Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Rockin' New Year's Eve

Over the years, I've probably brought in the New Year in every way imaginable. In ballrooms filled with drunken strangers. Denying the calendar and pulling the covers over my head at 10 o'clock (alone.)

Tonight marks the 13th (!) New Year's Eve my husband and I have shared, and so I suppose you could safely say we have a tradition going -- we've always brought in the New Year at home, just the two of us.

With only these requirements: a fire in the fireplace and an overabundance of food. Oh yeah, and some alcohol thrown in for good measure.

Our actual drinks on an actual New Year's Eve in front of an actual fire...

Over the years the menu has ranged from picnic-blanketing with cheese & wine, retro fondue fests, takeout Thai, and for the past few years it's been all about the sushi and cosmos.

The 2004 festivities (perspective inspired by vodka consumption.)

There's really nothing that we miss by staying home -- I mean, there's just as much (if not more) potential for drunken debauchery with our scenario, and absolutely no potential for being careening into by a drunk driver.

Plus we've got Dick Clark back this year (at least theoretically) to count down the seconds until 2006.

So, we'll be rockin' out and I hope wherever you are and however you spend your evening, that you are rockin' out too (in one form or another.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Despite My Best Intentions...

In retrospect, I may have been a little too Hallmark-sappy on the last post. Blame some sort of intoxication via Christmas carol overdose.

Regardless of my lovely, if sappy, intentions, things never seem to turn out exactly as one might imagine or hope they will.

Christmas Eve with the in-laws went pretty well. Perhaps because I had what amounted to a Cabernet IV drip as I sipped wine throughout the festivities.

Xmas morning got off to a nifty start, despite our 6-year-old daughter waking us at 5 AM by knocking on our bedroom door and to make sure she hadn't "slept through" Christmas. (My fault for encouraging her to watch 3 different versions of "A Christmas Carol" in the past couple weeks.)

But my zen calm began to wane during the two-hour toy liberation that followed the actual gift unwrapping. You know what I am referring to if you have had to remove any form of doll from its packaging in the past few years...

The award for the most-labor-intensive toy packaging has to go to Mattel.

I don't know what exactly Fairytopia Barbies have been up to in Fairyland (or Marketing-ploy-land or wherever they reside) but evidently they have earned some sort of punishment for their past indiscretions -- in the form of the little plastic tethers (three of them, no less!) shot through the back of their heads to secure them to the cardboard packaging. (Imagine smaller versions of the plastic things used to secure price tags to clothing.) That is in addition to the myriad of wires and threads holding down the dolls arms and legs in a manner that suggests that the doll should be wearing bondage gear instead of a glittery gauze skirt.

I had to deal with not one, but two of these little submissives, as well as a couple of the creatures known as "Sky Dancers" (but I like to think of them as "the toys my kids shoot off too close to me and give me brush burns with") pixel chix, trollz, bratz, and various other toys with names ending in "z" instead of "s."

By the time their toys were freed, it was pretty much time for us to leave for my parents' house. A lovely hour-and-a-half drive through pouring rain.

Once there, we were treated to an evening watching 7 children running in circles while brandishing wooden croquet mallets from the set that my mother had misguidedly given to my 3-year-old nephew. Oh yeah, because there were not enough mallets to go around, there were also plastic swords being waved about, as well as various toy guns left over from the pre-PC days of my childhood.

Oh, there were certainly some high points:

One of my cousins looked particularly pretty -- and after she left, we realized it was because this was the first time in years we have seen her without her head shaved.

My 60-ish aunt telling my sister and me about how she visits our myspace pages regularly, checks out our "friends" (she knew more about these so-called friends than I do) and ended by regaling us with the cautionary tale of a woman killed by a myspace stalker.

My uncle placed something in the palm of my hand that he said was a piece of "magic mushroom." I quickly handed it back to him -- I have enough hallucinations on my own, thank you. Besides, knowing him, it was probably just shiitake.

We stayed overnight at my parents' house, and had a lovely time with them on December 26th. Ignoring the three times my 9-year-old threw up in their toilet after she woke up with a migraine, a good time was had by all.

Back home now, with a busy week ahead. In fact, right now I've got a pressing engagement in the other room - a date with Shark Boy & Lava Girl (in 3-D!)

Life is good. God bless us, everyone.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas Resolutions

"Can't we all just CALM DOWN?" I spat out with clenched jaw to a table filled with my in-laws. Ah, the makings of a perfect Thanksgiving dinner.

At least to the folks in question, my eruption was fairly out of character -- as usually I reserve my freaking out for my blood relatives or the man who was unfortunate enough to marry me. But that may have made it all the more shocking.

So, in the spirit of repentance and an effort to erase that ugly outburst from my in-laws' memories, I am hereby vowing to have to a good time this Christmas - even if it kills me!

And not only to ensure family tranquility. For my own mental health.

To that end, I have come up with some resolutions I am going to do my gosh-darned best to follow during the upcoming festivities.

And, in my newfound spirit of peace, love, and precious moments, I am spouting them out here. Because -- who knows? -- maybe you are also a control freakish, anxiety-ridden insomniac.

So, for myself and for you, gentle reader, here are my guidelines for a happier holiday:

Give yourself a break...let's take a vacation from obsessing, perfectionism and competition... don't need to make ten batches of homemade cookies; or original greeting cards printed on homemade paper. My house doesn't need to be spotless (maybe just the toilet.)

Give your significant others a break...take a step back to gain perspective and insight into how the world looks through another's eyes...spread cheer (and good wine, if possible.) We are all flawed, all trying, all doing the best we can. At least we can give each other the benefit of the doubt anyway.

Toast those missing from your holiday celebrations -- those geographically distant and those present in spirit if not physical form. Ask a grandparent, or any older person, about their childhood Christmas memories. You might be surprised at what you learn if you just ask.

Play with Barbies!

Take a chance. Chance rejection, and tell someone how much you really care for them. Chance embarrassment -- sing and laugh loudly. Dance with abandon. Chance surprising those around you.

Let the dishes pile up in the sink. They'll keep until morning (or longer...)

Be grateful -- genuinely thankful for the gifts you receive, but mostly thankful for the givers.

Be happy for what you have and not what you think you need.

Take a deep breath. Go with the flow. Smile.

And, most importantly -- no calorie counting!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Month of the Comedy Documentary

Call it serendipity or blame an unimaginative Netflix queue, but I just finished watching my third documentary in as many weeks. The first, The Comedians of Comedy, previously discussed here and the last, Comedian, made a great pair of bookends -- the films are a wonderful complement to each other, and not in the least bit redundant.

Comedian follows Jerry Seinfeld as he embarks on a mission to get back to his comedy roots by playing small clubs as he develops an act of completely new material.

The film doesn't play up the laughs like Comedians of Comedy, but instead tends to focus on the just how serious the comedy business is. It is seriously fascinating to watch Jerry hang out and discuss/analyze the progress of his new act with the likes of Colin Quinn, Chris Rock, Gary Shandling, Ray Romano, Jay Leno...and Bill Cosby (who Jerry sees after Rock tells him that Cosby effortlessly does an amazing 2 1/2 hours of material.)

Seinfeld's journey is contrasted by the parallel tale of on-the-brink-of-making-it comedian Orny Adams. Adams bares his soul for the camera, and his off-stage ego-maniacal obsessing underscores his raging insecurity. He may be funny on-stage but behind the scenes he is just so tightly wound that you feel like reaching into the screen and pouring some Xanax down his throat. His portrayal in the documentary has me fairly convinced that he probably googles himself regularly, is reading this right now and is saying, "You f*cking bitch."

Haven't watched the DVD extra features yet, but it's got the usual complement of commentary and deleted scenes. Included are parallel Seinfeld/Orny appearances on Letterman and Jimmy well as a gallery of action figures under the "Advertising" chapter -- no explanation given as to their purpose, but I suppose one never needs to explain the existence of an action figure.

There's also a "Where is Orny Now?" featurette, a pressing question which needs answering if I'm ever to get a good night's sleep again.

Friday, December 16, 2005

To Thong Or Not To Thong, That is the Question...

A headline blares from the top of the "Ask Amy" advice column in today's Philadelphia Inquirer:

"Men approve of the visible panty line"

It topped a letter written by a self-described "reasonably normal heterosexual male" who wrote:

"I'm curious how the visible panty line has come to be dreaded in the first place. Throughout history, men have had a special fondness for the sight of the female derriere...The point is that men are not turned off by a VPL. So, ladies if you prefer thongs for comfort or for your own aesthetic standards, then wear them and enjoy them, by all means. But don't let any slick advertising sell you a snow job about what men like or don't like."
Hmmm...can this POSSIBLY be true? Can men really be that different from women?

I mean, I put the introduction of the thong panty right up there with the discovery of electricity. In fact, I'm kinda surprised that the prolific Ben Franklin didn't come up with the thong himself, except that I guess VPL wasn't really an issue in the day of the petticoat.

From a strictly academic perspective, it would seem that women's butts are so varied in shape, size, projection, etc. that it is nearly impossible to design the perfect panty to fit the masses. Because, for the uninitiated (men), there is a very fine line between a comfortable non-VPL (or barely visible PL) undie and a panty that migrates into an inadvertent thong (see "wedgie.")

Which, I think we can all agree, is a very bad thing.

So, in the spirit of lazy blog-writing and holiday lingerie everywhere, I am soliciting the opinions of the five or so of you who actually read this blog.

Do men really like a VPL? Or does it depend on the size of the panty?

Is there a woman out there who does not inwardly cringe and then feel pity (or maybe secretly gloat in superiority) if you happen to gaze upon a VPL adorning a stranger's buttocks?

I hope you'll take time out of your busy holiday schedules to discuss this pressing social issue. Thank you.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Spending Christmas with Jesus

I've noticed this "Merry Christmas From Heaven" ornament in several catalogs...with its final line: "I'm spending my Christmas With Jesus this year."

Spending my Christmas with Jesus...hmmm...

Not to be insensitive to folks who have lost a loved one, but this whole concept seems a bit off to me.

I mean, would spending Christmas with Jesus be a good thing? Think about it --

Well, first of all, you're dead, and that kinda sucks...

Plus, you've got to get Jesus a gift, and -- talk about the ultimate pressure -- not only is it Christmas, but it's also his BIRTHDAY.

What do give to the dude who not only has everything, but also, theoretically at least, has a hand in creating everything?

For example, if Jesus wanted the new Xbox, I don't think he'd have any trouble getting His mitts on one...I don't see him camping out in line at Walmart or anything (the halo and stigmata would be a dead giveaway anyway.)

I imagine that basically all Jesus would have to do is think, "Having an Xbox 360 would be sweet!" and then it would appear in His Almighty hands.

So, you settle for getting him a gift card...maybe some kind of spa treatment (I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure Jesus is a metrosexual -- wasn't that somewhere in the New Testament?)

And then, to actually spend Christmas with Jesus? Well, it's not like it would just be the two of you playing Pictionary while chestnuts roast on an open fire.

No, Jesus has a very large guest list. Think of it as the office xmas party to top all office xmas parties. You'd find yourself torn between wanting to enjoy yourself and feeling the need to make a decent impression on the boss -- who in this case has the power not to fire you, but to send you into the fire of eternal damnation. Hot Damn!

Not that the Son of God doesn't throw a good bash -- he does -- and everybody who's anybody deceased is there...

You float in and find a multitude of angels working the room with their trays of mini-quiches. Unfortunately, these angels bear little resemblance to the Victoria's Secret variety-- rather they seem to favor a wizened Richard Simmons.

So you make your way to buffet table -- and can't help but overhear a bunch of saints and their catty remarks.

St. Eligius starts bitching, "Take a gander at St. Nick o'er yonder doing his whole jolly routine -- it doth nearly compel me to visit the vomitorium. What makes him think he art all that? I'm the patron saint of metalworkers -- an artisan for chrissake -- doth that not count for anything?"

"Chill, Elie, " says St. Elmo , "It could be worse -- not only did they make that lame brat pack movie and screw up my whole fire thing, but now I've got everyone coming up to me with tickle jokes. Plus, I'm the patron saint of stomach cramps...which reminds me -- isn't that Elvis over there by the restroom? "

Everyone wonders why St. Francis didn't leave his jackass at home.

Pretty soon, the wine starts flowing (Jesus is pretty good about that) and next thing you know, you catch Pope John Paul II making goo-goo eyes at Mother Teresa (I mean, he has been celibate for a looong time, plus M.T. has put a little meat on her bones since she passed into eternity. )

You drink a little too much of the divine Jesus juice yourself, and the next thing you know you've said something supremely idiotic to the Holy Spirit. Like, ya know, a comparing-the-trinity-to-a-menage-a-trios reference of some sort.

The Holy Spirit doesn't have quite the sense of humor that Jesus does, and next thing you know, he talks to the Big Guy...and you're spending Christmas with Lucifer next year.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Your Taxpayer Dollars At Work

We live in an area that is known for its very good school system. And known for the very high taxes needed to fund that very good school system.

And I've been very happy with the education my children have received.

But this lovely piece of artwork my kid brought home today is the finest example I've ever seen of how well our tax dollars are being spent:

A drawing of someone (evidently a female, judging by the garb) barfing.

In case you couldn't tell, the purple thing on the right is a toilet.

I've always dreamed of a day when one of my children would bring home artwork that prominently featured vomit, and finally that day has arrived.

I am very, very proud. I will treasure it always.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Comedians of Comedy

I pretty much go through the entire month of December feeling like there is an anvil hanging from a fraying rope right over my head. Deck the halls, and all that f*ckin' falalalala...

Forgive the pseudo-profanity. It' s just that I heard more of the "f" word last night than I probably have in the past ten years. All while watching the DVD, "The Comedians of Comedy."

Oh yeah, and I laughed my butt off along the way. A well needed escape from the holiday-prep hysteria.

I believe this DVD may only be available for rental from Netflix. And because I'm not only stressed, but I'm also lazy, here is their summary:

"A crew of documentary filmmakers follows stand-up veteran Patton Oswalt (of "King of Queens" fame) and fellow "alternative comics" Brain Posehn and Maria Bamford on the Comedians of Comedy Tour. Along with clips of performances, the film offers a behind-the-scenes look at the comedians and the challenges of presenting material that's not necessarily "masses-friendly" and of playing rock clubs and indie venues rather than the usual comedy clubs."

What this Netflix blurb doesn't tell you is that there a heaping helping of male nudity in this little documentary. All for comic effect -- but evidently it haunted me enough to inspire a rather frightening dream last night that I would rather not go into at this point...

I was not particularly familiar with any of these comics before. Patton Oswalt is especially hilarious (and you get the impression that perhaps he is the least, um, unbalanced of the bunch.)

Not to infer that Brian Posehn isn't also extremely funny. He is.

Mixed feelings about Maria Bamford -- although her standup was amusing, she creeped me out more than made me laugh. Her act revolves around impressions...the novelty is that her "normal" voice is this high-pitched cartoony voice, and her impressions are conventionally voiced women. But all I could think was, "If you can talk in a normal voice, why don't you?"

Another comic, Zach Galifianakis, joins the trio for a good part of the film. He's probably the most avant garde in his comedic approach -- although he's not above fart humor.

The film focuses more on behind-the-scenes than standup. There are comic book runs, bad radio interviews, and the comics' attempts to crack each other up. More than anything, the film exposes the monotony and lack of glamour in life on the road.

One MUST watch the extra features -- some funny stuff buried in here -- especially one entitled something like "The Mayonaisse Incident." Yes, these are some very seriously disturbed mfs.

Michael Penn scored this film -- providing incidental music (very effectively -- especially in an arcade scene.) And his version of "Down By the Riverside" plays in part during the film and in full through the credits (and continues after the credits end -- with a completely black screen, which was a bit bizarre, but seemed to be done out of respect for his music.) It's a lovely, updated version of the song, which underscores several of the film's themes.

This song is contained on an EP "Cinemascope," a compilation of Mr. Penn's soundtrack work, which was packaged with the CD "Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947" as a Border's exclusive. I have no idea if it's currently available retail.

Oh, just discovered Comedians of Comedy is currently on Showtime (that link will show you when it's airing...) Of course, you won't get the extra DVD features if you go this route.

There's also a series based on the movie on Comedy Central. Must do my best to catch it...

Now, I just have to get the mental picture of a nude Brian Posehn out of my head. ASAP.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Aisle of Doom

I suppose the first mistake was simply setting foot in a craft store. But the siren song of the 40% off coupon lured me in.

The second mistake was that I didn't run out the door screaming when I saw the checkout lines stretched halfway back into the store. It did cross my mind. But that coupon was like the last chip in a compulsive gambler's sweaty fist -- I had to use it. (Um, I hope I didn't mess up the gambling analogy. I don't even like the slots.)

Anyway, after procuring a lovely knit-your-own too-small-to-be-actually-functional purse kit for my daughter (at 40% off it doesn't need to be functional) it was off to checkout.

And the big decision. Which of the hideously clogged checkout lines to choose? Any time spent comparing could mean several other folks (I might as well say "women," because any man going into a craft store is required to check his genitals at the door) could dash ahead of me in line.

After careful analysis of shopper to cart-content ratio, I just headed to the nearest line.

Almost immediately, it was apparent that I had a pretty good chance of seeing the seasons change several times before reaching the register.

Normally, I would proceed to scrutinize the other lines and then dash off to a better prospect.

But we all know how well that usually works -- you move to a different line and then suddenly, somewhere ahead of you, a call to the manager is required and again you're back to watching the seasons change.

So, it seems a new and exceedingly radical approach was called for. I was going to wait CALMLY in this same line.

CALM. A novel prospect. Much deep breathing was required, and the silent repeating of the mantra "40-percent."

With my new-found zen attitude, I would observe the other shoppers and take in details of the store I would never notice in my usual harried pace.

Know what? A craft store is really boring. Really, painfully boring. Even the point of purchase stuff is excruciatingly dull.

But no mind. I am above thinking horrible thoughts about which method of torture might speed up my cashier, who appears to have found a way to fool time by moving slower than slow motion.

As in all things crafty, I soon find a comrade in the lady in front of me. An older lady, with that peculiar pinkish orange-red hair color that only older ladies have. She is chatty (obvious if you know me, because I would never strike up a conversation myself in a craft store line) and shows me how she is going to decorate the artificial wreath in her cart with little felt Christmas stockings. She shows me this several times.

I consider poking my eyes out with the knitting needles in my little make-your-own-purse kit, just to pass the time.

Meanwhile, every other line is moving at breakneck speed compared to ours, and every customer behind me has bailed for another checkout.

But a commitment has been made. There's been a mantra involved, dammit!

The seasons cycle several times, and my new friend is now next in line. She leans closer to me and whispers conspiratorially, "This (checkout) lady is always slow. This is the 2nd or 3rd time I've been in her line and she's always slow..."

Now why she didn't share this little tidbit of information with me, oh, 30 minutes ago...?

But, it's all good. It's the Christmas season for Christ's sake! And from my studied craft store observation, there will be artificial greenery and faux flowers everywhere!

And really, what more can we ask for?