Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Scariest Place On Earth

What with Halloween just days away I thought I would take the time to pay tribute to The Scariest Place On Earth: my neighborhood convenience store.

Like all teenagers who have faced age-discrimination, I spent a fair amount of time in high school "shopping" at sketchy convenience stores attempting to purchase alcohol without a valid driver's license.  Here's the obvious thought behind this tactic: if the store is in such a bad neighborhood that it's actually dangerous to work the register, the store owner probably does not have many choices when it comes to hiring.  For example, an establishment I frequently purchased beer from as a teenager was overseen by a man who was missing almost all of his front teeth and mumbled incoherently under his breath.  

However, no convenience store comes close to the level of sketch as my current neighborhood corner store.  Truly, every time I go there I feel my body go into flight or fight mode.

The area that I live in is urban and definitely 'transitional' so a ton of vagrants hang out around this store.  They are there for several reasons. One, there's a bus stop. Two it's ideal for panhandling because lots of people have just used the ATM inside.  Three, there is a windowless, suspect bar across the street with a sign that boasts: "OPEN 7 AM DAILY!" I don't know what goes on inside that bar, but I have seen people stumble out at 3 in the afternoon and stare at the sun like they aren't sure what it is.  One of my neighbors remarked that she had been there once.  When I asked her to elaborate on her evening inside the mystery joint she quietly said, "I don't want to talk about it."  Needless to say I'm dying to check it out.

Each time I go to this store I am approached by at least three homeless men.  This one guy consistently pretends that his car "ran outta gas just three blocks away" and asks if I have any money.  It's alway awkward because he knows I know he's lying.  I can tell that he recognizes me and is fully aware that he approached me with this same dilemma multiple times the previous week.  Most of the time the guys are honest and ask me if I'll help them buy a beer.  Sometimes I oblige.  These sorts of requests aren't all that frightening because the folks seem lucid and respect my personal space.  However, on more than a few occasions I have been forced to deal with a schizophrenic screamer who thinks I'm his dead mother, a long lost pet chicken, or the Antichrist.  This really tests my deflection/redirection skills and I have noticed that after such a conflict occurs the resident bums clinging to sanity give me a "job well done" head nod.

In addition to the antics of the vagabonds sometimes I find myself observing completely insane outbursts from fellow patrons.  Just a few nights ago a woman started screaming at the clerk because the machine wouldn't accept the pin she was using for her debit card.  "I think I know my own f---ing kid's birthday!"  The kid (a toddler) was standing beside her with bare feet sucking on a lollipop wearing only a pair of Pull-Ups Training Pants.  It was 11 p.m.

Oh here's one of my favorites:  there's a man who practices some form of kick boxing outside in the parking lot most afternoons.  Like the unfortunate toddler he goes barefoot.  Unlike the toddler he wears an excessive amount of clothes: sweatshirt + t-shirt + insulated vest + Texas-In-August = insanity.  I watched him "practice" one day while I filled up my car with gasoline.  I realized that he must have chosen this location because he can watch himself in the windows which are covered with advertisements (from the inside) so it's like a gigantic mirror.  Judging by his appearance I think he might be into meth.  I asked the clerk (who is surprisingly friendly and normal- I blame the recession) about the kick-boxing dude.  His response, "girl, don't even get me started on that one."  

I know what you're thinking- why wouldn't you just drive a little further to a respectable grocery store when odds and ends, beer, or gas are needed? My answer to you, "because that's not convenient."  But that's also only part of the reason. 

Much like watching a scary movie on television, the adventure that is shopping at this particular convenience store makes me feel alive.  As I step out of my car and stare down the cholo using the pay phone while his pit bull stands anxiously beside him, adrenaline begins to coarse through my veins.  My senses sharpen as one of the bums begins shouting at me and I start to panic, but breathe a sigh of relief when I realize he's screaming at someone across the street.  Entering the store I am inconspicuously eyed by patrons who are most likely attempting to steal something.  As two men covered in prison tattoos begin to argue I feel the muscles in my body tense and then relax when the squabble turns out to be friendly sparring.   

These ebbs and flows of energy are strangely familiar- nostalgic even.  Why does it feel so normal for me to be stressed out at a convenience store?  Why am I at ease with being uneasy?  

While standing in line I glance over my shoulder.  A group of teenagers are nervously deciding between Purple Passion and Mad Dog 20/20.  Suddenly, it all makes sense.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Waiting for Superman

Saturday I saw the documentary Waiting for Superman.  I watch documentaries with skeptical eyes, because logic leads me to conclude that if the director is willing to devote both time and money to a project that 'informs' the general public about an issue then they most likely have formed an opinion on that issue.  In addition to my usual skepticism I came with concerns that the documentary might place an unfair amount of blame on teachers.  Several articles I read claimed the film was receiving flack for being anti-teacher.  

Good news for good teachers: the film applauds you and your efforts.  Bad news for bad teachers: if real education reform ever begins to take place- hopefully, your days are numbered.  

I noticed that one of the comments on YouTube read, "communist propaganda at it's worst." Either this person has yet to see the film or does not understand the fundamentals of communism, because this documentary promotes the idea of merit based pay for teachers which seems pretty capitalist to me. I guess if you really want to get technical all public schools are communist in nature (since most everyone supports them via property taxes regardless of whether their child attends their local public school or not).  I'm splitting hairs though- I think we can all agree that public education is necessary.  Thomas Jefferson thought so:

"Education is here placed among the articles of public care, not that it would be proposed to take its ordinary branches out of the hands of private enterprise, which manages so much better all the concerns to which it is equal; but a public institution can alone supply those sciences which, though rarely called for, are yet necessary to complete the circle, all the parts of which contribute to the improvement of the country, and some of them to its preservation." 
-Thomas Jefferson:

Last but not least, I was appalled by New York City's "rubber room."  This is a place where NYC teachers who are awaiting disciplinary hearings go everyday, receive full salaries, and play Scrabble (amongst other things.)  The cost to NYC tax payers:  $30 million in salaries alone.  

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ciao Italy

I'm going to go ahead and step outside the realms of cool by revealing to you all that I check my stats obsessively.  For those of you who don't know, Blogger provides you with a little map of the world so that you can see where your blog is read and how often.  I was excited and perplexed when I discovered that I received an unusual amount of traffic in Italy today.  I'm not sure if this is one person who checked out my blog for awhile thereby clicking on lots of different links or if this is a few people.  Either way, you (all?) made my day.  


To Recreate Us

I love Sufjan Stevens.  I especially love this version of Chicago.  I also just realized that he looks A LOT like Clive Owen.  

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

No Comprendo (Again)

I'm confused.  Is this bumper sticker pro-suicide?  Anti-God? What exactly is this person attempting to stand for?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mad Men Mega Post

In anticipation of the season finale of Mad Men I decided to dedicate today's post to memorable Mad Men moments.  It was difficult, but I managed to select ten moments that (for me personally) are the most unforgettable.  If you have unwatched episodes on your DVR (or have never watched the show) you should probably avoid reading this post.  

10:  Peggy Smokes Pot

While it might not be her most shocking moment, this scene supplied one of my favorite quotes: "I'm Peggy Olsen. I want to smoke some marijuana."

9:  Freddy Pees His Pants

I could not find a photo of this anywhere!  What's the deal?  This moment stayed with me for two reasons: 1) a guy peed his pants at work and 2) the boys at Sterling Cooper usually make drinking and smoking throughout the work day look thoroughly sexy.  Freddy soaking his slacks definitely took the shine off.  

8:  Duck Seduces Peggy

Here's the thing: Duck grosses me out, and I was not excited about Peggy bedding down with him.  However, it was completely unexpected and provided yet another memorable quote.  

7:  Mrs. Blankenship Kicks The Bucket 

I think we all saw this one coming, but it was great nonetheless. Especially when Don said, "I'd have my secretary do it, but she's dead." 

6:  Joan Plays The Accordion 

Just when you thought Joanie could not be anymore charming, she busts out an accordion and sings for her dinner guests.  In French!

Number 5:  Roger Insults The Japanese

So we all knew Roger wasn't the most progressive of the bunch.

But wow! Sterling holds a grudge!  He somehow managed to reference Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Kamikazes in a span of three minutes.  

4:  Betty Slaps Helen Bishop

Despite appearances Betty is no ordinary housewife-

but this was a complete surprise, and really gave us a taste of Betty's emotional instability.  

3.  Pete and Trudy Dance the Charleston:

This moment is so incredibly Pete-tastic (thanks Matt Godsey!) that whenever I'm feeling down, I pull up this video of Pete and Trudy dancing to Ludacris' Money Maker and suddenly all is right with the world.  

2:  One Word- Tractor

1:  Don Holds Peggy's Hand 

"The Suitcase" is my favorite episode thus far, and this moment which was so beautifully subtle, is the reason why.  

What are your favorite moments?

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Outlier (noun)

1.  something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body.

2.  a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from others in the sample.  

Every year my grandmother gives me three or four books for my birthday.  Luckily she has wonderful literary taste.  This year I received the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and it completely changed the way I look at success.  

Malcolm Gladwell

I prefer novels, but this piece of nonfiction is chock full of truly entertaining trivia.  For example, did you know that the director of the Manhattan Project attempted to poison his Chemistry tutor in college?  

Gladwell examines everyone from Bill Gates to The Beatles in his quest to prove that there's no such thing as a self-made man.  Guess what- he succeeds.  

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

No Comprendo

I went to Taco Bell today for lunch.  Taco Bell isn't usually my Mexican food place of choice, but a few times a year I crave their greasy tacos.  I generally frequent this particular Taco Bell when I'm in a hurry, and so I don't check out the "artwork" that is hanging on the walls.  Today however, my coworker joined me and pointed out a very strange picture that is on display. Taco Bell, I'm confused:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Don't Get Scrappy

As some of you may already know, my husband and I recently traveled to San Francisco.

Whilst in the Golden Gate City we ate a scrumptious breakfast at a delightful little place called Dottie's True Blue Cafe. Check out their awesome tables:

The wait (which was a line outside of the door) was about forty-five minutes and well worth it.  Aside from chatting with a group of European tourists who seemed rather determined to be perceived as eccentric snobs, I spent the time studying an untitled document that was taped to the entrance of Dottie's True Blue Cafe.  I suppose most people would label this "Rules" but I prefer to call it "General Guidelines For Maintaining Proper Behavior At Most Any Restaurant (Plus Some Dottie's True Blue Cafe Trivia That Will Help You Understand Where We're Coming From).  This sign is so intensely specific that I had to get a photo:

I know, right? Six paragraphs! Seems a little much.  Especially because most of the suggestions seem like they are advising against stuff that no one would actually do. Such as "Please don't ask us to ask someone to leave." Or "Please don't start waving your hands and telling us you are ready to order as soon as you are seated." And the "We average 250 + meals per day.  We have 6 burners, 2 ovens, a 24" x 32" griddle and a small char boiler. We seat 40." seems like it should be followed by "I drive a Dodge Stratus!!!"  

But here's the thing- for two years I waited tables in a small restaurant that would get extremely crowded and my experiences there lead me to believe that these guidelines were typed up because people actually did these things consistently. If you learn one thing from waiting tables it's this: when people are hungry- they get scrappy.  

To illustrate this point, I would like to present you with the following:

All Time Scrappiest Moments In My Personal Waitressing History  

(These moments are in no particular order, because I feel they are all equally insane.) 

1.  The time a mother of three small, horribly behaved children yelled at me because I repeated her son's order of chocolate milk as "chocolate milk" instead of "chocolate moo" (as it was called on our menu) thereby ruining his "magical experience."  Yes, she used the term "magical experience" while yelling at me.  

2.  The time an elderly man slapped my hand (yes, slapped) away from his walker and screamed "I don't need any help from the likes of you." Apparently, waitresses are subhuman.  

3.  The time a family of four ignored the line of fellow patrons as well as the hostess's pleas of "um . . . hey! Y'all! Excuse me!", plopped down in a booth and refused to abandon the unjustly acquired table because, "Hey, we're in a hurry."  

4.  The time a man yelled at me because I was "making [him] miss [his] son's baseball game" due to the fact that his "Fiesta Salad" was taking longer than three minutes.  

5.  The time a child threw a spoon at my face and his mother shrugged her shoulders and said, "he's really hungry.  Can't you tell them to hurry?"  

So for all of you who have never waited tables: while there is such a thing as bad service, there is also such a thing as patrons who wave their hands in the air as soon as they are seated.  So the next time you go out to eat, and you're really hungry- don't get scrappy.  

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sexy Little Things

I guess "reigning Halloween in a little bit" isn't in Victoria's Secret's best interest.  I am rather surprised that it took them so long to come up with this.

Despite Halloween transitioning into something I'm fairly uncomfortable with, I am very excited that Autumn is finally here.  Crisp mornings, harvest moons, and pumpkin ale should all be celebrated.  

Friday, October 8, 2010

Go See The Facebook Movie

So here's the great thing about reviewing a movie like The Social Network (which will henceforth be referred to as The Facebook Movie because that's what everyone is calling it anyway)- I really can't spoil anything for you.  We all know the story, because we're all using Facebook.  Well, except for me.  And we all know that Mark Zuckerberg is a billionaire and kinda comes across like a jerk.  Or at least a little pompous.  But can you blame him? He created Facebook.

The movie opens with Mark and his girlfriend Erica hanging out at a Boston pub.  Their date quickly moves from a conversation about Mark's obsession with gaining membership to a final club to a heated argument that is the result of Mark's offensive communication style. This scene sets up the movie perfectly because we learn five crucial things about Zuckerberg (or at least this version of Zuckerberg): he's ambitious, he's arrogant, he's insecure, he's a genius, and he sucks at relationships.   

From there the film moves at a spectacular pace.  You won't lose interest for a second, and the movie is surprisingly funny- there's a delightful Karate Kid reference as well as a humorous psychotic girlfriend.  

All of the actors do an amazing job.  While Jesse Eisenberg (who plays Zuckerberg) will most likely receive the most attention (he's already getting some Oscar buzz) I thought that Andrew Garfield (who plays Facebook CFO Eduardo Saverin) gave the most emotionally provocative performance.  I know some of you might have concerns about Timberlake playing the role of Napster creator Sean Parker, but he's perfect.  I would also like to add (for those of you who have yet to consider this) that it's poetically just for the most hated man in the music industry to be portrayed as a complete tool by a musician.  

Speaking of music, the soundtrack (thanks to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) is perfect.  It's mostly electronic, but somehow seamlessly transitions into poignant tones for the emotional stuff.  

Finally, the best thing about The Facebook Movie is that it attempts to provide us with an understanding of Mark Zuckerberg's motivation for creating Facebook, which as is turns out is something that all Facebook users can surely identify with. 

He wanted to be noticed.  

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Universe Conspired To Build My Confidence

I just watched The Facebook Movie (I refuse to use it's actual title) and on the drive home I decided that I would review the movie for Friday's (tomorrow's) post.  I was a little nervous about sounding like a complete amateur since I've never reviewed a movie before, but the universe conspired to build my confidence. 

As I sat down at my computer to begin writing, I remembered that my phone was off.  I switched my phone on and saw that there was a text message from a very good friend of mine that read:

"U HAVE to call this number . . . 830-374-5568 . . . this is a movie theatre in a town near where I grew up. No one will answer, so don't worry. It's seriously the most hilarious thing u have ever heard! Every week it is funny, but this is the best yet. "

So I called the number (and yes this is the actual number if you would like to hear it for yourself).  It must be a really small theatre, in a really small town because the owner(?) not only gives you the showtimes for the one movie that's playing, he provides you with his own summary of the movie which is awesome.   

Check it out! And in case it's difficult for you to make out- he's summarizing the movie Easy A.  

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I've Got A Better Game- It's Called Two Lies and Another Lie

So if you haven't noticed yet, I'm a big fan of Mad Men.  I'm especially fond of Don Draper.  How could you not love a character who uses words like "kabuki"? Or responds to beatniks who condescendingly ask how he sleeps at night with "on a bed made of money."  

If you're not watching Mad Men download the first few episodes and try not to get hooked. It's irresistible. I know this might sound like an overstatement, but it's so good that it doesn't seem like television.  I have never seen a show this well done.  

And if you are watching Mad Men, you'll love this.  

5 Reasons to Love James Franco

1.  He thought it would be a fun "experiment" to star in a soap opera after becoming a successful actor (Spiderman, Pineapple Express, Milk) and joined the cast of General Hospital.  

2.  He told the writers he wanted his character to be two things: "an artist, and crazy." 

3.  He found a way to work his real-life mom into the show.  

4.  His character's name was Franco.  

5.  He gave us scenes like this . You must watch it.  

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Social Network

I am not on Facebook.  I get tired of explaining why I'm not on facebook, because it usually turns into an overly intense lecture on why it's not good for me.  It's sort of like an alcoholic explaining why they can't have a glass of wine.  No one really wants to hear it.

I was hanging out with Austin about six months ago and one of his buddies (who I had just met) asked if I was on Facebook.  I told him no and hoped we could leave it at that. My "no" was immediately followed by a very concerned "why not?" 

Austin knows I get tired of explaining why I'm not into it (or why I'm very into it and shouldn't use).  So he shook his head, pointedly looked at me and said, "you don't have to talk about it."  

As soon as these melodramatic words escaped his lips we looked at each other and had a mind melt.  A very good prank was in the making.  

Austin's friend looked confused.  "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hit a nerve."  

Me:  It's okay.  It's just . . . hard to talk about it.  And it comes up a lot.

Austin: You don't have to do this.  

Me:  I know but, now I feel like I'm intentionally being mysterious.  

Austin's friend:  Okay, now I'm really curious.  What's the deal?

Austin: Don't feel pressure, but he's cool.  He won't make a big thing out of it.  

Austin's friend: What? What is it?

Me:  Mark Zuckerberg is my ex-boyfriend.  

Austin tried very hard not to laugh as I slowly but surely convinced his friend that I attended Harvard, majored in English, and had a tumultuous relationship with the founder of Facebook.  I also convinced him that Facebook was "practically my idea" because Mark had zero friends and I had tons tons of friends with whom I wanted to share photos and comments.  With faked bitterness, I explained to my gullible new pal that one night in Mark's dorm room I asked if there was any way to do this over the Internet and the next day Facebook was launched.  

I even convinced him that I provided the inspiration for the term "it's complicated."  

Me:  During sophomore year we were on what I guess you would call "a break" but we were still seeing each with some regularity.  One night Mark joined me and some friends at a bar and someone asked us if we were still dating.  Unsure of what to say, I looked at Mark who gave me zero help, so I finally responded with, "it's complicated."  Apparently this angered Mark, who was still holding a torch, and he never let me hear the end of it.  He would constantly mock me in high pitched tones, "it's complicated! It's complicated!"  

Austin's friend:  What a psycho. 

Me:  Tell me about it.  

Austin's friend:  So is that why you are not on Facebook? Because you don't want to give him the satisfaction?

Me:  I wish.  No, I literally can't get on Facebook.  Facebook won't let me create an account.  I don't know how he does it but I'm blocked.  

Austin's friend: What a jerk.  

Me:  I know.  

We kept up this ruse for a few months, but decided that since "my relationship with Mark" would probably be left out of the The Social Network that we would have to come clean.  We toyed with the idea of going to see the movie with our trusting friend under the pretense that the studio informed me that "my relationship with Mark" would be portrayed.  When this didn't happen I was going to storm out of the theatre. Eventually we decided this would involve waaay too much time and effort for something that would yield only mildly entertaining results.

Kinda like Facebook.  

Monday, October 4, 2010

Before Sunrise and Before Sunset (Before Sunrise)

I have decided to watch two movies tonight: Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.  If you're ever in the mood for something romantic that isn't dripping with cheese- these two films will suit you perfectly.  

Pure Speculation: Jack White's Favorite Movie

I watched It Might Get Loud (the Jimmy Page/The Edge/Jack White documentary) a few months ago and something occurred to me.

Is Jack White a really big fan of the movie Benny and Joon?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Special Report: Can We Bring Scary Back?

I noticed that Halloween was getting a little out of hand when Tina Fey cleverly pointed out (through the voice of Cady Heron) that Halloween is "the one night of the year when a girl can dress like a total slut, and no other girls can say anything about it."

Today a coworker and I went to pick up a pizza for lunch.  The pizza was not ready so we decided that we would kill time by exploring the "Halloween Costume Outlet" next door. 

There was not a single scary female costume to be found,  but the racks were filled with such an insane variety of provocative costumes that I had to get some photos. I must tell you that the clerk seemed a little concerned with my picture taking and so I snapped these quickly.  I apologize for the quality.  

Did you y'all know that there is a position in law enforcement known as, "Strip Search Sheriff."  I'm going to look into it, but I bet it ranks between Captain and Lieutenant.

I'm not sure how you guys celebrated Halloween as children, but it was sort of a family affair at my house.  All of my cousins would come over with their parents and we would all go trick or treating.  Some of the adults dressed up, some of them didn't. It didn't really matter either way because IT WASN'T ABOUT THEM, and if they were in costume I don't ever remember any of them wearing anything like this.  

Can you imagine?

My mother:  Hey there Betty. What are you supposed to be?

Aunt Betty:  A cowgirl.

My mother:  Really? Because you look like a whore.  

Aunt Betty:  Well, I suppose I should have specified.  I'm actually a "Dirty Desperado."  

As you will notice,  the brand name of this costume pack (as well as the "Dirty Desperado") is Elegant Moments. Elegant?  When I think of elegant moments I think of Grace Kelly's wedding day.  I think of Jacqueline Kennedy giving all the television viewers in the early 60s an enchanting tour of the newly decorated White House.  I'm supposed to believe that "Dirty Desperado" and her pal "Gangster Girl" are elegant?  

As I was sifting through these costumes I began to wonder if maybe my figure is desirable enough to publicly prance around in one of these little numbers.  The girls on the packages are beautiful, but they have somewhat attainable figures.  

And then I saw the mannequin.  

What exactly is a "Warden's Mistress"? I mean, I guess it's this, but let's say you were dating the warden of a prison or you were his mistress or whatever.  If he asked you to dress  up like an inmate because he thought that was "sexy" wouldn't you be concerned? 
The model in the photo can't even get on board with this idea.  I know it's blurry, but her face seems to ask, "really?"  

This is an adult costume.  The young woman is supposed to be Alice from the book/movie Alice In Wonderland.  The character Alice (according to several semi-reliable websites) is seven years old.  I might have been fine with this costume if it wasn't for the name brand Wicked Innocence looming overhead.  

Men, do you want me to to be slutty? Or innocent? Can you choose one, because the combination is really difficult to pull off.  

If I haven't thoroughly convinced you that Halloween is out of control do not walk away from your computer screen.  I saved the most convincing photos for last.  

These costumes are for little girls. 

Do any of you have any suggestions on how we can combat this?  What about some sort of ad campaign to help spread the message of "reigning Halloween in a little bit." Maybe a poster?  Something fun, but that still gets the message across.  What do you guys think about this:

Finally, I don't think I would be so put off by the adult sexy costumes if it wasn't so one-sided.  There were zero sexy costumes for men.  Maybe that's because women have a  more mature, sophisticated idea of what constitutes as sexy and that idea does not easily translate into a costume.

I tried my best to think of an idea for a sexy male Halloween costume.  This is what I came up with:

See what I mean?