Friday, November 30, 2007

Here Comes the Rain Again

Well, not quite "again." Rain can be a rare thing in L.A., although it tends to be more frequent in the winter. And even though it's not winter yet, we got our first real dose today. I woke up to the sounds of it beating down--and promptly went back to sleep. There's nothing like sleeping in when it's raining, is there? Fortunately for me, no work today. So I indulged myself and didn't get out of bed until 9 am. Shamefully sloth-like, I know.

The grayness and damp persisted throughout the day. And a bone-chilling cold started seeping in (Keep in mind that "bone-chilling" in L.A. means something quite different than "bone-chilling" in someplace like, say--Michigan or Minnesota. Yes, we're weather wimps here in SoCal...) as what little daylight we got today turned to evening. On a brighter note, a good thing about the rain is that is usually signifies the end of the wildfire season. But the beginning of mudslide season...

Ah, well...

My Name is Earl - The Prison Prom

With six months and 10 days left on Earl's sentence (once you subtract all the certificates he's earned for time off), the warden offers him a great deal--six months off if he can coordinate his new "Superduper super program"--a plan to have criminals apologize and reconcile with their victims. Earl takes on the task of choosing the appropriate inmate for the program--but everyone seems to be in jail for aggravated assault. "Isn't everyone who commits assault kinda aggravated?" he asks Randy.

Finally he comes across John, serving time for burning down his parents' house. John seems mild-mannered enough--he spends his days painting portraits in his cell. When Earl tells him there will be an apology and everyone will feel better, John says he'll do it. Next there's the matter of getting his parents to agree to the plan. Joy and Darnell visit them on Earl's behalf. They are reluctant to meet with their estranged son until Darnell tells them a touching story about a falling out he had with Mr. Turtle.

The Reconciliation goes badly as both parties are expecting an apology. John storms out and the warden (Craig T. Nelson is great. So funny to see the curmudgeonly Coach playing such a pathetic weenie...) looks like a fool in front of the reporter. Earl goes after John--who is painting a portrait of his parents as monkey's asses--and tells him "I don't need you to BE sorry, I just need you to SAY you're sorry!" He offers John anything he wants to go back and reconcile with his parents, because this is his ticket out of prison. John says he wants a prom because his parents never let him go to his when he was in high school. Earl gets the warden to agree to it, Joy to help plan it--and "dates" imported in from the women's prison.

Joy and John's ideas for the prom are expensive and so Earl is forced to spend the money he has left from his lottery winnings--$24k--to finance the "Under the Sea" theme complete with chocolate spouting from whale fountains. He agrees because he sees the prom as his get out of jail card--albeit it's not exactly "free." Joy is overjoyed to be a part of it saying, "I can't believe it--I made a prom in prison happen! I bet this is what it feels like to be Oprah." The prom goes well and Earl is crowned prom king--but he gives the crown to John instead.

Newly crowned John meets with his parents again--but this time his head is so swelled from being crowned king, that he lashes out at them immediately and storms off again. He tells Earl that it's not his fault, his parents made him this way. Earl is so angry that he spent all his money and John can't even apologize to his parents that he sets all John's stuff--paintings and everything--on fire. He tells John that it's not his fault, it's John's because he treated him crappy and now he does crappy things to other people. John eventually realizes that he has to take the blame for burning down his parents' house just like he blames Earl for burning all his stuff. And so to show his remorse, he paints pictures of all the family portraits that were lost in the fire.

And so the warden gets his reconciliation and Earl gets his "six month off" certificate. The warden tells Earl he doesn't know what he'd do without him--Earl's like the "Scumbag whisperer." Earl tells the warden that he guess he'll find out tomorrow because, with this last certificate, Earl's out of jail. Earl leaves the office and the warden, realizing what has just happened, starts shredding Earl's certificates.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

LOOK

LOOK, an intriguing indie written and directed by Adam Rifkin, offers these sobering statistics at the beginning of the film:

"There are an estimated 30 million surveillance cameras in the United States generating more than 4 billion hours of video every week...on any given day the average American is captured approximately 200 times."
Weaving multiple plots and shot from the point of view of surveillance cameras, LOOK gives its audience a voyeuristic tour of the not-so-private lives of a variety of characters. Part Crash, part Clerks, part Office Space and part Todd Solondz's Happiness, LOOK lives the motto "The medium is the message." For it's not so much about each or any of the characters in the story as much as it is about the overarching issue of privacy and the lack thereof in our security conscious and technologically enabled society.

In a Newsweek article by Jessica Bennett, the issue of where private space ends and public surveillance begins is explored:
"...the notion that we're being watched—at all times—has yet to resonate in the public perception. Most people don't know that hidden cameras are legal in dressing rooms and bathrooms in most states, nor that workplaces can get special permission to install them without ever having to reveal their whereabouts. In some places store employees can even make reels from security cameras and post them on YouTube."
The issue of privacy rights has never been more pressing. In addition to surveillance cameras, we are being "watched" by internet spyware, "cookies" trace our web-surfing habits, our credit card transactions are tracked to target us for advertising, caller ID, Google using keywords in our e-mails and web searches to push matching ads at us. And now even social networking site Facebook has gotten into the act with Facebook Beacon which will not only track our online purchases, but "share" them with our Facebook "friends," prompting some users to establish an Online Petition to get Facebook to change the application from "opt-out" to "opt-in"--which apparently they have done.

Somewhat startled by the invasion of privacy illuminated by LOOK, I plan to be more aware of my surroundings and the possibility that what seems like a private place may in fact have cameras watching my every move. I also intend to continue my practice of rarely using store dressing rooms to try on clothes--instead buying them, taking them home and bringing them back to the store if they don't fit. From red light cameras to monitors at ATM machines, America is fast becoming "Land of the feed and the home of the taped." Rifkin's LOOK poses the pivotal question: Are we always alone when we think we are?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Writers Strike is getting so bad...

(HOW...BAD...IS...IT?!!!)

It's so bad, that NBC is rerunning The Tonight Show from the year 2000!!! Leno is doing jokes about Clinton--and it's not Hillary he's talking about!

Wow. That's bad.

Faking It

Lately I've been honing my talents in an area that I have little ability or experience. Although I like to think of myself as being stoic, opaque--even impassive, truth be known I'm pretty transparent. Wearing my heart on my sleeve, easy to read every sigh, smirk and eye roll. But hey, honesty is the best policy, right? Not always.

Putting best foot forward, making a good first impression is generally something saved for interviews and first (and maybe second and third) dates. But eventually the mask comes off, the truth revealed. It may be more "real" and "honest" but it's not always best for business. And it's all business, isn't it? I had a friend once who referred to it as "giving good face." I suck at it. But there are several people in my life right now that I'd rather not have to deal with--but I have no choice.

And so the mask goes on. I smile, fake interest, feign friendliness. I feel like a big fat fraud. It's manipulative, deceptive, fake--all things I hate. But it's necessary. And it's a skill that will be useful in other areas of my life. Like when some producer reads my smart and incisive dark comedy and says he loves it--he sees Martin Lawerence in the lead. And the mask will go on and I'll just smile.

Sigh.

DWTS - The Driver beats the Diva!

Thank God it's over. Amazingly the producers managed to stretch the last Dancing with the Stars results show out to two hours! They accomplished that by bringing back the entire cast for one last dance (although Wayne Newton and partner Cheryl and Floyd Mayweather and partner Karina sat this one out. Thank heaven for that!) and playing numerous clips from past shows (including the infamous Marie fainting one yet AGAIN!). Marie got knocked out of the competition early on leaving just Helio and Mel B. to perform one final dance. Mel performed her Mambo and Helio the Quickstep that earned him his first 30. Not surprisingly they both got 30s once again. The judges seemed to be in a better mood than Monday night.

A unofficial poll conducted by entertainment reporter George Pennachio showed Helio leading with over 40 percent of the vote--but the applause from inside the DWTS ballroom, which was overwhelmingly more enthusiastic for him over Mel B., confirmed that he would in fact take away the Mirrorball trophy--making his partner Julianne Hough a two-time trophy winner.

Whew! Now maybe I can start watching Chuck...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

DWTS/Heroes - The Dumb and the Clueless

In my opinion, this has been a pretty lackluster season of Dancing with the Stars--and now that the show is wrapping up, the finals last night were no different. No perfect scores, very few tens and some pretty dumb choices for routines in the freestyle where contestants usually relish the chance to really strut their stuff.

Mel B.'s judges choice dance was a disco-inspired Cha-cha. She got the usual love from the judges, but surprise!--only a 28 for a score. Her freestyle routine looked like a Britney Spears video--and I don't mean that in a good way. What was up with Maks (who was doing most of the work!) and Mel lying on their backs on the floor? Snow angels? The judges thought it was kind of pitiful as well and only scored it a 27 giving her a total of 55 points.

Even dumber was Marie's freestyle. Of course she went with the doll theme--she's a doll designer for crap's sake! But had that been just the opener and segueing into a dance, it might have worked. Unfortunately she kept up the whole rag doll persona for the ENTIRE dance! Newsflash for Marie: limping around the stage like a stiff doll is not dancing! Ick. Her Samba which was a repeat of the dance she fainted after (and wouldn't you know, the DWTS producers had that footage all queued up and ready to go!) was a bit better--but still it was a whole lotta shakin' and not much dancin' goin' on. She got a 22 for the freestyle and 24 for the Samba for a total of 46 and the lowest score of the night.

I personally think the judges were way too harsh on Helio's Jive. It was very cute and fun--but he got scathing remarks from the judges and only 25 points. Only one point better than Marie's sorry Samba? I'm sorry--that's just not right! Len called Helio's freestyle routine the best of the night by miles and he was only one point shy of a perfect score for that earning him a 54 for the night. Tonight the winner is announced--after one more dance scored only by the judges. I voted for Helio. It would be hard to believe that Marie's fans would vote for her pitiful performance and I really don't like Mel B. at all (although I agree with everyone that Maks is hot!).

Thankfully it will all be over after tonight!

On Heroes, how are we clueless? Let me count the ways: first is the queen of clueless, Maya--who thinks Sylar (aka Gabriel) is her guardian angel! Yeah Maya--not even your twin brother whose bride you killed and who has risked his life trying to get the both of you to America understands you! Just Sylar--boohoo! Even after Alejandro shows her the article about Sylar killing his mom, Maya doesn't believe it. Catch that liplock between Sylar and Maya as Alejandro's dead body lay in the background? Gotta give Zacahry Quinto some props though--he has the most gorgeous eyebrows and eyelashes!

Then there's Peter Petrelli who hasn't caught on that Adam's goal isn't to track down the deadly Shanti virus to DESTROY it, but to RELEASE it! What a moron. Even after Adam shot the lovely Victoria Pratt (Played by the always beautiful Joanna Cassidy. Seriously, she looked great! And how cool was it to have a cast member from Bladerunner on the show?). Oh, and speaking of morons, thy name is "Mohinder." The Company is GOOD and Bennet is BAD? Get your facts straight, Suresh! He finally realizes that The Company has been developing the deadly Shanti virus for 30 years, but poor clueless Mohinder still doesn't know which end is up. On his way to bring Nikki the cure for the virus, he receives a call from the still very much alive Sylar who is in his apartment with Molly and Maya.

More stupid moves down in New Orleans where Nikki is reunited with Micah. Micah's creepy cousin takes his backpack to see about selling his comic books. Backpack is stolen--along with the comics and more importantly, D.L.'s medal for being a hero. Monica and Micah go to where the thieves live to steal back the backpack--but while Monica is inside the house, the thieves return and capture her. How did she manage to forget her Ninja moves? Over in Texas, the Bennet family mourns Noah's "death" and makes plans to move to Salt Lake City. But while Claire scatters her Dad's ashes, she sees another Daddy's girl, Elle, watching in the background. A confrontation ensues and Claire threatens to reveal her powers and expose The Company. Smart move? Dumb move? We'll see...

The only one who seems to know what's going on is Hiro who time traveled to 1977 and witness Kensei aka Adam Monroe trying to steal the deadly strain 138, which young Kaito decided to move to the Primatech Paper facility in Odessa, TX for safekeeping (am I the only one who thought the actors playing young Kaito and young Victoria looked NOTHING like George Takei or Joanna Cassidy? ). Despite Ando's remonstration of "Why is saving the world always your responsibility?," Hiro teleports to Odessa just in time to meet up with Adam and Peter, who read Victoria's mind to extract the location of the virus before Adam killed her. Seeing the man responsible for his father's death, Hiro rushes Adam with his samurai sword. Will Peter zap him with a lightning bolt before he can kill Adam?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mac vs. PC

The smart and hip Mac ads featuring cutie Justin Long and the very funny John Hodgman have always been exceeding watchable for me. Up until last week, when the Flashdance spoof KIA sales ad debuted, this was my favorite commercial. I've been saying for years that the latest, greatest upgrade isn't necessarily the best. Note to Bill Gates: Stop using your customers as Beta testers!

Blackmail, Bribery and Bombshells on Desperate Housewives

Secrets kept, secrets revealed on last night's episode of Desperate Housewives. The cleverest piece of writing came with a blackmail/bribery round robin that started when Mike witnessed a certain Sylvia showing up at Adam Mayfair's house while he was working on the plumbing. Apparently Sylvia is what happened in Chicago--a former patient with serious mental problems who ruined his life (or so Adam says). He asks Mike not to tell Katherine about the visit. Mike in turn asks Adam if he can write him a prescription (his drug dealer Barrett won't supply a new batch until he pays up the money he owes him...). Adam balks saying that an ob/gyn writing a prescription for a male raises red flags. (Do they have the specialty on prescription pads? I'm looking at a prescription right now and it doesn't say "endocrinologist" on it...) Mike says it's OK--the favor doesn't have to work both ways.

Which leads Adam to show up at Orson's office (following on the heels of a naughty tryst with Bree who is trying to keep their sex life alive while she creates a "family bed" for Benjamin. Blatant double entendre: Orson saying "Your phone message said you had a cavity that needed filling" as he revs up the dentist drill...) to ask Orson for a favor--right after a brief reminder about delivering Danielle's baby. Orson then ends up giving the prescription to Mike--but not without a lecture about the dangers of drug addiction. Mike takes the prescription and reminds Orson that his pain comes from being run over by a hit-and-run driver. And so it comes full circle. Although I wonder why Mike just didn't blackmail Orson in the first place...

Mike's drug addiction causes an unexpected problem at home when Susan (finally padded to look pregnant!) meets his pre-med drug dealer Barrett and, not realizing what his connection to Mike is, thinks he would be a superior catch for daughter Julie instead of the multi-pierced guy she's dating now. When Mike sees Barrett in his home, he outs the drug dealer who in turn outs Mike. Susan explains to Julie that Mike had an issue with a dependence on pain meds, but that it was under control now. Julie tells Susan that she saw Mike earlier at the pharmacy getting a prescription filled. Later, Susan secretly watches as Mike sneaks out to pop a pill from his stash in his car.

Speaking of problems at home, Bree's focus on new baby Benjamin causes a rift with Andrew who feels that his mother thinks he's a mistake. "Does the mistake have a soul?" he queries plaintively, but it goes right over Bree's head. When asked by Tom Scavo how things are going with the new arrival, Bree tells him that "The three of us are such a happy little family!" and Andrew who overhears her feels left out. He ends up moving out of the house--to give Bree and the baby space--and Bree is devastated. She shows up at his dingy apartment with a home-cooked meal to try and woo him back home, but Andrew thinks it's time he was out on his own. He even thanks her for the time she dumped him at the side of the road saying that it forced him to grow-up. And then he says, "Mom, would you mind using a coaster?" and fussbudget Bree replies, "Now I'm really going to cry!"

Another mother-and-child reunion occurred when Lynette finally tracked down the irascible Stella. On a tip from her beloved stepfather Glen, she corners Stella and asks her to come back home with her. Lynette has blamed her mother for years for driving away the only stable male influence in her and her sisters' lives by cheating on Glen years ago. Glen drops a bombshell by telling Lynette that it wasn't why he left--he is gay. (Ironic as Richard Chamberlain aka Dr. Kildare and Ralph de Bricassart finally revealed that HE was gay in a 2003 autobiography. My Mom said he was gay YEARS before that. Humph--Mom was right. Go figure...) This revelation changes Lynette's feelings about the past, but Stella doesn't want to ruin the good relationship they built during Lynette's illness. Problem solved when Glen invites Stella to come live with him and they all lived happily ever after! Until next episode...

But the biggest bombshell came in the ongoing saga of Gabby, Carlos and Victor. Carlos kept insisting that he and Gabby go to the police, but Gabby was deadset against it. Even after Edie calls in an anonymous tip to the police about Carlos and Gabby having an affair while she was married to Victor. Gabby goes as far as to drug Carlos to prevent him from spilling the beans. But when the police show up at the door to announce that they've found Victor washed up on shore and now unconscious in the hospital, Gabby rushes to the hospital to do damage control. Fortunately for her, Victor tells the police he can't remember anything that happened after his Friday staff meeting. The police and doctor leave his room and that's when he springs it on Gabby--he remembers EVERYTHING. A little blackmail to keep Mrs. Lang in line until he wins the Governorship? Hmmmm...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

U2 - The Joshua Tree

U2 has celebrated the 20th anniversary of the release of Grammy winning number one album, The Joshua Tree, by releasing a completely remastered version in four different formats just in time for the holidays. (Twenty years?!!! God, I feel so old...) Using the original analog tapes, the meticulous re-mastering was overseen by none other than The Edge and the result is available in:

  • A standard CD featuring liner notes from Bill Flanagan, lyrics and unseen photographs from long time collaborator Anton Corbijn.

  • A double 12" gatefold vinyl format, with the original album pressed across two 180 gram audiophile discs.

  • A deluxe edition including a second CD of b-sides and demos from the original album sessions.

  • A limited edition box set containing two CD's and a DVD featuring The Joshua Tree Tour live from the Hippodrome in Paris and other rare video footage.
I got to check out the 2 CD deluxe edition which was sleekly packaged in a 5 x 5.5" bound book inside a case. The book (sort of like a mini-coffee table book...maybe a demi-tasse book?) contained the two CDs, as well as photos of the band, lyrics, credits and the story of the recording sessions as told by the usually quiet The Edge. The album, which was inspired by the sights and sounds the band experienced while touring America, features some of U2's best known and most loved songs such as Where the Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, With or Without You and In God's Country--along with six other tracks. In addition, an entire album of B-sides and demos are included. Most of which are fairly amorphous and moody, but there are some nuggets--the single version of Where the Streets Have No Name and its B-side, Sweetest Thing and Wave of Sorrow (Birdland) which was an unfinished track until this year when Bono went back into the studio to record newly written lyrics.

I really liked how the material was showcased--it's beautifully packaged and presented. And of course, the music is gorgeous. It will make a great gift for a U2 fan. And it just might end up being a Christmas gift for someone I know--providing that they are nice and not naughty!

'Tis the Season...

To be shopping. Fa-la-la-la La-la-la-la!

I'll get my wishlist together soon, but in the meantime I've stumbled across some great blogs that appeal to my carnivorous consumer in me. Of course, my friend Stevie's blog L.A. Story is a great source of inspiration for all things hip and cool. And speaking of cool things, there's plenty to be found at Cool Picking. My friend Tami deals with all things hedonistic and delicious on her blog, fête à fête. And last but not least, you know and love her as Kelly Kapoor on The Office--but did you know Mindy Kaling is a shopping fanatic? Check out Things I've Bought That I Love for all sorts of "frivolous and fun" items.

My newest favorite shopping blogs came during an unsuccessful search for a picture of a Club Monaco sweater that I've got huge crush on (Damn you Club Monaco--put more pictures up on your stupid website!). If it turns into something more serious, I may actually shell out $200 to buy it...But for now, the blogs:

A Serious Job is No Excuse

Johanna is a D.C. consultant by day, fashion blogger by night. She describes her site thusly:

Each day, with old-man candor, I'll offer my brand of style counsel to the lawyers, lobbyists, Congressional mistresses and any of the other professional DC women who think their serious jobs are a valid excuse for dressing the ill-fitted, office-inappropriate, comfort-first way women in this city tend to dress. And when the mood strikes me, which is often, I'll also muse about celebrity fashion and my own fashion-related comings and goings, both of which, I'm sure, are of great interest to you.
Shop My Closet

Now if this isn't the coolest idea ever--instead of slogging through the dregs on E-Bay, locate your next fashion find in a fashionista's closet! Or as the girls at Shop My Closet put it:
we are a collective group of young womyn dedicated to forward-thinking and fringe-defining fashion. we all share a love of conspicuous consumption, innovative design, and collaboration. together, we developed this blog to share items from our own closets, our thoughts on fashion and design in general, and tips on how/where/when to shop. we hope you will continue to join us as we embark on this new fashion adventure...
NY Flair

Something about NYC girls that's innately fashionable. No wonder they set Sex and the City there! The blogger at NY Flair is down-to-earth about her fashion sensibilities claiming:
I am crazy about fashion and shopping! I always love a great find and am always on the lookout for the best places to shop. I am drawn to very unique stores and I love the entrepreneurial spirit. I am no fashion guru, I follow no rules - its all about favorite places to shop and fabulous things to buy.
But just a glance at her finds and you know this is one stylish woman! (Note to self: must cut back on wearing hoodies...)

So whether you're in the market for holiday gift ideas or revamping your closet, here are some cool resources on the web to peruse. Got any favorites of your own?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Nirvana Unplugged in New York

I remember when Kurt Cobain and Co. broke onto the mainstream music scene with their mesmerizing and energizing song Smells Like Teen Spirit. I (like millions of music fans) was instantly hooked. Their entrance heralded the way for other Seattle based exports like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Amazon.com and Starbucks. One of the highlights of the groundbreaking grunge band's brief career was the acoustic set they played on MTV's Unplugged recorded on November 18, 1993. Now, fourteen years later, the DVD of that performance has been released.

It features not only the MTV airing, but the unedited version of the performance as well which includes the songs Something In The Way and Oh Me which didn't make the final cut for the televised program. Also included are the band's warm-up and sound check which gives a more intimate insight into the band and MTV's Bare Witness, a pseudo documentary of the event, which feels as forced and artificial as the rehearsals are loose and genuine.

Nirvana broke the mold of the typical Unplugged performance by compiling a unique and eclectic set list for the show. The only real "hit" included was their song Come As You Are, although they also stayed in more familiar territory with All Apologies and Dumb. But for the most part they defied expectations by including lesser known or even unknown tunes as well as some odd covers by artists such as Vaseline (Jesus Don't Want Me For A Sunbeam), Leadbelly (Where Did You Sleep Last Night?) and three Meat Puppets songs (Plateau, Oh Me, Lake of Fire). In fact, the Meat Puppets were featured as special guests during the performance (God, I love that name--Meat Puppets. Sounds tasty and fun at the same time...) . My favorite cover--favorite song of the set, actually--was Nirvana's rendition of David Bowie's The Man Who Sold The World.

Also appearing with band members Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl (who came from the D.C. area just like me!) were second guitarist Pat Smear and cellist Lori Goldston. The show aired on December 14, 1993--just four months before the sad and untimely death of the brilliant Cobain. Watching Nirvana Unplugged in New York made me sad and nostalgic. Watching the young and talented Cobain doing what he genuinely loved doing--playing music--makes his suicide seem even more tragic. The DVD is definitely a must-have for any Nirvana fan.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Inside the Actors Studio - Johnny Depp

After experiencing the fatuous fabulosity that is James Lipton via the Leading Man series, my interest was definitely piqued at the November 20th release of the DVD of his interview with the swaggering Jack Sparrow, aka Johnny Depp. Depp is notoriously reticent--would this interview consist mainly of Lipton, always in love with the sound of his own voice, answering his own questions?

I recall seeing Depp appear on the Rosie O'Donnell show about ten years ago. Rosie said something like, "You play the guitar?". He said "yes." It was painful to watch; excruciating as O'Donnell tried to get her guest to engage in a dialogue. He clearly didn't want to be there. I can understand why Depp doesn't like to do the whole interview thing--it's a pain in the ass. It's stupid. It's a waste of time. But it also comes with the territory. Seriously, how hard is it to come up with an amusing anecdote to charm the audience--the people buying tickets to your movies--for five minutes?

Despite the appearance of the cover of the DVD where it looks like Johnny is thinking, "Oh God, not the Bernard Pivot questionnaire, you supercilious twit!," Lipton actually manages to get a decent interview out of Depp. Although he is not as engaging or eloquent as his contemporaries, Russell Crowe or Sean Penn from the Leading Men series, Depp does open up (relatively speaking) about his professional craft and even his personal life. Although recorded February 25, 2002, well before his iconic portrayal of a pirate in the Disney trilogy, Johnny Depp had already amassed a solid and eclectic body of work.

The DVD contains an introduction by Lipton, but unlike the Leading Men DVD, there are no other extras. Still, it's a interesting glimpse into an intriguing persona. So for those interested in the craft of acting, fans of Johnny Depp or even those enamored of the unctuous James Lipton (he has no tattoos--does anyone care?), this would make a nice holiday gift.

Ghosts and Witches on Ugly Betty

It may have been Thanksgiving last night and even though the Suarez's were putting up their Christmas tree, with Betty seeing dead people (OK, dead PERSON) and Wilhelmina at her witchiest, it certainly felt like Halloween. Starting off with a sleepless Betty spying Bradford's head in the refrigerator when she partakes in a midnight snack. He then appears decked out in beachwear standing in the kitchen. But he's actually not a ghost. "I'm the subconscious manifestation of your guilt," he tells Betty. Because, although she promised Bradford on his deathbed that she would be there for Daniel, she refuses to go back to Mode fearing that it will continue to change her--and not for the better.

At Bradford's funeral, attended by a shackled Claire wearing an orange jumpsuit, Wilhelmina shows up to "pay her respects." Claire trips her and she falls into the open grave. Standing over the hole with Daniel and Alexis, Claire tells Wilhelmina she's terminated from Mode and adds, "Rest in peace, bitch!" for good measure. But the wily Willie has an evil plan up her sleeve--a CD marked Medusa X and Marc along for the ride. "Is this going to be some sort of murder-suicide thing? Because Cliff and I have tickets to A Chorus Line tomorrow night..." says Marc nervously. But Wilhelmina replies, "We're not going to die. Mode is." And with that she inserts the CD into her PC and wipes clean the entire Mode computer network--including the ready to be printed January issue.

Henry is working overtime when it happens and he calls Betty who rallies the troops--even though she's no longer working for Mode. But then Wilhelmina sweeps in and sweeps out most of the Mode staff to come work for her magazine, Slater. Betty, Christina and even Amanda are not swayed by the promise of a fifteen percent raise, dental and cosmetic surgery benefits, and stay to help Daniel complete the issue. But Daniel is having a crisis of faith and Bradford shows up again in Betty's computer screen to urge her to lift Daniel's spirits. Which of course, she does--but Daniel feels the shoes he has to fill are too big--"I'm no Bradford Meade," he tells Betty. Betty tells him to start with a clean slate and revs Daniel up to get back to the issue at hand--saving the January issue.

One of the most important things missing is the cover photo featuring a wayward actress named Cameron who is currently in rehab. Daniel decides to break her out of rehab to re-shoot the cover--much to Betty's dismay. Meanwhile, Alexis needs to seduce the printer into pushing their deadline while they get the issue together again. Even Amanda's given a task--to come up with the "What's Hot" list. Given that she's Faye Summer's daughter, Amanda thinks this will be a breeze. But her idea is a flop and she's told, "You're no Faye Summers!" Alexis' plan hits a snag when the printer turns out to be a "little person." And cover girl Cameron demands drugs or alcohol before she'll come out of her dressing room.

Daniel almost gives Cameron alcohol but decides not to--which pisses off Cameron who storms out in a rage, but pleases Betty. Inspired by Betty's idea of a blank slate, he comes up with a somber black cover in memory of his late father. Even the manifestation of Betty's guilt, Bradford Meade, is impressed saying it's something he'd never have thought of. To which Betty replies, "Well, you're no Daniel Meade!" After a long heart-to-heart, Alexis manages to convince the printer to push the deadline and the issue is saved. Wilhelmina's magazine, however, is already in trouble. Her daddy refuses to fund her venture.

Hanging threads--Christina's husband's illness and the reignited storyline of Amanda's "Whose my Daddy?" search. Does this mean Willie starts a new "Whose my Sugar Daddy?" subplot in order to get her magazine up and running? Are we ever going to find out what the deal she made with the doctor was at the end of last week's show? And what happened to Bradford's suit?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

My Happy Thanksgiving

Any day that I get to eat turkey qualifies as a good day--but today's Thanksgiving was pretty exceptional. I didn't have the luxury of sleeping in this morning because I went to yoga class. Yup, working out on a holiday. That's me, never a day off! My regular gym had the day off (closed for Thanksgiving), but the Century City location was open and (Oh joy!) of the two classes they were offering, one was a yoga class.

The class was taught by Mita and she concentrated on poses that would aid in the digestion of our Thanksgiving feasting. Lots of twists, dragon's breath, back bends--it was a pretty cool class. Afterwards, I trekked back home and listened to a voice mail from my brother David wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving and read an e-mail from my other brother James conveying the same greetings.

Later, I headed down to Long Beach to have Thanksgiving dinner with my friend Stevie and her family. In addition to Stevie, and her husband and daughter (whom I've had the pleasure of watching grow up from a sweet little girl into a lovely young woman), there was her mom and stepdad, two brothers, a sister-in-law and a niece and nephew. And let's not forget Dizzy the dog. It was quite a crowd!

But there was plenty of food--turkey (yum!) and ham (yuck!), potatoes, salad, cranberry sauces, stuffing and bread. Talk about carbo loading! It was all the stuff I usually avoid but hey--it was Thanksgiving! There was also dessert. There were three different kinds of pies and a variety of cheesecakes. My ideal dessert would have been pumpkin pie with a dollop of Cool Whip (yes, it must be the pre-fab stuff in the plastic tub. I know I'm weird, but REAL whip cream doesn't taste as good to me. Especially on pumpkin pie!), but among the three pies there was no pumpkin. So I settled for a piece of chocolate cheesecake. I know--such deprivation!

After yummy food and getting caught up with stories of Stevie's adventures in NYC, I headed back home in time to watch Ugly Betty (to be recapped tomorrow AM!). All in all, a pretty typical holiday celebration. Well, if you swap "football" for Ugly Betty and skip the yoga...

Good food, good friends, good fun!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gratitude II

With Thanksgiving Day almost upon us, I thought I'd take a moment to express appreciation for what's good in my life:

Things I'm Thankful For

1. My health - it's been a tough road, but I'm really lucky to have all my limbs, my eyesight, my mobility, my strength. Although I've done a lot of hard work in eating right, exercising, managing my blood sugar, etc., I am also grateful that I managed to have two terrific physicians on my team. Good, caring doctors who LISTEN are hard to find. I'm also grateful for my generous boss and to have health insurance.

2. My brothers - Having roots and people in your life who will support you no matter what is a blessing. David reads my blog almost daily and James checks in to chat every couple of weeks or so. There both good people and I love them dearly.

3. My friends - The family you meet along the way in your life. There are some close friends who have dropped out of my life due to this and that and the other thing. But for the most part, I remember the time we spent together fondly. I hope they feel the same. For those currently in my life--I am grateful to know such a diverse collection of warm and wonderful people.

4. Being employed - Maybe I'm not doing what I really want to be doing, but it's good to have a paycheck. I am fortunate enough to have a great deal of flexibility and freedom in my jobs. Not many people can say that...

5. The Internet - And endless source of amazement and amusement. Thank you, Al Gore!

and last but not least, a random collection of things that make life worth living:

6. The ocean, Jif Creamy peanut butter, Trader Joe's, my iPod, Netflix, Craigslist, puppies, the public library and a holiday dedicated to eating turkey!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

DWTS - Who Made it to the Finals?

Lots of questions after tonight's Dancing with the Stars results show--how in the world are they able to stretch less than fifteen minutes of content out to an entire hour? Wasn't Michael Flatley's fifteen minutes up ten years ago? How in the heck did Marie Osmond make it to the finals?

It was lovely Jennie Garth who left the dance floor tonight--setting up what looks to be a spectacular dance-off between the diva, Mel B. and the driver, Helio. Oh, and Marie. Poor Marie! She's hopelessly outclassed by these two--but who knows? Maybe there are enough Mormons in America to win her that Mirrorball trophy. And if Marie DOES win--what might that mean for Mitt Romney's Presidential campaign? The questions never end...

Tonight also marked the return of Sabrina and Mark--dancing to a lackluster Avril Lavigne performance. At least she wasn't pulling an Ashlee Simpson and lip syncing--although given the flatness of her voice, maybe she should have. Actually Mark and Sabrina's "dance" looked more like a Cirque de Soleil act with a touch of pairs figure skating thrown in. That was a death spiral at the end of their "dance," wasn't it?

Thankfully, this will all be over next week.

Dazzlin' Dancin' and Daddy Issues

One show from the finale and it's almost impossible to guess which star won't make it into the finals tonight. Conventional wisdom would dictate Marie--with the lowest total score of and the "least best" dancer of the lot--would take her final bow tonight. But remember that voters kicked off the BEST dancer, Sabrina Bryan, WEEKS ago--so there's no telling what will happen tonight.

Marie danced a redux of her 40s inspired Quickstep with another 40s inspired Quickstep--but instead of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy it was Astaire and Rogers. Very cute and very classic and it impressed the judges enough to earn her an almost perfect score of 29 (Bruno, roundly booed by the audience, was the spoiler!). Later, her Mambo was described as "madcap" and I have to agree. Seems Ms. Osmond took cute and ratcheted it up to "cartoon" with that one. She got 27 points for her performance giving her a total of 56 for the night.

Jennie landed smack in the middle of the pack dancing a Tango in which she looked more pissed than fierce and which earned her 28 points. That was followed by an impressive Cha-cha which landed her a perfect score of 30--bringing her total to 58. Mel B. was technically proficient as always and earned two perfect scores for her Waltz and Paso Doble. She can do no wrong in the judges eyes--they gushed after each of her performances. Although admittedly she is a great dancer, there's something about her I don't care for. I wonder how the rest of America feels...

The other perfect couple last night were Helio and Julianne with their classy and smooth Fox Trot followed by an energetic Cha-cha. Helio would be my pick to win the entire competition--but it's difficult to predict who will stay or go at this point. Marie's got a pretty loyal fanbase and her siblings' support was more heartening than seeing the Spice Girls rallying around Mel B. But then again, Mel B. has a secret weapon in partner Maksim which I'm sure brings a lot of votes in. Jennie's "I have no self-confidence" is beginning to wear thin--I think she'd do better infusing some of her bitchy Kelly ala 90210 into her dancing. Helio is the only guy left--and he's a little cutie to boot. Should be interesting to see who makes it tonight...

I had high expectations for last week's episode of Heroes. I thought it might be up to the standards of the "Five Years Later" episode from last season. I was a bit disappointed. It was a good, solid show--but not a stellar one. Last night's episode, however, can be summed up in two words--FREAKING AWESOME! At one point, Angela Petrelli being questioned by Matt Parkman tells him to "Get over your Daddy Issues." That pretty much sums up the theme for last night's installment. Matt's issues with his father, Hiro dealing with the death of Kaito, Claire and Mr. Bennet, and Bob--who turns out to be the father of Elle.

Matt is refining his mind reading abilities into mind CONTROLLING ability. First he makes Molly eat her cereal, then he gets his boss to allow him to continue the Nakamura homicide investigation and finally, he extracts the truth about the people pictured in the photo from Angela. We learn that there's yet another member of The Company out there--and her name is Victoria Pratt. Wonder what her ability is? For that matter--what's Angela's power? Or Kaito's?

Speaking of Kaito--Hiro goes back in time to save him from being murdered. His father tells him that it is his destiny and that while "We have the powers of gods, that does not mean we can play God." Hiro stubbornly refuses to go along with allowing Kaito to die and teleports him back in time to the day of his mother's funeral. He meets up with little Hiro there and realizes that his father is right--he cannot play God. He teleports back to the day of Kaito's death and freezes time so that he can identify his father's killer. He is shocked to learn that it's Kensei Takezo. Of course, Hiro doesn't know what Angela told Matt about Kensei--aka Adam. Apparently when your cells continually regenerate you become immortal. And your blood can be the salvation of the human race.

Which is why Mohinder and Bob want to get Claire so badly. Bob wants to shoot Bennet and take Claire, but Mohinder opts for a more reasonable approach. Meanwhile, the Bennets are packing up to leave--but Claire being a rebellious teenager says she's not going. She tells West that she's staying because of him, but West is suspicious that Claire is part of some kind of plot to re-abduct him. Bennet, too anxiously to wait for Mohinder to call back with West's location, decides to track the flyboy down himself, but (in one of the show's best moments) is nailed by West as he walks out the door. The flyboy takes him up into the sky--and threatens to drop him if he doesn't tell him the truth about Claire. Bennet tells him that Claire never told him anything about West--that she was protecting him. West brings him back down to the ground and Bennet tells him he has to convince Claire to leave town.

Right then, Mohinder calls with the alleged whereabouts of West--but Bennet is WITH West and knows Mohinder is lying. He meets Mohinder who tries to convince him to hand over Claire and Bennet of course refuses. Elle is about to unleash a lightning bolt on Bennet--but is tackled by West who flies in to save the day. When Bennet returns home,he finds his wife tied up and Claire taken by Bob. But he has a plan--West brings the unconscious Elle into the house. In another great moment, a bound Elle regains consciousness to find her feet in a tub of water. When she starts to unleash her electrical powers, she ends up frying herself. So twisted and sick. I loved it! Bennet also tells her that her Daddy Bob allowed The Company to experiment on her and says, "That's why I never let The Company anywhere near Claire. I didn't want her to become you!" Ouch--almost as painful as an electric shock!

Bennet arranges for a hostage exchange with Bob--but before handing Claire over, Bob extracts a pint of Claire's blood. After the exchange, Bennet tells West to fly Claire out of danger. The viciously vindicative Elle strikes them down with a lightning bolt mid-air--but Claire cushions the fall when they land and they are both unharmed. Bennet shoots at Elle and then goes to kill Bob. But Mohinder shoots him in the eye--and he ends up on the ground looking like Isaac's prophetic painting. Claire and West fly away and tell Claire's mom the news. But the kicker? Claire's blood infusing into Bennet's body--his blown out eye regenerates and he regains consciousness at The Company's "facility."

Awesome. Freaking AWESOME!

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Trouble with Edie

I didn't get my weekly fix of Desperate Housewives last night (damn you, American Music Awards!), but I have been thinking about Edie Britt (played with delightful gusto by Nicollette Sheridan)--specifically the trials and travails of her love life. Now, Edie is not a very good friend, she's a lousy aunt and absent mother. She's manipulative, vindictive and spiteful. But I love her! Unfortunately my love is about all that Edie has these days. Let's take a quick inventory:

When we first met the voluptuous vixen, she had set her sites on Mike Delfino--which put her in competition with Susan Mayer who also found the new addition to Wisteria Lane to be attractive. Unfortunately for Edie (and perhaps Mike), Susan won. Next, she became involved with Karl Mayer, Susan's ex. But Karl was still carrying a torch for Susan--so again, Susan won. She tried another run for Mike when he had amnesia, but he regained his memory and--Susan won. Her next target was the recently divorced Carlos Solis--but Carlos was still carrying a torch for Gabby and again, Edie loses.

Poor Edie. Given her track record for latching on to unavailable men, I predict Adam Mayfair will be his next target. God help her--'cuz I think Katherine will be a far more formidable adversary than Susan Mayer.

Facebook Follies

The Internet has been pretty newsworthy lately. The Washington Post recently posted a bleak look at the blogosphere titled With Cruelty and Malice for All blaming the anonymity of the Internet for raising snarkiness to a new level.

"I don't know what it is about this particular moment in human history which lends itself to the sanction of miscellaneous and casual cruelty," says cyber-guru John Perry Barlow, vice chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Cyberspace, he says, "has a way of making us feel like other people are informational artifacts. If you cut data, it doesn't bleed. So you're at liberty to do anything you want to people who are not people but merely images."
Exemplifying this "liberty" is none other than celebrity blogger--or perhaps more accurately "celebrity defacer"--Perez Hilton who was recently profiled in Rolling Stone as The Queen of Mean. Snarky, snippy and snide gets a multi-page article in Rolling Stone. Sad, isn't it?

Bad behavior on the 'net is nothing new--when I started participated in online forums there was no shortage of trolls and flame wars. It still exists--cyberspace brings the freedom to create an entirely new persona. Which can give rise to predators, scam artists, identity thieves--and assholes. Sometimes this freedom brings tragic results--an in the case of a MySpace Hoax which ended with the suicide of a 13 year old girl.

Another social networking mishap ended less tragically--although I'm sure its victim (pictured at left) is suffering a case of excruciating embarrassment. However, when you post a picture of yourself doing some Halloween partying on your public Facebook profile after telling your boss that you can't come in to work because "[s]omething came up at home," you're just asking for trouble. I loved the boss' e-mail response--"cool wand."

Speaking of Facebook, my friend Stevie got me hooked into setting up a profile. I thought--why do I need to be on Facebook? I'm already on MySpace! But Facebook is like MySpace on crack. It's a combo of MySpace meets Craigslist meets Neopets. It has the potential to be a serious time suck. I can't quite get my mind wrapped around it yet. For example, some complete stranger POKED me! What is THAT about? I don't know but to me a "poke" seems kind of hostile. Maybe Facebook should change it to "nudge" or "tickle." Then again, if you did want to convey hostility, perhaps there should be options for "bitch-slap" or if you're really serious, "pistol whip."

Like I'm gonna poke someone...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

August Rush Soundtrack

I must admit I was somewhat drawn in by the August Rush trailer. Sure it looks like it might be a bit cheesy, schmaltzy and most definitely a blatant tearjerker. The movie tells the story of a charismatic young Irish guitarist and a sheltered young cellist who have a chance encounter one magical night above New York’s Washington Square but are torn apart, leaving in their wake an infant, August, orphaned by circumstance. So you've got Freddie Highmore (Neverland) as the precocious orphan who seems to be channeling Haley Joel Osment circa The Sixth Sense. The star-crossed lovers are played by Keri Russell (she's a little bit classical) and the delicious Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (he's a little bit rock 'n roll) who reminds me of a younger, cuter Joaquin Phoenix. Add an always energetic Robin Williams who plays a Fagin-esque character and Terence Howard (Crash) to round out the cast.

The tagline for the movie is "An incredible journey moving at the speed of the sound" so it's no surprise that the soundtrack is a diverse collection of musical influences--classical, guitar, jazz and even gospel. What was surprising is that Jonathan Rhys Meyers is a featured performer on four of the album's fifteen tracks--including a soulful cover of Van Morrison's Moondance complete with a mournful harmonica solo. The soundtrack also includes John Legend performing the song Someday, the gospel inspired Raise It Up featuring Jamia Simone Nash, a cover of Billie Holiday's God Bless the Child by Paula Cole accompanied by trumpeter Chris Botti and a sultry sounding cover of La Bamba performed by Leon Thomas III.

The movie will be in theaters beginning Wednesday, but the August Rush soundtrack is available in stores now.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Shopping Tips and Tricks

If shopping was an Olympic sport, I'd be a gold medal contender. As it stands now, I'm semi-retired--but not so long ago I was a serious pro. Sort of the Barry Bonds of shopping, but without the steroids. For some people, shopping is a nice pastime, a hobby. Not for me. It's all about the thrill of the hunt...and scoring a great deal. So here's a little list of how-to's should you want to up your game from benchwarmer to all-star.

1. Know your labels. It's not enough to get something cheap. Deep discount is what we're aiming for. Sure, those jeans you scored for five bucks might seem like an awesome deal, but if they were only worth ten bucks to start with then you haven't really nabbed a great deal. Much better is the $100+ pair of designer label denim that you find for $20-30 at Off Saks Fifth or Ross. How can you tell the difference? Research. Get thee to Nordstroms or Barney's or some trendy boutique and start learning about what's hot. Another resource is the internet--I get a lot of my fashion intel from fashion blogs like L.A. Story or Makeup Alley's Fashion Board. I've found Miss Sixty, Seven for all Mankind, Blue Cult, etc. at Ross. If I hadn't known what to look for, I might have missed out on a great deal.

2. Know your Closet. A great deal is a great deal--unless you already own six black cashmere sweaters. It also helps to know what you already own to make sure what you're buying will work with your current wardrobe. I have been known to buy outfit to coordinate with a pair of shoes I just purchased (instead of the other way around), but this is not optimum shopping behavior. Whenever you find something you like, try to think of at least three outfits you can create with it using items you already own.

3. Seize the moment. If you're looking for something specific, you'll never find it while you're bargain hunting. That's why you have to be on the lookout constantly. Maybe that hot little red party dress isn't the pair of leather slingbacks you intended to buy. But trust me, when you're in need of a cute party outfit, you won't be able to find ANYTHING--except for leather slingbacks. That's how shopping karma works. See it now, buy it now, wear it later. At the very least, hold on to a possible find as you walk through the store and ponder whether it fulfills tip #2. You can always put it back, but if you let it out of your sight someone else might nab it!

3. Save receipts and tags. Not sure if that cute red party dress is really you? Do NOT cut the tags off of it or any item that you purchase until you are ready to wear it out. Keep the receipts filed away in a safe place. That way you can always return it and get your money back. A bargain isn't a bargain unless you wear it. And wear it to death! The cute sandals that you bought for $20 and wore ONCE are more expensive than the pricey leather boots that cost $300 but you wore every day all winter. Cost per wear = price of the item divided by the number of times worn.

4. Never pay full price. Just about everything goes on sale, so hold out until that cute red party dress is marked down. There are some exceptions to this rule, but by and large if you're patient you'll be able to have your party dress--and still have money left over for shoes if you wait for a sale. And again, keep your receipt! Because even if the price is marked down, it may go down again. Many stores (Banana Republic, Gap) have a 14 day price adjustment policy, so keep your receipts it your wallet and on day 14 ask the sales clerk to check if the prices have dropped. What happens if it's day 16 and suddenly your $80 sweater is now $40? No, you're not definitely S.O.L. If they have the same item in the same color and size, buy it again at the sale price and return it with your old receipt at the higher price.

5. Buy in bulk. If you find the absolute PERFECT pair of jeans or a really versatile top, you might want to consider buying a spare to have in reserve. If it's something you know you're going to wear to death, having a backup may actually be more economical than trying to replace the item in the future--if you could even find a good replacement! I know there's been lots of times when I mourned the loss of a favorite article of clothing and could not find anything that came close to replacing it.

6. The internet is your friend. For wardrobe shopping, I prefer the in-person tactile experience in a brick 'n mortar store over the convenience of the internet--but the web certainly makes price comparisons easier. You can also sign up for sale alerts on your favorite designers via Shop it to Me or peruse discounts, sales and coupon codes at Reesycakes.com.

And there you have it--let the bargain hunting begin!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Back to the Table...

The WGA and AMPTP have announced that they will be returning to the negotiating table on November 26th. Maybe NBC was right to be optimistic...

Fingers crossed!

NBC says WGA Strike will end by Dec. 4th

Well, sort of...My brother is coming out to L.A. the beginning of December and he really wants to attend a taping of The Tonight Show. So last month I mailed a request to NBC for two tickets--and then the writers strike happened. Jay's not taping any shows until things are resolved, so I thought it would be iffy that we'd get to see the show--at least for the foreseeable future. But my tickets showed up today, albeit with a caveat enclosed due to the strike and I quote:

"Dear Viewer,

Unfortunately, due to a current Writers Guild of American strike that is affecting the entire industry [subtext: it's the WGA's fault!] there is a chance that The Tonight Show with Jay Leno may be cancelled for the date on your tickets. [boldface mine...] We are anticipating the strike to be resolved by that time, but we still encourage you to please call our ticket office...before coming to the show in order to confirm that we will be taping in the event that the strike is still occurring."
It would appear that NBC is more optimistic about the potential length of the strike than most insiders. Wouldn't it be cool if it was all settled by December 4th?

Thursday Night at the Fights

The theme was rivalry--sibling on My Name is Earl, ping-pong on The Office and pre-Mode Betty vs. post-Mode Betty on Ugly Betty. First off, My Name is Earl--did anyone else wish they had gotten the ubiquitous movie trailer voice guy to do the "Previously on My Name is Earl" voiceover in the beginning? Since it was a parody of a movie trailer, it would have made it even funnier...Oh well, maybe Don LaFontaine was busy--according to Wikipedia, "He is said to voice about 60 promotions a week, and sometimes as many as 35 in a single day." Wow--that's a lot of trailers...

The Earl episode centered around Randy and Earl (still fighting over who's in charge) and their efforts to recapture escapee Frank and Joy trying to end her surrogacy by delivering Liberty and Ray-Ray's baby. Of course you know the two storylines came together in the end in a hysterical finale. Is Jaime Pressley the luckiest actress or what? Joy gets all the best lines--for example at the hospital when Joy and Darnell are presented with a menu of spa services and Joy mistakes the "Eucalyptus Wrap" for food, she opines: "I swear it's like I died and gone to Chili's." And no-one delivers a white-trash line better than Pressley.

Earl knows that Frank is heading for the trailer because his former partner is crime Paco accidentally tells him that's where Frank hid the money. Funny moment: Earl sees Paco writing sheet music and says, "I didn't know you could write music!" to which Paco replies, "It's easy. It's just dots and lines." So Earl and Randy head off to the trailer park to intercept Frank--but the search dog that Randy wanted to bring along runs off just like Frank did.

They do find Frank in the trailer, but just then Joy and Darnell (who is in "labor" after being mistakenly injected with Joy's labor inducing drug) show up. And right behind them are Liberty and Ray-Ray, who have called the police to report a stolen baby. Frank holds them all hostage--and then Joy's water breaks. Joy delivers the baby--assisted by Darnell--and Frank takes off, but is captured by the search dog who shows up to save the day. In the end, Randy and Earl make up with Randy admitting that Earl is a better leader than he is and Earl saying, "I'm only good 'cuz I got you on my team." Awwww!

On The Office, it's Jim vs. Darryl playing ping-pong and Jan vs. Dunder-Mifflin in her wrongful termination suit. Kelly's trash talk--or smack talk (I didn't quite understand the difference--was there one?) of "my boyfriend is better than yours" ires Pam to encourage Jim to practice his ping-pong skills so he can beat Darryl. She sets up a table in the conference room and Kevin, and then Meredith play with Jim to improve his skills. Of course Dwight catches Jim in the act but Jim suckers him into playing by telling him he has to practice to play a "client." Turns out Dwight's a big table tennis aficionado and he really gives Jim a workout. But when Jim gets his rematch with Darryl it becomes clear that the REAL rivalry is between Pam and Kelly--and so they take over playing the game. Unfortunately, they both really suck at it.

The deposition of Jan's lawsuit produced some painful and painfully funny moments. Steve Carell plays Michael Scott as some sort of Pagliacci--both clownishly foolish and at times, deeply poignant. When the lawyer asks him about his knowledge of the client (referring to Jan), Michael hysterically answers that he's more familiar with The Pelican Brief and The Firm--referring to two other Grisham works. And the question about Michael working under Jan gets his famous "That's what she said" punchline--although Michael bristles when the court reporter reads it back muttering, "Delivery's all wrong--she's butchering it."

Things get really tense when the e-mailed photo of Jan topless is submitted as evidence--countered by Jan's attorney submitting Michael's diary. The exchange between Jan and Michael as everyone is reading Michael's journal during a recess was priceless: "I stole your diary and gave it to my lawyer. You took a topless photo of me and e-mailed it to the entire company. Let's call it even." Michael agrees and they exchange terse "I love yous." But pushed to the wall, Michael is forced to admit that Jan's treatment by Dunder-Mifflin did not exhibit a "pattern of disrespect"--especially after Jan's scathing review of his job performance is read into the record.

I really liked the episode--it was especially nice to see a more restrained, classy Michael Scott instead of the usual buffoonery.

On Ugly Betty, Betty finds herself face-to-face with her naive, sweet self--before she started working at Mode and being drawn into the manipulation and deception. She decides her being fired by Daniel for betraying him was a good thing--even after Ignacio offers to tell Daniel why she lied to him. But she gets drawn back into the Meade intrigue when she finds escapee Claire and her partner in crime Yoga hiding in her closet. Before Claire and Yoga take off for Italy, she wants Betty to get a hold of Bradford's will and make sure Daniel and Alexis are taken care of.

Betty tries to go back to Mode to locate the will, but is thwarted by the burly security guard--also named Amanda. Knowing that this Amanda has a big crush on her boyfriend, Betty gets Henry to distract the security guard while she sneaks into the office. Funny moment: Henry acting like a "playa" telling Amanda that "I'm sweet like sugar, soft like suede, but unlike a piano I never get played." When Amanda asks him "Where ya been all my life?," he nervously answers "Math Camp." Henry and Betty were at their all-time cutest in this episode. Betty and Henry come face-to-face with Marc and Wilhelmina who have the very same plan to find Bradford's will. But when it isn't in the safe, both Marc and Betty guess that Bradford must have hid it in Faye's secret sex room. But Marc locks Betty and Henry in Bradford's office and takes off with Willie to find the will.

So how do Betty and Henry escape? Via the air duct. I groaned when I saw this--hopefully it was meant to be intentionally cheesy. John August had a great post about the overuse of this plot technique. Still, it was funny when Henry miscalculated the distance they had traveled (Math Camp, huh?) and ended up landing right in Amanda's arms! Although they've missed Wilhelmina and Marc, Betty and Henry do find the will which states that Wilhelmina gets HALF of Bradford's estate--upon pronouncement of their marriage.

This leads to a flurry of events--Claire getting a Latina makeover from Hilda and then deciding she needs to see her children before she leaves, Wilhelmina and a newly "ordained" Marc converging on Bradford to finish the nuptials, Betty racing to prevent Wilhelmina from marrying Bradford, Claire's last moments with her children, Bradford telling Betty that he realizes that Wilhelmina never loved him--and no-one ever would like Claire, Claire defiantly risking capture to have one last moment with her husband--and then being carted back to jail, followed by Bradford dying.

But Wilhelmina may just have yet another trick up her sleeve--does that involve marrying a corpses? And does Bradford's missing Cavalli suit have to do with all this?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's Good to be Me!

Actually it's even better to be my friend Stevie as Awards season is upon us and that means Stevie is usually out and about--and then dishing about it on her blog. But alas, Stevie is in NYC--doing soirées in SoHo and dining downtown, meeting and greeting publicists and publishers. She might even run into Tina Fey walking the picket line outside 30 Rock. Who knows what that girl is up to, but before long we'll all get a chance to live it vicariously when she regales us with the tales on LA Story!

But today I didn't have to live vicariously, because since she's out of town, Stevie lobbed this fabulous American Music Awards event my way, via Abbey Khan, Editor-in-Chief of Fushion Magazine. The Royal Suite, as it was called, was billed as a day of pampering, gifts, food and fun! OK--you don't need to twist my arm with that description so off I went to WeHo to Makeup Mandy, a sweet little salon and boutique on Melrose operated by makeup artist Amanda Jacobellis which offers a diverse menu of salon services--including facials, makeup application and specializing in eyelash extensions. I didn't get my eyelashes extended--but I watched in fascination as a woman with sparse, stubby lashes was transformed by a painstaking lash-by-lash application until she looked like a model for a mascara ad.

I did partake of Makeup Mandy's Pumpkin Enzyme peel which was performed by the lovely Leslie. The peel smelled so awesome, it made me hungry for pumpkin pie! Thanksgiving is only a week away, but I got a little slice of heaven early...Prior to my Pumpkin Peel, I was treated to an amazing mini massage by David of Bella Beverly Hills. His technique, which was a combination of acupressure and Thai styles, eased the kinks and knots out of my upper back. Bella features an extensive menu of spa services that include teeth whitening, detox footbaths and waxing in addition to a variety of massages. I think I might be back to book a full session with David in the near future!

After my mini massage and petite peel, I got makeup applied by Paula Dorf Cosmetics makeup artist Alia Owaynat. I am now red-carpet ready! Too bad my big plans for the evening is a date with Jason Lee and Steve Carell, i.e.; My Name is Earl and The Office. Oh well--I'll look awesome while I'm watching TV! Other sponsors/participants for The Royal Suite included Westside Medical Spa, SHIQ, Aroma Jems and Olive Skin Care / Microderma Mitt with incredible edibles provided by Su Concierge. The event was a benefit for Project Cuddle, whose mission it is to rescue newborn babies and place them in a safe environment. I had the opportunity to speak with Project Cuddle founder Debbe Magnusen, whose organization has saved 623 babies to-date from being abandoned in a dumpster and who was instrumental in the passage of California's Safe Surrender law.
So that was my day--pampered, fed, gifted and all for a great cause!