Friday, November 18, 2011

I Would Have Learned More In School If They'd Kept All The Nasty Details

I love history.

One of the greatest gifts I ever received was when my James got instant Netflix on our TV, because now I can watch all the documentaries I want.  And I watch a lot of documentaries about a lot of different things.

Last night I was watching a rather cheesy documentary on Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii.  For those of you who don't know, Mount Vesuvius is an active volcano in Italy.  It is very famous, because in AD 79 the volcano erupted and covered the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum in volcanic ash, completely preserving the towns and the people in the exact positions they were in when they died.  It is one of the best examples of Roman life from that time period, or any time period. 

For god's sake, there is a little corner store that was unearthed with small change still on the counter, waiting for its owner to pick it up.

One of the most amazing finds in this site is a cellar where a number of individuals sought shelter.  The ash and lava encased the town and the cellar, entombing them where they lay.  The bodies that were out in the open were not as well preserved as the people in the cellar.  This is particularly notable, because most Romans at this time cremated their dead, and thus we have very few humans remains from this time period.

Ok, hang on, I am slowly getting to the point.

This documentary I was watching described the people in the cellar.  They appear to have separated themselves into two groups - the wealthy and the poor, possibly even slaves.  The skeleton of a man lies between the two groups.  A large bag of gold was found by his remains, and this documentary surmised that the cellar belonged to this man, and that he had brought the gold with him when he retreated into the cellar with the other people.

This is where I take issue.

This man didn't just bring a bag of gold into the cellar with him and usher passing wealthy citizens into his cellar out of the goodness of his heart.  Think about this.  He was charging people for the use of his shelter.  Charging.  That's why the cellar wasn't overflowing with bodies.  If he was just kindly inviting everyone in there would be bones stacked upon bones.  He wasn't.  He was making a profit off of a tragedy.

Question.  What is more interesting?  A man who opens the door to his home to everyone, or one who charges whatever a person has on them for their lives? 

I want to know more about the greedy man.  Because I could totally buy that a man like that existed.  I have met that man before.  If there is one mistake people make in teaching history it is the notion that the people that came before us were all the different from us now.  Human beings are emotional, greedy, despicable, incredible creatures.  They were just as bad and just as good as we are now.  So many times we are misled into thinking that the people who had a hand in making the world what it is today were somehow better, more noble than people are today.  Yes, there were very noble, honorable people who shaped the world, but many of the movers and shakers were just as nasty, petty and driven by greed and sex as anyone is today.

How much more interesting is history to learn if historical figures were actually people?  John Adams was a jerk!  Abe Lincoln was reluctant!  Edward Hyde (New York, New Jersey governor in the 1700s) was a cross dresser!  Alexander the Great was gay! 

Real life is better than history any day.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Homemade Cat Food. Seriously.

I've promised it for a while, and finally, here it is.

My recipe for homemade cat food.

My cousin, Jane, is a veterinary surgeon.  She's super awesome when it comes to natural solutions to animal problems, and even performs acupuncture on animals.  I knew that when I got my cats, I would be talking to her when it came to their food.

Honestly, I wasn't surprised when she told me that most store bought cat food is pure crap.  Its just a lot of crude protein and carbs and it makes cat poop and pee really stinky.  It can also be responsible for the mythical "smelly cat" syndrome.

So, with help from Jane and the amazing people at Whiskers Holistic Pet Products, I have devised this recipe.

Let's begin.  This recipe will make enough food for three cats for about 2 weeks.


3.5 lbs. of ground turkey
6 eggs
Two medium sized sweet potatoes
1 bunch of parsley

Let's begin with the smaller bits and pieces.

The eggs and sweet potatoes need to be boiled.  To save space on the stove, I boil them both together in the same pot.

I put the eggs in water first:

Then peel and chop the sweet potatoes:

Then put them all together in boiling water:

I find the time of cooking the sweet potatoes to get them soft is a good measure of time for cooking the eggs.
While that is going on, cook the meat.

Once everything is cooked, its time to combine.  Basically you just use a food processor and make everything into a slurry, but I'll show you how I do everything.

I like to combine the eggs, parsley and sweet potatoes first.

As for the parsley, you want to use a lot of it.  More than you think.  I'm posting a picture below of my hand with the parsley to give it some scale, but its a whole bunch from the grocery store.

You just cut the stems off:

And plop that in the processor:

Its easier to chop all this up before you put anything else in there, and you add some good-for-the-feline stuff.

You want to use 1/2 a cup of the cat oil supplement.  It has all kinds of fish oils and vitamins and stuff.  If you have cats that  like to chew plastic bags, its because they aren't getting enough of this stuff.

You can also use olive oil if you want, but its not as good as this stuff.

I use just enough of this to make a parsley/cat oil pesto-esque mixture.

Then, add the cooked sweet potatoes.

Then, the eggs.  Now, you only need to use the egg yolks, the yellow part of the egg.

Now, combine it all, and you should get a mixture that looks like this:

Now, for the meat.

When cooking this, do everything you can to preserve all the turkey juices.  You can use all of the juices to help reconstitute it all and grind it up better.  If you need to add some water to make it more juice-y, go for it.

 Then, you mix it all up together.  It'll look something like this:

Now, on to actually serving the stuff.  You don't need much.  Our cats get fed twice a day.  For breakfast, they get one tablespoon each, and two tablespoons for dinner.  I'll show you how we serve the single tablespoon serving.

They get extra vitamins with their food.  I use this:

Specially suggested by the fine folks at Whiskers Holistic Pet Products, this stuff has everything you need for healthy and happy cats.  They get one teaspoon per meal.

Reconstitute the cat food with a little water and mix it till it looks like this:

Then put it on the floor, till it looks like this:

The big black guy is our boy Wee Thomas, the little beige beauty is our lady Jezebel.  The pretty little tabby in the middle, is a new addition to our house, Lola.  Our new roommate, Sam, brought Lola with her, and wanted to try out our food with her.  Amazing things have happened.  In just a couple weeks she has lost weight, she's much more active than she ever was and, according to Sam, she's lost her stink.

Apparently, she used to be a MAJOR stinky cat, with major stinky bowel movements.  Now, she doesn't have either one of those problems.

For the vitamins and oil used, if you are in NYC, Whiskers the is best place to go.  If you head toward to back right of the store there is a huge selection of vitamins and whatnot, and the guys who work there are incredibly knowledgeable.  They have two locations, one in Queens and one on East 9th street.  Check out their website.

Warning, they have a ton of awesome stuff - you are going to want to buy a lot of things there.

So, there you have it.  Let me know how your kitties enjoy!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I Can't Think Of A Snappy Title, So This One's About Horror Movies.

Last night I was home alone with my sewing and what did I decide to do on a dark evening all by myself with the cats rummaging around in the background?

Of course I decided to watch a couple of scary movies.

Very specific things scare me.  As I have established in earlier posts, I am not a fan of alien abduction movies because when they are done properly, when the protagonist is sufficiently trapped, devoid of hope and forced into a shadowy version of their former selves, they really get under my skin.

Demon/demon possession movies also scare me.

I am a big fan of horror films that rely on the imagination of the viewer to bring the evil into focus.  Your CGI ghost/alien/monster and your special effects blood/gore will never match an imagination running rampant of what something could be.

I think the best example of this in recent years have been the Paranormal Activity movies.  Not only do the filmmakers trust the audience's imagination to fill in the gaps, they are masters at building tension, layering anxiety and the all important scare tactic, timing.

There is one excellent moment in Paranormal Activity 2 (SPOILER) when the mother (played by Sprague Grayden) is sitting alone in the kitchen.  She is the only one home, and very much alone even though its the middle of the day.  She feels more than hears a presence behind her, and she turns, looking for what has triggered that instinctual feeling we all have when someone or something is standing close to you.  Seeing nothing, she relaxes slightly, and turns back.  Just at the moment, all the cupboards burst open explosively and scare the poop out of Grayden and anyone watching.

This was an expertly executed moment.  First off, she's home alone.  The audience knows SOMETHING has to happen, so our eyes are already darting here and there on the screen to see what's going to move, where a shadow might appear, etc.  Already, the tension is building.  We feel that presence along with Grayden, and when she turns, our hackles are up right along with her's, we are so ready for something to happen and so ready to be scared.  But nothing happens.  As she relaxes slightly, so do we.  Just as we are all feeling slightly relieved that nothing happened, hell breaks loose.

The timing on the actual scare is just perfect.  Not to mention Grayden's reaction - I often wonder, watching that scene if the directors even told her what was going to happen.  It seems plausible that they could have said to her, "Ok, go sit in the kitchen - something's going to happen, but don't worry, just act naturally."  Which is mean, but makes for a great reaction from both her and the audience who needs to put on new underwear.

More traditional, religious possession movies are pretty terrifying as well.  What I find scary about this situation doesn't have as much to do with the demon - although that does give me the jibblies.  What is more frightening about that is if you are possessed by a demon, you have to rely  upon the faith of another person to save you.  The person performing an exorcism must have such strong, intense faith that the demon inside of you cannot stand to be in that person's presence.  That is not an easy thing to find, even among priests and reverend's.  An exorcist must also be very smart, very clever because he/she must force and trick the demon into revealing his true name in order to gain power over him.

There was a movie made a couple years ago called 'The Last Exorcism'.  It begins in a relatively predictable way, centered on a preacher in the south who has been an exorcist for years and is convinced that demon possession lies in the mind of the victim and by preforming exorcisms he is providing a service.  If you think you've been exorcised, then you have been.  He takes a documentary film crew with him on his "last exorcism" to prove to them and the world the fraudulent nature of this work.

Of course, things are not always what they seem.

The moments where the girl in this movie (Ashley Bell) is possessed are actually very harrowing, and very uncomfortable to watch.  Bell is quite adept at being supremely creepy.

Unfortunately, the film makers ruin the movie.

At the end, (SPOILER) the have the documentary crew and reverend come upon a ritual out in the woods, where the girl is on an alter surrounded by Satan worshipers with a great blazing fire behind her.  She's being held down and it looks like an invisible force is raping her.  Then, a large creepy looking lady pulls something out of her, and when the evil priest-y guy holds it up and you can see that its a demon-baby.

Completely ruins the movie.  I was all on board until they pulled the demon baby out of her.  I was all into this sweet girl being possessed by the devil himself, and then it turned out to just be some other random raping/abortion demon and a cult thing thrown in for good measure?  When will people learn to leave well enough alone?

If this had been a story about a man finding his true faith through unimaginable evil, I would have been totally on board.  The girl could have even died in it.  That would have worked.  Nevertheless, by trying to pull the ol' switcheroo on us and putting a twist in the end, it completely cheapened the story.

So for all you filmmakers out there - trust your audience.  We aren't all idiots.  And making a story simple doesn't make it bad.  Even in 'The Sixth Sense' the twist at the end wasn't complicated.  It aided and added to the story, it didn't detract from it.

So . . . yeah.  Scare me properly, people.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

People Bring Me Closer To Disappearing Into The Bush of Australia

The more and more I see, the more and more I despair for the future of this planet.

"Oh, Ashley, why do you say that?" You may query.  "Are you speaking of the state of the American government as it currently stands?  Do you refer to the economic crisis that worsens by the day, or our enemies that grow by the hour?  Are you planning on joining the protesters on Wall Street?"

My friends, the answer to these questions is an honest, emphatic and resounding NO.


I don't have to look the far away from my own experience to know that we're all fucked.

The future of this country, and the world as we know it lies in, as it may imply, the future.  And the custodianship of the future belongs to the young, the kids who are in school now, who are developing their own dreams.

The little fuckers who write insulting things on the internet.

Ok, I admit, I have a difficult time dealing with little shits who write nasty comments on videos or posts.  They do it because it's a safe environment, because they don't have to actually speak to someone, they get to be anonymous and they aren't in danger of being punched in the face.

As a performer, I have one or two things on YouTube.  And I know that I get way too emotionally involved in people being assholes, so I have the comments set up so if you want to comment, it must first be approved by yours truly.

One of my videos recently got a comment.  I am always interested in constructive criticism.  I really do welcome it.  Do you have something to tell me that will help me improve my craft and become better at what I do?  You took time out of your day to aid in my crusade to be part of the top tier of performers?  That is incredibly selfless.  I could cry.  Honestly, I have tears in my eyes as I type this.  How on this plain or any plain of existence can I possible thank you for that?

Or are you just being a little shit.

I am addressing this to youtube user manaranam.

This person (gender unknown) watched a snippet of a live edit of myself and another very fine actor performing Danny and the Deep Blue Sea.  This play is full of very complicated themes, dramatic and funny.  It is as visceral as it gets, dealing with two people far down the road to despair who find each other, and through their own tragedies, save each other.

To which manaranam commented - "this is stooped"

I didn't clean that up at all.  

Lower case lettering.

No punctuation.

And really, not making any sense at all.

I am assuming that what manaranam meant to say was - "This is stupid."  I don't see how he could have actually meant "stooped".  The dictionary defines the word "stooped" as "to bend the head and shoulders, or the body generally, forward and downward from an erect position; to carry the head and shoulders habitually bowed forward."  

Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe manaranam is concerned about us.  Maybe he/she saw something in the film that made them think that we need to see a doctor, maybe somethings' wrong with our back, maybe this was his/her way to reaching out to us to let us know we need to get something checked out.

Hey, perhaps that's the reason there was no punctuation!  User manaranam was in such a rush to get us this information, they couldn't even bother with proper grammar!  They were all, "Fuck it, these people need to know about the stooping!"

Unfortunately, I have a strong feeling this is not the case.  

Come back when you learn how to spell the word "stupid", dipshit.

This, dear reader, is why I despair for the future.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Don't Dedicate Your Life To Something Stupid

So, we were talking about aliens once.

Now, I am not ashamed to say that when it comes to aliens, they freak me the fuck out.  I have a hard time believing that adorable, life-loving, humor-inducing aliens a la "E.T." and "Close Encounters" will get to us before the terrifying, unintelligible, human-hating/consuming aliens of, well, "Alien", "Signs" or "Little Shop of Horrors". 

Don't feed the plants!

I do think there must be something out there in the vast expanse of the galaxy.  Honestly, I would feel really bad if it was just us.  Come on, out of infinite possibilities in the infinite infinity of space, it's just us?

Seems wasteful.

Anyway, so I think there must be other civilizations out there somewhere, and I can even consider the claims that these otherworldly beings have already visited our lonely blue planet.

But I gotta tell ya, the people who are often pro-UFO are making that really really difficult for me.

For example, remember the post about Ancient Aliens?  Don't answer that, of course you do, you read everything I write and every day you don't see a new post is a day without sunshine.

Well, on this program not only do they make the most outrageous claims, but they have the most outrageous people making them.

One of the primary contributors to this show is Giorgio Tsoukalos.

He looks like this.

Ok, that's not a fair picture.  Here's a better one.

Honest.  That's a better picture.

This guys comes up with some of the dumbest theories of all time.  I honestly don't understand how he can't hear himself talk and not say, "Man, I am completely full of shit."

For example, "Mary (of Bible fame) was visited by an alien, which she mistook for an angel, impregnated her and Jesus was actually half alien."

Even my cats roll their eyes when they hear this shit.

See, that's something else these guys need to work on.  When regular, every day, respected scientist talk about science-y stuff, its basically boring.  Even stuff they are wildly passionate about comes out like a bad math teacher trying to teach you fractions.

When they get all tense and excited about the whole alien thing, they just sound super crazy.  Honestly, its hard to say things like, "King Tut was probably an alien hybrid," without sounding like you forgot to take your meds, but if you say it seriously and calmly and not jumping up and down and explaining it like you were talking to a five year old, you might get a little further.

Not much, but a little.

Oh, and then they say things like, "Everybody wants to meet an alien."

Not true, "scientist"!

I don't.  Not until they've been thoroughly vetted and investigated to make sure they aren't gonna suck my lung out through my nostrils.  More to the point, I don't know what I would say to an alien.  I'd probably say something really inappropriate, like, "So, why are all you guys so slime-y?", "What's the deal with anal probing?", "Did you really have crazy alien sex with ancient Greek maidens and tell them you were Zeus?" - that's another claim by these "scientists".

They just said the words "death ray" in a serious context.  YOU CAN'T CALL IT A DEATH RAY. 

I can't deal with this shit.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Have No Problem With People Named Billy Joe Or Tater Tots

So, I recently cut off about thirteen inches of my hair.

But I am not here to talk about that - about what incredibly bravery it took to take that step, about the mental anguish I went through afterwards, about the resources needed to completely revamp my acting life - no, I am not going to talk about any of that.

What I would like to discuss is something much more insidious than any ghost story.  More unnerving than both of Bush's presidencies.  More troubling than Ethan Hawke's acting career.

I am speaking, of course, of Locks of Love.

Ok, maybe its not that bad.

Locks of Love is a really lovely organization that collects hair of a certain length from people willing to donate in order to make wigs for kids under 21 who have lost their hair due to medical problems or medications. 

Seems kind enough, right?

Well, I was all set to become one of these righteous, selfless people who donates their hair to those in need.  I get my hair cut by the wonderful Stephen Keough - do yourself a favor and get your hair cut by him if you live in the New York City area - and I came home with my bag full of hair, all ready to look up where I could take it and drop it off.

You can imagine my surprise when I got to the website.

All hair donations must be mailed to Locks of Love at:

234 Southern Blvd.
West Palm Beach, FL 33405-2701

I was completely floored.

For some reason, this completely weird-ed me out.  I have to send my hair through the mail?  Does that seem discomforting to anyone else?

My hair was apart of me, it was a big part of what defined me since I was 12 years old.  And you just want me to throw that in an envelope and send it to Florida? 

The more and more I think about this, the more and more I feel really uncomfortable.  

You mean I don't get to see who actually receives my hair?  What if some weirdo just set up this website and has this hair sent to his house.  Just some creepy guy with piles of hair everywhere. 

What if the person who opens the package doesn't do so with enough reverence?  There should be candles lit (kept far enough away from the hair of course), other-worldly music must be playing, it should be laid on a pillow on a silver platter and gently carried to where it will be most daintily constructed into the most beautiful wig for the next spiritual leader of the new millennium.

I know what you're thinking, and yes, I know I'm not asking for much and these requests aren't out of line at all.

Its good to know you're on my side.

But instead it might be some guy named Billy Joe who just went to the bathroom (and didn't wash his  hands, by the way), and is eating tater tots with the one hand, while he rips the packaging open and just tosses my beautiful golden-brown hair into a trash bag of other hair waiting to be carted off.

Of course I am going to send my hair in.  Locks of Love is a wonderful organization that helps really deserving kids out there, and I am really honored that I get to be apart of helping someone feel better. 

But still, kinda ranks up there with, like, sending a tooth through the mail.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Emoting Ahead. Be Warned.

Ok, Internet, its time to get personal.

This coming Monday, October 3, the life of a man very close to me will change forever.  My roommate, best friend and adopted brother, Bryan Fenkart will begin the first step of a journey that will out him even further on his path.  This isn't a figurative journey, but an actual one.

For the past two years, Bryan has been understudying the lead role of Huey in the Broadway production of Memphis.  He was the first choice of everyone and anyone who matters to star in Memphis' touring company.  This Monday he will get on a plane, and head off into the wild, blue yonder.

I met Bryan about eight years ago.  It was my very first year in New York, and I got cast in a Nosedive production called Mayonnaise Sandwiches.  It was a tiny, no-money production in a the basement "theater" of an old church.  As my first show in NYC, I loved every second of it.  It honestly changed my life forever, mostly because of the lanky young actor who was playing opposite me.

He was a man of extreme talent and potential.  He played guitar and piano, he was smart, funny and handsome, he was confident and definitely the most interesting person I had ever met.

Obviously, the first thing I did was fall head over heels in love with him.  I was a starry-eyed young Virginian transplant to New York City and was in no means immune to his charms.

I thank my lucky stars that there was never any relationship between us.

Instead, over the next years a very strong, steady, rewarding friendship grew between us.  We became roommates almost 4 years ago, and since then he has been a constant source of encouragement and solace in my life.  He was with me when my grandfather died and my first serious, grow-up boyfriend left me.  He was with me when I got cast in Law and Order and when I met the man I'm going to marry.  Bryan has been with me at my very best and my very worst.

Throughout the years, I have watched Bryan's career.  He has gone from teeny-tiny productions to Broadway, from playing Jersey coffee houses to playing with Richie Cannata to sold out houses.  Through the years he has proved again and again his talent is immense and fair reaching.

Throughout his ride with Memphis thus far, I have really seen him step up his game.  He has worked harder and more than ever.  I have never been as proud of him as I am now.  I am so lucky to count him as part of my family.  He is a continual source of inspiration.

I'm not completely sure why I am writing this.  I know when he leaves both James and I are going to miss him terribly.  Life will definitely be a little more subdued.  I know I'll be sad once in a while, but I am so excited for all he's got ahead of him.  I guess I'm saying that I hope everyone has a friend like I have.  He's held me when I've cried and bolstered my courage when it's waned.  He's laughed with me in the most ridiculous situations and trusted me with his own hurts.  I really couldn't have been luckier when it comes to my New York family.

The tour dates are as follows:

October 14 at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, where it will play through October 23.

Other venues include Houston, TX (October 25-30)
Tulsa, OK (November 1-6)
Oklahoma City, OK (November 8-13)
Nashville, TN (November 15-20)
Chicago, IL (November 22 - December 4)
Toronto, ON (December 6-25)
Pittsburgh, PA (December 27-January 1, 2012)
Charlotte, NC (January 3-8)
Hartford, CT (January 10-15)
Philadelphia, PA (January 17-22)
Durham, NC (January 24-29)
Atlanta, GA (January 31-February 5)
Clearwater, FL (February 7-12)
Naples, FL (February 14-19)
Greenville, SC (February 21-26)
Cleveland, OH (February 28-March 11)
St. Paul, MN (March 13-25)
East Lansing, MI (March 27-April 1)
Baltimore, MD (April 3-8)
Hershey, PA (April 10-15)
Schenectady, NY (April 17-22)
Des Moines, IA (April 24-29)
St. Louis, MO (May 1-13)
Dallas, TX (May 15-27)
Columbus, OH (May 29-June 3)
Buffalo, NY (June 5-10)
Washington, DC (June 12-July 1)
Kansas City, MO (July 10-15)
Las Vegas, NV (July 17-22)
San Diego, CA (July 24-29)
Los Angeles, CA (July 31-August 12)

If he is coming to a city near you, do yourself a favor and see the show.  He's gonna be a huge star one day, and you'll want to say "you saw him when".

I love you very much, Bryan.  Go be awesome, you son of a bitch.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I Don't Know If You've Ever Been On A Galloping Horse, But You Don't Notice Much

I grew up in Virginia.  Not deep south Virginia, Northern Virginia.  Also known by those who know as NoVa.  Its like Southern Lite.  Not everyone had a Confederate flag on their front lawn, but you also weren't surprised to see one when it was there.  My sixth grade teacher played Gone With The Wind for us to show us what "the Northern aggressors did to us" but didn't deny that we weren't exactly correct about that whole slavery thing.

There is something about southern women - and I mean real southern women - that cannot be duplicated.  And you can't become a real southern woman unless you have been born in the south, raised in the south and gotten old in the south.  When you are over 50, you could qualify to be a real southern woman.

There is a talent that all fine southern woman have.  It takes a while to perfect this talent, and only ladies from south of the Mason Dixon line (look it up) are born with an innate sense of this skill.

I am, of course, speaking of the Backhanded Southern Compliment.

You may have come in contact with this before.  If it was done properly, you would have thought that someone just said something really lovely to you, but for some reason, you feel terrible and you don't know quite why.

We'll start slow.

You're wearing a new shirt.  It's a bit different from what you usually wear, and it took some confidence and self-esteem building to work up the courage to wear it out of the house, but you have and at the moment you are feeling pretty good about it.  You come into work, and your chipper and sweet co-worker looks you up and down, smiles engagingly and says:

"Oh, darling, I never would have thought that color would have worked on you!"

You immediately smile back, and thank her, but as you sit down you realize that you have resolved to never wear that shirt again.

Now why is that?

You've been struck by the Backhanded Southern Compliment (BSC).

See, there are a couple of things that happened back there.  First off, the disarming smile, and the perky, happy way the sentence was said.  That was all to throw you off of what was actually being said.  Second, the sentence itself.  The BSC relies on the fact that most people don't really listen to an entire sentence.  The end of the sentence is where all the important stuff is, right?  So what you filter the sentence in you mind to be "That color works on you!"  All the while, the part of the sentence that you didn't pay any mind too has ninja'd it's way into your mind and is applying nasty pressure points to your subconscious.

I remember quite vividly my first encounter with the BSC.  I was in high school and had been nominated for an acting award and I was going to be honored at the Kennedy Center in DC and everything.   I never really did much with my hair or makeup or anything, but for this I had gotten all dolled up, I was wearing this lovely dress, had heels on and was feeling pretty great about how I looked.  I walked down the stairs into the living room where my parents were waiting.

My mother took one look at me, threw her hands up in the air and exclaimed, "Oh, Ashley!  You'd be so pretty if you were just a little bit taller."

Any self-esteem that my fragile, high school self had built up to that point was shattered to the ground.

I consoled myself for years that was she actually meant to say was that I looked pretty wearing heels.  Yeah, that makes sense.  I never really wore them, so seeing me in them was nice and I looked pretty.

I recently spoke to my mom about it and she informed me that she probably meant exactly what she said.

Other BSCs can be similar to these:

"Oh, you girls today are so modern! I NEVER would have considered calling a man first. Cause you know, that's what (lowers voice) girls from the other side of the tracks did."

"Your bravery astounds me. That haircut takes guts." 

"Those earrings are lovely dear. They make your hair look more done." 

"You don't want to move to New York sweetie. Everything north of the Mason Dixon Line is terrible for jobs. I know plenty of girls your age who moved to Atlanta and found great jobs where they met their husbands!" 

Another phrase to watch out for comes at the end of the BSC in the form of "...bless his/her heart."  It means that whatever you said in the beginning of the sentence was not mean, no matter what it sounds like.

"She's been known to have one too many drinks, bless her heart."

"We never thought he'd amount to much, bless his heart."

I made an amazing discovery recently into just how similar Southerners and the Brits can be.  My grandmother is from Liverpool, England.  She fought the Jerries in World War II, just recently celebrated her 90th birthday, lives on her own and is in all ways the most amazing lady on the planet.

I was asking her recently how I looked.  She looked me up and down, straightened all of her 5 foot frame, stared me straight in the eye and said:

"Oh, darling, a man on a galloping horse wouldn't notice!"

Love you, Nanny.

Monday, August 8, 2011

My Friend Ciana Is Cooler Than Your Friend Ciana

Ok, guys.  This post is a a bit more personal.

I have a friend named Ciana.  Ciana is about to enter high school, and is one of the most vivacious, sassy ladies I have ever met.  She is a complete inspiration, and she does all of this even with her disability.  She has Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita which, as she describes it, makes her muscles have less strength than others.  She zips around in a wheel chair like its nothing, and is definitely one of the most bright, unique teenagers I have ever encountered. 

Ciana has a goal.  She adores Taylor Swift and her music and wants to meet her.  She's started a facebook group - you can find it by clicking here - to help her reach this goal.  She is completely open to any advice anyone might have, so go there, join the group, give this amazing girl a hand!

She has her own blog too, and I have to say she has some great advice.  Read it here.

Go, Ciana!  You're a superstar!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

On A Related Note, Paul is Coming Out On Tuesday. SCORE.

This country is getting a little ridiculous.

And no, I am not talking about the debt ceiling, I am not talking about the immigration laws that are being passed in Alabama, I am talking about something much more serious.

I am talking about censorship on TV.

Not news censorship.

Censorship when movies are edited for TV.

Not serious, you think?  Well, you're wrong!

This lovely Saturday morning when I woke up, the masterpiece Shaun of the Dead was on TV.  This is one of my very favorite movies - I know it pretty much by heart and always have a good laugh when watching it.  It is brilliantly put together.  From the pacing to the acting to the comedy to the tragedy, it is incredibly affective at taking you for along ride.

So, needless to say, I was excited at having it on in the background as I bustled about my morning routine.  Listening with half an ear to the hilarity as I cut up my banana for my cereal, I noticed something was wrong.  The timing on the jokes seemed off.  There were gaping holes that were usually filled with some delicious snippet of hilarity.  What was happening?

I turned my full attention to Bryan Jr. (our TV) and realized that it was from the network bleeping out the curse words.  But rather than bleep them out with another word (which can sometimes add to the hilarity), they simply removed the word altogether so there was just this awkward silence in the middle of the sentence.  

Any comedian will tell you that the pacing of a sentence leading up to a joke is monumentally important.  Certain words are funnier than others, words that contain a hard "c" sound for some reason are just more entertaining.  The speed at which you speak, what you give and what you hold back all add to getting your audience to chuckle, chortle and gasp for breath.  

Let's take an example, an old favorite.  The knock knock joke.

Knock, knock.

Who's there?

We all know the rhythm of that joke, the flow of it.  While that is not the punchline, it is intrinsically  necessary to begin the joke with these words in the traditional timing in order to get the joke to shine.  Knock knock jokes just wouldn't work if they started:

Ding dong!

How can I help you?

The simple act of this TV station removing words from sentences completely ruined some perfect comedic moments.

That, my friends, is a travesty.

For example, one of my favorite exchanges in the movie is when Simon Pegg and Nick Frost come home from a night of heavy drinking and Peter Serafinowicz rips them a new one for being loud when he is trying to sleep.

Pete (Serafinowizc):  It's four in the fucking morning!

Shaun (Pegg):  It's Saturday!

Pete (Serafinowicz):  No, it's not. It's fucking Sunday. And I've got to go to fucking work in four fucking hours 'cos every other fucker in my fucking department is fucking ill! Now can you see why I'm SO FUCKING ANGRY? 

Ed (Frost):  Fuck yeah!

With the censorship, this scene became this:

Pete (Serafinowizc):  It's four in the ----- morning!

Shaun (Pegg):  It's Saturday!

Pete (Serafinowizc):  No, it's not. It's ----- Sunday. And I've got to go to ----- work in four ----- hours 'cos every other ----- in my fucking department is ----- ill! Now can you see why I'm SO ----- ANGRY? 

Ed (Frost):  ----- yeah!

Not funny, TV.  Not funny at all.

The worst editing actually happened just before this scene, when Shaun and Ed were at the bar together, and Ed does his impression of the monkey Clive.  At the end of his imitation, he gives Shaun a good, strong middle finger to try and get him to laugh.  I thought the censors would cut that part of it out and ruin the joke that way, but no.  Instead they CGI's his finger out completely.

What if I had never seen this movie?  Suddenly Ed doesn't have a middle finger?  It wasn't even good CGI, you could tell he was TRYING to flip him the bird, but WHERE IS HIS FINGER?  This raises all sorts of questions!  How did he lose his finger?  Where is it?  Was he born without it?  What does this have to do with zombies?  Is it the character, or does the actor himself not have a middle finger?  Can he get a prosthetic?  Has it affected his life in an adverse way by not being able to express his anger both vocally and physically?

And see, I am not thinking about zombies anymore.

I turned it off soon after seeing the Serafinowizc scene butchered by the editing.  It just made me too sad.

So, you see, the destruction of comedic genius is much more serious than anything else that's going on.  

Come on, don't look at me that way.  December 2012 is right around the corner, everything's going to shit anyway.  But if we can't laugh while we burn in the fires of our own creation, whats the FUCKING point?

See what I did there?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Or A GPS To Success. That'd Be Useful.

Its frikin' hard to be an actor.

Let me rephrase.  Its hard to be an actor in this day in age.

Back when Hollywood was first emerging as a glowing beacon of depraved debauchery, glistening in the remains of broken dreams and lost pride, all you really needed was to be beautiful/handsome, know the right people and the willingness to do whatever necessary to get ahead.


Ok, so not much has changed in that department.  However, in this day in age, while a lucky hand dealt in the genetics department and a willingness to do things that make your mother cry will get you  . . . somewhere (I can't say far, I don't think the Jersey Shore "performers" can be labeled as going far), if you really want staying power you need be have multiple talents.  

For example, let's look at my brilliant roommate, Bryan Fenkart.  The man is always crazy busy.  He is the understudy for the lead role in the musical Memphis on Broadway, one of the most talented singer/songwriters I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, has been known to grace the stand-up stage at Carolines on Broadway, and has a thriving voice over career.  Now, one of the reasons that he is so successful is because he has so many other talents.

And he's not the only one.  Super famous people do lots of other stuff too.  Russell Crowe has a really smashing music career, as does Keanu Reeves, Daniel Radcliffe is doing the Broadway thing, Steven Spielberg produces, and you would be astonished to know how many big Hollywood actors go over to China and Japan and shoot commercials over there.  They make a boat-load of cash and most of the time they don't even say a word, because the distribution for the commercial is only for the Asian market. 

Its even tougher when you consider the life of the actor who has not made it.  You cannot simply be an "actor".  You have to make yourself someone to talk about.  So that means being a great actor, which means classes and practice and diligence.  Unless you have an interesting "look", most people should put themselves in really excellent shape - which means working out, yoga, dance, swimming, pilates and all those other weird work out things where you use machines and stuff.  You don't have all the time in the world to wait for another person to give you work, so that means producing your own stuff - be it plays, a movie (feature length or short), pilots, doing stand up comedy and the like.  And it is best if you have more skills, like writing or singing or music and stuff.  

In addition to all this, you also need to make money.  Which means getting a "real job".

Its exhausting.

But, you know, you always know the people who really love what they do.  The more they invest themselves in being creative for the enjoyment of others, the more joy you know it brings them.  You find a way to make things happen.  The funny thing is that no one achieves "success" in the entertainment industry in the same way.  My road is much different from Bryan's road, which is completely different from my James's road. 

Sometimes it would be nice to have a map though.  Just saying.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What About Commit Genocide Together?

Relationships are odd monsters. 

There is so much pressure to find that perfect someone and then keep that perfect someone and make lots of little perfect replicas of your perfect union in the form of sentient beings who will then in turn find perfect someones to be with and spread your combined perfect-ness throughout the ages.

It's the mortal human's form of immortality.

But hold your horses - how do you get to that point?  How do you find that perfect someone?  And the big question, how do you keep the both of you happy?

Honestly, I have found being truly in love and staying away from lying and all that tends to work wonders, but what, my lovelies, does the internet have to say?

I found this Facebook page recently, all about activities to do with your better half.  I was particularly tickled by this, mostly because it seemed like a way to plan out things that should usually be spontaneous.  There were over 100 suggestions on how to keep each other happy.  So I decided to be cynical and pick the ones that were the most stupid and make fun of them.

You know, like you do.

  • Do A Home Improvement Project With Your Neighbor 

Um, isn't this supposed to be a list to bring couples closer together?  I mean, this could have simply been "Do A Home Improvement Project Together."  My fiance and I painted the apartment together recently.  That was kinda fun, I guess.  But if we had invited our Greek neighbors over we would have just ended up eating amazing food and trying to imitate their language.
  • Make Your Own Artisan Cheese
This is just fucking weird.  Make cheese together?  I don't know about you, but if I went over to a friend's house and they offered me cheese they had made themselves, I would be totally freaked out.  First of all, I don't eat food that came out of an animal's breast - I was weened a long time ago.  Second of all, I don't think I would trust any friend of mine to make cheese that wouldn't absolutely kill me.  I certainly wouldn't trust James and I to make cheese.  Sometimes the dinners we make can be a little suspect - especially when we're being creative.  If we put together a recipe for cheese, made it and ate it, our roommates would find us dead and bloated on the floor of the kitchen.  They would wail and raise their fists to the heavens and cry, "DAMN YOU, HOMEMADE ARTISAN CHEESE!!!!!!!!!!"
  • Walk Everywhere For A Day
We live in New York City.  We already walk everywhere.  If James woke me up in the morning all excited and was all, "Baby, we are going to do something special today!  Today we're going to walk everywhere!" I'd tell him to go fuck himself, roll over and go back to sleep.
  • Spend A Week At Sea 
This isn't a fun time together - that is being stranded!  You know those movies where the ships will be out in the middle of the ocean and there won't be any wind and they won't move for days and people run out of water and start eating each other and fall into the depths of despair?  You want me to do THAT with my beloved?  That's not a fun activity together, that's a test to see who'll make it through alive.
  • Spend The Night In A Haunted House Together 
This ranks right up there with Get Abducted by Aliens Together or Get Possessed By A Demon Together.  I mean, come on, you have to admit something like this could really turn out badly.  "Oh we had such a great time until that ghost strangled me while whispering demonic nothings into my ear."
  • Swim In The Ocean With A Large Fish
To quote The Miz - Really?  A large fish.  Um, how about a mammal.  Like a whale.  Even that would scare the shit outta me.  But a large fish?  Sharks are large fish.  Just in general, a large fish seems like a bad idea.  Anything that can be labeled "large" probably also falls under the category of "Things That Can Brutally Maim You And/Or Eat Your Face".  What about Spend Time With A Large Predator?  We could do that.  Yeah, just go right up and snuggle with that grizzly bear.  They love that.  Lions love it when humans invade their personal space.  Hyenas have the strongest jaw in the animal kingdom, but I am sure its because of all the kisses they like to give!
  • Teach Her How To Build A Campfire
My problem with this is not the activity all that much, but the phrasing.  Teach HER how to build a campfire?  Um, excuse me?  Most of the men I know wouldn't know a fire from a hole in the ground (which you should dig if you are going to build a fire).  How about I teach you how to build a fire and then we burn your antiquated, sexist ideas?  That seems like a good activity.  And what do you do after you build a fire?  Stare at it and say, "Yep.  That's a fire."  Third degree burns and trips to the hospital are also good bonding activities, and can also result from this!
  • Volunteer At A Soup Kitchen Over A Holiday
So, either you'll end up feeling really shitty for actually having stuff while other people have nothing, or you'll catch hepatitis.  I guess that would be bonding.  You could take your meds together, get new kidneys together, all that crazy good time!  
  • Eat Dinner At The Table For A Week
Don't have a dinner table.

  • Go On A 24 Hour Cleanse Together
This must have been suggested by someone who's never done a cleanse.  When yogis do cleanses, they are already coming off a diet of eating leaves and the morning dew off a daisy, so its not a big deal to eat nothing.  But normal people get nasty and cranky and you're pooping a lot and you want to eat so bad so you lash out and by the end of the day you've gotten in a huge fight and broken up and this list was for naught.

All the others were about making dinner for each other. 

Fuck that, order in, wear pj's, watch tv and chill.

Boom.  Bonding.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

People Are Weird. Just . . . Weird.

Continuing with the whole babies and insanity vein . . .

The concept of empty nest syndrome has been on my mind lately, as my folks will soon be without children at home as my brother has just graduated college and has a good job and will no doubt be getting his own place as soon as living at home drives him completely out of his mind.

I actually think my parents won't have much trouble with having the house to themselves.  They enjoy each other enough that they will relish the opportunity to each to know each other again without the bother of their offspring underfoot.

This is not always the case, it seems.  Many parents feel very sad and depressed when their kids exeunt stage right.  This can be extreme, even leading to feeling like you are at the end of your useful life, excessive crying and not wanting to have any interaction between your friends or co-workers.

Rather than give these people real advice and tell them to get a dog, a recent website suggested something obviously more useful and not at all crazy.

I read on this website - which is clearly based in strong scientific fact - that getting a life-like baby doll is the best way to combat the vanished baby blues.

You can specify whatever you want these dolls to look like.  Do you miss your daughter's baby days?  You can send pictures to this place and they will make a complete replica in doll-form.

For example:

Eyes, hair - everything essential to bringing back a time in your life where you weren't sleeping, you barely had time to pee and your life as you knew it belonged to a screaming lump of flesh.  

Kinda cute, huh?  But wait, what if your baby was a monster?  What if it looked like this:

Why would you want something like that hanging around your house?  I mean, it must have looked scary enough when it was an actual baby, but having a super creepy doll that just sits around and surprises you at your most vulnerable - like when you wake up in the middle of the night with it staring down at you with a hungering desire for your soul.

Wait a tick, any specifications at all?  You mean if I have true insanity I can make all my crazy-ass delusions come true?  You mean I can make a baby look like this:

One moment.  Let's look at another angle of this breathtaking creation:

Someone wanted a little fairy baby.  Apparently getting a replica of their own child was not satisfactory.  The life they created wasn't good enough, they needed something better!

Bet their kid felt great about that.

But now the possibilities are endless!  What about this?

A monkey baby!  Better than a human baby!  And look, its smiling!  Playing with a ball!  But a monkey, so its better!

Whats better than a monkey?  How about a zombie baby!

Yeah, that's fucking cute.  And now with all the Twilight bullshit what with Bella and Edward making an awful vampire baby, people are going to start getting those too.

I despair for the future.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Give Me A Puppy or a Kitten Any Day

I have reached the point in the life of the American female where everywhere I look I have friends who are getting married and making new human beings out of an activity that I have always looked upon as simply fun, exciting and a great way to spend a rainy afternoon, but not life changing.  After getting engaged myself - although god knows when the actual wedding will take place - I have been bombarded by questions of when my better half and I will be adding to the population like good red-blooded Americans should.

The answer has always been way in the future, if it ever happens at all.

I never played with dolls or pretended to be a mom or anything like that.  Those games always seemed monumentally boring to me - I much preferred running, jumping, climbing trees, riding horses, fighting with boys and getting lost and dirty in the woods behind my childhood home.  

My own mother has advised me not to have children.  Honestly, after having to deal with me as an infant and toddler I have no idea why they decided to have my brother.

To be fair, they do love him more.

Anyway, regardless of my own desires and advice from all and sundry, I can't help but wonder about that whole procreation thing.  Would I be a good mother?  Recently on CNN I read an article entitled "9 Things You Shouldn't Say To Your Child".  Perfect, I thought.  I'll read that and see if I would say those things to my child, and based on that decide if I should make babies.

Seems like solid logic, no?

Ok, here we go.

1. "Leave me alone!"

Shit, we are already off to a bad start.  According to the article, this includes phrases like, "Don't bother me," and "I'm busy."  I would say all of this to my kid.  Cause sometimes I am busy!  Actually, I'm busy a lot.  Like right now.  I'm writing.  If I had a little sentient being tugging on me, begging me to see his or her newest accomplishment - like walking or using the toilet (both of which I do all the time - get over it!) - I would probably be like, "Um, can't you see that I am working and I never wanted to have you in the first place?"

Hold tight, readers, we still have eight more to go.

2.  "You're so . . ."

I didn't understand this one until I read the rest of the paragraph.  This is stuff like, "Why are you so mean?", "How could you be such a klutz?", or "She's my shy one."  This includes seemingly positive things, like calling your child smart.  Apparently young children believe what they hear without question (stupid) and saying things like this can pigeon-hole children and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Honestly, that's kinda awesome.  If I had a kid, I'd say things like, "You are the new world leader - the children around you are chattel and meant to serve you.  You are Alexander, Ghengis Khan and Charlemagne reborn. Go forth and take back what's yours!"

Yeah, that'd turn out really positive.

3.  "Don't cry."

This includes "Don't be sad," "Don't be a baby," and even "There's no reason to be afraid."  So this logic is based on the idea that children have complex feelings and telling them "Don't be . . ." gives the impression that their feelings are invalid and can lead to stunted emotions later in life.  Ok, even parents have to admit - sometimes kids' feelings ARE invalid.  Scared of the dark?  Don't be dumb.  Be scared of something that makes sense.  Like alien abduction.  That's terrifying.  

I'm just saying they should actually be afraid of what's actually scary.

4.  "Why can't you be more like your sister?"

Making comparisons between children can make the less desirable child feel like you want them to be someone other then they are.  Understandable, though I think I am not out of line to point out that these comparisons make the other child in the equation feel awesome!  If you have two kids and one is obviously a fuck up, doing everything you can to nurture the one who might actually make something of themselves and thus be able to take care of you later in life (remember, we probably won't have Social Security to fall back on), seems like a good strategy for the future.

This is all about self preservation, people.  

5.  "You know better than that!"

Other phrases that fall under this category include "I can't believe you did that!" and "Its about time!"  This is getting a little ridiculous.  If I have a child that has ears and can speak and understand English and I tell them not to do something and then they do it, they sure as shit are going to be hearing this phrase!  Even if they don't have ears and don't speak English, you'd have to be pretty thick to not to get when someone is displeased about something you did.   And if someone, like your mother, is upset about something you did, don't fucking do it.

6.  "Stop or I'll give you something to cry about!"

Now I'm not supposed to threaten my own child?  Listen, if I make a another human being and destroy my rather attractive body while doing so, I will be able to threaten that creature.  Apparently spanking and physical reprimanding of children has been shown ineffectual in changing behavior for the positive.  I have only one thing to say about that.

You just aren't smacking 'em hard enough!

7.  "Wait till Daddy gets home!"

This one I agree with.  Postponing discipline makes it more difficult for the child to connect the discipline with whatever the hell they did wrong this time.  This is actually very similar to the way you would correct an animal.  If your dog shits on the floor and you find it hours later, you really can't rub their face in it and expect them to remember that its their poop.  If you catch the animal in the act and yell at them while they're doing it, they can link the act with your disapproval.  Whats more, its like, come on, grow a set and discipline the kid!  No need to wait for Daddy, pick up the belt and do it yourself.

8.  "Hurry up!"

Ok, now this is just silly.  Now they are saying that yelling at the kid for being a slow-poke and making you late can just make them feel guilty.  Let me tell you, they SHOULD feel guilty!  What if I am on my way to an audition with Stephen Spielberg?  You make me late?  You loose me millions of dollars?  You aren't just going to feel guilty, you're going to feel broken legs too. Then at least you'll have a reason to be late.  Cause you can't walk!

9.  "Great job!" or "Good girl!"

I can't threaten and I can't praise?  What the crap?  I do agree you should only praise things that deserve praise and not every little thing.  When I was a kid and I didn't win a match or score high enough on a jumping course or if I feel off the balance beam, I didn't get a frikin trophy.  In karate I got the shit beaten out of me, horseback riding I had to spend more time on the horse which meant terrible aching muscles and in gymnastics I would be strapped into a machine that would hold me in center splits for hours.

All that is true, by the way.

Ok, so what have we learned from this?

In my own humble opinion, either I would raise the next great mind in human history, or the anti-Christ.

Strangely enough, I am totally ok with either one of these options.

Fuck, I guess I have to have a baby now.