Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Another Exclamation Point Update (And Possibly the Last)

Last Thursday I got an email from my friend Eva, announcing that our highly anticipated contract was in its final stages and would get to me "tomorrow perhaps."  Naturally, I checked the mail on Friday.  Again on Saturday.  Even on Sunday (nobody could convince me that the mail doesn't arrive on Sundays).

On Monday I went to the leasing office of my building, asking if I'd gotten any packages.  Perhaps the contract couldn't fit in my mailbox... maybe it was in one of those document mailers or something.  Maybe it was a giant stack of papers!

The office didn't have anything.  In fact, when I asked again yesterday, they told me to quit asking.  "The postman will leave a note on your mailbox if they leave something in the office with us.  If you don't have a note, than you don't have a package."

"So... there's no chance at all that maybe they forgot the note.  Or maybe my note fell off.  Or maybe..."

"Look, kid.  Nobody's sent you anything."

So you can imagine my surprise today when I checked my email and discovered my contract had been emailed to me!  There it was, ready for me to download, print, and look over!!

The only downside, is that part of the contract states that I'm not allowed to reveal anything related to Tenny prior to the date decided by Eva.  Unless she gives me written permission.  So while I had originally planned to blog about the project and give my readers a taste of my process... I cannot do that.  Sorry guys!!

Well, I've got a $10,000 contract to sign and more than enough work to do!

Chihuahua Comics: Denim Doesn't Affect Menstruation...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Gleek Critique: "Britney/Brittany" Episode

In an interview I read online, Heather Morris who plays ditsy cheerleader Brittany said, "When we were on tour this summer, Ryan [the show's creator, duh] pulled me aside and told me they were doing this episode and that the title would be 'Britney/Brittany' ... but Ryan didn't really get into it; he just said get ready, make sure your voice is ready, take some voice lessons.  So I was like, 'Okay, I'm ready!'"

She wasn't lying!  How exciting to see Brittany become a fully-developed character, and not just non-sequitur filler.  And we've always known she could dance, but who knew she could sing too?

The plot this episode basically involved Will meeting Emma's new dentist boyfriend Dr. Carl and feeling totally threatened by him.  Meanwhile, the kids all want to sing Britney Spears music and not the lame music Mr. Schuester wants them to sing.  Oh yeah, and the kids all need some major dental work, and while under the anesthesia they have some pretty vivid hallucinations... giving the show an excuse to bring in the real Britney Spears and fill the episode with non-stop chart-toppers.

The Pros:
  • Britney Spears was a guest star!  How fun is that?  And she didn't look crazy!
  • Now that I can't swoon over John Stamos on Full House, I can swoon over him on Glee...
  • Tons of fun Britney Spears covers, all wonderful in their own way, but my favorite one was "Toxic."   It was a very unique variation of the original (kind of like last season's "Poker Face" in the Lady Gaga episode)
  • Rachel and Finn's relationship seems to be maturing... well, for high schoolers.  I enjoyed Rachel's version of "The Only Exception" dedicated to Finn.
The Cons:
  •  Naked Jacob = yuck!
  • Close-up on the butt-stain he left on Sue's chair = yuckier!
  • In order for Brittany to shine this episode, some of our old regulars have taken a back seat.  Like Kurt, Mercedes, and Quinn...
  • Why didn't John Stamos or Britney Spears sing?
  • While completely fun, I feel like the story progression took a back seat this episode in favor of a celebrity cameo.  Oh well, next week's focus on faith and religion might ground things a little better.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Elder Marlin Jensen Makes an Apology

I remember sitting in sacrament meeting next to my friend sipping nonchalantly on her can of Diet Coke, legs crossed at the knee and looking fabulous.  She and my other friends in our row made sitting in church much more fun, I must say.  Sure they all had strong testimonies and were temple-worthy through and through, but they had a quirky style that made them just a little bit more exciting than your average bunch of BYU singles.

The meeting was about to start, and I noticed a long list of names scrawled on the chalkboard ahead.  At first I thought that it had nothing to do with us.  We were, after all, holding church services in an empty science classroom on campus.  The giant Periodic Table above the chalkboard wasn't any sort of religious symbol, ya know.  But upon further inspection, I recognized several of the names as being kids in our ward.  One was sitting on my other side. 

I didn't have to wonder for too long, because the Bishop soon got up and the meeting began.  In his opening announcements, he commented that everyone listed on the board would have to talk to him in his office sometime during the block of church meetings.  Later that afternoon I discovered that it was a list of everyone in our ward who was a Californian, and thereby eligible to vote in that state.  Each and every one of them was told to vote in favor of Proposition 8, ensuring that same-sex marriage be stopped.

Looking back, this was the first time that I had a strong feeling to come out of the closet.  My hypocrisy was already reaching toxic levels, but I was still under the belief that I would follow the herd until the day I died.  But if the LDS Church was planning to openly wage war on homosexuality, could I really fight against myself?

My friend came home from church and told me about the meeting with the bishop.  He was a little disconcerted because he never thought he'd see the day where the Church would counsel us politically.  The Church has always taken a nonpartisan stance on politics, and here the Church was clearly taking a side.  My friend further went on to say that he personally didn't think Proposition 8 was constitutional.

"So what are you going to do?" I asked him.

"I guess I'm supporting it."

"Even if you don't think it's right?"

He paused for a moment.  "But if it's what the Church wants me to do, I don't really have a choice."

* * *

I bring this story up so late in the game because I recently got a Facebook message from an ex-missionary friend of mine in regards to Proposition 8.  The message contained a link to an article about a recent apology from an LDS General Authority, Elder Marlin Jensen.

Basically, there was a special meeting held in a California stake of the Church, where Elder Jensen of the Seventy spoke with gay (and non-gay) members (and non-members) of the Church just prior to a Stake Conference.  The floor was open to anyone who wished to speak or ask questions.  Many people expressed feelings of heartache and despair, and one man even went so far as to demand an apology from the Church for its support of Proposition 8.  According to the post, at this point Elder Jensen got up and said, "To the [extent that] it's within my power to apologize, I want to tell you that I am sorry.  I am very sorry."

Of course the message boards were full of comments both positive and negative about this apology.  Many people felt that it was a positive move forward; many people didn't think it meant anything at all.  Of course Elder Jensen wasn't speaking for the Church.  He isn't the Prophet; he doesn't have that authority.  He was only giving his own personal apology.  And what's more, he probably wasn't saying that he was sorry for Proposition 8 because I'm sure he believes whole-heartedly in it.  At most, he was expressing his sorrow for the pain the gay community is feeling.  Nothing more.

However, I do believe that it was a genuine apology.  It's at least comforting to me, to know that at least one person in the Church's leadership is aware of the sadness Proposition 8 has brought to so many gay couples.  It's a mere baby step, but it's a step.  I just hope the man doesn't get in trouble from his superiors for speaking out of turn.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Movie Reviews: Triple Feature of Movies With Subtitles

If you are wondering why I suddenly seem to be seeing a lot of movies lately, the reason is that Brian put his tail between his legs and ashamedly returned to his job at the theater.  I guess you just can't teach an old dog new tricks.

So with Brian back in his suit and tie at our local cinema, we are once again reaping the benefits of free movies.  Hence my recent Easy A and The Town reviews.  So last night, once we were free of our jobs, we decided to have a movie marathon.  Oddly enough, the movies we decided to see all had one unifying theme:  they each sported a subtitle to create titles of impressive length.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps movie poster, property of 20th Century Fox
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps ADMIRABLE

I must admit that I have never seen the original Wall Street movie, but apparently viewing it's not necessary to understand the plot of this one.  Seeing as this sequel comes a good 23 years after the original, the screenplay was smart to provide the audience with any needed background information.  However, the screenplay wasn't always so smart... and at times this movie got a little preachy and a little sloppy.  The plot was all over the place and could have been fine-tuned just a tad more, and sometimes its message of "greed is bad" was a little too obvious.  Especially in the last ten minutes or so when the characters have their change-of-heart moments.

However, despite those two comments, I still found the movie to be very interesting and very well-acted.  As much crap as people like to talk about Shia LaBeouf -- yes, he's been arrested and can be a douche blah blah blah -- he's a very talented actor.  This movie proved to be a good one for him, giving him the opportunity to work against such greats as Michael Douglas, Josh Brolin, and Frank Langella.  He stars as a young Jake Moore who plans on marrying Winnie Gekko (Carey Mulligan), daughter of the infamous Gordon Gekko (Douglas).

Throughout the film, he grapples with his own inner capitalist while seeking advice from Gekko, eventualy working for Bretton James (Brolin), and trying to avenge the death of his first financial mentor Louis Zabel (Langella).  All this while trying to convince left-wing Winnie that he's not obsessed with Wall Street.  I've been a big fan of Carey Mulligan since I saw her in An Education, and she is flawless in this movie as well.  Her character goes through a lot when she is forced to reintroduce her estranged father into her life... and it's even more troubling for her as she begins to realize how like her father her boyfriend is.

For Brian's review of this movie, click here.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole movie poster, property of Warner Bros.
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole ADMIRABLE

By far my favorite movie of the night, Legend of the Guardians was spectacular on many levels.  First off, let's talk about the visual style of this movie.  Directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen), it should be of no surprise that this movie looks amazing.  The animation in this movie is photo-real and gorgeous.  At one point, Brian leaned over to me and whispered, "This animation is flawless."  It's true.  If you are a fan of the medium, you will definitely appreciate the artistry of this film.

Some might argue that the visual aesthetic is a little show-offy (if that's even a word) -- I mean, Snyder does pull off his signature slow motion to highlight the action -- but there is a lot more to this movie than a good look.  The story, although typical at first glance and fairly fast-paced, is quite adult for a kids' movie.  Which is good.  Only in modern times has children's entertainment become idiotic and empty.

The story involves a young owlet named Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess) who is kidnapped by the Pure Ones (akin to the Nazis) and is forced into slavery when he objects to the mistreatment of the "lesser" breeds of owl.  His brother Kludd, however, (voiced by Ryan Kwanten) is sucked into the doctrine of the Pure Ones and becomes a soldier.  Their choices drive the brothers apart as Soren escapes with a ragtag team of owls and embarks on a journey to elicit help from the Guardians: a legendary group of owls who defend justice.  Kludd however stays and remains loyal to Metalbeak and Nyra (Joel Edgerton and Helen Mirren) who lead the Pure Ones on their evil quest for domination.

Brian's only lament was that he felt the characters were a bit one-dimensional, and I can see his point.  Soren is good because he's good.  Metalbeak is bad because he's bad.  However, this movie is still very remarkable.  The ending may not be a surprise (telling you that good prevails is hardly a spoiler) but getting there is completely entertaining.

For Brian's review of this movie, click here.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb movie poster, property of Columbia Pictures
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb AWESOME!

This movie was originally released in 1964, but they were playing it at Brian's theater as part of a Cult Classic event this month.  One of Brian's coworkers was there with her boyfriend, so we sat with them.  Apart from the four of us,  I think there were only another 5 or so in attendance... which is a shame.  This movie, directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Peter Sellers in three roles, is a comic gem.  Very odd, unconventional, and quite arguably, genius.  If you haven't seen it, I urge you to do so!

I don't want to give away too much, but basically an insane Air Force General Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden) commands all of his planes to bomb the U.S.S.R. without any authority to do so.  The President (Sellers) is now in the War Room of the Pentagon trying to fix the situation before the planes reach their target.  He argues with a Commie-hating General Turgidson (George C. Scott), seeks advice from an ex-Nazi genius Dr. Strangelove (Sellers), and desperately needs a secret code that only Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (again Sellers) knows.

Ah, what an enjoyable night at the movies!

Love movies?  Check out my Movie Page!
For Brian's review of this movie, click here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Exclamation Point Update

Do you recall a blog post of mine from August 23rd entitled, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?  Well, click the exclamation points if you have forgotten and need to reread it.  It told of an email I received from my friend Eva, who is a singer/songwriter, about our contract being completed so we can begin work on a joint project.  It was a happy day indeed, worthy of celebration and excess punctuation. 

However, on August 29th I received another email, stating the following:

My husband and manager had about 10 changes and sent them off....when we're 100% satisfied I'll have her read it....things are moving though

At least we have a starting contract.....Hope to send it soon :-D

What?  They sent the contracts back!?  I mean, let's be realistic here.  It took a year just to get the lawyers to write it up in the first place, and now we're asking them to make changes?  Who are we kidding?

But mere moments ago I was pleasantly surprised to see this message in my inbox:

Just a quick note to say that the final provisions are being made and you will be receiving your contract very soon!!!!  Tomorrow perhaps!!!

It may appear scary with all the lawyer babble but remember the $10,000 and the fun we'll have creating it :-)

Can't wait!!

Well, Eva, I can't wait either!  So to everyone out there reading this, I ask that you please say a little prayer, knock on wood, cross your fingers, and wear your lucky underwear to make this a reality!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Movie Review: Sure Wouldn't Want to Live There, But Boy Did I Enjoy Watching It

The Town movie poster, property of Warner Bros.

I have to admit that I wasn't dying to see this movie by any means.  I'm not a huge Ben Affleck fan and the movie seemed to be just another heist flick.  Luckily Brian chose to see it, because it was actually very good.

The movie opens with some quotes about Charlestown - known as "The Town" - being the city with the most bank robberies.  Right off the bat we are privy to one of those robberies, and our bad guys (including a masked Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner) obviously know what they are doing.  They take the bank manager hostage (played by Rebecca Hall), just in case they get cornered by the police, but in the end they don't need her.  So they leave her blindfolded on the beach and tell her to walk until her toes feel the water.

The story gets really interesting when the thieves discover that the bank manager, Claire, lives in their neighborhood.  Renner's character James "Gem" Coughlin wants to get rid of her since her testimony could really hurt them, but Affleck's character Doug MacRay doesn't want to kill anyone.  Sure he'll rob banks and rough people up when they need it, but killing is out of line.  Eventually he begins to watch Claire to make sure she isn't helping the FBI, but winds up meeting her, falling in love with her, and having a relationship with her.  She, of course, has no idea that he was one of her abductors.

Also thrown into the mix is the FBI Special Agent Adam Frawley (played by Jon Hamm) who is hell-bent on throwing the four of them in prison for the rest of their lives.  Although he's fairly sure that they are the ones behind many of the recent robberies in Boston, he has no hard evidence against them.

The murky morality of this movie is what makes it most intriguing.  Frawley is the supposed "good guy" on the side of the law, yet he'll use any means to get what he wants.  Like lying about finding fingerprints or beating criminals mercilessly.  Watching policemen shoot and kill someone who had stolen something caused me to ponder on the word "justice."  Isn't it interesting in society that one bad deed deserves another?  How it's okay for someone to be shot as long as that someone is "bad"?

Doug's persona is equally double-sided.  We see him robbing banks, getting in fights, and having sex with drug addicts, yet when he's with Claire, we see his softer side.  We begin to understand the trials in his life, and how he really feels "stuck" where he's at.  It's hard to get out of a life of crime, yet he's determined to change his life around.

And while the heist scenes are thrilling, gritty, and intense, for me it was the terrific acting performances that really made this movie great.  Affleck and Hamm were amazing in their roles of course, but Jeremy Renner was truly brilliant and I was even impressed with Blake Lively (who our two roommates hate with a passion) as the cracked out ex-girlfriend.  All of the characters intertwined to weave a very intimate and real tapestry of life in the projects. 

Love movies?  Check out my Movie Page!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Gleek Critique: "Audition" Episode

My name is Jack, and yes, I'm a Gleek.

I don't know what it is about that quirky little group of teenage misfits, but I can't help but fall in love with New Directions.  Oh, and because of Chris Colfer's interview with Jimmy Fallon every time someone says "New Directions" I hear "Nude Erections."  I know, totally inappropriate.  Perhaps that's why I can't find it on YouTube anymore.  Tee hee... ha ha... sorry, I'm still giggling like a schoolboy over here.

Okay, in case you've been living under a rock, New Directions is the fictitious name of McKinley High's Glee Club from the Emmy-nominated and Golden Globe-winning comedy Glee on Fox.  Season One followed the group from their initial auditions to their devastating defeat at Regionals, and every song the kids sang became an instant hit on iTunes.  In fact, Season One had 25 singles on the Billboard Hot 100.

Well Season Two started tonight, and every Tuesday I'm going to be doing my brand new feature... drumroll please...  The Tuesday Night Gleek Critique!

I know... you're amazed right now.

So the first episode this season was titled "Audition" and basically, the Glee Club decides to hold auditions to recruit some new members.  However, they lost at Regionals in last season's finale and that makes them... well... losers.  Even more so than before.  Surprise, surprise, nobody new wants to join!

And there are some new people this time around!  First off, there is the bull dyke football coach Shannon Beiste (it's French).  She's played by Dot Jones and everything I had heard about the character before the premiere led me to believe she would be this big meanie rivaling Sue Sylvester.  However, this episode had me feeling sorry for her the entire time.  Sue and Schue gang up on her immediately and it's really quite sad.

I guess she is a little mean, I mean, she did kick Finn off of the team!  How mean!  And what's more, Finn's been replaced by a kid named Sam!  Yes, Sam is a newbie at McKinley High - explained as a transfer student - and was found singing in the shower just like Finn was in the first season.  He showed some interest in the Glee Club, but once he realized how uncool they were, he figured he'd rather be the quarterback instead.

Well, at least Finn has Rachel's shoulder to cry on.  Except that Rachel's a little busy sabotaging the third new character, Sunshine Corazon.  Sunshine is the new Filipino exchange student who happens to be an awesome singer.  Rachel, of course, gets very jealous and insecure and completely insane.  She sends Sunshine off to a crack house!  What!?  Yes.  Apparently, Filipino exchange students feel uncomfortable in crack houses, so she also doesn't join New Directions... and instead goes off to join their glee club rival: Vocal Adrenaline.

So we end with Sue and Schue hating each other as usual, everyone in the club hating Rachel as usual,  and the school in general hating on the glee club... as usual.

The pros:

  • Mike Chang is seen bare chested with his shirt billowing behind him as he leaps and bounds with new love Tina... but who cares about Tina.
  • New guy Sam (rumored to be Kurt's future boyfriend) is pretty cute and I like his voice.  His performance of "Billionaire" was very good.
  • Sue had some great zingers as usual.  Ha ha, loved when she barged in on Rachel and Sunshine singing in the bathroom and yelled "SHUT UP!"  Not her most witty retort, but still very funny.  Oh, and the comment she made about Santana's fake boobs acting as air bags in case the cheerios pyramid collapsed almost made me pee my pants.
  • Quinn is back in her cheerleading uniform and looking fierce!  I had forgotten what the sassier, intimidating Quinn was like.  Now that the baby's gone, it looks like she might become her former self.
The Cons:

  • Not enough Kurt.  However, I'm sure he'll be featured more heavily in other episodes... and I can't wait.  I love this kid.
  • Artie and Tina have broken up.  I guess it's a pro for Tina, since she's with dancer Mike now.  But poor Artie!  If goth girls won't date a kid in a wheelchair, who will?
  • It was called "Audition" and nobody auditioned!  Grr!  I guess I'm just really anxious to see this group grow... (Actually, I guess Sunshine did audition.  Thanks for the reminder, Rebecca!  Not sure how I forgot her rendition of "Listen."  That should be on the Pro List for sure.)
  • Emma Pillsbury wasn't in this episode at all, and I really want to know what's going to happen with she and Mr. Schuester... but rumor has it, I'll find out more about that next week.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Movie Review: 'Easy A' Earned an A... At Least in My Gradebook

Easy A movie poster, property of Screen Gems and Sony

Since I saw the first trailer in theaters, I've wanted to see this movie.  I honestly don't even remember what movie I saw that day with friends, but I remembered this movie's preview.  I remember saying to Brian after I got home, "There's this movie Easy A coming out, and it looks really funny.  We should see it."

Brian replied, "Oh yeah?  What looks good about it?"

Well, the premise seemed interesting: virgin girl, through lies and rumors, is seen as the biggest slut in the school.  However, the main thing that hooked me from the get-go was the actress, Emma Stone.  "The girl just has this dry wit... everything she says just seems like it would be funny.  I think you'd like it."

And I was right.  The greatest decision the filmmakers made was to cast Emma Stone as Olive Penderghast.  Although she's been in quite a lot of movies, I find that she's still sort of an unknown.  Hollywood needs to get to know this girl.  She's very funny in this film, from her dry voice to her comical expressions, and she completely embodies the character.  Underneath all of her sarcastic joking and wit, her pain is always just visible below the surface.  She's at the same time a fragile teenager and an empowered woman.

What's interesting in this movie, is the deeper issue at heart:  women and sexuality.  Or rather, society's view on women who have sex.  It isn't good.  Near the beginning of the film Olive agrees to pretend to have sex with her friend Brandon (Dan Byrd) in order to improve his reputation.  You see, everyone in school thinks he's gay, and although he is, he's not quite ready to come out.  So they "get it on" in a bedroom at a party while all the drunken high school boys listen at the door.  Brandon emerges a man.  Olive emerges a slut.  The double standard is horrific, yet all too true.

The film also makes cheeky references to other high school movies - mostly John Hughes fair from the 80's - and has a big musical number near the end simply because Ferris Bueller did too.  All in all, I found this movie to be very funny and smart, cheesy and sophisticated, and something to be admired.

You get an A, Easy A.

Love movies?  Check out my Movie Page!
For Brian's review, click here.

Chihuahua Comics: Veronica Wants Head

Friday, September 17, 2010

Our Hall: Utilize Every Nook and Cranny!

We've all got those random little corners and niches that seem to have been forgotten by the architects who drafted our floor plans.  In our apartment, there's that odd nook at the end of the hall and the wasted space by the front door.  But when you are living in a small apartment, square footage is still square footage... no matter where it is!

With the space in the hall, we were lucky enough that Ryan - our newest addition - happened to have the perfect piece of furniture for it.  It's an entry table with four drawers, tall legs, and painted in a distressed red.  Besides providing great storage (who doesn't have a "junk" drawer?) it's also a great place to display some more things, like monogrammed mugs and an Eiffel Tower lamp!  The artwork provides a great background... definitely more attractive than the phone jack hiding behind it.

We also utilized the small space in the entryway to display our "fine china" (which is actually a pretty sparse assortment of tableware).  I guess it might seem an odd place to display them, but our entryway is also our dining room.  Oh, the joys of apartment living.  However, the glass and white stoneware look very crisp and sharp against the dark shelves, and I finally found a place to put the framed photographs my Uncle Gabe sent me.

Now that concludes the tour of our apartment.  For this week at least.  Hope you've enjoyed it!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Our Kitchen: Dealing With What You've Got

 I had originally planned on subtitling this article "Continuing the Theme" but once I started taking pictures of our kitchen, I began to realize that it's not that good looking, and doesn't really look as polished as the living room.  "Dealing With What You've Got" seemed more fitting.

One of the definite cons to renting, is that you are often stuck with outdated cabinetry, counters, and appliances.  That is definitely our case.  Until we can afford to rent something more upscale or become homeowners, we are left with only one option:  make the best of it.

Luckily, the cabinets and appliances are at least white, so color-wise they blend... although the light birch-colored wood trim is pretty beat up and tends to give the kitchen an undesired yellowy look.  That, and the fact that there is no natural light in the kitchen... only fluorescent.  As someone once said, fluorescent lighting is good for surgery and surgery only!

So, I dealt with it as best I could.  For starters, I put up simple artwork on the walls.  I had some unused canvas board lying around, so I just used some acrylic paints to paint them red.  Then, using black paint, I painted some simple kitchen utensils.  Very fitting for a kitchen, I thought.  To make things even simpler, I just nailed them straight into the wall.  No fancy frames or anything.

I did however use some frames - well, shadow boxes - to feature some fake fruit.  I saw the white boxes at our local Sutherlands and just had to have them.  Then I thought, what will I put in them?  Seeing as it's a kitchen, and we needed more red, I bought a plastic apple and red pepper (FYI, plastic fruit runs for like 50 cents).

When decorating a kitchen, it's important to remember its functionality.  In other rooms, we can fill every surface available with knicknacks, but in the kitchen, it is important that we leave counter space free for working.  So on our counters, the things I've put on display are the very things we use each day.  Keeping all of your spatulas and mixing spoons out in a utensil holder will ensure they are always on hand while cooking, and can also be attractive too.  Try buying utensils in colors that coordinate with your kitchen's decor.  

I also love bottles for all of their various shapes, contours, and lines.  We have an entire row of bottles on display, which creates an eclectic look while once again being extremely handy.  Brian's constantly needing to use olive oil or vinegar or wine when he's cooking up something delicious.  Our pepper grinder is out on display.  A bowl of salt is on display.  Even our butter is on display in a butter dish.  All of these things turn functional into fabulous.

Someday I'll have black granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances, but for now I'm just dealing with what I've got!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Our Living Room: Creating a Personal Space

Every time someone sees our place for the first time, they rave about our apartment.  Now, I don't mean to sound vain, but... oh who am I kidding?  I'm very vain and downright prideful when it comes to our place, and that's obviously part of why I've been blabbing about my apartment all week.  But besides drawing attention to my obvious good taste, I want to help people see how easy and inexpensive it can be!

Perhaps you're looking at these pictures I've been posting thinking, "Ugh, I hate red,"  or "That's not my style at all."  Well newsflash:  you don't live here!  Brian and I live here, with our wonderful roomies Mesun and Ryan, and this space reflects us.  The point is, a room should say something about the people who live in it.

In our place, we've got lots of pieces on display that say a little something about us.  For example, I did a semester with the Academy of Art University and I was required to purchase a model kit from a company called Learn to See.  When the class was over, I was stuck with a torso, a head, a cylinder, a cone, a cube, and a sphere.  Instead of trying to find a place to store them, I put them on display.  Instant art.  The nude female torso (affectionately named Veronica) has become a running joke of our apartment.

We've got drama masks on one wall to represent Brian's love of theater.  A small sculpture resembling a seamstress's dress form recognizes Mesun's love of fashion.  Everything has either a personal story, or helps to create a visual story.  In the case of our apartment, all the various decorations are tied together by color: red, black or white.

Apart from color, we've coordinated our various curios in other ways.  The silver circles of our table lamps directly relate to the circle mirrors on the opposite wall.  That same circle is picked up again in the sphere, the round face of the clock, even in the curvature of the red chairs.  Together, they help to unify the space.

 Another example?  The small dress form is staged with "Veronica" since they are both human torsos.  They also relate to the head sculpture across the room, which is placed alongside another head-like sculpture which also ties in with the masks on the wall.  (We had a glass hand, too, until Brian broke it.)

 Books are another way to show off your interests.  I don't care if you display them on shelves like in a library, pile them in stacks, or even prop them open... just get some books in your space.  You'll discover Brian's love of film when you spot his copy of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die or learn that I admire the work of Maurice Sendak when you spot The Wild Things by Dave Eggers or The Art of Maurice Sendak by Selma G. Lanes.  Besides being great reads, these books have become a beautiful part of the room's design.

Last but not least, you should always display photos.  Frames can be really inexpensive and most people with computers and digital cameras can print out snapshots with ease.  Most of the photographs we have framed were printed in black and white, but for our living room, I had the idea of printing black and white photos on colored printer paper instead of photo paper.  We used red of course, but you can print them on whatever color you like.  Visually, the end result is much more dynamic and interesting.  It gives the image a graphic pop while still preserving your memories.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Our Living Room: Storage Solutions

Ensuring you have enough storage space for all your stuff is very important. Aside from seating, the only other big pieces of furniture in a living room are storage units, you know, bookshelves and what not. And let’s not forget housing the all-too-important television set.

Now, a lot of designers make a big fuss about television sets. Some labor under the impression that people don’t watch TV all the time; they insist that chairs should be arranged facing one another to create conversation, or perhaps pointing toward a feature such as a fireplace or a large window. If there is a TV in the room, it should be hidden somehow and only pulled out on those rare occasions when you are not entertaining guests.


Watching TV or movies is probably what we all do most in our living rooms, so why hide it? However, it can’t just sit on the floor so we do need to put it on something.

Originally Brian and I had a basic tube TV (you know, the kind that isn’t flat) and it sat on top of an end table. Not the most attractive set-up, especially with the DVD player and all the cords and stuff just hanging out in a heap underneath. Eventually, we began to buy things, and we upgraded to a small $70 TV stand from Ikea that looked like this:

We liked it for its no-fuss design.  Just a box on legs, really, and inside the cupboard was a place to put all our TV components.  Plus, all the many cords and cables were hidden from view.  Unfortunately, there was one major drawback: the cupboard door had to be left open if you wanted to use the remote. 

So when we moved to our current apartment, we upgraded to a flat-screen TV that we bought from a friend for just $200 dollars.  A new TV seemed the perfect excuse for a new entertainment center.  Our new apartment also had a much longer wall, and I immediately envisioned a giant monster of a storage unit.  I could see one with sliding doors to cover the TV when not in use, and plenty of shelves and cupboards and things to store our movies or display our things.  Maybe it could be lighted, or have some sort of water feature…

Well, those kinds of media solutions are really expensive.  And in case you don’t know, we are very poor!  This is design on a dime, folks!  So I began to rethink the whole matter.  We already had a shelving unit where we had our DVDs aligned:

So I thought, what if I can just buy another piece from the same collection and put them together?  So I got online and found just the perfect thing:

But, this is where I got a little creative.  I used it laying flat, and not standing tall.  Sometimes, finding the perfect storage solution is thinking outside the box.  We are very happy, with how our TV is set up.  It simply sits on the top of one end, and next to it, we placed that body pillow I mentioned in the previous article.  It fit perfectly on top, provides an additional seating area, but it also covers up all the cords!  That’s right, behind that pillow is the outlet where all our TV components get plugged in. 

In the five squares below the TV/bench, we have our TV components (no doors to get in the way of our remote control) and all our DVDs in alphabetical order.  Butted up right against the long shelving unit is our original unit, housing books and knickknacks, with decorative items on top.  I really love the long, low, and sleek look the two pieces create, and they fit the length of our wall perfectly.  We couldn’t be happier.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Our Living Room: Comfortable and Cozy

 As some of you may know, I have an interest in interior design.  Maybe not enough of an interest to actually go to school and become an interior designer, but just enough to sit around watching HGTV all day.  Believe it or not, I don’t watch just because David Bromstad is on there.  Although that is a plus.

A while ago I posted about our dining room, showing pictures and detailing the cost of everything.  I intended to do other stories about the other rooms in our apartment, but I never got around to it.  Well, I’m doing it now, folks, so be happy.

I have to start out by saying how much I love our apartment.  Sure it’s not the newest and swankiest of apartment buildings, and most of our neighbors are less than well-groomed, but once I come through the doors of Number 241 I’m home.

I’m going to talk about our living room for the next few days, focusing on different aspects of the space.  Today is all about comfort.  Since I spend so much time sitting in front of the TV watching interior design shows or thumbing through Ikea catalogs, it is important that the room be soft and inviting. 

Now, for a long time we had a black futon that was... well, here’s a comic I did a while ago expressing my feelings on futons:

They just aren’t very comfy.  Searching the classifieds online (which I would recommend to anyone who wants to buy cheap furniture) I stumbled upon a tan sofa for only $150.  Our uncomfortable Target-purchased futon was more expensive than that!  So for less money, we traded it out for a much better piece of furniture.  Sure it’s a little worn, but overall it was a great deal.  We couldn’t be happier lounging around on that soft sofa!

Our sofa is flanked by two red chairs which were purchased at Ikea for $99 each.  The chairs are a bright pop of color against the tan sofa and white coffee table.  And although the sofa and chairs do not match, they are pulled together through the use of black and red pillows, also from Ikea.

I’m glad I mentioned those pillows, because they are a must for a comfy cozy living space!  They are so soft and squishy, perfect for laying your head on or hugging tightly (I don’t know about you, but I always tend to hold a pillow on my lap while watching TV… I guess it’s a comfort thing).  We have five pillows on the sofa, which I like to sort of stand side by side like a row of books on a shelf.  I think it has a sort of contemporary look that way.  Of course, they don’t stay like that for very long!

We also have a long body pillow which lays along a short bookshelf.  Together they form a sort of bench, which is great extra seating when we have friends over.  Not a good place to sit and watch a movie, but definitely great for when we’re in the middle of a riveting conversation.  I also tend to sit there and put my shoes on (and no, I am not Mr. Rogers).

At the other end of our sofa you can also find a small red throw which is a perfect blankie for snuggling up in.  Underneath an end table, there are additional blankets and another pillow in a small stack.  You never know when everybody is going to want their own blanket… especially as we move into the colder months. 

So if I haven’t made myself clear yet, comfy and cozy is key!  Make your apartment more inviting with soft seating you can really sink into and pillows, pillows, pillows.  Add a shaggy rug like ours for added texture and interest, and you’ve really got a living room that says, “Come have a seat, please!”

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Judith came into my life in the autumn of 2007.  I had just gotten home from my two years in Chile and I needed to get out of the house!  Judith fit the bill.  Sure she wasn't beautiful by any means, but she had great personality.  She was also fiercely reliable; there for me no matter what.

She was there for my late night secret rendezvous and never said a word.  All the drama with Matt and Chad and Andy... oh, she was such a sport!  Judith would wait outside quietly until I was ready to go home or act as if she didn't notice if I made out in the backseat.  She wasn't one to judge.  Ever.

She would give me rides to work, rides to my classes at Otero Junior College, she would even take my sneaky butt to church on Sundays.  Judith and I were inseparable.  If I was someplace, you could be sure Judith was there too.  Attached at the hip.  Some of my friends, however, scoffed at her.

"Judith is lame, Jack," they would say.  "She seriously sucks.  Why don't you get rid of her?"

"Shh!  Or she'll hear you.  You guys don't know Judith like I do.  She's such a sweet spirit."

Sweet spirit was a name Mormon boys would use in reference to ugly girls, implying that their only positive attribute was a kind heart and not a pretty face.  They all laughed of course when I said it, but I meant it with the utmost respect for Judith.  I loved Judith in a way.

We were such friends that she even moved from Colorado to Utah with me.  What a fun road trip that was!  Eight hours across the mountains, singing loudly with the radio, windows down because the AC was broken. 

Judith was around for my life-altering semester at Brigham Young University and even helped introduce me to Brian.  She was there for all the difficult visits with the bishop, my eventual "coming out," and all the tears that came with it.  Judith was a rock, never flinching in her desire to be of assistance.  Sometimes we would just sit alone and I would cry.

But Judith was sick.  Looking back I can see the signs so clearly, bur for a long time I had no idea.  Maybe I was a selfish friend, too preoccupied with my own problems to notice hers.  Maybe I just didn't take the time to care.  She always supported me, but did I support her?  Did I give her the help she needed?

Over our three year friendship she had a few major breakdowns.  I had been there for her then.  Helped her as best I could.  But why did it take her near destruction for me to finally care?

I don't know.  If Judith resented me she never let it show.  Always the optimist.  Always selfless.  She'd bounce right back and the two of us would be out on the town once more.

She helped Brian and I make the transition to Salt Lake City, but I began to rely on her less.  She was getting shaky.  Temperamental.  Some days were good and some days were bad.  "It's the sickness," I thought.  But did I help her?  No.  I just avoided her; left her on her own.

I hate to say it, but I didn't see her at all the last few months of her life.  We didn't communicate.  We didn't see each other.  I made no efforts to fix what was once such a beautiful relationship.  For all I knew, she was rotting away on the street somewhere.

This morning, however, I saw Judith for the last time.  They came and loaded her up, taking her away for good.  Her body has been donated to science and her parts will be stripped away and put to use elsewhere.  I can't help but feel a little sad.

After all, Judith had been my car for three years.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Cabbage Soup Diet: Day Six

Oh boy.  What can I say?  I failed, guys.  We both did.

Day Six of the Cabbage Soup Diet, in case anyone wants to do it, is soup plus all the beef you want, plus vegetables.  We were doing well, up until we went to Brian's family's house for a visit.

You see, Brian's sister Jenny wanted us to get a movie for her through our Netflix account.  It came in the mail on Friday, and Sunday was a day off for both of us, so it was agreed that we'd take it down to her and visit the family as well.  We hadn't been down to see them in well over a month.

Little did I know, Brian's mom was planning a dinner for us.  Not only that, but it was a dinner in my honor.  A surprise, belated birthday feast!  And how could I say no to something so sweet and heartfelt?

So birthday cake proved to be our downfall.  No more Cabbage Soup Diet for us.

However, we did manage to lose weight in the five days we did it.  I lost an inch off of my stomach and 8 pounds!  So if you see a really skinny guy eating birthday cake, that's probably me.  I'm skinny now.

Well, skinnier.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Cabbage Soup Diet: Day Five

Here we are again at the end of another long diet day.  The fifth day of the Cabbage Soup Diet has us eating the titular soup along with 10-20 ounces of beef and up to six tomatoes!  Woo hoo!

Not a huge fan of tomatoes plain and unaccompanied, but the beef was definitely a plus.  I've been a vegetarian for the past four days, so it was nice to sink my teeth into something carnivorous.  Brian prepared small little hamburger patties for me before heading to work, so all day I've just been reheating them and eating them along with some tomatoes.  I found that if I skewer some beef and tomato onto my fork at the same time, it's actually quite tasty and satisfying.

Tonight I went out with some friends to see Going the Distance and they loaded up on popcorn and cookies while I sat there with a growling stomach.  They kept "forgetting" I was on this diet and would offer me whatever they were eating.  Such temptation!  However, I stayed strong.  No delicious movie treats for me.

Just two more days.  Just two more days.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cabbage Soup Diet: Day Four

"This s*** is bananas!  B-A-N-A-N-A-S!"

And so is this diet.  Day Four had me eating bananas and skim milk all day long.  I'm not sure if I'm losing weight or slowly regressing into an orangutan.  So much for the theory of evolution.

Brian was doing some regressing today as well.  In the beginning he was walking tall, handling this diet without complaint.  Today, however, he was reduced to almost nothing.  Crawling around on the floor in hunger.

"I don't look any skinnier!" he lamented.  "This diet isn't working.  It's dumb.  Let's stop doing it."

"I know it sucks.  But we can't quit," I said firmly.  I'm such a quitter.  I need to follow through with something.  "Besides, I'm blogging about it," I added, "What will people think if we quit?"

"Just write like you're still doing it."

What a tempting idea!  But no, we're sticking this thing out.  Self-inflicted torture is apparently my new thing.

I bet I've planted a seed of doubt in your mind now, haven't I?  By mentioning the "just lie" comment?  You're probably wondering if I'm still doing the diet or if I'm just saying that I'm still doing the diet.  Well, I guess you'll have to just trust me.

Or ask yourself this:  Is an orangutan capable of deceit?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Cabbage Soup Diet: Day Three

Wow.  Sorry for the sudden outburst.  It was almost like a weird symptom of Tourette Syndrome.  Instead of yelling obscenities I just shout out my distaste for diet foods.

To be fair, the cabbage soup Brian made is actually pretty tasty (well, obviously, this is Brian we're talking about here) and I don't really hate it.  It's just that I've had 6 bowls of it over the last 3 days... and I've got 4 more days to go.

Day Three was a combination of the first two days, meaning both fruits and vegetables along with my soup.  When I got home from work, Brian had a veggie tray and a fruit tray sitting out for us.  While we watched an old DVD of The French Chef with Julia Child making deliciously fatty meals, we were eating broccoli.  Raw broccoli.  Without Ranch to dip it in, it's not very good.  I had Brian steam the broccoli for me, and it tasted much better.  However, it made me wish that it was covered in melted cheese...  and alas, there is no cheese on any day of the diet.

Oh, I must mention that there was one thing from yesterday that was not permitted today.  The baked potato.  And no baked potato means no butter.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cabbage Soup Diet: Day Two

After posting last night I got to be so very very hungry.  No amount of grapes could fill me up!  I was craving almost anything and everything.  What's on Food Network?  Oh, bad idea.  Aah!  Commercial for Toaster Strudels.  We have Toaster Strudels.  I could get one out of the freezer right now and toast one... NO!  No.  Eat some peaches, Jack.  Turn the TV off, go into the kitchen and... no, not the kitchen.  Get out of the kitchen!

Today is all about vegetables. This morning Brian had carefully put raw vegetables into bags for me.  One was marked "Breakfast" so I tried to gnaw on some carrots while getting ready for work.  I ate maybe half a carrot and some water before rushing out the door.  After work I had some spaghetti squash (I actually really really like spaghetti squash by the way) and some cabbage soup.

The best part though, would have to be the baked potato!  That's right, something resembling food I ate before the diet.  Day two of the diet allows for one baked potato at dinner with butter even!  Yes, butter.  So that baked potato with butter was like nirvana.  I was literally licking the plate.

This diet's been tough so far, but I'm going to stick it through.  Brian feels more full and satisfied than I do, and keeps telling me that I don't have to do the diet if I don't wanna.  But I need to lose the weight as much as he does, and if he's going to be all skinny so will I!

My friends and family haven't been very supportive though.  Here's what a few of them have been saying:

 Totally unsupportive right?  If they were a bra, I'd return them.

However, I have all the faith in the world that this diet will work.  In fact, this diet will work so well, I won't even have to wear a bra at all.  My man boobs will be history.


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