31 May 2008

for sherrie, on her birthday

It's my friend's birthday today.

I've repeated that to myself all day, like a mantra, like a wish, even a reminder, maybe, since she's no longer around to remind me herself.

It's hard to lose someone you love. That's universal - it hurts no matter how they leave your life. But when they make the choice to stop living, like Sherrie did, it becomes almost impossible. When someone commits suicide, the grief which overwhelms the living is tainted, I guess. It's sticky, it's hot, coated in anger and guilt and shame and fear. But maybe that's true of all death, maybe it's true of every ending; these are the things of which I am still unsure.

Last year on this day I opened a bottle of champagne, because Sherrie loved it, because we used to be rock stars, and proceeded to drink it methodically, almost maniacally, desperate to cling to memories of her. I didn't do that this year, but the memories still come. They are no longer unbidden.

I'm not sure when I'm supposed to stop grieving her. I'm not sure whether it should have happened already - am I getting better? I can't tell. Hearing her name only feels like being punched in the stomach most of the time now, instead of all of the time, but I still can't talk about her with most people. I watched the days slip by this week and fought back the rising tide of panic at the encroaching date of her birth, but today I woke up and it was almost a normal day. I've learned to blame less people for the circumstances of her life, and even fewer for the circumstances of her death, but the hate and rage still slick my stomach, and if I'm being honest with myself, I still blame everyone for everything. I blame strangers on the street for not knowing her, even. But mixed with that is a sort of pity, "I feel bad for you," I think. "You missed out on knowing a great girl."

I guess that's why I'm writing this here, which I normally would not do. Because some of the people reading this didn't know her, and I feel sorry for those people. They missed out on knowing a great girl. They missed out on knowing a girl who would hunt up decades-old used books from bookstores in Australia on the most ridiculous subjects because she knew a friend who'd be interested, a girl who would leap airport turnstiles to greet people, dressed in combat boots and a frilly skirt, a girl who'd craft little storybooks as birthday cards, pieced together out of glitter pens and construction paper and bits of magazine.

I miss you every day, Sherrie. And every day I keep expecting, hoping, that things will get a little easier, that hearing your name won't cause my stomach to twist in knots, that I can see a picture of Vinnie without being overwhelmed by guilt, that something funny or clever or stressful or heartbreaking will happen and I won't immediately think, "I wish Sherrie could hear this." That hasn't happened quite yet, but something I didn't expect - something I didn't know to hope for - has: every day I remember something about you I love; every day I remember something you said or did that I'm grateful for. So maybe I can't quite accept your death yet, but I'm learning a lot about celebrating your life. And that's why I can say happy birthday, and mean it, because no matter how you left, the point was, you were here.

26 May 2008

"just play the feckin' chord!"

This weekend was the host of a Very Large Checkmark In The Con Column in the lives of many people who are tired of living in America. No, I'm not talking about the release of Indiana Jones IV or some mishap involving a bbq grill and a can of lighter fluid, not even of Hillary Clinton vaguely alluding to Obama getting assassinated during the California primary, although that was certainly awkward. No, my friends, this weekend saw America once again missing out on perhaps the greatest spectacle ever to be simulcast on televion: EUROVISION.

Why is it that America, land of the free, home of the brave (eh, ish), inventor of the light bulb and the phone and cable tv cannot enter Eurovision? WHY? Oh, because we're not European? So? Who wants to be European anyway?

Well . . . I do. But only vaguely European. Like, can I be European, but only with regards to cheese? Would that work?

Even though Eurovision coldly and without good reason prevents the United States from joining the competition, it's still one of the greatest things in the world. I first learned of Eurovision like I learn of many things: through television. In this case, I learned about it through an episode of Father Ted, in which Father Ted and Dougal decide to enter a song in Ireland's Eurovision qualification competition. Their song is a MASTERPIECE, obviously:

In all honesty, I didn't realize that Eurovision actually existed. I thought they'd just made it up for the show. I mean, a giant, multi-country contest about SINGING? Seriously? The Olympics aren't cheesy enough, now we have to add power ballads to the mix? This opinion wasn't helped by Father Ted's video for "My Lovely Horse."

I think I persisted in thinking that Eurovision was a made-up comedy bit for about two years, until Courtney sat me down very gently one day and said, "no, no, Erin. You see, Eurovision is REAL. That's where ABBA comes from."

Which is true, ABBA did win Eurovision for Sweden. And even MORE AMAZINGLY, Katrina and the Waves won it for, I guess, England. (Germany? Where the hell are Katrina and the Waves from? I always thought they were Canadian. Don't tell me Canada's allowed to enter!!)

But perhaps you, like me, were unaware of the existance of Eurovision. Or perhaps you, like Meredith, are unconvinced of the awesomeness of Eurovision. Never fear! Thanks to youtube, all your musical prayers are about to be answered.

This year's Eurovision final was held in Belgrade, because Serbia won the contest last year. See, the winner hosts the next year's contest. This was Serbia's winning song/performance last year:

This gives you a general idea of your typical Eurovision entry. There are ALWAYS interpretive dancers in crazy costumes. ALWAYS. Sometimes the interpretive dancers are dressed like VAMPIRES, like in Switzerland's painstakingly literal entry from last year, "Vampires are Alive:"

By the way, the exclusion of "Vampires are Alive" in last year's finals really threatened to put me off Eurovision. For some reason, the people voting (uh, Europeans, I guess) are not quite on the same page as to what Eurovision is supposed to be about. It is NOT supposed to be uplifting Celine Dion-esque ballads performed by spunky lesbians. It is DEFINITELY supposed to be techno songs about vampires. Jeez, Europe. Get a clue, would you?

This year, I missed out on watching the English airing of Eurovision, with Terry Wogan's wry, steadily-getting-drunker commentary about all of the shitty performances, as well as his conspiracy theories about the Eastern European voting bloc and how Eurovision is merely a herald of the eventual rise of Eastern Europe and the fall of London and Paris. Sometimes I think poor Wogan's been through too many Cold War drills. But I can still bring to you some select highlights from this year's Eurovision contest:

Here we have Azerbaijen's entry. As you can tell from the DEVILS and ANGELS and their DANCE BATTLE, this country has the right idea about Eurovision entries:

Germany's entry, however, is not so great. In fact, the less said about it, the better. I do wonder how Heidi Montag (surely that is her, the blonde in white?) got a girl group together and managed to convince Germany to let her perform their entry.

And then . . . we have Bosnia. What they do well, they do REALLY WELL. I mean, crazy Flashdancing by a woman dressed as Raggedy Ann? Robotic lead singer who looks like a Hedwig reject? People in overalls doing dances with brooms for which I can only imagine is an homage to the Buffy musical? Yes, please. And yet, they had to RUIN EVERYTHING by putting a live bird ON STAGE. Bosnia! What are you DOING to me?? The 90s weren't bad enough? Now there have to be birds involved?

And now, let's narrow it down to the winners, shall we? Greece came in third, with their impression of a pre-breakdown Britney cribbing moves from Bob Fosse:

This video reminds me of one of the STRANGEST things about Eurovision: non-English speakers singing songs in English. I don't know why they do it, unless they're pandering for votes from the UK, but it always tickles me, because the songs don't make any sense. "To win a destination in the center of my heart?" Huh? What does that even mean, Greece? Sing in Greek! It's a lovely language! Why are you trying to sing in English?

Also, who is directing this show? Does he have to use the bathroom, or something?

Ukraine came in second, because their Fossian moves were better, plus the entire performance was a bit more eau de strip club:

But because Eastern Europe is going to rise up and take us all over soon, Russia won the show with their song from some guy who enjoys writhing around the floor and singing with a lisp. Well, who doesn't? I presume that they won for their addition of a random, nonsensical ice skater:

Seriously . . .why is there an ice skater? What am I saying? This is EUROVISION. Why isn't that ice skater wearing a live turkey on his head, that's the question I should be asking.

Still, though, if I had anything to say about it, and, as an American, I think we've established that I should have EVERYTHING to say about it, I would have voted Latvia as the winners of Eurovision 2008. I mean, how can you beat PIRATES? You seriously can't.

Sarah, Mere, why didn't we get these guys to play the Pirate Party? Would have been amazing. Plus, I am sorry, but "Wolves of the Sea" is really catchy. See if you don't start humming it to yourself at work.

I mean, it's no "My Lovely Horse," but what can be? Actually, Ireland's entry from this year, Dustin the Turkey, comes pretty damn close:

If you can't beat them, write a song mocking them and have it performed by a giant puppet turkey with what looks like disco balls for boobs, that's what I always say.

Okay, now that you've seen some of the videos, what is YOUR favorite part about Eurovision? And don't you think Americans deserve to enter, even thought we're not technically a part of that continent??

21 May 2008

ni hao, world.

I was uploading photos to flickr, and today's greeting is in Mandarin. But then I went back to the home page, and it was in Swedish. Hej, blog.

This past weekend was fun-filled and action-packed, like a summer blockbuster movie. I got to spend time with a wealth of Houston friends, which was great, because it's already getting to that point in the Texas summer where it's fight or flight - I either go out and Do Things and Be With People, or I spend all my time hiding in a cool, dark room, praying for it to be October already. I don't particularly like the latter way of getting through the summer, so it's glad I am that I have amazing friends nearby so that I can do the former.

On Friday, I met some of my friends at our local institution, Warren's. I love Warren's - it's walking distance of the Rice, which means free parking for me, they pour whiskey with a liberal hand, the bartenders actually know how to make a whiskey press correctly (this is v. rare, trust) and we go so often that they totally know our group, what we like to drink, even our names. Plus, we're a bit like a gang, and no one messes with our territory - the balcony seats are ours, Houston. In fact, except for the rare but deadly occurrances of BeCargoShorted Douchebags trying to court me ("good luck at your gig!"), Warren's is pretty much perfect.

It helps to have great people to hang out with, though.

Jerry, Patrick, Matt and Ray

Tabletops looks really confused. Except, I'm not supposed to call him Tabletops in public anymore cause he says it makes him look bad. FINE. Patrick looks really confused.

Mere and I, on the other hand, are totally going to be cast in some sort of Identity Switch movie, no? Maybe we're secretly sisters! But we're going after the same man! And he can't tell us apart! Oh, the comedy of it all!

Ray told me later in the evening that he tried really hard not to look at the camera once, because he was working on not being a camera hog. Ray, hello, that is why I love you! That, and your slick dance moves. And the fact that a lot of times you have a flask on you. So, okay, there are three reasons I love you, but the camera thing is totally number one.

Alexandra and Jill

Alex came! I hadn't seen her since . . . oh gosh, new year's? Can that be right?? It was funny, we were wearing the EXACT SAME SHOES. Only hers were black and mine were yellow.

Also, Sunday was Jill's birthday. Happy birthday, Jill!

Here is Ray studiously not looking at the camera. Even Juliet thinks he's being silly.

I can't remember why people decided to show me their muscles, but I remember telling them that I could take them all single-handed. And then Patrick showed me his actual muscles. They are bigger than my head.

After we had scared off the rest of the patrons of Warren's with talk of circumcision (don't ask) and rotting vegetable smells (REALLY don't ask), we decided to go back to the Rice to see Jerry and Jill's new apartment. It's super cute, and they have TONS of windows to look out on the streets below. We also drank Matt's AMAZING homebrew that he made for the St. Arnold's brewing competition (more on that later). It seriously was some super tasty beer.

Then we just hung around and talked till the wee hours, spied on people and had a dance party to MJ and also Kanye. It was a perfect way to close out a pretty stressful week.

On Saturday night, I went to have dinner with my BFF Aly, her husband Josh and their little girl, Sophia. (Oh, and Josh's brother Jeremy, as well.) I've known Aly for almost 24 years, which is so insane that I can't even wrap my head around the idea. She truly is my sister in pretty much every way but sharing DNA (does swapping it count?); her parents are my second parents, Josh is totally my brother-in-law, and I know that no matter what, I can always go to Aly with anything. It's funny, with her job and mine, and our family obligations, we don't get to see each other as much as we'd like to, but it's never weird or awkward when we do get together. It's like no time has passed - we spend three minutes filling each other in on any major surgeries (her) or boys whose hearts we've broken (usually me. sometimes her, though) and then we go about our business like we were never apart. I can't imagine what life would be like if it weren't for Aly; luckily, I don't have to.

Also, she just found out that she's preggers again. Yay, Aly! She and Josh have been wanting another baby for a while now, and since she just made the decision to leave work and go back to school for her Masters, it sort of couldn't have come at a better time. Also, if Sophia is anything to go by, this second kid is going to be a brilliant knockout.

Hi, Phia! ILU!!!

Sophia's so smart, guys; she can practically read already and can spell her name and do all sorts of crazy babygenius stuff. She's only two!! Plus, Josh always teaches her really funny phrases to say to people - this weekend she was running around telling everyone "Du hast mich!!"

After dinner, Josh started talking about Two Girls One Cup, which I had FORTUNATELY never heard of before. I say fortunately because my inquisitive nature would not allow me to rest until I saw it, even though everyone, even Josh (who once showed me a video where a man sticks HIS ENTIRE HEAD up a girl's vajayjay), told me NOT TO DO IT. Let me please reiterate their advice. DO NOT WATCH TWO GIRLS ONE CUP. DO NOT DO IT. BAD. BAD IDEA OKAY?

After leaving Josh and Aly's, I went to Meridian to see The Virgins/Be Your Own Pet/She Wants Revenge. I love Meridian; it's probably my favorite place to watch shows, because there are multiple bars and the antechamber has tons of places to sit and people-watch between acts. The Virgins and Be Your Own Pet were both really good - The Virgins were fun and peppy and everyone was dancing along. Here is video, not from me, and not from their show at Meridian, of them performing "Rich Girls" for your enjoyment:

I like how one of the comments on the video is "Film the bassist for god's sake!" It's like I spoke through this stranger on youtube, like I guided his/her hand while typing that comment. Actually, I should like to point out that at no point on Saturday night did I hit on a bassist, so I think I'm actually growing and maturing as a person.

Be Your Own Pet were, of course, exhausting, in the best possible way. Watching Jemina is like watching a wind-up toy which someone has put down on a stage; she just goes and goes and goes. AND GOES. Ah, to be young. This video sums up the movement, if not the noise:

I left in the middle of She Wants Revenge. As it turns out, while it's great to be a Joy Division fan, and while it's great to know Joy Division fans, being in the same room with three hundred Joy Division fans is just annoying. Especially when they're all there to watch a band who couldn't come close to the brilliance of Joy Division in their most fervent fantasies.

On Sunday, I met Mere, Matt, Jill, Daniel, Sarah and Henri (phew!) at St. Arnold's brewery. We were all there to support Matt in the homebrew competition. Look how supportive we look!

Actually, we look tired and annoyed. This is because there were two guys (The Beer Choads, for lack of knowing their actual names. No, that's not true; I did know one of their names. But Beer Choads is certainly more accurate) were having a competition to see who could be the most obnoxious and overly loud. I'm not sure who won, but I know who lost: all of us who had to sit there and listen to them. Only my deep and abiding affection for Matt would cause me to sit through that.

While Matt didn't win (although I still suspect a kickbacks situation), he had a super high score, and all the judges were really effusive in their praise of his excellent beer. I'm so proud of him! He worked really hard on that beer and the results were mighty tasty!

Here we all are celebrating his good score outside:

Jill, me, Mere, Daniel, Matt, Sarah and Henri

Okay, everyone else is celebrating. I'm busy thinking, "oh shit, I've put my 600 dollar camera into the hands of a total stranger outside of a brewery! What have I done??"

I feel like this photo accurately sums up my and mere's friendship:

Everyone else is busy focused on the reason we're there, and we're busy laughing over something privately.

After leaving the brewery, we decided to drive to some mysterious bar that only Daniel had heard of. We walked by this mysterious bar (still not convinced it exists!) about 5 times before realizing that it was closed. THAT IS HOW MYSTERIOUS IT IS. (That, or we were sidetracked by the American Apparrel shop windows. Hipster habits are hard to break.) So, instead, we went to Agora, where we had caffeine and booze and a few minutes more with Sarah and Henri before they had to leave to go back to Austin. Bye, Sarah and Henri! See you next month!

Daniel practices his life of leisure at Agora.

I'm glad I got to see everyone - with everyone's summer plans, it's going to be a long time till we're all back under one roof. Don't fly away too far, friends! Unless you're stowing me in your carry-on!

17 May 2008

Hellllllllo, Miz Lady!

I was really looking forward to seeing the new Indiana Jones. Now I'm starting to hear bad buzz about it, which makes me sad. I have a gene that makes it nearly impossible for me to spend money on a ticket for a movie that I know sucks.

I say "nearly" because the one time I went against my instinct, I ended up going with friends to see "American Wedding", a movie so bad that it made me want to cause harm to others and to myself. Everyone liked it except me, so maybe I was wrong, BUT I DON'T THINK SO.

Some of my friends expect me to see Sex & The City with them, and I probably will go, but I reserve the right to back out. We'll see what the reviews are like.

Here are movies I'm particularly interested in seeing this summer. I've already seen Iron Man (awesome awesome awesome), but it was the first theater movie I've seen in 2008, which I can't believe. I'm gonna try to see these (unless they get bad reviews, natch):

The X-Files: I Want to Believe

This has to be good. It will break my heart if it blows. I've already got a date for this movie - my mom, who turned me on to The X-Files in season 1 because I was too dense to start watching it immediately when it premiered.

Eeeeeeee, Billy Connolly!!!

Step Brothers

I really had no interest in this until I saw the preview at Iron Man. Will Ferrell's Pablo Cruise shirt hints at greatness.

Pineapple Express

Eh, this will probably suck. I've enjoyed pretty much everything Judd Apatow has touched, like, ever. One day he will disappoint me. I'm hoping this one isn't it.

Tropic Thunder

I know, I know, this is the third comedy in a row. Whatever. Robert Downey Jr. is a freaking genius, and I will beat down anyone who says differently.

I will even tolerate Ben Stiller to see RDJ in this role (although Simple Jack is so wrong it's right). Red Band trailer:

Hamlet 2

This film may never make it to my town, and I'll have to wait until it comes out on DVD to see it. But if it does show up, it'll undoubtably play in the art theater in my neighborhood. Hurrah!

"Rock Me Sexy Jesus" infects your brain like syphillis.

Soooooo many comedies. I do actually prefer drama, I swear. There's just not any coming out this summer that interest me.

Speaking of, I just saw The Orphanage, which was beautiful and heart-breaking and scared the hell out of me. I highly, highly recommend it. My friend and I talked about it for two days afterwards.

See it see it see it.

In conclusion, a baby hamster eating popcorn on a piano.


Dollhouse teaser at FOX upfronts

16 May 2008

"Hyannisport is a ghet-to! OUTTA CAPE COD TONIGHT!"

(the subject line is a lyric from m'elle's new favorite song, Walcott by Vampire Weekend.)

I'm going to do something I don't normally do on the internet, and that is brag about my kid. (I don't normally do this on the internet because A) I hate being That Person Who Brags About Their Kid, because I hate those people and B) I'm crazy-paranoid that some weird creep will save pictures of my kid to his hard drive or something, only to be found years later which Chris Hansen comes to bust him. I've seen too many episodes of Law and Order: SVU.)

Tonight, m'elle's preschool had their annual end-of-year program. All the kids get up and sing songs that they've learned (or, in the case of the younger kids, stand up and cry while songs are played over the loud speakers) for their family members' enjoyment and delight. Now, normally, these things can go one of two ways if you're a parent: your kid can either stand up there and sing loud and proud and totally shine in the spotlight, or s/he can stand stock still, perhaps with his/her back to the audience, and wail. It is always, always a toss-up.

This year m'elle decided to grace the audience with her very loud singing voice (taken straight, as you can tell, from the Callahan side of the family, bless her) as well as her amazing skill for following choreography (also taken from the Callahan side, thankyouverymuch). Unfortunately, they stood a tall giantess of a girl in front of my kid, so I had to sort of duck into corners to get photos of her. But see how intently she is doing her choreography?

She totally looks like a tiny little Revivalist, no? Her preschool is in a church, so I have to be on constant alert with my behavior, or she'll totally call me out. I also have to bite my tongue a lot, because I don't want my natural cynical nature corrupting her sweet and entirely humbling faith in something greater. Although I do have to speak up when she talks about Jesus taking away her boo-boos. "Listen, kid, let me tell you about leukocytes, okay?"

That kid in front of her is so totally uninterested in the goings-on of the song. KID! Maybe cop a squat or something so that people can see my kid instead, who is so totally ONE WITH THE MUSIC.

Here is an extremely low-quality video (like, seriously, I shove my old camera in a drawer for six months and all of a sudden it falls apart?) of one of the songs they sang. It's also shaky cause I couldn't stop giggling at how cute all the kids were. (The lady who comes to play air guitar in the middle is the school director. It was an artistic move that I, as cinematographer, was unprepared for.)

After m'elle's group sang, the graduating class walked out in their caps and gowns to get their diplomas. How cute are they?

After the program was over, we all trooped back to her classroom, where she showed us her end of year art projects. We also took a little time for what was obviously the highlight of the evening: cookies.

Also I took a photo of this religious artwork (not done by m'elle, but rather by a kid who actually goes to that church):

I think, if churches are looking for ways to make the Bible seem hip again, they might look to this picture. Having Adam and Eve wear matching black leather bondage-esque outfits would certainly attract a new and different crowd.

As you can tell, there was no rhyme or reason to this blog entry at all, other than to talk about my kid. So I'll leave you with this photo from a few days ago, when we went into The Sharper Image and played Jedi Knights. I, sadly, was wounded in battle, and m'elle emerged the victor. See, that's the greatest thing about having a kid - it means you get to be one, too.

14 May 2008

"i dunno, maybe we should have let them win the war after all," part 1205

My raging case of Anglophilia is pretty well known, I think; it is a disease for which I have found no cure, a disease I often fear is terminal. When a person is sat on a tube platform at four in the morning, staring at rats and thinking how happy she is to be in London, there's really no hope for her. (I often wonder how the English, being the parents of the language, can so horribly mangle the English language and its grammatical rules. And I also wonder why I pepper my own natural south of the mason-dixon dialect with other countries' shitty slang.) And while I certainly understand that my Anglophilia causes me to have blinders about some things - are sausage rolls really the ne plus ultra of breakfast foods? Actually, yes, yes they are - there are some ways in which it is QUITE CLEAR that the land of Her Majesty the Queen has it all over us poor American slobs.

Okay, one way. Well, two, but Magners is actually Irish and thus doesn't count.

That way? Television.

I'm sorry, but it's true. British TV wipes the floor with American TV, almost all the time. Sure, America's capable of producing some shows that England couldn't imagine in their most fervent nerdy wet dreams - The X-Files, for example, could never have worked over in England. They aren't nearly paranoid enough about their government (I mean, CCTV! And NO ONE questions this?? People, rise up!) to relate to Mulder, and also I don't think the British Parliament is so loose-fisted with their security budgets as we are - how else do we explain Scully's season 4-and-later wardrobe? Plus, no offense, England, but I've seen your iconic sci-fi show, and apart from the charming and hot Scottish fellow playing the titular character, it kinda blows.

Also, England could never produce something like Gossip Girl, because all of their soap operas are about really ugly, middle-class, downtrodden people. I don't get that. If I wanted to see ugly people's ugly problems, I'd go outside and make friends. No! I want to see pretty people's glamorous problems! From the safety and comfort of my couch!

But apart from sci-fi metaphors of our search for God in a godless world, and shows about Blair Waldorf being awesome, I have to say that England tends to do it just a bit better than us. Here are three examples, from three different genres, that wipe the floor with any sort of American counterparts:

Surreal Comedies:

This is The Mighty Boosh:

Pretty much everything you need to know about The Mighty Boosh can be summed up by this photo: two men, one has great hair, the other a great mustache.

No, really, The Boosh is an amazing surreal comedy about two friends, Howard and Vince, and the trouble they get up to going about their daily lives. Vince befriends polar bears and is worshipped by aliens and loves Gary Numan and has an amazing assortment of hats. Howard loves Jazz and accidentally gets taken to Monkey Hell and is hated by the Wind and had his first kiss on a rooftop on his 32nd birthday. With Vince.

Okay, so there's really no good way to explain The Boosh, except to say that it's like watching someone else's pot-and-ecstacy-inspired daydream, and that there's singing involved. Singing, Mod Wolves, people with heads made of cheese, a mystic shamen who has an ape as a familiar and a villain called Betamax.

And while The Boosh does air, edited, on BBCAmerica and has gained some popularity over here in America, the truth is that we just can't deal with such a strange, surreal comedy. The most surreal comedy we have is probably Flight of the Conchords:

And they're from New Zealand.

Reality TV:

No, Anne, I'm not going to mention ASBO Teen To Beauty Queen, even if it is possibly the greatest thing I've ever seen in my life. :)

The truth is, we steal a lot of reality tv from the Brits. You can blame them for Dancing With the Stars (aka Strictly Come Dancing, a title that makes no sense to me no matter how many times people explain its origins. Yes, yes, Baz, I know.), American Idol (aka Pop Idol, originally, and now in the form of the fantastic The X Factor, which is so much better than AI, I cannot even tell you), America's Got Talent (we do?), Trading Spaces, What Not To Wear; NBC has even picked up the terrible Baby Borrowers and will be airing the American version this fall.

But for the most part, these reality shows have about the same level of quality (if any) across the ocean. Only one really stands head and shoulders above the rest, only one is so far superior in its UK version than in its poor American imitation, only one can tempt me to actually BUY A HARD DRIVE to store it on during the summer.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Big Brother:

(Hi, twins! Hi, Chiggy! Hello, Emily, you racist slut! Cheesy Quavers! Oh, all my old friends!)

I've only watched one season of America's Big Brother: last year with Evil Dick and his fascinating rape fantasies. And it took me approximately one week to cycle through all the stages of Reality Show Depression: shock that this show made it to air, obligatory old-man comment about how it used to be different in my day, guilty facination despite myself, outrage when someone is kicked off before their lamer/viler/uglier/dumber co-contestants, oversaturation, total boredom.

Big Brother US is just not fun, guys. It's missing - well, it's missing everything that makes Big Brother UK so great (and it is so great) - Julie Chen's weird bobblehead in no way bests Davina McCall's excited shrieking, the US tasks aren't nearly ridiculous enough, and no blonde, vapid US villians will ever be as amazing as Nikki:

Oh, Big Brother. I can't wait until June, when you're back in my life! Like an old friend, you always know just what to do to cheer me up. And it usually involves someone shrieking about ass herpes.

Dramas About Time-Travelling Mancunian Cops

Okay, so this is a bit specific, but it was brought on by mere forwarding me information about the ridiculous, blasphemous, sure-to-be-shitty David E. Kelly remake of one of my very favorite shows, Life on Mars. ABC picked up the series for this fall, and guys, I know I am the girl who cries wolf about this stuff, I know that I basically threatened people with bodily harm if they watched the US remake of The Office, and yes, I can admit that that ONE TIME, I happened to be wrong (although to be fair, based on the first six eps of the first season of The Office US, I was still right. And how was I to know the appeal of Jim Halpert?), but PLEASE BELIEVE ME when I say that the US remake of Life On Mars is going to be one of the shittiest things on television. I can say confidently, without hesitation, that David E Kelly will fuck that show up so very bad that you'll want to throw away all your Bowie albums just because he'll remind you of this soon-to-be show. Trust me. Because, friends, you may be able to, if not upgrade, at least pay loving homage to Ricky Gervais and Steven Merchant, but no one, NO ONE, will be able to upgrade these two people:

This? Is Phillip Glenister and John Simm, better known as Gene Hunt (Trust the Gene Genie) and Sam Tyler. They make Life on Mars. They are Life on Mars. They elevate it from the quasi-spooky, vaguely hokey drama that it could have been into the witty, cutting, quasi-gay, heart-wrenching, edge-of-your-seat-must-see-more SUPERNOVA OF A SHOW that it turned out to be. Please do yourself a favor and watch the original (read: BEST! ONLY! TRUE!) Life on Mars series. It's only, what, 16 episodes long? I watched all of them in a week. In Mississippi. If it can be done there, it can be done anywhere. Because, I promise you, if you happen by this shoddy American remake on ABC this fall, if you accidentally catch a few minutes of its watered-down, sentimental claptrap, you will have spoiled yourself; you will have ruined what could have been the greatest relationship between you and a television show you'll ever have. Love yourself, people. Watch Life on Mars before it's too late.

Also, if it helps? The soundtrack's amazing. And that fellow on the right gets naked.

12 May 2008

continuing adventures in fake hitting things

My Body Combat class continues to excel itself. Yesterday alone it had:

- a woman who worked in Lush, with glitter up her arms, who smelt delightful, and filled the whole room with candy creamy goodness. For the first fifteen minutes, and then she smelt of sweat like the rest of us.

- a jump kick routine set to a dance version of Jump by Van Halen.

- the last song, a flurry of punches, set to ' You can't stop the Beat' from Hairspray. Hardcore. (I totally came home and downloaded the song.)

Genius. Now if I could only manage to get a place in a class more than once every two months.

In other exercise news, I can now swim half a mile! Quick question though- if you were going to have a chat with a friend, why would you chose to stand in the slow lanes of the pool at the busiest time of the day? Surely there must be some other, less damp places to chat?

Please don't fooled into thinking that i am in anyway fit and healthy by the topics of this post. It's just that going to the gym is still so rare that I feel compelled to mention it each time ;-)

08 May 2008

the internet is for kicking james blunt in the pants

There are a lot of reasons I love my friend Miggie: she is witty and sarcastic and cutting and kind, she knows approx. twelve languages, she has amazing boobs and she has dressed individual members of Franz Ferdinand, which is pretty awesome.

Also, she does things like this: makes up a game where you can kick James Blunt in the ass.

Kicking James Blunt is supremely therapeutic. Try it, you'll see. And see if you can beat my current best of 104000 m.

You might wonder what would lead miggie to create a game like this. The answer is pretty simple. Miggie really, really, RLY hates James Blunt. m'elle used to sing "You're Beautiful" in the car before I told her to stop or I'd sell her to gypsies, and once I made her sing it for miggie's voicemail, just to make her scream. Good times.

And, from Sarah, who I think got it from mistah katz, the Montana Meth Project. Oh, meth. You're the sexiest of all the class A drugs.

07 May 2008

Top Ten Things I Love About Austin

This happens anytime I visit Austin these days; I am filled with love for my old place of residence and dream wistfully of all the places I wish I could go every day. (Don't worry, then I dream about getting on Mopac or having to drive downtown past 12 at night or running into certain ex-boyfriends who want to glom all over me with their gross emotional issues, and I remember why I left.) So because I'm still on an Austin high, here are my Top Ten Things I Love About Austin (to be immediately supplanted with other things as I think them up later):

10) Driving through 360/Bee Caves and looking at houses.

When I was at school, Mandy and I used to climb in my car on weekday afternoons and drive around the hills of Austin. We'd make up stories about the people who lived in the giant houses towering above the lake and plan our own lottery-winnings-funded dream houses. I don't have any made-up stories of people in houses to share with you today, but instead you can have this true story:

I was a sophomore in college and I needed a new job, having been burned out (and burned, period) at my previous 40-hour job at the hair salon. (You guys, hair is SRS BZNZ, okay?) So I decided to nanny.

I know. It's cool; I'll wait till you stop laughing at the idea of me taking care of kids for a living. I laughed too.

Anyway, so this family included a previously-divorced woman, her new husband (who I never saw in five months of working there), his 18 year old son who lived in California, and their two girls, aged 5 and 7. I was never really clear, actually, on whether the girls were the absent husband's or the first husband's, and I thought it rude to ask. To paint a picture of the mom, who was the only non-child family member I ever saw, I will just tell you that she wore designer track suits and had her makeup tattooed on her face. Tattooed. And she wasn't like Mia's grandma in The Princess Diaries, you know, 70+ years old. She was like 40.

The first time I came to the house to meet the girls, the mom had the youngest one take me on a grand tour of the home. I was charmed by little Kayla's impestuous nature, but started to realize exactly what I was getting into when she led me into the third-floor playroom. Looking out the window, she said, "This window has to stay closed all the time because of Alli." (Alli was the 7 year old.) "Oh," I say. "Did she try to climb out of it?" "No," little Kayla replied, matter-of-factly. "She got jealous because the last babysitter was braiding my hair and not hers, so she threw the cat out the window."

Yeah. Threw the cat. Out of a third story window. Because she was jealous.

Why I didn't just cut and run then is still a mystery to me, although it may have been due to the size of my bank account. But no, like the moron I usually am, I stayed. Stayed through the fights and the tantrums and the spoiled princess behavior, stayed through 6 solid weeks of going to Chuck E Cheese EVERY DAY because their mom asked me to take them, stayed through the Friday afternoon drive to the kids' psychotherapy appointments (I am not even kidding), Alli pitching a fit because she didn't want to "color some fucking house" and Kayla humming to herself like a space cadet.

Oh, it was a time. The final straw came when Kayla pitched a fit because I wouldn't let her ride her bicycle in the house, due to, you know, the priceless works of art and also the fact that it's Austin in October and it's gorgeous out. She walked over to the grand piano and started kicking it and hitting it, picking up sculptures and vases and slamming them against the keys. That was the point when their mom came home, and I explained what was going on. She said she'd handle it, and she certainly did, in her weird hippie-mom way: "Kayla, I appreciate that you're expressing your anger artistically."

That was is. That was the reprimand. "I appreciate that you're expressing your anger artistically." That was the point when I knew I just couldn't do it anymore.

I often think about little Alli and Kayla, who'd be teenagers now, and wonder if their mother has completely destroyed any hope of normalcy for them. But when I pass those big houses in the hills, I always figure that is exactly what's going on behind closed doors.

9)Dolce Vita gelato shop in Hyde Park

This is one of those Austin places that make me sad now, because it's gotten really snobby and expensive and lame, I hear. And, to be fair, it was always a little snobby and expensive, but it used to not be lame. Katherine, Mandy and I would go here late on Tuesday nights and eat gelato and drink cappucino and smoke expensive hand-rolled cigars that we bought from Mojo's (that'd top my list if it were still the real thing) and generally be pretty douchey and snobby ourselves. But I am a firm believer that everyone deserves a little luxury, even poor college kids who just want to talk about whether Leo and Greenlee are ever going to FINALLY get together.

Also, since it's an italian dessert shop, I never felt guilty about taking my Italian books there to study. I was ABSORBING CULTURE. In the form of pomegranate gelato.

8) B Side/The Showdown*

I had to list these together because they represent my two favorite bars in Austin, for two very different reasons. I lived next door to the Showdown for five freaking years, and I am not even kidding when I say that I used to drink there in my pjs. Why not? It was just next door! Jeannie and Grae's boyfriend Mel and I used to skip class and go play pool all day, drinking pitcher after pitcher of Shiner until we were so stumbling drunk that we could barely find our way home. Which was NEXT DOOR. Of course, The Showdown is now sort of Dead To Me, after they kicked us out one time after catching Mere drinking without an ID. It was my celebratory "I can drink again!" night, too, which is just uncool, Showdown.

My other favorite bar in Austin is B Side, both for its laid-back-yet-sort-of-swanky-atmosphere and the fact that it never, never checked IDs. The first time I ever went there was when I was invited to a photograper's gallery opening after-party. There I was, nineteen years old, surrounded by skinny models (he was a fashion photographer, and he dated my coworker) and tons of rich Austin people. I had no idea what I was even doing there and sort of wanted to fade into the walls, but instead I got pulled up to the bar, bought several rounds of drinks, and ended up making about 10 new friends. And then, later on in my college career, my bestie Lucas and I would always end up at B Side, because we were both unbearably posh but also sort of poor (B Side's perfect clientele!). I miss your Manhattans, B Side!

*Yes, yes, Mugshots is totally number three.

7) The Enchanted Forest

What's that you say? I can't include it on my list because I just discovered it? I don't think so! The Enchanted Forest totally deserves a place of honor. It's enchanted.

6) Whole Foods flagship store

That's sort of a cliche, but it's true, so what can I do? I'd moved away during the construction of the flagship store, and I came back to visit Austin and randomly ran into Matt at Taco Shack (more on that later). We decided to hang out for a while, and he asked if I'd been to the new Whole Foods. When he learned I hadn't, he just laid a gentle hand on my arm and said very solemly, "Erin, the cheese section. You're going to need someone to catch you when you collapse." He was so right, too. UGH, MARRY ME, CHEESEMONGERS.

5) Mozart's

This is Mozart's:

It is my number one studying/thinking/espresso-shake-consuming place in Austin. I miss being able to go there whenever I wanted and enjoy delicious baked goods in the cool breeze off Lake Austin.

4) Waterloo Records

Where else can you stock an entire esoteric record collection in a half-hour's time?

3) Mexican Martinis at Trudy's.

Look, I know Trudy's is overrun with people most of us want to avoid (i.e. all of Austin), but that does not change the fact that Mexican Martinis are possibly God's greatest gift to mankind, right after free will. They are delicious and toxic and cause everyone to love each other in all the right ways.

If you've never been to Trudy's, let me explain the rules. You are allowed two Mexican Martinis. That's it, no more. They come with the glass and the shaker, so two actually equals about 8 or 9 regular martinis. Of course, like with everything, there's a way to get around this rule. If you sit at the bar before you go eat (or eat and then sit at the bar), you can order a Mexican Martini there as well, bringing you to a grand total of three Mexican Martinis in one evening. I have prepared this simple chart of the effects of Mexican Martinis for your perusal:

Half of one Mexican Martini - stop obsessing over your Italian final which you're pretty sure you just bombed.

One Mexican Martini - start thinking you did pretty damn good on the Italian final that you maybe didn't even bomb.

One and a half Mexican Martinis - start speaking in Italian about your Italian final that you are now sure you aced. Probably you will earn some sort of award for being a genius at lo coniugazione di verbi imperfetti.

Two Mexican Martinis - Summon the nerve to ask out cute guy in your Italian class.

Two and a half Mexican Martinis - Ask out the cute girl in your Italian class, too. The more the merrier!

Three Mexican Martinis - think it's a really swell idea to dive into the shallow end of a pool, forgetting that A) you don't really know how to dive, B) you are wearing all of your clothes and C) when you slam your chin against concrete, it tends to really hurt.

Three Mexican Martinis plus one Dos Equis in the hot tub: Stop feeling chin pain altogether.

For the record, the above did happen to me, although on two different nights. The night of the Italian final, I ended up sitting on the floor of Trudy's, giggling and talking about Francesco, the hot Italian grad student. While Francesco's girlfriend was sitting right next to me (also on the floor). The pool incident also involved a trip to the steam room. SUCH A BAD IDEA.

2) BookPeople

BookPeople is my absolute, favorite store in Austin. When I first moved there, I just wanted something that would remind me of my absolute, favorite store in Houston (BookStop, natch), and I found and fell in love with BookPeople. I love that store so much. Just . . . so many books! A children's area that even I want to read in! The science section alone, people!

But the best part about BookPeople is that the people who work there love books and want everyone to love books like they do. When I was a junior at UT, I decided to read The Divine Comedy. In Italian. In the original Italian that Dante used, not a modern abridged copy. So I went to Barnes and Noble and asked the customer service person how I could go about purchasing this book.

Me: "Hi, I'm looking for a book. Dante's The Divine Comedy, but in Italian."
Her: ". . . ."
Me: "See, I've written down the title for you in Italian - just right here - I was wondering if there was some way you could order it? Because you don't have it in stock."
Her: "Who is . . . Dante? Is this a new release?"
Me: "Um, no, it's . . . The Divine Comedy? Dante? Can you just search for it?"
Her: "Oh, here we go. The Divine Comedy. It'll be 120 dollars and it'll take three months to get here because it's out of print."
Me: "Okay, never mind."

But I just couldn't get the idea out of my head, so I went to BookPeople and asked their customer service people.

Me: "Okay, this is stupid, but I'm looking for The Divine Comedy. But in Italian."
Him: "Hmm, okay. Do you have a translation of the title that I can search for?"
Me: "Sure. Here you go."
Him: "Hmm, I'm not showing it in stock . . ."
Me: "Yeah, I figured."
Him: "So we'll just order it for you. Should come in in about a week, okay? What's your number, I'll call you when it gets here."
Me: "Really? The Divine Comedy? By Dante? In Italian? You can order it and it'll be here next week?"
Him: "well, sure."
Me: "awesome!"

- one week later -

Me: "Hi, my name is Erin, I got a call about a book - "
Girl: "oh! The Divine Comedy, right?"
Me: "Yes! In Italian?"
Her: "Yep! Here it is, right here. We put your name on it so no one would take it. Do you want to purchase it?"
Me: "Oh, well, I sort of figured I had to at this point."
Her: "No, not unless you look at it and approve of it."
Me: (looks at book.) "Yeah, I'll buy it. Um, how much?"
Her: "Twenty-three dollars, please."
Me: "Oh! Great! Okay, here! So I was just wondering how you got it so fast?"
Her: "Oh, we just researched until we found an independant book store in Milan and ordered it from them. They were happy to ship it quickly."

So, that's my BookPeople story. I came in with a silly request, and not only did they know what I was talking about, but they found me a book from some tiny little bookstore in Milan and paid the shipping costs. ♥

1) Breakfast Tacos

Oh, sure. Other places have Breakfast Tacos. Bob's Taco Stand in my hometown of Richmond has amazing breakfast tacos. But no city has quite the proliferation of The Most Holy Of All Foods like Austin does. Everywhere you turn, there are breakfast tacos, and they're all delicious. Mmm, chorizo. Marry me.

So I don't really have a question to ask today, like "What are your favorite Austin things?" because not everyone who reads this has even been to Austin before. But I'd like to know what your favorite things are about any town you miss, so please tell me!

06 May 2008

"you guys want prayer? you want some prayer?"

Good news, Blogger now offers publish-on dates and times. That would make me look a lot more prolific and/or prescient. Well, I don't think it can publish things IN THE PAST so it looks like I knew what would happen months in advance, so prescience will have to wait. Damn.

My friend Brianna, being otherwise a very smart girl, has decided to leave Texas and move back home to LA. This is, of course, the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard until such time as I need a place to stay in Los Angeles, at which point it will become an act of sheer brilliance, unparalleled in these modern times. But we decided to have one last hurrah in Austin before she spirits away to the homeland. This is a true account of Saturday, 3 May. Well, all the parts I can legally publish without being sued.

I was, of course, running super late (I am either 30 minutes early or an hour late to everything. It's one of my more annoying flaws.) and didn't get to Austin till around 4:30, an hour and a half later than I told Brianna and K (her roommate and also my friend and also leaving Texas - what the hell?) to meet me. They were late too, though, so it was all for the best. Eventually, though, I met up with them at Waterloo. And they brought Taylor! Taylor's their friend from Fort Worth, but now he's MY friend too, and I love him and want to keep him on my keychain so that he can be around me all the time, offering witty repartee and mocking strangers.

So we scoured the used records section of Waterloo, debating the finer points of Tony Orlando and Dawn and discovering that there is, indeed, a "Teen Scene" in Fort Worth - three volumes of music worth!

As you can see from these photos Brianna took, we also managed to engineer the DNA splicing of human and 12 in. vinyl, creating the perfect Human-Record mutant. Look for Radiohead to steal this technology in their next album release.

Taylor dresses up.

I bet you didn't know that Lucius Malfoy had released a Greatest Hits album, did you?

After we got tired of annoying the Waterloo staff and patrons, K and Brianna decided to show me and Taylor The Enchanted Forest, which is possibly one of the greatest places in Austin and I never even knew it existed before now! I don't know how I could have lived in that town for so long without discovering the magic that is The Enchanted Forest, but I know now that I will drag everyone I meet there.

The Enchanted Forest is off Oltorf, and from the outside, it looks a bit dodgy - rundown shack and creaky, ominous gate. But we walked inside and it was like a world of wonders had opened up before us. There were so many amazing things to discover!

This is like my own personal alter.

K and I decided to live in this tiny little house. Look, it even comes with a change of clothes.

Of course, not everything can be perfect. I ran into my nemeses, but I cut a wide path around them.

These fowl, being fake, are much more palatable.

On the Coast of Coromandel/Where the early pumpkins grow/In the middle of the woods/Lived the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.

The whole place is like this, full of treasures large and small.

I feel like that's an accurate summary of my life: "starts like theatre ends like circus."

Of course it wasn't all fun and games:

Dolls are always creepy. Hanging them by a noose just ups the creep factor.

This jungle gym went to nowhere. Also it was too tall/held together by duct tape, so we didn't try to climb it.

After we left The Enchanted Forest, we stopped at HEB for refreshments of an adult nature. Also, I tried explaining my Brilliant New Plan of reading/reviewing every VC Andrews book and blogging about them to Brianna and K, but I think they're too young to appreciate the kitchy appeal. And/or they just never spent a lot of time reading trashy novels at age 10 like I did.

After that, we went to meet K's cousin Micah and his friends at the doggy park on the lake! It was the perfect way to spend the late afternoon - drinking champers and making new friends, both human and canine, while watching the sun slip down over the hills.

I don't know, but it was RLY FUNNY.

I feel these photos accurately explain Brianna's animated style of talking:

Micah's amused.

But Micah's friends are confused.

Okay, and then after Micah and his friends left (bye Micah! See you in about 4 hours!), I fulfilled a life-long dream of mine - taking jumping pictures.

It turns out that jumping pictures are REALLY hard to take. You have to hit the shutter quick enough to focus the camera, but late enough to catch the jumping. Most of my pictures turned out like this:

K is a superhero.

But finally, FINALLY, it worked:

MENTOS! The freshmaker!

We were so excited about our success that we RADIATED happiness. Awesome.

After we took on the world of professional jumping, I got some food because I hadn't eaten all day (why do I keep doing that?), and then we drove to Taylor's friend's house. Only Taylor's friend was still out to dinner, so we parked in a church parking lot and talked about life, etc. All of a sudden, a church van comes roaring up to our cars. The driver of the van rolls down his window, and the following encounter ensues:

Me: "Oh . . . hey. Sorry, we can leave, we were just awaiting directions from a friend and we thought we'd park somewhere until he calls us back."
Church Van Driver: "No, it's okay! It's totally okay!"
Me: "Are you sure? Cause we can leave, it's not a big deal."
CVD: "No! It's good! It's great! We're pumped! We've got the spirit tonight!"
Me: "That's . . . great."
CVD: "We've got a van full of teenagers with the spirit!"

At this, the map lights of the van turn on, the doors open and I would not be exaggerating to say that 15 teenagers spilled out on all sides. It was like something out of a horror movie - should I run? Should I bravely stand in front of my friends and face these people down with only my wits and a heavy purse? (To be fair, that purse had my camera and a bottle of Stella in it, so it might have made a good weapon.) Should I start quoting scripture?

Me: "Oh . . . my . . ."
Girl from Van: "Hey, guys! How are you doing tonight? You guys want prayer? You want some prayer?"
Me: "No, but we'll take some conversation?"

And then they just got in the van and left. It was surreal, to say the least. I hasten to add that their church was one of the new-agey, renovated airplane hanger churches. I mistrust those churches, where everyone wants to be your friend and take you bowling. I'm a Methodist. In my mind, church should be full of starched shirts and old women in hats and The Apostles' Creed. These are the things I am comfortable with, not being offered prayer in a deserted parking lot off 51st street, bottles of Stella quickly stashed in the seats of the car. Although I suppose from the youth group's point of view, this is the exact reason I should have been offered prayer.

So, after that, we high-tailed it out of there (after denouncing a certain pyramid scheme which poses as a religion and which I will not mention in public by name as I am afraid they'll sue me/take me to their mother ship) and went to Taylor's friend's house, which was really super nice. I miss nice, affordable living.

Then we drove to pick up Micah from his apartment, and stopped at Starbucks for a much-needed caffeine boost. We all had plans for later in the evening (Brianna and K's included stalking Jack White) and we all needed our energy up for the hours ahead. Ahem.

Here is me and Micah and Taylor! We're so happy with our caffeine!

After we got revved up, we went downtown, where we ran into kids coming out of prom! It is a not-so-secret facet of my personality: I effin' love prom. I mean, not my own, which were sort of lame, but other people's. In fact, one time in college, my friends and I crashed a prom and had a fucking blast. We played only the music we wanted to hear ("You want Toby Keith? Sorry, you're getting Warren G.") and brought flasks and basically did all the things we should have done at our own prom, but didn't because we were busy being studious and well-behaved. It was amazing, and extremely cathartic.

After walking around downtown for a while, we came to a stop at Cedar St courtyard, which was playing an amazing assortment of Divinyls and MJ and Sir Mix-a-Lot. And that's where I had to bid a fond adieu to my new friends and my old ones, because I had plans with someone else for the rest of the night. But although I already miss everyone terribly, I know we'll see each other again soon. In fact, The Most Rubbish Band In The World is going on US tour in November (we think, or maybe we're just spreading that rumor until it comes true) and we already have plans to hijack them. Until then, we'll always have The Enchanted Forest!