Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mamma Mia and Movie Mayhem

Okay, this is not really a blog entry about Mamma Mia! The Movie, which (surprise to no one) I loved. It had everything a chick in my demographic group could want, hence the term "chick flick." Meryl Streep looking and sounding fabulous? Check? Hunky Colin Firth wearing open-buttoned shirts? Check? ABBA songs? Check. Romance and happy endings? Well, duh.

The movie didn't change my life and I expect no film award nominations out of this, but who cares? It was fun and feel-good funny. Even when Pierce Brosnan warbled a few songs and I thought my ears would bleed, I still thought it was endearing of him to at least try. When you're eye-candy, a lot can be forgiven.

What I really want to discuss is my crappy luck at the movies lately. I don't like to go around feeling sorry for myself, but it seems as if Mother Karma has been punishing me for some past transgressions by seating the strangest combination of viewers around me during the movies.

It all started a few months ago when my fellow mom-friend Adrienne and I went to see Baby Mama, a flick geared not only toward chicks but chicks who might be moms. (Can marketers read us or what?) Halfway through the movie, the guy behind me begins kicking my seat violently. It wasn't the steady kick-kick-kick of a bored leg; it was the spastic, pre-orgasmic kick that my dog does when you scratch her belly and hit the right itchy spot. So I sit up and turn my head to look at him. That usually does the trick. As I turn around, I can't see too well in the dark but I can make out a young man (the one sitting behind me) swapping spit quite noisily with a young woman. They didn't even notice me looking at them. I don't even think he realized that he kicked my seat.

The kicking stopped for a while, and then spastic-kick happened again. And now I'm getting pretty pissed, so I turn around again to tell him to cut it out, but now they're juicily sucking at each other, moaning, and (I think I saw this in the dark) their hands are moving. At the realization that there is amour going on behind me, I no longer care about having my seat kicked. Now I'm worried about where this will lead. The image of the "hair gel" scene from There's Something About Mary comes to mind and I realize that my hair is fine; I don't need more gel, thank you.

So I whisper the situation to Adrienne and we move to the quieter, non-romantic section of our row, but now while I'm watching the movie, I'm also distracted, thinking: Who goes to a chick-flick to grope, especially one involving a pregnant woman and an eventual labor scene? And why go to a normal-length movie for that purpose when there are much longer movies playing at this multiplex? Is this a very expensive movie, or a very cheap hotel room? So many unanswered questions ...

Then, a few weeks ago, I took my 11-year-old son to see Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. It's rated PG-13 but I agreed to take Mr. Pubescent Rocker because:
  1. I love Hellboy.
  2. Mr. PR is very mature for his age.
  3. I love Hellboy.
Right before the previews begin, a man and two little boys, one who appeared to be a preschooler and the other not much older, sit down directly behind us.

Okay, I know I will never win Mother of the Year, so I try not to judge other people's parenting standards, but WHO TAKES A PRESCHOOLER TO A MOVIE CALLED "HELLBOY 2?" Is it just me, people? There are blades in this movie. People being eaten. Impending Armageddon. Smoking. An unmarried pregnant woman! All the things that make movies fun for those WHO ARE NOT PRESCHOOLERS! Even my Mr. PR, who fancies himself quite the superhero buff, had to cover his eyes during certain suspenseful scenes. I had to concentrate really hard on the movie to block out the thought of the kid behind me, which was extra challenging because he kept asking his dad what was going on in the movie.

Finally, at Mamma Mia the other night, Adrienne and I got there fairly early and got good seats, which was lucky because it was evident that the place was going to fill up. Just as we were congratulating ourselves on selecting a movie that appeared to be attracting sensible middle-aged women such as ourselves instead of horny sex fiends, two women sat down next to us. With a baby.

Oh, Mother Karma, what did I do? I have not flipped off any bad drivers lately, nor have I giggled over anyone's small vocabulary. There was that time my husband and I giggled over some guy's sad comb-over, but we did it quietly. So why?

I decided to be gracious about it. After all, I had babies once and I understand. I smiled at one of the women, moved over one seat and said, "I'll just move over so you'll have more room." She started to apologize but I assured her that it was fine. It seemed to be working out beautifully.

Then a minute later, as all seats filled, a very large man came through our row, plopped down next to me and started to take over my armrest.

I have this thing about armrests. It has been my observation that men are accustomed to taking armrests away from women. It happens on planes, it happens in stadiums, it happens in movie theaters. And one of my life's goals is to end this whenever the opportunity arises. So I firmly stuck my arm on my half of the armrest while he stuck his arm on his half. I would have kept my arm there the entire movie, if not for the fact that I didn't really want to be touching arms with him for nearly two hours, and my realisation that this was probably a guy who was dragged to watch a chick-flick and then couldn't even sit with his party; he had to sit between a woman with a baby and some aggressive chick who wouldn't even let him have a whole armrest for himself. So, out of pity, I gave him the armrest. Damn, these men are good.

In the end, it worked out fine. The baby was quiet through the whole movie and the large man didn't lean into my space or have B.O. I felt ashamed of my neurotic premature assumptions. Whatever I have done in the past to deserve my weird movie pals, perhaps I have learned my lesson. We shall see when I next go to the movies.

Friday, July 18, 2008

I Can Stop Anytime I Want

I don't smoke or drink (much). Just a clean-livin' gal, I am. Here, let me show you my halo. I try to exercise, eat my fiber and get enough rest. However, hell hath no fury as me on a trying day without a Diet Dr. Pepper.

No intervention or 12-step programs exist for Dr. Pepper addicts. There are no Nancy Reagans or school DARE programs advising us to "Just Say No" to its delightful nectar. No matter, because to beat your addiction you must first admit that you are addicted, and I AM NOT ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE. I can ignore the sounds of its sweet, peppery, and cold effervescence calling out to me. Really. On a hot afternoon when my brain is shutting down and my kids ask, again, why we can't buy another Slip 'N Slide, I don't really need its caffeine to keep my head from exploding. Honest.

When I was in college (before I learned to drink coffee), I drank a lot of Jolt Cola. Its marketing slogan back in the day was "All the Sugar and Double the Caffeine," which was good enough for me. One evening, after I had a downed a few cans of this delicacy, I attended a student meeting and was distracting by a constant tap-tap-tapping sound. It turned out that the sound was my fingers involuntarily tapping on the wood-laminate table. Perhaps they were sending out a Morse-Code cry for help or simply trying to get away from me. After that, I limited myself to one can a day.

Jolt is now called Jolt Energy and is heavily marketed on college campuses, as Jolt Cola was back then. Apparently they do not consider sophisticated, experienced, slightly insane middle-aged moms (such as, I don't know, yours truly?) to be a profitable demographic.

No matter. I have my Dr. Pepper. But I can stop anytime I want.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Funny Food Combos

Sliced ripe mango topped with Best Food Mayonnaise

When I was growing up in Hawaii, my Popo (grandmother) would regularly stop by to share whatever good deals she landed at the supermarkets or Chinese produce stands. One day she brought over some avocados. Now, I love avocados and will eat them in almost any form, but what Popo proceeded to do next traumatized me for several years: She splashed soy sauce (or shoyu, as we call it) into her avocado half and began to eat the concoction with a spoon.

Not being the most subtle kid, I'm sure I made loud gagging sounds. Popo just smiled and said, "Try it. It's delicious!" Politely declining, I made a silent determination that the poor woman had lost her facilities and was trying to poison all of us.

Then a few years later, the TV miniseries Shogun became a hit and suddenly all things Japanese were cool. Japanese restaurants decided to capitalize on this new-found popularity and reel in timid American eaters by creating less-exotic types of sushi. One of the most popular of these creations is the California roll, which contains avocado and is usually served with -- You guessed it -- shoyu. The first time I ate one of these puppies, I realized that the creaminess of the avocado went beautifully with the earthy saltiness of the shoyu. Dang, Popo wasn't crazy after all.

I was reminded of this the other day while reading one of my favorite blogs, The Tasty Island, which is pure food porn and a real tease to those of us who no longer live in the islands and don't have access to the variety of foods and restaurants found there. In an entry titled Mayo Mango Madness, writer Pomai describes how his mother enjoys sweet ripe mangos topped with ... Best Foods mayonnaise. He also posted, in an earlier entry, his recipe for Mango Bruschetta.

It really got me thinking of all the food combinations out there that sound kind of weird but are actually pretty yummy. I mean, who first thought of wrapping brie in puff pastry, baking it and serving it with crackers? Who in the Chinese restaurant trade first decided it would be smart to coat Honey Walnut Prawns (one of my favorite dishes) in warm mayo? Who in Chicago decided that the city's archetype hot dog should contain tomato slices but not ketchup? I read that the most popular pizza topping in Japan is fish. Soo desu ka?

This is why I try to keep an open mind when it comes to eating. Even if something doesn't really sound very appealing I will "at least try a bite," as I tell my kids. And I usually end up liking it! So if Pomai from The Tasty Island ever shows up at my door (yes, come visit!) with a delicious platter of mangos topped with mayo, you bet I'll give it a go. But I don't think I'll be in a hurry to make this on my own. (Sorry, dude.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

Yay! Hellboy 2: The Golden Army is awesome, suspenseful and lots of fun.

I had mentioned in an earlier blog my anticipation for this film and my apprehension that it would be one of those sequels that fall flat compared to the first film. Thank goodness my worries are unfounded. Now the Earth can continue spinning on its axis.

I won't bore you with a detailed plot since you already know it if you're a Hellboy fan. For you swing voters, the basic tale is that an other-worldly prince, exiled by his father the king during ancient times, seeks the final piece of a golden crown that will unleash a powerful, unstoppable Golden Army. Once unleashed, this army will help the prince annihilate humankind, with whom his father had declared a truce eons ago. So it's up to Hellboy and his gang from the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Development to figure out how to stop him.

Hellboy still has a bad temper and a fondness for cigars. Abe Sapien is still fishy and smart, but he gets to fall in love this time. Liz Sherman still has a bickering love affair going on with Hellboy, but this time she's carrying a little surprise inside her. Oh, there's also a Barry Manilow song included here. I won't give it away.

As with the first Hellboy movie, the visual effects are stunning, the action will be keep you transfixed and -- Hold me closer, Tiny Dancer -- the monsters! If you're a fan of director Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, you know what the man can do with monsters. Hellboy 2 introduces the Angel of Death and the Gatekeeper, both played by the rubbery Doug Jones, who also portrays Abe Sapien.

Also impressive are a swarm of computer-generated Tooth Fairies, who are way more sinister than they sound, and an underground Troll Market that reminded my son of all the Chinatowns he's seen (and he's seen a few).

If you like well-written, well-acted and beautifully filmed action films, this is one to see.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Life is a Bowl of This...

We're in the midst of cherry season and life is good. Call me opinionated, but I think the sweetest, plumpest cherries are grown here in the Northwest. Unfortunately, the harvest season is short (about 6 to 8 weeks), so we spend part of the year waiting for cherries, a few weeks enjoying them, and then the rest of the year moaning that we should have eaten more cherries when they were around.

My favorite is the Rainier cherry, which is a hybrid that is sweeter than most other varieties. Alas, it also requires optimal growing conditions and more careful handling, so it's usually in much shorter supply and, therefore, more expensive.

Today the kids and I were driving around and decided to visit a large produce stand in Seattle, where we found Rainier cherries being offered for a song ($2.99/lb., about a third of the usual price in supermarkets). I should have taken a photo of our stash before our family decimated it; what you see in the photo above is what's left, and I'm surprised there's any left at all.

They're so juicy and sweet like candy and I find the process of chewing on the tender-but-firm flesh and then spitting out the pit to be very therapeutic. Hey, we all have our fetishes.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Dancing Matt 2008

Have you seen Dancing Matt? He makes me smile. If you like this video and want to see more (or learn about Dancing Matt, who apparently lives in Seattle), go his site, at

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Want Some Whine With Your Cheese?

My daughter, Miss Thang, has not slept much this week, due to a combination of the hot weather and the fact that she is physically incapable to slumbering past 7 a.m. Since she refuses to sit still and rest for even a second during the day, she has been alternately hyper and whiny.

Today it came to a head. She was whiny through a movie, whiny through a playdate and whiny during a shopping trip. I finally lost it at Fred Meyer. I was looking for groceries and laundry detergent in a store that has changed its layout for the umpteenth time due to remodeling, and while I tried to concentrate on finding things this buzz-buzz-buzz kept going in my ear: "Mommmmmmmm ... I was trying to find this toy ... can you come and look at this toy ... I want some of those hairbands ... no, I want more than six ... waaaaahhh..."

I gritted my teeth, glared at her and uttered the first word that came to mind: "Naptime!" She stopped in her tracks and became fearfully quiet. Her eyes got big and she whispered, "I don't want to nap." The image of Guantanamo detainees flashed through my mind. Keep in mind that she is 7 and has not napped since the age of 3.

So we have made a deal: Whenever she is whiny or annoying or hyper this summer and can't calm herself despite several warnings and/or good-parenting attempts on my end, "Naptime" will be the code word for, "This is your final warning. Any further attempts to whine or annoy will result in being sent to your room for a good snooze."

So far it's working. If it works through the entire summer vacation, I may have to start a parenting-advice blog (just kidding).