Saturday, January 29, 2011

FIFTEEN: The Most Amazing Show Ever - Episode III Recap

(Cindy and Olaf arrive on the scene making everything better.)

For the full Episode 1 Recap, Go Here.
For the full Episode 2 Recap, Go Here.
(That outfit would drive me crazy too, Brooke.)

Previously on FIFTEEN: The Most Amazing Show Ever: Matt and Ashley had the most hilarious fight ever, Billy dressed up just like Dylan and Matt laughed at both of them, Kelly spread rumors about Matt liking Brooke without Brooke's permission, Matt was sick and tired of being hassled about his DRINKING PROBLEM. Ashley believed Matt was turning to the dark side of the Booze Force. Oh and Courtney was a horrible friend to everyone. The previouslies don't mention it, but I guess it's because that never changes, and just assumed you'd know.

EPISODE 3 - THE DISLOCATED SWEDE (Yes, that's really what it's called.)

Opening Sequence. Matt Ender continues to rock my world.

Brooke's Gigantic Bedroom. Brooke is making her bed. They don't have servants to do that? Weird. Theresa is nagging Brooke about being home this afternoon at 4pm so that she can go to Crystal's birthday party. Brooke picks up on my logic that if the call is so important, why doesn't their mom just be there to TAKE THE CALL? Theresa's like "because that's not the situation the idiot writers gave us. It has to be one us here to take the call." Brooke's like "fine, I promise to forget and leave you stranded here." Theresa practically wets herself from fear of missing Crystal's birthday party. Have I mentioned to you that Theresa is wearing white overall shorts with green polka dots on them? With a green long-sleeve turtle neck? Because she is. Let me show you a picture of her shame:

(I would go crazy if I had to look at this right in front of me too, Brooke.)

Brooke walks to her bedroom door and shouts downstairs for Kelly to come up already instead of sitting on the stairs like a LOSER!! Her delivery there is kinda priceless. Theresa can't believe Brooke would talk that way about her best friend. Oh, Theresa. Get over it. Your sister's a bitch. Move on. Kelly comes in and Brooke and her frenemy hellos. They dismiss Theresa and after she leaves Kelly confirms with Brooke that whatever nefarious scheme they've cooked up to hurt Ashley is totally on.

Hillside - Main Hall. Matt is apologizing to Ashley about how he shouldn't have been rude to her and Jake at the Avalon even though he's just better than they are. Matt is wearing a cool aqua-colored button down shirt and Ashley is wearing something akin to gym clothes or sleepwear because it's 3 episodes in and she's already started not caring about herself. He brings up BEER and Ashley whispers about how nobody made it a big deal and then Matt's like "look. let's just drop it!" Dude, you brought it up. Then Matt finally notices that Ashley is upset about something. What could it be? The sucky way he just spoke to her? No... Ashley is worried about Brooke and Matt's feelings for her. Whaaaaat? says Matt. Ashley has been hearing RUMORS. Matt swears that there's nothing going on between him and Brooke. He doesn't even like her even though they used to go out together. Matt asks if Ashley trusts him and she's like "enhhhh.... MAYbe, sorta?" But somehow they both apologize for who knows what and they're okay again. Also within this conversation we learn that Matt and Ashley have been together for 5 months, and there's no WAY that's possible. Five weeks, tops. Five months is like 5 years in teen time and these two act like they barely know each other. Let's all operate under the assumption it's only been five weeks.

Brooke's Gigantic Bedroom. Kelly and Brooke's big plan is to each give Matt and Jake a fake note telling the other one they need to meet. Jake will be misdirected to the mall, Matt will be sent to the Avalon. They'll pass the notes right after school so Matt and Jake won't have a chance to talk to each other. This is how scheming was done in a pre-cell phone world. You really did go out of contact with people when you didn't see them. Notes were passed constantly! Matt will break his date with Ashley and Ashley will be pushed further to the emotional edge. (Why aren't Brooke and Kelly in school with everyone else? I have no idea.)

Hillside - Main Hall. Courtney and Ashley enter wearing ugly clothes. See for yourself:

(I'd rather be in that dream in high school where you show up for class naked.)

Courtney is asking Ashley what she thinks about a poem she wrote. Ashley really likes it. Courtney wants more praise. Ashley thinks it's great. Courtney still wants more. Courtney, just die already. They go to their lockers, but I swear the one Courtney opens is the one that's usually Matt's locker. Saved By The Bell kept that shit consistent. Ashley opens hers (usually Jake's) and realizes she left her gym clothes at home and freaks out. Courtney doesn't see what the big deal is since this news has nothing to do with her. Ashley tries to explain how this is her third offense and the gym teacher is gonna murder her with push ups or something. It makes me think of the gym detention scene in Carrie which is AWESOME. Anyway, Ashley runs off in a panic and Courtney has the gall to sulk and be like "well, thanks for reading my poem..." Holy eff, Courtney.

Table in the middle of the main hallway. Matt is reading and Brooke slithers up next to him. Brooke's like "I won't bother you when you're reading" and then sits down net to him to bother him. She tries to figure out what his plans are for the evening. Matt and Ashley are going to the movies to see "that new one with Mel Gibson." Ahh, yes. He used to make movies. Brooke tries to make small talk but her tactics aren't working. Then Olaf enters. OLAF!! My favorite. Finally! So Olaf enters and Brooke switches her approach from "remind Matt how beautiful I am" to "remind Matt that we're both assholes." Brooke starts making fun of him on sight, even though Olaf looks no different than Brooke or Matt. This really turns Matt on and he starts mocking Olaf too. Man these two really do deserve each other. They're so nasty and egotistical. Anyway, Olaf comes over asking for directions and saying he dislocated himself. Oh, how these two a-holes laugh in his face!

(Brooke just can't contain her hysterics over someone being in a new school. Suchabitch.)

Olaf tries to be self-deprecating about it, but they still act like he's subhuman. He's looking for a certain classroom, so Matt starts giving him obviously fake directions to the point where even Olaf can tell he's lying and then Cindy enters (Cindy!! You haven't met her yet but she's awesome.) and tells him where the room really is and then leads him there. Since Cindy acted with the slightest bit of human decency, Brooke declares that Cindy's almost as weird as Olaf - and she's not even foreign!! Finally Brooke gets up to leave telling Matt she'll see him next week... unless she see him sooner. Matt doesn't know what the hell she's talking about but it doesn't seem like a bad idea to him anymore either.

Avalon - Conspirator's Corner. Brooke is miffed because Kelly is 20 minutes late. Kelly begs forgiveness and as a make up gift tells Brooke that Ashley got detention for skipping gym class. Brooke loves it.

Avalon - Loser's Table. This scene is kinda awful. SO SLOW. I'll summarize quickly. Ashley comes in sits with her friends and at first she feels shame for cutting class but then she thinks it's awesome because now she has a Bad Girl reputation. Then she laughs and laughs like she's on drugs. Matt, Jake and Courtney all think she's nuts. Brooke is like "laugh it up now, bitch. Tonight we destroy your world!"

(Ashley laughs, but Brooke will drink her milkshake! She'll drink it up!)

Stairs of Sadness. Jake rushes up to Courtney. He's so sorry he's late! He said he'd be there at 3:05 and it's 3:08. It's his stupid teacher's fault! Courtney is like "whatever, dude. It's only 3 minutes. Besides I wasn't that interested in seeing you anyway." Jake calms down and suggests they go get milkshakes instead of going to the library since it is Friday afternoon and all. Courtney is cool with that. Jake smiles because he thinks it's a date, even though it is not. They almost leave the stairs until Billy shows up wanting to know where they are going. Courtney says the library thinking it will deter him. Billy is so lonely though he still asks to tag along. Courtney still hedges making Billy feel like an ass and falsely leading Jake to believe they are actually going on a date. Billy takes the not so subtle hint and mopes away. Courtney's like "I should be a better sister, with our parents DIVORCE and all, but I don't want him around." Jake assures her he has his own friends, and Courtney's all, "No... not really. Oh well, can't do anything now! Let's get milkshakes!" Man... more bad stuff needs to happen to Courtney right away.

(Ooh, this is awkward for Courtney with her little brother and her non-boyfriend seeing what a jerk she is at the same time.)

Olaf's Corner. Seriously, from the way they frame him, I have no idea where he's sitting. It looks like a completely new location, even though it's still the main hallway. There's a lot about the show that's lovably bad, but I give credit to the directors who constantly were shooting the same locations from different angles to keep it interesting. They could've made their lives a lot easier and always gone for the same shots, but it really is filmed better than it needs to be. So Olaf is sitting and reading and Cindy comes up and sits net to him. Thank god. Finally a conversation between two decent human beings. Cindy helps him out with the word ostracized and if that wasn't anvilicious enough, the book he's reading is Lord of the Flies. Cindy asks him how he's adjusting to Hillside. Olaf tries to find a nice way to put it and Cindy helps him out by telling him the whole school is filled with a bunch of useless shits. Olaf's like, "oh you noticed that too?" Cindy is blunt and she embraces it. Olaf thinks he can't help it if people want to think he's strange. Cindy thinks people think she's pretty strange too. Olaf thinks that's an important thing to have in common and with that the show's only real friendship is formed. Awesome!

Avalon - Juvenile Delinquent's Table. Bad Boy Dylan is talking to new Bad Girl Ashley. Ashley has now pretty much turned into Olivia Newton-John at the end of Grease. Matt walks in and Dylan bounces, but he hangs around just long enough to make Matt jealous. Ashley asks Matt about their movie plans that night and he lets her know he can't make it because he has already fallen for Brooke and Kelly's fake note scheme. Ashley is none too happy about her boyfriend canceling their plans. I sense a fight coming on!

(OMG YOU FORGOT ABOUT CRYSTAL'S PARTY!!)

Brooke's Gigantic Bedroom. Brooke is looking at new clothes she just bought when Theresa barges in, still wearing her horrible outfit from earlier. Apparently it's 6pm and Brooke's just getting home. Theresa freaks the eff out because she missed Crystal's birthday party. Brooke apologizes but she doesn't really care. Theresa is so angry!!! Brooke is confused and a little frightened at her sister's emotional state. She already fake said she was sorry. What more does Theresa want? There's nothing they can do about it now! Theresa storms out of the room and Brooke just keeps on keeping on.

Avalon - Pay Phone. Kelly calls us Ashley and asks her to hang out tonight. Kelly does a good job in her delivery, because we never get a split screen of Ashley, but still get a sense of what must be her total confusion on the other end since Kelly has never shown any interest in talking to her before. Ashley finally accepts and they agree to meet at the Avalon - where Matt has been fake sent to meet with Jake! Shit is about to go down, y'all. Kelly is so pleased with herself.

(Friends become bandmates on an upcoming special episode of Fifteen...)

Dylan's Garage Band. Dylan strums a groovy tune. Billy comes in, and Dylan wonders what he's doing there. Billy thinks he's being told to leave and mopes away. Dylan tells him he can stay, since the kid obviously has no place to go and no friends. He offers Billy to play the drums, and Billy starts slamming away at them like a toddler would beat on pots with a spoon and Billy couldn't be happier.

Avalon - Pinball Wizard Room. Matt is once again playing pinball with zero interest. If he doesn't like the game at all he should not play it once an episode! Brooke slinks over to the side of the machine, decked out in the new clothes she bought at the mall. She inquires about Ashley's whereabouts but Matt tells her he's supposed to meet Jake. That's funny... Brooke doesn't see Jake anywhere! Brooke will keep him company until he never arrives. Brooke shoves her hand in Matt's face to show off a new ring she got. Matt has to grab her hand to keep from getting punched in the eye.

(Caught in the act! Just like she planned!)

Kelly and Ashley enter the Avalon from the other entrance and Kelly says she's so happy Ashley agreed to hang out since THEY NEVER TALK EVER. Ashley is pleased too, because she's too dumb to see she's being set up. Ashley has her back to the Pinball area and when Kelly sees Matt and Brooke there together she gives an Academy Award-worthy performance of trying PLEADING for Ashley to go with her someplace else - ANYPLACE ELSE! - right away. Finally Ashley turns and sees her BF hold hands in close quarters with his ex-GF. She walks over there and Brooke acts like they got caught doing something BAD. Matt is confused. Ashley yells at him that she trusted him and he lied to her. Matt begs for a chance to explain. Ashley tells him not to bother talking to her - EVER. She runs out. Kelly and Brooke exchange job well done smiles for ruining things for Ashley so easily.

Next Time on Fifteen: Ashley tells Jake she's not talking to Matt and they are broken up! Courtney tries to get Billy to stop hanging out with Dylan because she thinks Dylan is wild... and wildly attractive. Matt tells Ashley he thinks he loves her. Brooke swears to Kelly they will have revenge on Ashley. Kelly, in turn, vows she will have revenge against Brooke. And you can take her word... on THAT! Damn...

Better Left Unsaid: See This Interactive Live Streamed Play!

(Better Left Unsaid better not be missed!)

I need to give mad props to my girl Joey Brenneman, whose new play opened last night at Center Stage, NY. Better Left Unsaid, which Joey wrote and directed, is a play that explores the relationships and secrets that exist between a group of people, whose lives start to connect in Central Park on a strangely warm, foggy day in November. The audience follows eight characters as their paths twist and turn and affect each other. Better Left Unsaid is a story about the information we withhold from the people we love in order to protect them, and to protect ourselves. I think it's a smart piece of writing, wonderfully acted and totally worth seeing.

"But Owen." you say. "It's January, and Snowpocalypse Season, and I refuse to leave my house for anything - even great theater." That's fine, my sweet homebodies! I feel you. But that's the best part. Better Left Unsaid is a first-of-its-kind live-streamed theater piece, so you don't have to go to the theater, you can watch anywhere you got a computer and and some internet access. The set-up they have down there is really incredible with 5 cameras shooting all the action. I saw some of the footage last night and it's great. I will be partaking in the live-stream experience myself this Sunday and I'm really excited for it. It allows for theater being produced in NYC to find an audience in a global community. The possibilities are endless, and it's starting now.

Innovative theater needs to be supported. So head down to Center Stage, NY this weekend or next (48 W. 21st St, 4th Floor, between 5th and 6th) to catch the show in person or wrap yourself in your snuggie or slanket and stream it live at http://betterleftunsaid.tv/ Don't miss it!

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Year Without Cookies - Week 4

(All I do the whole night through is dream of you.)

We are now four weeks into no cookies nor soda. Things are going okay. I feel like some of the excess side flab I have attributed to cookie and soda intake is beginning to recede and I'm looking more fit. This is a positive development. Although, strangely, I've started dreaming about soda. Monday night I dreamed I was in a movie theater, and I was eating popcorn and downing a delicious Extra Large cup of cherry coke. There was no lid on the cup and I was watching the ice slosh around in a sea of cola as I was drinking it. Gahhh! So refreshing! Suddenly, I realized I was not supposed to be drinking it. How could I have forgotten?? I actually said aloud in the dream "wow, I really thought I'd cave on cookies first!" Then I woke up and I couldn't remember if I really drank the soda sometime in the past week. I know, my life is boring.

So I thought this was a one-off dream, but I guess it's status has gone recurring, as I had a very similar dream on Wednesday night where I was walking around drinking a movie-style soda, straw pressed tightly between my lips, and then suddenly remembering I wasn't supposed to be drinking it. My subconscious has clearly turned against me. The soda dreams must stop.

Cookies did not present a big problem this week. Tony, who sits next to me at work tried to offer my some E.L. Fudges yesterday, but I resisted. I've been able to get my chocolate fix from my muscle milk protein supplement shake and the occasional mint hot cocoa.

Next week will push us into week 5 and across the month mark. I ordered girl scout cookies from my niece, but I've already decided I won't eat them. I will give them away to people I love or people I want to see get fat. Haven't completely decided yet which direction that's gonna go. If only thin mints kept you thin...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

RAFA SLAM: Aussie Open Quarterfinals - Slammed by Injury

(We must accept a tough loss due to injury. Rafa remains Our Hero.)

Ay no. I woke up to sad Rafa news. What looked like it would be a routine match with the result of Rafa coasting into the semi-finals turned into extremely bad luck for Our Hero. He sustained a leg injury early in the first set and couldn't compete up to his usual level of play. Ferrer wound up winning in straight sets 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. So disappointing for Rafa! I mean, RAFA SLAM aside, there's no shame in losing a match to Ferrer who is playing extremely well. But to not be able to compete at his best, to have to deal with injury AGAIN, I just really feel for the guy.

At least he was able to play out the three sets. Last year, Rafa had to retire in the quarterfinals with injury. But then he went on to sweep the clay court Masters Series and win the next three Grand Slam tournaments, so there's no reason for extended lamentation on our part. Rafa can bounce back as he has many times before. Still, the conclusion of this year's Aussie Open will be missing a special something with Rafa not involved. The last bit of intrigue will be if Federer can make it past Djokovic, or if we'll see a Grand Slam final without either Fed or Rafa in like FOREVER. Rafa gave tons of credit to Ferrer's game for the match results and did not want to focus on his injury as the reason he didn't win. Rafa is very respectful in defeat just as he is in victory.

Steve Tignor over at tennis.com wrote a nice piece about Rafa this morning that I'm linking to here. Also Rafa gave a lovely quote from his post-match press conference that I'll be holding on to:

"In tennis, you have high moments and low moments. Almost all of my career I've had very, very happy moments. That's part of the sport. Last year I was very lucky. I was healthy most of the year. I was playing unbelievable. This year I did - I think - all the right things to start the season playing really well. But that's part of the sport. You have to accept it; keep working hard; I'll try my best in the next tournament. So this is one of the bad ones, one of the negative moments. I think I am a very, very lucky sportsman after all that's happened in my career. And I have to accept the fantastic moments that I've had during my career with the same [attitude] as when I have problems. And if I am ready to accept both things the same, I'm going to be able to come back and play my best tennis another time."

Oh, Rafa. You're my guy forever. Here's to a speedy recovery. Vamos!

Monday, January 24, 2011

RAFA SLAM: Aussie Open Round of 16 - Another Victory, No Sweat

(I think this pic is kinda awesome. Rafa running down shots all over Melbourne!)

Rafael Nadal is into the quarter-finals of the Australian Open with a not-t00-difficult 6-2 6-4 6-3 win over Marin Cilic in the round of 16. The match was shown at an ungodly EST hour, and even a die hard like me couldn't handle waking up that early on a Monday morning for Rafa-viewing. It's a pleasant way to start the day knowing he's through to the next round.

I thought Cilic would present more of a challenge to Rafa, but he really didn't. The flu symptoms that were affecting him physically last week continue to subside, as he wasn't such a sweaty mess during this match. The last few matches he was uncharacteristically dripping with sweat, and it has been unusually cool throughout the tournament despite it being summer Down Under, so his physical condition was a little odd. Regardless, Nadal is still going strong and hasn't dropped a set yet this tournament. Can't say the same for his nemesis, Robin Soderling whose eight-match winning streak ended with a 1-6, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 loss to Alexandr Dolgopolov. Soderling's game was all over the place against the unseeded Dolgopolov. Since Soderling is known as something of a giant killer for his wins over Nadal and Federer at the last two French Opens, I took a certain amount of glee from watching him get a taste of his own medicine last night.

Nadal now faces his friend and compatriot, No. 7 David Ferrer for a place in the semifinals where, if Our Hero makes it through, he'll probably meet up with No. 5 Andy Murray. Murray's been playing so strong this tournament. I wouldn't mind if Dolgopolov did a number on him in the quarters. Just sayin'.

Not another Rafa match until Wednesday... which maybe is actually Tuesday our time? Time zones make my head hurt. The match will probably start at 3:30am my time anyway and I'll miss it again. Vamos Rafa!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

thinking of mom

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about my mom. I think about her every day anyway, but a few things came up in the past couple weeks that grouped my regular thoughts into a new sort of bundle for me to look at. I'm taking the time now to write them down and put them out there. Mayhaps you want to grab a tissue before reading.

I think it started about a week into the new year. I was in the car with my boss, Luis, and Miguel, the real-life version of Manny from Modern Family who I've been minding for... jeez, 8 years now(!!!). We were going uptown to do some work late in the afternoon, and Luis was asking about the Holidays, I think, and how things went at my Dad's. That led Miguel to ask about my mom, and I told him that she died almost 13 years ago and we talked about the details with him for minute, how she got cancer toward the end of my senior year in high school and passed away during my freshman year of college. He's asked me about it before and has a mind like a steel trap for details such as this, but I humored the repeat questions. Then Luis told me that since the time each of his parents passed away there wasn't a day that went by when he didn't think about them, and I agreed it was the same for me. I just assume it's that kind of mix of genetics and love bestowed. It's impossible not to think about her during the day and she constantly shows up in my dreams. It's been that way my whole adult life.

Her birthday was January 10th. She would have been 67. Since the 10th, I've been remembering all these weird little snippets of things about her from being little. For instance, she used to say "you stink on hot ice." It was just a retort she would say if we were being cheeky or if something annoyed her. I don't think I've heard anyone else ever say that expression. I get what it means, you're so rotten, you stink even when frozen on dry ice. I hadn't thought about it in a long time and the the words rolled around in my head and popped out of my mouth as I was cleaning my living room. I wondered why she liked saying that so much.

Around this time, a friend of mine mentioned on FB how she was listening to the Les Mis and singing it loud and proud, and that message made me recall going to see the show on Broadway with my parents when I was in high school. At the part where Fantine's fired because her co-worker is a bitch and turns the boss against her, my mom leaned over to me and said "you know, there are people who are really like that." And I thought it was the randomest thing to say! In the middle of everything going on onstage, that's what she points out to me? But clearly this moment struck a chord with my mom and I have no idea the story behind it. (and yeah, there definitely are people like that bitch in Les Mis.)

As if all that were not enough, I went and saw Rabbit Hole last week, a movie about parents dealing with the accidental death of their young son, and it made me think about my older brother who was born prematurely and died only a few days after he was born. What happens in the movie is not like what happened with my family, but there's this part in it the movie where they talk about carrying the weight of losing a child that reminded me of my mom. It's in the stage play version of Rabbit Hole too, a copy of which I bought a couple years ago, so I'll share it below:

BECCA: The feeling. Does it ever go away?
NAT: No. I don't think it does. not for me it hasn't. And that's going on eleven years. It changes though.
BEECA: How?
NAT: I don't know. The weight of it I guess. At some point it becomes bearable. It turns into something you can crawl out from under. And carry around - like a brick in your pocket. And you forget it every once in a while, but then you reach in for whatever reason and there it is: "Oh, right. That." Which can be awful. But not all the time. Sometimes it's kinda... Not that you like it exactly, but it's what you have instead of your son, so you don't wanna let go of it either. And it doesn't go away which is...
BEECA: What?
NAT: Fine...actually.
~Rabbit Hole, by David Lindsay-Abaire

My brother Michael isn't something that we ever talked about a lot together, but we did toward the end of her illness and I know my mom thought about him every day, like I think about her every day now. Although the weight is different.

So these are a few of the things that have been swirling around in my head the past couple weeks and it brought me to a sort of conclusion. If I ever become kind of successful at writing, or kinda successful at anything, it will feel not quite right that she shouldn't be here to see it. I would like to see her enjoy me being successful. It seems like something you should earn just for raising kids. But for myself, I really just wish I could have a conversation with her as two adults. My experience of her doesn't go beyond my 18 year old self, and while my perspective on that vision of her changes as I get older, it's not the same as getting to relate to her as an adult. I don't know what that would be like. I have no idea what our relationship would be and how we'd talk to one another. And I wish that I did. I think it a valuable thing.

I miss my mom. I'm thinking of her.

RAFA SLAM: Aussie Open Round 3 - No More Aussies

(See you in week 2!)

On Saturday, Rafael Nadal made it to the Aussie Open Round of 16 by beating Bernard Tomic - a talented Australian 18-year-old rapscallion in straight sets - 6-2, 7-5, 6-3. I caught the replay of the match on ESPN2 at 10am because the initial live broadcast had them playing at like 4am or 5am Eastern Standard Time. Of course, I'd already checked the score online to see if he'd won. It's interesting to watch a tennis match where you already know the outcome. It's obviously not as suspenseful as live, but somehow knowing the inevitable result makes little points here and there pop out as being incredibly crucial.

For instance, I knew Rafa won the second set 7-5, but at one point he was down in that set 0-4. Had I been watching live, I would've been distraught at that point, but knowing he pulled it out i was fixated on how. HOW could Rafa storm back to claim the next 4 games and even the set? Nothing was going his way, But instead of just hoping for it to change, I looked for how it would change; the lucky breaks, the excellent plays by Rafa, his build in confidence, the moments where Tomic would let up just the tiniest bit because he was so far ahead. Sometimes the turnaround seems so impossible you think you must've read the score wrong. It's really compelling TV.

With Rafa's win over Tomic, all the Australian players are out of the singles draw on both the men's and women's sides. (Also, with Roddick's 3rd round loss all the American Men and Women have been eliminated too. boo-urns.) Rafa will next face Mario Ancic, which will be a tough battle. The second week of the tournament isn't gonna offer any easy matches, as so many top players (Federer, Djokovic, Murray, Soderling, etc.) are still in the mix. Hopefully Rafa continues to feel better from his lingering flu and continues his winning ways! Vamos!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

FIFTEEN: The Most Amazing Show Ever, Episode II Recap

(Matt Walker. Do not hassle him. You wouldn't like him when he's hassled.)

Previously on FIFTEEN: The Most Amazing Show Ever: Brooke and Kelly were evil bitches, Courtney and Billy dealt with parents on the verge of DIVORCE, Ashley whispered a lot, Dylan and Matt argued for unknown reasons and Jake was there to make everyone feel better about themselves in comparison. Most importantly, Brooke vowed to destroy Ashley just for the hell of it. You can read what i had to say about it here. With most of the character intros out of the way, it's time to turn up the heat, FIFTEEN!

EPISODE 2 - STIRRING THE POT

Opening Sequence. The intro never fails to impress. Thank you for this song, Matt Ender. Thank you.

The episode starts at The Avalon - Loser's Table. Courtney is talking in a close-up shot. We can't tell who she is talking to. Is this episode picking up exactly where the last one left off? God, it takes her forever to say anything! No, she says it's the next morning. Her dad has moved out. We finally see that she is talking to Jake who has nothing useful to say. Really he just wants to get into her pants, or I guess in Courtney's case, under her ugly burlap sack of a full length skirt. Courtney mentions she has no idea how Billy is taking it, because she takes no interest in her younger brother's feelings. She also mentions she'll pour her own feelings into some terrible teen angst poetry. Please read it out loud for us later, Courtney. Please.

Avalon - Pinball Wizard room. Matt once again goes through the motions of playing pinball. The pinball game is Attila The Hun, for those who like useless trivia. Kelly slinks up to him, casually asking personal questions and gathering info to use against him in future schemes. Where's Ashley? At home bogged down with homework. Kelly invites Matt to hang out with her and Brooke the following day after school. Matt says he'll probably be with Ashley. Kelly nods approval and then runs off to make sure Ashley is buried alive or something so that Matt will be alone tomorrow afternoon.

Hillside - The School on a Hill. Ashley is doing school work at the table in the middle of the main hallway. She is wearing Matt's Letterman jacket... the jacket Matt was just wearing in the Avalon. What time is it? What day is it? Continuity errors abound!! Courtney staggers down the Stairs of Sadness and wanders over to Ashley. Ashley jumps up to greet her "BFF" and apologizes for not calling her last night. Ashley was doing homework and lost track of time. Courtney is a total Eeyore about it. Sure her family is falling apart, but she's sure Ashley's algebra assignment was gripping. Courtney insists she is fine. She couldn't care less about her parents. She wants to know why Ashley is so upset. Oh, Ashley is upset about an English test she took earlier in the week that they'll get back today. She thinks she failed. Courtney and I are both like, "bitch, please. you're one of those annoying girls who freaks out and goes on and on about how awful you did on every test and then every time you get a 90-something. Shut the eff up." Then Brooke walks over to them with an air of imperial malice and tells them she thought their English test wasn't a challenge at all. Ashley basically starts ripping out her hair and eating it. She's so nervous now. Courtney tries to compliment Brooke's outfit and Brooke barely even acknowledges her. Brooke's on fire! Keep it up, Brooke!

(Ashley destroyed. Courtney dismissed. Brooke delighted.)

OMG, this scene keeps going! Matt now walks over to them looking taller and skinnier than ever. He sits next to Ashley. There is no chemistry between them. Brooke starts flirting very obviously with Matt right in front of Ashley, saying how nice it was talking to him on the phone last night. Ashley's like "whaaaaaat?" And Matt and Brooke explain it was only about schoolwork... but Brooke really liked it. Matt decides that even though he just got there, these bitches are crazy, and makes up some excuse about going to see Jake in the gym. Brooke just happens to be going that way too! So off they go together. Courtney, who should tell Ashley that Brooke is a total skank for flirting with her man like that right in front of her, instead starts blathering on about how beautiful Brooke dresses and how really beautiful Brooke is. Ashley starts worrying on a new level she never thought possible.

Lockers in the Middle of the Hall. Seriously, Jake's and Matt's Lockers stand separately from everything else in the middle of the hall. Wait... are they back in the main hallway? I thought Matt just said they were going to the gym? Come on show, help me out here. Anyway, Matt is gonna go get a drink from the lounge before class starts. We assume it's not a BEER since that storyline is yet to be introduced, although it can't be far off. Anyway, Jake says he'll meet Matt before lunch, but Matt says he has to have some mysterious meeting with Coach Williams (they always say his name with an odd emphasis on Williams.) Ruh roh. Problems on the team? Jake says it can't possibly be bad news. Coach just wants to tell Matt how incredibly awesome he always is. Then as he leaves Jake says, "Catch you later, ace." Oh Jake, don't be Matt's fluffer. He's not worth it.

Student lounge. Dylan plays guitar not-terribly, in a black tee and blue jeans. Billy enters from one of the 18 million doorways (this school is designed like an Escher painting, I swear), and he is ALSO wearing a black tee and blue jeans. Billy tells Dylan how awesome the playing was. Dylan takes it in stride. Matt comes over to make fun of Dylan and his lookalike Billy and then wanders off again. Dylan reassures Billy he likes his taste in clothes. Billy beams under Dylan's praise. Dylan wanders off carrying his guitar, but leaves his amp behind, which seems like a mistake. Wouldn't somebody steal it? I would.

Girls Locker Room. Kelly preens in the mirror. Brooke and Kelly talk about how Brooke barely participates in gym, or really any other class. Brooke shrugs this off, so Kelly asks about her campaign to win Matt. Brooke corrects her that she doesn't want Matt, she's just trying to prove a point. Brooke exits, and Kelly is about to follow, but not before she glances back into the mirror and we get a sense that Kelly's inner-Iago is coming ever closer to the surface.

(When will my reflections show the crazy bitch I am inside?)

Main Hallway. Brooke and Courtney enter from yet another doorway. Man the set of Saved by the Bell was so much simpler. Courtney is tripping all over herself trying to tell Brooke about how much she likes writing and Brooke has totally blocked her out. Ashley calls to Courtney from the stairs and rushes over to tell her she did in fact do just fine on her English exam. Courtney is not surprised at all. Ashley asks Brooke about her test and Brooke tells her she did fine. Dylan bounces over and asks her what "fine" means. Brooke gets defensive, but Dylan snatches her test out of her folder. It was easy since the test was conveniently already sticking out half way. Brooke got a 53 on the test and Dylan reads the note that the test score "shows improvement." Damn, Brooke is a dummy in English. But she gets an A in scheming and an A+ in AP Bitchery. Brooke is naturally humiliated and runs off after snatching her paper back from Dylan. Ashley quietly appreciates Brooke's misfortune and Courtney doesn't know WHAT to think. Does she ever?

Matt's Locker. OHHH, here comes the best exchange of the episode. Ashley walks up to Matt.
Ashley: Hi!
Matt: YEAH??
Ashley: ... Jake said you had a meeting with your basketball coach. So how'd it go?
Matt: (stares at her and then throws a binder in his locker, slams it shut and walks away. Ashley is totes WTF.)
Seriously, how is this Ashely's fault? I can't wait to find out.

Stairs of Sadness. Lunchtime. Billy is sitting alone. Courtney comes up to him, pretending to care. She tells him to eat his sandwich and his apple before eating his chocolate bar. Billy's all "Our dad just moved out of our house, so I'm starting lunch with the chocolate bar." Both siblings then insist they are both fine. Courtney tries to convince Billy he shouldn't be fine, not with a DIVORCE going on. Billy is so turned off that he gets up and leaves Courtney with his lunch. It hardly seems fair, since he claimed that spot on the stairs first. Man, Courtney sucks.

Avalon - Loser's Table. Matt explains to Ashley that Coach Williams dragged him into his office to tell him that even though he scored 27 points in the last game and is averaging 19 points for the season, Matt is not working hard enough in practice. Ashley tries to play Devil's Advocate. Noooo. Why would she think this is a good strategy? It's two episodes in, and I already know Matt only listens to you if you're telling him good things about himself. Why would she side with the coach? Dumb move. She just thinks if Williams thinks he could be even better with more focus in practice, maybe he COULD be even better. This makes sense to Ashley because she is an overachiever. Matt thinks his awesome performance is awesome enough as it is, because he is a lazy ass.

(Whatever Ashley just said? It's bullshit.)

Ashley would love to stay and argue about it some more, but she has a lunchtime yearbook meeting. Matt can't believe Ashley would have her own life when he's dealing with all this drama right now. Ashley apologizes but bounces anyway. On her way out she passes by Kelly's table where Kelly's chatting with two nameless girls. Kelly expertly plants the seeds of gossip with them that Matt and Ashley are in trouble and that Matt secretly has a crush on Brooke. She swears she doesn't know anything for sure and probably should've even be saying it, so these two nameless girls certainly shouldn't go running around school spreading the gossip to all of their nameless friends.

With that she gets up and leaves, but AGAIN the scene is not over when you think it would be. Instead as Kelly moves toward the Pinball Wizard room, Blossom jumps out behind her and wants to talk. Oh wait, it's not Blossom. It's Theresa, Brooke's younger sister. She finally shows up! She's wearing a navy blue Blossom-hat, a yellow t-shirt and navy blue overalls. She looks ridic, but it was probably on trend in 1990. Anyway, she wants to know if it's true about Matt and Brooke. Kelly, best defense player ever, speaks very carefully not to implicate herself and suggests Theresa just ask her sister. Theresa gets feisty and tells Kelly not to spread RUMORS. Kelly tries not to laugh, because Theresa is totally out of her league. Kelly could eat her for breakfast.

(Theresa and her overalls prove no match for Kelly's scheming.)

Hillside Main Hallway. Matt is heading to his locker and Brooke is running after him. Matt looks upset. Did Ashley die? No, his basketball coach is just an asshole. Matt tells her the whole story again and Brooke is totally fakely supportive like Ashley should've been. Brooke tries to make plans with Matt, but he declines. She tries to save face as Matt leaves. Dylan is close by and asks what Matt's problem was. Brooke's assessment is considerably less supportive of Matt than it was when he was in earshot. Brooke tries to get a date with Dylan, but Dylan suggests they go to NYC for the weekend and Brooke is scandalized. Man, there was no point to their conversation.

Later we cut to Brooke's Gigantic Bedroom. Seriously, it's the size of an airplane hangar. There are 4 or 5 separate areas to the room. The sleeping area, the make up area, the computer area the TV area and the walk in closet. It's gotta be the same size as the main hallway at school. Anyway, they go on and on about how one of them has to be at home on Friday at 4pm to take an important call for their mother. Apparently answering machines have not been invented yet in Canada in 1990. Also, why is her mom having an important call come in at a time and date when she KNOWS she won't be there? I don't understand. Would this have even made sense to me 21 years ago? Regardless, Brooke has to be home because Theresa is going to her friend Crystal's birthday party. She takes great effort to emphasize the point, so we can guess this whole scenario won't end well for the sisters.

The conversation turns to whether Brooke likes Matt. Apparently the rumor spreading is well underway. Brooke insists she broke up with Matt and feels nothing, but can't help if Matt is drawn to her. Theresa tells Brooke to just leave him alone. It's not fair to Ashley! Oh, Brooke isn't gonna waste time being lectured by her little sister. Especially when she has to go plan how to destroy Ashely's life!

Avalon - Conspirator's Corner. Brooke and Kelly talk about the rumor-spreading. Brooke is aware enough to believe Kelly's behind it, but Kelly insists it was just planting the idea that Matt likes Brooke, not the other way around. Brooke whispers the rest of her plan to Kelly about how she's gonna rip Ashley and Matt apart, and Kelly's face twists with delight and declares it "perfect."

(The Secret Life of the Canadian Teenager.)

Avalon - Pinball Wizard Room. Jake and Ashley try to get Matt to feel better. He's not done sulking though. They both think he's being a total asshole, but neither of them has enough spine to tell him so. Since it's the weekend, Matt is ready to drown his sorrows in some BEER. Ashley and Jake nearly pass out right there with worry. Matt tells them to calm the eff down, that it's just a little BEER between buddies on a Saturday night. Ashley breathlessly assures us it's not just Saturday nights. It's more than once a week! Matt tells us he is sick and tired of getting hassled! Ominous music plays as Matt exits. Ashley is super concerned, but Jake tries to make excuses for Matt. Ashley won't hear it though. He's CHANGING. She's really getting worried about him... OMG me too...

(The "Just Say No To Beer Lecture" doesn't sit well Teen Alcoholic, Matt Walker.)

Next time on Fifteen: Billy gets his first visit to Dylan's Garage - a place where his "uncaring" parents have outfitted him with everything you need for a start up garage band, Matt swears to Ashley that there's nothing going on between him and Brooke, shit hits the fan for Theresa and Brooke over Crystal's Birthday Party, Cindy and Olaf arrive on the scene (yay!!), Ashley starts to have a mental breakdown and Brooke and Kelly vow to hasten Ashley's descent into madness.

AWWWWWWWESOME!

A Year Without Cookies - Week 3

(Keebler Elf, Drug Dealer - Got any C, man? He's cool.)

So here we are 3 weeks into the new year and there have been no cookies and no soda ingested by O. Things are going fine. Okay, sure. Yesterday Suki bought a chocolate chunk cookie from Pret at lunchtime, and MAYbe I thought about stabbing her in the hand and scarfing down the cookie and then reporting back to you all that I still had not had any cookies. But none of that actually happened. I promise.

Friends have turned against me. They don't understand why I gave up cookies. They want me to go back to my cookie-dependent self and to stop talking to them about how I'm not eating cookies. They are just insecure with themselves, afraid to work on their own weaknesses. That's what I tell myself as I cry into my Cookie Monster-shaped pillow.

I don't really miss soda, but last weekend when BFF and her BF came over for Golden Globes viewing, she got herself a bottle of my beloved Root Beer and he got a bottle of delicious Dr. Pepper and they drank it right in front of me just to try to break my effing heart. But I'll pay them back. I'll pay everyone back...

Somehow despite the lack of cookies and soda in my diet, I am getting heavier. I weighed myself at the gym and I was around 177. Before the holidays I was under 175. Maybe it's added muscle...? That seems like a stretch. But I look okay when I see myself in the mirror, which is really the only opinion that matters.

Next week will be four weeks without cookies and soda. Just shy of a month. Can I make it? And then do it eleven more times? I need to not get ahead of myself. One day at a time. One day at a time...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

RAFA SLAM: Aussie Open Round 2 - Still Cruisin' Along

(business as usual. another quick day at the office.)

Rafael Nadal has steam-rolled his way into the 3rd round of the Aussie Open after trouncing American Ryan Sweeting 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 in just 1 hour and 42 minutes. He won so fast, I didn't even get to see any of his match late last night on TV. So sad! I never like missing a Rafa match. The highlights reel will have to suffice.

Rafa had an amazing match in terms of service games and winners. Sweeting really had no chance. Apparently, Rafa lost his serve in the third set, but immediately broke back. Sometimes when you're dominating so handily, it's hard to keep focus. He faced a similar situation in the first round, but these lapses against players that are offering no competition are not a real cause for concern.

The next round should provide an interesting opponent in Bernard Tomic, the 18-year-old Australian wildcard who has been playing well through the first two rounds. He has not had to face a competitor like Rafa yet, so it's difficult to judge how well the kid will hold up, although he'll probably go for broke since he's got nothing to lose. He's the last Australian man left in the field, so he should have some strong crowd support behind him. The crowd didn't really seem that enthused by his style of play in the second round though, so who knows? Maybe the crowd really wants to see Rafa compete for the RafaSLAM and will be rooting for him to get through. I know I will be! Vamos!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

RAFA SLAM: Aussie Open Round 1 - Blink and You Missed It

You looking at me?

Rafael Nadal made it into the second round of the Aussie Open last night (our time - Tuesday during the day their time, in what is always the most confusing time zone switch imaginable). His opponent Marcos Daniel from Brazil retired with a knee injury trailing 6-0, 5-0. He provided no challenge at all and deprived me of watching a good Rafa match. Boo-urns to that, but get better Marcos!

It was such little time and competition on the court that Rafa immediately went to the practice courts and worked on his serve for another half hour. After coming down with the flu in Doha a short while ago, Rafa was looking for more of a battle in the 1st round here to help establish his rhythm on the court. There were times in the beginning of the second set it looked like Rafa was having a hard time maintaining his focus and interest in the lopsided match. Understandably so.

Nadal will next play Ryan Sweeting from the United States in the second round. If Nadal should win this year's Australian Open he will complete the "Rafa Slam" - holding all four major titles at once, which has not been done since Rod Laver completed a Calendar Grand Slam in 1969. It will be quite the challenge for Our Hero, but it's not impossible. 6 matches left. 1 match at a time. Vamos!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Golden Globes 2011: Is He Having A Laugh?

Why so serious, audience?

So the Golden Globes happened last night. It was difficult for me to get in the mood, having just witnessed the complete collapse of my beloved Patriots to the New Jersey Jets. It was so awful. They lose to a team they beat 45-3 just a few weeks ago?? What's worse than them just losing though, is that they played SO BAD. Hopefully I'll get to watch Rafa win his opening round match at the Australian Open tonight and that will help me forget about football and focus me mentally on obsessing over Nadal for another year.

But back to the Globes. It was a mix of sure bets and surprise upsets taking home the trophies. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is such a fake organization to begin with, you can never really tell who they are going to choose as winners. That, along with the fact that everyone there gets really drunk and rowdy, is the whole point of tuning in. Here are some personal highlights and bizarro moments:

Ricky Gervais: Baddest Man In the Whole Damn Town. Gervais had a drink in his hand and a twinkle in his eye as he went about insulting everyone in his path for 3 hours. I loved it, but I also wasn't in his path at the time. With increasingly little screen time as the show went on, Gervais still managed to land some harsh blows on Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, The Tourist - with added rudeness toward Depp and Jolie who were visibly not amused, Burlesque, Hugh Hefner (along with sexual gagging pantomime), Sex and the City 2, the stars of Sex and the City 2, Robert Downey Jr., Tim Allen, The President of HFPA, Bruce Willis and Steve Carell. Gervais really got the crowd against him with a joke involving I Love You Phillip Morris, saying, ''Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor, two heterosexual actors pretending to be gay. So, the complete opposite of some famous Scientologists, then!'' He let us know his lawyers helped him craft that line. At the end of the night with only seconds remaining, he thanked God for making him an atheist, just for good measure. The crowd didn't appreciate the attacks, but I thought his performance as host was much more in line with his brand of humor than his hosting gig last year, which I thought was a little tame. Clearly as he prepped for taking the piss out of Hollywood last night, he put one of those Golden Globe statues where his heart ought to be. Well played, Ricky.

Katey Sagal -FTW! It was great that Katey Sagal won for Best Actress - TV Drama since she is regularly passed over for even a nomination at every other award show for TV. I've been a huge fan of hers since Married... With Children. I think she's done really strong work throughout her career, looked totally great last night and deserved her moment in the spotlight with a trophy in hand. Congrats, lady!

Julianne Moore - WTF? Usually Julianne looks beautiful at these events. Last night she did not. Her dress was so perplexing with half her collar/necklace being tucked underneath this giant amount of fabric on her shoulder... I can't believe it made sense to anyone on her team. What were they thinking? I love her to death, but this wasn't a good look on her.

The Social Network Dominates. It won for score, screenplay, director and best picture drama. I wouldn't be surprised if it wins those 4 categories net month at the Oscars either. I didn't have quite the emotional experience with that movie as I did with its competition this year, but I recognize it as a really strong piece of film and don't begrudge it its success. Especially since other films to which I did respond more passionately will most likely be recognized in the acting and technical categories like Colin Firth for The King's Speech, Natalie Portman for Black Swan, The supporting actors in The Fighter and cinematography and editing for Inception.

Glee Dominates. Glee repeated this year as Best Musical/Comedy champ. It's not TV's best comedy, but who can argue it's not its Best Musical? Also wins and lovely speeches by Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch in the supporting categories were two high points of the TV portion of the awards. Seeing the whole cast ascend the stage, I marveled once again at how many people are on that show. There are now nearly 20 student roles that are regular and recurring and 10 adults regular and recurring. That's a lot of people in one show, and we're not even counting all the guest stars! They must've had three tables worth of people there in the audience las tnight. It's nice they all had so much to celebrate.

Pacino and Deniro talked for way too long. Somehow the show was brought in on time, but it was not for the efforts of these two Hollywood icons. Pacino won for playing Jack Kevorkian and tried to euthanize the audience with a rambling drawn out speech much like he did at the Emmys this past fall. Deniro got the Cecil B. DeMille award and tried his hand at stand up in a room that was already in a bad mood because of Gervais. At least he made a quip about Little Fockers before Ricky had a chance. Apparently De Niro accidentally broke his trophy while heading backstage. Some people can't have nice things.

Halle Berry WTF (in a good way). Halle Berry blew everyone away in my opinion last night looking effing gorgeous... but then I went back and looked at her actual dress which is kinda crazy. But I didn't even NOTICE the dress last night. Her face and her body are unbelievable. Put her in Bjork's old swan dress - who cares?? I feel like Ms. Berry hasn't been around in a while, so it's always nice when someone shows up and somehow looks hotter than you even remembered her being in the first place and you're like "Holy F, make some more damn movies for me to see." She was nominated for a movie I'm almost entirely convinced was not released in 2010. Fandango is giving me conflicting stories, saying it was released Dec. 17th, but is somehow not screening anywhere near New York City a month later. I find this highly suspect.

Well, lots of other stuff happened, but it's been almost 24 hours so it will all be soon forgotten as we head to the next Awards show of the season. The Golden Globes will probably never have Ricky back as host, but I think that's a damn shame because he is awesome and maybe mean, but his unpredictability is highly watchable. On a final note I would like to say that I love that the Golden Globes keeps the same theme music year after year. It feels equal parts familiar, dramatic and insane - which is the best way to encapsulate the Golden Globes viewing experience.

Also? This happened:


She looked so confused all night... I hope she got home okay.

ALSO!!!! THIS HAPPENED!!!!

There is a new HBO show to be created out of these two characters. RUSH. SWINTON. Doing anything dressed like this. PLEASE??

Saturday, January 15, 2011

FIFTEEN: The Most Amazing Show Ever Episode I - The Phantom Menace

(Did I Just Miss Something Here?)

Once upon a time, 20 years ago or so, there was a show in Canada called Hillside, that moved to American TV on Nickelodeon and was renamed Fifteen. It was an ongoing teen saga about kids in High School dealing with BIG problems: Divorce, Drinking, Nasty Rumors, Schemes, Lies, Unrequited Love, Break-Ups, Double Crosses, Impossible Homework Assignments, Inconsistent Canadian Accents and Tragic Wardrobe Choices. Nickelodeon aired the show on Sundays at 1pm and 5pm, because it just couldn't pass up such numerical synergy. The show was so bad it was amazing. As a child I watched it religiously and as an adult often included its release on DVD in my nightly prayers.

Well, several months ago the first season was released on itunes for download. There were four seasons (the first 3 had 13 episodes, the final season had 26) but the 1st season is really the most classic, so if I only ever get that one I'll have to be happy with it and check it off the list as Prayer Answered.

What people my age who watched the show usually remember about it was the blonde girl Ashley who always spoke in a whispery voice, her basketball playing boyfriend with a DRINKING PROBLEM or perhaps the rebel who was named Dylan (but his last name wasn't McKay.) The cast changed a lot over the 4 seasons and plot lines were dropped and never addressed with head-spinning regularity. But it also featured some actors who continued to work through to adulthood including Laura Harris (who played soft-spoken Ashley), Enuka Okuma (the true MVP of Season as Kelly) and an actor who you may or may not have seen in some obscure art house films, Ryan Reynolds (as little kid, Billy).

Since I'm not recapping any current TV shows right now, I figured I'd pay tribute over the next month or two to this classic kids soap opera. It deserves such attention. Stand by to be stunned. Here comes Fifteen.

Episode One: Checking It Out

We open on the awesome theme song and a painting of Hillside school that morphs into stock footage of the exterior of some school. Though it's supposed to be Hillside, flat land stretches for as far as the eye can see. We are introduced by name cards to Ashley, Matt and Jake as they pass a basketball around the school's main hallway. It would seem more appropriate if they were in a gymnasium, but if I start to nitpick now, we'll never get through this. The intro continues and we meet Theresa, Kelly and Brooke as they hang out in Brooke's bedroom, presumably not during school hours. Then we see Billy, Dylan and Courtney hanging out in Dylan's garage working on some cool tunes. Ryan Reynolds was a cute little kid. Still, who would have thought the littlest kid from this show would grown up to be People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive? Too funny. Anyway, there are other characters on the show, but apparently the intro can't be bothered in introducing them to us. Have I mentioned this is the best theme music ever? It is.

We start the episode proper with a different establishing exterior shot of the school that may or may not be the same school shown in the opening credits. The ground here is much more hilly, which makes more sense with a school called "Hillside." Brooke walks through the halls of school like she's Queen of the castle, when her frenemy Kelly runs up behind her. Brooke and Kelly are total bitches. They are mean filling the void between Heathers and Mean Girls. Plus, since this takes place in 1990, they cannot rely on cell phones, texts, or the internet to spread their ill will. All their gossip has to be spread by pounding the pavement. Seriously, they are true artisans and love what they do.

(Brooke & Kelly: Taking down Hillside, one ruined relationship at a time.)

Kelly tells Brooke she likes her outfit. She tells her like a million times, gushing over it so much so we know she really doesn't like the outfit at all. In terms of early 90's fashion, I've seen worse. Kelly tells Brooke she has a huge zit on her chin. Brooke momentarily freaks out, but upon looking in her compact mirror, she realizes Kelly is just lying to torment her. Brooke laughs it off, not realizing how much Kelly actually hates her. This is a good example of how their relationship will work for the next 13 episodes.

Kelly shifts gears from tormenting Brooke to gossiping about sad sack Courtney. It seems that Courtney was looking all "tragic" outside on the school steps earlier that day, so they NEED to figure out what's going on to upset her so much and possibly O.D. on schadenfreude before the lunch bell rings. Kelly thinks Courtney looks like she lost her best friend. Brooke gives us some exposition about it not being that great a loss since Courtney's BFF is Ashley Fraser. Brooke and Kelly hate Ashley. No sooner do they start talking shit about her than Ashley's tool of a boyfriend Matt shows up. He asks them if they've seen Ashley. They Mean Girl to him that they haven't seen her. Their tone is lost on him and he keeps on walking. Kelly mentions how she hates to see him go, but she loves to watch him leave. Brooke acts like that's ridiculous and that he's not hot, but secretly she wants to bone him.

Matt goes and sits in what I guess is some sort of student lounge set up right in the middle of the hallway. Two of his basketball buddies are there (they all wear Letterman jackets) and Jake is there too, but he's no jock. He just falls all over himself to praise Matt. Matt's the star of the basketball team and they go on and on about it for like 5 minutes. Then Ashley comes by and whispers "hello" to Matt and cuddles with him.

(Ashely & Matt, living an early 90's teen version of Blue Valentine for our viewing pleasure.)

From a distance, Brooke and Kelly watch and bitch about Ashley. They hate that everyone thinks she's Little Miss Perfect. They vow to destroy her. Then they brightly call her over to talk so Brooke can insult Ashley's outfit, like Kelly insulted Brooke's. Ashley politely leaves as soon as possible. Kelly tells Brooke she's a "witch" because she can't get the "b-word" past Standards and Practices.

Next, Courtney is wandering around the hall looking very unhappy. Maybe she's upset because she's wearing the ugliest floor-length skirt ever? That would make sense.

(It was hard to get a screen capture that really showed how bad the skirt was. Just trust me.)

Ashely comes in behind her, all happy to see her. Courtney couldn't give two shits about talking to Ashley. She wants to know if Ashley's seen Ryan Reynolds - er, Billy. "Your brother?" Ashley asks. "Uh, derrr!" Courtney basically responds. Courtney continues with 5 or 6 more rude comments before Ashley asks her if anything is wrong. There is something wrong, but the delay in Ashley asking leads me to believe Courtney would be acting like this anyway. Courtney wanders away without an explanation. Remember these two are theoretically best friends.

Later, Matt is at the table in the lounge. Brooke saunters over to him and trills, "Hey, Hunk!" Matt and I both say "WHAT?" Brooke tells him that Kelly thinks he's hot and then she runs away. Planting the seeds of a scheme, that one is. Jake comes by and asks "Did I just miss something here?" which is a line that pretty much becomes the most commonly used phrase on this show. Matt doesn't know WTF Brooke is up to, and wisely notes that nobody ever really does. Jake isn't gonna waste another second thinking about it, and invites Matt to play some one on one in the gym. Matt sees this as the perfect opportunity to display his superiority over Jake and agrees. As they walk toward the gym an amazing altercation happens. Dylan comes in all leather jacket rebel and starts yelling at Matt. Except he's yelling about how great he is, like he's going for sarcastic but it doesn't really get there. So he sounds kind of like a disgruntled fan. Then he tries to run his hand down Matt's shirt calling it a "raiment." I swear this happens! Finally Dylan leaves and everybody is all WTF?

Dylan goes and sits at the table in the lounge and Billy comes over to provide him some idol worship and to talk about skateboarding. Ryan Reynolds isn't a bad kid actor. Dylan appears not to mind having Billy around.

(Future Sexiest Man Alive, Ryan Reynolds.)

Brooke comes over to say hi to Dylan for absolutely no reason. He asks her about her love life and she pretends to be offended like it's none of his business, but she's totally turned on by his inquiry. She leaves, and Dylan tells Billy to avoid women like Brooke because they are nothing but trouble. This may be true, but even Billy has enough awareness about him to know that Dylan is into Brooke.

It's lunchtime. Maybe Canadian schools have no lunchrooms, because everyone on this show bags their lunch and Ashley eats on a bench outside her locker. Anyway, it's time for another talk between non-BFFs Courtney and Ashley. Courtney comes over and Ashley notes that Billy is across the lounge since she was looking for him earlier. Courtney can't be bothered with that now even though it was so important earlier. She apologizes to Ashley for her stank attitude earlier. In her words, she was "a real cow." I wish people would still use that expression to denote bad behavior and not just fattiness. Ashley forgives her friend in the softest of tones. Courtney sits down to tell Ashley what's wrong. At the same moment, Billy sees his sister and gets really excited because he's about to play a joke on her. Dylan thinks this scene has gone on for way too long and gets bored and leaves. So eventually Courtney's about to say what the problem is when she opens her soda and it explodes all over her very ugly skirt. Billy comes over and laughs and laughs because he broke into her locker and shook up the can right before lunch. Courtney shuts him up by telling him his parents are splitting up. Laugh it up, Billy! Damn. Courtney is a real cow.

We cut to the Avalon! The AVALON!!! The Canadian lovechild of 90210's Peach Pit and SBTB's The Max! Kelly and Brooke sit drinking milkshakes. OMG those shakes look SO GOOD. Kelly says she likes Dylan, even though a couple scenes ago, said she liked Matt. I think she's just trying to get Brooke to admit who SHE likes. Kelly is all about mind games. Brooke doesn't really take the bait because all of her focus is on destroying Ashley. As long as someone is being destroyed, it sounds like a great idea to Kelly. We don't learn what the plan is gonna be, but we do pick up a little piece of backstory about how Brooke and Matt used to date before he hooked up with Ashley. Brooke claims she broke up with Matt, but I don't know y'all.

Boys Locker Room of Awkward Conversation. Jake doesn't like gymnastics, but maybe he sorta likes Matt? Their conversation makes no sense. Jake wants to know if Matt noticed how Brooke was flirting with him. Matt says that Brooke flirts with everyone because she wants guys to come on to her just so she can reject them. He doesn't pay her no mind. But Jake seems to feel threatened by her. I don't know why. It's 1990, so there's no way they're gonna have Jake be gay. This show ain't that progressive.

Hillside Stairway of Sadness. Courtney and Billy talk particulars about their parents' crappy marriage. Courtney apologizes for being a real cow to her brother. Billy wants to hold out hope that Dad won't move out, but Courtney thinks their parents heading down a long dark road towards DIVORCE! This is too heavy for Billy and he bails. Eavesdropping Kelly and Brooke rush over to Courtney and offer their totally fake support, while twisting the knife into her about how horrible DIVORCE is. Courtney flees from them as politely as possible and Courtney and Brooke cackle about the DIVORCE. These are excellent bitches.

Avalon - Exposition Round Table. Courtney's friends discuss her parents DIVORCE. It rocks them all really hard. Nobody is drinking milkshakes. This scene sucks. Courtney comes in and they talk about the DIVORCE. Courtney insists she is fine. Matt, Ashley and Jake insist she is not. It goes on an on and on. No progress is made.

Hillside Stairway of Sadness. Dylan finds Billy and tells him school's over and he should go home. Billy is avoiding home now because of the DIVORCE. Dylan invites him to go skateboarding. Billy is super happy about this and they run off together.

Avalon - Pinball Wizard Room. Matt plays pinball, but seems completely disinterested in the game. Then Ashely comes over and they talk about how she's scheduled her life down to the last second. She asks if he minds dating someone who needs a 47 hour day. Matt says no, and gives a peck on the lips. These two are in for a rough ride, y'all.

Matt and Ashley leave, and we cut to Brooke and Kelly who were sitting at the back table in Avalon's Conspirators Corner. Brooke vows to steal Matt from Ashley in two weeks time. Kelly is so smooth as she goads her into it. I love Kelly. She controls everything but she lets Brooke think she's the one with power. Kelly is the Iago of Hillside.

Avalon - Loser's Table. Jake and Courtney talk about how they have no lives and nothing to do this weekend. Jake suggests they do something together. He means it as a date. Courtney has no interest in him and can't fathom he'd even suggest such a thing, so she suggests getting even more friends to do something. Jake forces a grin on his face and says he thinks that's just swell.

(Jake can't get no play.)

Courtney makes to leave so she can be home in case Billy wants to talk. Jake asks again if she is okay with the DIVORCE. She tries to pretend like she is, but then can't continue with the charade any longer. These are her parents. Her mom and dad. If they break up, what is she going to do??? If Jake has an answer we won't hear it til next time, because that's it for now! Wait we didn't even meet Theresa! Well, maybe next time.

Next time on Fifteen:
The amazing exchange happens between Matt and Ashley at the lockers.
Ashley: Hi!
Matt: YEAH??
Ashley: ... Jake said you had a meeting with your basketball coach. So how'd it go?
Matt: (stares at her and then throws a binder in his locker, slams it shut and walks away. Ashley looks so startled that she might just DIE.)

This is the best show ever.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Year Without Cookies - Week 2

(Opening Pandora's Box of Girl Scout Cookies)

I have now gone two weeks without cookies or soda. One would think I would be going through severe withdrawal, perhaps experiencing night sweats, or the shakes or horrible headaches. Surprisingly, I actually feel really good. I am currently in a better mood now than I've been in a long long time. Were cookies and soda somehow bringing me down? I thought it was maybe just that I was finally past the Holiday Doldrums, but maybe a change in diet has also put me in brighter spirits. It is still hard not to snack on cookies while at work, or to have a soda at work, but I'm sticking to pretzel sticks and water. Pretzels and water are tasty too... I guess...

A problem with "no cookies" looms on the horizon though. That problem is Girl Scout Cookies. My little niece is selling them and I wouldn't be an Uncle worth anything if I didn't buy a few boxes. But what am I supposed to do with the cookies I purchase? They're too dangerous to keep in the apartment. I can inhale a box of thin mints without realizing it. Should I just give them away? Faced with a box of tagalongs could I really turn my back on such deliciousness? All I know is that one moment of weakness will lead to a a complete cookieholic relapse. I must hold out as long as I can...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Final In The Heights: A Celebration

(We are family!)

It's been a busy week, so I didn't get a chance to really write about my experience at the final performance of In The Heights on Sunday Night. It really could not have been a more perfect final performance. The cast was so focused on and so on point. The audience was completely out of its collective mind. There were so many friends, so many fans, so many former cast members in the audience. Heights has always been a family and Sunday was when we all got together to share (and scream) our love and appreciation for the show before the final curtain fell.

It was a tremendous celebration. The feeling in the theater was electric. The audience erupted into standing ovations multiple times throughout the show, including after musical numbers "96,000," “Paciencia y Fe," and act two show-stopper and personal fave "Carnaval Del Barrio" with Andrea Burns as Daniela receiving extended applause from the audience almost before the song had even begun! All the cast members had a moment throughout the performance to be showered with applause by the crowd. The biggest applause might have come right at the top of the show when LMM first entered the stage before the opening number. His back was to the audience for several minutes of cheering, but even if he could not see the outpouring of love and appreciation, we were gonna make damn sure that he could feel it.

Being in the audience felt like a cross between being at a stadium rock concert and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The were many moments of audience participation and people shouting musical responses and clapping along to the beat of the up-tempo score. During the nightclub number “Blackout” at the end of Act One, many audience members, in a moment of solidarity with the actors, flashed the lights from their cell phones to help cut through the darkness, mimicking the characters’ actions on stage. The effect throughout the theater was striking. Former cast members sang along and waved flags from their seats. It was a huge party and all the while the actors on stage kept things moving and nailed every moment. Like I said before, it was perfect.

I was so happy and so proud of everyone on stage. Earlier in the day, I had taken out my original script pages from the original little scene reading in the '92 theater at Wes back from 1999 (I save a lot of script stuff) and to think that all of this art and all this inspiration and all this talent and love, this huge extended family was born out of something that started with just a couple cream-colored pages, a couple snippets of songs. It really boggles my mind. I wrote on my FB status on Monday that I would love In The Heights forever and it's true. It's been a tremendous journey and a stunning triumph for people I love dearly. I'm so happy to have been able to witness so much of what went on. It constantly inspires me to pursue my own art and my own dreams. The show has captured my imagination for my entire adult life. I'm so glad millions of people have been affected and inspired by it and will continue to be for years and years to come.

There are some fun audio and video clips online that give a taste of what it was like inside the Richard Rodgers on Sunday evening. I leave you with a link to the audio of Carnaval del Barrio. It's performance on Sunday was nothing short of a religious experience. It gives you a good sense of how raucous the audience got during many of the musical numbers. You can find the bootleg here. Also below is the final curtain call and speech by LMM. He improvised the whole thing and was awesome about it.
Congrats again to everyone for their stunning achievement. See you at the revival. :)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rafa Wins Doubles in Doha!!

(Double Double Your Enjoyment!)

I almost didn't notice this item, because tennis.com can be rather lame about reporting Double's Tennis news. Wake up, tennis.com! It turns out Our Hero, Rafael Nadal, actually won the Qatar Open Doubles Title this weekend with fellow Spaniard Marc Lopez! They beat Daniele Bracciali and Andreas Seppi 6-3, 7-6(4) in the championship match. I was really surprised by this, because Rafa had been battling a fever all week and lost in his singles semifinal match on Friday to Nikolay Davydenko 6-3, 6-2. The poor result in singles was clearly due to illness, and I just assumed following that match he'd withdrawn from the doubles as well. Turns out he was okay enough to play the less intense pace of doubles and hung in there to claim the title. That's because Rafa is a fighter and a champion!!

Rafa stayed in Doha for several days to get treatment and rest up before heading to Australia. It's not always great to sit in the confined airplane breathing in the same air for a long flight when you're sick. But now he's Down Under and hopefully feeling 100% going into the Aussie Open, where he has a chance to complete the Rafa Slam and hold all 4 Grand Slam titles at once. That hasn't happened since Rod Laver did it in 1969!! That would be really incredible but he's got a chance to do it. We'll wait and see!

On a side note, can we look at that "trophy" they gave Rafa and Marc, pictured above? What is it? A golden clam? A bronzed replica of Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors? Did they give it to them in cardboard Chinese food take-out boxes? This pic is so strange to me. Anyway a win is a win. Vamos Rafa!