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).


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 entrĂ©e 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

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!