Category Archives: entertainment

My Secret Shame, It Has a Name

That’s right, I have an embarrassing secret: I am addicted to a ridiculous TV show.

I’m not watching any of the Real Housewives from somewhere or other. It’s not The Bachelor, doling out roses to the girls he wants to keep stringing along. I’ve never watched Donald Trump dare potential Apprentices not to laugh at his comb over. I’m not keeping up with any Kardashians, whatever it is that they do. What I watch is possibly even worse than any of those:

It’s Say Yes to the Dress.

I’m going to take a moment to blame my mother (Hi, Mom!). I’d never watched the show until I went home to visit my parents.  One night, the kids were asleep and The Daddy and my own dad were watching football, so my mother and I holed up in her room and watched back-to-back episodes on demand.

Each show features several brides searching for a wedding dress at Kleinfeld’s bridal shop in New York City, and then one bride who is in the final fitting stages. While some reality shows have to script some drama to make the show interesting, there are UNLIMITED OPPORTUNITIES for unscripted drama when someone is looking for a wedding dress:

*The budget is “low,” (meaning $1500! dollars) but the bride really really really wants to look like Beyonce. They always say, “I want that WOW factor.” The wow factor is really expensive, you guys. I had no idea.

*The bride wants a sexy mermaid-style dress to show off the fake maracas someone paid thousands of dollars for, and Grandma wants her instead to wear full sleeves and a (lace) turtleneck. Who cares what Grandma wants, right? Well, see, it matters because Grandma is paying, and she’s not shelling out her vodka money for some slutty dress so her granddaughter can be the talk of the beauty shop gossips in Melvina, Kentucky. No siree.

*The bride has no idea what she wants, can’t narrow it down, and won’t listen to anyone’s advice, good or bad. She won’t even listen to Randy, the fabulous flamboyant stylist who works there and who ALWAYS knows what’s right. (Here, I will confess that I once pointed at the TV like some crazed sports fan and shouted, “LISTEN TO RANDY! LISTEN TO HIM RIGHT NOW! UGH!”)

*An indecisive bride brings 14 people with her, each with their own bossypants opinion. It seems to be even worse when the 14 people are the bride’s sorority sisters. They cruelly make fun of everything she comes out in and continue to make fun of her even after she’s returned to the dressing room. The bride is conflicted because these are her “best friends in the whole world” and “I know they only want what’s best for me.” Occasionally the bride finds a spine and chooses something that she loves, but usually she cries and goes home with nothing.

*The bride recently lost 100 pounds and has such a distorted body image that she feels frumpy in absolutely everything. No amount of reassurance or murmured compliments can change her mind. Randy pats her hand and suggests counseling. Sometimes she is able to silence her inner critic; sometimes she cries and goes home with nothing.

*The bride has tried on no less than 100 dresses at other stores and has never liked anything. Once the sales consultant hears this and manages to wipe the look of horror off her face, she comes at it from one of two directions: 1) She instantly decides the appointment is doomed to certain failure, or 2) With dogged determination, she decides she’ll be the one to find this whack-a-do a dress because she is going to WIN WIN WIN!!!!

*The bride recently overcame cancer/a stroke/an abusive first marriage/a disfiguring accident. They always give these brides a huge tragedy discount. (I would too.) On one recent episode, a gorgeous cancer survivor nearly rejected her dream dress because it was $500 over budget, and her amazing friends decided to kick in the difference. I sat on the couch with tears streaming down my cheeks; thank God I was home alone.

*Someone tells the bride that her favorite “fashion-forward” dress with a befeathered skirt makes her look like a deranged chicken. She sobs in the fitting room and her best friend comes to console her and encourages her to forget what everyone else thinks – it’s her day, after all. But she never buys the chicken dress after that. Usually she cries and goes home with nothing.

*The bride brings the fiance who doesn’t really want to be there, but lodges half-hearted opinions anyway. It never goes well, especially if her mother is there too, shooting him icy looks from the corner of a disapproving eye. The bride tries to force a solid opinion from him, but he ain’t no fool. Randy shakes his head sadly behind the scenes, reminding the viewer that a groom just doesn’t belong in a bridal shop. You could cut the pent-up tension with a knife, and I always wonder if these people eventually just call the wedding off. Sometimes the bride ends up buying something she doesn’t love, which leads us to the final scenario:

*The bride, at her next-to-final fitting, decides that she was talked into the dress by one or more people in her entourage, is finally able to admit that she hates it, and OH MY GOD SHE NEEDS A NEW DRESS RIGHT NOW. This always happens when the wedding is less than a month away. Obviously, the staff goes berserk and says the last minute switcheroo will never happen, not in a million kabillion years. Magically, they always pull it off, at the expense of some teary-eyed, overworked alterations gal who pulls several brutal all nighters.

In the end, the majority of the brides leave the store having found their “perfect” dress, the one that makes them feel “like a princess.” That’s what most of them say – they want to feel like a princess. Whatever that means?

I’m really not sure why I find the show so fascinating. Maybe it’s because I’ll never get married again and have the singular shopping experience of finding a wedding dress. Maybe it’s because I love watching the brides’ faces light up when they really love the way they look in a gown. Maybe I love watching other people spend a lot of money. Maybe I love Randy.

And maybe I love it because it makes me think of time spent laughing with my mom. I miss you, Mom! I’ll keep a few episodes on TiVo for next time we’re together, especially if there’s one with a chicken dress.

Rockin' the Feather Frock, Yo!
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Angry Birds Nation

The Daddy and I got our iPhones just over a year ago. The negotiations over getting them went much like the TiVo Accords, only this time I was the one who made the move to seal the deal with a trip to the Apple Store.  “It’ll be so easy to check email,” I said to myself, “and I can get a few fun games for the kids to play.”

On my first day with it, I took it in to the office where my co-worker, a veteran iPhone user, helped me set up my email account. “What apps are you going to get?” he asked innocently. “Have you seen Angry Birds?”

And thus it began.

For those of you who have never seen nor heard of Angry Birds (Hi, Mom!), it’s a maddeningly addictive game created by a Finnish company called Rovio. In the game, evil green pigs have stolen eggs from a flock of birds. (According to Wikipedia, the game developers made the villains pigs because the original design process took place during the swine flu outbreak.) The birds are very angry at these pillaging pigs and you, the player, are charged with helping to get the eggs back.

The pigs jealously guard the eggs underneath structures made of various materials. The materials include wood, glass, ice, and stone. You launch the birds by slingshot at a section of the structure, and whether or not the bird breaks the structure and kills the pig(s) is decided by some kind of sophisticated algorithm that takes angle, force, and speed into account. Complicating matters is that each bird in your arsenal has a different skill or function. Red birds are boring – they go straight ahead at medium speed and will possibly break something if everything is perfect. The blue bird turns into three when you tap on the screen. The yellow bird accelerates when you tap. Black birds land and then explode like a bomb – they’re my favorite. The white birds (hate them) act like a boomerang. Etc.

The game is highly addictive (I keep saying that word) and trance-inducing. I’ll play for a while, put it down, and then think, “I could do better on that level,” and pick it up again. Any situation that involves waiting (doctor’s office, airport, grocery store lines) is now time in which I can potentially increase my score. But I’m not addicted. Nope! I prefer to say I’m loyally dedicated to learning. Current learning schedule:

6:00 pm: Waiting for water to boil. Playing Angry Birds.
6:10 pm: Waiting for spaghetti to cook. Playing Angry Birds.
6:40 pm: Quick round of Angry Birds before I clean up the kitchen.
7:30 pm: Kids’ bathtime. Benjamin prattling on about Transformers. Playing with kids, but plotting Angry Birds strategy in the back of my shriveled mind.
8:15 pm: Sitting in Ellie’s beanbag chair, waiting for her to fall asleep. Angry Birds.
11:00 pm: Can’t sleep…maybe just a few minutes of…

You get the picture.

It’s not always like this, thank heaven. The initial obsession has waned, and now I only go cuckoo when a new update or version is released. I’m not alone, though…over 12 million copies of Angry Birds have been purchased from the iTunes App Store. There’s a feature film in the works. I even read an article in a business publication not long ago outlining how Angry Birds can make you a better manager and leader. At first I thought, “Wha?” But the author made some compelling points.

So if you’ve got an iPhone, iPad, or Droid and you haven’t tried Angry Birds yet, you really should! Or maybe you value your spare time and you really shouldn’t. But if you do, just so you know, you’ll have a hard time catching up to me. I’m currently ranked number 2, 230,520 out of 12 million. Beat that, suckahs!

BEWARE THE EVIL EGG-THIEVING SWINE

Television Schmelevision

Oh, television…how we love to hate you, and how we hate to love you.

Growing up in a rural area in the northernmost part of Michigan, the big antenna that stood next to our house received three channels. One was from Canada, one was PBS, and one was a local channel that generally carried CBS shows. The CBS channel was the clearest channel we got. Canada and PBS were snowy all the time; any manner of inclement weather created problems. Even a particularly bad mood could create enough atmospheric interference to render those two channels unwatchable.

It wasn’t a bad thing, and I don’t remember feeling at all deprived or any more bored than any other kid.  True, I never saw a lot cultural milestone shows that “everyone” has seen, like Gilligan’s Island or The Brady Bunch. The Daddy still becomes occasionally horrified when he uncovers yet another TV show of his youth that I’ve never heard of.

Given that history, I hadn’t been much of a TV fan for most of my adult life. I preferred to socialize; I felt that contact with other human beings was a far better use of my time and energy. “Human relationships are based on give and take,” I’d sneer haughtily, “and you can’t have a two-way relationship with a television.” 

BUT THEN we got a TiVo. In the pre-purchasing period, I argued against it – what did we need it for?  But in his infinite wisdom of all things electronic, The Daddy ignored my anemic assertions and got one anyway. Once it took up residence in my very own living room, I finally understood.  TiVo freed me from TV schedule slavery. If I didn’t feel like watching something on Wednesday at 9:00 p.m., I could watch it Saturday at 10:00 a.m.  Or 2:00 p.m. Whenever!

Me – 1, Bondage to Television Scheduling – 0

Furthermore, I no longer had to watch a single commercial!

Me – 2, Greedy Corporate Advertisers – 0

The final nail in the coffin was the first baby.  For those of you who’ve never gone through it, there’s a lot of sitting around when you have a newborn. There’s feeding, and rocking, and holding them while they sleep.  And it’s not just part of the day – this is a 24-hour-a-day cycle. Sure, you spend a lot of time just gazing at that  adorable face, but you can only do that for so long. So what do you do? TV!

I learned that there really are a lot of great shows. True, many of them are geared towards the lowest common denominator, but not all of them. There are shows promoting creativity, such as Top Chef and Project Runway (I even watched those before baby brainlessness struck me). There are gripping dramas like Big Love, which I’m sad to say recently ended. Fun travel shows like Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. Spirit-expanding specials like the one we recently watched on PBS about the Buddha. Hilarious, gut-busting comedies like Modern Family.

So does all this mean that my intelligence is waning, my energy is draining, my high-minded ideals are dwindling, my creative capacity is on the decline? Does it mean that my thoughts and ideals are being replaced by those of one-dimensional television characters?

Probably.

Television Brain Rot – 1, Me – 0

However, according to my (always questionable) math skills, that still puts me up by at least one point. I’d like to be able to say that I’m winning, but I can’t because Charlie Sheen ruined that word for the remainder of 2011, at the very least.

This is the opening to Big Love, which I felt was a work of art in itself. The song is by a band called Engineers; all of their music is just this enchanting. Even though Big Love is over now, you can get all the seasons on Netflix. And they didn’t pay me to say that. (Private note to Netflix: If you did want to pay me, I’d be fine with it. Call me!)