Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas Blog #1

After my Halloween blog series in October, how could I not do the same with December? I am a big fan of the holiday season, I love decorating, Christmas cookies, trees, lights, presents, and the music. So today, because I've had my Pandora station set to Christmas Music all week, that's what I want to discuss.
Now, I think anytime after Thanksgiving is fair game to break out the holiday tunes (and I don't mean to be Christmas exclusive, I'm a big fan of the Hanukkah Song by Adam Sandler as well).
There are the old classics, and I have always been a Bing Crosby fan, and can go for some Sinatra as well. But Bing singing White Christmas always puts me in the holiday spirit, I love that deep, rumbly voice. Ah, Bing, take me for a sleigh ride, I'm there. (ever seen Holiday Inn? With the exception of one notably un-PC scene, it's a gem). My dad plays these songs on the stereo while we open presents on Christmas morning.

But before that, when we decorate our tree, there are three classic albums we always put on the old record player to get in the spirit. First, my beloved Charlie Brown Christmas. The record is a recording of the entire special, every line and song. I have the whole thing memorized. "I have been extra good this year, so I have a long list of presents that I want. Please note the size and color of each item and send as many as possible. If it seems too difficult, make it easy on yourself, just send money. How about tens and twenties?" -Sally.
So first we go through that whole record, and then move on to Sesame Street Christmas, complete with a Bert and Ernie version of The Gift of the Magi, Oscar's "I Hate Christmas," and "The Night Before Christmas on Sesame Street." I recommend this album to everyone, it's amazing.

The third of the tree trimming trilogy is Disney Christmas. Ours is an older version, that features a very young Molly Ringwald singing "The First Noel" and of course the hilariously awesome Chip and Dale (and Donald) rendition of "Christmas Don't be Late." Every time I listen to this, and get to the part when Donald gets mad and quacks up, I lose it. Man, I love that duck sometimes.

And then you have the more modern classics, things like "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree," and Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" (if you don't know this, you should, because it's just done in such a ridiculous manner. It's a blue collar Christmas). I also enjoy the ridiculousness of the faux aged rocker Billy Mack (from Love Actually) singing "Christmas is All Around."
Also, because it should become a holiday staple, the Peter Griffin Christmas Album. Listen and love, my friends.

So turn on your radio or tune into Pandora or pull out the old Christmas albums, and let's start getting into the holiday spirit!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Gleeking out (with guest MKat)

Like so many others, I have been sucked into the fun dancing and singing extravaganza that is Glee. I’m new to it, and have been catching up with season 1 on DVD while watching the new season. The problem with this is that I am watching these great early episodes interspersed with the new below the bar ones and feeling a little dejected. Sure, musicals are known for sacrificing plot to devises that allow the characters to break out in song, and display their feelings about a given situation through the music. That’s the genre and I accept it. The problem is that this season, every episode feels like I’ve missed something, like they are picking up from a point separate from where they left off the previous week. What did Puck do to get sent to juvy? What’s up with the lesbian love scene between Santana and Brittany? What was the point of the Brittany episode, with their weird drugged dream videos? How did it seem remotely ok to have teachers with students in Rocky Horror? And why oh why does the biggest homophobe jock always have to be a closet case himself?

To corroborate, I’m bringing in a guest blogger and Broadway aficionado, MKat. What is your take on what’s been going on this season?

Thank you, Panda, I appreciate your acknowledgement of my superior Broadway knowledge. I’m a bit of a newbie to Glee myself; last Fall I tried to resist any attachment when I saw many friends back in my homeland of Ohio were Gleeking out via Facebook that “Lea Michele is soooo good she should like be on Broadway.” It was then that I realized such an up-and-coming and already established Broadway star like Lea had attracted such UNcultured followers. But with Spring Awakening becoming a distant memory (and realizing Jonathan Groff aka Jesse St. James aka another Spring Awakening star was also joining the cast) I needed my Lea Michele fix. I watched season 1 on DVD in a matter of 3 days leading up to the season 2 premiere so I’m completely Glee-educated when I say WHOA WTF to the show’s sophomore year.

If the show were treated as an actual Broadway show (I realize it is in fact, not a Broadway show), it should have plausible reasons for random acts of song and dance. Using local anesthesia to induce Brit-tastic hallucinations only holds so much entertainment value before you realize there was no point to the entire episode. I learned nothing except that Brittany S. Pearce has a rockin’ body and that I totally get why Santana wants a piece of it. But the second season is not entirely at fault – the seed was planted long ago when Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel stepped on set. The appeal of this show extended beyond the Broadway elite to celebrities of all backgrounds, and it’s gotten to the point where the show has decided to turn the spotlight on the guest stars and tribute an artist by throwing an episode around their music, when it should be the direct opposite. All the glam and bling should be accessorizing the glee freak students, not turning them into back-up vocalists and dancers.

But just as Glee was losing it’s rhythm (save for a few episode-ending Rachel Berry ballads), it’s starting to take shape and take responsibility as a platform to reach out to kids in need of someone on their side. I commend Ryan Murphy for choosing to shed light on problematic bullying, when it’s the natural go-to for comedic relief. However, I disagree with the generalization that most homophobic jocks are just too afraid and confused to come out of the closet. I honestly believe some homophobes are just that – hateful, ignorant, homophobes. It’s too complex of an issue in society to simplify the matter on TV. Knowing the show will continue to address bullying will keep me hoping that it keeps this in mind and also doesn’t relegate the bullying only to issues of sexuality. We all know too well it extends far beyond the parameters of sexual preference.

At the end of the day I’m completely in love with Glee. I was an Ohio show choir girl myself, and although I can’t point out Lima, OH on a map, I love that it’s become a cultural phenomenon. In every show choir or glee club across the country you will find a rag tag group of people who come together from all different backgrounds and cliques purely because they love the art of entertainment, and life is so much cooler and meaningful when you sing about it, duh. I’d break out into song and dance to commemorate the moments of my life if I could. Actually, I live in NYC, this is completely possible and not at all out of the ordinary.

Thanks for having me, Panda! If you’re ever feeling down – just YouTube
flash mobs. My God, I think they could solve world peace.

Thanks, MKat! And let us hope that while we avoid using guest stars for no reason, Glee finds a way to bring Justin Timberlake into the show, in a way that doesn’t create an awkward too much sexy dancing at a high school pep rally (again) scenario. Perhaps he is a distant cousin of Will Schuester. There is a resemblance, don’t tell me you’ve missed it. Like in the first season, having Idina Menzel play Lea Michele’s mother, I couldn’t believe that they aren’t related, that is crazy!
Oh, and just a quick mention on the controversial Glee photo spread in GQ: these are actors in their 20s, and they are appearing in what is unquestionably an adult magazine. So why pretend that they are high school kids doing something inappropriate? Have you seen what Disney star Miley Cyrus has been wearing in concert lately? And she is actually high school age. Not to mention that dressing scandalously in videos and award shows and concerts is exactly what we asked of our teen idols ten years ago (speaking of Brittney, and Xtina, Jessica Simpson, etc). I don’t see why one photo spread of actors, who would be well within their rights to do side projects in rated R movies, should have people so up in arms.
Ok, soap box put away, and blog over!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Halloween III: Scary Movies

What's your favorite scary movie? I guarantee you that no one answers that question with "Scream."
To be fair, I'm a bit of a wus. I have never seen exorcist and have no intention of doing so, because I believe it's every bit as scary as advertised. In fact, there are plenty of scary movies I avoid, usually because they seem beyond my scare-o-meter (Paranormal Activity, IT, Chucky) or just gory gross (Saw 2-infinity, Hostel, House of Wax, The Fly). Also, I was exposed to Freddy Kruger young enough to have a permanent fear of that dream-stalking freak.

But, I have a respect for well made movies, and like a few horror flicks well enough to own them in my collection. Among these are some of my top picks for favorite scary movies (these are not ranked, sorry):
Silence of the Lambs -it took me 3 tries to watch this movie all the way through. The first time, it was just after a blackout, and my friend and I made it barely beyond the opening credits. And do you remember early on, when Clarice is checking out that storage space, and finds a man's severed head? I sure do, that was as far as I made it the second time. But the third time I watched the whole movie, and was able to enjoy it. And make sure I keep a flashlight by my bed, just in case. Damn, that scene with the night vision is creepy.

Alien and Aliens -I love these movies, it combines the sci-fi geek in me that fell for The X-Files with the part of me that secretly likes when something jumps out and makes me flinch. Okay, more than flinch, jump out of my seat, whatever. The general consensus is that the original, directed by Ridley Scott, is more of a horror film, and the sequel, directed by James Cameron, true to form, is more of large scale action movie. In both cases, Sigourney Weaver proves herself a badass, even while fighting in nothing but an undershirt and panties.
Seven -I don't know that this is a straight up scary movie, it's certainly a good mindfuck, and horrifying in many ways. Mostly, the contraption made at the leather shop and used to rape the prostitute. AAAAH. But of course it's more than the physical violence, it's the mind of the serial killer, so twisted and convinced that he is meant to mete out justice in this way, so clearly thought out all the way through the end. And then the box, you see just about nothing, but it's enough. Well done, David Fincher.

Now there are a few movies I probably should own in my collection, but haven't picked up just yet. We'll start recent:

28 Days Later -This was the revival that zombie movies needed. Dawn of the Dead is a cult classic, but the remake was nothing great. The Resident Evil movies are a good watch, but more action than horror, and you feel like you're watching a video game. But this movie, right from the beginning, things are eerie and you're drawn in, following along with Jim, trying to figure out what has become of the world. It's a good movie and a good fright (though it looked even scarier on one marque I saw that cut off the name to "28 Days Late")

In the Mouth of Madness -First, Sam Neill is always a treat (I was a big Jurassic Park fan), and watching him slowly descend into madness is done in such a methodical manner, that it's hard not to be sucked into it with him. Yes, Sutter Cain seems like a lame stand in for Stephen King, with Hobb's End just another version of Castle Rock. But it's the ease with which someone can lose their wits, the way John becomes the man with the axe, that brings the real psychological fear to this one.

The Shining -Speaking of Stephen King, a classic. What can I say? Everyone has seen this, right? It's the movie that sets a picture in our minds of Jack Nicholson, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." (also the source if perhaps the best segment ever in The Simpsons Treehouse of Horrors) I love Red Rum, the creepy twins, the axe, the hedge maze. All good. No more remakes, they are awful and unnecessary.

Poltergeist -Along with exposing me to Star Wars and Jaws early on, my older brother let me watch this one with him. To this day, the maggots are probably the most disturbing part of the movie to me. Sure, little girl hearing voices through the TV, the melting face in the mirror, the skeletons in the unfinished swimming pool. But maggots in your food, ew ew ew!

Also of course Halloween is also a great movie for Halloween. And there are plenty of others ones out there to give you a good scare.

Happy Halloween and happy haunting!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Halloween Candy

As promised, part 2 of my Halloween series. The treats. Let me preface this by saying that I have a huge sweet tooth. I think the only reason that i don't have a billion cavities is my equally big love of cheese and high in bone-strengthening calcium dairy products. That being said, I am not a Chocophile. While most girls go gaga for Jacques Torres and Godiva, I always preferred cookies and pastries, or fruity candies.

I basically lived on Diet Coke and Skittles in high school. Many people can attest to this, though they will tell you I also ate a fair number of quesadillas (see, there's the cheese). I tasted the rainbow every day, and it gave me the energy to power through cheerleading and dance classes, with a smile on my face (ok, not always, I was a teenage girl, after all). Also, they helped me make better friends, because unlike most people, I only like the orange, yellow, and green ones. No red or purple for me, so if you were in my vicinity, you lucked into a handful of strawberry and grape nuggets of yumatude.

So the first thing going in my Halloween bucket is the bag of skittles. And add right on top of those the Starburst, practically the same thing in square form. (By the way, this is exactly what our treat collecting containers looked like when I was a kid.)

I'm also a big fan of the Reece's Pieces. I know a lot of people prefer the cups, because of the chocolate and peanut butter combo, and I have nothing against that flavor mingling, but I prefer the little bits of PB in a crunchy shell. These also make an awesome ice cream or frozen yogurt topping, but let's keep this to what you can throw in your candy bucket.

Now, if i am going to get chocolate, I need some nuts or cookie or something to break up the solid hunk of choco. My favorite of the M&M's to come out of the flavor experimentation is the almond one. I am happy to eat my way through a bag of the peanut ones, but the almond is ideal. You can almost pretend it's a healthy snack, like you could throw them in a bag of trail mix, and it wouldn't be that far off. Plus, the Almond M&M dude is a big blue guy, and blue are my favorite M&Ms (yes, I know they all taste the same), plus I like tall guys. Done and done.

When it comes to the chocolate bar, I like to go for either a Snickers or a Twix, and either way, they are so much better after a day in the freezer. I'm pretty sure it's mostly because once the caramel layer freezes, it becomes crunchy and easy to eat, instead of a goo that gets stuck in every crevice of your teeth.

I can do a Crunch bar, a Kit Kat (especially the white chocolate one, so good!), a York Peppermint Paddy (how can you not like candy that freshens your breath at the same time). For that reason, I also like some Mentos, though not sure they really count as candy. And I'm good with Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish, some Smarties (but these get boring before long, and make your tongue tingle), and lolly pops of all varieties (but not all flavors). Also, who doesn't love Pez in a fun dispenser? I'm not a collector, but I enjoy them as much as the next person.

But no Almond Joys or Mounds for me, not a fan of the coconut. A plain Hershey bar is too much chocolate in one bite, and can we please agree that Candy Corn is just a soft mound of corn syrup, and therefore totally disgusting? Also in the reject pile from my candy collection: Charleston Chew (too much chew, too much stickiness in the teeth), Tootsie Rolls (again, they are all in my teeth), Jelly Beans, Twislers, and probably some other random little pieces whose brands I haven't bothered to learn.

Help yourself to my leftovers.

Also not appropriate Halloween fare: apples, tooth brushes, pennies, raisins. Take note, if it isn't bad for you, it isn't a real treat.

Look next week for my next Halloween installment: scary stuff.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Halloween! (part 1)

Yes kids, it's the first day of October, and I can no longer hold back my excitement for the coming holiday. Columbus Day! Just kidding. No, I mean the time for tricks and treats, scares and sweets, ghouls, ghost, goblins, witches, werewolves, warlocks, when you can be anyone or anything for a day, and strangers will give you candy for no good reason at all.

It's Halloween time, and I feel like starting out with a trip through the costumes of years past.

When I was a kid, my mom would make these amazing costumes for me. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of me in all of them to share, but you'll have to imagine how amazingly awesome they all were.

In elementary school (in no particular order)I was:

Rainbow Brite (little girls and bright colors, stars, ponies, rainbows, this was a no brainer)

She-Rah (complete with the gold wristlets and matching spray painted shoes. I also had a great plastic sword to swat my fellow trick-or-treaters with)

Pippi Longstocking (I had long hair that I often wore in braids, so this made sense. Just took a coat hanger through my braids and a little smock dress)

Princess Leia (again, long hair, just twisted up into buns on the sides of my head. Unfortunately, I did not have the blaster.)

And the best costume of them all, the one that my friends would always want when they came over to play dress up, Sleeping Beauty. I can't begin to explain how beautiful this dress was, it was pink satin on top, and had rainbow lace down the skirt, with pink sheer fabric for the collar.

After that, I went through a long period of being various witches, always with the standard pointy hat, sometimes with random ragged black costume pieces thrown together, sometimes with a broom stick, usually with long, black, fake nails that would come off through the course of the night. In high school, I wore a black leather skirt and tight black top, my own make-shift version of the sexy witch costume, but with black lipstick and press-on nails nails.

By college, I'd moved on to embracing Halloween as an excuse to dress sexy. I was a genie, a school girl, a sexy devil, a vampire, and little red riding hood, each a couple of times. Once you are buying a costume, you might as well get multiple uses out of it.

Last year, I was Sookie Stackhouse, with the official Merlotte's tee shirt, from HBO. I didn't get a blond wig, though I considered it. I did buy True Blood from the HBO site as well, which is surprisingly delicious when mixed with vodka. I highly recommend.

This year, I have opted for a pirate/wench. I'm going for a slightly less skanky look. It's been fun dressing up as a fantasy, and it being Halloween, I'm still going for dress up as something I'll never really be costumes. Just maybe toning it down a little. After all, there is a whole new generation of 20-somethings out there skanking it up in their barely there costumes, and I don't think I want to be in comparison with them anymore.

Next time, we look at our favorite Halloween treats!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Facts about Pandas

Today I decided to write about one of my favorite topics: Pandas. After numerous elementary school reports about these endangered mammals, I feel like I have a certain amount of expertise to off. Also, I do want to plug the upcoming highly entertaining book, 100 Facts About Pandas.

Everyone knows that Giant Pandas are native to China, and live in several zoos around the world (including San Diego, National, and Atlanta). They eat bamboo (and the occasional bamboo rat), and are otherwise fairly sedentary.

There was a long ranging debate about how exactly to categorize them. Scientists weren't sure if they were actually bears, raccoons, or in a class of their own. Their cousins, the Red Pandas, bear a far greater resemblance to raccoons. But molecular research finally concluded that pandas are part of the Ursidae family, so yes, they are panda bears.

While in pop culture, there are plenty of jokes about how pandas won't breed to save their species, it's in fact incredibly difficult for them. Sometimes I just don't understand how nature works, keeping such cute creatures so rare. So the problem turns out to be that female pandas only ovulate once a year, and are only fertile for a few days around that time. So they have to be impregnated within a couple of days a year to even have a chance at conception. Can't help but thinking the human race would be better off with those odds.

So when a panda baby actual makes it into the world, they are super tiny pink hairless ball of cuteness, weighing only 3-5 ounces. Imagine being a big rolly-polly 250lb pandas mama, trying not to accidentally crush that thing. It's another couple of months before the baby opens its eyes, and longer before they can move on their own. But before long, they become the adorable little sneezing creatures you've come to know and love.

What else would you like to know about pandas? Here are some interesting bullet points for you:

And now an off color panda joke for anyone who enjoys that kind of thing. For everyone else, the usual one:

A Panda bear walks into a restaurant. He orders a meal and eats it. After politely paying for his meal, he pulls out a gun and shoots it in the air. He immediately walks out the door.
"Why did you do that?" hollered the confused waitress.
Looking back over his shoulder the panda says "I'm a panda". "Look it up in the dictionary."
The waitress locates the dictionary on her bosses desk and searches for the definition of panda bear. Finding it she reads,
"Panda Bear - A large black and white bear like mammal native to the far east. Eats shoots and leaves."

Thursday, September 16, 2010


It's a recognized phenomenon that when one aspect of your life falls into place, another falls apart. I believe Bridgette Jones said something like that actually. A little embarrassed to share a quote with her, but moving on.

Recently, my romantic life has started to blossom and become, well, existent. Beyond that, it's good, in an early on still anxious about everything and playing coy kind of way. This is a pleasant change of pace for me. I'm used to being a little bit more Daria loner or Debbie Downer than optimistic and hopeful and even a bit giggly. This is actual behavior that's been known to make me gag, and here I am, being all hand-holdy and stuff. Eek.

But not to worry, because the universe has been sure to keep me knocked down a few pegs. First, my bathroom sink sprung a leak. It wasn't a huge deal, it was the drain pipe, and I did a little DIY doctoring, and have managed to keep it from being a big or expensive problem.

And then my refrigerator stopped cooling. Instead, everything inside got hot and sweaty and smelly and disgusting. I had to throw out several big bags of Costco frozen foods, and everything else (except the vodka). The repair guy was able to come and fix the starter, but let me know that most likely the compressor would go soon too, and then it'd be cheaper to just buy a new fridge (but by no means cheap). Arg.
(BTW- thanks to the friend who was able to spend the afternoon in my apartment waiting for the repair guy, cause I couldn't take the time off work)

And then I took my car in for an oil change (yes, I live in NYC and don't have my car in the city, but out in the suburbs at my parents' house, and still use it whenever I leave Manhattan for a breath of fresh air). Turned out that in addition to just new oil, my car needed a new rear tire, and new brake pads. I was skeptical, but a second opinion turned up the same results, and brakes aren't something you can just wait on. Cha-ching.

I thought, okay, that's three things, I should be in the clear now, right? Ha, yeah right. Haven't you heard that Mercury is in Retrograde, you silly Gemini girl? Things aren't supposed to really straighten back out for another week or so. Just to be clear, I don't usually buy into this kind of stuff. I occasionally check my horoscope, I do a little of the sign compatibility checking with new crushes, but I don't think too much about planetary alignment and such. But check this out: "All machinery and things with moving parts--such as computers, VCRs, camera equipment, garbage disposals, and so forth, will reveal any weak links now."(AstrologyZone) Um, yeah, that does sound familiar.

What that meant for me was that my toilet stopped working. No joke, it's not clogged, I can't just like jiggle the handle. It will not flush. Water goes in, but nothing goes down. It's pretty gross, and grossly fragrant. What does a New Yorker do in this situation? Call her Super, of course. And then call again and leave another message. And then contact the Coop Board and inquire why the super won't return her phone calls. Finally, she just calls a plumber, who schedules an appointment for the night before the aforementioned romantic interest is coming to visit for the weekend.

So, as it happens, that appointment is tonight, and this is an ongoing drama. I am just hoping that the plumber can at least rig it to be workable for the weekend, and then if it ends up being a bigger fix, I can deal with that later.
Please send me happy thoughts! No more technical difficulties! This whole home owner thing isn't seeming so great just now. But the living alone and having a place to myself to invite a certain boy, that part is awfully nice.