Category Archives: People

Draggedy Ann

I’m convinced that RuPaul is a magical alien from an advanced civilization who has descended to Earth to spread fabulousness and that one day, her space-ship will return and she will leave us for her home planet. So, appreciate her whilst you can, citizens of Earth!

I’m a bit late in catching the RuPaul’s Drag Race fervor, we’re now well into the 6th season,  but now that I’m here with the rest of you fanatics, I’m loving it.

The BEST Power Ranger.

The BEST Power Ranger.

I’ve binge-watched seasons 2-4 (I was told to skip the first season as it was rather low budget and still finding its feet) and I’m 5 episodes in to season 5. The goal is to catch up to season 6 entirely so that I can tweet and make comments and throw shade with other fans in real time. (Cheer me on, readers, in this most heroic of heroic goals.  A true test of human endurance and Cheetos consumption–it’s my go-to TV snack as of late!)

I had avoided watching Drag Race for the last few years because I felt so DONE with reality television. I didn’t want to spend time investing in yet another manipulative yet brainless exercise in ‘unscripted’ (but totally coerced) television when there’s so much fantastic scripted television out there to watch. (I still haven’t watched the final season of THE WIRE, but shhhhh….it’s a dirty secret.) Furthermore, I hate ‘reality’ TV stars. If one more ‘real housewife’ becomes a real household name, I’m leaving my body.

Speaking of ‘real’, of course now that I’ve been consuming these shows at such a clip, I’m starting to use drag lingo way too much in my everyday life. I reckon it’s like when people binge on too much BBC America, they just pick up the colloquialisms. They start talking about rubbish and crisps, car boot sales and demanding canapes on silver trays instead of garbage, chips, garage sales and eating out of the trash can.  I’m particularly fond of the terms ‘kiki’, ‘reading’ & ‘realness’. In season 2, Tyra Sanchez, in bragging about her natural feminine beauty rattles off this gem. “I’m daytime, I’m real!” This hearkens back to PARIS IS BURNING…a wonderful documentary that I can’t recommend enough. It pulls back the curtain on the Harlem drag balls of the early eighties (from which Madonna ripped off the dance-style for her “Vogue” video). The drag balls in Harlem housed an amazing tradition for a hugely interesting subculture of African American drag queens and the occasional king. And when they ‘walked the ball’, they would do their best to look ‘real’ in any category. And the categories were broad…I’m talking anything from teenage girl babysitter to military man, to street thug. Keeping it ‘real’ was the name of the game and this is sometimes much different to the drag we see in something like PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESSERT for instance…a super fun film, but one that shows a more fantastic and outlandish side of drag performance.

Here’s a clip from PARIS IS BURNING that explains ‘realness’.

If I had to walk at a drag ball, I think I’d shoot for Seth Rogan realness. I’ve got enough novelty teeshirts and big sneakers to just make it work, I reckon.  I can’t stop using ‘realness’ in my life now. Recently went to a costume party where the theme was ‘heroes’. Of course, my first urge was to dress up like a lesser-known superhero, being a giant fangirl and all. Maybe Nova or Artemis.  But I thought about it longer and not wanting to be so predictable, I decided to diverge from my usual leanings. I figured I might be able to pass for Annie Lennox a la “Sweet Dreams Are Made Of These”. I put a can of orange hair spray and an electric blue tie to good use and was pretty happy with the results.

Sweet dreams--

The Real Annie Lennox

--Are made of these.

Annie Lennox ‘Realness’.

Anyway, enough of my lookie-likie success, and back to the show. Drag queens, largely, are versatile, artistic, funny, and talented performers and I’m truly happy that this show has brought it back to the front of the American pop-culture bus. When I was a student in New York City, I remember drag queens being absolute club royalty.  I was no club kid. I probably went 6 or 7 times to the BIG clubs of the day when I was a student. (I’m talking Limelight, Tunnel, Club USA…90s clubkid era). But, when I did, I knew you had to look like a fabulous freak to get in. I remember hitting TJ Maxx to look for weird items to piece together. I settled on a curly sky blue knit top and gold lame pants for my first ever visit. That was a good look. Another one was a dark silver-sparkled leotard with black rubber trousers and Doc Martens. That look get me my butt pinched by a drag queen who was using the lady’s facilities. It was like the biggest compliment ever. I was over the moon. My butt? Noticed by a drag queen! I high-fived myself in congratulations.  Good drag queens are like the unicorns of the gay world. Magical, horny, and with great hair.  I even went to Wigstock and got to see the amazing Lady Bunny perform.

Most of my favorite characters on DRAG RACE  have been the ‘comedy queens’. Girls that were able to be charming and funny as WELL as dress up all fancy and walk in heels (notably, Pandora Boxx, Jujubee & Jinkx Monsoon). I’m a sucker for the ‘nice’ girls.  I don’t generally favor the contestants who are just pretty faces or the ones who are cruel in their game-mastery.  I grudgingly came around to loving Willam, which surprised me because she’s a bit of a dick.  Willam, initially at least, came across as much too cruel to be funny. But, she’s broken me down. I can’t resist her evil charms. She’s got a hilarious channel on YouTube.  Willam’s Beatdown

It shouldn’t be surprising how funny so many of the contestants are. Being in a (sometimes) persecuted minority can really help develop those comedy muscles. I loved Pandora Boxx’s persona so much on the show that I subscribe to her Facebook page now. Recently, she posted this video. It’s of Coco Peru playing GTA. If you like video games and/or laughing, you will enjoy this:

The show succeeds in presenting fresh takes on reality-challenge tropes. One of my favorite (and one which returns every year) is “Snatch Game”. It’s a take on MATCH GAME, with the queens all having to do their best and most entertaining celebrity impersonation. Of course, it’s always a game where the wittier, not prettier, girls succeed. Pandora Boxx doing Carol Channing was a personal fave. RuPaul is a masterful host who is able to be a mother figure to the contestants without it coming across as too cloying, a black-belt in pop-culture knowledge, and an award winning punster and catchphrase generator. One of my favorite Ru catchphrases is when, after consulting with the panel of judges, she shouts ‘SILENCE!’ (usually when no one is even talking). Here is a supercut of those moments:

Honestly, why RuPaul hasn’t been the comic lead in a Broadway play yet, I don’t know.

All in all, I’m loving this show and am thrilled by its success. And of course, since we’re at it, let’s brainstorm drag personas for me (not that I’d ever try my hand at it. I’m far too lazy to learn how to apply make-up good).

–Man Hathaway

End of list.

Further Reading (The library is open!):

Spin Profile

NYTimes Profile

Short Video

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The SliceMan Finisheth

Hi World, it’s ILTTAG’s first post of a brand new, fluffy, sweet-smelling year.  Hope the first half of January has been kind to you and yours. On a blog where the whole idea is to look at the little things which make this world a better place to hang out what is good enough to lead with?  Well, it’s early enough in the month of January that resolutions are still a relevant subject matter. Most of us will be at hat point where we are testing out our New Year’s Resolutions, if indeed you were brave or crazy enough to make any.  To be honest…if you’ve still kept yours by the time I’ll likely be done with this post (I’m guessing mid to end of January) then well done, sir or madame! I salute your willpower.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Today’s entry celebrates both my love of pizza, my love of NYC, and the tenacity of a dedicated blogger.

172. Sliceharvester.com  www.sliceharvester.com

The gist is this: a pizza lover and native New Yorker does a top to bottom appraisal of EVERY by-the-slice pizza joint in Manhattan…and the island is lousy with them. If you consider ALL of NYC’s boroughs you actually get past the thousand mark). I only discovered this blog recently because Huffingtonpost reported that he–the author– had finished his gastronomic odyssey.  What a wonderful idea, eh?  Just when you think there is nothing new under the sun, somebody finds a novel approach. And what perseverance! I envy his willpower…and his geographical location. What this blog says to me is that you CAN see things through…you just have to choose more awesome and delicious goals.

Better, more delicious goal-setting

This guy writes in a style which is very more-ish.  He also knows a lot about music…so if you dig on indie rock you’ll probably enjoy reading it on more than one level. I think he’s ALMOST a hipster but he comes across as earnest enough to pass my instantaneous and totally unwarranted judgment.  I mean, I think you can be someone who appreciates kitsch and pop references and mom jokes and still NOT be a hipster douchebag.  Plus, here’s his criticism of someone’s ‘smug’ attitude on a blog he was reading a pizza article from: “I am now 100% certain that whoever is involved with this blog is a total boneroni and needs to get run through a cycle in the douchewasher. I am seriously so pissed.”  So, this guy, who mostly remains anonymous throughout his blogs…but is reported to be Colin Hagendorf…checks out, I reckon. Here’s a big old news article celebrating his reaching of the finish line:  WSJ

I like Mr. Slice Harvester because I can relate. In an early post, he mentions he’s got a band, two jobs (including one where he waits tables at a diner–I was in restaurants for ages!), several side projects AND he was running his blog and printing a zine. Well, shut my mouth next time I gripe about not having enough down time between my day job, my sketch troupe, my stand-up gigs, my wife-being, and my blog-writing to play Arkham City. But, I think an important point to take from his success is also to make your side projects FUN. It’s bad enough working to make a living. But, if you want to exercise your creative impulses too, make sure you’re having a good time.

Immediately, upon starting to read this blog, I had questions.  How does one realistically plan out a task that involves that much chewing and metro-card use, I wondered.  Well, I found that Mr. Harvester started at the northernmost tip of Manhattan and then gradually worked his way down both the east and west sides. Usually, he had one day of the week dedicated to pizza eating.  In fact, he ate 7-9 pieces a day once a week on average.  He also changed up the friends he met every week–which I’m sure helped to keep it interesting and fun. I’m curious about whether or not other foods were consumed that day or if did a sort of Man VS Food style approach of water only…maybe even consumed the day before.

Anyway, back to the SUBJECT contained within the pages of sliceharvester. Pizza.  This isn’t the first time that I’ve written about pizza in this blog.  See here: Pizza Boy and here: Artichoke  I love it. Pizza is always the answer to the question: If you could only ever eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Pizza is delicious, potentially nutritous, the ideal fix for a meal at teenage slumber parties.  It’s just fun!  What other meal gets its own game? (Ok…mabye besides Hamburger Time).  The commercial jingle for this has been in my head all week.

Whilst I am enjoying my daily journey through the backlogs of his blog, it is horribly painful in some ways too.  Each blog post has at least one centerfold of a pic. They are literally mouth-watering these pics..this photographic journalism…this pizza porn.  Even when the review is a bad one, the pictures still look pretty damn good.  Here is a sample. I should mention that this isn’t my pic and is property of sliceharvester.  Speaking of which…a LOT of the pics I swipe to decorate this blog aren’t mine.  I need to sort that out. Do I need to credit photogs or what?  Who  knows this info? What if no credit is listed? Does it matter at all that I make zero cash money from this blog? Help me Google, you’re my only hope.  Anyway, here’s the pictorial equivalent of my own personal longing:

Gah!

I can sympathize with the onus for this quest as I am oft-praising NYC-style pizza and bemoaning the fact that it only seems to exist in NYC.   Though there are some US cities where locally owned pizzerias (non chain) can create a reasonable facsimile to that crispy yet chewy, zesty-saucy, melty-cheesy perfect slice…I have yet to see anything close to resembling the stuff in the UK. I swear, the good people of Manchester must find me to be the most annoyingly patriotic chump.

How shit is this? I live near a take-away that is actually called ‘By the Slice’. By. The. Slice. These humps DO NOT SELL PIZZA BY THE SLICE. They sell terrible terrible terrible whole pizzas…often ordered by the locals with the abomination of tuna and sweet corn as toppings (this is common in England–if you can find it a can, you can dump it on your pizza). Furthermore, they’re  more of a burger shop and fried chicken joint anyway. Sliceharvester has opinions about joints that spread themselves too thin like that.  If you are putting burgers on your menu, you are NOT giving your pizza enough attention. Anything further removed than a calzone at a pizza house is not a good sign.  Anyway, this joint, By The Slice, is a cruel tease.

Recently, I read a glowing review of the place on yelp.com.  The reviewer actually called it the most NYC-like pizza in Manchester.  So, I ordered one.  Here’s what it looked like:

Here it is...

The only thing that reminds me of home about this pizza is the little plastic dollhouse table that they have stuck in the middle of it.

The pizza took over an hour to come–let me remind you, this place is a block away from me–, it was lukewarm, had too much cheese and  not enough sauce, and a spongey moist crust. Heartbreaking.

The only purpose that I can think of for this pizza is if someone had to force feed you something of caloric value because you had so much to drink that you blacked out…they saw that you were barfing even in your black-out state and that you needed something to line your stomach and hence prevent your death. Only then…and if administered in the smallest does possible.

I’m currently reading these blog posts in order and haven’t come across some of my fave shops yet. (I mostly hung out in lower Manhattan when I lived there and I’m only at the Upper East Side part of his journey right now.)  So, I’m hoping we have a mutual appreciation of both Artichoke and Pizza Mercato. I’m curious how much we overlap in what makes a good slice.  We shall see.  At any rate, next time I pay New York a visit, I will hit the travelogue of sliceharvester up again. Maybe I’ll try somewhere new.

In non-pizza related news.  I just HATE HATE HATE people who kick my seat in the movie theatre. I hate it so much I started a FaceBook page. If you don’t like that either–getting kicked repeatedly when you’re trying to watch the latest Pixar film…or chatty morons, or people who leave their phones on…or who smell really bad…or any other level of ill-mannered movie-going behaviour, join up! You are welcome here… https://www.facebook.com/pages/Society-Against-Chair-Kickers-SACK/262865050442950

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Catherine The Great

Lordy lordy! Christmas is almost here!  It’s my favorite time of year you know…this and Halloween…and summer for, like, a week.  Threw a Christmas party at my flat earlier in the month…as is the custom.  This year, I decided to treat my Brit-pals to real US-Stylee Christmas cookies.  The English are forever stuffing their jolly and rain-drenched Christmas faces with overburdened pie crusts and doorstopper Christmas cakes…jammed full of crap like orange peel, figs, and brandy soaked raisins.  We get it…you like to eat bags of potpourri.  Your burps must smell like Yankee Candles.  Americans, on the other hand, go for the quick-burning simple sugars and e-colored frosting found in/on most cookies.  The variety can be staggering, but this year, Karey made Amy Sedaris’ recipe for chocolate chips.  (Amy Sedaris–is there anything her influence DOESN’T improve?)  I made two types of spritz cookie–chocolate and almond.

The chocolate dough was most agreeable.  They happily came out the bottom of the press in the shape they were supposed to maintain.

Well behaved cookies!

They were both yummy and pretty.  Success!  The almond spritz, however, had a much softer dough which I couldn’t tame.  As hard as I tried, I just couldn’t get them out of the press in tidy shapes.  It all would just…glob out.  So, instead of baking pretty, almond flavored trees and wreaths, I just squirted out the mucky clumps and baked those.  The dough still TASTED good and it’s a shame to waste all that butter.  So, I just repackaged ’em as ‘grinch poop’ instead of spritz.  I think Sedaris would have approved.

Unruly!

Mercifully, my corn flake wreaths turned out a bit better.  Ah, corn flake wreaths–Americans are experts at re-purposing otherwise healthy foods.  Green bean casserole, creamed corn, pumpkin pie, and merry little corn flake wreaths.  Start with a healthy low fat and vitamin fortified breakfast cereal, add bags of gooey marshmallow, lashings of food dye, and enough melted butter to stop your heart.  Wunderbar!

The only problem is that I couldn’t find any holiday cookie sprinkles (red and green jimmies…or little silver balls…or red hots…or anything).  So, I had to purchase Barbie sprinkles (all I could find, OK?) and separate out the white jimmies from the pink ones and just use those on the wreaths.  So very dedicated to my junk food, I am.

Christmas cookies on one side, it’s ALSO a byproduct of the holiday season that films like Beetlejuice and Home Alone and The Nightmare Before Christmas are broadcast on television.  What do those movies have in common?  Why it’s today’s great thing and national treasure (via Canada)

171. Catherine O’Hara

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/16/CATHERINE_OHARA.jpg/220px-CATHERINE_OHARA.jpg

Actress, Comic, Singer, and Stock Photo Model: Catherine O'Hara

You grow up sort of knowing that she’s good…she pads out the role of ‘Mom’ in a ton of PG films quite nicely and she sings so sweetly as Sally in The Nightmare Before Christmas.  But, it was really in my early twenties…with the advent of the Christopher Guest mockumentaries that I noticed how excellent she is.  I mean–her version of “Midnight at the Oasis” as performed with Fred Willard in Waiting For Guffman will always overrule how I hear the song.  Sorry, Maria Muldaur…but I’m going to need some coffee for that ride.

It goes without saying that she’s a terrific improviser.  She understudied for Gilda Radner at Second City (improv mecca).  She later went on to write and perform sketches for “SCTV”.  But those Christopher Guest films are always a treat.  I’m eagerly awaiting the next.  What a dream it would be to act with that Christopher Guest lot on one of those impro-films.   John Michael Higgins, Jane Lynch, and Michael Hitchcock..they are so good I just know I’d get all sweaty and nervous in their company.  I’d big myself up then try to be all self-deprecating…failing at both…try to insert my most interesting stories into conversations where they obviously didn’t fit.  Probably block every scene with bad improv.  Maybe get tanked and awkwardly perv on Parker Posey.  Oh the ways I could embarrass myself on that set. Michael McKean would tweet something funny about it, I bet…(he has funny Tweets).

O’Hara is a notable comedy hero because, like Tina Fey, she’s an all-star.  She’s a great actress, improviser, AND writer.  And, back in the era when she was on sketch television I reckon it was even harder for women to get their material on air.  Here’s a sketch which she wrote where a game show host has to suffer through idiots.  I reckon you’ll see where that Will Ferrell/Alex Trebek sketch was born.

Here’s something weirdly personal to know (I always like to include something ‘stalker’ level in my blog posts): O’Hara has a condition called Situs Inversus which is apparently where your major visceral organs are in ‘mirror’ or I guess what you’d call a reverse position to how they are normally.  I don’t think it has to be a problem (although there can be issues) …no..no side effects for O’Hara…EXCEPT MAKING HER AWESOME!

Last year, she played Funkhouser’s mentally instable sister on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”.  I like it when funny people that I admire, find and work with other funny people I admire. Someday, I hope Amy Poehler works with Stephen Colbert.  Thanks for making friends, Larry David and Catherine O’Hara.  It makes me all happy.  In my head, you all had a super-fun after party when the shoot was over with pizza and board games and laser tag.  Maybe you still send Christmas cards to each other.

In other holiday-related news, please enjoy this link to some wintery Star Wars Snowflakes.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, readers!

For Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen

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Best-O-Ween 2011!

It’s not too late to throw out a wee post about some of Halloween’s best offerings this year, is it?

Nah…let’s go for it.

170. Best-O-Ween 2011

Here’s a compilation blog featuring some of the best Halloween-related stuff that I have seen this year.

If you read this blog regularly you know that I love me some Halloween.  I had complained a year or two ago that the UK simply didn’t do it up large like the Americans do.  But, I think that’s changing.  Maybe businesses finally see how easy it is to cash in on Halloween-related crap, theme nights at bars, fancy dress parties, etc…

I have to say, one of the best thing about Kraft Foods (an American company) taking over Cadbury’s has to be that we now have THESE fine foodstuffs:

Americans! Bringing you chocolate covered gore! Hooray!

Really, England, I don’t know what you were kicking up such a fuss about.  When the takeover happened everyone was all worried that the quality of the chocolate would suffer…traditions would crumble…we’d shit it all up with our tackiness.  Obviously you were wrong.  We just added some awesome.  You’re welcome, Britain.

Ok, so what else is worthy of our attention this year?  The doggy dress up competition in NYC is always worth a chuckle.  Here’s the link to some of the best:

Dogs in NYC

Nothing tops that bulldog, for me.

Well…maybe THIS Staffy does.  I lifted this from Pedestrian TV. (All credit due)

You won't like me when I'm growly.

 

In the human costume category, I have to give it up to my cousin, Emily Heinrich.  When I was a kid, I was spoilt by a mother who made costumes herself–amazing constructions.  With the help of patterns from JoAnn Fabrics, I was often the best-dressed kid on my street.  My Mom must’ve lost her nut the year I chose the ‘elephant’ pattern.  It was pretty complicated.  She did a great job with those ears and tusks and trunk though.  Love you, Mom.  Emily is carrying on that tradition…perhaps even a bit further…as her creations don’t look like you could even buy a pattern for them.  Check out how she dressed her boys this year:

Emily Heinrich is crafty

World War II Ace! Sopwith Camel!

 

The Loony Toons monster AND Snoopy’s Red Baron-chasing Sopwith Camel?  That’s just ace, Em.  Well done.

Speaking of crafty people, here’s a little gem that someone forwarded me…allow me to give it a proper introduction:

“Hey lady…looking to throw a kicking Halloween bash this year but CAN’T afford fancy store-bought decorations?  Well, look no further than your bathroom cupboard.  As long as you’re still menstruating, you’ll never be without the potential to terrorize folks!  Check out our new tampon ghost project!

 

Hee Hee--ewwwwww

Don’t like wearing tampons?  I’m pretty sure you could do something similar with this.  It has wings which could resemble ghostly arms!

Boo!

 

If you can’t get enough of making things out of tampons, you’re in luck.  Here’s a web-site devoted to the art.  Thanks internet!  tamponcrafts

Let’s close out this Halloween love fest with a modern classic, shall we?  Werewolf Barmitzvah, anyone?

See you in November!!!!

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The Kitten Whisperer

Well, 2010 is just about done and dusted now and I can’t think of a better way to close this decade but with some adorable pictures of kittens as captioned by a six-year-old girl.

As if pictures of kittens weren’t enough…this video also provides hilarious narration!  How is this different from the mirth provided regularly by icanhascheezburger.com you might ask?  Well, whilst the captioning featured in ICHC is more considered–some even featuring recurring jokes and an ongoing drama about bucket theft and ceiling cats, this is just pure stream of consciousness style humor.

For example...

I gotta tell you, this kid is priceless.  And I’m not really the type that fawns over children.  This might seem odd, I know.  When people are around me, they always assume that I’d be just great with kids.  This is because I’m an immature moron who still reads comic books and poses action figures on my desk.  They think that because I’m tons of fun that I’d be absolute magic around the wee ones.  But it’s for those very reasons that I don’t think I’d be a great Mom at all…or even a particularly effective babysitter.  Last time I watched my god-daughter, she hit her head on furniture not once but TWICE!  I’m way too easily distracted.  I don’t want to share my toys.  I’m easily bored.  I have no child-care knowledge.  And most importantly, I don’t have that biological pull towards children.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my nieces, they are both whip smart and stupidly cute…and if I’ve met YOUR kids, I probably like them just fine too.  But those kids have homes to go to when they’re through visiting.  I’m the sort of person who when let’s say, for instance, someone brings their six-year-old to work–whilst everyone else is cooing and asking how school is going and looking to engage with them on their level, I’ll barely look up from my desk.  If anything, I’ll just hope and hope that they don’t come over and bother me whilst I’m watching The Rachel Maddow Show on my lunch break.

My friend Paul hit the nail on the head the other day when we were discussing our similarity in this area.  He said that it’s because you have to change your levels of engagement.  Your conversation style has to change and you can’t really be yourself anymore around kids.  That, in itself, can be a bit draining.  And he’s right.  I can’t even use swears when I’m around them.

I think I’m destined to be the old lady who keeps your frisbee if it comes over to my lawn.  Not to be mean…just so I can play with it.

But this kid can hang out for a while if she wants.  It’s amazing!  I’m not even related to her, so I don’t have to feign interest at all!  Please enjoy this video of Maddie Kelly…a six year old verbally captioning photos of kittens from a picture book.

157.  Kittens Inspired By Kittens

Am I right?  What a stitch!  It’s no wonder that it’s made Time Magazine’s list of “50 Best YouTube clips”.

Now how did this little nugget of fried gold wind up on the internet in the first place?  Well, from what I can suss, her Dad works for an ad agency Fallon.  Watching his daughter goof about with a picture book of kittens, he manages to capture her on film and he posts it for the world to see on YouTube.  Fallon, of course, concerns itself in the monitoring of trends and on their own blog, they analyze the public’s delight with this clip.  You may read it here:

FallonBlog

Here’s an excerpt from their post:

The success of “Kittens…” (and hundreds of goofy vids like it) often flies in the face of much of our well-produced, branded, and strategized factory “virals”. So what gives? Is “viral” still just a roll of the dice – particularly for brands? Do we embrace the more-faster-cheaper ethos that drives the users? Do we recruit 6-year-olds to generate ideas for us? Do we get her to replicate the magic – this time for a brand? And it makes me wonder, if we had pitched “Kittens…” to a client would they ever have approved it? And if a client would’ve approved “Kittens…” would they have added too many brand mandatories that would slow down its “viral” appeal?

There’s something weird about dissecting the appeal of this clip to such fine detail.  Don’t get me wrong…I get that pop-culture analysis is sort of what I do on this blog too…But, I worry about too much experimentation/social study when it comes to kids.  The closest I ever came to being a Mom was with my dogs…just in the sense that I was responsible for their care.  And this Fallon blog post reminds me of how I used my dog Wolfie  for a science experiment in high school.  It ended unhappily for both me and the dog.  I had won a science award the year before for using his olfactory senses for a sort of consumer reports experiment I did with various saran wraps.  I won’t bore you with the details.   Anyway, all the judges loved Wolfie’s involvement and I thought I’d use him again.  I had wanted to be a veterinarian at that point in my life and I had been reading in DogFancy how it was becoming more and more important for owners to take care of their pets’ teeth.  So, I thought I’d test a specially marketed dog toothpaste over a human toothpaste over baking soda and water and of course a ‘control’ portion of Wolfie’s mouth where I didn’t brush at all.  To start out, we made an appointment for him to have his teeth cleaned at the veterinarian.  I wanted a blank slate and I was assured that it was an uncomplicated procedure.  Well, didn’t he just have a heart attack on the table due to an allergic reaction to the anesthesia.  I was crushed and I’m still not entirely over it.

So, I guess, what I’m saying, Mr. Maddie’s Dad Kelly is, don’t take your daughter to get her teeth cleaned.  That makes sense, right?

Plus, to be honest, overanalyzing this is only standing to make it less funny.

Like the FunnyOrDie.com videos featuring Adam McKay’s daughter, Pearl…it’s probably best to cap the fervor the nation has with the wee girl before it gets out of hand.  Pearl starred in a grand total of two videos.  As much as I want to see dozens more of these videos by the adorable Maddie Kelly, I think McKay’s two video maximum was a wise choice.  At least until she gets old enough to start and manage her own YouTube page.  But, let’s enjoy the sensation of “Kittens Inspired By Kittens”  while we can.  This handy link takes you to some of the spin-offs that the video has inspired…and boy are there lots.  Some are even worth watching!:  KnowYourMeme

Anyway, Happy New Year everyone!  Double head!  I’m her Mom!  Nooo she’s not.  (I’m finding the video entirely too quotable and will continue to torture my colleagues with an insufferable amount of repetition all throughout 2011.)

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She gets an A+++++++++++++

Chances are, if you’re an American, or have lived in The States for at least a calendar year, or maybe even just visited around Christmastime, you’ve seen the much celebrated and beloved holiday classic A Christmas Story.  Heck, TBS runs it for 24 hours…so the opportunity is there in spades.  I’ve covered an aspect of the film before in this here blog (see:  Crazy Santa Scene ).  But, I love the film so much…and it is that holiday time of year, I don’t think it does anyone a disservice to talk about it again.  But for this post, I want to look at one of the best performances in the film instead of a favorite scene.  That’s why today’s great thing is:

155.   Melinda Dillon in A Christmas Story

To give proper credit, they’re all great in this film.  Darren McGavin, Peter Billingsly, even the Bumpus Hounds…but there is something that’s a bit unsung about Dillon’s performance as Midwestern Mom, Mrs. Parker.  She suffers through the humiliating episode of the leg lamp, her husband’s blue rantings against the household boiler, and even her son getting into some major fisticuffs with a raccoon-capped thug and she does it all with a certain goodly warmth and humor.  She brings to the screen one of the most realistic portrayals of a Mom ever committed to film, methinks.

A spoonful of whatever this is helps the sugar go down...

Of Melinda Dillon, Wikipedia notes that she is notoriously private and not much is known about her as a person.  Boy, are they ever right about that.  I couldn’t even locate an interview!  For a woman who has been nominated for Oscars twice (Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Absence of Malice) AND is a major featured player in one of the greatest cult classics of all time, that’s a pretty impressive level of media avoidance.  Briefly (because it HAS to be), here’s what I know about Melinda Dillon.  She was born in Arkansas.  (Good for her for escaping!)  She studied improv with Second City in Chicago.   (Good for her for being awesome!)  And, she was married for a while and has a child but is now divorced and the child is now a grown-up.  (Good for you for having what passes as a pretty normal life nowadays!).  This year she is 71 years old.  She’s five foot eight and studied the Lee Strasberg method of acting.  She played Honey in the original Broadway production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf…and, that’s about all the info I could garner.  Oh, here’s a random quote about working with Sylvester Stallone that I found:  “I’m taller than Sly and that bothers him and we kid about it so I take off my shoes in some scenes. I can’t slouch or I wouldn’t be Anna. She’s very upright. So, that’s as nosy as I could get.  I suppose I’ll just have to focus on why I think her performance in the film is so ace and not worry about stuff like how come I can’t find her blouse size or what her favorite pizza topping is.

1.  As a Mom, her character is firm but fair.  The Parker children, Ralphie and his kid brother are relatively good kids…but we’re all scamps of a sort at that age aren’t we?  They get into their fair share of mischief, what with Ralphie tangling with Farkus, Randy (kid brother) refusing to eat, and Ralphie dropping his very first F-bomb.  I especially like how after she makes Ralphie suck on a bar of soap after his foul-mouthed tirade she does try a bit herself to see what it’s like.  Later, when she can see the poor kid has had enough after his incident with Scott Farkus she even covers for wee Ralphie with his Dad (who would’ve lost his shit.)  What a nice Mom!

Worse than waterboarding?


2. She perfectly plays the ‘fun’ parent.  Watch her encourage Randy to eat, in a fun way which she knows he’ll engage in, whilst Dad Parker looks on in disgust.

3.  She’s interesting to watch in a scene even when she’s not the central focus (which she rarely is.)  Watch her chuck Randy around like she’s putting a new cover on an especially unwieldy comforter in this snowsuit scene.

Snowsuits are great.  I don’t know why we don’t continue to wear them as grown-ups.  I have about a twenty minute walk to work…a perilous one at that…nobody shovels their damn sidewalks over here.  It’s icy as all get-out and falling about in a nice puffy snowsuit hurts far less than falling about in jeans.

4.  Finally, and admittedly unrelated to A Christmas Story, let’s just take a moment to appreciate how awesomely Melinda Dillon has aged.  Here is a still from Magnolia.  She will have been about 61 here.

She must use good moisturizer.

A final clip for you here.  Unfortunately, no  sign of  Melinda here…mainting her publicity-shy past…but it’s a nice story about a recent reunion and fun for fans of the film (like myself) to see some of the players all grown up:


Bye for now!


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Amazon Women of Manchester

OK, so…if you’ve read the last couple of posts, you’ll know that I had the recent pleasure of taking a holiday in Ecuador.  I was  looking forward to it in a major way.  By UK standards, I feel that I’m not very well-travelled.  My Facebook ‘Places I’ve Been’ map (as sponsored by Tripadvisor) includes trips across The States, journeys around England and Scotland, Canada, Switzerland, Italy, and France.  That’s it.  Not bad by suburban girl from Pennsylvania standards but  pretty poor, when you consider that I’ve got all of Europe within three hours flight time now.  The average Brit has been twice as many places as I have, it seems…even if their travels often involve just going to the British style pubs and clubs in hotter and sandier locations.  (Apparently Tenerife is like a boiling hot version of  Liverpool nowadays.)  So, I was stoked to be going somewhere so exotic.  Nobody goes to Ecuador!  I have to say, it started out beautifully.  The prospect of going to Quito frightened my partner Karey a bit.  She had nightmarish visions of a third world country…the type where nuns get murdered and dictators get overthrown on a weekly basis.  Coincidentally, our journey was timed for three weeks after a coup attempt.  That didn’t help.  But, Karey’s nerves were quickly assuaged when we landed in the world-class city that Quito really is.  Ecuador may not be the wealthiest country, but Quito has all the amenities you need and more culture than you can shake a maraca at.  At any rate, we were only there for a day of rest before we started an amazing jungle adventure.  We were booked in at an eco-lodge in the Amazon rainforest for 4 days and 3 nights.  And that’s what I’m going to yammer on about for today’s great thing.

154. Yachana Lodge

To get to the lodge, which is secreted away where the Napo river meets the Amazon, we first took a quick cab ride from our hotel to the VIP departure lounge at Quito’s airport…VIP was the private airline that flew us to Coca…  It was a small plane…but not crazy scary small.  It sat about 20 people, I’d say.  Coca, we learned once we got there, is a rather small and slightly impoverished city.  But, it was the nearest port of call to where we could meet our guide.  At the VIP lounge, we met our liaison who helped with our original booking.  She checked in with us and passed us a copy of this New York Times article about the center and its founders.  It excited us about our journey even more:  NYT

Yachana has many missions…rainforest preservation, eco-tourism, and education of the locals (they have their own school located in the nearest village which teaches students the basics of languages, sciences and math but also tradesmen type stuff like tourism and responsible farming).  Pretty angelic when you consider my missions for the day:  Refresh my Facebook page for the 70th time, watch today’s episode of The Apprenctice on BBC, and finish that bar of chocolate that I started yesterday.

It turned out, Juan Kunchikuy, the native of Ecuador mentioned in the article was going to be our guide.  A super cool guy…growing up hunting with blow darts and living a life that I’ve only read about in adventure stories.

Blowin' darts and kickin' ass.

Juan is the real deal.  Check out this BBC article about his time spent in East Yorkshire meeting with school children:  Juan Karey and I, amazingly, came at a time when it was just going to be the two of us in his group.  Through a great stroke of booking, guests left when we arrived and arrived when we left.  They must have been warned, somehow…Maybe a Tripadvisor alert…avoid travel to Yachana on these days if you don’t like chatty lesbians…  Paradise was ours and ours alone for 3 days!  Juan, handy with both a machete and a Swarovski telescope (for bird watching), knew just about everything there is to know about jungle life.  He pointed out critters that I would have never seen even if I’d been staring at the tree that they were perched in for hours.  He’d find the smallest frog, pick it up and show us, and then find its younger, smaller, offspring 20 feet away and show that to us as well.  Mad skills!

Vroooom...glub glub glub

Anyway, back to the first day.  2.5 hours down the river from Coca, we finally reached our destination, Yachana Lodge (pronounced Yuh-Chaw-Nuh).  We climbed the plain and utilitarian-looking stairs up the river bank but once we were up the trail towards the housing, we were surrounded by gorgeous gardens filled with flora that I’d never seen before.  It was like entering the Avatar planet.  Naturally, I immediately started clear-cutting and mining for unobtainium.  The noise of the surrounding jungle was also immediately evident.  Bird and bugs can make quite a din when they want to.  There was one bird that made the weirdest little sci-fi noise.  I’ve spent ages scouring the net for a clip (a difficult task when you can’t remember the name of the bird) and I FINALLY found one…it’s the second bird featured in this Attenborough show…the Screaming Piha, it’s called.

We took one night-time hike and two daytime hikes (on separate days).  Juan pointed out where the primary forest differed from the secondary forest.  Primary is the stuff where the trees are bigger because it’s never been levelled or clear-cut.  The secondary forest is land they’ve reclaimed from farms and that is basically growing back in.  To be fair,  when walking through the secondary forest…I thought that was pretty bushy/green/and that the trees were aplenty.  But, when you step into the primary, the canopy just gets that much thicker and taller.  Over the two hikes, we did tons of birdwatching.  Juan found woodpeckers, toucans, parrots, kites, buzzards, kingfishers, rainforest orioles amongst others for us to gaze at.  One of the absolute best sightings was of these prehistoric era weirdos.  The Hoatzin are also known as ‘stinky turkeys’:

What the what?

Juan showed us how they use tree sap for candles and incense, we saw some sleeping bats, army ants, scads of spiders, loads of toads and frogs, and one coatimuntdi.
On another trek, about two hours in, we’d been inundated with frog, bug, spider, and bat sightings, when I heard Juan say “Oh look…jungle crap.”  I thought, in a very slangy-American way, that he just meant ‘more cool stuff to see’.  Ooh, what other jungle crap do you have for us, I said?  “No…jungle CRAB, explained Juan–looking mildly insulted.  Look at this little lady, come up from the stream to do some huntin’.

Keep the crabby patty recipe safe!

As one final photographic example of the cool animal stuff we saw…oh…I just can’t choose.  Let’s do three things!  Here are the A.) Best Spider I saw, B.) Best Frog I saw, and C.) Best Monkey I saw.

A:

Flippin' Heck! And Holy Skull Island! Check out this Tail-less Whip Scorpion (or Whip Spider). This guy was big but harmless.

B.

This was hella-big for a tree frog, I thought. Those must be powerful little suckers on its feet. Plus, maybe the best name for an animal...Rocket Frog. That's gotta be a web domain already, right? Some sort of home delivery service or file sharing site?

C.

When it comes to monkeys, the rule is pretty much: smaller = cuter. This pygmy marmoset is proof positive.

The treks were more than just animal spotting…Juan also pointed out tons of the flora and explained what they were good for.  We tasted raw cocoa (tastes of pixie sticks), Juan made us each a thin bracelet out of palm tree leaf fibres on the spot, and I got to swing across a pit on a vine!  This picture of me swinging on a vine does not credit how far the vine actually was off the ground.  I was about ten feet up..so, what I’m saying is I’m a hero.  A big brave one.  Maybe the greatest one the world has ever known.

I took a few rides. Because I had to pretend to be Indiana Jones first...then Tarzan...and finally Spidey.

Ok, now stumbling onwards from the excitement and discovery of the jungle treks and onto a new topic.  I wouldn’t say that I’m food obsessed, but I do love eating delicious things and I find that whenever I’m on vacation,  I have to document my food with photographs of the stuff that’s especially nice/interesting/tasty/or weird.  Here’s just a few of the cool things I ate whilst at camp:

This ginormous grapefruit with honey drizzled on it. I made Karey hold it up to her head so that you have perspective. Karey may not be a very big lady, but she's still got a big Scottish noggin

This traditional breakfast of mashed plantain, egg, and peanut sauce. It was a delicious mess

This heart of palm ceviche...so relieved that it wasn't seafood. Because...you know...frickin' gross.

Not pictured here is a cup of Ecuadorian coffee.  If you like coffee…man oh man, this stuff was beautiful…thick in the cup even with a little bit of natural sweetness.  They also served liquid chocolate in the mornings as a dip for the bananas and homemade bread that were always on the breakfast table.

On the third day, we were treated to a cooking lesson, the camp chef showed us how to cook in banana leaves…and had a nasty surprise for me.  Please excuse my disheveled appearance.  I had just been in the jungle.

Admittedly, Karey isn’t the best cinematographer.  And to be fair, I shouldn’t call the surprise ‘nasty’.  The grubs are a delicacy in the area and though they just tasted like fatty water when eaten live, they are bacon-y and very nice after being cooked over a smoky fire.

After eating my fill of grubs (that’ll be two then…one live one cooked), we were taken to see the local medicine man. This is where the fun and games slowed down a bit and the reality of the cultural differences between middle class society and jungle living were made crystal clear.  The medicine man lives a true village-style life, away from the lodge.  He must’ve been about 50 and although he was spry, he looked his age.  Weathered and wizened, he had a slightly younger looking wife who must have been exhausted.  She was a mother of 11..  11.  That’s right 11.  Probably only because they didn’t have a TV and therefore had never seen 8 is Enough.  Their home was a one room house on stilts.  I suppose they didn’t spend much time IN the house…they had small gardens to tend and some chickens were fluttering about the yard.  The first thing I noticed about the medicine man was how rough his feet were.  I’d imagine he only had one pair of shoes, if that, and he obviously didn’t wear them much.  Tiny ants were swarming all over his feet but he took no notice.  Though he had an appointment with a sick villager, he spent about a half an hour with us.  He gave us a blessing, which involved him brushing herbs about our heads and faces and singing a song.

We also learned how to throw spears and shoot blow-darts at the medicine man’s house.  Karey turned out to be the best shot with the spear and I was slightly better with the blowdarts.  Interestingly, Juan admitted that tribes usually were more skilled with one over the other.  He came from people who were better with the blowdart.  Mad blowdart skills.  Juan also confessed that his tribe, generations ago, had been a war-faring one.  His Grandfather had the shrunken heads of slain enemies as trophies.  Frickin’ shrunken heads, dude!  Anyway…here’s me trying out the blowdart gun.

You can see the medicine man in the shot (wearing a yellow shirt and having a giggle when the second blowdart that was loaded in for me got stuck.)  Again, nice camera work there, Karey.

Here she is faring better with a spear.

Have some of that!

After the spiritual session–followed by our meagre attempts to blowdart and spear the shit out of a wooden toucan –we took to the river.  About 2.5 miles upstream from camp, I reckon, the swim was pretty easy as the current pushed us back.  I flapped about with a breaststroke and Karey braved it in an inner tube.

The days were busy and flew by in what seemed like moments.  On the canoe ride back up the river to Coca, I was definitely ready to check back into a hotel where there were bathrobes in the closet, but I still wonder happily at the things we got to see and do in the jungle.

Even though the trip to South America ended with me getting the wheelchair treatment through our flight connections back to the UK, (I had contracted some sort of stomach bug and was barf-tacular by the end of our vacation…Karey had it to…but she got it first and was on the mend by the time we left),  I’m so glad we went to Ecuador.  Mostly, because our time spent in the Amazon rainforest, at Yachana Lodge, was absolutely…wait for it…AMAZON-ING!

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