Saturday, October 30, 2010

Plenty of Fish? A Brief Foray into Online Dating

This morning on a whim I decided to check out after being constantly bombarded by their ads on Facebook. Dating sites, diet pills, and get rich quick schemes are all I ever seem to get, in fact. It's kind of creepy how the internet knows I'm single, overweight, and poor and wants to a) rub it in my face and b) make money off of my misery. But a friend actually recommended plentyoffish, claiming to have known people who've had success with it. So I idly typed it into my browser this fine Saturday morning.

I refused to actually sign up and get a profile, not wanting to commit even to a website (my commitment-phobia could be a problem when it comes to actual dating). I figured I should check out my options before I sold my soul and e-mail address. This got me thinking about my requirements in a potential mate.

1. Male

2. Straight (This has been a problem for me in the past, since despite my bevy of fabulous friends, my gaydar is often broken)

3. Interested in dating, not just friends with potential (my other kryptonite. Most people say it's better to be friends first, but who, when, and how does one decide to cross the line? And what if that ruins the friendship? It's a valid concern. If you're dating from the start, you don't lose anything if it goes sour).

4. Non-Smoker (Smoking makes me literally vomit. I think I'm allergic. Plus I don't want him to die, or smell bad, and I would rather not catch the second-hand black lung).

5. Taller than me. (This may seem completely arbitrary, a socially constructed ideal, and probably cuts me off from a world of kickass men who happen to fall short of 5'8''. But that's just how I roll.)

6. Preferably older than me, or at least not younger. (Another socially constructed ideal, since I know plenty of wonderful, happy couples in which the woman is older. But it's a fact that women mature faster than men, and therefore often want different things in life. However I can be flexible on this issue if the guy is unusually mature and/or awesome.)

7. Employed. (But only because I won't be in about two weeks. It would be nice to have a sugar daddy until I get back on my feet. Wow, that's a terrible image. I apologize. But I'm not picky as to profession or salary)

8. Good hygiene, a regular doer of laundry. (Is it too much to ask that he be clean?)

9. Must love movies, (otherwise we'll have nothing to say to each other. Fact.)

10. Must not mind that I'm packing quite a bit o' junk in the trunk. (In fact, I'd be cool if he were also not in great shape.)

Bonus points for being Canadian and/or Jewish. If he's a Canadian Jew (now that Seth Rogen is off the market), we're headed for Vegas after the first date.

I really don't think that's too much to ask. I know most women have a huuuuge list that comprises their ideal man. And sure I have some more preferences (college educated, sense of humor, or at least likes my sense of humor, likes board games but lets me win occasionally). But this list is pretty much the baseline of what I'm looking for.

Judging by what plentyoffish had to offer, I'm not so sure I'm going to find that anytime soon. At least not in L.A. Because what most L.A. guys seem to be looking for is one-night-stands or future former model/actress/porn star trophy wives. I don't begrudge them that. But it does make finding one's soulmate a bit tricky if you are a different kind of fabulous (no self-pity here!)

This toe-dip into the pool of online dating has made me realize that the system does have its pros and cons. It's nice to know from the start what each of you is looking for. As opposed to the unrequited friendship, or the 'tell-em-what-they-wanna-hear hook-up.' It also makes sense to weed out the people you would meet organically but discover a major deal-breaker ten dates in. And if you don't really go to places often where you would meet a potential man-candy, that also makes dating difficult. So it's definitely a good idea. But online dating does still have a major stigma attached. The idea that there must be something wrong with you if you can't find a date in real life. (Some of us would rather stay home and watch the Exorcist on a Friday night than go clubbing in some obnoxious, cold, slutty Halloween costume, ok! And who meets their soulmate at a loud, sweaty, crappy music-playing club, anyway?)

It's not that I'm looking for a soulmate right now. In fact the idea of going out on a first date, let alone an internet blind date, terrifies me. Especially since I so don't have my own s#@! together, so how can I expect a man to have his? But it would be nice every once in a while to actually go out with someone and do the whole dinner and a movie thing. Which I've never actually done. The few encounters I've had that could be considered dating have all been awkward and disappointing in their own, unique ways. So I'll keep plentyoffish in the back of my mind, seeing as I'm only 23 and shouldn't give up on finding someone who meets my requirements and more, who also happens to think I'm pretty swell.

UPDATE!!! I forgot to add that I can't handle Jesus Freaks. Having faith and being spiritual is just fine, but Psycho Born Agains, Orthodox Jews, Full-On Muslims, Straight-Up Mormons, and religious extremists of any kind need not apply. That's just a fundamental dealbreaker.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Essential Reading: An Exhaustive and Comprehensive List

The following list was probably more fun to compile than it will be to read. But I'm posting it anyway because a lot of hard work (ie googling and polling) went into this here blog. It was the product of an unusually slow afternoon at work, and a desperate attempt to amuse ourselves (meaning me, my two co-workers and my boss), in lieu of our usual slow day (often vicious) Facebook Scrabble tournaments. It originally started out as just a list of all the books I think my future daughter(s) need to have read by puberty. But then it turned out that given the difficulty of some of the books mentioned, and in some cases, mature subject matter, maybe I should give a less stringent timeline.

As we were listing and googling to ensure accuracy of author and merit, it became apparent that there are so many good books out there, that perhaps we should include books that no boy should exit high school without having read. And as that process developed, it also became clear that perhaps having two such lists is somewhat sexist and encourages stereotypical gender roles, maybe we'll just make one big list that children of all genders (we're inclusive of those who aren't sure), should enjoy.

That lead to the argument regarding series of books and whether or not they count as 'seminal classics.' (Tee hee, seminal). So we just included those too. So here is the outcome of that ultimately productive afternoon of listing books that inspired us, moved us, taught us, and bonded us in a celebration of classic litt-tra-chure (one must pronounce it in the most pompous British way possible).

To My Future Daughter:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Emma by Jane Austen

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett
Are You There God, It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Eloise by Kay Thompson
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit
Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
The Flip-Flop Girl by Katherine Paterson
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

To My Future Son:

The Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
1984 by George Orwell
Animal Farm
by George Orwell
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
The Han Solo Trilogy by Ann C. Crispin
On the Road by Jack Karouac
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
The Ear, The Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer
The Kid Who Ran for President by Dan Gutman
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson


Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Sweet Valley High by Francine Pascal
Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler
Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene
Babysitter's Club by Ann M. Martin
Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
The Shoe Books by Noel Streatfeild
Anything by Judy Blume
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
Goosebumps by R.L. Stein

Feel free to add any you thought we missed, though we did spend a shocking amount of time ensuring that nothing was forgotten and nothing extraneous was included. I was going to annotate and justify and add pictures, but that just seems like a lot of work. Have at it!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hypothetical Halloween Costume

As much as I love the Fall season, the sweater weather, apple cider, pumpkin-flavored everything, I loathe dressing up for Halloween. I am the least creative, laziest, and cheapest costume creator alive. The only costume I was ever proud of was my viking opera singer when I was 14 and waaaay too old to be trick-or-treating. Luckily, we had a German exchange student that year so I got away with it so I could show her all the best neighborhoods that give out the really good candy, and how to use a pillowcase instead of a plastic pumpkin so you could haul more.
These are for weaklings.

When I was a baby I made a pretty damn cute clown. My parents were also thrifty, like me, and made me wear that creepy polka-dotted jumper two, possibly three years in a row. This started the tradition of crappy costumes, including one 4-year stint during which I was a princess in the same cheap, blue dress-up gown every Halloween. Other notably lame years include: a teacher (I think I wore a vest and my mom's tote bag that said "Teachers Make a Difference" or something), a graduate (wearing my mom's graduation gown and honors sash from college), and a gypsy, which sounds cool but was poorly executed.

As I got older, naturally I fell prey to the Halloween Slut rule. This is not easy to pull off when you're a chunky lass and have to incorporate spanx into any outfit that shows off the real estate. In college I wore a homemade toga, which actually turned out pretty cool, and was easy to wash after cleaning up my friend's vomit. Then I went as a sexy mobster/mobster's wife, which I thought was bitchin' (I even made my own cigar out of a toilet paper role. Ask me how!), but then I discovered 3 other girls at the same party who were far sexier and looked a lot more like actual mobsters. Halloween fail.

Honestly, the most complicated costume I ever put together. Two hours before.

Last year was my last day off before working two weeks in a row (including weekends and longer hours), so all I really wanted to do was relax. I put on my sweet fake hospital scrubs, acted super self-absorbed, and walked around like I was about to fall over (channeling Meredith Grey). Of course, this was for my own benefit as I spent the day alone watching Tim Burton movies, Clue, and Rocky Horror (my Halloween tradition for years now). I was super excited to give out candy to the neighborhood kids (I never got to do this before). Only 3 kids showed up because as I found out later, they bus all the poor ghetto children to Beverly Hills and the like where they can score real candy. At first I was unhappy about this, but then I realized we used to do the same thing essentially. So I pretty much was just comfy in my scrubs, eating candy, and watching movies. Solid evening.

The resemblance was uncanny.

This year I have to work. I'm cool with that. We're allowed to dress up, but I can't really see my co-workers respecting me after showing up in Lady Gaga's raw meat ensemble. I just don't have the figure for bloody flank steak. And as of yet, I'm not aware of any parties to go to, which is stellar for me. I never think about costumes until a few hours before it's go time, and then I don't believe in spending money on something I'm going to wear once and be uncomfortable in. Not to mention I can never think of anything good (something cute but funny, original, but that people will get, oh and something I already have all the ingredients for).

Where would I hide my spanx? Also, meat is expensive and I don't waste food.

But if I were to dress up, I think I would go as a yuppie. My cute yoga pants (which I only bought because they're comfy and have never actually used for yoga), stretchy work-out tank, obnoxious purple yoga mat rolled up and slung over my shoulder, a starbucks cup, maybe a baby backpack worn on the front, and oversized sunglasses. Cute, comfortable, funny, and for the most part readily available. I'll probably spend the night just like last year, curled up with Johnny Depp, Dr. Frankenfurter, and mini-sized snickers. And as sad as that sounds to you, to me it sounds like Halloween perfection.

Look at them. Their flexibility. Their ability to afford yoga classes. Boo.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Underrated Classics: She-Devil

I've spent pretty much the entire day indulging in Halloween candy and Netflix instant watch, and it has been glorious. I focused on the work of the Coen brothers primarily (Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, and The Big Lebowski). Brilliant directors, with such a rare sense of humor and unique perspective on filmmaking (cough pompous cough). But the film that really struck me during today's cinematic binge-fest was the 1989 revenge masterpiece, She-Devil, starring Meryl Streep, Rosanne, and Ed Begley Jr.
Wow, that is a truly awful poster. Disregard this, please.

It was a film I watched a lot on TV when I was younger, but I haven't seen it in probably ten years. I find it sad that it only has a 4.7 rating on imdb, when I think it is immensely satisfying on so many levels. The acting is a bit over the top, especially Meryl Streep as the downward-spiraling romance novelist (she's allowed to have one role that isn't destined for an Oscar nomination). But Roseanne's portrayal of Ruth Patchett, the maligned frump of a housewife should be legendary.

The bodice-rippers that Mary Fisher (Streep) writes provide fantasy and escapism for bored, neglected women like Ruth. For the most part, regular chick flicks serve the same purpose. What makes She-Devil rare is that it features an unlikely heroine who is unattractive (not just in a glasses and ponytail kind of way), surprisingly nefarious, and not above manipulation to reach her goals. This is not a Katherine Heigl movie. Roseanne, though she may have her flaws as an actress, represents a large portion of female movie-goers. She's a helluva lot more relatable than some 5'10' blonde, thin, perky bimbo. Through Ruth, viewers who may have also been wronged by a husband, boyfriend, or life in general, can live vicariously through her plotting and scheming to systematically destroy all that Bob (Begley Jr.) holds dear.

This is the face of America. Deal with it. Hawt.

During that process, Ruth discovers self-confidence, takes pride in her appearance, and develops a small army of women that society disregards as outcasts who don't fit the Mary Fisher mold. I've never personally experienced anything like Ruth's philandering, embezzling, and downright cruel husband. But when Ruth pulls the strings that annihilate Bob's home, career, and freedom (he ends up in prison for 18 months), I'm right there with her, cheering as hellish flames engulf the "she-devil." Now this is my kind of chick flick. And other than maybe Thelma and Louise (whose screenwriter I totally met!), I can't think of another movie that so perfectly demonstrates a true female revenge fantasy. (While I kind of enjoyed John Tucker Must Die, it really doesn't count.)

Ultimately, it's not the greatest movie in the world. But I LOVE it, and it just might be worth checking out if you're feeling kind of man-hatey at the moment.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Introducing the Sally Tomatoes!

I've already posted this on Facebook, but just in case you were on the edge of your seat, dying to hear news of the name of my little a cappella singing group, we've finally chosen...the Sally Tomatoes!! The following are the reasons why this name rocks:

1. I (kind of) suggested it, so yay me!
2. It's not a silly musical pun that most people won't get (ie, Circle of Fifths, Here comes Treble, the Acafellas, etc.)
3. It's an obscure reference to the classic Audrey Hepburn film "Breakfast at Tiffany's" Holly Golightly regularly visits a mob boss named Sally Tomato in jail to give him "the weather report." If you haven't seen the movie I suppose that sounds like a euphemism for conjugal visits. But it's not...
4. It's also an homage to our unlikely patron saint, Ray, or as I like to call him, Sally Tomato (I'm nothing if not repetitious). For those of you who don't remember as far back as last Friday, Ray bought us drinks at Gabe's on karaoke night. He was an adorable old drunk who sang "I Got You Babe" after telling us his friend's brother had 6 months to live.
5. It sounds random, which I love, but is actually steeped in our (week old) mythology with great and somewhat badass significance.
6. If nothing else, we've been trying to come up with a name for months and then there's that one moment when someone says something and everyone goes quiet. Then it's all, "I kinda like that..." and a legacy is born. Ok, so it's not like the Sally Tomatoes are poised to take over the world or anything, but a name solidifies us and makes it real :D

Anyway, can you handle how cute that is?

PS, I tried to post a picture of a tomato, just in case you didn't know what one looked like, but it didn't work and I'm tired. So yeah. Picture a tomato here.

Hypothetically Stressing Out: Utah Edition

In my grand tradition of paranoid over-analyzing and obsessive excuse/list-making, I've decided to compile a pro/con list for the unlikely situation in which I land a job working for the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Keep in mind that I haven't even applied and most likely won't, given the outcome of this list, laziness/procrastination/forgetfulness, and my general fear of new and scary situations. But my co-worker planted the seed in my brain and now I can't stop thinking about 'what if...' The main pros are that it's a job I'd be perfect for, having volunteered twice for both the Newport Beach Film Festival, and the Sacramento French Film Festival, and worked two years in a row for the American Film Market, have an extensive background in customer service, and love seeing famous people. Not to mention it would probably set me up for life with a real, permanent job when Sundance ends.

It is kind of pretty there though, and Park City
is more like Colorado than Salt Lake City...

The downside, and it's a mother-effing doozy, is that it would involve packing up and moving my oh-so-fabulous life (note the sarcasm) here in Los Angeles, for the cold, dreary, oppressed world of Park City, Utah. I hate Utah. I've been several times, having gobs of family that reside in that cursed state, so It's not just blind hatred. The worst thing about Utah is that it's not California. I'm a huge California snob, not to mention my immediate family and friends are all here. It would mean leaving my beloved home state for only three months, but is three months really worth that big of a transition?

Famous People (yay!)
Interesting new experience (I like those. Sometimes)
Break from L.A. (I like living here, but this town seriously gets to you)
Change is good (according to Rafiki)
Amazing on resume (Like, epically amazing)
Could lead to even better jobs afterward (arguable)
Perfect for it (never have I been more qualified for a position in my life)
Not great salary, but lots of hours
Passion for independent film, yada yada (Can't let that expensive film degree go to waste!)
Maybe opportunity to see some of those movies for free? (Please?)
Good timing (As this job is almost over)
It's a job.

Utah (Not CA)
Utah (Surrounded by Mormons when I'm headed for Outer Darkness)
Utah (So far away...)
Packing up entire life just for 3 months (if it were longer/permanent I'd be more gung ho. Tee hee, gung ho. Your mom's a gung ho.)
Giving up my sweet bachelorette pad
I hate moving (no, like seriously. The main reason I live in South Central is because I don't want to move again)
Only 3 months (big commitment for short amount of time)
Have to start over to find job/apt. in LA. (it was too easy the first time around. Now not so much)
It's freezing there and I don't even own a raincoat (meaning shopping when I have no $)
Miss both Thanksgiving and Christmas (I LOVE THANKSGIVING!!!! And what is Christmas without your family?)
Miss family (but spend time with Utah family pro/con)
Miss friends, some of which just moved to LA. (I can't ditch them, can I?)
Long hours and weekends (Momma needs her 'me time'.)
I'd still be poor. (And I'm so tired of being poor)
No benefits/insurance (Not that I have any now. But still, I gotta get me some of that eventually)
Updating resume when not in job search mode (Harder for me than it sounds)
Logistical nightmare and I'm afraid of those. (ie finding an apartment, transportation, etc.)
Bad timing (the job starts right after this one, but interviewing, etc. will be tricky during the Market)
I'd rather find a full-time, year-round job. (Is that too much to ask, Universe?)

I may still apply, but then I'll just freak out about actually getting the job (which I probably won't) and then I'll get pissed because I'm perfect for the job and there's pretty slim pickins in these parts. Now is the part where y'all say, get over it Hutch. Either suck it up and update your resume or quit whining and making excuses.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why UPS is Dumb: The Sequel

It seems like every story I have starts and/or ends with me getting horribly horribly lost. This one is no exception. I finally decided to attempt the journey Downtown to pick up my mystery Amazon package (tee hee) from the UPS center. I left an hour early, and luckily didn't hit any serious traffic. I was making good time until I got off the freeway into the one-way wasteland that is Downtown Los Angeles. After turning around in a complete circle, and driving for a good mile or two without seeing my next turn, I was frustrated to tears. "It shouldn't be this difficult!" I screamed to myself more than once. Finally I decided, you know what, fuck it. I'll reimburse my friend for whatever she spent on the present and just do without. I got back on the 110 South and cried out, "Oh there it is!"-Me. So I got back off the freeway and found it no problem.

Don't be fooled. Satan lives here.

I was the first one at the UPS center when an older Asian gentleman in shockingly short, tight brown shorts came to assist me. He asked for my driver's license and chortled when he saw the picture. I was slightly offended, since I think I'm one of the few people who actually has a good ID photo. "High school?" he asked. "Oh, yeah." I replied. I realized that the reason he was laughing was that I was 15 when that picture was taken. I remember that day because I had just come from basketball practice, so my face was kind of red and shiny. But I was just so excited to be getting my license that the grin on my face was undeniable. I thought I hadn't changed much since then (besides putting on more than a couple pounds.) But what the UPS guy saw in front of him was a young, professional woman in a trench coat, not a fresh-faced, smiling teenager. (Though I only looked fresh-faced. I was pretty angsty and more stressed out at 15 than I've ever been since.) He saw someone who was impatiently tapping her pointy-heeled foot, slightly irritated at the inconvenience of being there, and anxious about getting across town to the office during rush hour traffic. Someone who, that very morning, had suddenly worried for the first time about getting crow's feet. He gave me my package (tee hee), and sent me on my way.

My present!

When I opened the package, I discovered it was a book called "My Listography." As you may have noticed I LOVE lists, and here was an entire book dedicated to listing my favorite foods, songs, vacations, people, etc. It was obviously meant for much younger list-enthusiasts, with suggestions like "Outlaw homework" "Banish brussel sprouts" "Make curfew 4AM." But this gift meant a lot to me, especially at this point in my life when I'm grasping at any reminder of childhood (I just added Season One of the Rugrats to my Netflix queue). So I'm excited to fill out the book and I might include some of the lists on Sporadic Sporkitudes if I'm feeling saucy. So thank you Jessica, the sender of the mystery Amazon package! I apologize for whining and making you feel guilty for just trying to do something nice for my birthday.

Also, I think I deserve high fives all around for making it from South Central to Downtown and all the way to Westwood before 8:30 in the morning on a Tuesday.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bathroom Issues...No, not those kind

I don't really have much to say today. Cheesecake Factory at the Grove was glorious (despite having to wait and being almost crushed by the hoards of tourists flocking to see the dancing fountain, trolley cars, and fine retail and dining everywhere you look). Pumpkin cheesecake is my new deity. Then Eric and I went to see the Social Network which was just outstanding. I was shocked at how funny it was. My favorite line was "I'm 6'5'', 220, and there's two of me." In the context, it's hilarious, I swear. But there's nothing really I can say about it that hasn't already been said more insightfully (?) or more succinctly by Entertainment Weekly.

So on to the topic of the day. My toilet. It's been running almost as long as I've lived here, which is over a year now. I know, waste of water, probably not good for the plumbing, blah blah blah. The reasons I never dealt with it are 1. I don't pay for my water bill (sorry landlady Piper who totally reminds me of Dr. Bailey on Grey's), so it's not costing me anything extra and 2. I'm a huuuuge procrastinator when it comes to getting things done that don't really need to get done right away. Exhibits B and C, my long broken A/C and heater. Did I mention that my landlady is Bailey? She's awesome but kind of intimidating. I don't really like bothering her for stuff even though it's kind of her job.

My toilet. Just so you know what we're dealing with here.

I'm somewhat mechanically-minded (hah!) so I attempted to fix the damn thing myself yesterday. This was a dumb idea for multiple reasons. I took off the tank lid, trying not to disturb the family of rubber duckies that live there. (Did I mention that I'm 23 now?) I took my floral-handled screwdriver and tried to tighten the screw on the thing. That seemed to make it angry. Now it's been basically continually flushing ever since. So I finally called Piper and was like "Oh, it's always run a little, but it just started going crazy. Yup. All on its own." So she called the plumber to come today.

My super-girlie but handy dandy flower hammer/screwdriver

It kind of made me uncomfortable to have a complete stranger in my house when I'm not there, but I was anxious to have my toilet fixed. (I'm resisting the urge to name it now, since I name most inanimate objects I encounter. But even I draw the line at naming something on which you...) But he ended up not coming, the churlish bastard (I'm assuming. And 'churlish' is my new favorite word). This made me even more uncomfortable because I actually did have a toilet explode in the hotel room my friends and I shared in Ashland, Oregon for the Shakespeare Festival. That one was not my fault. But seriously, it was like a beautiful toilet-shaped fountain. So now I keep envisioning that happening in my own bathroom while I'm not home and it floods my apartment, destroying in the most disgusting way possible, everything I own. I'm not paranoid at all...

My tiny TV which nonetheless is my new gateway to almost every movie and TV show EVER!

In the end, this story has no point. My toilet is still not fixed. But the good news is I am watching Season One of Buffy. On my Wii. HOLY CRAP!!! BEST THING EVER!!!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

At First I was Afraid...Then I was Tipsy

Karaoke night was, in an over-used but perfectly descriptive word, EPIC! It didn't start off that way, of course. As I mentioned, work was crazy, but we did take a mini-break long enough for my boss to give me a card and a bag of Didy Riese cookies. If you've never had said cookies, than you've never seen God. So that was sweet. I decided not to try to go downtown to pick up my Amazon package (tee hee), after all. It can wait. Karaoke cannot.

The bar was called Gabe's, on the corner of National and Sepulveda. It's not too far from my house. Unless you take the wrong exit (National, not Overland) and end up on the boulevard version of LA's biggest joke. National is ridiculous. Most streets, you just drive straight. National has to be a jackass and make you turn right or left, just to stay on the same street. Confused? Exactly. Long story short, I drove around for 45 minutes/12 miles, and burst out laughing when I ran out of gas. And filled the tank at my normal gas station, two blocks from my apartment. Yup. After all that driving, I ended up right back where I started. Round two, I got off on the right exit (I swear, one of these days I will learn how to navigate this beast of a town), and got to the bar in about 10 minutes.

Gabe's doesn't look like much from the outside. It doesn't look like much from the inside (other than the sweet Halloween decorations). But it might be my new favorite place in the world. My signature cocktail, a vodka tonic, was only $4.50, insanely cheap, so if nothing else, I'll be returning. And parking was free and abundant. Heaven on Sepulveda. I swear, I finally found my people. For one thing, it was so nice to finally bond with some of the girls from my a cappella singing group. We meet once a week, but don't really know each other. Which was such a shame because we are a whole mess of awesome. The party got started with a stellar white girl rendition of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song, involving the entire bar, which established a running theme of rappers who have no business rapping.

After our first round of drinks, we were approached by an older gentleman named Ray, who looked like he walked off of the set of the Sopranos. In my mind, I kept calling him Sally Tomato. Ray was quite the charmer and bought drinks for all of us, but only if we promised to sing for him. We agreed privately that if he had been 20 years younger, this gesture might have been creepy and unwelcome, but coming from Sally Tomato, it was just adorable. (Even cuter was Ray's impression of Sonny Bono with "I Got You Babe") Plus, free drinks! One of my friends brought down the house with "Total Eclipse of the Heart," inserting the word 'fucking' wherever possible, thereby making an amazing song priceless. Another carried out the grand tradition of bar singalongs with Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" (pretty much the greatest song ever.)

As for my karaoke debut, I selected one of my favorite Elvis songs, "Burning Love." I was 2 1/2 drinks in by this point and feeling good. I was a bit warm so I put my hair up with a bobby pin. That pin started to come loose in the middle of the song, so I went with it and shook my hair out, porno-secretary style. The crowd just ate it up. And I OWNED that effing song. The very definition of 'working the room.' I can't say that I sang particularly well, but if you shimmy enough, no one really cares. Later that night, after I'd pretty much sobered up, I went for an encore of Kansas's "Carry on my wayward son" (which I want played at my funeral, by the way). Kickass rocking out song, not so good for karaoke it turns out. It's a long song, but very few lyrics. Most of the time I just busted out some sweet air guitar solos.

Later that evening, it came out that it was my birthday the next day. Random people started hugging me and wishing me happy birthday, which was really sweet (even though I normally shun all human contact if I can possibly help it). Then one of my new friends, Tony, brought out the Birthday Blowjob shots. If you're not familiar with the tradition, you have to down a shot of Baileys (?) with whipped cream, without using your hands. I literally have a small mouth, so this was an anatomical impossibility. I spilled the whole thing all over the table. So Tony, a fabulous gay boy obsessed with my boobs and incredulous that I live in South Central, offered to show me how it was done. I got schooled, basically.

The night was winding down when two gentlemen started owning the microphones with their version of Usher's "You Got it Bad." Phenomenal. Better than Usher himself, I'd dare say. One of them even came up to me in the middle of the song, asked my name, and serenaded me. Score! They offered to buy us drinks afterwards, but by that point we were all drinking water (damn LA and their lack of public transportation. Though I guess it's good that it prevents us from drinking to excess). We did the obligatory girl talk, while Air Force One played on the TVs in the background. We kept quoting Harrison Ford's legendary "GET OFF MY PLANE!"

So even though it got off to a rocky start, I couldn't have asked for a better birthday eve. I'm determined that 23 will kick 22's ass. It won't be hard, seeing as 22 was one of the hardest years of my life. Maybe your birthday is like New Year's. However you spend it, determines the course of the following year. And October 16, 2009, while not without its charms, definitely pales in comparison to 2010.

I woke up this morning, opened up my giant package (tee hee), and discovered not the Roku I was expecting, but a friggin' Wii!!! I'm not a big video game person, but Wiis are awesome. I should get paid for such product placement. Anyway, tonight is the Cheesecake Factory with some of my dear friends, and tomorrow I'm going to see the Social Network with my Eric. So Happy Birthday Weekend Trifecta to me!! (And thanks for all the well wishes so far :D )

Friday, October 15, 2010

Why UPS is dumb: a Rant

Don't bother reading this, expecting some cute, carefully packaged anecdote, list, or review. I just need to complain and get it off my chest before I head off to work all toxified and irritated. It's already going to be a hell of a day (deadlines, what what). So it's my birthday tomorrow, yay me, and someone was kind enough to send me a package from Amazon. Or maybe I was sleep-online shopping and ordered something for myself and don't remember. In any case, I came home yesterday to find a UPS notice that they had tried to deliver it yesterday, but I wasn't home. I wasn't home because I have a job (temporary though it may be). Many people do, though not as much as need them these days. The point is, how am I supposed to be home at 10:30am on a Thursday to accept a package?

In normal neighborhoods where people have porches or at least doorsteps that aren't located 2 feet from a ghetto sidewalk where passersby can and probably will steal a scrumptious looking box from someone else's stoop, UPS will just leave the package and go on their merry way. (In those short brown shorts, I always envision them delivering things mid-musical number). But not in my 'hood. At first I wasn't bothered, since they always try 3 times before returning to sender. And I would definitely be home on Saturday to sign for it. But on the notice it said that they only deliver Monday through Friday. What crap is that? Are they more lazy than the US postal service who works six days a week, rain or shine (bullshit holidays like Columbus Day not included)?

So the solution to my dilemma is that I arranged for them to hold the package (tee hee) at the local UPS center. Unfortunately the closest one to my residence is Downtown. I HATE Downtown. With its nonstop horrible traffic, confusing one-way streets, scary homeless people, expensive lack of parking, it's just the worst. The center closes at 7pm too, which means I have to get from Westwood, where I work, all the way Downtown when I don't get off until 5:30. If you're not familiar with the area, that's a long-ass way WITHOUT Friday night rush hour traffic downtown. I don't even know if it's possible. And there will probably be a line of other people with day jobs who want to pick things up before the weekend, because the brilliant UPS center isn't open on Saturdays!!! What the hell, man??!?!?!?!

So to recap, on my birthday eve, which happens to fall on one of the few insane work days of the Market, I have to drive clear across down, in traffic, with a very small window of opportunity to pick up the package that I didn't know was coming so I couldn't arrange to have my landlady sign for it instead. Then I get to come home and change for Karaoke night at Gabe's, with my a cappella ladies. Actually, that will be kickass. I've never done real karaoke. Once when I was about 17, a few of my choir geek friends and I stood in the doorway of the bar area at Denny's at like 4AM and dorkily harmonized to "I Will Survive." (We were underaged, so we couldn't actually go in the bar). So that will be sweet. But if you know me, you know what a big deal it is to drag my ass out at night, and to do anything that isn't strictly necessary for survival. And I've already gone out several times (for me) this week.

ARGGHHH!!!! Maybe I'll just wait until next week and pick up my package (tee hee) when I'm not stressed about Karaoke. Though I won't get it in time for my birthday, sad. I do however have a large box to open from my parents that actually asked what to do about the delivery-non-grata in my area. They sent it to my office, instead. And I can't WAIT to open it, because I think I know what it is, and it will be the greatest. present. EVER!!!

I don't want to sound ungrateful to whomever sent me the Amazon package (tee hee). Especially if it was myself. Thank you soooo much for being considerate enough to give me a birthday present. Especially since I am the world's worst gift giver. If I buy a present at all, I'm cheap, it's not a good choice because I can never think of anything good. I'm just whining because that's how I'm wired.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's report on my first real Karaoke night!!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

An Ode to Stan

Stan is my partner-in-crime, shoulder to cry on, and best friend in the whole wide world. He just happens to be an '89 Mercury Topaz. I first met Stan on October 21st, 2003, otherwise known as the day I failed my first driver's test. Apparently you can drive perfectly the whole time and still fail automatically because of bike lanes that your hometown doesn't have. Anyway, the whole day I was absolutely distraught, wearing sunglasses to class to hide my tears because all I wanted to do was drive.

My dad felt so bad that he went out that very day and bought me a car. Before you think I'm a daddy's girl who is completely spoiled, keep in mind that Stan is almost as old as I am, and has more quirks than a Diablo Cody screenplay. Not only did my dad buy me the car, but he baked me a happy face cake (I am obsessed with happy faces, and even have a happy face tattoo), complete with yellow icing. So when I came home, he handed me the world's largest piece of cake, which instantly made me feel better. I felt even more incredible when I discovered that he had baked the keys inside the cake. (Looking back, I really hope he washed them first...) He then told me I had to find the car, in order to take possession. My parents' property isn't huge, but there are a surprising amount of places one could stash a 4-door sedan. So it took me an embarrassing amount of time to locate Stan.

Me and Stan, the day he died in the middle of an intersection.
He was kind enough to wait until after I had finished my Christmas shopping.
He also must have known that the tow truck driver would be hot.

When I did, I flipped out. A car of my very own! I sat in the drivers' seat and instantly felt at home. A month later, I re-took my driver's test and passed with flying colors, all thanks to my new friend. He's seen me through good times, rocking out with my girls to Bohemian Rhapsody on his surprisingly stellar sound system. He's seen me through bad times, sheltering me from the world when all I wanted to do was escape. He's seen me through daily commutes to the office, and long-term road trips of self-discovery. He's taken me back to my parents' house many-a-time, never complaining during the 500-mile trip. He also didn't complain when I ran right into that house on my very first day of solo driving, or flinched when I ran over a raccoon recently.

Most of my friends are on their second, third, fourth + car since high school, and I'm going seven years strong with my first love. We've had a few hiccups, but thankfully my dad can fix just about anything and what he can't, the good fellas at Foresthill Towing and Garage take care of. (They know Stan just as intimately as I do.)

As much as I love my car and as grateful as I am to have it, I can't imagine anyone else being able to drive it. To quote Jessica Alba in Sin City, "Nobody but me can keep this heap running." It takes a special mixture of love, patience, and understanding to drive a car like Stan. It takes even more to appreciate his idiosyncrasies. For instance:

1. Stan does not like to idle at stoplights or drive-throughs. He likes to go go go and if he can't, he sputters and dies.

2. If you leave the lights on and take the key out of the ignition, the radio will still play as if by magic.

3. Speaking of the radio, sometimes Stan selects random stations if he doesn't like the music you're listening to.

4. The last 3 digits on Stan's license plate are '666.' Even funnier is that when we bought him, Stan had a Jesus fish bumper sticker on his heiney. (Naturally I removed this. I didn't think people would get the irony and accuse me of being a Jesus freak.)

5. The roof upholstery is shredded, causing blue felt streamers to dangle freely in the wind.

6. Stan's entire right ear (side mirror) has been lopped off (when I ran into my friend's hedge), glued back on, and now the mirror is gone since I ran into the side of my garage once.

7. The gas gauge doesn't work, so you have to know his mileage by heart to know when to fill up. And good luck getting the gas door open.

8. Stan's left eye (headlight) has lost its cover after being carefully duct taped for so long. So now the bulb is exposed and could break at any second.

9. The back windows are permanently stuck open, as neither the power windows nor the power locks function.

10. The back right door does not open at all.

11. I'm a stickler for using my turn signal. Unfortunately Stan's blinker blinks once every 5 minutes, so you have to keep clicking the lever for people to realize you need to merge.

12. Stan has automatic seat belts that make a distinctive farting noise when they move up and down. It sounds like he is an old man with a colon problem.

In about a week, Stan and I will celebrate our seventh anniversary as car and driver, and we've never been happier. He may be a crotchety, sputtering, pig pen of an automobile, but he's still all mine. That's not to say that if/when I ever get financially solvent, I'm not going to buy a car that actually functions as it's supposed to. But no car will ever have as much character as my buddy, the Thelma to my Louise, the Murtaugh to my Riggs, the Goose to my Maverick. I love you, Stan :D

"Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down." -Serenity

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Intercourse, Falsehoods, and Voyeurism

Tonight I got to feel like a bigshot, with my name on "the List" and a comped ticket to see a screening of one of IFTA's 30 Most Significant Independent Films. (Check out the full list. I disagree with some of them, but these kinds of things are always subjective). I dressed up for the occasion, projecting the image of a successful businesswoman in my wrap dress, trench coat, and pointy black heels. I was hoping to network a little, though knowing my crippling social awkwardness, I doubted that I would finally meet my stepping stone to stardom. (Spoiler alert, I didn't...) The fancy attire was also a tribute to one of my favorite shows of all time, How I Met Your Mother. If you haven't heard, today was International Suit-Up Day, so I had to bring it.

To be honest, the only reason I went to the screening was because it was sadly undersold and I was filling a seat. Plus, to quote Ally Sheedy in the Breakfast club, "I didn't have anything better to do." When I arrived (rather over-dressed I might add), the mid-sized theater was maybe 20% filled. I know it's a Wednesday night, and who wants to see an older movie on a Wednesday night? But still, this movie was absolutely breathtaking on the big screen. Did I mention that it was Sex, Lies, and Videotape (thus my clever, misleading title)? If you haven't seen Steven Soderbergh's brilliant debut film, then Netflix the crap out of it right this instant. I saw it for the first time a couple years ago. I probably got it from the now bankrupt Blockbuster (my home away from home for many a-year and a-paycheck), and watched it on my 15 inch laptop screen. Like most DVDs, I probably watched it in increments, like chapters in a book, depending on my schedule. I remember liking it, but it was pretty much forgotten as soon as it hit the return bin.

Obligatory Photo. I feel like blogs with photos are easier to read.

I used to think the format didn't matter when you watched a movie. As long as the movie is good, it should hold up on any size screen, no 3-D, high-def, or surround sound necessary. I still believe this to be true. But seeing Sex, Lies, and Videotape in the theater made all the difference in the world. It's a dialogue-heavy, character-driven art house film, which means it's not for everyone or every mood. But with a movie that relies so much on subtext and incredibly powerful performances, every nuance was magnified. My attention wasn't diverted by IM, homework, the phone, roommates, or the world around me. I was completely immersed in that world. And it reminded me of why I got into this business to begin with.

After the nightmare of unemployment, and now my enjoyable but ultimately non-creative day job in an office, I've started to lose focus on my passion. And it took Steven Soderbergh's voyeuristic exploration of a drifting married couple and a mysterious outsider to make me pay attention. So the moral of the story is, see movies in the theater if you can afford it (which I usually can't), because it monumentally impacts your viewing experience.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How do you talk to a celebrity?

I've seen a few celebrities in my time, but rarely had the opportunity to actually speak to one. I went to Molly Malone's when Jesse Spencer (pretty blonde Aussie from House) stood next to me at the bar. Didn't say a word. I also stood next to Oscar-winner Ellen Burstyn for twenty minutes at the Newport Beach Film Festival and couldn't think of one goddamn thing to say to her either. Granted, it was in the back of a darkened movie theater that was premiering her film. But the whole time I kept wondering how I could impress her with my witty repartee. The time passed with neither of us saying a word. I lost my chance to talk to someone who has actually stood onstage and said "I'd like to thank the Academy..." A few years later I would meet Thelma and Louise screenwriter Callie Khouri who also won an Oscar. I managed to hold a semi-intelligent conversation about brains and what a pain it is to read scripts.

"I'm gonna be on television, Harry!"

As amazing as Callie Khouri is though, she's not an actress or a recognizable mainstream icon (tragic, I know). So she didn't mind gabbing with a nobody like me. But real celebrities, the kind you get excited about encountering because people will actually know who they are, are a mystery to me. They are used to people gawking and taking pictures (like when me and my aunt saw Sean Astin/Samwise Gamgee/Rudy at Disneyland). They probably have people fawning over them, telling them how much they love their work. Maybe people are even ballsy enough to ask them for a hookup of some sort. It's also weird to talk with one of your idols when you know everything about them so you ask questions you already know the answers to.

Wifebeater was the best I could do.
His shirtless photos all feature Nazi tattoos. Eff that.

My question is, how do you actually start a conversation with someone famous, without bothering them? I know they like their privacy, but I hate that I keep letting these chances go by. You never know when you could run into Edward Norton in an elevator and next thing you know, you're best friends and he's setting you up with choice jobs, VIP seats at awards shows, and riding around in limos to glamorous after-parties. It could happen... So I'm going to take a primitive poll here. You meet a celebrity somehow. In the bathroom, at a bar, whatever. Do you:

A. Play it cool, pretend not to notice, while subtly getting your friend's attention.
B. Drop your jaw and let flies get in, but don't actually say anything while they stare at you weirdly.
C. Wave and shout, trying to take a picture with your cell phone while they run away screaming.
D. Have the perfect opening line which is "________"

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Case of the Mondays

Every Monday the scene from Office Space pops into my head in which Peter laments the phrase, "Sounds like someone's got a case of the Mondays!" Like Peter, this drives me positively batty. So does any variation of "Thank god it's Friday!" We all have co-workers who never tire of pointing out what day it is. They don't seem to realize that the same day comes around at the same time every week. While you may be grateful that the weekend is nigh after a particularly long and challenging work week, it still doesn't change the fact that Monday is just a few days around the corner. Deal with it.

Not Pictured: Me taking out my frustration with a cricket bat

As I was making use of the facilities today, however, I encountered a co-worker I kind of know, but don't really converse with often. She seems perfectly nice, but so far we haven't struck any common ground in terms of bonding. Bathroom small talk is awkward as it is, but in this situation, you can't just ignore the other person. Naturally there was the "Hi, how are you?" "Great, how are you?" "Just fine." But there's still that extra space of time when you're both not quite finished washing your hands. What do you say? The only thing I could thing of was, "Ugh, it's Monday." I was able to stop myself from becoming the type of person I hate, but I am super uncomfortable with silence. "The wise man speaks because he has something to say. The fool speaks because he has to say something." By this definition, as well as by many others, I am a fool.

This experience has led me to a deeper understanding of those obnoxious co-workers that Peter, myself, and most of the world endure. We're all just trying to fill the silence and sometimes the only guaranteed successful conversation topic is "Monday," "Hump Day," or "Friday." So even though it's trite and cliche, it's something we can all relate to (now that Lost is over, anyway). I suppose I'd rather say TGIF and be a fool than nothing at all and be a snob.

Woo! I'm a paid blogger!

I'll have you know that I've officially earned $1.41 from my ads! So thank you to whomever clicked. I just hope it wasn't the one for Scientology. I can't believe they tried to advertise on my blog. I feel violated and baffled at their lack of context. Anyway, yay me!

On another note, I've been up since about 5:10am when I swear I heard 6 gunshots in a row nearby. This isn't the first time I've heard them, but they've never been followed up with police sirens. Does this mean the shots were in my head? Or people in South Central are just so desensitized that they don't even call the cops when they hear something? It could have been a car backfiring, but would it backfire 6 times in a row at uneven intervals? I'm not really freaked out or anything. But it would be nice to be able to fall back asleep after being so rudely awakened.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I couldn't help but wonder...

As I was watching the Sex and the City movie, I started thinking about Carrie Bradshaw's sex column. I have a lot of issues with SATC, which I'll probably go into more detail at another time. Basically, my main problem is that it's about supposedly smart, sophisticated and independent women but the only thing they find to talk about is men and shoes. It's so superficial, one-dimentional, and poorly written. I'm a fan of the occasional pun, but when that's the extent of your humor and writing prowess, maybe you shouldn't be a writer. It's also one long advertisement for Louis Vitton, Manolo Blahnik, and Mercedes Benz. Despite all this I still watch it frequently and find it immensely satisfying on a very shallow level.

I could rant forever about Sex and the City, but for now I'll just focus on the topic at hand. The whole premise of the show/movie is that Carrie Bradshaw is a writer who uses herself and her friends as the subjects of social and sexual discussion in her columns. Now, I've seen every single episode and the first movie several times (I haven't bothered with the second for obvious reasons). And although the ladies have had drama among themselves (my personal favorite is when Miranda actually points out the fact that their entire lives, not to mention conversation, focus on men), they don't seem to be bothered by Carrie's candid revelations of their most intimate relationships and sexual encounters.

Carrie contemplating how she can use her friends' intimate gossip for profit

There's a joke in the movie that Samantha makes her maid of honor speech. "In our group, we never kiss and tell." It's funny because that's all they do. I have no problem with girl talk among friends. Certainly my friends and I share more details with each other than our own partners would appreciate. But Carrie delves into every instance of lady parts problems, mechanical mishap, secret fetish, and each indiscretion with all of New York as an audience. I can't help but wonder, doesn't this bother Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda? Each of them has a very public image, high power career, relationships to maintain, and in Charlotte's case, a prudish sense of sexual privacy. Are they getting a cut of Carrie's profit from their secrets? Is that why they don't mind the breach of slumber party/cocktail confidence?

The reason it irritates me that it doesn't irritate them is that as a writer myself, I often wonder where to draw the line when drawing from my own experiences and those of my acquaintances. There are some incredible stories I could tell about my friends, but there is no way I would share them with the world. That's the worst kind of gossip, the kind that could actually damage reputations and dissolve friendships. I even quibble about characters I've written that are partially inspired by real people. I'm so afraid of offending people, worse of getting sued by them. Maybe it all comes down to the fact that Carrie is so self-absorbed that she listens to her friends and instantly ponders how she can use the intel for her new book. She doesn't consider that it might hurt Miranda's career as a partner at a law firm, or Samantha's public relations gigs.

In the end I guess it doesn't matter. As much as Sex and the City drives me nuts, I still love it and will probably keep watching it over and over again while drinking cosmos with my girls. Like Twilight, it taps into that primal girl psyche, and overrides any rational realization that it's vapid and ridiculous. Also Patricia Fields' costume choices more often than not make my eyes wish they could vomit. I know she's considered a genius or whatever, but about 95% of the time, the ladies just look absurd. But I love to hate it, even though I secretly love it. Holy guilty pleasure, Batman.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Latent Review: While You Were Sleeping

One of my favorite movies of all time is the 1995 romantic comedy "While You Were Sleeping," starring Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman. I've loved Bill Pullman with my whole heart, ever since he played Denton in my actual favorite movie of all time, "Newsies." His rousing speech as President Whitmore in "Independence Day" gives me chills every time. And Sandra Bullock, one of the few actresses truly worthy of the term "America's Sweetheart," is never more charming than in this sweet little 90s rom-com. With its themes of unrequited love, mistaken identity, the chaos of family at Christmastime, and life not turning out as you planned, "While You Were Sleeping" packs quite a bit into 103 minutes. If Hitchcock were to direct a chick flick, I like to think this would be it.

While this film seems like a lot of other formulaic romantic comedies, (girl meets boy, girl saves boy's life but he falls into a coma, girl meets boy's brother, girl falls in love with him instead) it's actually fairly original in one crucial aspect. Our heroine, Lucy Moderatz, is strikingly different from today's female romantic leads. In every Jennifer Lopez/Kristen Bell/Katherine Heigl/Kate Hudson movie (really, they're interchangeable even though I confess I watch and love quite a few of them), the protagonist is a hard-working career-girl who isn't interested in love until a slovenly but endearing lothario teaches them to relax, open up, and love. Usually I believe, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. But this same character over and over is getting redundant and pointless. Stop assuming that female audiences find any other personality type unfathomable, unrelatable, and unlikeable. That last description is particularly absurd since most of these characters are the epitome of unlikeability.

What makes Lucy Moderatz special is that she doesn't have her act together. She lives alone with her cat (in one uncomfortable scene she even dips an oreo into the cat's dish and eats it. blech.) She has a somewhat demeaning job working for the Chicago Transit Authority. She has no family, and it seems only one friend (the admittedly somewhat token sassy black co-worker who could use some more screen time). Essentially, Lucy is a harmless stalker, pining for Peter Gallagher's character in his double-breasted pinstripe suits, from the safety of her toll booth. Honestly, if Sandra Bullock wasn't so adorable, even in her less-conventionally attractive early 90s phase, Lucy would be kind of creepy when she accidentally infiltrates the Callaghan family.

The fact that she doesn't have a whole lot going for her, other than a sparkling personality, memories of her father, and dreams of Florence, makes Lucy so much more endearing than the shrewish, anal retentive snobs of today's chick flick. She not only lands two fiances, granted one is comatose for most of the movie, but she also gains the love and comfort of a real, loving and wacky family. The audience shares her joy when all of her dreams come true at once. Jack (Bill Pullman), proposes to her in her tollbooth in front of the whole family, and whisks her away on a Florence honeymoon. Cue the 'aw' moment and overused "This Will Be" motown rom-com anthem.

In today's climate, and real life in general, many women don't have their act together. Yes, we're focused on our careers, but they're probably not going so well at this point. Tripping every so often, dropping stacks of paper, spilling coffee on suits real people in that situation could never afford, or bumping into attractive men with conflicting personalities, that doesn't make a heroine flawed and real. Lucy has real problems. She doesn't need to make a pratfall for us root for her.

Speaking of pratfalls though, "While You Were Sleeping" does contain the greatest one since the Three Stooges. I'm speaking of the hilariously random paper boy who totally biffs it on the icy sidewalk. Glorious. I don't know what it's doing in the movie, but it may be my favorite part.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Five Books That Have Inspired Me as a Writer

Since I seem to be obsessed with lists, I've decided to compile a small selection of the books that have influenced me most as a writer. Keep in mind that these are not my favorite books (though some of them are). But each one uniquely affected my personal voice and style.

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I know this is an obvious choice and P&P is every girl with half a brain's favorite book. But I love Jane Austen with all of my heart and soul. I feel that we would have been BFFs back in the days of never using anyone's first names (ie Mr. Darcy, Miss Bennett, etc.) and empire waste gowns that make you look pregnant. Jane's biting social observations and superlative witty banter, not to mention an understanding of unstated sexual tension, are unmatched. Then there is of course Elizabeth Bennett herself, who is quite possibly my favorite character of all time. We all know how awesome she is, especially when it comes to fighting zombies. So suffice to say that I've read this book over and over, seen both the 5-hour BBC mini-series and the 2005 Keira Knightly version countless times, and I never get sick of the lush language and complicated characters. It inspires me to comment on the world around me and create a timeless satire of society's foibles.

2. The Princess Bride by William Goldman. As truly epic as the movie is, the book is ten times better. But what made this book so intriguing to me as a writer was the author's copious usage of completely random parenthetical phrases. (ie "This was before the invention of chocolate, but after the beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots" or whatever. Something like that.) As you have probably noticed by now, I use parentheticals like crazy. It's probably annoying, but it's how I talk and how I think, so naturally it's how I write. So if William Goldman can get away with it, so can I!

3. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. It was so honest, even ugly at times, but Sylvia never backed away from sharing her experiences down the rabbit hole of depression and insanity. Her descriptions are so vivid and you almost understand the thought process of her unstable heroine/alter ego. What impressed me most too was the stream of consciousness style in which the book is written. Not only was it perfect for the content of the story and the voice of the character, but I also write this way because it feels more free to set on paper almost the exact thoughts that occur in your head.

4. How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely. I just read this recently and it figuratively rocked my world. Very rarely do I laugh out loud while reading, and this book had me cackling maniacally to the point where I'm sure my neighbors were frightened. Not only was the dry, sarcastic and at times completely outrageous humor dead on, but the book's slacker antihero learned a valuable lesson without the Full House-type moment of realization music cue. What I took away from it was the concept of voice. You can tell the same story a million different ways if you have a strong enough character with a distinctive voice that people can relate to. Seriously, read this NOW.

5. The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer. If she can do it and make millions, anyone can. But seriously, I learned from this that if you tap into a primal part of the human psyche (in this case the adolescent girl in all of us that loves a dangerous, brooding bad boy), it almost doesn't matter how bad the writing, characters, and story structure (or lack thereof) are. You'll still make millions. But if you have any writing talent at all, already you've surpassed Ms. Meyer. So feel good about yourself, even if you never sell a single book.

There are hundreds more books that have inspired me and helped shape the writer I (try to be) today. But I don't feel like googling all those images, and it's time for Grandma Hutch to get to bed. Cocktails + Panasian Appetizers + Girl Talk = Sleepy Hutch!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Glee Gets it Right, Holy Grilled Cheesus!

I have a very complicated relationship with the show Glee. Sometimes it blows my mind. But mostly it isn't as good as I want it to be. However, last night's episode (which I had to wait until tonight to watch on Hulu), was truly great. It wouldn't be Glee if it weren't a little heavy-handed and a touch sappy, but this was as close to brilliance as any show gets.

As I'm writing, I have mascara stains running down my face, because this episode, spectacularly titled "Grilled Cheesus," really touched me. The central storyline revolves around my favorite character, Kurt Hummel, whose almost too-good-to-be true father is in the hospital after a heart attack. Understandably, Kurt has trouble dealing with this, having already lost his mother and his faith at such a young age. Though I am lucky enough to have both of my amazing parents still, losing faith is familiar and painful territory for me.

Kurt is upset and irritated when his friends don't know what to say other than that they will pray for him. This leads to what I feel is one of the most eloquent explorations of spirituality I've ever seen represented in film or television. Many of the Glee clubbers are religious, and find solace in their respective faiths. But Kurt feels all alone, abandoned by God if there is such a thing. Finally Mercedes, my second favorite character, brings him to her church (sporting the world's most fabulous hat). She serenades him with a gospel version of one of my favorite songs of all time that is very special to me, "Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water." It is only through this song that Kurt realizes that he may not believe in God, but he believes in something. This song and his best friend finally got through to him.

What I love most about this episode is that it addresses the subject of spirituality versus religion. It is religion that has persecuted Kurt for being gay and as Sue Sylvester rightly claims, has no place in schools. But spirituality has nothing to do with dogma or intolerance. I consider myself a spiritual person, even though I spew anti-religious vitriol any chance I get (apologies to my religious friends). Glee is probably the first show that ever encapsulated my belief in "something," even if I can't name what that is. Even when I was going to church, I only ever felt the spirit when we were singing. And it is only through singing, that these kids can also express themselves.

The obnoxious film geek in me would also like to point out that while it was extremely moving, the Grilled Cheesus subplot, where Finn prays to the apparition of a buttered deity on his sandwich, was utterly hilarious. It kept the show from getting too sappy, and also lampooned the ridiculous nature of these types of sightings that have more to do with exploitation than actual faith. And praying for winning football games and getting to second base, what could be a more accurate portrayal of a teenage boy's prayers?

The final reason why I love Grilled Cheesus so much, is the music selection. Yes Glee always has outstanding musical numbers. But many times, especially last week's Britney episode, most of the songs are filler that just happen to fit the theme o' the week. They're bland and not really relatable or even good. But every single song was dead on (with maybe the exception of "What if God was One of Us." That kind of went too far). I already mentioned "Bridge over Troubled Water," but I also bawled like a baby during Kurt's gorgeous re-imagining of "I wanna hold your hand." It's a song I never liked much, but with this new meaning behind it, and Kurt's beautiful voice and completely believable performance, I lost it big time. Finn's rendition of "Losing My Religion" was also very touching. I felt like it validated his silly grilled cheese-fueled behavior and I actually related to it. He's not the greatest singer or actor, but this was a shining moment for him.

So congratulations Ryan Murphy and fellow Glee writers (all of whom I met at the Glee writer's panel at the Paley Center a few months ago and Ryan waved at me from his Range Rover in the parking lot)! You finally struck the right chord.

Heheh, see what I did there? With the musical pun? 'Chord'? See, Carrie Bradshaw? I can do it too!