Monday, January 31, 2011

Ask Joaquin: How are Things Going in California?

From a lot of people:  How are things going in California? (or a similar variant of the question)

I figured the best way to end this month was to give you a recap of our fabulous success here in the bustling city of Los Angeles!  Scratch that.  Our moderate good fortune in the L.A. area!  No… still a bit misleading.  Okay.  I thought I would end this month by recapping our thus far unsuccessful move to Littlerock (even though we wanted to be in L.A. and told everybody that was where we were moving to and yet here we are). 

Let’s look back week by week and see where we went wrong.

Week One
After such a horrendous drive out here, I think we were just excited to be in California finally.  We were like kids in a candy store, running around oohing and awing over every little thing.  “Let’s drive to L.A. today and look at apartments!  That’s fun!” or “After your audition, Brian, we should stop by Hollywood Boulevard and check out the Walk of Fame and stuff.  You know, be tourists!”  Yay!  Fun, fun, fun in the sun, sun, sun!

Week Two
By this point we realized that if we ever wanted to actually rent any of the apartments we were drooling over, we would have to obtain employment.  So the job search began.  We went to Starbucks to use the free wi-fi to fill out muchos online applications and sent our resumes pretty much everywhere.  Of course, we still found time to play around at our favorite store, Charlie Brown Farms.  I mean, after a while Starbucks does kick you out, you know.

Week Three
Somebody actually wanted to interview me!  Hooray!  It was DialogueDirect and I thought, “Hey, sounds like a poopy job but it’s for a good cause.  And the pay is pretty decent, so why not?”  So we drove to Culver City for the interview, and I was hired!  That’s progress!  I went to training, had my first day out on the streets of downtown Los Angeles… and then quit.  Yep.  Wasn’t for me.  So Brian and I went to temp agencies and are hoping to be placed into a job soon.

Week Four
Got an email from Eva and our long-anticipated animation project “Tenny” has finally gotten all the legal approval necessary for funding.  Which means that we can finally—finally!—start in February.  Brian had to do some tests on Excel and Word to see if he qualifies for a certain job that came up… so let’s cross our fingers that he gets it!  Because if he has that job and I’m working on “Tenny,” we should be okay money-wise.  We are also awaiting his liquidated mutual fund (which is in the mail according to Edward Jones) which will put some much-needed dinero into our bank account.  Oh, I should also mention that we toured The Art Institute of California - Hollywood, although I seriously doubt I’ll ever be able to afford it…

So where did we go wrong?  Let’s see. We should have started looking for jobs sooner.  This wasn’t supposed to be a vacation to Hollywood.  And we should have hit up the temp agencies first, rather than relying on Craigslist and stuff.  My Aunt Rachel has always had success with temp agencies (and it was her prompting that led us to go that route).  We also should have been more frugal with the money we brought with us, because we wasted a lot of it that first week or two on frivolities.

Sigh.  Lessons learned.  Let’s move on to February, shall we?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tostadas de Tía Loca

My Aunt Rachel is crazy awesome, which is why we affectionately call her Tía Loca (or Aunt Crazy in gringo speak).  She’s funny and feisty and a damn good cook.  And I don’t know how she manages it.  She’s up at four o’clock in the morning taking dogs out and getting Mariana up for school, and then she drives an hour and fifteen minutes to work where she’s doing accounts payable all day.  So when she comes home at around seven in the evening after such an exhausting day, the last thing she wants to do is cook.  But being the amazing woman that she is, she still does… and it’s always delicioso!

She made these tostadas for us one night and they were absolutely exceptional!  If the chicken is ready ahead of time, these can be made in five minutes.  I decided that everyone should have the opportunity to eat them.  So go ahead, make them yourselves!  If my aunt has time, you have time.

Tostadas de Tía Loca 
Ingredients:
  • 1 bag of tostada shells 
  • 3 or so chicken breasts 
  • 2 cloves of garlic 
  • 1 can of mixed vegetables
  • ½ red onion, chopped 
  • ¼ cup lettuce, chopped 
  • ¼ cup of mayonnaise 
  • salt 
  • pepper 
  • garlic salt 
  • queso fresco, crumbled (optional)
    Directions:
    1. Boil the chicken in water along with a clove or two of garlic for about an hour and a half.  This is the longest step, but like I said before, you can have the chicken cooked and ready to go ahead of time.  Easier still, just use canned chicken!
    2. Once it’s all cooked up, shred the chicken into little pieces.
    3. Mix in the mayonnaise, canned veggies, onion, and lettuce. 
    4. Sprinkle in some salt, pepper, and garlic salt to taste. 
    5. Spread over a tostada shell, and sprinkle some queso fresco on top if desired (not pictured).
    6. Eat it!  It’s so good!

    Saturday, January 29, 2011

    Tramps In Stereo

    My cousin Martin invited Brian and I to go along with him last night to see a band he knows play at a local bar.  The band, as I'm sure you've figured out by now, is called Tramps In Stereo.  Martin has a friend who is friends with the lead singer (I wanna say his name is Jesse?) so he really wanted to go see them perform.  Brian and I figured it would be fun to get out of the house and actually do something, so we were more than happy to tag along.

    So the venue was this little bar called My Place Saloon which is so new that it isn't even in the Yellow Pages yet.  I couldn't even find them listed online anywhere.  It's in like the only ghetto shopping center in Littlerock, next to some tienda that sells boots where everything is written in Spanish.  The feel inside the saloon is what you would expect from a small bar out in the boonies.  Country folk holding beer bottles.  Cigarette smoke in the air.  Men playing pool while the women try to get their attention.  It kept making me think of Jodie Foster in The Accused.  You know, the one where she gets raped on a pinball machine.

    Tramps In Stereo began to play around 10:30 and were done around 11:00.  I'd say they did about five songs and each one was really really good.  The only real downside was that the lyrics were mostly unintelligible because it was hard to make out exactly what he was singing with all the noise and the acoustics...  but they still sounded amazing.  They had this really cool female bass player (who Martin says is new to the band) who had her head shaved into a really cool mohawk (think Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver) and just looked totally awesome.  Brian leaned over to me and joked, "If she didn't have a vagina I would totally be into her."  Martin thinks she's hot too, unfortunately for them both she's a lesbian (or so people say).

    According to their Facebook page, their genre is Electro Pop/Analog Synth/Guitar Bits/60's Mod.  I've never been very good at placing music into genres.  They kinda' reminded me of The Killers if anyone knows who I'm talking about.  Only much more awesome (because they haven't sold out yet, duh).  If you're into music, you should check them out online and see what you think.  I'm sure they would love it if you bought their songs!
    Probably the worst photo ever.  I took it using my phone and now they all look like possessed, blurry demons.  You can't even see the drummer... just pretend he's there.

    Weird Things We've Noticed about California

    While Apartment Hunting…

    • Apartments don’t come with refrigerators, and people look at you weird when you ask if they do. 
    “You mean you don’t have your own refrigerator?”
    “No.  We’ve always rented…”
    “But how do you keep your food cold?”
    We saw one place that came with one, and they boasted about it as one of their special perks.
    “It even comes with a refrigerator, so you see we spare no expense!”
    • Heating and cooking are all gas, not electric.  That means one more bill we’ll have to pay.
    • Pull-out cutting boards (the kind installed in the cabinetry) are illegal.  Apartments that have them have had to nail them all shut to comply with the new law.  Apparently kids were getting hurt.  Don’t they know that kids can get hurt on anything?  Are we going to nail the cupboards and drawers shut too?

    While Eating…

    • McDonald’s (and tons of other fast food places) have the calorie count posted next to the price.  Yep, right there on the big menu-board. 
    • Subway doesn’t have the Sub of the Day deal in California, nor do they do rewards points.  Brian handed over his rewards card and the kid tried to use it as payment. 
    “You’re gift card is empty.”
    “Um… I’m going to pay with my debit card.  Did you give me the points, though?”
    “Points?”
    “That’s not a gift card.  That’s a Subway Rewards Card.  You swipe it to give me points.”
    “We don’t do that…  are you sure it’s not a gift card?”
    • It’s normal to see “We Accept EBT Cards” posted at convenience stores, grocery stores, restaurants, pretty much everywhere.  You would NEVER see that in Utah…

    While Driving…

    • Everybody drives under the speed limit.  Maybe because speeding tickets are like $600 or more.
    • Nobody knows how to merge.  Or signal.  I just get to hear Brian shouting obscenities and honking his horn.
    “What the EXPLETIVE are you doing?  Move the EXPLETIVE over!  EXPLETIVE!”
    • We often see signs that say "End Speed Limit" but then we don't know what the new speed limit is...

    Friday, January 28, 2011

    They Nominated Who?

    Earlier this week the nominations for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards were announced… and there were some surprising nominations.  Well, surprising to me at least. 

    First off, The Kids Are All Right is getting a lot more Oscar nods than I think it deserves.  I saw the movie.  I liked the movie.  But I didn’t think it was by any means fabulous.  Do you know what I mean?  I just didn’t think it was that good.  Brian thinks it’s political, and he may be right.  Lesbian's rights activists would probably be livid if the movie wasn’t at least nominated.

    But seriously…  Mark Ruffalo is nominated?  And why Annette Bening over Julianne Moore?   Is it because Moore’s a redhead?  That is so messed up…  I promise you ginger kids have souls.  They really do.  My mom is a ginger, and I love her!

    (There was a South Park reference in there.  Did you catch it?)

    Oh, do you know what else makes me upset?  Once again, Leonardo DiCaprio is snubbed at the Oscars.  Why do they always do this to him?  Two years ago he was in a fantastic film called Revolutionary Road with Kate Winslet and they were both amazing in it.  Kate Winslet won an Oscar that year for her other movie, The Reader, even though she was far more impressive in Revolutionary Road.  And Leo?  Nothing.   Not a thing.  It was like everyone decided to just ignore him and that movie all together.

    But what’s the excuse this year?  Inception is getting plenty of attention as far as awards go—I mean, it is nominated for Best Picture—but does anyone think Leonardo DiCaprio deserves a nomination?  I guess nobody else but me and Brian.  Or what about his performance in Shutter Island?  Brilliant beyond brilliant!  A nomination for that role this year?  No.  I am furious.  FURIOUS!

    I need to calm down…  Where are my pills?

    Okay, my other complaints are less drastic.  I loved Hereafter, but the special effects in it were pretty bad… and what is its only nomination?  Best Achievement in Visual Effects.  Seriously?  And do you know what isn’t nominated for Visual Effects?  Tron.  Yup, Hereafter over Tron.  And what else did Tron have to bring to the table besides its effects?

    And speaking of these technical awards, my beloved Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is nominated for Visual Effects and Art Direction, which makes me happy, but what makes me sad is that I know it won’t win.  A decade-long film franchise and not a single Oscar to its name.  Oh well.

    The Oscars air Sunday, February 27th… maybe we’ll have cable by then.

    Movies of 2009: My Fave Five

    5.  (500) Days of Summer
    This is one of my favorite romantic comedies because it is surprisingly unconventional, hip and unique.  It somehow makes the familiar unfamiliar.  And Zoey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are adorable together.
    4.  Precious
    This movie grabs onto you with an iron fist and never lets you go.  Bold, unapologetic, and deeply affecting, with a spectacular performance by Mo’Nique.
    3.  Inglourious Basterds
    Nazi-killing at its very best!  Only Quentin Tarantino could rewrite history with such finesse…  if only Hitler had really burned up in a movie theater.
    2.  Up
    The previews for this movie had me a little scared… they made the movie look kinda’ stupid.  But I never should have doubted my beloved Pixar.  This movie was warm-hearted and funny, and the silent flashback of Carl’s and Ellie’s life together—the miscarriage of their child and her eventual death—has me in tears every single time.
    1.  Where the Wild Things Are
    Maurice Sendak is one of my favorite author/illustrators, and Spike Jonze’ adaptation of Sendak’s children’s book Where the Wild Things Are blew me out of the water.  Finally, a family movie that doesn’t sugar coat or dumb things down.  It’s scary, it’s funny, it’s sad, it’s complex, it’s impactful, it’s innovative, and it’s brilliant.

    Honorable Mentions:  Star Trek, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Hangover

    Oh, and if you haven't yet, be sure to read "Movies of 2010:  My Fave Fifteen"!

    Thursday, January 27, 2011

    Movies of 2008: My Fave Five

    5.  High School Musical 3: Senior Year
    This is really embarrassing guys, but there’s something about the High School Musical movies that I can’t get enough of.  The third one—the only one to go to theaters—is by far the best.  I even went to the midnight opening with a bunch of my college friends.  Everything about it is cheesy, but it’s sure a lot of fun.  Plus, Zac Efron makes me swoon.
    4.  Zack and Miri Make a Porno
    Two friends make a really low-budget porno for some rent money, and then inevitably fall in love.  Lots of crass humor and hilarious moments, but overall it’s a sweet little love story.
    3.  Doubt
    One of the greatest dramas I have ever seen.  Meryl Streep, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams all shine, but Viola Davis blows the movie out of the water with just one powerful scene.  Outstanding performances all around.
    2.  Slumdog Millionaire
    We loved this movie so much I think we saw it at least three times in theaters.  We even paid money to see it even though we could have seen it for free, just to show our support.  Oh, and the ending dance number is the best part of the whole thing.  Go Bollywood!
    1.  WALL-E
    The fact that the entire first half of the movie is essentially a silent film is so awesome!  WALL-E shows so much more emotion and character without words than most live action stars do with a script full of dialogue.  This is by far Pixar’s greatest movie to date, with stunning animation, sound, and story.

    Honorable Mentions:  Yes Man, Revolutionary Road, Tropic Thunder

    Wednesday, January 26, 2011

    Movies of 2007: My Fave Five

    5.  Lars and the Real Girl
    The love between a man and his blow-up doll is very real.  And if you’ve seen this movie, you’ll know that it’s a beautiful thing.
    4.  Atonement
    So good we had to read the book.  A little girl falsely accuses someone of a horrible crime, and lives with the guilt the rest of her life.  A very well-made film.
    3.  Sweeney Todd:  The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
    Sondheim is a musical genius, and Tim Burton’s visionary style turned out to be the perfect complement.  I love the music!  I love the blood!
    2.  Juno
    Ellen Page is a comic gem in this wonderfully quirky, brilliantly written coming-of-age story about sex and relationships.  "That ain't no Etch-A-Sketch. This is one doodle that can't be un-did, Homeskillet."
    1.  Across the Universe
    I freaking love this movie!  I mean, it’s a movie musical by Julie Taymor featuring music from The Beatles!  How can you not love that?  It’s about the tragedy of war and the beauty of love in the turbulent 1960’s.  All you need is love!
                   
    Honorable Mentions:  Dan in Real Life, Hairspray, Ratatouille

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    Movies of 2006: My Fave Five

    5.  V for Vendetta
    “Remember, remember the 5th of November.”  A very cool movie about people overthrowing their government by any means necessary.  Plus there is some beautiful dialogue in it!  “It seems strange that my life should end in such a terrible place, but for three years I had roses and apologized to no one.”
    4.  The Pursuit of Happyness
    I love me some Will Smith!  And this movie pulled at my heartstrings and had me crying like a big ol’ baby… so good!
    3.  Little Miss Sunshine
    One of many movies about a dysfunctional family, but this one is one of my favorites.  When little Olive dances like a stripper to “Superfreak” at the beauty pageant, I almost peed my pants!  Hilarious!
    2.  The Devil Wears Prada
    There are four big reasons why I love this movie:  Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, and Stanley Tucci.  Need I say more?
    1.  Marie Antoinette
    18th Century Versailles has never looked this awesome.  Set to a wonderful score of pop rock goodies like “I Want Candy,” the movie shows us that the royal class was really the superstars of their day.  It has a beautiful esthetic and sheds a more favorable light on the infamous Marie Antoinette.

    Honorable Mentions:  The Holiday, Perfume:  The Story of a Murderer, A Prairie Home Companion

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    Movies of 2005: My Fave Five

    5.  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
    This movie opens up with dolphins singing “So long and thanks for all the fish!”  I was hooked instantly.  I also decided to eat some dolphin-safe tuna while watching.
    4.  The Chronicles of Narnia:  The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
    All I’ve got to say is this movie is far more exciting than the original novel.  The novel is dull, but this movie was magical.  Same can’t be said for the sequels however…
    3.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
    Although I don’t think a remake of a childhood classic was necessary, I did find myself enjoying this movie.  Even against my will.  And while it may be very pointless and silly, I guess that’s the point.  “Candy doesn’t have to have a point.  That’s why it’s candy.”
    2.  The Producers
    “May I take your hat, your coat, and your swastikas?”  They wanted to produce the world’s worst show, but lo and behold a musical about Nazis turns out to be a success.  This movie musical is hilarious!
    1.  Brokeback Mountain
    The tagline says it all:  “Love is a force of nature.”  This movie is absolutely heartbreaking, and it should have won best picture that year at the Academy Awards.  And I’m not just saying that because I’m gay.  This movie deserved it.
                   
    Honorable Mentions:  The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Hitch, Mr. and Mrs. Smith

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    Movies of 2004: My Fave Five

    5.  Saved!
    Mandy Moore throws the bible at Jena Malone shouting, “I am FILLED with Christ’s love!” and Jena responds with, “This is not a weapon!”  Comedic, yes, but also poignant.
    4.  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    What if you could erase someone from your memory?  Would you do it?  I always love Jim Carrey when he decides to do serious roles.  He can really be quite brilliant.
    3.  Napoleon Dynamite
    I was completely caught up in this cult classic phenomenon when it came out.  I had a “Vote for Pedro” trucker cap, an “Eye of the Liger” pink polo shirt, and I quoted this movie all the time.  “You’re mom goes to college!”  And it was made by Brigham Young University alumni with a Mormon as the lead.  It was like every Mormon kid had to love Napoleon.
    2.  Mean Girls
    Thanks to the comedic genius of Tina Fey, this movie about the evil tactics of teenage girls rises above the rest.  It’s also a reminder that Lindsay Lohan had so much potential!  But unlike her character in the film, it seems she’s become a “plastic” for good.
    1.  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
    Still my favorite installment of the film franchise, this one, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, was beautifully filmed and edited.  In my opinion, it brought Harry Potter to a whole ‘nother level of artistic merit.  It’s simply the best.
                   
    Honorable Mentions:  The Passion of the Christ, The Incredibles, Finding Neverland

    Saturday, January 22, 2011

    Movies of 2003: My Fave Five

    5.  A Mighty Wind
    Who knew a mockumentary about folk singers could be so funny?  “There was abuse in my family, but it was mostly musical in nature.”
    4.  Big Fish
    One of Tim Burton’s better films, surreal and endearing.
    3.  Pirates of the Caribbean:  The Curse of the Black Pearl
    A movie based on a theme park ride?  Why, yes!  And it actually worked!  Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Jack Sparrow is the stuff of legend.  He truly made the movie memorable.  The sequels however?  Not so memorable… and a fourth one is on the way.
    2.  School of Rock
    Failed rock musician pretends to be a substitute teacher and winds up with a band of rock and rollers!  “I have been touched by your kids… and I’m pretty sure that I’ve touched them.”
    1.  Finding Nemo
    “Just keep swimming!” are words to live by.  One of Pixar’s very best.
                   
    Honorable Mentions:  Love Actually, Mona Lisa Smile, Bruce Almighty

    Friday, January 21, 2011

    Movies of 2002: My Fave Five

    5.  A Walk to Remember
    A cheesy choice, right?  I’m aware.  But this movie is so adorable and I just love Mandy Moore.
    4.  About a Boy
    Every time I hear the song “Killing Me Softly” I think of this movie and that odd little boy singing it.  Always.
    3.  Orange County
    This movie is so funny!  I just love the guy’s dysfunctional family, including the drug-addicted Jack Black.  Oh my goodness, do you remember when he burns down the college and then runs away in his underwear?  Ha ha ha ha ha.
    2.  Catch Me If You Can
    The thrill of the chase is so exciting in this film, from beginning to end.  And I just love the idea of stepping into another life, pretending to be a pilot or a doctor or whatever you want to be that day.  Instead I’m just sitting here.  Blogging.
    1.  Chicago
    A brilliant movie musical.  The concept, the staging, the music, everything.  And what about that superstar cast!?  Phenomenal!  I can watch it again and again.
     
    Honorable Mentions:  Lilo & Stitch, Bang Bang You’re Dead, Minority Report

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