Thursday, July 29, 2010

La vie BOHEME

I had a list of things I wanted to do when I was in London and tonight, I marked off the last thing on that list. What I wanted to do was to see a local production of something. Something that wasn't a Broadway import or a big West End show. This week, I saw an ad in the paper for a modern day production of La Boheme and I decided that I was going.
Let me tell you, it was quite the pay off. Let me set this up for you:
This is a sort of independent theater, much like an Off-Broadway theater in New York.
I am sitting dead center on the front row. The stage actually touches the edge of my feet and the actors are so close that their spittle gets on my face when they sing and a guy fell on my foot during a scuffle.
Now, it's the opera La Boheme, sung classically, but the words were changed to use modern vernacular and it was set in SoHo in London in present day. To put it in perspective, it would be like the set of Rent, sung like an opera at the Met but with modern language, with trendy folks and hipsters in the roles. Ridiculously awesome right?
So the first act happens and I love it. Intermission. The ushers come in and say that the audience has to leave the theater for a set change and for us to wait down at the bar. Fine.
So we go down there, and about 10 minutes into intermission, the cast shows up and continues the show...IN THE BAR. Talk about a set change! So we stand there in the bar and they continue singing the opera in the bar. Then they leave and we go back to the theater to finish it out.
For real.
This was just a really amazing experience. There I am, on the front row, with the trendy gays on my right, hipster old people on my left, loud London girls behind me to the right and this husband and wife duo behind me to my left that LOVED this show.
I actually had a really theatrical day. I went out to get some pictures of the theater I saw Oliver in and I saw a sign for a backstage tour...so of course, I took it. I had no idea that this was the world's oldest continually functioning theater. I had no idea that the tunnels I was going to walk through were built in the 1600s. I had no idea that a ghost with a grey top hat apparently hangs out in the balcony. I had no idea about any of these things. But I got to see it all and it was awesome.
So it's fair to say that this has been the most theatrical day of my entire trip, a fitting end to my last real day in London before we start traveling more. I really loved today.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Word up.

Yes. I've seen it.
No. I can't tell you about it.
All I can say is that I've seen The Mousetrap, the longest running play in the world. It's been playing in London for the past 58 years.
And I've seen it.
And no. I can't tell you who the murderer is. But I did meet a lovely 77 year old man from Tampa that was stationed over here in London over 50 years ago and brought his family back to see where he and his wife met. See folks, that's what intermissions are for. For learning life stories.
I would also like to give a shout out to Jesus for giving me such a good sense of direction. As strange as that may sound, I was all kinds of lost on the way to the show and had it not been for my killer sense of direction, I would have ended up in a theatre-based panic, the most dramatic of all the panics. But then I found it, clearly, so we're good. Word up JC. Word up.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Consider yourself...

...amazed.
My first real recognition of Oliver! was from the Campbell's soup commercial where the little boy, presumably Oliver, asks the old man "please sir, can I have some more?" Now, I've seen the movie before but I feel like I was really young, so when I found out I could see "the most spectacular production ever," I jumped on it.
Let me tell you...it really was the most spectacular production of a traditional musical that I've ever seen. There were around 80 people in the cast. 80! Over half of which were kids. I mean, this really was exactly how you would expect to see a traditional musical. Not to mention the freaky-deaky things the sets did. For real, it was so extravagant that I was constantly shaking my head in disbelief. It was incredible.
I love things that are incredible, I love things that take my breath away, and I love things that surprise me. This did all of those things. I think that experiences like this are the ones that keep us going, that make us eager to follow our dreams and re-energize our creative ducts. Too idealistic? Well I don't care. That's how I feel after seeing the show tonight.
I've still got one or two more shows to see before London and I part ways and after taking the chance on this one and being left so utterly speechless, I am even more excited now to see what else the West End has to show me. Bring it on Brits!

Friday, July 23, 2010

I saw dead people

Okay. I've got a question. Rather, I've got a couple questions.
1. Is it okay to gawk at tombs?
I went to Westminster Abbey today for the sole purpose of walking around and gawking at tombs of people who died hundreds of years ago. Really. I mean, I don't understand it. What's the fascination here? They aren't there, and technically, they never were there. They were dead by the time they were put in there. So why do we want to see them there? I don't know the answer to this question but I know that I did go and look and I did take pictures when I wasn't supposed to.
2. Is it okay to pay to get into a church to gawk at tombs?
I seem to recall Jesus getting all kinds of pissed that people were selling and trading in the temple, and if I remember correctly, he made quite the scene. So is it wrong that the nuns are selling tickets to walk in and look at the tombs? Remember that this is not the Bible-belt of America. This is secularized Europe and much of these cathedrals have become more historical than sanctuaries, and I think that's partially okay. Parts of these cathedrals have been around for over 800 years. 800 years! That makes them a part of the historical identity of the country. So it would be wrong to deny people the ability to see Queen Elizabeth's tomb. (And I mean the big woman herself, the one in the movies, THE Queen Elizabeth) Should I have had to pay for it? I'm not so sure about that. The museums over here are free so this probably should be too.
I did my part though. I mean, I listened to Deitrick Haddon's gospel music while I walked though the cathedral and when the priest (which I should mention was a woman) said the Lord's prayer during afternoon mass, I stopped walking and took a moment. I just found myself wondering about the whole experience. Obviously I'm not bothered enough by it to protest. I went through, I paid to get in, I even broke the church's rules by taking pictures when the priests weren't watching. Whatever. I saw the dead folks and now can openly mock the DaVinci Code's portrayal of the Abbey. That's all that matters right?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lego, just Lego

As a small lad, I spent my spare time playing with Legos, much like many kids do/did. We all have a certain type of Legos that we liked to build and play with the most and for me, that was the castles. Didn't really matter what kind of castle, but that's what I liked to play with.
Today, I saw a real castle for the first time.
I wish I could convey to you the level of out-of-body that I had as we were walking up to the castle. No one is really able to remember what the boiling point of brain is but I reached it today in a really great way. It was like a dream coming true. A dream that I didn't know I ever had.
We went to Windsor Castle, the residence of the Queen, so we only saw half of it because she lives in the other half, but the half that we saw was mind-blowing. It's everything that I ever imagined that a castle would be and everything that every overly-produced period movie has made it out to look like.
I like the concept of dreams being fulfilled. This entire trip is that for me. I mean, I don't want to sound like I never thought I would ever see anything in the world, because that's not it. It's just that now that it's happening, I can't really believe it. I mean, I haven't even been here two weeks and I've seen so many things. I saw my first castle for God's sake. Now, I get it. I will see plenty of castles on this trip, especially later. But this castle was full of DaVinci and Rembrandt paintings and had the dudes in red with the guns...
Which brings me to this thought. I felt sorry for the dude. His eyes kept darting from side to side, he was clearly nervous with all of the attention and I kept wanting to ask him, "Are you new?" So I get up there to take my picture with him, you know, rather than being part of the solution for this poor guy's nerves I decided to perpetuate the problem, and I don't really know what to do. I mean, do I just smile? My initial instinct was, like in most pictures, to just throw my arm around his shoulders and smile. Then I saw the very real knife on the end of his gun. Not faking with this stuff guys. Not faking. So I ended up making an external expression of what I felt his internal feelings were. He needed a hug.
But I didn't. I didn't need a hug because I saw a castle today. I saw an actual castle and I walked down the same halls that King George or James or Charles or whatever his name did. I'm good. And if you were wondering, they do sell castle Lego sets in the stores outside of the real castle. Yes. They do.

An open letter to London

Dear London:
I'm confused.
Really really confused.
We went to this comedy club over the weekend and when they found out that there were Americans in the audience, they had a field day with that which is completely fine. We, as a people, deserved most of it, and one of those things that we deserved mocking about was our increments of measurement. (side note: please be aware that all cultures and peoples were fair game at this comedic venture and there wasn't any anti-American agenda there. I'm sure the jokes about the Brits who were from other parts of the country were very funny if we knew the context. The people with bad teeth and bad accents sure did laugh at them)
(another side note: there is such thing as a bad British accent. I don't find the Brits hard to understand. I get what they are saying. But these obnoxious girls behind us on the train yesterday had the loudest, most incoherent accents to the point where I couldn't understand a single word they were saying. It might as well have been a foreign language. Topple that with the fact that they were obnoxious and that equaled me being very irritated. I daydreamed that they were in class and I was the teacher and I threw my desk at them. No lie.)
ANYWAYS - the comedian is making fun of the fact that we use inches and feet and divide things by 3.45867 to get a mile and whatever, as opposed to just using the metric system which is in increments of 10. Makes total sense and really, life would be easier if we just used the metric system. I know that. So we all laughed and it was whatever.
Cut to today when we were on the train and there were all of these signs for distance that were in yards...
Wait.
I thought they didn't use feet over here. Why not just use meters? I'm sorry, but this hypocrisy just won't do and I'm calling you out on it London. The Brits make all kinds of fun of Americans and most times its completely warranted, but now I hope you enjoy the taste of your own medicine. And yes, it's bitter.
Cheers!
Ryan

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fish and...

There are a great many flavors in America. Flavors of sodas, flavors of people, flavors of ideals...you name it and we've got it. Except we are apparently behind in the chip flavor department because let me tell you, the flavors over here make Sour Cream and Onion sound archaic.
Let's start with the basics. Smoked bacon and Roast Chicken sound more like the meals at Chilis than they do chip flavors, but over here, they are in the nearest crisp stand. (here, they aren't chips. No, they are crisps. Chips are what we call fries.)
So if you can handle the crisps that taste of bacon and chicken, perhaps you are prepared to take things to the next level...dare I say...the championship level.
We know the World Cup is a big deal over here and in response to that, they created some World Cup themed chips. How about Argentinian Flame Grilled Steak? Not your fancy? What about American Cheeseburger? Japanese Teriyaki Chicken? No? You could always have German Bratwurst Sausage? Keep in mind, these are not meals. These are chips. CHIPS!
One of the things I've learned over here is that America has this idea that we are just at the top of everything in the world, which is just completely not true. Not that having strange chip flavors equates to some global superiority over the States, but it goes to show that there is life outside of America. A global perspective is a good one to have these days and while I've never been against it or oblivious to it, I've never experienced it until now. London is more than just a tourist destination, it's a people who live and work and exist here. So anyways, thanks Walkers Crisps (yes, it looks like Lays because they are owned by Lays). I learned a life lesson from some chips.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

For real though

Tonight, tonight, there's only one tonight.
For real though.
The London trip has been all kinds of great and we have seen all kinds of great things, but tonight was the icing on the end of week one. Here's why.
First, we went to eat with my friends from America who were also over here in London. So we met and realized that the London premiere of The Karate Kid was just happening in the same square that we were in. So after dinner, we went over there and saw all of the stars on the big screen showing up for the red carpet. Will Smith? Jada Pinkett Smith? Their spawn? Jackie Chan? All there. It was really fun to see it all play out.
Then we went to the theater...HAIR.
You know, it changed my life the first time I saw it and I've written plenty about it. But this time, it was just utter joy and I couldn't contain myself. We sobbed, we cheered, we danced on stage with the cast, we met the cast afterwards...it was just an evening of joy.
It was one of those nights that gets logged into your memory as one of the best. I mean, I've had a few of these incredible nights and this is now one of them. Being with your friends, experiencing something so in-your-face and having the best time doing it. There's really nothing like it at all. Nothing.
We laughed the entire way back to our place because we were caught up on cloud nine. It's a good place to be. Much like the high teenagers in Hair were, except we didn't use drugs to get there.
You know, in the fall, I will be interning at an Off-Broadway theater in New York and part of why I took this internship over other potential ones was that it's outside of my comfort zone. Except that it's not at all. It's exactly what I want to be doing, I just haven't been doing it. It's outside of what I feel like I've been working on. But the reality of it is that I have to go for what I love because if I don't do it now, when will I? And I will admit that I've had some doubts about it for one reason or another, but as I sat in that theater tonight, so exciting my RLS was on crack, I knew that I had done the right thing by accepting this particular internship.
Do I feel inspired? Yes. Do I feel excited about the future? Yes. Do I feel like I am making the right decisions in my life at the moment? Yes. Will I be able to sleep tonight? Probably not. Not even a little bit.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

All the small things

London has a great many things that America doesn't: Dr. Pepper Zero, potato chips that taste like roast beef, white chocolate/hazelnut candy bars, and mushy peas. I mean, they have a history that goes back centuries, they have Churchill, they have a Queen (okay, I know that we have Oprah as our Queen but the title is a technicality that England has that America doesn't). They have so many things.
Where are all the trash cans?
London has probably three trashcans in the whole of the city. I mean, in America, when we want to "clean up our cities," we just put trash cans every ten feet so that people will get the hint. Throw it away in the can and not on the sidewalk. But these Brits don't quite have the hang of putting trash cans where people can get to them, to the point where we get excited when we find one! It's a great moment when we can throw our trash away! Hooray!
It's the little things in life that are so important to me. Now I can add trashcans to that list.
One more thing that England has that America is missing out on? Ben's Cookies. There are no words to describe the sheer perfection of a coconut cookie. It's just the most wonderful cookie I've ever had. Again...the little things.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

5 days

I've been in London for about five days now and I can say that I've learned a lot. But what has struck me today was more of a reinforcement of something I already knew: Take some time for yourself.
I am the type of person that likes to go, go, go, and that's what I've been doing here. I mean, I've seen Buckingham Palace, Henry the 8th's palace, the West End, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, and the Roman Baths all in five days. Also, we've been out walking around or going to pubs at night, trying to experience and see all that we can. So five days in, I am putting on the brakes. Tonight? Nothing. I will do nothing.
Of course we want to make the most of every moment we're here, but let's get real. I gotta take care of me. I need to chill out and relax so that when it all revs up again tomorrow, I will be rested. Rest is a good thing. Sitting and doing nothing, even in London, is a good thing.
So I don't have some sort of profound realization based on some Londonish ideal, but just to say that rest is good, London is good, and so is the fish and chips.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Abbey aerobics

I've been to Catholic services before and while I am not a fan of the aerobics involved with them, I've enjoyed the services I've been to. What aerobics? You know, the up/down/up/down/kneel/stand/up/down action. Don't care for it and I don't think God so much cares about it either. But that's not important.
This morning, I went to mass at Westminster Abbey and I've got to say that I don't think I've ever been to a service where the church was as gorgeous and the choir was as gorgeous sounding as I did today. Altar boys get a bad rap, but those lil fellas can sang. You read that correctly. Not sing. They can sang.
It became so apparent to me that so much of the music that's in movies all has its groundings in this fundamental/traditional form of choral music, but what really struck me was that Andrew Lloyd Webber is a copycat. That's right Drew, I'm calling you out. The music that was played in that service might as well have been the basis for the soundtrack to Phantom of the Opera.
Something else that I'd never really thought about was the fact that Darwin is buried inside the Abbey. Granted, there are numerous people buried inside there and let me tell you, the grave stones are quite exquisite, but Darwin is in there with them. Darwin, the enemy of creationism, the heretic of worldly proportions, the founder of evolution. Right, he's in there. Why is that? Is it just a coincidence or is it that we know one side of the story because we are told one thing, but when you dig deeper into it, it's something else all together? I've been one of those people that does believe that the universe was created by intelligent design and not happenstance, but, I also believe that no one knows the way in which it was done.
Now look, I'm not trying to shove some sort of religi-science blabber down anyone's throats, I'm just saying what I found interesting. I also found that every aspect of the uber-traditional service there are still found within contemporary services all across the world, just with a more upbeat spin on it. The message was the same, the sermon was insightful and at moments, funny, and the lyrics of the music were the same lyrics that can be heard in any church corridor. We are going to go back there and tour the inside and see all the graves and everything, but being there this morning made for a really incredible morning, leaving me feeling not Westminster Crabby, but very contemplative and appreciative that even if I'm thousands of miles away from my home, the message is still the same.
(if you don't know that Crabby reference, the next month of blogs are going to be spotty for you)

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Truth in London

I'm...actually...getting there

At this moment, I am sitting in my room at the Wigram House where I will be staying in London for the next month or so (the view from my window is pictured) and while I am relaxing now, the trip here wasn't as relaxing.
It's actually a great long story, one of which I won't bore you with the details. Synopsis? I got rained out. Yes. I, like a baseball game, Bernie Madoff and the Gulf Coast, got rained out...of my connecting flight to London and had to stay an extra two hours in the international terminal at DFW. Which is when it happened. My first celebrity sighting. Well not really a celebrity. I don't consider him a celebrity really, but some of you might so I will label is as such. Kirk Franklin was on my plane to London. I saw him waiting with some of his crew and then they all got on the
plane when I did. THEN, one of his crew ended up sitting next to me on the plane.
Please remember that I find flying to be uncomfortable and tedious, so any silver lining is as good as gold with me. He and I got to talking and turns out he doesn't just play piano for Kirk, but he also plays piano for Prince. That's right. The Artist Formally Known as Normal himself. So we were talking about each of them, how they were when cameras weren't on them, blah blah blah. We talked about what music we like, what artists we don't, and of course, since he's been playing piano with Kirk since his very first album, we talked about my favorite Kirk Franklin songs. Fast fact: Did you know that the Christmas album was recorded in one day? Absolutely it was. One day. And we all know that 'Now Behold the Lamb' was a game changer for me. Game. Changer.
There's this moment I've blogged about before and today, I was actually able to live that moment. It's the moment in Love Actually where they are saying that there's no happier place than the arrival gate at Heathrow Airport, with all the hugging, the people happy to see you, etc. Well, I walked through that arrival gate today and would be lying to you if I said that in the middle of it, I stopped walking and took it in. I mean, I was living that moment in Love Actually, the best romantic comedy ever made, and I can hear Hugh Grant in my head saying the lines of the narration, and I'm looking around at all the families and friends who were so excited to see whoever they were waiting for. It was a really profound moment that probably doesn't mean anything to anyone else, but for me, it made my entire day.
Fast forward to me getting in the cab, grossly over-tipping, therefore making a British man very very happy, getting to the place where I will be staying and walking around the city with my advisor in the afternoon until my feet hurt so bad we had to stop. (I've been sitting for 9 hours straight remember) I've seen a lot of things already, all of which I will be revisiting so I won't go into detail now about them.
I will say this though. I've never been overseas and so there are a great many things I will have to adjust to, but let me tell you. There are far more beautiful people wandering the international terminals than there are in the regular terminals. I don't really know why, but the people watching was about the best I've ever had.
What I am going to be searching for over the next five weeks is the heart of this city. It's not in the shows and it's not Buckingham Palace, I know that for sure. But I'm going to be searching to find the heart of this city. I think I have an idea as to what it is, but I'm going to hold out to see if that changes as I see more. But I'm getting there. I'm actually getting there.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Positively positive

I took a shower today which isn't special really. I do that daily. But as I opened the bathroom door after taking my shower, there was a person on my bed...and not in the good way. I left the door unlocked and my friend came over and decided to just sit and wait...and scare the life out of me. I mean, my heart was beating faster than when I worked out earlier. It was a terrifying experience. Once I figured out it wasn't a mugger and that he came in peace, that was fine. What a way to jump start an afternoon right?
As much anxiety as I might have had in that moment, I'm pleased to say that it didn't translate to the duration of the day. While I may have been positively vomiticious earlier in the week, I no longer feel that way. Today, I accepted an internship for the fall and as soon as I did, I felt positively positive.
You know what else made me feel positively positive today? The new iPhone commercial. Have you seen it? Well, we all know that the only real news thing about this phone are that A) it doesn't work correctly yet and B) it does video calling. Well, the commercial shows a deaf person being able to talk to someone else because they can video call and see each other now, making it possible for deaf persons to communicate to each other over the phone. Okay fine. That's probably the best advertising I've ever seen. In my life. And I felt wonderful that deaf persons would finally be able to communicate over the phone.
I also felt positive about Crystal Bowersox. You remember her? She's the girl that should have won American Idol this year instead of the bland fella that won and won't achieve anything? Right. Her. Well she got her teeth fixed before the Idols tour and she was just so happy about it. Really, I'm sure that her management made her fix her teeth, which is real dumb, but it made her so happy that it didn't really matter.
I found out today that I will be shooting a wedding in the fall with one of my best friends and not only am I so honored that she would ask me to do this with her, but I'm excited to stretch myself and do something I've never done before. I've blogged before about my friend Travis who is the best wedding photographer I've ever seen, and all I really want to do is not make him scowl when he sees my pics. But really, it's a great opportunity and I couldn't be doing it with a better partner.
So today's been a really positive day. Oh, and I lost five pounds which is always fun, and yes, I know that I'm bragging and blogging, but sometimes, when a day is really great, you just want to share that with people.
I think that when great things happen, we should share them. Not really brag about them, that's obnoxious. Name droppers and braggers are really obnoxious and I hope I don't come across as either here, but I'm just feeling so excited and very much on the right track with where I am at in life currently. Tomorrow starts an adventure that's going to run til 2011 and I couldn't be more excited about it. Get ready. It's all going to be documented right here.

Judy and Julia

During World War II, the movie studios were trying to do whatever they could do to get people to go to the movies. All of the country's energy was going to maintaining the war effort and spending money to go to the movies became less important, so the studios thought the antidote to this was to put as many stars in one movie as possible.
I watched 'Thousands Cheer' from 1943, right in the middle of the war and the stars in it read more like the list of stars on the Walk of Fame than a cast list for a single film. Gene Kelly, Red Skelton, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, Lena Horne, and Donna Reed, not to mention the 10 or 15 other stars in it who were big deals then but didn't exactly get those stars on Hollywood Blvd.
I can't help but draw a comparison or two to the recent film 'Valentine's Day' in the way that the studio tried to cram as many stars in one movie as possible to get audiences in the seats. Julia Roberts, Jessica Alba, Bradley Cooper, Shirley MacClaine, Jamie Foxx, and Patrick Dempsey. Please don't infer that I believe that Jessica Alba is in any way comparable to Donna Reed or Lucille Ball, she's just a name that people know to get viewers in the theater.
There are a few differences between these two films. The first is a musical, the second isn't. The first got rave reviews, the second didn't. The first one got people into the theaters, the second only kinda did. But that's okay.
I just think it's interesting that the tactics that were used back in the 30s and 40s are still the same tactics that are being used today. It's true that some things never change.
And I think that's alright that some things never change. There is a sweet consistency that it brings, knowing there are things in life that are cyclical and will come back around again. I think that's one of the great things about this life, old things can be new again.

Ri-Ri

This is a problem. I mean, a real problem.

First. Why does Rihanna think that's okay?

Second. Why does Rihanna think she can pull that off?

Third. Why Rihanna?

I think that sexy people should be sexy, but that's not sexy. That's just strange and moderately vulgar. I find that, as I've recently posted, that these celebrities are really going out of their way to make us feel better about our normalcy. I mean, she's wearing shiny vinyl in her peesh and has shoulder pads that could double as beach balls. What part of that is okay? And why the raggedy ann hair? There are just so many things wrong with these pictures. My favorite thing about these pictures is that there are going to be little girls in her audience that are going to think that's okay. "Mommy, when do I get shiny boobies?" "Mommy, can I have giant air-bags on my shoulders?" "Mommy, why can't she sing live?" Sorry Ri-Ri but this is wrong-wrong.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Stop interrupting me!

If you will remember, I watched Jake's season of the Bachelor, for some ridiculous reason or another and I, like everyone else who watched the season, knew that his choosing of Vienna was one of the dumbest things I've ever seen.
So it's not been a big shock that they broke up. So that was some fulfilling for all of us who find this show to be the stupidest thing on television, but who would've thought that it would get even more delicious and moronic? But we were given that last night and I would like to personally thank ABC for it, mostly because I've never felt better about my life and the relationships with the people I have in it.
Three favorite quotes?
"I'm so mad at you. I'm so disgusted with you."
"At least I'm pursuing a career in something."
"We don't care about the dog."
I will say that my favorite moment of the entire WAY TOO LONG interview was when Vienna had a sobbing fit where she left the interview crying. I will go ahead and say that she learned that technique from the Real Housewives reunions. I mean, that's a classic move when you want to appear overwhelmed and she certainly went for it with her little dog bark crying.
So, this fake show created fake people who fake cried and we all fake cared. They sacrificed their pride and self-esteem for our viewing entertainment and we, the collective public, relished in their demise. It's the most low-brow form of entertainment and people can't stop watching which is why the Bachelor and Bachelorette will be on the air for far too long. But as long as it's on, we can all have peace in the fact that when we watch it, we will feel so much better about ourselves. Perhaps that's why we watch these shows in the first place? Because we like the metaphorical chuck on the chin we get from the fact that as messed up as we are, we aren't as messed up as the people on TV, and that feels pretty good.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Studs

I've always hated the uber-stylized 80s fashions. I've never understood it really, but I've started coming around to it. Having said that, I think we've got a situation on our hands. I think our male singers are coming unraveled because they are all over-compensating with an abundance of studs in their outfits.
I can't help but relate though. I mean, I've got a lot on my mind currently and there have been moments over the past few days when I have felt like my mind was coming unraveled. Perhaps a stud or grommet or two to keep things in place would be helpful?
I'm about to enter six solid months of transition and while I do believe that change is a good thing, it's easier to take when all at once. You know, like ripping the band-aid off. Not that this is a painful change. I guess you might perceive that from the band-aid reference. That's not it. I'm not really sure how to describe this in a way that will both make sense and not sound ridiculous.
I'm a planner. I like to plan how things are going to work out, map how I'm going to make it happen and plot out my next course of action. I do believe in spontaneity. I do. But not really when it comes to the big picture decisions of my life.
But starting 3 days from now, I'll be on a trek that won't end until 2011 really and I think that's equal part "so excited for the unknown and a new adventure" & equal part "makes me so nervous I'm practically vomiticious." That's the truth.
So I find that the seams of my usually composed and put-together self have come apart a bit and this duality of excitement and nervousness is seeping out. I feel like I could use some studs or some grommets. Where's Stella when I need her?
I will say this. This uneasy dialog between my nerves and my excitement is a new feeling, something I can only imagine will result in something positive and while that doesn't really take away the nerves, it does give me hope. Perhaps that hope will have to suffice in the grommets and studs department.
I don't really know what is going to happen between now and the end of the year, but the tidbits that I do know are equal parts exciting and vomiticious. It will be very interesting to read the blog at the end of December and see where things have been and where they are headed at that point, but inbetween then and now, I'm just gonna enjoy the ride. And really, I don't know why I'm so nervous. Rollercoasters have never made me vomiticious before. And yes. That is a word. Don't fight me on it.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Red velvet cake

I know that a great many people love red velvet cake and I will admit that I like it alright. But has anyone ever really thought about this cake? I mean, it's kinda strange right? It's chocolate but it's not really, it's red but it's not fruity, and people put cream cheese icing on it when in actuality it's supposed to have a different icing on it all together. It can't decide what it's supposed to be really. It's this bi-curious cake that people seem to like.
Vanilla knows what it is. Chocolate knows what it is. And even then, there are all kinds of variations on those two flavors. But at least they know who they are. Red velvet hasn't got a clue.
You know who else doesn't have a clue? There are quite a few pop stars that have no clue.

Exhibit A: M.I.A. I mean, she had one song that was on the radio, a song about shooting a store clerk and stealing the money in the register. A song with a really positive message. I mean, a really positive example to set to the youth of America. And she clearly has a way with hair, which makes up for her moral shortcomings in the things that she sings about...except that it doesn't. For real. She needs some assistance. And, if you've ever heard her actually sing live, you know that she could use some assistance there too.

Exhibit B: Miley. She's just trying too hard I think. Instead of letting the music speak for itself and doing some good performances, she's wearing too much fake hair and trying to appear grown up by dressing like needy Waco female citizens dress to go out. Don't get me wrong. She's got a rockin bod for a minor, but come on. These days, we just want good music with good performances. That's what we want. Plus, she's starting to come across as desperate as Christina Aguilera. I mean, that's desperate.

Exhibit C: The ultimate in clueless pop stars, Kesha. I mean, really? How have Native American groups not thrown the hugest of fits about this girl and her headdress wearing ways? I mean, that's more offensive than Justin's first solo single when he was trying to be black. I mean, with all the feathers, she looks like she just killed the singing crows in Dumbo. Has there ever been a more disturbing image?

So the bi-curious red velvet of the pop music world will continue to plague us I think. But they're interesting, which is great. Plus, how else will we feel really great about ourselves if we don't have freakshows to watch on E! News? I've never felt more normal and satisfied with my life than when I watch E! News, because so many of them are so wildly idiotic that my life seems not only balanced, but both functional and exciting at the same time, and that's a really good feeling. Because my life is balanced and functional and exciting and I didn't have to dye my hair fire engine red, dress like a slutty Waco citizen or anger Native Americans with wearing a headdress that's completely uncalled for. I'm vanilla. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

When in Rome

So I'm headed to London in a few days and being that I'm in the travel mood, I watched the movie When in Rome. I know. I have the pre-travel boredom.
But be that as it may, I watched it. I find that when you watch movies like this, you need to not have any sort of expectations of greatness because it makes them so much more enjoyable. If you go into a film thinking it's going to be the next You've Got Mail, you're usually disappointed.
Here's something that I've learned: Josh Duhamel doesn't make much sense outside of being married to Fergie. He had minor roles in the Transformers movies and a few roles in some romantic comedies and such, but his real purpose in pictures is to be seen in pictures with Fergie, which is sad since I think the general perception is that they won't make in the long run. I mean, after the first cheating scandal, it doesn't seem like they are going to be so strong right?
But after seeing Fergie in concert, I can say that it would be to his detriment to not make it work with her. She's pop music (and sometimes porn star looking) perfection.
As far as the movie is concerned, was it the best movie ever? No. Was it completely terrible? No. It did make me think about love and chance and making wishes though. As a kid, we throw coins into fountains and make wishes but only a very small percentage of us actually believe they can come true. But what if they did? What if all the wishes we ever made had come true? Would we be happy? Some people's lives seem to work out like that. It seems that whatever they want, they seem to get without much effort.
Those people might be happy with their luck but in all truth, I kinda feel bad for them because they'll never know what it feels like to work hard for something and obtain it.
Can wishes come true? Sure they can. Have I ever had a wish come true? I don't know really. I don't think so? I mean, there have been great things that have happened in my life but were any of them the biproducts of a wish involving a fountain and a coin? I don't think so. Maybe one day. Perhaps I should start throwing coins into fountains again...and buying lottery tickets.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Fess up Twihards

It's no shock to me that the Harry Potter trailer was released precisely when the new Twilight movie made it's way into theaters, and for good reason. We need some redemption in the wake of this other movie being unleashed on the world.
Look. As I've written before, I have suffered through the first two films, and I do mean SUFFERED through them, in an effort to be able to talk intelligibly about the films that are making so much money and causing such a stir in the zeitgeist at large.
Here's the deal. I've never understood what it was about this series that drew people in. Never. Girls shouldn't like it because Bella is one of the worst possible role models for women that's ever been on screen (and I include anything that Cameron Diaz has ever done on that list), and guys shouldn't like it because...well, they just shouldn't. Who would want to date her?
I figured out that I don't care for the voiceovers. Who does she think she is? Carrie Bradshaw? Absolutely not. Even though Carrie is neurotic and obnoxious at times, she's a lot more pleasant to listen to than Bella.
I hate to say this, but I think the most interesting character isn't the three that are all over the place, but it's the Riley character, the vampire that's turned against his will. Now there's a story. He's got an edge, he's interesting, and he's not helpless. By the end, I was rooting for him to get free. His is a story that's interesting. Not the need-based, obsession-laced, teenage love-affair about a girl who is obsessed with a vampire and can't wait for him to kill her so that she may also live as an undead entity and love him forever. Blah.
Sidenote: Can we talk for a minute about Kellan Lutz? Let's talk about it for a minute. Has a worse actor ever existed? I mean, he makes Taylor Lautner look like Al Pacino. For real. But I guess the movie needed someone who existed only for muscle sake? Silly me, I thought that characters needed to add something to the story that's being told.
Let's add onto this whole conundrum Ms. Fanning. Dakota Fanning is not only the star of the Dakota Fanning show (Hulu it) but she is also a terrific actress. Having said that...this wasn't so great. And how about her character's ordering the killing of the little vamp that surrendered? Gotta love the hope that offers and what that conveys to the audience. "Fall in with a bad crowd (against her will), realize you were wrong, choose the right way, and still you will get burned alive." The perfect fairy tale ending.
But whatever. I will say these three things about this movie.
Positive thing number one: The shot of the vampires coming out of the water was pretty rad (clearly rad enough to put in the trailer and every single commercial).
Positive thing number two: This movie was, in fact, better than the previous two, but that's not saying just a whole lot.
Not so much positive as it's not positive number three: I still, for no reason at all, understand why these films are a big deal. I am unable to get past the fact that the entire story is wrapped up in this girl who hates her life so much that she's going to do whatever it takes to be what the strange-looking vampire wants her to be. I mean, Bella Swan single-handedly mocks more than sixty years of feminist progress and I will never understand why any girl would want to relate to this character. And if a girl said that she did relate to Bella, she would need to seek professional help and fast, because there's nothing about her that's in any way redeemable. The only reason why anyone watches these movies is for the hot guys, so just fess up Twihards, that's the real reason. And as far as that goes, Mr. Lautner needs to put his shirt back on. The character doesn't call for shirtlessness during every single scene. Eat a cheeseburger and put on a sweater.
Did I waste 2 hours of my life? Not entirely. I mean, I cleaned my room, I packed some more and I watched a moderately entertaining movie with enough flaws to enable me to write this blog. But more than anything, it made me excited for Harry Potter because that's a movie worth getting excited about. So to that, I thank you Twilight. Thank you for making me fully cherish the wonder that is Harry Potter.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Wicked Wizard

We live in a Wicked society, one that has forgone their roots. Yes, we've all but abandoned The Wizard of Oz on the pop culture landscape in favor of being fans of Wicked and I think I know why.
We are such fans of "the other story." Look at the news. We are always wanting to know the other side of the story, hearing the story from all angles, and knowing all the facets of what happened. With Wicked, we get that. Not to mention we get some new fun songs to add to our personal mantra repertoire.
The Wizard of Oz is now 80 years old, but I believe it's still as relevant now as it was when it came out. It's the rare film that still captivates audiences even now, even if the fame of Wicked has spread wide. I will tell you that I can't watch it the same way as I could before I saw Wicked. I mean, the entire time, I'm trying to put the two stories together and make them make sense as one giant story, which I think is okay. I don't think it's a bad thing to view them as one big story. That connects new art with old art. Without the first film, the second book and subsequent musical would never exist, therefore forever connecting them together. They are unable to be separated from each other.
I will say this. Watching The Wizard of Oz again as an adult it completely worth it because there are all sorts of things you notice now that you wouldn't have noticed as a kid. For example, when the prissy little Lion is singing his song in Oz and he's got that cape on, there are bluebonnets in the flowers. In the moments before Elphaba...I mean the Wicked Witch is standing on the house and throws the fire at the Scarecrow, there is a GIANT bird in front of that house. Who knew there were Emu-like birds in Oz. This isn't Yemen. It's Oz for goodness sake.
So be it as it may that Wicked and The Wizard of Oz are tied together, that's okay. It just means that the story is that good.

It's everything

Let's play a game. It's called, "Ridiculous Things Have Singers Done Lately: Gaga Edition."
Let's face it, musicians do the most ridiculous things in order to get the attention they think they deserve. Some of them still think it's ten years ago when "shocking performances" were all the rage. Now, people just want good music performed well. Is that so much to ask?
Have you noticed it? I mean, Chris Brown is crying on the BET Awards because he misses Michael Jackson? No. We know the real reason he's crying, because his career went the way of Rihanna...far far away from him at all times. I heard a report that the tears were fake anyways, which I love. That's good crazy.
Anyways, the music world must be bored because they are out with all kinds of crazy and of course, they are being led by the craziest of them all, the Gaga. I think she missed the memo that we're over it. The outfits, the screaming for attention, the faked out speaking voice. Over it. You know what would be really shocking for her to do? Dress like a normal person. Now THAT would be shocking.
But instead, she's choosing to dance like a crazy person at her sister's graduation, cause a scene at a Mets game for no reason at all, and wear platform heels that are so obnoxious that even she can't walk in them. That was a bit of a wonder moment really. I mean, the paparazzi are standing there, she's walking out of the airport thinking she's all Gaga and whatever, and then she falls. Wonder. As Mia Michaels would say, its "everything."
So I thank the Gaga for falling off her heels. She may be able to dance and wear wigs but apparently walking is too much for her and her costumed life. Next time, try just being yourself, the person you actually are, instead of the persona you've created to garner attention. And remember, it's left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

30s

I found myself in the middle of a 1930's comic book today when I saw "It's a Bird, it's a Plane, it's Superman" at the new Wyly Theater in Dallas, and it was just what I needed.
Starring Matt Cavenaugh (Tony in the revival of West Side Story
on Broadway), the sets were creative, the effects were cool, and the entire thing felt like we were watching an old comic book play itself out. As much as there were a few problems with the show, overall, it was a very entertaining afternoon at a really cool theater and for me, sometimes I just need a few good hours in a theater to recharge my system.
I'm one of those people that likes to go to movies alone.
There's something about being there in the dark theater and having a solitary experience. I feel that way about theater too to the point where I think I might actually enjoy seeing a show alone as much as I enjoy seeing a show with other people. It's art form that's so vividly communal yet so deeply personal that it's able to cross barriers in people's minds and psyches. Really, after spending almost two years studying the varying forms of communication and the ways that it's done successfully, I'm more convinced then ever that the art of live visual communication is one of, if not the most, powerful form of communication. Especially in the world that we live in today.
So I am so glad I went to see Superman today. It gave me a fresh perspective and a renewed fervor for the subject that I've been studying for what feels like 27 years. And the costume was rad.

Rush and the risk

Chris Tucker.
Remember him? Probably not. He was in all the Rush Hour movies and a failed Michael Jackson video. Yeah that's about it.
Well I'm watching the 3rd Rush Hour movie right now and I was just thinking that while this concept works because a black man and an asian man making racist jokes to each other is very funny, it didn't exactly do Chris Tucker any good did it? I mean, he was friends with Michael Jackson and he made the Rush Hour movies where he was basically playing himself.
So from an outside career perspective, he didn't so much do much. But did he love what he was doing? That's my question.
Isn't a love for what you're doing the most important thing? Shouldn't we follow after and pursue the things that we love the most in life? Especially when we are young and have the ability to do so? Shouldn't we take the chance? Take the risk? Or do we just do what we're comfortable doing?
I think that everyone has to figure that out on their own. Life doesn't exactly work like a Lifetime movie where you follow your heart and everything works out perfectly. That doesn't always happen. Sometimes it does and that's really great when it does. And of course there's no real way of knowing if that's going to be you or not. But sometimes, I think the risk is worth it, even if it doesn't work out, because you know that you tried.