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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
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Friday, March 31, 2006

Rage Against The Machines

A few months ago, a teacher at my school recommended a book he read to me. The book is called High- Tech Heretic: Reflections of a Computer Contrarian. In a nutshell, it is one man's perspective on how schools are overly obsessed with making our children computer literate instead of literate, period.

As if the topic itself wasn't fascinating enough, consider, if you will, the source.

The teacher who gave this book to me ironically, is the computer teacher at my school.

Here's a book -all about how the high tech world is too hyped up and- the person who agrees most with this sentiment is more or less, working for "the devil".

High-Tech Heretic attempts to explain how too much emphasis is being placed on computers and their importance, so much so that we are losing sight of the bigger picture. As someone who has a direct link to both the so-called computer age with this blog and future of our youth, as a teacher, I feel I can play the cushy role of devil's advocate.

1. One thing the book states is there is a difference between having access to information and having the savvy it takes to interpret it. In other words, just because children are hip to high-tech ways does not mean they are any smarter than you or I.

If you've ever seen a child playing around on the computer, you'd know what I mean. Sure they might know how to double click, surf the web, and play a computer game faster than we could, but does that really make them smarter? If you want to know for sure, just have a conversation with a child when they are playing a computer game. More often than not they are clicking on images and links, hoping something will work. Eventually, they get the problem(s) right, but if you ask them to explain their rationale, (of course, without actually using the word rationale, duh) they can't. They just played around, banging the keyboard or clicking the mouse until they got it right.

2. Another topic the book explores is that most learing is just not fun. As a modern day teacher, we are taught to make our lessons more interactive and engaging. The more bells and whistles, the more entertained our students will be.

But does entertainment necessarily lead to enlightenment? When I was a kid, not all that long ago, we had some fun, but some things we just had to sit down and study. Multiplication facts, for instance. Sure, we can play all of these fun, online games but the bottom line is this. Anyone who wants to know their multiplication facts has to do one thing and one thing only. Are you ready? That is to M-E-M-O-R-I-Z-E. I had to do it. My parents had to do it. Their parents had to do it. The cavemen would have even done it, if they had known what it was. If we cater to these kids and make everything entertaining, they are going to be in for a rude awakening once they hit the real world.

3. Also in the book it says an inspiring teacher doesn't need computers and a mediocre teacher isn't improved by one. When I was in college, I thought for sure my classroom would be much more high-tech than what it is today. But then I saw the time constraints and the unrealistic expectations administrators put on teachers. On a high school level it might be a different story, but in my neck of the woods, computer based activities are often time consuming, not to mention fruitless.

The fact of the matter is that most of the software out there for kids is not all that inspired. It's amazing really. As far as I can tell, the market is wide open. I have some great ideas of how to marry the video game age and educational software that I'm actually surprised no one thought of it yet. It just might make me famous one day. Baby, remember my name.

4. Computers are expensive. Don't get me wrong. I love computers as much as the next guy. But as a teacher who has been at the mercy of a penny pinching budget I gotta ask, what is more important? That every classroom have computers or that every classroom have teachers? I know computers have come a long way, but I'd like to believe the answer is the latter.

The more and more emphasis we put on learning about computers, be it at the college level or even the elementary level, the less teachers we will ultimately need. But isn't part of learning the human interaction?

Another example. My district invested in a costly system to help catalog all videos and mainstream such processes as attendance and pupil grades. But there are so many quirks with the system that we were better off not having it. If I want to watch a video in my classroom, which is equipped with a television, I have to go through a set of 15 steps to get there. Thanks, but I think I'll just borrow the downright old-fashioned television on wheels from another teacher instead.

5. Sometimes less is more. Many times I will give my students a written assignment. For those that actually do it one of their first questions will be, can we do it on the computer?

Let me remind you that I teach third grade. Word processing is minimal. They do not know how to type and have to clumsily search for the right letter, or at least a letter they hope is right considering they often aren't certain how to spell the word, yet. Like I said, they are only in third grade.

They also don't know how to properly research for a report or save work they have produced. In one 45 minute session they might figure out how to mispell their name in 48 point italic rainbow font, but when it comes to getting their ideas down on paper they need to start with...paper.

Don't get me wrong. I like computers as much as the next blogger. But giving a child too much reign on a computer is just an accident waiting to happen. You wouldn't hand a rifle to someone without teaching them how to shoot, right? You also wouldn't hand alcohol, drugs or a car over to a minor and expect them to figure it out on their own. They're kids, they need guidance.

I'm not saying you need a license to type, but you should at least know where you're going on the superhighway of information.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Your Space. His Space. We All Scream For My Space.

No matter who you are or where you come from, everybody has someone or something they lost touch with. A lost love. An old high school friend. A cheesy eighties sitcom star. Whatever.

The internet is like the bridge that connects this gap. If there's something or someone you're looking for you no longer need the help of Sally Jessy Raphael to go find them. No, all you need is Google, a mouse and persistance.

A few years ago, before I started this blog, I joined an online network known as Friendster. Back then my mission was simple. I hoped to reconnect with old friends while networking with new ones. I have long wondered why it wasn't easier to meet up with people of common interests. Why it is that so many people hit a certain age and plateau and do not add any newbies into their circle of friends. I was going to break the Berlin Wall of friendship if it killed me.

Friendster allowed me to reconnect with some old friends, but mostly I was finding people I already talked to in my day to day life. No offense, but do we really need a profile online to communicate with people we just saw two hours ago? Unless of course, we all have different personas, a la Clark Kent and Superman. I'm sure a conversation with him would never be dull.

So while my Friendster profile was out in cyberspace collecting dust, someone brought to my attention the site known as My Space.

It wasn't as if I had never heard of My Space before, cause I had. I just didn't pay much attention to it. I had a Friendster space. By this time I also had this blog space. How much space does one person need to occupy anyhow?

Of course, just like with everything else, I figured if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. And so, God help me, I made like a good litttle conformist and joined the masses in the My Space march.

What happened next astounded me. My Space was like Friendster, only hotter. How did this happen? While I'm not cheerleader for Friendster, allow me to play the role of devil's advocate here. Friendster by far offers the superior interface. It looks more professional and it it doesn't move as slow as molasses either, like My Space does. They are also both free. So what gives?

Not only were people drawn to My Space like a bee is drawn to honey, they were also spending seemingly huge amounts of time creating a My Space profile of perfection. People add music. They add quizzes. There are even colorful backgrounds. All of these things will freeze up your computer, free of charge!

You also know these people are huge My Space fiends because they have the 1,543 friends to show for it. Where do these people come from?! It's like imaginary friends of the adult variety cause if you take the time to look at these people with 1,000 + friends you'll notice something. Most of them are not legitimate people like you or I. No, friends include "people" like Bob Ross, McDreamy or even the The OC.

Part of me gets a kick out of this. These people are having fun and who am I to deny anyone a little fun? But there does come a point where it all seems a little... pointless.

I know what you're thinking. Many of those folks could look at this blog and say the very same thing. Touche my friends. Touche. But I like to think I'm building something here. Something more than a community that fosters connections via empty "Happy Saint Patrick's Day!" comments and little else.

Although every cloud has a silver lining, also from every cloud a little rain must fall. My Space has gotten into the news a lot lately for being a hotbed of horrible activity. There are children posing as adults and adults looking to pose children. It's things like this that suck the fun out of being silly. Seriously.

Perhaps we should go back to the days when you found someone the old fashioned way, through the phonebook. There was no sublisting for your favorite tv show or your sexual preference. Just seven digits and 70,000 people who shared your last name. On second thought, maybe that's not such a great idea.

No My Space is fine, for now. Sure, it might put private eyes out of business and talk show hosts out of a job, but it also serves its purpose. People everywhere are smiling on their brother. Some are reunited and it feels so good.

And if I write about it here, maybe you'll even add me as your friend and make my space your space, too. Come on. All the cool kids are doing it.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Tell It To Me Tuesday "Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off To Tivo We Go..."

Hey kids? Do you know what time it is!? Why it's time to visit my new renter, Tiny Voices In My Head. She's a frequent visitor (and commenter) here and is nearly as sarcastic as I am. If you haven't visited her already, what are you waiting for? Go now!

About a month ago, Deann aka TV Goddess asked her readers an all important question. With permission, I'm using it as TITMT here.

The question was this: What's In Your Tivo? We want to know what shows you can't stand to miss, even if it takes you forever to actually find the time to watch them, like me.

To see her readers answers, click here.

My list on Deann's site doesn't count because it's been a month and as anybody who's ever been a chronic tv recorder knows a lineup of shows is ever changing. This is not to be confused with Everwood, which is not now, nor has it ever been, on my Tivo lineup.

And for all of you whiners who are going to say But I don't have a tivo!, be a little resourceful substituting vcrs where applicable, k?

I'll let you have the remote control back bright and early Sunday morning.
Monday, March 27, 2006

Senses Working Overtime

Last week my students took the all encompassing state test. You know, the one that tests you on a year's worth of material before the year is up? Yeah, that test.

Well, for better or for worse (but mostly worse) it's all over. Most teachers would relax around this time. But not I. No, now third grade has the burden of preparing for this year's third grade show.

Diehard AOGB readers may recall last year's show and how grueling and nerve wracking it was, mainly because I had a difficult class and because I had never prepared for a show before. I mean I signed up to teach, not direct. Then again, I guess I technically direct every day. Redirect, that is.

But last year we had awhile to prepare since the show was in June. But no one can hold the pimp spot forever, and so this year we were scheduled to go in April. Now that's all fine and good, if you could figure out how to get ready in time.

For starters, there was the teensy weensy problem of a theme; we didn't have one. Finally, we begrudingly settled upon the theme of Magic School Bus. I know, I wasn't thrilled with it either.

Magic School Bus are a series of books and videos that teach children about science based concepts such as Inside the Human Body and The Nine Planets. There's always the main character of Ms. Frizzle who takes the kids on different, wacky journeys and the plots are both silly and educational. If you're really interested, you can read about more of the themes here.

It's a complicated theme for a number of reasons. For starters, there are so many books to choose from. Then there's the challenge of making it educational yet entertaining since after all, it is a show. There's another burden of giving everyone some sort of a part and finally, finding the time to rehearse it all.

Initially we had a middle of April show date scheduled which, when I looked at the calendar, made me realize that we had something insane like 10 school days to prepare for the show. So I went to the other third grade teachers who also hadn't done anything yet and we moved it back. Now I think we're going at the beginning of May, which lends itself to procrastination, if only for a few days longer.

This is where you come in. The Magic School Bus theme I chose was Magic School Bus Explores The Senses. Remember, I don't like this time but it was the one I least detested, so I went with it.

My rough draft goes a little something like this. I have twenty-two students and there are five senses. Thus, there will be five groups with four or five students in each group.

There will be a designated speaker, chosen by me, to do the speaking part about the said sense. This is the educational portion of the program. Then the four of five students in each group will take turns acting out things related to their senses via musical montages put together, also by me.

Sound confusing? Let me try to clarify.

For instance, let's say we were starting with taste. "Sally" would go up and read all about taste for about a minute. Then the students would act out motions to clips of taste related songs or song lyrics. This is the entertaining part of the program.

So the challenge now becomes finding a few good songs that indirectly or directly have to do with each sense. I'm thinking a bar or two from each song, spliced together, five songs or so max for each sense.

Here's what I have bouncing around my head so far, all subject to change, of course:

I Feel The Earth Move
Lovin', Touchin' Squeezin'
U Can't Touch This

As tempting as it is, I Touch Myself cannot be used. It's third grade, people.

Doctor My Eyes
I Can See Clearly Now
When I See You Smile
Come See About Me
Sad Eyes
Private Eyes
Eyes Without A Face

Voices Carry
Say, Say, Say
Heard It Through The Grapevine
Let's Hear It For The Boy
I Heard A Rumor

Eat It
I Love Rocky Road
Hot Lunch Jam from Fame
Scenes From An Italian Restaurant
Cheeseburger in Paradise
I Want Candy
Food Glorious Food

Smelly Cat
Love Stinks
Stop And Smell The Roses
That Smell

Once again, another perfect fit, but the kids can't smell sex and candy, k?

Obviously, smell is the sense that is giving me the most trouble. Not in life, just in this project.

For the culmination, I was thinking about everyone dancing to the chorus of the song Senses Working Overtime which goes like this:

And all the world is football-shaped
It's just for me to kick in space
And I can see, hear, smell, touch, taste
And I've got one, two, three, four, five
Senses working overtime
Trying to take this all in.
I've got one, two, three, four, five
Senses working overtime
Trying to taste the difference
'tween a lemon and a lime
Pain and the pleasure
And the church bells softly chime.

So go ahead. Whip up your magic. Any and all, and I do mean all suggestions are welcome. With spring break also rapidly approaching, I've got only a few short weeks to make it happen.

So use the sixth sense when making suggestions, common sense, that is.
Sunday, March 26, 2006

Write Back Weekend: "Don't I Know You?"

This past Tuesday I asked you to check out My Heritage. Some of you had been there, done that. I've had the link sitting there as a potential TITMT for sometime now, but I never got around to actually writing about it. Whatever. Everything old is new again.

I've been trying to get better about taking pictures lately, but when I did this the first time, I scanned in an image that is a little over a year old. It's ok though because I pretty much always look the same.

This is the image I used:

The following are a list of people I allegedly resemble:

Joan Cusack
Mariah Carey
Zhang Ziyi
Beyonce Knowles
Lara Flynn Boyle
Pamela Anderson
Annette Bening
Yael Bar Zohar
Heather Locklear
Sarah Ferguson

Makes sense right? Since they all bare SUCH a resemblance to each other.

I'm Asian. I'm African American. I'm blonde. I'm brunette. I've got great bone structure. I've got no bone structure. My Heritage is all over the place.

Now I know that you can resemble somebody and not look exactly like them. Sometimes mannerisms play a big part in who you look like, other times it's just a hairstyle or a body type.

But those sort of things were really not taken into consideration when I scanned my picture in My Heritage. All they had to go on was the picture I chose.

Which brought up another interesting point. Would a different picture yield different results?

The only way to know for sure was to try again with a different photo. So I tried to scan in another picture of me on My Heritage. This time, it was rejected because the file was too big. I tried resizing it via Kodak's Easy Share program. Let's just say they didn't make it easy enough since I managed to crash the program each time I tried.

I don't know what that says about how I look.

In real life, the comparisons I have gotten have not overlapped at all.

1. Ami Foster. When I was a kid, one of my favorite shows was Punky Brewster. When I watched it years later of course, I knew better, but back then, it was the bomb.

There was a little snotty blonde girl named Margeaux on the show played by actress Ami Foster. When I was about six years old, a few people told me I looked like her. I loved her hair back then, so I was alright with that comparison.

2. Tonya Harding, but only from the back- I'm not proud of this one but I list it because of a specific comparison I was given. When Tonya Harding was in the news, comparisons were made from my hair in a ponytail to her hair in a ponytail. That's all. White trash accessories sold seperately.

3. Renee Zellwegger- Off and on over the years I've gotten Renee comparisons. I'm not really sure why. She has small eyes, I have big eyes. She has stringy hair, I've got thick hair. I mean there are worse people to be compared to, I'm just sayin'. Also it depends on with Renee you are comparing me to. Sometimes she looks great, while other times she looks horrible. I hope it's not the latter Renee that I somehow resemble.

4. Kristy Swanson- but when she looked like this, not this. You know, back in the days when she seemed like an innocent blonde actress instead a Playboy posing, husband stealing skank. Allegedly, of course.

5. Reese Witherspoon- Ok, so like one time, five years ago, I was going to be in my friends wedding. I had to get my hair and makeup and all of that stuff done, but I didn't know what I wanted to do. Back then, a friend at work said she'd help me put my look together. She told me to bring a picture of what I'd want to look like that day. So I brought in a picture of Reese Witherspoon because really, she is what I want to look like on any day.

I showed her the picture and, I'll never forget this, she said this shouldn't be hard, you already look like her.

This my friends, will stay with me till the day I die.

So you can keep your Mariah Carey, Tonya Harding and Sarah Ferguson comparisons. Reese Witherspoon is my twin. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Friday, March 24, 2006

Vacation, All I Never Wanted

Each year in late March/early April significant changes take place on the east coast. People become a little happier as the weather gets a little warmer. There isn't as much of a need to be cooped up in our homes and we start planning spring-like activities with a vengeance.

The other milestone of spring of course, is the tried and true staple, spring break. When you're little, spring break means getting the chance to play all day with no school. Then you get a little bit older and go to college. There you usually go away for spring break. You still get to play all day just like you did when you were little, but your idea of play has no doubtedly, changed a bit over the years.

My college experience was no exception. When I was a sophomore, a few friends and I decided to spend our college spring break in the sunny city of Cancun, Mexico. I hadn't been to all that many places in my life, so the idea of getting away, period was exciting. Plus in Cancun it was cool because you need not legally be 21 in order to drink, and thus why it is such a hot spot for horny spring breakers.

Leave it to me to be the only person, ever to manage to not have fun on their spring break vacation.

Agreeing to go on the trip was my first mistake. I mean I don't know what I was thinking. I'm not a crazy girl. I have a lot more fun watching the same movie 10 times than hooking up with 10 different guys. Plus, I had seen enough of MTV's Spring Break specials to know what I was in for. It wasn't like I hadn't been warned.

It was like I had blinders on. I went in thinking that maybe I needed to cut loose. The fact that I never cut loose in the state of NJ simply did not occur to me. They say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right? Why not add Mexico to the list?

I knew I was out of my element the second we arrived. I was with three other girls, two were old friends, one was a college friend of theirs. We went on one of those spring break college deals where all of your meals and drinks are included in the reasonable flat fee. By the way, there's a reason it's so reasonable and that reason is because it's crap.

The first sign things were awry was when we boarded what I now refer to as "the party bus" to the hotel. It was special transportation, provided by the same quality company that came up with the packages to begin with. As soon as you got on the bus you were handed a beer. In fact, I think the driver had one, too. In Mexico, all rules are thrown out the window. There was this guy who was all in your face, sloshing beer around about how much of a kick ass time you were going to have. He wasn't suggesting it or even anticipating it, he was demanding it. You will have fun here. After all, for many burnt out spring breakers this getaway from parents, rules and exams is like they've died and gone to a hedonistic heaven.

Not good ol' Janet. No, I looked around and had thoughts like, Oh my God, there is entirely too much alcohol on this bus. What if we crash? and I want my mommy.

Upon arrival at the hotel, things went from bad to worse. Like I said, I was with three other girls, none of which were hardcore partiers. However compared to me even they looked like they were living lives of debauchery.

One thing I quickly learned was what a spring break vacation to Cancun was not. A spring break vacation to Cancun is not full of site seeing, unless you count miscellaneous body parts as sites to be seen. It's also not full of down time and bonding. Bondage? Perhaps, but bonding, not so much.

What a spring break in Cancun is full of is drinking and lots of it. You want to work on your tan, you're drinking. You want to eat lunch, you're drinking. You're getting ready to go out and drink for the night're drinking.

One night, early in the trip, we went to this one club. My friends and I all started drinking at the same time, but they surpassed me very quickly while I held on to sobriety for dear life. Call me crazy, but I didn't like the idea of being out of control in a foreign country with no one to look out for me. Even back when I was 19 and most girls aren't thinking about those types of things, I was. It's the curse of being a goodie goodie.

My friends didn't have the same concerns. They were out to have fun, and so they did. As the night progressed, everyone's sobriety regressed. This one guy, who seemed nice enough, started hitting on me. At first he seemed like a decent guy, making conversation with the wallflower whose friends were bumping and grinding out on the dance floor. He even managed to get me out there, which is a feat that is not easy to do. But as soon as I was out there, I knew I was out of my element.

Let's get one thing straight. Baby got it right in Dirty Dancing. This is my dance space. That's your dance space. Say what you will, but I'm not into PBAG...public bumping and grinding. Keep the closeness to the confines of your own home, or at least someone you've known for more than 10 minutes, k?
So before I knew it, Mr. Nice Guy turned into Mr. Gotta Get Me Some Guy right before my eyes. He obviously thought I was drunk, too. He thought wrong. After a few gropes were intercepted, he inevitably gave up. This is when most guys would go slinking back to their drinks while staking out new prey. This kid did one of those things. He didn't get another drink, but he did get another girl, the friend that was with me.

Now silly me assumed my friend, the level headed girl she was, would see through his drunken advances and, not knowing whether or not I liked him, would brush him off. But she didn't. I turned around and they are dancing and kissing, right there on the dance floor. I was shocked. It was all like some Jerry Springer episode gone bad.

Since my friend was not the type of girl to love 'em and leave 'em and apparently neither was he, they hung out most of the trip. I might have been ass backwards in my approach but so were they. I mean who turns a drunken spring break hook up into a five day relationship? By the end of the week the boy admitted he had a girlfriend back home. This is around the same time my friend regretted her drunken mistakes just as I had regretted going on the trip to begin with.

Meanwhile, back at the bar, I was dumbfounded by all the dumb people I was finding. None of my friends were sticking together. Everyone was hooking up with everyone else. It was all sort've like some episode of The OC where they are partying at the beach, just before things get really, really bad.

I was tired, I was cranky and I wanted to go home, otherwise known as the hotel. So I found my one friend who was the least obliterated of the three and she was concerned about finding her sister, the girl who had hooked up. So neive, sober girl goes up to the bar to ask the bouncer and the bartender for help.

Let me just say this. If you ever, in a bar full of drunk spring breakers and you ask a native for help, YOU are the crazy one. These men looked me up and down and not in a concerned way if you know what I'm saying. Then they started saying "no habla Englais" when it was clear they understood what I was saying. They understood, only they didn't care. And we wonder why people like John Stossel have so many stories to report.

That night I was so excited that all of us got home safely, though not at the same time. I learned a hard lesson. You cannot make someone do what they don't want to. I didn't want my friends and I to be seperated that night. I didn't like the feeling, but I couldn't do anything about what they did. So instead, the stubborn girl I was, decided the only person I could be responsible for was myself.

When I said I never did anything crazy during spring break I only half lied. What I did next most would call the craziest thing of all. I stayed at the hotel the rest of the nights they went out. We hung out during the day, I lounged by the pool and we ate dinner together. Then we went our seperate ways. I didn't like the scene, but I also didn't want to be a downer. I felt if I continued to go out they would have been miserable and I would have been miserable. The only solution I could come up with was to not go out with them at all. It was weird and hard to explain, even now, but it worked. Sometimes one of these things is just not like the others.

After I made my decision, I was happier. Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse they did. When it was time to leave I realized I could not find my passport. Suddenly, my worst fears had come true, I was going to be stuck in spring break hell forever, destined to apply for citizenship and co-host shows like Spring Break Karaoke for the rest of my life.

I don't remember all the details, but at the airport that same friend fought for me and I ultimately was accepted back into the country. It was then that I saw another new side of her, the kickass and take names side. I liked this side.

All stories aside, we left the trip with our friendships still intact. We don't talk much anymore about that time, but I think we all learned a lot each in our own ways.

My friends learned not to go on spring break ever again with me. I learned that MTV's spring break specials are much more real than their show, The Real World has ever been, ever.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006

You Got Served

Please go visit Doug over at Waking Ambrose. It's a highly intelligent site with a word of the day, blogging style. Doug has guest readers define words specially chosen for them. I was given gregarious. Go check out my post and, others. Don't forget to tell Doug I sent ya!

This past weekend I watched the movie Waiting.... While the film itself was nothing to blog home about, an underlying concept in the storyline was definitely food for thought.

Waiting... is one of those cute, double entendre titles that works so well. I should know, I use them here all the time. The movie was about a bunch of people who work as a wait staff at a restaurant. But as anyone who has ever waited on tables knows, (not that I would) usually you're waitering as you "wait" for something bigger to come along. A college degree. A break in acting. To be the manager at Chili's. Whatever your cup of tea.

One of the things they focus on is how you should be careful who you piss off. Apparently waiters and chefs are the disgruntled link in the necessary restaurant and fast food chain. Although they often only get paid minimum wage, they hold the undeniable power to make or break your dining experience.

Sometimes you can do something to aggravate your waiter or the chef, but other times, their frustration might have nothing to do with you. That doesn't mean that just because you weren't the cause that the effect still can't be a "soggy" casear salad.

It is the unknown that, when I think about it, scares the hell out of me. I eat out all the time, and when you do, you are truly playing Russian dressing roulette. Sure, the minority of people in the restaurant business might be incompetent slobs, but the chances of you encountering at least one of them without knowing it is staggering.

I remember one year in high school I had a few of what I like to refer to as "near dining experiences". Within a few short months I found hair that eww, wasn't mine in my food. One time I even found a bug in my salad. Then there was the time when my soup tasted entirely too much like dishwashing liquid. Hey, at least I know they cleaned the dishes, right?

A few weeks ago my friend ordered a salad. She found a sell by date at the bottom of the bowl, but wasn't going to make a big deal out of it. She has, off and on, worked in the food industry her whole life. Besides, with the sell by date intact, she knew it was fresh. But a few bites later, she luckily caught herself before eating a piece of plastic. Talk about kicking things up a notch.

Most of the time when these meal mishaps happen, the managerial staff is extremely apologetic and tries to be accomodating. Sometimes their apology is just a shrug and a smile, but nothing really says I'm sorry like a free meal. Yet the big question remains. Do you chalk it up as an accident and risk dining there again or do you consider that the restaurant's last supper?

Although much of the time the quality of food is, literally, out of your hands, I believe there are things you can do in order to avoid getting screwed a la mode.

For one thing, do unto others as you'd have done unto you. If your food comes out under or overcooked, bring it to the wait staff's attention, but don't make a big scene out of it. Many times, the waiter or waitress gets the brunt of the frustration when all they did was carry the food from point A to point B. Don't shoot the meal messenger folks.

Just as food is all in the presentation, so is your attitude when the presentation isn't up to par. If you refuse the free meal or continue to complain and still accept the free meal, your risk of feeling the wrath of the cook increases. This is true of every profession, everywhere. Nasty complaints might get your furniture delivered on time, but the same doesn't work with fondue. It just doesn't.

Finally, and this is important so gather 'round, don't stiff with the tip. These people make next to nothing. So your shitty tip might have you out the door, but it also might be the next customer's misfortune. An extra dollar or two isn't going to kill you. If it does, you probably shouldn't be eating out to begin with. So there.

Of course these are just savory suggestionss. Nothing can fully prevent you against E. coli or attitude.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Tell It To Me Tuesday "Doing A Double Take"

Have you ever been walking down the road and swore you saw someone who looked just like someone else?

Or maybe the roles have been reversed and other people have told you that you have a twin somewhere?

Well if either of these things has happened, have I got the website for you. It's called My Heritage and it's the closest thing to a scary family tree that you will ever find.

For free you can scan a picture of yourself and My Heritage will scan their database, letting you know which celebrities are your doppelgangers.

So go, have some fun. Then return and let me know what My Heritage has chosen for you. Don't be afraid to include any other comparisons you've gotten in the real world either!
Monday, March 20, 2006

A Place In The Line

It's another week and so you know what that means, there's another renter. Please join me in welcoming The Pink Shoe to The Art of Getting By family. She is not to be confused with The Pink Pen Papers, another renter from another time. Of course you can go visit her, too. Whatever floats your boat.

Sometimes I swear I must have the most argumentative bunch of third graders, ever.

He took my pencil. She said she's not my friend. He said something about my mom.
The list goes on and on.

Eventhough they are only eight and nine years old, I feel like they an awfully depressed bunch most of the time. If only they knew about the things in life that should really cause you to get angry. I even have a few students who I believe are clinically depressed. I mean I'm no doctor, but one made up an imaginary friend a few months ago. Not only is third grade a little old to be making up imaginary friends, she even gave the friend an imaginary death.

Then there is another boy in my class who throws up, no kidding, every day. He's a highly eccentric, highly unusual kid. Picture the SNL character of Debbie Downer as a preteen and you've got him. About the best I can do for him is to always sit him close to the garbage can. It's amazing how you easily you can become desensitized to puke.

But the one third grade gripe that gets my goat more than any other is when they line up. Walking in a line is not hard. People have been doing it for ages. In fact, I remember being in elementary school and when the kids were making a lot of noise on the way out to recess, we would practice walking quietly in a line. It seemed so harsh back then but now, I know better.

A line is simple. One behind the other. In order to avoid line related woes, I even made up a line order at the beginning of the year. This way this person wouldn't be with this person and there would be no arguing. Only they rarely, if ever, stuck with it and everyday I found I had to remind them where there place in the line was. It so wasn't worth it. Sometimes you just gotta pick your battles.

So instead, I usually call them to line up by tables or rows or however they're sitting. I look for the quietest children first. There's also a job of line leader that a different student has every week along with two door holders, one who should be in the front, on in the back (since there's more than one door).

Despite all of this effort at order, not chaos, at least once a week, if not once a day I see students fighting for their place in line. One person gets a step in front of you and there's pushing, shoving and racing like you wouldn't believe. If you want to know where road rage starts, look no further than the hallways of the elementary schools of America.

Now I wouldn't be that angry if there wasn't a system, but there is. Everyone gets a turn to be the leader of the pack. And if you're in the right place the first time around, there's no need to get there later on.

It's even more problematic considering my school has a huge set of stairs we have to take nearly everywhere we go. As if pushing and shoving wasn't bad enough on one floor, it also occurs on the stairs. I'd understand if we were practicing for The Amazing Race but we're not, we're just 23 people trying to get to places like art class in one piece.

Usually, when I witness petty line related fights I solve them by sending both students to the back of the line. They sulk their way to the rear, still glaring at me, and each other. What can I say? It's a small price to pay.

As if the cutting each other off in line wasn't bad enough, they do the same thing when they're trying to get my attention in class. If they need help on an assignment, for instance, which they always do, they make a line by my desk. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've been clearly talking to a student when another kid comes up and just starts talking to me, too. When this happens I always say the same thing, Can you not see ____ talking? They sheepishly apologize and continue to "wait", hopping up and down as if they were going to tell me about a four alarm fire. Usually the urgency revolves around something far simpler like, Can I have a drink of water?

Then there are the times they cut me off when I'm teaching. They call out, interrupting my lesson. This happens all the time. I have plenty in my bag of tricks to deal with this but my favorite has to be when I tell the child:

Do I look like I need a back-up singer?

They chuckle, but it usually shuts them up right away. At least for a good five minutes or so till the whole cycle starts all over again.

I'd love to say it gets better, but I'm afraid when you're an adult, waiting in line is just as frustrating. People cut in line all the time. Waiting for the bathroom at concerts. Returning things to a store. Playing the sneaky, I was there all along bit when trying to get on a popular ride. None of this is anything new. You think kids take it too far, just check out their parents.

In my mind, waiting in line is like a euphemism for life. We're all waiting for something, sometime.

In fact, some might say life itself is one big grand waiting room. One day, everyone's number comes up. You just gotta learn to read between the lines, and bring a magazine while you're waiting.
Sunday, March 19, 2006

Write Back Weekend "Lucky Charms"

In honor of Saint Patrick's Day, last week's TITMT asked you two questions:

1. Do you consider yourself to be a lucky or unlucky person? Why?
2. If you could wish for anything, what would it be and why?

Saint Patrick's Day is the one time of year, more than any other, we talk about luck. Four leaf clovers. A rabbit's foot. Something borrowed, something blue. Ace's soon to be trademark beanie. All of these are items have one thing in common, we are trained to believe they will bring us good luck.

When you were a child, you might recall the first time you were seperated from that special item. You didn't know how you'd be able to go on without the beloved blanket or favorite doll. But time marched on and eventually, so did you. Some of us outgrow superstitious attitudes toward luck, opting instead to believe you make your own luck. Some of us carry good luck charms with us to this day, even if the charms themselves have become somewhat more "sophisticated" over the years.

As for me, I like to think I'm a mix of the best of both worlds. I believe in luck, and I am all for symbols of such luck. I mean if someone wears a shirt and thinks it brings them happiness, who are we to begrudge them that happiness by way of apparel?

To me, it's impossible to talk about luck without talking about luck's close cousins. You may know them. They go by the names of "fate" and "destiny". Some people believe luck is what got them where they are in life, while others believe it was fate or destiny and thus, meant to be. Both theories make sense but after all, they are both just that, theories. No one knows for sure if there is such a thing as luck or if fate rules us all. In a way, all three of them bum me out because they take the "me" out of the equation. God may have a master plan, but I'd like to believe I can still add another room to the blueprint, if you know what I'm saying.

As for whether or not I consider myself to be lucky or unlucky, I think the answer would vary depending on when you asked me. Growing up, I know I would have described myself as being unlucky. I thought a lot of bad things happened to me and I didn't understand why. But I also believe that everything happens for a reason. I'm still waiting for the reason, but I digress. Now however, I can at least put things into perspective and realize that sometimes I can chalk things up to having "bad luck" but that my luck could always be much, much worse.

Finally, wishes. What I would wish for. Anytime anybody asks this question I always think of the great Christmas monologue on SNL featuring Steve Martin. Of course I'm no exception. Let there be peace on Earth people, and let it begin with me.

But that's not the sort of wishes you want to read about on a blog, cause really, although practical, what fun are those?! So instead, here are a few semi-selfish, semi-silly things I would wish for because you know you want to read it:

1. I wish there could be more time in a day. I'm thinking maybe a 26 or a 28 hour day, 30 max. Think about it. You'd have a few extra hours to accomplish all you set out to do and even more time left over for an actual life. Kids in school wouldn't necessarily appreciate this one, but in the long run, an extended day would kick ass.

2. An electric jacket that gets warm in the winter. This seems like such a simple invention. All it is really is an extension of the electric blanket idea. It would be like the cool seat warmers so many new cars come with. You can shut it on or off, or for a little extra, you can have an automatic off switch once it reached a certain surface temperature. You and I both know that no matter how nice the coat, it only keeps you so warm. This is why an electric jacket is a must have.

3. The ability to time travel. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure might have been a silly movie, but then again, they were on to something.

4. Men and women could switch places for a week. Enough of this Tyra Banks talk show nonsense, if you could TRULY switch places with someone else for even a short period of time and walk a mile in their shoes, literally, I think we'd all be a lot better off.

5. I'd wish for more wishes. Sure, it's a classic right up there with "times infinity", "no backsies", and "I know you are but what am I?" but there's also a reason why it's a classic. It's THAT good. If you were given x amount of wishes and didn't wish for more? Well then, shame. on. you. Throwing away perfectly good wishes like that.
Friday, March 17, 2006

Erin Go Blah's

A top of the morning and happy Saint Patrick's Day to ya! Since my last name is Branagan, I would feel remiss if I did not acknowledge the holiday, although somehow I didn't do anything on it last year. I look the part too, only I feel like a fraud considering I'm 50% Italian and only something like 25 or 30% Irish. Shh, don't tell anybody.

Every Saint Patrick's Day there are three things I do to get me "in the mood".

First, sometime in the month of March, I get a mint flavored, shamrock shake from McDonalds. This year I was even tempted to add a little vodka to make it extra magically delicious, but I never did. The other things I do is wear green and eat cornbeef and cabbage, though not necessarily at the same time. That would too much like Irish overload.

I always found St. Patrick's Day to be a bit of an odd holiday. If you ask me, it's just an excuse for all Americans, no matter their nationality, to shack up with the shamrocks. Why? Well, because the Irish are known primarily for two things: adding an O' or a Mc to everything and getting hammered.

Which brings me to why I'm writing about St. Patrick's Day to begin with. What do the Irish really bring to the table anyway? Now I can say this because again, I'm part Irish. You know the rule. But let's review, quickly some of the things the Irish are most famous for:

1. Drinking
2. Cornbeef and Cabbage
3. Irish Soda Bread
4. Shamrocks
5. Aidan Quinn
6. Leprechauns
7. Irish Spring Soap
8. Riverdance
9. Bono
10. Lucky Charms cereal

Don't get me wrong. I love all of those things. You can't see me, but right now but one quarter or so of my Irish eyes are smiling.

But to celebrate, more or less, the same things year after year seems a little bit redundant, doesn't it? Meanwhile, the rest of the year I feel like my ode to the Irish should be taken from the lyrical pages of Ms. Janet Jackson, What have you done for me lately?

I feel so uniformed the other 364 days. What do these people when they aren't adding food color to their beer? Are they really searching for the pot of gold at the end of every rainbow? What is up with their fascination with potatoes, anyway?

No, if I'm going to celebrate a holiday like St. Patrick's Day, I want to do it right. I want to KNOW Patrick, if you know what I'm saying. I don't want him to be the relative I invite over my house one time a year, only to say we have to get together more often, but we never do. I want my relationship with Ireland to be meaningful. It should be more than a drunken one night stand in mid March.

Someday I'll find it. The rainbow connection. The Irish, the leprechauns and me.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Lost In Translation

Sometimes I think about how much it must suck trying to learn a new language.

I mean I kind've know how these people feel. I took French for 6 years and one semester in college. When all was said and done, I can tell you very little vocabulary, can read nothing and can't write in French no matter how many times you say si vous plait.

But there comes a point, no matter who you are or where you are living, that even I must say enough is enough. For instance, if you've been living (or working) in France for years you should, at the very least, know how to say Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir? If you've been in America for awhile you should know how to say certain key phrases such as Where is the bathroom?, I'll have the chicken and Evening, officer.

This is why it continually amazes me how Hollywood stars get by on being debonair, not by learning dialect. I mean they have personal coaches that can help speed up the process. You and I have that, too. Only ours come with fun titles like Learn English in 1,2,3!

Hollywood stars, meanwhile, have an actual, live person helping them along. This is also, by the way, precisely the same reason I used to get mad that when many teen stars got accepted to Ivy league colleges. They were never smarter people. If you had a one on one coach teaching you how to classify triangles, you'd seem like a genius, too.

There are Latin stars like Antonio Banderas who annoy the hell out of me, but my real beef is with Salma Hayek from Mexico and Penelope Cruz, from Spain. People confuse them all the time. I can't see why but just for fun, let's clear this up now. Salma is the pretty one. They also come from completely different countries. Thinking otherwise reminds me of this great part from the movie, Clueless.

Cher: Lucy, the fire department called again. They said we need to clear out that bush. You said you'd get Jose to do it.
Lucy: He your gardener, I don't know why you no tell him.
Cher: Lucy, you know I don't speak Mexican.
Lucy: [storms off]
Cher: Great, what was that all about?
Josh: Lucy's from El Salvador.
Cher: So?
Josh: So, it's an entirely different country.
Cher: What does that matter?
Josh: You get mad if anyone thinks you live below Sunset.

But back to Penelope and Salma. They may have dual citizenship, they may not. All I know is that they have both been acting in America for years, yet their accents seemingly remain as thick as the day they first set foot on a soundtage. I mean, what is up with that? Donnie Wahlberg used to be a straight up cat from Boston, but even he took a class or two to bring it down a notch.

Perhaps the biggest offenders, however, are the king and queen of No Comprende, the Spanish born Charo and the Austrian born Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Let's start with Charo, shall we? Charo has been acting in America since the 1960's with a career spanning five, count 'em uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco decades now. Yet somehow, despite all the Love Boat and Fantasy Island appearances we are expected to believe that Coochie! Coochie! Is the best her English is ever going to get?! Come. On. Now. I don't buy it. It was cute, for the first decade and a half. You, bumbling and stammering your way through stringing a sentence together, not unlike the way a three year old does. Since then though, it's just been annoying. By the way, Bjork, take out a pen and paper cause this segment of the post is also for YOU.

Then we have Arnold, excuse me AHHnold. Arnold started his career as a body builder who happened to fall into movies who happened to fall into becoming Governor of California. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Though Arnold's career path has grown and blossomed, one thing has remained the same; Arnold's incoherent speech pattern.

Now I've never been to Austria but I'd like to think that if I lived there for 20 plus years I'd start to take on a little but of their mannerisms. Not Arnold. He's Austrian through and through, except for the governing of a US State, that is. Just count your lucky stars he can't run the whole country or no one would have a clue what he was saying. Then again, that wouldn't be all that different from what we have now, would it?

But for every Salma, Penelope, Charo and Arnold on the horizon, there are those that go and do the exact opposite. I'm talking about American born actors who wake up one day think they are from another country. Performers like Chicago born Billy Zane, Michigan raised Madonna and California girl, Gwenyth Paltrow. I choose to list all of these three at the same time because they all suffer from the same, horrible epidemic: American born actors who believe they are British, or Brimericans. It's a sad affliction really, that fortunately, only affects a low percentage of the acting population.

Of course, there is always hope. For every foreign star who butchers the English language, there are those that reinvent themselves to sound American without a trace of their ancestory to be found. English character actors Bob Hoskins and John Mahoney have been doing this for years now. Lately, another inconspicously English actor has gotten in on the act, Hugh Laurie. You might have even seen Irish actor Jonathan Rhys-Meyers strut his stuff as the Memphis born Elvis or Australian actress Judy Davis portray Minnesota sweetheart, Judy Garland and never have suspected otherwise had I not told you.

In fact, for years, it's been the Brits, the Australians and the Irish that have amazed me. Hell, even Phil Collins intrigues me. How that man, and many others like them, sound American when they sing, and British when they do everything else has gotta be like, the eighth wonder of the world.

So in conclusion, if you're an actor or actress that's been in America awhile now, get the broken English fixed already, won't ya?
Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tell It To Me Tuesday: "As Luck Would Have It"

Oh me stars! With St. Patrick's Day rapidly approaching, I am dedicating this week's TITMT to the men in black green.

What I want to know is this:

1. Do you consider yourself to be a lucky or unlucky person? Why?
2. If you could wish for anything, what would it be and why?

My answers will be posted this Sunday.

That's all for now. Goodnight and, of course, good luck.
Monday, March 13, 2006

How To Succeed In Blogging Without Really Trying

Awhile ago I wrote this post, and then never mentioned the idea again. It's not like I haven't wanted to write more about this, but it has become what I commonly refer to as a "back burner post". It never seemed to be the right time to do it justice. Since inspiration never really struck it's all about timing and now's as good as time as any to just bite the bullet and put it out there.

As many of you already know, AOGB has been around a little over two years now. There are many things I want to do to this site not unlike the maintenance type stuff most people do to their houses, only I don't have a house to maintain, I have a blog to maintain. At least I know there won't be any nasty paint fumes.

One of the things I want to create is an AOGB store. The best way I know to do this is to use Cafe Press to create merchandise such as cups, bumper stickers and t-shirts. I think people might buy it. I mean I hope people might buy it. I'm taking a Field of Dreams approach on this one, If I build it, buyers will come.

This is where you come in. They say no man is an island, right? So what I need is a few good skippers to chip in and help pitch the sails, err, sales.

Although I know about Cafe Press, I don't really know much about creating a kickass graphic for the items I want to sell. I was hoping all of you would have advice in that department. I'm not a designer, never claimed to be. I just blog here.

I have a few ideas of what I want, but what I'm really looking for are people who are good at this who know better than me what I want and will show me what I want. I will look at what they create and say Now THAT'S what I wanted. How ever did you know?!

This person might be you. Or it might be your cousin. The point is, you don't know until you ask, so I'm asking, nicely. Can you help a graphically challenged blogger out? I'm opening this "contest" up to anyone and everyone who wants to take a crack at it.

Before I part, I know I must answer the all important question, what's in it for me? I've thought long and hard about this one. I know AOGB can't get away with being cute and batting eyelashes. It's a blog for Pete's sake. So what I offer you is this. If you end up creating the graphic or concept of my dreams and help my dream in essence come to fruition, I will in turn, buy you the item of your choosing from the future AOGB store. If this sounds good to you, then I hope you take me up on my offer.

If you're interested in knowing more, or even want to scold me for trying to whore out my blog, feel free to do either in the comments section or via email. Also, if you are graphically challenged like me, but think you have a good idea, throw me a bone. Who knows? Maybe there's a AOGB pin on your horizon, too.
Sunday, March 12, 2006

Write Back Weekend: "Hit Me Baby One More Time"

My new renter this week is Pink Pen Papers. I'm pleased to have her here as she was one of the first blogs I rented from. Go visit her and tell her I sent you. Pretty in pink, please?

This week I gave you the tall order of recalling the best and worst sequels of all time.

I say this was a daunting task, because as I sat down to write about the very same topic, I realized that I had a hard time recalling the BEST or the WORST. This is because sequels are everywhere and since there are too many unnecessary sequels, subsequently there are too many crappy movies out there to wade through.

The one thing I will say is this- if a sequel is going to be made there should be a general rule of thumb. The sequel in question should be as good as (if not better than) the original movie in some respect. It also should be a movie that should be able to stand on its own two legs, with or without the prior installment(s). This is my formula. However Hollywood has a far different recipe. It goes a little something like this- if there's even the slightest chance it is going to make them some money, no doubt, a part two or three or four, will be made.

Forgive me, but I'm not going to call my list the "best" or "worst" of all time. My choices are also not going to be traditional. Why? Because most of you covered the majority of the traditional choices in the comments and really, what fun would that be? I also will not get into a "nerdoff" about which Star Wars, Star Trek etc was better because it's just out of my league. Oh yeah, and I just don't care. Instead, I'm just going to write about what came to my mind and my thoughts on them. I will call them the bad and the good.

The Good

1. Grease 2- I know what you're thinking. HOW CAN GREASE 2 BE A GOOD SEQUEL? HOW CAN IT BE BETTER THAN THE ORIGINAL?! If you'd just calm down for a minute, I'd tell you. Any little girl who watched (and fell in love with) Grease loved everything about it. So when I discovered there was also a Grease 2, I was beside myself with glee. Is Grease 2 the same caliber as Grease the original? Hardly. But while Grease 2 is no doubt one of the cheesiest movies of all time, it's also a whole lot of harmless fun.

2. Airplane 2- Airplane 2 had nearly all of the same characters of from the first Airplane, but the series was hardly plot driven. Airplane 2 was merely another installment of silly gags and quotable one liners. The same formula was followed for the Naked Gun series and for Hot Shots , although Airplane did it first and also, I believe, did it best. Just the title, Naked Gun 33 1/3: Final Insult let you know that you were in for sheer silliness. Silly is hard. It's like sanity. There's a fine line you can easily cross. Airplane 2 walked the line perfectly.

3. Vegas Vacation- Here's another example of a great movie that cannot top the great original in the series. Yet this movie does pretty well if you don't realize it's got a prettier, older sister that caught our eye first. In total, there were four vacation movies made: National Lampoon's Vacation, European Vacation, Christmas Vacation and this one. For years I was convinced to be a kid in a vacation movie was the kiss of death. Anthony Michael Hall though, luckily bounced back. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Dana Hill, the daughter in European Vacation. Although Chevy Chase makes the series work, the recasting of the kids (who never seem to get any older) was always interesting. I was ecstatic when this particular installment came out because as anyone who knows me knows, Ethan Embry, whom I love, played Rusty Griswold. Ok, so maybe I'm a little biased. Sue me.

4. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me or Goldmember- While I enjoyed Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, these are examples of sequels that managed to keep the momentum going with each installment. In fact, as the years go by, I tend to forget which great one liners go with which movie. To jog your memory, the second one had such great parts as:

Fat Bastard: I want my baby back baby back baby back baby back baby back baby back ribs. *Chili's* Baby back ribs.

Dr. Evil: Look, I'm Zippy Longstockings.

While the third had:

Dr. Evil: Our early attempts at a tractor beam went through several preparations. Preparations A through G were a complete failure. But now, ladies and gentlemen, we finally have a working tractor beam, which we shall call... Preparation H.
(Scott snickers)
Dr. Evil: What?
Scott Evil: Why don't you just call it operation ass-cream, you ass.
Dr. Evil: I'm sorry, did you say you want some ice cream?
Scott Evil: Yes, I'd love some chocolate ass-cream.
Dr. Evil: Perhaps later.
Number 2: Dr. Evil, I love your plan.
Dr. Evil: You do?
Frau Farbissina: Yah. It's a really good plan.
Dr. Evil: Yes Frau, on the whole Preparation H feels good.
[Scott resumes snickering]
Dr. Evil: What is it now?
Scott Evil: No, I totally agree with you. Preparation H does feel good...on the hole.

Dr. Evil (Mike Meyers): "Mini Me loves chocolat, Scotty don't!"
Scott Evil (Seth Green): "What? I like chocolat fine, I just..."
Dr. Evil: "Scotty don't!"
Scott Evil: "(mocking) It's very familiar. Hang on, let me do what I do. Uh, would you stop?"
Dr. Evil: "(speaking indistinctly) How about you don't."
Scott Evil: "How about I what?"
Dr. Evil: "(speaking indistinctly) How about you don't."
Scott Evil: "what are you..."
Dr. Evil: "(speaking indistinctly) How about you don't."
Scott Evil: "I don't even..."
Dr. Evil: "(speaking indistinctly) How about you don't."
Scott Evil: "Honestly, isn't this..."
Dr. Evil: "How about you don't, ladies and gentlemen, Scotty Don't."

The Bad

1. Cruel Intentions 2 or 3- In my eyes, the original Cruel Intentions, a teenage remake (another whole category in itself) of Dangerous Liaisons was an excellent film that managed to be both dramatic and campy at the same time. Excellent casting including Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Philippe, Selma Blair and even Sarah Michelle Gellar can also be thanked for that. It's also the movie that started it all for Ryan and Reese, which must have been a fun wedding toast:

"I still remember how Ryan and Reese fell in love. They were rehearsing the scene where Ryan had to seduce Reese, the virgin saving herself for marriage, as part of a bet to sleep with his stepsister. One look in each other's eyes, and they knew they were meant to be together. Raise your glasses!"

Cruel Intentions 2 and even 3, for that matter, are examples of crappy movies that take the title of a great movie and try to pass themselves off as being in the same league purely on name alone. It's not unlike bands like The Beach Boys that go around touring the country with the name of The Beach Boys with, at the most, one boy. That's no fun at all.

2. Weekend At Bernies II- Here's the thing about Weekend At Bernie's. the first one was utterly ridiculous and, on paper, would seem as if it would fall under one of the worst movies of all time itself. But gosh darn it if it didn't work. Terry Kiser did an excellent job of playing the floppy dead guy Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman had to lug around. It was silly and stupid and completely impossible, but it was really, really funny. Making part one work was an impossible feat they pulled off. They should have been happy with that. But noooo, they had to go and try and bring him back. Suffice it to say, it didn't work.

3. Stepfather 3- In my eyes, the original Stepfather is one of the best horror/suspense movies of all time. This is for one reason and one reason only, the great, great acting skills of Terry O' Quinn. Most of you probably know and love him from Lost. I long gave up on the show, but I'm SO glad that he is finally getting the recognition he deserves.

Terry O'Quinn is an example of an actor that is so perfect for a part that you can't imagine anyone else playing him. When they made Stepfather 2, the quality was decreasing, but it still had Terry, so it was still a reputable film. But then they went and made Stepfather 3 with a completely different actor as the stepfather. They did this under what I like to call "the soap opera guise". The viewers will buy into it this because it's a horror film and he should have died years ago anyway. So he's still alive, only he's had extensive plastic surgery, thus the justification of a new actor. In most cases, the new actor in movies like these means one thing and one thing only- the original actor knew the new script was a piece of crap and refused to do it. But they go ahead and make the piece of crap anyway. And there my friends, that piece of crap is Stepfather 3. Good move Terry, by the way.

4. The Ring Two- Perhaps I'm a little harder on this sequel than the others, but that's only because when I saw the original The Ring I knew it was a remake. I also knew it was part of a trilogy. So when I watched part one, I knew there would be a part two and, if they still have the courage some day, a part three, although good luck getting Naomi Watts to return (see above). The Ring was a great, horror film. I always judge a great horror film on a movie that succeeds at creeping the audience out without a ton of special effects or overinduldgent grossery. The Ring was tastefully gross, if that makes any sense. The Ring Two was like the sophomore slump many music artists experience. It just could not live up to the hype of the original.

5. Lambada: The Forbidden Dance- This movie and it's predecessor, Lambada, are cinematic enigmas. I don't know anyone who can honestly say that this is one of their favorite movies of all time. I don't even know anyone who can say they truly enjoyed watching these movies. And yet, throughout the decade of the nineties, there were lambada references being made everywhere. What was that?! Are we that hard up for the next dance that we are willing to forget that the movie that started the dance was a waste of time?

My theory is this. The original Lambada, made in 1990, was hot on the heels of the success of Dirty Dancing, made in 1987. Lambada was attempting to capitalize on that success long before the Dirty Dancing franchise weakly turned around and tried to do the same thing with Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. Amazingly, they didn't even succeed the first time around yet someone, somewhere decided we needed even more Lambada. It's bad when awful sequels follow really great movies, but it's even worse when really bad movies garner even worse sequels.

Honorable Mention

Some of you got very creative in the sequel department, branching out to include music, too. Following your lead, I don't think a sequel compilation would be complete without a reference to the neverending saga of R. Kelly's "Trapped In The Closet". Dubbed as a "hip-hopera", Trapped In The Closet is a sight (and sound) to behold. If you haven't heard or read about it before, check out the link. I personally can guarantee it will both shock and amuse you in ways you never dreamed.

Finally, if my opinions simply aren't good enough for you, check out this link from the experts over at Entertainment Weekly. They have their own thoughts about the worst of the worst, some of which I even agree with.
Friday, March 10, 2006

Idol Chatter

The way I see it, the world is made up of two types of people; those who love American Idol and those who love to hate American Idol. I of course, hang out with the first group.

While I respect the opinions of all of those (maybe even yourself) who fall in to the second group, I wonder how many of those people have actually seen the show. Are there aspects of American Idol that are cheesy, overdramatic and overrated? Most definitely. But, when done right, American Idol features a bunch of kickass, unsigned performers who can also sing LIVE which is a lot more than I can say for 75% of the signed artists that are being played on the radio today. Britney (cough) Spears.

Since I have watched the show since it's inception, I can honestly compare and contrast the talent from each season and tell you this- each year the talent gets better. For example, this year's worst singer could probably still sing circles around the likes of Justin Guarini or Ruben Studdard. Would Fantasia Barrino even have won had she been up against say, Bo Bice? One will never know, unless of course one day they do an American Idol's All Stars. A girl can dream, can't she?

This year's top 12 is further testament to the great, undiscovered talent that is out there in America. It's truly an embarrassment of riches... as opposed to the top 24 which was riddled with plain ol' embarrassment.

So without further adieu, I will now break down AI's top 12 of 2006. Read on to hear my thoughts, speculations and predictions. And if you're curious about my scorecard? Just check out my resume (aka last year's AI prediction post).

The Girls

1. Melissa McGhee- Melisa is a little rough around the edges, but there's something about her I like. She won't win it all, most likely won't even make the top eight, but I do think the girl can sing. She will most likely be overshadowed by the other "Mc" in the competition, but more on that later.

2. Lisa Tucker- Lisa is one of the youngest, yet most experienced performers in the competition. She's beautiful, she's poised and she's another great role model. But Lisa, who is only 16, has a problem choosing songs better suited for some who is 46. Sure, they show off her vocal range, but they make her seem much older than she really is. I always get this sinking feeling when I'm watching Lisa sing that Ed McMahon is off in the wings somewhere, waiting to give her the 3 and a half stars she deserves, only to be welcomed in to the semi-finals. Definitely deserving of top 12, but the whole shebang? I'm not so sure.

3. Kellie Pickler- Poor Kellie. She's a whole lot of cute, and a barrel full of country. She's also Carrie Underwood, 2.0. No matter how adorable it is to see the "wide-eyed innocent" country bumpkin Kellie do the whole Green Acres thing in Hollywood, I have a sinking suspicion that she can't win it all because AI has been there, done that.

4. Mandisa- Mandisa has a lot of "est's" going for her. She's the oldest girl (29), the biggest girl (we won't go there) and in my opinion, she's also the smartest girl. Why? Because Mandisa's comfort zone is obviously in the realm of big lady R&B. So what does homegirl do week one? She sings a HEART song. Oh yeah. And week two? She follows it up with a Faith Hill ditty, proving she's no dummy. Heart and Hill is where the white people's vote is at and she's proving she can do the white man's overbite better than the whiteman. She sang the hell out of those songs before showing up for week three in her own skin, singing "I'm Every Woman", a fine song that I'm also fine with never hearing again, ever. Don't believe for a second that the order of those song was not strategic. Mandisa has a plan and she will go far if she sticks to it. The proof? It worked on white girl me. You go, girlfriend! Just check the it ain't over till the fat lady sings baggage at the door OK?!

5. Katharine McPhee- Depending on when you ask me, I'd say Katharine is potentially the best, most diverse, female singer in the competition. But I don't know if America is there with me just since she hasn't had a true WOW moment in the competition...yet. I've got McFever though and the only prescription is more Katharine.

6. Paris Bennett- If you looked up the word 'adorable' in the dictionary, we'd always have Paris. At 17, she inevitably will be compared to Lisa and I'll tell ya, I haven't been this excited about an R&B comparison since Brandy and Monica duked it out on the 1997 hit, "The Boy Is Mine". But seriously, Paris is good, hot on the heels of Katharine and Mandisa in my book, if not the leader of the pack. Her smoky, mini me Gladys Knight rendition of "Midnight Train To Georgia" was hands down, the best female vocal (and performance piece) this season so far. But not unlike Lisa, in the back of my mind I sometimes hear a voice that reminds me she was groomed from this, probaby since before she started talking, especially so since singing runs in her family. She's worthy, but she needs to work on coming off as a little less pageanty. I mean "Wind Beneath My Wings"? Need I say more?

The Boys

1. Kevin Covais- When you first look at Kevin, you might think of the quintessential poster boy for high school nerds everywhere, stuffed into locker rooms across this country. But then Kevin opens his mouth and you realize he actually can sing. He's also seemingly got a pretty good sense of humor about himself. And before you know it, he's like the Lucas of American Idol. He won't win, but he'll have fun regardless.

2. Bucky Covington- Follow me here. Bucky is to Kellie Pickler as Kellie Pickler was to Carrie Underwood (see above). In other words, Kellie and Bucky both have "green" written all over them, though knowing that, they handle the pressure really well. Bucky does the country thing proud, but I don't think he's hit one out of the park yet. I hope he gets to though before he, inevitably, goes home.

3. Elliott Yamin- Keeping in tradition of "idols who don't look like they'd be idols" there's Elliot Yamin. I know this sounds cruel, but when I first looked at Elliott I saw a slow, well intentioned janitor. He might have a working class look, but a first class voice. As if I wasn't sold on his talent already, my boy comes out and says he has 90% hearing loss in one ear! Some might think that's a cheap ploy for votes, I say that's mad skills. Over just a few short weeks Elliott has won me over and is quickly becoming one of my favorite contestants, period.

4. Ace Young- Let's get the obvious out of the way. ACE IS THE PRETTY ONE. You know it. I know it. Ace knows it. Pretty boy Ace is the cute, Jordan Catalano, Jake Ryan dreamboat who sat in the back of your creative writing class who only spoke once in a blue moon but when he did, it was brilliant and beautiful and made your heart just MELT. Yes, pretty boy Ace is this season's resident heartthrob, but the real question is can he sing? After hearing his dead on rendition of "Father Figure" even I was psyched, but with such a high, quiet voice I'm afraid he might have some trouble finding his footing in the week's theme nights.

5. Taylor Hicks- Before there was a top 12, before there was even a top 24, one contestant and one contestant alone stole my heart. That contestant was none other than Mr. Taylor "Soul Patrol" Hicks. Taylor is talented, but he's also crazy. Taylor's an enigma as he is the grey haired white boy who somehow thinks he is both black AND blind. Sometimes he looks like George Clooney. Other times he reminds me of Dermot Mulroney, the later years. He's equal parts Joe Cocker, Ray Charles, and Michael McDonald, all established unique artists in his own right. But while he obviously is strongly influenced by all three, he still somehow manages to pull off being unique. There's just something about Taylor. I wouldn't doubt it if he won it all. It's impossible to not smile when Taylor is on screen. Go ahead, I dare you.

6. Chris Daughtry- This just goes to show you how good the contestants are this year, the men in particular. For weeks I thought for sure Taylor was going to be my favorite (which in many ways he still is) but then Chris came along and man, can that boy sing. Chris has the sexiest, most dramatic voice in the competition, bar none. His angst ridden rock runs circles around the likes of Constantine Maroulis. He sings ten times better than half of the rock bands on the radio today, but it doesn't surprise me he hasn't made it yet. In Jersey, guys like Chris are not all that uncommon to come across fronting great cover bands. Some of those guys can really, truly sing but most of America will never know it, or at least never hear them sing anything bigger then "Sweet Caroline" to a group of drunken imbeciles at 2am. Lucky for us, Chris is breaking the mold.

So there you have it, my take on American Idol's top 12 for 2006. If you have made it this far, and watch the show like I do, let me know your thoughts.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006

How Much Is That Blogger In The Window?

Note: I wrote this post before I received an email that Blog Explosion is allegedly up for sale, whatever that means. Now you may continue reading, for pleasure.

If you've been around the blogging block for awhile, chances are you know all the tricks about how to get more clicks for your buck. Hell, you might even have tried a few yourself. After all, the more traffic to your blog, the better the blog IS, right?

Arguably the most popular program out there, Blog Explosion promises (and delivers) more traffic than even a blogger's wildest dreams. But money ain't for nothing, and your clicks ain't for free. In other words, with Blog Explosion, just like in life, you have to give in order to receive.

So for every post you make, every click you take, Blog Explosion is watching you. Before you know it you're raking in double, sometimes even triple the traffic you normally do. Only problem is there's a reason they say quality comes before quantity.

The truth of the matter is just because you are getting a lot of clicks doesn't mean you are getting a lot of what I like to call "clickers that care". These are people that truly enjoy reading your blog and show their appreciation by blogrolling or commenting.

That's why I'd like to provide people who visit AOGB with a "caring comment guarantee". Yes, unless I miss the comment (because Haloscan can sometime be as trusty as a weatherman), you can always count on me to recipro-comment. This is because in blogging I've adopted a simple philosophy that also applies to the real world: Do unto others as you'd have done unto you.

In the best case scenario you meet a blogger you like, you make a comment and they in turn comment on something you have written. Case in point, my latest renter Lyndon. You go back and forth like that for awhile till before long, you know there's a place you can go where every blogger knows your name.

It's so simple really, yet for all the time I've been blogging, all the blogs I've visited and all the comments I've made, the ratio of bloggers or "clickers that care" is relatively low.

Recently, Blog Explosion launched a program called Rent My Blog that attempts to capitalize on their "more traffic to your blog" campaign. You write an ad for your blog, pick your price (anywhere from 10 to the insane amount of 500 credits) and then wait for other bloggers to make you an offer you can't refuse. The same thing works in return. You can take those credits and hoard them till the cows come home, or you can turn around and bid on others to showcase your blog.

Choosing the blog to feature on your blog is like choosing where to sit on your first day of high school, freshman year. Should you only associate with the "cool kids" or should you invite the new girl to join you in the cafeteria? Just like on The Bachelor, at the final ceremony, only one blog can accept the final rose and also just like on The Bachelor, the relationship lasts for a week.

In the short time I've participated in the Rent My Blog program I have had mixed results. For the most part, I'm like any other blogger. I've been bidded on and I've bid on. I've been accepted and I've been rejected. I know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away and know when to run.

But just like with any relationship, sometimes I make bad blogging decisions. For me personally, I hate having to "choose" one blog over another. This is why for every bid I receive, I visit each blog and I always say something to the effect of, "It's not you, it's me. Can we still be friends?" I'm flattered they bid on my blog and I like to let them know. Very rarely, however, do those people comment on my comment or give me the same courtesy.

Then there are those bloggers, that, God love them, bid on you week after week yet they never once leave a comment on your blog. It makes you feel like the lone hot girl whose managed to hold out. Do you really think my blog is sexy, or do you just want me to be another notch on your Blog Explosion bedpost?

Which brings this post full circle. Why do people join programs like Blog Explosion in the first place? I joined because I like the idea of people reading my blog, but I also like finding new blogs to read. But to shack up with another blogger for a week and have no communication whatsoever? What's the point of that? It's like two bloggers, passing in the night.

Then there are those in the "inner circle of blogging" who obviously have read books like THE RULES entirely too much. Wait 'x' amount of days/hours until you comment on a blog. Wait for the blogger to come to you, not you to them. Deblogroll anyone who does not bow to the altar of your greatness. Only associate with those who know the secret password.

Sometimes you bid on a blog, only to have the offer expire. Dawn, who I'm currently renting from, said it best. She basically said that it's pretty sad when you don't have any other offers and you still won't accept a perfectly good offer staring you right in the face. What, so like my blog isn't good enough for you? Huh! HUH?!

In my blogging universe, comments are just common courtesy. Comments tell the writer I came, I saw, and I read. Now I'm going to tell you what I think about it. If you ask me, caring is the direct route to getting more traffic. All of this other stuff is just like taking the long and winding backroads to get to the same place.

So from one blogger to another care enough leave a comment. Come on now. Help a blogger out.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Tell It To Me Tuesday "They're Baack!"

After all the commenting and contemplating, I decided that the post I wrote about sequels (along with some of your comments) was not quite complete.

So this TITMT, is, in essence, a sequel in itself.

It's Part Two: The Return of the Sequel Syndrome

This time I come bearing specific questions:

1. What do you think are the worst sequel(s) ever and why?
2. What do you think are the best sequel(s) ever and why?

My thoughts will "strike back" in part three, coming this Sunday to a blog near YOU.

I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner, but feel free to link back to this post on your blog. The more participants in TITMT the better. I would create one of those fun icon things like those Thursday Thirteen folks, but I'm not that crafty. If you are, by all means, go for it. I'd be forever grateful!
Monday, March 06, 2006

This Is No Ordinary Love

A little over a month ago the E Network, infamous for creating shamelessly tacky programming like Taradise, actually came up with a somewhat cutesy concept. The show is called Number One Single and follows 37 year old singer Lisa Loeb in her quest for true love.

Back in 1994 it was next to impossible to escape Lisa who was plucked from obscurity with her Reality Bites inspired love theme, Stay.

Ironically it didn't work out that way for her career.

First of all, one look at Lisa and you wonder why this girl needs a show to find true love. After all, one thing that has "stayed" is Lisa's looks. She still comes off like she did when she made the deliciously simple video for Stay, as a hot librarian who doesn't know she's hot or a librarian. Discuss.

Which brings me back to my original point. Lisa doesn't look like she's hard up for love because she isn't hard up for love. Not to mention the fact that she's only quasi famous and still has connections you and I can only dream of having. Looking for love in all the wrong places my ass.

No, Lisa represents a much larger problem that I see in Hollywood; stars who try to make themselves sound like you or I when nothing could be farther from the truth.

Jennifer Love Hewitt insists she's just a big dork. Kirsten Dunst wants us to believe she's a homebody at heart. George Clooney is a big ol' bachelor, who loves to love. Owen and Luke Wilson would like to settle down, if only they could find the right girls.

Yeah, right.

The real reason so few people in Hollywood settle down is because there's no need to. Imagine going to an all you can eat buffet and saying, "That's cool, I'll just stick with the salad." I mean salad is nice, but most people, most famous people, if given the choice, would like soup, salad and dessert.

A lot of everyday people would like to do this, too. The difference is they don't have the opportunities the rich and famous do, so they learn to love their salad, even if it means complimenting it with different dressings and toppings from time to time.

The other thing I'm not buying is that famous people have as hard of a time meeting people to date. I understand that you might not know if someone is sincere and if they are there for the right reasons. When you're in Hollywood you gotta keep wondering if someone likes you for you or you for your career's level of hotness. Most of the time though, birds of a feather flock together. This is why we have couples like Kurt Russell & Goldie Hawn, William H. Macy & Felicity Huffman and Kyra Sedgwick & Kevin Bacon.

But for every Kurt & Goldie there's a Michelle Pfieffer & Fisher Stevens, Kim Basinger & Alec Baldwin, Johnny Depp & Winona Ryder, Jessica Simpson & Nick Lachey, Angelina Jolie and well, just about anybody.

So now you have someone like Lisa who is trying to move away from all of that and wants to find someone outside the industry to date. So how does she go about doing this? By using the very same medium she supposedly wants to avoid. That's why anonymity when dating someone famous goes completely out the window.

Think about it. There really are no "blind dates" in Hollywood because the concept is next to impossible. What would you say? Instead of I'm setting you up with a Matt Damon type, celebrities simply say, "It IS Matt Damon". Chances are if they're single, and you're single and your career is hot and their career is hot, magic can happen, if only for a little while.

There's no awkward, what's your sign meeting after glances have been exchanged from across the bar. Instead these glances are replaced with publicists who are not unlike the wingmen at the bar, only there are no drinks purchased, no fake phone numbers given out. It's just Cruise, Holmes and a career move, if you know what I'm saying.

So will our damsel in distress, Lisa Loeb, find true love? No one can say for sure, but the double entendre title is no accident. Sure, Lisa wants love, but more than anything, me thinks she wants the public to fall in love again with her.
Sunday, March 05, 2006

Write Back Weekend: "And The Award Goes To..."

So here it is, Oscar Night. Once a year Hollywood, takes the good and from that decides who and what was great. There are usually a few surprises, mainly of the wardrobe selection variety, but for the most part, winners can be- and are- easily predicted.

I have to be honest. This year I have yet to see the majority of the movies. I know it really wasn't fair asking you a question I can't answer myself, but I did it anyway because I was curious as to what y'all would say.

I was once a girl who always went to the movies to see the latest films, but now I'm perfectly content renting and watching them from the comforts of my own home. I can do this for a fraction of the cost and that guy with huge head who always manages to sit in front of you is nowhere to be found.

So since I haven't seen the movies, I'm going to be very shallow and go on who I'd like to win just because I like them.

For best actor, I choose David Strathairn. I've never seen Good Night, and Good Luck but I know I will someday, because of him. I have loved Strathairn since I first discovered him in one of my favorite, yet cheesiest movies of all time, Big Girls Don't Cry...They Get Even. This movie, while a cinematic masterpiece of corny proportions, is not the reason why he is the best actor. This was just my "gateway drug" into all things Strathairn. For years, nobody knew who the hell he was. He probably won't win and most likely will never be nominated again, but it's still really cool he made it at all.

If I'm really being honest, I'd be happy if any of the nominees won for Best Actor, except for Terrence Howard. No offense Terrence, I recognize you, I just have never seen anything you were in, ever. On the other hand I love Heath Ledger, like Strathairn, since his 10 Things I Hate About You Days. I also think Philip Seymour Hoffman is an excellent actor, in a creepy, borderline pedophile you scare the shit out of me kinda way. I mean I'm sure he's not any of those things in real life. That's what makes him such a good actor.

And speaking of creepy, all that leaves is Joaquin "Leaf" Phoenix. I think that Joaquin's performance as Johnny Cash is probably going to take it and although I have yet to see this movie (yet I really, really want to) it will probably be well deserved.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if River Phoenix had not died at such a young age. When River died, Joaquin was not much more to the world than the former child actor who called 911 for his brother. We'll never know if Joaquin would have found such success regardless or if his brother's untimely death fueled such success. I do know though that had River lived, I believe he would have been nominated more than once. He was like the thinking man's Leonardo DiCaprio.

I don't know about you, but I'm glad Joaquin did become a good actor. He makes some great movies, but that's not important now. Something about Joaquin always seems like he's holding on to shreds of his sanity, like he's always two seconds away from robbing that bank down the street. Maybe he is, who knows? All I'm saying is thank God he has the acting as an outlet.

On to Best Actress. Here I want, and I believe, Reese Witherspoon will take it all. I've always, always, always loved everything Reese Witherspoon. From The Man In The Moon to Overnight Delivery to everything in between, Reese can do no wrong in my eyes, including marrying Ryan Phillippe. When two perfect looking people get together like that, you just pray they make it, and that they make gorgeous children which, they already have. All the other nominees are good in their own ways, but Reese will always have a piece of my heart.

I can't tell you who I think the Best Actor In A Supporting Role will be. All I can tell you is it will not be Matt Dillon in Crash. I'm not saying this because I don't like Dillon, cause I do, (although I didn't care for the movie, one I've actually seen, all that much) it's just that he is up against some pretty tough contenders. It's like taking a multiple-choice test and choosing the answer that fits best. You gotta start eliminating sometime.

Ditto for Best Supporting Actress. I don't know who it will go to, but I like Michelle Williams if only because she knows how to support like nobody's business. Her Jen Lindley on Dawson's Creek always lived in the shadow of Joey Potter. Consider it years of training, all leading up to this moment. Besides, how cute would it be if her and her beau Heath walked away with matching awards for the same sex movie that caused them to fall in love in the first place!? New, out of wedlock baby sold separately.

As for the rest, Brokeback Mountain will most likely win for best picture and it would be nice if George Clooney won as best director, just because I love the idea that George Clooney will kick ass at something new. I'm not going to touch the other categories cause let's face it, you and I know the Oscars are a like a Twinkie. Sure the spongy cake is good, but the delicious white creamed filling is what it's really all about.

People I would nominate this year include Vince Vaughn in the The Wedding Crashers. This is for the newly created category of the best at being the most obnoxious actor in a comedy, drama or musical. I also would give props to my man John Cusack in Must Love Dogs as best resuscitated career choice in the genre of romantic comedies.

If I could win an award for something I think we all know it would be pop culture princess. I know far too much about that which no one ever needs to practically know about. In my speech, I would thank all of you for trying to keep up with my random references and humoring me into thinking you always know (and care) what I am talking about.

I also would thank the Screen Actors Guild, Hollywood Foreign Press and the accountants that painstakingly counted the votes that got me there, just because it seems like the right thing to do.
Friday, March 03, 2006

Where's David Foster When You Need Him?

A new guest has arrived for a luxurious six day, seven night stay. His name is Lyndon and his blog has the intriguing title, Think Inside The Box. In a novel concept, Lyndon was a potential renter who (gasp) ACTUALLY COMMENTED! So before you visit me, do go take a moment to visit him.

How many times have you heard a song on a radio and memories come flooding back of the great film the song was used in?

How many times have you been watching a great film, waiting for the classic scene that features that equally classic song?

I've long had a theory that new and interesting music is on a steady decline. It started somewhere around the inexplicable success of The Smashing Pumpkins and it hasn't let up since.

Case in point, award winning music set to award winning movies. Yes, a good movie theme and a good movie used to go together just like Boogie & Bacall or perhaps more appropriately, Turner & Hooch. There was a point in time when you'd hear a song and instantly you could picture the exact scene the song was playing in the movie without hesitation.

At first I assumed it was my jaded imagination working on overtime. The quality of songs couldn't have declined that much, could they? I've heard about this happening to other people before. It's called "don't get old" syndrome. I know I'm only 28, but maybe, just maybe, I'm inevitably growing out of touch.

But then I did some research and realized I had been right all along and the proof is in the producing. If you still aren't convinced, just check out some highlights, winners in bold, from past Oscar nominees. Not winners mind, you, these were all just GOOD ENOUGH to be considered in line to be the best:

"Fame" from Fame
'Nine to Five" from Nine to Five
"On the Road Again" from Honeysuckle Rose
"Out Here On My Own" from Fame

"Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" from Arthur
"Endless Love" from Endless Love
"For Your Eyes Only" from For Your Eyes Only


"Eye of the Tiger" from Rocky III
"How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" from Best Friends
"It Might Be You" from Tootsie
"Up Where We Belong" from An Officer and a Gentleman

"Flashdance...What a Feeling" from Flashdance
"Maniac" from Flashdance

"Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" from Against All Odds
"Footloose" from Footloose
"Ghostbusters" from Ghostbusters
"I Just Called to Say I Love You" from The Woman in Red
"Let's Hear It for the Boy" from Footloose

"The Power of Love" from Back to the Future
"Say You, Say Me" from White Nights
"Separate Lives (Love Theme from 'White Nights')" from White Nights

"Glory of Love" from The Karate Kid Part II
"Somewhere Out There" from An American Tail
"Take My Breath Away" from Top Gun

"(I've Had) The Time of My Life" from Dirty Dancing
"Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" from Mannequin
"Shakedown" from Beverly Hills Cop II

"Let the River Run" from Working Girl
"Two Hearts" from Buster

"After All" from Chances Are
"I Love To See You Smile" from Parenthood
"Kiss the Girl" from The Little Mermaid
"Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid

Again, these were just the nominated songs. Not only are these all good songs, they are also all songs you know. (insert Christopher Walken infliction here)

Notice I didn't even touch anything prior to the eighties. All this WITHOUT any nomination for "Easy Money" from Easy Money, "Man In Motion" from St. Elmo's Fire, "Goonies R' Good Enough" from The Goonies, "Crying" from Hiding Out, "Holiday Road" from National Lampoon's Vacation, Who's Johnny?" from Short Circuit 2, "And When She Danced" from Stealing Home, "Somebody's Baby" from Fast Times At Ridgemont High... I mean really, do I need to go on?!

For a complete list of nominees go here.

Note the 90's marked a new decade, and with it, the slow and steady decline of quality composers writing top notch songs. The nineties marked what I like to call the "Disneyriffic" era of songwriting. In other words, most of the good songs that pulled at your heartstrings were actually written with a lion or a toy in mind.

In 1990 Bon Jovi's "Blaze of Glory" from the movie Young Guns was by far the best, but instead the award went to "Sooner Or Later (I Always Get My Man)" from Dick Tracy.

In 1991, Oops! They did it again! Bryan Adams should have been a shoo in for "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but instead he couldn't fight off three beauty's, a beast and a song from Hook. In the end, "Beauty and the Beast" from Beauty and The Beast was the only one left standing.

1992 should have been the year of The Bodyguard, but "A Whole New World" from Aladdin walked away with top honors. Finally, in 1993, the spell seemed to have been broken when "The Day I Fall In Love" from Beethoven's 2nd lost to Bruce Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia" from you guessed it, Philadelphia. Yes, Philadelphia was the cream of the crop, minus the cheese.

But damnit if in 1994 Hollywood didn't overwhelm us again, only this time it was in the form of The Lion King. With "Hakuna Matata", "Circle of Life" and the eventual winner, "Can You Feel The Love Tonight?" all vying for top spots, "Look What Love Has Done" from Junior and "Make Up Your Mind" from The Paper didn't stand a chance.

1995? "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas. 1998, "When You Believe" courtesy of The Prince of Egypt. 1999, "You'll Be In My Heart" as a result of the movie, Tarzan.

And then things went from bad, to worse. Starting with the year 2000, not only did the good nominees dwindle, the popularity of the nominees dwindled right along with them. Where it once was hard to pick and choose the winner from all the great nominees, suddenly it seemed they didn't have enough great nomineees to choose from.

"A Fool In Love" from Meet the Parents
"I've Seen It All" from Dancer in the Dark
"A Love Before Time" from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
"My Funny Friend and Me" from The Emperor's New Groove
"Things Have Changed" from Wonder Boys -- Music and Lyric by Bob Dylan

"If I Didn't Have You" from Monsters, Inc.
"May It Be" from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
"There You'll Be" from Pearl Harbor
"Until" from Kate & Leopold
"Vanilla Sky" from Vanilla Sky

"Burn It Blue" from Frida
"Father and Daughter" from The Wild Thornberrys Movie
"The Hands That Built America" from Gangs of New York
"I Move On" from Chicago
"Lose Yourself" from 8 Mile

"Belleville Rendez-vous" from The Triplets of Belleville
"Into the West" from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
"A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" from A Mighty Wind
"Scarlet Tide" from Cold Mountain
"You Will Be My Ain True Love" from Cold Mountain

"Accidentally In Love" from Shrek 2
"Al Otro Lado Del Río" from The Motorcycle Diaries
"Believe" from The Polar Express
"Learn To Be Lonely" from The Phantom of the Opera
"Look To Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)" from The Chorus (Les Choristes)

Go ahead. Hum a few bars of "Until" from Kate & Leopold for me. Tell me all about the first time you heard "A Fool In Love" in Meet the Parents. Reenact the scene where they made magic in The Chorus. The only things, as far as I can tell, that haven't changed about the nominees are that cartoons and Randy Newman are down, but not out.

Which brings us to the pathetic lot they call this year's whopping three nominees. Believe it or not, there's not even a Disney or Newman tune among them.

"In The Deep" from Crash, "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp" from Hustle & Flow and "Travelin' Thru" from TransAmerica.

Movie watchers, this is apparently, the best of the best. If things don't get better soon something tells me I will NOT be humming the same tune again this time next year.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Deer Caught In The Headlights Spotlight

It's no secret that Hollywood likes to cash in on cinematic success. These days it seems all a movie has to do is be moderately successful to garner a sequel... and even that is up for debate. Don't believe me? Just watch two minutes of Deuce Bigalow Gigolo, Male or European, and you'll see what I mean.

The reason sequels are so unnecessary is because they rarely deliver in the same way the original did. Speed didn't need a Speed 2. This Dirty Dancing fan doesn't want your Havana Nights. One Dream A Little Dream was more than enough, thank you very much.

But studios get greedy. Stars get greedy. Before you know it, we have a problem of Miss Congeniality proportions. Trying to change Hollywood's mind about cashing in on a good thing is a waste of breath. Mel Gibson had to feed his growing family so he made a zillion and one Lethal Weapons. Sylvester Stallone misses the spotlight so he's going back in the ring as Rocky. All of this I get, to a point.

But when cartoons become copycat casualties, I have to question authority. Shrek was great, but who authorizied a Shrek 2? An American Tail was also cute. It was about an adorable mouse who was looking for his family. But some suit, somewhere decided one mouse "tail" was simply not enough and thus, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West Was Born. Before long, Fievel was the Clark Griswold of the cartoon set, journeying here, there and everywhere. Look kids! It's Big Ben!

Which brings me to the latest cartoon to be overly redrawn, Bambi 2. For the record, the original Bambi was made in 1942. It was the story of a deer who was hailed as the young "Prince of the Forest" when he was born. But as Bambi grows older, he learns important lessons like how to see the forest for the trees and if a tree falls in the forest, whether or not it makes a sound. It was a touching, Disney classic that resonated with both young and old audiences alike.

But now, over 60 years later Bambi is back, and he's nobody's pawn fawn. This time around, Bambi is reunited with his father, The Great Prince, who must raise the young deer and teach him the ways of the forest. But who will do the real learning? The answer may surprise you, but chances are if you've ever seen any feel good movie, ever, it won't.

Now I'm confused, is the Bambi in Bambi 2 Bambi Jr? Or given that 60 years have gone by, could it be Bambi the third? Because the way I see it, the original Bambi is far too young to still be trying to find his way through the damn forest unless of course he has cataracts. Then they should be aiming for an entirely different demographic altogether.

Don't get me wrong, movies about animals are wonderful and more of them should be made for children. Dot and The Kangaroo was a great Australian cartoon I used to watch over and over as a child and cry each time I watched it. Milo & Otis? A great flick with real animals that had something important to say and said it through Dudley Moore. Then there was the adorable Fluke that chose Matthew Modine to speak on his behalf. Even Benji had his moment to shine although he didn't speak much. Turns out Benji was the strong, silent type. Who knew?

Sometimes sad things happen to real life animals. These are stories, depressing as they may be, that are worth telling. The other day a deer ran in front of our car and we narrowly escaped hitting it. Playing on the radio, I shit, you not, was The Bee Gees hit, Staying Alive. A real deer, my friends, knows where he stands.

In conclusion, I'd like to leave with a conversation involving one of the late, great sarcastic one linesmen of all time, Chandler (Matthew Perry) on Friends:

PHOEBE: Know what movie's really sad? Bambi. I cried for three days after I saw that. Well, it was really only two days because on the third day my mom killed herself, so I was mostly crying over that.

CHANDLER: See, that I could see crying over. But Bambi is a cartoon.

JOEY: You didn't cry when Bambi's mother died???

CHANDLER: Yes, it was really sad when the guy stopped drawing the deer.



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