Sunday, December 19, 2010

Do You Hear What I Hear?

It's a mixer running in the kitchen. I have no idea what my mother is making; it could be anything. Cake, cookies, marinated carrots (I find them completely unappetizing, but my cousin Cindy has to have them every year). We're heading into the homestretch before the Christmas festivities and that means baking!

The tree is decorated, the outdoor lights are shining, and most of our shopping is done. The downside is that I can't quite remember what's inside some of those wrapped packages. The upside is that I have more free time to watch Christmas specials and eat holiday goodies. Granted, I won't be doing much of the latter since I've gained more weight in the past year than I care to discuss. Shame there isn't a low-fat version of the snowflake cookie. And even if there were, it wouldn't be half as delicious.

We headed out to Stonefield Cellars this afternoon and were able to sample their mulled wine. Noah, the sweetest cat ever, was there to greet us, and we walked away with three new bottles of their Traminette, Riesling and Niagara. To our credit, we're branching out from the muscadine wines but we still won't drink dry wines. Ugh, no thanks. I'm hoping to write up our outing as a blog post for Savor NC Magazine, a new pub about food, wine, travel, etc. It's an unpaid gig but at least it would be a good creative outlet.

Friday, November 26, 2010

"Human Target" Hits The Spot

"Human Target"
Wednesdays at 8 pm EST, Fox
Starring: Mark Valley, Chi McBride, Jackie Earle Haley and Indira Varma

Hooray! One of my favorite new series is back for a second season. This doesn't happen often, folks; my expressing a preference for a show is usually a precursor to its premature cancellation. So I'm relieved and excited that Chance & Co. have returned to kick ass and take names in Fox's primetime lineup.

Based on a DC Comics character, Christopher Chance (Mark Valley of "Keen Eddie" and "Fringe") is a well-trained and highly adaptable assassin who switched sides years ago and now works as a bodyguard to protect those in danger from people like him. With his headquarters in a San Francisco loft, he teams up with former cop Winston (the lovably snarky Chi McBride of "Pushing Daisies") and torturer/hacker Guerrero. As played by the marvelous Jackie Earle Haley ("Watchmen," "Nightmare on Elm Street"), Guerrero is a character that defies description, his deliberate and devious demeanor expertly hidden behind a laid-back "Hey, dude" attitude. I adore Guerrero.

The major change for this season is an infusion of estrogen in the form of Indira Varma and Janet Montgomery. Varma's Ilsa Pucci is an elegant widow who offers to bankroll Chance's operation in return for his saving her life (and fortune). Varma has a habit of dying in British series like "Torchwood" and "Luther," so I'm hoping she has better luck this side of the Pond. Montgomery's character, Ames, is a bit more problematic. A career thief who tries to insinuate herself into Chance's gang after inadvertently endangering Ilsa. Ames makes the mistake of not listening to Guerrero's instructions, and that's not going to win her any points. As impulsive female criminals go, she can't compare to the vastly superior Parker on TNT's "Leverage." I think several viewers would rather have seen Autumn Reeser return as the wide-eyed but wise computer genius, if the writers insist on adding a female to the roster.

The dialogue is snappy and clever, and the action races along like a small-screen blockbuster. "Human Target" continues to establish its geek cred with guest spots from actors like Tahmoh Penikett ("Battlestar Galactica," "Dollhouse") and M.C. Gainey ("Lost"). However, we haven't had a fight scene in a tight space yet, which became a trademark of the show in its first season. Air ducts, elevators, car interiors--Chance has fought baddies in all of them. The stunt coordinators might not know what to do with all that open air and space. Okay, I'm kidding; they know exactly what they're doing and it shows in every single episode.

"Human Target" is a refreshing midweek break from all those reality shows, cliched sitcoms, catfighting housewives and depressing dramas. Couldn't we all use a smile and a 9-millimeter?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The "Secret" is out..Downsizing is in!

If you haven't read Rhonda Byrne's book The Secret, you've probably heard about it on one or two daytime talk shows. How it promotes following the natural laws of attractions, i.e. "like attracts like," to get what you want. Making a vision board of your dream house/man/job and asking The Universe to bring it into your life. The book is filled with testimonials of people for whom this theory has worked. After reading it (upon the recommendation of my therapist), I'm pretty sure that it's a load of New Age bollocks. And you know the exact page where the author lost me? Proclaiming that she maintained a weight of 116 pounds by merely "not thinking fat thoughts." Really? Seriously? 'Cause I think it might have something to do with diet and exercise, you skinny bitch! Wait, that's the low blood sugar talking; let me grab another fun size Three Musketeers...

But I'll confess I was at the point where I'm willing to try anything to change my outlook. Because these days, the outlook is pretty bleak. I'm still out of work, have no job prospects, can't even get interviews, and just paid the last mortgage payment that I can afford. I spent the better part of an afternoon at Social Services to be told that I can't qualify for Medicaid but I might qualify for food stamps. So this is me at rock bottom. Terrified to spend a single dollar on anything that isn't absolutely essential. Picking out which pieces of furniture I can take or leave from the condo that I bought three years ago, because I'll likely be moving back in with my parents next month. And Christmas? Well, I'm very tempted to just skip it this year. Hey, I've become an agnostic!

I guess I have to focus on what I do have at this point and being grateful for it and believing in my heart that life can be good again. Much like the family on WeTV's Downsized, I have to accept that this is the new reality. I can't have a pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks but I can have an apple cider at home. I can't go to a gym and work out three times a week but I can walk on the treadmill. I've just spent so much time being angry at other people or myself or Congress or the world in general, and it's exhausting. I'll still be jealous of my friends when they post about the cool things they've bought or the places they're going, I can't help it. I had this notion that if I studied hard and I made good grades in school, life would always be good. But that's not true. Bad things happen to good people. Good people make bad decisions. I suppose I'm now paying for those decisions. In spades.

For me, "The Secret" is to be content with living in the moment. I don't know what the future holds and I've spent way too many hours regretting the past. Right now, I just need to be where I'm at, as Sean of "Galactic Watercooler" podcast so eloquently said. And at least where I'm at has pumpkin pie. Enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday and let your loved ones know that they are loved.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Stayin’ Alive

It’s that time of year again, for the ghosts and ghouls to come out and play. Thanks to Halloween and the gals at the Random Fandom podcast, I was inspired to write this holiday-themed blog entry. Granted, I don’t have an extensive knowledge of horror films or books. Seeing Gremlins at the tender age of 7 traumatized me for life, and Nightmare on Elm Street made me terrified of falling asleep. I’d never even seen a zombie film until my friend Will drove me to Greensboro to see Shaun of the Dead. And to me, zombies are the scariest of the movie monsters. Because there’s just that small chance, that tiny inkling, that such a nightmare could come true.

So how would I deal with a zombie apocalypse? Apart from dying within the first 12 hours of its onset. Well, obviously I’d need a blunt object for head-hitting, a vehicle with a full tank of gas, and some sharpshooting allies. Now these zombies/undead Americans may be fast (28 Days Later) or slow (the Romero series), but they’re all bloodthirsty animals who want to rip your face off. And the media has taught us there are certain things you want in your zombie party. Mainly you want to keep it small, maneuverable, and able to fit comfortably in an SUV.

The Big Guns: Tallahassee (“Zombieland”) and Ash (“Evil Dead”)

Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee is a whirling dervish of destruction. If it’s undead, he will kill it. Heck, he wants to kill it and will find increasingly more creative ways of doing so. But he’ll make it clear that he can take or leave you, so feed him Twinkies and he’s likely to stay loyal.

Ash, as played by Bruce Campbell, is the dependable S-Mart employee who just can’t seem to shake his demons. I mean real demons summoned through the use of the Necronomicon. So killing zombies may be a new thing for him but he’s got a chainsaw permanently attached to his arm, and that’s gotta’ count for something.

The Brains: Sarah Connor (“Terminator”) and Ana-Lucia Cortez (“Lost”)

Whether you prefer the original recipe Linda Hamilton or short-lived series Lena Headey version, you know Sarah Connor is a pro at kicking ass and taking names. Okay, sure, they’re not humanoid robots or an evil computer program, but zombies are pretty much made for the purpose of destroying humans. And you know how Sarah feels about that. Especially if one should be dumb enough to go after her son. Mama Connor has contacts and weapons caches all over, and years of experience existing off the grid. Go with her if you want to live.

Okay, Michelle Rodriguez’s Ana-Lucia may be a controversial choice; she has been known to throw innocent people into pits and to seek her own brand of justice against lowlifes who shoot her. But the woman has innate survival skills. She kept the Tailies alive long enough to reunite with the Oceanic 815 survivors on the other side of the island, and she can fashion a stick into a very effective spear. Trust me, you want Officer Cortez on your side.

The Medicine Man: Dr. Mac (“Green Wing”)

You’ll need a doctor, and Julian Rhind-Tutt is very pretty. The ginger hair may be a liability when trying to keep a low profile, but I’m willing to risk it.

The Wild Card: Sam Merlotte (“True Blood”)

Sam, the shape-shifting owner of Merlotte’s Bar, knows how to deal with the weird and the scary. His ability to change into a dog or bird will help get you into the places where humans can’t go. Plus, he has a ready supply of booze.

Now I pass the double-barrel on to you, dear reader, to pick your zombie-hunting dream team. Who will watch your back? Who will take point when you enter the seemingly abandoned grocery store? Who do you trust to pull the trigger if you turn? And please, don’t forget the Double Tap.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tying the Not

So my sister was home this past week and on Friday night, the TV was somehow locked on TLC due to a marathon of "Say Yes to the Dress." The New York and the Atlanta versions (which were inexplicably subtitled). For three hours, we watched brides and their respective entourages try on dress after dress to varying reviews and reactions. Our household is not big on reality television that isn't sports-related, so this is our guilty pleasure. And it's actually kinda' sorta' educational, when I combine it with my experience of being the celebrations editor for a local newspaper and being in or attending several weddings. Mostly I've learned what I don't want for what society has declared will be the biggest day of adult female life.

See, I'm not one of those women that have planned every detail of their wedding since they were starry-eyed girls watching Disney princesses dance with their Prince Charmings. Keeping scrapbooks or decoupaged boxes full of yellowed newspaper clippings and pullouts from magazines. I tell most people that I'd be perfectly happy with a ceremony at the drive-thru chapel in Vegas, as long as it came with a chocolate milkshake and a side of curly fries. But deep down, I know that's a lie. I am a Southern girl and life-changing moments must be accompanied by friends, family and large amounts of fattening food. It's a rule.

But I've already decided that I want said life-changing moment to be fun, stress-free and a chance for everyone to experience the beauty of our Crystal Coast. A bridal gown with simple, clean lines and no tulle whatsoever. Bridesmaids' dresses that don't have to match as long as they're in the same color and accompanied by comfortable shoes. Rehearsal dinner at the Sanitary Market in Morehead City 'cause y'all have to experience their popcorn shrimp and sweet tea. Ceremony in the courtyard of Fort Macon, even though it's outside and tempting fate, but it's such a beautiful location. Followed by a reception at the Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium, catered by Ruckerjohn's. And a first dance to Michael Buble's "Haven't Met You Yet." Possibly a foxtrot.

While I'm brainstorming here, I covet this gorgeous seashell cake (in chocolate, please) with a groom's cake in the shape of the Millennium Falcon. Or an At-At. I know that it can be done.

So as you can tell, I really haven't put that much thought into it. At least not on paper. It's all conjecture until I meet a guy who's willing to spend more than two dates with me, and vice versa. That takes a lot more work than browsing through the Amsale collection and watching TLC on Fridays.

Anyway, what are some of your wedding wishes? If you've already walked down the aisle, did it pan out the way you wanted or are you working on the revisions for your 10-year vow renewal? Enable me and let me go on living vicariously.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Stop messing with my mind, Christopher Nolan!


Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe

It’s summertime at the cinema, and most of the movies on the marquee feature big names, big explosions, a feel-good ending and a plotline that you can easily follow between handfuls of buttered popcorn. Apart from a simplistic plotline, ‘Inception’ offers all of those things in a deeply moving yet very shiny package. The latest film from Christopher Nolan, of the Batman reboot, is brilliantly written and acted, and boasts the sort of jaw-dropping effects that made ‘The Matrix’ an international phenomenon. Fair warning: This movie requires you to be an active viewer. Nolan can never be accused of spoon-feeding his audience, and it’s likely you will walk away feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted. After all, this is the same guy who made us question our own memories in ‘Memento.’

It all starts with a dream. In this world, dreams can be used as a weapon. Mainly of corporate espionage. If you want the secret plans of your competitor’s expansion, you enlist the service of Cobb and his team to go and steal them from your rival’s subconscious while he sleeps. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Cobb is an extractor, the best there is. But he’s tired and haunted. He wants to retire and return home to his children. There’s just one last job that he needs to do. Rather than steal an idea, he needs to plant one and let it grow. Which requires a great deal more of his team than they’ve ever done before.

The team is what makes ‘Inception’ stand apart and feel almost like a heist film. I love every character and wouldn’t mind seeing an origin story or spin-off for any of them. Because even through the mind-bending visuals and heart-stopping action sequences, you learn who these characters are and what they’re about. DiCaprio brings the experience and the mournful eyes of a tragic hero who knows how quickly these dreams can turn into nightmares and virtual prisons. Ellen Page is the gifted architect enlisted to build the labyrinthine dream-states into which Cobb will lead their mark; like her previous roles as Juno and Kitty Pryde, she again bends physics and mixes compassion and cynicism with ease. The consummate professional who keeps everything running is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who can now add action hero to his resume along with romantic lead (‘500 Days of Summer’) and evil scientist (‘G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra’). An adorably smirking Tom Hardy brings the big guns, literally, and should definitely be short-listed for whichever Marvel hero is next up for a franchise. And Dileep Rao provides the chemical components to keep the team and its mark unconscious for hours, even days if need be.

Two ‘Batman Begins’ alumni also stand out in the cast: Ken Watanabe as an ambitious businessman who offers Cobb a chance to go home in exchange for that one last job, and Cillian Murphy (with a spot-on American accent) as the heir to an industrial empire who becomes Cobb’s mark. Marion Cotillard is both lovely and lethal as the wife that Cobb can’t get out of his head, an ever-present danger to himself and his colleagues.

Mesmerizing from beginning to end, ‘Inception’ is a psychological rollercoaster ride that you’ll want to take again and again. After all, that’s what summers are for.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bassoon with a View

This one time at band camp, I got an invitation to go to Europe. Fifteen years ago, in a July as uncomfortably warm as this one, I joined 70-odd high school students in a band called the American Musical Ambassadors. We had a few days of rehearsal in DC before hopping on a plane to Amsterdam, and touring seven countries in 21 days. An exhausting yet exhilarating venture.

When I question my bravery or whether I achieved anything of import, I think back to those three weeks. No tour guide or travel show could have prepared me for the world that lay outside those double doors of Schiphol Airport. Of course, there were the big things -- touring the canals of Amsterdam and Venice, standing in the Austrian throne room of Maria Theresa, viewing a sunset from the top of the Eiffel Tower, dodging raindrops in Piccadilly Circus. But the moments that I still treasure from that trip are seemingly small ones. Watching a dubbed episode of "Rescue 911" with our host family in Ede, Holland; dancing to an oompah band in a village in southern Germany; eating the best chocolate cake ever in a riverside cafe in Innsbruck; shopping for lunch in a Swiss grocery store; being within arm's reach of one of my favorite comedians, Jim Sweeney, at a London Improv show. I also got very good at doing laundry in a sink.

I'm so grateful to have had that experience, and I feel sad for people that don't (or won't) take the opportunity to travel. Maybe you don't have that wanderlust. Maybe everything you need in life is right there within your county lines. And if so, I'm incredibly jealous. Because now I always wonder what else is out there. What haven't I seen, who haven't I met, what foods haven't I tasted. As Americans, we should be looking outward and learning from others. Not locking the door, turning off the light and saying "No Vacancy."

The Fourth of July has now come and gone. And it was an enjoyable holiday spent with my sister, her husband and their cat. We watched the specials on TV and the fireworks from their Silver Spring balcony. But as for patriotic moments, there's not much that can beat a summer afternoon fifteen years ago in Paris' Luxembourg Gardens, where French children spun and smiled with contagious joy as our band played "Stars and Stripes." A whole big world in one little gazebo, with liberty and justice for all.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Humble Pie a la mode

Having joined the ranks of the unemployed again, I've returned to the full-time job of job-hunting. You know all those articles they keep running about employees being optimistic enough about an economic recovery to finally resign from their current companies? Yeah, I'm one of those. And my optimism level is falling about as fast as BP stock.

After hitting Craigslist and the classifieds, my next stop was going to be the temp agencies that I'd signed up with after I got laid off back in '08. The recruiters were usually impressed with my education, my technical skills and my references. But I guess there are so many highly qualified people out of work now, an intermediate knowledge of Microsoft Office doesn't even seem to rate anymore. And this one recruiter was very judgmental about gaps in my employment history, how it made me seem completely unreliable because I never seemed to stay anywhere more than a year. She hadn't even spoken to me for more than five minutes, hadn't spoken to my previous employers or references and she'd already dismissed me. It made me feel incredibly small and worthless. Even moreso than I did at my old job.

The thing is, that was my past and I can't really do anything about it now. I'm not skilled enough to spin it, and I certainly didn't do anything exciting or scandalous with that time off. I wasn't picking olives in Florence or building orphanages in Rwanda or doing a nickel at Attica. I was just...searching. I tried a job on, it didn't fit, so I moved to the next one. I tried a city on, until I ran out of money, so I moved on to the next one. I suppose on paper, it looks like a rather schizophrenic experience. But I can assure you that in practice, it's been far from fulfilling.

Nothing seems to fit. Nowhere feels like home. No company makes me feel comfortable. And I realize that's mostly on me. It's an insecurity that's plagued me since, well, puberty and I wonder if I'll ever be at home in my own skin.

The paychecks, the benefits, the five-year plan -- I know I need to worry about those things. But the primary challenge for me is being okay with who I am, even when temporary recruiters feel like belittling my existence. How do I stand up for myself when I don't really have a leg to stand on?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Put a Little 'Glee' in Your Heart

By now, you’ve probably been prompted by several people to watch Fox’s hit show Glee, which recently ended its first season and will be in reruns all summer on Thursday nights (not to mention the many soundtrack CDs on music store shelves). But maybe you’ve convinced yourself not to fall prey to this particular pop-culture zeitgeist. Have musical series ever worked on television? Does Lady GaGa even have enough songs to fill an hour episode? Didn’t Ryan Murphy hurt us enough with Nip/Tuck? These are all perfectly valid arguments. What I’m asking is that you give yourself permission to watch a show that is honest and heartfelt and makes you happy. A refreshing change of pace in the landscape of reality shows, 24/7 news coverage and smarter-than-you sitcoms.

You see, I was reminded of something this past weekend as I sat in the darkened Stevens Center watching students from Miss Joyce’s Dance Studio tap, twirl and tumble their way through the annual recital. I loved performing! The costumes, the make-up, the reactions from the audience. I still love performing, even though it runs counter to my introverted nature. Maybe it’s because there’s a script or choreographed steps to follow. Because I’m playing a character, not myself. And for those few moments of that performance, you’re part of something special – something bigger than yourself.

The kids in the McKinley High Glee Club face the same problems we all did in high school. And some that are not so same. Granted, the faculty have their share of faults to deal with as well. It’s a primetime drama; there has to be a bit of a soap opera (Fake pregnancies! Cancelled weddings! Scheming divas!). Even though the writing and the plots stumbled at times, there was always a sincerity to the proceedings. Finn having to choose between the jocks and the glee clubbers, Will and Terri trying so hard to make their marriage last, Sue Sylvester alternating between outright cruelty and touching compassion for her sister, Quinn wanting to do what’s best for her unexpected baby, Tina and Artie testing the waters of teen romance while dealing with a handicap, Mercedes struggling with her weight, Kurt and his father coming to terms with Kurt being gay, Rachel wanting everyone to want a shiny gold trophy as much as she does. But in the Glee Club practice room with its ever-present accompanist and backing musicians, everyone is safe. Everyone is accepted.

These characters may be so far removed from anyone you know in real life, but they walk the streets of Ohio. And you feel every ounce of their pain and their joy. So just one night a week, suspend your disbelief and sign up to join the “Glee” club. The cast and crew have worked so hard to make this show a unique experience. They do it with a song in their hearts to put a smile on our faces.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jazz Hands and Jubilant Judges

If you’ve been watching any network other than ABC, you might have missed out on the news that Dancing with the Stars is back for its 10th season. What’s that, you say? You didn’t really have time to miss it since the previous season just ended a few weeks ago? Yeah, I feel you. But get used to it as Lost ends, Desperate Housewives wears thin and Grey’s Anatomy hums along on life support.

The big news is that Samantha Harris is leaving. And there was much rejoicing! Sure, she looked pretty in designer gowns but had all the interviewing ability of Ryan Seacrest on the Red Carpet. Which is to say, zero. Her replacement is TV personality and former DWTS champion, Brooke Burke, who’s likable enough and at least has some insight into what the contestants are going through in their weekly rehearsals. And unlike some other reality shows out there, the judging panel will be the same as it ever was, with the sassy Carrie Ann, stuffy Len, and the vivaciously verbose Bruno.

Eleven couples will take to the dance floor on March 22 to compete for the mirrorball trophy and a chance to put off pop culture obscurity just that little bit longer. Let’s handicap them, shall we?

Star: Buzz Aldrin
Claim to Fame: Retired astronaut who walked on the moon
Pro Partner: Ashly DelGrosso-Costa
Odds: Aldrin is this season’s token old guy who’s on everyone’s injury watch list. I’d love for him to stick around and teach these young whippersnappers how to do a real Lindy hop in Earth’s gravity but if he don’t got rhythm, look for him to be eliminated before we get to the Latin rounds. 2 weeks.

Star: Pamela Anderson
Claim to Fame: Having boobs; “Baywatch,” “Barb Wire”
Pro Partner: Damian Whitewood
Odds: Unless it involves a pole, I just don’t see Pamela as being a dancer. She may have the strength and flexibility, but not the grace and persona of a performer. 3 weeks.

Star: Erin Andrews
Claim to Fame: ESPN sportscaster; crusader against peeping toms
Pro Partner: Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Odds: Andrews is a wild card. Physically, she looks perfectly capable of keeping up with Maksim’s difficult choreography and dealing with the pressure of competition. But we won’t know till she hits the floor. 7 weeks.

Star: Shannen Doherty
Claim to Fame: Actress; bitch of biblical proportions
Pro Partner: Mark Ballas
Odds: Mark is kind of a goofball, and I don’t foresee Doherty having the patience for that. The competitive spirit will keep her in the game but not long enough. 5 weeks.

Star: Kate Gosselin
Claim to Fame: Gave birth to a litter of children, then put them in front of TLC cameras
Pro Partner: Tony Dovolani
Odds: I get the feeling that the newly single Mama Gosselin does not like to lose, or to let anyone else lead – which is a bit of an impairment in couples dancing. Tony better be prepared to be more hen-pecked than a food trough in a chicken hutch. 4 weeks.

Star: Evan Lysacek
Claim to Fame: Gold medal-winning Olympic figure skater
Pro Partner: Anna Trebunskaya
Odds: Olympians usually walk away with the trophy (see Apolo Ohno, Kristi Yamaguchi and Shawn Ryan) so expectations for Evan are high. And no doubt he’ll rise to meet them. Plus, sequins! Finals.

Star: Niecy Nash
Claim to Fame: "Reno 911!," Clean House," and wearing flowers in her hair
Pro Partner: Louis van Amstel
Odds: Niecy is gorgeous, funny, fashionable and has personality to spare. But she is a big girl and may face the same challenges Hairspray’s Marissa Jaret Winokur did when it comes time for the crowd-pleasing lifts. 6 weeks.

Star: Chad Ochocinco
Claim to Fame: Wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals; attention whore
Pro Partner: Cheryl Burke
Odds: Frequent champion Cheryl Burke knows how to turn gridiron gangstas into dancin’ machines (just ask Emmitt Smith), and Chad Johnson, er, Ochocinco isn’t afraid to look fabulous. Semifinals.

Star: Jake Pavelka
Claim to Fame: Being a bachelor/pilot
Pro Partner: Chelsie Hightower
Odds: The latest bachelor may be just talented and attractive enough to slide under the radar for a while, until he goes home to his fiancée Vienna. 8 weeks.

Star: Nicole Scherzinger
Claim to Fame: Pussycat Doll
Pro Partner: Derek Hough
Odds: Hmm, the last name rhymes with “ringer.” She’s already been a professional dancer and singer with the burlesque troupe for years. Unless she has an adverse reaction to having to wear more clothes than she usually does onstage, Nicole’s a lock for the long haul. Finals.

Star: Aiden Turner
Claim to Fame: “All My Children” actor and model
Pro Partner: Edyta Sliwinska
Odds: The token ABC soap actor on the roster who could follow in the steps of Cameron Mackintosh and Kelly Monaco. Or not. I really don’t know anything about the guy, but I said the same thing about Gilles Marini and look how he rocked it. 9 weeks.

So tune in to see who waltzes their way to a win on this season’s Dancing With the Stars. And place your bets on which Lost cast member will sign on to samba in season 11. My money's on Nestor Carbonell; the guyliner gives him an advantage.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Fade In, Cue upbeat ditty by perky blonde songstress...

It's that time of year again, y'all! No, I don't mean March Madness. Well, yeah, that is true and cool. Even though the ACC sucks this year. I'm talking about Script Frenzy! A hundred pages in the 30 days of April. Madness, but in a fun way.

I tend to build stories around actors, or news articles that interest me. Last year, it was Jack Coleman plus the story of retired FBI Agent Robert Wittman, being snarky and investigating art theft. This year...I don't know yet. I have a major girl-crush on Carey Mulligan {Oscar-nominated for "An Education" -- yay!) and I'm fascinated by Ken Leung, who hasn't gotten nearly enough screen time in this final season of "Lost," so I feel the need to find a story for them. And even though most things I write have a comedic tone to them, I'll probably stick to the drama genre.

What I have in mind is a bit of wish fulfillment. I've always wanted to take my father to Austria but there's never been enough money, time, etc. So I'm thinking of this father-daughter trip on one of those European package deals. The typical tourist-y thing with itineraries and bad food and fanny packs. And maybe Ken Leung is there as the jaded tour guide to provide a bit of romantic tension. But it's basically the father and daughter getting past their issues and coming to some sort of understanding. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

I need a hook or an inciting incident. I need to get to know who my characters are. I need witty dialogie to pad the scenes and fill out a hundred pages. But this is a start.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

That's why you should bookmark

A British study recently stated that the more time people spend online, the more depressed they tend to be...

"There was a high correspondence between the amount of time spent on the internet and levels of depression," said study leader Dr. Catriona Morrison. "If you look at how dependent people feel they are on the internet, that is likely to correspond with how happy or sad they feel."

Now I'm not saying that you should be online all day and all night. Doing an impression of Clara in "The Guild" and locking your kids in a corral so you can play World of Warcraft for hours on end -- we can all agree that's bad. And sure, "normal social interaction" as defined by this study probably is necessary to being a well-rounded, well-adjusted member of society. But let's not make the computer, or rather social networking on the computer, the bad guy here.

I'm no stranger to depression. It started in my teens, as it likely does for most people, and continues to linger like the scent of burnt toast in one's kitchen. It predates the Internet and texting and Facebook, and back then I either found my escape in books or in drawing. Then one chilly January night, I signed on to Prodigy. And I made friends. Ones that could quote Monty Python and MST3K with equal alacrity, ones that lived a few counties away or several time zones away, ones that encouraged my creativity.

I was accepted. I wasn't judged. I didn't spend an entire conversation mentally worrying about the way my hair looked or if my clothes were fashionable or if the words were running through my head too fast for my lips and causing me to stutter and sound like an idiot. Communication was carried out through the written word, and it was beautiful. I could be the articulate, intelligent young woman that I wanted so badly to be.

Eventually we have to come back to the real world. We have to work, to pay bills, to feed our families, to share the despair of the latest calamity around the globe. But for the time that we are online, we're free. We can be the best version of ourselves, and we can find people willing and able to share the human experience with us. Friendships that I have made online are ones that I will cherish forever because they come from a place of truth. It's not about the facade or fitting in; it's about finding people that accept you as you are. And that's not depressing at all. That's hopeful.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go discuss the "Lost" premiere with my friends on the Galactic Watercooler forum.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

B-I-N-G-O, B-I-N-G-O, B-I-N-G-O...

...and Bingo was the name of the game on Friday night. Our meetup group headed out to a fundraiser for the Green Foundation at the Empire Room in downtown Greensboro. Colorful daubers, fabulous drag queens and cheap candy--what more could you ask for? We played ten games, each worth more money than the last, but sadly no one in our group won anything. No luck with the raffle tickets either. But we still had a great time. The drag queens were there to entertain, and I'm seriously in awe of the work they put into their costumes and make-up. Thanks to Sharon and Christina, you can see some of the photos at my Facebook page:

Couldn't really sleep in on Saturday as I had to go in to the Twin City Stage shop for paint call. The set designer arrived this past Thursday, bringing with him homemade cookies and an offer to track down pieces of set dressing that we hadn't found yet. Shiny. So he worked on the bleachers, Caitlin and Misha worked on the "Putnam County Spelling Bee" banner, Yvonne and Tasha and Terrell worked on wall tiles, and I continued painting blocks of styrofoam "wood" that will be karate-chopped in half every night by one of the actresses. Things are coming together slowly but surely. Next Sunday is the first tech rehearsal, and I'm looking forward to actually hearing the songs.

I felt oddly energized afterward so I headed over to Silas Creek Crossing for lunch at Quizno's, my monthly visit to Ssalefish Comics (who just celebrated their 4th birthday--woohoo!), and browsing around A.C. Moore for yet more art to go on my walls. There was a group of Star Wars cosplayers selling raffle tickets outside the comic shop, and a woman had brought her daughter there as a present for getting first chair trombone. The girl was absolutely giddy at being able to hold a lightsaber and pose for a photo with the various versions of Jango and Boba Fett. It was very sweet and inspiring. There's hope for this new generation yet.

Then I went downtown for a matinee of "An Education" at the new Aperture Cinema. It's small and minimalist but very cool. Really enjoyed the movie, too. Granted it was a long time ago, but I remember being the sort of girl who was obsessed with "Jane Eyre," studied like crazy for college and yet wasn't averse to being swept off her feet by an older man who took her to parties and restaurants and Paris. Hope Carey Mulligan wins the Golden Globe tonight. Way to go, Sally Sparrow!

After that, I just came home and caught up on housework. Today's been pretty low-key as well. Met Mom and Dad at church, went home for lunch and dinner, and now I'm back at the condo awaiting the premiere of "24."

Tomorrow is frozen hot chocolate day at Kernel Kustard. A great way to start off the week, don't you think?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I'm good enough, I'm smart enough...

...and doggoneit, I'm worth it.

In the words of Senator Al Franken when he was not a senator, this is going to be my year of change. I realize that I say that every year, and manage to follow through on it for about two or three weeks. But this time I mean it. And I'm hoping for support along the way because I'm really bad at asking for help even when I desperately need it. The perils of being a stoic Irish introvert.

So let's start with the blog title. I'm thinking of taking more of a Bridget Jones-esque look at things. Don't get me wrong, I'll still be snarky and cynical when the situation calls for it, as many situations these days do. But I'd rather put more positivity out into the ether than my usual resigned pessimism. I mean, who is that helping? Apart from the news media.

Second point: I resolve to make regular use of my YMCA membership, even though it's intimidating to be there and I always feel like I'm in someone else's way. Zumba is fun, despite my lack of coordination, and I want to get my arms tank top-ready in time for the Galactic Watercooler meetup in March. I've also signed up for a 5K training course so that I can participate in the Race for the Cure in May. Cancer has touched many, many women among my family and friends, and it's a cause that I strongly believe in supporting.

Point the Third: I'm going to conquer my fears and do things that scare me. I'm not talking skydiving or holding a tarantula -- no, no, no. Are you insane?! I'm talking small things, like going to parties or cooking seafood or meeting up with a guy from I've been reading Julie Hadden's book (she was a contestant on The Biggest Loser) and she talks about not having the strength or courage to do things for so many years because she was overweight. Letting the extra pounds and lack of self-confidence hold her back from being the best version of herself. Now, my self-worth meter has bever been high. When you're called "ugly" to your face everyday of fourth grade by a table of older boys who cackle gleefully while you cringe and pray that the earth will open and swallow you whole...well, that sort of thing tends to stick with you. Especially when there's very little evidence to the contrary. Even now when I look in a mirror or see a photo of myself, all I see is that big nose, those dark circles under my eyes, that complexion that will never be clear no matter how many different cleansers/toners/exfoliants I use, those hips as wide as the open range, etc.

Anyway, you get the picture. I'm not a supermodel and never will be, and that's okay. Because there are other good qualities that God gave me, and taking full advantage of those is what will allow me to bless the people in my life. Although I will continue to spend far too much of my wages on lip gloss -- it's an addiction, I know.

Fourthly, I want to find a job that I love. There are many good things about my current job, but customer service is not what I was meant to do. I think my co-workers, supervisor, and customers would agree without hesitation. I don't work well with people, but I do work well with data. And I work really well with audio-visual data. So I'm hoping to go back to my first degree and learn the ins and outs of editing. I'm sure the software has advanced alot since I was in school, but I have friends and friends of friends in the broadcasting field so I'll be doing the whole networking thing. Movies and TV, it's what I've always loved but was too scared to truly pursue it. We all know that no job is safe in our economy so why not make a career out of one's passion? It might even get me to Austin one day.

Because I'm worth it. And because I don't do well with wind chills in the teens. Oh-Em-Gee, is it cold in here! Time to crank up the thermostat.