I Had a Fake Pen Pal in High School

It sounds more pathetic than it is… at least I hope that's the case. In my Spanish class, we had to strike up a correspondence with someone living in a Spanish-speaking country. It was a long-term assignment, and I was so disgruntled with my tragic pen pal experience from elementary school that I didn't want to do it. That, or more realistically I just procrastinated intensely and found myself days short of a deadline without a pen pal, so I just decided to make one up.

Her name was Ana and she was from Madrid. I chose both of those proper nouns because they were the first ones I thought of that didn't have accents in them. Why annoy myself having to find the accent marks on the keyboard to type something like "MarĂ­a" when I didn't have to? I went about setting up a fake email account for Ana when I discovered a flaw in my plan. How, with just a few years of shaky Spanish, was I going to write an email that seemed plausibly written by a native speaker?

I approached my profesora after class. Since she wanted us to include all of our emails in our packet, I thought I'd take a moral stance, asking, "What if they're kind of personal?" This excited her. "Personal? Vicente [my "Spanish" name], do you have a new girlfriend? Are you flirting with your pen pal?" "I dunno…" I stammered, really thrown by her leap. But it worked! My profesora said, as nosy as she was, that it wasn't her business to read my private emails and that I could just summarize the relevant content in my own Spanish words instead.

Even if it wasn't my aim, I should have known that just alluding to a love connection would be enough to win my profesora over. She taught us a lot of relationship vocabulary words, had us write love letters in Spanish, and even had us to a video project where we filmed ourselves describing our traits and desires in a "dating profile." When she found out we had both a competitive hockey player and figure skater (one of whom went on to play in the minor leagues and the other went on to appear as Pocahontas in Disney on Ice) in our class, she had us watch The Cutting Edge in an attempt to make romance blossom. And she shared embarrassing stories (though she didn't seem to see it that way) about how she would secretly watch her crush by climbing his neighbor's tree.

The Ana rouse wasn't an easy one. I had to invent all sorts of her interests and personality traits to write about, too. Fortunately, her hobbies were things like futbol and fotografia and other vocabulary words that were in our text book. I'm sure it would have been less work if I had just found a real Spanish speaker to correspond with. But then again, nobody said that maintaining a fake Canadian Spanish girlfriend would be easy.


Ultimate Weight Loss Challenge

You couldn't pay me to watch Dr. Phil, but I will always wear this thrift-store-find t-shirt. My hope is that strangers will assume that I was once morbidly obese so that even when I've put on a little weight, I'll still look fine by hypothetical comparison. "Look, he's still alive and not terribly fat eight years later, good for him!"


The Exquisite Corpse Project

I was invited to a screening of The Exquisite Corpse Project at a festival last year, and if I'm being honest, I was skeptical about the concept. But since I went to high school with the director, Ben, and my friend Leigh was one of the film's editors, I figured what the hey. I loved it, though. Not, like, "proud of my friends" loved it, but genuinely loved it and would have enjoyed it just as much if I didn't know anyone involved.

The premise is that five comedians write a movie script "together"… but really separately, because each one can only read the previous five pages before contributing his own section. It's a funny idea - and an activity I'd love to participate in, I might add - but I had doubts whether a movie that's humor is derived from inconsistent characters and a disjointed plot could sustain laughter for a full 85 minutes. It's sort of like when someone's like "Read this Madlib we did!" Sure it's amusing enough, but it's never going to be as funny to an outsider as it was for the group of people who played the game.

Don't let that aspect throw you, though. First, I underestimated how funny the movie would be from start to finish. Second, I wasn't aware that the film would be at least half documentary, and that ended up being its strongest component. Ultimately, the story behind the story is more riveting. Plus, it's never a bad time to see a bunch of comedians discuss the creative process and snark on each other.

And while this is going to sound hokey, I feel like The Exquisite Corpse Project taught me something about human nature. Ben's goal with this project was to reunite old friends who had gone down separate paths in the hopes of rekindling the magic. Alas, it doesn't quite work out how he expected: people change and so do their relationships. Thematically, it really resonated with me, and that's not something you find in most comedic films.

The fact that you can purchase it for $5 is a steal, so get on that.


The Bombers Are Going to Get Away with It

Nah, this isn't some conspiracy theory. I'm not even talking about Boston. I'm actually referring to that OTHER explosion that killed a bunch of people and injured hundreds more last week.

Oh right. The news pretty quickly forgot about the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion. I mean, it was reported initially because there was a chance that it was another "terrorist" attack, but then once everyone realized it was just a case of corporate irresponsibility, the mentality was, "Fuck that, we have some dangerous sorta brown men to catch!"

I'm not about to directly equate a terrorist bombing and an accidental explosion because there is obviously a difference in intentionality. But here is a fertilizer plant with over 1,000 times the legal limit of explosives on site that didn't pony up for sprinklers or fire safety precautions. Not only were they maximizing profits by exceeding the allowed output, but they were cutting corners on minor expenses that would keep their own employees - and the whole town, as it turns out - safe.

And then there's the government's role in the ordeal. No inspections had been performed on the plant in 6 years. In fact, on that last visit, the company was found to not have safety procedures in place. As a result, the plant was fined $2,300. That's a laughable business expense, not a punishment, for a company that rakes in millions.

This is GROSS NEGLIGENCE. Although they weren't purposely trying to blow up a whole town, they knew they were running that risk for a long time and chose to value extra profits over attempting to prevent a catastrophe.

For months to come, however, we're going to hear about what we need to do, who we need to kill, and which Constitutional liberties we need to sacrifice in order to keep us safe. Safe from terrorism, that is. No one is going to try to hold this company accountable or vilify it in the media. No lawmakers are going to cry for sweeping corporate safety reforms in order to protect Americans, even though more people were killed/harmed in West.

So when the state starts justifying racial profiling/immigration reform, adds even more invasive forms of airport and event security, and decides its in the nation's best interest to read your emails without a warrant all in the name of "SAFETY", don't believe that bullshit. It's part of a preexisting agenda. If they actually cared about your safety, they'd, you know, pass gun control (which kills an exponential amount of people compared to terrorism) or enact meaningful safety regulations in the workplace.

For the record, the government's excuse is that we are in a deficit and because of budget cuts, we can't afford to conduct safety inspections. Still, they'll find hundreds of billions to spend on a war against a country to get "revenge" for a terrorist attack it had no part in. (Don't act like it's never happened before.)

Oh, and before I'm done, I also want to say "Fuck a terrorist!" Ugh. Dudes, you got gripes about America? You and me both. But violence is not only reprehensible morally, but also, dare I say, counterproductive. If the intention of the bombing was to somehow undermine the United States, all it did was make its population fall more in love with the state and law enforcement, and that renewed trust and loyalty will ultimately contribute to more corruption.

In that sense, terrorists are as dumb as they are evil. Corporations, meanwhile, are as smart as they are evil… after all, they know they can get away with it.



Just realized why people don't abbreviate "Save the Date."


The 13 Most Ridiculous Songs of Eurovision 2013

Guys, Eurovision - Europe's annual trainwreckish competition to find the continent's best song - is just a month away, and I cannot contain my excitement. I've recapped previous years (2010, 2011, 2012) and now I am so stoked for 2013's competition that I compiled another video of my favorite Eurovision videos.

These songs are going to be so aw(some/ful… both simultaneously, really) live! I can't wait!

Here's some commentary on the videos:

13. GREECE - Kilted lads sing a repetitive chorus that is probably wishful thinking. Wait, how much is alcohol again?
12. MOLDOVA - Such subtle pyrotechnics. I don't wear dresses, but if I did, I'd want hers.
11. ALBANIA - It's like if Napoleon Dynamite's Kip grew out his hair and started smoking.
10. SWEDEN - I'm not sure he hit that note as well as he thinks he did. Ouch.
9. RUSSIA - The song has such hackneyed, sappy lyrics ("What if we chose to bury our guns?") and yet the CROWD STILL GOES WILD!!! WOOOOOOOO!!
8. MONTENEGRO - Boobs, rappers in hazmat suits, and some sweet dance moves. I'm into it.
7. LITHUANIA - Holy amateur hour dude. Your song and vocal abilities are as poor as your eyebrows.
6. FINLAND - Frankly, I'm surprised she hasn't gotten hitched yet.
5. BELARUS - My, what lovely bulging eyes you have.
4. UKRAINE - The song is fairly unremarkable but the bubbles, crystals, and unicorns are a nice touch.
3. BULGARIA - Between the wailing, the stick thumping, and whatever that bag instrument is, I'm captivated.
2. LATVIA - Hello, 1980s! I thought I laughed a lot when the unbuttoned jacket guy rubs his friend's head, but that was nothing compared to when the faux-hawk man scats synthesizer noises and the audience sways their arms along to the jam.
1. ROMANIA - This one is expected to do quite well at Eurovision and I just don't get it. That voice is so shrill. It's kind of impressive that he can do that, but I don't' want to hear it for more than a couple of seconds, let alone a whole song. Europe, I don't understand your musical taste - and I don't ever want to! It'd take all the fun out of it.

We'll probably have another viewing party at my place for the finals on May 18, so mark your calendars.


Creepy Crepes

My new favorite thing is calling people who like crepes "crepists."


Known crepist:

Child crepist:

Serial crepist:

Like, I'm so committed to this joke, I'm contemplating inviting people out for crepes just to deliver the punchline.


Fried Chicken

On my commute home today, I was starving. I hadn't eaten any solid food all day, but I had groceries in the car, so I was looking forward to having an early dinner. Then, as is usually the case in LA, there was a traffic jam. The cars were barely moving, inching forward at best, and my stomach wouldn't stop growling. So I reached over to the nearest grocery bag and grabbed hold of some fried chicken.

Can I eat fried chicken in the car? I wondered. It seemed a little unconventional, but my hunger pangs won out and I started gnawing on a drumstick. I was so caught up in finally eating food, I was initially oblivious to the fact that passengers in both the cars to my left and right were watching me. And it wasn't just like, "Oh, look at that guy eating fried chicken in his car." Their stares conveyed more of a "Oh my goodness, there is a guy eating fried chicken in his car!" I was suddenly the poster child of American obesity.

If I weren't so hungry, I probably would have felt too self-conscious to grab a wing and continue snacking. I wanted to roll down my window and ask, "Jealoussss?" but my mouth was full.

I felt intensely judged, but in that moment, I mostly felt relieved that I'm not a black person. As disgusting as they thought I was, you know that old white couple next to me would be calling their friends to say, "They can't even sit in traffic without eating fried chicken!"

Eating chicken on the freeway might be a trite example of my white privilege, but it is an example nonetheless.


Amazing Body

I saw a link leading to the Huffington Post today that said "LOOK: Katherine McPhee's Bikini Body Is Amazing."

I didn't want to give them the traffic, but I had to click because I needed to know - especially on a day like today - that humanity was working properly and that the commenters told off the writer of this piece for turning objectification into "news".

That was 85% of the reason I clicked, anyway. The other 15% was my curiosity to see her bikini body. Don't worry, I already hate myself enough for the rest of you.

Unfortunately, the first comments did not provide me with the reassurance I was hoping for. It was actually worse than I expected:

Yeah, I can't believe how people just toss around the term "amazing body" these days! Let's hold our standards of beauty to such an extreme level that even thin, conventionally attractive women can't meet our expectations.

Makes you wonder how Katherine McPhee came to suffer from bulimia in the first place, huh?

I clicked on LittleMissBlue's profile and it showed me dozens of other comments she's made, all of which are her critiquing the appearance of famous women. Haircuts, weight, skin, boobs, clothing… not all of her opinions are negative necessarily, but she can't help but giving one.

My "favorite" parts are her defensive responses when someone calls her out for her fixation on women's appearances:
1. "I'm speaking strictly about looks. I don't know much about either of their lives and don't really care about either." (Apparently this makes it better?)
2. "Thanks for passing judgment on someone you don't know." (Referring to the fact that she herself had been criticized, not the celebrity whose body she just insulted, obviously.)

Some people will argue that objectification is natural and a biological result of human hormones. While that's true to an extent, this young woman's obsession has nothing to do with her sex drive and everything to do with the fact that society has told her it's okay to constantly be catty about how other women look. Yes, men can be and are objectified, as well, but it will never reach the level it does for women. I don't know any men sitting on the internet constantly expressing opinions about how other men look. I guarantee that this girl doesn't even consciously realize she spends a large portion of her life judging the female body. It's a learned behavior that has become second nature - and we're going to need to do a whole lot of unlearning before we accept women for more than their appearance.


When a Woman's at the Wheel

I can't stop watching this laugh-out-loud sexist commercial.

I was pretty old before I first heard the "women are bad drivers" stereotype. The world is still littered with gendered prejudices, but that's just not a belief that carried over to my generation, at least not in my neck of the woods. But seeing this ad paints a pretty clear picture of just how inferior female drivers were considered. The campaign is literally, "Sometimes your idiot wife is going to have to drive, so you better have some fucking amazing tires so she doesn't kill everyone."

I think women getting the right to vote is important, but after seeing this commercial, I wonder if giving them the right to drive is a step too far. Look out, there's a woman on the road!

Click here to see the list of other offensive commercials I compiled.


Accidental Racist

I've brought up "Accidental Racist", the misguided Brad Paisley/LL Cool J collaboration, every chance I get the past couple of days. It's easily the most fascinating thing to come out of pop culture this year. On the one hand, we have two prominent entertains singing a discussion about race relations, which is pretty important. On the other hand, the words they choose to articulate these thoughts just unintentionally wind up highlighting their own ignorance on the subject.

I wanted to blog about it immediately, but I decide to save my thoughts for a proper article on Care2. So go read "'Accidental Racist' Song Is, Well, Accidentally Racist." Since it's for the masses, it's a little less mean and sarcastic than something you'd read here, but you can throw in your "Dumbass!" after I mention that LL Cool J raps the lines, "If you don't judge my gold chains/I'll forget the iron chains."

The song is filled with "Why the hell did you say that?!" lines like that, and since "Brad Paisley's 'Accidental Racist': LL Cool J's 10 Craziest Lyrics" has already been written, I'd like to offer up a list of the crazy comments I received on my article instead:
  • "GET A LIFE AND QUIT JUDGING THE SONG. ITS A SONG FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE !! EITHER ENJOY IT OR DON'T LISTEN TO IT. I for one think the song is bluesy and is AWESOME!! I really like Brad Pasley. It seems to me that everyone including the writers for care 2 has to put a negative spin on every little thing. EVERYONE HAS AN OPINION. GET OVER IT!!" - Judy [Everyone gets to have an opinion except for me, y'all, and Judy is not about to get over it!] 
  • "Ever since the Oprah Show went away, I have been watching Ellen and loving every minute of it. She is so open, kind and funny, so I was shocked when she had this dude on her show, after he won some dopey award. What was she trying to prove? That she's open to all opinions and ideas??? Because it doesn't work for me, and I'm actually going to write and tell her!" - Linda [She'll love to hear from you, Linda.]
  • "BTW Mr. Matthews your point about iron chains and gold chains may have some merit but you need to expand your thinking. The Do rags and the gold chains came from the gang culture. Gang culture is oppressive to anyone outside the gang." - Michael [Consider my mind expanded.]
  • "Instead of dissecting every word and phrase, don't forget, (things need to rhyme in a song, sometimes) it's just like gifts. It's the thought that counts." - Michelle [Apparently, however, the thoughts on their thoughts don't count. Those aren't gifts at all.]
  • "Leave Brad Paisley alone, please. He is my favorite singer and he should not be punished for a song he wrote." - Laura [He's her favorite singer, guys.]
  • "To understand family experience in the south, where wmen and chi,dren were raped, and killed, all stock stolen and the homes and field burnt to the ground, slabves did not run to the union army, they hid just the everyone else." - Bill [Yeah, why isn't anyone remembering that sometimes the "slabves" fought back against those poor plantation owners?]
  • "The song's not bad. The guy can sing, the music carries well the emotional message. I'm more of a metal fan, but even I can see some musical value to the song." - Genevieve [Ew.]
  • "When will people learn to leave well enough alone.Do we really need to be reminded of the bygone days of injustice ??? I think not." - Kay [Yeah, why are we even still mentioning slavery?]
  • "Just because some one thinks something is raciest in their view means that some who appreciates it for some other reason is a raciest." - Ernie [Can't argue with that because I don't know how.]
  • "Hope you all realize that this song is meant to be a tearjerker and for EVERYONE to realize the history of events still goes on in peoples' minds. IT IS SUCH A BRILLIANT song! Makes me cry every time and I have listened to it over and over again. People who are judging this song as wrong, well, they are wrong, and/or are still racist. BEST SONG WRITTEN EVER! Brad Paisley is one of "thee" best country writers ever!" - Roseann [Not seeing the ignorance is one thing, but thinking this song is the best written ever is downright disconcerting. She has listened to it, right?]
  • "The epitome of racist is millions of black Americans voting for a man simply because he is black and not considering experience, ability or knowledge." - Bruce [Because an article like this was sure to bring the bigots out.]
  • "Racism is a thing of the past." - Bob [Sorry, I take that last comment back. Bruce can't be racist since racism doesn't exist anymore apparently.]
  • "I'm not offended and I'm white." - Marilyn [We've all been waiting for a white person's opinion on this, and now we have it.]
  • "As for him wearing the confederate flag, maybe he likes the pattern of it… This is the most skewed article I've seen on Care2. Could the author kindly contact both gentlemen and get an interview, instead of extrapolating their thoughts. [Later, in a subsequent comment] I have red swastikas in my home and often wonder if a Jewish person were to visit me, what their reaction would be?" - Quanta [Brad's not a racist, he's an art aficionado - one I should interview, no less. While we wait for that, I'm going to scratch my head and ponder how a Jewish person would feel in your house.] 
Look, I'm an academic at heart. I majored in English and Media studies - I like analyzing texts and discussing their cultural impact. Most plebs on the internet don't like that, though, and constantly tell me if I don't like it just not to listen to it. But there is value in discussing these these things and reaching a higher understand.

And that's why, ultimate, I still give some credit to Paisley and Cool J. They're trying to talk it out and raise the collective consciousness. They've got a way to go just as we all have a way to go (and how can you argue that after seeing those comments?) and we're definitely not going to get there if the ignorant people are being complacently ignorant.



Will whoever left the gate open please confess to Citibank and that rock climbing lady already? I swear to gosh, if I find out that it's the same culprit who let the dogs out (I would presume a gate was left open then, too), I'm coming for him.

Generally, ads have a certain shelf life, but this one won't seem to go away. There's only so much of this Cyndi Lauper-wannabe's screaming that I can take.

And who in the hell would trust Citibank on a rock climbing trip anyway? With a reputation like theirs, they're bound to push you off the ledge… and then foreclose on your home for kicks.


Drug Abuse

If I'm healthy and ate a medicated cough drop because it was the closest thing I could find to a piece of candy, does that mean I just did a drug recreationally?


Drink and Drive

Don't drink and drive, drink and Drive.

I finally watched Drive again and it holds up. We played a drinking game with just 3 rules:

  1. Drink every time Gosling starts driving.
  2. Drink every time Gosling and Carey Mulligan stare at each other for longer than 3 seconds when one of them really ought to be saying something.
  3. Drink every time Gosling speaks a complete sentence.

That's it, those are the only rules you need. I think it's safe to say Rules #1 and #2 caused more damage than #3. We tried to determine how many words Gosling spoke, and the best we could find was this internet snippet: "If you think Ryan Gosling is hot, well - you would be right. Granted, he has about 78 words of dialogue in this very non-chatty film, but Ryan's character, like his body, is well-developed." I think the 78 figure is litotes, but point taken.

Meanwhile, I'm standing by initial review of Drive - total camp. I have some friends who are steadfast lovers of the movie that hate that I wish to diminish it to a midnight feature, but I'd argue that I'm going to elevate it to a Rocky Horror-style event. People wearing scorpio jackets, singing along to the most bizarre soundtrack in years, and shouting out lines to fill what is otherwise mostly silence? Like you wouldn't buy a ticket!


He Died Doing What He Loved, Part 3

I don't know this guy and I've never seen his show, but I was attracted to the headline because I'm a fan of the sentiment "He died doing what we loved."

My friends and I have made jokes (and more jokes) that we want it to be said that we died doing what we loved, no matter how horrifically we meet our demise:
"Kevin died doing what he loved: falling down an elevator shaft."
"Kevin died doing what he loved: choking on a chicken bone."
"Kevin died doing what he loved: making toast in the shower."
"Kevin died doing what he loved: skiing into a tree."

As for Shain Gandee, I was unfamiliar with the term "mudding", so I researched to see if the activity was in any way amusing. Apparently it means off-roading your truck through the mud. This search also led me to an interesting clip of Shain from his show:

Basically, Shain boasts about a time he took a girl mudding, pretended to get the truck stuck in the mud, suggested they have sex to pass the time, and then when they were finished, immediately drove out of the mud, dropped the girl at home, and never saw her again. I'm not sure I'm prepared to call it rape like some commenters since there's no indication of consent one way or another, but he did make her feel trapped and had sex with her under false pretenses, so it's definitely at least sleazy. Therefore, the irony is not lost on me that this guy who pretended to get stuck in the mud would later meet the same fate for real… and this time get fucked himself.

I realize I've probably sounded excessively flippant so far, but I really was struck by a sense of sadness at this news because 21 is way too young for anyone to die. But at least his Dad is right. We can take solace in knowing that Shain died peacefully doing what he loved… inhaling carbon monoxide.


Fooled Ya

I keep grabbing his leash and saying, "Wanna go for a WALK? April Fools'!" and he falls for it every time. What a moron.