don’t make the same mistakes as I have: JUST SAY NO.

December 17, 2008

The Secret Life of an American No-Longer Teenager

The geniuses at VH1 are bringing us an all-new “celebrity” reality show, 'Confessions of a Teen Idol.' Shocking that this hasn't yet been done (that show about the two Coreys really opened some doors). By featuring Jeremy Jackson (David Hasselhoff's son on 'Baywatch'), Jaime Walters (Donna-shovin' Ray Pruitt) and David Chokachi (Also from 'Baywatch,' he of the abs...no, the blonde one.), I’m surprised to say that they’re getting a whole lot closer to featuring people I did actually care about in my younger years (as opposed to, say, any incarnation of ‘The Surreal Life’ or ‘Celebrity Fit Club.’). But they’re still missing the mark. Who did I really care about between the ages 10-16?
  • Brad Renfro & Jonathan Brandis – Let’s just get this out of the way. It is really beyond awful that both of these actors, my absolute 2 biggest junior high crushes died, young, in tragic ways: These boys completely dominated my 7th and 8th grade lockers. Everyone’s seen ‘The Client,’ but you’ve never really seen Brad Renfro until you’ve seen tearjerker ‘The Cure’ and, of course, ‘Tom and Huck.’

For Jonathan Brandis, skip right over ‘Neverending Story’ and head for ‘Ladybugs’ (Maybe with a detour into ‘Sidekicks’) – it’s an unequivocal classic, if only for how angry it made soccer-playing girls that their uniforms never had polka dots. Parenthetically, the female lead, who I used to always confuse with Katherine Heigl during her ‘My Father the Hero’ days and then Hilary Swank during her BH90210 days, has been making a fairly legit comeback. Please reference ‘3:10 to Yuma.’ Though I completely disapprove of how you spell your name, way to go Vinessa Shaw.
  • Jonathan Jackson – The double threat! I used to record ‘General Hospital’ everyday and then fast forward through most parts to watch the teen romance story between JonJack’s Lucky (the spawn of Luke & Laura – oh, the angst!) and Liz. He also stars, with amazing hair, in the amazing film ‘Camp Nowhere’ (by co-starring Christopher Lloyd, this is completely legitimate). Along with his brother, Richard, who was supposed to be the Zach Morris character on ‘Saved by the Bell: The New Class,’ he is apparently a super devout evangelical Christian these days. If that doesn’t make for awesome reality TV, what does?
  • Gabriel Damon – There’s an unwritten law amongst 13 year old girls: In any movie that stars a bunch of cute boys, which you are therefore bound to obsess over with your closest friends, crushes must be divided equally. In the case of ‘Newsies’ – the prime example of a movie about boys really designed for teenage girls because they sing (second maybe to ‘White Squall,’ because, well, they’re shirtless) – I claimed Spot. He was tough, had the best lines, and Christian Bale’s Jack had already been claimed. Listen, you don’t mess with the rules.
  • Devon Sawa – That Christina Ricci, getting Devon Sawa in not one, but two movies (YouTube is amazing.). He was a late addition to my crush roster, and our romance flamed out pretty quickly, but he holds a special place in my heart, if only for the fact that he was supposed to be the star of ‘Idle Hands,’ but out of it came instead Seth Green and Jessica Alba. Killed off, I assume, in the first 'Final Destination' (Did you know there have been 4?), he's actually a pretty good candidate for a reality TV show.
  • Vincent Larusso – My love for Joshua Jackson is well-documented, but, to be fair, throughout the 'Mighty Ducks' franchise, I was always more of a Banksy girl. That talent! Those polo shirts!
Just some friendly casting advice, VH1, for the inevitable second season. I'd also be fairly interested to know where Taran Noah Smith (the youngest brother from 'Home Improvement') is, and I bet Rider Strong would love to participate. You can thank me later.

December 16, 2008

Going cuckoo, part 2

As I sat awake at 3AM this morning (1 part crazy cat, 2 parts hacking cough), I found myself thinking about 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest' again and realized that I hadn’t mentioned the Chief at all in my oh-so-thorough analysis. Considering what a major role he takes on by the end of the film, it’s interesting he was so easy to forget, and I’ll posit that this is because he’s the part of the movie that does feel dated.

SPOILER ALERT. Highlight to continue reading.

The Chief would rather kill his friend, than watch him live a life dictated by “the man” – Then, he literally breaks out of the mental institution, which, in 1963, with its manipulation of Billy and RP’s lobotomy, represents the 50s mentality and rigidity that the later 60s rebelled against.

I get it and it’s done well, with the sweeping cinematography and score – it’s all just a bit too literal for me. This part, and a general underwhelmed feeling about the actor plaeing Nurse Ratchet would represent the minus 1.5 Twix bars I mentioned before.

And, no, I had not recognized Billy from 'Lord of the Rings', but now that I just Google imaged it, I have a feeling when I'm up at 3AM tomorrow morning, it will be because of nightmares.

December 15, 2008

I'm ready for trivia night.

As I write the reviews that have sort of taken over the blog as of late, I stumble upon all sorts of random trivia, some of which just can’t be woven into actual entries.

Here’s just a taste of some miscellaneous factoids I’ve picked up over the last few months:
  • ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ was the first movie produced by Michael Douglas, when he was just 31. His father – Kirk Douglas – had owned the rights to the movie for years, and had originally planned to star in it himself.
  • Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito have been married since 1982. Consider them totally on my list of Couples that Just Can’t Break Up.
  • Jack Nicholson has four children, from three different women, and hasn’t been on a talk show since 1971.
  • Robert Duvall, Jimmy Stewart, Katherine Hepburn and Robert De Niro are the most represented actors on the AFI Top 100 Movie List.
  • Buddies for life Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn became friends when working on ‘Rudy’. Did you even remember that they were in that? Me either.
  • Will Ferrell is from Irvine, California! (That's the OC, yo)
  • Jay Mohr was on Saturday Night Live in the early 90s. I had no idea he ever did something legitimate.
  • Viggo Mortensen is 50 years old. Isn’t that older than you’d think?
  • Though she was raised in Australia, Naomi Watts was actually born in England. Her dad was a sound engineer for Pink Floyd.
More will follow, of this I’m sure.

Movie Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

I don’t feel like I’ve seen many Jack Nicholson movies, especially from before he was “Jack Nicholson”. Before this weekend’s viewing of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ inspired by Trevor’s and my initiative to watch each of AFI’s Top 100 Films, the oldest film of his I’d seen was ‘The Shining’. By the time ‘Terms of Endearment’ came out, I feel like he was already playing a “Jack Nicholson” role, and I’ve never seen ‘Easy Rider,’ ‘Reds,’ ‘Chinatown,’ the original ‘Batman’ or even ‘As Good as It Gets’. So it’s good for me to watch him work, and think of him as more than a Lakers fan and the butt of good-natured jokes at the Oscars.

There is little new to be said about a film that was released 33 years ago, but what I will say is that it doesn’t feel dated, which I suspect is because it was already set in the past at the time of its release. Even moreso than Jack Nicholson, the success of the film is 100% reliant on the very engrossing ensemble cast. I found myself most riveted by Christopher Lloyd, as a mental institution patient who seems pretty with it except for one major outburst. Just like with Nicholson’s character, that’s where the power of the script lies, to make the audience think – if these guys, with their very human emotions and reactions and often reasoned arguments, are crazy, what does that make the rest of us? Engrossing and faster-paced than its 2 plus hour run time, I give it eight and a half Twix bars!

Parenthetically, seriously – how much does Danny Devito look like David Archuleta in this movie?

December 12, 2008

Movie Review: Four Christmases

Once Thanksgiving rolls around, I can pretty easily be convinced to see anything with the words Holiday or Christmas in the title. But even beyond that, I’d really been looking forward to this one – the preview, where Vince Vaughn starts gagging after seeing a baby spit up, had me laughing embarrassingly loudly each time I saw it. And, it must be said that I love Reese Witherspoon. Here’s where the “buts” start – I love her, but she did nothing in this movie except look pointy.

'Four Christmases' starts with a couple (Vince Vaughn & Reese Witherspoon) roleplaying in a bar, followed by a quickie in the bathroom. This scene, and the ensuing 15 minutes are designed to be evidence of what a happy, well-adjusted, well-matched pair they are: They take dance lessons, and not for their wedding! In fact, they don’t even want to get married! Or have children! They’re just so independent and on the same page. This part of the movie was entertaining enough. Witherspoon and Vaughn are charismatic, funny actors, with good chemistry.

But once they jump into their SUV and start shuttling around California from one dysfunctional family to another, the movie just got boring. Mary Steenburgen, Robert Duvall, Kristen Chenoweth and even Jon Favreau were completely wasted in their roles – and Jon Voight didn’t show up until the final 20 minutes. It's clear there was more story to all of these characters, but no attempt was made to expose it. This made the couple pretty hard to relate to, since we just had to accept that they hate each member of their family. Even the scene in the evangelical church - typically a T-Ball pitch for hilarity - fell flat.

I think there were a lot of good ideas in this movie – but very few of them lived up to their promise. This one will pretty easily go the way of ‘Movies I Forget I’ve Seen’. 5.5 Twix bars!

December 9, 2008

Watch this for me.

Popwatch's description of the below embedded clip made me cry, so I'm going to opt out of actually watching. You do it instead:

Queue me.

I always wished that Netflix would tell you what movies you had rented through them – you get recommendations based on movies you rate, but those can be movies you saw in the theater, outside of your Netflix subscription, etc. What if I need to remember what season of 'Gilmore Girls' we left off on?

Well, I did some more digging this morning – and you can do this. Really easily! It’s just right there in your account under Rental Activity (I think that I will just insist that this option has NOT always been there). Did you know that I have been a Netflix member since May 2004? And that the first movies that [Jessica and] I rented were: ‘Chasing Liberty’ (which I rated 4/5 stars), ‘Honey’ and ‘Pieces of April’, followed immediately by the miniseries version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’? We’re awesome.

Next up: Figuring out how to get this list easily readable in Excel, so I can report on such exciting factoids as: highest & lowest rated films, films held onto for the longest and longest gap between sequential TV series discs.

December 8, 2008

Movie Review: Slumdog Millionaire

Over Thanksgiving weekend, we went with Aaron to see ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ the new film from Danny Boyle (of ‘Trainspotting’) and the up-and-coming Indie That Could for Oscar season (Think: 'Juno,' 'Sideways,' 'Little Miss Sunshine.').

The story is a fairy tale about a poor kid - in love his whole life with one girl - who magically wins a million dollars, finds her and lives happily ever after. The problem with the movie is that the Fairy Tale is padded with unnecessary, and jarringly unsubstantial scenes, that drag it down. Switching between the filming of a game show, watching the game show, a police station, and flashbacks, there’s way too much standing in the way. But the bigger problem is that the movie can’t decide if it wants to be gritty, or not, so it just winds feeling uneven.

The movie starts out with an Indian kid being tortured in an abandoned building. A man walks menacingly in, and looks at this kid, hanging from the ceiling, and begins connecting electrical wires to his toes. Intense, right?

Well – as it turns out, not so much. As it happens, the kid, Jamal, is a contestant on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, one question away from winning it all, and because he’s the poorest of the poor, must be cheating. But, he has a reason for knowing all the answers he’s given – and that’s because they all relate to his life, his relationship with his brother, and his love for a girl.

The menacing guy with the wires and penchant for torture – he’s actually a cop, and a good guy at that, who believes Jamal pretty easily. So they start going through the tape. This is where it starts feeling forced: You watch the game show on tape, hear the question, go into a flashback, watch the reason unfold on screen, see Jamal answer. The audience should have been trusted to connect the dots on their own.

There’s a good story underneath it all, it just gets overwhelmed by extra stuff. And it’s a pretty movie – with the kind of vibrant colors and sharp contrasts that you’d expect from a film about India. The actor who played Jamal, and the child actors were really very good. And, best of all, the credits run over a classic Bollywood-style cast dance number. Enjoyable enough, it just didn’t get quite there. 7 Twix bars!

December 3, 2008

The Office Drinking Game

After a full day out and about on Saturday eating and drinking our way through Cambridge, Trevor & I settled in for a game that’s sure to become a tradition (Though, perhaps not always with homebrew and leftover pumpkin beer – we watch The Office so often, that could get us into dangerous territory. Sometimes it will just have to be played with water.) – The Office Drinking Game.

Take 1 sip of your drink every time:
  • Michael messes up a cliché
  • Stanley is doing a crossword puzzle
  • Jim and Pam have a silent connection
  • Someone’s on the phone
  • Michael hates Toby
  • You spot Froggy 101
  • Kelly tells a lie
  • There’s action in the “annex”
  • There’s tell of Michael’s crush on Ryan
  • You spot someone from non-Dunder Mifflin offices in Scranton Business Park (EX: Bob Vance)
  • There’s a scene in the parking lot
  • Other Scranton businesses are mentioned (EX: Poor Richard’s)
  • Corporate is on the phone
  • There’s mention of other Dunder Mifflin branches (Do this one at your own risk during Season 3)
  • The word “paper” is mentioned.
  • Someone is spotted doing their job well
  • Angela mentions that she’s a vegetarian
  • You spot Darryl
  • A pop song is mentioned/sung
  • There’s an argument within the accounting department
  • You see Pam’s artwork
What’s missing? Chime in here.

December 2, 2008

Man of the Month: December

I was always a little creeped out by the quasi-incestuous romantic conclusion to ‘Clueless.’ In this day and age, where blood relations don’t define family, I have a hard time getting behind the idea that just because you are no longer “related” to your brother, that it’s okay to date him. It also says a lot about Me As A 13 Year Old that I was much more into Travis Birkenstock than Josh.

But that is neither here nor there. December’s Man of the Month is Paul Rudd.

I appreciate the arc of Paul Rudd’s career – he became a household face by starring in one of the bigger movies of the mid-90s, took a kind of failed detour into leading man territory, rebounded through indies and has really hit his stride with scene-stealing straight man roles in the Judd Apatow factory. And let's not forget his role as Phoebe's True Love, Mike on 'Friends.' Considering how much I’ve seen him in, I realized how just little attention I’ve paid to him in November. I was pleasantly surprised and entertained by him over the last month. In fact, seeing him host Saturday Night Live prompted Trevor & I to spend money to see Role Models – and I don’t even regret it.



In real life, he’s self-effacing, relatable, and he can really pull off that half-bearded look. So, ladies and gentleman, please welcome to our illustrious club – Mr. Paul Rudd!

December 1, 2008

Identify yourself.

As a child, I had a really hard time keeping Charlie Sheen and Tom Cruise straight. This was likely because I couldn't tell the difference between 'Top Gun' and 'Hot Shots'. I also could not tell the difference between Kurt Russell and Patrick Swayze. This is because ‘Dirty Dancing’ and ‘Overboard’ are two of the most important films ever made. And by "important," I mean, "constantly airing on television."

Anyway. I’ve got those ones down now, but as became apparent this weekend, there are some new inheritors of this confusion.

First:


'Harry Potter,' 'The English Patient' and 'The Constant Gardner' – beyond these, I honestly cannot name a movie that Ralph Fiennes is in. The thought process goes something like this: “'Schindler's List!' Wait, no… 'Michael Collins?' I’m really not sure. Wait, 'Love Actually,' right? 'Kinsey!' UGH!”

Secondly: I officially owe Liev Scrieber an apology. While trying to describe him this weekend, I called him ‘The guy from ‘Brothers and Sisters’ who is cheating on his wife with Sienna Miller.’ Nope, that would be this guy, Balthazar Getty:

I had no idea I had this mental block – or that I even knew Balthazar Getty’s name.

Liev Schrieber is, of course, the maybe-killer, eventual-victim from the Scream trilogy, as well as Naomi Watts’ baby daddy. Also, apparently, his name is pronounced “Lau,” like rhymes with “bow.” So there you go.

November 21, 2008

Another reason to love JT

It's Klos like Close

It's sentences like this that explain why Chuck Klosterman is brilliant:
Sometimes it seems like Axl believes every single Guns N' Roses song needs to employ every single thing that Guns N' Roses has the capacity to do—there needs to be a soft part, a hard part, a falsetto stretch, some piano plinking, some R&B bullshit, a little Judas Priest, subhuman sound effects, a few Robert Plant yowls, dolphin squeaks, wind, overt sentimentality, and a caustic modernization of the blues.
Originally from the AV Club.

A 19-step program

Last week I turned 26. For weeks (fine – months), I was freaking out about it, and I blame Jessica Simpson. When I tried to wrap my own words around why I was concerned about the big 2-6, this is the closest that I could get (taken from an email written at the beginning of the month):
By 30, I feel that I really need to have my shit together and be ready to be settled. And I’ve always had these ideas that “ready to be settled” would mean that I’d have done all these “things” first.
(Before you say, “But Ashley, you’re married! You ARE settled!” let me just stop you right there. Because Trevor & I didn’t get married for the sake of sitting back and watching the rest of our lives pass by. We got married young so we could do all the things we’d always envisioned individually, together.)

In the spirit of being proactive, and not turning around in circles whining and rambling about being in a career rut, I would like to share with you a list I’ve made. It was going to be “26 Goals for 26,” but I got stuck at 19 and didn’t feel that I should add arbitrary goals I feel lukewarm about, just for the sake of crossing them out. Look at that – I’m growing already.
  1. Pay off my credit card debt: This one’s a biggie, and it’s been in progress since midway through this year. Barring any dental emergencies, I'm hoping to be debt free by April.
  2. Volunteer regularly: This is the other biggie. I am not working in non-profit like I kind of always thought that maybe I would be, so this is how I can contribute, and I intend to make a habit out of it.
  3. Write thank you notes: I want to be the type of person that sends thank you notes. I always have the best intentions – and I really was good around the wedding, so I just need to stock up on some stationary and devote an hour after every holiday.
  4. Lose 20 pounds: I’m not going to be one of those people to harp on her attempt to lose weight and how/why. So, much like Brad Pitt doesn't want to discuss his tattoos, let’s just leave it at that.
  5. Call my Grandma at least 1x a week: I always set this as a goal, and sometimes it slips through the cracks for no reason.
  6. Finish Top 100 books: This should be the easiest to do – I already have most of them on my bookshelf just waiting.
  7. Donate to camp: It’s been a couple years, and I know they need it. Just find your checkbook already, Ashley!
  8. Learn how to use my sewing machine: I got this as a wonderful shower gift almost 2 years ago – and I have a pile of clothes that need fixing. It’s time to get to it.
  9. Have at least one night a week that doesn’t involve alcohol: Not a glass of wine with dinner or a bottle of beer while I watch TV. It’s really not that hard.
  10. See one independent movie/month: Anyone who knows me know that I’m a movie person. But I don’t just want to be the inane fact spewer – I want to be a Smart Movie person, who learns and grows from seeing challenging movies, in addition to the basics (I’m never giving up on rom coms, so might as well just admit that now.).
  11. Send birthday cards: I love finding the perfect card, and too often I let the fact that it will be a day or two (or 7) late get in the way of actually sending it – but that’s no reason to not tell someone you were thinking of them. They’ll appreciate it even if it’s a month after their birthday – at least I do.
  12. Go to Nashville: I have a nephew who is 2 years old who I have never met. That is beyond unacceptable.
  13. Finish Grandma’s scrapbooks: I started these as a Christmas gift 3 years ago, and there’s really no excuse to be keeping all of these photos and memories in my apartment 3000 miles away from her if I don’t plan on getting them done.
  14. Go on a girl vacation: Having talked about this for years, it needs to happen. More than one night away, and preferably someplace tropical. This is the year for it.
  15. Take the GRE or let go of it forever: Do I want to go to grad school? Honestly, I don’t know. But this is one of those things that I just can’t put off forever.
  16. Take an Adult Ed class: Spanish, or wine tasting, or Public Speaking or one of the other dozens of classes I read about every week in the BCAE emails I receive.
  17. Carry a canvas bag: I have a million of these and always take them to the grocery store. But what about all the non-planned shopping trips – to the drug store and the coop for just one dinner ingredient? This is about being proactive and prepared.
  18. Grow a vegetable: I want to be a mom who gardens. This is how I plan to start.
  19. Have at least one day each week that doesn’t involve TV: Before we had cable, it was rare that a night ever involved TV. My, how 5 months can change things. I need to get better in balance on that.
I really don’t intend to be the type of blogger that uses this as a forum for self-pity or talking about how important my life is, so I hope this doesn’t come across as such. For me, this list is about recognizing that the little things make up a life. The likelihood of being able to make One Big Decision that will get me on the Right Track is, well, not likely. Each of these things is possible, and as I incorporate this into my life, I am taking small steps to being that person I want to be. A responsible, respectful, informed, useful member of society.

Don’t worry – we’ll be back on pop culture next.

November 20, 2008

Play the Game

Need more American Idol trivia? Take a stab at the quiz below – Are each of the following contestant’s currently MARRIED or SINGLE? Highlight next to the contestant’s name to reveal the answer.

Kellie Pickler – SINGLE
Taylor Hicks – SINGLE
Josh Gracin – MARRIED (He also has 4 kids!)
Ruben Stoddard - MARRIED
Kevin Covais – SINGLE
Mandisa – SINGLE
Katherine McPhee – MARRIED (Kellie Pickler was a bridesmaid!)
LaKisha Jones – MARRIED
Haley Scarnato – SINGLE
Bucky Covington – SINGLE (Bucky got divorced in 2007. Sad. Not sad, but amazing: His real name is William Joel Covington III.)
Amanda Overmyer – MARRIED
Diana DeGarmo – SINGLE (How can she still only be 21?)
Chris Sligh – MARRIED

Best of luck to you [Dwight]!

November 17, 2008

Movie Reviews: Chick Flick Friday

As we all know, sometimes you just need a day where you do nothing but lounge around and watch terrible movies. In fact, there’s an entire subset of my Netflix queue devoted to the anticipation of days like these (Come to think of it, there’s an entire subset of our collective DVD collection devoted to this as well…). Let me recommend this fantastic double feature: 'Made of Honor' & 'What Happens in Vegas.'

'Made of Honor' has all the staples of a classic romantic comedy including: a male/female friendship that everyone else knows is supposed to be so much more, a fairy tale wedding (with some awesome traditions), and drunk bridesmaids. As a bonus, it also features Patrick Dempsey whispering through a door, which takes me back to Meredith’s and my childhood obsession with ‘Can’t Buy Me Love.’ Bonus points for also featuring insanely adorable dresses and the always-underutilized Busy Philips. It didn’t do anything revolutionary, but it was a decently acted jaunt into the world of unrealistic careers and romantic outcomes. 6.75 Twix bars!

Next up, 'What Happens in Vegas.' I had actually really wanted to see this in the theatre, but after reading the mediocre to awful reviews, I just never quite got around to it. As Sarah so adeptly pointed out, Cameron Diaz walks a pretty fine line between endearing and aggravating, so this movie really could have gone either way. But other than the fact that Ashton Kutcher’s hair was distractingly bad, this movie was much better than I would have thought. It also featured a laundry list of Romantic Comedy musts, like bickering best friends, montages, and the revelation that someone who you barely know can see exactly who you are (and, maybe, just maybe – love you for it!), and it also had a healthy dose of gross-out humor. I’ll give this one a hefty 7.25 Twix bars, because, let's be honest - you just can't go wrong with a Queen Latifah bit part.

November 13, 2008

Are there gold flakes in here?

Massachusetts has all sorts of bizarre laws involving liquor. Like, it can’t be sold on Sundays until noon. It used to not be allowed in grocery stores at all. All bars have to serve food, and no happy hour drink specials are allowed. Some of these are called blue laws. Other we have Michael Dukakis to thank for. (PSA: I don’t mean to be flippant about the significance of what Dukakis did here by outlawing drink specials – drunk driving deaths have decreased by 50% since that law was passed in the late 80s.) I’m just wondering if there should be a limit on this ‘ no drink special’ thing.

Say, for example, you’re at lunch with your lovely sister who came to town for your birthday. You’re actually taking a lunch break, and you go to a Latin American-flava restaurant in your office complex. You order a sandwich that costs $6.95. She orders a salad that costs $8.50. And you both order priceless margaritas (Priceless as in price unlisted, nothing to do with Billy Crudup).

Sure, at this point, you might ask:

A. Ashley, are you expensing that? (No, I am not the CEO of AIG.)
B. Ashley, should you really be drinking during work hours? (Um, it's "Friday"?)
C. Just because you don’t normally take a lunch break doesn’t mean you’re entitled to this kind of special treatment. (Dear Devil’s Advocate: That’s not even a question. Rephrase or I won’t respond).

Regardless.

The margaritas are particularly pungent, and everything is going just fine. Then the bill comes, and you discover that said margaritas were $12. Each. A quick perusal of the dinner menu shows that to be pretty in line with their evening entrée offerings where everything’s $12 and up – as opposed to the lunch menu where everything is between $6 and $10.

So my questions to you are this: Should drinks come at a lower price (and perhaps alcohol content) during the day, to stay in line with lunch pricing? Should I be less offended because there was a lot of bang for the buck in this margarita? And, is Massachusetts or the restaurant at fault here?

November 11, 2008

Is it time yet?

Enough with talk about the real election (AKA: I need to stop crying from all the inspirational stories). Let’s talk about the second most important election in the land – AMERICAN IDOL!

I’ve just read that Kristy Lee Cook – also known as the talentless doppelganger to Leanne Rimes who pandered to millions of Americans by singing, I kid you not, “God Bless the USA” one week – has an album that debuted at #8 on the Billboard Country charts. This is sad enough news to begin with, but how about the fact that, count 'em: Brooke White (Okay, don’t actually care), Michael Johns (If not for that ascot, I’d care more ), Jason Castro (Care so much!) and Carly Smithson (WHAT?!) are still without record deals. This is mindblowing and absurd.

This tiny bit of Idol information has me jonesin’ for next season, which can’t come soon enough. The 2-part season premiere starts January 13, but that’s going to be more humiliation and annoyance than anything else. It will be weeks before we get to the good stuff (Read: The Top 12). In the meantime, beyond the travesty outlined above, let’s review where we can get our American Idol fix:


I’ll keep up the research and let you know of other healthy AI-alternatives to occupy your time over the next few weeks.

And finally, please remember that next year’s AI will bring us a 4th judge! Jessica wagers that she will go before Randy, so as to split up the female quotient (I think my math metaphors need work.). Will she be like Randy - bedazzled and prone to mood swings? Will she be an iridescent incandescent rainbow of love like Paula? Will she try to out-criticize Simon to prove she belongs? We’ll just have to wait and see, but I’m betting she'll be more Nina Garcia than Mary What’s-Her-Face from ‘So You Think You Can Dance’.

What else is there to look forward to next year?

November 7, 2008

The power of the O

Now, I have had a blog planned for a good long while about my long-time love, admiration and appreciation of Oprah Winfrey, so I won’t get into all of that now, but I would just like to point out that while “amazing” is a word that I’ve always used to describe her and her ascent to the top, never has the word “adorable” been considered. And watching her cry on the shoulder of the man in front of her at Obama’s speech on Tuesday was incredibly adorable.

And I got a good giggle the next day hearing that she had no idea who that guy was. More about “Oprah unleashed.”

November 5, 2008

The dawn of a new day.

I felt a lot of emotions yesterday: I’d been insanely nervous for days. As I saw the voting lines wrap around the block and read everyone on Facebook update their status to say they voted, I was inspired and really, really proud. As the results started coming in, I was thrilled. And, at the end, I was the most unrecognized of all: patriotic.

I have never felt prouder to be an American than to see the battle end so early, with a mandate bestowed upon a progressive, young, African American. And it did me good to hear both John McCain and Obama speak last night. Yes, I felt McCain’s speech was a little too focused on the history-making fact that Obama is black, but I was also moved by his sincerity and his graciousness in defeat. He did the right thing, in the right way, and that made me pretty damn proud.

Now, onto the victor.

Man oh man, did he ever nail that speech? Here are just some of the amazing, beautiful words he said (complete transcript here.)
If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America. It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day. It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends...though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world - our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down - we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security - we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America - that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves - if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time - to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth - that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.
Really heart-warming stuff – practical, sincere, inspirational and hard-hitting in all the right places. I am thrilled that this man will be my President.

Unfortunately, a huge amount of these warm fuzzy feelings have disappeared with the results coming in about California’s Proposition 8. I am repulsed and disgusted by my home state, and I am also completely shocked. How did the state of California, one of the traditionally most liberal and forward-thinking states out there, get a measure like this on the ballot in the first place, and then actually pass it? What kind of person goes into the voting booth and chooses to discriminate? And (speaking as a pretty pro-animal rights person), how can a state expand the rights of animals while restricting the rights of humans? I am truly blown away by this.

November 4, 2008

Another election that matters.

This won't be a Jobs that Should be Mine, because in real life, I know absolutely nothing about fashion and could therefore never before the day-to-day requirements of Founder of GoFugYourself.com.

However, this is a major shout out to the girls who make my lunch hour fly by, and provide an awesome resource when searching for new haircut ideas, because I love this post from today:

Also - bonus points for anyone who wants to guess what I voted for.

November 3, 2008

Man of the Month: November

James Franco is November’s man of the month.

This is a lot of pressure for Mr. Franco, being as it’s my birthday month and the start of the holiday season, my favorite time of the year.

But, I’m confident he can handle the pressure – he has, after all, been Deputy of the Shows that Never Should Have Been Cancelled Parade, starred in my favorite big budget superhero movie (Uttered such classic, awesome lines as: “How’s your friend the bug, Pete?”) and made my insides seriously hurt from laughing so hard. And, man oh man, can that guy ever wear a leather jacket.

So, James, welcome to the club – I think you’ll be very happy here!

PS: Oh, and also – he has a younger brother who’s just breaking into the business – starting with ‘Privileged’. Nice move!

October 30, 2008

Voting!

Have I mentioned before how important it is to me that every human being in this country votes? It is in the Top 3 things of 'What I Care About' - it's like: Family, Friends, People Voting. Seriously.

Here are three videos about that very subject - don't worry, they're totally pop culture related:

Apparently TI has a song called 'Whatever You Like' - These kids turned it into a song about voting 'however you like'. Sample lyrics: Obama on the left/McCain on the right/We can talk politics all night/And you can vote however you like/You can vote however you like, yeah.

Here's an interview with some of the kids - really inspirational stuff from a group of 6th & 7th graders:



Celebrities get involved! A lot of them - probably one for each member of the alphabet: Ashton, Benicio, Courtney Cox, Demi, Ellen...I really could keep going...


Make sure to watch from at least 2:10 on with this one:

October 27, 2008

Don't do it to me!

It's no secret that relationships are fickle business in Hollywood. Equal parts fickle and business. After having my heart kind of broken by the likes of Brad Pitt/Jennifer Aniston, Michelle Williams/Heath Ledger, Ryan Phillipe/Reese Witherspoon over the years, there are a few couples I've really come to rely on.

Will Smith & Jada Pinkett Smith: We see them out as a family unit more than most, and with one of those kids being from a previous relationship, they're really a great example of the New American Family.


Faith Hill & Tim McGraw: Both wildly successful in the same field, and completely gorgeous, yet seemingly down-to-earth.

Sarah Jessica Parker & Matthew Broderick: Child stars grow up to find one another and go through some serious career ups and downs (See how that works Madonna & Guy?).

Amy Poehler & Will Arnett: The couple that laughs together stays together, right?



Susan Sarandon & Tim Robbins: Marriage isn't the only way to commit, and as far as Hollywood relationships go this one's the motherlode. Super liberal (and willing to put their mouths and money behind it) and I don't really know who is more successful. Honestly, if they ever break up, I might never recover.

So, while I'm really rooting for you Gwyneth & Coldplay, Ellen & Portia, Ashton & Demi and Heidi & Seal, these are the couples I really need to stick it out, for the sake of believing in melding personalities, ups and downs and good ol' chemistry. Please?

They pay you for this?

As I discovered yesterday, it is someone’s job at Jillian’s/Lucky Strike to turn music on during commercials of the Patriots game. No, seriously. Dude goes to work at, say, 12:30PM on a Sunday. Sits at a table in the middle of the bar with his own personal HD TV of the football game, a laptop and some massive headphones, and spends a few hours ensuring classics like ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ and ‘Crazy B**tch’ play instead of commercials. Serving a dual purpose: Making me realize just how insanely many commercials there are during football games. And, making me wonder (say it with me now!): Why is this not my job?

October 24, 2008

Movie Review: Rachel Getting Married

In ‘Rachel Getting Married’ you join a middle-class Connecticut family for the week leading up to the younger sister, Rachel’s, wedding. To describe it that way brings to mind wedding planners and bridezillas and an east coast version of ‘Father of the Bride’ where the whole point is to throw the perfect cookie-cutter wedding where the groom is irrelevant and all that really matters is who catches the bouquet. But in actuality, ‘Rachel Getting Married’ is the beautiful, heart-wrenching, almost flawlessly told story of a family:
  • There’s the big sister – she’s screwed up.
  • There’s the younger sister, who’s getting married – she loves her big sister as only a sister can, somehow unequivocally supportive yet totally judgmental.
  • There’s the father – he takes care of his daughters the best way he knows how, with food and money.
  • There’s the stepmother – she stepped into this family when it was at its most broken, and silently holds it together.
  • There's the mother - she's barely present, but her daughters feel her everywhere.
  • There’s the fiancé – he knows and loves the big sister even though he’s never met her, and has this relationship with his father-in-law that’s based on jokes and just a little amount of tension.
  • There’s the younger sister’s best friend – she’s been there through it all, and can’t quite muster the sister-like supportiveness, so she's just judgmental.
These are characters that make so much sense, it’s like you’ve met them before. You know this family. There's one particularly true-family moment that has stayed with me: Everyone (the family and a slew of bridal party friends) are cleaning up after lunch, and a competition arises between the father and the fiancé about how to properly load a dishwasher. While being timed, they each take a turn, throwing dishes around, rinsing them off, loading them up – it’s crazy and loud and fun and there’s cheering and laughter, until somewhere in the middle, the father is reminded of his son who has died. The family instantly senses it, and everything gets quiet; the outsiders pick up that something has changed, whether or not they know what or why. And everyone leaves the kitchen, leaving Kim – the older sister, played by Anne Hathaway, who had inadvertently caused this turn of events – sitting on a stool. Her sister’s fiancé is leaving the room, and he stops behind her and puts his hand on her back for just the right amount of time. He doesn’t try to talk, and he doesn’t do this gesture as an afterthought. He's saying “I don’t know you that well, and I’ll never be able to grasp how much you hurt right now, but I see you, and I am sorry.” It was perfect.

The beauty – and power – of this movie is that it throws you right into the middle of all these characters’ lives with little to no exposition, so it feels authentic. You’re participating in this week. You are at that rehearsal dinner: laughing along with the inside jokes you understand, appreciating that someone else gets the ones you don’t, getting to know this family the way you get to know your future in-laws. There’s one scene that felt too expository – we had been hearing about a tragedy involving the sister’s brother ‘Ethan’. I feel like the specifics weren’t necessary to grasp what it did to this family, so when Anne Hathaway tells the story – in the scene they’ll probably show when she’s nominated for an Academy Award – it feels slightly out of line with the rest of the movie. But with that one exception, there’s a lack of a 4th wall that feels organic, and the occasionally jarring hand-held footage lends itself to that.

Music is a motif throughout, with some pretty beautiful scenes, the most lovely of which is Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio, who, as Rachel’s fiancé, sings Neil Young’s ‘Unknown Legend’ acapella – solely to his bride though he’s in front of dozens of people – during his vows.

I’m getting a little teary-eyed over here. So let me just move on and jump on the Anne-Hathaway-Was-Amazing-And-Oscar-Caliber train.

It’s not that I’ve seen her in all that much, or particularly relate her to her ‘Princess Diaries’ persona (Really – even though those were Disney movies, the whole idea was that she was kind of alternative and un-princess like. Plus, with ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and ‘Devil Wears Prada’ – it’s actually like we’ve been talking about how impressive it is to watch her be outside of her comfort zone for longer than she was in that comfort zone. Of course, I may feel differently if - I mean after - I see ‘Ella Enchanted.’), but I was blown away by her, as she completely disappeared inside that character.

8.5 Twix bars. Go see this movie. Seriously.

October 23, 2008

My problem with Pavement.

In junior high, I stupidly joined BMG Music Club to get like 1 million CDs for the price of 7…or something. This literally was the only reason I had any CDs at all during the formative years of my life. Highlights include: The Cardigans (Which I bought because I thought they were The Cranberries), Brandy, Bush and…a gem called School House Rocks, which featured bands I’d never heard of doing covers of the “Schoolhouse Rock” songs.

I know that as any kind of indie rock person, I need to love Pavement. But every song I ever hear by them – and Stephen Malkmus solo – just makes me think of this. See, watch:

It’s a problem.

October 17, 2008

Unacceptable

I cannot believe that new things are happening in the world of Dillon, Texas that I won’t know about until JANUARY.

I Want That Job

I would like to introduce a new segment that we’ll call “Jobs That Should Be Mine.” (It’s so important, I’m capitalizing un-deserving words.) Alternate title/tagline: WHY IS THIS NOT MY JOB?

1) I originally thought of this idea when I saw this book at the LAX airport: A book about travel, random facts and movies? WHY IS THIS NOT MY JOB?

2) PopWatch writer on EW.com.

Poor Trevor, to whom I send countless links every day for an entry that I particularly relate to. Most of the time, because they express thoughts that I have had. Like:
I got an email from one of my coworkers tonight saying this may have been the best Office episode ever. And while I have to respectfully disagree with that assessment (I'm going "Office Olympics", if not "Christmas party"), I will go out on a limb and say it was the most Office-y Office of all time. You kinda got it all: ambiguous conference room party, awkward dialogue, hysterical behavior, circumstances so heightened it's unlikely they'd occur in the realm of reality, and a painful gap between Jim and Pam. (We'll get to that at the end.) Whether it totally satisfied as an episode depends on your personal tolerance for all those things.
Seriously. Parenthetical writing. Opinions about 'The Office.' Rambling sentences. WHY IS THIS NOT MY JOB?

More to come, I’m [unfortunately] sure.

A lesson for us all.

I've been seeing this book displayed prominently around book stores for years:

And I somehow got in my head (without reading the description on the back) that this was a modern book, that would fall under the category of "smart" chick lit - something light. I bought it a few months ago on Half.com (the world's greatest invention for book buyers), and this morning grabbed if off the shelf thinking: The last 2 books I've read have been fairly deep/intense - I could use a break; I will read this quickly and still have time to finish the TBD Book Group selection for November.

First page: An air raid takes place in Paris, 1940.

Ummm...what is going on here?? I turn the book over and read the following about its author:

"When Irene Nemirovsky began working on Suite Francaise, she was already a highly successful writer living in Paris. But she was also a Jew, and in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where she died. For sixty-four years, this novel remained hidden and unknown."

Well, crap! Now, all of a sudden, I'm knee (okay, maybe ankle) deep into a...Holocaust book?? Not exactly the light-hearted break from Virginia Woolf I had been seeking! Don't judge a book by its cover indeed!

October 16, 2008

An Ode to Pumpkin Beer

Oh pumpkin beer, how fleeting you are.
I wish you could stay around past the fall
Your sweet aroma, and lasting taste
Never a single drop do I waste.
I dream of you – No, really I do
As I wait for Billy to announce it’s true:
‘The keg is tapped – this one’s for you.’

You’re organic and fresh and locally made
I wish I could have you every day
But, truly, you are worth the wait
(Can I find a way to rhyme satiate?)
Great Pumpkin Ale, you are without peer:
Though you come around just once a year
You are by far my favorite beer.

Where you BEEN, boy?

I really must apologize for the lack of quippy blog entries over the last week or so. Between baseball depression, in-law visits and one mind-blowing hangover, I just haven’t had the time to really devote to inane analyses of random pop culture happenings (Oh yeah, and I have actually been busy at my Day Job too). So let’s just go through a quick wrap-up of the last week:
  • Madonna and Guy Ritchie: Really guys, REALLY? You spend all this time insisting how happy you are and then announce your divorce right as Madge’s tour kicks off? Please tell me I’m just being cynical. Please. And if this has anything to do with A-Rod, I will seriously barf.
  • Spoiler Alert - Don't highlight if you care about/haven't seen Project Runway's S5 finale! Leanne wins 'Project Runway'!
  • John McCain, I hope you and Joe the Plumber are very happy together.
  • Did you know that the 'Real World'’s Randy, who I totally had a crush on during the only season that I was a regular RW-Watcher, will be the “Celebrity” guest at this year’s BYPA Halloween Party? I can’t decide what’s more embarrassing – that they actually consider him a celebrity, or that that’s almost enough to convince me to go (The 5 free drink tickets don’t hurt.)
  • Mini-book review: ‘To the Lighthouse’ was totally not as painfully slow and awful as the first 30 pages would have you believe. I stuck it out, and I’m glad to have.
  • I like Eminem's new single. Please don't tell Trevor.
  • I’m glad I’ve decided to give ‘Fringe’ a chance. What is WITH JJ Abrams’s obsession with creepy bald men?
  • There is only one week left before the season finale of ‘Mad Men.’ If you have not begun watching this show, start catching up now.
  • Oh my god, I really did not realize that this new, looks awful, 'Crusoe' thing NBC has been pushing is a TV SHOW and not just a made-for-TV movie, making the entire rant I had planned about 'The Odyssey' moot. But, gross, and also - Crusoe is completely the poor man's Eric Stoltz:


That’s all for now. How was YOUR week?

October 15, 2008

Good morning!

I’d like to introduce you to someone. This is my little buddy, Conversation Starter.

Picture this: It’s 8:15 in the morning. You’re relatively new at your job, and terrified of going into the kitchen where you know you’ll have to interact with people. Just grab this handy little fellow, and march in there with head held high, ready for the conversation starters to come flying at you:
“I looooove your mug.”
“What a great mug!”
“I need one of those!”
“That’s so cute!”
The beauty of this is that you can respond with a simple “Thanks.” But, if you’re feeling ambitious, you can make some comment about how he helps you get your morning started – everyone loves talking about how much they need caffeine.

Someone might even begin regaling you with a story of how they too used to have a mug much like this. Don’t reply with sarcasm: “Oh really? You went into a CVS in 2005?” Instead, ask them which face they had, and enjoy a little lively banter about the Grumpy Face versus the Happy Face and what this might mean about your differing morning personalities. And then, next week, when the same person starts the exact same conversation with you again, you can lead with the sarcasm.

However the conversation starts (and, oh, it will), when it starts dying off, your mug will be full and off you go, with a hearty "Good luck!" (Another tribute to the 'Arg, don't we all hate mornings' common ground).

Seriously. This is the best 99-cent gift I’ve ever received, and it makes the two years I spent employed at the personal injury law firm totally worth it. Thanks Paulina!

October 9, 2008

A question.

Do song titles matter?

I’m wondering, because as I have been obsessively listening to the new Ben Folds album over the last week, I realized this morning that I had no idea what most of the songs are called (This is totally par for the course for me – Trevor’s constantly asking me about song titles – um, and artists – to songs that I know all the lyrics to, and more often than not I cannot [correctly] answer). And as I realized that one song that I was in the middle of was called ‘Cologne’, it changed the entire way I was thinking about what it meant.

Before it was about the painful disintegration of a relationship:
Four, three, two, one,
I'm letting you go
I will let go
If you will let go
Now, there’s a why and a how: “Here in Cologne, I know I said it wrong…” makes this later verse so much clearer:
Such a painful trip
To find out this is it
And when I go to sleep
You'll be waking up
Perhaps I would have eventually gotten it without knowing the name of the song. Because music is really all about absorbing meaning through lyrics and notes, right? I mean, how often are you sitting with the track list of an album in front of you while you listen to it? Mostly, you’re making dinner or cleaning the apartment while your stereo plays, or walking around with your iPod firmly tucked into your pocket. And even at concerts, only a couple songs are typically introduced by name. So how relevant can a song title really be?

But on the other hand (my internal debating self has three hands), isn’t song meaning really all in the ear of the beholder anyway? Maybe you hear this song, knowing the name of it, and still take away an entirely different meaning.

Extra layer of meaning, simple lyric support or entirely superfluous? I’m just not sure!

October 8, 2008

Blowing my mind

I LOVE Queen Latifah. Like, I want to go on girl-dates with her and drink beer and paint our nails and talk about how awesome Steve Martin is, even though that movie they were in was terrible, and how awesome Jimmy Fallon is, even though that movie they were in was terrible, and about how awesome LL Cool J is, even though that movie they were in was terrible, etc.

But seriously, Queen Latifah is a black, overweight woman who is massively successful worldwide musically, comedically and dramatically. She is world-renowned for her beauty, and not in a plus-size kind of exception way. She is amazing and hilarious and on my top 10 of people I would like to meet because I am completely sure that she is that great in person too (As opposed to say, Christian Bale, who I feel like I would meet and then hate and would that ruin ‘Newsies’ forever?).

Okay, with me so far?

I have been avoiding mentioning this, because I don’t want to be a name dropper. It can no longer be helped.


That guy? In the back? Is Ryan Eggold, the guy from the new, not-too-great [YET] ‘90210.’ And we went to high school together (We did drama together. A lot. In fact, my first kiss came in stage-form from him. Just putting it out there.). Anyway. I have not spoken to him in 5+ years, and it has been beyond weird watching him get marginally famous. In fact, I kind of wish that we hadn’t been friends, because I am literally only continuing to watch this new '90210' to be supportive.

But I’m wondering if he would like to reconnect so that he can take me to events where Queen Latifah is. I promise to be on my best behavior and never embarrass him, even while guzzling the free champagne (because there’s always free champagne, right?).

Okay Ryan, so here we go. I would like to meet the following:

1. Queen Latifah (Please tell me you interacted with her.)
2. Will Smith (He was probably there too, wasn’t he??)
3. Seth Green (It's not that big of a stretch - He & Peter Facinelli, Mr. Jennie Garth, must stay in touch, right?)
4. Any member of the cast of ‘The Office’ (Roy does not count.)
5. John Cusack (I can provide my own boombox.)
6. Ellen Degeneres (I love her so much, I don't even have anything sarcastic to say.)
7. Natalie Portman (We could talk about Boston and vegetarianism and being really short!)
8. Alyson Hannigan (Please don’t be with Wesley, please don’t be with Wesley.)
9. Neil Patrick Harris (Preferably not the ‘Harold & Kumar’ version-of-himself.)
10. Hilary Duff (We could totally sing Blondie together.)

If you can make this happen, just let me know.

XOXO (I will not even talk about how that show is so much better than yours. Actually, maybe you could get a crossover role - If they ever actually go to class, they'll totally need teachers.),

Ashley