Monday, December 29, 2008

Put your paws up...

Marley and Me / John Grogan

It’s absolutely impossible for me to be objective about a book like this, so I’m not even going to try.

I LOVED LOVED LOVED THIS BOOK! How’s that for a review?

Shame on me for just now reading it, considering that it’s been out for over three years. I decided to read it after seeing the theatrical trailer for the movie, starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston…

I will see, own, and watch this movie over and over and over… guaranteed. I don't even care that it stars Owen Wilson and his crazy nose.

If you have even the slightest bit of softness in your heart for our canine companions, then this book is a must-read. Although Grogan sells this book as the story of the world’s worst dog, the sentiments found within are universal for anyone who has loved a dog, no matter how poorly behaved. Marley is a terror… an eater of furniture, a tugger of leashes, a menace to all who share his sidewalk, and yet he’s also one of his family’s greatest joys.

I was surprised at all of the experiences I had in common with Grogan and Marley. My late puppy, Beauregard (rest his soul), could never be called a bad dog, but he got into the same mischief and had the same dog-like problems as Marley, and we loved him despite all of it.

The beauty of owning a dog, or any pet for that matter, is the sense of perspective they provide. Many young people can credit their very mature attitudes about responsibility and empathy to a stint with a family pet, and many adults can view their pets as early crash courses in child-rearing. Even though the stakes aren’t quite so high when raising a dog, it’s easy to see how the experience translates into caring for an infant. Neither a dog nor an infant can say thank you, and yet we, as parents/owners continue cleaning, feeding, teaching, and loving.

The incredible adventure of keeping a living thing alive is at the center of Grogan’s book. The fact that Marley is such a challenging dog only seems to add to the mystery, rather than take away. Why does the author hang on to this bulldozer on four legs? Why does he tolerate the never-ending inconvenience, not to mention the property damage? How does Marley manage to infuriate him and endear himself to him at the same time (it’s a neat trick that all dogs seem to have)? The easy answer is because he loves the stupid animal, and honestly… who wouldn’t?

One thing this book did very well, enough to make me cry buckets, was express the idea that love has a weird way of erasing all the bad things and leaving only the good. No amount of scratched walls or busted windows or piles of poo can eclipse the years of companionship, entertainment, and comfort that Marley provides for the author and his family. Almost of all my memories of Beauregard are warm and fuzzy, and even the ones focused on his misbehavior - like the time he bit me (hard) while I tried to take a box of Cheez-nips away – tend to make me laugh, rather than inspire any negative feeling. To be honest, I’m hard pressed to think of any truly terrible moments. The only one that pops out is a mental image of my poor, victimized mother screaming to the heavens, “THIS IS WHY WE DON’T HAVE NICE THINGS!!!” Ok, that one makes me laugh, too (sorry, mom).

To summarize and conclude: I love dogs. I love this book. The End.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Rather than write some long-winded to-do, I'm just going to post this video of one of my favorite Christmas songs...

It's a little dark, a little sad... it's Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all my readers and friends!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Britney and her Circus…

First off – why has my traffic dropped off so much lately? Are ya’ll tired of my obsessive posts about Beyonce? Do you find me boring? Is the magic already gone? At first I was depressed, but now I’m just pissed. This stuff is frikkin’ FASCINATING!!

I suppose one of the reasons for the slump in traffic might be my erratic posting… sometimes it’s three times a week, sometimes it’s three times a month. What can I say – maybe I’m manic-depressive when it comes to blogging, which is odd because I’m not moody in real life at all (HA!!).

One should not assume, however, that just because I’m not blogging in any kind of predictable way means that I’m not gorging at the pop-culture buffet. Quite the opposite is true. I’ve been reading and watching movies and listening to good music just as much as ever. I have noticed a steep decline in my TV watching, which I consider a good thing, although I’m not sure how it happened. I stopped watching just about everything – Pushing Daisies, Ugly Betty, Survivor – all of it. Wait… I just realized something. I stopped watching TV altogether when the last Supernatural of the year aired. Apparently, without the Padalecki and the Ackles to lure me in, I have no need for the tube whatsoever. I’m Ok with that.

Aaaaanyway… the business at hand…

Britney Spears / Circus

Let it be known throughout the land that no one was invested in Britney’s comeback more than I, not only because I’ve been a fan since the days of the Mickey Mouse Club (ah, memories), but also because I love a good underdog story. There will never be enough interviews, E! True Hollywood Stories, or MTV documentaries to accurately explain her painfully rapid and epically entertaining spiral into baldness and forced hospitalizations, at least to my satisfaction, but if one assumes she did hit rock bottom sometime around that horrific display at the 2007 VMAs, I think her new album and it’s reception by the critics and the masses is nothing short of miraculous. And I say, well done, Britney. Well. Done.

But let’s be real. She still ain’t all there. And this album ain’t all that great.

I’m willing to concede that my expectations may have been a trifle high. I LOVED Blackout and she was barely conscious when she slapped that album together. Maybe I thought lucidity and sobriety would help Britney get to a whole other level, and while I’m certain that some aspects of her life have improved, this album was kind of disappointment. What I’m saying is that I expected to love this album. I’d even made a spot for it in my Top 10 albums of all time, that’s how sure I was about it. Alas, I was premature, and a perfectly good album that under any normal circumstances I would be raving about, turned out to be just OK for me (and I’m sorry for invoking Randy Jackson there).

Down to the nitty-gritty: I love the singles, Womanizer and Circus. Womanizer and the accompanying Toxie-esque video makes sense as the perfect comeback vehicle; a return to the Britney as Dancing Vixen Bent On Revenge formula. The song, however, is pretty weak… repetitive and dull. Circus is much better, though. The circus metaphor, while a tad predictable (and maybe even a little lame), is mighty appropriate for Ms. Spears, and it gives her every opportunity to shine. And it’s hands-down a better song.

Elsewhere on the album, the high points are few and far between. I really like the first ballad, Out From Under. For one thing, it’s real singing, which I’ve missed from her. That’s not to say her vocals have improved, but I’m all about honesty and legitimacy. And let’s be realz, if we cared about vocals in a serious way, Madonna wouldn’t have a career, but at least Madonna attempts to sing, so I’m happy to see Britney following suit. Secondly, it’s a poignant reminder of what Britney has been through, and I’m not just talking about KFed but ALL OF IT and it’s good that she addresses it. Of course, the song implies that the bad times are behind her now, and… baby steps, BritBrit… baby steps.

Kill the Lights is yet another kiss-off to the paparazzi, and you know… I’m getting confused. Here’s a girl that swears up and down in interviews that the fame and the attention and the pictures and the tabloids really mess with her head. I’d go as far as to say that she blames fame for most of her problems, and yet, here she is again, playing up to the whole idea. It’s like she’s saying, “I really get tired of the whole fame thing, so now I’m going to sing a song about how awesome it is and how awesome I am for being able to live with it.” Maybe I’m reading into it. But whatever, it’s a good song.

The rest of the album is kind of vanilla, except for maybe If You Seek Amy, which is pretty juvenile (very middle school) once you get the joke. And while I really can’t stomach My Baby, a tender ode to her babies, I’ll hand it to her for putting a personal song on the album. I think she needs all the humanizing she can get. All the rest are passable pop fare… the technical term is filler.

So all in all, Circus is a perfectly good album. It’s my fault for expecting something earth-shattering. I think she’ll get some big hits out of it, some of which may join Baby One More Time and Toxic in the Greatest Hits category, but I think time will prove that this album was more about her than the music, which, since it’s Britney, may be the way it’s supposed to be.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Holiday Procrastination continues…

…And I still haven’t done any of my shopping. Strangely, I’m fully stocked with wrapping paper, bows, cards, and other packaging materials. All of it is currently sitting idly in my living room, glaring at me. I’ve never seen such angry-looking wrapping paper.

My Christmas tree is up and decorated. And ya’ll… it’s kind of a disaster.

When I went to Target last weekend to buy my fake tree, I pretty much knew this venture would be a lost cause. Apparently, one is supposed to buy the fake Christmas trees the day after Thanksgiving. Since I didn’t get that memo (one memo among several other important memos), I had slim pickings in the fake tree aisle. Ultimately, I selected a 6-foot tree with colored lights.

I should probably mention that I purchased all of my ornaments about a month ago, because I managed to hit a sale at Michael’s entirely by accident. My theme was “No Sex for Christmas,” --- all blue balls and frigid silver and white tinsel all at reasonable prices.

As the lady scanned in my fake tree with multi-colored lights, the tiny gay man with exquisite tastes who resides somewhere in my right-dominated brain began to wring his hands with agitation. I had to assure him as we pulled out of the parking lot that the colored lights wouldn’t interfere with my cold and wintry ornamental motif, and even if it did, this was the only decent tree left in the store and I was absolutely NOT going to Walmart, so don’t even ask.

But honestly, I might have been just a teensy bit worried, too.

When I got home, I put the tree together. It was just as easy as the box implied; although I did have to wrestle some of the branches into position to keep my tree from looking like three hurricane-ravaged beach umbrellas stacked one on top of the other. After putting the tree in place, I tested the lights and I was pleased with the results. The lights, though indeed multi-colored, didn’t seem garish or tacky, mostly because there weren’t as many as I’d feared.

I unplugged the light display and began the decorating process, starting with my cheap silver tinsel. With the tinsel perfectly wound in a tight spiral, it was time for the blue, white, and silver balls. My plan was simple: a healthy amount of large balls strategically placed evenly around the tree, followed by twice as many medium balls to surround them, and finishing with a healthy smattering of small balls to fill in the empty spaces. The end result was breath-taking; a glittering, shiny, absolutely chilling display of wintry spirit, that could be perceived as depressing, if it wasn’t so gosh darn sparkly.

The tiny gay man in my head squeee’d with delight at the classy and elegant holiday concoction before him. It was as if we had just single-handedly saved Christmas.

And then I plugged in the lights.

Cue the trombone… Wah, wah, waaaaaaaahhhhhhhh…

Believe me, I’ve tried to take a photo that captures the fug I have unleashed upon my apartment (and the world), but my camera can’t seem to do it justice. Apparently, this kind of fug is so powerful, it is also elusive. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that the colored lights drown out all the beautiful and poignant things I was trying to do with the ornaments, leaving me with just another tickety-tack fake Christmas tree.

The tiny gay man in my head was INCONSOLABLE.

That was about two weekends ago. Now that I’ve lived with the Holiday Monstrosity (as I’ve begun to call it) for almost two weeks, I’ve almost become attached to it in spite of myself (don’t tell the tiny gay man). I considered going out and buying new ornaments – some red, gold, and green things that may compliment all those dizzying colors better than my blues, whites, and silvers. I also considered buying some strings of white lights to put over the colored ones (which come attached to the tree). But then I thought… how completely out of the spirit could I be? I’ve already spent waaaay too much money on this venture (tree, ornaments, tree-skirt, etc.), how silly would I have to be to rationalize going out and spending even more? I should just be grateful I have a tree at all.

Yes, I may just have to learn to love this tree, in all its fugly glory. Maybe the lights don’t match the ornaments; maybe the colors are so loud and inappropriate they could trigger epilepsy; maybe the tree is listing to the left so much that it could renamed the Leaning Tower of Bethlehem; maybe all of these things.

But it’s still a Christmas tree and it’s still mine. And I love it (I think).

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Orcs / Stan Nicholls...

This trilogy had a lot of potential Рa fantasy epic told from the perspective of a race of creatures often maligned in the literature. I usually love this twist on the standard canon (my favorite is probably Wicked by Gregory Maguire), but this one left my very disappointed. It started strong enough, but over about 800 pages, every clich̩, every derivative plot element, every undeveloped character started grating on my already impatient nerves.

I’m not saying I could write a better novel, but everything about this book seemed half-assed. By the end, I wanted to forget I had even read it. I don’t spoil endings, but the final 20 pages of this book turned this series from a half-way satisfactory read into a complete waste of time.

The first book is actually quite good. The characters are adequately motivated and the tension is well-paced. I wish I’d stopped there. By the middle of the third novel, I felt like I was reading the narrative attached to a bad platform video game. The action was transparent, predictable, and thus… boring. And seriously, how many times can one read the exact same fight scene?

I don’t make a habit of writing bad reviews, but I was so disappointed in this one that I felt the need to purge the bad energy. I feel better now.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Padalecki is shirtless… and rippling…

It took every ounce of willpower to resist typing that subject line in ALL CAPS!!

My reasons for posting a photo of an absolutely RIPPED Padalecki are two-fold. One: the obvious – he’s a favorite of mine and he’s shirtless, which equals obligatory post. Second: Li’l Sis and I were just discussing the Padalecki’s new trend towards Beefy and how that made us feel. I was decidedly thumbs up while she found it rather unsettling.

Indeed, Sam Winchester has been developing rapidly in the chest, back, and guns for several seasons of Supernatural, but it has been hard to gauge just how rapidly due to the show’s cruel tendency to dress him in bulky flannel. We got a little peek in a recent episode when he got down with a demon (mostly back and guns), but not enough to accurately assess just how much gym time he has been getting.

Now, thanks to this candid photo taken on the set of his new movie, Friday the 13th: Part AGAIN? REALLY?, we can tell just how intense those workouts have been.

I’m curious to know what Li’l Sis is thinking now… I’m sorry this post turned out to be an email to Li’l Sis (and to be honest, it kind of started that way), but I didn’t see any reason to be exclusive. The Padalecki is for everyone, after all.

So, what say you, Li’l Sis?

Pic Source:

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

All my viral ladies…

Now put your hands up!

I just knew Beyonce’s single, Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It), was going to be HEE-uge. And GOD I love it when I’m right.

A few short weeks after the video became available, the internet exploded with tributes and imitations, resulting in a frenzy of promotion that culminated in several fantastic live performances of the song on T.V. What Beyonce has figured out, along with Madonna, Lady Gaga, and P!nk, is that in order to actually sell records, the whole package has to be stellar – the very top of their game. Well, Beyonce has surely outdone herself with this single.

Great Song? Check.
Amazing Video? Check.
Brilliant live performances? Check.
Message that connects with her audience? Check.
All of the above perfectly packaged, mass-produced, and reasonably priced? Check, check, and check.

When I first saw the video, which may be my favorite video EVER!!, I remember thinking, “How is she going to recreate this in live performances?” I mean, I practically passed out afterwards, and I was just watching. How would Beyonce pull off singing and dancing this incredible routine?? The answer seems to be, by not singing and dancing. Well, more like, half singing and half dancing. I thought it would disappoint me, but after watching the SNL performance and her show-stopping turn on the American Music Awards, I think I’m totally OK with it.

My favorite part? Oh yes…

Don’t pull too hard, though, lest you pull out your weave, girl.

Beyonce’s ability to shine with this song in a live setting just confirms for me that this song will be a huge phenomenon. I got further proof today when I saw some of my co-worker’s playing around with the choreography in the break room. Get this: these co-workers are a 50 year old black woman, a thirty something white woman, and their assistants (two twenty something black girls). That white woman held her own, and it was obvious that the 50 year old woman not only knew the choreography, but had studied it in depth. For a moment, I didn’t feel weird about how many views I had logged on the video’s YouTube page. Clearly, I’m not the only one.

And yes, of course I joined them!

Indeed, this video/song/dance routine has struck a collective nerve across all ages and backgrounds. But no particular group loves it more than the gays on YouTube. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, hence the literally hundreds of videos of gay men strutting their stuff on the internets. Among all of them, I think my favorite is this one…

Applause, applause, applause. ALTHOUGH do put some clothes on, sister, because your man might be hard-pressed to put a ring on it if it’s wrapped in tissue in a zip-loc bag on its way to the ER to be re-attached to a blackened nub. Just sayin’.