Sunday, December 13, 2009

Do You Ever Wonder...

...what name Europeans would have given the indigenous peoples of the North American continent if Christopher Columbus had not incorrectly deduced that he had landed in India?

I do.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

1 Day. 15 People. 25 Pounds of Turkey.

Of obvious note: I changed the layout a bit. I needed to search for a specific label just now but couldn’t because I never bothered to add my labels list to the page. When I went to do that, the template I was using only allowed me to add the list to the right side of the page. I am unnaturally (and possibly even disturbingly) particular about what side things go on. OCD? Probably. Psychotic? Maybe. Easier to find labels now? Definitely.

Moving on.

I just realized that I completely and totally failed to do any sort of Thanksgiving update. Hell, I failed to even mention Thanksgiving more than once (label searching!).

I made decent progress on my research paper today, so I suppose I have a few moments to give an update about my Thanksgiving week, which featured 3 visitors, frozen yogurt, and a 25 lb. turkey. Plus a bunch of other stuff, obviously.

Two of my sisters flew in the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I immediately took them to be baptized into the world of In-N-Out Burger, which is conveniently located between the airport and my apartment. First stop after that was Venice Beach. We saw more old men in Speedos than I have ever seen before. We walked around for a little bit, then decided that a grocery store run would be a good idea. Stocked up on beer, chocolate, and guacamole (family essentials), we were ready for a movie night with a few of my friends. I suggested (/insisted) that we watch When Harry Met Sally. Never a bad choice.

I had class on Monday and Tuesday, so my sisters were on their own. As luck would have it, one of my younger sister’s friends from back home was also in L.A. visiting someone. The friend’s someone had to work all day Monday and Tuesday, so the friend was available to show my sisters around Hollywood. My older sister’s friend also flew in on Monday night to spend a few days with us.

Tuesday night, I drove up to the hotel right after class. I found my sisters+friend boozin’ it up in the lounge. Well, one sister was boozin’ it up, the others were watching her booze it up.

Wednesday we drove up to Burbank to take a tour of NBC Studios. Interesting tour…mostly centered around Days of Our Lives…but I did get to see Nancy O’Dell’s parking space. And the parking space where Jay Leno used to park his car. Which is really not that exciting. From there, we made a beeline for Santa Monica. By “made a beeline,” I mean that we sat in traffic for about an hour. I would never let my sisters miss out on that little piece of L.A. living.

We finally made it to Santa Monica, tired and starving. We immediately found somewhere to eat on the 3rd Street Promenade, at which point I thought it would be a good idea to eat a whole individual (8 slices) barbeque chicken pizza by myself. Best idea I’ve ever had. Seriously.

As we walked down to the water, I realized that we were there at prime sunset time. It was gorgeous. I couldn’t have picked a better view for out-of-towners to see!

We took a little jaunt down the pier before heading back up to the Promenade for frozen yogurt. They have this frozen yogurt place out here called Pinkberry, and apparently I just missed the initial craze by a few months or so. I’ve had more than one person describe the growth of the chain by telling me the expansion (in SoCal at least) was similar to that of Starbucks. Yikes…that’s a lot of frozen yogurt. Basically, you choose your yogurt flavor (original, coconut, pomegranate, or passionfruit) then you pick your choice of unlimited toppings, among them a million chopped fresh fruits, different kinds of chocolate, nuts, granola, mochi, and if I remember correctly, Fruity Pebbles and Cinnamon Toast Crunch (pardon me, “cinnamon squares”). I had an original with raspberries, mango, pomegranate seeds, and mochi. I’m not usually a big frozen yogurt eater, but it was quite amazing.

And then it was Thursday…

Since many of the first-year students in my program weren’t going home for break, we decided to have a big potluck dinner. We were anticipating somewhere between 15 and 20 people, so the guy who volunteered to do the turkey got a 25 lb. bird. I got up on Thursday morning and did some documentation of the events – the turkey cooking, the boys in the host apartment doing last minute cleaning, etc. I drove up to the hotel, retrieved my sisters+friend, and came back to do my part – green bean casserole. The friend had to fly out that afternoon, so when I got home from taking her to the airport, we were mostly ready to get started with dinner! We had all the classics – turkey (duh), stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, potatoes au gratin, green bean casserole, baked mac’n’cheese, corn pudding, and cranberry sauce. The Chinese guy made something called double eggs, which was like a little casserole made with chicken eggs and duck eggs, and it was really good! It was his first American Thanksgiving, so it was fun to see him experiencing all the food. Add in the many bottles (and boxes) of wine, and of course pumpkin, pecan, and apple pies for dessert, and it was a great meal.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Oooh Shiny!!!

Something is bugging me.

Let me start by saying that I am not an über-feminist. I don't rant endlessly about inequality, I don't try to convince people that 'women' should be spelled 'womyn', I'm not offended by the genre designation "chick flicks," and I wear a bra on a regular basis.

But do I think that women have achieved equality? No, not yet. There are probably many factors that could be used to measure equality, but let’s not kid ourselves – money matters. Say what you will about women attaining positions of power equal to or even greater than men across the country – the fact is that we still don’t make as much money (somewhere around 79% of what men make, last I checked). Women put in the same amount of work (probably even more work in some situations) but receive smaller paychecks. That’s not equality.

That being said, I am not the type to cry foul at every little thing that could possibly be construed as sexism. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt in those situations – if women are treated equally, that means more than just an equal paycheck. It means equal pressure to succeed and equal criticism if we screw up. I’m not going to whine and cry about unfair treatment and inequality, I’m going to work my ass off and give you no choice but to acknowledge my equality.

When I was growing up, I was never told that I couldn’t do something because I’m a girl. I was never told that life might be harder for me because I’m a girl. I don’t know what my parents thought about my earliest career aspirations, but I don’t remember them ever laughing or saying it wouldn’t happen when I told them I wanted to be the first woman to play Major League Baseball.

When I was in the fourth grade, I played basketball with a group of boys every day at recess. One day, they decided that they didn’t want a girl to play with them anymore. My friend and I went to the teacher with this outrageous development and our teacher ended up moderating a big debate in class. I don’t remember exactly what the boys’ arguments were. My argument was simple and I didn't hesitate to tell everyone what the problem was - they didn't want me to play because I was better than them.

When I was in middle school, my church youth group went on an annual retreat with youth groups from across the state. Some of us spent every last second of every single free-time period on the basketball court. For three straight years, when we lined up to choose teams for the first game, I was the only girl who wanted to play. And I was picked last every year. In that first game, they never even bothered to guard me for a while. I was usually wide open and calling for the ball, but I never got a pass for the first few plays. Finally, someone would pass me the ball and I would knock down a jumper and get patronizing high fives and “nice shot” calls from my teammates. It’d be a while before I got the ball back but when I did, maybe I’d make a lay-up on the fast-break, cross someone over, make a nice backdoor pass. The passes came more often, the high fives weren’t patronizing anymore, and by the end of the weekend the only people picked ahead of me were the tall kids (rare commodities at that age, can’t argue with that decision).

I was never mad about being picked last at those games. In fact, I liked it. Maybe I even loved it. I loved it that they didn’t guard me – I felt like I was teaching them an important lesson about underestimating people. Also it was fun to hear the other team yelling at each other about who was supposed to be guarding me. It’s a feeling I came to really love – the feeling of hearing the opposing team’s frustrated coach shouting “who’s guarding number 10?!” Nothing like it.

What’s that? You want to know what I was talking about several shamelessly immodest paragraphs back when I said that something was bugging me ?

What I’m trying to say is, I don’t think women are equal yet, but we’re making strides. I’m also trying to say that I don’t typically call things out as sexist or unfair to women. What does catch my attention and bug the crap out of me though, is when women are portrayed as being weak, especially in ridiculous situations.

In a nutshell – jewelry commercials. Yes, women like jewelry. We get it. But I really hope that it’s more than just me who’s slightly offended by the insinuation that a shiny piece of silver will turn any woman into a useless puddle of goo and/or a sex slave. There’s one commercial out right now that irks me a little, and another that makes me want to rip out my ovaries in an act of pure shame.

The first commercial is a man and a woman ice-skating. The man is a horrible skater, falling all over the place and making a fool of himself while the woman glides around gracefully. He manages to pull himself up as she skates over to him and takes him by the arm to steady him. At that point, he pulls a little ring box out of his pocket and voilà, their roles are reversed and he has to steady her because she’s gone weak in the knees. How do we know she’s gone weak in the knees? Because the camera literally shows us her knees buckling. Not as bad as it could be, but not exactly furthering the gender.

The other commercial, the ovary-ripping-out blot upon my pride as a woman, is just downright ridiculous. A man and a woman stand at a large picture window as a storm rages outside. There's a big clap of thunder and the woman turns like a frightened chipmunk to be comforted and protected by the man, who holds her close and magically produces a necklace or a bracelet or something and then says something lame. Apparently…the woman is no longer afraid because the man has distracted her with something shiny? I’m hazy on the particulars because my mind always shuts off to protect my sanity from further offense right about the time that a grown woman is depicted as being afraid of thunder.

These are the types of things that bug me, the things that bring out that little bit of feminist in me. Maybe because I know that kids are watching this and its just perpetuating stereotypes. Think of the children! Oh won’t somebody think of the children?!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Movie Reviews IV

As is my grand tradition around this time of year, I'm doing anything and everything other than what I'm supposed to be doing. I filmed my final production project yesterday and everything went well as far as I can tell from the rough cut I put together today. As for my expanded narrative of my screenplay and my research paper...I'll get back to you. Now, on to reviews of the many movies I watched last week.

Talk to Her/Hable Con Ella (2002) (class assignment)
Two men hold vigil over the women they’re in love with, who are both in a coma. Marco watches over his girlfriend Lydia, a matador who was gored by a bull. Benigno works at the hospital facility and watches over Alicia, the woman he was in love with from afar but only actually met once. Marco and Benigno become good friends, but things take an interesting turn when Marco gets some bad news and Benigno gets himself into trouble. I liked this movie, it was interesting. It takes an interesting twist at the end…except I wouldn’t really call it a twist, because it’s much more gradual than that. Very much like life.

The Double Life of Veronique/La Double Vie de Vèronique (1991) (class assignment)
Two women are cosmically connected to each other, unbeknownst to them. When Weronika dies suddenly, Véronique begins experiencing strange feelings of loneliness. At least I think that’s what was going on. This one was ok. It felt somehow disjointed to me. Like the story points never really connected. I guess I just thought it was a really interesting concept, but it fell short of my expectations. I think my professor wanted me to watch it more for the camera work. There was one shot where my friend and I both started to comment on the nice camera angle, when the old man on screen suddenly and randomly flashed himself. Awesome. In addition to wanting us to see interesting camera work, we also think our professor just likes to think of us squirming while we watch these movies.

Downhill Racer (1969) (someone else's class assignment)
A cocky downhill skier (Robert Redford) with hopes of making the U.S. Olympic ski team spends four years trying to prove himself to his coach (Gene Hackman) and his teammates. Again, I think this one was assigned to my friend so he could see some different camera work. And I imagine this camera work was very new and interesting in 1969. The movie was ok, but to me it felt like it ends very abruptly. They set it up as following his professional skiing career and some aspects of his personal life, but they only really resolve the skiing storyline without any mention of the other plot lines. But Robert Redford’s pretty awesome.

A Christmas Carol (2009) (personal time)
I love Christmas. I love A Christmas Carol in almost all of its incarnations. And I love Jim Carrey. You do the math. There’s really not much more they can do with the story itself, so it would seem that Robert Zemeckis just made the decision to make the visuals amazing. Win. And I saw it in IMAX 3D, so the visual aspect really was amazing. Jim Carrey was great as Scrooge and as all three ghosts. They made him look different enough as the ghosts that, even though you knew it was Jim Carrey, it wasn’t distracting. I will admit that whipping through 3-dimensional Victorian London at high speeds made me a little motion sick at times, but that’s just the price we pay to be able to see 3D pimples on young Scrooge’s face. The other thing of note is that parts of the movie are actually a bit scary, in a ghosts-and-skeletons-jumping-out-at-you sort of way. Which was good, I think, because the story is actually a little frightening when you think about it. Get in the holiday spirit and go see it. Perhaps avoid 3D if you're prone to motion sickness.

Young Frankenstein (1974) (personal time)
If I had to pick a favorite movie, this would almost certainly be my pick. It was written by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks…and I could end my review right there. But I won’t. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder), the grandson of the infamous Dr. Frankenstein, cannot deny his familial destiny to reanimate the dead. With the help of his trusty sidekick Igor (Marty Feldmen) and beautiful lab assistant Inga (Teri Garr), Frederick is able to bring a man back from the dead (Peter Boyle as The Monster). The Monster of course runs amok and hilarity of course ensues. Also featuring Madelaine Kahn, Cloris Leachman, Kenneth Mars, and a cameo by Gene Hackman. Also also featuring my undying love. Well, it doesn’t really feature that, it just gets that. From me. Forever.

The River Wild (1994) (personal time)
I think we’ve discussed this before, but just in case you forgot – I love Meryl Streep. Now that we’re all caught up, Meryl Streep plays Gail, mother of two and wife of workaholic Tom (David Strathairn). Gail’s an outdoorsy type from Montana who now lives in Boston with her bookish architect husband. Gail wants to take her son Roarke (the annoying kid from Jurassic Park) rafting in Montana and Tom reluctantly comes along. They meet up with some suspicious folks, namely Kevin Bacon and Michael C. Reilly. Things get rough, threats are made, hostages are taken, Meryl Streep waits for the exact right moment then kicks some serious ass, etc. etc. Overall, it’s a decent thriller. You know exactly what’s going to happen, but the gorgeous scenery and the unique action make it worth a watch if you’ve got a free afternoon.

Monday, November 23, 2009

You're All a Bunch of Pregnant Gerbils

Sorry for the lack of update-age.

The last few weeks have been crazy trying to get a jump-start on final projects while also planning our massive potluck Thanksgiving dinner. My sisters (2 out of 3 at least) and a friend are also in town for Thanksgiving/vacation, so things will be busy, but fun!

I watched a gazillion movies last week but haven't had time to write up the 7 reviews yet. Imagine that.

Until next time, here's something to tide you over:

I read an article that addressed the fact that American sitcoms have never done particularly well in England. The author commented that the combination of the "blatancy and breakneck speed" was too much for British viewers. He then quoted a British TV exec who stated that "Americans must have the attention span of a pregnant gerbil."

Oh, British people.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I Used To Be With It, But Then They Changed What "It" Was

Seeing as I don’t have classes on Wednesdays, I usually go to bed on Tuesday nights with the most sincere intentions of spending all of the next day at the library working on my research paper, my story for my final production project, my weekly screenwriting assignment, and/or my final screenwriting project.

So this past Wednesday I got up, enjoyed my coffee and breakfast, watched a little TV, and…went to the beach.

I know I briefly mentioned some time spent at Venice Beach back in October. To quote myself – Venice is an interesting place...we decided that it was sort of like being transported back in time. Remember those days of the hippie-revival in the early-mid 90s? Still going on in Venice, CA.

Honestly that’s really the best way to sum it up. Imagine the early 90s grunge/skater look, existing peacefully alongside the current punk/skater look (skinny jeans, chunky skater shoes, weird hair). So just put all those things together in your head – skateboarders weaving through crowds of people, school-age children with no parental supervision in sight, barefoot hippies, Muscle Beach, persistent musicians trying to sell you their hip-hop cds, and the smell of pot wafting on the breeze and voilà! Venice.

The image of Venice as a throwback to bygone years was only solidified when my friends and I heard a song blasting from a nearby store and found ourselves instinctively responding - “Heyyyy, must be the moneyyyy.” Oh, Nelly…it's 2009 and apparently we still want to ride wit you.

As we sat outside our favorite spot (the place with hand-dipped corndogs, obviously), there were several things going on.

I was stealing glances at the hippies who had set up camp at the nearby intersection of the boardwalk and a path to the beach. Among their signs: “will work for marijuana,” “help a punk buy drugs,” “anything helps - even just a smile, namaste,” and my personal favorite, taking a turn for the entrepreneurial, “kick me in the ass for $1.” Also, the lone female hippie was literally wearing a bandanna for a top.

The other group catching our attention was a band of young teenage skaters, probably 13-14 years old. They were laughing and talking loudly, trying like teenagers do to own their little bit of space in a place crowded with personalities. When this group left, they were replaced by a slightly younger group of tween-age skaters. Skinny jeans, v-neck shirts, lovingly tattered skate shoes, and hair hanging over their eyes (with the exception of one, who had a downright magnificent mane of beautiful curly hair). They were scarfing down slices of pizza in the way that only boys that age can.

My friends and I are all in the 24-27 age range and sitting near these kids made us realize something a little shocking. We have apparently reached the age where we feel strange around teenagers. We weren’t scared, we didn’t get up and sit somewhere else, we didn’t think they were going to cause trouble or anything silly like that. We were just very aware of their presence. I guess what struck us most was that, rather than feeling like we identified with them, we were wondering where their parents were.

I guess we're getting old.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Movie Reviews III + Bonus TV Reviews

I realized that I haven't done movie reviews in a while. I haven't been watching too many lately, so some of these are movies you've all probably seen already. Get over it.

As an added bonus, I'm including reviews (or rather overviews) of my three favorite new TV shows of the season.

Chinatown (1974) (class assignment)
Private detective Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) discovers a potentially large-scale scandal during his investigation of the murder of a prominent member of the L.A. Water and Power Department. He of course gets involved with the widow and then has to add saving her life to his already difficult task of solving the murder. Also, he has to deal with Roman Polanski calling him kitty cat. And almost slicing his nose off. That’s a bad day. I’m not really into noir, whether traditional or neo-. I’m not sure why exactly, something to do with the pace I think, but who knows. I’m generally ok with slower-moving dramas, but noir just doesn’t do it for me. I recognize the general overall quality of the film though.

Nights of Cabiria (1957) (class assignment)
Cabiria is an Italian prostitute who is trying to come to terms with her life and profession, albeit without actually revealing or addressing her fragile inner feelings. When she finally starts to let her guard down, it looks like she might finally have the chance to overcome her demons and have a better life. It’s kinda like the original Pretty Woman. Only not. I really liked this movie. Cabiria is a very complex and, despite her profession, very relatable character. This was my first Federico Fellini film and I enjoyed it.

Jaws (1975) (personal time)
A giant shark terrorizes a small New England town during the busy summer season. A drunken boat captain (wouldn’t be New England without ‘em)(Robert Shaw), a persistent marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss), and the reluctant sheriff (Roy Scheider) set out to catch the pest and run into a few problems that always seem to interrupt their male bonding. Man-eating sharks have no respect. This is just a plain old great movie. I’ve never really liked horror movies that much because they always feel hokey and forced. Jaws is a great example of how to create real suspense and real terror. This movie can make an entire audience sit on the edge of their seats by…panning across people having fun swimming in the ocean. I’ve seen the movie before, but when I watched it the other day I still tensed up at the beach/ocean scenes.

Jurassic Park (1993) (personal time)
Santa Claus…I mean Richard Attenborough…plays God and all hell breaks loose. Dinosaurs + people + Jeff Goldblum = bad news. We were talking about Jurassic Park in class last week and the professor brought it to our attention that, even though everyone knows the movie is about dinosaurs, they don’t actually show a live dinosaur until over a half and hour into the film. But you still watch it. Excellent build up. Also, excellent raptor-on-British-guy action. And lastly, several gratuitous shots of Jeff Goldblum’s chest shining brilliantly beneath his unbuttoned shirt. Great movie.

My three favorite new TV shows:

Glee (Fox)
I’m not usually into musicals, but I really like this show. Perhaps its because they generally keep the random outbursts of singing in typically non-singing-related locations to a minimum. The show is about a high school glee club, obviously the dredges of the high school social hierarchy, trying to get their act together and win the regional competition. It’s fun and it feels different than most of the other stuff on the tube. There are of course several subplots, about 50% of which revolve around pregnancy at the moment. Good show. Even if you don’t like musicals, I’d say give it a shot.

Modern Family (ABC)
I love this show. I did from the first episode. It’s not really groundbreaking or overwhelmingly original, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Or funny. Hilariously funny. If you’re not aware, it’s about three families – the father (Ed O’Neill) (yes, Al Bundy) and his much younger Columbian wife and her 10 year old son; the daughter (Julie Bowen), her husband, and their three children; and the gay son and his boyfriend, who have just adopted a baby from Vietnam. Best line so far: “Excuse me…Meryl Streep could play Batman and be the right choice. She’s perfection. Whether she’s divorcing Kramer, whether she’s wearing Prada, don’t even get me started on Sophie’s Choice…”

Community (NBC)
Another great show with a big cast, although I think they’re still working out the kinks of using a big cast to its full advantage. Things seem to be falling into place though and the last few episodes have been hilarious. The show is set at a community college and revolves around the diverse members of a Spanish study group (although they very rarely study Spanish). Please imagine: Chevy Chase in a Beastmaster costume huddled inside a fort built out of chairs during a bad trip. Awesome. Another highlight for me was an exchange between Troy, a young black student who was a big football star in high school but lost his chance at a scholarship after a kegstand-related injury, and Jeff, a disbarred lawyer who has returned to community college in hopes of someday returning to his former glory. Witness the rapid-fire convo as Jeff tries to convince Troy to join the community college football team:

Jeff: I’m saying you’re a football player. It’s in your blood.
Troy: That’s racist.
Jeff: Your soul?
Troy: That’s racist.
Jeff: Your eyes?
Troy: That’s gay.
Jeff: That’s homophobic.
Troy: That’s black.
Jeff: That’s racist.
Troy: Damn.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Good Morning, Quint. We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat.

My family was never a “good morning” sort of family. Growing up, I was arguably the only morning person of the five children. The other four were typically somewhere just barely past the line between sleepwalking and being awake. I wasn’t exactly chipper at 5:45 a.m., but I was usually slightly more coherent. But no matter what state of mind we were in, I don’t ever remember saying good morning to my siblings, unless it was in a sarcastic sort of way, i.e. when a sibling has woken up cranky and it’s your duty to subject them to a ridiculously perky “good morning, sunshine!!”

I never liked being rushed in the morning before school, so I would usually get up with enough time to shower, get dressed, and have a cup of coffee and breakfast while reading the comics. Since I was up earlier, my dad was usually still home by the time I sat down to eat. I don’t think we ever said “good morning” to each other. It wasn’t rude, neither was ignoring the other, I think it was more just an unspoken acknowledgment that it would be ridiculous to speak at that ungodly hour of day, as well as something else…which brings me to my point.

I don’t understand why some people feel the need to say “good morning” to everyone they live with every single morning. At several points in my life now I’ve been in situations where I have a roommate who feels the need to say “good morning” every morning. And for some reason, it really really bugs me.

Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe it’s not the “good morning” itself but the person saying it. When you’re visiting with someone and you wake up and go into the kitchen for breakfast and your host says “good morning,” that’s different. That I can deal with. When you go into work and people say “good morning,” that’s also acceptable. And I’ve never minded if my mom says “good morning” to me every day, but then again, she is my mother.

But in other situations, it gets to a point where it just feels entirely forced. There’s this feeling that they’re only saying “good morning” because they think that’s what they’re supposed to do when they see someone in the morning.

I still get up relatively early on a daily basis. I usually sit on the couch and work on my class readings while everything is still quiet. Every morning, my roommate wakes up around 9:30 or 10, shuffles through the living room on the way to the kitchen, and says “good morning.” And it drives me crazy. Not only do we live in the same apartment, we share a room. Our beds are five feet away from each other. We know when the other is awake. We don't need to call attention to it.

But still, she feels the need to constantly acknowledge that we’re either both in the apartment or that one of us is leaving the apartment. She goes to the gym most mornings. She says “good morning,” she eats, she says “see ya,” and she goes to the gym. She gets back after about an hour and says “hey.” Every. Day. Just because we’re in the same room doesn’t mean we have to say something to each other. The other day, she came and went about four times in as many hours, and she said "hi" to me every time she came back into the apartment.

I tolerate this on most days. But today…today… the mixing of pet peeves.

I don't like when people talk to me while I'm watching TV or a movie. My sisters and mother can attest to this.

We were talking about the movie Jaws in class last night and, having not seen it in a while, I really wanted to watch it after our discussion. I don’t own it, nor do I currently have the money to buy it. So imagine my joy upon seeing that it was on TV at 9:30 this morning.

Do you know why people watch Jaws? They watch it for the suspense. They watch it for those two notes of music that will make anyone tense up. They watch it to see Sheriff Brody react to that first up-close look at the shark – the expression on his face, his slow backtrack into the cabin, cigarette dangling loosely from his mouth. THEY WATCH IT TO HEAR BRODY TELL QUINT “WE’RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER BOAT.”

Did I get to hear that this morning? No. No, I did not. If I hadn't seen the movie before, I wouldn't know that they were going to need a bigger boat. Do you know why I wouldn't know? Because someone walked in from the gym, saw me sitting in the exact same position she left me in, and felt the need to say hi to me, barely an hour after saying “good morning” and “see ya.”

As a comparison, my other roommate woke up not long after the first came back from the gym. The "good morning" conversation between roommate two and I:

R2: Jaws?
Me: Yep.

Maybe I just don't like the forced pleasantries because I feel like I have to respond, when really I just want to read/type/watch TV. I don't need someone to know what I'm doing all the time, and I certainly don't need to know what the people I live with are doing at every moment of the day.

Maybe...I'm a jerk.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Hope It's Not Amoria Phlebitis...

Who's up for a little cram session? I'll go first. What was the name of the Pilgrims' boat?
The Spirit of St. Louis.
And where'd they land?
Sunny Acapulco.
And why'd they leave England?
Giant rats.

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm feeling a little like Bart Simpson in "Bart Gets an F," but without the whole blizzard thing. Although, that did actually happen to me once. Seriously.

In this instance, the blizzard is the flu. Not for me, for my professor.

It's been a rough week, mostly due to my being sucked into a creative black hole. Motivation out, sloth in. And this state of laziness could not have come at a worse time. I have four written projects (including a midterm essay worth 30% of my final grade) and a production proposal due this week.

The midterm essay is giving me the most trouble. I've always had trouble writing about abstract concepts, mostly because I always feel like I'm writing in circles without actually making any actual arguments. I have written lengthy(ish) research papers about the theory of evolution, the historiography of the American west (with the help of a blizzard - I said I was serious, didn't I?), the role of the Chesapeake Bay in the War of 1812, and the historical accuracy of The Grapes of Wrath. But double-spaced two-page essay assignments about our weekly Aesthetics readings had me about to pull my hair out and torch the textbooks.

I've made decent progress on the midterm essay though. My intro still needs work and I need to actually, you know, finish it, but I'm definitely making progress. My plan was get up today and finish my assignment for today's class, then work on the midterm (due Thursday) after class tonight. I planned to finish it up tomorrow (my off day), and take Thursday morning/early afternoon to proof and make last minute changes.

But today, a small miracle. My class this afternoon was canceled since the professor has the flu. Not only was class canceled, but the professor said that he will "totally understand" if missing a class throws us off and we have to push back our assignment due dates. Methinks he'll wish he didn't say that... So I now have all afternoon to work on and (hopefully) finish my midterm.

Here's hoping I don't end up knowing how George Washington felt when he surrendered Fort Necessity to the French in 1754. Boy would my face be red! (He wasn't always so on-the-ball with the military stuff, you know. And the French have always been frustrating. But I shan't get into that now. Someday, though. Someday. Just you wait...)

Friday, October 16, 2009

An Earthquake Would Be Horrifying for a Prairie Dog

It seems that yesterday was the general test day for college/university text alert systems. Seeing as I never bothered to unsubscribe from the SU alerts, I got something along these lines yesterday morning:

“This is a test of the SU text alert system”

Then, not long after that, I received my test text alert from the grad school. It had a slightly different tone:

“Test only. An 8.3 earthquake struck the LA area. Drop, cover, and hold on. Hold 60 seconds then move. Test only.”

Because I know the first thing I’m going to do if an 8.3 earthquake strikes the LA area is to check my text messages.

But I understand what they were trying to do – yesterday, somewhere in the vicinity of 6.9 million people participated in The Great California ShakeOut, a statewide earthquake drill aimed at teaching people about earthquake preparation and proper reaction. I didn’t participate, but I did poke around their website enough to discover that everything I thought you were supposed to do if an earthquake strikes is wrong. Good to know.

Apparently the whole doorframe theory is based on an old picture taken after an earthquake many years ago – the house was destroyed and all that was left standing was a lone doorframe. Older architecture may have been different, but modern architecture does not guarantee that doorframes will be the strongest points in a house.

Today, the earthquake response of choice is to “drop, cover, and hold on.” Get under a sturdy table, desk, etc. (preferably away from exterior walls, bookshelves, and anything else that could fall on you), cover your head and neck, and hang on for dear life.

I wonder if it’s been proven that people in high-stress situations are better able to remember what to do if the proper safety procedure has been formatted as rhythmic three-part instructions? It certainly makes sense. I would advise that you don’t get “drop, cover, and hold” mixed up with “stop, drop, and roll.” That could be bad.

On to non-earthquake-related stories. I have some great news! I received a package in the mail yesterday with a wonderful surprise. Thanks to Mimi, I am now the proud adoptive parent of a prairie dog at the Maryland Zoo! She sent a picture of the actual prairie dog, as well as a representative to keep me company on the other side of the country. His name is José and I love him.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rain, Sizzler, Sex Shops, Butter, etc.

An amazing thing happened yesterday and today. Water started falling from the sky. The locals are astounded and generally confused.

It's nice to have a little rain. Yesterday it was on-and-off, today it's been raining pretty steadily all morning. I say that I like it right now, but let's wait and see what I think once I get my lazy ass up and leave the apartment. I'm glad I brought my umbrella, which will now have been rained on in Maryland, London, and Los Angeles. What a little traveler.

In unrelated news, who knew that Sizzler's still existed? The only reason I know is because there's one right next to the sex shop I went to last week.

We had to do a project for our production class that involved making a 2 minute film about an embarrassing moment. It had to be a moment we had actually experienced. We had to share these moments with the class, then spend weeks coming up with ways to make them more embarrassing, or "up the stakes." In my case, the stakes were greatly upped by the addition of furry handcuffs. And where else are you going to find furry (animal print, no less) handcuffs, but at a sex shop by a Sizzler? Nowhere I tell you.

In other news, Butter Watch 2009 has ended. I had intended to see just how long that stick of opened butter would sit on the counter and just when it was beginning to look like it might be there forever, a situation arose in which I genuinely feared for my health. I had to end the insanity.

The suspected butter-leaver-outer told me that she was planning to make cookies. I was excited at first, but I quickly became anxious at the thought of eating cookies made with butter that had been sitting out for close to two weeks. I asked if it was her opened stick of butter on the counter. Oh...did I leave that out? Oh my gosh. Yes, it's been there for almost two weeks now. It sucks that you can't just leave butter out here. ...Do you normally leave butter out where you're from? Well you know, like in a butter dish. Oh. Well those generally have lids. Yeah...I guess that's different. And we have flies. So maybe don't use that butter.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Butter Watch 2009

Still there.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Somebody Slap Me.


Why did I ever think that one university would be any less chaotic and disorganized than the last? Somebody slap me.

I needed a form signed so I could film a project on campus. Filming on campus is supposedly easier, because you don’t need to get a permit from the city/county. I needed signatures from the following on-campus people: head of production, public safety, facilities, student housing, and events management. I got the head of production’s signature. I went to public safety, which was somewhat on the way to student housing. Public safety said “we can’t sign this until facilities does, and they probably won’t sign it until student housing signs it.” I appreciated this helpful information. Saved me a pointless trip to facilities.

I went to student housing. “When would you like to set up your appointment?” I don’t need an appointment, I just need this form signed. “We don’t do same-day signing or appointments. You have to schedule a next-day appointment to get it signed.” No one told me that. Or maybe I was sleeping at that exact moment in each of the three separate filming procedure presentations we sat through. That must be it. So I went back to the production office and said, I’m not sure if you all are aware, but student housing is telling people we can’t get same-day signatures for on-campus filming requests. “Yeah, you have to make a appointment ahead of time.” Oh, you’re aware of this? “Oh yeah, the student housing guy is a little crazy. They’ll never sign it same-day.” Oh. I thought since no one told us that maybe you all didn’t know. “No, they’ve been like that for a while. They’ll never sign same day.” Thanks…I think.

So tomorrow, I will go to lower campus to get the student housing signature at 1:15. I will then trudge to upper campus to get facilities to sign. I will hop over to public safety to get that signature. Then I will haul myself back down to lower campus to get a signature and try to weasel my way into the mandatory meeting with events management so I can film on Friday. Then I will go to class to give a presentation on this week’s readings.

On Friday and/or Saturday, I will probably lose my mind.

You see, our production professor told us in class last week that we weren’t ready to film and we should spend an extra week in pre-production. Which we did. Rough cuts of our films are due this Tuesday. There are 12 of us in the program. All 12 of us have to film and edit this weekend, and we all have to be in/helping with each other’s projects. Our final cuts are due the week after this Tuesday. Then we have exactly one week before the rough cut of project 2 is due, and it hasn’t even been assigned yet. And it’s worth 20% of our grade.

Somebody slap me.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

My Knowledge Will Bite Your Face Off.

This weekend felt unusually long, which was nice after a week that felt unusually torturous. Without going into too much detail, I will just say that one of our classes is causing a good bit of frustration and misery for all of us. But we will survive. We must survive. End of semester course evaluations will free our souls. Vengeance will be ours.

Since we don't have Friday classes, our weekend begins on Thursday night when our class is over at 7. A group of us made a beeline for the liquor store and went home to drown our sorrows and spend some quality time with our friend television (teacher! mother! secret lover...)

We watched the second episode of FlashFoward, which unfortunately didn't really hold our interest like the first episode did. I know what you're thinking - how many tv shows can keep the attention of a room full of drunk grad students? But you're forgetting - we're television-obsessed drunk grad students.

Then some folks watched The Office, which I don't watch. I know. Just don't even say it, because I know.

Then...the best new show of the fall...Community. Please see the title of the post, spoken by a Spanish professor to his class. Great show. You should all watch it.

At some point during one of the shows, my roommate, the only non-film/television student in the room, asked what everyone thought about the Roman Polanski situation. She immediately regretted that decision. As soon as the words came out of her mouth, everyone started talking at once and a boisterous conversation lasted for the entire commercial break. Then we all stopped talking abruptly because the show was back on. That's how we roll.

Speaking of Roman Polanski, we all gathered again on Friday night to watch Chinatown for a class assignment. Interesting movie. I'll probably give my review of it in a future post. My pre-Chinatown time was spent at the library and at In-N-Out, where I investigated the strawberry milkshake (delicious) and acquired an official paper In-N-Out hat.

Saturday, I ventured to Venice with three friends. Venice is an interesting place...we decided that it was sort of like being transported back in time. Remember those days of the hippie-revival in the early-mid 90s? Still going on in Venice, CA. I found it really strange because the whole place seemed sort of frenzied and crazy, but very relaxed at the same time. Very intriguing. The beach was really nice though and the place definitely makes for some top-notch people watching. I also got a downright fantastic corndog. That's a good day in my book.

Today I did mostly nothing. Worked on some assignments, did some reading...speaking of which, I've actually done all the reading for my classes every week so far. Not skimming - reading. All of it. And taking notes. Before the day of class. It's like some sort of alternate universe.

It's getting cooler outside lately. I don't think it got much above 65 today and the 10-day says it's not going to get much above 70 for a while. Tomorrow night they're calling for a near-record low of *gasp* 54 degrees.

In other random news, Mr. California has been sighted several more times. I last saw him in the library. He walked in, disappeared somewhere, then walked out with several girls. His powers are growing.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I'd Sell My Soul for a Doughnut...

In my search for a graduate school, I looked at many factors. Among other things, I considered the program focus, size, and duration, the faculty-student ratio, the availability of on-campus graduate housing, and the location of the school in regards to necessary resources (grocery stores, job and internship opportunities, etc.).

It has come to my attention that I neglected to consider one factor. In my current situation, I am lacking in one extremely important and necessary resource. And I’m truly ashamed of myself for letting this slip past my radar.

I had heard rumors, but I didn’t think they would be true (there’s no way they could be true...). But it has been confirmed.

There are no Dunkin’ Donuts’ in Los Angeles. I can’t even positively 100% confirm that there are currently any stores in the entire state of California. D’oh!

I feel lost and unsure. I don't know what's going to happen. I'm scared. And a little hungry.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Musings on Cleanliness

As my younger sister has so wisely observed, many people become more aware of their messiness when living with others (who are not related to them). This is obviously a generalization, but it definitely has merit. When you live with other people, you are more likely to notice how your particular messiness affects these other people (assuming that you generally have a clue about what’s going on around you. Which I have realized is apparently a pretty big assumption to make). For example: I am much more aware of how often and how long I leave my dishes in the sink (we don’t have a dishwasher) when I’m living with people who aren’t in my family (don’t ask why I’m ok with it with my family. I don’t know why).

I am by no means a neat-freak, and I will be the first to admit it. In the realm of mess, I inhabit the arena of clutter.

Visual Evidence

Exhibit A: my old office

Exhibit B: my current desk and surrounding area

I collect clutter quite easily. My desk has looked like that since about 5 days after I moved into my apartment. My school supplies – notebooks, stuff for production class, etc. – are sitting on the floor and have been since the first week of classes. Sitting right in front of my computer are my beloved-but-broken giant white sunglasses that I just can’t bring myself to throw out. You get the idea.

I sometimes wish I was an organized person, but I’m just not and probably never will be. I actually prefer a slightly cluttered work area to a completely organized area – when everything is organized and perfect all the time, it makes me nervous to move anything or put anything on the desk, for fear of messing up the organization. And then it sucks when I do eventually mess up the organization. So I just keep it cluttered and avoid that problem.

I don’t usually mind other people’s tendency to clutter either. I don’t mind cereal boxes out on the counter or the baking sheet left on top of the stove or a certain amount of dishes stacked in the sink. I don’t care if you leave your school books on the coffee table or your laptop charger in the outlet in the living room.

That all being said, there are certain forms of messiness where even I draw a line. Primarily – food. An actual statement spoken by me to one of my roommates a few weeks ago: “Do you know who left a half-eaten roll sitting on a magazine on the coffee table?” (that roll sat there for two days). Right now, I could easily replace the second half of that sentence with “…half of an opened stick of butter on the counter?” or “…a single rotting banana on the counter?”

I am probably borderline paranoid about food in some ways. I don’t like putting my food directly on countertops unless I known the countertop is clean. I don’t even like putting my utensils directly on the counter unless I know it’s clean. I always seal my food properly before putting it in the refrigerator and if there’s any question in my mind about whether or not food has gone bad, I throw it out. I honestly can’t even wrap my mind around the idea that someone would leave half of an opened stick of butter (sitting on the wrapper, at least) sitting on the counter for several days. This is the second time I’ve seen that, by the way.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Movie Reviews II

More movie reviews, including a bonus, extra-special, slightly-drunken review. (Please note that I was not drunk at 10:24 am when I posted this, just typed it up on a Friday night and posted it the morning after. I sensed you were judging me).

Stranger Than Fiction (2005): Let me get this out of the way - I. Love. This. Movie. I love everything about this movie. The writing, the story, the cinematography, the it all. Will Ferrell plays Harold, a dull IRS agent who can suddenly and inexplicably hear his life being narrated by an omniscient voice. There's the love interest (Maggie Gyllenhaal) - a feisty baker Harold is auditing, the literary expert (Dustin Hoffman) who's trying to help Harold figure out what type of story he's in and who the narrator is, and the narrator (Emma Thompson) who is actually an author writing a book about Harold (who she thinks is only a character). Do yourself a favor - forget what you thought about Will Ferrell before and watch this movie.

Punch-Drunk Love (2002): A downtrodden small business owner with seven nosy and belittling sisters and no social life has to deal with an escalating credit card scheme all while trying to start a relationship with the woman of his dreams. This was a strange movie. That's really all I can think to say. The plot is simple (and strange), but looking back it's also fairly solid. Like Will Ferrell in Stranger Than Fiction, Adam Sandler gives a surprising performance. Very understated and nuanced, especially coming from a man previously seen yelling about SnackPacks and beating up Bob Barker. If you typically like quirkier movies, you'll probably like this one. Otherwise, rent Spanglish for a more mainstream but still great performance from Sandler.

Sophie's Choice (1982): Let me get another thing out of the way - I want to be Meryl Streep when I grow up. And I think you do too. Set in 1947, Meryl Streep plays Sophie, a Holocaust survivor now living in Brooklyn with Nathan, an eccentric biologist (Kevin Kline) who had nursed her back to good health when she first arrived in America. Peter MacNicol plays Stingo, a young Southern man who moves to Brooklyn to be a writer. The three become best friends but as Nathan's behavior becomes more erratic, Stingo becomes curious about Sophie's life and what brought her to Brooklyn. She reveals her experiences during the Holocaust, including the heart-wrenching choice she was forced to make when taken to Auschwitz. Great performances from all three main characters and a supremely depressing story. You have to really invest yourself in the story - the choice is not revealed until the end, at which point you begin to understand Sophie's previous behavior. If you haven't connected to the movie prior to the final scenes, it probably won't resonate too much. It's long and it's slow at points, but overall it's a good movie.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)(slightly-drunken review): You know the story...steal from the rich to give to the poor while wearing tights and waving swords around yada yada yada. The main problem with this movie is that Kevin Costner does not at any point in time attempt to play baseball. If he had just taken a swing at a ball at some point in time or at least given a speech about baseball, it might have been a better movie. The acting is almost universally bad, and from actors who are normally pretty good (really, Morgan Freeman?) which leads me to believe that the script is probably the root of the problem. The script and a distinct lack of baseball are the roots of the problem. The only redeeming element for me was Alan Rickman, who seemed to realize that the script was shit and decided to just make the best of it and have some fun with the part. By the way, I changed the words of the Bryan Adams song to "everything I do...I do it for Rickman..." It's better that way. Trust me.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Entering, and Then Leaving, Las Vegas

This past weekend, I drove to Las Vegas to visit Cybill, who was in town for work and offered to let me stay at her hotel with her. She was essentially my sugar mama for the weekend, as we were staying in a posh suite at Mandalay Bay. Things we marveled over: two bathrooms, a phone in the bathroom, a tv in the bathroom, and a cool view of the strip (we were on the 25th floor). Yes, 75% of the marvelous things were related to the bathrooms.

Remarkably enough, I finished my work for my Monday class on Friday (don’t expect that to ever happen again) so I could have a carefree weekend. I left on Saturday afternoon and it’s about a 5 hour drive from Los Angeles, but it’s a much prettier drive than say…west Texas, so it wasn’t too bad. The route takes you right through the Mojave Desert and the mountains don’t even look real sometimes. Then Vegas just sort of pops up out of nowhere. We were both a little tired on Saturday night, me from driving and Cybill from jet lag, so we just went to the Bellagio to see the water show and then grabbed some dessert at a little pastry shop, at which point we literally saw three men and a baby. Specifically, we saw three men and beer and a baby. It was actually a little frightening.

Sunday we got up and walked all over the place. Mandalay Bay is connected to the Luxor, which is connected to MGM, which is either connected to or really damn close to New York New York. Either way, we wandered through those four for a bit, then went back to the hotel to see the Shark Reef. It’s a pretty neat little aquarium in Mandalay Bay…not sure it’s worth $17, but it was cool. And I can add an animal to my list of weird animals I’ve touched this year: skate. The others are zebra, rhinoceros, giraffe, and penguin. In case you were curious.

I took Cybill for her first In-N-Out Burger experience, then we took the monorail and saw Harrah’s, The Venetian, The Mirage, and Caesar’s Palace. We literally walked in circles most of the time because all of these places are ridiculously confusing and everything starts to look the same. We made several large and unnecessary circles in each of the casinos we visited. Over the course of the day, we passed at least 11 Starbucks. I say “at least” because we stopped counting after the 11th (I think the 24-hour Starbucks was the 11th.)

Speaking of Starbucks…a lot of Starbucks' now will put your name on the cup when you order so people don’t mistakenly take someone else’s drink. The first time Cybill and I went, I looked at her cup and saw that her name had become “Silva.” The second time we went, she said her name, then spelled it. It ended up on the cup as something along the lines of “Sybhill.”

Sunday night we went to dinner at House of Blues, conveniently located right in the hotel. Barbecue, booze, and blues…good night. I was up and out early on Monday for the drive back to L.A. so I could go to class that afternoon. Boo.

If I had to guess, I'd say that Cybill's favorite part of the weekend was when I explained various archaeological artifact-dating techniques. Surely a moment she'll never forget.

All-in-all, it was a great weekend. And no, I didn’t forget to tell you about the part where we gambled, because we didn’t actually gamble at all. I’m sorry. (The person that apology is for knows who he is…)

And now I must go do an assignment for my scary production class. More movie reviews coming soon probably.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hercules Would Never Make It in the FBI

There is a battle raging within the walls of my apartment complex. A battle so fierce and with such far-reaching consequences, that all who come in contact with its warriors can only shake their heads and wonder when the carnage will end.

It all started quite innocently enough. I was sitting in class with my friend, who I will call Hercules, for reasons very soon to be revealed. We were discussing television shows and which shows we will potentially be writing our research papers about. Hercules commented that he would like to write about the show Hercules, starring Kevin Sorbo. Classmate Hercules stated "In my mind, Kevin Sorbo is one of the finest television actors of the 90s."

Now, I have nothing personal against Kevin Sorbo.* He just committed a heinous and unforgivable sin. That's all.

What did he do to offend me, you ask? Did he make nasty remarks about one of my sisters? Did he spit on my grandmother? Did he kick a three-legged orphan puppy into a puddle of raw sewerage and shards of glass? No. To the best of my knowledge, Kevin Sorbo has done none of these things.**

His offense was much worse. Ok, maybe not worse than the spitting on my grandmother thing, because it's pretty ridiculous to spit on anybody's grandmother, but for the sake of effect let's just go with the much worse theme.***

I didn't really know anything about Kevin Sorbo for most of my life. I knew he was Hercules. I knew he had long hair (I don't do long hair).**** And that's about all I knew.

Until I came across an interview with Mr. Sorbo.

You see...back in the early 90s, an idealistic and apparently stupid young man named Kevin Sorbo auditioned for the role of Special Agent Fox Mulder on a new show called the X-Files. The part eventually went to David Duchovny (an excellent decision) and Kevin Sorbo went on to star in the tv show Hercules (good for him).

And he would have remained completely off my radar if it were not for his comments in an interview that happened across my path. In this particular interview, Kevin Sorbo dared to imply...wait for it...that he would have made a better Fox Mulder than David Duchovny.

I'm'll have to give me a moment to try and stop laughing at the thought of Kevin Sorbo playing Mulder...

...nope, not done yet...

Ok. I think I've composed myself. ******

Hercules and I continue to clash over this important argument. I promise to bring you updates about this ongoing battle as it develops.

*That's a lie.
**I don't know the man though.
***My grandmother would kick Kevin Sorbo's ass.
**** With the exception of Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall.*****
*****And maybe Johnny Depp in Chocolat.
******Still laughing in my head though.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What's a wind chill?

Lately I haven’t been doing much other than reading and writing. And going to In-N-Out Burger. And watching tv (which I consider research for my classes). So alas, I present you with another random collection of thoughts.

First, three points…

Religion point: there is a crucifix above the door in all of my classrooms.

Personal hygiene point: I shower every day, but I don’t have to wash my hair every day here. It’s glorious. And it’s saving me money on shampoo.

Class point: I joked about it above, but watching tv is actually a part of one of my classes. Just clips, but still awesome. So far we’ve watched clips from: The Twilight Zone, I Love Lucy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family, Super Friends, Harvey Birdman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twin Peaks, and Lost. And of all the things I could be assigned to write a 20 page research paper about, I’m guessing that a tv show of my choosing isn’t the worst.

Things I miss about home (other than family and friends, of course):

- Knowing where I’m going. I’m still in that awkward phase of feeling slightly uncomfortable when I’m out driving. Also, my Maryland plates make me a little self-conscious…like they all look at me and mark me as an outsider…damn hippies.

- Rain. I know that sounds crazy (because last I heard, you all back on the east coast are still getting poured on quite frequently), but I actually miss having a rainy day now and then. Apparently it does rain here occasionally, and I’ve seen it actually get cloudy a few times as well…but I miss those wicked summer thunderstorms, like the one that happened the night before we left to drive out here. I think Angela and I were both pretty sure we were going to die that night. It was awesome.

- Beer prices. People keep telling me how expensive L.A. is, but so far the only thing I’ve noticed with a higher price (other than gas) is beer. $10 for 6-pack of Sam Adams. About $2 more than back home, which doesn’t seem like a lot…but that $2 is one less cheeseburger at In-N-Out. I guess I haven’t noticed the price thing too much because Easy Mac, Ramen, and Pop-Tarts cost the same just about everywhere.

Random roommate conversations:

Note: All three of my roommates grew up west of the Rockies. Two are native Californians.

Convo 1:

Roommate 2: So like…snow days…
Me: What about them?
R2: They actually exist?
Me: Uh…yeah.
R2: That is so awesome.

Convo 2:

Roommate 3: I’m fine with earthquakes, but hurricanes…
Me: Seriously?
R3: Well we don’t get weather here, so hurricanes and stuff freak me out.
Me: We kinda get everything in Maryland, but nothing really to extremes. We get thunderstorms, hurricanes, snow storms, tornadoes…
R2: Tornadoes? What’s that like??
Me: Uh…scary?
R2: What do you do? Do you like…go outside to see it?
Me: You generally just get your ass to the basement. Haven’t you seen Twister?

Convo 3:

Me: I’ve never had a fish taco.
R3: You’ve never had a fish taco?!
R2: What do you eat on the east coast?!

Convo 4 (not really a convo, but it's the inspiration for the title. And by 'inspiration for' I mean that it is the title):

R2: What’s a wind chill?

Perhaps I will have more to dazzle you with soon...heading for Vegas this weekend...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Movie Reviews

It seems that I don't lead a very interesting life (don't listen to what Angela says, someone stole my phone and sent her those drunken text messages...). In order to fill in gaps I think I'll keep you posted on the movies I watch, whether it's for a class or in my personal time. These will probably be movies I've just seen for the first time, but some may be old favorites I re-watch.

Let The Right One In (2008) (class assignment): A 12-year old Swedish boy with morbid interests and problems with bullies falls for the mysterious girl who moves in next door. Turns out she's actually a vampire. I hate when that happens. It was an ok movie, I generally don't do the vampire thing but I get the feeling that this one is quite unlike all that Twilight stuff. It's essentially a coming of age story but, you know, with a vampire. Good if you're into darker subject matter. It's in Swedish but you have the option for English dubbing or English subtitles. It's also being remade in America...which means it more than likely will be a very different movie.

Stormy Monday (1988) (someone else's class assignment): A corrupt American businessman (Tommy Lee Jones) tries to buy out a jazz club (owned by Sting!) in Newcastle, England. His plan is foiled by Sean Bean and Melanie Griffith, because that's what they do. The action is slow and the plot is thin but it has a noir-ish feel and involves a Polish jazz band and a young Sean Bean. That's gotta be worth something, right?

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) (personal time...3 hours of personal time...long title, long movie): The title pretty much sums it up...a look at the last few months of the life of Jesse James. There's not a lot of action, only one robbery that I can remember. It's more about the decline of the infamous James gang and insight into Jesse's and Robert Ford's personal lives and motivations. The cast is excellent - Brad Pitt as Jesse James, Casey Affleck as Robert Ford, Mary-Louise Parker as Zee James (Jesse's wife), Sam Rockwell as Charlie Ford (Robert's brother), and some fantastic supporting character actors. I also loved the cinematography. There's a dusty and faded quality, almost like you're looking at an old tintype photograph. That all being's a slow movie. Watch it if you: like character-driven stuff, don't need explosions every 5 minutes to stay interested, and have 2 hours and 40 minutes to spare.

Something the Lord Made (2004 - HBO Original)(personal time): I actually first saw this movie a few months ago and then caught part of it again this morning. Two words for you: Alan. Rickman. A few more words for you: The true story of cocky cardiologist Alfred Blalock (Rickman) and his black janitor-turned-surgical assistant Vivien Thomas (Mos Def). Set in the 1930s-1950s in Tennessee and Baltimore, Blalock and Thomas's groundbreaking discovery of a treatment for "blue baby syndrome" is set to a backdrop of racial inequality. Great story, great cast, great movie. Watch it if you ever get the chance (they replay it on HBO now and then).

Monday, September 7, 2009

Things Overheard

I think there is a great need for me to let you know about the odd and amusing things that I overhear on campus, around the city, wherever. And so begins what will hopefully be a recurring topic known as Things Overheard (unless I, or you, come up with a more interesting title).

Today's Thing was overheard yesterday, while I sat on a bench on the edge of an aisle of palm trees, reading and enjoying the 75 degree temperature and pleasant ocean breeze. Not that I'm rubbing it in or anything...

So anycrap, this girl walks by on her phone and this is what I caught of her conversation:

"I had to go visit her and see the new bunny she got. [pause] Yeah. It's like...this illegal genetically-modified rabbit she got in the fashion district."

In other news, there have been several more Mr. California sightings. Two sources have given me the following details about Mr. California:
- He frequents the dining hall where he was first discovered
- He is usually surrounded by a "posse" of giggling females and wannabe males
- He is most likely an undergraduate, possibly even a freshmen

While my sources (both male graduate students) are certain that Mr. California is a freshmen and not a creeper who just likes hanging around freshmen girls, I am not convinced. When I asked for proof, they responded that they had seen Mr. California with his posse on a quad near the undergraduate dorms. My inquiries about two male graduate students trolling around by the undergraduate dorms were dismissed as "not the same" and "totally different."

Saturday, September 5, 2009

On Creatures Assumed To Be Mythical

The other night, I was sitting in one of the campus dining halls with a few friends, just shootin' the breeze after class. We were discussing classes, our previous lives, Megan Fox's stupidity, you know...the usual.

Suddenly, the door near our table swung open and in walked the most magnificent creature I've ever seen. Possibly the most magnificent creature I might ever see in the rest of my lifetime. I would say that he's half man, half god but really I think it's more of a 25-75 man-god split. 40-60 at the least.

He had the most beautiful blond hair cascading over his perfectly tanned skin, muscles bulging out of his colorful Ocean Pacific-esque tank top, and a saunter that could only belong to a surfer. A man-god surfer at home amongst the waves of the universe.

In short, he is the embodiment of Southern California. I call him Mr. California, and it is my new life goal to capture him on film and bring him to you all. He was last spotted sauntering down a sidewalk near the south entrance to campus. Stay tuned for updates.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Little Things

Random collection of thoughts and observations so far:

The very first thing I noticed on campus during move-in was that I was pretty much the only girl not wearing tiny shorts and a tight t-shirt or tank top. Some were even wearing dresses or skirts. Fortunately I'm not really the type to worry too much about how I'm dressed compared to others, especially on a manual labor sort of day (unless of course I look like a complete jackass, which to them I probably did in my hiking pants, t-shirt, and tennis shoes). Nonetheless, I found it amusing to think of all these clothing-challenged folk trying to haul their belongings all over campus. I was slightly disappointed when I realized that the sole reason they dragged their parents along was to do all the work for them. And when I say that their parents did all the work, I mean that their fathers did all the work. Part of me cringed as the mothers and daughters stood around talking, perpetuating the helpless female image. But the part of me that was pushing a wonky-wheeled cart overflowing with my boxes and bags thought "those lucky bitches."

The next odd thing I noticed seemed at first like it was perhaps just an anomaly. A single skateboarder rolled by on a sidewalk as Angela and I walked across campus. It struck me as odd because I couldn't remember the last time I saw someone skateboarding. I started seeing more and more skateboarders as the weekend progressed and I wondered if they would all be trying to do tricks all over campus and jumping off of anything they could, turning a walk to class into an obstacle course of flailing limbs. But when classes started on Monday and things were in full swing, there was no jumping, no sliding on railings, no shouts of "Duuude! You got mad air, bro!" You see...they actually skateboard here. a means of transportation. They roll to class, to the bookstore, to their dorms, they slap hands with other skateboarders, and sometimes they roll along really slowly while they're talking to people who are walking...and that's about it.


The other day, someone said something to the effect of "oh my god, it's sooo humid out!" It was cute.

I saw two barefoot guys in the bookstore the other day. The bookstore isn't really near any dorms or apartments.

From certain spots on campus, we can see smoke from the fires. Earlier this week it looked like a mushroom cloud from an atom bomb. I haven't noticed any difference in the air quality, but my roommate said her contacts have been messed up pretty much since she moved here.

We're close to the ocean so we get some nice breezes, but it does get hot here still. And the fact that it's a "dry heat" doesn't make any damn difference. When you're in the sun, you're baking.

I think I'll try the gym for the first time today. This should be an interesting experience...I can't wait to unleash my paleness on an unsuspecting population...

Continued Introduction

Picking up where I left off...

I moved into my on-campus apartment last Friday. I didn't actually get to unpack most of my stuff, because I didn't have any hangers or any additional drawers to put stuff in. So I mostly just updated myself on a weeks-worth of extremely important internet offerings - Facebook, fmylife, textsfromlastnight, awkwardfamilyphotos, failblog, etc. etc. etc.

I've now met all 3 of my roommates and everyone seems normal and nice so far.

Saturday morning was my program orientation. The faculty and staff all seem very nice so far. The dean is definitely a character...quite a cusser... At one point, he said "If my language offends anyone..." and we all figured he was going to apologize...we didn't expect this ending - "'re in the wrong field." Good times.

All of the students in my program seem nice as well. There are 12 screenwriting students, and I'm one of two women. Girl power.

Quite a few of the screenwriters and film production students are living on campus. In fact there are seven dispersed in the four apartments above mine, and two 2nd year students up there somewhere as well. We've all been hanging out and getting to know each other and all is well so far.

On Saturday night, we were all invited to an informal meet-and-greet with 2nd and 3rd year students from the program. We went to a local bar and it turns out that this bar (under it's former owners) was the inspiration for a certain bar in a certain animated series that I certainly love. Let's just of the highlights of my life so far. Try not to focus on how sad that is.

Sunday was a lazy-ish day. I went to Target, which ended up being one of the poorer life decisions I've ever made, since the Target I chose is situated nearby to my school as well as 2 or 3 others. The parking lot was ridiculously designed and it was a zoo inside. I got most of what I needed though, including hangers and drawers so I could actually unpack.

Monday was my first day of classes. My screenwriting class was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated.

You see, I was quite nervous before class. I haven't written much in a while and I'm probably a little rusty. I was expecting an intimidating professor to point and shout at me to "WRITE SOMETHING RIGHT NOW!" and then tell me that it was shit. Instead we have a very pleasant woman who started the course slow and easy. Then most of us went out to a little Mexican place near campus for dinner. $8 for a delicious quesadilla with homemade tortillas and tons of chicken...muy bueno. When I got home, it was the first time that all four of us in our apartment were home at the same time, so we sat up talking until after midnight.

So basically I was feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. Which was great because it probably made it much more fun for the universe to crush my soul on Tuesday.

My production seminar class was Tuesday and it was a bit more...intense. It's generally accepted that most screenwriters are not that interested in production. Well...I think there's generally an interest in the elements of it, but not in actually doing it. And this professor stated quite bluntly that while most production professors teach differently to screenwriting students (i.e. make it a little less involved), he will not be doing that. He also says "rad." We all left class with a slightly dazed look on our faces.

Ok so from here on out, I will try to avoid making this a day-by-day account of exactly what I'm doing, I just wanted to cover the basics that most people have been asking me about (roommates and classes). Hopefully this will become some wacky combination of:
- my East Coast-minded observations of life on the West Coast
- insight into the life of a graduate student
- random entertaining things that happen to me
- things that I say in my sleep

Just tell me if I'm being boring or if you want me to write about something in particular.


I understand that people have been wanting updates about my adventures on the west coast, so I figured that this might be the easiest way. I started a blog a few months ago when I went to Switzerland, updated once about the trip to New Orleans, then...nothing. Apparently nothing interesting happened between then and now.

But now...NOW...I'm in Los Angeles. And I'm told that that's interesting. So welcome to my new blog! I think I set it so that you can still comment even if you don't have a Google account...just leave your name so it doesn't just say anonymous.

Let me backtrack a bit just so everyone's on the same page... I'm starting as a grad student in Writing for Screen and Television at a school in L.A. I grabbed my trusty sidekick Angela and started the long drive to the Pacific on Saturday, August 22.

We stopped on Saturday night in Athens, Tennessee (a favorite little spot of Morgan's and mine - only this time no one rolled over in bed and woke me up at midnight to ask if we brought the $1250 check to pay the church in New Orleans). Sunday was a short driving day and we got to Vicksburg, Mississippi around 3 p.m. I taught Angela a very important Smith family driving rule along the way - if you can't see the gas station from the end of the exit ramp, get back on the highway and find another. Especially when there's a risk that you'll unknowingly end up in East Deliverance, Alabama...

We stayed with my wonderful cousin and her husband in Vicksburg on Sunday night. We went to the buffet at one of the casinos on the was delicious. Mmm...cornbread and sweet tea... The next morning we were up and out by 8 a.m. to start one of our long driving days. We got some awesome barbecue, or rather Bodacious Barbecue, as the restaurant was called, as soon as we got into Texas. There were seriously men in overalls and cowboy hats walking around. Yeehaw.

After that great experience, Texas betrayed us and revealed its true self: a vast wasteland of nothingness. Nothingness broken only by billboards for three things: booze, adult superstores, and churches. We finally made it to Odessa for the night, setting of the Friday Night Lights book, movie, and tv series. Along the way we happened to discover that a sane person's breaking point comes about 7 hours into Texas. How broken were our minds by the end of the day, you ask? Angela accused me of being a serial fairy killer (not a fairy serial killer, because that would imply that I'm a fairy), and in the hotel lobby I told Angela not to put her bags down because the floor was lava. Lava filled with sharks. Sharks with laserbeams on their heads. Texas will do that to you.

We got an early start again the next morning for another long-ass drive. We thought we'd seen the worst of it...but we were wrong. The scenery was actually nicer as we got closer to the mountains and all that good stuff, and at one point we were pretty much scraping the border of Mexico. Around the time we were passing through El Paso/Ciudad Juarez, we looked at the gps (who shall henceforth be called by her given name - Bernice) and saw that our arrival time in Phoenix was 6 p.m. It was about 1 p.m. at that point and I thought to myself "wow, only 5 more hours!"

Then we hit New Mexico.

Suddenly it was only 12 p.m. Welcome to the Mountain Time Zone. Also of note in New Mexico - they had border patrol set up and were randomly stopping cars. We were of course stopped and asked if everyone in the vehicle was a U.S. citizen. I blame Angela.

Anycrap, we're coasting along through New Mexico, which is not much better than Texas, and we're it rolls around to 2 p.m. and I'm thinking to myself "wow, only 4 more hours!"

Then we hit Arizona.

Suddenly it was only 1 p.m. Welcome to the Pacific Time Zone. Damn time zones.

We took pictures of all the nothingness, but I haven't had time to load everything onto my computer yet.

We finally made it to Phoenix (during rush hour...awesome) and settled in at my wonderful friends' apartment. I had built in an extra travel day just in case of an emergency, but since there were no emergencies we had the day off on Wednesday. We mostly just sat around and watched tv all day. It was glorious. Especially considering that it was 111 degrees outside. Thursday morning we were up and out by 8:30 for the drive into L.A.!

It's about a 6 hour drive to Los Angeles and it's more nothingness for most of the way. We finally started to hit the outer edges of the city around 1:30. The traffic wasn't too bad, kinda felt like the beltway at rush hour...but with palm trees. It was still hectic though just because it was all so unfamiliar to me. Bernice only let us down once, but she re-routed us very quickly and there were no problems. We got to the hotel, dropped our stuff in the room, then made a beeline for In-N-Out Burger. After not eating since breakfast, it was perhaps the most glorious hamburger I've ever eaten. We went back to the hotel and lay around in bed watching tv the rest of the night because we didn't have the energy to do anything else.

Friday morning was another bright and early morning - move-in day! We got to campus by 8 a.m. and did all the check-in stuff (which, by the way, made SU look like the ultimate champion-of-champions when it comes to move in). Despite the chaos and disorganization, we got my stuff moved into my apartment (I'm living on campus) and I got Angela back to the hotel to catch the airport shuttle. So I basically dragged her out of bed at 6:30 a.m., made her lug my belongings through a huge parking lot and into my apartment in 95 degree heat, then made her take a hotel shuttle to the airport for a 6 hour flight that was really 9 hours because of the time change. On her birthday. Whoops.

This post is long enough already, so I think I'll actually stop here and save the next phase for the next entry!

You stay classy, Maryland. (It'll be easier without me there...)