Wednesday, November 21, 2012

3 Things Scut Farkus Taught Us About Life

You've seen his face.
Those thin lips.
Those yellow eyes that strike horror in your eight-year-old inner self's memory.

Scut Farkus, the iconic brace-faced bully from the 80's classic film, A Christmas Story, not only made us afraid to take the alleyways home from school, but he did so by being totally awesome. I mean, have you ever known anyone to sport a coon cap, green sweater vest, and black jacket as effectively as Zack Ward did when he was only twelve and appearing in his first film? Furthermore, does it surprise you that the actor's name is Zack Ward, a perfectly bullyish name? Or that he turned out to be probably the busiest kid-turned-adult actor (not in porn) to come out of A Christmas Story besides Peter Billingsley, who played the lead role of Ralphie and went on to executive-produce the box-office smash, Iron Man? Zack has appeared in episodes of CSI: Miami and NY, Hawaii Five-O, The Mentalist, Breakout Kings, and also in films such as Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Freddy vs. Jason.

But perhaps Zack Ward's greatest legacy is Scut Farkus, and if I were him, I'd be totally okay with that. Here's 3 things I learned from his character:

1) If you're gonna have a toadie, it helps to get one who's bigger than your victims. Dude, really? Grover? The 4-ft-high, top-heavy flat-capper who went on to play a young Michael Anthony in Van Halen's Hot for Teacher video and the paperboy in Better Off Dead ("Two dollars, I want my two dollars!") My basil plant is taller than that guy.
2) Yellow eyes did not start with the Cullens. That's right, Twilighters. Scut Farkus had yellow eyes waaaay before Edward did. Everything 80's is just better, so get used to it. So, what are you gonna cry now? Huh? Cry for me, crybaby! Come on!!!

3) The meanest, baddest boys bleed the mostI'll never forget seeing Ralphie get so fed up with Scut that he finally unleashed his fury and pummeled Scut into the snow, drawing copious amounts of blood--hard-hitting, reality-inducing blood--onto the big screen, teaching me that the meanest boys are usually the softest ones, at least on the inside, and that you're better off watching out for the baby-faced, blue-eyed rage monsters who ask Santa for BB guns, instead of footballs (which, yes, Ralphie, is a perfectly good present).

Our family watches A Christmas Story every year right after the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Yes, it's replaced A Wonderful Life in our house as the post-parade Christmas season-kickoff film. So if you watch it too, make sure to pause Scut's face and take a good long look at it. Soak in the red-faced, squinty glare of the best screen bully who ever lived. And remember that bullies are people, too, good kids who nobody's watching who usually don't have anybody to give them hot Ovaltine on a cold Northern Indiana day and just need the shit kicked out of them to make them stop their bullying reign.

Lesson learned.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

5 Reasons Why You Should Wait to Decorate

No one loves Christmas time more than me.

Trust me on this.

Which is why I get a lot of smirks and pffs when I say this, but...don't decorate for Christmas before you've had your turkey, stuffing, and homemade orange-cranberry sauce infused with rosemary oil. Why? I'll give you 5 reasons:

1) It's rude to Thanksgiving. That's right, you heard me. What did Thanksgiving ever do to you? There it is, silently tucked between two loudmouths, Halloween and Christmas, quietly waiting to be acknowledged for its elegant splendor, call to gratitude, and oh, yeah...uniquely American origins, and you're just going to skip it?? How unpatriotic is that??

2) Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. This parade has been going on since 1924 and was only cancelled for three years during World War II. It boasts giant balloon favorites, such as Snoopy (if you haven't introduced your kids to Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the Peanuts Gang yet, do it now before they discover it for themselves and hate you for only feeding them SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer), Spider-Man, Hello Kitty, Papa Smurf, and oh, yeah, SpongeBob. It also features dozens of floats, Broadway performances, and my favorite as a former dance/color guard captain--award-winning marching bands from across the U.S. (even though one girl always drops her rifle or wraps her flag right in front of the camera...sigh). It's the best thing about Thanksgiving morning, and I make my kids watch it every year. Yes, MAKE THEM, because if you don't, they will just go back to their xBox's and never appreciate tradition.

3) Football. I mean, hello. Even if you don't like football, you're going to try and tell me that you don't love sitting in your backyard, watching men be men, fighting over a leather ball all sweaty amidst golden and pumpkin colored leaves raining to the ground on a blustery day? Forget being gay or straight...are you even human?

4) Vegetables. As a new vegan, I can tell you that for years, I did not know how to eat vegetables, but thanks to Thanksgiving, I at least got some in my body in years past. Sure, they get mashed up, sugar added, butter added, cream added, and whatever, but still, they're delicious! When else can you eat pecan-crusted sweet potato casserole, bacon and mushroom green beans, and corn f&$kin muffins, bitches??? Yeah, yeah, you can eat them any time of year, but they don't taste as awesome as they do on Thanksgiving.

5) Because waiting delays gratification. Sure, you CAN put up Christmas decorations right after Halloween, but why?? Seriously, WHY???? So that by the time the big day finally arrives, 55 days later, the branches of your dead Christmas tree are scraping the floor, you hate Bing Crosby, cinnamon, peppermint mochas, and every beautiful thing about the holiday that's supposed to be joyful? Is that what you want, to hate Christmas by the time it arrives? But most of all, because we're so used to getting everything we want right NOW. You want a song? Boom, download it to your iPhone, 1 min. You want a movie? Bam, stream it on your Netflix, 30 sec. You want coffee? Look, there's a Starbucks Drive-Thru, and look, you can even pay with your Starbucks app right off your phone, you don't even have to pull out actual money from your wallet, or fish around in your purse for your wallet in the first place. You can get everything you want bang, boom, pow now! But November and Thanksgiving are there for a reason, people.

To SLOW YOU DOWN so you can ENJOY each holiday for what makes it special.

Slow down and Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Review of Wreck-It Ralph

I don't know about you, but I don't have a ton of money. Lately, I've left movie theaters feeling very defeated at having spent $66 for a family of 5 watching a "3D" kids' film (there's nothing 3D about it, meaning nothing pops out at you. It just has a little more depth than 2D, and you get used to it after about 5 minutes). Add the $20 for a bowl of popcorn and a drink, and know. So if I'm going to lay down that kind of money for a 2-hour experience, it BETTER be good! Wreck-It Ralph did it for me. Here's why...

First of all, on a Facebook review recently about Hotel Transylvania, I said that I thought a children's movie with an adult main character was a mistake, because kids can't relate to adults. But after seeing Wreck-It Ralph, another kids' movie with an adult main character, what I now realize I MEANT to say was that adult main characters are okay, as long as they're RELATABLE. In Hotel Transylvania, Dracula is afraid of letting his only daughter out into the world. Daddy issues. How many kids can relate to this as a parent? ....... *crickets* No wonder my kids hardly remember what it was about. They just remember the funny dance scenes.

Now, enter Wreck-It Ralph. Voiced by the AMAZING and versatile John C. Reilly, Ralph is an old-school arcade game villain who just wants to be the hero for once. He's tired of living out in the junk pile by himself, tired of seeing Fix-It Felix win all the medals and friends, tired of being unappreciated and overlooked. Can a kid relate to this? Um....YEAH! Now we're talking! Ralph is bumbling, endearing, and he means well, but well, he does have that little problem where he smashes, breaks, and ruins everything. After all, that's how he was programmed, and as they tell him in group therapy, that's okay...he's a bad guy, and that's what bad guys do! But still, Ralph is not happy and wants more. He wants to earn a medal, just like Fix-It Felix does, so that he too, can party in the penthouse. Who does not feel this way ever??!

I'm not going to summarize the movie's plot from here on in, but I will say that every detail in this movie has a purpose, something that, as a writer, I look for in stories, whether they be books or movies. So if you watch it, pay attention! Add to this a few very well-rounded, solid characters, such as Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer), the goody-goody hero of Ralph's game, Jane Lynch's no-nonsense Sergeant Calhoun from a warfare game, Hero's Duty (the butt--pun intended--of a few jokes throughout), a sweet girl in Sugar Rush, named Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), who's a discarded, ignored glitch in the game, with a lot in common with Ralph. Together, they share a common purpose, but there's only room for one winner, and it's both fun and heart-wrenching to see which of them will get what they want in this high-action adventure.

Wreck-It Ralph has restored some of my faith in big film production companies for investing in a NEW idea with NEW characters. It's not a remake, reboot, reimagining, retelling, re-nothing. Seriously, how many different ways do we need to see Spider-Man's story told?? It's ORIGINAL. It doesn't rely solely on eye candy, though there is a LOT of eye candy!!! But it doesn't DEPEND on it. Between the retro looks of the old arcade games and the incredible details of the new ones, both hardcore, gritty games and colorful glittery ones, your eyeballs will explode! But even if you are suspicious of high imagery, remove them and you are still left with a story, the story of someone desperately wanting something and all the struggles and pitfalls of watching him try to get it. This, at the expense of changing the way everybody in his world lives and survives. There's a lot at stake (I cried 3x) and a lot of characterization, and that to me, is how you do it.

Fun, imaginative, original, heart-wrenching, even though a tad on the long side, my kids, husband, and I laughed like silly butts. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this:   A

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Nightmare of a Party!


Before you go thinking this post is about a party that went wrong, let me assure you that you're not even close! That said, I'm not going to deny the extent of my nightmarish planning, nor that there were some nightmares involved in the days leading up to it, such as a broken AC unit and faulty plumbing right before the big day. But that was all taken care of, just in time. Holy shish-ka-boobies.

Instead, I just want to say: if you're ever thinking of having a NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS PARTY, you may want to think twice before you do. If you have not an ounce of creativity nor time on your hands, don't think you're just going to stroll into Party City, buy a bunch of NBC party supplies, and VOILA! don't exist. But if you like making stuff, then with a little bit of planning, a few dollars, and a LOT of trips to WalMart and Dollar Tree, you can do it.

First off, for those of you who don't know, I bake for a half-living. So I was able to make a bunch of Jack Skellington cupcakes using the cupcake tree and items I already had. Add spider cupcake liners, some plastic spiders, and fondant cutouts with Jack faces painted on, there you go. No fuss cupcakes! Here they are...

Next, did I mention I bake for a living? But even if you don't, you can totally make these candy apples on your own, because uh...they require no baking. Just melt caramels (it helps to have 7-year-old twins who can unwrap them while they watch SpongeBob), dip apple, let harden, melt white chocolate, dip apple, let harden, then pipe Jack faces onto apple, let harden. Place in a clear baggie, print clever labels asking guests to take home a poisoned apple as our thanks (haha, I crack myself up), and poof...there you have it. See?  

Then I took on a temporary job in set design, creating the big yellow moon from the movie (shimmery yellow fabric hot-glued to a shiny yellow hula hoop), some spooky trees entangled with orange and purple lights and spider webs, and even making Zero, Jack Skellington's ghostly puppy dog, out of cheesecloth, some paper, and a blinking pumpkin necklace for a nose. 

So here I was, thinking this would totally blow everyone away, when probably the EASIEST thing I made is what had everyone smiling--THE CANDY BAR! Now, I've been seeing candy bars at weddings and parties for a bit now, but this was my first. Just gather a bunch of empty vases and martini glasses that never get used, because let's face it--you have 3 kids under 11 so you never throw adult parties--and fill them with candies that look eerily similar to spooky things, like Alien Bones (green Twizzler), Poop Cubes (caramels), Heartworms (gummy worms), and my favorite...Starburst (what else would they be called?)! Here's how it came out:

Add to all this: the Nightmare Before Christmas Soundtrack on a big, booming speaker, two borrowed Jack and Sally costumes, and a bunch of kids having fun playing Mummy Wrap, Bobbing for Apples, and Freeze Dance, and we had A BLAST! I got asked a few times if I would do this again next year, and I have to say, with as much writing time I probably lost preparing for this party--er, NO. But that doesn't mean YOU can't!!! Just make sure to invite me, okay? And I'll be there with my Poop Cubes.

Happy Halloween, everybody!

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