Monday, March 23, 2015

7 Things that I'm Surprised I Like

1. Southern Rock

Musically, I never saw this one coming. Born and raised on 70's pop, I should dislike this kind of macho heavy-handed, long-jam rock whose lyrics can lean toward bigotry and closed-mindedness. But play a little Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker Band or ZZ Top and out of me flies a whiskey drinking cowgirl, ready to throw punches.

2. Car Repair

Weird. I mean, changing a light bulbs gives me pause, so its not like I'm handy. I just love hearing about car repair. Sit me next to an auto mechanic and I'll converse for hours. Perhaps I just like the tidiness of problem solving or bad-ass engines that go vroom, vroom.

3. Chicken Livers

Wild about them. And they're gross. They're gross to look at, grosser to touch. I don't even eat that much meat. But ever since I was a small child, I loved chicken livers. My mother would fry them up in a pan and toss pieces to the pets and me and we'd gobble them down together.

4. Barry Manilow

Okay, I actually have a reason for this one. And it involves LSD.

I dropped some acid with my late, great friend Vicki when we in our teens. We were losing our shit, crawling on train tracks, freaked out by trees, collapsing in maniacal fits of know the deal.

When we finally made it back to Vicki's house, we turned on her bedroom radio and the station was playing all Barry Manilow for some Satanic reason. I sang every word as if I'd known his music my entire life. I was channeling Barry. Vicki watched me, jaw-dropped (and drooling, maybe).

Ever since that acid trip, Barry Manilow has meant a lot to me. (How many people get to write that line?) And I still know practically every lyric of every song. I've even seen him in concert and booed when he did a medley that included Could it be Magic (my favorite tune) instead of the whole song.

I even like the Take That version...who am I?

5. GYN appointments

Big fan of the gynecologist. They keep my sex life happy and healthy. And I've been blessed by nothing but amazing ones. The first one was from Australia, looking like he walked out of a GQ ad. It added a whole other dimension to the gynecological experience, let me tell you what sisters and brothers.

And then there was Dr. Brandberg, the hippest cat ever. He told me it was alright to smoke cigarettes occasionally. He missed being broke like me, he revealed once, as we sat in his office and shared a smoke, post-exam. His life was less complicated. I told him to give me his money then. He laughed and pulled out his checkbook.

"You have a fine vagina," he would say, mid-exam. "A fine vagina." Yeah, some would be freaked out by this kind of remark, but you had to know him. It was just small talk for him. One of a kind, that crazy doctor.

My latest gynecological wonder? Dr. Trim (his name, I kid you not). Warmest hands ever. And he gives me hugs.

6. Martha Stewart

Life is too complicated not to be orderly. ~ Martha Stewart

God, I loathe this woman. And yet...I love her. She's cold, cold as ice. But she's shrewd and ruthless and knows crazy shit about all things domestic. She influences every day of my life: the way I prepare food, make my bed. She even shamed me into washing my sheets more frequently. (She was shocked that some people wait as long as 3 weeks to wash their sheets. I was one of those people. Until Martha.) Her business acumen is over-the-top. She's done time. And she makes souffles.

7. Anal

Sunday, June 2, 2013

10 Screaming, Streaming, Steaming Netflix Suggestions

Here’s my latest picks, raring and ready to stream on Netflix today. (Okay there’s one show listed that you can’t watch on Netflix but its so good that I came up with a back-up plan so don’t worry your pretty little head.)

1. The Woman Who Wasn’t There

A jaw-dropping documentary about a woman who included herself as a 9/11 survivor and became quite well-known only to be found out as a fraud. It’s almost hard to believe how far she went with her bizarre charade before a New York Times reporter becomes her undoing. Wow.

2. Locked Up Abroad

This is what I call a “gratitude show” because by the end of an episode, you'll say, "My life ain't so bad after all." Well-produced and all-too-true life stories about…people locked up abroad, obviously. Damn, if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times…don’t bring cocaine to Venezuela, people!

3. Paranormal Experiences

Definitely a personal favorite for this paranormal-loving gal. Well-acted, well-produced and genuinely scary true stories that you definitely don’t want to watch alone. Love this show! Makes you believe again.

4. Top of the Lake

Jane Cameron’s edgy and unusual crime drama series shot in New Zealand is truly one-of-a-kind in its use of highly quirky, flawed characters and disturbingly real moments. Watch it for Holly Hunter alone, who is eternally watchable in this all-too-small role. (Cameron should build a movie based on Hunter's character alone.) Or watch it for the meth-fueled bad guy (Peter Mullan) who makes you squirm with his insanely scary temperament.

5. Kitchen Nightmares, UK

I know, I know, everyone has probably watched their fair share of a Ramsey tongue-lashing (which I'd welcome in all its possible innuendo, in case he stumbles across this). But have you seen his first program, shot entirely in the UK? Much more humble, simple and likable. Bonus? Tons of great lessons in marketing and running a business successfully. I find him a real inspiration.

6. Black Mirror

Billed as a "suspenseful, satirical three-part mini-series that taps into collective unease about our modern world", this show feels like sci-fi made for today, not 30 years ago. It’s a UK program and can be found here, not on Netflix…but well worth it. These are very finely crafted work with a big screen feel.

7. The Silence

This UK series chronicles a deaf girl after she witnesses a murder and aids her detective uncle’s pursuits in uncovering the crime. There are a few flagrant flaws (especially toward the end when the lead actress forgets to read lips in certain scenes!) but its very watchable and captivating enough.

8. Torn

This series typifies that gritty edge that the Brits capture so much better than our all-too-smooth and polished programming. It tells the tale of a grieving mother who years later can’t seem to let go of the loss of her daughter…especially when she spots her in a mall one day. Good acting, solid story.

9. Loving Lampposts

A groundbreaking documentary that makes you revisit what you think about autism entirely. Nuff said.

10. The Wedding Gift

Sad little movie made in 1994 and interestingly based on the woman who had the first “official” case of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome. Don’t let that scare you away. It’s very well-acted (Julie Waters and Jim Broadbent) and very comfy and intimate considering the heavy subject matter.

BONUS! Kinda....

Arrested Development, one of the most clever shows to bless the blue screen, has added a Season 4. The pacing is weird and it feels different, so I'm not sold yet...I hear I have to hang in there. But I give this show a latitude because even on a bad day, it's good. If they're going down, I'm going down with them.

A little Gob on the way out?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Top Ten Buzz Kills

Just because you're buzzed doesn't mean life stops being annoying. In a perfect world, we'd beam ourselves to a hassle-free planet and ride unicorns and eat marshmallow pies all day. 

Until then, we must deal with these 10 buzz kills:

1. Cops

The uniform, the car, the militaristic attitude...goodbye buzz, hello "Can you step out of the vehicle?" (If you're lucky, it's a stripper cop and it's all a great big joke with a sexy ending.)

2. Losing Stuff

My friend Lisa had a rule of thumb: get everything ready before you get stoned. Everything. If you wait until after, you will search endlessly for your keys, phone or general purpose in life. And never find it...never find it.

3. Frigid Temperatures

When I was a flannel-wearing teen lass, I used to hang out at an arcade in South Jersey. Our long-haired gang would pop into the woods on an icy winter's night to light up. We'd all wonder why we didn't feel high...until we went back into the arcade and our high would thaw out, just like magic! Head magic.

4. The Rambler

Nothing can be more deadly to a perfectly good high than the Rambler, who starts a story with no intentions of ending it. And because you're high, you can't muster up the energy to interject. So instead, you get sucked in, deeper and deeper. Soon your buzz has been bored right the hell out of you, never to return. (The Lecturer has the same effect.)

5. Your Mother

Okay, some of you get high with your mom and she's so cool and blah, blah, blah. But parents are similar to cops; you feel like you've done something wrong by merely being in their presence. They're judging, watching all the time. And don't you forget it. 

6.  A Blow to the Head

Once during a party I got hit on the head by a lamp while pulling my coat out of the closet. Boom - high completely gone. Fucking lamp.

7. Monsters

They're fun in the movies but when they are in your living room, they are unpredictable, angry and messy (because of the green goo). They also will eat your weed and projectile vomit it back up, which isn't pleasant and a waste of perfectly good weed.

8. Dental Work

I thought it would be a good idea to smoke a little prior to some extensive dental work I had years back. Unfortunately, it just heightened the torturous sensations. Pretty soon, I thought the dentist had it out for me like Olivier in Marathon Man. My buzz was literally drilled out of my head.

9. Existential Angst

There is no god. You are all alone. The people are laughing at you and you look ridiculous. The world feels dry, chalky and desolate and you're the only scrap of humanity left. The best you can do is listen to some Pink Floyd and embrace the painful truth. Cheetos may help but I make no guarantees.

10. Alien Abduction

I know, it depend on the alien, of course. Some aliens are totally down for a good time but others are into naval probing and mind melding. I find the smaller, ET-style aliens are much more easy going than the ones with the two rows of teeth.

So watch out for buzz kills. Life is short and highs aren't cheap. Remember: you can always just walk away...even from the cops. Especially from the cops. Go do your own thing. Create your own world. Screw everyone else. Marshmallow pies await you, my friend.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Mentors I Haven't Met

Most of my life, I've waited and waited for my mentor to come along. You know, that magical, mystical (and hopefully hot) elder who would gently yet firmly instruct and guide me down the yellow brick road of life.

But alas, nobody. Sure, some great teachers, but no wise man with a white beard and stern voice.

So I was forced to expand the definition of mentors. Below is a list of mentors I haven't met, but have shaped my path nonetheless.

Mentors I Haven't Met

Howard Stern

Cringe if you want, but Howard Stern is a major risk-taker and one of the few real pioneers of radio. He fearlessly lets his id guide him. No, I don't always like his material and I can find him just as sexist and annoying as the next person, but I respect his balls.

He taught me to take bigger and edgier creative risks.

David Sedaris

Don't tell anyone this but I'm not a fan of most writing. Fiction makes me perfectly sleepy. Plus nothing I had read was all that...funny. Until Sedaris.

I still remember the first time I read The Santaland Diaries on a Muni train in San Francisco and laughed so hard, I thought they might toss me out. I had never laughed like that reading a book.

David taught me that being a dangerous, dark and funny writer is highly encouraged. Go there, it's alright.

Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks is a magical and beautiful witch, plain and simple. Ever since I first laid eyes on her, I wanted to be just like her and promptly bought a crimping iron and lots of scarves.

Stevie taught me to tap into that wild, feminine essence and blaze my own gold-dust trail. (Honorary mention goes to Kate Bush, my other favorite rock goddess.)

The Onion

What's there to say about a team of the funniest journalists in history? No one touches their deeply satirical humor. I see Gawker attempting it but they have a meaner edge and just can't replicate the funny that is The Onion.

For over 20 years, they have been taking massively politically incorrect chances and nailing it, somehow not offending but only inspiring people like me to not worry when I write.

Here's a list of their best faux headlines. 

Pee Wee Herman

Pee Wee Herman (aka Paul Reubens) has always intrigued me. He seems like a true artist, compelled by some mysterious inner child. When I'm not feeling great, nothing makes me feel better than watching re-runs of his old TV show or movies. And when I see an interview with Paul Reubens, I'm instantly mesmerized. He's a special man.

He taught me creative conviction and inner child importance.

Monty Python

The first time I saw Monty Python and The Holy Grail when I was a child, I peed my pants. Several times. (So? I peed easily when I was young.) The absurd risks they were taking just floored me. Who were these game changers and how could I become one? It was unlike anything I'd seen before in my life. The sky was the limit after watching these guys.

The Monty Python team taught me the grave importance of being profoundly silly.

Bob Fosse

Bob Fosse and his work have always taken my breath away. When All that Jazz came out (based loosely on his life), I saw it countless times. The dark sexual artistry blended with rich colors and his one-of-a-kind choreography made me want to move that way, look that way, feel that way. And the fact that he was highly imperfect (drinker, smoker, etc) only made me like him more.

Cabaret (which he directed) still influences my creative choices in life. Joel Grey's emcee character still remains in my mind the most mysterious and incredible supporting roles
in a movie. And the pinnacle of her career.

Freddie Mercury

I still remember when Freddie died. I had a plate in my hand, eating, listening to the news. When I heard that he passed, I dropped the plate and ran to my bedroom, in tears for hours. He was my vocal hero.

But it was so much more than that: Freddie commanded attention like no one else. And he wasn't perfect looking. It was that inner "thing" that he radiated. Balls-out confidence.

He taught me to feel powerful and regal regardless of all of my seeming "imperfections".

Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee is one of the most amazing physical specimens known to humankind. He trained hard and damn, it showed. He inspired me, like oh-so-many others, to learn martial arts and take my body just that much further than I thought it could go.

Bruce Lee taught me how to be fierce and kick up my self-discipline a notch.

Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend is everything I consider rock, simply put.

He taught me to be unbridled and defiant.

Early Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy truly was raw. Sharp. Edgy. Nobody could touch his funny in his day. Now he's a little too self-serious but then...damn, he was just on fire.

But the thing that Eddie taught me was the seriousness of comedy. If you listen to earlier material, the subject matter was often pretty heavy underneath.

Eddie taught me that real life can be tragic and dysfunctional...but you can make it funny.

Judy Garland

I saved the best for last. Judy is my queen. Since I was 3, I was obsessed with her. She still remains to me the most beautiful woman that ever existed. But again, not just based on her physicality, but that innocence and esprit that she radiated.

Unlike many artists who seem like they should hang it up after years of drug and alcohol abuse, Judy channeled that pain and heartache into her performing, which moved people like no other.

Judy taught me to maintain and nurture the innocence of my inner Dorothy and perform with full, unbridled expression.

So no old bearded man or wizened blue-eyed woman held my hand and taught me how to become an artist. I found them on the big screen, the radio, the movies. And they remain with me, as if they were in this room. Where I type this piece. Topless.

I told you.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

15 Bands that Smarted the Fun out of Music

Some musicians are a little too smart for their own good. They're not bad or anything. Just could stand to lighten up a little. Stop smarting the fun out of music, man!

WARNING! Do not defend the bands to us. We actually like several of the musicians listed. We make fun of them nonetheless...because we can, we can.

1. Brian Eno (Well, someone's looking stately today.)

2. Philip Glass (likes balloons and black licorice)

3. Radiohead (If I played a practical joke on Thom Yorke, he'd scold me and I'd cry.)

4. Beethoven

5. Moby

6. Patti Smith (likes to be tickled with pink feathers)

7. Trent Reznor (They're all laughing at you, Trent.)

8. Leonard Cohen and Suzanne Vega. (Not skipping through the daisies anytime soon.)

9. Robert Fripp (The "I'm smarter than you and I know it" look.)

10. Morrissey (Don't let the pussycat fool you.)

11. Early Bono (His lizard-like tongue is about to dart into one of the flowers any second.)

12. Arnold Schoenberg (Oh you're in trouble now.)

13. Lou Reed (Even dead, he's grouchy.)

13. Steely Dan (Love you guys, you know that...but you definitely fit the bill.)

15. Diamanda Galas (Lover of raw meat and sharp objects.)

(My fave Moby piece. Serious but oh so stunning.)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

My Top Ten Netflix Streaming Suggestions

It doesn't take much to excite me at this point of the winter. It's cold, dreary and desolate at the Jersey shore and I wear pajamas and my "suicide robe" (as I affectionately call it) entirely too much. Teeth are brushed only if they're lucky. And one day last week, I actually watched dust settle. I swear.

BUT Netflix has been quite enjoyable. I don't have cable television. My TV is my computer now. And thanks to all the great shows and movies available, I can be entertained by something other than taking out the trash.

The following list contains shows that can all be streamed. No DVD needed!

1. Wire in the Blood

Wire in the Blood is one of the finest criminal investigations dramas I've seen (and trust me, I watch a lot of them). Psychologist Dr. Tony Hill (played by the amazing Robson Green) is teamed up with a tough female detective to track down serial killers. (After watching this series, you'll think that the UK is just teeming with them, when in actuality, they are a rarity.)

The acting is what really makes this show standout. Robson Green's character truly immerses himself in the mind of each serial killer, so we really get a deep sense of their inner workings. Each show is more like a mini well-crafted movie. (Apparently this lead to the program's demise; they consistently went over budget.)

(Beware: this show is not for the meek at heart; there is seriously disturbing content in some episodes.)

2. The Guardian

My boyfriend Simon Baker. Shh...he doesn't know yet!

I never heard about this show, nor had I seen Simon Baker in The Mentalist (which, after viewing recently, isn't even in the same league as The Guardian). But after one episode, I was hooked. It's a smart premise, ripe with possibility: a cocky, coke-addicted corporate lawyer is busted on a drug charge. His punishment: serve 1500 hours as a child advocate at a legal aid service.

Nick Fallin becomes incrementally more human and vulnerable with each touching case. I'm not sure how he didn't win an award for his performance. His portrayal is extremely subtle but resonant. And Dabney Coleman, as his father, is wonderful as always.

The stand-out supporting actor in the series is Raphael Sbarge, Nick's good-natured associate. His portrayal of a man deeply struggling with his sexuality is poignant and complex. Wendy Moniz as Nick's love interest is damn cute and likable.

3. Trust

Directed by David Schwimmer of Friends fame, I did not expect much from this movie. But it's smooth, taut and genuinely spooky. It follows a teenage girl's seduction by a middle-aged Internet predator and the affects it has on her family after she's assaulted by him.

The teenage girl (played by Liana Liberato) is spot on; you couldn't ask for a more well-crafted performance of a girl her age. And Clive Owen and Catherine Keener as the parents wrestling with the aftermath are both in top form.

David Schwimmer...who would have thunk, right?

4. The Guilty

The Guilty actor Michael Kitchen, my other new boyfriend. (Don't tell Simon.)

The Brits just do television and film a bit better. It's true, admit it. Sure their production value often lags behind ours (why does everything they do look it's shot in the 80's?), but they make up for it with superb nuanced acting, better comedic abilities, and a certain "regularness" to their characters (meaning they don't look like supermodels so are therefore more relatable.)

I won't say much about this two-part TV show because it would be too easy to give aspects of it away. In short, three wildly different people's lives collide in a rather catastrophic way. Very worth the watch.

5. Mystery Science Theater 3000

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Cave Dwellers

I'm guessing most of us have watched this "guilty pleasure" show in the past, where three critics mercilessly rip apart B-movies of yore. I find it the perfect recipe if you're sick and in bed or a low-key party where weed is involved. It's just the right amount of mindless entertainment.

I was going to suggest Mitchell, one of my personal favorites, but you have to order the DVD for that one. Manos: the Hands of Fate is in the process of being remastered, so you might to check out that eternal crowd pleaser.

And here's a best of list I found that's pretty on point. Make sure you check out the list - not all MST3K episodes are created equal.

(I generally fast forward through the opening and the show hosts comedic bits in between; they're just not that funny.)

(Mitchell! Forward to 5:15, past the unfunny.)

6. Law & Order - The Whole Lot of Them

I used to be preferential to only early Law & Order (the original) and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. But the truth is, they are all good in their own right (though I confess, I never have seen or plan on seeing the court room drama one).

I also used to avidly dislike Law & Order: Criminal Intent because I have such a love/hate issue with Vincent D'onofrio. But guess what? At this point of the year, I love him again. He's really an amazing actor; he's just annoying sometimes.

But Law & Order SVU is professionalism to the nth degree. A well-oiled machine. Dick Wolf and and his gang just know how to put a TV show together, formulaic as it may be. Can't stop watching the damn shows. It's the Pringles of television.

7. Goodbye Again

I'm not sure how I stumbled across this movie, but thoroughly enjoyed it. Interestingly, it's not very well-reviewed and I'm not sure why. Anthony Perkins is so energetic and endearing in his portrayal (almost a shame he's so inextricably connected in our minds with Psycho).

And I'll tell you a secret: I never understood why Ingrid Bergman is considered a good actress. She always felt a bit...flat to me. But in this movie, I got it. She's very understated in her approach, which I mistook.

In short, Anthony Perkin's character, in his 20's, falls hard for Bergman's character, in her 40's and unhappily involved. Bergman begins to have feelings for him, which she's conflicted about.

A sweet Sunday afternoon watch.

8. Charmed (The Shannen Doherty years)

Laugh if you must, but I'm a big Charmed fan. I don't know why. Why does one like cupcakes or skinny menthol cigarettes?

Do I have to explain the plot? Okay, it's about three witches who have high-level supernatural abilities. They team up to fight crime, evil, blah, blah, blah.

As you may have noted, I suggest the early years only. Once Prue dies, the show goes to pot. Alyssa Milano wears ridiculous outfits where you're forced to look at her well-trained abs for a half hour. And Rose McGowan just does not have the cajones that Doherty had. (Doherty played a witch for a very good reason...and you can guess what that is.)

9. Behaving Badly

Suggested to me by Open Salon's mumbletypeg after writing my last piece about proudly releasing your inner bitch, this mini-series is fun and unusual.

Judi Dench plays a woman who has hit a certain limit in her life and begins to act out in "strange" ways. I don't want to give away much more than that, but her portrayal is contained yet daring. She weaves so much class into her bitchiness. My bitch is much more sophisticated after watching her bitch.

Production value is lacking a bit, but again, it's streaming and available; I don't care as much if I'm not in a theater or ordering a DVD.

10: I Know Where I'm Going

Not the lead actress, but a thoroughly enchanting supporting role by Pamela Brown angry! This isn't available for streaming anymore. But this was definitely one of my favorite finds so I just had to add it. This is an adorable, magical little movie filmed entirely in Scotland.

It follows headstrong Joan Webster (actress Wendy Hiller) who knows exactly what she wants in life, until she's stranded in a rugged Scottish village by the sea. It's there she begins to re-evaluate her decisions.

Okay, so you'll have to order this one then. There are bonus features on it apparently. And you can tell me all about them. Just loved this slightly surreal, special film.

So there you go. Have to get going. The mailman is coming by soon and I want to gussy up for his visit.

(Also want to tip my virtual hat to Monsieur Chariot, who writes amazing and entertaining reviews for Open Salon and inspired me to try my hand at it.)