Monday, December 27, 2010

Penguins, Nuns, and The Nintendo Workout

I got a Wii Fit for Christmas, which is basically my mom's way of saying Merry Christmas, now get off yo' ass! (Just kidding, she would never talk like that in a million years). But who am I to turn down free exercise/gaming equipment? So here is how I started my new Nintendo-inspired workout:

This dude is just begging for a swift kick in the ass
with a frozen boot.

1. Turn on Wii.
2. Sit and wait for it to warm up.
3. Wince as the Wii Fit balance board goes "oooooh" at my heft.
4. Walk away as the annoying little cartoon guy blabs about posture and eat some See's candy.
5. Come back and hula hoop until I just can't hula hoop no mo'.
6. Run in place (Then reward myself with more See's candy)
7. Attempt to do yoga, but just get pissed off at the douchey male trainer and the bitchy female trainer. (In the argument over which is worse, douche vs. bitch, the jury is still out).
8. Eat some more See's candy.
9. Put in Just Dance 2.
10. Shake my blues away for an intense 35 minutes, whilst working up a surprisingly good sweat.
11. Congratulate myself with some more See's candy. Boo, all gone!

I don't know if I can keep up this rigorous schedule, but I do know that it's awesome! Gyms should start offering the See's Candy/Wii Fit/Just Dance diet and exercise plan. It will overtake Curves in popularity, if not effectiveness.

Other notable mentions in the Christmas gift category:

Well, they're not Nude, but they do have big guns.

1. Nun Shrinky Dink earrings and a Nuns with Guns cigarette case (which I will use as a wallet), thanks to my big brother who knows me better than I thought he did.
2. A homemade penguin apron courtesy of Mama Hutch (righteous.)
3. A penguin stuffed animal from Aunt Bonnie
4. A penguin mug (from cousin Brittaney via Yankee Trade)
5. A penguin spatula (also from Mama Hutch, I have a thing for spatulas. It's a long and amusing story which I might tell some other day. But it involves the day my first niece was born, a build-a-bear stuffed duck, and a purely ironic expedition to find porn in Ashland, Oregon.)

Pretty spiffy, eh? Check out the fine, hand-crafted Mormon stitching!

When did I become the penguin queen? Sure I like penguins. I have penguin speakers in fact. But I wouldn't say they're my favorite animal. I don't have a favorite animal. I'm not a big animal person at all actually. But I guess if I'd have to pick one, it would be penguins. I can hardly escape them now. Their beady little eyes follow me wherever I go, judging me for eating See's when I should be Wii Fitting. I wonder if it's because I like nuns that everyone assumes I like penguins. They bear some similar characteristics. Black, white and judgmental. Anyway, I'm completely satisfied with this year's haul. And if nothing else, seeing my brothers, mom, and sisters-in-law busting a move on Just Dance for the Wii, was enough to fuel ten Christmases. If we gave my dad enough boxed White Zin, he'd get his groove on too, and then I'd never need another present ever again.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Yankee Trade, Jungle Style

I'm up far too early on Christmas morning, just like the old days. So instead of playing Upwords with my mom to kill time (a 4am Christmas tradition for a few years, because Upwords is so much cooler than Scrabble), I'm going to catch up on blogging. I've been a bit MIA recently, due to the new job (where I was promoted to Santa and pushed around a shopping cart full of UPS and FedEx packages wearing a Santa hat, instead of just logging and organizing the boxes like a lowly elf) and generally being lazy pants.

The other, less jolly reason is that my grandfather just passed away a few days ago. The only upside to lung cancer is that you get time to say goodbye. So my (sometimes) lovable curmudgeon of a grandpa got to go to Disneyland one last time (and gleefully rode the carousel over and over), eat pralines and cream ice cream, and make sure all of his guns were safely out of the house (retired cop, not a psychopath). Everyone has just been exhausted and emotionally drained, but Christmas comes despite heavy life events, so our family will celebrate the only way we know how: viciously and without mercy.

The grand Christmas Eve shindig takes place at our house with all my bazillion aunts and cousins, and various other family members. We have many traditions, like reading the nativity story from the Bible (even though most of us are agnostic/atheist), reciting the "Night Before Christmas," eating Aunt Carole's world-rocking bean dip, and torturing the grandkids by making them sing Christmas carols. My mom will seriously look over from the piano at anyone not singing and give them the elementary school teacher glare until they submit to a third verse of "Oh Come All Ye Faithful." It's awesome. And it's all worth it because the main event of the evening is... YANKEE TRADE!!!!

Yankee trade is known by many names (according to Wikipedia), White Elephant, Chinese Gift Exchange, Dirty Santa (sounds like a porn...), or Thieving Secret Santa. Basically, everyone brings a present, and then you take turns opening them. But if you don't like what you got, you get to steal someone else's. And it. gets. ugly. Every year we argue over what the rules are going to be, should there be a limit to how many times a gift can be stolen, do you open the gift before deciding to trade, if the gift bag is pretty who gets to keep it. And every year we decide on the most ruthless rules. Basically that there are none. Except eye-gouging. No eye-gouging. Gifts range from the silly (I once put in a romance novel called "Desiring the Highlander," tee hee, and last night my cousin submitted Tater Mitts, which also sounds dirty but are those gloves that can peel potatoes in 6 seconds), to the actually awesome (See's candy, the Ellen Degeneres Bluetooth that I won, and more).

My family is hilarious when they play Yankee Trade, because there are always tons of people, everyone's shouting and laughing and arguing but in a pleasant way. My grandpa was exceptionally funny when we played in years past. He did not like having people steal his crap, and to try it meant certain death or at least a good berating. (Imagine trying to take anything from a guy who strongly resembles Marlon Brando circa the Godfather). I used to get just as upset and cry if someone took my gift, so I don't blame him. When I was about 6 or 7, I threw a fit when a cousin tried to steal my minature lantern key chain and gumballs. I still have that key chain to this day, so you can tell who won that battle. This year I ended up with an adorable penguin mug and a beautiful glass pitcher.

After the madness, the jungle mentality wears off and people are nice (sort of) to each other again. Deals are made, candy is shared, and everyone eats my mom's homemade cheesecake. People gradually clear out, since according to Carole, Santa won't come if you're not in bed by midnight. We take that pretty seriously around these parts. When it's just the immediate family, we get to open one gift, usually our Secret Santa present to each other. Then it's off to bed to sleep off the Bailey's and boxed White Zin (classy folk).


Should be interesting with five kids under the age of five tearing around the house high on sugar and consumerism...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Underrated Classics: Not Since You

While Sporadic Sporkitudes isn't a strictly film-centered blog (I tend to write about whatever pops into my head at the moment, be it amateur plumbing, karaoke, or Kobe Bryant-induced vomit), I am indeed obsessed with movies and enjoy spouting the occasional review of a film that strikes my fancy (see my Underrated Classics series: She-Devil, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, While You Were Sleeping). A few days ago, I got my hot little hands on a screener of the independent drama, "Not Since You." It has been described as "The Big Chill for the 21st century." I'd say this is a fairly accurate comparison (it's thankfully less depressing but also has a less phenomenal soundtrack.) I will now attempt to give a fair, objective review that stays (mostly) on topic.

Obligatory Poster

The film focuses on an ensemble cast of characters who reunite at a wedding in Georgia nearly a decade following their 2001 graduation from NYU. Friendships are rekindled, relationships are formed and tested, old scores are settled and old scars are healed. The opening credits feature a montage of photos establishing characters and relationships in days gone by. The final shot is of the entire group of friends gathered in front of the former Manhattan skyline. Not only did these people experience the changes and inevitable drifting that accompanies moving on, but their lives were forever altered after September 11th. (I got a chilling sensation seeing this photo because I also have pictures of me on top of the World Trade Center in June of 2001.)

Upon an initial glance at the cast list, I immediately recognized Sara Rue from the short-lived but outstanding show Popular (as well the best line in Can't Hardly Wait, "SHEEP! You...are all...sheep. Baaa."). Another familiar face was Christian Kane, who I just saw in Angel this morning (What are the odds?). And while I didn't remember the name, I was instantly stoked to see Elden Henson, formerly the Bash Brother Fulton Reed from the Mighty Ducks (HECK YES!).

You go Fulton!

Slowly the characters, now a little older and marginally wiser, arrive on the breathtakingly beautiful Georgian estate to prepare for the wedding of Ashley and Daniel (?). I'm not quite sure of the groom's name because the film makes the interesting choice of essentially ignoring the couple getting married. It would have been nice to get to know their backstory, but since we already know how they end up, the narratives rely on the wedding party themselves. After all, that's where the drama usually stems from in the weddings I've been to. Something about the combination of booze, formal wear, and desperation brings out the worst in people.

Sam (Desmond Harrington)

The primary storyline features Sam, a dreamy but wounded lone wolf who remarkably resembles Smith Jared from Sex and the City, who still pines for his ex-girlfriend Amy, who is now married to Ryan (Christian Kane with an unfortunate-looking long haircut. Why do guys think that looks good?) What Sam lacks in personality, he makes up for in smoldering sexual tension with Amy as they get their groove on at the reception. That white boy has some moves! Their chemistry is so palpable that Ryan, nice but ultimately bland, cuts in during an awesome display of competitive male posturing. Who doesn't love that? But other than the ridiculously good casting of compatible actors, this narrative is somewhat lackluster and predictable until the very end. I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome, but I'll spare you the spoiler.

A damn good actor, but why the hair?
It does you no favors. Veto.

The other prominent love triangle involving Victoria, Howard and Billy, was a bit more interesting. Howard and Billy had been best friends until Victoria left Howard for Billy. Years had gone by since the two had spoken. The wedding trapped them all in the same place and provided ample booze to fuel the ensuing fireworks. Howard and Billy end up brawling on the dance floor. Later, Billy tries to apologize and asks Howard to be the best man at his own wedding. Howard realizes that he was holding the grudge for so long because he felt betrayed, not because he was really in love with Victoria. The dynamic between these two former best friends was that they fell out over a girl, who wasn't really worth it. As Victoria herself claims (in the world's biggest cliche), "you're in love with the idea of me." But it's true. Once Howard realizes that, he and Billy instantly fall back into their friendship as if no time passed at all.

I'll say it, I think Sara Rue looked better before.
But she's adorable regardless.

The story I was most intrigued by was the burgeoning relationship of the adorably shlubby alcoholic, Joey (Elden Henson/Fulton Reed) and the chipper Southern belle Sarah (Sara Rue, who looks gorgeous in the film, but I honestly think she was more beautiful with a little more meat on her bones). We find out from the start that Sarah has been waiting for marriage to have sex, but given the right guy, she'd "totally be inclined to expedite her schedule," (great line, by the way). Joey has shut himself off from the world after arriving late to work on September 11th only to watch his office come crashing down. The two of them have a very sweet, somewhat awkward romance. Both are undeniably likable and unpretentious. Their unconventional relationship was a breath of fresh air.

Undoubtedly the best scene was when they play Redneck Golf, essentially skeet shooting with ill-fated clay pigeons and over-sized rifles. The activity gives the film a greater sense of identity, taking place in the South and embracing its heritage. Not to mention, it provides an excellent physical representation of sexual tension, jealousy, and anger. Nothing is more cathartic than shooting a gun for the frustrated and suspicious Ryan. Sarah and Joey bond when Sarah teaches him how to aim. Billy and Howard have one more confrontation during this sequence and the rifles do a great job of ratcheting up the stakes. A gun goes off by accident, startling the entire party and increasing everyone's anxiety.

The loose ends are wrapped up during a poignant campfire scene in which most everyone has reconciled and accepted that though they have changed, their friendship has not (aww!). The bride and groom (in a rare appearance) give everyone a copy of the Manhattan skyline photo in rememberence of the last time they were all together. The next day before once again going their separate ways, they take a new picture to commemorate the eventful weekend.

Awww once more!

Overall, I enjoyed "Not Since You" immensely. The scenery was gorgeous, as was the score. There were memorable characters and unforgettable moments. It was beautifully shot, and wonderfully acted. And while there were some narratives that were a bit predictable at times, I firmly believe that you don't have to re-invent the wheel as long as the wheel you make is a good one. I hope to see more from Sara Rue who is criminally under-appreciated, as were many of the actors who have yet to see their big break. "Not Since You" is available on Netflix, so I'd recommend it for a lazy Sunday afternoon when you're feeling nostalgic about your own college friends and wondering what they're up to.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Aspirations of a Meter Maid

When I was little, the very first job I ever wanted to have (besides jet ski instructor, even though I'd never ridden a jet ski and wasn't sure such an occupation existed), was a meter maid. I remember seeing one their little cars parked on the street in downtown Sacramento and thinking that was the coolest ride ever! I didn't want the Batmobile or Barbie's dream convertible. I wanted a metermobile.


I thought I would just drive around in my little car all day and say hello to people. I didn't realize that meter maids are probably one of the most hated professions behind IRS agents and referees. As I grew up and learned to seek approval from my fellow man, this career seemed less and less likely. I can't stand being yelled at, or being the bearer of bad news. But I still wanted the little car. That's when I discovered golf carts. I don't play golf, never plan to play golf, and even mini-golf is boring and difficult. But I knew that someday, I'd drive one. I don't know what kind of satisfaction is derived from driving a smaller than normal vehicle. But I drove a go-kart once and it rocked my world. So imagine my delight when I discover that my new place of business owns not one, not two, but THREE golf carts solely for our discretion!!!!


And today I was handed the magical key to these babies. Happy holidays, indeed! I haven't learned to drive them yet, but I plan to as soon as I kidnap a co-worker and coerce them to show me. Violently if necessary. Who would have thought that this job I took to pay the bills would turn out to be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream? The people rock, the work is fun and stimulating, and there are treats everywhere ('tis the season after all)! And did I mention the golf carts? Days just fly by, and so far it's been just fine and dandy. I'm only three days in though, so we'll talk in six months and see how much the golf carts affect my contentedness.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Santa Ellen

This year has been generally pretty awful. But Santa made up for it in a big way by making the last couple weeks be absolutely incredible! This year Santa took the form of a Louisiana lesbian comedian and talk show host, Ellen Degeneres (and also a creepy dancing Elvis elf with an oversized head for some reason, I tried to find a picture, but Google was too scared to post one). Yesterday was the grand return of me and Kelly Bean to Warner Brothers to watch the taping of the Ellen Degeneres Show (since we technically didn't get to last time). I could hardly sleep the night before. It was like Christmas Eve on crack, since my normal Christmas doesn't involve celebrities and an overload of expensive gifts.

Nothing to do with Christmas, but I would have killed to see this episode.

I'll skip right to the show, since we got in the studio with absolutely no drama whatsoever. It felt soooo good to finally be in the crowd, jumping around, dancing, screaming, cheering, and bruising our hands from clapping so hard. Before, we could only hear the fun of the pre-show dance contest (during which two complete strangers who were no spring chickens got DOWN, and by down I mean they basically did the nasty to the beat of "Baby Got Back.") It was awkward and hilarious, my two favorite things. When Ellen came out for her monologue, she remarked about our inherent need to present and shake our booties whenever the occasion arises. She even had her editors compile a monologue of rump-shaking to that effect. Good times.

Then Marky Mark came out (for he will always be Marky Mark to me and the Bean). I'm not an especially big fan, but when I saw those especially big guns he was packing (after having worked out for basically 4 years straight for his role in the Fighter), I couldn't take my eyes off of the point where his Pabst Blue Ribbon t-shirt ended (classy guy), and the biceps began. He wasn't terribly interesting to listen to, and he's a bit of a butterface, but day-amn. He can send good vibrations my way anytime. I don't even remember what he talked about, I was too busy drooling.

Sorry Marky Mark. That's what you get.

Next was a performance by Ciara. Yawn. Totally generic, less than mediocre, poison for my ears song, but the dancing was phenomenal. Usually I don't really care about that kind of thing, but this was stellar showmanship. Sad that it couldn't be for a more talented singer or more worthy song. (We were stuck with the CD afterwards, sigh.) We also got a sneak peek at Grayson Chance (the 12 year old Youtube sensation Ellen discovered)'s new video. He's playing a bland pop song in the rain, on a piano surrounded by a crowed of throbbing, cult-like girls. He's 12! Plus they autotuned the crap out of his amazing voice. Trying to Bieberize him? Not cool, Ellen's record label. Not cool.

The second guest was Olivia Wilde, who most people recognize from House or the new Tron (I hated the first, so I definitely won't be seeing the second), but I will always think of as the badass girlfriend of both Seth and Marissa on the O.C.. I didn't like her then and I didn't think I'd like her now. She has kind of an evil beauty about her, as if in ten years she'd make an excellent wicked step-mother. She reminds me of Voldemort, if Voldemort were an adequately hot chick. Anyway, I was determined not to like her. But she won me over! Who knew she was actually quite charming and adorable beneath her icy cold, pointy-featured exterior? Or else she's a better actress than she seems and she really is a demon...

She's still a demon, even if she is surprisingly likable.

Speaking of demons, I heard the phrase "Ellen feeds off your energy" at least twice more. It's definitely a thing. Ellen claims that she takes that positive energy and sends it back out into the universe, but I think she keeps most of it for herself to stay young and kickass. Just a theory. I don't blame her. I'd do the same if I were a demon.

But enough about the show, y'all just want to hear about the presents!!! For many presents there were! It was crazy, I had kind of forgotten about them. I was totally into the show, though if I had been watching it on TV, I probably would have changed the channel early on. All of a sudden this alarm went off and everyone was jumping up and screaming! I thought it was because that creepy Elvis elf thing came out and started skipping around. But no, PRESENTS!!

Here is what we won:

1. Amazon Kindle
2. Tomtom GPS
3. Fancy Schmancy Bluetooth
4. Camcorder
5. Calphalon Waffle Maker (I'm told it's a good brand)
6. $500 worth of Calphalon pots and pans
7. $100 gift card to the Amazon Denim store
8. Unbearable Lightness by Porti Di Rossi
9. Rock Band 3 Game + Keyboard
10. PS3 with Move
11. Oh, and Ciara's CD (anticlimax)

Isn't my display attractive? I think I could work as a window dresser. I could dress the shit out of windows. Anyway, AMAZING, right? The thing I was most ecstatic about was the GPS. As you all know, I get lost all the frickin' time. I'm a mess in the car. I freak out about the littlest thing and I have absolutely no sense of direction. But I used this handy little gadget today as I had to drive from South Central to Marina Del Rey to Studio City to South Central, and I didn't get lost once! Plus it took me on back roads so I'd miss most traffic. SCORE!! My second cousin and Kelly Bean's mom saw us on today's broadcast and apparently they caught the moment where we high-fived because I wanted that GPS soooo badly!! So sorry, no more hilarious Hutch getting lost stories! Also, I named it Hudson, because Stan's true persona matches that of Stanley Hudson on the office. So Hudson is now Stan's sidekick.

The Kindle I was also excited about. I have such ADD when it comes to books and I'm always reading like 30 at a time. I like options, so it's nice to always have it on me in case I get stuck waiting somewhere like I did this morning and I could just plop right into the Secret Garden. I don't like that you have to pay for books, but there's tons of free public domain stuff that I'd be reading anyway, and libraries have some ebooks you can check out for free too. So sweet!

I already sold the pots, pans, and the waffle maker to a friend who will actually give them a good home. In my tiny kitchen, they'd end up feeling lonely and neglected, never to reach their full potential. I'm also most likely selling the PS3 and Rock Band. It would be fun, but I honestly don't think I'd use it that much. I have my Wii, so anything else is kind of redundant. I'm not a gamer whatsoever, but I like that the Wii has real games like tennis and basketball, not video games which don't interest me. So if anyone is interested, make me an offer! But I won't ship.

Sorry about the product placement, but I'm just super stoked about all this loot! We managed to wrangle a Subaru with folding back seats, so we could take everything home. All that times two definitely wouldn't have fit in Stan. Also in case you were wondering, my first day work went fantastic today. I'm not technically allowed to blog about it (apparently I work for the CIA or something), but I will say that I scored a catered Persian lunch, free Starbucks, and delicious cake. Apparently I love Persian food. Who knew?

I should be turned on, but this is really just unsettling.
Do his abs seem wonky to you? Also, he looks plastic. Yeeech.

UPDATE!!! Oh my god, I totally forgot to mention Slater! I knew I should have taken notes. So yeah, after the show was over, they told us they needed to film a segment for Extra. So Mario Lopez came out! Huzzah! I was super excited, having been a HUGE Saved By the Bell fan back in the day (and to this day if truth be told). Though my heart belonged to Zack, I wouldn't have said no to Slater. But throughout the course of Slater's interview, he became creepier and creepier. He has this perfect, blindingly white smile that doesn't reach his dead eyes. And even though he talked about his wife and new baby daughter, Kelly Bean and I agreed that there's no way he's straight. It's ok, Slater. We'll still love you if you love yourself enough to admit the truth. So yeah. Woo!

Monday, December 13, 2010

A First Concert, A Second Birthday, And Chinese Food Revisited

Sunday will go down in history as the first time the soon-to-be auspicious singing group, the Sally Tomatoes took to the stage (or conference room at an apartment complex leasing office) to the delight of friends, family, and future fans. Though the mid-December day was scorching hot (80+), they braved the weather to see their favorite ladies bring down the house with our catchy ditties, mellifluous harmonies, and gobs of charisma. Highlights include our opening number of "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes (from Dirty Dancing, yay!), "And So It Goes" by Billy Joel (because what's an a cappella choir without Billy, I ask you?), and an assorted selection of holiday classics made new with our fresh and cheeky approach.

The Sally's being silly. We're adorable.

The climax of the night had to be my own personal solo, "Hallelujah," the Rufus Wainwright version (as it appears in Shrek, though that in no way affected my choice). And when I say 'climax,' I mean it wasn't a total disaster. I've been in choirs and musicals all my life, but I'd never really had a full-length solo, just me and the song (I don't count the songs I sang in character for shows like Annie in which I played a drunk 8th grade Miss Hannigan. Not exactly American Idol material). I've always been more of a team player, harmonizing alto singer, not the Star (insert jazz hands here). I was terrified, even though there probably weren't more than thirty or so people in the audience. What I can remember of it (for I tend to forget stressful situations. I have no memory of singing the national anthem in three part harmony at a homecoming game), was that it went pretty well. Not amazing, but I have no specific regrets. Which is a big deal because I always pick apart my performance even while I'm in the midst of it, causing me to forget the words. But I managed to remember this time around. It helps that the entire chorus consists of "hallelujah."

Overall it was an incredible experience that was a long time coming for us as a group. For a while there, it didn't seem like it was going to come together. We're all busy and stressed, and sometimes this one extra obligation seemed like the straw on the tomato's back. But for me, singing with my girls is often the highlight of my week. It's awesome to finally be part of a choir consisting of people who genuinely want to sing. There's no school credit, or money, or religious guilt involved. We get together and just laugh our asses off. We sing what we want to sing, and have a ball doing it. So cheers for the Sally Tomatoes! Be sure to catch our act next Spring!

After the a cappella holiday concert in Marina Del Rey, I proceeded to get lost on the way to West Hollywood for a massive gay-themed AA meeting. No, I'm not gay nor in AA. But I was there to celebrate, or "give a cake," to one of my very best friend's two year anniversary of sobriety. The recipient gathers together their closest friends who literally hand him/her a cake. They playfully refer to it as a 'birthday,' in AA, which I think is a great term for it. It is a milestone that demonstrates how far you've come in your new life. And it is not easy. I've been there through it all, and I am just so incredibly proud and grateful that he is still in my life. I cannot say enough good things about AA. I've been to maybe 4 or 5 meetings, and visited the recovery house that espouses its teachings several times more (not to mention barbecues and drag bingo night). I no longer believe in organized religion, but if I did, I would go to AA just for the uplifting feeling I get after I leave.

For these purposes, we'll call my friend "Marco"

For one thing, alcoholics, especially gay alcoholics, have the best stories. They are the life of the party, even without the sauce, and have a wry sense of humor about the awful turns their lives have taken. So even though they are recounting these horrific events, you find yourself laughing right along with a group of people who have definitely been there before. While I've never been to rock bottom when it comes to drugs or alcohol (my addictions are pretty much food and television related), I can empathize to being in a dark place. As with a regular church, AA believes in a higher power, but as you understand it. There's no denomination and no particular dogma other than "progress, not perfection." When people share, there is nothing but love, respect, and friendship. It is a vast and unconditional circle of support that welcomes everyone, even outsiders like a straight, female, non-alcoholic like me. Upon leaving, I feel happy and grateful that an organization like this exists and that it has the power to change lives.

Practically everyone you meet automatically introduces themselves with a hug or a handshake and makes sure to remember your name, even months after meeting you. They also compliment your shoes or your sweater, or notice when you lose weight. And while many are struggling with their own problems, they focus on the positive. Like taking over the Kung Pao Bistro in WeHo in a grand birthday celebration, complete with cake. I've mentioned before that the very thought of Chinese food is revolting to me. But that night wasn't about me, it was about my friend and his peeps. So I oh-so-graciously agreed to come along and brave the Kung Pao. Plus I was starving and would have eaten almost anything at that point.

I ordered a chicken salad, since I figured I couldn't really go wrong. I just wouldn't eat the sour-smelling and foul-looking dressing and I'd be ok. Wrong. The ginormous plate arrived and the lettuce was covered in sesame seeds and mandarin oranges. (I don't believe in putting fruit on things that should not be fruity, and seeds just get in the way). And the chicken, which I was expecting to be grilled, or at least microwaved, was freezing cold, boiled white, and was clammy, chewy, and altogether unappetizing. It took all my focus just to swallow and not throw up (that's what she said.) One piece was all I could manage. I am not the type to send food back. I believe in suffering in silence (at least until I can get back home to rant about it via the blog). But I was surrounded by strong-willed gays who insisted that I get my money's worth. So they sent it back for me, bless them. I then got vegetarian firecracker chicken, because I shockingly loved what my friend had ordered. Vegetarian chicken, you ask? How is that possible? Well I'll tell you...I didn't ask and I don't want to know the answer. It was ten times better than the real chicken on my salad.

The true measure of adulthood.

The long, non-sequitur evening ended and I took my friend back to his place. It's not been an easy few years, but things finally look like they're turning around. He just got a new job, and I'm like a proud mama. I drove back home, feeling content and accomplished (having sung a solo AND eaten Chinese food all in the same night). Of course three hours later, I awoke from a deep sleep and had to spew up all that firecracker chicken. I knew there was a reason I don't eat Chinese food. It might have been the disgusting salad chicken causing me such gastric unpleasantness. But in any case, I still ate my leftovers for lunch the next day. I felt so cosmopolitan with those little white square takeout boxes in my fridge. Almost like a real grown-up. Strange how that's my definition of being grown-up: Chinese takeout.

Ok, done rambling for now. But just you wait, big things are a-brewing here at Sporadic Sporkitudes! First of all, today is my Twelve Days of giveaways show on ELLEN!!!!! They seriously called me to recommend bringing a "large vehicle." Apparently we are going to score on a massive scale today, so wish us luck! Also, tomorrow is the first day of my new job, so huzzah on that note as well! Done for real now.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Stanley the Manly

I have often mentioned my delightfully quirky automobile, Stan, in this here blog. This is because he is a big part of who I am. He was originally named after the unseen wealthy, overweight, elderly husband of Karen on Will and Grace, mostly because I happened to be watching that sitcom the night I got him. Stan also gets his name from my favorite South Park character at the time (even though I'm so over that show now). What I did not know at the age of 16, was that Stan's personality is largely similar to that of Stanley Hudson on the Office. (Now on Season Five, so bear with the incessant references.) From the moment I first sat in the drivers' seat, I felt that his name was Stan.

Stanley Hudson, Dunder Mifflin Paper Co.

I had always imagined the human embodiment of Stan to be much older. But after watching countless hours of the Office, I realize that Stan is truly a disgruntled, African-American, middle-aged office worker who hates his job, loves crossword puzzles, and in general can't be bothered. Stan/Stanley both sometimes refuse to work on principle. They are stubborn and cantankerous, but they get the job done. They are lovable, misunderstood curmudgeons, and are usually taken for granted despite their considerable efforts. Sometimes they have heart attacks/break down in the middle of intersections. And sometimes they sass their boss ("Did I Stutter?" "Rrr rrr rrr, not gonna start no matter what you do, Hutch!"). But ultimately, they are essential to the team. So even though sixteen-year-old me had not even heard of The Office, deep down I knew that one day Stan would meet (or hear second-hand from me, his driver), his television soulmate: Stanley Hudson. And it wouldn't make one bit of difference. But still. Trippy.

God's gift to me.

And on a completely unrelated note, I am psyched that I was hardcore and lit my own oven's pilot light (which goes out all the frickin' time. I usually just call the Gas Company and freak out that there's a "leak," like a helpless little girl.) But I wanted those crescent rolls, dammit. And I provided for myself and made it happen. Now I'm feeling all empowered and stuff. Hoo-ah!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I am not now, nor have I ever been a drug addict

Though it's a little soon to crow, I think I should announce that I HAVE A JOB!!! Which is awesome for several reasons: 1) Duh, 2) Unemployment sucks, 3) Being poor sucks, 4) It's a really good job even if it's not in film, 5) I'm over-explaining this. Yay me! So that was fast. I didn't even have time to enjoy my unemployment checks that were three times what I got last year when I was unemployed for eight months instead of one. Oh the irony. But all of this job-having could come to a screeching halt if for some reason I fail the stringent criminal background check or 90 day hair follicle drug test (which I just took this morning. Goodbye huge clump of hair, though I'm glad they didn't rip you out of my head and merely snipped.)

Some things they might find in my criminal background:

1. A fix-it ticket for a busted headlight on my car. It wasn't supposed to go on my permanent record and at the time I didn't even know the headlight was busted. But you never know how thorough their detectives might be.

2. A possibly thrown-out parking ticket for when I was towed most unfairly on a day they randomly decided to pave a small section of street without informing its residents. The jury's still out on whether that's going to happen, because you best believe I fought that mothereffer.

3. I stole a Milky Way candy bar on my last day at Blockbuster. It's sort of an unofficial tradition that I probably shouldn't share with outsiders, but still. When you consider how much they jack up their prices on candy and how much of my paycheck they got back for said candy, I earned that Milky Way. Call it a perk, if you will.

As for drugs they might find in my hair, I was a little bit more paranoid:

1. Birth control pill. You never know what that might show up as in the test. Mistakes happen all the time. Just consider the misunderstood poppy seed muffin.

2. I had a cold recently, so Nyquil, Dayquil (generic, but still), Airborne (again generic).

3. Evidence of what one might consider an "excess" of merlot about once a month for the past three months. Definitely not an abusive user, but you never know what they're judging you on. When I asked my friends if this might be an issue, they replied that if they never hired someone who had an occasional drink, no one would ever be hired. Except for Mormons maybe (one of the unexpected downsides of leaving the church perhaps.)

I'm hoping that that's all that could be construed as less than upstanding citizenship behavior. Unless they find out about my lost year in Bangkok...

I may or may not have been a drug smuggling mime
after my passport and wallet were stolen on a journey to find myself.

To celebrate having a job, I went to the Crenshaw (South Central) mall. Not exactly Rodeo Dr., but still an outlet to spend my not-yet-hard-earned money. I am not a shoppaholic by any means. I never get the urge to shoe shop and I would much rather watch a movie and eat chocolate to console myself than indulge in 'retail therapy.' And spending money is usually like pulling teeth. But today was fun. I bought a fabulous new pair of shoes (both fun and practical), some random stuff at Wal-Mart, and finally invested in nice, grown-up unmentionables. The Hanes six-packs from Target I usually purchase get the job done, but make you feel as feminine as a one-eyed tree-stump.

I googled 'poor kid playing basketball'
and this cake came up. I want it.

On a completely unrelated note, I also bought a basketball. Why? Well it was my Toy for Tots, a requirement for attending Ellen's Christmas giveaway show next Tuesday. I figure a basketball gets kids to exercise, and can be used for singular or group recreation allowing my unknown poor protege to make friends and stay fit. Plus, it's unisex. I played basketball as a kid and now some unfortunate child can get the same joy out of it that I did. And if that kid happens to grow up to be the next Kobe Bryant (only not an asshole), then I will feel directly responsible for donating his/her first basketball. And if they happen to seek me out and reward me financially for inspiring their dreams, then so be it. Now I'm feeling rather pleased with myself that I spent 8 bucks on the poor and cough cough bucks on fancy underoos. I also contributed greatly to the economy of this relatively impoverished area, so kudos for me as well!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fictional Men who have Ruined Real Men for Life

I was attempting to distract myself from the tortuous waiting of a very important phone call, so I decided to make a list. Upon revisiting The Office after watching Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, I have determined that no man will ever live up to the glory that is Jim Halpert. Sorry heterosexual menfolk, you just can't catch a break. He's pretty much perfect. Tall, sweet, adorable in a non-Ken doll way, smart, funny, hopelessly romantic but in a subtle, not-cheesy way. Jim got me thinking about all the other fictional men who collectively set the absurdly high standard their gender.

Yes, we realize that these are not real people. Mr. Darcy isn't really going to sweep us off our feet one day. And in reality, my personal standards aren't terribly high. But we've devoted countless hours to drooling over perfect (or perfectly flawed) man candies we can't have. And so here is a tribute to them and how they make every man we will ever meet seem short, awkward (in a not cute way), and generally off-putting. And I put a picture for every man because I was that bored today.

1. Jim Halpert - The Office
The perfect man. Period.

2. Jake Ryan - Sixteen Candles
The last real dreamboat and every teenage girl's fantasy.

3. Angel - Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel
Hulking brooding savior complex type with an unexpected self-deprecating sense of humor.

4. Mr. Darcy - Pride and Prejudice
Every woman's fantasy. I had a Mr. Darcy myself until I realized he really was just an asshole and not secretly awesome in addition to being sexy.

5. Seth Cohen - The O.C.
Snarky, adorable, with pop culture references to spare and the world's greatest jew fro (one of my particular weaknesses).

6. Prince Eric - The Little Mermaid
I'm not taking it back because he happens to be animated.

7. Captain Malcolm Reynolds - Firefly/Serenity
Badass space cowboy pirate, aptly nicknamed Captain Tightpants.

8. Indiana Jones - Duh
Fedora + whip + stubble = hawt.

9. Tom Lefroy - Becoming Jane
I heart James McAvoy with all my soul, and if Jane Austen is going to give up on him to be noble, I will gladly be there to pick up the pieces. I'm no saint.

10. Christian - Moulin Rouge
He's got a huge talent.

11. Lloyd Dobbler - Say Anything
Quite possibly the greatest grand gesture of all time.

12. Ned - Pushing Daisies
Hopefully I don't die before we get together and therefore can never actually touch him.

13. Theodore "Teddy/Laurie" Lawrence - Little Women
As with Jane Austen, if Jo is a moron and doesn't realize what she has, I'll tap that.

14. Wesley - The Princess Bride
I dig the mask. As you wish indeed.

15. Ferris Bueller - Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Can you imagine how perfect life would be? Everything would just fall into place.

16. Connor McManus - The Boondock Saints
Irish vigilante in a pea coat, what's not to love?

17. Crybaby Walker - Crybaby
The only role I truly dig Johnny Depp in as a sexual object. Swoon.

18. Chuck Bartowski - Chuck
He's just so darn cute. And he has skills.

19. Ted Mosby - How I Met Your Mother
Mostly the first season before he gets all Barnified. Hopeless romantic who performs a rain dance for the woman he loves.

20. Dr. Jack Shepherd - Lost
Maybe I just like guys with God complexes. Plus the manliest stubble ever depicted on celluloid.

21. Ben Stone - Knocked Up (This may be just for me)
I definitely have a thing for delightful Jew-fro'd shlubby guys with hidden sweet sides.

22. Bill/Eric/Alcide/Eggs/Jason/Sam, pretty much most male cast members of True Blood Who is their casting director? Because they have mad skills.

So that's my list. Feel free to contribute, but they must meet the criteria of: fictional (not actors, though it could be argued that their public persona is in fact a character and not actually representative of them in real life), and they have to be the kind of guy you want to run away with. Not just to take advantage of him and then never call again. If you mention Edward Cullen, I may have to slap you. Unless I'm kind of tipsy and admit that I secretly love him even though he is everything that is wrong with males (possessive, sexist, poncey, with too much hair product. But goddamn, can he wear a pea coat. Which everyone knows is my weakness). Also if you're a heterosexual man reading this, you are fully entitled to create a corresponding female list. No double standards at Sporadic Sporkitudes.

UPDATE: That phone call never came, so now I'm drinking a delicious glass of Two Buck Chuck Cabernet and feeling just fine. Though still tortured that Jim doesn't exist. And that Jim also happens to be my dad's name. So that would be a problem if Jim Halpert did exist. But I like to think we could overcome that. I could always give him a nickname. Big Tuna?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Underrated Classics: Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

I've been sick the past few days, so I've been taking advantage of the opportunity to laze about guilt-free with the excuse that I'm convalescing. Of course the only thing different about the past few days is that I've been consuming mass quantities of Vitamin C in addition to staying in my PJs and watching obscene amounts of Netflix Instant Watch. Having finally finished the magnum opus that is Buffy the Vampire Slayer (how epic was that finale??), and completed the entire British sitcom series Coupling, I was in the mood to finally start checking off the actual films that have been sitting in my queue for months. Today's menu consisted of Singles, Doc Hollywood (unintentional 90s Bridget Fonda mini-marathon), and lastly Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.

Obligatory poster. Kind of a boring one at that.

While the first two failed to really catch my imagination, the latter was absolutely riveting. I'd wanted to see Brief Interviews ever since I just barely missed attending the premiere hosted by John Krasinski himself. You undoubtedly recognize Krasinski as the most adorable male creature on Earth, Jim from the Office (which keeps making an appearance in this blog. I like it, but I'm not as obsessed with it as I come off). But this movie was clearly his baby. He adapted it for the screen, produced, directed, and had a significant role. Busy boy. I really had no idea what it was about, other than it was John Krasinski. It didn't get fabulous reviews, and was basically ignored. I guess critics assumed that all Krasinski was good for was being cute, bored, and snarky in 30 minute intervals. So that explains why I just got around to it tonight.

So freaking adorable! How could you not love this face?

The film really has no plot, which I sometimes have a hard time with in movies, but it works with this one. The premise is a grad student, Sara Quinn, interviewing different men about their experiences with life, love, and women. It's presented in a series of anecdotes and snapshots of characters. Some actual interviews, some encounters that Sara overhears. Her character really is a blank slate until the last few minutes of the film in which we realize her motivation. She observes and records with a frosty demeanor, like a scientist studying lab rats. I hated her at first, but then grew to understand and sympathize deeply with her.

The male cast portraying her subjects, most known only by their numbers (ie. Subject #51), is both incredible and somewhat random. Just to name a few: Will Forte (one of my favorites, a closeted gay man trying desperately to prove he loves women), Timothy Hutton, Will Arnett, Dominic Cooper, Christopher Meloni, even the lead singer of Death Cab for Cutie, Ben Gibbard, it's hard to imagine these people ever existing in the same universe, let alone the same movie. But it is that diversity that brings such scope to the film and its mission:

To prove that all men are hideous.

No, just kidding. I don't really think that was the point. Though there were times when I couldn't help but feel that. I love sociology and trying to understand people, particularly men whom I don't understand at all. I feel like Brief Interviews gave a glimpse into the male psyche and their views on feminism in today's world. Even the characters who were dark and damaged seemed real and grounded, neither truly evil nor heroic. I love flawed morality, individuals who exemplify the full spectrum of human emotion and motivation. So the film geek in me was super-stoked. Especially when I noted the use of jump cuts, non-linear narrative, and obvious influence by the French New Wave (could I sound any more pompous right now?). Those same elements of the uber-indie film kind of annoyed me at the same time. As if the project was trying far too hard to be taken seriously and made almost a mockery of itself by using so many conventions. But enough academic psychobabble. (I miss film school sometimes, can you tell?)

I'd like to pick out three performances in particular during which I couldn't tear my eyes away from my twelve inch tv screen. Krasinski as a director uses the deceptively simple tactic of turning on the camera and just letting it roll. No cutaways, no different angles, no frills to keep our ADD-addled eyes engaged. You're forced to stare at the actors faces as they unravel their painful tales and you aren't ever allowed to look away. That must be tough for the actors as well as the viewers. They have to get it all right in pretty much one take. The first I really noticed was a relatively unknown actor named Frankie Faison. I'm not sure how his role really fit in with the themes of the other interviews, but his story was intense.

Frankie Faison is amazing.

He talked about his father's career as the best bathroom attendant in one of the top-ranked historical hotels in the area. Everyday his father would show up for work in his freshly pressed all-white uniform and silently hand millionaires and CEOs towels. He took pride in his work, and in being unnoticed though he heard and saw all in the marble men's room with gold-leafed light fixtures. The subject (Faison) could never decide whether to be proud that his father worked so hard to put food on the table, or disgusted that he would degrade himself in such a manner. Faison refused to ever wear a single white article of clothing. The scene would cut back and forth to his father working in the men's room, and the subject relating it afterwards, causing the two realities to merge. This method of storytelling occurs frequently in the film, with great effectiveness.

Oh Dominic...Sigh

Another great performance was by Dominic Cooper, whom I had loved before from The History Boys, The Duchess, and Mamma Mia. I knew he was talented, but his character managed to be unhinged, frightening, and sympathetic all at once. He plays an undergrad in a class Sara TA's for. He writes a provocative paper about the survivors of rape and abuse and challenges Sara to consider the unexpected long-term benefits of such traumatic experiences. Naturally this produces a knee jerk reaction for Sara and all audience members both female and male. But he makes an excellent point. They've been through the worst thing they could ever possibly imagine, and they are still here. I'm not sure if I personally agree with his perspective, but it was thought-provoking. Sara is appalled by this, but Cooper defends his argument in three different scenes cut together. He explains that his sister was raped by four men who inflicted all manner of abuse upon her. But she survived. As his story becomes more and more intense, he finally reveals it was not his sister, but himself who was raped. The more interesting factor is, does this make a difference in how she views his paper? Whoa... mindfuck right?

The last and most impressive display was by John Krasinski himself. I'd seen him in a few bit parts in movies here and there. The films Leatherheads and License to Wed in which he actually had leads, were sadly eh. I was never really in love with any character other than Jim which he plays effortlessly, implying that he is just being himself. The one exception would be Away We Go which you must watch this very instant because it is outstanding. But by the time his big monologue towards the end was finished, I was almost in tears. He plays Sara's ex-boyfriend who cheated on her with some hippie chick. He explains with sociopathic detail about how he managed to seduce this woman with the intent of a one night stand. He connects with her for as long as it took to get her into bed, hitting all the right notes. Krasinski comes off as a jackass, but an insightful one. He's not afraid that the audience might hate him.

But then he relates the story that the hippie chick told him about how she was hitchhiking and was picked up by a sex offender. She knew as soon as she got into the car that something was wrong. Her faith was telling her to look the man directly in his eye and to empathize with him, no matter what. Not to scream, to plea, but to listen. By the time he actually raped her, he was crying. I had mixed feelings about the story itself, but Krasinski's retelling was incredible. He starts off so cool and Jim-like. But the power of the anecdote moved him. And Sara's unflappable expression pisses him off. He knows that she's judging him and calls her out on it. It's a very powerful scene that ruined my view of Jim a little (no man gets to call a woman a bitch under any circumstances), but increased my opinion of John as an actor. Who knew he had such skills?

And one more for good measure. Good on you, John.

To wrap up, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men is sadly underrated (5.7 rating on IMDB). I can't wait to see more from John Krasinski as a director and as an actor with meatier roles than the All-American put-upon male lead in chick flicks. I'm curious to see what he would do with a more conventional film. Plus, he's just pretty to look at, swooooon! I hope I didn't give too much away. There is far too much substance to this film to really ruin it by highlighting a few of its best features. Anyway, give it a chance. It's on instant watch, so there's really no excuse not to.