Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas on TV: ABC Family style

I know, I know. Christmas is over. And it's been weeks since I posted a made-for-TV holiday movie review. But there was a little thing called Finals Week, followed by a littler thing called Post-Finals Week which led up to actual Christmas. But you'll be happy to know, I didn't forget you, faithful readers. I'm back.

Today's post (tonight's? it's almost three in the morning as I'm writing this) spotlights the best and worst of the movies made by ABC Family. (Channel tagline: A New Kind of Family. Does anyone know what they mean by that? I sure don't.)

This year's fare was actually quite satisfactory because they followed the tried-and-true formula of picking attractive, well-known, but still B-listed actors to portray virtually flawless male leads opposite women that you hate not just because you want to be them but because they're actually annoying.

Case-in-point: Desperately Seeking Santa stars That One Guy from That One Show with Amanda Bynes and Jennie Garth, commonly referred to as What I Like about You. And if you're like me, what you like about that show is That One Guy, legally referred to as Nick Zano. (Vince, if you're still lost. And if even that doesn't help, just see the picture below.)

The premise of the movie is gag-able, so I won't apologize for it. A shopping mall in a low-income area of Boston replaces the traditional Santa by holding a talent search for "Sexy Santa." Of course, Nick Zano enters to earn the attached $10,000, wins, and then has to have desperate housewives sit on his lap all December long while wearing a Santa suit and no shirt. Don't ask who approved this.

In Desperately Seeking Santa, Nick plays a character with these flawless qualities: he's trying to save his family's Italian restaurant (think Return to Me knockoff), he's saving for med school and is a licensed EMT, he's good with kids, he can dance (well, he tries), he's nice and sweet, and, oh yeah, he looks like Nick Zano. His counterpart is one of those corporate ladder-climbing type ladies too blind to see that her boyfriend is not worth her time and doesn't like her for who she is. You won't like her, but you aren't watching because of her.

Best scene: Let's just say I'm adding "private carousel ride" to my list of romantic kiss locales.
If you liked it: Check out Nick Zano in Everything You Want, another made-for-TV holiday movie with a major B-list cast: Eric Matthews from Boy Meets World, Darcy from the pink Pride and Prejudice, K.C. Clyde of The Best Two Years and A Golden Christmas 2. But be warned: this movie is about a girl who literally dates her imaginary boyfriend.

Of course, in the world of B-listed actors with major fan bases, you can't get much bigger than Mark-Paul Gosselaar, aka Zack Morris of Saved by the Bell. And if you didn't know that already, shame on you. He's the male star of ABC Family's second attempt at made-for-TV magic this season, The 12 Dates of Christmas.

The premise of this one is basically just a Groundhog Day reboot with one down-on-her-luck career girl reliving Christmas Eve twelve times in a row, including her blind date with Mark-Paul Gosselaar. The only thing I couldn't figure out was why she was complaining about repeatedly going out with Zack Morris. Next time I have the chance to go on the same date with him twelve times in order to get it perfect . . . Sign. Me. Up.

In fact, Mark (or is it Mark-Paul? That sounds like a brand of sunglasses) is the best part of this one, since he's the perfect first date and you automatically feel for him since they've written him as a widower. (Wise move. Who would believe that he's still single? And if he were divorced, I'd be so mad that he walked out on Kelly Kapowski. So. Mad.) And he's a landscape architect. And a hockey player/hockey coach to underprivileged kids. So what if it's not realistic. It's made-for-TV.

Amy Smart is actually a much more tolerable female lead than the actress in Desperately Seeking Santa. The major failings of 12 Dates are that it fails to make the conventions of how she gets back into Christmas Eve less predictable and formulaic like Groundhog Day. I was so sick by the end of the movie of her falling asleep watching the home shopping network and waking up on the floor of a department store.

Best scene: No amazing ones here, but it did make me wish I'd been able to go on that ice skating date this summer.
If you liked it: Check out some Saved by the Bell DVDs from your local library. Or find the reruns on TBS.

These two are only this year's offerings. Along with Hallmark Channel and Lifetime, they're the biggest contributors to this genre, so they have plenty from years past. Of those, I've ranked them and given you a quick blurb, but if you're anything like me. You won't be able to just take someone else's word for it, even on the Stay-Aways. You'll want to suffer through every painful minute until you just can't take it anymore.


Holiday in Handcuffs: I actually don't think this movie is all that great as a made-for-TV Christmas movie, but I just love the concept of Sabrina the Teenage Witch kidnapping A.C. Slater for the holidays. And forget the creepy-weird Stolkholm Syndrome Mario Lopez experiences. Just watch it because you know you want to. I won't tell.


Christmas in Boston: Long-time pen pals discover that they'll finally be in the same city and decide to meet--except they each sent pictures of their best friend. You can surely see what's coming, but this is a great opportunity to see Gia from Full House (don't even attempt to watch her in The Gift of the Magi, even though it has the guy from Nickelodeon's Snow Day) and that blonde super spy chick from The Famous Jett Jackson and assure yourself that they're not entirely starving actors just yet.

Snow and Snow 2: Brain Freeze: Once again a version of Santa Claus leaves the North Pole and finds true love, this time chasing a stray reindeer to a zoo and falling for a zookeeper who, the following year, must save Christmas when Santa gets amnesia. As with most franchises, the original is better than the sequel, but Tom Cavanaugh fans should really just watch Hallmark Channel's Trading Christmas to get their Ed fix.

Santa Baby and Santa Baby 2: No, you're not experiencing dejavu. And you don't have an amnesia-like brain freeze. ABC Family did, in fact, make two Christmas movie series that are exactly the same except one stars a man and one stars a woman. The Santa Baby movies are basically Santa's daughter trying to decide if she wants to join the family business and stick to her roots. Even Jenny McCarthy can't make this right, and once again, avoid the sequel since her boyfriend changes from That Cute Guy who was on Crossing Jordan to Some Guy You've Never Seen Before. And as a note to all made-for-TV Christmas writers, if the conniving elves didn't work in The Santa Clause 2 and 3, why would they work on television?

Christmas Cupid: Christina Milian gets the Ghosts of Girlfriends Past treatment on the small screen so she can end up with Chad Michael Murray. At least, I think she ends up with him. I never made it to the end. Just watch the Tristan episodes of Gilmore Girls if you need a CMM fix. This one is just a no.

Snowglobe: Christina Milian gets trapped inside a snowglobe. Double no.

And I love how this picture captures the substance of two equally bad made-for-TV Christmas movies with one image. Christmas Cupid in a Snowglobe.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gifts and Giving, Mistletoe Style

I don't think I've kept it exactly a secret on here that I'm still anticipating my first kiss. And lately I've been contemplating that first kiss as if it were a tangible item, something that can be wrapped up in a box and handed over to me. Like someone owns it and just refuses to hand it over.

Maybe it all stems from one too many listens to the Justin Bieber Christmas album and its inordinate number of references to mistletoe and all related activities, but I don't think I can blame it all on the Biebs.

I'm past thinking there's something wrong with me, imagining that I'm just fundamentally unattractive to men, even men who are supposedly my type. You know, college students of similar moral fiber and religious affiliation, experiencing the same phase of life that I am and harboring similar desires for the next.

But they haven't noticed me, and I'm leaving in a few months.

I don't didn't want to be one of those girls who believes that Mormon love can only be found in P-town or Iceburg. But I'm staring in the face of evidence that says I am. Sleepless nights. Conflicting desires.

Like any normal college student anticipating graduation, I'm starting to look for employment in the near future. My chosen career path means big city adventure, a prospect which excites me and actually seems fairly probable from my preliminary searching. I'm going to be in a place that many Mormon women don't get to be in. I'm getting a degree, and I'm going to use it. And just to be clear, I like that.

How amazing is it that in six months I could be interning as an editor for Smithsonian Magazine, in a city and at an institution I've wanted to work for since I saw a TV special about this museum of museums when I was six years old? Or copyediting and proofreading DC Comics in the metropolis of New York City? Or writing and editing a variety of content for an online women's magazine based in the city by the bay, a song that a favorite band of mine promises could "save me"?

Why should I not be excited for that?

I'll tell you why. Because I can't shake the feeling that taking a job like that in a city with a limited Mormon dating pool is a death knell for all possibility of me ever getting that kiss. Even just one.

So for all nine of you out there reading this, all I want for Christmas from you is for you to tell me I'm crazy and remind me that my prospects for romance are only going to improve once I leave my small-fish-in-a-big-pond status behind for a big-fish-in-a-small-pond one. After all, isn't it a basic rule of most romcoms that successful, big-city career girls find true love because of that life situation, not in spite of it? I should know. I've watched plenty of them. I happen to be the variety of girl who needs validation and reassurance from her friends every once in a while. And I'm not apologizing for it either.

Also, I recognize the inherent flaws in the theory that some guy is holding my first kiss hostage. My theory of kisses believes that both parties own the kiss, so it's just as much mine as it is the lucky guy who'll someday (sooner than later) receive it. From me.

Actually, it also makes me realize that I've probably been metaphorically standing under the mistletoe for years, just hoping someone would pass by. And that's wrong, too. I have more control over this situation than that. So, unlike Justin Bieber, I'm done "waiting under the mistletoe."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas on TV: "A Golden Christmas 2: The Second Tail"

Before I get into the meat of this post, I need to express how much I dislike putting the tale/tail pun in the title of a movie. Okay, moving on.

I was intensely excited to see that A Golden Christmas has a sequel, so last night I made my roommate sit down and watch it with me. I had high expectations for The Second Tail to be as awesomely bad as the first one. After watching the sequel, I'm here to tell you that bad story lines should only be taken so far, and in the case of made-for-TV Christmas movies, that "so far" equals approximately one movie.

I've complained before about Christmas movies that are obviously filmed in the middle of the summer, and this one (set in retiree-heaven Florida) falls into that category. All the extras in the background are wearing bikini tops and short shorts (women) or cargo shorts and no shirt (men). Obviously it wasn't that cold.

But beyond just masquerading as a cold-weather Christmas movie, this movie shows even more definitively than its predecessor that these films probably originated as a "matchmaking dog" franchise. They had to add the Christmas element before anyone would agree to produce it.

As matchmaking dog Christmas movies go, this one is deeply flawed. For one, it is intensely SSSLLLLLOOOOOOOOOWWW. The main couple spends more time expressing their feelings about each other to others than actually expressing them to each other. And while you could argue that such is the case in most romcoms, this one takes the cake. And then has a dog run into it for comic effect.

Even so, the movie also leaves plenty of things unexplained. Ten minutes into the movie, a random 10-year-old blonde girl wanders into the movie, and it takes them fifteen more minutes to explain how she even knows these people. Also, I asked myself several times during the movie why her love story (with a Justin Bieber/Zac Efron wannabe) was better than the film's actual love story.

Actually, this film brings up more questions than it answers. Questions like

1. Why would a guy roll up his jeans like "man-pris" while popping the question?
2. Why is the materialistic crazy girlfriend suddenly all nice and huggy at the end?
3. Why would anyone propose with a ring from a vending machine?
4. Why do these people think the story behind why someone would propose with a vending machine ring is touching? (Because it's not. And the background music doesn't help sell it. At. All.)
5. Why do these people share their life stories with old people they met less than five minutes ago?
6. Why do these old people act like therapists if they trained as lawyers?
7. Why do the young people treat the old people like therapists?

And, the most important question of all: Why do people think that by adding more puppies to a movie franchise you will improve upon it? Because experience has shown (Air Bud 2-17, 102 Dalmatians, Beethoven's 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th) that more dogs just make bad movies worse.

If you sat through the original, this movie is worth a watch. But if you didn't, do yourself a favor and quit after you hear the reggae/calypso version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"about ten minutes in. Made-for-TV Christmas is better than this. At least, it can be when it wants to.

Star power: Chad Michael Murray's original girlfriend from A Cinderella Story falls in love with the main missionary from The Best Two Years despite his best intentions to get engaged to Lydia from the pink/Mormon Pride and Prejudice--a made-for-TV movie full of "B" movie stars

Use of made-for-TV Christmas conventions: random characters resembling Santa Claus, Christmas tree lights turning on for dramatic effect at key moments, rekindled love amid drastic circumstances, child characters with no actual purpose

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas on TV: The Worst of the Worst (With Honors)

By now it should be apparent that I don't mind kitschy movies. Particularly in the made-for-TV Christmas category.

But I'm here to tell you that even I draw the line somewhere. Some movies are just too bad to watch. And unfortunately, most of these are the ones available on Hulu. I have started at least three movies on Hulu in the last few days that I just cannot get into. And I tried.

For instance, I just clicked on The Santa Trap, somewhat skeptically, because this one is less in the romance-for-the-holidays and more in the let's-prove-Santa's-real sub genre. It's also one of those Christmas movies clearly filmed in the middle of the summer. This one's not even trying to hide it; instead, it opens with a voiceover of "this is going to be the hottest Christmas Eve ever, hardy-har-har." You didn't fool me, people.

I thought this could had potential when I discovered the star power, but it quickly turned south. Shelley Long as the mom is at her worst; it's one of those Shelley Long roles that makes you forget that she was ever considered good on Cheers. Corbin Bernsen plays the villain town sheriff locking up all the potential Santas. You know this type of villain: all foolproof plan followed by dunderheaded failure. Basically every Power Rangers villain ever was of this type. Even the cameo appearance of that girl from Motocrossed (a movie I happen to love) couldn't make this watchable.

The lynchpin? When I scanned my mouse ahead in the time scroll along the bottom and realized that the climax would feature a scene with pseudo-spy elves. Um, no. It may have worked in The Santa Clause but only because of a perfect premise and a great soundtrack to match.

Another movie I don't recommend sampling is A Christmas Romance, which again features some fairly big names in the cast but still falls very short of producing a satisfying made-for-TV Christmas experience. Even Olivia Newton-John and that one guy from everything (Gregory Harrison, see below) can't save this one.

The comments on the bottom of the Hulu page are spot on. One reviewer calls it "a boring, hollow attempt at recreating A Holiday for Love," and I couldn't agree more. Olivia plays the single mother (this time with two daughters) down on her luck and out of her money, and Gregory plays the heartless banker coming to evict them on Christmas Eve. Naturally, a snowstorm causes him to get trapped on her farm where they inevitably fall in love. Ultimately, Newton-John and Harrison just lack the chemistry and warmth of Melissa Gilbert and Tim Matheson.

Another Hulu commenter writes, "I got so sick and tired of the kids yelling 'Emily Rose' that I switched to something less painful." Too right. One of Olivia's daughters gets lost in the snowstorm, and I'm fairly certain there were five solid minutes of "Emily Rose! Emily Rose! Emily Rose!" with wind intermingled. Do yourself a favor and avoid this one.

Trust me, based on what this blog says, I'll have plenty more to say on this subject. By the end of the season, I hope to crown the worst made-for-TV Christmas movie of all time.

Christmas on TV: "A Holiday for Love"

As made-for-TV Christmas movies go, this one is fairly quintessential. Let's just say if you were going to write the stereotypical made-for-TV Christmas movie, you would probably arrive at this one. If you were lucky. Because it's actually pretty good.

Here's the formula.

Take one widowed single mother in a small town in the Midwest.

Give her daughter an unimaginative yet holiday appropriate name, such as Noelle.

Add one single, secretly troubled corporate executive on a business trip to said small town.

Remember that widowed single mother has been engaged to the town sheriff for who knows how long, but will not commit to a date.

Have the executive get trapped in a snowstorm that causes him to spend his first night at the widow's home.

Add appropriate amounts of romantic banter, gently falling snow, glowing firelight, and almost kisses.

As the romantic tension between widow and executive builds, make sure he doesn't revealed his top-secret business plan to downsize the main tractor factory in town so there will be additional conflict.

Mix for thirty to forty-five minutes, until well jumbled.

Reveal said top-secret plan immediately after widow realizes she is in love with executive.

Have executive move return to the big-bad big city and express his last-minute, Christmas-spirit change-of-heart to the evil board of corporate executives.

Have executive return to small town on Christmas Eve, just in time to reveal his new plan to save the factory, find his long-lost father, and reveal his love to the widow.

Make the widow just stubborn enough to not accept his first admission of love.

End with a kiss in the lightly falling snow.

As Christmas on TV goes, it doesn't get much more formulaic than that. But with that said, I think the acting level in this movie and the excellent pacing counteract its utter predictability. After all, people watch these movies because they want to watch something predictable. At least, I know I do.

So if you're looking for a snuggly holiday movie, look no further than A Holiday for Love.

Star power: Melissa Gilbert from Little House on the Prairie, Tim Matheson (I definitely had a crush on him when he played the oldest brother in the original Yours, Mine, and Ours), Michelle Trachtenberg from Harriet the Spy, and even country "star" Travis Tritt
Use of made-for-TV Christmas conventions: villainizing corporate America with a small town, reuniting long-lost family members

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Coat Makes the Man

With colder weather coming on soon, I ended up wearing one of winter coats all day today even though in hindsight it wasn't necessary. Still, I like wearing my coats because for me it's like spending time with a celebrity crush. It's the same idea as wearing your boyfriend's letterman jacket in high school, except I'm not in high school and none of these guys are or ever have been my boyfriend.

But seriously. Most of my coats were purchased in response to movies or television personas.

For instance...

I bought a red puffy winter coat (the one I wore today) after Matt Damon wore a similar one during the first few minutes of The Bourne Identity. (At the time, he was stalking me in my dreams, so we were practically married.)

I bought a pseudo-vintage military-style jacket after Matt's best friend Ben Affleck appeared in Pearl Harbor.

I bought a thin khaki jacket during the height of my addiction to Tom Welling in Smallville.

As for future additions to my closet of men's coats, I've always wanted a coat made exclusively for an Olympic athlete (not that the athlete would be me, but my boyfriend/husband could be). Like this one...

The romance, the beauty, the world of men's outerwear.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas on TV: "A Golden Christmas"

This will be the first post in my holiday season blogging trend of the best and worst made-for-TV Christmas movies. I happen to be addicted to these things because (a) they are so predictable, (b) I know they will end happily, and (c) they usually have a VERY CHEESY romance involved. Love it. There's more to come about this topic in general, but I'd like to review one now that I just watched, because it's too good to pass up.

A Golden Christmas is a holiday romance about two adults who knew each other as kids and are brought back together by the dog they played with as children. The main female character is a big-time Grinch almost the entire movie, scheming and plotting and sabotaging ways to keep her male counterpart from buying her parents home that she suddenly wants. Of course, she doesn't realize that he wants it for the same reason she does: it's right next to the woods where they carved their eternal love into a tree as nine-year-olds and buried a time capsule in a tin lunchbox. Seriously, my roommate and I both kept saying that if we didn't know this woman was going to turn out good, we would have stopped watching. We kind of hated her.

But there was one element of the plot that cracked me up. Instead of telling each their real names as children, they pretended to be Han Solo and Princess Leia--and those are the names they carved into the tree! The best line of the movie was when the sister declared them to be "Star Wars–crossed lovers."

Of course, there were the obligatory children from previous marriages (the woman was widowed, the man was divorced) and sentimental speeches from well-intentioned family members (mom and sister on her side, daughter on his side), but I found this movie to be not as predictable as most made-for-TV Christmas fare. At least, I couldn't see exactly how they were going to get together, mostly because I couldn't see why he would want to be with her period.

If you're a die-hard like me, this is a must-see, but otherwise I recommend it only for those who (a) love dogs, (b) love movies with characters you love to hate, or (c) love contrived flashback sequences.

Star power: The supporting cast provides most of it here, with the mom from The Wonder Years, that redheaded chick from Sabrina: The Teenage Witch, and the real-life brother of Griffin from Party of Five.
Use of made-for-TV Christmas conventions: romance doomed for success, family conflict surfacing based on death of a loved one

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Soundtrack of My Life: My Private Nation

This album is still comfortably in my top ten. The lyrics are so catchy they sometimes come back to my mind like lines of Elizabethan poetry should. This album will be forever linked in my mind with the year I was madly in love with Tom Welling's portrayal of Clark Kent, perhaps because the first single from the album, "Calling All Angels," was featured on Smallville, perhaps because one of the best songs is called "Save the Day." But after the Welling has faded, the lyrics have remained.

Half the fun with Train lyrics is the incorporation of pop culture references and sophisticated syncopation or rhyme. For instance:

From "All American Girl": My dad used to tell me I was lazy / I got dance moves like Patrick Swayze / I'm the leftover turkey for the world's mayonnaise / Yeah, the star next to the moon

From "Save the Day": I get the crowd goin' when I sing the hokey pokey / I shake it to the left and then I shake it to the right / What's not to love, man I'm on tonight

But in between all the lyrical fun, Train employs unique turn-of-phrase to be glad for people in our lives.

Also from "Save the Day": I know you don't see me like a movie star / But you're my favorite thing by far / That's gotta count for something

From "Counting Airplanes": I don't spend my time with anyone who doesn't think I'm wonderful

From "Your Every Color": You wear the day around you / Like it's yours to stay around you / Maybe I could stay around you, too / If that's all right with you

And later: You look like my first day of summer / When the spring is on the run

As a writer, there's one Train lyric that every time I hear it seems like it contains an entire story in just twelve words. Brevity is the soul of good writing.

From "Lincoln Avenue": This feels like the place between what is and might have been

Finally, having saved the best for last, I'll admit that I had a hard time choosing just one lyric from the following song. To me, this song could be about an everyday relationship that's still going on, a long-lost love that never got started properly, or a requiem for a departed friend. The images and scenes it present are beyond words--at least beyond mine. They speak for themselves.

From "When I Look to the Sky": And every word I didn't say, caught up in some busy day / And every dance on the kitchen floor we didn't have before / And every sunset that we'll miss, I'll wrap them all up in a kiss / And pick you up with all of this when I sail away

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Break A Leg

I'm graduating from college in less than six months. It's kind of a big deal. Despite this short timeline, I recently added a second minor to my undergraduate education, Theatre Arts Studies. Basically, this means I go to a lot of plays. But even I'll admit that seeing my university's production of White Christmas two nights in a row is a bit excessive. But it sure makes for a great story.

Because of my minor, I'm taking several theatre classes right now, one of which is taught by the director of this production and another of which gives students insight into the production concept so we can evaluate if the performance lives up to designer and director desires.

For this show, the director wanted the audience to go on a nostalgic journey back into the world of the time period and the original film. Which means dozens of gorgeous vintage costumes and a set reminiscent of an old Hollywood soundstage, complete with moving staircases and pianos to be danced on.

The first night met all of my expectations and even exceeded many. I was ecstatic to go again the following night. But apparently I had White Christmas on the brain. On the night between the two performances, I had a dream about the show. Almost a nightmare, really.

I dreamed that during the second night of the show, one of the lead male characters--the Danny Kaye role--fell off the piano while doing his tap dancing routine and broke his leg. The show had to be cancelled after everyone's hard work because, as I vividly dreamed, a guy cannot tap dance or lift his dance partner or do toe touches with a severely broken leg. Believe me. In my dream, he tried.

The memory of this dream lingered with me into the next morning, feeling like an omen over the day. On a smaller scale, it was like imagining your dog dying. Even though you rationally know it's not real, you still feel the hurt of it.

I'm the kind of girl who dreams and tells, and as I recounted this night vision to a coworker the next morning the brilliance of the dream came into view and thankfully calmed my nerves (mostly) about the coming performances.

As I told her about this actor breaking his leg, I recognized that I had dreamed a pun. You know, that old superstition that you shouldn't say "good luck" in theatre: instead you say, "Break a leg." That's what happened in my dream. Freud would say that subconsciously I felt that the performance was so good that the performers had figuratively broken their legs.

All day I couldn't stop telling people about my clever dream. Even during my REM cycle I'm witty.

Rest assured, the actor did not break his leg (at least not literally) during my second time at the show either, although my friend can tell you I did screech a few times when I thought he was going to trip on the stairs or fall off the piano.

Also, I'll have you know I actually passed him walking home from class the day after the dream. I assume he was on his way to get ready for the show. He looked at me; I looked at him. And as we passed, I thought, "Break a leg."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Biblical Dating Tips: "Feed My Camels"

Today, I found this article putting forth one woman's theory about why some women have difficulty getting dates. It prompted quite a Facebook conversation between me, my mom, and several good friends. We really didn't agree with it. Really.

Immediately after that conversation, I went to lunch with a different friend, and we too were discussing the article and the short-sighted thought process behind it. While in line, we ran into a friend of hers.

And when I say friend I mean Polynesian college football player friend of hers.

So we sat at his lunch table. And without us even starting it, the conversation turned to dating. This is where it gets good.

Because Polynesian football player friend told us a story about a recent church meeting where his stake president compared seeking out your spouse to the story of Isaac's servant finding Rebekah to be Isaac's wife.

If you're not familiar with this biblical gem, see Genesis 24. The basic gist of the story is that Isaac's dad, Abraham, insists that Isaac marry within the family religion, but none of the local girls live the standards. So they send a servant out with a caravan of camels to find a more fruitful dating pool . When the servant arrives at a well, he makes a proposition to God that would go something like this in today's vernacular.

"Hey, I've got an idea. How about I stand here by this well of water with my thirsty camels, and the first girl who offers to water them for me will be the woman destined to marry Isaac. Kapeesh?"

And that's exactly what happens. Rebekah offers to water the camels and in exchange gets to marry Isaac and be the mother of many nations. (Looking at the picture, she didn't need to have God set her up with Isaac, though. Look at the feminine tilt of her head. Irresistible to men who need to feel needed.)

But back to our football player friend. He said that, according to his church leader, guys will know a girl is the one when she "feeds his camels." (Yes, he said "feed," not water. I didn't correct him. I was trying to create an atmosphere of trust. He also thought it was the story of Ruth and Boaz. I didn't correct him there, either. According to the article, men like to feel like women trust them. Even when they are wrong.)

I then straight-up asked this football player I met 15 minutes before, "So, how does a girl feed a guy's camels?" No answer. There weren't crickets in the background or anything, but he skirted around the issue with attempts like, "Oh, I don't know" or "It's different for everyone" or some such nonsense. I offered up possibilities: "Is she willing to do your homework for you? Is she cooking for you all the time? Does she give you backrubs?" Honestly, I just wanted to know what feeds a guy's camels. At the moment, he seemed like a more reliable source than the dating coach.

Finally, he escaped answering the question by turning it around on me. "Well, what about you? What feeds your camels?"

"A guy asking me on a date."

"But what about after that?"

"Him liking me and asking me on another date. And then liking me more and asking me out again."

I'm not trying to be facetious; I mean it. That's what feeds my camels (who haven't been fed or watered in several months, thank you). At this point and in this dating market, that's what I like. A guy who's willing to take the initiative and not make me feed his camels before he'll make the sacrifice of asking for my number or opening a door for me.

In case your wondering, no, this Polynesian football player friend did not decide to feed my camel and ask me out. But he did prompt what will prove to be a whole new goldmine of blogging topics. Come back soon for dating tips from Jacob and Leah, a couple who know that good things come to those who wait.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Reaching a "Fever Pitch"

Confession: I have an unhealthy crush on Jimmy Fallon. Unhealthy because (1) I'm too old to have a crush on a celebrity who is (2) married and (3) a former SNL cast member. They aren't exactly known for their moral fiber.

It all started when I watched a super-old (from 2005) romcom this weekend, Fever Pitch, starring Fallon and Drew Barrymore. I usually identify with Drew Barrymore in romcoms because she has a more normal body type and quirky hair and isn't perfect. But I was not
prepared to like Jimmy Fallon.

Of course, in the movie, neither was Drew Barrymore's character. She had a flourishing career as a mathematical analyst in Boston and he was just a nervous high school geometry teacher. So beneath her, right? WRONG! And he has an unhealthy obsession with the Boston Red Sox. So ditch-able, right? WRONG! And her friends keep shooing her away from him. So they should be trusted, right? SUPER WRONG!

In Fever Pitch, Jimmy Fallon has all the charm of Cary Grant showering in a suit in Charade, but in a movie that perfectly integrates the modern shattering of the dreaded Curse of the Bambino. Let me tell you why:

1. The nerves he exhibits when asking for the first date. This is not a guy who is so self-assured he thinks women worship him, nor is he a guy who lacks so much self-esteem you wonder if he can even spell his own name without checking for approval.

2. The way he takes care of her when she gets sick on their first date. We're talking, she throws up everywhere so he cleans her bathroom and gets her Gatorade and rents movies to watch when you're sick. Talk about being a nice guy.

3. The scene where he gets down on one knee and asks her to go to opening day with him. I really have no words for this. Just know that I would totally fall for this.

I could go on, but basically I think this movie does a perfect job of playing with the romcom formula while still ultimately conforming to it. Fallon and Barrymore play the average couple who are surprised to find each other and surprised to find love with one another, in a way that I haven't seen in a romcom in a long time. Plus, this movie also ends with a Barrymore baseball field kiss. So there may be hope for me yet.

So, back to my crush on Jimmy Fallon. I recently joined Twitter for one reason: Jimmy Fallon's late night talk show has a weekly segment called "Late Night Hashtags." Every week, Fallon starts a hashtag on Twitter and the best responses get read on the show.


Yesterday, I submitted my first hashtag for #traveldisaster. I recalled a moment several years ago when I took a shuttle from my hometown back to my college town and sat next to an old woman who gave me acne advice for three hours. I noted, in the hashtag, that this was "Not helpful."

And now, thanks to the magic of connecting with complete strangers via Twitter, some dude tweeted me a link to help with my acne. Well, @guyIdon'tknow, that was also "Not helpful." Well-intentioned, but not helpful.

But the whole thing makes me wonder--just for a moment--what if this guy is my Jimmy Fallon geometry teacher?

And then I realize this guy is wearing a gold chain around his neck in his Twitter profile picture, and I proceed to judge him as NOT being my Jimmy Fallon geometry teacher.

Maybe he's my Joe Junior?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

When You're a Jet, You Stay a Jet

If Blogger had room for a subtitle, this post would be subtitled: "Or, Why You Should Like Random Old Things on Facebook."

Because today liking random old things on Facebook paid off for me.

I like West Side Story. Actually, that's an understatement. I LOVE West Side Story.

And here's why:

1. This moment of the movie. 'Nuff said.

2. I have a vague, blurry memory from childhood of my mom borrowing the VHS of West Side Story from the local library. At that time, I was too young to sit down and watch the whole movie and all it's dazzling dance moves, but I associate this dance masterpiece with my mom. (Who, coincidentally, minored in dance. Not too shabby.)

3. Ten years ago, during the 40th anniversary year, I attended my first live performance of West Side Story, put on by a community theater in a small town in Idaho. Despite it's amateur cast and design, that day will forever live in my memory. Because on the way to see that play, my parents told me and my sister we would be adding another member to our family. That member was my brother, who just this week celebrated his tenth birthday. (Also, at the end of the performance, we went to our favorite local burger joint and got autographs from half the cast on napkins. My sister got one from Chino. Classy.)

4. And today, I looked at my Facebook feed and what did I see? An announcement from whoever/whatever is in charge of updating the Facebook page of West Side Story that the film will be shown in theaters once again, ONE NIGHT ONLY, on November 9. You bet I'll be there. You bet I'll be snapping in the aisles. 'Cause when you're a Jet, you stay a Jet.

And to think, just minutes ago I thought Glee would be the only avenue I had for celebrating the 50th anniversary of this landmark musical that brings Shakespeare to the ghettos of New York City. I love you, Blaine and Mike, but Ice will always have my West Side Story heart.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What to say...

I feel a need to blog this day into words. In terms of cosmic significance, this day is unsubstantial. But in terms of personal resolve, this day is monumental.

Two weeks ago I wrote a fictional but autobiographical play about a girl who thinks too much. It was called Ruminate. I wrote it in hopes that it would act as an impetus for me to stop thinking and take action. Based on events over the weekend, I finally did. I made a choice. I decided to say NO MORE to that potential romantic interest (read: bottom-dweller who recently belittled by existence) who stepped right out of the lyrics of The Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On" and the pages of the Old Testament when it was still okay to collect harems of women.

I vocalized that resolve today at 11:01 a.m. And by 2 p.m. I had seen Facebook evidence that he had also most likely vocalized his resolve to date someone else to that someone else. And it should have hurt, considering how long he's kept me hanging on. But it felt more like a breath of fresh air. So much of what I felt reminded me of something I'd read in a book. This was my Up a Road Slowly.

In the book, Julie gets her first boyfriend in high school but doesn't recognize that he's just using her for the homework help she provides. Their romance sours, lucky for her, and in the first-person narrative she writes these beautiful lines, a perfect description of how I felt today.

"I had gone to sleep in sorrow and longing; I awoke the next morning--and something had happened.

". . . It wasn't until seconds later that I realized how I was lying, cool and relaxed in my bed, with a sense of serenity and quiet happiness enveloping me. I made myself think of [him] as one might touch an old wound to determine whether or not it is healed, and the thought of him miraculously did not hurt. I was neither angry nor contemptuous.

". . . I wondered why so much had been written about love's pain and so little about the glorious relief of being delivered from love's pain."

So this post is about glorious reliefs and bright tomorrows and how, at least this once, ruminating saved me the pain of saying something I might regret to someone I'll concede brought out the worst in me. I am neither angry nor contemptuous.

Good night, dear void. I await the morning with serenity.

(And if you were playing along, did you catch all 4 You've Got Mail allusions?)

Monday, October 3, 2011

I'll Be the Fortune in Your Cookie

I must say, I like a certain amount of organized chaos in my life. And by my life I mean my wallet. And by organized chaos I mean ticket stubs and fortune cookie sayings in said wallet. They each have a designated compartment, but other than that, contrary to my genetically inherited librarian/accountant tendencies, I don't attempt to put them in order.

I still have every fortune cookie slip from the year and half I spent in Houston, Texas. And just now, it struck me to examine them as a blog subject. After all, they are one of the briefest places to write. The only smaller one I can imagine is coming up with paint and crayon colors. Very birthday card philosopher.

Here they are, my fortune cookie fortunes, broken into major categories.

PROVERBS--The key to any fortune cookie proverb is using a common object and making it even more common, er, universal.

Doors are an especially good candidate. "Do not wait for others to open the right doors for you." Or, "Opportunity is knocking on your door--answer it tomorrow." I've never met Opportunity personally, but I don't know how much it resembles the Postman in the Always-Rings-Twice area. All I know is, if it's knocking on my door, I'm answering today.

This proverb I actually like. "The best mirror is often a good friend." In other words, don't actually look into a mirror to check how you look. Ask a friend who can be both honest and caring to act as your mirror. Because sometimes we are too honest with ourselves when looking in a mirror and hardly caring at all.

But I have no idea what life lesson this next proverb is trying to put forth: "If the table moves, move with it." What does the 'table' symbolize? And why would it move? And if all your friends moved with the table off a cliff, would it really be in your best interest to move with that table?

CHARACTER TRAITS--This type of fortune tells you one of two things about yourself. Either it tells you something about yourself that you already know. Or it reminds you of an admirable quality you in no way possess. So it can be either useless or insulting.

"You have sound business sense." I don't think this is true of me, but who am I to denounce the Fortune Cookie gods?

"You are humorous and cheerful with good friends." I hope so. Otherwise I'd need new friends.

"Everybody feels lucky for having you as a friend." I hope so. Otherwise they'd want a new friend.

The best way to write this type of fortune is to say nothing by saying a very vague something. As in "You are gifted in many ways."

PREDICTING FORTUNES--These fortunes actually act as fortunes, by predicting an upcoming even in your life. They usually include time words or the future tense.

"Money and luck are favorable next month." Good, because my alleged sound business sense hasn't been helping me much during this one, and I can't answer the door to Opportunity until tomorrow.

"You will finally solve a difficult problem that means much to you." I like this one. I remember exactly when I got it, and I can think of many difficult yet meaningful problems I have solved since then. I can also think of many difficult yet meaningful problems I have yet to solve. But I know I will. My fortune cookie said so.

"You will advance socially without any special effort." I also like this one. I remember when I got it, too, and it was a lot more recently. This one is intriguingly motivating because it is both vague and positive. How will I advance socially? By getting a boyfriend? By getting my dream job? By getting both? Plus, it doesn't require any special effort on my part, so it validates what I am already planning for my life. Which involves both of those kinds of social advancement. Just so you know, Universe, I'm not putting in ANY special effort. None at all.

"You will travel far and wide, both pleasure and business." Is there anyone who doesn't want to get that fortune? An aspiring Olympic correspondent loves getting it.

FILL-IN-THE-BLANK FORTUNES--This category could also be called Form Fortunes: sentence structures that can be used repeatedly by altering key words (usually nouns) to create different fortunes. These are the Mad Libs of fortune cookie sayings. In the following examples bolded words can be easily replaced.

"Remember yesterday, but live for today." Remember high school, but study in college. Remember your Social Security number, but don't count on collecting Social Security. Remember to advance socially, but don't make any special effort.

"To be content with little is true happiness." To be unhappy with politics is true democracy. To be pleased with one's self is true peace. To be blessed with family is true joy. To be at Wimbledon with Roger Federer is true living.

"Do not mistake temptation for opportunity." Do not mistake a friend for an enemy. Do not mistake Sean Penn for Dustin Hoffman. Do not mistake that knock at your door for the opportunity of a lifetime--at least until tomorrow.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Soundtrack of My Life: Chariot

Is it weird that my favorite songs are still the songs I couldn't stop listening to in junior high and high school? Along the road from then to now, I have discovered some new favorites, but I can't escape the nostalgic feeling that rises in me each time one of those songs plays--or the fact that it doesn't feel like nostalgia: it feels like it did then.

But I'm willing to say these albums contain some lyrics that are just plain great, so I'll be highlighting some of the lyrical gems here in the next little while. Stay tuned.

Today, we're starting with Gavin Degraw's Chariot album. Here are the top 5 lyrics that won't escape my mind.

Many of Gavin's lyrics are about the need to express suppressed feelings or the fact that expressing feelings accurately and eloquently is nigh-impossible (although Gavin usually does both when expressing that sentiment). The first two examples fit into that category. I guess I'm still working on the communication thing.

5. From "Just Friends": "It's not my style to lay it on the line / But you don't leave me with a choice this time"

4. From "More Than Anyone": "What can I say to convince you to change your mind / Of me?"

This next lyric...I have no idea what it means. But one day I'll figure it out. So I think the mystery of it keeps drawing me in. I think I'm pretty good at putting the story to the lyric, but this one has me stumped. Still, I like it. It's a tad "Tender Buttons" in the way it uses words almost more as sounds than as meanings.

3. From "Belief": "Tonight, you arrested my mind / When you came to my defense / With a knife in the shape of your mouth / In the form of your body, with the wrath of a god"

The first two words of the next lyric would almost be enough. Gavin demonstrates the ability to set the scene with brevity. And brevity is the soul of wit. Plus, it makes me think of the scene from The Goodbye Girl when Richard Dreyfus serves dinner on the roof. Magic.

2. From "Meaning": "Situation candlelight / Enough to see the bits around you / But it's never very bright"

And finally, the lyric that makes me hungry every time I hear it. Almost like "chicken cherry cola" from Savage Garden, but more delectable-sounding.

1. From "Chariot": "Your favorite fruit is chocolate-covered cherries / and seedless watermelon / Nothing from the ground is good enough"

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Don't Worry, Baby

As I contemplate my impending 24th birthday, I keep worrying about things I thought I would do by age 24. Josie Grossie-type things. I makes me want to throw a "let's be 17 again" birthday party and stage a do-over (at least in the relationship department).

On my 17th birthday, two of my best friends had me watch Never Been Kissed since Drew Barrymore's character repeatedly exclaims, now that she's back in high school, "I'm seventeen. I'm seventeen."

But I'm not 17 anymore. And I am working towards becoming an editor like Josie Grossie, and I am still waiting for a few rites of passage to occur.

As I wandered past the ferris wheel set up on the campus quad today, I had my don't-worry-baby calming epiphany, which I now share with you.

Epiphany: The point of Never Been Kissed wasn't that Josie hadn't been kissed. It was that she should have been. Her personality, her quirky charm, her super intelligence--the audience loves her and she deserved to have a man who did, too. People weren't stunned about her virgin lip status in a sideshow freak kind of way; they were stunned in a you're-too-good-for-that-to-be-true kind of way.

As am I.

Here's to 24 and not being Josie Grossie. And many upcoming kisses on baseball fields with The Beach Boys serenading away things that have been building up for, oh, I don't know how long.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

U.S. Open: Love Is All Around

I think I'm in love. Tennis love. 6 feet 9 inches of tennis love.

His name is John. He's a southern gentleman, who can hit a 141 mph serve.

He looks good in Banana Republic.

And he participated in the longest tennis match ever. And won.

Just one more reason to get that job next summer in London at the Olympics.

I know, John. I don't want to wait that long either.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Equation of Attraction

For the record, I think guys who can do math--really hard math--are sexy. Here's a visual presentation of why.

And one I just thought of tonight that I should have recognized a long time ago...

Hair Idol: Minnie Driver

I came home tonight to my roommates watching one of the best romantic comedies ever: Return to Me. And as Minnie Driver started dancing with David Duchovny in the garden-in-the-middle-of-the-city, I remembered something. I want her hair in this movie.

I mean, look at it.

So, despite the fact that she constantly wears florals with florals, I want her hair.

And I realized tonight that I also want parts of her life.

1. She dated Matt Damon.

2. She played Bennie in the film adaptation of Circle of Friends (which is not as good as the book, but still has Chris O'Donnell).

3. She gets to capture David Duchovny's heart, even if it was only in a movie.

4. A man followed her all the way to Italy for a kiss, even it it was only in a movie.

5. She dated Matt Damon, and that was not just in a movie.

Who dates Matt Damon and then stops dating Matt Damon? Women who have hair that's too good for Matt Damon, aka Minnie Driver.