Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What is that box with the moving pictures?!

Little Orphan Klaus , originally uploaded by Mistiec_Flores.

Christmas Eve: Morning

Klaus is a she! And so she's got a new name: Chrissy Snow.

This morning, Chrissy Snow suddenly realized there was a television in the room.

Meanwhile - her human slave goes off to make a bunch of Tamales. Happy Christmas Eve, everyone!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gingerbread House 2008

Gingerbread House 2008, originally uploaded by Mistiec_Flores.

What happens when you rush on your gingerbread house? Your roof betrays you.

And you have no landscape.

Still, I swear - next year, I will actually .. PLAN this thing.

Until then, Chex Mix as bricks - who knew?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Ovaries are NOT throbbing, thank you -

I find it a little hilarious that people seem to be so horrified when they discover I have no intention of spawning a child of my very own. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I LOVE babies. I like kids. Thanks to my large extended family, I've grown up with them. I can change a diaper, clean up spit, and burp a baby with the best of 'em.

That doesn't mean that I have a burning desire to produce one of my very own.

It's selfish of me, I know. I grew up with an amazing mother, and if it's one thing I realized in that family is that as soon as you have a kid, your life is no longer your own. You're responsible for a little human being, and EVERYTHING you do is for that kid. It's the greatest form of love. And that's how it should be. Raising a little baby that turns into a person is the most important thing you can do.

But I'd rather not, thanks. One of the best perks of having a lot of babies around is that at the end of the day, I can give 'em back.

I did promise my mother I would adopt - and I will. I think if I'm financially stable enough to have an open home, I will do my best to try and provide a family and a home for a kid who needs one.

But I'm okay without a baby. Because at the moment I have a six week old kitten, who wakes me up at four AM crying to be fed, and that's enough.

Little Orphan Klaus

You can't litter box train a baby.

Monday, December 8, 2008

In Which The Backyard Yields Yet Another Kitty...

So yet again, I stepped outside and yet again I came across a frail little white kitty. This is the third time I've seen this guy, and he was so weak and so sick he didn't run, and his eyes were so infected they were sealed shut with dried puss.

The kitty was nothing more than skin and bones, and I couldn't take it, so I grabbed the little guy and brought him in, cleaned his eyes as much as I could and let him have some warm milk, which isn't the best thing give a kitty disgestion wise, but he needed something. Luckily, my mother agreed with me that we couldn't just toss him out again, and now I've got another little orphan to try to nurse back to health.


Unlike the last guy I found though, this one is in pretty bad shape. Starved, sick and weak, the only thing the little guy COULD do was eat. Lucy, our nurturing poodle, watched over him relentlessly, and what's nice, is that it looks like we're making progress.

He got a bath with soap and water to get rid of most of the fleas (I think he might be a little anemic from the flea bites), and I cleaned out what I could of the crud in his ears. His eyes are a slow process. I got some stuff from the pet store and it seems to be helping. The swelling is going down and the puss is receding. He can open both eyes, though one is still a little visibly worse than the other.

You know what they say about a kitty's nine lives. The guy's a fighter. He still needs a vet, but I can't justify the expense to my parents, yet, but he seems to be pulling through. Yesterday he had his first bowel movement, and his energy is improving. He has started to play, pouncing and attacking my feet and rubbing up against Lucy. He has figured out Thalia's stairs she uses to climb up on the bed, which resulted in me waking up with a two AM with a purring fuzzball against my throat.

But yeah, now I've got a kitty that I once again need to place. I hope I won't have any trouble. He's a gorgeous little man, and once his eyes clear up, he's going to be a prince. Snow white and long-haired, I've decided in the spirit of the season to name him Klaus. Here's hoping he gets a good home. He's a purr-machine, and a real cuddler.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire at the Wadsworth Theatre

Yesterday I attended a screening of Danny Boyle's new flick 'Slumdog Millionaire' with a friend, which was followed by a Q&A moderated by Taylor Hackford with Danny Boyle himself and the cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, editor Chris Dickens and Indian superstar composer A.R. Rahman. Danny Boyle is the dream director behind movies like '28 Days Later', 'Trainspotting', and 'Sunshine'.

The invitation came at the last minute. My brain had stopped working (as tends to happen on a Thursday), and therefore that it was a Danny Boyle movie didn't quite register until we met up just outside the theatre and I again asked 'What are we watching?'

Normally I'm iffy about screenings, especially on a work night, but I trust Kevin. We met in college and suffered through a SCIFI course that came as part of our general elective requirements. Our teacher was a pervert. No seriously. The class consisted of us sitting in class and him showing us movies in fast forward. And he would fast foward to EVERY sex scene in the movie. It's how I watched Dracula. And Bladerunner. The good thing about that class was that I met Kevin - who is a fellow scifi geek in arms. He does Comic-Con. We talk Trek. And we love movies. And when it comes to movies, Kevin never disapoints.

Still, it was seven pm and I had yet to eat dinner. Kevin looked exhausted, and as we sat together in the crowded theatre (which was IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND) playing catch up, he relayed to me his reasons he now hated Vegas (they stole his car. he found it in San Diego. Long story.). So we were tired, hungry, and unsure if we were going to stay for the Q&A. I'm guessing the hosts had an idea much of the crowd was the same way, because they very kindly informed us that after the Q&A there would be desserts. Way to bribe us.

"What do you think?" he asked. "Do you want to stay?"
"Depends on how good the movie is," I replied.
"Sounds like a plan," he responded, and the theatre dimmed.

We stayed for the Q&A. Because this movie was awesome. Taylor Hackford, however, should never moderate again. Talented man, but he just did not stop talking. At one point he started going on and on about a Polish movie. Which is nice you know, but... let Mr. Boyle and the three other men speak too, please.

Based on the novel 'Q&A', Slumdog Millionaire follows the story of an eighteen year old orphan who is a contestant on India's 'Who Wants To be A Millionaire'. He is one question away from winning the grand prize - but how does a kid from the slums with no education get all the right answers to some of the most obscure questions? The police, who suspect him of cheating, want to find out.

And so we begin our journey with Jamal, as we venture back into his life and discover the clues to the answers that would come to him that fateful night. We meet his brother Salim, who challenges the violence that inhabits their life with more violence. And we also meet his true love, fellow orphan Latika, with whom he is desperate to reunite.

The movie is, in my mind, Danny Boyle's best movie. It's completely breathtaking from start to finish. Everything, from the music to the performances to that perfect shot he always seems to get, weaves together a story told in flashback and flashforwards, and what's more, it makes you ache.

Three different actors of varying ages play the three main characters (brothers Jamal and Salim, and fellow orphan Latika) throughout the movie. They're splendidly cast. There is no weak link in the six actors, which is astounding because of the youngest trio, two were children cast from the slums of India (And interesting aside to that I learned in the Q&A - these two children were placed in school and were given a large sum of money placed in their trust, to be given to them only when they finish school at the age of sixteen). It's an incredibly brilliant move, despite the difficulty they must have had casting, because it immediately reorientates the audience. So much of the story is told with sudden shifts of time, each distinctive face puts us immediately into the exact moment we need to be.

The movie appears to be about a gameshow, but that is only the vehicle. Instead, at it's heart Slumdog Millionaire proves to be the ultimate fairy tale and lovestory. Classic elements as old as time abound (true love, cain & abel, loss of family), and yet the movie does what a movie SHOULD do - take you to a place you've never seen before and make you feel like you've been there all along.

The film is a joyful experience that cuts into the heart of even the most cynical viewer. Fantastic film, and worth seeing in the theatre.

Slumdog Millionare Trailer

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Better Living Through Comedy

Prop 8: The Musical

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Reflexes - that's how they getcha...

You never realize how things are honed into you until you get taken by surprise.

Every normal restraint somehow gets thrown out the window and you kinda just go with your impulses. What I've learned after nearly a decade of on-off martial arts instructions - impulses can be pretty damn dumb if you don't take time to think about what you're doing.

Yesterday I was preparing to take out the trash. It's the day before Trash Day so instead of my usual jaunt to the backyard, I instead went to the front door. Lost in my own world, I was prepared to turn the key to the screen door when out of nowhere I heard a low 'Hi' coming from the other side of the door.

When I was a kid, I was pretty much fearless. And if I wasn't, I was out to prove I was. Forever climbing trees and jumping off roofs - it's a miracle I didn't kill myself. As I've gotten older, I've become much more of a chicken.

What do you get when you have a grown up chicken with an advanced tae kwon do/kick boxing belt startled by a disembodied voice coming out of the dark?

Someone that screams like a little girl and then shoves the screen door so hard she nearly splits her poor uncle's face open with the force of her blow.

He was a little pissed. "What are you doing!?" he screeched, looking startled. "I thought you saw me!"

"I didn't!" I snapped, trying to recover my own breath.

"Well, then why did you unlock the door?!"

"Because I was taking out the trash! I didn't know you were standing on the porch!"

But seriously - who stands on a pitch dark (foggy) porch waiting for you to open the door without bothering to ring the doorbell first? Who?

Well, my uncle, that's who. I maintain it was his fault that I nearly killed him.

For some reason I have the personality that makes people want to sneak up on me and try to frighten me. Only to freak out and duck back when I scream like a girly-girl and then swing a fist in their face.

It's why I don't go to Knotts Scary Farm, or Halloween Haunt, or any other place like that. Because I'm terrified I'm going to be unreasonably startled and accidentally ax-kick some guy and break a rib and end up in jail. Did you know that after a certain belt you get fingerprinted by the LAPD? Yeah. Because your hands are technically considered deadly weapons. I'm not there yet but can you imagine if you did? Before every fight, you'd have to publically announce that your hands are registered as deadly weapons to whoever wants to fight you - just to avoid a jail sentence.

Sounds pretentious, doesn't it?

But it's interesting. The whole reflexes thing was tested yet again when I ventured into the backyard of my father's that lives to attract wildlife at 5AM this morning. The original goal had been to get my lazy butt up, let the dog out and then work out for an hour before I took her for a walk and then went about my day.

No such luck. Thalia instead honed in on foreign invaders and then before I knew it, she had chased a white kitten up our avocado tree and flushed a smaller one up against a corner. The little one I picked up pretty easily. And she was a sorry shape. The poor thing had a serious eye infection.

The other kitten, however, aside from being scared out of its mind and up in a tree, seemed healthy and twice as large. But I was still half afraid of leaving a kitten up there in a tree. So I sat out there for about half an hour, a dozing kitten in my arms, trying to coax the other one down.

Finally, I gave up coaxing and grabbed a bucket, put a towel in it and gently placed the sickly one. I then climbed the tree and grabbed hold of the stronger one.

All hell broke loose. There were yowls, screams, hisses, a FURIOUS bite to my hand and a barrage of scratches that were painful.

I didn't even wince. I just held on, watched as the kitten sunk her teeth again into my hand, and then just concentrated on trying to climb back down.

Stupid, I know, but I've had my shin dented by a brown belt - this was nothing. I finally landed on the ground and let them both go, having spotted the mom. After the last stray I brought home, I've been forbidden from taking in any more ferals, but I still felt bad for the scrawny one.

Now I've got a tiny little vampire bite on my hand - the reward for my good deed.

But plus side? I didn't drop the cat.

Monday, December 1, 2008

US is 'officially' in a recession. Gee... you think?

Apparently the National Bureau of Economic Research has made it official: the US is in a recession.

Wow. Slow news day, guys?

Not really.

I mean, with Clinton being named Secretary of State, and the war in Mexico, and the crisis in India...

It's a complicated time, but at the very least, the Christmas season has officially begun. I am a Christmas FREAK. To the point where my familyi immediately groans at the sound of Christmas music beginning to sound from my room exactly one day after Thanksgiving. Although I rushed through Thanksgiving I've decided that this year, despite being broke, I'm determined to fully embrace the Christmas spirit.

I even made a list.

Hopefully by the end of this Holiday season I will have:

- built my annual gingerbread house
- put together my annual christmas music CDs
- put together my baskets of goodies - including candies, cookies, and etc.
- learned christmas carols on my keyboard and guitar, or at the very least learned to fake it.
- done something charitable. With what little money I have.
- written a christmas story. an original one. just because i can.

And hopefully I will have done this without gaining ten pounds.

That will be the real challenge.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008 - Greased Lightning...

As bitter as I was in my last post about Thanksgiving and the Turkey With No Brine, I do have to admit, my Tia roasts a pretty good bird. There. I said it. Though I will also argue that stuffing the stuffing in the bird makes it mushy and gross and stuffing should be baked independant of that.

But I'm also a non-traditionalist food snob.

And I think I make a pretty mean ham. Even if I do think I over cooked it a little (or over-heated it, since the dern thing was pre-cooked), and nearly reduced my mother to tears when she found out that I was planning on doing it without pineapple and cherries.

Thanksgiving 2008

Man, she went nuts. And told me I had to go to the grocery store right that minute to get pineapples and cherries because if i didn't then the world would end or something. Luckily, I got to the grocery store around 10AM on Thanksgiving, which is enough time to make parking a head ache (I avoided the lot completely and did street parking) but not bad enough that I wanted to stab someone in the canned fruit aisle.

While there, I sucked it up and bought some fresh cranberries too, even though my family will be heathens and still go with the jellied can stuff.

Still, did anyone else feel like this holiday crept up on them without notice? Usually we can see this one coming a mile away, but this year it was here and gone in the blink of an eye.

You could tell we weren't ready for it. My mother, in charge of only greanbeans and corn, was so delighted she had nothing to do this holiday she decided not to even worry about a green bean casserole and just threw a bunch of butter in it. My sister, in charge of the bread, came over with only four packs of twelve for three families, and ended up having to cook two batches of cornbread to make up for it. My aunt, in charge of mashed potatoes, forgot to bring the gravy. My other aunt, the hostess (and non-turkey briner), forgot to suck out some of the Turkey juice and ended up with grease in the oven, which meant it caught on fire.

Which meant we spent about twenty minutes standing outside while my uncles tried to fan out smoke, and the bread that my sister brought ended up... well... smoked.

Thanksgiving 2008

Which meant the yams weren't cooked. So no yams this year.

And in the midst of all that, my five year old cousin decided it was a good time to ask the group what sex was.

This with a nun at the table.

Thanksgiving 2008

All in all, another great Thanksgiving, even if no one was quite prepared for it.

Except for maybe Thalia, who spent most of the turkey time standing around my uncle's legs as he carved the turkey, hoping for a slice or two.

She got greenbeans from my cousins instead.

Thanksgiving 2008
view the rest of the pics here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I'd Be A Lot More Thankful If I Could BRINE the darn turkey...

I'm not going to kid myself. I'm never going to be on Top Chef, and I seem to have an anti-green thumb that results me killing any herb I try to grow out back (my basil is fighting but the fight, it's losing).

Even so, I love to cook. I've always loved to cook. Even when I was a little kid and thought 'cooking' meant being able to boil water and make the Top Ramen by myself, I've always just ... enjoyed food.

This lands me in trouble for a number of reasons, in a number of ways.

1. I'm Mexican.
Well, Mexican-American, and though my Mom is Texas-born and raised, my Dad is very much a Mexican man. This means that, although Mom did like to branch out, a typical dinner for us included Mexican staples: something fried, something carb-y, and tortillas (also, you haven't lived until you've heated up a fresh warm tortilla and lathered it with peanutbutter and jam. Yum). Sounds fattening, but Mexican's LOVE to cook. And they know what they like. What does this mean? Well, there generally isn't much a welcome wagon for that upstart young kid who wants to do things a little differently.

Case in point: Grilling. I love grilling. I want to grill more. I can't. Because my dad grills. The problem when he grills though, is he likes to turn the meat over and over and over until it's overcooked and (still tasty) dry. I also one time handed him a soaked cedar wood plank in which to smoke some salmon fillets and he looked at me like I had lost my damn mind.

"What the hell am I going to do with this?!" he asked me, and thrust it back at me.

I thrust it back. "Put the salmon on it."

He glared at it. "It's going to burn."

"No, I soaked it."

"It's wood!"

This went on for a while until my Mom (who has always tried to encourage my culinary endeavors - except when I make a nice lemon butter sauce for a crab ravoli, or over salt something), told him to let me do it.

He grudgingly did. And then made me stand by the grill with a hose in case the whole thing went up in flames.

2. I'm chubby.
My metabolism, it is not so nice to me. This means that if I want to eat half of what I aspire to, and keep my shape, I must work out for an obscene amount every day, and run.

I hate running. It's so boring. And I know from whist I speak. I ran a damn marathon. Didn't make me feel accomplished at all. I felt lik a chump. Also? It hurts.

I've realized I will never be a skinny bitch, but it would be nice not to be a lazy overweight one.

Still, it's very hard to come home and be content with grilled salmon (no salt) when my mother has just fried chicken and fries.

3. I'm a snob.
Seriously. I'm one of those really annoying people who can't handle Hershey's chocolate anymore unless it's M&M's because it doesn't taste like chocolate. Who'll insist loudly to anyone who listens that white chocolate is not chocolate (it's made from COCOA BUTTER, dammit). Who'll be okay with paying eighty dollars for a kobe steak I can't afford because it's fricken' KOBE STEAK, and gets an immense food orgasm from anything organic (even if it goes bad two days later).

Combine these three and I become an extremely irritable person around Thanksgiving: the food holiday.

Why? Because I have a dream. I have a dream of a moist juicy turkey. Of stuffing made with real cornbread and cranberry sauce that isn't splotched from a can, but is instead carefully crafted from REAL cranberries, with some sugar and cornstarch and just the right amount of heat.

Of a gravy made from a roux and those drippings from the turkey.

Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of the short cuts at some point. I like Stoeffer's stuffing as much as the next person, but I just think it would be nice to even get the chance to be able to do something a little different for the holiday.

My mother, dear that she is, always tries to curb my little chef-y aspirations by giving me teeny assignments. Dessert one year. Cranberry sauce the next. Sweet Potatoes the year after.

This year? I thought I hit the motherload. Now, I realize this is a silly aspiration, but ever since I fell in love with Alton Brown and Good Eats, I've had an insane desire to brine the turkey.

I know. It's hardly the most grand aspiration, but to be able to eat a moist turkey without drowning it in gravy that came in powder form on Thanksgiving would be like ... Christmas.

Imagine my happiness when I was told that this year, I could do it. I could make the turkey. My face lit up. I poured over the brine recipe and mentally worked together my checklist of how I was to prepare this bird. I mentally envisioned my family members (and there's a hella lot of 'em) exclaiming they had never loved a turkey like this before.

My dreams came to a crashing halt when my aunt got wind of this and shut it down. "I always make the turkey!" she complained (which is a total lie), and just like that, I'm making the ham.

The HAM.

I don't even LIKE ham. Well, not the big honking slices, at least.

My dreams of a brine or even a good salt crust were dashed. And I'm making the dumb ham.


Screwit. They can eat their cranberry sauce from the can, and make their sweet potatoes from the can too. I don't care.

My dreams will not be dashed. One day I WILL brine the turkey.

Tradition be damned.

Until then, I shall content myself tonight with a pound of crab meat and freshly made crab cakes.

And my aunt can't have any.

Oh, right. Happy Thanksgiving and all that.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How I Met Your Mother's '50 Reasons To Have Sex'

If it's one thing that How I Met Your Mother soars at, it's figuring out how to incorporate this whole new fangled internet thingy. The people behind the show are genuis at taking a nugget of a throwaway joke in a story and then just running with it.

Witness: Barney's Blog - Barney is awesome. And he puts his awesomeness into words. When he utters the words, "This is SO going in my blog!" You can bet it will.

Witness: - put together by a waitress who Barney bedded and gave her the fake name of 'Ted' (his actual best friend). The website comes complete with a scarily long twenty minute song called 'Ted Mosby Is a Jerk'

Not a Father's Day apparel - When Barney finds out that a woman he bedded with a pregnancy scare is NOT pregnant, he creates a holiday in honor of the moment. The next day, 'Happy NOT a Father's Day' t-shirts and mugs litter the internet.

Robin Sparkles - When Robin reveals she was a Canadian Pop Star in the nineties, we're witnessed to two amazingly cheesy music videos she released. Also online? Her official Robin Sparkles Myspage page. On her friends list? Tiffany.

The latest to make it onto the interwebs? Lily's 50 Reasons to Have Sex, from last nights episode 'The Naked Man'.

How many of these have YOU done?


If I haven't mentioned it before? How I Met Your Mother is awesome.

Watch the latest episode online.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The B**** of Living (In 19th Century Germany) - Spring Awakening @ The Ahmanson

"Well," I noted to my theatre going best friend as we settled into our balcony seats at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, "This may be the first time we're older than most of the people in here."

"It's Spring Awakening," she responded, flapping open her program and settling down. "It's the new Rent."

Fitting, I thought, as I eyed the crowd of young teens and twenty-somethings crowded together chattering excitedly in the 'cheap seats' (which for theatre, is an 20 bucks). Rent, the celebration of life and study of AIDS in the Bohemian slums of Alphabet City during the nineties, was a cultural, controversional phenomeon that lasted on Broadway for ten years. The rock musical based on the opera 'La Boheme' featured drag queens, lesbians, drug users, and the plea to ignore conventional shame and live for the moment and who you truly are.

The exploration of shame as dicated by society may be one of the few things that bridge together Rent with it's perceived successor, Spring Awakening.

With music by artist Duncan Sheik, Spring Awakening reimagines the original play of the same name with some added rock numbers, which serve to express what these sexually repressed kids stuck in the onslaught of puberty in 19th century Germany can not.

At a critical point in their lives, these adolescents struggle to come to grips with their newly discovered sexual urges. Because their world is lined with strict morality and expecation, there is no one they can turn to to understand them but each other, and the result is tragic: the blind leading the blind.

There is handsome Melchior, almost too brilliant for his own good. He has discovered the truth in books, and has developed his own ideas about sexuality, government and shame. In his teenage arrogance, he takes under his wing a far less confident lad named Moritz. Moritz, struggling to pass his classes and aware of the consequences that will befall him should he fail, unravels in the face of his increased sexual distraction.

Their old childhood friends Ilse and Wendla face extreme opposites. Sheltered Wendla is naively curious and innocent. Protected her entire life, she does not understand why she cannot wear her too-short girl dresses and begs her mother to explain to her about where children come from, but is rebuffed and therefore remains ignorant. Ilse, however, beaten and sexually abused as a child, has become a outcast.

These four characters, along with their classmates, fumble with the urges they cannot ignore but can never speak of to the adults meant to protect them and keep them from harm. Their pain and wonder is instead released through song, accompanied with angry guitar riffs or a haunting melody plucked out on a piano.

Unfortunately, the silence of the adults, and each teenager's desperation to understand and cope with their own changes fit together to create a tragic ending for the four pair of childhood friends.

Yeah. It's not the cheeriest musical you're going to find (Rent, with all the aids and the dying, still ends much more happily). Instead Spring Awakening instead seeks to transcend the time period to speak to every person who has grappled with the frightening onset of puberty and it's accompanying shame. It seeks to speak what has not dared be spoken.

It's raw and frank and seeks to prove it with bared breasts and bared butt, and a lot of cursing and rage. Because that's what it's like to be a teenager.

I was fortunate to catch a production of the smaller, less known play that preceded the musical a few months ago, and as a result, found myself torn. While Spring Awakening is powerful, I preferred the less preachy, darker quality of the stage play than the musical, awesome soundtrack not withstanding. Still, it's a musical worth seeing for the amazing performances and frank reminder that being a teenager can be a literal hell. As an adult in her late twenties, I find myself not missing it. I can barely figure myself out now, but in high school?

Forget it.

Sadly, Rent has finally closed its Broadway doors after it's long run. Shockingly, Spring Awakening is soon to follow, a victim of a slow economy and a slough of strikes that have hit Broadway. Catch it while you can.

Just don't bring your parents. Or your kids. Unless you're ready to answer every question this show asks.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chuck vs. the Predictable Route *SPOILERS*

In the mass confusion that is the new television season, Chuck on NBC has always been my shining beacon of hope. When the writer's strike was finished and everyone got back to business, there were three shows that I was relieved made the cut and were returning: Chuck, How I Met Your Mother, and Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles.

Of course, because the universe likes to laugh at me, when these shows were scheduled, they were scheduled all on the same night, in the same time slot, on different networks. My DirectTV DVR is a life saver, but not even it can record more than two shows at once. The result, a lot of scrambling and attempting to watch television shows online. But one show I never thought to miss? My dear Chuck.

Why? Superb writing, layered, thoughtful beautiful characters, and more inside jokes for the inner nerd than you can shake a stick at. Throw in some extremely well choreographed fight scenes, guns and the occasional farce, and you have a fan in me for life. The show, based on the absurd (but awesome) idea that the CIA had it's main computer downloaded into a hapless nerd who must now be protected by a gorgeous CIA handler and a militant NSA agent, has always balanced the perfect pitch of drama and fun.

But, alas, even this show has given me a Sad. Which perhaps isn't too fair of Chuck. It is, after all, a sophomore show coming off a stunted first season, working out it's own kinks and wrapped up in the dilemna of what to do when your lead characters share that Moonlighting/Lois & Clark kinda romance that dictates you keep them apart for a long as possible for fear of making for boring tv.

The result has been an uneven season, with some slightly out of character moments that push the interactions off kilter, and make a rabid fan go 'hmm'.

I 'hmmed' when Chuck reencountered his lost girlfriend Jill, and in his infaturation with her, promptly forgot about his mutual love with beautiful handler Sarah. But I went with it. While I've never been the hugest fan of Jordanna Brewster, she was the best thing about spy-farce D.E.B.S., and had an easy chemistry with Chuck that proved likable and fun. She also represented a real threat to Sarah and Chuck's relationship, and an opportunity for growth for Chuck. Could Chuck learn to see past his own blinding emotions to realize he could move past the girl who broke his heart and appreciate the woman who loves him for who he truly is?

We'll never really get the chance to find out, because in it's latest offering 'Chuck vs The Fat Lady', it was revealed that Jill, Chuck's college girlfriend and reignited flame, was a Fulcrum Agent and a bad guy.

It's a disapointment. Who didn't see that coming? Well-executed, sure, but also a bit of a cheater's way out. Break a love triangle by making the third girl EVOL. Does everyone have to be a Fulcrum Agent? Just how many ARE there in Burbank that Chuck keeps tripping over them everywhere they go?

Maybe I'm not giving Chuck enough credit. Maybe there's a big geeky plan and this will just be another layer to a complicated reintroduction to Jill. An explanation of how she ended up in Fulcrum and in Bryce's bed following her college break up with Chuck has yet to be addressed, and perhaps this is all a lead up to that.

I hope so. If not, that was just too easy.

And yes, I realize that's a little obsessive, but a show like Chuck is a homage to the nerd, and if you throw in the nerd jokes, the nerds will come.

And nitpick the hell out of your show.

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's Snowing In LA! Oh wait... that's just ash...

"What's burning?" you ask. Oh, that's just Los Angeles.


You walk outside, and the smell of burning overrides your senses. You smell the smoke, clogging up your nostrils and making you pop an extra Zyrtex. You see it darkening the sky like a really bad smog day and creating crazy colors at sunset as the pollution bumps off the ozone. You see it in the flecks of ash that mock you cruelly like faux snowflakes as you open your car door.

It would be ironic if it weren't so terribly crazy and sad.

The air pollution was enough of a concern for me and my allergies to call off the weekly hike at Runyon. I suppose that was fine for me. I consider Runyon my weekly exercise in discovering how horribly out of shape I am, as I walk around the trail and discover sweaty demi-Gods racing up the hill next to their pooches, wrinkled frowns of concentration on their faces as they hold their weights or water bottles and careen past me for the second or third time. And they do it in their sweatshirts. SWEATSHIRTS. In 90 degree weather! What is WRONG with them?

Then again, nothing should surprise me anymore.

I'm living in a land of limitless scope: where ash takes the place of snow, where a dirt road in a hill less than a mile away from Hollywood Boulevard is considered a nature trail and roughing it, and where I look out of the window of my building at work one evening and discover the magnificant sight of red car lights blinking up and down Santa Monica Boulecard as the shouts of thousands of protestors making their way down the street float up to my ears on the twenty-sixth floor, campaigning for civil rights.

It turns into the kind of week where you forget what it was like to be normal.

And then you wonder why you would ever want to waste time trying to be normal, and concentrate instead of worrying about whether or not a hawk is going to sneak into your backyard to eat your chihuahua.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

This is the City. Nature is supposed to stay away.

I suppose this is the problem when you've got a pops who used to grow up on a farm and has a green thumb. Even if you live in smoggy, congested Los Angeles, you're going to have a little bit of a farmer's paradise in the backyard. It's a necessary evil. Thanks to my father, we have avocados, plums, figs, persimmons, pineapples, chilies, lemons, oranges, tomatoes, jalapenos, and God knows what else growing behind our house, which, I have to admit, can be very nice.

It attracts a lot of wildlife to our backyard that we normally wouldn't see in the city, and it's not uncommon to see a menagarie of birds and squirrels in our trees, fighting to get to the fruit before we can.

This morning, however, I got a close encounter of the natural kind that was both breathtaking and frightening.

Running late, I was jogging into the backyard to go to the backhouse for a frozen meal for lunch. We do this because our freezer in our REGULAR house is stuffed, and so any frozen meals get regulated to my grandmother's freeezr because she has the room (I know. It's fascinating.). On my way, I passed underneath the avocado tree, and was startled when I heard the massive flutter of wings and branches above me.

I glanced up and stopped dead in my tracks. On the lowest branch, no more than four feet above me, I was staring straight at a hawk. A huge hawk. A beautiful, majestic bird of prey.

Hawk in Los Angeles - Urban

"Oh my God," I found myself breathing out loud. "You're a long way from home, aren't you?"

Immediately, I backed away, and scrambled into my house for my camera (Because I'm a geek, and the first thing I thought was, 'This is SO going in my blog!'), but when I returned, the bird was nowhere to be found.

Saddened, I began to circle the avocado tree, and stopped short when I came across a mess of feathers and flesh on the ground. I glanced up, and again, on the lowest branch, I discovered the picked over, freshly eaten carcass of a pigeon, feet attached.

Bird of Prey

Naturally, I took pictures. There's something wrong with me.

But it was at that time when I heard the jingle of a collar, and I looked back to the house and realized my Chihuahua had followed me out.

My little chihuahua. Who, at 6 pounds, is a fat chihuahua, and yet, still no bigger than a pigeon.


"Oh..." I breathed. "Crap."

This is the problem. My dog is an indoor dog, but she absolutely LOVES the backyard. She loves to sit out there and sun herself, to bark at squirrels and birds, and every morning she goes out first thing to take care of business.

Because the backyard is closed off from everything, at times we just let her roam out there with Lucy, our poodle.

Finding a hawk in our backyard is the equivalent of discovering a serial killer in your kid's playground.

Thalia went about her business, and I stepped up the search, walking around my backyard in my work clothes (a snazzy sweater and black pants with Harley boots, cause I like to keep it real) and my camera, and moved over to where my dog was peeing, and glanced up.

Sure enough, there was the beautiful, dangerous, killer bird, cocking it's head and looking down with interest at the fat teeny dog moving happily around.

I reached up and with a flash, took a picture. It took offense, and with a graceful expanse of its wings, soared above us over the backhouse and out of the yard.

Concerned about the potential horrible death my dog would face should the hawk decide it was an easy meal, I gave my dad a call on my cell phone and related the news. His response?

"Oh. So that's what's been killing the birds. I thought it was the cats."

Reassuring, Dad. Reassuring.

Friday, October 31, 2008

5 Halloween Movies For The Chicken

I'll be the first to admit it: I hate being frightened. I don't like Halloween Haunt at Magic Mountain or Knotts Scary Farm, because I don't feel like paying fifty bucks to have some creepy guy in a mask follow me all around. Also? I have a pretty high belt in tae kwon do, and have something of a quick reflex, and fear getting arrested the minute some zombie gets too close to me and I freak out and high kick him.

Besides, my very own haunted house is enough of a scare tactic for me, so while I like the idea of the creepies, I also like to sleep at night.

Here are five movie recommendations for your Halloween night if you're a chicken like me, but with enough of a chill factor to not make you come off like a COMPLETE loser. Note: it helps to have kids with you. At least that gives you an excuse.

Oh, and I'm not including 'A Nightmare Before Christmas' because... you know... everyone should have already seen it. And if you haven't? I can't help you.

1. Hocus Pocus - imdb link - clip on youtube

Bette Midler is at her comic best in this Disney flick about three wicked sisters brought back to life on Halloween to wreak havoc on modern day Salem. Ably backed up by a hilarious Kathy Najimy and a brilliant Sarah Jessica Parker, the Sanderson sisters are creepy, hilarious, and just scary enough to make you really really afraid they might suceed in their goal to suck out the lives of the children of Salem.

A hilarious classic. If you haven't seen it, you should.

Memorable Quote:
Winifred Sanderson: We're just a couple of spinster ladies.
Mary Sanderson: Spending a quiet evening at home.
Sarah Sanderson: Sucking the lives out of little children!

2. The Adams Family - imdb link - clip on youtube

Movie remakes are never as soon as the original series from which they were spawned, but this is a happy exception. Angelica Houston and Raul Julia light up the screen with their carnal interpretations of Gomez and Morticia, and a wee Christina Ricci does her best Winona Ryder impression as Wednesday, the world's smartest and evil and loyal kid. Charming and creepy and hilarious.

Memorable Quote:
Wednesday: Pugsley, sit in the chair.
Pugsley: Why?
Wednesday: So we can play a game.
Pugsley: What game?
Wednesday: [strapping him in] It's called, "Is There a God?"

3. Casper - imdb link - clip on youtube

Another tv remake of a show starring Christina Ricci, and just as charming. The friendship between Casper and the human he befriends is sweet, human, and engaging. And this friendly world of ghosts makes you wish you had a ghost friend of your very own. (You don't, though. Really.)

Memorable Quote:
Casper: I begged and begged my dad to give me this sled, but he acted like I couldn't even have it, because I didn't know how to ride it. But then one morning, I came down for breakfast and there it was, just for me, for no reason at all. I took it out, went sledding all day. And my dad said "that's enough" but I couldn't stop, I was having so much fun It got late, got dark, got cold...and I got sick, and my dad got sad.
Kat: What's it like to die?
Casper: Like... being born, only backwards. I remember, I didn't go where I was supposed to go. I just stayed behind, so my dad wouldn't be lonely.

4. Teen Witch - imdb link - clip on youtube

It's cheesy. It's silly. It's got the worst musical numbers in the world. It's horribly dated, and yet this movie, about the unpopular nerd who discovers she's actually a witch and sets about transforming herself into the most popular girl in school is one of those eighties cult classics that you just can't forget. Wanna know how I know? Two cousins, aged 8 and 18, have both immediately picked this DVD up and watched, captivated. It's timeless.

If you're a girl, at least.

Memorable Quote:
Kiki: Oh yeah? You're too lazy to even cover your roots!

5. Beatlejuice - imdb link - clip on youtube

Before there was 'A Nightmare Before Christmas', there was Beatlejuice. Who can forget Tim Burton's zany descent into the madness of the underworld, and the plight of the two left behind ghosts who aren't sure how to navigate through it?

Memorable Quote:
Lydia: They don't wanna come down.
Delia: Charles...
Otho: Why not?
Lydia: I think the reason is, is that they were trying to scare you away, and you didn't get scared.
Delia: Please, they're dead. It's a little late to be neurotic.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ski-Lucy & Thalia

Ski-Lucy & Thalia , originally uploaded by Mistiec_Flores.

First off, hello from a pissed-off Thalia and a happy-go-lucky Lucy, who are trying on their Christmas sweaters and their new goggles which were bought for their bike rides.

Thalia was not happy with her fashion statement, and let me know it.

But alas, as tortured as the pooches are, they are the lucky ones. There's a beautiful little dog who lives a few houses down that used to belong to my cousin, until her father gave her away to the neighbors. This puppy is just a gorgeous little girl, happy as a lark, but a bit of an escape artist. She has decided that she wants to belong to us now, because she now has a frequent habit of escaping, and then coming and hanging out all day on our porch. I don't have the heart to turn her away, and the other day I actually went over and told them that the dog was running around. She had run into the street and I was terrified she was going to get hit. Their response? "Oh she's fine. She'll come back when she's ready."

Me: *blink*
Them: Does she bother you?
Me: ... well, no... but... street...

Anyway, the dog spent the rest of the afternoon on our porch, where she would wag her tail until someone opened the door and petted her, and then played with our pooches, and then settled back and waited for another treat or for someone to come out again.

I really just want to take her and tell them their dog has picked us. Phooey.

Speaking of animals, my aquarium has been ALL kinds of weird lately. The other day I went and bought two frogs and three guppies to replace my poor little Tubby and my little frog that died, and apparently, there was some additional specimens playing stowaway.

After I put the frogs and the guppies in the tank, I began to peer into it to see if they were getting acclimated. I discovered, nestled in the lily pads that I keep uptop for the frogs to chill on, something that looked like a little black worm. Very much alive. I also discovered two more ghost shrimp. But the worms worried me. Were they worms or were they tadpoles? Were they even alive or where they just pieces of poo that looked to be swimming by the current?

Just to be sure I did a couple water changes and cleaned up the tank.

The worm things kept moving.

Last night, the worms were still stuck in my head, and I had a dream where they grew over night into these ... snakehead fish like the kind I saw on the discovery channel. They grew a foot had banged the glass open and my fish were all flopping all over the floor. Yeah. That was a nightmare.

So I get up this morning prepared to leave and once again look in the lilypads before I go. My search for worms becomes quite a shock when I blink and see two... things swimming around in the lilypads. Are they baby guppies? Are they tadpoles? I have no idea. But they're ... in there. And I have no idea where they came from. Did the change in the environment scare the female guppies so much that they pooped out two baby fish? Did the frogs come knocked up?

I have no clue.

But I guess I'll find out.

In other news...

1. I had an impromptue pumkin carving on Saturday. I carved four that night. Sometimes I wonder what's wrong with me. And then I remember it's called hyper-focus and it's from the ADHD.

2. I bought this candy bowl on sale that's like this skull... and it's motion sensored so when someone grabs a piece of candy, the eyes light up and this skeleton hand comes out of nowhere and tries to grab your hand. Teehee. I'm not sure if it's work appropriate but damn that's going to be funny.

I hope.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

30 Rock: Season III: It's baby time! is streaming tonight's premiere of 30 Rock and it's lost none of its shiny. Though Tina Fey is more known for her Sarah Palin impression on SNL than she is for her actual show, nowadays, hopefully enough people are intrigued by her to tune in.

The show is consistently hilarious and the beloved characters are back to doing what they do best: Jack and Liz continue to be each other's odd couple soulmate, Jenna and Tracy continue to want to one-up each other, and Kenneth continues to be... Kenneth.

Kudos to fabulous guest star Megan Mullony for playing her character intensely straight, and letting the madness work around her.

I'm so happy. 30 Rock is back!

Ghost Adventures: Tough Guys Get Stupid

So Mom and I were watching television last night as we each enjoyed a place of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia (don't judge us), and as we were flipping channels we came up on this show called 'Ghost Adventures' on the Travel Channel.

We've always been fascinated with ghosts, particularly because our house was at one time haunted (it was. i have family members who still refuse to be alone in the house). So we tend to watch ghost-haunting programming, particularly things like the badly acted but supremely frightening 'A Haunting' and 'Most Haunted'. Basically if you make a program about ghosts, we're probably gonna watch it.

Sentimentality and all that.

Anyway, we started watching this show Ghost Adventurers. They were going to get locked up in Bobby Mackey's night club. It's really, really haunted. Famously haunted. Like the 'A Haunting' episode on it? FRIGHTENING. Someone was MURDERED and tossed down a well and another person was poisoned and just... a lot of slaughters and animal sacrifices happened in the basement and some dude was even POSSESSED.

So of course what do the smart tough guys do? They start screaming and shouting for the ghosts to come out and HURT them if they want them to leave. Basically antagonizing the ghosts.

And then when the ghosts make loud noises or ... you know... SCRATCH them down their backs? They run and get all scared and tough-guy ish.

So then after all of this awesomeness, they go and consult an ArchBishop of the Catholic church who does exorcisms for a living. The Archbishop basically says, "You're idiots. This is really dangerous. You need to stop antagonizing the ghosts. I would exorcise the hell out of them."

And the guy (who is a little like a ghost thug) goes, "Yeah, I'm not gonna stop." (Why would he? It's good television. Even if he gets scratched).

And the Catholic Priest just kinda shrugs and thinks, "You idiot."

We season passed it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

This Beautiful City @ the Kirk Douglas Theatre

Thanks to the Free Night of Theatre program, I got a chance to see the musical drama 'This Beautiful City' at the Kirk Douglas Theatre this past weekend.

Honestly, I had no idea what to expect, but the play was free and I had always wanted to visit the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Nestled in the middle of downtown Culver City, I drove past it every day on my way home from work, but my type of theatre-fare tends to be fast-moving musicals, not slow moving plays. Mostly because I find it impossible to sit still for any length of time unless I'm totally absorbed (thanks to my ADHD).

And when I heard what the play was about I nearly choked in a disbelieving guffaw. 'This Beautiful City' was crafted together by a group of playwrights from a theatre company called 'The Civilians' who visited Colorado Springs. I know nothing about Colorado Springs, except that that is where Focus On the Family is from. Apparently, according to the play, it is also the Christian evangelical capitol of the world. And the lady who wrote 'America the Beautiful' wrote the song there. Because of the Rockies.

So basically, at first glance, this play is about a city. My inappropriate urge to laugh came not from snarky wonder, but from an unfortunate image of sitting through something of 'Waiting for Guffman' proportions.

What instead unfolded was a fascinating character study of life in an area where the Christians are working hard to 'take the city for Christ' while the other denizens work just as hard to claim bits and pieces for themselves. It didn't hurt that the team descended on the town in the midst of a proverbial (and relevant, considering what is going on in California today with Prop 8) firestorm, in which an amendment to the consitution was on the ballots to ban gay marriage in Colorado, and another measure was requesting equal rights for civil unions. Also, there was this head preacher of the New Life Church (with 14000 followers), who unfortunately chose this brilliant time to get caught for solicitating homosexual sex and drugs.

Interesting time to do interviews.

The cast was strong, and the music, in the vein of the Christian revivals resonated strongly with me. I may not have grown up Evangelical, but sitting through some of the 'church' sermons, I found myself transported, and nearly had to sit on my hands to keep from raising them or bowing my head in prayer when prompted. The majority of the second act consisted of this type of performance, and as a result felt weaker for me. Sitting through ONE sermon on Sunday was always tough on me, but sitting through ten? It brought back memories of my church heavy childhood, somewhat bittersweet. I may still love God and will always be a Christian, but the division of the church on matters that I support (gay rights being a big one) is nothing new to me.

The result was an interesting contrast of experiences for myself and my friend, who grew up in Catholic churchs and was fascinated by the differences between them.

Religous experiences aside, the play delves into the town without favoritism and with ferver, quite a feat considering the hot topics presented. Worth seeing, but beware, depending on your experience with the church, you'll be challenged to disengage.

A much more coherent review of the show is here at the LA Times.

And for logical argument regarding the great Prop 8 Debate, head over here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

MAX PAYNE + Guns - Stubble

* Beware - this is a review of a movie of a videogame by a gamer geek. As a result? There are spoilers for the movie and the video game, and a few comparisons. Because when it comes to Max Payne, I'm a gamer geek. And proud of it.

I have to admit, I was approaching the premiere of the Max Payne movie with both a sense of excitement and a little bit of dread. While there are probably fans of the Max Payne franchise that are a little more hard core than I am, I have a great, deep love in my heart for the video game and it's sequel.

It's the first first-person-shooter that I could literally NOT stop playing, and a lot of that had to do with not just the controls and game play itself, but the story. The noir-ish over-the-top voiceovers, coupled with the dark and imaginative comic book panels unfolded a story and a hero that was both deep and dense, disturbing and exciting. What sets apart Max Payne as a character and as a franchise from every other 'brooder with a gun' storyline is the richness of the world, the vitality of the characters, and Max's haunting gravely whisper, who gets into your head and reveals his intentions and feelings in poetic, complicated analogies and adjectives. He drowns in his emotion to the point where he can't function without it. It's what wills him to live and drives him half-insane in his quest to avenge the senseless murder of his family.

And the game itself? It's a barrage of shooting, pills, death, frigid climates and dreary backdrops. Characters emerge from the underbelly of the city Max inhabits, and they change loyalties and agendas midway through the game, keeping Max and the gamer on their toes every step of the way.

So maybe I was expecting too much when I waited for the Max Payne movie. I was hoping beyond hope that the tone would be there. The homages would resonate, and while I wasn't expect the exact same story, I was expecting the same tone.

There's two ways to judge the movie: in comparison to the game and on it's own. Unfortunately, for me at least, although it fared better as a standalone (thoough by no means exceptional), the video game was just miles better.

A lot of the failure is atributed to the lack of tone. The comic-panel's dark mood was definately mimicked, but gone were the voice-overs that narrated every step along the way. Instead, we hear only a voice-over at the beginning, one at the end. But nothing in between. We're left to navigate the world alone, and unfortunately, Mark Wahlberg's brood, one-expression Max just leaves us with a man who feels nothing but rage. Okay, fine, but is that Max Payne? It's hard to tell. It could be any other broody Punisher-Wolverine-Broody-Anti-Hero out there.

Another interesting note: the PG-13 rating. Understandably something most movie execs want, because it generates bigger box-office, but Max Payne is not a PG-13 game. It deals with drugs, with murders, with sex. Strip away its core elements and you again lose the tone. For a movie about a first person shooter, there is not a lot of shooting. And the result? It lags.

As Mona Sax, Mila Kunis steps up to the plate gamely, but the mysteriousness and fierceness of Max's future soul mate gets lost when she becomes regulated to 'semi-love-interest-with-possible-weakness-for-max(for no discernable reason'. Mona Sax is a bad ass, and she has her own agenda and her own conflicts. In the regard, the movie did her a disservice.

Of course all this whining and complaining comes from a fan of the game. As a movie goer? The movie could satisfy. Is it the next Iron Man? No. But it's well-filmed and put together in a pretty package. It's just disapointing because based on the source material? It could be so much better.

But I'm still hoping for the sequel. Max and Mona deserve their chance. Maybe the second time's a charm.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

WICKED Savings...

If you haven't seen WICKED at the Pantages in Hollywood, you're running out of time. The musical about the untold story of the Wicked Witch of the West (who, it turns out, might not have been so wicked after all) will be leaving the Pantages at the end of the year.
I highly reccomend you see it. Even if you don't want to. Why? because EVERYONE has seen it, and that way you can either be like, "OMG! I saw it too! I can't wait for the movie!" or you can be like, "I saw it. I don't know what the big deal was. It's not even that good."

I tend to fall in the middle of either opinion. I traveled to London to see Idina Menzel play the part she originated on Broadway, but when I go to see Idina Menzel concerts and hear people singing 'No Good Deed' or texting the lyrics to 'The Wizard and I' the big chyron up front, I want to commit mass murder.

But it IS the Halloween season, and what better way to celebrate than getting some of your Wicked on?

And here's another reason. If you go on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday to see the event before October 31st, you can buy your seat for up to 40% off.
Use code FALL12 when you CLICK HERE TO ORDER ONLINE or call 213-365-3500 to buy the tickets.

Don't tell them I sent you. They won't know who the hell I am.

I'd like it to stay that way.

Monday, October 13, 2008

In Which Melissa is Very Grateful that AAA thing finally payed off...

Yesterday evening, I swear to you, my car was possessed. Not the fun posessed either. The lights dimming, non-starting, cd-changing reeling, cigarette-lighter-charging, weird kind of possessed.

It was frightening. And then I realized I just had a dead battery on my hands and it was less frightening and more annoying. Luckily, my AAA Plus membership has saved me yet again. Within twenty minutes, a hunky tow-trucker driver was there with this little battery guage and charger and had my on my way. He told me my battery just needed to charge a little and I should be fine.

He lied. My car was still dead this morning. Luckily, in addition to AAA I also have 'THE DAD'. Who is better than the AAA because he will get me a battery and save me the confusion of trying to navigate PepBoys.

Still. My car hath burned me before. But usually it's just the tires. Or the gas mileage (stupid SUV). Never the battery. Oh car. Why hath though forsaken me?

Upside, I at the very least, did manage to have a GREAT dinner at this funky place on Sunset called La Isla Cantina. We ate there via gift certificate, and we met up with Igor, the really really excited owner, who welcomed us to the establishment and also introduced to the chef. The place has only been open for three months, but the meal was fantastic, the margaritas were wonderful, and the souffle we had for dessert? Decadant. They also have Tequila Thursdays, which features tapas and tequila tastings and an amazing happy hour.

A great experience and I highly recommend checking out. Reasonable prices, amazing food with some home cooked flair and high class presentation, and did I mention the tequila? You should go. Tell them Melissa sent you. They won't remember me, but I'm sure Igor will be thrilled regardless.

Also, here's a pretty fantastic deal if you want to get to a theatre but, like me, you don't necessarily have the budget to get there all the time.

Free Night of Theatre 2008, which features free tickets to select theatres around the country for featured plays in over 120 cities in the month of Octobor.

But you need to reserve your tickets now, beacuse they're free, and because of that? They're going really really fast. To be honest I shouldn't even be telling you this. Because I want them for myself. And now you know. And you will steal my ticket.

That's mean of you.

Monday, October 6, 2008

ELITE XC:HEAT: Carano Delivers, Kimbo Fizzles

Saturday night was the second ProElite event on CBS that featured both of the MMA camp's biggest stars: street brawler Kimbo Slice and Muay Thai American Gladiator Gina Carano. This needed to be a success for Elite XC; they're dangerously close to failing, unable to cover their own costs.

Needless to say, it was quite a blow to them when their heavily hyped headlining fight featuring Kimbo against aging MMA legend Shamrock went south when Shamrock sustained a cut over his left eye hours before the fight. He dropped out. In his replacement? Unknown fighter Seth Petruzelli. Who dropped Kimbo Slice fourteen seconds into the first round.

Fortunately, Gina Carano, though barely able to make weight this time, performed nicely. Her fight against Kelly Kobold was a fight she was expected to win, but Kelly Kobold, scrappy and determined, wasn't going to give her an easy victory. Still, Kelly seemed impulsive and afraid (with good reason) of Gina's strike and reach. As a result, she spent most of her time pressing Gina against the cage, doing her darnedest to secure a take down and try to beat Gina on the floor.

Gina was just too strong, and although Kelly did manage a takedown near the end of the second round, the three minute mark proved her enemy. It was also her savior, because Gina came back hard in the third round, and won by unanimous decision.

See the fight on youtube: Intro & Round One Rounds Two & Three

Three minute rounds are just too short, in my opinion. There's no reason why the girls can't go five minute rounds, just like the boys.

Of course, the big fight everyone's looking for is actually the highly publicized showdown between Gina and Chris 'Cyborg' Santos, who put up a really good fight on the undercard against Yoko Takaheshi and won via uninamous decision.

Expect that fight on Pay-Per-View.

Because EliteXC needs the money.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Grand Avenue Festival: Downtown Los Angeles

As diverse as Los Angeles is, I often find myself drifting out of my neighborhood to find the things I really want to do, which honestly, it's really fair to my own little piece of Los Angeles. It's just that I've lived there for 18 years, and to be honest, you just sometimes forget what's there.

But there is a certain charm to living on the cusp of the ghetto, right smack dab in the middle of the city. I live two blocks away from my alma mater, USC, and just five minutes from the Staples Center and downtown, and I often ignore both for the lure of either the Hollywood Hills or the west side.

That's not doing my little part of town justice. Just around the corner is the California Science Center, the IMAX, the Coliseum, the Museum of Natural History and the Rose Garden. Down Figueroa are too many restaurants to count, and further down the street you have the Staples Center, the Nokia theatre, and the lure of historic downtown with the gorgeous Disney Philharmonic, the Ahmanson Theater, the MOCA, among other sights to see.

At least this weekend I was reminded that as a city, LA pretty much rocks. I went to the Grand Avenue Festival, which takes place in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, and features free admission and tickets to the Philharmonic, MOCA, the great theaters, and lots of other little things that are there to remind you how awesome Los Angeles can be.

One of my favorite things to do is go to MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art, stare a picture and go 'I don't get it'. I don't know why I love to do it, but I do. Because then I get all confused by what art is, and yet even though I stand in a room full of weird ass statues and a picture of a guy jerking off, I still find something that I like. That speaks to me.

Okay, so the big display of a bunch of fake trees didn't do that much for me but at least I can say I got to see... the bunch of fake trees. Fascinating.

The festival itself would have been a lot more enjoyable if I wasn't so exhausted, but there was some fun things to do if you had the energy. Bands, workshops, and even a huge group lesson of the electric slide. To which I say to you people: We need a cooler group dance that everyone has to learn. Because that one was lame even when it was invented.

more images here

Gina Carano resurfaces for October 4th Fight

Gina Carano
Get more pictures like this from SHERDOG.COM

EliteXC's big Showtime fight on October 4th is coming closer, and while Kimbo Slice is the big headlines, many American Gladiator and MMA fans alike will be turning an eye to Gina Carano as well, who is set to fight against Up-and-comer Kelly Kobold on the same card.

This may be one of you last chances to see Gina in action for a while. While American Gladiators is coming back, Showtime has moved to purchased the struggling ELITEXC and if that happens, there is a very good possibility that a competition clause could be brought up that could keep the brunette fighter from making a return appearance on competing network NBC.

Of course that's all still in the works; the real question at the moment is whether or not Gina, who has struggled with making weight in the past, will finally do what she has to in order to keep her weight down. Her opponent has wasted no opportunity to talk smack against Gina, so expect the fight to be a knock-down-balls-bustin' event. Particularly if the rumors are true and this is a set up for a championship bout later next year against Chris 'Cyborg'.

She looked great at the open workout exhibition though. Below is a promo for the Showtime fight. Can I be shallow and say, hi, Gina! Been a while, and you still look great! Go kick some ass.

Monday, September 15, 2008

I, Chihuahua - Beverly Hills Chihuahua Screening & Meet-up

I will be the first to admit it. I am a proud owner of a yappy, ankle-biting, size-complex-having, brown rat-lookin' chihuahua.

Believe me, it was a shock for me too, when I first found myself an owner of a breed I had for the longest time sworn against. 'They're not dogs!' I would say fervently. I would point to our family German Shephard Indio and say, 'That's the kind of dog I'm going to have forever. A big dog. I can take on runs and walks and won't have to worry about stepping on!''

Don't ask me how it happened, but four years ago I ate my words when I fell in love with a little bitty thing no bigger than a newborn kitten, a gift from my grandmother, who lived in Chihuahua, Mexico at the time. A fitting present, I would think.

Thalia was a handful from day one. A small, rambunctious little thing, she was fiercely loyal and extremely capable of getting into trouble. Her penchant for pawing at heels meant she got stepped on once or twice, and when she was four months old, she broke her leg running down the stairs. Because her bones were as thin as matchsticks. A two thousand dollar operation later, she had the world's tiniest screw in her leg, and the world's biggest cast.

Now, I love my dog to death, but she does have her problems. She was spoiled as a puppy, and now trying to keep her from begging for food with her large brown eyes has led to a weight problem, because people don't know how to say no, even when I ask nicely not to feed the dog (and I indulge her sometimes too, I'm ashamed to admit). She barks maniacly at strangers who come into the house, and has been known to nip if someone reaches down at her. She has no undercoat, so I have to buy little coats and shirts and all that foofy stuff I used to claim I hated, just to keep the shivering girl warm. I can't take her on runs, she actually runs from the leash when she sees it, and if I want to go for a walk with her, I need to be sure to bring my backpack, to load her into when her feet get sluggish or her little ex-broken leg starts to ache. After a four hundred dollar training class, she knows 'heel', 'sit' and barely knows 'stay', and that's as far as she goes.

But I came to realize something very early on. Despite my prejudices and Thalia's size, that little yapper is all dog. And she's also my best friend. She's at my side every night and on weekends, she goes everywhere with me she's allowed to go. Malls, friend's houses, lunches, bike rides, and everywhere else. There's a plus to having a rat-sized little yapper. She can go nearly anywhere.

So I have a new appreciation for the breed of Chihuahuas, and although I kinda groaned with the rest of the populace when I saw the trailer for the new 'Beverly Hills Chihuahua' movie, I had to admit, I kinda wanted to see it. Just to see what it was about. You know. Not lame at all.

Then I heard about a special screening taking place, in which, as a promo event, chihuahua owners and their dogs were invited to watch the movie for free. "Self?" I said, "This may be the chance you're looking for to check this movie out, and not look like a total geek. Just a crazy dog lady. You can handle that!" So I RSVPed plus two, because this was, after all a kids movie, and there needs to be an excuse to be there, other than the crazy dog lady thing. I dragged a friend into it, and then my trump card: my god-daughter, who at the age of 9, is the perfect excuse-er... age, to watch this film.

Thalia poor thing, endured much for the event. She was bathed, and then endured twenty minutes of torture as two adult, full grown women tried to hold down a seven pound chihuahua who hates having her nails clipped. Then it was into a spiffy little black and white dress ("I loathe you", her expressive eyes conveyed), and with a shiny new collar, we were off to the first public screening of 'Beverly Hills Chihuahua'.

Neither I nor Thalia have ever seen so many chihuahuas in our life. There were chihuahuas in booties, in top hats, in designer couture gowns. There were chihuahuas in a wagon, six in all, sitting quite peacefully. There was a chihuahua named Kobe, dressed in a Laker's jacket, trying to scram from the place and it's overwhelmy femmy feel ("Kobe! Get back here!" yelled his distraught owner, navigating through the chihuahuas decked out in feather boas and moving over a chihuahua-sized red carpet).

It was a heck of a lot of chihuahuas.

Thalia, round-eyed and insecure, spent the majority of the wait time settled on my shoulder, holding on tight with her little paws and looking around. In the theater, she was draped over and under with my USC sweater, and settled into it for an hour and a half of loud noises and occasional yaps as the movie began.

You know? It's actually better than you'd think. I really enjoyed the movie. The story itself, is surprisingly sweet, and the trailer? misleading.

The plot itself is simple: a vain little Beverly Hills bred chihuahua named Chloe (Drew Barrymore), owned by a doting cosmetic mogul (Jamie Lee Curtis), finds itself lost in Mexico City, when her irresponsible vain petsitter (niece of said mogul, Piper Perabo) leaves her in her hotel room and the puppy is dog-napped. Aided by a reluctant ex-K-9 German Shephard (Andy Garcia) who can't seem to get the cop out of his system, she tries to find her way home, but the dog-nappers have figured out she's worth a fortune and send a doberman after her. Meanwhile, the bereft niece teams up with the mogul's landscaper and his little chihuahua mix Papi (voiced by a hilarious George Lopez) to help find the little doggie and bring her home.

The voice actors are spot-on, the characters are cute but not grating. The movie is very well aware of the fact that it's bringing you a movie about talking animals, and supplies the cheese accordingly, but adds a surprising amount of depth as well, particularly for a kid's film. A lot of this is thanks to Andy Garcia's German Shepherd, who is just the right touch of wry and jaded to balance the cute.

Not quite 'Homeward Bound' or 'Babe', but definately worth checking out.

ETA: more pictures from the event are here, and a really thorough review of the film (which I really agree with) is here.

Tina Fey Brings the (Politically) Funny Back to SNL

In conclusion, I invite the media to grow a pair, and if you can't, I will lend you mine.
- Amy Poehler as Hilary Clinton, SNL

Saturday Night Live can be hit or miss with me, but this week's season premiere opener was the best in years. Not much in sketch comedy has made me want to simulatenously laugh and cry, but Tina Fey and Amy Poehler broke my brain a little with this scathingly honest depiction of the double standards presented with views of VP Republican candiate Sara Palin and ex-presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton.

No editorial notes here, this clip says it all.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

9 to 5: The Musical @ the Ahmanson Theatre w/ Dolly Parton

Is this because I'm a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot? - Frank Hart, 9 to 5
My songs are like kids, and as I get older, I want them to support me." - Dolly Parton

My mother was a working gal in the seventies. She hasn't said much about those days, but even now, I think we can safely say that '9 to 5 was the quintessential office movie way before we got 'Office Space'. It was more than a movie about empowerment, more than a satire on the working world, but it became an instant classic, with a message that speaks to every generation of woman (and men) who get to see it.

And you know what? It's also damn funny. Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton were pitch perfect as working girls stuck in unique ruts, brought down by the ultimate man, Frank Hart, the sexist egotistical lying hypocritical bigot.

Needless to say, when I, the ultimate musical theatre junkie and lifelong fan of Dolly Parton, heard that not only was there a musical in the works, but that Dolly Parton was writing the music, Patricia Resnick (the screenplay writer) was writing the book, and Megan Hilty (favorite Glinda ever), Allison Janney, and Stephanie J. Block were in talks to star as Doralee, Violet and Judy respectively, I nearly flipped my lid. Quite publicly. To an almost embarrassing degree.

Luckily, I'm not the only gal thrilled to see this play finally come to fruition. When word got out, I was able to gather quite a little crowd for our September 9th playdate: my mother, my sisters, and my friends. Altogether, we had the back row in the Orchestra section, for what we imagined would be the second week of production.

As the date grew closer, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that production had actually been pushed back, and as luck would have it, our tickets were now falling on opening night. This filled me with a geeky sort of delight, because I've never actually been to an opening night of any really big play. As a Los Angeles girl, most of our theatre comes by way of national tours, small independants or big productions of Broadway Tested Powerhouses ala Wicked. To have 9 to 5 work out their kinks with us before it went to New York was kind of an oddly enthralling honor, and one I didn't expect to have.

The excitement only got grew when we got to our seats and I got a better look at the cast. In addition to the three ladies, there was Andy Karl (aka the UPS guy from Legally Blonde: The Musical), and Ann Harada, the original Christmas Eve from Avenue Q (who I got to see in London, where she re-originated the role). The thing I dared not hope for was a surprise visit from Dolly Parton. It was opening night, a given that she'd be there, but usually those kind of stars stay out of the way on nights like this.
Not Dolly. Five minutes before the show started the audience erupted with a roar, when the original Backwoods Barbie strolled up to the front of the orchrestra, grabbed a mike, and introduced the show. There were a few hiccups left to work out, she informed us, and promised us a few minutes of improv and gabbery if we ended up with an unexpected stall. This got my entire row hoping for technical difficulties almost immediately.

The audience was psyched, the theater was dark, and then the musical started.

Before we go into it, let me just say that we DID have a technical glitch, and as promised, Dolly went up front, grabbed a mike, and proceded to not only gab the hell out of herself, but sing a couple of songs: 9 to 5, and I Will Always Love You. Despite the stage manager's best intentions, cameras were flashing everywhere, and a few lucky people even came video camera prepared:

She was, as usual, amazing, and made a half hour wait for technical bugs to be fixed seemed like a thrilling, special surprise. Her willingness to mingle with the audience and her genuine gratefulness that we were all there was just another reason why the lady is a superstar.

But back to the musical itself:

In a nutshell? Not bad. There definately needs to be some kinks worked out (but that's what these out-of-town previews are for), and the opening 9 to 5 musical number has been tweaked to the point of non-recognition (perhaps it's not the smartest idea to have the musical start with a GUY singing 'tumble out of bed and I stumble through the kitchen'), but once the musical got going? Pure gold.

There was a lot cribbed from the script - most of the one-liners are in there, which can be a catch-22, and the storyline is changed only a bit. What is changed isn't, in my opinion, helping the story much (Violet gets a love interest, Roz becomes more than a flunkie and a full-on stalker), but there's a reason the story is so successful. It just works.

Megan Hilty is PITCH perfect as Doralee - she takes Dolly Parton's inspiration and steps it up a notch, with a flawless voice, and the double D fake boobs to prove it. Her rendition of 'Backwoods Barbie' was showstopping, and she delivers Dolly's quips and sardonic notes with a twang that is so damned sincere you're hardpressed not to believe it's really Dolly, twenty years younger.

Stephanie J. Block, in the 'straight man' Judy role, does what she does well, belts out tunes like nobody's business. Her transformation from lonely divorcee to proud single woman is fun to watch, particularly in her part of the pot-fantasies, where she sassily cha-chas around Frank Hart and then shoots him twice. Her song with her ex-husband (Get Out And Stay Out) was a little .... melodramatic for my tastes, I would have preferred something more joyful and faster in a 'Check out how Awesome I am without You' vein than the somber 'Get out and stay out but everytime you try to leave I'm going to stop you to belt out another angsty chorus' song, but she performed it well.

Out of the three, Allison Janney struggled the most. Not a surprise: she's a film and tv actress, not a musical broadway star. But she's Allison Janney, which means even when she struggles? She's the best. Her range was not what the girls' were and as a result, her slower songs lacked the same punch. This is particularly glaring in her ballad with her love interest Joe, in which they discuss taking a chance on love (Let Love Grow) as if they're discussing who went to the bathroom five minutes ago. Despite that, when she got going, and let the nerves go, she just had a blast. Her number 'One of the guys', in which Violet envisions being CEO of the company and finally joining the boys club, was pure fun, and she was at her best when she was playing ringleader in the musical numbers, such as the 'showing Judy the ropes' number 'Around Here' and silly pot fantasy 'Potion Notion'.

Marc Kudisch (who reminded me a LOT of Billy Campbell), was scene stealing as Franklin Hart. His song Mundania, in which he is literally hanging from the ceilng in padlocks and chains, was hilarious and riveting.

The climax itself was the weakest selling point. It seemed to wrap up TOO quickly, which worked in context for the movie but not so much for the play. The act 1 finale 'Shine Like the Sun' had much more punch, and a much better fade, but that didn't mean that as soon as the curtain closed, I wasn't on my feet whistling and cheering. The show did what it was supposed to do. It made you laugh, it made you stomp your feet, and the actresses, when given the opportunity, really allowed you to channel the excitement of the moment, particularly when they finally hog tie Mr. Hart like you've been wanting them to do since the opening number.

I heartily recommend the show. Since I saw the first showing, you might see a tightened up, tweaked up version, and if that's the case? You're in for a real treat.